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Saturday, November 24, 2001

There are some moving photos of newly liberated Afghans at Dropscan

Our actions in the Arab world have always been constrained because "everybody knows" that forceful actions (like giving Iraq a spring cleaning) would be intolerable affronts to Islamic pride. Even having those few troops in Saudi Arabia risks driving them to Jihad.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the world's seeing all those happy faces in Afghanistan is that now we can and should just laugh that argument out of court.

George Bush is right to reject the concept of "nation building." It's pure malarky. Nations can only build themselves.

It is possible to lend a helping hand at times. This is all the Marshall Plan was. We didn't rebuild Europe, Europeans did. West Germany was rebuilt by Germans, with lots of hard work and brainpower. (And low taxes, though they would like to forget that part.)

The idea that wealthy Western nations can step in and "build countries" is just an extension of the pernicious idea that government programs can solve most problems. The failure of the World Bank to make much difference in Third World countries is an example. Throwing billions of dollars at, say, Tanzania, has worked about as well as the millions spent by my own city of San Francisco to "help the homeless."

If a country is ready to build itself, we should be eager to aid them.

Friday, November 23, 2001

I haven't seen Harry Potter yet. But I have no doubt I will enjoy it. (Though not as much as I enjoy the books. I'm totally a book person) This is a good article (via Leaky Cauldron) from the LA Times, on critics who have panned the movie, apparently because they forget that it is intended to please children.

It is always interesting when critics speak in one voice, especially when that voice is as querulous as this one. Using terms such as "literal-minded" with the same snotty implications of an English grad student muttering "derivative," they seemed shocked that Columbus chose to portray the book--oh, the shame of it--accurately. One critic actually used the word "dreary," sounding for all the world like the sort of fellow who is still searching for a dry enough martini and who hasn't seen a mainstream movie he liked since "Godfather II." " --MARY McNAMARA

Now Lord of the Rings, I think, should NOT be filmed. Not never. It should not even be illustrated! To me its chiefest pleasure is to evoke mysterious realms of unearthly beauty. No real people or places can possibly match the images in my mind. It is folly to even try. One must have a soul of lead to think that bland Hollywood faces could possibly portray the ancient power and splendor of Elrond or Galadriel.

The Freedom vs Security debate seems to be presented as either Big Brother or insecurity; a zero-sum game. The good guys are ignoring a possible middle ground.

In many cases we could increase security without deep risk to our liberties by having oversight..

Bush's mention of Military Tribunals was unfortunately an easy pitch right over the plate for every cracker-barrel philosopher in the galaxy to take a swing at. Why not deflate those critics by appointing them to be observers at any trials that really happen ? (William Safire, you are drafted !) or at least ask them to suggest responsible people to be observers.

Suppose domestic spying were allowed, but only with oversight committees composed of people acceptable to both sides? Only allowed if security people and privacy advocates could agree on some sensible people to “watch the watchers?”

In a more homely example, most people are glad to see a cop walking the beat, but would not like the same cop to watch the same street via camera. Why? Because we can’t watch back! If there were a web cam that would let us watch Officer Muldoon while he is watching us, a lot of the Big Brother issues could be avoided. And he wouldn't be munching donuts and goofing off--he would be watching carefully because he would look like a fool if he missed some important crime.

There is a great book on this subject, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? by David Brin. Also, InstaPundit just posted a link to a great Brin Article.

I like this very simple Blogger template, but I can't figure out how to make it display our e-mail address (works on other templates) so I will just post it:

Thursday, November 22, 2001

Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld are sitting in a bar. A guy walks in and asks the barman, "Hey, isn't that Powell and Rumsfeld?"

The barkeep says, "Yep, that's them."

The guy walks over to the two and says, "Hey guys, what are you doing?"

Rumsfeld says, "We're planning an air strike."

"Really? What's going to happen?"

Rumsfeld says, "Well, we're going to kill 10 million Afghans and one bicycle repairman."

The guy exclaims, "Why are you going to kill the bicycle repairman?!"

With that, Rumsfeld turns to Powell and says, "See, I told you no one would give a damn about the 10 million Afghans!"

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Bernard Lewis, in “The Revolt of Islam. (Quote lifted from Jay Nordlinger)

One of the most surprising revelations in the memoirs of those who held the American Embassy in Teheran from 1979 to 1981 was that their original intention had been to hold the building and the hostages for only a few days. They changed their minds when statements from Washington made it clear that there was no danger of serious action against them. They finally released the hostages, they explained, only because they feared that the new President, Ronald Reagan, might approach the problem ’like a cowboy.’

What maddens me is that our leftizoid clergy surely consider Jimmy Carter's passivity to be Christian, even though his encouragement of terrorism was part of a chain leading to 9/11, plus many other terrorist attacks. Jesus didn't mean for people to turn the other cheek to evil; after all, he took a whip and drove the money changers out of the Temple. That must have a rather violent moment. I can't imagine those fellows just shrugging and walking away from their shekels.