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- Ted Barlow

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Saturday, July 13, 2002
Eugene Volokh's comments on Dan Savage's article regarding the war against the Taliban put me in mind of an old Tom Tomorrow strip. It's not whether you're left or right, but how you game the play. Yow. Take that, Osama!

Realpolitik hypocrisy watch: This article from El Pais reports on the ongoing flap over Perejil, or Parsley, Island. Seems that Morocco has taken up residence on a lonely rock 200 meters off its shores that is a colonial possession of Spain. That's on top of the colonial possessions of Ceuta and Melilla. Why hypocrisy? Well, this is all going on at the same time that Spain is trying to override the Gibraltarians' right to reject Spanish sovereignty, with the collusion of the Blair government.

I have to say that I'm confused by Charles Murtaugh's position on personhood. He seems to be saying that the developing organism acquires its right to be considered a person when it begins to look like one. Surely, that can't be right.

It seems to me that an organism should be considered to be a person when it develops the salient capacities associated with being a person, such as the capacity to suffer and the capacity to have desires.

To round out my thoughts on possible defense strategies for corporate wrongdoers, let me suggest that the "blame Clinton" avenue bears striking resemblance to a line from the Bart reincarnation episode of the Simpsons: It was the butterfly!

Speaking of Sgt. Schultz, this Salon piece by Katharine Mieszkowski provides a pretty funny look into the world of corporate high-fliers making use of the favored defense of our favorite Nazi POW camp guard. HOOOGAN!

Matthew Yglesias, whose permalinks seem to be a little dodgy, comments on this story about new chief corporate crime buster, Larry Thompson. Seems he was chairman of the audit committee for a company that settled fraud charges against it to the tune of $400 million.

Drip, drip, drip.

I'm positive that the WH spin will be: Of course, he knew nothing. The Sgt. Schultz defense. This, of course, raises the question: If the guy was so oblivious that he couldn't ferret out corporate fraud when he was the chairman of the company's audit committe, how in the hell is he going to be able to ferret it out when he's on the outside looking in, probably through a stone wall?

Perversely, it would almost be better if he admitted he knew about it, claiming it was one of the president's "differences of opinion." That way, at least he could argue that he knows all the tricks. It takes a thief, and all that.

Friday, July 12, 2002
The State Department appears to have attempted to detain NRO's own Joel Mowbray today. Who'd a thunk it. Can mass civilian detentions be far behind.

Senate Democrat hypocrisy? Accounting isn't my strong suit so I could be wrong, but it seems to me that if I sell you an asset for less than its market value, I've taken a loss. Can't see why companies shouldn't book the difference between market price and option price as an expense.

Charles Murtaugh has some interesting, and accurate to my mind, reflections on the Harken imbroglio. I agree that the the issue of Harken malfeance, er, malfeasance is the true hot button issue. I'm not so ready to concede, though, that questions relating to Bush's actions in his personal capacity can, or should, be extricated from questions about his actions in his capacity as a director.

Harken apologist watch: Byron York has another piece in NRO, but now the focus has shifted from the facts of the matter to an enquiry into "why now," with particular emphasis on the ideological motivation of those bringing the charges.

At the same time, Salon brings us another York, Anthony this time, suggesting that internal Harken docs show that, his protestations to the contrary, Bush in fact did know about the company's financial troubles before he unloaded that stock. Combine this with Conason's observation, also in Salon, that the White House is declining to assist reporters in their search for Harken Board of Director's minutes, the President's own suggestion that that was where they should look for answers to the question of whether he had supported the Aloha deal again to the contrary. Add in MWO reports that Bush participated in a Harken stonewall of the SEC. What do you have?

Can anyone say drip, drip, drip? Guess the president doesn't read my blog, either.

Thursday, July 11, 2002
Matthew Yglesias is my first visitor. And a plug. I'm so proud.

Homeobox? Why homeobox? Well, to quote Matt Ridley, "the homeobox is the bit by which [a] protein made by [a] gene attaches to a strand of DNA to switch on or off another gene." The homeobox plays a key role in the process of embryonic development, and its discovery played a key role in uncovering the similarities in embryonic development between wildly different species.

Maybe there's a metaphor there.

Glenn Reynolds has weighed in on the Kass Bioethics Council report. According to the InstaPundit, it's probably irrelevant, but if anything, the 7-10 split on the Council suggests that anti-cloning legislation is headed nowhere in Congress.

What do I think? First a political point, then a philosophical one.

Politically, I'd go even further, based on reports that proponents of an outright ban on therapeutic cloning were in a minority, and say that a ban is dead, Bush or no Bush.

Philosophically, I'd have to say that I wouldn't even support a ban on reproductive cloning. Regulation, yes.

And I think my philosophical position has at least a plausible legal foundation. Reproductive choices would seem to be, at least presumptively, within the zone of personal decision and privacy. Absent a government interest, such a protecting cloned people from being born with horrible physical defects thanks to unsafe proceedures, I don't see how a ban would be constitutional.

And that, I think, is how it should be.

Here is the Bush apologist position on the Harken controversy, from Byron York at NRO. Best take: Hey, someone approached Bush to buy the stock; SEC staff reviewed the matter and concluded he didn't trade on insider information; failure to file the Form 4 was, at most, an oversight; Bush says he didn't know about questionable accounting regarding the Aloha sale that later lead to an SEC mandated restatement, and anyway, the SEC didn't bring civil or criminal charges about that either; it's old news.

Fair enough, so far as it goes. Unfortunately for the apologists, the facts that Bush Sr was President at the time, that his appointee was head of the SEC at the time, and that the general counsel of the SEC just happened to have been Bush Jr's erstwhile attorney do raise some questions about just how deeply SEC looked into the matter. Suggestions that SEC staff would never, never be motivated by these facts strike me as less than, well, completely believable.

And lots of old news can become new again when the time is right.

Bush should do himself, and the markets, and the country, a favor. Release every record on the matter. Avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

More on bluffs. This piece from USA Today suggests that, absent some provocation from Iraq, say placing nuclear-tipped weapons on station, the Bush administration has concluded we won't be invading after all. Is this disinformation? If it's not, the pressure is off for Saddam.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002
Any connection between this Safire column giving props to Gen. Saeb Khier of Jordan as Middle East spook of the year and this article from the Times of London?

Kinsley suggests that the war with Iraq might be a bluff. Given that the Bush administration seems to be giving Saddam a lot of advance warning of exactly when it's coming, I hope so. Or at least that the dates are off.