May 31, 2004


As you know by now, my book, Slackernomics: Basic Economics For People Who Think Economics is Boring has just been released.

What is the book about? Well, as the jacket blurb says:

If you think economics is boring, then maybe you’ve been learning about it in the wrong places. The humorous, informal style of Slackernomics makes it easy to learn a wealth of information that you will find useful in business, politics, or regular daily life. From the basics of economics to current political controversies, Slackernomics cuts through the dull, boring economic arguments you’re used to hearing, and presents them in a lively, interesting fashion.

If you want to know about the basics of investing, or trade, or how the government uses—and misuses—you money, Slackernomics will give you the basics. Slackernomics is a must-have book for anyone who wants to know how the economy works, but who doesn’t want to be bored to tears while learning it.

Slackernomics uses witty, fun—sometimes outrageous—examples to help you learn the basics of economics, and maybe get a few good laughs while doing it. By the time you’re finished, you’ll be able to speak about the economy as knowledgeably as any real economist.

And you’ll be just as wrong as they are.

But, that's just the boring old marketing hype. What really matters, of course, is what's inside. So, just for QandO readers, here's a little excerpt from Chapter 3: Savings and Investment.


A stock is a share of ownership in a company. As a general rule, every company has stock, but many companies are privately held, which means that all the stock is held by a very small number of people. Privately held companies do not offer shares of stock to the general public. Publicly held companies, on the other hand, are companies that offer their stocks for sale to the general public. These are the companies in which you and I have the opportunity to invest.

When you buy a share of stock in a company, you become an owner of the company. As an owner, you receive a share of the company’s profits. But don’t let the idea of being an owner of the company go to your head. Most publicly traded companies issue millions of shares of stock. For example, in December of 1999, Microsoft had 5.16 billion shares of stock in the hands of investors.

Now, that is a lot of stock, so if you own 1 share of Microsoft stock, you don’t really have much ownership weight to throw around. You can’t drop by the company’s offices and make free Xerox copies. Frankly, owning a single share of stock won’t even prevent the Microsoft security guards from thumping your skull if you show up in Redmond and even hint at causing trouble. On the other hand, if you own 51% of the stock, you can borrow the corporate jet to fly out to Philadelphia for a cheesesteak just about any time you want.

Most of us however, don’t own a 51% percent of a company, so why would we want to buy a stock? Well, because there are some goodies that come with owning stock. First of all, stocks can pay dividends. The simplest way to define a dividend is that it is like an interest rate that you get paid for owning the stock. A company may set a dividend payment that stockholders receive automatically every quarter (every three months). The amount of the dividend is usually some small percentage of the stock price. That percentage is called the dividend yield. A stock which costs $1 per share and pays a dividend of ten cents per share has a dividend yield of 10% per year.

The amount of the dividend payment can actually vary greatly from company to company. For example, in December of 1999, the dividend yield of the nation’s 30 largest stocks averaged about 1.9%. At the same time, the dividend yield for the Philip Morris Company was 7.3%. So if the Philip Morris stock was worth $100 per share, you would get a dividend payment of $7.30 per share every year. Dividends are paid out of the company’s profits. Some companies have such high and regular dividends that their stock is bought for this income alone. Some companies pay no dividends at all.

Stocks also pay earnings. Earnings are payments to the shareholders of the profits the company has made, after subtracting taxes and dividend payments. Every quarter, companies figure out how much money they’ve made in profits for the last three months, and they divide the money equally among the shares.

Sometimes, the company makes really great earnings. In one quarter of 1999, the reported earnings for Black Rock Incorporated were 182.44 per share. At the same time, the price of the stock was only around $19.00 per share! Some companies lose money, however. In that case, stockholders get nothing.

The price of a stock also can be an attraction. The price of a company’s stock may fluctuate quite a bit, and some companies fail completely. But as a whole, stock prices trend upwards. So if you buy a stock at $10 per share today, in five years it may be worth $25. Or it may be $3. The trick is to pick a company whose stock price will rise. This is called speculation.

In many cases, the stock of a company rises so much, that even if the company pays no earnings or dividends, the rise in the price of the stock makes it a very lucrative investment. To use Microsoft as an example again, the price of their stock in December of 1994 was about $7.50 per share. Five years later, the stock was worth about $95.00 per share. So in five years, your original investment would have gained 1,266%! Microsoft pays no dividends and the earnings are only $1.52 per share, but who cares? The price of the stock rose so high and so fast that it more than made up for the lack of earnings and dividends.

This high rate of price appreciation can also be matched by a high rate of price depreciation in stocks as well. Stocks can be very volatile, meaning that the price can rise or fall very quickly. If you invest in a company, the price might shoot through the roof when the company releases a new product everyone in the country wants. The price can collapse just as quickly when it is learned that the new product emits some previously unknown type of radiation that makes all male users impotent.

Because of this volatility, many investment advisors recommend that you never keep more than 5% of your investments tied up in a single company’s stock. Sure, this will prevent you from making huge gains when the company patents its new breast enlargement pills, but it will also protect you from large losses when Consumers Union learns that the company’s major product line explodes when exposed to children.

As you can see, it's not the run of the mill economics book. You can also see previous excerpts here and here.

So, If you've enjoyed what you've read of it so far, head on over to Barnes & Noble for your copy today!

Posted by at 10:35 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Memorial Day

Others will say it far better, so I'll limit my own comments.

My son, Alex, is the most important thing in my world and, like any father, I'd do anything for him. Endure hardship, risk my life......even lay down my life to protect him. He's my own son.

Today, by the way, is Memorial Day - a day on which we honor the people who gave their lives to protect all of us. And we were perfect strangers.

I can't thank the veterans who gave their lives, but I can remember them....and I can thank those, including my co-bloggers, who offered their lives. Thanks, guys.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:01 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Quick Hits

A few scattered thoughts that don't require a full post.....

*** From the Time story about Saddam's pistol - now in the White House: Non-Sequitur Alert!

The pistol's new place of residence is in the small study next to the Oval Office... [...] The study—the one where Bill Clinton held some of his infamous trysts with White House intern Monica Lewinsky...
What the...?!?!? Well, chalk one up "that Conservative media".

*** In a bit of well-deserved air-clearing, the Bush campaign gets fact-checked by the WaPo....

Three-quarters of the ads aired by Bush's campaign have been attacks on Kerry. Bush so far has aired 49,050 negative ads in the top 100 markets, or 75 percent of his advertising. Kerry has run 13,336 negative ads -- or 27 percent of his total. The figures were compiled by The Washington Post using data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group of the top 100 U.S. markets. Both campaigns said the figures are accurate.
Read the article for a more complete description of fallacious Bush campaign statements about Kerry.

I would contend, however, that the negative ad disparity (B:75% - K:27%) between the two candidates is not a function of their respective levels of character, but of the strategic requirements of the campaign. As an incumbent President, Bush is already a well-known quantity....Kerry, far less so. Kerry is a "blank slate", and his image has yet to be defined. As a result, both Kerry and Bush are in a race to define "Candidate Kerry" to the electorate. So, we're going to see a lot about Kerry, from both camps. If their situation were reversed, the negative ad rates would be reversed.

*** Bob Somerby....

“It has always been easy to make fun of Al Gore,” Bob Herbert says in this morning’s column. Why has it been so easy? Herbert doesn’t try to say. But after praising Gore’s “extraordinary” speech about Iraq–the one in which he showed so much “passion”–Herbert did a bit of dreaming. “Those who disagree with Mr. Gore should challenge him on his facts,” the scribe says. But no such challenge will ever occur. Indeed, many who “disagree” with Gore have decided to clown once again.
Somerby goes off - appropriately, I think - on pundits who made ill-informed analyses about the Gore speech. Unfortunately, he wrote that "no such challenge [about the facts] will ever occur", performing an error of which he accuses the press corps, choosing only the data which supports his supposition and leaving out that which does not.

No such challenge will occur? I beg to differ, Mr Somerby. I could go on, but you get the idea. Presumably - and understandably - Mr Somerby would rather deal with the ill-informed analysis than the substantive analysis. It certainly provides an easier target. But he's off by miles when he writes that no substantive challenge "will ever occur".

*** Cori Dauber...

The study by a U of I college student finding 23 rationales for war with Iraq used by the administration -- all before the war -- made it's way around the blogosphere once before, but now it's in a WaPo column, so it will get far wider circulation.
I think a great many people don't understand that there really were - and still are - multiple rationales for war. WMD, terrorism, humanitarian, etc ad nasueum. In fact, some of the strongest rationales - democratization - had to be downplayed, for purely pragmatic diplomatic reasons.

The administration highlighted WMDs for what they called "bureaucratic reasons" - i.e., they had to put something front and center - but that does not obviate other rationales. Prior to the war, Karl Rove explained that it was important not to settle on one single rationale for war, precisely because there were a wide variety of people who, for a variety of different reasons, supported the war. Settling on one rationale would exclude nations and supporters who supported the war for one of the many other legitimate reasons.

Of course, that left the administration wide open to silly charges of "shifting rationales for war". Politics is hard, you know?

*** It's not often I find much from Atrios to praise, but this letter about the consequences of homophobia and anti-gay rhetoric is note-perfect. It should be required reading for the religious right.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:48 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack


Well, the Libertarian Party has finished it regularly scheduled excercise in futility, and they've only reinforced my aversion to participation...

Michael Badnarik, a computer programmer from Texas, won the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination on Sunday. Badnarik, 49, of Austin, defeated former Hollywood movie producer Aaron Russo on the convention's third ballot, after former radio host Gary Nolan, who was eliminated on the second ballot, endorsed Badnarik. "If I can win the nomination, there's no reason I can't win this election," Badnarik told a cheering convention that drew more than 800 delegates.
There's just so much wrong with that. Let's make a list:

1: The LP nominated programmer? I'm not sure I've ever seen a better example of the ineptitude of the LP. Even when looking for a Presidential candidate, they can't find somebody who has held elected office....or is even tangentially engaged in government.

Of course, their alternatives consisted of a movie producer and a radio host, so....

2: This passage.....

"If I can win the nomination, there's no reason I can't win this election," Badnarik told a cheering convention that drew more than 800 delegates.
I hope that got the biggest laugh of the night. If your Presidential Convention can only draw 800 people.....well, you know. You share a lot more in common with the lunatic preaching to nobody on the street corner, than with somebody who actually is going to be the next President of the United States.

3: Badnarik's position on Iraq: he's against it, not based on the merits of the cases for or against the war, but "because Congress has never declared war". Moreover, he can't even justify his own moonbattery....

Michael doesn't have enough information to know whether or not the United States should be there or not, however he strongly suspects that the real motivation for being there is probably economic rather than ethical.
That'll tell em, Michael.

4: Badnarik is exactly the sort of person that gives Libertarians a reputation as fringe-dwelling nuts. Whether you agree with his positions or not, the fact is that even suggesting that your first day in office would see "High ranking officials from [the IRS] would be closely monitored as flight risks, pending indictments for fraud in the event that evidence proves that they knew that no statute exists that requires Americans to fill out a 1040 form and relinquish a significant percentage of their hard earned money to an unconstitutional government that refuses to operate within a budget".

I mean, really. It's like the LP is competing with PETA to see who can appear more ridiculous in pursuit of Idealism. 10 out of 10 for standing on principle, but minus a few thousand for doing it in a clown costume.

UPDATE: My response to Harry Browne's column can be found here. My larger criticism of the Libertarian Party is here.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:01 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

May 30, 2004

My Book is Out!!!

Buy my book!

Since my publisher is a partner with Barnes and Noble, my book is available online there right now! You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll make me money!

Buy it today!

Posted by at 04:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 29, 2004

Global Warming: The Movie! (Pt. 2)

Instapundit comments on the movie "The Day After Tomorrow"....

MY SISTER SAW THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW today, and summarizes it thusly: "The world's better off without people, with lots of special effects." [...]
And David Edelstein observes:
The sad part is that Emmerich really thinks he's making a political statement, and he and his producers and actors are making the rounds blabbing about the movie's message to the world. . . . Meanwhile, global-warming experts I know are already girding themselves for a major PR setback, as everyone involved in this catastrophe becomes a laughingstock. [...] Al Gore stepped right into this one, didn't he?
Once again, the Gore endorsement looks like the kiss of death.
Ok, leaving aside the silly science of this movie, and leaving aside the fact that, you know, it's a movie.....

Leaving aside all of that...what in the world was Al Gore thinking when he stood behind a movie based on a book by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber?!?!?!?!

Art Bell. The longtime (now former) host of Coast to Coast AM. (AKA: Ghost to Ghost AM) That Art Bell.

If that doesn't give you an idea who he is, take a look at the Coast to Coast AM homepage to get an idea of where he's coming from. Copied directly from the site...

One caller said she lived in a house where underwear, glasses and cups would mysteriously disappear. She believes her daughter's invisible "friend" is responsible...
William Bramley (email) shared his hypothesis that extraterrestrial visitors have conspired to dominate mankind through secret societies and religions...
The Iranian Incident
Tornado Cloud
Monster Lemon
Eyes of Mothman
Venice UFO
Cow on Mars
You get the idea. Ghosts, UFOs, psychics, moonbats and.....well, Al Gore. But I repeat myself.

See also: this previous post.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Idiomology of the South

James Joyner speaks truth...

As a Southerner, I should reflexively call them all “Cokes” as I did in my youth. Sadly, I’ve been calling them “sodas” for years, displaying wanton disregard for my heritage. If I ever start calling them “pop,” please shoot me.
Sadly, it's true. When you leave the South, you stop using "Coke" as a all-purpose term for carbonated beverages. It's inevitable. In the South (Georgia, in my case) everybody knows "Coke" means "whatever soft drink you serve here". You can ask a waitress for a "Coke" and she'll ask "what kind"? Or, she may just hand you a Pepsi without a second thought. And you'll drink it without a second thought.

If she hands you an RC, instead, you're really in The South.

I live in Richmond, Virginia, and while many people consider Virginia "The South", it's not really. I suppose a Southerner (which, despite growing up in Georgia, I do not consider myself) would not feel completely out of place here, but Virginia is only incidentally southern.

Moving to Virginia (from a brief stay in Alabama) finally crystalized the one sure way to discern "South" from "Not South". It takes a bit of time to figure this out, but I think most Southerners could agree that this is a good rule of thumb. It is this:

If you can get sweet tea at almost every restaurant, you are in The South. As you get further from the heart of The South, the percentage of restaurants serving sweet tea declines. When the percentage of restaurants serving sweet tea declines to less than 70%, you are no longer in The South.
As I see it, North Carolina is the last place in which one can definitively be said to be "in The South". Come Virginia, you're lucky to get sweet tea at 40-50% of restaurants.

Note: Florida is an exception. While you can generally get sweet tea in Florida, it is most certainly not The South.

Posted by Jon Henke at 03:12 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack


"I spent several years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, in the dark, fed with scraps. Do you think I want to do that all over again as vice president of the United States?"
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Conan O'Brien

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 28, 2004

A Reader Writes, A Writer Screeds

A reader wrote me today, asking about some geek-related subjects. Most of the message was personal, so it's not important to go over it here, but he did ask:

I see that you've gone to the dark side with ASP rather than choosing goodness and light and Java and JSP. I assume your clients don't really care about the underpinnings, true?

Naturally, that prompted a bit of a screed, even though he was clearly writing in jest.

The argument about ASP.NET-JSP-PHP-ColdFusion-Apple-Oracle-SQL Server-MySQL-ETC. is a lot of crap. Businesspeople don't know what the differences are, and they couldn't care less. If you try to explain it to them, their eyes just glaze over, and they change the subject to the NFL or NBA as quickly as they can. Outside the geek community, this couldn't be less of a concern.

I live in the .NET world because I've always been a Microsoft guy. I started programming 20 years ago in BASIC, then moved into the various flavors of Access and Office VB, then into VB for desktop apps, and VBA for office automation, then to ASP when IIS came out. All the other languages I learned in college in the early 80s, like COBOL, ADA, Fortran, Pascal, and RPG are all dead now.

Heck, in 1982, when I started college, I was programming in RPG with punch cards on an IBM System 64. Practically everything I learned in college about computers, aside from general principles, turned out to be a complete waste of time and money, investing in what were already dead technologies.

The economics courses turned out to be a far more lasting contribution to my knowledge. All the computer stuff I've learned since then, I've had to learn on my own, because the technology kept--and keeps--changing. The early 1980s were a bad time to be learning computer science. The revolution was coming and the old regime was swept away.

But, VB survived, became a real native machine-language compiled product, and now has transmogrified into .NET. Maybe if PHP or JSP did something that the MS products didn't I would switch, but, frankly, with .NET there's a whole world of true object-oriented programming, complete with thousands of useful namespaces and web services that no one else has. I can do stuff with .NET right out of the box that I don't see happening anywhere else. I'm lazy, I know the technology, and it has all the bells and whistles I need, especially since it now incorporates polymorphism, inheritance, and all the rest. Frankly, I think .NET is a revolutionary change in the way programming is done, and no one at all has anything like it.

There's a reason why MS products are so widespread, and it's not because thick-necked Microsoft goons are threatening people with grievous bodily harm if they don't use Microsoft stuff. I just don't buy into the idea that, say Scott McNealy or Steve Jobs are better people than Microsoft or their corporations are somehow more oriented towards goodness than Microsoft. Corporation are corporations, and they all do business in more or less the same way. It's not like Larry Ellison spends half his busness day feeding widows and orphans.

Look, I've spent plenty of hours sitting before a Sun Enterprise server hacking away at the command line. If I wanted to do that, I would've stayed with DOS. I could've spent the last eight years hacking away at the command line for Oracle databases, or using SQL Server's graphic interface to drag and drop relationships.

Guess what I chose? Did I mention I'm lazy?

And, let's face it, Windows is the standard desktop OS. Like it or not, the real world needs a natural monopoly on the OS, so that training, networking, etc., can all be standardized across the enterprise, and with their customers. As it happens, Microsoft won that battle. So why not stick with that same manufacturer's products, and do work that can work essentially universally?

The customer tells me "I want a database that stores X data, and I want to present it on the web." At the end of the day, if I do that, and meet or exceed the specs, then, "mission accomplished". The customer doesn't give a damn about how it works. That's what he's paying me for. If he wanted to be a geek, he'd go out and buy horn-rimmed glasses and a pocket protector.

Before ASP, I used ColdFusion v2.0 to do database stuff. Now, I use, and it doesn't require I learn a whole new markup language to use it.

Did I mention I'm lazy?

It's the same when I do desktop apps. Sure, I could spend 8 months or so writing a nice little C++ program. Or I could spend 2 and do it in .NET. I'm sure the C++ program might be faster, or a tiny bit better in some other way.

So what? The guy who's footing the bill for this at $125 an hour is gonna have a really strong preference for the 2-month solution over the 8-month solution, especially if, when all's said and done, he, as a user, won't be able to see any real difference. If the question is between paying for 2 months of work for a 98% solution, and 8 months for a 100% solution, the customer will always, always choose the 98% solution.

My basic position is, 1) use the tools you know best and can work in the fastest, and 2) meet or or exceed the customer specs. All other concerns are pointless quibbling about how many angels fit on the head of pin, and are only of interest to the hard-core geek crowd. Your customer wants a quick, effective solution, not a long conversation with a Java technology messiah.

Are you really good at ColdFusion? Then you go to town, baby! Make your customer happy with it!

But don't bore me any talk about how Macromedia has revolutionized CFML with its ColdFusion MX, and, by the way, Bill Gates has sex with goats.

I just couldn't be less interested.

Posted by at 08:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Fool's Paradise

Fool's Paradise

Posted by at 04:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Just in time for Memorial Day

As we prepare to honor our nation's war dead this weekend--yes, there's a reason for Memorial Day beyond getting Monday off--Former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers, whose father is a USAF veteran writes this stirring tribute to our troops:

Our military is one of the last bastions of slavery in the United States. At the moment, our slaves are stuck in a combat zone, getting killed and maimed, and there's nothing they can do about it except hunker down and pray.

Yes, our slaves signed up of their own free will, but most of them were as misled about their job as the rest of us were about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

So, really, the men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day aren't heroes. Just a pathetic buch of poor saps who were duped into it. Now they're totally at the mercy of Massa George in Washington.

So our kids get bombarded with formal and informal recruiting messages - and they sign up. One day, they find themselves sitting in a Humvee in Iraq, with their best friend lying dead on the floor next to them, and they suddenly realize the deception of their recruitment and the shackles of their slavery.

They just want to go home, but they can't.

Yes, one minute they're impressing the girls in their pretty white, blue, green or olive uniforms, and the next thing they know, they're shackled to humvees in a war zone. Why they're shocked--shocked!--to learn they may be called upon to go into combat.

And yet, oddly enough, when Massa asks them to re-enlist, they're doing so in numbers far above their units' retention quotas, the fools.

Yes, I can see how Memorial Day would be a fitting occasion for such an emotional tribute to the troops.

Posted by at 04:04 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

The Only Choice

Daniel Drezner writes in The New Republic that, despite all the criticism it's gotten, the "neo-conservative" plan for Democratizing the Mideast is still the best option.

To be sure, democracy promotion is far from easy. Indeed, regime change in the Middle East looks like a lousy, rotten policy option for addressing the root causes of terrorism, until one considers the alternatives--appeasement or muddling through. The latter option was essentially the pre-9/11 position of the United States and its allies, and has been found wanting. Appeasement or isolation has the same benefits and costs that the strategy had in the 1930s: It buys short-term solace but raises the long-term costs of facing a stronger and potentially undeterrable adversary.

For all their criticism of Bush's grand strategy, Europeans and left-wingers have offered very little in the way of alternatives to his vision. Some say that American soft power could bring about change in the Middle East. But decades of alternately coddling, cajoling, and ostracizing Arab despots has not led to liberalization or democratization. We have showered Egypt with aid, but have succeeded only in propping up an authoritarian monster in Hosni Mubarak. We have tried to isolate Syria, but have only strengthened that country's anti-American credentials. Maybe U.S. soft power is part of the solution to the Middle East's woes, but soft power alone cannot accomplish our desired ends.

And wishing it were otherwise will not change that fact.

Posted by at 02:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cut and Run?

Writing in The Nation, David Corn outlines the Kerry Campaign's thinking on Iraq.

There have been debates on Iraq within the campaign's foreign policy team. "For a while," says a senior Kerry foreign policy adviser, "the debate was whether it was better not to offer an Iraq plan. Now there's a continuing discussion on how to deal with the changing realities in Iraq." But there are no indications Kerry or his camp feels pressure to consider pulling out the troops. "It has been clear to everyone," this adviser says, "that cutting and running is not the right approach and that Iraq can't be an American-only operation, that we have to broaden the international role dramatically. But one question has been, how hard do you hit the president? And we also haven't engaged the issue of an exit date. That's politically difficult because it would look like cutting and running. Kerry has to establish he's steely enough to do the job."

Another foreign policy adviser to the campaign notes, "most of Kerry's advisers want to get US troops out as quickly as possible. The issue is how direct to be. Perhaps there will be more political pressure for a pullout. I disagreed with him over his vote to authorize the war, but I've come round to thinking he has rather good political instincts about these matters." And while several Democratic foreign policy wonks outside the campaign have advocated setting a deadline for removing US troops, Kerry has not endorsed a D Day for disengagement. "It means," says Holbrooke, "hardliners get harder and wait you out. A hard date increases the chances of civil war. It's irresponsible."

So, which is it, a troop pullout or not? And, while we're on the question, why is the the first option of the Democratic Party always retreat or surrender? Hasn't it occurred to them yet that this inclination is the main reason why the electorate is so cautious about electing Democrats when national security is at issue?

And let's say we do just pack up our little red wagon and go home. How will the Democrats prevent the 2010s from being a repeat of the 1970s, but with suicide bombs?

Do they think that the response of terrorists to a retreat in Iraq will be to leave us all alone, now that we've learned our lesson?

Posted by at 01:53 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Who Peed in his coffee this morning?

Syndicated columnist and talk-radio host Neal Boortz seems to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, if this column is any indication. After being on talk radio for twenty-some-odd years, Neal has come to the conclusion that about half of us are too stupid to be trusted with a dull knife, without fearing some hideous jugular-severing accident.

Of course, dear readers, he's not referring to you. You're part of the smart, pretty crowd, obviously, or you wouldn't be here.

Well, most of you, anyway.

But, I have to admit that I occasionally get similarly jaundiced feelings about my fellow Americans. When I see that half the people in this country don't know who the vice-president is, or that a majority think the economy is getting worse, I get a bit down, too.

You see, our republican system of government--no, we aren't a democracy, thank God--requires a moderately educated citizenry that takes some minimal interest in our national affairs. And, frankly, I see less and less indication that we have it.

Bill Clinton, in his State of the Union speech $10 billion ago, declared that, "the era of big government is over." Obviously, not everybody got the message. And, as long as we keep dumbing down the population to E! Channel level, the government will keep getting bigger, in order to care for a population that is increasingly incapable of taking care of itself.

When I first moved to The Netherlands in 1988, I was surprised to learn that the income tax rate for the average blue-collar worker was 50%. Oh, and forget about "deductions". That's a quaint American concept. In Europe, 50% means 50%. The government conveniently took that money right out of your paycheck, thus freeing you from having to fill out one of those complicated tax returns, unless you wee one of those unregenerate, anti-social, self-employed a-holes. On top of that, you got to pay an 18.5% VAT on every good that you purchased, except for food and clothing. Then, of course, there were the gas taxes, which meant that, in 1988, a gallon of gas cost $4.50. And--assuming you could afford to buy gas--if you wanted a new car, it better not be a nice one, because there was a 25% luxury tax on any automobile costing more than about $12,000 at the then exchange rate.

Every time I criticized that tax system as eating the heart of the productive economy, some Dutch guy would look at me, and say--without any trace of irony--"But, we get free health care!"

That's the kind of in-depth political "thinking" that we are walking straight into.

Let's face it. It's easier to be dumb. And that's why it's so seductive. But dumb people can't afford to be very free, because the price of stupidity is high.

Posted by at 01:36 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Hitchens: Chalabi's OK

Christopher Hitchens expounds on his views of Ahmed Chalabi for Slate. Hitchens feel's that much of the accusations against Chalabi are foolish, and, he notes interestingly, that new information about Chalabi's selling secrets to Iran might be less accurate than earlier announced.

As I've said before, I don't really know what to make of the whole Chalabi thing. A lot I hear about the guy makes me edgy.

Yet Hitchens, who's a fairly clear-eyed chap, and much better connected in Washington than I am, seems to be a bit of a Chalabi partisan.

Posted by at 01:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Peace Dividend paid out too much

Kevin Drum makes a good, practical point about our limitations...

The practical problem [with sending 450,000 troops to Iraq] is that we don't have 450,000 troops. I don't mean this in the trivial sense that Donald Rumsfeld decided not to use that many troops, I mean that we don't have them.
Unless we're willing to make a World War II style commitment to doubling or tripling the size of the Army, we flatly can't provide 450,000 troops in Iraq (or anywhere else) over a period of several years.
I suspect that "adequate security," which everyone agrees is essential to democratization, is simply not possible for us to attain in Iraq for both practical and systemic reasons. [...] So if security is impossible, and democratization via military occupation depends on security, it means —
Might I suggest that it means our "peace dividend" from the 90s - when "scores of bases were closed, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers were demobilized" - was not so much a dividend as an expensive loan. And we're paying for it today.

Which, I suppose, is why you don't read guys like this writing that much about "Clinton's Army" anymore.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:21 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Links? (Pt 2)

As a follow-up to this previous post about potential links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, I note this Wall Street Journal story about "New evidence of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda".....

In short, a leaked document indicates an Al Qaeda insider "present at the January 2000 al Qaeda "summit" which the 9/11 attacks were planned" was an Iraqi agent. We have no indication of the credibility of this document, or the identity of the leaker, so it's worth taking this with a considerable dose of salt.

In fact, that is exactly what the Bush administration seems to be doing, as the WSJ notes....

One of the mysteries of postwar Iraq is why the Bush Administration and our $40-billion-a-year intelligence services haven't devoted more resources to probing the links between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda.
However, the WSJ doesn't seem to grasp the import of this decision. If the administration is not devoting more resources the probing these links....well, what does that tell you? Let's not delude ourselves. If the administration had serious, credible evidence of ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, they would be, at a minimum, talking it up.

So, suggestions that there was active and significant operational cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda - based on this evidence - is stretching credulity. There is cause for investigation, but there is greater cause for skepticism.

However, the critics of these "links" go just as far in downplaying the evidence as do the proponents in overplaying it. Matthew Yglesias, at TAPPED, provides an example....

The end of the article mentions that Stephen Hayes is writing a book on the subject. Months ago Doug Feith's office took a dossier full of already-discredited "evidence" of such links and leaked it to... Stephen Hayes, who wrote it up breathlessly for The Weekly Standard. It's suggestive, I think. [emphasis added]
Matt overstates his case here by miles. The commonly cited reason this Feith memo is called "discredited" is the follow-up DoD press release, which simply claimed the information was not "new" or "confirmed", that the information was "raw", and that it "drew no conclusions".

Now, that's a lot of denial. But, on the other hand, none of the denials actually discredit the information contained in the memo. They discredit some of the conclusions, perhaps, but not the raw data. There have been follow-on reports which discredit some of the "50 raw reports", but even the story by Daniel Benjamin, while downplaying their importance, concedes the probability that many of the data points are accurate.

Not indicative of operational cooperation, mind you....but "links", nonetheless.

So, when Yglesias writes that the information contained in the Feith memo has been "already-discredited", he is stretching the case by nearly as much as the Laurie Mylroie's of the pro-war side of the case.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:28 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The "despicable worm" turns

Kevin Drum.....

Gallimaufry catches this contemptible quote from John Ashcroft yesterday when he announced the possibility of an al-Qaeda attack in the United States this summer:
The Madrid railway bombings were perceived by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to have advanced their cause. Al Qaeda may perceive that a large-scale attack in the United States this summer or fall would lead to similar consequences.
The supposed "consequence" of the Madrid attack, of course, was a victory by the opposition party. So Ashcroft is rather unsubtly saying that al-Qaeda would consider a John Kerry victory to have "advanced their cause."

What a despicable worm. What a revolting, loathsome, toad.

You're no prince, yourself, Kevin. Not with ill-considered rhetoric like this. Need I remind you that, as John Ashcroft made the comment, John Kerry was leading the polls?

In other words, if Al Qaeda wants to attack the US to sway an election, then - as of right now, when Ashcroft is discussing the possibility - they would only attack if they wanted Bush to win.

You're a smart guy, Kevin. Act like it.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:14 AM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

May 27, 2004

The Hunt for Red Tom Clancy

Alan Wirbicki writes in The New Republic that the real shocker about Gen. Anthony Zinni's new book isn't the content. Zinni's been a bush critic for quite a while. The real shock is who co-wrote it: Tom Clancy.

That's right. Mr. Republican Paperback Writer himself. As Wirzbicki notes, if you're a Republican president and you've lost Tom Clancy, then you might be in real trouble with your base.

Well, maybe, and maybe not.

It all comes down to what happens after 30 June. If the transitional government looks like it's working right, the Iraqis start to take over more of their own security, and things start settling down, a lot of paleo-conservatives like Clancy and Zinni may not look as smart as they do now.

You know, when you're right in the middle of a complicated and difficult national project, especially a war, it's hard to tell how it's going to turn out. Not only do you have to do all the the right things, there's an enemy who's constantly trying to prevent you from succeeding.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the news you get is almost always skewed against good news. Watching thousands of Iraqis peacefully going to work in, say Karbala, doesn't make anywhere near as good a video as a couple of hundred fanatics firing AK-47s into the air in Najaf. If it bleeds, it leads, which, while it makes for great television, doesn't necessarily mean you're getting a realistic picture of the world.

I see a lot of retired generals bitching and moaning about how Iraq will all lead to a bad end. But how many of them have been there? I see some pentagon armchair warriors carping about the Bush Strategy, too. But, really, in an organization of 2 million people, is it really shocking that you can find some who don't like the Bush Strategy?

And, while we're on the subject, how many of them have spent the last two years on the Joint Staff, wearing their nice, starched Blues or service greens, instead of slogging through the sand in Desert Days, like the guys out on the sharp end are?

I see Iraqi blogs coming on line now, and the writers seem to think things are going fairly well, despite some trouble spots here and there. I see enlisted people writing letters home, saying the same thing.

So, what does it mean?

I dunno. I'm not there. Haven't been anywhere near there since 1991. And--and this is an important bit--neither are Tom Clancy or Tony Zinni.

Look, in march of 1942, I could've said all sorts of unkind things about FDR. Irresponsibility that led to Pearl Harbor. Getting us involved with a German war when the real enemy was al-Qaida--uh, I mean, Japan. Losing the Pacific Fleet's battleships, which, as any moderately competent navy man could tell you were the key assets of any naval war, and whose loss meant the Japanese fleet could steam peacefully from Tokyo to Adelaide. Heck, in February of 1943, I could've argued that the disaster at Kasserine Pass was proof that going against a powerful, sophisticated military like Germany's was the height of folly.

It would have all sounded very credible, and learned, and, indeed, retired admirals and generals were, in fact, making similar noises at the time.

And it would have been completely and totally wrong.

All it took to completely change the picture in the pacific was the Japanese loss at Midway. It didn't end the war. The killing went on for years. But from that moment, it was over. No matter how tenaciously and viciously they fought, the Japanese were going to lose.

If June 30 begins to look like Iraq's Midway, then all the Tom Clancy novels in the world won't matter. If not, then Jack Ryan could appear out of thin air, pat W on the back, and say "That's my boy!" and it wouldn't be nearly enough to keep the electorate from driving W out of Washington like some kind of poison troll.

Posted by at 04:32 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

My First and Last American Idol Post

I simply could not care less about music, so you can count on me not blogging about American Idol very often. But I do care about lightly tossed about charges of racism, so I thought I'd share this little bit of schadenfreude with you....

Elton John:

"The three people I was really impressed with, and they just happened to be black, young female singers, and they all seem to be landing in the bottom three. They have great voices. The fact that they're constantly in the bottom three--and I don't want to set myself up here--but I find it incredibly racist."
Ladies and Gentlemen, the product of the "incredibly racist" American Idol voters....

And, for emphasis sake, all three winners.

Are we clear now?


Posted by Jon Henke at 11:11 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Al Gore: Statesman, Moonbat

I couldn't help but notice that Al Gore is keenly concerned over the rights of the prisoners that are being held both in Iraq specifically, and in the War on Terror in general.

Well, never let it be said that I would speak out against applying the Geneva Convention to our prisoners. Indeed, I'm quite keen to see it applied precisely as written, and to alleviate Mr. Gore's concerns over the treatment of our prisoners.

The vast majority of the prisoners we've taken are a) not part of recognized military units, b) have no clearly defined command structure, c) wear no readily identifiable distinguishing uniforms or insignia, c) use prohibited places such as religious and/or medical facilities as military bases, and d) reside among the civilian population. I suggest, therefore, we set up standing military tribunals for assessing these prisoners' cases, in order to declare them to be unlawful combatants in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Armed Conflict. Then we can simply shoot them in the back of the head.

This should go far, I think, to avoid a repeat of the terrible Abu Ghraib incident, and will almost completely eliminate any need for concern on Mr. Gore's part about ill-treatment of prisoners, or our failure to comply fully with the Geneva Convention requirements.

Posted by at 10:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Left like Nader, nuts like Dean

Yesterday, Al Gore gave the Speech Fisked round the World before a ("nonpartisan" - ha!) crowd. I'm torn about whether it represents the leftward drift of Al Gore, or the mainstreaming of moonbattery, but a few sections are worth attention....

Honor? He decided not to honor the Geneva Convention. Just as he would not honor the United Nations, international treaties, the opinions of our allies, the role of Congress and the courts, or what Jefferson described as "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind."
Quite an accusation, coming from a fellow whose administration was accused of precisely the same thing, on many occassions. You will, perhaps, remember that the Clinton administration paid no heed to the UN, international treaties and courts when they proceeded with an invasion of Haiti, or the bombings of the former Yugoslavia, Sudan, Afghanistan or Iraq.
He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq.
Unlike, for example, Somalia, where the Clinton administration ignored basic military doctrine when they changed the mission from feeding to fighting. And, to be fair, Bush didn't "ignore the advice" of military leaders...he chose among a variety of options. If that means some advice was discarded, that is hardly the same as "ignored".
And now he will not honor our fallen dead by attending any funerals or even by permitting photos of their flag-draped coffins.
The Pentagon has barred news organizations from photographing caskets since 1991. That covers, let's see, gosh the entire period during which Al Gore was Vice President. You'd think he would know that. And he probably does....

In addition, as has been well-documented, Presidents simply do not attend individual funerals during war. Not Bush, not Clinton, and etc back through history. They have gone to the funerals of friends, and to memorials, but not to individual soldiers funerals during wartime.

And here's my favorite bit....

More disturbing still was their frequent use of the word "dominance" to describe their strategic goal, because an American policy of dominance is as repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners has been to the American people.
And here is a passage from the 2000 Democratic Party Platform: "Al Gore and the Democratic Party know that we must be able to meet any military challenge from a position of dominance."

And contrast this passage from yesterday's Al Gore...

With this passage from Gore's 2000 DNC platform...

How quickly we forget. Or, at least, how quickly Al Gore forgets....

And finally, the remark that disgusted me more than any other...

What happened at the prison, it is now clear, was not the result of random acts by "a few bad apples," it was the natural consequence of the Bush Administration policy that has dismantled those wise constraints and has made war on America's checks and balances.

The abuse of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib flowed directly from the abuse of the truth that characterized the Administration's march to war and the abuse of the trust that had been placed in President Bush by the American people in the aftermath of September 11th.

Got that? The abuses at Abu Ghraib - contrary to the conclusions of General Taguba, who said a "few soldiers and civilians conspired to abuse and conduct egregious acts of violence" - were the result of Bush's (per Gore) moral failures. I guess that's a bit like how "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians" helped make 9/11 happen.

What a despicable contribution to political discourse.

UPDATE: Robert Tagorda finds more objectionable hypocrisy.

See also: Protein Wisdom; The Argus; Outside the Beltway; and Obsidian Wings.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:33 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Caption Gore


DNC Convention preview: in an unfortunate speech, Al Gore says...

...inviting unfortunate comparisons to Joseph Biden. Among others.

UPDATE: I'm just assuming that everybody gets the obscure references in the caption above. You should.

Make sure you read the partial fisking of his speech, too.

Posted by Jon Henke at 05:54 AM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

May 26, 2004

Blatant Commercialism II

Finally, after, lo, these many months, my book, Slackernomics is now in production. Look for it on and in about two weeks, and at about two weeks after that.

In anticipation, here is another excerpt from the book.

Posted by at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Blatant Commercialism

There's a reason I haven't done much blogging this week. I'm working full-time on a new project. And, because I'm a raging capitalist it's designed to make me money.

Those of you who are regular readers of The Review know that I do Web Hosting, and, what may be less known, I do the web hosting for this very web site.

For the last several days, I've been building a new web site, and because I'm a raging capitalist, it's designed to make me money. Eventually. Maybe.

But this isn't a commercial plug for it, as much as it is a little bit of catering to the geek-interest crowd. I'm building this site as an ASP.NET e-commerce site to sell high-res pictures on the web. For those of you who do web design, you know that finding royalty-free pictures can be a pain, unless you're willing to shell out $500 to

So, I've been building this site. It's all ASP.NET with a SQL Server back end. It allows users to browse photos by category, or to search by keyword.

I don't have a lot of pictures up yet, only about 120 or so, but it's enough for you to see how it works, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

All the photos were taken by me, or by my significant other, The Lovely Christine.

By the way, I just picked up the new Sony DSC-F828 8-megapixel Digital camera. It takes MemorySticks or CompactFlash cards, and has the new RGBE color chip. You can get 261 photos on a GB CF card. I highly recommend it, if you're looking for a very nice digital camera, but aren't willing to shell out $1500+ for a digital SLR and a couple of lenses.

The 828 has a 28-200 7x manual zoom "Carl Zeiss" T* lens, and has a digital zoom that goes up to 31x at lower resolutions.

Photography has long been a weakness of mine, and over the last 20 years, I've collected enough cameras and equipment to choke a horse. It's jones worse than China White. When I was a young A1C in the Air Force, taking home a grand total of $741 per month, I still managed to pick up a Yashica FX-7 and a couple of lenses (which I still have). No electronic stuff, no autofocus. All manual.

I used to go out with 36-exposure rolls of film, and a notebook just to take pictures of stuff, and note the shutter speed, lens, f-stop, etc.

Fortunately, The Lovely Christine is a bigger shutterbug than I am, so I can get a photo safari going at the drop of a hat, simply by mentioning the possibility to her.

Anyway, all the pictures on the new web site are pictures we've taken, and we're undercutting by 50%.

Of course, they have about 500,000 photos to our 1,000 or so, but, maybe this'll add a couple of bucks a month to the bottom line.

Anyway, the web site is still in beta. It consists of only about 6 pages:

The default page (default2.aspx)
The Category Page (photos_categories.aspx)
The Search results page (photos_keywords.aspx)
The photo Details page (photo_details.aspx)
an Error page (errorpage.aspx), that comes up when there are no photos in a search or category
A Fulfillment page that delivers pictures after you return from the credit card processing routine.

I'm very happy with the way it works. Now, all I have to do is edit another 1,000 photos, and add them to the database. Yeeha.

Posted by at 10:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pick your poison

We should have been warned about the threat of terrorism prior to 9/11....

In a CNN-USA Today opinion poll conducted Thursday, 68 percent of respondents said the administration should have divulged information it had on potential hijackers sooner than it did.
It's hard to understand how critics of the administration can say that Bush failed to warn us of 9/11, when...
Some law enforcement and firefighter union representatives, supporters of Democrat John Kerry for president, suggested that the timing of the threat report was suspicious because of polls showing a sagging approval rating for President Bush.
And it's not just partisans, trying to play politics with national security, who are unsure about whether we should go public....
Even as Attorney General John Ashcroft warned on Wednesday that Al Qaeda planned “to hit the United States hard” in the next few months, U.S. intelligence officials were privately divided about whether the government had obtained any fresh information that justified such an extraordinary public announcement.
Damned if he doesn't make it public, damned if he does.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yes, I see Iraq

Ezra Klein engages the strawman....

You often hear conservative critics blast Kerry as unfit for the Presidency because, though Bush is doing a bad job on Iraq and terror, Kerry doesn't care about those things. And if he doesn't care about them, he can't be trusted with them.
Perhaps Ezra runs in different circles where critics do question Kerry's patriotism and concern for US security, but I've never heard those arguments made. What I do hear is critics who say Kerry would do those things badly...which is a different argument altogether.
Ignoring the claims to telepathy inherent in these attacks, how do they account for the conspicuous absence of Iraq on Bush's homepage?
Ezra cites a post in which the author claims that "not only does the word Iraq not appear anywhere on the homepage, but neither the Homeland nor National Security links mention Iraq in their main text. I could only find one mention, in a sublinked story on the National Security subpage, of Iraq."

