Patterico's Pontifications


ONION: I think the highlight of this week's Onion is the "News in Brief" story "Corey Flintoff Unleashes Sonorous, Pleasantly Modulated String Of Obscenities." It's at the bottom of the page, but be warned: said obscenities are quoted.

Also, don't miss the first story on the right margin under "Other News."

KURDS SELL-OUT IS OFFICIAL: According to this story in the Washington Post, once the war starts, the Turkish government "plans to send as many as 40,000 troops across the [Iraqi] border." Although the Turkish troops are supposed to "stay behind the U.S. forces," the leader of Turkey's ruling party says (no doubt with a twinkle in his eye): "You never know, they may go further."

Ya just never know.


THE BIG LIE: I had heard that the Democrats were denying they were filibustering Estrada, but until now had not seen the proof. Sen. Schumer told PBS that the Democrats are not filibustering Estrada -- the Republicans are. Here is an actual, direct quote: "We are not keeping it from going to the floor for a vote." Apparently lies are like potato chips; one isn't enough. Well, Sen. Schumer, I'm not swallowing it.

(In the next breath, he explains that "we are not going to vote for Mr. Estrada or allow it to be voted on because he hasn't revealed any of his views." (Emphasis is mine.) Schumer can't even keep his lies straight from one sentence to the next!)

MAIL, WE GET MAIL: A reader writes to address my concern that we are overly telegraphing our attack on Iraq. The e-mail is worth quoting in its entirety:

"Surprise is important if you are evenly matched or smaller. It becomes less important when you have overwhelming force or if your enemy can do nothing to stop you. (I'm not saying this is the case with Iraq, but it arguably is and the Administration may be assuming so.) During Viet Nam, someone complained that one of LBJ's speeches told Hanoi in advance that American bombers were on the way. The Pentagon's response was that it didn't matter because the North Vietnamese could to nothing to prevent the attack anyway. Later they were bombed regularly twice a day for a couple of years. They knew the attacks were coming but could not stop them. In this situation, it is arguably advantageous to tell the enemy in advance what you are going to do them in order to demoralize their military officers who realize they cannot prevent it. Before the 1991 Gulf War there was a prolonged and very visible build up of 500,000 or so American troops and military equipment in the area. I have to think that this was designed to show the Iraqi military that resistance would be futile. Saddam failed to back down, of course, and went to war anyway, but it was a reasonable gambit to try. Maybe they are trying the same thing again."

My personal feeling is that this may be a valid point -- but one which may not apply in these circumstances. Don't forget about the Saddam wild card: chemical and biological weapons. As I discussed in my earlier post on this site, a Los Angeles Dog Trainer article indicates that the only reason for Saddam to keep his wildly inaccurate Al-Samoud 2s would be to tip them with biological and chemical weapons and lob them at Kuwait, where our troops are gathering. I assume we have a plan in place to take these missiles out with precision bombing -- but that may not work if we telegraph exactly when we are going to attack. My guess is that our telegraphing has less to do with military strategy and more to do with diplomacy. Given that the latter appears to be going nowhere (although you never know), I would prioritize the former.

Separately, I received my first e-mail calling me an idiot today. The writer was very pleasant; I think he was simply responding to my invitation for people to send me such e-mails. Keep 'em coming! (But you aren't required to call me an idiot!)

KURDS: For those who didn't bother to read the Krugman piece I endorsed here, let me endorse it again. Perhaps I should have elaborated on what he says. Most compelling are Krugman's observations that the Bush plan (1) sells the Kurds down the river (which it unquestionably does) and (2) fails to rid the Iraqi government of Baathist influences, in sharp contrast to the thorough rooting out of all Nazis in Germany after WWII. "Saddam Hussein and a few top officials will be replaced with Americans, but the rest will stay." Serious charges, to be taken seriously, in my view.

WHY YOU DON'T PONTIFICATE WITHOUT THE FACTS: California Attorney General Lockyer's letter regarding Judge Kozinski, mentioned below, is debunked here by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh. Although Volokh is a former Kozinski clerk, he is credible on the issue, in my judgment. Volokh is a straight shooter who calls 'em like he sees 'em. Lockyer, by contrast, joked that he hoped Ken Lay would be sent to prison so he would be raped. Between the two, I think Volokh gets the nod on credibility. Moroever, I just don't think that Kozinski would do what Lockyer accused him of doing. He's not that dumb.

Without more, I have concluded that Lockyer's letter is just inaccurate.

GO FRED GO: Fred Thompson has filmed a pro-war commercial in response to Martin Sheen's anti-war ad. My question: who wins: Martin Sheen (U.S. President vs. Manhattan D.A.) or Fred T. (real-life ex-Senator vs. play-actor)?

My guess: to the extent America is paying attention, they'll look at Thompson and think: "Who does this District Attorney fellow think he is, second-guessing the President of the United States?"

UPDATE: The wife votes for Martin Sheen -- the more well-known actor.

KOZINSKI: For those familiar with the controversy regarding Judge Alex Kozinski's visit to a death row inmate, read this letter from Bill Lockyer. It puts quite a different spin on the allegations. I will be doing no pontificating on this one until I know more about the facts.

MUST-READ FOR PROTESTORS: Anti-war protestors love The Village Voice. I wonder what they think about this piece, in which an Iraqi refugee discusses Saddam and his regime. From the article: " '[T]he people who are protesting the war don't know what the regime is like.' The young man pulls away his thin jacket and paisley shirt to show off a scar on his neck, and another two lashes on his breast, caused by a power-cable whipping. 'You tell Bush my people are waiting for him.' "


ESTRADA UPDATE: Op-ed in the Washington Post adding more evidence to the now obvious conclusion: Estrada has answered questions more thoroughly than plenty of other judges who sailed through their confirmations.

In fact, according to this piece, Estrada has said Roe v. Wade "is the law . . . and I will follow it." That goes much further than I thought he had gone (I had heard he had called it "settled law" but had not heard him essentially pledge not to overrule it). That should be way more than enough for Democrats. In fact, this quote instills doubts in me; maybe Estrada is not as conservative as I had hoped. . .

BYRD WATCHING: Apparently there was no speech from Nutty Bob yesterday during the Estrada filibuster. Keep checking back here.

AND HERE'S WHY THEY STAY: This article in the Dog Trainer suggests that the only purpose of the missiles Saddam has refused to destroy would be to repel a U.S. invasion by tipping the missiles with chemical or biological weapons and firing them Kuwait way when it looks like the invasion is imminent.

Which, by the way, reveals a real cost of the U.N. diplomacy: I have never seen a war telegraphed like this one. In street fighting, when you telegraph a punch, you often end up on the ground yourself. I have to hope the Bushies have thought about this, will announce a firm deadline for an attack, and will bomb the missile sites 24-48 hours before our announced attack.

