April 30, 2004

Time Machine

For those who think only George Bush has turned the world against us a reminder...

April 24, 1999 ... a little over 5 years ago:

On Saturday, April 24 thousands of people protested in Toronto in front of the US consulate, after which the protest moved to the British onsulate. The speeches mainly dealt with the solidarity of our people in Yugoslavia as well as the solidarity of all anti-NATO protesters in the world. The protest was peaceful and concluded with a walk back to the US consulate.

Thousands of students participated (April 20th) in Spain in a national day of action against the bombing of Yugoslavia. The protest was called by the students Union (Sindicato de Estudiantes). Thousands of students participated in meetings in the schools to discuss a resolution drafted by the Students Union opposing NATO's intervention against Yugoslavia.

On 3rd April 100,000 people marched in a demonstration in Rome against the NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia. A week later another demonstration of over 50,000 took place. There is a lot of opposition to the NATO bombing among the workers and youth in Italy in spite of the government's support. There was a demonstration about 3,000 strong at the Aviano air base in Northern Italy. This is one of the bases the NATO warplanes are using. The demonstrations have occured throughout Italy: Brindisi, Taranto, Milan, Piacenza, Bari, San Piero a Grado, Aviano, and of course Rome. Many of these demonstrations have taken place outside U.S. or NATO bases.

Most likely these are the same suspects who are "anti-war" now.

Some things never change, except the party in power and length of the memories of Americans.

Posted by McQ at 08:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nevermind

I assume this will stay under the radar screen on the left after all the huffing and puffing about Bush's African uranium 'lie" in his State of the Union Address.

It was Saddam Hussein's information minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, often referred to in the Western press as "Baghdad Bob," who approached an official of the African nation of Niger in 1999 to discuss trade -- an overture the official saw as a possible effort to buy uranium.

That's according to a new book Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the CIA in 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq had been trying to buy enriched "yellowcake" uranium. Wilson wrote that he did not learn the identity of the Iraqi official until this January, when he talked again with his Niger source.

Really?

So much for that "lie".

Hmm ... wonder if the left, in their best Emily Latella, can say 'nevermind'.

Posted by McQ at 03:38 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Labor's champion

One wonders if you'd ever see an opening like this if it were the NYC police union threatening to picket the GOP:

The Republican-friendly police union in Boston is threatening to play "bad cop" at the Democratic National Convention this summer even as hometown candidate John Kerry prepares to accept his party's nomination for president.

Hey ... a union's a union, boys and one would expect John Kerry to be on even a "Republican-friendly" union's side if he's truely labor's champion, right?

The 1,400-member Boston Police Patrolmen's Association plans a picket to help induce the city to accept its pay demands, an in-your-face tactic to embarrass the city and convention delegates usually sympathetic to union efforts. In the past, the union has held true to its threats by picketing state party gatherings.

Ah, you mean a "put up or shut up" confrontation. Wonder if the Dems will cross the picket line?

Surely this is just a ploy, huh?

Menino has said repeatedly that he will not allow the unions' vigorous protests to push him into a contract at a time when the city is struggling to make ends meet. The union's contract expired in July 2002, when rank-and-file officers were earning an average of $79,000 a year.

Wait a minute ... they've been out of contract for almost 2 years? Sounds like a legit gripe to me.

Where's John Kerry? Where's Jesse Jackson? Where's all the Democrat labor types?

Oh ... $79,000 a year. Uh, that would probably make them 'rich'. And it would be unseemly for Kerry, et. al. to be seen helping the rich.

What a dilemma for the champions of labor.

Posted by McQ at 03:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Kerry's "Pretend" Bush Record

I must have missed something:

"So if we know it's a matter of when, then when are we going to stop pretending that all has been accomplished in our shared mission to keep America safe?" he asked. "When are we going to start dealing with dangers that we still know exist in this country?"

That's John Kerry claiming we're "pretending" that all has been accomplished in the push to make America safe. In this particular case he's complaining not enough has been done to protect the chemical industry from terror.

While that's probably true, its not because we're pretending its all done.

I mean, when did the administration make that claim that it had done all it could do to keep America safe? Seriously, because if they did, I damn sure missed it.

Now I can understand heated rhetoric in an election year, but this is just plain "stoopid stuff." Anyone who makes a statement like that HAS to know its not true.

Oh, wait, I just went throught that ... yup, they have to know its a LIE.

And the purpose of the lie?

To imply incompetence and arrogance.

But when you look into it a bit you find things like this:

To address this challenge, we are further enhancing diplomacy, arms control, law enforcement, multilateral export controls, and threat reduction assistance that impede adversaries seeking biological weapons capabilities. Federal departments and agencies with existing authorities will continue to expand threat reduction assistance programs aimed at preventing the proliferation of biological weapons expertise. We will continue to build international coalitions to support these efforts, encouraging increased political and financial support for nonproliferation and threat reduction programs. We will also continue to expand efforts to control access and use of pathogens to strengthen security and prevention.

This addresses the bio threat to the US and is on the White House site. Does it give you the impression all is done in that area?

Hmm ... maybe Senator Kerry isn't aware of this (no, that would point to incompetence). After reading this piece, I certainly can't find it in myself to agree that the administration is "pretending that all has been accomplished in our shared mission to keep America safe", can you?

In fact, I see terms like "we will continue to build international coalitions" and "we will also continue to expand efforts to control access and use of pathogens" to be statements of an ongoing and expanding programs that recognize more needs to be done.

And one would assume if you can find that in one program, that it must exist in others. For instance with legislation:

There's other things we need to do. We need administrative subpoenas in the law. This was not a part of the recent Patriot Act. By the way, the reason I bring up the Patriot Act, it's set to expire next year. I'm starting a campaign to make it clear to members of Congress it shouldn't expire. It shouldn't expire, for the security of our country.

"There are other things we need to do?" But I thought, per Kerry, we were pretending we were done? Is Senator Kerry simply unaware of these other things we need to do. Is HE the one pretending.

Well, yes ... he seems to prefer scare tactics and disingenuousness to true issues ... at least in this case.

Kerry likes to claim Bush doesn't have a record to run on, but instead one to run away from. Well, if he had the record Kerry is trying to make up for him, Kerry'd be right.

Posted by McQ at 03:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ghost workers

This doesn't bode well for a Kerry win. Seems the "gang who can't shoot straight" has problems organizationally as well:

Sen. John Kerry has yet to establish campaign organizations in battleground states that likely will decide who wins the presidential race in November, Democratic strategists said yesterday.

As an example:

Mr. Kerry's campaign apparatus is nowhere to be seen in Michigan, a critical Midwestern prize with 17 electoral votes that Democrat Al Gore captured in 2000, but is now a neck-and-neck race where President Bush has the edge in some polls, Democrats say.

"It's dead even here but there is almost no activity in the state" from Mr. Kerry's campaign organization, said Michigan Democratic pollster Ed Sarpolus.

Contrast that with:

The lack of a Kerry ground organization at this point is in sharp contrast to Mr. Bush's campaign, which has a state-by-state pyramidal organization of precinct, county, state and regional volunteers that already number in the hundreds of thousands across the country.

Does anyone want to argue that organization isn't key to winning any election?

So where's the Kerry campaign?

Posted by McQ at 02:17 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Lies and damn lies.

This is what passes for reasoning among those on the left bound and determined to make a square peg fit a round hole:

AMERICAN SOLDIERS died in Vietnam because American presidents lied to the American people about the need for war. American soldiers are dying in Iraq because an American president lied to the American people about the need for war.

That is why the Vietnam War is relevant to the 2004 presidential election. Oddly enough, John Kerry, presidential candidate and decorated Vietnam War veteran, needs to be reminded of that as much as anyone.

Really? What you need to be reminded of, Ms. Vennochi, is what constitutes a lie. In fact, its very simple ... its a statement the speaker KNOWS to be untrue WHEN HE SAYS IT.

Now the same question has been asked any number of times of those who continue to carry this canard forward, "what was the LIE?" Did they indeed KNOW before they SPOKE that there were no WMDs? And if so, where's your proof?

Its obvious that some of the assumptions were incorrect, no one argues that, but that doesn't then make them a LIE. Or is this too difficult for those with a vested interest in the "lie" meme to see?

In both wars, the government set up a false premise to justify US involvement - the ''domino theory'' in Vietnam, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In both, it was assumed that America's superior military force would quickly finish off the enemy. In Vietnam, the United States eventually turned its weapons on the people we were fighting to free; the same is true in Iraq.

Here we see the nut of the confusion, or in reality, her disingenuousness. Ms. Vennochi equates a theory (for instance, the Domino theory) with a lie. In other words, the fact that the theory LATER came to be seen as wrong means that those who pushed it BEFORE then, were liars. She then attempts the same argument with WMDs.

*Sigh*

So we now understand how Ms. Vennochi defines a lie. A lie, in her lexicon, is any theory which proves to be mistaken by future events, even though those who touted them believed them to be true.

Amazing.

However, just to illustrate what a lie really is, take a look at Ms. Vennochi's own example of a lie: "In Vietnam, the United States eventually turned its weapons on the people we were fighting to free".

Of course Ms. Vennochi knows quite well we didn't turn our weapons on the people we were trying to free (I'm quite sure we weren't trying to "free " either the NVA or VC) anymore than we're doing so now in Iraq (unless our intent is to free former Ba'athist who've taken up arms). If Ms. Vennochi's statement wasn't a lie, Fallujah would now be a smoking crater. And she knows that.

The article is an interesting case study ... she uses the redefinition of words, false assumptions and extremely shakey reasoning to attempt to push a foregone conclusion. Its quite transparant, but then she doesn't have to fool everyone, just those who won't take the time to see through her intellectual dishonesty will do.

Posted by McQ at 01:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Playing the Hispanic Card

At the DNC Blog...

Many low-income young Hispanics are looking at the army as a place where they acquire skills and an education. However, according to a 2003 Pew Hispanic Center report, two thirds of Hispanics are concentrated among the youngest, most junior segment of the officer corps in the armed forces. The report also found that Hispanics are over represented among enlisted personnel who most directly handle weapons. This means that Hispanics are not just predominantly in lower ranks, but also more at risk of being in the line of fire than other ethnic groups.

During the early part of the war, 22 Hispanic soldiers died and 61 were wounded. Since Bush declared his "mission accomplished," 50 more have died, and 197 have been wounded.[emphasis added]

Hm. Racism? Hispanics being used as "cannon fodder"? Hispanics bearing an undue share of the burden?

Hardly.

Taking their numbers, we have a total of 72 deaths among Hispanic soldiers....out of a total of 734 US Casualties. Rounding up, that means Hispanics account for 10% of US troop fatalities.

Per the US Census Bureau (pdf), the Hispanic population accounts for 13.3% of the US population.

Just a suggestion.....maybe you should check the numbers before you throw out the race card next time, hm?

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Those" People

(with the caveat that I don't think it's indicative of "racism" that a candidate from Massachussets doesn't have a lot of Hispanics in his inner circle....) Robert Tagorda links this NYT piece on John Kerry's lack of campaign diversity...

"Relegating all of your minority staff to the important but limited role of outreach only reinforces perceptions that your campaign views Hispanics as a voting constituency to be mobilized, but not as experts to be consulted in shaping policy," wrote Mr. Yzaguirre, whose group is among the oldest, largest and most influential representing Hispanics.
You don't really have to dig too deeply to figure that out. Take a look at the Democratic Party's "Issues" page...
African American Vote
APIA Vote
Children & Family
Civil Rights & Justice
Disability Vote
Economic Growth & Jobs
Education
Environmental Protection
GLBT Vote
Health Care
Hispanic Vote
Labor
Military & Veterans
National & Homeland Security
Senior Vote
Social Security & Medicare
Women's Vote Center
Young Americans
The Democratic Party: where you're not just a person, you're a voting bloc.

UPDATE: Tagorda points out that the GOP has a similar page here. Natch. As Sean comments, "Neither of the two main parties concern themselves with "individuals". Voting blocs are the only way to get elected nowadays."

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

NightLine

Regarding NightLine's controversial decision to spend an entire show reading the names of those who died in Iraq....

During the broadcast, anchorman Ted Koppel will read aloud the name of a U.S. service man or woman killed in the Iraq war, as a corresponding photo appears on the screen along with that person's name, military branch, rank and age.

Expanded by 10 minutes from its usual half-hour, "Nightline" will include more than 500 killed in action in Iraq since March 19, 2003, as well as 200-plus non-combat deaths.

"These people have paid the ultimate price in our name," said "Nightline" executive producer Leroy Sievers, "and it's important to remember them, whether you think the price is worth it or not.

Sean at Nosey Online writes...
To the right, what Nightline is going to do is tantamount to "undermining the war effort." To the left it's simply "honoring the dead." I know that some of us on the left will be happy of what Nightline is doing because maybe it will influence people. But that's not the point.

Let's just look at the facts. The soldiers who have died did do while serving their country. What is wrong with honoring them by reading their names over the air? Has anyone asked the families of the dead what they think? You can't escape it, death is part of this war. If you can't deal with that, then don't support the war in Iraq.

I'm tossing in with Sean. He's absolutely right.

Look, the competing opinions on whether this is right or wrong depend almost entirely on an inference. (speaking in general terms...) As Sean writes, those who oppose the war/support the show, think NightLine simply intends respect for those who gave their lives. Those who support the war/oppose the show think this is a subversive message from NightLine....an attempt to undermine our fortitude.

Whatever.

In both cases, those are assumptions. They may be right...they may be wrong. The fact is, we cannot know. Another fact is, it does not matter. Their rationalization for the show - whatever it is - does not intrude upon the justification for the show. The WMD rationalization for the Iraq war may have turned out to be incorrect, but that does not mean the war was not still justified. Bear in mind, rationalizations and justifications are separate matters.

Is the show justified? So long as the soldiers are treated with respect....yes. Take from it what you will, Pro or Con. It is not our job to discern the inner machinations of the mind of NightLine producers. It is simply our job to evaluate the product.
....And a show honoring soldiers who gave their lives is well-justified.

With that said, I do have some complaints:
- What about the soldiers who died in Afghanistan? If we are honoring the soldiers who gave their lives, why limit it to the Iraq theatre? That certainly doesn't lead me to believe there's no political motive behind it.

- What about soldiers who give their lives tomorrow? Why honor them before the task is done? And will NightLine do a follow-up with more names in the future? It would have been better to do this at a notable juncture...an anniversary...the end of the war....the handover. Doing it today seems like less than appropriate timing.

Still....the fact is that this is a way to honor the troops. The potential motivations of Ted Koppel are irrelevant.

UPDATE: (McQ) I have no problem with Kopple doing what he plans on doing if he'll also show us the pictures of the 3,000 people that lost their lives on 9/11 so the deaths of these fine young soldiers will have some context.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:55 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

War of the Worlds 2004

Oh dear lord...

Flying saucer fever has gripped Iran after dozens of sightings in the past few days. Fanciful cartoons of alien spacecraft have adorned the front pages of local newspapers. State television has shown a sparkling white disc it says was filmed over Tehran on Tuesday night.

More colourful Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) have been spotted beaming out green, red, blue and purple rays over the northern cities of Tabriz and Ardebil and in the Caspian Sea province of Golestan.

Newspapers and agencies reported people rushing out into the streets in eight towns on Tuesday night to watch a bright extraterrestrial light dipping in and out of the clouds.

As if the moonbats don't already have enough to chew on. Possible angles?

- Halliburton is scouting territory in secret plances provided by the Defense Department, so they can tell Bush where to go next.
- Bush is being directed by his Space Overlords, who are now helping out by keeping an eye on things in Iran.
- The CIA is testing psychadelic chemical weapons in Iran.
- "For ABC News....I'm Timothy Leary".

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

They are all heros

Oliver North answer's Andy Rooney's poorly received column of a week ago. While I'm not a huge Oliver North fan, he does know his Marines. And to his eternal credit, he's been right there with them as they fight in Iraq.

Pay particular attention to the story of Lance Corporal Conyers. Tell me HE isn't a hero. He's certainly not someone looking for the first "legal" way out of combat, is he?

Worth the read.

Posted by McQ at 09:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Oh, yeah ... this is very serious stuff

Anyone who still clings to the hope that something worthwhile will come of the 9/11 commission but partisan drivel had to be chagrined about this:

Kerrey and fellow Democrat Lee Hamilton bugged out early from the three-hour sitdown - each pleading "a prior engagement" - while Bush and Vice President Cheney sat calmly and answered the commission's questions.

Almost as insulting as the walkout was commission Chairman Tom Kean's decision to let it happen. Obviously, Hamilton, Kerrey and Kean don't consider the panel's probe to be all that important.

Whine and cry about the President and VP not appearing before this kangaroo court claiming their testimony was of the utmost importance and then when the opportunity is finally realized, leave early?

Yeah, you're REAL serious about this aren't you?

Posted by McQ at 08:50 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Sick

Traitors....

American soldiers at a prison outside Baghdad have been accused of forcing Iraqi prisoners into acts of sexual humiliation and other abuses in order to make them talk, according to officials and others familiar with the charges.

The charges, first announced by the military in March, were documented by photographs taken by guards inside the prison, but were not described in detail until some of the pictures were made public.

To get the full idea of just how disgusting this behaviour really was, you can see some of the pictures here. They are disturbing, and probably not work safe.

The soldiers involved are compromising our mission in Iraq, endangering the lives of US troops, and creating more reasons for those in the Middle East to hate us. They should be punished as severely as possible, dishonorably discharged, and publicly humiliated. I would suggest worse, but we are a more civilized society than the actions of those soldiers might lead one to believe.

(Links via Pandagon)

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:26 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Lautenberg's last minute change of heart

Senator Lautenberg recently decided he doesn't like "Chickenhawks"....

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, called Vice President Dick Cheney the "lead chicken hawk" on Wednesday in the latest round of a war of words over the Vietnam-era military record of President Bush and Mr. Cheney.

"We know who the chicken hawks are," Mr. Lautenberg said on the Senate floor. "They talk tough on national defense and military issues and cast aspersions on others, but when it was their turn to serve, they were AWOL from courage."

I say Senator Lautenberg "recently" decided he doesn't like Chickenhawks because, in 1998, he had no problem with urging President Clinton - who avoided the draft - to be a hawk on Iraq...
In light of these developments, we urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraq sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.

Sincerely,

... Frank R. Lautenberg ... [among others]

Furthermore, Frank Lautenberg made a donation to the campaign of Joe Lieberman - a Hawk, with no military service.

So, take his recent conversion with a grain of salt. There's just a chance that it has a bit more to do with the (R) after Bush's name, than with Bush's service.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:35 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

April 29, 2004

Hmm ... maybe its working

Apparently SOMETHING is causing a decrease in international terrorism:

The State Department reported Thursday there were fewer international terrorist attacks last year than any time since 1969 — but the figures don't include most of the violence in Iraq. Though Bush administration officials frequently refer to Iraqi insurgents as terrorists, most attacks in Iraq were not considered international terrorism because they were directed at combatants, the report said.

Now realizing that correlation is not causation (that's for you Jon), what's caused this marked decrease in terroist activities?

Well reason one:

In its introduction, the State Department's top counterterrorism official, Cofer Black (search), cited Saudi Arabia "as an excellent example of a nation increasingly focusing its political will to fight terrorism." The kingdom has frequently been criticized by members of Congress for not doing enough to stop terrorism.

Black said terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia in May and November "served to strengthen Saudi resolve."

"Saudi Arabia has launched an aggressive, comprehensive and unprecedented campaign to hunt down terrorists, uncover their plots and cut off their sources of funding," Black wrote.

Terrorism is now a priority among many nations to which it wasn't a big priority before. Good. No question what helped that along.

Reason two:

Black also said Al Qaeda "is no longer the organization it once was. ... Most of the group's senior leadership is dead or in custody, its membership on the run and its capabilities sharply degraded." He said more 3,400 Al Qaeda suspects have been detained worldwide.

Not to mention those who've been killed. That size of a loss will definitely put a catch in your giddy-up. Again, no question as to why or how that's been accomplished.

Reason three:

Of the seven nations designated as sponsors of terrorism, the report said Libya and Sudan "took significant steps to cooperate in the global war on terrorism." But Cuba, Iran, Syria and North Korea didn't do enough to sever their ties to terrorism.

Iraq technically remains on the list, because it can't be removed until it has a government in place. President Bush has exempted it from sanctions imposed on state sponsors of terrorism.

Three down, two making noises and two who remain threats. I'd call that progress. And I'd say that's three for three for the "War on Terrorism".

All of this is found in the 181-page Patterns of Global Terrorism Report produced by the State Department which Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism analyst for the Rand Corp. says is considered the "gold standard" for measuring terrorism.

Some facts from the report:

— There were 190 acts of international terrorism last year, compared with 198 in 2002 and 346 in 2003. It was the lowest figure in 34 years.

— In those attacks last year, 307 people were killed, compared with 725 in 2002; 1,593 people were wounded, compared with 2,013 in 2002.

— Thirty-five Americans died in 15 international terrorist attacks. The deadliest was a May 12 attack by suicide bombers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that killed nine U.S. citizens and 26 people overall.

— Anti-U.S. attacks increased slightly to 82 from 77 in 2002. But they have declined sharply since the 219 attacks in 2001.

— Asia had the highest number of international terrorism attacks, with 159 people killed in 70 attacks.

Well, well, well ... wonder how this will be received by the left side of the political spectrum?

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

Oh, the trails we leave...

Without a trace of irony, Ted at Crooked Timber writes...

Kaus unequivically states:
Where Kerry Slept: John Kerry didn’t throw his own medals over the wall in that 1971 antiwar protest and he didn’t sleep on the Mall with his Viet Vet buddies either. He snuck off and slept in a Georgetown townhouse.
...Kaus now has no source to back up his accusation that Kerry didn’t sleep on the Mall. And he has no grounds whatsoever on which to contest Kerry’s description of the charge as unsubstantiated. He’s got nothing.
...
Instead, he argues that it was likely, in his own eyes, that Kerry slept there. On those grounds, he calls Kerry a liar and Agnew correct.

So, yeah. I don’t like Mickey Kaus.

And Atrios follows up with....
In my eyes, I have to say, it's likely that it's true. Any claims by Kaus to not have carnal knowledge of goats will just be more evidence that the man is a liar.
So, let me get this straight. He cites a story with circumstantial evidence, missing information, a 30+ year old testimony, uncorroborated allegations.....clearly, Kaus is an unprincipled hack.

So, I guess this means you'll be apologizing for the Bush/AWOL story, right? Right?!?!

NOTE: ChangeForAmerica and RogerAiles will be sending apology notes, too. I'm sure.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:02 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Chance Phelps journey home

An incredible and moving account by a military escort officer who escorts a young Marine's body home after he's killed in Iraq.

I can't imagine you having a dry eye when you finish it And I hope you are as gratified by the reaction of ordinary Americans at every step of the way, as I was. It again helps you understand the basic goodness of this country and its citizens.

A tip of the hat to Mike and Cold Fury for this one.

Posted by McQ at 05:22 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

What's the message?

That's what Democrats are wondering:

Six months before the election, some Democrats are anxious about John Kerry's slow development of a coherent general election message and how easily Republicans have knocked him off stride.

At a time when he could be laying out the grand themes for his November battle with President Bush the presumptive Democratic nominee has been fighting skirmishes with Republican surrogates over his service in Vietnam, his votes on taxes and national security and his claims of support from foreign leaders.

Its pretty easy to explain, as I see it ... he doesn't really have a general election message except "I'm not Bush".

Now, for some on the extreme left, that's enough. But I've heard other Democrats complain that Kerry can't really take Bush to task on his record, because in most things he voted WITH Bush .... "No Child Left Behind", war in Iraq, Medicare perscription drug benefit, etc. And those things he wants to go after ... the economy, jobs, etc. ... are improving to the point that they may very well be issues that are a liability to him.

So what's he to do? Because those he's trying to sway haven't any idea of what he is pushing:

"I have no idea what the Kerry message is. He has no positive message at this point," said Democratic consultant Doug Schoen, a former pollster for President Bill Clinton. "I know what his critique is of George Bush, but there has been a virtual absence of a Kerry message."

Say what you might, but it appears the right has been able to purposely and sometimes inadvertantly, keep Kerry off message (assuming there is one in there somewhere). And if he has no real message, then he's been successfully kept of issues that are potentially negative to the Bush campaign.

"They are spending too much time responding and not enough defining themselves," said a strategist for a Democratic group that is supporting Kerry.

"I think they got under his skin," Schoen said of the Republican attacks and Kerry's angry response.

And that sort of anger isn't going to play well, because Kerry, in anger, has a tendency to turn arrogant. And arrogance doesn't sell. Additionally, he has a tendency to deny, deny, deny, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. His SUV gaffe, the medal's flap, and many others. You'd think he'd learn, but apparently he thinks he can talk his way out of anything ... shades of another Dem we all know well.

Stephanie Cutter, however (and not surprisingly), puts a different face on it all:

And while Washington has been consumed by the daily war of words, Kerry has had no problem selling his message in the key battleground states where the race will be decided, spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said.

When national newspapers focused earlier this week on the flap over Kerry's medals, local newspapers and television reports in Ohio highlighted his message on jobs, she said.

"That's the only thing we care about," Cutter said of the local coverage. "Our message is perfectly clear -- Building a Stronger America Together."

She may be right, but then again, standing in union halls preaching to the choir doesn't necessarily mean your message is getting out. And while "Building a Stronger America Together" sounds just peachy, if you have people like Doug Schoen out there who are politically aware and STILL don't know what your message is, nice titles just isn't going to cut it.

"People are really calling this game in the third or fourth inning," said Democratic consultant Jenny Backus. "There is plenty of time for Kerry to do the things he needs to do."

And this may be true as well. Or it might be that Backus just thinks its the 3rd or 4th inning when in fact its the bottom of the 7th and the closer is warming up.

Posted by McQ at 03:15 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Where's the news coverage?

I have to agree with the WSJ on this one:

Jordanian authorities say that the death toll from a bomb and poison-gas attack they foiled this month could have reached 80,000. We guess the fact that most major media are barely covering this story means WMD isn't news anymore until there's a body count.

I guess not. Here we have not only evidence of al-Queda's intent to use WMDs but an attempt as well. And we have confessions. One confession links al-Queda, Iraq and WMDs.

Plotter Hussein Sharif Hussein was shown on Jordanian television saying the aim was "carrying out the first suicide attack to be launched by al Qaeda using chemicals." A Jordanian scientist described a toxic cloud that could have spread for a mile or more. ... The terror cell's ringleader, Jordanian Azmi Jayyousi, said he was acting on the orders of Zarqawi, whom he first met at an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan: "I took courses, poisons high level, then I pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." Mr. Jayyousi said this attack had been plotted from Zarqawi's new base of operations in Iraq.

We're still not clear on the Iraq links ... was it before or after the US invasion. But you have to ask the question ... why isn't this a lot bigger news that it has been?

Posted by McQ at 02:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

All's fair in war and politics

For those who think Kerry's military service should be "off limits", I'll again make the point ... when HE uses it as a part of his campaign, then it is FAIR GAME:

In one 24-hour period, he invoked his service:

• To fend off attacks by his Republican rivals;

• As evidence he will fight to expand healthcare;

• As evidence he understands the complicated landscape in Iraq;

• To explain his love of peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

To say his use is ubiquitous is an understatement. And, its use is also debatable.

For instance, Lt.jg's in Vietnam did NOT "understand the complicated landscape" of Vietnam no matter what Kerry claims.

So there is no reason to believe him when he says his service in Vietnam somehow now engenders him with the knowledge and experience necessary to
understand the "complicated landscape in Iraq".

It doesn't. Its that simple, anymore than being a milkman gives a person the knowledge and experience necessary to understand the "complicated landscape" of running a national dairy.

So when he uses it to bolster his position or explain why he's qualified in some area or another, it is ENTIRELY fair to question the validity of that assertion without hearing a chorus of whining and crying about 'patriotism' and 'service".

Posted by McQ at 01:55 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

More Democrat Hypocrisy

Speaking of questioning someone's service and patriotism, you have to wonder if Wes Clark has contacted Kerry and asked him to have Lautenberg back off.

Fair's fair, right?

"We know who the chicken hawks are," Mr. Lautenberg said on the Senate floor. "They talk tough on national defense and military issues and cast aspersions on others, but when it was their turn to serve, they were AWOL from courage."

Because we know that Wes thinks its Bush's responsibility to do so:

"Although President Bush has not engaged personally in such accusations, he has done nothing to stop others from making them."

That's certainly what the "Bring it on" crowd has been whining about the most lately, correct?

I await Wes's follow-up op-ed where he ask Kerry to do the same thing. Uh, if he can get Kerry to stop his personal attacks on Bush first, that is.

Posted by McQ at 01:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Democrat, heal thyself

Gee, I wonder if Kerry will "call off the attack dogs".

Senator John F. Kerry, whose attacks on President Bush this week have becoming increasingly personal in tone, told voters yesterday that the Iraq occupation was faltering because of Bush's own ''pride" and that the president was afraid to ''look the people in the eye who have lost their job."

Oh, wait, Kerry's the attack dog.

So let me get this straight. Clark wants Bush to call off those attacking Kerry, but apparently its ok if Kerry personally attacks Bush?

Desperation and hypocrisy, thy name is 'Democrat'.

Posted by McQ at 12:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thank God he lost

You've probably heard me say it before, but let me say it one more time:

Wesely Clark isn't worth the powder to blow him to hell.

I can only be thankful that he never had a snowball's chance of being nominated or elected to the Presidency.

In an NYT op-ed, he makes the following statement speaking of the Kerry medals flap:

Republicans have tried to use this event to question his patriotism and his truthfulness, claiming he has been inconsistent in saying whether he threw away his medals or ribbons. This is no more than a political smear. After risking his life in Vietnam to save others, John Kerry earned the right to speak out against a war he believed was wrong. Make no mistake: it is that bravery these Republicans are now attacking.

Although President Bush has not engaged personally in such accusations, he has done nothing to stop others from making them. I believe those who didn't serve, or didn't show up for service, should have the decency to respect those who did serve — often under the most dangerous conditions, with bravery and, yes, with undeniable patriotism.

First, as I recall, Republicans haven't tried ANYTHING OF THE SORT. The story broke in the Boston Globe (yeah, there's a "Republican" bastion). It was followed up in a Good Morning America broadcast on ABC (another HUGE Republican bastion).

The Republicans haven't had to "question his .. truthfullness", those media outlets have done so instead. And, his truthfullness is in question because of contradictory remarks available ON TAPE in his OWN WORDS which point to him either lying in '71 or now. And, maybe I missed it, but I've NEVER heard John Kerry's "patriotism" questioned by Repbulicans. I have heard John Kerry question Bush's patriotism and service, however, on the very same Good Morning America show.

In fact, in a pregnant moment, after the GMT interview with Charlie Gibson, he was heard saying on an open mike, "... they're doing the work of the Republican National Committee", speaking of GMT. That would say to me that even Kerry understands this isn't a Republican attack.

And I loved this from Clark:

"Although President Bush has not engaged personally in such accusations, he has done nothing to stop others from making them."

The man who wouldn't disavow Michael Moore's "deserter" canard, now has the temerity to lecture Bush about not stopping these accusations? The man who said that Moore had the right to make those statements is now saying that others don't have those very same rights? Never mind the so-called attacks have come through the media, this partisan hack demands that they be silenced when his ox is being gored, and demands that be done by Bush.

Amazing.

"I believe those who didn't serve, or didn't show up for service, should have the decency to respect those who did serve — often under the most dangerous conditions, with bravery and, yes, with undeniable patriotism."

And I believe this is BS on a stick. When a candidate makes his "service" the centerpiece of his campaign then it "deserves" to be scrutinized. The fact that it doesn't stand up that well to scrutiny isn't the problem of those doing the scrutinizing. The "bring it on" crowd is now whining about "fairness" and trying to wrap themselves in the flag. They think that their service ENTITLES them in some way to be innoculated against questions concerning it. Well it DOESN'T.

Lastly, Clark attempts to make the argument that those who "didn't serve' or "didn't show up for service" (a not so backhanded revival of the AWOL/Deserter canard) should essentially bow at the alter of those who did.

Well again ... BS. That was then, this is now. Your "service" while commendable, does't make you sacrosanct nor does it make you immune to criticism. Expect inconsistencies to be exposed and explored. This is the big leagues.

It does have one amusing aspect though. Clarke and Kerry are very good at yelling "bring it on" but when it is brought on they resort to a chorus of whining and crying about this being "unfair" and a "smear" instead of handling it and moving on.

Maybe they ought to think about a new slogan, like "do it again and I'm gonna tell mommy" or something simliar.


Posted by McQ at 11:19 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Backatcha

Oliver Willis...

The Right Doesn't Like Democracy

You saw it in Florida, then you saw in Texas as Tom Delay tried to rewrite congressional districts to roll back increasingly Democratic areas, and now Fox News Democrat Zell Miller doesn't trust the people to pick their own Senators.

Yeah, those radical right-wingers. Like, you know, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Say, Oliver, you know the Constitution set up the Senate to be filled by the State legislature, right? (eventually changed by the 17th ammendment) So, you know, those "right wingers" who hate Democracy include the Founding Fathers.

Of course, running in the exact opposite direction of our founding documents seems to be all the rage these days....

Still. Lest we have to hear any more about the Democrats being the last remaining defenders of democracy, go read this. Apparently, Democratic-associated groups will be attempting to infiltrate/sabatoge the Republican Convention.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:00 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Not everyone thinks Tillman's a hero

In a screed by someone named Rene Gonzalez entitled "Pat Tillman is not a hero: he got what was coming to him" in the Daily Collegian, we get a peek at what is loosely called "thinking" by the extreme left. We also get the usual peek at the smoldering hate they bring to the "debate".

However, in my neighborhood in Puerto Rico, Tillman would have been called a "pendejo," an idiot. Tillman, in the absurd belief that he was defending or serving his all-powerful country from a seventh-rate, Third World nation devastated by the previous conflicts it had endured, decided to give up a comfortable life to place himself in a combat situation that cost him his life. This was not "Ramon or Tyrone," who joined the military out of financial necessity, or to have a chance at education. This was a "G.I. Joe" guy who got what was coming to him. That was not heroism, it was prophetic idiocy.

Gonzalez can't imagine someone who'd believe so strongly about what happened to their country that they'd actually DO something which seems contrary to their best financial or social interests. He hasn't the ability to conjure a circumstance where HE would act in that way because of a strong belief, so obviously, following Gonzalez's "thinking", Tillman must be an "idiot."

No, this pendejo, to borrow his word, can't imagine such a thing. In his world, only "idiots" walk away from financial bliss and social adoration to take a stand on principle. Nope, Gonzalez instead believes THIS is why Pat Tillmand did what he did:

Tillman, probably acting out his nationalist-patriotic fantasies forged in years of exposure to Clint Eastwood and Rambo movies, decided to insert himself into a conflict he didn't need to insert himself into. It wasn't like he was defending the East coast from an invasion of a foreign power. THAT would have been heroic and laudable. What he did was make himself useful to a foreign invading army, and he paid for it. It's hard to say I have any sympathy for his death because I don't feel like his "service" was necessary. He wasn't defending me, nor was he defending the Afghani people. He was acting out his macho, patriotic crap and I guess someone with a bigger gun did him in.

Well Gonzalez is wrong. Whether he likes it or not, Tillman was acting in his defense. He seems to have forgotten that on 9/11 a "foreign power" did invade the East coast and inflicted 3,000 casualties on his fellow Americans. He was fighting the very faction that enabled that attack.

It seems most of the extreme left has developed a case of amnesia when they pump out blatant bullshit like this. They're still living on 9/10. In order to erect their strawman arguments, they have to willfully ignore 9/11 ... and that's precisely what Gonzalez does.

While I'm sure this isn't the worst nonsense out there, its certainly pretty disgusting. But my guess is Pat Tillman would respond that Gonzolez's right to be an absolute callous asshole about his death was one of the freedom's his service represented.

Tillman got himself killed in a country other than his own without having been forced to go over to that country to kill its people. After all, whether we like them or not, the Taliban is more Afghani than we are. Their resistance is more legitimate than our invasion, regardless of the fact that our social values are probably more enlightened than theirs. For that, he shouldn't be hailed as a hero, he should be used as a poster boy for . It might just make a regular man irrationally drop $3.6 million to go fight in a conflict that was anything but "self-defense." The same could be said of the unusual belief of 50 percent of the American nation that thinks Saddam Hussein was behind Sept. 11. One must indeed stand in awe of the amazing success of the American propaganda machine. It works wonders.

Noam Chomsky junior speaks to us about propaganda? Read through that paragraph and wonder. Wonder why someone attending a college in this day and time isn't better able to reason than this fellow. Wonder at the depth of hate that would find one able to rationalize the death of another American in combat as "the dangerous consequences of too much "America is #1," frat boy, propaganda bull." Wonder at ability of this person to completely divorce the consequences of the attack on the US from Pat Tillman's actions and then revile him in death as a "Rambo".

And then dismiss it as the trash it is.

Posted by McQ at 10:46 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Blog Rolling

When I really don't have that much to say, I take a spin around the blogroll to see what other bloggers are saying....

* David Adesnik...

As for Kerry's inconsistent comments about the medals during his various Senate races, those aren't really worth bothering with. What really gets me is that on Good Morning America, Kerry tried to pin all the blame for this controversy on the GOP attack machine rather than recognize that his own questionable behavior was responsible for it.
I'd agree with every word of that. The fuss over what Kerry did and said in 1971 is minor campaign fluff. His reaction, though.....

* (via Oxblog) Thoughtsonline gets it right...

It's not surprising that Clark would come to Kerry's defense, since they are both trying to do the same thing: use their service in the military as a shield against criticism of actions and positions they have taken and statements they have made after they got out.

* Pejman....
I wish though that Glenn and others would stop entertaining fantasies of Condi Rice in the Number 2 spot. It's not going to happen this year, folks. Ditching Cheney would be a sign that Republicans are panicking, and there certainly is no reason to panic. It would also be a tremendous act of disloyalty...
I'm really not sure that Cheney adds anything positive to the ticket, but I'm quite sure that Bush won't replace him. Whatever else Bush may be, he is loyal to his inner cadre.

Also, for good measure: Hillary isn't going to be on the Democratic ticket; John Kerry will be. Can we please quit with the fantasy elections?

* Captain Ed...

Annan's remarks boggle the mind. He literally endorsed the entire idea of unilateral action by the Anglo-American alliance to enforce UNSC restrictions that the UN was clearly unable to maintain. In fact, what he says here is that the [Oil-For-Food] corruption can be blamed on the US and the UK failing to act, even without specific UN approval, when Saddam clearly was in violation of UNSC resolutions well before 2002.
What did Annan say? "We had no mandate to stop oil smuggling. ... The U.S. and the British had planes in the air. We were not there. Why is this all being dumped on the U.N.?"

So, we already had planes in the area, so we should have (without a UN mandate) gone ahead and enforced the resolutions by force. Uh-huh. What a load. This is the same Kofi Annan who said that Iraqi attacks on US planes patrolling those no-fly zones were not a violation of the UN resolutions.

So, he blames the US for not responding to oil smuggling that was under UN auspices, since we had planes in the area......but also blames the US for the attacks on US planes patrolling the no-fly zones. And people wonder why we don't think a whole hell of a lot of the UN.

* Bill Hobbs...

Help me understand this: Instapundit charges $1,000 per month to run an ad on his blog and he's currently got what looks to be four paid ads (The Spirit of America ad is likely a freebie for a very good cause.) Yet yesterday for some reason several folks dropped cash in his tip jars. The rich get richer. If I was a Democrat, I'd be proposing a National Blog Tip Jar Fairness Act....
I've thought pretty seriously about setting up Blogads here, but haven't take the dive. Yet. In the meantime, if you are so inclined, I'd remind you that there is a PayPal tipjar near the bottom of the sidebar. It would help defray the cost of this site.

* John Hawkins....

So let me branch out: Why are comparatively so few female bloggers of note in the political blogosphere?

Personally, I have come to suspect it's just a numbers game. On the whole, women aren't as interested as men in politics, so therefore there are a lot less women than men writing about politics, and hence there is a much smaller pool of female bloggers with the talent to move up the ranks.

This is all a bit silly. Statistically speaking, a lower percentage of women than men write/care about politics. So, it follows that a lower percentage of good political blogs are written by women.

And this has nothing to do with sexism.

"But", you might respond, "what about the male bloggers who often mention the physical attributes of female bloggers, rather than their political opinions?" Well, what of it? Men like attractive females. Sometimes, we mention that fact. In itself, that is not sexist. It only becomes sexist if we substitute a physical evaluation for an intellectual evaluation.

I've got the impression that a set of sensitive

* Kevin Drum...

Can you say "suck" on the radio? As in, say, "George Bush sucks" (just to pull an example from a hat)?

Perhaps once upon a time you could, but no longer. NPR's lawyers believe that the FCC's new "zero tolerance" rule prevents use of the word.

While this does outline the untenable and indefined nature of the FCC's "Community standards" rule in regards to broadcast standards (pop quiz: define "community standards". Pt 2: Define "community"), I would point out that the FCC has made no statement on the word "suck". It is simply the NPR lawyers being overcautious. "Sucks" has been in common use on the radio for nigh on 20 years now, and there's a vanishingly slim-to-zero chance that's going to change.

In short: this has nothing to do with the FCC. Relax.

* Ipse Dixit...

Of course, the phrase "Pro-Choice and Anti-Capitalist" only makes sense in the semantic Universe of the lunatic Left. To everyone else, it's self-annihilating.
I kid you not, somebody actually put both phrases on the same sign. He's got the picture. (Communists? Natch)

I think a more accurate sign would be: "Consequences suck!"


UPDATE: Ok, one more. Via Baldilocks....

“I have to march because my mother could not have an abortion.”
--US Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif) at Pro-Abortion Rally Sunday, April 25
If you say so....

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Eva Braun reporting....

Life lesson: when writing for a site called "antiwar.com", you have to put a nice fresh layer of shinola on some real pieces of shit.

US Fatwa Turns Sadr From Community Leader to Insurgent
Suffice it to say, the rest of the article paints a picture of a civic minded fellow who wants democracy, builds hospitals, staffs the police force, and just generally cleans up the mess. You know, the Iraqi Mayor Giuliani.

That is, if Mayor Giuliani had sent the NYPD into SoHo to kill everybody.

Yeah, strangely, antiwar.com failed to mention that this "community leader" had done things like this...

On the morning of March 12, a Friday, a group of about 20 militiamen went to the village "without police knowledge," Zeid said. They belonged to the Mahdi Army, a force organized last year by Moqtada Sadr, a young, militant cleric who caters to the poor and disenfranchised of Iraq's Shiite majority and has maintained a relentlessly anti-occupation stance. Zeid said a fight broke out, and residents killed one of Sadr's followers. The Mahdi Army retreated. In the late afternoon, it returned -- with more than 100 men.
...
Hours into the battle, he said, police intervened and helped evacuate the residents. Once they left, looters set upon the village and, through the night, systematically stole everything of value. Days later, the village was largely rubble.
He's also called for attacks against US troops, aligned himself with Hamas and Hezbollah and wants to set up an Islamic theocracy. So, you know....just the sort of Good Guy who passes for a "community leader" at antiwar.com.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:18 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The rest of Iraq

It's important to remember that things in Iraq are not going as badly as the headlines might lead you to believe. In areas not called "Fallujah"....

"The first few days, I think everybody was scared," said Champion, 23, of Jupiter, Fla. "But a lot of patrols are coming back and saying people are starting to be friendly again. Maybe it's because they know that we're not kidding."

Iraqi police were reportedly patrolling in areas in which they normally were not seen. Lima Company Staff Sgt. Matthew St. Pierre was so surprised that he stopped one police officer and asked to see his credentials.

"I couldn't believe it," said St. Pierre, of Vallejo, Calif. "Usually these guys are nowhere to be found. This guy had just graduated from our police academy. He was so proud that he ran home and got his diploma to show me."

And why are things going well there?
"I think the amount of force that we displayed over the past few days definitely has changed their outlook."
...
"One thing that I do know is that the Iraqi people respond to who they think is the strongest," said Neal, 29, of San Francisco. "They saw the velvet glove when we first came in, and then we took off the glove and showed them the iron fist."
I think this is a vital point. After decades, generations, under totalitarian regimes, the Iraqi people have learned to go along to get along. They may not like the regime, but they know full well that they can't fight back.....so they make the best of it.

Well, that'll be fine. Let's just make sure they "make the best of it" with us, rather than with the insurgents. Have we learned that lesson? Who knows. But we are ramping up the pressure in Fallujah, so.....

Posted by Jon Henke at 05:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2004

Chickenhawk

Frank Lautenberg calls Bush and Cheney "chickenhawks", because of their attacks on Kerry's military service...er, because of their attacks on Kerry's patriotism....er, because they're Republicans. Funny, I don't recall military service being a Very Important Issue to Democrats? I must have missed the large Democratic turnout for Bob Dole in 1996.

Screw it - John Cole already handled this...

So now we have Democratic leaning groups and the Chairman of the DNC saying that Cheney got his wife pregnant to avoid service, and prominent Senators are calling Cheney a 'chickenhawk' from the floor of the Senate, and re-iterating that Bush was AWOL. And just so we have the record straight, if Republicans question Kerry's voting record, they are 'attacking his patriotism.' EVEN THE UK GUARDIAN notes that Cheney has not questioned Kerry's service or patriotism.
Cole also points out that the Vietnam era draft was for males age 18-26, and....
Dick Cheney was born on 30 January 1941, making him 28 at the time of the draft. For the Democrats reading this, 28 is older than 26.
You know, for a guy who didn't think we should have been fighting the Vietnam war, John Kerry certainly does seem anxious to keep fighting it.

UPDATE: James Joyner weighs in, as well.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:55 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Just when you think it can't get any worse

Barbara Walters is a whore...

Millions of viewers across the country watched in surprise over the weekend as the network aired a sensational promo for Friday's segment, which pits five desperate couples against each other for the privilege of adopting a 16-year-old's baby.

A very personal, intimate process was made to look like a reality-show contest, with prospective parents dubbed "winners" and "losers."

ABC has since pulled that promo and replaced it with one that presents the show "more as a documentary."
...but Barbara Walters is still a callous, baby-whoring slime. Forget how utterly distasteful the concept is. Leave that aside. What effect do you think it will have on the child to know that their parents "won them on TV"?

I'm a big believer in the free market. So, I hope the market freely decides to stop watching ABC for a good long time. I will.

Link via Protein Wisdom, who is pithy, as always.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:13 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Buyer remorse

I get the impression the Democrats are less than thrilled with their presumptive nominee.

kerryimg.png

Via the Kerry Sloganator

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

History, apparently, started in January of 2001

Oliver Willis...

Jackboot Nation

So I guess calling the president a "doodiehead" would mean a DOJ investigation? God, things are getting out of hand.

Secret Service questions student on drawings

Secret Service agents questioned a high school student about anti-war drawings he did for an art class, one of which depicted President Bush's head on a stick.

Another pencil-and-ink drawing portrayed Bush as a devil launching a missile, with a caption reading "End the war -- on terrorism."

The 15-year-old boy's art teacher at Prosser High School turned the drawings over to school administrators, who notified police, who called the Secret Service.

Yeah, Oliver, this is just another example of the Bush administration trying to "suppress dissent". Just like that time in 1998, when....
President Clinton's Secret Service agents searched the apartment of a student columnist for Cal's Daily Californian who wrote a satirical Big Game column mentioning Chelsea Clinton that appeared in the school paper lat week.

The 22-year-old Senior student columnist, Guy Branum, said yesterday that the agents had told him the search and investigation were initiated by an angry Hillary Rodham Clinton.

If Oliver had dug a bit more deeply, he might have even discovered that - not only is this not "jackbooted thuggery" - it's a fairly normal and important part of the Secret Service duty. Something (gasp!) that's been going on for quite some time....
McCarthy, a former special agent in charge in the U.S. Secret Service, spoke to a group at the University of Nebraska at Kearney's 13th annual Regional Criminal Justice Conference.
...
McCarthy, who was involved in the protection of every president from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, said a sitting president receives 300 to 500 threats on his life per month. All the threats are investigated, and many are stopped by talking to the person, he said.

"A lot of it is stopped in its tracks just by listening," he said, referring to presidential threats and school shootings.

The Secret Service is conducting a study of 37 students who were gunmen in school shootings from the early 1970s to present day, he said.

In three-quarters of cases, the shooter told someone about his or her plans, and half told more than one person, McCarthy said.

But, as far as Oliver is concerned, it's just evidence of a "Jackboot Nation". Why does Oliver want more Columbines? ( he doesn't, but he also doesn't seem to look for an explanation that doesn't involve a chance to call the Bush administration - and only the Bush administration - a totalitarian regime)

NOTE: John Cole has more along these lines.

UPDATE: Beltway Traffic Jam.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:59 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Diplomacy and results

There's no specific agreement, but I like the way this wind is blowing....

Washington and Pyongyang have both told China they hope to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis peacefully with the ultimate goal of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Wednesday.
Wen made his comments only days after an unannounced trip by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to China and two weeks after a visit by U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney.

If the two sides worked together and pressed on with six-party talks, there was still hope for a peaceful end to the 19-month-old standoff, Wen told Reuters in an interview ahead of a visit to Europe.

"They (North Korea and the United States) both expressed their respective willingness to continue with the six-party talks and facilitate a solution to the issue. They both endorsed the ultimate objective of realizing a nuclear-free Korean peninsula," Wen said.

So, the end result is agreed upon. That was the big problem. Now, we just need to work out a process.

Frankly, I'm surprised NoKo let this happen during the Presidential campaign season. I would have thought that they'd be unwilling to give the Bush team even an appearance of progress.

UPDATE: Ironically, Kevin Drum writes....

It's comforting that George Bush's muscular attitude toward North Korean bombmaking is producing so much better results than Bill Cinton's feckless approach, isn't it?
This, due to a report that NoKo may have "at least eight working nuclear bombs". You know what the difference would be if the Agreed Framework was still in place? NoKo would still be doing what it liked, but they'd have the courtesy to not tell us about it. And we'd have the courtesy to pretend they weren't developing weapons.

And there would be no agreement on a nuclear free Korean peninsula.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cold Fury

Cold Fury passes a million hits, and Mike navel gazes for a bit. You know, I don't care for motorcycles or music, so I doubt there'd be a great deal of common ground between us without this blog thing. But there is this blog thing, and I've discovered that Mike is a good guy. And a good blogger, too. In fact, Mike linked and blogrolled QandO fairly early on, which was a big encouragement to me. I've always appreciated that.

Yeesh, I can't even imagine a million hits. Good work, bro.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kid-blogging

Via Marginal Revolution, I find this post at FuturePundit...

An excellent article by Erin Anderssen and Anne McIlroy in the Canadian Globe And Mail summarizes research on child development and human violence. They report that Richard Tremblay has found that 2 year old babies are more physically aggressive than teenagers or adults but fortunately too uncoordinated to do much damage to others.
Trust me, those 2 year olds make up for any lack of coordination with their enthusiasm....and a height/reach combination that results in the ability to hit Daddy in a very uncomfortable place, indeed.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

You say we need a revolution....

God, but this pisses me off....

Florida’s constitution allows governments to take your land for a public purpose, such as a road or school, as long as you receive a fair price.

But legislation — which could be approved this week — would allow a city or county to take an individual’s land, with fair compensation, and sell it to a private developer for a shopping center or office building.

When the public has finally had enough of this, the whole sorry lot of Judas's that vote for this bill should be the first up against the wall. And I won't shed a tear for any of them. Bastards.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:21 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Rosie the, uh, Riveter

Via Dana, I find this sterling example of supporting the troops...