Leaving aside the fact that the Bush/Cheney campaign page, for whatever reason, just doesn't have many policy specifics at all - yes, including Iraq - and leaving aside the fact that the WhiteHouse page has quite a lot about policies and Iraq, including a dedicated Iraq page....

Leaving all that aside, it still seems relevant to me that this picture is available without ever leaving the homepage of the Bush/Cheney campaign site....

It is the "Top News" story, and it is front and center on the homepage - hardly hidden in a sublink on a subpage.

So, yeah. I've seen Iraq. It is conspicuously present.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:11 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Raging "racist" or stupid twit ... you decide.

Per the NY Post there was a little dust-up at Da Silvano's in NYC last night involving a British princess (Princess Michael) and a table of black New Yorkers.

Was she being a racist or a twit?

"Go back to the colonies" or "remember the colonies"? Either way, it seems pretty damn insensitive since anyone with an ounce of history knows that the status of blacks in the days of the colonies was probably 99% enslaved.

Is it lame or what to then try to say "there were some rules that were pretty good?"

Such as what? What rules are you speaking of, you tiaraed twit?

Or was she talking about Britian's former African colonies? That's not much better.

Nope, I've got to agree with the bigotry angle here (or 'racism' as bigotry is now defined). I can't imagine any other reason a British citizen would bring up the colonies to a group of black Americans, can you?

One positive out of this ... now anytime you hear a Brit denegrate Americans for the vulgar way they act (in their opinion) dear Princess Michael of Kent will provide you with all the "counter-fire" you need.

Posted by McQ at 04:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cos fallout and follow up

Cynthia Tucker is a columnist here in Atlanta who, in my opinion, seems to always get it wrong.

Not this time ... well not all of it anyway.

She's finally weighed in on the Cosby quotes. Seems she can see beyond the hubris and into the real problems. She says her best stuff at the beginning and end of her column:

Never mind Howard University.

The administration of the Washington institution is apparently in a bit of a huff because Bill Cosby used its podium to criticize the failings of black America -- especially its underclass. Howard's leaders, who won't release a transcript of Cosby's speech, are still not prepared to have a public discussion of self-inflicted wounds.
It is more important that black Americans have a spirited debate about the challenges of the post-civil rights era: How do we raise the academic achievement of black students? How do we curb black-on-black crime? How do we attack an AIDS epidemic spreading like wildfire in black America?

In a way, Cosby's speech was an eloquent reminder of the stunning success of the civil rights movement that followed the Brown decision: Black America is strong enough and successful enough to admit its shortcomings and gird itself for the work ahead.

In the middle we get the usual maundering nonsense about racist whites (here she singles out Neal Boortz and Rush Limbaugh) who will use this against blacks. She claims:

Some blacks have recoiled from Cosby's pointed remarks, not because they disagree, but because they don't want to discuss certain ignominious truths in front of white folks. They fear such painful self-analysis will only provide fodder to the race-baiters -- the Neal Boortzes and Rush Limbaughs -- who work hard at stoking a white backlash.

Well gee Cynthia, racist whites will use everything against blacks anyway... what has that to do with the problem at hand? Is ignoring the problem so racist whites won't be able to say nasty things more important, in the long run, than fixing the problem?

Not to mention that at least Boortz has not said a single, solitary thing about Cosby or what he said (knowing he'd read Tucker's piece today I thought I'd listen in. Sure enough he took her to task for being too lazy to listen and document, but instead 'assumed' he'd be talking about it).

But that's not the crux of the point. Problems among blacks are as much the right of the rest of the country to talk about as are problems among whites. Why? Because we live in an integrated society in which the problems of one are, in effect, the problems of all. We're all Americans. So to pretend that whites have no right to discuss what Cosby said is simply ludicrous.

But it is a common thread. Per Eugene Kane of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel :

"Given his record as a philanthropist who has donated millions to black colleges and black causes in general, Cosby has certainly earned the right to speak his mind.

Still, there's always a sense of uneasiness whenever somebody like Cosby uses the same language some whites use to justify their racism."

Really Mr. Kane? He's "earned the right" but he ought to just shut up, huh? Because facing the problems which black society is encountering is 'racism', is it? Especially if "white folks" use it ... its surely racism then.

I wonder if Mr. Kane ever considers the fact that most 'white folks' would be quite happy to see educated, well-spoken and successful blacks as much as "black folks" would?

Instead Kane falls back on the emotional argument and excuses which has put many in the black community squarely where Cosby wants them to leave:

"Particularly, the idea that poor blacks and their children weigh down the rest of society, or that every black person behind bars deserves to be incarcerated.

Sure, some black people may fit that description, but not all. Some white people, too.

That's why I think Cosby should tread easy with his curmudgeon act. He's not a poor black mother raising children in the inner city, so he has no idea how difficult that is in 2004 America.

Seems to me, creating 'Fat Albert' cartoons and earning millions off pudding commercials doesn't give Cos the right to pass harsh judgment on people who weren't as fortunate as he was in finding success within the American dream. Sometimes, beating up on defenseless people is just being a bully.

Seems to me, Cliff Huxtable should have a little more compassion than that."

Of course some whites do ... but then most whites know that and accept that. They know there are bad whites and that they deserve to be in jail. They don't use their "whiteness" as an excuse for breaking the law.

And was Cosby just "fortunate" in "finding success"? Or did he work his ass off in an era where "racism" was much more prevelant and malignant? Did he instead succeed despite those problems by following the formula he spoke about at Howard University? That's precisely what he did.

It sure is easy to wave off his accomplishments with "fortunate" and "finding success" isn't it Mr. Kane, instead of facing what and how he accomplished what he has?

Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald wants to have it both ways:

"The fact is, Cosby said nothing about black underachievement that black people have not said before. His mistake, if you want to call it that, was in speaking publicly. Because publicly, we -- black and white -- prefer to stick to the script that makes it easiest on us, demands the least from us."

I wonder if Mr. Pitts and the black leadership have considered that perhaps the reason these problems persist is because of 'the script'? Perhaps, Mr. Pitts, its time to trash the script and talk about this stuff. That's what Bill Cosby just did. It might be a good idea to take advantage of that.

So after his standard "its whitey's fault" disclaimer, Pitts actually gets down to adressing the problem:

"Much as some white folk pretend otherwise, racism did not vanish one fine day long ago. It lives, here, now, still. And it is, by definition, not something black people can cure through self-improvement. Racism doesn't care how educated, wealthy or decent you are. It will still call you ignorant, deny you a loan and throw you in jail. It will still give white people unearned advantages on the basis of their whiteness.

And yet, this also is true: For all the woe it brings, racism is not the source of all the ills that beset the African-American underclass. We do not need white people's approval or even their involvement to correct much of what ails us -- to require that our children spend less time with BET and more with BOOK, to reconnect our fathers with their families, to abandon the misbegotten mind-set that equates ignorance and thuggery with authentic blackness."

Mr. Pitts, most of us "white folk" know that racism didn't just vanish one day. In fact, most of us "white folk" know it still exists today. But most of us "white folk" also know that gains in civil rights for blacks in this country were as much the result of "white folk" saying "that's enough" as anything else. So why not drop the racism argument and address the real problems the black community has today? The problems Bill Cosby had the courage to address, out loud, in public.

Cal Thomas (from WaPo reporter Hamil Harris) gives us a few more quotes from the Cosby speech at Howard:

- "I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is the father?"

This isn't a problem of 'racism" ...

- "People putting their clothes on backward: Isn't that a sign of something gone wrong? . . . People with their hats on backward, pants down around the crack, isn't that a sign of something, or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up? Isn't it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up to the crack and got all type of needles (piercing) going through her body? What part of Africa did this come from? We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans; they don't know a d--- thing about Africa."

And this isn't a problem of racism. He's talking about self-inflicted problems here.

- "With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail. Brown versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person's problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. . . . They are standing on the corner and they can't speak English."

Cosby's point is that success is fairly simple ... get an education, learn to speak english properly, get a job and show up on time and do your job to the best of your ability. Dress for success.

These rules really don't care what color you are ... they work for everyone.

But Cosby's most important point is:

"we cannot blame white people . . . ."

Its time to cut it out. Its time, as Cosby points out, to stand up and take responsibility. Its time to drop the crutch which has been used for decades to explain failure.

Gregory Clay of the Knight, Ridder/Tribune News Service says:

"Many black folk probably are surprised because Cosby broke the code; he stepped out of the box. A black person publicly criticizing other blacks, especially those in the lower economic stratum? Come on, no way.

Cosby left no stone unturned, though. He even blasted black athletes. 'We have millionaire football players who can't read,' Cosby groaned. 'We have million-dollar basketball players who can't write two paragraphs.'

Cosby openly chastised some black people for our dirty, little secrets. We are exposed.

To paraphrase a seminal Jack Nicholson movie moment: And many of us just can't handle the truth. Cosby broke the black code."

To paraphrase another seminal quote: "Get over it" ... and address the problems. "Code" or no code, the problems don't go away or solve themselves.

Thomas Sowell sums it up very nicely:

"Bill Cosby and the black 'leadership' represent two long-standing differences about how to deal with the problems of the black community. The 'leaders' are concerned with protecting the image of blacks, while Cosby is trying to protect the future of blacks, especially those of the younger generation.

Far from just bashing blacks, Cosby has given generously to promote black education. But he is still old-fashioned enough to think that others need to take some responsibility for using the opportunities that were gained for them by 'people who marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education' "

Which approach will be the most helpful and enduring for black Americans?

Protecting the "image" or "protecting the future"?

Cliff Huxtable would opt for the latter.

Posted by McQ at 02:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Only In Hollywood

Lightening it up a bit, have you ever noticed, according to Hollywood movies:

  • The ventilation system of any building is the perfect hiding place. No one will ever think of looking for you inside, and you can travel to any other part of the building without difficulty?

  • You're likely to survive any battle of any war unless you make the mistake of showing someone a picture of your sweetheart back home?

  • All beds have special L-shaped cover sheets that reach up to the armpit level on a woman and to waist level on the man lying beside her?

  • If being chased through town you can usually take cover in a passing St. Patrick Day parade any time of the year?

  • All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red readouts so you know exactly when they're going to go off?

  • A detective can solve a case only when he's been suspended from duty?

  • Medieval peasants had perfect teeth?

  • Any person waking from a nightmare will bolt upright and pant?

  • It is always possible to park directly outside any building you are visiting?

  • When paying for a taxi, don't look at your wallet as you take out a bill. Just grab one at random and hand it over. I will always be the exact fare.

    Hat tip to American Legion magazine for those. I remember back in the old days when watching the TV series "Combat", the rule was if there's a guest star, he's a dead man. Seemed to always work out that way.

    Any other "only in Hollywood" contributions?

    Posted by McQ at 12:51 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
  • At least Hussein didn't hold detainees without counsel

    This is why I don't put a lot of stock in the impartiality of groups like Amnesty International.

    The U.S.-led war on terror has produced the most sustained attack on human rights and international law in 50 years, Amnesty International said in its annual report Wednesday.
    More than the Khmer Rouge, more than North Korea, more than the Sudanese wars - all of which have been responsible for the deaths of millions. More than China's Great Leap Forward which killed some 80 million+ people.

    Yes, more than all of those, the war in Iraq, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, and the few hundred detainees at Guantanamo....those are the "most sustained attack on human rights and international law in 50 years".

    Posted by Jon Henke at 11:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    The Story that won't die

    This is getting a bit pathetic. I mean don't the Democrats have anyone appealing enough to 'help' the Kerry ticket?

    Asked after a speech in California on Monday what he thought of Mr. McCain's potential for the Democratic presidential ticket, Mr. Gephardt described him as a "very attractive figure in American politics" who "would be accepted by the Democratic Party," according to CNN. Mr. McCain is "someone a lot of Democrats could get interested in," Mr. Gephardt said at the Leon Panetta Center in Monterrey.

    Now I've heard McCain say, live, that he will not consider being the VP candidate in a Democrat ticket nor is he interested at all in changing parties.

    Yes, yes, I know ... that counts for about as much, coming from a politician, as the owner of a baseball team saying he stands completely behind his embattled manager.

    But it does point to a real "leadership" deficit on the Democrat side of things. Personally I think they should be true to their current ideology and either put Dean or Pelosi on the ticket.

    Posted by McQ at 11:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Defending the indefensible

    Via WashingtonMonthly and Obsidian Wings, we find Trent Lott gunning for irrelevancy. Again. Actually, he begins with a defensible position, which has been misinterpreted...

    "Frankly, to save some American troops' lives or a unit that could be in danger, I think you should get really rough with them," Lott said. "Some of those people should probably not be in prisons in the first place."
    This isn't an endorsement of the kind of prison brutality we saw in Abu Ghraib, it is simply the belief that some extreme circumstances can call for extreme measures. We can agree there. Nobody I know would hesitate to torture a kidnapper, if they needed to find out where their family had been taken and fast. In the case of imminent danger to lives, torture is an option.

    But, that wasn't the case for the prisoners in Abu Ghraib, and Lott doesn't stop there....

    Lott was reminded that at least one prisoner had died at the hands of his captors after a beating.

    "This is not Sunday school," he said. "This is interrogation. This is rough stuff."

    Oh, well, if it isn't Sunday School.....

    Posted by Jon Henke at 11:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Clancy War Critic

    Seems Tom Clancy now feels, "reluctantly", that the war in Iraq was a mistake. He and Gen. Anthony Zinni, the subject of his latest book "Battle Ready" have had this to say:

    Zinni has openly attacked the war, but Clancy reluctantly acknowledged his own concerns. He declined repeatedly to comment on the war, before saying that it lacked a "casus belli," or suitable provocation.

    "It troubles me greatly to say that, because I've met President (George W) Bush," Clancy said. "He's a good guy. ... I think he's well-grounded, both morally and philosophically. But good men make mistakes."

    For Zinni, on the other hand, he just doesn't think the war (and cause) are worth the cost:

    Zinni served as commander in chief of the US Central Command from 1997 to 2000 and as a special Middle East envoy from 2001-2003.

    But even as an envoy, Zinni spoke out against invading Iraq, regarding it as disastrous for Middle East peace and a distraction from the war against terrorism. Today, he said getting rid of Saddam Hussein was not worth the price.

    "He's a bad guy. He's a terrible guy and he should go," Zinni said.

    "But I don't think it's worth 800 troops dead, 4500 wounded - some of them terribly - $US200 billion ($286.8 billion) of our treasury and counting, and our reputation and our image in the world, particularly in that region, shattered."

    Of course we don't get anything more of detail. I'm not sure how he reconciles "he should go" with "its not worth it", but that's his argument. And, as I've mentioned many times, it seems, at times, that critics have forgotten 9/11's ramifications. It has completely changed the conventional international landscape ... forever.

    It appears, and this is speculation based on a very small amount of information, that Zinni is doing a little arm-chair generaling and looking past the strategic implications of leaving Saddam in power and the possible effect on terrorism. It seems he's assumed no connection and no requirement for "good men" to do something even if that something may be unpopular.

    Why do I have the feeling this is more sour-grapes than substance?

    In discussing the Iraq war, both Clancy and Zinni singled out the Department of Defence for criticism.

    Clancy recalled a prewar encounter in Washington during which he "almost came to blows" with Richard Perle, a Pentagon adviser at the time and a longtime advocate of the invasion.

    Me? I'm still foresquare for what we've done, Clancy and Zinni's criticism not withstanding.

    Posted by McQ at 10:54 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Self-defeating tactics of the left

    Eric Fettman makes the point I've been making for a while ... all this Bush-bashing may, in the end, be self-defeating. It seems the left has a very short memory:

    Democrats and their allies don't seem to have absorbed the lessons of the Bill Clinton sex scandal. Because if Watergate taught us that the cover-up can be more deadly than the crime, Monicagate's lesson is that overzealous critics can outweigh even outrageous behavior in the public's mind.

    Bush-bashers along the tripartite axis of New York, Washington and Hollywood are out in full force. And, sounding much like the most rabid of Republican Clinton-haters, they are blaming the president for every conceivable evil in the world.

    Given the heated anti-Bush rhetoric, and the non-stop grind of bad news stories in the national press, you'd think the president should be running 20 points behind John Kerry.

    But he's not.

    Recall that the initial public reaction to news of Clinton's Oval Office dalliances was one of outrage; pundits at the time didn't think he'd last another month in office.

    But Clinton understood the nature of his opposition and decided to tough it out — and the Republicans grew ever-more-extreme and bombastic in their rhetoric. As the months wore on, public perception changed dramatically: Clinton's foes, labelling him the personification of depravity, came to be seen as trying unfairly to hound him out of office.

    The public didn't forgive Clinton. But it came to believe that the anti-Clinton rants did not match the crime — and that the ranters hadn't made the case for removing him from office.

    He also hits upon another bit of history which the left has seem to have forgotten:

    Which brings us to the lessons of that other recent president who inspired great loathing from his ideological opposites: Ronald Reagan.

    The folks in that New York-D.C.-Hollywood axis never understood that, when it came to Reagan, there was another America in the heartland, one that didn't share its view of Reagan as an extremist dolt.

    Bush may not be as beloved out there as was Reagan (no one talks about Dubya Democrats, after all), but he clearly strikes a chord in all those red states that the media folks along both coasts fail to appreciate.

    The only comparison with Reagan is that Bush does indeed connect with people ... something Kerry has yet to accomplish. And, in the long run, the intense, screechy, preachy, vulger and viscious attacks of Bush aren't playing well with the populous. That partially explains why Doctrow was greeted with boos and polls show Bush mostly even after all the bad news.

    The results of the strategy can be seen in a Pew Poll:

    Its poll of 547 journalists across the country shows that fully 55 percent of the national media surveyed believe that the press in general is too soft on President Bush, while only 8 percent believe it too critical of the administration.

    Among the general public, however, 34 percent say the press is too critical of Bush, while only 24 percent say it has not been critical enough.

    In light of the probability of increasing criticism (ala Bill Clinton) I expect the former number to get larger and the latter to become smaller and that might transfer into "decided" votes for Bush.

    Posted by McQ at 10:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    The Reverend Chicken Little

    The sky can't fall on this idiot fast enough...

    Meanwhile, over the weekend, pro-family leaders called on Christians to get involved in the debate over same-sex “marriage” by pushing for the passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment.

    "I am not exaggerating when I say the next 12 to 18 months will likely determine not only the future of this country, but of Western Civilization," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said.

    On one hand, I hate that people still think like this, and I hate that this rhetoric represents such a large faction of the religious crowd.

    On the other hand, the more Dobson talks like this, the faster he will marginalize his faction. And the faster they marginalize themselves, the sooner the libertarians will become an influence on the Republican Party again.

    One more....

    Traditional marriage, Dobson said, cannot "co-exist with homosexual 'marriage.' It will destroy the family."
    No explanation is given for exactly how this will happen. No transmission mechanism is given to describe the Marriage of Mass Destruction. There are a great many snarky remarks I could make, but I think I'll go with Jesse Taylor's commentary on this....
    Why do so many religious conservatives think that Western Civilization is so fragile? Western Civilization managed to persevere through plague, famine, depression, war, slavery, etc. And although it still has its flaws, it's made definite improvements. Hitler didn't destroy Western Civilization. The Soviet Union didn't destroy Western Civilization. Bill Clinton's penis, the real-life surrogate for the Ultimate Nullifier, didn't destroy Western Civilization. But these people are going to do what the others couldn't?

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:22 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Meteorologist Rob McKenna reporting...

    James Joyner...

    What’s with local stations pre-empting broadcasts of network shows to give me weather reports? I sort of understood it when I lived in Alabama and we had a heavy tornado season, but even then I thought it was assinine. Let me know if there are any new developments but don’t turn the tornado report into a two-hour program wherein you send your idiot junior woodchuck “meterologist” outside to get his hair blown around interviewing morons who are outside in bad weather.
    The idiots running the DC CBS affiliate have this week ruined the only two (non-NFL football) shows I watch on that network with thunderstorm warnings. It’s raining? What precisely am I supposed to do with the information? For one thing, I already know it’s raining. For another, if I’m inside watching television, I’m probably reasonably safe from lightning strikes whereas, conversely, if I’m in a location where I’m in significant danger of being struck by lightning, I’m unlikely to be watching television.
    I'll vouch for that. When I lived in Alabama for a year some time ago, I noted the same phenomenon. The TV and Radio stations all became barking mad at the sight of rain. It wasn't "raining" - it was "Thunderstorms!!! Stay here for up to the minute information!!!"

    And that seems to hold true for many areas. I think I can offer a bit of insight here. Television stations gets quite a lot of their revenue from their News broadcasts, which depend a great deal of their reputation for being timely and frequent with information. So, relatively inconsequential local news often preempts more (to you) important regularly scheduled shows.

    To be more specific, though, research indicates the major reason people give for tuning in to local news is "weather". So, to capitalize on that valuation, consultants generally tell their clients to highlight their weather staff and weather segments, to promote it throughout the day, and - for the meteorologists - to give the weather a sense of "urgency".

    So, you end up with long, boring weather segments when there is no inclement weather, because they believe they have to "own the weather image" - and when there is weather news, they hype it to create a sense of urgency in the audience; a feeling that you NEED to keep watching to find out about this Serious Weather Event. Plus, weather forecasts get sponsorships.

    In short, the emphasis on weather is simply a marketing (and revenue-enhancing) manuever. Follow the money.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


    (Via RantingProfs) This story about the US redoubling efforts to get Musab al-Zarqawi contains a pretty big sub-story...

    According to the official, Zarqawi had direct ties to the millennium bombing plot of December 1999 to blow up buildings in Jordan, Israel and the United States. The group leader of the millennium plot was said to be acting on direct orders from Zarqawi.

    During the 1990s, Zarqawi trained under bin Laden in Afghanistan. After the fall of the Taliban, he fled to northwestern Iraq and worked with poisons for use in potential attacks, officials say.

    During the summer of 2002, he underwent nasal surgery at a Baghdad hospital, officials say. They mistakenly originally thought, however, that Zarqawi had his leg amputated due to an injury.

    In late 2002, officials say, Zarqawi began establishing sleeper cells in Baghdad and acquiring weapons from Iraqi intelligence officials.

    So that's, let's see...
    ...a high-ranking associate of Bin Laden.
    ...who was behind attempted attacks inside the United States.
    ...and was operating from within Iraq.
    ...including sleeper cells in Baghdad.
    ...which acquired weapons directly from Hussein's Intelligence agency. 2002. Before the war.

    Does that qualify as "links to Al Qaeda"?

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:10 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Duck and Cover

    Had to know this was coming....

    U.S. officials have obtained new intelligence deemed highly credible indicating al-Qaida or other terrorists are in the United States and preparing to launch a major attack this summer, The Associated Press has learned.
    Assume I've already written the usual stuff about "have to pay attention to every threat, never know when it could happen, etc".

    Unfortunately, 9/11 has given terrorists a new power. They can do absolutely nothing, and have nearly as much effect as if they were operating at full tilt. In fact, my fear now is that Al Qaeda has recognized this and is content to spend a few years making us run on a counter-terror hamster-wheel.

    Think of it: there's no need to endanger operatives, make plans, spend money - just make some background noise now and then, and watch the US go into overdrive, spending billions in an effort to stop........rumors.

    The US will allocate resources to fight internal terrorism, rather than external, proactive action against terror groups. Those groups get both time and cover to regroup and plan. And best of all, from their perspective, it costs them next to nothing. If Al Qaeda has turned its attention towards more domestic problems in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, this approach could solve some of their problems if we turn inwards in response.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 06:33 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    May 25, 2004

    The Military mirror

    Eliot Cohen has a piece in the Washington Post which definitely bears reading. It has to do with our military ... and reality. I am a huge pro-military supporter myself, having spent most of my life in and around the Army. But I recognize what some people don't seem to understand .... the military is no different, in most cases, than any other large organization in this country in terms of its people. Its people are a product of their society and learn most of their mores and values before they become soldiers.

    Cohen puts it very well:

    I agree with the fact that the military goes to extraordinary lengths to winnow out the latter and keep the former. And for the most part they're quite successful. But sometimes you don't know you have a "liar" or "petty tyrant" or "coward" or "brute" until there's stress and pressure applied ... oh, and opportunity. And like the rest of society, these 'types' know themselves much better than anyone else and have a tendency to gravitate toward areas which will enable their moral weakness or hide it.


    That is the lesson to be learned about Abu Gharib and it is the point that has been made on this blog repeatedly ... Abu Gharib was as much a failure in leadership as it was a case of abuse. The abuse doesn't happen if leadership is up to its task. In the case of Abu Gharib, it wasn't.

    Cohen also makes a point about the difference between civilian life and military life and why the military is different and must be:

    The last point Cohen makes is also important:

    Tillman made us proud. Graner has made us ashamed. We want a society which is more likely to produce a Tillman than a Graner. Neither learned their ways in the military ... both where who they were when they entered the military ... and we should never forget that.

    Posted by McQ at 03:13 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    Why would we want to defer to the UN?

    It has perhaps become obvious to some readers of this blog that I am not a big fan of the UN. Its not that I don't think a body of nations has no utility, its just that I think the UN is so poorly conceived and corrupt that IT has no utility.

    Then I read stories like this and it just convinces me I'm correct:

    Now someone tell me, after the national self-flagellation we've put ourselves through over Abu Gharib, why aren't we equally as mad about the exploitation of young mothers by UN "peace-keeping" troops in the Congo?

    Disgusting and pitiful, but no one has done anything about this despite, per the report, knowing about it for some time:

    Naturally the UN is now interested in "investigating" these charges:

    Of course we've all seen the power of "all available sanctions" when applied by the UN, haven't we? I was also interested to see that the head of the UN there, Ms. McAdams "believes" there was sexual violence, but has "yet to see any evidence."

    Fine, Ms. McAdams ... then restrict the troops, close the holes in the fence and feed the mothers and children in Bunia ... but for heaven's sake do something for a change instead of, like is the wont of most of the UN, simply talking it to death. Take some action instead of ignoring it like the UN is ignoring Sudan.

    Final question: Why in the world do we want this dismal organization anywhere near Iraq?

    Posted by McQ at 02:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Media Misfire

    Jason Van Steenwyk takes the international media to task on some, at best, very sloppy reporting, and at worst some deliberate mischaracterization. Surprisingly, the Washington Post got it right.

    Good work Jason!

    Posted by McQ at 02:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    A Big Bet

    David Brooks comments in the New York Times that George W. Bush is gambling his presidency, and the short-term fate of the nation, on a peculiarly American idea: the idea that everyone wants freedom.

    We tested that belief at the end of World War II in Germany and Japan, creating democratic states in both places that have weathered every storm thrown at them for the past sixty years. And so the Bush Administration believes that we can do the same in Iraq.

    And why shouldn't they believe it? That is, after all, the American Orthodoxy. All men are created equal, with certain inalienable rights, etc., etc.

    The trouble is that we don't really know if it's true. I sure seems to be if you look at the example of post-communist Europe. Or the increasingly less Red China. And so, we hope that the yearning for freedom is a universal human desire.

    But, we really don't know for sure. Perhaps the Iraqis will feel that religious allegiance means more to them than political pluralism. We simply don't know.

    And, so, George W. Bush is doing the political equivalent of putting it all on 17, and spinning the wheel.

    And, frankly, it's a gutsy move. As John Pohoretz points out, Bush, faced with bad polls and incipient panic in his own party, looked the country in the eye last night and decided to stand pat. If he loses, he loses it all. But if Iraq turns out like he predicts, not only will he win, the election will become a Bush lanslide.

    This tells me at least one good thing. It means that people are identifying with the importance of our success in Iraq. And they think it's important enough to jettison Bush over it if he doesn't appear to be getting it done. This implies that a President Kerry [shudder] would have to toe a fairly thin line in his policy there, too. We've invested too much in blood and treasure to simply shrug our shoulders and walk away, Kennedy walking away from Chappaquiddick.

    Posted by at 12:37 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    Even MOORE Mendacity

    Our boy Michael Moore continues to pile up the "credentials" in the lying department. According to Fred Barnes, Moore claims to have interviewed him by phone concerning some remarks Barnes made on the "McGlaughlin Group" once concerning education and specifically Barnes' mention of "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey":

    For whatever reason, this will probably bolster his standing on the left ... and in France.

    Posted by McQ at 11:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    The Boo Birds sing

    Peggy Noonan tells us about an incident at the Hofstra University commencement that had the commencement speaker all but booed off the stage.

    The speaker? E.L. Doctrow. The reason he was booed? A Bush bashing speech. Obviously he miscalculated rather spectacularly:

    I'm sure he was surprised. This, of course, wasn't his usual crowd of sycophants and hanger's-on. They were graduates ... and their parents. My guess, however, is their booing was as much at the inappropriateness of the speech as it was the content.

    As Noonan points out:

    Doctrow's rant was inappropriate. As a Hofstra official noted "he violated the unwritten code that college commencement speeches should inspire and unite a student body." One would think someone that "gifted" and "smart" would know and understand that.

    But be that as it may, he felt obligated and able to violate that unwritten code.

    I'd bet there's an unwritten code about booing a commencement speaker as well. I'm glad the graduates and parents at the event felt just as obligated and able to return violation for violation.

    Posted by McQ at 11:46 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    The thin Black-Gold line

    I don't often disagree with Arnold Kling, but I think he leaves out an important part of the calculation here....

    The policy pundits cannot seem to agree on the best approach for handling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). John Kerry and other Democrats have proposed releasing some oil from the SPR in order to provide some relief to motorists stung by high gasoline prices. A Wall Street Journal editorial derides this as "grandstanding," saying that, "The U.S. strategic oil reserve has the serious purpose of ensuring oil supplies in the event of a threat to national security. It is not the play-toy of politicians...We were glad to see Mr. Bush declare yesterday that he won't touch the SPR."

    My own view is closest to that of Taylor and Van Doren. It should be the responsibility of the private sector, not the government, to obtain insurance against oil market disruptions. The SPR has introduced government into the oil market as a destabilizing speculator.

    Well, yes, the government should not stock the SPR as a defense against price-changes. And further, the government should not empty the SPR as a means of combatting rising prices.

    But that's not why it exists. The SPR does not really exist for Market exists for National Security. Or, to be more specific, yes, it exists to ensure market security, but only insofar as functioning markets are vital to our national security.

    We're not stockpiling oil against a day when oil prices get uncomfortably high, but against a day when oil costs get uncomftorably high. (i.e., - when the cost of buying oil becomes so high that we must sacrifice national security to obtain it...or go without)

    Posted by Jon Henke at 11:38 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Ted Kennedy's Moral Relativism

    It appears that in Ted Kennedy's remorseless attack on the Bush administration, no statement is too outrageous to make if the desired result is Bush's defeat.

    Torture chambers? Hardly. Abusive treatment of prisoners? Yes. No question. But no shredders, no meat hooks, no summary executions, rapes or severing of limbs in front of families. No mass graves to dispose of the evidence.

    Jeff Jacoby characterizes the remark and its moral relativism quite well:

    Jacoby then asks, where's the outrage over such a statement?

    It goes back to the double-standard we've all become accustomed too. There's no question that Democrats would have been outraged had the administration in power been Democrat and the person making such a statement a Republican.

    It may have been muted because Kennedy's now such a caricature of himself, or it could be because he's been making ill informed and outrageous statements for so long its no longer considered news.

    But it should be noted that he certainly speaks for a portion of this population. And it should be additionally noted that the people of Massachusettes continue to elect this buffoon repeatedly ... which says something about them as well.

    I'l be very glad when this pathetic, pandering pitchman for the extreme left shuffles off to retirement or defeat. But until then his nonsense should be noted and condemned for what it is --- blatant Anti-Americanism.

    And yes, Ted Kennedy ... I AM questioning your patriotism.

    Posted by McQ at 10:51 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    Prevailing Wage

    Elliot Fladen writes on the Prevailing Wage laws, which are becoming a problem in California....

    Never heard of Prevailing Wage Law? If you are a concerned citizen, you maybe should research it. It is a major reason why public projects cost so much. In times of yesteryear, many states enacted laws designed "to protect" the workers in the labor market from distortions that would be wrought through cheap government labor. To do so, many states and the federal government (the latter for its own projects) mandate that workers be paid the "prevailing market wage". Sounds great, right? The government has a lot of bargaining power, and this is just a law to ensure that workers are just being paid what they are worth, eh? Perhaps not...
    Prevailing Wage laws are simply another form of price controls, though, unlike many price controls, they work to keep prices artificially high.

    Now, there is certainly a valid argument to be made that the government should not be using its obvious advantages to undercut the market. Hey, if you can eliminate competition, lose money without ever going out of business, pay no taxes, have the right of eminent domain, and borrow at preferential can distort the market and render the price mechanism fairly meaningless. (see: the Post Office)

    So, it's important for the government to either compete on an even keel, or stay out of the market entirely, if we want wages to represent actual value. Elliot lists 3 problems with the Prevailing Wage laws...

    (1) the prevailing wage is likely and often is significantly higher than the actual market wage
    (2) workers on government projects might not be as deserving of even the market wage
    (3) it could increase not only the cost, but the number of governmental projects.
    The first two get to the heart of the price mechanism: without a properly functioning price mechanism, we are almost certain to misallocate resources; to "give away" money - or, to put it another way, we will create a surplus of labor. (i.e., unemployment)

    But that potential and unecessary unemployment isn't the only problem. When the market clearing wage is exceeded and there is a labor surplus, there will also be a productivity shortage. Stuff won't get done.

    Under a recent ruling by California's Department of Industrial Relations, the environmental group Heal the Bay will now have to pay all its volunteers the prevailing wage because under amendments to the California Labor Code pushed during the Gray Davis administration, receiving governmental assistance turns construction (defined loosely) into a "public works project."
    It's hard to illustrate the problem with government economic intervention more clearly than this. Something needs done, and some people want to do it - but the government prohibits them from doing it unless they are paid more than the task is worth.

    Do I need to point out how wasteful that is? Elliot describes the Prevailing Wage issue in a bit more detail. Read it here.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 09:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    The Five Steps

    President Bush gave us 5 steps to putting Iraq on its feet and on the path to independence and democracy. In short form, extracted from his speech, they are:

    Of course the devil is in the details and the execution of those details, but Bush warned:

    It will not be easy. It will be messy and we will see an upsurge in violence as we head inevitably toward June 30. As mentioned in another post, terrorists in general and al Queda specifically, have learned how to time headline grabbing events so they have maximum media impact. Here lately they've been able to cede that to us with the Abu Gharib debacle taking hours of network time and miles of newsprint. But rest assured the close we get to June 30, the more those who oppose an independent Iraq will dial up the violence and outrages.

    Step 1, the June 30 handover, is a critical part of this plan. Previously I wondered about the timing (is it too soon, etc.). I'm absolutely convinced, now, that it is imperative that Iraqis begin to assume responsiblity for their country and the sooner the better. It is my opinion that it will drive many Iraqis from the sidelines and into taking charge of their lives and the life of their country.

    Which takes us to step 2 ... security. Again, we can do that or they can do that. Which do you suppose will be the most effective? In the long run there's no question. In the short run we'll see huge problems with a green force that's most likely going to be heavily infiltrated with enemies of the US and and independent Iraq. But that will eventually shake itself out. We, the US, have to stay the course, do the best training possible to get them ready, and then step back and let them take full responsibility for their own security.

    Step 3 is already under way, although reports of this part of the plan are scarce. One hopes that with Bush verbalizing this it will get more coverage than it now gets. Such coverage would give a progress report that's more positive and hopeful. The question is will anyone pay attention to the good news?

    Step 4, believe it or not, is probably the most difficult to attain. And, frankly, I'm still not convinced it will provide any added utility. "International support" is a code phrase for European support. We aren't seeking Togo or Ghana's support ... we're seeking support from France and Germany. And as France and Germany go, so goes the UN. Its an attempt to put an veneer of "acceptance" on Iraq, and I wonder, given the anti-American sentiment now rampant in those two countries (and the UN), whether that's really a possibility. While "step 4" might be desireable politically, I don't think its a show stopper if it doesn't become reality.

    Step 5 puts an "end-game" date on the situation. That doesn't mean we pack up and go home, but it should mean a significant reduction in our presence. We'll have to see whether the date given is "ambitious" or valid based on progress after the 30 June hand-over.

    All in all, I like the fact that Bush gave a plan and, in essence a time-table. It remains to be seen if both are overly optimistic or on target. But regardless it will certainly give us a template for measuring our progress in meeting those 5 steps.

    UPDATE (McQ): Oh, and to Bush's speech writers, for heaven sake, he's standing before the Army War College and uses a incorrect army unit designation? " 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment". No such thing boys and girls. Its the 2nd ARMORED Cavalry Regiment.


    Posted by McQ at 08:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Far More Important

    No commentary from me on President Bush's speech last night. I didn't watch it. Not for lack of interest, mind you....I just had more important demands for my attention.

    My 2-year old son, Alex, and I were playing on the bed shortly before his bedtime. He was jumping up and down, I was occassionally tackling and tickling him. You know, the usual father/son stuff. Unfortunately, he jumped a bit too far, and absolutely clocked his mouth on the wooden frame of the bed. The blow drove his teeth into his lower lip and created a huge gash, and quite a lot of blood.

    There's not much in the world as difficult as seeing your own child bleed.

    So, he spent the next hour in a lot of pain, and I spent the next hour doing what Dad can do. Which isn't much. Hold him, tell him he'll be ok, tell him you know it ouches, try to give him ice - when that fails, let him have a bottle; just generally be there and feel terrible.

    Over the course of the next couple hours, he progressed from crying, to whimpering, to stoic silence, to tired good-humor. And finally, to bed.

    So, if I have nothing to say about President Bush's speech, you'll understand. Last night, The World took a backseat to my world, and all the Iraqs in the world didn't compare to one boys bloody lip.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:07 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    Global Warming: The Movie!

    Can somebody explain to me how a movie about a storm that "happens once every 10,000 years" can be about human-induced global warming? I mean, if it's going to happen every 10,000 years anyway, shouldn't Al Gore be out doing spin-outs with Ralph Nader in their 8mpg Corvairs? I mean, if it's gonna happen anyway, what the hell.

    And yet, Al Gore lends credibility to this movie?

    Former Vice President Al Gore sees it another way. "This is a rare opportunity to have a national conversation," he says.
    Compare and contrast with Al Gore, circa January 2004....
    And wealthy right-wing ideologues have joined with the most cynical and irresponsible companies in the oil, coal and mining industries to contribute large sums of money to finance pseudo-scientific front groups that specialize in sowing confusion in the public’s mind about global warming.
    Gore translated: "It's not bad's our bad science."

    Posted by Jon Henke at 06:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    May 24, 2004

    A Marine's message to his dad

    I enjoy reading these sorts of reports. This is an email from a Marine in or around Fallujah to his dad commenting on what's going on. Some interesting stuff, stuff you rarely hear about here. For instance:


    Interesting comments about the enemy and the media:

    Most heartening though is what he tells us of the young Marines there. Typical of this is this:

    Read the whole thing if you have a chance. Its long, but its worth the read. It gives you a little appreciation for some "ground truth" to counter the doom and gloom of which you are fed a steady diet through the media.

    Hat tip to Blackfive.

    Posted by McQ at 03:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    The Double-Standard Mambo

    John Leo points to something which has been plaguing political discourse in this country for years:

    These sorts of double standards do nothing to elevate or add to political discussions in this country. They're standards of convenience based on politics and power (or the pursuit thereof). If its helpful to your political cause, then its either right or wrong, depending on which will help. But 4 years later the same situation is now viewed and decried in the opposite manner since it now hurts your political opponent and helps your candidate.

    Meanwhile many sit on the sidelines shaking their heads while watching this charade and listening to those perpetrating it talk about "honor", "truth" and "being straight with the American people".

    In a pig's eye.

    And it isn't just something the left does:

    I never felt Reno should have gone over Waco (although I think it should have gotten much a closer examination than it did ... like the anal exam Abu Ghraib is getting (and btw, John Leo, Rumsfeld didn't "sit" on Abu Ghraib for months)). But his point is valid. If what Reno did in accepting responsiblity for Waco was good enough for Republicans to be howling for her head and demanding her resignation, why in the world isn't Abu Ghraib good enough for the same sort of howling and demanding from the left?

    Responsiblity, after all, is responsiblity.

    We could all come up with literally hundereds of examples on both sides.

    Double-standards, it seems, are applied every time the power changes in DC and the "in's" become the "out's. " Politics as usual in the good old US of A.

    Posted by McQ at 02:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    The UN's disgraceful "role"

    Nat Hentoff reminds us again why reliance on the UN in just about any sphere, is an exercise in futility:

    The entity which demands it be the final arbiter of who goes where and what gets done in the world calmly sits by again and watches genocide being committed. Its reaction? Well, let's bring it up again in June and talk about it.

    Rwanda wasn't enough, apparently, to actually galvanize the UN into actually taking action before prehaps another million lives are lost. No lesson learned there ...nor in Kosovo or Bosnia or, of course, Iraq.

    So ... why should we think the Sudan will be any different?

    Just asking.

    Posted by McQ at 02:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Don't you wave that flag!

    James Lileks informs us that per the UK's Sunday Telegram the USOC has told American athletes to cool it with the flag waving in Athens this summer:

    "Jingoistic behavior"? Tell me ... is it only "jingoistic" if the US team waves a flag? Is jingoism strictly an American fault?

    Of course Lileks is none to happy about it and takes a look at it in his own inestimable way:

    But we all know that it doesn't take much for anti-Americanism to surface ... and frankly, its now considered to be cool with many European nations. I can't recall the reporter, but recently I read a story about a trip an American made to Iran to guage how Iranians felt about the US. He said he was very cordially treated everywhere he went and was only verbally abused one time while in a cafe talking with some Iranian students.

    The abusers were a table full of Germans.

    The Olympics should add to a very "interesting" summer. Lileks, however, puts it all into perspective for us:

    Life's strange and bizarre little ironies, eh?

    Posted by McQ at 02:10 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Moore Mendacity?

    Was anyone surprised when a panel of judges from Hollywood "voted" to give the "Golden Palm" at Cannes to Michael Moore's piece of agitprop?

    Yeah, me either.

    But I was struck by a Chrisopher Hitchens quote found in a Jim Nolan piece in "The Australian" where Hitchens is discussing Moore:

    I must say, I got a chuckle out of that. Nail. Head.

