Archives for September, 2004

Nixon vs. Nixon

I thought Bush was Nixon. But over on the main page, Jeremy Lott says that Kerry is Nixon and Bush is LBJ. Whatever. They’re both Nixon, with the caveat, as Jackie Mason put it in another context, that “at least Nixon had the decency to twitch when he lied.”

Posted on Sep 28, 2004 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Gun Safety”

On NPR this morning, the announcer referred to an attempt by House Republicans to repeal the District’s “gun safety” laws. [UPDATE: My girlfriend thinks it wasn't NPR but the news feed on either 570 or 630 AM on the way into work this morning. Sorry if I inadvertantly misled you. (Though I'm still not sure it wasn't NPR). That'll teach me to blog something I heard before I fully ingested my morning coffee.]

If you know the first Goddamned thing about the District’s gun laws you know what an abuse of language that is.

Here’s how the district’s gun laws work: You can’t own a handgun without a registration certificate and you can’t get a registration certificate, because the District stopped issuing them to ordinary citizens in 1976. If you do happen to own a pre-1976 handgun that you registered back when disco was king, you cannot lawfully carry it from room to room in your own house without a license. And you can’t get a license.

You can register certain rifles and shotguns. You just can’t legally use them when your life is threatened. District law requires all guns to be “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a triggerlock” at all times — and it makes no exception for lawful self defense. If a burglar confronts you in your home, and you load your shotgun to defend yourself, you’ve just committed a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to a year in jail.

And here’s how “gun safety” is going right now in the 3rd police district here in DC, where I live, to judge by the most recent selected street crimes section in the Intowner:

Lanier, 1600 blk.: woman robbed at gunpoint by man who fled in car [2am, Mon., 8/9]

O, 1200 blk.: 2 pedestrians accosted by 2 men whom emerged from alley brandishing gun, robbed them, then went back into the alley & fled in a waiting car [1am, Mon., 8/23]

Ontario & Champlain: persons accosted by 2 others with gun demanding money, punched in face, robbed & then fled in car [11pm, Wed., 8/18] (case closed with arrest of both plus getaway car driver)

Ontario (Pl.), 1800 blk.: 3 persons approached from rear by man who pulled gun from paper bag, stating, “Don’t scream; the first person that screams is going to get shot” [2am, Mon., 8/16]

Q, 1000 blk.: man ascending steps to his home accosted from behind by another stating, “Don’t look at me or I’ll shoot you,” whereupon he displayed a semi-automatic & him [10am, Sat., 8/14] (note what appears to be a similarly executed robbery just one hour later around the corner in the 1700 blk. of 10th St.)

R, 1800 blk.: 20th St. resident Adrien Alstad shot in the chest & killed by one of 2 assailants while on his way home from his job at Annie’s Paramount Steak House on 17th Street when, following a demand for money, was told he had none (which was, in fact, true) [2am, Mon., 8/23] (suspects subsequently arrested 2 days later while engaged in suspicious activity several blocks east in Shaw)

S, 1200 blk.: man approached by another on bike, drew gun & demanded wallet & stating, “This is not a f . . . ng game; I will kill you,” whereupon he took the wallet & also robbed him of a bag [10pm, Sun., 8/22]

S, 1500 blk.: woman approached by 2 men who first asked for cigarette, then each pulled guns, pointing them at her face & robbed her [2am, Wed., 8/18]

S, 1900 blk.: 4 persons robbed at gunpoint by another [10pm, Wed., 8/11]

T, 1800 blk.: 3 persons approached by 2 others with gun demanding money & punching one in the face before robbing them [11pm, Tue., 8/17]

Vermont, 1600 blk.: man accosted by another with gun demanding money, but fled without obtaining any [6pm, Sat., 8/21]

8th & T: 2 persons accosted by 2 men who approached in a car with 2 others & who jumped out, pulled a gun & robbed man of cell phone [11pm, Sat., 8/21]

10th, 1700 blk.: man grabbed by shoulder by another who approached on bike from behind, displayed gun, demanding, “Give me your wallet & don’t look at me [11am, Sat., 8/14] (note what appears to be a similarly executed robbery just one hour earlier around the corner in the 1000 blk. of Q St.)

12th & Vermont: man robbed at gunpoint [11am, Tue., 8/9]

13th, 1700 blk.: 2 pedestrians approached from behind by man with a semi-automatic who then robbed them [9pm, Mon., 8/23]

13th, 1800 blk.: man approached by another on a 10-speed bike who drew a gun & robbed him [12noon, Sun., 8/15]

16th & Irving: man waiting for bus approached from behind by 2 others, one of whom placed an unknown hard object to his back & demanded his wallet “quick, quick, quick” [2am, Sun., 8/22]

17th & P: business establishment robbed by man who entered & pulled gun [10am, Wed., 8/18]

19th, 1800 blk.: 2 persons robbed at gunpoint by 3 others who then fled in car [3am, Sat., 8/21] (incident appears to be identical to the one that occurred at 10pm the previous night on the west side of Dupont Circle, at 21st & N Sts.)