About US: 'Operation Take One For The Country' (abbreviated OTOFTC) is a movement of like-minded women (women predominantly as of right now) who have covertly organized into groups to frequent eating and drinking establishments near armed service bases where troops are preparing to ship out overseas, and take one for the country, so to speak.
Ladies, on behalf of our troops, I salute you.

Posted by Jon Henke at 05:45 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 27, 2004

Not in the face!

James Taranto catches this in today's Best of the Web....

"If George Bush wants to make national security an issue in this campaign, I have three words for him that I know he'll understand. Bring it on!"
--John Kerry, quoted in the New York Times, Feb. 1

"Call off the Republican attack dogs."
--Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, responding to Dick Cheney's speech on John Kerry's defense record, quoted by the Associated Press, April 26

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Medals and jet planes

Over at TAPPED, Matthew Yglesias writes...

Readers are probably aware that during a recent John Kerry appearance on Good Morning America we all got a chance to revisit one of the odder "controversies" of American politics -- did Kerry lie about throwing his medals at a Vietnam War protest. Kerry says he threw ribbons, rather than metallic medals, but that the ribbons were commonly referred to as "medals." Indeed, a cursory glance at the US Navy's ribbons page confirms the accuracy of this account -- you've got your "distinguished service medal" ribbon, your "good conduct medal" ribbon, your "Republic of Vietnam Campaign medal" ribbon, and a whole bunch more.
Inasfar as this goes, I'd tend to agree. I'd also agree that, as far as "scandals" go, this one has a lot more tabloid to it than substance.

We part ways after that, though...

The real mystery in all this, if you ask me, is why Republicans persist in raising an issue that can't help but make their man look bad when the Bush and Kerry military records are contrasted.
Perhaps. No question, but Kerry served honorably....but I'm not so sure that "John Kerry throwing medals (his, and otherwise) over a fence" is really the image the Democrats want the American public to have of their candidate.

And if one looks a bit more in-depth - as I did here - it becomes apparent that John Kerry's "volunteered for duty in Vietnam" is not substantively different than Bush volunteering for duty in Texas. Both, after all, volunteered to a place they believed would be well away from actual combat. Both "didn't really want to get involved in the war". And, lest anybody claim I am a dolt for saying that John Kerry didn't want to get involved, let me point out that those were his words.

Of course, "in-depth" is a bit more than we can expect the electorate to look. Still, on the face of it, I just don't see that the public is going to get too overwrought about the difference between their records. In fact, I expect the real problem will be a backlash against whichever candidate tries to exploit either of these "scandals". Face it, if the last 3 Presidential elections have taught us anything, it is that the voter just doesn't care what the candidate did in Vietnam.

And stuff like this won't help....

Meanwhile, the best they can say about Bush is that he supported the war but went out of his way to avoid serving in it, choosing instead to do something that put him at no personal risk and had no beneficial impact on American security.security.
Where to start?
- - "went out of his way to avoid serving in it" - huh? Now, one might credibly say that he joined at a level that was unlikely to see service in the theatre of combat (though, the Squadron to which his unit was attached was actually flying combat missions when he joined), but the fact is that Bush DID serve. Presumably, active duty Guard service is still service, right? And Bush wasn't drafted - he joined voluntarily - so, it's hard to say that he avoided service.

- - "choosing instead to do something that put him at no personal risk" - No personal risk? Flying a F-102 fighter jet?


- - "and had no beneficial impact on American security" - Really? Then why do we even have a National Guard? Besides, wasn't it John Kerry who alleged that "nothing in South Vietnam which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America"? If so, then John Kerry chose to do something that had no beneficial impact on American Security.

I'm just sayin'.

We also haven't quite gotten to the bottom of how, exactly, he managed to pull this plum job in the first place...
Well gosh, Matt, I think we have gotten to the bottom of that.
However, the Dallas Morning News, which also looked into Bush's military record, reported that while Bush's unit in Texas had a waiting list for many spots, he was accepted because he was one of a handful of applicants willing and qualified to spend more than a year in active training flying F-102 jets.
My overall impression of these dual "scandals" is that sufficient evidence for a reasonable conclusion exists....but that evidence just never seems to get through to the partisans who see political capital to be made in pushing their story.

And the voter? Any candidate who tries to push it may be in for an unexpected backlash.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:56 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

God and Democrats and stuff

Kevin Drum has a very good guest post by Clinton's chief domestic policy advisor Bruce Reed. Bruce writes...

I'd feel a lot better if our side spent less time running down the religious right, and more time building a religious center-left. After all, those who fought for civil rights in the '60s saw standing up for their political convictions as a natural extension of their religious convictions.
There seems to be a widening gap between the theists and atheists on the political landscape, and it's polarizing the rhetorical landscape, too.

We've all seen and heard the "they must hate god" rhetoric from the Robertson/Falwell brigade for years now. Lately, though, that rhetorical excess is becoming more and more common on the other side. Opponents of the religious right don't just "disagree with the FCC ruling on Howard Stern". No, that would be letting them off too easy. Instead, they argue that it starts with not allowing boobies during the Super Bowl, and...boom! Suddenly, you've got a theocracy.

Now, rhetorical red meat will make for good radio...maybe even popular blogging. What it will not do, however, is win you votes among the people who haven't really ever been dragged off to be baptized by roaming lynch mobs of Christianistas. Those people tend to think of Christians as "the guy next door", or even "themselves", rather than the cartoonish images so often portrayed.

And this isn't a fringe issue. This widening gap is making itself apparent in the Democratic Party, where pundits use patronizing language like this on a regular basis...

It's no secret that George Bush intentionally laces his speeches with evangelical code phrases; expressions that don't mean much to ordinary people, but that scream "I believe in Jesus, too!" to those Christians in the know.
And that was in a post suggesting the Democrats should NOT belittle the language of religion.

The point? It's a bit surprising to me, because I thought the Republicans would have fractured over religion first - the fiscal conservatives and libertarians telling the social conservatives to get bent - but the Democratic Party is the one experiencing a fracture here. And until the atheists learn to live with the fact that some people have religious beliefs, it's going to be hard to reconcile their bitter, cynical distaste for any mention of "God" from Republicans, with the desire of many Democrats to, you know, believe in God.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:11 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Defending Wal-Mart

Ezra Klein is not a fan of Wal-Mart....

A politico friend of mine who is more dedicated to Democratic resurgence than anyone I've ever met told me the exact same thing a few months ago; within the labor community there's a sense that WalMart is so dangerous that if they could just make people see, they'd be able to win this fight. Problem is Walmart's danger comes in candy and ice cream, pounds and gallons of the stuff at absurdly low prices stocked by workers being paid disturbingly low wages. It's about as nice a package as the American consumer can find and therein lies its danger.
He goes on to say that he's criticizing Wal-Mart, not capitalism...but it's hard to see what distinction can be drawn. He cites low wages, but what is un-capitalist about setting wages at a level the market will bear? Ezra may have an opinion about the proper wage level, but he's free to act consistent with his own valuation when he looks for a job.

In the meantime, there's also the consumer which he seems to gloss over. Sure, there's "candy and ice cream, pounds and gallons of the stuff at absurdly low prices" but at what cost, man, at what cost! Well, at a cost the consumer finds acceptable, apparently. And the consumer finds Wal-Mart prices more acceptable than the alternative, quite often.

But Ezra Klein finds their valuation inappropriate, unacceptable. Why does Ezra hate poor people? (note: he doesn't, but he certainly doesn't seem terribly concerned about their value system)

We're a wage-earning society, but not we are not exclusively a wage-earning society. We are also a price-paying society, and if we pay attention to the income end of that fiscal balancing act, at the expense of our spending power, then we are simply engaging in a modern sort of mercantilism, wherein we think the consumer is wealthier if he has more money....even if that means he can't buy as much.

Ezra goes on....

Nothing wrong with economies of scale, particularly when they're better for workers, the problem lies in corporations who destroy better paying jobs and force an industry-wide, not to mention global, race to the bottom.
Note the contradiction? Nothing wrong with economies of scale....but the economic changes necessary to achieve those economies of scale? Well, those are a "problem". Now, I understand that he would prefer economies of scale to be achieved without cost to the worker, but that's simply unreasonable. In anything resembling a free market, labor cost is a variable input. If Wal-Mart doesn't use the most efficient labor cost, then somebody else will....and that somebody else will take market share from Wal-Mart.

After all, if the economy is operating at anything resembling efficiency, then labor costs don't have a high degree of demand elasticity. Employers cannot pay lower wages, without losing workers. Employees cannot demand higher wages, without losing jobs. An efficient economy will not base wage-rates on a normative and subjective definition of "fairness", but on a market defined proper allocation of resources. Price, after all, is simply a piece of information, reflecting the overall value of any given product or service.

So, is the eventual "race to the bottom" leading inevitably to lower and lower labor costs? To some extent, yes. Business will always seek to lower their costs....since, after all, consumers do the same. But it does not necessarily mean labor wages will always fall.

For one thing, that labor may simply cease to exist. I recall the early-mid 90s, when bag-boys began disappearing from grocery stores. "But who will bag the groceries", I thought. Surely, they can't just eliminate the job. Today, I know of only one grocery chain in the Richmond area that still has baggers. What's more, most grocery stores have now begun automating the job of cashier, too. If wages for that task go up to a level Ezra finds acceptable, what do you think will happen? Will cashiers finally begin living the life they deserve...or will that task be replaced?

Based on history, I'm fairly certain I can say it will be replaced.

That brings me to another point: what is the best business model for a "good" economy? Well, the hell if I know. And I'm pretty sure Ezra doesn't know, either. Nobody does.

But that's the beauty of a free market. We simply don't know how to allocate our resources - for one thing, because the proper allocation of resources changes from day to day - but a properly functioning price mechanism allows us to distribute those resources based on what value we place on them. Will Wal-Mart be around and on top forever? Of course not.

I'd remind you of who Wal-Mart replaced on the Dow Jones Industrial Average: Woolworth. A company that achieved market dominance by "undercutting the prices of local merchants". Of course, they were criticized for driving local merchants out of business at the time. And then, in 1997, they closed the remainder of their stores. Why? "Analysts at the time cited the lower prices of the big discount stores and the expansion of grocery stores to carry most of the items five-and-ten-cent stores carried as factors in the stores' lack of success in the late 20th century."

Short version: Wal-Mart, Target, grocery stores and others had found a better business model. Woolworth was a dinosaur.

In time, Wal-Mart will be replaced, too. And we'll probably hear complaints that the new business model, which almost eliminates employees altogether, is harmful. Never mind that we're getting "more for less", freeing up "more for something else".

The same argument has been made for centuries, but the fact remains: in a free market, wages are simply a piece of information defining the value of a resource. If that information is inaccurate, it will be forced to change. If the information is not accurate....well, Ezra is free to express his personal values with his own money.

But I'd really appreciate it if he keep his economic value system out of my pocket.

UPDATE: A simpler argument occurs to me: At any given moment, the cost for a action (ex: commerce) will remain the same, regardless of how we allocate our resources to achieve that action. Ezra is simply unhappy with the Wal-Mart solution to the problem of scarcity and resource distribution. That's fine. He can shop where he likes.

However, his opinion on the proper form of resource distribution is not an objective preference, but a subjective one. His preference would not lower the cost to society...it would merely shift the costs around. Society, obviously, does not share Ezra's values on resource allocation. So, who gets to make that decision.....the consumer? Or Ezra?

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:47 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

It doesn't get any better than this...

John Podhoretz articulates one of the reasons I continue to say "Kerry has peaked". He's just a bad candidate:

THE conventional wisdom is that the presidential election will be close. It's a 50-50 country, so the CW goes, just as it was in the year 2000.

The problem is that the conventional wisdom hasn't taken a proper accounting of John Kerry. Here's the truth that Democrats don't want to admit and that Republicans are fearful of speaking openly because they don't want to jinx things:

Kerry is a terrible, terrible, terrible candidate.

It's not so much the policies he proposes, although they don't add up to all that much. The problem is Kerry himself. He no sooner opens his mouth than he sticks first one foot and then the other right in there.

He just doesn't have what it takes for a national campaign. Sure he's been reelected in Mass. But so has Teddy Kennedy, who probably wouldn't have a snow-ball's chance in hell outside the north east. Same with Kerry.

Couple that with a message which is essentially "I'm not Bush" (much like Dole's "I'm not Clinton" message) and the whole campaign doesn't add up to much.

Now add this tendency and you've got a candidate who, at some point, will complete his own self-destruction:

And that is Kerry's great weakness as a candidate - a weakness that will be hard for him to overcome, because it appears to be a character trait. The man who said "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it" is a man filled with the conviction that he can talk himself out of a tough situation.

Sometimes, it's better just to be silent, take the hit and move on. But Kerry seems constitutionally incapable of doing that.

The example in question has to do with his appearance on ABC yesterday concerning his medals. Instead of just blowing it off, he became "Clintonesqe" in his answer. Ribbons, medals, yatta, yatta, Bush, Guard. Instead of just moving on he let himself literally be baited into not looking very good. It doesn't matter that the subject was essentially irrelevant, it was how he HANDLED it which was telling.

And I don't see it getting any better. As Podhoretz points out he seems incapable of knowing when to shut up and supremely confident that he can talk his way out of anything. That's when you see the arrogance come through, and its also when you hear such gems as "I voted for the 87 billion before I voted against it."

Expect more of that because despite evidence to the contrary he hasn't learned to keep quiet. He still arrogantly believes he can talk his way out of things.

Which brings me to agree with Podhoretz. My gut tells me its not going to be close at all come November.

Posted by McQ at 07:57 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

No Free lunch

The nut of the problem of liberalism in general and Kerry's program to "fund" college tuitions out of taxes is well articulated in William Dennis's statement in an article about that program:

Last week John Kerry was off on a cross-country ballot-buying trip, stopping at a number of college campuses. Vote for me, he said to students, and I will reward you with a new government program that will provide — in exchange for a period of national service — a $4,000 tuition subsidy to each program participant, to be raised through the tax system, and therefore from others' financial resources.

One of the worst aspects of any political system in which politicians essentially have unlimited access to the funds of others is this sort of blatant coercion disguised as a "benefit" for voting for the pol.

"Vote for me and I'll take funds from others and give them to you". Sure, its specifically aimed at "college" in this case, but the principle is the same.

As for "national service", Dennis again hits the nail on the head:

In a free society, "national service" is what most adults do on a daily basis. The Left would like us all to believe that government work is the only true labor for the common good, but such thought further demonstrates the poverty of the collectivist imagination.

You can't do any better for your nation than to get up every morning, go to work and contribute to the whole of the national economy. Its that productivity contributed by each worker that is responsible for the standard of living we enjoy. Not government. Not government programs. And certainly not robbing Peter to pay Paul (just to get Paul's vote).

And of course, the expected effect of this subsidy (and any subsidy program)?

Kerry fails to understand that tuition subsidies do not exist in a vacuum: As government subsidies grow, colleges seek to put the entire increase to improving their own bottom lines, leaving the student with just as much, or more, to pay.

"There is no free lunch", although for the left and the gullible, this is a lesson never learned.

Posted by McQ at 07:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Bush fact-checked

It strikes me that, while Kerry hasn't exactly been a military hawk over the years, the Bush campaigns criticisms of his record on defense are quite a bit less than accurate. Factcheck.org seems to agree...

Analysis

On April 26 the Bush campaign released a total of 10 ads, all repeating claims that Kerry opposed a list of mainstream military hardware "vital to winning the war on terror."

Misleading Claims

The claims are misleading, as we've pointed out before in articles we posted on Feb. 26 and March 16. The Bush campaign bases its claim mainly on Kerry's votes against overall Pentagon money bills in 1990, 1995 and 1996, but these were not votes against specific weapons. And in fact, Kerry voted for Pentagon authorization bills in 16 of the 19 years he's been in the Senate. So even by the Bush campaign's twisted logic, Kerry should -- on balance -- be called a supporter of the "vital" weapons, more so than an opponent.

Here, we have the same problem as we see in Kerry's recent $87b "no" vote. He has a choice, and it's not a terribly good one: vote for a flawed bill he doesn't wholly support, or vote against a flawed bill whose aims he generally supports.

The problem - if he votes for it, his criticism will be dismissed with "but you voted for it". Reference: Kerry's "Yes" vote on the Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq. He voted for a bill, though he was not altogether in agreement with the language and implications.....and ever since, his criticisms have been dismissed and derided as "flip-flopping". After all, if he's not completely for it, he should have voted against it, right?

Well, apparently not. If he stands on principle and votes against a bill - for any reason - he will be accused of being against (the troops, national security, health care for veterans, etc). Bit of a difficult choice, isn't it?

It's one thing to complain about obfuscatory rhetoric, but you know what? Sometimes a bit of nuance is absolutely necessary. And the Bush campaign's attempt to define complex issues downward is insulting.

Plus, they're not exactly immune to that criticism...

It is true that when Kerry first ran for the Senate in 1984 he did call specifically for canceling the AH-64 Apache helicopter. What the ad lacks is the historic context: the Cold War was ending and the Apache was designed principally as a weapon to be used against Soviet tanks. And in fact, even Richard Cheney himself, who is now Vice President but who then was Secretary of Defense, also proposed canceling the Apache helicopter program five years after Kerry did.
...
Two years later Cheney's Pentagon budget also proposed elimination of further production of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle as well. It was among 81 Pentagon programs targeted for termination, including the F-14 and F-16 aircraft. "Cheney decided the military already has enough of these weapons," the Boston Globe reported at the time.
It's a complicated world, and it's hard to convey that fact in campaign ads. Still, the Bush campaign could stand an infusion of that dreaded "nuance" now and then.

UPDATE: Captain Ed and mnkurmudge weigh in on this, as well. Both assert that there is a material difference between a budget reduction/elimination in 1985 and 1990-92. (due to the end of the Cold War) While they have a debatable and interesting point there - even the Bradley, F-14 and F-16? - I maintain that MnKurmudge goes awry when he claims the Kerry "No" vote on the $87b appropriation was genuinely a vote against the body armor. Clearly, the body armor WOULD have been approved just in a different bill, had Kerry had his way. One can agree with one part of a bill, but not another.

It's exactly this sort of nonsense that gets candidates accused of wanting to "starve children" or similar nonsense, when the candidate votes against a bloated appropriations bill that does contain a legitimate funding measure.

Look, I'll concede that John Kerry voted against the $87b appropriation bill, if you'll concede that he was still in favor of approving the $87b to fund the troops. And since he was in favor of funding the troops, I think that makes my point very nicely.

Their point about the 1985/90-92 disparity is worth considering, though.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:33 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Protectionism's Siren Song

Daniel Drezner in "Foreign Affairs" has this to say about "outsourcing":

Should Americans be concerned about the economic effects of outsourcing? Not particularly. Most of the numbers thrown around are vague, overhyped estimates. What hard data exist suggest that gross job losses due to offshore outsourcing have been minimal when compared to the size of the entire U.S. economy. The outsourcing phenomenon has shown that globalization can affect white-collar professions, heretofore immune to foreign competition, in the same way that it has affected manufacturing jobs for years. But Mankiw's statements on outsourcing are absolutely correct; the law of comparative advantage does not stop working just because 401(k) plans are involved. The creation of new jobs overseas will eventually lead to more jobs and higher incomes in the United States. Because the economy -- and especially job growth -- is sluggish at the moment, commentators are attempting to draw a connection between offshore outsourcing and high unemployment. But believing that offshore outsourcing causes unemployment is the economic equivalent of believing that the sun revolves around the earth: intuitively compelling but clearly wrong.

"Benedict Arnold" companies and "protecting American jobs" is going to sound appealing, especially in an election year with slow job growth. But its a siren's song as Drezner points out.

Protectionism would not solve the U.S. economy's employment problems, although it would succeed in providing massive subsidies to well-organized interest groups. In open markets, greater competition spurs the reallocation of labor and capital to more profitable sectors of the economy. The benefits of such free trade -- to both consumers and producers -- are significant. Cushioning this process for displaced workers makes sense. Resorting to protectionism to halt the process, however, is a recipe for decline. An open economy leads to concentrated costs (and diffuse benefits) in the short term and significant benefits in the long term. Protectionism generates pain in both the short term and the long term.

A good article, well worth the read.

Posted by McQ at 07:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 26, 2004

More Spec Ops stuff

At the risk of boring you, I'd like to cite another article in Defense News which covers what I've been saying here about one of the ways we'll fight the war on terror ... special operations.

There is a plan to increase the troop strength of the US Special Operations Command by 3,700 between now and 2009. Now that may not sound like a lot, but in that community its a large increase.

That's because spec ops guys aren't mass produced. There's a very long training regimen involved, and I'd venture to say a special operator is 15 years into it before he's really at his peak.

So while that's all good background info, there's also another change taking place within that command that's probably more important:

“U.S. Special Operations Command is expanding to directly plan combat missions against terrorist organizations and execute those missions [as the lead command] while maintaing the role of force provider and supporter to the geographic combatant commanders,” O’Connell told lawmakers on the U.S. Senate Armed Services committee in March.

That's from Thomas O’Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflicts. What it essentially means is USSOC will be the command "directly" planning combat missions against terroist organizations. No middle man. No nonsense. They're the go-to command and they'll be executing the missions with their assets (SEAL, Ranger, SF, Delta, etc).

That's a GOOD thing.

Of course, in light of the article I mentioned on "social intel", what do these guys need most in order to "execute missions?"

Brown also said his command is closely coordinating intelligence-gathering and -sharing with other agencies in the Pentagon.

“This is an intelligence battle that we are out fighting, and it’s more akin to police in downtown New York than the traditional military operations,” Brown said. “It is developing intelligence out on the tactical level on the battlefield … and immediately turning that intelligence over because it is extremely perishable, and it’s taking maximum effectiveness of that intelligence when you get it.”

The command is working with the Pentagon’s new intelligence office, headed by Steve Cambone, Brown said. “We have stood up an interagency collaboration center that’s manned, that allows us to use intelligence from databases throughout the Department of Defense,” he said.

So its back to the quality of the information gathered and how timely it is (and how quickly it is shared). Note that he uses the phrase "extremely perishable" when discussing intelligence. Sometimes its so perishable that even if transmitted by the most efficient means, its out of date before it gets there. But the faster it gets there, the better chance the special operators have of using it to their advantage and actually destroying the terrorists before they have a chance to act or melt away.

Right now, the USSOC is not fully manned. Its retention problem isn't with the new guys ... the recruits. Its with the 20 year guys. This is a tough life and after 20 years, many guys have had enough. Many get out and do the same sort of thing for civilian contractors for much more money. But for the USSOC, these are the guys who are the best at what they do. The have the experience and the practical knowhow which makes them invaluable.

My guess is if the military wants to retain these guys its going to have to go outside the box in terms of incentives and compensation to keep them around. And, believe me, it would be worth every penny.

Posted by McQ at 09:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'Social' Intel

Good article in "Defense News" concerning the change in mind-set with regard to the focus of intelligence in a counter-insurgency/counter-terrorist atmosphere. A good explanation of why the change is necessary comes from Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander who is the deputy chief of staff for Army intelligence:

During the Cold War, “we looked at the Soviet Union as the enemy and we built our forces around that specific target set. And the problem with that symmetric approach is it also biased how we do intelligence.”

In the past, the Army could use its arsenal of communications, signals and electronics intelligence technologies to locate adversaries’ armies, Alexander said.

But “now we’re not looking for an armored division. We’re looking for people — people who want to kill us, people who want to change things in their world and see us as the enemy,” Alexander said. “That war and that problem set that we have is a far different intelligence problem set than what we had going into the Cold War with the Soviets.”

Our heavy reliance on technology was more justified in the light of our requirements during the Cold War. We didn't have the burning need for what is now being called 'social intelligence' when facing and contemplating the Soviet Union and its satellites. But we're no longer faced with that.

Now we have to gather much different sort of intelligence at a much lower level.

Finding individuals or terrorist cells demands troops on the ground as much as, if not more than, advanced technologies.

“The threat now requires that kind of collection,” Alexander said. “How do you get down to finding one person in Baghdad? How do you do that? This person doesn’t have a … radar on them that you can put the [electronic intelligence] system up there and collect them.”

Now, social intelligence is quickly becoming a trait the military wants organic to combat units. As a result, conventional forces will take on more of “special operations force-like characteristics,” Cebrowski said.

Instead of augmenting units with specialists, the military is now looking at a way to make the capability organic. Our special forces folks mix well with local communities and gather immense amounts of "social intel". The military wants to see all our units have that sort of capability already in place when they deploy.

Of course that means there has to be a shift in focus from traditional training which was heavily slanted toward fighting a conventional enemy.

”If you’re going to observe at the social level, then you have to have some skills at that level, just like with technical intelligence you need certain technical skills,” Cebrowski said. Foreign area studies, and studies that highlight culture, political systems, languages and social structure will become increasingly important to troops.

“It’s teaching people as we did on combat patrols. What are you looking for? What do you expect to see?” Alexander said. “How do you teach a policeman to say everything is OK on a street? A policeman who’s been there for 10 years can look down a road and say everything is OK. The new guy looks at everything. … How do you teach people to get to that 10-year standard quickly?”

The goal?

The ultimate goal is to turn every soldier into a battlefield sensor capable of working seamlessly within the services and across the military and civilian intelligence communities, Alexander said.

To do that, the military not only needs to train its troops, but it also must tie them together through a vast network that provides a single, joint, common operating picture updated instantly. Alexander offered the human body’s own sensors as the ideal network of human intelligence, image intelligence and signals intelligence.

“Let’s say we start to disconnect [a person’s senses] so what you know from our feeling side, call that your ‘humint,’ and what you know from your seeing side, call that ‘imint,’ and what you know from your hearing side, call that ‘sigint,’ are all disconnected and coming in at different times,” Alexander said. “Think how hard that would be to operate [and try] to figure out what’s going on.”

This is a bit of a sea-change for the intel guys. It'll be interesting to see how well they're able to implement this.


Posted by McQ at 08:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Aid and Comfort? Get Real!

Gee I wonder where these terrorists got this idea:

Al Arabiya TV broadcast a tape Monday it said showed three Italian captives in Iraq and said their captors would kill them if Italians did not protest their country's military presence in Iraq.

"A group calling itself the Green Brigade said it would release them if demonstrations are organized in Italy to protest against the government's policy in Iraq," the Arabic TV channel reported, quoting a message it said it received from the kidnappers.

"The group gave Italians five days to hold the protests or it will kill the hostages."

Well let's see they were able to sway an election in Spain.

Seems demonstrations on demand are the very least they can effect now.

And they wonder why they're called 'useful idiots'.

Posted by McQ at 06:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Offensive Gas bags

And we're not talking about Ted Kennedy here:

High-flying technology is going back to the blimp.

Engineers are developing a new breed of buoyant airships to follow hurricanes, act as mobile cell phone towers, spy over hostile territory and track incoming missiles.

Unlike blimps that hover above football stadiums, the High Altitude Airship flies without a pilot and can soar literally out of sight - so high it can't be seen by the naked eye.

``The prototype is expected to fly in 2006,'' says Cary Dell, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Corp., the ship's builder. ``And, yes, it will be large.''

Five hundred feet long and 150 feet wide, the craft is more than twice the size of the 200- foot-long Winstar Airship, the largest blimp in the air today. At 5.2 million cubic feet, it will be 25 times larger in volume than the Goodyear blimps.

Cool.

Militarily it may have a number of uses, but for intelligence gathering, it may be without peer as a platform:

The military has big plans for the high-flying blimp, one reason officials expect it to see extensive funding. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency awarded a $40 million contract to Lockheed Martin to design and test the prototype.

The craft could be used as a surveillance platform over hostile territory, although its size and sluggishness - a top speed of 80 mph - might make it seem a vulnerable target. But parked 12 miles up, about 65,000 feet, the blimp would be ``immune to most ground-launched missiles,'' according to Lockheed Martin.

Onboard sensors will be able to detect missiles for 350 miles in any direction, allowing it to identify incoming threats. A fleet of 10 could provide an early-warning curtain for the continental United States, say officials with the Missile Defense Agency.

A squadron of airships would provide ``overlapping radar coverage of all maritime and southern border approaches to the continental United States,'' according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

A big advantage of the blimp over unmanned aerial vehicles is its ability to linger over an area for days, weeks or months. This makes it a valuable option to expensive orbiting spy satellites, which must take pictures of a target or region as they pass overhead.

``The whole point of the thing is it's superior to satellites for some applications,'' says John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Virginia- based nonprofit group that focuses on defense and security issues. ``The advantage is you can have persistent surveillance with it over a certain area. Surveillance satellites, on the other hand, spend most of their time in the wrong place.''

One can only imagine the possibilities of a platform that can linger in a hostile area for months might mean in the war on terror.

Posted by McQ at 03:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Thanks for Kosovo ... Now Buzz Off!

Seems now that the US has helped NATO redefine itself and its relevance in the world, not to mention doing the lion's share of the heavy lifting in the Balkans that NATO is less that grateful:

NATO will only consider a wider role in Iraq if a string of conditions are met including a U.S. handover to a "credible" government in Baghdad, Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Monday.

Does everyone remember when Europe and NATO were whining about how Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo would be the flame that would turn into a conflagration in Europe, etc., etc? How the US managed to help a hapless Europe in the Balkans and how it helped a DEFENSIVE treaty organization redefine itself into one who took on a larger worldwide role?

Yeah, well apparently that "worldwide" role doesn't include Iraq, you see. Well, unless "certain conditions" are met.

Wonder what these a**holes would have said had we had the same attitude with they were so concerned about Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia?

Chances that NATO will ever go to Iraq? Well you read it and tell me:

"If there is a sovereign, legitimate Iraqi government with full powers after June 30, and that government would direct a request to NATO, and if that request would be made on the basis of a new (U.N.) Security Council resolution, giving a specific mandate to a stabilization force, then I think NATO allies could enter in that discussion," he said.

"But I say sovereign, legitimate and credible Iraqi government and a new U.N. Security Council resolution. Those are the all-important yardsticks," he added. Anti-war allies France and Germany have led opposition to a NATO role in stabilizing Iraq despite U.S. calls for help.

BTW, NATO .... what was the UN resolution which authorized YOU to intervene in the Balkans?

Oh yeah ... there wasn't one, was there?

Posted by McQ at 03:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

But other than that ....

Where do we get boobs like this. Ted Rall, in his usual uninformed noxiousness, thinks he's on to something by using an anecdotal example from a friend of his as to how lame our 'air defenses' are (all leading to the inevitable "9/11 was George Bush's fault" conclusion:

On a flight from Bishkek to Tehran on dilapidated Kyrgyzstan Airlines a few years ago, the pilot announced that the landing gear on my friend's Tupolev 154 wouldn't deploy. Tehran refused permission to crash-land the Soviet-era plane at its newly renovated airport. Five minutes later, my pal recalls, fighter jets appeared on each side of the crippled plane to escort it out of Iranian airspace. (It landed safely back in Bishkek.) Why didn't we respond to our crisis in the air on 9/11 with the same efficiency as Iran, a third world country hobbled by international trade sanctions?

Well let's see, Ted.

First, they knew the disabled plane was coming since he had ANNOUNCED it.

Second, they, like us probably had aircraft on strip alert and had them head out to intercept the aircraft and escort it out of Iranian airspace. We could have done that too had the highjackers been so kind as to announce their intentions in advance. But more importantly, we'd NEVER intercepted a highjacked plane in the past since they had never been used as a suicide bomb.

Third, Iran is the size of ALASKA.

Fourth its a theocratic dictatorship which tightly controls entrance and egress from its country.

And fifth, it has about as many fights a day as a state in the US, not the UNITED STATES as a whole.

But other than that, you nimrod, you make an excellent point.

Posted by McQ at 01:44 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The draft and politics

Perusing a Richard Reeves column I came upon the quote of Sen. Chuck Hagel concerning the draft:

"There is not an American who doesn't understand what we are engaged in and what the prospects are for the future. ... Those who are serving today and dying today are the children of the middle and lower middle class. Why shouldn't we ask all of our citizens to bear some responsibility and pay some price?"

Well, sir, to answer your question, why not have your son or daughter enlist if this is such a concern to you. My guess is you wouldn't dream of that. How about your grand children, if you have any? Take them down and sign them up.

Yeah, right ... like Ted Kennedy who'll bus your children from one side of Boston to another in the name of fairness and equality, but would never, ever see one of HIS children in a public school to save his life.

Spare me the rhetoric Senator and open your eyes.

For years and years and years, this has been the lament of the egalitarian elite. They begin with the assumption somehow "serving" in the miltary is a) a distasteful "duty' and b) in the name of equality and fairness, a 'duty' which should be shared.

Of course it isn't a "distasteful duty". As with many things we all do, it has some times which are better than other, but it is a PROUD duty. Yes its dangerous, but then so is police work. But we don't hear anyone crying about most policemen and women coming from the lower and middle class or about "sharing" that duty.

Granted, the military has provided a "way out" for many from the so-called lower class. I can't tell you how many kids from poverty joined the army and made it a career and BENEFITED from it tremendously. Had families, raised them, earned a good living and were young enough when they retired to start a second career. And most of them were successes in them as well.

Because the military taught them how to succeed through training and hard work.

Now Hagel is concerned that we're not "sharing" this "duty" in an egalitarian manner.

This is a liberal canard of the worst stripe.

Militiaries don't exist to be social experiments. At least they shouldn't exist for such a purpose.

They exist to defend the country. And they should be staffed by the best of those that WANT to be there.

Anyone, such as myself, who served in both a draft military and a volunteer military will tell you, you don't want ANY PART of a draft military if you can help it.

To be crude about it: It SUCKS.

So why this call for the draft? Any idea of the REAL reason its again raising its ugly head?

Well I think Reeves gives us a good hint as to the left's thinking as to why a draft would be a "good thing" right now. The cover is Hagel's "were fighting a 25 year war on terrorism and "it cannot possibly meet with today's all-volunteer military".

Because of that, and the "fairness" issue, we must consider the draft.

Sorry .... it doesn't make sense unless we think we have to take out every country that even hints of having ties to terror. I don't think anyone in their right mind believes that to be true or that it is the strategy we've embarked upon. The draft proponents are applying cold war thinking to a religious extremist insurgency. I think we'll find Iraq to be an exception and not the rule. I think the war on terror is going to be fought with special operators and special forces troops ... and believe me, you don't DRAFT them.

The real reason ... back to Reeves:

Why not indeed? Ending the draft was Richard Nixon's biggest dirty trick. He managed to pull it off in 1973 as a way to stop student demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. It worked; most students went back to studying after they did not have to face the risk of being sent out to die for the mistakes of their elders.

One result of all that was to give the White House the opportunity to plan wars in secret and execute them without the consent of the governed. War has become a spectator sport for most of us. To be more specific: If there had been a draft, we would not be in Iraq, because President Bush and his gang would have had to persuade the Congress and country that we were in grave danger from the inhabitants of that particular rats' nest.

Now translate that.

If we have the draft, then we have upset college students. If we have upset college students, we have anti-war protests (ala Vietnam). If we have huge anti-war protests, then we can control these "secretly planned and executed wars" guys like Bush are prone to get us into "without the consent of the governed" (never mind the fact that the representatives of the governed voted overwhelmingly to give Bush the OK to use force against Iraq).

Of course with an all-volunteer force, they go and do what they're told. No protests. Little grumbling. They are pros.

With a draft army, they'd be more prone to protest those things they didn't like. Lots of grumbling and whining. And guys like Reeves would be more than happy to help them out in their endeavors with a column or two.

IOW, this moonbat would like to see conditions like we saw during the Vietnam conflict recreated by the draft in the here and now.

Its not about egalitarian ideals. Its not about fairness.

Its about politics ... and how to hurt your political enemies. Who cares if it would snatch kids out of private life and put them in a uniform they don't want? So what if it would seriously degrade morale, efficiency and the power of our military.

There's only one question to be answered: Would it hurt George Bush?

Posted by McQ at 01:21 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Kerry needs to keep up

Kerry blasts Bush on trade:

A report released Monday by the Kerry campaign says Bush has presided over a "dramatic deterioration in our trade position," according to a summary.

"Year after year, he has consistently failed to represent U.S. interests in the global economy," the summary says.

With China, for example, the report says the administration has taken limited action on software piracy from China and the country's unfair trade policies for cotton, poultry, soybeans, wheat and high-tech products. It also says Bush has not provided relief to American workers and companies hurt by increased imports from China.

Wait a minute didn't I just read [shuffle, shuffle, unfold], yeah .... that's what I thought:

In the agreement, China agreed to allow US firms to distribute their goods to Chinese stores without going through state-run enterprises. It also promised to launch a new crackdown on copyright pirates, who cost the US industry in CDs, movies, and software more than $2 billion a year. (China is the world's largest copyright scofflaw.)

China also will reduce more barriers to food exports while US express-delivery firms will have more freedom to operate in China. And US exporters of computers and mobile phones won't face a potential trade barrier that China had proposed for June 1.

All this is a blow to protectionists who prefer to limit China's imports rather than further opening the huge Chinese market to competitive US exports. Last fall, Beijing promised to "basically balance" trade with the US - the trade deficit with China hit a record $124 billion last year - and step by step it's making its companies more vulnerable to market forces.

You don't suppose the "gang who couldn't shoot straight" missed this do you?

Posted by McQ at 11:24 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Would you take Fallujah already and quit screwing around?

Maybe its just me, but the time for negotiating has passed and the cease fire is a joke .... so can we get on with this?

U.S. Marines patrolling a section of northwest Fallujah on Monday engaged in a raging firefight with insurgents that left 10 Marines injured, four of them seriously, according to Marines on site.

...

A Marine commander said he believed his forces were vastly outnumbered and credited them with fighting "like lions" in confronting their attackers.

I can't imagine Marines fighting any other way.

A note to those concerned about the 'vastly outnumbered' statement. There's "vastly outnumbered" and then there's vastly outnumbered. Think of the first as you standing alone on a plain with 2,000 (name the foe of your choice) charging at you while you're armed with a stick.

Yikes ...

Now imagine you on a bluff, dug in with a machine gun, a flight of F-15 Strike Eagles and a Spectre gun ship orbiting above, Apache helicopters hovering to your left and a battalion of 155 howitzers (not to mention mortars, etc) at your beck and call.

That's how "vastly outnumbered" the Marines were. All the above are what are known as "combat multipliers" and they even out the rough numbers very quickly.

But I digress.

"We will continue to talk and continue the political process as it starts to bear fruit and as it bears fruit," Kimmitt said.

But he also leveled a warning.

"If we don't start seeing delivery (of weapons), we will cease the discussions and start other options," said Kimmitt, referring to the offensive by U.S. Marines that was halted for the discussions.

"As long as there is promise and demonstrated performance and delivery on the part of the side in Fallujah, I think we are going to show some combat patience and see if we can deliver this through a political track," Kimmitt said.

Yeah, well I don't see it. Haven't we always acknowledged "you can't negotiate with people who are willing to blow themselves up?"

So why in the WORLD are we trying to do so?

All this allows the insurgents to do is fortify and organize. What that means, quite simply, is the lives of Marines.

We've also said that before we attack we'll allow families to leave. Gee, why don't we just send them an announcement with the time and date of the attack?

Look, I don't want to sit here and second guess military commanders on the ground, but this is just basic rules of war stuff. Why not say anyone who wants out needs to be out by a certain date (like 3 days from now), and if the negotiations bear fruit, we'll be glad to let you back in .... but if you stay you do so of your own choice and the results of such a choice are your responsiblity.

Posted by McQ at 09:44 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

A 33 year old lie?

The leader of the "gang who couldn't shoot straight" is at it again.

Contradicting his statements as a candidate for president, Sen. John Kerry claimed in a 1971 television interview that he threw away as many as nine of his combat medals to protest the war in Vietnam.

"I gave back, I can't remember, six, seven, eight, nine medals," Kerry said in an interview on a Washington, D.C., news program on WRC-TV called Viewpoints on Nov. 6, 1971, according to a tape obtained by ABCNEWS.

Of course this is a direct contradition of Kerry's claims during the campaign that he didn't throw his medals away.

Calling it a "phony controversy" instigated by the Republican party, Kerry said on Good Morning America today that he has always accurately said what took place. "I threw my ribbons. I didn't have my medals. It is very simple."

He also said he — and the military — didn't make a distinction between medals and ribbons. "We threw away the symbols of what our country gave us for what we had gone through," he said.

Kerry is saying he believes medals and ribbons to be the same thing. This is a way trying to change the story by pretending he can use the words (ribbon and medal) interchangably. That's nonsense. Words mean things and medals are a specific item as are ribbons (not to mention the fact that part of a medal is comprised of a ribbon whereas a ribbon only represents the medal).

In his VIEWPOINTS interview [see above] Kerry said he had thrown his MEDALS away. He used that specific word. Additionally he said:

But Kerry told a much different story on Viewpoints. Asked about the anti-war veterans who threw their medals away, Kerry said "they decided to give them back to their country."

Kerry was asked if he gave back the Bronze Star, Silver Star and three Purple Hearts he was awarded for combat duty as a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam. "Well, and above that, [I] gave back the others," he said.

Now being fairly conversant in the English language, I understand, by those admissions that:

A)Kerry knew the difference between medals and ribbons but has now decided there is no difference.

B)Kerry 'gave back', a euphemism for tossing over the White Hous fence, "six, seven, eight, nine medals". His word for what he did ... "medals"

Ok, fine.

But now he wants to pretend he never said all of that:

The statement directly contradicts Kerry's most recent claims on the disputed subject to the Los Angeles Times last Friday. "I never ever implied that I did it, " Kerry told the newspaper, responding to the question of whether he threw away his medals in protest.

"I'm proud of my medals. I always was proud of them," he told Jennings in December, adding that he had only thrown away his "ribbons" and the medals of two other veterans who could not attend the protest.

Uh, yes, Mr. Kerry, you did indeed imply that you "did it". In fact you SAID you did it.

But, taking your assumption, if the ribbons are, in yours and the military's eyes, indistiguishable one from the other, then you did indeed throw them away ... which hardly speaks of "pride" in those medals.

In fact, speaking of the Nixon administration in days of yore, you were quite specific as to what you'd done:

Many veterans were seen throwing their medals and ribbons over the fence in front of the U.S. Capitol. The Boston Globe and other newspapers reported that Kerry was among these veterans.

"In a real sense, this administration forced us to return our medals because beyond the perversion of the war, these leaders themselves denied us the integrity those symbols supposedly gave our lives," Kerry said the following day.

So again you mention throwing your medals back (whether 'ribbons' or the actual medal").

Why do I even bother to bring this up? Its simply another arrogant dismissal by Kerry in the face of overwhelming evidence. And that dismissal (or new version of events) which makes one of the versions a "LIE".

Yes, the "L" word.

When there is audio and video evidence of someone saying something and they're confronted with it, dismissing it as not true makes them either a liar now or a liar then. It really doesn't matter which episode is true, the fact is the person lied in one of them.

Kerry says its "very simple". I agree.

Simply tell us which of the interviews contained the lie.

Posted by McQ at 09:16 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Privacy and the dead

A letter to the Editor in the New York Times has been brought to my attention. The writer makes an important point...

You are missing the point in the Pentagon's policy of not allowing news photographers at Dover Air Force Base ("The Real War," editorial, April 23).

Dover is the East Coast receiving center for the military's mortuary affairs office. Your paper doesn't station photographers at a morgue in New York when it receives bodies. Why would you treat the remains of these service members or the feelings of their families differently?

If your paper wants to "bear witness to the sacrifice" of these service members, attend the services for each one of them. While you're attending the funeral, ask the mother if she'd mind if you got some pictures of the coffin. Then you might understand why the policy exists.

Photographs of flag-draped coffins, "reverent" or not, are an invasion of the family's privacy and should be taken only with its permission.

DAN EDWARDS
Leesburg, Ga., April 23, 2004
The writer is a staff sergeant, United States Marine Corps.

I agree with this, but I have to ask one question: if the military subscribes to this view, why were they taking photographs of the coffins? Clearly, they were, else they wouldn't have been able to release them.

One might draw a distinction between taking pictures for media distribution and taking them for other purposes, but I think it's worth asking for what purposes the military took their pictures.

UPDATE: Read this WSJ editorial (registration required) written by a father who lost his son. Key graf....

If it is truly the intention of those who support the lifting of the ban to honor these gallant individuals while giving the American public the opportunity to grieve with them -- and if it is truly the intention to bear witness to sacrifice and view at first hand the cost of this war -- then let them visit the
families of those who freely chose to join the military family. Let them visit the grave sites, let them journey to Fort Bragg or Fort Campbell or Fort Hood and speak to those who have returned or who might soon be joining the fight.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Plus, we've already paid a month's rent on the battlefield

Two blog posts are mingling in my head this morning. While each, on its own, makes a good point...I think the most important point is best made by the two, together.

Billy Beck writes...

This man has a grip on the essence of the thing.

"Politics is war by other means."

Fair enough. I agree, too, but now isn't the time to get into the fundamental nature of force, and the reason governments actually came into existence: to ameliorate and/or focus force.

To his point, though. If politics is, indeed, "war by other means", then does that not make non-participants essentially pacifists, unwilling to participate in the war to any meaningful degree? And is there truly any honor in that?

If the philosophy of pacifism, when it comes to war, is a "knowing enabler of evil"- "good men doing nothing writ large" - then on what principle is political pacifism substantially better?

The second blog post expands on this a bit....

I've given up on big-L Libertarianism. The people of this country have had 30 years to get to know the Libertarians, and the results have been about the same as the pimply-faced Chess Club geek asking the Homecoming Queen out for an evening of Dungeons and Dragons.

Doctrinaire Libertarians can keep slamming their foreheads against the wall if they like. Me, I choose -- like the much more successful Green Party -- to pick up allies on an issue-by-issue basis. And -- unlike the Greens -- to always have an eye on liberty and victory.

Distasteful? Oftentimes, yes. Successful? Sometimes. Which is about as often as anyone can hope for success in politics.

Philosophically, one might call that approach "utilitarian libertarianism". Politically, I call it - and my own approach - "Hobbesian libertarian". As Thomas Hobbes wrote "During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man."

I would argue that the presence of a government does not eliminate that condition called "war". It simply focuses the powers fighting that war into different (hopefully, more civilized, less brutal) means.

So, what is the utility - or even principle - on which one can justify non-participation in the political system? Frankly, if one rejects pacifism as a moral philosophy, I have trouble seeing how one can bring it back to life as a political philosophy.

UPDATE: Parked at the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Holla!

(Via Pandagon) It's a bit unfair to portray Republicans as stereotypically unhip, old and white. (granted, many are - but so is John Kerry, so....) However, the GOP doesn't do themselves any favors with this essay contest.

Title: "Stand Up and Holla!".

Topic: "Why is the President's call to community service important
and how have you demonstrated it?"

Lame: Yes.

Look, if you want to make kids think you're not just a bunch of uncool, old white guys....it helps if you don't scream "hey, look at the uncool, old white guy!"

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:09 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 25, 2004

Race and double standards

This bout of point-missing has been going on for too long. Referencing the similar Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley cases of journalistic fraud, Leonard Pitts writes...

When a white person screws up, it ignites a debate on the screw up. When a black person screws up, it ignites a debate on race.
I've been reading this statement in various forms for quite some time, and the shallowness of the logic astounds me. Let me restate the question he's asking: since race was discussed in regards to the Jayson Blair scandal, shouldn't race be discussed in regards to the Jack Kelley scandal?

Ok, fair enough, let's discuss: Did race have something to do with the Jayson Blair scandal? Well, yes. But don't take my word for it. Here is Howell Raines...

"Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter," Mr. Raines said. "I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities."

"Does that mean I personally favored Jayson?" he added, a moment later. "Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes."

Ok, so it's fair to say that race played a part in the promotion of Blair to a position for which he was unready. What about Jack Kelley? Did race have something to do with the Kelley scandal?

Uh. .... Anything?

Nope. At least, not so far as we know. If something comes up, I'm sure we'll hear all about it, but the fact is that race DID play a part in Blair's ascension, while we don't have any reason to believe it played a part in the career of Jack Kelley.

Conflating the two, as Pitts does, is akin to asking why we discuss the state of Scott Peterson's marriage in his trial, but we don't discuss the state of Marth Stewarts marriage in her trial. Well, brain surgeons, it might have a bit to do with relevance. Show me the relevance of Jack Kelley's race to his scandal, and we'll discuss it. Otherwise, why bring it up?

Oh. Right. Race-pimping. Kevin Drum makes the same error, when he writes...

Don't the folks who loudly insisted that affirmative action was to blame for Jayson Blair's transgressions owe us an explantion for their relative silence about the far worse journalistic fabrications of Jack Kelley? Has it given them any second thoughts at all?
I suspect the relative silence has a lot more to do with the fact that...well, jeez, it's USA Today. And it's the second story. We find WMDs in Iraq...that would be a HUGE story. We find a second set? That would be much less of a story. Bloggers have largely had their say on the topic. What's left to say? "Uh...that Jack Kelley guy sucks, too."

Most of all, in light of Pitts statement that "When a white person screws up, it ignites a debate on the screw up. When a black person screws up, it ignites a debate on race", I have to point to this story about a white writer, fired after making a racially charged comment in his column....

The newspaper's editor fired him after he wrote: "I think blacks should be more careful in deciding whom they choose to support. They need to grow beyond the automatic reaction of defending someone because he or she shares the same skin color and is in a dilemma."
....
A similar article, written just two days earlier by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts drew no such outrage. Pitts, who is black, wrote: "Blacks ought to be more thoughtful about whom they choose to rally around, ought to be less automatic in leaping to the defense."
Um. So, tell me again Mr Pitts, about how white people skate on race issues.

UPDATE: Sebastian Holsclaw adds more along these lines at the very good group blog Obsidian Wings.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Send the bill to Vincente

There are arguments in favor of more open immigration. There are arguments in favor of a generous welfare state. Combining the two, however, leads to problems that nobody seems willing to resolve.

Well, almost nobody...

A county commissioner in Idaho has billed the Mexican government more than $2 million for services provided to illegal immigrants. Robert Vasquez mailed the bill to the closest Mexican consulate, in Salt Lake City. He claims Canyon County is owed more than $1.4 million for the costs of jailing illegal immigrants over past two years, and more than $575,000 for providing medical care during that time.

"By federal law, we're required to provide them services," Vasquez said Wednesday. "So I thought ... then perhaps we ought to bill the nation of origin."
Granted, he pissing into the wind. But if you're going to waste paper, that's a pretty good way to waste it.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The FCC and Fidel

Oh good lord.

Ah, the good old FCC, proving its uselessness one more time.
A radio station that crank-called Cuban President Fidel Castro and broadcast the recording should be fined $4,000, the Federal Communications Commission said.
...
The hosts of the show on WXDJ-FM, Joe Ferrero and Enrique Santos, fed pleasantries to Castro before breaking in and calling him an assassin. The conversation ended after Castro denounced the callers with a stream of vulgarities.

The FCC concluded Friday that the station should be fined for the broadcast. It rejected the station's claim that a rule requiring people to be notified before their voices are used does not apply to people in Cuba.

Howard Stern wants to talk about tits? Unconscionable! But they'll bend over backwards to make sure that El Presidente doesn't have his rights violated, rights that he happens to deny the Cuban people.

Your government at work, ladies and gentlemen.

Pull yourselves together, guys. The FCC does a lot of stupid things, but this isn't one of them. This incident has nothing to do with Howard Stern, decency or "community standards". It has everything to do with this FCC rule...
Pursuant to this rule, before recording a telephone conversation for broadcast, or broadcasting such a conversation simultaneously with its occurrence, a licensee shall inform any party to the call of the licensee's intention to broadcast the conversation, except where such party is aware, or may be presumed to be aware from the circumstances of the conversation that it is being or likely will be broadcast. Such awareness is presumed to exist only when the other party to the call is associated with the station (such as an employee or part-time reporter), or where the other party originates the call and it is obvious that it is in connection with a program in which the station customarily broadcasts telephone conversations.
In other words, you can tape and broadcast incoming calls without expressed permission, but not outgoing calls.