    Nolan also makes a pretty good point when he says:

    With Michael Moore, the term "documentary" has been redefined. Its no longer a unwavering, unvarnished and unbiased accounting of facts, its now political theater. Reality is optional. "Facts" are maleable. Bias is inheret. I would submit that anyone who would see his latest and considers it to be a "documentary" as formerly defined, would fit quite neatly into the Hitchen's description of the stereotypical American of "sophisticated Europeans".

    Posted by McQ at 01:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Media savvy? Or savvy media?

    Well, this is a fine how-do-you-do....

    The broadcast networks are not expected to carry President Bush’s primetime speech Monday night, in which he will lay out a “clear strategy” for the future of Iraq.
    Anybody else find it odd that, after months of agitating for "a plan" and complaining that the President wasn't being forthright with the American people, none of the majors will be carrying the speech?

    To either clear this up, or confuse matters...(depending on how you look at it)

    The Bush administration has not requested the Big Four to air live the president’s address...scheduled for 8 p.m. EDT on the last Monday of the May sweep, a crucial period when networks chase high ratings in order to set ad rates.
    If this speech is so vital, you'd think the administration would have asked for time. Or, at least they wouldn't schedule the speech during a time when they can be fairly sure the networks will avoid it.

    My first reaction was: "liberal media!" On further reflection, though, this may be an intentional move on the part of the Bush campaign. After all, with rare exceptions, Bush is not highly regarded for his speeches. Perhaps they are testing the waters without the high drama of speech seen in every American living room.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 12:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Blog Rolling

    *** Jane Galt Mindles H. Dreck finds a pretentious academic twit...

    Sigh. the anthropologist wears blinders
    That's an interesting question: should a public intellectual have the right to be a right-winger? Actually, I don't even know how to respond to that. By definition, one thinks of public intellectuals as critics of power.
    One more small knife in the back of open-mindedness in academia. I'm sure right-leaning faculty everywhere are waiting for his permission.
    Question: If John Kerry wins the election, do public intellectuals have to renounce their liberal tendencies? Because, you know, how can you be a liberal critic of power if a liberal is President?

    Oh, and if he's serious about criticizing power, can we expect this "Public Intellectual" to join the Libertarian movement? I'm just asking. But it's really a rhetoric question.

    *** At Obsidian Wings, Sebastian Holsclaw has an interesting post on recent assertions that our entry into the Middle East is "playing into bin Laden's plans".....

    It is an uncommonly silly idea.

    This is the Western/Che concept of terrorism to provoke overreach. It has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. Bin Laden has said time and time again that America's big crime is in its intervention in the Middle East. His beef with the West is that our presence tempts Allah's followers into sin. He hates that Western troops protected Saudi Arabia from Saddam. He thinks that the Jews ought to be expelled from Israel as part of an effort to reclaim all lands ever held by Islamic power. His whole plan is about getting the West OUT of the Middle East. Look at his recent offer to Europe. He will agree to stop bombing them if they agree to get OUT of the Middle East. Bombing the WTC wasn't about tricking the US into Afghanistan. He believed that we were so weak that we would not attack him in retaliation.

    Now, I agree with Sebastian that this is a wrong-headed idea. But - and I don't have the time to look for it now - I seem to recall some statement by Bin Laden about drawing us into a war in which the Muslim world would rise up against us. Does anybody else recall that?

    Clearly, if that was his plan, it has failed miserably.

    *** This piece from Dean Esmay probably deserves more fleshing out than I'll give it here, but I want to note it...

    [Politicians] distort and manipulate. Both parties are equally to blame for it, and the root cause of it is not dishonesty but because the way the rules are set up, and the way citizens have traditionally had access to information, it is virtually required that you put the most positive possible spin on your own record and the most negative possible on your opponent's--and the game's been set like that for so long there's almost no getting around it.
    While partisans from all sides are perfectly willing to go on at great (and tedious) length about what liars their opponents are, I don't see much evidence that one side is significantly more or less guilty.

    Call it "lying", "selective editing", or "spin"....I think we've probably gotten ourselves into a situation wherein neither Party can win without it. Anybody can game the system by simply plying the information streams with the right amount of spin - and the resulting loss of credibility will generally be outweighed by the comensurate gains among the majority of people who just don't pay that much attention.

    I'm sure our (mostly) Rightwing readers are wondering right about now how I could believe that Republicans are as guilty of this spin as "those horrible, lying Democrats!". I'd recommend trying to read as much from the left side of the aisle as from the right....and try to treat both sides with the same skepticism.

    If you still believe we can divide up partisans into "Democrats/Fools/Liars" and "Republicans/Good people" (or vice versa), then it's going to be hard for you to ever engage in political discourse. I know I wouldn't want to deal with somebody who assumes I am morally/intellectually deficient based on my political beliefs.

    *** The Commissar has a new BlogoMap up, this time of "Kablogh, the holy city of the Ri'ight sect". We occupy the QandO Canal. (and we will defend it to the death! Or until lunch! Whatever!)

    *** INDC Journal has passed the 100,000 visitor mark in about 4 months. As Jimmy from Suburban Sundries Shack writes, Bill is "the premier moonbatologist on the web". Yes, he is a veritable Jacques Cousteau of the fringe. Congratulations.

    *** While I miss CointelPro Tool a great deal, I must admit, its deathbed incarnation is....interesting. What do you suppose he can bench press. Come on, what do you think? Take a guess. 315 pounds, maxing out at 400! (inside; if you get it, god bless)

    Posted by Jon Henke at 11:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Chalobbying for Iran

    First, a disclaimer: the allegations that Chalabi has been working for/spying for/funneling disinformation for Iran all along have me....discomfited. Personal ambition for power I could understand, but a servant of the Iranian theocracy? I see neither his own percentage, nor that of the Iranians. Sure, they Saddam was their enemy, but he was no longer any serious threat to them....he was militarily defanged. He was the best of all possible Iranian enemies: one who could not afford to attack Iran.

    And while they may still have wanted him gone in the hope they could agitate the Iraqis toward a theocracy, it's hard to see why they would want the United States to do the job. Not only would they not care for the idea of our tanks on their border, we clearly don't have the same goals for Iraq as do the Iranian Mullahs.

    And further, why does the evidence of Chalabi's wrongdoing come from Jordan's intelligence service? If the story is to be that we are being misled by false intelligence reports, why is this one - hardly from a dispassionate observer - more credible? I'm not saying it is not credible...just asking "what to believe?"

    With all of that said, note this....

    When disclaiming a working relationship with Tehran, it's probably best not to have the operative in question flee to Iran.

    UPDATE: Kevin Drum has an absolutely invaluable, link-filled Ahmed Chalabi timeline. As he writes: "Bottom line: practically every group that has ever worked with Chalabi has eventually felt betrayed by him".

    I've long been uncomfortable with Chalabi, but I thought he may be a useful tool. Turns out, he's just a tool.

    UPDATE II: Robert Tagorda has a more, concluding "his scheme proved to be more sophisticated, elaborate, and manipulative", than Tagorda had previously assumed.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:59 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Air America

    While I like Captain Ed's "Err America" nomenclature, I don't think the latest New York Arbitron ratings are evidence that the whole thing is doomed. LeatherPunguin writes...

    First, a few points:

    1: Technically, these are not what is commonly called "Arbitrons". They are "Arbitrends" - i.e., monthly trend updates. Arbitron compiles the latest (unweighted) monthly diary results and shows each Arbitron subscriber the 3-month trend.

    It's hard to judge the trend, though, based on the numbers LeatherPenguin presents. We really have no idea what the latest month looked like, or what the dropped month looked like. For example, they may be trending up sharply, but if they dropped a very good month, it would show little/no change.

    2: In addition, the only numbers we can see (as non-NYC Arb subsribers) are 12+. Everybody enjoys 12+ bragging rights, but in terms of success, 12+ numbers are unimportant. What matters is station performance within their target demographic. (i.e., 18-34p; 25-54m; etc)

    3: Even so, this Arbitrend does not represent an Air America trend. Bear in mind, they didn't launch until March 31st. The Arbitrend in question is February/March/April - only the last month (which we cannot see) consists of Air America programming.

    4: Even if Air America maintains a #24, 1.something share, that is not an untenable position. One can make a profit in NYC with numbers like that, especially if they are syndicating their programming elsewhere. And they are. Economies of scale, you know.

    For example, WFAN - ranked well down the list - "has long been among the highest-billing radio stations in the country".

    With all that in mind, here are the 12+ Spring '04 Arbitrends for New York City...
    (My apologies about the formatting - MT seems to reformat everything regardless of what it looks like when I put it in)

    Posted by Jon Henke at 06:46 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    May 23, 2004

    Economic Perceptions: (Or: In the long run, half of us are dead)

    This poll result is interesting....

    For you and your family, does it feel like the economy is getting better or worse?

    Date- - -Better- - -Worse- - -(Same)- - -(Not sure)
    May 04 - - 31% - - - 49 - - - - 17 - - - - - 3
    Dem- - - - 11% - - - 72 - - - - 14 - - - - - 3
    Rep - - - - 59% - - - 20 - - - - 18 - - - - - 3
    Ind- - - - - 27% - - - 47 - - - - 23 - - - - - 3

    Note the disparity between the Democrats and the Republicans perception of the economy. Economic conditions are certainly not dependent upon Party affiliation. The unemployment rate is 5.6% - statistically average - so it's hard to believe personal unemployment could account for the personal economic dissatisfaction of 72% of Democrats.

    So, what is it? Frankly, I can think of two things that would lead to such a wide disparity between Party perceptions of the economy: rhetoric and selection bias.

    Democrats will tend to listen to Democrats to get an impression of the economy. At this point, Democrats are complaining about it, because (of course) they have to do so to win the election. Thus, they ignore just about every major economic statistic - and even the OECD is pointing out that the US "economy has already been growing well above potential - in favor of carefully selected, often misleading or incorrect, Scare Stats (See Kerry: "the gap between White and Latino homeownership has increased by seven percent")

    To illustrate, I offer anecdotal evidence. I spoke to a very liberal friend recently. While discussing the economy, he suggested we were suffering "record high levels of unemployment". Huh?!?! I was shocked, to say the least. So, I pulled up the BLS stats, and showed him that the current levels were perfectly average over the past 15 years, and very very low compared to previous post-recessionary periods.

    He had no idea. And he had no idea because of his news selection bias.

    I suspect the results would be much the same for a similar survey done in 1996, with Republicans Very Concerned about the state of the economy, which they hear is doing Very Badly.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Blogger Quiz

    Saw this elsewhere, and it looks interesting, so I thought I'd participate....

    1. Which political party do you typically agree with? I differ with both a great deal, but, insofar as I do agree with any Party, I most often agree with the Libertarian and Republican Parties.

    2. Which political party do you typically vote for? In recent years, the Libertarian Party. I'm still not sure about the future.

    3. List the last five presidents that you voted for? Harry Browne, Bob Dole, Bush 41 (Prior to that, I was too young to vote)

    4. Which party do you think is smarter about the economy? Is "none of the above" an option? When the GOP was genuinely conservative, I would have said "Republicans". That no longer seems to be true. Meanwhile, the Democrats seem to have no economic ideas except "take money from rich people and give money to the poor". It seems like I've heard that idea before....

    5. Which party do you think is smarter about domestic affairs? Libertarians, since they recognize the free-market value of liberty and (unlike either the Democrats or Republicans) apply it consistently.

    6. Do you think we should keep our troops in Iraq or pull them out? Keep them in Iraq.

    7. Who, or what country, do you think is most responsible for 9/11? Other than Afghanistan, no country can be directly tied to 9/11, except inasmuch as some individuals in that country were supportive of it. While many Saudis were supportive of 9/11, it was not government policy. That, it seems to me, is the problem with an act like 9/11. It's hard to strike back when there are Non-State actors, so we have to strike back at States which indirectly create the conditions in which terrorism is born and supported.

    8. Do you think we will find weapons of mass destruction in iraq? Minor traces, and the odd shell? Yes. Stockpiles? No.

    9. Yes or no, should the u.s. legalize marijuana? Yes.

    10. Do you think the republicans stole the last presidental election? No.

    11. Do you think bill clinton should have been impeached because of what he did with monica lewinski? The question is nonsense. He was not impeached because of "what he did with Monica Lewinsky". He was impeached because of what he did under oath.

    On that topic, I'm torn. While he was guilty of lying under oath, it's hard to work out exactly why that was sufficiently important to justify....well, anything that happened subsequently. On the one hand, it was absolutely not enough to remove him from office. On the know, "high crimes and misdemeanors". The law is the law.

    In the end, I'd say that what happened to him was appropriate poetic justice for the lies he told. But "poetic justice" is not nearly important enough to justify the storm it created. The Republicans were wrong to pursue it.

    12. Do you think hillary clinton would make a good president? No.

    13. Name a current democrat who would make a great president: Hm....relatively speaking, I think Joe Lieberman or Joseph Biden would be credible. Zell Miller, too, but that may be cheating a bit.

    14. Name a current republican who would make a great president: Under wartime circumstances, John McCain. Other than that, to be honest, I haven't really followed the up-and-coming crop of Republican candidates.

    15. Do you think that women should have the right to have an abortion? I studiously try to avoid this topic, except to point out that both sides of the debate are talking past each other. If one assumes that a fetus is a human life, then of course abortion is murder. If one does not, then of course it's not murder. Until both sides can speak the same language, I see little reason to weigh in.

    16. What religion are you? I try to avoid this question, too.

    17. Have you read the Bible all the way through? No.

    18. What's your favorite book? A few:
    1: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series: Douglas Adams.
    2: Foundation Trilogy: Isaac Asimov.
    3: Lord of the Rings trilogy: JRR Tolkien.

    I generally limit the "favorite" category to "fun" books, rather than educational books.

    19. Who is your favorite band? Can't tolerate music. If I never heard another note, I'd be fine. Once upon a time, I liked Grant Lee Buffalo, and Jesus and Mary Chain. I got over it.

    20. Who do you think you'll vote for president in the next election? I don't know, yet.

    21. What website did you see this on first? Tony Pierce's Busblog.

    Make of all that what you will. I'd be interested to read answers from other bloggers, too.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 01:02 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    May 22, 2004


    Spending some time reading the American Prospect site today, and came across a couple things worth noting:

    1: On the topic of Chalabi, Matt Yglesias writes...

    Jonah Goldberg, wisely, pronounces the whole issue too hard to understand, thus ensuring that whichever faction comes out on top in the end, he'll be okay. Over at The Weekly Standard they don't seem to find any of this worth commenting on.
    Now, perhaps he didn't mean this in the way it reads, but I can't help but think that this is a bit unfair.....though, perhaps, to be expected due to the nature of the blogosphere. Bloggers make it a habit to get on the soapbox rather quickly about so many topics, it may seem notable when they avoid discussing a particular issue. "What, is he trying to have it both way? Maybe some selection bias in the news he/they choose to report?"

    Well, perhaps. On the other hand, I think "I don't know enough" is a perfectly defensible argument, and one we all must make now and then.

    2: Another TAPPED post...

    Brock, Stock, and Barrel: A former right-wing hit man talks about Drudge, Limbaugh, and why he decided to stay in Washington and fight on our side. TAP talks to David Brock.
    Translation: "He's a bastard, but now he's our bastard."

    My favorite part of the interview:

    When I heard the things Limbaugh said about Iraqi prisoners, I thought, “If a liberal commentator said something like that, it would be on the crawl on FOX News and would be known all over the country.” But when a conservative says it, you publish an article about it and put it on a Web site, and you may still not get the word out to a big audience.
    Michael Moore: "The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win."

    Of course, you remember seeing that on crawl on FoxNews and hearing it all over the country, right?

    Uh-huh. I didn't think so. Brock is still a partisan hitman. He's just playing for the other team. (no pun intended)

    Posted by Jon Henke at 12:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    May 21, 2004

    The Real Enemy is.....(fill in the blank)

    My deepest sympathies on the loss of your son, Mr. Berg, but....

    ...are you seriously claiming that you would place less blame on President Bush if he had actually killed your son with his own hands?

    Captain Ed has more.

    Mitch Berg...

    Cori Dauber...

    Jeff Goldstein...

    UPDATE: Pejman...

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:57 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    The long roll-out continues

    Scott Higham and Joe Stephens of the Washington Post continue the rollout of allegations from Abu Ghraib. And it just keeps getting worse and worse. The Post has also obtained more pictures from Abu Ghraib, which they present along with the article. Seeing, the pictures, they remind me of nothing so much as something you'd hear about going on in the gulag or the konzentrationslager.

    We like to think that, because we are Americans, we don't do stuff like this. That we are better than that. That's something the Nazis or the commies would do, probably because they are, in some way, morally deficient in a way that Americans are not.

    That is a bright and shining lie.

    The awful truth is that, when people are left to their own devices, and have the power of life and death over others, they will become as cruel as they are allowed to be.

    Military life is severely circumscribed by rules and regulations, hedged about with arcane prohibitions on everything from how hats are worn, to requirements to say "sir" three times in a sentence to a man who's five years younger than you. Violating those prohibitions usually subjects the offender to harsh disciplinary action. Indeed, things that wouldn't even be offenses in civilian life can put you in a military prison. Tell your company CEO to shove it, and you'll be looking for another job. Tell your Squadron Commander to do so, and you'll be looking at the sun through barred windows for a while.

    Even the international law covering warfare, the Law of Armed Conflict, is filled with the minutia of what constitutes proper warfare. It governs who can be shot, when they can be shot, who can do the shooting, and what type of bullets they must use to do it.

    While we like to think of ourselves as civilized, the veneer of civilization is like the skin of an apple: brightly polished, but very, very thin. All of these harsh rules are necessary to prevent even the smallest war from degenerating into organized barbarism, where Katyn Forest Massacres, Malmedy executions, and Abu Ghraibs are commonplace. The lesson of human history is that any time these rules are relaxed, either though the incompetence or negligence of the commander, or the policy of the State, the result is automatic barbarism.

    It is important to remember that the Nazi murderers of the 1940s were not raised in the 1910s and 1920s to be cold-blooded killers. They were raised as good Lutherans or Catholics, who loved animals and small children. And yet, when they were put in situations where they were allowed to be as cruel and as murderous as they could be, that is exactly what they became.

    There is a rather foolish idea going around that people are basically good. And people who believe this nonsense, when they are confronted by the photos of Abu Ghraib, immediately assume that it must be the result of policy, of some concerted effort to convince our soldiers to intentionally dehumanize their captives. In reality, though, people are equally prone to good or evil, and need no encouragement to do evil things if they are allowed.

    The awful burden of being human is that we are primates, and thus prone to dominance hierarchies. It is therefore fun to exercise power over others. It is a heady feeling to hold complete sway over the lives of others. We see it in the examples not only of Nazi concentration camp guards, but in the smirking decisions of petty bureaucrats.

    The primary moral difference between our system and the Nazis or communists is not that we are intrinsically better people as individuals, but that we live in a system that denies us such power, and limits it through checks and balances, while their system encouraged and groomed it. Our system seeks to control the dark sides of our nature, while theirs promoted such expression. When our system is not properly reinforced, through negligence or laxity, Abu Ghraib is the result. And we learn that our people are just as prone to indulge their darker nature as anyone else.

    Not that such indulgence is excusable. Our laws apply not only to those that run the system, but to each individual within it. Every soldier knows their responsibility to refuse unlawful orders, and to report such orders to competent authorities. At every level, our system is designed to ensure the personal responsibility of every individual to act professionally, ethically, and lawfully.

    But like every other system designed by humans, it is deeply flawed. Human nature, if given the opportunity, will subvert any system designed by humans. So, we can't expect perfection. The best we can do is root out such occurrences, and punish them as severely as seems necessary.

    The proper response to Abu Ghraib, therefore, is to ensure that each individual responsible is punished. The junior enlisted persons that engaged in the activities directly must be punished, both to serve the ends of justice, as well as to show every other person in uniform that the rules apply to everyone, and that any infraction must be personally answered for. No matter what your Platoon Sergeant or CO says, each soldier has the moral duty to refuse illegal orders, and to report the givers of such orders to competent authorities.

    The senior NCOs and officers in the chain of command must be punished equally harshly for their parts in creating, either through intention or inaction, an atmosphere that encouraged their subordinates to think nothing of dehumanizing and brutalizing their captives, all while taking grinning pictures of themselves doing so.

    We can't prevent all of our soldiers at all times from indulging their darker sides. But we can punish it when we find it happening.

    Posted by at 02:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Cheating 101

    Sigh --- and you wonder why Johnnie can't read and has a warped concept of "right and wrong?"

    Posted by McQ at 12:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Dennis Hastert is an Idiot

    The Dallas Morning News editorializes this morning:

    If you're keeping a list of the most idiotic things politicians say this election year, here's a lollapalooza: House Speaker Denny Hastert's suggestion this week that Sen. John McCain, the ex-POW and torture survivor, does not know the meaning of sacrifice.

    Mr. Hastert's insult of his fellow Republican came in response to comments the Arizona senator made the day before at a deficit conference. "My friends, we are at war," Mr. McCain said then. "Throughout our history, wartime has been a time of sacrifice. But about the only sacrifice taking place is that by the brave men and women fighting to defend and protect the liberties we hold so dear, and that of their families. It is time for others to step up and start sacrificing."

    Apparently, Republicans can't say that kind of thing in Washington these days.

    Mr. Hastert snorted at Mr. McCain's Republican credentials, and lit into him over his opposition to Bush tax cuts, saying that if Mr. McCain wanted to learn something about sacrifice, he ought to visit wounded soldiers in military hospitals.

    Let's get this straight: The House speaker, who ducked Vietnam service on a medical deferment, is telling a man who was beaten so badly by the Communists that he cannot lift his arms over his head, and who refused to leave prison ahead of his comrades, that he has something to learn about sacrifice for his country – all because the senator disagrees over spending?

    I don't like John McCain much personally. He seems like an ass.

    But how can anyone be so outrageously stupid as to question McCain's service to his country, and the hideous sacrifice it entailed through his torture for years at the hands of the North Vietnamese communists?

    While Denny Hastert was sitting out the war in Vietnam stateside with his cozy medical deferrment, John McCain was being beaten svagely by the commies in an attempt to procure confessions of war crimes.

    I think McCain has learned quite enough about sacrifice, thank you very much.

    Posted by at 12:04 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Propaganda and the Internet

    I'm a sucker for the military "techno-thriller" genre of novels. Tom Clancy, Stephen Coonts, Dale Brown, etc.

    One of my favorites is Harold Coyle. Coyle is an ex-Army officer who knows his craft and writes what I would consider to be fairly realistic novels which reflect the realities of today's warfare a little better than say the over optomistic Clancy. That and the fact he usually writes about grunts makes him a must read for me.

    All that to say I'm about to finish his latest "More Than Courage". The novel is set in Syria as a part of the War on Terror and involves a Special Forces A team on a recon mission who's been left there too long (morale and efficiency problems set in) and ends up getting captured by the Syrians. The rest I'll let you read

    But I was struck by a pretty telling analysis in the book. Coyle steps back for a second and talks about the value and use of propaganda, especially by our enemies ... and how effective they've been. Substitute any recent enemy country for Syria and you'll see my point [all emphasis added]:

    Two things:

    1)I think Coyle nails it. We are forced to view any conflict through the "soda straw" of the media's choosing. In most cases that focus is inherently on bad news ... bad news for the US. Whether by choice or by chance, that is the normal focus. And our enemies are hip to this. So the timing of events, attacks, statements, etc. are done carefully to keep the flow of bad news constant and to warp the public's perspective of the war. They feel if they can in anyway duplicate what North Vietnam was able to do they have the opportunity of swaying US public opinion, if not to their side, at least away from the side of their government. And, as usual, the same 'useful idiots' as those who "starred" in the VN anti-war movement are again at it (although slightly more subtly at the moment).

    2)Coyle describes, quite nicely, what's happening now in the US. We see it every day with the talking heads, op/ed pieces, the Hollywood left (Moore, et al), the college campuses and politicians like Pelosi. The same types doing the same thing ... again. The difference is we should understand that and know better by now. And that is why I feel the internet in general and blogs in particular are so important. Its a new means of getting the other side out there. When the media is dominated by 'if it bleeds it leads', college professors are speaking to captive audiences, Hollywood is using its star power to get its moment in the sun and opportunistic politicians getting the play they want in the press, its critical to have an outlet which tells the OTHER side of the story.

    This was lacking in Vietnam. Its not now. And for those of us who believe in what we're doing in Iraq, its important that we do everything in our power to ensure the other side of the story is told.

    Posted by McQ at 11:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    They want it so bad, they can taste it

    The Washington Post's David Ignatius spends his 750 words today begging John McCain to join a Kerry-McCain ticket. The country, he pleads breathlessly, needs you, Senator McCain.

    It's quite touching, really, watching the press fawn all over McCain. But, you gotta ask yourself this question: Does McCain seem like the kind of guy who'd be happy spending 4 or 8 years in the dead end of the VP's office, getting out only to attend funerals for foreign heads of state?

    As Ignatius admits, McCain is cranky, impulsive, and headstrong. Not really qualities you want in your Vice Presidents. And requiring him to switch to an explicitly pro-choice position, a position he has consistently opposed for his entire political career, would seem to me to be the kind of requirement that a cranky, headstrong guy like McCain would bridle at.

    On the other hand, McCain really does see himself sitting in the big office on Pennsylvania Avenue. And, a lifelong comittment to principle on thinks like, say, school choice, was hardly a barrier to Joe Leiberman last time round, when political exigencies required him to abandon them.

    So, I guess an even better question is, how badly does McCain want to be president?

    Hey, here's a really cool scenario: McCain becomes John Kerry's VP for four years, resigns, then becomes Kerry's opponent in the '08 elections, using the insider knowledge he's gained as VP since '04 to hammer Kerry like a ten-penny nail.

    Man, I'd pay money to see that.

    Posted by at 10:30 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    Not as bad as it seems

    Victor Davis Hanson urges us to keep a sense of perspective in Iraq, and not to forget that there's good news, along with the bad the media keeps constantly hammering on.

    We've had a tough April and May over there. That doesn't mean we're losing, any more than Kasserine Pass meant the Germans were winning in '42.

    As Hanson points out, Mistakes Have Been Made. But, they always are in wartime. As Clausewitz pointed out, in war, all you have to do is a series of simple tasks, but doing the simplest task is extraordinarily hard. And, you always have an enemy whose trying to frustrate your intentions, and impose his own intentions upon you.

    As a result, bad things happen, and they can be disheartening. It's OK to point out mistakes, and try to find things you can do better. That's helpful. But, going all Andrew Sullivan when the road gets a little bumpy isn't.

    Posted by at 10:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    What's the deal with Chalabi?

    The Wall Street Journal has a jones worse that China White for Ahmed Chalabi. They're complaining that he's being mistreated by the US government when, instead, he should be our biggest helper there. They're calling it "mistreatment".

    Meanwhile, Andrew Cockburn, writing in the Los Angeles Times, appear to have a completely different opinion.

    OK, so you have a conservative editorial page that thinks Chalabi is a prince, and a Lefty writer who thinks he's the devil. (In general, anyone in public life named "Cockburn" is a raging lefty. It's an odd, but true, fact in politics.)

    It's difficult to know where to come down on Chalabi. But the Washington Post's Jim Hoagland seems willing to cut him some slack. Is that because as a WaPo writer, it serves as a good excuse to bash the administration? Or is it because Chalabi isn't the devil his detractors make him out to be?

    I dunno.

    I do know that he's gotten official Washington a bit PO'd, because of his constant hammering about the administration's reluctance to look into the UN Oil-For-Food program, and he's gotten Paul Bremer, the US proconsul in Iraq, a little PO'd for criticizing Bremer for bringing back some ex-Ba'athists.

    As it happens, those are pretty valid criticisms.

    On the other hand, the guy has some rather disturbing ties to Iran, and we know he lied about some intelligence, in order to make Saddam Hussein look more dangerous in terms of WMD capability, than he actually was.

    I suspect that Chalabi is a guy who hated Saddam Hussein, and was willing to do anything possible to see him off. I also suspect he's got a pretty inflated opinion of himself, and sees himself as a power broker in the new Iraq.

    But, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

    Read all three articles, and make up your own mind.

    Posted by at 09:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Arrests in the Berg murder

    No surprise here as to the participants:

    Iraqi police have arrested four people in the killing of American Nicholas Berg and believe a nephew of Saddam Hussein was involved in Berg's beheading, an Iraqi security official said Friday.

    The suspects were former members of Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen paramilitary organization, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They were arrested May 14 in a house in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad. The province includes Tikrit, Saddam's hometown.

    The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree does it? Note the date of the arrest.

    I wonder how 'visible' this trial (if it ever comes to that) will be?

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

    Habitually "looking into the abyss"

    The left side of the blogosphere has been making hay out of this remark reported in The Guardian

    "I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss," General Joseph Hoar, a former commander in chief of US central command, told the Senate foreign relations committee.
    Says Kevin Drum...
    After all, there's not much else left to grasp at when even former CENTCOM commanders are telling [that to] Congress...
    * Atrios calls it a quote "you won't read here", because it was not then reported in the US.
    * Oliver Willis notes it, too.
    * Also here and here.

    So, what's the story? Well, for starters, let's remember...this isn't an in-theatre General. He's a former General, offering his (qualified, but not on-the-scene) opinion. But that's not the problem. The problem is that General Hoar has been making this claim since before the war. In early 2003 he was predicting urban warfare in Baghdad, and claiming we didn't have enough troops to win the war, since the Republican Guard wouldn't simply throw down their weapons and walk away.

    Mind - he didn't say we didn't have enough troops to win the peace, he said we didn't have enough to win the war. And then, a few weeks later, we rolled into Baghdad as the Republican Guard simply (huh!) threw down their weapons and walked away. So, what was the General's pre-war estimate?

    I'll tell you it's a disaster in my view, but the point is this is political from start to finish. I mean this is a pre-emptive attack. We're going to destroy a regime, because that's what it's about, it's not about weapons. The Vice President said so about six or eight months ago before it was decided that we were going to go to the UN. That's what it is about.
    Oh, and he was a Howard Dean supporter, who opposed this war from the start.

    Note that I am not necessarily discounting his opinion...just pointing out that he is not a dispassionate and objective observer. General Hoar came to his conclusions long before the war began. That he continues to claim disaster does not seem to depend on circumstances, but on assumptions.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 09:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Time to tell the story

    One of our readers, George, raised the point that for many Americans, our war on terror just doesn't seem real in that they feel or see no real effect on their daily lives.

    Good point and very true. Austin Bay of the Washington Times is a reservist who has just been activated for duty in Iraq. He addresses this point and its effect:

    The reason the war isn't more "real" here is because of the type of war it is. The "hot" war ... combat ... is over. The shadow war ... terroris insurgents ... is on. No huge armies moving against each other, no clear battle lines, no reports from the "front".

    We're engaged in asymmetical warfare ... some fought by our soldiers, some fought by our diplomats, some fought by our intelligence operatives and agencies. Most not visible to us. Many "victories" in this war never see the light of day because to announce them would be to compromise our methods and jeopardize ongoing operations.

    Iraq is only the tip of the iceberg in this war ... it is the visible tip, but the underlying war is gigantic and hidden. The administration, in order to connect the public with this war, in order to have them understand that in fact we are at war, needs to do a much better job of getting information out that makes that point. They need to do a much better job of telling the story of the war on terror.

    They've not been very effective to this point. And until they are, they're going to hear the nonsense spouted by the likes of Nancy Pelosi all the more.

    BTW, my sincere best wishes to Austin Bay and thank you for your service.

    Posted by McQ at 08:39 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    More Stratfor Iraq analysis

    I've already blogged on this Stratfor analysis of the current situation in Iraq, but I couldn't get to all of it. More important bits now.

    Even if the majority of Iraqis welcomed our intervention, I would suggest that anybody who did not know we would experience ongoing internal resistance in Iraq wasn't paying attention. Aside from any ambitions new leaders might have, what in the world did we expect the supporters and employees of the deposed regime would do? They can hardly be expected to rejoin civil society without dire consequences. How does one transition from "operative in Saddam's Intelligence Agency" to "friendly guy next door"?

    Answer: They don't. They keep fighting, because they can never go back. And Stratfor sees this as an impossible obstacle to democratization....

    This, I suppose, is what we will find out over the next few years. Whether democracy can come into existence in the face of resistance by the minority. I suspect we'll see one of two outcomes: the Iraqi people will unite against the insurgents, or they will unite around a strongman. Neither is unacceptably damaging to US interests, but unity against the insurgents is far preferable.

    Here's a longer excerpt, laying out the two problems this presented the US military....

    I would note that this is the reason I've generally opposed any significant increase in troop level in Iraq. We're not suffering from a manpower disadvantage - or, really, any disadvantage that can be solved by throwing more firepower at the problem - we suffer from the inability to do anything productive with the force we already have. The troops we already have are sufficient to quell uprisings over 100 insurgents, and deal with small squads of insurgent gunmen. 100 US troops can kill 10 gunmen just as effectively as can 200 US troops. But 200 troops are 100 more targets for those gunmen. The problem is not the power we can apply, but the problem of when and how to do it.

    So, Stratfor regards the insurgency as an unsolvable problem. Their recommendation?

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    May 20, 2004

    Pendulum Pundits

    Reason's Michael Young suggests a new term for the right-wing squeamishness about what is happening in Iraq: Pendulum Pundits.

    The problem is that so much of what the Bush Administration has done seems, at least from what we're hearing, like weakness. If I have any complaint about the administration, it's that they haven't been tough enough.

    But, unlike some newly nervous Iraq War supporters, the last thing I want is a withdrawal. Ultimately, what kind of country Iraq becomes is up to them, not us, but we should be working night and day to ensure the country we turn over to them is a workable entity.

    They may deconstruct the whole deal after we go, but there's not much we can do about that. What we can do is give them a head start on it. And we should be working night and day to do so.

    Posted by at 10:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Doomed Again

    Ronald Bailey reviews Paul Erlich's new book, One With Nineveh, and he asks the one question that matters about Erlich: why does anyone listen to anything he says? He's always wrong. Every prediction he makes turns out to be false.

    It's like Erlich lives in some wierd alternate universe where being a scientist who's constantly proven wrong is a prerequisite for winning the Nobel Prize.

    In any event, with his new book, he's at it again. We're all going to die. Unless, of course, we re-organize the world economic and political system in the way Erlich desires.


    Well, call me a skeptic but, considering his track record, you'll have to excuse me if I don't get all giddy at the idea of the world being run according to Paul Erlich's desires.

    Posted by at 04:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Ass-kickin' Brits

    You ready for this?

    Outnumbered British soldiers killed 35 Iraqi attackers in the Army’s first bayonet charge since the Falklands War 22 years ago.

    Bayonet charge?!

    That's right folks. The 20 Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, after being ambushed and pinned down and running low on ammo, radioed for help, fixed bayonets and CHARGED a foe that outnumbered them 5 to 1!


    35 enemy KIA, 9 captured. And the Highlanders? 3 WIA all with minor wounds.


    Posted by McQ at 03:54 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Slackernomics Excerpt 1

    The first excerpt from my new book, Slackernomics: Basic Economics for People who Think Economics is Boring, is up at my web site.

    I approved the final cover and craft galleys this morning, so it should be in production in just a few weeks!

    Posted by at 02:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    The Cos gives 'em hell

    Apparently Bill Cosby let the chips fall where they may in a rather "unconventional" acceptance speech for an NAACP award he was given:

    Apparently Kweisi Mfume and other African-American leaders at the event were not amused, in fact they were characterized as 'stone-faced', although one report said Cosby's remarks were met with "astonishment, laughter and applause."

    Tough love?

    Words that needed to be spoken by a man brave enough to speak them.

    UPDATE (McQ): Parked in the Beltway Traffic Jam

    Posted by McQ at 02:26 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Sacrifice? CUT SPENDING!

    Jon pointed to one of his pet peeves yesterday. Today you get one of mine. John McCain, Republican, uses the old leftist mantra of "sacrifice" to justify his belief that tax cuts are inappropriate:

    "Throughout our history, wartime has been a time of sacrifice…. What have we sacrificed?" McCain said. "As mind-boggling as expanding Medicare has been, nothing tops my confusion for cutting taxes during wartime. I don't remember ever in the history of warfare when we cut taxes."

    Hey, Mr. McCain, here's another mind-boggling idea ... how about the government sacrificing for a change? Hmmm?

    How about you yahoos doing a real review of the waste, fraud and abuse to be found in every government program out there and cutting it out?

    And how about government further sacrificing by eliminating spending in non-essential areas and in non-essential programs.

    Why not act like a Republican, or what we've been led to believe was a Republican, and make government smaller!

    Why is it the taxpayer who is the one always asked to "sacrifice" while you people buy your next election with pork barrel projects built on the taxpayers back? Why can't the government sacrifice for a change?

    You have a freakin' 2.5 trillion dollar budget this year. That's obscene!

    When I see you cut that puppy to under 2 trillion, then I'll have more of a tendency to consider your call for "sacrifice". Until then, your cry is just a lot more of the proverbial hot air that blows out of the political swamp we call Washington DC.

    Posted by McQ at 12:56 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

    The slow and methodical wheels of justice

    To answer some questions about which a reader has been asking:

    And that's as it should be ... in my opinion, as I've stated, those in the MP Brigade who were in command were derelict in their duties. As Sanchez points out:

    And she, the commander of the 800th MP Bde, failed miserably in that regard.

    Additionally, those in the MI Bde may be guilty of issuing unlawful orders.

    As to the techniques used to prepare prisoners for interrogation:

    So it appears that the "techniques" used were developed "locally" and according to COL Eric Warren:

    So that should answer some of the questions concerning what was and wasn't approved and where the techniques involved were "developed".

    It also points to the fact that the military is now focusing UP the chain of command to afix responsibility. That's as it should be. COL Pappas of the 205th MI Bde has already been relieved of command pending further judicial action. BG Karpinski too is in a "pending judicial action" status as are many in the chain-of-command in both Brigades.

    This takes time, and just as civilian judicial procedings have a tendency to go after the small fry first, and then use their convictions to go after the bigger fish, the same actions are being taken in this case

    Posted by McQ at 12:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    The Bush Chronicles

    I'm always interested to read what the political "other side" finds instructive. It is valuable, I think, to hear the best arguments put forth by your opponents - one may, after all, be wrong. In that vein, I took Ezra Klein's advice and read what he called "the most devastating critique I've read of the Bush Administration". Strong words, so I clicked the link.

    And I found something so hysterical, so conspiratorial, it made Ted Rall look like the "good liberal Democrat" he thinks he is. This is what passes for a "devastating critique"?

    Click the link to read on....

    In less than a year, the morale of the occupying forces had sunk so low that murder, suicide, rape and sexual harassment became alarming statistics, and now the warriors of democracy--the emissaries of civilization--stand accused of every crime this side of cannibalism.
    A devastating critique of war, perhaps, though I would point out that Mr Crowther is about 10,000 years late in pointing out that Bad Things happen in wars. Yes, even among US soldiers. I'm unsure how this is a critique of the administration, unless Mr Crowther is seriously suggesting that Bush should have passed an Executive order prohibiting unintended consequences.

    But whatever. That's not the worst...not by miles.

    In Washington, chicken hawks will still be squawking about "digging in" and winning, but Vietnam proved conclusively that no modern war of occupation would ever be won.
    "Proved"? It certainly gave evidence that a war of occupation can be lost - and lost quite easily - but I hardly think we have evidence that occupation cannot succeed. That's quite a deductive leap. Mere decades previously, we had two fine examples of succesful occupations in Germany and Japan. That's not who he has in mind though.
    If our presidential election fails to dislodge the crazy bastards who annexed Baghdad, many of us in this country would welcome regime change by any intervention, human or divine. But if, say, the Chinese came in to rescue us--Operation American Freedom--how long would any of us, left-wing or right, put up with an occupying army teaching us Chinese-style democracy?
    This guy is seriously suggesting military regime change would be welcomed if Bush wins in '04 - even if China did the deed. CHINA!

    And Ezra links approvingly to this? This is a devastating critique? Unbefreakinlievable.

    It's not over though. There's still a great deal of hyperbole...

    The irreducible truth is that the invasion of Iraq was the worst blunder, the most staggering miscarriage of judgment, the most fateful, egregious, deceitful abuse of power in the history of American foreign policy.
    The shame of this truth, of such a failure and so much deceit exposed, would have brought on mass resignations or votes of no confidence in any free country in the world. In Japan not long ago, there would have been ritual suicides, shamed officials disemboweling themselves with samurai swords.
    By this logic, the most destructively incompetent president since Andrew Johnson will be rewarded with a second term. That would probably mean a military draft and more wars in the oil countries and, under visionaries like Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, a chance for the United States to emulate 19th-century Paraguay, which simultaneously declared war on Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay and fought ferociously until 90 percent of the male population was dead.
    Then, there's non-sequitur nonsense like this...
    Many Americans seem unaware that scarcely anyone on the planet Earth supported the Iraq adventure, no one anywhere except the 40-50 million Republican loyalists who voted for George Bush in 2000.
    Yeah. Oh, and the Iraqis...but, you know, the hell with them. Apparently.

    Then there's this...

    George Bush and his lethal team of oil pirates, Cold Warriors and Likudists commands the most formidable military machine on earth. No nation, with the possible exception of China, would ever dare to oppose them directly.

    But the Chinese aren't coming to save us....

    Unsurprisingly, the author manages to work in the old chestnuts: references to Nazi Germany, playing "the patriot card against a decorated veteran"; Halliburton; some lovely slurs about the voters...
    I come from a family of veterans and commissioned officers; I understand patriots in wartime. If a spotted hyena stepped out of Air Force One wearing a baby-blue necktie, most Americans would salute and sing "Hail to the Chief."
    If there's one American who actually believes that Operation Iraqi Freedom was about democracy for the poor Iraqis, then you, my friend, are too dangerously stupid to be allowed near a voting booth.
    Naturally, there are deceptive context-free anecdotes...
    If the Pentagon ever thought Saddam had "weapons of mass destruction," it was only because the Pentagon gave them to him. As Kevin Phillips recounts in American Dynasty, officials of the Reagan and first Bush administrations eagerly supplied Saddam with arms while he was using chemical weapons on the Kurds. They twice sent Donald Rumsfeld to court Saddam, in 1983 and 1984, when the dictator was in the glorious prime of his monsterhood.
    Oh, and there's always the outright falsehoods...
    They also signaled their fractious client, Saddam, that it might be all right to overrun part of Kuwait; you remember what happened when he tried to swallow it all.
    Lie lie lie. (I need to blog about that stupid myth, someday. I've been meaning to do so for a long time) And this guy has the guts to call this "facts, not partisan rhetoric".

    I can accept that this sort of hack exists. Alternative newspapes have long been the stomping grounds of the far far far left, and other assorted conspirazoids. But the fact that Ezra and assorted others credit this guy with something insightful, something devastating? It is nothing more than the shrillest of hyperbole and conspiracy.