The article also (sort of) answers a question that has been troubling me lately: why did the U.N. allow Saddam to keep missiles with a range of 150 kilometers (about 93 miles) anyway? "A U.N. official said Monday that the distance selected by the United Nations as the limit for the range of Baghdad's missiles — 93 miles — might have been chosen simply because it is about half the effective range of a Scud." (Love that "might have been.") Of course, my real question was why he got to have any missiles at all.


THE MISSILES STAY: Today we learn that the new U.N. resolution sponsored by the U.S., Britain, and Spain simply repeats the language of the last resolution (1441) -- which passed unanimously -- with a single additional observation: "Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441."

Interestingly, on the same day we learn that Saddam won't destroy the missiles that Hans Blix ordered him to destroy.

Taken together, these seem to me to be big developments. Of course, Saddam can always change his mind. But if he doesn't, I think Dominique de Villepin (you know, the guy with the hair) and Company will have a tough time explaining why they are opposing the new U.N. resolution. Stay tuned. It's hypocrisy time.

KRUGMAN: Not a fan of Paul Krugman's. Still, somebody tell me why his piece on Bush's plans for post-war Iraq is wrong. Because it's Krugman, you'd think there has to be a reason. But I don't know what it is. I disagree with his larger conclusions about Bush, his fiscal policy, etc. -- but the specific criticisms of the Iraq plan seem to me to be valid.

REALITY CHECK: This article in the American Prospect, titled "Reality Check," is intended to put to rest all our fears of a chemical or biological attack.

Let's do a little "reality check" of our own, shall we? I am no expert on chemical or biological weapons, but I think it's fair to say that, sometimes, the experts are no experts either. For example, remember the woman who died of anthrax inhalation in Rhode Island? As this Washington Post article shows, that surprised the "experts." The article states that, as a result of the woman's death, "William Patrick, who led the U.S. Army's effort to weaponize anthrax until the program was halted in 1969, said he was reconsidering his long-standing presumption that a person could not get pulmonary anthrax from a few spores on the outside of an envelope. 'I would never have thought that a letter contaminated on the outside would contain sufficient spores to cause inhalational anthrax,' he said in a telephone interview. 'It defies everything we ever learned. I'm absolutely flabbergasted.' "

How reassuring.

Look, I hate to say it, folks, but whoever sent the anthrax through the mails (1) hasn't been caught, (2) didn't send much, and (3) accomplished a hell of a lot with what little they used. There is plllllllenty more out there, and if terrorists had a decent quantity and got serious about spreading it, it could cause some real problems.

As for smallpox, the American Prospect article says that smallpox "can be contained by quarantining victims and vaccinating others after it appears." The article also confidently contends that "the disease is only communicable from person to person."

But what if the strain is, for example, the "Aralsk strain" of smallpox discussed here? The "Aralsk strain" is an "especially deadly strain" of smallpox, named for a Kazakhstan city which suffered an outbreak of it. One scientist says that "it's possible that strain is also resistant to known vaccines." Oh -- and his research "suggests the Aralsk smallpox strain could be easily spread by missile, in the air across wide areas — something not previously thought possible."

But why worry about the Aralsk strain now? It came from Russia, right? And our concern right now is Iraq, right? Whew, I feel reassured. . . except that an informant told U.S. intelligence in 2002 that a Russian scientist had transferred this strain to the government of Iraq in the 1990s.

Put that together with today's revelations concerning the possibility that Iraq could mount a chemical or biological attack on the U.S. mainland with "remote-controlled 'drone' planes equipped with GPS tracking maps." I'll pause for a second while all of this sinks in.

I am not saying we should all panic. I am saying that we need to remember, "experts" are people and therefore, by definition, often wrong. When an expert says there is nothing to worry about, forgive me if I still worry -- a little. That's my personal "reality check."

REJECT THE LEADER, NOT THE PEOPLE: Yet another op-ed reinforcing what I said the other day: our real problem with countries like France and Germany is ultimately with the leaders, not the people. (Caveat: we do have a problem with some East Germans, who were brainwashed by the Communists into believing that America is evil. The good news is that the Communists are gone.)

This op-ed is an interesting read. It makes the case that the German attitude towards war is largely shaped by their experiences of the last century.

True, the people of France and Germany are against the war, but you know what? The people of just about every country on the planet are against it. Doesn't mean they're right; doesn't mean they're evil or stupid, either.

THE BYRD FACTOR: The Estrada filibuster resumes today. When the Democratic leadership was weighing the pros and cons of this filibuster, I'll bet they put a note in the "cons" column in thick black block letters, surrounded by stars: "DON'T FORGET -- BOBBY BYRD HAS TO TALK TOO."

Byrd's staff members must have been running themselves ragged in the past few days, making sure that he has prepared remarks for the duration of his next speech (no idea when that will be, by the way). Otherwise, you never know what the guy will say. He might start talking about "white niggers" again. I think he ranted about his power bill during his first speech of this filibuster. It's amusing to try to picture the Democratic leadership sitting around the television during one of Byrd's rants (which always make for some fun footage). In my mental image, the leaders are watching the screen with their shoulders hunched, and their faces pinched in a collective cringe.

Hey, guys, I can sympathize. That's how I used to feel when I would watch Trent Lott on the Sunday yappers.

BACK TO WORK: Vacation (actually a 3-week paternity leave) is over. Look for posts to become more pithy (read: shorter) and more selective (read: less frequent).


THANKS FOR TELLING ME NOW: I keep noticing how the media are increasingly fond of telling us things after the fact, that it would have been nice to know before the fact. I have a million examples. Let me present two now.

Example: Gray Davis fudged budget numbers just before the election for California governor. According to the local Dog Trainer: "During the budget negotiations, Davis' administration changed how it portrayed the state of the economy. Rather than use figures that compared one calendar year to the next, the administration, without fanfare, shifted to presenting results that compared the fourth quarter of 2002 to the same period a year earlier. The effect was to make the economy look significantly better than it otherwise would have just as Davis was seeking reelection." (Emphasis is mine.) Apparently the Dog Trainer did not detract from the lack of fanfare -- at least before the election. Thanks for telling me now.

Example: The Dog Trainer printed a story called Glitches, Close Calls Haunted Columbia, on February 17, 2003 (after the disaster). The facts in this story were clearly available before the Columbia disaster, but the long history of close calls was not a prominent news story until after the disaster. Thanks for telling me now.

I have many more examples, but let's save some for another day. You get the idea. Sometimes it would be nice to know about these things earlier -- you know, before it's too late.

This will be a semi-regular feature on this site. Stay tuned.

BUBBA ADMIRES BONO: Here is a perfect example of why Bush is preferable to Clinton: Bush would never say that rock star Bono is a "leader" whom "we should follow in the new millennium." Bush would just say: "BOE-noe?? Who's that again?"

WELCOME TO "HOW APPEALING" READERS: Well, I just noticed that appellate blog How Appealing has added a link to this site. A hearty thanks to Howard Bashman, and welcome to "How Appealing" readers!

