Saturday, April 20, 2002
Do as we say, not as we doMark Steyn proves once again that he has a clearer view of the Middle East than Colin Powell and his European fellow-travellers.
Odd, isn't it? The Americans are routinely accused of being (in Pat Buchanan's phrase) Israel's amen corner. But Washington is at least prepared to offer the odd, qualified criticism of Sharon. The rest of the world, by contrast, is happy to parrot Yasser's talking points without modifying a single semi-colon. In the last month, I've found as many Jew-haters on the Continent as in the Middle East, but the difference is that the Arabs are fierce in their hatred, no matter how contorted their arguments, while the Europeans are lazy, off-hand Jew-haters -- they don't need arguments, they're happy to let the Arabs supply the script. Thus, the extraordinary resolution this week by the UN Human Rights Commission which accuses Israel of many and varied human rights violations, makes no mention of suicide bombers, and endorses the movement for a Palestinian state by "all available means, including armed struggle" -- i.e., terrorism. The resolution could have been drafted by the Arab League or the PLO. Forty of the 53 nations on the Commission approved it, including six EU members: Austria, Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Only five countries could summon the will to vote against: Britain, Canada, Germany, the Czech Republic and Guatemala. (The U.S. is not a member of the HRC, having been kicked off by a coalition of Euro-Arab schemers.)
Pants on fireThis is good news for civil libertarians: a police informant who lied when he implicated another was found liable for malicious prosecution after being sued by his "victim." All too frequently, prosecutors rely on questionable informants because they're convenient and helpful, whether or not they're honest. And once a prosecutor does use an informant, there's no incentive to prosecute him for perjury, so the informant has little to lose by lying. This isn't likely to set a significant precedent, because
Some of us hate childrenThe Washington Post reports on a dispute over the Bush administration's ideas about Head Start, and as usual, reports in a completely unbiased fashion. The paper's sub-headline?
Child Advocates Alarmed by Stress On AccountabilityChild advocates? Are there people who root against children? This is one of those media cliches: rather than framing a policy dispute as a disagreement about how to help a particular cause (e.g. children/women/minorities/the environment), the dispute is between those who want to help the cause and those who have another agenda.
The really odd thing is that the dispute, as portrayed in the Post, is "play vs. learn." Which side of that debate should "child advocates" be on, if such an animal existed?
Friday, April 19, 2002
Not taking sidesPresident Bush calls Ariel Sharon a "man of peace." Either Bush has stopped wobbling, or he really has adopted the "rope-a-dope" strategy. Perhaps he really didn't intend for Colin Powell to accomplish anything on his journey through the Middle East, and it was just a way to pretend he was doing something while really allowing Israel to continue its efforts to root out terror.
Certainly the statement didn't thrill Bush critics like David Sanger, who once again editorialized against Bush in the news section of the New York Times.
But even some members of Mr. Bush's administration seemed confused today about whether Mr. Bush had simply misspoken, or whether he was returning to the kind of statements he made at his Texas ranch over Easter weekend, which Israel took as a green light to press ahead with its military action.Perhaps the point is to be ambiguous? Sanger doesn't even consider the possibility, because it doesn't fit into his agenda of pushing Bush to force Israel to surrender.
Someone forgot the scriptThe Arab propaganda line has been that Israel has been massacring poor innocent civilians in Jenin, that without provocation Israel just decided to destroy the town (or "refugee camp," whichever sounds worse). This has been repeated so frequently that many members of the media were convinced that massive war crimes had taken place -- admittedly, aided by the fact that Israel wasn't letting independent observers into the town -- and any story to the contrary was described as pro-Israel bias.