    To be sure, there are valid and devastating criticisms to be made of the Bush administration, but this guy isn't making them. This guy is auditioning for the hysterical sequel to "The Clinton Chronicles".

    Posted by Jon Henke at 12:09 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    The state of Health Care

    Dr. Louis Sullivan, the former HHS Secretary under Bush 41, writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the problems with Health Care insurance, and the fact that 1 in 7 Americans has no health insurance.

    The whole idea of employer-provided health coverage the way we've implemented it in this country is a joke. Let's put aside the fact that it's not the employer's duty to provide health coverage for anybody. It's the individual's responsibility. The only duty your employer owes you is the agreed-upon pay for a day's work.

    But, whatever.

    The fact is that we've built up this monstrous system where third parties pay the freight for our health care. The individual who's purchasing health care has little, if any, incentive to ration his own health care or hold down costs. Why should he, his boss is paying the bill, not him. The patient slaps down his $10 co-pay and his financial obligation is over.

    The employee is then shocked--shocked!--to learn that his employer is cutting back on medical benefits.

    And, of course, the government has its own huge third-party medical payment system for the poor, the indigent, and illegal immigrants, which might not seem like a big deal to you, but, Here in California, where the state spends about $7 billion per year on health care and education for illegals, it adds up.

    So, we manage to spend almost twice as much as the other industrialized countries on health care, while leaving one in seven of us without any health coverage at all.

    Essentially, we've removed any market forces from controlling the way health care is priced, but we've left the profit incentive in for health insurance companies. And, while we were at it, we decided to allow doctors to be sued for millions of bucks at the drop of a hat, forcing them to obtain malpractice insurance coverage that can be as pricey as $200,000 per year.

    Then we wonder why health coverage costs so dang much.

    And, over the last decade, our one attempt at solving this problem has been to try and introduce a single-payer health care system.

    Yeah, removing all market forces from 1/7th of the economy. That'll solve the problem. Sure. You betcha.

    After all, Canada did it. Of course, if that is the solution, one wonders why half the hospital patients in Seattle, Detroit and Minneapolis are wearing toques, and saying "eh?" after every sentence.

    Posted by at 11:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

    Ralph Peters writes in the New York Post that, because the media--both American and international--is increasingly hostile to American military action at almost any place, at any time, we have to kill our enemies faster.

    Peters believes that military actions must take place much faster, and with much more lethality, in order to end them before the press can mobilize against the action. Using Fallujah as an example, Peters writes that, once the press mobilizes against an activity, the political pressure to end it as quickly as possible. In Fallujah, rather than hunting down the insurgents and killing them, we turned the whole thing over to an ex-Ba'athist strongman and quit.

    In the short term, Peters may be right, and I'm certainly in favor of anything that allows us to kill our enemies more quickly, or in larger numbers. But over the longer term, the real threat is not, I think, to the workings of the military, but to the workings of the free press.

    There's a huge proportion of the press corps that's stuck in the R.W. Apple-Sy Hersh axis. Everything the US does is wrong. Our leaders always lie. Our boys always botch it. It's always a quagmire. That's not reportage, that's ideology masquerading as news.

    But, you can't cry "wolf" all the time, and be consistently wrong. Sooner or later, the public will start to notice.

    Instapundit commented on this loss of credibility yesterday, quoting a mainstream media type characterizing the media's loss of credibility as "seismic".

    One of the responsibilities a free press has is to tell the truth, not to pitch their politics outside of the editorial page. Or, failing that, at the very least, like newspapers of the pre-WWII era, openly acknowledge their editorializing in news stories for what it is: editorializing. The problem is not bias so much as a refusal to acknowledge it, and clinging to the increasingly threadbare claim of "objectivity".

    It simply can't be good for the working of a free press for the public to automatically assume that the press corps is made up of fools or liars. But, increasingly, that's the situation we find ourselves in.

    I'm not sure where that trend is heading, but it's not a positive trend for either the public, who needs a functioning free press as a tool to exercise an audit on the activities of government, or for the press, who require a fair degree of public trust to survive.

    Update: Honorable mention to anyone who can guess where the title to this post came from. And without googling.

    Update II: And the honorable mention goes to Captain Ed, for his Yoda-like Roger Corman knowledge.

    Posted by at 11:10 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Wedding Party?

    At 3am?

    That's the Iraqi claim.

    Check out what they found at the "wedding party": satellite communications gear, passports, weapons and Syrian currency.

    Yeah ... sounds like wedding paraphernalia to me. I've seen it at all the weddings I attend ... espcially the foreign currency and weapons.

    The Iraqis claim they were simply popping off a few AK rounds in celebration ... at 3 am ... with women and children present.

    Look, I'm as sorry about the innocents as anyone, but is there anyone out there who doesn't realize that these insurgents have a history of purposely putting innocents lives at risk to save their own scurvy lives (banking on our unwillingness to risk the lives of women and children).

    One problem with this one ... when you shoot at people at 3 am, its sometimes hard to tell, especially from 15 to 20,000 feet, that there may be women and children present.

    Not that the terrorists really care anyway.

    UPDATE (JON): Protein Wisdom...

    Ah, yes. One of those weddings. I sent the couple a compact airborn missile defense system. Oh, and a pair of crystal highball glasses.
    I wouldn't count on a thank you note.

    Posted by McQ at 11:00 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Perspective for Partisans

    This is the kind of partisan economic commentary that just drives me up a wall...

    For some perspective, this handy graph shows us Clinton averaged 242K new jobs every month over his 1st term, and 235K new jobs every month during his 2nd. Bush has had two good months. Let's hope they continue, but all the talk of the massive recovery in the labor market is so far mostly talk.
    Left unmentioned? Well, the fact that Clinton took office almost two full years past the end of the recession - just in time to catch an enormous, technology fueled, hyper-productive job growth period.

    On the other hand, Bush took office at the very beginning of the recession. Plus, there was 9/11, corporate scandals, a major bubble and a worldwide economic slump....none of which affected Clinton's first term.

    If a comparison is to be made, you'd have to start at similar points in the business cycle. Doing so would force us to either include data from mid-early 1990, or to not begin counting Bush's record until approximately November of last year.

    Assuming a similar post-recessionary period, here is what growth looked like under Clinton...(per BLS)
    1993 M06 110,660,000
    1993 M07 110,960,000 - (+ 30,000)
    1993 M08 111,119,000 - (+159,000)
    1993 M09 111,359,000 - (+ 250,000)

    Now, here is what the last 4 months under Bush have looked like...(per BLS)
    2004 M01 130,194,000
    2004 M02 130,277,000 - (+ 83,000)
    2004 M03 130,614,000 - (+ 337,000)
    2004 M04 130,902,000 - (+ 288,000)
    (last two months preliminary)

    So yeah....a President whose term covers only the boom part of a business cycle will appear to have better job growth numbers than a President who takes office at the beginning of a slump. If one looks at performance during similar parts of a cycle, it's a different story, though, isn't it?

    Sadly, Atrios knows this. He has to.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 10:17 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    The "Hits" keep on coming


    Two new photographs have surfaced in the Iraq prison abuse scandal which appear to show U.S. soldiers gloating over a corpse.

    In one, Spc. Charles Graner of the 372nd Military Police is seen smiling, giving the thumbs up.

    In the other, Spc. Sabrina Harmon, a member of the same unit, is in a similar pose.

    CNN has not confirmed the identity of the body in the pictures, but it is believed the man died at Abu Ghraib prison.

    Posted by McQ at 09:12 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    Gas prices will come down - inevitably

    James Joyner, only three months behind QandO, makes a very important point...

    Ironically, it’s the fact that gas prices have been relatively low that slows down innovation, since it’s not worth the capital investment to find alternative sources of energy when gas is so affordable.
    Fortunately, alternate means of producing oil are being examined. Unfortunately, they are not cost-effective yet.
    Brian Appel, Changing World's chief executive officer, said the company's production costs were now $15 a barrel, not counting capital costs, compared with $5 to $13 a barrel for drilling for oil the old-fashioned way.

    Appel said that, with the opening of additional plants, his costs would come down to near $5 a barrel.

    So, oil will eventually come down in cost, because oil suppliers want to continue to sell oil. If an alternate supply of oil can be supplied for less than that of the current oil producers, the current oil producers are going to have a lot of oil on their hands, and very little money.

    Price will drop, not because suppliers suddenly become less greedy, but because substitutes become available. In fact, I believe prices will drop before long, because OPEC knows their day is coming...and the longer the price of oil stays artificially high, the faster that day will come.

    In fact, that day may be coming fast anyway....

    Waste-To-Oil Company Selling Oil Commercially

    Renewable Environmental Solutions LLC (RES) today announced that its first commercial plant is selling an equivalent of crude oil No. 4, produced from agricultural waste products. The Carthage, Missouri, plant is currently producing 100-200 barrels of oil per day utilizing by-products from an adjacent turkey processing facility.

    Pay attention to this.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:43 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Rhetorically disabled

    The Bush administration has always been bad about getting their message across effectively. Whatever they try to do, they invariably screw it up....

    The General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said on Wednesday that the Bush administration had violated federal law by producing and disseminating television news segments that portray the new Medicare law as a boon to the elderly.

    The agency said the videos were a form of "covert propaganda" because the government was not identified as the source of the materials, broadcast by at least 40 television stations in 33 markets. The agency also expressed some concern about the content of the videos, but based its ruling on the lack of disclosure.

    This may be my biggest complaint about the Bush administration - well, among the top 5, anyway. No matter what the issue, they can never convey their message effectively. Ever.

    The War in Iraq: they pushed a weak rationale (WMD) too hard and more broadly acceptable rationales too softly (human rights, democratization). Even with the arguments they did make, they never seriously made their case...they just threw out some data and let the chips fall where they may. At every step, the critics have been more vociferous, more rhetorically effective, than the Bush administration. Bush simply never capitalized on his status as a leader to both convince and prepare the country for war.

    --- When they should have been debunking non-stories (AWOL), they sat on their hands....and the non-stories turned into month long frontpage Stories.
    --- When they should have stepped up to deal with legitimate problems (the Plame Affair; uranium in Africa; the absence of WMDs), they've ducked the issue, giving - at the very least - the appearance of wrongdoing.
    --- There have been far too many stupid-stories (that flight-suit on the Aircraft carrier; the "mission accomplished" banner; Cheney's "nuclear weapons" statement; various 9/11 conspiracies) that never should have gotten media-coin, but did....and they did, because the White House studiously avoided confronting them.

    The Bush administration has been remarkably tone-deaf, and that fact is bound to have electoral consequences....perhaps for the next decade to come.

    UPDATE: Serendipity. Instapundit links to more along these lines from TCS.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    The Geneva Convention and the White House

    Newsweek has an internal White House memo on the applicability of the Geneva Convention...

    On January 18, I advised you that the Department of Justice had issued a formal legal opinion concluding that the Geneva Convention III on the Treatment of Prisoners of War (GPW) does not apply to the conflict with Al Qaeda. I also advised you that DOJ's opinion concludes that there are reasonable grounds to conclude that GPW does not apply with respect to the conflict with the Taliban. I understand that you decided that GPW does not apply and, accordingly, that Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees are not Prisoners of War under the GPW.
    This is a problematic opinion - problematic because it is correct in conclusion, but plainly incorrect in process. Secretary Powell noted this....
    The Secretary of State has requested that you reconsider that decision. Specifically, he has asked that you conclude that GPW does apply to both Al Qaeda and the Taliban. I understand, however, that he would agree that Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters could be determined not to be Prisoners of War (POWs) but only on a case-by-case basis following individual hearings before a military board.
    What Secretary Powell is suggesting is nothing less than a basic concurrence with the Geneva Convention, which - contrary to DOJ opinion - DOES give some procedural specification on what happens to detainees who may not be subject to POW status. While it may be true that the detainees will not eventually qualify for POW status - previously discussed here - they still have procedural rights.....
    Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.
    In short, the detainees deserve, as Powell recommends, a hearing before a military board.

    The White House wants to cut that procedure out and skip to the conclusion. Their rationales come down to statements like...."the Taliban did not excercise full control over the territory and the people, was not recognized by the international community, and was not capable of fulfilling its international obligations...". Those criticisms are, indeed, reasons why members of the Taliban may not qualify for POW status, but they do not remove the procedural obligation to submit the detainees to a tribunal, rather than Executive Fiat.

    On the whole, the argument that we should not give Al Qaeda detainees POW status is quite persuasive. It would give them rights - and us, obligations - counterproductive to our national security. The same argument for the Taliban is less persuasive. But the argument that we can eliminate the procedural requirement of a tribunal, yet claim we are operating within the Geneva Convention is entirely unfounded.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Reading Comprehension lessons

    I hate to focus on one small blogger in two consecutive posts, but she's given me two easy targets. So bear with me.

    At Mouse Words, Amanda writes....

    This article at Townhall by Michelle Malkin cracked me up. How much more simple-minded can a racist rant get? She bitches that she can't get good service from lazy immigrants at McDonald's, Michael's or Wal-Mart.
    From her biography:

    Malkin, the daughter of Filipino immigrants, was born in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1970 and raised in southern New Jersey.

    I can imagine what the person who signs her paycheck would have said about her parents had he run into them shortly after they arrived in this country.

    "Well", I thought, "that's a peculiar thing for a child of an immigrant family to say. I wonder how she justified her hate for immigrants? I'll go read the article."

    So, I did. And, apparently, I read a completely different article than did Amanda. It can effectively be summed up by one sentence from the article...

    People who work in customer service should speak English.
    Not one word of complaint about their immigration. Not a peep about their race. None of that. (though, Malkin did - somewhat presciently - point out that critics would "attack their opponents as racists and immigrant-haters")

    And as regards the relevance of Malkins status as a child of immigrants? Well, perhaps Amanda should have read what Malkin has written on the topic before erecting her strawman...

    I am the daughter of legal immigrants from the Philippines who proudly chose to become Americans. They stood in line, aced their citizenship tests, filed tons of paperwork, and -- speaking in English -- swore allegiance to the United States.
    Lesson: read first - then reach a conclusion. Like entropy, the reverse is mostly a fantasy.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 06:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    May 19, 2004

    [Fill in Code Phrase Here]

    A couple years ago, I bought a house in the suburbs. Now, fool that I am, I assumed I was buying a home in the suburbs because I had a wife and child and needed more room than I could get in the city. And because I wanted a driveway. And a garage. And trees in the yard. And maybe some nature around the neighborhood, rather than a strip mall. Oh, and I prefer less crime, all else being equal.

    It turns out, I was just being racist all along.

    In the case of the defense of suburbia, it's easier to say that it's for "the kids" than cop to wishing for the whiteness and conformity of the suburbs.
    Boy, am I glad I found that out. I mean, when my son and I were outside playing with the kids next door the other day - 3 black children, by the way - I thought I was having a good time. Turns out, I was just trying to assuage my white guilt. And today, when I stopped to talk to another neighbor - a black man, for what it's worth - I thought we were friends. No, as it turns out, my heart was full of hatred.

    Cause, you know, I'm white. And I live in the suburbs. There's no other explanation.

    (link via Matt Yglesias)

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Future Wars (the future is now)

    You've probably never heard of him, but Thomas P.M. Barnett is the guy in the Pentagon plotting that institution's future. He's a 40ish Star-Trek quoting former teacher of Marxism who's a life-long Democrat, but he thinks his forecast of how the Defense Department should restructure its policy and force are on target. And apparently so does the Sec Def:

    He explains the world thusly:

    I take exception to his characterization of "third world" countries "left behind" by globalization". That alludes to a deliberate act by the first world. Hardly the case. Much of the third world hasn't been left behind as much as it has resisted globalization for various cultural reasons ... reasons, for instance, that can be found in every "missive" issued by Osamma bin Laden.

    Be that as it may, moving on:

    Agreed. Iraq is not the last battle of this war ... its the first. Terror is the tool and tactic of those who can't match up militarily to their foe. So what's the answer?

    To the Bush administration's credit it has realized that this sort of conflict does require some nation building ... not that we're ready to do that well yet as has been evidenced in Iraq. But, like it or not, the war we're engaged in demands that as a part of it. And to do that, force structure and mission are going to have to undergo change:

    These sorts of changes aren't something which will happen willingly or quickly at the Pentagon. Institutional sea changes never do. But to paraphrase the Borg: "Its inevitable" if we're to win the War on Terror.

    Posted by McQ at 05:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Terror Math

    Stolen from the Captain's Quarters, a little "Terror Math" to again give perspective to a) the small amount of a chemical weapon necessary to cause mass casualties and b) the fact it is difficult then to find these potential killer chemicals:

    For all those who would downplay this finding, I offer the following lesson in “terror math”:

    It takes 1 drop (100 mg) of sarin to kill an average person.

    The artillery shell that was found contained 3 to 4 liters of sarin.

    1 drop (mg) equals 0.0001 liters (1/10000 of a liter).

    3-4 liters equates to roughly 50,000 drops.

    Obviously, it would be impossible to distribute 50,000 drops of sarin in an effective enough manner to kill tens of thousands of people. But consider this:

    The artillery shell that was found contained enough sarin that it could be divided up into 1000 300mg doses.

    Each 300mg dose could kill 3000 Americans, the number that died on 9/11.

    From that single artillery shell, 16 "new 9/11s” could be attempted.

    Many, if not most, would likely fail. But how many would succeed? How many American deaths lay waiting in that one “WMD?” One shell, 16 “9/11s”. Now ask yourself how many more deaths are waiting in shells that were “overlooked” or “misplaced?”

    There we have one artillery shell which had the potential, based on the amount of Sarin found, to kill 50,000 if perfectly utilized. Obviously that's not going to happen. So take the alternate example and use 300mg doses. 16 9/11s.

    16 300mg doses, removed from the artillery shell and in terrorist hands? Far fetched?


    Now, the most salient question ... If Hans Blix had it all figured out, why didn't he find these two artillery shells after Gulf War I?

    Yeah, obviously .... they're very easy to hide. So easy that he never found them. They'd been around for 13 years, for the entire time he was in Iraq ... but he never found them.

    It hasn't stopped him and others from claiming that going into Iraq to prevent WMDs from getting into terrorist hands was a fraud though, has it?

    So much for Blix, et. al.

    Posted by McQ at 04:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Fighting Barbarism

    John Derbyshire describes the diference between us and our enemies:

    A few weeks ago I published a piece in which I described Israel as being on the front lines of civilization. This roused the legions of Israel-haters and paleocons, who took a break from cataloguing their collections of Third Reich memorabilia and sticking pins in their Abraham Lincoln dolls to e-mail in and tell me of all the horrid things the Mossad and the IDF are guilty of.

    Well, yes, to be sure, civilization has its dirty work to do. "He [Kipling] sees clearly that men can only be highly civilized while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them"-G. Orwell. (He knew what he was talking about, having once worked as a policeman.) Still, it is an extreme kind of moral obtuseness that refuses to notice the difference between a people who strive to minimize noncombatant casualties and a people who do their best to maximize them. I note also that when Arabs are injured in an Arab terrorist attack against Jews, they are cared for in Israeli hospitals, to which they have been transported by Israeli ambulances. Imagine the converse, if it were possible: Jewish inhabitants of an Arab country, injured in a Jewish-terrorist attack on Arabs. They would be torn to pieces by ululating mobs of Arabs, and the pieces would be paraded triumphantly through streets crowded with laughing revelers, the whole thing broadcast on Al-Jazeera to general rejoicing around the Arab world.

    There you have the difference between civilization and barbarism. If you can't see it, I can't help you: You are morally blind.

    Lots of moral vision problems going around these days, it seems.

    Posted by at 03:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    The Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

    Dick Morris, writing in The Hill today, shows why political consultants are not usually foreign policy analysts. His advice to President Bush about Iraq can be stated in one word: Surrender. Morris argues that Iraq is hurting Bush politically, therefore, we can't win there, QED, it would be better to leave, and watch Iraq devolve into chaos from the sidelines.

    I suppose, if you assume the president's primary purpose is to win elections, Mr. Morris might have a point. And, after his long association with Mr. Clinton, why shouldn't he believe that? It was, after all, Mr. Clinton's primary goal.

    Unfortunately, in the post-9/11 world, simply declaring the bloody wogs to be unfit for civilization and going home simply isn't an option. Letting Iraq dissolve into chaos is a recipe for an American security disaster, although, in the short term, it might win the president a second term.

    If given the choice, however, I'd rather see George W. Bush driven out of Washington like some kind of poison troll, than create an Iraq that would turn into the type of place the Taliban created in Afghanistan, where the 9/11 attacks were planned. There are, I'm sure Mr. Morris would be slack-jawed with stupefaction to learn, more important things than seeing George W. Bush re-elected.

    Pulling out of Iraq would do little more than assure the world--once again--that the US has no real intention of ever completing a difficult task. Morris argues that because the Iraq situation is so hard, it must be impossible, so it's better just to throw up our hands and walk away.

    Oh, not completely away. He recommends we stay "nearby" (and where, pray, would that be?) ready to jump back into Iraq if it looks like the Ba'athists are about to resume power, but otherwise, let the Iraqis deconstruct their country.

    And, after invading Iraq, overthrowing the government there, then retreating in the face of a difficult occupation, how does Mr. Morris counsel the President to sell Iraq War II to the American people, should the Ba'athists look like making a comeback in the chaos our withdrawal would leave in its wake? If we withdraw after the first invasion because it was a big mistake, why would the American people listen to any explanations about why Iraq II would be less of one?

    And, come to think of, what credibility would the US have, anywhere else in the region when it comes to fighting Islamist terror? After an ignominious retreat from Iraq, why would the Islamists believe that any future US action is credible?

    This is sheer incoherence and political opportunism masquerading as foreign and military policy. It's the kind of political calculation that worked quite well for President Clinton, but that was, of course, the September 10th world.

    UPDATE (JON): Beltway Traffic Jam.

    Posted by at 02:13 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

    Expect probe to reach higher levels of command

    OK, here's what LTG Sanchez had to say today about the role of the MPs at Abu Gharib:

    As I noted in an earlier post, the relationship between the MI Brigade and the MP unit at Abu Gharib is key to this whole debacle. What you're seeing from LTG Sanchez is his "intent" for the relationship. He intended that MP unit be under the tactical command of the MI Bde so it could provide security for the FOB. However, as has been noted, that is a 'non-doctrinal' relationship.

    Before I go on, let me emphasize that just because something is "non-doctrinal' one can't simply assume its wrong. There's no particular right or wrong in the assignment, its simply not the way we usually doctrinally employ or command our forces. That doesn't mean it is 'wrong' to do so.

    But, that means if a non-doctrinal command assignment is made (TACON or tactical command in this case) it is, in my opinion, the responsibility of the assigning headquarters to make the "intent" and relationship clear to both units.

    I'm not sure that was done in this situation. The reason I say that is this:

    It appears, by Pappas's words, that he assumed those MPs were there for more than "security" of the FOB, doesn't it?

    So based on this, I would then assign some of the blame for all of this to the CJTF-7 staff (and LTG Sanchez) for the FRAGO (Fragmentary Order) 1108 which made the non-doctrinal assignment (TACON to the 205th MI Bde). I say this without ever having seen the FRAGO, but do assume that had explicit instructions been contained within the order both Pappas and Karpinski would have been aware of them.

    BTW, the fact that there may not have been those instructions in the FRAGO 1108 does not in the least excuse either Karpinski or Pappas from their duty to seek clarification and instructions.

    That's their job as commanders.

    Frankly, if I had found myself in a non-doctrinal situation with a vague command relationship I'd have been on CJTF-7's doorstep the next morning demanding a detailed set of instructions as to how the command relationship was to work and who had what area of responsibilites and I'd have wanted it signed in LTG Sanchez's blood.

    Obviously that didn't happen as it is apparent neither Karpinski or Pappas seem to have any inkling of what was intended by Sanchez.


    Posted by McQ at 01:37 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Abizaid/Sanchez Testimony Excerpts

    Here are some excerpts from testimony given by Gen. John Abizaid, CENTCOM commander and LTG Ricardo Sanchez, commander of US Forces in Iraq today before Congress.

    Gen Abizaid:

    LTG Ricardo Sanchez:

    Posted by McQ at 01:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    For what it's worth

    Take this with a large silo of salt until we get better sourcing, but I thought I'd pass it along...

    Informed sources from Iraq said that Saddam Hussein has admitted bribing various heads of state and parties throughout the world.

    The Al Rafedin website from Iraq quoted sources close to the Pentagon as saying that so far the U.S. defense ministry has filmed 312 hours of Saddam’s confessions in his detention center.

    In the films Saddam has confessed killing more than 200 of his political opponents.

    The Pentagon sources have also expressed astonishment over Saddam’s ignorance about international issues and political affairs raising the question that who were the main rulers of Saddam’s regime over the past 25 years.

    The sources added that Saddam had demanded certain Arab personalities to simulate opposition toward his government in order to infiltrate among the real opponents of the Baath regime.

    I tend to doubt this is entirely on the level - after all, one suspects the US has Saddam-information under lock, key and gun. So, if you hear nothing more of it, consider it a rumor. Interesting possibility, nonetheless.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 01:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    The "N" factor

    Seems Kerry see's Nader's candidacy as a real threat. If not, why so much time and effort to compromise it?

    Obviously the Democrats know where the bulk of those voting for Nader will come from ... out of those most likely to vote for Kerry should there be no Nader candidacy.

    But to woo them, there is a price to pay:

    That's right ... in order to sway those voters, Kerry is going to have to find some way of attracting the anti-war crowd without alienating the more pro-war supporters (or at least those who now say "stay the course and finish the job").

    Anyone have any idea how he can straddle that fence?

    Posted by McQ at 12:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Totally Unnecessary Cheap Shot of the Day

    You know what movie I'd like to see? "CELSIUS 250".

    (hint: requires a basic familiarity with Ray Bradbury, Michael Moore, and 2+2)

    UPDATE: As long as we're on the topic....

    Posted by Jon Henke at 11:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Things that make you go "Hmmm"...

    How convenient:

    A North Korean missile shipment to Syria was halted when a train collision in that Asian country destroyed the missile cargo and killed about a dozen Syrian technicians.

    U.S. officials confirmed a report in a Japanese daily newspaper that a train explosion on April 22 killed about a dozen Syrian technicians near the Ryongchon province in North Korea. The officials said the technicians were accompanying a train car full of missile components and other equipment from a facility near the Chinese border to a North Korea port.

    A U.S. official said North Korean train cargo was also believed to have contained tools for the production of ballistic missiles. North Korea has sold Syria the extended-range Scud C and Scud D missiles, according to reports by Middle East Newsline.

    Makes one wonder how much of an "accident" it might have been.

    Hat tip to LauraN for the link.

    Posted by McQ at 10:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Who is winning?

    In a NYTimes editorial, Adrian Woolridge and John Micklethwait argue that conservatives have been winning these past few decades...

    To consider the ground that liberals have ceded, one must look back at the union's founding in a cramped living-room in 1964, a few days after Lyndon B. Johnson had thrashed the first fully paid-up conservative presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater. Back then, the self-styled "Mr. Conservative" seemed to come from another planet.
    Fast forward to today. A Republican Party that is more conservative than Mr. Goldwater could have imagined controls the White House, Congress, many governors' mansions and a majority of seats in state legislatures.
    As evidence, they cite the Gallup poll which indicated that "twice as many Americans (41 percent) describe themselves as "conservative" than as "liberal" (19 percent)".

    Only, I'm not entirely sure that proves that conservatism is winning. In fact, it seems to me that conservatism is only gaining converts because it is losing...and changing its principles to adapt to that erosion.

    What evidence do we have of conservative victories? Certainly the top marginal tax rate has fallen since the 60s. On the other hand, tax "receipts reached their highest level as a percentage of GDP in 2000 at 20.8%" and they have generally been above the 1964 level of 17.6% for the past 20 years. Individual income taxes and payroll taxes have consistently exceeded 1964 levels.

    On the other hand, there was a bit of welfare reform in the 90s, so, you know....cry victory and let the dogs of war take a nap!

    Government intervention in the markets has risen and fallen over the past few decades, with no clear sign of where it is going in the future. What else is there?
    Abortion - losing.
    Social Security and Medicare reform - almost unspeakable.
    Defense - back and forth.
    Immigration - nobody is winning that fight.
    Education - belongs to the Federal government lock, stock and illiterate barrel.
    States Rights - largely abandoned, even by the Conservatives when the need arises.
    Reducing the size of Government - That seemed like a neat idea. Whatever happened to it?

    Libertarians, on the other hand, have some degree of social liberalization to which they can point and be happy. A more libertine society will, after all, tend to become a more libertarian society in many respects.

    But frankly, I'm having trouble finding reasons to believe conservatives are winning, and the NYT editorial strikes me as nothing but conservatives patting each other on the back for having another birthday. Sure, you may not have accomplished much, but at least you stayed alive for another year. Huzzah!

    (Hat tip to Curt for pointing me to the story)

    UPDATE: Matt Yglesias hit on this the other day at TAPPED.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 10:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Perfect Game

    Last night, as is my habit, I turned on the Braves game. They were playing Arizona and it looked like a good pitching matchup ... Randy Johnson against Mike Hampton. The Big Unit had been pretty good up to now but Hampton hadn't and I was anxious to see how he did.

    As it turns out he did rather well, pitching 9 innings and only giving up two runs (behind 3 Braves errors). But that wasn't the story.

    The story was Randy Johnson and the fact that he pitched a perfect game.

    Now I'm a baseball freak. I love the game. It is, indeed, my favorite sport. And I've been known, when possible, to watch every game the Braves play. Yes, I'm a "homer" but then that's what fans are ... they root for their team.

    But that doesn't take away from watching something amazing take place and subtly and then overtly rooting for an opponent ... in this case, Johnson.

    At about the 5th inning I said to myself, "hmm, perfect game so far". No biggie. I've seen it a thousand times through the years. Perfect through 5, then a big inning and end up losing the game.

    It was about the 7th inning that I began to really pay attention, and, Braves forgive me, subtly rooting for Johnson to pull it off. I noticed the same sort of shift taking place among the 30,000 or so Braves fans at the stadium. I'm thinking at that point, "wow, perfect through 7. He's got a shot".

    When he got through the 8th against Jones, Jones and Drew, I knew he had more than a shot. To this point 24 up and 24 down. Even 8 innings of that is amazing. He now had more than a shot. He could do it.

    In the 9th, Johnson was over a 100 pitches and it seemed, at least to me, that he was struggling just a little. He seemed to be laboring a bit and he was talking to himself as well. But he was still in the groove. The curve and slider were still working and that amazing fast ball was pin point accurate. DeRosa was out one. I'm on my feet now as is most of the stadium. Green goes down with a called strike three. People are clapping in the stadium. Eddie Perez is up, the last shot to break up the perfect game. Why Eddie Perez (pinch hitting for Hampton)? Because Perez has a very good record against Randy Johnson.

    Johnson is not to be denied. In a perfect ending to a perfect game, Johnson strikes Perez out.

    27 up.

    27 down.

    An amazing feat. And as a baseball fan of years, the first perfect game I've ever seen pitched.

    I've seen grand slams, I've seen unassisted triple plays, I've seen all sorts of amazing things in baseball.

    But I have to believe the most amazing and the rarest of them all is the perfect game.

    A hat tip to Randy Johnson. He was spectacular. He earned that one. And although I'd have prefered to see Hampton pitch the PG, it was indeed a treat to see one pitched, regardless.

    Posted by McQ at 10:29 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack



    Brutal interrogation techniques by U.S. military personnel are being investigated in connection with the deaths of at least five Iraqi prisoners in war-zone detention camps, Pentagon documents obtained by The Denver Post show.

    The deaths include the killing in November of a high-level Iraqi general who was shoved into a sleeping bag and suffocated, according to the Pentagon report. The documents contradict an earlier Defense Department statement that said the general died "of natural causes" during an interrogation. Pentagon officials declined to comment on the new disclosure.

    Another Iraqi military officer, records show, was asphyxiated after being gagged, his hands tied to the top of his cell door. Another detainee died "while undergoing stress technique interrogation," involving smothering and "chest compressions," according to the documents.

    And this happened at multiple prisons...not just Abu Ghraib. This was clearly not just a "few bad apples".

    Heads need to roll. Hard and fast. The dictates of justice aside, it is in our national interest to err on the side of overpunishing these abuses, rather than underpunishing them.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:54 AM | Comments (47) | TrackBack

    Iraq through a soda straw

    Marine Major Ben Connable provides us with some prespective about Iraq in the midst of all the doom and gloom we constantly see in the media. A particular anecdote he relays says it best:

    Terrific analogy: we're forced to view Iraq through the "soda straw" of the media's choice. And Connable, being a bright young Marine officer, knows why the media chooses the particular "straw" they use:

    Exactly so. Remember what sells ... sensationalism. Doom and gloom. We're much less likely to watch the opening of yet another school vs. Abu Ghraib or the murder of the 4 in Fallujah. When faced with that choice, most will choose the latter every time. So the media goes with what "sells". For instance, although the media hasn't shown it, apparently the hottest search on any of the internet search engines is the Nick Berg beheading. This drives home the point that we get what we ask for ... and to this point it hasn't been school openings.

    That doesn't change the reality of what's happening in Iraq for the good though, and its important that we keep that in perspective. As Connable notes:

    Here we see the point I've been trying to make for months: it isn't enough to "support the troops" ... that doesn't, in and of itself make the grade. To really support the troops, you have to also support their mission.

    Like it or not, we're in Iraq to stay. That 'debate' is over. And the "I support the troops but not the mission" argument is becoming more and more threadbare. Principled dissent is fine, but much of what we're seeing isn't in that category. If you support the troops, you must, of necessity support their mission for your support to mean anything. Otherwise it is empty rhetoric designed only to shield you from criticism.

    But that's not really what I wanted to note here. I really wanted to note that there is indeed much more to the story as Connable has pointed out. That there is a much bigger picture outside the soda straw of the media's coverage. Its important that we maintain that perspective while we watch the narrow focus of the reports that make the news and understand that much good is being done even while the press concentrates on stories that sell.

    Posted by McQ at 08:44 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    Strafor on Iraq Strategy

    A very interesting piece from Stratfor (subscription required) - a respected private intelligence firm - on the current situation and strategic necessities in Iraq. I'm not sure I entirely accept their premise, but it is a valuable piece. I'll excerpt a few bits, with comments. For starters, the author lays out his view of the strategic argument for the Iraq war...[emphasis added throughout]

    The United States' invasion of Iraq was not a great idea. Its only virtue was that it was the best available idea among a series of even worse ideas. In the spring of 2003, the United States had no way to engage or defeat al Qaeda. The only way to achieve that was to force Saudi Arabia -- and lesser enabling countries such as Iran and Syria -- to change their policies on al Qaeda and crack down on its financial and logistical systems. In order to do that, the United States needed two things. First, it had to demonstrate its will and competence in waging war -- something seriously doubted by many in the Islamic world and elsewhere. Second, it had to be in a position to threaten follow- on actions in the region.
    Here is where we begin to differ. We do so not based on what he wrote, but on what he left out - democracy. In fact, later, the author specifically disavows a strategic interest in Iraqi democracy.
    Iraq's only importance was its geographic location: It is the most strategically located country between the Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush. The United States needed it as a base of operations and a lever against the Saudis and others, but it had no interest -- or should have had no interest -- in the internal governance of Iraq.
    ...the United States has no national interest in the nature of Iraqi government or society. Except for not supporting al Qaeda, Iraq's government does not matter.
    For starters, while I concur that we needed to show our resolve to the Arab world - to let them know we were no longer a "paper tiger" - I'm not entirely sure that direct military pressure will push the factionalized Saudi Arabia leadership in the direction in which we want them to go. Those in control are stuck between the United States on one side and the fundamentalists like Al Qaeda on the other side. I'd rather they believe Al Qaeda is their greatest threat - there is greater opportunity for detente when we share a common enemy.

    But let's leave that aside for now.

    Not only do I disagree on their view of our national interest in democracy, I disagree that we have "evolved to a new mission: the creation of democracy in Iraq". I've written on this before, and the short version is that the democratization argument was propounded by both the administration and the prominent ideological influences on this administration, both before the war and after - in fact, even before 9/11. (see the linked posts for extensive details)

    In the short view centering solely on Iraq, it is indeed arguable that we have no national interest in whether Iraq is a democracy or a non-threatening "Shiite-dominated government". But the short view is inadequate. Our problem prior to the war in Iraq was not just Iraq - a fact that Strafor acknowledges by saying that Iraq was simply a staging ground for follow-on operations against Al Qaeda and a means of pressuring neighboring nations. Stratfor accepts the long term needs, but rejects Iraq as anything more than a short term means to an end.

    I disagree. As was stated by the directors of Project for a New American Century...

    [Our challenge] is to promote democracy in the Arab world as an antidote to radical Islam.
    We cannot promote that democracy until there actually is a wedge - a foothold - of democracy. Unless and until that happens, the Arab world will always regard democracy as a western practice, that is "incompatable with Islam".

    Whether it was Iraq or another nation, we have a vital interest in achieving democracy in the Middle East, lest we always suffer the consequences of Middle Eastern totalitarianism and propaganda. So, yeah....we have a national security interest.

    But Stratfor does make one interesting point in this discussion on possible outcomes....

    Iraq should then be encouraged to develop a Shiite-dominated government, the best guarantor against al Qaeda and the greatest incentive for the Iranians not to destabilize the situation. The fate of the Sunnis will rest in the deal they can negotiate with the Shia and Kurds -- and, as they say, that is their problem.
    It's a point worth remembering. Even if we fail to balance the various Iraqi factions in a functioning democracy, there is still the Shiite majority - and that is quite a roadblock to Al Qaeda.

    There's a great deal more to the Stratfor piece, too. I'll try to come back to it later, but I thought these points were worth making now.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Since government makes half of us unhappy at any given time, let's just reduce the whole thing...

    The more things change....

    "the level of incompetence here is so staggering here, and yet there's this gap between how astonishingly incompetent...and we can go over particulars in the last year if you want to... how astonishingly incompetent they've been and the perception is still of them as solid citizens..."[Jonathan Alter]
    ...the more they stay the same...
    Why can't Americans wake up and see what Bill Clinton has done to the morals of our country? Why can't they see what a disgrace that is upon the office of the presidency?[Letter to CNN]
    I fear politics is going to become little more than perpetual outrage, leaving little room for conversation.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    May 18, 2004

    Wobbly in Washington

    Mark Steyn nails it:

    Goh Chok Tong, the prime minister of Singapore, was in Washington the other day and summed it up very well: ''The key issue is no longer WMD or even the role of the U.N. The central issue is America's credibility and will to prevail.'' In Britain, they used to say that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton -- i.e., it was thanks to the fierce resolve inculcated by an English education. The war on terror will be lost in the talking shops of Washington -- i.e., it will be thanks to the lack of resolve inculcated by excessive exposure to blow-dried pundits and Senate hearings. The war now has two fronts. In Iraq, the glass is half-full. In Washington, it's half-empty, and draining fast.

    The administration, in trying to see its way through both the phony crossfire and the real one, has been rattled by the fake war. Someone in the White House needs seriously to stiffen the Bush rhetoric. When the president talks about ''staying the course'' and ''bringing to justice'' the killers, he sounds like Bill Clinton, who pledged to stay the course in Somalia and bring to justice the terrorists, and did neither. Bush has to go back to speaking Rumsfeldian, not Powellite: He has to talk about winning total victory, hunting down the enemy and killing them.

    And, more than talking about it, he has to do it.

    Posted by at 02:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Under the heading: "Its about time"

    The NYT notes:

    The United States government has decided to halt monthly $335,000 payments to the Iraqi National Congress, the group headed by Ahmad Chalabi, an official with the group said on Monday.

    Why, you ask?

    Internal reviews by the United States government have found that much of the information provided as part of the classified program before American forces invaded Iraq last year was useless, misleading or even fabricated.

    Unfortunately much of our plan and intelligence preceeding the war was based on "information" Chalabi's group provided.

    That isn't to say the INC hasn't helped at all:

    The official of the Iraqi National Congress defended the group's intelligence-gathering, saying its role providing weapons intelligence had been overblown and that it had helped capture 1,500 insurgents, mostly loyalists of Saddam Hussein.

    Michael Rubin, who spent eight months in Iraq as an adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, the occupation administration, and is now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research center in Washington, said: "The truth of the matter is that the I.N.C.-provided information rolled up a lot of insurgent cells that were targeting American soldiers. It stopped bombings and terrorist attacks that were aimed at U.S. troops. That program saved a lot of lives."

    But the group hasn't been worth what they've gotten and they certainly shouldn't be the go-to group as pertains to Iraq policy. This break should have been made long ago ... but it is good to see it is finally happening.

    Posted by McQ at 12:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Quick Hits

    *** Never shy about self-promotion, I'll point out that John Hawkins of RightWingNews has put QandO at #13 on his "Favorite 40 Blogs". I am flattered, Hawkins. Thank you.

    *** Robert Prather of InsultsUnpunished is coming up on his 2nd Blogiversary, and wants to hit 500,000 unique visitors by then. Sounds like a good blog-cause to me, especially since I already enjoy his blog. You know what to do.

    *** As per usual, Bill at INDCJournal does some very touching and amusing (yes, at the same time) photojournalism. I'm guessing he is the first to ever use the phrase "Revolutionary crickets chirping". (Google says he is)

    *** Along those lines, I was quite surprised to discover that Dale Franks was NOT the first person to ever use the words "Teddy Roosevelt" and "Machine Lathe" on the same page (per Google) - though, he is probably the first to use both in the same sentence. Huzzah!

    *** Dodd, author of Ipse Dixit, has gotten a new gig...

    I accepted an offer Friday to take a General Counsel position in Kentucky state government.* It's a terrific fit for me and, insofar as it will be a law & policy job, I expect it to be very rewarding, as well.

    *** Dr Galen is answering questions about sports injuries. So, you know, if you're wondering whether a person with your particular lard-quotient can safely get off the couch, now might be the time to ask.

    *** Donald Sensing hits on exactly why Bush's approval ratings can go so low, without a corresponding rise in Kerry's poll numbers.

    UPDATE: About damned time...

    The United States government has decided to halt monthly $335,000 payments to the Iraqi National Congress, the group headed by Ahmad Chalabi, an official with the group said on Monday.
    Actually, "about damned time" was a year ago. Better late than never, though...

    Posted by Jon Henke at 10:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    A Shakeout Moment

    David Brooks writes in the New York Times that we may be facing a shakeout moment in Iraq. Our national character, says Brooks, is to get involved in large tasks for idealistic reasons, figure out halfway into it that it wasn't as easy as it looked at first, then pragmatically figure out a solution that, while not utopia, is better than what came before. So, he thinks, we will do in Iraq.

    Well, I certainly hope so, but it would be nice to see some hint from the Bush Administration that they are ready to start with the pragmatic bits. So far, it's been all muddle.

