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JULY 2002 POSTINGS

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Bankruptcy "Reform As In Reform School"
Bill Extra

July 31, 2002

Well, thanks to The Raving Atheist for passing along this thoughtful piece out of Newsday by Robert Reno (brother of the Former AG and Future Florida Governor).

You don't have to not believe in God to believe that the coming bankruptcy law is, well, wrong.

 

July 31, 2002, New York, NY.  More fun with follow-up:  our Saudi friends seem to be the big loggers-on to putative Al Qaeda web sites, as set forth in this interview with Jon David, who hacked into the Al Qaeda home page (with thanks to Instapundit for spotting this story).  Your TD is shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you, to read about this.  (Not.)

Speaking of Saudi-financed handiwork, your TD was afraid that the other shoe (or desert sandal, anyway) would drop after the Gaza missile strike.  Well, two more suicide bombings in Israel, including one today at Jerusalem's Hebrew University cafeteria as it was packed with students taking exams that left at least six dead and scores injured.  What can I say?  How can any one of these attacks be any more craven than any other?  After blowing up bat mitzvah parties or Passover Seders or discos or pizza parlors or school buses or city parks -- what is so different about blowing up a college campus during exams?  What, in substance, is different from the other brazen attacks?  People are killed and maimed for the crime of leaving their house, because OTHER people are pissed off that their great-grandparents may have been kicked off of the "best property" BY JEWS.

In Israel, of course, the enemy does not draw a distinction between "military" targets and anything else.  Human beings are targeted (and  not just Jews; foreign workers and Palestinian Arabs have also been victims of Hamas/Fatah/Hezbollah bombings as well).

Keep in mind that, while there are some loosenings here and there, Gaza has more or less always been, and the West Bank is now, effectively under total IDF reoccupation; progress is steady on "the fence".  And yet, the suicide bombers get through.

Can Israel impose MORE punitive measures of collective punishment?  I have no doubt about that.

But the merry-go-round of this issue comes back:  what good will such collective punishment of the Palestinians (who are already under curfews and military reoccupation) do?  Your TD sincerely believes that Hamas and company are COUNTING on punitive measures -- the more punitive the better.  They thrive on irrationality -- on both sides of the Green Line.  Unfortunately, your TD is afraid, that this ALSO plays into the hands of PM Sharon's hardliner friends, who ALSO thrive on irrationality, and they work each other into a feedback loop from hell.

Nope, the only resolution is, like it or not, resumption of peace talks, including the involvement of, I'm afraid, the terrorist elements themselves.  And if the Hamas and Hezbollah people REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE in peace talks, then their known leadership and members should be arrested (by Israel -- not by their confederate Yasir) because they are irredeemable criminals and the world will be better off with them incarcerated.

Any other way besides resumption of "peace" talks (I prefer the term "settlement discussions" -- its not just legal, but it reflects the ACTUAL discussion of substance, i.e., what to do with the settlements!) and month in, month out, nothing will change over there except the body count.

 

July 30, 2002, New York, New York.  Well, in the continuing follow-up department, we note that Instapundit has picked up this National Review Online story about yet ANOTHER dead, young Saudi Prince.

September 11th should have taught us all that the Saudis play rough.  We have also established that when it comes to the Saudi Royal family, its not just "friends" (such as, ahem, the people of the United States) that have to watch their asses:  itís obviously family too.  The Saudi-Prince (say it really fast so it sounds like...that phone company) "Friends and Family Plan".  WorldCom seems a better bet.

The President signed a "get tough" bill on corporate fraud, as reported by The Washington Post.

Given the overwhelming votes in both houses, one can sense that "reasoned debate" is not something that took place on these matters.  Will Rogers said that no citizen is safe while Congress is in session.  I can't say it better.

When read in conjunction with your TD's current favorite bÍte noir, the bankruptcy reform bill, we see that the new law means that failure is now no longer welcome in America (except on the part of our political and military leaders, where it is encouraged).  For corporate types, who, I suppose, fail to meet their stated "certified" earnings reports (now ďpersonallyĒ certified by the CEO -- all such "certifications" due by August 13th), potential criminal sanctions await (which, in the standard political prosecution realm, can be meted out in the discretion of that champion of equity, reason and fair dealing, AG Ashcroft); ordinary failure, resulting in bankruptcy, is, of course, punished by civil servitude to one's creditors (criminalization presumably to follow).

Meanwhile, ex-Congressman Traficant can ponder his friendship with soon-to-be-ex-Congressman Condit, for around 8 years, at federal expense.

Why does your TD not think that former Bush pal Kenny-boy Lay will be joining him anytime soon?

 

July 29, 2002, New York, NY.  Well, in the follow-up department, thanks to our friends at Unqualified Offerings for their follow-up to a lead picked up by the TD (after it was brought to his attention by alert loyal reader Bob from Long Island) concerning the sudden, unusually large number of deaths of Saudi princes in their 40's; apparently, England's Guardian has picked up a strand of this.

For those interested, UO also offers a rosier version of the future (or at least how we get there) starting in Kurdistan.  This is a FAR ROSIER view than is laid bare by N. Z. Bear of Truth Laid Bear in this chilling future-vision.

Meanwhile, in the news, Jesse Jackson is meeting with Yasir Arafat.  Well, one of them is a fat, Jew-baiting, opportunistic shake down artist and hatemonger who has been little but a fat-cat parasite, pocketing millions largely at the expense of his "people", and also disingenuously claims to have been right there at the birth of his people's "liberation struggle".  The other one is Yasir Arafat.

The Pope asks forgiveness of the faithful for the Church's transgressions.  NO, YOU ARE NOT DYSLEXIC.

Lance Armstrong wins his 4th consecutive Tour De France.  No, you jealous French bastards, he is NOT doping Ė itís called chemotherapy.  Lance proves that, notwithstanding Dubya and Dick, Lance shows us all that there ARE people from Texas who are on top because THEY EARNED IT.  (Sorry, I didn't mean to mess with Texas -- just with the White House).  

[TD Department of Corrections.  I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge this possibility regarding Lance Armstrong.  I suppose I deserve this, since the underlying joke was stolen from Robin Williams.]

And finally, the market is up (as I write this) with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up over 300 points.  (With thanks to the White House personal trainers for keeping the President in front of the Stairmaster and AWAY from the microphones).  

 

July 28, 2002, East Hampton, New York.  Well, your TD is delighted to pass on a major story involving men in danger (in this case from a workplace accident in Pennsylvania) with a HAPPY ending.  All nine trapped miners were rescued, alive.

In the United States, our all out national attention span and efforts instinctively turn to this type of story and effort:  preservation of human life is a big deal here.  Saving husbands and fathers is, to our hokey American-ness, as important a task as exists, or CAN exist.  It is no coincidence that the nation was gripped for days after 9-11 in the odd hope that SOMEONE might be pulled out of that maelstrom alive.  Though our friend The Raving Atheist would quibble, these are times when many of us "turn to God", for comfort, and for hope.

Funny that no less a figure than Cherie Blair (wife of PM Tony, and frankly, for our purposes, a "typical European") can "understand the despair" of a Palestinian suicide bomber (or bomber-ess) plotting (besides their own glorious meeting with Allah) the MURDER of other human beings.  I CAN'T understand it (or if I can, I do so simply under the one-word heading of "EVIL").  But then, I'm just a stupid American, now, aren't I, lacking the sophistication of our European friends.

 

TD Bankruptcy Code Changes Extra
July 27, 2002

From the highly esteemed law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell, a line by line exposition of the soon to be enacted changes to the federal bankruptcy laws (at least, before reconciliation by conference committee).  See also what Bankrate.com has to say about the proposed bill.

Your TD will, from time to time, point out some of his favorite "fuck the people" portions of the bill, in both detail and in the aggregate.  By the way: the bill is not merely a bank-driven attempt to screw consumers (though it is clearly that).  It ALSO will have the effect of forcing many companies that might have had a chance at reorganization into liquidation by tightening business reorganization rules.  Just what the economic doctor ordered NOT TO DO as we struggle to get the economy on track.

 

July 27, 2002, East Hampton, New York.  Loyal reader Brian from Las Vegas writes in on your TD's thoughts of the recent lawsuit (brought in the Bronx no less -- for details, see this on www.overlawyered.com).  Your TD thanks Brian, as he actually wasn't aware of it.

Obviously, at one level, it is the equivalent of suing the gasoline station that sold you the fuel you used to pour over yourself and light yourself on fire.  America in the 21st century is based on the proposition that nothing is your own fault, no matter who you are.  Whether it was the Clintonian mutilation of language to evade civil responsibility for infidelity, or the Bushian mutilation of language to express, well, anything. or the tendency of the public to believe that there is no problem (of an individual's own making) that can't be solved with a lawsuit:  all you need is a lawyer and a dream!

Once in a while, the stupid lawsuit hits (the famous hot coffee case from New Mexico, resulting in a verdict of millions, though actually settled later for far less after an appellate court imposed some reality).  Or of course, the ULTIMATE stupid lawsuit, the tobacco litigation, where a group of states have the balls to sue for the consequences of the use of a LEGAL product that in the case of many states, was their LEADING PRODUCER OF TAX REVENUE.  In "settling", of course, "victim" smokers got, well, a high tax on cigarettes!  States got revenues, and a few connected lawyers got legal fees hitherto unimagined.  (See yesterday's TD extra re: Justice Ramos, on this point).

