March 31, 2004

Lib Radio Kicks Black Station off the air

Irony, thy name is "Air America" Liberal Radio.

New York's radio station WLIB-1190 AM has been loyally "serving New York's Black community" - as its logo states - for decades now. In the early '90s WLIB was lauded as a resource for "Afrocentric" programming and became known for featuring Imhotep Gary Byrd's "Global Black Experience" show.

By the end of March, New York's WLIB-1190 AM will taken over by "Air America Radio," a predominantly White, liberal talk-radio network.

The station was in many ways a Black activist outlet.

But by the end of this month, WLIB will be taking on a different hue, as it joins the launch of Progress Media's "Air America Radio," the new, predominately White, liberal talk-radio network. Air America has reportedly partnered with Inner City Broadcasting Corporation (ICBC), which owns WLIB.

Anyone else wonder when the black community is going to figure this all out? Libs love you when you vote for them ... other than that, well, good luck.

Posted by McQ at 11:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'm gonna do a terrific show today

McQ has already weighed in on the new Air America liberal radio network below. I suspect I'd feel about the same, if I could hear it. Still, I've a few general thoughts to add.

1: "Air America"? What, "Bird on a Wire" was taken?

2: In fact, so many Mel Gibson movies seem more appropriate:
- Mad Max
- Fairy Tale: A True Story
- Conspiracy Theory

3: Couple takes worth reading:
Steven Taylor....

I will also say that I think that Al Franken can be funny, although I find his skills as a political commentator to be lacking. I think he relies a bit too much on the overly cutesy-gee-aren't-I-cleverly-skewering-the-other-side-sardonic. For example, take the name of the show: "The O'Franken Factor". Okay, we get the joke, do you really want your show's title to be a joke? For one thing, it has to get old at some point.
Dale Franks...
Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger. Anger. Plus jokes.

Yeah, well, they'd better be some pretty darn good jokes.

Anticapatory Retaliation...
For all those conservatives who encourage moderates and liberals to listen to Limbaugh "so you can hear what we're thinking", I offer the same advice...check out Air America to see what's going on in the heads of the Left.

4: I know a lot of people are saying liberal radio doesn't have a chance, but I'm not so sure. The line-up (Janeane Garafalo? Chuck D?!?!) is a bit heavy on celebrity, and light on radio talent, but this is still early. They're in the learning curve.....building cume. It doesn't have to be "make or break". If they suck now, there's plenty of time to adjust.

And they've got one big thing going for them: anger. Yes, it can be tiresome, but remember....that's exactly what helped the conservatives dominate the airwaves in the 80s and 90s. They were angry at the "liberal media", angry at Clinton, angry at the Democratic Congress.

You know....just a bunch of malcontents, with a Rush Limbaugh to focus their anger. And you know? He turned out to be pretty good at it.

Now, I doubt Al Franken is going to be the liberal Rush. He may be funny, but radio requires a lot more than "funny". It's a craft, and filling three hours a day requires a lot more than "Bush sucks, heya!"

But there's a radio vacuum for left-of-center listeners. And there's an awful lot of struggling second-tier stations who know they can't compete against the Limbaugh/Hannity juggernaut on most first-tier stations. Suddenly, there's an alternative for them - a way to gain market share, without (futilely) struggling for the listeners already owned by the heritage News/Talk station in the market.

I suspect liberal radio, given even a modicum of initial ratings success, is going to be an attractive alternative. They may never match the heritage station, but there's a market to be had. Frankly, I'm beginning to think it can work.

4: Now that Al Franken in on the air, will the liberals FINALLY stop bitching about Rush Limbaugh? He's a spin-doctor for the Republicans; he's mean; he's a Big Fat Liar! And the liberals hated that!

So, of course, the liberals went right out and got their own mean, lying spin-doctor.

You see, it wasn't the lying, spinning or meaness that bothered them. They were just pissed that they couldn't get a piece of that action.

If you thought political discourse was polarized before...just give it a few years.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:21 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

It could be worse. You could live in France

And if you did, you'd be enjoying the following:

In its latest economic outlook, published Wednesday, France's official statistics institute Insee cut its growth forecast for the first and second quarters but said the economy was still on course to expand by 1.7 percent over the full year.

The real challenge for Sarkozy, however, will be tackling unemployment, which held firm at 9.6 percent in February, according to official figures also released Wednesday.

In fact, let's review the year . Teachers, actors and research scientists all went on strike for more money. 15,000 died in a "heat wave" (sounds like something which would happen in the third world, doesn't it?).

All-in-all a banner year for the French.

The good news is that that detestable slug Dominique de Villepin is the former Foreign Minister. He's been appointed to the Interior Minister's slot after Jacques Chirac's government got its ass handed to it in regional elections - and big gains were made by the socialists. Looking at France's government and welfare system, how does one tell the difference between the socialists and the "conservatives"?

But hey, it looks like an up year. 15,000 less to drain social welfare, only 10% unemployment and a whopping 1.7% economic growth with the socialists closing in for the kill.

Sounds like a lovely place to live.

Posted by McQ at 05:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Air America Debuts

If you were unaware, and that's entirely possible, "Air America" ,the liberal talk show "network " (6 stations) debuted today. You can listen on line. I missed Frankin but am presently listening to Randi Rhodes. She's actually a talk show host out of Florida, so she seems to have an idea of how the medium works.

Its interesting to listen to a network named after the CIA "airline" in Vietnam. Rhodes has already told the audience how she's just been unlucky not to have been discovered before now. She claimed that while she was in Florida in essentially a single station market she had at least a million folks listening to her everyday on the computer.

She also predictably launched on the "right wing" media, especially as it concerns talk radio. Its not the liberals fault that they aren't heard, its because advertisers such as Boeing and Kerr McGee advertise on the radio and therefore control the content .

Commercials? One from the Tim Robbins play "Embedded" which has been savaged by critics on both side of the political spectrum. Then there was the one from Beholder.com about a movie they've made about right-wing religious fanatics.

Gotta tell you if this is an indication of their best, its gonna be a long and bumpy dive to obscurity for "Air America".

UPDATE (McQ): 4:16 - Rhodes just claimed that Bush "hid" in the classroom with the school kids on 9/11, comparing him to Saddam and his use of human shields.

Now folks ... THAT is "hate" radio.

It'll do REAL well.

UPDATE II (McQ): Tonight might be interesting from 8 to 11 as it is Janeane Garofalo timeslot.

Finally fed up with Rhodes. Its all about ancient history and disproven "facts".

That gets boring very quickly.

Oh well.

UPDATE III (McQ): Well I was wrong ... I tried, lord KNOWS I tried but listening to Garofalo tonight almost put me in a catatonic state. I'd be listening and boom it would be 5 minutes later and I'd realize I hadn't heard a thing she or whoever the guy is with her had said.

God, was I bored. I'm still going to try and catch Franken though. Like Jon said, there may be a market, but I'd suggest a name change.

"Red Meat Radio".

Seems right.

Posted by McQ at 04:09 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Sometimes it IS about Iraq

So Syria, Iraq made an impression?

THE domino effect of the removal of Saddam Hussein from the Middle East equation continues. There are now tentative signs that Syria wants to follow Iran and Libya, renounce its weapons of mass destruction and links with terrorism, and rejoin the international community.

And just as Libya used Britain as its intermediary – a development that climaxed with last week's Tripoli visit by British Prime Minister Tony Blair – Syria has been putting out feelers to Australia. During secret talks between the two nations reported exclusively in The Weekend Australian, Syria has asked us to use our good offices with Washington to sponsor its rehabilitation and help it shake off a reputation as a terror haven.

Iran and Lybia say "hi".

Posted by McQ at 03:56 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

I'm as shocked as you are

Well, the New York Times....(wait for it, there's a big surprise coming)...is misrepresenting a quote in a way that makes the Bush administration look bad.

Mr. Duelfer took over from Mr. Kay, who at the time of his resignation in January said that American officials were "almost all wrong, probably" in assessing before the war that Mr. Hussein's government possessed illicit weapons.
Quick! To the transcript, Batman!
I would also point out that many governments that chose not to support this war -- certainly, the French president, [Jacques] Chirac, as I recall in April of last year, referred to Iraq's possession of WMD.

The Germans certainly -- the intelligence service believed that there were WMD.

It turns out that we were all wrong, probably in my judgment, and that is most disturbing.

So, by "we", David Kay was referring to the international community....not merely "American officials".

Methinks Mr Okrent will be getting an email.

UPDATE: In response to my email, the New York Times issued a correction. Details here.

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

John F'Shizzle Kerry

Well, John Kerry has heard of Clinton's Sista Soulja moment...but he wants no truck with it.

Yago: ... Are there any trends out there in music, or even in popular culture in general, that have piqued your interest?

Kerry: ... I'm fascinated by rap and by hip-hop. I think there's a lot of poetry in it. There's a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it. And I think you'd better listen to it pretty carefully, 'cause it's important.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that John Kerry wouldn't know, say, DMX from a hole in the ground.

But, that bit of pandering aside, this part struck me as I watched a bit of the show last night. Follow John Kerry. If you can....

Yago: I think that a lot of people are wondering whether you would be the kind of president who is going to get involved in our entertainment. We have heard politicians before, from even the floor of the Senate, campaign against video games, movies, records. Would you do that as president?
Ooh, a direct question. John Kerry...is he for censorship or against it? Let's go to the tape....
Kerry: I think that there is a line you draw between government intervention and the right of speech and the right for people to express themselves....
Got it. He's against it.
...but do I think there are standards of decency in that? Yes, I do. Do I think that sometimes some lyrics in some songs have stepped over what I consider to be a reasonable line? Yeah, I do. I think when you start talking about killing cops or something like that, it bothers me.
Woop! He's for it. I mean, there's a line you draw, and you ONLY cross that line when....well, when it bothers him.
I understand, I'm still listening because I know that it's a reflection of the street and it's a reflection of life, and I understand all that. I'm not for the government censoring or stepping in.
Wait! The tide has turned! He's actually against censorship!

Unless, I suppose, it's censorship of speech that has "stepped over a reasonable line". Glad we got that cleared up.

And John Kerry wonders where he got a reputation for flip-flopping?

NOTE: Hey, is it just me, or is MTV's Rock the Vote not even pretending to be non-partisan anymore?

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

McNuts

Apropos to nothing, while wandering the net I came upon this concerning a boycott against McDonalds because of a firing in an Israeli McDonalds:

Martin began a boycott of McDonald's after the firm fired an Arabic-speaking employee. McDonald's Israeli management claims all McDonald's Israeli employees must speak Hebrew. Arabic is an official language of Israel. Martin helped launch a successful 2002 boycott of Microsoft after the firm placed prominent billboards in Israel supporting Israeli Defense Forces massacres. Microsoft withdrew the billboards.

Martin is in New York Tuesday and Wednesday for campaign planning, Washington, DC on Thursday and Friday, and returns to Florida Saturday. He is expected to issue a major foreign policy statement Friday criticizing the Bush Administration's policy in the Middle East.

Now that's nutty enough, but not the real "nutty" part. I mean OK another off the wall aplogist for Palestine. Not a particularly big deal. But in the second paragraph I caught the words "campaign planning" and wondered "for what?" Well at the bottom of the article, I found "what."

Andy Martin is an independent investigative author and talk show host. He has been involved in the Middle East since 1971 and is one of America's most respected foreign policy analysts. He is scheduled to return to Baghdad in May. Media contact: (866) 706-2639. Martin is expected to qualify in May as a candidate for the Republican Party nomination for U.S. Senator from Florida. In recent Florida U.S. Senate Republican primary he received 35% of the vote.

Gotta tell you, I coughed up a lung laughing. The man is a "Republican", but opposed to the war in Iraq and an outspoken critic of Israel ... in FLORIDA! Which state has one of the highest Jewish populations in America?

Oh, that and him being "one of America's most respected foreign policy analysts". Andy Who?

The final laugh came when I clicked on his name at the bottom of the article. Andy has a web site ... and he is running for Senator as a Republican ... in Illinois ... or so says his web site. But wait, Andy's website also has a Palm Beach, Fl address. And Andy has a commercial on his website that doesn't mention EITHER state.

How handy, Andy.

Yessir folks, sometimes its just fun to hit the links and find out who or what is making the world go round.

Yo, Kerry ... I've found your PERFECT running mate.

Posted by McQ at 02:02 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

MADD about you

Via a friends blog, check out this recent picture from the Richmond Times Dispatch. (sorry, no link available)

drinkup.jpg

Now, let's see if we can figure out exactly what caused this. Check the extended entry.....

And take a close look at the license plate.

drinkupcloseup.jpg

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Should we call him "Benedict Kerry?"

Per "The Hill", the usual political hypocricy is alive and well in JF'nK's campaign.

On receiving an endorsement from the AFL-CIO last month, Kerry said: “When I am president, and with your help, we’re going to repeal every benefit, every loophole, every reward that entices any Benedict Arnold company or CEO to take the money and the jobs overseas and stick the American people with the bill.”

But he's not going to do any of that yet ... especially while they're giving HIM money:

The Kerry campaign did not return phone calls seeking comment on Kerry’s investments and his receipt of funds from “Benedict Arnold” companies. But official records show the following pattern involving firms that outsource jobs:

• Citigroup executives have contributed $68,250 to Kerry’s presidential bid. There was a maximum contribution from the company’s chairman and CEO, Charles O. Prince.

• Morgan Stanley executives have contributed $38,000 to the campaign, including a maximum donation by Richard B. Fisher, chairman emeritus.

• AOL Time Warner executives donated $29,750 to Kerry, with maximum contributions from James V. Kimsey, AOL co-founder and chairman emeritus, and Kathryn Bushkin, president of the AOL Time Warner Foundation and a senior vice president of the company. AOL Time Warner ranks as the third largest donor to Kerry’s political career.

• Goldman Sachs executives have contributed $50,300 to the candidate’s presidential campaign, including a maximum contribution from Vice Chairman Robert S. Kaplan. The investment firm is Kerry’s ninth largest all-time donor base.

Likewise, Kerry’s most recent Senate financial disclosure shows that he and his wife are heavily invested in companies that outsource jobs.

...

The Washington Post reported that Kerry received significant donations and fundraising assistance from executives at companies that have reorganized in offshore tax-havens. While no physical displacements directly result from such a move, it can drastically reduce a company’s tax burden.

Executives and employees at these companies have contributed more than $140,000 to Kerry’s campaign, the paper noted. Kerry has also benefited from the fundraising prowess of two investment executives who facilitate offshore corporate reorganizations. Those individuals have raised more than $400,000 for the presidential campaign, the paper reported.

Or making him money:

Direct investments and trusts controlled by Kerry list assets of $124,026 to $636,000 in such companies. Trusts held by Teresa Heinz Kerry hold at least $8.5 million in outsourcing companies. Seven of those holdings — with AIG, Anheuser-Busch, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Pfizer and Procter & Gamble — were valued at greater than $1 million.

Only Teresa Heinz Kerry’s investments produced income last year. Dividends and capital gains from those holdings or transactions brought in between $1.07 million and $9.47 million.

By the way does it bother anyone else that JF'nK gets all upset if someone even hints at questioning his patriotism, but he doesn't give a second thought to questioning the patriotism of "Benedict Arnonld CEOs?"

Just wondering.

Posted by McQ at 12:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Quick hits

Briefly...

* I'm really enjoying the new blog aggregator Memeorandum. Very cool idea.

* Condi is going to testify. Good. This is too important NOT to be as open and forthcoming as possible. Republicans may want to withold their jubilation until after they hear the testimony, though. I don't think it's the guaranteed immolation of Richard Clarke that many people are expecting. The administrations hesitancy to let her speak publicly and under oath may not mean they have something to hide, but it probably means there's not to be gained politically.

* John Kerry certainly has been talkative about the myriad positions, er, nuances he maintains on so many issues. New slogan time? Yep.....

John Kerry: Vacillated with a phonograph needle

* Bonus points to anybody who knows where I stole that line. (note: I did change it a bit)

* Just a reminder: there's a tipjar over on the left sidebar, near the bottom. If you get the urge, if QandO has been useful to you, if you have too much money....well. Feel free to donate and help defray our costs. Send a note, too, so I can thank you.

UPDATE: Bonus points - redeemable at a store near you - awarded to Robert Tagorda, who knew the line in question was bastardized from the Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup.

For good measure, here's another amusing exchange from that wonderful movie. No comtemporary analogies are intended, though you're certainly allowed to fill in your own....

Rufus T. Firefly: Awfully decent of you to drop in today. Do you realize our army is facing disastrous defeat? What do you intend to do about it?
Chicolini: I've done it already.
Rufus T. Firefly: You've done what?
Chicolini: I've changed to the other side.
Rufus T. Firefly: So you're on the other side, eh? Well, what are you doing over here?
Chicolini: Well, the food is better over here.
The Marx Brothers made some good movies, but they never made a movie as wonderful as they were.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:32 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Doomed! Or: Our regularly scheduled quad-annual Armageddon

Good analysis of the current economic situation....

But, as occasionally happens, there was a couple of years of "irrational exuberance", and things seemed much better than they really were. We were headed for a crash, and sure enough, by 2000, we got it.

Goodbye, $120k web developer salaries. Goodbye, office shiatsu massages.

But, we'd already been conditioned to seeing that 4% unemployment rate and hefty job creation as normal.

The crash itself was the cause of a great crisis of confidence, especially among middle-class IT people. All of the sudden, there weren't high paying jobs for as long as the sun burns hot in space. And, with a glut of IT people roaming around looking for jobs, salaries for the remaining jobs weren't much to write home about. So, you get this pool of middle-class angst about jobs.

To top it off, there aren't a lot of new jobs being created yet. Partially, this is structural. After all, where are new jobs going to come from? It's not going to be from steel making or textile mills, or farm labor. It's got to come from the more high-tech sector. Aah, but we've just gone through a tech correction that eliminated a lot of tech jobs.

I've wondered about this, lately. What is the Next Big Thing going to be? In the 80s-90s, we had a tech boom...a boom that changed everything from radio's to cars to computers. Finally, by the late 90s, the job market seems to have caught up to the pace of technological change. The tech market became saturated. It's hard to see it expanding at that pace.

So, what emerging industry will drive the economy next? I really don't know.

Dale makes a good point, though, about the role of psychology in our current Chicken-Little economic spasm....

And I think the media is a factor, too. There's constant harping of how badly the economy is doing. It doesn't matter that the economy is doing quite well by any historical measure, much of the public noise is of the doom and gloom variety, and that doom and gloom is heightened because it's an election year, so the party on the outs its constantly hammering on it.

Combine that with newly self-employed people who are feeling a bit of trepidation about their job security, and it can be a potent force.

This, I think, is the driving force behind the impression many people have about our economy. It's Campaign Season, and you can't run against Bush's economic record, unless there is Economic Badness. If it's not obvious....well, you'll have to dig around for it. Put the spotlight on it. Remind people.

You know. Let everybody know the sky might really be falling! Or, er, it might just be raining...but the sky is probably falling!

The public, either doesn't know how to evaluate economic data...or simply doesn't know better. For example: awhile back, a commenter left a message here, saying (roughly) "unemployment is the worst in our nations history". A friend of mine recently said the same thing, claiming we had "record unemployment".

Now, you and I know better. The data is readily available for all to see. Under the surface, as Bill Hobbs is learning, the job market is changing, but growing. And yet, the public believes the sky is falling. Why? Maybe it's stuff like this.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:55 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Oh yeah ... this is a GREAT idea

Yup ... this would be ALL we'd need:

The United Nations wants to expand its influence over the Internet, but would it be wise to let that happen?

That question follows the conclusion of a two-day U.N. summit last week, in which delegates from sundry countries such as Cuba, Ghana, Bolivia and Venezula lectured North American, Asian and European countries about how best to run the Internet.

Great ... lessons in e-commerce and communicatin from countries still trying to keep the electricty on all day.

While nothing concrete came out of last friday's UN summit, this won't to be the last attempt at this. Declan McCullagh's article yesterday points out:

Demands for greater U.N. involvement in the Internet are not new. As far back as 1999, a U.N. agency proposed taxing all e-mail messages to pay for development aid. The United Nations hastily backed away from that proposal, however, after prominent members of the U.S. Congress correctly slammed the organization as a "bureaucracy looking to get its greedy mitts on the Internet through new taxes."

As with most power grabs, just follow the money.

Its not that the net doesn't have problems, but consigning it to a bloated and ineffective bureaucracy estranged from the US and clearly open to bribery (oil for food anyone) certainly isn't the answer.

Hat tip to LauraN for the link.


Posted by McQ at 09:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Remember the good old days when Saddam was in charge?

A friend sends a link to this Reuters story, which contains this interesting bit...

Iraq has been torn by violence and instability since a U.S.-led invasion last year toppled Saddam in the hunt for his alleged weapons of mass destruction.
Er...yeah, the violence and instability just sort of "appeared" when the US toppled Saddam. Before that, wine and roses.

For all the good it will do, allow me to rephrase that sentence:

Iraq has been torn by violence and instability for decades under Saddam Hussein with millions dead, but a U.S.-led invasion last year toppled Saddam and the violence has subsided.
You're welcome.

Of course, while I sympathize with the senior Bush, this doesn't help....

It is "deeply offensive and contemptible" to hear "elites and intellectuals on the campaign trail" dismiss progress in Iraq since last year's overthrow of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the elder Bush said in a speech to the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association annual convention.
Y'know, Mr President, if you don't like the moonbats going on about "war for oil", I don't know if that is really the appropriate venue to address the issue.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sometimes you wonder if they're worth it

In an act that can only be termed 'barbaric' Iraqi's in Fallujah show their dark side.

A crowd of cheering Iraqis dragged charred and mutilated bodies through the streets of Falluja on Wednesday after an attack on two vehicles that witnesses said killed at least three foreigners.

"Disgust" is the best term for the first thing that entered my mind upon reading the story. I've always wondered how people can show this type of barbarity to other human beings. You'd think a country that had lived under that sort of a rule for 20 years would be less inclined toward that sort of behavior ... having suffered its consequences so long.

Obviously, for some, that wasn't the lesson.

Posted by McQ at 08:46 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Playing with gasoline

Regarding John Kerry's campaign suggestion to turn the Strategic Petroleum Reserve into political pork - a shocking abdication of national security - Econopundit has salient commentary....

I guess the operative quote, from the Kerry website, is the following:
We'll stop diverting oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve until gas prices get back to normal.
We can only ask two questions: (1) what's "normal" for gas prices?, and (2) does this mean President Kerry would convert the SPR, designed for national security, into a petroleum price stabilization/control scheme?
I'll answer both questions:
1: "normal" depends on the political cycle. Will lower prices secure him more votes? Then prices are abnormally high!
2: Yes. The hell with national security.

In case you're not familiar with the economic reasons we shouldn't tap the SPR, Antler links this OpinionJournal piece...

And that brings us back to the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which was created after the Arab oil embargo in the early 1970s. The idea was to stockpile oil to cope with any future emergency shortfall in supply--not to mitigate short-term price spikes. As part of the run-up to the Iraq war, the Bush Administration decided to add to the reserves--now about 650 million barrels.

But hundreds of millions of barrels of oil is a seductive target for political manipulation, as Bill Clinton proved when he released reserves to tame gasoline prices before the 1996 election. We hope President Bush resists that temptation, because in the long term such a response would be dangerous.

If every President turned to the oil reserve when prices shoot up, companies would reduce the amount of inventory they are willing to carry and exacerbate the supply problem. In the short term, there is also no economic need to draw on the reserve. The economy is humming along and panicking would only create other dislocations. The oil reserve was not designed, nor should it be used, to relieve consumers at the pump for a few weeks.

In short, the SPR is there because of the enormous economic weapon wielded by OPEC.....without the SPR, another 1970s-style embargo by OPEC could do huge damage to the entire United States economy within weeks. Damage that would compromise our national security, as well as our economy.

But, never mind that. We can lower prices by 10 cents a gallon! Maybe! Until the market adjusts to the new Santa Claus!

And then what?

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:35 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Kyoto proto-oops

After a few years of self-righteous indignation over US refusal to sign onto Kyoto, it seems Europe is looking to climb down from that particular cross.

Then why are so many European Union leaders getting cold feet about doing something about global warming?

Because despite the change in weather patterns and Europe's green rhetoric, the EU faces a reality check on March 31, the day each member nation must submit a plan for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

The projected costs, as well as the likely loss of economic competitiveness with the United States, has the EU wondering if it can virtually go it alone in implementing the Kyoto Protocols on climate change. The protocol has yet to take effect as a binding treaty since the US and Russia won't sign on, and China and India were given a pass for now.

In Germany, the EU's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the government has been in a crisis over details of its plan. Last week at an EU summit, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder asked the body to slow down implementation but was rebuffed by France. All he won was a request for a cost-benefit study on "environmental and competitiveness considerations" in meeting Kyoto's strict targets.

No EU government had submitted a plan by last week, although seven of the 15 have drafts. Many governments are as troubled as Germany's, with the result that the European Commission sent out a warning that failure to submit a plan on time could result in legal action and fines.

Turns out, crucifixion hurts. Who knew?

Oh. Right. We did.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

String theory

Scientists have long tried to come up with a Unified Theory of Everything. Despite the best efforts of people like Albert Einstein (General Relativity) and Terry McAuliffe (Bush sucks!), they haven't really done it, yet.

In the meantime, String Theory has been percolating under the public radar. If you're into this sort of thing, you'll probably find this story very interesting.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:40 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Caption Contest

Captain's Quarters latest caption contest wrapped up last night. Winners were judged by yours truly. Not sure why, because it had nothing to do with anything, really...but the ultimate winner made me laugh out loud. Good stuff.

Results can be seen here. Check it out. Hey, if I'm involved in it, I'll probably pimp it.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thanks

QandO has had a post nominated by the Watchers Council. Cool. This calls for reciprocal linkage!

There are quite a few good posts over there. Check it out.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The 9/11 Commission on Intelligence Policy

The CIA plays a dual role in counterterrorism. Like other members of the Intelligence Community, the CIA is an intelligence producer: it collects and analyzes foreign intelligence and provides this information to policymakers. When directed by the president, the CIA is also responsible for executing policy through the conduct of covert action.
This is a part of the Commission staff’s portion which they call ‘Framing the Issue’. Above you see them defining the role of the CIA in counter terrorism. It’s a two-fold role, one, produce intelligence and two, execute policy through covert action. Nowhere does its counter terrorism role provide for “rendition”.

In case you’re wondering, “rendition” is thus defined for us by the Commission.

We will first discuss the CIA’s support with renditions. In other words, if a terrorist suspect is outside of the United States, the CIA helps to catch and send him to the United States or a third country.

In ordinary criminal cases, the foreign government makes an arrest. The Justice Department and the FBI seeks to extradite the suspect. The State Department facilitates the process.

The world of counter terrorism rarely follows these usual procedures. Overseas officials of CIA, the FBI, and the State Department may locate the person, perhaps using their own sources. If possible, they seek help from a foreign government. Though the FBI is often part of the process, the CIA is usually the major player, building and defining the relationships with the foreign government intelligence agencies and internal security services.

The CIA often plays an active role, sometimes calling upon the support of other agencies for logistical or transportation assistance.

Proper role for the CIA? Again, review its counter-terrorism functions. Rendition is a “law enforcement” function. It is not a counter-terrorism function.

So how did the CIA become a “law enforcement” agency?

Under the presidential directives in the Clinton administration, PDD-39 and PDD-62, the CIA had two main operational responsibilities for combating terrorism—rendition and disruption.

Disruption is consistent with a counter-terrorism role for the CIA. But rendition is clearly outside its charter and capabilities. It is a function for which the CIA is not designed or trained. Yet that, per the two PDDs was its job under the Clinton administration.

Treating this as a law enforcement issue had terrible drawbacks, as the CIA experienced.

In countries where the CIA did not have cooperative relationships with local security services, the rendition strategy often failed. In at least two such cases when the CIA decided to seek the assistance of the host country, the target may have been tipped off and escaped. In the case of Bin Ladin, the United States had no diplomatic or intelligence officers living and working in Afghanistan. Nor was the Taliban regime inclined to cooperate. The CIA would have to look for other ways to bring Bin Ladin to justice.

As for disruptions, the following was the charge in that regard:

Under the relevant directive of the Clinton administration, foreign terrorists who posed a credible threat to the United States were subject to “preemption and disruption” abroad, consistent with U.S. laws. The CIA had the lead. Where terrorists could not be brought to justice in the United States or a third country, the CIA could try to disrupt their operations, attacking the cells of al Qaeda operatives or affiliated groups.

It would appear all bases are covered, or at least that was the plan. And limited though it was by the focus on the law enforcement aspect of it all, there were some significant successes in the area of disruption during the Clinton years. But again ... that's a proper function of the CIA.

The prime target, however, remained Bin Laden. And getting to Bin Laden would require a different approach ... a covert approach in a hostile nation. So a plan was put together to go after Bin Laden.

In 1997 CIA headquarters authorized U.S. officials to begin developing a network of agents to gather intelligence inside Afghanistan about Bin Ladin and his organization and prepare a plan to capture him. By 1998 DCI Tenet was giving considerable personal attention to the UBL threat.

Since its inception, the UBL Station had been working on a covert action plan to capture Bin Ladin and bring him to justice. The plan had been elaborately developed by the spring of 1998.

Its final variant in this period used Afghan tribal fighters recruited by the CIA to assault a terrorist compound where Bin Ladin might be found, capture him if possible, and take him to a location where he could be picked up and transported to the United States. Though the plan had dedicated proponents in the UBL unit and was discussed for months among top policymakers, all
of CIA’s leadership, and a key official in the field, agreed that the odds of failure were too high.

They did not recommend it for approval by the White House.

Once again, those with feet of clay talked it to death, but actually did NOTHING. Another plan but no more. Because of the risk of failure, it was abandoned.

After the embassy bombings in Africa, Clinton signed a series of authorizations which gave the CIA the power to undertake offensive operations in Afghanistan against Bin Laden. To be perfectly clear, these authorizations were for COVERT operations to get Bin Laden. Well within the counter terrorism function of the CIA. Per the commission report, it was understood that people on both sides would be or could be killed in these actions.

In accordance with these authorities, the CIA developed successive covert action programs using particular indigenous groups, or proxies, who might be able to operate in different parts of Afghanistan. These proxies would also try to provide intelligence on Bin Ladin and his organization, with an eye to finding Bin Ladin and then ambushing him if the opportunity arose.

The CIA’s Afghan assets reported on about half a dozen occasions before 9/11 that they had considered attacking Bin Ladin, usually as he traveled in his convoy along the rough Afghan roads. Each time, the operation was reportedly aborted. Several times the Afghans said that Bin Ladin had taken a different route than expected. On one occasion security was said to be too tight to capture him. Another time they heard women and children’s voices from inside the convoy and abandoned the assault for fear of killing innocents, in accordance with CIA guidelines.

Once again, the same result ... a whole lot of talk, a whole lot of planning, zero action.

The next step. Change people and change strategy. Oh ... and more plans.

In the summer of 1999 new leaders arrived at the CTC [the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center] and the UBL unit. The new director of CTC was Cofer Black. He and his aides worked on a new operational strategy for going after al Qaeda. The focus was on getting better intelligence. They proposed a shift from reliance on the Afghan proxies alone to an effort to create the CIA’s own sources. They called the new strategy simply, “The Plan.”

CTC devised a program for hiring and training better officers with counterterrorism skills, recruiting more assets, and trying to penetrate al Qaeda directly. The Plan also aimed to close up gaps in intelligence collection within Afghanistan, by enhancing technical collection and recruiting forces capable of tracking and capturing Bin Ladin wherever he might travel. The Plan also proposed increasing contacts between the CIA and the Northern Alliance rebels fighting the Taliban.

The result? According to the Commission report, “the Plan resulted in increased reporting on al Qaeda.”. Regardless, there wasn’t much change.

Still, going into the year 2000, the CIA had never laid American eyes on Bin Ladin in Afghanistan.

But Mr. Clarke is now sure, had we not been distracted by Iraq, the man he hadn’t yet seen in Afghanistan (OBL) was probably there and we probably could have killed him.

Back to the history as recorded by the Commission. Clinton wanted some action, which led to the “Predator” strategy.

President Clinton prodded his advisers to do better. NSC Counterterrorism Coordinator Richard Clarke helped Assistant DCI for Collection Charles Allen and Vice Admiral Scott Fry of the Joint Staff work together on the military’s ongoing efforts to develop new collection capabilities inside Afghanistan.

With the NSC staff’s backing, the CTC and the military came up with a proposal to fly an unmanned drone called the Predator over Afghanistan to survey the territory below and relay video footage. That information, the White House hoped, could either boost U.S. knowledge of al Qaeda or be used to kill Bin Ladin with a cruise missile. The Predator had performed well in the recent Kosovo conflict, where it spotted Serb troop concentrations. The aircraft is slow and small, but it is hard to see and intercept.

Surely NOW they’d spot their elusive prey.

Well, yes and no.

Drones were flown successfully over Afghanistan 16 times in fall 2000. At least twice the Predator saw a security detail around a tall man in a white robe whom some analysts determined was probably Bin Ladin. The Predator was spotted by Taliban forces. They were unable to intercept it, but the Afghan press service publicized the discovery of a strange aircraft that it speculated might be looking for Bin Ladin. When winter weather prevented the Predator from flying during the remainder of 2000, the CTC looked forward to resuming flights in 2001.

The result? The usual zero. To this point, Richard Clarke and the Clinton administration are 0 for 8 years. In fact, Clarke is 0 for 10 years.

The USS Cole was then bombed which shifted the focus away from Afghanistan, although not al Qaeda, for a period of time. CTC then engaged in its usual “action”. It began writing ANOTHER plan.

The CTC developed an offensive initiative for Afghanistan, regardless of policy or financial constraints—it was called the “Blue Sky memo.” In December 2000, the CIA sent this to the NSC staff. The memo recommended increased support to anti-Taliban groups and to proxies who might ambush Bin Ladin.

The CTC also proposed a major effort to back Northern Alliance forces in order to stave off the Taliban army and tie down al Qaeda fighters, thereby hindering terrorist activities elsewhere. No action was taken on these ideas in the few remaining weeks of the Clinton administration. The “Blue Sky” memo itself was not apparently discussed with the incoming top Bush administration officials during the transition. The CTC began pressing these proposals after the new team took office.

Based on its past "success", "Blue Sky" seems ironic and appropriate. Of course the CTC’s recommendations were implemented by the Bush administration, but only after 9/11. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We now have the Bush administration coming into office, and per the CIA, the “Blue Sky memo”, the plan for an offensive initiative for Afganistan, had not yet been briefed to the new administration.

As a note here ... whatever role Mr. Clarke has played in all of this to this point in time has neither been impressive or successful. But moving on.

The CIA briefed President-elect George W. Bush and incoming national security officials on covert action programs in Afghanistan. Deputy DCI McLaughlin said that he walked through the elements of the al Qaeda problem with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, including an explanation of the special authorities signed by President Clinton. DCI Tenet and Deputy Director for Operations Pavitt gave an intelligence briefing to President-elect Bush, Vice President-elect Cheney, and Dr. Rice, which included the topic of al Qaeda. Pavitt recalled conveying that Bin Ladin was one of the gravest threats to the country.

President-elect Bush asked whether killing Bin Ladin would end the problem. Pavitt said he and the DCI answered that killing Bin Ladin would have an impact but not stop the threat. CIA later provided more formal assessments to the White House reiterating that conclusion. It added that the only long term way to deal with the threat was to end al Qaeda’s ability to use Afghanistan as a sanctuary for its operations.

So up to speed, the new administration takes its place. Enter the “armed Predator”.

During fall 2000, Clarke and other counterterrorism officials learned of a promising and energetic Air Force effort that was already trying to arm the Predator with missiles. Clarke and Assistant DCI Allen urged flying the reconnaissance version of the Predator in the spring, as soon as the weather improved, and using the armed Predator against Bin Ladin as soon as possible.

DCI Tenet, supported by military officers in the Joint Staff, balked at this plan. They did not want to go ahead with reconnaissance flights alone and argued for waiting until the armed version was ready before flying Predator again at all. Given the experience in the fall of 2000, they worried that flying the reconnaissance version would forfeit the element of surprise for the
armed Predator. They also feared one of these scarce aircraft might be shot down, since Taliban radar had previously tracked it, forcing it into a more vulnerable flight path. They also contended that there were not enough Predators to be able to conduct reconnaissance flights over Afghanistan and still have aircraft left over for the testing then underway in the United States to
develop the armed version.

Clarke believed that these arguments were stalling tactics by CIA’s risk-averse Directorate of Operations. He wanted the reconnaissance flights to begin on their own both for collection and to allow for possible strikes with other military forces. He thought the reconnaissance flights could be conducted with fewer aircraft than had been used in 2000, so that testing on the armed version might continue.

DCI Tenet’s position prevailed. The reconnaissance flights were deferred while work continued on the armed version.

Here we see a first indication of Clarke’s impatience.

Frankly, based on their previous experience with the Predator in Taliban controlled Afghanistan, I would agree with those who wanted to shelve the recon flights and only go with the armed flight, thereby preserving the element of surprise and increasing the chances of success. Clarke saw that strategy as a manifestation of “risk-aversion”. While there were many decisions in this litany of failure that seem to be based in ‘risk-aversion’, this doesn’t appear to be one of them.

What follows is important because it demonstrates something which Clarke contends wasn’t present in the Bush administration when it came to dealing with Bin Ladin and al Queda.

Urgency.

The armed Predator was being readied at an accelerated pace during 2001. The Air Force officials who managed the program told us that the policy arguments, including quarrels about who would pay for the aircraft, had no effect on their timetable for operations. The timetable was instead driven by a variety of technical issues. A program that would ordinarily have taken years was, they said, finished in months; they were “throwing out the books on the normal acquisition process just to press on and get it done.”

In July, Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley ordered that the armed Predator be ready by September 1. CIA officials supported these accelerated efforts. The Air Force program manager told us that they were still
resolving technical issues as of 9/11, and “we just took what we had and deployed it.”

Years of program time were compressed into months ... an all out effort to get an armed Predator up and after Bin Laden. However, for some reason, Clarke insists the sense of urgency necessary to chase him down was missing. If this program is any indication, Clark’s just flat wrong.

Meanwhile, the new Bush administration was engaged in its own round of policy planning.

And properly so.

In March 2001, National Security Adviser Rice tasked DCI Tenet to draw up a new document on covert action authorities for Afghanistan that would consolidate existing authorities and add new, broader ones. DCI Tenet presented these draft documents to Deputy National Security Adviser Hadley later that month, but observed that ordinarily policy should be developed first and then the authorities should be devised to implement the policy, rather than doing it the other way around. Hadley agreed and, with Rice’s evident approval, the draft authorities were put aside until the new administration had finished determining what its new policies would be for al Qaeda, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

This policy review apparently began in March and continued throughout the spring and summer of 2001. At the end of May, National Security Adviser Rice met with DCI Tenet and their counterterrorism experts. She asked about “taking the offensive” against al Qaeda, and asked Clark and the CTC chief Cofer Black to develop a full range of options. A plan for a larger covert action effort was a major component of the new al Qaeda strategy, codified in a draft presidential directive that was first circulated in early June. The emerging covert action plan built upon ideas the CIA and Clarke had been working on since December 2000. A notable change was that Rice and Hadley wanted to place less emphasis on the Northern Alliance, and more on anti-Taliban Pashtuns. Clarke was impatient to get at least some money to the Northern Alliance right away in order to keep them in the fight.

A couple of things to note here. One ... in March of 2001, 2 months after taking office, you have the NSA asking for new policies to be devised for addressing al Qaeda, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since these things don’t happen overnight one can’t complain that the new administration didn’t get immediately down to work ... well Clarke can, but take it with a grain of salt.

Two ... Clarke is pushing the Northern Alliance option. Why? Because he wants to bring pressure on the Taliban. One problem. As their name suggest, they’re in the NORTH. The Pushtuns, however, are in the south. Who else is in the south? Bin Laden. Rice’s interest in the Pushtuns is logical. Pressure the Taliban AND al Qaeda with a southern threat vs. a northern threat which only threatens the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the Intelligence Community began to receive its greatest volume of threat reporting since the Millennium plot. By late July, there were indications of multiple, possibly catastrophic, terrorist attacks being planned against American interests overseas. The CTC identified 30 possible overseas targets and launched disruption operations around the world.

Note this one carefully. The CTC, in late July of 2001 has identified 30 possible targets, ALL of them overseas. There is nothing noted in the report of any targets identified by the CIA in the US. This corroborates Rice’s claim that no threat was apparent against the US proper.

Meanwhile, the team that had taken 8 years to plan, plan and replan, but never take a single action was growing impatient with the “pace” of the new administration as concerns counter terrorism.

Some CIA officials expressed frustration about the pace of policymaking during the stressful summer of 2001. Although Tenet said he thought the policy machinery was working in what he called a rather orderly fashion, Deputy DCI McLaughlin told us he felt a great tension— especially in June and July 2001—between the new administration’s need to understand these issues and his sense that this was a matter of great urgency.

Officials, including McLaughlin, were also frustrated when some policymakers, who had not lived through such threat surges before, questioned the validity of the intelligence or wondered if it was disinformation, though they were persuaded once they probed it. Two veteran CTC officers who were deeply involved in UBL issues were so worried about an impending disaster that one of them told us that they considered resigning and going public with their concerns. DCI Tenet, who was briefing the President and his top advisers daily, told us that his sense was that officials at the White House had grasped the sense of urgency he was communicating to them.

This portion is extremely interesting to me. In March, a request for new plans and strategies is out there from the NSA. In July, 4 MONTHS later, these “veterans” who’ve been chasing their tails for 8 to 10 YEARS are suddenly “frustrated”?

This just doesn’t add up, folks.

Also this is a group, that has 30 possible overseas targets that we now know were COMPLETELY WRONG, are upset when the “validity of the intelligence’ available is questioned?

Truly amazing.

The remainder of this portion of the report consists of discussions of whether OBL should be killed or captured, the problem with using proxies.

In its conclusion, one line stood out. The CIA recognized it couldn’t do it alone. But it was a point of which they were never able to convince the Clinton administration and hadn't yet gotten the Bush administration on board with the idea.

If the U.S. government was serious about eliminating the al Qaeda threat, it required robust, offensive engagement across the entire U.S. government.

In other words, the full might of the US had to be focused on terrorism and it had to focus in areas it wasn’t presently looking.

That would obviously mean broadening the scope of counter terrorism from the law enforcement policy of the Clinton administration to the present war footing we have under the Bush administration. We don't know if that shift would have been made under the Bush administration without 9/11. But its a safe guess that had counter terrorism been pursued in that way under Clinton one would have to suggest that the possibility of averting 9/ll existed.

But of course we’ll never know that, will we?


Posted by McQ at 12:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2004

More baby bombers

The Palestinian extremists just keep on impressing the world with how well they love their childern. This, btw, is a different kid from the 16 year old recently caught with a bomb belt on.

Islamic militants tried to recruit a 15-year-old as a suicide bomber, at one point locking him in a dark room, but also luring him with clothes, a cell phone and promises of paradise, his family said Tuesday.
Posted by McQ at 03:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The commission's report on the use of the military prior to 9/11

As has been mentioned any number of times here (ad nauseum), the previous administration dealt with terrorism under the auspices of it being a “law enforcement” problem. That leaves one to wonder how the military was configured for the threat during the ‘90s.

Again, from the 9/11 Commission interim report:

After the 1996 attack on an Air Force residential complex in Saudi Arabia, Khobar Towers, the Department of Defense and the military gave particular attention to defending against attack. In their lexicon, “anti-terrorism” means defensive force protection. “Counter-terrorism” refers to offensive operations. After Khobar Towers, anti-terrorism had the priority claim on attention and resources.

Under the directive on counterterrorism policy issued by President Clinton in May 1998, Presidential Decision Directive 62, there were ten program areas. The only one that highlighted a DOD role was the tenth, on the protection of Americans overseas. The directive stated that the Defense Department, through the unified regional commanders, was responsible for the protection of U.S. forces stationed abroad. The Joint Chiefs of Staff also established a special office dedicated to what DOD officials describe as a decades-old, high-priority mission to protect U.S. troops from unconventional attack.

In other words, defensive use only. No real change from its “decades-old” mission of protecting troops from unconventional attack”. Also known as an ‘anti-terroism’ role or mission. Absolutely nothing in the PDD for an offensive or “counter-terrorism” mission. Again, remember, this is mid 1998.

The only way the military was used then was logistically:

Abroad, the role of the military was to provide support for law enforcement, such as military transport for terrorist renditions, or support for other agencies as they responded to a terrorist attack. The undersecretary of defense for policy at the time, Walter Slocombe, told us that it would have been extraordinary to assign the military a leading role in counter-terrorism efforts abroad since military force was not the primary counter-terrorism instrument.

Once again, one of the most potent instruments in the field of counter-terrorism is relegated to the role of supplying transport and other support to civilian law enforcement agencies.

After the embassy bombings in August of 1998, the military option (or at least considering the military as a part of the equation to fight terror) was considered. Per the commission report, the Clinton administration received intelligence that Bin Ladin may be in his training camps in Afghanistan, and based on that intelligence, Operation Infinite Reach was conceived.

He and his advisers agreed on a set of targets in Afghanistan. His advisers recommended that the U.S. government should strike whether or not there was firm evidence that the terrorist commanders were at these facilities. Secretary Cohen told us it was also important to send a signal that the United States was coming and was not going to tolerate terrorist activity against America.

This brought us the infamous “bombing of an aspirin factory” in Sudan and the relatively empty al Quada training camps in Afghanistan. As we know now, very little, in terms of deterrence or disruption was accomplished. Also note the advise from Clarke and others recommending strikes "whether or not" the evidence was firm that terrorist commanders were in the facilities.

Now, extend that logic to WMDs and their possible threat.

Meanwhile, Richard Clarke is in the middle of putting together his own plan:

A few days later the NSC staff’s national coordinator for counterterrorism, Richard Clarke, informed other senior officials that President Clinton was inclined to launch further strikes sooner rather than later.

On August 27 Undersecretary Slocombe advised Secretary Cohen that the available targets were not promising. There was, he said, also an issue of strategy, the need to think of the effort as a long-term campaign. The experience of last week, he wrote, “has only confirmed the importance of defining a clearly articulated rationale for military action” that was effective as well as justified.

Active consideration of follow-on strikes continued into September. In this context Clarke prepared a paper for a political-military plan he alled “Delenda,” from the Latin “to destroy.” Its military component envisioned an ongoing campaign of regular, small strikes, occurring from time to time whenever target information was ripe, in order to underscore the message of a concerted, systematic, and determined effort to dismantle the infrastructure of the Bin Ladin terrorist network. Clarke recognized that individual targets might not have much value. But, he wrote to Berger, we will never again be able to target a leadership conference of terrorists, and that should not be the standard.
Principals repeatedly considered Clarke’s proposed strategy, but none of them agreed with it.

Note two things in this passage.

1. In their war against terror, the Clinton administration had not yet defined “a clearly articulated rationale for military action”. In their book, blowing up things American did not justify, in and of itself, the use of the military (except, of course, lobbing a few missiles here and there). At this point, for all effects and purposes, the military was still not a part of the picture as pertains to a war on terrorism.

2. Clarke’s plan and its rejection simply emphasizes the avoidance of using the military by the administration. It was rejected primarily because their focus on the “law enforcement” aspect of the issue made them uncomfortable with anything which didn’t conform neatly with that focus.

Obviously the use of the military didn’t neatly fit their concept of this fight.

Meanwhile, over at the Department of Defense, the military see’s a growing threat which, in their opinion, isn’t being properly addressed.

Unaware of Clarke’s plan, they developed an elaborate proposal for a “more aggressive counterterrorism posture.” The paper urged Defense to “champion a national effort to take up the gauntlet that international terrorists have thrown at our feet.” Although the terrorist threat had grown, the authors warned that “we have not fundamentally altered our philosophy or our approach.” If there were new “horrific attacks,” they wrote that then “we will have no choice nor, unfortunately, will we have a plan.”

They outlined an eight-part strategy “to be more proactive and aggressive.” The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, Allen Holmes, brought the paper to Undersecretary Slocombe’s chief deputy, Jan Lodal. The paper did not go further. Its lead author recalls being told by Holmes that Lodal thought it was too aggressive. Holmes cannot recall what was said, and Lodal cannot remember the episode or the paper at all.

Two things to take out of this.

1. Obviously the man charged with the coordination of the counter-terrorism effort, Richard Clarke, had not coordinated his plan for the use of the military WITH the military, since they developed a plan unaware of his. This doesn’t speak well for the organizational or coordination skills of Clarke.

2. The chance to use the military in a counter-terrorism role was rejected twice by the Clinton administration. Once when it rejected Clarke’s plan and once when it rejected the DoD plan.

Clarke and Sandy Berger told the 9-11 Commission that Clinton was interested in “additional military options, including the possible use of ground forces” under the Operation Infinite Resolve umbrella. Taking him at his word, the military produced plans to do so.

In December 1998 General Shelton ordered planning for the use of Special Operations Forces to capture UBL network leaders and transport them away from Kandahar. A second order issued on the following day examined the possible interception of aircraft. Plans refined throughout 1999 added successive options within the Infinite Resolve plan, including the possible use of strike aircraft, as well as Special Operations Forces. The targets included not only terrorist training camps, but also many other targets associated with Bin Laden and the known infrastructure of his organization.

