June 30, 2004

2 good 4 2pac

Michelle Malkin shares some feedback on her blog from her "2 Lazy 2 Teach" column on Townhall.

It makes her point.

Posted by McQ at 04:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

French rediscover the wheel

Under the heading "a blinding flash of the obvious", France's finance minister had this to say:

"We simply have to accept that those who want to work longer to earn more should be allowed to do it," he said.

How very descent of you! You'll actually allow people to decide on their own what amount of work they wish to do and what income level they want to attain?

How freakin' gracious of the government of France.

Of course, reality is a hard teacher, and reality says they can have more money to throw into the welfare pot if they allow the motivated to work more and earn more.

The 35-hour week is putting a huge strain on the French economy, Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has said.

In an interview with newspapers Les Echos and the FT, Mr Sarkozy blamed tight restrictions on working hours for France's budgetary problems.

The policy directly costs the French Government and firms 16bn euros (£10.6bn; $19bn) a year, Mr Sarkozy said.

And by restricting companies, the rule has left the French economy far less flexible than its competitors.

Apparently unaware of how it works in the rest of the world, the French have finally figured this out. My guess is the Finance minister isn't really French which explains the revelation.

They've also figured out that if they couple this "new" concept with Hillary's recently voiced philosophy they have the makings of socialist heaven ... let some earn more so government can take more. Liberty, fraternity, equality ... Vive la France!

That is, of course, until Atlas shrugs. When that happens, 10% unemployment may be remembered as the good old days.

Posted by McQ at 03:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Fahrenheit transcript

If, like many, you have no interest in enriching Michael Moore by seeing his "documentary" but you're still curious about its contents, wander on over to RedLineRants where a transcript of the first half (the second half is promised soon) is posted.

Posted by McQ at 02:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Never-Ending Hell That is NMCI

I am completely stymied as to why no one in congress or the media has latched on to the multi-billion dollar boondoggle that Navy/Marine Corps Internet project has become. I've
written on it here before, so regular readers know I'm completely disgusted with the whole thing.

One of the key things about IT services is that they are a support function. The mission determines IT's workload. But, somehow, EDS has now gotten that relationship completely reversed.

On the installation where I work, we are so frustrated with NMCI that we are currently planning to buy a completely separate network on which we can do our jobs. We will, of course, have to keep paying 200 bucks per seat per month for our NMCI network, but it will be used mainly for email. At the same time, we will have to buy and maintain our own network, where all of our work will actually get done.

Every one I've talked to, at every Navy or Marine Corps installation from Point Mugu to Quantico is appalled at the way NMCI is working. Or as the case mainly is, not working.

So far, the Navy has dumped $8.8 billion down this hole, to end up with a network that they don't even own. That's right, EDS, the prime contractor, owns the network, the servers, and the individual desktop computers and laptops. And EDS gets to decide what hardware and software gets run, and if they disapprove your software, they'll refuse to allow you to put it on an NMCI machine.

Essentially, this means that if you need something other than Microsoft Office©, then you're sucking wind.

IT isn't supposed to tell you what you need to do your job. You're supposed to tell IT what you need, and their job is to make it work. IT is a support function.

Some people have just had enough. Last week, Lt Gen Ed Hanlon, who runs the Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC, pronounced "mik-SID-ick"), blew his stack at the NMCI conference.

Unlike the favor-curriers in the Navy, it took a Marine to tell the truth.

Hanlon cited poor connectivity and slow delivery, along with other flaws and deficiencies in the system, and called them "unacceptable." He described NMCI's progress as "rocky and problematic."

"It is not going as smoothly as we hoped and expected," Hanlon said at the 2004 NMCI Industry Symposium in New Orleans. "I believe that EDS was not prepared to handle the implementation..."

Hanlon said...that he uses his NMCI station to communicate with personnel in Iraq, and the connection has failed him too many times. The Marine Corps has received 9,000 NMCI "seats" out of a total goal of 89,000, he added.

"Implementation is moving too slowly," he said. "At the current rate, it would take far too long to reach the objective."

How did the crowd at the conference respond?

The crowd of industry and military information technology officials at the conference gave Hanlon a standing ovation after his speech.

That's right. Because the performance of EDS has been a parade of incompetent buffoonery, and everybody who has an ounce of knowledge about IT services knows it. If you tried to bumble your way through a project like this in the private sector, you'd be out on your behind so fast it would make your head swim. Only the government can manage to subsidize incompetence to this extent.

Of course, when Hanlon was done, EDS' response was classic.

EDS spokesman Kevin Clarke said the company appreciates Hanlon's candor.

Yeah. I'll bet. I know how deeply I appreciate it when someone calls me an incompetent buffoon.

But the best part is this:

Earlier Tuesday, Navy Secretary Gordon England praised NMCI and said there are a "few bugs" in the system, but "you're always going to have them."

"That's the way it is with my own personal [America Online] account," England said.

I'm sorry Mr. Secretary, but that just makes you sound like an idiot.

I wonder, Mr. Secretary, how often do America Online's tech support people log onto your computer in order to delete any software they find that might interfere with AOL, and cause their number of tech support calls to rise? 'Cause NMCI does that to my NMCI machine every night.

Or rather they would do that if my NMCI machine worked. For four weeks now, my NMCI machine has been unable to boot up, due to a driver conflict caused by NMCI's dial-up software. I have literally no idea at all when it will be fixed. How satisfied would you be with AOL if their software prevented you from using your computer for a month, Mr. Secretary?

I bet you'd be a lot less tolerant of those little "bugs".

Oh, and while we're on the subject, get a real ISP, Mr. Secretary. I'm not saying AOL is bad, but it's designed for use by computer novices. No offense to other people who might blog here (*cough* Jon! *cough* ah-hmm) , but as soon as you say that you are an AOL customer, you've just told me that you are automatically unqualified to speak knowledgeably about IT issues.

It doesn't mean you aren't smart and competent in your own field, but it implies that computers aren't your bag, man. So you really shouldn't presume to tell a roomful of IT professionals that everything is fine, when you clearly aren't qualified to assure anyone about anything. Especially about things they know to be true.

The only way you could sound more pitifully uninformed Mr. Secretary, would be to add that you have lots of software development experience because you build databases in FoxPro.

Even worse, AOL blocks all the really good porn.

Or, so I've heard.

You know, for 9 billion bucks, I'd like to think that someone would've put just a bit more thought into this boondoggle. But, maybe that's just the way EDS has done business since Ross Perot left.

One of the attendees at the conference related that EDS used to have television commercial where there was a passenger jet flying, and the passengers were all looking around while EDS employees were completing construction of the aircraft in flight. I guess EDS' point was that they could do really complicated stuff on the fly.

Maybe, but it looks like a pretty good way to kill a planeload of passengers, too.

Posted by Dale Franks at 02:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Blacks protest Jesse Jackson

While John Kerry was addressing the 33rd annual Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Conference on Tuesday, a group of about 100 blacks were gathered outside to protest the person they described as their "worst nightmare".

John Kerry?

No ... Jesse Jackson.

"Jesse is an immoral person. He has a history of being on the wrong side of history," said Pastor Anthony Williams of Chicago's St. Stephens Lutheran Church.

"The media -- the American media -- has invented our worst nightmare in the black community. He has never done anything beneficial for our people," Williams told CNSNews.com.

"We are letting the Democratic Party know -- from a state, county and federal level -- that the black vote is not for sale. I will vote for Mickey Mouse before I vote for John Kerry," Williams added.

I've felt the black vote was far from monolithic anymore, especially with the expansion of the black middle class. But frankly, although I think its warranted, I have to confess some surprise to hear that Jesse Jackson was being protested by blacks. I probably shouldn't have been.

Williams does not believe that black voters' overwhelming support for the Democratic Party has proven beneficial to minorities.

"The African American community has historically got nothing (from supporting the Democratic Party) -- a precious few has gotten something like these old civil rights organizations and people like Jesse," Williams said.

"We have been taken for granted because of people like Jesse. His day is over with," he added.

That is the realization that is finally dawning on black voters. The Democrat party has done little to nothing in the past to earn the votes of blacks. In fact it has taken them for granted and continues to do so ... primariy because of "leaders" like Jesse Jackson.

Its my feeling that as the economy grows and more and more blacks migrate to the middle class, less and less of them are going to automatically vote for Democrats. They're going to instead vote for the party which gives them the most opportunity economically, educationally, vocationally and in power sharing. The stark contrast between Condi Rice and Colin Powell in positions of real power in the Bush administration vs. the Jocelyn Elders type appointments of the last Democrat administration have to be making an impact on some black voters. Instead of talking about it, the right has done what blacks have demanded ... shared power with black Americans.

Meanwhile on the Democrat plantation, life continues unchanged and the Jesse Jackson's of the world try to keep it that way for their own benefit.

Its nice to see some blacks waking up to that fact.

Posted by McQ at 01:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Media's true colors

Perusing the local rag this morning I came upon a column which made an excellent point, a point I've not seen really touched upon in the debate over "Fahrenheit 911". The writer, Shaunti Feldhahn, says:

What is disturbing is that respected movie reviewers and media leaders are not really trying to treat the film as the biased polemic that it is. I have been astounded to see movie critics solemnly discuss the thing as if it were a factual documentary whose controversial claims deserved careful consideration. The Los Angeles Times' movie critic, for example, labels the film "propaganda" -- but then goes on to review it as if it weren't, saying that because it has elements of truth, it should have a "devastating effect on viewers"!

It's as if religion reporters were to suddenly treat the novel "The DaVinci Code" not as a work of fiction but as a historical reference piece worthy of scholarly consideration, just because it contains a few grains of fact amid all the fabrications. Just because Moore calls his film "nonfiction" doesn't mean that it is fact. The job of the mainstream media should be to tell us what's fact, not the other way around.

Good analogy ... and we have few if any book reviewers out there trying to convince us the "Da Vinci Codes" are real do we? In fact, many went out of their way to ensure you knew it was fiction.

But Moore's film? Take a look at some of these:

A.O. Scott, New York Times: "Mr. Moore's populist instincts have never been sharper...he is a credit to the republic."

Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune: "Received both the first prize and the longest continuous standing ovation in the history of the Cannes Film Festival and it wasn't because of some cliched French antipathy to America."

William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "A masterful job of ridiculing the personality, intellect and employment resumé of George W. Bush ... could well become the docu-equivalent of "The Passion of the Christ" and even affect the presidential election."

Jami Bernard, NY Daily News: "I was in tears after first seeing "Fahrenheit" at Cannes."

Tom Long, Detroit News: "A film every citizen of voting age in America should see."

David Edelstein, Slate: "After the screening, a friend railed that Moore was exploiting a mother's grief. I suggested that the scene made moral sense in the context of the director's universe, that the exploitation is justified if it saves the lives of other mothers' sons. "

David Elliott, San Diego Union Tribune: "He spends time with a caring, patriotic woman reduced to near-ruin when her son is killed in Iraq. And shows how Iraqi mothers respond, too. Call that "demagogic," if you have an agenda in place of a conscience."

Eric Harrison, Houston Chronicle: "(Moore) is an indispensable treasure, and his imperfections are part of the reason, because they mark him as real. "

J.Hoberman, Village Voice: "Let us not forget that Dana Carvey did more than anyone in America, save Ross Perot, to drive Bush père from the White House. There are sequences in Fahrenheit 9/11 so devastatingly on target as to inspire the thought that Moore might similarly help evict the son."

Mick LaSalle, SF Chronicle: "What both exalts the experience and grounds the picture is Moore's essentially patriotic faith that a sincere, invested argument can get a hearing in America."

Eric Lurio, Greenwich Village Gazette: "Every Independent voter should see this movie and vote for Kerry."

Rex Reed, New York Observer: "There are multitudes of shattering, seminal moments in his brilliant Bush-whacking documentary."

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer: "A magnificent piece of filmmaking. "

There are many more but you get the drift. Where is the questioning of the facts of the movie or the techniques used in the Morre's film by these so called critics? Where is the demand rigor in reporting that any documentary requires? More importantly, where are these people's ethics?

Have the politics of desperation so addled them that they can't undertand they are destroying any shred of credibility they might still enjoy?

How does one ever take a movie critic, or pundit for that matter, seriously ever again when they say things like: "What both exalts the experience and grounds the picture is Moore's essentially patriotic faith that a sincere, invested argument can get a hearing in America?" Especially when we've heard this "patriotic American" tell foreign audiences, while speaking of Americans, "They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet . . . in thrall to conniving, thieving smug [pieces of the human anatomy]. We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don’t know about anything that’s happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing.”

Indeed.

Feldhahn then makes a final point, which to me was the most telling in terms of how Moore's film is being treated by the media elite as opposed to another "documentaries" with at least as much 'factual evidence' as "Fahrenheit 911":

Ten years ago, "The Clinton Chronicles" documentary presented disturbing details about our then-president and his wife. The movie appeared well-researched and made some devastating charges about the Clintons' power years in Arkansas, carefully building a case for corruption, money-laundering, drug-running, bribery, intimidation and even murder.

But mainstream film distributors and movie critics never even considered circulating or reviewing that documentary. After all, they reasoned, "The Clinton Chronicles" was simply propaganda intended to smear an incumbent president during his re-election campaign. They ignored the movie in the name of responsible journalism, and it was consigned to informal distribution among die-hard conservative conspiracy theorists, never to receive mainstream attention

.

Responsible journalism, it appears, is only practiced when the "victim" of a "documentary" is from the left.

Agenda? "What agenda?", the media asks.

Apparently they just don't realize how transparent they are at times.

Posted by McQ at 01:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The BattleGround State UR Project

If internal economic conditions--e.g., the unemployment rate--have much bearing on November, it's probably worth watching those conditions in the battleground states.

So, based on the states Zogby defines as Battleground States--and assuming a drop in unemployment favors the incumbent--let's look at the latest data from the BLS....

WASHINGTON -.2 (Bush)
Apr: 6.3
May: 6.1

OREGON +.1 (Kerry)
Apr: 6.7
May: 6.8

NEVADA -.2 (Bush)
Apr: 4.3
May: 4.1

NEW MEXICO: -.1 (Bush)
Apr: 5.6
May: 5.5

MINNESOTA: +.1 (Bush. It's down almost a full percentage point this year, so it's hard to call this uptick a trend for Kerry)
Apr: 4.2
May: 4.3

IOWA: +.4 (Kerry)
Apr: 3.9
May: 4.3

MISSOURI: +.4 (Kerry)
Apr: 4.7
May: 5.1

ARKANSAS: +.2 (Kerry, though the longer trend is sharply down)
Apr: 5.6
May: 5.8

WISCONSIN: +.5 (Kerry)
Apr: 4.6
May: 5.1

OHIO: -.2 (Bush)
Apr: 5.8
May: 5.6

TENNESSEE: -.1 (Bush - rate has dropped more than 1 full point this year)
Apr: 4.9
May: 4.8

FLORIDA: -.2 (Bush)
Apr: 4.7
May 4.5

WEST VIRGINIA: 0 (Bush, as they are trending downward for the year)
Apr: 5.2
May: 5.2

PENNSYLVANIA: -.2 (Bush lately, but the longer trend is fairly flat)
Apr: 5.3
May: 5.1

NEW HAMPSHIRE: 0 (flat, short and long term)
Apr: 4.0
May: 4.0

The unemployment rate is by no means the only important factor, but it plays a part in how people perceive local economic conditions. The Unemployment rate trend in battleground states appears to favor Bush over Kerry 9-5, with one tie.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Drudgery

Drudge is touting a tip from an "insider", who claims...

Official Washington and the entire press corps will be rocked when Hillary Rodham Clinton is picked as Kerry's VP and a massive love fest will begin! So predicts a top Washington insider, who spoke to the DRUDGE REPORT on condition he not be named. "All the signs point in her direction," said the insider, one of the most influential and well-placed in the nation's capital. "It is the solution to every Kerry problem."
Wow! An Insider! He'd know something we don't! It must be true!

Except, based on what this "insider" says, it's pretty obvious he's a Republican, because he can't seem to resist the snark when talking about Democrats....

- "he served in Vietnam after all" - No Kerry supporter/insider would sarcastically refer to one of Kerry's selling points like this.
- Speaking of Republicans "dirty tricks", "we know they are scandals dirty tricks because the former president book says so"
- He calls Hillary a "health care expert"...putting that term in scare quotes.

I doubt very strongly that Hillary would accept a VP spot--or that she'll be offered one--and this "insider" strikes me as nothing more than a Republican attempt to seed the air with disinformation about Kerry's campaign - perhaps to overshadow whoever he does eventually pick. (though, Kerry is running a "health care" ad campaign right now!)

One gets the impression that Drudge is just posting emailed speculation from his friends. Unfortunately, this will probably get more attention than it deserves.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:40 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Chirac's Plan, Bush's reply

A lot has been made of France's opposition to US initiatives in Afghanistan and Iraq ... and rightly so. France's leader, Jaques Chirac, has made it obvious that his stance on the question of both countries will be "if the US if for it, France (or at least Chirac) is against it".

I'm interested in the "why" of his position. A quick look provides some interesting information and an opinion.

It is apparent to all but France that France is a fading power. Their country is a wreck, with unemployment consistently hovering at or near 10%. Its welfare state is a disaster, immigration is threatening its culture and France's power, even in the new EU, is slowly eroding. It is the accumulation of these facts which now confront France's leadership. Couple that with internal political woes and you have a leadership and a leader ready to strike out at anyone who further threatens their position.

Why, then, is Chirac so testy? Well first, things just aren't going well at home politically:

In two recent elections voters rejected his party.

70% of voters say they have no confidence in Chirac's Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

Chirac's approval rating was a low 50% last August, but is now a sub-electable 35%, according to TNS Sofres, a pollster.

Chirac is battling within his own party.

Chirac is in an internal battle for his political life and indications are his future isn't particularly bright. Because his chances of maintaining power don't look good, there's a urgency to his actions and his edged rhetoric. He seems to believe only he can redeem France's fading power and glory, and because of his political woes, he has to do so quickly. The single greatest roadblock to this internationally?

The United States under George W. Bush.

The point here is important ... the problem is not just the US, but George W Bush's US. A Kerry administration would be much more to Chirac's liking since Bush is on to Chirac's game. A Kerry administration, as admitted by the candidate himself, would attempt to be much more accomdating to our "European allies", a code phrase for France and Germany.

But as an editorial in the NY Post today points out:

The junior senator from Massachusetts is more attractive to Paris than the incumbent president because Bush is on to Chirac's game.

Never mind the War on Terror: The French political establishment is fighting a war against what it sees as Anglo-Saxon political, economic and cultural domination.

France believes it can use its influence within international institutions like the United Nations and the European Union to reverse more than a century of French decline.

If Kerry understands this, he has given no sign of it.

But if he and his supporters are naive enough to believe that the French would suddenly become more accommodating to a Kerry administration, they are courting a rude shock.

Nothing will change the French policy of working to undermine American and British efforts in Iraq or elsewhere — because France loathes and fears America and Britain.

Absolutely nothing would change in France's dealings with the US. However, a Kerry administration would give Chirac more time in his attempt to salvage and consolidate France's waning power. Kerry has made clear his preference for dealing internationally through the UN. France holds a seat on the Security Council and therefore owns a veto on US policy routed through that institution. Nothing could be better for Chirac. The US, under Kerry, would at worst be neutral in Chirac's attempted reclaimation of France's power, and at best manipulated into helping it. Kerry, who touts his "diplomatic experience" would be putty in Chirac's hands.

Bush has essentially written the UN out of the international equation for France, thereby neutralizing Chirac's most powerful weapon in his goal to keep France relevant. In fact, Bush's ability to get the latest UN resolution concerning Iraq passed with France's vote actually outplayed Chirac.

So there's a reason for Chirac's sharp remarks concerning Turkey and the EU.

France and the other European powers that oppose Turkey's inclusion believe — though it is rarely said publicly — that the E.U. should remain an organization of exclusively Christian countries.

France is also uncomfortable about greater E.U. expansion because each new country in the union dilutes French power — and thus France's ability to use the confederation to increase its global clout.

The first reason simply shows France, and much of Europe's, hypocricy. Not that its particularly surprising from a collection of nations which birthed both Facism and Communism. But the second reason is the real reason Chirac blew a gasket. More countries in the EU mean less power for France ... a direct threat to Chirac's plan.

It is something of which Bush is very aware. His remarks were a warning shot across Chirac's bow. It was meant to back him off his intransigence concerning NATO. It didn't work, but Bush's subsequent refusal to back off his remark leaves little doubt that two can play this game and Bush is more than willing to do so.

As mentioned, the UN, as a weapon of France's power, is, for all practical purposes, gone when it comes to the US. That leaves the EU and NATO in which France might be able to exercise its power and pursue its plan while neutralizing the US.

However, there's a problem with the EU as well ... the EU is already trying to shrug off France's attempts to consolidate its power. Things are not quite going to plan ... Chirac's plan:

At the European summit, Chirac tried to sell the draft EU constitution as "good for France," but the Economist wrote that the final text was not the document he had wanted, thanks to provisions that allowed the British to keep a veto over taxation and social security.

Chirac and Germany's Schröder tried to install Guy Verhofstadt, Belgium's prime minister, as European Commission president and were defeated in what the Economist termed "a cruel reminder that, in an enlarged Europe of 25, the French and Germans can no longer steer matters alone."

So when Bush said ...

"America believes that, as a European power, Turkey belongs in the European Union," Bush told an Istanbul audience, adding that its entry would be "a crucial advance in relations between the Muslim World and the West," because Turkey is "part of both."

Furthermore, allowing Turkey to join "would show that the E.U. is not the exclusive club of a single religion"

... it was more than Chirac could stand ... in a now characteristic undiplomatic blast he told Bush to butt out.

Bush won't and Chirac knows it (and you can hear the frustration in his rather rude remarks). So Chirac is left with limited options. He can only block and delay US power and policy through NATO at the moment, while hoping feverently that John Kerry wins the November election and gives France the ability to once again wield its power in the UN, NATO and the EU with America's tacit backing vs. its interference.

Another reason to eschew Kerry in November, unless, of course, you'd like to see France in the position of helping dictate future US foreign policy.

Posted by McQ at 09:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Myth-busting - GOP outsourcing

The GOP was "outsourcing fundraising!" To India! For poverty wages! The "Grand Hypocrisy Party"!

It seemed too good to be true, but Democrats.com, BuzzFlash, BestOfTheBlogs, DifferentStrings (and many more) believed every word of it. Because it was exactly what they wanted to hear.

They were wrong....

The Republican National Committee filed a complaint Tuesday accusing a Texas group of posing as a GOP organization to raise money by phone using an Indian telemarketing firm and through fund-raising mailings.

The fund-raising telephone calls prompted false, widespread rumors that the RNC was outsourcing its donor phone calls to India, the committee's complaint to the Federal Election Commission says.

The complaint accuses The Republican Victory Committee, based in Irving, Texas, of impersonating the Republican Party and fraudulently raising money by telling prospective donors it was being solicited by the GOP for use by Republican candidates.

The group denies the charge, saying they are "Republican-leaning", but the fact remains - the charge against the RNC/GOP was false.

Of course, the damage was done, the meme spread. One wonders if those spreading the rumor will issue a mea culpa, and attempt to correct the misinformation. It would be the decent thing.

UPDATE: Added to the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:02 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Disposable Personal Income

At the end of the day, very few of us pay attention to economic statistics. Most of us notice one thing: are we doing better or worse?

Of course, there's a statistic for that, too: "real disposable personal income". It is the (inflation-adjusted) portion of our income left over after taxes - the money we can spend, invest, or spread on the bed to roll around on later, if that's the sort of thing you're into.

So, how are we doing? Well, not too badly, as it turns out....

dpi.gif

Per the Bureau of Economic Analysis....(pdf)

"Since May of last year, real disposable personal income has increased 3.8 percent, and real consumer spending has increased 4.1 percent."
That's an annual increase in DPI that rivals the best years of the 90s, outpacing all but two of the annual DPI increases during the Clinton administration. (with the caveat that neither the Bush, nor the Clinton administration really control DPI to a significant extent)

All that to say, the recovery--or, the upturn in the economic cycle--is becoming more and more apparent in the pocketbooks of Americans. And they're beginning to notice, too....

Consumer confidence in the U.S. economy surged in June to the highest level in two years, spurred by job gains and falling gasoline prices, a private survey found.

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index rose to 101.9 this month, from a revised 93.1 in May. The figure exceeded the highest estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. The percentage of consumers who said they found jobs hard to find was the lowest level since September 2002.

Higher consumer confidence means more spending, and less saving....which translates to increased orders. Which, we hope, should translate to more jobs. Which will translate to.....well, a different economic message from John Kerry. "Sure, things are good, but I won't rest until there's nothing left for me to bitch about! Or, until I'm President. But I repeat myself...."

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Digital Brownshirts

This whole Alliance of Digital Brownshirts thing bothers me. Yes, I get the point of the thing, vis a vis Al Gore's remarks. Yes, I understand the sarcastic nature of the whole deal.

But it bothers me.

I despise totalitarianism in all its forms, but there's something peculiarly bothersome about Nazism. So, I am repelled by the DB logo, which uses a portrait of the head brownshirt himself, SA leader Ernst Roehm. Granted, Roehm, who was murdered on Hitler's orders in 1934 during "The Night of the Long Knives", was killed long before the Nazis began their more egregious crimes, was never able to become more than a sadistic street thug before Hitler bumped him off, so it's not as if the logo used a known war criminal.

But something strikes me as extraordinarily unseemly about the appropriation of Nazi imagery for any putatively humorous purpose. And there are certainly some who will look with suspicion at those who do so with such apparent glee. "Why," some will wonder, "are these people so proud to associate themselves with Nazi imagery?" And, irrespective of the various bloggers' reasons for doing so, a number of people will, in the course of asking themselves that question, come up with an unpleasant answer.

The only good Nazi is a dead Nazi. Period. So, not to rain on anybody's parade, but I'm simply repelled by the use of Nazi imagery for any purpose but depictions of the utterly inhuman and brutal nature of the Hitler regime and its ideology.

It strikes me that using Nazi imagery this way runs the danger of detracting from the real evil that it represented. Ernst Roehm wasn't a jolly, thick-necked, beer-swiller. I mean, he was, but he was also something much darker, and his party left a stain of barbarism and oppression that should remain sharp and clear in our minds for generations.

Let the DU types make the "Bushitler" commercials, and photoshop Don Rumsfeld as a German Field Marshal. Let them make the Nazi comparisons, and trust the basic common sense of the American people see it for what it is.

But I don't feel comfortable at all joining them down in the mud by cheapening the evil of Nazism for satirical effect.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:09 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 29, 2004

Random Musing

Something's just occured to me that has me curious. Michael Moore's new film has all the anti-Bushies frothing at the mouth about the concatenation of "facts" he's spun together into a story. It's amazing how these guys can put two and two together when the answer is something they want to hear.

If we were to learn tomororrow that a junior aide in the Bush White House met with a junior aide that worked for Ken Lay, the DU types would be howling about "secret, back-channel communications" between the administration and Enron.

Being able to build up a coherent conspiracy out such minor things is a real talent, but, you know, it's funny how that ability fades when presented with something like, I dunno, a history of links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. They can't seem to put two and two together when they see that kind of evidence, but if looks bad--or can be made to look bad--for W, then all the sudden, they can do quadratic equations and differential calculus in their heads to add facts together.

Al-Qaida exists for one purpose: to commit acts of terror. If your government has contacts with al-Qaida then you are involved with terror. It's that simple. Doesn't mean Saddam planned 911, or anything like that, but it implies at least some degree of coziness that you have to be fairly irrational to deny.

It's just odd how people with such a powerfully conspiratorial bent when it comes to someone they hate can spin conspiracies out of the very ether, but suddenly get slack-jawed with stupefaction at stringing together facts that don't support their ideology.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lessons Learned

Ralph Peters writes in the New York Post that, on a strategic level, it may be 10 or 15 years before we can know what we've really accomplished in Iraq. In the interim, however, there are some valuable tactical lessons we should take away from the experience.

Briefly, they are as follows:

  1. Plan for the worst-case scenario, not just the one you hope for.

  2. In the wake of combat operations, always impose martial law.

  3. Fight terrorists and insurgents immediately, remorselessly and comprehensively.

  4. Kill terrorists, rather than taking them prisoner.

  5. Don't treat an occupation as a bonanza for American contractors — hire locals.

  6. Don't place blind trust in émigrés.

  7. Preventive War is a concept that's here to stay.

  8. The globalized media demands new rules.

  9. Ignore the Left.

  10. Speak softly, and carry a big stick.

  11. Trust the troops.

Pretty good lessons, if you ask me.

Posted by Dale Franks at 04:49 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Bite Me, Frog-boy II

Good old Jacque Chirac. Evidently, he didn't get enough satisfaction at sniping at the US at yesterday's NATO summit. So he started in again today.

As the alliance struggles to define its role in a post-Cold War world, French President Jacques Chirac forcefully stated his opposition to any collective NATO presence on the ground in Iraq, suggesting it should limit its role to coordinating national efforts and training outside the country.

"I am completely hostile to the idea of a NATO establishment in Iraq," Chirac told a news conference. "It would be dangerous, counterproductive and misunderstood by the Iraqis, who after all deserve a little bit of respect."

On Afghanistan, Chirac rejected an American proposal that NATO's elite new response force be deployed to provide security for elections scheduled in September.

Remember, please, that with all this talk about NATO troops, that France does not participate in the military alliance. France holds a seat on the political council, but contributes no troops to NATO, and does not participate in NATO military operations in any sense, except to send small observer missions.

So, nobody's talking about forcing France to send any troops, anywhere. Yet, despite the fact that France contributes nothing whatsoever to NATO militarily, Chirac is trying to exercise a veto on other NATO countries from engaging in NATO military missions.

It's about time that W call our ambassador to France home for "consultations".

Posted by Dale Franks at 04:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Too early to say

Jon mentioned this morning that it looks like support for Bush's presidential campaign is softening. Now, maybe it is, and maybe it isn't, but I'm not sure it matters one way or another at this point on the calendar.

First of all, 80% of the electorate hasn't paid much attention to the election at all. For most people, the election is something they just don't feel the need to worry very much about until after labor day. During the conventions, interest will start to pick up, then there'll be a steady increase after that.

So, even in normal times, I'm not sure what polls five months out tell us that's particularly useful about the first week in November. But this election is one where events--most of which are totally outside the control of either candidate--will probably be a key factor in what happens on election day. Progress in Iraq, finding a cache of WMDs, a major terrorist attack in the US; any of these things could affect the election spectacularly.

Bush or Kerry might make some horrific political mistake. Back in '72, George McGovern picked a man named Thomas Eagleton as his running mate. Eagleton appeared to have all the right qualifications to be vice president. He was distinguished-looking, he was moderately articulate, and he was breathing. The whole VP package, really.

Unfortunately, it turned out that Senator Eagleton had been "treated" for "depression". Evidently it was a pretty severe case of depression, too, because it turned out that one of his treatments had been electroshock therapy.

Despite the fact that we elected Al Gore as VP 20 years later, at the time the idea of a potential madman becoming a potential president didn't sit too well with most people. McGovern at first tried to defend Eagleton strongly. "I'm not going to drop him as my running mate!" he declared. "Tom Eagleton is perfectly sane!" He then called Eagleton and begged him to drop out of the race, then chose Sargent Shriver as his new, improved running mate.

We all know what happened to McGovern on election day.

In any event, despite Bush's soft support, assuming, arguendo, that his support is soft, Kerry hasn't been much of a barn-burner either. Despite 6 weeks of hideously bad news in April-May, Kerry got a 5-point bump in support. Now, if you take a look at RealClearPolitics.com, where they round up all the poll results, the RCP poll average has Bush at 45%, Kerry at 43.6%, and Nader at 3.6%.

So, despite months of press sniping over Iraq, several weeks of carnage, beheadings, and militia attacks, the lack of any WMD stockpiles, and constant pounding on Bush from the Democrats, the best Kerry has been able to do is pull to within 2%.

That doesn't scream "fundamental strength" when it comes to Kerry. What it tells me is that the campaign is W's to lose. That impression is reinforced by looking at the New York Times, hardly a pro-bush paper, when I see things like this:

Similarly, 45 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Bush himself, again the most negative measure the Times/CBS Poll has found since he took office. And 57 percent say the country is going in the wrong direction, another measure used by pollsters as a barometer of discontent with an incumbent.

Yet the survey found little evidence that Mr. Kerry has been able to take advantage of the president's difficulties, even though Mr. Kerry has spent $60 million on television advertising over the past three months.

Translation: At best for Kerry, this means that the electorate thinks a) Bush sucks and b) Kerry sucks even harder. That tells me that, all other things being equal, the race is still tilting in Bush's favor, despite all the bad news of the last few months.

If, at any time in the next five months, things begin to look better in Iraq, or people begin to get the message about the improvement in the economy--which they surely will if the jobs picture keeps brightening--then this one won't even be close.

The only reason Kerry is still even in the ballpark is because the news from Iraq seemed to be unremittingly bad. If that doesn't continue, neither will Kerry's hopes for getting elected.

UPDATE:

Oh, by the way, Mickey Kaus notes something I completely missed in the NYT piece I quote above. As Kaus puts it:

Soxblog notes that a month ago, the CBS poll had Kerry up by 8 in a head to head with Bush (and up 6 with Nader in the race). This month, the NYT/CBS poll showed Kerry's lead had dropped to a single point in the head-to-head, and Bush was actually winning by a point with Nader included. Kerry dropped seven points in a month. So what do the Times' Nagourney and Elder lead their story with?

Bush's Rating Falls to Its Lowest Point, New Survey Finds

You don't find out until paragraph 11 that the candidates are essentially tied, and only in the 13th graf do Nagourney and Elder slip in the previous months poll results--without pointing out to readers the decline in Kerry's lead.

I think that reinforces my position on Kerry's weakness as a candidate even more.

Posted by Dale Franks at 04:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

"We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

The audacity of that statement is staggering ... but not a surprise considering who it comes from ... Ms Rodham Clinton.

On that single statement alone, the vast majority of Americans should go screaming to the polling booth to ensure Clinton and her ilk are kept as far away from the reigns of power as possible ... but they won't.

Because there's a significant group out there who actually believe in her nonsense. They believe someone else can decide what constitutes 'the common good" for them. And they don't mind giving up their right to their property for them either ... and think you should do the same (you greedy bastard!).

Really.

James Lileks, in his own inestimable way, puts some perspective on the subject which is spot on with his "Parable of the Stairs. "

Its a long excerpt but it makes a the point so well that I hope you'll take the time to read it through.

That's the difference folks ... there are actually people who believe that the "government" is why you have money and "they" have the "right" to take back, at any time, what is "theirs".

Yes, I know, its hard to believe, but they do exist ... and, frighteningly, they vote as well.

Posted by McQ at 03:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Incompetent" ... say it again, "incompetent"

Since words are our medium, I'm always interested in how they're used, etc.

Take the word "incompetent".

Seems "incompetent" has won out over "miserable failure" and "dumb as a box of rocks" (although I understand "smirking chimp" is still in the running) as the favorite description of Bush and his administration by the left.

For instance Richard Cohen, in order to avoid the rush one presumes, declares Iraq a failure one day after the handover and before Michael Moore can claim credit. The reason?

A supposedly new Iraq was born this week, a graduate going off - really being kissed off - without the necessary skills. The insincerely proud parent of this miserable misfit is the Bush administration, whose incompetence has been staggering.

Not to be outdone, Ms Competence herself (heck we've been in Iraq less time than it took her to find her records from Rose Law Firm), Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton has weighed in as well:

"I think the administration has been both wrongheaded and incompetent and should not be rewarded."

Where'd this come from, you ask? Obviously the left would argue, "from the inept actions of the administration, you dolt!"

But that's more than arguable ... in fact its very arguable. No question many things could have been done better, but do they rise to the level of incompetence?

An argument for a different day. Today I'm more interested in the genesis of the meme than its truth.

Wandering around on google, I find what appears to be first use by Nancy Pelosi ... a paragon of competence if ever I've seen one. On May 21st she thrilled her constituents and the left side of the political spectrum by declaring that Bush was incompetent:

"I believe that the president's leadership in the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience in making the decisions that would have been necessary to truly accomplish the mission without the deaths to our troops and the cost to our taxpayers."

Dear Albert, breathing fire and brimstone, quickly did a little bandwagon hopping when on May 27th he too called the President incompetent. Speaking of competence, Gore caught rhetorical fire after the 2000 election in which he even failed to take his home state. But, to his statement:

"The unpleasant truth is that President Bush's utter incompetence has made the world a far more dangerous place and dramatically increased the threat of terrorist attacks against the United States,"

As with all things in the political realm, they're not what they seem. Pelosi is widely credited with starting the incompetence meme, but as with many politicians, it appears she stole someone else's work. Yes friends, it appears credit may indeed go to none other than David Corn who, on May 11th wrote:

It's the incompetence, stupid. That should be the battle cry of the forces of anti-Bushism.

But it is ... it is the apparent battle cry.

So was it Corn who coined it?

Well probably not. It appears, dear reader, that its an import. Yes, imported from another lefty politician. To his credit, he at least minces no words. I give you, from early February of this year, Australian Labour Party member and MP Mark Latham:

Labor MPs savagely attacked the US President on Wednesday. Frontbencher Mark Latham described Mr Bush as "the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory" and referred to Liberal MPs as a "conga line of suckholes" to Mr Bush.

Yes, true friends are hard to find, especially among suckholes.

There is good news though with the Democrat adoption of "incompetence" as their new meme. They've dropped gravitas like a hot rock.

Which makes sense if you think about it. After all, their candidate is John Kerry. And everyone know he needs a gravitas transplant in the worst way.

Which is worse ... being incompetent or lacking in gravitas?

Only the DNC knows for sure.

Posted by McQ at 03:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Two wrongs...

Bill Hobbs...


...and Dean Esmay--who links and calls it "interesting"--are wrong.

Michael Moore is willing to deceive in order to combat the Bush administration, whom he regards as liars. That, I think we can agree, is wrong.

If that's wrong, then it's every bit as wrong to not only lie to avoid paying Michael Moore, but to actually commit theft towards that end. It's wrong, and bloggers who recommend that practice sacrifice their principles in doing so.

(Note: No, it's not excused by the fact that Michael Moore encourages that theft. It's not entirely his property to give away)

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Celsius 250: The Temperature at which Fat Burns

In the spirit of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which has been called an "unvarnished presentation" (by Senator Tom Harkin), and about which Michael Moore has said "The most important thing we have is truth on our side", I present this "unvarnished presentation" of facts.

Celsius 250
Based on the Fahrenheit 9/11 movie and website by Michael Moore

(hint)

One of the most controversial and provocative posts of the year, Celsius 250 is blogger Jon Henke's searing examination of Michael Moore's life and career in the wake of the tragic deception of Fahrenheit 9/11.

With his characteristic humor and dogged commitment to uncovering the facts, Henke considers the life of Michael Moore and where it has taken him. He looks at how - and why - Moore and his inner circle prominent Democrats avoided pursuing the Iranian and Syrian connection to terrorism, despite the fact that it has been reported that Moore's movie distributor is accepting Hezbollah affiliated money. Celsius 250 shows us a country kept in constant fear by Moore's own record and lulled into accepting a movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, that infringes on basic civil discourse. It is in this atmosphere of confusion, suspicion and dread that the Moore team makes its headlong rush towards deception and Celsius 250 takes us inside that deception to tell the stories we haven't heard, illustrating the awful human cost to civil discourse in the US.

Facts:

  • Michael Moore has a residence and/or lives in Michigan.
Coincidence?


What role did Michael Moore take in planning the "publicity events" for the release of his movie?

  • The ACLU has defended NAMBLA against lawsuits, calling them "witch hunts."
Quid pro quo?
  • In Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore focuses on Saudi Arabia, rather than Syria and Iran.
Is Michael Moore protecting, or even supporting, terrorist sponsors?

"I'm not trying to pretend that this is...fair...." -- Michael Moore, referring to Fahrenheit 9/11.
"Sauce for the goose, you know..." -- Jon Henke, referring to Michael Moore.

UPDATE: In case you've missed the obscure reference and didn't follow the link, I'll elucidate: Celsius 250: The temperature at which fat burns.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:22 AM | Comments (29) | TrackBack

Quick Hits

*** Yes, he's kicking a man when his site is down--though I think he'd be amused--but, this is funny.
(in reality, Matt is one of the more thoughtful, worthwhile liberal pundits, and I have a great deal of respect for his blogging - though, I disagree with him often)


*** I'm beginning to believe John Kerry will win this election. The more I look at events, the softer Bush's support seems to be. It's his fault, really. Kerry voters may really be more interested in voting "against Bush" than "for Kerry"....but Bush isn't exactly overwhelming conservatives and libertarians with reasons to vote for him. And they're not as mad at Kerry, as liberals are at Bush.

Having said that, and assuming Kerry wins....

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Kerry won the electoral college, but lost the popular vote? The next four years would be filled with Democrats explaining why it was "different this time", and--come to think of it--so would many Republicans.


*** There's been a great deal of partisan carping about the handover. As Dale wrote, "critics set the bar impossibly high, and...[dismiss] progress that doesn't meet their unreasonable expectations as abject failure". On the other hand, there's also been some very reasonable criticism, too.
--- Jesse Taylor points out that Paul Bremer put in place some laws very "unfitting to Iraq", and it will be very interesting to see how the Iraqis deal with them.

--- Edward also makes a good point about Bush's recent claim to have fulfilled our promise...

Until there is an elected government in place that represents ALL Iraqi voices, the pledge is not fulfilled. Talk of martial law and loop holes in the interim constitution that may allow more restrictive Islamic law into the final constitution, as well as the added complication of "ensuring" that anything happens in a fully "sovereign" nation make this just another in the long line of premature Mission Accomplished speeches by the President.
I don't think the presence of some Islamic values in Iraqi law will render our promise unmet, but his point stands. Until the interim government succeeds in its purpose, our promise is not fulfilled....and, if we are serious about Iraq being "sovereign", we can hardly dictate events to them any longer.

As with a teenager, we'll just have to hope we've set them far enough down the right path.....and be there, if they ask for help.


*** It's not often I agree with Oliver, but I'll do so here....

If I was in the Bush administration's communications department, and I knew that things were not going well in Iraq, and I wanted to spin the message my way -- I would set up a number of "Iraqi blogs" and use the information within to sway influential American opinionmakers.
In fact, the last time I recall agreeing with Oliver Willis, it was about the exact same thing, when I wrote "I agree with Oliver here, but I'll go a step further. Why are we so sure that all of these Iraqi bloggers are actually Iraqi bloggers?"

Don't worry, Oliver.....if you're accused of being a "conspiracy theorist", you can just tell them you got it from me.


*** Henry Hanks is on fire. Start here - or here, here...or just keep reading down.


*** Cam Edwards, host of Cam and Company on NRAnews.com, has an idea....

...every Friday, a different group of bloggers and more traditional pundits get together and review the week's big stories. I envision a show where people like columnist Michelle Malkin and radio host Joe Kelley are on, as well as people like Stephen Taylor and Lawren K. Mills.
Frankly, I think there are, ahem, bloggers here who would be very good on his show. Cam is asking for interested bloggers to participate, so check in with him. (hint: it could only help his prominence if he links QandO. Just sayin'...)


*** I have, in the past, compared Rush Limbaugh to various leftish demagogues like Michael Moore. Readers have taken offense to that, claiming Limbaugh didn't engage in the vicious lies and slurs in which pundits like Moore engage.

I believe this vindicates my position.


*** Regarding comment sections, Instapundit links to a post on QandO, and writes...

...Q&O made a perfectly reasonable point about James Rubin, only to see the comments degenerate into nasty remarks about Rubin's wife, Christiane Amanpour. I don't like Amanpour, whom I regard as excessively agenda-driven, but I wouldn't want her called names like that on my blog. Which means I'd either have to edit such comments out, or live with it. I don't have the time for the former, and I'm not willing to do the latter.
It occurs to me that we've never really discussed our comment policy. That is, perhaps, because we don't really have one. As near as I can tell, our policy seems to be:
1: We delete spam, and duplicate comments.
2: We retain the right to delete needlessly and personally vicious, or libelous comments, though we have no done that yet as far as I am aware. (correc me if I'm wrong, guys) We generally have a very high tolerance for dissent--even disrespectful dissent--and welcome it.....though, we prefer civil dissent.

That non-deletion does NOT imply that we support every comment on our blog, though I should think that goes without saying.

More relevant, to me anyway, is this...

The other problem, which I've seen both at blogs I agree with and blogs I don't, is that bloggers can be captured by their commenters. It's immediate feedback, and it's interesting (it's about you!) and I can imagine it could become addictive. My impression is that often, instead of serving as a corrective to errors, comment sections tend to lure bloggers farther in the direction they already lean. Anyway, I worry about that.
I've worried about that a great deal, too. I'm aware that QandO is generally read by right-leaning people, and I've taken great pains to ensure that I do not simply turn this blog into a "preach to the choir" chorus of criticism of Democrats. You will note that each of us has been, at times, vocal in our criticism of the Bush administration and right wing pundits.

So, you've been warned. I don't think QandO will ever be a warm ideological cocoon for right-of-center partisans. Or, at least, I hope it won't.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:25 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

June 28, 2004

Bite me, Frog-boy

Jacques Chirac, who apparently fancies himself the Emperor of Europe, told the NATO summit attendees that the US has no business expressing an opinion about European affairs.

Stung by Mr Bush's call for the EU to give Turkey a firm date for accession, Mr Chirac responded: "He not only went too far but he has gone into a domain which is not his own.

"He has nothing to say on this subject. It is as if I were to tell the United States how it should conduct its relations with Mexico."

Or...Iraq.

Mr Chirac was irritated by Mr Bush's comments a day earlier during a meeting with Turkish leaders.

Hailing Turkey as an example of "how to be a Muslim country and at the same time a country which embraces democracy and rule of law and freedom", Mr Bush said: "I believe you ought to be given a date by the EU for your eventual acceptance into the EU."

Mr. Chirac is awfully froggy (no pun intended) for the leader of a country that doesn't even participate in NATO's military organization. Maybe we should restrict France's participation in NATO's political cousels to the same observer status they have in the military alliance.

One also notes that, during the whole wretched collapse of Yugoslavia, culminating in the atrocities in Kosovo, the French, among others, were begging for US help. The French spent years dithering over that mess and accomplished...well, what France usually accomplishes, which is nothing.

Mr. Chirac's real fear, of course, is that as the EU enlarges France will be increasingly relegated to the second-rate status, even among European countries, that it deserves.

What is especially irksome about Chirac mouthing off at a NATO meeting is that the French have spent the last 50 years on the rear of NATO, confident that if the Russians came roaring across the Elbe, they would have the benefit of the American conventional and nuclear umbrella to protect their country, without their having to go through the tedious business of cooperating with the rest of NATO in any meaningful way.

It's almost enough to make one wish the Germans still had a real army.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:09 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

What has been right in Iraq

Notice I didn't say what is right in Iraq. Instead what's been going right in Iraq all this time and has been woefully under reported. Fred Hiatt of the WaPo does a nice job of making up for a little of that:

What is striking in Iraq, though, is an emphasis on learning from mistakes and moving forward, because there isn't any alternative. This is noteworthy among two groups in particular: Iraqis who have signed on at considerable risk to build a new democratic government, and U.S. soldiers and Marines.

In much of the country, the U.S. military and its allies -- notably but not only Britons and Poles -- provide virtually the only foreign presence, and their resourcefulness and adaptability are impressive. Terrorists have managed to chase away the United Nations, most nonprofit organizations and many for-profit contractors. So the troops not only must fight and kill bad guys but also open vocational schools, manage irrigation projects, rebuild universities, train police and soldiers, mediate ethnic disputes, organize town councils, prepare for elections, and more. All this, while they are stretched thin for their military mission.

Young Army captains spend their evenings in mayors' offices, advising on everything from democracy theory to garbage collection. Slightly older lieutenant colonels organize sheiks' councils. "Every commander in this division has personally run an election," either in Bosnia or Kosovo, says a senior officer in the 1st Infantry Division, now based in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. By default, they have become America's nation-builders overseas.

