Friday, February 14 2003
BLIX REDUX: So Dr. Blix will do it again today. The Washington Post reports he will provide a mixed review of Iraqi cooperation to the UN Security Council.

Of course, Washington and London will say Blix's report shows further material breach on the part of Iraq. Paris and Berlin will use the second Blix report to argue that progress is being made and to give inspectors more time.

The question is whether Blix's report will change the dynamic that currently exists in the UN Security Council. Will it provide enough cover for France, Russia and China to support a second resolution? If so, Bush will have achieved de facto support of military action against Iraq. If not, the UN will have made itself irrelevant and a "coalition of the willing" will step in and enforce the will of the international community.

THE NORTH KOREA SHAKEDOWN: The North Korean government is like the international equivalent of Jesse Jackson, running around the world shaking people down for cash.

First, we paid them billions of dollars to stop developing nuclear weapons - which they didn't really do. Now we learn that South Korea paid $186 million in cash just to get the North Koreans to sit down and talk about reconciliation.

No wonder North Korea is so upset over the IAEA's moving the current crisis into the United Nations - it will curtail their ability to blackmail us for cash. North Korea is adamant about getting the U.S. into one-on-one talks so they can get a nice fat settlement. Listen to the North Korean ambassador to the UN and tell me if this sounds familiar:

''We are strongly opposed to such kind of multilateral talks, since this is just designed to avoid any responsibility of the US from its international commitments,'' he said.

Jesse couldn't have said it better himself. The problem is that this time, the consequence of such blackmail isn't a boycott of Toyota or the NFL, it's a possible nuclear holocaust.

SPEAKING OF NUKES: Let's talk about bias. I read this article from the San Francisco Chronicle and thought, "you know, this doesn't necessarily sound like a good idea." Here's the Chronicle lede:

A group of House Republicans proposed a fundamental shift in America's nuclear weapons strategy on Thursday, saying the GOP would push for the design and manufacture of a new generation of warheads, a more aggressive policy on their use and steps that would make it easier to resume nuclear testing.

A few minutes later, after I'd tracked down the House Policy Committee web site and read through their news release on the subject, it seems like modernizing our nuclear weapon stockpiles could be a reasonable component of a larger overall defense strategy.

The link to the full report isn't working, so I'll have to withhold final judgment until I have a chance to read it through. But the idea of updating our nuclear weapons policy isn't necessarily a bad one, and the Chronicle's reflexive, hysterical reaction certainly doesn't help foster serious debate on the issue. - T. Bevan 8:01 am

Thursday, February 13 2003
PANEL: IRAQ BROKE LIMIT ON MISSILES: Gee, really? Why this news should come as a surprise to anyone is beyond me. The NY Times story states that "the panel's conclusion will add fuel to the United States' argument that Iraq is defying Security Council disarmament resolutions." Surprise, Iraq is defying UN Security Council disarmament resolutions. Since this is not news to anyone who doesn't have their head in the sand, it will have no real effect on the war. However, it might help in the PR battle to get the foot-draggers at the UN to wake up and smell the coffee. Unfortunately, for most on the left the only thing that will get them to confront the very real threat is another attack and thousands killed. Thankfully for our future security, the political left is not running America.

NORTH KOREAN MISSILE CAN HIT U.S.: Like the 'news' Iraq is violating Security Council resolutions, this is old news, but in the context of North Korea's reconstituted nuclear ambitions this story is just more proof for why we need to be aggressively building and deploying a robust missile defense. Ari Fleischer said as much yesterday: "This old news is why its important to proceed with deployment of missile defense." Why is this so complicated?

DENNIS MILLER ON DONAHUE: They don't have the transcript up yet from last night's show, but when they get it up take a quick read. Miller just abuses Donahue's pacifist and liberal pabulum in a very hilarious hour devoted exclusively to politics.

DUCT TAPE AND GAS MASK HYSTERIA: For months we heard the chorus of complaints you have to tell us more, tell us what we can do. And then when the government does take the proactive step to offer some common sense suggestions on how to deal with a potential attack, Democrats led by Senator Daschle, unload with cheap shots - "This administration has to do a lot better than duct tape, they have to do a lot more than tell people that the responsibility is now on their shoulders."

