Friday, May 30, 2003

Relax, we're at yellow
Just in time, too, because my daughter's birthday is this weekend and we didn't think it was appropriate to throw a party during a high state of alert. An elevated level is tolerable, though. Just to be safe, we will be frisking all of the party guests for wooden stakes.

Seriously, I don't think having five levels is effective. I'm unable to discern any difference between a "high risk" and a "significant risk" and have not been adjusting my behavior when the levels change. Fox News has an overview of what the levels are supposed to mean, but it leaves me unsatisfied. The bullet points appear to be instructions for police and the like and not for private individuals, even though the opening text says it's also for "private-sector responses", whatever that means.

They should have two levels: "Go about your business" and "Get to a safe location". At least it'd be clear.
The next Stella award winner?
Shell Oil and Anheuser-Busch are being sued over their roles in the February nightclub fire:
Attorney Ronald Resmini said he sought to add Shell Oil and its affiliate, Motiva Enterprises, because The Station nightclub owners distributed concert tickets from a Shell gas station they owned.

How do we fix this? It would seem there need to be strict guidelines on which parties can and cannot be named in lawsuits such as this. The hard part will be structuring the guidelines in an objective manner that can be consistently applied and not fall into the "I know it when I see it" trap. Hard work, for sure, but we need reform. Clearly, we cannot count on any individual judge's common sense.
More on the nefarious O'Reilley
Okay, so it was Jacob Sullum who was on O'Reilley's show the other night. Regardless, I'm not the only one who thought that was a ridiculous interview. Be sure to follow the link to the mathematical analysis. Question: where did Sam Smith find a transcript? I found Fox's for-fee transcript service, but am I missing something?
War and culture
The Strategy Page has an article by James Dunnigan covering the difficulties in rebuilding the Iraqi armed forces. I hope VDH reads this, for this is further proof of his theory that culture has incredible influence on a military's effectiveness. This is why Western militaries - the United States' in particular - are so powerful and others are not.

Thanks to InstaPundit for bringing attention to the article.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Bill O'Reilley is nuts
Now, I started playing Battleship with my son, so I was only half-watching the rest of the show (we had, I believe, the longest Battleship game in history - we were both down to PT boats and couldn't find them). O'Reilley had someone on arguing, I think, for the legalization of drugs or maybe just marijuana - I didn't catch it all. What got my attention was by the end of the interview O'Reilley was yelling at the guy, telling him it's libertines like him that are wrecking the country and so on. If I followed the rest of O'Reilley's argument from that point correctly, he doesn't believe people should be allowed to become intoxicated for any reason whatsoever. Note my emphasis on the word "allowed". It's not enough for him to think that people shouldn't get intoxicated, it simply shouldn't be allowed. Clearly, his argument implied that if something is bad for you it should be illegal. It made me wonder if he thinks we should ban candy bars.

His guest saw the same implication and asked, "What about alcohol or cigarettes or coffee, then?", but O'Reilley wouldn't play - he just kept yelling. Oh, but O'Reilley did wrap up by thanking his guest for coming.

This is why I don't watch O'Reilley's show very often. When he starts losing a debate, which isn't a rare event, he resorts to yelling or to emotional silliness. I remember some months ago he had a lesbian on the show and told her that he doesn't think homosexuals should be allowed to kiss each other in public places. His guest naturally took exception to this and explained why that's a ridiculous position to take. In the end, O'Reilley resorted to invoking "the children", saying something along the lines of "if I'm walking along with my seven-year-old granddaughter and we see a lesbian couple kissing on the street, I shouldn't have to explain what we're seeing to her". That was it. Can you imagine?

Congressman Bob: Now it's time to vote on O'Reilley Granddaughter Protection Act, which bans homosexuals from performing any sort of public displays of affection.
Congressman Jim: Why on earth would we want to vote for that? It's obviously a gross over-reaching of government authority. I mean, who cares?
Bob: Well, you see, Jim, Bill O'Reilley doesn't want to have to talk about homosexuality with his granddaughter.
Jim: Aha! I see! Surely it is a good and valid use of our congressional authority to help Bill avoid an uncomfortable conversation. Count me in!