So how do people explain this article in the Egyptian based Al-Ahram Weekly? It describes the Palestinian behavior in Jenin, approvingly, perhaps not realizing the significance:
Omar admits he is one of only a few dozen fighters not to emerge either dead or in plastic handcuffs from the fiercest battle waged by the Palestinians during the Israeli army's invasion of the West Bank.This was not the Israeli army vs. Palestinian civilians, with Israel deliberately knocking down buildings for no reason; it was Israel fighting against a Palestinian militia, which the Palestinians creating the "booby traps" that Israel accused them of placing, thus forcing the IDF to knock down buildings in self-defense.
I'll wait to see the "international community" retract the claims of Israeli war crimes. But I won't hold my breath.
Caribou 1, People 0So Robert Kuttner thinks that the U.S. is becoming more conservative? Then perhaps he can explain a big defeat in the Senate for President Bush's ANWR drilling plan. The plan needed 60 votes to defeat a filibuster; it only got 46. It's hard to know precisely what to make of this one. For whatever reason, environmental lobbyists pulled out all the stops to defeat this one; the League of Conservation Voters threatened Congress that they'd count this vote double in their annual environmental rating of each congressman. I guess they've run out of fundraising issues to flog.
Of course, the New York Times showed more of its unbiased objective reporting, describing this as "an issue that has pitted Democrats and environmentalists against Republicans and petroleum interests," as if the only people who would benefit from drilling were oil companies, and as if their opponents were all altruists who cared about making the world a better place.
Why does Paul Krugman hate America?Juan Gato dissects yet another idiotic column from Paul Krugman. Krugman has been ranting for months about Bush's tax cut, pretending there's a real "lockbox."
Slanted perspectiveBob Kuttner argues in The American Prospect that American politics may be close to a "tipping point" in favor of conservatism. His argument is that conservative media, think tanks, foundations, and the like are growing stronger, while liberal ones are growing weaker.
All of this has caused the ideological center of gravity in America to shift steadily to the right, even though polls show most Americans remain fairly liberal on the policy particulars. That is, most Americans say they would pay higher taxes to support things like universal health insurance, high-quality child care, and prescription drugs for all. Most Americans overwhelmingly support the present Social Security system. Most do not want to overturn Roe v. Wade. Most think workers should be paid a living wage and have the right to join unions. So, in a sense, elite opinion is far to the right of mass opinion and the political system is just not offering voters the menu they'd like to see. Political scientist Walter Dean Burnham termed this a "politics of excluded alternatives."I wish. Unfortunately, I think this theory says more about Bob Kuttner's politics than it does about America's. Liberals have already won; the reason that conservatives are so much more vocal is because they have more to complain about.
Think about it: what's the last government program that was actually threatened by this supposed conservative dominance Kuttner sees? Is there a single government agency that is in danger of being closed? (The potential reorganization of the INS doesn't count; that's shuffling bureaucracies around, not eliminating them.) What was the recent response to 9/11? It was to federalize airport security personnel, as if making them government workers is going to improve them. The "prescription drug" benefit that Kuttner discusses as though it were a pipe dream was promised by both major party candidates in the last election. There's a debate over how to pay for it, and about whether to provide direct subsidies to individuals or to negotiate reduced costs through Medicare, and whether it can be afforded -- but nobody in the mainstream is saying that it's simply not the government's job to pay for drugs.
What kind of strange political world do we live in where a longshot proposal to privatize two percent of wages in social security is seen as a conservative "tipping point"?
Thursday, April 18, 2002
Breaking newsA small plane has just hit (11:45, EDT) the tallest building in Milan, Italy. It's 30 stories high, housing local government offices, and the plane hit around the 26th floor. Smoke is coming from the building, and an Italian legislator has already declared that it was a terrorist attack, though that's an unofficial announcement.
[Update: it seems that the legislator may have been jumping the gun to get himself on television; it now appears as if it may have been an accident. Only two people have been confirmed killed, but dozens have been hospitalized. Still, we're all jumpy, for obvious reasons.]
Role reversalWhat if the U.S. were planning to attack Iraq, and Israel were demanding that the United States show restraint? Victor Davis Hanson examines the Middle East from this opposite perspective.