So at the end of 1998, we FINALLY have the military at least being considered in a counter-terrorism role, with plans refined through 1999. But of course, the Clinton administration found reasons NOT to implement them, and they primarily centered on the inability of the intelligence apparatus of the US to provide “actionable intelligence” or intelligence which was reasonably certain to be correct (and thereby provide SUCCESS if the military option were properly executed). This would have made high-risk military operations at least worth the risk.

Again this goes back to the sorry state our intelligence capability was in at that time.

This then made the “cruise missile” option the default military option. As the report points out, it was a “problematic” way to conduct counter-terrorism.

Tomahawk cruise missiles had to be launched after the vessels carrying them moved into position. Once these vessels were in position, there was still an interval as decision makers authorized the strike, the missiles were prepared for firing, and they flew to their targets. Officials worried that Bin Laden might move during these hours from the place of his last sighting, even if that information had been current.

In other words, given the time interval from the reception of intelligence that OBL was sited to the launching of the missile would require too much time to be sure of getting him. Since the release of cruise missiles was retained by the President, they had to find OBL, get the info to the President, get a decision from him (while moving launch assets into position and programming the missiles), relay the fire order (and hope the assets were in position when the order was given).

All in all an unwieldy and ineffective way to do business, as we found out.

The Commission report then lists a number of times when Bin Ladin was supposedly sited, but for one reason or another, action was not taken. They were Kandahar in 1998, his desert camp in 1999 and Kandahar later in 1999. In each case there was some overriding concern which scrubbed the mission.

It was after this and with the millennium approaching that the military was told to focus in another area.

In late 1999, the military engaged in substantial preparations in anticipation of possible terrorist attacks around the Millennium. The Joint Chiefs of Staff developed a plan to react as rapidly as possible to an al Qaeda strike anywhere in the world. The Pentagon was also prepared to provide assistance within the United States to other federal agencies in response to an act or threatened act of terrorism.

Plans were put together to address the possibility of al Qaeda strikes. But in early 2000, the USS Cole was struck. Again the military was relegated to a merely ancillary role.

The FBI, the CIA, and the Yemeni government all launched investigations to determine who had attacked the Cole. DOD’s role was primarily the provision of aircraft for the interagency emergency response team kept on standby for such occasions.

The Cole drove nothing more than another round of military planning. But there was no real response. Berger says that while fingers quickly pointed to al Queda, there was no hard intelligence from either the CIA or FBI confirming al Qaeda’s role.

Documents show that, in late 2000, the President’s advisers received a cautious presentation of the evidence showing that individuals linked to al Qaeda had carried out or supported the attack, but that the evidence could not establish that Bin Ladin himself had ordered the attack. DOD prepared plans to strike al Qaeda camps and Taliban targets with cruise missiles in casepolicymakers decided to respond.

Essentially the same analysis of al Qaeda’s responsibility for the attack on the U.S.S. Cole was delivered to the highest officials of the new administration five days after it took office. The same day, Clarke advised National Security Adviser Rice that the government “should take advantage of the policy that ‘we will respond at a time, place and manner of our own choosing’ and not be forced into knee-jerk responses.”

Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told us that “tit-for-tat” military options were so inadequate that they might have emboldened al Qaeda. He said the Bush administration’s response to the Cole would be a new, more aggressive strategy against al Qaeda.

.

This is an interesting bit of the report.

Clarke presents the same evidence to the Bush administration as that presented to the Clinton administration, which the Clinton administration rejected as inadequate to justify military action. Yet 5 days after the incoming administration is in office, Clarke feels it to be appropriate to conduct military strikes in Afghanistan against al Qaeda.

Does that pass the sanity check? Your administration hasn’t even warmed its seats adequately or gotten over the inauguration ball hangover and your being advised strike militarily at another country?

Then, of course, there’s the aspect of politics which plays into this:

The confirmation of the Pentagon’s new leadership was a lengthy process. Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz was not confirmed until March 2001, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith did not take office until July 2001.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions here, but suffice it to say, it might have helped (we don’t really know) if the confirmation process had been speeded up a bit.

Meanwhile, the new administration begins to settle in and formulate its own strategy for addressing the terrorism problem.

As recounted in the previous staff statement, the Bush administration’s NSC staff was drafting a new counterterrorism strategy in the spring and summer of 2001. National Security Adviser Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Hadley told us that they wanted more muscular options.

In June 2001 Hadley circulated a draft presidential directive on policy toward al Qaeda. The draft came to include a section that called for development of a new set of contingency military plans against both al Qaeda and the Taliban regime. Hadley told us that he contacted Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz to advise him that the Pentagon would soon need to start preparing fresh plans in response to this forthcoming presidential direction.

Note again that Wolfowitz was confirmed 6 months before 9/11. Also note that it makes absolute sense for a new administration to sit down, assess the threat situation and formulate an integrated plan of their own. And that is precisely what they were engaged in prior to 9/11.

Conclusion: There wasn’t much more that could have been done that wasn’t being done by the incoming Bush administration, but it appears there may have been much more the Clinton administration might have done if it hadn’t insisted on treating the issue as a law enforcement issue.

Posted by McQ at 03:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Bush's decisive action spared US a worse 9/11

Per Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al Quada's reported operation's chief, captured last year in Pakistan, 9/11 was planned to be much worse than it was. But, per Mohammed, decisive action in the wake of 9/11 foiled the expanded plot.

[Mohammed] told U.S. interrogators that the group had been planning attacks on the Library Tower in Los Angeles and the Sears Tower in Chicago on the heels of the September 11, 2001, terror strikes.

Those plans were aborted mainly because of the decisive U.S. response to the New York and Washington attacks, which disrupted the terrorist organization's plans so thoroughly that it could not proceed, according to transcripts of his conversations with interrogators.

America's immediate response, to include immediately grounding all flights, saved many lives per Muhammed.

"The original plan was for a two-pronged attack with five targets on the East Coast of America and five on the West Coast," he told interrogators, according to the transcript.

"We talked about hitting California as it was America's richest state, and [al Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden had talked about economic targets."

He is reported to have said that bin Laden, who like Mohammed had studied engineering, vetoed simultaneous coast-to-coast attacks, arguing that "it would be too difficult to synchronize."

Mohammed then decided to conduct two waves of attacks, hitting the East Coast first and following up with a second series of attacks.

"Osama had said the second wave should focus on the West Coast," he reportedly said.

But the terrorists seem to have been surprised by the strength of the American reaction to the September 11 attacks.

"Afterwards, we never got time to catch our breath, we were immediately on the run," Mohammed is quoted as saying.

Al Qaeda's communications network was severely disrupted, he said. Operatives could no longer use satellite phones and had to rely on couriers, although they continued to use Internet chat rooms.

"Before September 11, we could dispatch operatives with the expectation of follow-up contact, but after October 7 [when U.S. bombing started in Afghanistan], that changed 180 degrees. There was no longer a war room ... and operatives had more autonomy."

Keep in mind that the transcript from which this is taken prefaces them with "has been known to withhold information or deliberately mislead."

On the other hand:

The new transcripts confirm an earlier report by the Associated Press that al Qaeda originally had planned to crash hijacked airliners into targets on both coasts.


Posted by McQ at 12:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rice to testify in public under oath

The Washington Post is reporting the following. Don't have a link (email news flash) but can't find it on AP yet.

White House will let Condoleezza Rice testify in public under oath in Sept. 11 commission hearing, an administration official said.
Posted by McQ at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Diplomacy and law enforecment v. terrorism and state sponsorship

A little background that seems to be absent in many media reports when looking at the events leading up to 9/11. Again this is found in the 9-11 Commission’s interim report. This is important when we continue to hear how the previous administration gave countering terrorism such a high priority.

After suffering some disruption from his relocation to Afghanistan, Usama Bin Ladin and his colleagues rebuilt. In August 1996 he issued a public declaration of jihad against American troops in Saudi Arabia. In February 1998 this was expanded into a public call for any Muslim to kill any American, military or civilian, anywhere in the world.

As pointed out in another post, Bin Ladin and al Qaeda aren’t linked by the Clinton administration until 1997. That’s after his “relocation” to Afganistan. However, Bin Laden has been under scrutiny since before 1996.

During 1997 working-level State officials asked for permission to visit and investigate militant camps in Afghanistan. The Taliban stalled, then refused. In November 1997 Secretary Albright described Taliban human rights violations and treatment of women as “despicable.” A Taliban delegation visited Washington in December. U.S. officials pressed them on the treatment of women, negotiating an end to the civil war, and narcotics trafficking. Bin Ladin was barely mentioned.

Women and drugs take the top spot ... terrorism? Barely mentioned. At this time (Dec., 1997) Bin Ladin and al Qaeda have been identified as a “worldwide terrorist organization” by the Clinton administration (early 1997). Yet when our first contact with the Taliban regime then ruling Afganistan is made, Bin Laden is barely mentioned. How’s THAT for making terrorism “the highest priority?”

UN Ambassador Bill Richardson led a delegation to South Asia—and Afghanistan—in April 1998. No U.S. official of this rank had been to Kabul in decades. Ambassador Richardson used the opening to support UN negotiations on the civil war. In light of Bin Ladin’s new public fatwa against Americans in February, Ambassador Richardson asked the Taliban to turn Bin Ladin over to the United States. They answered that they did not control Bin Ladin and that, in any case, he was not a threat to the United States.
The results of the “law enforcement” approach to terrorism used by the Clinton administration is to meekly bow out when refused Bin Ladin. This, of course is after he’s been linked to actions against the US. Its also after he’s issued his “kill all Americans” fatwa. .
After months of heated internal debate about whether the step would burn remaining bridges to the Taliban, President Clinton issued an executive order in July 1999 effectively declaring that the regime was a state sponsor of terrorism. UN economic and travel sanctions were added in October 1999 in UN Security Council Resolution 1267. None of this had any visible effect on Mullah Omar, an illiterate leader who was unconcerned about commerce with the outside world. Omar had no diplomatic contact with the West, since he refused to meet with non-Muslims. The United States also learned that at the end of 1999 the Taliban Council of Ministers had unanimously reaffirmed that they would stick by Bin Ladin. Relations between Bin Ladin and the Taliban leadership were sometimes tense, but the foundation was solid. Omar executed some subordinates who clashed with his pro-Bin Ladin line.

Here’s the result of the “UN solution”. Pass resolutions and expect a regime who’s knowingly supporting terrorists to give them credence. No visible effect. So what’s the answer?

Do it again!

By the end of 2000 the United States, working with Russia, won UN support for still broader sanctions in UN Security Council Resolution 1333, including an embargo on arms sales to the Taliban. Again these had no visible effect. This may have been because the sanctions did not stop the flow of Pakistani military assistance to the Taliban. In April 2001 State Department officials in the Bush administration concluded that the Pakistani government was just not concerned about complying with sanctions against the Taliban.

Reflecting on the lack of progress with the Taliban, Secretary Albright told us that “we had to do something.” “In the end,” she said, “it didn’t work. But we did in fact try to use all the tools we had.”

Of course, hindsight being 20/20, we now know that’s not true. We also know that about that time she wanted to give the Taliban a 'second chance'.

What was used were diplomacy and “law enforcement”. What the Clinton administration eschewed was the military and preemption (sorry folks, lobbing a few cruise missles doesn't fill the bill). Had they used the latter, no one can say for sure whether 9/11 would have been prevented or whether we'd have gotten Bin Laden. But by not using them, we can indeed point to the fact that 9/11 was NOT prevented and we MISSED a chance (another chance) to get Bin Laden.

To say they tried to use “all the tools” is just flat not true. They used all the tools they allowed themselves ... and were totally ineffective.

Posted by McQ at 11:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Excerpts from the 9-11 Interim Report

While perusing the 9-11 commission interim report, I came across this ... emphasis is mine:

By early 1997 intelligence and law enforcement officials in the U.S. government had finally received reliable information disclosing the existence of al Qaeda as a worldwide terrorist organization. That information elaborated a command-and-control structure headed by Bin Ladin and various lieutenants, described a network of training camps to process recruits, discussed efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and placed al Qaeda at the center among other groups affiliated with them in its “Islamic Army.”

This information also dramatically modified the picture of inchoate “new terrorism” presented in the 1995 National Intelligence Estimate. But the new picture was not widely known. It took still more time before officials outside the circle of terrorism specialists, or in foreign governments, fully comprehended that the enemy was much larger than an individual criminal, more than just one man, “UBL,” and “his associates.”

For example, in 1996 Congress passed a law that authorized the Secretary of State to designate foreign terrorist organizations that threaten the national security of the United States—a designation that triggers economic, immigration, and criminal consequences.

Al Qaeda was not designated by the Secretary of State until the fall of 1999.

So al Qaeda was finally, officially identified as a terrorist organization which was a threat to the US in 1997. One assumes Richard Clarke was in on this.

You'd guess then, based on Clarke's testimony that terrorism was the Clinton administrations highest priority that they immediately took action to eliminate the threat or at least neutralize it.

Yet it was not until 2+ years later that al Qaeda was actually designated as such by the Clinton administration.

So it took Clarke and the Clintion administration 4 years to identify al Qaeda, and once identified, almost 3 more years to get the organization designated as one which threatened the national security of the US? Even after they identified al Qaeda as implicit in the Khobar Towers and Embassy bombings?

Why? No answer's been given for that question.

Yet Clarke continues to claim that somehow the new Bush administration should have recognized in 7 months what it took him and the Clinton administration 7 years to put together.

They took 7 years to tie OBL to the organization al Quada. 7 years. If this doesn't speak VOLUMES concerning the price we paid for gutting our intelligence capability during the Clintion years, I don't know what does. And let us not forget, Kerry wanted to cut it back even further.

Remember as well, this is the SAME intelligence apparatus the Bush administration inherited from Clinton. Remember too that the Bush administration, per Clarke, immediately increased the budget 5 fold in an effort to "eliminate" al Qaeda.

But that's not the real kicker. We now have a terrorist organization which has been designated as a threat to the NATIONAL SECURITY of the US, and the Clinton administration does what about it? It does this:

While Afghanistan became a sanctuary for al Qaeda, the State Department’s interest in Afghanistan remained limited. Initially after the Taliban’s rise, some State diplomats were, as one official said to us, willing to “give the Taliban a chance” because it might be able to bring stability to Afghanistan. A secondary consideration was that stability would allow an oil pipeline to be built through the country, a project to be managed by the Union Oil Company of California, or UNOCAL.

Translation? So the guy who blew up Khobar Towers, the USS Cole and the two African Embassies is in Afganistan along with the bulk of his terror organization and we know it, but the extremist authoritarian Islamic regime presently in Afganistan (i.e. the Taliban) "might be able to bring stability to Afganistan" so we'll essentially ignore it. And besides, there's a chance we might benefit from an oil pipeline if we give them a "second chance".

Amazing. That's the CLINTON administration (namely Albright) giving OBL a pass ... not Bush. Its Albright's department wanting to give the Taliban, and thereby al Qaeda, a "second chance".

And they did ...

We call it "9/11".

Posted by McQ at 10:12 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Riding the Bubble

The House Joint Economic Committee has released an interesting report (pdf) I'll give you the short introduction: the 1990s boom was worldwide, and many countries experienced the same stock bubble - and bubble-burst - experienced in the US. As a result, our recoveries can be compared.....

Despite a stock market crash, economic slowdown and recession, terrorist attacks, wars, and other adverse shocks, the United States has outperformed, on balance, the other major developed economies in three key
measures – real GDP growth, industrial production, and the decline in its unemployment rate after it had peaked – in recent years. The United States has had the largest cumulative increase in its real GDP after its downturn had ended.

Although unemployment rates have increased in all major developed economies, the United States has had the largest post-peak decline in its unemployment rate of 0.8 percentage points. The most recent U.S. unemployment rate of 5.6 percent is significantly below the most recent unemployment rates of 8.0 percent in the European Union or 7.4 percent in Canada. Moreover, the average duration of unemployment is much
shorter for jobless workers in the United States than in either the European Union or Japan.

So, we've outperformed everybody. Funny, I keep hearing that the current economic policy "isn't working, and Bush and Cheney are practically the only ones who continue to defend their failed economic policies".

Not working.....compared to who?

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fill 'er Up

John Kerry has the answer to higher gas prices ... or so he claims.

If elected, Kerry also would seek to enact a national fuel strategy aimed at reducing price disparities across the country, the aides said.

In other words ... price controls or a similar mechanism which will inhibit the market from working.

Real good thinking there, JF'nK.

Kerry's campaign aides said the Democratic candidate wants the United States to pressure the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to increase production and apply diplomatic pressure to the member nations to reduce prices.

Increase production and decrease pricing? That's likely. And anyway, OPEC has difficulty following its own production guidelines. It rarely finds all its members willing to go along with the cuts OPEC tries to mandate. This is hardly the problem Kerry would like to make it.

Oil analysts including Jay Saunders at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York said OPEC may proceed with quota cuts, then ignore the accord. OPEC, source of a third of the world's oil, last met its production target in January 2001.

``They will probably say that they will adhere to the April 1 cuts and continue with this charade,'' Saunders said. ``The meeting is designed to show that they are still in control of the market.''

In fact, due to several factors, oil prices rallied last year leading to a rise in crude price.

Prices in London are up 18 percent in the past year, and oil in New York set a 13-year high earlier this month.

If the prices stay at this level, areas deemed to expensive too open may be opened, thereby putting more oil on the market and eventually reducing the price of crude.

Why the high prices? A couple of reasons.

The rally over the past year came partly as Iraqi production, plagued by sabotage in the months following the U.S.-led invasion last March, lagged expectations. Higher prices also followed stronger-than-expected world demand, led by economic growth in China.

However, Kerry and the boys claim the price of gasoline is being driven higher because the government is replenishing the strategic reserve depleted under the Clinton administration.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, at a Senate hearing in Washington last week, disputed claims by several Democratic senators that the diversion of 150,000 barrels of oil a day into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve has added to economic pressures that are causing crude and gasoline costs to increase.

While some economists have cited such a link, others conclude that the amount of oil being taken off the market "is fairly negligible" in a global oil market of 86 million barrels a day, Abraham said.

I'd have to agree with Abraham here. 150,000 bbl a day is a negligible amount in an 86 million bbl a day market, and would have a very limited effect, if any, on the price of gasoline.

The last Kerry claim is these are the highest gas prices we've ever had.

Uh, no they're not ... they're not even close. When you look at the price in constant dollars with inflation factored in, we've paid much higher prices than an average of $1.80 a gallon. In fact we've paid $1.10 more a gallon higher than that in constant dollars.

Current gasoline prices are at record levels in constant dollars, but not when inflation is taken into account. Using today's dollar, motorists paid the equivalent of $2.90 a gallon in March 1981, the government has said.

If you know the date you know the circumstances ... the end of the Carter administration and record inflation. 'Nuff said.


UPDATE - (JON): Hey, remember how John Kerry used to criticize Bush for sending kids to die for access to oil back in the day? Funny, now he's accusing Bush of not getting access to ENOUGH oil.

Har.

UPDATE: Parked at the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Posted by McQ at 09:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Curious

Reader Daniel draws my attention to this odd bit from a WaPo story. Regarding Clarke's criticism of the Iraq war, saying "the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism" by invading Iraq.

He said that Arabic-speaking Special Forces officers and CIA officers who were doing a good job tracking Osama bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri and other al Qaeda leaders were pulled out of Afghanistan in March 2002 to begin preparing for Iraq.[emphasis added]
Now, here's some interesting data. According to the CIA World Factbook, Arabic is not a language commonly spoken in Afghanistan.

Arabic is the prominent language in Iraq.

Am I missing something here? Because it seems like Clarke is making a complaint essentially analogous to complaining that we pulled German-speaking troops out of Japan to fight in, you know, Germany.....

UPDATE: A reader comments:

Perhaps the point he was trying to make is that while Arabic is not a common language ordinarily in Afghanistan, it is a common language of the Arab terrorists that have moved to Afghanistan.
Perhaps. That is a possibility, though the Spec-ops generally specialize at working with indigenous populations. Still, it is one possibility.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:33 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

War: keep doing it till you get it right

The US Military is never satisfied. Good.....

Before the first shot was fired in the Iraq war, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff commissioned a study of how coalition forces conducted the war....
....
Was the military, in its own eyes at least, prepared to fight the Iraq war?

Yes and no, according to the first comprehensive Pentagon assessment of the invasion of Iraq, "Lessons Learned,"....

A few of the conclusions:

- …not enough properly trained units were available in the early weeks of the operation to take over sites where weapons of mass destruction were suspected, even though much of the war plan was predicated on the idea that Iraq might retaliate with unconventional weapons.

- … the successful US-led invasion proved the effectiveness of smaller, high-tech units deployed quickly over large expanses - the prime thrust of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's efforts to 'transform' the military.

- … Operation Iraqi Freedom could be a poor model for future fights. Iraq had 30 percent of the ground forces and 25 percent of the aircraft that it had in 1991, along with 60 percent of the air defenses. US Central Command had more than a decade of "corporate memory" of Iraqi miltary capability to prepare for the onslaught.

The story also reports this....

Some officers and military analysts, says the Tribune, point out that the Pentagon is "eager to emphasize what went right in Iraq and is overlooking deadly shortcomings."

To only look at what worked would exacerbate the mistake of fighting the last war. One example is the early decision to dissolve Saddam Hussein's military instead of redirecting it. In hindsight, this appears to have been a major mistake.

I'll concede, I thought dissolving the Iraqi military was a good idea, too, at the time. I thought leaving them organized might result in more-organized resistance...mini-warlords, in uniforms.

It seems I was mistaken. Retaining the Iraqi army may not have been a perfect solution, but it may well have been a quick force-multiplier, allowing us to occupy and secure more ground, more quickly.

The general gist of the report seems to be: High scores for winning the war, lower scores for translating that victory into post-war security.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

On WW2 analogies

This recent line from Richard Clarke bugs me to no end....

"Invading Iraq after 9/11 is like invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor"
It's pretty clear Richard Clarke simply doesn't grasp the concept of fighting an assymetrical War on Terror. For that matter, he doesn't seem to understand WW2, either.

To clarify it for him, Invading Iraq after 9/11 is like.....

- invading Guadalcanal (August 1942) after Pearl Harbor.
- invading Algeria and Morocco (November 1942) after Pearl Harbor.
- invading Sicily (July 1943) after Pearl Harbor.
- invading Italy (September 1943) after Pearl Harbor.


"Oh", you might say, "but those were all places that supported our enemies; many of our enemies were in those countries! They were a part of the war against Germany and Japan!"

Yes.......they were, weren't they.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2004

Blogiversary

It's Dale Franks second blogiversary. Congratulations!

I've said this before, but we have new readers, so it bears repeating: It was Dale's blog that first got me into the blogosphere. From there, I found more good blogs, but The Review has always been at the top of my list. In terms of educational value, humor and insight, it is - and I don't say this lightly - the best blog going.

Bar none.

It was Dale's commentary - on-blog and off - on economics that motivated me to learn more about the topic. It was his blog that motivated me to begin blogging. Frankly, as a result of these new interests I've acquired over the past couple years, even my goals in life have dramatically changed.

All that, starting with a little blog.

So, go read it. Every day. Bookmark it. Blogroll it.
...and tell him "Happy Blogiversary".

UPDATE: I'm bumping this to the top, because it's important to me.

UPDATE II: Cool. A couple readers have drawn my attention to this Cox and Forkum cartoon, which was "inspired by a comment by Instapundit reader Jon Henke".

CharacterSuicide-X.gif

I suppose it's also worth pointing out that I blogged that comment here, first. Apparently, Instapundit still gets more eyeballs. My plan to rule the world is lagging behind.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

40 acres and a mule ...

Meanwhile, from the "something for nothing" crowd, we have this ...

Descendants of black American slaves said Monday they planned to sue London's oldest insurance firm, Lloyds, for compensation for allegedly underwriting the ships used in the slave trade.

Their lawyer, Ed Fagan, said Lloyds played a significant part in the human trade and insisted black American slave descendants had as much right to damages as any other people subjected to genocide.

"Lloyds knew that what they were doing led to the destruction of the indigenous population," Fagan, who is well-known for his role is fighting claims for victims of the Holocaust, told BBC radio.

Of course the only people who'll see anything out of this will be the lawyers.

Wonder if the Jews are going to sue Egypt for slavery under the Pharaohs, or maybe decendents of europeans sold into slavery will sue muslim slave traders for the slave trade during the Crusades? How about the "Gauls" suing Rome for old Julius Ceasar selling hundreds of thousands of them into slavery?

In a phrase ... GET OVER IT! Reparations aren't going to happen ... no matter how long you whine and hold your breath. Just about all of us have had descendents who suffered horrors on some front. That doesn't entitle us to exploit their misery NOW.

Oh, and read Thomas Sowell's recent column called "Rattling the Chains". It might help.

Posted by McQ at 06:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I still don't get it ...

Rich Lowrey helps Clarke outline the "Bush Doctrine".

Lowry points out that in Clarke's testimony:

1. Clarke agrees with the assessment of the Bush team that his proposals for action in Afghanistan — aiding the Northern Alliance, flying the Predator, etc. — would not have prevented 9/11.

2. Clarke agrees with the argument — made repeatedly by conservatives over the years — that the CIA had been beaten into a defensive crouch by its critics.

3. Clarke seems to agree with a point often made by Clinton critics: that it was foolish in the 1990s to make the FBI the lead agency in the fight against terrorism since, as an after-the-fact domestic law enforcement agency, it was manifestly not up to the task.

4. Clarke emphasizes the need for preemption.

5. Clarke apparently sees the need for more domestic surveillance in the U.S., advocating doing the Patriot Act one better and creating a domestic intelligence agency.

6. Clarke apparently agrees that law enforcement is an inappropriate paradigm for fighting.

7. Clarke defends the idea of acting even when the intelligence is uncertain, especially when WMDs are potentially involved.

Ah ... so tell me again how the Clinton administration was so much better focused on terrorism than the Bush administration?

From what I see, Clinton et. al., per the darling of the left Clarke, got it all wrong.

But yet he thinks they were better at it?

Maybe someday the fog will lift and I'll "get this" as Richard Clarke wants me to get it. Until then I've got to believe the boy's on a vendetta (oh, and book tour).

Posted by McQ at 05:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hello, Mr. Arafat, your seat in hell is ready ...

Like this should be a surprise:

Israeli intelligence claims it has detailed evidence proving that Yasser Arafat's West Bank compound is a refuge for some of the most-wanted Palestinian terror suspects and a nerve center for "martyr" attacks.

According to senior officials, a growing band of men wanted on suspicion of planning suicide bombings and killing settlers is being sheltered in the compound, known as the Mukata.

As I've said for years, the main roadblock to peace in the Middle East is named Yasser Arafat. He's the only constant on both sides in the decades long peace attempts and they've all failed.

That's why the Nobel committee gave this boob the Nobel Peace Prize, one supposes.

Posted by McQ at 05:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Democracy for Dummies

For all you "democracy" lovers out there ... here's what James Madison was concerned about when he essentially said the last thing we wanted here is 'democracy'.

Out in California, they've discovered they can just go directly to the ballot box to take your money now.

Dismissing concerns that it might be bad policy to budget at the ballot box, activists are promoting at least three proposed tax increases that appear headed for the electorate:

• A tax on millionaires to pay for expanded mental health services.

• A hike in corporate property taxes to hire more teachers, pay them more and establish universal free preschool.

• A surcharge on telephone bills to support emergency room services.

Welcome to hell.

The first initiative will simply have millionaires relocate while the second will drive what remaining corporations there are in California out. The third hasn't a chance since everyone has a cell phone and thinks their bill is too high anyway.

But you get the point. Get enough to form a majority and you can take any damn thing you want ... LEGALLY!

Uh, you notice I didn't get anywhere near "morally". Sometimes legal and moral just don't link up.

Posted by McQ at 04:57 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bush's economic polices ... miserable failure

Wonder what we'll find on the Kerry smoke and mirrors blog about this news.

In an optimistic outlook, the 56 economists also predict businesses and consumers will continue to spend more as the unemployment rate falls. Inflation will stay low, they say, letting the Federal Reserve keep interest rates at historic lows a bit longer.

Well, whatever it is, it will somehow be combined with the words "miserable failure" ... you can count on it.

"I consider it a booming economy," says Timothy Rogers, chief economist at Boston-based Briefing.com, a site that provides data and analysis for investors.

Rogers and other economists are most heartened by the big pickup in business spending. Businesses sent the economy into a recession as they cut spending starting in late 2000. After picking up last year, business investment is expected to increase by double digits each quarter through 2004.

"Business looks really very, very good," Decision Economics President Allen Sinai says, noting that corporate profits are rising rapidly. That means firms can spend on new technology and other improvements.

Hmm ... what a 'miserable failure' business investment is ... only double digit increases. Not to mention the miseable failure looming in corporate profits. Why its so bad they may begin HIRING people.

They also may finally spend on hiring. In the survey conducted March 19-24, 31% of the economists said they expect hiring to begin in earnest in the second quarter. More than half expected considerable gains in the second half.

Economists say the economy is improving quickly enough that businesses will no longer be able to meet demand with their existing workforces.

Terrible, just terrible. And other depressing news from the 'miserable failure' of the Bush economics policies include an annualized growth in the US GDP of 4.2%.

STOP already. I just can't take anymore bad economic news. We've GOT to get this Bush guy out of there.

Posted by McQ at 04:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hey Clarke, apologize for THIS!

Apparently Richard Clarke's so-called apology wasn't enough to buy off all the 9/11 families.

A group of New York families of 9/11 victims came out swinging against Richard Clarke yesterday, accusing the former White House anti-terror chief of cashing in on the tragedy with his explosive book.

In a scathing open letter, the furious families also ripped Clarke for releasing the controversial tome to coincide with his appearance before the 9/11 commission on Wednesday.

Glad to see this. No one with an intellect will ever see it any other way than blatant exploitation.

"We find Mr. Clarke's actions all the more offensive especially considering the fact that there was always a high possibility that the 9/11 commission could be used for political gain . . . with the presidential election less than eight months away," they wrote.

"Surely, Mr. Clarke knew this. Yet, he decided to risk the actual and perceived impartiality of this important process to maximize book sales," they added.

"We believe it inappropriate for [him] to profit from and politicize 9/11 and further divide America by his testimony before the 9/11 commission."

About all I can add is "me too."

Retired FDNY firefighter Jim Boyle, who lent his name to the letter, ripped into Clarke, who served as a counterterrorism adviser to the past four presidents.

"Richard Clarke is doing all of this to sell his book," said Boyle, whose Bravest son, Michael Boyle, died in the WTC. "What he's doing isn't right. He's trying to make money off our pain. This was all orchestrated to benefit him," Boyle told The Post.

Retired FDNY Capt. John Vigiano Sr. said he's "incensed" with Clarke.

"He's all about promoting his book, plain and simple," said Vigiano Sr., whose sons John, a firefighter, and Joseph, a police officer, died in the WTC attacks.

"It's all about greed. He shouldn't be doing this. He's showing a lack of loyalty to the president. It's awful."

The blistering letter, signed by more than 36 people who lost loved ones in the WTC, came a day after the Senate's top Republican, Bill Frist, accused Clark of an "appalling act of profiteering."

SAY IT, brother, SAY IT! And thank you for saying it.

Meanwhile in the all important world of politics.

a Newsweek poll released yesterday found that 65 percent of Americans say Clarke's testimony hasn't affected their opinion of the president.

Fifty percent of those polled said they believe Clarke is motivated by personal and political reasons.

I'm not sure about either number, frankly, but if true they renew my faith in the average American. Americans may have been born at night, but it wasn't LAST night.

Posted by McQ at 04:32 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Al Queda Intel Chief Dead

Pakistan reported today...

WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani troops killed a spy chief in Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network in a 12-day sweep on the desolate Afghan frontier, an army official said Monday, vowing to step up the hunt for Islamic militants.

...

He said troops had killed 63 militants, including an al Qaeda intelligence chief whom he identified only as "Mr. Abdullah." He would not provide further details such as the man's nationality, full name or how and when he was killed.

So much for the Iraq distraction. Hmmm ... wonder if this is already in Clarke's book. No, I forgot, he only has perfect 20/20 hindsight.

Posted by McQ at 04:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'm tellin' ya, Iraq was a distraction that did no good in the war on terror

Well, well, well ...

Iran announced Monday it had stopped building centrifuges for uranium enrichment, a bid to allay suspicions about its nuclear intentions as U.N. inspectors visit the country.

One has to ask, "have they done this out of the goodness of their heart? Or is it because there's an 800 pound gorilla in the next country over watching their every move?"

I dunno, let's ask Lybia.

Posted by McQ at 04:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Great Iraq Soldier's Blog

For those so inclined a young army officer, Jason Van Steenwyk, has begun putting his journal entries from his time in Iraq (as XO of Headquarters company, 1st Bn, 124th Infantry Regiment).

His first entry is today. Might give us all an insight as to "ground truth" about some things we've heard. It'll also give you an idea of what our troops face on a daily basis and how, for the most part, they figure out how to handle it.

Hat tip to LauraN.

Posted by McQ at 04:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

3/11 might have been prevented

How do you say "if they had just ...." in Spanish?

Spanish police were agonisingly close to foiling the Madrid train bombings, it was disclosed yesterday.

A car carrying the explosives used in the March 11 massacre was stopped by police but its Arab driver was fined only for a minor traffic offence, it was reported.

The boot of the Volkswagen was packed with 220 lb of industrial dynamite being transported to Madrid after it had been stolen from a coal mine at Aviles in northern Spain during the last week of February, the El Pais newspaper said.

Its a pity the explosives weren't discovered, but it points out the extreme vulnerability of free societies when it comes to terrorists and terrorism.

Posted by McQ at 03:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

As the Global Economy turns ...

Actually, for the US this would be "insourcing".

International Business Machines, the US computing and information technology services group, yesterday won a 10-year outsourcing contract worth up to $750m -- from an Indian company.

The decision by Bharti Tele-Ventures, India's largest private telecommunications company, to outsource its IT requirements to IBM could help quell the political outcry over the transfer of US jobs to low-cost economies.

Any bets as to when we'll hear the Kerry campaign mention this (or is IBM a "Benedict Arnold" company?)

Posted by McQ at 02:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Now this is ridiculous...

Here in the sunny south, namely Atlanta, GA, the pollen count for the day is over 5000 ... the 2nd highest count on record.

I feel like I have sandpaper in my throat.

Come on RAIN! (We're supposed to finally get some tonight. Naturally it won't be a gentle spring shower but supposedly an inch and a half to two inches ... great .... pollen and floods ... welcome to Georgia).

Posted by McQ at 02:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Concessions in the Holy Land

In an interview with the top Roman Catholic clergyman in the Holy Land, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Sabbah said the following:

Sabbah said he was shocked by Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin last week. The best way to make the radical Islamic group give up violence, he said, is for Israel to offer concessions in peace talks with the Palestinians and remove the group's "pretext or reasons for violence."

Someone should remind Patriarch Sabbah that the only concession that will satisfy the Palestinans and their leadership is the destruction of Israel.

How does Israel "concede" that?

If the Palestinians truly want peace, THEIR radical islamic groups should renounce violence. That is the sort of concession which will actually put the onus on Israel to settle the problem once and for all. At this point, their continued violence only detracts from taking any Palestinian initiative (or complaint against Israel) seriously.

Posted by McQ at 10:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Russia is NOT our friend ... part 2

We had a reader comment that Russia really was our friend when I posted something similar a while back. Sorry, I don't agree. And I'll continue to point out why right here.

Russia has designed a "revolutionary" weapon that would make the prospective U.S. missile defense useless, Russian news agencies reported Monday, quoting a senior Defense Ministry official.

The obvious question is why would a "friendly" country work so hard to defeat the defensive weaponry of a "friend?" Especially when the country developing the missile defense system has said it will make it available to all?

While Putin said the development of such new weapons wasn't aimed against the United States, most observers viewed the move as Moscow's retaliation to the U.S. missile defense plans.

In a word ... nonsense. Who else is developing a missile defense which requires defeating?

Russia still remains deeply suspicious of the US as well as being unwilling to fully accept its decline from super power status. Relations have soured and we're seeing creeping authoritarianism under Putin's rule. While it may never again be 'communist', it doesn't have to be communist to be authoritarian and hostile.

Despite opening up quite a bit, Russia is STILL not our friend. While it may someday happen, its not a fact right now ... and we need to realize that and take the appropriate steps defensively and politically.

Posted by McQ at 09:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bombs in Uzbekistan

Extremist violence continues to spread

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- Two suicide bombings, attacks on police and an explosion at an alleged terrorist bomb-making factory in Uzbekistan killed 19 people and injured 26, the Central Asian country's prosecutor-general said Monday.

Prosecutor-general Rashid Kadyrov said the events began Sunday night with an explosion that killed 10 people at a house being used by an extremist in the central province of Bukhara. [Ah ... now THAT's a GOOD thing - ed.]

There were also two attacks on police Sunday night and early Monday, killing three policemen, and two attempted suicide bombings near the Chorzu bazaar in Tashkent's Old City, killing three policemen and a young child, he said.

Of course AP somehow forgets to mention to us that Uzbekistan is 88% muslim (primariliy Sunni).

Gee, wonder who the extremists are?

Posted by McQ at 09:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How to make a Spanish omlette

Under the heading of "Honest, we're serious about the war on terror".

Spain's incoming government, under pressure over its plans to withdraw its troops from Iraq, has agreed to double the country's contingent in Afghanistan to 250 soldiers this summer, an aide to the future defense minister said Monday.

As everyone knows, the number of Spanish soldiers is insignificant in both Afganistan and Iraq. This is all about symbolism. This is a bit of a "symbolic" backtrack for Spain and in some ways a bit of a nod to the US for the incoming Spanish government's hostility toward the US and its policy in Iraq.

Seems the cold hand of politcal reality may have begun to slap the Spanish Socialists in the face a bit.

Posted by McQ at 09:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Angling for the Jesus vote

Proof positive: politicians shouldn't do theology. Quoth John Kerry...

"The Scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" Kerry said. "When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?"
Of course, he doesn't seem to notice that the passage refers to individual action -not government action. John Kerry - and this is a big problem with people on both sides of the aisle - simply cannot understand the distinction drawn between what is "good for an individual to do" and what is "good for the government to do".

If John is unclear on this point, I'd remind him that the Bible also says ""Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages" - So, I suppose John Kerry will stop advocating the welfare state?

I mean, he doesn't have "faith, but no deeds", does he? John Venlet has another good suggestion for the recently pious John Kerry...

C’mon John, be a leader who practices “deeds” and “works.” Sign over a two or three of those fine properties you and Teresa own to those poor unfortunate folk you were preaching to "who live in neighborhoods like theirs." I bet you could almost attain sainthood.
But let's not pretend that John Kerry is the only one doing this...
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry's comment "was beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack."
Uh huh. Yeah, Bush would NEVER exploit scripture to advance his policies....
The choice here is stark and simple, the Bible says, ``I have set before you life and death, therefore choose life.'' The time has arrived for everyone in this conflict to choose peace and hope and life.
Yeah, Bush would NEVER use the Bible to justify social welfare programs...
We have the ability to confront this suffering. And we accept the duty, a old as the Scriptures, to comfort the afflicted and to feed the hungry.
I don't know which offends me more. John Kerry's gross misuse of the Bible, or Bush's hypocritical feigned offense.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:14 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Of Tax Cuts and Jobs

Naturally as I was putting this together I glanced at QandO and noticed Jon had already done so (the guy is QUICK). Be that as it may, I want to approach it from a slightly different angle.

Jon and I have been covering the so-called "jobless recovery" on and off here. As noted, because of productivity gains, jobs have been lost (per Business Week, 1.3 million for each 1% rise in productivity).

Enter Prof. Theodore Seto of Loyola University, who writes in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the productivity rises have been encouraged by tax cuts of the Bush Administration. Why? Because they encourage the purchase of machinery v. hiring workers.

Almost any business task can be performed using more labor and less capital or less labor and more capital. We learn in Econ 101 that if government doesn't intervene, business will choose the most efficient alternative. But what if government intervenes? What if it puts its heavy tax thumb on the "more machines, fewer workers" side of the scale?

Answer: Instead of using two workers and one machine to do a given job, business will use two machines and one worker.

This has several consequences. First, it artificially boosts productivity numbers. Productivity is simply output per employed worker. In our scenario, we've just induced business to replace workers with machines, so productivity has to go up, by definition.

Most immediately relevant, we get a jobless recovery.

OK. No real argument here. Other than to say his equation (one worker, two machines, etc.) is simplistic and unrealistic, the basic premise holds. Oh, and the fact that those machines replacing workers don't appear out of thin air ... someone, with a job, has to make them. But, ever onward.

Seto discusses Council of Economic Advisers, Gregory Mankiw's comment that the movement of American jobs to other countries was a good thing. As Seto says, "indeed, back in Econ 101 we learn that free trade and the law of comparative advantage support Mankiw's views."

But:

But here again, our chief economist appears to be ignorant of basic U.S. tax law. When a U.S. corporation manufactures in the United States, its income is subject to U.S. tax at a nominal rate of 35 percent. If the same corporation moves those jobs to some other country, it can normally structure the deal to reduce its U.S. taxes to zero. That's right, zero.

What this means is that the standard economists' assumption, "all else being equal," is simply not true. Current U.S. tax rules create a strong artificial incentive to move business offshore. Until recently, the one big disadvantage of doing so was that it was then hard to bring the resulting profits back to the United States. The most recent Bush tax act helped solve this problem by cutting U.S. taxes on the repatriation of offshore profits. In other words, the most recent Bush tax act made these artificial incentives to move business offshore even stronger.

Again, I can't argue the premise. Its correct. Businesses are in business to make and keep as much profit as possible. Based on prevailing laws (to include tax laws) they'll structure themselves to take full advantage of those laws.

However did anyone catch what Professor Seto missed? How would one make "all else being equal" relevant in the above scenario?

By cutting the nominal corporate tax rate to zero. Its a farce anyway as we all know that corporations collect taxes, they don't pay them. But collecting them and reporting them costs corporations money ... lots of money. Eliminating them would remove one of the the incentives to move business offshore.

Kerry is talking about that as part of his jobs package. But, of course, being a Democrat he can only stomach a 5% cut. Sorry Mr. Kerry ... no way does that provide enough incentive to bring those corporations back to face a nominal 33.25% tax rate.

He is also unrealistically optimistic that such a cut would somehow produce 10 million jobs. That's primarily campaign smoke. It'll take much more than a 5% corporate tax cut to "create" that many jobs. And on the other side of this, Kerry is proposing a tax increase on the wealthiest of Americans, those who are part of the job creation mechanism.

What Kerry seems to miss is if corporations are fleeing high tax rates and finding off shore ways to keep their profits, what does he suppose the wealthiest will do?

Anyway, back to Seto. He concludes:

I draw two morals from this story. First, our current unemployment problem has probably resulted, in significant part, from the structure of recent tax cuts for big business.

Second, until tax experts are included more regularly in economic analysis and debate, economists are likely to continue missing the boat in ways that can and should be avoided.

Addressing number one, we don't HAVE an "unemployment problem". Unemployment is at 5.6%. Folks, that's LOW. Find any economist worth his salt and he or she will tell you that the natural turbulence of the market will cause there to be about 5% unemployment at all times ... so 5% is the benchmark ... the percentage considered to be "full employment".

So what's another way of saying what Seto is saying? That Bush's tax cuts have increased our productivity (a winner for the consumer and the producer) while only nominally effecting employment.

As to his second point ... ok, no argument. However, I'd advise Prof. Seto to take a little of his own advise when looking at this argument, and perhaps have a tax expert examine ALL the ramifications, not just those that appear negative for the present tax policy.


Posted by McQ at 08:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Kerry's tax plan

I've checked out the recently released Kerry tax cut proposal, and I have to say....eh. I'm neither impressed, nor disheartened. Which, I suppose, is a net positive thing, considering the source of the plan.

Yes, the bar is set low for Senator Kerry.

John Kerry, promising to create 10 million jobs and keep them in America, said Friday he would cut corporate taxes by 5 percent and eliminate tax loopholes that push jobs overseas.
...
Kerry would require companies to pay taxes on their international income as they earn it rather than being allow to defer it. The new system would apply to profits earned in future years only, not retroactively.

He also would allow companies to defer taxes when they located a business in a foreign country that serves that nation's markets. A U.S. company seeking the tax break could open a car factory in India to sell cars in India, for example, but could not relocate abroad to sell cars back to the United States or Canada.

Kerry's campaign estimates that the change would save $12 billion a year. The savings would be used to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 33.25 percent - a 5 percent reduction.

First things first: "promising to create 10 million jobs" is typical politician-speak for "the President doesn't really affect job-creation very much, but you don't know that!". Moreover, as Steve Antler has shown, promising your tax policy will create 10 million new jobs in the boom part of the economic cycle - which we are entering - is like promising your Special Gravity Rocks will make somebody fall towards the earth if they jump out of an airplane.

Ok, with that out of the way, what about his specific tax cut - which is, really, more of a structural tax shift.

Well, on one hand, kudos to John Kerry for not simply proposing we raise corporate taxes, AND eliminate tax loopholes. He could have taken advantage of the public economic illiteracy by claiming he would only raise taxes on those &@%$ Corporate Fat Cats - conveniently leaving out the fact that corporations simply pass on those higher costs to the consumers in the form of higher prices, lower quality, or less supply. So, good for John Kerry, I suppose. His tax proposal is not entirely business un-friendly.

Daniel Drezner echoes this point, writing....

...I'm underwhelmed -- but oddly encouraged.

Why? This is much less populist than I had feared based on Kerry's rhetoric during the primary season.

That, of course, is not to say that it's entirely business friendly. For starters, as Drezner points out, tax implications are a very small consideration when businesses make outsourcing decisions. So, it's unlikely this plan will have a dramatic effect on the US job market.

That does not, of course, make it a bad idea.

More disturbing is the apparent Kerry lack of concern - or even ackowledgement - for the reasons we currently DO have this tax loophole. It's not simply there to make tax accountants lives more difficult, as the Washington Post points out....

U.S. firms do indeed get tax breaks when they invest abroad. But there is a reason for this. European firms get an even bigger break; so if a French company and a U.S. company are going head to head in India or Russia, the French one has a tax advantage. Tax policy therefore has to choose between two legitimate objectives. It can aim to level the playing field between European and U.S. firms in other countries by maintaining tax breaks for U.S. companies' offshore investments. Or it can aim to level the playing field between American companies' operations in the United States and their foreign operations by canceling those tax breaks.
Essentially, the effect of Kerry's tax cut will be to give European corporations a leg up on US corporations. Huzzah! For them, anyway.

And Kerry wonders why people think he's so "French".

Of course, there will still be some domestic economic benefit - though perhaps not a net benefit - to the closure of that loophole, and there will definitely be a benefit from the lowering of the corporate tax rate from 35 to 33.25.

So, while his plan isn't really the salvation he promises, it's not entirely bad, either. Faint praise, I know, but I believe in giving a bare minimum of credit where a bare minimum of credit is deserved.

(Hat tip to Pejman, who still thinks Kerry is engaging in far too much populism)

Note: See BusinessWeek for more good commentary on this tax plan.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 28, 2004

One more time ... it ISN'T about Iraq

More violence attributed to muslim extemists in Thailand which has a large muslim population in the south of the country.

The government said Sunday violence in Thailand's Muslim-dominated south was at a "crucial stage" and pledged tougher measures, after a bombing in the region injured 29 people, including 10 Malaysian tourists.

Apparently the terrorists fled into neighboring Malaysia. This particular attack also injured some Malaysians. It also appears to be a change in tactics for the terrorists.

"They've changed their target from attacking symbols of the government and state to attacking the people, which means the government will have to implement stricter measures in taking care of this matter," he added, without elaborating.

Thailand was not a member of the "coalition of the willing". Hello, Europe ... are you paying attention?

Posted by McQ at 08:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Then there's Afghanistan

President Hamid Karzai postponed Afghanistan's first post-Taliban national elections by three months Sunday, heeding U.N. warnings that neither security nor logistics were in place for a quicker vote.

Probably a smart move. Of the 10.5 million potential eligable voters, only 1.6 million have been registered, almost all of which are in urban centers. No question any sort of election held there now would be labeled a farce (and rightfully so).

Posted by McQ at 08:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Its perplexing

Presidential advisor Karen Hughes said today:

"I have always been perplexed by those who questioned Saddam Hussein's ties to terror," she wrote. "He paid the families of suicide bombers, thus encouraging young people to kill themselves and others and fostering terror and continued hatred in the Middle East."

Frankly it's preplexed me as well Karen. Its like the entire focus was on WMDs, or at least the entire focus of those opposed to the war. They seem to have missed this part of the run up to the invasion of Iraq. You know ... the war on states supporting terrorists?

That would be Saddam's Iraq. Iraq supported TERRORISM. That's why Saddam is today in prison and facing the prospect of being defended by a French lawyer.

Who says you can't have hell on earth.


Posted by McQ at 08:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Meanwhile 5 years later in UN administered Kosovo...

Though the top U.N. official here, Harri Holkeri, has said efforts to rebuild a multiethnic society are not over, interviews with U.N. officials, diplomats and other officials speaking on condition of anonymity show a mission in uproar, shocked at the strength of extremist elements of the ethnic Albanian population.

Apparently the UN is surprised. Based on their present success in Kosovo, by all means, let's get them involved in Iraq.