This is a rule that every radio air talent knows. If they don't, they have no business being in a studio.

So, is the FCC wrong to enforce this? Of course not. The rule contains no exception for "assholes and dictators".

Is the rule itself wrong? I doubt it. Even the most adamant of libertarians would probably agree that such a misuse - or perhaps, unannounced use for commercial purposes - of a private conversation constitutes fraud.

Sure, it's funny that it happened to Fidel Castro. The guy deserves all the abuse he can get. But we still operate under the rule of law, and we can't simply dismiss that because it helps us laugh at a tyrant.

UPDATE: Lee at Right-Thinking has responded, but I think he's missing the point I made.

My main complaint was that the FCC is even regulating this at all. They are a largely useless organization, and could probably be completely eliminated, with their essential functions being delegated to other government agencies.
...
The FCC might serve some core regulatory functions, but overall it is a bloated, intrusive, constrictive organization that needs to be severely curtailed, if not eliminated entirely.
On this, we do not necessarily disagree. Frankly, due to the omnipresent nature of of radio signals, there may be "common property" issues as we recognize with air and water. However, the FCC, as it exists, engages in more protectionism than regulatory oversight. It is, as Lee writes, a "largely useless organization".

However, it's here where Lee misses the point....

I think what happened to the Florida DJs, while legal, is an affront to the libertarian ideal of limited government, much like my opinion of the treatment Howard Stern is currently receiving. We don't need the FCC regulating content in this manner. Every single radio sold in this country has a unique feature which enables listeners to instantly voice their opinion as to what they are hearing: it's called an on/off button. It is not our government's job to prevent Howard Stern from telling fart and boobie jokes, and it is sure not it's job to protect the integrity of Fidel Castro.
The FCC fine, in this case, is not analogous to the Howard Stern fines. It is not a restriction on "content", per se, so much as a restriction on already illegal behaviour.

What Stern did - a "violation" of the FCC's almost criminally undefined "community standards" rule - was not a violation of law. It was simply a matter of subjective moral interpretation - and, as it happens, it was on the far side of the FCCs interpretation. As a libertarian, I have a problem with a government agency enforcing subjective morality.

The Florida DJ's, on the other hand, did not violate a "community standard". It was not a "content" issue. (as "content" is defined in radio) What they did is a "fraud" issue. They recorded a private conversation....and they broadcast it without the expressed consent of the second party. That is not just a violation of FCC rules - it's a violation of Florida law.

"So", you might ask, "why shouldn't Florida enforce it, rather than the FCC?" Well, a couple reasons. For one, it's an interstate issue. (or, in this case, international) For another, rules vary state-by-state about the legality of recording phone conversations. The FCC simplifies this into one rule for the purpose of taped-for-broadcast issues. Otherwise, a dj could call you, hold a private conversation without disclosing his identity, then put you on the air and publicly embarrass you. That would be analogous to covertly bringing a camera into a persons home, then broadcasting the results of your visit...all without asking the permission of the person who invited you into their home.

Even a libertarian would likely agree this is an invasion of privacy.

Now, Lee may argue that the same function could be accomplished without the FCC. Perhaps so, perhaps so. But that makes the FCC extraneous. It doesn't make this particular ruling wrong. Violating a persons privacy is illegal, even if that person is a contemptable dictator.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2004

Quick Hits

* Bill at INDCJournal takes in a John Kerry event, where he heard this...

* (Chants) "Pro-choice! Pro-Kerry! Pro-choice! Pro-Kerry! Pro-choice! Pro-Kerry! (chant stops, pauses) God I wish McCain would have run ..."
I think both Parties have been saying that a lot, lately.

* Ranting Prof discusses military photographers, which have been around for a long time and asks....

Can we now finally put to rest the canard that the Pentagon filmed the rescue of Jessica Lynch for some kind of nefarious propaganda purposes? It was just not that unusual to have that mission filmed. And plenty of the people who implied otherwise damn well knew better.
Sort of like the idea that the Bush administration - an administration which propogated and encouraged the idea of "embedded reporters" - is trying to "sanitize the war" by disallowing pictures while coffins are in transit.

* Bill Hobbs....

Tillman is not a hero because of how he died. He's a hero because of how he lived, putting honor and duty and country above wealth, fame and comfort.

* Seems like everybody and their blogger are a part of some "Blog League" or other. When does the "Virginia/Georgia" blog League start up? It's gonna be awhile, isn't it?

* Dana...

You know a man loves you when he takes both kids with him to the store to buy you Monistat, so you don't have to make the drive.
..or maybe he just likes the kids? You think of that? Huh?

Or is it a bad idea to disabuse a pregnant woman of her romantic notions?

* Sick. NOW can we question their patriotism?

* Belgravia Dispatch...

"Baathists in name only" can now rejoin the Iraqi government payroll.

Smart, (if belated) move.

I agree. In a country full of people who were just going along to get along, it's probably necessary to excuse some of the people who were just going along. Some of them, anyway.

* Pejman...

After reading this post, it's hard to see how Maureen Dowd's reputation can sink any lower. I'm sure, however, that her penchant for inaccuracy and blatant dishonesty will indeed help her strike another more grievous blow against the cause of responsible journalism quite soon.
Hey, when you're on a roll...

But give Dowd credit. Very few people can turn 3rd-grade insights, 7th-grade wordplay and good spelling into a column in the New York Times. I can only guess at the pictures she must have of Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pat Tillman

Not much else to say today, but the death of Pat Tillman really touched me this weekend, so I want to add a couple thoughts.

The next time you hear a kid say that (sports star X) is his hero, tell them the story of Pat Tillman. It's important.

I support this idea wholeheartedly. Pat Tillman Stadium. Tillman Stadium. It has a nice ring to it....and, perhaps, a meaningful echo.

But most of all, where do we get such men?

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 23, 2004

You'd think they could get this right...

Under the heading of "well here's a surprise":

Vietnam combat records posted on John F. Kerry's campaign website for the month of January 1969 as evidence of his service aboard swift boat No. 94 describe action that occurred before Kerry was skipper of that craft, according to the officer who said he commanded the boat at the time.

You've GOT to be kidding. How in the WORLD do you let something this wrong get published as 'your' record?

On the site, the Massachusetts senator is described as the skipper of Navy boat No. 94 during several actions in late January 1969.

However, Edward Peck, who was the skipper of the 94 before Kerry took over, said combat reports posted by the campaign for January 1969 involve action when he was the skipper, not Kerry. Peck, who was seriously wounded in fighting that took place on Jan. 29, 1969, said he believes Kerry campaign aides made a mistake in claiming Kerry as skipper of the 94 at that time.

On the Kerry website, the report of the combat on that day on the 94 boat is posted as occurring during Kerry's time as skipper of the boat. Peck said Kerry replaced him after the Jan. 29, 1969, event.

"Those are definitely mine," Peck said, referring to the combat reports that the Kerry campaign posted as representing Kerry's action. "There is no doubt about it."

So NO ONE on the campaign staff vetted this material with Kerry? This is freakin' ABSURD. Its AMATEUR hour. And that's assuming the BEST about this.

A Kerry campaign spokesman, Michael Meehan, said in an e-mail that the campaign had obtained the combat reports for the 94 from the Navy. He did not directly address the question of why the campaign describes Kerry being skipper of the 94 at a time when Peck says he commanded the boat.

The reports at issue are in a 20-page batch representing Kerry's combat in January 1969. The reports include references to some dramatic action, including an ambush of Patrol Craft Fast, or PCF, 94. In addition to posting the information online, the campaign sent out an e-mail yesterday afternoon repeating the claim that Kerry was the skipper of the 94 boat throughout January and describing action the campaign said Kerry experienced while commanding the craft.

For example, in a summary of action that occurred Jan. 26, 1969, the campaign says Kerry served on boat No. 94 alongside another boat, No. 66. "PCFs 94 and 66 escorted troops up the Ong Doc River early in the morning when they were ambushed by gun and rocket fire from approximately 40 men on both sides of the river," the campaign summary says. "Two B-40 rounds hit close to Kerry's boat, while PCF 66 received 2 B-40 rocket hits. Three men on PCF66 were wounded. A junk containing South Vietnamese troops was also sunk, killing 11 South Vietnamese troops. Intelligence reports after the mission indicated that the Viet Cong troops may have planned the ambush in advance."

Peck said he was the skipper of the 94 at this time and that Kerry was not on the craft. While combat reports show several boats traveling with the 94, the campaign website says only that Kerry was the skipper of the 94 and does not try to place him on the other boats.

In another report, the campaign summarizes action that took place on Jan. 29, 1969, this way: "While Kerry's boat and another [PCF72] were probing a canal along the river, Kerry's boat came under heavy fire and was hit by a B-40 rocket in the cabin area. One member of Kerry's crew -- Forward Gunner David Alston -- suffered shrapnel wounds in his head. His injuries were not considered serious and he was sent to the 29th Evac Hospital at Binh Thuy."

Peck said he was the skipper on this day as well. Peck was also injured in the ambush and was hospitalized.

But it was listed as action Kerry was involved in? Look, folks, as important as this has become, I find it very difficult to believe a competent staff would be a party to such a gaffe. Maybe that's the problem ... competence.

How freakin' hard is it to check this stuff out before running it out on a website?

Not very. Yet here the boobs are claiming action for Kerry that Kerry never participated in.

Kerry's commanding officer, George Elliott, said in a telephone interview that he vividly recalls Peck's injury and hospitalization and Kerry's replacement of Peck. "I think somebody made a mistake who doesn't know" the timing of Kerry's service, Elliott said. Kerry was skipper of boat No. 44 in December and January before taking over command of the 94, he said.

The man who would be king can't even put out his correct service record? They seem more and more like "The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight".

Amazing.


Posted by McQ at 11:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

How do you define "hero"?

How do you define "hero"?

Former NFL player Pat Tillman was killed Thursday while serving as an Army Rangers soldier on a mission in southeastern Afghanistan, Pentagon officials have told CNN. He was 27.

....

Tillman was a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, a light infantry unit out of Fort Benning, Ga. The White House put out a statement of sympathy that praised Tillman as "an inspiration both on an off the football field."

...

"Pat knew his purpose in life," McGinnis said. "He proudly walked away from a career in football to a greater calling."

Several of Tillman's friends have said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks influenced his decision to enlist.

"Patriotism is not a song in the street and a wreath on a column and a flag flying from a window.... It is a thing very holy and and can be very terrible, like life itself. It is a burden to be borne, a thing to labor for and perhaps suffer for and even to die for; a thing which gives no happiness and no pleasantness - but a hard life and an unknown grave, and the respect and bowed head of those that follow." - John Masefield

"In sports we have a tendency to overuse terms like courage and bravery and heroes," said Cardinals vice president Michael Bidwill, son of the team's owner Bill Bidwill, "and then someone like Pat Tillman comes along and reminds us what those terms really mean."

Rest in peace, Pat Tillman.

Rangers Lead The Way

Posted by McQ at 03:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hello? Bob Dole ... ever been a VP?

The website www.JohnKerryisadouchbagbutImvotingforhimanyway.com pretty well sums up the feelings a number of Dems I know have for the presumptive nominee.

The *sigh* "well if that's what we've got, then that's what we vote for" feeling.

Even Wonkette can't seem to summon up a ringing endorsement of the man, although she'd modify it at least a bit:

We'd go with something less intimate, but "John Kerry is a douche bag but I'm voting for him anyway" is about as close as we're going to get to an endorsement ourselves.

Even Bob Dole would add fire to this lot.

Posted by McQ at 03:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Onus to Succeed is on the Iraqis

Ralph Peters says we shouldn't be too discouraged about the fighting presently underway in Iraq, but there are some things we should be troubled about:

* We should be troubled that, in this bloody month, none of the insurgents waved an alternative constitution - unless we count their perversion of the Koran. None of those violent men is fighting for freedom - they're fighting to strangle liberty in the cradle. They are, without exception, forces of reaction, not liberation, no matter how madly al-Jazeera twists the facts.

* Nor did the general Arab population or its leaders take a public stand against those who would renew their oppression. And those who will not defend their own freedom do not deserve to be defended by others.

Ok ... so the guys we're fighting aren't 'freedom fighters'. I think we knew that from the beginning, so sorry Ralph, I'm not at all troubled by that.

However, I AM troubled by the second point. That is the most important point. IF the Iraqis won't stand up to those who would again enslave them, we can't really help them.

As Peters says:

With sufficient troops, we can force Iraq's Arabs to behave. But we can't force them to succeed.

The more I think about this transition scheduled for June 30th, the more I think it is the right thing to do. It is imperative that an IRAQI ministry of defense take charge of defense or an IRAQI ministry of security be the go-to entity for security problems. And that is true across the board ... the sooner, the better.

That doesn't mean we wash our hands of Iraq, pack up and go home. It means we still assist, but that the heavy lifting is done by an IRAQI government and IRAQI citizens, not coalition troops or government.

One can only hope, then, that when THEY have a vested interest in THIER government and its future that they'll stand up and say "that's ENOUGH!"

The questions remains, though, will they indeed do so? Or are they so battered and beaten down by their previous regime that they'll just passively let themselves become enslaved again?

June 30th will begin to give us those answers.

Posted by McQ at 09:23 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Fineman Theory

Howard Fineman trots out 9 reasons he thinks Bush will be elected. Some are debatable, such as the Woodward book and his "Tony & Trump" bit (although I don't think the Woodward book has hurt Bush much at all ... I think most of "fly-over" country see it as "old news"). And he's of the opinion that Fallujah and Najaf are actually helpful (echoing the Dick Morris point I posted about earlier this week). Then of course there are the 50 million in ads and the blatant partisanship of the 9/11 commission.

But I'd like to look at the three points I consider to be the most important:

The Economy. It is improving in most places in most ways. West Virginia is a good example. Bush won it in 2000 on the strength of protectionist promises made to steelworkers there. He has since dialed back on protection, and you would think that that presented a big opening to the Democrats there. But, for other reasons (voracious demand in China, mostly) the American steel industry is booming. There are other local and national trends out there. Some of that good news is getting out, which is why Bush’s numbers—still not great—are improving for handling the economy. And, as in Iraq, Kerry’s proposals aren’t radically different. He’s even in favor of keeping most of Bush’s tax cuts in place.

Face it ... the economy is hitting on all cylinders now. Barring disaster, its going to be even better when the election rolls around. The "miserable failure" is turning into anything BUT. However the power of this turn around must be exploited politically by the Bush team to mean anything in November. If they leave it to the media, my guess is the ratio of good economic news to "bad" economic news will run much more to the negative side than the positive. As in all politics, the side that frames the debate usually wins. And it doesn't hurt if most of America is working and has additional disposable income either.

Nader. I went to see him at a breakfast with reporters the other day, and expected to see a doddering fellow ready for the retirement home. Nothing could be further from the truth. Still sharp and energetic—and still possessed of his radar-like ability to hone in on the faults of the corporate/political establishment—Nader is a dagger pointed straight at the Kerry campaign. In the Washington Post poll, for example, he draws six points in a three-way match, compared with 48 for Bush and 44 for Kerry. Nader insists that he will draw equally from Democrats and Republicans; I don’t see it. And with Kerry taking a carefully modulated line on Iraq (made necessary by his $87 billion vote), Nader is free to be the Peace Candidate and the all-out anti Big Business candidate, too.

Nader may be the difference. Apparently, based on what I've been reading, his support remains strong (at least at the percentage he had in the last election) and in some cases, pollsters are reporting he may have picked up a percentage or so. Democrats, instead of trying to woo Nader and his supporters have turned hostile. That hostility may be enough to sink any possibility of a Kerry win.

Kerry, of course. John Kerry is durable, unflappable and determined. He works to be in the right place at the right time, and often is. He has no illusions about his own star power or charisma. He is a wooden campaigner, and his 20 years in the Senate have left him unable to see that bragging about legislative maneuvers is the last thing you want to do. Kerry explained to supporters recently that he’d voted for the $87 billion before he’d voted against it. In his mind, evidently, he was merely explaining (with a mordant sense of humor) how the Senate works. But now that line is the centerpiece of a BC04 attack ad. Kerry told financial supporters in New York the other week that his objective, for now, was to “preserve my acceptability.” That’s a pretty low standard—but one he won’t meet if that is his only goal. So far, his strategy has amounted mostly to: Vote for me, I’m not Bush. That’s not enough, especially if Kerry is seen by most voters the way the BC04 ad portrays him: as a flip-flopping manipulative insider.

Kerry will turn out to be his own worst enemy. As I've said repeatedly, he's peaked. Its not going to get any better, in fact, the more the country "gets to know" John Kerry, the less they're going to like him. "Acceptability", as Fineman points out, isn't enough. Its the Dole tactic all over again, and that was a disaster for the Republicans. In fact, on many levels, the Kerry candidacy is eerily similar to the Dole campaign.

Posted by McQ at 08:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Free Trade and China

Seems our trade negotiators have done some good in the area of free trade and China according to the Christian Science Monitor:

In the agreement, China agreed to allow US firms to distribute their goods to Chinese stores without going through state-run enterprises. It also promised to launch a new crackdown on copyright pirates, who cost the US industry in CDs, movies, and software more than $2 billion a year. (China is the world's largest copyright scofflaw.)

China also will reduce more barriers to food exports while US express-delivery firms will have more freedom to operate in China. And US exporters of computers and mobile phones won't face a potential trade barrier that China had proposed for June 1.

All this is a blow to protectionists who prefer to limit China's imports rather than further opening the huge Chinese market to competitive US exports. Last fall, Beijing promised to "basically balance" trade with the US - the trade deficit with China hit a record $124 billion last year - and step by step it's making its companies more vulnerable to market forces.

It still needs to loosen the reins on its overvalued currency, for its own sake in preventing inflation but also to raise prices on exports. And Beijing needs to show more follow-through in implementing trade deals.

This is good news for US companies and is a long overdue development in terms of balance of trade. Obviously, it remains to be seen if China will actually live up to the bargain. Regardless, politically, this is something the Bush administration can tout as a "win" for the US economy.

Posted by McQ at 08:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Selective application

The Daily Kos, yesterday....

"This is like allowing Nazis into the German government immediately after World War Two," said Chalabi, who heads a council committee purging the administration of the upper ranks of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

Someone needs to tell Chalabi about Godwin's Law.

Godwins Law, in part: "...whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress". Without getting into the (questionable) validity or applicability of Godwin's law, let's just point this out....

Daily Kos, Jan 9th, 2004...

...moveon sponsored ads comparing awol to hitler. (as we ourselves have often said, this is a totally invalid comparison. hitler could speak in public).
...
but we'd like to take issue with moveon, and with mr. boyd. in our humble opinion, while the hitler ads were in poor taste, and badly done, and rightly voted down, we don't think they were anything to apologize for.
I'm just sayin'.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:18 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The UN is no "magic wand"

What has the UN's involvement in past conflicts and countries brought us? That's essentially the question Alan Philips asks in his opinion piece in The Telegraph. His assessment is none to assuring.

In pre-war Iraq:

The UN would authorise sales of oil, and the money would be spent on imports of food and medicine. This humanitarian gesture has now been exposed as perhaps the biggest financial scam of all time.

Meanwhile in Africa:

It is worth examining the UN record. At the level of emergency aid, the UN keeps millions alive in Africa. The World Food Programme, a UN agency, is the largest humanitarian organisation on the planet. All over Africa, it is the UN that has the lorries, the planes, the 4x4s and the know-how to get food to the starving.

But, once again, the question has to be asked, where does all this effort and dedication lead? Ultimately, the effect is to prop up corrupt regimes and stifle economic reform. In gloomy moments, staff complain that they are just a sticking plaster on a patient who needs stronger medicine - political reform at home and a fairer economic system globally.

Instead of being the MEANS of FIXING the problem, they are simply the means of EXTENDING the problem.

Militarily? The UN is a complete disaster:

On the military level, there is not enough space on this page to detail all the failures of blue-helmet operations around the world. Starting with the Congo in the 1960s, they have been vessels of wishful thinking that have foundered on harsh diplomatic realities. In Rwanda, the UN force in place was actually reduced on the eve of the genocide 10 years ago. In Sierre Leone, a 17,000-strong multinational force collapsed in the face of some drunken gunmen, only to be rescued by a task force of 800 British soldiers who restored the situation. In Bosnia in 1995, the UN-enforced "safe haven" of Srebrenica turned into a death camp for 8,000 Bosnian Muslims. It was the worst massacre in Europe since 1945.

...

At best, the UN can freeze a conflict - as in Cyprus or between Israel and Syria, provided both sides agree. It can do old-fashioned nation-building - as happened in Cambodia - provided there is no significant armed opposition.

And their primary function? Diplomacy? The UN doesn't fare much better:

On the diplomatic front, the outlook is not much brighter. The hours spent by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, knocking heads together in Cyprus seem destined to end in failure.

So Philips then asks the salient question: "So why is everyone talking about the UN as the panacea for Iraq?"

The very same question that's been bothering me. His answer:

If we think this ship of fools will carry us to safety, we are wrong. The Spanish have blown apart the pretence that the world is just waiting to pour troops into Iraq if the operation is conducted under a UN flag. The new government in Madrid said it would wait to see if the UN was going to take over by June 30, but in fact has already started to pull its forces out. Nor is the rest of the world in any rush to send troops to Iraq. The fact that the UN headquarters in Baghdad was blown up by a suicide bomber shows that no foreign soldier - even in a blue helmet - is safe.

The UN special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, can help broker a political settlement. The UN Security Council can help legimitise it. But Iraq is too tough a problem for the UN to play a leading role on the ground. The US and Britain will have to deal with it. To place all our hopes in the UN is wishful thinking.

I have to agree. And John Kerry's claim that he'll involve the UN is nothing more than political rhetoric designed to placate and garner the vote from those who have disregarded the reality of past UN failure and still, for whatever reason, see it as a viable entity.

But as Philips points out, in the REAL world, there is only one REAL solution:

There is only one solid basis to work on: that the Iraqis can find common ground among themselves to restore their state and let the foreign troops depart in time. Everything that helps to that end is to be welcomed, but Annan has no magic wand.

That common ground has to be found when THEY stand up THEIR government on June 30. When the Iraqi army and security forces work for the IRAQI government and not some temporary and foreign coalition government. The UN, even if it WERE effective, can't make that happen.

Iraqis have to say 'enough' and take control of their country.

Posted by McQ at 08:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bringing out our dead

To be honest, I'm a bit mystified by the demand for pictures of coffins. Seems a bit morbid to me, and for no real purpose. After all, it's not like the media is prohibited from publicizing the names, data and circumstances for the deaths in Iraq. The Pentagon simply restricts photo's of coffins en route.

And besides, the administration can hardly be said to be "sanitizing the war" when they allowed, even encouraged, the practice of "embedded reporters".

However, I must bring up one point in response to the hysterical wags complaining about the "Bush administration suppression of photo's in an attempt to sanitize the war!". I would draw your attention to this....

The debate over privacy, secrecy, and the public's right to know has again flared up at the Pentagon - this time over a very sensitive subject: the photographing of soldiers' coffins as they are shipped home.

Under a policy adopted in 1991, the Pentagon bars news organizations from photographing caskets being returned to the United States, saying publication of such photos would be insensitive to bereaved families.[emphasis added]

The rule has been in effect for 13 years. So, can we quit pretending like this is a George W Bush tactic to "Suppress The Truth"?

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dignity in death

Roy and Georgette Frank lost their son, a marine, in Iraq. When asked if his life had been lost in a vain effort, Roy Franks responded:

"The only circumstance I could ever imagine where I could say that I believe my son died in vain is if the United States turned around from that country and did not complete the mission to free those people and to make that government independent."

This is the human side and human cost of any war. And when the worst happens, some families handle the loss with dignity, such as the Franks. But they understand the principles involved and support the right of other families to react differently. In fact they undestand that their right to do so was something their son defended:

"I can't fault those people," she said. "That's their opinion--that's what America is all about. That's what my son went to bring over there, so that somebody in Iraq could stand up and say, `I don't agree with the way you're doing this,' without ending up in a torture chamber or watching his daughter get raped.

"That's why my son was there. And what more could a parent ask? What more could I ask of my son than that he have that kind of ideal?"

Indeed.

Posted by McQ at 07:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

There's principle, and then there's life

From The Onion....

Libertarian Reluctantly Calls Fire Department

CHEYENNE, WY—After attempting to contain a living-room blaze started by a cigarette, card-carrying Libertarian Trent Jacobs reluctantly called the Cheyenne Fire Department Monday. "Although the community would do better to rely on an efficient, free-market fire-fighting service, the fact is that expensive, unnecessary public fire departments do exist," Jacobs said. "Also, my house was burning down." Jacobs did not offer to pay firefighters for their service.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Back to Poli-Sci class for John Kerry

In the future, it may be best to take any of John Kerry's pronoucements on political theory with a grain dose fairly large canister of salt. This is what he said about the Bush administration last summer....

“The Bush Administration agenda isn’t conservative Republicanism, and it’s not radical Republicanism—it’s extreme libertarianism.”
Whatever the Bush administration may be - and there are quite a lot of descriptive terms, most of them unflattering - it is not libertarian. It does not resemble libertarian, except in the sense that both the Bush administration officials and libertarians are carbon-based life-forms.

If that quote truly reflects John Kerry's opinion, then he either hasn't paid attention to the Bush administration, or he didn't pay attention in Political Science class.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 22, 2004

I guess Ralph Nader won't be on the ticket

John Kerry sets them up....

"I don't own an SUV," said Kerry, who supports increasing existing fuel economy standards to 36 miles per gallon by 2015 in order to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil supplies.
...
Kerry said he owns and drives a Dodge 600 and recently bought a Chrysler 300M.
...
Kerry said it's important for his family to buy American cars and pledged to keep car manufacturing jobs in the country if elected.
...
"I want cars to be made in Michigan, made in America, made" by the United Auto Workers, Kerry said.
...and I knock 'em down. Kerry (who, you remember, is a big advocate of fuel efficiency) says he recently bought a Chrysler 300M. Well....

- The Chrysler 300M gets an "EPA estimated mpg: 17 city/ 25 highway". That's SUV mileage.

- The Chrysler 300M is "made in Brampton, Ontario". Plant details can be found here. The 300M has been made there since 1998.

So, it's important to Kerry to buy cars "made in Michigan, made in America, made" by the United Auto Workers".....but he buys a car made in Canada, by Canadians.

Oh, and in that article, Kerry claims...

"I don't own an SUV," said Kerry, ...

Kerry thought for a second when asked whether his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, had a Suburban at their Ketchum, Idaho, home. ... "The family has it. I don't have it," he said.

Uh huh. Well, he didn't earn that 'flip-flop" reputation for nothing. Here's what John Kerry said when he talked to the Detroit News...
Q: What kind of vehicles does your family drive?

A: We have some SUVs. We have a Jeep. We have a couple of Chrysler minivans. We have a PT Cruiser up in Boston. I have an old Dodge 600 that I keep in the Senate. ... We also have a Chevy, a big Suburban.

Note that he claims multiple SUVs.

Hm. An automative discrepancy? It's minor stuff, to be sure, but it's exactly the sort of stupid minutiae politicians do lie about.

And catching them at it? Well, that is its own reward.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:14 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

I still question the Purple Hearts

Jon and I have a bit of a difference on the Kerry 'war hero' issue, so I thought I'd at least take the time to clarify my stance on the issue. Jon grants him the benefit of the doubt based on the record available. I can't fault or argue with him on that.

Let me make two quick points before I go into my major point:

A) It appears that Kerry did his duty in Vietnam, however short his tour. I'm not arguing that. He was there, he didn't shirk, he went out and did what he was ordered to do. You can't ask much more of any person in the military.

B) My problem stems not from his citations for bravery (although the article I cite later does discuss some discrepencies) so much as his Purple Hearts.

Opinion Alert: I think they were a device calculatingly used to remove himself from a combat zone in the shortest time possible.

THAT is my major problem with the issue.

Why do I have that opinion? Because, as I've pointed out in an earlier post, and Jon again pointed out today, Kerry admits he didn't really want to get involved in the war.

IOW, in reality, he wanted the 'record' of being in VN, without the danger of being in VN. Why? His idol was JFK. JFK (the other one) was a PT boat commander in WWII. There is and was a certain dash and panache attached to that sort of command. Kerry, in my estimation, wanted that sort of image without having to suffer through combat to get it.

When he volunteered for Swift boats, they were a pretty safe job ... coastal patrol. They were essentially the RVN Coast Guard. Not many VC or NVA out there threatening RVN or US interests. But soon after he got there, the mission was changed to riverine patrol. Much more dangerous. More dangerous than Kerry wanted.

Now, let me again make the point that all that follows is surmisal and opinion on my part leavened with a healthy dose of time in the military AND experience with some less than savory types in terms of medals and recommendations. Maybe it has made me cynical. Or maybe I'm just naturally suspicious. But something, as a result of my experience and at least to my eye, isn't right about the Purple Hearts.

Here's a good example of what I'm talking about:

"The idea that John Kerry would have put in for three Purple Hearts during only four months in country is just ridiculous," said Mel Howell from Evansville, Ind., a retired Navy officer who flew helicopters in Vietnam. "Most of us came away with all kinds of scratches like the ones Kerry got but never accepted Purple Hearts for them."

This is precisely the point I made to Jon yesterday in a comment to his post. This is another veteran who, based on HIS experience, smells something which isn't quite right.

It was almost a point of honor for most NOT to apply for PH's for bumps, bruises and scratches. That's because most of us knew people who lost arms, legs, eyes or their lives and were awarded nothing but a Purple Heart. I'd be damned if I'd try to put myself in the same category as those so wounded unless I had a REAL wound. Not something a bandaid and Bacitracin would take care of.

So, back to my point ... what this says to cynical me is he, Kerry, was looking for any way he could find to "honorably" get the hell out of Dodge. And the 3 PH "regulation" (which was only available in the Navy and USMC ... and later stopped in the USMC) was the method. He identified that as the way out immediately and set to work to accomplish his goal. The scratch provided one PH in the bank with two to go.

As to the medic's record of the "wound":

"Shrapnel in left arm above elbow. Shrapnel removed and appl[ied] bacitracin dressing. Ret[urned] to duty."

Another medic takes a look at this an make a very important point:

"If it only required bacitracin and a Band-Aid, it sounds like a piece of hot shrapnel that was flying around and may not have even broken the skin," said Mr. Waller, adding that he'd never heard of a shrapnel injury that didn't require a tetanus shot and time off leading to a Purple Heart.

Ray Waller was a medic with the Marines in Vietnam. The impotrant point I mentioned? That he never received a tetnus shot. I can't EVER recall a shrapnel wound of any type which wasn't treated with a tetnus shot, ESPECIALLY when you consider where they were ... Vietnam. Tetnus thrives there. So based ON THE RECORD, I have to agree with Waller ... something isn't quite right here.

And then there's the recollection of his commanding officer about the incident:

It was Mr. Kerry's first injury that already is the source of serious questions raised by his commanding officer at the time, Grant Hibbard.

Mr. Hibbard declined requests yesterday to be interviewed by The Washington Times, but he told the Boston Globe that Mr. Kerry's injuries were too minor to qualify for a Purple Heart.

"He had a little scratch on his forearm, and he was holding a piece of shrapnel," Mr. Hibbard said. "People in the office were saying, 'I don't think we got any fire,' and there is a guy holding a little piece of shrapnel in his palm."

But Mr. Kerry persisted and, to his own "chagrin," Mr. Hibbard told the Globe, he dropped the matter.

OK ... wait a minute. More inconsistency. Hibbard says he had a scratch on his FOREARM. The record says he was hit ABOVE THE ELBOW. More for the "this all sounds like bullshit to me" category. Did Kerry show his CO a different "wound"? One that may have seemed worse than the one "above the elbow?"

Reviewing: His own people are saying "I don't think we got any fire", his commanding officer remembers a scratched forearm and the medic recorded a 'wound' above the elbow that didn't require any more than a bandaid and Bacitracin (no tetnus shot).

There's that smell again.

But Mr. Kerry persisted and, to his own "chagrin," Mr. Hibbard told the Globe, he dropped the matter.

"I do remember some questions, some correspondence about it," Mr. Hibbard said. "I finally said, 'OK, if that's what happened ... do whatever you want.' After that, I don't know what happened. Obviously, he got it, I don't know how."

Now, I'm sorry, but if my company commander had said, in so many words, "look, this doesn't quite measure up", I'd have been ashamed to pursue it. Apparently, as his commanding officer recalls, Kerry wasn't at all. Couple that with the fact that the recommendation for the award was submitted by Kerry and you can begin to understand why I'm so cynical about this ... why the smell just won't go away.

And because injuries warranting Purple Hearts are verified by medics — or corpsmen — it would have been a soldier inferior to Mr. Kerry who was in charge of determining the seriousness of his injuries.

"If the commander walks up to the corpsman and says, 'I'm wounded,' " said Mr. Waller, "his corpsman isn't going to say it's just a scratch, he's going to say 'OK.' "

And I have to agree. No skin off the medic's back and not worth the confrontation.

But it does add to the smell.

Posted by McQ at 03:52 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

"I Request Duty in Vietnam"

I'm seeing a lot of this today in the blogosphere-left is this....

"I request duty in Vietnam" -- the first line in one of the documents from John Kerry's service records, now posted on the Kerry website.
Catch it bandied about here and here.

So, Kerry volunteered for Vietnam on his induction papers...and Bush didn't. Proving? Well, that Kerry had more guts, of course!

Except, not so much.

During Kerry's first tour in Vietnam...

from December 1967 to June 1968, he served in the electrical department aboard the USS Gridley, a guided-missile frigate that supported aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin and was far removed from combat.
A normal stint for a new recruit. And then Kerry re-upped, requesting duty in Vietnam. That's where the "heroism" - the guts - comes in, right? He wanted to be right there in the middle of the action!

As it turns out...no.

"I didn't really want to get involved in the war," Kerry said in a little-noticed contribution to a book of Vietnam reminiscences published in 1986. "When I signed up for the swift boats, they had very little to do with the war. They were engaged in coastal patrolling and that's what I thought I was going to be doing."

But two weeks after he arrived in Vietnam, the swift boat mission changed -- and Kerry went from having one of the safest assignments in the escalating conflict to one of the most dangerous.

Let's give Kerry credit for signing up and fulfilling his service honorably. He deserves it.

But spare me the gloating over the "volunteer for Vietnam" check-mark. Bush wanted to fly fighter jets....in Texas. Kerry wanted to pilot swift boats...well away from the action.

Note: I commented on this issue here, as well.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:19 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

If you want "anything but Bush", you'll probably settle for "anything"

Steven Taylor makes an important point here....

...I would like to see a description of Kerry's plan that goes beyond
1) it won't be headed by Bush and
2) we will get more international help if Kerry is President.

If one looks at the Kerry web site, it is hard to argue that the listed position paper says much more than: "Kerry will get more international help" and "Kerry will be better at Iraq policy than Bush has been" (I always love formulations like this: "Launch a Diplomatic Strategy that will Work"--as we all know that policy-makers normally launch policies that won't work on purpose).

Indeed, the four points on the Kerry Plan are:
1) He will better inform the American people,
2) He will send more troops, if needed,
3) He will be better than Bush at diplomacy,
4) He will use international help to guarantee stability and elections in Iraq, and
5) He will convince NATO to help out.

Does this really constitute a clear vision on what is arguably the most significant policy issue of this election?[reformatted for reading ease -ed.]

Awhile back, at some liberal blog (perhaps Pandagon? I forget, though. If you know, I'd appreciate a heads-up), I saw a post that sent me reeling. They argued that it was unfair to complain that the Democrats aren't offering alternatives. Roughly approximating their words, the author said it was the equivalent of driving off a cliff, then handing the wheel to the passenger and telling him "your turn".

The problem with that - to continue the analogy - is that the Democrats are continuing to criticize the way the administration is driving. You might disagree with the previous decision, but it's already been made. We're where we are, and they're criticizing current decisions. Now, either they're unhappy with the current decisions because they have a better idea....or they're just criticizing because they don't have anything else to do.

There really aren't a whole lot of other options.

As Taylor notes, we're not hearing a whole lot of substantive ideas. Sure, Kerry proposes we "internationalize" the Iraq issue....and that may make the effort easier on our troops, but that doesn't really solve the ongoing problems within Iraq, does it? Whether we have 130,000 US troops, or 130,000 troops from a variety of other nations, the number is still fungible.

Does Kerry believe German and Russian troops will be more effective than US troops? Doubtful.
Does Kerry believe the Iraqi resistance will look more fondly on non-US troops? Doubtful.

Does Kerry believe UN involvement will result in a sharp increase in troop strength within Iraq? Possible, but we've little to no evidence that an additional 30,000 troops will be anything but an additional 30,000 targets. After all, our problem is not one of being outmanned, but of being unable to stop free people from doing bad things. That's a fact of life in every free society.

Now, Kerry may believe that internationalizing the effort will lessen the immediate burden on the US - both on US soldiers and US taxpayers. He's probably right there, but at what cost? We don't know. That's not something I care to leave to the fates.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

On blogging...

Robert Tagorda comments on the rather personal and subjective nature of blogging style...

Most significantly, I make no effort to earn a living from my posts, and I attract a mere fraction of the traffic that the wildly popular Wonkette does. And therein lies the beauty of blogs. We may have varying philosophies, styles, and interests, but we nonetheless occupy the same sphere. The medium itself encourages and thrives on personalization.

For a while, I wondered whether I ought to be snappier and snarkier. I considered posting more links and fewer extensive commentaries. I even questioned the wisdom of casting doubt on the Bush administration, blasting Republicans, and criticizing "my side" as much as I did, since it tended to fluster conservative readers.

I've pondered these same questions since I began blogging. Eventually, the conclusion I reached was "blog about what interests me, when it interests me, damn the torpedoes".

Like Tagorda, I've found that a criticism of the Republicans tends to draw more fire than criticism of Democrats. (and criticism of Rush Limbaugh really gets your dander up...:) No real surprise there, since most QandO readers will tend more right-of-center than otherwise.

That, too, is satisfying. I really don't want this to become an echo chamber. If I'm never challenged when I read a blog, the author is probably pandering to his audience, rather than genuinely thinking.

Tagorda hits the nail on the head here, too...

In the end, however, I just resolved to follow my instincts. No matter how hard I try, I can't construct the punchy lines that Mickey Kaus writes. Snark doesn't come naturally to me. When I read about a political strategy or a policy proposal, my inclination is to think through the problem before developing a reaction -- a process that often involves a Nexis search or a transcript check. I like challenging myself to think beyond partisan or ideological terms, and such reflection usually takes time.
It's a valuable lesson for bloggers. The blogosphere doesn't need another Glenn Reynolds. Glenn Reynolds already is Glenn Reynolds. Thoughtful, honests and original content, though....that's always worthwhile.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:08 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Conventions

The Hill reports:

The protests are coming: The organization that put together recent large anti-war protests in New York City is orchestrating more events at both the Democratic and Republican conventions.

United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of more than 750 groups that has been around since October 2002, is planning a march and rally in New York on Aug. 29, just before the GOP gathers to renominate George W. Bush, with the theme “The World Says No to Empire, War and Greed.”

The coalition, however, is still waiting for various permits. On Monday, United for Peace and Justice officials met with a deputy commissioner of the New York Parks Department who “promised to consult their on-the-ground personnel and get back to us relatively quickly,” said Bill Dobbs, the group’s media coordinator. Dobbs said other events by various groups are in the works and promised “large protests not to be missed.” He added, “It’ll be a busy week.”

If you're interested in what "United for Peace and Justice" is all about you can go here to their website. Fairly standard left-wing red meat.

Meanwhile in Boston the city fathers must be asking "is it worth it?":

In making their pitches to host conventions, city and state officials often talk about how much revenue such large-scale events bring with them. But a study released April 13 by Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute shows that Boston could actually lose $12.8 million when the Democrats come to town in July.

The institute had projected March 30 that the convention would generate $121.6 million in revenue. In amending that estimate, the study’s authors admitted they had forgotten to take into account Boston’s loss of Sail Boston 2004, estimated to bring in $85 million, and a U.S.A. Gymnastics event, expected to bring in $13.9 million. Closing Beantown’s Inner Artery and North Station will also inconvenience commuters and hurt productivity, they said.

Posted by McQ at 09:27 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Rock the Vote

Ralph Nader has unveiled his election strategy:

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is appealing to young voters by emphasizing his antiwar stance as he works diligently to separate himself from President Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry. Mr. Nader, who polled at 13 percent in an Associated Press/Newsweek.com survey last month of voters aged 18 to 25, has released a three-step plan to remove U.S. forces from Iraq and continues to hammer Mr. Kerry for his allegiance to the war effort.

Of course the anti-war stance has always been popular among the young and rebellious (who, of course, have a far better understanding of the world and its goings on that we old farts), especially those in college (its there kids can mix freely WITHOUT the oversight or opinion of parents being a factor).

Obviously, as stated in the article, any of this particular segment of the youth vote which would go to Nader would come out of the "potential Democrat voter" pool.

One wonders if the Dems will try to keep this crowd on its side, and if so, how.

Posted by McQ at 09:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Body Language

Today's Maureen Dowd column could be called shockingly moronic, if we didn't already expect this sort of thing from her. So, let's just call this moronic.

Not since Jane Goodall lived with chimps in Tanzania has there been such a vivid study of the nonverbal patterns of primates engaged in a dominance display.

Bob Woodward's new book, "Plan of Attack," reveals that President Bush decided to go to war based mostly, believe it or not, on body language.

There follows a random collection of "body-language" mentions. Seriously. If Bob Woodward wrote that George Tenet was demonstrative...well, Maureen cites it as evidence that Bush cared more about body-language than facts.

Dear, sweet merciful crap. This takes up space on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times?

I'm reminded of this bit from a Donald Rumsfeld interview....

I ask whether Rumsfeld reads Maureen Dowd, the New York Times columnist who regularly makes sport of him. ...

"Do you know her?" he asks me. "No," I say, "but you've been good for her career."

He responds: "I'm not so sure about that -- that this has been good for her career."

Amen, brother.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blog Rolling

* Dale Franks...

The Left acts as if all the UN member states share common goals and aspirations. Well, they don't. You'd think that it would be blindingly obvious that Syria, being a one-party dictatorial state has an entirely diffeent set of interests than, say, Great Britain.

You'd think that, but evidently, you'd be wrong.

Wolves and a sheep, you know....

* Arafat has forced 20 terrorists out of his headquarters. (20? Isn't that an "infestation"? - Nope - more likely, it's an "invitation") Captain Ed has details.

Credit goes to either:
1: Ariel Sharon's intense personal charm...
or:
2: The Israeli military.

Your choice.

* I really don't care much about these minor flip-flops. That's just politics, and it works both ways. Still, RealClearPolitics has an excellent example of political opportunism from John Kerry....

MR. RUSSERT: ... A year ago in March you made a commitment, and this is what you said. You "voted to authorize military action but has accused President Bush of rushing into war, [but he] said he will cease his complaints once the shooting starts. `It's what you owe the troops,' said a statement from Kerry. `I remember being one of those guys and reading news reports from home. If America is at war, I won't speak a word without measuring how it will sound to the guys doing the fighting when they're listening to their radios in the desert.'" Are you concerned that you're sending the wrong message to the troops by not showing solidarity in terms of the war in Iraq? And have you broken your pledge?

SEN. KERRY: No, I haven't. Because, number one, I did adhere strictly to that through the period of the success of the war, when we finally had taken control of the country.

Yeah, right. This must be a different John Kerry than the one who said on April 3, 2003 that ""what we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States."

* Mice have been created without the help of a male, and Pejman is more concerned than Tom Daschle at a press conference.
Ladies, remember: No matter how much the science of reproduction advances, the old-fashioned way is infinitely more fun. Don't cast us aside!

And guys: It may be high time at last to pay more attention to when the trash needs to be taken out, and the position of the toilet seat. Never overlook any chance to suck up. Our futures may depend on it.


* Meryl Yourish needs a date. If that doesn't work out, she'll settle for a desert island and a few cute good bloggers.

I'm officially registering my feigned offense at being left off the Island.

* Hot commie love? Ewww.

* Sand in the Gears...

Is there some law that says a man can't pick up a box of freaking [personal female product] for his wife who really, really should have planned her weekly shopping a bit better?

There ought to be such a law. I love my wife, but not to the point of risking jail time, and that could have been my perfectly defensible cover story. But there are no laws against buying products you can't possibly use yourself, probably because the fruit cake industry would long ago have gone defunct otherwise. So there I stood, with a big ole box of humiliation in my hand.

Read the whole thing. It's funny....because it's true.

* John Rogers...

Summary: local radio providers are trying to get government to force the satellite radio providers to stop providing local weather and traffic in their biggest markets.
...
The companies that run regular terrestrial radio - which provides the horrendus, repetitive, commercial-packed radio stations I used to listen to - are going crazy about this. It's unfair!

I have news for them: competition is always unfair. If it was "fair," no one would ever win. If I were playing basketball with Michael Jordan, it would hardly be fair: he has years of practice, height, smarts and strength going for him. Fair does not mean that I have decent chance to compete. Fair means that Michael and I stay within the rules of the game, rules which specifically favor neither of us.

Remember this: the "deregulation" of radio - which really happened in 1996 - has very little to do with actual "deregulation", and a great deal to do with protectionism. True deregulation would have allowed for both increased station ownership AND more ease of access. Unfortunately, the FCC allowed owners to grab a larger portion of the pie, but kept the pie (radio stations) constant. As Rogers says.....stagnation is the result.

* Dr Galen...

I'll bet doctors around the country are reading this article and slapping their foreheads.
"Of course...it's so simple! Maybe patients don't know they're overweight!"

You know, I don't make a habit of warning all my patients not to poke their eyes out with sharp sticks. Do you know why? Because some things are self evident. Everyone who doesn't know excess weight is bad for you raise your hand. Anyone with an IQ in double digits or higher have their hand up? If I poll 100 patients, and ask them what they should do to lose weight, at least 99 of them will give me the correct answer.

The AP article is trying to tell you that obesity is NOT YOUR FAULT. You know what? They may be right. But it's not anyone else's fault,either.


* TAPPED...
It's no secret that George Bush intentionally laces his speeches with evangelical code phrases; expressions that don't mean much to ordinary people, but that scream "I believe in Jesus, too!" to those Christians in the know.
Yeah, fortunately, you'll be voting for John Kerry, who would never do a thing like that.

* On that note, liberal blogger JB Howard is none too pleased with the trend among Democrats to alienate the religious....

I'm as keen or keener on getting Bush out of office as the rest of the 50% of Americans are, but I'm also a believer, a Catholic whose devoutness waxes and wanes, but whose faith does not. And frankly, or "frankenly," it's time to turn off the signal on Air America Radio.

Kevin Drum reports on a recent idiotic trend on AAR involving the mockery of religious faith, as though it's all some sort of bizarre phenomenon like monster-truck demolition derbies (no offense, I hope) that no intelligent citizen could even fathom, much less hold dear. To hell with these people.

Imagine Rush Limbaugh mocking Muslims for believing in Allah. Wouldn't go over well, would it? Aside from the offensiveness of the mockery, it's just bad politics. You know these people vote, right?

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Two Wars?

Thomas Friedman thinks were actually engaged in two wars right now ... one we're addressing and one we're not:

The bottom line: we are actually in the middle of two struggles right now. One is against the Islamist terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere, and the other is a competitiveness-and-innovation struggle against India, China, Japan and their neighbors.

I've heard this argument a number of times over the decades. "We don't have enough students in science", or "We're being overwhelmed by Asian numbers in the hard sciences", etc. We all remember when Japan was going to take over the US in the '80s because they had quality and technical expertice plus government subsidizing their industries. We all were told that the big 3 would fold and we'd all be driving either Japanese or European cars in the future.

Of course none of that came true. That isn't to say we shouldn't have some concern over this. But, its my opinion that this isn't the crisis Friedman would have us believe EXCEPT in terms of making it too hard for foreign students to come here and study. That is something we have to sort out and do in fairly short fashion as it IS this "cross-pollinization" which allows us to take the best of the best and keep them here.

Another point worth mentioning concerning "outsourcing", Friedman mentions that American companies are setting up shop in other countries for good reasons:

It is because governments in these countries are so eager for employment and the transfer of technology to their young populations that they are offering huge tax holidays for U.S. manufacturers who will set up shop.

He also notes that many of them have national health care, which removes a huge cost and liability burden from the manufacturing.

I am NOT a proponent of national health care (it is NOT something the government is going to do better, faster or cheaper). But I AM a proponent of some sort of health care reform that removes health care as a responsiblity of business.

It should be a commodity which is purchased OUTSIDE business ... through large associations for instance ... which would have a large enough pool to spread cost and liablilty (that's not to say that business can't help with the cost ... an employment benefit or incentive for instance). That would dramatically reduce the cost of doing business here and eliminate portability and pre-existing conditions as problems faced by workers (keep your premiums paid and you can change jobs like you change your shirt and never have a health insurance problem).

Posted by McQ at 08:09 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 21, 2004

A bad day for the goose and the gander

Kevin Drum really is a smart guy, so it's pretty amazing that he would write something this incredibly.....dumb.

George Bush, fresh out of Yale, [snip expected anti-Bush screed].

Conservative reaction: why are you impugning the patriotism of this brave man? He got an honorable discharge and that's as much as anyone needs to know.

John Kerry, fresh out of Yale, [snip expected pro-Kerry screed]

Conservative reaction: Hmmm, that first injury wasn't very serious. This is something that deserves careful and drawn-out investigation, and it would certainly be unfair to impugn "craven or partisan motives" to those doing the impugning.

Are these guys a piece of work, or what?

I am dumfounded.

I've seen some self-serving, hypocritical bullshit before, but this takes the cake. I mean, this takes a whole catering truck full of cakes.

First, let's remember that Kevin Drum was the blogger leading the Bush/AWOL charge a few months ago. (one who "helped to keep this issue simmering along") At the time, Kevin wrote...

Finally, there's really only one question here, and it's the one that everyone should be banging on: why won't Bush release his full military record? What's he afraid of?
So, Bush did release his papers. And, as it turned out, the records showed exactly what Bush said they showed. And (surprise!) the story got dropped like a losing issue in an election year, without so much as an "oops...my bad!" from Drum.

So, right off, he's lost any moral high ground from which he can criticize people who make unsubstantiated, ridiculous allegations. As far as those people are concerned, Kevin Drum is King - The High Spurious Muckraker.

And now the tables are turned. Kerry is facing unsubstantiated rumors, and partisan demands that he release his records. The only difference is that John Kerry has already established that a lack of evidence does not absolve a candidate....one must, apparently open personal records to disprove unfounded allegations.

When the hot potato was in Bush's hands, Kerry said "Just because you get an honorable discharge does not answer that question".

Of course, if you substitute "purple heart" for "honorable discharge"....well, that's just being silly and partisan.

But Kevin Drum seems to miss that entirely. Instead of saying "sheesh. Now I realize how dumb I was"....Kevin has the nerve to turn around and write "Are these guys a piece of work, or what?" when Republicans do THE SAME DAMNED THING HE WAS DOING IN FEBRUARY.

Yeah, Kevin...they're a "piece of work". And you're the Master Craftsman.

Jane's Law: "The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane."

...and, occassionally, VERY intellectually dishonest. If Kevin can't see that, god help him.

Note: No, this doesn't absolve Republicans of blame for the same political hackwork. You stuck up for Bush based on the lack of evidence against him....you don't get to criticize Kerry with the same amount of evidence used against Bush. Or rather, you do...but only so long as you admit that your principles consist of "political opportunism" and little else.