21st & N: 2 persons robbed at gunpoint by 3 others who then fled in car [10pm, Sat., 8/21] (incident appears to be identical to the one that occurred at 3am the night before on the east side of Dupont Circle, in the 1800 blk. of 19th St.)

Posted on Sep 28, 2004 in Uncategorized | 13 Comments



I knew the story of Cato the Younger, the Roman statesman who disemboweled himself rather than live under Caesar’s rule, and whose name Trenchard and Gordon adopted to write “Cato’s Letters.” But I’d never seen an image of him before I checked this handy Wikipedia entry. What a mug! That’s exactly the expression I keep contorting myself into whenever I think about the upcoming Bush-Kerry debates. Be careful: if you don’t remember to laugh, it’s like your mother warned you–one day it’s gonna stick that way.

Posted on Sep 26, 2004 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Maximum Verbosity

I wanted to write something about Max Borders’ latest. I think it says nothing more elaborate or compelling than “rights, if they exist, stop at the water’s edge. Plus, 9/11.” But the truth is, I don’t know. Setting out to refute it is like deciding to have a fistfight with a giant sloppy souffle of words.

“This is not only wrong from an ontological point-of-view, but against the spirit of our need to contrive both freedom and security from the moral void that is the basic condition of humanity. In short, we can either conceive of rights as some kind of mutual agreement — whether actual, tacit, or hypothetical — or we can go around ascribing so called “human rights” willy-nilly at the expense of both freedom and security at home. And while I think we can afford decency in the way we conduct war, it should never be transmogrified into some universal moral principle that guides our actions at every turn.”

Why the “spirit of our need” here in the void? What work is “spirit” doing in that sentence, to say nothing of all the other words? Is “decency” getting (or not getting) “transmogrified” into a universal moral principle in this construction? And does he mean to say we can’t let decency guide our actions all the time? What does that mean? If he’s saying “sometimes, to defend ourselves, we’ll have to use weapons that will accidentally kill innocents,” then why not say that? I don’t disagree with that statement. But why phrase it in terms of “decency”?

Woof. Right now, here in the void, I feel the spirit of my need for a couple of drinks.

Posted on Sep 24, 2004 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Oh Very Dumb

I think I’d be pretty pissed if I was flying into Dulles and they diverted my plane all the way to Bangor, Maine because they suspected that Cat Stevens might try to hijack it. It’s obvious from the album covers in the 70s that the guy wasn’t strong enough to overpower a stewardess then, let alone now.

Posted on Sep 20, 2004 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Talk About Unappealing Choices…

Paul Krugman
You are Paul Krugman! You’re a brilliant economist
with a knack for both making sense of the
current economic situation and exposing the
Bush administration’s lies about it. You
somehow came out as the best anti-war writer on
the Op-Ed staff. Other economists hate your
guts for selling out to the liberals. To hell
with ‘em.

Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted on Sep 19, 2004 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

My D.C.

Here’s a piece I wrote a few months back for Liberty magazine about what it’s like to be a libertarian in D.C.:

There’s more than a little irony involved in being a libertarian who’s put down roots in Washington, D.C. After all, how do you “put down roots” in a transient and artificial city whose main “industry” has ever been redistribution? If you’re committed, as I am, to a government small enough to be run out of a double-wide trailer, how can you stand living in a city that’s a concretized insult to your ideals?

Every day I commute to work through vast corridors of ostentatious federal buildings that, if I had my way, would be converted to condos. I live surrounded by people who think it’s the birthright of the clever and ambitious to run the lives of those Americans decent enough to mind their own business. People complain about secondhand smoke. But the secondhand political opinions of earnest idiots, wafting over from adjacent restaurant tables, have done more damage to my digestion and blood pressure than smoke ever could to my lungs.

And yet… I like it here. I won’t defend the place. But I’ll try to explain. What I like about D.C. is inextricably intertwined with what I don’t like, so I’ll start there.

Continue reading this post »

Posted on Sep 19, 2004 in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Good Day, Sunshine.

You show absolutely no signs of depression. Indeed, you seem like one
of the happiest people around. This is most likely a result of a
positive attitude, high self-esteem and well-developed coping skills
and strategies. Wonderful! Keep your spirits up!

That’s the evaluation of my score on this depression test from Psychology Today magazine. I got a 15 out of 100 (lower is better), the same score as the friend who sent it to me, a guy who works for himself and spends half his time in Rio and Hawaii. Who knew I was so damned happy? I credit my sunny friggin attitude.

