October 30, 2002



Professor Bunyip joins the Dyer pile-on, and makes another objectionable statement.

The RAF (and the US Army Air Corps) fought a war whose rules were established by the enemy. If you wish, for example to lament the firebombing of Dresden, then you must also regret the Nazis' destruction of Rotterdam or, going even further back, of Guernica. Not to have responded in kind would have been to hand an implacable and demonic enemy a tactical advantage. Were Londoners to sleep in the Tube while Berliners left the lights on? Dyer -- and the Age -- is stretching the doctrine of moral equivalence to include Nazis. That's the only conclusion, and it's an obscene one. [Likewise] The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were neccessary [sic], and morally justified...

Bunyip argues that to defeat evil, one must become evil. Well, then we're basically screwed regardless, aren't we? Explain the difference between the Professor's statement above, and say, this one:

"The Germans killed their Jews. We only imprisoned our Japanese. Not to have responded in kind handed our implacable and demonic enemy a tactical advantage."

I don't see a difference. Do you see a difference?

I'm more worried about two other things there, though. You can argue the morality of Nagasaki if you want, but few historians now consider it "necessary," having had little impact on the Japanese decision to end the war. And there is a strong difference in relative morality between the British Bomber Command night bombing offensive against cities (which Dyer is referring to), and the daylight bombing by the American Army Air Corps, which was in general terms more targeted, and far less destructive of German civilian life. Dyer doesn't condemn all Allied bombing, but Bunyip pretends he does to make his point stronger. That's misleading and dishonest. I have my quibbles with the piece in question, too, but it's not a true "Fisking" if you're only attacking your own distortions of what's really being said.

Posted by BruceR at 06:06 PM



Norwegian Blogger takes an ill-aimed swipe at Gwynne Dyer, today. (Everyone's piling on old Gwynne, which is a shame: his predictive capacity last fall from Sept. 11 to the fall of Kabul was so amazingly spot-on I'm still ashamed I doubted him; Penny, his fellow Newfie, is wrong to compare him to Robert Fisk, of only because Dyer has consistently gone out on a limb and been proven right).

Nothing about why Russian nursery rhymes call the Chechens the Evil Ones, nothing about Michael Lermontov.

Here NB openly sides with the Russians in their repression of Chechnya, citing a classic example of dehumanization and an imperialist Russian poet analogous to Kipling as his evidence. It's the equivalent of saying "Kipling was right about those bloody Afghans all along," which among civilized people tends to end any argument worth having on the subject. The fact Russians have been apparently poisoning children's minds for centuries certainly does not make an intelligent person more inclined to accept the Russian point of view out of hand.

In the mean time they will kill us, rape us, and generally terrorise us.

The Chechens will? Us?

[Quoting Dyer] "Hardly anybody mentioned the fact that more than 4000 Russian soldiers and at least 12,000 Chechen "terrorists" (anybody resisting Russian occupation) have been killed since President Vladimir Putin sent the army back in to the Chechen republic in 1999." Of course this was done by Yeltsin, who was the president you know in 1999, but I guess that all Russians look alike to you, and of course this mistake does SO enhance the credibility of the rest of your post.

Um, no. During Yeltsin's final days, the Russian army was only involved in fighting a Chechen incursion into Dagestan. The Russians did not re-invade Chechnya proper until after Putin had solidified his control on the country, after some suspicious "terrorist" bombings in Moscow that year. Dyer is right here, while NB is wrong. What does that do to "enhance the credibility" of NB?

The increase in TV violence in the US of A has allowed Russia to wage war in Chechnya without interference? Lady, I play Illuminati: The New World Order but that theory is too far fetched even for them!

This is clearly out of context. Dyer quite clearly states that "the way terrorism is now being covered [by the media]... has enabled the Russian government to smear [Chechnya.]" Which is undeniable, and extends to more than just the media: in fact a Russian free rein in Chechnya was basically understood as their quid pro quo for staying out of the Americans' way in Afghanistan last year. That is one of those costs of the war on terror that frequently gets left off the balance sheet.

[About the Allied WW2 bombings which Dyer mentions] Act of war, does not apply, aimed at the war making potential of Germany, and always aimed at defended cities which are legitimate targets. This is by definition not terrorism, since terrorism involves the illigitimate [sic] use of force.

It's a lot more complex than that. Whether the German cities bombed by the British met the strict Geneva definition of "defended cities" was questionable even in 1945... they would certainly not be considered so today. Which is Dyer's point, in fact... that our standards as a society were once somewhat more brutish than they are now.

And [Dyer is] obviously NOT a graduate student of history, but she does demonstrate very nicely the fact that authors are almost invariably wrong when they comment on political issues.

Actually, from his CV, you can tell that Dyer has a Ph.D in history from King's College, London, and lectured for four years at Sandhurst. Oh yeah, he's also a former member of the Canadian Forces, and definitely not a "she." It's so hard to do one's research when one is foaming at the mouth...

What bloggers from overseas won't automatically know is the Dyer's column was written in part as a response to this piece in Canada's Globe and Mail by Marcus Gee, which posits some kind of connection between Moscow, Bali, and other recent terrorist acts in an "October Crisis." (Quoting my old colleague John Thompson to build his case, I should mention... I should also add that Dyer and I have corresponded over the years, as well.) Dyer is not alone in believing that case remains unproven... certainly in the Moscow case, which even if wildly successful could hardly have helped the global aims of any shadowy Islamic terror conspiracy. There can be no doubt that Moscow attack was the latest chapter in the ongoing local Russian-Chechen fight, not another Islamicist strike at the west... and if that struggle has become increasingly defined as a Christian-Muslim fight it's only because we in the West have allowed it to be polarized that way... supporting the Russians because we value their compliance in the Middle East right now over and above the demand for independence of that unruly would-be nation, however legitimate. There are no saints in Chechnya. But I see no evidence that this recent attack was the product of some global master terror plot... and if the Chechens are becoming more extremist, it's only because when Bush declared "you are either with us or with the terrorists" his government had already placed the Chechens in the opposing column regardless of their wishes.

Posted by BruceR at 04:19 PM

October 29, 2002



A writer for the Washington Times suggests the drug was etorphine. The writer goes on to suggest the Russians should have used BZ, which only shows he doesn't know what he's talking about... BZ takes so long to kick in you know you're being gassed, which makes it rather useless as a calmative for a suicidal bomb-laden terrorist. What was remarkable and key about the Russian drug was its fast action, which BZ does not have.

Okay, so we've established the writer's not an expert. (Neither am I, frankly.) But what of his theory, that the compound in question was etorphine? It's not a bad guess, actually. Here's one way to look at opioids. (For those wanting a crash course in the biochemistry involved, this page was a good refresher for me.) If you give Demerol a strength factor of "1", then the morphine and the synthetic morphiates can be rated comparatively, which gives you something like this:

Demerol 1
Morphine 5
Fentanyl 1000
Piminodine 1880
Etorphine 5000

Now when we left this before, it seemed clear that while the hostage symptoms were becoming more and more consistent with a strong opioid like fentanyl, fentanyl's onset time was too slow for the job. Increasing the strength would solve that problem, and produce the kind of instant knockouts that were seen. I had suggested some kind of new "super-fentanyl," at least piminodine strength if not stronger. But etorphine would fit that bill nicely, too, in fact. So I believe it's accurate to say at this point, as more and more information comes out that the idea etorphine was used, if not the answer, is at worst an extremely good guess. If it wasn't etorphine, it was a previously little known drug that acts almost exactly like it.

I'd apologize for previous less accurate guesses, but this is the scientific method at work here. The hypothesis keeps changing because the available evidence does. At least I'm still a couple steps ahead of the National Post, which is still pushing the "valium gas or maybe BZ" story this morning, which I think we've pretty conclusively disproved.

UPDATE: The Russians have confirmed the gas was an unspecified extra-strength derivative of fentanyl. So the Times is wrong and Flit's earlier wild-assed guess turned out to be correct. (I'm only giving myself half a point this time because as you can read it took me a few hours to realize there might be another way besides nerve agents to knock someone out instantly: still, as far as predictions go, we're having a good month, it seems.)

Posted by BruceR at 11:47 AM

October 28, 2002

YE GODS On May 30


On May 30 Mr. Bellesiles is scheduled to talk at a seminar at the Newberry regarding a paper he recently completed, "The War of 1812 in experience and memory."

We shall no doubt hear that Washington wasn't really burned (its inhabitants were just really angry), that Tecumseh was actually an itinerant tinker of German descent, and that the Star Spangled Banner was composed by Rogers and Hart for a Bing Crosby Christmas concert...

Posted by BruceR at 08:28 PM



I'm not yet convinced we should be as appreciative as the Russians' recent anti-terrorist efforts as some have made out. It's hard to forget that Putin's hold on power was originally confirmed by his forceful response to a series of alleged Chechen bombings in 1999 in Moscow (bombings about which much doubt still remains). And given what we're hearing post-theatre, it's not impossible (if unlikely) that what we're seeing is Putin's second attempt at the old Reichstag fire gag. The fact that it was carefully arranged so that not a single Chechen survived to say otherwise, or that Putin is already using the incident as the evidence of the need for an international Russian resurgency, is not reassuring.

Of course, the difference between faking this and faking the bombings is that here you actually needed real live Chechens. But is it not impossible that a Chechen rebel leader could be co-opted to seize the theatre, having been led to believe that the Russians would negotiate first, and that he at least would escape, undoubtedly a wealthy man? It becomes otherwise increasingly hard to explain why the only hostages apparently killed by the terrorists were one who tried to escape and one who resisted... or that despite supposedly having the means to destroy the building, and having anticipated the Russian response so far as to even bring gas masks in some cases, no rebel managed to detonate their explosives in time. Is that the most likely explanation for this bizarre and deadly incident? No. But I don't think there's anywhere near enough info yet to conclusively rule a "Reichstag fire" scenario out, either, and yet no one's really suggesting it yet.

Posted by BruceR at 07:42 PM



Hell, I know I fall to pieces when my plane comes under sporadic small-arms fire in Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator. Man, if I just had the training and Combat Calm™ of a genuine Air Force Fighter Pilot, I could probably make it through a mission without panicking and running half-naked out on the front lawn screaming bloody murder before collapsing into the fetal position.