Mr. Sharon: We know that. But the perception lingers that the present American administration is full of hawks, obsessed with Saddam — and wants to punish an old nemesis rather than deal with more fundamental social issues.People won't want to accept the role reversal, but it points out how hypocritical those who counsel that Israel show "restraint" really are.
Beirut redux -- or maybe Mogadishu. Either way, a bad ideaIn Wednesday's New York Times, Tom Friedman proposed that U.S. or NATO forces police a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It sounds superficially like a good idea: if they can't live together peacefully, then we'll just make them do it. They really want to live in peace, and if it weren't for their leaders, they'd do so. So we'll just impose it on them, and everyone will live happily ever after.
Not quite. Robert Kagan explains in the Washington Post why that will never work. First of all, the United States is the only third party that Israel would ever trust, which means that the financial and personnel burden would fall entirely on us. And our troops would be targets, just as they were in Lebanon in the 1980s, when an earlier round of homicide-bombers killed 240 Marines. And even if, by some miracle, our troops didn't start as targets, they'd end up that way as soon as they took sides -- just as in Somalia.
Is there another option I'm missing? If not, the proposal for an international peacekeeping force looks less like a real plan than a desperate if noble attempt to solve the insoluble in the Middle East -- a deus ex America summoned to provide a miracle when all roads to peace have reached a dead end. Even Ehud Barak's idea of building a very, very big fence between Israel and the Palestinians looks better. Help us out, Tom.The problem is, Friedman is so wrapped up in intervention and peace proposals and peace processes, that he just doesn't see that when two parties are at war over a fundamental issue -- like the existence of one of the parties -- the only way to end the war is for one side to win. Or maybe he does see that, but just doesn't want to admit it.
Okay, he visited, but he didn't enjoy itNewark Mayor Sharpe James, who had been criticizing his opponent in the mayoral race for having an aide who visited a stripclub, actually had been there himself.
Mayor Sharpe James said today that he had visited a nightclub that investigators say offered sex on the side, but he said he had done so only in an official capacity to see that it was shut down.He then turned to his mother and told her that the marijuana she had found in his dresser drawer wasn't his, and that he was "just holding it for a friend."
Hey, it couldn't hurtForty-two failing schools in Philadelphia will now be managed by Edison Schools, two universities, and four smaller private management companies. The New York Times calls this "privatization," but it's not, really -- it's subcontracting. It's not a trivial distinction; the schools are still public, funded with tax dollars. They're just run by private companies. Still, it's a step.
This was supposed to happen months ago, but opposition by the Philadelphia mayor, parents, and (who else?) the teacher's union stalled the decision; this happened only because the governor had the authority to push it through in spite of the mayor. The union was particularly upset:
After the meeting, Jerry Jordan, a vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said he regretted that the panel had said so little about how the schools would be redesigned by the outsiders.Yes, Mr. Jordan, it is like "Let's see what works." Imagine that. We know what doesn't work, and that's continuing with the existing approach, which has resulted in a "system in which more than half of the nearly 200,000 students had failed to achieve minimum proficiency on state reading and math tests." Why exactly should a union which has presided over that be "respected?"
And as further evidence that the schools desperately needed to be taken over:
After the roll was called, several dozen student protesters, who have long argued that it was undemocratic for a for-profit company to operate a public school, chanted, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" and "I am not for sale!"Undemocratic? Huh? Do they even know what the word means, or do they just think it's something that sounds bad?
Wednesday, April 17, 2002
It wasn't meIf I had won $110,333,333, you wouldn't be seeing any updates here for quite a long while. Sigh.
Don't just sit there, Do SomethingThe Washington Post reports that Congress has begun considering legislation to create a national ID card. The proposal being considered would turn the driver's license into a de facto national ID, by setting federal standards for the design and content of driver's licenses, and creating some unspecified sort of national database for sharing the information.