SPREAD THE WORD: I should mention that I have not tried to publicize this blog by putting it on a search engine or anything official like that. I am relying on word of mouth. So if you like it, tell your friends. (Of course, if you don't like it, you can still tell your friends. And anyone can e-mail Patterico by simply clicking on the link on the left margin.)

My wife asked me if I had gotten any e-mails yet saying: "You are an idiot." The answer is, "not yet." (At least not in connection with this blog.) Feel free to be the first! (And to the smart-alecks among you: say something else, too.)

MUST-READ: This New York Times op-ed by Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst, should be compulsory reading for anyone with doubts about the impending war.

The most telling quote, I think, is this: "America has never encountered a country that saw nuclear weapons as a tool for aggression." This is the most fundamental reason that we have no rational alternative to war. Unfortunately, we are quickly moving into an era where many such countries may be popping up. I don't think that provides a rational argument for ignoring one of them.

BUCHANAN DODGES THE TOUGH QUESTIONS: Pat Buchanan, whom I don't generally like, has this piece in this morning's Dog Trainer. Buchanan is currently perhaps the most visible American isolationist. He argues that America is acting in imperialist fashion, and questions whether Bush can really keep all the dictators from obtaining nuclear weapons: "Where will [Bush] get his authority to go after Iran, Syria or Libya, as Sharon and his Amen Corner demand? In Iraq, the president has the cover of U.N. resolutions. Will the Brits be with us when we go after Iran? Will British Prime Minister Tony Blair be up for a second adventure? Who will be with us if we attack North Korea to disarm it?"

Good questions. But I wish Buchanan would ask the next question: if we can't find the support or authority for preventing these types of countries from obtaining nukes, are we comfortable with that outcome? Are we simply to allow the aforementioned countries to obtain nuclear weapons, and then rely on their goodwill not to use them?

ALBERTO ON THE SUNDAY YAPPERS: I think Alberto Gonzales is playing it just right in his comments on the Sunday talk shows. He is not accusing Senate Democrats of opposing Estrada simply because Estrada is Hispanic. Rather, Gonzales is saying: "I'm not going to speculate on the motivation behind this. I will say that he is being treated differently. I think he's being held to a double standard."

Now, it is crystal clear that Estrada is being held to a different standard. No judicial nominee in history has been asked for all the memos they wrote for the Justice Department, though 67 previous nominees worked for DoJ. It's a topic for a different day whether, how, and to what extent this differential treatment results from Estrada's ethnicity. (I will have much to say about this soon, but it is a complex topic and will take some time to fully explore.) I like that Gonzales is not leveling charges of racial bias, but at the same time is putting the onus on Democrats to explain exactly why this particular nominee is receiving this kind of treatment. As the filibuster continues tomorrow, watch for this to be a continuing theme.

WE INTERRUPT WITH THIS NEWS FLASH: "American actor George Clooney stepped up his criticism of George W. Bush's administration on Sunday." Readers who really care about this blockbuster story can read all about it here.

My favorite part is his statement that "the real danger is going to be what happens after [the war]." Like many in the anti-war movement, Clooney has realized that the war is going to happen, we are going to win, the people of Iraq will be grateful, and Saddam will be proven to have lied about prohibited weapons. So, the rhetoric is shifting. Specifically, Clooney and his cohorts are now looking into their crystal balls, and guess what they see? More terrorist attacks! In other words, if we invade Iraq, and there is a subsequent terrorist attack, Clooney & Co. can say "I told you so."

Well, Clooney is nowhere near as good a prognosticator as I am. Let's review my history of unerring predictive accuracy. In the early '90's, I warned everybody I knew that if we voted in Bill Clinton, there would be a terrorist attack. Sure enough, the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993. Then I said if he was re-elected, it would only continue. I was proven right again, with the bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. Then, after Bush won the election, I warned people that if Gore filed a lawsuit over the election, it would undermine the perceived legitimacy of a Bush presidency, leading to a weakening of our world reputation, and therefore still more terror. Sure enough, we had September 11. My predictions have proven right time and time again.

My next prediction: if Hollywood celebrities don't shut up, and the media doesn't stop treating their opinions as somehow significant, then we will get another terror attack regardless of whether war happens in Iraq.


WELCOME: to new visitors from Ernie the Attorney, who was nice enough to say a couple of kind words about this site.

QUIZ: like those SAT questions, choose the best answer in the following questions.

1. Which leader is more evil?

a) Saddam -- you know, because of the murders, torture, invasions and all that
b) Bush -- the most evil man in the history of the world

2. Which leader was duly elected?

a) Bush -- the press proved he would have won even with a recount
b) Saddam -- Bush didn't even get as many votes as Gore, Saddam got 100%!

3. Which leader reminds you the most of Adolf Hitler?

a) Saddam -- Genocide, torture and murder of political opponents, etc.
b) Bush -- I am not fooled by the clean-shaven upper lip

4. It worries you more that which leader might have the ability to use nuclear weapons?

a) Saddam -- imagine an invasion of Kuwait but now Saddam has nukes
b) Bush -- if he can't pronounce the term "nuclear weapon" then he shouldn't get to use one

5. Agree or disagree with the following statement: what Bush and Ashcroft have done to civil liberties is worse than anything Saddam Hussein has ever done.

a) Disagree -- I know I keep harping on this, but I still have this problem with leaders torturing and murdering political opponents
b) Agree -- I'm sure Bush tortures and murders his political opponents too, but you'll never hear about it in the conservative media

Give yourself 1 point for each "a" answer, and 2 for each "b" answer.


5 points: You are sane.
6-9 points: I am not so sure.
10: Congratulations! You qualify to be a war protester! Go get your "Bush: Worse Than Hitler" sign and LET'S MARCH!

WE BLOG, YOU DECIDE: Stupidest anti-war sign yet?


SOME FRENCH AND GERMANS ARE GOOD FOLKS: I read this op-ed by former CIA director James Woolsey with some pleasure. Woolsey acknowledges that the French and German governments are not being responsible in their handling of the Iraq situation, but points out that the people themselves are not all bad. He gives examples of a couple of true heroes from both countries -- including a guy who tried to assassinate Hitler (not von Stauffenberg, but the lesser known Ewald von Kleist, who is still around). And don't forget Lafayette.

I think he makes a good point, which many are forgetting. There is a lot of bashing of these two countries nowadays -- especially France. Look, the French did screw up early and often in World War II, as I pointed out below with a fairly amusing anecdote of French soldiers on the front lines. And I admit that I am the first to laugh when the French are parodied on the Simpsons, such as when Groundskeeper Willie called them "cheese-eating surrender monkeys." But let's not get too carried away. They are not all cowardly, smelly, wine-swilling louts, any more than all Americans are pot-bellied, ignorant, boneheaded morons. Both stereotypes came from somewhere, but like all stereotypes, neither is universally true. Let's remember that our real problem is with Mr. Chirac, not the people of France -- and let's not worry so much about boycotting their wine.