--Stryker today. Hey, you know what they say, Sarge... the first step is admitting you have a problem. The second step is putting on your pants and getting off my damn lawn...

Posted by BruceR at 02:29 PM

October 27, 2002



Before this weekend, if you'd asked me to name the things it would be impossible to say a positive word about, "nerve gas" would have been pretty much on the top of the list, right under "Islamofascism." The irony of the successful Russian use of an as-yet unidentified nerve agent (there's no WAY that was a traditional incapacitating agent like BZ, as ABC suggests) in the fight AGAINST terror is rather remarkable... even if it did not wholly succeed.

NB: You can sympathize with the Russian doctors. Basically they knew it was one of two things... a nerve agent they'd never seen before, or an incapacitant something like BZ (although even they likely could have figured out it wasn't actual BZ or CS, which have easily identifiable symptoms). The trouble is if you give atropine to someone with a nerve agent in them, it generally helps... but if you give it to someone with a hallucinogen like BZ in their system, it makes things WORSE (atropine and BZ actually have very similar physical effects). There's no fancy "antidotes" like in the spy movies... this would have been a straight either/or call that no doubt could have delayed treatment unless medical staff were fully briefed beforehand, which given the need for total surprise and over 700 cases to treat, would have been all-but-impossible.

How do I know ABC's wrong and it wasn't BZ (also known when the Iraqis make it as "Agent 15")? Well, because BZ incapacitates you by producing vivid hallucinations (a la the movie Jacob's Ladder, which suggested a scenario of American troops in Vietnam being gassed by it and shooting each other). In a room full of weapons and bombs, blowing people's minds is about the last thing you're going to want to do... no, if I had to guess, I'd put my money on a plain old G-series nerve agent, and probably, because of the reports of an odd smell, Soman (GD) in particular (the Russian army also has Sarin (GB), but that should by rights be odorless).

UPDATE: The Star suggests the drug was the anaesthetic from the fentanyl family, which is also believable (the U.S. Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate has considered its use as an incapacitant, as well). Predictably, the Star misspells fentanyl. American law enforcement agencies have considered the use of dart-delivered alfentanyl, which would have a high enough lethality (the lethal dose is only 4 times the average safe dose), but the 20-second onset time seems too long. If the Russians have a more potent aerosolized fentanyl (or perhaps a medetomidine, which has similar effects), I agree that would be a more likely candidate than a nerve agent, based on the reports of symptoms so far.

FURTHER UPDATE: The Globe is reporting the gas was either a) Valium (um, no); b) a new gas never heard of before, "Kolokol-1", or c) an "opiate." Fentanyl, along with other anaesthetics, is actually technically an "opioid;" "opiate" is a term referring to the natural derivatives of opium, which this was certainly not. Otherwise, both b) and c) would be consistent with the idea of a new Russian "super-fentanyl."

Meanwhile, the New Scientist suggests a BZ-like substance again, based on the report physostigmine is being prescribed (another counteracting treatment for BZ). They neglect the fact that physostigmine is also indicated in cases of anaesthetic overexposure, which brings us back to the fentanyls yet again. If true, however, it does conclusively rule out traditional nerve agents, as physostigmine would worsen their effects, just like atropine would worsen BZ's. Physostigmine would also be a really bad idea if the Russians were using some kind of valium-type drug, but that doesn't stop ABC from determinedly trying to be wrong on the same story a second time in one day.

Posted by BruceR at 11:06 PM



I can't say I've had the opportunity to visit plasticbag.org before today, so if I've completely misconstrued his latest post, I apologize right off the bat. But if I read it right, the writer is asking people Steven Den Beste links to at USS Clueless, with whom he has been feuding of late, to publicly disavow him:

Let's move in a different direction for a moment. Must we as liberal individuals believe in a world that gives each and every opinion equal weight. Are all views equally "valid", "worthwhile", "right"? And where does this leave us when we vehemently disagree with the tactics that people promoting these views start to use? And where do we end up when the views we must consider "valid" are precisely those views which don't believe other views to be "valid", "worthwhile", "right" and are prepared to say so, and/or do something about it...

At the moment one very specific site is in my mind. This site, which I will not link to, links to a considerable number of intelligent and interesting people. Many of whom don't share the politics or attitude of the man in question. Each one of these people is in a situation to act in such a way that would demonstrate their profound disagreement with those views simply by dint of their link being on his page. What I'm suggesting is that there is a power that comes with being linked to - and it's a power that one should not only be aware of, but should feel the responsibility to employ - whether by sending a simple e-mail askind the link to be removed ("I do not wish to be associated with the bile-ridden drivel on your site"), or more proactively and campaigningly by using an .htaccess file or something similar to serve up a page which declares that you refuse to be associated with the views of the person whose site you've just left.

It's not a lot, I know, but it's the first thing that I can think of that actually represents some kind of weblogging 'direct action' - some kind of (almost negligible at the individual scale) gravitational influence that can be exerted by a site to act in such a way that it makes itself known as protesting without driving additional traffic to the thing they're protesting about... And the best thing about it is that it's entirely non-violent, non-flaming, non-confrontational. It's a kind of passive politics - refusal to participate - refusal to allow yourself to be referenced - a bizarre kind of work-to-rule... The power of the inbound link should not be ignored...

Being one of those honoured at the moment with a link from the Clueless, let me just say publicly that I'll pass. I have nitpicked Mr. Den Beste to death over the last 11 months, so much so I wonder if Flit is any more than the "Anti-Clueless" some weeks. I think it's clear he and I disagree on some things, and when I can bring the weight of facts to bear to force him to reconsider or qualify his often hastily-made remarks, I have done so. Den Beste is a rational actor, and he does change his mind, given strong factual evidence to the contrary. If he was not, I wouldn't read him at all, or care who he linked to.

But it's more than that. The author of plasticbag is campaigning to get the blogosphere to collectively self-regulate in his favour, to smack down the right-wing, pro-American views he has previously called "shameful, horrific and a stain on us all." He has found, much to his regret, he cannot argue them out of existence, but they still rankle. So now he's trying to enlist me, and others, to exert moral suasion on his behalf, if I read him correctly.

I will not do so.

My rules for Den Beste are the same as any other webspace I frequent, regardless of its politics. If you have nothing interesting to say, I will ignore you. If you've opened my eyes a little I may, just may, if I'm in a good mood, link to you approvingly. If you link back to me, well, whatever, that's nice. And if your argument relies on factual errors that call out for refutation, I will refute you as mercilessly as the Internet allows. (And I will undertake to always provide some kind of moderated comment space so when I'm the one who's full of it, any given reader can do likewise.) Den Beste has been a game player in those rules, and has in the past given back in like measure. That's the kind of civilized interaction of equals that the Internet has blessedly given my generation, and is infinitely superior to the infantile grade-school hall-monitor crap that plasticbag's proprietor is now suggesting we replace it with.

I will not join in the "shaming" of Steven Den Beste. I did not ask to be permalinked to by him, and I am at best marginally flattered by his having done so. But even if I disagreed with everything he had ever said, I would still not put up the kind of mechanical barriers to increased information-sharing and understanding that plasticbag proposes. The owner of plasticbag wants walls put up between the Internet he approves of and the Internet he does not. It'd be wrong when an oppressive government (like China) does it, and it'd be wrong when I did it too. The Internet is a commons... this site is not lessened in any way by the quality of the readers who have followed the link at Den Beste to come visit us here. If just one of them leaves with the other side of the debate in their mind, I have improved Den Beste's site, and the Internet as a whole. That suffices, for now.

UPDATE: Plasticbag has stated (with a respectable level of graciousness, to my mind) that the site in question was not, in fact USS Clueless, but refuses to identify which "warblog" it was. I can only find record of him being angry with Den Beste and Little Green Footballs (which I have also, at times, expressed my own qualms about), so in the absence of further clarification, I feel comfortable assuming it was one or the other. Even if it turns out to be LGF, a correction on my part would likely consist merely of replacing the relevant proper nouns, above.

Posted by BruceR at 10:44 AM



I agree with Damian, CBC Newsworld is quite possibly the worst allegedly "all-news channel" in the known universe. CNN, hey, they're generally showing the wrong thing in times of world crisis (some car chase on a Nevada freeway instead of a Third World revolution), but at least they're showing something. Newsworld steadfastly refuses to pre-empt its fluff syndicated series, many of which have little to do with news, and could be found on a dozen other channels, regardless of what's going on in the world. Other than the fact they have a few more news talk shows, and less sports and arts coverage, there's no difference of significance between that channel and the regular CBC, which of course begs the question why they consider themselves "Newsworld" at all...

The question is of course... why? Because foreign bureaus cost money, and Canada is too small a country to have multiple foreign news services. If you took the money thrown in to the useless privately owned Newsnet (which just runs the CTV 11 o clock news over and over and over until the next 11 o clock news), and the equally useless publicly owned Newsworld, mentioned above, you might have enough funding to actually get something resembling world wide spot coverage, or at least to afford the BBC world service's licensing fees and let them do it for you, so your journalists could concentrate on Canadian stories. But of course, that's never going to happen. So instead, Newsnet just runs its 15-minute loop, and Newsworld finds the cheapest syndicated air filler it can find (Fashion File?) and plays it over and over. And Canadians who want to be knowledgeable turn to the Internet in increasing numbers. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Posted by BruceR at 09:50 AM

October 25, 2002

SO LONG, RICHARD There'll be


There'll be other memories, of better movies, but I'll always remember Richard Harris as Rafer in The Wild Geese. Guess I'm it's off to the video store for me tonight...

Posted by BruceR at 08:15 PM



The Bellesiles dismissal is being well-handled, PR-wise, too. A real example for other universities, start to finish.

Posted by BruceR at 07:30 PM

October 24, 2002



Hey, I'd go visit the Arctic in a minute if I could travel by dirigible.

Posted by BruceR at 09:49 AM



Apparently I'm "endearingly macho," now. Um, okay... if you're here looking for the story Steyn's referring to, it's here.

In other news, it appears I was right about the Beltway sniper's car. Let's see how we do on the gun.

