Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hell Freezes Over: Refs Miss Bobby

From the WTF files:

Still, despite his reputation for showing up officials, the former Indiana and Texas Tech coach has received nothing but praise from the Men In Black (and White) since announcing his retirement two weeks ago.

From the People Who Brought Us WWI and the Yugo...

The following is a letter I wrote to some foreign policy wonk friends of mine. It is in regard to a piece by Hitch in Slate about Kosovo and my personal feelings about U.S. recognition:

For a semester in undergrad, I studied (what was then still a crumbling) Yugoslavia and I also was a student and then TA in a class on Russian/Soviet Foreign policy -- so while I do not even pretend to know as much about FP or even Yugoslavia/Serbia et al., as either of you, I feel I have more than an average lay-person’s grasp on the situation there and the history.

I read [Cato vice president for foreign policy and defense studies Ted Galen Carpenter's] statement on the US recognizing Kosovo, and I must respectfully dissent. I don’t necessarily take the Hitchens line, and I understand the pragmatic problems with recognizing Kosovo in the face of Russian animosity, but it seems to me that if we are to be supportive of freedom, taking an unpopular position (from Serbia and Moscow’s vantage point) on Kosovo is not the worst thing in the world. Certainly, backing the righteous sovereignty of a nation is not a “colossal foreign policy blunder,” at least in this situation. (Taiwan notwithstanding) We can’t promote freedom simply when it is most convenient for us – and this recognition is certainly not coupled with any defense alliance. Thus, the act of recognition is simply an acknowledgement of a free people making a decision to be autonomous – which is the hallmark of our founding.

For all its authoritarian crackdowns and reaping of the financial benefits of oil revenue, Russia does not appear to be in any real position to back Serbia with anything but the obligatory saber-rattling they are so wont to do. Their recent dealings with Great Britain only support the idea that they really aren’t interested in good ties with the West, and that as the Siloviki continue to solidify a perpetual hold on power, the erosion of friendly relations is – in my opinion – nearly a foregone conclusion at this point. So let them rattle their sabers – Kosovo should be autonomous and we should formally back their play. I do not believe that we should turn our back on freedom just because the Kremlin would prefer it.

Now, if this becomes an armed conflict – which I think would have been more likely without the US recognition – I am not behind US military intervention. That said, airstrikes would probably come if Serbia got uppity about this. BUT…

If we had not recognized Kosovo, Serbia could more comfortably believe that any conflict would be viewed by the US as an internal matter for us to stay out of, as we did with Russia and Chechnya. As it stands now, the idea of sustained aerial bombardment from US forces would probably deter Serbia from earnestly seeking to reclaim Kosovo. Of course, we are not obligated to protect the Kosovars – but the Serbs’ memory isn’t so short as to forget what it feels like to be on the wrong end of the American military and are probably not anxious to relive the experience. And without guarantees of any real backing from Russia—which I don’t think is coming— the Serbs would have to be insane to try to forcibly take Kosovo. I’m not putting it past them, but I think it’s less likely after US recognition.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

From the WSJ: Inarticulate Drivel

I don't know if it's the pending influence of Rupert Murdoch, or if they are independently creeping toward vacuous punditry, but the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board put forth a piece today that is dripping with inartful sophistry, attacking Democrats who opposed extending the Protect America Act:

What we have here is a remarkable display of the anti-antiterror minority at work.
Forgive my brief foray into grammatical banality, but using a double-negative to call the Speaker of the House an accomplice to terrorism is an incomprehensibly weak journalistic tactic, in addition to being grossly inappropriate. I have been a vocal critic of Speaker Pelosi for years, but even she gets it right now and again -- and I think she's right this time.

But reasonable people may disagree on the Constitutional and moral extent of domestic and foreign wiretapping by our government. Yet, saying that about Ms. Pelosi -- and by association, most libertarians I know of including Gulf War and Afghanistan vets, journalists, think-tankers, and former Federal judges -- subtracts any meaning from the intelligence debate and, frankly, is an indiscreet attack by a nameless half-wit hack. Ultimately, this just reflects poorly on one of our nation's greatest newspapers without adding anything substantive to the issue -- subverting the purpose of editorials.

But for what it's worth, given even a cursory reading of the 4th Amendment, I can only deduce that the Founding Fathers too would be thus viewed as "anti-antiterror":

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Maybe the WSJ staff just felt it had to suck up to the GOP because of this scathing piece it also ran today about Rep. Jeff Flake's (R-AZ) doomed run for the vacant Appropriations Committee slot.

At least someone over there still gets it.

On a totally unrelated note, as I typed this, the spell check dinged me for "inartful." Determined to use it anyway, I found this blurb on the Volokh Conspiracy justifying my usage.

"Everywhere, police, police, police"

In today's Washington Post, a curious story details the ridiculousness of the District's gun laws -- without, apparently, recognizing the absurdity of them all.

The reporter goes to great lengths describing all the loopholes that provide for firearms ownership within the District, quoting a gun expert who says there are "thousands and thousands of legal firearms" in D.C.:

Because the city's "handgun ban" does not ban handguns entirely, and because the statute outlaws only certain kinds of rifles and shotguns, a huge number of D.C. residents legally possess firearms.

A "huge number."

That huge number does not include any non-"Special Police Officer" who has moved into the city since 1976 -- which I think would qualify as a "huger" number of people who may otherwise wish to protect themselves from intruders and other violent offenders.

But, surely, the gun ban has had a positive effect on violent crime since the ban, right?

Well, not so much. As you can see below, as linked above the article in the online edition of the Post, the homicide justification for the bans is flimsy, to be polite:

I have no idea how an article that justifies the bans by pointing out numerous exemptions to the ban can link to such a damning graphic and maintain such a contrary position. Granted, the piece does not explicitly back the bans, but I fail to see the "news" in the fact that people in D.C. have guns.

Of course, most of the exemptions are for law enforcement agencies, both public and private. I think this is a telling statement about how the government works, grows, and dominates the culture. What's more, its growing influence -- literally at the point of a gun -- goes virtually unchallenged as the populace is deprived of their right to self-defense:

[D.C. police Lt. Jon] Shelton can hold forth in encyclopedic detail on the thicket of laws and rules that apply to special police officers. There's a separate maze of regulations governing off-duty D.C. and federal police officers and what types of guns, if any, they are allowed to carry in the District.

Some agencies -- the D.C. police and U.S. Park Police for example -- fall under Title 18 of the U.S. Code, meaning officers are allowed (even required) to be armed at all times and have police powers throughout the city. Officers in other departments, such as the Library of Congress police, fall under Title 40, Shelton said. They have police powers only where they work and are not allowed to carry guns on private or city property while off duty.

"In D.C., we have all these quasi-law enforcement agencies," he said. "Everywhere, police, police, police -- it's like every federal agency in the city has its own police force. It's hard to keep up with who's under what title."

(Emphasis added.)

So, the government and its nimiety of overlapping police organizations glut the District, whereas no private individual -- save those in law enforcement and life-long residents approaching their 60s -- may legally possess a handgun for protection in one of the most dangerous cities in the nation.

When it comes to self-defense, it seems some District residents are more equal than others.