THE SANCTIONS MYTH: It occurs to me that it is worth backing up my assertion that sanctions on Iraq have not killed 500,000 Iraqi children. You hear this myth so often that many accept it as true.

It is not, as this article on Reason Magazine's web site convincingly demonstrates. As the article explains, the myth started with some incredibly bad research by health organizations and advocacy groups, applying flawed mathematical principles to data that came exclusively from the Iraqi government. The comedy of errors culminated in a slow-witted Madeleine Albright's failure to dispute the allegation on "60 Minutes." It is that failure to deny the numbers that has kept the canard alive. As the Reason article notes, Albright's response to the question "was the non-denial heard ’round the world." Although Americans may or may not remember it, "[t]he 60 Minutes exchange is very familiar to readers of Arab newspapers, college dailies, and liberal journals of opinion."

Once again, thank you Bill Clinton.

ANOTHER ARGUMENT FOR WAR: I keep hearing that war will increase terrorism, because Arabs will become enraged due to the suffering that war will cause the Iraqi people. But I think there is at least one major factor that points the other way.

If we roll in and completely overwhelm Iraq, we might finally be able to remove our troops from Saudi Arabia. The only reason they have been there for over 10 years is to keep Saddam in check. Moving the troops out would remove Osama's great rallying cry that the infidels are occupying the holy lands. It can't hurt to take one of Osama's major talking points away.

We should also keep in mind that anybody who would get enraged at us over a war is probably already enraged at us over sanctions. There is a widespread myth, one oft-repeated by folks like Noam Chomsky, that we have killed 500,000 Iraqi children with sanctions. Whoever believes that can't be getting too much more upset over a few civilian casulaties in a war.

OSCARS: Is anyone planning to watch an Oscars ceremony at which Michael Moore is certain to win an Academy Award?

Moore, of course, is the guy who (according to a column in London's The Independent) said that the passengers on the hijacked planes on September 11th "were scaredy-cats because they were mostly white." If the passengers had been black, Moore claimed, they would not have taken disrespect from hijackers with puny box-cutters. This is the guy who is likely to win for Best Documentary. As one film critic says, his documentary will win because it is "the only documentary most of the Academy is aware of, and because Mike Moore loathes George Bush and so does Hollywood."

Yup, I think I am opting out of the Oscar-watching entirely this year. Of course, I generally do anyway. . .

FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH: Big-time blog guy Andrew Sullivan is saying similar things to what I have been saying about the disappointing lack of emphasis on democracy in the Bush plan for a post-war Iraq.

MILITARY RULE REVISITED: A thoughtful reader disagrees with my view on post-war Iraq. I should clarify a few things. First, I do not object to a U.S. military presence in Iraq for as long as is necessary. Clearly, any transitions must be supervised and watched carefully, with a military force necessarily on hand for some time. Second, I am not an expert on the specific various groups that would like to take power in Iraq. Perhaps the Iraqi National Congress is the right group to take over; then again, maybe it isn't.

Regardless of the specifics, I think we ought not lose sight of fundamental principles: the new government should be a democracy, it should be run by Iraqis on behalf of Iraqis, and it should get up and running as quickly as possible. I think those principles, which to me seem self-evident, are not sufficiently implemented by Bush's plan. According to the Washington Post article I linked to earlier, Bush intends to "take complete, unilateral control of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq" for a period of time that (depending on who you talk to) could last 1-5 years.

As I understand it, there are generally two justifications for this policy. First, our "friends" the Arab monarchs do not want to see the example of an Arab democracy as their neighbor, because their own people might start getting crazy ideas about making their own countries into democracies. Second, allowing the Iraqis to run their own country right off the bat might lead to a system of government that we find less than optimal, for whatever reason. In my opinion, neither objection should be given much weight by a country that claims to be the outstanding supporter of democracy and self-determination in the world. A truly representative Iraqi democracy might not be the ideal government for either the Arab monarchs or the United States (each for very different reasons). But that is the price the world should pay to allow Iraq the chance to rule itself.

BAD IDEA: The Bush administration's plan to install military rule in Iraq continues to strike me as a bad idea. It seems to me that the administration is overly concerned with the specifics of the type of government "we" would like to see in Iraq.

This is hardly the first time America has acted this way. The vast majority of righteous criticism of the USA stems from our meddling in how other countries run themselves.

Not only is this Bush plan horrible P.R., but it's horrible P.R. because it should be -- because it's the wrong thing to do.

Some will argue: "We're saving them, so we should have a say in what their government will be." My response is: remember that we are (at least in theory) not going in there because their government is not ideally suited to our tastes. We are going in there because their leadership lost a war and failed to live up to the terms of surrender. As a result, that leadership poses a threat to its neighbors and potentially to us.

We should be more concerned with what the Iraqis want. Put the Iraqi opposition in there, and let the Iraqis decide.


PATTERICO HITS THE BIG TIME: A very interesting web site that I read frequently is How Appealing, a site which bills itself as the "The Web's first blog devoted to appellate litigation." The site keeps track of hot issues that affect the federal appellate courts. It is well-known within the vast blogging community, it is widely read by high-powered lawyers, and it has gotten over 700,000 hits since its inception. It is the first place I go to find the latest on the Estrada nomination, and is required reading for anybody interested in what is going on with today's federal courts. Many of the ideas I have discussed here have related in some way to something I read at the "How Appealing" site. I have linked to documents contained there, and yesterday I discussed an essay (regarding the judicial confirmation process) written by Howard Bashman, who puts out the "How Appealing" site. You see a permanent link to the site on the left margin of this page.

Anyway, today "How Appealing" printed an e-mail regarding judicial activism, which you can read here. If you notice a similarity between that e-mail and a previous post on this site, it's because I am the one who sent the e-mail. After I sent it, I decided to expand upon the thoughts in the e-mail, and created the post below (thinking that my e-mail would never get published at the "How Appealing" site). It is pretty exciting to see my thoughts printed on such a well-known and respected site.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU VOTE FOR: Hard not to be amused by this New York Times article. Many lawmakers who voted for the McCain-Feingold bill are now attending seminars designed to teach attendees what the law actually says. And it turns out many of the fine folks who voted for the law are a little surprised. Summing up the reaction of many is Representative Robert T. Matsui, Demmycrat from my own state of California. He voted for McCain-Feingold and now says: "I didn't realize what all was in it. . . We have cautioned members: 'You have to really understand this law. And if you have any ambiguity, err on the side of caution.' "

I'll wait a second while you stop chuckling.

If we could just get them to say "You really have to understand this law" before they voted on the laws, well, then we'd really have something going there, wouldn't we?

THOSE NUTTY, NUTTY HOLLYWOOD TYPES: Martin Sheen has filmed an antiwar commercial. Read about it here. Apparently his first line is: "I'm not the president, but I play one on TV."

For the older folks.

UPDATE: Good Lord. I just ran the video on the Reuters web site about this, and they used the same line. Sometimes great minds and not-so-great minds think alike; I'll leave it to you to sort out who's who.