    It seems to me that there are, at the very least, a few key things that the Bush Administration has to do in order to secure some sort of positive change in Iraq before we get out.

    As the recent Zogby poll indicates, the Situation in Iraq is killing the Bush presidency. Where there is no vision, the people perish. And the Bush Administration, while really good at doing prepared speeches once per quarter, is horrific at getting the message out to the American people about what we are accomplishing in Iraq, what we hope to accomplish, and how we intend to get there.

    Many people around the world suppose that Americans lack the moral courage to do difficult tasks, re: Vietnam. That is untrue. What the American people are is businesslike. We are unwilling to give a president the license to send our boys into harm's way unless he can convince us that he's at least in the ballpark of a solution.

    When a president fails to communicate a vision to the electorate, the people's willingness to take casualties diminishes. We simply won't spend the lives of our sons and daughters to accomplish nothing.

    So, I think the bashing Bush is beginning to see in terms of public support is a direct reflection of his apparent inability to communicate a vision and a plan for success in Iraq. He may have, as Baldric used to say on the old Blackadder TV series, "a cunning plan", but unless he communicates it to us, we aren't going to support him.

    If given a choice between constant US causalities without any apparent plan for accomplishing our purpose, and a complete withdrawal, the American people will choose the latter. Not because they don't have the guts to sacrifice, but because they are too businesslike to sacrifice for no return.

    This is why I disagree in part with McQ's assessment of the press' impact on Vietnam, especially in regards to the Tet Offensive. It's certain that the press did not, in any way, play a helpful part in that process. But, then Neither did the Johnson Administration. From 1966 to 1968, the word coming out of Westmoreland's Headquarters at MACV, and from McNamara's people at the Pentagon was that we were kicking butt and taking names. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We were winning hearts and minds.

    When the North Vietnamese went into a period of operational pause to prepare for the Tet Offensive, the constant refrain from Johnson's people was that it as further proof that we were on the edge of victory. So, when the Tet Offensive began, it destroyed the Johnson Administration's credibility, and in effect, ended Johnson's presidency.

    Moreover, in the wake of Tet, claims that the VC had been essentially destroyed, therefore, no change in strategy was required, fell on deaf ears among the electorate. Had the military's optimistic estimates been correct prior to Tet, there wouldn't have been a Tet Offensive.

    The Bush Administration hasn't made the Johnson mistake of overestimating its successes, but it has done a poor job of communicating how we are going to get to and end game in Iraq. That has to change.

    Second, no matter what the Bush Administration does, there is one pitfall it absolutely has to avoid to have any reasonable hope of success: It must avoid, at all costs, the UN desire to have a functioning government in place prior to free elections.

    Lakhdar Brahimi, the big UN boy on Iraq, went into the first meeting with the Iraqi Governing Council, sat right across from the Kurdish representative, and insouciantly proclaimed, "I come before you not only as a UN official, but as a fellow Arab." I doubt the Kurds were amused. As David Frum put it in a radio interview, this is much like a UN official coming in to negotiate a Polish dispute and declaring that he comes to them not as a UN official, but as a German.

    If the UN has its way, the overwhelming probability is that a government in place prior to the elections will be centered on a Sunni strongman, quite likely with a military background. Such a government will do everything it can to manipulate any subsequent election in order to retain power.

    What Iraq needs is a free and fair election first, in order to create a relatively representative government right out of the gate. Failure to do this will most likely result in a government very much like the one we've just deposed there. It would, most likely, be a far more circumspect government in terms of WMDs or territorial aggression, but it will hardly be a representative or particularly democratic one.

    Like Brooks, I hope that the Bush Administration will become a lot more pragmatic about Iraq, and will find a way to leave the situation there much improved, even if not a utopia. But it'd sure be nice to see some evidence of that happening.

    Posted by at 10:47 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    My Price Peeve

    Bear with me while I rant about this....

    With oil prices still climbing, President Bush is coming under increasing criticism for his handling of the burgeoning political issue of gasoline costs, not only from Democrats but also from administration allies in the oil-refining and chemical industries. [emphasis added]
    Gah! The author flips between "price" and "cost" in the same sentence. The two are not the same. Within the context of this story, the author is speaking about "price". He writes...
    Half a dozen Senate Democrats plan to call on Bush today to begin releasing as many as 60 million barrels of oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Such a move would inject much-needed supplies into a market choked by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and pulled tight by rising world demand, they say.
    "Price" is the means by which we establish an equilibrium between supply and demand. When one exceeds the other, "price" changes to reflect that fact and bring them back into equilibrium.

    In this case, supply is being limited while demand is rising. But here's the rub....the placement of gasoline into the strategic petroleum reserve does not indicate a change in the COST of gasoline. It indicates a change in the PRICE of gasoline. Gasoline stored in the SPR has its own benefit, in terms of stability.

    We might minimally change the price of gasoline by releasing some of that oil, but we would do so at the cost of economic stability in the event of an oil shock. Whether Exxon or the SPR gets that gasoline, the cost remains the same. Even ending the practice of filling the SPR would result in a change of pennies in the price of gasoline.

    Fortunately, Treasury Secretary John Snow seems to understand...

    "Our policy . . . has been clear for a long time," Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said yesterday. Oil will be released only for "genuine emergencies," not price fluctuation, he said.
    Indeed, the President has very little ability to limit the cost of gasoline. But he can make the price of oil fluctuate like an indecisive voter during campaign promise-making season.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 10:25 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Aiding the cause of terrorism

    Thomas Sowell makes the point which I so poorly attempted yesterday pertaining to responsible reporting in the press or lack thereof:

    The press wants to claim a 'free pass' ... that they have no need to consider the impact of what they do in terms of reporting and how that is done. They seem to think that they are morally immune ... that their reporting and pontificating only present facts and have no impact otherwise.

    One only has to consider the feeding frenzy of Abu Gharib and to then compare coverage in Vietnam with Abu Gharib to understand that what the press did in Vietnam is comparable to Abu Gharib right now. Another way of saying this is imagine 24 hour news stations in the Vietnam era.

    We all know, for instance, that the Tet offensive was totally misreported. What ended up as a resounding victory for the US and RVN (the VC were eliminated as a cohesive fighting force) was spun into a terrible defeat by the press and the anti-war crowd. Perspective was completely lost. Doomsayers pronounced it as the beginning of the end. Yet in reality, it set the communist effort back by at least 2 years and forced the North Vietnamese to commit the NVA further south.

    But you'd have never known that by the media.

    Abu Gharib falls into much the same category. While visually disgusting and obviously morally wrong, it is not as big a story as the press insists on making it. It is a problem, yes. And its been discovered, investigated and is now being dealt with.

    But what do we have instead? An attempt to indict the entire chain of command with the stigma of these MPs. A transparent and shrill attempt to finally find a way to legitimize charges similar to those Kerry made in his 1971 "testimony" before congress: "to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."

    Finally want a comparison to Viet Nam?

    Look to the press.

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


    One bit of fallout from Abu Gharib will be new strictures on how we can 'prepare' a prisoner for interrogation. Arnold Ahlert of Newday already sees an overreaction in that regard which may be detrimental to our ability to get timely information from them. Note his outrage and sarcasm with which I pretty much agree:

    Sleep and sensory deprivation, and body "stress positions," are now "prohibited interrogation techniques," according to the latest release from the U.S. military.

    To understand the monumental stupidity of this new initiative, imagine the following: We are lucky enough to capture one Abu Musab Zarqawi - a Jordanian militant with al Qaeda connections, specialist in bio and chemical weaponry, suspected organizer of much of the Iraqi resistance movement and alleged beheader of American civilian Nick Berg.

    Now add the latest policy: No asking questions until the terrorist gets his refreshing eight-hour snooze - with the "night-light" on, if he so desires. After that, possibly a comfortable chair.

    Got the picture? A man who would have volumes of knowledge about the world's most lethal terror organization, who likely knows where the next several attacks on U.S. soldiers will occur, a man who might even know where chemical and bio weapons are being stockpiled for use against Americans - and we'll treat him with kid gloves.

    Why? To satisfy the "sensitivities" of those who are still incapable or unwilling to recognize the true nature of the enemy we face, even after 9/11 and a videotaped decapitation.

    Milk and cookies, too?

    Sleep and sensory deprevation (isolation) have been techniques both approved and used under the Geneva Conventions. In fact they're techniques used in US police interrogation today. I have no real problem with eliminating "stress positions", because they are indeed ripe for abuse (too much lattitude for "interpretation" which is what I think we'll find was one of the problems at Abu Ghraib).

    These techniques are used to "sweat" the prisoner, i.e. put pressure on him, stress if you will. Sleep deprevation has the effect of making a prisoner more likely to make a mental mistake under interrogation as they just don't think as clearly as when fresh. And, it provides an incentive to provide the information required by the interrogator: "talk and we let you sleep".

    Sensory deprevation or isolation, has essentially the same effect. Done in combination and the time it takes to 'prepare' a prisoner for interrogation is minimal. Once the prisoner breaks, it usually isn't necessary to do this again (psychologically, most give up after the break and provide info necessary on demand).

    All this to point out that now, in typical fashion, we're overreacting and tying the hands of our people, vs. identifying and fixing the problem and then, under much stricter supervision, resuming interrogations using proper techniques for "softening up" the prisoners beforehand.

    Fix the problem, review the techniques in question, write strict guidelines for their use and then supervise their use closely.

    But don't tie interrogators hands to the point that our troops in the field pay for this overreaction with their lives because we allowed our desire for positive world opinion to take precidence over gathering vital intelligence that could save them.

    Posted by McQ at 08:25 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Zogby Says its Kerry's to lose

    Pollster John Zogby, for whom I used to have some respect, has found a way to destroy that. Not because he breaks for Kerry, but because it is much too early to make these sorts of predictions:

    He lists four major reasons he believes this is true, and I'll leave it to you to read the linked article for them. In short, he believes there are very few undecided voters (so this means his poll reflects November in May), the economy is the major factor for most voters and Kerry leads comfortably in that area (again in MAY), the president is at the mercy of events that are out of his control (gee aren't they all?) and finally, Kerry's a "good closer".

    This is all disputed by another pollster, Matt Towery, who questions each of these premises.

    Let's take a look at one of Zogby's "reasons" ... the economy. Towery makes the point that people look at the economy on a very personal level ... their own pocketbook. If they're doing better then, its a plus for the incumbent. If not, then its a minus.

    We have an improving economy now ... even Kerry and the DNC can't deny it.
    As Michael Barone notes in US News, Kerry has been forced to drop the joblessness as a campaign issue:

    Jobs are a very local economic plus which works in the favor of Bush. So Kerry is now pounding trade. Well, folks, the "trade deficit" isn't a "local economic" issue. Its more on the esoteric side, which is less likely to garner Kerry votes if the economic condition of job seekers and workers have improved.

    Business Week believes the economy to be in a "sweet spot" where a cycle of productivity gains and hiring have begun in earnest and that it will be a "long and sustainable" recovery.

    So the question, at least to me, is how does Zogby believe that Kerry can sustain a 52 to 39 lead over Bush on the question of the economy with all of this facing him?

    Frankly, I don't know. And it calls into question the "integrity" of Zogby's future polling. He's gone out on a limb and made a prediction on what I would consider to be some pretty shaky premises ... especially as it concerns the economy and its impact. I also agree with Towrey when he says he believes Zogby has underestimated the power of the incumbency and the number of uncommitted voters (no way we're down to 5% in May ... more than 5% aren't even paying attention at this point).

    All that to say I'll now be watching anything Zogby puts out there with a very jaundiced eye. Call me a cynic, but I'm of the opinion that a pollster who makes a prediction will then write questions to make his prediction a self-fullfilling prophecy.

    I could be wrong ... but then I've been observing human nature for a very long time.

    Posted by McQ at 07:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Neolibertarianism - Pt 2

    Kevin Drum has an excellent post on the problem with ideologically dependent politics....

    The fact is that pretty much any intellectual principle becomes absurd and unusable when taken to extremes...
    ...history is littered with the corpses of movements that had a single overarching vision that metastasized over time and eventually led them to their doom.

    The reason for this is simple: ideas have to reflect reality to have any power, and the actual human world doesn't run according to a single overarching principle. At a certain point, even if an idea continues to make some kind of logical sense, it no longer makes human sense as it starts coming into conflict with other human principles and desires that are equally strong. If you insist on taking your ideas past that point, you have essentially become a fanatic.

    So, this is where I break with the Libertarians and Anarcho-Capitalists. Lovely, in theory. Meanwhile, in the real world, people who disavow the use of force to accomplish political ends will never be a match for people who are quite comfortable thankyouverymuch with using force to accomplish their ends.

    To put it in simpler terms: human nature being what it is, a Party which promises just the right degree of bread and circuses will almost always beat a Party which promises no bread or circuses at all. Always, in the long term.

    So, what's the point in being a libertarian at all if we can't "win"? As Kevin writes..."Various viewpoints ebb and flow, but they very rarely get to the catastrophic point that is sadly common under authoritarian systems". We don't reach that state of authoritarianism precisely because there are people who insist on whatever degree of liberty they can achieve. There are, after all, degrees of winning and losing.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Charm Attack

    Brian Leiter, who has heard of civility but wants no truck with it, writes....

    So, his argument is, essentially, that "of course they wouldn't show the Nick Berg video....the media never shows a picture of a decapitation! That's beyond the pale!"

    And for even suggesting that they should show something so far out of the bounds of taste - even just the stills - the right side of the blogosphere is "stupid".

    Of course, Leiter neglects to mention that full frontal nudity of men performing oral sex on one another is also a "spectacle of a kind that is never shown in the mainstream media, regardless of the perpetrator". Yet, for some reason, that has managed to make every newscast for the past couple weeks.

    So, I'm unsure where Brian Leiter draws the line, except perhaps at "whatever the right says is wrong".

    NOTE: He also makes a somewhat more legitimate argument about family sensitivity, though I've rarely seen the press care a great deal about that. His third point is that the crimes at Abu Ghraib deserved a great deal of attention....a point we've argued here often. Just thought it was worth mentioning that not every point he makes is quite as ridiculous as his first.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 06:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    May 17, 2004

    History starts and stops with every campaign

    The DNC and the left has been beside themselves over this WaPo story about high-dollar donors to the Bush campaign....

    For achieving their fundraising goals, Pioneers receive a relatively modest token, the right to buy a set of silver cuff links with an engraved Lone Star of Texas (Rangers can buy a more expensive belt buckle set). Their real reward is entree to the White House and the upper levels of the administration.

    Of the 246 fundraisers identified by The Post as Pioneers in the 2000 campaign, 104 -- or slightly more than 40 percent -- ended up in a job or an appointment.

    So, campaign donors tend to be political appointees. Or, perhaps, political appointees tend to be campaign donors. We really don't know which way the causal relationship works, or, indeed, if there even is one. (and how many times do I have to tell you, correlation is not causation!)

    Be that as it may, I'm having trouble getting worked up over this revelation that political donors tend to be political appointees. While the WaPo may think this is a new phenomenon, I'd...

    Larry Lawrence, a big donor to the Democratic Party and ambassador to Switzerland...
    ...Manatt Phelps is a firm with deep political connections. Name partner Charles Manatt co-chaired the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992, is the ex-Democratic National Committee chairman, and served two years as Clinton's ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
    Lyndon Olson, former CEO of Primerica Insurance Holdings and a soft money donor himself, was appointed the ambassador to Sweden by President Clinton.
    President Clinton's nominee to be ambassador to Luxembourg, James C. Hormel, is a businessman, a Democratic Party donor, a wealthy heir to the Hormel meat packing fortune...
    I could go on. Oh, could I go on.

    And lest you think I'm excusing Bush by deflecting attention to Clinton, let me point out that this is a longstanding bipartisan tradition.
    Bush 41 did it...

    When Mosbacher became secretary of commerce, members of the team were rewarded in various ways, including being invited by Mosbacher on trade missions around the world and, often, being given ambassadorships. ("That's part of what the system has been like for 160 years," Mosbacher said when questioned about it at the time--a judgment the press apparently agreed with.)
    And Nixon did it...
    Richard Nixon, insisting that any socialite who wants to be an ambassador must give his campaign $250,000.
    So, you know, forgive me if I fail to get all worked up when the Washington Post discovers that the Sun sets in the west. Of course, it remains amusing that the DNC can still manage to feign offense while they ask their own donors whether they prefer Fiji or Luxembourg.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 09:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    The Communion Conundrum

    Andrew Sullivan has his panties in a wad. He's exercised. He's vexed. The source of this discomfort is the suggestion that pro-choice, Roman Catholic politicians be refused communion, since, according to Catholic doctrine, abortion is a sin of the highest order.

    Sullivan argues that politics and religion should be kept entirely separate, and that for the church to enforce such a rule would be church interference in our political life of the highest order.

    Now, I'm not Catholic. Or even particularly religious. And I support the legality of at least first-trimester abortions.

    But Sullivan is dead wrong.

    First, his argument assumes that religious principles are an invalid basis for making political decisions. Presumably, if I objected to abortion because it appears to result in a significantly higher rate of fatal breast cancer, that's a legitimate objection. If, however, I object to it because my religious teaching tells me it's deeply immoral, that's just beyond the pale. Essentially, he's arguing that if I have a political stand based upon my religious belief, that it makes my position illegitimate. Somehow, I have to completely separate my moral and religious beliefs from my politics.

    Huh. That would be a neat trick.

    Second, the Catholic bishops have every right to define the requirements for taking communion. The purpose of religion is not make us feel all warm and fuzzy, it is to provide a standard of holy living, and set of principles to which it's adherents must abide in order to obtain salvation. It is the duty of the Church's leadership to provide religious guidance to their congregations. It remains their duty even if doing so is politically unpopular.

    Sullivan says that the Church's kingdom is not of this world, and so Catholic bishops shouldn't get involved in politics. But that argument works both ways. It also means that those same Bishops must apply church law as they believe it should be applied, without reference to the inconvenience it causes Catholic Democrat politicians.

    Indeed, if as the Catholic church contends, abortion is a deeply immoral and evil act, the Bishops have an absolute duty to deny communion to those adherents who consistently support it, no matter how politically incorrect it might be. And they must do so precisely because their kingdom is not of this world, and they must prepare people for eternal judgement. No matter what the secular law allows, the bishops must enforce those things the Church forbids. Moreover, they must make such decisions with no reference at all to the current political situation.

    It then becomes the duty of each parishioner to decide if he wishes to abide by the religious guidance of the Church's leaders. If he does not, then he is free to find a church that more closely comports with his religious beliefs.

    Look, let's say that it was legal for you to just shoot people you didn't like in the head. Would the church be wrong to forbid communion to Catholic politicians who support the legality of such a law? Of course not. And the Church makes no distinction between, say, abortion, and lynching. Both are murder, in the Catholic conception, and both are equally wrong.

    Would the Catholic Church be wrong to deny communion to Nazis who advocate the extermination of Jews? Or to white supremacists who think minorities should be expelled from the US? No, of course not. But only because we find those things icky. If the Bishops denied communion to some raging anti-Semite, we wouldn't even blink.

    But then, racism doesn't have as popular a constituency as abortion does.

    Liberal Catholic politicians want to have it both ways. They want to be able to personally condemn abortion, while at the same time, acting to ensure it remains legal. They want to take communion as Catholics in good standing, but publicly support something the Church considers to be profoundly immoral. It reminds me of nothing so much as Southern politicians who used to condemn lynchings, while doing everything possible to ensure that the lynch parties were never brought to justice.

    Cake. Have it. Eat it. Please choose only one.

    Posted by at 05:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Move Over Jerry Lewis, France has a new favorite fool

    Drudge is reporting...

    20 mins standing ovation for FAHRENHEIT 9-11, yelling, screaming, cheering... 'This is the longest stading ovation in the history of the festival! Unbelievable!' declared Cannes stalwart Thierry Fremaux. Moore, raising fist, unable to speak over crowd, vows to fight...
    A old SpaceGhost line comes to mind. Fill in your own French accent and run with it...

    "Finally, a product for me! I believe every word that man just said, because it's exactly what I wanted to hear."

    Posted by Jon Henke at 01:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Thanks for playing "Too Much Information"

    Thanks for playing "Too Much Information"
    Photo: Reuters/Alex Wong

    Posted by at 01:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Michael Moore's wet dream

    Michael Moore's wet dream
    Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

    Posted by at 01:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    And the poor dear's dress is so worn, you can see right through it

    And the poor dear's dress is so worn, you can see right through it.
    Photo: AFP/Pascal Guyot

    Posted by at 12:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Emerods on both their houses

    Mark Helprin writes a devastating critique of Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq. Then, he follows it up with an even more devastating trashing of Kerry's proposals for Iraq.

    Helprin's critique is both powerful and well-reasoned. It is also, on the whole, balanced.

    The Bush Administration is hovering close to, but not quite over, the line between success and failure there. At every step of the way, when faced with e decision about whether to send more troops and equipment, or less, the Administration has chosen "less". At every opportunity to use more force or less, they've chosen "less".

    Part of this is simple arrogance. The Bush Administration has a childlike faith in the power of defense transformation. Transformation is indeed powerful. Frankly, there isn't a military force in the world that would have a chance against the United States in direct combat.

    But, in an occupation/nation-building scenario, it appears highly deficient. All the combat power in the world doesn't help if you can't apply it, and, in the context of a civil campaign, you can't.

    One of the reasons Eric Shinseki was more or less forced to retire was that he wouldn't play along with the Bush team on the effectiveness of transformation in an occupation scenario. He predicted a successful occupation in Iraq would take 400,000 troops, but that was something Rumsfeld just didn't want to hear.

    I have to admit, I was taken in by the transformation claims as well. I thought Shinseki was far too pessimistic, and that his refusal to go along with the Rumsfeld plan was a result of political, rather than military calculation. I was mistaken. Unlike me, however, Rumsfeld, and the Bush Administration generally, appears not have learned this lesson. As a result, our project in Iraq is--despite all the progress--faltering and stumbling.

    The answer to this, however, is a policy the Bush Administration seems loathe to call for: Increased military spending and a significantly larger force structure. Their refusal to admit that this is necessary seems to me to reflect an unwillingness to learn from experience, and a politically-based fear to ask for greater spending or sacrifice on the part of the American people.

    It is one thing to make mistakes in war. Indeed, mistakes are fairly constant in warfare. But, while mistakes are understandable and forgivable, a refusal to learn from them is not.

    But, as Helprin points out, what alternative do we have?

    The solutions proposed by the Democrats, including those of John Kerry, will amount to little more than an ignominious retreat. Kerry wants us to rely more on our "allies"--presumably France and Germany--despite the fact that those allies have done everything possible to frustrate our purpose in Iraq. Moreover, to require that everyone be on board for everything we do is, in reality, a recipe for doing nothing. In the real world, we will never get a generalized consensus to act from our allies. It is little more than a way to refrain from fighting the war on terror by using our most obstructionist "allies" as an excuse for inaction.

    "Love to help you fellows out with the wahabbist zealots, but the frogs say 'no'. Sorry."

    Saying that we will let the UN or France decide how the war on terror is to be fought is much the same as saying the war will not be fought at all. That simply isn't an option.

    We already have the war. We can pretend that if we ignore it, it will go away, but that's a fantasy that's even more foolish than the fantasy that France can be reliably depended upon to safeguard American interests.

    So, there's our choice for November 2004. Do we pick the sitting president who, by doing the bare minimum and arrogantly refusing to admit mistakes, will jeopardize our progress in the War on Terror, or do we choose the Democratic challenger, who will do everything he can to, in reality, ensure the war isn't fought at all?

    I'll bet Teddy Roosevelt is spinning in his grave like a machine lathe.

    Posted by at 11:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Why Abu Ghraib matters more

    David Adesnik gets it exactly right...

    There is no question that the media has made a subjective judgment that Abu Ghraib is far more important than the beheading of Nick Berg. But that is a judgment that I strongly endorse and for reasons that should be very familiar to conservatives.

    We have known for a long time now that Al Qaeda has no shame and no respect for human life. No matter how gruesome, the beheading of Nick Berg did little more than confirm that fact.

    The difference is this: What happened to Nick Berg was mostly news because of the videotape - because of the gruesome and personal connection we could make with it. In any other respect, it was simply Standard Operating Procedure for Al Qaeda. It was "the norm".

    On the other hand, what happened at Abu Ghraib was an aberration. As some other blogger (I can't recall who) put it, the Abu Ghraib abuse was an exception to our principles. The Nick Berg beheading was an expression of theirs.

    So, yeah....Abu Ghraib is bigger news. It should be.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 10:19 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

    WMD - but slow down

    The AP and Reuters report....

    The U.S. military says it has found the nerve agent sarin in an artillery shell in Iraq, the first announcement of the discovery of any of the weapons on which Washington made its case for war.

    Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told a news conference on Monday that the substance had been found in an artillery shell discovered by a U.S. convoy. The round exploded, causing a small release of the substance, he said.

    Not many more details available at this point, but I'd caution against jumping to conclusions too quickly. After all, we knew he had old chemical weapons sitting around the country, though we assumed most had been destroyed. The problem Iraq always had was that they were unable to purify their chemicals sufficiently to make them last for a significant amount of time. So, a great deal of outdated, decomposed chemicals may have been lying about. They didn't matter a great deal.

    In short, finding some old duds lying about is not the same as finding stockpiles of more recently produced weapons. So....wait. And try not to make sweeping conclusions about the justification for war based on a single old artillery shell.

    UPDATE: I should point out one more thing: if the Sarin contained in the bomb was in sufficiently pure form to cause harm, that might seem to indicate that it was produced more recently. Which would be very interesting and hard to explain...

    UPDATE II: Captain Ed has more, and finds this BBC story, which has a "Senior Coalition Official" saying that "the round dated back to the Iran-Iraq war and coalition officials were not sure whether the fighters even knew what it contained".

    If it truly does date back to the Iran/Iraq war, the chemicals should be completely degraded by this point. According to this document at FAS, ...

    Iraq began working on that problem after that war, and managed some improvements, but it seems doubtable that they ever made sufficient improvements to keep chemicals in an artillery shell for long periods.

    In other words, if the chemicals in this particular shell were stable, the Sarin was very likely produced - or, at least combined in binary form from precursor chemicals - within the last few years.

    UPDATE III: James Joyner has more....

    I’d note that, although Drudge has this in small text atop his page and has therefore discovered the story, Alexandria Kerry’s breasts still dominate the page. That either says something about Drudge’s priorities or about the relative importance of the Sarin episode.
    ...or both.

    UPDATE IV: Good stuff in the comments, including information on the nature of binary sarin. Read.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 10:01 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

    Crocodile tears

    Foud Ajami, in the WSJ Opinion-Journal, points out the following:

    I agree with his assessment. In Fallujah, we demonstrated the ability and will to take on the radicals and defeat them. In Najaf, we showed the will but also the sensitivity to their cultural icons which have the Iraqis in that town telling Al Sadar and his thugs to take their nonsense elsewhere. So what is Ajami talking about then?

    The media and political feeding frenzy that is Abu Ghraib is being allowed (and I use that term very purposely) to overwhelm all of our accomplishments to date and to cloud the morality of our involvement. Because of that, the US finds itself in a very tough and possibly dangerous situation in that area of the world.

    Let's face it ... Abu Ghraib was a debacle. But it is not indicative nor symbolic of why we're there or what we're there to accomplish (and if I believed otherwise, I'd have to quit this country). Its a hideous anomaly. Its a cancer which needs to be excised. But it is also an event which political opponents (and enemies) are using to the maximum to discredit what the US and what it has accomplished.

    The two things we ought to be doing:

    1. As Ajami points out: "We should see through the motives of those in Cairo and Amman and Ramallah and Jeddah, now outraged by Abu Ghraib, who looked away from the terrors of Iraq under the Baathists." Precisely, and we ought to be reminding them daily of the fact that while the 500,000 were going to their mass graves these people never voiced a scintilla of "outrage" over those atrocities. This is all false outrage and crocodile tears and we should dismiss it as that.

    2. Just as important: "...give them the example of our courts and the transparency of our public life. What we should not be doing is to seek absolution in other Arab lands". Again, spot on. Show them how we confront, investigate and punish wrong-doing. Make it transparent, swift and sure.

    But there's a third part, and that's on the home front. It is important that we don't let this remain the image and symbol of America's involvement in Iraq.

    That's going to require something I'm not sure those of today's political stripe have ... restraint. No matter what political gold the opposition to Bush may find in this debacle, they need to restrain themselves from playing politics with it. We have to move on in this country and that includes the politicians and the press.

    We have to remember that we have troops in combat and that we're at war and could play the price for the politics of Abu Ghraib.

    I hold no illusions as to whether the press will do so. They seem to recognize we're at war only if it is convenient for them.

    And, unfortunately, I'm cynical enough not to have any real hope that opposition politicians will quit playing politics with this event which so hurts the image of their country.

    That puts this nation in a terrible position. Yes, in both cases, both sets -- politicians and the press -- have the freedom and right to voice their opinions. They have young men and women in harm's way right now to ensure that.

    The question is, will they exercise those hard won and defended freedoms and rights responsibly or will they do so irresponsibly?

    Posted by McQ at 09:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Blog Note

    A few thoughts....

    *** Blogging has been lighter than usual since both Dale and McQ have been away this past week. Well, they're back - as they note here and here - and regular blogging is resuming already. (for instance: scroll down a bit for Dale's post on the latest Seymour Hersh article - or check Dale's DC pics here)

    *** Since he was in my half of the country, Dale and I had a chance to meet in between DC and Richmond. As long as I've known him online, we've never met and we've only spoken by phone on a couple occassions. Well, we met about 6pm at an Outback Steakhouse, had dinner and talked. At great length.

    Politics, economics, the military, philosophy, radio, women, kids, life, the universe, everything. He, talking as eloquently as he writes - me, in my usual stuttering, stammering "wish I could write this down so I could make sense of it" pace. (not trying out false modesty here - I really am a poor and halting extemporaneous speaker)

    Finally, I said: "well, I need to get home at some point. I have to get up at 4:45am to get to work." (didn't want to get home too late, you know)
    Dale: "I have to be up at 5am to catch a plane."
    Me: "Ouch".
    Dale (looking at watch): "It's 11".
    Me: "Shit".

    We both still had ~90 minute drives ahead of us.

    So, I can report that, at 5am Friday morning, I was not feeling very charitable about the whole thing - or life, in general. After a few cups of coffee, though, I regained a bit of perspective and I can report that Dale is a thoroughly interesting, intelligent and friendly fellow, and I'm honored to be called a friend. Likewise, Dale.

    So, of course, he lives 3000 miles away. (Damn, isn't that the way...)
    I suspect a meeting with McQ would be similarly worthwhile.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Perspective and politics

    Matt Welch at Reason magazine reminds us:

    So let's review:

  • Kosovo was a "war of choice"
  • Kosovo was a pre-emptive war
  • Kosovo was no threat to the US
  • Kosovo had no UN mandate
  • Kosovo had no international coalition
  • Kosovo was US led
  • The anti-war left predicted dire consequences

    Probably most importantly ... we're still IN Kosovo.

    Based on the above litany, why are the architects of Kosovo (Albright/Clark, et. al.) claiming there are vast differences between the two?

    I can only think of one reason: Politics, which makes their arguments ring particularly hollow.

    Posted by McQ at 08:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
  • The Peace Dividend tanks

    I've got a lot of thoughts after reading the always-thought-provoking Washington Monthly. I may come back to it a few times today. For starters, this comment on the allegation that Bush/Rumsfeld tried to fight the war with insufficient troop levels...

    This is a complaint that's common to a remarkably large swathe of the ideological spectrum: if George Bush wanted to invade Iraq, he should at least have been committed to doing it right. Ignoring Army chief-of-staff Eric Shinseki, who estimated we needed "several hundred thousand" troops, was both foolhardy and hubristic.

    But it's not that simple, is it? After all, we don't have several hundred thousand troops. I've heard some reasonable sounding suggestions that by mobilizing more reserves and doing a few other things we could dredge up another 50-60,000 troops or so, but nothing that would get us up to the 300,000 that Shinseki wanted. They just aren't there.

    Immediately following the war, we heard a great deal about how the war was won by "Clinton's army" - that Bush should thank Clinton for the Army he built. At the time, I thought that a rather specious argument, as the military transcends Presidential administration, and the technology that makes us so powerful is usually a work of decades. The same will be true of future claim's about "the Bush military".

    However, since Kevin Drum brings it up, let's make this one direct connection. Between the administrations of Bush 41, and Clinton, US troop levels declined dramatically. In fact, under Clinton, military personnel were cut "by 15 percent more than the previous administration had planned". (per the Brookings Institute)

    At the time, this all seemed to make sense. After all, the Soviet Union had collapsed, it was the "End of History"....there was a peace dividend to be had!

    Well, we got it. And now, we're paying the price for overdrawing on our military account when times seemed good.

    So, we're stuck with insufficient troop levels. Still want to talk about "Clinton's army"?

    UPDATE: Beltway Traffic Jam

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    I'm Baaaack!

    What a week! Took a week's vacation to prepare my parents house for sale (they've both passed away). I thought my brother had kept the utilities paid up. No such luck. No water (which was fairly easily remedied by calling the water company), but more importantly no phone.

    Of course as with any bureaucracy, it took a week to get anything going with them. So no phone, no blogging, no nothing ... my laptop became an expensive paperweight.

    So I spent the week with no real contact with what was going on in the outside world (no paper, obviously and 1 channel on rabbit ears).

    I have to admit I feel GREAT and refreshed ... heh. Its really sort of nice to take a break like that and concentrate on other things (after all, what sort of choice did I have?).

    Anyway, I notice Dale ran into much the same sort of problem that I did (he may as well have not had phone access). So to Jon ... thanks pal, for all the fine heavy lifting you did. Maybe we can give you a break this week.

    Oh, and I'll be gone for another week around Memorial day, but will have phone access ... I made sure of it.

    Posted by McQ at 07:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Factheck on Kerry's latest Ad

    Too much to excerpt it all here, but the piece on the latest pro-Kerry ad shows little mercy....

    The latest ad from the Media Fund -- the group headed by former Clinton White House aide Harold Ickes -- shows the White House lawn being given over to corporate logos and a neon sign saying "Corporate Headquarters."

    There's no question Bush is pro-business, but this ad goes far over the line on several counts. It implies Bush hasn't acted to protect pensions, fight corporate corruption or provide a "real" prescription drug benefit for retirees, all of which are false. It also implies he personally awarded a contract to Halliburton, which is also false.

    Read the whole thing for details. The long and short of it is that Bush "has taken action to protect pensions", "the really big breaks for Enron were not proposed by Bush" and never even made it to the Senate, and a bit of debunking on the Bush/Halliburton theme.

    Just throwing this out there to remember the next time you hear Kerry talk about "the most crooked, you know, lying group''.

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

    Like an oil spill in a clear blue lake

    In an otherwise straightforward piece on Colin Powell's statement that some of the sourcing for pre-war intelligence claims were not "that solid", reporter David Sanger works in this little gem of misdirection.....

    Taken with past admissions of error by the administration or its intelligence agencies, Mr. Powell's statement on Sunday leaves little room for the administration to argue that Mr. Hussein's stockpiles of unconventional weapons posed any real and imminent threat.
    Of course, the administration never claimed that Hussein's WMD stockpiles posed an "imminent threat"...

    I'm reminded of the PIPA study which many jumped to claim showed Foxnews viewers were more prone to accept fallacies about Iraq than people who got their news from other sources. Of course, PIPA released a follow-up clarification to say "We want to clarify emphatically that we are not making this assertion".

    The reason for that was simple: the questions they asked did not guage the type of misconceptions likely to be held by the readers/viewers of left-leaning media. Well, this is a perfect example. Sanger introduces a non-sequitur claim that the White House cannot "argue that Mr. Hussein's stockpiles of unconventional weapons posed any real and imminent threat".....despite the fact that the White House never made that argument.

    Bias - it's an insidious thing.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 06:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    May 16, 2004

    Copper Green

    I'm not sure what to make of the Seymour Hersh article that appeared on the New Yorker web site yesterday. Hersh alleges that the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib is the direct result of a secret Pentagon program, called by various names, including Copper Green. According to Hersh, a prime characteristic of this program was to use psychological pressure on prisoners in order to obtain information from them. As a result, this program's excessive vulnerability to abuse led directly to the prison abuse scandals.

    I'm not entirely sure what to make of the allegations, mainly because I'm not possessed of a high degree of belief in Hersh's reliability. And, I have a problem with the way Hersh reports it. he quotes "an unnamed CIA official" here, or a "a former high-level intelligence figure" there, but provides no names. I'm always skeptical of reports based entirely on anonymous sources. Moreover, I remember Hersh's assessment of the original combat phase of the war, when, by day 8, he wrote an assessment that the war was falling apart, and that our battle plan was deeply flawed. A week later, the Iraqi regime had been destroyed. So, Hersh is not a stranger to R.W. Apple territory, if you know what I mean.

    But, let us start by saying that the torture of abuse of prisoners is always wrong. If this Abu Ghraib deal is a direct result of Copper Green, assuming it exists, then Rumsfeld will have to go. Indeed, if this was the British government, he'd already be gone. In the British system, ministers traditionally resign almost any time a major scandal occurs in their department. The American system is different. We can't force people out of office unless we find a smoking gun that points directly at their personal culpability. If we can connect the dots between Copper Green and Abu Ghraib, that should force a Rumsfeld resignation.

    It is also quite possible that a secret program very much like Copper Green does exist, but that it has nothing whatsoever to do with what happened at Abu Ghraib. In fact, I would not be very much surprised if this turned out to indeed, be the case.

    It is important to point out that Copper Green, as I understand Hersh's article, was not a program of physical torture or abuse. It was a program of psychological pressure. It may have stepped right up to the bright line of physical abuse, but it appears not to have been intended to step over it. That's an important point to remember. I have a lot fewer problems with forcing a prisoner to listen to Blue Oyster Cult's "I'm Burnin' for You" played at loud volume all night than I'd have with the bastinado or the rack.

    And it may be a very long stretch to connect the dots between a program of psychological pressure on certain prisoners, and the kind of generalized physical and mental abuse heaped on the Abu Ghraib prisoners generally.

    But, prepare yourself. I am about to make an argument that many of you will find highly inflammatory, and inconsistent besides.

    One of the primary principles of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) is that prisoners are not to be abused or tortured, or otherwise subject to punitive measures, except in cases where the prisoner has committed a serious crime. For instance, if a POW kills a military guard during the course of an escape, this is not a punishable offense. The prisoner and his guard are soldiers, and the death of the guard during an escape is an incident of war, and not a crime. By the same token, a prisoner may be shot trying to escape, and the guard has committed no crime in shooting him in that circumstance.

    On the other hand, a prisoner that escapes, breaks into the home of a non-combatant, and kills him in order to steal his money has committed a crime, and may be punished for it. Non-combatants are out of bounds.

    Still, the general rule is that abusing POWs for any reason is a war crime. And I can immediately think of several circumstances where I would commit such a war crime without blinking an eye.

    When I was on active duty in Europe, we lived with the daily possibility that the Russians would come pouring across the Fulda Gap at any time.

    Now, imagine that, when this happens, you are a young lieutenant, trapped behind Russian lines with your platoon. You are fortunate enough to have captured a Russian major, who knows more or less where Russian troops are advancing, and who may be able to provide you with information that will get you and your command through the Russian lines to relative safety.

    If you remain where you are, your troops will be discovered, and your command will be killed or captured. The Russian officer, however, refuses to divulge any information. So, the question then becomes whether you sacrifice your command, and let the 30 men in it be killed, or you tape the wires from your field phone to the Russian's genitals and give it a few good cranks to see whether he becomes more forthcoming.

    And, once you have obtained the information, what do you then do to the Russian officer? Do you try to take him with you, as you are legally obligated to do, and take the chance that he will give your position away to a roving patrol? Or do you just shoot him in the back of the head and move off to E&E back to your own lines?

    Or imagine you are a Staff Sergeant, leading a small 8-man recon patrol behind enemy lines, you come across an enemy patrol in the darkness, and after a brief action, 5 enemy soldiers surrender. You have no facilities for taking prisoners, nor can you secure them in such a way as to keep the existence of your patrol a secret. What do you do?

    Personally, I would do whatever was necessary to secure the lives of the men under my command, even knowing that I might be imprisoned or executed for War Crimes. In the balance between the life of one foreign officer and the lives of the men in my platoon, the lives of my men will always take precedence.

    I might have to pay a stiff price for that decision later, but I can't imagine making any other choice. The lives of my men are my primary charge, and the life of an enemy officer is secondary.

    In the context of the war on terror, a program like Copper Green makes sense. If we can prevent another 9/11 by pressuring an al-Qaida operative for information, then I would say that the ends justify the means. But, at the same time, officials responsible for applying such pressure may have to pay the price, in terms of criminal action, if they are found out. If that pressure goes beyond psychological pressure into physical abuse, that price might be very steep.

    In other words, I guess I want to have it both ways. I'm not happy about it, but there it is. I put it to you, what would you find easier to stomach: torturing a prisoner to find information that prevents another 9/11 attack, or doing nothing, and allowing thousands of your fellow citizens to be killed?

    War is a nasty, brutish business, and it's best to engage in it as little as possible. The whole reason for the LOAC is to prevent, to the extent possible, abuses against enemy soldiers and civil populations. And it's a very fine thing, too. You can't really weaken LOAC without putting your own soldiers at risk.

    At the same time, there is the "law of necessity", which occasionally has to be weighed against the LOAC. I do not know how to reconcile the tension between those two wartime realities. Nor do I know how to create a legal framework that defines special circumstances when the LOAC may be abrogated.

    My suspicion is that such abrogation will always have to be extra-legal, and those who choose to violate the LOAC will have to do so with the knowledge that a war crimes tribunal may eventually be required to pass judgment on their actions. At most, I suspect that a defense of "necessity" will be a mitigating factor in sentencing, rather than a true defense against prosecution.

    So, if you want to make the argument that a program like Copper Green is necessary, I'm certainly willing to listen to your arguments. But, in return, you have to be willing to face a war crimes tribunal if, under the auspices of such a program, you get caught violating the LOAC. I may understand that necessity may occasionally require it, but you have to understand that the rule of law requires that you be held accountable for your actions if you get caught.

    Of course, there is a difference between a frightened 24 year-old lieutenant deciding on the spur of the moment to make a field phone call to an enemy officer's genitals, and in having a secret, official program that explicitly authorizes prisoner abuse. Such a program would have to be strictly limited to certain special classes of prisoners, and certain limited situations, lest it become an excuse for generalized brutality under the stress of the battlefield. And with such a program, there's always the danger that the excuse of necessity can be stretched out of all reasonable interpretation, and the program can become rife with abuse.