Posted by McQ at 08:16 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Not too long for this world

For some reason, I'm getting the feeling this guy may not be with us too much longer.

The new leader of the militant group Hamas on Sunday called President Bush the enemy of Islam and said that "God declared war" against Bush, the United States and Israel.

Of course this is a AP story.

The United States lists Hamas as a terrorist organization. The militant group has carried out many of the suicide bombings that have killed more than 450 people in the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

One wonders what it takes for AP to "list" a group like Hamas as a terrorist organization? Obviously more than strapping bombs on 14 year olds with a promise of 72 virgins when the kill themselves and a few Israelis.

Interestingly enough, Hamas hasn't yet declared for Kerry.

Posted by McQ at 08:18 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Mel Gibson is huge in the Middle East

Sigh....

A top Shiite cleric on Saturday urged Kuwait to let Mel Gibson's controversial film ``The Passion of the Christ,'' be shown in this conservative Muslim state because it ``reveals crimes committed by Jews against Christ.''
For the life of me, I just don't get anti-semites. Guys, you know the hero of the movie is a Jew, right? You would, essentially, be getting all upset about the murder of a Jew.

I mean, I'm all for a sudden change of heart like that, but I don't think you guys have suddenly been overcome by sympathy for Jesus.

One more thing: the Arab world advocates, even does, far worse things to Jews on a fairly regular basis. Why is it that a movie about a Jewish guy getting killed sends you into fits of anti-semitism - but, for example, a busload of Jewish children getting killed sends you into a fit of....well, anti-semitism.

Or is that a stupid question?

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A cable modem in every pot

Oh sweet merciful crap.....

President Bush on Friday proposed 2007 as the goal for universal availability of high-speed Internet access to keep America competitive and innovative.
...
"We ought to have universal, affordable access to broadband technology by the year 2007," Bush said. "And then we ought to make sure as soon as possible thereafter consumers have plenty of choices."
Were I a member of the loony left, I'd say something snarky about Bush wanting to make sure he and John Ashcroft could spy on everybody at high speed.

Since I'm not, I'll just point out that, while the names may change, government has changed very little in the past dozen or so centuries. "Broadband" is the new "bread".

And "circuses"? Well, there's always the NEA. Or the federal budget.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:20 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 27, 2004

Uh ... what freakin' country is it we live in?

Your government bureaucracy at work:

WEST BRANCH, Iowa - Yellow ribbons tied around utility poles to welcome soldiers home from Iraq were removed by the National Park Service, which says they are a political statement.

About a dozen ribbons were posted along a park service-owned street that runs through the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, where his presidential library, birthplace and grave site are all located.

Any guess on what Herbert Hoover's thoughts would probably be if he could stop spinning in his grave long enough?

Posted by McQ at 09:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Attacking the immune system

One of my favorite blogs is Samizdata a collection of British libertarians who run a very smartly written blog.

While wandering through there tonight, I stumbled across Brian Micklethwait's discussion of a chapter in Richard Pipes book "Communism". It features a paragraph from the Pipes book from a chapter entitled "Third World" which addresses poverty and communism.

Conventional wisdom holds that poverty breeds Communism. Reality is different: poor countries do not opt for Communism. Nowhere in the world has a poor majority, or any majority for that matter, voted the Communists into power. Rather, poor countries are less able to resist Communist takeovers because they lack the institutions that in richer, more advanced societies thwart aspiring radical dictators. It is the absence of institutions making for affluence, especially the rights of property and the rule of law, that keeps countries poor and, at the same time, makes them vulnerable to dictatorships, whether of the left or right variety. In the words of a student of the Cambodian Communist regime, the most extreme on record, 'the absence of effective intermediary structures between the people and their successive leaders predisposed the society to the unrestrained exercise of power.' Thus, the same factors that keep countries poor – above all, lawlessness – facilitate Communist takeovers.

Now ... substitute Wahabbism for Communism. OK ... now read further down Samizdata and you'll find this entry, also by Brian Micklethwait. The quote is from a BBC report on the Archbishop of Canterbury and his remarks concerning Islam.

"One of the things that underlines his concern is the growth of Wahhabism – a very radical part of Islam – which is becoming quite dominant in the developing world," he told Radio 4's Today programme.

Whabbism ... communism. We all know "developing world" is PC for "poor". Different authoritarian ideolgies pointed at the same sort of countries ... the "Third World". Why? An immune deficiency problem ... no democratic institutions to ward off an attack.

Just what Samizdat pointed out about communism, you are now seeing with Wahabbism ... another "disease" attacking those countries with no working immune system.

Which is why what's going on in Iraq and Afganistan are so damned important to the future of the Middle East and the world.

Posted by McQ at 09:07 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Oh TOO good

I wonder if Saddam knows how to say "I'm screwed" in French.

French Lawyer Says He Will Defend Saddam

Heh ... I LOVE irony but this is all most TOO good to be true.

Posted by McQ at 08:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lord ... I AM getting old.

Yeah, I know ... probably half of you have never heard of these guys or their songs. But I remember 'em well.

Jan Berry, a member of the duo Jan & Dean that had the 1960s surf-music hits "Deadman's Curve" and "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena," has died. He was 62.

The street was deserted late Friday night
We were buggin' each other while we sat at the light
We both popped our clutch when that light turned green
You shoulda heard the whine from my screamin' machine
I flew past LaBrea, Schwab's and Crescent Heights.
And all the Jag could see were my six tail lights.
He passed me at Doheny and I started to swerve
But I pulled her out and there we were at Dead Man's Curve

Dead Man's Curve is no place to play
Dead Man's Curve, you'd best keep away.
Dead Man's Curve, I can hear them say:
Won't come back from Dead Man's Curve.

We'll the last thing I remember, Doc, I started to swerve
And then I saw the Jag slide into the curve
I know I'll never forget that terrible sight
I found out for myself that everyone right.

RIP Jan Berry ...

Posted by McQ at 08:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hey Justice Department ... get a LIFE!

Stuff like this just irks the crap out of me.

The federal government has filed a lawsuit against an airplane collector demanding the return of the wreckage of a World War II Corsair fighter that the Navy abandoned after it crashed in a North Carolina swamp in 1944. Historical airplane enthusiasts say the plane Lex Cralley dug out of the swamp near the North Carolina coast is the only one of its kind known to still exist.

Cralley, an airplane mechanic with a passion for preserving World War II aviation history, salvaged the pieces of the single-engine plane in 1990, registered it as a "non-airworthy model" with the Federal Aviation Administration and began the painstaking work of restoration, which remains far from completion.

If it is so damned important to the government why didn't IT dig the damn plane out of the swamp then, instead of abandoning it?

Posted by McQ at 08:22 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The world continues to get smaller

In other news ...

The unpiloted X-43A made a 10-second powered flight, then went through some twists and turns during a six-minute glide before plunging into the Pacific Ocean about 400 miles off the California coast.

NASA built the X-43A under a $250 million program to develop and test an exotic type of engine called a supersonic-combustion ramjet, or scramjet.

In theory, the air-breathing engine could propel an airplane to speeds of Mach 7 or faster, enabling around-the-world flights that would take several hours. The Department of Defense also is working on the technology, which it's eyeing for use in bombers that quickly could reach targets anywhere on the globe.

Oh good ... heh ... that ought to make the rest of the world feel better.

Posted by McQ at 08:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Over there

Captain Ed is having a caption contest, and yours truly (uh, that means me) will be helping to judge it. Go over there, think of something clever, write it down.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Michael Moore

Michael Moore is all atwitter with glee at the testimony of Richard Clarke, writing...

Richard Clarke KOs the Bushies and dazzles the 9/11 commission. Will the 9/11 commission find truth and accountability.
...
Clarke has disrobed the emperor.
...
To some 9/11 families, Clarke is a hero.
Well, alright! Huzzah for Clarke, the only honest one of the bunch! Richard Clarke, the guy who can knock Bush off his perch! Clarke, the hero! Clarke, the guy who authorized the Saudi families to be rounded up to leave the country immediately after 9/11....about which Michael Moore wrote....
So, with the approval of the FBI and the help of the Saudi government -- and even though fifteen of the nineteen hijackers had been Saudi citizens -- the relatives of the number-one suspect in the terror attacks were allowed not only to just up and leave the country, but they were assisted by our own authorities!
...
I scrambled to find a rental car, and then drove 3,000 miles to get back home -- all because traveling by air was forbidden in the days following the attack. Yet private jets under the supervision of the Saudi government -- and with Bush's approval -- were allowed to fly around the skies of America and pick up twenty-four members of the bin Laden family and take them to Europe, out of the reach of any U.S. officials.
So, uh, I guess Michael Moore isn't so upset about that whole Saudi thing anymore. "Richard Clarke is critical of the President! He's on our team again!"

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 26, 2004

I need an intervention

Oh my god. I think I'm a.....(gulp)....I'm a blogger. Somebody help me, before it's too late.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:27 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Facts? What facts!?

Yeah, I'm hammering on it again, but dammit, this is just incredible.

Per a Bob Herbert op/ed piece in the NTY today:

Richard Clarke has been consistently right on the facts, and the White House and its apologists consistently wrong. Which is why the White House is waging such a ferocious and unconscionable campaign of character assassination against Mr. Clarke.

Clarke has been "consistently right on the facts?" Where in the world has Herbert been?

The only consistency Clarke has shown is being on all sides of every issue depending on who's listening. And now he's caught in the middle of a hell of a web of lies.

He's like a Kerry clone.

In 2002 it was a "FACT" that there was no plan per Mr. Clarke. In 2004, the "FACT" presented claimed there WAS a plan. Thats in the face of the FACT that Mr. Clarke characterized as 'silly' the need for a plan in 2000.

It is becoming fairly clear to me that this man did NOTHING for the 8 years terrorism was his exclusive watch.

NOTHING.

And when he was moved to the side, because his organization had no vision, goals, priorities, mission statement or plan, he got angry and vindictive. How dare they?!

The man with no "silly" plan, no priorities, no vision statement, no articulated goals and no mission statement for his organization then blames those who seem to have found him to be INCOMPETENT for not doing in 8 months what he hadn't done in 8 years.

Yet Bob Herbert thinks he's a paragon of virtue and his "facts" are irrefutable and right? He thinks its "character assasination" to provide Clarke's past words and deeds as refutation of his present words and deeds.

Talk to me about "apologists", will you Herbert?

Amazing.

UPDATE (JON): It seems to me that the "character assassination" has largely consisted of Clarke's own statements. Wouldn't that more accurately be called "Character suicide"?

UPDATE (McQ): Another Clarke apologist is heard from ... the old "obstructionist-in-chief" of the US Senate, Tom Daschle. No great surprise here.

"They've known for months what Mr. Clarke was going to say," Daschle said in a Senate speech one day after the former White House aide sharply criticized the president's stewardship of the war on terror.

"Instead of dealing with it factually, they've launched a shrill attack to destroy Mr. Clarke's credibility," Daschle said.

Sorry Mr. Daschle, they've obviously NOT known what he was going to say. If they thought his public testimony was going to be consistent with his private 15 hours worth of testimony, they'd have been wrong. According to sources, his private testimony contradicts his public testimony. As for "dealing with it factually", there's been no need to produce anything but Clarke's previous statements in rebuttal of his "facts".

And BTW Mr. Daschle, speaking of 'shrill attacks', where've you been lately?

Posted by McQ at 02:48 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

"Baby" bombers

Its hard to imagine, at least to me, how a society can get sick enough to follow a disgusting piece of human garbage like this:

Hamas commander Saleh Shehade in May 2002 on the Islamic Online Web site in which he urged:

"One should prepare children carefully before carrying out attacks and recruit them into a special military section of [Hamas] in order to teach them the culture of jihad," said Shehade ...

Thankfully, Shehade descended into hell at the end of an Israeli 2,000 lb. bomb.

Per the article cited, there's apparently a bit of a backlash in the Palestinian community concerning the use of children as bombers.

If they're serious about it they better look deep inside and consider their indoctrination programs, which has 3 out of 4 teenagers willing to blow themselves up for the 72 virgins. Their sick cultural tradition of jihad is now manifesting itself in "baby bombers" ... kids willing to kill themselves and murder others to be "heros". All the while the gutless adults who incite this horrific stupidity stand back and let them believe in the lies as they "martyr" themselves.

They must be so proud.

Posted by McQ at 01:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Shays letters

Representative Christopher Shays has shed a little more light on Richard Clarke's track record. He's released three letters which specfically address Clarke and Clarke's testimony before his Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International relations. To say they are damning to Mr. Clarke is an understatement.

The first is dated July 5, 2000 during the Clinton Administration, is addressed directly to Clarke and contains the following concerning his recent testimony before that subcommittee:

We asked if there was an integrated threat assessment prepared. You responded this would be difficult to accomplish because of all the different threats faced by the United States. When asked if there is a comprehesive strategy to combat terrorism, you responded it was "silly" to believe a comprehesive strategy could be developed to combat terrorism. You did add a domestic preparedness plan would be developed. And when asked how spending priorities are established, you responded by providing a list of terrorist organizations.

Saying it is difficult to prepare an integrated threat assessment, belittling a question about a comprehesive strategy, and providing a list of terrorist organizations does not answer our questions. If there are no clear requirements or plan, how does the administration prioritize the $12.9 billion it intends to spend on combating terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, preparedness and critical infrastructure protection?

Remember, Clarke is now claiming a plan was handed over to the Bush administration, but per the letter to Clarke from Shays, he's reminded that he called the idea of a plan "silly" 6 months before the Bush administration took office. In fact he didn't even have a plan for "domestic preparedness" written at that time.

Yet this was the man who'd been the "terrorism czar" for 8 YEARS!

Letter 2, addressed to Condoleeza Rice is dated January 22, 2001, a couple of days after the Bush administration took office. Shays discusses some issues considered during a hearing entitled "Combating Terrorism: Assessing Threats, Risk Management, and Establishing Priorities" held July 26, 2000.
In the letter, Shays tells Rice:

Witnesses persuasively expressed the view that the current US government organization to counter terrorism is flawed.

That would be the CLINTON ADMINISTRATION'S organization. Continuing:

The current focal point for terrorist related issues is the Special Assistant to the President and National Coordinator, Infrastructure and Counterterrorism, Mr. Richard Clarke. Mr. Clarke has stated his office lacks resources and has no authority over the 40 federal departments, agencies, and bureaus having a role in the effort to combat terrorism. As a result, agencies receive little guidance on funding priorities. Additionally Mr. Clarke must be continually be prompted before request for information from this Subcommittee are answered. We assume he either does not have the resources to respond, or his office chose to turn a deaf ear to our requests. Coupled with this lack of leadershipis the fact that Mr. Clarke's office is part of the National Security Council staff and beyond the purview of regular Congressional oversight.

Remember, Clarke now claims that there was no "higher priority" in the Clinton administration than terrorism. Yet here is Clarke claiming the office which was charged with being the focal point in combatting terrorism "lacks resources and has no authority over the 40 federal departments, agencies, and bureaus having a role in the effort to combat terrorism"

So after a couple of days in office, the Bush administration is essentially informed that their "terror czar" is uncooperative AND that he has no resources or authority. Sound like terror was the previous administration's "highest priority?"

Shays further informs Dr. Rice:

The hearings also indicate there is no coordinated national strategy. US government agencies combatting terrorism need a vision and mission statement, goals and objectives.

Question: Doesn't that seem like something a Special Assistant to the President and National Coordinator, Infrastructure and Counterterrorism might have been doing during the 8 years he held the office?

What the hell was this man doing the previous 8 years if he had an organization that STILL didn't have a vision, mission statement, goals, objectives and priorities which could be articulated? No WONDER the man was apologizing to the families of the vicitms of 9/11!

Shays continues in his letter to Dr. Rice:

Given the amount of spending, over $10 billion per year, and the large number of agencies involved, clear spending priorities must be established. List the threats, determining which are most likely, and establishing priorities will assist in determining which programs are most important and receive priority funding. Only then can the United States direct the resources into areas that will help prevent incidents such as the bombings of the Khobar Towers, U.S. emabassies in Tanzania and kenya, and USS Cole. During a briefing to this Subcommittee, Mr. Clarke stated there is no need for a national strategy. This Subcommittee, and others, disagree with Mr. Clarke's assessment that US government agencies do not require a planning and preparation document to respond to terrorist attacks.

Do these recommendations seem like common sense to you?

Me too.

So WHY HADN'T CLARKE DONE THEM IN THE 8 YEARS OF THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION!?

In two hearings before the same subcommittee, one before July 5, 2000 and one on July 26, 2000, Richard Clarke said there was NO NEED for a national strategy to address terrorism. Yet now he says there was one in existance and it was handed over to the Bush administration (But wait ... in August of 2002, he told reporters that no plan existed!).

The final Shays letter is dated March 24, 2004 and addresses the present 9/11 commission. In it Representative Shays states:

Before September 11, 2001, we held twenty hearings and two formal briefings on terrorism issues. Mr. Clarke was of little help in our oversight. When he briefed the Subcommittee, his answers were both evasive and derisive. He said a comprehensive threat assessment, as recommended by GAO, was too difficult.

Mr. Clarke said it would be "silly" to try to articulate a national strategy. In Lieu of a threat assessment or strategy, he offered a laundry list of terrorist groups, as if the fight against global terrorism were nothing more than a hunt for common criminals.

Clarke was part of the problem before September 11 because he too to narrow a view of the terrorism threat. His approach was reactive and limited to swatting at the visible elements of al Qe'eda, not the hidden global network and its state sponsors.

The blind spots and vulnerabilities that contributed to the September 11, 2001 tragedy were apparent to many throughout the years Mr. Clarke was in a position to do something about them. Three national comminssions - Bremer, Gilmore and Hart/Rudman - had concluded the US needed a comprehensive threat assessment, a national strategy and a plan to reorganize the federal response to the new strategic menace of terrorism.

Yet no truly national strategy to combat terrorism was ever produced during Mr. Clarke's tenure. Instead, several presidental directives and a Justice Department five-year law enforcement plan were clumsily lashed together and called a stragegy. [emphasis added]

He ignored the recommendations of three commissions on terrorism. He ignored the recommendations of the GAO. He ignored the recommendations of the Shays subcommittee.

Yet, somehow, 9/11 is "Bush's fault".

Incompetance, thy name is Richard Clarke.

If you MUST point a finger for 9/11 ... Clarke's the one.

Posted by McQ at 12:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

No wonder he didn't go on the Daily Show

Second. Lamest. Scandal. Ever.

In the hypercharged race for president, apparently even the jokes aren't funny anymore.

Sen. John F. Kerry [related, bio] last night criticized President Bush for poking fun at his administration's inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq during a media dinner known for its biting humor.

"If George Bush thinks his deceptive rationale for going to war is a laughing matter, then he's even more out of touch than we thought,'' Kerry said in a statement issued to the press."
Ok, thanks for the tip, Senator GoodTimes. Boy, I'd love to party with you.

Say, let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we? What does John Kerry find funny....

Assassination:

"The Secret Service is under orders that if Bush is shot, to shoot Quayle."
And torturing POWs:
[Kerry] joked that he admired McCain for the independence and courage he had shown during "years of torture at the hands of ideological fanatics -- and that's just the GOP caucus."
But now, humor is out of bounds. Jackass.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:47 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Stealing from Nixon, for a change

Via John Rogers, we find this OpinionJournal bit....

This is the real lesson emerging from the 9/11 Commission hearings if you listen above the partisan din. In their eagerness to insist that Mr. Bush should have acted more pre-emptively before 9/11, the critics are rebutting their own case against the President's aggressive antiterror policy ever since. The implication of their critique is that Mr. Bush didn't repudiate the failed strategy of the Clinton years fast enough.
Quoth John Rogers: "We're all agressive, unilateral warriors against terror now."

I don't really have anything to add to that.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Going it alone

Interesting article by Ariel Cohen (Heritage Foundation). According to Cohen, there are presently three models of Anti-Terrorism at work in the world at present.

1. Bureaucratic

2. Keystone Cops

3. Robust anti-terror operations

Which is the most effective? You decide.

Bureaucratic

It has been articulated by Javier Solana, a Spaniard who is European Union foreign policy chief. "Europe is not at war," Solana said. "We must oppose terrorism energetically, but we must not change our way of life. We are democrats who love freedom."

Its essence?

European heads of state are adopting a declaration of solidarity with Spain and a call to jointly fight terrorism and "root causes of terrorism -- conflicts, poverty, deprivation and frustration."

IOW, "its not their fault, its our fault that they're conflicted, poor, deprived and frustrated. WE must do more".

Never mind the fact that their leader comes from anything but a poor background, their number two man is a medical doctor and all of the 9/11 participants from al-Queda were from middle and upper class backgrounds.

The roots of terrorism, ala al-Queda is religious fanaticism brought to you by the Wahabbi sect of Islam. Quell the fanaticism and you quell the terrorism. But negotiations and bureaucratic solutions are not going to work.

European solution? Approach it with bureauocracy and treat it as a 'law enforcement issue'.

The other term for this approach is 'appeasement'.

Keystone Cops

Per Cohen, this is now in practice in Pakistan ...

where 7,000 troops have failed to storm an Al Qaeda compound which harbored up to 500 terrorists. President Pervez Musharraf has announced that a high value target, possibly Al Qaeda number two, Aiman Al Zawahiri, has been trapped. Unfortunately, the Pakistanis suffered casualties, got themselves ambushed, and fought to standstill. They are now negotiating with local tribes in hopes to find an honorable way out.

The Pakistani army, prodded by the US, failed to bring to bear an overwhelming artillery, armor and air power to finish Al Qaeda off. There was a great intelligence failure. Pakistan's ISI -- the spy agency originally with ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda -- supposedly did not know that the besieged compound had a mile-long escape tunnel. It is also possible that Al Qaeda sympathizers inside Pakistani military and intelligence service intentionally sabotaged the operation -- and their president's orders.

This approach almosts insists upon allowing an escape vs. closure. Government influence in the border area is tenuous at best, ISI ties with the Taliban and al Qaeda probably still exist and the best effort to be made is probably not being made by Pakistan. You'll see some of this model in other Arab Muslim countries where they are being pressured by the west to attack terrorism, but their hearts really aren't into the job. Thus you end up with operations which look more like they were planned by the Keystone Cops than a competant civilian/military authority.

Robust anti-terror operations

The most recent example of this is the Israeli attack on Hamas leader, Sheikh Yassin.

Such an operation takes months of meticulous intelligence preparation and coordination between high tech assets, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and Israeli Air Force helicopters. This operation was akin to elimination of a senior Al Qaeda operative responsible for USS Cole attack in Yemen by an American Predator UAV.

Bottom line: If the US is to pursue the war on terror with any success, it will have to do two things. One, continue to use the last model and two, go it alone (in most cases). While it may be able to partner up with other intel services to share information, its obvious it can't rely on Europe (they've pretty well decided that sticking their heads in the sand is the most prudent 'defense'). Its also obvious that using proxy states to fight the war will be met with very limited success.


Posted by McQ at 10:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Krugmania - 3/26

You really only need to read one part of today's Paul Krugman's column....

....the sustainability of Social Security (no problem)...
Hear that? Krugman says it's "no problem"! Boy, won't the Social Security Trustees be embarrassed about that report they just issued, claiming Social Security's, "currently scheduled benefits are not sustainable over the long term.

Why does Krugman claim there's no problem? Simple....

...it's just a government program ... if politicians want to sustain the system, they will.
(slap) Of COURSE! They'll just appropriate more money to pay for it. Why didn't anybody else think of that!

And how will they pay for it? Why, they'll just raise taxes. A lot. What could possibly go wrong?

I must admit, I'm a bit surprised at Paul Krugman's view on sustainable business models. However, in light of this information, I'm quite excited about an an absolute can't-miss business proposal for Paul Krugman. He should eat this stuff up.

We'll be rich in no time. (no problem)

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

UN knew of Iraq oil-for-food kickbacks

The Financial Times has a potential blockbuster...

As the United Nations struggles to defend itself against allegations of corruption in the multi-billion dollar oil-for-food programme for Iraq, UN officials have revealed internal documents showing they knew of the problem as early as 2000.

The documents refer to illegal commissions levied by the Iraqi government on oil-for-food supply contracts given to foreign companies.

The UN investigated, but was unable to find sufficient evidence at the time, and efforts to address the issue among Security Council governments simply fell off the agenda.[emphasis added]

A few questions:

1: Why do people still think the sanctions could have been more effective than the war?

2: If the UN knew about this, why weren't there more questions about where the money might be going? Clearly, it wasn't going to health and infrastructure improvements.

3: Where WAS the money going?

4: Is there really any reason to expect the UN to do better in the future? Will there be structural changes, or merely cosmetic critisism?

5: Does Dennis Kucinich still want us to turn over responsibility for Iraq's oil industry to the United Nations? Why?

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 25, 2004

Only in France ...

You've GOT to be kidding.

A mysterious group that claimed to have planted bombs on the French railroad network announced Thursday it is suspending its terror threats while it improves its ability to carry them out.

IOW, "timeout!".

Talk about the inept and somehow France always seems to creep into the equation. Hell their terrorists can't even get the bombs to blow up.

Posted by McQ at 08:50 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Stray Voltage

Sometimes you wonder what the hell these folks smoke before they write. In an op/ed piece in the Toledo Blade discussing Clarke’s testimony:

...it touched off a vicious and uncalled for White House campaign to discredit Mr. Clarke, who held top anti-terrorism jobs under four presidents during a 30-year career in government from which he resigned more than a year ago.

“Vicious” and “uncalled for”? “Vicious “ in that the White House provided documents and transcripts which essentially discredited a man who was accusing them of being responsible for 9/11? “Uncalled for” in that the White House chose to defend themselves from Clarke’s unfounded attacks.

We must live in different worlds.

-----

Just my opinion, but I think Michael Newdow’s a dink. His opposition to “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance has nothing to do with his daughter. Its about him and his 15 minutes of fame.

Look ... don’t believe in God? Don’t believe in saying “under God” in the pledge? Then don’t say it. No one is forcing Newdow to do so now.

If they were, he might have a case.

-----

The best statement I’ve seen concerning leaving the gay marriage issue to the states and out of the Constitutional amendment process:

America is a stronger country for the moral diversity that federalism uniquely allows. Moral law and family law govern the most intimate and, often, the most controversial spheres of life. For the sake of domestic tranquillity, domestic law is best left to a level of government that is close to home.

So well suited is the federalist system to the gay-marriage issue that it might almost have been set up to handle it. In a new land whose citizens followed different religious traditions, it would have made no sense to centralize marriage or family law. And so marriage has been the domain of local law not just since the days of the Founders but since Colonial times, before the states were states.

-----

Seems the European Union is really getting serious about terrorism now.

The Dutchman appointed as Europe's first "anti-terrorism czar," Gijs de Vries, seems a surprising choice: no experience in intelligence, limited political weight, representing one of Europe's smallest countries.

Maybe its just me, but this doesn’t come as a particular surprise. And anyway ...

Although EU governments are committed to step up anti-terrorism cooperation, France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain see only a limited role for the EU itself. Instead, they prefer their secret services to cooperate more bilaterally outside the EU framework.

Sounds much more efficient, doesn’t it? Oy!

-----

He’s back. Al-Qaeda’s number 2 murderer has made it known he’s still kicking. And he’s kicking at the president of Pakistan. In a tape released recently he said:

"Musharraf seeks to stab the Islamic resistance in Afghanistan in the back," the speaker said.

"Every Muslim in Pakistan should work hard to get rid of this client government, which will continue to submit to America until it destroys Pakistan."

-----

Hmmm ....

At least 958 people were living on Chicago's streets Wednesday morning.

Hundreds of volunteers and city workers fanned out across Chicago between midnight and 3 a.m. to count the homeless and survey them about their personal circumstances.

"I expected the number to be much higher based on my experience working on the streets," said Carmelo Vargas, head of the city's Department of Human Services. "I get the feeling there might be another couple hundred people out there."

Sounds like there may have been more volunteers than homeless in Chicago. The count didn’t include the 6,000 in shelters, but the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless has estimated that as many as 80,000 people in the city are homeless in the course of a year.

Maybe the homeless were still in their summer digs in Miami

-----
Why do I have a tough time ginning up any sympathy for the death of Hammas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin, or the Palestinians in general? Because of this sort of thing:

A Palestinian boy bomber who was given $22 and promised 72 virgins in paradise was forced at gunpoint by Israeli soldiers to strip and remove the explosives strapped to his body.

"Do I have to take my clothes off here?" Hussam Abdu, 14, asked as soldiers yelled orders from behind barricades at a West Bank checkpoint.

...

The frightened boy did as he was told, and after struggling with the scissors he was free of his deadly payload.

"He said he didn't want to die," said another soldier who was at the checkpoint. "He didn't want to blow up."

...

The boy later told investigators that Tanzim - a militant group affiliated with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement - told him that the only way he would ever have sex was to blow himself up.

They also promised to give 100 shekels to his mother, who is ill. The boy said he wanted to be "a hero."

It amazes me that there are those out there in the west who think the terrorists of Hammas, who do such things to children on their own side, are somehow “heroes”.

Like I said ... we live in different worlds.

Posted by McQ at 05:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Save your wristwatches, its getting deeper...

It just gets deeper and deeper. Per the NY Daily News:

As several commissioners noted, the book's accusations - which he repeated under oath yesterday - are totally at odds with the 15 hours of closed-door testimony Clarke delivered earlier to the 9/11 commission.


And the inconsistencies outside that 15 hours of closed door testimony are just as “at odds”

Clarke stated yesterday in his testimony that Clinton had “no higher priority” than terrorism.

Really?

So, when Clark said, in effect, that the Clinton administration hadn’t done anything concerning the issues dealing with terrorism in general and al-Qadeda specifically since 1998, was he lying?

Second point is that the Clinton administration had a strategy in place, effectively dating from 1998. And there were a number of issues on the table since 1998. And they remained on the table when that administration went out of office — issues like aiding the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, changing our Pakistan policy -- uh, changing our policy toward Uzbekistan. And in January 2001, the incoming Bush administration was briefed on the existing strategy. They were also briefed on these series of issues that had not been decided on in a couple of years.

....

And the point is, while this big review was going on, there were still in effect, the lethal findings were still in effect. The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.

Let’s review ... the previous administration had done NOTHING, per Clarke in August 2002, for the two years preceding the Bush administration to address these issues, but per Clarke in March of 2004, the Clinton administration had had “no higher priority” than al-Qaeda and terrorism?

Which is the truth ... which is the lie? It should be fairly easy, based on Clinton administration records, to find out. Or we could consult Clarke’s own book in which he makes the point that trying to force a Middle East peace agreement was more important to Clinton than retaliating for the attack against USS Cole.

So, point five, that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after Al Qaeda.

Clarke is saying here that in less than a MONTH after the Bush administration took office, the terrorism question in general and al-Qaeda specifically had been addressed by them. They had decided in pricniple to add to the existing Clinton strategy and increase covert-action funds by five.

Again, let’s review ... the previous administration, which had “no higher priority” than addressing the terrorism issue, let those issue lie dormant without a decision for TWO YEARS, but, per Clarke in August of 2002, the incoming administration (which, per the March 2004 Clarke, only treated terrorism with “some urgency”) had addressed those issues and added to the existing strategy within a MONTH of taking office?

And for those that still don’t get it, here’s August 2002 Clarke again answering a specific question concerning that point (and another point ... that there WAS NO PLAN handed off by the Clinton administration):

So, just to finish up if we could then, so what you're saying is that there was no — one, there was no plan; two, there was no delay; and that actually the first changes since October of '98 were made in the spring months just after the administration came into office?

Clarke: You got it. That's right

But the Clinton administration had “no higher priority” than terrorism ... right?

And the Bush administration only gave it some “urgency”.

Uh, well, per the March 2004 Clarke ... that’s NOW “right”. But the August 2002 Clarke begs to differ.

The more you dig and the more you read, the harder it gets to take this guy seriously ... unless you just want to suspend your rational thought process.

Posted by McQ at 03:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A mess of porridge for Howard

Howard Dean endorsed John Kerry today.

“Who would you rather have in charge of the defense of the United States of America,” Dean asked the young crowd, “a group of people who never served a day overseas in their life or a guy who served his country honorably and has three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star from the battlefields of Vietnam?”
Allow me to translate that for you: "Hey, all that stuff I said about John Kerry? Like when I called him "evil"? Or [warning: irony alert] accused him of exploiting Vietnam? Or that time I accused him of running a dirty campaign? Or when I said he was controlled by special interests?

Ha ha! Datz some crazy talk, yo! Y'know I'ze just kidding, baby. Me and J to da Kerry....we tight!
"

Anyway, that's what I got out of it.

Posted by Jon Henke at 03:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Fred Kaplan: I'll believe anybody who tells me what I want to hear

Fred Kaplan writes a very strange Slate article, claiming Richard Clarke is credible. Is he? Perhaps....perhaps not. But Fred Kaplan doesn't make a very convincing argument. I'll address a few major points.

Quoth Kaplan....

I have no doubt that Richard Clarke, the former National Security Council official who has launched a broadside against President Bush's counterterrorism policies, is telling the truth about every single charge. There are three reasons for this confidence.

First, his basic accusations are consistent with tales told by other officials, including some who had no significant dealings with Clarke.

Unfortunately, his "basic accusations" are not consistent with tales told by one fellow who was intimately familar with the topics Richard Clarke discusses. A fellow named Richard Clarke.
CLARKE: And the third point is the Bush administration decided then, you know, in late January, to do two things. One, vigorously pursue the existing policy, including all of the lethal covert action findings, which we've now made public to some extent.
...
JIM ANGLE: You're saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?

CLARKE: All of that's correct.

There are many more examples of similar statements by this "Clarke" fellow. Perhaps somebody will get them together to debate the issue.

Kaplan goes on....

Second, the White House's attempts at rebuttal have been extremely weak and contradictory. If Clarke were wrong, one would expect the comebacks—especially from Bush's aides, who excel at the counterstrike—to be stronger and more substantive.
It seems to me the effectiveness of the White House rebuttal is largely dependent on whether you're predisposed to like them or dislike them. I thought Rice's response, and that of the White House was fairly good. Unfortunately, in the area of covert operations, intelligence and motivation...it's a bit hard to provide proof. How does one go about proving you took All Qaeda "as seriously as you should"?

Moreover, how does this add credibility to Clarke? We've got his own statements directly contradicting his current assertions. It doesn't seem the White House really needs any help. This "Richard Clarke" fellow seems to be doing his own "rebuttal" for them.

Kaplan, again...

Third, I went to graduate school with Clarke in the late 1970s, at MIT's political science department, and called him as an occasional source in the mid-'80s when he was in the State Department and I was a newspaper reporter. There were good things and dubious things about Clarke, traits that inspired both admiration and leeriness. The former: He was very smart, a highly skilled (and utterly nonpartisan) analyst, and he knew how to get things done in a calcified bureaucracy. The latter: He was arrogant, made no effort to disguise his contempt for those who disagreed with him, and blatantly maneuvered around all obstacles to make sure his views got through.
Kaplan, of course, views this as evidence of his basic honesty. Actually, you know what? I don't dispute that. I think Clarke is probably an honest and sincere fellow, and his criticisms are probably sincere, as well.

But that doesn't mean he's right.

Years ago, I worked for a company in the middle of a struggle for market position. We were a small staff, and everybody had input. I gave mine - some was accepted, but a lot was rejected. At the time, and for a while afterwards, I was convinced that any failures were due to their negligence, apathy, and unwillingness to take the job seriously. My god, I had GOOD ideas...and they weren't implemented. In fact, in many cases they were doing exactly the opposite! They were incompetent! Doom!

Years later, though, I have a different perspective. In some cases, I was right...in some, wrong. In many, though, I simply didn't understand their strategy. I was making good suggestions - and becoming upset at their inattention - that simply weren't appropriate to the strategy.

And you know what? They did just fine.

This is what I think is going on with Clarke. He's not dishonest. He's not "disguntled" about his job status. He's just frustrated that the Bush administration doesn't see things his way; didn't implement his suggestions; isn't fighting the war "The Clarke Way". To Richard Clarke, all of that is evidence of their negligence.

It's the only theory I can think of that remains consistent with the assumption that one side or the other isn't simply and utterly full of it. With that many people on both sides, it would be quite a stretch to assume that much uniform dishonesty.

Kaplan.....

The key thing, though, is this: Both sets of traits tell me he's too shrewd to write or say anything in public that might be decisively refuted.
...which is just nonsense. Aside from the wide variety of statements on record of Clarke refuting himself; aside from the fact that, Clarke's claims about our misplaced priorities notwithstanding, we didn't go after Iraq immediately after 9/11.....there's little stuff like this: (links via Balloon Juice)
CLARKE: We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and down to FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report and we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer.'

STAHL: Come on!

CLARKE: Do it again.

Except, as even 60 Minutes concedes....it didn't say that at all.
STAHL (exp): {So he's not denying the President asked for another review, nor is he denying that Clarke wrote a memo stating once again that Iraq was not involved in 9/11. In fact the White House showed us the memo dated September 18th. As Clarke said, it was bounced back. The notation reads, 'Please update and resubmit,' and it was written by Steven Hadley.}
"Too shrewd to write or say anything in public that might be decisively refuted"? Fred, please.

Finally, a little substantive argument....

But on to the substance. Clarke's main argument ... is that Bush has done ... "a terrible job" at fighting terrorism. Specifically: In the summer of 2001, Bush did almost nothing to deal with mounting evidence of an impending al-Qaida attack. Then, after 9/11, his main response was to attack Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11. This move not only distracted us from the real war on terrorism, it fed into Osama Bin Laden's propaganda—that the United States would invade and occupy an oil-rich Arab country—and thus served as the rallying cry for new terrorist recruits.
Here, Kaplan cites 2 specifics to justify Clarke's claim that Bush has done "a terrible job". Are these allegations credible?

1: In 2001, "Bush did almost nothing to deal with mounting evidence of an impending al-Qaida attack" - except, it's contradicted by that mysterious "Richard Clarke" fellow that keeps popping up. For example, in 2003 Clarke claimed Bush, like Clinton before him, was "deeply committed to stopping bin Laden", but "their best efforts had been doomed by bureaucratic clashes, caution, and incessant problems with Pakistan."

And, of course, there's the 2002 briefing, in which Clarke claimed the administration decided a to formulate a process to get the issues "decided"and "that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy"

2: Clarke claims....."after 9/11, his main response was to attack Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11. This move not only distracted us from the real war on terrorism." - of course, if I recall correctly, our main response was NOT to invade Iraq. You can double-check me on this, but I'm pretty sure I remember us invading Afghanistan after 9/11. It was about 18 months before we invaded Iraq.

This complaint, unfortunately, is not something that can be proven or disproven. What this amounts to - what a lot of Clarke's criticisms amount to, really - is that he disagreed with the plan put into action by the Bush administration.

Fine. Great. Reasonable people can disagree.

But the fact that Clarke disagrees with our policy seems to give him some added measure of credibility in Kaplan's eyes....a measure of credibility with no apparent basis in anything but Kaplan's biases.

It comes down to this: Clarke says "I disagree with the way President Bush is handling the war on terror". Kaplan says "that settles it. Bush is handling the war on terror badly."

You'll understand if it seems to me like Kaplan missed a step or three.

But that's not the only problem with logic that Fred Kaplan has....

To an unusual degree, the Bush people can't get their story straight. On the one hand, Condi Rice has said that Bush did almost everything that Clarke recommended he do. On the other hand, Vice President Dick Cheney, appearing on Rush Limbaugh's show, acted as if Clarke were a lowly, eccentric clerk: "He wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff." This is laughably absurd. Clarke wasn't just in the loop, he was the loop.
Maybe I'm missing something, but how do the statements by Cheney and Rice contradict each other? Rice says Bush followed a lot of Clarke's advice....Cheney says there was a lot of stuff about which Clarke was "out of the loop".

What's the problem? My boss takes a lot of my advice, too....that doesn't mean I run the company.

Kaplan...

It is significant, by the way, that Tenet has not been recruited—not successfully, anyway—to rebut Clarke's charges. Clarke told Charlie Rose that he was "very close" to Tenet. The two come off as frustrated allies in Clarke's book.
Uh huh.
Tenet told the commission, "Clearly there was no lack of care or focus in the face of one of the greatest dangers our country has ever faced."

After the Bush administration took office, officials "immediately understood what we were talking about here and bin Laden and al-Qaeda became an agenda item early on" with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Tenet said.

You know, I don't think Kaplan should cite Tenet as a defender of Clarke here.

In fact, were I Kaplan, I'd seriously reconsider using Richard Clarke to establish the credibility of Richard Clarke. There are just too many Richard Clarke's to pick.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The big lie?

Unless I'm missing something (and I've been watching and listening carefully for a couple of days), Richard Clarke appears to be a fraud. His charges are just not tracking. Like the other Clark (Wesley) he's talking out of both sides of his mouth (is it just a "Clark(e)" thing?). Condi Rice seems to have the goods on him.

To rebut that charge, Rice released unclassified portions of an e-mail Clarke sent to her on September 15, 2001, four days after the attacks.

"When the era of national unity cracks in the near future, it is possible that some will start asking questions like did the White House do a good job of making sure that intelligence about terrorist threats got to FAA and other domestic law enforcement authorities," Clark wrote.

He then went on to detail the steps he said were taken to put the nation on a higher alert footing:

In late June, an interagency counterterrorism security group, which Clarke chaired, warned of an upcoming "spectacular" al Qaeda attack that would be "qualitatively different."

On July 5, representatives of federal law enforcement agencies were summoned for a meeting at which they were warned "that we thought a spectacular al Qaeda terrorist attack was coming in the near future," Clark wrote. Among the agencies represented were the FBI, Secret Service, Federal Aviation Administration, Customs Service, Coast Guard, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"We asked that they take special measures to increase security and surveillance," he wrote.

Summarizing his thoughts to Rice, Clarke wrote, "Thus, the White House did insure that domestic law enforcement (including FAA) knew that the [counterterrorism security group] believed that a major al Qaeda attack was coming and it could be in the U.S. ... and did ask that special measures be taken."

Clarke's initials -- "rac" -- are typed at the end of the e-mail.

There, in his own words, he points to the actions taken ELEVATING the threat from al Qaeda domestically. And, as Rice points out, contrary to all of Clarke's testimony, the threat seemed to be centered overseas and NOT in the US.

My guess is there's more damning evidence in classified memos which can't be released (and Clarke KNOWS that).

Then you have the fact that his publisher was kind enough to move the publication of his book up to coincide with the 9/11 commission hearings and his testimony, "60 minutes" gives him an unprecidented two segments (while failing to disclose the publisher and CBS are both owned by Viacom ... journalistic ethics?). I'm not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch but this sure is a convenient convergance of events, isn't it?

Of course, essentially being ignored are statements made earlier which seem to totally refute his charges. I mean, look at this...

ANGLE: Now the five-fold increase for the money in covert operations against Al Qaeda — did that actually go into effect when it was decided or was that a decision that happened in the next budget year or something?

CLARKE: Well, it was gonna go into effect in October, which was the next budget year, so it was a month away.

QUESTION: That actually got into the intelligence budget?

CLARKE: Yes it did.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, did that come up in April or later?

CLARKE: No, it came up in April and it was approved in principle and then went through the summer. And you know, the other thing to bear in mind is the shift from the rollback strategy to the elimination strategy. When President Bush told us in March to stop swatting at flies and just solve this problem, then that was the strategic direction that changed the NSPD from one of rollback to one of elimination.

This isn't "putting a positive face" on something as he claims he was doing (by direction). He's stating FACTS which point to a priority being put on al-Qaeda which was far and away greater than the previous administration's.

Yet the media, to this point, has let Clarke get away with calling it, essentially, "spin".

Either the budget for operations against al-Qaeda was increased 5 fold over the previous budget, or it wasn't. Either the terms of engagement (transitioning from "rollback" to "elimination") were changed or they weren't.

Which brings us to the point that either Clarke was lying then or he's lying now.

Based on the Rice email and other evidence, I'm leaning toward the latter.

My question is, where are all the "truth-seekers" in the media?


Posted by McQ at 09:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tapped

Strange doings at TAPPED, where Matthew Yglesias cites an exchange between Paul Wolfowitz and Tim Roemer, wherein Roemer asks Wolfowitz about a Clarke account of a conversation. After citing the exchange, Matt writes....

You've got to hand it to Wolfowitz -- that was pretty clever. He didn't want to say Clarke was telling the truth, and he didn't want to lie under oath, so he just filibustered with a discussion of whether or not he ever mentions Mein Kampf. But if Clarke's account is wrong, why wouldn't Wolfowitz just say so?
Good question: why wouldn't Wolfowitz say the account was wrong? The odd thing is this - Yglesias actually cites this passage...
...I can't recall ever saying anything remotely like that. I don't believe I could have.

In fact, I frequently have said something more nearly the opposite of what Clark attributes to me. I've often used that precise analogy of Hitler and "Mein Kampf" as a reason why we should take threatening rhetoric seriously, particularly in the case of terrorism and Saddam Hussein.

So I am generally critical of the tendency to dismiss threats as simply rhetoric. And I know that the quote Clark attributed to me does not represent my views then or now. And that meeting was a long meeting about seven different subjects, all of them basically related to Al Qaida and Afghanistan.

...which sounds quite a bit like Wolfowitz saying the account is wrong. What am I missing?


In yet another strange instance, Tara McKelvey writes....

Powell claims, for example, he and his colleagues "were not given a counterterrorism action plan by the previous administration," according to the testimony that's excerpted in The New York Times.

But Powell and his colleagues did have a plan -- it was provided by Albright, Richard Clarke, and other members of the Clinton administration.

Ah, the old "we gave them a plan" line. Best, she cites Richard Clarke as one of the providers of said plan. Richard Clarke.....
RICHARD CLARKE: Actually, I've got about seven points, let me just go through them quickly. Um, the first point, I think the overall point is, there was no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration.[emphasis added]
Funny, how selectively this Richard Clarke fellow is being cited.

The real irony? This selective citation comes from a blog that claims calls the administrations criticism of Clarke "not only...contradictory" but "substantively deceptive".

Uh huh.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Irwin Schiff

I recall listening to this crank on the radio many years ago - a fellow named Irwin Schiff - preaching that there's no legal basis for the income tax, and bragging that he must be right, because he's never been convicted. In fact, on his website, he writes....

I have reported on my radio show for years that I don’t pay income taxes, and report “zero” income on the returns I file. Has the government charged me with tax evasion? No. Suppose I openly advertised and sold untaxed whiskey? How long do you think the government would let me get away with it? But I openly say I file tax returns each year, report “zero” income, and pay no income tax and the government does nothing about it! Why? Because my claim is legally correct.
Well, it's about time this fraud got nailed....
A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted anti-tax author Irwin Schiff and two of his associates, charging them with conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Schiff, along with Cynthia Neun and Lawrence Cohen, have also been charged with aiding in the preparation and filing of fraudulent tax returns. Schiff and Cohen also face additional tax evasion charges, while Neun faces charges of willfully failing to file federal income tax returns, social security disability fraud and theft of government property.
....
Schiff, the author of "The Federal Mafia: How It Illegally Imposes and Unlawfully Collects Income Taxes," believes there is no requirement in the law that income taxes must be paid.

Oops.

UPDATE: I should add this: I'm sympathetic to the concept of fighting the government on the subject of taxation. I just dislike this particular fraud.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 24, 2004

Clarke V2.004

I am going to try to have much more to say on this later, but for now I'll leave my Clarke comments at this:

1: If you are going to write a book in '04 saying the Bush administration was slacking off on terrorism, you probably shouldn't give interviews in '02 saying they were "vigorously" pursuing the existing policy

2: If you think you might write a book criticising the Administration's dedication to fighting terrorism in '04, you probably shouldn't give interviews praising it in '03.

3: If you do all of those, you should probably try to disable Google, before every blogger in America notices these things.

4: Question: if you seriously believe there is a dereliction of duty in government - one that puts national security at risk - why does Simon & Schuster get first dibs on that information?

As soon as I can get to it, I plan to address this Fred Kaplan authored Slate column. The short version of his story: "If you arrange the facts just so - no, not those facts...these facts - Richard Clarke looks like a credible guy."

Posted by Jon Henke at 03:56 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Wrestling with Democratization

Yesterday, I criticized Matthew Yglesias for writing that democratization of Iraq and then the Middle East was "not the argument the president actually presented for war". My argument consisted of quotes from Bush, members of his administration, the National Security Strategy, and the Congressional Authorization for War....all of which made the "democratization" argument.

Clearly, I think, the argument was made.

Matt responded in an email, explaining his position a bit more clearly. He makes good points, and I think it's worth a response. With his permission, I excerpt his comments:

As you say, Bush certainly did speak from time to time before the war about the desirability of a democratic Iraq. The question is, however, whether or not that was the reason he gave for wanting to go to war. To take an example. The United States fought against Japan in world war two. The Japanese government of the time was not a democratic one. As part of efforts to rally the public around the war, Roosevelt made mention of Japan's inferior political system. After the war, the United States sought, successfully, to build a democratic state in Japan. Nevertheless, we didn't fight that war in order to turn Japan into a democracy. We fought the war because Japan attacked the United States.
Matt and I agree that Bush primarily pushed the "WMD's, terrorism, and the nexus thereof" argument. He also worked in the "human rights" angle, though I'd argue that was not central.

However, while he didn't make the "democratization" argument front and center, he did make it.