Posted on Sep 17, 2004 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Lacking Metrics

Here’s a piece I had in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune last weekend on whether we’re winning the war on terror. Registration’s a pain, so I’ll reproduce it here:

We’re at war not with a state but an armed ideology

Gene Healy

September 12, 2004

Last October, in an internal Pentagon memo leaked to the press, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hit on the key question in assessing U.S. progress in the war on Al-Qaida: “Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?”

Three years after the destruction of the Twin Towers, that question is as vital as ever.

Rumsfeld’s question is key because it recognizes the nature of the enemy: We’re not at war with a state, but with an armed ideology with murderous adherents in more than 60 countries. Responses appropriate to a state-based threat will only rarely be effective against a private, self-organizing, adaptable enemy that can operate without state support or central direction. Indeed, such responses may exacerbate the problem, drawing new recruits to jihad.

Sept. 11, 2001, should have concentrated the mind wonderfully as to the type of enemy we’re fighting. Too often, however, the administration has insisted on “fighting the last war.” Having rightfully removed the one state that was directly related to the terror threat, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the administration continued on to Iraq, as if the war against terror was a war against states. But it’s hard to understand how regime change in Iraq aided the war against anti-American terrorism. Iraq appears to have had few, if any, genuine Al-Qaida links and no WMD stockpiles to speak of, much less a plan to pass off weapons of mass destruction to anti-American terrorists.

“Anonymous,” the author of “Imperial Hubris,” a 22-year CIA veteran who ran the Counterterrorist Center’s Bin Laden station from 1996 to 1999, is nobody’s peacenik. But he says that “there is nothing Bin Laden could have hoped for more than the invasion and occupation of Iraq.”

His assessment is echoed by former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, who says that the war on Iraq “delivered to Al-Qaida the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable.”

Are they right? It’s difficult to tell. As Rumsfeld put it in the October memo, “we lack metrics” to know whether the pool of anti-American jihadis is growing or shrinking.

But there are some indications that we are losing that battle of numbers.

On April 1, J. Cofer Black, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, testified before Congress that there are “growing indications that Al-Qaida’s ideology is spreading well beyond the Middle East, particularly its virulent anti-American rhetoric. This has been picked up by a number of Islamic extremist movements which exist around the globe. This greatly complicates our task in stamping out Al-Qaida, and poses a threat in its own right for the foreseeable future.”

A year after the start of the Iraq war, a Pew Research Center Poll revealed that “large majorities in Jordan (70%) and Morocco (66%) believe suicide bombings carried out against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq are justifiable. Nearly half of those in Pakistan agree (46%).” Sixty-five percent of Pakistanis and 55 percent of Jordanians have a positive view of Bin Laden.

More recently, polls conducted by Zogby International show that the Iraq war has contributed to near-universal hostility toward the United States in the Arab world, with, for example, 98 percent of Egyptians holding negative views toward America. The “radical clerics” that Rumsfeld worries about now have an even more receptive audience.

That’s not to suggest that the war on Al-Qaida should be run as a global popularity contest. Far from it: We need to kill or capture those who mean us harm, and should make no apologies about it. But anti-American sentiment is the lifeblood of jihad. Needlessly increasing it through unnecessary wars in the Middle East nourishes the enemy and swells its ranks.

With the wisdom of hindsight, does the Bush administration fully appreciate this? Perhaps not.

Time magazine has reported that during “a private Aug. 19 conference call with Capitol Hill aides from both parties … senior Pentagon policy official William Luti said there are at least five or six foreign countries with traits that ‘no responsible leader can allow.’ ” There may be more Iraqs in our future.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the periodic standoffs in Najaf, Sadr City, Fallujah and elsewhere put American servicemen in the untenable position of either having their hands tied in the face of aggression, or responding with overwhelming force, generating civilian casualties and film footage that will surely make its way into jihadist recruitment videos.

In the Defense Department memorandum leaked last October, Secretary Rumsfeld wondered, “Is our current situation such that ‘the harder we work, the behinder we get’?”

Rumsfeld wasn’t talking about Iraq specifically, but his words perfectly describe our current dilemma.

Posted on Sep 16, 2004 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Sloganator

The Bush-Cheney make-your-own-poster deal is back up. So far, my favorites are “Ten-Year-Old Children for Bush,” “Rapture Me Up,” and “At Least It’s an Ethos.”

Posted on Sep 14, 2004 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Man Is Wolf to Self

Interesting stat: suicide now causes more deaths worldwide than war and murder put together. Of course, the WHO, who’s reporting these numbers, seeks to solve it all with a global bureaucracy of self-esteem.

Posted on Sep 14, 2004 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Fun With Gmail

One of the cool things about gmail is the advertisments it puts up for
you based on the text of your emails. A recent email thread with some lawschool friends about a classmate’s upcoming wedding generated:

How to Survive an Affair
after you’ve been hurt and betrayed by restoring the trust now.

