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Saturday, October 05, 2002
Captain Den Beste discusses (again) the need for and consequences of an invasion of Iraq. He says of the Arabs:

They know full well that we can stomp them all flat, but they have never believed that we'd actually be willing to do so, and they won't believe it until we actually do so once and prove it.

The only comment I wish to add is that they won't believe it until we do it at least once.

Accomplishing a regime change in Iraq has been our policy goal (whether or not it was explicitly stated) since the end of the first Gulf War. It seems clear to me that there is no chance at all of establishing that we have the will to act in the region unless and until we act to accomplish that policy goal. But it is open to question whether a successful invasion of Iraq will (would?) itself be sufficient to convince the Palestinians, Syrians, Saudis and others that we have the will to crush them if they push us far enough.

We have a great deal of history to overcome in this regard, since we have been pushing Israel for years to make concessions (ie: provide signs of Israeli weakness, complete US impotence and imminent Arab victory) to the very people dead set on its extermination. This, of course, is comes on top of having been in the position to figuratively slit Saddam's throat and having backed away from doing so, apparently for fear of bloodying our hands.

Actually invading Iraq (and winning) will, at the very least, go a long way towards overcoming that history. It may even be probable that it would achieve the goal of establishing our credentials, so to speak. However, that is far from certain. We may end up having to act (and be seen as having acted) to replace the Iranian theocracy and/or Little Assad in Syria. Invasions of those countries might not be required.

For example, it is entirely possible that an Iranian revolution would be triggered simply as a result of our having deposed Saddam. Several years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, I read about a CIA assessment of many of the nations of Eastern Europe. The CIA concluded, correctly, as it turns out, that many of those nations were on the brink of revolution. I would be very interested in reading a similar assessment of Iran. I would also be interested in seeing the sources on which the CIA relied in making that assessment and comparing those sources to those used in making the earlier assessment of Eastern Europe. Since I don't work for the New York Times, however, I don't have the right job for that.

The situation in Syria appears to be more "stable" (scare quotes are used to denote that stability is not necessarily good for children and other living things) and less likely to revolt. Therefore, I would imagine that, to the extent there is a plan at all, it is to invade Iraq, foment an Iranian revolution and then see whether and how we can take advantage of whatever effects that has in Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Friday, October 04, 2002
Mmmmmmmmmm, Lileks.

Oh, and I almost forgot the best line from the Bleat: We now return you to the residual background radiation in the universe left over from the Big Bang, already in progress.

Jesus I wish I could write like that.
Thursday, October 03, 2002
Why they hate us and what to do about it (via Emperor Misha I, The Enlightened and Gracious, Omnipotent and Omniscient Ruler of the Anti-Idiotarian Empire, Defender of The Clue™, Squasher of Dissent and Fisker of the Moronical)

TANSTAAFL has some suggestions on how to address the root causes of the 9/11 attacks and Islamic fundamentalism in general. Using the the behaviour of the Taliban as an indicator of what al Qaeda is so annoyed with us about, TANSTAAFL asks whether the wrong groups or behaviors are being identified as the root cause.

The "why do they hate us" crowd seems not to be suggesting that:

Women should withdraw into the home and leave the affairs of men to men.

Homosexuals should be forcibly returned to the closet, and the rights granted them under the US system should be revoked.

The use of the Scarlet Letter in cases of adultery should be reinstituted, "with a view to life imprisonment at a minimum".

TANSTAAFL notes that this is precisely the kind of policy/group/behavior that set off the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalist groups, and thus really should be included as part of the package of changes to be adopted in the US if we are to address the root cause of their hatred.

Some possible additions: I'm pretty sure that abortions are illegal under sharia, so Roe v. Wade should be overruled. Pig farming is out, of course, as is the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Let us not even discuss the excesses of the entertainment industry as presently consituted.

Sadly, I do not believe that addressing these particular root causes is likely to occur any time soon at the Hall of Cognition. Were I to so much as consider adopting any of the foregoing positions, much less attempt to impose same upon She Who Must Be Obeyed, life at the Hall of Cognition is likely to become somewhat difficult. Granted, the parts of the Hall which I do not constantly use might be somewhat neater, since I have observed over the years that SWMBO simply will not sit around and veg (vege?) out. If prohibited from leaving the Hall without being escorted by me, SWMBO will use her time to do something (because I seldom venture outside the Hall), and, eventually, that something will be to clean up (but, of course, not to clean up after me, since I am a big boy and can do that myself).

But in most, if not all, other respects, life in the Hall of Cognition would degrade catastrophically, as Cap'n Clueless would put it.

I would venture to say that this is likely to be true of most American households. If so, it also is likely to be the root cause of the failure to identify and address the correct root causes. Not only are those brazen American women one of the main reasons Osama hates us, they are also the reason we cannot address the reasons that Osama hates us.