The problem is, nobody -- at least nobody involved in actually writing the laws -- has exactly thought through what this is supposed to accomplish. Such a proposal could be very effective at stopping underage drinking, but is unlikely to be a significant obstacle for terrorists. There are many separate issues:
Let's look at a situation like September 11th: Mohammed Atta presents an identification card at the airport in order to be allowed to board the plane. The airline check-in counter employee first has to verify that the card is genuine, by checking a nationwide database (just as merchants do with credit cards). Then the employee has to verify that the card belongs to Atta, by comparing his biometric identification to that on the card. (This means that his fingerprints or retina or the like will have to be scanned at the check-in counter. Further, this means that every location which will require identification will require this scanning equipment. Every police car will require it, for traffic stops.)
That seems to be as far as legislators have thought. But there's more: none of that will help unless the information provided at the time Atta obtained the ID card is accurate. What if, when Atta applied for his driver's license, he did so under the name Bubba Jones? The airline counter employee will verify that he's Bubba Jones, the owner of the valid ID card. Of course, it could be mandated that Atta provide proof of identify at the time he applies for the card -- but that simply shifts the problem one level. How do we ensure that this proof of identity is valid? Couldn't that be forged?
But suppose you find a way around that problem, somehow. Your whole expensive, high-tech system is still worthless, because Mohammed Atta could apply under his real name, using valid documents, obtain a valid ID card, and then go hijack the airplane. Unless you have reason to suspect him in advance, and a national database listing everyone suspicious, it doesn't do any good to identify him. And unfortunately, that last step, the hard part, has nothing to do with a national ID system at all. It has to do with foreign intelligence.
And of course, all that assumes that a civil servant can't be bribed. How much do people think Department of Motor Vehicle employees get paid, anyway? For a small (by international conspiracy standards) $50,000 payment, don't you think one could be persuaded to look the other way as an inaccurate license is issued?
Now if they could just implement the same technology for politicians and our tax dollarsThe Washington Post reports on a relatively new development in crime control. ("Crime control" is their phrase, not mine. I guess they thought "crimefighting" sounded too much like a comic book.)
Jose Gonzalez was charged by Arlington police over the weekend with auto theft.Maybe they could catch Osama Bin Laden this way.
Why do they hate us, part XXVIIMuslimpundit's back after an absence, and it was worth the wait, as he explains why Israel is so hated in the Arab world:
And traditionally, the place that Islamic theology, as well as those Muslim civilisations, accorded to Jews in this ecumenical outlook is that of a powerless, contemptible and weak people. Despite referring to Jews as the "People of the Book" in the Qur'an, Muslim scholars have, in their works, by and large emphasised Jews as an example of an inferior people. An examination of the ancient stories in the Qur'an that talk at length about God, Moses and the “transgressions” of the Children of Israel, provides a religious basis for this Muslim view. This is why, in traditional Islamic theology, as well as in history, Jews have by and large been accorded much tolerance by Muslims, but not necessarily respect.There's lots more. I don't know if it's right, but it would explain why one Palestinian being killed in Israel prompts Muslim outrage, while hundreds of Muslims being killed in India is virtually ignored.
I stubbed my toe; I blame MicrosoftNot that they had anything to do with it, but apparently that makes no difference. The mother of Charles Bishop, the idiot teenager who stole an airplane and crashed it into a Tampa building in January has sued the maker of the acne drug Accutane for causing her son's suicide. As Michael Fumento notes, there's no evidence whatsoever that Accutane causes depression or suicide. Moreover, there's no evidence, other than the mother's claims, that the kid even took Accutane; the autopsy found none in his system. And given that the kid left a note praising Osama Bin Laden, it's a little difficult to see how depression was even a factor.
But, hey, if you can profit off your son's death, why not?
Tuesday, April 16, 2002
Congressional budget cuts fail to cure cancer and create world peaceA new study was released showing that the overall condition of welfare children, since the 1996 national welfare reform, hasn't changed significantly. That's very good news; despite all the predictions of disaster from activists, there have been no catastrophes. Welfare rolls have been reduced substantially, and yet the horror stories of children starving to death just haven't materialized.