One of the reasons I've always believed those in our military to be the brightest and best is they do this sort of thing ... routinely. Its almost as though they live in a world where "it can't be done" doesn't exist. In fact, from experience, I know they do. They're tough, bright, adaptive and stubborn. If its possible they'll make it happen.

You can't ask for much more. Read the whole article as its a nice break from the doom and gloom the Post usually peddles.

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

OK, what's up with Canada

Do you guys really need this sort of a warning?

"Eating a ballot, not returning it or otherwise destroying or defacing it constitutes a serious breach of the Canada Elections Act," Elections Canada warns on its Internet site.

It might make sense in Florida, but really this takes "ballot stuffing" to a whole new level.

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

I hope this isn't true ...

... but I'm afraid it might be.

The parents of 20-year-old Army Pfc. Keith "Matt" Maupin, held hostage in Iraq since April, were informed today that there may be a videotape showing his execution.

Its hard enough to lose your son or daughter in combat, or to a roadside bomb. But it has to have been hell for PFC Maupin's parents since April, especially with the Berg, Johnson and Kim beheadings.

Again, the terrorists have prove they have no soul despite the religious mewling they're prone too. The depths of their depravity is bottomless.

Meanwhile, in this nation, we continue to debate the Geneva Conventions.

Posted by McQ at 07:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sir Edmund Hillary Rodham Clinton

Mark Steyn is the priceless treasure of the Anglosphere, a title he earns with pieces like his review of Bill Clinton's memoirs, My Life, for the Wall Street Journal.

Is there anything interesting in "My Life" by Bill Clinton? Oh, yes. Page 870.

The Clintons are in New Zealand and finally get to meet "Sir Edmund Hillary, who had explored the South Pole in the 1950s, was the first man to reach the top of Mount Everest and, most important, was the man Chelsea's mother had been named for."

Hmm. Edmund Hillary reached the top of Everest in 1953. Hillary Rodham was born in 1947, when Sir Edmund was an obscure New Zealand beekeeper and an unlikely inspiration for two young parents in the Chicago suburbs. I mentioned this in Britain's Sunday Telegraph eight years ago this very week, after this little story was trotted out the first time, but like so many curious anomalies in the Clinton record, it somehow cruises on indestructibly. By the time Sir Edmund shuffles off this mortal coil, the New York Times headline will read: "Man for Whom President Rodham Named Dies; Climbed Everest in 1947."

Naturally, the review is replete with sharp one-liners as well.

The foothills of the vast tome are deceptively easy, when Mr. Clinton is merely telling a heartwarming personal anecdote about every single person listed in the Arkansas telephone directory between 1946 and 1992.
Up in the clouds, way above the out-of-his-tree line, the president advances the theory that he was obliged to submit to random sexual advances in order to uphold the important constitutional principle that Republicans are uptight about oral sex.
Mr. Clinton is certainly thinking of his legacy. The index lists more pages for "bin Laden, Osama" than "Jones, Paula," which isn't how it seemed at the time.
Instead, Mr. Clinton's book is a double flop: Either stake your claim to join the guys on Mount Rushmore or embrace your destiny as a guy who rushes to mount more.

That's just good writing, and funny, too.

Posted by Dale Franks at 03:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Anti-Moore

I'm getting to like this guy. Arnold Ahlert of the NY Post gives us a brief run down on his imaginary documentary entitled "What We're Up Against" in answer to Michael Moore's imaginative "Farhrenheit 9/11":

I'd include the following:

* Scenes from the destruction of the World Trade Center: jets crashing, people jumping from the upper floors, the towers' collapse, the months-long digging through the rubble — and the excruciating body-identification task faced by the medical examiner's office.

* The "beheading videos" — from reporter Daniel Pearl right through to Korean Kim Sun-il.

* The charred and mutilated bodies of four Halliburton workers hanging from a bridge in Fallujah.

* Post terror-bombing scenes from Bali, Madrid, and Istanbul. Ditto for Riyadh, but with additional footage of the recent attack showing the 22 victims whose throats were slit.

* The Saddam Hussein "torture videos," photos of the mass grave sites containing 300,000 Iraqis and photos of Kurdish men, women and children killed by chemical poisoning.

* Footage of the pregnant Israeli woman and her four daughters murdered by two Palestinians who then put an additional bullet in each child's head and one in the abdomen of the mother.

* A "montage" of numerous mullahs and imams whose non-stop spewing of anti-American and anti-Semitic speech incites further hatred and violence.

* Another montage of "joyous Arabs" dancing in the streets after virtually every successful act of terror.

Think he'd win at Cannes?

Nah ... he doesn't either.

Posted by McQ at 03:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gasp! Now here's a surprise

I know you've been holding your breath wondering which way this one would go:

The largest federal employee union will work to defeat President Bush in November after endorsing presumptive Democratic nominee John F. Kerry last week.

The reasons (not that there really have to be any other than "he's a Democrat"):

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which has 210,000 dues-paying members, said the Massachusetts senator would help turn back the Republican's efforts to revamp federal pay and personnel systems and open up more federal work to private contractors.

"No" to efficiency! "No" to monetary savings! "Yes" to more union memebers!
"Yes" to more spending! "Yes" to larger deficits.

"Yes" to John Kerry!

"Senator Kerry is against this dismantlement of the fed government," Gage said in a conference call with reporters during a gathering Friday of 600 union delegates in Pittsburgh. "People believe in what they've done in their careers. . . . They've spent their lives to make these programs work and they feel that at the top there is a concerted effort to make these programs not work."

Or to make these programs that don't belong at a federal level go away? Smaller government you mean?

Fie on that.

So these programs are pretty inefficient, ineffective and a waste of money, these people have worked HARD at these programs and that hard work, whether relevant or needed, should be rewarded .... with other people's money. We owe it to them ... to subsidize them and their boondoggles.

Actually it would be news if a union didn't endorse Kerry.

Instead we get this.

Posted by McQ at 02:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dying in Darfur

Just to keep it in mind, here's a reminder from Rich Lowry in the Manchester Union-Leader tnat there are nasty things happening in Sudan.

Militias backed by the Sudanese government have forced roughly a million people from their homes in the western part of the country. In the North-South conflict that wracked Sudan for 20 years, the Muslim government's favored tool was genocide, directed against the Christian and animist South. The government is using genocide again, giving air cover and other support to Arab militias that are cleansing black Sufi Muslims from the western province of Darfur. The North-South war killed 2 million. At least 10,000 have died already in Darfur, and absent immediate relief, hundreds of thousands could die.

The US has been about the only country in the world that has even partially paid attention to the problem. Our European allies have talked about it, and clucked their tongues disapprovingly, but that's about it.

Over the years the Sudanese have blinked every time they've been eye-to-eye with concerted international pressure. Why no one outside of the US seems interested in appying such pressure is beyond me. But if they don't, then we'll soon be able to add Sudan to the list of "Never Agains", like Cambodia, Bosnia, and Rwanda.

"Never again" apparently doesn't mean what it used to.

Posted by Dale Franks at 02:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Calling Joe Wilson, call for Joe Wilson ....

I don't think he'll be answering. Per the Financial Times:

The FT has now learnt that three European intelligence services were aware of possible illicit trade in uranium from Niger between 1999 and 2001. Human intelligence gathered in Italy and Africa more than three years before the Iraq war had shown Niger officials referring to possible illicit uranium deals with at least five countries, including Iraq.

This intelligence provided clues about plans by Libya and Iran to develop their undeclared nuclear programmes. Niger officials were also discussing sales to North Korea and China of uranium ore or the "yellow cake" refined from it: the raw materials that can be progressively enriched to make nuclear bombs.

Now, let's review. President Bush, in his 2003 State of the Union speech said:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

So the intelligence reports say "between 1999 and 2001" - as I remember it Saddam Hussein was running Iraq at that time - there were discussions by an African nation - that would be Niger - with Iraq. And the discussions were about the illicit procurement of what?

Yellowcake uranium.

Well, well.

Can't wait to hear the thundering silence on this one as another favorite "Bush lied" meme bites the dust.

UPDATE (JON): The Belgravia Dispatch is (quite typically) useful on the topic, with additional insight. Josh Marshall is taking a contrary stance, though it's hard to tell if the "bad actors" he promises to reveal soon are coalition actors, Nigerian actors, Iraqi actors, or third party actors.

Kevin Drum argues...

...the article also mentions that while the CIA never believed Iraq had tried to procure yellowcake from Niger ... British intelligence has always contended that there really were serious contacts between Iraq and Niger. [...] Oddly, though, it remains unclear why the CIA discounted them, so it's hard to know what to make of this new information.
Actually, it's always seemed perfectly clear why the CIA didn't regard the British assertions as "credible". It's hard for the CIA to evaluate evidence they'd never seen.

For my part, I will mention this: awhile back, there was a "dust-up" at my job, wherein a colleague and I took a professional stand against one another on this topic. This colleague insisted the "sought uranium in Africa" story had been definitively disproven. I insisted that the Niger document had been disproven, but the larger story could not have been disproven, as we didn't have access to the complete data, but evidence did apparently exist which left the accusation well in the field of play.

The only thing resolved was that we would have to agree to disagree, and each excercise "professional judgement" if it came up again in the course of our job. (i.e., she could assert it, I could "edit" as I saw fit) Our relationship has been, to say the least, chilly since then. Regardless of the outcome of this story, the fact that Joe Wilson asserted in his book that Iraq's former information minister, Mohamed Sayeed al-Sahaf, was assumed to have sought uranium in Iraq, seems to vindicate my position. If this is accurate, it would seem to call for a healthy does of crow pie.

Posted by McQ at 01:21 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Not so fast, Mr. President

The Supreme Court swept aside the Bush Administration's presumed wartime powers vis a vis the terror-related detentions of foreigners. I have long been uncomfortable with the Bush Administrations blanket declaration of a wartime right to hold anyone they with, for as long as they wish, without any access to the legal system. Evidently, the Supreme Court is uncomfortable, too.

Let's take a look at each case individually, in order to more completely understand the court's position.

The first case is HAMDI v. RUMSFELD. At issue in HAMDI was the following question: Does the Constitution permit Executive officials to detain an American citizen indefinitely in military custody in the United States, hold him essentially incommunicado and deny him access to counsel, with no opportunity to question the factual basis for his detention before any impartial tribunal, on the sole ground that he was seized abroad in a theater of the War on Terrorism and declared by the Executive to be an "enemy combatant"?

The Court's response to these questions is as follows:

We therefore hold that a citizen-detainee seeking to challenge his classification as an enemy combatant must receive notice of the factual basis for his classification, and a fair opportunity to rebut the Government's factual assertions before a neutral decisionmaker...

At the same time, the exigencies of the circumstances may demand that, aside from these core elements, enemy combatant proceedings may be tailored to alleviate their uncommon potential to burden the Executive at a time of ongoing military conflict. Hearsay, for example, may need to be accepted as the most reliable available evidence from the Government in such a proceeding. Likewise, the Constitution would not be offended by a presumption in favor of the Government's evidence, so long as that presumption remained a rebuttable one and fair opportunity for rebuttal were provided. Thus, once the Government puts forth credible evidence that the habeas petitioner meets the enemy-combatant criteria, the onus could shift to the petitioner to rebut that evidence with more persuasive evidence that he falls outside the criteria. A burden-shifting scheme of this sort would meet the goal of ensuring that the errant tourist, embedded journalist, or local aid worker has a chance to prove military error while giving due regard to the Executive once it has put forth meaningful support for its conclusion that the detainee is in fact an enemy combatant...

We think it unlikely that this basic process will have the dire impact on the central functions of warmaking that the Government forecasts. The parties agree that initial captures on the battlefield need not receive the process we have discussed here; that process is due only when the determination is made to continue to hold those who have been seized. The Government has made clear in its briefing that documentation regarding battlefield detainees already is kept in the ordinary course of military affairs. Brief for Respondents 3-4. Any factfinding imposition created by requiring a knowledgeable affiant to summarize these records to an independent tribunal is a minimal one. Likewise, arguments that military officers ought not have to wage war under the threat of litigation lose much of their steam when factual disputes at enemy-combatant hearings are limited to the alleged combatant's acts. This focus meddles little, if at all, in the strategy or conduct of war, inquiring only into the appropriateness of continuing to detain an individual claimed to have taken up arms against the United States. While we accord the greatest respect and consideration to the judgments of military authorities in matters relating to the actual prosecution of a war, and recognize that the scope of that discretion necessarily is wide, it does not infringe on the core role of the military for the courts to exercise their own time-honored and constitutionally mandated roles of reviewing and resolving claims like those presented here.

This seems to me like a fairly reasonable compromise. It allows military authorities to hold prisoners during combat operations, since POW status is not punitive. Once an enemy combatant is to be held for a longer period, then he must be notified, and given an opportunity to plead his case against detention before the courts. In doing so, however, the government has a rebuttable presumption that the detainee is an enemy combatant. This is different from, say, a criminal proceeding, where the defendant has a presumption of innocence. The ruling gives due regards to the military and security concerns of the government, while, at the same time, allowing the detainee a chance to get a hearing in a neutral venue.

The voting on this was all over the map, ideologically. Justice O'Connor wrote the decision, and concurring were Justices Rehnquist, Kennedy, Breyer, Souter and Ginsburg. Dissenting were Justices Scalia, Stevens, and Thomas.

Yeah, you read that right: Stevens and Scalia.

The next case at issue was RASUL v. BUSH. The central question in RASUL was tis question: Do the Federal Courts have the jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay?

According, to the Supremes, they sure do.

The Bush Administration's contention has been that Guantanamo Bay is located in a heathen foreign land where US Courts have no reach. But, the Supremes' response put a bullet in the head of that argument.

Whatever traction the presumption against extraterritoriality might have in other contexts, it certainly has no application to the operation of the habeas statute with respect to persons detained within "the territorial jurisdiction" of the United States...By the express terms of its agreements with Cuba, the United States exercises "complete jurisdiction and control" over the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, and may continue to exercise such control permanently if it so chooses...Respondents themselves concede that the habeas statute would create federal-court jurisdiction over the claims of an American citizen held at the base...Considering that the statute draws no distinction between Americans and aliens held in federal custody, there is little reason to think that Congress intended the geographical coverage of the statute to vary depending on the detainee's citizenship. Aliens held at the base, no less than American citizens, are entitled to invoke the federal courts' authority under §2241.

Application of the habeas statute to persons detained at the base is consistent with the historical reach of the writ of habeas corpus. At common law, courts exercised habeas jurisdiction over the claims of aliens detained within sovereign territory of the realm, as well as the claims of persons detained in the so-called "exempt jurisdictions," where ordinary writs did not run, and all other dominions under the sovereign's control. As Lord Mansfield wrote in 1759, even if a territory was "no part of the realm," there was "no doubt" as to the court's power to issue writs of habeas corpus if the territory was "under the subjection of the Crown..." Later cases confirmed that the reach of the writ depended not on formal notions of territorial sovereignty, but rather on the practical question of "the exact extent and nature of the jurisdiction or dominion exercised in fact by the Crown..."

In the end, the answer to the question presented is clear. Petitioners contend that they are being held in federal custody in violation of the laws of the United States. No party questions the District Court's jurisdiction over petitioners' custodians...We therefore hold that §2241 confers on the District Court jurisdiction to hear petitioners' habeas corpus challenges to the legality of their detention at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

So, we can now expect a flurry of habeas petitions in the Federal court on behalf of detainees in Guantanamo. Interestingly enough, however, though the Court ruled that Federal courts have jurisdiction in Guantanamo, they didn't rule about what the practical impacts of their decision would be. Indeed, Justice Stevens explicitly acknowledges this.

Whether and what further proceedings may become necessary after respondents respond to the merits of petitioners' claims are not here addressed.

Which means that lower courts are going to have to play it by ear, when these habeas petitions reach them.

This provides a compelling lesson in how the other two branches of government respond when the executive tells them to sod off. In essence, the Bush Administration told the Federal Courts to mind their own business, and that they didn't have any right to go poking their nose around in Guantanamo. Unsurprisingly, the decision of the Federal court system was that they could poke their nose into Guantanamo any time they pleased. And, since the Federal court system was the only place to decide this under our system, they had the home field advantage.

The Government's argument was pretty stupid though. If you are a civilian worker at Guantanamo, and you do something very bad, you'll find yourself in Federal custody in a New York minute. So, it's a bit disingenuous for the Government to claim that Guantanamo doesn't fall under Federal court jurisdiction in this case, when they cheerfully agree that the courts have jurisdiction in every other possible circumstance.

Voting went down more or less ideological lines on this one, with Justice Stevens writing, joined by Justices O'Connor, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kennedy. Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas dissented.

Finally, the Court ruled on RUMSFELD v. PADILLA, in the case of Mr. Padilla's indefinite detention. In essence, the court punted on this one on technical grounds, but also, one expects, because HAMDI demolishes the government's incommunicado detentions. Padilla will now refile his habeas petition, where it will be considered in light of HAMDI. In any case, by dismissing on a technicality, the Court reached no Constitutional principles to expound.

Although, having said that, the four dissenters in this case--Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer--clearly wanted to.

The petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed in this case raises questions of profound importance to the Nation. The arguments set forth by the Court do not justify avoidance of our duty to answer those questions. It is quite wrong to characterize the proceeding as a "simple challenge to physical custody," ante, at 13, that should be resolved by slavish application of a "bright-line rule," ante, at 21, designed to prevent "rampant forum shopping" by litigious prison inmates, ante, at 19. As the Court's opinion itself demonstrates, that rule is riddled with exceptions fashioned to protect the high office of the Great Writ. This is an exceptional case that we clearly have jurisdiction to decide.

In other words, we really, really wanted to rule on the merits, overturn the detention, and make new law. Or, at least, enforce the bright-line rule on habeas corpus.

But, the general principle is that if the court doesn't have to approach the Constitution to make a ruling, it doesn't. And, it's clear to me that Stevens makes the argument above because he thinks that, in the absence of the technical considerations that allowed the court to punt on this one, he would've probably ended up with a majority for his position, with Kennedy and O'Connor probably joining him.

I suspect the majority felt that, since HAMDI had already been decided on the merits, a further reinforcement through this case was unnecessary. Stevens doesn't seem very happy about it, though.

Overall, the decisions amount to a complete trashing of the Bush Administration's position on these detentions, and opens the door for the Federal courts to involve themselves in these types of cases.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Wisdom of Michael Moore

Via WizbangBlog, I find this interview with Michael Moore. The Democratic Party is happily standing beside this guy? Words nearly fail me....

Regarding Jay Leno...

"He's banned me from his show for 10 years," contends Moore, who does a wickedly funny Leno impression. "Then, after my Oscar speech, I thought he went out of his way to incite violence against me by showing 'Michael Moore's house' being blown up. It was a frightening time for me -- my house in Michigan was vandalized. And he'd have James Woods and other guests on and incite them to criticize me."
...says Michael Moore--who once said the insurgents in Iraq were not "'the Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win"--about a late night comedy talk show.

Regarding Bill O'Reilly and Jay Leno...

According to Moore, Leno isn't the only lofty TV icon to freeze him out. He says the last time he was on "The O'Reilly Factor," he cut Bill O'Reilly to ribbons, and "Bill doesn't like that, so I got banned from the show." Of course, says Moore, "now that it will help his ratings, he wants me on."

The story isn't quite so simple, as I learned when I got O'Reilly on the phone. "Moore was never banned, and he's welcome to come on any time," he said. "I guess that's part of his charm. He's going to say bad things about me to get publicity.
[...]
The Leno camp also offered an account at odds with Moore's. They said that far from being banned, Moore was invited to appear after Cannes and was asked to be on the show twice in recent years, most recently after "Bowling for Columbine" won the Oscar for best documentary and Moore gave an inflammatory acceptance speech.

After hearing of Moore's charge about showing his house being blown up, Leno went back and watched the tape, which he said shows not a house but a shack in the desert being hit by a missile. Through his publicist, Leno said, "If the jokes bothered him, I wish Michael would have called. Or he could have come on the show. I was just telling jokes about what made headlines, and that included him."


Regarding oil...
Anyway, the support Bush and the Republicans feign for Israel is because Israel is near our oil. If the oil wasn't there, I bet those same Republicans wouldn't (care) about Israel.
Hard to falsify that agurment, isn't it? Oil there? Then it must be about oil. No oil there? Well, it's not far from oil, so it's all about oil.

Others have shredded Moore more effectively than I will. Fahrenheit 9/11? Clever deception, but probably good movie-making. If I see it, I'll let you know.

Mostly, though, I am simply aghast that honest, serious Democrats and liberals line up beside this fool.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Domestic Agendas

The liberal Brookings Institute puts together a bipartisan panel to evaluate the domestic and economic agendas of both Bush and Kerry. The results are not pretty...

In an effort to get to the substance of the presidential campaign, a Brookings panel this morning took a magnifying glass to the domestic policies of both Senator John Kerry and President George W. Bush. The panelists verdict: the health-care, education, and economic agendas of both candidates aimed for the political center, and the differences between the two were mostly minor and designed to appeal to the candidate's base. Panelists also agreed that flaws exists in the agendas of both candidates, with neither adequately addressing the larger issue of fiscal responsibility.

Although Bush and Kerry have different approaches to the economy, both Bush and Kerry would increase the federal deficit, according to the Urban Institute's Leonard Burman. Kerry wants to repeal tax cuts for people who earn more than $200,000—something Bush rejects—but supports Bush's middle class tax cuts.

"The two plans, in terms of their overall affect on the budget, are not that much more different," Burman said. "Basically, we're talking about a trillion dollars in additions to the deficit from the proposals of both camps."

Specific data points, excerpted from the report:

*** Kerry has proposed an education trust fund of $200 billion spread over ten years to pay for education reforms and new programs, but his call for $30 billion over ten years to increase teacher salaries would not result in serious raises, according to Brookings Senior Fellow Tom Loveless.

*** Jack Meyer, president of the Economic and Social Research Institute, said both Kerry and Bush needed to refine their health-care proposals. "The overall problem is that Senator Kerry and his advisors may not have always selected the best means to get to good ends," Meyer said. He noted that Kerry's plan to rearrange federal and state responsibility for health care coverage "is very complicated and it's going to set off some concern in the states." Meyer said Bush's $1,000 tax credit for individuals was too small. The President, Meyer said, should "scale up his set of plans, get a bigger vision, and a bolder plan."

*** Putting aside the particulars of each candidate's domestic agendas, panelists were close to unanimity in their contention that the United States' burgeoning federal deficits were not seriously being addressed by either candidate.

*** Brookings Senior Fellow Isabel Sawhill said that the Administration's budget is "based on unrealistic assumptions on the cost of war, the need to fix the alternative minimum tax, and other issues." In addition, Sawhill said Bush's continued push for tax cuts and his "miserable record on curbing spending" didn't bode well for deficit reduction.

She was critical of Kerry as well, noting that his revenue savings would likely be dwarfed by his proposed additional spending on both education ($200 billion) and health care ($700 billion). Moreover, Sawhill said, these price tags "are probably on the low side."
________________________________________________________________

Coming from a liberal think-tank, this is a fairly credible and damning evaluation of both candidates...but especially of John Kerry. Even supporters of Bush tend to admit he is acting, to say the least, fiscally irresponsible. Critics agree, though the two sides disagree on what exactly constitutes that irresponsibility.

However, for that criticism to matter, Bush's critics have to support a more fiscally responsible plan...and, it's fairly clear they do not. To put it another way, Democrats are not upset that the President is being fiscally irresponsible...they're upset that the Republican President is being fiscally irresponsible.

That's different, you know.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Warriors Left Behind

The blogosphere is replete with Worthy Causes, and I am hesitant to turn QandO into "PBS Pledge Week", since it's hard to say "yes" to one, but "no" to another.....

But, this tugs at my heart. It's a worthwhile cause.

I decided that the idea of an INDC Pledge Week to offset my bandwith cost is ridiculous, considering the fact that my high school friend Dan Eggers (see the post below) and many other Americans have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect us, and I've been wondering what more I can do. Every penny that's been given so far and every penny that you donate now will go to will go directly to a trust fund set up for Dan's children.
Bill posts about Dan Eggers here, and has pictures of his family and the military funeral here.

I've dropped 10 bucks in the jar. Go take a look at the family Dan Eggers left behind, and....well, you're under no obligation. Do what you feel is best.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:21 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Handover

I was going to praise the surprise handover, but Spoons already expressed my thoughts perfectly, writing that, while we went about the whole thing backwards...

...if we're going to do it this way, I think doing it by surprise two days early is brilliant.

Somewhere in Iraq, some terrorists' plans are royally messed up.

I'd still have preferred we follow the US model for building a democracy - i.e., turn over local control>>regional control>>national control...in that order - but we didn't. As long as we didn't, the early handover was a stroke of genius, in that it denies the insurgents a chance to make one last stand - to derail the handover.

One also has to like the attitude displayed by the new Iraqi Prime Minister...

Asked by reporters attending the ceremony about why the handover was stepped up by two days, an Iraqi official said Prime Minister Allawi requested it because "every day matters" and they were ready to crack down on violence.
Translation: the insurgents are put on notice...the gloves are coming off, and judgement day is coming. Or, so we hope. We can only wait and see....

UPDATE: Well, others don't think it's such a good move...

If you needed convincing that the situation has deteriorated and the Iraqis are far from prepared to assume sovereignty, you need look no further, the Bush Administration proved it today.
[...]
But even I didn't expect this. Not only did the Bush Administration sacrifice the political benefit of the transfer, they did themselves harm. Pushing it up two days and conducting it in a tiny room with few watching leaves the media with no relevant spin save "they were afraid of insurgent attacks". Stunningly, they essentially admitted that they can't protect the country and they've no control over the events.
If I understand Ezra correctly, he argues that the continued ability of free people to do bad things constitutes US inability to "protect the country" and "control" events.

Of course, to excercise that degree of "protection" and "control", we would have had to bomb the opposition into oblivion, and enforce the harshest of martial law. I doubt that's a position Ezra would advocate, so I'm left wondering why Ezra is suggesting that the presence of insurgents constitutes a failure of US policy.

Further, Ezra seems to look down on the idea of taking away an opportunity for the insurgents to grandstand. The point here is not to gain the "political benefit of the transfer", but to transfer power in an effective manner. I'm a bit surprised that the administration critics would complain that the Bush administration passed up a chance to grandstand politically, for a more peaceful, safe handover of power.

Actually, I'm not terribly surprised. For whatever reason, a great deal of the issues in the Iraq war are seen through the very narrow prism of partisan politics. Seen that way, everything anybody does can be criticized....you just have to look at it the right way, you know.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Early Sovereignty Handover fools terrorists

In a smart move, the sovereignty hand-over in Iraq was ceremonially completed two days before schedule:

The U.S.-led coalition transferred sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government two days early Monday in a surprise move that apparently caught insurgents off guard, averting a feared campaign of attacks to sabotage the highly symbolic step toward self-rule.

For all intents and purposes, that had already been done when the last of the ministeries was handed over last week. But as we all know, much of this is about symbolism, and there is no doubt in my mind that the terrorists were intent upon disrupting the symbolic handover.

The new interim government was sworn in six hours after the handover ceremony, which Western governments largely hailed as a necessary next step. The Arab world voiced cautious optimism, but maintained calls for the U.S. military to leave the country quickly.

Of course that's not going to happen ... not until it seems apparent that Iraq can handle its own security. And, as we heard today, NATO will now take a hand in that. James Lakely of the Washington Times reports that NATO has now come on board, at least partially, to help Iraq in an area of critical need .... security:

"We have decided today to offer NATO's assistance to the government of Iraq with the training of its security forces," said a draft declaration urging member nations "to contribute to the training of the Iraqi armed forces."

"We have asked the North Atlantic Council to develop on an urgent basis the modalities to implement this decision with the Iraqi interim government."
[...]
"If we do not tackle the problems where they emerge, they will end up on our doorstep," Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said, mirroring Mr. Bush's oft-repeated doctrine that the United States will battle terrorists as they gather in other countries rather than fight them on American streets.

Sounds pretty concilliatory and cooperative (and multilateral) if you ask me.

As for the new Iraqi goverment:

"This is a historical day," Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said during the ceremony. "We feel we are capable of controlling the security situation."

[...]

Allawi delivered a sweeping speech sketching out some of his goals for the country, urging people not to be afraid of the "outlaws" fighting against "Islam and Muslims," assuring them that "God is with us."

"I warn the forces of terror once again," he said "We will not forget who stood with us and against us in this crisis."

Now the real test begins. It is going to be bloody, no question, given the absolute disdain for innocent Iraqis with which the terrorists have prosecuted their agenda to this point. But it will be Iraqis now fighting in the counter-attack. The success or failure of a free Iraq now rests in the hands of the citizens of Iraq .... the question is will they step up to the challenge?

ADDENDUM (Dale):

I was as surprised as anyone else to get this special little present from the Bush Administration on my birthday (I hit the Big 4-0 today!) And, I'm still waiting for the inevitable negative response from the "But" Monkeys. "It's a very good step forward for the Bush Administration, but..."

Of course, that kind of partisan carping is inevitable, so we might as well ignore it.

Some interesting observations have come to mind in doing my reading this morning.

Iyad Illawi is saying some interesting things that bear out McQ and I on our opinions about how the Iraqis will be handling the security situation henceforth:

"We will be on the lookout for them and chase them and bring them to justice to get their fair punishment," he said.

In addition, he is calling them "infidels". That's an important word when used in an intra-Muslim context. It implies that they don't regard their enemies as fellow Muslims, which means they won't feel a lot of restraint about taking the fight to them. The Iraqis are a little PO'd about getting blown up by now, and I think they're keen to do a little blowing up of their own.

A lot of the critics are painting the situation in Iraq as a failure. There are insurgents still there and security in many places is fragile, so, we must be dropping the ball, big time. Of course, by that reasoning, every metropolitan police force is an abject failure, because, after all, we've had organized police forces for more than a century, and there's still crime in our cities. That kind of "reasoning" allows the critics to set the bar impossibly high, and it dismisses progress that doesn't meet their unreasonable expectations as abject failure. We need to recognize that as the pure partisan cant that it is.

Next, we have to accept that, whatever happens now, we will play an increasingly smaller role in events. It is the Iraqis' country, not our, and they have to build a society that suits them, and not us. This means that they are going to make some decisions we don't like. They may, in fact, tell us to sod off.

Good. That's precisely the thing we've been trying to give back to them after 30 years of Ba'athist terror.

We can't remake them into our own image, all we can do is give them a chance to rule their own affairs in a more consensual, democratic way. It sounds more and more like that is what the Iraqis are hungering for, and that they are, in the main, serious about getting it. If they do so, then we’ve done everything we possibly can.

Finally, the insurgents are being helpful, too, by shooting themselves in the foot. As an example, I would draw your attention to the fact that there is currently the matter of USMC Cpl Wassef Hassoun pending. Cpl Hassoun is a 24 year-old Muslim of Lebanese descent. It is important to note that being a fellow Muslim doesn't appear to be sparing him the prospect of a beheading at the hands of his captors. I can assure you that Iraqis will note this with keen interest. For all that the al-Qaida operatives go on about the sacred brotherhood of Islam, it's becoming increasingly clear in Iraq that being a Muslim doesn't go very far in sparing you when the al-Qaida boys strike their targets. And I strongly suspect that religious affinity won't spare the al-Qaida people when some Iraqi lance corporal has them centered in the peep sights.

So, now the Iraqis have their country back, legally at least. Now we'll see if they can keep it.

Posted by McQ at 08:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The tortured torture debate

Well, like so many other issues that screamed "scandal!" for awhile--in a suspiciously partisan-sounding voice--, the torture issues seems to have died down with the release of documents and internal memos related to the topic. The WaPo, and other media majors, led with the Justice Departments repudiation of the memo and forthcoming review of all legal advice from the Office of Legal Counsel.

The Washington Times, on the other hand, put the relevant matter up-front...

President Bush decided shortly after the September 11 attacks that terrorism detainees would be treated in accord with the Geneva Conventions, despite legal advice that this was not required, to adhere to "our values as a nation," according to a memo he wrote himself.
And really, when the question is whether torture was authorized by the Bush administration, shouldn't that--rather than Justice Department wrangling--be front and center?

Another point I find interesting: the press often--often necessarily--treats the government as more of an opponent, a wall to be torn down, than a factual entity with legitimate interests. The Times make a point I've seen made nowhere else...

The White House released the documents reluctantly, fearing that public disclosure of interrogation guidelines would make it easier for terrorism suspects to resist the techniques used to gain valuable intelligence.
The release was the right thing to do, under the circumstances, but it's worth remembering that the release of this kind of information gives our opponents an upper hand...an insight into exactly what we will - and will not - do. Specifically, they learned that we will go this far....
The memos showed that the Pentagon considered using four "aggressive tactics" to get information out of detainees that could save American lives:
•Convincing a detainee that severe pain or death were imminent for him or his family.
•Exposure to cold weather or water.
•Use of a wet towel or dripping water to induce a perception of suffocating.
•Mild, noninjurious physical contact, such as grabbing the arm, poking in the chest, or light shoving.

Only the last of the tactics was approved by Mr. Rumsfeld, and, after its use for a few weeks, he decided to end it, said a senior administration official.

...but no farther. And the willingness of, for example, Leahy and Kennedy to give too much weight--but no context--to memos merely considering the legal options, including torture, doesn't help.

So, do those measures constitute torture? The Geneva Convention doesn't really define torture. With a strict interpretation, they would seem to violate Article 17, though, which says:

"No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever."
Of course, using that strict interpretation, virtually anything, including normal daily conditions in your average US prison, would qualify as torture. So, it appears we - and the international community - need to define "torture" more specifically.

However, it also appears that the Bush administration stayed in the clear.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 27, 2004

The Sunday Puzzler

Rhetorical question?


BeenLaid.jpg

Posted by McQ at 07:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Breaking news?

We'll have to see ... but WorldNetDaily is reporting the following:

A day after the head of the CIA weapons inspection team warned that terrorists in Iraq are trying to get their hands on the Saddam Hussein regime's chemical weapons of mass destruction, Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin reports the first attack with these weapons of mass destruction has been launched inside Baghdad's Green Zone.

Few details are available, including any casualties associated with the attack using mustard gas.

The sources say the munitions were old, but still potentially lethal.

"I think it's safe to say our little friends know where the cache is now," said one source sardonically.

Posted by McQ at 02:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Petard ... as in "hoist upon"

Remember former Clinton State Department spokesman James P. Rubin ?

Sorta?

Remember when he said this about two years ago in the introduction to an hour-long PBS documentary called "Saddam's Ultimate Solution":

"Tonight, we examine the nature of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Ten years after the Gulf War and Saddam is still there and still continues to stockpile weapons of mass destruction. Now there are suggestions he is working with al Qaeda, which means the very terrorists who attacked the United States last September may now have access to chemical and biological weapons."

No? Well that's good, because James Rubin wants you to forget all about it.

That way he can do this:

Last week, appearing on a cable talk show as a senior adviser to the presidential campaign of John Kerry, Rubin sharply criticized the public official who has most forcefully asserted that these allegations need to be fully explored and investigated. Rubin went so far as to question Vice President Dick Cheney's "fitness for office."

Unfortunately for Jimmy, someone remembered and asked him about the documentary:

Rubin, asked about the documentary, then distanced himself from the film. "Was I the producer of the documentary?" he asked. "I was the host, producing--having a discussion about the documentary."

Ah, the Peter Arnett "Tailwind" defense. Yo, Mr. Rubin, your denial has a wiff of "tailwind' to it. It didn't work for Arnett and it damn sure doesn't work for you.

Posted by McQ at 02:08 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Kerry - Man of the People

I wonder if Paul Wellstone is turning over in his grave yet:

John Kerry may be only a candidate for president, but he and his entourage travel like kings. A month ago, his campaign began chartering a gleaming 757, packed with first-class seats, fine food, sleeping accommodations - even a stand-up bar. They hardly shy away from fancy hotels, like the Four Seasons in Palm Beach and the St. Regis in Los Angeles.

Why should he care ... its not his money. Imagine, if you will that same sort of attitude with access to the federal budget.

Posted by McQ at 01:51 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Payola and Plugola

I have to agree with Jeff Jarvis on the subject of the "scandal du jour" about CBS' potential conflict of interest, wherein they provided an Amazon link to Clinton's biography on their website, without disclosing that they will make some small profit off sales of the book when bought through their link. Jarvis calls it "the most crimson of herrings". Unfortunately, beyond that, he doesn't really explain why it's not a big deal. Instapundit, on the other hand, just doesn't seem to understand the issue at all. Neither properly state the terminology.

First, the law: Payola occurs when a broadcaster is paid--or given anything of value--for a broadcast, but does not disclose that the broadcast item has been sponsored. "Both the person making the payment and the recipient are obligated to disclose the payment so that the station may make the sponsorship identification announcement required..."

In this case, CBS was neither paid--nor alleged to have been paid--for the broadcast in question. So, payola is not in question.

Plugola, on the other hand, may be somewhat more directly related. Plugola is "the on-air promotion or "plugging" of goodsor services in which someone responsible for including the promotional materials in the broadcast has a financial interest".

An easier way to describe these is this:
Payola occurs when somebody gives you money to play a song/show/etc, without the sponsorship being mentioned.
Plugola occurs when you broadcast something of financial interest to yourself, without disclosing that interest.

Payola is a non-starter here, but plugola seems a bit closer to the mark, doesn't it? Well, not really. Or, at least, not unless the entire industry has been in ongoing violation of the plugola rules for the better part of a decade.

The fact is, this occurs every day. Reference these radio stations. It's widespread, and the fact that CBS does it with a book is neither new, nor unique. (See FoxNews channel's "What We're Reading" page, complete with Amazon sponsor links)

Not only is this not a story...it's common practice. CBS is in the clear.

UPDATE: Oliver Willis doesn't think there's much to it either, and sees VRWC leaders behind it....

UPDATE: (McQ) Two weeks ago Sean Hannity interviewed Newt Gingrich about his new book about the Civil War, "Grant Comes East". You can go here on the Hannity website to buy it. Payola or Plugola?

UPDATE (JON): RatherBiased is in high dudgeon about the whole thing, claiming it "is far from the truth" that CBS' Amazon link is similar to that of their rivals. Of course, they need to explain the literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of radio stations that do the same...as well as the FoxNews links we've shown above. Further, RatherBiased would need to show some incidence of FCC action against this practice to credibly claim that it is actual plugola.

It seems like, at this point, they're just struggling to keep their "gotcha" on the table.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:43 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

June 26, 2004

God bless 'em, every one ...

After that Abu Ghraib fiasco, people ask me why I'm still so optimistic about Iraq and Afghanistan. Its simple ... because for every loser we had at Abu Gharib, we have 100, maybe a 1000 young people like these:


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Spc. Williams with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, plays with students at the Kalkalan School in Kirkuk, Iraq, during a goodwill visit, May 18, 2004. DoD photo by Pfc. Elizabeth Erste, U.S. Army. (Released)


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Sgt. Mitchell Hull with the 55th Signal Company, Combat Camera, 21st Signal Brigade, films a group of students at Kalkalan school in Kirkuk, Iraq May 18, 2004. DoD photo by Pfc. Elizabeth Erste, U.S. Army. (Released)

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Sgt. Ulberg with 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, greets a young Iraqi boy during a goodwill visit to the village of Karacham, located outside the city of Dibis, Iraq, May 26, 2004. DoD photo by Pfc. Elizabeth Erste, U.S. Army. (Released)


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Staff Sgt. Thomas Hughes with the Herat Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), talks with a group of citizens outside a clinic in the village of Toraghandi, Afghanistan, May 18, 2004. The Herat PRT is assisting the Afghan government with rebuilding the western regional provinces of Afghanistan. DoD photo by Sgt. Christopher Kaufmann, U.S. Army. (Released)


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Spc. Amanda Adams, with the 428th Military Police Company, hugs a new friend, a young Iraqi boy, in Baghdad, Iraq, June 2, 2004. DoD photo by Senior Airman Jorge A. Rodriguez, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

Posted by McQ at 04:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Blog hopping

Whilst link hopping around the blogosphere I noticed:

Bithead gives us an update on "Err America".

Max Jacobs at Commons Sense & Wonder wonders why there are no Gay Pride parades in Arab countries?

For those of you in need of it, Quibbles-n-bits provides you with an updated drinker's dictionary. Where else would you lean that "Beervana" is the place between "buzzed and vomiting".

Claire at e-Clair is horrified to find she actually agrees with Michael Moore on something.

Ed Motzen notes at "Late Final" that the Kerry campaign has blasted the Bush Campaign for using Hitler in an ad. Apparently the Kerry folks didn't understand that the ad was a compedium of DEMOCRAT attack ads against Bush. Go read about it and watch it.

BoiFromTroy has decided that in order to validate Al Gore's "Digital Brown Shirt" assertion, the least he can do is organize it. Go see ... logo and everything.

Meryl Yourish is not particularly impressed with the new Coke, known as "C2".

Sam an Hammorabi bolg gives us a breakdown of the nationality of the terrorists killed in the last fight in Fallujah. Hint, they weren't Iraqis.

Joe Gandelman at Dean's World links to a series of pictures (and a story) you have to see to believe.

Enough.

Enjoy the day!

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

And the pendulum begins to swing?

With the official handover looming, some Iraqis become more vocal about the violence:

A claim of responsibility for Thursday's bombing spree in al-Zarqawi's name was posted on an Islamist Web site. U.S. and Iraqi officials also blame al-Zarqawi and his network for several other attacks in advance of Wednesday's scheduled handover of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government.

Some Muslim clerics who had been critical of the U.S. occupation railed against those who carried out Thursday's bloody attacks, The Associated Press reported.

"What sort of religion condones the killing of a Muslim by another Muslim?" asked Sheik Abdul-Ghafour al-Samarai, a member of an influential Sunni group, during a sermon in Baghdad's Umm al-Qura mosque. "We must unite and be heedful of those who want to drive a wedge among us under the cover of Islam."

Me thinks the heat is going to turn up in certain quarters. With clerics speaking out against the terrorists, it stands to reason that the possiblity of a backlash is there, where the Iraqis take matters in their own hands as they did against al-Sadar's militia.

Speaking of al-Sadar:

Shiite fighters loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced a cease-fire in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, scene of frequent clashes with U.S. troops.

A statement issued Friday said the cease-fire was called to show al-Sadr's interest in preventing "terrorists and saboteurs" from "causing overwhelming chaos or security disorder."

The statement said that anyone who violated the moratorium would be expelled from the militia and punished.

Another positive step.

This will be interesting to watch.

Posted by McQ at 09:28 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 25, 2004

Old Europe, New Europe

I stumbled upon an interesting foreign policy take by a fellow named Mohammed Al-Jassem (editor-in-chief of a Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Watan) in a back issue of the magazine "Foreign Policy". I'm not sure the link will do you any good since its a subscription service, but I've got the meat of it below. Al-Jassem make a very good observation when comparing "Old Europe" to "New Europe" and the resulting split in how each viewed the run up to Iraq. To me it was quite telling:

President George W. Bush’s foreign policy initiatives tend to be better received in the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe than in most West European countries. The roots of this generally benevolent attitude can be found in the region’s past. Many people in “New Europe” philosophically oppose the idea of war, but their experiences with the likes of Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu and Hungary’s Matyas Rakosi give them little patience for dictators such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein or Syria’s Bashar Assad. What Old Europeans perceive as American oversimplification of complex international issues, New Europeans tend to see as principled stances reminiscent of those that helped bring down the Soviet empire in the late 1980s.

And his point makes sense when one reviews the participants in the so-called "coalition of the willing". Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia and the Ukraine. 15 formerly communist eastern European states who, unlike the Old Europe to the west, seeemed to understand the importance of liberating Iraq.

The other point which bears repeating is that while Old Europe wanted to dismiss the US Iraqi policy as an 'oversimplification', New Europe saw it for what it was ... a stand on principle, based in self-defense and with a long term goal of defeating terrorism and stabalizing the region. Having suffered the effects of dictators in its recent past, its patience with them and their ilk is far less than the appeasing likes of Old Europe.

That's not to say they wouldn't favor diplomacy if diplomacy had a chance of success, but hard earned experience had taught them long ago that dictators are rarely amenable to diplomacy. Their support is based in the fact that totalitarian regimes are never good and this one was especially bad and had to go. Their recent experiences with just such regimes and their overthrow gave them the understanding of the reality, of what is required to do that, which Old Europe was (and is still) apparently unable or unwilling to grasp.

When West Europeans ridiculed former President Ronald Reagan’s description of the Soviet Union as the evil empire, East Europeans understood exactly what he was talking about. And today, even as West Europeans reject Bush’s remarks about the “axis of evil,” many East Europeans listen sympathetically. Although a large number of them may not favor military intervention as a means of bringing down brutal regimes, they don’t mind too much when force is used to achieve that goal.

Again, 15 former Eastern bloc European nations signed on as opposed to 7 nations of "Old Europe". This speaks volumes, at least to me, as to which nations have a grasp on the reality of the situation in the Middle East. By the way, for anyone in the anti-war crowd reading this and prone to mouthing the myth "the US is going it alone", that's 22 countries and counting. In case you're interested the total was 55. Hardly a unilateral venture.

East and Central Europeans also feel stronger loyalty toward the United States than do their Western counterparts. Not only do they remember the U.S. role in bringing down communism, but many also remain grateful to Washington for pushing NATO expansion to the east even as the European Union (EU) was hesitating on its own enlargement. Europeans in former communist countries are more open to the idea of exporting democracy to the Middle East—a concept some West European intelligentsia dismiss as unrealistic. Eastern Europe remembers that, during the communist era, many West Europeans did not believe their neighbors were mature enough to have democratic societies, while Americans “naively” believed that freedom and democracy were universally valid aspirations.

You might recall the point in the article "Why the left shares some of the blame for "why they hate us" which Bernard Lewis makes about the attitude and approach that in the past has so angered the people of the middle east. Al-Jassem makes precisely the same point, except he makes it about the former Eastern bloc countries.

Unlike Old Europe, New Europe rejects the "attitude and approach" which says it can't be done. It rejects the argument that the region has no history or desire or ability to embrace democracy. They have no problem believing what Old Europe characterizes as the "naive" American nonsense disguised as foreign policy which believes it can succeed in bringing freedom to Iraq and the Middle East. After all, New Europe has been the beneficiary of such American "naivete" in the past. Instead of the sniffing condescension and inaction of Old Europe, New Europe brings success fueled optimism to the venture as does the US.

Perhaps New Europe can, in the next few years, pass along the benefit of its hard won experience to the arrogant and self-absorbed states of Old Europe. It would certainly be a boon for the future of the EU.

Posted by McQ at 07:10 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Talking the talk

Well, they're talking the talk, it still remains to be seen as to whether they can walk the walk, but I do think they've got the right attitude:

In Baghdad, the country's new leadership, due to assume sovereignty in five days, promised stern action against the insurgents, claiming much of the unrest was directed by foreigners but offering no proof.

``Our culture, our customs have been destroyed,'' interim Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan said. ``The time has come for a showdown.''

As we've mentioned here countless times, after June 30th, things are going to be done by the Iraqi government that we didn't dare do.

As the situation worsened, Iraq's interim vice president warned that a drastic deterioration in the country's security could result in the implementation of emergency measures or martial law - however undesirable that may be in a democratic society.

``Announcing emergency laws or martial law depends on the nature of the situation. In normal situations, there is clearly no need for that (step),'' Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite and member of the Islamic Dawa Party, told The Associated Press in an interview.

``But in cases of excess challenges, emergency laws have their place,'' he said, adding that any such laws would fall within a ``democratic framework that respects the rights of Iraqis.''

It'll be interesting to see how the Iraqis choose to confront the terrorists when the ball is completely in their court. My guess is we'll see a marked change in attitude and success against the terrorists. It has to do with having a vested interest, being part of the culture and wanting peace (and realizing that the only way it will happen is to participate). It may get some of the more reticent Iraqis off the fence and committed to seeing an end to the violence and chaos.

On Thursday, the coalition turned over the last 11 government ministries to Iraqi officials.