See? Its all their fault.
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
Congressman Pascrell was the first to respond to my letter asking whether he would vote for a resolution authorizing war in Iraq. The letter, in its entirety, follows:
Dear Mr. Gage:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the potential invasion of Iraq. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.
Saddam Hussein is a dangerous dictator who has committed untold human rights atrocities against his own people. He is suspected of trying to develop nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and has not been cooperative with the United Nation's weapons inspectors for over a decade. Hussein clearly represents a serious threat to the interests of the United States and to the stability of the entire Middle East.
Undertaking a military campaign to oust Hussein from office will have serious ramifications for our country and around the world. I am pleased that the President, after much prodding, has consulted with Congress, and that he has gone to the United Nations to make his case.
Congress and the White House are currently working together to draft a final resolution that will have the greatest possible support from Members. The first draft of the resolution was simply too broad, granting the President authority to use force anywhere in the Middle East and requiring no Congressional oversight. There is every indication that the Administration will take our concerns to heart, and adjust accordingly.
Please be assured that I recognize the extraordinary gravity of the situation and am deliberating carefully. When the moment comes, I will vote to safeguard the national security interests of all Americans.
Once again, thank you for sharing your views with me. If I can be of assistance to you in the future, do not hesitate to let me know.

He is "deliberating carefully. Fine. He recognizes the gravity of the situation. Good. When the moment comes he will vote to safeguard the national security interests of all Americans. Sorry, that doesn't answer my questions, because it doesn't mean anything. My questions were:

Knowing what you know today, and if a vote were held today on a resolution authorizing the US to wage a war on Iraq, would you vote in favor of or against that resolution?

Would it make a difference to your vote that the resolution did not require the consent of the UN Security Council before the US could initiate a war?

Both questions call for a yes or no answer, and he weaseled. I'm disappointed. Not surprised, just disappointed.

My response, in its entirety:
Thank you for your email of today's date in which you stated that when the moment comes, you will "vote to safeguard the national security interests of all Americans."
I do not understand what you mean by that. My questions were:
1. Knowing what you know today, and if a vote were held today on a resolution authorizing the US to wage a war on Iraq, would you vote in favor of or against that resolution?
2. Would it make a difference to your vote that the resolution did not require the consent of the UN Security Council before the US could initiate a war?
I'm disappointed that, rather than answer those questions with a simple yes or no, you tried to leave room in your answer for both a vote for such a resolution and a vote against it. And, of course, you did not even mention the UN Security Council in your response. To me, your response implies that you believe that a straightforward answer would anger me and cause me to vote for your adversary.
Quite frankly, unless I can get a much better idea of exactly what your position on this important issue is, I won't have much choice but to vote for your opponent.
I can't link to the decision yet, so I'm not sure of the language, but if I now have a right to a competitive election, does anyone out there care to file suit on my behalf to have the recent redistricting overturned? My district is distinctly noncompetitive.

Assuming that this decision is made to stick with the US Supremes, how about this as a political line for Forrester:

Now this race isn't about how best to serve the people of New Jersey, its about how to best to protect the Democratic Party's razor thin majority in the Senate, which they achieved, not through an election, but a defection.
This is an interesting but vague comment on Instapundit which I am taking to mean that the argument made this morning before the New Jersey Supreme Court (that voters have an overriding right to a competitive election) means that there should be no more districts gerrymandered to be safe for incumbents. Makes sense to me. Sauce for the goose, etc.
Apparently there is agreement on a Joint Resolution concerning Iraq.

The President is supported and encouraged by Congress in his efforts to resolve the problem through the UN Security Council. (The emphasis is mine.) The resolution continues:

"The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq."

The phrase emphasized in the first part of the resolution is noticeably absent from the second part. Bush has been authorized to use force without action by the UN.

Before using force, Bush is required to make a determination that

"(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq, and

"(2) acting pursuant to this resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorists attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

Since Bush apparently already believes that reliance on means short of war won't adequately protect our national security and already believes that waging war on Iraq is "consistent with the US and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations," requiring him to say that to Congress is not a problem.
Bush must convey that determination to Congress in advance of the use of force, or within 2 days after the commencement of the use of force. So he doesn't have to tell Saddam in advance that he can expect the arrival of the Air Force over Baghdad.

He is also directed to report to Congress every 60 days "on matters relevant to this resolution."

I think Bush got pretty much everything he wanted, short of the ability to wage a war on a country other than Iraq, which he may well have put in his initial proposal for the purpose of allowing Congress to take it out.
Interesting, if unscientific, tidbit:

MSNBC is running a poll: "Should the Democrats be able to replace Torricelli on the ballot?"