    But don't fool yourself; every nation has a similar wartime policy that authorizes pressure, either psychological or physical, against certain enemy prisoners. If you think, for example, that Winston Churchill greeted Rudolph Hess with tea and crumpets in 1940, you're very much mistaken.

    Posted by at 05:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Back to the Ol' Grind

    Finally! I am back from my trip to Washington DC. It was quite a busy week for me, but I did bring back some sightseeing pictures, which you can see here.

    I had hoped that, even during the trip, I would be able to blog, at least a little bit. Unfortunately, I couldn't get access to the internet for the entire week. I had my NMCI laptop with me, of course, but I had a dial-in problem.

    You've probably seen my long screeds against the whole NMCI boodoggle before, but this week was a perfect example. Every time I tried to dial in, I would get a connection, my PKI certificate would tunnel into the Navy's VPN, and then I'd get the Blue Screen of Death.

    So I called the NMCI Help Desk. Three times, we went through this exact process. Then the Help Desk guy says, "Well, I'm sorry, but I really can't help you with the Blue Screen of Death. Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

    Needless to say, he asked this totally without irony.

    In any event, I can now treat my internet addiction, by being hooked up to it again. The tremors and blurred vision from my withdrawal symptoms have almost disappeared now...

    Posted by at 04:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    May 15, 2004

    A bit of fringe-baiting

    Granted, he's so far out on the fringe, it's barely worth mentioning this, but it amused me. Hesiod (think: if Michael Savage was a liberal...and a blogger) once wrote....

    As much fun as it would be to impugn the patriotism of those who supported this war, I rarely do it [except in the case of a few nuts, such as Richard Pearl].
    Unfortunately, he has forsaken those, ahem, high standards....
    [writing about Bush supporters] These are evil, demented people. Make no mistake about it. If they had the chance, they'd arrest all of those who oppose them, and do God knows what else. These people have the same mentality as Saddam Hussein. If you are against us, you are an enemy to be eliminated. A "traitor."

    In fact, they are the ones who are traitors. Traitors to our ideals. Traitors to our principles. Traitors to our Constitution. Traitors to human decency and common sense.

    All of the people who are whining about John Kerry's suposed lackluster candidacy ought to remember who we are fighting against here. It's not just Bush. It's ALL of the people who support Bush and think this way.

    Max Sawicky is having a contest to find "the most vicious thing posted by someone on the Instapundit blogroll", and he writes that "there is NO left-wing blogger to equal the crap illustrated in this contest.


    Well, I would note that Hesiod's CounterSpin - which has just declared every Bush supporter an "evil, demented" "traitors" who "have the same mentality as Saddam Hussein" - is on both Max's blogroll and that of Atrios.

    Way to take the high road, guys.

    UPDATE: Hesiod says that he was only referring to some of Bush's supporters (and me). I don't find that much more palatable, but read his post and make your own judgements.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 11:53 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

    May 14, 2004


    I've been discussing my political ideology with various people lately, and I think it's time I fleshed it out here.

    I am a Neolibertarian.

    I consider myself a Neolibertarian for two main reasons:
    1: Utility
    Libertarians have no sense of pragmatism; no concept of "degrees of freedom". While their goal is liberty, when they are actually faced with a choice between 80% liberty and 50% liberty, they invariably allow 50% liberty because they're unwilling to vote for anything less than 100% liberty.

    10 out of 10 for taking a principled stand guys, but minus a few thousand for taking that stand on the sidelines.

    2: Foreign policy:
    As Dale Franks wrote of Libertarian foreign policy...

    ..they really don't have one. To them the foreigners are suspiciously heathen, and the best thing we can do is ignore them 'til they go away. [...] So, I'm a libertarian, sure. Right up to the water's edge. Then, all the sudden, I morph into Teddy Roosevelt.
    Well, that's where I am, too. Teddy Roosevelt's foreign policy was Wilsonian Internationalism without all the naive faith in idealism and collectivism.

    On the opposite side of the coin from the Wilsonians is the Libertarian movement, which believes we can apply libertarian principles to foreign policy on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, when push comes to shove, they seem to forget those libertarian principles. Harry Browne - 2000 Libertarian Party candidate [full disclosure: I voted for him] - writes....

    Most libertarians believe you shouldn't initiate force against someone who has never used force against you. Force is to be used only in self-defense – not used just because you don't happen to like someone, or because someone doesn't like you, or because he might become dangerous in the future, or because some third party has attacked you and you want to prove you're not a wimp.
    Let's cut to the chase: this, as stated, is not correct. No libertarian I know would subscribe to this position. Certainly, we agree that one shouldn't initiate force or fraud, but Browne leaves out an important instance in which one may use force - to prevent a violation of rights.

    If we genuinely subscribed to the philosophy as described by Harry Browne above, then we would never intervene to put a stop to crime. After all, if it's not happening to you, what right would you have to initiate force against the criminal?

    If, as Browne writes, "Force is to be used only in self-defense...", then I would be obligated to walk past a murder. Unless the murderer was actually attacking me, I'd be morally prohibited from interfering. That is the result of such a philosophy.

    Now, there are legitimate grounds on which one can oppose the war in Iraq, but libertarians forsake their own principles when they claim the war in Iraq is unjustified on the Libertarian philosophy of non-aggression. It is exactly this sort of head-in-the-sand naivete and idealism that prevents me from being a Libertarian.

    I - along McQ and Dale, I believe, though I'll leave it to them to confirm - am a Neolibertarian. A pragmatic libertarian domestically - a hawk on foreign policy. I believe in Lockean ideals, but I know we live in a Hobbesian world. The best we can do is degrees of liberty.

    Having said that, I suspect there are many other Neolibertarians. The blogosphere seems full of them. I'd like to propose we popularize the term - to make it mainstream. Perhaps, for starters, a Neolibertarian Blog League, for lack of a better idea. Suggestions?

    UPDATE: Beltway Traffic Jam

    Posted by Jon Henke at 12:00 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

    Industrial production

    The Struggling Manufacturing Industry...

    Output from U.S. mines, utilities and manufacturers rose in April, the government reported Friday, coming in above economists' estimates as the amount of resources companies used hit the highest level in almost three years.

    Industrial production gained 0.8 percent last month, the Federal Reserve reported, after falling a revised 0.1 percent in March.

    The Fed also said factories, mines and utilities ran at 76.9 percent of capacity in the month, compared with an unrevised 76.5 percent in March. The April reading is the highest level since July 2001.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 09:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    The Politics of Who Could Care Less

    The WaTimes reports...

    Republicans believe that Democrats, who have used reports of Iraqi prisoner abuse as an avenue to attack President Bush on the war, might be overplaying their hand — especially in light of the videotaped slaughter of an American businessman by al Qaeda terrorists.

    Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, and his surrogates have tried in vain for weeks to undercut public support of Mr. Bush's leadership in the war on terror.

    This is the problem with highly charged partisan politics: partisans who pay attention are already convinced....and the people who don't pay attention? They're mostly annoyed.

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

    Yesterday, at a campaign stop in Arkansas, Mr. Kerry was sharper in his criticism of the war effort than he has ever been, boasting that "when Bill Clinton left office not one young American in uniform was dying in a war anywhere in this world."
    John Kerry says that as if the "absence of war" means "peace". Of course, since 9/11 happened just months later, maybe there should have been some "young American in uniform" dying in a war, somewhere.

    Well, now there are. And it is up to those undecided, apathetic, apolitical voters to decide whether they'd rather have peace at any cost, or dead soldiers.

    UPDATE: Shark comments...

    Way for Kerry to show respect for victims of the attack on the USS Cole....
    Indeed. Ouch.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Clark for Veep?

    In light of the improving economy and difficult situation in Iraq, this makes sense...

    Kerry also set off a burst of chatter in the state's capital that he may look to the South for a running mate by campaigning yesterday and Wednesday evening alongside native son Wesley K. Clark, who is now being considered by the Kerry camp for a possible spot on the ticket. The retired four-star general huddled with Kerry and campaign chairwoman Jeanne Shaheen for an hour yesterday.
    As vigorously as Clark has been campaigning for Kerry, this would not entirely surprise me. On the other hand, bear in mind I had predicted a "Clark/Edwards" ticket, so.....

    Still, with Clark's history, a subservient VP role - generally a placeholder, or a primer '12 - does not seem like a perfect fit. Perhaps he's angling for a role as SecDef?

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Come out of the Anti-American closet, already


    An antiwar reader writes: "It is not wrong to root for your country's defeat if your country is evil."
    No. It's not.

    But if you're going to do that, be upfront and admit that you are "anti-American". Nothing wrong with that, if one accepts the premise that America is evil. On the other hand, those who disagree with you will criticise you for it.

    But that's the price you pay, isn't it? You don't get to be against America, but pretend you're not anti-American. Sort of axiomatic, I'd say.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:43 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Shoulda, Coulda

    An important dose of objectivity from the Angry Economist....

    Do not mix moral judgement with technical description. Many times you will hear people talk about the greedy rich and the envious poor. These terms should be a marker that says "The following has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with morality."
    It is very tempting to call the rich greedy and the poor envious (although obviously the same person is unlikely to do both at the same time). It is very easy to conclude that, because someone continues to create value beyond their basic needs, that they are greedy. It is also wrong. It is very easy to conclude that, because someone wants someone else to pay for their basic needs, that they are envious. As judgements of rich people and poor people, without reference to the facts of the specific individuals, they are likely wrong. As economic pronouncements, they are certainly wrong, because economics does not make judgements of those forms, and when economists do that, they have taken off their economist hat, and should expect no special protection from criticism.
    Here's the point that cannot be repeated often enough: economics does not make normative judgements on "right and wrong". It simply tells us what the costs are. That's it.

    Should we raise taxes? Economics doesn't say.
    Should we cut spending? Economics makes no comment.
    Should we raise the minimum wage? Economics is silent.

    On the other hand, people (and especially politicians) have quite a lot to say on the topic. But this argument is a normative one - i.e., that it would be "good" if we raised taxes/cut spending/raised the MW. That certain objectives would be met if we took X steps.

    There, economics steps into the picture again, and tells us whether action X will accomplish Goal Y....and what else it will accomplish. (unintended consequences)

    Just a little reminder. Make normative arguments, backed by economic theory....but don't make normative economic arguments. That's like trying to use physics to find out whether you should drive to the store. It's just not going to give you the answer you're looking for.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    May 13, 2004


    Life lesson: nations may have principles, but they also have interests. When push comes to shove, interests generally supercede the principles. Reference: Germany and France.

    Germany appears almost certain to breach the European Union's fiscal rules for the fourth consecutive year after new figures published on Thursday showed a collapse in expected 2005 tax revenue and Hans Eichel, finance minister, ruled out new spending cuts and tax rises.

    Mr Eichel's decision reflects Berlin's conviction that it should not jeopardise the fledgling recovery in Europe's largest economy through a fiscal tightening. It also highlights the increasing irrelevance of the stability and growth pact since France and Germany persuaded their EU partners to suspend its sanction mechanism last year.

    Now, there may be very good reasons for Germany and France to bully the rest of the EU into letting them be above the rules. After all, the one-size-fits-all economic strictures of the EU will inevitably work contrary to the interests of one nation or another.

    So, when the time comes, do you stick to it or seek your own interests? One might suggest that the actions of France and Germany"shook the multilateral system", and that "no one can live in isolation, no one can act alone in the name of all, and no one can accept the anarchy of a society without rules".

    One might suggest that. After all, that is what Jacques Chirac said when the US went outside the strictures of the UN to fight a war in Iraq. And now, Germany/France seek their own interests, damn the EU.

    Interests, not principles - let's not pretend they were acting any other way prior to the Iraq war. (...or, for that matter, that we were)

    Posted by Jon Henke at 01:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Spain fell as planned...

    Terrorism works...

    Now, Matt Yglesias and others have made the legitimate argument that the vote in Spain went the way it did because of dissatisfaction with Aznar, rather than the pressure exerted by Al Qaeda. Indeed, that may well be the case. It's hardly the point, though.

    The point is this: Al Qaeda wanted to influence an election through terrorism. They attacked...the election went the way they wanted. Voila!

    Now, correlation is not causation, but it's good enough for Al Qaeda. If it appeared to work once, they'll be very likely to try it again. As the article points out, the internet is the new Afghanistan, and the "strategy paper discovered by the Norwegians has a detailed analysis of the political climate of Spain and other countries involved in Iraq."

    They're still coming, and they have their sights set on elections.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 06:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    FactCheck on the latest Bush Ad

    Bush released an ad May 12 claiming "dramatic results" from his Texas school reforms and touting his "No Child Left Behind" law as "the most significant education reforms in 35 years."
    But when the ad claims that Bush's Texas reforms "produced dramatic results" it omits a key fact: those results were inflated to some extent by school officials who reported false information about drop-out rates to improve their statistics.
    Deceptive advertising. In a political campaign. I am shocked.
    .....but not really surprised.

    Whether it's Bush's "give them money, demand accountability" plan, or Kerry's "give them more money, no questions asked" plan, nobody seems to have any genuine plan to do for education anything that hasn't been tried for decades now, with progressively worsening results.

    Throw money at it. If that doesn't work, throw more money at it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Thanks, but no thanks. I'll start paying attention to politicians on education when they start making suggestions that don't begin and end with "spend more money". School vouchers would be a step in the right direction.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 06:28 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    May 12, 2004

    Blog Note

    *** You may have noticed that we've been a great deal slower this week. In fact, Dale and McQ haven't been posting at all. Trouble at the ranch?

    No, nothing so dramatic. Dale and McQ are (coincidentally) both on trips at the moment, and should return within a few days. (first person to say "they can't come back fast enough" gets a withering glance)

    In the meantime, anything you read here will be my fault.

    *** I'll be meeting Dale for dinner tomorrow night, since his trip will be taking him out my way. I've never met him, so I'm looking forward to it.
    (Memo to me: quick, think of something to say)

    For that matter, while I regard McQ as a good friend, he and I have never met....or even spoken on the phone. Funny, how well you (feel like you) get to know somebody by reading them every day.

    *** Do I owe anybody a reciprocal link? If so, email me. For that matter, feel free to email me anytime you come across something interesting.

    *** Speaking of which, don't you think this would be a good time to blogroll QandO? Just tossing it out there.....

    Posted by Jon Henke at 01:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    90% of being a politician....


    "As George W. Bush stood by and allowed unemployment insurance to expire for 1.1 million Americans..."
    With thousands of Illinoisans out of work and wondering where their next meal will come from, the Bush Administration has let their unemployment benefits expire.
    The Bush administration "stood by" and "let" those benefits run out. And John Kerry? Well, when push came to shove.....
    On May 11, by a vote of 59 to 40, the Senate narrowly failed to pass by one vote an amendment that would have extended unemployment benefits. (Sixty votes are necessary to waive the Budget Act to allow spending above the budget agreement.) As the only Senator missing from the vote, presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry's (D.-Mass.) absence handed the conservatives a fiscal victory. Kerry would most likely have supported the amendment, thus allowing it to pass.
    Ipse Dixit and Don Luskin have more.

    UPDATE: Kerry's excuse? It's the Republicans fault. Well, of course it is. Robert Tagorda has the details.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 09:57 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    What the...?!?!?

    At Senator Kennedy's website, I notice the following....


    Over 1100 Discounted Magazine Subscriptions...
    Ad -
    Wed May 12 08:54:00 EDT 2004

    Is the Senator reduced to selling magazing subsciptions now? Is it legal to use the Senate website to advertise commercial ventures?

    UPDATE: Odd. His high-speed page has a magazine-subscription ad, too....but a different one.

    Magazine Subscriptions at Great Prices...
    Ad -
    Wed May 12 09:17:00 EDT 2004

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Nonsense on Parade

    [Will Update as appropriate] Worst quotes I have come across during the abuse scandals.

    Rich Lowry, in a column following the long and stupid tradition of blaming the transgression on "society"...

    The Americans sexually humiliated Iraqi prisoners, forcing them to masturbate, to wear women's underwear, and to commit (or feign committing) unnatural acts, and captured it on film. If they had done this stateside in different circumstances, they might be very rich and perhaps even up for an Adult Video Award.
    Well, yes Rich...I suppose that's true. If the circumstances were different, the circumstances would have been different. Thanks for the brilliant insight.

    Senator Inhofe...

    "I have to say, and I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment. The idea that these prisoners, you know, they're not there for traffic violations. If they're in cell block 1A or 1B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents, many of them probably have American blood on their hands, and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."
    That's right, Senator. It's so much more outrageous to criticise torture than to actually engage in it.
    ...which is something I'm sure you'd believe right up until somebody forced you to perform oral sex on another man.

    I wish I could find the words to express my contempt for these people who keep making excuses for evil. Look, the fact that Mao Tse-Tung killed 80 million people doesn't, in any way, mitigate the fact that Pol Pot is still an evil fellow. The same logic applies to our abuses in Iraq. Don't conflate our failure with their failure. That's a non-sequitur argument, and it excuses evil.

    Atrios manages to pin some blame on Bush for Berg's death...

    The presence of al Zarqawi was used as one of the justifications for invading Iraq, despite the fact that he was being harbored in Kurdish controlled territory in the North. The Bush administration ignored 3 opportunities to get him, feeling that it would undercut their non-existent case for war in Iraq.
    Note, please, that Atrios was very much against fighting a war in Iraq without UN authorization just because our intelligence agencies said we had a "slam-dunk" case. But when it suits him, he complains that we didn't do what? Attack Iraq. Without UN authorization. Because our intelligence agency told us the case was "airtight".

    Posted by Jon Henke at 06:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    May 11, 2004

    Show and Tell (Warning: Graphic Pictures)


    Andrew Sullivan is right...

    The mainstream media is driving me bonkers. They keep referring to an al Qaeda website that carries the video of the beheading of Nick Berg. But they won't tell us the name of the website! Not only will they not show what al Qaeda really is, they won't even allow us to know how to find it. [...] We can get around the Washington Post, which has a "slideshow" of American abuse but won't even provide a link to the horrors perpetrated by the enemy.
    It's a funny time to start being concerned about offending our sensibilities. If the pictures of abuse at Abu Ghraib were legitimate news, then so is the death of Nick Berg. And Daniel Pearle.

    I had to stop and think before writing that. I don't want to say "let us see it" simply out of morbid, prurient interest, and sometimes, the media does have to make a judgement call on matters of taste. But the media has already made that judgement call in recent days. The bar has been set. Let us see the pictures.

    UPDATE: See the pictures, below the fold. Be is graphic.





    UPDATE II: Video available here. Though, I have to say...I wish I hadn't seen it.
    (link via Elliot Fladen)

    UPDATE III: I've noticed a great many inflammatory statements being made in the comment section. I'm not interested in policing old threads, so allow me to say that we take no responsibility for commenters. Their views do not necessarily reflect our own. I'd also ask people to tone down the rhetoric. The death of Nick Berg is not a good excuse to vent your spleen half-cocked. In short, don't be a jerk.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:05 PM | Comments (90) | TrackBack

    Whatever their sentence, it's too good for them


    A video posted Tuesday on an Islamic militant Web site appeared to show a group affiliated with al-Qaida beheading an American in Iraq, saying the death was revenge for the prisoner-abuse scandal.

    The video showed five men wearing headscarves and black ski masks, standing over a bound man in an orange jumpsuit who identified himself as an American from Philadelphia.

    After reading a statement, the men were seen pulling the man to his side and cutting off his head with a large knife. They then held the head out before the camera.

    This is why we kill our enemies in battle, and treat them with respect, otherwise. The failure at Abu Ghraib provoked this. From General Karpinsky down, they failed and people died.

    UPDATE: Quite a bit of dissent in the comment section, so I should add more. I think there is a misunderstanding of what I wrote. The perpetrators of Abu Ghraib were not responsible for the death of Nick Berg. Those who killed him are responsible.

    They're not responsible for his death, but they are responsible for provoking those who would kill our soldiers and workers. Certainly those who killed Berg were already willing to kill, but the abuses at Abu Ghraib provoked them more. I do not believe that the Abu Ghraib abuse is solely responsible for his death, or the death of others.....but it does provoke those who would kill us.

    That is undeniable. And it leads to more US deaths.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 12:51 PM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

    OECD Economic Outlook

    I've perused the OECD report I mentioned here, and thought I'd share with you some interesting excerpts. (pdf)

    With the slump of business investment now well over, the world economy is experiencing a strong and sustainable recovery.
    That slump in business investment hit the United States particularly hard, as our C&I loans dropped to "less than half the $141.2 billion loaned during the same week in August five years ago". As Bruce Bartlett put it...
    To put the loss of credit into perspective, between July 1990 and December 1991, C&I loans fell by 3.5% — a period of an acknowledged credit crunch. Over a comparable 18 month period between March 2001 and August 2002, such loans have fallen by 10.3%. In other words, credit is three-times tighter in the current recession and recovery than during an equivalent time period during the last economic downturn.
    Now, that can be explained in a variety of ways, but most of them come back to this: years of malinvestments finally came to a head, which made the banking industry less tolerant of risk. So, while rates were extremely low, banks simply didn't want to put their money at risk without the prospect of more substantial profits.

    Which, come to think of it, made that a pretty good time for a supply-side tax cut. After all, if the economic problem was reduced business spending - and it was - and businesses weren't spending because they couldn't get their hands on enough capital, well.....

    Anyway, the OECD report goes on...

    Asia remains buoyant, with China close to overheating and Japan enjoying a much stronger and broader recovery than expected. In the United States, the economy has already been growing well above potential and other English-speaking countries, which took part only marginally in the past slowdown, are cruising ahead. [emphasis added]
    "Above potential". Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Krugman. As for John Kerry, he can puff on this....
    Despite lingering worries, it seems likely that, in the United States, labour too will share in the recovery. With business profitability now well restored and employment at last picking up, real wages and labour income should accelerate markedly, thus providing a stronger underpinning to the recovery.
    And the Dick Gephardt's of the world should pay close attention to this...
    As the spectre of a persistently jobless recovery recedes, controversies about the negative role of job offshoring should subside and take a less emotional turn.
    Actually, I'd suggest that controversy will fade just about the time we finish our Presidential elections. Make of that what you will.

    As for Bush, here's his warning...

    In the United States, there is indeed a risk of macroeconomic policies -- especially on the fiscal side -- remaining expansionary for too long into the recovery, thus triggering an abrupt back-up in long-term interest rates, with negative consequences for investment world-wide.
    Though they seem to always forget it, an intrinsic part of this counter-cyclical tax policy that the Bush Administration implemented is this: while you lower tax rates to encourage economic growth....those tax rates don't stay lowered forever.

    Now, I'm not suggesting we raise taxes. But such an expansionary fiscal and monetary policy cannot be sustained indefinitely.

    Much more interesting material in the OECD report. I'll have to come back to it in a later post.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 12:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Taguba speaks


    The Army general who first investigated prisoner abuse in an Iraqi prison told Congress on Tuesday the mistreatment resulted from faulty leadership, a "lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision."

    Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba also left open the possibility that members of the Central Intelligence Agency as well as armed forces personnel and civilian contractors were culpable in the abusive treatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison.

    "A few soldiers and civilians conspired to abuse and conduct egregious acts of violence against detainees and other civilians outside the bounds of international laws and the Geneva Convention," Taguba told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    This seems consistent with the analysis previously done by Dale and McQ - that the Abu Ghraib problem was the result of a dereliction of duty, or "conflicting guidance and a non-doctrinal command structure which conspired with weak commanders within the MP Bde and apparently within the MI Bde to allow this disaster to take place".

    In other words, the abuse was the result of a system breakdown....not a system design.

    If this is accurate, then those arguing for Rumsfeld's resignation may have a point on appearances, but not on responsibility.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    OECD Endorsed Economic Recovery

    The good news is great, and the bad news is pretty good, too...

    A robust recovery driven by productivity and tax cuts puts the US economy on track for growth of 4.7 percent this year and 3.7 percent next, the OECD reported.

    The figure for this year shows a significant 0.5-point increase from the growth being forecast by the OECD six months ago in November when it pencilled in growth of 4.2 percent.

    However its latest forecast for 2005 has been shaved from 3.8 percent.

    Bear in mind, much of the world - especially in the EU - is still mired in a difficult economic slump, so the relative success of the US is even more notable. That foreign slump may also help to explain our current account balance deficit. Hopefully, a rejuvenated EU will begin to reduce that imbalance.
    "The expansion is now firmly established across most sectors of the economy, helped by continued stimulus from fiscal and monetary policies," the OECD reported.
    Maybe somebody should notify the rest of the media.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 09:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Marginal Futility

    Jesse Taylor....

    I mean, there are only three real reasons to support Bush:

    1.) You like expending America's credibility on massive fuck-ups in other countries.

    2.) You like hearing conservative rhetoric married to poorly thought-out ideas with severe and hidden negative consequences, enacted just to shut up whoever's complaining the loudest.

    3.) You really, really hate Democrats.

    Now, #1 is just the spin you'd expect from a Democrat, but #2 is a good point. Sorta. There's little doubt that many of Bush's policies are squishy marriages of ideology and pandering. (but couldn't the same be said of the Democrats? Well, yes...but we're not talking about them now) In fact, the domestic neo-conservative agenda seems to revolve around abandoning actual conservativism in favor of policy patterns designed to create a voter coalition.

    They have accepted, even adopted, the concept of "big government" since, after all, it's hard to win elections by telling the public you'll take away their bread and circuses. As a result, any resemblance to conservative ideology is incidental. In other words - and here's what Jesse gets wrong - Bush's policies may be anti-thetical to liberalism, but they are definitely not conservative.
    UPDATE: Jesse comments that he "never said Bush's policies were conservative". Good point. He was referring to the "rhetoric", rather than the actual policies. I suppose, on many issues, I could agree with him on that point. Bush has certainly made a point of talking up, for example, "free markets"....while consistently working against them in many areas.

    On the other hand, he did say he'd be a "compassionate conservative", and that self-description came with quite a lot of very anti-conservative talk. So, I suppose we were warned - Bush, from the start, promised he'd be a political schizophrenic.

    Conservatives/libertarians seem to understand this rather well, but - for some reason - Democrats still insist on calling Bush a "radical conservative". Spending, entitlement and otherwise, has increased dramatically; government has expanded in scope and power; trade restrictions and subsidies have been the rule, rather than the exception. Other than the tax cuts, it's hard to see many examples of "conservativism".

    Hyperbole aside, though, #3 is a better reason than it seems Jesse gives it credit for. After all, no candidate will be perfect for any given voter. Voting is an excercise in marginal utility marginal futility.

    I don't "hate Democrats", but I don't want them in charge. While I have very little in common with Bush, I have next to nothing in common with the Democratic Party. Where Bush has done badly, the Democrats offer worse.

    For a libertarian, there really are no productive choices this time....only degrees of bad.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:44 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    May 10, 2004

    Next up: the War on Metroid!


    It was the lead item on the government's daily threat matrix one day last April. Don Emilio Fulci described by an FBI tipster as a reclusive but evil millionaire, had formed a terrorist group that was planning chemical attacks against London and Washington, D.C. That day even FBI director Robert Mueller was briefed on the Fulci matter.

    But as the day went on without incident, a White House staffer had a brainstorm: He Googled Fulci. His findings: Fulci is the crime boss in the popular video game Headhunter. "Stand down," came the order from embarrassed national security types.

    This may not be a good time to mention my idea for a console based missile defense system. After all, we already have a whole generation of kids in training for it.

    (link via Atrios)

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    275,000 Democrats can't be wrong!

    Well, then it must be true...

    Over 275,000 people have said: Donald Rumsfeld Must Resign
    Imagine that. The Democrats send out a petition to Democrats asking if they think a Republican appointee should resign....and many of them sign it! Shocking.

    Other than the fact that Democrats respond well to suggestion, and can operate a keyboard....I'm really not sure what this is supposed to prove.
    ...unless, of course, it's some sort of political Pavlovian experiment.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    The Oops report

    Speaker or transcriber, somebody screwed up. Here's what Bush said, per ABC...

    "One basic difference between democracies and dictatorships is that free societies conduct such abuses openly and directly..."
    And here's the transcript from the AP...
    One basic difference between democracies and dictatorships is that free countries confront such abuses openly and directly.
    Perhaps it goes without saying, but I'll mention it anyway. There's a big difference between "confronting" abuse and "conducting" abuse. One hopes this was a transcription error.....


    Also at ABC's politics page...

    Gephardt says "industries in Health Care have contributed huge amounts of money to Republicans ... and they've gottem much more in return, about a, I guess, a thousand to one, or more, maybe a million to one ratio on what they've given and what they got ..." DNC says $112 million given to Republicans...

    $112,000,000 x $1,000,000 = $112,000,000,000,000...
    Total United States budget: = . . $2,266,160,000,000


    And from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao....

    "We must hand over the government back to the Iraqi people as soon as possible."
    No word yet on a handover of the Chinese government to the Chinese people.


    And finally, this gem, noted without comment...

    Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle on Monday decried what he called the "startling meanness" of American politics.

    "Demonizing those with whom we disagree politically does not serve the interests of democracy. It does not resolve differences."

    Posted by Jon Henke at 12:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Apparently, Bush isn't the only politician who doesn't read newspapers

    Sacred Cow Burgers...


    See this previous post by McQ for additional information.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 11:51 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Now can we talk about missile defense?

    As Econopundit (who finds this story) says, "believe it or don't". DEBKAfile reports....

    DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report exclusively that, as recently as ten days ago, Senator John Kerry’s campaign staff had resolved to drop Iraq as its focal issue after receiving startling new intelligence data. North Korea, the Democratic team had discovered, did not have only two nuclear bombs as generally believed but eight, all operational. Kerry would have argued that the Bush White House, because of its obsession with Saddam Hussein’s overthrow and Iraq – where no WMD was found, had neglected a front far more hazardous to the security of the United States and its allies, i.e. North Korea’s expanding nuclear arsenal. [emphasis added]
    DEBKAfile is a dubious source, but my point will stand regardless. If the argument - we ignored the far greater WMD danger from North Korea's nuclear missiles - is to be made, can it possibly be made by Senator John "Opposes National Missile Defense" Kerry?

    Can Kerry really switch gears and begin criticizing Bush for not defending the US against nuclear missiles, so soon after criticizing the Bush administration for naming "missile defense as the Administration’s top security priority – not terrorism"?

    Posted by Jon Henke at 10:18 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    For all the world to see...


    Stung by a worldwide outcry, the U.S. military Sunday announced the first court-martial in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse allegations, ordering a reservist to face a public trial in Baghdad on May 19. [emphasis added]
    The only way to combat the bad blood the Abu Ghraib abuse will engender is to make our response as public, firm and forthright as possible. We may not be able to prevent the loss of trust, but we can take steps to regain it. After all, a democracy is built on the rule of law. What better way to prepare the Iraqi's for that rule of law than to show them exactly how it works?

    UPDATE: Oh, and this isn't a bad idea, either...

    In the Army's 800th Military Police Brigade, tainted by the prison abuse scandal, 80 percent of soldiers slated to get the Army's Bronze Star medal have been told they will not receive them, says the brigade's commander.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    "Before attacking the Patriot Act, try reading it"

    Michael Mukasey has an interesting overview of the specious arguments made about the Patriot Act. I'll excerpt the good bits....

    Me, I'm worried about the slippery slope of government invasion, but the actual specifics of the Patriot Act don't strike me as unreasonable......or, indeed, as anything that has not been a part of our law before the Patriot Act. For example....

    One final point Mr Mukasey makes....
    I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism." You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit. Without offering my view on any case or controversy, current or future, I think that that awkward name may very well be the worst thing about the statute.
    I have yet to hear criticisms of the Patriot Act which do not include hyperbole. Remember, it was Senator Biden who called criticism of the Patriot Act "ill-informed and overblown" and Senator Feinstein - in the same story - noted "that her office has received 21,434 letters opposing the act, but more than half cite provisions that have not been enacted or sent to Congress by the Bush administration. The rest, she said, largely concern security measures governing items mailed to the United States from abroad -- not provisions of the Patriot Act."

    Of course, the slippery slope threat remains. I wish critics would address that, rather than the reigning hyperbole.

    (Link via Dean Esmay)

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    May 09, 2004

    Thoughts on Washington Monthly

    Reading Kevin Drums site, a few things seem to me indicative of the polarized nature of "the other side" at this point.
    First, this....

    How high does it go? And how explicit was the policy? I don't know, but based on what we've seen so far I'd guess (a) pretty high and (b) pretty explicit. The only question is whether the investigation itself will go that high, or content itself with a few low ranking scapegoats. [emphasis added]
    He doesn't know, and he's guessing....but he's narrowed the question down to this:
    Question: Will the investigation go "that high" - [How high? I don't know!] - or will it content itself with a few low ranking scapegoats? [why does Kevin assume they would be scapegoats after conceding he has no idea how high this goes....or does not go?]

    Seems Kevin has set the bar at an indefinite height, and demanded the military jump over it. And if those responsible are low-ranking soldiers, officers, and a few negligent Generals? Well, what do you want to bet that bar will be ex post facto higher?

    Secondly, this...

    As this Washington Post editorial argues, Rumsfeld is pretty clearly responsible for encouraging and condoning harsh treatment of prisoners in general, and was quite possibly well aware of exactly what was going on at Abu Ghraib too. I imagine that goes for several other high ranking officials as well.

    So yes: fire Rumsfeld. And don't stop there.

    Note that this post is below (i.e., before) the post in which Drum says he doesn't know how high/explicit the policy went. So Drum argues that Rumsfeld should step down because he was "clearly responsible for encouraging and condoning" harsh treatment and possible aware of the Abu Ghraib situation...but he doesn't really know, and he's just guessing.

    So, based on information that Kevin Drum doesn't know, Rumsfeld should be fired.

    I'm not necessarily complaining about the conclusion he reaches. Should Rumsfeld be fired? I don't know, and I don't have enough information to make that judgement. Based on what we DO know, I'd say no....but we do need to find out to what extent there may have been any official encouragement before making a final judgement. No, what annoys me is Kevin's thought process. The leap from "I don't know" to "fire him" without even offering a rationale more substantive than "the Washington Post editorial thinks what I think".

    That's lazy. It could also set the stage for some difficult explanations during a Kerry Presidency when - as is bound to happen - something really bad happens. Will Kevin insist the Department head resign because of the "environment" he created?

    Finally, a more interesting point...

    The conservative response to Abu Ghraib has been fascinating, hasn't it? First reaction: this is horrible and the soldiers involved should have the book thrown at them.
    Well, yes - assuming I can conflate libertarians with conservatives here - we did immediately call it horrible. So far as I have seen, the vast majority of the pro-war crowd have continued to do that. This is as bi-partisan an issue as I can imagine. Torture is bad, the guilty should be question. It's a shame Kevin had to fringe-bait by going on.
    Second reaction: yeah, it's bad, it really is, but it's worth remembering that it's nowhere near as bad as what Saddam did.
    At first, this annoyed me. On second thought, though, it's true....some few conservatives have said this. It's an irrational, non sequitur argument, but some few are making it. Still, if Kevin wants to make this argument, it would be nice if he didn't attribute it to "conservatives". That's no more fair than the "you don't support the troops" claim - which applies to a fringe, and not the mainstream of anti-war thought.
    Third reaction: enough, enough! Jeez, it's been a whole week. This issue has been hijacked by militant Bush-haters who just want to use it for craven partisan reasons.
    Take out the "enough, jeez it's been a whole week" part, and Kevin would be right. Quite a few conservatives are pointing out that some Democrats are turning this into a partisan issue. That's a pretty fair point, too. I have yet to hear one person say "enough, it's been a whole week", or anything like it. But perhaps Kevin runs in fevered swamps to which I am not privy.
    Fourth reaction: still to come. Maybe torturers as heroes thanks to testimony from someone or other that one of the scraps of information they extracted saved a convoy somewhere? Hey, war is hell.
    Forthcoming Washington Monthly reaction: "as long as we believe no leader should participate in war crimes and atrocities, then we have to admit that John Kerry is unfit for the Presidency".

    Hey, as long as we're just making up smears.....

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:49 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    Naval Expansion

    Captain Ed, a good blogger who has become a friend, has turned his Captain's Quarters blog into a group blog...

    So I'd like to introduce my new partner, Whiskey, who will start posting tonight. She's an American attorney, a graduate of Cornell Law School, living in East Asia, who has had military experience and so can speak to those issues from a more personal perspective when she desires.
    So far, I'm liking what I read from her. For instance, she makes a good point here....
    Critics, like Peter Beinart of the New Republic, have ruthlessly attacked Secretary Rumsfeld for his lack of “outrage” regarding the incidents at Abu Ghraib prison. These critics should be mindful that Secretary Rumsfeld is not in a position to demand court-martials or specific punishments for the members suspected of those offenses. Comments by him could be attributed to the officers responsible for charging those individuals, which would provide a classic argument for unlawful command influence and thereby endanger the prosecution.
    Welcome aboard a good blog, Whiskey.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 01:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Sorry, wrong crony

    Since Paul Krugman won't be making this correction, I'll make it for him. First, note this story...

    An international financier with ties to Saddam Hussein's regime and the United Nations' oil-for-food program helped Middle Eastern and European cell-phone companies edge out American firms for lucrative Iraqi contracts, The Washington Times has learned.
    Contrast that with this Sept 2003 Paul Krugman column....
    Iraq's reconstruction, by contrast, remains firmly under White House control. And this is an administration of, by and for crony capitalists...
    For example, in July two enterprising Middle Eastern firms started offering cellphone service in Baghdad, setting up jury-rigged systems compatible with those of neighboring countries.
    But no: the authorities promptly shut down the services. Cell service, they said, could be offered only by the winners in a bidding process — one whose rules, revealed on July 31, seemed carefully designed to shut out any non-American companies. (In the face of strenuous protests the rules were revised, but still seem to favor the usual suspects.)
    Since Paul Krugman won't write it, I will: "Oops.".

    Posted by Jon Henke at 12:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    May 08, 2004

    Aberration or the regular workings of the system

    Lawrence Kaplan, senior editor for The New Republic, writes about the battle between the left and right over whether the activities in Abu Ghraib are the aberrant acts of a few individuals, or the logical result of "the system".

    Kaplan's position is that--while wrongdoing at any point in the chain of command needs to be punished--blaming the system, in effect, relieves the perpetrators of at least a measure of their guilt. It transfers some responsibility from the individual perpetrator to a faceless--yet evil--"system", of which the perpetrator was a helpless collaborator.

    One of the things that has so shocked me about what happened at Abu Ghraib, is that it is so at variance with my experience during a decade of active service.

    I was a USAF Security Policeman¹ and an Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD) specialist. For those who don't know, the Air Force doesn't have any formal infantry units. Yet their agreement with the Army is that the Air Force will provide their own ground troops for the defense of Air Bases in combat zones². The Air Force's method of handling this when I was on active duty was to identify a percentage of SPs, and send them to ABGD School (essentially the USAF version of the Army's Advanced Infantry Training) at Camp Bullis, Texas for several weeks. Additionally, the SP force is split into two career fields: Security, which is responsible for the physical security of USAF weapons systems and bases, and Law Enforcement, which is responsible for normal police duties. I had the unusual fortune to work in both career fields, spending about half of my time in Law Enforcement.

    In any event, every day I was on active duty, we were constantly exhorted about Air Force Standards. And not in a casual way, but an uncompromising way. We were regularly trained about our responsibility both to obey lawful orders, and to refuse unlawful ones. Every day we were inspected to ensure our compliance with USAF standards of appearance. Our NCOs and officers were rigorous in enforcing standards. Our flight chief (equivalent to a Platoon Sergeant) came to see us and spend time with us at least once every day. Our squadron-level senior NCOs and Officers visited us regularly. Our squadron training NCOs regularly pulled unscheduled exercises to correct deficiencies in procedures. Our squadron quality control NCOs regularly came out to pull unscheduled QC examinations on individuals, and if a patrolman or entry controller or desk sergeant failed, they were immediately decertified to hold those positions.

    My entire experience is so totally at odds with the slovenly buffoonery exposed in the Taguba Report, to which I referred earlier, that it is scarcely conceivable.

    It appears that General Karpinsky didn't even perform the basic tasks one expects of a commander. For instance, every military unit is required to compile a list of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that define the appropriate actions to almost any conceivable situation. In addition, each unit maintains a Mission Essential Task List (METL), that identifies the responsibilities of every duty position, from the commander down to the lowest-ranking enlisted member. Beyond that, each individual SP is issued with a set of Special Security Instructions (SSIs) for his post every day upon assuming that post. Moreover, every unit I served with issued each person a Squadron Security Police handbook that outlined their responsibilities, and the standards they were expected to maintain.

    These requirements are so basic, and so universal, that Taguba's statement that they didn't even exist are completely mystifying. The lack of them might not raise any eyebrows if we were talking about some partially trained Third World force. Or, frankly, even a European Army, who tend to be a bit more lax about such things.

    Their lack in an American unit is so far outside my years of experience, it just leaves me slack-jawed with stupefaction. My entire experience is of a system that demanded adherence to high standards, demanded unquestioned personal integrity, and, also provided swift, and relatively severe punishments for infractions.

    But, even if the Karpinsky and her whole chain of command were a collection of slackers, freaks and weasels, each individual, even in the absence of specific guidance, knows their general responsibilities from day one.

    Each SP, on the very first day of the academy, is taught the three General Orders that each SP is required to memorize and repeat upon demand for the remainder of their career:

    1. I will take charge of my post and protect all personnel and property for which I am assigned until properly relieved.

    2. I will report all violations of orders that I am instructed to enforce and will contact my supervisor in any case not covered by instruction.

    3. I will sound the alarm in case of disorder or emergency.

    And even beyond that, there is the Security Police Creed, which identifies the ethical responsibilities of the SP:

    I am a Security Policeman. I hold allegiance to my country, devotion to duty, and personal integrity above all. I wear my badge of authority with dignity and restraint, and promote by example; high standards of conduct, appearance, courtesy, and performance. I seek no favors because of my position. I perform my duties in a fair, courteous, and impartial manner irrespective of a persons color, race, religion, national origin or sex. I strive to merit the respect of my fellow airman and all those with whom I come in contact with.

    For my entire career, my experience with the system was that it was built around those principles. There was never any question in my mind that I would refuse an illegal order from any individual, of any rank. Indeed, on several occasions, I refused direct orders from officers, when they violated my instructions. (That isn't an unusual experience for military policemen, since an officer's first response upon being caught doing something naughty is to order the MP or SP to look the other way. Heh. Nice try.)

    Each individual service member knows his general ethical and legal obligations. Yes, the chain of command should have provided proper training. The troops should have had METLs and SOPs. SSIs for each post should have been available.

    But even in the absence of them, and even if they were completely unsupported by the entire chain of command, each individual knew his responsibility. Each individual is responsible for committing acts they they knew were violations of Army standards. No matter how lackadaisical their chain of command one, each person involved knew their responsibilities. They each knew what Army standards were. And each of them intentionally violated those standards knowingly and of their own volition.