But that's not good news if you're pro-welfare, and evidently the media is. So how do they spin it? With the headline "Study: Welfare reform hasn't helped kids." That's not exactly inaccurate -- but as a friend pointed out, the headline could just as easily have been "Children not harmed by welfare reform," or it could have been "Taxpayers save money without affecting children."
Mothers facing new welfare rules are finding jobs and earning more money. But they haven't improved their parenting skills, they still have trouble paying rent, and they spend less time with their kids, according to a three-state study that examined details of family life.So they're working more. They're making more money. They're spending less time with their kids -- but that's hardly a negative, since much of the time they were previously spending with their children was time when they should have been working.
So how can this not be good news?
A top welfare official in the Bush administration agreed that the system is not doing much to improve the lives of children. That's why the administration wants to add improving child well-being to the list of goals for the welfare law, which is being renewed this year, said Wade Horn, who heads the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services.I thought the goal of welfare was to provide a safety net so that people didn't starve to death. I thought it was the job of parents, not the government, to worry about the well-being of children, especially when the "well-being" is measured so arbitrarily as "time watching television," which this study measured. Silly me.
Victory for free speechThe Supreme Court has just voted to strike down a ban on child pornography that didn't involve actual children. The law proscribed pornography involving adults that looked like children, pornography involving computer-generated images that looked like children, and pornography marketed in such a way that it "conveys the impression" that children are involved. A surprisingly strong 6-3 first amendment vote -- which was actually even stronger, as all nine justices expressed concern about elements of the law. Only the section of the law forbidding "virtual child pornography" had any support, with three justices voting in favor and a fourth, Clarence Thomas, suggesting that if evidence arose that this hindered the prosecution of real child pornography cases, that he'd rethink his vote.
It's extremely encouraging that the court did not buy into the For The Children rhetoric of the law's proponents; politicians, after all, have a tendency to insist that everything from highway construction to farm support payments are necessary because of the welfare of children. One of the arguments made by proponents of the law was that this non-child-child-pornography could be used by pedophiles to seduce children; the Court didn't buy into this speculative causal link between speech and child abuse.
My initial impression of such a strong pro-free speech vote on such an unpopular subject, is that it suggests that other litigation which threatens free speech is in trouble. That includes lawsuits against Hollywood over Columbine-like tragedies, and McCainShaysFeingoldMeehan's campaign finance censorship law.
Irony, thy name is EUThe European Union is worried about the money they're sending to Afghanistan:
THE European Union is losing patience with the Afghan interim government of Hamid Karzai, fearing that hundreds of millions of pounds in aid are being frittered away by stubborn officials with no understanding of economics.European officials were furious, saying, "Hey! We're the experts on frittering away money! Why are we letting Afghanistan do it, when we could have all the fun?"
There are fears that aid is vanishing into a bureaucratic maze where few records are kept. "There has to be some sort of transparency, otherwise our dollars will end up in somebody's Swiss bank account," said one official.They then adjourned the meeting, after voting to send a few hundred million to Yasser Arafat, who promised to stop by Geneva on his private jet as soon as Israel let him leave.
Also, there's ice in AntarcticaAccording to the Washington Post, there's drinking going on in college. And apparently, some students drink too much.
The Post's spin: those students must not realize that drinking too much is dangerous. Unfortunately, there really isn't much in the way of evidence for this:
About 1,400 students a year succumb to drinking-related deaths, though fewer than 300 of those result from alcohol poisoning or choking in their sleep, a recent study showed.As Steven Milloy points out, this "study" essentially made up the statistics. So what is the Post to do? Simple -- invent more "facts":
For every such fatality, many college officials believe, there are 10 to 20 close calls where students end up in the emergency room just a drink or two away from death.Who are these people? Where do they get their information from? Is there any reason to believe they're credible? Has the reporter surveyed "many college officials," or is he just reporting hearsay because it makes the story sound dramatic? After all, a mere 300 deaths a year is hardly an epidemic.
