BYRD WATCHING: Apparently there was no speech from Nutty Bob yesterday during the Estrada filibuster. Keep checking back here.
AND HERE’S WHY THEY STAY: This article in the Dog Trainer suggests that the only purpose of the missiles Saddam has refused to destroy would be to repel a U.S. invasion by tipping the missiles with chemical or biological weapons and firing them Kuwait way when it looks like the invasion is imminent.
Which, by the way, reveals a real cost of the U.N. diplomacy: I have never seen a war telegraphed like this one. In street fighting, when you telegraph a punch, you often end up on the ground yourself. I have to hope the Bushies have thought about this, will announce a firm deadline for an attack, and will bomb the missile sites 24-48 hours before our announced attack.
The article also (sort of) answers a question that has been troubling me lately: why did the U.N. allow Saddam to keep missiles with a range of 150 kilometers (about 93 miles) anyway? “A U.N. official said Monday that the distance selected by the United Nations as the limit for the range of Baghdad’s missiles — 93 miles — might have been chosen simply because it is about half the effective range of a Scud.” (Love that “might have been.”) Of course, my real question was why he got to have any missiles at all.
THE MISSILES STAY: Today we learn that the new U.N. resolution sponsored by the U.S., Britain, and Spain simply repeats the language of the last resolution (1441) — which passed unanimously — with a single additional observation: “Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441.”
Interestingly, on the same day we learn that Saddam won’t destroy the missiles that Hans Blix ordered him to destroy.
Taken together, these seem to me to be big developments. Of course, Saddam can always change his mind. But if he doesn’t, I think Dominique de Villepin (you know, the guy with the hair) and Company will have a tough time explaining why they are opposing the new U.N. resolution. Stay tuned. It’s hypocrisy time.
KRUGMAN: Not a fan of Paul Krugman’s. Still, somebody tell me why his piece on Bush’s plans for post-war Iraq is wrong. Because it’s Krugman, you’d think there has to be a reason. But I don’t know what it is. I disagree with his larger conclusions about Bush, his fiscal policy, etc. — but the specific criticisms of the Iraq plan seem to me to be valid.
REALITY CHECK: This article in the American Prospect, titled “Reality Check,” is intended to put to rest all our fears of a chemical or biological attack.
Let’s do a little “reality check” of our own, shall we? I am no expert on chemical or biological weapons, but I think it’s fair to say that, sometimes, the experts are no experts either. For example, remember the woman who died of anthrax inhalation in Rhode Island? As this Washington Post article shows, that surprised the “experts.” The article states that, as a result of the woman’s death, “William Patrick, who led the U.S. Army’s effort to weaponize anthrax until the program was halted in 1969, said he was reconsidering his long-standing presumption that a person could not get pulmonary anthrax from a few spores on the outside of an envelope. ‘I would never have thought that a letter contaminated on the outside would contain sufficient spores to cause inhalational anthrax,’ he said in a telephone interview. ‘It defies everything we ever learned. I’m absolutely flabbergasted.’ “
Look, I hate to say it, folks, but whoever sent the anthrax through the mails (1) hasn’t been caught, (2) didn’t send much, and (3) accomplished a hell of a lot with what little they used. There is plllllllenty more out there, and if terrorists had a decent quantity and got serious about spreading it, it could cause some real problems.
As for smallpox, the American Prospect article says that smallpox “can be contained by quarantining victims and vaccinating others after it appears.” The article also confidently contends that “the disease is only communicable from person to person.”
But what if the strain is, for example, the “Aralsk strain” of smallpox discussed here? The “Aralsk strain” is an “especially deadly strain” of smallpox, named for a Kazakhstan city which suffered an outbreak of it. One scientist says that “it’s possible that strain is also resistant to known vaccines.” Oh — and his research “suggests the Aralsk smallpox strain could be easily spread by missile, in the air across wide areas — something not previously thought possible.”
But why worry about the Aralsk strain now? It came from Russia, right? And our concern right now is Iraq, right? Whew, I feel reassured. . . except that an informant told U.S. intelligence in 2002 that a Russian scientist had transferred this strain to the government of Iraq in the 1990s.
Put that together with today’s revelations concerning the possibility that Iraq could mount a chemical or biological attack on the U.S. mainland with “remote-controlled ‘drone’ planes equipped with GPS tracking maps.” I’ll pause for a second while all of this sinks in.
I am not saying we should all panic. I am saying that we need to remember, “experts” are people and therefore, by definition, often wrong. When an expert says there is nothing to worry about, forgive me if I still worry — a little. That’s my personal “reality check.”
REJECT THE LEADER, NOT THE PEOPLE: Yet another op-ed reinforcing what I said the other day: our real problem with countries like France and Germany is ultimately with the leaders, not the people. (Caveat: we do have a problem with some East Germans, who were brainwashed by the Communists into believing that America is evil. The good news is that the Communists are gone.)
This op-ed is an interesting read. It makes the case that the German attitude towards war is largely shaped by their experiences of the last century.
True, the people of France and Germany are against the war, but you know what? The people of just about every country on the planet are against it. Doesn’t mean they’re right; doesn’t mean they’re evil or stupid, either.
THE BYRD FACTOR: The Estrada filibuster resumes today. When the Democratic leadership was weighing the pros and cons of this filibuster, I’ll bet they put a note in the “cons” column in thick black block letters, surrounded by stars: “DON’T FORGET — BOBBY BYRD HAS TO TALK TOO.”
Byrd’s staff members must have been running themselves ragged in the past few days, making sure that he has prepared remarks for the duration of his next speech (no idea when that will be, by the way). Otherwise, you never know what the guy will say. He might start talking about “white niggers” again. I think he ranted about his power bill during his first speech of this filibuster. It’s amusing to try to picture the Democratic leadership sitting around the television during one of Byrd’s rants (which always make for some fun footage). In my mental image, the leaders are watching the screen with their shoulders hunched, and their faces pinched in a collective cringe.
Hey, guys, I can sympathize. That’s how I used to feel when I would watch Trent Lott on the Sunday yappers.
BACK TO WORK: Vacation (actually a 3-week paternity leave) is over. Look for posts to become more pithy (read: shorter) and more selective (read: less frequent).
I keep noticing how the media are increasingly fond of telling us things after the fact, that it would have been nice to know before the fact. I have a million examples. Let me present two now.
Example: Gray Davis fudged budget numbers just before the election for California governor. According to the local Dog Trainer: “During the budget negotiations, Davis’ administration changed how it portrayed the state of the economy. Rather than use figures that compared one calendar year to the next, the administration, without fanfare, shifted to presenting results that compared the fourth quarter of 2002 to the same period a year earlier. The effect was to make the economy look significantly better than it otherwise would have just as Davis was seeking reelection.” (Emphasis is mine.) Apparently the Dog Trainer did not detract from the lack of fanfare — at least before the election. Thanks for telling me now.
Example: The Dog Trainer printed a story called Glitches, Close Calls Haunted Columbia, on February 17, 2003 (after the disaster). The facts in this story were clearly available before the Columbia disaster, but the long history of close calls was not a prominent news story until after the disaster. Thanks for telling me now.
I have many more examples, but let’s save some for another day. You get the idea. Sometimes it would be nice to know about these things earlier — you know, before it’s too late.
This will be a semi-regular feature on this site. Stay tuned.
BUBBA ADMIRES BONO: Here is a perfect example of why Bush is preferable to Clinton: Bush would never say that rock star Bono is a “leader” whom “we should follow in the new millennium.” Bush would just say: “BOE-noe?? Who’s that again?”