During the handover ceremony, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said the attacks were ``only acts of disturbances conducted by cowards'' meant ``to foil the democratic process.''

Yup ... now do something about it so they don't succeed in foiling it.

Posted by McQ at 04:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Book Review

Science/Hard SF writer James Hogan has a new book out, Kicking the Sacred Cow, and it's a doozy.

The central point Hogan attempts to make--and he makes it well--that science is becoming increasingly hidebound. Rather than being an open-minded search for knowledge, he presents a mass of evidence that indicates that the scientific community is transforming itself into an ecclesiastical priesthood whose main criterion for success and recognition is the uncritical acceptance of the received wisdom of the elders.

Hogan believes that the pervasive scope of government-related funding of Big Science is corrupting. Scientists who question the scientific/political status quo find their grants terminated, their access to peer-reviewed publication closed, and their tenure denied. Scientists are increasingly afraid to question the status quo, if for no other reason than to do so is a near guarantee of government grant money drying up.

Hogan is troubled not only by the fact that Big Science increasingly refuses to listen to innovative ideas that threaten the status quo, but that the methods used by its practitioners to heap scorn on views that deviate from the mainstream consist of increasingly dishonest or ad hominem attacks, rather than unbiased reference to the scientific evidence.

To illustrate this, Hogan takes a tour through every major idea current with Big Science, and proceeds to gleefully present alternatives that the scientific community would prefer you not hear. By the end of the book, he leaves no stone unturned, and, by turns critical, humorous, and bitingly sarcastic, Hogan highlights the alternative theories. By the end of the book, practically no discipline is spared.

Hogan lists the flaws in the currently accepted neo-Darwinist evolutionary account. He taunts the Einsteinian physics community with intriguing hints about the failures of both General and Special relativity, and the existence of privileged frames of reference. He presents evidence of electromagnetic, rather than gravitic explanations in astronomy and cosmology. He presents the evidence for Velikovsky's catastrophist solar system history. He discusses the history and science behind the DDT ban, global warming, and the worldwide AIDS crisis.

His point is not that the alternative theories he presents are necessarily true--though he is careful to present the scientific evidence for them--but to point out the increasingly hidebound and intolerant attitude of Big Science to being questioned skeptically, even by its most respected members.

As he quotes one acquaintance, a physicist as telling him, "You don't understand. Einstein can't be wrong." That, notes Hogan, is the attitude of an acolyte, not a scientist. Or, at least, the attitude of scientist who knows what side of the bread his tenure, grant funding, and publication opportunities are buttered on.

Hogan argues that the single most useful trait of real science is its willingness to skeptically question its most closely-held beliefs, and to reject theories, no matter how popular or venerable, if other, less popular theories explain the facts better and more simply. He argues that these are the traits that have made science so phenomenally central to Western progress for the past two centuries. If science devolves into a priesthood constrained by the received wisdom of the past, then its usefulness will end, leaving us all the poorer for it.

Kicking the Sacred Cow, is well-written, informative, and extremely accessible to the average reader. For those who are interested in the state of science--or the future of human progress--this book is a must-read.

Posted by Dale Franks at 03:07 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Why the left shares some of the blame for "why they hate us"

Since I touched on it yesterday, I wanted to take an opportunity to address in more detail the question which constantly seems to plague the left concerning Islam in general and the people of the Middle East in particular ... why do they hate us?

My guess is they'd never answer: "partially because of the left in the west".

They'd be incorrect.

I'm reading a very interesting book at the moment: "The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror" by Bernard Lewis. Lewis is a long-time observer and recognized scholar when it comes to Arab affairs and Islam (note: not all of Islam is Arab, but Lewis's book is about all of Islam, from Algeria to Indonesia).

Lewis addresses the "hate" issue in his book and his argument makes some sense. Yes, there's jealousy, there's an inferiority complex, there's even the religious difference, but that only addresses segments of the issue. However, one of the fundamental reasons for the hate in the "Arab Street" or "Islamic Street" if you prefer, is the perception of the West's callous disregard for the rights of the people of Islam, if disregarding them advances the cause of the West. And, even if not true, it appears, to the people of Islam, based on this perception, that they are considered to be inferior beings not necessarily worthy of help (or rights).

The most flagrant violations of civil rights, political freedom, even human decency are disregarded or glossed over, and crimes against humanity, which in a European or American country would evoke a storm of outrage, are seen as normal and even acceptable."

You certainly can't argue that the West, both left and right, has evinced much outrage over the atrocities of dictators in the middle east if it was to their advantage to have that dictator in power. Both sides in this country have turned a blind eye at times. At least until Iraq.

We all know about the treatment of the Kurds by Iraq under Saddam. Cruel acts of genocide. It wasn't until recently that we became "outraged" about that. Another example took place in Syria where Hafiz al-Assad massacred between 10,000 and 25,000 of his own people in an uprising of the Muslim Brothers in Hama in 1982. Nary a ripple of dissent from the West. No mighty condemnation. No rattling of sabres. No hue and cry about human rights. It was mostly ignored. Assad was later visited 30 times by the American Secretaries of State under 3 successive administrations after that, never once having to answer for Hama, and even once by an American president (Clinton).

Middle Easterners increasingly complain that the West judges them by a different and lower standards than it does Europeans and Americans, both in what is expected of them and what they may expect, in terms of their economic well-being and their political freedom. They assert that Western spokesmen repeatedly overlook or even defend actions and support rulers that they would not tolerate in thier own countries.

Hard to argue the point, given the history of dictators we and the rest of the West have tolerated. The question has to do, then, not with "if" we've done that - we certainly have - but with "why" we've done that? Have we had lowered expectations and a seemingly lower status for the people of Islam based on those lower expectations? Or have we, at a minimum, given that perception?

As Lewis notes:

The underlying assumption in all of this is that these people are incapable of running a democratic society and have neither concern nor capacity for human decency. They will in any case be governed by corrupt despotisms. It is not the West's business to correct them, still less to change them, but merely to ensure that the despots are friendly rather than hostile to Western interests. In this perspective it is dangerous to tamper with the existing order and those who seek better lives for themselves and their countrymen are disparaged, often actively discouraged. It is simpler, cheaper and safer to replace a troublesome tyrant with an amenable tyrant, rather than face the unpredictable hazards of regime change, especially of change brought about by the will of the people expressed in a free elections."

That is, until now ... with Iraq, that paradigm has been irrevocably changed. And its been changed by the right in this country. The West, in the guise of the US, is facing the "unpredictable hazards of regime change" and "the will of the people expressed in free elections".

But consider the quoted paragraph. Doesn't it essentially express the argument (and attitude) of the left here in the US and those in Europe? In the UN? Among some in NATO?

Saddam wasn't an imminent threat. He posed no danger to the US. If the people of Iraq are tired of him, let them take care of their problem. Killing his own people, yes, that's terrible, but that's their problem, not ours. Let's live with the "devil-we-know" instead of creating a new devil.

That's the attitude and approach. Stay out, let Arabs take care of Arabs. We shouldn't intervene. It is on this attitude and approach that Lewis drops the hammer:

"This approach commands some support in both diplomatic and academic circles in the United States and rather more widely in Europe. Arab rulers are thus able to slaughter tens of thousands of their people, as in Syria and Algeria, or hundreds of thousands, as in Iraq and Sudan, to deprive men of most and women of all civil rights, and to indoctrinate children in their schools with bigotry and hatred against others, without incuring any significant protest from liberal media and institutions in the west, still less any hint of punishments such as boycotts, divestment, or indictment in Brussels. This so-to-speak diplomatic attitude toward Arab governments has in reality been profoundly harmful to the Arab peoples, a fact of which they are becoming painfully aware." [emphasis mine]

Live and let live (or die, or indoctrinate, or subjugate). No calls by the left for women's rights for Arab women. None of our business they scream. No calls from the left to boycott, embargo, divest or for trade sanctions because of human rights violations in Arab lands (but they will squall about "No War for Oil"). Handle it through the UN and talk it to death. Diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy.

In the meantime another family is fed through the shredder.

Why do they hate us?

Because of the perceived application of a double standard. And that standard was forged in the ideology of the left. Countless editorials from liberal columnists have told us we shouldn't be there, even if Saddam was a cruel and inhuman tyrant. Numberless liberal pundits have opined that we should have done more with the UN and sanctions, that regime change was not the answer. Tons of politicians on the left have stated that containment was the proper way to handle Iraq.

All of this with seeming total disregard for the human tragedy that was Iraq, thereby validating the Arab street's perception of the West and its attitude. The Arab street feels we apply a double standard and look at them as inferiors, not worthy of rescue, not worthy of rights, not worthy of the blood or treasure to rescue them from tyranny.

Obviously the right in this country, which has argued that Iraq is a just war if for nothing more than the human rights violations, can claim the moral high ground on this one.

And the left? It can begin to accept responsbility for a good portion of the hate the people of the Middle East feel toward the West based on the "approach" and "attitude" they've advocated during this conflict as outlined above by Lewis.

Maybe its time for the self-declared champions of "human rights" to do a little soul searching.

Posted by McQ at 02:29 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Courage of Their Convictions

Al Gore's speech yesterday makes several charges against George W Bush. Excuse the rather lengthy excerpting of the charges below, but it's important to review them before making my point.

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." He did not honor the advice, experience and judgment of our military leaders in designing his invasion of Iraq...

From its earliest days in power, this administration sought to radically destroy the foreign policy consensus that had guided America since the end of World War II. The long successful strategy of containment was abandoned in favor of the new strategy of "preemption."

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...

We are less safe because of his policies. He has created more anger and righteous indignation against us as Americans than any leader of our country in the 228 years of our existence as a nation because of his attitude of contempt for any person, institution or nation who disagrees with him.

He has exposed Americans abroad and Americans in every U.S. town and city to a greater danger of attack by terrorists because of his arrogance, willfulness, and bungling at stirring up hornet's nests that pose no threat whatsoever to us...And by pursuing policies that have resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children, all of it done in our name...

The war plan was incompetent in its rejection of the advice from military professionals and the analysis of the intelligence was incompetent in its conclusion that our soldiers would be welcomed with garlands of flowers and cheering crowds...

There was also in Rumsfeld's planning a failure to provide security for nuclear materials, and to prevent widespread lawlessness and looting...

The President convinced a majority of the country that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11th. But in truth he had nothing whatsoever to do with it. The President convinced the country with a mixture of forged documents and blatantly false assertions that Saddam was in league with al-Qaida, and that he was "indistinguishable" from Osama bin Laden...

They have launched an unprecedented assault on civil liberties, on the right of the courts to review their actions, on the right of the Congress to have information to how they are spending the public's money and the right of the news media to have information about the policies they are pursuing...

Moreover, the administration has also set up the men and women of our own armed forces for payback the next time they are held as prisoners. And for that, this administration should pay a very high price. One of the most tragic consequences of these official crimes is that it will be very hard for any of us as Americans at least for a very long time to effectively stand up for human rights elsewhere and criticize other governments, when our policies have resulted in our soldiers behaving so monstrously...

OK, so there's the Gore position, and one that pretty well encapsulates the Democratic Party's list of charges against the President. Of course, many Democrats think far worse, as the list above doesn't include the Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11 charges that so many Democratic politicians thought were so important to talk about after the Washington DC premier two days ago.

I'm not particularly interested in refuting these charges for now. It's just important to know what the charges are, not to try and determine the truth of them.

So, how many articles of impeachment do you think that would come out to? I count at least 6:

1) The president intentionally deceived both the American people and their elected representatives when taking the nation to war.

2) He lied to Congress and the American people about Iraq's WMD programs.

3) He has abused executive power by a de facto elimination of civil rights for some Americans, and an extra-Constitutional exercise of his police powers.

4) He has implemented a policy that explicitly calls for the torture of prisoners of war, in violation of the United States' treaty commitments vis a vis the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Armed Conflict.

5) He has pursued an illegal and immoral military policy that has resulted in the death of thousands of innocent civilians.

6) His incompetent war leadership has caused incalculable damage to our military, and resulted in the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of soldiers.

So, if the president has actually done all those things, why don't the Democrats begin putting forth articles of Impeachment in the house, in order to make the president face up to the high crimes and misdemeanors these charges represent? After all, these are not inconsequential charges. They are, if true, something completely different that partisan disagreement.

The Democrats are alleging that the President is subverting the Constitution, engaging in massive, extra-Constitutional violations of civil rights, waging a war of aggression, and generally destroying the world-wide credibility of the United States of America, and, by so doing, actively harming the safety and security of the nation and its citizens.

So, if they really believe these things to be true, why isn't Nancy Pelosi introducing Articles of Impeachment on the House floor every business day? And, since she is not doing so, nor does she apparently have any plans ever to do so, what does that say about the factual basis for these charges?

The problem with starting impeachment proceedings is that would require hearings. Those hearings, being aired every day, would make apparent the factual basis--or lack thereof--for these charges readily apparent.

The Democrats are engaged in nothing more than a cynically vicious and partisan strategy, whereby they get to accuse the president of impeachable offenses of the grossest sort, but conveniently forego having to prove any of it factually by ensuring it stays in the political, rather than judicial arena.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:09 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Truth or agitprop?

Bill O'Reilly offers an interesting evolution of "Fahrenheit 911" (or as one wag tagged it, "Fraudenheit 911") since Cannes:

On June 9th it was "the truth":

"We want the word out. Any attempts to libel me will be met by force. The most important thing we have is the truth on our side. If they persist in telling lies, then I'll take them to court."

Of course Christopher Hitchens has welcomed this little challenge with open arms.

By June 20th, it had "evolved" into an "op/ed" piece:

"(The movie) is an op-ed piece. It's my opinion about the last four years of the Bush administration. And what's what I call it. I'm not trying to pretend that this is some sort of, you know, fair and balanced work of journalism."

Ah ... but aren't op/ed pieces at least based in truth and fact? Well in this world they are. No report how that works in Moore's world.

A.O. Scott of the NY Times rides to the rescue and helps it "evolve" again:

"It might more accurately be said to resemble an editorial cartoon ..."

Not to be outdone, LA Times critic Kenneth Turan helped it "evolve" one more time:

"It is propaganda, no doubt about it, but propaganda is most effective when it has elements of truth ... "

No report on what constitutes the "elements" of truth to which Turan was alluding.

From "da truth" to "an op/ed" to and "editorial cartoon" to "propaganda".

Not exactly something I'm willing to spend my hard earned money on. If I want propaganda, I can watch political ads for free. But rest assured, the left, hungering for "red meat" of any kind (I mean they have Kerry for a candidate, have a little compassion) will make Michael Moore's propaganda at least a financial success.

Such is life in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Posted by McQ at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

He knows the words, but they mean nothing to him...

From the Al Gore speech...

Our ingrained American distrust of concentrated power has very little to do with the character or persona of the individual who wields that power. It is the power itself that must be constrained, checked, dispersed and carefully balanced, in order to ensure the survival of freedom. In addition, our founders taught us that public fear is the most dangerous enemy of democracy because under the right circumstances it can trigger the temptation of those who govern themselves to surrender that power to someone who promises strength and offers safety, security and freedom from fear.

They're punks, who would feed your ass into a shredder for "society", as soon as they got their hands on the machine that they've just woken up to whining about since January of 2001. --Billy Beck

UPDATE: Added to the (forthcoming) Beltway Traffic Jam

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Supply and Demand, even in health care

Matt Yglesias makes a good rhetorical, but poor economic, point...

The right, meanwhile, increasingly seems to be populated by people who get a headache when they try and think seriously about the health care issue and, therefore, are eager to embrace excuses for not discussing it.
The left, meanwhile, increasingly seems to be populated by people who get a headache when they try and think seriously about the ever-present economic problem of how scarce resources are allocated and, therefore, are eager to "solve" it by fiat.

Actually, Matt understands this issue perfectly well, as he has criticised rent control - another egregious example of wrong-headed cost-shifting in the name of "the public good".

Now, it may be true that socialized medicine will, in some ways, be better than what we have now...but it doesn't require a fistful of Tylenol to understand that socialized medicine may simply be the better of two bad ideas. And there are better ideas out there.

Unfortunately, both parties increasingly seem to be populated by people who get a headache when they try and think seriously about the health care issue and, therefore, are eager to embrace excuses for not discussing it. Or, at least, pretending our only options are "what we have now" and "socialized medicine".

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Really? Isn't that what the administration's been saying?

This has certainly gotten a lot of coverage, hasn't it?

An apparently authentic document from Saddam Hussein's regime confirms cooperation between Iraq and Osama bin Laden, the New York Times reported Friday.

The Iraqi document, obtained by the newspaper several weeks ago and described by U.S. officials as genuine, describes contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and bin Laden's al-Qaida when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990s.

Specifically, the documents describe Baghdad agreeing to an al-Qaida request to rebroadcast anti-Saudi sermons across Iraq.

And of course if genuine, as it is claimed, it sort of puts "nonsense" to this:

Last week, the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington concluded contacts between Baghdad and al-Qaida had not demonstrated "a collaborative relationship" between the two parties. It is not known whether the commission had access to these documents.

Of course, full disclosure requires you know this:

The U.S. officials who provided the document to the newspaper confirmed they had obtained it from the Iraqi National Congress, which has recently fallen out of favor in Washington.

But it ought to be easy enough to check out ... did Iraq "rebroadcast anti-Saudi sermons across Iraq" as requested by bin Laden?

UPDATE (JON): The NYT story can be found here.
OTB has a good round-up of information on this, too.
Tom Maguire says it all in his post title: "Row, Row, Row It Back".
Jeff Goldstein says it all, too, in his post title....but differently:

New York Times: "Okay, so there is a document proving ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda, but the document doesn't really prove prove those ties -- or rather, it does prove prove ties...
...but it doesn't exactly prove prove that Bin Laden and Saddam ordered a single milkshake and two spoons, if you catch our drift."
Captain Ed writes...
...the Times notes that bin Laden requested coordination on attacks against foreign forces in Saudi Arabia -- American forces -- and that there is "no indication" that the Iraqis agreed to the proposal. Apparently, there is no indication they refused, either; otherwise, the Times would have trumpeted that in the lead paragraph. However, in 1999, Saddam felt close enough to bin Laden, a man that the Times has maintained considered Hussein an infidel unworthy of association, to offer him asylum in the face of American opposition, according to this CNN report from February 1999.
NoMoreMisterNiceGuy Blog...
Just what the 9/11 Commission said -- no collaboration on terrorism, attempts to forge a real working relationship rebuffed.
As with McQ, I make no predictions about the reliability of anything passed through the INC, but if we assume arguendo that it is, I'd point out that it confirms the primary argument put forth by the Bush administration in regards to Iraq and Al Qaeda. Namely, that we could not afford to wait in the naive hope that Iraq and Al Qaeda would never collaborate.

Posted by McQ at 08:45 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

F-Bombs away....

Atrios is upset about bad language...

"Go Fuck Yourself"

Our Vice President is all class.
...as Dennis Prager says:

As for the liberals who think that using the f-word in public is no big deal, it is good to have them say so. Anything that clarifies the massive values-differences between the Left and the Right is helpful. We who are not on the Left think public cursing is a big deal, because we believe that people can pollute their soul, their character, and, yes, their society, just as they can pollute their rivers and their air and their lungs.
Indeed.
So says Atrios.

And so we're perfectly clear, that's the same Atrios who has said "Fuck you, Judy Woodruff". This is also the same Atrios who called Instapundit "the moronic brownshirt fuck".

Yeah, that Atrios. He's all class.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:17 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

"How'd a nice guy like me make so many enemies?"

A few weeks back, Kevin Aylward and Oliver had a disagreement on whether "Bush-hatred" had reached the levels of "Clinton-hatred". Kevin thought it had, Oliver...didn't. Kevin listed numerous claims against Bush that were similar to Republican claims against Clinton, but Oliver--fairly, I think--rejected that because the claims against Clinton had been made by actual Congressmen.

However, I think the Democrats have essentially tied up the game in one fell swoop...

Cheered by supporters, Michael Moore previewed his Bush-bashing documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11," before a mostly Democratic audience in the nation's capital Wednesday night. Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe said he thought the film would play an important role in this election year.

Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa implored all Americans to see the film: "It's important for the American people to understand what has gone on before, what led us to this point, and to see it sort of in its unvarnished presentation, which Michael Moore has done."

Lovely. This demagoguery is promoted by the same people--Tom Daschle--who used to say that demonizing attacks like this caused "the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically, on our families and on us, in a way that's very disconcerting."

But, presumably, he's ok with it now.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

(Not so) Instant Karma's gonna get ya

Jesse Taylor is upset about Senate Republicans maneuvering votes to to screw over John Kerry...

So, now you can just move around Senate votes to prevent the wrong Senators from voting for them. I have no problem with the normal congressional tinkering and rescheduling that goes on to shore up votes, etc. But, in this little forgotten corner of reality called "sanity" I'm trying to spruce up over here, don't you lose any credibility as a critic when you prevent someone from doing the thing you're mad at them for not doing?

In short, didn't they just shoot themselves in the foot by giving Kerry a ready-made excuse and Senate Democrats a ready-made line of attack? Has the giant collective Capitol Hill Republican brain been killed by years of steady movement conservative booze?

No, Jesse, those elephants just have long memories....
Democrats successfully used parliamentary tactics in 1996 to help derail then-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole's candidacy for the White House and in the process forced the Kansas Republican to resign his seat - a fact that Republicans have never forgotten.
I will eagerly await a follow-up post condemning the Democrats for the same. For the record, I find both distasteful misuses of the responsibility of governance. But I'm not surprised.

(link via the increasingly invaluable Robert Tagorda)

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 24, 2004

Bad Medicine

The last 24 hours or so have been a bit hectic for me. My mother has had a medical emergency.

Yesterday afternoon, she went to a doctor to get a nerve block injection in her shoulder for chronic pain. As it happened, the doctor made a tiny little mistake. Apparently, he missed with the needle, and punctured her lung. At first he sent her home. But the pain got so bad, and her breathing got so short, she had to go to the hospital, where she learned that her lung had collapsed. So, she had to go into surgery last night at about midnight to place a chest tube in.

She'll be in the hospital for the next few days. She's still in a lot of pain, what with a plastic tube running through her chest wall, but it appears she'll be OK.

We are, needless to say, rather unhappy with the doctor at the moment, though...

Posted by Dale Franks at 08:05 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Iraqi Soldier saves Marine

As I've mentioned, I'm a sucker for stories about soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen ... and especially ones which tell about their bravery in action. This one from National Review, however, is particularly heartning:

“I was walking beside the Marine, then we heard gunfire, and I saw that the American Marine was shot. Then I realized it was just me and him, so I quickly started shooting at the enemy." — Private Imad Abid Zeid Jassim, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps

Portions of Iraqi Private Imad Abid Zeid Jassim's citation for bravery reads: "...[A]s the firefight ensued, under a hail of enemy fire that was accurately targeted on the wounded [U.S.] Marine, and without regard for his own safety, Private Imad Jassim moved forward into the enemy fire and came to the aid of the wounded Marine. He dragged the wounded Marine out of the line of fire to a covered and concealed position...reengaged the enemy...aggressively pushed forward...dislodged the enemy fighters.... His efforts clearly saved the life of the Marine...."

Read the whole thing if you have a moment because it covers the entire engagement and how well the ICDC troops handled it. This is so critical to the success of a free Iraq its hard to over state it. If they can't handle their own security, they're doomed.

I agree with Dale here ... I think, upon the handover of sovereignty in the next few days, we're going to see the end of "Mr. Nice Guy" as the Iraqis take charge of their own destiny. It may, in some cases, be tough to watch. I don't think they'll be quite as worried about "hearts and minds" as we are. Most likely they'll have their failures and mistakes .... in fact I can guarantee them. But I'm also optomistic that when the bit is in their teeth, they'll take it and run with it.

If they don't, the violence will get worse, not better .... and I think they know that.

Posted by McQ at 07:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

War of Attrition

Ralph Peters has a fascinating article in the summer issue of Parameters, the quarterly journal of the US Army War college.

He writes that, even though the idea of a "war of attrition" brings to mind the bloody stalemates of WWI, the fact is that nothing says wars of attrition have to be fair, and, besides, every war is a war of attrition.

Posted by Dale Franks at 07:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Silence on Darfur and the Limits of American Power

Robert Lane Green laments in The New Republic that apparent genocide in the Sudan raises scarcely a ripple in international politics. He notes with interest that it seems not to be so much because the victims are non-whites, but rather that it's because the perpetrators are.

Frankly, this is a point that too few on the Left wish to discuss. For decades now, the Left--often rabidly pro-Third World, has argued that the problems in, say Africa, are the results of Colonial mismanagement and mistreatment. Now, however, after 40+ years of independence from colonialism, that excuse seems to be getting a bit threadbare. The crimes of white colonialism can't really be an excuse in perpetuum for everything that goes south in Africa can it?

But, if it isn't, the Left faces a unique problem. After a half-century in which every problem with Africa has been attributed to the victimhood of Africans, they must find some way of accepting that Third Worlders must also be seen as perpetrators of much evil. This seems to be too much of a hurdle to clear.

Talk about the "soft bigotry of low expectations"...

Another problem, though, is one that Jim Hoagland highlights, if rather sloppily, in his Washington Post column today.

To put Hoagland's point simply, one lesson taught by the invasion of Iraq, for better or worse, is that things don't always go well. Our soldiers will die. The missions will be difficult, and they will require much intestinal fortitude, both politically, and in terms of public support, to complete.

We have, I think, been misled--although not, I hasten to point out, intentionally--into thinking that military campaigns should be bloodless, video-game sorts of affairs, and that each death of a US soldier should be cause for a national re-examination of why we are fighting. IF too many soldiers are killed, then we must be doing something wrong, we must be on the edge of failure.

In World War I, during the battle of The Somme, the British army lost 20,000 soldiers in a single day of fighting. Today, the political repercussions for an American administration that lost so many soldiers would be horrific.

We have, we are told, the finest fighting force in the history of the world. That is absolutely true, and there isn't a nation in the world that could oppose us on the battlefield. But once major combat operations have ceased, your ability to win through combat power alone is almost completely evaporated. It is politically impossible to unleash the full power of our combat forces against a restive native population.

The equation changes from asking how many divisions we need to break an enemy opposing force--which may actually be fairly small number--to how many MPs we need on each street corner to ensure peace and security on that corner, multiplied by the number of street corners in the country.

The latter number may be fairly large, and, because the forces are so small individually, posted in penny-packets throughout the country, they are vulnerable to constant casualties through harassing attacks in a way that an organized combat formation is not. Similarly, they are limited in their ability to bring power to bear against such harassment.

So, the cost of peacekeeping may, in fact, be quite a bit higher than any initial military intervention.

Our experience with Germany and Japan lead us to assume that our enemies, once they have been fairly beaten on the battlefield, will supinely accept our occupation once combat has ended. But that ignores the fact that the reason Germany and Japan were so quiescent, was because we had spent the previous four years bombing their civilian populations so heavily that, if we didn't manage to bomb them back to the Stone Age, we at least had bombed them back to the Age of Reason.

In general, though, the end of war usually results not in peaceful occupation, but in chaos as opposing groups attempt to fill the power vacuum left in the aftermath of overthrowing the previous political powers through military force. That is precisely the current situation now in Iraq, with daily chaos as the Islamofascists attempt to destabilize the interim government for political purposes of obtaining power there themselves.

One lesson of Iraq is that war, despite recent examples to the contrary, is usually messy, bloody, and confusing. Even worse, there are few obviously right answers for arriving at an optimal solution. No matter how confident you are in your planning, or how careful your execution, you are opposed by forces that are equally intelligent, knowledgeable about their own capabilities, and determined to defeat your plans.

That kind of messiness upsets the electorate, which has come to expect a Gulf War I-style, 96-hour military campaign with minimal casualties, followed by bringing everybody home to march in parades with confetti falling and bright yellow ribbons streaming in the wind.

But military intervention in places like Kosovo, Darfur, Rwanda, or any of a dozen other places, would imply precisely that kind of messiness.

It is much easier, therefore, for our political leaders to avoid such interventions like the plague, because every single one of them, as George W. Bush is learning, requires that they bet their political future on the outcome.

Posted by Dale Franks at 06:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Signs of Desperation

By now, I expect you'll have heard of the hideous attacks all over Iraq today.

This shouldn't be an excuse to go wobbly. This type of escalating violence was perfectly predictable, and, in fact, was predicted. Iraq is a high-stakes game for Zarqawi and his minions, just as it is for us. But it seems to me that the risks are greater for him.

By attacking Iraqis, rather than coalition forces, he faces a completely different dynamic. If he attacks Americans, the most likely Iraqi reaction is, "Well, that's the Americans' problem, not ours." By attacking Iraqis, he forces them to see that he is the enemy of Iraq at least as much as he is the enemy of America.

One of the reasons many Iraqis are angry at us is because we can't seem to prevent Zarqawi from blowing stuff up. They feel we aren't forcing the security issue with enough seriousness. One doubts the Iraqi government will take the same path.

I suspect that, after the 30 June handover, Iraqis won't hesitate to blow up mosques, flatten city blocks, or do anything else they think necessary to root these guys out and kill them. They will lack a certain restraint that we seem to feel necessary.

So, what Zarqawi has to accomplish is to so destabilize the interim government that Iraq fragments into Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurdish mini-states. If that happens, then his people can concentrate on one portion of the country at a time. Alternatively, he may hope, or believe that the Iraqis, despite coming out of a three-decade nightmare under Saddam Hussein, will more or less passively accept a Wahabbist nightmare as Saddam's replacement.

If, however, neither of those things happen, he runs the very real risk of a seriously PO'd Iraqi security force hunting his people down like animals, and doing whatever is necessary to bring them to justice, or, as W so delicately once put it, "bring justice to them".

It's an all or nothing game for Zarqawi at this point, so his only option is to go for broke. The trouble with going for broke, however, is that if you don't win, you have very little left to use as a safety net when it all comes crashing down about your ears.

Posted by Dale Franks at 05:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A National Disgrace?

What's the old saying about a woman scorned? Ask Gennifer Flowers:

"I have not yet read Mr Clinton's book but you can bet that my Judicial Watch attorneys will," Flowers said in a statement issued by Judicial Watch - a Washington-based conservative court and government watchdog.

"I have learned that Bill Clinton has repeated his lies about me and I am sickened by his continued disregard for the truth," Flowers said. "Bill Clinton pretends to be contrite but he continues to bear false witness against his neighbour. He is a national disgrace."

Can't say I disagree with her conclusion.

Posted by McQ at 03:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Doin' the Hand Jive

You can't make this up. Per TheSmokingGun:

While seated on the bench, an Oklahoma judge used a male enhancement pump, shaved and oiled his nether region, and pleasured himself, state officials charged yesterday in a petition to remove the jurist.

As TSG's title suggests, this gives an all new meaning to "Here Comes the Judge".

Posted by McQ at 03:36 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hyperbole, Fiction and the Left, Part IV

Not that this is a particular shocker, but "Mr. Bitter", aka Al Gore has now accused President Bush of using "a network of rapid response digital Brown Shirts" to pressure news reporters and editors during a speech at Georgetown University:

In an hour-long address punctuated by polite laughter and applause, Gore also accused the Bush administration of working closely "with a network of 'rapid response' digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for 'undermining support for our troops."'

One wonders if the "polite laughter" was aimed at him or what he said. My guess is he wasn't trying to be funny.

But beyond that, note the hyperbole. Again the question, assuming what Gore claims is true, how does one ever again describe the real Brown Shirts (also known as the SA)? For the historically ignorant, go here for a brief capsule describing the SA or "Brown Shirts".

Then go here if your interested in really reading about an event which more closely resembles something the Brown Shirts might do (note: the point has nothing to do with abortion, instead it has to do with free speech).

Not long after, Porter made her way to an area where Kerry was shaking hands with a large group of people. She eventually found herself exactly where she hoped she would be -- a few feet away from the man some hope will be the next president.

She held up her sign.

"Then it happened," Porter explains. "He reached up to shake a hand in the back and his eyes went up to my sign. He read it and then he looked into the crowd to see who was holding it -- and he looked me directly in the eyes."

"I hope he saw my pain. I was not angry, just pleading with him to understand. You could see the shock and surprise on his face," Porter said.

But within seconds, a Kerry campaign staff member approached Porter and grabbed her sign.

"You can't have that sign here," the Kerry staffer said.

The sign tore and Porter let go. After he had possession of it, the Kerry staffer "tore it to pieces" and walked away. "He wouldn't even let me have the pieces," Porter said.

Posted by McQ at 03:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Even The New Republic's Editors "get it" ... well sorta

The editors of "The New Republic" ask rhetorically, "Were We Wrong" about supporting the war in Iraq? After much hemming and hawing, rehashing and reviewing, stuttering and stammering, they say:

With all these tragedies, how can there still be a moral case for the war in Iraq? Because Iraqis today--no matter how scared and how bitter--are, in some meaningful sense, free. From the hundreds of Iraqi newspapers to the roughly 40 new Iraqi political parties to the local councils being elected across the country, Iraqis are developing the independent civil society and open politics that the Middle East desperately needs. Could this embryonic freedom be extinguished? Of course. Given the militias roaming the country, Iraq's political future could well be decided by guns rather than ballots. If another dictator murders his way to power, or the country dissolves into violent fiefdoms, the war will have proved not just a strategic failure, but a moral one as well.

But that is clearly not what Iraqis want. Polls show that most Iraqis desire a democracy with Islamic characteristics and think they will achieve one. Prominent Iraqis like Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani don't denounce the United States for bringing too much democracy, but for not bringing it quickly enough.

Well there you go ... you weren't wrong, were you? Isn't it enough that the result of this war with "all these tragedies" is the chance for a free Iraq ... a chance not avialable before the war? Couple that with the fact that a regime that was a major supporter of terrorism is gone and you have the daily double.

But more importantly, as has been claimed by supporters of the war, it has opened not only a dialogue about democracy, but demands for it in other Middle Eastern countires:

And, throughout the Arab and Muslim world, people are watching. They may not hate America any less than they did before the war--for the time being, they may even hate it more. But, with the fall of Iraq's dictator, they can finally envision the fall of their own. And the new discourse emerging in Iraq is reverberating across its borders, changing what is conceivable. In March, demonstrators gathered outside the parliament building in Damascus, demanding an end to the country's longstanding state of emergency. A few days later, Kurds rioted in the country's northeast, prompting eleven Syrian human rights groups to blame the unrest on "the absence of democratic life and public freedoms." That same month, a group of prominent Arab intellectuals and activists met in Alexandria, Egypt, where they issued what famed Egyptian dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim called "a sort of Arab Magna Carta" demanding reform. "In the Middle East today, you talk about food, you talk about football--and you talk about democracy," a young Egyptian political scientist named Mohammed Kamal recently told Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl. "There is a serious debate going on in the Arab world about their own societies. The United States has triggered this debate."

Does anyone think these events were possible or even probable without the war with Iraq?

Which brings us to some of the left's favorite handwringing. Although the editors of TNR mostly avoided it, they had to mention it ... "they hate us".

Big deal. Its not like its something new, folks. Raphael Patai, author of the seminal "The Arab Mind" (1976) reminds us of a bit of history in that regard. Patai quotes Wilfred Cantwell Smith's writing in the mid '50s where Smith states "Most westerners have simply no inkling of how deep and fierce is the hate, especially of the West, that has gripped the modernizing Arab" As Patai notes, "a few years later, Bernard Lewis made an almost identical observation in speaking of 'the mood and wish that united many if not most Arabs' in 1955: it was, he found, that of 'revulsion for the West, and the wish to spite and humiliate it.'

In announcing the Egyptian/Russian Arms deal in 1955, President Nasser gave "dramatic and satisfying expression" to this underlying hate of the West:

"In the twilight world of popular myths and images, the West is the source of all evil -- and the west is a single whole" -- Nasser

Nothing has changed in that preception since 1955, nor will it anytime soon ... so to the left: "Get over it"! Understand, as the right seems to have done, that being "liked" is just not as important as being respected and getting the job done.

Concluding, TNR's editors almost get it right:

The outcome of that debate is in Arab hands, not American ones. Even in Iraq, although we must still assist as best we can, our control is slipping away. Ultimately, it is this new, bewildering, liberating debate, rather than U.S. force of arms, upon which our hopes for Iraq, and the whole Arab world, now rest. Americans no longer have the power to redeem this war. But Iraqis still can.

What don't they get right? There's nothing for the Americans to "redeem" in this war. By their own writing, the editors list the redeeming qualities of the war, qualities which are now extant only because of America and Americans (and the coalition of the willing). What is now in Iraqi hands isn't its redemption, but taking it to fruition.

One only hopes they're able to do that.

Posted by McQ at 12:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I'll get you yet, Snidely Whiplash!

I really have no opinion on the legal merits of the case, but it's worth passing along. The Supreme Court has nominally ruled for Cheney in the energy task force case...

The Supreme Court refused Thursday to order the Bush administration to make public secret details of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, but kept the case alive by sending it back to a lower court.

Justices said 7-2 that a lower court should consider whether a federal open government law could be used to get documents of the task force.

The Good: The case was decided 7-2, so it will be hard for critics to claim it was decided along ideological lines. And Scalia didn't have to cast a deciding vote, which would have been contentious after his duck hunting trip with Cheney.

The Bad: As a matter of principle, one understands why the executive branch doesn't want to make every discussion public. As a matter of politics, there are going to be a great many people wondering why it was so important not to disclose those meetings. And all of us can wonder whether the secrecy was principled or political.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:38 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Rufus T. Firefly takes charge

What the hell???

Officials from the tiny Balkan nation of Macedonia stepped forward last month to admit that the government had lured seven innocent South Asian immigrants to Macedonia, gunned them down and claimed they were al Qaeda terrorists plotting to attack the U.S. Embassy -- all to prove Macedonia's worth to the U.S.-led war on terror.

"It was a monstrous fabrication to get the attention of the international community," says Macedonian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Miryana Kontevska.
[...]
Just over two months after Sept. 11, 2001, according to internal Macedonian police investigations, top officials and police commanders met at the Interior Ministry to chart a course of action aimed at demonstrating Macedonia's commitment to President Bush's call to bring in Osama bin Laden and his supporters dead or alive.

By meeting's end officials had contrived a meticulous plan Hollywood scriptwriters would be hard pressed to better. They believed it would establish little-known Macedonia as a world player in the fight against terrorism.

It's a weird, weird, weird world.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

"Moonbats in the Mist"

Bill at INDC Journal--the premiere Chronicler of Moonbattery--has another excellent photo-journal of DC protesters. Because the protesters aren't weird enough, he brings along Jeff Goldstein, The Commissar, and somebody named Dr. Harvey Streelburg.....or, reasonable facsimiles thereof.

Couple thoughts:

1: (re: kind eyes) - Holy crap, is that John Larroquette?

2: I've never bought the "war for oil" nonsense....but does anybody know what connections Bush has to the sign-making industry? What with all the protests in recent years, they're making a killing. War-profiteers!

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:34 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 23, 2004

The highest motive is the public good

The highest motive is the public good
Photo: AP (Scene from Fahrenheit 9/11)


Posted by Dale Franks at 06:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

And how 'bout a delicious cold beverage to wash that down?

And how 'bout a delicious cold beverage to wash that down?
Photo: AFP/Getty Images/File/Thos Robinson


Posted by Dale Franks at 06:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Michael basks in the love of "The Little Guy"

Michael basks in the love of "The Little Guy"
Photo: Reuters/Handout


Posted by Dale Franks at 05:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bill Clinton Book Readings

Bill Clinton Book Readings
Photo: AP Photo/Harpo Productions, George Burns

Posted by Dale Franks at 05:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Michael Moore's Very Deep Love of America

Not that this will be any surprise, but Michael Moore apparently isn't averse to taking a little help from terrorists in marketing his new movie, Fahrenheit 9/11.

The movie industry publication Screen Daily reported, "In terms of marketing the film, [distributor] Front Row is getting a boost from organizations related to Hezbollah which have rung up from Lebanon to ask if there's anything they can do to support the film."

The story then quotes Front Row Managing Director Gianluca Chacra: "We can't go against these organizations as they could strongly boycott the film in Lebanon and Syria."

And, of course, their money is as green as anyone elses. And it is, probably, unreasonable of us to resent Mr. Moore for taking that money, since the upkeep and property taxes on his $1.9 million Manhattan home or $1 million Michigan summer place are probably fairly high. As, no doubt, is the bill for tuition at his children's' private school.

Michael Moore's old schtick used to be that rich, powerful, white businessmen were unpatriotic, and would sell out America at the drop of a hat to make a few extra bucks in places like, say, Syria and Lebanon.

Apparently, he was right.

Posted by Dale Franks at 03:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saudi's offer amnesty to terrorists

Frankly I don't know what to say about this move. Its not exactly how I'd prosecute a war on terrorists:

"To everyone who has gone out of the righteous way and has committed a crime in the name of religion and to everyone who belongs to that group that has done itself a disservice, everyone who has been captured in terror acts is given the chance to come back to God if they want to save their lives, their souls," Abdullah said.

"If they give themselves up without force within one month maximum from the date of this speech, we can promise them that they are going to be safe."

Abdullah said all such people would be dealt with fairly, in accordance with Islamic law.

"If they are wise and they accept it, then they are saved. And if they snub it, then God is not going to forbid us from hitting them with our force, which we get from our dependence on God."

Its getting a little hot in Arabia.

Don't forget that it wasn't long ago that Saudi clerics condemned the terrorists and the violence. That sort of support for the government position had to come at a price.

This may be it.

UPDATE: Well you learn early in life, "never say never":

A man wanted in connection with crimes against the kingdom's security turned himself in to authorities hours after Saudi Arabia's king issued an offer to deal fairly with terrorists who give themselves up within a month.

How about that?

Posted by McQ at 02:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Anti-Democratic Party?

Some Democrats seem to be taking Nader's threat pretty seriously:

On Wednesday, Arizona Democrats are expected to launch a challenge to Nader's petition to get on the ballot in that state.

Every dollar the Nader campaign must spend fighting off such Democratic legal challenges is a dollar it won't be able to spend on Nader's travel or on radio and TV ads. So, whether legally successful or not, the Democrats' effort will sap Nader's strength.

Interesting. Of course there are hazards to this ploy:

A resort by Democrats to legal warfare to keep Nader off the ballot might well backfire.

Micah Sifry, author of the book "Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America," said “the name of the party is the Democratic Party, not the Anti-Democratic Party.”

A Democratic legal crusade to obstruct Nader’s efforts to get on the ballot “feeds the Greens’ argument that this system is a duopoly” run by the two major parties in their self-interest, Sifry added.

“The Democrats ought to make a positive case for why people should be voting for them, not using strong-arm tactics,” he said. Sifry sees Democratic blocking of Nader as “part of an ongoing self-destructive dynamic between the Greens and the Democrats.”

You have to wonder about the thinking of Arizona democrats. They're validating the Green's argument and they're setting themselves up for a backlash. With Bush leading in AZ by about 4 points it doesn't seem like the smartest way to spend your time or money. And if successful, you've most likely alienated any Greens who might have considered voting for your candidate.

Hmm ... maybe I ought to send them a donation.

Posted by McQ at 01:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Importance of Iraq

As rarely happens, I found something in a New Republic article with which to agree. Fareed Zakaria, discussing Iraq, makes a very important point:

But, since we are listing mistakes, the biggest one many opponents of the war are making is to claim that Iraq is a total distraction from the war on terrorism. In fact, Iraq is central to that conflict. I don't mean this in the deceptive and dishonest sense that many in the Bush administration have claimed. There is no connection between Saddam's regime and the terrorists of September 11. But there is a deep connection between his regime and the terrorism of September 11. The root causes of Islamic terrorism lie in the dysfunctional politics of the Middle East, where failure and repression have produced fundamentalism and violence. Political Islam grew in stature as a mystical alternative to the wretched reality--secular dictatorships--that have dominated the Arab world. A new Iraq provides an opportunity to break this perverse cycle. The country is unlikely to become a liberal democracy any time soon. But it might turn out to be a pluralistic state that gives minorities limited protections, allows for some political participation, and has a reasonably open society. That would be a revolution in the Arab world.

This point is made after a sharp critique of the Bush Administrations handling of "nation building" in Iraq. Frankly, some of his criticisms of that process are well made. But all that being said, valid or not, what he says above is the most critical argument to be made for the importance of what we are doing in Iraq, at least in my estimation. He addresses something which seems to be lost in the back and forth over Iraqi connections or lack of connections with al Queda.

Let's replay it:

There is no connection between Saddam's regime and the terrorists of September 11. But there is a deep connection between his regime and the terrorism of September 11.

This makes the arguments for or against al Queda/Iraq connections or WMDs or any of a host of other "reasons" almost superfluous. It doesn't matter. As we've known for some time, Iraq under Saddam was hip deep in terrorism whether through al Queda or not.

And it is this "deep connection" with the "terrorism" of 9/11 which made him and his regime a legitimate target in the War on Terror. Unlike Zakaria, and to his credit, much of the left wants to conveniently deny this point. It explodes the popular myth that Iraq was a distraction from the War on Terror and it drives home the point that the administration was indeed correct in targeting Iraq as a part of that war as one of the "sponsors of terror", much like the Afghan Taliban government.

But there's an even more important idea here. As Zakaria notes, the root causes of Islamic terrorism are a result of the dysfunctional and oppressive dictatorships of the middle east. The essentially totalitarian entites which comprise the "states" of the middle east have, through their policies, driven their hopeless, repressed and politically disenfranchized citizens into the willing arms of radical religion (who then blames the west for all their problems). Iraq, if successful, offers a concrete alternative to the citizens of the middle east on display right there in the region. If it is indeed successful in standing up on its wobbly legs and toddling along toward the path of freedom and liberty, Iraq can offer an alternative which may help defuse and dismantle the jihadist cults of Islam. It is that fact, obviously realized by the jihadists, which has them so committed to its failure.

But despite the fact Zakaria seems to "get it" in that regard, he misses with his conclusion:

The right lesson of Iraq so far is not that nation-building must fail, but rather that President Bush's approach to it, unless corrected, will fail. The right lesson is not that U.S. military intervention always ruptures alliances and creates an enraged international public, but rather that this particular intervention did. Most important, it is not that American power aggressively employed does more harm than good. Rather, the right lesson is that American power, because it is so overweening, must be used with extraordinary care and wisdom. Most of the world's problems--from AIDs to the Israeli-Palestinian issue--would be better served with more American intervention, not less. But, because of the blunders in Iraq, it is possible that most of the world, and far too many Americans, will draw the wrong lesson on this final point as well.

Here he gets some agreement but mostly disagreement from me. I'm not sure we're at the point we can make the claim that unless corrected this attempt at nation building will fail. I think that assessment needs to wait for the handover of June 30th before we can make that sort of determination. My hope though is if we see it going wrong, we do indeed admit it and correct it, since as stated, it is critical Iraq become a successful functioning free state in the Middle East.

To his second point, I agree that this intervention did indeed "rupture alliances", but I don't agree it was simply because of this intervention. It appears there was much more at play concerning Iraq and certain members of the "alliance" than meet the eye. And it is my contention that these relationships had more to do with the rupture than our intervention. While the left wails and gnashes its teeth about how we've alienated our 'friends' and gone it alone, it consistently ignores the fact that we had more members of this coalition than we had in 1991. Yes, the UN has stiffed us, essentially to get even. And yes, even NATO, a creation of the US in Europe, has declined to help. But in both instances this can be traced primarily to one country who disagreed with the intervention ... that is hardly akin to world condemnation or a "ruptured alliance". It is more of France being France and desperately trying to prove to the world that it is still a power than any demonstration of the world's disapproval.

As to the "enraged international public", we've seen that before ... in fact its pretty well a constant. Sometimes its overt, sometimes its not, but in matters of the US and its power it always is there, lurking under the surface. I simply don't much concern myself with it most of the time ... and Iraq is one of those times.

Lastly, I'm not particlarly interested in "more American intervention" rather than less simply because he thinks the world would benefit. If it is necessary for the security of this country and its citizens, I think America should intervene when and where it must. That is a right any sovereign nation must reserve for itself. That does't preclude working with other states or coalitions to try to solve world problems. But intervention, at least in my lexicon, means more than that ... and intervention must be reserved by this nation for the defense of this nation when necessary.