Unfortunately, in Iraq, we had no single "casus belli". No single act to which we could point for justification. Instead, the war was a marginal and strategic decision; an asymmetrical shot in an asymmetrical war. It was justified not by a single act, but by a complex combination of factors.

But I digress.

My disagreement with Matt is this: he describes the justification for war as a single "casus belli", and he's right to some extent.

During the debate that I witnessed, the president argued that the United States had to go to war with Iraq because Saddam Hussein's government was likely at some point in the near future to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. The badness of Saddam's regime was brought up, but it was never presented as the important casus belli. Note, for instance, that our position before the war was that if Saddam disarmed, war could be averted. We never said that if Saddam agreed to start liberalizing his regime, he could hang on to his WMDs.
I agree. The WMD argument was front and center. But, as Paul Wolfowitz famously said, WMDs were settled on for "bureaucratic reasons", but there were "many other important factors as well". The fact that WMDs were presented as the important factor was a result of the complexity of the argument for war, rather than the lack of another reason.

And yet, the Administration still presented the "democratization" argument. Not front and center, but I don't think I need to describe the difficulties of making that argument before the United Nations Security Council, do I? (hint: China, Syria, etc) Somehow, I don't think it would have been good policy to make the "we need to start getting rid of dictators" argument in front of the United Nations of Dictators.

But the argument was still made. And beyond that, I'd argue that it was fairly central. As evidence, I cite the underlying philosophy of many in the administration - "Neo-Conservativism" (or, "enlightened self-interest"; or "Democratic globalism"; or, my preference, "Rooseveltian Realism").

Neoconservativism is often described as "never-ending war", but that is a gross misinterpretation of the philosophy. Many Realists, on both sides of the aisle, regard the avoidance of war as a central goal of foreign policy, and that has short term merits. "NeoCons", on the other hand, regard our security as more of a long-term project. One which, at times, will require strategic wars and not just "reactions".

As evidence, I cite the oft-reviled New American Century which argued for the spread of democracy, via a wedge State in the Middle East. Iraq was named. For example, in a statement by the Directors of PNAC....

It's time to start talking not only about what we need to do to win the war on terrorism but also about how to shape a world where terrorists find no haven and where democratic peoples can flourish. The president should declare a renewed commitment to American global leadership, a new internationalism based on democratic purpose, active engagement and military strength.
...
[Our challenge] is to promote democracy in the Arab world as an antidote to radical Islam. Illegitimate anti-Western governments inch closer every day to acquiring weapons of mass destruction, posing a threat to millions. Must we wait for another attack, perhaps involving these awful weapons, before we use our power and influence to compel change?
...
When Osama bin Laden is in his grave, we'll still have a duty to ourselves and to the world to use our power to spread democratic principles and deter and defeat the opponents of our civilization. This is not a crusade. It's a foreign policy of enlightened self-interest.
It seems fairly clear....the spread of democracy is central to the philosophy of the NeoConservatives. Matt actually agrees with that, writing...
I agree with you about the PNAC documents which certainly did tend to make the democratization case front-and-central. When I called the "democratic domino theory" the "unofficial case for war" I meant that seriously. Lots of people did make the argument, and anyone who was paying attention -- me, for example -- was familiar with the argument. Nevertheless, it wasn't the official argument actually presented by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, or Powell.
Did this philosophy of PNAC directors make its way up to the President? Based on this speech from February 2003, I'd say so.....
The current Iraqi regime has shown the power of tyranny to spread discord and violence in the Middle East. A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America's interests in security, and America's belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq.
....
The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life. And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. Arab intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address the "freedom gap" so their peoples can fully share in the progress of our times. Leaders in the region speak of a new Arab charter that champions internal reform, greater politics participation, economic openness, and free trade. And from Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking genuine steps toward politics reform. A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region.
But, Matt says, it wasn't the "official argument". Again, I would point to the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, which did make that argument. No, it wasn't front and center for the reasons already described, but it was there.

In that vein, Matthew doesn't like the "political" reasons for not making the democratization argument more prominently....

Part of what's disturbing about the official/unofficial split to me is that it raises the possibility that key players in the government thought the unofficial argument was the best argument, but chose to present a different one that they thought would be more politically palatable.
Here, I cannot argue with Matt on principle. I agree...the Bush administration did a pretty terrible job in making the case for war. From a rhetorical standpoint, they lost the debate. That's a shame, too, because I think the strategic argument for war was strong. Very strong.

On a pragmatic level, though, I have to disagree with Matt. Do you really believe we could have successfully made the "democratization" argument to the world? As Wolfowitz said, there was dissent among various parties about what was the best rationale for war, but they focused on one for "bureaucratic reasons". It's not a lie....it's diplomacy and politics. It's pragmatism.

Matt wraps up his response with this....

I think the "well that's not what Bush said at the time" counterargument is less important than the issue of whether or not the policies we have in place actually are well-suited to bringing democracy to Iraq (or Afghanistan) and, by extension, the rest of the Middle East. It seems to me that they are not.
I'd be interested to learn in what ways Matt thinks they are ill-suited, and what policies would be more effective. I'd say we are making slow, dirty, steady progress. The protests in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia are testament to that. Democracy in Iraq won't be perfect, but it doesn't have to be.

He may have a point, that our policies are ill-suited for spreading democracy. But, in my opinion, the blunt weapon being used by the administration is far superior to the sharpest rhetorical good intentions being wielded by virtually everybody else.

In short: while we wait for the "Perfect Plan for Mideast Peace", I'm fine with using the "Less Perfect Plan for Mideast Peace".

The argument between Matt and I breaks down to these main facts:
- Bush didn't cite "democratization" as a casus belli.
- Bush did cite "democratization" as one rationale for the Iraq war.
- The prominent foreign policy philosophy in the administration cites democratization as a central aspect of US foreign policy.
- The casus belli the administration did cite - WMD/terrorism - was cited for "bureaucratic reasons".

We may continue to disagree, but I'd say it's clear that democratization was both cited and central. It simply wasn't centrally cited....for pragmatic reasons.


UPDATE: Reader Shanerod points me to this.....

Saddam Hussein, we believe the Iraqi people are deserving and capable of human liberty. And when the dictator has departed, they can set an example to all the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing nation.

The United States, with other countries, will work to advance liberty and peace in that region. Our goal will not be achieved overnight, but it can come over time. The power and appeal of human liberty is felt in every life and every land. And the greatest power of freedom is to overcome hatred and violence, and turn the creative gifts of men and women to the pursuits of peace.

That speech was made 48 hours prior to attack, broadcast nationally, and widely viewed. It was a high-profile explanation of the war.

And Bush made the democratization argument.

Upon thinking on this more, I think Matt and I part ways on the explanation for war. He sees it as a strictly defensive war, based on a casus belli. I see it as more of a strategic war, motivated by a combination of factors.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:59 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The marginal utility of martyrdom

Elliot Fladen writes that we should be much more helpful to people who want to be martyrs....

One key morale point in terror circles is the idea that we Westerners are more afraid of death than they are. Refusing to martyr their "heroes" only confirms this belief to them - while they glory in dying to serve their religion, we remain a bunch of cowards who can't even run the risk of temporary anger. My thoughts are that refusing to martyr their leaders might not raise our security - in fact it could cause terrorists to think we are soft and willing to respond to "pressure". We all know what the effect of our appearing weak during the 1990s was - our present, post 9/11 world.
This much is very true. Our pre-9/11 reticence about dealing with terrorism where it lived was a major contributor to 9/11. It was Osama bin Laden who called us a "paper tiger" after the Somalia pull-out, inspiring confidence that the US would not even put up as much of a fight as the Soviet Union....which bin Laden had helped defeat in Afghanistan.

That apparent lack of "killer instinct" surely helped convince bin Laden of the marginal utility of provoking the US to a fight in the Middle East. Elliot argues that we should reduce their belief in the marginal utility of martyrdom. The "bigger bad-ass" argument - essentially, that we should lower the effectiveness of the act by speeding up and ramping up retribution, even bringing the fight to them on our own terms rather than theirs. After all, it's less glorious to die skulking in a cave than in a ball of fire over the Pentagon.

I think there is a great deal of utilitarian merit to that argument, but is such "total war" plausible? Frankly, I don't think we could carry it off. Both politically, and in the realm of public opinion, the negative consequences could eventually outweigh the positive effects of such action. Of course, a nuclear 9/11 might change that calculation.

Moreover, I think the marginal utility cannot be changed simply by "being more proactive". We have to let them KNOW the marginal utility has changed, and I don't think we can do that unless we loosen the control of information the theocracies and dictators have in the Middle East.

Terrorists won't know how useless and counter-productive their martyrdom is if they are never exposed to anything but fatwa's. This is one reason I think it's so important to create the wedge of democracy and information freedom in the Middle East. Even Al-Jazeera, as anti-American as it is, is an improvement...a step in the right direction.

We need to support the free dissemination of information. Without that, no scorched earth policy against terrorism will be effective. Elliot Fladen brings up good points on the topic, and I largely concure on his suggestion that we be more proactive. Read his post here.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Paving the Constitutional road

Ah, the eternal federal solution to limitations on power: "let's just assign ourselves more power".

U.S. Representative Ron Lewis (R-KY) today introduced The Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act (H.R. 3920), legislation that would allow Congress, by a 2/3rds vote in each house, to override certain future decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill was drafted in an effort to redress recent cases of activist judicial rulings.
For a guy who seems awfully concerned about extra-Constitutional tampering with our system of government, Representative Lewis certainly is willing to...you know, tamper with our system of government.

(Hat tip to Jamie for the link)

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:40 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Bush's nuclear hypocrisy?

Recently, on an e-list, I came across an exchange on the (more complex than you may initially think) nuclear issue. I think it's worth sharing. As a jumping off point, this column at CommonDreams.org....

Though U.S. citizens typically have a self-indulgent belief that their country can be trusted with such weapons (despite the painful reality that the United States is the only country to have ever dropped an atomic bomb), the world's fears are not irrational. Again, Bush's own words, from his 2002 speech at West Point, make the point: "We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them."

Every "civilized nation" has a stake not only in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, but also pressuring the nuclear powers to honor the Non-Proliferation Treaty and move toward a more secure world in which no nation can threaten the ultimate horror. It is the task of U.S. citizens to push our own government toward that civilized policy.

In response, I give you - with permission - the comments of a fellow named David. They are somewhat lengthy, so I'll put them beneath the fold....

Quoth David:

First, the US, UK, France, Russia and China are allowed to posess nuclear weapons under the terms of the NPT. Second, the quote from that treaty in the article is actually something that people should be celebrating in that it has already come to pass. The US and Russia _HAVE_ stopped the nuclear arms race. For a decade and a half now we HAVE been reducing our nuclear arsenals. The US for example has gone from over 20,000 active nuclear warheads to less than 7,000 and an agreement between Bush and Putin two years ago calls for cutting THAT number by two thirds too. This is cause for
celebration, not criticism!

The article is also full of inaccuracies, such as saying we are spending more on nuclear weapons now than ever before, which is not even true in numerical dollars, let alone dollars adjusted for inflation since the 1950s.

But let's get to the heart of the intellectual attack, which is focussed on the US policy intended to develop low yield, deep penetrating tactical nuclear weapons capable of striking undregroud bunkers without destroying the cities or countries above them. How is this a bad thing? Does the author prefer that we use megatons of Mass Destruction when all we need is precision kiloton or sub-kiloton bunker buster?

One measure of nuclear arsenals, and the only one in which the feared specters of "overkill", "nuclear winter", and "doomsday" can be measured is "Throw Weight". This measures the megatonage of destructive force contained in a weapons system or nuclear arsenal. For example, because the Soviets always had less accurate missiles they built larger warheads. Their SS-18 carried a 20 megaton nuclear warhead, whereas a US Minuteman carried either a 1 megaton warhead or three MIRVed warhead of less than 200 kilotons each (1/100th the power of a single warhead SS-18). In fact, even when the US had a few thousand more warheads than the USSR at the height of the Cold
War, the USSR outgunned the US arsenal 6 to 1 in Throw Weight -- meaning their fewer warheads would release 6 times as much destructive force if both of us had shot our wads at eachother.

Many liberals see these figures as meaningless and say it is like two men standing in a basement full of gasoline when one of them has three matches and the other has five matches. In the Cold War that was probably correct. We did live (or die) under the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). But as we decrease our arsenals we approach a point where that doctrine no longer applies. If we follow the present trend of arms reductions out a few more decades, nuclear war will no longer be "unthinkable." Think about that... At some point some generals will be able to tell their leaders that nuclear war is not only survivable, but winable (especially if they strike first). And, if we get past that point alive to a time when nuclear weapons are actually eliminated completely, we will have made the world safe for all out conventional wars like WWII.

These are not issues that advocates of disarmament can shrug off. They are REAL issues that deserve serious consideration.

I spent 4 years in the 1980s pursuing Strategic Studies as the focus of my BA in International Relations. I studied the thoughts of nuclear strategists from all the major powers. Trust me when I say that those who control nuclear weapons take these issues very seriously and the rest of us should too. Let me briefly recap the evolution of American nuclear strategy to show not only the wisdom,
but the moral justification for the current policy of the Bush Administration.

The first official American Nuclear strategy was called Massive Retaliation and it was introduced by Eisenhower. It said that America would respond to ever conventional attack with full scale nuclear war and it was backed by over 10,000 bombers carrying up to 50,000 nuclear bombs. This was Doomsday writ large and thankfully we never went there. It may have prevented war in Europe, but subsiquent events, such as Vietnam and development of tactical
battlied nukes (not to mention concerns of the people of the world) showed that plan to seriously flawed. When JFK took office he was shocked that our strategy consisted of one big nuclear orgasim. He asked for alternatives.

These issues led to development of the strategy of Flexible Response that said we would respond in a manner comensurate with the aggression. We would meet conventional attack with conventional forces and escilate only if we were losing. Escilation would move first to tactical nuclear weapons and a strategic intercontinental exchange would opnly be a last resort. But technology did not stand still. Soon both sides were deploying large numbers of ICBMs and sub
launched SLBMs, until thousands of missiles were pointed both directions Eur-Asia and North America.

Enter MAD. This doctrine was embraced by both the US and USSR as a recognition of the de facto state of affairs in which both sides could and would destroy each other and that nothing could stop them from doing so except keeping the peace between them. This situation was neither desirable or planned. It just was and MAD formalized it through SALT One and the ABM Treaty. But still the technology did not stop. By the 1970s those missiles were being fitted with MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry Vehicles) which meant that one missile could carry up to ten warheads and destroy ten
different targets. Now one missile could destroy up to ten enemy missiles, but only if you fired them before the other guys had a chance to fire theirs... Such technology destablized the concept of MAD.

Enter the First Strike Counterforce Strategy. Whereas Massive Retaliation and the highest levels of Flexible Response had always been aimed at Countervalue targets (that is cities). The Counterforce strategy of the 80s relied on the improved accuracy of nuclear weapons to strike at an enemy's nuclear arsenal before they could be used. With highly accurate MIRVs it was realized that one
side could use as little as a tenth of their warheads to destroy as much as 90% of the enemy's retaliatory capability. After such an exchange the other side might be left with only a few missiles and the one who attacked first would still have the majority of their arsenal intact. Surrender was seen as probable in that scenario.

What few people realize is the this counterforce first strike strategy did NOT come from the Reagan Administration, but was first proposed in Soviet military journals in the 1970s. However, the US read those ideas, got spooked, and realized that we were in a better position technologically to make it work than the Soviets were. So we shifted our strategy accordingly. Still, to make it work, we also needed to let the other side know that we would not make it easy for them to use the same strategy on us. That is where Star Wars came in. We needed to make the Soviets think that they could not succeed in disarming us through a first strike, while making them think we COULD do that to them. It worked.

These perceptions and realities that destabilzed MAD and put us all in great danger actually led to fundamental advances in nuclear dissarmament. First came the INF Treaty that got rid of the Soviet SS-20 and US land based Cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe. Then came START 1. And before you knew it the USSR had collapsed under its own weight. Since then we entered into START 2 the combination of which reduced the combined nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia from 50,000 warheads to less than 14,000. Then, in May 2002, Bush and Putin signed an addition arms reduction accord that will cut both
arsenals by another two thirds by 2012, bringing the arsenals of both countries down to a total of between 1,700 and 2,200 each.

We already have less nukes in the world now than at any in the last 50 years, and we are about to reduce them by another 2/3! So why would the article dadyck quotes neglect to mention these facts and actually quote part of the NPT that calls for the exact actions that we ARE taking -- and then act as if none of that were happening????? The bias evident in that article is EXTEME.

Now let me tie the pieces together and show why the Bush strategy is most sane and humane nuclear policy in history. I have shown how we used to point multi-megaton warheads at the world and how the evolution of technolgy led to smalled and smaller warheads, which would cause less and less destruction. That is already a done deal. But we still rely on warheads in the 100 to 300 kiloton range (more than ten times more powerful than the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bombs) to deter agression. Bush thinks that is TOO MUCH. He understands that even one such warhead would still destroy entire cities (or small countries) and that our aging arsenal of smaller tactical nukes (the
kind you can fire out of a canon or drop from a fighter) are either too much or too little for the real jobs that precision warfare would call upon them for.

What jobs? Well Bush does not want weapons that destroy whole cities. He wants little nukes that can be used to kill ONE person (and whoever is close to him). He doesn't want to kill the people of our enemies. He wants to be able to kill their leaders. This is a total reverse of most of our enemies' strategies, such as terrorists who prefer to kill civilians in soft targets. Bush wants to be able to use minimal force to target the command and control (leaders) of
our enemies.

The best example of this is perhaps North Korea, where Kim Jung Il has thousands (some experts say as many as 11,000) hardened underground bunkers, as well as nuclear weapons aimed at American troops and allied civilians. IF we ever got into a crisis where that madman was about to actually launch those weapons, the only option Bush has now to stop that is to launch a multi-kiloton warhead set for ground burst at Pyongyang (or wherever we think he is at the time) and hope it has the force to either penetrate and destroy or
cut-off his command bunker (some of which we know to be at least 1,000 feet below ground from the European contractors who built them). Such a strike would kill everyone in Pyongyang (and create deadly fallout that would spread much farther, including either South Korea or China). Why shouldn't Bush have the option of firing a deep penetrating warhead that would arrive at a speed of 10,000 MPH and wait for a second or two as it drove hundreds of feet underground before exploding?

Have you ever seen film of the underground nuclear test in Nevada? Where the ground ripples and collapses in on it self? Where no mushroom cloud or fallout spreads death or mass destruction? That is what the Bush strategy hopes to create. Isn't that a damn sight more wise and humane than sending megatons of mass destruction at the same target? Note that such a strike would only be appropriate if the leader or command and control apparatus were in that bunker, and that such a decision would only be called for if it could prevent a wider nuclear war. THAT is the capability that Bush is asking for.

Without it, the only option we have today is WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION.

The whole point of this rambling post is to show that US nuclear strategy has moved from Massive Retaliation (where whole cities and countries would be destroyed) to Precision Decapitation (where we shoot at the actual Bad Guys). So, I challenge anyone to argue that this policy is immoral or "wrong".

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:26 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 23, 2004

Now you tell us...

This is what I'm afraid of....

An independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terror attacks said Tuesday that both the Bush and Clinton administrations ignored warning signs and failed to pursue significant military action that could have disrupted the increasingly dangerous al-Qaida terrorist network.
Look, it's pretty obvious NOW that we should have gone after Al Qaeda harder than we did. We've got a smoking pit in New York City, among other things, to remind us of that.

But, for both Bush and Clinton, it appeared more complicated than that, prior to 9/11. We didn't know what problems a pre-emptive attack on (whatever country we attacked Al Qaeda in) would incur. We didn't even know if it would do that much good. If you cut off the head, will the body go on? Will we create more terrorism by striking them in the Middle East? Will we create more problems than we solve, by alienating allies?

We STILL don't know that for sure. We damned sure didn't know it prior to 9/11.

Yes yes....Clinton's response to Al Qaeda failed. And Bush's response to Al Qaeda came too late. We know that now. The calculation was different then. We didn't know it was a choice between "pissing off Pakistan" and "9/11". We were trying to fight them on the margin.

I do wish people would understand that.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:00 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Productivity and Jobs

Everyone's been asking, "If this is a recovery, where are all the jobs?"

Well as some have been saying, but being largely ignored, many of the jobs have been absorbed in productivity.

American workers are the most productive workers in the world. There's an upside to that which most are familiar with, but there's also a downside to it in terms of jobs. Much of our productivity comes at the expense of jobs.

Business Week put a number to that this week:

A one-percentage-point increase in annual productivity growth costs about 1.3 million jobs.

Ah ha! you say. So if we've lost 2.7 million jobs since the recession, then they could possibly be productivity losses?

Yes.

...the continued ability of U.S. companies to squeeze out productivity gains on the order of 5% annually, since the recession ended, is having a far greater impact on the jobs picture.

"But wait", you say. If productivity gains are in the realm of 5% annually, and every percentage point means 1.3 million jobs, shouldn't that mean a loss of 6.5 million jobs annually?

Yes again. And that's about what we've seen. But here's the kicker. We've recovered all but 2.7 million. Chances are, though, that we'll not recover those 2.7 million anytime soon though. Mostly because those are the net result of increased productivity when all the jobs created since the recession are added back in. In other words, they're not going to be filled ... ever. They're gone.

The problem isn't in the overall number of jobs eliminated; they are running no higher than in past cycles. Instead, far fewer jobs are being created to replace those lost in the job market's churning than would usually be the case. The implication: More of the productivity gains seen during and after the 2001 recession are permanent. Unusually strong productivity also partly explains why other labor market indicators, especially weekly claims for jobless benefits, have tended to overproject job growth.

Now that doesn't mean that we're in a negative job cycle, where because of productivity we'll continue to lose net jobs. Again, entrepreneurship (jobs exist today which were unimaginable 10 years ago), insourcing and expansion of existing business will continue to create jobs. But because of productivity increases, NOT at the rate we've seen in the past.

"What about outsourcing?", you ask. "Isn't it a big factor in the job losses we've seen".

Not really.

Which comes back to the vexing issue of outsourcing. No one doubts that it is having an impact -- though exactly how strong is hard to say since good numbers are unavailable. While some put the number higher, Forrester Research Inc. estimates that of the 2.7 million jobs lost in the last three years, only 300,000 have been from outsourcing.

Which moves us into employment trends. Some factors.

As for companies considering hiring, they increasingly face a situation that has long plagued their European rivals: The soaring cost of employee benefits is making companies increasingly hesitant to add workers unless absolutely needed. Benefits costs, fueled by sky-high health-care premiums and the need to restore underfunded pension plans, are up 6.5% from a year ago. After adjusting for inflation, that's the fastest clip on record. If a company can get three people to do the work of four, that's one less health-care premium it has to pay.

Headcount costs. The cost of hiring new employees is becoming a major factor in looking at outsourcing and other means of using labor in production, such as ...

Increased use of temps also reflects the new flexibility of the U.S. workforce. Instead of "just-in-time" inventory management, companies are now talking about "just-in-time" labor. However, that increased flexibility, along with rapid technological change, is what facilitates the process of creative destruction -- destroying jobs in the short term but making the economy stronger over the long haul.

Bottom line ... the employment picture appears to have changed ... forever.

Why? Because productivity increases mean the ability to stay and compete for a business. The recent technological productivity gains have given business that ability. So the trend toward increased productivity will remain while businesess look at the least costly alternatives in terms of the factors of production with which to remain competetive. This means a change in how as well as in the numbers of those they employ.

The bright lining? As mentioned earlier, innovation creates jobs. The creative destruction touched on above means that even as productivity picks up in maturing industries, cutting-edge and new industries will be creating job opportunities as they transition from theoretical to reality.

Oh ... and the political bottom line? It doesn't matter what John Kerry promises in terms of jobs ... he can't deliver. What we're now seeing are the results of various industries and markets learning to work better and smarter (i.e. cheaper) through technology. Kerry's best move would be to back off and let the "creative destruction" continue.

All he can do is throw a monky-wrench into the works, and that's precisely what I'm afraid he would do to assuage his union special-interests.

Posted by McQ at 10:41 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

How soon we forget

Over at TAPPED, Matthew Yglesias engages in an astounding bit of historic revisionism....

William Safire's latest column is dedicated to making what you might call the "unofficial" case for invading Iraq -- the blooming of democracy in Baghdad will set off a wave of Democratization throughout the Middle East, draining the swamp of terrorism, and solving all our problems. Safire's fellow Times conservative David Brooks also mentioned the president's "bold and idealistic . . . dream of democratizing the Middle East" in his latest effort.

You've got to admit that it's a nice dream, even if it's not the argument the president actually presented for war.

Oh, it's not, Matthew? Let's review the record. First, the Congressional Authorization for war....
Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;
In November 2003, Bush said...
Our commitment to democracy is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today, and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come. In many nations of the Middle East -- countries of great strategic importance -- democracy has not yet taken root. .... The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.
But, you might argue, that was said after the war was over! Ok, but this wasn't....
[Condoleeza Rice] said that America and its allies wished to be seen as "liberators" promoting "democratisation or the march of freedom in the Muslim world".
But, you might argue, that was merely rhetoric, not policy. Ok, but this is policy...
We will: ... make freedom and the development of democratic institutions key themes in our bilateral relations, seeking solidarity and cooperation from other democracies while we press governments that deny human rights to move toward a better future;
And so is this....
We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world. The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.
And finally, the piece de resistance: Bush at the United Nations in 2002....
If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future.

The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world.

These nations can show by their example that honest government and respect for women and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond.

Now, what was that again about Bush not presenting the "democratization" argument for war? Perhaps it didn't make it to the pages of The Nation, but the argument was most certainly made.

UPDATE: Added to the Beltway Traffic Jam

UPDATE II: Matthew Yglesias has responded in an email, clarified his statement, and made some good points. Unfortunately, I don't have time to give it a proper debate right now, but I intend to post on the topic soon.

In the meantime, I should mention this: Matt was courteous and thoughtful.....which makes me feel badly about being a bit snarky above. I apologize, and retract the snarkiness. While I don't often agree with his conclusions, Matt is one of the more fair and thoughtful pundits. He deserves an exchange of ideas, rather than sarcasm. When I respond, I'll do so accordingly.

We will still disagree, I'm sure. We are, after all, bloggers. It's what we do.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:57 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Attempting to frame the debate

T. Bevan at "Real Clear Politics" while discussing the fallout from the Clarke "charges" makes the point:

For the better part of three years we've been listening to liberals whine that Bush is an overly aggressive cowboy, a unilateralist Nazi trampling on our civil rights at home and the feelings of our European friends abroad in pursuit of a "war" that many on the left have repeatedly said did and does not exist.

Now eight months before the election and we're getting a full 180 degree pivot from the same people accusing Bush of being soft on terror. It's as fake and phony as the wrinkle-free skin on John Kerry's forehead.

That's because the Democrats are making a valiant effort to take the most potent Bush issue away from him (or at least neutralize it) by "framing the debate". If they can successfully portray Bush as fumbling the "War on Terror" then they can at least make it a neutral issue. That's why you've seen the White House come back so hard on the accusations.

RCP points this out quite well:

For Kerry to have any chance at all of winning in November, Democrats know they have to destroy Bush's standing as a War President and they have to do it fast - before the Bush team can plant the image in the public's mind that John Kerry is soft on national security.

To accomplish this daunting task, Democrats have resorted not just to an argument of process (i.e. Bush has made progress battling terrorism but would be doing a better job if not for mistakes X, Y & Z) but have coalesced around what I would call "The Big Lie:" that Bush is and has always been soft on terror.

But there's a second side to this. If they're not successful in this portrayal, then their "framing the debate" ploy will fail. It will have placed the issue at the top of the tier for news coverage which will keep it as the major issue in the eyes of the American people. That is exactly where the Bush administration wants this issue. It is their biggest winner. War time president, "War on Terror", security, defense.

If the Dems manage to make this "soft on terror" stick (and I have some very serious doubts about their ability to do so), they've got a good shot at taking Bush out. But my guess is (and it is purely a guess) is Clarke's so-called "revelations" will quickly fade when its pointed out that its essentially "old news". Couple that with the fact that when 9/11 happened we went after al-Queda and Osama Bin Laden in Afganistan a full year and half before we did anything in Iraq and you have a dog that just won't hunt.

But on the Republican side, this is the issue they want in the news, and somethimes, as most Hollywood stars would tell you, even negative press is better than no press at all. It at least keeps the issues you're weak on out of the top spot. And it allows you to reframe the terror issue to your advantage ... which is precisely what the White House is in the middle of doing.

Posted by McQ at 08:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Quick Hits

Pith from the blogosphere....

* Judicious Asininity....

No war for oil:
France: $100billion in oil contracts
US: zip
People of Iraq: zip

War for oil:
France: zip
US: -$87billion to rebuild Iraq (not counting the cost of the war)
People of Iraq: Freedom (priceless)

* WizBangBlog....
The 500 biggest companies in America "bounced back" to a 5.9% profit margin for the year. Along the way to earning that mere 5.9% they provided us with the highest standard of living in history. Seems like they earned their 6% if you ask me.
* Emperor Misha....
We've noticed that the sales of Depends have skyrocketed since Dick Clarke "came out" today...
* Protein Wisdom...
I've just learned that TNT Network will be airing Swordfish on three consecutive nights in early April. Problem is, because TNT is a basic cable station, they'll be editing out all the shots of Halle Berry's unabashedly naked breasts.

Which, as those who've seen Swordfish can readily attest, is a lot like showing Schindler's List without the Jews.

* Steve Verdon....
Many on the Left are seeing Clarke's comments as "devastating". The problem is that in the final analysis the Bush Administration did what Clarke felt it should do, attack Afghanistan, hit the Taliban and go after Al Qa'ida. I'm not sure what Clarke's beef is, but I'm not sure his complaints are as devastating as many seem to think.
* John Cole...
When they say spiritual leader, they mean it in the same sense that Osama bin Laden is the spiritual leader of Al Qaeda, and that Tony Soprano is the spiritual leader of the Sopranos. Translation- these are the thugs behind all the violence.
* Frank J...
...what's changed? The Palestinians have been trying their hardest to kill Jews already, that they can't really up the ante. I mean, the Israelis could kidnap Arafat, take him to the beach, and push him into the sea, and all the Palestinians could do is shake their fists in impotent rage while shouting, "Kill joooos!"

The only one who can realistically threaten more violence is Israel, and, if that happens, there is going to be a major virgin shortage in paradise.

* Frank J, again....
For Sale: One used wheelchair, slightly singed.
* Dale Franks...
Is Kerry so disconnected from what average people think that he's just tone deaf to this stuff? I mean, you'd think a Yale man from an upper crust family, and who's on his second society marriage to the foreign-born multi-millionaire heiress to an old-line manufacturing fortune would be more attuned to the attitudes of the common man, wouldn't you?
Heh.


Posted by Jon Henke at 08:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The European meaning of "Never Again"

Mark Steyn takes a shot at the European "commitment" to fighting terrorism with a comparison to their slow but inexorable change in the meaning of "never again" as it pertains to the Holocaust.

For more than a week now, American friends have asked me why 3/11 wasn't 9/11. I think it comes down to those two words you find on Holocaust memorials all over Europe: "Never again." Fine-sounding, but claptrap. The never-again scenario comes round again every year. This very minute in North Korea there are entire families interned in concentration camps. Concentration camps with gas chambers. Think Kim Jong-Il's worried that the civilised world might mean something by those two words? Ha-ha.

How did a pledge to the memory of the dead decay into hollow moral preening? When an American Jew stands at the gates of a former concentration camp and sees the inscription "Never again", he assumes it's a commitment never again to tolerate genocide. Alain Finkielkraut, a French thinker, says that those two words to a European mean this: never again the führers and duces who enabled such genocide. "Never again power politics. Never again nationalism. Never again Auschwitz" - a slightly different set of priorities. And over the years a revulsion against any kind of "power politics" has come to trump whatever revulsion post-Auschwitz Europe might feel about mass murder.

That's why the EU let hundreds of thousands of Bosnians and Croats die on its borders until the Americans were permitted to step in. That's why the fact that thousands of Iraqis are no longer being murdered by their government is trivial when weighed against the use of Anglo-American military force required to effect their freedom. "Never again" has evolved to mean precisely the kind of passivity that enabled the Holocaust first time round. "Neville again" would be a better slogan.

For the life of me I've never understood the seeming European belief that allowing (or ignoring) the type of genocide and murder we've seen going on in the world is somehow "the right thing to do" much less the propensity of Europeans to want to appease terrorism rather than confront it.

Posted by McQ at 08:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2004

Bin Laden news and speculation...

The noose tightens?

International forces recently found a location where fugitive al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is thought to have taken refuge, according to French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.

She said in an interview to be published Tuesday that French troops operating near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan had helped trace bin Laden but did not say where, how wide an area she was referring to or whether he was still there.

Wouldn't it be ironic if bin Laden was caught by the French? After so much bad blood, it would be a tough pill for a lot of people to swallow. Nevertheless.

I'm not one for conspiracy theories. I think they're a lazy man's shortcut, at best, or - more often - a stupid man's crutch. Having said that, I do wonder about the failure to catch Osama bin Laden. Clearly, under the circumstances, it isn't an easy task. But I wonder if we're not intentionally letting him play at the end of his rope? Watching, waiting, and doing other things first.

I'll explain.

We know the Bush administration was - and, presumably, is - concerned about the possibility of bin Laden becoming a martyr. Immediately after 9/11, during initial planning meetings, this discussion came up....

Rumsfeld raised another problem. Although everyone agreed that destroying al Qaeda was the first priority, singling out bin Laden, particularly by the president, would elevate bin Laden the way Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had been elevated during the Gulf War.

Rumsfeld told the others the worst thing they could do in such a situation was to misstate their objective. It would not be effective to succeed in your objective of removing or killing bin Laden or Taliban leader Mohammad Omar without solving the basic problem of terrorism. Vilification of bin Laden could rob the United States of its ability to frame this as a larger war.

While killing bin Laden would be satisfying, we're not at war for satisfaction. We're at war to reduce the threat of terrorism. A living bin Laden is a danger to the US; a running bin Laden less so. A dead bin Laden, however, is very dangerous to the US, as he becomes a martyr, a motivator, to the terrorists around the world. His death focuses existing terrorists to strike, to retaliate.

Such a retaliation would be very difficult to stop. We could fight against a plotting "global network". It's harder to fight against 10,000 rash and angry individuals.

Again, I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I do wonder if we might not be allowing bin Laden to twist in the wind, while we deal with first things first. And the most important thing is the Al Qaeda network, which poses a threat when bin Laden is alive...and more of a threat if bin Laden dies a "martyr".

Just a thought.

(Hat tip to Steverino, who sent the story)

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:41 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

the 'morality' of globalization and outsourcing

In an Ira Rifkin opinion column in the Baltimore Sun, Rifkin pats John Edwards on the back for not only making outsourcing an issue, but a “moral issue” (in terms of US trade policy) to boot.

Edwards was correct when he called U.S. trade policy "a moral issue." But in fact globalization, the force generating the outsourcing wave, is itself a moral issue — that the economic and cultural changes implicit in globalization are by no means values-less.

Globalization's values are those of the marketplace, which places competition, individual gain and the acquisition of wealth above all else — including ensuring the stability of families and communities and respecting the psychological security that comes from living in a stable setting. In religious terms, globalization represents a rejection of salvation, if, stripped of all theology, salvation is understood to mean cultural insights into which human behavior is best for the long-term benefit of the individual and society.

Globalization's most egregious shortcoming is its rejection of this core human understanding, and need. Globalization favors the short term. The human psyche dwells on the long term.

To recap, per Rifkin, the markeplace values competition, individual gain and acquisition of wealth above all else. In fact, so much does it value these things that the stability of families and communities as well as “the psychological security that comes from living in a stable setting” are essentially disregarded. Globalization, per Rifkin, lives in the “short-term” that, must, of necessity, ignore the long-term need of the “human psyche”.

In a word: Poppycock.

Families, communities, stability? Go to Africa, find an agrarian community and among the crushing poverty you will find families who’re quite stable, communities that haven’t changed one iota in 2 centuries and “psychological security” which has left them with nothing to look forward too but duplicating the same boring and back-breaking tasks of previous generations. You’ll find a system which ignores “globalization’ with the obvious result. A poor backwater society with little to look forward too in terms of opportunity, life span or health, and certainly without the means to lift itself out of its poverty.

Short-term? Since when has the extension of the benefits of capitalism been a ‘short-term’ solution anywhere? And globalization and free trade are certainly the extension of capitalism.

As with writers such as Rifkin, he must (or chooses to) ignore the beneficial values of the market to make his negative point. Its been noted, for instance, that capitalism isn’t a wave of wealth, but instead a rising tide of wealth, and that tide lifts ALL boats ... not just the corporations or individuals that own the means of production but all those in the capitalist society.

That success for some provides opportunities for others with a snowballing effect from which all of that society benefits. Does it seem “short-term” reflecting on the tremendous success America has enjoyed, to believe the tide can be extended through GLOBAL free trade to everyone everywhere. And wouldn’t America benefit tremendously with the opening of new markets and the increased wealth of other consumers in other countries?

Rifkin then takes a stab at a lame religious argument in order to attempt to moralize the issue. He naturally goes negative, assuming, one must believe, that trade is something fairly new and NOT beneficial in “the long-term” because of the horrible negatives (family and psychological insecurity) it brings.

You can’t make globalization and free trade immoral if you stress (or even bring up) their benefits.

Rifkin’s argument, as a friend would say, is another example of the “my precious” syndrome. Rifkin completely ignores the fact that the US was NOT built on “family and psychological” security but instead by thousands and thousands of risk-takers. People who risked their own safety and fortunes as well as the security of their families to open up the country and avail themselves of the boundless opportunity it presented.

No, in the era of “my precious”, its all about psycho-babble. “Family security” and “psychological security” is somehow now the responsibility of “business” and not the community or, heaven forbid, the family itself. Another victim is born. Another shift in responsiblity is made.

In Rifkin's world, business is no longer the engine of progress and change. It must now become the security blanket of families and their precious security and psychological well-being.

If one followed Rifkin’s thinking to its logical conclusion, it could be summed up as “we’re not only going to make buggy-whips, but we’re going to make the most expensive one’s in the world!”.

Of course they’d go broke in a year or two, but the families would be so secure during that time KNOWING their jobs were “safe”.

Safe from “competition”, “individual gain”, and I can promise you, quite safe from the “acquisition of wealth”. If you want short-term, that’s the thinking that will get you there.

It's no wonder that religious believers, both liberal and conservative, find great fault with globalization. From Pope John Paul II to the Dalai Lama, from liberal Protestant ministers to anti-modernist Muslim imams, globalization has been condemned as a perversion of the concept of prosperity that "leaves very little space for values such as solidarity and altruism," to quote the pontiff.

That is not to say that to be religious is to be automatically anti-globalization. Christianity and Islam, for example, view themselves as global systems. So rather than being anti-globalization, religious critics of globalization are better described as alter-globalization; that is, they favor a deeply interconnected world in which the needs of people and the environment come before the needs of multinational corporations.

In short, they teach an inversion of the current model.

Rifkin sits in his office in the most successful country in the world in terms of wealth and globalization and with a straight face quotes “the pontiff” as saying such globalization “leaves very little space for values such as solidarity and altruism”?

In a country which gives more money to more charities than any other country in the world? In a country with more international outreach programs than any other country outside the UN? In a country that rides to the rescue of other countries in times of disaster than any other country in the world?

If that’s not finding “space” for altruism, I’m rather curious what Rifkin would consider it?

Again, what Rifkin ignores is the BENEFIT globalization has brought to those who’ve embraced it. Taiwan and South Korea for instance. India for another. Three countries who’ve grabbed the capitalist freight train with a vengeance have seen their standards of living rise DRAMATICALLY. Even China is having its socialist/communist foundations cracked and broken from within by the capitalist engine of progress.

How much more solidarity can one want than that which opportunity gives you to provide a better life for yourself and your family and your community?

It's the difference between pushing for fair trade, a term already in this season's political lexicon, rather than for so-called free trade, a classic misnomer because of the protectionist nature of the world's economic players, both major and minor. Fair trade is just and sustainable. Free trade protectionism is about political chicanery.

What this word-salad means is he’s for “fair trade” but not “free trade”, since free trade isn’t fair.

More of the “managed trade” nonsense the left has fallen in love with.

Free trade has been OK when the US was taking advantage of other countries, but its not OK now that we’re exporting jobs to other countries.

Per Rifkin we should stop that now. But, not surprisingly, Rifkin only tells half the story.

For years, American jobs have been shipped to developing nations, where pay scales are considerably lower and governments are far less stringent about levying appropriate taxes and enforcing safe working conditions and environmental standards. Since the losers were mostly small farmers and those working on manufacturing's lower rungs — groups lacking major political clout — outsourcing remained a back-burner issue.

Today, the jobs of American high-tech, medical analysis and financial services workers, among others, are threatened. Suddenly, outsourcing is a major campaign issue because the politically potent middle class is at risk.

Half the story. While trying to wring a tear from your eye for the “my precious” crowd, he completely ignores the “insourcing” side of jobs ... that is jobs which FOREIGN companies bring HERE because of our productivity.

The latest statistics show insourcing accounts for over 6.5 million jobs nationwide. Although this is less than the number of outsourced jobs, the gap has actually narrowed in the past quarter century. That is, there's been a recent trend of foreign companies adding jobs in the U.S. faster than U.S companies have increased jobs in foreign countries.

Consider what's happened in heavy manufacturing, which includes the manufacturing of vehicles, computers, electronics and other machinery. Since the mid-1990s, foreign companies have added 400,000 jobs in these industries in the U.S. Over the same time period, U.S. companies moved 300,000 jobs to foreign countries in the same sectors. The insourced jobs in these industries are also high-paying, with average compensation per employee of over $ 65,000.

Hardly the “burger flipping” jobs you so often hear being touted as the jobs created to replace those which have been outsourced. And, again, because of our productivity, we’re in a trend which will have more insourced jobs than outourced jobs very shortly. But Rifkin seems to have missed that.

So to sum Rifkins “outsourcing”point up ... we’ve lost low-paying manufacturing jobs and are now in danger of losing so-called “middle class” jobs (and thus it is NOW an important political issue). Ignored by Rifkin are the 6.5 million insourced jobs that have been produced by the very same “unfair” globalization he decries, some with AVERAGE compensation per employee of over $65,000.

Yup, its just “unfair”. And frankly, NOT much of an “important” political issue. All the politicians can do is screw it up by becoming “fair trade” or “managed trade” advocates, something Kerry advocates. Politicians can’t help it except to make it more FREE and OPEN ... neither of which Kerry advocates.

A teachable moment is at hand. But whether Democratic Sen. John Kerry and Republican President Bush can move the issue beyond narrowly focused political rhetoric mired in economic self-interest is by no means assured. Reflecting on the personal religious values that they insist guides them would help. Nor would it hurt voters who likewise profess to be rooted in religious beliefs to follow suit. The Sermon on the Mount did not say, "Blessed are the greedy."

No it didn’t but I will.

Thank god for the greedy, because their drive is part of the reason we live as well as we do. Globalization isn’t a one-way street. It requires sacrifice but it rewards that sacrifice, just like most worthwhile things one can do. The world economy is not a static enterprise, progress does not stop because families feel insecure or “psychologically threatened”, and business’s job is not focused on providing them security.

We have other institutions within society to provide for that. If Rifkin see’s a problem with family security, they should be the means of solving it. The solution does NOT lie in making business the entity morally responsible for solving those problems as it isn’t the function of business to do so ... and any claim to the contrary is just pure and utter nonsense.

It would be nice if Mr. Rifkin would take the time to figure that out and leave capitalism and free trade out of his paeans to the “my precious” crowd.

If Bush and Kerry have an ounce of sense, they’ll use Rifkin’s article to light the charcoal grill for the celebration of the next batch of high-paying “INSOURCED” jobs that will come our way through the “immoral”, “short-term”, “greedy” process of globalization and free trade.

Posted by McQ at 02:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Things are stupid all over...

From the same way of thinking that suggests we shouldn't grade students, because "it might make them think they've failed", comes this bit of idiocy....

Corrections Canada won't let guards at maximum security prisons wear stab-proof vests because it sends a confrontational "signal" to prisoners. "If you have that kind of presence symbolized by (a stab-proof vest), you're sending a signal to the prisoner that you consider him to be a dangerous person," said Tim Krause.

"It interferes with what we call 'dynamic security.' We want staff to talk to prisoners, to see how they're doing."

No word from Prison management on what the guard should do if it turns out the prisoner is feeling violent that day. Perhaps they'll block the shank with a non-confrontational directive from the warden. If that doesn't work, the guard can express his feeling on the matter with another confrontational "symbol".

Blood should work quite well. Conveniently, there should be quite a large amount of it at hand.

Last month, Sun Media reported a guard at the Edmonton Institution was threatened with disciplinary action several times by prison brass for wearing a self-purchased stab-proof vest on the job.
That poor bastard. For defending himself, they treat him like a criminal.....something, ironically, they don't even do to actual criminals.

(Hat tip to Reader Curt)

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Flashback

While searching for information, I came across this "talking points" memo from the Clinton campaign. They were, apparently, immune to irony based on these side-by-side lines...

Debates. Bush is good at delivering one line put downs made for the media. Clinton wants the debates to be about America's concerns.

Attacks. Bush has nothing positive to say. Dirt is all he's got because his campaign is already three feet deep in a six foot grave.

As far as I'm concerned, this is a perfect example of the politics of martyrdom that both parties play. "We're shocked that our opponents would play dirty. We refuse to engage in name-calling like that jackass we're running against."

I wonder if the hypocrisy even occurs to them any longer?

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Unemployment relativism

We're all aware that both Republicans and Democrats are willing to spin facts when an election is at stake. It's neither suprising, nor unusual.....but it still needs to be addressed. Along those lines, I've come across what can only be described as astounding hypocrisy from the Democrats. Here's the entry from John Kerry's blog....

U.S. Senators Bob Graham and Bill Nelson and Congressman Kendrick Meek revealed the impact of George W. Bush’s broken promises and failed policies on Florida’s working families.
.....
"I wish the President would spend some more time in Central Florida and speak to people other than his most loyal supporters, because he needs to hear that his misguided policies are hurting people,” said Graham. “In greater Orlando alone, the unemployment rate has shot from 2.5 percent in December 2000 to 4.4 percent in January 2004. That's a loss of more than 40,000 jobs."
So, Florida is having unemployment problems, and the (failed) Bush economic policy is "hurting them". Got that? Good...now, let's look at the unemployment situation in Florida, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics....
2004 Jan - 4.3
4.3%!!! Here in reality, that's a great unemployment rate!

What's more, the Florida unemployment rate has been steadily decreasing since a December 2001 high of 5.9%.

Finally, let's compare this to the Florida unemployment rate of 1996.

1996 Mar - 5.1
Huh. It was significantly higher. Now, what were the Democrats saying in Florida circa 1996 about the Unemployment rate?
Clinton was nowhere near either mishap but they marred what has been a nearly perfectly scripted campaign swing through Florida. On Friday, he could boast of the lowest unemployment numbers in seven years and he could also comfort the American public in the aftermath of Hurricane Fran.[emphasis added]
Here's what Clinton touted at the 1996 Democratic Convention:
Look at what's happened. We have the lowest combined rates of unemployment, inflation, and home mortgages in 28 years.
Ok, here's a comparison of those combined statistics:
1996 -
Unemployment
- 5.5%
Inflation - 2.65%
Mortgage rate - 6.84%

Combined: 14.99%

Now, let's take a look at today.
2004 -
Unemployment
- 5.6%
Inflation - 1.69%
Mortgage rate - 5.10%

Combined: 12.39%

A combined rate of about 2.5 points lower, and where is the Democratic Party? Running against the same data they praised in 1996.

Shameless.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Terror Primer

All terrorism has two things in common. First comes the hatred: a sick, conceited hate that can bring a man to slaughter women and children. Then, even more sick, comes the self-justification, the whining excuse that it is all in a noble cause and therefore justified.

Thus the Irish Republican Army butchered civilians "for Ireland." The fact that Ireland never asked for murder in its name is beside the point. The Baader-Meinhof Gang killed "for the German working class." The fact that German working people were disgusted by them was irrelevant.

And thus Frederick Forsyth, famed British novelist of such titles as "The Day of the Jackal" and "The Dogs of War" begins a terrific look at terrorism in general and al-Qaida specifically.

But al-Qaida has no such demands, seeks no negotiations and has only one aim. To kill us. Meaning Christians, Jews and secular Muslims.

Forget the left-wing tripe that "America was asking for it" or "If we hadn't provoked them, they would have left us alone." The United States just happens to be the biggest and richest Judeo-Christian society in the world. The United Kingdom comes next, and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

If there can be any question whether al-Qaida's attacks required provocation, think back. Australian kids in Bali, French engineers in Karachi, German tourists in Tunis, fellow Muslims in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Turkey, and thousands more in Jakarta and Iraq, were murdered because they were secular — i.e., nonfanatical — Muslims.

And then, as we approached the anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq, the latest apparent victims of al-Qaida's wrath are some 200 people who were simply trying to take a Madrid commuter train on a Thursday morning.

These new terrorists do not need to be provoked, because they are insane.



Key points ... there are no demands, there are no negotiations ... those have never been a part of any act of violence. There's a single overriding desire to infilct violence on a "infidel" world because of the terrorist's misinterpretation of a religion which does not demand what they claim it does.