In Sally Quinn's 'We Can Do Better Than Duct Tape' column, in today's Washington Post, she suggests:

The government needs to tell the public that everyone should have an N95 mask (which costs $1) with them at all times. The government should indicate that there are easy-to-use, family-friendly gas masks available that could save lives.

Everyone needs to have a family-friendly gas mask with them at all times? No thanks, Sally. I'll probably buy some plastic and a couple of rolls of duct tape for the home, but I'm not going to live in constant fear I might be gassed by al-Qaeda. Common sense, prudent precautions - yes. Gas masks at all times, I don't think so.

Rush tells Senator Daschle what he can do with his duct tape.

DEADLOCK OVER ESTRADA DEEPENS: I watched a little of the filibuster yesterday and I really don't understand the Democrats' strategy on this Estrada nomination. To me it seems like a sure loser for them both politically and substantively. The only way this can work for them is if the Senate Republicans blink, and maybe that is the Democrats' strategy. J. McIntyre 8:32 am

Wednesday, February 12 2003
MORE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION?: We'll have to ask Michel Martin over at ABC News, but I think this is just another case of outstanding achievement by a well qualified individual - so well qualified, in fact, that he was selected for the position by his peers.

ESTRADA WATCH: Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are embarking upon a truly ill-conceived plan to filibuster Miguel Estrada.

Yesterday President Bush called the obstruction of Estrada "shameful politics" and issued a statement urging the Senate to hold an up-or-down vote. Also, yesterday a group called the The Committee for Justice (headed by C. Boyden Gray) released a commercial urging support for the Estrada nomination that will begin running in North Carolina, Indiana, and Washington D.C. And Senate Majority leader Frist made it clear he is ready to play hardball:

We will stay here all night tonight and all night tomorrow. If they (Democrats) want to stay through the weekend, well stay.

It's hard to see how Democrats aren't going to take it in the teeth on this one. Estrada has 54 votes in the Senate, has the support of some major Hispanic organizations, and if they play their cards right Republicans should be able to make Estrada's nomination enough of a PR nightmare for the Dems to eventually swing 6 votes and shut down a filibuster.

Still, Byron York's piece this morning says Democrats have the votes to sustain a filibuster and are willing to go to the mat:

The battle over the federal appeals-court nomination of Miguel Estrada has taken an ominous turn for Republicans, with Democrats beginning an unprecedented filibuster and demanding that President Bush make concessions before they will allow a vote on Estrada's confirmation. At the moment, it appears that Democrats have the 41 votes they need to keep a filibuster going, delay a final vote, and perhaps even kill the nomination.

Killing Estrada's nomination may hurt the President in the short-term, but I still think it will hurt the Democrats more in the long run.

THE TALE OF THE BIN LADEN TAPE: I'm on record as saying I think bin Laden is dead; megalomaniacs of his stature just don't do business this way.

But U.S. experts think the tape is real and that it shows a definitive link to Iraq. Germany also thinks the tape is real but says it doesn't prove a thing (No wonder Iraq is publicly thanking Berlin for protection).

So maybe I'm wrong, and maybe this is bin Laden's best effort at jihad. At least I'm in good company. - T. Bevan 9:52 am

Tuesday, February 11 2003
"VICTORY WITHOUT BULLETS": Ah, the French and the Germans. You really have to admire the brazen arrogance and blatant hypocrisy on display as these two countries attempt to hijack the institutions of the international community and provide cover for one of history's most abominable figures.

This week they've created a serious crisis in NATO, and everyone fully expects a similar situation to develop at the UN Security Council this Friday after Dr. Blix's report. They've also coaxed Russia on board by exploiting old Cold War fears and promoting the bogus specter of U.S. world hegemony.

Instead of standing with the rest of the world to state clearly that Iraq's refusal to comply with UN resolutions be met with force, Germany and France offer a different vision for the world. It's a vision that responds to defiance with tolerance, shifting timetables, more inspections, and further delay. Most importantly, it's a vision that says punitive military action is simply not acceptable under any circumstances. Imagine the lessons being learned in Tehran, Pyongyang, and elsewhere around the globe.

The good news is that President Bush remains unfazed. And, hopefully, other nations will continue to voice public support for the case against Iraq, leaving the French and the Germans standing alone in Paris and Berlin and wondering what ever became of their "victory without bullets."