But wait, itís the tobacco litigation that may lead us into a possibly meritorious attack on fast foods.  Although smoking, to those that do, may provide some level of pleasure from the ingested nicotine (and will cause some irritating consequences if suddenly cut-off, which keeps the addiction there), one STARTING the habit tends to get sick from it.  Why do it then?  To be cool, of course.  And NOTHING is more important to the target market.  The evidence is unassailable that tobacco companies DELIBERATELY targeted under-age children and adolescents for the use of their product.  A legal product FOR ADULTS -- not to those targeted by the industry, however.

Well guess what?  That's who fast food in this country is marketed to. Heck, fast food is marketed to an even younger group than is tobacco.  Half the TOYS in the United States are distributed not by Toys R Us or even Wal-Mart -- but by McDonalds, Burger King and the other fast food concerns.  Amazingly, there is an argument that with nearly a third of our population in the overweight to obese category, that industry is killing FAR MORE PEOPLE than the tobacco industry, and imposing far more stress on our health delivery system.  Of course, there is also an argument that our government is complicit in this killing, as our so-called national nutritional standards (eat lots of healthy carbohydrates and stay a way from that awful fat!) may have it EXACTLY BACKWARDS (and the fast food industry jumped in providing the worst possible mix of foods).  Who knows?  Maybe if that lawsuit lasts a while, some of this can come out, which will be helpful in a public health sense (even if the suit seems a long shot, because, since we are what we eat, the plaintiff may one day see that he was not without complicity).

On the subject of "health" (segues are a specialty here!) your TD introduces "blogger jogger".  Today, your TD took an early 9 or 10 mile jog around East Hampton and Amagansett, and noticed for the SECOND time in his life that, at that hour, the massive movement of Mexican grounds-keeping workers, who are generally unseen in the Hamptons most of the time.  TD-mother-in-law confirms that this is a relatively new development here in the Hamptons; certainly, the area has always had minority members and the "less affluent" (SOMEONE has to really live here, right?).  But this appears to be a large group that wasn't here before.  Mrs. TD's analysis:  the growth of the "Hollywood" set has now become so entrenched that there is a need for an entire service class all the time, whereas a combination of locals and temporarily imported workers could do this before.  The last time I saw this phenomenon of Mexican domestics and grounds-keeping workers on every corner?  Yup: Los Angeles.  Hollywood really HAS been brought east.

My observations of Los Angeles over the course of time have convinced me that it is far more of an "American" city (of the kind real Americans like those who voted for George Bush live in, like they got down in Texas) than is New York.  (As a self-professed Northern liberal pointy-head, even if no one believes I am, I consider this not LA's advantage, but its loss.)

New York belongs to the world; people (from all over the world, of course) that the ruling class would like to ignore are, alas, perpetually in your face, be it on the subway, driving your cab, hanging where you shop, standing in the elevator or just about wherever else you are.  It is a city where all are welcome.  That is why the Arabs hate it so much, and want to destroy it (that and the million or so Jews who live in it.)  Not so Los Angeles (even if it too has lots of Jews) where one can drive from a gated community in air conditioned car to underground garage, and hang with one's own homies at the country club.

Members of the non-ruling class may legitimately feel more alienated in LA than in NYC because they are, without doubt, certainly physically separated than they are in the Big Apple.  Obviously, the bucolic, spread out (and now traffic choked) Hamptons were always going to be more like LA than New York (even though they are populated by weekending Manhattanites).  But I guess the Angeleno set was sufficiently homesick to have seen the need to finally import their own Mexican underclass to their new summer playground.  They certainly seem to have the money to do it.

What can your Hablando Perro say?  Bienvenidos a los Hamptons, amigos!

 

TD Judicial Hero Extra
July 26, 2002

Well, kudos to Justice Charles Ramos of New York County Supreme Court, for having the judicial integrity and independence (read: cojones) to challenge the whopping legal fee paid to some of New York's (and the nation's) most politically connected personal injury lawyers, who were paid a combined fee in excess of $600 MILLION (which came out to $13,000 per hour worked) arising from New York State's share of the national tobacco litigation settlement.  The New York Law Journal reports about an extremely contentious argument before Justice Ramos.

Your TD had always thought highly of Justice Ramos before; we are in an age and culture where we foolishly consider athletes and movie stars "heroes".  The last twelve months have shown that New York is a place where REAL heroes still exist.  Your TD asserts Justice Ramos is one of them.

 

July 26, 2002, New York, New York.  Can Debtor's Prisons be far behind?  The Washington Post reports a conference committee of the House and Senate passed "bankruptcy reform" last night.

The answer to your question is a simple YES:  if the bill is good for banks and credit card companies, it IS bad for consumers.

NOTHING in the bill limits banks' abilities to charge outrageous interest rates, or to use predatory credit marketing techniques, such as to college students (or even nursery school students or pets).  And yet, despite this, our previously liberal bankruptcy system will now resemble that of the less-forgiving (and less creative, less dynamic, and economically slower-growing) Europeans.  Too bad your spouse contracted a horrible illness or had an accident and you had to stay home and take care of them, too bad you lost your job in a massive economic downturn, too bad about that divorce -- TOO BAD, TOO BAD, TOO BAD -- we're banks, and 22% annual interest doesn't BEGIN to cover our 4-5% write-off rate (AND YES, THAT WAS OUR NEWEST CREDIT CARD OFFER YOU GOT IN THE MAIL YESTERDAY.)

Personal bankruptcy was a mainstay of your TD's practice for a long, long time.  And yes, your TD did see OCCASIONS where the system was abused.  However, those occasions, in the course of THOUSANDS of cases, may be measured perhaps on one or both hands.  Most people do NOT enter bankruptcy lightly, or as a dodge, but simply because on top of outrageously regressive taxes, high rents, increasing prices for everything and stagnating wages, crushing debt (which banks were free not to issue if they did an appropriate credit analysis in the first place, instead of pursuing "market share at all costs") is just one thing too much.

In fact, I'll go further.  The current "reform" is somewhere between bad and disastrous for an economy that thrives on Schumpeterian creative destruction:  the spectacular successes we see in our economy are based on how Edison invented the light bulbs (thousands of unsuccessful tries before the one spectacular success).  It was said in Silicon Valley that you hadn't paid your dues and your education wasn't complete until you had at least one bankruptcy behind you.  LIBERAL BANKRUPTCY LAWS ENCOURAGE THE ECONOMIC RISK TAKING THAT IS THE BACKBONE OF THIS COUNTRY'S GREATNESS.  Freedom and democracy are nice; lots of countries, however, have those.  What is uniquely American, though, that leads to our economic greatness?  The encouragement of risk-taking with the knowledge that an early failure will not necessarily become a life sentence of debt repayment.  Does this mean that lending here is a tad riskier than other places?  Yup: this is reflected in interest rates, or the decision not to lend at all.  Our economy is built on this.  I guess it wonít be for very much longer (the full brunt of the bill hits in a few months).

But let's take a meta-step backward and look what's going on.  In his finest hour, Bill Clinton vetoed (or on occasion threatened veto thereby effectively killing) prior bankruptcy "reform".  Although one could argue he was somehow in thrall to the trial lawyers' lobby, keep in mind two things: (1) Hillary voted FOR the current bankruptcy reforms (as a Senator, we can thus conclude that bank money is more important than trial lawyer money, whereas for a President, reverse that), and/or (2) love him or hate him, unlike the current administration that consists of a bunch of guys who have had privilege handed to them, Bill Clinton was a self-made man, who probably grew up with people of the kind who were likely to go bankrupt:  absurd as it sounds, he probably DID feel their pain .  (The answer to your next question is YES, I AM telling you that I think Bill Clinton took a principled stand on something.  That and the trial lawyers' thing.)  Senator Wellstone promises a fight on this.  God be with you, Senator, though I think His support will not be enough.

Our current president has vowed to SIGN this "reform" bill within nanoseconds of its arrival on his desk.

Whose pain do Dubya and Dick feel?  The pain of potential multi-millionaire victims of that awful, AWFUL death tax.

 

TD Israel Extra
July 25, 2002

Another explanation (one that can't be ruled out) is that Israel's attack on the Hamas leader in Gaza was a preemptive strike; Israel's Defense Minister (and Labor Party leader) Ben Eliezer reported that the target was planning a massive strike involving a truck with a ton of explosives.  The Jerusalem Post reports; you decide.

Honestly, knowing what we know now, had OUR military had the opportunity to launch a missle at Tim McVeigh and Terry Nicholls and Jose Padilla (or whoever John Doe 2 is) in early April, 1995, even if they were at home with children, I daresay that opportunity would not have been passed up by OUR defense establishment.

 

TD Moussaoui Circus Extra
July 25, 2002

Thanks to blogger Stuart Buck for linking us to the Moussaoui case docket.

Your TD has just learned that Zaccarias Moussaoui has now evidently withdrawn his previous attempts at pleading guilty.  More accurately, his efforts to plead guilty to 4 of the 6 conspiracy charges were rejected by Judge Brinkema, as CNN reports here.