But where does the insanity come from? Islam is a truly great religion, and like all the great faiths, it is theoretically based on love: of God and of one's fellow man. And like all great religions, it has one fundamental book of spiritual and moral teaching. The Quran, for true believers, is the revealed word of God, dictated to the prophet Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel in a series of trances 1,400 years ago.

Finally, like all great religious books, the Quran teaches the desirability of peace and love over hate and war, a state to be achieved by devotion to God and his messenger, prayer, charity, the annual fast of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca. So whence comes the terrorism, the hatred, the lust to kill in the name of Allah?

Three hundred years ago there arose in the bleak desert heart of today's Saudi Arabia a preacher of extreme violence and bigotry, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab. The sect he founded was and remains based on his conviction and teaching.

I don't think it comes as any surprise to anyone who's nominally aquainted with Islamic terrorism as to who or what the "Wahhabi" sect is. It is the "Aryan Brotherhood" of Islam with suicidal tendencies. Just as there's no negotiation with the white racist fanatics of the "Brotherhood", neither is there any with the religious extremists which make up the Wahhabi sect.

So why haven't we seen its manifestation until fairly recently?

But about 20 years ago, Wahhabism broke out of the confines of the Saudi peninsula and has exported itself to every corner of Islam. It has done this by sending out imams and preachers, founding and funding colleges and schools in more than 100 countries to brainwash youngsters in the new creed.

While we have the traditional fight against these extremist jihadists as we're conducting it today, the non-traditional fight must be to expose and neutralize these schools and colleges for what they are ... and this will take the hosting countries as well as the west's concerted efforts.

In a nutshell, here are the reasons Wahhabism is a perversion of Islam.

Wahhabism, also called Salafism, condemns about 90 percent of fellow Muslims as being impure, along with all Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims. This is why fanatical Salafists seem to come from so many different countries. Many Muslims are as bewildered by the continued rise of this manic cult as Christians are, and ask, "What have we done?" The answer is: nothing. It is not what we have done; it is what we are.

Quranic scholars (not all, but some) are loud in their wail that the Holy Quran never asked its adherents to go around slaughtering Christians and Jews, and that Wahhabism is therefore not true Islam but an aberration. But for those who are by now truly brainwashed, this is also heresy worthy of death.

What Wahhab did in his preachings and writings was to make two changes to orthodoxy, and then call his changes the true orthodoxy. The Quran makes provision for jihad, or holy war, but as a last resort to defend Islam itself. Wahhab made jihad the first duty of a true believer.

More dangerously, Wahhab changed the status of the Christian and the Jew. In the Quran it is made plain that because these two earlier religions also worship the one true God, they are also "people of the Book" and thus may be tolerated. Within this tolerance Christians, Jews and Muslims lived for centuries in harmony under Muslim rulers right across southern Spain and the Mediterranean basin and on into Asia.

But there is another category for whom no such tolerance exists — those who worship many gods, idolaters. These are repugnant to God and may be killed en masse if they refuse to convert. Wahhab reclassified Christians and Jews as "mushrikun" — idolaters, worthy of death to extinction. Hence the global jihad against us all.

As Forsyth points out, the vast majority of the world, including approximately 90% of Muslims are fair game for the Wahhabists. It should be Islam LEADING the charge to ferret these perverters of their religion out. It should be Islamic states pushing to have their schools and colleges shut down. But, that would require action by a civil society, and right now, in most Arab states, as noted in another article, civil society is essentially dormant. Until it is again revitalized and in charge, sects like Wahhabim will fill the void.

Forsyth then makes his final point, to which I agree totally:

This is why there can be no negotiation of terms with Salafists or the numerous killer groups that have sprung from their explosion across the world, now grouped under the umbrella title al-Qaida. American stockbrokers, Spanish commuters, it matters not. Mainstream Islam cannot simply throw up its hands and say, "Nothing to do with us." If the world is to become sane again, the sane must unite to drive out the lunatic incubus that has arisen in one extreme corner of Islam.

This is why Iraq is so important ... it is DEMOCRATIC reforms which will revitalize civil society and thus be the mechanism which will ultimately defeat this sort of crazed terrorism. As Fawaz Turrki pointed out in his article, "democracy is the antithesis of terrorism". It can't survive when democratic civil society is in charge. It can only survive when civil society is dormant and it is allowed, like a virus, to establish itself and spread.


Posted by McQ at 08:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

It's war!

I eagerly await the world's condemnation of a "unilateral war"....

Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed in an Israeli helicopter strike in Gaza City, prompting the radical Islamist movement he founded to declare all-out war on the Jewish state.
...
"Those who have taken the decision to kill Sheikh Yassin have signed the death warrant for hundreds of Zionists," said a statement.

Rantissi declared war.

"War is henceforth open with these murderers, these criminals and these terrorists," he told the Al-Arabiya satellite channel against a background of chants from hundreds of supporters calling for jihad, or holy war.

So, war has been declared. Isn't it about time Israel accept that reality, and declare war in return?

And then act like it.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I don't get it....

Following the killing of the terroris...er, "Hammas leader"...oh screw it....the terrorist Ahmed Yassin, the Palestinians are saying it's the United States' fault....(natch)

Ahmed Jibril, leader of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, told Lebanon's al-Manar television: "This Zionist enemy could not have committed this crime without the United States giving it the green light."
Perhaps somebody could explain this to me. Based on the rhetoric from the Arab world, I thought the Jews controlled the world. Now they have to ask our permission?

I really do wish they could clear up this whole chain of command thing. It's all very confusing, trying to keep up with who is responsible for the oppression of the people living in Middle Eastern dictatorships.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2004

Sunday Kid-blogging

It's Sunday night...that means pictures.

Tonight, one of my wife and Alex, and one of Alex standing over his birthday cake like the conquering champion he is. He ended up blowing out his candles on the first try....but then, there were only two.

Dscn1424.jpg

Dscn1459.jpg

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bring out your dead....memes

Who needs Oprah's book club, when the news media is willing to hawk new books with "breaking news" that just happens to be 2 years old....

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, President Bush ordered his then top anti-terrorism adviser to look for a link between Iraq and the attacks, despite being told there didn't seem to be one.
Shocking. Just shocking. I mean, how could the President have possibly asked for his anti-terrorism adviser to look for a link between terrorism and a known supporter of terrorism. I mean, that's just irresponsible.

But here's the passage that is disingenuously being passed off as "new information"....

As Clarke writes in his book, he expected the administration to focus its military response on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. He says he was surprised that the talk quickly turned to Iraq.

"Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," Clarke said to Stahl. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

Uh huh. And here's a Washington Post story from 2 years ago....
The Bush administration had been seeking to undermine Hussein from the start, with Wolfowitz pushing efforts to aid opposition groups and Powell seeking support for a new set of sanctions. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz had been examining military options in Iraq for months but nothing had emerged. The fear was that Hussein was still attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction, and without United Nations inspectors in the country, there was no way to know the exact nature of the threat they faced. Wolfowitz argued that the real source of all the trouble and terrorism was probably Hussein. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 created an opportunity to strike. Hussein was a bad guy, a dangerous leader bent on obtaining and probably using weapons of mass destruction. He also likely was culpable in the attacks of the previous Tuesday, at least indirectly, and all of them ought to acknowledge it.

Rumsfeld had helped raise the Iraq issue in previous meetings, but not as vehemently as his deputy. Now, Rumsfeld asked again: Is this the time to attack Iraq? He noted that there would be a big buildup of forces, with not that many good targets in Afghanistan. At some point, if the United States was serious about terrorism, it would have to deal with Iraq. Is this the opportunity?

So, did Rumsfeld push for an initial invasion of Iraq? Well, no...
But Rumsfeld, significantly, did not make a recommendation on Iraq.
So, what is Clarke's story? So far as I can tell, he's selling the same "they talked about Iraq" story that was sold 2 years ago.

I suspect a lot of people are going to focus on the "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq" issue. It's a bit misleading, out of context. The issue during initial meetings was less clear than it became later on. The possibility of simply striking the terrorist camps, without taking out the Taliban, was on the table. That, as they pointed out, would have been useless. The camps would be empty....why attack? The terrorist groups would simply have moved off into another area. Yet, we knew we had to do something...had to make some move to disable Middle Eastern terrorism.

There seem to be two divergent beliefs about Middle Eastern terrorism. One theory holds that terrorists are tied to specific groups and those groups to specific countries. Any attempt to deal with them must be similarly State/group-specific.

Another theory holds that terrorism is tied to no state, but is opportunistic and widely supported among many states in the Middle East. State/group-specific responses to an attack on the US are as useful as fighting the "war on drugs", by shutting down crackhouses one at a time...and only after somebody dies.

Consistent with that second theory, anything less than a full-scale invasion of Afghanistan would be less than useless. Resources would better be spent elsewhere. It was brought up, discussed and dismissed. In fact, it was dismissed by almost everybody. As Woodward reported..."Cheney thus joined Powell, Tenet and Card in opposing action on Iraq. Rumsfeld had not committed one way or the other. To anyone keeping a tally, it was 4 to 0 with Rumsfeld abstaining-a heavy body of advice against Iraq."

More to the point, we KNEW that 2 years ago. So, why is this a story again?

Note: See also Pejman, Ranting Prof and James Joyner, who each make good points.

Posted by Jon Henke at 03:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The League of Democracies. Or: Making the UN relevant again

The "League of Democracies" concept may be further along that we thought....

Since 1996, a handful of foreign-policy wonks have been kicking around the idea of a "democracy caucus" at the U.N. Two administrations, first Bill Clinton's and then George W. Bush's, took quiet but significant steps in that direction. Now, according to Bush administration officials, the concept will be test-flown at the six-week meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights that began on Monday in Geneva.
And there's good news...Republicans and Democrats are quite united behind this initiative. Good. I've described the structural inadequacy of the UN and the need for a change, not of process, but of "mission" in the UN. This "democracy caucus" could be a step in the right direction.

But it can't be the only step taken. Simply organizing an alliance of democracies is not enough. There has to be a transmission mechanism to accomplish those gials. I previously described one possibility...

One final point, and an important one. Debts. Concurrent with this change, it must be accepted that only democracies are legitimate governments. National debts can only incurred by representatives of the people. Any debt incurred by a non-elected regime is a debt of that regime, and not of the people. Thus, when a Saddam Hussein falls out of power.....his creditors have no claim on the Iraqi people. After all, the Iraqi people were not represented when the debt was incurred...why should they be responsible for it?

And that would be the mechanism by which the UN would move the non-member world towards democracy. Nobody would be anxious to loan money to non-democratic regimes, knowing the risks. Non-democratic nations would be under intense pressure to reform, in order to participate in worldwide progress and exchange.

I'd point out one more thing: this democratic caucus idea is not only completely consistent with the Bush administration foreign policy. The National Security Strategy states....
Finally, the United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe.We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world.
..and...
We will...use our foreign aid to promote freedom and support those who struggle non-violently for it, ensuring that nations moving toward democracy are rewarded for the steps they take;

make freedom and the development of democratic institutions key themes in our bilateral relations, seeking solidarity and cooperation from other democracies while we press governments that deny human rights to move toward a better future;

Critics accuse the Bush administration of a failure to pursue the diplomatic end of foreign policy and national security. This should serve as a concrete example of the Bush administration's National Security Strategy in action.

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 20, 2004

We're winning, Pt 192

Quoth Tacitus...

It's working: the clearest indication yet that the invasion of Iraq is having a ripple effect across the region. Now, let's be honest and acknowledge that this ripple effect includes a potentially dangerous Kurdish resurgence.

Let's also give credit where it's due, and state that creeping liberalization of places like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, to say nothing of emboldened opposition in Syria, would not have happened without the Iraq war and the anti-terror campaign in general.

I'll repeat: it won't be the Garden of Eden redux, but the invasion of Iraq was a necessary first step towards eventual liberalization in the Middle East. Without that first step, there would have been no reason, no incentive to change.

And that was the best reason of all for the Iraq war.

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:17 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

It's called "voting for a Democrat"

Now-a-days, men wear a fool's cap, and call it a liberty cap. I do
not know but there are some, who, if they were tied to a whipping-
post, and could but get one hand free, would use it to ring the bells
and fire the cannons, to celebrate their liberty.

-- Henry David Thoreau, "Slavery in Massachusetts" [1854]

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 19, 2004

The Ninth Crusade

With Islamic jihadists and extremist mullahs out there spreading falsehoods and rumors right and left, who in the world needs this?

As the dust settles over Baghdad it is now possible to determine why the United States and her ally Great Britain launched Gulf War Two or the Ninth Crusade. The long-term security of Israel was perceived to be threatened by the antics of Saddam Hussein Esq., and with the moral justification of the Sept. 11 behind them, Bush and Blair decided on a show of old fashioned Imperium. Had they not done so Israel would have almost certainly "gone it alone" and carried out a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iraq, and the Arab World would have been powerless to respond.

This is by a fellow named Mark Corby. Corby is described as “a military historian and retired British Army officer.”

Really? Based on the above paragraph, he sounds more like an uninformed conspiracy nut and anti-semite who has gone a bit “native”. And where is this screed to be found? In an Iraqi on-line “paper” called the Baghdad Bulletin. I have some knowledge of the history of the region, and if this guy’s a “historian” he’s a historian with an obvious agenda. A quick reading will give you the idea.

Its not bad enough that we have barrels full of these types already in Iraq and the surrounding area ... now they have to import them from Britain?

Posted by McQ at 03:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Another Foreign Leader Endorses Kerry

Here's a hot one that typifies the sort endorsing Kerry. Per the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad endorsed Democratic contender John Kerry in the U.S. presidential race, saying Kerry would keep the world safer than President Bush. But Mahathir, as he has in the past, criticized alleged Jewish influence over America.

This is the guy Bush took to the woodshed over remarks he made about Jews in October of 2003. A few of the low points:

The Muslims will forever be oppressed and dominated by the Europeans and the Jews. ... It cannot be that there is no other way. 1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews. There must be a way.

...

We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.

...

They survived 2000 years of pogroms not by hitting back, but by thinking. They invented and successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power

...

Of late because of their power and their apparent success they have become arrogant. And arrogant people, like angry people will make mistakes, will forget to think.

Yup ... old JF'nK is racking them up now. A socialist in Spain, a dictator in North Korea and an anti-semite in Indonesia, not to mention the mullahs in Iran.

Posted by McQ at 02:27 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

John Who?

According to "The Hill":

A handful of House Democrats who look vulnerable in November’s election, plan to run away from their party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and will not endorse him.

The holdouts are a minority of the 17 “frontliners” selected by the party leadership for member-to-member cash infusions, but their attitude reflects varying levels of comfort with how the New England senator will play in their districts.

Hmmm .... wonder how much that number will increase or decrease over the next few months.

Posted by McQ at 12:31 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Blog Rolling

Too much good stuff in the blogosphere to link it all, but here's a few worthwhile posts:

* Sean is right re: the Corrine Brown remarks: "The silence from the left is deafening". I'm not sure what else we can do, but it's disgusting that the Congressional Black Caucus, who made such hay out of Trent Lott's remarks, have had absolutely nothing to say about the mote in their own eye.

* Pejman is in fine form on the topic of negotiating with Iran...

....the “threat of punishment” would do more to coerce Iran to act within international norms than would the premature bestowal of legitimacy on Iran’s hardline rulers. But instead of driving home the message that Iran’s rulers are corrupt and unworthy of its people, instead of taking advantage of the successful use of force in Iraq to impress on the Islamic regime the consequences of continued rogue activities, the United States would undercut the regime’s more democratic opponents, and reward the regime for its reprehensible policies—and at a time when the regime is actually weak, and vulnerable, no less. If that doesn’t leave you scratching your head in confusion, nothing will.
The Bush administration policy has been "we don't negotiate with terrorists, if at all possible - we accept their capitulation". In Iran, it appears to still be possible to make progress, without giving up anything.

* (Snicker) Link bloggered - scroll down to the pictures.

* Meryl Yourish has added comments, trackback....and may even move to MovableType. Good for her. More non-MT bloggers should pick up the Trackback capability. It's worth it.

* Henry Hanks has a great post eviscerating Moveon.org's pretense at being "non-partisan". If text could crack a smile, they wouldn't be able to write that stuff with a straight face.

* Always good stuff at Hoystory:

The Donald is looking to trademark the phrase "You're Fired." So, in the future if you are let go by your boss with the famous phrase, you can report your boss to Trump who can take legal action.

* Fascinating entry by Steve Verdon on the unsustainability of the Canadian health care system....
This is how nationalized health care "contains costs". It contains the costs by moving the costs from cash expenditures into non-cash costs. Longer wait times, fewer pieces of medical equipment, less cutting edge procedures, treatments, and drugs. The moral of the story is one that everybody knows: You can't have your cake and eat it too. Typically it is not going to be the case that you will spend less for something and get more and better quality.
He has another post on the topic here.

UPDATE: Dr Galen comments.

* James Joyner, making a point I've made very often.....

If Iraq becomes even a moderately democratic state—say, something like India twenty years ago—in the near term and sustains itself after U.S. presence there becomes minimal, then it could indeed become a catalyst for the spread of democracy throughout the region. That’s a very big “if,” without a doubt. But we can’t judge it before the war is even over.
It doesn't have to be perfection. "Better" is pretty good, too. Remember, Russia didn't exactly become a flowering democracy....but it's quite a bit better than the Soviet Union, no?

* Gregory Djerejian deals a body blow to Josh Marshall. Read the whole thing.

* Dean Esmay, on the asteroid that flew close by earth....

It remains that we have no meaningful early warning system for such events that would save much of any lives, and no system for trying to stave off a potentially extenction-level asteroid from hitting.
...well, there's always Bruce Willis. Whether it would work or not.....hey, at least Bruce Willis is gone.

* Remember when Kerry said he wasn't calling Bush a crooked liar, but rather the "Republican smear machine". Who might that "Republican smear machine" be? Uh...well, turns out it's back to Bush, again. John Cole has the details.

* Cam Edwards moves on up. To the East side. DC, anyway. Good for him. Maybe I'll be able to hear him, since he'll be significantly closer to Richmond.

* Doh! Somebody in marketing at the Bush campaign is probably going to be fired over this.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blog Notes

A few items:

* Anybody know why TruthLaidbear isn't updating rankings and links, or why my sitemeter doesn't register any "average daily visits" there? Is it defunct, or merely hibernating?

* It's been awhile since I've mentioned it, so perhaps it's time: If you've added QandO to your blogroll, I'd be happy to reciprocate. Just email me and let me know about it.

* A few good blogs have already been added to the blogroll: Ranting Profs, Improved Clinch, Everything I Know is Wrong, Cranial Cavity, Quotes, Thoughts, and other Ramblings, The Fladen Experience, Kevin Drum's new digs, Protein Wisdom, and Tacitus.

* Finally, a question. I notice McQ and I usually divide our blogging pretty equally between three areas:
1: Fact-checking.
2: Analysis.
3: Argument (as in, with other bloggers; with current memes; with political opinions)

Each has its value - though, I must say, I prefer a good, solid fact-check. It's the blogging equivalent of a body-check in hockey...rewarding. But, do you have a preference? Why do you read this blog? Would you prefer more of one, less of another?

Understand, of course, we're going to write whatever we like - we do, after all, pay for the bandwidth. :) Still, it's instructive to know what you like.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:25 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Now that's advertising...

I really like this Lockheed Martin advertisement. None of this nebulous "we're defending America" stuff.....they cut through the crap.

Lockheed.jpg

I'd remind you that we could achieve military superiority for a LOT less than $400 billion a year. All that extra money? It goes to minimize loss of life.

That's why we're spending top-dollar.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lileks, on James Carville

I can agree with this wholeheartedly....

Note to the Democratic Party: James Carville may not be the bridge-building base-expanding emissary you think he is. If you’re employing him as the fellow who wheels the barrow heaped with meat to the lion den, fine; he’s great for whipping up the previously converted, the faithful, the die-hards who like their rhetoric served up raw and red. But to paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t want to be a member of a party that would have him for a member. It’s not just the nature of his rhetoric – why, both sides have people who don’t just go over the top but set new world pole-vaulting records every election. No, it’s because he sometimes acts as though he hovered up a pound of meth before he starts his speech.
Also, he bears a fairly strong resemblance to a reptile, which lends credence to the theory of evolution.
Posted by Jon Henke at 08:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Is there a "Doctor" in the courtroom?

"Doctor" John Gray, author of those "Men are from Mars" books, has threatened a blogger with legal action. Apparently, the blogger called "Dr" John Gray a "fraud" because he referred to his PhD, although he doesn't actually have a PhD from an accredited University.....a fact that has been corroborated. In fact, he has a PhD from "Columbia Pacific University, which has been called a "degree mill" by the State Attorney and which was shut down by the State of California in 1999."

Apparently, "Dr" John "not in the face" Gray doesn't care for bloggers calling him a "fraud".....just because he calls himself a "Doctor", with a degree similar to one I could buy off TV.

Perhaps I should become an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church - a "serious rite" available to "public figures, cartoon, and other fictional characters" - then complain when somebody questions my theological cred.

Or maybe I'll just blog about the idiot.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Worlds apart

In Iraq, where the United States is in charge, they have a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, an interim government...and they're just months away from democratic self-rule.

Meanwhile, where the United Nations is in charge.....

In Kosovo itself, an often hapless U.N. administration guided from New York has resisted turning over power to the Kosovars, who despite their inexperience eventually became frustrated with colonial administration. The United Nations established a weak government and insisted that it meet impossible political and economic goals before Kosovo's final status can even be considered. The U.N. administration failed to generate any serious investment, leaving Kosovo with unemployment of roughly 60 percent -- a potential tinderbox. Equally important, the U.N. administration, with Security Council blessing, allowed Serbia to establish a dual administration in Kosovo for the Serb population there, in effect giving Serbia control over a significant portion of territory in northern Kosovo, where Albanians were kept out, and establishing a de facto geographical basis for partition.
Oh, and the ethnic fighting in Kosovo "is the worst since the 1999 war". And we want them in charge of Iraq?

(link via RantingsProf, who has been added to the blogroll)

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 18, 2004

Arab Reform

Speaking of the Arab media, wandering the net brought me across the english language daily "Gulf News" out of the United Arab Emarites and an article by Dr. Anwar M. Gargash entitled "Time to take the road to reform".

Reform in the Arab world is the hot topic currently. The Arab press is full of articles dealing with this contentious issue. This is not surprising, if we take into account the multitude of failures in the political, economic and social spheres. The catalogue of failures was exposed dramatically in various reports dealing with Arab development.

Again we see the admission of failure in various spheres in the past. So its no secret to the Arab community that there is a problem. Its there, its apparently evident and it seems they know its killing them. The big question though is how to handle this. Dr. Gargash is one of the reform minded.

Findings of these reports paint a bleak picture of a region that is ill equipped to deal with the present and future challenges. Furthermore, American pronouncements and initiatives concerning democratisation and other aspects of reform have put many of the Arab regimes on the defensive. Traditional allies and friends were suddenly being accused of various things.

The post-9/11 wake up call was, and remains, loud and uncomfortable. The reaction of some of these regimes was instant, and defensive. They sought to blur the issue by bundling Washington's initiative with the genuine need for reform. It will be truly unfortunate if the attempt to confuse the message and the messenger is successful.

Reform must be a priority, but many stagnant Arab regimes will try to avoid reforming by playing the American card in reverse. This was certainly the sentiment of the 170-plus Arab opinion makers who gathered at the Alexandria library recently. It was an important gathering of mostly private individuals seeking to activate the role of a dormant civil society.

Key point here. Defensive posture by Arab states when it comes to reform which includes the institution of democracy. Why? Because traditionally its anathema to their tribal culture. A tough nut to crack. Add to that the push by the US and the west to see these institutions implemented and you run into a natural resistance than kills any inertia that might be generated by reform.

Gargash says that Arabs shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. While they may not like the US and the west telling them they should implement democratic institutions, the message is still valid. Those sorts of reforms are desparately needed. You can't break the hold of religious driven authoritarianism if there isn't a civil society with which to replace it and as Gargash says, presently civil society in Arab states is dormant.

The Arab world needs to critically examine its priorities, and only Arab societies can do this with credibility and sensitivity. Such a critical examination is long overdue and must not be avoided.

From the various discussions at Alexandria, it was clear that a liberal and secular agenda was gaining ground as the basis for future direction. Many present realise that only such an agenda is capable of implementing a vision that seeks to empower women, liberalise the economy and create a participatory and democratic society.

Profound words. "The Arab world needs to critically examine its priorities", because it is ONLY the Arab world that can a) implement new priorities and b) by so doing, extinguish the flame of terrorism.

If in fact Arab nations can 'empower women' in the face of Islamic clerics bound and determined to stop them, there will indeed be hope for a "participatory and democratic society". But its going to take time, and terrorism is here now.

Many other regions are moving forward at an accelerated pace and many parts of our world are being left behind, with a growing population of youth with little to look forward to.

On the other hand, it was clear at Alexandria that the wheel must not be re-invented, and that we must not use the oft-repeated excuse of our own tradition or unique conditions to circumvent the need for reform. Accepted universal norms must be our guidelines in this journey - a journey we must take for the sake of the future and to remain relevant in today's world.

And I agree 100% ... This journey is important not only to the Arabs but to the rest of the world as well, and as much as we're able, we should help the reformers accelerate the process within the bounds of reason. That should be a major plank in any foreign policy plan for the US or any western nation.

Posted by McQ at 07:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Reclaiming Islam

We hear a lot about Arabs and Muslims not saying enough to condemn terrorism. Here's Fawaz Turrki of the Arab News doing exactly that. Maybe its my warped sense of humor, but for whatever reason I thought he might not be very popular for his stance in Arab circles, and his email address seems to indicate I might be right.

Anyway some snippets from his editorial "The Shame of It":

Arab terrorists may consider their pursuit of terror a career of high note, but do they, and we, know how mockingly remote their acts are from Islam, how uniquely rooted instead these acts are in the pathology of the terrorists’ political experience?

We continue to hear that the jihadists don't represent Islam or its tenets. I'm encouraged to see a Muslim journalist making the point in print.

Here he goes to my point of the clash of cultures (modern v. feudal) but puts the onus of failure where it belongs ... on the Arab cultures, not the west.

You have to be an outright optimist to believe that all has been well with the Arab world, and gifted with self-deception to have ignored its unraveling at the seams in recent decades. Modern-day Arabs have suffered repeated military defeats, watched helplessly as their polities have become progressively sapped of élan — their innovative intellectuals silenced or hounded to destruction or into exile — and have come to see themselves as mendicants in a world beyond their control. And now outsiders are in that world intent on reordering it for them, armed with master plans to introduce it to “democratic reform” and “free markets,” presumably because Arabs have failed by themselves to meet the challenges of modernity.

This validates one of Thomas Sowell's point in his "Why They Hate Us" article:

Nowhere have whole peoples seen their situation reversed more visibly or more painfully than the peoples of the Islamic world. In medieval times, Europe lagged far behind the Islamic world in science, mathematics, scholarship, and military power.

Even such ancient European thinkers as Plato and Aristotle became known to Europeans of the Middle Ages only after their writings, which had been translated into Arabic, were translated back into European languages.

Today that is all reversed. The number of books per person in Europe is more than ten times that in Africa and the Middle East. The number of books translated into Arabic over the past thousand years is about the same as the number translated into Spanish in one year.

There are only 18 computers per thousand persons in the Arab world, compared to 78 per thousand persons worldwide. Fewer than 400 industrial patents were issued to people in the Arab countries during the last two decades of the 20th century, while 15,000 industrial patents were issued to South Koreans alone.

The result. Per Turrki, a feeling of humiliation and shame. He offers this not as an excuse, but as an explanation.

If we look nearer at the crisis of the Arab sensibility, we see the rent body of a whole generation that had grown up on the ethic of fear and defeat — and harrowing shame.

And herein, I say, lies the answer.

Different cultures conceive of and deal with shame differently. In ours it is associated with humiliation and disgrace, sentiments almost obsessive in their intensity. When your nation bows its head and casts down its eyes before constant defeat, you feel the shame of it, which you then either run away from or deny, in order to avoid moral judgment and the pangs of conscience. Denial and flight, however, are feelings that will continue to torment you with their psychic pain — till you liberate yourself from them by lashing out. And it takes a man of conscience to be put to shame.

There are two obvious paths then, from which Arabs can choose ... lash out at all those they see as their "enemies" and the perpetrators of their "shame", no matter how misplaced their animosity, or look within and take the steps necessary to improve their culture by being honest about the reason they are in their present condition.

Just as obviously, the latter requires some very uncomfortable soul searching, which, to this point, most Arabs seem unwilling to commit too.

Turrki then "bottom lines" the root of terrorism for us. But he also makes a VERY important point that the "why do they hate us" crowd never seem to understand.

All of which is by way of saying that terrorism directed at targets in and outside the Arab world, by Arab terrorists, is rooted in social, emotional and, yes, pathological — not religious — sources.

They “hate America”? Heck, these folks hate everybody.

And it is this last statement which is now dawning on the rest of Europe, where non-participants in the Iraqi war have felt smugly safe, until now.

The theme is universal: Terrorism is the product of despair, humiliation and disgrace, shame at one’s inability to be a determining force in one’s destiny, and at the involuntary forfeiture of one’s powers of self-determination. The antithesis of that condition is democracy.

If we ourselves have failed, and miserably so, to enact that in our political lives over the last half century, then where’s the harm in considering the US proposal for a Greater Middle East Initiative?

You call that a pact with the devil? I call it a pact with historical necessity, for as democrats we shall have our day, and terrorists — posturing behind our appropriated faith — shall have their eclipse.

Turrki's final plea is both interesting and courageous. Interesting because he "gets it". The antithesis of terrorism is democracy. Democracy does two things. It establishes those institutions which will remove the "shame and humiliation" through modernization of an essentially feudal culture (all under the umbrella of true Islam) and by so doing removes the reason for terrorism as well as reclaiming the Islamic religion as a religion of peace.

Its courageous because most Arabs prefer the "blaming of others" for their present plight. Its refreshing to see an Arab who recognizes what the future must include for Arabs and has the courage to speak out about it.

Posted by McQ at 03:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Die, bitch, die

Say, this could be interesting....

Pakistani forces have surrounded what may be a "high-value" al Qaeda target in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, President Pervez Musharraf told CNN.

"We feel that there may be a high-value target," Musharraf told CNN. "I can't say who."

The ferociousness of their resistance indicates that the al Qaeda fighters are protecting someone particularly significant, he said.

The military asked locals to leave and is flying helicopters overhead, "pounding" the area with artillery, he said.

I don't suppose I need to tell you who a "high-value target" might be.

UPDATE: Damn.

Early reports indicated it may be Al Qaeda's No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri but the identity remains uncertain.

Mansoor Ijaz, Fox News' Foreign Affairs Analyst, reported Thursday that according it is "highly probable that the high value target" that has been surrounded is either Usama bin Laden or al-Zawahri," according to Pakistani intelligence sources.

Keep your fingers crossed that it's the former....though, the #2 slime isn't shabby, either.

(Hat tip to Curt, who sent me a link to this story)

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:44 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Teasing out the "foreign leader" knot

John Kerry recently said....well, something about "leaders" (either "foreign" or "more", depending on which day it is). Specifically what he said is the topic of debate, as is the larger importance of what he said. I've been thinking about it for a bit, and I think each side is getting a bit ahead of itself. I'll try to tease out that knot a bit....
----------------------------------------------------

What did he say?

Apparently, he said "more leaders", rather than "foreign leaders" in the first instance.
(He was misquoted! Score one for his defenders!)

On the other hand, the context and later statements clearly indicate those leaders were "foreign leaders".
(Oops....subtract points from Kerry's defenders)
----------------------------------------------------

Did "foreign leaders" tell him that?

As the Washington Times pointed out, records indicate that Senator Kerry has only been in the same city with a foreign leader on one occassion since campaigning....and he was rather busy that day.
(award points to Kerry's critics for good research!)

On the other hand, one might reasonably make two assumptions:
1: Senator Kerry is familiar with the device called a "telephone", and has used it to speak to foreign leaders. (well, it's possible)
2: "Foreign leaders" includes ambassadors and officials....not just Presidents and Prime Ministers.
(subtract points from his critics for missing such obvious alternatives)
---------------------------------------------------

Was he right about the support of foreign leaders?

As Pandagon points out, "The new Spanish prime minister has said he wants Bush out". Thus, a leader is on record supporting Kerry!
(Award points to Kerry's defenders for the save!)

On the other hand, as John Cole points out, "he was not in office when Kerry made the remarks".
(subtract points from Kerry's defenders for the chronological error!)

However, even leaving aside the cynical - though true - remarks about Kerry having the support of North Korea, et al, it's hard to dispute the overall assumption that foreign leaders do, indeed, often support John Kerry over Bush. Even among Kerry's critics, is there much doubt that many Middle Eastern countries, France, Germany and others would prefer a Kerry Presidency to a Bush Presidency? I doubt you'd find many to suggest otherwise.
------------------------------------------------------

Should Kerry disclose the names of those foreign leaders?

This is an easy one. No. While the public may find it of immense interest, it is neither relevant, nor proper for Kerry to disclose his private conversations with foreign officials. Private comments are for the speaker to disclose, or not. Disclosure by Kerry would be a violation of their trust, and a poor way to begin diplomacy with foreign leaders, should Kerry win the Presidency.

What's more...Bush knows Kerry cannot and should not, in good conscience, disclose those names. That's probably why he's pushing him on the subject.
(Score one for the Kerry campaign for holding their tongue)
--------------------------------------------------

Is it relevant?

Another easy one. No. The support of "foreign leaders" is neither relevant, nor particularly complimentary to John Kerry. As he said, THEY "need a new policy". I simply cannot imagine why John Kerry would tout the needs of foreign countries to explain why he should be President of the United States. But he did....which leaves one wondering exactly why he's so interested in the policies needed by, for example, France.

(subtract one from Kerry for pandering to the richest special interest group of all...foreign leaders)
--------------------------------------------------

Frankly, this isn't exactly a home run for anybody. John Kerry said something spectacularly irrelevant, and it's a bit worrisome that he doesn't seem to believe it's irrelevant. Republicans have jumped all over him for not naming names...though, they know full well that he's obligated to respect the privacy of diplomatic conversations.

Meanwhile, Kerry's critics and defenders have been tying themselves up in knots to put the most advantageous spin possible on this story. I am, frankly, just not buying it.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:23 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Our friend Russia

In case there is anyone out there reading this who thinks Russia is a friend and ally of the US a little jaunt to the Pravda website should help extinguish any such thoughts. For instance, on the latest blow-up in UN run Kosovo:

Kosovo has never been closer to a civil war. The mutual trust, the bortherly relations, the inter-cultural friendship which co-existed between Serbs and Albanians was destroyed by the KLA, aided and abetted by the USA in its criminal interference and intrusion into the internal affairs of a sovereign state. The result, five years on, is visible.

The writing style (including the "bortherly relations") and bogey man haven't changed much since the demise of the unlamented USSR have they?

Oh, and this was just as telling ...

Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica stated yesterday that "events in the northern part of Kosovo-Metohija reveal the true nature of Albanian separatism, its violent and terrorist character". A bomb defused outside the UNMIK Headquarters earlier this month gives rise to fears that international terrorist cells are among the Albanians, trying to sow the seeds of chaos in the area to create the conditions to force out the remaining Serbs and the UNO so that the core business of the KLA - drugs, arms and human trafficking - can proceed without disturbance.

This is what Slobodan Milosevic was trying to halt, before his country was savagely attacked by NATO and before he was kidnapped and taken to The Hague.

Well of COURSE that's what dear Slobodan was trying to halt.

Russia ... different name, same old crap.

Posted by McQ at 10:55 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

My plans to rule the world continue apace

Wow. John Hawkins at RightWingNews has ranked his 40 favorite blogs, and he's got QandO at #13.

I'm flattered to even be on the same list with such notable and intelligent bloggers. Go check out his list to find more worthwhile blogs.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:27 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ted Rall watch

I had to read this twice, to be sure he actually wrote what I thought he wrote. He did. In his latest column, Ted Rall writes....

Paul Krugman, the lone leftie on the Times op-ed page...[emphasis added]
Paul Krugman...the LONE leftie on the NYTimes op-ed page? What are Bob Herbert, Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd....and for that matter, the editorial board? Part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy?

Unbe-freakin'-lievable.

Well, not entirely unbelievable. It is, after all, not the first time we've caught Ted Rall being so stupid.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jobless claims down

Worst since Hoover, don't you know....

The number of Americans filing for initial jobless benefits dropped to the lowest level in more than three years last week, the Labor Department said on Thursday in a report that pointed to a brightening job market.
Remember, economists point to 400,000 as the dividing line between an improving and worsening job market. We've been well under 400k for a very long time now.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Remember Howard Dean?

Is it just me, or is Kerry beginning to pull a Howard Dean (i.e. working himself up to an ultimate implosion).

"I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

Did the Bush campaign send the Kerry campaign flowers and candy after that one?

Or how about this one?

"Asked in the Herald interview last year about sending Elián back to Cuba, Kerry was blunt: 'I didn't agree with that.'"

"But when he was asked to elaborate, Kerry acknowledged that he agreed the boy should have been with his father."

"So what didn't he agree with?"

"'I didn't like the way they did it. I thought the process was butchered,' he said."

Couple those gems with his "foreign endorsements" and the "crooked" and "lying" GOP remarks and he's had a great week.

Once again I'll say it ... Kerry's peaked. It is not going to get any better for the guy the longer he stays in the spotlight and he's going to be in that spotlight for a very looooooong time.

Posted by McQ at 09:34 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Talking Points nonsense...

I'm a bit taken aback by the illogic of this Josh Marshall post....

One of the things we hear again and again from the administration is that Saddam Hussein still had both the intention and the capability to build and possess weapons of mass destruction.

Isn't this a logical fallacy?

I mean, if you have the intention to build WMDs and the ability to build them, then you have WMDs. It's about as close to 2 + 2 = 4 as you get in human affairs.

Josh has wandered into a particularly obtuse corner of "logic", where "intent + capability" means "did it yesterday". Has it really not occurred to Josh Marshall that Saddam wanted WMDs - and could make them - but knew he had to bide his time?

Presumably, Josh Marshall has, at some point, had the intent to buy a car....has even been capable of doing so. Yet, I'm willing to bet money that, at some point, he didn't actually have that car, yet.

And if that's a logical fallacy, I'll buy Josh Marshall a car. I've both the intention and capability. However - if it is, indeed, a logical fallacy - he should already have that car, which should save me a lot of money.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:33 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Where they ain't

Reader Steverino leaves this comment in a post below....

The problem with treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue is that to do it effectively, the resulting police state would make the more objectionable parts of The Patriot Act seem like complete liberty.
At the John Kerry campaign blog, they seem to understand this already....

gas-mask.jpg

The real problem with a "law enforcement" approach to terrorism is what to do with nations that disagree. Sure, you can enforce laws in the US, and among allies.....but how does one enforce laws in a Taliban controlled Afghanistan? Iraq? Saudi Arabia?

If they don't cooperate fully, then we're just spending billions of dollars fighting terrorists "where they ain't".

And speaking of wars we've been fighting as a "law enforcement issue".....how's that "war on drugs" working out?

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:46 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Peace in our time

Go on and tell me about how Spain "isn't appeasing terrorists"....

The Islamic militant group that claimed responsibility for last week's Madrid train bombings has called a truce with Spain to give the new government time to withdraw troops from Iraq, a London-based Arabic-language newspaper said Wednesday.
Danza, marionetas, danza. Perhaps the lion will eat you last.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 17, 2004

Reality begins to dawn in Europe

It looks like a new awareness is beginning to dawn in Europe:

The Islamist forces behind the Madrid bombings "confirmed that they can choose the moment and the target with a frightening precision," says the French daily Le Figaro (in French).

"The bombs of Madrid have shown us how much we are without defense and how much our knowledge of the terrorists is insufficient," says Le Figaro. "Each country can be hit, whether or not it has participated, like Spain, in the Iraq war, whether or not it has decided, like France, to forbid Islamic headscarves in the schools."

So, per Le Figero, Iraq is really irrelevant to the jihadists. Its all about the west.

March 11, said the Milan daily Corriere della Sera (in Italian), "is going to be more important than 11 September" for Europe. The Madrid attacks they say, mark the beginning of "a European war that the [European] Union is going to have to fight from now on with a far greater degree of unity and solidarity than it has shown over the past few months."

Actually it doesn't mark the "beginning" of a European war, it simpy has awakened those that have been denying the war's existance on for some time now.

In London, the Guardian says "emergency security meetings across Europe yesterday signaled the deepening recognition that the 200 deaths in four trains blown up in Madrid on Thursday probably constitute more than just a domestic Spanish terrorist event." The leftist London daily says no European nation will be spared, no matter what its past stance on the war on terror or Iraq.

Which is what the US has been trying to point out to the naysayers since 9/11.

"Only a dreamer would believe that Germany will not be attacked," say the editors of Bild, Germany's best-selling tabloid. "Islamic terrorists are waging a war against the West, not just against individual countries."

Welcome to the real world, Germany. You of all countries should understand what aggressors do to appeasers.

Sociologist Emilio Lamo de Espinosa says Europeans have been dreaming. Writing in Le Monde (in French), Lamo says Europeans have thought they would be spared because they haven't supported the Bush administration's policies.

And were quite smug about it as well, weren't they? Crow, I understand, is best eaten warm.

"When the Americans declared war on terrorism, many of us thought they exaggerated. Many thought terrorism was not likely to occur on our premises, [inhabited by] peaceful and civilized Europeans who speak no evil of anybody, who dialogue, who are the first [to] send assistance and offer cooperation. We are pacifists, they are warmongers. . . . . Don't we defend the Palestinians? Are we not pro-Arab and anti-Israeli?"

Yes. And it has bought you NOTHING. You're as much a target as any "infidel".

Wake up calls come in various forms and fashions. This one came in the blood and lives of 200 Spaniards. It should have come with the 3,000 lives in New York. But much of Europe was too smug and arrogant to consider they might be next. It tut-tutted when the cowboy Americans went after the terrorists. It shook its ancient finger at the upstart and explained, condecendingly, why America was wrong. It banked on appeasment being the coin that would sway terror to look elsewhere for its victims.

They were wrong. Madrid's atrocity says it IS finally time to wake up to the reality of Islamic terrorism ... isn't it, Europe?


Posted by McQ at 10:05 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

No wonder he favors kerry

More from Spain's new PM:

Zapatero said the Iraq occupation ``is turning into a fiasco,'' noting that ``there have been almost more deaths since the end of the war'' than during last year's U.S.-led invasion, and the United Nations still is not in control.

But of course, 11 months after the fall of the Ba'athists, the country has a constitution ... 37 months earlier than post WWII Germany.

You wonder when this guy Zapatero is going to learn to shut up. Not soon I'd guess. But then he's not officially in charge yet either. My guess is he'll find the reality of governing much tougher than the cheap talk he's throwing out there now. It WILL have a price.

He and Kerry, however, seem to have something in common:

In the hourlong interview Wednesday on Onda Cero radio, Zapatero said that ``fighting terrorism with bombs ... with Tomahawk missiles, isn't the way to defeat terrorism.

``Terrorism is combatted by the state of law. ... That's what I think Europe and the international community have to debate,'' he said.

That's right folks, Zapatero, like Kerry think that terroism is a law enforcement issue.

Sigh ...

Posted by McQ at 07:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

An interesting theory

Historically, the Jewish vote has been mostly for the Democrats. But according to Zev Chafets, that could be changing.

Historically, American Jews have distrusted and disliked Evangelical Christians. Since FDR, they have voted overwhelmingly Democratic in every national election except 1980, when upward of a third cast ballots for Ronald Reagan over the born-again Jimmy Carter.

George W. Bush is born-again, too, but he also is the most pro-Israel President in history. Eckstein believes President Bush will get a significant Jewish vote, perhaps enough to make a difference in electoral battleground states like Illinois, Pennsylvania and, especially, Florida.

Add in a little Nader and you have the makings of an election the Dems might not like. Especially when the Republicans remind Jewish voters of Kerry's remarks about the security fence in Israel.

Which one, you ask? Oh, yeah, I forgot ... the one where he called it "another barrier to peace."

Posted by McQ at 06:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And now for an important poll...

... which, with tongue firmly in cheek, has determined that contrary to Jon's continued insistance, correlation IS causation.

Posted by McQ at 06:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Feeling a little frustrated and oppressed? Blow something up!

Dale Franks points us to a fascinating web site, Ask-Imam.com. Being relatively ignorant of the details of Islamic faith, I became hooked immediately reading through dozens of questions in a short period of time. They cover every aspect of life and believe me, there's plenty to discuss. These are questions posed by “believers” and the curious asking for clarification and/or validation, but also instruction.

Speaking of instruction, I ran across this one:

If it is haraam to commit suicide bombings?

How can suicide bombings be accepted, knowing that palestinians can use other methods to hurting the enemies without killing themselves?

Kindly refer below our standard reply to similar queries.

Mufti Ebrahim Desai
FATWA DEPT.

Q: What is your opinion on the suicide bombers in Palestine?

A: If a community is oppressed and denied its basic human rights, it is permissible for them to fight against the oppressors and free themselves from such oppression. It is permissible for them to engage in Jihaad - risking their lives in the hope of saving themselves from oppression.

The people of Palestine are the most oppressed people and live in constant fear by the rule of the Jewish oppressors. Their extreme frustration and hardships have led them to behave likewise - to resort to suicide bombings.

Assuming the suicide bombing is evil but this evil is opposed by a greater evil for which there is no adequate substitute, therefore, their act will also be justified as lesser of the two evils in terms of the Shari'ah

Note a few things in the answer. To “justify” suicide bombing, all that is required is “oppression” and a feeling of ‘frustration’. Frustration from not getting what you’ve determined to be your just due, obviously (aren't we all frustrated then, since few of us have what we feel to be our just due?). Oppression, I suppose, then as the result of that frustration (seems fairly easy to become oppressed, doesn't it?).

So now that you’re frustrated and obviously oppressed, you are granted the right, by this religion, to “resort to suicide bombing”. And its justified, because it is the “lesser of two evils” ... oppression and frustration being much more evil.

A religion that justifies murder as the lesser of two evils?

Am I missing something here?

Extend the logic, now, to Spain. The west is oppressive. Iraq has frustrated the faithful.

BOOM!

Posted by McQ at 05:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Indignation Proclamation

Steve Hornbeck, a former writer for "Politically Incorrect" names Kerry's apparent political strategy in a clever satire. Give it a read:

Political observers say the Indignation Proclamation actually went into effect late last week. On Thursday, just hours after an American ally had suffered a major terrorist attack, the statesmanlike Kerry spoke at the Library of Congress, focusing on the most pressing issue of our time, which is defending John Kerry against criticisms by Republicans. Invoking the new but still unnamed doctrine, Kerry refused to apologize for his previous remark that those Republicans were "the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen." As of this writing, there's still no word yet from the Kerry camp on whether Republicans are more "crooked" than mass murderers who blow up Madrid commuter trains. And journalists would have taken Kerry to task for this stunning performance but Library of Congress rules, as in all libraries, require everyone to stay very, very quiet.
Posted by McQ at 05:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dean gets right back on the horse

I'm conflicted about this remark from Howard Dean....

Former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean said yesterday that President Bush's decision to send troops to Iraq appears to have contributed to the bombing deaths of 201 people in Spain.
...
"The president was the one who dragged our troops to Iraq, which apparently has been a factor in the death of 200 Spaniards over the weekend."

Dean issued a statement later to The Associated Press that said, "Let me be clear, there is no justification for terrorism. Today I was simply repeating what those who have claimed responsibility for the bombings in Spain said was the reason they carried out that despicable act."

I'm of two minds on this. On one hand...well, he's right. If we accept the claims that Al Qaeda did it, then we may as well accept that they did it for the reasons they claimed.

And when Andrew Sullivan writes "So he's just parroting Jihadist spin, not endorsing it", he's being ridiculous. It's not "spin", any more than it was "spin" when Osama bin Laden claimed 9/11 was "reaction" to the "policy of the United States".

Bin Laden doesn't have to be right about our policies to be right about his motivations. Clearly, 9/11 was a response to US policies with which bin Laden disagreed. Howard Dean is probably right to say that the war in Iraq contributed to the bombing in Spain. If we accept Al Qaeda's claim of credit, we have to accept their explanation.

On the other hand.....

What Howard Dean said, though technically accurate, is a pretty damned distasteful thing to say. Somehow, I doubt he would look kindly upon it if President Bush claimed "President Clinton was the one who kept our troops in Saudi Arabia and supported Israel, which apparently has been a factor in the death of 3000 Americans on 9/11."

It would be terribly distasteful for President Bush to say that....and it would be every bit as accurate as what Howard Dean said about President Bush.

UPDATE: Joining the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Posted by Jon Henke at 04:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More on "why they hate us"

Thomas Sowell tackles the “why do they hate us” question. His theory?

Those in the Islamic world have for centuries been taught to regard themselves as far superior to the "infidels" of the West, while everything they see with their own eyes now tells them otherwise. Worse yet, what the whole world sees with their own eyes tells them that the Middle East has made few contributions to human advancement in our times.

Which, of course, flies in the face of what they’re taught in religious schools. How can Allah’s chosen people be “inferior” to infidels?

What will happen in the meantime? Are millions of proud human beings supposed to quietly accept inferiority for themselves and their children, and perhaps their children's children?