Posted by McQ at 12:55 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Compassionate Conservative...well, something, anyway

Everything that's wrong with the modern philosophy of Government, in two sentences...

"[T]he role of government is to stand there and say, 'We're going to help you.' The job of the federal government is to fund the providers who are actually making a difference."
That's the current President Bush. My, how far we've come...

"...a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities."
----Thomas Jefferson

"The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."
---- John Adams

"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
-- Thomas Jefferson

(Via Sullivan)

UPDATE: While we're on the subject, this comment in regards to an expensive party thrown by the financially strapped Air America network is pretty indicative of modern politics, too...

"It was a fun party, until I knew I was paying for it," says Bob Visotcky, Air America's former Los Angeles market manager, who hasn't been reimbursed for his hotel room and flight.
Yeah, I feel that way every time I see my paycheck.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:36 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Hyperbole, Fiction and the Left, Part III

One of the greatest problems I have today with leftist critics of the Bush administration is the lack of proportion in their critiques (and to be fair the right isn't exactly blameless in this regard either).

In today's WSJ, Bret Stephens takes a good look at this phenomenon and makes some great points as to the effect of such criticism:

Care for language is more than a concern for purity. When one describes President Bush as a fascist, what words remain for real fascists? When one describes Fallujah as Stalingrad-like, how can we express, in the words that remain to the language, what Stalingrad was like?

George Orwell wrote that the English language "becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts." In taking care with language, we take care of ourselves.

Precisely ... if you call Bush "Hitler", how in the world do you then describe Hitler? Haven't you now diminished the horror of the real Hitler?

What brought this to Stephens' attention was a couple of columns by Sidney Blumenthal:

According to Sidney Blumenthal, a onetime adviser to president Bill Clinton who now writes a column for Britain's Guardian newspaper, President Bush today runs "what is in effect a gulag," stretching "from prisons in Afghanistan to Iraq, from Guantanamo to secret CIA prisons around the world." Mr. Blumenthal says "there has been nothing like this system since the fall of the Soviet Union."

In another column, Mr. Blumenthal compares the April death toll for American soldiers in Iraq to the Eastern Front in the Second World War. Mr. Bush's "splendid little war," he writes, "has entered a Stalingrad-like phase of urban siege and house-to-house combat."

Anyone at all familiar with Stalingrad, the Soviet Gulag system and combat on the Eastern Front in WWII is immediatly struck by the lack of proportion in Blumenthal's argument. There is no comparison, in reality, of the death toll on the eastern front and US losses in Iraq. Its not even close. In fact, it might be difficult to find days in that theater in which the losses were less than our total losses in Iraq for a year.

Where's the proportion to the argument that claims this ...

The war on the Eastern Front was unparalleled for its ferocity, intensity, and brutality. By most estimates some 4 million Axis troops and 11 million Soviet troops fell in battle or died as POWs. Another 15–17 million Soviet civilians fell victim to massacres, disease, and starvation during the war.

... is comparable to a war that has to this point cost us 800 casualties. How does one disproportionately compare the deaths of 30,000,000 with 800 and expect to be considered credible? If the April death toll for soldiers in Iraq is like the Eastern Front in WWII, how does one then describe the Eastern Front anymore?

And to attempt to compare Stalingrad to the bits of urban combat our forces have been subjected to in Iraq completely diminishes that battle's magnitude. The Soviet's casualties at Stalingrad numbered 1.1 million (and 100,000 civilians) while the Germans lost about 500,000. Where, in reality, is this Stalingrad in Iraq?

It doesn't exist. Again, this sort of disproportionate rhetoric is used to persuade the uninformed that Iraq is much worse than it is simply for political purposes. But in so doing, Blumenthal diminishes the real Stalingrad. If Iraq is like Stalingrad, then how does one describe Stalingrad?

And the "gulag" reference? The Soviet gulag system was in established for the imprisonment of internal dissenters. Established in 1930 under the Cheka or Internal Security Directorate (later KGB)these were forced labor camps, or slave labor camps established for political enemies and dissenters.

The Gulag is most widely associated with Stalin 's Great Purges which led to a significant increase of the proportion of political prisoners in the camps. In 1931-32, there were approximately 200,000 prisoners in the camps, in 1935 approximately 1 million (including colonies) and in 1938 nearly 2 million people. During World War II , the camp population declined sharply due to mass releases of hundreds of thousands of prisoners, who were sent directly to the front, but also due to a steep rise in mortality in 1942-43. After WWII the number of inmates in prison camps and colonies rose again and reached a number of approximately 2.5 million people in the early 1950s

The Communist leadership continued to sponsor Gulag for a while after Stalin's death, and it is estimated that a total of 1.5 to 2 million people have died in the camps and colonies. Large numbers of non-political prisoners were released in 1953 during the months after the dictator's death.

The enormity of and the difference in purpose of the Gulag when compared to the terrorists now held in US detention is evident to those with a sense of historical proportion. But that doesn't keep Blumenthal from attempting the comparison, again for no other purpose than cheap, rhetorical political points.

If the US detention camps are comparable to the Gulag, then how does one ever again describe the Gulag? How does one then make the point that the Gulag was a inhuman slave labor system used by a state to destroy political dissidence and took the lives of untold millions if what the US is doing now is "like" that?

My guess is that this makes no difference at all to Sidney Blumenthal or other political operatives on the left.

They have no use for proportion just as they really have no use for the truth.

This is all about winning ... politically.

And it is evident they have no problem using any means necessary to accomplish that goal.

ADDENDUM (Dale):

Stephens says that either George W. Bush is the worst historical disaster of a president to come along in 150 years, or his critics have begun a harrowing descent into madness. Stephens picks the latter.

Sydney Blumenthal is shrieking that the campaign in Iraq is a Brutal Urban Siege (not to be confused with the Brutal Afghan Winter), where our troops are dying like flies, just like the Germans at Stalingrad.

You remember, Stalingrad, right? Where 100,000 German soldiers were killed in 6 months? Yeah, well, Iraq, according to Blumenthal, is just like that.

John Kerry has compared the Bush Administration's performance on job creation as the worst since Herbert Hoover. I'm sure we all remember how in 2003, just like in 1933, 25% of Americans had been put out of work in the previous three years.

Paul Krugman has been predicting for years that the economic policies of George W. Bush would send the economy into an Argentina sized tank of depression, hyperinflation, and, for all we know, flesh-eating zombies unless he's stopped right now. Well, I just looked, and the economy's growing at 4.5%, we've created 1 million jobs in the last 3 months, and the office corridor seems remarkably empty of the rotting undead.

This doesn't mean that W is perfect, or that his performance can't be criticized, but a lot of this stuff is just completely wacko. If you think Iraq is like the Eastern Front, Abu Ghraib is like the gulag, and our recent economic performance mirrors the that of The Great Depression, then you are freakishly clueless.

Posted by McQ at 10:35 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Plan B

Kevin Drum links to this post over at Econ4Dean, in which "Lerxst" decries "Rovian tactics" surrounding the approval of the Plan B birth control method. A WSJ story, per Lerxst, "makes clear that it is conservative politics and not science which as at issue". (the gist of the story is that the FDA head--a political appointee--disagreed with the recommendation of the advisory panel of scientists)

Kevin calls it evidence of the Bush administrations "nanny state desire to control our sex lives, increase the rate of abortion, and gin up phony excuses to justify it". Lerxst calls it "misuse of science for political gain".

Pretty strong charges. So, what happened? Per the NYTimes, the FDA simply told Barr Pharmaceuticals that they were allowed to sell the drug over the counter, provided they do one of two things:
1: "...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:
2: "...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, in this example of Bush administration malfeasance, they....approved the sale of Plan B to everybody 17 and over? And approved the sale to women 16 and under as soon as Barr Pharmaceuticals provides research confirming the safety?

"But", critics say, "there's no scientific basis for the restriction on girls 16 and under!" Really? That's not what maker of the drug found.....

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.

In short, girls under 16 don't understand proper utility and usage of Plan B. This is not a political opinion....this is scientific research from the maker of the drug.

And at the end of the day, the FDA is willing to approve this drug with no restrictions at all, provided Barr Pharmaceuticals simply does the research on younger females that they did on older females. Research which Barr Pharmaceuticals failed to do when submitting their revised proposal.

What does the FDA say about Plan B? A full Q&A can be found here, including this statement...

Wide availability of safe and effective contraceptives is important to public health. We look forward to working with the sponsor if they decide to pursue making this product available without a prescription.
Critics of this decision are upset that the Bush administration blocked a legitimate drug.....but, in fact, it has been approved, conditionally. The "Not Approvable" letter simply lays out 2 alternative paths that will lead to approval of the drug, and it is consistent with the reservations expressed in the research by the maker of Plan B.

If the Bush administration is trying to play up to religious lobbying groups, one would think it would involve something a bit more satisfying than over-the-counter approval for women 17+, and approval for 16-and-younger conditioned on only a bit of research.

What's more, one would think that people who accuse the Bush administration of side-stepping research would be a bit more supportive of an FDA demand for, you know, research.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Knowing better

Kevin Drum...

Matt Yglesias makes the case today that the Bush administration doesn't actually lie most of the time. Rather, if you parse their words with hyper-precision, you'll see that technically they're telling the truth even if it's plain to a four-year-old that their intent is to mislead and deceive. [...] Let's take this statement from Dick Cheney on Meet the Press last year:
If we're successful in Iraq...we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.
Each phrase, then, is technically accurate. Taken as a whole, though, it's obvious that his intent was to imply that Iraq was a primary base for al-Qaeda's activities, which is clearly untrue.
This is an interesting--and, I'm afraid, all too typical--example of how partisans apply their own assumptions to their opponents argument in order to make their case.

As Matthew Yglesias argues, a "canny speaker can mislead his audience without necessarily saying anything false" - which, he says, is what the Bush administration did. As evidence, he cites a Bush statement...

"the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that al-Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world."
...and writes, "Technically speaking, the president didn't say he had any evidence that this would happen, so the fact that there was no evidence it was likely to happen doesn't show that he was lying. But if he wasn't trying to mislead people, then he and his administration are simply in the grips of a paranoid worldview -- leaping at wholly imagined threats and throwing tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines into battle."

Pretty damning stuff. If, of course, you accept Kevin and Matt's assumption about the implications and beliefs of the Bush administration. And if you don't? They don't say.

The problem is this: their assumptions go directly to motivation - a subject about which both Kevin and Matt are making wild-ass guesses. And not just wild-ass guesses, but unfair wild-ass guesses.

Kevin does not, for example, mention the possibility that Dick Cheney could consider Al Qaeda a "global network of relationships, a system for transforming the frustrations and discontents of Islam-natives, marginalized immigrants, the militant sons of immigrants-into a violent expression of jihad" providing "connectivity, training, and financial support to an extensive galaxy of terrorists enterprises, stretching from North Africa to the southern Philippines".
- From the Statement of Brian Jenkins to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States March 31, 2003.

As such, it's nearly irrelevant where the head of the network is located. If, as the 9/11 Commission found, "Bin Laden sought to build a broader Islamic Army that included terrorist groups from Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Oman, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia, and Eritrea" and "at least one [group] from each did", then Iraq is as much a part of the loose network of terrorism-supporting regions as any other. Perhaps moreso, considering the unstable, warlike nature of the Hussein regime and the uncertain nature of their WMD capabilities.

It seems pretty obvious that Dick Cheney recognizes--and believes in--this paradigm. Does Kevin Drum believe it? Well, it hardly matters. What matters--for the purposes of the debate he's having--is the argument and assumptions that Cheney brings to the table. Drum and Yglesias would, apparently, rather argue with a different set of definitions.

The problem with this is that we can never have a serious argument about a very important topic - we can never debate the arguments the Bush administration makes - if their critics dismiss the arguments they make, and assign them entirely different arguments. Arguments based on assumptions about their motivations. In short, strawmen.

You don't have to agree with the assumptions Cheney makes, but you do have to argue with them. And, for the record, the same thing will apply if John Kerry is elected President. No matter how much we may disagree with a position, argue the merits. Assuming motivations is just...weak. It's the product of echo-chamber discourse.

Matt and Kevin should know better.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:14 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Affordable Housing...

This may explain why home-ownership rates have been skyrocketing...

Nationwide, 17.8 percent of the median family income was used to buy a single-family home at the median price in 2003, down from 18.5 percent the previous year, according to a study to be released today by the Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech and the Virginia Association of Realtors.
John Kerry, who--per his campaign site--"has been a strong proponent of preserving and expanding affordable housing and homeownership opportunities for the American people, is probably just tickled pink.

UPDATE: Of course, the media still sees the black lining in that silver cloud.

Posted by Jon Henke at 05:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 22, 2004

Its the media's fault

One wonders if Bill Clinton will ever grow up enough to take responsibility for his own decisions and actions instead of the usual blame shifting.

Apparently he nutted up in a BBC interview when asked by the interviewer, David Dimbleby, why he had an affair with Ms Lewinsky when he knew he was under investigation by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr for other matters.

As is usual, Clinton avoided the question (and the responsibility for his choice) and blamed both the media and Kenneth Star for his problems:

"Let me just say this. One of the reasons he [Kenneth Starr] got away with it is because people like you only ask me the questions.

"You gave him a complete free ride. Any abuse they wanted to do. They indicted all these little people from Arkansas, what did you care about them, they're not famous, who cares that their life was trampled. Who cares that their children are humiliated.

"Nobody in your line of work cared a rip about that at the time. Why, because he was helping their story.

"And that's why people like you always help the far-right, because you like to hurt people, and you like to talk about how bad people are and all their personal failings.

"Look, you made a decision to allocate your time in a certain way, you should take responsibility for that, you should say 'yes, I care much more about this than whether the Bosnian people were saved, and whether he brought a million home from Kosovo'."

One would guess ... from his "answer"... that Monica Lewinsky was a result of the media making Ken Starr a "star". Apparently he consoled himself with Moncia.

At least that's what I get out of his "answer", if it is his answer.

Posted by McQ at 05:40 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Right. The important stuff. Got it.

Kevin Drum, 6/20/04...

Matt Yglesias has been watching TV this morning and says the talking heads are practically salivating at the idea of being able to talk about Clinton's blow jobs again. This will undoubtedly be followed up with a special segment on how woefully underinformed the American public is on the important issues of the day.
Kevin Drum, 6/22/04...(regarding the story about Jack Ryan's kinky sex life)
CAGES AND WHIPS!....Ah, those family values loving Republicans! "Cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling," says the legal filing, roundly denied by the GOP Senate candidate, of course.
Other bloggers who won't mind the coming fixation on Clinton's sex life include: Nick Confessore, Ezra Klein, Oliver Willis, Roger Ailes, and TBogg.

So, if I understand them correctly, sex scandals are once again--per Kevin Drum--worth salivating over. Got it.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:56 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Taking back the vote

I'm growing concerned about the Electoral College. I'm worried that the importance of large swing states like Florida and California will dilute white voting strength.

.....

Find that offensive? You should. It's intolerably racist.....so why is this tolerated....

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday endorsed Richmond's bid to hold citywide elections for mayor...
[...]
Opponents of the measure, including Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-Va.), told Justice Department officials this month that the at-large mayor plan would illegally dilute blacks' voting strength in the city.
None dare call it racism.....but that's exactly what it is. Direct elections, democracy, one person-one vote....those concepts go out the window when a special interest wants more influence.

And the fact that it is so nakedly about race, that there is not even an attempt to pretend there is a motive other than racial advantage? It disappoints me.

Ironically, while critics claim racism, 2 out of 3 announced candidates--the two frontrunners--are black.

(Full disclosure: I live just outside of Richmond)

UPDATE: John Hawkins has more along these lines.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:33 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Misled?

The Belgravia Dispatch--in a fairly comprehensive look at the poll data regarding Bush's support in the war on terror--makes this interesting point...

...most Americans (over 60%) believe or suspect Saddam had cooperated with al-Q historically--but a full 48% neverthless believe they were misled on said alleged links.
As with the rest of the data, it appears the voters have a hard time with consistency. My take? Well, "what people think" can be interesting, but it's only got an incidental relationship to the facts. And what about the actual facts, anyway? Well, as Djerejian points out, the people who believe the administration misled the public into believing Iraq provided direct support to Al Qaeda need to explain this January 2004 poll result...
Before the war, do you think Iraq did or did not provide direct support to the Al Qaeda terrorist group?

  • Iraq provided support,
    YOUR SUSPICION ONLY - 38%
  • Iraq provided support,
    SOLID EVIDENCE OF THAT - 23%
  • Iraq did not provide support - 33%
  • DK/No opinion - 6%
Even more telling, I think, is this September 13 2001 poll, taken well before the administration said word one about the Iraq problem...
"How likely is it that Saddam Hussein is personally involved in Tuesday's terrorist attacks..."

------Likely-------
NET - 78
Very - 34
Somewhat - 44

-----Not Likely------
NET - 12
Not very - 9
At all - 3
-------------------
No Opinion - 9

This appears to be a deal-killer for those who would claim the Bush administration misled the public the belief that Iraq and Al Qaeda were cooperating in the 9/11 attacks.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:11 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Buried

Remember all the large-font headlines indicating no connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda? Well, you won't see this on any front pages...

There's really very little difference between what our staff found, what the administration is saying today and what the Clinton administration said,” said commissioner John Lehman, speaking Sunday on NBC's “Meet the Press.” “The Clinton administration portrayed the relationship between al-Qaida and Saddam's intelligence services as one of cooperating in weapons development. There's abundant evidence of that.”

“The Bush administration has never said that [Iraq] participated in the 9/11 attack,” Lehman said. “They've said, and our staff has confirmed, there have been numerous contacts between Iraqi intelligence and al-Qaida over a period of 10 years, at least.”[emphasis added]

I've been wondering what happened to George Tenet's allegations that "Iraq has provided training to al-Qa'ida members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs". Commissioner Lehman appears to be confirming the existence of this evidence.

You won't see it in the headlines, and you won't see it from the left side of the blogosphere. You should, though. They've been misrepresenting this long enough.

I refuse to call them liars. They are not. But I have to ask why this aspect of the story goes unreported. The answer, I think, is simply that they are partisans.

UPDATE: This story - based on a Google News search - is showing up in all of two places...the cited MSNBC story (which I had to dig to find) and this FrontPageMag story.

Huh.

UPDATE II: From the Meet the Press transcript, a bit more...

In fact, as you'll soon hear from Joe Klein, President Clinton justified his strike on the Sudan "pharmaceutical" site because it was thought to be manufacturing VX gas with the help of the Iraqi intelligence service.

Since then, that's been validated. There has been traces of Empta that comes straight from Iraq, and this confounds the Republicans, who accused Clinton of doing it for political purposes. But it confirms the cooperative relationship, which were the words of the Clinton administration, between al-Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence.

The Bush administration has never said that they participated in the 9/11 attack. They've said, and our staff has confirmed, there have been numerous contacts between Iraqi intelligence and al-Qaeda over a period of 10 years, at least.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:26 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Republican's New Youth Vote Campaign Ad

In a Q and O exclusive, Joey Goebbels Jr, new youth vote manager for the Bush Campaign, relased their latest ad aimed at young voters likely to vote Democrat.

Said Joey G., "hey if we're going to be accused of it, we might as well use it.".

Joey also mentioned that while it might not sway many to vote Republican, it may dilute the Democrat vote a bit.

Democratic Underground could not be reached for a comment, although its been noted that there has been a significant drop in participation by its regulars since the ad's release.

Posted by McQ at 06:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 21, 2004

Another Enron-Type Scandal

UCLA Corporate Law Professor and blogger, Professor Bainbridge, notes that a new Enron-type corporate fraud scandal may be brewing. Investors cheated, fraudulent asset sales, shaky finances; it's another example of the lack of morals and ethics the Left constantly talks about when discussing business under George W. Bush's administration.

The newest corporate fraud? Air America, apparently.

According to today's Wall Street Journal article, available for free here, not only does the corporation have serious financial troubles, but the operation has been sold to a new company controlled by the investors.

The trouble with this asset sale, as Professor Bainbridge notes, is that it looks like the company is making the sale to blow off its creditors. If so, that would be, as a former president once said, wrong.

Since it appears likely, based on the WSJ article, moreover, that the selling entities were de facto insolvent at the time of the transfer, the probability that a court would find a fraudulent transfer goes up significantly. The sellers will have to show that the selling entities received fair value and that the transaction had economic substance above and beyond merely stiffing their creditors.

Another option for the creditors would be to seek to pierce the corporate veil of the selling entities to hold their owners liable. Since the purchasing entity was owned by most of the same investors as the selling entities (another factor that will weigh in favor of finding a fraudulent transfer, by the way), the creditors may be able to recover from the individual investors.

And that's just the civil side. There is a potential criminal liability here, too, according to the professor.

The securities fraud claims by investors in Air America could lead to criminal charges by the Justice Department if Cohen and/or Sorensen willfully misrepresented material facts or omitted material facts they had a duty to disclose. The creditor claims of fraudulent transfer and/or veil piercing, however, would be purely a question of civil liability by which the creditors would be able to recover their losses either from the purchasing entity or the owners of the selling entities.

No doubt all of this happened because of the close, corrupting political relationship between Air America and George W. Bush.

Oh, wait a minute...

Posted by Dale Franks at 08:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Incinerating Michael Moore

You might get the idea, reading Christopher Hitchens' review of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" that perhaps Hitchens wasn't that enamored with it. In fact, he flat flames it:

With Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, however, an entirely new note has been struck. Here we glimpse a possible fusion between the turgid routines of MoveOn.org and the filmic standards, if not exactly the filmic skills, of Sergei Eisenstein or Leni Riefenstahl.

To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.

And he's just warming up. Go read it.

ADDENDUM (Dale): MQ and I both blogged this, but since he was first, I just thought I'd delete my post and add it here.

The bit McQ quoted is just the intro. Not only does Hitch savage the film, he notes the Moore has developed a "quick response team" in order to launch defamation suits against anyone who criticizes his new project.

Hitch is unimpressed.

However, I think we can agree that the film is so flat-out phony that "fact-checking" is beside the point. And as for the scary lawyers—get a life, or maybe see me in court. But I offer this, to Moore and to his rapid response rabble. Any time, Michael my boy. Let's redo Telluride. Any show. Any place. Any platform. Let's see what you're made of.

Hitch painstakingly rips Farhenheit 9/11 apart for factual errors, logical inconsistencies, and flat out contradictions of Michael Moore's previously stated opinions. It's as if he's daring Moore to sue him.

Or hoping.

Posted by McQ at 07:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Going Wobbly

James lileks is getting pessimistic.

For the last few weeks I’ve had this gnawing belief that bin Laden got lucky by attacking during Bush’s term. Conventional wisdom says the opposite, because Bush fought back. But he’s the enemy now. I ask my Democrat friends what they’d rather see happen – Bush reelected and bin Laden caught, or Bush defeated and bin Laden still in the wind. They’re all honest: they’d rather see Bush defeated. (They’re quick to insist that they’d want Kerry to get bin Laden ASAP. Although the details are sketchy.) Of course this doesn't mean they're unpatriotic, etc., obligatory disclaimers, et cetera. But let's be honest. People are coming up with websites that demonstrate ingenious technology for spraying anti-Bush slogans on the sidewalks; it would be nice if they sprayed "DEFEAT TERRORISM" or "STOP AL QAEDA" now and then. Wouldn't it?

I belong to a usenet newsgroup that includes best-selling SF writer John Ringo. Right after 911, Ringo opined that what would happen after 911 was that we'd be all hot and bothered to fight the war on terror for a while. Then the anger would fade, the naysayers wouldconvince the public that we'd gone too far, and we'd fall back into the September 10th attitude about terrorism.

Then we'd get hit again. And the cycle would keep going, until the terrorists did something that just made us snap, and we'd start nuking the Mideast. I thought he was overly pessimistic, of course.

Now, I'm not so sure.

Posted by Dale Franks at 07:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Stray Voltage

I’m still amazed at what passes for critical thinking in this country ... especially in the media. In a piece in this week's US News & World Report, Linda Kulman, taking a swipe at our materialism, makes the following claim:

Indeed, America has double the number of shopping malls as it does high schools.

Well gee, Linda ... if you had spent more time in high school and less time in a shopping mall perhaps you’d realize there are at least 5, maybe 10 times as many people in the demographic that use malls than the one using high schools. Maybe we’re under represented with malls.

*****

Despite the fact that we only had a week of Reagan and we’re stuck with a summer of Clinton, keep your chin up ... this too will pass (like a bad portion of corned beef and cabbage). Of course the critics have already had their say about it. Michko Kakutani blasts the book soundly (and surprisingly) on the front page of the NY Times:

The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull — the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.

In many ways, the book is a mirror of Mr. Clinton's presidency: lack of discipline leading to squandered opportunities; high expectations, undermined by self-indulgence and scattered concentration. This memoir underscores many strengths of Mr. Clinton's eight years in the White House and his understanding that he was governing during a transitional and highly polarized period. But the very lack of focus and order that mars these pages also prevented him from summoning his energies in a sustained manner to bring his insights about the growing terror threat and an Israeli-Palestinian settlement to fruition.

And that’s the nice part.

None of that will effect sales in the least. The lefty love fest will continue. The only hopeful sign of its eventual demise is the fact that K-Mart is already offering the book at 40% off list and it hasn’t even been released.

*****

Bill Walen in the SF Chronicle reminds us that despite the “uncivil” aspects of the race for the presidency this year its not like its something new. For example:

1876: An open seat and open season on both candidates. Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, a Union general, is accused of robbing the Civil War dead and shooting his mother in a mad pique. Democrat Samuel J. Tilden is, in GOP words, "a drunkard, a liar, a cheat, a counterfeiter, a perjurer, and a swindler."

As you can see the “liar” meme has a history ... at least W. hasn’t been accused of robbing war dead or shooting his mother ... yet.

*****

Saudi Arabia seems to be reaping the whirlwind. Years ago, in an attempt to keep the Royal House of Saud in power, they made a bargain with the devil. In the late ‘70s, hundreds of Islamic radicals occupied the Grand Mosque in Mecca in outraged protest against the royal family’s decadence and corruption. In an effort to quell the protests, the Saudi leadership gave the Wahhabi clerics more influence at home and a mandate to expand their ideology abroad.

It hasn’t helped. Its homegrown extremist jihadists have come home to roost, and it appears that they will be satisfied with nothing less than the demise of the House of Saud..


According to the al Qaeda account of the kidnapping, Mr. Johnson was anesthetized and taken hostage June 12 at a bogus checkpoint set up in Riyadh by al Qaeda members disguised in police uniforms and cars provided by sympathizers in Saudi Arabia's security forces, according to the Web site posting.

When you have 15,000 security forces looking for a body that’s been dumped for days and you can’t find it, when you have your own security forces giving “uniforms and cars” to the jihadists, my guess is you’re days are numbered.

*****

I’m a believer in the separation of church and state. It’s a must if we’re to have freedom and liberty in this country. But that being said, I’m sick to death of Michael Newdow and his whiny attempts to remove “under God” from the pledge. First he tried to sell the idea it was for his daughter’s sake he was bringing suit. Then it was learned his daughter was a Christian and had no problem with the pledge. Did that stop him? No ... he still pushed it to the Supreme Court, which told him, “butt out, you have no standing in this case”. Did that stop his whining?

No. In today’s NY Times he’s at it again:

The case, which I brought, presented the court with an important question: is a classroom recital of the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional? The pledge — with its claim that ours is "one nation, under God" — is recited daily in the public school attended by my daughter. Because I am an atheist, she is, in essence, told every school morning that her father's religious views are wrong.

Uh, no, Mr. Newdow, the pledge makes absolutely no attempt to settle whether your views are right or wrong. And as a simple matter, if it offends you, if it is contrary to your “religious views” (whatever they are for an athiest), then don’t say it!

That’s your choice in the “land of the free”. Why not avail yourself of it and shut up, please?

*****

"Korean soldiers, please get out of here," the man screamed in English, flailing his arms. "I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I know that your life is important, but my life is important."

I wish my vocabulary was such that I could better voice my visceral disgust for the murderous pigs who put men like Paul Johnson and Korean Kim Sun-il through the horrible ordeal they put them through. Unfortunately its not. And just as unfortunately its my guess that Mr. Kim will suffer a fate not unlike Paul Johnson.

I just can’t imagine armed and masked thugs who butcher innocent people in the name of their religion ever being anything but craven cowards. I can only hope that we can somehow help them attain their martyrdom in the most expeditious fashion possible, and that when they do meet their version of “Allah”, he’s quick with the pitchfork and they roast in hell forever..

Posted by McQ at 03:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

It's all W's Fault

After reading today's article by Leon Wieseltier, the Literary Editor for The New Republic, I am a bit confused. Or, maybe it's Leon who's a bit confused. The first paragraph of the article starts off with this:

If I had known that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I would not have supported this war. I am not embarrassed by my assumption that Saddam Hussein possessed the sort of arsenal that made him a clear and present danger: The alarming intelligence estimates were shared by many Western governments, so that the debate in the months preceding the war concerned the methods for disarming Iraq, not the reasons for disarming it...

OK, so what he's saying is, that, since practically everybody believed that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, and all the intelligence estimates agreed that he was, and actively seeking more, it was reasonable, if mistaken, to believe that Saddam did, in fact, have WMDs, and was seeking more of them.

Unless, of course, your name is George W. Bush, as he makes clear in the second paragraph. Then, it's just unforgivable sloppiness.

Strategic thinking must have an empirical foundation. You do not act against a threat for which there is little or no evidence. Yet that is precisely what the United States did. Saddam Hussein had no nuclear capability, and almost no nuclear program. If there is an adequate explanation for the disposition of his vast and documented hoard of chemical and biological weapons, I have not heard it...The arsenal that we said was there is not there. Whatever the merits of preemption, there was nothing to preempt. It really is as plain as that. An absence of regrets and recriminations on the part of a supporter of this war now amounts to an absence of intellectual honesty...The administration is reaping an alienation that it sowed...Whether or not the president lied, he was not speaking the truth. He justified this war to the American people in a manner that will make it difficult for a long time to come to justify almost any war to the American people. In a time of genuine crisis, in a world riddled with savage enmity toward America and Americans, he was sloppy with our trust.

So, it was reasonable when Leon believed it, but it was sloppy when W believed it? So, what, I guess W should have used his amazing psychic powers to divine the truth?

You can't have it both ways. Both Para 1 and Para 2 cannot simultaneously be true. If it was reasonable for Leon to believe, based on past experience and the actions of Saddam Hussein in thwarting inspections that there was a smoking gun, then it was reasonable for W to believe this to. It now appears they were both wrong.

That may have been a mistake, but it wasn't sloppiness. It was, after all, Saddam Hussein who refused to allow the UN unfettered access to his scientific people after UN Res. 1441 forced inspections to begin again. If there was any sloppiness, then it was Saddam Hussein's. Saddam could've prevented an invasion at any time simply by opening his books to the UN.

Instead, he acted in a way that convinced Mr. Wieseltier that he had an active WMD program. Unfortunately for Saddam, it convinced W, too. This offends Mr. Wieseltier, which strikes me as an overly tendentious position.

The rest of the article is similarly incoherent.

Wieseltier argues that liberating Iraq is a grand and noble experiment in bringing freedom to a repressed corner of the world. But it might not work, and the Iraqis might prefer something else.

This leaves the other justification for the war, the ennobling one. I say this without irony, and I refer to the democratization of Iraq. I can imagine no grander historical experiment in our time than the effort to bring a liberal order to an Arab society...

Still, some murmurings are in order. It is important to remember that freedom is not the same thing as democracy. When people are liberated, they become free to be what they already are. They almost never are already a democracy. Democracy is an elaborate structure of principles and institutions. It is built, not found. The liberation of Iraq is only a condition for the democratization of Iraq. Finally the fate of Iraq is in the hands of Iraqis. If Iraq becomes a theocracy, or succumbs to a strongman, or collapses as a state, all this, too, will be the work of a free Iraq.

So, does this mean that if the Iraqis choose to do something different than we hope, it wasn't a noble experiment? So, should we force them to create a democratic, Jeffersonian republic? Or what? Does he even have a point, other than, if the Iraqis don't come up with George Washington and Alexander Hamilton tout de suite, that W should be put in a bamboo cage and poked with sharp sticks?

Apparently not.

I love the final 'graph, too:

Though the president and the vice president are acting with force internationally, they are not exactly internationalists. They are not national greatness conservatives, they are national smallness conservatives. But who are the national greatness liberals?

I especially like that last line. Because that is the heart of the problem. The National Greatness Liberals, if Mr. Wieseltier is an example, want America to act forcefully in the world, but only as long as no one is offended, our allies all agree with us, and we don't make any serious blunders, never mind that serious blunders are a part and parcel of warfare, and always have been. This is essentially a prescription for doing absolutely nothing, until an atomic bomb blows up in Chicago, or Botulinum toxin is released into San Francisco's water supply. Maybe then the French will give us permission to defend our own interests.

If this is Mr. Wieseltier's--and the Left's--idea of national greatness, then I'll take W's national smallness, thanks.

Posted by Dale Franks at 01:20 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Linked! (or, maybe not)

This development sounds interesting... (also found here)

The commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks has received new information indicating that a senior officer in an elite unit of the security services of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein may have been a member of al-Qaida involved in the planning of the suicide hijackings, panel members said Sunday.

John F. Lehman, a Reagan-era GOP defense official told NBC's "Meet the Press" that documents captured in Iraq "indicate that there is at least one officer of Saddam's Fedayeen, a lieutenant colonel, who was a very prominent member of al Qaida."

...but, before the right side of the 'sphere goes off on it--at least, any more than they already have--it's worth reading through a bit, and really thinking about the caveats. They're important, and they're relevant.
...experts cautioned that the connection might be nothing more than coincidence.

"Shakir is a pretty common name," said terrorism analyst and author Peter Bergen, "and even if the two names refer to the same person, there might be a number of other explanations. Perhaps al-Qaida had penetrated Saddam's security apparatus."

Analysts say the Fedayeen was not an intelligence unit, but an irregular militia recruited from clans loyal to the regime in the capital...

He said the Fedayeen were "at the low end of the food chain in the security apparatus, doing street level work for the regime."[emphasis added]

Three reasons why this might not be the smoking gun it's cracked up to be.
1: The names could be a coincidence.
2: Shakir may have primarily been an Al Qaeda operative, doing espionage within Iraq, rather than for them - Al Qaeda merely keeping their eyes and ears deployed.
3: Shakir was affiliated with both organizations, but was not a "connection" between the two - in much the same way that a person can work for IBM and play softball for his church league, but not be coordinating softball strategy for IBM.

Or, perhaps there's something to it. At this point, though, it doesn't look like substantial evidence of a cooperative link between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:28 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Death Wish?

One has to wonder about the "brilliance" of this move:

Iran said Monday it had confiscated three British naval vessels and arrested eight armed crew members. The Royal Navy acknowledged it had lost contact with three small patrol boats on a routine mission in the waterway between Iraq and Iran.

Its about the "nuke" spat going on right now ... a little tit-for-tat I believe:

Iranian-British relations have been strained in recent days, since London helped draft a resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors meeting last week in Vienna that rebuked Iran for past cover-ups involving its development of nuclear technology

Iran says its program is aimed only at producing energy, while the United States accuses Tehran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran accused Britain of caving in to U.S. pressure on the resolution..

Feeling a bit froggy, the Iranians had this to say.

The three British ships entered Iranian territorial waters not far from the Iran-raq border, the Arabic language Al-Alam television reported.

"Iranian forces confiscated the ships and eight military personnel on board," the report said.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi confirmed the report, according to Iran's main Persian language TV channel.

"Interrogation of those detained will continue until the matter is clarified," Asefi was quoted as saying.

Hmmm ... somehow I can hear the SAS gearing up from here.

If I were Iran, I'd be sending 3 boats and 8 sailors back to the Iraqi side of the gulf fairly quickly. This is an escalation in tensions that they really don't want, whether they know it or not.

Posted by McQ at 11:25 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Life of the Party

Ah, it's Bill Clinton season again. With the publication of his biography, we are once again offered a chance to relive the halcyon days of the Clinton Administration. In fact, I think that nearly everyone in the country has some reason to appreciate Bill Clinton's presidency. Indeed, Mark Steyn gives republicans a very good reason to appreciate Bill Clinton.

The Clintons' Democratic Party was great for the Clintons but disastrous for the Democratic Party: during the 1990s, they lost the House and the Senate and a ton of governorships and state legislatures, and eventually, with nothing else left to lose, they lost the presidency. Clinton's heat left the party so parched for talent they had no successful governors to run for president and were forced to turn to a stiff hack weathervane senator in the hope they could so damage Bush they could drag their boy across the finishing line.

People don't often think about this side of the Clinton Presidency. They remember that he won two terms in office, which, for a Democrat in post-WWII America, is practically a miracle.

But few think about the political change that occurred during the Clinton presidency. When he went to Washington in 1992, the Democrats controlled the Congress, a majority of governorships, and a majority of state houses.

Eight years later, that had all been reversed. Obviously, all the blame doesn't fall on Clinton. The party's increasing slide towards moonbat leftiness helped quite a lot, too. But I think it's fair to say that the shenanigans of Clinton's second term weren't much help, either.

Something else is interesting, too, in reading all this stuff about Clinton.

There was a photograph in The New York Post a few weeks ago of Bill Clinton and some other fellow entering a room. Seven-eighths of the picture was Clinton with a big broad smile and his arms outstretched, like a cheesy Vegas lounge act acknowledging the applause of the crowd before launching into his opening number ("I Get a Kick Out of Me"). The gaunt, cadaverous fellow wedged into the left-hand sliver of the photograph proved on closer inspection to be Senator John Kerry, looking like a gloomy, aged retainer trying to remind the big guy that he's running late. In this case, four years late.

If I were a Democrat, that picture would have been more depressing than one of the oxymoronic "Kerry rallies". Clinton in the formulation adopted by various aggrieved campaign advisers and political observers, "sucks all the oxygen" out of the Senator's campaign.

Now, if you ever read Primary Colors, the fictionalized account of the Clinton campaign written by Joe Klein, one of the first things that grabs you is Klein's description of how powerfully the Clinton character listened. He'd listen with an intensity that was almost frightening.

In 1992, that was Clinton's most powerful advantage over the tongue-tied George Bush. Bush was such an emotional man that, to protect himself, he made himself emotionally distant, in order to avoid being overcome by emotion.

Clinton was the polar opposite. He listened intently. He'd bite his lower lip. He'd feel our pain. He'd nod judiciously as we were talking. Clinton seemed honestly interested in what other people were saying.

Now, it seems, his only interest is in what he's saying. He has all the good ideas. He knows the way where others get lost. We should all listen to him.

That's a big change, and it points not to a flaw in Clinton, but in humanity.

Imagine you are president of the United States. You are surrounded every day by people who owe their livelihoods to you, and whose careers or public prestige you could destroy with a single word. Every one of those people will tell you, at every opportunity, what a wonderful leader you are, how wise your decisions are, how fortunate the country--no, the world--is to have your leadership.

No matter how well-grounded you think you may be, that surely must have an effect on you, especially over the course of eight full years.

I noticed this with Margaret Thatcher, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, too. By the end of their premierships, they were increasingly autocratic, and unwilling to listen to others, convinced their judgment was superior. After all, they'd been premiers for a decade. Surely they were the people to whom their countries needed to listen. Weren't they?

Well, maybe they were, but the nice thing about democratic governance is that, when our leaders start getting a bit big for their britches, we can toss them out, and replace them with someone a trifle less imperious.

It must be tough for a man to become president so young. It doesn't happen too often, but when it does, it's often not pretty.

Like Clinton, Teddy Roosevelt became president at a younger age than usual. When his second term was over, he fidgeted for four years, then ran for president in 1912 against the incumbent president he had personally chosen as his successor, William Howard Taft. All that did, of course, was make Woodrow Wilson the president. So, in 1916, Teddy decided to run for president against him, too.

Teddy's run against Taft in 1912 crippled the Republican party for a decade, splitting the progressive and conservative wings of the party ("progressive" meant something far different than it does today) in 1912 over Taft's fitness for the job, and again 1916 with the formation of the "Bull Moose" party, which was essentially built around Teddy Roosevelt, personally.

Taft, who'd never really wanted to be president, nevertheless never forgave Teddy for what he considered to be a personal betrayal. As an aside, however, Taft did end up getting the job he'd really wanted for his whole life, when he was chosen by President Harding to serve as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, a post he held until his death in 1930.

Teddy was, like Clinton, a restless and strongly motivated man. And, like Clinton, Teddy couldn't bear to sit on the sidelines while other--and in his estimation, lesser--men ran the government. The difference is that Teddy wasn't term limited in 1912. Bill Clinton is.

And, so, like Teddy, he is finding that he is a relatively young man with a powerful urge to do something important, eight years of experience with being assured of his vital contribution to the nation, but with nothing to do.

So, now, according to even close Clinton associates, he does the only thing he can do: He talks. Apparently, he talks incessantly. He's always the last guest to leave the party. He's like a conversational remora, unwilling to be attached until you've heard whatever he has to say.

It's a part--and a sad part--of what presidential power does to you, unless you are very well-grounded. It turns you from a listener into a talker.

UPDATE:
Thinking about the office of ex-President also reminds me of Lyndon Johnson. When he returned to the ranch in Johnson City, he began to hold morning staff meetings with the ranchhands to discuss the status of their work and hand out new assignments. Having grown up in rural Texas, I can personally assure you that morning staff meetings aren't a usual feature of ranch life.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Free Market

A couple reasons I passionately believe in the free market as a force for both economic and social progress....

Michelle Malkin...

When private schools fail, they shut down. When private nursing homes fail, they shut down. But when negligent government social service agencies fail, they stay open, get more money, and claim more victims. The latest horror story out of Washington state involves Suzy Sclater, a woman with cerebal palsy and the developmental abilities of a toddler, who was raped in a state-operated group home..... [...]
DSHS lawyers take a different view of the matter, suggesting that Suzy could have gotten the bruises in a series of falls and inserted the semen into herself....
It's not just that federal programs continue to get more money - after all, Enron continued to make money after raping California. No, what is ultimately bothersome is that government programs will continue to take money from you and I, whether we approve or not. If you dislike the business practices of a Wal-Mart--or whomever--you may not be able to shut them down, but you can remove your support. Not so with government run programs. They are above the social and consumer censure implicit in the free market.

Steve Verdon...

SpaceShipOne is to attempt to fly to the outer reaches of Earth's atmosphere. If successful this will be the first civilian financed, constructed and flown space flight.
And it will be done for a bit over $20 million - a fraction of the price of a NASA spaceflight. And not a dollar out of my pocket or yours.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ken Lay to be charged soon

Remember all the snark about the relationship between George W Bush and Ken Lay? Kenneth Lay, you see, wouldn't go to jail because he had contributed to the Bush campaign. Bush was simply protecting his "super secret cabal", don't you know.

Except, not so much...

Federal prosecutors are preparing to seek criminal charges against former Enron Corp. chairman Kenneth L. Lay, capping a 2 1/2-year-old investigation into the collapse of the Houston energy company, said sources involved the probe.

Lay, 62, will face charges for urging investors and employees to buy Enron stock while he allegedly knew about the company's mounting financial troubles in the months before its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in late 2001, the sources said.

Charges against Lay, first reported by the Houston Chronicle, would mark a climax of the long-running government investigation.

Expect to hear crickets chirping--and very little else--from the left about this story.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Insults Unpunished

Robert Prather announces...

I have an axe to grind and plenty of fury to turn the wheel.
That sums up how I felt two years ago when I started this, but the feeling didn’t last.
[...]
...I’m genuinely burned out. I also have a lot of changes in front of me in the coming months that will diminish the importance of the site substantially.
[...]
To my blogging friends and frequent visitors, I say adieu. [...] I’ve learned a great deal from this experience, had my views challenged (sometimes thoughtfully, sometimes inanely) and have modified them when it seemed appropriate. All-in-all, not a bad hobby if you have the time. Thank you.
Robert Prather's Insults Unpunished has occupied my blogroll--and my attention--for quite a long time. I hate to see him go, but wish him the best of luck.

I like what Steven Taylor wrote about this: "Insults Sufficiently Punished (at Least for Now)"

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Memorandum

Gabe, creator of Memeorandum, writes...

Just like any blogger, I'm grateful for the links and recommendations driving growth and recognition of the site.
He deserves those links and mentions, and I'm sorry I haven't mentioned Memeorandum more often than I have. It is simply one of the most useful and well-designed aggregator sites available. I can't tell you how often I've posted on a story that interested me, then gone to Memeorandum to find out what else is being said on the topic. Best of all, it is completely nonpartisan, so there's no danger of Memeorandum becoming an echo-chamber for like-minded opinions.

So, if you haven't checked it out yet, do so. And bookmark it. Gabe is doing the 'sphere a valuable service.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Spencer James?

While engaged in a debate with other bloggers, Brian Leiter makes a statement so utterly inane that it positively demands the "point and laugh" treatment.....

...when there are legal arguments on both sides of a question--say, whether the Establishment Clause applies to the states--to adopt the side that has repulsive moral and political consequences is lunatic.
Let me preface this by pointing out that I'm very much in favor of separation of church and state. I subscribe to the "separate spheres" concept described by John Locke - it is wrong to mix religion with coercion, and government is coercion. So, with that out of the way...

Has Leiter thought this through? One suspects he has not. In fact, one suspects Leiter is simply casting about for any rhetorical device to gain the upper hand. With the cited statement, he's failed miserably.

Unless Leiter proposes that an argument is a stark contrast between Good and Evil - that one side has "repulsive" consequences, while the other is all milk and honey - then it is exceedingly dishonest to pretend that the costs implicit in any course of action render that course "lunatic".

What Leiter proposes is that we sidestep the Constitution where it differs with our (read: his) preferred outcomes.

Perhaps he truly believes this though, that the ends justify the means, and that one cannot sanely defend a position that has "repulsive moral and political consequences". Presumably, then, Mr Leiter will find himself in support of the Iraq war. After all, one must concede that the continued reign of Saddam Hussein was a "repulsive moral and political consequence".

In fact, that is an argument that can be made of any authoritarian government--since, invariably, the legal use of force and fraud rests upon authoritarian government--so, Brian Leiter, to be consistent, must become a libertarian.

Leiter is one of the more interesting demagogues in the blogosphere, if for no other reason than the fact that he can maintain such an air of superiority while making such jaw-droppingly poor arguments.

UPDATE: Wait. Never mind. Leiter has no problem defending "the side that has repulsive moral and political consequences". In a recent post, Leiter defends Cuba's policy of quarantining AIDS patients - because, after all, they're imprisoned in nice facilities, and it does help lower the incidence of AIDS among the general population. To be sure, he calls it "immoral", but it has "nothing to do with concentration camps". And, besides, those sure are some nice prisons hospitals.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:05 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 20, 2004

Die, hackers, die

The first politician to get passed a bill enforcing long prison terms for hackers, and developers and users of spyware will get my vote. I mean, double digit terms. I'm still somewhere short of favoring capital punishment, but not by far.

All that to say, I am dealing with some damned spyware that hijacks my web browser and takes me here. I've tried a couple spybot-type programs to find and delete it, and I thought it worked, but it appears to be back.

Any suggestions? And, beyond that, is there any way to retaliate? I would love to make a particular somebody's life hell.
OfcourseIwouldneverdoanythingillegal,nosir,notme,godforbid, etc...

(sigh. off to bed, to sleep this off)

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:06 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Clinton, the Statesman

Now that Clinton is out of office, I find myself re-evaluating him as a figure on the political stage. When he was in office, he had the potential--and sometimes the desire--to take this country in a collectivist direction I found disturbing. Most often, though, he was a good enough politician to recognize the concessions he had to make, and to give that ground in areas that were good for the country - welfare reform, a balanced budget, and free trade spring to mind.

Now that he's out of office--and his critics are never going to cede an inch to the man, so I expect a fuss--I'm finding him much more of a respectable character than I ever found him when he was in office and trying to foist nationalized health care on us. Perhaps it is the distance I've gotten from the 90s, or perhaps it is the distance he's gotten from legislation, but things like this are positively inspirational....