Well, as guilty pleas go, easy come, easy go.  Again, we need to look very carefully at everything Moussaoui is doing.  Once again, he has not "allocuted", or given an open court confession as to the specific acts constituting guilt of a crime; partially, this is because Judge Brinkema won't let him.  Partially.  Your TD is convinced that in the course of his 100 or so filings, Moussaoui has not exactly laid out what it is he thinks he is guilty of, and as this sample shows, some of his motions appear to be off the wall, while others do not (TD comments noted below):

 

MOTION by Zacarias Moussaoui |to Stop Leonie Brinkema to Undermine My Chance to Live by Her Smearing Campaign| Additional attachment(s) added on 7/17/2002 (rtra, ). (Entered: 07/15/2002)

--(Apparently denied)

 

07/15/2002 332 MOTION by Zacarias Moussaoui |to Have the Right to Get all Motion Filed in My Case and to Stop Standby Lawyer Interfereing in My Pro Se Defense| Additional attachment(s) added on 7/17/2002 (rtra, ). (Entered: 07/15/2002)

--(Motion granted based on his right to privacy)

 

07/15/2002 331 MOTION by Zacarias Moussaoui |to Force Leonie Brinkema to Accept Bro Freeman Motion| Additional attachment(s) added on 7/17/2002 (rtra, ). (Entered: 07/15/2002)

--(Motion apparently denied)

 

07/15/2002 330 MOTION by Zacarias Moussaoui |to Stop the FBI to Temper With Evidence and to Have Hussein Al Attas and Ali Mukhram Called as Witness Immediate Hearing| Additional attachment(s) added on 7/17/2002 (rtra, ). (Entered: 07/15/2002)

--(Motion apparently denied, though as to witnesses, possibly on technical grounds)

 

07/15/2002 329 MOTION by Zacarias Moussaoui |to Stipulate My Right and Duty to Live on this Earth a Long and Happy Life (with four wives) and to Stop this Judge Misrepresenting My Fight For Life| Additional attachment(s) added on 7/17/2002 (rtra, ). (Entered: 07/15/2002)

--(disposition unknown)

 

07/15/2002 328 MOTION by Zacarias Moussaoui |to Have a Fair Trial Free of Islamphobia and Discrimination| Additional attachment(s) added on 7/17/2002 (rtra, ). (Entered: 07/15/2002)

--(disposition unknown)

 

07/15/2002 327 MOTION by Zacarias Moussaoui |to Be Given Printout of the Visa Application of Ramzi and the Western Union Money Transfer of Ahad Sabet| Additional attachment(s) added on 7/17/2002 (rtra, ). (Entered: 07/15/2002)

--(disposition unknown, though this seems a reasonable defense request)

 

07/15/2002 326 MOTION by Zacarias Moussaoui |Already 3 Weeks that I Ask You Leonie Brinkema to Order the FBI to Release My Letter to Europe| Additional attachment(s) added on 7/17/2002 (rtra, ). (Entered: 07/15/2002)

--(disposition unknown)

 

07/15/2002 325 MOTION by Zacarias Moussaoui |Leonie Brinkema Embargo on Bro Freeman Legal Assistance Services to Me, Must Stop Now| Additional attachment(s) added on 7/17/2002 (rtra, ). (Entered: 07/15/2002)

--(disposition unknown)

 

07/15/2002 324 MOTION by Zacarias Moussaoui |for Justice| Additional attachment(s) added on 7/17/2002 (rtra, ). (Entered: 07/15/2002)

--(disposition unknown, though justice delayed in this case may not be justice denied.)

 

07/15/2002 323 MOTION by Zacarias Moussaoui |to Stop Zacarias Moussaoui State Murder and Have the Right to Contact the French Embassy and National Assembly| Additional attachment(s) added on 7/17/2002 (rtra, ). (Entered: 07/15/2002)

--(disposition unknown, though under international law, as a French national, he is absolutely entitled to be given access to French diplomatic personnel.)

 

07/15/2002 322 MOTION by Zacarias Moussaoui |to Stop the Liars and Freedom of Information and Security for Zacarias Moussaoui| Additional attachment(s)

added on 7/17/2002 (rtra, ). (Entered: 07/15/2002)

--(Disposition unknown)

 

Your TD's money is still on the "crazy like a fox" theory.  The government should seriously consider taking this guy up on a plea, because when the smoke and mirrors clear, he was in federal custody on 9-11 (and for a month before), and I don't see this guy admitting his way into a conviction.

 

July 25, 2002, New York, NY.  The market appears to be in a holding pattern (around even as I write this).  No matter:  stability would be a good thing.  Let the public realize that most companies probably ARE NOT run by the type of corporate scoundrels we have been reading about, such as Kenny Boy Lay of Enron, Bernie Boy Ebbers of Worldcom, or apparently, Vice President Dick Cheney of Halliburton (hope springs eternal that he may be yet be cleared; the markets will REALLY be spooked if he is not), and that more people lost money in perfectly clean (though heinously overvalued) Cisco Systems (which at its peak had a market capitalization in excess of 6% of the United States Gross Domestic Product) than in most of these other corporate meltdowns, combined.  As long as we can KEEP the President from making more statements designed to calm the markets, we should be fine!

Well, today is another chapter in the Moussaoui Circus; your TD will endeavor to report on it as soon as events become public...  For some details, CNN reports here.  (By the way, I understand that Judge Brinkema has ruled that Mr. Moussaoui IS mentally competent to plead guilty.  Your TD calls on Attorney General Ashcroft to immediately bring the same force to bear against Judge Brinkema that he did against the State of Oregon when THAT STATE tried to permit assisted suicide.  Again, more to follow.)

Finally, although it is noted in our Talking Dog Point, now ex-Congressman James Traficant is just a gift who keeps on giving;  aside from having the loyal support of soon-to-be ex-Congressman Condit, Traficant is just one of those characters you can't make up.  Your TD's favorite part of the 4 days of House Ethics Committee hearings was Traficant's questioning of "friendly witness" Sandra Ferrante:

Mr. Traficant:  Were you and I sex partners?

Ms. Ferrante:  No.

Mr. Traficant:  Why not?

Even if he IS a convicted felon, your TD will miss ex-Congressman Traficant.

 

July 24, 2002, New York, New York.  Well, your TD may start a new, irregular feature, called "Where's Osama?"  For some hints on how to play, follow along this report from CNN.

Again, your TD acknowledges that, having not volunteered to serve in our military himself, he has to be sensitive to the dangers imposed on those fellow citizens who HAVE patriotically volunteered.  Notwithstanding such dangers, a larger American man-hunt should have been undertaken way back, when we had pretty good confirmation that Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan.  This failure to catch the one-man poster child for the war on terrorism is a propaganda disaster (though, we suspect, probably less of a disaster in other ways; as I write this, around noon on July 24th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up over 200 points.  Most likely a foolsí rally, but we can still be optimistic itís not.)

Meanwhile, a massive effort is underway in California to prevent forest fires from damaging or destroying sequoia redwood trees, some of the world's oldest and tallest trees (I suppose a simultaneous manhunt is underway for any firefighters employed by the federal government who were in the vicinity of the initial reported fire...)  America's "forest management" has gone through various cycles, such as "do nothing", "fight every fire tooth and nail" and "controlled burns" (such as the one near Los Alamos, New Mexico that threatened the national laboratory there after the "controlled burn" went out of control.)

Some serious thought has to go into reviewing the historical records and seeing what brands of forest management seemed to work best; what we are doing now seems NOT to be working, but against historical review, the current "forest management" may be just fine.  Your TD doesn't profess to know...

And on the subject of conflagrations, back to Israel and Gaza, where the recriminations keep coming; here is a Jerusalem Post analysis of the IDF's statements that it is "terribly sorry" about the killing of civilians.  Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres made the same statement that he was terribly saddened at the loss of innocent life.  I think it is agreed that the "if we only knew other people were there we wouldn't have done this" argument is not credible when coming from an IDF capable of blowing up the anteroom and guest room (but not bedroom, bathroom or kitchen!) of Yasir Arafat's personal residence.

The Jerusalem Post analysis makes a similar point to TD's:  this is very well a turning point.  Which way, we don't know.  It could be that now that terrorist leaders know that not just they, but THEIR FAMILIES will become legitimate IDF targets, maybe THEY will be forced to measure their actions accordingly.  If so, the unfortunate killing of children here will save thousands upon thousands of children later, Israeli and Palestinian both.  On the other hand, if this breaks up a seeming period of quiet as Israeli re-occupation progresses to do what Yasir could not or would not do (rein in the terrorists), and responsive terror increases, then all but the most cynical could conclude that this is EXACTLY what Sharon intended by launching this strike.  And despite protestations of the Bush Administration, is it likely Sharon would have done this Gaza attack without consultation?

Meanwhile, note that the Saudi Prince owner of the Kentucky Derby winning horse died of a "heart attack" at 46; his brother (another Saudi Prince) kicked off of a "heart attack" at 49 a few months ago; and yet another Saudi Prince, their cousin, died at 41 in a car accident on the way to the funeral.  Could we be watching the Saudi version of a succession struggle, as three nephews of King Faud, all in their 40's, die more or less simultaneously?  Or maybe they just all got a batch of bad hummus.  Stay tuned...

 

July 23, 2002, New York, NY.  As we take a moment's attention away from a stabilizing stock market (boy, is the President hoping that sticks!), let us consider an Israeli attack on a Hamas leader in Gaza as reported in the Jerusalem Post.

This was obviously a really bad guy -- a master of getting others to kill themselves and Israeli women, children and grandmothers.  This time, Israel didn't do what it often does -- i.e., risking its own military personnel on a daring mission to minimize "collateral damage".  This time it simply pushed a button a fired a missile at its target, an apartment house.  Obviously, it COULD have done something like that to Yasir Arafat a long time ago, but despite the inflammatory rhetoric, Mr. Sharon wants Yasir around.