Or are they more likely to listen to demagogues, whether political or religious, who tell them that their lowly place in the world is due to the evils of others -- the West, the Americans, the Jews?

If the peoples of the Islamic world disregarded such demagogues, they would be the exceptions, rather than the rule, among people who lag painfully far behind others. Even in the West, there have been powerful political movements based on the notion that the rich have gotten rich by keeping others poor -- and that things need to be set right "by all means necessary."

These means seldom include concentration on self-improvement, with 19th-century Japan being one of the rare exceptions. Lashing out at others is far more immediately satisfying -- and modern communications, transportation, and weaponry make it far easier to lash out destructively across great distances.

Against this background, we may want to consider the question asked by hand-wringers in the West: Why do they hate us? Maybe it is because the alternative to hating us is to hate themselves.

Being students of human nature, what’s the easiest thing to do? Blame your ills on others. Many a tyranny has been built on precisely that premise. And the demagogues have a vested interest in selling their wares, religious or otherwise ... it secures for them power over people. In this case, that power is aided and abetted by a religion. Most people are aware of the power religion has given to rulers through out the centuries, no matter how twisted their interpretation of the real message. The demagogues are just as aware as you are and they use it to their advantage.

Accepting Sowell’s premise, how does the west break this cycle of death and destruction aimed at them if what Sowell says is true?

Posted by McQ at 04:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Its NOT just a law enforcement issue

Back in 1990's during the Clinton administration, so the story goes, the Sudanese offered Osama bin Ladin up to the US and the US declined because it had nothing on the guy. At that point, it wasn't known whether bin Ladin had really acted against US, even though it was aware of his involvement is suspicious activities.

It wasn’t until later that bin Laden claimed responsibility for attempting to bomb U.S. soldiers in Yemen (1992) and for attacking U.S. troops in Somalia the following year. Then we had the first World Trade Center bombing killed six people in 1993 and in 1998, the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa killed 224.

OK, fine. So we now know that by the mid 90's, Clinton’s crew should have been looking for any excuse and any method of getting (or killing) OBL.

But like Kerry wants to do, Clinton treated the OBL matter and terrorism in general as a LAW ENFORCEMENT ISSUE. I want to make that point again ... Clinton’s administration treated the terrorist issue EXACTLY like candidate Kerry want’s to treat it ... as a law enforcement issue.

Consequently, when a REAL opportunity presented itself to the Clinton administration to get Osama bin Laden in fall of 2000, they weren’t ready to take advantage of it.

Why? Because it would have required a MILITARY EFFORT to take care of it. I.e. a special operarations unit deployed and prepared to go in at a minute’s notice to act on very perishable intelligence.

And it appears they had exactly that sort of intelligence in the fall of 2000.

In the fall of 2000, in Afghanistan, unmanned, unarmed spy planes called Predators flew over known al-Qaida training camps. The pictures that were transmitted live to CIA headquarters show al-Qaida terrorists firing at targets, conducting military drills and then scattering on cue through the desert.

Also, that fall, the Predator captured even more extraordinary pictures — a tall figure in flowing white robes. Many intelligence analysts believed then and now it is bin Laden.

Why does U.S. intelligence believe it was bin Laden? NBC showed the video to William Arkin, a former intelligence officer and now military analyst for NBC. “You see a tall man…. You see him surrounded by or at least protected by a group of guards.”

Bin Laden is 6 foot 5. The man in the video clearly towers over those around him and seems to be treated with great deference.

Another clue: The video was shot at Tarnak Farm, the walled compound where bin Laden is known to live. The layout of the buildings in the Predator video perfectly matches secret U.S. intelligence photos and diagrams of Tarnak Farm obtained by NBC.

“It’s dynamite. It’s putting together all of the pieces, and that doesn’t happen every day.… I guess you could say we’ve done it once, and this is it,” Arkin added.

So why, a year later was bin Laden still walking around free?

“We were not prepared to take the military action necessary,” said retired Gen. Wayne Downing, who ran counter-terror efforts for the current Bush administration and is now an NBC analyst. “We should have had strike forces prepared to go in and react to this intelligence, certainly cruise missiles — either air- or sea-launched — very, very accurate, could have gone in and hit those targets,” Downing added.

Because ... all together now ... the problem was being treated as a LAW ENFORCEMENT ISSUE, just as Kerry would treat it.

Consequently only SOME of the tools available in the fight against terror were available, and not all of the tools, which, obviously, would include the MILITARY.

Clinton did not use the military in that capacity, and it appears, based on his statements, that Kerry plans on approaching the issue the same way Clinton did.

So when you hear Kerry pontificate about how the “War on Terror” should be waged, try to remember his way has been tried, and it was a “miserable failure”.

Tip of the hat to Billy Beck for the link

Posted by McQ at 01:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Kerry is right

Kerry is being attacked unfairly on this one...


The new Bush television commercial, which began running in the swing state of West Virginia on Tuesday, sought to discredit Mr. Kerry's defense credentials by attacking him for voting against the $87 billion bill last year that financed operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Kerry had voted for the resolution authorizing war in Iraq, but White House aides said he later expressed enough ambivalence about the war to let them portray him as opposing a war that enjoys wide support among Americans.
....
Mr. Kerry added, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," referring to an amendment he supported that would have rescinded some tax cuts to finance the war.

This isn't equivalence, a flip-flop, or a "failure to support the troops". The Bush administration is spinning this as hard as they can, but it's a thoroughly dishonest spin. They have to know it, too.

To clear this up: Not only did Senator Kerry not oppose appropriating $87b, he actually submitted a bill to "require the Treasury Department to raise an additional $87 billion for the President’s request for supplemental funding for our troops in Iraq and for reconstruction". In short, he wanted to take a mulligan on the tax cuts.

Now, we can argue whether that was a good idea - I don't think it was - but he was NOT against appropriating money to support the reconstruction effort in Iraq or the troops. He was simply against doing it in the way it was submitted. President Bush, I would remind you, threatened to veto the SAME BILL if it wasn't done in the way he wanted.

Argue about the merits of each argument, but let's not pretend Kerry "doesn't support the troops" because he voted against this appropriation. That's just dishonest.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:11 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Spain goes off for donuts

Heads buried in the sand...

Tony Blankley, Jonah Goldberg, Chuck Colson, Debra Saunders and Bill Murchison all write roughly the same article using slightly different words: al-Qaeda, Saddam-lovers the lot of them, attacked Spain, and since Spain elected someone who was opposed to Aznar's Iraq policy, they gave terrorists a victory.

Now, there's only one major problem with this reading, in that it's a bunch of strung-together nonsensical partisanship masquerading as political analysis.
....
I'm really afraid that we're reaching a point of critical mass where basically it's going to be considered a good idea to do anything that pisses terrorists off.

No no no. Clearly, "doing anything that pisses terrorists off" would be bad policy. But I don't see anybody advocating it, though.

What I DO see is people suggesting that any pullback in support for the changes CURRENTLY going on in the Middle East is an objectively positive development for terrorists.

An analogy: Opinions vary on the efficacy of a man-to-man full-court press in basketball. However, once the decision to engage in a full-court press has been made, contrary decisions by individual members of the team can only be harmful. Either a man-to-man full-court press, or a zone defense may be effective...but once you've committed to one, you have to actually DO it.

Or, to put it in the law-enforcement terms the Democrats seem to prefer: if the police are converging on the house of a dangerous criminal, it's vitally important that all of the officers maintain their resolve. You can't simply walk away, because the stand-off has gone on longer than you liked.

Or rather, you can...but it's a glimmer of hope for the criminal.

Spain, whatever their motivation, has slackened in one aspect of the war on terror....they have, for all intents and purposes, repented for helping to create a democratic wedge in the Middle East. Jesse writes...

Does anyone think that al-Qaeda, which offered no help to repel the invasion that drove Saddam from power, apparently has had little, if any, real involvement in the insurgency in Iraq, offered no help to Saddam while he was on the run, and has made no response or statement whatsoever to any American action taken specifically against Saddam actually attacked Madrid because of their super-top-secret Saddam infatuation?
I make no claims about who attacked Madrid, nor about their intentions. They are irrelevant. The only relevant matter is perception, and the perception is that Spain is less of a threat to the safe haven for terrorism that is the Middle East.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Stray Voltage

As Jonah Goldberg asks, “if there’s no al-Qaeda/Iraq connection, what’s up with the al-Qaeda bombing in Spain?

-----

Scott Ott at Scrapleface talks about al-Qaeda opening its first embassy ... in Spain. Good stuff.

-----

Al-Qaeda wins another one. Hondurus has announced it will withdraw its troops from Iraq. No great loss in terms of numbers, but another win for terrorism.

-----

Andrew Sullivan fisks a Guardian editorial. He blasts the the moral nihlism evident in the Guardian piece:

In Europe, there are no bad guys, even those who deliberately murdered almost 200 innocents and threaten to murder countless more. Ask yourself: If the Guardian cannot call these people "bad guys," then who qualifies? And if the leaders of democratic societies cannot qualify in this context as "good guys," then who qualifies? What we have here is complete moral nihilism in the face of unspeakable violence.

And he’s spot-on. The appeasers can’t afford to take a moral stand or their premise that “appeasement works” is rendered useless.

-----

Although Turkey was an impediment in the war in Iraq, it appears, now that there might be a bit of a thaw going on in that regard as they’re now offering to service our armored vehicles and helicopters (both, of which, they too have) in Iraq and in Turkey.

Makes you wonder what al-Qaeda will have to say about that.

-----

More evidence that al-Qaeda’s victory in Spain was resounding and becoming more widespread:

Fallout from the Spanish election has emboldened Blair's critics at home.

Yesterday he was accused of increasing the threat to Britain from militant Islamic terrorism with military action against Saddam Hussein.

A string of Labour MPs challenged Blair's judgment and warned that Britain faced a heightened risk of attacks from al Qaeda one year since the invasion began.

As the Madrid tremors spread, the faint of heart and the spineless shake their fingers in blame and clamor for appeasement and surrender.

Posted by McQ at 11:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kerry's greatest flip

In 1997, Senator Kerry gave a speech on the floor of the US Senate. A speech in which he espoused the positions which he criticizes today. A speech which should haunt him all the way to the election. Excerpted comments follow.


* The "inescapable reality"....

There is an inescapable reality that, after all of the effort of recent years, Saddam Hussein remains the international outlaw he was when he invaded Kuwait. For most of a decade he has set himself outside international law, and he has sought to avoid the efforts of the international community to insist that his nation comport itself with reasonable standards of behavior and, specifically, not equip itself with implements of mass destruction which it has shown the willingness to use in previous conflicts.

Plainly and simply, Saddam Hussein cannot be permitted to get away with his antics, or with this latest excuse for avoidance of international responsibility.

* No debate whatsoever...
We must recognize that there is no indication that Saddam Hussein has any intention of relenting. So we have an obligation of enormous consequence, an obligation to guarantee that Saddam Hussein cannot ignore the United Nations. He cannot be permitted to go unobserved and unimpeded toward his horrific objective of amassing a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. This is not a matter about which there should be any debate whatsoever in the Security Council, or, certainly, in this Nation. If he remains obdurate, I believe that the United Nations must take, and should authorize immediately, whatever steps are necessary to force him to relent — and that the United States should support and participate in those steps.

The suspended reconnaissance flights should be resumed beginning tomorrow, and it is my understanding they will be. Should Saddam be so foolish as to take any action intended to endanger those aircraft or interrupt their mission, then we should, and I am confident we will, be prepared to take the necessary actions to either eliminate that threat before it can be realized, or take actions of retribution.

One wonders why attacks on US planes and attempts to subvert or avoid inspections were sufficient cause for eliminating the threat in 1997 - immediately - but not in 2003.

* Not merely "symbolic"...

In my judgment, the Security Council should authorize a strong U.N. military response that will materially damage, if not totally destroy, as much as possible of the suspected infrastructure for developing and manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, as well as key military command and control nodes. Saddam Hussein should pay a grave price, in a currency that he understands and values, for his unacceptable behavior.

This should not be a strike consisting only of a handful of cruise missiles hitting isolated targets primarily of presumed symbolic value. But how long this military action might continue and how it may escalate should Saddam remain intransigent and how extensive would be its reach are for the Security Council and our allies to know and for Saddam Hussein ultimately to find out.

* Resolve....
Should the resolve of our allies wane to pursue this matter until an acceptable inspection process has been reinstituted — which I hope will not occur and which I am pleased to say at this moment does not seem to have even begun — the United States must not lose its resolve to take action.
* Our "allies"....
We must not presume that these conclusions automatically will be accepted by every one of our allies, some of which have different interests both in the region and elsewhere, or will be of the same degree of concern to them that they are to the U.S.
* The future conflict...
In a more practical vein, Mr. President, I submit that the old adage `pay now or pay later' applies perfectly in this situation. If Saddam Hussein is permitted to go about his effort to build weapons of mass destruction and to avoid the accountability of the United Nations, we will surely reap a confrontation of greater consequence in the future. The Security Council and the United States obviously have to think seriously and soberly about the plausible scenarios that could play out if he were permitted to continue his weapons development work after shutting out U.N. inspectors.
* Threat...
Surely, if Saddam's efforts are permitted to continue unabated, we will eventually face more aggression by Saddam , quite conceivably including an attack on Israel, or on other nations in the region as he seeks predominance within the Arab community. If he has such weapons, his attack is likely to employ weapons of unspeakable and indiscriminate destructiveness and torturous effects on civilians and military alike. What that would unleash is simply too horrendous to contemplate, but the United States inevitably would be drawn into that conflict.
* Unilateralism....
While our actions should be thoughtfully and carefully determined and structured, while we should always seek to use peaceful and diplomatic means to resolve serious problems before resorting to force, and while we should always seek to take significant international actions on a multilateral rather than a unilateral basis whenever that is possible, if in the final analysis we face what we truly believe to be a grave threat to the well-being of our Nation or the entire world and it cannot be removed peacefully, we must have the courage to do what we believe is right and wise.

I believe this is such a situation, Mr. President. It is a time for resolve.

While Senator Kerry consistently - and correctly, I'd add - makes clear his preference for multilateral action, he allows for the option, even the necessity - of unilateral action. What's more, he makes that argument specifically about the threat from Iraq.

Another argument one might make is that Senator Kerry was simply responding to the need for inspections. And hey! In 2002, Saddam allowed the inspectors back in! Problem solved!

That won't hold water, either. As Senator Kerry made clear, "inspections" were not an end. We needed an "acceptable inspection process". Clearly, the inspections of 02-03 were unacceptable to the United States. In fact, they were even unacceptable to UNMOVIC, which said Iraq was cooperating on process, but not on substance.

Senator Kerry makes two points:
1: Iraq is a threat that needs dealt with.
2: We should have UN support.

What Senator Kerry misses is this: what if UN support is impossible? What then? In 1997, it appears Senator Kerry thought the US should "have the courage to do what we believe is right and wise."

In 2004, it appears "right and wise" became subservient to the approval of the United Nations.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

News flash: people in the Mid-East don't like us. Still.

A Pew poll finds people - especially in the Middle East - don't like the US....

A year after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq sent anti-Americanism soaring, the United States finds itself still unpopular, feared, and mistrusted around the world, a poll out Tuesday shows.

The Pew Global Attitudes Project, which polled people in eight foreign nations and the United States, found resentment of America and its policies -- even of Americans themselves -- has intensified, not lessened, in the last year.
...
Even in Muslim countries whose leaders are nominal allies in the war on terrorism -- Jordan, Morocco and Pakistan -- the public supports suicide bombings against Americans in Iraq.

And Osama bin Laden is still far more popular than President Bush in those three countries.

Of course, this - and the widespread belief that the US is in Iraq for "oil" - is largely attributed to the US foreign policy. To a degree, I suppose, that's true....our foreign policy engenders distrust. I accept that. It's bound to be true of any bold, proactive measures.

But look deeper.

Democrats - in this case, Al Gore - are fond of claiming the Bush "administration has developed a highly effective propaganda machine to imbed in the public mind mythologies...". With this "propaganda", they claim, the public is misled; is imbued with false notions.

Ok, let's leave that claim alone for now. Instead, ask yourself whether the same dynamic could possibly explain our disfavor in the Middle East. With media, in many cases, controlled by and for the ruling dictatorships, is it any wonder the people believe the worst of us? Would it not follow that our favorability ratings decline when we apply pressure to those dictatorships?

Of course it would. And here's an example in a headline from Al-Jazeera, the most "credible" and "US friendly" major media source in the Middle East:

Bush camp exposed as 'serial liars'
So, how is the Bush camp exposed? What is the source of this flat assertion-as-fact?

Well, it's a Democratic Party report. A report done FOR and BY Democrats.

And, apparently, for Al-Jazeera.

Is it any wonder the Middle East hates us? Of course not. What is a wonder is why we regard this as indicative of anything but the feelings of the dictators in the region. As goes Riyadh, so goes the Middle East.

UPDATE (McQ): A bit more about the Pew survey. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

''What this shows is that the credibility of the United States is sinking,'' said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who helped oversee the survey.

Can you say "agenda?"

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 16, 2004

So maybe its NOT about Iraq?

Emboldened by the success terrorists had in Spain, it appears that France may be next:

France has received threats of a possible attack against French interests from an Islamist group apparently named after a Chechen guerrilla killed in a Moscow hostage-taking in 2002, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

The letter, sent to several newspapers, threatened "to plunge France into terror and remorse and spill blood outside its frontiers," Jacques Esperandieu, deputy editor of the daily Le Parisien which received a copy, quoted it as saying.

Interesting isn't it? The jihadists don't really care whether you were for or against Iraq. They don't really care if you were neutral or opposed. As long as you're a western nation ... a "degenerate" western nation (which includes us all, of course) ... you're a target.

Of course, a head scarf ban is worth wanton violence to the jihadist. Its enough to put your country on the "Islam's worst enemies" list.

France's tough opposition to the war in Iraq was initially seen as having won Paris favor in the Muslim world, but that faded with France's plan to ban Islamic head scarves and other religious apparel in schools.

``With this head scarf law, you have participated in an unjust aggression,'' said the letter, which was written in French under an Arabic-language letterhead. ``You have decided on your own to put yourself on the list of Islam's worst enemies.''

The terrorist knows now how the 'degenerate west' will react ... it has Spain as an example.

I'm taking bets now ... how long before France reverses the ban on head scarfs?

Posted by McQ at 10:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

For the Ironically Impared

While the Bush Administration was trying to get J F'nK to put up or shut up about his alleged "foreign endorsements" Kerry's spinmeister was at work:

His spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter, said it was "unfortunate" that the White House stepped into a political fray.

"This White House would be better off spending its time repairing our alliances around the world so we can collectively fight the war on terrorism and better protect the United States, rather than using the White House press room as a place to carry out political attacks," Ms. Cutter said.

"Stepped into the political fray?" Will someone, ANYONE, please inform Ms. Cutter that there's an election campaign going on?

Does it strike anyone else that this is becoming the mantra of the Kerry campaign specifically and Democrats in general? Declare that the White House and Republicans are NOT allowed to be 'political' while they, the Dems, are? Declare all perceived Democrat weaknesses to be off limits while all of Bush's perceived weaknesses are fair game?

Let's see ... can't "politicize" 9/11, Kerry's service, or Kerry's record.

Politicize, in politalk mean's "off limits" for use as a political advantage.

But on the "fair game side" we have Bush's record, Bush's service and, of course, homeland security, war on terror, jobs, the economy, etc., etc., ad nauseum ... but ONLY if its to criticize ... defense of such issues is "politicizing".

Kerry can rip Bush's record, or, to borrow from Cutter, step "into a political fray", but if Bush defends himself he's flayed by the ironically impared and increasingly silly-sounding Cutter. Instead of getting into the "political fray" (hello, Stephanie ... who STARTED this particular "fray?"), she sniffs, Bush should be "repairing our alliances around the world so we can collectively fight the war on terrorism and better protect the United States, rather than using the White House press room as a place to carry out political attacks."

Oh ... I see. Just do your job while we critisize your every waking moment, says Ms. Cutter.

Great. She's absolutely perfect .... for Kerry.

Birds of a feather.

Posted by McQ at 08:11 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Spain's agony isn't over

The Spanish are under the mistaken impression that if they simply refuse to participate in the US led "War on Terrorism", they will be spared any further attacks.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As we're reminded in an NYT piece by Scott Atran while discussing the "jihadist doctrine" of radical Islam:

In any event, the attacks are clearly consistent with jihadist doctrine and aims. Osama bin Laden, specifically mentioning the loss of southern Spain to Christianity in 1492, has made it clear that any land once in Muslim hands was fair game for global jihad.

Let's understand that as of this moment, there is nothing in the works anyone knows of in which the jihadists are thinking of reconquering southern Spain. But that's not the point is it? Based on their belief, as outlined by OBL, it was and remains a legitimate target for the radicals. That hasn't changed.

Many would like to dismiss the timing of the bombings as pure luck. Pure luck in that they caused the Spanish people to reject the ruling party. Surely, some would say, the terrorists aren't THAT smart.

Now, the notion that the terrorists planned to throw the election to the opposition Socialist party is perfectly ridiculous.

For one, it would be impossible to predict how the Spaniards would react.

Would it? Apparently they knew their target well.

For the last year the Israeli historian Reuven Paz has monitored jihadist writings about Spain, which focused on the Spanish government's participation in Iraq. "In order to force the Spanish government to withdraw from Iraq," one online tract read, "it is a must to exploit the coming general elections in Spain." It added that two to three attacks would ensure "the victory of the Socialist Party and the withdrawal of Spanish forces," the first domino in the collapse of the American-led coalition.

They only missed in one area ... it only took one attack. And Spain capitulated.

The left side of the blogosphere have derided those on the right who make this point saying that the people of Spain showed true democracy in action and shoved out an unrepresentative ruling party in a true people's movement.

Or was it? Already there are hints that like a drunk waking up after a 3 day binge, the more level heads in Spain are quitely asking "what in the WORLD have we done?" Did emotions over rule reason? Did they vote out of anger instead of rationality?

All indications lead to that conclusion. The 12 point swing wasn't based in rationality. It was based in raw human emotion, striking out in the most convenient way at those it could punish for the anguish suffered. The terrorists were an unknown, but the government was conveniently handy via the vote.

The question now though, is the "cure" worse than the "disease?" We'll have to see. And will Spain be revisted by terror? Most likely, it will ... thanks to the long memory of Islam's jihadists.

Posted by McQ at 07:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Conscientious Objector My ASS

Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia says he's now a "conscientious objector". I say he's full of crap and nothing more than a stinking deserter.

You decide.

DoD 1300.6 defines a conscientious objector as a person who has "a firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and belief." People who object to war "solely upon considerations of policy, pragmatism, expediency, or political views" do not qualify for discharge or transfer under DoD 1300.6.

That's what it takes to be a conscientious objector. It requires "a firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and belief."

Mejia doesn't fit the bill. He's a sunshine soldier, one of those happy to take his paycheck when everything's fine and dandy, but ready to chuck it all when there's a shot fired in anger.

Harsh you say? Hardly.

Mejia is a staff sergeant. That's an E-6. You have to be in the army for quite a few years to reach that rank. Not only is he an E-6, he's in an INFANTRY unit. One has to wonder what the hell Mejia thought infantry units were supposed to do in a combat area!

"I am saying no to war," Mejia said at a press conference at the abbey, surrounded by family, friends, and a large contingent of news media, including reporters from other countries. "I went to Iraq and was an instrument of violence, and now I have decided to become an instrument of peace."

While in Iraq, Mejia said, he was troubled by the number of Iraqi civilians who were killed by soldiers. "They don't want us there; we don't want to be there," he said. "We're getting killed there."

What he's saying "no" too is risking HIS life there. What he's saying is "I want peace in my life". This has nothing to do with religion or religious training. Its the usual ... he wants to blame his own failings on others. Its his unit CO's fault. Its the Army's fault. Its always someone one else's fault.

Mejia's problem? He lost his nerve. And he doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to face combat again ... even the tiny bit he did see.

Is that unusual? No. It happens all the time. I'm reminded of the scene in "Blackhawk Down" of the young soldier who survived the intital fighting and made it back to the airport. He was scared to death and afriad to go back out. His comrads were putting a relief mission together and he couldn't find the courage to go again. Finally, as they were pulling out, he ran to the nearest vehicle and joined the relief mission. He couldn't let his buddies down no matter how terrified he was.

Anyone who's been an infantryman has seen it time and time and time again.

COURAGE is being scared to death, hitching up your belt and doing it anyway.

COWARDICE is refusing to face your fears and blaming everyone else for your refusal to do your duty.

Mejia is a coward.

Oh ... for you that wonder ... I was an infantryman for 28 years.

Posted by McQ at 06:35 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

BlogAds

I notice BlogAds seem to be all the rage in the blogosphere, lately, with bloggers left and right picking them up, touting their effectiveness, and generally taking up valuable space. Well, as you might notice, QandO does not have BlogAds.....(because we're too small? Er...no, because we haven't sold out! )....thus, saving you valuable nanoseconds in load time.

You don't have to thank us. But you're more than welcome to hit our tip-jar, if you've found QandO useful. Make sure you send a note, so I can thank you effusively.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

I wish I'd said that....

Pith from the blogosphere....

* Cranial writes...

Mr. Foreign Minister Dominique, meet your new Dominatrix, Islamofacists.
* Patrick Belton...
Much has been made, in Tech Central Station as well as elsewhere, of the claim that the March 11th attacks in Madrid occured precisely 911 days after the 9-11 attacks in New York. Close, but not actually correct. By my count, March 11, 2004, was actually the 912th day after September 11th, 2001.
* Dale Franks...
Leftist thought has consigned more people to death and starvation and tolitarian repression in the last century alone than any other idea in the history of human civilization. And still it continues. Scores, hundreds--perhaps thousands--of Africans die every day while the Left spouts the same errors, and agitate for the same failed "solutions" they have for decades.

But, at least it makes the Left feel compassionate, which is, really, the important thing.

* Tom Maguire, on rules prohibiting campaign contributions by reporters....
For heaven's sake - none of these reporters are paid much anyway - let them get it out of their system and contribute by writing checks, rather than articles.
* Kevin Aylward, on Milosevic's likely acquittal.....
Just a friendly reminder to the "turn it all over to the UN" crew placing your faith in a corrupt multinational bureaucracy is like trusting a crack addict deliver your rent money...
* Jeff Goldstein, on the discovery of a new "planet"...
Prediction 1: Ten bucks says some late-night talk show host will use this evening's monologue to punctuate a joke about this story with a quip about locating those missing WMDs. Or about Teddy Kennedy's gravitational pull.

Prediction 2: It won't be funny then, either.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Politcal props? What "political props"?

While addressing the International Association of Fire Fighters legislative conference in Washington DC, J F'n K says:

America doesn't need leaders who play politics with 9-11 or see the War on Terror as just another campaign issue. Our nation's safety is too important. If I am President, we will work toward victory in the War on Terror knowing that those on the frontlines of this battle are heroes, not political props.

So I would have to suppose, since J F'n K doesn't prevaricate per his campaign staff, that these really aren't fire fighters ...

yattayatta.jpg


nhfiresign.jpg


304305E.gif

... because he'd NEVER use them as "political props". That'd be unforgivable.

Blah, blah, blah .... "pay no attention to what's behind the screen ... move along, please, move along".

Posted by McQ at 09:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Keeping up with the Kerry blog

More blatant misrepresentations at the Kerry blog. I'll discuss a few, for posterities sake....

In a post titled: STATEMENTS MADE BY BUSH ADMINISRATION WHICH PROVED FALSE, the Kerry blog writes...

2. There was “no doubt” Iraq had “reconstituted” nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction
As discussed yesterday, the administration didn't claim Iraq had "reconstituted nuclear weapons".....the quote Kerry refers to is a mis-speak, which when viewed in context, was clearly a reference to a "program", not a weapon.

In fact, I'd argue that nobody has done more to tell the American people of an Iraqi nuclear "weapon" than the administration critics, who constantly unearth this quote while leaving context buried. The Kerry campaign knows better, but they're guilty of doing the same thing they accuse the Bush administration of doing....they "will say anything or do anything to achieve their political ends".

3. Iraq was an “imminent” or “uniquely urgent” threat to the U.S.
We all know by now that the administration never said it was an imminent threat. Spinsanity dealt with this.
5. Telling the American people in the State of the Union that Iraq had gotten nuclear material from Africa.
Lie. No exuses, that's a willful and intentional lie. In fact, the quote is: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Kerry knows as well as any of us the difference between "sought" and "had gotten".

6. That an operational tie existed between Al Qaeda and Iraq
Specifically, the claim was that "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda". Kerry moves the line between the "links" that were claimd and virtually everybody concedes existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda....and actual "operational ties", which were speculated, but not claimed.
10. Bush said that Iraq’s possessed missiles posed as serious threat to U.S. allies in the Middle and Near East, but UN weapons inspectors found that the missiles Iraq possessed could travel less than 200 miles.
Here's a partial list of our (to one degree or another) allies within 200 miles of Iraq: Turkey; Kuwait; Saudi Arabia. Israel would be close to that line.
11. Brookings Institution Fellow Ivo Daalder said that assertions made by Bush administration officials that the coalition of the willing (2003 coalition of countries supporting the war in Iraq) was larger than the coalition in the 1991 war “a bald-faced lie.” Daalder, a former Clinton administration official, said, “Even our great allies Spain, Italy and Bulgaria are not providing troops.”
The 1991 coalition included 32 nations. The current Iraqi coalition numbers 49 nations. The remark about Spain and Italy not providing soldiers is especially tactless, considering the Spanish and Italian soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq.

But John Kerry says Bush lied, and John Kerry is an honorable man. Right?

UPDATE: Welcome. Check around for more good fact-checking. It's what we do. Blogroll, bookmark....you know the routine.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:11 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Mostly say, hooray for our side

It's about time....

U.S. employers plan to boost hiring during the second quarter because demand for products and services is beyond the capacity of their current workforce, according to a survey released today by Manpower Inc.

Twenty-eight percent of the 16,000 employers who were polled said they intend to increase their staffs between April and June from the first quarter, compared with 20 percent in the first quarter. The share expecting to reduce hiring dropped to 6 percent from 13 percent.

For additional commentary on the rather confusing job issue, as well as the continuing disparity between the Payroll and Household surveys, read Dale Franks.

My view of the job issue? There's something happening here; what it is ain't exactly clear. And anybody who tells you differently is selling something.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Quick Hits

* New Prime Minister of Spain: "José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero" - that's spanish for "Dennis Kucinich"

* If "in vino veritas", then how do you explain Ted Kennedy?

* I've linked it before, but this political quiz is very worthwhile. And funny.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 15, 2004

Dancing to the terrorist’s tune

The answer to terrorism, according to Spain, is to give in.

Appease it.

“Throw in the towel.”

Quit.

Unfortunately, thanks to the Spanish electorate, “Terrorists Win” is now the legacy of its bombing victims. Their lives and limbs given for a complete capitulation to those who took them.

It is, of course, an outright victory for terrorism.

I don’t see how it can be spun any other way.

The timing was impeccable. The bombings were timed to influence an election and make a point. Overwhelming success in both goals. The electorate, which had been leaning toward retaining the existing ruling party, swung 12 points the other way in the three days following the bombing. Interestingly, Jose Maria Aznar had overseen a period of steady economic growth and reduced inflation which had created thousands of jobs and balanced the budget. He held firm against ETA and is credited with whipping his once-divided party into shape and with raising Spain's profile in the world.

But that wasn’t enough. Because he had the temerity to agree with other countries that terrorism is a serious and continuing global threat (proven right in Spain on 3/11) his party goes down to defeat to a party of appeasement ... those who feel it is more important to placate than eviscerate the threat.

My guess is they actually believe this will buy them “peace.” I can only imagine then, that on the whole, the Spanish electorate is as ignorant of the history of appeasers as are many in the US. In fact, giving in may, if anything, put them at the bottom of the list of targets for a while, but nothing more.

The Spanish may be assured of one thing though ... their capitulation doesn’t remove them from the list by any stretch. Should they again need a ‘nudge’ because of actions which may be deemed by 3/11's masterminds as a direct threat to them, Spaniards can expect terrorists to violently and overwhelmingly remind them who they REALLY belong too now ... that they now dance to only one tune ... the terrorist’s.

After all terror has enjoyed success by horrendous violence once ... why not again?

Posted by McQ at 05:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Center for American Progress pulls a Dowd

Rank deception from the Center for American Progress. Here's how they quote Donald Rumsfeld in today's Progress Report....

"some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent [but] I would not be so certain."
Note the lack of an ellipsis in the quote. Now, here's how they represent that quote back in January....
"Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent - that Saddam is at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain."
• Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 9/18/02 [emphasis added]
Bit different now, isn't it? In the latter case, he's simply taking issue with the 5-7 year time span. In the former case....well, they needed a different quote, didn't they?

Time and again, the Center for American Progress has misrepresented and spun facts to benefit the Democrats. "Nonpartisan"? My ass.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

It's gonna be a fun campaign, Pt 4

At John Kerry's blog....

Today the Bush administration’s talkers did nothing to explain the glaring lack of credibility Bush has on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. When making the case for war, his administration clearly claimed they had evidence it was an “immediate threat,” and had “reconstituted nuclear weapons,” even though now intelligence officers are saying there was no evidence.
(sigh) We've been through all of this before, so I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir. We all know Bush specifically stated that "some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent" and "all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late" if we waited for that threat to emerge. But the Kerry blog manages to dig up press conferences where Ari Fleischer says "absolutely" in response to a question that contained the word "imminent"....and we all know that administration policy can best be determined by a single statement from Ari Fleischer during an obscure press conference. The actual statements by the President are....well, superfluous.

More bothersome to me is the "reconstituted nuclear weapons" canard. In this, Kerry can only be described as wildly deceptive. They are either aware of the context and intentionally misleading, or they're doing their research at democratic-echochamber.com. A perfunctory glance at the transcript will clear this up....cheney was asked about a nuclear weapons program, and his references were consistently on that point. At one point, he slipped and left the word "program" out. His context, however, was so clear that even Russert didn't note it.

Almost one year later, though, John Kerry goes where even the barely literate know not to tread. And he has the gall to claim the Bush administration is "misrepresenting Kerry's record". Charming.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:59 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

That manufacturing "crisis"

You know that manufacturing sector that John Kerry keeps promising to "restore and revitalize"? The manufacturing sector that John Kerry tells us is in "crisis"? Well, it turns out it's not exactly limping along, after all....

U.S. industrial output grew by a stronger-than-expected 0.7 percent in February, as American firms operated at their fastest pace since August 2001, the Federal Reserve said in a report on Monday.

February's gain in production was larger than Wall Street analysts' expectations for a 0.4 percent increase. Capacity utilization, which measures how much productive capacity is in use, rose to 76.6 percent from 76.1 percent in January.

Factory production, which makes up more than four-fifths of overall industrial production, posted a 1.0 percent rise in February. Manufacturing capacity in use increased to 75.2 percent, its highest level since June 2001.

Kerry keeps criticizing manufacturing job losses, while ignoring the fact that the actual manufacturing industry is increasingly more productive. He's not recommending improvements in the manufacturing sector....he's recommending a subsidy program for inefficient workers. Cut through the political nonsense, and that's all that's left.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Correlation is STILL not causation

It has become conventional wisdom in the medical world that fish is an important part of a healthy diet.

Yet an examination of multiple countries reveals no obvious correlation between consumption of fish and life expectancy. Japan eats the most fish, per capita, yet does not have the longest life expectancy.

If that sounds like a particularly stupid bit of analysis, it's no more stupid than this Washington Post story, which claims that....

...an examination of historical tax levels and unemployment rates reveals no obvious correlation.
It appears the Washington Post has uncovered a shocking fact - tax rates are not the only factor influencing employment.

Amazing.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:24 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Quick hits

* Perhaps Bush should have taken a stand on the gay marriage issue a couple years ago. And he should have taken a stand FOR it. It may have had a positive effect on some economic numbers, I think. Think about it: when gay couples begin filing jointly, average household income will increase.

Sure, it'd be an artificial economic boost - a numbers-trick, rather than an actual aggregate economic gain - but that's the game played during campaigns.

* I don't recall the last time I got a telemarketing call. Say what you will about the No-Call list, but it seems to have been effective. Good.

* This Thursday is my son's 2nd Birthday. I didn't have time to do Sunday Kidblogging, so expect birthday party pictures. You've been warned.

* Scientists are saying they've found what may be a "10th planet" in our solar system, to be called "Sedna".

Sedna? Give me a break. C'mon, guys.....The time has come for a planet named Tattoine.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:03 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Bombing the world into submission

This is bad, on so many levels....

In a stunning backlash, the ruling Popular Party of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was swept out of office Sunday, as voters turned on a government they believe provoked last week's bombings with its support for the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

It was the first time a government that backed the Iraq war has been voted out. The vast majority of Spaniards opposed the war and victorious Socialist party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had pledged to bring home the 1,300 troops Spain has stationed in Iraq when their tour of duty ends in July.

My first reaction: bitter disappointment. How could the Spanish people buckle under to terrorism so easily? One bombing, and they immediately offer Al Qaeda full cooperation?

If that's how the world reacts to terrorism, it's going to be a long war on terror.

But then I read Alex Knapp and Kevin Drum, who make the point that the shift to support of the Socialist Party was a very recent development - post-Madrid bombing. So, it's equally likely that this is a reaction to the way Aznar handled that specific incident, rather than a condemnation of his War on Terror policies.

Well, perhaps. At any rate, it's a data point to add to the picture.

But I think that misses the larger point. Whether the Spanish people were opposing Aznar's actions in the war on terror, frightened because of a single bombing, or a combination of the two....the fact is that it appears that the terrorism affected public policy in the favor of Al Qaeda.

And that's bad - very bad - for the United States.

Think about this: If Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda-sympathetic groups, believe they can cow a people into favorable voting, then you can absolutely expect further terrorism. If Al Qaeda genuinely does have a preference about a US election, then a terrorist attack prior to the election may be inevitable. Even just a small one.

After all, it worked in Spain.

And that strikes at one of our weaknesses in this war on terror: we fear to strike back at the centers of terrorism, because we may arouse their ire - the "Arab Street" - so, many in the world reflexively resist a proactive war on terror. Wouldn't want to make things worse by making them mad, you know.

But what kind of message does that send to the terrorist groups? "We won't hit back." Why should we fear making them mad....but they should not fear the same from us?

If that attitude takes hold, we will lose the war on terror. As Douglas Adams once wrote....

"We're not obsessed with anything, you see... And that's the deciding factor. We can't win against obsession. They care, we don't. They win."

"But unless we determine to take action...then we shall all be destroyed, we shall all die. Surely we care about that?"

"Not enough to want to get killed over it."

And that is EXACTLY what happened in Spain. I am not optimistic today.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

You might be a Republican if....

Funny stuff from an e-list...

You Might Be A Republican If...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You think "proletariat" is a type of cheese.

You've named your kids "Deduction one" and "Deduction two"

You've tried to argue that poverty could be abolished if people were
just allowed to keep more of their minimum wage.

You've ever referred to someone as "my (insert racial or ethnic minority
here) friend"

You've ever tried to prove Jesus was a capitalist and opposed to
welfare.

You're a pro-lifer, but support the death penalty.

You think Huey Newton is a cookie.

The only union you support is the Baseball Players, because heck,
they're richer than you.

You think you might remember laughing once as a kid.

You once broke loose at a party and removed your neck tie.

You call mall rent-a-cops "jack-booted thugs."

You've ever referred to the moral fiber of something.

You've ever uttered the phrase, "Why don't we just bomb the sons of
bitches."

You've ever said, "I can't wait to get into business school."

You've ever called a secretary or waitress "Tootsie."

You answer to "The Man."

You don't think "The Simpsons" is all that funny, but you watch it
because that Flanders fellow makes a lot of sense.

You fax the FBI a list of "Commies in my Neighborhood."

You don't let your kids watch Sesame Street because you accuse Bert and
Ernie of "sexual deviance."

You scream "Dit-dit-ditto" while making love.

You've argued that art has a "moral foundation set in Western values."

When people say "Marx," you think "Groucho."

You've ever yelled, "Hey hippie, get a haircut."

You think Birkenstock was that radical rock concert in 1969.

You argue that you need 300 handguns, in case a bear ever attacks your
home.

Vietnam makes a lot of sense to you.

You point to Hootie and the Blowfish as evidence of the end of racism in
America.

You've ever said civil liberties, schmivil schmiberties.

You've ever said "Clean air? Looks clean to me."

You've ever called education a luxury.

You look down through a glass ceiling and chuckle.

You wonder if donations to the Pentagon are tax-deductable.

You came of age in the '60s and don't remember Bob Dylan.

You own a vehicle with an "Ollie North: American Hero" sticker.

You're afraid of the liberal media."

You ever based an argument on the phrase, "Well, tradition dictates...."

You ever told a child that Oscar the Grouch "lives in a trash can
because he is lazy and doesn't want to contribute to society."

You've ever urged someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps,
when they don't even have shoes.

You confuse Lenin with Lennon.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2004

John Kerry's Campaign Slogan

Reader JorgXMcKie sends this proposed slogan for John Kerry. Appropriate, I think....

MOTTO: (To be stated slowly, in a deep, slow voice.) George. W. Bush. Bring. It. On.*

(Then, more quickly, and in a whiny baritone voice)

*(Except you can't mention 9/11. That's politicizing it. Or my lack of an jobs and economic policy. That's just out. Oh, and you can't talk about my Vietnam service. [I served in Vietnam. Did you know that?] Also, no discussing of my habit of marrying heiresses. That's just too personal.

Of course, it is wildly unfair to bring up my voting record in the Senate. It means you're questioning my patriotrism, and I fought in Vietnam. Did I mention that? You may not remind the voters that I am from Massachussetts, nor that my voting record is among the most liberal in the Senate. That is being divisive. And, especially, you should never point out that I take multiple, contradictory stances on virtually every policy choice, whether it's important or not. That is nuance, and you're too stupid to understand nuance, so cut it out.

Finally, forget bringing up my record on Iraq and/or the Patriot Act and/or Homeland Security. I am definitely foragainst all of them, and it's none of the business of the American people, anyway. [Besides, since I served in Vietnam {did I mention that before?} I should get a slide on these. Other than that, [return to sonorous, supercilious, snotty French voice] Bring. It. On.)**

**Above is subject to change, emendent, retraction, or nuancization without prior notice.

You mean, that's not his campaign slogan already? That's what I keep hearing.

Readers....add your own suggestions in the comment section.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:46 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Fighting back in the Senate

Senator Jon Kyl is fighting back....

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) has described as "false" and a "distortion" recent charges by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) that President Bush and his top policymakers manipulated intelligence to justify invading Iraq.

"They did not distort, mislead or misrepresent what the intelligence community said," Kyl said Friday in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, the same venue Kennedy used March 5. Saying he hoped to correct the record before Kennedy's charges became "accepted history," Kyl turned first to CIA Director George J. Tenet for rejection of the Massachusetts senator's thesis.

Read the article for several specific claims disputed. Good to see they're not laying down on the job any longer. Republicans have been FAR too passive in the face of Democratic criticism.

The Bush administration failed to convincingly articulate the case for war, prior to the war. Sadly, in the past 8 months, it seems Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton and George Tenet have been among the most vocal defenders of the war. That's sad.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lessons from China

The Chinese economics reforms indicate they understand a lesson the United States seems to be forgetting....

"People who can create fortunes now get respect," he said in an interview. "Also, local governments want more taxes, and rich people can pay more."

In an explanation that could easily be applauded by Republican businessmen in the United States, Zong said poor Chinese also benefit because, in making their fortunes, businessmen create jobs and churn more money through the economy. Even if the gap between successful entrepreneurs and workers remains large and likely will grow larger still, he said, workers benefit as money trickles down through the system.

Wait until they achieve a modicum of success. Demagogues will have a field day, demanding they turn the whole thing around. Can't have some people getting rich faster than others. That would be bad for....well, somebody.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

China finally enters the 19th century...

Slowly but surely...

China amended its constitution Sunday to include formal guarantees of human rights and private property, laying down a new marker in the nation's swift march away from the doctrinaire Communism of its founders.

Although both steps were pushed by the ruling Communist Party, their effect on the lives of Chinese people still depends on how they are carried out by what remains an authoritarian, one-party government that allows no challenge to its rule. Nevertheless, Chinese specialists said, the guarantees signaled the direction in which China's leaders intend to steer the country in the years ahead and conferred a legal framework on sweeping changes that have already taken place in the last two decades.

I suspect these steps are being taken, not because of the moral fortitude of the Chinese leadership, but for purely pragmatic economic reasons. They saw the difference between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong. Note that they did not institute communism when Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule. Lessons, apparently, have been learned. This bit lends credence to that idea....
The guarantee for privately owned property stated, "Legally obtained private property of the citizens shall not be violated."

Although legal bedrock in Western democracies, the guarantee marked China's formal renunciation of Maoist doctrine that made owning property an evil. In effect, it put private property on an equal legal footing with state-owned property, a welcome change for foreign investors who have put billions of dollars into China and the millions of Chinese entrepreneurs who have founded businesses since economic reforms began in 1979.

Hey, whatever they want to call it, so long as freedom and rights are the result, right? The gradual progress in China may be one of the great, under-remarked stories in the world today.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2004

We could start by admitting this isn't the Great Depression Pt. 2

Valuable article in The Economist....

Waiting for the job recovery might be a good time to take a broader measure of the material well-being of Americans. Their condition is widely held to be perilous. The economy, it is said, is being “hollowed out” by international competition and the connivance of business and political elites, creating “two Americas”, one rich, one poor. Median income of American households, commentators often say, has been stagnant, though census figures give a rise of one-fifth since 1980. Lou Dobbs, on CNN's “Lou Dobbs Tonight”, is just one media fabulist who makes his living by claiming that, as America is being “exported”, so the well-being of middle Americans is in a parlous state.

It is a good story, but false on many levels. For a start, this slow growth in median income overlaps with a scale of immigration into America outpacing all immigration in the rest of the world put together. Many immigrants have come precisely to take up the lowest-paid jobs. As a result, in the 20 years to 1999 some 5m immigrant households were added to those defined as below the poverty level. Yet among native-born Americans, poverty rates have declined steadily since the 1960s. In the case of black families, median incomes have recently been rising at twice the pace for the country as a whole.

Strip out immigrants, and the picture of stagnant median incomes vanishes. Indeed, for the nine-tenths of the population that is native-born, middle-income trends continue their improvement of the 1950s and 1960s. For these people, inequality is not rising, but falling. Gregg Easterbrook cheekily points out in his excellent recent book, “The Progress Paradox” (Random House), that if left-leaning Americans seriously want better statistics about middle-income gains, then they should simply close their borders.

Mr Easterbrook points to something else about the figures for median household income. A quarter-century ago a typical household had three members. Today, it has just 2.6 members. Simply by this effect, median households have seen their real incomes rise by a half.

Another measure of improved well-being is increased access to jobs. Between 1980 and 2002 Americans in work rose by over 40%, a far brisker pace than the 26% growth in the population. Some three-quarters of the adult population are now in work, close to a record and some ten percentage points higher than in Europe.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, John Edwards. Do I even need to tell you to read the whole thing? Do so.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

In which I speculate and bloviate

With news that Madrid has suspects in custody and "sources at the national intelligence agency CNI...saying agents were "99 percent sure" that Islamic militants, not Basque separatists, were behind the attacks" it's time to speculate while I still can.

I'm not convinced that the Madrid bombing is the work of either the ETA or Al Qaeda. It is not with their MO, nor in the best interests of either group. It simply doesn't advance their strategic interests.

No, what I'm more concerned about - in this case, as well as the future - is the possibility of copy-cats and sympathizers. Fundamentalists and extremists who get caught up with the "romance" (their perception, not mine) of martyrdom and violence. As with post-Columbine violence, it's not so much their own dissatisfaction that causes more violence....it's the publicity given the initial violence. It leads to more violence by glamorizing it.

Now, every extremist - every radical - knows that he can pull of something like Al Qaeda has pulled off. He can "join the parade", as it were. "All the cool kids in terrorist school are doing it!"

I'm not sure whether the Madrid bombing is an attack by a sympathetic group or a copy-cat act in another cause....but I'm very worried about the possibility that both may increase.

Posted by Jon Henke at 03:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Another dose of economic reality

I really have no idea why people turn to Paul Krugman for serious economic punditry. Red meat? Sure, the guy's great at that. But when it's time for serious analysis? C'mon. He's as serious as Rush Limbaugh. He's shilling his side, and you'd better not expect anything resembling intellectually honest analysis. Those who do get what they deserve.

There are four pundits that I consider fair, valuable and non-hysterical resources for economic opinion: Dale Franks, Arnold Kling, Steven Antler, and Robert Samuelson.

With that in mind, this piece by Jane Galt is pretty devastating to Krugman and Krugman-like demagogues.....

But the reason this column is silly is that Mr Krugman can't simply stop by saying, "hey, jobs are dismal" -- he has to pin it on (of course) the Bush administration.

The problem is, the president just doesn't have much to do with the economy. Bill Clinton didn't give us a good economy in the 1990's, and George W. Bush didn't give us a bad one now -- and when the economy improves, Bush won't have had much of anything to do with that, either.