I mean, Christ....a guy with multiple decorations earned in freaking combat gets attacked because he didn't get hurt ENOUGH?!?!?! I'll take one thing back: while Bush didn't deserve the "AWOL" attacks he got, the Republicans certainly deserved it.

UPDATE: Beltway Traffic Jam.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:20 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Looking back

Tyler Cowen has an interesting mental excercise - a "before and after" of his Iraq war expectations.

Here is what I expected before the war started:

1. WMD would be found, and probably used by Iraq during fighting.
2. The whole world would come to America's side.
3. Iraqi reconstruction would be a huge mess.
4. Our administration (indeed any administration) would handle it badly.
5. In Iraq civil war would ensue. Ten to fifteen years later Iraq would end up with a (relatively) stable oligarchy, better than Saddam but hardly ideal.
6. A kind of de facto partition might arise/continue, under the U.S. guise of protecting the Kurds.
7. If we didn't fight the war something worse would happen. I never thought Iraq was a threat to the U.S., but I envisioned a wider Middle Eastern war breaking out, sooner or later. We would intervene later, but on worse terms.
8. The strike would cause some countries to accelerate their nuclear programs, but this would happen anyway. The pace would not so much matter.

Let's do a simple stocktaking. Clearly I was wrong about #1 and #2. So far I am right about #3 and #4. #5 and #6 remain to be seen. In that department things have gone as I had expected. We'll never know that much more about #7, since it is a counterfactual. I will stick with #8 as written.

It's something I think each of us should probably do more often. So, here is my approximation of his list:

1: WMDs: would either be found, but largely unused/unusable...or, more likely, WMD programs would be found, though actual WMDs would not.
- I'd say I was correct about that, though I may have been a bit optimistic about the state of the programs.

2: The world (read: UN) would remain deeply polarized - especially the Middle East - but would pitch in to help secure and rebuild Iraq.
- Right about the first, wrong about the second.

3: Iraqi (infrastructure) reconstruction would be halting, slow and messy....but progressing.
- Correct.

4: The Bush administration would neither "get it right" nor "screw it up"...but would do enough of both to give ammunition to critics and supporters.- Well, when isn't that right?

5: The Iraqi push towards democracy would be marked by friction and rivalry, but would settle down as they got closer to the handover. Once they assumed power, the "democracy" we intended would eventually morph into a somewhat theocratic "democracy" - i.e., moderate Islamism. It wouldn't be ideal, but it would be far better than the previous regime.
- I still think the end result is probable, but I was wrong about the degree to which the Iraqi's would step up and take responsibility for their own governance and security.

6: Iraq would remain whole.
- It may be decades before we know if the current boundaries remain in place.

7: The "democratization of Iraq" would set off a push towards more liberalization and democratization in neighboring nations.
- Mixed results. The Iranian uprising has not manifested itself, though the reformists are agitating more and more. Saudi Arabia is instituting some democratic and liberal reforms. Syria is Syria. Some smaller neighbors are allowing a bit more freedom of information and media.

8: Military action in Iraq would spur the Palestinians to come to the table and take negotiations more seriously.
- Wrong.

9: Military action in Iraq would pressure other rogue nations to fall into line to some degree.
- Mixed results.

10: After one year, we'd have accomplished enough to call the Iraq war a success.
- Wrong. We haven't settled enough problems to call the game, yet.

An interesting excercise. If you have a blog, try it. Contrast your own expectations with reality.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Not Every VN Vet thinks Kerry's a hero

John O'Neill certainly doesn't:

"I saw some war heroes ... John Kerry is not a war hero," said John O'Neill, a Houston lawyer who joined the Navy's Coastal Division 11 two months after the future senator left Vietnam. "He couldn't tie the shoes of some of the people in Coastal Division 11."

Apparently most of O'Neill's criticism of Kerry stems from Kerry's anti-war activities upon his return and his conclusion is that Kerry's unfit to be commander-in-chief:

"His allegations that people committed war crimes in that unit, and throughout Vietnam, were lies. He knew they were lies when he said them, and they were very damaging lies," said O'Neill, adding that other former sailors from the same unit also plan to come forward to take on Kerry, whose Vietnam service has figured prominently in his campaign for the White House.

That's been the basis of much of my criticsm of Kerry as well. There's principled dissent and opposition and then there's unprincipled dissent and opposition. It is my opinion that Kerry was a part of unprincipled dissent which used lies in order to further its agenda. And by so doing, damaged the reputation of all those who fought honorably in Vietnam. O'Neill essentially says the same thing:

"It's really not a matter of forgiveness. It's a matter of fitness to be the commander-in-chief of all U.S. forces," he told Blitzer. "The damaging lies that he told about war criminals have haunted people's entire lives. So it's just a little bit late, in the course of a presidential campaign, to say it's a bit excessive."

Apparently, this isn't the first time O'Neill has confronted Kerry on this:

After returning from Vietnam, Kerry became a leader in the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In 1971, he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accusing President Nixon of prolonging the war and charging that fellow service members had committed war crimes.

Among the charges he lodged were that troops had committed rapes; cut off ears, limbs and heads; taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals; blown up bodies; and randomly fired at civilians.

An incensed Nixon encouraged O'Neill, who was awarded two Bronze Stars in Vietnam, to challenge Kerry, which he did in a debate on the "Dick Cavett Show."

At one point during the heated exchange, O'Neill, an admiral's son, demanded Kerry explain why, if he saw war crimes taking place, "you didn't do something about them."

A question Kerry has yet to answer.

Of course the Kerry campaign is trying to downplay all this as Kerry now tries to back away from his testimony of 30 years ago:

This past weekend, Kerry said that his use of the word "atrocity" in a 1971 interview was "inappropriate," and he added that he never intended to cast a negative light on the sailors with whom he served.

Speaking on NBC's "Meet The Press," Kerry said Sunday, "The words were honest, but, on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top."

A "Fondaesque apology"? No, the were't a little "over the top" or "inappropriate", they were LIES. Despite his so-called good intentions they DID cast a negative light on everyone who served.

O'Neill says he's not the only one who's going to come forward:

"I haven't been on television in many, many years. I had very little political involvement," said O'Neill, who described himself as a political Independent in a phone interview last month with the Houston Chronicle.

But O'Neill said Tuesday that he and the others who served with Kerry -- who "would much rather have nothing to do with this" -- feel they have "no choice" but to come forward, which he said would dispel the notion that Vietnam veterans as a group are supportive of Kerry's candidacy.

"We were there, we know the truth, and we know that this guy's unfit to be commander-in-chief," said O'Neill, who took over command of Kerry's boat after he left. "I think you'll find that people are very, very angry at John Kerry. They remember his career in Vietnam as a short, controversial one, and they believe that only Hollywood could turn this guy into a war hero."

It'll be interesting to see if this has any "legs" and how the press will play it over the remainder of the campaign.

Posted by McQ at 10:03 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Basra Blasts

I wonder what the "senior British officer" who condesendingly trashed the American's last week as having it all wrong has to say about these blasts in Basra ... Brit 'territory' last I checked. I wonder if he feels quite as smug today.

Three car bombs exploded in front of Iraqi police stations in the southern city of Basra on Wednesday morning, killing about 20 people and wounding more than 60, according to the police and witnesses.

One of the blasts hit a school bus during the morning rush hour, when school buses are circulating and commuters are on their way to work, according to Iraqi witnesses in the streets in the central part of the city. Traffic was heavy around the police stations, situated in the center of the city.

Bodies of schoolgirls were burning inside the bus. Iraqis helped pick up bodies of victims as ambulances wailed to the scene.

Apparently, per a couple of reports I heard on the radio, 2 car bombers were caught prior to detonation of their explosives and, per that report, the mayor of Basra is now saying there is an al Queda connection.

Posted by McQ at 09:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blog Note

You may notice, I've been tinkering with my blogroll. I'm not terribly satisfied, since I'm limited with the way I can categorize using Blogrolling.com, but I like the "updated" feature. At the top, I've created a separate category of blogs I visit most often. The VIB's, as it were.

At any rate, I think I've updated it properly. If I've left anybody off, need to update your link, or add your link....please let me know.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Negroponte

In light of remaining questions and allegations about his time as ambassador to Honduras, the timing makes this connection a bit too much to ignore...

Sunday
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the administration is expected to nominate John Negroponte to be our first ambassador to postwar Iraq, to take up residence in what will be the world's largest embassy after June 30.

Monday:
In a blow to President Bush and his coalition partners in Iraq, Honduras followed Spain on Monday in announcing it will pull its troops out of the country.

The Hondurans know.
I don't know enough to make a judgement about his past, but it certainly appears that the Hondurans believe they do.

(link via Pandagon)

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:01 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 20, 2004

The Draft...it ain't gonna happen

Seems the topic of the draft is coming up again, and wafting up the skirts of hysterics everywhere....

A senior Republican lawmaker said that deteriorating security in Iraq may force the United States to reintroduce the military draft.

"There's not an American ... that doesn't understand what we are engaged in today and what the prospects are for the future," Senator Chuck Hagel told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on post-occupation Iraq.

"Why shouldn't we ask all of our citizens to bear some responsibility and pay some price?" Hagel said, arguing that restoring compulsory military service would force "our citizens to understand the intensity and depth of challenges we face."

The Nebraska Republican added that a draft, which was ended in the early 1970s, would spread the burden of military service in Iraq more equitably among various social strata.

Of course, Hagel uses the same specious arguments for a draft that Draft proponents always use. How they can say with a straight face that a voluntary service is "unfair" is beyond me.

An Oregon paper has an editorial, though, which explains quite nicely why this current draft fuss is all hooey...

Two bills are currently alive in Congress -- Senate Bill 84 and House Bill 163 -- that would institute the Universal National Service Act of 2003. The act states, in part, that "it is the obligation of every U.S. citizen, and every other person residing in the United States, between the ages of 18 and 26 to perform a two-year period of national service, unless exempted, either as a member of an active or reserve component of the armed forces or in a civilian capacity that promotes national defense." The bills also amend the Military Selective Service Act to allow females to be drafted.

The problem with worrying about such legislation is simply that both bills suffer a serious lack of support from Congress and the general public. The Senate version, introduced by Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., in 2003, lacks any co-sponsors and has been lingering in the Committee on Armed Services for more than a year. The House version, meanwhile, has accumulated 13 co-sponsors, but has also been stalled in the House Armed Services Committee for more than a year. Currently, the bill is sitting in the Subcommittee on Total Force and awaiting Executive comment from the Department of Defense.

To give some perspective on the kind of pressing political matters that the Subcommittee on Total Force deals with, and thus how seriously the House takes the bill, the subcommittee is also considering a resolution that would express "the sense of the Congress that Harriet Tubman should have been paid a pension for her service as a nurse and scout in the United States Army during the Civil War."

I'll give you another reason it won't happen. Forget Congress - they are rarely held accountable for individual votes, since their part in the bill is diffused among 535 people. No President will be able to sign and implement a draft EVER, short of an equivalent to a world war.

For purely political reasons, it just can't happen. You think politicians want to court the youth vote now? Wait until the youth are directly impacted by a mandatory draft. They'll "rock the vote" and, whichever party implements the draft, they won't vote for that party again for decades. Young people don't really care about politics, but they care a very great deal about their lifestyle. Military service tends to put a crimp in that lifestyle.

Plus, of course, there's the whole "freedom" aspect....

But we digress. The point is this: The draft is a bad idea just like involuntary servitude is a bad idea. The notion that simply being a citizen in the United States means you owe something to the government is philosophically dubious.
So, really....let's drop the whole notion that the draft is coming back. It's only still alive in the minds of the senior citizens ("it'll be good for dem damned kids!") and the terminally suspicious ("they're out to get us! I knew it!")

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:39 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

I'm kicking my own ass

So...uh, payback's a bitch.

The day after John F. Kerry said he would make all of his military records available for inspection at his campaign headquarters, a spokesman said the senator would not release any new documents, leaving undisclosed many of Kerry's evaluations by his Navy commanding officers, some medical records, and possibly other material.
I don't want to hear either side whining about this.

Democrats? You demanded Bush release his records.
Republicans? You cried foul when the Democrats made that demand.

fish_in_a_barrel.jpg

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:04 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

42

I'm not sure what to make of this, but Douglas Adam's masterpiece, "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" is being made into a movie...

John Malkovich is thumbing a ride on "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," a Disney adaptation of the Douglas Adams novel.

Malkovich will play a religious cult leader called Humma Kavula, created by the late author especially for the long-gestating film.

"Galaxy" begins shooting this month in London, with Garth Jennings at the helm. Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell and Martin Freeman also star. Mos Def plays Ford Prefect, an undercover alien who sets off on an intergalactic journey with his best friend and the film's protagonist, earthling Arthur Dent (Freeman). The duo hitch a ride through space -- with the two-headed ex-hippie Zaphod (Rockwell); his girlfriend, the beautiful scientist Trillion (Deschanel); and a robot -- to discover the meaning of life.

Pleasedon'tscrewitupPleasedon'tscrewitupPleasedon'tscrewitup.

Not sure how I feel about the cast, either. (here's the IMDB cast list) For some reason, I always pictured Arthur as sort of a Charle Grodin looking fellow. Ordinary and clueless.

As long as I'm dreamcasting, I think Jeff Goldblum would have been pretty good as Ford Prefect. And Tim Roth is a PERFECT Zaphod Beeblebrox. For that matter, he would have been a very good Ford Prefect, too. He's got that manic, slightly crazy smile that makes anybody who sees it a bit uncomfortable.

But, Mos Def? As Ford Prefect? I don't know.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Iraq Factor

OK, let's see ... first we had O'Neil's book. Then Clarke and is book. Now Woodward. Result?

If the 2004 presidential election were being held today, would you vote for George W. Bush, the Republican, John Kerry, the Democrat, or Ralph Nader, the independent?

Bush 47%
Kerry 42%
Nader 7%
(VOL) Other 0%
(VOL) Neither 2%
(VOL) Would not vote 1%
DK/No opinion 0%

Why? Well one reason is this:

Do you support George W. Bush strongly or not strongly? (asked of Bush supporters only)

Strongly 84%
Not strongly 15%
DK/No opinion 1%

As opposed to this:

Do you support John Kerry strongly or not strongly? (asked of Kerry supporters only)

Strongly 65%
Not strongly 34%
DK/No opinion 1%

And these:

In your vote for president this year, will the situation in Iraq be one of the single most important issues, very important, somewhat important or less important than that?

One of the single most important 21%
Very important 60%
Somewhat important 13%
Less important 6%
DK/No opinion 1%

In your vote for president this year, will the US campaign against terrorism be one of the single most important issues, very important, somewhat important or less important than that?

One of the single most important 22%
Very important 63%
Somewhat important 13%
Less important 2%
DK/No opinion 0%

It seems regardless of how the voters feel about other issues, the above two seem to dominate.

And while when asked a more general questions such as:

Overall, who do you trust to do a better job coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years, George W. Bush or John Kerry?

Bush 49%
Kerry 44%
(VOL) Both 1%
(VOL) Neither 4%
DK/No opinion 2%


When it gets to specifics:

Who do you trust to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq, George W. Bush or John Kerry?

Bush 52%
Kerry 41%
(VOL) Both 0%
(VOL) Neither 4%
DK/No opinion 2%

So, as Dick Morris says, as long as the war, terrorism and Iraq dominate the news, no matter whether one might say it's "good news" or "bad news", it is, in the long run good news for Bush ... because it pushes the issues where Bush doesn't poll as well as Kerry off the front page.

Yes, I realize this is very early polling, etc. But it goes toward proving Morris's point. One has to wonder how Kerry's crew plans on wresting that advantage from Bush.

Apparently the "Viet Nam" ploy isn't working. Heaven knows what they'll try next.



Posted by McQ at 12:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Arab Press on the Madrid bombings

MEMRI offers a compendium of quotes from various Arab press outlets concerning the Madrid bombings. They're interesting because we often are led to believe that little if any criticism of the Islamist extremist terrorism is apparent in the Arab press. It definitely exists. But there are also the 'excuse makers', which still seem to dominate. Here are some of the quotes. All emphasis is mine:

Adli Sadeq, the deputy to Palestinian Minister for Foreign Affairs Nabil Sha'ath, wrote in his daily column in the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: "An announcement attributed to the so-called Abu Hafs Al-Masri [Brigades] stated that the explosions were aimed at settling accounts with 'Crusader Spain,' and implicitly states that the killing of innocents in Palestine and Afghanistan permits the killing of innocents in Spain. Such talk has no connection either to Islam, or to politics, human ethics, or courage, because those who kill innocents in Palestine and Afghanistan do not kill them in the name of all train passengers… Islam forbids that anyone should be held responsible for the crime of another, and strongly forbids killing anyone, except justly. If it is Al-Qa'ida, and we hope that it is not, then our comment on it is that this is neither the quality of Islam nor its ethics, and we condemn it even more strongly than the Spanish themselves."


Fairly strong and direct and not something which could be construed as anything but a condemnation.

In the Jordanian daily Al-Rai, Jordanian Islamist activist Bassam Al-'Amoush wrote: "The destruction of the Twin Towers in New York cannot possibly be a service to Islam, a deed in the name of Islam, or Jihad for the sake of Allah… The explosions in Nairobi and Dar Al-Salaam cannot be seen as an Islamic act, as a way of propagating Islam [da'wa], as an act of Jihad, as beneficial, or [as an act] whose perpetrator is a Shahid [martyr].

"Anyone who calls the explosions in Riyadh Jihad for the sake of Allah is an ignoramus. Could any Muslim mind in the world possibly be able to recognize the criminal massacre in Madrid as Jihad and martyrdom?… The peoples of the world must know that Islam is a religion of love, peace, moderation, dialogue, and coexistence, that [Islam] does not seek bloodshed or the murder of women, children, and the elderly… [True Islam] is an Islam of freedom of thought, [as the Qur'anic verse states]: 'There is no coercion in religion.' Islam [is a religion of] coexistence…"

Of course many of the people of the world consider it other than a religion of "love, peace, moderation, dialogue and coexistance", but that's mainly because moderates have largely been silent and let it be hijacked by extremists. That's why its so important that moderates condemn it but DO something about it as well.

Columnist Ahmad Al-Rab'i wrote in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "The question is not who carried out the terror operation in Spain, but how a group of human beings – no matter what its belief, religion, or political affiliation – thinks of killing 200 innocent people and wounding over 1,000. Have we gone back to the Stone Age?… What kind of new world is this, in which terror strikes the World Trade Center, Spain, Afghanistan, Algeria, Riyadh, and Bali, and kills innocents? How can the inhabitants of this planet feel safe about their children going to school? How will lovers walk freely in a public park? How will people be able to go to work when every bus, train, or plane is a target for mass killing? This is an operation against life… The entire civilized world – no matter what its ideology and belief – must declare a world war on terror as criminal behavior, against the ideology of terror, and against those who incite to it."

Amen to that. Again very forceful and clear. No dancing with vowels and adjectives. No one will take any other message from this than condemnation of the acts.

Of course there's always the "yeah, but" crowd. Here a Syrian "journalist" (I use the term advisedly since the paper is 'government owned') says that while terrorims is something to be condemned, perhaps its not just the terrorists at fault:

Columnist Muhammad Al-Khadhr wrote in the Syrian government daily Al-Ba'ath: "No matter what the identity of the perpetrators of the train crime in the Spanish capital of Madrid, the deed is worthy of political, moral, and legal condemnation. An attack on civilians is an abhorrent crime on all levels and in all societies and countries…" However, he added: "In September 2001, the U.S. launched a war on terror, and President Bush chose to divide the world into two axes – the axis of good and the axis of evil. Has the world become a safer place, as Washington declares every day? The answer does not demand much thought. It is enough to look at the daily newscasts to learn about the intensity of the tragedy and the pain suffered by the peoples, beginning in Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories, and including the bereaved Spanish families… Therefore, in order to help the victims of terror in the world, there is no escape from a clear international effort in which all will participate, [in order to] advance the values of truth and justice and [in order] to implement the legitimate international resolutions that have not been implemented to date. Thus, the whole world will share in dealing with the most dangerous thing it faces in the third millennium."

One assumes the "international resolutions" this fellow is talking about are the UN resolutions against Israel (none of which, btw, is actionable). But then, after accusing Bush of dividing the world into two spheres, the Arab world, which made the first "us against them" division when speaking of Israel, seems a bit hypocritical, doesn't it?

An Iraqi journalist takes on appeasment by noting that France too has faced terrorist activities even though it opposed the war:

Iraqi columnist 'Aziz Al-Haj wrote in the liberal online newspaper (www.elaph.com): "As an Iraqi, I was saddened by the failure of the party and government of Jose Maria Aznar, who stood with dignity and courage alongside the Iraqi people when he took part in toppling the fascism of Saddam… What hurts is that the socialists hostile to America and the war on the Iraqi Ba'th regime succeeded in misleading some of the Spanish citizens, exploiting the terrible crime as a weapon in the elections against the Aznar government. They claimed that it is the Spanish participation in Iraq that is the reason for the terrorism of the Al-Qa'ida members, who are experts in crime and in mass-murdering civilians. But France, the most sharply opposed to the war in Iraq, has also become the target of attack by Islamist extremists and of their calls for Jihad against it – because it insisted on legislation [against the veil] in its public schools and was accused of war against Islam…

Essentially the terrorist message remains "mess with any aspect of Islam, and we reserve the right to kill you for it." Aziz goes on to say:

"The war on world terror must unite the nations of the world, the democratic countries, and the international bodies. This bestial cancer is a sudden danger with which humanity and civilization is coping. Any negligence or weakness in facing it encourages the beast of prey to kill more people and spill additional rivers of innocent blood. This is a conflict between progress and light – and darkness."

Which pretty well sums up the danger of appeasment and anything but a united international front when it comes to this sort of terrorism. Another Iraqi columnist, Abd Al-Khaliq Hussein, from the same paper wrote about the UN debating club and its propensity to talk a problem to death instead of acting:

"The excuse [of the Left] is that the war against Saddam was not legitimate because the decision was not made in the [U.N.] Security Council… A U.N. resolution is more important to them than annihilation by a hangman gripped by lust for murder and genocide. We thank Allah that there is a superpower like America that took upon itself the mission of saving the peoples, without caring about Security Council resolutions. Otherwise the peoples of the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Iraq, and East Timor would expect annihilation by hangmen gripped by lust for mass murder, such as Milosevic, Suharto, Saddam Hussein, and other hangmen…

Of course not all reaction is "positive" (surprise!).

In the Jordanian daily Al-Rai,columnist Tareq Masarawa wrote:"It is only natural that a people living like the Spanish people will stop the policy of lies and deception, and will set a clear border between war on terror and war on peoples; between the gangs of bin Laden and his fundamentalist perceptions, and the Palestinian and Iraqi peoples; between the defense of civilization and culture, and occupation, plunder, and murder…

"The Spanish Socialists and their young president constituted an example, for their country, for Europe, and for the entire world, of wise and brave policy, and they have restored to Europe its true face. We are certain that the man [i.e. Zapatero] will fight terror, but he will not serve the occupation of Iraq and the continuation of the occupation of Palestine. We are certain that he will be a good neighbor to the Arabs and Muslims of Morocco, because he believes that terror has no religion, no nation, and no race! We are certain that Spain's return to the fold of Europe will reinforce Germany's and France's moderate and determined policy…

"Terror is now coming to London and Rome, so the English and the Italians say. The punishment for the policy of lies will be similar. It is not logical that most [residents of England and Italy] oppose the wars while their politicians go to war [on pretexts] of lies, and it is not logical that [the aggressor] will not pay the price of his own aggression!"

Note that the dismissal of the atrocities as that of Islamic terrorists. That makes it easy to then focus on the so-called "lies and deceptions" of the US as "the problem". The victimization of the perpetrators ploy. And, of course, its a problem rooted in Palestine.

Also note the echoing of the Bin Laden message -- the "logic" of governments doing what the population opposses.

Then there are those who just deny reality:

In the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, columnist Salameh Ahmad Salameh wrote:"The horrific explosions that took place in Spain recently reopen the international terror portfolio, in order to prove that the American perception prevailing in the world in recent years – i.e. that terror has a single source and a single problem, the Al-Qa'ida organization, Islam, and the Muslims – was mistaken, misleading, and far from reality…

"Many violent operations and terror [operations] that took place in the U.S. and in Europe –the motives of which may have been social and political, from within the societies themselves – have been falsely attributed to Al-Qa'ida, or to some Arab immigrants and refugees so as to be rid of them and to hobble them. These [operations] have also become justification and excuses for [advancing] political and democratic reform in Arab and Muslim countries. This, while most European societies are more in need than ever of domestic reform and compromise with their separatist minorities…"

Of course when you control the media, you CAN deny reality. Maybe there is more than a single source, but to deny extreme Islam, regardless of its manifestation, isn't the "single source" is to indeed deny reality.

Then, of course, there are the usual "The Jews Did It" crowd, perpetrating the "big lie" about 9/11 (which still has a vigorous life in the Arab world):

Columnist Adnan Zayid Al-Kazimi wrote in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Watan: "Many investigations are not needed [to learn] who is behind the cowardly terrorist operation in Spain that took the lives of innocents, whose limbs were scattered and whose bodies were torn to pieces, men, women, children, and the elderly… The accusing finger points at the separatist ETA organization… No one has imagined that the one behind this crime is the Zionist crime organization, which has the greatest interest in fanning hatred against the Arabs and Muslims… I claim with certainty that the ones who attribute all evil to the Arabs and the Muslims are the Zionists, those who are closest to carry out such an operation, like the other operations [that they carried out]. Perhaps there will be someone who will attest that he saw the Zionists filming the events from afar, and that there were no Jewish victims [among the victims of the attack], as in September 11 in America…"

I won't bore you with more of those but there are plenty if you'd like to read them.

Posted by McQ at 09:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

All about the oil

In response to Woodwards allegations that Bush arranged a deal with the Saudi government to lower gas prices close to the election, Kevin Drums writes...

Elsewhere in the conservative blogosphere this revelation seems to have merited simple silence. Maybe they just don't believe Woodward. But surely the fact that Saudi Arabia — a country that has been demonized regularly by conservatives — is now said to be actively aiding George Bush's reelection is at least worthy of comment, isn't it? What would be the reaction if Woodward reported that Jacques Chirac had agreed to hold up a new UN resolution until November, just to make Bush look bad?
That's fair. I haven't really said much about this, because the information thus far is just so spare. We've got an unsourced allegation - though, one from a credible reporter - that the Saudi's said they wanted to lower oil prices this year.

Is it a deal, for political gain? We really don't have any evidence of that. If so, why? Oil prices are already high, and if Saudi Arabia is planning to give Bush a hand, they certainly haven't evidenced it, yet. I mean, they've been cutting production at every OPEC meeting for awhile now.

Further, Woodward seems to be indicating this story isn't as it's been portrayed....

WOODWARD: What I say in the book is, according to Bandar, the Saudis hoped to control oil prices in the 10 months running up to the election because if they skyrocketed, it would hurt the American economy.
...
WOODWARD: In the book, it's one -- I'm sorry, it's two sentences, and I don't say there is a secret deal or any collaboration on this. I say that Bandar and the Saudis hoped to put prices -- now, I understand there's something on the wire from Bloomberg saying that, in fact, the Saudis have said this, that in the period before the election, they told the president directly that they wanted to keep oil prices low in a range. So...

KING: Well, that's -- that would make Kerry correct, saying they're affecting the campaign.

WOODWARD: Well, I don't know. I mean, Kerry has taken this to the next level. This always gets caught in the political crossfire, and I'm trying to stick with what my reporting showed. And if you looked at it, as the people at "60 Minutes" did, and so forth, you would see how good the sourcing is.

Finally, and most importantly to me, this story just isn't "new". Really. We've known of the Saudi intent to keep prices from going very high - even lower them later this year - for some time. From a story in early April....
Saudi Arabia will act to counter any oil shortage on the world market, Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar ibn Sultan said Thursday after meeting with US President George W. Bush at the White House.

The meeting took place as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, of which Saudi Arabia is a leading member, cut back on production by one million barrels per day for April, a move that threatened to raise already record high US gasoline prices.

“We will not allow any shortage on the world oil market,” said the envoy. “Oil prices should be between 22 and 28 dollars (a barrel). My government’s target is 25 dollars.” Current oil prices are around $35 a barrel.

Further, a great deal of the cause of higher oil prices has relatively little to do with Saudi Arabia, and a great deal to do with insecurity in the world oil markets and the devaluation of the dollar - the currency for world oil exchange.

Finally, there's one more problem with the idea that Saudi Arabia is upping output in an election year to help Bush. The problem? This has all happened before, and for the same reasons the Saudi's offer this time. During an election year. Specifically,
in 2000....

Republicans are likely to have a harder time getting political mileage out of the cost of oil after this week's decision by OPEC countries to boost production. The increase isn't as much as the Clinton Administration had initially hoped for, but should still be enough to bring prices down somewhat in time for summer.
...
The President started off this week's news conference by focusing on the OPEC news, which had been further sweetened during the day by Iran's decision to go along with the production increases. "I would like to begin by saying that yesterday's announcement that OPEC members will increase oil production, is good news for our economy and for the American consumer," said Mr. Clinton as he started his news conference, "These increases should bring lower prices, which will help to sustain economic growth here in America, and also and very importantly, throughout the world." The good news was also particularly well-timed for the President in light of more negative recent developments such as the White House email scandal and today's ruling that Kathleen Willey's privacy had been violated.
Needless to say, it didn't help Bush or the Republicans at the time. For that matter, oil prices were also depressed in 1996 by President Clinton.
America's independent oil and natural gas producers criticized President Clinton's decision yesterday to sell $227 million (or 12 million barrels of crude oil) from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to lower gasoline prices nationwide.
...
President Clinton is reacting to high gasoline prices and hopes that the flood of SPR oil into the marketplace will increase supply while lowering prices.
So, while the left-of-center side of the blogosphere is going nuts about this, I'm going to hold off on making a judgement. We've too little information, but plenty of historical precedent.

UPDATE: Captain Ed has more.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:57 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The TriLateral Commission did it!

Good Toronto Star article on the nature of Conspiracy Theories....

"Political conspiracies are sexy right now," says Robin Ramsay, publisher of a British magazine called Lobster, which devotes itself to the thorny task of separating genuine political conspiracies from the vastly more plentiful bogus ones. "I take the view that conspiracies are normal."

In these post-9/11 days, conspiracies are just about everywhere — or, at least, conspiracy theories are.
...
Why don't we just believe what we're told?

"We are skeptical because we will never trust governments to tell us the totality of what happened," says Mark Fenster, a professor of law at the University of Florida and author of a book about conspiracy theories. "A certain amount of skepticism is a perfectly logical response."

There is a difference, however, between a healthy skepticism....and obstructive cynicism. The latter doesn't ask questions...it assumes conclusions. And there's a reason it's often useless to argue with many (but not all) conspiracy theorists....
"It's virtually impossible for a conspiracy theorist to admit that they're incorrect," says Fenster. "It's a commitment that is so absolute that any empirical evidence that contradicts your theory has got to be explained or it has got to be ignored."
They're committed. It justifies their cynicism, and it's hard to ask somebody to re-evaluate something so deeply ingrained in their personality.

So, why do I generally dismiss such conspiracy theories? As the author writes...

Dewdney, for one, looks askance at most such ideas, but the writer is especially critical of theorists who seem to endow governments with a nearly perfect ability to keep the people in a state of complete ignorance about certain deep, dark secrets.

"If governments were as effective as these people give them credit for," he says, "they'd be much more effective than any government I know of. We know that governments are a quagmire."

Obviously, there are conspiracies. I think, though, that it's fair to say that the larger, more important and more complex a conspiracy must be...the less likely it is to be true. Hell, Nixon couldn't even manage to keep a two-man burglary secret. What are the odds (fill in the blank) could manage a cover-up of 9/11, dozens of murders, or a "war for oil" without letting it slip?

What are the odds they'd even try such a implausible and complex undertaking? Not very likely.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fact-Check

You recall how much of a fuss Bush supporters made when the Democrats claimed current deficits were the "biggest ever". "No they weren't....not if you adjust for inflation, or measure it as a % of GDP! Everybody knows that's how you do it!"

Of course, they were right. Current and recent deficits haven't really been close to the "biggest ever".

Anyway, the Republicans seem to have (surprise!) forgotten that lesson when it comes time to criticise the Democrats, and Fact-Check.org calls them on it...

In speeches and fundraising appeals the Bush campaign keeps making a distorted claim that Clinton 's 1993 tax increase -- supported by Kerry -- was "the biggest in history."

Republicans have been repeating this gross overstatement for more than a decade, but now there's less justification for it than ever. The GOP claim is contradicted by a study published last year by the Office of Tax Analysis of Bush's own Treasury Department.
...
Now comes a thorough study of every tax bill enacted since 1940, showing that the Clinton tax increase was indeed large, but not the largest.

The biggest? In inflation-adjusted dollars, it was a 1942 tax hike under Roosevelt. As a % of GDP, it was the "Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982" signed by....Ronald Reagan.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:10 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Air and Government: invisible killers

David Brooks has an excellent piece on the nearly inscrutable field of environmental regulation.....

The journalist has the ultimate power, a cynic once said, the power to choose whom to be co-opted by.

That temptation is never greater than when you are writing about environmental policy. You can go to the environmental groups and get one set of facts. Or you can go to the industry groups and get an entirely different set of facts. Both sides have long histories of exaggeration and distortion, and there's no other realm of public policy in which it is so hard to find honest brokers, capable of offering a balanced perspective.

Much like economics, the environment is a field in which there is sufficient apparently contradictory data that honest people could argue for years, but never reach any firm conclusions.

In fact, that's exactly what happens.

On his way to discussing the big failure and success of the Bush environmental record, Brooks makes this important point...

The first thing to be said is that air pollution trends are unchanged under President Bush. For the past three decades, the quality of our air has steadily improved. Air pollution from the six major pollutants has decreased by 48 percent over that time, even though our economy has grown by 164 percent. If you look at the charts showing that decline, you can't tell when the Clinton era ended and the Bush era began.
It's often said that regulatory agencies tend to get captured by the industries they regulate, which act primarily to benefit the industry. While true, it is also true that those regulatory agencies can be captured by the special interests who care little for the industry, but a great deal for regulation.

That's not a good recipe for balancing the economic with the safety interests of the industry, or the general public.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

All hail Rumsfeld

It's hard not to like a guy who can tell the press where to stick it. After answering a reporters question, the reporter tries to restate Rumsfeld's answer.......

Q: So at the outside, it could be extended again?

SEC. RUMSFELD: You could put it that way, if you wanted to cause people concern. On the other hand, you could take what I said and report it that way, which I would find accurate.

If only Bush could deal with the press like Rumsfeld can deal with the press.....

Posted by Jon Henke at 05:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 19, 2004

Bush, eh....lied?

Apparently, those neo-con agents had infiltrated foreign intelligence services. It's the only explanation for this....

Denmark has declassified intelligence reports compiled before the Iraq war which show officials thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

In one report, Iraq was thought to have both chemical and biological weapons, as well as an active nuclear programme.

So. Uh. You know. Bush lied! And stuff.

Seriously, can we finally dispense with the claims that Bush "lied" about WMDs? Because, while we're trying to explain things to that crowd, there are some VERY important questions being left unanswered....and often, unasked by the people who are so quick to judge.

1: What DID happen to Saddams WMD programs?
2: Why did everybody in a position to know believe that Saddam had WMDs?

Frankly, I think the answer to the first two is simple: Saddam realized that active WMD programs and stockpiles could only be a danger to him. However, he didn't want to abandon the possibility of regaining them in the future. More importantly, he very much did not want to damage his reputation - built on his "resistance" to the US in the 91 war; yes, they thought he was a hero, because we didn't want to go to Baghdad - by allowing the world to know that he'd backed down from the US pressure. (yes, they were UN resolutions, but in the Middle East, if it's not about Israel, then it's about the US)

So, the more important questions at this point: since WMDs were a reasonable, near-universal, assumption....should we have acted as if Iraq had them? Or should we have acted as if they did not? And how do we make that decision in the future?

In the meantime, we still have the very unserious people arguing about whether Dick Cheney really claimed Iraq had "nuclear weapons". And that's a real shame.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:45 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Detainees

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein defended Ashcroft on the matter of detainment...

According to this Newsweek story, high-ranking Bush Administration officials, most prominently Cheney and Rumsfeld, have argued for stripping Americans suspected of aiding Al Qaeda of their rights and holding them indefinitely as "enemy combatants." They have met with strong resistance from SURPRISE! John Ashcroft and others in the Justice Department...
Granted, a different set of law applies, but this reminds me of the situation in Guantanamo. A couple months ago, I spoke to a former Marine who had been stationed down in Guantanamo Bay (last year, if I recall correctly). He spoke highly of the treatment recieved by the prisoners. While he conceded they had fairly limited living quarters, he pointed out that we are bending over backwards to accomodate their religious and dietary needs. In fact, he said they ate fairly well, and their religioius observances were always respected. They were even allowed to bathe prior to prayer - since, apparently, being clean is a requirement for prayer.

All in all, he said their treatment was better than that received by many prisoners in the US prison system. Oh, and aid organizations had/have frequent access to them. So, while it's not exactly the Hilton...it's also not the Hanoi Hilton.

And since tribunals are ongoing - as required by the Geneva Convention - we're operating well within the requirement of international law.

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Quick Hits

* Off and on blogging today. I went to traffic court this morning, to contest the ticket I'd gotten about 5-6 weeks ago. Plead "not guilty", judge tells me he's sure Officer Bromseth is an honest fellow and wouldn't get it wrong, but at least he reduces the ticket down to $15 plus court costs. ($70, total)

It cost me more to take the day off work than to simply pay the ticket, but there's no chance I'd pay a ticket and admit guilt when I'm not guilty. I still disagree with the decision, but what am I going to do? He has a bigger army than I do.

* Dr Galen is doing something interesting on Sunday's: answering medical questions. Very cool.

* Apparently, it's Angry Day at Pandagon. I guess if I bought all the poorly fleshed out "Bush lied" premises, I'd feel the same way....but I don't. And I feel remarkably similar to how I felt in the 90s. A bit embarrassed for the party out of power.

* Re: this...

"1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions."
Here's mine: (speaking of the remarkable power held by the US during the Cold War)
"A nation in such a position is able to insist on its views and can often avoid the problem facing the statesmen of less favored societies: that their means oblige them to pursue goals less ambitious than their hopes, and that their circumstances require them to approach even those goals in stages."
("Diplomacy"; Henry Kissinger; 1994)

* There's a Caption Contest at Captain's Quarters.

* Wonkette has been getting a lot of attention lately....which mystifies me a bit. In fact, I'm fairly confused about the popularity of a number of blogs, and not just because I disagree with them. In fact, most that seem oddly popular are either close to me on the ideological spectrum, or not really very political. Perhaps I'll make a post out of that.....or, perhaps I won't. We'll see.

* I'm going to spend the day with the family. We're going to the zoo, then to the garden store to plan the landscaping project we're doing in our backyard. So, of course, it's gotten hot all of the sudden.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:46 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 18, 2004

A Respectful Exchange

For What It's Worth, a liberal blog I mentioned last weekend, has recently concluded his first "Open Question to conservatives". He's posted the results of the question. (though I'm waiting for his final response).

He's also got another question: "What Should We Do If A New Iraqi Government Orders Us to Leave?"

To be honest, I've no answer. That's a difficult minefield. I doubt it will happen immediately, but I've also little doubt that they will be asking us to leave as soon as they feel constrained by our presence. Whether that will be helpful to democracy, or helpful to the re-establishment of tyranny, it's hard to know.

I suspect the answer may be to ensure that it doesn't happen. Somehow, we've got predicate funding, security, debt-forgiveness....something...on our continued presence. Callous and conniving? Yes...but I don't know of a better way.

At any rate, he's a thoughtful liberal, and the debate will be interesting. Frankly, I'd like to see a new question - and a thorough, two-way debate every week. So, get thee over there and answer his question.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Redact this

Justin Raimando column, or Oliver Stone movie script? It's a bit hard to tell, sometimes. In this case, though, it's a Justin Raimando column, and the conspiracies are flowing fast and furious....

The text of the PDB released by the White House is one and a half pages long. But, according to an article by intelligence expert Oliver Schröm, the original document was much longer:

"Crawford, August 6, 2001. George W. Bush is on vacation. He wanted to spend the whole month at his ranch in Texas. 'The Presidential Daily Brief' was part of his morning routine. In the PDB, as it's called in CIA jargon, a senior CIA official presents the President with a summary of the security situation. On this morning the CIA Director personally briefs the President. Instead of the usual two or three pages, today's briefing paper consists of eleven and a half printed pages and carries the title 'Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.'"

"Aha! Those Bushies cut out 10 pages, and they expected us to buy it! But we got em!"

Or not.

First, let's cred-check on this Oliver Schröm fellow. He was the author of a October 2002 piece in Die Zeit magazine which claimed Israeli "art students" were really a secret Mossad spy ring, tasked with keeping track of Mohammed Atta. Damning? Not so much. For one thing, he places the the leader's apartment "on the corner of 71st St. and 21st Ave. in Hollywood, right near the apartment of Atta and al-Shehi." Except, as Bruce Rolston points out, no such intersection exists in Hollywood, Florida. Nitpicking? Perhaps, but it's also worth mentioning that these "art students/Israeli spies" were at those apartments two months before Mohammed Atta moved into town.

Either these kids really were art students, or Israeli intelligence is really really good. Er...and a bit psychic.

Ok, so Schröm is the author of a fairly incredible - and very dubious - story that alleges Israel either allowed, or helped, 9/11 to happen. What about the allegation that the PDB was cut from 11.5 pages down to 1.5? What was in the other 10 pages?

Well, presumably, it was the Presidents Daily Briefing. The President gets that briefing every day, you know. (...or, I hope you know that. If not, please review the title: "President's Daily Briefing") As MSNBC points out....

Length: Usually 10 to 15 pages with six to 10 headlines, each similar to the one released from Aug. 6, 2001, dealing with al-Qaida.
Do the math. 10-15 pages, divided into 6-10 headlines. That leaves, roughly, a page or so for each topic.

More? Fred Kaplan cited an intelligence officer who had written about 40 PDB's and said...

"They're usually dispassionate in tone, a mere paragraph or two. The PDB of Aug. 6 was a page and a half. "That's the intelligence-community equivalent of writing War and Peace," Johnson said.
What's more, as a former Clandestine Services CIA officer points out, a PDB is simply not used to warn the President of imminent attacks....
Not only was this particular PDB article not used to alert the President of an impending terrorist attack, no PDB is ever used that way. Never, ever.
...
Now, contrast the PDB with a genuine threat report.

Threat reports are raw intelligence, loaded with all the details available, verifiable or not — time is of the essence. A sanitized, unclassified ‘tear line’ version is typically included, so recipients can quickly pass the information to people without security clearances, like foreign governments, or airlines, or police officers.

When a threat report is sent to out to intelligence consumers, it goes at the highest precedence and to the widest possible list of recipients, including the White House Situation Room and, often, the President himself.

This is how the Intelligence Community handles a threat report. Dissemination is quick and wide, with hardly any attention paid to substantive evaluation. As you can see, it is in many respects the exact opposite of how an article for the PDB is put together and distributed.

The point is straightforward. The PDB is not used to disseminate actionable threat intelligence, whether to the President or anyone else.

If Raimando had done the bare minimum of research, he'd know this. Instead, he exploits the public ignorance of the nature and shape of the PDB to stir the pot.

What is worse, Raimando has to be aware that the 9/11 Commission has already seen the entire August 6 PDB, including the redacted portion. And have you heard any outcry from them about the redaction? No?

Now, do you really believe that Ben-Veniste and Company would stay silent if the White House had left out the most damning portion of the PDB? Justin Raimando does. But then, Justin Raimando believes a lot of very silly things.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 17, 2004

In which I agree with Oliver Willis

Imagine if the Chinese perception of the "will of the American people" was based on, say, Atrios. Or QandO. Or, god forbid, Counterspin. I think it's fair to say that would be an unfair generalization. Oliver Willis thinks so, too...

Here's an idea that comes to mind: perhaps we should take the perspectives of Iraqi bloggers with a grain of salt. American political blogging tends not to reflect the will of America as a whole (caucasian, upper middle class, white-collar work, male) so I would in a region as impoverished as Iraq - the difference between an Iraqi who can afford a computer with an internet connection (or time in an Internet cafe) and the average Iraqi would be substantial. That doesn't mean we should discount them one way or the other, positively or negatively (for instance, there don't seem to be a lot of jihadists blogging) - just don't let their opinions be representative of "all of Iraq".
I agree with Oliver here, but I'll go a step further. Why are we so sure that all of these Iraqi bloggers are actually Iraqi bloggers?

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:20 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Stop War....or whatever.

As Glenn says, they're just on the other side. Here's a statement from the antiwar (and communist) group A.N.S.W.E.R.

ACTION ALERT: DEFEND FREE SPEECH
STOP THE ATTACKS ON DR. HATEM BAZIAN!

Dr. Hatem Bazian, a highly respected lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley in the Near Eastern Studies and Ethnic Studies Departments, is being victimized by a mean-spirited national right-wing campaign.

He's just a victim, you see. Nothing more. Why, they'll prove it. Read what he did....
His just defense of the Palestinian people and his call to end war and suffering of all in Iraq are being maliciously portrayed as "incitement of violence and sedition."
He's against war and suffering! That's it! Nothing to see here. Move along.

Except, that's not quite it.

While A.N.S.W.E.R. is 100% in favor of Bazian's freedom to speak, they don't seem very interested in actually, you know, telling you what he said. Fortunately, one doesn't need to depend on A.N.S.W.E.R. for that information....

...“we’re sitting here and watching the world pass by, people being bombed, and it’s about time that we have an intifada in this country that change(s) fundamentally the political dynamics in here.” He placed his opposition to U.S. forces upfront: “(Y)ou know, the occupation is a source of tremendous violence against Iraqis. I think we've got to support the resistance; we've got to say that we support attacks against the occupying forces.”
Misunderstood? Taken out of context? A misinterpretation of his words? Well, in case you're confused, he clarified...
He continued, “(W)e in this movement (should) support the resistance against American imperialism by any means necessary.” The Berkeley-trained Ph.D. concluded his call to violence with a promise of more to come: “They’re gonna say, ‘some Palestinian being too radical’ — well, you haven’t seen radicalism yet!”
Ok. More radical than the suicide bombers. And he wants to bring this sort of radicalism to bear with an intifada IN the United States.

So, in their long-standing tradition of supporting any war fought against the United States, A.N.S.W.E.R. stands up for this guy. Best of all, they have the sheer, unmitigated gall to say that statements like these "are being twisted and presented as "sedition" and "treason" in a McCarthy-style purge".

Got that? Advocating the killing of US troops - or an "intifada" within the US - that's not sedition or treason. It's just "freedom of speech". But when you (gasp) criticise him for saying it....well, that's a McCarthy-style purge.

If that's not an example of treason, I'd really be curious to know how International T.R.A.I.T.O.R. A.N.S.W.E.R. defines it.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Calling the game at half-time

Matthew Yglesias seems to have declared the Iraq war a net defeat. Yes, already.

David Brooks offers the first of what I think will be many retrospective I was wrong but I was right anyway articles. The implication here is that though Bush may botch everything in Iraq, Brooks was nevertheless correct to have supported the war because he, after all, was not in favor of botching things.
Matthew is grossly distorting Brooks point, which he summed up quite clearly..."We hawks were wrong about many things. But in opening up the possibility for a slow trudge toward democracy, we were still right about the big thing."

To put it more clearly - if such is possible, or even necessary: Brooks doesn't think Bush is handling things perfectly, but he thinks Bush is going in the right direction. In fact, he even says "I still believe that in 20 years, no one will doubt that Bush did the right thing".

The difference here is very simple. Brooks adds up the positives and negatives and sees a positive marginal utility in the Iraq war. Matthew does the same thing and sees a net negative. Fair enough. I disagree with Matt on the calculation, but it's a fair point of contention.

However, the disparity between Matt's calculation and Brooks calculation discredits Matt's point. If Brooks saw a net negative, yet still said they were right to have sided with the Iraq war, then Matt would have a case. Yet, Brooks does no such thing. He believes the war was the right thing, because we ARE going to have a net positive.

Matt goes on....

The trouble, however, is this. When George W. Bush is president and is advocating a war and you, too, are advocating for war, then the fact of the matter is that you are advocating that the war be conducted by George W. Bush. That Bush would botch things was a perfectly predictable consequence of said support, based on -- among other things -- the fact that he'd botched everything else he'd ever done.
Pure ad hominem. Also, false. For example, while Bush is alleged to have been a business failure, he was actually fairly successful in his particular area of the business. (buying and selling land oil rights) He was simply the victim of bad geology - note: Bush wasn't the geologist - and a difficult time to be in the Texas oil business.

He was regarded as a very good fighter pilot by his colleagues...he graduated from an Ivy League school. Oh, and he was a fairly successful Governor of Texas. Also, that Afghan war had worked out fairly well. (again...not perfectly, but we did win, you know) Sure, he traded Sammy Sosa, but we all make mistakes, you know? Tell you what, next time we'll put George Steinbrenner in charge of national security. He's been fairly successful at everything at which Bush has "failed".

I don't mind Matt making his own calculation, and judging his opinion based on it. Don't mind that at all. But it seems a bit presumptious of Matt to apply his own calculation of Iraq to David Brooks opinion, then accuse David Brooks of failing to admit he was wrong.

Oh, and I'd also say it's too early to declare defeat just yet. I'd side with Brooks...it's dirty and painful, but I think history will judge this a necessary, positive decision.

Posted by Jon Henke at 03:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Kerry Budget

Bear in mind when you read this....the Brookings Institute is a fairly liberal think-tank.

Proposals from Kerry since beginning his presidential campaign, including expanding health care insurance and helping families pay for college tuition, would deepen the deficit by at least $130 billion after four years, according to Bloomberg calculations using estimates provided by the Kerry campaign and William Gale, an economist at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

Bush's plan to extend the income tax cuts he pushed through Congress would widen the gap by $77.2 billion through 2009, according to Gale's analysis.

That analysis leaves out Bush's proposal to create private social security accounts, which would widen the deficit in the short term. However, that is a short term change. In the long term, that shift would likely be fairly fungible, since the revenue and benefits are not being eradicated, but instead shifted to a different system. Locked out of government hands, as it were. (hm...a "lockbox". You'd think the Democrats would like that idea)

Oh, and we can probably dispense with the criticism of the Bush administration for not including the cost of the Iraq/Afghanistan military operations in budget projections...

Neither candidate includes the cost of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, for which Congress allocated an extra $87 billion last year.
Still, Kerry - unlike Bush - promises to cut back on assorted programs to be fiscally responsible...though we have yet to hear specifically what he wants to cut. Bush is sticking with "we'll slow the rate of growth".

I suspect both candidates will be wary of cuts during a campaign season, and we won't hear a great deal of spending-cut noise before November. After all, nobody was ever elected by promising a cut in bread and circuses.

This is, unfortunately, the reason a principled libertarian/conservative politician cannot sustain the Presidency. Discipline is important, but nobody likes it. And elections are popularity contests.

Hat tip to Steve Verdon, who has comments as well. (and an excellent blog)

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mission Accomplished

I never understood why it was such a big deal, but Rove is apparently regretting the "Mission Accomplished" sign....

President Bush's top political adviser said this week he regretted the use of a "Mission Accomplished" banner as a backdrop for the president's landing on an aircraft carrier last May to mark the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

"I wish the banner was not up there," said White House political strategist Karl Rove. "I'll acknowledge the fact that it has become one of those convenient symbols."