Ariel Sharon regards this as a success (though regret was expressed regarding the other victims).  Certainly, it was a military success:  the target was hit, the bad guy killed (and some other people, regrettably including children).

Your TD is of two minds:  perhaps future Hamas/Hizbollah/Fatah officials will consider their actions a bit more carefully, knowing that Israel may no longer be squeamish about taking out THEIR OWN families.  Of course, this may also be a perverse political success of another kind:  amidst the relative quiet (no suicide bombings or other attacks for, well, days), there might be pressure to resume peace talks.  Now, given the likely very nasty Hamas responsive measure (in the form of a suicide bombing), that quiet will likely come to an end (and with it, possibly, pressure to continue talks, which Sharon opposes anyway).

 

July 22, 2002, New York, New York (just after market close).  Well, the markets closed as they opened:  DOWN, DOWN and DOWN some more.  On a positive note, now that WorldCom shareholders need no longer worry about a possible bankruptcy, its stock went up a few pennies!  The rest of the market went down, with the Dow Jones Industrials off around 3% to just under 7800, and the NASDAQ Index down around the same percentage to just under 1300.

Your TD is kicking himself for not being able to have landed the WorldCom bankruptcy case (we can be certain that it will be lucrative for the attorneys involved, if not for creditors or shareholders), but then, that's the way it is.

To continue my philosophical musings on capitalism raised earlier, note that some of the major reforms (audit reform, expensing options) being championed today by friend of the people (Please run for president as a Democrat!  PRETTY PLEASE!) Senator John McCain were, previously, suggested by Arthur Levitt, former SEC Apparatchik in the Clinton Administration.

Dick and Dubya are in a tough one, and the "war" is not likely to get them out of this, particularly as more and more of the country wonders "where's Osama -- why can't we be certain he's dead".  When Dick's Halliburton-related fortune and Dubya's ENTIRE fortune rests on the same sort of happy fictions that Ken Lay's and Bernie Ebbers' fortunes rest on, their moral authority on stock-market issues is, from soccer parlance, nil.  And if they don't watch it...

 

July 22, 2002, New York, New York.  Well, as I write this, WorldCom has filed for bankruptcy, and the Dow crashed through 8000, and then through 7900...

Our friends at The Economist note that the telecoms bubble is perhaps 10 times the size of the dot-coms bubble.

Hence, Worldcom is now the largest bankruptcy ever (twice the size of Enron).

Amazingly, even as earnings are restated (and will be signed off as accurate by CEOs starting August 14th -- though that will not likely restore shaken investor confidence), the "price earnings ratio" (meaning, literally, what the price of the stock is compared with a company's annual earnings -- preferably actual earnings) is currently 21 for the S&P 500 largest public companies; historically, it is 15.  Alas, this means there's plenty more room for a wild ride.

We are witnessing what Schumpeter called capitalism's "creative destruction"; cars "destroyed" wagons, lightbulbs "destroyed" candles, petroleum destroyed the whale oil industry, and of course, the Bush family (when in power) destroys honest productive capacity (though they and their friends do quite nicely, thanks).

Specifically, we are witnessing the logical consequence of "irrational expectations":  without inflation, the market CAN'T give 20% returns every year, because that level of increased productivity has NEVER historically been sustainable for very long.  And sure enough, it wasn't.  The continuing high returns were based not on technological efficiencies, but on accounting legerdemain and an investor community willing to overlook anything except missing an earnings target (which was punished viciously).  Result?  Yup:  earnings targets were made (even if, as it turns out, they were either fudged a little, or else completely fabricated.)

For the most part, we've seen the enemy:  he was us (and anyone who seriously thought that "everything is different" for companies with no discernable way of making money which were still showered with billions in market valuations).  Even your TD thought the market was rigged to go up (he is certainly still sure it is rigged...)

People who sold houses or stable income investments to "get in the game" got what they bargained for.  Many got the dark side of the risk-reward equation.  Unfortunately, so did a lot of people whose only offense was choosing to work for the wrong horse; as Talking Points Memo notes, these people (your TD included) have a whole group of people we can now resent:  people like our President, just handed business opportunity just because they were connected, who never had a tough decision to make in their lives.

Well, the market is intrinsically self-correcting:  the rules didn't change (and hence, prices take a dive).  The question is:  what will our crony capitalist government do about it?  Your TD fears that as dismal as the market news is, the Bush Administration prefers it to discussing the even more dismal progress of the "war on terrorism".

 

Talking Dog Extra

Welcome back Rabid Dog!  We are proud to add Ravingatheist.com to the already inexplicable list of perma-links in the Dog Run.  (We also now say goodbye to Smartertimes, given that the creation of the New York Sun has superceded it, and it hasn't posted in months.)

This newest blog is the creation of that canine you already know as the Rabid Dog, who now takes as his new nom de plume (or in his case, nom de guerre), The Raving Atheist!  So, we welcome ravingatheist.com to the family of active blogs.  Although RA will hate us for saying it, God bless your new blog!

 

July 21, 2002, East Hampton, NY.  Well, your TD observes the news media's current obsession with the stock market collapse; we'll see what happens on the Street tomorrow!  Meanwhile, your TD wonders, hey guys!  There's, like this major story about Angelina and Billy-Bob -- why aren't you covering it?  For those of you who want a frank discussion of love and sex as it was meant to be discussed -- by a recent Yale graduate with her own blog -- check out Eve Tushnet.

As suspected, while glancing at the Sunday New York Times, the Gray Lady took its criticism of the WTC reconstruction off of the editorial page, where it might be confused with "opinion" (itís a FACT that it would be WRONG to replace all of the square feet of office space lost) and moved its criticism to the FRONT PAGE, where it can rightly be construed as "news" (in this case, of a public hearing where criticism of the project was expressed).

Your TD's limited experience in the vagaries of "public hearings" on zoning matters consisted of once representing a client that wanted to open an indoor baseball batting cage (how freaking American is that?) in HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY -- widely considered the birthplace of baseball!  (I mean, could it get any better?)  The planned usage was approved by the City, of course, but then there was a public hearing where neighbors of the proposed business just showed up and expressed objection "because kids might hang out there".  In short, "Not In My Back Yard" (NIMBY) objections were raised to an indoor batting cage (which also served hot dogs and ran kidsí birthday parties) for no other reason than people were given the opportunity to do so (damned freedom and democracy!).

My point is that the various insistences that "we will listen to the public" and especially "we will listen to THE FAMILIES" (a rather amorphous group, making political accountability to them harder still) CAN ONLY GO SO FAR.  Let's be honest:  NO ONE speaks for the general public interest, because no one can.  Everyone has some sort of overarching private or personal interests, even if it is the personal desire for an appropriate memorial for lost loved ones, or the personal desire for a really nice new park in their own neighborhood (the two interests the Times think are more important than jobs and economic renewal).  Such personal interests could be, but ARE NOT NECESSARILY the public interest at all (unless you insist, as does the Times, that your personal preference for public space defines "the public interest".)

The government's JOB is to "speak for the public interest", but we all know that short of a Platonic Republic run by a supremely benevolent despot, it doesn't do that.  The government TRIES to fulfill a wide enough variety of private concerns and needs (such as satisfying my PERSONAL need for highways to travel on, or police to protect me from potential acts of violence, or anti-trust laws to make sure that successful companies are punished for being successful -- well, we'll think about that one a minute) to convince a wide enough portion of the public that it is satisfying these needs sufficiently to warrant reelecting that government (you know: accountability).

Like it or not, large swaths of New York were built by semi-benevolent semi-despots, be it the Robert Moses highway system, or Nelson Rockefeller's final erection, the original World Trade Center, or the mandarins who gave us the subway system, most of which was built in just a few years before World War I.  These people did not feel the need to heed the concern of every resident who was upset by construction noise out their window, or had their own notions of "architectural beauty".

What is my point?  Oh yeah.  The damned thing has to be rebuilt.  Yes, it would be nice if it satisfied the concerns of every single "constituent". But it can't.  It probably can't even satisfy the concerns of most people.  Your TD is of the opinion that anyone who is THAT interested can buy the leasehold from Larry Silverstein and do what he or she wants with it (subject to the vagaries of the leasehold being on state land, of course).  Otherwise, it is nice that people have an opportunity to express concerns, some of which SHOULD be considered (and doubtless WILL be).

Alas, a camel is an elephant designed by committee (or something); someone will have to sort this WTC thing out and get it done.  Time matters.  It was estimated that New York lost office space equivalent to all of that in downtown Atlanta.  It has to be replaced.  People who are alive in 50-100 years may have beautiful skyline elements and a lovely park based on the decisions made now, but people alive RIGHT NOW need to work, run their businesses, and go for their dreams.  Failing to provide that opportunity -- rather than some elitist aesthetic concern -- will mean that the terrorists will have won.

 

July 20, 2002, East Hampton, NY.  Well, it has been 33 years to the day since Neil Armstrong took that fateful first step on the moon (ironically only six months after Star Trek was cancelled).  Space-travel obsessed Instapundit wonders why we were closer to colonization of space THEN than we are NOW.  Well, in fairness, we probably are a little closer now (we have better rockets, and computers, though one still wonders whether we'd want to send a MANNED mission run by engineers who forget whether they programmed in feet or meters...)

Still, one wonders (your TD now reverts to New York pinko liberal form, while sitting in a beachfront bungalow in the midst of some of the most expensive real estate in the world), perhaps we should be concentrating on solving the problems of THIS planet, such as billions of people facing imminent death from starvation and curable (or at least controllable) diseases.  Just a thought...