UPDATE: Looks like I was right about that, too. Have you had your daily dose of Flit, yet?

Posted by BruceR at 09:39 AM

October 23, 2002



Not that I disagree with much of what Steven Den Beste writes tonight, but his facts on Kosovo are a little skewed again:

After years of war in Yugoslavia, and countless deaths, and routine rapine and torture, a few weeks of bombing over European objection resulted in the end of significant hostilities there, and it's been relatively peaceful ever since. It's probably worth noting that most of that bombing was done by American aircraft. (Virtually all the rest was done by the British.)

Um, not quite, Steve. The actual figures on munitions dropped over Kosovo by strike aircraft, culled from a variety of sources, work out like this:

USA: c. 11,000 (not counting strategic bombers or cruise missiles), in 10484 strike sorties
France: 1132, in 1217 sorties
Britain: 1011, in 1008 sorties
Canada: 532, in 556 sorties
Other NATO: c. 1900 (Dutch and Belgian F-16s dropped about 500 munitions between them, and Italy another 500; the rest is odds and sods.)

The British contribution was also rather weak when one considers fully half of their munitions dropped were unguided cluster bombs, delivered by RN Sea Harriers. Only Canada and the US were able to make the majority of their close-support weapons drops with precision-guided weapons (a draining of Canadian Forces smart-bomb stocks that has still to be replenished.)

Germany is conspicuously absent; but that's because the Luftwaffe devoted their entire effort, a squadron of Tornadoes, to air defence suppression, flying 10 per cent of the total Allied suppression missions. France, meanwhile flew 21 per cent of the Allies' air reconnaissance missions, in addition to the strike missions above.

NB: I'm not saying the US couldn't have gone it alone in Kosovo. I'm just saying that giving the RAF credit for "virtually all of the rest" of the air effort over Kosovo is giving the Brits WAY too much credit, this once.

Posted by BruceR at 02:10 AM

October 20, 2002



This is the best news story I've read in months. I'd kill for the next column inch in the pyramid, if only so I'd know what it is the short-legged dogs of Urumiyeh were accused of.

UPDATE: The link has apparently been broken, ruining my fun (Thank you very much, state supreme court!) but just so late comers know the story in question was about the leading cleric in the Iranian town of Urumiyeh, demanding police arrest all the town's dogs this time, having previously rounded up only the short-legged ones, or else he'd do it himself. Only in Reuters...

UPDATE: Den Beste links to the post above this, but the Blogger links are screwed up again. If that's where you're coming from, just go to the top of the page.

UPDATE: BBC still has the full story.

Posted by BruceR at 06:07 PM



Bill Quick, in the comments to an entirely deserved attack on Heather Mallick (whom he unaccountably refers to as Michelle) makes some reference to the Philippines and says it wasn't an example of imperialism. I don't believe that that's sustainable. Nor would I agree that there is an inherent American opposition to imperialism... indeed, I believe that grew largely out of the Philippine experience. Think about it: in 1893, with the last Indian uprising three years back, F.J. Turner stunned America by declaring the American frontier "closed." Up to that point, Manifest Destiny had ruled the thinking... the Americans were too busy trying to fill the "empty" continent they had than looking beyond it. It's very difficult to find anyone prior to the 1890s even considering what America's overseas ambitions should be.

So, five years after America is finally free to engage in imperial adventure, they do. They get the Philippines out of it. But the ensuing four years of pitched battle with the Filipinos proves deeply dehumanizing. It's a course entered into already amid much doubt... Kipling's "White Man's Burden" was aimed at Americans hesitant to join the European mugging of the colonies. And some ignorance... President McKinley justifies it by saying it'll bring "Christianity" to the Catholic Filipinos. But by 1901, it's clear that Americans just aren't inclined to be casual about the stories of cruelty coming back home... so they start the switch to something rather novel for the times, a policy of restoring as much autonomy as possible to the lesser countries they happen to capture, albeit within an American economic sphere of influence... it's a policy they've followed more or less up to today.

I believe the Philippines experience also had a profound impact on the opinion leaders of the time, particularly presidents Roosevelt (who took office after the worst atrocities had ended), Taft (himself once administrator of the Philippines) and Wilson. In the early 1890s, Roosevelt is talking about America seizing hold of its destiny and spreading its reach; in 1905 he's pledging to Latin America that the U.S. has no territorial designs in the Western Hemisphere, and saying the U.S. must act maturely and fairly to the Filipinos. It's not stretching it too far to say that Quick, when he argues that America is not an imperial nation, is channelling the Rooseveltian consensus, post-1901. But, like Kurtz's killer in Apocalypse Now, the U.S. had to go into the heart of darkness, complete with water torture and reconcentrados, in order to firmly reject it. One could argue the Iraq situation is going to test the firmness of that rejection before long, so I do believe it's worth revisiting exactly what America turned its back on.

There's a good unbiased summary of the early Philippines occupation here. Gates is must-reading on this subject. He makes a very strong case that the Americans were mostly fair, mostly positive, as occupiers but still with some (overplayed) black marks. Gates doesn't go into details on the atrocities he downplays: but in case you were wondering, Gates is probably referring to stuff like this:

"In the path of the Washington Regiment and Battery D of the Sixth Artillery there were 1,008 dead niggers, and a great many wounded. We burned all their houses. I don't know how many men, women, and children the Tennessee boys did kill. They would not take any prisoners."
--soldier L.F. Adams, February, 1899

"At the best, this is a very rich country; and we want it. My way of getting it would be to put a regiment into a skirmish line, and blow every nigger into a nigger heaven. On Thursday, March 29, eighteen of my company killed seventy-five nigger bolomen and ten of the nigger gunners.... When we find one that is not dead, we have bayonets."
--Sgt. Howard McFarland, Company B, 43rd Infantry, 1899

"Last night one of our boys was found shot, and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight, which was done to a finish. About one thousand men, women, and children were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted, for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger."
--A.A. Barnes, Battery G, 3rd U.S. Artillery, March 20, 1899

"After a hasty consultation it was decided to proceed at once to kill or drive into the lake every native possible to be found in the half-moon district lying between the mouth of the Mateo River and the further end of the lake, a distance of twelve miles."
--F.L. Poindexter, 2nd Oregon Regiment, 1899

"At any time I am liable to be called upon to go out and bind and gag helpless prisoners, to strike them in the face, to knock them down when so bound, to bear them away from wife and children, at their very door, who are shrieking pitifully the while, or kneeling and kissing the hands of our officers, imploring mercy from those who seem not to know what it is, and then, with a crowd of soldiers, hold our helpless victim head downward in a tub of water in his own yard, or bind him hand and foot, attaching ropes to head and feet, and then lowering him into the depths of a well of water till life is well-nigh choked out, and the bitterness of a death is tasted, and our poor, gasping victims ask us for the poor boon of being finished off, in mercy to themselves. All these things have been done at one time or another by our men, generally in cases of trying to obtain information as to the location of arms and ammunition. Nor can it be said that there is any general repulsion on the part of the enlisted men to taking part in these doings. I regret to have to say that, on the contrary, the majority of soldiers take a keen delight in them, and rush with joy to the making of this latest development of a Roman holiday."
--soldier Clarence Clowe, June 10, 1900

"General Smith did give instructions to Major Waller to "kill and burn" "and make Samar a howling wilderness," and he admits that he wanted everybody killed capable of bearing arms, and that he did specify all over ten years of age, as the Samar boys of that age were equally as dangerous as their elders."
--Brig. Gen. Jacob Smith's own lawyer, at his 1902 court martial. (He was let off with a warning.)

"These people need a thrashing to teach them some good common sense, and they should have it for the good of all concerned. Sixto Lopez is now interested in peace because I have in jail all the male members of his family found in my jurisdiction..."
--Brig. Gen. J.F. Bell, December, 1901

"Any kind of defiance of the government or disloyal manifestations against measures adopted by it to put an end to insurrection, in this brigade, will be suppressed at once. These people must be taught the necessity for submission to the legally constituted authority, and this can be properly done in one way only, -- by firm and relentless repressive action."
--Bell again, January, 1902

There's lots more, but you get the point.

UPDATE: The quotes above were all drawn from Secretary Root's Record: "Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare, by Moorfield Storey and Julian Codman (Boston: 1902)

Posted by BruceR at 04:38 PM



There's been a lot of yapping lately about how Canadians have similar gun ownership rates to Americans, and a lower homicide rate. This has been cited by both pro- and anti-gun advocates as evidence that gun ownership is not the problem in America; rather something else (Michael Moore's "culture of fear", or the NRA's Morlocks with guns that homeowners need to defend against) is. Trouble is, it's something of a simplification, because the ownership profiles are so different.

What the stat overlooks is that Canada, handguns in private hands are close to nonexistent, having been severely restricted by the government back in the 1930s. Only police, gun club members, and collectors can legally own one. There are estimated to be 1 million handguns, or 1 for every 25 people in Canada. By contrast, there are at least 76 million handguns, or one for every 3.5 people, in the United States.

Excluding handguns, the ratios of gun ownership are much closer: in America 146 million long arms of various descriptions (shotguns, rifles, etc.), or one for every 1.8 people, and in Canada 6.2 million, or one for every 4.9 of us. (These are all 1998 Canadian government statistics, btw.) Not identical rates, but certainly close enough that you'd expect some comparability in their use in committing crimes.

In fact, that comparability is almost correlative. Here's a look at the rate of crimes committed per 100,000 weapons, which is the real interesting stat in this debate:

Handguns (homicides per 100,000 guns)

Canada: 7.6
USA: 17

Long arms (homicides per 100,000 guns)

Canada: 1.9
USA: 1.7

Now, those factors seem to firmly establish two things: first, that freely owned long arms are inherently less likely to be used in a homicide than handguns, by a factor of 5 to 10. Second, that once you compare by actual type of weapon, the much-touted cultural differences (which Moore highlights with his footage on Canadian doors being left unlocked, for instance, in his latest documentary) seem to vanish in the case of long arms, and drop dramatically (down to a factor just above 2) in the case of handguns.

