Archives for July, 2005


That was me. I’m hoping they rename Mars when we get there.

Posted on Jul 30, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

China’s Earthquake Weapon

Did anyone catch this line in Max Boot’s recent “yellow peril” op-ed, warning that China may be looking into “creating man-made earthquakes” as a way of fighting an asymmetric war against the United States? Meanwhile, neocon national security maven Frank Gaffney warns of a Chinese Pearl Harbor attack on the US via electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon. It occurs to me, as it has before, that a capacity for embarassment is a severe liability for a D.C. wonk, especially when it comes to foreign policy. Having recently crapped the bed on the Iraq issue, one would think that Boot, Gaffney, Woolsey, Kristol, et al. would have the decency to maintain a studied silence on national security issues for a time. Or, failing that, to proceed soberly, cautiously into the discussion–rather than spinning doomsday-weapon scenarios drawn from a 1930’s Buck Rogers filmreel. But D.C. is a town where you can’t get laughed off the stage. Why bother to be careful and judicious?

Posted on Jul 29, 2005 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments


Back in ’91 when Clarence Thomas told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he’d never discussed Roe v. Wade with anybody, it was pretty clear he was dissembling. With John Roberts, you could almost believe that it’s true. According to yesterday’s Washington Post, even folks who know him quite well have no idea what he thinks.

“You know, I must have had a thousand lunches with John, and I can’t think of a single thing he’s said that would specify his politics,” says Prettyman, a World War II veteran who once served as an aide to Robert F. Kennedy. “We were all under the impression that he’s a conservative, but he always talked generalities. He’s not the type to lay it all out.”

Great grades, stellar resume, nice posture, nice smile, no doubt a firm handshake. But where he stands on anything is anyone’s guess. What we’ve got here is a guy who, apparently, was genetically engineered and grown in a vat for the sole purpose of getting past the Senate Judiciary Committee. I think it was P.J. O’Rourke who wrote that every American with any wit or spunk has done something to keep himself from becoming president. So too with the Supremes, I guess.

Posted on Jul 25, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I Repent

Perhaps gentrification does suck. Apparently, if the new plan for the retail space in Columbia Heights’ Tivoli theatre project goes through, I’m now going to live closer to a Ruby Tuesday’s than many of my friends in the arid, soulless canyons of Northern Virginia. Can’t they put a methadone clinic or something in there instead?

Posted on Jul 20, 2005 in Uncategorized | 12 Comments


I had a piece last week on why Alberto Gonzales would be a disastrous choice for the Supreme Court. Not because he may or may not be soft on Roe, but because he thinks the president should be able to operate without restraint. The title should be “Torturous,” not “Tortuous,” I believe. Though this is probably all moot since Bush seems to be on the verge of picking some cipher who practiced maritime law for 16 years. Talk about torturous.

Posted on Jul 19, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Chickenhawkery Recast

Did you know that Richard Perle wrote a novel? It’s called Hard Line, and it’s apparently a swashbuckling tale of derring-do, focusing on arms control wonks in the waning days of the Cold War. This passage says a lot about how our manbreasted desk commandos see themselves:

“Urbane guerillas in dark suits, they fought not with AK-47s but with memos, position papers, talking points, and news leaks. It was unrestricted warfare; there was no rule book. And no two antagonists in this administration had gone at it more regularly than Michael Waterman and Daniel Bennet.”

Posted on Jul 19, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


Should have mentioned earlier, but expect blogging to be even lighter than usual, as I’m in Scotland on vacation. Edinburgh is a neat place. Every building looks like Parliament, except the Scottish Parliament building, a Ã?Â??Ã?Â?Ã?£300 million over budget monstrosity that looks like the unholy issue of a coupling between the Guggenheim and a Tiki bar. Quite by accident (visiting the city museum) we stumbled upon Adam Smith’s grave at the church across the street. Appropriately, there was a crumpled McDonald’s wrapper on top of it.

More when I return.

Posted on Jul 15, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Fear Is the Health of the State

So really, are D.C. Metro “officers carrying machine guns” going to do any good? Of course not. Automatic weapons aren’t much use against a cellphone-activated bomb hidden in a bookbag. Terrorists determined to set off bombs in a subway system will eventually succeed. What are we going to do, force everyone to take their shoes off on their way through the TSA-managed turnstiles?