Meanwhile, our friends at Unqualified Offerings continue their timely and well documented observations, this time of the Moussaoui trial.  (In answer to a query raised by UO as to whether your TD is really a lawyer, or a big fat liar, your TD ponders why this is raised as an "or".  Actually, your TD is, in fact, a lawyer.  As a lawyer, would I lie?)

Here in the Hamptons, your TD had an opportunity to scan The New York Times editorial page.  The Gray Lady asserts that the stock market's rapid collapse is evidence that Dubya is failing as a president.  Naturally, a rapid increase in stock prices would ALSO be proof that Dubya is failing as a president.  (The correct answer is that the failure to account for the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and to mount a removal of Saddam Hussein make him -- so far-- off to a bad start; he has some time to turn this around.)

I DID note a sort of vague criticism of the unveiled WTC redevelopment plans administered by the Beyer Blinder Belle architecture firm (disclosure: I once met one the principals at a deposition (see I really AM a lawyer); I think they're really good architects, and I like the plans, but what do I know?).  What exactly is the problem?  That the site won't be made into a sixteen acre nature preserve?  The original WTC site was scary, and ugly:  all six proposals are improvements.  We have to redevelop the site into offices and retail because New Yorkers need jobsóthat is, jobs besides serving cappuccino to the Times editorial staff.

Finally, a massive beef recall.  Although your TD has refrained from beef and all red meat for five years on cockamamie ethical grounds (I still eat chicken and fish, and Mrs. TD and Baby TD eat red meat), there IS trouble in America's slaughterhouses and packing plants.  When meat inspectors seem to give the same level of concern for the integrity of their jobs as Andersen auditors...

 

July 19, 2002, New York, New York.  Well, in the "life imitates art (if you can call sitcoms art)" department, we get the feeling that Zaccarias Moussouai ("the 20th hijacker") has watched a few too many episodes of Night Court.  We give you this CNN account of his attempt at pleading guilty.

Actually, reading between the lines shows that Mr. Moussaoui may actually be crazy like a fox (and we don't mean the Fox network).  Look carefully at what he admitted:  being a follower of bin Laden and a loyal al Qaeda member ARE NOT ACTUALLY CRIMES!  Mr. Moussaoui also claims to have information about the conspiracy, though he does not admit that he was part of it.  Of course, much as your TD would probably smile at the thought of Mr. Moussaoui being slowly lowered into a vat of boiling Saudi oil, the fact is, the government has a very questionable case against him.  All of the links to the 9-11 crimes are attenuated; sure, he acted very strangely at his flight school in Minnesota ("No!  Stop with the take-offs and landings!  Just show me how to steer!") and had quite a Rogues' Gallery on his Rolodex.  But, while indicative of something very troubling, by themselves, THESE ARE NOT CRIMES!  On 9-11, he was already in federal custody on immigration charges (and of these, he's most assuredly guilty.)

Still, the guy just seems to WANT to plead guilty; he's already tried to plead "no contest", and now outright "guilty".  The government should very seriously consider hearing him out, and letting him plead guilty to something (preferably something that allows his incarceration forever, although your TD will accept something with at least 30 years).  As with Mr. Lindh, the last thing the government needs is for its carefully orchestrated show trial to end in an acquittal because the jury actually made a determination based on the EVIDENCE.

As I write this, the stock market resumes its freefall, as shown here.

Naturally, most of the most active disasters are in your TD's battered portfolio.  What else is new?  Not to worry: this will be old news by the end of the trading day!

 

July 18, 2002, New York, New York.  Well, your TD will now weigh in the issue of whether he feels that the abuse of stock options, widely cited as one of the causes of the current market overvaluation bubble-followed-by-the-current-market-freefall, is, in fact, a really bad thing.  First, some background from our friends at The Economist who in turn link us to this (insanely long) article to be published soon in the University of Chicago Law Review.

Good catch:  by phrasing the question that way (the way, say the biased pollsters always ask "In these dangerous times of war when we have to rally around our national leadership, do you approve of the President's job performance?"), your TD has already ANSWERED the question.  YES:  stock options were abused, and abused royally.  Senator McCain's recently shot-down proposal (many thanks, though not exclusively of course, to "Enron" Phil Gramm of Texas) to force companies to account for such option grants as "current expenses" makes perfect sense:  if a company were paying CASH as compensation, it would expense it.  Ditto options.  Plus, shareholders will get to see EXACTLY what management is paying itself, not some convoluted accounting scenario that deliberately obfuscates it.  In the end, is Derek Jeter worth more to his company (the NY Yankees) than, say, Michael Eisner is his (Disney)?  Well, although Derek has, so far, been paid but a miniscule fraction of what Mike is, the answer remains a resounding YES.  Derek NEGOTIATED a salary, based on his ability to put fans in the seats at the Stadium and in front of their television sets.  Mike more or less paid himself (and in some cases, his friends) what he thought he could get away with.  A level of stock option reform will help lessen this problem.  Capitalism is intrinsically creative:  more means of screwing shareholders can always be found.  The obvious ones, however, which intrinsically smack of fraud and self-dealing (regardless of the fact that "crony capitalism" was the principal means of wealth-building for our nation's current leadership), should be curbed, or the public's outrage will be unabating.  Hyperbole notwithstanding, in the "Red states", this issue may prove disastrous for the current regime.

Whhhhheeeewwww.  That said, we go back to the Middle East, where yet another suicide bomber (two actually) have killed at least five and wounded dozens in Tel Aviv.

Well, your TD notes that, in the end, the Israelis can slow down, but they can't STOP, the wave of terrorism against their citizenry, be it with occupation, curfew, or fences.  The IDF can exile, or even kill, Yasir Arafat, and the pace of the terror will proceed mostly unabated.

The Israelis have exactly four options, the first two of which are extremely unlikely: (1) join the United States, with or without Palestine also joining, or (2) pull up stakes, just walk out of the West Bank as Barak did from South Lebanon, and make plans to walk out of the rest of Israel while they're at it; the other two are (3) do what they're already doing, and absorb the terrorism; or (4) negotiate a settlement, including money (and/or fully equipped 'settlements" in lieu of "right of return" and territorial transfer with self- and US- enforced security guarantees).  While your TD favors (1) as the cleanest and fastest (the US of A will get tremendous benefits, especially if Palestine DOES NOT also join the Union), (4) is the only sensible solution (Jews hate the word solution of course, because of its Teutonic antecedents).  Of course, internal Israeli politics will almost certainly mean that (3) is what is practiced, at least for the foreseeable future.  Your TD, alas, will have to put that trip to the Holy Land on hold for a while...

 

July 17, 2002, New York, NY.  Well, yesterday we noted that plans for World Trade Center redevelopment were made public; here are the current proposals.

Your TD believes that all appear to be workable, and hopes that the redevelopment process can move along sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, in the "We've got to give up some -- hell, a huge number -- of our cherished freedoms to maintain our American way of life" department, we give you the White House's bold new "Homeland Security" initiatives.  (Disclaimer: Your TD has not thoroughly reviewed this himself; he just makes the usual assumptions about the Bush-Cheney Administration that any other knee-jerk, New York City liberal would make).

Meanwhile, will today mark the end of the stock market slide?  Your guess is as good as mine...

 

July 16, 2002, New York, New York.  This morning (things proceeding apace), the day after the "closing ceremony" at Fresh Kills landfill, comes the unveiling of six proposed redevelopment plans of the World Trade Center site.

Admirably, all six proposals encompass memorials, four even leaving the twin towers "footprints" without structures on them, and all six more or less replacing the lost square footage so that the site can, again, become an economic engine for the City, the Nation, and the civilized world.

Meanwhile, your TD is, periodically, reminded of laments he made last September and October (back when he was the "Left Leaning Dog"; we're hoping for great things soon from our friend the Rabid Dog, by the way).  Specifically, your TD believed that the nation's retaliatory and purportedly preemptive war on Afghanistan would be fought in a way intended more for public consumption than for strategic purpose:

(From October 8, 2001)

On the contrary:  your LLD believes that the allegedly tough right wing government that placed itself in charge of our nation last winter will not go FAR ENOUGH in conducting its current campaign against terror, despite the rhetoric.  I assure you that deep inside our national security apparatus, ten times the effort that is going into finding perpetrators and stopping the next wave of terrorism is going into the cover up of responsibility for the last wave, of which our national security apparatus almost certainly had some level of  foreknowledge of the events of September 11th.  Your LLD won't accept the "incompetence" argument from the son of the former president AND CIA DIRECTOR -- even if it seems to fit.

That said, your LLD believes that the current government will perform EXACTLY the way it did in the Gulf War:  a series of showy explosions (the terrorists liked showy explosions, too, of course -- though we tend to go to extremes to avoid "collateral damage" -- while that is their aim).  Notice the reversion to an official secrets act as pertains to war correspondents?  Its always "officially" about "national security" -- but its actually about a psychosis for secrecy that has permeated through Bush and Cheney about everything -- even the release of Ronald Reagan's NON-CLASSIFIED presidential papers!  Well, I guess that's what America's about -- that and watching what you say!  Suffice it to say, the showy explosions will NOT end with the removal of Saddam Hussein (necessary if we actually want to end terrorism -- even if we only want to end the "bad" kind against the United States and not the "good" kind directed against Israel) from power, violently and viciously, and leaving his country in flaming ruins, as the only sort of message the Arab world (you know, the people who merrily crashed our planes into our cities) will comprehend.

