|Man Without Qualities|
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
From the New York Times:
What has not been publicly disclosed are the details of the single recording in the government's possession that it says is an illegal wiretap. According to written summaries of F.B.I. interviews seen by The New York Times, the recording concerns events that led to the divorce of a Los Angeles billionaire, Alec E. Gores, from his wife, Lisa A. Gores, in 2001.So, let's see. A man (who happens to have made a billion dollars or so for himself) hires Anthony Pellicano to bug the telephones of his wife and brother - a serious and straightforward felony. He listens to the recordings. He pays Mr. Pellicano lots of money. And he has not been charged, and has been assured he is only a witness in the case?!
Boy is that weird. But there is no indication whatsoever that the New York Times thinks it's weird, or that they've asked Skip Miller or anyone else why Mr. Gores, a man who according to the Times admits that he hired and paid Mr. Pellicano to commit serious felonies, has been "assured" - apparently by the same prosecutors who have indicted Terry Christensen for allegedly doing exactly what Mr. Gores admits he did - that he is only a witness.
And if the Times doesn't find any of that worth asking about, how about this:
Why is billionaire Alec Gores relying on Skip Miller for legal advice in this case? Skip Miller is a highly competent and aggressive attorney who as late as 1994 was still claiming "white collar criminal defense" as a practice specialty. But the most recent description of Mr. Miller's practice provided by the firm he recently left to Meritas (now deleted from the web, but still available in cached form) does not even mention criminal defense as an area of Mr. Miller's practice at all:
His practice is varied and diverse and includes antitrust, securities, employment, energy, defamation/First Amendment, entertainment (motion pictures, television and music), copyright, toxic tort, civil rights, construction, real estate, inverse condemnation and other areas of the law.Did the reader detect anything of a criminal defense nature in any of that? I don't think so. Maybe it's in that "other areas of law." Is that what Mr. Gores is paying for in a case in which the New York Times says he admits he hired Mr. Pellicano to commit felonies on his behalf? Is there some reason why Mr. Gores isn't looking for advice mostly to someone with more criminal defense experience - and having that special someone speak on his behalf to outfits like the New York Times? It's not as though Mr. Gores can't afford whoever he likes.
Contra 1994 V: Democrats Don't Do Libraries Anymore?
James Taranto comments:
E.J. Dionne, a liberal Washington Post columnist, is unhappy about last week's California election results. No, not the Republican victory in the special House election (though he's none too pleased with that), but the defeat of a pair of ballot measures (emphasis his):Taranto makes a lot of sense, of course. But I think the observations in my previous post in this series regarding Prop 82 apply equally well to the failure of Prop 81 (the library bond measure): Republicans (at least those out of government) are less enthusiastic about more debt and public spending on "small government" grounds, preferring such things to be handled more by private means. And perhaps, as Dionne argues, liberals (or "progressives") ought to favor more library spending on principle or political consistency grounds. But there is good reason to think that relatively fewer Democrats care about or have children now (Taranto has, of course, noted this fact in other contexts), and children would be the main users of those libraries, as USA Today reports:The truly sobering news for liberals was in the statewide voting. Proposition 82, the ballot measure that would have guaranteed access to preschool for all of California's 4-year-olds, went down to resounding defeat, 61 to 39 percent.... [T]he column got us to thinking about broader trends that may be feeding public skepticism about government.
In Seattle, there are nearly 45% more dogs than children. In Salt Lake City, there are nearly 19% more kids than dogs. ... It's not that people in a progressive city such as Seattle are so much fonder of dogs than are people in a conservative city such as Salt Lake City. It's that progressives are so much less likely to have children.The news is even worse for Mr. Dionne and his pro-library funding sympathies because some studies have found that the children of liberals read less than children of conservatives, with the liberal children playing more computer games and watching more television than their conservative counterparts. Worse, some studies also suggest that children who play computer games to excess are more disposed to violence than their parents - with the effect on the children apparently detectable in their brains.
Monday, June 12, 2006
In 1990 Peru was being savaged by its own "insurgency." That "insurgency" took the form of the neo-Maoist terrorist organization called "Shining Path" - which was at the time busy demolishing as much of Peru's infrastructure and urban fabric, and killing as many middle-class Peruvians, as it could manage. The Shining Path meant by such methods to bring down the reasonably democratic government of Peru. The parallels with Iraq, at least on the surface, are clear.
Alberto Fujimori, a son of Japanese immigrants, was an academic and university president when he scored a surprise victory over novelist Mario Vargas Lhosa and became Peru's president. Fujimori has said that Peru was "an interesting challenge": Cocaine was a $1 billion a year export, inflation was at 7,500 percent and the use of violence as a political tool by the Shining Path and MRTA tore Peru up pretty thoroughly and had come close to tearing it completely apart into social chaos. The Shining Path is believed to have killed more than 10,000 people. In some respects Peru was worse off than Iraq is today.