JUDICIAL ACTIVISM: One thing I am hearing from a lot of liberals is that conservative judges are the activists nowadays, simply because they strike down a lot of legislation. For example, Al Hunt says so in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today.

Al Hunt (and many law professors) misunderstand what "judicial activism" really is. Judicial activism is not measured by how many statutes a court strikes down. If Congress passed a law today banning all speech critical of the Bush administration, our "conservative" Supreme Court would strike that law down tomorrow. Would that be an "activist" decision? Obviously not.

Whether a judge is an judicial activist depends upon whether he ignores or bends the plain language of the Constitution, statutes, and/or precedent to achieve the result he desires.

Let's be honest: under that definition, these days, the typical conservative jurist is far less activist than the typical liberal jurist -- largely because the "principles" which liberal jurists regularly employ are so ill-defined. Liberal judges nowadays base their decisions on fuzzy concepts such as living Constitutions, evolving standards, and my personal favorite: "the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

Non-lawyers reading this might think I made up that last phrase. After all, it sounds more like a phrase in a philosophy text than a quote by an appellate court designed to give guidance to lower courts. Unfortunately, that quote comes straight from our very own Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that as an integral part of his disastrous 1992 Casey decision upholding that eyesore of our legal landscape: Roe vs. Wade.

Such "principles" are so ill-defined and open-ended, judges can infuse them with whatever specific meaning they wish. When we trust 5 of 9 lawyers (a majority of the Supreme Court) to assign a subjective meaning to such vacuous phrases, and allow that subjective meaning to trump legislation passed by duly elected legislators, "judicial activism" is too tepid a phrase to describe the result. Try "judicial tyranny."

If it is "conservative" to insist on confirming only those judges who are wary of employing such high-flown phrases to "find" new constitutional rights -- look! I found another right over there, under that oak tree! -- then call me conservative. I will respect Justice Scalia's opinions when he votes to protect flag-burners or overturn criminal convictions, because I trust that he is voting that way for the right reasons. I can't say the same for the Stephen Reinhardts of the world.

RANDOM WAR THOUGHT: A good friend describes the impending war as a "first-strike" invasion. If I really thought that's what we were doing, I wouldn't support it. My thinking is that Hussein himself started a war back in 1991, signed terms of surrender which include disarming, and hasn't lived up to those terms. That's what makes it legitimate to attack.

I have been very upset by the Bush administration's characterization of the impending war as a "pre-emptive strike." I can't say such a strike would never be justified under any circumstances, but I would be much more wary of pursuing such a strike because of the precedent it would set. Yet another reason why I find Tony Blair so much better at articulating why we are doing what we are doing.

L.A. PRIORITIES: I was a little confused at first when I read a headline in today's Los Angeles Dog Trainer (aka Los Angeles Times), titled Reiner Endorses Dean for President. I just didn't understand why the Dog Trainer found it particularly significant that Ira Reiner (one of our former District Attorneys here in L.A.) had endorsed a Democratic candidate for president. Yes, at one time Reiner had been considered a potential candidate for California Attorney General, but that was years ago. Sure, he manages to get himself quoted on TV and in the newspapers from time to time, but generally the quotes relate to his area of expertise: the criminal justice system. Who really cares if he endorses someone for president?

As I kept reading, the mystery was soon solved. Howard Dean was endorsed, not by Ira Reiner, but by somebody really important: a Hollywood director! Yes, the story was about an endorsement announcement by Rob Reiner, who first became famous portraying the character on "All in the Family" known as "Meathead." Now I understood why this was an important story.

But I got a little sad that nobody cares who Carl Reiner endorses for the presidency. Couldn't we all benefit from political advice given by one of the guys who created the "2000 Year-Old Man"?


ESSAY: Interesting essay by Howard Bashman regarding U.S. Senators' tendency to focus on the personal views of nominees to the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Bashman argues that the U.S. Courts of Appeals tend to deal more with abstract, intellectual matters, and rarely confront cases presenting social or political issues. As a result, it is more important to worry about whether the nominee has the intellectual ability and sound work ethic required to do an outstanding job.

I think the article has some good points to make, especially for non-lawyers. But Bashman qualifies his thesis in a significant way. In arguing that personal views make no difference, Bashman concedes that this is true only if those views "play no role whatsoever in the decision of an appellate case." This, however, is the eternal problem: knowing when nominees really will commit to keeping their personal feelings separate from their judging. If they can't, then their personal feelings suddenly become much more important than their intellectual ability -- and they are unqualified to be judges at any level: trial, appellate, or the Supreme Court.

And when they can't put their personal feelings aside -- as in notorious cases such as that of Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals -- it can be a really big problem, even on the Courts of Appeal. The reason is that the federal Courts of Appeal are (practically speaking) the courts of last resort for virtually all litigants in the federal system. The Supreme Court gets to choose which cases it hears -- and it doesn't choose many. According to Chief Justice Rehnquist's Year-End Report, the Supreme Court issued only 76 signed opinions last term. By way of comparison, in 2002, a total of 57,555 appeals were filed in the Courts of Appeal!

What this means is, if you live in California or one of the other western states, your case will almost certainly go no further than the court on which Stephen Reinhardt sits. That is why he doesn't care about the fact that he gets reversed more than any other federal appellate judge. As Reinhardt says: "We deal with a lot of important cases. Some of them may get reversed, others don’t, and we can’t worry about that." In other words, they can't reverse me on everything!

That's one reason why Senators do have to care about the Courts of Appeal to some degree.

NINO MAH MAN: Antonin Scalia, you should all know, is the shining example of what a judge should be. It turns out he has some timely comments regarding the politicization of the federal judicial nomination process. You can read an article about his comments here. An important quote from the article: "We're not looking for good lawyers anymore . . . The most important thing we look for are judges who will read into the Constitution the rights that we like, and read out of the Constitution the rights that we don't like."

And that, friends, is the problem.

ESTRADA REDUX: Here at Patterico's Pontifications, we aim to please. I have gotten yet another request for more on Estrada, and I do have a lot to say, so why not get started? Estrada, of course, is the Bush judicial nominee who is getting filibustered by Senate Democrats for no good reason whatsoever.

The main point to make -- the one that takes precedence above all others -- is that the Democratic arguments regarding him are all complete horsefeathers (this is a family blog, so the more appropriate term is left to your imagination). I started a post to explain why, but there were too many silly arguments to refute, and 4-5 reasons why each argument was silly. The post was just too long. Plus, the arguments have all been refuted thoroughly here -- in a letter from Alberto Gonzales to Sen. Leahy and Sen. Daschle. Read it, if you have the time (it's even longer than the post I started).