Rove, speaking at an editorial board meeting with The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio on Thursday, echoed Bush's contention that the phrase referred to the carrier's crew completing their 10-month mission, not the military completing its mission in Iraq.

More broadly than that, I'd say the sign reflected the fact that we'd deposed the Saddam regime. In that sense, the mission was accomplished.

Of course, Rove is right....it was ammunition for the critics. In that sense, it was a poor PR move. Still, the incident was just another example of the inability of the Bush campaign to defend even the most innocuous gesture against ridiculous criticisms. That has been a hallmark of this administration.

And Karl Rove.....how has he positioned Bush for this election? So far, the left hates him - granted, that's almost unavoidable - the moderates are still on the fence, and the conservatives are holding their nose. All that neo-conservative "coalition-building" on the domestic front has really been a failure.

Jesse Taylor doesn't see much political hay being made, either....

Since the beginning of the year, even from a nonpartisan standpoint, I don't think that George W. Bush has done anything good for himself politically. There is not a single thing that he's done since January 1, 2004, that has in any way significantly aided his approval ratings or his electoral fortune. Mars, marriage, Iraq, terrorism, the economy, ads, slurs, lies, holding back, lashing out - it's gotten them nothing.
I'd disagree that Bush doesn't get political advantage with his larger policies on terrorism and Iraq, but his inability to make his case, and rally the country....that's killing him. Oh, and I don't think Kerry is suffering a strategic gap on the "ads, slurs, lies and lashing out" front, either. But, so be it.

For the life of me, I just don't see how Karl Rove has acquired his reputation.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 16, 2004

Eye Roll Alert

Some QandO readers have expressed surprise that I express a general distaste for Rush Limbaugh. Well, this comment from a recent show is one reason why I think so little of Limbaugh as a serious political analyst....

Now, if Hillary is to run in 2008, this party's got to survive, they may be thinking now they need to join this just to save the party. To hell with winning anything this year. They may just need to save the party so there's still a foundation from which and on which to run in 2008. There's also the possibility that Hillary wants to be on the VP ticket so that she dispels the notion that the Clintons are sabotaging the campaign and so that she can also go out there and really be the star. She'd be the star because she'll be the one bringing excitement to it. And, by the way, she'll get all kinds of criticism and the Republicans will launch all they've got at her, and she'll endure that. They know that they're pretty confident Kerry is going to lose and if Kerry wins there's always Fort Marcy Park. So they're rolling the dice on this.
Recognize Fort Marcy Park? Limbaugh is saying that..."hey, if Kerry wins, the Clintons will have him killed".

Limbaugh apparently either believes the Clintons had Vince Foster killed....or, worse, is willing to spread that tale in order to score political points.

Now, do tell me about how much more serious than Al Franken this Rush Limbaugh fellow is.

(hat tip: Orcinus)

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:59 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Forgotten words

Some Presidential words that have been forgotten in the bitter, partisan battle over Iraq. From a speech in England...

There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime poses a threat to his people, his neighbours and the world at large because of his biological and chemical weapons and his nuclear programme.
...
What has happened in the last four years? No inspectors, a fresh opportunity to rebuild the biological and chemical weapons programme and to try and develop some sort of nuclear capacity. Because of the sanctions Saddam Hussein is much weaker militarily than he was in 1990, while we are stronger, but that probably has given him even more incentive to try and amass weapons of mass destruction.
....
We cannot walk away from [Iraq] or the proved evidence that they are capable of self-government and entitled to a decent life.
Ah, that President of ours. Always playing up the spectre of WMDs and the idea that we can set up a democracy in the perpetually despotism-ridden Middle East. Whatever are we going to do with him?

There's also this Guardian article by the President...

Unfortunately, the consensus behind 1441 has unravelled. Saddam has destroyed some missiles but beyond that he has done only what he thinks is necessary to keep the UN divided on the use of force. The really important issues relating to chemical and biological weapons remain unresolved.
...
On the other side, France, Germany and Russia are adamantly opposed to the use of force or imposing any ultimatum on Saddam as long as the inspectors are working. They believe that, at least as long as the inspectors are there, Iraq will not use or give away its chemical and biological stocks, and therefore, no matter how unhelpful Saddam is, he does not pose a threat sufficient to justify invasion. After 150,000 US forces were deployed to the Gulf, they concluded the US was not willing to give inspections a chance anyway. The problem with their position is that only the threat of force from the US and the UK got inspectors back into Iraq in the first place. Without a credible threat of force, Saddam will not disarm.
And this "scare tactic" by the President from the same article...
There is, too, as both Britain and America agree, some risk of Saddam using or transferring his weapons to terrorists. There is as well the possibility that more angry young Muslims can be recruited to terrorism. But if we leave Iraq with chemical and biological weapons, after 12 years of defiance, there is a considerable risk that one day these weapons will fall into the wrong hands and put many more lives at risk than will be lost in overthrowing Saddam.

I wish that Russia and France had supported [1441]. Then, Hans Blix and his inspectors would have been given more time and supprt for their work. But that's not where we are. Blair is in a position not of his own making, because Iraq and other nations were unwilling to follow the logic of 1441.

(sigh) Whatever are we going to do with that President.....Clinton.

And why didn't he make statements like that in the United States?

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Nuclear carry-out

Remember when Bush was asked if he could name one mistake made by his administration? He could have mentioned this....

Some Iraqi nuclear facilities appear to be unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency reported after reviewing satellite images and equipment that has turned up in European scrapyards.

The International Atomic Energy Agency sent a letter to U.S. officials three weeks ago informing them of the findings.
....
...arms control officials now worry the war and its chaotic aftermath may have increased chances that terrorists could get their hands on materials used for unconventional weapons or that civilians may be unknowingly exposed to radioactive materials.

According to ElBaradei's letter, satellite imagery shows "extensive removal of equipment and in some instances, removal of entire buildings," in Iraq.

In addition, "large quantities of scrap, some of it contaminated, have been transferred out of Iraq from sites" previously monitored by the IAEA.

Maybe there's a good excuse for this, but I doubt it. Cutting the IAEA completely out of the loop doesn't seem like such a good idea, either. At the very least, we could have tasked them with containment and clean-up of secured nuclear facilities.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Attack of the Strawman

EJ Dionne partakes of a little intellectual dishonsty and ignorance and ends up with a great strawman argument:

Now Bush has the nerve to say that those Americans concerned that Iraq might turn into Vietnam are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. The analogy, he said Tuesday, "sends the wrong message to our troops and sends the wrong message to the enemy."

In light of the "truce" offer from Bin Laden, I'd ask EJ what might have driven Bin Laden's effort to "divide-and-conquer"? Was it because the world had produced a committed and united front, or was it because there were evident differences of opinion and a perceived lack of will on at least a part of the world to participate or condone what hand happened with Iraq?

Yeah, right ... the latter.

And what has he then done? He's tried to take ADVANTAGE of that perceived lack of will in Europe.

Last time I looked, he was the "enemy". So those who've opposed the war in Iraq in Europe have essentially given him the idea that this divide-and-conquer routine is viable. Its apparently given him some 'aid and comfort', enough to say:

Based on this, and to deprive war traders of opportunities, and in response to the positive reactions reflected in recent events and public polls showing that most European people want a truce, I urge the faithful, especially scholars, clerics and traders to establish a permanent committee to build awareness among Europeans of the justice of our causes, foremost Palestine, and make use of the vast media resources. [emphasis mine]

Now, considering Bin Laden's words, how do you suppose our enemy reacts when we make comparisons to Vietnam?

Bin Laden's already citing dissidence and "polls" in his European truce tape. Upon our own politicians and talking heads using the Vietnam analogy, what might be the perception our "enemy" is likely to take from that?

Why is that a different type of dissidence from which he WON'T take aid and comfort?

Maybe a little comfort to know we're divided? Maybe a little aid in knowing how to craft his message to the American people? And what about the insurgents? Do you suppose they don't feel some comfort in knowing we're divided and comparing what they're putting us through to Vietnam?

Can anyone honestly say that the purpose of using the analogy of Vietnam in comparison to Iraq is a POSITIVE and HELPFUL comparison? Is it even a true comparisoin? Or does it just conjure visions of hopeless struggle, needless death and eventual failure?

Dionne wants to pretend this is all because there weren't enough troops on the ground to begin with. Well, if their job was to defeat Saddam's military, that's obviously not true. Those that were on the ground did so in record time and minimal effort.

No, what sends the wrong message is when our country doesn't put enough troops on the ground in the first place to do the job right. It doesn't help that you were unwilling to make clear in advance that bringing democracy to Iraq would involve a long struggle and a great expenditure of American treasure. It doesn't make our troops more secure for a president to divide the country by trashing his critics as unpatriotic. And it doesn't build support for a great experiment in democratization when the president fails to explain how he is going to win the thing.

What Dionne attempts to do is make the point that, like 9/11, we should have been precient concerning what was going to happen in Iraq.

We should have KNOWN that Iraqi security forces would melt away. We should have KNOWN every level of government would have collapsed and disappeared. We should have KNOWN that Iraqis would have looted their own country on an unprecedented scale. And, we should have KNOWN that our troops would have to fill roles they aren't and weren't trained to fill.

Well, that's just nonsense. While I'm not about to give Bush a pass on the administration's handling of post war Iraq, it isn't the problem of "too few troops" to do the job. It isn't the JOB of troops to nation build, never has been.

If EJ wants to make a legitimate point, then it should be made about a lack of a coherent plan to emplace the CIVILIAN COMPONENT (bureaucracy) necessary to nation-build. But it isn't the job of the troops. No matter how many troops you have, they're not TRAINED to be police, nor can they take their place.

Dionne says "It doesn't help that you were unwilling to make clear in advance that bringing democracy to Iraq would involve a long struggle and a great expenditure of American treasure."

EJ must not have been listening closely when all of this began. Bush said "The rise of Iraq as an example of moderation and democracy and prosperity is a massive and long-term undertaking."

Apparently, Dionne must think that means "a year".

I can only surmise from Dionne's petulant remarks that he was somehow unaware that freeing a country and the stabalizing it couldn't be done on the cheap, either in time or treasure. He seems ignorant of our previous nation-building stints in both Europe and Japan and the cost and time they took, or the present one underway in Kosovo. One can only assume Dionne to be a product of our public school system who wakes up in a new world everyday, completely ignorant of history.

"It doesn't make our troops more secure for a president to divide the country by trashing his critics as unpatriotic."

But it IS patriotic to trash the president, trash the effort in Iraq and compare it to Vietnam, and then pretend it doesn't give aid and comfort to the enemy?

Sorry EJ, you can't have it both ways.

And it doesn't build support for a great experiment in democratization when the president fails to explain how he is going to win the thing."

"Win the thing?' What's to win? The deed is done. The clean-up of those still in opposition to that deed is underway in Iraq. That sort of reaction is to be expected, and it takes TIME. This is not some TV war which is over in an hour including messages from the sponsors.

Why is it that Dionne has to have this 'explained' to him when the majority of Americans already understand?

Because he's reacting to criticism out of pure petulance. He's peeved that he's one of those who've been pointed to as not being helpful. And make no mistake, he's chosen to translate that criticism into being called "unpatriotic", just as Max Cleland and other have. This is a strawman argument which hopes to innoculate those making it from the consequences of irresponsible remarks. Of course to "win" that fight, he has to completely ignore the evidence, such as OBL's latest tape, which points to the criticism having some validity.

Its all about his "patriotism", which translates into his absolute right to make irresponsible remarks with no penalty.

Well EJ, those days are over ... forever.

Posted by McQ at 09:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Free Speech we like

In the name of tolerance, Brian Leiter writes a defense of intolerance.....

This (error-ridden) recent item from the right-wing U.S. News & World Report criticizes the latest defeat for human liberty to befall the poor Canadians: namely, the loss of their right to freely express hatred for homosexuals, even (get ready for this!) when they have religious grounds for their hatred and bigotry. How will Canada survive if it doesn't follow the U.S. lead and acknowledge a blanket license for religiously-inspired hatred? Already, from the increasingly ridiculous right-wing corners of the U.S. blogosphere, we hear the mocking clucking of the libertarian pundits, "Pity poor Canada, they have no free speech."
Ok. Hyperbole. But give Leiter a break....he's just mad that the US government hasn't stepped in to suppress free speech. That's ok, though, because it's speech he doesn't like. (for that matter, it's speech I don't like, but then...I'm not telling people they can't engage in it)

Leiter - a philosophy professor, so he should really know better - proceeds into logical fallacy wonderland by loading and framing the questions to (surprise!) his benefit...

It is true that if you despise homosexuality, and if you want to freely express that view, especially on religious grounds, you're better off in the U.S. It's also true that if you're skeptical about U.S. motives in Iraq (and elsewhere) and think the invasion was on a par, morally, with the Soviet invasion of Aghanistan; if you believe nationalized health care is preferable to a system which caters to the needs of the insurance industry; if you think redistributive taxation is a requirement of justice; if, in short, you dissent from the neoliberal paradigm and chauvinist nationalism that dominate the public sphere in the United States, you will have far more freedom of speech in Canada: for example, your views might be expressible outside your living room, perhaps, say, in major newspapers, or even on television.
Ok, aside from the logical fallacy in which he engages here, let's just point and laugh at that last little bit. Yeah.....it's hard to find an antiwar columnist, or an advocate of the liberal agenda in the US media.

It's a good thing he wrote that down, because there's no way he could say it with a straight face.

Surprisingly, though, Leiter turns right around and begins arguing with himself....

Now don't misunderstand me. Canada is a civilized country, and so the fact that Canada takes seriously the post-WWII European consensus--namely, that naked bigotry, religiously motivated or otherwise, is a danger to humanity--makes perfect sense. But the U.S. is different. In the U.S. I much prefer our more-or-less "libertarian" regime governing speech, and for reasons Fred Schauer pegged two decades ago in his book on the subject: not because the "marketplace" of ideas, such as it is, will yield the truth, or because speech doesn't "harm" people (it does, all the time), but rather because there is no reason to have confidence that the agents of the state in America will exercise their regulatory powers in the service of human well-being and enlightenment.
So, Leiter's argument is not that speech should be free because freedom, in itself, it good....but because it helps us find "well-being and truth". It's this sort of logic-twisting that allows Leiter - or his ideological compatriot Noam Chomsky - to excuse any amount of totalitarian atrocity.....because, hey, "it's all for Human Well-Being and Enlightenment", don't you know.

But, having conceded the slipper-slope danger of restrictions on free speech, Leiter goes on to praise it. Yes, the slippery slope argument is, apparently, outdated.

So I admire Canada, not so much for their approach to free speech, per se, but rather for having achieved a level of civilization that permits them to regulate expression without sacrificing the central values of the post-Enlightenment world. Nothing of human value is lost--let's repeat that, just to be clear, "nothing"--when the right to express contempt (whether dressed up in the language of morality and religion, or not) for Jews or Gays or Blacks is sanctioned. The marketplace of ideas, the search for truth, is unhindered.
Let me make this clear: I have no interest in, nor do I condone, hate speech against Gays, Jews, or Blacks. But again, I'm not the one advocating the suppression of that speech. Leiter, however, makes the classic mistake with respect to free speech. He assumes that the point of free speech is the search for "greater truth", or "progress".

That's simply not true, and for a very simple reason: in matters of personal values, there is no "greater truth". There is only subjective valuation.

"Free speech", freedom itself, whatever Leiter may think, is not a means to an end, but an end in itself. If you think differently, ask yourself this: is there a difference between a slave being forced to cultivate a farm, and a farmer? Both, after all, perform the same function.

Of course, there is a difference, and it is fundamental. Freedom.

Leiter wraps up with a Ralph Nader-esque bit about our "corporate masters", misunderstanding the difference between persuasion and coercion. Whatever...I'm not interested in that rabbit hole.

What I am interested in is this idea of Leiter's that we should not restrict free speech...except when we can restrict the speech of which Leiter does not approve. And he has the gall to use the word "free".

Sad.

NOTE: Noticed this via Matthew Yglesias, who disagrees with Leiter for somewhat different reasons.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:03 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Vietnam? I don't think so

And while Krugman is using the Vietnam comparison, Charles Krauthammer is pointing to the differences:

Iraq is Vietnam not on the ground, but in our heads. The troubles of the last few weeks were immediately interpreted as a national uprising, Iraq's Tet Offensive, and created a momentary panic. The panic overlooked two facts: First, Tet was infinitely larger and deadlier in effect and in scale. And second, Tet was a devastating military defeat for the Viet Cong. They never recovered. Unfortunately, neither did we, psychologically. Walter Cronkite, speaking for the establishment, declared the war lost. Once said, it was

Note the last two sentences. There was a psychological aspect to Vietnam that we have to understand as well as the military and political. That psychological aspect talked us INTO a 'defeat'. We were told repeatedly we were losing, or at best, that we couldn't win. Tet was a huge defeat for the VC ... in fact, they ceased to exist as a viable fighting force after that battle. But we weren't told that. We were told we had lost.

Where this IS like Vietnam is in the psychology of "defeatism" we hear from the left ... we need to ignore the naysayers. We need to understand they're the same group that talked us out of winning in Vietnam (ala Ted Kennedy) and they're again engaged in it here.

Was Vietnam "winable"? Yes ... but not the way we were allowed to fight it militarily. Is the military situation the same in Iraq as was in Vietnam? No, at least not yet, and most likely it will never be similar. There are no countries providing sanctuary, there are no countries supplying the insurgents with arms and advisors and there are no "safe harbors" they can flee too to preserve themselves, regroup, rearm and attempt to fight again.

More importantly, unlike Vietnam, the world recognizes the importance of success in Iraq, whether they overtly support our effort or not.

What's going on now isn't a popular uprising.

Its a power grab by a minority cleric on the one hand and the survivors of a terrorist regime on the other. Al-Sadr wants more power for the majority Shia than the new constitution will provide. The Ba'athist thugs and their terrorist henchmen want a return of the old regime. Both are taking their shot. Neither will succeed.

However, if you listen to the naysayers, we're "losing" in Iraq. We're in a "quagmire".

As Krauthammer points out:

It was inevitable that Iraq would be compared to Vietnam. Indeed, the current comparisons are hardly new. During our astonishingly fast dash to Baghdad, taking the capital within 21 days, the chorus of naysayers was already calling Iraq a "quagmire" on Day 8! It was not Vietnam then. It is not Vietnam now.

So why the Vietnam comparison? Its POLITICALLY USEFUL to use the Vietnam analogy and recall the dark national nightmare that Vietnam conjures in the minds of most Americans. Its psychologically and politically expedient whether it fits or not. The "big lie" aimed at a politcal goal. Athough the left would decry any attempt by the right to "politicize" the Iraq war, they seem to have no problem doing so with this cynical nonsense.

That sort of nonsense may be part-and-parcel our right of free speech, but that doesn't make it responsible debate or something we must quietly accept just because those opposed to us being in Iraq can say it.

This isn't Vietnam. This isn't "unwinable". But we have to avoid the psychological darkness the naysayers on the left would have descend on this endeavor.

Posted by McQ at 08:12 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Stupid Word Games

John Kerry gets silly....

“Secretary Rumsfeld's comment that 'people are fungible' is further indication of this Administration's continuing disregard for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day in Iraq. Secretary Rumsfeld has it wrong. Troops are not chess pieces to be moved on a board, they are real people with families and loved ones who depend on them.
..and the text in question:
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can i ask you about your opening statement? You said that the challenge in Fallujah is being contained and that the situation in the South is largely stabilized. and I wonder if that is the case, why, then is it necessary to keep extra troops in Iraq for 90 days?

RUMSFELD: Well, it is -- the reason it is contained is because we have the extra troops there. That is self-evident. Come on, people are fungible. You can have them here or there.

We have announced the judgment, it is clear, you understand it, everyone in the room understands that we needed additional -- The commander decided he'd like to retain in country an additional plus or minus 20,000 people and that is what we are doing.

So, the in-theatre commanders ask for more troops, and John Kerry criticises the administration for accomodating them? Or, more specifically, Kerry criticises Rumsfeld for pointing out the fact that, whether you keep 20,000 troops there for 90 days longer, or send them home and bring in 20,000 additional troops from the US.....20,000 troops is 20,000 troops.

Oddly, after making whiny noises about the impersonal nature of the word "fungible", Kerry doesn't actually disagree with the military decision made by the Department of Defense. No, it's not their decision he has a problem with, it's their vocabulary.

Such is the meat of Presidential campaign season.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Krugmania - 4/16

Paul Krugman makes the Vietnam comparison today....

And there's one more parallel: Nixonian politics is back.

What we remember now is Watergate. But equally serious were Nixon's efforts to suppress dissent, like the "Tell It to Hanoi" rallies, where critics of the Vietnam War were accused of undermining the soldiers and encouraging the enemy. On Tuesday George Bush did a meta-Nixon: he declared that anyone who draws analogies between Iraq and Vietnam undermines the soldiers and encourages the enemy.

Of course, Krugman believes that parallel discredits what Bush said. Unfortunately, history is not on his side, and the parallel is surprisingly similar. Not only did the antiwar rallies in the 60's-70's undermine our soldiers and encourage our enemies, some of the actors haven't changed that much. From John McCain's US News & World Report article after returning from the Hanoi Hilton where he was a POW....
All through this period, the "gooks" were bombarding us with antiwar quotes from people in high places back in Washington. This was the most effective propaganda they had to use against us-speeches and statements by men who were generally respected in the United States.

They used Senator Fulbright a great deal, and Senator Brooke. Ted Kennedy was quoted again and again, as was Averell Harriman. Clark Clifford was another favorite, right after he had been Secretary of Defense under President Johnson.

So, yes, much like in Vietnam...some criticism undermines the soldiers and comforts the enemies. Not the point I think Krugman wanted to make.

Criticism is valid and important, but let's not pretend that our enemies are not comforted, even encouraged, by politicians who try to compare this war to one from which we withdrew.

UPDATE: James Joyner has more.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:02 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

NRA News (and soon, radio)

A note about this story...

The nation's gun lobby is creating an "NRA news" company that will produce a daily talk show for the Internet, buy a radio station and seek a television deal to spread its gun-rights message nationwide.

Looking for the same legal recognition as mainstream news organizations, the National Rifle Association says it has already hired its first reporter, a conservative talk radio host from Oklahoma. NRANews.com plans to start online broadcasts Friday.

...note that hte "talk radio host from Oklahoma" can be found on the QandO blogroll to the left...Cam Edwards. He announced it on his blog here.

Which brings me to another point. What's wrong with the NRA broadcasting their message? Plenty, according to John Kerry....

We are writing to protest the National Rifle Association's (NRA) attempt to hijack the airwaves and use their special interest millions to fund a steady stream of NRA-TV. It doesn’t matter how much power the NRA has, our party should never be the choice of the NRA, and our country should never lose the free media that is at the core of our democracy. ... There is nothing more disturbing than imagining a democracy where the media becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NRA’s right-wing extremism.
That was from a letter sent to the Federal Election Commission circa December 2003. Since then, the Soros-funded liberal radio network "Air America" has begun broadcasting.

Surprisingly, John Kerry has not expressed dismay at their attempt to hijack the airwaves and use their special interest millions to fund a steady stream of DNC-radio.

It's just different when left-wing groups do it, ok?

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thaddeus, The Chief

This strikes me, in general, as a good idea....

The White House is weighing whether to pre-empt the Sept. 11 commission's final report this summer by embracing a proposal to create a powerful new post of director of national intelligence, administration officials said on Thursday.

Under the proposal, management of the government's 15 intelligence agencies, and control of their budgets, would be put under the direction of a single person. That authority is now scattered across a number of departments and agencies.

I'm not so sure that budgetary authority should be given to the coordinating Intelligence figure, but it certainly seems to me that the left hand should at least know what the right hand is doing.

Posted by Jon Henke at 05:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 15, 2004

The Happy Martyr Brigade

I still think that's the idea ... fight 'em in Iraq instead of Manhattan. Let 'em die happy ... over there. Anyway, Moamer Kadhafi "waxes eloquent" about the situation in Iraq:

"Saddam's fall has not brought terrorism to an end," Kadhafi said in a televised speech on Wednesday.

"Far from it: it has found a bigger opportunity to flourish," he said, addressing an audience of Libyan police officers.

"The Al-Qaeda network did not exist before in Iraq, and now it is there, along with the renegades," said Kadhafi.

Al-Qaeda is bin Laden's underground extremist network, and the term "renegades" is used by Kadhafi to refer to Islamic extremists in general.

"They are fighting there (in Iraq) today; they are happy to be falling as martyrs before US and British soldiers, and want the front to broaden to Iran and Syria, to arrive in Palestine," the Libyan leader added.

Actually I'm glad they're happy to be "falling as martyrs" in Iraq. In fact, that's precisely where I'd prefer to see the terrorist's and renegade's tide crest ... and then begin to ebb. The more that martyr themselves in Iraq, the less we have to deal with elsewhere.

Posted by McQ at 04:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Its their Super Bowl"

You've got to love the Marines:

"It's their Super Bowl," said Maj. T. V. Johnson, a Marine spokesman. "Falluja is the place to go if you want to kill Americans."

Yup ... but they better bring their lunch.

American forces killed more than 100 insurgents on Tuesday in close combat in a small village in central Iraq, Marine commanders said Wednesday.

The battle, classic urban combat that raged for 14 hours, was one of the heaviest engagements since the invasion of Iraq last year. It showed not only the intensity of the resistance but an acute willingness among insurgents to die.

And apparently the Marines are doing all they can to accomodate that willingness.

"A lot of these guys were souped up on jihad," said Lt. Col. B. P. McCoy, commander of the Fourth Battalion, Third Marines. "They might as well been suicide fighters."

Marines fought house to house, roof to roof, doorway to doorway. They repelled attacks of machine-gun fire, volleys of rockets and repeated charges by masked fighters, Colonel McCoy said. Two marines were shot but their injuries were not life-threatening.

Classic MOUT or "urban combat".

According to the article the fighters the Marines face are getting better at this as the fight goes along.

Marine commanders say the enemy in Falluja is increasingly well organized. On Wednesday morning, 15 fighters mounted a coordinated assault on marines who were stretched thin across a corner of the city. Marines lying on their stomachs along dark rooftops repelled the fighters, but only after calling in helicopter gunships.

Some insurgents have been spotted wearing Iraqi police flak jackets, originally supplied by the Americans. Some also used illumination flares during Wednesday's attack, another first.

"Last night, they were all around us — in front of us, in back of us, everywhere," said Lt. Lewis Langella, who commands a squad of snipers and infantry on Falluja's outskirts. "They were throwing a whole lot of lead at us, and we were throwing a whole lot back."

But then, so are the Marines:

One of the most important tools for this battle comes from the garden shed: sledgehammers. On Wednesday, marines punched "mouseholes," just big enough for gun barrels, in the brick walls of the homes they occupied. They also smashed windows to scatter shards of glass across the front steps.

"It's an early warning system," Capt. Shannon Johnson explained, as he crunched noisily across the glass, "something the old guys taught us."

Nearby, a squad of young men with crewcuts swung heavy hammers under a punishing sun. They were knocking down the low walls along the rooftops so they could move on catwalks from roof to roof.

There's no doubt as to which side will come out the worse for wear in the battle. Maybe this is what needs to happen. Let the Iraqi resistance break itself on the rock of the Marines. Perhaps then there will be some calm and a chance to pick up where we left off in getting Iraq on its feet and functioning on its own again.


Posted by McQ at 02:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Oops

Frist eats crow....

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says former Bush counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke’s testimony before a joint congressional panel on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks did not contradict his later testimony before a presidentially appointed commission.

Roberts’s comments to The Hill contradict a stinging condemnation of Clarke by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on the Senate floor after Clarke accused President Bush of failing to take Osama bin Laden seriously before Sept. 11.
...
Speaking of Clarke’s private testimony in 2002 before a joint House-Senate panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, compared to more recent public testimony, Roberts said, “It’s not that he said one thing in one place and said another in another place. It’s just that the subject never came up during the investigation by the House and Senate.

“The prime topic was basically, Did the intelligence community have the authority to take advantage of opportunities in regard to Osama bin Laden.

“But I don’t recall any questions in regard to whether the Bush administration was responding well … I don’t think the words ever came up.”

When asked if Clarke contradicted himself, Roberts said he did not.

So that's that.

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

In their own words

As myself and many have been saying for some time, much of the fighting is being done by foreign terrorists in Iraq to confront "the Great Satan". Here's an Iraqi blogger, Zeyad, lending credence to that point.

It is becoming increasingly evident from all the violence we have witnessed over the last year, that a proxy war is being waged against the US on Iraqi soil by several countries and powers with Iraqis as the fuel and the fire, just like Lebanon was during the late seventies and eighties. The majority of Arab regimes have a huge interest in this situation continuing, not to mention Iran, and Al-Qaeda. I am not trying, of course, to lift the blame from Iraqis, because if Iraqis were not so divided the way they are, these powers would have never succeeded. I never thought that Iraqis would be so self-destructive, I thought that they had enough of that. But with each new day I am more and more convinced that we need our own civil war to sort it all out. It might take another 5, 10, or even 20 years, and hundreds of thousands more dead Iraqis but I believe it would be inevitable. Yugoslavia, South Africa, Lebanon, Algiers, and Sudan did not achieve the relative peace and stability they now enjoy if it weren't for their long years of civil war. If the 'resistance' succeeded and 'liberated' Iraq, the country would immediately be torn into 3, 4, 5 or more parts with each faction, militia, or army struggling to control Baghdad, Kirkuk, Najaf, Karbala, and the oil fields. It will not be a sectarian war as many would imagine, it would be a war between militias. We already have up to 5 official militias, not to mention the various religious groups and armies.

When some of us have said the "front" of the war of terrorism has been moved from New York to Iraq, critics have called the idea 'nonsense'.

Zeyed also points to the possiblity of civil war if the country is left to its own devices. Leave a power vacuum and the groups he mentions above will do their best to fill it.

It is the most foolish and selfish thing to say "pull the troops out", or "replace them with the UN or NATO". Someone has to see us through this mess to the end. Only a deluded utopian (or an idiot peace activist) would believe that Iraqis would all cosily sit down and settle down their endless disputes without AK-47's, RPG's, or mortars in the event of coalition troops abandoning Iraq. Please please don't get me wrong, I am not in the least saying that I enjoy being occupied by a foreign force, I am not a dreamer who believes that the USA is here for altruistic reasons, I am not saying that I am happy with what my bleeding country is going through, believe me when I say it tears my heart every day to witness all the bloodshed, it pains me immensely to see that we have no leaders whomsoever with the interest and well-being of Iraq as their primary goal, it kills me to see how blind and ignorant we have all become. Iraqis are dying inside every day, and we are committing suicide over and over and over. Some people call me a traitor or a collaborator for all the above and for speaking the truth as opposed to rhetorical, fiery speeches which have been our downfall.

I heard mentioned a recent poll in Iraq which says about 78% of the Iraqis polled disapproved of the militants and their grab for power. But by reading Zeyed's words, you can get an idea of the different emotions, factions, ideas and ideals which are engaged in pulling Iraqis in many different directions.

Posted by McQ at 10:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dodd Stands Up

Give this man a hand....

"Words can sting and hurt," Dodd told The Associated Press Wednesday. "If in any way, in my referencing the Civil War, I offended anyone, I apologize."

He said he was trying to make the point that Byrd would have been a good senator at any point, and "I was not thinking of the KKK or his vote against the Civil Rights Act."

As I noted nearly a week ago, all that was needed was an explanation from Dodd. It wasn't a racist statement, but he does owe it to the public discourse to clear up potential misunderstandings.

To his credit, he did. Good. His slate is clean.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Bin Laden offers truce to Europe

You have to give him a "C" for cajones:

A man purporting to be Al Qaeda terror leader Usama bin Laden (search) offered a "truce" to European countries that do not attack Muslims in a recording broadcast Thursday on Arab satellite networks. Saying the truce would begin when European soldiers leave Islamic nations, the voice also referenced the terror attacks on the United States and Spain, saying, "what happened on September 11 and March 11 was your goods delivered back to you."

"Security is a need for all humans and we could not let you have a monopoly on it for yourselves," the voice added. "People who are aware would not let their politicians jeopardize their security."

Classic "divide-and-conquer" tactics. And, of course, in light of Bush's "we will stay the course" press conference and Kerry's "ditto" in his op/ed, it is a great strategic move by Bin Laden.

He apparently thinks he knows his enemy.

"Stop spilling our blood so we can stop spilling your blood," the message added. "This is a difficult but easy equation."

This truce, the message said, was to deny "the warmongers" further opportunities and because polls have shown that "most of the European peoples want reconciliation" with the Islamic world.

And he makes it clear the penalty for not accepting.

"The announcement of the truce starts with the withdrawal of the last soldier from our land and the door is open for three months from the date of the announcement of this statement.

"Whoever rejects this truce and wants war, we are its (war's) sons and whoever wants this truce, here we bring it." Security analysts said bin Laden was maneuvering to split the U.S.-led coalition and scare wavering members out of Iraq.

So they have three months.

The immediate European reaction has been fairly uniform:

British Home Secretary David Blunkett said there would be no negotiations with Al Qaeda. "Their attacks are against the very idea of co-existence ... It is impossible to say with certainty if it is Usama bin Laden or not, but we are taking the message seriously."

Officials from the German government said they will not negotiate with "criminals" like bin Laden, Reuters reported.

"We will not be coerced, seduced or threatened by anyone," said a spokeswoman for the coalition in Afghanistan, which includes the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany. "We are here to do a job. We are committed to Afghanistan."

We'll see if they maintain these positions when the bombs start going off.

UPDATE (JON): Donald Sensing thinks this is a good development....

While it is clear that the offer is an attempt to split the Western powers and isolate America, it seems clear to me as well that it signifies bin Laden (if it is he) understands the weakness of his own position. As I wrote in 2002,
Entering negotiation with infidels only admits of weakness; if one is stronger, one simply prevails. Therefore negotiation is done only when there is no alternative, and then only to bide time for resumption of the struggle later.
This offer is cause for great encouragement for us.
I guess it all depends on how the negotiators handle it. Hitler wanted to negotiate in the 1930s, and it worked out rather well for him. Until we realized that "peace in our time" meant "death in his time".

Posted by McQ at 10:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Predictable but unacceptable Partisanship

From the Washington Times:

As was thoroughly predictable in this election year, the September 11 commission's hearings and surrounding commentary have rapidly degenerated into an exercise in monumental finger-pointing. Hoping to undermine President Bush's national security credentials, many Democrats, and a large chunk of the media, have sought to exonerate the Clinton administration, which failed to deal with al Qaeda over its eight years in office. Their claim is that, unlike the incoming Bush administration, Clinton officials had at least appreciated the strategic predicament al Qaeda presented. They agonized about it, held many long meetings devoted to the subject and tried to push a recalcitrant and ossified national security bureaucracy "to shake the trees," in Richard A. Clarke's vernacular.

I have to agree completely here. Having read the entire interim 9/11 report (upon which I posted extensively), I came to the conclusion that while there was a lot of smoke, during the Clinton years, there was very little fire. They did indeed meet and talk and plan, but in the final analysis they mostly did NOTHING.

I'm not pointing the finger of blame at them, but I am making the point that there was no more urgency displayed by the Clintion administration than anyone else. That while they talked a good game and were "concerned", in reality they did very little.

Frankly, folks, the threat was underestimated prior to 9/11. Maybe it was a lack of imagination. Maybe it was an unrealistic feeling of security. Maybe it was the smugness brought by being a "superpower", but in reality none of us, to include the Clinton administration, gave the terror threat the attention it deserved. And because there'd been no reason to do so, and we were basking under the false impression that our "system" had caught the Millennium plot, we saw no real reason to address it any more stringently than we were.

9/11 changed that world forever. Now is NOT the time for partisan finger pointing and attempting to lay blame. The only apology owed is by the terrorists. We were wrong, but we were also addressing a threat we thought we were properly estimating and addressing with a system we didn't know was terribly broken.

Its time to can the partisanship, reorient the commission toward fixing the problem and get over this tendency to place blame for politcal gain.

Posted by McQ at 09:13 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Can Iraq make it on their own?

Thomas Friedman thinks its important to turn over the government to Iraqis on the 30th of June as planned.

And this leads to our challenge in Iraq. America's Baghdad boss, Paul Bremer, is absolutely right when he insists that we must turn over sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30, as promised. Why? Because we may have trained thousands of Iraqi policemen, but without a government of their own, they are defending America — which they will never do with vigor. The only thing they might defend is a government of their own. Moreover, right now many Iraqi leaders blame the U.S. for what is going wrong in Iraq. The Bush team deserves much blame, but not all. Iraq's nascent leaders will act in a concerted and responsible fashion only when they — like Hamas, Arafat and Hezbollah — have the burden of responsibility.

Sounds good in theory but I think its a bit simplistic in that it doesn't account for the religious turbulence and the vying for power by those factions. That's not going to end merely because there's a handover.

Not only are the policemen and army asked to choose defending Iraq (not America) but they're asked, though not implicitly, to choose a religious faction to back as well. That could cause serious rifts within the security structures.

After decades of colonialism and misrule, and then a traumatic dictatorship in an already tribalized society, Iraqi national identity is weak — and insecurity only weakens it more by prompting people to fall back on their tribal units. But there is an Iraqi identity. It takes security, though, for it to emerge. Even Iraqis don't know how strong it is, and they won't know until they are handed the keys.

As I mentioned in another post, security is the key to the survival of an Iraqi govenrment. But other questions remain.

Can secular democracy in a nation with no history of it take seed? Can it avoid a religious civil war?

Tough days ahead.

Posted by McQ at 08:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

That little extra bit...

Here are the bits the DNC thought fit to include....

9/14/03:

Cheney: "And since I left Halliburton to become George Bush's vice president, I've severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interests. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had now for over three years." [Vice President Dick Cheney, NBC's Meet the Press]

4/13/04:

"In addition, the [Cheney's] tax return reports the payment of deferred compensation from Halliburton Company, in the amount of $178,437." [White House press release]

Note that they cited a White House Press releas, but didn't actually link to it. There's a reason. Here is the bit they left out...
That election to defer income became final and unalterable before Mr. Cheney left Halliburton. The amount of deferred compensation received by the Vice President is fixed and is not affected by Halliburton's current economic performance or earnings in any way. In addition, the Vice President purchased, with his personal funds, an insurance policy that guarantees that he will receive the amount that is owed to him even if Halliburton is unable to make the deferred compensation payments.
So, when Cheney says he has "no financial interest" in the company...it's because his compensation has no relation whatsoever to the performance - or nonperformance - of Halliburton.

Of course, that little bit didn't quite make the DNC story.

Oh, and for what it's worth, the Cheney's donated "$321,141 to charity in 2003", far more than they recieved in deferred compensation. So, you know, there go those greedy rich people again.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

There are Purple Hearts and then there are "Purple hearts"

For some reason, this actually doesn't come as a real surprise to me.

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry has never been forthcoming about how he earned three Purple Heart medals in Vietnam - and the reason for his reticence appears now to be coming clear.

At least the first of the decorations - awarded for wounds suffered in combat - was received in circumstances that can best be described as dubious.

Kerry's commanding officer at the time, retired Lt. Cmdr. Grant Hibbard, told The Boston Globe that Kerry basically awarded himself a Purple Heart after receiving a superficial scratch in what Hibbard said was not even a firefight.

Kerry had volunteered for river patrol duty late in 1968.

He and his crew saw some Vietnamese running from a boat onto the beach, opened fire on them and then pulled out - apparently without taking return fire.

When the boat was safely back at base, Kerry "had a little scratch on his forearm, and he was holding a piece of shrapnel," Hibbard said Tuesday.

Though Hibbard says he did not want to give in to Kerry's insistence that he be considered for a Purple Heart - "I don't think he deserved one," Hibbard told The Post yesterday - he eventually did so.

It's not hard to imagine why.

We used to call these "P-38 wounds", the P-38 being the ubiquitous little can opener that came with C-rats. Kerry's always been vague about all of this. If the above is true, I can see why. One could conclude that Kerry had a bit of a plan in place to get out of there as soon as possible.

Kerry apparently crossed all the "T's" and dotted all the "I's" ...

Meehan also provided a copy of a medical report showing treatment for a wound on Dec. 3, 1968. The Purple Heart regulation in effect at that time said that a wound must "require treatment by a medical officer."

... but if they awarded Purple Hearts for every scratch you received while in combat most soldiers would be too loaded down with them to walk.

And for the "I can't believe you're questioning his military record" crowd ... he's the guy that's used it as a campaign device, not me. That makes it fair game. All he has to do is release all of his medical records concerning this as was demanded of Bush, and we can put this to bed.

Posted by McQ at 08:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Infernal Revenue Service

This has long been my favorite tax quote.....

Any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one's taxes.
If you haven't finished your taxes yet, remember....paying the least you can is not a moral failure. It is a virtue, and to hell with anyone who tells you differently. If they don't like it, invite them to make up the difference out of their pocket.

A few more good tax quotes to remember today....

* Today is the first day of the rest of your taxable year. - Jeffery L. Yablon

* If you don't drink, smoke, or drive a car, you're a tax evader. - Thomas S. Foley

* The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that still carries any reward. - John Maynard Keynes

* "I pay my taxes," says somebody, as if that were an act of virtue instead of one of compulsion. - Robert G. Menzies

* [T]here is nothing wrong with a strategy to avoid the payment of taxes. The Internal Revenue Code doesn't prevent that. --William H. Rehnquist

* Congress should know how to levy taxes, and if it doesn't know how to collect them, then a man is a fool to pay the taxes. --J. Pierpont Morgan

* [The tax evader is] in every respect, an excellent citizen, had not the laws of this country made a crime which nature never meant to be so. --Adam Smith

* In sum, the accepted view is that the taxpayer, or the preparer, may sign a return as "correct" if he believes there is a reasonable possibility the return is not incorrect. --Frederic G. Corneel

* A business is nothing more than a conduit for passing along costs to its customers. Taxes are a cost, so tax avoidance is part and parcel of competition to bring consumers better stuff at lower cost. --Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

* [T]he worst thing about [the week before tax returns are due] may not be the taxes themselves, but the commiserating rhetoric of the politicians who, having created the present tax system, will spend the next few days deploring it as if it were the handiwork of strangers. --The Washington Post

* Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one's affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant. --Learned Hand

* It's income tax time again, Americans: time to gather up those receipts, get out those tax forms, sharpen up that pencil, and stab yourself in the aorta. --Dave Barry

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:12 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Handover Date

Reader Joe, a self-described "former Democrat" (or: "9/11 Republican"), sent me an email in response to a recent discussion of the June 30th handover date, and John Kerry's criticism thereof. He brings up a point about the June 30th handover date which I'd not considered before. He writes....

"Apparently Kerry didn't read the Iraqi interim constitution, which is where the June 30th date came from. Here's the full text, see Article
2(a) for the origin of the dates:
Iraqi Interim Constitution
The text he cites:
"(A) The term “transitional period” shall refer to the period beginning on 30 June 2004 and lasting until the formation of an elected Iraqi government pursuant to a permanent constitution as set forth in this Law, which in any case shall be no later than 31 December 2005, unless the provisions of Article 61 are applied.

(B) The transitional period shall consist of two phases.

(1) The first phase shall begin with the formation of a fully sovereign Iraqi Interim Government that takes power on 30 June 2004."

The administration did not "set a date", the administration is honoring the first legitimate act of self-governance by the Iraqi people.

The NATO part pointed to a poor understanding of which countries are already in Iraq, and an unrealistic expectation that prefixing 'coalition' with 'NATO' will suddenly convince the French and Germans to send troops.

Lastly, his opening is completely refuted by his own words. Bush has always defined success in Iraq as a "free and prosperous Iraq" and a "wellspring of democracy in the Middle East". Kerry's chasing a strawman, his own misplaced criticism of the June 30th deadline undermines his opening assertions."

Very interesting. I hadn't considered the fact that the June 30th date was codified in the Iraqi constitution. Clearly, an abrogation of that turnover date - and thus, the Iraqi Constitution - would set a very bad precedent. When you want to install the rule of law in a country, it's generally best that you don't change the law at a whim.

Good catch, and an interesting analysis. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy and appreciate the readers of this blog? Well, I do.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:41 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 14, 2004

May Day! May Day!

Air turbulence or a Sidewinder in the tailpipe?

After just two weeks of broadcasting, Air America Radio, the fledgling liberal talk-radio network featuring Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo, was pulled off the air this morning in Chicago and Los Angeles, the network's second- and third-largest markets, in a dispute over payments for airtime.

Arthur Liu, owner of Multicultural Radio Broadcasting, which owns Air America affiliates WNTD-950 AM in Chicago and KBLA-1580 AM in Los Angeles, said Air America bounced a check and owes him more than $1 million.

Not that LA and Chicago are missing much.

UPDATE (JON): The Air America statement on the matter:

"President Bush's MultiCultural Radio Broadcasting's conduct in this matter has been disgraceful. To rush to war shut off a broadcast that listeners rely on without warning and in the middle of UN inspections discussions is the height of irresponsibility and a slap in the face of the international community media industry. In addition, it is a clear violation of international law their contractual obligations, and we are seeking an independent investigation legal remedies against them in court."
I guess they just recycled an old press release.

Posted by McQ at 05:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why 9/11 happened

I've been saying (along with a hell of a lot of others) that 9/11 was a product of a systemic problem. Here it is in a nutshell from Louis Freeh's testimony:

It must always be understood that prior to September 11, the FBI – as it always must – followed the rules as they were given to us by the Attorney General and the Congress. For example, FBI Agents were not permitted without special circumstances to visit a suspect terrorist group’s web site or to attend its public meetings. Counterintelligence, Domestic Terrorism and Informant Guidelines promulgated years ago and updated with new restrictions curtailed our ability to collect information in national security cases.

Those guidelines are now being changed.

“Primary purpose” requirements for FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] applications and information separation structures limited the sharing of criminal and intelligence information. For two decades the Department of Justice constructed the wall between counterintelligence and law enforcement higher and higher to a height which far exceeded common sense and the plain meaning of the underlying 1978 statute.

In other words, we did more than the FISA law required in constructing the "wall between counterintelligence and law enforcement".

As Condi Rice said, it was a combination of tradition, culture and law which put us in the horribly vulnerable position we were in on 9/11. She also pointed out that catching the Millenium Plot bomber (going after LA Airport) was luck. Yesterday, Janet Reno said precisely the same thing when pointing out to Ben Venista that contrary to his opinion that the "Principles Meeting" was responsible, it was "good policework" not the Principles Meetings" which produced that arrest.

According to just about everyone who's gone before this committee, the Patriot Act has gone a long way toward fixing the problems within the system. They all acknowledge that there's more to do, but that the act is a good first step.

It'll be interesting to see, in light of this testimony, how its provisions will be handled when they approach their sunset dates. Will Congress approach it in a bipartisan way with an eye to implementing and/or keeping those provisions which have helped fix the problem or will it become a partisan political event in which the opposing sides scream "loss of liberty" or "loss of security" at each other?

Posted by McQ at 01:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

It's always something...

Funny thing about economics. There's always enough data to worry a pessimist. I'm no Chicken Little, but these things worry me, too....

Inflation:

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the CPI-U rose 0.5 percent in March, following an increase of 0.3 percent in February. Energy costs advanced
sharply for the third consecutive month--up 1.9 percent in March. Within energy, the index for petroleum-based energy increased 5.0 percent, while the index for energy services decreased 1.4 percent. The index for food rose 0.2 percent in March, the same as in February. The index for all items less food and energy, which rose 0.2 percent in February, increased 0.4 percent in March. Upturns in the indexes for lodging while away from home and for apparel accounted for the larger advance in March.
A few points:
- - The trend over the last three months has been +.5/+.3/+.5 - that's a worrisome trend. The inflation rate over the past year is only 1.7%, but an annualized rate based on the past 3 months is 5.1%. (hint: that's high)

- - We can't assign blame for the inflation to rising energy costs, either. Even apart from that, inflation rose .4%. Which brings me to my next worry....

Rising Oil Prices:

Crude oil prices will increase gradually and reach $51 a barrel by 2025 due to inflation and rising energy needs in developing nations, according to an Energy Department projection.
...
OPEC producers are expected to still be the major oil suppliers in 2025, the report said. They now account for about a third of the oil being pumped.
As the price rises, and the demand broadens, OPEC is going to be wielding a more and more powerful weapon. In addition, if output remains artificially constricted, the rising cost of oil may hamper the economic progress of developing countries. Frankly, the last thing we need right now is backward pressure on industrialization and economic progress in the third world.

The one upside to this? It may facilitate the development of alternative energy sources. The roadblock to non-oil energy use will not be availability, but price alternative. If we can have energy at a price of $10/unit for oil, then it's very unlikely that we will pursue the development and implementation of an energy source that costs us $15/unit. However, as technology advances, those alternative energy prices will come down. If oil-energy prices remain high....oil will lose ground more and more quickly.

OPEC and oil-producing nations have to know this. I suspect they already know that the price of oil will plateau before too long, then face one long slide...until oil is largely replaced as an energy source.

Housing:

If you still need proof that a bubble is building in the housing market take a look at the findings of my economist colleague Dean Baker at the Center for Economic Policy & Research in Washington, D.C. He has tracked national housing prices going back to 1951. Prices pretty much track the rate of inflation up until 1995. But since then, average prices on new and existing homes have soared more than 35 percentage points beyond the overall rate of inflation.
...
We do know that the longer a bubble persists and the bigger it grows, the more likely it is to burst sooner rather than later. In the case of the housing bubble, I think the signs are that it's getting close to breaking. One is the large divergence between the rise in rental prices vs. home prices. This can't persist for long, because people can choose whether to buy or rent.

Over the last year, housing prices increased by 8%, while rental prices rose by only about 2%. In some of the bubble areas, such as Seattle and San Francisco, rents are actually falling. And rental vacancy rates are at a record high nationally. These are indications that the bubble's end is near.

Due to the combination of an imminent rise in Fed rates, apparent inflationary pressures, rising household debt, and stagnant incomes....this is one that really worries me. I've got no answers...just a general sense of unease. The housing market is worth keeping an eye on.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:11 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Clarke thing

Wonder what Richard Clarke thought when Louis Freeh had this to say:

President Clinton along with his National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, and Attorney General Janet Reno were clearly focused on terrorism during my tenure.

Based upon my observations, President Bush and Dr. Rice were equally committed.

Or this:

On January 26, 2001 at 8:45 a.m., I had my first meeting with President Bush and Vice President Cheney. They had been in office four days. We discussed, among other things, terrorism and in particular al-Qaeda, the East African Embassy bombings, USS Cole attack and the June, 1996 al Khobar bombing in Saudi Arabia. When I advised the President that Hizballah and Iran were responsible for the Khobar attack, he directed me to follow-up with National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice.

I did so 2:30 p.m. that afternoon and she told me to pursue our investigation with the Attorney General and to bring whatever charges possible.

Within weeks, a new prosecutor was put in charge of the case and, on June 21, 2001, an indictment was returned against thirteen Hizballah subjects who had been directed to bomb Khobar by senior officials of the Iranian government. I know that the families of the 19 murdered Khobar Airmen were deeply grateful to President Bush and Dr. Rice for their prompt response and focus on terrorism.

I heard Dick Morris the other day quote a poll which said 2 to 1 Americans believe Condi Rice over Clarke. That's good, because based on my reading in all of this, I'm inclined much more toward Rice's view than Clarke's.

I'm still puzzled by the "Clarke thing". There's got to be more to the story, at least in my opinion, that what we've seen. For the time being I'm inclined to go with the theory its mostly ego and pride, both of which were wounded under Bush, which has driven Clarke to this. I wonder if we'll ever get to the real bottom of it all.

Posted by McQ at 12:37 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

And the bad news is ...