In fact, if you compare to non-firearm homicide rates, which are also more likely in the US than in Canada by a factor of two (3.1/100,000 people, vs. 1.6/100,000 people) the handgun rates are very comparable, suggesting that "cultural differences," whatever that's due to, is almost exactly that factor of two for all types of murder, and any gap above that in gun homicide rates is due to the different ownership and legalization patterns. (The fact that Canadian long gun homicide rates are also not twice as high like the other types of weapon is probably due mostly to the statistical sample size.... we're only talking c. 100 long gun homicides per year, here.)

What could those other factors be? I haven't seen Moore's documentary, but I might suggest a higher urban density in the States, a greater wealth-poverty disparity, the relative absence of any "black underclass," and residual effects of a political culture dating back over 150 years that emphasizes, as the two countries' founding documents put it, "peace, order and good government" (The Confederation Act) over "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." (U.S. Constitution).

What I don't think you can make the case for, based on the actual data, is that Canadians are more responsible owners of our guns, somehow. Long guns in Canadian hands commit murder just as often as those owned by Americans. What saves us from having just as high firearm homicide rates at the US, more than anything else, was the government's historic policy of keeping handguns out of private Canadian hands.

The Canadian line, until recently, was that if any kind of gun could be shown to have any legitimate use, exclusive of self-defence, then its ownership would be permitted by the government. Hence handguns, sawed-off shotguns and automatic weapons were more or less out, and hunting arms were in. I think it was fairly obvious that while long arms like hunting rifles can also be used to commit crimes, excluding the majority of the population from owning any other types of weapons (ie, handguns) that are essentially designed specifically to shoot other people, was going to be a crime-reducing measure (yes, yes, that does leave all the remaining handguns in the hands of the criminals, but with rigorous Customs inspections, and few handguns in private hands to steal, the pipeline for illegal handguns was and remains pretty restricted here. It's certainly not impossible to get a handgun off the street in Toronto, but it's certainly not easy, either. In suburban/rural Canada, it can be exceedingly difficult.) Any threat to law-abiding citizens was mitigated by the essentially free ownership of unmodified shotguns (arguably the best home defense weapon) and rifles, giving people who wanted to protect their families an easy out.

It should be added here, however, that things here have taken a turn for the worse since those statistics, as in the wake of the Ecole Polytechnique executions of 14 women engineering students (by a legally owned .223 Ruger Mini-14 rifle, in case you were curious) in 1989, Canadian public opinion also demanded greater restrictions on long arm ownership, leading ultimately to the ongoing creation of a central gun registry. I personally believe that this was a massive waste of time and money to restrict ownership of a category of guns, that, statistical outliers like the Ecole shootings aside, were doing almost no damage to the nation. It's a vast waste of government effort on measures that aren't going to do anything much to prevent crime. Magazine and single-shot rifles and shotguns are involved in an insignificant number of crimes in Canada, and the government is now spending billions trying to keep track of each and every one of those guns, too.

You can't fight a popular consensus for gun control, but I still maintain it would be preferable if Canada announced that in future the existing handgun restrictions would be extended to semi-automatic longarms, like the Ruger, and that the federal Firearms Acquisition Certificate be required to purchase all ammunition, and scrapped the registry. Such a policy would be cheaper, have minimum impact on the hunting community (some of whom still pride ourselves in not needing a semi-auto to take down a duck), be less intrusive, and give homeowners who still wanted to take their self-defense into their own hands the legal option of keeping a pump action 12-gauge in the closet. But, you see, that would be a sane policy, and since 1989, Canadian gun control thinking has been anything but sane.

UPDATE: Here's another way of looking at this. An American population, with a pre-1989 Canadian pattern of gun ownership, and no other societal changes: what would the difference be in the homicide rate? This is pretty speculative, but assuming the number of long guns, which were treated similarly in the United States and Canada, stayed constant, what we're talking about is restricting handguns to the point where they comprise only about 15 per cent of all firearms in the country, as opposed to the 30 per cent they are currently in the U.S. (In other words, if the U.S. had 48 million less handguns than it does today, you've basically got a Canadian parallel.) Make no changes to the numbers of long guns. Now assume that the rate of handgun homicides per gun remains constant at 17 per 100,000, and the rate of long-gun homicides, including long guns, rises slightly to 3 per 100,000 (partly to compensate for the shifting of some criminal activity to long guns and non-guns, and partly to account for the overall factor-of-two difference between Canada and the U.S. in all types of homicide mentioned earlier.)

Taking the 1989-95 U.S. homicide average, then, one arrives at 4,760 handgun homicides a year (down 8,200) and 12,750 long gun and other homicides (up 1,950), for a total homicide count of 17,510 a year, down 6,250... or 26 per cent of all U.S. homicides attributable to their not having Canadian-style handgun restrictions. That's not ALL the answer in the differences in crime rates between the two countries, but I believe you could make the case it's the largest single chunk, and one certainly deserving more credit than Moore and others are currently giving it.

CAVEAT: This does not mean I believe handguns should be restricted in the U.S. today (although, I do personally believe that it might be consistent with the Founders' intent in the Bill of Rights, given that it's fairly clear they were talking about militia arms, and also knowing the fairly pathetic state of handgun technology in the 1780s). Indeed, given the numbers of handguns out there in the U.S., I would argue there's a strong case for heavily arming oneself for protection right now. But in the U.S., the debate is between handgun deterrence and unilateral handgun disarmament. In Canada, where no one I know outside of the police has ever been threatened or hurt by a handgun (subjective, but true), the political choice is between the current state of bilateral non-proliferation, and disarming even further as a society. In many ways, both societies are prisoners of decisions made over a century and a half ago by their respective founding fathers on this issue, for better and for worse.

Posted by BruceR at 12:38 PM

October 17, 2002



If you were watching the Fifth Estate on CBC last night, you may have seen the documentary about Canadian soldiers' use of the anti-malarial mefloquine (also suspected as possibly causative in the recent "Green Beret" murders at Fort Bragg by soldiers coming off Afghan deployments). If you looked really closely, you'd even have seen yours truly in the "thank you" credits, even though I don't think I did much more than say "no" on behalf of the CF... in a nice way, of course.

The big question the documentary leaves unanswered is the only one that's important to me personally... what are the alternatives? Yes, it's accepted mefloquine can cause vivid nightmares or even personality change in a very small number of users (it is, after all, a quinine derivative). There is no doubt, however, that it's also the most effective drug for use by soldiers against malaria, and if it (or one of the alternatives) wasn't taken, soldiers would certainly sicken and die. So armies have to prescribe an anti-malarial in many parts of the world. They have 4 choices:

Mefloquine: extremely effective, can be used for up to a year, only needs to be taken weekly. Side effects include nightmares, personality change.
Chloroquine: an older treatment... due to emergence of chloroquine-resistant malaria strains, no longer very effective. No limit on length of time usable, but must be taken daily.
Doxycycline: effective, can be used for up to six months in theatre, but must be taken daily. Major side effect is increased sensitivity to sunlight... often itself a problem for soldiers.
Malarone: a newly-licensed drug (the FDA approved it in 2000), which has tested well but is only now being widely prescribed. Apparently highly effective, but due to the relative lack of information on its effects, is currently generally limited to a maximum of one month's continuous usage in malaria zones.

So if you're a soldier or a sailor (or a traveller), which would you choose? It's a tough call. Doctors believe most of mefloquine's psychological effects appear in the first three weeks of dosage, after which the mind seems to acclimate. So given enough notice of a deployment, it is possible to start mefloquine use before leaving home, and switch to an alternative if side effects start to appear. That's one solution. The Canadian Navy's approach since at least the early 1990s, of prescribing doxycycline as an alternative in case of the appearance of side effects or for people working particularly high stress jobs (like pilots), also seems to be sound. Chloroquine is no longer much use, but it's possible as physicians' confidence in the safety and efficacy of Malarone increases, it or some other drug still in the pipeline could soon be prescribed instead of mefloquine as the drug of choice for long overseas tours, which could solve the problem (assuming it doesn't have any amusing side effects of its own we don't know about yet).

Given the alternatives, I can't fault the American or Canadian militaries for relying heavily on mefloquine in previous years. Hopefully medical science will continue to advance to the point where there's better choices available.

Posted by BruceR at 11:22 AM

October 16, 2002



It's not that I think America shouldn't be watchful of immigrants, but I'm at a loss to understand why a Canadian citizen waiting to change planes in New York was recently deported to Syria. Or why another Pakistani-Canadian doctor, Shakir Baloch, was held four months without charge, and without Canadian officials being notified, for that matter. Nor do I understand why our government never bothers to protest, no matter what happens to our citizens travelling abroad, in the U.S. or elsewhere. Are we really that pathetic?

Posted by BruceR at 06:25 PM



Just got back from my annual army rifle requalification, which when you boil it right down consists basically of putting 20 5.56 mm rounds through a stationary human-sized target at 200m while peering through a 4x scope.

Then, I yawned.

I'm an average shot, but that's not taxing in the least. Plinking at gas station customers, I'm sorry to say, if I had the notion, would have been well within my skill set or that of any soldier out there shooting (and an awful lot of non-soldiers, too). Calling the Washington shooter a "sniper," and pursuing any investigation accordingly by singling out exceptionally good shooters as the most likely suspects, can only be a waste of investigative resources.

Posted by BruceR at 06:05 PM

October 15, 2002



No doubt in an effort to further penetrate the shadowy Jew... um, I mean global conspiracy behind Sept. 11 and everything else bad in the world today, antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo has apparently changed his name to Wendy Rimely.

There is as yet little information on whether Raimondo has undergone any medical procedures as part of his transformation, or how he looks in heels. We'll keep you posted.

Posted by BruceR at 11:34 PM

FIGWIT? In one of the


In one of the more interesting spin-off stories from Fellowship of the Ring, New Zealand musician Bret McKenzie, who played the younger dark-haired elf in the Council of Elrond scene (a non-speaking role with about three seconds of airtime) has christened his unnamed character "Figwit" and parlayed the significant amount of girlish elf-love his good looks generated into his own 15 minutes of fame. Heck, why not?