Again, I have said it privately, and now I'll say it publicly:  if Saddam Hussein is dead  (I'll even take natural causes) or out of power within 180 days, I will vote for, hell, I'll CAMPAIGN for, George W. Bush to be reelected.  I'm not worried about having to pay off that bet.  Prove me wrong, Mr. President.  For America's sake, prove me wrong.

Note of course, your TD's then-concern:  what he perceived (and still perceives) as the actual return address (Baghdad) for the various terror attacks (to recap, 9-11, anthrax, Flight 587) to have befallen our country in the past ten months.  What he didn't anticipate was that we, the United States, in "alliance" with, well, the entire planet, would be unable to get ONE GUY.  I mean, as Robin Williams put it, how hard IS IT to find a 6'5" Arab on dialysis?  And not only have Osama (and his friend and enabler, the blind and daft Mullah Omar) apparently escaped alive, but as far as we can tell, as a result of half-assed inadequate "mopping up" operations, Al Qaeda is now dispersed, and potentially even more dangerous than before.

An excellent assessment on the "war" comes to us from our friends at Unqualified Offerings who note how merrily the Warblogger set went along with "the war", despite what looks objectively as, well, less than achieving our stated aims.  (Scroll down a bit for some intelligent observations on the new TIPS proposal to combat terrorism).

Finally, in the "more things change..." department, another bus attack in Israel.  At least seven dead, two dozen wounded.  This WITH the "Wild West" Bank effectively under reoccupation.

Unfortunately, the only viable solutions continue to be either (1) both Israel and the Palestinians set aside their differences by joining the United States, or (2) they negotiate some sort of final arrangement with each other.  By the way, your TD does not believe the "settlements" are an obstacle to peace.  Far from, they are a bargaining chip.  Israel has spent a fortune developing them, and can use that monetary value to offset the compensation for "right of return" that will ultimately be part of the final negotiated arrangement.

 

July 15, 2002, New York, NY.  Well, as an attorney, I'm observing quite a field day in legal news.  We'll start with the unexpected plea bargain in the case of "American Taliban", John Walker Lindh.

The plea bargain will save both sides a great deal of trouble.  Lindh need not sit through a trial where the entire brunt of Western civilization will fall upon him, and he would be facing an almost certain life sentence (the plea bargain maxes him at 20 years, and he'll doubtless do even better) for what amounts to simply an act of renunciation of citizenship.  Lindh's actions -- joining what was then the legitimate army of a foreign nation -- so legitimate that General Franks in his infinite wisdom thought Mullah Omar was a legitimate head of state (as did his JAG adviser) -- usually are not construed per se as criminal acts.  Further, Lindh himself apparently refused to participate in "operations" intended against American territory; his actions could be construed as defending the territory of his adopted country, Afghanistan.  Properly, Lindh SHOULD have been stripped of his American citizenship (based on his de facto renunciation by joining a foreign army) and shipped to Guantanamo to await legal limbo with the rest of the sorta-POWs.  Instead, our government, as in need of a legal scapegoat as a military victory, was delighted to nab him, and try him as a criminal.

Of course, the government should be EVEN HAPPIER about this plea bargain.  Alas, Lindh was not properly "Mirandized", nor afforded a right to counsel (despite his parents retaining attorneys for him), nor afforded other niceties (or, as AG Ashcroft would doubtless think of them, annoying inconveniences) of our legal system.  Lindh was battle-field interrogated, a process not normally intended to aid in later criminal prosecution (which is why battlefield combatants are not normally subject to ordinary criminal prosecution).  Now, troubling issues concerning his post-capture treatment, and the admissibility of statements he gave to the military, the CIA, and to reporters, can be avoided.  Although your TD sees this as a "win-win", he thinks the Government fared better:  Mr. Lindh will go to jail, and for longer than he likely would as a POW (even if the "war on terror" starts to look as endless as the "war on drugs" or "war on poverty"); although Lindh need no longer risk a life sentence, the government need not risk a troubling acquittal.  Further, given the current regime's mania for secrecy, a public trial spilling certain details of our military operations in Afghanistan could hardly be welcome.

Across distance and time in Pakistan, four perpetrators were convicted in the Daniel Pearl murder and one of them, sentenced to hang; he promptly called for an Islamic uprising.  Honestly, what more can we say about this crime?  Pearl, brutally abducted, blindfolded, forced to recite his background and when he mentioned that his mother was Jewish, his throat slashed --  ALL CAPTURED ON VIDEOTAPE!  For those of us who still believe in good and evil, this act was the definition of evil.  Much as our President has been accused of being too simplistic in thus assessing the world, the brutal murder of one gentle man (thereby rendering his pregnant wife a widow and his now infant child fatherless) was EVIL.  Contrary to the prevailing liberal dogma, we do not have to understand the motives of the perpetrators:  they committed an act of evil, and at this point, for better or worse, have succumbed to evil.  What does that make their hate and jihad-based Wahabbi-inspired (and financed) belief system?  Correct again:  evil.

Does this make ISLAM evil, per se?  Of course not.  The vast (I suspect overwhelming) majority of the Islamic world doesn't believe that it is their RELIGIOUS DUTY to go out and murder Americans and Jews.  Alas, your TD DOES believe that a huge number of Saudis and others inspired by them, however, DO believe this (though, thankfully, they haven't been as effective in carrying out their hatred as they have in expressing it).  Does this mean that we as Americans have to understand and deal with this hatred?  Yes it does.  What can we do about it?  Correct again:  point out to our fellow homo sapiens who believe in this form of neo-Nazism/Stalinism-in-a-kaftan-or-turban that such hatred is futile and hopeless against an economically, militarily and morally superior West.  (We can start by declaring war on an unrepentant and uncooperative Saudi Arabia, and promptly leveling Mecca.  Don't worry, your TD is not in charge of our nation's foreign policy, and this won't happen, nor will Israel be joining the union, even if both would be good things.)

At least one Arab journalist reports that Osama is still alive.  Well, if so, your TD very much requests the honor his presence at an Afghan wedding...

While we can all lament moneys lost in this or that financial debacle (or scandal), or the Prez or Veep's involvement in their own financial irregularities, today marks the somber end (and accompanying ceremony) to the sifting of World Trade Center debris in Staten Island to search for remains or possessions of those killed on September 11th.  The passing of ten months has done little to lessen the emotional impact.  A couple of weeks ago, your TD was at a ceremony where the Boy Scouts' highest award for valor was awarded.  Then 18-year old Richie Pearlman, working as a messenger in a law firm, found himself at Police Plaza in lower Manhattan when he heard the call of a heart attack victim on the morning of September 11, 2001.  Pearlman immediately ran into the South Tower of the World Trade Center (with the paramedic badge he earned working as a volunteer with a Forest Hills volunteer ambulance company) to give aid.  Your TD's eyes are tearing as he writes this, just as all eyes present teared over as Mrs. Pearlman was presented the award for her son's bravery, posthumously.

 

July 12, 2002, New York, New York.  In the "either confess or shut up" department, we give you this development in the Elizabeth Smart disappearance case.  Note that suspect Ricci is represented by a civil lawyer who may soon be turning it over to a criminal attorney.  The criminal attorney would doubtless advise the suspect of his right to remain silent, and tell him to use it.

From Afghanistan, we give you this development, as U.S. Special Forces apparently have come under fire from pissed off Afghans near the location of the wedding bombing (perhaps THEY were pissed that Osama and Omar didn't come -- AND didn't RSVP), it appears that "without admitting liability of any kind", the US of A will be providing some form of cash compensation to victims of the bombing.

And in the "the more things change, the more they stay the same" department, we give you this report showing that the ONLY person still in jail in LA County a week after the video-taped apparent police beating of a black suspect in Inglewood, California is...the guy who took the videotape:  from O.J.-trial maven Jeffrey Toobin (as told to Connie Chung).

In the same department, the anonymous Clintonistas of Media Whores Online have fired this salvo at our hero Mickey Kaus (of Kausfiles):

Mickey Kaus seems to have moderated his criticism of MWO rhetoric somewhat, and now characterizes it as merely "determinedly dumb and ad hominem," rather than dangerous and liable to incite violence.

Kaus protests our use of the term "whores" and asks why "everyone who disagrees"  with our point of view is labeled one.  Of course that isn't true.  We reserve the term for members of the media we believe have sold out their journalistic principles for financial profit or exposure.  There are many on the right whose views we believe are insane but who cannot, in fairness, be called "whores."

A common definition of "whore" that is known or should be known to anyone who calls himself a writer is "an unscrupulous or venal person."  Does anybody really believe Kaus has never heard the term used in this way to describe failed journalists?  Has he never seen "Network"?

Kaus did raise an important point, however, when he brought up the original issue of dangerous rhetoric.  Even if his "worry" about MWO as an instigator of violence was ridiculous and roundly criticized as such, that does not mean there is never a danger of certain kinds of rhetoric leading to violence.  For instance, when the rhetoric involves suggestions that Americans should be harmed or put to death for expressing their political or religious beliefs, a line has clearly been crossed.

We appreciate Kaus's bringing violence concerns to the fore, but we would encourage him to go a step further.  He should review those websites he promotes, such as Lucianne.com, and determine whether he and Slate are acting responsibly by linking to them.

If he continues to promote sites MWO has demonstrated feature precisely the kind of content he attempted to criticize MWO for without substantiation - or refuses to, at the very least, acknowledge that they feature it - who could really blame anyone for concluding he's just another one full of hot air who claims to get the vapors at the mention of an uncomplimentary but non-obscene word like "whore," yet has no problem with genuinely dangerous rhetoric or lousy journalism?