Former President Clinton has revealed that he continues to support President Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq but chastised the administration over the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison.

"I have repeatedly defended President Bush against the left on Iraq, even though I think he should have waited until the U.N. inspections were over," Clinton said in a Time magazine interview...
[...]
Clinton, who was interviewed Thursday, said he did not believe that Bush went to war in Iraq over oil or for imperialist reasons but out of a genuine belief that large quantities of weapons of mass destruction remained unaccounted for.

Noting that Bush had to be "reeling" in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Clinton said Bush's first priority was to keep al Qaeda and other terrorist networks from obtaining "chemical and biological weapons or small amounts of fissile material."

"That's why I supported the Iraq thing. There was a lot of stuff unaccounted for," Clinton said in reference to Iraq and the fact that U.N. weapons inspectors left the country in 1998.

"So I thought the president had an absolute responsibility to go to the U.N. and say, 'Look, guys, after 9/11, you have got to demand that Saddam Hussein lets us finish the inspection process.' You couldn't responsibly ignore [the possibility that] a tyrant had these stocks," Clinton said.

His criticisms? He thinks Bush should have given the inspections more time, and that the abuses--as at Abu Ghraib--show a breakdown likely coming from "higher echelons".

You know what? Those are pretty damned fair criticisms to make. I'd tend to agree with the latter, and a very strong case can be made for the former, as well. (not that the inspections would have solved the problem from the Iraq end, but that they would have prevented post-war political difficulties)

Most of all, I'm impressed with the intellectual honesty that Clinton exhibits here, respecting the arguments from each side of the Iraq debate. This isn't an arguments of absolutes - there are costs and benefits to each side. The real, intellectually honest, useful debate occurs in the margins.

There are bloggers--and readers--who would do well to recognize this.

UPDATE: Conversely, there are journalists who would do well to get over the blowjob. It's soooo 1998. (no sarcasm intended) Kevin Drum writes...

Matt Yglesias has been watching TV this morning and says the talking heads are practically salivating at the idea of being able to talk about Clinton's blow jobs again. This will undoubtedly be followed up with a special segment on how woefully underinformed the American public is on the important issues of the day.
This issue was settled. He was impeached, lost his license to practice law, and that's the end of the story. Let's drop it. Really. There are important things to discuss, and Bill Clinton is discussing them...that is, in between all the bj questions.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Andrew Gets Email...

....about what we want in a President right now, and I could have written this myself...

1. A President for whom the War on Terror is by far the top priority and who will execute it with cold efficiency and competence. They don't mind if mistakes are made--they even expect them (omelet-making and all)--but by God they [want] someone to 'fess up to them and make them right.
This, beyond anything else the Bush administration does, baffles me. It leaves them wide open to (well-deserved) attack; it makes them look incompetent--or, at the least, oblivious; and it leaves issues on the table long after they should have been dealt with and/or dismissed. (AWOL; pre-war intelligence; etc)

One might suppose they are choosing to stay above the fray on individual "scandals"--thereby, not giving unworthy "scandals" currency--until they either drop off the radar or stick. If they stick, they deal with them then, and move on. That is quite a reasonable, even sophisticated, approach...but it doesn't explain no-brainer problems like WMDs, 9/11, the Plame scandal, and similar genuine problems.

2. A President who doesn't kowtow to every freaking interest group that beats down his door--unions, religious groups, activist groups, etc.
i.e. - Principles. Reagan had conservative/libertarian principles--the moral superiority of freedom, in both economics and foreign relations--and he could preach them powerfully. Clinton had liberal principles--the utilitarian use of government to alleviate social problems--and he could preach them powerfully.

Bush and Kerry? I follow politics pretty closely, and I still can't figure out their principles.

Perhaps they have none, except the "Price is Right" principle - you only have to be one degree more electable than your opponent.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:13 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Economics Professor?

Feast your eyes on this. This is from the "Letters to the Editor" today in the Atlanta Journal Consititution. Its not so much the foolishness you'll find in the letter that's a bit alarming, but the fact that the writer is identified as a Georgia Tech professor (emeritus) of economics.

Problems of capitalism can't be blamed on Reagan

While Ronald Reagan hastened the demise of Soviet-style communism, he had little to do with extending capitalism. On that count, I propose that: First, when Mikhail Gorbachev and his fashion-conscious wife began visiting the Reagans, they saw how good it was to live rich; second, the Russian leaders realized there was more profit in exploiting the masses as consumers than as workers. (We made that discovery in the '50s, when women were pushed from the home into the labor force, to increase consumption.)

The same process is occurring in China, where affluence is dramatically increasing demand, especially for automobiles. While that is good for corporate profits -- in the United States, China and elsewhere -- it is hastening the exhaustion of the Earth's supply of petroleum (and causing pollution and congestion in China, due to rapid urbanization).

Of more immediate concern, rising demand for oil in China is a significant factor in the run-up of gasoline prices in the United States.

MACK A. MOORE
Moore, of Atlanta, is a Georgia Tech professor (emeritus) of economics.

Does that leave you gasping for breath or what? One can only hope this is a tawdry joke played on Prof. Moore by one of his econ students.

Premise A: The fall of the USSR was hastened by the leadership's realization that there was "more profit in exploiting the masses as consumers than as workers".

So in essence the theory here is that Gorbechev was put in the position of leadership to find a way to make the USSR more profitable? Does anyone really need me to point out to the vast swaths of history this nonsense ignores? Does anyone need me to point out that Gorbechev's was there to resurect communism, not destroy it?

And then there is this line: "We made that discovery in the '50s, when women were pushed from the home into the labor force, to increase consumption".

What was WWII, a non-event? 11 million men under arms and a war industry to gear up. Guess who did the lion's share of the work. Rosie the Riveter wasn't a creation of the '50s meant to boost consumption. She was the icon of a female labor force of the '40s "pushed from the home" and into labor to help defeat totalitariansim and save the world. It changed our culture for ever.

But then there's premise B. After the usual lefty swing a profits, the "we're running out of petroleum canard" (tied to increased demand in China) and the "increase in autos is causing air pollution problems" claim, we get tihs:

Premise B: Gasoline price increases were driven by an increase in demand by Chinese for automobiles and thus petroleum products.

Holy moonbat, Batman!

Before we get to that, though, lets take a look at his pollution claim.

According to the World Resources Institute, China's air polution problems stem primarily on their heavy use of coal as a fuel for both power generation and home heating fuel. As the cited report says, " The country is expected to burn 1.5 billion metric tons of coal annually by the year 2000, up from 0.99 billion metric tons in 1990 . Without even more dramatic measures to control emissions than are currently in place, the deterioration of air quality seems inevitable."

Their second greatest problem as concerns air quality is from outdated vehicles ... not new ones. As the WRI report confirms, "The problem stems not just from the growing size of the vehicle fleet but also from low emissions standards, poor road infrastructure, and outdated technology, which combine to make Chinese vehicles among the most polluting in the world ."

So it isn't this increase in demand for new autos which is deteriorating air quality at all.

But on to the second premise. I won't bore you with the multitude of cites which point to maxed out refinery capacity, seasonal change over in petroleum products and a cut in production by OPEC as the primary causes of the temporary ... note the term ... temporary spike in gasoline prices. If Professor Moore's theory held any water at all, it wouldn't be a temporary spike, would it? The competition would most likely drive the price up permanently. But as we know, supply can be increased with the turn of a valve, and it has ... driving prices back down in what is mostly a seasonal adjustment in petroleum production and pricing.

What is really scary about this, if its not some elaborate joke, is this guy is an Economics professor at one of our more prestigeous universities. The 'reasoning' shown here isn't worthy of an ignorant 8th grader. It displays a total lack of knowledge concerning history and economics not to mention a lack of research and the ability to reason.

Does this bother anyone else as much as it does me?

Posted by McQ at 10:27 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 19, 2004

More thoughts on why they aren't here

The “Why aren’t they here?” thread here on Q and O has been most interesting. A couple of things have struck me as we have discussed our ideas and assumptions concerning the jihadists.

One is that we assume we know their goals. It became clear, at least to me, that many of us are assigning them goals which may or may not be their true goals. My guess is there are multiple goals withing the loose organization of Jihadists and it would be a mistake to a) assign a single over-arching goal to all of them and b) to assume we know their ultimate goal.

But if there is an over-arching goal, one would have to believe it is more likely to be one which has some history.

Let’s take the ‘destruction of the great Satan’. This is often given as the goal of all jihadists.

Does that mean the utter destruction of the US? Or does it mean the destruction of its influence?

If you decide it’s the former, then by every measure you must regard the jihadist’s war as one of physical destruction. Going after everything and everyone American. Physically wiping the US from the face of the earth.

Reasonable goal?

Not at all. The jihadists have neither the means nor the ability to do this. Oh certainly they may be able to eventually successfully prosecute some mass casualty atrocities in the US ... but that hardly qualifies as the destruction of the country. Its not going to happen, they know it and they’re not going to waste their limited means on attempting something doomed to failure from the beginning.

A more reasonable goal, by far, is the destruction of the influence the US wields generally in the world and more specifically in Muslim countries. They already have a head start toward that goal in their part of the world. Their governments, for the most part, tightly control information distribution within their country. That gives them a leg up. And traditionally, their religious leaders are some of if not the most influential people in their culture. That too benefits their cause.

So the story which is told, which hits the Arab street, is, for the most part, what they want out there, told in the manner they want it told. Of course it virulently anti-American, filled with falsehoods, half-truths and manufactured stories which show the “great Satan” as the enemy of Islam and the “believers” as their savior. But then that’s the point, isn’t it?

Think back to the ‘80s and Afghanistan. The USSR sets up a secular communist government ... a godless government in Afghanistan. The reaction of Islam is the formation of the mujahadeen and the overthrow of that government, followed by the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR. It was this successful movement to take back the country of Afghanistan which provided the seed for today’s jihadist movement. The “believers” fought the “godless” to a standstill and eventually forced them to withdraw. Success by anyone’s measure. In the eyes of the mujahadeen, they were fighting a defensive war in the name of Islam. At that time, the crown of “Great Satan” rested firmly on the head of the USSR. Allah gave them the strength to win. And win they did.

But was their goal the utter destruction of the USSR? Or was it the forced removal of the USSR and its influence.

Yes, the latter. And I suspect that is precisely the same goal the jihadists have today.

Fast forward to 1991. What is the basis of bin Laden’s complaint against the new “great Satan”? Unbelievers on holy soil. US troops in Saudi Arabia. The “great Satan” occupies ground in a holy country and thereby defiles it. Reaction: defensive. Goal: get the US out of Saudi Arabia by use of terror.

Attainable? Of course, as they see it . Look what they did in Afghanistan. And using a group of Islamic states as their bases for training and recruiting, al-Queda was formed. It had a very limited goals even though it was a collection of groups within Islamic nations. That goal was to get the US out of their countries and to erase its political and cultural “contamination” from them once and for all. The end result would be the reassertion of their form of the ‘perfect’ Islamic state, where women are chattel and men are king. Where religious leaders are the government and Islamic law is the law. In other words, wall off a portion of the world, reestablish feudal rule and keep their portion of the population in virtual slavery.

Well we all know that’s not going to happen.

And that is the fight.

Where the Jihadists messed up in attaining their goal was with their attack on the US. As have many enemies, they underestimated America and Americans. And they completely underestimated the response. Unlike some of our recent history, we responded strongly and speedily took down two Islamic “terror” nations in the bat of an eye, historically speaking. Their network was terribly disrupted.

They found they could run but couldn’t hide. Leaders were killed, finances were grabbed, camps were destroyed and networks were rolled up. There was no official sanctuary for them as no country would admit to having them within their borders knowingly.

As some readers have suggested, these are smart guys. One suspects that sometime in the not to distant past, between scrambling for their lives and looking for a safe place to go, they may have reviewed the results of 9/11 and done a bit of a reassessment. An after action review if you will.

The question on the table?

Is it worth stirring up the “great Satan” again like 9/11 did, or is it more reasonable to concentrate our assets where they will do the most good in accomplishing our goal .... the eradication of American influence in the Middle East?

If I were a “smart guy” and I were asked that question, it wouldn’t be a difficult one to answer. Let’s operate where we have some natural cover and lets demonstrate our power graphically by doing acts and actions which portray us the powerful force and the US as the helpless, hapless and weak force. Let’s play to the Arab street, solidify our hold there and then when the time comes (and I’m sure they think it will) push the “great Satan” out of the area.


In the meantime, let’s focus in Iraq and bleed him white there while making sure to not do anything which will hurt the cause of the growing dissent within the US. In other words, let’s let the US talk itself out of the region, with a helpful push from us here and there.

Now, if they’re as smart as everyone wants to give them credit for being, that’s a much more reasonable approach with a limited goal that indeed, given Somalia and Viet Nam as historical examples, seems achievable ... at least to them.

Posted by McQ at 01:09 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Requiem for a warrior

Strange things get to you.

While reading a story of 5 young men who were buried together at Arlington National Cemetary yesterday, vicitims of a roadside bomb in Iraq, I made it through the whole thing with a dry eye, until I got almost to the end. The article had given the circumstance of their death, the reason there was a group burial and a little bit about each of their lives.

Pretty typical American kids, all special in their own right.

I teared up when I got to the 5th story, about Pvt. Brandon L. Davis of Cumberland, Md:

Davis, 20, was the class cutup who was suspended from school after attending his eighth-grade dance in drag. He had joined the military to learn a trade, start a career. In February, he had a chance to return home, but gave up his leave to a friend who was about to get married, relatives said.

At first I laughed at the spirit of this youngster. But it was the last sentence that got to me.

Its hard to describe, for those who haven't experienced it, the bond that men in combat forge. It is a true brotherhood. Together they live through some of the most intense moments of their lives. They don't fight for God and country, much as politicians would like us to believe, but for each other. The man on their right and left. Their "brothers".

The squad is their world. They fight like cats and dogs among themselves but would risk their lives at the drop of a hat for each other should circumstances require it. The famous saying about "uncommon valor being a common virtue" stems mostly from buddies taking care of buddies in dire circumstances.

When I saw that Brandon Davis had given up his leave for a buddy, it didn't surprise me in the least. He was of the brotherhood, and in that brotherhood unselfish acts are routine. You do what it takes to take care of each other. He lived and died among those he held in the highest of esteem. And now he lays eternally with his brothers.

Rest in peace, young warrior.

Posted by McQ at 08:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Open-Borders Brigade

Michelle Malkin recounts what happens to your chances of getting published by the Wall Street Journal if you violate their "open borders" editorial position any time, anywhere.

As Victor Davis Hanson points out in his marvelous book, Mexifornia, there is an unlikely coalition of leftist La Raza types and big business concerns that want open borders. The lefties see a chance for creating a more liberal electorate over time, and big business sees a large pool of low-cost labor. And, since the Journal--a fine paper, to be sure--has an editorial page that is not averse to being the useful mouthpiece of big business, the Journal's editorial page is part of that coalition, too.

To save time, please assume at this point that I've already mouthed the requisite pieties over the benefits of legal immigration, one of which, incidentally, is Michelle Malkin.

The Journal bases its support of open borders on the traditional free trade economic reasoning, and, on a purely theortetical basis, that economic reasoning is sound. But illegal immigration has cultural, political, and financial implications that the economic arguments simply ignore.

Posted by Dale Franks at 02:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jumping into the George W. Bush/Andrew Sullivan Pond

I guess it's official now. Everyone's atitter about Andrew Sullivan's announcement that he won't be supporting George W. Bush's re-election. Jon has also announced publicly here that his support for W could most charitably be described as soft.

So, just so you know that we aren't a monolithically rigid punditry palace here at QandO, let me make my position clear, too. Not only do I support the re-election of George W. Bush, I've already done work for the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign, and I expect to do more, including as much ghost-writing and surrogate speaking as I can fit into my schedule.

Does this mean I'm on board with the whole Bush agenda? Of course not. There's a lot of daylight between W and me on a lot of issues.

I think abortion should be legal, at least in the first trimester. I think gays should be allowed to marry. I support stem-cell research. I support the legalization of drugs. I oppose guest-worker and amnesty programs for illegal aliens. I oppose tariffs on steel, textiles, and softwoods.

Not only that, but I think the intelligence on WMDs prior to the war in Iraq was a travesty. And the pre-911 intelligence operation doesn't appear to have been using the sharpest knives in the drawer, either. In fact, it now appears that the CIA couldn't find it's own ass in the dark without both hands, a flashlight, a GPS locator, side-scan sonar, and a dedicated ATC control center.

Now, I have to say, that I never really cared whether Saddam had WMDs or not. Indeed, in 1991, when I was employed by the US Government in the business of killing people and breaking things, I thought that we should have headed the Humvees to Baghdad then, instead of stopping in the desert. I was perfectly happy when Bill Clinton launched Desert Fox, and I supported invading Iraq and whacking Saddam on general principles.

Still, the CIA should have been a bit more on the ball than the freakin French. I mean, we expect them to be wrong about everything, but when we can't do any better than they can, well, it's just embarrassing, man. And W should've kicked butt and taken names at the CIA and the FBI right after 911.

And I'm upset that things in Iraq haven't gone swimmingly either. It was obvious that we were gonna need at least as much iron fist as velvet glove in keeping a lid on trouble over there during the occupation. I think the administration has been too lax in bringing security to the country, and too afraid of criticism to send the troops in to kill anyone who even looked at our boys cross-eyed. Probably, that's because my military experience wasn't in the rarefied levels of policy, but ten years at the trigger-pulling, bullet-stopping level. So, my perspective is probably more inclined to direct action, rather than the catching-flies-with-honey strategy it appears we are using there. For instance, if I was running the show, Shi'ite militia guys would be meeting on Saturdays over coffee, reminiscing about what a great guy that Moqtada al-Sadr used to be, before the unfortunate Daisy-Cutter Incident.

So, yeah, there are plenty of reasons to be disappointed in the Bush Administration's performance.

So what? It's not like I have a wide range of choices for president, now, is it? It's not like W's main opponent is freakin' Pericles.

The opposition roster is as follows:

John Kerry has never met a defense or intelligence budget cut he hasn't liked. And why should he? After all, he thinks the more money you can keep out of the hands of the assassins, rapists, and baby killers of the US national security establishment, the better we'll all be. John Kerry, thinks that Jacques Chirac has some pretty darn important things to say. While we're on the subject, Kerry also thinks we should probably be listening to Gerhard Schröder, too, because the Germans have a lot of experience in foreign affairs, and what the Germans don't know about invading and occupying other countries isn't really worth knowing. Ralph Nader evidently didn't get Micky Gorbachev's communism's-not-working-so-we're-shutting-down-the-USSR memo, so he's keen to try to have go at setting it up over here. Then, of course, there's whatever crank is running on the Libertarian Party ticket this year, who believes that...well, who cares what he believes. The sun will set in a blazing red sky to the east of Casablanca before he ever becomes President.

Yeah, I'm looking at the sample ballot, and I don't see George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, or Abe Lincoln anywhere on it. So, all things considered, I'm sticking with W.

In another time, under other circumstances, I'd be perfectly happy to dump W, too. After all, I voted to get rid of his dad in '92, so I'm not a guaranteed Republican voter. But at this point in history, a president who is willing to unapologetically prosecute the War on Terror is the only option for me. And as far as I can see, W is the only candidate who's committed to that path of action.

Having said all that, though, if you aren't sticking with W, like Andrew Sullivan, then go right ahead. That's the great thing about our system. We get to overthrow the government every 4 years. The right to do that is the very kind of thing we're fighting for right now. You may see things differently than I do. I may disagree with you.

But maybe I'm wrong.

Posted by Dale Franks at 01:38 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 18, 2004

Why aren't they here?

Billy Beck dropped me a line and asked me to give him my thoughts on his most recent post. It really set me to thinking about his essential question. If terror is the game why haven't these jihadists been terrorizing the US?

Think about it. We saw what the two idiots in DC were able to accomplish in a very short time. It would seem an adequately trained group or groups would be able to at least accomplish that here. So why haven't they?

Its not because we've suddenly become effective at sealing our borders ... they still leak like two-year old's day old diaper. And getting arms or explosives certainly wouldn't be a problem ... they smuggle in whole ships of Chinese, how hard would a bit of C4 or a few rifles be?

As Billy points out, they could be nailing anyone they chose at the gas pump anytime they chose if they just decided to do so.

So why aren't they?

Good question.

Which brings me to my opinion.

I don't think they see a benefit in random terror against the population of the US. Think about it. What is their most effective weapon here?

Dissent. Would the Democrats and anti-war crowd be whining and crying if jihadists were blowing away women and children in Akron?

Hell no ... in fact the opposite would be true, and we'd probably be united as we've never been before.

Not what they want.

So for them, its about going after the symbols of western decadence that plays well at home for them. And make no mistake about it, this is all for the folks back home.

This is a clash of civilizations: a religious medieval civilization against a secular modern civilization. Its not about countries but cultures. The east and the west. Religion vs. secularism. Allah vs. the law.

The leaders of the former recognize that they are the one's with the most to lose in this fight ... forever. If they lose, its non-recoverable. If they lose, it will break the hold of their religion on the millions it now encumbers. And once broken, it is gone forever.

The leaders of radical Islam have seen the effects of this once before in the breaking of the power of the Christian church hundreds of years ago. And while they've managed to make time stand still in that regard, it is now apparent to them that time is no longer on their side. Freedom is an insidious and inexorable yearning and it becomes more and more difficult in the modern world to deny freedom to whole groups of people.

It was modern information technology which eventually helped bring down the Soviet bloc. People realized what they were being denied and finally said "enough".

Ripples of that are now moving through Islam. We hear calls for democracy and free elections which must send chills through the blood of tribal dictators. That's heresy in a medeival culture such as Islam where church and nobility work hand in hand to retain power. And make no mistake about it ... that's precisely the case in most of the Middle East.

So the radicals aim their terror at symbols. Symbols of power for the west: military, financial, political. Destroy the symbols and they believe they can demostrate the weakness of the secular west.

Look at the targets. African embassies, the USS Cole, Khobar Towers, the Pentagon and the World Trade Centers, attacked twice.

These symbols are well known in the world of Islam as it is likely they're the subject of many a sermon and many an editorial in government owned news outlets.

There's another point to be made here ... it is my belief that these radicals are the product of many of the middle east's governments. A product that has now gotten out of hand. A culture which was nurtured by the sultans and caliphs to keep the population in servitude has now has found as much wrong with those governments as it has with the west.

But to the subject at hand ... the symbols they attack stand for all that the radicals find loathsome about the West. So while they use the tool "terrorism", its focused terrorism. It is terrorism focused on well known symbols. And it is these attacks, and our reaction to those attacks, which is the most effective tool for expanding their power at home as well as expanding the base of jihadists in the future.

Nothing breeds success as much as success. When you can strike at the time of your choosing at the target of your choosing anywhere in the world, you can pretty well determine "success". And of course that looks good on the recruiting posters.

So I don't see them running amok here in the US potshotting Joe Sixpack at the Pick and Go. It ain't about gunning down granny at the gas pump.

Its about Hoover Dam and how destroying Hoover Dam will help them keep their benighted people enslaved in the 9th century.

Posted by McQ at 08:04 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Iraqi Solutions

There's an article in the print version of the Wall Street Journal today about how things are goin in Iraq, and what will happen after the transfer of sovreignty. The key quote, from a US official, is this:

There are going to be Iraqi solutions to a lot of these problems and they will not necessarily be the solutions that we would have tried to use, but that is what sovereignty is about.

Translation: The Iraqis don't have to worry about the Geneva Conventions when policing their own country, and they won't. I suspect the Iraqi Security people's attitude when faced with insurgents will be, "Kill them all. God will know his own."

No doubt we'll judiciously deplore this crackdown from the sidelines, but sigh, throw up our hands, and say, "It's their country. We have no authority to stop them from policing their country in the way that seems best to them."

Then we'll phone up the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior to be sure that the ammo and weapons shipments are getting through to them OK.

Posted by Dale Franks at 04:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pre-Emption, European Style

The editors of the Washington Post editorialize About Europe's attempt to use pre-emptive action--at least, in a diplomatic sense--to stop the Iranians from dabbling in nuclear weapons. Like almost all such bold displays of "soft power", the European attempt has turned into a dismal failure. As it turns out, the Iranians made no attempt whatsoever to comply with Europe's demands. The Europeans, stung by this cavalier dismissal, are considering presenting the Iranians with a strongly worded note. From the UN!

No doubt the Iranian response will be to glance at the note, crumple it up, and head out for some nice, hot lamb and rice. Maybe a shoarma, too.

The Europeans, with the occasional exception of the Brits, are still living in a fantasy land where "soft power" forces totalitarian states to obey. Perhaps that works well in Euro-Disney, but in the real world, where the people with guns call the shots, "soft power" means essentially "no power".

The European response to practically everything is talk, and when that doesn't work, more talk. And the mess with Iranian nuclear proliferation is a perfect example of why that response is feckless, and doomed to failure.

Of course, since the combined might of the European armed forces wouldn't be adequate to pull off a successful panty raid on a girl's dormitory, talk is pretty much the only tool in their toolbox.

Knowing that, however, doesn't solve the problem of Iran. Or the Sudan. Or international terrorism. Nor, unfortunately, does having it displayed so clearly to the world prevent the Euros from trying to convince us to run our foreign and military policy the way they do.

But, the situation in Iran is a perfect example of the failures that await us if we conform to their rather snippily offered advice.

Posted by Dale Franks at 04:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Those Low-Paying Service Jobs

Reader Sarah N. sent me an email today, asking the following question. I thought it was so important, I should blog it. Sarah asks:

I've heard a lot of people claiming that the new jobs that have been created are all lower-echelon jobs that don't pay well. But I just can't imagine how so many entry-level and lower-paid jobs could be created without also creating management jobs to go with them, jobs that I suspect are not counted in these statistics. This is exactly what happened at my husband's place of employment. They hired a whole bunch of entry-level employees, but many others were promoted internally to management positions, and some others (like my husband) received raises. Those who were promoted and got raises would otherwise have sought better-paying employment, but instead they stayed with the company. They didn't need the outright creation of higher paying jobs because these jobs were in essence created for them in-house. If you just counted up how many new warm bodies were added to the payroll and toted up their starting salaries, you would miss the complete picture...Do job-creation statistics take into account these promotions and raises, or do they overlook them completely?

Sarah;

It seems to me that there are two separate parts to your question:

1) Are the new jobs being created low-paying service jobs?

2) Are the supervisory jobs that existing employees get promoted into counted as part of the employment statistics?

Let's answer the second question first. No, the promotions to supervisory jobs are not counted as part of the earnings. The labor data tables present the earnings for non-supervisory workers, although this counts both existing and new non-supervisory workers, so bifurcating out starting salaries alone is pretty difficult.

In general, though, the Employment Situation report is essentially concerned with the creation of new jobs, rather than the promotion of current employees. So, even the Wage Tables that form part of the Employment Situation report concern production and non-supervisory workers.

Now, the claim being made by some is that most of the new jobs being created are low-paying service jobs. That doesn't appear to be true. The current Employment Situation shows a total of 248,000 new jobs created last month, with an average wage of $15.64 per hour. The totals break down as follows:

SECTOR................NEW JOBS..........AVG WAGE
Construction..........37,000..............$19.13
Manufacturing.........32,000..............$16.02
Professional/
Business Services.....64,000..............$17.45
Retail Trade..........19,000..............$12.08
Educational/Health....44,000..............$16.02
Leisure/Hospitality...40,000...............$8.87


There are about 12,000 more new jobs whose numbers aren't broken down specifically into categories like those shown above. But, what we see above clearly shows that 177,000 new jobs created last month, or 71.4% of all new jobs paid wages higher than the average wage. That's not totally accurate, of course, because of the 12,000 misscellaneous jobs, but those are high-paying jobs, even though relatively few are being created. For example, hourly wages in the miscellaneous category are:

CATEGORY...............AVG WAGE
Wholesale Trade..........$17.65
Transportation...........$16.75
Utilities................$25.49
Information..............$21.36
Financial Activities.....$17.64


So, the only reason why the average wage is so low is that, even though only 24% of jobs pay below the average wage, most of them pay a bit less than 9.00 per hour. For, example, if you were to exclude the 40k jobs in the travel industry, the average wage would be a dollar more, at $16.56. In other words, wages in that sector are so low, that they bring the averages down sharply, even though they are a relatively small minority of jobs.

Most new jobs we're creating, and by new jobs, I'm talking about nonsupervisory positions here, make an average of $16.00 per hour or higher. For a full-time job, that comes out to $33,280 per year or higher.

That may not be the gravy train, but it ain't minimum wage burger-flipping either.

Posted by Dale Franks at 03:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Johnson Murdered in Saudi Arabia

I wish this came as a horrible surprise, but it doesn't. Hostage Paul Johnson has reportedly been beheaded by the butchers who held him.

Anyone who still has illusions about the barbarity of radical Islam and its adherents should wake up ... NOW!

Posted by McQ at 01:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Secretary of Defense

Recent disclosures--and crass political realities--are making me lean more and more towards the "get rid of Rumsfeld" position. Along those lines, Daniel Drezner and the Belgravia Dispatch recommend replacing him with John McCain.

Aside from the competency question, one has to believe his integrity and bipartisan credibility would make him a good choice for the position.

As long as we're playing this game, though, what is James Baker doing? Most recently, he was the White House envoy on Iraqi debt relief and he did quite well. With Powell very likely to step down at the end of the year, one has to think that a second Bush term--if it happens--would do well to appoint James Baker.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Center Spin Doctor For American Progress

For the second time today - read the first here - I note that (Center for American Progress contributor) David Sirota is engaging in Dowd-ish journalistic dishonesty.


The fraud? David--and, to be fair, USAToday--includes only a clause of the sentence Bush cited, leaving out the operative phrase....
(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.[emphasis added]

Presumably, we won't have a great deal of difficulty agreeing that Saddam was supportive of international terrorists/terrorist organizations. He has, after all, been on our list of State sponsors of terrorism for over a decade. What's more, the wording of Bush's letter to Congress was not his own, but was dictated by the text of the Congressional Authorization, which required Bush to repeat that wording to Congress to initialize the authorization.

For slow readers: "I authorize my wife to pay the bills, including the power bill and phone bill."
- The preceding means my wife is authorized to pay our bills. It does not mean she must only pay the power and phone bills.

Based on my previous experience with The (nonpartisan-my-ass) Center For American Progress, David Sirota seems to be a perfect fit.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh notes that Slate is running with this, too. Eric Soskin takes it apart in much the same manner as I have....but moreso.

UPDATE II: John Cole takes it apart, too, making many of the same points....but more angrily. In fact, the last couple days at Balloon-Juice have been blogging gold. I suspect I'll be mining it for thought-starters over the weekend. Go read it all.

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

Do something about NoKo but leave the UN out, PLEASE!

Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, makes an eloquent case for acting against North Korea now.

Does anyone notice what organization Mr. Havel leaves OUT of his plea for action?

Now is the time for the democratic countries of the world -- the European Union, the United States, Japan, South Korea -- to take a common position. They must make it clear that they will not offer concessions to a totalitarian dictator. They must state that respect for basic human rights is an integral part of any future discussions with Pyongyang. Decisiveness, perseverance and negotiations from a position of strength are the only things that Kim Jong Il and those like him understand.

Precisely ... the UN. He has good reason:

Shockingly, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights has criticized the North Korean regime for its gross violations of human rights only twice since the commission was founded. Less shocking, but also disturbing, is the fact that the North Korean government has yet to implement any of the commission's recommendations.

"Shockingly?" Sounds like the UN I've come to loathe and suspect.

It appears Mr. Havel has come to much the same conclusion.

Given its track record, why is Mr. Kerry et. al. so damned keen on involving the UN in just about all of the activities we might contemplate should he become president?

Posted by McQ at 10:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Israel's lesson for the US

Charles Krauthammer points to a little noted event in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

The intifada is essentially over and Palestine lost.

For Israel, the victory is bitter. The last four years of terrorism have killed almost 1,000 Israelis and maimed thousands of others. But Israel has won strategically. The intent of the intifada was to demoralize Israel, destroy its economy, bring it to its knees and thus force it to withdraw and surrender to Palestinian demands, just as Israel withdrew in defeat from southern Lebanon in May 2000.

That did not happen. Israel's economy was certainly wounded, but it is growing again. Tourism had dwindled to almost nothing at the height of the intifada, but tourists are returning. And the Israelis were never demoralized. They kept living their lives, the young people in particular returning to cafes and discos and buses just hours after a horrific bombing. Israelis turned out to be a lot tougher and braver than the Palestinians had imagined.

I'm not sure why Israeli "toughness" comes as a surprise to anyone, especially the Palestinians. Israel made it known in 1948 that it would not be taken down easily and has proved its toughness over the decades and through numerous wars with the arabs. But the fact that they made the intifada costly and difficult to pursue for the Palestinians is the key to their victory.

How'd they do it?

As Krauthammer points out:

By ignoring its critics and launching a two-pronged campaign of self-defense.

Note the first part ... "By ignoring its critics". Essential to winning is understanding the fact that the responsiblity for the protection of a nation's people belongs rightfully to the government of that nation. Not the UN. Not "multinational peacekeeping troops" ... but to the sovereign nation to whom those citizens belong.

And no "critic' can better defend those citizens.

The specifics of the "two-pronged campaign of self-defense" have been very successful:

First, Israel targeted terrorist leaders -- attacks so hypocritically denounced by Westerners who, at the same time, cheer the hunt for, and demand the head of, Osama bin Laden. The top echelon of Hamas and other terror groups has been either arrested, killed, or driven underground. The others are now so afraid of Israeli precision and intelligence -- the last Hamas operative to be killed by missile was riding a motorcycle -- that they are forced to devote much of their time and energy to self-protection and concealment.

Second, the fence. Only about a quarter of the separation fence has been built, but its effect is unmistakable. The northern part is already complete, and attacks into northern Israel have dwindled to almost nothing.

The latest leader of Hamas is so frightened of the Israelis that he won't let his name be known or picture published.

The effect of this campaign by Israel has been telling:

At the height of the intifada, there were 9 suicide attacks in Israel killing 85 Israelis in just one month (March 2002). In the last three months, there have been none.

The overall level of violence has been reduced by more than 70 percent.

And, as usual, Arafat has failed completely in his attempt to intimidate instead of negotiate.

As a result:

These new strategic realities are not just creating a new equilibrium, they are creating the first hope for peace since Arafat officially tore up the Oslo accords four years ago. Once Israel has withdrawn from Gaza and has completed the fence, terror as a strategic option will be effectively dead.

The only way for the Palestinians to achieve statehood and dignity, and to determine the contours of their own state, will be to negotiate a final peace based on genuine coexistence with a Jewish state.

It could be a year, five years or a generation until the Palestinians come to that realization.

The bottom line is the Israelis have show us that they can and will beat terrorists and marginalize their leaders if they ignore their critics and do what is best for their citizens. It should be a lesson to all in the US that while the critics howl and scream about "internationalizing" the defense of our country, in the end there is only one place that responsiblity rests, and that is with the government of the United States, and no where else.

Posted by McQ at 09:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saddam: "But we too can harm you."

Captain Ed finds a fairly shocking story. I simply don't know what to make of this....

Russia warned the United States on several occasions that Iraq's Saddam Hussein planned "terrorist attacks" on its soil, President Vladimir Putin said Friday.

"After the events of September 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq, Russian special services several times received such information and passed it on to their American colleagues," he told reporters.

The Kremlin leader, who was speaking in the Kazakh capital, said Russian intelligence services had many times received information that Saddam's special forces were preparing terrorist attacks in the United States "and beyond its borders on American military and civilian targets."

The first questions that occur to me:
1: How much credibility did Russia assign to that information?
2: How much credibility does the US assign to that information?
3: Why are we just hearing this now?
4: Are we just hearing about this now because the information was dubious?
5: Through what kind of sources did Russia get this information? If they came from Russia's own intelligence work, they would have more credibility than if they came from Iraqi (dis)informants (read: Chalabi's INC)

Dick Cheney was on NBC this morning, continuing to make the case for "links" between Iraq and Al Qaeda, so this is apparently an avenue down which the administration is comfortable travelling....but one has to ask why they couldn't make it long before now?

Finally, I'd remind you of Saddam Hussein, circa 1990: "We cannot come all the way to you in the United States, but individual Arabs may reach you."

Read Captain Ed for more commentary.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:09 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

"Ronald Reagan: punk-rock icon"

The punk movement has long been loudly anti-Reagan, and his death hasn't changed that very much. Mark Holmberg, an excellent writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, takes in the punk reaction to Ronald Reagan's passing.

...one of the few places where you could get a solid handle on the Great Communicator's influence on American punks was at Nanci Raygun, the Richmond extreme-music club named after the former president's wife.
[...]
A lot of punk bands made a lot of good records out of hating him," said Robert Collins, bassist for the Wisconsin- and Seattle-based punk band Artimus Pyle...
[...]
What was it about Ron that drove the punks wild?

First off, he was old and Republican, a quintessential establishment fat cat, some of the young punks told me Thursday night while we waited for a Richmond band called Are You [expletive] Serious to take the stage.

He exuded authority, said 29-year-old Brandy Schofield.

"And morality," chimed in another young woman. She said he embodied the kind of Puritanical overlording that "represents everything punks are against."

Up to this point, my reaction is simply: ah, the banalities of youth. It's a good thing they (mostly) grow up one day. But the rest of the story reveals the alternate factual universe the punks appear to occupy, and it's a bit more disturbing...
Collins, the bassist, said Reagan's "economic policies thrust us into a recession we still haven't gotten over."
I certainly can't speak for Collins' economic circumstances--he very well may be in a personal 20-year recession--but the idea that the 80s and 90s, the two longest peacetime growth periods in US history, constitutes a "recession" is laughable. Actually, it's a lot worse than laughable. In order to buy into his assumption, we have to believe that Reagan's economic policies ruined the good times we were experiencing prior to Reagan's Presidency.

You know...the 1970s.

He also recalls fearing, as a child, being obliterated in an atomic blast. "He scared my parents into thinking we were on the verge of nuclear war."
Only, you know, you weren't obliterated. And we're not on the verge of nuclear war any longer, due to the, er, end of the Cold War. Hard to believe these kids blame Ronald Reagan for a war he helped end.

Wait...maybe it's not so hard to believe....

Jesse credits the school of punk rock. "I definitely think it educated me on U.S. and world history," he said.
You don't say.

Before it's over, though, Mark Holmberg makes this pointed observation...

As it turned out, Winkworth's band wasn't even supposed to play in Richmond on Thursday. They've been touring the East Coast and found themselves without a place to play that night. So they rolled into the city and talked their way onto the bill at Nanci Raygun. "That's what you've got to do" if you want to make it, he said.

Wait a minute . . . hustling, pushing yourself, not asking for handouts, charting your own destiny . . . that sounds a lot like classic Ronald Reagan Republicanism, right?

Winkworth thought about that for a moment.

"I guess so," he admitted.
[...]
Yes, a punk-rock icon was buried Friday.

Let the record show that Reagan shared the same stand-for-what-you-believe-in ethic that underpins countless punk songs.

In fact, some of the Great Communicator's statements would fit right into a high-speed, four-chord collision.

"The house we hope to build is not for my generation but for yours. It is your future that matters. And I hope that when you are my age, you will be able to say as I have been able to say: We lived in freedom. We lived lives that were a statement, not an apology."

Oy.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Daily Mislead

Oliver Willis...

The GOP decided that a top priority of the legislative agenda was blocking stiffer penalties for war profiteers.
David Sirota...
...check out this one:
[...]
A clearly uncomfortable Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., rallied Republicans against the amendment."
- CongressDaily, 6/17/04
Damning, isn't it? Those pro-fraud Republicans! .....except, not so much. David Sirota is practicing journalistic fraud, and Oliver is probably just playing follow the leader.

"Fraud", you say? That's a pretty harsh charge. What's the evidence?

Note that the line CongressDaily ends in a period in Sirota's citation. Then, follow the link, and see how it ends in the story....

A clearly uncomfortable Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., rallied Republicans against the amendment, warning the provisions were simply too vague to be placed into federal law.[emphasis added]
Sirota obscures the fact that there was a legitimate objection to the amendment. He doesn't simply gloss over it - he edits the sentence to completely remove the aspects not helpful to his argument.

That might be the only part he willfully left out, but that's not the only relevant information left out of this story, and this is where the "pro-war profiteer" slur gets currency with Oliver. Strangely, neither Sirota, nor Oliver, mentions this...

Instead, the Senate approved a Republican alternative extending two anti-fraud criminal statutes to cover overseas business operations.
And why is that particularly relevant? Because, the Leahy amendment was justified as simply making "it easier to assert U.S. jurisdiction and removes unnecessary obstacles to prosecution."

So, let's review"
1: Senator Leahy introduces an anti-fraud amendment which extends fraud jurisdiction to war zones like Iraq.
2: The Republicans reject his version as too general, and vote to extend the jurisdiction of existing fraud laws to war zones like Iraq.
3: Democrats and bloggers claim Republicans are protecting war profiteers, because....well, because Republicans passed an anti-fraud amendment, but not Senator Leahy's anti-fraud amendment. So--obviously--they're in favor of fraud.

One wonders if they'll be willing to mention that the Republicans did pass an anti-fraud amendment.....or if that simply won't fit into the narrative. We'll see.

UPDATE: More of the same to be found here.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 17, 2004

Finally!

My book, Slackernomics is finally available on Amazon.com in both hardback and trade paperback.

Posted by Dale Franks at 08:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gas Pains

Robert Samuelson writes that our next shortage is likely to be a dearth of natural gas. We're just using too darn much of it. Samuelson's answer--at least part of the answer, anyway--is an energy policy that includes an energy tax.

«Hard choices!"» he thunders. «We must make hard choices! Conserve! Restrict demand! Stimulate supply!»

Yawn.

We already have a replacement for natural gas, 51% of which is used for power generation. We've had it for half a century: Nuclear power.

Let me be clear there is absolutely no form of energy that is safer, cleaner, and cheaper than any other source of energy currently available. You can do all the hippie/greenie carping that you want about that statement but it's undeniably true.

Writer/engineer James Hogan has written about nuclear power generation. He points out a number of interesting facts.

In the West, not a single person has ever died from nuclear power generation accidents. And Chernobyl teaches us nothing about nuclear power generation. It tells us a lot about the dangers of ineptly designed and run nuclear reactors, just as ineptly designed and run skyscrapers, dams, and bridges are dangerous. Chernobyl-type accidents are, of course, impossible in the US, because the design of the Chernobyl reactor is one that has been banned in the US since 1950, precisely because the design was inept.

Chernobyl also teaches us what happens when nuclear power is run by a large, incompetent, unaccountable bureaucracy in a totalitarian state, too, but it's difficult to see how that applies here.

The worst "disaster" in the US, Three Mile Island, resulted in no one being killed, no one being injured, and no member of the public being put in the slightest danger. The maximum increase in radiation dosage that would have been incurred by anyone standing directly over vent where the radioactive gas that was released was 8 millirems, approximately one-third of the radiation you receive with a normal dental X-ray.

By contrast, between 200 and 300 coal miners are killed each year in accidents.

For decades, the Brits tested an experimental reactor in a cave in Scotland, subjecting it to every conceivable failure of coolant and safety systems. In the end, they just shut everything down to watch what would happen.

The core quietly cooled itself down.

Air pollution from coal, on the other hand, is estimated to cause 10,000 deaths a year in the US alone. By contrast, the waste from nuclear power is extraordinarily safe in comparison. A 1000-megawatt plant produces 1 cubic yard of radioactive waste per year. Compare that to a coal plant of similar capacity, which would produce 10 tons of waste per minute.

Now, the waste that we would produce all over the country would be radioactive enough to kill 10 billion people, if they were exposed to it. Yet somehow, every year we produce enough barium to kill 100 billion people, enough ammonia and hydrogen cyanide to kill 20 trillion people, and enough chlorine to kill 400 trillion. With nuclear waste, ground into power, fused with glass, placed in steel containers, and put in a concrete bunker several hundred feet underground, there's not much chance of anyone being exposed to it.

In one year, a 100-megawatt coal power plant generate 1.5 million tons of solid waste that are chock full of toxins and carcinogens, and we usually dump it into landfills or piling it up in hills. And that's only the solid waste. That doesn't count, say the 600 pounds of carbon dioxide or 10 pounds of sulfur dioxide that go up the chimney every second.

Professor Bernard Cohen of the University of Pittsburgh, in his book, Before It's Too Late, predicts that if the US were to go completely nuclear for power generation, the total added health risk covering the entire process, from uranium mining to waste disposal, would be the same as raising the speed limit by 0.006 miles per hour. The risks eliminated by ending coal, oil, and natural gas power generation would be far, far greater.

And let's not even talk about solar power. Solar energy received on the earth is simply too dilute. A lump of coal that would produce one kilowatt-hour of electricity would weigh about a pound. To produce the same amount of energy for that size, an area of about 15 square inches, the sun would have to shine for 1,000 hours.

So, let's say you wanted to build a 1000-megawatt solar energy plant. OK. First, set aside between 50 and 100 square miles depending on where the plant is located. Now, cover that whole area with 35,000 tons of aluminum, 2 million tons of concrete, 7,500 tons of copper, 600,000 tons of steel, and 75,000 tons of glass.

That's about 1,000 times the amount of materials needed co build a nuclear plant of equal generating capacity. And none of that stuff comes cheap. And, frankly, neither does the labor to keep 75 square miles or so of collectors clean.

And, don't forget, all these hundreds of thousands of tons of materials are the products of heavy, energy hungry industries. So much so, in fact, that building solar plants would produce a net energy loss. And don't forget the wastes from that production, about 10% of which is highly toxic.

Solar power is "free" and "clean"? Don't bet on it.

Frankly, the opposition to nuclear power is mere Luddism.

Posted by Dale Franks at 08:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Speaking of Foreign Policy

I noted in a story a couple of days ago that China was an ascending star spreading its influence globally. While we prosecute the war on terror, we need to keep at least one eye on this asian collosus if we value our freedom.

The Weekly Standard carries a story this week written by Christian Lowe, a writer for the Army Times, in which Lowe outlines what China's been up too and where China's heading in his estimation. Its worth the read, if for no other reason than to update yourself concerning China's pending "superpower" status.

As the Chinese pragmatically reengineer their economy to maximize its potential, nothing has happened to change the focus or belief of its leadership in its own ideology. At some point, I believe, China will feel strong enough to challenge the US. The reason?

The Chinese military also sees the global war on terrorism in a larger context, with some reading American victories in the Middle East and Central Asia not as steps toward a lasting security, but rather as further solidifying a U.S. global hegemony.

As with all communist regimes, there's a healthy dose of paranoia present. They don't see our progress in the war on terror as helping them so much as encircling them.

"While seeing opportunities for cooperation with the United States emerging from the [global war on terrorism], China's leaders appear to have concluded that the net effect of the U.S.-led campaign has been further encirclement of China, specifically by placing U.S. military forces in Central Asia, strengthening U.S. defense relations with Pakistan, India, and Japan, and returning the U.S. military to Southeast Asia," the 2004 report states. "Although most Chinese observers believe the U.S. force posture post-September 11 is based on a legitimate need to prosecute the GWOT, many remain suspicious and have implied that the 'real' U.S. intentions behind the realignment will not be known until the GWOT is more or less over."

Of course stories like Bush declaring Pakistan to be one of our "major non-NATO" allies only throws gasoline on the paranoia bonfire.

The result?

The bottom line:

China has an agenda ... and its all about China. And while, in real terms, we in the west have quite a technological edge over China at this point, that edge is narrowing ... and narrowing quickly. While the war on terrorism is important, it isn't so important that we can ignore China's swift climb toward superpower status or the potential threat that may be to world peace.

Posted by McQ at 04:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Albright on Kerry, foreign policy and tax collection

The Dallas Morning News published a bit of a Q & A Madeline Albright had with the paper's editorial board. Some interesting stuff:

Question. You're an informal adviser to John Kerry. He said some European leaders don't want George Bush re-elected. Is that true?