While one could argue back and forth about the impacts of Jimmy Carter's deregulatory drive (bet you conservatives didn't know he did something good, did you?) or Reagan's tax simplification and deregulation, ultimately the last president who had a major impact on the economy was Richard Nixon, and we don't remember that period very fondly.

I have been very dissappointed that the Bush administration has chosen to sell their tax cut as a "stimulus plan". It wasn't initially called that, and Alan Greenspan has long been arguing that we don't really need a stimulus package. Initially, this tax cut was sold as an important way to change structural issues - dividends, the marriage penalty, growtht-reducing high individual tax rates, and confiscatory investment-reducing business taxes.

Unfortunately, in response to Democratic criticism, the Bush administration tried to sell this as a stimulus cut. It wasn't very convincing. Why not? Because it wasn't a stimulus package! Sure, there were some stimulus aspects to the package, but it was largely a long term structural tax change.

Jane Galt goes on, rather devastatingly....

And who does Paul Krugman think we need in the White House? Someone like FDR:
Franklin Roosevelt, in his efforts to combat economic woes, was famously willing to try anything until he found something that worked. George Bush, by contrast, seems determined to try the same thing, over and over again.
I feel compelled to point out that FDR's brilliant economic experiments included lunatic attempts to manipulate the prices of commodities by open market gold operations, and organising all the businesses and workers in the country into giant cartels for the purposes of fixing prices.

Nor did he halt these "experiments "because they weren't working -- he ended his gold operations, IIRC, because other countries complained, and the supreme court put a stop to the NRA. (And only then because the congress stopped him from basically making the court an extension of the executive).

Furthermore, comparing the two makes Bush look like the Employment Fairy; jobless numbers under FDR before the military buildup began in 1940 averaged 19.2%, running from a low of 14.3% to a high of almost 25%. (To be fair, the latter came during the first year in office--but also to be fair, the rate was 19% in 1938, so it isn't a clear case of the rate getting steadily better during his term.)

And the "solution" FDR finally found to unemployment was World War II -- a solution that required a lot of co-operation from abroad, and moreover a strategy that Mr Krugman did not support when Mr Bush implemented it.

It's hard to emphasize enough just how silly are the Democratic comparisons to Herbert Hoover and FRD. I'm constantly reminded of Bill Clintons references to the recession of 90-91 as "the worst economy in 50 years" - yet, now even the liberal Brookings Institute calls it a "brief and shallow recession". Of course, no apologies are forthcoming for misleading the American people on the state of the economy.

Nor do I expect Paul Krugman to correct his hyperbole in the future....but it's important to call it what it is, while we can: sad demagoguery by somebody who really should know better.

(link via Pejman)

Posted by Jon Henke at 03:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 12, 2004

Does somebody have a Roberts Rule book for this stuff?

You know, I'm getting a bit sick and tired of the Democrats telling the Bush campaign how it is allowed to campaign.

How about if Atrios, McAuliffe, Pandagon, Kerry, et al, just go ahead and make an announcement:

"Whatever Bush says, we're against it.

We find it - whatever it is - shocking and irresponsible. It is yet another example of something or other very bad, indeed.

We condemn it....that is, Bush's statement to be named later...for the gross lack of compassion the President is showing for our (pick one: allies/international community/citizens/poor/middle class/environment/) and we demand President Bush immediately stop (pick one: questioning our patriotism/being so unpatriotic).

Please make copies of this for distribution whenever President Bush says anything."

That should do it.

(Inspired by this post at Balloon-Juice. He's not too happy with it, either)

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The first smackdown of the campaign season

In September 2003, John Kerry said....

“The Bush Administration has acted as if federal agencies like the Interior Department are a division of the Republican National Committee and at their disposal to give out political favors. The Klamath decision was but one more example of politics dictating policy in the Bush Administration,” said Kerry. “The Klamath decision should have been based on law and science and not a political operative’s agenda, polls, and campaign priorities.”
In March of 2004, John Kerry takes one in the teeth....
The Interior Department's inspector general has found no basis for a claim by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry that White House political advisers interfered in developing water policy in the Northwest.

The inspector general said President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was not involved in a 2002 decision to divert water from the Klamath River in Oregon to irrigate farms.

While Rove mentioned the Klamath in passing during a briefing with senior Interior officials, "we found nothing to tie Karl Rove's comments ... to the Klamath decision-making process," Inspector General Earl Devaney said in a letter to Kerry, the Massachusetts senator.

Kerry's response: "There are too many examples in this administration of politics trumping science, not to be concerned."

Translation: "Drat....foiled again! I'll get you next time, George Bush!", said Snidely Whi-....er, John Kerry.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The mote in John Kerry's eye

CNN's Morning Grind is pointing out a bit of hypocrisy....

"Bush going up with negative ads this early in the season only proves that desperate times call for desperate measures. With negative job growth, a negative trade balance and a budget firmly in the negative, it seems only fitting for the Bush team to employ a negative campaign strategy," said Jano Cabrera, formerly of Joe '04, who started his new job yesterday as a Democratic National Committee spokesman.

"This early in the season," Jano? C'mon.

What about September 3, 2003? Aside from being the Grind's birthday, that's when Kerry first ran a TV ad calling Bush's jobs record an "astonishing failure." Kerry promised in that ad to roll back Bush's tax cuts and to be a president, presumably unlike Bush, who's "on the side of America's middle class."

Or howzabout October 31? Aside from being Halloween, it's the day Kerry first aired a spot in Iowa saying Bush's administration "works for those at the top, not you," and has passed "the biggest tax cuts in history to the wealthy."

"George Bush and Dick Cheney let polluters and oil companies rewrite our environmental laws. They defend the loopholes that let corporations avoid taxes by moving jobs overseas," an announcer says in that Kerry spot, titled "Courage."

We could go on, really.

Let me restate my campaigning peeve: I don't have a problem with most negative campaigning. It's always been a part of politics, and besides...pointing out your opponents problems can be quite valid. What I DO mind is this weak-assed "he started it!" and "woe is me, I'm the victim of a criticism!" game.

But then again....those games are every bit as much a part of the campaign as negative ads, aren't they? Still, big boys don't cry. Grow up, guys.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Protectionism

As clearly as he can, Alan Greenspan has made it known that protectionism isn't in the best economic interest of the country.

"As history clearly shows, our economy is best served by full and vigorous engagement in the global economy," Greenspan said a day after Bush inveighed against any effort to restrict access to U.S. markets by saying it might hurt U.S. exporters.

Greenspan noted "new protectionist measures" were being proposed, without specifying what he was referring to, and said they could be self-defeating.

"These alleged cures could make make matters worse rather than better," he said. "They would do little to create jobs and if foreigners were to retaliate, we would surely lose jobs."

Of course these "new protectionist measures" being proposed are, at the moment vague but certainly threatening. And they can be found in John Kerry's plan for reviving manufacturing in the US. The single telling line is:

Increase and Better Enforce Our Trade Laws to Assure America has a Level Playing Field

Parse that out ... "Increase and better enforce OUR trade laws"...? OUR trade laws do not mean other countries must adhear to them ... they're OUR trade laws. Don't forget this line is found in his plan to revive American manufacturing ... so what is he really saying? Tariffs at the very minimum and the possibility of restricting imports to "protect" American jobs (also known as another way of screwing the consumer).

"...to assure America has a level playing field." Are you kidding ... America is an 800 lb gorilla in the world of global trade. If America is interested in level playing fields, it ought to seek the input of its trading partners as to what steps could be taken to negate America's advantage. This has nothing to do with "level playing fields" in terms of trade. It has to do with protectionism to shelter jobs in inefficient industries.

It is statements like Kerry's which make it horribly clear that the man and his organization haven't any idea of the effects or dynamics of a global market (positive or negative). So his answer to a perceived problem, one he just doesn't understand very well, coupled with his desire to pander to his base and his further desire to play up his populist side, Kerry is ready to essentially engage in a trade war.

There's nothing more "unilateral" than a trade war.

He tries to give this all "global" cover by invoking the WTO and other institutions as his means of "enforcing" and "assuring", but the promises he's making on the stump, talking about Benedict Arnold companies and unfair trade speak to a candidate who is interested in economic warfare ... just as this nation is beginning to dramatically pull out of this last recession.

And, as Alan Greenspan says, the protectionism being proposed, both internal and external, promises to COST jobs, not save them and certainly not increase them. Couple Kerry's protectionism with his desire to increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation and you have a recipe for economic disaster the likes of which we haven't seen since the Great Depression.

If its about the economy and jobs, Kerry's plan is the wrong plan.


Posted by McQ at 04:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Libertarian Purity Test

This libertarian purity test has been making the rounds in the blogosphere. I took it twice, and got different scores: 45 and 56. The questions often leave some room for interpretation, I think.

At any rate, I'm right around the border between these categories:

31-50 points: Your libertarian credentials are obvious. Doubtlessly you will become more extreme as time goes on.

51-90 points: You are a medium-core libertarian, probably self-consciously so. Your friends probably encourage you to quit talking about your views so much.

I'd be interested to know your scores. Take the test and leave your results in the comments.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:29 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Krugmania: The professors tax plan

In Today's NYT column, Paul Krugman presents the tax plan he'd have liked....

In 2001 the administration rammed through long-term tax cuts, heavily tilted toward the affluent. But employment didn't turn around, and by late 2002 many economists — including supporters of the original tax cut — were urging it to try something different. My own piece, "My Economic Plan," was fairly typical: I called for extended unemployment benefits, temporary aid to state and local governments, and rebates for low- and middle-income workers.
Let's see:

* Extend Unemployment benefits: Bush did that
* Temporary aid to state and local governments: The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 increased that by $20 billion.
* Rebates for low- and middle-income workers: The Jobs and Growth Act of 2003 included rebates for child tax credits.

Granted, these policies may not have been implemented precisely as Paul Krugman would have liked (ie: by a democrat)....but they were implemented.

Which leaves one wondering exactly what the professor is complaining about.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:05 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Atriosterical

Here's the Democrats angle on the new Bush ads....

Mohammed Horton

the Bush campaign has a new ad, and you can read about it here. The ad is called "100 Days." It uses the image of a dark skinned man who is obviously thought to be a terrorist. He just can't stop trying to one-up the old man, can he?

Hm. The ads use a dark skinned man to represent a terrorist.....so the Bush campaign is racist. Got it.

But before I accept that criticism, I'd like to hear how the Democrats would have cast that role. A caucasian man? Asian? A woman? Perhaps an animatronic androgynous humanoid?

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:47 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Where are the whistleblowers?

This is just sick...

The government's top expert on Medicare costs was warned that he would be fired if he told key lawmakers about a series of Bush administration cost estimates that could have torpedoed congressional passage of the White House-backed Medicare pre-scription-drug plan.

When the House of Representatives passed the controversial benefit by five votes last November, the White House was embracing an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that it would cost $395 billion in the first 10 years. But for months, the administration's own analysts in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had concluded repeatedly that the drug benefit could cost upward of $100 billion more than that.

Withholding the higher cost projections was important because the White House was facing a revolt from 13 conservative House Republicans who vowed to oppose the Medicare drug bill if it cost more than $400 billion.

The damning evidence?
Richard S. Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which produced the $551 billion estimate, told colleagues last June that he would be fired if he revealed numbers relating to the higher estimate to lawmakers.

"This whole episode which has now gone on for three weeks has been pretty nightmarish," Foster wrote in an e-mail to some of his colleagues June 26, just before the first congressional vote on the drug bill. "I'm perhaps no longer in grave danger of being fired, but there remains a strong likelihood that I will have to resign in protest of the withholding of important technical information from key policy-makers for political reasons."

We deserve better government than this. Much much better government than this.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Kerry endorsed by President Rufus T Firefly

While I won't dispute that many foreign leaders may prefer a more pliable (ie: Kerry) administration, this is an amusing development....

The Massachusetts Democrat has made no official foreign trips since the start of last year, according to Senate records and his own published schedules. And an extensive review of Mr. Kerry's travel schedule domestically revealed only one opportunity for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee to meet with foreign leaders here.
On Monday, Mr. Kerry told reporters in Florida that he'd met with foreign leaders who privately endorsed him.
....
The only instance found when Mr. Kerry was in the same town as a foreign leader was Sept. 24, when New Zealand Foreign Minister Philip Goff was in Washington meeting with State Department officials. On that day, according to his schedule, Mr. Kerry received the endorsement of the International Association of Fire Fighters in Washington.
Now, it's likely that these "foreign leaders" are simply bureaucrats that Kerry esteems above their pay rate. It's further likely that leaders from actual allies DO want a Kerry presidency.

So, it's unlikely that Kerry is actually lying or incorrect. More likely, he's exaggerating the position of the people to whom he spoke.

But, if true....what of it? Foreign leaders always prefer a leader who will be more conducive to their own views; a US President whose views are more in line with the interests of their own country. That is not necessarily bad for a US president....our interests frequently do coincide.

But it's also not necessarily good. It's neutral. That Kerry boasts about it says more about his need for approval than it does about the interests of the United States.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2004

Iraqi agent

Instapundit has been passing on comments about media reaction to the Susan Lindauer/Iraq agent story. His recent email:


Just saw the NBC evening news: Tom Brokaw not only skipped the substantial aspects of the indictment (her being paid ten grand *and* her willingness to perform aid and comfort when she believed she was aiding the "Iraqi resistance" with Libyan help), but he neglected to mention that she was a former journalist and former Democratic congressional aide.

He did take pains to report that she was a second cousin of White House staffer Andy Card.

Glenn responds that he didn't see the NBC story. Well, look no further. Here's the Seattle Post-Intelligencer first paragraph....
The woman charged with working for the Iraqi spy agency is a distant cousin of President Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card, and has held a variety of jobs in journalism and on Capitol Hill.
The article goes on to describe her Democratic affiliations, but it's worth noting what was mentioned first. Not what she's actually done, but the fact that she's very distantly related to a guy who works for the President.

Do people even know their second cousins?

Note: This is not an example of a "liberal media bias". It is an example of media bias towards titillating but irrelevant information.

UPDATE: Reader JorgXMckie points out that she also worked for...are you ready for details waaaay less important than her lineage?......wait for it.......the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

That made it into the second paragraph.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

One more thing he can be wrong about...

Is it any wonder we weren't knocking down their door for help...

In the growing scandal over the United Nations Oil-for-Food program, which from 1996-2003 supervised relief to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and his staff have excused themselves from any responsibility for the massive corruption involving billions in bribes and kickbacks that went on via more than $100 billion in U.N.-approved contracts for Saddam to sell oil and buy humanitarian supplies.

That's fascinating, not least given the ties of Annan's own son, Kojo Annan, to the Switzerland-based firm, Cotecna, which from 1999 onward worked on contract for the U.N. monitoring the shipments of Oil-for-food supplies into Iraq. These were the same supplies sent in under terms of those tens of billions of dollars worth of U.N.-approved contracts in which the U.N. says it failed to notice Saddam Hussein's widespread arrangements to overpay contractors who then shipped overpriced goods to the impoverished people of Iraq and kicked back part of their profits to Saddam's regime.

Dennis Kucinich, you recall, wants to turn this all back over to the United Nations. From his exit plan for Iraq.....
1: The United States must ask the United Nations to manage the oil assets of Iraq until the Iraqi people are self-governing.

2: The United Nations must handle all the contracts: No more Halliburton sweetheart deals, No contracts to Bush Administration insiders, No contracts to campaign contributors. All contracts must be awarded under transparent conditions.

Yeah. The UN. Maybe they won't screw it up. Again.

I don't like John Kerry, but thank GOD Dennis Kucinich doesn't have a prayer.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Landmines

This is good.....

The Bush administration is set to declare it intends to make all U.S. land mines detectable to American forces and scrap those that are not timed to self-destruct. But it will not join the 150 nations that have signed an anti-land mine treaty.
A reasonable compromise, I think. As terrible as land-mines are, there are still places where they are the least bad choice.

Of course, the US still gets criticism for not signing the landmine ban treaty....

The United States, Russia and China are among the 47 countries that have not signed the treaty, on which Canada took the lead, and a senior U.S. official said in advance of the expected announcement Friday that the Bush administration did not intend to be hemmed in by the accord and would not sign it.
Canada took the lead. How very....magnanimous of them.

What do they care? The United States IS their landmine.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Great Economist Quote

In light of recent discussions at QandO on the topic of economic schools of thought, I wanted to blog about this Arnold Kling column. Unfortunately, I fear I'm pressed for time. Perhaps later

In the meantime, there's one great quote that's worth mentioning....

Herbert Stein once wrote that although economists do not know very much, noneconomists know even less.
For evidence, see the current protectionist garbage infecting the political scene. The rest of the article is interesting, as well. A rationale and thoughtful discussion of the chasm between schools of economics.

Me? I'm a skeptic of each school. My impression is that many economists are far too dogmatic, and let philosophic ideology shape their assumptions. Not entirely, of course....just enough.

I'm merely a skeptic, though. Not a cynic.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blog Rolling

I've seen a few good bits of blogging this morning.

* In response to the Kerry campaign mewling about "the Republican smear machine", Captain Ed points out the Kerry Smear machine, with a bit of copyright infringement to boot. Go there to see the picture he grabbed from the Kerry campaign site.

Look, I don't mind some vigorous back and forth. I don't mind the usual political slap-fights....but I HATE when politicians cop the martyr act on one hand, while dishing the invective with the other hand. Be a man. Take the heat.

* John Cole. Just go read him right now. Both here and here. In the former case, he points out the very substantive differences between Clintons "Lincoln bedroom" problems, and the latest story about Bush letting supporters (ie: old friends) stay at the White House. In the latter....well, just go read it. That's the kind of blogging I like.

* Bill Hobbs has a graph indicating our manufacturing sector is doing better than other OECD nations. Closest to the US? Hong Kong...the most free economy in the world. Could it be a coincidence that free markets recover faster?

* Bill Herbert is on fire, too. Read this, then scroll up and down for more.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ted Rall

We all know Ted Rall is an ass, but he's also a pretty incompetent one. For example, in a column railing against the Bush administration for its Haitian policy.....

Aristide, a former priest whose support among the vast slums had led him to a landslide win at the polls, was forced out by a similar bunch of army officers back in 1991. After U.S. troops restored him to power in 1994, President Clinton called his return "a victory for freedom around the world."

Indeed, Aristide rewarded our faith in him by voluntarily stepping aside when he lost the 1996 election.

Aristide stepped aside when he "lost the 1996 election"? I beg to differ.....
Aristide was constitutionally barred from seeking a second consecutive term.
Ted Rall bloviates onward....
The charismatic ex-priest won his second election in November 2000. Democracy finally seemed to be taking root.
Democracy takes root! Huzzah! Except, it turns out Ted Rall's blossoming rose was a weed....
After the election, the Organization of American States issued a report that the election was unfair and that the methodology for counting votes was flawed.
The election corruption didn't stop there, either, and neither does Rall, who expresses shock at the idea of a popular uprising among the citizenry....
Amazingly, Bush's spokesman argues that there's nothing undemocratic about deposing a popularly elected president.
Yeah, Ted....amazing. Amazing, I mean, that you can feign offense at an overthrow of the Haitian thug-in-Chief, after you've suggested a violent overthrown of the US government on your own website...
A violent government overthrow: Ted Rall, 34, thinks it’s the only way the problems of wage disparity, homelessness and healthcare will ever be fixed.
Rall just gets worse and worse, though.
In Afghanistan, Bush traded in the world's worst government, the Taliban, for something still worse--anarchy and civil war. Chaos and rape gangs replaced Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Haitians, it seems, may be in for a similarly bad bargain.
This is Walter Duranty stuff. Rall makes Ann Coulter look like Miss Manners.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Raising the level of debate

I see that Kerry, after whining about "Republican attacks", has again made an effort to raise the level of debate:

``Let me tell you, we've just begun to fight,'' Kerry said. ``We're going to keep pounding. These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen. It's scary.''

Maybe it was the gravitational pull of being so close to Howard Dean (who by the way looked like he wanted to be anywhere but where he was when he endorsed Kerry) that made Kerry call his political opponents "crooked" and a "lying bunch".

Of course, say anything about JF'nK like that and the outrage (not to mention the whining) would be palpable.


Posted by McQ at 08:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Maybe Arafat will file a complaint...

Now this is journalism....

Palestinian Terrorist Abu Abbas Goes To Hell
....
Abbas, who was in his late fifties, had a heart condition. There are no details so far regarding the circumstances of his death. But a Pentagon spokesman said Abbas' rotting carcass would be carved up by pathologists in order to verify the cause of death.
F*** 'em if he can't take a poke.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day, so far

The Angry Economist....

Stephen Turnbull writes, in part, on the Free Software Business mailing list, "If you have a job because somebody else is prohibited from offering the product at a lower cost, you're not on salary, you're on welfare."

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why, Maureen, why?

I'll save you a bit of trouble. Maureen Dowd's column today? It may be her most piffling effort yet. And that's saying something.

Really, why does this woman get space in the New York Times?

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Conflict of Supreme Court interests...

A bit back, I criticised Justice Scalia for his conflict of interest issues, so with my bipartisan credibility intact, I'll criticise this as well....

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has lent her name and presence to a lecture series co-sponsored by the liberal NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, an advocacy group that often argues before the court in support of women's rights that the justice embraces.

In January, Ginsburg gave opening remarks for the fourth installment in the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Distinguished Lecture Series on Women and the Law.

Two weeks earlier, she had voted in a medical screening case and taken the side promoted by the legal defense fund in its friend-of-the-court brief.

Perhaps Scalia and Ginsburg could take a powder together on a few cases. Fair, after all, is fair.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Madrid

Frightening....

A string of powerful explosions rocked three Madrid train stations Thursday just days before Spain's general elections, killing at least 131 rush-hour commuters and injuring hundreds more in what officials called the deadliest attack ever by the militant Basque separatist group ETA.
My wife and I were married in Madrid less than a month after 9/11. A minister named Vincent Coleman officiated our wedding. It was witnessed by the ministers wife, and a Spanish electrician named Pedro, who happened to be nearby.

Seeing this, I can't help but wonder where they are now.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2004

McCain

By now you've all heard this one....

Republican Sen. John McCain allowed a glimmer of hope Wednesday for Democrats fantasizing about a bipartisan dream team to defeat President Bush

McCain said he would consider the unorthodox step of running for vice president on the Democratic ticket — in the unlikely event he received such an offer from the presidential candidate.

"John Kerry is a close friend of mine. We have been friends for years," McCain said Wednesday when pressed to squelch speculation about a Kerry-McCain ticket. "Obviously I would entertain it."

This reminds me of 2000. I didn't like Bush, but found McCain....interesting. It occurred to me that he might be a decent leader. Granted, we would disagree on a great deal....but I disagree with Bush on a great deal, too.

Still, the job of President involves a great deal more than just policy positions. In large part, it is about appearances...both domestically and internationally. McCain appears credible and strong. One can disagree with him, but he doesn't have the great gaping chinks in his armor had by, say, George W Bush.

His downsides? Well, he was a moderate! He's fiscally irresponsible!

As it turned out, we got that, anyway. Whatever Bush may be, he's no libertarian/conservative. I like Bush's approach to the war on terror, but I suspect McCain would have been every bit as good. The John Wayne type, you know.

So, as a VP on the Kerry ticket, he'd be absolutely devastating to Bush. But it will never happen. Why? 2 reasons....
1: McCain says the current campaign is "the nastiest campaign so far that we have seen" and says he prefers "campaigning for candidates instead of against their opponents". Meanwhile, John Kerry is saying this about McCain's Party....

Kerry told a worker in Chicago that he was ready to fight back against his Republican foes, adding in an exchange picked up by television and radio microphones that "these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen."
Charming. Yeah, count McCain out.

2: In another story, McCain wasted no time shutting the idea down....

Within hours, the Arizona senator's chief of staff, Mark Salter, closed the door on that idea. "Senator McCain will not be a candidate for vice president in 2004," Salter told The Associated Press, saying he spoke for the senator.
Still, it was a nice 4 hour meme.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I grow weary of hippies. Again.

It's been some time since I've brought out the Clue-Bat to pummel the "War for Oil" ninnies. Sure, I know it should be obvious to everybody by now that we didn't go to war with Iraq for oil, but let's beat on the brats for a bit, anyway...

* The BBC manages to work in the sinister Cheney connection, perhaps to avoid pointing out that the US is withdrawing large contracts from Halliburton....

The US military has awarded seven new contracts for supplying oil to Iraq, to replace a controversial deal with Vice-President Dick Cheney's former firm.

Halliburton, once led by Mr Cheney, is being probed for allegedly overcharging on oil brought in from Kuwait. All seven new contracts rely on supplies from Turkey. Six of the new deals, worth in total $200m, are with Turkish firms, with a seventh - the largest at $108.5m - going to a Texas-based operation.

Quick, hippies! You need a New Message! Uh....we invaded Iraq for Bush's Turkish oil buddies!

* The St Petersburg Times reports on Russian oil interests in Iraq....

The president of LUKoil said Sunday he would visit Iraq this week to try to salvage a potentially lucrative contract that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein awarded his firm and later rescinded.

"In the coming few days, I'm planning to visit Baghdad. We have established a dialogue with the Coalition Provisional Authority," LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov told a news conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
......
The United States has said that any oil production agreements between foreign companies and Iraq's Oil Ministry must await Iraqi self-government. U.S. forces aim to turn over political control to the Iraqis on June 30.

What's this? We're insisting that the Iraqi people make their own decisions? It's heresy! Who could have predicted this?!?!

Who? Well, for starters, John "our sons and daughters should never have to fight and die for Mideast oil" Kerry.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Berlusconi, Berlusconi

Among the gaffe-prone, Howard Dean was a piker....

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may have added market traders to the long list of those he has offended. During a live radio phone-in, he upbraided a stall holder from the Sicilian city of Palermo who called him a "colleague".

Mr Berlusconi said: "We don't do the same job, we are not colleagues.

"You do a job that is useful to the economy, but I'm no street hawker, my job is to govern the country."

Can I count on your vote?

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Misquoting Hillary

This is exactly why I don't use Newsmax.....

Hillary: Iraqi Women Better Off Under Saddam

Sen. Hillary Clinton said this week that Iraqi women were better off under Saddam Hussein, arguing that when the brutal dictator ran the country women were at least assured the right to participate in Iraq's public life.

In comments that went unreported by the mainstream press, the former first lady told the Brookings Institution on Wednesday that since Saddam's removal from power, Iraq's postwar governing councils had engaged in "pullbacks in the rights [women] were given under Saddam Hussein."

Shocking! How could Hillary say that!?!?

Easy. She didn't.

“I have been deeply troubled by what I hear coming out of Iraq. When I was there and met with women members of the national governing council and local governing councils in Baghdad and Kirkuk they were starting to express concerns about some of the pullbacks in the rights they were given under Saddam Hussein,” she said.
Hillary simply points out that female Iraqi leaders are concerned about the civil rights extended to women. And SHE'S NOT WRONG! We should all be concerned about the rights of women in the Middle East. It's a political bellwether of the general state of freedom in Iraq.

But Newsmax takes her out of context, so it appears she's saying women were "better off" under Saddam. That's thoroughly irresponsible journalism.

Unfortunately, it's pretty par for the Newsmax course.

UPDATE: This post has been added to the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:46 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The downside to the upside

The government scares, the market provides.......

A pill undergoing testing shows promise in attacking two of humanity's biggest killers by helping people quit smoking and lose weight at the same time.

As government officials in Washington launched a campaign against obesity on Tuesday, doctors at a medical conference described the new drug as provocative and perhaps ideal for some people.

The drug, which could be available in a year or two, works by an entirely new approach: by blocking the same primeval circuitry in the brain that gives pot smokers the munchies.

With the usual caveats about "there's no substitute for healthy living, and blah blah".....it strikes me that this development is inevitable. Whether this is the pill or not, it's going to happen one day.

I can't imagine the full range of social and fiscal implications, but for starters.....social security may be in even more danger than we think it is.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:51 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Not too Sharpton

Can you imagine how shocked I would be to find out that Al Sharpton has been dishonest?

Election officials are recommending that Democratic presidential candidate the Rev. Al Sharpton receive $100,000 in federal matching funds - and be the subject of an investigation into whether he deserves the money.
....
At issue are loans and out-of-pocket payments made by Sharpton, the activist preacher, to Sharpton, the candidate. The New Yorker's campaign is low on cash and is carrying heavy debts, but FEC rules prohibit federal matching funds to any candidate who loans his own campaign more than $50,000.
Not very shocked at all, really.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Juggernaut? What Juggernaut?

In fact, the turnout of 10.3 million people in the Democratic primaries held through Super Tuesday, on March 2, was the third lowest since 1960, according to an examination by Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate.

Interesting. For all their unity, not many are showing up at the polls.

Two things ... Primaries attract whom? Poltical acitivsts for the most part. So they reflect what? Usually the more extreme elements. And even they aren't that enthused.

Secondly ... If your turnout is the worst since 1960, what's that say for your chances of a greater turnout on Nov. 2nd, much less getting and keeping voters excited over your candidacy.

Like I said ... Kerry's peaked.

Mr. Gans said that the primaries' turnout did not suggest anything about the coming general election. Because of the heated competition already evident between Mr. Kerry and President Bush, he said, the turnout in November could be as high or higher than in 1992, when 58.1 percent of the eligible electorate voted. The record turnout for a general election in modern times was set in 1960, with 64.9 percent.

And my guess is if there is a record turnout, it will mostly help the incumbent, at least as indicated by the Democrat turnout in the primaires. Kerry's had his say on the stump. Its not going to get any better than it already is for him. He'll continue to repeat the same rhetoric on the stump, but now he'll have someone answering from another point of view. I don't think he'll weather that as well as he did the light jabbing he took from Democrat candidates. Add to that the press scrutiny that is just now really beginning in earnest, and I think you have a long 8 months ahead for JF'nK.

Posted by McQ at 06:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 09, 2004

Economic reporting, reality

Bob Rayner writes a weekly economic-centric column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and this week's piece makes a point I've been banging my head about for awhile. He makes it with style, too.....

Well, I guess it's official now. The economy is going down the drain.

Billy Crystal informed us during the Academy Awards telecast last week that "the economy is in the tank."

I can deduce with some certainty that Crystal didn't reach this conclusion through personal experience. My guess is that he's been watching the news on TV and reading his newspaper, where the hopeless decline of the American worker has been chronicled with a rising fervor.

Bad news sells....even if it's surrounded by good news. Manufacturing index as high as it's been in 20 years? Yawn. Slight downtick in retail spending? Sound the alarm!

And so it goes. Fortunately, Rayner does, too. Read on. It's good.

It's almost impossible to make it through the day without facing another story about our army of laid-off factory workers and the boarded-up manufacturing plants that are springing up across the country like so many malignant mushrooms.

ABC News and Money magazine conduct an interesting weekly poll that gauges people's take on the economy. Confidence had been building steadily since summer, when a little more than 20 percent of Americans described the national economy as "good" or "excellent."

By mid-January that figure had climbed to 44 percent. But then, beginning with a Jan. 27 survey, the confidence level began to plunge, and by early March only 33 percent said the economy was good or excellent.

Interestingly, 56 percent - including Billy Crystal, no doubt - described their personal financial situation as good or excellent.

Several other widely followed consumer sentiment surveys took similar dives in February after months of steady improvement.

What happened in the last couple of weeks of January to precipitate such a dramatic downturn in Americans' optimism about the economy?

Did the stock market plunge? Was there an unexpected rush of massive layoffs? Were paychecks suddenly smaller? Did retail sales stall? Business investment decline? Home prices fall? Interest rates surge? Inflation re-ignite?

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, and, one more time, no.

The big economic event that sent confidence skidding in January was, drum roll please: the start of Democratic presidential caucuses and primaries and the massive attention that they, quite rightly, drew from the news media.One more good bit, then I'll direct you to the article for a few relevant numbers....

Democrats trotted out all kinds of gloomy stories about the economy to bolster their case against President Bush. No real problem there. That's the job of opposition parties after all. And I don't really blame them - they're politicians - for exaggerating their economic statistic.

Not statistics, mind you, but the singular form of the noun. The Democrats' entire economic argument relies on one survey - the Labor Department's tally of monthly nonfarm payrolls.

That's the figure, you've no doubt heard about 80,000 times, that showed a decline of 2.6 million jobs since that economically significant month of January 2001, which, coincidentally, is when George W. Bush took office.

I'm not going to mimic the Republican campaign points about how many challenges the country has faced since 2001, even though many of my colleagues across the country have done a fine job mimicking the Democratic talking points about Bush being the worst president since Herbert Hoover.

I will suggest to those reporters covering the John Kerry campaign that the next time he says Bush cost the U.S. economy 3 million jobs, they gently remind their viewers and readers that, while it's a fine applause line, it is - not to put too fine a point on things - inaccurate.

Even by the most pessimistic measure - the nonfarm payrolls - job losses now stand at about 2.2 million since January 2001. Not a pretty number I'll admit.

Of course, since the Bush-led tax cuts hit the economy last summer, those payrolls have increased by 364,000 jobs.

And a second Department of Labor survey, which does a better job counting new employment at small entrepreneurial startups, shows a seasonally adjusted gain of 1 million jobs in the past year and 511,000 since Bush took office.

Ok, sorry about the long excerpting. Go read the whole thing now.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

President finally does his duty

Look, I understand the desire to avoid a circus. I understand the "politics of the situation". I do. Still, this was important, and it's about damned time they reached a solution...

President Bush will answer privately all questions raised by a federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the White House said Tuesday, softening its insistence that Bush's testimony be limited to an hour.
Good. This is too important to let it become a political circus....but it's also too important to avoid it, just in case it does.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:24 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

One more time for the hell of it...

George Tenet is doing yeomans work again, for all the good it does....

CIA director George Tenet said today that he did not believe the administration had "misrepresented" intelligence about Iraq leading up to the war and that he privately corrected officials when he disagreed with what they were saying.

In a sometimes contentious hearing before the Senate Armed Service Committee, Tenet defended the administration's description of Iraqi threats against charges that President Bush and Vice President Cheney, in particular, exaggerated the threat and did not tell the American people that some of intelligence assessments included significant caveats or were disputed by some intelligence agencies.

Asked by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) whether he believed the administration had misrepresented the intelligence on Iraq, Tenet answered: "No sir, I don't."
....
Tenet added that sometimes language used by policymakers in public "doesn't uniquely comport" word for word, with the complex, more nuanced intelligence community language. ". . . I lived up to my responsibility," he said.

Let me translate that for you: "Senator Kennedy, let it go. Drop it. It's over. Move on."

Or, to put it in language Senator Kennedy might understand: forget about it....it's water under the bridge.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:50 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

They see a problem, I see a solution

They say this like it's a bad thing.....

Inactive Americans are eating themselves to death at an alarming rate, their unhealthy habits fast approaching tobacco as the top underlying preventable cause of death, a government study found.
So, we're eating ourselves into an early grave. Sounds good to me. Now, if the government can just restrain itself from trying to solve this "problem" (ie: choice) we'll just about be able to make Social Security solvent again.

So, they'll probably pass enough laws that we can't avoid living to be 100. Whether we like it or not.

In 2000, poor diet including obesity and physical inactivity caused 400,000 U.S. deaths - more than 16 percent of all deaths and the No. 2 killer. That compares with 435,000 for tobacco, or 18 percent, as the top underlying killer.
Eating unhealthy foods? Check.
Laziness? Check.

Looks like living good is the #1 cause of death. Somebody has to stop us before we enjoy ourselves!

UPDATE: Dr Galen has more.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The more things change...

..the more they stay the same. Here's a Clinton campaign talking point from 1992:

Bush can't debate his economic record, so he reverts to desperate political ploys and drags out old scapegoats and silly distractions to try and fool the American people one more time.

Bush promised a "kinder, gentler" America then gave us the worst economy in 50 years. Bush promised us 30 million new jobs then used our tax money to ship American jobs overseas. Bush said "Read My Lips" then signed the second biggest tax increase in history.

...and now, a John Kerry speech from Oct 2003...
Over and over again, George Bush has favored tax cuts for the wealthy and special favors for the special interests over what works for our economy and for middle class Americans. He’s buckled to lobbyists and the powerful instead of standing up for everyday Americans.
....
We have the weakest economic growth under a President in more than 50 years and the worst job numbers since the Great Depression.
....
If we’re serious about keeping manufacturing jobs from moving overseas, we need to have the courage to close the tax loopholes that actually encourage companies to leave America to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. It’s unpatriotic. And it costs us jobs.
If Bush 41 and Bush 43 were in any way similiar, I'd at least give the Democrats credit for consistency.

Apparently, though, the Democratic Party has discovered a wonderful Presidential election trick. Regardless of policies, you can recycle the same message during the economic downcycle. People eat that stuff up.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Kerry Interview

Time Magazine has an absolutely astounding interview with John Kerry. Astounding, because it's hard to believe John Kerry never pulled the "Mary, help!" card in the middle of this interview. See if you can make head or tails of this....

TIME: What would you have done about Iraq had you been the President?
KERRY: If I had been the President, I might have gone to war but not the way the President did. It might have been only because we had exhausted the remedies of inspections, only because we had to—because it was the only way to enforce the disarmament.
.....
TIME: Would you say your position on Iraq is a) it was a mistaken war; b) it was a necessary war fought in a bad way; or c) fill in the blank?
KERRY: I think George Bush rushed to war without exhausting the remedies available to him, without exhausting the diplomacy necessary to put the U.S. in the strongest position possible, without pulling together the logistics and the plan to shore up Iraq immediately and effectively.

TIME: And you as Commander in Chief would not have made these mistakes but would have gone to war?
KERRY: I didn't say that.

TIME: I'm asking.
KERRY: I can't tell you.
......
TIME: Obviously it's good that Saddam is out of power. Was bringing him down worth the cost?
KERRY: If there are no weapons of mass destruction— and we may yet find some—then this is a war that was fought on false pretenses, because that was the justification to the American people, to the Congress, to the world, and that was clearly the frame of my vote of consent. I said it as clearly as you can in my speech. I suggested that all the evils of Saddam Hussein alone were not a cause to go to war.

TIME: So, if we don't find WMD, the war wasn't worth the costs? That's a yes?
KERRY: No, I think you can still—wait, no. You can't—that's not a fair question, and I'll tell you why. You can wind up successful in transforming Iraq and changing the dynamics, and that may make it worth it, but that doesn't mean [transforming Iraq] was the cause [that provided the] legitimacy to go. You have to have that distinction.

...and they say Bush is the incoherent one. I mean, sure...he is. Bush is a terrible extemporaneous speaker, but we already knew that. But this? Kerry could not have been suprised by these questions. Hell, I'VE been thinking about them for the past year or so. Yet, he manages an answer which makes Bush look like Churchill.

In more ways than one.

If Bush is fighting terrorism, "whatever the cost may be", in the fields and in the streets....John Kerry is trying to "understand the higher modalities of the situation".

Yeah, hey, good luck with that.

Other bloggers have already addressed this better than I, so.....
Dale Franks....

So, let's see if I can wrap this up. If Kerry had been president, we wouldn't have gone to war. Unless we would have. Which we wouldn't. Unless he thought it was necessary. Which it wouldn't've been. But, you never know.

Oh, and diplomacy. Lots more of that. And happy Frenchmen. Having happy Frenchmen is absolutely key.

Stephen Den Beste....
Kerry is correct to say that democracy cannot be imposed on an unwilling populace, but it is not at all clear that NATO and the U.N. have a better chance of success than the U.S. acting alone. In fact, everything we know right now about the situation says that the exact opposite is true.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Candidate endorsements....

John Kerry has his fans....

Senator John Kerry yesterday dropped an early bombshell into the United States election campaign by claiming that some foreign leaders had already told him they wanted him to beat President George W. Bush in November.
...
Kerry named no names at a fundraiser in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but said: "I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly but, boy, they look at you and say, 'You've got to win this. You've got to beat this guy. We need a new policy'."
But so does President Bush....
Religious conservative and political activist Pat Robertson told his national television audience on Friday that God revealed to him that President George W. Bush will win reelection in 2004 in a "blowout."
Of course, neither God nor Jacques Chirac have made any public statements on the matter. Until they do, color me a skeptic.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Halliburton

Ahem.....

Halliburton Co., under fire for alleged overcharges on its government contracts in Iraq, reported yesterday that it made an $85 million profit on $3.6 billion in revenue from Iraq work last year.
.....
"The U.S. government has become a major customer of ours," the report said. It noted that government contracts had accounted for about 26 percent of revenue for 2003, up from 10 percent the year before. The Iraq contracts had a 2.4 percent profit margin, Halliburton said.
A 2.4% profit margin. This is the "profiteering" we've been hearing about.

Underwhelming, isn't it?

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:50 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

They don't even get to vote in their own country...

I'd like to buy this reporter a drink.....

"I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, 'You've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy,' things like that," he said.

While Mr. Kerry did not name names, he has been winning apparent support from abroad — from North Korea.

"In the past few weeks, speeches by the Massachusetts senator have been broadcast on Radio Pyongyang and reported in glowing terms by the Korea Central News Agency, the official mouthpiece of [Kim Jong-il's] communist regime," the Financial Times newspaper of London said last week.

Hey, Kerry put it on the table. Since North Korea is the only nation with a public position on the US Presidency....well, it's relevant, isn't it?

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:07 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Nader Effect

Ralph Nader has been accused of being an egomaniac, divisive and "not a team player" (not that I understand him to have ever been one when it concerns the Democrats). But Nader has a vision, however screwey or skewed, that he feels is important enough to pursue. He's the left's Ross Perot, and just about as wierd.

I watched him with Bill Maher on HBO's "Real Time", and was struck by the fact that while he's sincere, he's completely off the wall. Maher was asking him his opinion of the most important issues and Nadar starts talking about the CDC warnings about epidemic bird viruses which neither party is talking about. When Maher poo-pooed the idea, Nader was left with nothing but his boilerplate rhetoric about "Corporate Government", etc., ad nauseum.

At one point, he claimed that Social Security was in great shape and could pay at its current levels without changing anything until 2047. He also claimed that all the talk about its insolvency was nonsense?

Nonsense? Simple math tells you when you're paying as you go and the number of workers per recipient drops from 47 in the '40s to 2.3 now that perhaps there's a problem. To compound the problem, we're living much longer than we were back when we had 47 workers paying in for each recipient. But Nader doesn't see it.

About the only issue Nader and I agree on is stopping the wasteful and anti-liberty "war on drugs". The rest read like a litany of some European socialist wet-dream.

All that said, we now see that in a recent poll, Nader pulls 6%, way up from his 2.7% actual under the banner of the Green Party in the last election. Yes, I know its early and at the moment its easier to "stand on principle" now than it might be in November (for those desparate to see W defeated). But for all the supposed "unity" on the left aimed at "taking back the White House", I find that to be quite a large percentage, even this early. No doubt that it will erode over the next few months, but it certainly points to the possibility that Nader can still draw a couple of percentage points.

What does this mean to the election? Two things ... that despite the liberal record of John Kerry, the far left still doesn't find him liberal enough. Two ... that if there are 6% of the far left disaffected with Kerry now, how does that bode for his ability to keep the rest of the "faithful" faithful to him over the next 8 months, given his penchant for flipping and flopping all over the political landscape, depending on who he's talking too.

Nader's stated reason for running is:

To take our democracy back from the corporate interests that dominate both parties.

"Corporate interests" and "corporatism" have become huge buzz words in and among those who identify with the left wing of the left wing. Its a stealth word or phrase for "anti-capitalism". Thus the appeal of Nader to that set.

The question is whether Kerry, the consumate insider, can do anything to appeal to that element of the left enough to have them vote for him. The "Anybody But Bush" appeal may be strong enough to pull most of them into the Democrat fold for the election. But, in my opinion, there is that 2 to 3 percent who really don't want Kerry anymore than Bush and who won't vote for either.

The question is, will it be enough to swing the election to right or the left? My prediction is he'll pull about what he did before and it will indeed have an effect on the election. If so, the word "pariah" in the left's dictionary will forever have Ralph Nader's picture next to it.


Posted by McQ at 09:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

He must be going for the military vote

Think about this very carefully.....

Mr. Kerry charges that a similar lack of constant attention led the administration to avoid dealing with the North Korean crisis for the first 18 months of Mr. Bush's presidency and that even now, Mr. Bush is unwilling to engage in serious negotiations. It was an example, he said, of the president's dealing first with the less threatening problem, Iraq, because it was the easier to solve.

"There's a reason the Bush administration walked that backwards and chose Iraq," he said. "And the reason is in the first eight hours of a conflict with North Korea, you'd have over a million casualties, and they knew that in Iraq you wouldn't." [emphasis added]

So, dealing with the "possible" problem was "backwards"....? How very anti-utilitarian of John Kerry.

Such a view requires one of two thought processes:
1: Kerry would actually prefer a military action that he assumes would kill millions in the first 8 hours, to a military action that has killed 500 in a year.
- I really doubt he would actually propose this....

2: Kerry would not solve smaller problems until bigger problems were solved.

Understand, the implications of such a policy: we would not have fought Germany until we'd defeated Japan; we would not have dealt with Iran until we'd defeated the Soviet Union; we would not research heart disease until we'd defeated cancer; we would no longer prosecute forgery cases until we put an end to all murder.

In the best possible context, Kerry's statement is anti-utilitarian nonsense, idealistic piffle, and painfully inept foreign policy.

(Hat tip to reader Matt Fischer, who tipped me off to the story)

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I thought we got rid of the dungeons?

Frank J....

Iraq now has a constitution. All they need now is strength, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma and they'll be ready to go.
I get it. I can't be the only one.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Democrats (mostly) unified

The Democrats have unified behind their nominee, as this banner from Democrats.org indicates....

kerry_unify.gif

We're unified! We're all together! We are ONE! .....wait. We're not leaving anybody out, are we?

SharpKook.jpg

Oops. Uh, whenever you guys are ready.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 08, 2004

Flopping around like a fish out of water

Seems Kerry's positions are dictated by who he happens to be addressing at the time. Makes one wonder if he's figured out all this new-fangled technology that records what he says at each and every stop. For instance when discussing Israel's security fence:

An Arab-American audience in Michigan last fall heard all about how Israel's security is just "another barrier to peace." As Mr. Kerry put it, "I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli government's decision to build a barrier off the Green Line — cutting deep into Palestinian areas. We don't need another barrier to peace. Provocative and counterproductive measures only harm Israelis' security over the long term, increase the hardships to Palestinian people and make the process of negotiating an eventual settlement that much harder."

Uh, OK so that means your against it, right Mr. Kerry? Not so fast ... just prior to Super Tuesday while addressing a predominantly jewish crowd in New York, Mr. Kerry said:

"Israel's security fence is a legitimate act of self-defense. ... No nation can stand by while its children are blown up at pizza parlors and on buses. While President Bush is rightly discussing with Israel the exact route of the fence to minimize the hardship it causes innocent Palestinians, Israel has a right and duty to defend its citizens. The fence only exists in response to the wave of terror attacks against Israel."

What the ... ?

Which is it JF'nK? "Another barrier to peace" or "a legitimate act of self-defense".

Well that depends ... who's he talking too today?

Posted by McQ at 10:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

He probably used a Colt

And in other news:

The new chairman of the board of Smith & Wesson's parent company resigned following reports that he committed a string of armed robberies in the 1950s and 1960s.

Things that make you go "hmmmm."

Posted by McQ at 10:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Elites"

So I made the mistake of watching almost 10 minutes of Bill O'Reilly tonight. Gah! He's Rush Limbaugh, without the humility. He appears dedicated to nothing so much as smugness.

Yet....he's successful. Go figure.

At any rate, in 10 minutes of "The Spin Factor" I heard the word "elites" about 10 times. At least. O'Reilly throws it around like the rest of us use pronouns. For that matter, I've noticed a great love of that word in National Review magazine, and other conservative venues.

It's never sat well with me, though. It was too easy, and besides...what's intrinsically wrong with being "elite"? Sounds like a good thing to me. After all, we believe in a meritocracy, don't we? If you're an "elite", you must have done something to get there.

But I've got it now. I've "pierced the veil". "Elites" is simply a code-word. Here's a translation, so you can ignore that pejorative from now on.....

"Elite": an educated and/or accomplished person who disagrees with me.
You're welcome.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Plane full of mercs in Zimbabwe?

According to Reuters, a airplane load of mercenaries has been siezed in wonderfully free Zimbabwe.

Of course the headline infers the US is implicated because the airplane is registered in the US (which is about as relevant as Liberia being implicated in an act of piracy by a Liberian registered ship). However it is a story to keep an eye on. The plane is reported to have had 64 mercs and a cargo of "military matierial" ... whatever that means. The seizure was announced by the Interior Minister, Kembo Mohadi.

"Wild Geese", an operation gone wrong or a sham?

UPDATE (McQ): From AP:

The plane was moved to the nearby Manyame military base for further investigation, he said.

In Washington, a State Department official, asking not to be identified, said the Zimbabwean government has not raised the issue with the United States. The official added that the United States has no indication that it is an American plane or that any American citizens are involved.

U.S. Embassy officials said they had not been informed and were trying to obtain details from Zimbabwe authorities.

State-run TV broadcast footage of a white plane with the tail number N4610. Inside the aircraft, the station showed two satellite telephones, radios, blue backpacks, sleeping bags, hiking boots, an inflatable raft, paddles, bolt cutters and what appeared to be a can of mace.

No weapons were shown, but the station said officials were still going through the cargo section.

Passengers and crew, all of them "heavily built males" and most of them white, were also taken to the base, where a detention barracks is located, state television reported.