Results at 11:20 am EDT:

29965 votes
Yes: 29%
No: 71%

Lawyer joke making the rounds on the Internet, entitled "The Compassionate Lawyer":

One afternoon, a wealthy lawyer was riding in the back of his limousine when he saw two pathetic men eating grass by the road side. He ordered his driver to stop and he got out to investigate, and asked, "Why are you eating grass?"
"We don't have no money for food," the first man replied.
"Oh, well, you can come with me to my house," insisted the lawyer.
"But, sir, I got a wife and three kids here."
"Bring them along!" replied the lawyer.
"But how 'bout my friend?"
The lawyer turned to the other man and said, "You come with us, too."
"But, sir," said the friend, "I got a wife and six kids!"
"Bring them as well!" answered the lawyer as he headed for his limo.
They all climbed into the car, and once underway, one of the poor fellows says:
"Sir, you are too kind. Thank you for taking all of us with you."
The lawyer replied, "Glad to do it. You'll love my place. The grass is almost a foot tall."
Memo from Department of Strategery

Spelling is a very important aspect of blogging. It is important to distinguish yourself from the run of the mill blog by strategic use of spelling designed to take advantage of the properties of search engines. For example, by spelling liposuction with a "y", instead of an "i", CognoCentric will not only be high in the Google rankings for searches such as "lyposuction clinics in Chicago" (without the quotes), it will be the only result shown for that search. Use of the correct spelling of liposuction would result in CognoCentric being reported on approximately the 15th page of results for the same search.

The benefits of spelling strategery should be obvious.

It is important, however, to employ this strategery only in instances where we can reasonably claim to have made a typographical error or to have dictated the post over the phone to a new and very stupid assistant, who would then post an unproofread version of our dictated pearls of wisdom.

The Department of Strategery thanks you for your time. Our desire to assist you in your future endeavors remains firm.
CognoCentric as trendsetter:

Dave Kopel
and now Eugene Volokh
Not even Bill Smela could fly the "right to a competitive election" argument.
Tuesday, October 01, 2002
Torricelli Update.

Instapundit links to a report by Dave Kopel at TNR. Kopel says that the courts have no authority under NJ statutes to replace a candidate, and he cites the relevant statutes. He also points out that the candidate switch tactic has been tried in the past. Where there was no impediment to the old candidate serving in the position he had been seeking, permission was denied to replace the old candidate with the new one on the ballot. Kopel suggests the Carnahan Gambit.

Advantage CognoCentric.

And OpinionJournal.Com weighs in with the same analysis (second item down). They refer to it as the "Jean Carnahan model." I prefer the Ludlum-like Carnahan Gambit, myself.
I just learned that Scott Ott, of Scrappleface fame, and I have some geography in common. I probably should have realized that earlier, based on his name. Scrapple is ... , well, you don't want to know what scrapple is. Suffice it to say that tastes great and is a favorite dish in a wide area around Philadelphia. I have never seen it anywhere else in the country.

I took flying lessons at an airport a few hundred yards from Scott's home at the time, run by Bill and Mary Jo Smela, who later became friends, instead of just the people who rented me an airplane for an occasional hour. Bill was a wizard. He could both fix and fly anything with wings. And he could also fly a lot of things without wings: I heard that he had once accepted an invitation to fly the Goodyear blimp. I swear, if he saw a brick with a propeller on the front, he would climb in and take off.

They had a tradition that when a student soloed for the first time, a piece of his shirt was cut off, labeled with name and date and hung on the office wall. Despite the fact that the airport has long since changed hands, my tshirt tail might still be on display (if it hasn't decayed from the passage of time).
CBS Radio has announce that the NJ Democrats have filed a suit in Superior Court (the trial level court) in Middlesex County seeking to amend the ballot to replace Torricelli's name with someone else (as yet unnamed). The law seems to be that any ballot changes must already have taken place, so they are late.

Question 1: Why Middlesex? That's not where Torricelli lives, but its where McGreevey's base is. He was mayor of Woodbridge, which is in Middlesex County. Does anyone think that politics might not have dictated that choice?

Question 2: Can the ballot be changed? I have no clue.

Question 3: What happens if the ballot can't be changed? I think that the Carnahan Gambit would work. Treat Torricelli as if he had died. As Governor, McGreevey gets to appoint his replacement, so McGreevey announces that Torricelli's name will stay on the ballot and that in the event of a Torricelli victory, McGreevey will appoint X. Thus a vote for Torricelli will be a vote for X. This does not risk any other seats in the election, because if X is a sitting House member like Menendez, McGreevey gets to appoint his replacement, too. It doesn't risk anyone's political reputation as a winner of elections. The only drawback might be if the replacement could only be temporary and a special election were required. But even a special election is better than having your guy come into the race 5 weeks before the election. In fact, the more I think about it, the better this option looks. It looks so good compared to attempting to change the ballot that I wonder why the Democrats are even attempting to change the ballot.