If you have any doubt about whether Leahy, who is leading the Estrada filibuster, is a complete hypocrite, let me put that to rest right now. Here is Pat Leahy in 1998, in his own words: "I have stated over and over again on this floor that I would refuse to put an anonymous hold on any judge; that I would object and fight against any filibuster on a judge, whether it is somebody I opposed or supported; that I felt the Senate should do its duty. If we don't like somebody the President nominates, vote him or her down. But don't hold them in this anonymous unconscionable limbo, because in doing that, the minority of Senators really shame all Senators." 144 Cong. Rec. S6522 (June 18, 1998). You can read it for yourself here -- in a press release on Leahy's own web site.

YOU GOT QUESTIONS, I GOT ANSWERS: A correspondent makes several points, at least two of which I should address. His first point was, essentially, "don't you have a day job?" (Actually, a couple of people asked me that one.) And the second is that some of the posts are a little long for our MTV attention spans.

As to point number one: yes, I do, but I am currently on vacation. When I return to work, the posts will have to be made in early morning and evenings.

As to point number two -- good point. Enough said.

TIMELINE: A reader said he would like to see a timeline that lays out the history of the attempts to disarm Saddam. The best timeline I have seen is here. It's worth checking out even if you think you know the history already. Trust me.

MUST-SEE: Everyone must see this. Interviews with our thoughtful war protesters. Absolutely brilliant.

MORE FEEDBACK: Another e-mail from one of the hordes of folks reading this blog! Keep 'em coming! This e-mailer is a Bush supporter, but is troubled by certain aspects of the coming war, which he specifies. This is great, because I think this person gives a very good summary of what many Americans are thinking nowadays. I would like to summarize and respond to his main points.

First, my e-mailer says: "I haven't seen a clear connection (or really, any sort of connection at all) between Al Queda and Saddam Hussein/Iraq." He therefore wonders why the "war on terrorism" has been "steered" towards Iraq.

Now, it is a common complaint of the Democrats (not that I accuse my correspondent of being one) that Bush is ignoring Al Queda to focus on Iraq. That's a nice spin point, but if there's any hard evidence to show that the impending Iraq action has in any way detracted from what we are doing against Al Queda, I have yet to hear it. More fundamentally, I think that if 9/11 should have taught us just one lesson, it is to try to anticipate bad things before they happen. (As a parallel -- wouldn't it have been nice if the newspapers had published major stories about the space shuttle's frequent brushes with danger before it disintegrated, rather than waiting until afterwards?) So I don't require a photo of Saddam and Osama hugging each other to become concerned that Iraq might pass weapons to Al Queda. They both hate America and would like to see us destroyed -- that's enough of a potential connection, together with all of the other problems with Hussein, to justify our policy.

By the way, I think this is also the answer to another concern raised by my correspondent: why now? I think the answer is that Saddam has been thumbing his nose at the world for 12 years, and after 9/11 we started to realize that waiting to see if that could result in a catastrophe is not the best option.

The reader then asks: what about North Korea? He provides a link to an Onion article that makes the point in satirical fashion. The article is titled: "North Korea Wondering What It Has to Do to Attract U.S. Military Attention." It purports to quote maniac Kim Jong Il as complaining about being ignored by Bush. "Bush says his number one priority is eliminating weapons of mass destruction, but he sure doesn't act that way," Kim is quoted as saying in the article. "Iraq may have weapons of mass destruction and may be developing more. The DPRK, on the other hand, does have weapons of mass destruction and isn't about to stop making them any time soon."

Very cute. However, the true answer to the question, as I understand it, is precisely that North Korea apparently does have weapons of mass destruction -- namely, nuclear (or if you're a die-hard Bushie, "nookyoolur") weapons. Intelligence estimates I have heard say that North Korea actually has between 2-5 nuclear weapons. (Largely thanks to a deal it made with -- you guessed it -- Bill Clinton. But that's another story.) Given that fact, I don't know what we're supposed to do militarily. Unfortunately, I think the fact that they have the weapons basically means it's game over. Bombing the reactor, which would have been an attractive option back when Clinton was president, is not really an option anymore.

To make it perfectly clear: when President Bush said in his State of the Union address regarding North Korea: "The United States will not be blackmailed," what he really meant was "The United States will be blackmailed."

If we could have put a stop to North Korea's development of nukes before it was too late (and we could have), should we have passed on that chance? That's basically the situation we are in with Iraq now. We know Hussein has biological and chemical weapons. It is illogical to think he has not tried to develop nuclear weapons. Do we want to wait until he has one, and then goes marching into Kuwait again -- but this time armed with nukes?

The answer to this question may have a great impact on the actions of many other countries with nuclear ambitions. Iran leaps to mind.

As always, feedback is welcomed.

FEEDBACK: A reader writes to voice support for this site, but cautions that "those that really need to read it will probably think you're a raving conservative, and quit after the first few paragraphs." (In keeping with the pretense that this is some huge, widely read site, I am going to keep saying "a reader writes" rather than, for example, "my sister writes" . . .) All I can say is what I think. Sometimes, as in the post about Dennis Hastert, or the post about Bush's post-war plans for Iraq, I will criticize Republicans. But I think it's fair to say you could wait a very long time before you'll see me say something nice about Bill Clinton. If anyone disagrees with specific opinions of mine, I am always eager to hear from them -- liberal or conservative.

AH, THE FRENCH: I have been watching a great series about World War II called "The World at War." It was made in the 1970s and narrated by Laurence Olivier. There are many memorable moments, scenes, and quotes, but one in particular comes to mind.

Early in the war, the French and Germans were in a state of war, but Germany had not yet attacked. German forces were diverted elsewhere, and the Germans were gambling that the French would not attack. A German general is quoted as saying that if the French had chosen that moment to attack, the Germans would have been overrun within two weeks, and it would have ended the war.

At that time, a journalist interviewed French soldiers on the front lines. He said to one of the French soldiers: "I don't understand. The Germans are right over there. You can see them. Why aren't you shooting at them?" According to the journalist, the soldier took a drag on his cigarette and calmly replied: "Why should we? They aren't shooting at us."

It was impossible not to think of that when I read here that Jacques Chirac said recently: "We consider that war is always, always, the worst solution."

FURTHER PROFILES IN COURAGE, OR, CLINTON THEN AND NOW: It is so very interesting to read Bill Clinton's justification for ordering airstrikes on Iraq in 1998. It is full of quotes like this: "Saddam (Hussein) must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons." Clinton said Saddam had been given a "final warning" and had abused his "last chance." He added: "In halting our airstrikes in November, I gave Saddam a chance -- not a license. If we turn our backs on his defiance, the credibility of U.S. power as a check against Saddam will be destroyed."

Now, of course, he wants the world simply to leave it all up to Hans Blix. "We should let Blix lead us to come together," our illustrious former president now says.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING: The head of the Iraqi National Congress argues here that, after a hopefully successful invasion of Iraq, the United States should allow the Iraqi National Congress (INC) to take the reins in setting up a democracy. In other words, let the Iraqis run Iraq.