Change Your Life Today
Discover how one woman completely changed her life. The easy way.

Why newly married couples are less likely to share their money
Independent – 23 hours ago
By Charles Arthur. When modern women marry, they do not throw in …

I have a couple of gmail accounts to give away. Mail me if you want one.

Posted on Sep 12, 2004 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments


Brian W. Doss at Catallarchy has a useful, if profoundly depressing, timeline of events in Chechnya. He concludes with the following:

Russia ought to have let Chechnya go in the first place, but after 2 years of fighting, Russia did let Chechnya go. Then Russia left Chechnya alone for 4 years. In the meantime, Chechnya started exporting terror to its neighbors and developed a reputation for anonymous mass murder that was used as a casus belli by Putin (as noted above, it was never proven that a Chechen terror/rebel group blew up the Moscow apartments, but the Chechens certainly didn’t work to cultivate either a good alibi or a peaceful reputation).

So while Putin has been at least several orders of magnitude worse than Yeltsin in terms of the brutality and fierceness of the Chechnya war, it really can’t be said that the root of the problem is Russia’s policy towards Chechnya. Chechnya as it was, was rotten. Leaving it alone meant dead in Dagestan (confirmed) and perhaps elsewhere in Russia. The problem, as well, is that Russia is almost certainly generating more of the bad guys through its bitter destruction of Chechnya.

Russia’s doing nothing/leaving ‘em alone gave ‘em terror. Doing something gave ‘em terror.

Life sucks.

Morality aside, I’m pretty sure it was a bad idea strategically for Russia to kill 80,000 people in Chechnya. I’m pretty sure it’s an awful idea to do it again. But as to what to do now (besides hunting down and ventilating everyone connected to the abomination at Belsan) I haven’t the foggiest.

And, to the conservatives reading this site, neither do you. Premptive strikes? Against what? Democratize Chechnya and drain the swamp? Good luck. If cutting the Gordian knot and withdrawing doesn’t (didn’t) deter the devils who could do such things, do you really think parliamentary elections and McDonalds will do the trick? And what then, a Carthaginian peace with 1.3 billion Muslims? I’m pretty sure that will require murdering some children.

I picture Beslan happening here, several times. And I picture internment camps, a surveillance state, gun registration (for those of you who recognize no other important liberties), an entire country that becomes as officious and intrusive as a giant airport security line–and answering the atrocities with state mass murder. And I picture friends of mine, decent people, who set their jaws grimly and endorse it, and denounce anyone who drags their feet. The whole prospect makes me sicker than I can say.

Posted on Sep 7, 2004 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Garden State

I saw Garden State last night. I wasn’t crazy about it. I can see what people liked about it, but as far as I’m concerned, it was a good movie only in the “I could picture her having a really cute sister” sense.

First, they managed to make Natalie Portman totally unappealing. “Oh watch me do yet another preciously zany thing! I can tap dance!” “If you don’t laugh, life is going to last a whole lot longer than you want it to.” Thank you Ms. Hallmark. Now, of course that’s true. I live by it. But part of living by it entails laughing at anybody who presents it solemnly, as if they’ve discovered something utterly novel.

Almost everything about the film was too contrived, too deliberately, strainingly quirksome. Hamster tracks running throughout the house. Mom’s fooling around with a dork in a knight costume. This other guy got rich from making velcro that doesn’t make noise!

But worst of all was the filmmaker’s insistence on spelling everything out for you. Every moment of character growth had to be accompanied by an articulated play-by-play. “I just had an epiphany. Let me ruin it by describing it to you in Deepak Chopra style detail.” Dustin Hoffman didn’t lumber around the set of the Graduate declaiming “you know what, I’m not interested in plastics! And, what’s more, I think your offer of a job in plastics underscores that what conventional bourgeois life offers these days is utterly alienating!”

There’s no doubt that Zach Braff is a talented filmmaker and a funny guy. I hold out a lot more hope for him than for Kevin Smith. Garden State’s a well-shot film with a good heart. But I’m hoping the next one will be better.

Posted on Sep 6, 2004 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Quite a few people have noticed this gem from Andy Card: “”It struck me as I was speaking to people in Bangor, Maine, that this president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child,” Card said.” Huh. That’s funny, because I often… oh never mind.

But this, from Karen Hughes, is a good one too. Explaining Bush’s governing philosophy on the Lehrer show recently, she said, “this is not the grinchy old let’s abolish the Department of Education or shut down the government conservative of the past.” Grinchy. That’s cute. Wouldn’t want to spoil Christmas for the teacher’s unions or anything.

Posted on Sep 4, 2004 in Uncategorized | Comments Off