I hadn't been watching O'Reilley's show long at that time, but I stopped watching on a regular basis after that. I see things haven't changed.
Scott Ritter is nuts
Bill O'Reilley had Scott Ritter, the ex-weapons inspector turned ostrich, as a guest last night. I wish I could find a transcript for the interview, because it sure was entertaining (note: Fox does offer a service to search for transcripts and video, but it ain't free). It went something like this:

O'Reilley: Back in 1998, you said on NBC's Today show that Sadaam Hussein had the capability to attack the United States with chemical weapons. Why'd you change your position?
Ritter: I didn't say that.
O'Reilley: Yes you did. I have the transcript right here.
Ritter: Well, what I meant was Sadaam had the capability to build chemical weapons if he wanted to, but since he's a nice guy he wasn't actually going to do it.
O'Reilley: Yet just today the CIA confirmed that we found three trucks in Iraq that are, in effect, mobile chemical weapons laboratories.
Ritter: You need to read the report closer. What it actually says is the trucks were used to make slurry.
O'Reilley: Oh, come on, Mr. Ritter! Who needs to create slurry in the back of a truck? Surely these trucks were used to help hide Sadaam's weapons of mass destruction.
Ritter: Actually, I think it was an ice cream truck. Yeah, that's the ticket.
O'Reilley: Let's move on. So, before the war, you predicted the United States would lose the war, that we would suffer horrible casualties and run away with our tails between our legs. Why were you so wrong about this?
Ritter: I wasn't wrong.
O'Reilley: Pardon?
Ritter: The was isn't over yet. The United States may have won the first battle or two, but they're still there and there's worse to come. Everyone hates the United States. We're gonna pay!
O'Reilley: I'm sure there are people watching this show right now who think you're crazy.
Ritter: No I'm not! Listen, we won all the battles in Viet Nam, too, yet I recall it was a U.S. helicopter that was filmed fleeing the country because we lost the war!
O'Reilley: Yeah, well, thanks for coming.

Again, I wish I had a transcript, but it was something like that. And O'Reilley really did say something to the effect that everyone thinks Ritter is a nut. I don't understand why the guy is still invited on television. He is a nut. Yet another case, I suppose, where Fox sacrifices integrity for "good television".
I want a Stella award
I'm overweight and have been for most of my life. Therefore, I have decided to sue my parents for providing ice cream and other fatty foods when I was a child, thus creating an environment wherein I had no choice but to get fat. Come to think of it, I bet there's ice cream in their freezer this very instant. It's an ongoing crime! Where's my lawyer?
What next?
InstaPundit picked up on a report of an attempted hijacking using wooden stakes. I agree with Reynolds - hijacking just isn't as easy as it used to be. Good. The passengers on that plane that helped subdue the culprit deserve medals.

I love this line from the report:
Mr Anderson said the man went through metal detectors at Melbourne airport which failed to pick up the sticks.

Well, I've found my toaster fails to make soup, but that's hardly unexpected. Are wood detectors in our future?

This does make me wonder, though. How creative will hijackers become? Surely it is possible to make a gun, or some other projectile weapon, out of wood or plastic. Or a knife. If we see more people using non-metallic weapons like this, I fear the time will come when everyone will be searched before boarding an airplane, no matter what. It'll happen.
Stella Awards
A friend forwarded me a list of the Stella Award winners for 2002 for successfully winning ridiculous law suits. You can subscribe at the official website. The winning entry sounds too stupid to be true, and is, quite literally, a scenario straight out of a Bloom County comic strip (guy sets the cruise control in his RV, then walks to the back for a cup of coffee and is surprised to find the RV won't drive itself). Here's my personal favorite:
Kathleen Robertson of Austin Texas was awarded $780,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving toddler was Ms Robertson's son.

Typical.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

VDH feature
The Boston Globe profiles Victor Davis Hanson.