Hmmm ... one wonders what the left will have to say about this:

Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno Tuesday told the Sept. 11 Commission the Patriot Act aids law enforcement without compromising civil liberties.

"Generally, everything that has been done in Patriot Act has been helpful, while maintaining the balance with respect to civil liberties," Reno, who was attorney general under President Bill Clinton, said.

Posted by McQ at 12:13 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The "heroic" Andy Rooney

Welcome to the culmination of the liberal "victimization" of America and Americans via the ultimate cynic, Andy Rooney:

We must support our soldiers in Iraq because it's our fault they're risking their lives there. However, we should not bestow the mantle of heroism on all of them for simply being where we sent them. Most are victims, not heroes.

If you can stomach the intellectual twists, turns and blind-alley's this boob's thinking takes you through, the entire article is here.

Posted by McQ at 11:44 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Iraqi Security Forces

While I'm mostly an optimist concerning the ability of the US to stay the course in Iraq, that opitimism doesn't extend, at least to this point, to the Iraqis themselves. And stories like this throw a very dark shadow on the probability of the June 30 hand-over being successful.

A senior US military officer in Iraq has said that a battalion of the new Iraqi army refused to support US forces in the town of Falluja.

The 620-man battalion, which graduated from training camp on 6 January, refused to go to Falluja after being shot at in a Shia area of Baghdad.

It was the first time US commanders had sought to involve post-war Iraqi forces in major combat operations.

The troops were quoted as saying they had not signed up to fight Iraqis

Even if the Iraqis are tying to undo what you signed up to do?

Apparently the performance ... or NON performance ... of the Iraqi army and Iraqi security and police forces has been poor AT BEST. In most places where these riots and uprisings have taken place they were nonexistant.

Abizaid, who spoke to reporters via a video linkup from Baghdad, also expressed "great disappointment" in the performance of newly-trained Iraqi forces in the face of the recent violence -- many have abandoned their posts -- and vowed to redouble efforts to establish a reliable security force.

In my estimation, the probability of success for any newly formed Iraqi government is DIRECTLY tied to the success in establishing a "reliable security force".

Based on the last couple of weeks, we're nowhere near that goal.

UPDATE (McQ): Reader rkb says the following:

Heard MAJ GEN Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, talk yesterday.

Per him: many units in the ICDC are doing well, as are the border police. The army, less well and the police need the most trainers etc. before they are ready to contribute reliably.

For those interested in reading up on those three entities you can go here for the ICDC, here for the Iraqi Police and here for the New Iraqi Army.

If you're interested in a very good piece on al-Sadir's Al-Mahadi Army, go here.

Posted by McQ at 10:06 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Syria still doesn't get it

The BBC reports:

King Abdullah has said that a potentially massive attack on Jordan was thwarted by the arrest of a group of suspected terrorists.

The king said the assault could have killed thousands of civilians.

Target?

The king did not specify the name of the group involved. But the US state department attributes the plot to al-Qaeda.

It said that the group's members planned to hit the US embassy in Amman.

And where did it all come from?

Last Saturday, the authorities in Jordan said they had found cars carrying explosives by an underground group planning to attack US interests in the kingdom.

And earlier this month, cars with explosives had been driven into Jordan from Syria. Although the border is patrolled, the authorities said smugglers had managed to slip in.

"Managed to slip in"? Cars full of explosives "managed to slip in". Sounds like a little "looking the other way" might have been possible as well.

Bottom line?

Syria ... still in the business of harboring terroists. There are TWO checkpoints these guys had to get through, aren't there?

Posted by McQ at 09:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Better, faster, shorter

Coldfury condenses the 9/11 commission for your ease. Go read it, as it will save you a lot of time watching C-Span.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:26 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Can I get an "AMEN!?"

Mark Davis in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

The Founding Fathers probably figured that First Amendment freedoms would involve bold, controversial political thought rather than radio guys discussing body functions or scantily clad women on TV. But if the current drama proves anything, it is that there is no sensible way to set up rules governing content.

We cannot say that Type A of offensive content is protected, but Type B is not. It just doesn't work. Who makes that call?

For some, the Stern show and Victoria's Secret show are obscene. For some, they are not. Who is right?

There is no such thing as a "community standard." There are only individual standards, and thus only one solution: Let those who wish to watch or listen to certain shows do so, while those seeking to avoid them do so.

The landscape has never been more fertile for grassroots, real-people activism to support shows we like and torpedo shows we don't. Be happy.

Let's have an FCC that polices proper uses of frequency and other nuts-and-bolts issues and leaves program content to the people who listen and watch.

The first thing that most people did when Janet Jackson had her, ahem, "wardrobe malfunction" during this year's Superbowl Halftime Show was to scream "the government should do something".

Well no, it shouldn't. THEY should do something, besides screaming the government should do something.

Something I've argued for years is that "community standard" is a bunch of hooey. If we're for "free speech" then we're for ALL speech being protected, not just some of it.

However, that doesn't mean those who find certain forms of speech offensive have to quietly submit to it. Raise hell, go to adverstisers, refuse to tune in or listen anymore, etc. Take action yourself, in other words.

But please, leave government force out of it ... unless, of course, you really DON'T believe in free speech.

Posted by McQ at 08:11 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

COINTELPRO Tool

Terrible news from Bill Herbert at CointelproTool.....

But I'm afraid I won't be around for a "cold wash-up" of Operation Vigilant Resolve. It's time for me to pack up this blog -- actually, something I've been meaning to do for weeks now, but couldn't bring myself to do it until now. I'm not suffering from burnout, or being pressured by The Man, or anything like that. Without getting into any details, let' just say I've reached a point in my current professional career which would create some serious ethical issues that I'd rather just avoid (to those in the tinfoil hat crowd who are obsessed with me: read into that what you will).

This has been a great deal of fun, and maybe some day I'll do it again, but it won't be soon.

I hated to read that. Bill Herbert has been one of my favorite reads....a fact-checker par excellence. Between CointelproTool and his conspiracy theory debunking blog WhatDIDN'Treallyhappen, the guy has contributed enormously to the continuing oppression of moonbats - a noble cause, if ever there was one.

I'm truly saddened to see him go. Best of luck, Bill.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:54 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Bush Q&A

Watched as much of the Press conference as I could last night, before other events overtook me. (read: other events=wife) Instead of looking around the blogosphere for opinion, I'm just going to hazard a guess:

Atrios: 7:55pm He'll do terribly! 9:45pm: My objective and non-partisan pre-show analysis was right! Here's an echo chamber open thread for you to discuss how terribly he did.

Instapundit: He did ok. Now, here's what a lot of other people are saying....

Center for American Progress: The lies! Oh, the lies!

Media: Based on what the guys are saying around the office, and what we've heard on the other news shows, reaction to Bush's speech is mixed.

The General Public: They pre-empted American Idol for that? I had to watch The Discovery Channel. The Discovery Channel! Damn you, George W Bush!!!!

Me: Let's make a list....

- - Bush is a bad extemporaneous speaker. Already knew that, but thanks for the reinforcement.

- - You almost find yourself pulling for him. You know he knows what he wants to say, but he can't...quite...find the...uh, words. I have the impression he'd do much better sitting across a table, one-on-one. But put the pressure on....it's a different story. I sympathize, because I've got the same problem. I know what I want to say, but it's difficult to find the right words.

- - The Press certainly asked him The Big Questions. Bush gave answers, but he didn't necessarily always answer the question asked. That means he can claim he's already answered the questions.....but the questions will remain open. That probably won't help his campaign, I think.

- - Couldn't Bush have thought of ONE mistake? C'mon. Disbanding the Iraqi army? Letting Senator Kennedy write the Education bill?

- - I think Bush may be making a bad PR decision by not offering some sort of "apology" for 9/11. He should not take responsibility, since it wasn't his fault...but saying "I'm sorry that we couldn't have done more" or "I regret....(whatever)" might preempt some negative press. In the absence of something like that, the issue is going to be framed as "Bush refuses to apologize". He's missing a chance to frame this issue himself.

- - For the love of mike, talk about the missing WMDs! Don't keep explaining that you had good reason to think they were there, plus Saddam was a bad guy, plus the UN said all this stuff, plus all this other stuff. Just say "hey, we thought they were there. We thought so, because of X and so did everybody else. We're investigating to find out why we were misled and what mistakes we made." Talk about it. It's important.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2004

Blog Note

We've been having issues with MT today.....permission problems, and that sort of thing. Sorry for the lack of posting. Will resume when I can figure this out.

UPDATE: (Is it fixed? I think so) Gah! Most of a day without posting. So much to say, and all of it wasted on those in close proximity to me!

UPDATE II: Ok, while I'm at it...it's been awhile. Anybody to whom I owe a reciprocal link? Leave your blog in the comment section, or email me. I'll add it. I've gotten behind on that, and I still owe a few people a response. I'll get to it. Promise.

In the meantime, help a brother out. Give me a heads up.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Kerry weighs in on Iraq

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, John Kerry sets exactly the right tone, and raises important points....

In the past week the situation in Iraq has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. While we may have differed on how we went to war, Americans of all political persuasions are united in our determination to succeed. The extremists attacking our forces should know they will not succeed in dividing America, or in sapping American resolve, or in forcing the premature withdrawal of U.S. troops. Our country is committed to help the Iraqis build a stable, peaceful and pluralistic society. No matter who is elected president in November, we will persevere in that mission.
Whatever differences Bush and Kerry have, it was vital that our enemies be disabused of the comfort of hope. Kerry did it. Good for him.

Then, instead of dipping into hysteria, he makes some very good points about the situation in Iraq....

Over the past year the Bush administration has advanced several plans for a transition to democratic rule in Iraq. Each of those plans, after proving to be unworkable, was abandoned. The administration has set a date (June 30) for returning authority to an Iraqi entity to run the country, but there is no agreement with the Iraqis on how it will be constituted to make it representative enough to have popular legitimacy. Because of the way the White House has run the war, we are left with the United States bearing most of the costs and risks associated with every aspect of the Iraqi transition. We have lost lives, time, momentum and credibility. And we are seeing increasing numbers of Iraqis lashing out at the United States to express their frustration over what the Bush administration has and hasn't done.
Even when he brings up the UN, Kerry manages to recognize their abilities and shortcomings...
The United Nations, not the United States, should be the primary civilian partner in working with Iraqi leaders to hold elections, restore government services, rebuild the economy, and re-create a sense of hope and optimism among the Iraqi people. The primary responsibility for security must remain with the U.S. military, preferably helped by NATO until we have an Iraqi security force fully prepared to take responsibility.
I just don't think that's an irresponsible solution today. Six months ago, a year ago, it would have been unreasonable. Today, I think we're far enough past the war that it may be possible for the UN to take charge of certain political aspects of Iraq, without fumbling the war effort. Hey, we're in the homestretch. Let the bureaucrats handle the bureaucracy, so we can focus on security.

Finally, Kerry ends with exactly what I'd like to hear the Bush administration say....

Finally, we must level with our citizens. Increasingly, the American people are confused about our goals in Iraq, particularly why we are going it almost alone. The president must rally the country around a clear and credible goal. The challenges are significant and the costs are high. But the stakes are too great to lose the support of the American people.

This morning, as we sit down to read newspapers in the comfort of our homes or offices, we have an obligation to think of our fighting men and women in Iraq who awake each morning to a shooting gallery in which it is exceedingly difficult to distinguish friend from foe, and the death of every innocent creates more enemies. We owe it to our soldiers and Marines to use absolutely every tool we can muster to help them succeed in their mission without exposing them to unnecessary risk. That is not a partisan proposal. It is a matter of national honor and trust.

I simply don't believe Kerry understands the need to be proactive in the War on Terror, but this reassures me that he would stick it out in Iraq. Credit where credit is due: John Kerry has written a Statesmanlike piece today.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:50 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Retail Sales Report

Good economic news...

Sales at U.S. retailers rose 1.8 percent in March, the biggest increase in a year, led by purchases of autos, furniture and building materials, a government report showed.

Last month's gain, the largest since March 2003, followed a revised 1 percent increase in February, the Commerce Department said in Washington. Excluding autos, sales jumped 1.7 percent, the biggest increase in four years, after a 0.6 percent rise a month earlier. Purchases of building supplies and garden equipment rose the most on record.

Good news on a number of levels:

1: Even excluding auto sales, retail sales were up sharply...so growth was broad.
2: Due to a revision in the January-February data, this is the second straight month of 1%+ retail sales growth....a good trend.
3: Tax refunds have just begun to filter into the system, so we can probably expect a slightly more energetic rate of spending in upcoming months. Businesses are sure to know this, and react accordingly. Inventory replacement? Additional hiring? They could be coming.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Krugman, reasonable critic?

In this column today, Paul Krugman criticizes Democrats and praises Bush!

Of course, I'm kidding. The end-times are not quite here, yet. However, he does do something almost as amazing....he makes a good point about the situation in Iraq, and surrounds it with a relative minimum of the usual Krugmania. Sure, there are examples, but let's focus on the important point he makes.....

Events should have cured the Bush team of its illusions. After all, before the invasion Tim Russert asked Dick Cheney about the possibility that we would be seen as conquerors, not liberators, and would be faced with "a long, costly and bloody battle." Mr. Cheney replied, "Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators." Uh-huh.
I would have disagreed with this six months ago. The Iraqi's - while they weren't throwing flowers - did see us as liberators. A floral deficit doesn't obviate the perception of the US as "liberators". It's not universal, but it's there.

However, it seems the administration has treated the Iraqi's as "universally friendly", rather than "part-friendly, and part-enemy". A failure to differentiate, and persistently punish the latter, has become a bit difficult to understand. Hey guys...there's still a war on, you know. Act like it.

But Bush officials seem to have learned nothing. Consider, for example, the continuing favor shown to Ahmad Chalabi. Last year the neocons tried to install Mr. Chalabi in power, even ferrying his private army into Iraq just behind our advancing troops. It turned out that he had no popular support, and by now it's obvious that suspicions that we're trying to put Mr. Chalabi on the throne are fueling Iraqi distrust. According to Arnaud de Borchgrave of U.P.I., however, administration officials gave him control of Saddam's secret files — a fine tool for blackmail — and are letting him influence the allocation of reconstruction contracts, a major source of kickbacks.
True, and shockingly irresponsible. As Dale Franks wrote yesterday....
4) Why are we still so entranced with Ahmed Chalabi? Clearly, the Iraqis hate him. He's admitted to lying to us about a whole bunch of stuff in order to get us inclined to invade the country. Why not just dump him, now that he's outlived his usefulness?
Chalabi tried to excuse the intelligence failures of the INC by saying they were "heroes in error... Our objective has been achieved. That tyrant Saddam is gone, and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important." Well, it may not be important to him, but we should remember it well.

And it's not like Chalabi has popular support in Iraq, either. When Iraqi's were asked "Which national leader, if any, do you trust the most?".....only .2% named Chalabi. Note: that's not 2%....that's .2%.

The guy isn't even Iraq's Ralph Nader. He's Iraq's Lyndon LaRouche. But he's still our guy, and I have no idea why.

And the shame of it is this: most of this could have been avoided if we'd simply democratized Iraq from the ground up, turning over responsibility and control locally, then regionally, then nationally. Until they get the franchise, there's just not that much reason to take responsibility for their own problems.

If the Bush administration understands this, I certainly don't see evidence of it.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Iraq: A Strategic War

In the long run, I firmly believe the WMD/terrorism rationales for war will pale and the Strategic rationale - softly spoken, prior to the war for political and diplomatic reasons - will become more apparently predominant. I've written about it here, previously.

In that vein, Joe Katzman writes an extremely effective and comprehensive post on the strategic situation in 2002, and why that made the Iraq war a viable, even necessary, option.

He's right, you know. As I wrote back in February, in response to Joseph Wilson's claim that Iraq was an unnecessary "second front" in the War on Terror....

You know, I once bought pesticide to deal with the fleas that had found my dog. I had two choices.
1: I could spray the entire can at the dog.
or:
2: I could spray the dog...and other areas in which the fleas lived.

I guess I should have chosen the first. Instead I opened an "unnecessary second front" on the fleas. Worked, too, but I'm sure that's just a coincidence. Joseph Wilson kills every last flea on his dog, every time he sprays him down.

......which is about once every two weeks, since all the fleas just go elsewhere for a while.

At any rate, Joe Katzman's post is a 5-minute encapsulation of pretty much everything you need to know about our strategic situation circa 2002. Read the whole thing. You'll get an idea of why it is so incredibly important that we actually succeed in Iraq.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Men are from Washington, women are...not

I've been contemplating the difference between men and women on the subject of politics, recently. It's occurred to me that women - not all, but most, in my experience - just don't seem to have explored political philosophy. They believe very little, beyond what they've picked up from a nearby influence.

And before I get grief for accusing women of being "unable to think on their own"...rest assured, there are many topics about which men are equally oblivious. Plus, my wife agrees with me. Her experience mirrors my own.

Why is that? Is there a biological basis for men's general interest in things political, and women's general disinterest? Perhaps there is a competitive "control their environment" aspect to politics which appeals to man's basic nature?

I've no idea. However, I have learned this. TLC - with reality shows about life, love and decorating - is basically C-Span for chicks.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:55 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 12, 2004

Index, Index, Goose

John Kerry has come up with a misery index to criticize Bush's economic record....

This report describes and analyzes a new measure of the pressures faced by American families – the Middle-class Misery Index. The Middle-class Misery Index combines seven different indicators: median family income, college tuition, health costs, gasoline cost, bankruptcies, the homeownership rate, and private-sector job growth. The data used to compute the Middle-class Misery Index are available from 1976 through 2003.
....
The Middle-class Misery Index Worsened 13 Points In the Last Three Years – the Largest Three-year Fall on Record and the Worst Record of Any President Ever.
I'll avoid a quick lesson on the effects of a recession, corporate scandals and 9/11 on an economy, and exactly how much control a President - of any party - has on those factors. No, I just want to point out that John Kerry had to create a new index, because the Index the Democratic Party was touting in 1996 wouldn't have worked out so well. In his 1996 address to the Democratic Convention, Clinton said....
Look at what's happened. We have the lowest combined rates of unemployment, inflation, and home mortgages in 28 years.
So, why didn't Kerry want to use that Index? Let's review comparable dates....

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%

Somewhere in the Kerry campaign: "So. Uh. Quick....find a new index!"

UPDATE (McQ): Like Jon, FactCheck.org points out that if the traditional "Misery Index" is used, Bush's index is lower than Clinton's first four years. Additionally it points to the fact that the new index "cherry picks" in the categories choosen to show a negative trend.

UPDATE II: Parked at the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Full Disclosure

Hesiod makes a proposal....

DISCLAIMERS: In the interest of good journalism and "disclosure," I believe that every reporter who writes or broadcasts a story about (or comments on) Bush or Kerry tax policy ought to tell their audience how much their adjusted Gross income was last year, and how much money they'd lose or gain depending upon which tax proposal is in force next year.

So, if you see a story by, say, Howard Fineman where he discusses John Kerry's budget and tax plan next year, he'd start out by saying:

"In the interest of disclosure, I made $365,000 in adjusted gross income last year, and would see my taxes increase by $13,000 should John Kerry's tax plan go into effect....blah, blah, blah...but Kerry is running into some trouble with critics who say his tax proposals are hurting him in the polls."
I think we'd get a sense of WHY they were so "concerned" about Kerry's proposed tax increase on those making over $200,000.
Fine. So long as we get two more caveats in place:

1: Every reporter who reports (or comments) about tax policy must also disclose how they will reduce their spending, if tax hikes go into effect...and who, specifically, will be effected by that. So, if you see a story by, say, Howard Fineman where he discusses John Kerry's budget and tax plan next year, he'd start out by saying....

In the interest of disclosure, I made $365,000 in adjusted gross income last year, and would see my taxes increase by $13,000 should John Kerry's tax plan go into effect. As a result, I would fire my housekeeper, put off buying a new car, and slow my rate of investment...which would mean less capital loan money for start-up businesses. ......

2: The lower 50% of income earners who advocate/vote for higher taxes must make a similar disclosure...

In the interest of disclosure, I made 25k last year, and John Kerry's tax hike will ensure that I can be further subsidized with somebody else's money. Since I'd like to have their money, but I'm above that nasty "stealing" stuff, I'm voting for the tax hike.
Yes, I think we can come to some sort of agreement here.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Concept of Anarchism

Anarchy, or anarchism, at least as I’ve come to understand it, is often misrepresented in order to discredit it. No surprise there. Its also misrepresented by those who profess to “believe” in it. Again, no particular surprise. Its often assumed, by both of those sides, to be something its’ not.

That assumption goes like this: Anarchy is the absence of a hierarchy. Or as Jon pointed to in his post about it, “in a state of anarchy ... there will be no “ruler” ... no “highest power”.”

Do we agree that seems to be a generally understood meaning of anarchism, among both present day proponents and opponents?

If so, I’d like to take this opportunity to disagree. I don’t find that those definitions properly or adequately define anarchism. For anarchism to have any usefulness, the concept of lack of any hierarchy must be discredited and discarded.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, this is all pointed toward what has come to be known as anarcho/capitalism, so I need to be up-front ... the concept of anarcho/capitalism is very appealing to me theoretically. And, in all honesty, I’d like to see something like it at some point in our history, just to see how feasible it is in reality and how well it can maintain itself in a world which seems to constantly look for ways to enslave itself and others.

But its feasability is the subject for another day. Let’s not get sidetracked. Back to my disagreement concerning how anarchy is defined. Instead of accepting anarchy as “the absence of a higher power”, or hierarchy or “ruler”, I find the following modifier to make the concept much more viable and true.

“Anarchy is the absence of an IMPOSED hierarchy.”

You ask,” imposed in what way?” Why imposed on me without my permission. In other words, a hierarchy which leaves me no real choice in whether to be a member or not. A hierarchy which assumes my inclusion simply because I am considered a member of a group, nationality, or class by accident of birth. A hierarchy based in coercion through which it exploits its “membership”.

Frederick Hayek once proferred a definition of “freedom “ I find more useful than any other. He said, “Freedom is the absence of coercion”. 6 words which succinctly encapsulate the concept. Anarchism’s thrust isn’t so much the absence of hierarchy as the absence of coercion. It attempts to formulate a society that is truly free by eschewing coercion in favor of voluntary participation (or NOT as the case may be).

An example of an imposed hierarchy is any government, regardless of its political stripe. A democracy is as much an imposed hierarchy as a totalitarian regime because they both use coercion as mechanism for exercising their power. In the case of a “democracy”, it uses its monopoly on force to impose the will of the majority on the minority.

Which brings us to the second ‘why’? Why do you see the two as essentially the same? Because my inclusion and membership is an accident of birth, and not a matter of conscious choice. Because in the case of both, I will be coerced into doing the will of the government, whether I agree or disagree with it, whether I participate or refuse to participate. Regardless of my choice or actions, the government has the ability to force me to its will. And because I can’t “opt out” and still live in my home or homeland. In other words, because I have no real choice about membership or options concerning membership.

So what does that mean for anarchy then? Well this is the crux of my disagreement with the popular characterization of anarchy. Most believe that anarchy is unworkable because, by definition it can never HAVE a “ruler” or “hierarchy” and still be “anarchism”. .

However, when one looks at the addition of the modifier “imposed”, such a restriction is essentially waived. Anarchy may eschew an imposed hierarchy, but the construction of a hierarchy chosen voluntarily which maintains the ability of individuals to leave at will gives the concept a different thrust. Now, if one so chooses, he may join or leave this hierarchy at will.

Think of an association and its rules as an example. No one makes you join an association, you do so for various reasons, most of them selfish. You voluntarily agree to its rules as a condition of membership. For example, a neighborhood association with covenants and a board of officers is certainly a hierarchy ... but it is one voluntarily chosen for a specific reason. Your membership may bring to you the strength of a group in such things as security, buying power or financial gain, but it is an association of choice.. You can voluntarily leave this chosen hierarchy simply by selling your property.

There are a thousand questions the inclusion of this modifier bring to the fore, and I certainly don’t have all (or even many of) the answers. Nor was it my intent to attempt to answer them here. Instead my intent is to make the case that anarchy is often misunderstood and misrepresented. That anarchism, when defined as I have here, suddenly makes a bit more sense, or at least, doesn’t conjure up visions of berserkers running wild in the streets with nothing to hold them back. It is somewhat more plausible when compared to the brand of anarchism out there now which claims the absence of ANY hierarchy.

More importantly, it can claim something the other definition can’t claim: an actual viable alternative to “the state” at some time in the future.

Yes, much would have to change. That’s a given.

And yes, I’d agree we’re no where near that point now. Its more than a little vaguely utopian at this point in history. But I could imagine a time when “good men” evolve in their thinking and their institutions of state to the point that a minimalist government could be positioned to allow anarchism to successfully evolve. The “withering away of the state” as Marx discussed. But surely not with the structure he advocated. Instead one founded on and grounded in individual rights and capitalism.

Utopian? At the moment, yes. But Robert Nozick wrote an entire book (“Anarchy, State, and Utopia) in 1974 detailing his concept of how this could be accomplished. And, this point is as important as the definition I’ve used above ... anarchism is NOT a ‘revolutionary’ concept as some of the younger “misrepresentatives” would have you believe. Anarchism, instead, is an ‘EVOLUTIONARY’ process which takes us from the large welfare state through various evolutionary stages to the minimalist state, which in turn evolves into anarchism.

That’s the rub. Anarchism as a ‘spontaneous’ event is indeed chaos. There is nothing to fill the vacuum.

The devil is in the details and I’m well aware of that, but as a point of departure for a discussion of how that evolution might happen, the concept of ‘anarchism’ (as an acceptable and understandable concept) has to be dealt with first.

I’d be interested in your comments.

Posted by McQ at 06:35 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Blame Game

While wandering through a Robert Browning piece I found this:

That widespread belief has two major implications for the 2004 campaign. First, it means that based on the information available so far, most Americans recoil from efforts to blame Bush for the attacks. One leading Democratic interest group recently asked a focus group in Florida to respond to a potential television ad accusing Bush of negligence in failing to stop the attacks. The result was volcanic — against the ad.

"They were so angry I thought they were going to turn the tables over," said a Democratic operative who watched the session. "It was a very polarizing ad, and it pushed people who were on the fence decidedly away from us."

Now, take that thinking and apply it to the 9/11 commission hearings.

Put a face on it if you will ... Clarke. Kerrey. Ben Venista. Any of the three.

How do you think the partisanship from the left on the 9/11 commission playing the "blame game", is being received in "fly over land?"

My guess is much the same way this proposed ad played with the Florida focus group. Not very well and certainly to the detriment of those attempting to "blame Bush for the attacks".

One wonders when those trying to sell "blame" will wake up to that fact before it completely destroys their credibility and any chance at being elected.

Those on the right obviously hope that they never wake up to that fact. Having watched the furious spin from the left concerning PDB 6, I think the right may be safe in that hope.

Posted by McQ at 02:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Quick Hits

A few thoughts.....

* John Cole, on the Masters Tournament...

That back nine was non-stop insanity...
Dude. It was golf. However "exciting" a game of golf might be - and I use the word "exciting" very loosely - it most certainly does not produce "insanity".

Except, perhaps, in the same sense that Chinese Water Torture produces insanity. That, I could go along with.

* Via Pejman, a Boston Herald story sums up the PDB with this...

In short, much of this "shocker'' could have been put together by any semi-literate Web surfer who Googled bin Laden - which sadly says much about this government's intelligence operations prior to Sept. 11.
Sadly, many semi-literate web-surfers still seem to think this is new information.

* Captain Ed and Co. take it beyond the blogosphere....

Hugh Hewitt has graciously asked us to fill in for him on his nationwide show on the Salem Radio Network on Tuesday, April 13th, and Wednesday, April 14th!
This is, potentially, very big. For the life of me, I don't understand why more radio hosts and personalities are not exploiting blogs - for research, or as a blogger - more publicly. There's just too much untapped gold in these hills. One can only hope that this temporary fill-in role will soon expand, and that bloggers will be utilized more and more.

The same goes for political campaigns. The sheer amount of opposition research done on the blogosphere could save them a pretty penny....

* Cam Edwards....

Beginning this Friday, April 16th I'll be the new host of NRAnews.com. This is a daily news/talk show broadcast from 2-5 p.m.....covering politics, the culture war, media bias against guns, and highlighting some of the stories that the mainstream media doesn't cover.
Good for him. I seem to recall some fuss made by Democrats when the NRA initially proposed their own radio network. Something about skirting the campaign finance laws. Presumably, with their own Air America, they'll be forced to seethe quietly.

* Marc scores a Visitor from the Dark Side....

Dude, I think Cheney's on to me! I was checking my site meter and golly if I didn't get a visitor from halliburton.com!

I must be part of some sort of conspiracy now! Can't wait for the checks to start rolling in. Or the oil, or whatever...

All I ever get is visitors from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. Damnit, what do I have to do to get a piece of that crony action?!?!

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

British Wing-nut thinks current US effort reminiscent of Nazis

Excuse me while I vent.

Its nice to know the world of idiotic generalities and stupid statements isn't strictly a phenomenon of American politics. Apparently "senior" British Army officers have a bit of a corner on it as well.

Below read one of the most ill-informed, ignorant and just flat STUPID statements I've read in a long time.

One senior Army officer told The Telegraph that America's aggressive methods were causing friction among allied commanders and that there was a growing sense of "unease and frustration" among the British high command.

The officer, who agreed to the interview on the condition of anonymity, said that part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as untermenschen - the Nazi expression for "sub-humans".

Speaking from his base in southern Iraq, the officer said: "My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are. Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it's awful.

"The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. It seems hard for them to reconcile subtleties between who supports what and who doesn't in Iraq. It's easier for their soldiers to group all Iraqis as the bad guys. As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them."

Yup ... If I were that "senior" British Army officer, and said something that freaking dumb, I'd demand anonymity too. I'd not want anyone to know my identity as they'd immediately call into question whether I had the mental acquity necessary to lead troops and represent my country successfully. These are the words of someone who seems so ignorant and ill informed that should he be identified, his boss would immediately have to question his worth to the British efffort there.

"They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are."

What absolute nonsense.

The Brits have the easiest duty in Iraq, administering the CPA South which includes an almost homogeneous moderate Shiite population which is generally pro-western. Had this officious nincompoop been faced with the Sunni Triangle, Saddam Fedeyene, Shiite radicals, ex-Ba'athists, IEDs and the capital city of 5 million, its quite possible his simplistic and smug assessment would have changed dramatically.

While this insufferable fool was pontificating, one wonders if he bothered to check the status of the north where Americans, faced with essentially the same conditions the British have in the south, are doing QUITE WELL, thank you very much.

"They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen."

In a word, bullshit.

Stories abound, for those with the will and desire to find them, which point to how ludicrous this statement is in reality.

The comparison to Nazi ideology is telling and inexcusable.

Fallujah, per this mental midget, now equals the Warsaw Ghetto.

This sort of generaliztion has no business being said officially or "anonymously", ESPECIALLY by a 'senior' officer or an ally. Any "senior" officer with the brain of a gnat would know that. Thus the plea for anonymity.

Anyone who's passingly familiar with history must immediately question this bleating baffoon's grasp of history as well as his ability to place in historical context the events taking place in Iraq today as compared to those which were evident in Nazi Germany. It is obvious, in the case of this nattering nincompoop that he is ignorant of the history and/or hasn't the ability to make that distinction. In his desire and apparent need to pat himself on the back, he completley distorts that context in order to make his disgustingly dishonest point.

Its a bit disconcerting that someone identified as 'senior' in the British Army is making such assinine and shallow assessments and comparisons of what an ally is going through. To compare the tactics and thinking in the US effort in Iraq as on par with Nazi occupation is, frankly, more indicative of his profound ignorance and stupidity than any truth of the situation in Iraq.

Its a pity that somone of this ilk has command of good British troops. But then, the Tommy has always been known as one of the best fighting but worst led soldiers in the world. Speaking of stereotypes (and I certainly admit to this being one), this historically illiterate idiot makes that particular one seem to be true.

Its a good thing the Brits were given the south. This smug and self-deluded cretin couldn't have handled anything more difficult.

Posted by McQ at 12:54 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

It's just different, ok?

Question: There was no lack of fuss when the White House and Condoleeza Rice initially refused to give testiomy to the 9/11 commission in public and under oath. This was, after all, Far Too Important.

Eventually, the White House bowed to that pressure.

So, where was the outrage when Clinton and Gore gave private, not-under-oath testimony?

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is become of me?

I actually agree with Atrios here...

It's sort of cute that conservatives are suddenly shocked that there are people expressing opinions on the radio in a less than respectful fashion.
Seriously, guys. The right - home to Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh - have absolutely no room to complain about Al Franken, et al, spinning things their way.

But I do hope that the left can finally stop pretending they're above that sort of shrill, partisan spin-doctoring. The Democrats weren't mad that Limbaugh was doing it...they were just upset that they didn't have a piece of the action.

However, after lambasting conservatives for hypocrisy, I do think this bit from Atrios is a bit odd....

William Raspberry is so shocked by it he's decided to write a column decrying the evils of the new Franken show, even though he's never actually heard it.
William Rasberry.....a conservative? If you read as far as the 4th paragraph, you'll find this....
So now some geniuses from the other side -- my side -- are giving us: Al Franken.
Strange, isn't it, that he has to cite a liberal columnist to prove his point about hypocritical conservatives?

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:09 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

VP McCain and other delusions

(Via Instapundit) I note Howard Kurtz is writing about the "potential" (as in: not f*in' likely) Kerry/McCain ticket.

Of course, as he points out, this is unlikely, what with McCain publicly and frequently supporting the reelection of President Bush. That could make him a less than effective campaign spokesman, no? I suppose a future political appointment would be possible, but VP? Sista, please.

Still, the Kerry campaign is getting a lot of press - "legitimacy by association" - out of mentioning the Kerry/McCain possibility. Maybe Bush should start floating the "Ted Kennedy for VP" balloon. You know.....to show that Bush has equally bi-partisan fantasies.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 11, 2004

How to make a silk purse with nothing more than a PDB

The usual suspects are working overtime to make something out of not very much at all. Atrios....

After getting information about possible hijackings in the US, what additional measures did the Bushies implement or at least propose implementing?
Perhaps Atrios didn't have a chance to read the PDB before pontificating. If he had, he'd have known that the FBI was "conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related".

So, perhaps the question should be "what else was the Bush administration doing?" Paul, at WizbangBlog, points out the dead-end to that line of thought. It's worth reading.

Further...

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar' Abd aI-Rahman and other US-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The information contained in that PDB dates back to 1998. Why is Atrios only concerned about the actions taken by the Bush administration in response to information we'd had for 3 years?

To put it another way; if Bush should have acted on the information contained in the PDB, why was Clinton any less negligent?

Could it be because - and I'm going way out on a limb here - they just didn't have reliable, actionable intelligence data? If the information the Bush administration saw was actionable - and should have been acted on - then the Clinton administration is just as "negligent" as the Bush administration....but for two years longer.

NOTE: John Cole is equally annoyed at the spin.

Posted by Jon Henke at 03:08 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

If there's a reward for being a parent, its grandkids

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend some time with my newest grandson (I have a large granddaughter deficit ... 0 for 4). He's 2 1/2 months old. Most people think there's not much too a child that young, that the personality doesn't begin to emerge until at least 6-8 months. That they are simply eating, sleeping, and pooping machines.

Well, I beg to differ. I had a great day with the little guy. And while he'd take a nap at the drop of a hat (or the pull on a bottle), most of the time I was able to enjoy an alert, sweet and fascinating little fellow.

His attention span, for his age, is amazing. Once his little eyes locked onto something, diverting his attention was almost impossible. While carrying him around, I tried to interest him in his reflection in the mirror. But his attention was locked on his brothers, and no matter how I turned him, his little head rotated as if with servo motors to keep his fix on them and their activities.

His usual mode is sitting in his carry-all and gazing out at the world and what interests him at the moment (usually a bright light or some rampant colors). But then when an adult who doesn't mind acting like an idiot (that would be me) moves into his field of view and begins to make gentle noises at him you can watch his excietment build. Little arms begin waving, little hands begin clutching, tiny legs begin kicking and a smile forms.

Then the most gratifying part. He begins to try to make answering noises. He's just recently discovered he can do this, and its apparent he likes to do it, but he can't always immediately remember HOW he does it. So he starts his trial and error attempts. The little mouth moves and contorts and finally out comes "arruhhhaaah". He looks startled and pleased, showing us a little smile. He then repeats what he just did and another "arruhaaah" comes out. He's smiling now. He's on a roll and we're treated to little chirps and gurgles and other baby noises that just make you want to pick him up and squeeze him.

I don't know what I did to deserve these 4, but they're something so special it makes me smile just to think about them. I find myself laughing outloud at times just remembering their antics and words (which can lead to some strange looks if you happen to be around other people). I feel fortunate and blessed to be given the opportunity to be a part of their lives and watch them grow up.

If you're too young to have any grandchildren, just mark my words. They make life worth living. They make all the hard work and stress you went through raising your own children worth every second.

Why? Because you can completely and fully enjoy them without the same level of responsibility and stress. You'll never, ever understand what a precious and wonderful gift they are until you actually have your own.

Mine are 7, 5, 3 and 2 months. Quite a crew, let me tell you. Into everything, interested in everything and living life large. I love their zest for life. I treasure their curiosity. I laugh and enjoy their antics. And they can ask more questions in a 5 minute period than Connie Chung.

Sometimes I do wish the inevitable would just stay away. If I could freeze time, they'd stay just the way they are right now. Then I'd always be "PaPa", have my little guys hug my leg and tell me they love me. I'll miss it when I can no longer pick them up, give them a big hug and tell 'em how much I love them too.

But life moves on and with them around, well, its just a great life.

Posted by McQ at 12:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

PDB 6

All right, let’s deal with Presidential Daily Briefing 6. The following is redacted text from PDB 6 as provided by Fox News:

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin since 1997' has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Ladin implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America."

After US missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Ladin told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a [deleted text] service. An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told an [deleted text] service at the same time that Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative's access to the US to mount a terrorist strike.

Absolutely nothing new here. As mentioned by Condi Rice, mostly historical. As pointed out here, to include MEDIA REPORTS (so obviously this was no big deep dark secret), Bin Laden had wanted to strike the US since ‘97.

The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of Bin Ladin's first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the US. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that Bin Ladin lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own US attack.

Ressam says Bin Ladin was aware of the Los Angeles operation.

Again, historical in context. Nothing new. A review of what IS known. However what is interesting to point out is that at this time, 9/11 planning, plotting and logistics were probably taking place both in the US and elsewhere (Germany) and apparently no one had a clue.

Although Bin Ladin has not succeeded, his attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Ladin associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.

Here’s the first thing of any significance to 9/11. The point that Bin Laden “prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks.”

So it is not only conceivable, but likely (and we know this for a fact ... now) that 9/11's planning was underway well before the Bush administration.

What would be interesting now would be too look at the Clinton era PDBs and how they were dealing with the threat by Bin Laden and al Qaeda during this time in their administration, knowing that planning and logistics were ongoing here during that time.

Al-Qa'ida members — including some who are US citizens — have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks. Two al-Qa'ida members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our Embassies in East Africa were US citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.

A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Ladin cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.

Note the dates here. If this was known, and the Clinton administration were as concerned with OBL and al-Qaeda as Clarke would have us believe, why were these people allowed to continue doing business here? Most likely because these were uncorroborated reports, or speculation based on uncorroborated reports. The only facts present are two AQ members in East Africa were US citizens, and, apparently and EIJ member was living in California. The rest are assumptions based on various reports. Obviously, in light of 9/11 they’re true, but in the context of this briefing, they’re simply a historical accounting.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar' Abd aI-Rahman and other US-held extremists.

Rather interesting when regarding the shrieking journalists out there trying to make the case, based on this paragraph, that “we knew”, or “he [Bush] knew” they planned on hijacking aircraft.

We had UNCORROBORATED reports making this claim from as far back as 1998. So here we have a 4 year old threat which is supposed to be treated as relevant and immediate?

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

“Suspicious activity consistent with preparations for hijackings” apparently didn’t include arabs in flight schools (not that it necessarily SHOULD have at that time, mind you) and points to the fact that whatever those “suspicious activities” were, they didn’t include the ones which were indeed preparing for hijackings. Note as well, there was a suspicion of “other types of attacks” possible on “federal buildings in New York”, in the same "warning", which obviously had no credibility.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.

“Bin Laden-related”. It would be nice to know what they considered to be “Bin Laden-related” activities. Again, nothing here which points to an immediate threat or an impending attack.

Note again that this includes the actual wording of the PDB.

These are NOT an “interpretation” from a news source.

I find nothing which remotely points to an “impending attack by Bin Laden”. I see indicators of activites related to him, I see investigations pointed toward him, but nothing that says “September 11, four aircraft hijacked, 4 targets: the WTC, White House and Pentagon or anything that even hints of that.

What I DO see is an administration both aware of Bin Laden/al Queda and the threat and WORKING that threat.

But of course, that’s not being mentioned in the context of the PDB.

It should be.

It further refutes Clarke’s claim that al-Qaeda and Bin Laden weren’t given high enough priority. They're in a PRESIDENTIAL DAILY BRIEFING for heaven sake.

How much higher does Clarke expect it to go?

We see references to overseas investigations (UAE Embassy) and approximately 70 domestic “Bin Laden-related” full field investigations.

Hardly the hallmark of an administration not really concerned with the threat, is it?

Posted by McQ at 10:50 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Useful Idiots, part 350

Bill at the INDC blog has a great set of pictures and an interesting narrative of a recent Washinton DC ANSWER protest.

Lt. Smash had a recent post concerning an ANSWER protest on the west coast. Seems both had problems putting people on the street (and those who did show up were the quintessential moonbats).

Both are interesting looks at the agenda of the far left (and both do a good job of demonstrating how the agenda is both shallow and misinformed).

Posted by McQ at 10:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Compassionate. With other people's money.

Moxie prints an emailed anecdote from a reader. I reprint here....

"I am an accountant. One woman came in with a significant income.

After doing her taxes and getting her itemized deductions to $12,000+ (including a whopping $150 charity deduction through her company) she received a $5,000 refund.

I then explained her taxes and made a point of showing how much was the result of the recent tax cuts.

She said she would rather not have the cut, they should use the money for schools and she would be voting Democrat to 'fix the problem.'

I said she could give the money to any school she wanted to...

She said she gave plenty (remember the $150?)

I then went back into her taxes and dropped it to the standard deduction ($4750) and explained that just because she was entitled to the itemized deductions, no law required that she take them.

She told me to put the deductions back the way they were.

She signed her taxes in silence and left in a huff. As she left she said 'You clearly don't understand'

I understand...

She wanted to tell everyone that she was a compassionate person who wanted more money for schools...

Yet she wanted every penny she could get."

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:14 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 10, 2004

Interesting debate

A new-to-our-blogroll blog "For What It's Worth" is doing something interesting.

Instead of just opining and linking in the manner of most blogs....I'll be posing pointed questions for conservatives to answer, so I can better understand where they're coming from.
We've all debated these issues before. Generally, I find, "debate" means "two people talking past each other". Rarely is "listening" a part of the equation.

So, this could be interesting. Here's his first question:

I ask the question not because I want to pin "blame" Bush and Rice for 9/11. I am really, really uninterested in the finger-pointing. On the other hand, I don't buy Condi's line that she could not have possibly foreseen an imminent attack inside the U.S.

So I ask: "Is It Unfair To Point Out That Bush And Rice Should Have Anticipated An Imminent Al Qaeda Attack On U.S. Soil?"

I'd argue that...yes, it is. One might argue that they could have anticipated that an Al Qaeda attack would occur in the US at some point, since the evidence and our assumptions about OBL's intent were consistent with that. But, so what? We've known that since 1993, or so.

Today's release of the August 6th PDB seems to make that point. The information within was historical information - as Condi said, and Ben-Veniste already knew. One passage may be portrayed as "sufficient warning"....

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
Yet, the "that time" in question was 1998. And, per the memo, we also learned this in 1998....
A clandestine source said in 1998 that a bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.
Remember all the airline warnings, reinforced cockpit doors, and the invasion of Afghanistan in response to this information? No....neither do I.

Clearly, the "noise in the system" provided insufficient data....it just was'nt actionable intelligence. Not in 1998. Or 1999. Or 2000. Or 2001.

Could Rice have anticipated that an attack might happen? Well, sure. One could happen at any time. That's always true. But could they have anticipated that an attack was going to happen? No.

At any rate, that's my answer. I'd be interested in reading more points of view, though, especially in the context of civil debate. Go to his post and answer the question for yourself.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:15 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short

I came across a recent essay at LewRockwell.com that has helped solidify something for me. He writes specifically about anarchy, though the concepts also applies to doctrinaire libertarians. The gist....

I prefer to think of anarchy as a way in which people deal with one another in a peaceful, cooperative manner; respectful of the inviolability of each other’s lives and property interests; resorting to contract and voluntary transactions rather than coercion and expropriation as a way of functioning in society.
This gets to the crux of why I think anarcho-capitalism/total libertarianism cannot work. In a state of anarchy - as described in the article - there will be no "ruler".....no "highest power". Yet, humans demand a "highest power". If one does not exist, then the "highest power" is the person/group which is capable of organizing and exerting the most force.

Now, there are two potential outcomes. (I generalize for ease)

1: Criminals/"bad" people will organize their power in a way that benefits themselves. We see it in third world countries which are constantly riven by factional warfare. At a lower level, we see it with groups like the Mafia and gangs.

2: "Good" people will organize a social structure to exert power towards those ends they desire. Examples: tribes, community associations, Unions.

In outcome #1, we have a totalitarian, despotic state.

In outcome #2.....well, you have a government. One run by - if not the majority - the most powerful plurality. Or, possibly, the one who accumulated the most guns the quickest.

So, even in an ideal "libertarian" state, you'll always end up with a government...run by those capable of exerting the most power. Sort of like, you know, a democracy. If you're lucky. If you're not lucky, then you get a despot.
.....which isn't exactly what they had in mind, but it's perfectly consistent with human nature.

So, while I admire the ideals of John Locke...I have to admit reality. Hobbes had it nearly right. A state of nature, without government, might not be total war....but it would always be a struggle between powers. Government is merely a locus of power....a means of concentrating, and ameliorating, the state of nature.

Still, I'm a libertarian. Why? Because, though I believe the libertarian ideal is impossible, I also believe it IS an ideal we should strive toward....if only to further ameliorate power.

Libertarians? Consider us the Flying Dutchmen of the political world...forever doomed to sail around the political Cape of Good Hope.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:13 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Eat More Chicanery

Odd story at WashingtonMonthly (Kevin Drum). He links to this NYTimes story...

The Department of Agriculture refused yesterday to allow a Kansas beef producer to test all of its cattle for mad cow disease, saying such sweeping tests were not scientifically warranted.

The producer, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wanted to use recently approved rapid tests so it could resume selling its fat-marbled black Angus beef to Japan, which banned American beef after a cow slaughtered in Washington State last December tested positive for mad cow. The company has complained that the ban is costing it $40,000 a day and forced it to lay off 50 employees.

My first reaction was similar to Kevin Drum's...it's shocking that the federal government would prevent a private company from doing MORE voluntary testing to reassure consumers of the safety of their meat. And they have the gall to say their objection is based on science? As Kevin wrote...."Since when have federal safety regulations prevented someone from voluntarily adopting more stringent measures of their own?"

Life lesson: when you read something that seems utterly irrational, it's worth a further look. So, I did. From the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy....

The department told Creekstone Farms of Arkansas City, Kan., yesterday that its request for a license to use rapid BSE tests in a private marketing program cannot be granted...
So, for starters, they weren't denied the right to test....just denied a license to use those test results in marketing. To explain why....
"The test is now licensed for animal health surveillance purposes," Hawks stated. "The use of the test as proposed by Creekstone would have implied a consumer safety aspect that is not scientifically warranted."
...
The USDA announced a major expansion of its BSE testing program in mid-March but has rejected calls for testing of all cattle, saying it is not scientifically justified. Hawks' statement today mentioned the plan to increase testing and noted that an international panel of BSE experts concluded that testing of all cattle is unnecessary because the disease doesn't appear in younger animals.
Read that carefully. It's saying something very simple: Creekstone cannot market their meat as "safe", because the tests involved simply do not - and cannot - confirm that the meat is actually safe.

The USDA is simply unwilling to license them to market their meat with misleading scientific claims.

Doesn't sound so ridiculous anymore, does it?

Of course, not everybody checked further before calling shenanigans.

UPDATE: Nosey Online responds with a different take, though I think he's missing the point with this....

So it has nothing to do with certifying all animals are safe. Only that some scientists came to the conclusion that young animals do no need to be tested. That is what Mr. Henke claims is not "scientifically warranted."

Why not test all animals? I'm sure that old cattle aren't the only ones we need to be worried about.

Why not? Well, perhaps because young cattle show no testable evidence of mad-cow disease. (that's not my opinion, by the way) So, no amount of "testing" would indicate danger. Yet, the marketing campaign would claim they had "tested negative for Mad-Cow"....a misleading claim, which implies safety when safety has not been verified.

He also calls us "conservatives" - not in a particularly complimentary way -,"idiots", and says we've left out an important part of the story - though, even that part of the story only indicates that the USDA has approved some BSE rapid-testing kits. Not, as was the case with Creekstone, the license to use those rapid-test kits to market beef - including underage cattle - as "safe".

Conservatives? I suppose he hasn't read QandO, or he'd know we're fairly equal opportunity libertarians. However, judge for yourself.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:37 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Air Liberal

Drudge has linked this non-story again, which will probably lead to another ill-informed spate of right-wing mockery....

Air America Radio, the liberal talk radio network, featuring Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, Chuck D. and others, has found two Bay Area outlets, the San Jose Mercury News reported, though no startup date has been announced.
...
Both stations are owned by Inner City Broadcasting Corp., which also owns Air American Radio's New York flagship station, WLIB-AM 1190. Inner City sparked controversy when it displaced WLIB's black-themed talk format to make room for Air American's format.
I can't really expect most people to understand the economics of radio, but this needs to be said. The fact that Air American keeps taking over minority radio stations is not an indication that they are "going after minorities"/"insensitive to minorities", or any other scandalous race-related meme.

The fact is this: as a start-up radio network, they have VERY limited resources. Thus, they can generally only buy relatively inexpensive AM stations....specifically, AM stations with poor signals, and historically second/third-tier AM stations. In short, stations that don't generate a great deal of revenue, so they're just not that expensive.

And the fact is, since the top-tier radio stations are already targetting the wealthy and broad demographics, those second/third-tier stations will end up targetting the niche markets. For example, Asian-language programming.

Face it, you're only going to go after a niche like the Asian-language market if you're desperate, and unable to make a profit by competing with the big boys.

So, of course they're deposing minority stations. Duh. This just isn't a story.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:58 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 09, 2004

It's a time-zone conspiracy!

Silliness....

Rice's testimony is at 9am Eastern today. For what it's worth, I can't imagine why they would have made her testimony so early. It's being carried live but that's pretty early for us on the West Coast, we've gotta be up at 6am to catch it. Don't they want us to see it?

Oooooh.

Yep, the 9/11 Commission interviewed Condoleeza Rice at 9am, so nobody would see it. What a brilliant strategy! I mean, they've just disappeared the whole thing. Did they even mention it on the news last night?

Alternately, it might be due to the fact that the 9/11 commission meetings begin at either 8:30 or 9am, and the first subject testifies at 9 or 9:30am. Here's who they "didn't want us to see" last time....

Tuesday, March 24, 2004
9:30 - 11:00 AM
The Honorable Madeleine K. Albright
Former Secretary of State
Submitted Testimony
...
Wednesday, March 24 2004
9:00 - 10:30 AM
The Honorable George J. Tenet
Director of Central Intelligence
Submitted Testimony
Muhahaha.