Posted by BruceR at 10:05 PM

October 14, 2002



Reading Robert Fisk's spitting on the graves of not-yet-buried Australians this morning, I was obsessed trying to figure out which fictional character he's started channelling:

The French have already paid a price for their initial support for Mr Bush. The killing of 11 French submarine technicians in Karachi has been followed by the suicide attack on the French oil tanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen. Now, it seems, it is the turn of Australia.

Did it remind me of Saruman in The Fellowship of the Ring movie, I wondered?

SARUMAN: You did not truly think that a hobbit could contend with the will of Sauron? There are none who can. Against the power of Mordor there can be no victory. We must join him, Gandalf. Join with Sauron. It would be wise, old friend.

Nah, that wasn't it. Oh, yeah... it was Kent Brockman in The Simpsons, in "Deep Space Homer":

Ladies and gentlemen, er, we've just lost the picture, but, uh, what we've seen speaks for itself. The Corvair spacecraft has been taken over -- "conquered", if you will -- by a master race of giant space ants. It's difficult to tell from this vantage point whether they will consume the captive earth men or merely enslave them. One thing is for certain, there is no stopping them; the ants will soon be here.

And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves...

Yeah, that's who he reminds me of.

Posted by BruceR at 10:30 AM

October 13, 2002



At present, the authorities in D.C. are looking for a white cube van, a white panel van, and a burgundy Chevy Caprice.

My money's on the Caprice. White vans, because it's the most common delivery truck colour, are near-ubiquitous on city highways. Drive the four-lanes around Toronto, and there's rarely a five minute stretch where something white and van-like isn't speeding away from you in some direction.

No, wait, I'll make another prediction. The engagement range of the sniper, when all is said and done, will be found to vary between 75-200m. Nothing farther. (For reference, Lee Oswald hit Jack Kennedy with his final shot at 80m.) All this talk about a "sniper subculture" (which anyone who's played first-person shooter computer games in the last three years must just find unfathomable) and weapons that are accurate past 400m will only obscure the fact that this guy is killing with a cheap, military-grade semi-auto .223 with a scope, from moderate range.

Posted by BruceR at 12:49 AM



Steven Den Beste claims total victory for his side in the Iraq debate. Not quite. If it is true, that's only because Den Beste's views have been significantly moderated by those on the "not so fast, I'm not sure I trust Dick Cheney to decide anything by himself at this point" lobby, of which I must be an honorary non-American member by now. Den Beste may want to recall his original position when the matter was put to Congress, back on Aug. 19:

I think that a formal session in Congress, to debate the issue publicly, with speeches and argument and press conferences ending, inevitably, in passage of a formal authorization for hostilities under the terms of the War Powers Act, would cause more harm than good. It would telegraph our blow to the government of Iraq and remove all chance of surprise, and we'd pay for that a stiff price in lives of our young men and women in the services.

There is a certain hubris in claiming victory in a debate that one initially wanted stifled, I should think.

Posted by BruceR at 12:31 AM



Forget that if Osama bin Laden ever acquired a nuclear weapon, he'd probably use it first on Saddam. No. We've got to fight 'nuclear holy warriors'.

-R. Fisk, esq., in the Independent. This doesn't offend me because it's not true. It offends me because I know Fisk knows it's not true, and yet he wrote it anyway.

Forget the 14 Palestinians, including the 12-year-old child, killed by Israel a few hours before Mr Bush spoke, forget that when his aircraft killed nine Palestinian children in July, along with one militant...

Fisk again, same column. I'm sorry, but by what logical extension does a General Dynamics F-16, the sale of which to Israel was first approved by this week's Nobel prize winner (and history's greatest monster) Jimmy Carter, become George Bush's personal aircraft? Offensive.

We must forget how the Americans promised Pakistan and Afghanistan a new era of hope after the defeat of the Soviet army in 1980...

Christ, Bob, get a fact-checker. It was 1989. Does no one dare edit this man? Are they afraid he'll cry? Extra offensive.

Make no mistake: The anti-war voices long for us to lose any war they cannot prevent.

--Col. Ralph Peters, retd., in the New York Post. Like Victor Davis Hanson, Peters is a good long-form essayist, but he's a horrible columnist. Instapundit is right to call him on it... Den Beste does his own thoughts a disservice by linking to tripe like this. Throwaway lines accusing nearly half a country of treason even before the shooting starts doubly offend me.

Posted by BruceR at 12:16 AM

October 11, 2002



"Jimmy Carter?"
"Aw come on!"
"He's history's greatest monster!"

--The Simpsons, episode 9F20, "Marge in Chains"

Jimmy Carter is an airbag that contains alcohol! It tells the time and crushes ice!

Posted by BruceR at 12:39 PM

October 10, 2002



Okay, I'm going to play devil's advocate for awhile. Arguing solely from the position of rational, national self-interest, I'd like anyone to give me one reason why, in today's world, with the recent American policy statement that they will never allow another nation to become militarily competitive with them ever again, Canadians NEED to spend one more dollar on defence. Need to. No altruistic, or "for the good of the world" arguments allowed. Flitters is open.

Posted by BruceR at 02:26 PM



Prince Hassan of Jordan, the man people are thinking of as the Iraqi Zahir Shah when they speak of a "Hashemite Restoration" as the best way the U.S. could reconstruct a post-war Iraq, may want to read Hassan's own thoughts on U.S. intervention:

Mr. Bush referred to the menace of "outlaw groups and regimes that accept no law of morality and have no limit to their violent ambitions," but we must not find a mirror image of such lawlessness in the actions of responsible states that uphold the great legacies of civilizations past and present. We must not allow ourselves to degenerate to the level of automatons waving this flag or that flag merely for the sake of it or, indeed, to the levels of the animals that wrought such death and destruction on Sept. 11, and who promoted hatred and suspicion of the very faith to which they claimed to adhere. There must to be a response to evil but that response must come from within a matrix that pays due regard to the imperative of consultation, a considered and human response that does not tolerate potential human victims as mere collateral damage.

The settlement of the Iraqi issue through dialogue, instead of the threat of force, an end to the suffering of the people of Iraq, and respect for Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity are of paramount importance...

Nice speech. If he means it though, he may not be the obsequious figurehead the U.S. is looking for... oh, well... anyone know if Hamid Karzai's doing anything next February? He'd do nicely... he always looks so snappy...

Interestingly, I didn't realize until now Hassan is the current president of the Club of Rome. I knew the alien conspiracy was behind this whole thing somehow...

Posted by BruceR at 12:34 PM



There seems to be more of a pattern developing with Canada Customs and anti-Semitism, unfortunately. I'm extremely disappointed to hear today of the removal of charity status in Canada from Magen David Adom ("Red Star of David"), the Israeli Red Cross equivalent, by the Federal Court of Appeal. Citing the lack of recognition given the MDA by the International Red Cross (IFRC), a canard if ever there was one, and because they operated in conjunction with Israeli government emergency services, sometimes in the Occupied Territories... one would have thought providing first aid in the West Bank was a GOOD thing, but apparently our government disagrees... the MDA, unlike HAMAS, can no longer easily raise charitable funds in Canada. Okay, well it seems our government has decided once-and-for-all to side with the terrorists over Israel. Canadians of conscience should consider acting accordingly.

The court victory for Customs comes a week after they held up a box of relatively innocuous pamphlets arguing for Israel's right to exist, although they turned them over as soon as it made front page news. I'm especially disturbed because of my controversial non-defence of Canada Customs on another weblog, obviously before I knew of this case. For the record, I condemn both Canada's continuing tolerance of Hamas- and Hezbollah-associated charities, and this new persecution of Israeli emergency workers and their supporters. We're so far in the wrong on this one, it's hard to even see the right anymore.

Posted by BruceR at 11:42 AM

October 09, 2002


It's not that I don't mostly believe the piece in the New York Times on computer gaming addiction my old colleague Adrian pointed me to today... but I'll confess I've never heard of the games "Strike Force" or "Mu," referred to in the quote below. That doesn't mean they don't exist, but it's hard to imagine Lineage not being in a list like that, and it isn't. (The absence of Lineage, the most popular game in Korea at the moment, suggests this particular reporter didn't soil themselves by spending any longer than he had to among Korean computer gamers before he wrote this.):

As they teamed up, using separate consoles to take on the forces of evil in popular shoot-em games like Strike Force, Starcraft and Mu, some of them could be said to be engaging in group activity, but just barely. Utterances like "quick, shoot!," or "look out," or especially, "attack!" seemed about the extent of it.

As opposed to football players, for instance, who engage in long-winded dissertations on "Hegelian philosophy and the crisis of man" in between tackles...

Starcraft, of course, approached the level of mass cultural phenomenon in Korea a couple years back, so I can see it being in any such list; still... it'd be nice if the attached hyperlink above, the one link in the piece really, could actually go to a web site about Starcraft the game, as opposed to Starcraft the car company... I'm sure it's just an honest... ah forget it, they're f*cking ignorant, end of story. Note to mainstream media... if 80 per cent of a population does something, you're in the minority, not them... stop laughing and pointing at gamers like you're gawking hillbillies, for Christ's sake. (And while you're at it, hyperlinking involves more effort than running your proper nouns through Google and picking the first thing that comes up, you dorks.)

The New York Times is a letterbox that hums incessantly!

Posted by BruceR at 12:19 PM

October 08, 2002



I would probably have more respect for the ballistic analysis of the Washington snipings in Slate by N.Y. detective Lucas Miller, if Miller could have managed to spell either "sights" or "breech" correctly.

UPDATE: As of noon the next day, "breech" is now spelled correctly, but "sights" still isn't. Apparently Slate's copy editor only got around to this piece this morning, and only got half way through it before their coffee break. Maybe it'll get fixed later today. Yeah, my faith in Slate's knowledge of gun issues is just rising by the minute here.

The whole piece makes little sense anyway. There's no way this weapon was a bolt action, if it's leaving casings about. Five bucks says its a Ruger or an AR-15 variant with a scope. Kinda like the Canadian service rifle, the C7. If we start hearing of shots at 800m, I'll change my mind, but at 400m or less that's all you'd need for that kind of accuracy.