Answer. Let me put it this way. Foreign leaders don't like to interfere with domestic matters. But there is a sense of discouragement that the U.S. is not relating with them better. Generally, foreign leaders like incumbents, but that's different this time, even though they know better than to get involved.

Translation: Some foreign leaders don't like to have their bluff called and be shown for the toothless appeasers they really are.

Now, I'll give any QandO reader one guess as to the top two (and maybe the only two ... not counting the new Spanish PM) of those she's talking about.

Schnitzel and Brie won't get it either.

Why is this such an important point to the left?

Question. What would John Kerry be like as a foreign policy leader?

Answer. He is an internationalist who has been around foreign policy a long time. He's served three, four terms on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's ready to be president, and I know. I testified under him many times. He's not overly partisan or strident. His position on Iraq started supportive of President Bush, for example. And he wants a strong defense.

Ah, he's "been around" it "a long time" ... so naturally he's qualified. No matter that foreign policy is the absolute territory of the Executive Branch and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee can't do much else but sniff around it and snipe at decisions made by presidents. To believe that his committee membership qualifies him in the foreign policy area is absurd. As president he'll actually have to make decisions about foreign policy instead of holding hearings and criticizing.

And its certainly comforting to hear he's an "internationalist". One wonders if Albright's tongue was sprained when she suddenly tried to qualify that by saying, "And he wants a strong defense."

Its a matter of sovereignty, Ms. Albright, and we either cede it to an "international body" such as the UN and abide by its decisions or we choose to remain a sovereign entity and make those decisions here as they effect our nation. You can't have a "strong defense" when you cede your sovereignty to some other governing body since you also cede your power to use it effectively.

This, of course, is John Kerry trying to have it both ways again, albeit through Madeline Albright.

Here's one we agree on, well almost:

Question. On another front, can we work with Yasser Arafat?

Answer. He's incapable of making many of the decisions that need to be made. He sees himself as a liberation fighter. I saw him work at Camp David. He was marginalized because he was so passive. But you have to deal with him. It would be best if a new Palestinian leadership could marginalize him.

"Incapable" or refuses to make the decisions necessary? I believe it to be the latter. The best thing that could happen to the peace process in that benighted part of the world would be for the earth to open up and suddenly swallow that murderous cretin.

Also an interesting quote about Vladimir Putin and Russia. Albright pointed out that she thought Putin was "putting Russia back on its feet". When challenged on that she said the following as "proof" he was doing so:

The Russians are actually collecting taxes.

Wha ...?!

To be fair she followed that with:

And he's trying to give them hope and a sense of identity as Russians.

But still ... leave it to a Democrat to see "progress" in tax collection.

Posted by McQ at 03:47 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Captain's log: Stardate...

I heard this the other day and just found the story. Pretty interesting:

Two separate research teams have demonstrated teleportation of information using atoms for the first time, scientists reported Wednesday.

OK Trekkies ... before you get all hot and bothered:

Regardless, its pretty cool. The use seen for this has to do with quantum computers of the future:

The novel trick someday could help information flow inside quantum computers, machines that in theory can run more calculations in an instant than there are atoms in the universe. [...] Quantum computers, therefore, can run every possible on-off combination at once, making them dramatically faster than conventional devices when it comes to solving certain mathematical problems.

"If we had a quantum computer, we could crack the most common type of encoding used," Wineland said.

But, say the teams which did this:

Quantum computers remain quite far away from realization, Wineland cautioned. "The right unit of time is the decade -- choose your number of decades."

And, they point out:

Teleportation of quantum states from items more complicated than atoms -- such as molecules or even more complex objects like humans -- "seems out of reach currently, since it is not known how to handle such an enormous amount of complex information, how to prepare the required entangled states and how to do this in a reasonable amount of time," Blatt said. "The future potential will not be like beaming in Star Trek."

Ah what the hell, they said that about lots of things we take for granted now.

Beam me up, Scottie!

Posted by McQ at 03:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ghost Detainees

I must say, I'm bothered mightily by the admission that we've been holding a prisoner without notifying the Red Cross - in fact, hiding him specifically to avoid detection. This isn't a simple case of "oops, we forgot". In order to do this, one has to either actively work to avoid detection, or have a dedicated secret holding area. Oh, and there's the fact that Rumsfeld authorized it, and Taguba has wasted no mercy when he called it "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law."

That's a pretty strong condemnation from an internal investigator. And, one has to believe, it is aimed directly at Donald Rumsfeld.

Considering the pictures and reports we've all seen in the past month, the last paragraph in this Reuters story is quite appropriately biting, too...

Although the United States says that all prisoners in Iraq are treated humanely and strictly under rules of war established by the Red Cross, the Times said the prisoner and other so-called "ghost detainees" were hidden largely to prevent the ICRC from monitoring their treatment and conditions.
One doesn't have to be particularly quick to read the bite between those lines.

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:03 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Kerry on Bush "secret plan" to cut spending in 2006

A breathless Kerry website story tells us "Bush’s Secret Budget Cuts Exposed" ... by none other than, well Kerry I suppose ... since its not evident at all the story his site references.

The "secret budget" plan: An OMB Circular giving agencies 2006 budget planning guidance. Kerry and the boyz characterize it as:

A leaked White House memo shows that if George Bush is re-elected, he is planning large cuts in many vital federal programs, including homeland security, homeownership, education, and scientific research.

Hmmm .... maybe its just me but something which is headed "OMB Circular A-11 (2004)" and entitled "Budget Procedures Memorandum No. 870" with a subject line of "Planning Guidance for the FY 2006 Budget" really doesn't sound like anything but a routine document which is most likely issued in some form or fashion every year for budget planning purposes.

Unless you're the Kerry campaign. Then its a "secret" memo which "details cuts" and "breaks promises."

All of this hyperbole is founded in a WaPo story which essentially headlines the fact that the guidance for 2006 puts "cuts in domestic spending" on the table.

What the memo's guidance says is this:

"Assume accounts are funded at the 2006 level specified in the 2005 Budget database," the memo informs federal program associate directors and their deputies. "If you propose to increase funding above that level for any account, it must be offset within your agency by proposing to decrease funding below that level in other accounts."

Yes, that's right ... assume your agency is funded at the 2005 level and then if you want to increase spending for one of your agencies accounts, "it must be offset within your agency by proposing to decrease funding below that level in other accounts."

Essentially a spending freeze at worst right? Well yes, unless you're a democrat. Democrats, you see, have redefined 'cuts' to mean not increasing spending. So if your 2005 budget doesn't increase spending, you're "cutting spending" in the new left lexicon.

And note the lead paragraph from the WaPo story:

The White House put government agencies on notice this month that if President Bush is reelected, his budget for 2006 may include spending cuts for virtually all agencies in charge of domestic programs, including education, homeland security and others that the president backed in this campaign year. [emphasis mine]

Well, according to that basic guidance I quoted that's just not true. That guidance says no increases in spending for one account unless you offset it with cuts in another account. While some "domestic programs" may see 'cuts' in their funding levels, it will be done within the agency because of priority differences. In other words, given the same pile of money as 2005, each agency boss is to prioritize the spending in his or her agency according to the policy guidance of the President.

Hey ... isn't that what everyone has been yelling about on the right? Reprioritize. Freeze spending. Get spending back under control? Seems that's hardly a 'secret'.

Anyway ... while the Kerry campaign attempts to create a politically expedient "secret cabal" of budgeteers slashing away at domestic spending, consider the context in which OMB puts the memo:

J.T. Young, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said the memo, titled "Planning Guidance for the FY 2006 Budget," is a routine "process document" to help agency officials begin establishing budget procedures for 2006. In no way should it be interpreted as a final policy decision, or even a planning document, he said.

"Agencies have asked for this sort of direction," Young said. "Budgeting is basically a year-long process, and you have to start somewhere. They'll get more guidance as the year goes along."

In other words, business as usual in the world of government budgets ... ridiculous presidential campaign posturing notwithstanding.

Read the whole memo ... it should be good news to those on the right who want constrain mandatory and discretionary spending. It appears that is the aim of the budget guidance. It says, in essense, work smarter with the money you have and be able to lay out some very good reasons if you ask for an increase.

It also lists as the top priorities: "winning the war on terror, protecting the homeland, and strengthening the economy".

Per the WaPo story, discretionary spending has risen 39% in the last three years ... there is no excuse for that nor is there any excuse to continue it. That's one of the right's main gripes with Bush. What this guidance is attempting to do is freeze spending at a particular level and keep it there.

Sounds good to me.

Posted by McQ at 12:46 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Follow-up thoughts on the 9/11 report

A few thoughts on the Commission statement, and responses to other bloggers...

*** The Bin Ladens....

Contrary to popular understanding, Bin Laden did not fund Al Qaeda through a personal fortune and a network of businesses. [...] According to Saudi officials and representatives of the Bin Laden family, Bin Laden was divested of his share of the family wealth. [...[ Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of Al Qaeda funding, but we found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior officials within the Saudi government funded Al Qaeda.
This seems to corroborate the view that, rather than direct Saudi support, the factionalized nature of the Saudi regime worked to Al Qaeda's advantage by allowing supporters to funnel money without involving the government. It also explains why the US did not lump Saudi Arabia into the "axis of evil", despite the obvious connections to 9/11.

So, does this mean we can quit discussing Bush's "close relationship" to the Bin Laden family? Heck, they're the one group in Saudi Arabia who took money away from Osama Bin Laden.


*** Secular/Fundamentalist...

In light of the historical animosity between Shia and Sunni Muslims, the confirmation of the Hezbollah role in the attack led many to conclude that Bin Ladin's Sunni-populated organization would not have been involved. Later intelligence, however, showed far greater potential for collaboration between Hezbollah and Al Qaeda than many had previously thought. A few years before the attack, Bin Ladin's representatives and Iranian officials had discussed putting aside Shia-Sunni divisions to cooperate against the common enemy. A small group of Al Qaeda operatives subsequently travelled to Iran and Hezbollah camps in Lebanon for training in explosives, intelligence and security.
So, as Tacitus writes, "all those claiming that the "secular" and religious fanatics of the Muslim world would never consider working together are now definitively shown wrong".

Clearly, the willingness was there on the part of Al Qaeda. It appears the hold-up was not a religious split, but very likely a two-fold Iraqi security concern - Al Qaeda presence and cooperation in Iraq would:
1: ...expose Saddam Hussein to internal terrorist groups he did not fully trust.
2: ...expose Saddam Hussein to international (read: US) backlash over support of terrorist groups that targeted the west.

The question is simple: at what point would those security concerns be surpassed by the desire to strike the west? Or, could covert support eliminate them entirely?


*** The Cost-effectiveness of terrorism...

Actual terrorist operations were relatively cheap.
This is precisely why we cannot defeat terrorism directly. We can only make it cost-ineffective by forcing them backwards at every step. i.e., when they attack us, we convert their bases to democracies - or, at least, more liberalized societies. Otherwise, as long as the cost remains low, the marginal utility of terrorism will always remain high.


*** Kevin Drum makes a good point, but misses one important aspect....

... were there ever any connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda? Of course there were. This is the Middle East, after all: everyone has connections of some kind with al-Qaeda.
[...]
So did Iraq have zero contact with al-Qaeda? No. But that's not the point. What's telling — and never acknowledged by war supporters — is how little contact Iraq had with them despite enormous opportunity.
It's true, and it's a point I've made often. (though, I would still like to know the fate of the CIA assessment that "Iraq has provided training to al-Qa'ida members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs")

But, that misses the point. Kevin assumes that Bush is arguing that Iraq was currently engaged in the sort of support for Al Qaeda we feared from Iraq, but the argument Bush made was that there were already some links, and Saddam "could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own" - not that he was doing so. In short, the threat lay in the future.

And, completely aside from the question of Bush's rhetoric, what's incorrect about that estimation? Clearly, it was a distinct possibility, growing as time went on, and world attention fled Iraq.


*** Liberal Oasis...

So, in response to my point that the right side of the blogosphere largely didn't believe there was an operational relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, Liberal Oasis cites.....Dick Cheney? Why haven't I heard of his blog?

Taking his larger point, though, one has to point out that - at the time Cheney made that statement - that form of cooperation was the estimation of not just the Bush administration, but of the CIA as well, even predating the Bush administration.


*** Final note...

I want to reiterate for readers from both sides of the divide on this, I do not believe there was significant operational cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda, but nor do I believe the Bush administration has made unsupportable statements to that end. When they did claim some limited cooperation, our intelligence agencies were claiming some limited cooperation. When they merely claimed links....our intelligence agencies - and the 9/11 commission - also claimed there were some links. Links...nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 16, 2004

Connections....

The 9/11 Commission has released a report on the evidence of ties - and lack thereof - between Iraq and 9/11. (also here) To save you some time around the blogosphere today, I'll summarize what you're going to read.....

The antiwar crowd will only notice these parts...

There is "no credible evidence" that Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq collaborated with the al Qaeda terrorist network on any attacks on the United States, including the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings...
[...]
...Iraq never responded...
[...]
"Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."
The prowar crowd will only notice these parts....
...Osama bin Laden briefly explored the idea of forging ties with Iraq in the mid-1990s...
[...]
....requests for help in providing training camps or weapons...
[...]
...the government of Sudan, which gave sanctuary to al Qaeda from 1991 to 1996, persuaded bin Laden to cease supporting anti-Hussein forces and "arranged for contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda."
[...]
There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan [in 1996]...
Consider yourself briefed on each sides talking points.

I'd also remind you of what I've been saying for a long time....there are "links" between Iraq and Al Qaeda, but that does not mean there is active cooperation between the two. It was unlikely that there was any significant and/or overt cooperation between the two groups. However, the likelihood of cooperation increased as time passed.

UPDATE: It has begun. Already, bloggers are confusing "cooperation" with "connection".
(More: Here, here and here, too)

UPDATE II: The Center for American Progress weighs in and distorts the case very badly, claiming the Bush administration was saying that "Al-Qaeda and Saddam were working together". In fact, both Bush and Cheney claimed "ties", but said nothing about cooperation.

UPDATE III: Steven Taylor and James Joyner notice the difference.

Why is it that the right side doesn't seem to be reading this as selectively as the left? Perhaps, for the most part, the right side of the 'sphere already believes there was no cooperative operational relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, so this story simply reinforces our understanding of the state of affairs. The left side of the 'sphere is invested in the idea that we all - including the administration - believe Iraq was actively working with Al Qaeda and this helps them with the strawman. (of course, some do believe it, but that's their fight)

UPDATE IV: Ogged responds, writing...

You can torture "ties" "links" "relations" and "connections" as long as you want (and I know a lot of people will be happy to do it -- for the sake of security, of course), but keep in mind you'll be going way beyond "meaning of 'is'" territory when you do.
I'm reminded of a scene in a Douglas Adams book...
Old Thrashbarg said that it was the ineffable will of Bob, and when they asked him what ineffable meant he said look it up.

This was a problem because Old Thrashbarg had the only dictionary and he wouldn't let them borrow it. They asked him why not and he said that it was not for them to know the will of Almighty Bob, and when they asked him why not again he said because he said so.

I guess Ogged has the only dictionary.

UPDATE V: I'm not as concerned about "that liberal media" as I am about "that incompetent media". The AP joins the dumb parade...

Bluntly contradicting the Bush administration, the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks reported yesterday there was "no credible evidence" that Saddam Hussein helped al-Qaeda target the United States. [...] The Iraq connection long suggested by administration officials gained no currency in the report.
Of course, the Bush administration never claimed Saddam Hussein helped Al Qaeda attack the US. At most, they claimed there were "links"...or "contacts". And, in fact, later in the story, author Hope Yen even writes "There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida also occurred''.

Incompetent.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:48 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Meanwhile, back at reality ranch

Oliver asks....

An Economic Question
[...]
Now imagine we weren't off at war, and so many military functions weren't being outsourced. Do we have to invade another country to keep the economic bubble growing?
As Sean at The American Mind points out, "[w]ar doesn't directly help the economy because goods and services are destroyed not created.". It's true - war is to an economy as an energy drink is to healthy living. It can provide brief stimulation, but no real growth. And looking at the cost of this war as a percent of GDP, it's hard to conclude it is generating that much stimulation - especially since most of the money is being spent elsewhere, so it's not exactly having a multiplier effect - or, speeding up the monetary velocity - in the US.

And the purely imaginative arguments don't stop there....

If a computer programmer loses his job, and then a few months down the line two fry cooks are hired at a burger joint... technically a new job was created -- but somehow I don't think the economic impact is the same -- and it doesn't do much for the unemployed programmer.
This idea is echoed in the comments, where, among other economically illiterate comments, Jesse in SD claims "...all we've got are the burgerflippers to boost our economy...".

In reality.....

In May, construction employment increased by 37,000, with most of the gain
occurring in specialty trade contracting and the construction of buildings.
[...]
Manufacturing employment grew by 32,000 in May.
[...]
Employment also increased in computer and electronic products.
[...]
In the service-providing sector, professional and business services added
64,000 jobs in May.
[...]
Strong employment increases in health care and social assistance continued
in May with a gain of 36,000.
[...]
Employment in financial activities rose by 15,000 in May, reflecting con-
tinued increases in real estate and in credit intermediation.
Those are well-paying industries. In fact, Civilian Worker compensation rose 3.8% over the past year.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:39 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

FoxNews.com

Notice the Foxnews redesign? It - and this is technical internet jargon, so bear with me - sucks.

Too much noise, not enough signal. One has to dig through a lot of ads, specialty stories (read: human interest, opinion, tabloid), and assorted less-than-useful areas (weather, "Fox Connect"...?) to get to the news. And, what's worse, the main list of news stories is in a difficult to view sidebar on the (natch) right.

I'm reminded of nothing so much as the women's magazines that have about 1 page of content to every 3 pages of advertisements. Thanks....but no thanks. I'll be skipping over Foxnews.com from now on.

As a point of interest, though, I'd note that FoxNews has introduced Fox Blogs. Scan down the main page to see links to blogs by Greta Van Susteren, Linda Vester, and Steve Harrigan. As with the mainpage, they have a poor signal/noise ratio.

However, despite the interesting addition of blogs, Foxnews.com has become a waste of time. Life is short, and I'm not interested in working that hard to read the same headlines I can read elsewhere more easily.

UPDATE: Dean Esmay agrees, calling it a "web-design travesty".

UPDATE II: Hm....they've changed it a bit. It's slightly more readable, less busy....more navigable. Do blogs get results? Or do we overestimate our power? Depends on whether you're asking or day-dreaming....

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:54 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

280 million people, and these two are the best we can find?

Instapundit, on the race between Bush and Kerry:

...this campaign is like a World Series between the Cubs and the Red Sox.
As I've said, at this point, my choice is whether I want to vote against Kerry, or against Bush and Kerry. There's nobody for whom I'd like to cast a vote.

I suspect that dilemma is playing out among millions around the country, but - and this should scare the Bush/Cheney campaign - at least the Democrats have the uniting motivation of voting against Bush. I'm not quite sure what will motivate the apathetic Bush supporters to vote.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:39 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 15, 2004

Zimbabwe's pain is China's gain

You might recall I recently called the leadership of Zimbabwe some names like "stupid", "dumb" or was it "asinine" when it was revealed that on the heels of the success of their last land confiscation scheme (which plunged their country's economy into freefall) they'd decided to go ahead and confiscate the rest (apparently they don't believe their economy has seen the bottom yet and are going for a new record).

Well guess what ... more news from Mugabe-land.

The government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has ordered more than $240 million worth of jet fighters and other military equipment from China, renewing concerns of a sub-Saharan arms race in a region with no external threats.

Now lets not forget what was pointed out before.

Zimbabwe is experiencing a food crisis, and the World Food Program is feeding more than 600,000 Zimbabweans.

Ah, but that's not what Zimbabwe is saying:

Zimbabwe's government says the country is experiencing a "bumper crop."

And one assumes that Zimbabwe's using the proceeds from this "bumper crop" to buy jets and arms while the World Food Program feeds its citizens.

But even if we can't quite put our finger on the source of the funds, a quarter of a billion dollars is headed to China from a country with no external threats.

So why?

The opposition thinks it's to keep power:

"We believe this is a kind of [intimidation] tactic because we are going towards very crucial elections next year," said opposition spokesman Giles Mutsekwa.

"The idea is that whatever the public does, there is the possibility of it being subverted by the military," he told Agence France-Presse.

OK, makes sense in a very "Mugabe", African politics sort of way. Starve your citizens, confiscate all the land and then buy jets and arms from the Chinese to keep power.

But there's another story hidden in the absurdity of Zimbabwe's arms purchase.

China also is projecting into the region.

"For the last 18 months, China has had a policy to expand its influence in Africa," said John Tkacik, China specialist at the Heritage Foundation. "There is definitely a full-court press by China to engage not just in Asia and Latin America, but also Africa."

He said Chinese "initiatives" are targeting African countries under pressure from the West for human rights problems.

"That makes Zimbabwe pretty attractive," he said.

Yup ... while the UN dithers, the EU roils and the US is preoccupied with Iraq, the next wannabe superpower is quietly and inexorably expanding its global influence.

How nice.

Posted by McQ at 08:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

So Let's not act surprised, OK?

The New York Post reports that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is doing a little whining to bin Laden. In a message purportedly from al-Zarqawi to bin Laden, found on a web sites that have recently carried claims of responsibility for attacks in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. In the message he claims that his fighters are being squeezed a bit by coalition troops:

"The space of movement is starting to get smaller," it said. "The grip is starting to be tightened on the holy warriors' necks and, with the spread of soldiers and police, the future is becoming frightening."

Yeah, yeah ... yatta, yatta. I believe we've heard this before.

However, more important, if its really al-Zarqawi, is the outline of "coming events" in Iraq, should he survive the "squeeze".

The statement says the militant movement in Iraq is racing against time to form battalions that can take control of the country "four months before the formation of the promised Iraqi government, hoping to spoil their plan."

It appears to refer to the government that would take office after the elections scheduled for January 2005.

It also says insurgents are planning to intensify attacks on Iraqi soldiers and police.

Calling Iraqi forces "the occupier's eye, ear and hand," the statement says, "We are planning on targeting them heavily in the coming stage before they are fully in control."

Its the plan folks. So when ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN get all breathless and tell us all how Iraq is a huge failure, remind yourself that it is the plan of the terrorist to do exactly what they're reporting ... and don't act so surprised, ok?

Posted by McQ at 07:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Leave the beret on...

Leave the beret on...
Photo: Department of Defense Handout


Posted by Dale Franks at 04:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

*Pyrotechnics not included

*Pyrotechnics not included
Photo: AP Photo/Hussein Malla


Posted by Dale Franks at 03:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's pretty hard to carry in a belt pouch, too

It's pretty hard to carry in a belt pouch, too
Photo: AFP/Jim Watson


Posted by Dale Franks at 03:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Compassion v. Reality

As the California Legislature debates raising the state's minimum wage to $7.75 per hour, the Sacramento Bee's Daniel Weintraub tries to talk some sense to them.

Consider a modest-sized company with 100 minimum wage employees, each working 40 hours a week. The total weekly wage costs for those workers would currently be $27,000, or about $1.4 million for an entire year. Raising the minimum wage to $7.75 an hour would increase those costs to $31,000 a week, or $1.6 million for the year.

That extra $200,000 has to come from somewhere. Not too many businesses of that size have that kind of money just lying around in the till. If the employer could not afford the higher wages, the firm would have to let go 15 of those 100 workers to balance the books. In other words, 85 low-wage workers would see an increase in their pay, while 15 others who once had jobs would now have nothing at all.

If raising the minimum wage was the answer, then why not just raise it $100 per hour and be done with it? Then, we could all drive around in $500,000 cars, wear $1500 suits and smoke $75 cigars. Of course, the car would be a Chevy Cavalier, the suit would be off the rack at Target and the cigar would be a White Owl.

Legislators often seem to feel that by passing a law, they've solved the problem. If people aren't making enough money, then make businessmen pay them more. Simple.

Unfortunately, the real world operates according to rules that are unaffected by what legislatures say. If you pay your employees $7.75 per hour, and they only produce $6 of products per hour, then no amount of legislation will prevent you from going out of business, and ensuring that all of your workers are jobless. Legislatures often act as if businesses can just raise their prices any time they feel like it. But, if that were true, no one would ever go out of business.

This comes at an exceptionally bad time here in California, when the key struggle is not how much people get paid, but whether they'll have any jobs at all. For the last three years, employers have already seen workman's comp price skyrocket to the point that California has the most expensive WC system in the country, while providing the lowest benefits to workers. You could move your business from Needles, CA right across the border to Yuma, AZ, and cut your WC premiums by 75%.

And that doesn't even count the costs of regulation that the state imposes. Companies have been fleeing the state for the last two years in droves, because the cost of business is too high. The lej and the Gov just signed a WC deal to cut premiums and try to keep businesses in CA. The ink is barely dry on that deal and the response of the lej is to raise the cost of employment by 15%. Because, you know, businesses are now getting such a good WC deal that they can afford it.

After all, legislators know what you can afford.

Next, of course, the Democrats, who control the lej, lock, stock and barrel, will blame the Republican governor for failing to keep business in California. Or blame George W. Bush for California's lagging rate of unemployment.

The minimum wage is, by the way, an issue I discuss extensively in my book, Slackernomics, which you should all go buy right now. Even if you've already ordered a copy.

Posted by Dale Franks at 03:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman is an economist. Quite a well-known one, in fact. What you may not know is that he's also a legal analyst. Or, at least, that's the impression he seems to trying to give in today's New York Times column. It has a nice, punchy start, too:

No question: John Ashcroft is the worst attorney general in history.

No question. Worse than John Mitchell, whose activities as AG got him sent to jail. Worse than Bobby Kennedy, who approved wiretaps on Dr. Martin Luther King. Worse than Janet Reno, who approved the whole botched Koresh Compound deal.

John Ashcroft. Worse AG ever.

First, there's the absence of any major successful prosecutions...Then there is the lack of any major captures.

Based on John Ashcroft's testimony to Congress, I doubt he'd agree.

As a legal analyst, however, Krugman is a fine economist.

Posted by Dale Franks at 01:31 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Blog Rolling

*** Pejman reviews The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt...


It's said that Wilsonian Internationalism holds sway in American foreign policy today, but it's hard to get away from the more realistic philosophies espoused by Teddy Roosevelt, as when he said "I regard the Wilson-Bryan attitude of trusting to fantastic peace treaties, to impossible promises, to all kinds of scraps of paper without any backing in efficient force, as abhorrent [...] A milk and water righteousness unbacked by force to the full is as wicked as and even more mischievous than force divorced from righteousness."

Indeed, one suspects Teddy Roosevelt would think very little of the "Multilateral at any Cost" foreign policy of John Kerry.


*** Poliblogger Steven Taylor notes that...

Heinz Kerry had been a registered Republican until Kerry, her second husband, announced his bid for the White House.
As one would expect. Surely this is one switch that needs no explanation.
Well, it would certainly explain all the SUV's that the Kerry family Teresa Heinz Kerry - and Teresa Heinz Kerry alone! - owns.


*** Missed it earlier, but Econopundit recently reached his first Blogiversary. Congratulations to one of the nicest, most interesting bloggers I've had the pleasure to read.


*** Moe Lane...

I am not Jon Henke. Or Oberon. Or Jeff Goldstein....
I can neither confirm nor deny this.


*** Jesse Taylor comments on Cheney's recent assertion that "Saddam Hussein had "long-established ties" with al Qaida".....

Taking away the Mylroie/Hayes/Feith Series of Unverified Connections, what is the evidence for this?
George Tenet: "We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al-Qa'ida going back a decade. [...] We have credible reporting that al-Qa'ida leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire W.M.D. capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al-Qa'ida members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs."

Is that accurate? I don't know, but let's not pretend that our intelligence agencies, under both Clinton and Bush, have not asserted that there were "long established ties" between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
(Note: I am not claiming active cooperation, and - from the statement - it does not appear that Cheney is claiming it, either)


*** Joe Kelley....

Each day as I log on, I thank my lucky stars to have such a wealth of information available with such ease. [...] Yet, I ultimately realize that I’m able to reap the benefits of work from hundreds of paid reporters, editors, photographers, and web designers all without a single dime out-of-pocket for me. When you think about it, it’s almost like I’m stealing the hard work of all these people.

The least I can do is register my information when prompted.

Truly,
Mickey Mouse
Bulgarian surgeon

Heh.


*** John Hawkins conducts another poll: Bloggers Select Their Favorite Fictional Characters. While we were allowed up to 25 entries, I could only think of 3 under the deadline.
1: Jubal Harshaw (It appears I was not the only one to name Harshaw)
2: Hercule Poirot
3: Ford Prefect


*** Blackfive...

...if Major General Taguba's report is true, then, hell, yeah, she should burn. Her chain of command should burn. Her staff officers should burn (mostly for poor leadership, training, and covering up for Karpinski). They wasted any modicum of credibility that we had. They may cause more deaths by their actions. They have maligned the reputation of millions of soldiers. They have cost the tax payers thousands because of the investigations. And if the investigation implicates those higher than Karpinski, then, they need to get punished, too.
Absolutely. I can't really add much to this, but it needs to be reiterated.


*** Might I make a suggestion to other bloggers? Use Blogrolling....or, at least, sign up for an account so it will note your updates. It helps those of us who check our blogroll to see who is posting. (yes, it turns out that kind bit of advice was really all about me)

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Speaking of Illegal Immigration

Not that I'm surprised to read this, but it's interesting how unplanned themes appear on some days. In today's case, it's illegal immigration.

Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Larry Craig (R-ID) have vowed to enact an amnesty program for millions of illegal aliens, even if it means holding every other piece of Senate legislation hostage to accomplish it. The two senior legislators have promised to attach their Agricultural Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act (AgJobs) to every Senate bill for the remainder of the year. Their first target is the Defense Authorization bill now being debated in the Senate.

So, granting amnesty to illegal immigrants is so important to Messrs. Kennedy and Craig that they're willing to risk holding up a defense appropriation bill--while our boys are fighting overseas, by the way--to forgive illegal immigrants from breaking our laws.

Why all this concern about people who not only shouldn't be here, but who actively broke the law in coming here? What moral purity have they displayed that we should just give them amnesty?

Posted by Dale Franks at 01:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Welcome to America! Now, go home.

The New York Times is hyperventilating now that they've learned the US Border Patrol is rounding up illegal immigrants in California. Even worse, the Border Patrol--no doubt because of institutional racism--appears to be concentrating on illegal immigrants of Hispanic origin.

The professional victims from organizations like La Raza act as if there were huge expatriate communities of illegal immigrants from, say, Sweden, who are being ignored by the Border Patrol. There aren't, of course. The Patrol concentrates on Hispanics because 99.9% of illegal immigrants in California are Hispanic.

Now, whenever this subject comes up in the media, there's always someone telling you that "immigrants" are a boon to this country, that they pay taxes, etc., etc., etc. But that's only true when you lump illegal and legal immigration in together. Illegal immigration is a net drain on the economy and on government services.

The problem is not "immigration". The problem is illegal immigration that is essentially uncontrolled.

Unlike legal immigrants, illegals cannot legally work in the US. Therefore, they often work as handymen, gardeners, bricklayers, or any one of a hundred occupations where they are paid in cash, rather than carried on the rolls as employees. Those that are hired by US companies can only do so because they have purchased fraudulent identification.

If you live outside the Southwest, it might be hard to appreciate the massive weight of illegal immigration we experience here in California. Indeed, if you live outside of California, you'd probably be surprised, too, because California receives the lion's share of illegal immigration from our sunny neighbors to the south.

And we're paying for it, too. The state of California spends somewhere around $7.5 billion per year on medical care and education for illegal immigrants. In addition, illegals ship an additional $11 billion out of California, back to their families in Mexico. In fact, such currency repatriation is Mexico's largest source of foreign income, with the exception of oil sales. That's probably a pretty good deal for Mexico, but that's a cool $11 bil that just disappears from California's economy every year.

There is also another fundamental difference between legal and illegal immigration: legals come here to stay, and become Americans; illegals primarily come here to work. That does not invest illegals with an interest in the country in the same way that it does legal immigrants. Illegals simply have no stake in our society.

In addition, there is an ideological component to illegal immigration that is troubling. There is a concerted effort on the part of activists--including government officials--on both sides of the border who believe that the US "occupation" of California is illegal, and that California belongs to Mexico. And, come to think of it, so do Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well. And while we're on the subject, the Texas Question is far from settled, too.

Go to almost any pro-illegal immigration protests or rallies, and you will invariably hear some variation on, "This land is ours!" And, every time there's an activist march, everybody's carrying big honkin' Mexican flags. (Note to activists: that's not a way to get my sympathy. If you think the US sucks, and being in Mexico is such a good deal, then why the f*** aren't you there? Just asking.)

That irks me. If you want to use that logic, then, frankly, why stop at the Mexican War? As far as I know, the Aztecs, the Mayans, and the Incas didn't invite Francisco Pizarro and Hernando Cortez over here. And in that case, the land doesn't belong to Mexico at all. As near as I figure it, my part of California would revert to the Pala Band of Mission Indians. At least, I think it would be them. I mean, that's the casino that's closest to my house.

Either way, Mexico gets squat.

Of course, there's also the security issue to consider. When 750,000 illegals per year are crossing the border, that doesn't fill me with confidence that we're magically filtering out the al-Qaida guys who might be trying to do the same thing. Knowing who is coming into and going out of the country might be, you know, important. But if we can't stop 3/4s of a million poor, impoverished illegals from coming into the country every year, I have zero confidence that we are keeping al-Qaida operatives out. Which is, I should point out again, something we might want to do.

What is also irksome is having US politicians sit down with Mexican government officials like Vicente Fox, listen judiciously, then come out parroting the Mexican Government's line on Immigration. "Oh, you want us to accept Mexican ID cards as legal ID in the US? Why, Sure, Vinnie! No Problem!" "Oh, you think we should have a guest worker or amnesty program for illegals? Why, we'll get right on that!"

Now, Vicente Fox is the president of Mexico. His job is to look after the interests of his nation and its citizens. It is in the best interest of Mexico to do a couple of things.

First, it helps keep the lid on the slow simmer of political unrest that Mexico constantly faces when the hardest working and most adventurous Mexicans can be sent north, out of the country. That way, they won't feel the need to stick around and cause trouble at home.

Second, the flow of US dollars into the perennially crippled Mexican economy helps by giving Mexico a steady source of hard currency. It also keeps a good portion of the peasantry from starving, which, again, reduces any of that uncomfortable pressure for political change.

Taken together, this means that the Mexican government can postpone indefinitely any reform to the mercantilist economic system that's been in place there for the last 3 centuries. That allows the 0.1% of Mexicans who own 99% of Mexico's assets to remain comfortably ensconced in power, idly wondering, occasionally, why the remaining 99.9% of Mexicans don't just eat cake.

But, our elected officials shouldn't be concerned with any of that. Their job is to protect American interests, although they seem relatively uninterested about it.

Finally, illegal immigrants are not getting a very fair shake out of this either. They are worked long and hard, without any chance of building a pension, or a 401(k). They do back-breaking work until they are worn out at 40, at which point they are left with the choice of returning to Mexico--where, literally no opportunity at all awaits them--or living from day to day as a day laborer. If they get sick, they have no health insurance, so it's the Emergency Room or nothing. They are afraid to call in the police when they become victims of crime, for fear of being deported, which, of course, makes them far more likely to become victims of crime.

And the fact that they prefer this to remaining in Mexico should tell us volumes about the crushing poverty and hopelessness endemic to that failed country.

But fixing Mexico's failures is not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to secure the borders, as well as the lives and livelihood of American citizens. And it's not helpful for the nation's newspaper of record--and, for better or worse, that's what the New York Times is--gets as restless as a...a...caged hamster when the Border Patrol finally begins to make a little extra effort to enforce our immigration laws.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Poison and hypocrisy

Atrios posted a very timely comment from Clinton...

This is a great country. Politics is noble work.I've just been doing some interviews in connection with my book, and I told Mr. Ryder (ph) yesterday, I said, "You know, Most the people I've known in this business, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, were good people, honest people, and they did what they thought was right. And I hope that I'll live long enough to see American politics return to vigorous debates where we argue who's right and wrong, not who's good and bad. [emphasis added]
Within a few posts, Atrios describes his opponents as "cowardly", and "stupid" and claims he "wouldn't bother spitting on them if they walked by because they're not worthy of my saliva".

No word on whether Atrios suffered any ill effects from the irony.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:16 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

For Brits it isn't "EU" but Eeeewww

Mark Steyn explains some of the reasons European voters (and especially Brits) showed their displeasure with the EU at the polls this last weekend.

Almost every Europhile argument is weaker now than it was a quarter-century ago, when the EU - or whatever it was called back then - had a stronger economy, healthier demographics, and the devastating implications of the Continent's social costs were not yet plain. Yet pro-Europeans remain wedded to their ancient arguments: for a good decade and a half Edward Heath in his tetchier moments has airily waved the interviewer's question aside and said all these things were decided in the 1970s and we need to get on with it. Otherwise, Britain will be "isolated in the world" and unable to survive unless it allows its relatively buoyant economy to be yoked in perpetuity to the FrancoGerman statist gerontocracy.

He also notes that "but, as Peter Oborne pointed out in last week's Spectator, poll after poll shows that up to half the British electorate wants out of the EU ...
and the views of 50 per cent of the voters are not reflected in the country's big three parties."

That explains why the two governing parties, couldn't must 50% between them.

This goes to a deeper problem than disaffection or anger about Iraq. After all, the opposition party should have been the beneficiary of the vote if it were 'all about Iraq' wouldn't you think? But they weren't.

This is all about the EU. Its all about taking away national and ethnic identity and making the continent one large homogeneous population. Its about putting 20 cats in a bag, closing it and saying "get along together". Its not going to happen ... at least not anytime soon.

Why? Well as we're all aware, there are some competing ideologies here. As Steyn points out, Britain is now "yoked" to the FrancoGerman ideal of the welfare state ... not that Britain doesn't have its tendency toward the same, but not to the extreme that do France and Germany.

Its been evident to most unbiased observers in the US that the welfare states in France and Germany are failing ... and that's been evident for some time. Look at their unemployment rate. Look at their stagnant economies. Even in the superheated '90s they lagged terribly.

So what are the choices France and Germany have? Well, they can reform their own political systems - fat chance, Frenchmen will go on strike at the drop of a hat if you mess with their 4 day work week or their subsidies - or they can get someone else, in the guise of the rest of Europe's economies, to subsidise them. Enter the EU and the "yoke".

Brits don't like it. I don't blame them. The question is, how long will they put up with it? If the elections of the past weekend are any indication ... not much longer.

ADDENDUM (Dale):

I think an even more telling passage in Steyn's piece is this one:

In the late 20th century sur le Continent, politics evolved to the point where almost any issue worth talking about was ruled beneath discussion, beyond the bounds of polite society. In Austria, year in, year out, whether you voted for the centre-Left party or the centre-Right party, you wound up with the same centre-Left/centre-Right coalition presiding over what was in effect a two-party one-party state. Then Jörg Haider came along.

In France in 2002, the presidential election was supposed to be between Jacques Chirac, the Left of Right of Left of centre candidate, and Lionel Jospin, the Right of Left of Right of Left of centre candidate. Chospin and Jirac ran on identical platforms, both fully committed to high taxes, high unemployment and high crime. Faced with a choice between Eurodee and Eurodum, the French electorate decided they fancied a real choice and stuck Jean-Marie Le Pen in there. Same in Holland until Pim Fortuyn got gunned down by a crazed vegetarian, the first fruitarian to kill a fruit Aryan.

The Europeans have evolved a system in which important issues have been deemed out of bounds for political discussion. There is almost a two-tier political system there, now. One tier is democratic, where the people get to vote, but where controversial issues are not permitted to be discussed. Those issues, like the future of Europe, are handled solely by the political elites, who, in turn, tell the "electorate" what has been decided from them.

As one wag put it yesterday, the problem is not that the EU is undemocratic. It's that, in many ways, it's anti-democratic, in that, to get a good position on the European Commission, you generally have to lose an election, viz. Chris Patten.

The European electorate seems to be getting tired of this way of doing business, and tired of political elites presenting them with a fait accompli every time a controversial issue has to be addressed. The major parties are not addressing the desires of their electorates. As a result, we're seeing an upsurge in "fringe parties". But, as Steyn points out:

In the East Midlands, UKIP was in a statistical dead heat for first place. The "lunatic fringe" - UKIP, BNP, Greens, Respect, etc - won 40 per cent of the vote. And the so-called looniest of the lunatics, UKIP and BNP, pulled 32.6 per cent. Between them, Labour and the Lib Dems got 33.9 per cent. What, other than the blinkers of the media-political Westminster village, makes 32.6 per cent the fringe and 33.9 per cent the mainstream?

The problem, as Steyn puts it, isn't a growing lunatic fringe. It's a lunatic mainstream that is attempting to govern without a mandate from anybody. And the electorate appears to be getting a bit sick of it. Since there's increasingly less real support for their issues in the mainstream parties, the voters are turning to the fringe, because fringe parties are the only ones willing to discuss issues that matter to the voters.

The European political elites might be in for a bitter awakening about the realities of democracy in the not too distant future, and find themselves becoming ex-elites.

At least they'll have plenty of free time to write their memoirs.

Posted by McQ at 08:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hyperbole, fiction and the left, Part II

Meanwhile, as desperation mounts and favorite issues of the left melt away, we have more of the same. I don't know about you but I get weary of having my intelligence insulted regularly:

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile claimed on Sunday that "working people" are suffering more than at any time since the Great Depression.

"This is the lowest number of jobs created in over a century," Brazile insisted on ABC's "This Week."

Obviously Ms. Brazile is about as much of student of that upon which she expounds as is Mr. Bond.

Even fairly recent history will reveal economies which were much worse than anything under Bush by just about any indicator you wish to compare. Take Jimmy Carter for instance. Inflation in the high teens, mortgage intrest rates in the 20% range, unemployment hovering at around 10% ... but that was "better" than it is now?

Well according to Ms. Brazile it was:

When asked if she truly believed that the Bush economy was worse than the 1930s, when 25 percent unemployment was the norm and bread lines were common, Brazile insisted:

"For working people, it is. They're working longer hours and bringing home less pay. And they're not feeling [an improved] economy."

Of working Americans, Brazile claimed: "They're not seeing any job growth in their community. They're not feeling any less pressure now in terms of making ends meet."

Really?

Sigh ... the self-proclaimed champion of the "working people" offers nothing but fiction and hyperbole in her defense. In her fantasyland, 5.6% unemployment with almost invisble inflation and interest rates in low single digits is worse than the great depression or, in fact, the economy over which Jimmy Carter presided. Of course to rational human beings with an ability to think, today's economy is much, much better than both.

But what the hell, hyperbole and fiction are the bread and butter of the left these days. The big lie ... say it often enough and with enough conviction and maybe it'll be believed by a few at least.

With a million jobs created in the last 3 months, though, its going to hard to sustain that story. Maybe the DNC ought to update its talking points and make sure Ms. Brazile gets a copy.

Posted by McQ at 07:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Reagan and AIDS

The myth of Reagan's avoidance of the topic of AIDS has come up recently, and been promulgated by his critics in short order.

AIDS was first reported in 1981, but President Reagan could not bring himself to address the plague until March 31, 1987, at which time there were 60,000 reported cases of full-blown AIDS and 30,000 deaths.
...but they're wrong.
AIDS cases were first reported in the United States in 1981, but it wasn't until 1983 that HIV was formally identified as the cause. As Deroy Murdock notes, Reagan mentioned the disease at the latest in September 1985 when, responding to a reporter's question about AIDS funding, Reagan said,
[I]ncluding what we have in the budget for '86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I'm sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it'll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there's no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.
A more complete transcript of that statement, along with more details, can be found here. While Reagan wasn't exactly on the bleeding edge of AIDS research, he wasn't anywhere near as far behind as his critics allege, and, in fact, he did authorize substantial increases in AIDS research funding.

Further, some of the criticisms, that Reagan didn't support expansive Federal funding, prevention programs, and information are true, to some extent. But Reagan's position rested not on his view of AIDS, but on his view of the proper role and limits of the Federal Government. One might disagree on that matter, but it rather clearly takes the debate out of the strawman realm of "Reagan's homophobia".

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:31 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The CBO on Social Security

Krugman, last week...

Thanks to the 1983 act, current projections show that under current rules, Social Security is good for at least 38 more years.

But George W. Bush has made it clear that he intends to renege on the deal. His officials insist that the trust fund is meaningless — which means that they don't feel bound to honor the implied contract that dedicated the revenue generated by President Reagan's payroll tax increase to paying for future Social Security benefits. Indeed, it's clear from the arithmetic that the only way to sustain President Bush's tax cuts in the long run will be with sharp cuts in both Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Indeed.

The Congressional Budget Office, this week....

In its latest report in March, the Bush administration said the Social Security trust fund -- technically, the trust funds that pay retirement, survivor and disability benefits -- would be exhausted in 2042. By contrast, the Congressional Budget Office said the trust fund would not be depleted until 2052.
So, even during the "fiscally irresponsible tax cuts" of the Bush administration, the sustainability of Social Security appears to be strengthening. One would imagine the economist who writes for the New York Times would be able to explain that to us, but - considering the economist in question is Paul Krugman - one would be wrong.

On a less snarky note, this has unfortunate implications for those of us hoping to reform Social Security into an ownership investment project. And there's still the worsening problem of Medicare, which knocks Social Security into a cocked hat.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 14, 2004

Well, DUH!

I guess this is surprising to some:

A new study on food safety reveals that organic produce may contain a significantly higher risk of fecal contamination than conventionally grown produce.

A recent comparative analysis of organic produce versus conventional produce from the University of Minnesota shows that the organically grown produce had 9.7 percent positive samples for the presence of generic E. coli bacteria versus only 1.6 percent for conventional produce on farms in Minnesota.

But I think Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, the principle investigator of the University of Minnesota study sums it up nicely:

"In many ways it is confirming what is believed, indeed, if you are using animal manure for fertilizer, the chances that you are going to get fecal bacteria on the product are greater," Diez-Gonzalez said.

You don't say?

Wonder how many tax dollars that cost?!

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

The Army Reorients itself

The US Army has identified some "capability gaps" since it has been in Iraq. Most of these will come as no surprise. We're in a new sort of fighting environmnet, one that hasn't been stressed or for which we've trained since before the Cold War. The top 10 gaps as identified internally by the Army in our current forces include::


* Networked battle command
* Protecting soldiers against insurgents
* Protecting a force against insurgents
* Logistics for unpredictable operations
* Improved training
* Networked precision fires
* Ability to conduct joint urban operations
* Special and conventional force integration
* Joint interoperability
* Timely analysis

Now that's the top 10 of 25. The Army has also identified 90 gaps in the Army's future plans. These have all been identified and prioritized to help target development and funding priorities.

This is something the Army (and for that matter, all services) do well. They pretty dispasionately do fair and detailed after-action reviews which lead to good self-assessments in which they break down various tasks and goals as "we suck" at that or "we're good" at that. They then take the "we suck" pile and unlike many organizations, do something about it.

There's a plainly selfish reason they do that ... to ignore the 'we suck' pile means people die. And that's not what the US Army is about ... well, its not about its people dying.

The task force which looked into the gaps and prioritized them had a pretty typical and blunt Army conclusion: the “world is going to be an ugly place and we’re in a growth industry.”

Networking problems both with data and among the services remains a problem. Its is light years better than it was, for instance, when we went into Grenada. But it still has light years to go before it'll move out of the 'we suck' pile. They'll eventually get there, but its an uphill sled.

After that, of course is soldier and force protection problems. An insurgent war is a completely different war than a normal force on force military confrontation. At present, 'we suck', but we're getting better at it all the time. And that will help solve some of those problems. So will new and better training focused on an insurgent war, including military operations in urban terrain (MOUT). Brig. Gen. David Fastabend characterized the threat as "terrorist and other organizations that are hyper-adaptive, self-organizing, mostly on the basis of ideas alone, no infrastructure to target."

Tough to find and target.