UPDATE II (McQ): Hmmm .... seems its South African:

The plane's registration number, N4610, is assigned to Dodson Aviation Inc. of Ottawa, Kan. However, company director Robert Dodson said it had sold the aircraft about a week ago to a South African company, Logo Ltd. That company could not immediately be traced.


Posted by McQ at 06:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stray Voltage

Picked up on a Lileks quote that makes a very important point

And yes, I’m one of those deluded types who thinks we’re at war, and that the absence of attacks since 9/11 no more means we’re not at war than the absence of air raids on Manhattan in 1942 meant we weren’t at war with Germany and Japan.

The question is, in the absense of things blowing up in the US, how does the Bush team get this across?

--------------------

Sometimes its interesting to read the archives of some of the Dem bloggers that were for other candidates, especially when its evident their candidate is about to get "Kerried" away. Speaking of Kerry, this "Deaniac" laments:

What he's got is a few good lines, largely snatched from Dean's successful message, which sound uplifting when they're not submitted to any scrutiny. When they are, though, they ring false as vote-mongering political wind with nothing behind it -- and the media and the people have plenty of practice at and enthusiasm for denouncing Democrats for that sort of pandering. What Kerry has, in real life, is an unremarkable party-line senatorial record which stands out most for anti-leadership like voting for all Bush's trademark initiatives and skipping key environmental votes.

I'd like someone to tell me how they imagine Kerry can build a viable opposition platform out of that so-called "experience" that will inspire Joe Schmo the moderate or independent to vote for him rather than Bush (who's at least a known quantity). There's just no there there, and that's why people who are deciding based on issues (as they will be in the general election) are still choosing Dean over Kerry.

Frankly, I have to agree with much of what she says. And in reality, I think Kerry has peaked. The scrutiny will mount, the Republican challenge will become more focused and articulate and "Joe Schmo" is going to have to really want to change badly to vote for Kerry, come November.

------------------

Can you imagine succeeding in business if the following was taking place within your company?

A recent audit revealed that employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) diverted as much as 3 percent of the USDA budget to personal purchases through their government-issued credit cards

3%! To the USDA, that means about 2.1 billion dollars. Multiply that across all the agencies in the US government and then tell me your money's being carefully spent. And if you think that's an exception, think again:

Over one recent 18-month period, Air Force and Navy personnel used government-funded credit cards to charge at least $102,400 for admission to entertainment events, $48,250 for gambling, $69,300 for cruises, and $73,950 for exotic dance clubs and prostitutes.

Nice duty if you can get it.

------------------

I ran across a quote I'd saved a while back that brought me a chuckle in light of all the conflicting news from economists we're subjected too ... its from a 1993 article by Stephen I. Schlossberg, "The Impact of NAFTA on Labor" in which he pointed out:

Back in the old days when there was a Soviet Union, our TV news broadcasts brought us annual images of May Day Parades when missiles and tanks and all sorts of weapons of destruction were paraded through the streets of Moscow. On one such occasion when Khrushchev was the prime minister and general secretary of the Communist party, a flange of people in business suits marched by--a whole city block full of them. Khrushchev responded to an inquisitive colleague, "Those are economists. You would be surprised at the damage they can do."

Be wary of explanations from "economists" in the upcoming election season ... they're like expert witnesses ... you can find one to say anything you want if you pay them enough.

------------------

For whatever reason, the other day I was thinking about George Orwell (perhaps its the Orwellian nature of the Democrats which drove it, I don't kknow), but came across this quote from a journal article by John David Frodsham; World Affairs, Vol. 147, written in 1984. Its entitled "The New Barbarians: Totalitarianism, Terror and the Left Intelligentsia in Orwell's 1984".

Solzhenitsyn has repeatedly and despairingly alleged that the Western democracies have lost the will to resist totalitarianism and are eaten hollow from within by their own moral decay and the termite-like attacks of their radical intellectuals. Here, once again, he finds himself anticipated by Orwell who averred that the ultimate threat to human freedom would not come from the reactionary right, from the champions of class, capital, and privilege, but rather from a Fifth Column, from "the new aristocracy of bureaucrats, scientists, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians."

And he appears to be right on the money. The most powerful unions in America are government workers (bureaucrats) and teachers. Both are decidedly left leaning organizations. We have a plethora of "spinmeisters" who are our publicity experts and of course we've seen a left movement in both the sciences (Science in the Public Interest) and among journalists (for years).

If "doublethink" and "duckspeak" are to be found throughout our society today, one must lay the blame where it belongs, at the gates of our institutions of higher learning. What Julien Benda called "la trahison des clercs" -- "the treason of the intellectuals" -- has already occurred, just as Orwell foretold it would.

Which seems to be true, espcially if you spend any time reading about what's going down on our college campuses today in terms of political correctness, speech codes, and other manifestly anti-liberty activities.

I don't think any of this comes as any surprise to anyone, but it does inspire me to go back and dig out "1984" and review it all again since I've gained a little more experience and wisdom since the last reading.


Posted by McQ at 04:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pink Slip WaPo

Does this seriously merit news coverage? I mean, is it REALLY news when 50 whole protesters showed up on the mall in Washington DC? Apparently the WaPo thinks it does.

Underneath a 40-foot-tall woman's pink slip held aloft by a helium balloon, about 50 protesters gathered in front of the White House yesterday chanting "Pink Slip George Bush," calling for him to be ousted for his handling of the economy and the war in Iraq.

Yeah .... so what else is new? People disagree with Bush on the economy and Iraq? That's not news, folks. Just because some silly little splinter group wanders by the White House doesn't mean their newsworthy.

But I do have a question of the Washington Post ... tell me, did you bother to cover the reply by the 9/11 families who took exception to those who protested Bush's ads in an open letter?

I don't think so ...maybe you did, but I can't find it. Couldn't find it in the NYT either ... at least not in the on-line edition.

But the nonsense above is worthy of coverage, eh? Maybe its the WaPo who needs the pink slip.

Oh ... and please, do tell us again how there's no agenda at work, ok?

Posted by McQ at 02:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

We're #1!!!

Important Blog Note: Despite the fact that QandO is apparently the #1 search result on Google for "Kerry evil".....we don't actually believe John Kerry is "evil".
....just very, very wrong.

Terry McAuliffe, though.....he's evil.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Deficit reduction without increasing taxes

The Heritage Foundation has put out a draft piece on how to get the federal deficit and spending under control without raising taxes (don't forget the 2.7 trillion dollar budget is funded by YOU out of what YOU earn).

Of course the nut of the problem, as outlined by HF is the elimination of ....

...$60 billion corporate welfare budget; $20 billion pork project budget; $100 billion (at least) in waste, fraud, and abuse; and the hundreds of ineffective, outdated, and unnecessary programs.

Per the Heritage Foundation, the way to approach the problem is not through a "belt tightening" budget, but instead a "priority budget" where all programs are prioritized and a line is drawn under which programs and spending are eliminated or cut.

Essentially a "high priority budget" would

--Fully fund a limited number of high-priority spending categories, such as defense and homeland security;

--Terminate entire categories of lower-priority programs, such as corporate welfare

--Institute a moratorium on pork projects

--Limit non-security spending increases to programs that pass their audits

--Substantially reform programs growing at unsustainable rates, such as Social Security and Medicare.

Now remember when you scoff at the latter proposals that this is a budget which addresses REALITY, not the politics involved. This is workable only if someone or some group in the real world is willing to take actual leadership in this cause and make hard decisions and be willing to risk their political lives on actually fixing the deficit and thereby the budget problem.

I'm not holding my breath because there are few men of character willing to do such a thing (or perhaps there are just no real men of character in politics today).

The outline of the plan is explained under the following 10 broad guidelines:

1. Build a constituency for limited government and lower taxes

2. Turn local programs back to the states

3. Privatize activities that could be performed better by the private sector

4. Terminate failed, outdated, and irrelevant programs

5. Improve financial management and reform wasteful programs

6. Terminate corporate welfare and other mistargeted programs

7. Consolidate duplicative and contradictory programs

8. Convert several remaining programs into vouchers

9. Terminate programs rather than trimming them or phasing them out

10. Utilize the “ideas industry” for specific proposals

Looking at the broad catagories, there is tendency for the eyes to glaze over or to say, "yeah, same old stuff". But take the time to look at the details under each of the guidelines in the paper. The detail is outstanding.

Let's just take a look at the detail of one of them as an example: number 5. You'll find a very well stated and researched proposition:

Congress must provide stronger financial management oversight for federal programs, which are losing billions of dollars every year from mismanagement. The following examples of inexcusable waste make a convincing case for reform:

--The federal government cannot account for $17.1 billion spent in 2002.[11]
--The U.S. General Accounting Office refuses to certify the federal government’s own accounting books because the bookkeeping is so poor.
--Eighteen of the 26 departments and major agencies received the lowest possible rating for their financial management, meaning that auditors cannot even express an opinion on their financial statements.[12]
--The Medicare program pays as much as eight times the cost that other federal agencies pay for the same drugs and medical supplies.[13]
--The federal government made $20 billion in overpayments in 2001.
--The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s $3.3 billion in overpayments in 2001 accounted for over 10 percent of the department’s total budget.[14]
--Recently, the Department of Agriculture was unable to account for $5 billion in receipts and expenditures.
--The Internal Revenue Service does not even know how much it collects in payroll taxes.[15]
--Congressional investigators were able to receive $55,000 in federal student loan funding for a fictional college they created to test the U.S. Department of Education.[16]
--The Army Corps of Engineers has been accused of illegally manipulating data to justify expensive but unnecessary public works projects.[17]
--A recent audit revealed that employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) diverted as much as 3 percent of the USDA budget to personal purchases through their government-issued credit cards.[18]
--Over one recent 18-month period, Air Force and Navy personnel used government-funded credit cards to charge at least $102,400 for admission to entertainment events, $48,250 for gambling, $69,300 for cruises, and $73,950 for exotic dance clubs and prostitutes.[19]

The government’s own auditors, as well as outside watchdog groups, have recommended specific reforms to:

--Reduce Food Stamps overpayments ($600 million, M);
--Verify parent incomes for school lunches (up to $120 million, M);
--Improve eligibility verification and tracking of student loan recipients (at least $1,000 million, M);
--Prevent states from using accounting tricks to secure extra Medicaid funds (several billion, M);
--Combat fuel tax fraud ($1,000 million, D);
--Stop Veterans program overpayments ($800 million, M/D);
--Collect $3 billion in outstanding debt owed to the Department of Veterans Affairs;
--Stop Medicare overpayments ($12,300 million, M);
--Reform Medicare to no longer overpay for prescription drugs and medical supplies ($2,900 million, M);
--Recover the $7 billion owed by Medicare contractors;
--Reform the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to stop overpayments ($9,000 million, M).[20]

Its worth the read, and if there's a politician out there with the cajones to consider making a REAL fix to the spending and deficit problems, here's the outline of how it can be done. Frankly, if handled properly, it might be a winner politically. There's no doubt its a winner in the real world.

Hat tip to LauraN for the link.

Posted by McQ at 10:48 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Drudgery

Lamest. Exclusive. Ever.

Sen. John Kerry's official election website is riddled with obscenities, the DRUDGE REPORT can reveal.

The Democrat nominee-in-waiting recently said radio stations are within their right to pull Howard Stern off the air if they object to the shock jock's racy show.

But an investigation reveals Kerry's own website is filled expletives, setting the standard for a new wave of 21st Century campaigning!

Best of all, Drudge actually writes..."Unlike over the air broadcast, there are no known foul language rules for official campaign websites."

Right. So, why is this a story? "John Kerry has been known to Curse! Text at 11!"

Actually, let me take that back. The best (worst) part of this "exclusive" is the final word in his report: "Developing..."
No, Matt. It's not. It's just not.

But....as long as we're playing Captain Stupid and his Merry Band of Bloggers, allow me to report this WORLD EXCLUSIVE!!!!

Matt Drudge's official website is riddled with obscenities, QandO can report.

The Muckraker "journalist" recently criticized John Kerry for having foul languae on his website.

But an investigation reveals Drudge's own website is filled expletives, setting the standard for a new wave of 21st Century muckraking!

Yep. It's true. Check it out. Or this. Or this.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Haiti and the Congressional Black Caucus

As mentioned here, apparently Mr. Aristide and some Black Caucus members had a fairly cozy relationship. It appears that the Miami Hatian community has some questions about HOW cozy it really was.

"We have to wonder if some of the Congressional Black Caucus may have profited from their relationship with Aristide," said Carlo Jean-Joseph, an immigration lawyer from Lauderhill in neighboring Broward County.

"One of the questions we are asking is whether there should be an investigation into Aristide's removal at all," said Mr. Jean-Joseph, one of about 18 people who attended the meeting. "We are not sure that it is merited, given the cozy relationship between some caucus members and Aristide."

It appears another bone of contention in the Haitian community is representation. Some say it is time to quit relying on politicians from "other" countries to represent or speak for them.

"I am sick and tired of people blaming Western countries, the U.S., when we have problems in Haiti," Francois Leconte, founder of a local social-services program, said in an interview.

Mr. Leconte, 39, is president and CEO of Minority Development and Empowerment, a Broward County outreach program with a majority-Haitian clientele. He came to the United States 15 years ago.

"It is time that we come up with national representation that speaks for Haiti instead of going through other elected officials," he added.

Either way, it appears the Miami Haitian community, probably the largest concentration of Haitians in the country, is not happy with the Black Caucus generally or Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangal specifically although to this point, per the Washington Times, "records show no financial ties between caucus members and the Aristide administration."

.

Posted by McQ at 09:33 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

It's a quagmire, y'know

From Iraq....

The Iraqi Governing Council unanimously approved an interim constitution on Monday after Shiite leaders ended the deadlock that had threatened to undermine the transfer of sovereignty by the American-led occupation force to the Iraqi people scheduled for later this year.
I am most impressed by the words of Council president Mohammed Bahr al-Ulloum, who said....
"We must put the interests of our nation above all of our interests. The world is waiting and expecting us to work in the service of our nation."
For all his mewling about how he was "right, 100% correct, about how you should have done Iraq", Iraq would NOT be signing a new Constitution today had John Kerry done it his way.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blix

It's been linked on Drudge, so you've probably already seen this Hans Blix story....

George Bush and Tony Blair, perhaps fired by a religious conviction they were battling evil, were seduced by unproven intelligence reports of Iraq's illegal weapons, former chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix says.
....
In the new book "Disarming Iraq -- The search for weapons of mass destruction," Blix said French intelligence services had also been convinced weapons of mass destruction remained in Iraq, but that President Jacques Chirac -- as staunchly opposed to war as Bush and Blair were in favor -- was more skeptical.

"The intelligence services sometimes 'intoxicate each other'," he said, citing Chirac.

Fair enough, I suppose. One might also point out the different obligations of an inspector and a President, but we'll leave that for today. This paragraph bothers me...
Blix, who said he came under intense U.S. pressure to accept such intelligence as fact and was vilified for refusing, said he personally believed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein still had hidden illegal weapons but had told Blair he needed proof.
I've long maintained that Hans Blix was a fair and objective inspector who was often unfairly maligned by many critics. Unfortunately, Hans Blix did seem to misunderstand the nature of his role. He was not an investigator, a detective sent to ferret out evidence of Iraqi wrongdoing. Hans Blix was always and only an auditor, obliged to determine one single thing...
Directs the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC and the Director-General of the IAEA to report immediately to the Council any interference by Iraq with inspection activities, as well as any failure by Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations, including its obligations regarding inspections under this resolution;
..pursuant to the mission of UNMOVIC, which was essentially limited to one thing....
.....to operate a system of ongoing monitoring and verification to check Iraq’s compliance with its obligations not to reacquire the same weapons prohibited to it by the Security Council.
In short, Blix was obliged to report whether there was "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687. Nothing more, nothing less.

Instead, Hans Blix began attempting to do Iraq's work for them. To determine whether Iraq's non-compliance was evidence of WMDs, or simply evidence of intransigence.

As it turns out, it was a bit of both. Iraq was never in compliance with the UN Resolutions and they were actively violating missile, terrorist and WMD-development resolutions....but they weren't stockpiling WMDs.

Hans Blix was a good and credible detective....but he was a good and credible detective who was never asked to be a detective.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 07, 2004

Sunday Night Kidblogging

Kevin Drum has Friday Catblogging, so I can think of no good reason why I shouldn't blog about my son, Alex. On Sunday Night. Thus, Sunday Night Kidblogging.

For those of you who don't care about that sort of thing, don't click on the extended entry. Pictures follow. Also a "Dad story"...

I had a Dad First, tonight. Shortly after I put Alex to bed, it began raining with a bit of thunder and lightning. About 7:45, I heard a faint "daddy.....daddy" from his bedroom. I walked over, heard some movement, and walked in. Alex was sitting up in bed...not crying, per se, just sort of whimpering.

I picked him up...."what's wrong, big guy?" He pointed to the window. "Oh, it's the thunder? Is it scary?" Alex nods. "That's ok, Daddy's here."

We walked over to the rocking chair and he lays on my chest as I explain lightning, thunder and how daddy won't let it hurt him. And he knows it......or, at least, he went back to sleep without a problem. As far as I'm concerned, that's a ringing endorsement.

Dscn1404.jpg

Dscn1404.jpg

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:49 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

More fun at the DNC Blog

Jesse Berney at the DNC Blog can't seem to keep his spin straight. Here's a post from March 3rd, at 1:18pm:

It is mystifying that Bush — who is running for reelection on his record in war on terror — would refuse to fully cooperate with the commission.
So, he's running on his record. Got it.

A few hours later, everything must have changed, though. Here's the very next post, at 6:22pm:

Now we know what a reelection campaign looks like when you can't run on your record.
...but, I thought he was running on his record in the war on terror?

Good to see the DNC blog has adopted John Kerry's amazing ability to simultaneously say two different things and mean every word of it.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Kerry Exploits....(Pt. 1)

After Bush aired his first ads, which contained a brief picture of the scene at Ground Zero, criticism arose immediately from....well, people who were already opposed to Bush. The claim?

President Bush has gone too far, exploiting the tragedy of September 11 for political gain by using images from the attacks in campaign ads.
Well. Uh...I can't exactly see why 9/11 should be off-limits. Seems to matter a lot to many of us, but...hey, I don't make the rules.

So, now that we know the rules, let's apply them...

John Kerry is exploiting the Civil Rights Movement!

Taking his campaign to the heart of the deep South, Sen. John Kerry said Sunday he faces the same “politics of last resort” that confronted marchers seeking equality in the civil rights movement.
...
He spoke on the 39th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” clash in Selma, Ala., when state troopers used tear gas and billy clubs against activists marching over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Scenes from that episode galvanized the civil rights movement and within five months the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.

“If they could do that, if they could stand on that bridge, surely we can cross the rest of the bridges in this country that we need to,” said Kerry, as he tried to compare the struggles and rally black voters, an important Democratic constituency. Standing beside him was Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who was beaten in the ’Bloody Sunday’ march.

TAKE ACTION!!!

Senator Kerry has gone too far, exploiting the tragedy of "Bloody Sunday" for political gain by discussing images from those attacks in campaign speeches. We demand he apologize immediately - to the marchers, for politicizing their suffering, and to Republicans, for comparing them to the people who beat those marches.

I mean, fair's fair....right?

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Kerry panders to Latinos

In response to Bush meeting with Vincente Fox, John Kerry has issued a statement...

“Latinos can tell it's an election year because George W. Bush is finally paying attention to them. George Bush lost credibility for failing to make good on his promise in 2001 of immigration reform, but finally laid out a proposal.
Well - and I hate to "reopen the wounds of 9/11" for the sensitive Senator Kerry - but one might recall there was a little event back in 2001 that put immigration reform on the backburner for a bit.

At any rate, Senator "Voted NO on allowing more foreign workers into the U.S. for farm work. (Jul 1998) - Voted NO on visas for skilled workers. (May 1998) -
Voted NO on limit welfare for immigrants. (Jun 1997)
" Kerry probably doesn't have much room to denounce Bush...

“Since Bush took office, more Hispanic families are living in poverty, the number of unemployed Latinos has increased by 16 percent....
It's difficult to discuss Hispanic poverty and unemployment rates, since it is so deeply tied to, and affected by, illegal immigration. As a result, hispanics - the ethnic group participating in the most illegal immigration, due to the proximity of Mexico - will always face wider economic disparities....exacerbated during recessionary periods.

Having said that....the current Hispanic/Latino employment-population ratio is 63.1% - comparable to what it was in 1999, and higher than most of the 1990s....

Year Q1 - Q2 - Q3 - Q3
1999 63.5 63.0 63.3 63.7
2000 66.0 65.9 65.3 65.8
2001 65.7 64.8 64.8 64.4
2002 64.0 64.0 64.1 63.5
2003 63.3 63.1 62.7 63.1
So, Senator Kerry appears to be complaining about near-record employment-population ratios for the Latino community. Except, uh, not in those words. He goes on....
....and the gap between White and Latino homeownership has increased by seven percent.
Or, to put this another way...."Latino homeownership has increased from 46.1% to 47.7% since Bush took office." (per the latest available data from the Census Bureau)

One might also point out that the current 47.7% is significantly higher than in any year during the 1990s, but.....well, why go there?

Moreover, the rate of white homeownership went from 74% to 75.5% - a change of + 1.5%. Compare that to a change for Latinos of + 1.6%.

So, what is Senator Kerry's point? It appears to be the same point he makes about much of the economy: "things are really pretty good, and he's going to put a stop to that, immediately."

You might disagree with my last point, of course. For the rest, though....hey, those are the numbers, whether Senator Kerry knows it or not.

Posted by Jon Henke at 04:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not the lesson you might imagine

The war on terror is a many-splendored thing....

A group of Russian engineers secretly aided Saddam Hussein's long-range ballistic missile program, providing technical assistance for prohibited Iraqi weapons projects even in the years just before the war that ousted him from power, American government officials say.

Iraqis who were involved in the missile work told American investigators that the technicians had not been working for the Russian government, but for a private company. But any such work on Iraq's banned missiles would have violated United Nations sanctions, even as the Security Council sought to enforce them.
The initial reaction to this story will be similar to that given by Andrew Sullivan when he writes
"Suddenly, the real reason for Moscow's resistance to toppling Saddam Hussein seems clearer."
No. No. No.

They were not working with the government of Russia, but "secretly" and "for a private company". Now, one might make the arguments that Russia may have known/should have known....but it seems quite unlikely that Russia would have resisted the Iraq war solely to protect what it knew were operations unconnected with its government. This, as Russian motivation, just doesn't hold water.

Frankly, I don't buy the arguments that Russia and France opposed the war because of oil interests, either. They knew full well that the war would likely go forward with or without their approval. Had they wanted to secure their oil interests, they could easily have struck a deal to maintain their Iraqi contracts in exchange for their votes.

Sullivan also writes....

...the Bush administration's coddling of Putin more baffling
Again....no. It's the old principle of vinegar and honey. Could we expect to gain the cooperation of Russia by opposing them? Only if we could do so effectively. At this point, we can't. What would we do...ask the UN to punish them for violating sanctions?

But, while getting it exactly wrong, Sullivan comes very close to the point here. If we cannot afford direct opposition to Russia - whether by regional pressure, economic pressure, or even armed conflict - then there's really only two options left.
1: Covert action - probably minimal, at this point.
2: Diplomatic pressure

So, if we have such incredible and damning evidence of Russian intransigence, why aren't we applying more diplomatic pressure??? Well, we are.....rest assured, things like this don't simply get "forgotten". They may not be used in a manner that would make the front page of the New York Times, but diplomacy is an iceberg. We'll only ever see a small part of it.

Now, we have the bit of evidence cited in the NYTimes story...and probably a great deal more. (remember those oil deals?) With that, we can apply pressure directly to the decision makers. And if we apply that pressure directly - and privately - we can afford to have a more public "soft touch".

I suspect that we are in a far better international position than one might believe from the public press. We have leverage.

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And now for something completely different ...

Seems there's a bit of revolt going on across the pond in Britian.

They have been blown up, sawed down and pelted with eggs. They've been ringed with old car tires doused with gasoline and set ablaze.

What could possibly be the object of so much hostility among a population known for its stiff-upper-lip civility?

The culprit? Speed enforcement cameras.

Seems a number of our British cousins aren't too enamored of them.

A London group called Motorists Against Detection, whose members often don masks bearing Prime Minister Tony Blair's likeness, has vandalized as many as 30 devices in a single month.

Naturally police have described them as a "terrorist organization".

**Sigh**

The usual over-the-top description ... anyway, it appears "MAD's" vandalizing is having some effect.

In total, police estimate that 400 speed cameras have been vandalized in Britain over the past two years, with a sharp increase in attacks since last summer.

In the face of increasing hostility, London authorities last month announced that more than 140 speed cameras would be removed, in an action that could spread to other cities.

The cameras will be replaced with speed indicator devices that flash a frowning face at drivers traveling even 1 mph over the speed limit and a smiling face at drivers who are compliant.

Ah, "smiley faces" ... that'll do it. After all, who's going to risk a frown.

The establishment, aka the Department of Transport, says this isn't the end of cameras by a long shot.

"They are here to save lives and to change driver behavior and not to raise money," she said. "They are put up only at sites where there's a history of speed-related accidents."

But of course, they also raise money ... for more cameras, or so the present scheme allows.

A controversial scheme adopted two years ago allows partnerships of police and local authorities to keep part of the cash raised to purchase more cameras. As a result, many have predicted the number of speed cameras will jump to more than 6,000 this year.

Provide an incentive and watch the expected happen. More cash, more cameras, etc., etc.

Opposition political leader Michael Howard says its the ususal stuff from the ruling party.

"They are the classic example of a government determined to intrude to an astonishing extent into people's everyday lives," he said.

Howard charged that the ruling Labor Party is using cameras as yet another stealth tax --- and many drivers agree.

Meanwhile the "War of the Poses" goes on (oh ... that's BAD!) and new strategies are in the offing.

With speed cameras priced at about $95,000 apiece, police are not amused. One answer: more cameras.

Some have suggested installing closed-circuit TV cameras to monitor the speed camera sites. But police feel, with combativeness at an all-time high, the TV cameras would be vandalized as well.

Pretty soon they'll have cameras watching cameras which watch other cameras.

At 95K a pop, that's going to be one heck of an expensive ticket.


Posted by McQ at 01:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 06, 2004

Fact Checking MoveOn.org

Apparently the George Soros funded MoveOn.org is at it again. They've released an ad through their "MoveOn.org Voter's Fund" which, as usual, plays fast and loose with the facts.

The ad claims that "... George Bush wants to eliminate overtime pay for 8 million workers ...".

Per FactCheck.org the claim, is at best, a "misrepresentation".

The latest TV ad from the Moveon.org Voter Fund says "George Bush wants to eliminate overtime pay for 8 million workers," referring to new overtime rules that the Department of Labor has proposed. The 8-million figure (hotly denied by the Bush administration, of course) comes from a study by the labor-funded Economic Policy Institute.

The ad misquotes the study, however. What the study actually says is that an estimated 8 million would lose the legal right to premium overtime rates should they work more than 40 hours per week. It does not say they would actually lose pay as the ad says. In fact, the 8-million figure is inflated by many part-time workers who never get overtime work, or overtime pay, even though they now have the right to it.

In fact, the study cited seems to point out something entirely different that what MoveOn.org claims.

The Bush administration flatly denies that its overtime proposal would affect anywhere near 8 million. In fact, the Department of Labor estimated last year when it first proposed the new rules that there would be 1.3 million low-paid workers who would gain the legal right to overtime, outnumbering what it estimated were 644,000 higher-paid, white-collar workers who would lose coverage.

So where does the figure of "8 million" originate?

The 8-million figure comes from the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank whose board of directors includes the heads of several major labor unions. EPI has devoted an entire web page to defending its calculations.

But even with its defense of its calculations EPI concedes there would be workers who gain the right to overtime under the Bush proposal.

Even EPI concedes that many low-income workers would be gaining the right to overtime pay. Under the proposed rules any employee making less than $425 per week would be eligible for overtime benefits, up from the present level of $155, a figure that hasn't been changed since 1975. In its study , published in June 2003, EPI said that change "is sorely needed."

Of course that little factoid is missing in action in the MoveOn.org attack piece.

The bottom line?

Which is closer to the truth, EPI's 8-million figure or the Labor Department's 644,000? In fact there are no solid figures on how many workers qualify for overtime now, so all estimates involve more than the usual amount of educated guesswork. But the Moveon.org ad has no basis at all for suggesting that 8 million could actually lose pay -- not even EPI's figures support that.

The ad might truthfully have said, "George Bush wants to change overtime rules for millions of workers and some of them might lose pay." That would soften the ad's impact, but it would have the virtue of being factually correct.

But we all know this isn't about being "factually correct". Its about pushing whatever negatives an organization can get away with, facts be damned. Its the theory of the "big lie" gone to ground. And it also depends heavily on the belief that no one will take the time to fact check them, and if they do, it will have minimal effect on the preception the ad will have on the majority of the public.

To think ... we have 8 more months of this lovely stuff.


Posted by McQ at 03:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Oh, irony

I'm watching Howard Dean give a speech at the Annual Pre-Gridiron Dinner luncheon on C-Span. I wish a transcript was available, but this is live...so it's not. In the meantime, I'll try to give an approximation of what he just said.

Dean: I recently read that 80% of people who got their news from Foxnews believed that Saddam was behind 9/11. Meanwhile, only 30% of NPR listeners believe Saddam was behind 9/11. We now know that's not true. The President and the Secretary of State have said there is no evidence that Saddam was behind 9/11.

I get a warm feeling listening to those statistics, since I get most of my news from NPR.

Skip ahead a few sentences, and Howard Dean is discussing other "myths propogated by the right wing"....
Dean: In the State of the Union, Bush said that Iraq was importing uranium from Niger."
Ah, the irony. Immediately after mocking misconceptions held by FoxNews viewers and touting his own NPR habits, Howard Dean propogates a misconception held by NPR viewers. Namely, that Bush said that Iraq was importing (he didn't...he said they had "sought") uranium from Niger (he didn't...he said "africa").

As interesting as politics can be, actual politicians can be quite painful, no?

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Enron execs are going to jail...

While surfing for information on the Enron issue, I came across this San Francisco Chronicle article by Jon Carroll....

I am putting up $100 right here, payable to Doctors Without Borders; I am betting that not a single Enron executive will spend a day in jail. Not one, not ever.

Let us remember that Enron executives were part of Dick Cheney's super- secret cabal that formulated the administration's energy policy in the first days of the Bush administration.

Well. Let's write Mr Carroll a letter....

Mr Carroll,

I recently came across your January 11, 2002 article entitled "The winter games at Enron". In that article, you wrote "I am putting up $100 right here, payable to Doctors Without Borders; I am betting that not a single Enron executive will spend a day in jail. Not one, not ever."

Since you wrote that column, I note the following news reports...

1: From USAToday:

Former Enron executives Andrew and Lea Fastow Wednesday agreed to go to jail, a development that turns a pivotal player in the energy firm's accounting scandal into a prosecution witness.

After a week of wavering over whether to accept a plea agreement from the Enron Task Force, the Fastows signed a deal that requires Andrew Fastow — the company's former chief financial officer — to help prosecutors as they try to build cases against former Enron chairman Ken Lay and former CEO Jeff Skilling.

In two years, the Enron Task Force has brought charges against 26 people, 19 of them former Enron executives. Counting the Fastows, it has won convictions against seven people and former Enron auditor Arthur Andersen.


2: From the NYTimes:
Last month, Jeffrey Skilling, Enron's former chief executive, was indicted on 35 counts of fraud, insider trading and conspiracy. Kenneth Lay, its former chairman, is said to still be under investigation. Besides putting the Arthur Andersen firm out of business, the Justice Department has charged some 20 former Enron employees with crimes.

I am writing to inquire whether Doctors Without Borders has gotten their $100.

Regards,

Jon Henke
www.QandO.net/blog

Note: If he responds, I'll let you know.

UPDATE: Mr Carroll responds, noting that Andrew Fastow hasn't actually gone to jail, yet.

Well, that's a good point. Sentencing for Fastow is April 19th.....although he has already agreed to spend 10 years in jail. So his sentencing options are fairly limited. Of course, there's always the chance he may....well, die. That would certainly get him out of jail time.

But I suspect Doctors Without Borders will be getting their 100 dollars. In fact, based on the progress made in the case, it's probably best that he didn't make that offer for each Enron CEO.

Note: One doesn't change an entire political philosophy based on one mistaken premise....but it's the little mistaken premises like this that should cause us - each of us - to re-evaluate the motivations we assign to our opponents. Often, they're simply not the cartoons we'd like them to be.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Great Democrat Running Mate Debate

Who will it be? Who will make the difference? Who will be the one. Per the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the search will be extensive, and no one is being ruled out, or so they say. But what would be the requirements of a VP candidate for the Democrats?

Well, one would be someone which won't outshine Kerry ... which narrows the field considerably. Most importantly though, it has to be someone with some clout in the battleground states, who may be able to deliver one or more of them.

So who are on the likely list now circulating around Kerry headquarters? The AJC thinks these are the likely candidates:

Both of Florida's senators, Bob Graham and Bill Nelson, have indicated an interest in joining the ticket.

To cut into Bush's strength elsewhere, Kerry could turn to Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, whose home state of Missouri is a true bellwether in presidential politics. For the past 100 years, it has voted for the winner in every presidential election except one, in 1956. Gephardt, with strong ties to organized labor, could also help Kerry in industrial swing states such as Ohio.

For the same reason, Kerry could turn to Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana. Bayh has won three statewide elections, as senator and governor, in a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

Then, too, there are Sens. John Breaux and Mary Landrieu, both of Louisiana, one of the few Southern states Democrats think they might win, despite Bush's 53 percent to 45 percent trouncing of Gore there four years ago.

Several Democratic governors or ex-governors have been mentioned, including Tom Vilsack of Iowa, Mark Warner of Virginia and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

Graham? I don't think so ... he barely created a stir when he announced his candidacy for President and the response was so bad he dropped out early. Nelson? Who's Nelson, and could he actually deliver Fla?

Gephardt? If You think Kerry's bland, wait until you see this "miserable failure" campaign. He has great ties to labor, but then what Democrat doesn't? He might be of some value when considering the midwestern states.

Bayh would make Kerry look exciting, and isn't well known nationally, but could have some regional clout in the midwest.

Breaux isn't that bad a choice. A conservative democrat from the south. He might balance the ticket and give it a more "centerist" look. But my guess is he'd go through a "reformation" (also known as a repudiation) like Joe Lieberman did when running with Gore and immediately move to the left on issues (so he'd appear more compatible with Kerry's liberal leanings). Landrieu is not ready for prime time.

Vilsack has regional stature but no national stature. Warner may not be able to deliver Virgina. Shaheen? No way another NE liberal gets on the ticket.

Except, perhaps, for Hillary Clinton, but then see the requirement not to eclipse the candidate.

Someone I see mentioned often is Bill Richardson. Foreign affairs credentials with a stint as the UN ambassador. Would most likely be able to deliver NM and would carry some weight with Hispanics.

Then there's Wesley Clark ... who'd give the national security issue a boost, but who's political lack of experience might be more of a hinderance than help.

And of course, John Edwards. Well thought of among the Democrat faithful, but not enough to nominate. And its doubtful he could even deliver NC much less the south.

Among the most interesting but improbable suggestions?

One of the more intriguing suggestions came this week from Yale professor Stephen Gillers in an article in The New York Times. He proposed former President Bill Clinton, who, he argued, may be prohibited by the Constitution from being elected president again, but is not barred from the vice presidency. Clinton would certainly be a vote-getter for the Democrats, Gillers added.

Not likely, but in all honesty, as desparately as the Democrats want this election, I wouldn't put ANYTHING past them.

Posted by McQ at 01:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 05, 2004

From the Files of Please Squad

Agenda's are easy to spread, when you have willing or sympathetic agents....

The news hook for the media reports was a new study in the March 2 issue of the "Annals of Internal Medicine" reporting that “tested antibacterial products did not reduce the risk for symptoms of viral infectious diseases in households.” The researchers compared antibacterial product use and infectious illness among 238 mostly Hispanic households in a New York City neighborhood.

Even assuming that the result is correct, my response is a big, fat D-U-H!

The products, after all, are called anti-b-a-c-t-e-r-i-a-l-s. They work on b-a-c-t-e-r-i-a ― not viruses. Antibacterial products are designed and marketed for, and can only reduce the risk of, illness from bacteria, not from viruses.

The researchers, in fact, admitted (in the fine print) that their study “did not preclude the potential contribution of these products to reducing symptoms of bacterial diseases in the home.”

The point of the story is this: the media does not have a "conservative/liberal bias" so much as it has a bias towards splash, candal, excitement, titillation. If the story fits in with pre-concieved notions, it's that much better. (thus, Republicans are excoriated for racism, while Democrats are not; Democratic celebrities are excoriated for activism, while Republican celebrities are not)

But still. How can you write about basteria and viruses and not know the difference? Yeesh.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More on Aristide (or: Aristide. Moron.)

A reader from the Washington Press Corps draws my attention to this article in the Washington Times. They appear to have covered this story with a bit more skepticism than much of the rest of the media...and a good thing, too, considering the source of these claims is a dictator.

Mr. Aristide's claim has irked the leaders of the country hosting his exile, the Central African Republic. They took away Mr. Aristide's telephone yesterday, which he had used to call U.S. media outlets and make his kidnapping claims, and asked him to stop blaming the United States for his departure as they work to get another country to take him.
He's so embarrassing that the Central African Republic had to take his phone away, like he was a 5 year old throwing a temper tantrum....but he's not quite so embarassing that Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel won't stand up for him.

Already, the Central African Republic is looking to hand him off....

Mr. Wenezoui said the Central African Republic was working to find another country to accept Mr. Aristide "in the days to come."

"He's already started to embarrass us," Agence France-Presse quoted Communications Minister Parfait Mbaye as saying about Mr. Aristide. "He's scarcely been here 24 hours, and he's causing problems for Central African diplomacy."

The story goes on to say "many Democrats, however, continue to push Mr. Aristide's case"....but, of course, many democrats are also in the middle of a Presidential campaign. The two may be related.

I'm just saying.

Posted by Jon Henke at 03:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Krugman V. Krugmania

Paul Krugman is at it again...

Here's a hint: while even right-wing politicians insist in public that they want to save Social Security, the ideologues shaping their views are itching for an excuse to dismantle the system. So you have to read alarming reports generated by people who work at ideologically driven institutions — a list that now, alas, includes the U.S. Treasury — with great care.
Fortunately, Don Luskin is helping Paul Krugman keep track of those ideologically drive institutions....
Here's an example of the kind of "alarming report" that Krugman warns against:
"In 2010...the boomers will begin to retire...The budgetary effects of this demographic tidal wave are straightforward to compute, but so huge as almost to defy comprehension... Yet if you think even briefly about what the Federal budget will look like in 20 years, you immediately realize that we are drifting inexorably toward crisis; if you think 30 years ahead, you wonder whether the Republic can be saved..."
That "alarming report" was "generated" in 1996 by Paul Krugman himself, and it was published by an "ideologically driven institution" called the New York Times.
Oops.

It appears that Mr Krugman has taken liberties with a philosophy of John Maynard Keynes...."When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do, sir?".

In Krugmans case, he only does so when the President changes.

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Heros come in all shapes and sizes

An great story about an amazing guy who is determined to make a difference.

Spc. David McCorkle noticed the Iraqi boy wearing the same purple shirt every day on the streets of Mosul.

Concerned about why 10-year-old Yahya was selling soda and candy instead of sitting in a classroom, McCorkle started asking questions. He learned that since Yahya’s father had died, he had to drop out of school to support his family.

“It just broke my heart to think that children should have to do that,” said McCorkle, 46, an Army reservist with the 318th Tactical Psychological Operations Company.

McCorkle went to speak to Yahya’s mother. She cried after he said he would support their family if Yahya returned to school.

Its guys like McCorkle who'll end up making the difference in Iraq. A tip of the hat to him and his effort. Read the whole story, its a great one, and if you're so inclined, consider supporting his cause.

Posted by McQ at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Best Representation Pilfered Money Can Buy

Speaking of Haiti's effort to lobby the US Government, Garry Pierre-Pierre of the Haiti Times claims Aristide didn't get much for the money.

"What he got for that money is for [Democratic U.S. Reps.] Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel to speak out for him," said Garry Pierre-Pierre, founder and publisher of Haiti Times. "Otherwise, I'm not sure what he got. There was some money that was disbursed through this effort. But most of the money even then went for nongovernmental projects."

However, if true, It does help explain why Waters and Rangel were so eager to see Aristide retain power. No Aristide, no paycheck.


Posted by McQ at 02:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

I bet he's huge in Germany, too

Here's an endorsement you won't be seeing on his website...

North Korea's state-controlled media are well known for reverential reporting about Kim Jong-il, the country's dictatorial leader.

But the Dear Leader is not the only one getting deferential treatment from the communist state's propaganda machine: John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic candidate, is also getting good play in Pyongyang.

In the past few weeks, speeches by the Massachusetts senator have been broadcast on Radio Pyongyang and reported in glowing terms by the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), the official mouthpiece of Mr Kim's communist regime.

Maybe they took a look at their war records:
George W Bush: 2-0 (Iraq; Afghanistan)
John F Kerry: 0-1 (Vietnam)

On a somewhat more serious note, this passage should give us every indication of why NoKo would prefer Kerry to Bush...

...both Mr Kerry and Mr Bush are committed to North Korean disarmament. Mr Kerry, however, would renew bilateral negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, while Mr Bush has sought to manage the conversation with North Korea through multilateral talks. Mr Kerry has also been more forthright about setting out the economic rewards for North Korea if it disarms.
Now, reasonable people can disagree about which approach would be better. Which is more likely? The long term danger of appeasing North Korea, or the short term danger of stonewalling them.

At this point, we simply don't know. With any rational actor, we might expect rational responses. With Kim Jong-Il, we simply don't know.

Me? I'd rather we didn't repeat the mistakes of the Agreed Framework, wherein we gave North Korea the bank, without requiring them to disarm....verifiably.

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Fiscal Responsibility Act

Based on the name alone, I can tell you it doesn't stand a chance. Still, I'll endorse this....

Representative Nathan Deal (GA-10) introduced legislation today to force members of Congress to get serious about balancing America's budget. The "Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2004", H.R. 3736, would cut Congressional salaries every year that a balanced budget was not passed and implemented. ...

The proposed legislation will create an automatic five-percent reduction in the annual pay for every Member of Congress that is triggered when the budget is not balanced in that same fiscal year. If the deficit spending continues, the pay cut will be increased to ten percent for every consecutive fiscal year....

Furthermore, a member would not receive any cost of living allowance (COLA) unless a balanced budget is passed and implemented.

If anything, it doesn't go far enough. Where's that balanced budget ammendment? Where's the line-item veto?

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Borg that is America

Very interesting discussion of immigration and assimilation of Mexican-Americans at Daniel Drezner's blog. Pay particular attention to the email from the 2nd generation Mexican American.

Their children? forget it--they wouldn't know a Spanish word if they got hit by one. My wife and I, also Mexican-American, are fluent in both languages. My oldest son was fluent at one time, he is 28, but is rapidly losing the Spanish. My other son, has trouble with it, and my baby, my daughter of 19 yrs old, can more understand it than speak it. I have a grandaughter, no Spanish whatsoever. I look around at my contemporaries and find the same phenomenom with their children and grandchildren.

The American culture is overwhelming and very, very powerful. MTV, VH-1, and the like have immense influence on children as they grow up. Our children are no different than others and in that they probably know more about Janet Jackson, NSync, Kid Rock, pizza, downloading music, Bill Gates, etc. etc, in other words American popular culture, than they do about "their" Mexican culture and language.

I think his observations are keen and insightful. It should help lay to rest the doom and gloom predictions that American culture will be subverted by waves of immigration from "poorer" nations (personally I see that as a code word among a certain set for people who immigrate who aren't "like us").

Assimilation is the key to success here, and based on the thrust of the email it would appear to be working as it always has. It is usually the 2nd generation which is most effected by the culture, with the 3rd and 4th generations being as much a part of the culture as any other American.

Posted by McQ at 10:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Stats and damn stats

Bruce Bartlett makes some interesting points concerning the two surveys used by Labor Department to track unemployment and job creation which should be kept in mind when considering the numbers.

Posted by McQ at 10:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Terror is NOT just a law enforcement problem

For those of you content to see terrorism treated as only a "law enforcement" issue as the presumptive Democrat nominee would see it you can expect a lot of the following should he get his way:

A German court Thursday overturned the world's only conviction for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and ordered a retrial of a Moroccan found guilty last year of aiding the Hamburg cell of suicide airplane hijackers.

Of course that follows:

Thursday's ruling brought a new setback for prosecutors after the same Hamburg court last month acquitted el Motassadeq's friend Abdelghani Mzoudi of identical charges for lack of evidence.

That's not to suggest that innocent people should be railroaded into prison or execution. However, it does point to the fact that treating it ONLY as a law enforcement issue leaves its ultimate determination to different courts with different interpretations of the rules of evidence and underpinned by differing laws. It also limits the field of those pursuing terror suspects to law enforcement and it eliminates any pressure on states who are tacitly or overtly supporting such activities.

It should be remembered that the Clinton administration treated terrorism as strictly a law enforcement issue and was totally ineffective in combatting it ... seeing a continuing and escalating use of terrorism against the US culminating in the WTC and Pentagon attacks.

Limiting our response to terrorism to only law enforcement is a one-dimensional response to a multi-dimensional problem. That is precisely what John Kerry proposes to do, and it should be condemned for the weak and ineffective response to terrorism that it has been shown to be.


Posted by McQ at 10:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2004

Pilot Error?

You'll see by reading the caption below this amazing picture that the Air Force determined that the result of the crash that ensued was 'pilot error'. That's after Air Force pilot CPT Christopher Stricklin stayed with the aircraft long enought to ensure he had it safely pointed away from the 60,000 spectators on hand to watch the Thunderbirds and ejected at an altitude which was close to being too low to survive.

All I have to say is thank goodness for CPT Striklins courage and cool head or the error could have been much worse than losing an aircraft. You don't have to go to war to be a hero.


2824257.jpg


MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho -- Seen in a photo released Friday, Jan. 30, 2004 by the U.S. Air Force, Capt. Christopher Stricklin ejects from the USAF Thunderbirds number six aircraft less than a second before it impacted the ground at an air show at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho in September 2003. Stricklin, who was not injured, ejected after both guiding the jet away from the crowd of more than 60,000 people and ensuring he couldn't save the aircraft. This was only the second crash since the Air Force began using F-16 Falcons for its demonstration team in 1982. Nobody was injured in the crash. The Air Force blamed the incident on pilot error. The Thunderbirds are based at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

Posted by McQ at 11:06 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

9/11 "Outrage"

The Bush ads which are now running show pictures of the tragedy of 9/11 and are suffering a lot of criticism, such as this:

``It's a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people,'' Monica Gabrielle, whose husband died in the twin towers, told the New York Daily News for its Thursday editions. ``It is unconscionable.''

ENOUGH!

9/11 was a horrible day, a horrible event and a horrible tragedy. But its victims aren't sacred and its images aren't off limits.

It defined Bush's presidency, changed the way America views the world and it is a potent reminder to those out there who seem to have forgotten the type of tragedy we suffered on 9/11. It should also remind the 92% who don't think "terrorism" is a big threat anymore that the threat is still there and still real.

Saying this tragedy can't be referenced by the administration who faced it, responded to it and handled it is like saying the tragedy of Viet Nam is off limits and can't be referenced in any poltical speeches or ads because it might be considered a slap in the face of the 56,000 who died there.

Of course it would also leave John Kerry with nothing to say ... and that I believe is the point of this 9/11 "outrage".

UPDATE (McQ): John Hawkins at RWN has been doing some investigation into those leveling all the criticism at the Bush ads. Some interesting reading.

Posted by McQ at 10:21 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Blog Note

Sorry, guys. I've been absent for a bit, but I've a very good excuse: my whole family - myself, my wife and our son - came down with a stomach bug yesterday. The three of us took turns being exceedingly miserable....and if you've ever had to take care of a sick kid while being nauseous, you know it's a whole new level of misery.

Fortunately, my mother-in-law was kind enough to drive down today, watch Alex and take care of us. Bless her.

At any rate, I'll post again when I'm up to it. Right now, I just need to sleep.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Democrat Smear Machine

Does anyone else find it interesting that we have Kerry vowing the following ...

"We have no illusions about the Republican attack machine and what our opponents have done in the past, and what they may try to do in the future. But I know that together, we are equal to this task. I am a fighter."

... when to this point his campaign has been nothing BUT an attack on the Bush administration? In fact, if you're interested his latest attack ads can be found here.

Unlike John Kerry's attack ads, the Bush campaign unveiled its first TV ads today, ads which are
characterized as positive. In fact, FactCheck.org declared:

Bush’s Re-Election campaign begins on a positive note. His first three TV ads are downright bland, with lots of generalities and few facts for us to check.

Although FactCheck did claim that there was one misleading statement ...

We found only one clear misstatement in the first batch of television ads from the President’s re-election committee. One ad claims that the recession started the month Bush took office. Economists date the start two month later.

... the rest of their analysis doesn't really leave you believing there's consensus on that. You find that its really not a "clear misstatement" since it depends a lot on where you would say the actual recession began (and to this day economists don't agree).

But the poi