Posted by BruceR at 10:17 PM



As I've said before, Tim Blair is the only reason to forgive Australia for Kylie Minogue. His latest find, a surrealist marketing page. He's right... these are eerily accurate:

Canadian Forces: Canadian Forces is a fishpond! It runs on a single AA battery!
The University of Toronto: The University of Toronto is an electronic implant that asks trivia questions, loves children and receives data from any nearby sheet of paper.
BruceR:BruceR is a contraceptive device that has no moving parts! (Ain't that the truth --br.)
Tim Blair: Tim Blair is a coffee cup that's great for hammering in nails!

... and so on.

Posted by BruceR at 05:56 PM

October 07, 2002



Two estimable blog owners, Charles Johnston and the Shark himself, have been gulled by a German Die Zeit piece Sharkansky has had translated here. It's basically a retelling of the leaked DEA memo about an Israeli fraud ring involving fake "art students" that was working in the U.S. in early 2001. The full memo's here. This was previously used by Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com and others to prove their wild-assed theories about Israeli involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks. The Shark is now citing it as evidence that the Mossad at least knew, and hence U.S. intelligence probably did as well, about Mohammed Atta and friends. This is somewhat more sane, but given the quality of the evidence, hardly compelling. Here's a few of the obvious problems with the Die Zeit piece:

Die ZEIT obtained the 61-page final report, according to which, 120 Israelis, organized into cells of four to six persons, formed a tightly organized and efficient espionage network.

The memo never concludes that the art student ring was definitely an espionage network. That's Die Zeit talking. The memo lists 125 names in an appendix at the back... not all are "art students." The memo says they were actually organized in groups of 8-10, not 4-6.

The Israelis were arrested, interrogated and subsequently deported.

Many Israelis without proper documents were deported following Sept. 11. There is no public evidence how many, if any of those students previously identified as part of the "art ring" were among them, even if they were still in the country at that time. Few, if any, were arrested or deported for their activities prior to Sept. 11, and certainly none for "espionage."

Both [Sept. 11 conspirators Atta and Al-Shehi] lived in Hamburg before they settled in Hollywood, Florida in order to plan the attacks.

Atta and Al-Shehi lived in Hollywood, Florida for a little over one month in all, arriving in early May, 2001 and leaving on June 13. That's not "settling," and the planning of the attacks was obviously well underway by that point.

A Mossad team was also operating in the same town. The leader, Hanan Serfati, had rented several dwellings. "One of Serfati's apartments was located on the corner of 71st St. and 21st Ave. in Hollywood, right near the apartment of Atta and al-Shehi.", French intelligence reported later.

There is no 71st St. and 21st Avenue intersection in Hollywood, to start with. As you can read below, the DEA picked up a group of Israelis for questioning on March 1, 2001, including Hanane Sarfati, 24 (also referred to as Hanan Serfaty in the DEA memo; the French report has yet another spelling), Eli Cohen, 23, and Oshirt Zaguri, 23. Cohen and Zaguri gave their addresses as apartments 207 and 4205 respectively in the building at 701 S. 21st Street. Apparently French intelligence has trouble understanding American address nomenclature. Anyway, two and a half months later, on May 13, Atta and Al-Shehi moved into their own rented apartment at 1818 Jackson Street, a half mile south west of the place Cohen and Zaguri had been staying at. (They apparently picked the place after a couple nights at the Bimini Motel Apartments, several kilometres east). There is no evidence the two pairs of Mediterranean tourists were ever renting their respective apartments at the same time: obviously spying on Atta when Atta was actually IN TOWN would have been too easy for these highly trained Mossad SpyKids (23? Come on...), so they decided to do their spying months before he even ARRIVED.

The chief Israeli agent was staying right near the post office where the terrorists had a mailbox.

This was the piece of info that got Justin Raimondo convinced the Israelis were behind Sept. 11. For the record, four of the terrorists who arrived in June used the Mailbox Rentals store at 3389 Sheridan, in Hollywood, as their address while in the U.S. Mr. Sarfati (or whatever) was living in an apartment at 4220 Sheridan, about half a mile west, when the DEA picked him up in March.

Here once again, is the story of how that "tightly organized and efficient Mossad team" was fingered and picked up by the brilliant police work of the DEA, according to the DEA's own report. Note the particularly clever spylike behaviour bolded below. It can be hard to fathom the complex workings of these superspies, who were in this country cleverly disguised as stupid petty criminals. I know it would be easy to conclude from the paragraphs below that these were really a bunch of kids working a simple con game, who then turned scared and witless after they were picked up by the cops, but you have to realize that's all part of their cunning, secret-squirrel plan, the details of which only a supergenius of Justin Raimondo's calibre could derive from the raw field report details below. If it helps, try humming the "Mission Impossible" theme in your head while you read it:

"76. On March 1, 2001, at approximately 3:00 p.m., SA Kevin McLaughlin of theTampa DO [DEA office] responded to a knock at one of the fifth floor office doors. (It should be noted that the Tampa DO occupies the fourth and fifth floors of a First Union bank Office building. The reception area is on the fourth floor, with the fifth floor doors being locked, and possessing no signs of identification.) At the door was a young female who immediately identified herself as an Israeli art student who had beautiful art to sell. She was carrying a crudely made portfolio of canvas, matted, but unframed pictures... When asked her name, she identified herself as Bella POLLCSON, and pointed out one of the paintings was signed by that name. She then changed her story and said that the paintings were not for sale, but that she was there to promote an art show in Sarasota, FL, and asked for the agents' business cards so that information regarding the show could be mailed to them. She was not able to say when, or where the show would take place. After this discrepancy, the agents began to question her more closely, and her responses were evasive at best. When asked whom she was with, she stated that she was dropped at this office building by her Team Leader, who knew everything and could answer more questions. The Team Leader was described as a male driving a red van, dropping off this female, with another four females and a male.

"77. Tampa DO agents then began searching the area around the Tampa DO office and found the individuals described by the young female. Two of the girls were on a street corner near another busy office complex area and as agents were speaking with them, the red van pulled up. All were escorted to the Tampa DO for questioning.

"78. Agents from the Tampa DO then interviewed each of the subjects. Through identification that was produced, it wat revealed that the female who approached the Tampa DO and identified hersclf as Bella POLLCSON, was now identified as Inbal VAKSHI. The other subjects were: Sussie OSHRA, Keren KUZNITZ, Keren MATATIA, Livnat SELLA, Eli COHEN, Oshirt ZAGURI, Rachel KENDEL, and Hanan SERFATY. SERFATY, the driver of the red van, was identified as the Team Leader. All of the subjects gave ambiguous answers to the agents, but keeping to the story that they were Israeli art students.

79, VAKSHI produced an Israeli identification card, an Israeli passport, a student identification card, and a Florida driver's license for Sarah Minna SASSOON. VAKSI stated that she had received the license from a friend of hers who was no longer living in Florida.

"80. S/A David Keikin interviewed subject Hanan SERFATY. SERFATY stated that he served in the Israeli military between the ages of 18-21. He further indicated that he arrived in the U.S. approximately one year ago at the age of 23. When questioned as to what he did between the ages of 21 and 24, he refused to answer. The interviewing agent indicated that SERFATY's command of the English language was excellent, even the utilization of slang words. SERFATY indicated that he resides in Hollywood, FL, with a phone number of (954) 478-1006. He further related that he purchases the paintings from an Anglo male, TOM for $8.00-$15.00/piece, In turn, each piece of artwork is subsequently sold for $50-80. TOM allegedly resides in Hollywood/Ft. Lauderdale area, and reportedly has a storage unit in south Florida where he keeps the artwork to be picked up.

"81. It should be noted that in SERFATY's possession were deposit and withdrawal slips for Washington Mutual Bank account #038300002297689, dating, from December 19, 2000 through February 21, 2001. The fifty-one (51) slips were for transactions at various banks in Dade and Broward County, FL, banks, specifically in Coral Gables, Miami, Hollywood, Aventura, and Tamarac, The deposits for the timeframe totaled $93,252,00, with withdrawals totaling $86,000. Also in SERFATY's possession were four (4) deposit slips for First Union Bank account #1010017986436, from February 26, 2001 through March 1, 2001, totaling $14,250."

The DEA memo goes on to state that checking with local police showed that this group had been canvassing parts of the Tampa-Fort Lauderdale area with their phony art for at least a week previously. As I said back in May, the DEA efficiently identified the ringleader of all these silly groups of Israeli kids (Serfaty's team was one of many, it's true) as Michael Calmanovic, a resident of Irving, TX, current phone number 972-252-4504. So if Congress or anyone else really thought this was ever worth their time (Charles? Shark?), it wouldn't be hard.

You can read more about this Israeli fraud ring, and how people have mistaken it for something else, in the Flit entries for May 15.

Posted by BruceR at 07:04 PM



Commenting on the new American global strategy document, in the Times. Best quote:

One thing that creates hatred of America is resentment of its wealth, so the Bush strategy's emphasis on spreading prosperity is welcome. But another big source of hatred is resentment of American power. So the president's insistence that America remain unchallenged global hegemon, and his willingness to attack nations unilaterally even in the absence of clear provocation, is a stance peculiarly ill-suited to the global technological environment that is taking shape.

Meanwhile, Jeff Goldberg comes right back at Wright's attack on him which Flit pointed to last week. His counterargument to the above would be that, in his experience, the wider world will hate Americans until it gets more civilized anyway, so 'tis better to be feared than loved in the meantime. This is rarefied intellectual duelling we're seeing now... I'm hoping for another couple rounds of this.

Posted by BruceR at 12:45 PM



In other news, the wife of American pilot Harry "Psycho" Schmidt, the killer of 4 Canadian soldiers in a friendly fire incident earlier this year, is hitting the talk show circuit. His legal defence fund's website is here, in case you're curious.

The defense seems to be centred on failures by the AWACS and ground controllers that the dual American and Canadian inquiries are covering up:

Upon initially spotting the surface-to-air fire, the aircrew queried AWACS on whether or not there were “friendlies” in the area, but AWACS was unable to readily provide that information to the pilots. The failure to provide the aircrew with information concerning the friendly training exercise is a command and control failure, not a pilot failure or error... The failure of the CAOC and AWACS to pass the live-fire training information to the aircrew in a timely manner was not listed as a cause or even a contributing factor in the investigation.