The state doesn’t have much of a solution to terrorism. Yet it has to show that it’s “doing something,” so it muscles up in a meaningless fashion. A meaningless gesture, but not a costless one. I’m not particularly worried that D.C. Metro officers will shoot someone by mistake. Instead, it irks me that a force with a well-deserved reputation for meatheaded officiousness will look and feel that much more intimidating–without any corresponding increase in safety.

Enough of this muscling up, and you start to live in a society that looks like a giant airport security line. And you get a citizenry that’s accustomed to being poked and prodded for the greater good, and conditioned not even to joke about the poking. In the long run, that worries me more than Al Qaeda does.

Posted on Jul 8, 2005 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Era of Jackbooted Nags

Yesterday Fox ran a column of mine on the DC smoking ban. But for a dissenting view, here’s one letter I received:

SOMETIMES the government HAS to protect citizens form their own STUPIDITY. IF someone is stupid enough to smoke let them do
it in the provacy of their own home. BUT on the rare occasions I get to eat out I do NOT wish to have my dinner spoiled by offensive and yes, deadly cigarette smoke (or cell phone jerks or even crying babies!). AND if folks are too stupid to put on a seat belt when it saves lives the government has to step in (how many news stories have you read where the fatality victim was EJECTED from the vehicle and no they did not have their seat belt on).

A nice letter from a bar owner in upstate New York, though:

I can confirm that the ENTIRE State has banned smoking in bars and restaurants. It was laughingly meant to protect the employees from the harm of second hand smoke except for the fact that EVERY bar tender, cook and security person that I employ smokes, so now they have to go outside and smoke out in front.

To further compound the problem, [the city] fines you if they find cigarette butts in the gutters in front of my establishment and harasses me if there are too many people congregating outside of the place to smoke.

So now I am the smoke police, assistant street sweeper, assistant crowd control manager and sales tax collector and anything else the “Peoples Republic of the State of New York” deems to appoint me (Without compensation of course).

Posted on Jul 8, 2005 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

London, D.C.

It makes you furious and it makes you sick, as it always does, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t make you afraid. “Bugger off” is indeed the right response. Care for the wounded, bury the dead, get those responsible, and carry on without fear. I expect our cousins across the pond will show us how its done.

From the worst in human nature, to the best: this from today’s Post is enough to counter the Kitty Genovese view of man all by itself. A few blocks from where I used to live in 2001, two guys, one “a media relations director for a trade association” (!) fought off a knife-wielding maniac stabbing a young woman. By risking their lives, they saved hers. Ordinary superheroes.

Posted on Jul 7, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Hail Henley

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace announces that it’s dropping blanket term “WMD” for any chem, bio, radiological weapon whether massively destructive or not. See “Weapons of Some Destruction.”

Also, Tierney unconsciously picks up on Jim’s point about “The Essential Conservatism of the Planet.”

It’s not damning with faint praise to say that being three years behind Jim marks you as a perceptive columnist. I await John Tierney’s adoption of the “Million Mom War” theme.

Posted on Jul 6, 2005 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Today’s Post

I have a quote in the lead story in the Washington Post today, in an article about DoD’s new Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support, which contains quite a bit of language about intelligence gathering and sharing domestically by the Pentagon. That raises a hackle or two, given what’s happened when the military’s engaged in domestic surveillance before. As the Church Committee Reports reveal:

In all, the Army probably maintained files on at least 100,000 Americans from 1967 Until 1970. 121 Among them were: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, Julius Hobson, Julian Bond, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Major General Edwin Walker, Jesse Jackson, Walter Fauntroy, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Congressman Abner Mikva, Senator Adlai Stevenson III, 122 as well as “clergymen, teachers, journalists, editors, attorneys, industrialists, a laborer, a construction worker, railroad engineers, a postal clerk, a taxi driver, a chiropractor, a doctor, a chemist, an economist, a historian, a playwright, an accountant, an entertainer, professors, a radio announcer, business executives, and authors” 123 who became subjects of Army files simply because of their participation in political protests of one sort or another.

Arlo Guthrie? Did “Alice’s Restaurant” really sting that much?

The Church Committee hearings helped lead to the Privacy Act, which is supposed to prevent the compilation of govt. records based on citizens’ exercise of First Amendment rights. But the Pentagon has chafed against that barrier as recently as last summer, pushing for it to be loosened. The choice of an Iran-Contra figure to head the development of the (now apparently defunded) “Total Information Awareness” system doesn’t exactly inspire trust either.

Posted on Jul 6, 2005 in Uncategorized | Comments Off