Any thoughts?
Monday, September 30, 2002
OK, he did it. Torricelli dropped out. According to Stephen Green, this was done at the urging of Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe. Of course, according to Scrappleface, The Big Me has changed his legal residence to the corner table at the Paramus Starbucks. (It figures. Two hours after I mention him, he comes up with an absolutely hilarious take on the whole mess and gets yet another Instalink.)

Still no word on who the sacrificial lamb (replacement candidate! I meant to say replacement candidate) will be. This article assumes that McGreevey gets to appoint someone to run in Torricelli's place. That seems unreasonable. Why would the Governor of New Jersey get to appoint someone to run under the rubric of the Democratic Party?

Does anyone out there really know?
More names being floated (on CNN) as replacements for Torricelli in the NJ Senate race (without Torricelli having stepped down yet, as far as I know):

Frank Pallone (Congressman from NJ's 6th district) and Bob Menendez (Congressman from the 13th district)

I guess Bradley and Lautenberg turned them down.

Since each of these potential candidates is already in the House of Representatives, they are each running for reelection and are each likely to achieve that. But if one or the other steps into the Senate race, isn't the Democratic party admitting that they've given up on getting control of the House by risking an otherwise safe seat on a high risk gamble to retain a razor thin margin in the Senate? There can be no real answer to that question without knowing who will replace Torricelli's replacement, but it seems to me that the Democrats would simply be compounding their problems by changing an almost certain winner out of a House race and into a probable loser in the Senate race.
Via Drudge:

NBC is reporting that Torricelli is going to drop out of the race for the New Jersey Senate seat if a "suitable replacement" can be found before the election. The story is based on anonymous Democratic sources, so it might be someone's idea of a trial balloon.

If the story is true, it does not bode well for the New Jersey Democrats. Some kind of miracle would have to happen for a candidate to be found, gather a campaign staff and make himself known to the electorate in the remaining month or so before the election. Some of that can be sort of prepackaged by selecting a candidate already known by the electorate, which is why the anonymous sources are floating Bill Bradley's name, along with Frank Lautenberg's.

On the other hand, if the story is false, then it does not bode well for New Jersey Democrats in general and Torricelli in particular. As to Democrats in general, the mere existence of the story gives the distinct impression that the party believes Torricelli can't win. And from Torricelli's point of view, try to imagine running for the Senate for months (spending hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars) and spending the last leg of the campaign answering questions about whether or not you're going to drop out of the race..

Does anyone out there know what kind of legal hurdles would have to be surmounted to replace Torricelli on the ballot? NBC says "The deadline for candidates to file for the race has passed, although the party presumably would seek permission, from the courts if necessary, to fill a vacancy on the ballot." That's not very enlightening.
A while back I added people to the list of blogs appearing on your left. I just realized that I made no note of having added them. Susanna Cornett, of Cut on the Bias is a fellow Jerseyan (and even though she is unfortunate enough to live in Jersey City, she never complains about it). She just changed the design on her site, and now lacks any outbound permalinks. That will be remedied shortly, I assume.

Scott Ott, aka Scrappleface, and I were the subject of a simutaneous Instalink a few days ago. Scott went on to fame and fortune by being linked three times in a single day by the Perfesser. There was a reason (besides making me insanely envious). He has a decidedly wicked sense of humor.

Go see them both. Often.
Sunday, September 29, 2002
What's wrong with this picture?

The picture is displayed on the main page of with the caption "Residents in Kingston, Jamaica, form a human chain as they cross a flooded road."

Question: Have you ever seen a group of people form a human chain to walk through water that is calf deep? Have you ever seen a group of people form a human chain while holding umbrellas? Have you ever seen a group of people form a human chain without touching one another?

I wonder if the caption writer and the photo editor have ever seen anyone form a human chain, or even pretend to form a human chain.
Cap'n Clueless is bemoaning the poor allocation of university resources. Alas, spake the Cap'n, "It may be that there is good work going on in those departments [African American Studies, American Studies and Ethnicity, Asian American Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, and Gender Studies]. But I cannot believe that there is anything like as much as we would get if those professorial seats and money were invested in more practical subjects. And I emphatically believe that those departments are a waste of good students, who would not only benefit this nation more but also benefit themselves more if they actually studied something that helped them get ahead in life with a real career."

I swear, the internet is pure magic. Literally within hours of Den Beste's crie de coeur, the inestimable Moira Breen has come to the rescue. Asks Moira, "Has anyone ever explored the mathematics of cord tangling, that most fascinating of household phenomena?"

A very good question, indeed. One with all the practicality needed to keep the Captain interested and happy, and one with nearly universal application in the information society. And if anyone can ever figure out how to prevent the rat's nest of cables perpetually residing under desks and behind VCRs throughout this fair land, it would be a boon of significant proportions to mankind.

Studying the tau of cord tangling: there's a career.

Now who's going to tell Cornell West that there's been a small change in plan?
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