And who did those devious scoundrels put on later in the afternoon for maximum exposure?

Tuesday, March 24, 2004
2:00 - 3:30 PM
The Honorable William S. Cohen
Former Secretary of Defense
Submitted Testimony

3:30 - 5:00 PM
The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
Submitted Testimony
...
Wednesday, March 24 2004
1:30 - 4:00 PM
Mr. Richard A. Clarke
Former National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, National Security Council
Submitted Testimony

4:00 - 5:30 PM
The Honorable Richard L. Armitage
Deputy Secretary of State

Please adjust your conspiracy theories accordingly.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:50 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Americans reported captured

It gets nastier and nastier. Recently reported by Reuters:

Iraqi insurgents said they had seized four Italians and two Americans on the western outskirts of Baghdad on Friday. A Reuters journalist saw two captive foreigners, said by the insurgents to be Italians, in a mosque in a village in the Abu Ghraib district. One was wounded in the shoulder. Both were weeping.

U.S. soldiers in a tank in the area near the village of al-Dhahab al-Abyad said they knew some Americans had been taken hostage, but had no details.

Of course couple that with the 3 Japanese who insurgents are threatening to burn to death if Japan doesn't withdraw and you have a very nasty situation.

To Japan's credit they're refusing to be intimidated by the hostage taking.

Look for this to develop into a much worse situation, especially if its true American's have been captured.

Posted by McQ at 09:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dogs and cats living together..

A shocking moment from Atrios....

You know, I was really pretty astounded by Franken's interview with Howard Fineman just now. First of all, I want to say that I think that Franken is proving himself to be a master interviewer, something I hadn't expected. But, secondly, how much of a whore is Howie?

When he first came on the show he was pretty defensive of Condi, or at most offering very mild criticism. By the end he was basically calling it a political disaster for Bush.

Franken kicked the ball, and Howie ran after it...

When did Atrios begin criticizing his own side? (hint: yesterday, as far as I can tell)

Combine that with the recent non-nuttiness of Ted Rall, and one begins to ask questions. "What the hell?" would be a good one.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fights in cities

We're at an "operational pause" in Fallujah and Kut has been retaken. Two different fights. Both against fanatics of a different stripe.

An "operational pause", btw, is simply a device to recock and go at it again. It also allows the Americans to let in humanitarian aid and essentially ask "had enough yet"?

My guess is we'll hear a "no" in Fallujah as we're dealing with extremists there. In any event, its again evident that we're pulling punches there. Rules of engagement say no firing until fired upon, and, as is obvious, we're not using our superior fire power to flatten the place with artillery before moving through. Frankly they could have quelled Fallujah in about a day had they done that, but that's not the point ... the point is to kill or capture the insurgents without destroying the rest of the population.

Military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) is probably the most difficult combat there is, especially when you have to fight with one hand behind your back.

These operations are conducted to defeat an enemy that may be mixed in with civilians. Therefore, the rules of engagement (ROE) and use of combat power are more restrictive than in other conditions of combat.

Remember that in WWII we flattened towns with artillery and air strikes before we assaulted them. Stalingrad and Berlin speak to those tactics. That's because we were fighting an "unrestricted" war in which the entire coutnrys (to include their populations) were considered 'enemy'. That's not the case in Iraq.

We've avoided that in Fallujah, for good reason which really don't need to be detailed having to do with "hearts and minds". The good news is we have some high power precision weapons which can be used if necessary in very special circumstances and very surgically.

People are now asking why we're having to deal with cities like Fallujah, why we didn't do this during the war.

Doctrine dictates that we avoid MOUT if possible.

Tactical doctrine stresses that urban combat operations are conducted only when required and that built-up areas are isolated and bypassed rather than risking a costly, time-consuming operation in this difficult environment. Adherence to these precepts, though valid, is becoming increasingly difficult as urban sprawl changes the face of the battlefield.

MOUT is an ever evolving doctrine and tactics are also constantly reviewed. That's because, as usual, no two situations are the same. Each brings unique concerns and problems for the commander.

But, in reality, it is mostly a small unit infantry fight. Yes combat multipliers such as armor and limited aviation assets are used, and combined arms is the most desireable team, but for the most part its the grunt, moving from house to house, street by street, clearing as they go. Armor is effective mostly as a "assault gun" used to surgically destroy pockets of resistance which are too much for or too costly for infantry to try to assault and clear.

Artillery is mostly used in an interdiction role ... keeping supplies and reinforcements from reaching the enemy, keep him isolated and sometimes in direct fire roles. But it is a limited use and primary in the role of isolating the enemy. Same with aviation assets.

Another thing to keep in mind. Combat in cities (MOUT) usually takes about three times longer than the usual estimates. It is time intensive combat. It is slow, it is methodical, it is careful and therefore it takes time. Additionally, historically, attackers take much higher casualties in MOUT than in other forms of combat. Another reason that it is avoided if possible.

But sometimes, it is inevitable.

How do you succeed in MOUT? Usually by isolation of small areas and then clearing the isolated area. Then doing it again. That's why you see the news reports saying the Marines now control about a quarter of the city. That's the portion they've isolated and are still clearing.

In the meantime, they're trying to keep the entire town isolated through roadblocks and checkpoints so they can control entry and exiting of the city. As the noose tightens, this will become more and more important as those who finally decide they'd perfer to run and fight another day attempt to leave.

All-in-all, tough duty.

Look for this to go on for several more day to a couple of weeks in Fallujah where you have fighters with SOME expertice in this sort of warfare. As for the other cities (such as Kut), results should be much quicker because there you are fighting those with much less expertice and much less cohesive command and control structure. It doesn't make them any less dangerous, but it does mean they're more likely to quit in the face of overwhelming combat superiority. Once the US and coalition troops begins to enjoy some success in those towns, it is my guess resistance will collapse fairly quickly (I'm speaking primarily of the al-Sadr militias).

This is an important fight for Iraq's future if there is to be any chance for it to stand by itself. The extremists and the militias must be eliminated and there be no question left in the mind of the perpertrators (or those thinking about joining in) that this sort of rebellion won't be tolerated and will be forcefully put down.

Unfortunately, MOUT will be part of the message.

Posted by McQ at 08:56 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Chris Dodd's time travel theory of leadership

I haven't done so yet, but I think it's time to weigh in on the Sens. Dodd/Byrd scandalette. "Scandalette", because I don't think this rises to the level of a scandal, except among people who really like scandals. Much of the outrage seems to stem from the comparison - apt, I think - between Dodd's recent comment and Trent Lott's comment of a couple years ago. I'll try to frame this appropriately and in context, because I know my conclusion will likely be controversial to many QandO readers.

First, the offending comment.....

It has often been said that the man and the moment come together. I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say to my friend from West Virginia that he would have been a great Senator at any moment. Some were right for the time. ROBERT C. BYRD, in my view, would have been right at any time.

He would have been right at the founding of this country. He would have been in the leadership crafting this Constitution. He would have been right during the great conflict of civil war in this Nation. He would have been right at the great moments of international threat we faced in the 20th century. I cannot think of a single moment in this Nation's 220-plus year history where he would not have been a valuable asset to this country. . . .

The criticisms - I won't link them all...Instapundit has already done so much of it for me - largely center on comparisons to the Trent Lott comment, and the fact that it probably would not be a good idea to have a KKK Grand Dragon in the Senate during, for example, the Civil War. And by "probably", I mean "definitely".

So, let's examine that.

The comparison to Lott's comment is appropriate. Neither were endorsements of racism...but both were praise for a Senator who, at one time, was an unabashed racist/segregationist. Both occurred in the context of a milestone in which it was appropriate to say kind words about a colleague.

The dichotemy between reaction to Lott's comment and Dodd's comment has been striking. Lott was roundly condemned by...virtually everybody. Lott went on a week-long Apology Tour 2002. Chris Dodd has....been invisible. As of this writing, Senator Dodd's website doesn't contain an apology, an explanation, or even a mention of the incident. He certainly hasn't been on BET, lately.

On that level, the criticism is valid.

However, I'd argue that this is more about "gotcha" than about a genuinely offensive statement. Look at what Dodd said. Was it racist? Only if you interpret it very narrowly. Very very narrowly.

To assume racism, one has to make the following assumptions:
- Chris Dodd was referring, not to the Senator Byrd he's worked alongside, but to the Senator Byrd of 40-50 years ago.
- Chris Dodd had Byrd's racial policies in mind, when he spoke of his "greatness".

Now, you know as well as I do that Senator Dodd wasn't referring to - or, likely, even thinking about - Senator Byrd's past racism. The criticism of many Democrats - including Dodd - rests on their behavioural dichotemy between this incident and the Lott incident. But criticism of Senator Dodd rests almost entirely on an inference on the part of the observer - not an implication on the part of the speaker.

That is a basis to demand an explanation from Dodd - and one should be forthcoming. It is not the basis for a condemnation. After all, the inference is entirely on the part of the observer. One can't ask a speaker to apologize for your own inference.

And you know what? The same thing applies to Trent Lott. Both were subject to prosecution-by-inference. To his credit, Trent Lott apologized. Honest observers should be willing to let it go if Chris Dodd does the same.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:47 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The devolution will be televised

The great weakness of western civilization: luxury-induced idiocy....

One in 10 of the 2,000 adults questioned in the survey commissioned by Blenheim Palace thought that Adolf Hitler was not a real person, and half were convinced that King Arthur existed.
What do you say to that? I suppose it helps if you're a raging misanthrope. If so, this isn't surprising....this is just ammunition.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:13 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Lying down with dogs

That Yasser...

...PA Chairman Yasser Arafat announced he is ready to embrace Hamas and Islamic Jihad and turn them into full partners in the decision-making process. The two groups have welcomed his offer to join a united national leadership that would function in parallel to the PA.
Arafat wants to make a group who has declared war on Israel and the US a part of the Palestinian "government".

So, can Israel FINALLY declare war on the lot of them and get this over with? And how can we help?

(Link via Ipse Dixit)

UPDATE: In response to a comment: Yeah, it's a rhetorical question. I wish it weren't.

Posted by Jon Henke at 05:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Spin-doctor for American Progress

I was really hoping he'd step in to deal with this. Bill Herbert fact-checks the "nonpartisan-my-ass" Center for American Progress critique of Condoleeza Rice.

Go read it.

UPDATE: Stuart Buck weighs in, too. Apparently, the Center for American Progress employs Maureen Dowd as a quote editor. Yeesh.

Posted by Jon Henke at 05:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 08, 2004

Thoughts about Condi's testimony

I had to be on the road today, so as it happens I probably was able to hear about 90% of Condi Rice's testimony. "Hear" is important because I wasn't distracted by the visual medium ... I was concentrating strictly on what I heard.

I didn't hear any of the opening statement. Jon says she was palpably nervous. I've been that way too ... when you've geared yourself up for a big event, and the adreneline is pumping and you wish they'd just get the damn thing on the road, which, based on what I heard later, would seem to be the sort of nervousness she was probably suffering.

I was impressed. I haven't heard her speak at any length before but I've heard all the talk about her intellect, etc. I think she lived up to her billing today. While she may have been nervous before, I didn't hear that nervousness during the questioning.

She knew her stuff. She was prepared. She seemed to have anticipated all the questions and was ready for them. She even seemed to have anticipated Bob Kerrey's question about responding to the Cole attack which led her to remind him of a speech he'd made in which he said perhaps the best response was to go after Saddam.

She's "feisty". She gave as good as she got. Or at least that was my impression. She handled Kerrey and Ben-Veniste very well. She didn't roll over. When she thought she had a point to make, and they were attempting to try and prevent her from doing so, she didn't let it happen.

It was partisan. I was a bit embarrased for Bob Kerrey's shouts of "its not fair" when she tried to finish a particular point that I got the impression Kerrey would perfer she didn't finish. While I liked Condi's "you ask me here answer questions" shot, one would assume by now the commission would understand it isn't there to ask rhetorical questions or make statements. Its not about them or their partisan take on a particular subject. I thought Kerrey's statements about Iraq were political grandstanding and inappropriate.

On the other hand, while Republicans weren't as overtly partisan, they too had their partisan moments, although for the most part, they seemed much more interested in sticking to the charter of the commission than did the Democrat members. Ben-veniste was probably the most obviously partisan.

Points made in no particular order of importance but as the occur to me:

--- The problem of the intelligence failure was systemic. No great surprise there. We know that. Thankfully the important questions were asked. And most importantly "is it fixed yet"? Rice said that it probably was not completely fixed, but that it was better than it was before 9/11. It would appear that commission is going to make recommendations for further fixes.

--- That the Patriot Act was very important as a part of the fix. She said that two or three times. It'll be interesting to see if that gets much of a mention.

--- The Bush administration had been in office for 233 days. It wasn't really in the position yet to have fully laid out or implemented its campaign and strategy to combat terror. That is very often overlooked in these sorts of discussions. New administrations don't come in with this all worked out in advance. It hasn't happened before and it won't happen in the future. It takes TIME. It also is highly important to realize that even if they HAD a completed campaign and strategy in place it most likely wouldn't have prevented 9/11. At the time of 9/11, the administration's first budget hadn't even been put into play (October).

--- Rice made the point that the Millennium Attack was foiled by "luck", not particularly good intel work, and that the only way the previous system could have success was mostly through luck. The system just wasn't set up to provide or connect-the-dots in a meaningful way. There was no way at that time to "shake the trees" and then "connect the dots". There was, to use Rice's phrase, an "absense of light". Per Rice they've now taken many steps to make sure that there is no future "absense of light" to cause the same sort of intelligence failure.

--- She made the point twice, that I remember, that the administration would have "moved heaven and earth" to protect America IF they'd have had credible threat information with which to work prior to 9/11. There's no doubt in my mind that is true, just as there's no doubt in my mind the same thing would have been true of the Clintion administration or ANY American administration of any party in power at the time.

--- Sec Lehman made some important points about existing rules, etc. still in effect in the FAA and elsewhere which seem to work AGAINST making us safer. He asked Rice if she was aware of them, and for the most part she said she wasn't. She also pointed out that in fact those things usually would not be visible to her (she's a high level policy person).

--- She made the point that the context in which the Bush administration was planning to use the military in the terrorism fight was strategic and not tactical as had been the case in the Clinton administration (the "swatting of flies"). Instead of 'tit-for-tat" reactive forays of missiles when something was blown up, Rice says the administration was looking at an overall strategy that addressed the key problem and the key players in combatting terrorism.

Kerrey wanted to make a big deal out of the "swatting flies" remark, thinking it meant Bush was tired of doing it (Kerrey asked what fly Bush had "swatted"). In fact, Bush was talking about how the previous administration had conducted terrorism operations, i.e. "tit-for-tat" military responses.

--- I was impressed by the fact that very few if any attempts were made to "blame" the previous administration by Rice. When she spoke of the systemic failure she talked about a system that had been in place for decades, which reflected some bureaucratic inertia, some legal problems and some cultural ones (dealing with how American's distrust something like domestic surveilance). She attempted to stay on target with that message never lapsing into what would have been an easy, but not necessarily true, shot at the Clinton administration.

--- When given the opportunity, she produced credible testimony which seemed to fairly handily refute Richard Clarke's testimony. For instance, when asked about why Clarke wasn't briefing the President, Rice says he never asked, and that she had an open door policy which encouraged all of her senior staff to make that point if they felt it necessary to brief Bush. Apparently, Clarke never made that request except in the realm of cyber-security, although by his testimony one could believe he had been denied.

Question still remaining: Will PDB 6 be declassified. I have a tendency to believe Rice when she says it was a historical document over Benvenista's claim it was a warning, but we'll not know definitively unless its released. My guess is it may be sanitzed and released later depending on the level of stink made.

Winners?

Rice for sure. Sharp, articulate, believable, knowledgable. Bush also comes out looking better.

Losers?

Ben-Veniste. Came off as a partisan hack more interested in scoring political points, attempting to lay blame and bullying the witness than getting to the truth of the problem. Seemed to forget the purpose of the commission. Seemed to also forget this was an inquiry, not a cross-examination.

Kerrey. Came off as partisan and whiny. "It's not fair, it's not fair" reminded me of my youngest grandson's favorite lament. It had no business in a serious commisison meeting when someone is trying to respond to YOUR questions.

Clarke. Throws a little more cold water on his testimony - along with other contradictions which have appeared since he appeared before the commission.

Posted by McQ at 06:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

From up and down, and still somehow

I've responded to a couple readers lately on (roughly) the topic of "intellectual honesty". I'm still piecing together my own thoughts on that, as it relates to politics, but I want to put out some of this as a thought-starter.

Premise: Politicians aren't really "liars". Spin-doctors....yes. But fundamentally dishonest? I don't think so.

So, how do I explain the fact that they keep making false statements? In general, I think political critics try to piece together an accusation based on partial information, misinterpretations, and assumptions. Often, that's quite effective. That is, after all, why critics do it.

The problem - from an intellectual honesty standpoint - is this: we apply the interpretation to a comment that is most beneficial to our criticism. Kerry/Bush said something we think could indicate "badness"? Run with it! Brook no explanations! Intent is unimportant, it's inference that matters!

More to the point, we're all far more willing to accept explanations/excuses from those we (generally) support, than we are from those we do not support. God knows the right excuses a myriad of disconcerting incidents by the Bush administration. By the same token, the left accepts very little in the way of explanations for those statements.

This is, of course, very frustrating to everybody involved. "Why can't they see (fill in the blank)?"

I think the frustration both sides of the debate are feeling is largely attributable to selection bias. People tend to notice evidence that backs up their assumptions. Makes it hard to reach a different conclusion, no?

Believe Bush is an idiot? Then you're likely to notice EVERY time he says something that can be interpreted as "idiocy"...and you're going to assume that is the correct interpretation.

Kerry is wishy-washy? Well, every time he appears to change his positions...or get too deeply into "nuance"....his critics will jump all over it. Evidence!

Of course, explanations are simply "typical (left/right)-wing propaganda".

Much of the existing contradictory/dumb statements can be explained by the fact that these guys talk on the record a LOT....and that's a lot of ammunition for critics.

Personally, I discount most of that stuff. There's too much of it, on both sides, to make serious judgements based on anecdotes and "gotcha's". I especially dislike the armchair psychoanalysis that people do to politicians. "Incident X" proves that Kerry/Bush is unfit to hold office!"

I don't really have any larger point right now, except to say this: after seeing the GOP get mired in this nonsense in the 90s, and the Democrats mired in it today, I'm really hoping I can maintain a sense of objectivity during this campaign season.

I generally support Bush on some matters - war on terror/Iraq/tax cuts - but not at all in some other areas - spending, social policy, etc. On the other hand, I can't think of much common ground that I share with John Kerry at all. My only real decision is whether I want to vote against John Kerry......or against both John Kerry and George W Bush.

And frankly, learning that Kerry may (or may not) have lied about Botox....or that Bush may (or may not) have have done all 9 of his Guard-duty days in Alabama.....well, that's just not a part of my calculation. God help a country which chooses a President based on that sort of minutiae.

UPDATE: JB Howard has more - appropriate, because it was our interaction, in part, which inspired this line of thought...and got him added to the QandO blogroll. Go read it.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Condi

Unfortunately, I was only able to watch a bit of Condi's testimony, so I'll have to read more to make a more complete post on the topic. A few points, though...

- She was nervous. Palpably nervous. You could tell from the way she paced her prepared speech, and the way she stumbled over words. That's something people do when they feel a lot of pressure. No idea, though, whether it was the amount of attention on her, or the importance of the occassion.

- The Center For American Progress has a "fact-check" that follows their usual MO....
Claim: X
Fact: Y, which doesn't really disprove X at all.

Here's an example...

CLAIM: "While we were developing this new strategy to deal with al-Qaida, we also made decisions on a number of specific anti-al-Qaida initiatives that had been proposed by Dick Clarke."

FACT: Rice's statement finally confirms what she previously – and inaccurately – denied. She falsely claimed on 3/22/04 that "No al-Qaida plan was turned over to the new administration." [Washington Post, 3/22/04]

How in the hell does her recent statement "confirms what she had previously...denied"? In the first instance, she said "No Al Qaeda plan" was turned over....in the latter, she said "some of Clarke's initiatives were decided upon".

Now, unless "Initiative" = "Plan", this is just a dishonest bit of equivalency. "If we make words mean what we want them to mean, then Rice must be lying!"

- Rice did.....eh. Unfortunately, this has been a hallmark of the Bush administration. When it comes time to defend themselves - to make their argument - they underwhelm. They're not terrible....they're just not that good. That's a shame. They need comprehensive and diligent advocates, who disseminate their best rebuttals to this stuff. It just doesn't appear to be a priority, and I think that's why Bush's ratings are slipping.

- Ben-Veniste. For a guy who demanded brief, quick answers...he certainly didn't seem to mind asking rambling questions. And what the hell was that "I didn't know there was a point" crack?

- Clapping when a witness gets badgered? Whether the badgering is appropriate or not - and I don't really have a problem with tough questioning - that's utterly inappropriate. It is also quite instructive.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:35 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Jobless claims

Good economic news....

The number of Americans filing initial claims for jobless benefits fell to 328,000 last week, the lowest in more than three years, a government report showed.
Question: How is Kerry going to campaign on this....."the economy is booming now.....so we should reverse the current economic policy"?

Presumably, he'll focus on the "lost jobs" - without mentioning the bubble - and the deficit - without mentioning that it was largely attributable to the recession. Still, I wonder how much traction he can get with that when the job situation is improving so rapidly.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 07, 2004

Quick! Somebody get Osama bin Laden a subscription!

I'm not sure whether I should be bothered or impressed.....

When the 40,000 subscribers to Reason, the monthly libertarian magazine, receive a copy of the June issue, they will see on the cover a satellite photo of a neighborhood - their own neighborhood. And their house will be graphically circled.
Snark for our Democrat readers: "Publisher-in-Chief John Ashcroft said 'This is just a handy reminder to our readers....we know where you live. And it's time to re-subscribe. I'm just saying....'"

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:14 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Blog Rolling

* OxBlog....

As many of us know, 'Al Qaeda' means 'the base' or 'the foundation'. However, it does not just refer to physical objects, but also to concepts. Thus, the plural of Al Qaeda, 'Al Qawaid', means 'grammar'. Why? Because grammar is the foundations a language.

Now, it may just be a coincidence, but should we be surprised that George Bush is at war with grammar?


* Steve Antler...
So far there appears no evidence whatsoever of the "tax cut for the rich" charge. Changing regulations have reduced the burden of each income quintile except that at the very top. From the standpoint of all federal taxes, 2001 represents increased income progressivity as compared with the previous decades.
Read the whole thing. He's got a table for easy reference.

* Wow....Barron's has one of the most damning - and authoritative - fact-checks of Paul Krugman I've ever seen.

* Steve Verdon, on the administration's "War on Porn"

Perhaps it is time for somebody to remind President Bush that 3,000 people died on September 11th, and that 3,000 people have not died watching Debbie Does Dallas.

* DC....
Our soldiers are still fighting over there.

The least I can do to support our men and women and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan is to recommit myself to "pray without ceasing" for their safety, for wisdom, for success in completing their mission.

Please join me in fighting the spiritual battle. They need our prayers now more than ever.


* Pat comments on gas prices, supply and demand, and our options.

* Henry Hanks reports that "Hans Blix isn't the only one making "at least the trains ran on time" statements".

* Moe Lane does a status check to make sure he's not dreaming, then...

I must therefore conclude, incredibly, that this Ted Rall blog post about Air America actually exists, regardless of the fact that it completely lacks frothing mad partisan attacks against the Right - indeed, Rall actually manages to type out 'Rush Limbaugh' without modifiers - and that it shows every sign of being written by a sane, fully sapient human being. I can only assume that this means that Ted Rall has been replaced by a pod person, a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers. To which I say, kudos to our Pod People visitors, and let me be the first to welcome you to the cool, green hills of Earth. You can convert Ann Coulter next, if you like.

No, really. Feel free.


* Cam Edwards...
Not that I've spent a great deal of time pondering the legacy of Kurt Cobain. It's kind of hard to claim someone as the voice of your generation when you could never understand what he was saying to begin with.
Jeez...let me translate for you old people: "Yeaaaahhhh!" Or: "Heyyyyyyy! Heyyyyy! Heyyyyy!" Or: "You're in a laundry room - You're in a laundry room - You're in a laundry room"

Surely you can see the genius now, right?

(full disclosure: I actually kinda liked Nirvana back when I could still tolerate music. That's all in the past now)

* Protein Wisdom...

Ted Kennedy calls Iraq "George Bush's Vietnam."

In other news, protein wisdom calls Ted Kennedy "John Kerry's Chappaquiddick."


* Spoons...
So, let me see if I've got this straight...

Bush got us into Iraq. Iraq equals Vietnam. So I guess that would make Bush... John F. Kennedy!

But then, Ted also compares Bush to Richard Nixon, the President who got us out of Vietnam, due in part, at least, to political pressure caused by activists like... John Kerry.

So Ted says Bush is like Ted's brother, JFK, which is bad, because he got us into Vietnam. But he's also like Richard Nixon, which is also bad, even though he got us out of Vietnam. So Ted says we should vote for JFK 2.0, who by the way served in Vietnam, which is good, because he will get us out of Bush's Vietnam, which is also good.

My head hurts.


* Spoons, again...
Marshall was one of the leading liberal voices that brought down Trent Lott a couple years back. Nevertheless, he hasn't managed to say a word about Chris Dodd, who did the exact same thing that Lott did. Preston wants to know why.

Here's why: Marshall has never deserved his (inexplicable) reputation as a "reasonable liberal." He's an unabashed and unprincipled partisan. His outrage at Lott was never motivated by true moral outrage at Lott's comments. It was motivated by true moral outrage at the (R) after Lott's name.


* Donald Sensing, on the Hans Blix plan to improve the life of Iraqis....
We should send troops into Fallujah and Ramadi to take any man, woman or child even suspected of resistance and simply shoot them in the street.
...
There are several villages in the Sunni Triangle that we'd do well to drop nerve gas on.
And so on....

* Everybody point and laugh at the funny John Kerry picture.

* Blackfive...

I am not trying to say that Fallujah or Samarra are problem-free, but that the left-wing is trying to turn Iraq into Vietnam more than the Iraqis are...

* Frank J, on PETA...
PETA is an acronym that stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but, when wrapped around sliced roasted lamb, they're called GYRO, but I don't know what that stands for.
...
They claimed that Jesus was a vegetarian even though in the seventh station of the cross Jesus pauses to enjoy a hamburger.

* James Joyner, on the July 30th turnover date...
This is a classic Realist argument and one I might have been sympathetic to under different circumstances. Indeed, had our stated objective merely been regime change with no talk of creating a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, this may well have been the course to take—a relatively quick strike to take out the enemy and then move on to objectives elsewhere in the war on terrorists. That wasn’t the case, however, and leaving the place in chaos would be a collosal failure. It would also send a signal that democratization in the Middle East, something clearly in our interest—to say nothing of the interest of the citizenry—is unachievable.
Can you imagine a time when we didn't have access to information like this? You know....10 years ago. Seems like it must have been another world.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

STILL want to treat it as a "law enforcement" issue?

The inevitable happens when terror is treated as a law enforcement issue.

HAMBURG, Germany (CNN) -- A Hamburg court has ordered the release of the only suspect convicted in the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

...

He was found guilty of providing logistical support for the Hamburg al Qaeda cell that included lead September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, who piloted one of the two airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

Posted by McQ at 07:40 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

9/11 Commission to give Clark's testimony a 2nd Look

In light of yesterday's Washington Times story it appears the 9/11 commission will give Richard Clarke's testimony as second look:

The September 11 commission will look at the discrepancy between the testimony of Richard A. Clarke that the Clinton administration considered the threat of al Qaeda "urgent" and its final national-security report to Congress, which gave the terror organization scant mention.

I say kudoes to the Times for bringing this up and the same to the commission for giving Clarke's testimony a second look. Based on my reading of the commission's interim report, there are just too many discrepencies in what Clarke said and what appears to have happened (or not happened as the case may be).

Posted by McQ at 07:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Krugmania

Dr. Galen fact-checks Krugman pretty hard, starting out with this amusingly accurate take on Krugman's MO....

I just read Krugman's latest, which follows his usual format.
1. Premise X
2. Bush is Evil
3. Bush's take on premise X is evil.
He follows that up with some facts about mercury dispersion, and eco-realities. The upshot of it is this: As scientists go, Paul Krugman makes a good economist.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Curious

Reading Kevin Drum this morning, I thought he'd engaged in a very, er, selective bit of editing to make Bush look bad. Turns out, he was just passing along the bad journalism. Here's what Kevin wrote...

Our president seems to be making a real habit of saying stuff that's just plain weird. Today, after inadvertently insulting an audience member at a campaign appearance....
Bush moved quickly to end the session. He turned to Bob Watson, superintendent of the El Dorado Public Schools who had opened the meeting by inadvertently insulting Bush.

"Governor excuse me, President," Watson said.

Bush muttered, "How quickly they forget."

When Watson offered to shake Bush's hand, the president shot back: "Just don't hug me."

Huh?
I was a bit confused, too. That's a strange thing to say, even for such a notoriously bad extemporaneous speaker as President Bush. So, I checked the transcript. Here's what actually happened...
THE PRESIDENT: Superintendent of Schools, big Bob Watson is here. (Laughter.) They ever call you "Big Bob"?

MR. WATSON: Yes, sir. And Governor -- excuse me, President. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: How quickly they forget. (Laughter.)

MR. WATSON: You've been welcomed, and I think properly so, but I like to do things in a big way, so I'm going to shake hands with you so you truly will have had a big welcome.

THE PRESIDENT: Just don't hug me. (Laughter.) Thank you, sir. (Applause.)

Cut Kevin Drum some slack. He was simply reading off a poorly - and unfairly - edited story. The ABCNews story, however....that's a different story. Leave in the punch-line, but leave out the set-up, and...well, it's pretty easy to make a fellow look foolish.

But it's not fair, and it's not good journalism.

Note: Kevin wasn't the only blogger caught with his pants down by this story. Oliver Willis, JBHowardJr, and Barista

UPDATE: To their great credit, Barista and JB Howard (who agrees with the comments here) have both amended their posts to include the additional context. I do want to make it clear, as Moe notes in the comment section, that there's no shame in this for bloggers who misunderstood the context. I'm not criticizing those bloggers in any way....and I admire the hell out of a blogger who will update their post when they get further context. ABCNews, on the other hand....

UPDATE II: Kevin Drum has updated, too, which is to his credit. ABCNews, on the other hand...

UPDATE III: Oliver Willis, whose only comment on this story was "Eeeewwwww. Touching! George don't like touching!", now comments "Actually I could care less about the "don't hug me" thing, but rather the remark about the woman's hair is what stood out to me".

Uh-huh.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:23 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

April 06, 2004

Rall comes around

He's not exactly voting for Bush, but I'll take what I can get from Ted Rall. In his latest column, Rall makes some surprising admissions...

What did Bush know when and how quickly should he have done something about it?

But both the 9/11 commission and liberal opponents of the Bush Administration are focusing on the wrong question. Nothing has surfaced from the 2001 "summer of threat" beyond a bunch of vague they're-up-to-something caveats. The specific details intelligence agencies would have needed to stop the attacks before they happened--potential hijackers' names, dates and times, targets--were maddeningly elusive.

..and this:
It's unreasonable to expect the government to have anticipated 9/11.
Call the 9/11 commission, tell them to pack it in....their job is done. When Ted freakin' Rall clears the Bush administration, the Bush administration is cleared.

Why, next thing you know, Rall will say we didn't go to war for oil. Of course, he'll probably be lynched by the anti-war crowd, but that's the price you pay for marching with pacifists. Sometimes, they get violent.

Rall does make some silly suggestions (natch).....

A policy of keeping Air Force fighters aloft 24 hours a day could have allowed the shoot-down of the second New York-bound plane, saving hundreds at the second tower and possibly those who died at the Pentagon.
It's all so simple! Just keep fighter-coverage of the entire United States, 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a years....for years.
And, rather than leave entire states undefended by air bases, spreading military facilities evenly throughout U.S. territory would have shrunk response time to a bare minimum.
A relatively silly suggestion, but not as sily as his next comment...
Bush and his cabinet members should explain why they didn't take such common-sense precautions to defend us before 9/11...
Yeah. The Bush administration should explain why they didn't close down dozens of Air Force bases, build brand new bases appropriately spaced around the US, institute 24 hour-a-day military patrols of US airspace....and do it all prior to 9/11.

Well, maybe the moonbat contingent won't totally disown Rall. He does bring the best tinfoil.

UPDATE: Parked at the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:43 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Well, at least it wasn't the Defense Department

Did you know you were paying tax dollars for one arm of the Bush/Cheney campaign?

The U.S. Treasury's inspector general is conducting an inquiry into the propriety of having civil servants analyze tax proposals resembling those of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
....
Meanwhile, a Treasury spokesman defended the analysis and said Treasury was only doing its job in conducting it, while a Kerry campaign official charged that it was "a disgrace" on the Bush administration.

The issue blew up last month after Treasury published an analysis of Kerry's proposals on its Web site, without identifying them as those of the Democratic candidate. The analysis focused on the potential impact of a tax plan that rolls back tax reductions for taxpayers earning more than $200,000 annually -- the centerpiece of Kerry's proposal.

The analysis said their impact would be to boost taxes over the next decade by hundreds of billions of dollars.

"I'm George W Bush, and I approved this United States Treasury Department analysis."

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:36 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Most scientists are men. I'm just sayin'

Men...

Sexual activity does not cause prostate cancer, and men who ejaculate frequently may even be protecting themselves against the disease, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.
...I don't need to tell you what to do.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:10 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Woman delivers own baby by C-section

Amazing, simply, freakin' amazing:

A woman in Mexico gave birth to a healthy baby boy after performing a Caesarean section on herself with a kitchen knife, doctors said Tuesday. The unidentified 40-year-old woman, who lived in a rural area without electricity, running water or sanitation and was an eight-hour drive from the nearest hospital, performed the operation when she could not deliver the baby naturally.

She had lost a previous baby due to labor complications.

“She took three small glasses of hard liquor and, using a kitchen knife, sliced her abdomen in three attempts ... and delivered a male infant that breathed immediately and cried,” said Dr R.F. Valle, of the Dr. Manuel Velasco Suarez Hospital in San Pablo, Mexico.

Valle recounted the event in a report in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

Before losing consciousness, the woman told one of her children to call a local nurse for help. After the nurse stitched the wound with a sewing needle and cotton thread, the mother and baby were transferred and treated by Valle and his colleagues at the nearest hospital.

I've always said women have a much higher pain tolerance than men. Throw in that motherly instinct and you see stories such as this.

Wow ... super mom.

Posted by McQ at 02:32 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Zarqawi Al Queda Tape Threatens Gen Abizaid

"If John Abizaid escaped our swords this time, we will be lying in wait for him, for Bremer, for their generals and soldiers, and their collaborators."

This, per the BBC, is a quote from a tape purportedly by al-Qaeda's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who was last reported to be in Iraq.

Another nugget from the tape:

"We challenge the dishonest US media to reveal the real damage and big losses sustained by their forces... There will be more rounds of fighting, God willing."

Yeah, well good luck with that ... we've been challenging them for years to "tell the truth".

Zarqawi also urged the militants to attack the majority Shiites and to "burn the earth under the occupiers' feet", saying they weren't true Muslims and were "the ears and the eyes of the Americans" in Iraq.

That'll probably come as a bit of a surprise to Al-Sadar, but it does emphasize the fact that the actions in Fallujah and in Sadar City are not connected.

This tape also seems to confirm the letter found earlier this year in Iraq may have indeed been real:

This theme echoed a letter - released by the Americans in February 2004 - purported to be from Zarqawi to al-Qaeda leaders.

In it, the author appeared to share his plans for igniting sectarian conflict in Iraq as a means of undermining the US presence there.


Posted by McQ at 01:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Al Qaeda program and score card

I actually did this for my own clarification, but this is a compliation of a listing of those considered the top echelon of Al Qaeda, the group we’ve been after since 9/11. Much of it is from a little CNN popup I found which you can't link too.

You’ll note it totals about 36. I’d suggest you could add another 6 or so dead under the Aides and Lieutenants category by counting some of the 9/11 highjackers who I believe were integrally involved with top leadership.

Be that as it may, this is the way it breaks down. I’ve noted “leadership” (the big dogs), operations (the guy who do all the planning), training (those charged with the traning camps and training), and aides and lieutenants (those who did meaningful but not top level jobs and those who were aides to the top leadership).

To this point over half (53% are dead or captured). Where we had our greatest success was in the operations and training area. This hits them the hardest as these are the guys who plan (and execute) the operations and train the operators.

As mentioned in a post yesterday, Jim Dunnigan at Strategypage.com has seen a marked degredation in Al Qaeda’s professionalism and ability to carry out operations as well as they have in the past. That obviously doesn’t mean they’re not a threat or that they can’t still carry out operations ... but it does mean they have to reconstitute a very vital part of their organization in order to do so. And, the loss of the training camps is a pretty heavy strategic blow (as you’ll also see in Dunnigan’s article.

The numbers and players:

Total: 36

Leadership: 7

4 at large
2 captured
1 dead

Operations: 13

3 at large
5 captured
5 dead

Training: 3

1 at large
2 captured

Aides and Lieutenants: 13

9 at large
3 captured
1 dead

Total dead: 7 or 20%
Total captured: 12 or 33%
Total at large: 17 or 47%

At large: Leadership

Osama Bin Laden - “Supreme Leader”, Saudi Arabian
Ayman Al Zawari - OBL’s physican & spiritual advisor, Egyptian
Shaikh Saiid Al-Missari - OBL bro-in-law & Financier, Saudi Arabian
Saif Al-Adel, Chief of Security, Egyptian

Captured: Leadership

Khalid Shaikh Mohammad - Operations, Kuwaiti-Pakistani
Abu Zubayad Ah - Terrorist coordinator, Palestinian-Saudi

Dead: Leadership

Mohammad Atef - Military Chief, Egyptian

At large: Operations

Zaid Khayr - Operations Chief
Saad Bin Laden - OBL’s son, Saudi Arabian
Abu Musab Zarqawi - Operations planner, Jordanian

Captured: Operations

Tawfiq Attash Khallad - Operations Chief, Yemeni
Omar Al-Farouq - Southeast Asia Operations Chief - Kuwaiti
Abu Zubair Al-Haili - Operational planner, Saudi Arabian
Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri - Chief, Persian Gulf Operation, Saudi Arabian
Abdul Rahim Riyadh - Yemeni

Dead: Operations

Tariq Anwar Al-Sayyid Ahmad - Operational planner, Egyptian
Abu Jafar Al-Jaziri - Aide to Zubaydah, Algerian
Qaed Salim Sinan Al-Harethi - Yemen Operations Chief, Yemeni
Abu Salah Al-Yemeni - Logistics
Mohammed Salah - Operational planner, Egyptian

At large: Training

Abu Mohammed As-Masri - Training camp commander, Egyptian

Captured: Training

Ibn Al-Shaykh Al-Libi - Training camp commander, Lybian
Abd Al-Hadi Al-Iraqi - Training camp coordinator

At large: Aides and other Lieutenants

Abu Hafs the Mauritanian - Operational and Spiritual leader
Midhat Mursi - WMD researcher, Egyptian
Abd Al-Aziz Al-Jamal - Aide to Al- Zawahari
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa - Financier, Saudi Arabian
Suliaman Abu Ghaith - Al Qaeda Spokesman, Kuwaiti
Ahmad Said Al-Kadar - Financier, Canadian - Egyptian
Abu Basir Al-Yemeni - Aide to OBL, Yemeni
Zakariya Essabar - Member of cell
Said Bahaji - Member of cell

Captured: Aides and other Lieutenants

Zacarias Moussaoui - French
Ramzi Binalshibh - Yemeni
Ahmad Omar Abdle-Rahman - Egyptian

Dead: Aides and other Lieutenants

Hamz Al-Qatari - Financier

If nothing else, this may help you identify the players while the hunt to destroy Al Qaeda continues.

Posted by McQ at 01:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Food for bribes hearing

One wonders, with the upcoming testimony of Condi Rice, whether another Congressional hearing taking place this week will get the attention it deserves.

That would be the look at the UN's "Oil for Food", aka "Food for Bribes" program which it administered before the Iraq war.

A committee spokesman would not identify which U.N. staffers would be questioned this week - and said it is unclear if U.N. bureaucrats, protected by diplomatic immunity laws, would be willing to give sworn testimony or release sensitive oil-for-food documents to the committee.

The House probe is one of three investigations under way into the scandal, in which Saddam Hussein is alleged to have pocketed $10.1 billion through illegal oil sales and kickbacks from humanitarian-aid suppliers.

My guess? Mum's the word. They won't speak and they'll use their diplomatic immunity to the hilt. After all, the UN is the best job they've had, and the perks, such as "food for bribes", is probably more prevelant than we'll ever know.

And of course that means ...

The scandal also involves documents that indicate Saddam bribed 270 sympathetic international political figures and businesspeople through vouchers that permitted the recipients to buy millions of barrels of oil at below-market prices and then resell them at profits of up to 50 cents a barrel.

...these folks will most likely get nothing worse than a figurative slap on the wrist.

And this?

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose credibility is on the line, is also expected to name members of a Security Council-approved independent commission to look into the corruption allegations. That announcement could be made as early as this week.

This will most likely be a whitewash convened to reestablish Annan's credibility and not at all interested in digging out "corruption".

But then, maybe I'm a cynic.

Posted by McQ at 10:15 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Old news is new news

This story has been bugging me....

According to Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington, who was at the dinner when Blair became the first foreign leader to visit America after 11 September, Blair told Bush he should not get distracted from the war on terror's initial goal - dealing with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Bush, claims Meyer, replied by saying: 'I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.'

Couple points:

1: People seem to be extrapolating "we must go to war" from "we must deal with this". That's quite a leap. There are other ways of "dealing with this", beyond "war", you know.

If you're in doubt, please review US policy towards: Iran; North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lybia, etc.

2: Let's see - Bush thought Iraq was a threat that needed to be "dealt with" when he was campaigning, when he took office, and prior to 9/11. Why is it suddenly news that Bush still thought Iraq was a threat that needed to be "dealt with" after 9/11?

Ah, the political season....when critics never lets consistency go unpunished.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:54 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Ground truth

The battle in Fallujah continues with recent reports citing 21 Marines dead so far in operation "Vigilent Resolve". Meanwhile, in Ramadi, more fighting as US troops engage more die-hard Ba'thist insurgents and other terrorists.

In the south, fighting has been taking place in Amarah and Nasiriyah.

In Baghdad, US and coalition troops were attacked by mullah Al-Sadar's militia in Sadar City (formerly Saddam city) after the mullah's newspaper was closed and a close aide was arrested. They have now issued an arrest warrant for Al-Sadar.

Sounds terrible, doesn't it?

Some perspective.

Fallujah and Ramadi fall within the well-known "Sunni Triangle" which is and has been a hot-bed of Iraqi "resistance" (which means where the former Ba'athists die-hards and foreign terrorists have essentially found 'safe harbor'.

This is a battle that has been brewing for a year. This isn't something new, nor is it something that at least I haven't been expecting. The final straw was the desecration of the bodies of the 4 Americans.

Some say we should have done this long ago. Perhaps. But then the otherside of the argument is let them feel froggy. Let them congregate and celebrate. And once they're all there, close the place off and clean it out.

That's what's going on. Its going to cost us some fine Marines, but it may also result in breaking the back of the Ba'athists and foreign fighters once and for all. It will also make further policing there much easier (an example such as this goes a long way toward "pacification").

Completely unconnected from this is the situation in Sadar City. This is the result of a radical and extremist mullah, who isn't supported by most of the other mullahs or the majority of Shiite believers. But, depending on how this is handled, that could change.

The point, however, is its a different problem. It is not part of some grand plan of simultaneous uprising. It is the convergence of two different problems which seem, if left unexamined, to be part of a nation-wide flare-up.

The last reported problems in the south are more "civic" unrest than related to a revolt against the British presense. Again, a detailed look finds the problems there unrelated to the other two sites of conflict. And it appears as if the Brits are gaining a handle on the problem even as fighting continues.

I bring this all up because if one only glanced at the news reports, and didn't dig a bit, they'd think Iraq was spinning out of control. For instance the report of "planning" for more troops. That's a "go to hell" plan by the commander, in case it SHOULD "spin out of control". Its a contingency plan any good commander would want in place in case the situation were to 'go to hell'.

What it doesn't signal, as some of the press would like you to belive, is we're in a 'quagmire', such as the Economist belives (no HUGE surprise there).

While any situation, such as Iraq, could become a "quagmire", it isn't there yet. What we're seeing is a country trying to sort itself out after decades of brutal totalitarian rule. They have many points of view and many methods of expressing them.

Obviously there are going to be those who want to go back to the way it was. You'll find them in Fallujah and Ramadi. And there are those who have their own ideas as to how the new Iraq should look, they're in Sadar City and in the south.

What we have to understand is this is as much a part of the process as the constitution, the interim government and the upcoming handover. But without the US presence, without the resolution to quickly and decisively take action to repel chaos or violence where ever it emerges, it could become a quagmire very, very quickly.

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

They're getting to it...er, during their third term

James Lakely backhands Richard Clarke, the media... just about everybody.

The final policy paper on national security that President Clinton submitted to Congress — 45,000 words long — makes no mention of al Qaeda and refers to Osama bin Laden by name just four times.

The scarce references to bin Laden and his terror network undercut claims by former White House terrorism analyst Richard A. Clarke that the Clinton administration considered al Qaeda an "urgent" threat, while President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, "ignored" it.

The Clinton document, titled "A National Security Strategy for a Global Age," is dated December 2000 and is the final official assessment of national security policy and strategy by the Clinton team. The document is publicly available, though no U.S. media outlets have examined it in the context of Mr. Clarke's testimony and new book.[emphasis added]

Back to you, Clarke.

UPDATE: James Joyner has further thoughts...

Does this prove that Bill Clinton and company were oblivious to terrorism? No, of course not. It does, however, believe Richard Clarke’s argument that it was somehow THE focus of Clinton foreign policy. Which, of course, we already knew it wasn’t.
...
Clearly, the focus is on more traditional goals, most especially economic globalization. In the context of that time, that was entirely appropriate in my judgment. In hindsight, of course, it seems unwise.
I agree, and I don't intend my post to be a denunciation of Clinton's security policy. After the fact, we know they didn't do enough, of course.

At the time, though, there was a dramatically different cost/benefit calculation. We didn't know that the cost of not attacking Al Qaeda in Afghanistan would outweigh the cost of attacking them there. Hindsight...she is a bitch, no?

But let's not pretend the Bush administrations failure to cite Al Qaeda in a speech prior to 9/11 is proof of Richard Clarke's allegation....an indication that the Bush administration placed a lower priority on counter-terrorism than did the Clinton administration.

Perhaps they placed a lower priority on Richard Clarke, but that's not really the same thing at all, is it?

UPDATE II: Reader Sid makes an important point - one worth addressing...

Before you drink The Washington Times koolaid, you might want to sniff it first.

Here is a link to the actual report which contains these paragraphs:
http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/nss/nss_dec2000_contents.htm

Key paragraph:

"Afghanistan remains a serious threat to U.S. worldwide interests because of the Taliban's continued sheltering of international terrorists and its increasing export of illicit drugs. Afghanistan remains the primary safehaven for terrorists threatening the United States, including Usama bin Ladin. The United Nations and the United States have levied sanctions against the Taliban for harboring Usama bin Ladin and other terrorists, and will continue to pressure the Taliban until it complies with international requests to bring bin Ladin to justice. The United States remains concerned about those countries, including Pakistan, that support the Taliban and allow it to continue to harbor such radical elements. We are engaged in energetic diplomatic efforts, including through the United Nations and with Russia and other concerned countries, to address these concerns on an urgent basis."
This is the only use of the word "urgent" in the whole report. Also:
"Whenever possible, we use law enforcement, diplomatic, and economic tools to wage the fight against terrorism. But there have been, and will be, times when those tools are not enough. As long as terrorists continue to target American citizens, we reserve the right to act in self-defense by striking at their bases and those who sponsor, assist, or actively support them, as we have done over the years in different countries.

Fighting terrorism requires a substantial commitment of financial, human, and political resources. Since 1993, both the FBI's counterterrorism budget and the number of FBI agents assigned to counterterrorism have more than doubled. The President has also created and filled the post of National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counterterrorism. Three presidential directives now coordinate the efforts of senior counterterrorism personnel from various government agencies in dealing with WMD and other threats at home. The FBI and the State Department, respectively, operate Rapid Deployment Teams and interagency Foreign Emergency Support Teams to deploy quickly to scenes of terrorist incidents worldwide."

Of course, the Clinton administration was aware of the threat, considered it a threat, and was trying to resolve the problem using "energetic diplomacy". (Madeline Albright + methamphetamines? Perhaps!)

What they didn't do was actually "strike" the relevant targets very often. Again, if you'll note, I don't criticise them for that...I point out that the calculation was different then.

My point is simply this: the lack of direct mention of Al Qaeda, or high "priority" within a report is not indication that it is not a priority at all. That was the accusation levied against the Bush administration in recent weeks. Prior to 9/11, a lot of things were different...in reality, and in rhetoric.

I do not think this report is an indication that the Clinton administration "didn't care", "didn't think terrorism was a priority", etc. It is simply a good counter-point to recent claims about the Bush administration.

UPDATE III: I should also point out that the Washington Times story didn't accuse Clinton of anything, either. The Clinton-era NSS is simply context, which counterpoints some claims being made. i.e., that a lack of mention by the Bush administration is evidence that they were "less interested" in Al Qaeda.

UPDATE IV: Captain Ed takes a look at the Clinton era NSS and adds commentary. Read his other entries, too, as his analysis covers more than one entry.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:49 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Back in the black

Baldilocks gets a kick out of the fact that Air America, the liberal radio network, has decided to "go black" at night in an effort to quell criticism about pushing black oriented shows off WLIB in NY when it took to the air (as noted here).

She gets a huge laugh out of it and makes a historical comparison.

Posted by McQ at 07:58 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Plame affair....

Let's remember this bit from Josh Marshall. In a post about "Patrick Fitzgerald, the United States Attorney from Chicago running the Plame investigation", he writes....

I'm told this isn't the first time he's done a leak investigation of the Bush White House.

This earlier investigation, which was in 2002, grew out of Fitzgerald's investigation of a series of Muslim charities accused of having ties to terrorism -- the Holy Land Foundation, the Global Relief Foundation, and the Benevolence International Foundation.

My point isn't that the White House did something else wrong. In fact, I'm told that in this case the White House really hadn't done anything improper at all.

But Fitzgerald was pissed and apparently went after them very aggressively -- and this for a case in which, I'm told, there really wasn't much to go after.[emphasis added]

So, Ashcroft appointed a real bulldog who has it in for the Bush administration...who will even pursue them doggedly when there's "no there there". Huh. How about that.

Something to remember, the next time the Bush administration is accused of trying to "bury the investigation", sweep it "under the carpet", or simply not care.

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

Woo Woo

If you've ever participated in discussion groups, you will probably recognize the kooks described in this collection of tips on "How to Be an Internet Woo-Woo". If you haven't participated in those groups....well, trust me. In those groups, you'll often run across the sort of people who make the denizens of DemocraticUnderground.com look like rational, discerning intellectuals.

All of which brings this Ted Kennedy comment to mind......