Timely manner? Here's what I wrote previously on this point... (I'd link to the American report itself from which these facts are taken, but the Centcom site is down at this moment for some reason):

The inquiries found that from identification of a possible target to communication back to the pilots using this procedure [consult with ground control before shooting] took an average of five minutes. In this particular case it would take just 157 seconds [before the "friendliness" of the target was established, during which Schmidt and Umbach's planes were in no conceivable danger]. But as one can see from the transcript below, "Psycho" Schmidt only gave his controllers 90 seconds, before deciding to act regardless.

The defense fund website also claims:

Both Harry Schmidt and [wingman] Bill Umbach honestly and reasonably believed that they were taking ground fire from an unknown source and that they were required to suppress that fire in self-defense.

As has been clearly established in posts ad infinitum on this weblog, a reasonable belief that they were required to act out of self-defense that night is impossible. At the altitude they were flying at the time, no conceivable ground fire, even if it had been aimed upwards, could have possibly affected them. As for an honest, but unreasonable, belief (which I would agree would still be a mitigant) the Canadian inquiry listed its 13 reasons why it believed the American pilots were not being fully truthful after the incident when they claimed Schmidt fired in honest self-defence, as opposed to citing self-defence in order to justify his thoughtless bomb release.

Continues the lawyers' site:

The decision to pursue criminal charges against a combat aircrew making life or death decisions under the stress and uncertainty of combat conditions sets a dangerous precedent: In the future, combat aircrews may hesitate to exercise the right of self-defense, rightly believing that their decision will later be second-guessed by others who have the luxury of unlimited time, deliberation, and hindsight to question decisions required to be made on the spot under the stress of combat. This will likely cause unnecessary American casualties and have a deleterious effect on our military capabilities.

As stated before, on any other night of the week, when the 101st Airborne was using that range, that would have been 4 "unnecessary" dead Americans instead of Canadians. It's true this case will set a dangerous precedent, but only if these pilots win. Their defense is that no pilot can ever be responsible for a friendly fire death, even if their disobedience of operating procedure and direct orders is the direct cause of that loss of life... even if no split-second decision was required of them by any means... even if they drop a bomb on a rifle range at an American base abroad on an otherwise entirely quiet and combat-free night.

Would you want your son or daughter to join today’s U.S. military knowing this can happen?

How about this: would you want your son or daughter to join today's U.S. army if the pilots above them are given an entirely unrestricted license to kill? Because that's what Schmidt's lawyers are asking for here.

Posted by BruceR at 09:43 AM

PROBLEMATIC It appears that American


It appears that American foot-dragging is in part responsible for the continuing imprisonment in Saudi Arabia, under threat of capital punishment, of an apparently innocent Canadian. Wouldn't want to upset their legal system, now, it might disrupt their fragile sharia culture, I suppose... I really do wish the Americans would value their democratic allies a little ahead of their authoritarian, repressive, demon-state ones, but I never cease to be disappointed on that score. Pity: it would make it easier for us to see their point of view on other things.

Posted by BruceR at 09:41 AM

October 06, 2002



I'm seeing a version of this statement so often in the Iraq debate now, it demands comment:

He's trying to pretend that we either have to be completely, totally multilateralist or completely, totally unilateralist, and that if we decide to be less-than-totally- multilateralist in Iraq that no one in the world will ever cooperate with us again in anything. Of course, it's to be ignored that we're actually going to be cooperating with a lot of nations in this (such as the UK, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey).

Okay, let's see: other than the U.K., we have a repressive sheikhdom they've bought (Kuwait), another repressive sheikhdom they've intimidated (Qatar), and a rigid, quasi-militaristic country whose insistence on keeping Iraq's Kurds down has done more than anything else to encourage their oppression by Iraq, and whose cooperation will almost certainly guarantee the Kurds will continue to be oppressed and killed by Iraq's NEXT government, ie, the strongman the U.S. chooses to install... who himself, will no doubt be counted as another of America's "allies." Is the Americans' sense of historical destiny now such a flickering candle that these are the only kinds of allies it can hope to count on, or be proud of from now on? One hopes not.

Posted by BruceR at 01:14 PM



Linda McQuaig, one of Canada's leading left columnists, sets up a big straw man and precedes to whack at it for the length of a column in the Star today. Her target... Canadian defence OVERspending:

One of the biggest obstacles to rebuilding social programs will be the defence lobby -- the aerospace industry and the "think tanks" it funds -- which is keen to ensure that Ottawa's future budget surpluses go instead toward beefed-up military spending, with lots of private sector contracts.

Note to the "defence lobby." I'm still waiting for my payoff cheques to arrive for shilling for you all these months...

Our contribution [to our own defence] could never be more than marginal. David King... notes in a recent issue of Policy Options that Canada would have to increase its defence spending at at least five times the current level [Flit's translation: 6 per cent of GDP, or $55 billion a year] -- and sustain that higher level for 10 to 15 years -- before Washington would regard our military as "of some noticeable marginal utility."

You can read Col. King's actual paper here. It's quite good, actually: I agree with his overall sense of the priorities of Canadian defence policy, although I disagree with his prescription of doing nothing at all until there is a national "buy-in" to those objectives... sometimes I believe one needs to initiate change by changing, especially given this country's inertia on defence issues. The citation above is unsourced in King's paper, but reading in context suggests that "noticeable marginal utility" to U.S. interests is a category to King's mind currently occupied only by Britain, with only France and Russia even capable of aspiring to it. I don't believe any of us here in the "defence lobby" want Canada to have a force the size of Britain's. Notably, King himself does not argue that the current funding of the Canadian forces is in any way sufficient, only misdirected due to a lack of national clear thinking on the issue: I agree totally.

McQuaig continues:

[Some advocates'] version of enhanced Canadian sovereignty involves nothing more than full cooperation with the United States.

As opposed to McQuaig's version, which involves the surrender of all domestic military sovereignty and any capability for foreign involvement to the U.S. by default.

Even if we devoted one-third of our GDP to the military -- a level that would make us a freak in the world community -- we wouldn't be able to match annual U.S. military spending of $355 billion.

Okay, Linda, I give up... who the heck is arguing for that? First she throws out the $55 billion figure as what somebody somewhere thinks is appropriate... now we're competing for world domination with the States, with $355 billion... spare me.

Fact: The U.S. consistently spends 3 per cent of GDP on its defence. Even the most extravagant defence reform proposal ever aired in this country (the 1987 white paper) only anticipated a return of our expenditures from the current 1.2 per cent to a matching 3 per cent (or about $28 billion a year, up from $11 billion). Sane people realize that's unreasonable: and NO ONE has ever asked for Canada to spend more per capita on defence than the Americans do, except for the voices in Ms. McQuaig's head, apparently. Right now, people are holding out hope for 1.5-1.6 per cent (or about $3-4 billion extra a year), which would bring us back up to the median level of Germany, Italy, and the other small West European democracies. By contrast France is 2.4, the U.K. is about 2.7. (Australia, which hits well above its weight internationally, and is seen by many as the best model for Canadian reform, spends about 2 per cent.)

Missing from McQuaig's analysis is any recognition that military force can have positive impacts abroad, whether we're talking about keeping Bosnia together or suppressing Al Qaeda's recent attack on Canadians' freedom to fly our overly large country in passenger jets. She begins her flippant column by talking about the Ron MacLean issue that has currently obsessed fans of Canada's national sport... but she forgets that hockey star Ace Bailey was one of those whose untimely death on Sept. 11, 2001 Canada's soldiers in Afghanistan were happy to help avenge. Him and 24 other Canadians like him. European Union fishermen are ransacking our waters because we have no way to interdict them... Canadians must rely on France to rescue our citizens abroad... but even more importantly than that, we have lost our voice in the councils of the world because of our inability to contribute anything even if we did fully support their choices. As with Iraq today.

Like it or not, America is the locomotive of Western military adventurism today and for the foreseeable future. Accepting, as I believe it impossible not to do, that such adventures are sometime necessitated, the only choices are to pay the fare and hope to have some choice in the destination, or to stand offside of the tracks and curse the train as it passes, as McQuaig would have us do. In the meantime, she, I and the rest of Canada will continue to free ride on our American protector. We will have our healthcare, but we will have only the measure of security to enjoy it that they and the rest of the world grants us. (I suspect Ace Bailey enjoyed our health care system, too. Can't anymore, of course, now that he's dead and all. Pity about that, I guess.)

Posted by BruceR at 01:04 PM

October 05, 2002



Spent this morning dealing with an unfortunate infection by the Bugbear virus. Fiendish little worm, this one, that kills any anti-virus and personal firewall protection you try to turn on until it's uninstalled, and then logs all your keystrokes and passwords and sends them to the bad guys (plus all the usual emailing itself to all your friends stuff we've come to expect from viruses). Even better, it's got a built in emailer, so the old rules about only Microsoft Outlook users being affected no longer applies... even better than that, if you're not right up to date on your Windows Updates, it can infect your system from your email without you even opening an attachment... one of the first major viruses to do so. You've got to admire the workmanship, even if you want to disembowel the inventor.

Anyway, it's coming soon to a computer near you, so you might want to get your Windows right up to date now just in case, and watch for any firewalls or anti-virus programs mysteriously going down. If it happens to you, there's a good fixit program available here.

The shutting down of the ZoneAlarm firewall and preventing it from opening was what gave it away... so I guess you could say the sentry did its job, in a way. But the other upshot is I was so remarkably disappointed with the lack of online support for Zonealarm's free product (hey, BruceR, what did you expect? It was FREE. -ed.) that I've switched to Kerio's equally free personal firewall instead. It was also prone to being disabled by Bugbear, but at least this sentry gives a little yelp of warning before the worm knifes it in the back, unlike Zonealarm did.

PS: The other thing I should say is that, to my surprise, Rogers High Speed, my home ISP, was right on the ball on this one. They had a message to customers filling them in on Bugbear and pointing them to the fixit link above by Oct. 4, which wasn't too bad at all, considering that computer was infected the same day. So good for them.

Posted by BruceR at 04:16 PM

October 04, 2002

FIGHT! FIGHT! Robert Wright kicks


Robert Wright kicks Jeffrey Goldberg around for a little while. I love it when writers I respect fight amongst themselves.