Nobody seems to dispute that Alberto Fujimori's government extinguished the Shining Path - although there are those who claim the biggest steps were accomplished by "ordinary police work" and not the thuggish, admittedly uber-violent, and perhaps murderous methods of Vladimir Montesinos. Montesinos was Fujimori's de facto head of Peruvian security (MRTA) who was ultimately disgraced and found to have been highly corrupt. Whatever the ways and means, most observers agree that the biggest step in terminating the Shining Path was the celebrated capture of its founder Abimael Guzman - himself a murderous academic who directed and had essentially created the Shining Path.
The death of Zarqawi is not a perfect analogue to the capture of Guzman. For one thing, the Shining Path was essentially the only "insurgency" challenging the Peruvian state. There was no good replacement for Guzman. Some have argued that Zarqawi will simply be replaced as head of al Qaida in Iraq, and his war will go on. But as far as I can see, such speculation is not supported by any real evidence one way or the other. Moreover, there have been reports that Zarqawi's particular ultra-violent and promiscuous form of insurgency was by no means favored by his al Qaida generally. It certainly rankled lots of fellow Arabs - including Jordanians - who otherwise might have been inclined to look the other way. So Zarqawi's vision may have been rather personal, and (if that is so) eliminating Zarqawi may be a better analogue to capturing Guzman than at first meets the eye.
Two documentaries have recently been created about Fujimori's confrontation with Guzman and his Shining Path: The Fall of Fujimori and State of Fear. The Fall of Fujimori shows some real efforts at balance by its maker - although the maker's own beliefs do seem to show through (which is not all bad, since she's a nice person). And it's very well done in most respects, especially the interviews with Fujimori himself and his daughter and the use of archival film. In contrast, State of Fear is a ludicrous piece of agitprop and an attempt to equate current American anti-terrorism efforts with Peru's excesses under Fujimori. But the films are in agreement with the conclusions that taking a single man - Guzman - from the field made a huge difference in the course of the Peruvian anti-terrorist effort. Less comforting, they also both persuasively argue that after the Shining Path was in fact defeated the exceptional powers assumed by the Peruvian government were put to increasingly pernicious use.
Contrary to these film makers (especially the second), I do not believe there is much of a parallel with the US here. But there may be a very important parallel with respect to what we might expect from a post-insurgency Iraq, one forged in the smithy of counter-terrorism politics. That picture is not pretty at all. But at least one has to assume the extinction of the Iraq insurgency before having to contemplate the form of post-insurgency Iraq. In any event, Peru has today largely recovered.
UPDATE: Brett Stephens has some very interesting observations on how the nature of the insurgency may change, and some further information as to how Zarqawi had become estranged from many people one would think have to be on the side of a successful "insurgent" in Iraq.
Dead Again III: Steve Forbes Gets One Right
Steve Forbes, writing in the Wall Street Journal:
What network operator indeed?
For his sake, lets hope that Mr. Forbes is only trying to persuade Congress and the general public - and not the "net neutrality" supporters on the Blogosphere! Many of those people supported intellectual property theft supermarkets like Grokster - despite the obviously analogous argument: "What content creator is going to create lots of high quality, expensive content if the profit is to stripped off by file sharing web sites?"
The economic model the Net Neutralizers seem to posit is one in which expensive content and hardware networks can be supplied by a profitless system - or efficiently provided by a system that suppresses efficient returns to the providers, and quite possibly denies them any returns at all. And all of this is apparently supposed to be justified, supported and ultimately financed by the great, new, ever-increasing-returns-to-scale Paul Romerian goodies created through net-enabled activities like people watching purloined movies delivered almost for free from those Grokster-like Bit Torrent supermarkets? Sure, fellas. And no doubt Santa Claus will make up any shortfall. I just can't wait.
Why do the the arguments of the Net Neutralizers sound so much like nostalgia for the fever swamps of the late 1990's internet boom? Could it be that so many of the people writing the copy for the Net Neutralizers today are the same people (and their intellectual legatees) who fronted for the profitless 1990's boomers? Lawrence Lessig's bloviating, of course. But Paul Romer's own website today includes the giddy boast that he "was named one of America's 25 most influential people by Time magazine in 1997." Does Professor Romer have no awareness of what was going on in his immediate intellectual and financial vicinity at that time? Perhaps he should do a back-of-the-envelope calculation of how much investment was misdirected within, say, 10 miles of his current Stanford office during those years.
Could it be that so many of these Net Neutrality supporters also supported those who told us in the 1990's that "stickiness" and "hits" and the rest of the palaver of that busted era had replaced (or, better, "transcended") prosaic considerations such as "net revenue" and "cost of capital" as the variables de jour. Or could it be echos of the 1990's profitless boomers telling the world such things, and that anyone who didn't agree with such things, that "you just don't get it," with a manufactured indignation uneasily similar to the tone Mr. Forbes correctly identifies in the Net Neutralizers today?
I think it's something like that.