    They don't now get to fall back on, "I was following orders." We didn't put of with that crap from the Nazis, even when we knew it was true. I'm not willing now to hear it from American soldiers.

    The problem with Abu Ghraib wasn't the system. The problem was a chain of command, from BG Karpinsky on down, who didn't want to fulfill the requirements of the system. The system is designed specifically to prevent this kind of thing. I know the system, and I know that praqctically everything described at Abu Ghraib is a direct violation of the system's procedures and principles.

    When we see it, my experience tells me that it is the result of officers and NCOs who have ignored the system for their own convenience. And I expect, that in this case, as is appropriate, they'll pay the full measure for doing so.
    ¹ The Army has Military Police, or MPs. The Air Force has Security Police, or SPs.

    ² The Air Force/Army agreement is a horrifically complicated document that covers all aspects of the split between air and ground units. For example, it tasks the USAF with close air support, and prohibits the army from operating fixed-wing combat aircraft, which is why the helicopter figures so prominently in the Army's order of battle. These kinds of agreements are necessary to restrain interservice rivalry, which has a long and bitter history. As one Army officer on the War Department staff quipped in WWII, "The opponents are the Germans and Japanese. The enemy is the Navy."

    Posted by at 09:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Underestimating the young

    In a commencement speech John Kerry said the following:

    "America needs your generation to surprise those who underestimate the idealism and commitment of young people in the United States of America," the Democratic presidential candidate said at commencement ceremonies at Southern University at New Orleans.

    Underestimate the idealism and commitment of young people in the United States?

    Who ... like the young people in the 1st Armored Division? Or the 1st Marine Division? The 75th Ranger Regiment? 173rd Airborne Brigade? 25th Infantry Division Light? 101st Airborne Divison? 3rd Infantry Division? 82nd Airborne Divison? 10th Mountain Divison? 4th Infantry Division? 1st Infantry Divison? National Guard? Reserves?

    None of these young people have surprised me at all with their idealism and commitment. They're all volunteers and they're magnificent.

    Those who underestimate them do so at their own peril.

    Posted by McQ at 08:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    So much for the "cover up" meme

    For those too lazy to do their own homework but want to yammer about a "cover up", please read as it was reported by CNN:

    The date? January 21st, 2004

    What did the Pentagon tell reporters?

    And how specific were they about the problem?

    And where have we heard this lately?

    So much for the "cover up" angle. So much for the "they hid it from the American people" angle.

    It appears the Pentagon informed the world soon after it began its investigation ... as they should have.

    Posted by McQ at 08:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Welcome to the 7th century

    One of Muqtada al-Sadr's senior aides, Sheik Abdul-Sattar al-Bahadli, gave an interesting Friday sermon at the al-Hawi mosque in Basra. His view of the Koran, which is, in fact, a fairly standard reading of Muslim rules of warfare, is that female soldiers captured in operations against the coalition may be kept as slaves by the man who captures them.

    According to the invaluable website of "The Imam", Mufti Ebrahim Dasai (here, and here), the Sharia states that a woman captured in Jihad may legally be assigned the property of her captor, who may then, naturally, have sex with her.

    Her wishes, of course, are not particularly relevant to anything.

    The Imam, of course, does at least make a brief nod to the horrific burden this puts on her captor, by saying, "It may, superficially, appear distasteful to copulate with a woman who is not a man's legal wife, but once Shariat makes something lawful, we have to accept it as lawful..." Yes, no matter how distasteful it would be to have sex with exotic, foreign women to whom one is not married, once Islamic law says it's OK, we have to just do what needs to be done.

    It's a burden, I'm sure.

    Posted by at 06:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Put My Son's Name on a Bomb

    The page is prefaced with this:

    The Item Below is posted to demonstrate how successful the Bush Cabal has been in misleading the American people into believing that Iraq was responsible for, or associated with the tragedy of 9/11. It also shows how the US military panders to the misinformation and propaganda of our government.

    However, when you read the request, it doesn't say that at all:

    Dear Public Affairs Officer:

    If possible can this be relayed to a Navy, Air Force or Army or Marine unit in the Gulf Region. A simple request from a Vietnam Veteran and Retired New York City Police Department Sergeant who lost his son on 911 at the WTC. Simply to have his son's name put on one of the munitions (bomb, missile, artillery shell) that will be used on the war on terrorism including Iraq. His son's name was Jason Sekzer, the father is Wilton A. Sekzer and can be reached at ***

    Thank you.

    Gary Gorman Retired Police Officer NYPD ESS#1 Brooklyn, NY 11214

    As you can see, Gorman asks it be on a munition "used on the war on terrorism including Iraq." That's hardly a request of someone who believes "that Iraq was responsible for, or associated with the tragedy of 9/11."

    It is the request of someone who believes that Iraq is indeed part of the War on Terrorism ... as stated.

    This is the sort of propaganda spin the anti-war crowd loves.

    Of course they never mention that the terrorists would rather put their sons IN a bomb, but then that'd be inconvenient to their point.

    Posted by McQ at 03:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Anti-war but support the troops. Yeah, ok ...

    If you haven't had the "opportunity" to check out an Arabic anti-American site, it might be instructive. Be warned there are graphic images there. But it is instructive for a few reasons:

    1. To see how they're playing the abuse story.

    2. How they spin the Iraq liberation in general.

    3. To see who they associate themselves with ... like

    So tell us again how "anti-war but support the troops" works?

    Posted by McQ at 02:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Quick Hits

    *** Did Clinton ever apologize for Waco? When 12 Aberdeen drill instructors faced court martial for sexual misconduct, including one convicted of 18 counts of rape....did Clinton issue an apology? Should he have?

    I'm just asking.

    *** John Cole points out a dissappearing meme....

    On the positive side of things, I guess I won't be hearing about the successes of "Clinton's Army" again any time soon.

    *** Kevin Drum...

    I don't care what libertarians say, the payday loan industry is a blight on a supposedly civilized nation. Today, Slacktivist tells us there's a promising new argument to persuade legislatures to put these moral cretins out of business: they're unpatriotic scumbags who prey on our enlisted men and women in wartime.
    Well, that'll be great. Now, instead of paying high interest rates, those people can simply go without. Score!

    It's a damned shame that we can't just let people make their own choices....even when those choices are stupid.

    *** I had a chance to listen to Rush Limbaugh for a few minutes yesterday, and he was offering excuses for the Abu Ghraib torture AGAIN. Christ, what a buffoon. This is the very definition of defending the indefensible.

    *** I've seen quite a few people make the argument that "sure, it was mistreatment, but it wasn't actually torture". I can only assume they are either ignorant, or have a very high tolerance for abuse. Let's remember what happened:
    - pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees (Readers inform me the phosphoric liquid used in chem-lights is non-toxic. My apologies...I had assumed that the liquid bore some relation to phosphoric acid, which is toxic.)
    - Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair
    - Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick

    Not to mention the forcible hetero- and homosexual rape. Or, the (at least) one prisoner who died as a probable result of a beating. There can be no question that this was torture.

    *** Via John Hawkins, I find this ridiculous statement by one of the Beastie Boys. (which one? Who cares)

    "I think we'd be hard-pressed to get someone worse than Bush. I think if you had to sum it up he's an incredibly selfish man and his administration in my opinion puts Americans ahead of people in other countries."
    I hope I don't have to point out how unbelievably dumb that is. Also, Hawkins does a first-class Fisk of libertarian crank Lew Rockwell....a guy who deserves far more criticism than he gets.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 02:26 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

    And the Aye's have it

    50 House members voted against the following resolution, the vast majority of them Democrats (it passed 365 - 50). Such luminaries as John Conyers, Barney Frank, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, Jim McDermott, Nancy Pelosi, Charles Rangel, Pete Stark, Maxine Waters submited a 'nay'.

    Deploring the abuse of persons in United States custody in Iraq, regardless of the circumstances of their detention, urging the Secretary of the Army to bring to swift justice any member of the Armed Forces who has violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice, expressing the deep appreciation of the Nation to the courageous and honorable members of the Armed Forces who have selflessly served, or are currently serving, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and for other purposes.

    Anyone care to take a stab at what they found so objectionable that it required a "no" vote?

    UPDATE (McQ): My old friend Richard Nickoley brings us proof that apparently Congressman Pete Stark believes he's the smartest congressman in Congress and its proper to respond to a constituent's letter of concern about this vote with a voice mail to that person in which he both curses and insults them. Go listen.

    For such a "smart" buy, you'd think he'd know better than to leave a voicemail like this.

    Posted by McQ at 07:53 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    May 07, 2004

    It keeps getting worse

    If you think the things we've heard about at Abu Ghraib are bad, wait until the other shoe drops. According to the Miami Herald, to which, unfortunately, I can't link directly because registration is required, there are photos and even videos of far worse things than we've already seen.

    In fact, it appears that it's about as bad as it can be. As the story points out, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) told the press today, "We're talking about rape and murder here, we're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience."

    If this is true, heads had better roll.

    Posted by at 09:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Dayton's a ditz

    Cap'n Ed at Captain's Quarters (one of my "daily read" blogs) provides us with this transcript from an exchange between MN Democratic Senator Mark Dayton and Gen Meyers. Before providing this, and in keeping with the trend in aplogies, the Cap'n apologizes for all of Minnesota for being represented by the likes of Dayton. I understand that the Arabs weren't at all impressed by the Cap'n apology.

    But back to the point:

    Two points:

    1. Had the Defense Department planned on "suppressing" the story, they wouldn't have called and asked CBS not to run it. They'd have gone over there and stopped CBS from running it. That's a huge difference which is entirely lost on Dayton.

    2. Dayton is completely off-track about this not being our tradition. All news from the war was approved before it was allowed to be sent to the US broadcast in WW II among other measures in place.

    Seems a Senator that's going to make those types of accusations would do his homework on the one hand and undestand the utter stupidity of his charge on the other hand.

    Something tells me Dayton isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer.

    Suppress the news!

    Good grief.

    Posted by McQ at 07:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Poll: Rummy should stay

    Even the democratic voters think Rummy should stay:

    Three-quarters of the public are closely following the story, a level of attention reserved for some of the most gripping news events. Two-thirds favor criminal charges against the soldiers involved; fewer — but still a majority — 54 percent, say punishment should go up the chain of command to higher-level officers who allowed a breakdown of training and discipline.

    Still, given current knowledge, most say the buck should stop before it gets to Rumsfeld. Twenty percent in this ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll say he should resign, while many more, 69 percent, say he should retain his position. Even most Democrats — hardly the administration's fondest fans — say Rumsfeld should stay.

    Its really facinating the level of interest this story has. We're seeing it here as most of our hits concern a "Iraqi prisoner abuse" search. To say its captured the attention of America (and the world) is an understatement.

    But, that being said, the good judgement of the American people again shows through. Despite all the caterwalling and demands for Rumsfeld's resignation (or ouster) by Democrat politicians, apparently America, by quite a majority, says they're full of ... well we knew that anyway, didn't we?

    Americans, unlike our Democrat politicians, seem to be able to determine where the blame should fall and, consequently, who should take the fall.

    Posted by McQ at 06:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    The Taguba Report

    The full report of Army Maj Gen Antonio Taguba is now available online. It seems fairly comprehensive, and unstinting in pointing out deviations from Army standards.

    I'd welcome Jon and McQ to add their own views in this post as well, interspersing them or providing adddendums as appropriate.

    The first thing that caught my eye was this:

    Army Regulation 190-8 is a wise document. MI and MP missions are quite different, and often do not mesh well. In a correctional setting, the objectives of each side are often, in fact, wildly opposed.

    The primary mission of the MP in a correctional setting is the smooth and peaceful operation of the facility. Subsidiary objectives to accomplish this mission include, but are not limited to:

    • Preventing escapes

    • Providing physical security for the prisoners

    • Providing physical security for the MPs

    The MI mission, on the other hand, is essentially to force the prisoners to tell them things he might otherwise be unwilling to tell.

    Trouble brews any time the MI/MP wall is breached. The prison population must expect that complaints about safety issues or threats related to the MPs will result in improvement. But, once the MPs become involved in "psychologically preparing" prisoners for interrogation, the essential element of trust--not friendliness, you understand, but an expectation that the MPs will respond to eliminate threats to safety or security--is destroyed.

    Once the prisoners know that the MPs are not impartial wardens, but active enemies, the mission of the MP force becaomes immeasurably more difficult. Prisoners become harder to control, requiring more rigorous methods of physical control.

    In short, the less MPs are seen as unbiased wardens, the more likely it is that prisoner violence, or even uprisings, will occur.

    Unfortunately, the report is clear that, at least at the lower levels, the MI/MP wall was breached, although It's not clear at what level.

    Translation: A failure of command. Look, if you let soldiers just get together and start making up their own rules as they go along, Bad Things will happen. That's why commanders have the responsibility to enforce standards.

    Whatever those lower levels were, senior non-commissioned officers at that level, or officers at the next highest level should have caught it and stopped it.

    At least they would have in a normal command. But Brig Gen Karpinski seems to have been a little...lax.

    Ah. Now the problem begins to get a little clearer. Translation, BG Karpinsky didn't feel like getting off her ass long enough to do anything other than rubber stamp what she knew she was supposed to.

    And It wasn't just BG Karpinski, either. The Battalion level CO seems to have been a problem child as well.

    When faced with an incompetent Battalion CO, BG Karpinski, in what is begining to appear to be her regular habit, did as little as possible, and what she did do, hid from her superiors.

    Not that any of this is her fault, according to her.

    Well, that's about as damning an indictment of any officer's fitness as any I could construct. But the whining's not over yet:

    Well, maybe if you'd run a command where you demonstrated to your subordinates that you actually cared about enforcing Army standards, BG Karpinsky, none of the abuse would have happened.

    So, I'm now wondering, how often did BG Karpinski ever leave her air-conditioned office and take a stroll over to see how Col Pappas, Lt Col Jordan, Capt Reese, and MSgt Lipinski were doing?

    Or what they were doing. Once? Fifty times? Or was it never, while she was content to sit in the big letter chair and sign orders whose intent and importance she had no intention of personally impressing upon her command?

    And you know what happens when the CG doesn't enforce standards? Her staff and subordinates turn into a freakish circus act.

    Oh, and there's lots more. All of which paints a picture of a command that was allowed to go to seed.

    These weren't soldiers. They were a mob. Soldiers have discipline. But, Again, Karpinsky, like "The Secretary" in Mission: Impossible disavows all knowledge. And, it appears, rightfully so. Evidently, she didn't get out much at all.

    Ah. Well, that answers my previous question.

    What a sad collection of misfits and incompetents.

    ADDENDUM (McQ): Taking Dale up on his kind offer let me throw this out for contemplation.

    One aspect of this situation which has not gotten the play it deserves is the relationship between the 205th MI Brigade and the 800th MP Brigade as it pertains to Abu Gharib.

    Prior to MG Taguba's investigation, there as an assessment made by another general, MG Geoffrey D. Miller, Commander, Joint Task Forec Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO). It was entitled "Assessment of DoD Counter-Terrorism Interrogation and Detention Operations in Iraq." In that assessment, Miller's team, per the Taguba report, made the following recommendation:

    With respect to interrogation, MG Miller’s Team recommended that CJTF-7 dedicate and train a detention guard force subordinate to the Joint Interrogation Debriefing Center (JIDC) Commander that “sets the conditions for the successful interrogation and exploitation of internees/detainees.” Regarding Detention Operations, MG Miller’s team stated that the function of Detention Operations is to provide a safe, secure, and humane environment that supports the expeditious collection of intelligence. However, it also stated “it is essential that the guard force be actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees.”

    So here we have an assessment which says that it is the MI commander who "sets the conditions for the successful interrogation and exploitation of internees/detainees”, and futher states "“it is essential that the guard force be actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees.” Note, this assessment was made and presumably published PRIOR to the beginning of the abuses in question.

    Sound like guidance to you? Me too. But its important to note that even if that were the recommendation or guidance, the Miller assessment also stated "the function of Detention Operations is to provide a safe, secure, and humane environment that supports the expeditious collection of intelligence."

    The whole reason I point this out is because the MPs claim it was the MI people who told them to "prepare" the prisoners for interrogation, which apparently they interpreted to do as they did, i.e. abuse the prisoners. It may be this assessment which gave the MI people the idea that they could and should involve the guards in this preparation. But it should be noted that while they may have followed that guidance, they obviously ignored (or didn't stress) the guidance which required them to provide "a safe, secure, and humane environment that supports the expeditious collection of intelligence."

    So ... an important point from Taguba's report:

    The recommendations of MG Miller’s team that the “guard force” be actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees would appear to be in conflict with the recommendations of MG Ryder’s Team and AR 190-8 that military police “do not participate in military intelligence supervised interrogation sessions.” The Ryder Report concluded that the OEF template whereby military police actively set the favorable conditions for subsequent interviews runs counter to the smooth operation of a detention facility.

    Which brings us to another general's assessment made prior to the disovery of the abuse. MG Ryder and his assessment team conducted a comprehensive review of the entire detainee and corrections system in Iraq. Ryder's team noted the following:

    AR 190-8, Enemy Prisoners of War, Retained Personnel, Civilian Internees, and other Detainees, FM 3-19.40, Military Police Internment and Resettlement Operations, and FM 34-52, Intelligence Interrogations, require military police to provide an area for intelligence collection efforts within EPW facilities. Military Police, though adept at passive collection of intelligence within a facility, do not participate in Military Intelligence supervised interrogation sessions. Recent intelligence collection in support of Operation Enduring Freedom posited a template whereby military police actively set favorable conditions for subsequent interviews. Such actions generally run counter to the smooth operation of a detention facility, attempting to maintain its population in a compliant and docile state. The 800th MP Brigade has not been directed to change its facility procedures to set the conditions for MI interrogations, nor participate in those interrogations.

    In other words, although the regulation doesn't allow it, there was apparently a "template" which had MPs "actively set favorable conditions for subsequent interviews" during Operation Enduring Freedom ... which is a no-no because, as noted, "[s]uch actions generally run counter to the smooth operation of a detention facility, attempting to maintain its population in a compliant and docile state". The maintenance of the prison population in that "docile" state is the main mission of the MPs.

    But all that being said, note that per the Ryder assessement, the 800th MP Bde had not been directed to change its facility procedures for MI interrogations or to particpate them despite there being some history of that with the so-called 'template'.

    Which brings us to the nut of the whole controversy.

    Per MG Taguba's report:

    While clearly the 800th MP Brigade and its commanders were not tasked to set conditions for detainees for subsequent MI interrogations, it is obvious from a review of comprehensive CID interviews of suspects and witnesses that this was done at lower levels.

    The salient questions? At what level was this decision made and by whom? How were the MI people involved? Did they use the recommendations of MG Miller's assessment as the basis of allegedly telling the guards to "soften up" the prisoners? Did the MI command structure of the MI Bde interpret Miller's recommendations the same way? Did they use them as a basis to involve the guards?

    If so, there are some officers on the MI side of the house that need to be in the crap house as well. Because if this is what happened, then this misinterpretation of guidance (or perhaps a better way of putting it is the "selective" use of guidance where they accepted the "involve the guards" portion but ignored the "humane treatment" portion) can most likely be placed at MI Brigade's doorstep.

    You might ask, "why haven't we heard that much about this at this time?"

    Very simply, because of the complexity of the relationship (its hard to report on espcially when this mostly greek to most reporters), the sensationalism of the pictures and the obvious dysfunctional command relationship within the MP Brigade which was directly responsible for the treatment of the prisoners as has been seen around the world.

    But the 205th MI Bde has dirty hands in all of this as well.

    MG Taguba found the following ... and it is CRITICAL to understanding why what happend may have happened and why Karpinski, et. al, may have essentially washed their hands of the whole Abu Gharib establishment:

    I find that this ambiguous command relationship was exacerbated by a CJTF-7 Fragmentary Order (FRAGO) 1108 issued on 19 November 2003. Paragraph 3.C.8, Assignment of 205th MI Brigade Commander’s Responsibilities for the Baghdad Central Confinement Facility, states as follows:

    3.C.8. A. (U) 205 MI BRIGADE.


    Although not supported by BG Karpinski, FRAGO 1108 made all of the MP units at Abu Ghraib TACON to the Commander, 205th MI Brigade. This effectively made an MI Officer, rather than an MP Officer, responsible for the MP units conducting detainee operations at that facility. This is not doctrinally sound due to the different missions and agendas assigned to each of these respective specialties.

    So to summarize, we have an order which gives tactical command (TACON) of all MP units at Abu Ghraib to the commander of the 205th MI Brigade. As MG Taguba notes: "This effectively made an MI Officer, rather than an MP Officer, responsible for the MP units conducting detainee operations at that facility." He also notes, [t]his is not doctrinally sound due to the different missions and agendas assigned to each of these respective specialties."

    BIG point. Big enough that Taguba recommended:

    That an inquiry UP AR 381-10, Procedure 15 be conducted to determine the extent of culpability of Military Intelligence personnel, assigned to the 205th MI Brigade and the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC) regarding abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib (BCCF).

    Additionally, Taguba recommended:

    That COL Thomas M. Pappas, Commander, 205th MI Brigade, be given a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand and Investigated UP Procedure 15, AR 381-10, US Army Intelligence Activities for the following acts which have been previously referred to in the aforementioned findings:

  • Failing to ensure that Soldiers under his direct command were properly trained in and followed the IROE.

  • Failing to ensure that Soldiers under his direct command knew, understood, and followed the protections afforded to detainees in the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

  • Failing to properly supervise his soldiers working and “visiting” Tier 1 of the Hard-Site at Abu Ghraib (BCCF).
  • As I say ... watch this part carefully. This is a very strong recommendation from MG Tagabu. As it turns out, while the MPs at Abu Ghraib were officially TACON to the MI Bde, the command relationship was apparently ignored by both commands except when it was convenient to evoke it .... such as now when you see BG Karpinski trying to blame everyone else for her lack of leadership.

    However Taguba noted:

    Based on all the facts and circumstances in this investigation, I find that there was little, if any, recognition of this TACON Order by the 800th MP Brigade or the 205th MI Brigade. Further, there was no evidence if the Commander, 205th MI Brigade clearly informed the Commander, 800th MP Brigade, and specifically the Commander, 320th MP Battalion assigned at Abu Ghraib (BCCF), on the specific requirements of this TACON relationship.

    Be that as it may, and regardless of her lack of leadership, Karpinski may have a valid complaint. As you can see above, there was conflicting guidance and a non-doctrinal command structure which conspired with weak commanders within the MP Bde and apparently within the MI Bde to allow this disaster to take place.

    I have to agree with Karpinski in one reagard ... she's not the only one in this little fiasco who was derelict in their duty and she shouldn't "hang" alone.

    Posted by at 02:19 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    Air America's bumpy ride

    We hear today that Air America is still trying to pull out of a flat spin:

    In yet another sign of trouble for Air America Radio, the liberal talk network's co-founder and chairman, Evan Cohen, resigned Thursday along with his investment partner and vice chairman, Rex Sorensen.

    The company also failed to make its scheduled payroll Wednesday, leaving its staff of roughly 100 writers and producers unpaid until Thursday.

    Well that ought to inspire the troops. And AA's explanation?

    "We're on a wild ride," said Jon Sinton, the network's president, acknowledging that Air America has suffered "the typical bumps and bruises faced by any start-up."

    "But the bottom line," he said, "is that we are on the air to stay."

    Oh, well that's comforting.

    Posted by McQ at 02:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Famous last words

    More from Kerry:

    "As president, I will not be the last to know what is going on in my command," Kerry said. "I will demand accountability for those who serve and I will take responsibility for their actions. "

    As my father taught me early in life, "never make absolute statements if they can be avoided as there is no way anyone can live up to them with any consistency". I might add its far less likely others will live up to them for you either.

    Its a bit like saying, "my child would never do that". Heh ... yeah and as soon as you utter those words they bite your right in the kiester.

    So I'd say to Mr. Kerry, sir, you have no idea or way to ensure you won't be the "last to know' what's going on in your command. And to pretend you would is akin to pretending you're precient and know the outcome of the election. Obviously that's not true.

    BTW ... by definition the president will always be the "last" one "to know" ... given how a chain of command works and all.

    But then its election season and politicians are prone to overstatement, useless promises and just plain nonsense ... but you rarely see a trifecta such as Kerry has given us here.

    Posted by McQ at 02:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    "I don't fall down!"

    Contrast this:

    In December, The New Republic's Lawrence Kaplan notes, John Kerry gave a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in which he "recommended dispatching Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, or former Secretary of State James Baker to Israel as special envoys--a tone-deaf proposal, given Carter's and Baker's reputations as vituperative critics of Israel." Realizing that this is no way to win Jewish votes, at a February meeting with Jewish leaders, Kerry backpedaled in remarkable fashion:

    One of the first things Kerry did at the meeting was to blame his aides for the mention of Carter and Baker as possible envoys in his December speech--a claim that several participants double-checked as soon as they walked out the door. The names, Kerry said, had been inserted by mistake, and he had even asked that they be removed. The problem is, in the speech itself, Kerry said, "There are a number of uniquely qualified Americans among whom I would consider appointing, including President Carter. . . . And, I might add, I have had conversations with both President Clinton and President Carter about their willingness to do this." Kerry spokesperson Stephanie Cutter even confirmed to The Boston Globe in December that he had spoken with Carter. Today, the campaign offers this explanation: The candidate eventually did speak with Carter--but only after noticing that a draft of his speech said that he spoke with Carter.

    With this:

    We also talked about what has been on the TV screens recently, not only in our own country but overseas - the images of cruelty and humiliation. I told His Majesty as plainly as I could that the wrongdoers will be brought to justice, and that the actions of those folks in Iraq do not represent the values of the United States of America.

    I told him I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners, and the humiliation suffered by their families. I told him I was equally sorry that people who have been seeing those pictures didn't understand the true nature and heart of America. I assured him Americans, like me, didn't appreciate what we saw, that it made us sick to our stomachs. I also made it clear to His Majesty that the troops we have in Iraq, who are there for security and peace and freedom, are the finest of the fine, fantastic United States citizens, who represent the very best qualities of America: courage, love of freedom, compassion, and decency.

    And tell me why we should ever have to listen to this again from John Kerry:

    "The President may refuse to acknowledge a single mistake in the course of his presidency...

    "I don't fall down!"

    Right ... and your staff is at fault for the speech mistake as well, isn't it?

    Posted by McQ at 01:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    The Conventional Wisdom

    According to John Podhoretz, conventional wisdom is that the Abu Ghraib pictures should be a boost for John Kerry. He believes, however, that they could be Kerry's worst nightmare.

    The anti-American Left is already seizing on these photos and the behavior of .001 percent of the Americans present in Iraq as evidence that the entire U.S. effort in Iraq is a moral catastrophe from stem to stern.

    The issue will no longer be the supposed "lies" of George W. Bush, but the supposedly "criminal" conduct of the American occupiers. In other words, they will openly turn from blaming Bush to blaming American troops, American soldiers, American contractors - and America herself.

    Such people will not be mollified by the stance of the Kerry campaign, which is that the stated goal of the United States in Iraq will remain in force in a Kerry administration. Kerry also says he wants to stay until the job is done - to achieve a stable, functioning representative government. He wants to use other means and other strategies, but he still wants the same outcome.

    The anti-war Left wants Americans out of Iraq. Not because it fears for their safety, but because it hungers to see an American defeat - no, more than a defeat, a humiliation.

    Ralph Nader is the one candidate in the race who is calling for total American withdrawal from Iraq - and he does so on the grounds that what we are doing there is wrong and bad.

    Hmm. Maybe I should send Nader a contribution...

    Posted by at 12:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Know Your Enemy

    Charles Krauthammer writes about how the Abu Ghraib pictures have touched the most incendiary issue in the War on Terror for the Arab world.

    Jihadists, like all totalitarians, oppose many kinds of freedom. What makes them unique, however, is their particular hatred of freedom for women. They prize their traditional prerogatives that allow them to keep their women barefoot in the kitchen as illiterate economic and sexual slaves. For the men, that is a pretty good deal -- one threatened by the West with its twin doctrines of equality and sexual liberation.

    Which is what made one aspect of the Abu Ghraib horrors even more incendiary -- the pictures of female U.S. soldiers mocking, humiliating and dominating naked and abused Arab men. One could not have designed a more symbolic representation of the Islamist warning about where Western freedom ultimately leads than yesterday's Washington Post photo of a uniformed American woman holding a naked Arab man on a leash.

    A recent article about Abu Ghraib, a link to which I am unable to find at the moment, quoted a former prisoner as saying that being sexually humiliated by women was worse than being tortured by Saddam.

    That's difficult for an American to understand, coming, as we do, from a culture where men have been known to pay top dollar to receive such humiliation. I mean, that's what I've heard.

    But the Jihadist plan is to boldy march us into the seventh century, when men were men, and women were chattel property. One would think that such casual subjugation of women would put feminist groups like NOW on the firefront of support for the war.

    One would be wrong, of course.

    Posted by at 12:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Cue the rimshot

    Comedians remark on Kerry:

    NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno":

    "You know the difference between 'Friends' and the John Kerry campaign?

    'Friends' has a theme."

    CBS's "Late Show with David Letterman":

    "Yesterday, in a Cinco de Mayo celebration John Kerry spoke in Spanish, so he has now failed to articulate his messages in two languages."

    Posted by McQ at 12:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Nonfarm Payrolls

    I just wanted to add a few observations about this morning's non-farm payrolls, a subject Jon already addressed. The bad thing about being a West Coast blogger on an East Coast blog is that you're tail-end Charlie when it comes to timely observations.

    In any event, a couple of things come to mind when looking at the table of data. I think this release put the Fed in an interesting position vis a vis Monetary policy. Not only have we seen three months of job growth, with the last two months coming in well above expectations. (Today, for example, the consensus expectation was for a number around 165K.)

    Additionally, if you look back at 1Q GDP, which itself increased by 4.2% on an annualized basis, you see that Gross Domestic Purchases Prices increased by 3.2%. The Consumer Price Index's core rate, which excludes the volatile food and energy components, has also been up ever more sharply. The Jan reading was 0.2%. Feb was 0.3%. Mar was 0.5%. So, we're seeing some disturbing signs of increasing inflation at the same time as we're seeing larger than expected increases in employment.

    At any other time, it would be a given that the Fed, with short-term interest rates at historical lows, would be moving to increase rates steadily over the next several months.

    This is, however, not any other time. It is an election year. The Fed is usually quite cautious in election years about the direction of interest rates. On balance, I think the Fed has to move in the direction of tightening, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them hold off as long as they can.

    And there's at least some minimal reasoning they could use to do so. The average workweek still stands at 33.7 hours, which, in contrast to the strong employment growth of the last two months, still suggests relatively weak labor demand. It's a bit counterintuitive, really. "No, we don't really require new workers. But we are hiring twice as many as expected." Weak labor demand and strong job growth. Go figure.

    But, as I said, that's a pretty flimsy reasoning to hold off on interest rate increases. So, despite the Fed's usual reluctance to tighten policy during election years, the overall numbers suggest that such a policy move looms in our near future.

    Posted by at 11:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Employment Summary

    Take a look at the BLS Employment situation summary. Some pretty good news, beyond the splashy 288,000 jobs. I'll excerpt the important bits.

    Long term unemployment:

    The number of persons unemployed for 27 weeks or longer declined by 188,000 to 1.8 million in April. These long-term unemployed persons accounted for 22.1 percent of the total unemployed.
    Good trend. It should lead to an eventual reduction of the next category before long....

    Discouraged Workers:

    The number of persons who were marginally attached to the labor force was 1.5 million in April, about the same as a year earlier. ...

    There were 492,000 discouraged workers in April, also about the same as a year earlier. Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, were not currently looking for work specifically because they believed no jobs were available for them.

    The other 1.0 million marginally attached had not searched for work for reasons such as school or family responsibilities.

    The fact that it's not getting worse, despite the slow job creation of the past year is a good sign. Presumably, it will begin improving soon.

    Job-growth by sector:

    Since August 2003, payroll employment has risen by 1.1 mil-
    lion. Over the month, job growth was widespread, including large gains in
    several service-providing industries, and smaller gains in both construction
    and manufacturing.
    Employment growth is broad....which is good. If you read the press release, you'll find quite a few sectors experienced strong growth.

    Wage Growth:

    Average hourly earnings of production or nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 5 cents in April to $15.59, seasonally adjusted. Average weekly earnings increased by 0.3 percent over the month to $525.38. Over the year, average hourly earnings grew by 2.2 percent, and average weekly earnings increased by 2.5 percent.

    One more point I'd make. We often hear that "we have to create at least 150,000 new jobs to keep up with the growth in the size of the labor force". While that is often true, let's look at the growth of the labor force since the beginning of 2004....(net change in thousands)
    Jan: 15(1)
    Feb: -392(1)
    Mar: 179
    APR: 91
    (data from BLS - some data affected by changes in population controls)

    Make of it what you will.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 11:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Civilian Contractors at Prison can be prosecuted

    Per WaPo:

    Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said yesterday that killings or abuse of military detainees in Iraq that involved civilian contractors could be prosecuted by the Justice Department under several statutes, including civil rights violations and anti-torture laws.

    Excellent ... then let's do it.

    Posted by McQ at 09:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Derelection of duty?

    MG Robert Scales nails it on Fox News's Special Report with Britt Hume:

    BRITT HUME: Talk to me a little bit first about this chain of command question. The person in charge of that prison, Abu Ghraib (search), was General Karpinski...


    HUME: ... who has been on all over the place since the thing was over. She is back in this country relieved of that command. She and her military lawyer have been around saying that this -- that this -- there was responsibility elsewhere. There was a split command. That the intelligence forces had some say in all this. What about that?

    SCALES: You know, there's an old saying in the Army, when in charge, take charge; called Rule 13. She was a brigadier general. She was in charge of the prison. There were lesser ranks who were subordinate to her. Some were in the military intelligence. Some were in logistics. Some were even civilian contractors.

    But the bottom line, she wore the star. She was in charge. She was in command. And in a military unit, a commander takes responsibility for everything that happens in his unit, good or bad. She was in charge. It was her responsibility, and she is the one who ultimately bears the burden of what happened in that prison.

    HUME: Is what she's doing now somewhat against the tradition of the way officers behave?

    SCALES: Well, that's a bit of an understatement. The idea that she would show up with her military lawyer to try to pass the buck to others in the chain of command; or to at least to appear at least to lessen her responsibility, I think, is certainly outside the conduct that one expects as an officer and a gentleman.

    Precisely my reaction to this circumstance. I've known and worked for many general officers in my day ... I was even an aide de camp for one. I've never, ever known one who would say what Karpinski has said or do what she is now doing. Frankly this is just unbecoming a general officer.

    Scales points to the key here though: "...she wore the star. She was in charge. She was in command. And in a military unit, a commander takes responsibility for everything that happens in his unit, good or bad.... "

    Its clear, at least to me, that she's not much better than the subordinates now claiming it wasn't their fault they did what they did. IOW, based on her present actions and statements, an argument could be made that a culture of blame shifting and refusal to accept responsibility, starting at the very top, was prevelant in the command. If she won't accept responsibility why should they?

    That sort of attitude is the antithesis of command and absolutely unacceptable.

    It is my opinion that both she, the commander of the battalion and the company commander should also face charges, the first being dereliction of duty. I've been around military units for a very long time, and it is inconceivable to me that the activities in that prison would be unknown to a chain-of-command doing their duty ... inconceivable.

    So while the 6 on charges presently deserve to be on them, I believe the total lack of command supervison warrants additional charges be brought, and swiftly, to those in the chain-of-command. I don't say this to be 'fair'. I say it because, as MG Scales said, "she was in charge", and those in charge must be made to take responsiblity for things they did or failed to do. And it seems she failed to do plenty.

    Well see how it plays out.

    Posted by McQ at 09:20 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Its time to move on...

    Terry Garlock, a Vietnam war Cobra pilot, writes a piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution which reminds us of the realities of any war:

    • Good young people will come home in coffins, and every case will be sad.

    • Our soldiers will be captured and used as blackmail bait.

    • We will not be able to predict what the enemy or civilian population will do, and no matter how many scenarios we plan for, we won't have a crystal ball.

    • Friendly fire will kill some of our troops, no matter how precise our weapons.

    • The troops will complain, sometimes bitterly, but the time to worry will be when they stop griping.

    • Imperfection will abound, such as a short supply of crucial materiel.

    • Confusion and miscommunication will be unavoidable.

    • The news media will focus on small, sensational events and paint a faulty big picture for the public.

    • The enemy will use our media against us with small, violent events meant for television.

    • If unrestrained, troops who are good people may do bad things to prisoners because watching friends die builds a lust for retribution.

    • In every 1,000 troops there will be a few weak or bad apples, and their violations may be even worse.

    Pertaining to his last bullet, he makes the point that no matter what our policies, no matter what our training, no matter how hard we try, the "demon" will, at times, get loose. And that is, unfortunately, as much a reality of war as the chance of being killed in combat.

    That doesn't mean its acceptable, it doesn't mean we shouldn't try to prevent it, it doesn't mean we shouldn't be upset when it does get out.

    What it does mean is we should recognize the reason, take strong action when it happens and to understand it is something which may happen without obessesing about it. Punish the wrongdoers and move on. Take what action you can to prevent it from happening again, and move on. Express your outrage and apologize if necessary ... and move on.

    So while the news media focuses on these "small, sensational events which paint a faulty big picture" of the conflict in Iraq, we need to keep in mind the fact that the abuse at Abu Gharib was not ignored but acted on immediately by higher command, that the acts were not those condoned by policy, and that the acts were those of soldiers who acted against policy and against everything our presence in Iraq stands for ...

    ...and move on.

    Posted by McQ at 08:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Its not all bad news

    Andrew S. Natsios, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reminds us of the tremendous accomplishments achieved in Iraq that rarely get mention in the media.

    Nastios says the need, when they arrived, was great:

    * Our first priorities were water, sanitation, public health, essential services and infrastructure. Vast swathes of the country - particularly in the largely Shia south - were destitute. No new infrastructure had been built for more than a decade in the south, and very little basic maintenance had been done.

    * The draining of the southern marshlands was an ecological and human catastrophe, killing and sending hundreds of thousands into exile and destroying an immense and unique natural water filtration system, the fishing industry and water buffalo herds that provide dairy for the south.

    * Every statistical measurement of individual well-being dropped sharply in the last years of Saddam's rule. The data on infant mortality and maternal death rates, in female literacy and family income, in life expectancy, caloric intake, all pointed downward.

    We've spent more than $3 billion so far - a level of commitment not seen since the end of World War II and the Marshall Plan, to which USAID traces its origins.

    And their accomplishments to date?

    * We have rehabilitated eight power plants and are installing three new ones. We are also replacing towers, stringing wires, rebuilding lines and installing new generators.

    * We have played a key role in restoring Iraq's transport and communication systems. Among other things, we have repaired the Baghdad airport and the country's deep-water port. We have rebuilt bridges, improved rail service and repaired the fiber optic network.

    * We expect child mortality and water-borne disease to drop sharply as a result of our commitment to repair and rehabilitate the water and sewerage system throughout the whole of the country. We are in the process of vaccinating 3 million Iraqi children. We are reequipping 600 health-care clinics, training doctors and nurses and distributing high-protein supplementary food rations to hundreds of thousands of pregnant and nursing mothers.

    * USAID has also helped uncover mass graves where as many as 400,000 Iraqi victims of Saddam's genocide campaigns lie buried. Hundreds of thousands of others, including untold numbers of children, died from deliberate neglect, indifference and politically motivated deprivation.

    And we're helping the Iraqi Human Rights Association inventory the mass murder that took place under Saddam. A spokesman of the group put things very well when he said that what Iraq needs most of all is "not technicians and engineers" - "but someone to rebuild our souls."

    * Which brings us to USAID's efforts to rehabilitate and restructure the Iraqi educational system so that it can shed the legacy of four decades of totalitarian rule and enter the ranks of the civilized world as a fully modern and productive nation.

    * We're also working to build democracy at the grassroots, empowering the many enlightened and talented people of Iraq, men and women, who were repressed and silenced under Ba'athist rule.

    We have built local governments throughout the country, so they can deliver the essential services a modern Iraq needs. Our efforts have resulted in the formation of councils in 16 governates, 78 districts, 192 cities and sub-districts and 392 neighborhoods representing 80 percent of the country's population.

    Not a bad litany of success to be kept in mind as the media and politicians go through their obsessive treatment of Abu Gharib.

    Posted by McQ at 08:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    More Good Economic News

    In light of the strong productivity numbers, it's hard to see this as anything but amazing....

    U.S. companies added 288,000 workers to payrolls in April, exceeding the highest forecast, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent. Jobs were added in manufacturing, construction and temporary help services.
    And it doesn't stop there. Remember last month's 308,000 jobs? Well, now it's higher....
    The increase follows a revised gain of 337,000 jobs in March that was larger than estimated last month, the Labor Department reported in Washington. Manufacturers added jobs for a third straight month, after revisions to February and March.
    Bear in mind, this isn't "the result of the Bush tax cut"--though, that certainly played a part. Just as the recession was a natural part of the business cycle--and not attributable to the President--this is simply a part of the business cycle. We've finally shed most of the effects of the bubble, and we're entering another boom.

    It's a nice place to be.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Nice moment

    Funny how the best moments are usually the real and unscripted moments. The bit of time where the curtain of politics parts and the real person is seen for a second:


    At a campaign event in Ohio:

    Lynn Faulkner, his daughter, Ashley, and their neighbor, Linda Prince, eagerly waited to shake the president's hand Tuesday at the Golden Lamb Inn. He worked the line at a steady campaign pace, smiling, nodding and signing autographs until Prince spoke:

    "This girl lost her mom in the World Trade Center on 9-11."

    Bush stopped and turned back.

    "He changed from being the leader of the free world to being a father, a husband and a man," Faulkner said. "He looked right at her and said, 'How are you doing?' He reached out with his hand and pulled her into his chest."

    Faulkner snapped one frame with his camera.

    "I could hear her say, 'I'm OK,' " he said. "That's more emotion than she has shown in 21/2 years. Then he said, 'I can see you have a father who loves you very much.' "

    "And I said, 'I do, Mr. President, but I miss her mother every day.' It was a special moment."


    Hat tip to LauraN

    Posted by McQ at 07:55 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    FDA Football

    The New York Times and Oliver Willis are making hay out of an ongoing dispute between the FDA and Barr Pharmaceuticals. Per the NYT...

    Federal drug regulators yesterday rejected a drug maker's application to sell a morning-after pill over the counter because of concerns about whether young girls would be able to use it safely.