Well, as we have said (I think more than once) on this blog:  in these explosive times of potential terrorists in our midst, at a time of war and national tragedy, the LAST thing we need is freedom of speech -- and ESPECIALLY freedom of the press (unless its the right-minded press, such as The New York Times editorial page).

So, in deference to MWO, which we believe should be properly called "NDWA" (New Democrats With Attitudes), we have examined OUR OWN links, and have decided to add BOTH MWO AND Lucianne.Com to the Dog Run (at least until such time as one or the other pisses us off).

 

"7-11-02", New York, New York.  Welcome to ANOTHER "11" day, this the 10th since, you know, that thing.  This being 7-11, we hope its a lucky one for everyone out there.

In the "get a clue department", we give you Attorney General Ashcroft and his statement of 5,000 Al Qaeda operatives and untold "Sleepers" within the US of A.

Of course, we know that NONE of them had anything to do with the July 4th El AL shooting.

Meanwhile, we give you the incredible shrinking stock market.  Your TD hates it when Wall Street reacts to something (in this case, the President's "corporate responsibility speech") exactly the way HE would, but he failed to take the appropriate action and buy S&P puts!

Although this is not a financial advice column (no one is quite sure WHAT it IS, actually), once in a while, we note things (other than the President himself, of course) that fall into the category of "No Brainers".  At this second (around 1:20 p.m.), the DOW is down around 160, with the NASDAQ holding around even.  Your TD predicts that neither of those will hold, and will be different, by the end of the trading day.  (Sorry: I was auditioning for Ari Fleischer's job, or at least spokesperson for FBI.)

 

July 10, 2002, New York, New York.  One of your TD's acquaintances was fond of saying that baseball's All Star game was, well, just too darned important for the fans, players, or even managers to decide who should be on the roster Ė he suggested that only the Supreme Court was truly up to the task (as with choosing the President, I guess).  Your TD is of the opinion that the game, which has made it a habit of always squandering whatever goodwill it manages to acquire, as well as hiring the most loathsome commissioners (Bowie Kuhn and Bud Selig come immediately to mind) may as well listen to this advice, because WHO CARES what the damned fans want anyway. 

Click here for a report of the second called tie in All-Star Game history.  Ironically, the basis for this was that the managers "ran out of pitchers"; of course, the rationale for "contraction" is that there are TOO MANY pitchers:  the talent pool is spread too thin.  Hey, we can't suspend the rules and let some pitchers come back in the game, or worse yet, do what they'd do in a real game and make the position players pitch until a winner was decided.  Nooooooooo!!!!  Too much money at stake  (let's ignore what the stupid -- and they probably ARE stupid for paying so much -- fans want!)

Essentially, baseball may no longer truly be the "national pastime" (a phrase coined when the game consisted of White men only playing on 16 teams in only 11 cities stretching from Boston to St. Louis), and pretty much the youngest fans even marginally interested in the game anymore are probably in their mid-30's.  After perpetual "labor-management" squabbles between dueling groups of multi-millionaires, it looks like just as the '94 season fiasco is fading, so its time for...ANOTHER STRIKE!  Good going, guys!  When the Arizona Diamondbacks payroll almost certainly exceeds the GDP of Botswana:  WE'RE ALL SYMPATHETIC TO YOU, GUYS!  THAT GOES FOR BOTH SIDES!

Actually, the game of baseball may not be the national pastime, but is a pretty good national paradigm.  Essentially, a privileged few manage to suck ever greater amounts of money from an ever-widening public in return for ever more questionable performances.  This was going on at Enron AND at Enron Field, Qualcomm and Qualcomm  Stadium, Bank One and Bank One Ballpark...you get the idea.

What could be more fitting, of course, than that the man in charge of the free world has, as his GREATEST ambition, not the job he currently has, which seems to bore the crap out of him when he's not on the Air Force One treadmill or in the White House weight room, but the Commissariat of Baseball!  Lest we forget the rave review of his Presidency contained in this brilliant Alexander Cockburn piece:  in which it is noted that our President reached his maximum level of competence as greeter at the Ballpark at Arlington.

 

July 9, 2002, New York, New York.  Well, kudos to President Bush for his speech to Wall Street on business ethics, reminiscent perhaps of Bill Clinton giving a speech on the virtues of marital fidelity while at the Playboy Mansion.  For details, see this CNN report.

Suffice it to say, your TD really has very little to add on this, other than to note that Dubya and Clinton liked (and I suppose still like) each other at a personal level.  Its easy to see why: Dubya has more or less co-opted the agenda of corporate responsibility starting with accounting and auditing reform that his Administration had been so desperately fighting against behind the scenes for months!  You sly devil, Mr. President, you must have learned this technique from running:  duck in behind the frontrunner, and then take off like a bat out of hell with the finish line in site!

(Your TD uses this technique in his OWN road-racing, frequently passing the obese and elderly runners that manage to be just ahead of HIM near races' end).

Meanwhile, in Durban, South Africa, in another international gathering striving not to become a fiasco, African heads of State are seeking to replace the now-defunct "Organization of African Unity" (four words) with the much pithier "African Union" (two words).  President Thabo "HIV does not cause AIDS" Mbeki told the gathering that it is about time to stop "senseless wars" and, I suppose, limit themselves to sensible ones.  Well, guys, you all can start with Zimbabwe:  Mugabe is an awful dictator who has turned one of Africa's most promising nations into a shithole (complete with North Korean-type famine conditions).  Good luck.

Finally, it has been a while since we noted a suicide bombing over in Israel (now attacks against Israeli civilians have to be leveled from places not under dawn-to-dusk, shoot-to-kill curfews, such as Los Angeles...of course, given LA's "new" videotaped "excessive police force" case, maybe LA will soon be under such a curfew itself!)  Still, your TD is pleased to note that Israeli and Palestinian officials are at least talking.

As I have stated more times than I care to, there is nothing inconsistent with negotiating AND taking necessary security precautions at the same time.  If nothing else, not having suicide bombs go off in the background will mean you don't have to shout as much while negotiating.

 

July 8, 2002, New York, New York.  Well, your TD is pleased to be back in action after a long and not particularly restful Fourth of July respite.  My, my, my, what  a long weekend.

For a thorough analysis of the July 4th El Al shootings at the Los Angeles International Airport, check out Unqualified Offerings and Andrew Sullivan.

Some of the theories are "terrorism" (unsupported thus far by the evidence), or a dispute over a car service charge (El Al WOULD be slow payers, now wouldn't they?) or the all encompassing "who the hell knows what happened"?  Keep in mind we have been told that the Arab world (and NO, you cannot, at this point, distinguish between the 99+% of the Arab world that just wants to be left alone and the rather large and growing miscreant class that seems hell-bent on the destruction of anything good or beautiful in the world) has singled out "American and Jewish" interests for acts of terrorism.  Strikes me that shooting up the El Al counter at LAX on July 4th (and in a suicide mission at that) constitutes an attack on both.  Instapundit notes that the Israeli paper Ha'aretz reports a possible Al Qaeda connection.

Your TD recalls that (besides the wildly exaggerated dangers of the Y2K computer bug) around the time of the millennium turning (end of '99) America's security forces were concerned that our Arab friends had three simultaneous plots going:  the World Trade Center (a follow up from '93: we know the rest); the Space Needle (foiled at the border, apparently) and...destroy LAX.  So, what can I say?  I guess to some people (Neanderthals living in the Arab world) the Space Needle, like the WTC, was somehow a symbol of American power.  LAX?  Well, there ARE an awful lot of Jews living in Los Angeles.  And LAX is a MAJOR passenger and freight hub: it really would cause big-time economic disruption to the United States if it were damaged or destroyed...so, scorecard, Trade Center:  down; LAX: shot up...I think I'd be especially concerned if I were an air-traffic controller at SEA-TAC...

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, President Karzai has called for international help in solving the murder of one of Afghanís few Pashtun government officials, its Vice President Abdul Qadir, as this report shows.

Of course, Afghanistan is so screwed up, this could be drug related, or a standard tribal "thing", as well as possibly geo-political (or Al Qaeda related?).

Meanwhile, "the investigation continues" into the wedding-day bombing.  Your TD wants to know if the investigation will include why Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden weren't invited?

Baseball legend Ted Williams passed away over the July 4th weekend, somewhat befitting the greatest hitter of all time, who would doubtless have passed Babe Ruth's home run record and held EVERY record had it not been for his patriotic service as a fighter pilot in both World War II and Korea during the prime of his baseball career.  Nonetheless, in the uniquely Red Sox tradition of personal disagreeableness ("25 men, 25 cabs"), the Williams family seems to be having a dispute as to the disposition of his remains!

Finally, our President will be giving a speech tomorrow on "corporate responsibility", indicating that corporate misdeeds will now be punishable with jail time!  (Your TD was under the impression that making fraudulent statements to dupe investors and mislead regulators was ALREADY a crime.)  I defer to the Bull Moose on this one.