Seems like a no-brainer, right? So why is the Bush administration making noises about having the U.S. military run Iraq for a couple of years? Brit Hume asked a retired Air Force General, Thomas McInerney, yesterday. McInerney said: "the fact is CIA and State [the State Department] basically do not like the INC. They really think, and the indications I get, that the INC would bring too much democracy. . . the Saudis and others in the region do not want to see too see much democracy and independent groups come in there."

My view is basically summed up by Hume's incredulous question in response: "Too much democracy?" If that is really the reason, Bush needs to rethink this. I can easily believe that the monarchies in the Gulf region would not be happy to have the example of a democratized Arab state on their borders. To which I say: too flippin' bad.

VOLUME, VOLUME, VOLUME: A reader (and Onion fan) has called me an "area blogoholic." Well, I don't know that I will necessarily keep up the furious pace of the first 24 hours. I was trying to get something interesting down for the debut, plus there was a backlog of outrages to be addressed. So if you are distressed by the volume of posts, take heart.

At the same time, I don't want it to get boring. As long as the L.A. Times exists, I guarantee my perpetually simmering resentment of our wonderful liberal media will boil over on a regular basis. (Consistent metaphors -- thank you very much.) And since this blog does serve a therapeutic purpose (I don't think I ranted at my wife once all day yesterday, for which I am sure she is grateful), my resentment and outrage will translate into posts -- as long as doesn't say I'm taking too much space.

I should warn you: I haven't read the LAT yet this morning. . .


ANOTHER QUESTION: If it's not one too many. . . I alluded to this a couple of posts ago, but I am really interested in the strange logic that causes so many to say we should have taken out Saddam in 1991 -- but we shouldn't now. It's such a commonly held belief, judging by the number of times I have heard it expressed, that someone reading this must be able to explain it to me. I have to admit that the logic has so far escaped me.

CARL LEVIN AND COLIN POWELL: If you are familiar with Senator Carl Levin's recent claim on Fox News Sunday regarding advice he supposedly received from Colin Powell in 1991 -- and Powell's response to that claim -- then you can skip the next paragraph.

For the rest of you, a little background: Levin was asked on Fox News Sunday whether he thought his vote against the Gulf War Resolution in 1991 was a mistake. He said yes, but quickly added: "we were following Colin Powell's advice at the time and saying that sanctions could work a little longer." Brit Hume reminded Levin that Powell had supported the resolution, and Levin continued to claim that at the time of the vote (which took place in January 1991), Powell was still privately advising Levin and other Senators that sanctions should be given more time. As Brit Hume reported the next day, Powell immediately disputed Levin's Fox News Sunday claim. Powell said that he (Powell) had supported sanctions only as long as that was administration policy. After that, he worked on preparations for the war, and did not advocate the continuation of sanctions, to Levin or anyone else.

After the Brit Hume report I just mentioned, the story was that Powell had disputed Levin's claim. That's fine as far as it goes, but I have not heard anyone express astonishment that Levin was basically saying, "I set aside whatever beliefs I had regarding the appropriateness of force, and deferred to Colin Powell." Isn't that a rather surprising thing for a United States Senator to say -- especially one as pompous and self-important as Levin? (Levin, as you may know, is one of those guys who always wears reading glasses on the end of his nose, whether he is reading or not).

Maybe the even bigger question is this: "Senator Levin, if your favored method of deciding the appropriateness of using military force is to defer to Colin Powell, why don't you do that now? Secretary Powell certainly thinks force is warranted today. Why not just take his advice, like you claim you did in 1991?"

I'd love to hear his answer.


I would like to throw this whole war thing open for discussion. For the record, I support military action in Iraq, but I think it's a close question, and I have concerns. I respect the opinions of those who oppose military action -- if they are at least thinking the issue through rationally. If you are walking around holding signs equating Bush with Hitler (or even Saddam), then you are not thinking rationally. If you walk around criticizing Bush I for leaving Saddam in power, and criticizing Bush II for wanting to remove Saddam from power, then (in my opinion) you are not thinking rationally. However, if you just think the threat is not imminent enough to take action, then I disagree with you, but I can respect your point of view.

That said, I would like to pose what I think are the toughest questions for each side. I welcome all feedback, and will post the most thoughtful responses to each question.

To the anti-war folks, I ask: what would you actually do if it were up to you? Putting aside sloganeering about oil, criticisms of Bush, etc. -- what would you actually do? I am looking for something that looks a little further ahead, and gives a little more detail, than a recitation of the oft-repeated "Give the inspectors more time" line. How much more time would you give them, exactly? What about if (I would say when) Saddam starts to block their efforts again (he's done it before)? What is your solution? Is there any confluence of events that would cause you to say that military action would be appropriate?

To the pro-war folks, I ask: what if this turns ugly? Everybody seems to assume this war will last a week, and we will prevail easily. I hope these people are right. But it seems to me that Saddam has to know that the war we will have the toughest time winning is one fought in the streets of Baghdad. Don't you think he is preparing for just such a battle? Have you read Black Hawk Down, or seen the movie? What would prevent the battle of Baghdad from becoming another Mogadishu?

I am very interested to hear people's opinions on these issues.

MORE MAN ON THE STREET -- ME: Apropos of the man-on-the-street reactions to North Korean nukes (see post below), I would like to add the reaction of Patterico, Attorney: "Thank you, Bill Clinton."

ESTRADA UPDATE REQUEST: A reader asks me to keep you all up to date on the Estrada nomination. No sooner requested than done.

Of course, here at Patterico's Pontifications, I don't seek to insult the reader's intelligence, even if said intelligence is unlikely to take offense. Posts assume a basic level of familiarity with current events. But, in the mountain of dogmatically expressed opinion that I expect to spill onto these pages concerning the Estrada filibuster, there will undoubtedly be something constituting an update.

IT'S ONION TIME: It's Tuesday afternoon, and that means a new edition of The Onion. My favorite piece from this week's edition is their man-on-the-street commentary in reaction to the question: Can N. Korea Nukes Reach the U.S.?

The best comment comes from Ron Buhner, Gardener: "I sincerely doubt they can reach us. My back scratcher was made in Korea, and the piece of crap can barely reach past my shoulder blades."

CLASSIC ANTI-WAR PHOTOS: These are great. Collected by James Taranto of Best of the Web, here are links to two great anti-war photos. First comes this fan of Neville Chamberlain. Next is the second photo at this link. I couldn't improve on the caption if I tried.

It's almost like God put these two guys in the demonstration deliberately, for ironic purposes.

QUESTION: I have a question. While it might sound rhetorical, I would be happy to read any serious answers, if there are any. Send responses to the e-mail address on the left margin of this page.

I was watching coverage of Powell's speech at the U.N. Security Council the other day, and I couldn't help but notice that when he was done, one of the first speakers to respond was the ambassador from Cameroon. Cameroon? on the U.N. Security Council? What's the deal with that? I have the same question about Syria.