"Iraq. Jobs. Medicare. Schools," Kennedy said. "Issue after issue. Mislead. Deceive. Make up the needed facts. Smear the character of any critic."
Right. That &$*ing A******* is smearing our character. Let's check the list..... Ah, right here. #9....
Accuse your opponent of being a liar, or try some other tactic that will (hopefully) make him angry. If he responds in kind to your endless taunts, change the subject to his anger, and accuse him of name calling. If he accuses you of provoking him, then you have changed the subject of the debate. If he stays on topic, keep the heat up. The Believers in the audience will forgive the worst verbal attacks you use, but they will think even the mildest replies he makes to you are personal attacks that undermine his argument.
Ted Kennedy, original woo-woo.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:56 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Less rock, less talk

Amusing bit from a Mark Steyn column....

Al Gore and Courtney Love, lead singer of the popular beat combo Hole, when they chanced to run into each other at a Democratic party night in Hollywood.

''I'm a really big fan,'' gushed the vice president.

''Yeah, right. Name a song,'' scoffed Courtney. The panicked vice panderer floundered helplessly. Fortunately, his Secret Service guys moved in before he wound up completely riddled by Hole. As wise old campaign consultants always say, the politician's First Rule of Holes is: When you're in one, stop digging. Al introduced us to a Second Rule: When you're with one, stop pretending to dig her.

Mark Steyn - clever, insightful, witty.....basically, a column-length PJ O'Rourke.

(link via Pejman, who now claims to be a Courtney Love fan, though I don't believe a word of it)

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Snark

The common Atrios lament....

They kept waiting for things to just get better. People are getting killed because of their goddamn incompetence and because of their goddamn enablers in the media.

When the hell are they just going to wake up and scream ENOUGH.

I don't know...maybe it helps when you type in all caps.

Posted by Jon Henke at 05:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 05, 2004

Al Qaeda's youth movement is killing it

Interesting take on the state of al Qaeda by Jim Dunnigan at Strategypage.com concerning the degredation of ability aQ has gone through since Afganistan and the capture of most of its leaders:

The new generation of Islamic terrorists not only have a history of failure, but also lack access to the training camps in Afghanistan. Those camps, and the numerous instructors they contained, made a big difference. One advantage of the camps was that students could build bombs, and then detonate them. You can't do that unless you have control over a large chunk of real estate, and possess a large budget.

Its an interesting read.

Posted by McQ at 08:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

a lightning bolt made out of mentholated scorpions

OK, I've warned you about my warped sense of humor. This link will prove it (if my Korean bordello one hasn't already done so). But I'm sorry, its just freakin' funny.

Its called "The Assbreak of Psoriasis" and Patrick's entry just had me laughing out loud before I finished. Language and theme may offend some but then, what worthwhile humor doesn't, eh?

Posted by McQ at 05:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Outsourcing concerns "overblown"

From Art Pine at Bloomberg News:

"Any way you slice it, the world is creating or transferring more jobs to the U.S. than we are doing to the rest of the world," said Daniel T. Griswold, a trade specialist at the Cato Institute, a research organization in Washington.

India's Essel Propack Ltd., Taiwan's Teco Electric & Machinery Co. and Denmark's Vestas Wind Systems A/S all have built plants in the United States in the last year and a half.

Other non-U.S. companies announced plans to increase hiring in the United States last year including Japan's Nissan Motor Co., with 3,350 jobs in Canton, Miss.; DaimlerChrysler AG of Germany, with 2,000 at a new Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala.; German appliance distributor BSH Bosch and Siemens Hausergate GmbH, with 1,300 in New Bern, N.C.; and Magna International Inc. of Canada, with as many as 800 in Bowling Green, Ky.

The movement of U.S. jobs abroad "has been blown out of proportion" mainly because domestic companies in the United States have been slow to increase hiring, said Martin Baily, chairman of former President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers. "There was lots of offshoring going on in the 1990s, but job growth was so strong in the U.S. that nobody really took much notice."

While reliable figures aren't available for the last two years, the Commerce Department estimated on March 18 that the number of Americans employed by U.S. affiliates of majority non-U.S. companies grew by 4.7 million from 1997 through 2001. In the same period, the number of non-Americans working at affiliates of majority-U.S. companies abroad rose by 2.8 million.


While it seems to be "overblown", someone has done a fine job of giving it "political significance". Per this week's Business Week, "Some 83% of Americans say its an important issue in this year's election, and 47% of voters fear that they, a relative, or a friend will have their job shipped overseas (Mar 26-68 Gallup Poll)."

But, Business Week notes ... highly educated swing voters and party loyalists are much less concerned about losing their jobs than they were just a month ago.

My guess? As the job numbers continue to improve, the "concern" about outsourcing will continue to wane.

Posted by McQ at 04:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bundling

Arnold Kling offers a frustrating defense of "bundling". Frustrating, because I really hate having to pay $45/month for 10 cable channels I watch and 65 I don't. However, as he points out...

Your intuition is that the reason that the seller engages in bundling is to force you to buy something that you do not want. However ... if that were the case, it would be cheaper for the seller to leave out the unwanted good and just charge you for what you want. That is why grocery stores do not bundle milk with broccoli -- it's cheaper for them just to sell you the milk.
Aside from the economic argument against criminalizing "bundling", there's also a good political argument...
The attempt to criminalize bundling strikes me as opening up a Pandora's Box. Because bundling is so widespread, a paternalistic legislator or court could use bundling as an excuse to interfere in almost any business in America. If the existence of bundling is to be treated as justification for government intervention, then we might as well hand every product and pricing decision over to bureaucrats, and take that as our road to serfdom.
...
Stiglitzians look for opportunities to fine tune the market whenever it departs from the theoretical model of perfect competition. In theoretically perfect markets, there is no bundling. Stiglitzians can rationalize government intervention in any situation where there is bundling. In practice, however, their choices are somewhat arbitrary. The Europeans recently decided that Microsoft is not allowed to bundle a media player with its software, although nobody stops automobile manufacturers from bundling media players (car stereos) with their products.

In theory, the government could intervene everywhere it finds bundling. It could stop stores from offering two-for-one specials. It could ban frequent-flyer miles, which are a form of bundling. It could force cable TV operators to offer service by-the-channel instead of as a package, or by-the-minute instead of by-the-month. It could force cable TV operators to offer service by-the-minute, by-the-channel, for that matter.

While an interesting argument could be made that more individual control over economic decisions would be more efficient, one has to remember that there are always two parties to a transaction....and the seller has a right to set his price, as well.

And think of the assorted other costs - seller and buyer - we eliminate by bundling. Imagine buying a car "by the part". Uh-uh. Pre-bundled is fine, thankyouverymuch.

And don't even think about un-bundling grapes....

Posted by Jon Henke at 04:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Have you been "Fisked" or "Kosed"

Who Tends The Fire believe's we can add a few new terms to the blogger's lexicon in light of the Kos kerfuffle:

Kos: n - An act of semi-involuntary blogger sepuku.

Kos: v - "to Kos"; the act of redirecting links from an embarrassing post to a new post and pretending that it's the one that was actually linked all the time. useage: "Ah, I'll just Kos that entry and no one will know the difference..."

Alternates:

Kosed: v, past tense; Having had a link redirected in a way that blunts the thrust of your post; useage: "Oh, man... that bastard Kosed me!"

Kossing: v, descriptive; to setup a redirect to save yourself the embarrassment of having to eat both one's words and both feet at the same time, while attempting to make the user look foolish. useage: "Heh. Bastard thinks he can Fisk me? I'm Kossing that entry!" Note: Most applicable if the redirect attempt fails or backfires due to Google cache or screen shots.

Kost: n - When your mouth turns and bites you in the wallet; useage "Man... that remark's gonna Kost him when his sponsors find out..." and "He's still counting the Kosts of that last post... "

Kosian: n Subsecies of pseudochordate that specialises in redirection and whining to camoflage its location from enemies.

Pretty clever.

Read the whole post ...

Posted by McQ at 03:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Reduce oil imports, but not NOW!

Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen asks the question of the day:

John Kerry's energy plan calls for reducing U.S. oil imports by two million barrels per day, roughly the amount the country brings in from the Persian Gulf. So how come Kerry is simultaneously blasting George W. Bush for not pressuring OPEC to sell us more oil?

Heh ... because he doesn't want it reduced NOW! Then he'd have nothing to promise.

Posted by McQ at 02:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

OK ... I took the test ...

1080162080_cturesgod3.jpg

You are a GRAMMAR GOD!


If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!


How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

... but I know my writing style better than anyone ... I've met a Grammer God before, he was a friend of mine and believe me, I'm no Grammer God (take that Dan Quayle).

But I play one on a blog. ;)

HT to The Review

UPDATE (McQ): Jon reminds me that while I may be a "Grammar God", I'm a "Spelling Sinner".

I misspelled grammar ... twice.

Posted by McQ at 01:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blog Note

I've just noticed that QandO has recently passed 100,000 visitors since our inception in late August 2003. That's far more than I ever expected. Heck, when I started this, I thought 100 readers was a lofty goal. If I'd known we'd have this many readers, I'd have thought of something interesting to say.

At any rate, I bring this minor data point up to say this: though I don't respond to most of the comments left on this blog, I do read them all, and I consider us very lucky to have such clever readers. The comments left here add a great deal to the tone and content of this blog, and I've learned a great deal more by reading your comments, your emailed suggestions, advice, etc.

I won't name names for fear I'd leave somebody out, but you know who you are. And I do, too.

And I appreciate the fact that you guys participate.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Handover

That July 30th handover idea is starting to look more and more dubious...

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee raised the prospect Sunday of extending the Bush administration's June 30 deadline for turning over power in Iraq, questioning whether the country would be ready for self-rule.
...
Sen. Dick Lugar said security is a shambles in some cities, and Iraqi police forces are not prepared to take over.
...
The key, he said, is that "even as we're trying to get security, which we must, and Iraqis take on more security, there will be enough going there that, in fact, the democratic forces can have the constitution building, they can have the elections, can have the transition."

Asked whether transferring power in less than three months would be too soon, Lugar said, "It may be, and I think it's probably time to have that debate."
...
Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, the committee's top Democrat, said training Iraqi forces cannot be done in months but will require a minimum of three years.

"We're going to end up with a civil war in Iraq if, in fact, we decide we can turn this over, including the bulk of the security, to the Iraqis between now and then," Biden told "Fox News Sunday."

It's a complicated problem. On one hand, you don't want to extend the turnover date too far into the future, lest they become parasitically dependent on our support, and unable to help themselves. On the other hand, turn over the keys to the country too fast, and you have a 13 year old behind the wheel.

Some recommend we divide up Iraq into more rational ethnic-based regions - for the Kurds, Shi'ites and Sunni's - and while that might solve the "civil war" problem, I'm just not sure it's a politically realistic goal. The neighboring nations were opposed to it prior to the war, so we couldn't have advanced it as a goal then. To do so now, after promising a "single Iraq" so often, would create a firestorm of opposition. And more credibility problems...not something we really need at this point.

More importantly, though, 79% of Iraqis want to keep Iraq whole. Want to start a civil war? Tell 79% of the country that the other 3.8% is going to get their way. It's democracy!

Of course, splitting the country up does make a lot of sense, in many ways, which explains the continuing allure of the whole thing, despite the above-mentioned facts.

Unfortunately, we missed the boat. We missed our chance to have the best of both worlds. The answer - one that combines a quick turnover of responsibility with greater regional autonomy - is one that the United States should know better than anybody else. The answer is federalism.

It is precisely what made this country so strong - that division of power between a strong, but limited, central government.....and States that retain responsibility for the majority of the power of government.

Had we remembered the lessons of our own history, would could have slowly turned over power to the Iraqi's....starting with neighborhoods, then cities, then regions, then - finally, when they had proven they could handle the lower levels - the unified national government. And by the time that national government gained control, the regional governments would already be effectively running the country, loathe to turn over too much power to one central authority.

Hey, it (mostly) worked for us.

Instead, we have this. This object lesson in the reason government needs to be decentralized.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:09 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Stray Voltage

The Chicago Trib points to some questions to be answered by Air America.

Will all this gain much of an audience? That may depend on some other questions. Can a wholly derivative anti-Limbaugh network be entertaining on its own, on a sustained basis? If John Kerry were to be elected president, would this venture have a reason to exist?

Most critical of all, can liberals learn to be pithy and to the point?

Uh, no, no, no, and no.

-----

William Saffire make the point that much of the time we waste time time looking backward instead of forward.

With our eyes fixed on our rearview mirror, we obsessively review catastrophes past when we should be looking through our windshield at dangers ahead.

Today we are engaged in the wrong debate. The brouhaha about whether the new Bush administration treated the threat of Al Qaeda as "important" versus "urgent" is history almost as ancient as whether F.D.R. did enough to avert Pearl Harbor.

Frankly, when Slade Gorton asked Richard Clarke if the Bush administration had done all of that which he’d recommended could 9/11 have been averted and Clarke answered, “No”, that pretty well ended it for me.

-----

Something which is pretty much “conventional wisdom” and should be prevalent in the 9/11 commission’s report is the intelligence failure’s roots ... that of lack of cooperation by the CIA and FBI.

How did this wide wreckage in our intelligence capacities come about? One incisive answer has been given by Mark Riebling in his gripping history, Wedge: How the Secret War between the FBI and CIA Has Endangered National Security (1994, re-issued in 2002 with a new epilogue). Riebling’s thesis is that the problem is longstanding, that it has a single "root cause," and that this root cause is institutional. In his telling, a full half-century’s worth of national disasters—from Pearl Harbor through the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and 9/11—can be traced directly to intelligence failures, and those failures were proximately caused by turf-battling between our two great rival agencies.

As mentioned, those “two great rival agencies” are the CIA and FBI. I’m much more interested to know if that problem has been fixed than I am in the finger pointing going on about 9/11.

-----

One of the often overlooked (or “under discussed”) problems with illegal immigration:

Now this may shock you, but it's very likely that most of the estimated 8 million to illegal immigrants in the United States don't have the benefit of employer-sponsored health insurance.

Well, no, it doesn’t shock me, but I certainly know who pays for whatever health care they get ... the same guy who pays for everything else the government “pays” for ... the taxpayer. That’s one of the problems with illegal immigration ... it ends up, as with so many things, as ANOTHER hidden tax on American citizens.

-----

Operation Vigilant Resolve is underway in Fallujah right now, conducted by Marines. It is making an important point to the Iraqis beside the “you’re going to pay for your savagery”.

AC 130s and Apaches are swarming.

Its saying, very clearly and very forcefully, “This ain’t Somalia, and the sooner you understand that the sooner you’ll figure out you can’t drive us out of here until the job is done”.

-----

If you’re a “foodie” and are constantly searching for good recepies or news about food, may I recommend The Food Section blog. A very well done blog with some good and tasty entries.

If you’re from the New York area, also some good info on “foodie” events.

-----

Atlanta’s pretty excited about Georgia Tech being in the NCAA Final. Even rival UGA is rooting for the Yellow Jackets. Being the consumate “homer”, I predict a close victory by the soon to be new National Champions, Georgia Tech.

-----

Chickens coming home to roost (no pun intended)?

DORTMUND, Germany -- A high-speed train carrying 200 passengers struck six metal slabs attached to tracks in an apparent attempt to derail it, authorities said Sunday. The train was able to slow down in time and stayed on the rails.

Obviously not the usual “MO”, but one has to wonder ... terrorists thanking Germany for opposing the Iraq war?

Posted by McQ at 09:13 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Fun with Google

John Kerry's Principled Positions.

Heh.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Contractors or mercenaries?

There’s been much ado on the left side of the blogosphere about “private contractors” in Iraq, or as many of them prefer, “mercenaries”. I’d make the distinction but most know it and those inclined to use mercenaries as a perjorative term will do so anyway.

First some history:

The use of private contractors grew steadily in the 1990s as the Pentagon cut back the active duty military and outsourced training, logistics, transportation and security. Those moves allowed the Pentagon to focus on "war fighting" and reduce its standing forces.

So for those on the left ... get a grip. This has been going on for over a decade ... started, by the way in the CLINTON administration. And yes, that means they were in (and probably still are in) Kosovo.

More importantly, they allow the military to focus on what they do best “war fighting” while the contractors do the jobs which detract from that sort of training. Additionally, the act as a sort of support force mulitplier, in that for every one of the contractors on the ground doing a logistics or training function, one more soldier is freed up to do what he or she does best ... fight wars.

Something which also seems to have been lost in the Fallujah atrocity is those 4 men were doing a job that would otherwise have been done by 4 soldiers.

A criticism that’s been heard is Iraq has taken assets, like special operations soldiers, away from the hunt for OBL and al Queda. Well, the use of contractors in the function of training indigenous military and police forces in Iraq, frees up units like Special Forces (aka Green Berets) who normally would have to fulfill those sorts of functions. And since they’re freed up by the contractors, guess what they’re available to do?

Yes ... hunt for terrorists and their leaders.

So what do these folks mostly do?

U.S. companies including Halliburton, DynCorp, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon provide armed guards at military bases from Afghanistan to Qatar, protect materials in Kuwait, and help supply U.S. forces across the Middle East. Their technicians maintain complex weapons systems including B-2 bombers, unmanned Global Hawk spy planes and Apache helicopters.

The number of U.S. employees of military contractors in Iraq has been estimated at 20,000 — a contingent roughly 20 percent the size of the U.S. military force there.

In other regions, U.S. contractors are used as aviation mechanics and police in Bosnia. They fly crop-dusters spraying herbicides on coca fields in Columbia. And they train police and military forces in many Latin American countries.

Mostly maintenance, logistics, security and training. All functions which would necessarily have to be done by soldiers if not by the contractors.

Obviously there are some areas of concern and some valid criticisms of this approach.

Critics claim the growing reliance on contractors poses high policy risks. Daniel Nelson, a professor specializing in military-civil relations at the University of New Haven, says the goals of the United States and its subcontractors overseas often diverge.

"There are hundreds of these companies doing business in Iraq," Nelson says, "and the longer the conflict goes on, the more money they make. They have no incentive for ending the conflict."

Nelson also decries the lack of financial and ethical accountability among private firms that he says fall outside U.S., local and military codes of justice.

"The Congress doesn't know what these companies are doing or why they're doing it," he said. "In the long run, this standing nonmilitary military has the potential to be disastrous for democracy."

I find the criticism that they “have no incentive for ending the conflict” a bit over the top. In the functions in which these companies operate, they’ll be employed whether in Iraq or stateside. The functions they perform have become very important to the military. The other Nelson criticism has some validity but is something which if Congress were to assert oversight and legislation which requires both financial and ethical accountability, could be addressed.

Drawbacks include a lack of legal protection. Mercenaries aren't covered by the Geneva Convention or other treaties meant to guarantee humane treatment of war prisoners. And the U.S. government won't go to the same lengths to guarantee their safe return if they are captured.

Again, the vast majority of these contractors aren’t mercenaries, although it seems even newspapers don’t understand the distinction (not that is particularly surprising since most of them haven’t the foggiest notion of how the military operates either). However, the above is a very valid concern and one I’m sure is part of why these men and women are so well paid.

Civilians employed by for-profit paramilitary companies will play a growing role in U.S. wars because they are more flexible, affordable and, ultimately, expendable than regular soldiers.

Bottom line: This is a practice (outsourcing) began in the Clinton administration to essentially “make up” for the force cuts it made. It has since become a valuable tool for the military, because it frees up the soldiers to do what they’re trained to do ... fight wars ... not pull security.

Posted by McQ at 07:47 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Editorial Chairs

Why do they even bother getting "experts" to write for the NYTimes editorial pages, if this is the result:

- Thomas Friedman, an expert on foreign affairs, writes about NAFTA and its domestic and social impact.

So, with that topic taken....

- Bob Herbert, an expert on "social trends", writes a column on the current economic situation.

So, with that topic taken....

- Paul Krugman, an expert in economics, writes a column about some stupid pop culture reference.

So, with that topic taken....

- Maureen Dowd, an expert at stupid pop culture references, writes a column about foreign affairs.

As James Taranto likes to say...."what would we do without experts"?

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

Dinner Guests

JOhn Hawkins has surveyed bloggers to find out "their 'Favorite Contemporary Dinner Guests'." A few surprises, including a #1 I wish I'd added to my list. Go check it out.

In the meantime, my list was as follows:
- George W Bush
- John Kerry
- Saddam Hussein (not an endorsement, of course....just an interesting figure)
- Kim Jong-Il (ditto)
- Henry Kissinger
- Milton Friedman
- Walter Williams
- Any given soldier who has done time in Iraq/Afghanistan

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's a boy

Kevin Aylward at WizBangBlog just had a baby. And by "Kevin just had a baby", I mean "Kevin sat next to his wife, who did all the work, but magnanimously shared credit equally on his blog!"

Congratulations, to both of you.

Note: I have no room to talk. I nearly fainted when I saw my wife getting an epidural - after 29 hours of labor - but had no problem walking out to tell people "we did it!". So....

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 04, 2004

Right-wing heels

In the wake of our recent criticism of Democrats Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Kos, it's only fair to point out unacceptable rhetoric from the right side of the aisle, too. And this comment from Senator Bunning about his opponent is clearly unacceptable...

"I have to tell you he looks like one of Saddam Hussein's sons... I mean before they were dead, of course...I really mean that he looks like one of Saddam's sons, and he even dresses like them, too."
Worse, his campaign initially denied he said it...until they found out, oops, the comment had been caught on videotape. Then, they were suddenly all..."oh, yeah..well, he said it, but it wasn't a big deal and a lot of people thought it was funny, and we're sorry and all, but you should just drop it. K?"

Then, when he did apologize, Bunning's campaign said this...

"We're sorry if this joke, which got a lot of laughs, offended anyone."
Color me unimpressed. He's not sorry for telling the joke....he's just sorry if other people didn't like it. That's not an apology. Hell, he even defended it while pretending to "apologize".

Look, I'm a big believer in this: criticise remarks that are beyond the pale...and then accept a genuine apology. When Hillary Clinton made a similarly offensive remark, she apologized.

Fine. That's all you have to do. Intemperate moments happen to all of us.

But, as with Kos, Bunning doesn't seem to know what it is exactly that he did wrong. His "apology" is nearly as offensive as the initial remark.

Worse, the pundits and commenters at places like Atrios, Pandagon and others have tried to play down the remark. "Oh, sure, it wasn't a great choice of words....but, you know, those right-wingers. Who are they to criticise?"

In other words, not guilty by reason of they-did-it-too.

Well, bull. Bunning is an idiot; Corrine Brown is an idiot; Kos is an idiot - and all of them deserve non-partisan criticism, not "yes, but" criticism.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:11 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Credit where credit is due

In light of the unacceptable statement about the death of Americans made by Daily Kos, we have removed the link to this blog from our website. As John Kerry said in a statement earlier this week, “My deepest sympathies are with the families of those lost today. Americans know that all who serve in Iraq - soldier and civilian alike - do so in an effort to build a better future for Iraqis. These horrific attacks remind us of the viciousness of the enemies of Iraq’s future. United in sadness, we are also united in our resolve that these enemies will not prevail.”

With that, the John Kerry campign delinked The Daily Kos. Hat tip to the Kerry campaign for doing the right thing.

BTW ... its interesting to read the reaction and comments. They're very telling.

Hat tip to LGF

Posted by McQ at 02:04 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Another view on Clarke's apology

Charles Krauthammer says about all there is to say worth reading about Clarke's apology:

"One has to admire it -- the most cynical and brilliantly delivered apology in recent memory: Richard Clarke ....Many were moved. I was not. For two reasons. First, the climactic confession "I failed you" -- the one that packed the emotional punch -- was entirely disingenuous.....

Second, by blaming the government for the deaths of their loved ones, Clarke deftly endorsed the grotesque moral inversion by which those who died on Sept. 11 are victims of . . . George Bush. This is false. They were all victims of al Qaeda and al Qaeda alone.

Bill Clinton did not apologize for Oklahoma City. Ronald Reagan did not apologize for the Beirut bombing. FDR did not apologize for Pearl Harbor. George W. Bush owes no apology. If an apology is owed, it is owed to the entire country and not just the families, and it is owed by the murderers who planned and carried out Sept. 11."

Posted by McQ at 01:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

George Soros's America

George Soros, the financial backer of such enlightened liberal entities as MoveOn.com has weighed in with his take on the war on terror in an editorial in the LA Times. Immediately you get the idea that he's lost in the woods.

War is a false and misleading metaphor in the context of combating terrorism. The metaphor suited the purposes of the administration because it invoked our military might. But military actions require an identifiable target, preferably a state. As a result, the war on terrorism has been directed primarily against states like Afghanistan that are harboring terrorists, not at pursuing the terrorists themselves.

One has to assume that Mr. Soros is ignorant of the fact that wars are fought on many levels and many fronts, not all of them military. The military portion of the war on terror is INDEED primarily directed at states, since part of any war would be to deny the enemy it its BASES and RESOURCES.

However, unless Mr. Soros has been hiding under a rock, his statement that we're not "pursuing the terrorists themselves" is patent NONSENSE. Examples and successes abound in that area.

This point goes to the biggest lie the left has attempted to push concerning the war on terror ... that somehow using our military distracts from instead of adds to the war on terror.

For whatever reason, the left see's the war on terror as a linear affair ... one in which you accomplish task A before moving on to task B. They base their criticism on this false premise.

The war on terror is a multilevel war with multiple tasks being pursued at any one time. Task A, B, C, D and E are simultaneous and ongoing tasks.

Some tasks will only involve the military. Some will only involve law enforcement. Some only intelligence and some combinations of two or three. But to believe that denying an enemy sanctuary and resourses is somehow a mistake and a distraction is to not really understand the reality of fighting ANY enemy.

Imagine for a moment that Sept. 11 had been treated as a crime against humanity. We would have pursued Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan (hopefully with more success), but we would not have invaded Iraq. Nor would we today have our military struggling to perform police work in full combat gear, getting soldiers killed in the process.

This does not mean that we should not use military means to capture and bring terrorists to justice when appropriate. But to protect ourselves against terrorism, we need precautionary measures, awareness and intelligence gathering — all of which ultimately depend on the support of the populations among which terrorists operate. Declaring war on the very people we need to enlist against terrorism is a huge mistake. We are bound to create some innocent victims, and the more of them there are, the greater the resentment and the better the chances that some victims will turn into the next perpetrators.

Was there any doubt in anyone's mind that 9/11 was a "crime against humanity"?

What Mr. Soros wants to do here is two-fold. He wants to again suggest that what happened on 9/11 was a law enforcment problem to be delt with by police and courts (what a great show it would make when OBL was apprehended and put in the dock at some international court). He also wants to pretend that OBL represents the ONLY terror threat against the US or the West.

Its simply not true. OBL and al Qaeda are only a slice of the threat, and like a mutant virus they keep changing and adapting along with other extremist groups. To think that counter-terrorism would be successfully served in its totality by only focusing on a segment of the problem is simply irresponsible.

He then invokes a red herring which should be obvious to anyone with the IQ of warm milk. He claims we have "declared war on the very people we need to enlist against terrorism". What? When was that ever done? And where?

We went to war against the Taliban ... THEY were the "very people we need" to combat terrorism?

We went to war against the Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein ... THEY were the "very people we need" to combat terrorism.

This attempt to pretend that we went to war against the people of both Afganistan and Iraq is both deceptive and disingenuous. But it allows Mr. Soros to continue to build upon his parade of nonsense.

On Sept. 11, the United States was the victim of a heinous crime, and the whole world expressed spontaneous and genuine sympathy. Since then, though we Americans are loath to admit it, the war on terrorism has claimed more innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq than were lost in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The comparison is rarely made in the U.S.: American lives are valued differently from the lives of foreigners, but the distinction is less obvious to people abroad.

While tragic (the loss of innocent life) the point is irrelevant. The implication is we have only the right to "kill" as many innocents as we lost. Its an emotional point with no foundation in reality.

It also ignores the fact that the US takes EXTRAORDINARY means to avoid civilian casualties ... something which is of no concern to terrorists or the states who support them. Yet this pompous ass has the temerity to claim that "American lives are valued differently from the lives of foreigners"?

Perhaps Mr. Sorros can point to the last time a battle the size of that which took place in Iraq claimed less than 10,000 lives of civilians?

There are none.

And it remains clear to anyone that would take the time to research it that the relative small number of civilian casualties in that war were a DIRECT RESULT of US military policy. A further note, not all of the 10,000 lost were lost because of coalition activities ... much of the loss was at the hands of the Iraqi military's disregard for the safety of its own people.

The war on terrorism as pursued by the Bush administration is more likely to bring about a permanent state of war than an end to terrorism. Terrorists are invisible; therefore, they will never disappear. They will continue to provide a convenient pretext for the pursuit of American supremacy by military means. That, in turn, will continue to generate resistance, setting up a vicious circle of escalating violence.

What's interesting here is that the acceptance of terrorism by Europe over the past decades has indeed brought about "a permanent state of war" instead of ending terrorism. Terrorists have struck since Munich in the '70s pretty much at will.

To believe that being "reactive" to terrorists (i.e. waiting till they strike and then going after them) is the way to combat terrorism is simply to cede the field to terrorists. And that's precisely what Soros is recommending be done.

His recommendation is to unilaterally break the 'cycle of violence'. But his suggestion has YET to bear fruit anywhere. Fanatics don't negotiate. They don't note that you've decided not to react to their violence. They go about their business of violent intimidation until they have accomplished their warped goals. WHY is this so damned hard for the left to understand?

The important thing to remember about terrorism is that it is a reflexive phenomenon. Its impact and development depend on the actions and reactions of the victims. If the victims react by turning into perpetrators, terrorism triumphs in the sense of engendering more and more violence. That is what the fanatically militant Islamists who perpetrated the Sept. 11 attacks must have hoped to achieve. By allowing a "war" on terrorism to become our principal preoccupation, we are playing straight into the terrorists' hands: They — not we — are setting our priorities.

Here we get more of the "Soros Theory of Terrorism" which can be distilled down to "when getting raped, don't resist and you'll live another day". Per Soros the terrorists are trying to win some sort of psychological triumph which they celebrate every time we strike back. We give them satisfaction when we become "like them".

Does this pass the sanity check?

Of course not ... but it is the decades long European approach. Its the approach that treats the terrorists as poor misguided fools who'll amend their ways if we'll just understand them, cave into them and "fix" whatever the problem is. In other words, its OUR FAULT that we're in this war ... not theirs. They're the victims. Meanwhile, bombs are removed from rail lines in both France and Spain.

The United States is the most powerful country on Earth. While it cannot impose its will on the world, nothing much can be done in the way of international cooperation without its leadership or at least active participation.

The United States has a greater degree of discretion in deciding the shape of the world than anybody else. Other countries don't have a choice: They must respond to U.S. policy. This imposes a unique responsibility on the United States: Our nation must concern itself with the well-being of the world. The United States is the only country that can take the lead in addressing problems that require collective action: preserving peace, assuring economic progress, protecting the environment and so on. Fighting terrorism and controlling weapons of mass destruction also fall into this category.

By using the war on terror as a pretext for asserting our military supremacy, we are embarking on an escalating spiral of terrorist/ counterterrorist violence. If instead we were to set an example of cooperative behavior, we could not only alleviate poverty, misery and injustice in the world, but also gain support for defending ourselves against terrorism. We will be the greatest beneficiaries if we do so.

We finally get to the bottom of the Soros argument ... the war on terror is a "pretext" for asserting our military supremacy.

Question: Before the war on terror, before Sept. 11th, before any of that, was there ANY QUESTION by any country anywhere as to who's military was "supreme" in the world?

Of course not.

So, again, as said, this is patent nonsense.

What Soros is trying to say, without saying it, is this is a pretext for the US to become an IMPERIAL power through its military (which explains why we went into Iraq with what some say were "too few" troops and have done nothing since then to increase the size of our military). That we recognized and immediately took advantage of the terrorist strike of 9/11 to put our long awaited plan of military imperial conquest in motion.

This has long been a firmly held belief of the extreme left. The same part of the left that doesn't like America. Of course, to make this work, to make this a premise that is "valid" in their eyes, they have to willfully ignore all of the points I've made and essentially adopt the false premises here laid out here by George Soros.

Above you see their true feelings about America. This is NOT the group you want in charge of the fight against terror. Unless, of course, you think capitulation is the proper response to violent murder.

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

Sage advise for today's investors

If you had purchased $1000.00 of Nortel stock one year ago, it would now be worth $49.00.

With Enron, you would have $16.50 left of the original $1,000.00.

With Worldcom, you would have less than $5.00 left.

But, if you had purchased $1,000.00 worth of Budweiser (the beer, not the stock) one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling price, you would have $214.00.

Based on the above, my current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle.

This is now my new retirement program; I call it my 401-Keg.

From ScottKoon.org

Posted by McQ at 10:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 03, 2004

Appeasement? It buys this

As I said before, Spain's agony isn't over. Their attempt to appease the terrorists isn't working:

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spanish policeman was killed and 11 others injured when three suspected terrorists blew themselves up as police were closing in on them, Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes said.

You can't negoitate with or appease a mad dog. You have to destroy it. The sooner the better. Spain as well as the rest of Europe need to quickly understand that maixm. When people are willing to blow themselves up to make whatever point they're trying to make, rest assured they're not going to be appeased by ANYTHING you do.

The word to the wise: Root them out and kill or capture them ... before they kill you.

Posted by McQ at 10:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Galen

Comments like these are why I read Galen's Log every day.

On the Kos incident...

"They were askin' for it, the whores! All dressed up like that, in them short skirts and makeup. They wanted it! If they didn't, how come they're goin' around lookin' like that?"

-DailyKos, on the incident in Fallujah.

OK, maybe that's not what he said, but it's close enough.

And on taxes....
Regarding tax cuts-I swear I will slap the next twit who tells me that 63,000$ isn't enough and we should be giving the government more of our money.
Good blog. Nice guy.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blogs: The Last Line of Defense

Earlier this week, I blogged about a New York Times story which I wrote was "misrepresenting a quote in a way that makes the Bush administration look bad". The story claimed Inspector Kay....

"...said that American officials were "almost all wrong, probably" in assessing before the war that Mr. Hussein's government possessed illicit weapons."
As I pointed out, what he actually said was that the entire world was "almost all wrong, probably". So, I sent a letter to the Public Editor requesting a correction.

Well, let's give them credit. They made the correction.

Correction: April 3, 2004, Saturday

An article on Wednesday about testimony by the new chief weapons inspector for Iraq, Charles A. Duelfer, who said the American search for unconventional weapons remained a tangle of mysteries, referred incorrectly to a comment by his predecessor, David Kay, at the time of his resignation. Referring to a number of countries, Mr. Kay said that in believing before the war that Iraq possessed illicit weapons, "we were all wrong, probably." He did not say all American officials were wrong.

The blogosphere: just one more layer of editorial oversight.

Posted by Jon Henke at 04:45 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Seen on a T-shirt

Seriously. Bent over double laughing. Scared the girl wearing it to death.

The first time Microsoft produces something that doesn't suck will be when they start making vacuum cleaners.
Posted by McQ at 03:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sometimes its best just to shut up

What's the old saying? "Sometimes its better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt."

Seems Kos is out to prove that point:

So I said something pretty stupid last week. I served up the wingnuts a big, juicy softball. They went into a tizzy, led by Instapundit. And for a while, I was actually pretty worried.

But the final tally was -- about 30 hate-filled emails, about 15,000 hate-filled visitors, and the pulling of three advertising spots that are going to be replaced in less than a week. (I had two emails today about people wanting to advertise despite the controversy.)

That was it. Oh, they're doing their best to turn me into the devil, and they're making racist comments about my heritage and family and threatening to kick my ass -- you know, typical right-wing shit.

But if that's the best they can throw at me, I'll simply echo Kerry.

Bring it on.

Translation: "See, being an unfeeling asshole who marginalizes people didn't cost me much ... I'll have the spots filled in a week with people who don't share the rest of the world's moral repugnance with my views about dead Americans".

Of course the Kos is now "the victim". Typical lefty spin. Kos is about as much a victim as Kerry is a conservative.

As for us "wing-nuts", well, if that means someone who's revolted by the unfeeling and hate-filled rhetoric that characterized Kos's treatment of the death of those 4 Americans, then call me a wing-nut. I'll wear the appelation proudly.

By the way, credit where credit is due.

A tip of the hat to the Martin Frost (D TX), Joe Hoeffel (D PA) and Joe Donnelly (D IN) for pulling their ads on the Kos site. They prove the point that not all Democrats or people on the left share the divisive and despicable views of Kos and his parade of apologists.

We asked, they responded. In all sincerity ... thank you.

I think they epitomise the definition of the "loyal opposition". Again my thanks to them and their campaigns for the moral stand they've taken.

A note to right-wing bloggers ... I'd expect nothing less from you folks who made this happen if someone on the right were to say something similar. My guess is you would.

Tip of the Hat to Shark for the link. This wing-nut is going to take the rest of the day off.

Posted by McQ at 02:32 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Your government working for you

I spent a tour in Korea while in the army and have fond memories of the country (and not for the reasons I'm about to impart further down in the post).

Its people are a great people who are hard working, industrious and, well, just nice folks. But as with all societies there's a seamy side. Prostitution is legal but regulated.

However, sometimes the "morality police" in the US military there get all wound up and just can't help themselves ... with hilarious results.

I'll let Conrad from The Gwielo Diaries tell the story he picked up from a Korea blog, "HardyandTiny":

Finally, the Korea blog HardyandTiny reveals a purported US government study that I heartily support:

The United States Forces Korea (USFK) decided to send out a few criminal investigators to a red light district in Seoul called Itaewon. The investigators went to the red light district during the daytime and took photos of suspicious bars and then went back at night undercover and posed as potential customers for sex, gathering information about the sexual services offered and the cost of each service. They then went on to distribute an unclassified MSWord document to all US military personnel in Korea which contained a picture of each of the brothels they were placing off-limits to US personnel, including captions describing the cost of the sexual services offered at each establishment.

Of course, being with the government, the report's compilers did not immediately appreciate the value of their creation, but the private sector recognized a gold mine when it saw one:

A few days after distribution they realized they had created an advertisement for the brothels they were trying to discourage people from patronizing, but it was too late, the damage was done and now everyone knew how much it cost for a blowjob at each bar in Itaewon.

For those academicians out there interested in the study of such important things, the purported "menu" can be found here.

BTW ... prices are up quite a bit since I was there .... not that I would know from personal experience.

Posted by McQ at 11:31 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Kos aftermath

Wandering the blogosphere after the Kos "thing" I happened upon Ryne McClaren's blog, where he demonstrates that even in the face of those despicable words by Kos, there are still those who defend his statement.

I've identified Ryne's words with RM.

RM: Update II: Heh, nevermind the above update. The Kos "explanation" post for his "Screw them" comment is gathering its fair share of stupidity.

Some examples:

Jaime Schulte:

"That clears it up for me. I agree that although any death is regrettable, the mercenaries are the last people we should be concerned with in Iraq."

RM: The above comment is made without one single shred of proof that these four men were doing anything that could be called "mercenary" work.

Now this is simply mealy-mouthed crap. It is the same thing that is done by those throughout history who relegate people to 2nd class status so they can marginalize them.

They become something OTHER than a human being which then makes it OK to hate them, or at least not waste their compassion on them ... afterall, they've denied them their basic humanity by classifying them under some perjorative term ... like "mercenary". Extend it to "greedy", "rich" or "right-winger' and you get the idea.

a gilas girl:

["We mourn those whom we have lost or with whom we have solidarity. When we mourn collectively we mourn as part of a collective identity, we mourn those with whom we share some very important dimension. Otherwise the mourning and the grief is a private affair. ]

The job these men had in Iraq was "private" (that's the meaning of privatization) meaning they weren't there on behalf of us as a nation they were there on behalf of their employers and the stockholders of their employers companies. That means any mourning for these folks should also be "private". They have no claim on my grief as anything shared or public in that matter. I don't know about you but I identify with "ordinary folk" but I don't identity with war profiteers and mercenaries. Their deaths are sad for their friends and relatives, but their deaths are also a part of the context of their employment and are foreseeable and private."

RM: What the idiot named "gilas girl" means is that everything about this should be "private" except for the gloating on a political weblog that has thousands and thousands of visitors and rakes in thousands of dollars for emocrats.

I disagree slightly Ryne, and I added part of her statement that was left out above in the []. She makes the statement "we mourn those with whom we have solidarity."

What she's saying is being an American isn't enough in terms of "solidarity" for her to mourn an American's death. It must be a certain TYPE of American before she will deign to "mourn" for them.

So she wraps up her classification of these dead men as "others" by claiming all that BS about "private" vs. "collective" mourning. Its patent nonsense on a stick. She, like this Jamie character, have decided these men being Americans isn't good enough for them to mourn their deaths. That they simply aren't worthy of her compassion because of that crap she's used to rationalize her marginalization of them.

ogre:

"Saddam's family probably grieves the deaths of Uday and Qusay, too. But anyone over there sucking up big money is... well. Everyone has a price. Or so they say.

I have only the minimal human sympathy for their deaths and their treatment... and the pain that their kin are in. "

RM: These guys are like Uhaul and Queasy, and greedy too.

This is simply disgusting. This Ogre clown makes this outrageous comparison between two butchers, the sons of a butcher, to 4 men who's job it was to safeguard food shipments and then blithely blows them off as deserving of "minimal human sympathy" because this blatant sick-ass class warrior has written them in the "other" category. Why? They were "sucking up big money".

Yeah, ogre ... what a freakin' HORRIBLE crime that is ... easily comparible to Uday and Qusay's crimes against humanity.

BrooklynBoy:

"They were risking their lives and willing to kill for a big paycheck, thats as morally reprensible as one can get in my book. Doesn't mean they deserved to die, but does demand the question as to why the media hyped their grisly deaths and daily ignores the deaths of our underpaid and underprotected cannon fodder."

RM: That's the liberal spirit, BrooklynBoy! We don't want any pretense of compassion any more, just outright hatred of the "cannon fodder" and the "mercenaries."

As with most of the left, Brooklyn Boy has no idea what the difference between those who are engaged in security work do and what a 'mercenary' is. In his world, anyone who goes into a war zone and isn't in the military is a 'killer' and a "mercenary' ... like those Baptist missionaries who were murdered I suppose.

Regardless, he's classified these guys so now he can blow them off as not worthy. Additionally, he marginalizes the soldiers over there as 'cannon fodder' although I'd bet he'd tell you he "supports the troops".

Again ... the usual marginalization of these men as mercenaries and thus not deserving of compassion. Add to that this idiot's inability to understand that the REASON this made so much news vs. troops being killed is because of the absolute savagery, caught on camera, these men's corpses were subjected too after they'd been murdered. No need to look for logic or reason with Brookly Boy ... it doesn't exist.

And under the heading of "my tiny mind's made up, don't confuse me with facts" we find Paper Tigeress who's simplistic and completely assinine defense consisted of ...

Willing to kill for a big paycheck

Blackwater Agent 007

Paycheck to kill

Quite simply the most uninformed and most stupid "defense' of the bunch. Paper Tigress needs to get out more and quit watching James Bond movies.

I'm reading a book right now entitled "The Nazi Conscience" by Claudia Koonz. Now before everyone gets excited and begins accusing me of playing the Nazi card, that's not the point here ... I'm not accusing them of being Nazis. Instead I'm interested in the psychology of this thing, as Koonz was concerning the Nazis. I can't help it if the points to be made are found in a book about Nazis.

One of the points Koonz makes is that what the Nazis did was make cultural values relative. But unlike those who used cultural relativeness in the service of tolerance, they used it to vindicate their own superiority. That is part of what you see going on here.

Secondly, as Koonz notes, "althought every major culture honors the injunction to treat others as you hope they will treat you, the ideal often collapses in practice because the meaning of 'others' is not really clear." [emphasis mine]

Obviously in the case of Nazi Germany, ideology defined the "others" in a certain way (as a threat to the whole of the "Volk") and marginalized them (Jews, gypsies, the retarded, homosexuals, and eventually political enemies like communists, etc.) so they could rationalize hating them. That of course then led to other excess of which we're all aware.

In the above examples, we essentially see the same sort of pathological ideology at work, marginalizing some Americans as "others" because they were seen as 'greedy' or "mercenaries' or in a warzone for a 'paycheck', etc., etc.

And interesting case study, if you ask me.

Posted by McQ at 10:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Free Press?

I've been wanting to ask QandO readers for this past week what their opinion was concerning the padlocking of a radical newspaper in Baghdad last week.

The reason given:

Tensions flared anew on Sunday, when American soldiers padlocked the doors of al-Hawza, a weekly newspaper controlled by Sadr. In a letter ordering the closing of the newspaper for 60 days, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said it had printed lies that incited violence, although he did not say that it directly advocated violence.

My thoughts are mixed. My first reaction was "mistake", mainly because I am an advocate of a free press. But then freedom of the press and, freedom of speech, don't include incitement to violence as a part of that right. Your rights do not give you the right to violate rights others hold. So I then thought perhaps the closing was justified. However, I thought, who gets to decide what IS incitement to violence? Was the criteria valid?

Slippery slope here, folks. The direct impact of this closing has been the following:

An influential Shiite Muslim cleric whose newspaper was shuttered for printing inflammatory articles called Friday for his followers to strike back at officials and appointees of the U.S.-led occupation authority. "I and my followers of the believers have come under attack from the occupiers, imperialism and the appointees," Moqtada Sadr said in a sermon in the southern town of Kufa, outside the holy city of Najaf. "Be on the utmost readiness, and strike them where you meet them."

Not exactly a "calming of the waters" I assume the governing authority thought would result from closing the paper.

Again, I don't know all the facts ... I have no idea what the governing authority considered to be "incitement" or whether its a valid complaint.

But on the face of it, considering the influence of the cleric involved, it doesn't appear as the smartest of moves.

Your comments?

Posted by McQ at 09:03 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Fallujah .... good news/bad news

It seems that the muslim clerics in that outlaw town don't have a problem with murder, but they do think that mutilation is 'sinful'.

While a step in the right direction (i.e. SOME condemnation of a part of the act) it falls far short of the condemnation one would expect from ANY religious body in the face of obvious murder.

Yesterday, Sheik Fawzi Nameq addressed 600 worshippers at a mosque opposite the mayor's office, not far from the scene of the deadly ambush of the American civilians.

"Islam does not condone the mutilation of the bodies of the dead," the cleric said.

"Why do you want to bring destruction to our city? Why do you want to bring humiliation to the faithful? My brothers, wisdom is required here," said Sheik Nameq, who did not pass a judgment on the killings.

His sermon followed a directive issued by senior Fallujah clerics asking mosque imams to denounce the mutilation.

I think, however, Fallujah knows that one day very soon, the other shoe will drop when US forces finally make their move. I also think the military was wise to stay out of Fallujah that day as it is possible a Mogadishu type ambush was planned for any who responded.

Remember ... revenge is a dish best served cold. And, might I add, when YOU decide to serve it.

Posted by McQ at 08:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

Kos "apologizes"

The Daily Kos has taken down his offensive post - discussed here - and replaced it with an "apology". At least, he seems to think it's an apology. As far as I can tell, he simply pleads a difficult childhood, then throws more dirt on the dead Americans.

So, yeah. I'll question whose side Kos is on. And I'll hope he has to explain himself to the children of a dead "mercenary" one day. "You see, Timmy, your father is dead, but he was getting paid to be there, so that's ok. What? Why, yes. I get paid to blog, why do you ask?"

A bit of a fisking before we finish with this slime, though....

There's been much ado about my indifference to the Mercenary deaths in Falluja a couple days ago. I wrote in some diary comments somewhere that "I felt nothing" and "screw them".

My language was harsh, and, in reality, not true. Fact is, I did feel something. That's why I was so angry.

You'll understand if I don't believe a word of this. Especially when you go on to write that you are angry AT the mercenaries, who you also call "dangerous".
I was angry that five soldiers -- the real heroes in my mind -- were killed the same day and got far lower billing in the newscasts. I was angry that 51 American soldiers paid the ultimate price for Bush's folly in Iraq in March alone.
Well, those other soldiers weren't mutilated, and dragged around on tv, were they? I mean, what you would prefer....we ignored the "mercenary" deaths? Or that we try to get footage of every soldiers death?

Both, so very compassionate.

I was angry that these mercenaries make more in a day than our brave men and women in uniform make in an entire month. I was angry that the US is funding private armies, paying them $30,000 per soldier, per month, while the Bush administration tries to cut our soldiers' hazard pay.
I won't get into the variable costs of short term temp help and long term hiring. Kos seems to be objecting to the economics of the whole thing, but I fail to see what solution he'd offer. Across the board raises for the GI's? Well, Bush did that. In the meantime, there are still short-term needs, and temp labor is a common solution...one that's been around for quite a long time.
I was angry that these mercenaries would leave their wives and children behind to enter a war zone on their own violition.
As opposed to the men and women in the US military, who signed up for duty, knowing full well they were offering to leave their wives and children to enter any potential war zone? If this sort of thing bothers Kos, I really don't recommend a trip to the local recruitment center. That sort of thing happens all the time.
So I struck back.
Yes. You did. At dead Americans. You bastard.
Unlike the vast majority of people in this country, I actually grew up in a war zone. I witnessed communist guerillas execute students accused of being government collaborators. I was 8 years old, and I remember stepping over a dead body, warm blood flowing from a fresh wound. Dodging bullets while at market.
Yes, and don't you wish somebody had been able to put a stop to it? You know....deposed the dictators, dealt with the militants and established a just government? I bet you would have liked that. I'd even bet you wouldn't have cared whether the soldiers were paid to do it.

But not in Iraq. They can just die and go to hell by the millions, I guess.

I lived in the midsts of hate the likes of which most of you will never understand (Clinton and Bush hatred is nothing compared to that generated when people kill each other for politics or race or nationality). There's no way I could ever describe the ways this experience colors my worldview.
I admit it...I can't imagine that sort of life. I bet I know who could, though. Iraqi's. And while you're at it, make sure you tell them it was a mistake to get rid of Saddam Hussein.
Back to Iraq, our men and women in uniform are there under orders, trying to make the best of an impossible situation. The war is not their fault, and I will always defend their honor and bravery to the end of my days.
....unless they get paid. Which they do.
But the mercenary is a whole different deal. They willingly enter a war zone, and do so because of the paycheck. They're not there for humanitarian reasons (I doubt they'd donate half their paycheck to the Red Cross or whatever). They're there because the money is DAMN good.
This argument infuriates me. They're not there for humanitarian reasons? Tell me, how many soldiers join the military for "humanitarian reasons"? They join the military for the same reason the "mercenaries" accept their contracts....it seems like a worthwhile thing to do, and they're willing to accept the risks involved. Hell, that's true of ANY job.

If Kos is opposed to people who willingly take up arms for money, he's got the whole damned US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to deal with.

Only, he already did. And he insulted them.

So not only was I wrong to say I felt nothing over their deaths, I was lying. I felt way too much. Nobody deserves to die.
Ah, a pacifist. Me...I can think of a great many people who deserve to die. Fortunately, we don't have a President Kos, who thinks no price is too great to pay for "peace". In our time, you know.
But in the greater scheme of things, there are a lot of greater tragedies going on in Iraq (51 last month, plus countless civilians and Iraqi police). That those tragedies are essentially ignored these days is, ultimately, the greatest tragedy of all.
Call it what you will, Kos....your "apology" is nearly as offensive as your first post. For starters, you didn't actually apologize. But you did have the gall to slander Americans who died in the line of duty.....then you feign self-righteous indignation when somebody points it out.

That won't fly. You're an ass, and, whatever side you are pulling for, it's not the side of the American soldiers.

UPDATE: John Cole has strong words for Kos, too. Check here and here.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Hurry Back JF'nK ... we miss you.

It appears that Kerry's sorta, kinda, telling a big one about an economist endorsing his corporate tax-plan as explained at Pejmanesque. Seems not only did the economist NOT endorse the idea, he wasn't saying anything at all like Kerry thought he was.

Its sorta like how Kerry used to in