However, there also remains hardware problems, mostly armor, which needs to be improved. Already being developed is individual armor that covers the shoulders and sides as well as improved vehicle armor. In the future the Army is hoping to develop advanced unmanned reconnaissance air vehicles, hybrid power systems, and systems that can generate water on the battlefield. Also on the "wish list" are technologies to locate mines — including the Ground and Airborne Standoff Mine Detection Systems to locate weapons caches, mines and IEDs.

As for those convoy ambushes?

Other recommendations for the near term include unmanned vehicles that can be used in convoys to replace trucks, which have logged several million miles in Iraq since last March, officials said here. The robots would follow one manned truck in a convoy, substantially cutting the amount of manpower needed for logistics.

Heh ... That's one solution.

For the future the Army sees the following 10 gaps as their priority, given the battles they feel they'll fight in that future:

* Improved soldier protection
* Flexible battle command and control
* Better vehicle protection
* Dynamic command, control, communications and computer architecture
* Modular, brigade-based forces
* Lethal overmatch
* Training tied to operations
* Improved intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
* Detection and identification of all battlefield obstacles
* Force sustainment

Again, no real surprises, just a reprioritization. And knowing the Army as I do, I know that this will eventually all go from the 'we suck' pile to the "we're good" pile or they'll go down trying.

Posted by McQ at 05:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hyperbole, fiction and the Left

What is it about the left that they have to resort to such absurd hyperbole not to mention outright fiction in order to generate any interest in themselves?

You probably saw this story a few days back ... its taken me a while to get to it but it deserves a closer look:

In remarks to hundreds of cheering liberal activists Wednesday, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond singled out Republicans as enemies of black Americans and compared conservatives to the terrorist Taliban who once ruled Afghanistan.

"Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side by side," Bond told a cheering audience. "They've written a new constitution for Iraq and ignore the Constitution here at home. They draw their most rabid supporters from the Taliban wing of American politics. Now they want to write bigotry back into the Constitution."

Sigh. No reference to anything. No point other than hateful rhetoric. And yet, I'd make a bet that if Mr. Bond and the NAACP were so characterized there'd be no living with his outrage and whining.

Bond's remarks came at an opening of the liberal Take Back America conference, a three-day event that has drawn more than 2,000 liberals from across the country to the nation's capital. Bond spoke moments after MoveOn.org founders Joan Blades and Wes Boyd received a rousing ovation from the partisan crowd.

Well that explains some of it ... its a MoveOn.org event. Hyperbole as in "Bush equals Hitler" is its bread and butter.

"Damn the facts. Damn civil discourse. Full speed ahead!"

Bond called the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 two of America's greatest achievement. He then went on to attack Republicans.

"The passage of these two laws in 1964 and 1965 marked the beginning of the dependence of the Republican Party on the politics of racial division to win elections and gain power," Bond said. "By playing the race card in election after election, they've appealed to that dark underside of American culture, to that minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality. They preach racial neutrality and they practice racial division."

But then I finally got my laugh. Right here is where Mr. Julian Bond did the foreskin foxtrot. And he was wearing golf spikes when he did it. The old, metal kind.

Why? Well, you see the Civil Rights act of 1964 didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of passing ... among the Democrats. It took REPUBLICANs to pass it.

The Congressional Quarterly of June 26, 1964 (p. 1323) recorded that, in the Senate, only 69% of Democrats (46 for, 21 against) voted for the Civil Rights Act as compared to 82% of Republicans (27 for, 6 against). All southern Democratic senators voted against the Act. This includes the current senator from West Virginia and former KKK member Robert C. Bryd and former Tennessee senator Al Gore, Sr.

In fact, southern Democrats conducted a 74 day filibuster of the act. And that included Bill Clinton's mentor as well ... Sen. Fullbright of Arkansas.

However on the Republican side, 82% voted for its passage in the Senate. Without the Republican votes in the Senate, the Democrats couldn't muster a majority even though they were the majority party.

And in the House?

In the House of Representatives, 61% of Democrats (152 for, 96 against) voted for the Civil Rights Act; 92 of the 103 southern Democrats voted against it. Among Republicans, 80% (138 for, 34 against) voted for it.

Again, the party in control of the house, the Democrat Party, couldn't even muster a majority of its own congressmen to pass the bill. Only 152 of 248 Democrats voted for the bill's passage, 59 short of a majority. But 138 of the Republicans, or 80% of their members voted for its passage.

So Republicans were the main reason for the bills passage ... not Democrats.

And the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Same story:

The Senate vote for the Voting Rights Act was 77 to 19, with Democrats voting 47 to 17 in favor and Republicans 30 to 2 in favor. Among those voting against the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were 17 southern Democrats, including President Bill Clinton's political mentor, J. William Fulbright of Arkansas.

In fact, if Mr. Bond were the civil right's leader he'd like us to believe he is, he'd know the following about a 1960 civil rights act put before the Congress by the Eisenhower administration. Yes, that's right, a Republican administration.

The result?

On February 15, 1960, the civil rights bill came up for debate on the Senate floor as an amendment to a minor bill concerning the leasing of a surplus U.S. Army building to a school district in Missouri. The southern Democrats in the Senate immediately began a filibuster, primarily against the prospect that Part III would be adopted and would give the U.S. attorney general the power to intervene directly in racial relations in the South.

Late in February, in an effort to break the filibuster, the Senate went into round-the-clock sessions. The 18 filibustering southerners, divided into 6 teams of 3 senators each, had no trouble keeping one 3 person team on the Senate floor while the other 5 teams rested. Those opposing the filibuster, however, had to keep 51 senators (a quorum) at the Capitol ready to meet a quorum call at any time. The result of round-the-clock sessions was to exhaust the pro-civil rights senators, not the southerners.

The failure of round-the-clock sessions to break the filibuster of the 1960 civil rights bill was a lesson to civil rights supporters that dominated their thinking during the early 1960s. The southerners could not be exhausted by 24-hour-a-day sessions, but the pro-civil rights senators could be. It meant that there was only one way to end a filibuster - get 2/3 of the Senate to vote cloture. Thus, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were undergoing southern filibusters in the Senate, round-the-clock sessions were not attempted to break the filibuster. In both cases civil rights supporters, from the very beginning, saw a successful cloture vote as the only way to end the filibuster and get meaningful civil rights legislation passed in the Senate.

Yet this goof, Julian Bond, conveniently forgets all these facts to engage in reckless hyperbole... to play to the crowd. A crowd of 1,000 liberal "fellow travelers".

I hope he feels good about it.

Because there was a price involved.

The price?

His credibility.

Hope your cheap political fiction was worth the price, Julian.

Posted by McQ at 03:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Is that really the metaphor you wanted?

Jodi Wilgoren's New York Times piece on John Kerry begins:

Like a caged hamster, Senator John Kerry is restless on the road.

A caged hamster? Does that image give you the connotation you wanted, there, Jodi? Wouldn't, I dunno, "caged tiger" given you the same impression, but without the unfortunate mousy overtones? Why not just title the story, "John Kerry: Small, Helpless, Irritable Little Rodent"?

And doesn't the Times have editors, for cripes' sake? How did they let this get by them?

Really, if you want to get the guy elected, mouse and rabbit comparisons just probably aren't wise.

Posted by Dale Franks at 03:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Wage Gap

Keith Burgess-Jackson takes a look at the Wage Gap between men and women, and finds other reasons for its existence than the oppression of the patriarchy. The real reason lies in a rational market that offers different rewards for different decisions.

Women make different choices than men. Women tend not to choose, for example, college degrees in hard sciences, engineering, or computers. The degrees they do receive, tend to be in subjects associated with less high-paying careers. Many women also spend some portion of their working years as mothers, rather than employees.

Choices about education, employment, parenting, etc., all have costs--and benefits--associated with them.

What irritates the left about the market is not that it is unfair. It is, rather, that it is uncontrolled. The market rewards or penalizes the particular choices made by individuals. There is no centralized authority in the market that distributes rewards based on some calculation of politics or subjective merit. Instead, the free market produces results that are the outcome of millions of producers and consumers making voluntary transactions with each other.

So, in the end, arguments about making the market "more fair" are nothing more than arguments about controlling the freedom of both consumers and producers, in order to guarantee politically desirable outcomes.

Posted by Dale Franks at 02:46 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Welcome to New Zealand!

Brenda Archer was minding her own business in the kitchen when:

A grapefruit-sized meteorite smashed through the roof of a New Zealand house, hitting a couch and bouncing off the ceiling before coming to rest under a computer.

The 2.9 pound chunk of space debris dropped out of the sky and plummeted through the tiled roof of the Auckland home on Saturday.

Wonder if that's covered under her homeowner's insurance?

Posted by McQ at 02:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hey ... whatever it takes

When you're lost at sea for 59 days, you can bet your options are a bit limited.
So, what do you do to survive?

Well 3 Peruvian shark fisherman answered that question: Whatever it takes.

Three Peruvian shark fishermen lost at sea for 59 days survived by eating turtle meat and drinking the reptiles' blood, a newspaper reported on Friday.

Beats the hell out of finding two and a half Peruvian fishermen I guess.

Posted by McQ at 02:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

TIME discovers blogs

... and actually does a good article about them:

What makes blogs so effective? They're free. They catch people at work, at their desks, when they're alert and thinking and making decisions. Blogs are fresh and often seem to be miles ahead of the mainstream news. Bloggers put up new stuff every day, all day, and there are thousands of them. How are you going to keep anything secret from a thousand Russ Kicks? Blogs have voice and personality. They're human. They come to us not from some mediagenic anchorbot on an air-conditioned sound stage, but from an individual. They represent — no, they are — the voice of the little guy.

And the little guy is a lot smarter than big media might have you think. Blogs showcase some of the smartest, sharpest writing being published. Bloggers are unconstrained by such journalistic conventions as good taste, accountability and objectivity — and that can be a good thing. Accusations of media bias are thick on the ground these days, and Americans are tired of it. Blogs don't pretend to be neutral: they're gleefully, unabashedly biased, and that makes them a lot more fun.

Read it if you have a moment.

As for the future?

We may be in the golden age of blogging, a quirky Camelot moment in Internet history when some guy in his underwear with too much free time can take down a Washington politician. It will be interesting to see what role blogs play in the upcoming election. Blogs can be a great way of communicating, but they can keep people apart too. If I read only those of my choice, precisely tuned to my political biases and you read only yours, we could end up a nation of political solipsists, vacuum sealed in our private feedback loops, never exposed to new arguments, never having to listen to a single word we disagree with.

Well, we'll see.


Posted by McQ at 02:11 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Rocking the EU Vote

As most of us over here were able to imagine, the EU is anything but a resounding success. Think about a process which would have the US, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Bermuda and a few more central American countries combining into a single entity. Yeah, not an easy thing to imagine.

Of course, its early in the process of the "integration' of European states, but it seems not all is well in EU land as witnessed by this weekend's poll results:

Six weeks after Europeans celebrated the unification of the continent after a half-century of division, the EU crashed to earth with a bump Sunday after voters boycotted European Parliament elections in record numbers and swung behind Euro-skeptic parties opposed to further integration.

I can't say this is coming as a particular surprise. Even for an optimist, this was a daunting task laced with pitfalls and problems. For a cynic it was desert on a silver platter.

Some would like to say the vote reflected the populations dissatisfaction with those governments that backed the war in Iraq:

The 155 million Europeans who did make it to the ballot box used their vote to give ruling parties a bloody nose. Governments that supported the U.S-led invasion of Iraq did particularly badly, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party attracting only one in five voters, Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi losing out to a resurgent center-left alliance, and the ruling party of premier-designate Marek Belka receiving a drubbing from populist right-wing groupings in Poland.

But that just doesn't quite make it:

But parties that opposed the Gulf conflict did not escape the wrath of voters angry at sluggish growth, stubbornly high unemployment levels and welfare cuts. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats suffered their biggest postwar setback, picking up just over 20 percent of the vote, while in France President Jacques Chirac's UMP party mustered only 16 percent. Governing coalitions in the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland and Portugal also took a beating as voters turned their back on mainstream parties.

As for the parties running which essentially eschew the EU?

Euro-skeptics were the poll's undoubted winners, reflecting many Europeans' growing disillusionment with a club they view as distant, undemocratic and unable to guarantee either security or prosperity. The UK Independence Party, which favors Britain's complete withdrawal from the EU, picked up 17 percent of the vote and pushed the Liberals into fourth place. In the Czech Republic, the Euro-skeptic party of President Vaclav Klaus trounced the ruling Social Democrats, attracting almost one in three voters. And in Sweden, the anti-EU June Movement seduced 15 percent of the electorate.

And then we have the "sophisticated European vote" which voted like this:

Extremist parties on both the far left and right also triumphed in the biggest democratic contest outside India. Unreconstructed communists got almost twice as many votes as the ruling Social Democrats in the Czech Republic, while in Cyprus Karl Marx's heirs clocked up a 30 percent score. At the other end of the political spectrum, the Vlaams Blok -- which was condemned as a racist grouping last month -- received one in four votes in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium and anti-EU populist parties triumphed in Poland.

Heh ... yeah, bring back the commies ... please.

But when it was all said and done, the results were pretty much "status quo", just a little different mix of the players:

Despite the surge in support for Euro-skeptic fringe groups, pro-EU deputies will still make up almost 90 percent of the parliament's numbers. As expected, the center-right European People's Party remained the biggest party, winning 276 of the 732 seats. The Socialists bagged 200 seats, largely as a result of strong showings in Spain, France and Italy, while the Liberals powered ahead of the stagnant Greens to claim 66 seats in the chamber.

Ah, the old country ... always good for a reminder of why I'm glad I live here.

Posted by McQ at 01:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

License to Torture

Alan Dershowitz writes that the US, should define specifically when and where torture may be used. He peoposes the use of "torture warrants" to be used when circumstances indicate.

It's an interesting legal concept, especially since the Supreme Court has kind of hedged about it a lot.

The U.S. Supreme Court, on the other hand, seems to be trying to stay away from micromanaging interrogation techniques. In a recent decision, a majority ruled that the 5th Amendment does not prohibit torture itself — only the use of self-incriminating statements produced by torture in criminal prosecutions. Nor does the 8th Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" preclude torture of detainees, because it applies only to punishments imposed after conviction. That leaves only the vague "due process" clause, which is in disrepute among a majority of the justices.

The idea of a torture warrant--shocking as it is to have the idea proposed by a famous man of the Left like Dershowitz--is that it provides both accountability and cover for the president.

First, the president would have to specifically spell out which procedures for interrogation were allowable. Any procedures not specifically listed would be banned. That means that if an apparent goon like Abu Ghraib's SPC Charles Graner went overboard, the president could refer to the original torture warrant to show that the individual had exceeded his authority. AT the same time, the president would have to defend the interrogation methods he approved.

Right now, as Dershowitz notes, we are denying that we use torture, while giving a wink and a nod to it by secretly approving "physical coercion", whatever that is.

Posted by Dale Franks at 01:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Bush Hatred and Kerry...well, "Kerry Love" isn't quite right...

Byron York notes that, at the big "Take Back America" rally, progressives--as angry at President Bush as ever--don't seem to be cottoning to their man, Kerry.

In 1996, despite some rather strong feelings on the right about Clinton, Bob Dole's campaign was a failure. His major selling points were, "He's not Clinton", and "Bob Dole: Because its his turn". Frankly, that's not the type of campaign that brings out your supporters in droves, as Bob Dole learned.

Presidents, even polarizing ones like Clinton and Bush, start out with an enormous advantage. If you expect to topple them, you need to offer the electorate something they aren't getting from the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Because, in the end, it's about turnout. You have to get your people excited enough about you to show up at the polls. It's not enough that they don't like the incumbent. They have to like you enough to take the time to go vote.

Today, Kerry has a similar problem. If in fact, Iraq is the pivotal issue of the war, then Kerry isn't giving his crowd much of a reason to vote for him. The Left doesn't want us to win there, or stay the course. They want us out, because they don't believe we should be there in the first place.

So, when Kerry says that he'll increase our troop levels there, or that failure in Iraq is not an option, that isn't quite the kind of thing that's going to energize his base. For those people, if the choice is a troop increase under Bush, or a troop increase under Kerry, then why show up at the polls at all?

So, Kerry has to hope that his moderate stance on Iraq will attract more undecided voters than it will lose base voters. That's a fairly iffy proposition.

If you look at the more recent polls, Bush is getting hammered a bit by the way things are going in Iraq. But, for many of the respondents, he's being hammered for not being tough enough. People who hold that opinion are highly unlikely to show up and vote for Kerry, on the basis that he'll deal out an adequate measure of punishment. And if the base doesn't show up because they don't think there's enough anti-war daylight between Kerry and Bush, then that simply doesn't bode well for Kerry. Those people might decide to stay home, but they aren't gonna turn out to be Kerry voters.

Moreover, Republicans are not sitting on their hands when it comes to Get Out The Vote activities. I've been to local Republican meetings at the county level, and the Repubs are serious about GOTV efforts. There are people in the California Republican leadership that privately tell me they think W will carry California this year. There are some well-placed people in the LA County Republicans that think W can win in LA. Republican GOTV committees aren't just working at the precinct level, they're organizing at the block level in many places.

Democrats, on the other hand, seem to be taking California for granted, secure in the feeling that California is now Leftish enough to swing their way simply as a matter of inertia. Or momentum. Or whatever. Maybe they're right, but I wouldn't want to bet an election on it after the way the Recall election turned into a debacle for the Dems.

Especially with a candidate that doesn't seem to be lighting a fire with the base. Maybe the Dems are gonna make a big grass-roots GOTV effort as the election draws near. But so far they are displaying a confidence here in California that simply might not be warranted.

By the end of the "Take Back America" conference, the people in the crowd told themselves that they must work hard for John Kerry, even though they did not seem terribly enthusiastic about the task. At times, it was hard to reconcile their lack of ardor for Kerry with their apparently unshakeable belief that he will win in a landslide. But that is what they appear to feel.

That's just foolish. If even you don't like your guy, what makes you think anyone else will?

The key issue is, of course, Iraq, and if things start looking like a success there, I suspect the Dems are going to wish they'd done a heck of a lot more GOTV work than they have. Because frankly, people aren't going to come out in droves to vote for a party hack like Kerry--who they don't really like--absent a compelling reason.

On the other hand, if things start looking successful in Iraq, all the GOTV efforts in the world probably won't be enough to save Kerry's campaign.

UPDATE (JON): This seems like an appropriate time to pass along this post by BoiFromTroy....

This evening, Los Angeles City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa spoke at a meeting of the California League of Conservation Voters. [...] ...saying that running against an incumbent was difficult, unless it was an unpopular incumbent. Then he said this gem to applause:
"After all, let's face it. Is anyone excited about electing John Kerry or do you really want to defeat George Bush?"
That's a real vote of confidence from John Kerry's Campaign Co-Chairman.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Clinton, revisited

Clinton's portrait was unveiled today, which brought something to my attention. Remember the appalling mockery of Chelsea Clinton during the early part of the Clinton Presidency? She was a child, and many of Clinton's critics and assorted comedians made hay out of the awkwardness that goes along with that stage of life.

Well, living well is the best revenge, and I'm glad to see that Chelsea is living very well, indeed.

Chelsea2.jpg


No question about it, that kid turned out hot. Good for her.
Oh, and here's the best picture I could find of Clinton's portrait....


Posted by Jon Henke at 11:35 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Flag burning hardly "news"

Sometimes I wonder.. This is a 3 paragraph story which was headlined: "Angry crowd sets fire to U.S. flag". I guess that makes the car bombing, etc. secondary, huh?

A car bomb exploded at rush hour today along one of central Baghdad's most heavily trafficked streets, killing at least 12 people. Angry Iraqis shouted "down with the USA" and set fire to an American flag.

The car bomb explosion is news. But the little demonstration later (with a handy American flag?)?

Hardly.

Well, unless you're the LA Times and its important to "pick every nit" when it comes to portraying the negative side of the US's role in Iraq.

Fox, on the other hand, covers it with a detailed story about the car bombings and victims. In passing it mentions:

A crowd gathered after the attack, shouting "Down with the USA," and dancing around a charred body.

In other words, business as usual and not worth much more than a mention. Fox's headline? "Explosions Rock Baghdad; at Least 12 Killed".

Any wonder why people believe there's a bias in the press.

I'm with others who believe the press ought to quit playing games and declare their bias. Then we could put anything said by the LA Times, for instance, in its proper context: the reporting of a liberal daily newspaper.

It would make life much less complex and confusing.

Posted by McQ at 11:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Iran's Nukes

On of the interesting themes in the op/ed world today is the worrying about the Iranians. Oh, sure, here in the US, we've worried about the Iranians for years. But, finally, other people are starting to get worried, too. Today, The Telegraph, and the Wall Street Journal are engaging in a bit of grumbling about the worldwide indifference to Iran becoming a nuclear state, and MSNBC's Fareed Zakaria makes reference to it in his column on non-proliferation in general.

The UN, of course, as they usually do in all other things, are proving that trusting them with problems of this magnitude is futile. Oh, sure, the UN can work overtime like gangbusters when there's ready cash to be made swapping oil export licenses for hefty kickbacks. As soon as they get involved in something that matters, though, the UN turns into the Keystone Cops. As the Journal puts it:

IAEA member states have been going through the motions required by their inspection process. But when they meet today in Vienna the consuming issue will be whether to "deplore" Iran's deceptions or note them with "serious concern." The Iranians are protesting that they consider even those words as all but a casus belli, but they are reported to be privately pleased as punch that the IAEA will yet again fail to refer them to the U.N. Security Council for sanction.

No surprise here. That's where multilateralism almost always leads. Nobody wants to offend anybody. Everybody gets an equal right to be heard. This is precisely the kind of thinking that puts Libya in charge of the UN Human Rights Commission, simply because, it's, you know, their turn.

So, what you end up with is a) a lot of hand-wringing and judicious head-nodding in the corridors of the UN as they discuss the "serious problem" of Iran's nukes (and discuss, and discuss, and discuss...), and b) a nuclear-armed Iran, at which time, the discussion becomes pointless, and the UN moves on to other serious problems to discuss.

This is much the same thing the UN did when North Korea got its nuclear weapons. All the sudden, the UN thinks the NoKos are an American problem, requiring bilateral talks and all that. Look for Iran to become an American problem, too.

Or, an Israeli problem.

Why anyone thinks the UN has the slightest legitimacy or power, beyond that which we expressly wish it to have, is utterly beyond me.

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Under God

When controversy reared its ugly head, they bravely turned their tails and, er, punted...

The Supreme Court at least temporarily preserved the phrase "one nation, under God," in the Pledge of Allegiance, ruling Monday that a California atheist could not challenge the patriotic oath while sidestepping the broader question of separation of church and state.
[...]
The court said the atheist could not sue to ban the pledge from his daughter's school and others because he did not have legal authority to speak for her.
This is certainly a defensible position, but the Supreme Court could have taken the case, nonetheless. One has to suspect they simply didn't want to wade into this volatile arena....especially in light of the fact that, religious protestations notwithstanding, the addition of "under God" was quite clearly not simply a recognition of the historicity of faith among our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, it was recognized at the time as an invocation of a Christian God. Quoth Eisenhower at the time...
"From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty." President Eisenhower (1954) after signing into law a bill to have "under God" added to the original pledge.
Also said by Eisenhower...
"In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war."
If you have trouble seeing how this is an imposition, a clear step over the line of conscience, imagine Congress passing a law which added the words "under Satan" to the Pledge.

Don't care for it? Same applies to "Under God". One might make the "de minimis" argument, but I think the removal of the phrase would be an even smaller matter than the inclusion. (except, of course, for the "Proof! We're headed straight to hell if we can't include "under God" in our pledge!" wailing from the Pat Robertson wing)

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:45 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Islamic Clerics condemn attacks

I have commented often about the "resounding silence" of Islam concerning the attacks on westerners by Islamic extremists. Its important, then that I also acknowledge it when they do sound off:

Six Saudi clerics once affiliated with Islamic militants - including two praised by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in videotapes - have condemned recent attacks against Westerners in the kingdom, describing the perpetrators as "a deviant group."

Now the disclaimer. This is being reported in Saudi Arabia, in which the government controls all of the media. So you have to look at this with a somewhat jaundiced eye because of that. Is it true or is it staged and/or coerced?

They did not explain their reasons for joining the government in speaking out against terror attacks, even adopting the monarchy's description of attackers as "deviants."

"We condemn the criminal acts committed by the deviant group in a number of Saudi areas in which many innocent people were killed," their statement said.

"The nation's theologians are in consensus that it is a sin to kill a life without a right, be it Muslim or non-Muslim," it said, adding that such acts would divide Muslims "at a time ... when other nations are uniting against them."

It also warned against calling other Muslims "infidels." In statements posted on Islamic Web sites, suspected al-Qaida members have accused the Saudi government of being un-Islamic and allying itself with "infidels" - a reference to the United States and other Western countries.

If true, this is important, and one hopes we'll see more of this in the future. While the west can kill the Islamic extremist terrorists as they appear, the way this war against this brand of terror is really going to be won is when mainstream Islam quits allowing these extremists to highjack their religion. Once that's accomplished, the extremists will lose most of their power and support. And with the loss of that power and support will go their ability to recruit and terrorize.

Posted by McQ at 10:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Polarization

A very important David Brooks column...

The long and short of his position is that our affiliations shape the facts (i.e., "assumptions) with which we make our decisions. This explains quite well the alternate factual universes Democrats and Republicans seem to occupy.

  • In the Democratic Universe, Bush said Saddam was an imminent threat, and no evidence of WMD - not even programs - has been found at all...despite the fact that Bush never said that, and all reports indicate maintained WMD programs and evidence of continuing research.
  • In the Republican Universe, the WMD stockpiles were clearly moved out of Iraq prior to, or during, the war....despite the fact that all reports from our inspectors have indicated no ongoing WMD production programs.

Etcetera, ad nauseum nausea.

Most striking is the data which appears to confirm this rhetoric-selection bias among voters...

For example, the Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels has pointed to survey data collected after the Reagan and Clinton presidencies. In 1988, voters were asked if they thought the nation's inflation rate had fallen during the Reagan presidency.

In fact, it did. The inflation rate fell from 13.5 percent to 4.1 percent. But only 8 percent of strong Democrats said the rate had fallen. Fifty percent of partisan Democrats believed that inflation had risen under Reagan. Strong Republicans had a much sunnier and more accurate impression of economic trends. Forty-seven percent said inflation had declined.

Then, at the end of the Clinton presidency, voters were asked similar questions about how the country had fared in the previous eight years. This time, it was Republicans who were inaccurate and negative. Democrats were much more positive. Bartels concludes that partisan loyalties have a pervasive influence on how people see the world. They reinforce and exaggerate differences of opinion between Republicans and Democrats.

One need hardly go back to former administrations to see evidence of this misidentification of the state of the economy. A quick perusal of the Democratic National Committee website - "job growth is non-existent" - will produce similar results.

In the polarization vein, Steven Taylor comments....

As much as hardcore partisans would hate to admit it: life in the United States will not be radically different if Kerry beats Bush or if Bush is reelected over Kerry. We may all have our preferences, but ours is actually a moderate political culture and the two parties are hardly polar opposites of one another.
As Kissinger once said of academic politics, they are "vicious precisely because the stakes are so small". The stakes may be large in electoral politics, but the differences have grown smaller. To differentiate oneself at all, one must either declare a radical position - politically unfeasible - or declare one's opponent a "radical".

Which is exactly why every Presidential nominee, from either party, will - and you can take this to the bank - be called a "radical" by his opponents.

Note: I actually have more to add to this, on the topic of the effect the internet, talk radio and cable news has had on discourse (it has lowered the transaction cost of disseminating a message, motivating an already observant constituency, and increasing the effectiveness of demagoguery) but I'll have to get to that later.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:03 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Halliburton theory goes "poof" again...

Well, I hope that meme had fun while it lasted....

In the fall of 2002, in the preparations for possible war with Iraq, the Pentagon sought and received the assent of senior Bush administration officials, including the vice president's chief of staff, before hiring the Halliburton Company to develop secret plans for restoring Iraq's oil facilities, Pentagon officials have told Congressional investigators.

The newly disclosed details about Pentagon contracting do not suggest improper political pressures to direct business to Halliburton, the Houston-based company that Vice President Dick Cheney once led.

Oddly, though, the story - and Henry Waxman - goes on to assert that this after-the-fact approval raises....
...questions about assertions by Mr. Cheney and other administration officials that he knew nothing in advance of the Halliburton contracts and that the decisions were made by career procurement specialists, without involvement by senior political appointees.
Odd, because, if the story is correct, then the approval was not sought and given until after the decision had been made. Thus, by definition, Cheney was not privy to the decision process "in advance".

Further, the allegation that there was not "involvement by senior political appointees" rests on the rather flimsy involvement of two appointees who simply had Halliburton perform a "task order" under an existing and operative contract to create contingency plans for a potential Iraq war. Their involvement did not, apparently, extend to any Pentagon decision-making process on the assignment of that eventual contract.

It's hard to see any wrongdoing here.

UPDATE: Naturally, Oliver Willis reads the same story, and comes to a different conclusion. The new position seems to be: "Dick Cheney isn't guilty of what influencing the contracts, but he was lying when he said he was not improperly involved with those contracts that he didn't influence." Or something.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wherein Matthew makes good points

Two comments worth thinking about...

One:

...we need to understand something about the relationship between democracy and liberalism. How do they relate to each other, to terrorism, to American interests, etc.? It seems to me that Asia, where democratization followed liberalization, has been more successful than Latin America, where things tended to go the other way.
It has a great many implications for the Middle East.
  • Can Iraq be democratized in the way we are attempting to democratize them? Certainly, we can impose elections, but elections are not democracy. Saddam Hussein, after all, was "elected".
  • Even if our efforts in Iraq do not lead to true democracy, will it still be enough to bring a liberalization trend to the Middle East? That, I suspect, is the great value in a (more) democratic Iraq. It is the domino theory, again....only, working in our favor this time, rather than against it.
  • To what extent are property rights and responsibilities - i.e., "the franchise" - necessary to increase the odds of true democracy? I would argue that the extent and protection of property rights, more than anything else, will determine the sustainability of democracy.

Two:

...all that really needs to be said in response to the "explain [your] reasons for wishing that Saddam Hussein should still be in power in Baghdad" argument is to whisper "opportunity costs." Suppose I lined up 800 American soldiers and several thousand Iraqis, had them all shot, then ground up their corpses into a meat loaf which I then fed to starving children in Uganda.

"That's a terrible idea!" you say.

"Would you tell me, please," I reply, "why you wish those children will still starving.

Clearly, this is not a serious argument. Stacking up $200 billion dollars worth of US currency and using it to start a bonfire to keep the homeless warm at night is, again, not a policy anyone would seriously recommend, their sympathy for freezing homeless people notwithstanding. To note that a policy has had some beneficial effects is not even to begin to construct an argument in its favor. Indeed, it would be very hard to imagine a policy that did not, in some way, to some extent, help some number of people out there.

Pay attention to this argument. Wherever you come down on the Iraq war, one must take seriously a person who makes this argument against it. I quickly dismiss the "war for oil"/personal vendetta/empire/Jewish cabal variations on the "Bush lied, people died" theme. Proponents of such theories deserve little attention in a serious discourse about the Iraq war.

But Matt makes a very good point. Even proponents of the war have to concede that we do not, and cannot, predict the consequences of the Iraq war. We can make a rought guesstimate of the costs/benefits, but far too much is unknown. As with every decision in life, we weigh the potential costs and benefits and make our calculation on those assumptions.

And one must take seriously war critics who believe the costs outweigh the benefits of the Iraq war. Only time will tell, but they could be right. And, of course, they could be wrong.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:50 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

LP candidate invokes Hitler

Invocations of - and comparisons to - Hitler are, to me, good signals that the the speaker is more interested in hyperbole and demonization than rational political discourse. And they're not limited to the Democrats in this election cycle. Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik has let loose with the following gems.

Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt:

"Both dictators and evil. I rail against Roosevelt the most. He did what Hitler did, only Hitler said what he was doing."
On the post-9/11 passage of, for example, the SmallPox vaccination bill...
I'm wondering what OTHER powers Congress will try to assume “in our best interest”. Is it politically incorrect to point out the Hitler and his government rapidly assumed lots of powers in an effort to “protect the Fatherland”?
Now, one might point out that there are correlations between any government and Nazi Germany. (hey, we're carbon-based life forms? Hitler was a carbon-based life form!) The problem is not one of nature, but of degree. Hitler and Nazi Germany are archetypes, and conflating minor similarities with them serves only to reduce the degree of their evil.

I'd hope we can all agree that there is an enormous difference between a man who killed millions of people in concentration camps, and men who....well, didn't do anything like that at all.

But Badnarik doesn't see it that way. That can only serve to marginalize Badnarik and the Libertarian Party even more than they already are.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 13, 2004

Respect for the Dead

Ellen Dana Nagler would, it seems, prefer a bit less "majesty" at funerals.

Again, I mean no disrepect to the man — as a former president, Ronald Reagan deserves full state honors. And it is appropriate that there be biographies, and retrospectives of his time in office. But I seriously dispute the necessity for a week-long, non-stop barrage of trumpets and alarums, a moveable feast of triumphalism, what Bernie Shaw is now calling "majestic Americanism." (This is after the funeral service at National Cathedral. No poet spoke a eulogy. No man of science. No Nobel laureate. Only politicians.)
Shocking! Imagine that....a politician being feted by (gasp) politicians. No kidding. And not a single poet to put the whole thing into metered rhyme. (quick: what rhymes with "evil empire"?) Why, without that, how could you call it "majestic"?

One wonders if Ellen disputes the necessity of the weeklong memorial due to a dispute over propriety, or a dispute over policies. One needn't wonder long, though, as Ellen answers that by going into a couple paragraphs explaining to us just how dumb Ronald Reagan was.

One also wonders why Ellen missed the presence of a poet, as she seems to have a tone-deafness for a Moment...

The big plane is taking off. ("Majestic," Wolf calls it. That word again. Wherefore is this 747 more majestic than any other 747? It's always impressive to see one take off, even if it's signed, um, Air France.)
Yes, yes. It's always impressive, even if it's signed Air France. Not sure what "impressive" has to do with it, though. When that 747 contains the body of a (generally) beloved ex-President, it takes on additional sentimental and emotional resonance with the viewers. Just as might, you know, a poet at a funeral: something it seemed Ellen would deem "majestic" not many paragraphs previously.

And there's this...

Bernie Shaw suggests that what makes a president great is the crises he faces, and the example from Reagan is the threat from Soviet Communism. This rather short-changes every other Cold War president.
Of course, it was Reagan who finally brought down that threat. It's hard to give, say, Jimmy "inordinate fear of communism" Carter quite as much credit as one would give Ronald "tear down this wall" Reagan. And while Reagan did stand on the shoulder's of giants in the fight against communism, he was the first President with a policy of defeating communism, rather than simple detente or containment. That's a rather important difference.

All in all, Ellen seems uneasy at the memorial near-hagiography of this past week. Well, that's what happens when a man dies. Have you ever been to a funeral in which a man's flaws were examined? Have you ever told a grieving crowd that the whole thing seemed rather ordinary and overwrought? Jesse Taylor recently asked...

Can someone sit down and tell us what is and isn't acceptable political discourse around Reagan's death?
Certainly. "Acceptable political discourse" is exactly what you would expect of a decent human being when a political icon of your own side - Clinton, for example - dies. Respect for the man's accomplishments, restraint where you disagree with them.

Above all - and Ellen, this is for you - let his admirers admire for awhile, even if it means they shoot a bit too high. Really. It's only decent.

UPDATE: Well, perhaps I was a bit too harsh on Ellen. While I stand by my points on substance, Ellen is clearly capable of bipartisan respect. She has written a poignant remembrance of Reagan today. Majestic, even. Read it here...

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Friday in DC

As mentioned previously, I decided to visit DC on Friday to be a part of the events surrounding Reagan's memorial. Unfortunately, I was unable to view the procession of Reagan's body either to or from the National Cathedral, but the scenes surrounding the entire event were worth the trip. A few thoughts...

* Perhaps in part because the Federal government had been shut down - as fitting tribute for Reagan as any I could imagine - the tone in the town seemed very quiet. The bustle of the city was almost entirely absent, and the people who were out and about were....reserved.

* There was a 2-3 block radius roped off around the National Cathedral, so we were unable to get closer. We did see one fairly large, and well-guarded, procession leaving the Cathedral as soon as the service ended. It was speculated that it contained either Nancy Reagan or George Bush. Marine 1 flew overhead shortly after, though, which seemed to rule out President Bush.

* I've never seen so many police and Secret Service agents in my life. I can only imagine how many were there, but out of our sight. The security was astounding, as well it should have been. Imagine the impact, both psychological and practical, on the Western world had that service - full of world leaders - been attacked.

* Shortly after the end of the service, the attendees poured out. I thought, for a moment, to stop some and ask them politely about the service....but it seemed, somehow, wrong. One lady did, however, tell a friend of mine that it was beautiful.

* As we waited for the police to drop the barriers, some notables did come our way. I noticed William F Buckley, Bob and Elizabeth Dole, and (I think) Senator Rockefeller. A friend noticed Bill Kristol. There were a number of other people who looked familiar (congressmen), but couldn't quite be placed.

A great many people walked up to Bob Dole to shake his hand or have a picture taken, and he was obliging.....but, again, it seemed inappropriate for that day.

* Sadly, there were protesters.....(picture via Outside the Beltway)

Fucktards.jpg

The signs I saw included:

  • Reagan in Hell
  • God Hates America
  • God Hates Fags
  • Thank God for September 11th

On the other side of the street, there was a small table set up with two pieces of paper, and the handwritten message that Reagan didn't have to die when he did. He had been intentionally infected, you see, with a bacteria that causes Alzheimers - something which had been developed in 1982 by...(at that point, I stopped reading. Life is too short, you know)

* We encountered one man who had driven all the way from Toledo, Ohio, just to be there for the viewing and the memorial. I suspect there were a great many more like him.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 12, 2004

Eco-freaks and domestic terror

Seems, per the FBI, that we're due for a little domestic terrorism from the eco-freak faction. ELF or "Earth Liberation Front" is reported to be ready to stage violent "protests" in support of a jailed arsonist this weekend in 10 cities across the US:

The FBI bulletin said the Earth Liberation Front reportedly was planning a ``day of action and solidarity'' that could include acts of eco-terrorism, according to Tor Bjornstad, a police commander in Olympia, one of several cities named as possible targets.

Some of the others were Eugene; Ore.; San Francisco; Modesto, Calif.; Morgantown, W. Va.; Portland, Maine; Worcester, Mass.; Lake Worth, Fla.; and Lawrence, Kan., Bjornstad said.

Morgantown, WV? Er, OK.

The day of "action and soldiarity" has to do with a jailed arsonist named Jeff Luers. Seems Jeffy got caught burning some SUVs.

If you're interested in reading some of the "Free Jeff Luers" stuff, you can find it here.

One sentence that caught my eye was this:

Jeff's imprisonment and sentence is without a doubt, intolerable but keep in mind that his sentence is yours as well. It is meant as a deterrent to social and environmental movements all over.

The irrationality not to mention the absurdity of this statement is telling. Somehow the premise -- burning SUVs advances social and environmental movements all over and should be acceptable -- is a valid premise to these kooks. It, of course, ignores the fact that we have a rights based legal system which denies idiots like Jeff Luers the "right" to burn other people's property on their whim.

Imagine.

Needless to say, protests which may involve burning some SUVs is hardly going to free a guy who got 22 years for burning some SUVs. But then, this is ELF and their fellow travelers we're talking about so reason has nothing to do with their actions.

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

June 11, 2004

Walesa: "We Owe Him Our Liberty"

Lech Walesa responds to those who denigrate Reagan's part in freeing Eatern Europe from Soviet tyranny.

When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. This can't be said often enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century, until communism fell in 1989.

Poles fought for their freedom for so many years that they hold in special esteem those who backed them in their struggle. Support was the test of friendship. President Reagan was such a friend. His policy of aiding democratic movements in Central and Eastern Europe in the dark days of the Cold War meant a lot to us. We knew he believed in a few simple principles such as human rights, democracy and civil society. He was someone who was convinced that the citizen is not for the state, but vice-versa, and that freedom is an innate right.

I often wondered why Ronald Reagan did this, taking the risks he did, in supporting us at Solidarity, as well as dissident movements in other countries behind the Iron Curtain, while pushing a defense buildup that pushed the Soviet economy over the brink. Let's remember that it was a time of recession in the U.S. and a time when the American public was more interested in their own domestic affairs. It took a leader with a vision to convince them that there are greater things worth fighting for. Did he seek any profit in such a policy? Though our freedom movements were in line with the foreign policy of the United States, I doubt it.

I distinguish between two kinds of politicians. There are those who view politics as a tactical game, a game in which they do not reveal any individuality, in which they lose their own face. There are, however, leaders for whom politics is a means of defending and furthering values. For them, it is a moral pursuit. They do so because the values they cherish are endangered. They're convinced that there are values worth living for, and even values worth dying for. Otherwise they would consider their life and work pointless. Only such politicians are great politicians and Ronald Reagan was one of them.

Well, if anyone knows, it's Lech Walesa.

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

He wasn't just an "Optimist"

Charles Krauthammer skewers those who praise Reagans optimism now, but who, in the 1980s, had nothing but contempt for it.

It's jarring, frankly, to hear so many of the people who had nothing but contempt for Reagan's policies 20 years claiming him now. Praising his "optimism" and "pragmatism". Back then, they were marching in the streets, in both the US and Europe, calling for a nuclear freeze, shrieking that Reagan was a warmonger who was going to lead us all into global thermonuclear war.

In 1979, Jimmy Carter chided us for our "inordinate fear of communism", and urged us to be nice to the Sovs, hoping that they'd be encouraged to be nice to us. But, of course, the very basis of that policy was an inordinate fear of communism, an unwillingness to confront the world's great evil out of fear of the consequences. And that fear was shared, sometime hysterically so, by President Reagan's opponents at the time.

But this "amiable dunce" saw something they didn't: an evil empire suffering from imperial overstretch, and one that could broken and swept away if confronted decisively, through a policy of strength. He knew that "détente" and the policy of accommodation was, in fact, a boon to the Soviet leadership that gave them breathing room they so desperately needed.

History, of course, has vindicated Reagan's view, and laid bare the bankruptcy of his opponents' arguments.

Had Reagan died ten years ago, I doubt that we'd see the same kind of outpouring for him that we're seeing today. But the intervening years have given us a much greater perspective, and allow us to more fully appreciate his legacy. Our children, unlike us, live in a world that, for all its remaining dangers, is absent the deep, underlying fear that, at any moment, a tiny spark of conflict half a world away could light a nuclear conflagration that will consume the world.

And it wasn't a nuclear freeze that delivered us from that fear. And that's why Ronald Reagan is lionized, while hardly anyone in the world even remembers who Dr. Helen Caldicott is.

Posted by Dale Franks at 02:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Notes on the Reagan Funeral

It isn't often that such an intensely religious ceremony is presented to the American people without any editorial comment.

You have to hand it to Mikhail Gorbachev. It took a certain measure of fortitude to come to this ceremony, knowing he would hear things like Baroness Thatcher calling the USSR an evil empire again, or former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulrony talk about the "squalid underpinnings" of Soviet Communism.

President George HW Bush is a softie. He almost broke down during his eulogy. I guess I'm an old softie, too, because I did.

Beautiful line by W: even though he taught us that America's best days are still ahead of her, with his passing, many bright days are now behind us.

This must be so hard on Nancy Reagan, having to share this with the rest of us, so publicly.

Image from a video montage: A woman holding a sign, "Our hearts are broken." I'm not ashamed to say that mine is.

"He belongs to the ages, now."

Posted by Dale Franks at 01:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dems saved by the courts

I've always heard that if you look hard enough, you can find an 'expert witness' to say exactly what you want said.

My guess is that about the same premise holds with judges and finding one to do whatever you want. Seems the Democrats may not have to face the labor unrest in Boston after all thanks to federal judge Joseph L. Tauro.

A federal judge ordered union pickets at the FleetCenter to clear the way yesterday for construction workers and supply trucks attempting to enter the arena and dispatched US marshals to the scene, warning that those who violate his order could face criminal charges.

How convenient for the Democrat Convention and John Kerry. Now they can blast the judge, the city and anyone else "opposed" to labor without any political penalty. Its a win-win for them. Blast the Mayor of Boston, the judge who ordered the picket lines crossed and anti-labor union Republicans without a single inconvenience on their part.

In court yesterday morning, Alan H. Shapiro, one of the attorneys for the police union, told the judge that some courts have allowed demonstrators three to five minutes to clear access to a site.

But Tauro shot back, "Not in this case."

"You can be on the side and be visible," Tauro said. "You don't have to be on a front bumper waving a flag. I expect my orders to be obeyed unless they're modified or revisited. If you don't obey them, I'll hold you in contempt. "

Of course Thomas Nee, Police Union president, has a different take:

Police union president Thomas J. Nee summoned pickets to gather around him and told them the union would not quit and that the fight had not ended. The pickets shouted, "No contracts, no convention," as they headed back to the line. [...] Nee said he was "insulted" that his members were accused of criminal conduct by Tauro. He blamed [Boston Mayor] Menino for failing to resolve the contract dispute.

"He has no exit strategy," Nee said. "He's like Bush in Iraq, I don't mean to sound cavalier. I don't know how to get him off the field. Tommy Nee isn't in this business to play a game. I'm an advocate of people's rights. I'm not looking for a fight."

Yeah, right Tommy.

But regardless, it'll be interesting how this plays out. Look for the DNC and Kerry to now try a little riskless advocacy of the Police Union for some cheap political points.

Posted by McQ at 12:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Andrew Greeley: Idiot First Class

Just rest your eyes on this. In a piece in todays Chicago Sun-Times, Andrew Greeley asks "Is US like Germany of the '30s?"

Today many Americans celebrate a ''strong'' leader who, like Woodrow Wilson, never wavers, never apologizes, never admits a mistake, never changes his mind, a leader with a firm ''Christian'' faith in his own righteousness. These Americans are delighted that he ignores the rest of the world and punishes the World Trade Center terrorism in Iraq. Mr. Bush is our kind of guy.

He is not another Hitler. Yet there is a certain parallelism. They have in common a demagogic appeal to the worst side of a country's heritage in a crisis. Bush is doubtless sincere in his vision of what is best for America. So too was Hitler. The crew around the president -- Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Karl Rove, the ''neo-cons'' like Paul Wolfowitz -- are not as crazy perhaps as Himmler and Goering and Goebbels. Yet like them, they are practitioners of the Big Lie -- weapons of mass destruction, Iraq democracy, only a few ''bad apples.''

Hitler's war was quantitatively different from the Iraq war, but qualitatively both were foolish, self-destructive and criminally unjust. This is a time of great peril in American history because a phony patriotism and an America-worshipping religion threaten the authentic American genius of tolerance and respect for other people.

The term "despicable" doesn't quite make it, does it? Nor does "irresponsible", stupid", "moronic" or "disgusting". They just don't quite fill the bill.

To pretend there is any "parallelism" between the Nazi regime of Hitler and the US under Bush is just flat ... well you fill in the word. It denies context and reality. It ignores the differences in who started the wars in question and how the wars have been conducted. It requires idiotic twists of fact, gigantic leaps of logic and a political agenda from hell.

Greeley has them all. The fact that a newspaper would print such garbage as that found in Greeley's column is not only astounding, but tells us a lot about the ideological extremism of his editors.

Mr. Greeley, there aren't sufficient words in my vocabulary to describe my disgust for you and your assinine commentary.

Posted by McQ at 09:29 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Maggie Thatcher: Reagan's Legacy

Today's NY Post carries a piece by Margret Thather first carried on Dec. 30, 1988 (as Reagan was leaving office) in National Review, in which she remembers Reagan's leadership and legacy. It puts the revisionist attempts we've been seeing over the last few days into perspective: petty sniping by opposing political ideologues. Thatcher first touches on the context of Reagan's entrance into office:

On entering office, the president faced high interest rates, high inflation, sluggish growth and a growing demand for self-destructive protectionism. These problems had created — and in turn were reinforced by — a feeling that not much could be done about them, that America faced inevitable decline in a new era of limits to growth, that the American dream was over.