My understanding is that there are 15 countries on the Security Council. Of all the countries in the world, why do the 15 include Cameroon and Syria? What's going on here? And where is Cameroon anyway?

UPDATE: A reader (okay, my buddy Steve) writes to clarify the composition of Security Council membership: "OK, here's the answer to the UN question. There are the five permanent members we all know, but there are 10 other positions that rotate through all the other countries. And, the chairmanship is also rotated month to month alphabetically, which is why France is in charge this month and Germany is in charge next month. Isn't that lovely?"

Makes about as much sense as anything else about the U.N. If having the chairmanship makes a difference, maybe we could change the name of our country to "Fred" for next month only. I could handle being a citizen of "Fred" if it kept decisions out of Schroeder's mitts.

But I still don't know where Cameroon is. . .

THE INSIGHT OF GOOGLE.COM: I think this is a put-on -- but it's very funny, regardless. Courtesy of The Volokh Conspiracy.

PROFILES IN COWARDICE: According to the link below regarding the Nobel Peace Prize nominations, another nominee is former Illinois Governor George Ryan. You may remember that Ryan -- just before leaving office -- commuted the death sentences of all 165 prisoners on Illinois's death row.

To illustrate the effect of this, I have provided this link to a story about one of the crimes for which a killer's sentence was commuted. The murderers used a pair of scissors to cut open the victim, a pregnant woman, so they could steal her baby. The ringleader now cannot be executed, thanks to Peace Prize nominee Ryan.

Contrast Ryan, who can suffer no political fallout from his actions because he has left office, with someone like Tony Blair, who stands up for what he believes in no matter how tough it is for him politically.

I HAVE SOME GERUNDS TO RUN: Cable television news reporters using only verbs ending in "ing!" Irritating people like me! Me: complaining about it here!

OH, GOOD LORD: It seems that Bono has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. I just hope it doesn't go to his head. . .

FRENCH WINES AND IRAQ: You know, my wife will love this. . . Used to be when I would get annoyed by something, she was usually the only person on hand to listen while I bloviated. Because it was usually something in the newspaper that annoyed me, I was usually holding forth in the morning, while she was trying to get ready for work. Now I can just tap-tap-tap my frustrations away, and maybe she'll be on time to work more.

In that vein, I was thinking about some of the topics I have lectured the poor woman about lately. Here's one that I am commenting on here to demonstrate my willingness to denounce Republicans where appropriate. Did you hear the deal about Dennis Hastert theatening to put a warning label on French wines? Turns out some of them use bovine blood to "clarify" the product. Here's the kicker: although the threat came just as France was getting vocal about opposing military force in Iraq, Hastert's spokesman said: "It's not about Iraq. It's more tied into some of the unfair trading practices that they have used regarding farm products from the United States."

Now, there is not a person on earth who believes that statement, but the only commentary I have read on the issue seems to silently applaud the action nonetheless -- I guess because we are sticking it to the Frenchies.

I beg to differ. I think this sort of thing is exactly what is wrong with government. Rather than focusing on real problems, politicians use their positions of authority simply as a tool to whack their opponents over the head. Then they deny that's what they're doing, and they don't even care if you believe them or not -- because they're still holding the stick, and if you complain it could be your head that gets whacked next.

If using bovine blood in the manufacturing of French wine is a real health problem, then it should have been addressed long before the well-coiffed French Foreign Minister started making anti-war pronouncements.

EXTRA! POST PRINTS SOMETHING SENSIBLE: Wow. I figured at some point I would create a post that summarizes the reasons that I think the filibuster of Miguel Estrada is unjustified. But I never thought I would see such a summary in an editorial in the Washington Post. The editorial systematically rejects the patently insincere arguments that have been advanced for the filibuster, and concludes: "Underlying it all is the fact that Democrats don't want to put a conservative on the court." While that's perfectly obvious, I am not used to having the obvious stated anywhere on the pages of the Post.

LINE IN THE SAND: I have a question about the current situation in Iraq: does the "line in the sand" metaphor used in 1991 still apply to the current situation? Or is that a metaphor that applied uniquely to the invasion of Kuwait? "Here is this line in the sand, now git back on the other side of it." All thoughts on this topic are welcome.

Because I was thinking: if we are drawing even a figurative "line in the sand," do we really want help from the country that invented the Maginot line?

UPDATE: Coincidentally enough, I just heard the phrase on TV for the first time -- referring to the French and Germans drawing a line in the sand! I thought they didn't want to get anywhere near the sand!

FIRST ACTUAL CONTENT: Dang, this is kind of addictive. I just tap on my keyboard and my opinions can be easily accessed by people across the world! ACROSS THE WORLD! Of course, the harsh reality is that I will tell everyone I know about this page, and if I'm lucky my mom might look at it once, just so she can tell me she did. Still. . . ACROSS THE WORLD!

I promise that soon, I will try to post something that has actual content to it, rather than just carrying on about how neat it is that I can do this. To stir interest in this page, I will try to make sure it is something provocative (no, not "provocative" like that! This is no place for smut -- it's the internet!)

Aw, heck, why wait? Just to get the ball rolling, I'll post a link to a thought-provoking piece I came across last night: Tony Blair's defense of his position on Iraq. I don't know if I agree with 100% of what Blair says, but he certainly has the right idea, in my opinion. Anybody who opposes the use of force should be aware of his arguments. Although I like Bush in general, I really wish we had someone in the White House who could articulate his positions half as well as Blair does.


RANTS AS OPTIONAL: The debut of this blog is a big event for me. See, until tonight, I had always assumed that these here blog things were restricted by law to people who had money, a position of power, or at least something interesting to say. But I found out in a web surfing accident that I couldn't have been more wrong. Anyone can set one of these things up for free. EVEN -- and this is the shocking part -- even me!

So, blammo! here I am out there opinionating on the web, just like those other guys, only with more, uh, how do say that thing -- articulatability!

My initial intent with this page is to provide an outlet for my rants that I have in the past sent to people via e-mail. Mass e-mails mean that my opinions may be forced upon people who might not want to hear them. This blog cures that problem, since by definition you have to seek out the page to read the opinion. On the other hand, the blog format has its disadvantages -- mainly in that my opinions cannot be forced upon people who don't want to hear them. (Hmmm -- that's a problem. I am going to have to figure out a way to make it appear on your computer automatically, whether you like it or not. A pop-up blog! I'll get to work on that right away!)

This will also save me a lot of e-mails to reporters at the L.A. Times who have ticked me off with their various articles. Now, instead of sending a vitriolic e-mail to the offending reporter, I will just post my acerbic, uncannily insightful comments here. I will get just as much response out of the reporter, and entertain all of you in the process.

And when my pop-up blog regime kicks in, my hit count passes Drudge's, and I get my own Fox News talk show, you'll be able to tell people that you read this thing way back in the days when you still had a choice.

WELCOME MESSAGE: Welcome to Patterico's Pontifications. This is destined to be the hottest blog since that one put out by that guy. You know who I mean.