Monday, April 15, 2002
Puzzling analogiesI'm sure about four people reading this site care about Cornel West leaving Harvard and coming to Princeton, but it's my site. West elaborated on why he left:
On Monday, West discussed the meeting with Summers that reportedly kindled their dispute.So does that make West the Yasser Arafat of higher education?
Good news, bad news?Israel is now saying that rather than the "massacres" reported by people who weren't even there, rather than the "hundreds" rumored to have been killed (including by Israel's own army), only 45 Palestinians were killed during the fighting in Jenin. That number has not yet been independently verified, but since the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Israeli Army could not bury the bodies without any oversight, it will be. (Dare you to try to get a court ruling in Iraq, or the Palestinian Authority, which goes against army policy.)
In some ways, the entire discussion is perverse, as if tallying the number of dead changed the moral equation. If Israel is legitimately defending itself (and it is), then 20 dead or 200 is all the same. If Israel's actions were illegitimate, then 2 dead would be too many. But since public relations matters more than logic or morality, the lower the death toll, the better for Israel. More importantly, of course, is whether the dead are civilians or combatants -- though that may never be known to any degree of certainty. Still, the fewer the total dead, the fewer civilian casualties there could be. Either way, all supporters of Israel will breathe a sigh of relief if this lower total turns out to be the case, and those who cavalierly charged "genocide" will be even more thoroughly discredited than they already are.
Still, there was major destruction to the camp's infrastructure; let's see if Saudi Arabia holds a telethon to build new homes in Jenin, or if they're too busy giving money to homicide bombers and Yasser Arafat's corrupt, terrorist Palestinian Authority.
Life imitates bloggingLast week, I wrote sarcastically about the World Conference on aging blaming Israel. Apparently, my only mistake was that I didn't provide hysterical quotes of outrage from Arab diplomats, because, as it turns out, the conference decided that everything really is Israel's fault.
Slippery slopesThe folks at Libertarian Samizdata provide an argument why the International Criminal Court is a bad idea, even if its founders start with the best of intentions.
Bureaucracies, once established, tend not only to grow but also actively seek reasons for their continued existance and expansion. Just now, it is only the above-mentioned type of activities which are under the ICC's remit but how long will it be thus circumscribed? A brief to tackle 'crimes against humanity' can be interpreted in all manner of ways to cover all manner of policy decisions. A tough anti-immigration policy? A lack of welfare benefits? No nationalised 'free' health care? No state education programme? There are no end of people who earnestly believe that such things constitute 'crimes'.. The ICC may be benign but how long will it stay that way?It has happened before -- and it will happen again.
Sunday, April 14, 2002
Slightly one sided IIDamian Penny reports that the leftist British media (i.e., the Independent) don't even pretend to be objective in their coverage of the Arab-Israeli war, treating every secondhand Palestinian allegation as fact.
They're not anti-Semites; they're just pro-Soccer.Add the Ukraine to the list of countries where Jews are being attacked by mobs shouting "Kill the Jews!" Ukrainian authorities are blaming it on "soccer hooliganism," saying it has no connection to anti-semitism.
Meanwhile, back in Tunisia, funeral services were held for the 13 dead as the result of a synagogue explosion that everyone except Tunis believes to be an attack.
I wonder how many other synagogues will be coincidentally, accidentally attacked while world leaders continue to blame all the problems of the world on Israel?
Too little is still too muchYasser Arafat's "condemnation of violence" was a feeble, perfunctory excuse for statesmanship, a face-saving gesture for Colin Powell to allow the Secretary of State to meet Arafat without looking like he was (too) soft on terrorism. As I noted the press release barely mentioned the terrorist attack of Friday, and spent most of its language condemning Israel. Still, even that was too much for our supposed "allies", who complained about Arafat being forced to make the statement.