As an almost-related aside, the Worldcom scandal is peculiarly fascinating to your TD.  In his relatively brief sojourn with the U.S. Justice Department's Tax Division, the usual shtick with a large write-off (of the $3.8 billion variety that Worldcom attempted -- and succeeded for over a year -- to list on its books as a "capital expense") are that such write-offs are ORDINARILY BENEFICIAL to the company when taken AS CURRENT EXPENSES.  Why?  Because they reduce, or eliminate, corporate income subject to tax.  It is often the IRS seeking to reclassify such expenses as capital, to reduce the current "loss", so that there will BE income susceptible to tax!  Amazingly, your TD has seen NO analysis thus far of the fact that Worldcom's maneuverings may have cost the company and shareholders in terms of additional tax liabilities, or the fact that the tactic they chose was (for tax reasons) so anomalous in ordinary practice, but because of the insane overvaluation of stock prices, seemed like a sensible business move at the time!  (Editorís Note:  Actually, you might want to look at this in Slate.)

Well, we're counting on more window dressing from the President.  Mr. President, they say that the Canadian forest fires are making exercise conditions outdoors a little hairy; slow down if you feel any tightness, Sir.

 

July 3, 2002, New York, New York.  Well, we are not pleased to see that Swiss precision required the turning off of automatic collision warning devices over airspace within their jurisdiction, that coupled with poor command of English by Russian pilots, apparently led to an air disaster over Germany.  Of course, while your TD could rap on Russian aviation with its longstanding reputation for being, well, dangerous (although your TD once survived an Aeroflot roundtrip within the former Soviet Union), the whole friggin' world has been chock full o' aviation disasters in the past year, with calamities in Taiwan, Ukraine (oops, the Russians again!), Italy, and lest we forget, the United States.  Hey, fear of flying is RATIONAL.  It takes a leap of faith to get on those airplanes...we'll see; your TD still hasn't flown since 9-11, but perhaps soon...

Preliminary reports regarding the bombing of the Afghan wedding reveal that wedding guests were apparently shooting guns in the air "in joy", which may have been interpreted as anti-aircraft fire by our military's sophisticated equipment from, say, 5 or 6 miles in the air.  If only someone had thought ahead and invited Mullah Omar and Osama to the festivities...

Meanwhile, itís warm out -- REALLY WARM -- so a young tabloid reporter's fancies turn to thoughts of...Lizzie Grubman.

Note the penultimate paragraph, which coyly asserts:

Noting that Martha Stewart seems to be the reigning celebrity villainess, Seitel thinks Grubman will probably take her lumps in court, settle the civil lawsuits and try to move on with her life and career as best she can.

One of our loyal readers, Brian from Las Vegas, writes in to ask your TD's thoughts on Martha S. (she being only a couple of degrees of separation from both of us, and all) and her troubles.  Well, Brian, what can I say?  Martha, alas, despite being a media superstar and denizen of decor, is also a kazillionaire, and in addition to at one time being a caterer, was also a stockbroker.  So she knows what insider trading is.  On the other hand, I am more inclined to believe that she also knows what insider trading is NOT.  When her friend the Chairman and her friend the stockbroker (who, as an aside,  apparently attended the then-all male Columbia College at the same time as your TD, though I did not know him) called to tell her to dump the stock, I am SURE Martha was smart enough NOT to ask why she should do so, but simply, said "go ahead and do it".  To be honest, really rich people have really rich friends who do each other favors like this all the time, no questions asked, no particularly insidious motives either, for the most part.

What we are witnessing is what your TD will call the "Cruella De Vil Syndrome", engendered all too often in films put out by the Disney film studio, and later seemingly incorporated as societal norms.  Walt's movies all too often feature an evil female character, inavriably older, be it the Wicked Queen of Snow White, Cruella herself, the Wicked Stepmother of Cinderella, or even the sea-witch in the Little Mermaid.  Somehow women who are pinnacles of virtue when young and beautiful just seem to turn, well, REALLY EVIL later.  Go figure?

So, Martha, who, over the years, having acquired a reputation for being strong-willed (your TD recalls, for example, an incident involving her neighbor's gardener and Martha's vehicle -- YEARS before Lizzie, although only a few hundred yards away from Lizzie's father's summer place in East Hampton), has earned, at least in the popular tabloid world, the same universal acclaim and stature as that OTHER universally beloved figure, Leona Helmsley.  Martha, obviously, has a ways to go to earn Leona's UNIVERSAL adulation, but let's just say that in a world where Bernie Ebbers (now ex-CEO of Worldcom, you see, he gets scant coverage!) may be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars and his certainly cost shareholders BILLIONS and BILLIONS and employees tens of thousands of jobs, with questionable management (even if you excuse the "blatant, unmitigated fraud"), let alone Kenny-boy Lay and the Enron guys, Tyco, Global Crossing and all the other financial fiascos out there, it amazes your TD that MARTHA and her crappy 2 or 3 hundred thousand dollar stock trade gets the press coverage!

Well, your TD COULD say we are a silly, celebrity-driven culture, who even as Osama, Saddam and company plot our very extinction, remain obsessed with Winona's shoplifting and Martha's stock trading and Britney's belly button.  But our readers don't deserve this sort of unwelcome PBS type scolding!  We'd rather talk about Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris potentially losing in a primary to a dog, as reported by Matt Drudge picking up this St. Petersburg times article.

Makes you think who JEB Bush might lose to?  Oh yeah, former AG Janet Reno.

 

July 2, 2002, Part II. Thanks to Weblog Wonder Eve Tushnet for  the "almost honorable" mention of your TD's entry in her recent "Bowlderization" contest.  'Da best of Brooklyn for da rest of you...

 

July 2, 2002, New York, New York.  Well, here is an unfortunate report, on the story de jour (at least of yesterday) of a successful American bombing raid on...  an Afghan wedding party (around 40 dead).

This is, alas, the second time American air power has been used against an Afghan wedding party, the earlier incident occurred sometime last March.

Of course, we now finally know why General Tommy Franks elected to seek legal counsel, rather than pushing the button on Mullah Omar and potentially eliminating the Taliban leader early in the war:  Mullah Omar was NOT in a WEDDING party at the time!

Your TD does not mean to make light of an incredible tragedy, and we hope at least that THIS is an accident ("stray bomb").  Often, our military's "field intelligence" consists of the local ally warlord, who figures that he can get help in his local pissing contest by having the American air force blow up his local rival (simply by telling the American intelligence officer that his local rival is an Al Qaeda or Taliban fighter!)

What this incident tells us is that the United States is currently waging a MAJOR war in Afghanistan, at least on THEIR terms, that continues to get virtually no media play here, despite doing impressive damage to Afghanistan.  Further, we are conducting the war from 30,000 feet up, for the most part.

Most troubling of all is the very serious question of how much this military action is actually accomplishing in terms of diminishing the prospect of further terror attacks on the United States, as ably discussed by Michael Wolff in this New York Magazine article.

In the end, we all hope to God (both the divinity and the figure of secular speech) that our leaders are at least one step ahead of our enemies -- and are prepared to act on it!

 

July 1, 2002, New York, New York.  Welcome to a new month, and Happy Canada Day (its like #135, or something, eh?).

Well, Mrs. TD and I took Baby TD to the movies this weekend for the first time.  Any guesses as to which of Hollywood's summer offerings?  Correct!  Scooby Doo, a movie about a talking dog!  Next up, The Power Puff Girls, a movie which, I understand, has a character called "the talking dog".  Coincidence or conspiracy?  You decide.

Today, the United States vetoed extension of aid to Bosnia at the UN Security Council (international peace-monger Syria is now a member of that august body, we understand), unless and until appropriate safeguards can be put in place with the brand new permanent International Criminal Court at the Hague.  The most obvious is simply a Security Council veto of prosecutions (the USA, having such a veto, would not let its own nationals become subject to such prosecutions); of course, this could also get unnecessarily embarrassing.  On the other hand, Israel does NOT have a veto... Another possible safeguard might be consent of the country of nationality of the "war criminal".

Best yet, safeguards might include the indictment (for "facilitation of genocide") of the commander of DUTCH "peacekeepers" at the Srebrenica "UN safe haven" and of the FRENCH and BELGIAN officers in Rwanda who supervised the extrication of their nationals from that country while turning a blind eye toward the Hutu massacre of Tutsi's.  The Belgians (who set up the lunatic stratification system in Rwanda as its Colonial masters) are, of course, the country that made up "universal jurisdiction", and whose most prominent indictee is Israeli PM Sharon (based on the sworn out complaints of a couple of Palestinians arising from the Palestinian refugee camp massacres -- by Christian militias -- in Lebanon in the early '80's).  Your TD opines that if Western Europeans thought THEIR OWN nationals would be subject to the vagaries of their own version of a special prosecutor running amok, they wouldn't be so gung ho about the whole thing.  Heck, while we're at it, since Kofi Annan supervised "UN peacekeeping" at the time of both Srebrenica and Rwanda:  let's indict him too.

In short, your TD believes that American fears that a permanent international criminal court could quickly become a political showpiece for less savory governments (such as those of Western Europe) appear to be well-grounded.  The usual standards for "war crime" tribunals "traditionally" included a "home" government without functioning courts (or at least, courts not up to this type of prosecution), such as post WWII Germany and Japan, and modern day Rwanda, Cambodia, or Milosevic-led Yugoslavia.  As your TD once said on the subject, Milosevic kind of had a point in arguing that the proper venue for trial of his crimes was in Yugoslavia itself (especially since it had a functioning government, post-him!)

The USA, alas, may find itself whip-sawed, having pushed Yugoslavia so hard to turn Slobo over to the Hague for "international justice" (at a time when Belgrade would have been DELIGHTED to try him.  Now, we see that maybe the whole International Criminal Court isn't such a good thing after all.  Fortunately, the Bush Administration HAS a quick retort on this one:  as with many things, blame it on Bill Clinton!

 

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