    The Food and Drug Administration told the pill's maker, Barr Pharmaceuticals, that before the drug could be sold without a prescription the company must either find a way to prevent young teenagers from getting it from store shelves or prove, in a new study, that young girls can understand how to use it without the help of a doctor.

    Critics are complaining that "the White House is putting its own political interests ahead of sound medical policies that have broad support" and that "The White House has now taken over the F.D.A". Oliver Willis, in this post, takes the easy way out and blames it all on Bush...
    A few months ago, the FDA said the morning after pill was a go. Then President Bush noticed a slight erosion in support among his base. And now? U.S. Rules Morning-After Pill Can't Be Sold Over the Counter Because Lord knows there isn't anything a young woman can buy over the counter right now that could cause her harm, if used incorrectly.

    Dear Santa - for Christmas I'd like a new President. One who isn't led around by the need to "win" for his side, but instead has the interests of our country and its people at heart. Please. Please. Please.

    Ok, got it. Standard defense when disagreeing with the Bush administration: skip substantive debate in favor of ad hominem. Well, let's look at a few facts....

    1: Is this"hurdle" an instance of Bush pandering to his base?
    Not necessarily. The NYT writes that....

    The agency wrote that Barr had two choices to get its application approved. Either it can undertake a new study among girls 16 years old and younger to show that they can use the drug safely without the help of a doctor. Or the company must write a new label and construct a system that would allow women older than 16 to buy the drug over the counter while those younger than 17 would be forced to get a prescription.
    So--worst case scenario--the FDA is merely saying Barr Pharmaceuticals can release Plan B as an OTC drug, provided they restrict sales to females 17 and over. And they can also sell to females 16 and under with a presciption. Plus, once they provide research proving safety, they can sell to females 16 and under, as well.

    So, to pander to his base, Oliver and other critics allege that Bush had the FDA approve the Plan B pill for everybody, so long as kids 16 and under--and only them--get a prescription? This is supposed to make opponents of the pill happy? Sounds a lot more like the critics are creating excuses out of thin air.

    2: Is the FDA proposing unreasonable hurdles?
    Well, this doesn't seem to be an entirely accurate account of what happened....

    The FDA complained that Barr provided no evidence that teens under 16 could use the pills appropriately without a doctor's guidance. Warned in February of that concern, Barr offered a last-minute proposal to allow nonprescription sales to anyone 16 and older _ and make drugstores check ages and demand a prescription from younger teens.
    While the NYT claims the FDA told Barr it must clear this hurdle, it appears that this specific hurdle was actually proposed by Barr to address the lack of research into the effects of the pill on younger users.

    3: Is the FDA complaint legitimate, and backed by research?
    Yeah, it is. In fact, it is backed by (the maker of the drug) Women’s Capital Corporation's own research....(doc)

    Comprehension rates among subjects with different Demographics

    Ages (Table 5): Significantly fewer subjects ages 12-16 understood objectives #1A, #2, #4 and #6 compared with those ages ≥ 17 years.

    If you look through the research, you'll find that a not-insignificant number in the 12-16 demographic don't understand proper usage or even the utility of the Plan B drug.

    So, Oliver and assorted critics would like a drug to be available over the counter, when the safety of the drug for young teens is unknown...but it is known that those young teens don't understand how to properly use the drug.

    Most ironic, I think, is that Oliver titles his post "You Belong To The State". Oliver isn't unhappy that we "belong to the State"....he's just upset that his Party doesn't control the machine.

    UPDATE: TBogg takes the uninformed way out, too, though I have to appreciate a line like this...."Now go out and have a baby for Jesus." As far as silly rhetoric goes, that's a pretty funny line.

    UPDATE II: Kevin Drum and Crooked Timber get in on the Blame Bush First action, without looking more deeply.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    May 06, 2004

    Not Vietnam

    Michael Barone writes for the Telegraph that, while the press and the Democratic Party have taken it on faith that Iraq is just like Vietnam, the citizenry seems to be taking a different view.

    Despite continual harassment from Democrats, who see every conflict as Vietnam, and from a press seeing every president as some combination of LBJ and Nixon on Vietnam and Watergate, despite assessments by the public themselves that there is turmoil in Iraq, President Bush still has large majorities in support of his leadership in Iraq and for his determination to persevere.

    Mr Bush was away from Washington and mostly off the television screen in the week before Easter, as bad news from Fallujah and Najaf was played up on the networks. But he reappeared in his April 13 "press conference" - actually a 17-minute speech - and continued statements along the same line in supposed response to reporters' questions (five out of 15 questioners asked him to apologise for one thing or another). But Mr Bush made plain his determination to move ahead past difficulties to success and put the current turmoil in a larger perspective.

    The reporters with whom I watched the "press conference" were incensed that the President did not respond directly to the reporters' questions, and the verdict in Washington press and political circles was that the press conference was a dud.

    The polls that have come out since tell a different story. Previous March and April polls showed Mr Bush roughly even with John Kerry. Post-April 13 polls have shown him opening up a lead both in votes and on subsidiary issues. Most Americans are rejecting the spin that Iraq is another Vietnam, spin coming from reporters and politicians who still take a grim satisfaction in the frustration their country suffered in Vietnam.

    There is, in the financial markets, a process sometimes known as "pricing in". When the Fed is set to discuss interest rates, about a week before the FOMC meeting, prices for stocks and bonds will begin to change, based upon expectations of the Fed's interest rate decision. If the Fed moves to change interest rates as expected, the announcement will often have no effect on the day's trading. The market has, analysts say, already priced in the Fed's interest rate change.

    In much the same way, the public in general "prices in" to news coverage of Iraq the perception that press has an agenda other than unbiased reporting of facts. Additionally, the public has access to more sources of information than were available previously, and those that are so inclined can obtain a greater mass of information than was available when your choices were the local paper and Uncle Walter on CBS at 6:00 pm.

    The public also realizes, I think, that the cost of failure in Iraq would simply be too high.

    The experience of the 1970s after our withdrawal from Vietnam was not an America returned to peace of prosperity, and a more settled international environment. Instead, the 1970s were bad, in just about every way.

    The USSR's perception of the loss of American resolve prompted them to extend their reach across the world. In every year of the 1970s the list of Soviet client states in the Mideast, Asia, Africa, and Central America increased. Communist insurgency in Nicaragua led to the imposition of the Sandinista government, causing related insurgencies, with Cuban and Nicaraguan support in El Salvador and Honduras, as well as the Caribbean.

    Our government's primary response was to decide not to attend the big track meet in Moscow in 1980.

    Arab states imposed the Oil embargo, feeling essentially immune to any forceful American response. Evidently, they were correct, and the resulting price increases in oil led to unusually high inflation in the US economy. As the price of energy increased, so did the price of using it to produce goods and services.

    Our government's primary response was to issue "Whip Inflation Now" buttons.

    In the 1980s, our policies took a sharp turn toward a more muscular engagement with the Soviet Union, and a more aggressive pursuit of American interests abroad.

    The Democratic response was to call for a rapprochement with the USSR. They were horrified that Reagan--who was also, if you'll remember, called a "cowboy"--confidently told the truth about the Soviets, which was that they were an evil empire. Democrats like John Kerry were calling for a "nuclear freeze", or even more radically unilateral disarmament, to show the Soviets that we were nice guys, as if that were the real problem, rather than the fact that the Sovs were not.

    The collapse of the Warsaw Pact, and the whimpering--and peaceful--death of the Soviet Union, seems not to have affected the world-view of the Democrats. Nor does it seem to have prompted them to evaluate the results of following their preferred policies in the 1970s, as opposed to the results of the policies they condemned in the 1980s.

    But Americans seem to have realized that the consequences of failure in Iraq would be even worse than the consequences of our withdrawal from Vietnam were.

    It takes no great leaps of imagination to imagine an Islamofascist movement, emboldened by a lack of American will, becoming the primary force for change in the Mideast, rather than the forces of moderation, such as they are. Such a change for the worse would have disastrous effects not only on our foreign policy, but upon our domestic economy, as a hostile Mideast held us hostage to the price of oil.

    Moreover, the forces of Islamofascism would undoubtedly see an opportunity for even more devastating attacks against America. An America too burned by failure in Iraq to exert itself in a forward defense in the Mideast would be little more than a helpless target. And, naturally, any forces for moderation or democratic changes would be effectively silenced by the lack of any prospect of heal from the "most powerful nation on earth", a title we would bear in name only.

    It is not unreasonable to expect the results of failure in the world-historical task in which we are now engaged would be a return to the 1970s, with the charming addition of "martyrdom operations" in our major cities.

    In a very real sense, it no longer matters why we became engaged in Iraq. Whether "Bush Lied" or whether there were WMDs, or whether there were terror connections between the Ba'athist regime and al-Qaida are all completely immaterial to our situation now. However, we got here, we are where we are.

    Our assessment in the early 1970s was that the answer was unilateral withdrawal, but we paid a bitter price for that decision in the ensuing decade. It is difficult to see how a similar decision now could have more pleasant consequences.

    We have a chance, as difficult and dangerous as it is, to turn back the tide of totalitarianism and political and religious repression in what is, really, its last stronghold in the world. We can face up to that task, or we can retreat. But if we retreat, it is foolish to believe that the forces of repression will not be strengthened thereby.

    Posted by at 08:42 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    Moonbat Patrol

    Remember those Evil Halliburton No-Bid Contracts? (...which were clearly illegal attempts by Bush to pay off his cronies) Well....

    U.S. officials met legal guidelines in awarding billions of dollars in new contracts for Iraq reconstruction to a Halliburton subsidiary and other companies without seeking competitive bids, congressional investigators say in a draft report.
    The GAO found that the contract met legal standards because KBR was the only source capable of performing the work, which was planned before the war.
    Now, the GAO did determine that a few of the smaller Halliburton/KBR contract extensions went "outside the scope" of the contracts, but the major charge--that Halliburton got "no-bid contracts"--was rejected by the GAO. That story came out over a week ago. Didn't see much about that in the media, did you? Huh.

    You probably didn't see much of this, either....

    Halliburton....which Wednesday reported it earned profits of $32 million on revenue of $2.1 billion in contracts in Iraq during the first quarter
    So, when you hear people talk about the "billions" Halliburton is making - how they are "most concerned with making money and see an opportunity for wartime price gouging"...bear in mind, that "gouging" amounts to only $32m out of $2.1b.

    I do so enjoy beating the "war for oil" crowd like a particularly annoying drum....

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    The "Crybaby" award

    Cap'n Ed relates a particularly disgusting story:

    The 13-year-old boy's coach called him just before last month's team banquet and told him to make sure he attended because he was getting a special trophy, the boy's father said.

    At the event, the boy watched as all of his Pleasantville Middle School teammates received trophies or certificates.

    He was then called up to receive his award, and a coach told the crowd that the boy was being honored because "he begged to get in the game, and all he did was whine."

    The trophy had a silver figure of a baby atop a pedestal engraved with the boy's name, which was spelled incorrectly. Family members said the teen — an honor roll student — was so embarrassed that he stayed home from school on the following Monday.

    There's no excuse for this sort of horsecrap ... not any more. You know, my dad was in the Army for 36 years. He held every rank except warrant officer and general officer. He told me the one thing you never, ever did when leading troops was to rob them of their dignity. It was his cardinal rule. Sometimes its all a man has left.

    That goes double for young kids.

    That anyone in this day and time could call themselves a 'coach' and pull such an incredibly STUPID stunt in public with families in attendance makes you wonder not only about their mental acquity, but their fitness to teach.

    Why in the world would anyone want a moron such as this anywhere near their kids, much less teaching them?

    Posted by McQ at 05:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Geek Festival

    In case anybody cares, I have two new MT templates I've uploaded to the site for those who are interested. After blowing up the site template here on day one, I got very deeply into MT's CSS style. The download page for the index page and CSS templates is here.

    The templates are running live, on the site as well, and the Earth Tones template can be viewed here, and the Red, White & Blue template can be viewed here.

    OK, serious geek stuff starts from this point on. If you are bored by software development, then move on, nothing to see here.

    For you pocket-protector, horn-rimmed glasses geeks, one thing you'll notice is that the templates use TABLE tags instead of DIV tags.

    Let the flame war commence.

    I wouldn't walk across the street to spit on a DIV tag if it was on fire. Several weeks ago, I went to the big Dreamweaver MX 2004 rollout event.

    Now, I love Dreamweaver. I've used it exclusively for web development since v3.0. I even use it to do ASP.NET development. Love it. But Dreamweaver boy was trying to tell us all that we should use DIV tags exclusively because all presentation HTML must be removed from the page according to the W3C gods.

    That's a load of crap. When you go to a site that uses DIV tags, watch the little screen elements cavort about when you resize your screen. I don't want my page to cavort about. I don't even want it to do an undulating little dance. I want my page sections to be X pixels wide, X pixels tall, and start at X left and X top. Tables do that reliably. Div tags don't.

    Go to an MT blog where the owner has been on vacation for a week, and watch how the elements all show up in different places after the blog content disappears because of archiving.

    And while we're on the subject, when I redid the CSS style for QandO, someone commented, "Actually, Dale, I like the new look. It still doesn't display right in Mozilla for some reason..."

    Yeah, well, cry me a river, Netscape-lover. You and the three A/V Club nerds who are still left using Mozilla can just suck it up. I get the same stuff from people who use the Opera, or the AOL browser. Oh, and by the way, note to AOL subscribers (Jon): Get a real ISP.

    I'm sorry if your off-brand, loser browser doesn't display properly. But it's not my fault. It's 2004 and Mozilla still doesn't fully support ECMAScript conventions.

    Hey, maybe there's a reason why 90% of the public now uses IE. I'm not gonna waste my time designing web sites that can display properly in browsers that are used by a small percentage of geek fanatics, and AOL subscribers who are still on dialup.

    And, while we're on the topic, I'm a Microsoft Developer. Yeah, that's right! I'm a Microsoft, Certified Freakin' Professional. I do ASP.NET. I do Windows application development. I work with SQL Server! I even do Access database development!

    All the anti-Microsoft cranks hear this, and the first thing they do is barrage me with complaints that "Microsoft is eeeeeeevil!" You should work with Linux! And MySQL! Open source is good! And so is Apache Web Server!

    Well, my response to that is to stuff it, you buncha commies.

    I hear that kind of crap from my Dad all the time. And every time he starts in with his Linux evangelism, I just say, "Interesting. Hey, how's that Novell CNE certification workin' out for you?"

    Which shuts him up, because, to stay employed, he had to become a SQL Server database Administrator. Yeah, It pays really well, but I bet it causes him physical pain every time he goes to work and has to watch that little windows logo pop when he boots up his machine.

    No penguins for him.


    The sun will set in a blazing red sky to the east of Casablanca before the regular user community ever even sees a Linux desktop computer. You don't believe me? Ask all the people who used to work for Corel.

    I have a cousin who was whining at me the other day because he's afraid of losing his job as a Sybase developer, trying to do GUI application development with COBOL. Hey, news flash, Y2K is over. COBOL is dead. Join the rest of us in the 21st century, and take a freakin' class in a modern programming language.

    "Aw, I lost my job programming relational databases in FORTRAN." Yeah? Well, good, it's about time somebody put a bullet in that dinosaur's head.


    If that doesn't get a comment thread started, I don't know what will.

    Posted by at 05:25 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack


    For those who say Islam cannot coexist with modernization and democracy....

    The Indonesian president has chosen the chairman of the country's largest Muslim organization to be her running mate in the presidential elections. [emphasis added]
    Indonesia is 88% Muslim. They have an elected female President. Granted, the Arab world would have conniptions at the thought right now, steps.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 02:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    OK he IS a big fat idiot

    OK, I'm driving to the post office and listening to the Braves self-destruct. San Diego up by 5. I can't take it anymore.

    I switch over to Rush Limbaugh. Big mistake. He's on the air whining about the way the people who humiliated the prisoners are being treated. He was of the opinion that if what they did was the worst cultural taboo available, then it was probably pretty effective in softening them up for interrogation.

    And yes folks, he said that although my rendering is a representation of his actual words. In fact, he further stated that if it was effective in breaking these prisoners down it might be considered "intelligent" if not "brilliant".

    I've got to admit I sat there in utter shock. Defending the indefensible ... and poorly as well.

    He then proceeded to pontificate that there was no necessity for Bush to apologize, that it was wrong for him to do so (even though in the midst of this, Bush, at a press conference, apologized). That "we'd" done nothing wrong, that no one was harmed, etc. When he saw the apology aired, he was distraught.

    Back to the Braves getting their asses kicked as that was all I could stomach of that nonsense.

    Tell me ... why is it such a problem for him to see Bush apologize for those despicable activities? Its the right thing to do, for heaven's sake. Yet here's the guy who wants everyone to believe he has such grand vision and insight lost in the trees of politics and unable to see the forest of the war and our relationship with the Iraqi people (and the rest of the middle east).

    I'm sure his only concern was the politics of the apology, and for whatever reason it seems he thinks it signals weakness.

    When has an apology ever signaled weakness except when it was insincere?


    Posted by McQ at 01:57 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

    Stupid White Man

    Steven Taylor takes note of the Michael Moore/Disney publicity distribution issue...

    I had an epiphany yesterday--after reading about Michael Moore's plight regarding his movie and Disney's decision not to distribute it, I noted he said the following:
    "At some point the question has to be asked, `Should this be happening in a free and open society where the monied interests essentially call the shots regarding the information that the public is allowed to see?' "
    This is where my epiphany comes in, as I realized that I have been a victim of the same sort of manipulation by monied interest! Yes, it is true! I have toiled to write columns (that were no doubt brilliant) and yet, have had editors pass on them--indeed, in some cases multiple editors! Further, I have no syndication deal and no one has offered to pay me to blog.

    Yes, it is clear, the Man is keeping me down.

    As long as we're having epiphanies, will somebody fortheloveofgod point out to Michael Moore than he is a "monied interest". And, so far as I can tell, as Director/Writer of Fahrenheit 911, he is calling the shots about what "the public is allowed to see".

    Posted by Jon Henke at 01:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Life of the Big Dog

    In response to a Thomas Friedman column whining about how the world "hates us", Robert Prather at Insults Unpunished makes the following point:

    America has been resented – even hated by some on the leftist fringes – for decades.

    That's quite simply a fact. Any servicemember who's served in Europe at about any time can tell you about it. The difference between now and then is that those in Europe that hated us also needed us as a trip wire during the Cold War. So they were less vocal about it. That doesn't mean it didn't exist or wasn't prevalent, it just means it was quiet.

    However when the Iron Curtain rusted and fell in the late '80s, it emerged more into the open. In the intervening years, it has gotten louder and more virulent because, frankly, there's no reason, or should I say there's no harm to their self-interest, not too.

    Europe can be anti-American and revel in it, be smug about it, absolutely thrill themselves with it. Why? Because they know that if their chestnuts are again in the fire, that we will, regardless of their past rhetoric, come pull them out ... again.

    And how do they know this?

    Because they know its in our best interest to do so.

    So while it may aggrieve some in this country that there are those out there that "hate us", its nothing new or different. And they should take comfort in the fact that they don't hate us enough not to ask for our help should it ever come to that. They should also realize, if history is our teacher, that after we do help them, they'll again be free to "hate us".

    And they will.

    Such is life when you're the big dog.

    Posted by McQ at 12:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Kerry Plays politics with Prisoner Abuse issue

    Yatta, yatta, yatta ...

    "The horrifying abuse of Iraqi prisoners which the world has now seen is absolutely unacceptable and inexcusable and the response of the administration, certainly the Pentagon, has been slow and inappropriate," the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said in a noisy lunch area.

    Let's review that timeline once again:

    ...the incidents at Abu Ghraib that triggered this week's news occurred last autumn. They came to light through the chain of command in Iraq on January 13. An Army criminal probe began a day later. Two days after that, the U.S. Central Command disclosed in a press release that "an investigation has been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse at a Coalition Forces detention facility." By March 20, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt was able to announce in Baghdad that criminal charges had been brought against six soldiers in the probe.

    Reported up the chain on Jan 13, Army probe begins the next day, 2 days after that, CENTCOM announces the investigation, and by March criminal charges are filed.

    Can anyone point to where it might have gone any faster?

    Certainly Kerry should be outraged, as we all are, about the abuse of prisoners. But the rest of the statement is blatant poliitics, as is this statement:

    "The president of the United States needs to offer the world an explanation and needs to take appropriate responsibility. And if that includes apologizing for the behavior of those soldiers and what happened, we ought to do that."

    We've done that, or did Kerry miss it?

    Posted by McQ at 12:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Tales from the "fradulent coalition"

    Tougher than nails:

    One of his friends was dead, 12 others lay wounded and the four soldiers still left standing were surrounded and out of ammunition. So Salvadoran Cpl. Samuel Toloza said a prayer, whipped out his knife and charged the Iraqi gunmen.

    In one of the only known instances of hand-to-hand combat in the Iraq conflict, Cpl. Toloza stabbed several attackers swarming around a comrade. The stunned assailants backed away momentarily, just as a relief column came to the unit's rescue.

    "We never considered surrender. I was trained to fight until the end," said the 25-year-old corporal, one of 380 soldiers from El Salvador whose heroism is being cited just as other members of the multinational force in Iraq are facing criticism.

    Posted by McQ at 10:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


    Good news and bad news on the economic front, depending on how you look at it.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor today reported preliminary productivity data--as measured by output per hour of all persons--for the first quarter of 2004. The seasonally adjusted annual rates of productivity change in the first quarter were:
    • 4.5 percent in the business sector and
    • 3.5 percent in the nonfarm business sector.
    Good News: Productivity growth = Progress. The more we can produce for less, the better. Plus, productivity growth like this can help restrain inflation.

    Bad News: Higher productivity means slower job the short term, anyway. Bit of a mixed blessing in that respect. Fortunately, hours worked are growing, too, though perhaps not fast enough to force additional hiring....

    In both the business and nonfarm business sectors, productivity and output increased more in the first quarter than they had in the fourth quarter of 2003 (as revised) while the hours of all persons grew more slowly.
    Finally, a bit to remember when you hear Kerry talk about our "struggling manufacturing sector".....
    In manufacturing, productivity changes in the first quarter were:
    • 3.1 percent in manufacturing,
    • 5.9 percent in durable goods manufacturing, and
    • 0.1 percent in nondurable goods manufacturing.
    Productivity growth in manufacturing in the first quarter of 2004reflected increases in both output and hours; output rose 5.8 percent and hours of all persons grew 2.7 percent (seasonally adjusted annual rates).
    Pretty nice growth for such a "struggling industry". I wonder how fast it would have to grow to stop "struggling" so much?

    UPDATE: More good news from the Department of Labor...

    In the week ending May 1, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 315,000, a decrease of 25,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 340,000. The 4-week moving average was 343,250, a decrease of 3,750 from the previous week's revised average of 347,000.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Nothing's changed on the Anti-war left

    Benjamin Shapiro says we really shouldn't be shocked that Rene Gonzales, the UMass grad student who insulted the memory of Pat Tillman, is a product of our institutions of higher learning.

    Apparently he's simply a product of that system:

    Professor Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the champion of all causes anti-American, told CNN's Paula Zahn that the United States is responsible for "massive terrorism" and stated that "the World Court was quite correct in condemning the United States as an international terrorist state."

    Professor Dana Cloud of the University of Texas wrote a submission to the Daily Texan titled "Pledge to the Workers," in which she advocated continued resistance on the part of terrorists: "I pledge allegiance to the people of Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan, and to their struggles to survive and resist ... "

    Fellow University of Texas professor Robert Jensen stated after Sept. 11 that "My anger on this day is directed ... at those who have held power in the United States and have engineered attacks on civilians every bit as tragic."

    Columbia University professor Nicholas De Genova called for the death of 18 million U.S. soldiers in Iraq when he told a 3,000-student audience at a "teach-in" that he "personally would like to see a million Mogadishus." "The only true heroes are those who find ways to help defeat the U.S. military," he explained. And lest we forget, De Genova's comments were made before 29 other Columbia University faculty members. No media account of the "teach-in" reported any objections by any of the other faculty on the panel at the time.

    Hardly the "support the troops but hate the war", nonsense usually perpetrated by the left. And those of the anti-war and anti-military left apparently feel very comfortable on many campuses.

    Professor Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of Southern California Law School refused to condemn anti-war protesters who carried signs reading "We Support Our Troops When They Shoot Their Officers."

    Aversion to the U.S. military is so great that the Reserve Officers' Training Corps has been banned at many top-tier schools. Harvard University bans ROTC, as do Brown, Stanford, Yale and Columbia. Most of the bans date back to the Vietnam War and are now justified by university opposition to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the military. It's a lame excuse, considering that ROTC was not allowed back on campus between the end of the Vietnam War and the beginning of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

    The damage done to students is great. For many who never get the chance to meet a soldier, soldiers become "baby killers." The Yale Daily News referred to military recruitment presence at Harvard Law School as "an occupation." At one anti-war rally at UCLA, where students rarely take ROTC courses as an elective, I watched a group of marchers scream "F--- the military!" as they walked past a young officer standing on the main campus walkway.

    Somehow, as Iraq goes on, I think it is going to be increasingly difficult for the extreme left to keep from showing their true colors. They no more support the soldiers, in reality, than they support Bush. But in post-Vietnam America, at least up to this point, they know what will help their cause and what will hurt it.

    Its too bad more Americans can't see through the false rhetoric of this crowd about "supporting the troops".

    They don't support them.

    They never have.

    Posted by McQ at 09:46 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

    Why we're not like "them"

    An important point is being ignored in all of the bruhaha over Iraqi prisoner abuse.

    The point? Our system works:

    For a sense of proportion, let's rehearse the timeline here. While some accusations of abuse go back to 2002 in Afghanistan, the incidents at Abu Ghraib that triggered this week's news occurred last autumn. They came to light through the chain of command in Iraq on January 13. An Army criminal probe began a day later. Two days after that, the U.S. Central Command disclosed in a press release that "an investigation has been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse at a Coalition Forces detention facility." By March 20, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt was able to announce in Baghdad that criminal charges had been brought against six soldiers in the probe.

    In other words, as the WSJ Opinion Journal points out, it wasn't CBS news which "discovered" this, it was the Army, through its chain of command. And it acted on it immediately.

    So while you're treated to the caterwhalling of the Hate America First crowd about how we're "as bad" or "worse" than Saddam, just ask them to cite the last "abuse" investigation Saddam initiated internally.

    And while your watching all of this ...

    Every accusation against U.S. troops is now getting front-page treatment. Like reporters at a free buffet, Members of Congress are swarming to the TV cameras to declare their outrage and demand someone's head, usually Donald Rumsfeld's. "System of abuse" and "cover-up" are being tossed about without any evidence of either. The goal seems to be less to punish the offenders than to grab one more reason to discredit the Iraq war.

    ... remember that the institution in which the abuses took place discovered them, initiated an investigation of them and is holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions.

    That is not the action of an institution which has systemic problems. Its the action of an institution which can recognize wrong in its own ranks and has the leadership which will do the right thing.

    And despite the despicable acts committed, the swift reaction of the Army shows a strength of institutional character that is being overlooked in the heated rhetoric which condemns "the system".

    Posted by McQ at 09:21 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


    Gee, I wish I'd have made this point ... John Nichols at The Nation asks:

    Will Kerry be the Dole of 2004? That's the question that the Massachusetts senator needs to sort out this month.

    As I stated yesterday, I don't think its a matter of "if" he'll be the next Dole. He's already there. The question is, can he do something about that?

    Nichols says to do so he has to do something this month:

    John Kerry is going to have to decide who he wants to be when he grows up politically. His post-primary campaign has been so dramatically unfocused and ineffectual that -- even as George Bush has taken more serious blows to his credibility than any sitting president since Richard Nixon in the first years of his second term -- Kerry has not been able to open up a lead nationally or in the essential battleground states.

    Kerry is making moves to muscle up his Democratic presidential candidacy, with a $25-million let's-make-some-introductions advertising campaign, an effort to sharpen his message and a sped-up vice presidential search. The next month will be critical. If he can open a five- to eight-point lead nationally and establish leads that mirror those of Al Gore's 2000 wins in Democratic-leaning battleground states, his campaign will be sufficiently renewed to make the race. If, on the other hand, he continues to hold even nationally and trail behind Gore's showings in the states that will tip the balance in the Electoral College, there will come a round of questioning -- prior to the Democratic National Convention in July -- about whether the party is making the right choice.

    Pretty bad when the left is comparing you to Gore and not in a flattering manner. Nichols also alludes to the "buyers remorse" stories that have been circulating as they concern Kerry, and essentially say, "get over it, he's the one we have whether we like him or not'. The reason?

    Kerry will still be the nominee. Modern political parties lack the flexibility to clean up messes, no matter how obvious the need. The was proven in 1996, when the Republican National Convention dutifully nominated Bob Dole, despite the fact that no honest observer thought he had a chance of winning.

    It'll be interesting to see if Kerry responds in the manner Nichols hopes.

    I'm still betting on the Dole comparision as the best description holding true.

    Posted by McQ at 09:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


    In a guest-post over at Washington Monthly, Debra Dickerson manages to write with a straight face....

    So much for the feminization of the military, eh?

    As surprised as I was to learn that GIs were abusing prisoners, nothing floored me as much as seeing the grinning faces of women gleefully celebrating torture of the helpless (however complicit in terrorism they might be). I take pride in being an unapologetic feminist (why not? The world is unapologetically sexist.) but maybe I shouldn’t. Without those photos, not only would I have been difficult to convince that the abuse happened, I would never have believed that women participated. So perhaps the problem isn’t the military’s feminization but its lack of it.

    Got that? She calls herself "an unapologetic feminist" - i.e., she believes in "the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes" - and then proceeds to dip into stereotypes about female superiority. ("would never have believed that women participated")

    So, she believes in the equality of the sexes, but......well, women are a little more equal, you see.

    And this is my problem with a great deal of "feminism". Too often, I get the strong impression that feminists merely use "feminism" as a bludgeon for self-interest advocacy, whether the situation calls for it or not. Thus, feminists claim women are paid less than men because of "sexism", rather than situational differences like time of employment, non-wage incentives, etc. Or, women have an equal right to serve in the front lines of a combat zone, because they are "equal" - but women must meet different physical standards than men, know, it's only fair.

    She concludes with this...

    I repeat: the military isn’t feminized enough and that includes the females.
    If she wasn't such an "unapologetic feminist", I'd have to question why she thinks "masculinity" involves this sort of abuse. And why "feminization" would preclude it.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 09:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Hey, he really is a big fat idiot

    Every time I point out that Rush Limbaugh is a partisan spin-doctor and fairly embarrassing sometimes, readers rush to his defense. Well, I don't think there's much defense for this disgusting spew from a recent show....

    RUSH: Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the skull and bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?
    If Ted Rall said it, we'd all be outraged. and justifiably so. Well, why should we feel any differently about this......?

    UPDATE: McQ adds the full quote in context in the comment section. Context improves it to some degree, by indicating that he does not completely dismiss their actions....but I still think Rush's attempt to marginalize their actions is unacceptable. Read it and judge for yourself.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 08:27 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    32 Years Later, the Song Remains the Same...

    The 2004 Olympic Games has something to worry about...

    Greece's attempts to calm security fears about the Summer Olympics were rocked by three bombs that exploded before dawn Wednesday -- 100 days before the games begin.

    The government assigned top anti-terrorist agents to investigate the bombings, which caused no injuries after damaging a suburban police station.

    Officials insisted there was no link to the Aug. 13-29 Olympics and were likely carried out by self-styled anarchists or other domestic extremists.

    Remember the good old days, when we were all worked up over payola, steroids and whether the East German Womens Team was, ladylike? Well, those days are over.

    The Greek suggestion that there is no link to the Olympics, because it's probably just "anarchists or other domestic extremists" is a bit specious. Even if it is only domestic malcontents, it's probably unlikely they would have made such a high-profile attack without the allure of Olympic publicity. While Greece has had terrorism, it has generally been directed at foreigners, rather than domestic targets. The Greeks, to their discredit, have been slow to fight terrorism, since it does not directly affect their citizens.

    So, this latest bombing is a bit of an anomaly. Does that mean it could be an Al Qaeda attack?

    It's hard to see why. What is the expected payoff? An attack on the Olympics would serve to unify the world against Al Qaeda, while doing little or nothing to advance any particular goal of Al Qaeda's. And though Greece has been cordial with Israel, they have been fairly supportive of the Palestinians, too.

    So, while Al Qaeda may not be thoroughly happy with Greece, the only value in an attack on the Olympics is publicity. And publicity is not necessarily of high value to Al Qaeda at this point....though, it is of high value to smaller Greek terror groups.

    Of course, that is worrisome enough.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 07:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    May 05, 2004

    Duty, valor & sacrifice

    A powerful read. Just one of a number of stories of valor, duty and sacrifice. These stories are something of which we don't see enough:

    No Auld Lang Zyne tribute to the warriors of the War on Terrorism would be complete without a focus on the noblest of fraternities: recipients of the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in battle.

    There’s no one best example. Perhaps, however, Navy Capt. Stephen F. McCartney wrote dramatically and best of the Purple Heart.

    In his own powerful words, the surgeon describes an early American bloodletting -- from the dangerous vantage point of his surgical hospital at Camp Okinawa, Iraq, a place that sat precariously close to the salient of the U.S. land campaign that hammered forward to liberate Baghdad in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    There, he and other doctors, nurses and corpsmen in “MASH” fashion stood fast under an umbrella of scud missiles to tend to the wounded warriors of the Marine Corps.

    On board the first CH-46 helicopter returning from the forward edge of the battle area, Capt. McCartney finds a young USMC officer.

    “He is dead. Shot through the abdomen exiting in the lower back…

    “It is controlled chaos. Calm determination describes our hospital company. All committed, all somewhat numbed. No one complains -- they just work. They all have the same blank look on their faces. They all remember the young officer. There is no more rationalizing, no more denials ... this is war…

    “No one falters. A group of young Marines and a Navy corpsman arrive. All have leg injuries from landmines. The corpsman was blown up running to the aid of one of his injured Marines. Their muscular legs are horrifically deformed and shredded full of holes…

    “Under the tent lights the shrapnel glistens and reflects from inside the wounds. The Marines are quiet, answering questions polite and dignified. Even their injuries and pain doesn't keep them from saying, ‘Yes ma'am, no ma'am’ or ‘Yes sir, no sir.’

    “A helicopter drops off several USMC ambushed while taking an Iraqi surrender. Nine of their fellow ‘Devil-Dogs’ are dead. An RPG has killed a corpsman from our hospital during battle in Iraq. Many people know him from San Diego. He had two children and a wife. He was twenty-six. Alpha Company begins to hurt…

    “A young Marine behind me is being lifted by the stretcher-bearers for a journey to surgery... He looks down from the stretcher at the large puddle of his blood underneath and apologizes to the nurse for leaving a mess behind. He says his mother taught him to always clean up after himself. Looking at his face, it is clear it could not have been all that long ago. He appeared barely 18. I asked myself ‘Where do these young men come from? What makes them able to do this?’

    “The incoming patients continued for five to six days…

    “One day we all apparently had the same epiphany, and to my knowledge we haven't spoken of the most painful events ever again. There just wasn't anything else to say. Words can't describe the feelings, so it's best to not speak about it anymore. Perhaps later the words will come.”

    While I agree with the Dr. when he says: Where do these young men come from? What makes them able to do this?’

    But I might add that the warriors ask the same question of the fine military doctors, nurses, medics and corpsmen who are there for them in their time of need.

    They're all exceptional

    Posted by McQ at 08:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    I love PETA

    Without them there would be little comic relief in the activist world.

    Apparently they've decided to take on White Castle hamburgers. Well, not exactly. They're going after a new movie ABOUT White Castle hamburgers, sort of. Uh, here's the description of the movie:

    All to promote New Line Cinema's 2,500-theater July 30 release, "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," a movie in which John Cho and Kal Penn play "two likable underdogs," according to the accompanying press materials, "who set out on a Friday night quest to satisfy their craving for White Castle hamburgers and end up on an epic journey of deep thoughts, deeper inhaling and a wild road trip as 'un-P.C.' as it gets."

    And how did New Line Cinema promote the release of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.

    Well as Harold Grove of the NY Daily News describes it ... they did it by sending out thousands of frozen White Castle hamburgers:

    I came into the office yesterday morning to find a box of meat on my desk.

    Not just on my desk, but on half a dozen other desks around the newsroom.

    And not just meat, but buns and American cheese, too: Six "microwaveable" cheeseburgers, frozen to the viscosity of hockey pucks and packaged in five pounds of dry ice.

    And not just at the Daily News, but at hundreds of media outlets nationwide - more than 6,000 cheeseburgers rushed across the country like donor organs bound for operating rooms.

    Well, as you can imagine, this riled PETA mightily.

    "They can't say that no animals were harmed to make this movie," PETA President Ingrid Newkirk told me yesterday. "It sounds like it could be disconcerting and rather sad and bloody. This is the new PG-13: 'Pathetic,' 'Gross' and '13 kinds of gut bacteria.'"

    Now you can't BUY a better reaction than that, you'd think, but wait, here's the very best line yet. She wasn't just pissed about the meat, but she was really bummed about the addition of CHEESE:

    "Mixing the baby with the milk of the mother is unkosher and unkind."

    I'm telling you folks ... if we didn't already have PETA, we'd have to invent them.

    New Line on the other hand thinks it has its finger on the pulse of America:

    New Line veep Clare Ann Conlon said: "PETA has every right to express themselves. But most Americans are hamburger-loving Americans."

    Amen, sister.

    Posted by McQ at 03:21 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

    Maxine Waters says U.S. worse than Saddam

    If you're at all interested in the "thinking" of the extreme left, take a listen to Rep. Maxine Waters during an interview on Haiti. Check out the contextless bleatings of this incredibly disingenuous politician as she talks about the US. Go into the interview to about the 7:15 mark:

    "Everywhere we go we seem to make a mess. We've created a mess in Iraq. Our soldiers are dying everyday. Now we find we are violating the prisoners. We're treating them worse than so-called Saddam had treated them."

    I have no other way to express my disgust for this moral relativist and "deep" thinker other than to say she could be Cynthia McKinney's mom.

    Hat tip to Rick Shultz

    Posted by McQ at 03:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Blog Rolling

    * Bill Hobbs...(who still hasn't blogrolled QandO!)

    The Loathsome Ted Rall was just on The O'Reilly Factor, showing just how despicable a sub-human being he is by defending spitting on a hero's grave. That said, I thought you should hear his description of himself:
    "I'm just a good liberal Democrat, Bill."
    If Ted Rall dies before I do, and I'm able to make the trip, I will travel to his funeral and spit on his grave. Pat Tillman died defending Rall. Rall didn't deserve it.
    * Econopundit...(who is good enough that I wish this was an economics blog, so it could be blogrolled there. Alas...)
    Shock punditry is the modern equivalent of the 1960's radical's mimeographed leaflet. We knew exactly what we were doing when we condemned the university for cooperating with the war effort, charged this- or that-graduate program with racism, claimed we were the victims whose "civil liberties were being violated" when we were trucked off to local jail for a few hours after occupying the main floor the the library.

    We knew we were telling lies in the name of some greater moral purpose. Krugman knows varying economic forecasts arise from changing data -- but he chooses to claim something else in the name of some greater moral purpose.

    * Obsidian Wings...(who has us blogrolled! a backscratch!? Heresy!)
    (Via Pejmanesque and QandO, neither of whom really need our traffic, but what the hey)
    Are you really suggesting that a blogger "doesn't need traffic"? Allow me to repeat myself......heresy! (that's a lot of heresy for one day, Moe)

    * Disney has decided that Michael Moore's new movie won't be distributed by Miramax, so Michael Moore is....well, being Michael Moore. (i.e., blaming "monied interests" for censoring him). Steven Taylor makes some points...

    This is amusing because, 1) he has no problem with "monied interests" when they are bankrolling his projects, and 2) movie making is a business (certainly not a right), and 3) it isn't as if Moore is being denied the right to make his film, show his movie, or even have his movie distributed--it is just a question of whether Miramax is going to do it. I guarantee that the movie will be distributed and the Moore will go on tv stations and radio stations across the land (all controlled by "monied interests") to promote the film. And, I suspect he will make some cash along the way.
    And Jeff Goldstein adds 'Trouble for America's favorite rhino-hipped fauxpopulist schlub? "How dare you, Mr. Mickey Mouse! How dare you, sir...!'".

    * Ezra eloquently answers the really ridiculous argument that "hey, our torture doesn't compare to Saddam's torture"...

    "Tonight on Nightline -- do we torture more, less, or about the same as Saddam Hussein? You may be surprised by the answer!"

    The answer, of course, is far less. That's what gives us our ability to topple tyrants cloaked in rhetoric of moral righteousness. once we move into situations where the defense is "Well, Saddam was still worse" we've moved into a game of degrees with a murderous dictator. I'll pass, thanks.

    Look, we're more excised about abuse by our side, because we expect better. When Saddam's regime participates in torture, we're hardly surprised. We already know they're barbaric. But we expect - no, demand - that we rise above that. So,'s a bigger story when we fail. It should be.

    * Marc...

    I was just checking the ol' sitemeter and noted a referral from a yahoo search for "how to make bagels." Poor sucker.
    For some reason, we're getting a lot of hits for "Iraqi prisoner pics" today. Not sure why we're showing up so highly on that search, but it's better than this showing up on this Google search.

    * John Hawkins compiles the Top 125 Political Websites on the net. QandO is not on the list.....yet.

    Posted by Jon Henke at 12:47 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Navy Marine Corps Internet

    Baseline Magazine has an article about the Navy's NMCI program, which from my personal experience, appears to be a total disaster. Baseline seems to agree with me, too.

    So far, NMCI has been a comedy--or maybe a tragedy, considering the price tag--of errors.

    The idea behind the Navy's new Information Technology system, the Navy/Marine Corps Internet (NMCI) was simple: combine all Information Technology functions into a single IT service provider. Moreover, it seemed to fit in perfectly as part of the Defense Department's emphasis on transformation, i.e., the move to a more information-centric defense establishment. The Navy's intention was to solve the problem of having each installation run their IT services locally, with the fragmented costs and infrastructure that implies, by creating a single unified, Navy-wide network.

    In fact, the Navy was perfectly right to be concerned about their IT infrastructure. First, there was no standardization anywhere in the Navy/Marine Corps community. The Naval Weapons Station at Point Mugu, CA, used only Macintosh computers. The Marine Corps base at Quantico Virginia used Windows-based PCs. Even among the Windows-based PCs, there was little standardization. Some installations used Oracle© for their large database needs. Some used Microsoft's SQL Server©. Even worse, many installations had a variety of locally developed software applications, many of which were used nowhere else in the Navy. Some installations used government employees to run the local IT infrastructure, while others used contractors for these tasks.

    For the Navy, this meant that there was no way to track the effectiveness of the Navy's IT infrastructure. Additionally, since th