ZARQAWI: The Chicago Tribune runs a front page story disputing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's ties to al-Qaeda. The Trib focuses on reports from Shadi Abdallah, a former associate of Zarqawi and bin Laden, who has been in German police custody since last year.

If true, Abdallah's claims would certainly contradict the case Colin Powell made before the UN last week. However, if you read the story two relevant points become clear. First, Abdallah entered into the terrorist system and received his initial training as an al-Qaeda recruit before shifting his allegiance to Zarqawi. Second, the Tribune story says:

Abdallah declared that Zarqawi, a one-legged Jordanian who is now at large, had "links with all [terrorist] groups with the exception of Al Qaeda....All groups like him because he is always willing to help and supports everybody."

Even if Zarqawi isn't formally allied with al-Qaeda, his participation and support of terrorist organizations around the world make him a legitimate U.S. target, as well as any regime that provides Zarqawi safe haven. Furthermore, the fact that Abdallah himself moved back and forth between the two terrorist groups (al-Tawhid and al-Qaeda) reinforces Powell's contention that a "sinister nexus" exists between Iraq and terrorist organizations.

POWELL MOVES THE BALL - PART II: New CNN/USAT/Gallup Poll out showing increased support for Iraq across the board. Bush approval rating at 61, Powell at 85. Anyone else confused by the last question on the survey? - T. Bevan 8:28 am

Monday, February 10, 2003
THE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION SMEAR: As far as pundits go, I like Michel Martin. Even though I don't always agree with what she says, I appreciate the fact she makes smart, thoughtful arguments every Sunday on ABC's This Week roundtable. Yesterday, however, Martin absolutely embarrassed herself by making the following comment about Miguel Estrada:

"He is a promising young lawyer who went to excellent schools, had excellent clerkships and a good work record. What he lacks in judicial background he makes up with a compelling life story. You know what that's called? Affirmative action."

Martin unwittingly highlighted the truly insidious and divisive nature of affirmative action: the idea that ANY minority who achieves prominence within a given field - whether it be Condi Rice, Colin Powell or Miguel Estrada - has done so because of affirmative action. This is demeaning not only of the individual and their achievements, but also promotes the cynical (not to mention absurd) notion that minorities as a group must rely on preferences and quotas to be competitive.

Indeed, by her own logic Ms. Martin is just a piece of affirmative action window dressing on This Week to balance out the all-white, male cast. That's certainly one way of looking at it.

Another way would be to say that Michel Martin is a very gifted journalist and her qualifications put her in the top echelon of commentators at ABC News. Among this elite group, she was asked to be part of the This Week roundtable team because, in addition to her outstanding record, the producers of the show valued the different perspective she would bring to the discussion as a minority woman.

VALUE VS. VIRTUE: The difference between the two ways of looking at Michel Martin leads me to my next point: diversity is a worthwhile value, but it's not a virtue. This is a distinction that has been sorely overlooked in the recent debate over the University of Michigan case.

In the first instance, if we assume Ms. Martin is the product of affirmative action, we discount her skills and achievements by placing "diversity" above them as the defining criteria for her being included on This Week.

But if we focus on Michel Martin's achievements, her journalistic career which places her among ABC's elite, it's easy to recognize - without diminishing her qualifications - that her viewpoint as an African-American woman is an important, valuable asset to the ABC program.

The same is true of Miguel Estrada. Estrada didn't benefit from "affirmative action" - intelligence, hard work and ambition are what helped get him to where he is today. Standards were not lowered for him. But certainly, once among a group of elite candidates with similar, impeccable credentials, Estrada's ethnicity and the diversity of his background and viewpoint became a valuable asset - as it should.

Everyone, including President Bush, acknowledges that diversity is a valuable and healthy aspect of our society. Diversity is something we should strive for - but it isn't such a virtue, in and of itself, that we should lower standards and sacrifice achievement at its altar.

THE HBCU PROBLEM: One final point. If, as proponents of affirmative action tell us, diversity is such an important part of the academic experience (both in the classroom and on campus), why is there no drive to expand diversity at the 104 historically black colleges and universities in America? Are the students attending these colleges (99.9% of whom are African-American) being short-changed in terms of their educational experience because there isn't enough diversity on campus?

Somehow I can't envision Jesse Jackson protesting the fact that more white and asian kids need to get into Howard University, but if diversity is truly an overriding virtue then that is exactly what should happen. - T. Bevan 8:37 am

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