Posted by BruceR at 05:11 PM



For the first time in history, Slate, Salon, and the Weekly Standard all agree on something: Manhunter is a better movie. They're right, of course, but so much for renting THAT at the video store tonight...

Posted by BruceR at 05:05 PM



In the interest of subverting Canada Customs whenever they take a stupid stance, here's the pro-Israel pamphlet held up at the border today. Judge for yourself whether it's a hate crime.

Posted by BruceR at 04:50 PM



Glenn Reynolds cites approvingly a good piece by the estimable Max Boot summarizing previous pre-emptive and preventative strikes. He says the Boot says that "preemption is neither unusual nor in violation of international law."

Unfortunately, the latter half of that is untrue, as Boot makes no reference to international law at all in his peace. Reynolds must be projecting again.

As to the former, Boot does establish that American preemptive attacks have not been unusual historically, but curiously fails to make reference to the Monroe Doctrine that once served to rationalize them, or come up with any previous examples outside of Latin America... affirming the belief of many that the Bush Doctrine is merely Monroe rewritten to cover the entire world. One would think then, that if some are chafing as being newly downgraded to another batch of banana republics, that discomfort might be understandable. Canadians, we're used to American domination... what the rest of the world is in large part resisting against is being brought down to a Canadian/Mexican level of relative independence and sovereignty. They're not doing a very good job of it, mind you, but that's what this UN stuff is mostly all about.

Posted by BruceR at 12:41 PM



I love James Lileks in the morning, but he's got to cut down on the decaf. His latest "it's better for Americans to be feared than to be liked" screed is part of the problem, not the solution:

Do we fear the mighty Egyptian Army swimming to Florida?.. There are questions about whether al-Qaeda could attract new recruits when the most salient characteristic of America’s opponents is a buzzing cloud of corpse-flies... I’m sure right now Tommy Franks is filling his boots with urine over the realization that the Canary Islands aren’t on board yet.

And so on... when he gets into this "contempt for all who question us" vein, it's almost like he's started channelling Galadriel:

In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!

Americans like Lileks have to understand that this is just not a mental frameset the rest of the world can ever easily adopt. He sure wouldn't, in our place.

CAVEATS APLENTY: Please note, that does not mean I believe the U.S. needs to wait for the approval of dithering international groups, or court allies it considers useless. It does not mean war in this particular case should be ruled out. But don't expect any of the slaves beneath your colossus-like stride to make world domination easier for you, if that's the only game you choose to play. Lileks is starting to talk like it's the U.S. versus the rest of the world now... if that's the game, then I'm one of many who won't be playing on his side. Hey, wasn't it George Bush who said America should strive to be a "humble nation?" Whatever happened to that?

PS: I find it ironic that Lileks starts his screed by summoning up the image of the Roman slave, whispering "all power is fleeting" in the ear of triumphant tribunes... who, I wonder, does he think is fulfilling that valuable role now, in a time of American ascendancy, if not his target Senator Wellstone, et al?

Posted by BruceR at 12:01 PM



I'm sorry, but in the interest of preserving some elevation in the ongoing war discourse, I must object to Jonah Goldberg's extended Muslims-as-vermin metaphor:

If a scorpion sneaks into your house and bites your child, you kill the scorpion. That's a no-brainer. But if you believe "something like this must never happen again" then you also go out in the yard and kill the other scorpions. You also kill rattlesnakes and black widow spiders... In other words, you do every reasonable thing you can. Imagine telling your wife, "Honey, I know there's that huge scorpion nest out in the yard, but I killed the scorpion responsible. Can you prove that the other scorpions had anything to do with the one that bit little Timmy?"

The comparisons with Nazi propaganda are so blatantly obvious (indeed, Goebbels could have written this, with a different target entirely) that I'm surprised Goldberg did not recoil from making them.

Posted by BruceR at 11:35 AM



I was not quick to jump on the bandwagon condemning Canada's Bonnie Brown, MP, but thanks to Damian and a fuller transcript of her remarks, I have to say she really is beyond the bounds of reason.

I think there was a case to be made that the kind of U.S. action certain other blog posters had been calling for for months... an entirely unilateral attack on Iraq, with neither Congressional debate or UNSC approval... WOULD have borne certain comparisons to both Germany in 1939 and Japan in 1941 (or perhaps more appropriately, Italy in 1935). The United States rejected aggressive war as an acceptable instrument of state policy in 1928, and I believe it would be a mistake to go back on that now... hence the need for UN involvement. And the U.S. Constitution, War Powers Act notwithstanding, does assign responsibility for war to the people's representatives in Congress, not the whims of one man elected. I shared Michael Kinsley's concern that, in the era of the hyperpower, concentrating all the power to "regime change or not regime change" for the entire world in one man, even if he is an elected President, is not a solid foundation for future international stability... it effectively puts the rest of the world in relation to Mr. Bush as the Thirteen Colonies were to George the Third, and we all know how that turned out.

Now mind, the Bush administration, with the possible exception of its increasingly erratic vice-president (can we put Cheney BACK in the bunker?) has never claimed that to be its position. I have only seen it expressed by its more enthusiastic adherents in the blogosphere. The President has since gone, hat in hand, to Congress, even when his lawyers said he didn't have to; he has also appealed to the better nature of the UN: that suffices. Let me say for the record that I disagree with my country's government that a vote in the Security Council on which a Canadian does not sit is not, should not be the last word in anyone's decision to go to war... when the League of Nations dithered on Italy's invasion of Ethiopia (never mind the Spanish Civil War or the Japanese subjugation of China) the moral thing for the great democratic powers to do was clear, and in direct contravention to the League's wishes. If, now, the moral course is clear once more, but the UN stands in the way, then the UN must likewise be pushed aside... if we are to demonstrate we have learned anything in this century at all. But I don't think it's come to that, yet.

Pearl Harbor was an atrocity not because, as historian David Bercuson argued the other day in the National Post, the Japanese were already fighting a war in China (note how Bercuson never mentions the Americans' punishing embargo). Pearl Harbor was an atrocity because it was a surprise attack preceding any declaration of war, and because it was the first act in a unilateral, aggressive war against the peace of nations. By first going to Congress for debate, by going to the UN and appealling for their sanction, even if they do not get it, the US has now eliminated any viable basis of comparison between Pearl Harbor and its actions against Iraq. And that's a good thing. Ms. Brown's speech showed, if nothing else, that she does not have the ability to read a newspaper and understand recent events. That did not merit a full-bore condemnation to my mind, however. If that was all she had said, I would have thought the fracas overblown.

But now, reading her other comments I've just read, about the war on Afghan civilians and the like, and those of her colleague Ms. Beaumier, I have to say those are in large part indefensible. Somebody actually voted for these people, did they? To quote Kent Brockman: "I've said it before, I'll say it again, democracy simply doesn't work."

Posted by BruceR at 11:13 AM



Good piece by Wagner James Au on the latest trends in first-person shooter games... moralistic, real-world, non-gruesome violence, in a anti-terrorism setting. Nothing aficionados didn't know (and he quotes Henry Jenkins AGAIN!) but a good primer for the non-gamer. Horrible illustration, though, completely against the tenor of the article.

Posted by BruceR at 10:39 AM

October 02, 2002



Excellent analysis in TNR about why the number of new drug discoveries has slowed dramatically in the late 1990s. Nicholas Thompson lays out the evidence, and points the finger at two recent regulatory developments, but curiously suggests fixing only one:
--the U.S. lifting of advertising restrictions on prescription drugs five years ago; and
--the explosion in biological patenting by universities and corporations begun in 1980 with the Bayh-Dole Act.

Thompson argues that the latter cause has ossified the industry, by giving control over the building blocks of research (often human proteins found naturally in the body) to people who don't want to share them for less than top dollar. Over 50 human proteins, for instance, needed to make progress in cancer research, are patented and unusable: essentially patent legalities are closing down the lines of biological research. Meanwhile, the upswell in marketing expenses required to keep competitive, due to the other change, has diverted funding away from drug company R&D to pointless TV yapping about drugs you need a prescription for anyway.

The drug companies themselves, Thompson explains, are unable to make a case against biopatents, because they're too busy fighting the HMOs and activist groups, who want to roll back their monopolies attained through end-product patents... which are a bit of a canard in the whole debate.

A couple corollaries from Thompson's piece: Europe and Canada, with similar patent legislation, but an ongoing ban many kinds of prescription drug advertisement, are likely to start hitting above their weight when it comes to drug R&D as a result... as the implicit market economics still force them to find new discoveries to keep afloat whereas U.S. big pharma has the alternative of heavily marketing an existing treatment instead, or focussing on non-life threatening but easy-to-market problems like hair loss, etc. This certainly seems to be borne out by the large number of recent FDA-approved new drugs coming from offshore. (Increasingly the big U.S. companies are ceding their role as drug pioneers and becoming instead innovation brokers, licensing small or foreign companies' innovations, guiding them through the complex process of FDA approval, then marketing the hell out of them while protecting their monopolies as long as possible with outsized legal teams). That system, while arguably more inefficient that what preceded it in the U.S, or is found abroad today, could still work, but not if every company and university hangs on to the few human proteins and processes they have the legal rights to without lending any of them out. As Thompson points out, that's a dysfunctional system: patent law only exists to ensure the fair sharing of knowledge... if no one's sharing, the system is broken.

That's the other corollary: that this is such a heavily regulated (and publicly funded, through federal R&D grants to the university researchers) industry that arguments about freer markets, costs that the market will bear, and the like, that one sees when Big Pharma strikes back at HIV activists, for instance, no longer apply, if they ever did. Think about it: the universities find something promising with taxpayer funds, your company buys it off the original researcher, bundles it into a new drug that somebody, somewhere must have to live (talk about a captive market!), gets it approved and then you have 15 years of government-guaranteed patent monopoly to recoup your investment. There's really no market role in that, other than the success/failure assessments rendered upon you by your stock price compared to the others.

The causes of the current problems were regulatory. The solutions will likewise be regulatory: fixing patent law and reining in overmarketing of prescription remedies. In the meantime, drug research worldwide will increasingly slip into total gridlock.

Posted by BruceR at 04:45 PM