``Once again, President Arafat yields to pressure, especially American pressure,'' said an unsigned column in the Saudi Al Watan daily.That's Saudi Arabia. Then there's a Jordanian reaction:
But [Jordanian newspaper columnist] al-Majali called the U.S. demand for a statement from Arafat ``American political terrorism,'' saying, ``It is illogical to ask the victim to denounce terrorism and not to ask the butcher to stop his terrorism.''Even ignoring the twisted interpretation of which side is the victim, Powell did ask Israel to pull back its troops. Do these people just reprint the same anti-Israel cliches every week, regardless of what has happened that week?
Back to our "allies" the Saudis, who not only whined about it, but threatened the United States:
In the Saudi-owned, London-based Al Hayat daily, Saudi columnist Dawood al-Shirian also accused the United States of supporting Israel's West Bank offensive and warned it would prompt terrorist attacks against the United States.Why not let us worry about "American interests?" You stick to worrying about Islamo-fascist interests, okay?
Arafat renounces violence, orders Palestinians to lay down their arms; Powell elected PopeWell, almost. Actually, Secretary of State Colin Powell accomplished exactly nothing by meeting with Arafat, who refused to renounce violence, or conduct any negotiations, until after Israel "withdraws" from the territory it "occupies."
A senior aide, Saeb Erekat, said Arafat stood by his commitments, including an end to violence. But, Erekat said after the three-hour meeting, that meant "once the Israelis complete the withdrawal we will, as Palestinians, then carry out our obligations."Powell, of course, called the meeting "useful and constructive," because what else is he going to say? "Arafat told me to go to hell, Sharon told me to go to hell, and I don't even know why I'm stuck here. Does anybody know who got voted off on Survivor?"
Spoke too soon?Apparently, the people of Venezuela may still have Hugo Chavez to kick around anymore. The militarily-appointed interim president, Pedro Carmona, has stepped down. Large counterprotests against the coup have occurred, and Chavez is vigorously denying that he resigned.
The anti-Chavez forces apparently overplayed their hand; instead of forcing out Chavez and sticking with the constitutional order of succession, they decided to dissolve the government and promise elections down the road. Venezuela's neighbors weren't happy with this, and Chavez supporters weren't, either. Unfortunately, it could get ugly, depending on whether or not the military splinters, and how far they're willing to go to advance whatever agenda they decide upon. Just as I said the other day, I guess we'll have to see how this plays out.
This time, he really means itUnder intense pressure from the United States, Yasser Arafat vigorously denounced terrorism. Well, he kinda, sorta disagreed with terrorism. Actually, he didn't say anything; instead, he issued a press release. An eleven paragraph press release, of which one mentions yesterday's homicide bombing. Even then, it was carefully worded:
On this basis, we strongly condemn the violent operations that target Israeli civilians, especially the recent operation in Jerusalem.The catch here is, many Palestinians do not view Israelis living in the West Bank or Gaza as "civilians," regardless of their jobs. Arafat was careful not to spell that out, though. He went on to spend most of his statement condemning Israel, as if anybody needed a reminder of his opinions on that subject.
But what was extremely conspicuous by its absence was anything stronger than a "condemnation." For instance, an order to his forces not to engage in terrorism. Or, heaven forbid, an order to his forces to arrest others engaging in terrorism. Not that even the most starry-eyed optimist expected that. Still, Colin Powell, desperate to pretend that diplomacy still has relevance here, seized on this statement as sufficient to justify a meeting on Sunday.
At this meeting, Yasser can pretend that he's really truly sorry and won't do it anymore, and Powell can pretend to believe him, and then Bush can pretend to be hopeful, and Sharon can pretend he cares, and then Arafat can get back to the business of terrorism and Europeans can get back to deploring the "cycle of violence" and condemning Israel, and Saddam Hussein can get back to encouraging attacks on Israel to distract Bush from attacking him.