President Reagan saw instinctively that pessimism itself was the disease and that the cure for pessimism is optimism. He set about restoring faith in the prospects of the American dream — a dream of boundless opportunity built on enterprise, individual effort and personal generosity. He infused his own belief in America's economic future in the American people.

That was farsighted. It carried America through the difficult early days of the 1981-82 recession, because people are prepared to put up with sacrifices if they know that those sacrifices are the foundations of future prosperity.

This is probably one of the greatest things I remember about Reagan personally. The optimism he brought to the country. The ability to again feel proud and confident about America.

And, after he did that for America, he looked to doing the same for the rest of the world. Thatcher relates:

Having restored the faith of the Amer ican people in themselves, the presi dent set about liberating their energies and enterprise. He reduced the excessive burden of regulation, halted inflation and first cut and, later, radically reformed taxation.

When barriers to enterprise are removed and taxes cut to sensible levels (as we found in Britain), people have the incentive to work harder and earn more. They thereby benefit themselves, their families and the whole community. Hence the buoyant economy of the Reagan years — then the longest period of peacetime economic growth in U.S. history, with unemployment cut to the lowest level in over a decade.

The international impact of these successes was enormous. At a succession of Western economic summits, the president's leadership encouraged the West to cooperate on policies of low inflation, steady growth and open markets. These policies kept protectionism in check and the world economy growing.

They are policies which offer not just an economic message, but a political one: Freedom works. It brings growth, opportunity and prosperity in its train. Other countries, seeing its success in the United States and Britain, rushed to adopt the policies of freedom.

She's right: "Freedom works". And that goes for economic freedom as well. Instead of "Whip Inflation Now" buttons, we got leadership not only domestically, but internatinally from Reagan that put everyone in the free world on the road to economic prosperity.

Which then allowed Reagan to turn his attention to those peoples of the world who lived under totalitarianism. To understand the hurdles Reagan faced, Thatcher puts that time in context:

President Reagan took office at a time when the Soviet Union was invading Afghanistan, placing missiles in Eastern Europe aimed at West European capitals and assisting Communist groups in the Third World to install themselves in power against the popular will — and when America's response was hobbled by the so-called "Vietnam syndrome."

And not just America's response. The entire West, locked in a battle of wills with the Soviets, seemed to be losing confidence.

Viet Nam still hovered over our national consciousness like a 500 lb. bomb. Couple what with our botched rescue attempt of the Iranian hostages (Desert One) and it was apparent we lacked confidence in our ability to turn back communism either politically or militarily. Reagan didn't buy into that and set out to change not only America's attitude, but that of the free world:

President Reagan's first step was to change the military imbalance that underlay this loss of confidence. He built up American power in a series of defense budgets. There were criticisms of this build-up as too expensive. Well, a sure defense is expensive, but not nearly so expensive as weakness could turn out to be.

By this military build-up, President Reagan strengthened not only American defenses, but also the will of America's allies. And he demonstrated that he was not afraid to put to good use the military strength he had built up.

The decisions he took in the face of strong criticism have been justified by events. He won the Cold War without firing a shot.

An incredible accomplishement by anyone's accounting, and one attributed to Reagan by a person who was in the thick of the Cold War fight at the time ... Margret Thatcher. Case closed.

Thatcher goes on to point to what I've mentioned about Reagan. He was a leader. And that, at the time, was what America and the free world desparately needed:

She calls what he did "the most difficult of all political tasks". I call it the most difficult task of a leader.

Ronald Reagan may have made mistakes. He may have backed some poor policies a time or two. But one thing that can't be taken away from him was his ability to inspire and motivate. His ability to communicate his optimism about his country and its ability. Ronald Reagan changed the world for the better, and he did this because he was a leader.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by McQ at 09:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Mending Fences and making political hay

James Lakely of the Washington Times reports:

President Bush said he left the G-8 summit yesterday convinced that the "momentum of freedom" in the Middle East is building and relations with nations critical of the Iraq war have been mended, despite NATO giving little help to secure the country. [...] The meeting achieved broad agreement on a host of issues among the four nations that contributed troops to the war in Iraq -- the U.S., Britain, Italy and Japan, and the four that refused -- France, Germany, Russia and Canada.

But further NATO help seems to be something not in the cards, even though 16 of the 26 NATO countries are now involved in Iraq:

"I don't expect more troops from NATO to be offered up. That's an unrealistic expectation," Mr. Bush said.

The president has suggested, however, that NATO could help train the Iraqi forces who will eventually take over peacekeeping operations and let U.S. troops return home.

"That will come at the request of the Iraqi government," Mr. Bush said.

It may be on the domestic political level, though, that Bush scored his biggest points by removing Democrat arguments that the US has acted"unilaterally" and thereby ostracized itself internationally. Based on the reaction of the G-8 leaders to Bush's initiatives its going to be a rough week for the "everyone hates us" crowd.

Mr. Bush also used his one-on-one contact with the G-8 leaders this week to garner the unanimous support of the United Nations Security Council on the transfer of power to a sovereign, democratic Iraq.

"This [summit] gave us an opportunity of reviewing the major areas of concern to today's world, to better understand each other, and also to pool our efforts for peace and development and human rights," Mr. Chirac said.

By getting the UN back in the picture (yes, I know, I know, but politically a wise move) and having Chirac say nice things about "working together", much of the firepower of the Democrats has been diminished. It'll be interesting to see if Bush gets a little bounce in the polls from all of this.

Posted by McQ at 08:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 10, 2004

Redistribution (Buy my Book)

Recent posts by both McQ and Jon address the issue of wealth distribution. As it happens, that's an issue I also address in my new book, Slackernomics. As I put it in the book:

INCOME DISTRIBUTION

In both domestic and international affairs, the issue of income distribution, or the inequality of wealth, is an increasingly hot topic.

Even the term income distribution is a loaded one. As pointed out earlier, there is no central committee for distributing income. The method by which income is distributed is through the results of millions of people making voluntary decisions to buy and sell goods and services.

The rich, we are told, are getting richer while the poor get poorer. Often, advocates point to the figures showing declining household income. Oddly enough, they don’t mention that the household size has been shrinking steadily from 4.5 people to about 2 people per household. Household income is shrinking because households are shrinking. Per-capita income, i.e., income per person, has been constantly increasing.

Still, we are told, wealth disparities are a serious problem. The obvious solution for those who worry about such things is to take wealth from the rich and redistribute it to the poor.

It’s useless to point out that one of the major powers of the 20th century already tried that idea. The fact that the USSR is gone and Russia is now a fairly nasty place seems to make no impact on the redistributionists.

But it should, because the idea behind the redistribution of income is built on a lie. And it’s a lie on more than one level.

First the foundation of the argument is false, because it’s based on the proposition that economics is a zero-sum game: If I have too many brownies, you only get to lick the plate. But there is no fixed amount of wealth. If I have a boat, and you don’t, it doesn’t mean I took your boat. We can always build more boats.

Similarly, we can always produce more wealth.

Actually, it appears that we do. Despite the disparities between the rich and poor, we seem to have a little trouble defining who the members of these groups actually are. In reality, they are often the same people at different times in their lives. Between 1975 and 1993, an absolute majority of the people who were in the bottom quintile of income had moved into the top quintile . Less than 3% of the people in the bottom quintile in 1975 were still there in 1993.

An even more telling statistic is the fact that people in the top quintile in 1993 worked an average of 52 hours per week. In the bottom quintile, 25% of the people didn’t even have a full-time job.

Wealth is a function of productivity. For the most part, the reason people become rich in America is because they have produced goods and services. To the extent that people remain poor, it is because they don’t.

The answer is not to redistribute the income of the rich, but to make the poor more productive.

The second lie is that to assume that we should all be equal. Now equality is a fine proposition, and it certainly works well as a working method when we step into the ballot box, or into a courtroom. It just doesn’t work in real life. We don’t all contribute equal value to society.

Let’s take two gentlemen, Bill and Bob.

Bill drops out of college to start a small software company. Twenty years later, Bill’s company makes the most popular office software in the world, along with a computer operating system used by almost 90% of all computers, everywhere. As a result, tens of thousands of people are employed at Bill’s company. In addition, millions of people all around the world are employed in a vast software community, making databases and custom applications for businesses. The business community employs thousands of more people who all work with the same computer products, and who can always be sure that, when they send a file from New York to Seattle, the recipients will be able to open the file and read it instantly.

Bill becomes one of the world’s richest men.

Bob, on the other hand, not only finishes college, but goes on to receive a master’s degree in psychology with an emphasis on therapeutic counseling. He then goes to work in a drug rehab program in Los Angeles. At the end of 20 years, Bob has helped 5,000 people quit drugs and assume productive lives. Bob is not rich, but receives the comfortable middle-class salary of a mid-level government employee.

Bill wanted to make some money. Bob wanted to help people. Bob’s goals are certainly nobler than Bill’s. But, in the end, whose work has been of more benefit to society?

Bill led a computer revolution that changed the world, employed millions and created vast amounts of wealth, both for him and millions of others, in an industry that barely even existed when he began. Bob may have been a nicer, kinder, person, and he’s certainly helped a lot of people in important and fundamental ways. But there’s no comparison between the advantages each man has bequeathed to society as a whole.

Equality, as a practical matter, doesn’t exist anywhere, and never has.

Finally, the third lie inherent in the redistribution argument is that the argument itself is factually incorrect. The rich are certainly getting richer, but the poor are getting richer, too.

Currently, one of the major health problems among America‘s poor is obesity. This is a fundamentally different health problem than those associated with poverty in the past, like scurvy, or rickets.

In international affairs, a variety of advocates argue that America consumes a quarter of the world’s resources, yet contains less than 5% of the world’s population. Africans starve to death every day, while Americans worry about the super size of their Happy Meals. Americans, we are told, consume so much that there is nothing left for Africa.

America, with only 4.7% of the world’s population, produces 31.2% of the world’s GDP. America is the source of 40.6% of the world’s R&D spending, one of the key predictors of future economic success. As The Economist puts it, “America again leads the world in all dimensions of power-military, economic, cultural, scientific—by a margin out of all proportion to its population.” As the editors of the magazine put in one of their leaders¹:

But goods and services are not just lying around waiting to be grabbed by the greediest or most muscular countries. Market economics is not a zero-sum game. America consumes $10 trillion worth of goods and services each year because it produces (not counting the current-account deficit of 5% or so of the total) $10 trillion of goods and services each year. Africa could produce and consume a lot more without America producing and consuming one jot less. It so happens that the case for more aid, provided of course that it is well spent, is strong-but the industrialised countries do not need to become any less rich before Africa can become a lot less poor. The wealth of the wealthy is not part of the problem. To believe otherwise, however, is very much part of the problem.

When someone complains that the US uses a disproportionate amount of resources, or the rich are “too rich”, they are making a foolish argument. A world without America would not be more equitable, except in the sense that everyone in it would be substantially poorer than they are.

And indeed, as trade has liberalized, and the economy increasingly globalized, the poor have been getting richer all over the world. Life expectancy has been constantly increasing and infant mortality declining in the developing world for the last 50 years. These are the two most-widely accepted measures of general well-being, and they show constant improvements in the lives of even the most impoverished inhabitants of the earth.

The redistributionists are troubled by the thought that rich people run the world. But, as P.J. O’Rourke² points out , the alternative doesn’t seem to be a lot better.

[T]he real alternative to the power of the rich is not the power of the poor but plain, simple power. If we don’t want the world’s wealth to be controlled by people with money then the alternative is to have the world’s wealth controlled by people with guns. Governments have plenty of guns.

The theory of this is quite good. The robber puts down his pistol, picks up the ballot box and steals from rich people instead of from you. But the reality is different. Witness the track record of collectivism in this century: The holocaust, Stalin’s purges, the suffering caused by the Great Leap Forward here.

Redistributionist thinking has consigned more people to death and starvation and totalitarian repression in the last century alone than any other idea in the history of human civilization. And still it continues. Scores, hundreds--perhaps thousands--of Africans die every day while the collectivists spout the same errors, and agitate for the same failed “solutions” they have for decades.

But, at least it makes them feel compassionate, which is, really, the important thing.

If African nations, or Asian nations, or Central American nations want to be wealthy, then they can be. All they have to do is limit the scope and size of government, deregulate their markets, and trade freely with the rest of the world. We’ve known this to be the answer for 150 years now, ever since the British government scrapped the mercantilist Corn Laws, and opened their borders up to trade after the Napoleonic wars.

In other words, stop giving so much power to the people with the guns.
________________
¹ The Economist, Mar 11th 2004, “A Question of Justice?”
² “Closing the Wealth Gap”, Speech at a June, 1997 Cato Foundation conference in Shanghai, China.

Posted by Dale Franks at 07:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Contribution of the UN

You know what would be really cool? If, just once, you could invite the UN to help with something without having to worry that they'll screw it all up. Unfortunately, competence, shall we say, is not butter for the UN's bread, if you know what I mean.

Here's the problem. Iraq is a country made up of two major ethnic groups, the Kurds and Arabs. The Arabs are additionally divided up into two more major religious groups, the Sunni and Shia. They all dislike each other, intensely.

Now, the grand idea that UN elections expert Carina Perelli came up with is proportional representation. So, instead of an electoral system on the American or British model, she's chosen the Italian model. Thus she has bequeathed on the Iraqis a system so stable that it's given Italy 54 different governments since the end of WWII.

So, when given a fragmented population of mutually hostile groups, Ms. Perelli has given them a fragmented political system that divides the population on party lines. Naturally, the political parties that result will be Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni, which, at least has the efficiency of dividing the Iraqis politically in precisely the same manner as they are divided ethnically.

Well, it'll be representative, you certainly have to give it that.

Of course, rather than having them vote as Iraqis, such a system encourages them to vote as Shia or Kurds, thus reinforcing, rather than subordinating, their ethnic and religious rivalries.

And why, pray, does Ms. Perelli wish to impose this system on the Iraqis, rather one based in constituencies, rather than parties?

Well, it seems that with party-list elections, its easier to get women on the list of representatives, and both the UN and the US State Department want to ensure that at least 25% of Iraqi legislators are women.

But, as tactically efficient as this might be, strategically, it's unsound. As the Wall Street Journal puts it,

Just about every country that has proportional representation regrets it--think of Israel--but can't change because of the vested interests it creates.

I expect the Iraqis will regret it as well.

Posted by Dale Franks at 03:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"I was born with music inside me."

Ray Charles has passed away.

He was happiest playing music, smiling and swaying behind the piano as his legs waved in rhythmic joy. His appeal spanned generations: He teamed with such disparate musicians as Willie Nelson, Chaka Khan and Eric Clapton, and appeared in movies including The Blues Brothers. Pepsi tapped him for TV spots around a simple "uh huh" theme, perhaps playing off the grunts and moans that pepper his songs.

"The way I see it, we're actors, but musical ones," he once told The Associated Press. "We're doing it with notes, and lyrics with notes, telling a story. I can take an audience and get 'em into a frenzy so they'll almost riot, and yet I can sit there so you can almost hear a pin drop."

Requiescat in Pace.

Posted by Dale Franks at 03:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Polling Irregularities

Tom Bevan tries to make sense of today's Los Angeles Times poll results. He's not having much luck at it.

Bush with an eleven point lead in Missouri? Not a chance. Even the biggest Bush booster in the country wouldn't claim that the President would win the Show-Me State by double digits as things stand right now. The latest polls show Bush has, at best, a tiny lead over Kerry.

In Ohio, three consecutive polls conducted during the last three weeks - including a Mason-Dixon one with a pretty big sample - show Bush with a small lead, but the LA Times has Kerry up by three.

Likewise, the last three polls in Wisconsin - albeit two from Zogby's online operation and one by a Dem firm - have Kerry ahead by sizeable margins. The LA Times has Bush up two. I suppose it's possible Bush has a small lead in Wisconsin, but not likely. With only two exceptions over the past three months (both Badger polls which I've been told over samples Republicans, by the way) the state has been leaning toward Kerry.

Finally, just from a common sense standpoint the LA Times state data is at odds with its own national results. If John Kerry really is leading by 6 or 7 points nationally then there is simply no way Bush is winning Missouri by 11 and Wisconsin by 2.

One ofthe things we saw during the Gray Davis recall election was that no matter what the Field Poll or Opinion Dynamics, or anyone else said, the Times always had Gray Davis slightly ahead, or within striking distance.

Naturally, Davis got stomped like a hippie at Altamont.

There is something decidedly odd about the Times polling unit. I think it pretty consistently oversamples Democrats, and gives skewed results. And, when you see similar outlier-type, in polls taken over the course of whole year, on a number of different issues and elections, you have to wonder if the LA Times isn't perfectly aware of this, too.

I mean, if your polls are always the outlier numbers, you have to wonder about the reliability of your results, don't you?

Posted by Dale Franks at 03:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Neolibertarianism Redux

Think-Tank denizen Joel Kotkin argues in The New Republic that Arnold Schwarzenegger, not George W. Bush, is the heir to Regan's political legacy.

There is much merit in his argument. California, it seems to me, typifies what Jon calls Neolibertarianism to a great degree. Despite the fact that the legislature is run by aging hippies from San Francisco, the populace in general prefers governance that combines a mixture of conservative, smaller government, and social libertarianism on moral issues, such as abortion, gay rights, etc.

Despite the overwhelmingly liberal nature of the legislature, californian's tradtionally elect conservative-ish governors. If one were to look at who get's elected governor in California, one might reasonably suppose that California is a Republican stronghold. Since the 1943, we've had 10 years under Earl Warren, 6 years under Goodwin Knight, 8 years under Reagan, 8 years undr George Deukmejian, 8 years under Pete Wilson, and now, a year under Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since 1943, the only Democratic governors have been Pat Brown, his kid, Jerry, and 4 1/2 years of Gray Davis, who was unceremoniously dumped from the office last year.

In part, I think this is because, as the Gray Davis experience has shown, a liberal legislature combined with a liberal governor is an unpalatable combination.

But, as the Republican Party has turned more overtly Southern, i.e., religious-rightish, their presidential election hopes have diminished in California.

I think this is because California typifies something I have beleived for a decade. A national politician who espouses limited government, low taxes, and regulatory reasonableness, who at the same time espouses a social libertarianism would be practically unbeatable.

Unfortunately, the two major parties are both stuck in philosphical opposition to one of these two ideas. The Democrats are social libertarians, but the last thing they wish to espouse is limited government. The Republicans talk a good game about limited government (and talking about it is all they seem to be doing at the moment), but social libertarianism is hardly the thing they're noted for.

This is, I think, one of the major reasons why we're a 50/50 country right now. Neither party is giving us what we want in full. No matter what choice we make, it's only partially what we want to have. Therefore the elections are a lot closer than they would otherwise be.

I'd be willing to bet that a national candidate like Arnold, who espoused this neolibertarian type of philosphy, would go quite far. Arnold, himself, of course, as a heathen foreigner, is unavailable for national office.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Let Reagan be Reagan

The Washington Post's Jim Hoagland seems a bit miffed that the coverage of Ronald Reagan's presidency is so elegiac. What, he wonders, about the warts? For instance:

To one who covered many of the key international events of that day, Reagan seemed in fact to come late to a realistic view of the Soviet Union and the world, and -- like most presidents -- to have improvised furiously and not always successfully in foreign affairs.

I'm not even sure what that means. Reagan came late to a realistic view of the USSR? Reagan, in the early 80s, in his speeches at Notre Dame, the British Parliament, and many other places, repeated constantly that the USSR was entering a crisis and that its last page of history was already being written, as improbable as that sounded in 1982. If anyone came late to a soberingly realistic view of how the world worked, it was the Politburo, who, when they began to perceive that the world was beginning to close in around them, chose Gorbachev, rather than another crusty, hidebound Brezhnev protégé.

Reagan publicly called the USSR an evil empire. That is, in my estimation, about the most realistic assessment any American politician made about the USSR in the 45 years of Cold War.

It is also easy in today's elegiac mood to forget how unpopular Reagan was abroad for most of his presidency, even among his peers. France's Francois Mitterrand once sputtered in rage at me when I asked about his ideological conflicts with Reagan over Soviet policies. Kremlin officials expressed private delight at Reagan's election because they would be able to "roll him."

Ah, more examples of the Europeans' amazingly sophisticated and "realistic" view of the world, no doubt.

By the way, Comrades, a quick question: How's that "rolling Reagan" strategy working out for you? Hello? Hello? Huh. Doesn't seem like anyone's home. Odd.

He was more right about the evil and the fate of Soviet imperialism than Mitterrand, Gorbachev and most other leaders of the day. He was far from the amiable dunce portrayed by his knee-jerk critics.

But the opposition that Reagan stirred should not be airbrushed out of the final photograph of his times.

Let me see if I get this right. Hoagland is saying that Reagan was right about the USSR, and Mitterrand was wrong. But we shouldn't forget that Mitterrand criticized Reagan.

Uh...OK. Why not? If Mitterrand was indeed wrong--and the fact that I can't find any new maps with a big "USSR" painted on them kinda indicates that he was--then who gives a fig about his criticisms? He was wrong! His criticisms, therefore, were foolish and shortsighted. Since his criticisms were foolish, there is no reason whatsoever to attach any importance to them at all. Quod erat demonstratum.

Nor can we ignore the fact that the analysis and policies that brought some breakthroughs with Moscow originated more with George Shultz at the State Department than at Reagan's White House.

Yes, I'm sure it was quite a shock to the Reagan White House to learn that George Schultz, the Secretary of State chosen by Mr. Reagan, was formulating policies about foreign affairs. Why, he even had ambassadors stationed in Moscow itself! Shocking!

Just out of curiosity, what member of the Reagan Administration approved these policies once Schultz thought of them? Hmm. Let me see...

The Wall collapsed a year after Reagan's successor had been chosen and had started to alter policies toward Moscow. That collapse was due more to the struggle in the 1980s of the citizens of Poland, Hungary, East Germany and other satellite nations than to new actions by Washington.

How odd it is, then, to hear former Soviet and Eastern Bloc dissidents recalling that it was Mr. Reagan's willingness to stand up to the Soviets and call them an "evil empire", and work ceaselessly to frustrate their designs, that gave the dissidents hope and courage to carry on.

They could fight that struggle because there was a president in the White House who did not see his job, as Mr. Carter did, as one of managing America's decline. Instead, Mr. Reagan saw his job as opposing and defeating soviet totalitarianism. I fancy that had some minor effect on the dissident struggle behind the Iron Curtain. And, it seems the dissidents themselves think so.

There were important costs that came with Reagan's undeniable successes. His confrontational style used in getting much-needed Pershing 2 missiles deployed in Europe helped prematurely end the career of West Germany's highly competent chancellor, Helmut Schmidt.

Well, yes, it did, in that it led to the election of a new Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, who unreservedly desired to have the Pershings and GLCMs deployed to Germany, and who remained as Chancellor for a decade, ultimately overseeing the reunification of East and West Germany, which, by the way, seems to have had some connection with that Soviet collapse business.

The competent Helmut Schmidt and his realpolitik towards the east was part of the problem, not part of the solution. The whole basis of realpolitik was an assumption that the split between east and west was permanent and unchangeable, and that by playing nice with the Sovs, he could get them to be nice back.

That was the type of thinking that led to the constant retreat in world affairs that America suffered in the 1970s. So, if Reagan did cost Schmidt his job--at the behest, one must remember, of the German people's democratic choice in selecting an conservative CDU politician with diametrically opposed views--then, good riddance.

U.S. support extended to guerrillas to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan has blown back in the form of al Qaeda and extreme instability in Central Asia.

And yet, oddly, al-Qaida is the creation of a citizen of our Saudi Arabian ally. In any event, let's grant, arguendo, that this is true. What should Mr. Reagan have done? Simply allow the Sovs to occupy Afghanistan forever? And, why does he bear responsibility for what happened in Afghanistan, or the middle east in general, after he left office? As best as I can remember, we had two presidents from two different parties, and a span of 12 years in which to clean up the mess left by power vacuum the Soviet collapse left.

Is it Reagan's fault that neither Bush nor Clinton prevented the rise of al-Qaida, or defeated the Taliban? What, precisely does Hoagland suggest should've been done? And how could Reagan have done it, since both the Taliban and Al-Qaida were created during the Presidency of George W. Bush?

If only the Soviets were still around. The world such a stable place under their beneficent influence.

U.S. help to Saddam Hussein in Iraq also boomeranged.

Well, yes it did. Let's see, we had a war between the religious totalitarians of Iran, a nation that was supporting terrorist groups like Hezbollah--and still is, by the way--and had held 53 American diplomatic personnel captive for 444 days, and Iraq, a secular totalitarian state that up to that time, hadn't threatened us at all.

As one of George Schultz's State Department spokesmen said at the time, "Our only regret is that both sides can't lose." So, we picked the side that at the time, was no threat to us, and was opposed to a terrorist-supporting state that was.

Oh, and let's not forget that the Soviets were standing by, looking lustfully at the possibility of intervening a little themselves, and gaining a year-round warm water port, thereby. Take a look at the old video clips of the Iran-Iraq war. The Iraqis aren't using M16s. They're all armed with AK-47s, PKMs, and RPGs. Saddam Hussein wasn't Reagan's good buddy. But Reagan knew it was in the best interests of the United States to be just supportive enough to ensure that Yuri Andropov didn't become Saddam's best buddy either.

Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan's amazing psychic powers failed him, and he failed to see the threat Saddam Hussein would become two years after Reagan left office.

You will note, however, that as soon as the Sovs were no longer a factor, we lost little time in doing a fair bit of Saddam-whacking ourselves.

But if we airbrush and prettify history for the small screen and the front page, and ultimately for the books to come, we will not learn the most important lessons about mistakes that can be avoided. Let Reagan be Reagan, warts and all, for all time now.

Look, last night on CNN, The Nation's David Corn was on, and he made some comment to the effect that we can't forget that »ketchup is a vegetable« is also a legacy of the Reagan Administration. Uh, well, unless the Federal Government is still ruling that way, no, Dave, it isn't.

No one claims Reagan's presidency was perfect. No president spends 4 or 8 years in the White House without making mistakes, sometimes god-awful ones. But the fact is that Ronald Reagan's presidency changed the nation and changed the world.

In 1981, hardly anyone besides Ronald Reagan was claiming that the USSR was on its last legs. Hardly anyone was claiming that America's best days were still ahead of her. For cripes sake, we'd just had to sit in our living rooms and listen to Jimmy Carter scold us for being weak little girly-men in his "malaise" speech. Hell, prior to Reagan, Republican presidents were imposing wage and price controls. Ten years later, Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was assuring us that the era of big government was over.

OK, Clinton wasn't actually being totally honest with us on that one, but still, that's a huge sea change in American politics.

Most of you don't know what it was like to stare out over the steel mesh walls, mine fields, and kill zones that divided East and West Germany, watching through binoculars at the Soviets or East German VoPos who were using their binoculars to watch you. Most of you haven't listened to the sound of motors start up on the other side of that barrier, and wonder if you were hearing the first signs that the 7th Guards Motorized Rifle Division was about to come straight at you.

Well, I have. And I'll bet McQ has, as well.

And I also stood and watched, barely 3 years later, as East and West Berliners tore through those walls, and reached through the breaks in the barrier to shake each others' hands.

Whatever the "warts", mistakes, or failures of the Reagan Administration, they pale to insignificance beside the accomplishments that changed the history of our nation, and the history of the entire world, for generations to come.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:20 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The cult of the "victim"

Jeffry Gardner does an excellet job in the Albuquerque Tribune of shredding the myth that its corporations that make us all fat, stupid or lazy but instead our own poor choices.

I know, you'd think this argument wouldn't have to be made, you'd think it was self-evident, but then you have to remember we live in a world where everyone is now a victim and the mantle of victimhood requires all your ills be the fault of someone or something else. Gardner goes after an LA Time review of a documentary by a guy named Morgan Spurlock called "Super Size Me". Spurlock, it seems, came up with a 'clever' way to prove its McDonald's fault that people are fat:

He cheap-shots one of the left's favorite targets, McDonald's. Among other things, Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald's for 30 days.

Skipping the salads and sticking to burgers, shakes and fries, Spurlock got fat. Apparently this was a big surprise, because it's been treated as big news that McDonald's made him fat.

Big surprise indeed. As Gardner points out:

Spurlock's "discovery" ranks right up there with the discoveries that drinking beer 24/7 makes you drunk and fat; lying around on the couch eating Oreos and watching television makes you, uh, atrophied and fat, I guess; and snorting cocaine for long periods of time makes you jicky and fat.

Again, I know its surprising that this even has to be said or pointed out, but, unfortunately it does.

What Spurlock doesn't do, obviously, is point out that he, and only he, made the decision, made the choice, to eat what he ate where he ate it for those 30 days.

McDonald's certainly didn't. Ronald didn't show up with a shotgun each morning and force Spurlock to gorge on fries, burgers and shakes ... Spurlock did it all by himself.

That being said, it still easier to blame all that fat on McDonalds, isn't it?

Spurlock's message?

What caught my eye in the L.A. Times' review was the mention that Spurlock's acclaimed film carried a message about personal and corporate responsibility.

"Corporate responsibility." There it was - the out we need to excuse ourselves from accepting ultimate responsibility for our actions.

That these sorts of "documentaries" are given any credibility still staggers me to this day. Maybe its my inability to "think" as those who push the victimhood meme, i.e. divorce myself from any thought of personal responsiblity for my existence and choices, and conveniently blame all my ills on others. How does one rationally do that?

Well, obviously that's a rhetorical question.

One can't rationally do that. One must emotionally deal with the subject in order to delude themselves into "believing" the cult of victimhood has validity.

However Gardner sums up reality quite nicely. Describing his evolution into a rational human being some 16 years ago, he describes his discovery:

For 16 years, then, I've learned and tried to accept that my actions or inactions have shaped my life. As a result, today I have a hard time letting myself off the hook for my poor choices.

If I'm sucked in by a slick Madison Avenue ad campaign, wheel my kids to Mickey D's and let 'em eat fries, that's my fault.

And while there are things I can't control, 99.9 percent of what goes on in my life - good or bad - is a result of my decisions, not a corporation's board of directors.

Excellent article, excellent points ... alas, totally lost on the cult of the vicitm.

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

No war for oil, indeed

Don't expect these asshats to apologise just because of this...

-- Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations:
[...]
3. Reaffirms the right of the Iraqi people freely to determine their own political future and to exercise full authority and control over their financial and natural resources;
The Iraqi people, within weeks, will have full sovereign control of their own resources--though, they've been effectively running it independently for quite awhile.

Le's see:
1: The Gulf War
2: The War in Afghanistan
3: The Iraq War

That makes them 0 for 3. Don't expect an apology.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Re: Distribution

(link via Pejman) Robert Lucas has a very interesting essay on the economic fundamentals and theory of growth...

Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive, and in my opinion the most poisonous, is to focus on questions of distribution. In this very minute, a child is being born to an American family and another child, equally valued by God, is being born to a family in India. The resources of all kinds that will be at the disposal of this new American will be on the order of 15 times the resources available to his Indian brother.

This seems to us a terrible wrong, justifying direct corrective action, and perhaps some actions of this kind can and should be taken. But of the vast increase in the well-being of hundreds of millions of people that has occurred in the 200-year course of the industrial revolution to date, virtually none of it can be attributed to the direct redistribution of resources from rich to poor.

The potential for improving the lives of poor people by finding different ways of distributing current production is nothing compared to the apparently limitless potential of increasing production.

There is a cost to every action. The cost of not practicing redistribution is readily apparent in the lives of current individuals - predominantly, the poor.

On the other hand, there is also a cost--two separate costs, really--to redistributing. The first cost is to those who have money taken from them. That is, perhaps, a small cost since the wealthy will tend to place less marginal value on the money expropriated from them than would a less wealthy person.

However, there is also an opportunity cost - a cost not readily measurable. It manifests itself in three ways:
1: The opportunity lost to the wealthy to spend that money - and to create opportunities with the resources they value.
2: The lowered incentive to produce - among the more wealthy - due to lowered potential return.
3: The lowered incentive to produce, thus lower production and higher general cost of production - among those receiving benefits - due to a reduction in the negative consequences of not working to potential.

The long and short of it is this: in the short term, the cost of redistribution on society may not be that high, and the poor will likely benefit. In the long term, however, the poor will have fewer resources available them, since the costs have been redistributed for short term, non-productive gain.

Today's poor may thank you, but tomorrow's poor will not.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The DNC and Boston Labor

The labor problems hovering in the background of the Democratic National Convention in Boston offer the Democrats an interesting dilemma. They, the self-professed "champions of labor" are facing an incipient strike which may cast them in a bad light come convention day. Joan Vennochi of the Boston Globe weighs in with her opinion:

JOHN KERRY has a plan for health care, the economy, and the war in Iraq. How about announcing a plan to stand up to organized labor when it acts like a spoiled bully? [...] That is the picture beamed from Boston. It is more than the picture of a showdown between one city mayor and unhappy union members. It is also the picture of the Democratic Party held hostage by organized labor.

The fight?

The stand-off between the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association and the City of Boston is not just a problem for Menino. It is a microcosm of a larger problem for Democrats. It showcases their longstanding genuflection to labor, no matter how bad labor makes the party look.

And that's the point and the Democrat's dilemma. Here, by all standards, you have a union acting like a bunch of thugs. Even Venochi, who states she's a union member and basically supports unions is having trouble supporting the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association in this dispute.

Her advice?

What if Kerry stood up to the picket line and asked them to let crane drivers and others in to do the work needed for the convention? How many votes would he pick up with a stand like that?

[Thomas] Nee [President of the BPPA] said he would "walk John Kerry in to be nominated." He says that "nothing going on in Washington serves working class people." If he believes Kerry is the nominee who can do something for working people, why stage photos that will undercut Kerry's cause? According to Nee, it is necessary to convey "a sense of urgency."

There's a bigger urgency at stake: not just showcasing Boston, but the Democratic party.

Show some collective courage, Democrats. If you can't stand up to Tom Nee, how do you stand up to Jacques Chirac, Yasser Arafat or Al Qaeda?

This could turn out to be a very interesting and important confrontation should it be allowed to continue until convention time. It will be interesting to see how the Democrats handle it. It has the potential to turn into a large negative for them if they don't do it well.

Posted by McQ at 08:24 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

"A Proud Day" for Bush

As we near the 30 June handover, James Lakely of the Washington Times tells us of a meeting between President Bush and the president of free Iraq, Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer.

President Bush said yesterday was "a proud day for me" as he sat down with a free Iraq's new president, who expressed gratitude to the U.S.-led coalition that liberated his country from Saddam Hussein's dictatorship.

"This is a special day for me and those of us in my administration who are here, because I really never thought I'd be sitting next to an Iraqi president of a free country a year and a half ago, and here you are," said Mr. Bush just before his meeting with Iraqi President Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer.

"Having listened to you, I have got great faith in the future of your country because you believe in the hopes and aspirations of the Iraqi people," Mr. Bush said. "It's a proud day for me, and I'm glad you're here."


Al-Yawer was similarly forthright in his praise of the liberation of Iraq:

For his part, Mr. al-Yawer said he was grateful to be the first test of Mr. Bush's new doctrine in the Middle East and personally thanked the president and the American people for liberating his country.

"Thanks to the American people for the leadership of George Bush, without which we couldn't have been here," Mr. al-Yawer said. "I would like to express to you the commitment of the Iraqi people to move toward democracy. We are moving in steady steps toward it."

Mr. al-Yawer pledged that the people of Iraq would not let "the sacrifices that the brave men and women of the United States endured" be in vain.

"We are working with all our hearts to make sure that all these sacrifices ... will be to the benefit of the Iraqi public," Mr. al-Yawer said.

Bush also sat down with the leaders of four other Arab nations -- Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Jordan, all of whom said they support his Middle East initiatives.

Also on the table was the possibility of an expansion of NATOs role. 16 of NATO's 26 member countries (i.e. a majority for those of you still yelling about "unilateral action") are already involved in Iraq. Naturally the French stand in the way of an agreement about an expanded role.

Mr. Bush also urged the G-8 nations to support further NATO involvement in what is now an occupation of Iraq but after the June 30 turnover of power will be a peacekeeping force.

But French President Jacques Chirac, who was against the Iraq war, would not go along.

"We believe NATO ought to be involved," Mr. Bush said after a breakfast meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the United States' strongest ally in the war. "We will work with our NATO friends to at least continue the role that now exists and hopefully expand it somewhat."

Mr. Chirac said he is still "very much open to debate and discussion" of an expanded role for NATO in Iraqi peacekeeping, but only if "the sovereign Iraqi government were to ask for it."

"I do not believe it is NATO's purpose to intervene in Iraq," said Mr. Chirac, who this week joined German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in declaring that they would not supply troops to Iraq.

Lakely also reports some apparent progress in international fence mending was evident:

Yesterday, it was apparent that those fences have been mended because Mr. Bush was able to secure unanimous agreement for the overarching goal of his foreign policy -- the spreading of democracy in the Middle East.

The plan commits the G-8 nations to establishing a "Democracy Assistance Dialogue" to help the Arab world foster democratic societies and encourage private-sector investment as the nations progress to representative governments.

The diplomatic breakthroughs might prove to be politically helpful to Mr. Bush, who has been harshly criticized by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts for damaging U.S. relations with its traditional allies.

All in all, the G8 appears to shaping into a political plus for Bush.

Posted by McQ at 08:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Iron Lady Pays Tribute

The ongoing demands of World War II once prevented the British Prime Minister from attending the funeral a US President who helped him save the world from totalitarianism. Nearly 60 years later, and the Iron Lady arrives to pay tribute...

IronLadySaysGoodbye.jpg

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Violations

I'll restate my question for those who believe we were wrong about Iraqi compliance: Can you name one single non-Kuwait-specific UN resolution with which Iraq was in compliance?

I can't.

U.N. weapons experts have found 20 engines used in banned Iraqi missiles in a Jordan scrapyard along with other equipment that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction, an official said Wednesday.
[...]
The U.N. team also discovered some processing equipment with U.N. tags - which show it was being monitored - including heat exchangers, and a solid propellant mixer bowl to make missile fuel, he said. It also discovered "a large number of other processing equipment without tags, in very good condition."
Bear in mind, this isn't exactly a clear administration coup. The fact that banned and dangerous weapon parts and WMD equipment are slipping out of Iraq does not speak well of the security we are providing. We are, effectively, permitting proliferation by incompetence. And, of course, missile parts--even banned missile parts--are not the same as "stockpiles of WMD".

Still, discoveries like this require some explanation from those who would claim--despite his maintanence of banned missile and WMD programs-- that Saddam was not a threat.

(link via Bill Hobbs)

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:23 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Dividend of Dividends

The Angry Economist makes a good point about dividends...

Dividends and capital gains are now taxed at the same (low) rate. Heretofore, capital gains (an increase in the value of a stock) have been taxed at a lower rate than dividends (corporate earnings distributed to stockholders). This led corporations to prefer capital gains over dividends. Over time, companies have ceased to pay out dividends because they can deliver more value to stockholders by increasing the price of their stock. This has led to some poor practices. Paying dividends is a good thing, for several reasons.
[...]
...because dividends keep a company honest. Enron got into trouble because they falsified earnings. The value of a company is based on its earnings. By creating book (accounting) earnings, they increased the value of their stock. This encouraged people to invest more money in Enron. If, instead, investors demanded dividends, Enron's duplicity would have been discovered sooner.
This, it seemed to me, was the best rationale for a dividend tax cut, especially in light of the corporate scandals of recent years. Critics pointed out that the dividends were primarily paid out to wealthier stock-owners, but the increased corporate governance--and the stabilizing effect that will have on the investment market--directly benefits everybody, including the less wealthy investors.

This gets to the heart of my major problem with the Bush administration. They are rhetorically incompetent. They failed to tout the important structural benefits of the tax cut provisions, instead bowing to Democratic pressure to call it a "stimulus package".

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 09, 2004

Museum Honors Kerry

This ought to raise Kerry's standing among Viet Nam Vets:


kerrymuseum1.jpg


Seems Kerry's been "honored" by a Ho Chi Minh City museum, The War Remnants Museum, that honors Vietnam war protesters. According to Jeffrey M. Epstein of Vietnam Vets for the Truth, a group that opposes Kerry's presidential bid, the picture of the display was taken by Bill Lupetti, a Swift Boat Veteran who currently is visiting Vietnam.

Epstein said the display photograph's "unquestionable significance lies in its placement in the American protesters' section of the War Crimes Museum" in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon.

"The Vietnamese communists clearly recognize John Kerry's contributions to their victory," he said. "This find can be compared to the discovery of a painting of Neville Chamberlain hanging in a place of honor in Hitler's Eagle's Nest in 1945."

My guess is the "band of brothers" is getting a bit sparse by now.

Posted by McQ at 10:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Mourning In America

I found it hard to turn away from the beginning of the Reagan Memorial tonight. For nearly 2 hours, Alex and I watched the procession and ceremony in silence - or, as close one can come to silence with a two year old.

There is a great deal to be said for a formal ceremony. The dignity was inescapable, and the heartbreak--Nancy Reagan, in particular--was palpable.

So, I've made the arrangements and I'll be going up to DC on Friday to witness what ceremonies are left. I've yet to decide whether I will take Alex, but I will be there to pay my respects to Ronald Reagan.

If any DC bloggers are going to be there, feel free to contact me.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lorenzo Q

Billy Beck, who I've known and called a friend for years, was kind enough to wish me happy birthday on his blog. Thanks pal, I feel the same way.

But in so doing he recalled and reminded me of the BBS where he and I met lo those many years ago. It was also there I met one of this blog's regular readers and my very good friend, LauraN (tell me about those "years and years" now, luv).

The BBS was called "DIALOG!" and run by a brilliant fellow only known to the denizens of that board as Lorenzo Q. Squarf. We obviously eventually learned his real name, but the character Squarf lives on forever among those of us who regularly hung out on the BBS.

For you nascent waifs out there, this was before the internet, with BBSers banging along on 1200 baud phone connections. You had to want to be there.

It was mostly local folks, but we had regular lurkers from all over the US. It was a magic place. Full of great writing and even better thinking. Also full of a lot of fun.

Squarf played referee and instigator in equal parts. His writing was both profound and hilarious. He had and has a gift. He's been a private aviator for years, has written a book about it which is hilarious and continues to write for an avaition magazine even today. You can find his columns here. I promise, even if you're not an aviator (and I'm not), they're worth the read.

But to give you an idea of what the man was about, read this one. Its only an inkling, a tiny bit of what we were treated to routinely at DIALOG!

I have to admit, I miss those days.

UPDATE: Got an email from Squarf (answering mine). He sends his regards to the old denizens who happen to read this blog. He also sent me a link to his website: The World According to Squarf.

OK ... enough reminiscing.

Posted by McQ at 04:54 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Ronald Reagan quoted

As we say our personal farewells to Ronald Reagan, it might be useful to reflect on some of the things he thought important enough to say over the years:

About government. Note his desire for less government ... something we all need to push for today.

"Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem."

"Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them."

"Nations crumble from within when the citizenry asks of government those things which the citizenry might better provide for itself."

"Are you entitled to the fruits of your own labor or does government have some presumptive right to spend and spend and spend?"

"The federal government has taken too much tax money from the people, too much authority from the states, and too much liberty with the Constitution."

"The best view of big government is in the rearview mirror as you're driving away from it."

"We were poor when I was young, but the difference then was that the government didn't come around telling you you were poor."

"To those who cite the First Amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions every day, I say: The First Amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny."

Ronald Reagan had once been a Democrat. Like Zell Miller today, he felt the party had departed from those ideals that had first attracted him. His disenchantment stemmed from the eschewing of limited government by the Democrats:

"I have spent most of my life as a Democrat. I recently have seen fit to follow another course... This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves. You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or a right. There is only an up or down: up to man's age-old dream -- the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course."

About his title "The Great Communicator":

"[I]n all that time I won a nickname, the 'Great Communicator.' But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content. I wasn't a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn't spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation -- from our experience, our wisdom and our belief in the principles that have guided us for two centuries. They called it the Reagan Revolution. Well, I'll accept that, but for me it always seemed like the Great Rediscovery -- a rediscovery of our values and our common sense."

And finally about an America I'm old enough to identify with and remember exactly as he describes:

"Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn't get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio."

A hat tip to The Federalist from whence I scarfed the quotes.

Posted by McQ at 03:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The incredible and utter stupidity of Zimbabwe's rulers

Just when you think a situation can't get worse, some dunderhead and his government step forward to disuade you of that notion:

Zimbabwe's land minister said Tuesday that the government intended to nationalize all farmland that it had not already confiscated under a contentious program of land seizures begun four years ago.

The minister, John Nkomo, said the government planned to take control of remaining farmland, abolishing all deeds, and turn it back to farmers under 99-year leases. Leases on wildlife conservancies would be limited to 25 years, he said, because that land is considered more valuable than farmland.

"Ultimately, all land shall be resettled as state property,'' Mr. Nkomo was quoted as saying Tuesday in the government-controlled newspaper The Herald. "It will now be the state which will enable the utilization of the land for national prosperity."

Obviously Mr. Nkomo missed the last century completely as we saw the utter and complete failure of states "utilization of the land for national prosperity" in the guise of the eastern bloc nations.

He's also going to have difficulty blaming the impending failure on whites:

Very little white-owned farmland remains in the nation. The government has already confiscated more than 42,000 square miles of formerly white commercial farmland and game reserves, and only about 500 of the original 5,000 or so white farmers are believed to still hold property.

The result of previous confiscations has been economic havoc:

Zimbabwe's economy has been in free fall since 2000, when President Robert G. Mugabe's government began taking over white-owned commercial farms and redistributing the land, mostly to supporters of his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, or ZANU-PF.

The confiscations wrecked commercial farm exports as well as the chemical and machine industries, which supported agriculture. Foreign investors also fled, and the resulting shortages of goods and foreign exchange have halted economic growth and pushed inflation as high as 620 percent a year.

So the answer? Why confiscate more farms, of course.

And as to the current economic crisis ... well its just not Zimbabwe's fault:

Zimbabwe's government says its economic problems have nothing to do with the land seizures and can be laid to drought and a Western plot to restore colonial rule.

But since title has yet to be given on the redistributed land previously confiscated, is it any wonder that banks and other financial institutions won't lend money to their "owners".

Nkomo claims that a 99 year lease is tantamount to ownership. Well try running that one by the financial institutions which would be stuck with the default and see how far you get you ditz. They're going to tell you nothing short of a deed will suffice for appropriate collateral.

And Africa wonders why it suffers so ...


UPDATE (JON): You would think Africa would know better by now. Something like this was tried in Tanzania in the 60s, and how are they doing now? Not so well. "Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world."

Quoting from the Arusha Declaration:

"Because the economy of Tanzania depends and will continue to depend on agriculture and animal husbandry, Tanzanians can live well without depending on help from outside if they use their land properly. Land is the basis of human life and all Tanzanians should use it as a valuable investment for future development. Because the land belongs to the nation, the Government has to see to it that it is being used for the benefit of the whole nation and not for the benefit of one individual or just a few people."
Another experiment in socialism, another lesson unlearned.

Posted by McQ at 01:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What did Alexander Hamilton Ever Do for Us, Anyway?

Lawmakers in Congress are considering replacing Alexander Hamilton with Ronald Reagan on the $10 bill.

So, what do you think? Keep Hamilton, or replace him with Reagan?

Posted by Dale Franks at 01:06 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Our Plan for Iraq

Dep. Sec. of Defense Paul Wolfowitz provides us with a long and detailed article about the progress in Iraq, and the Administrations plan for the post-June 30 period.

One of the key points--perhaps the key point--of the article is the intention to turn over much of the responsibility for Iraqi security to the Iraqis themselves.

As nearly as I can tell, the Iraqis will now be the front-line force in the struggle for security there, while coalition troops will serve as a backup force to be called in if the Iraqis run into something they can't handle. This is, I think a very shrewd policy assuming--as Wolfowitz does--that the Iraqi security forces are manned and equipped well enough.

First, the Iraqis have a vast store of local knowledge that we do not. This allows them to see things we don't, and gives them more of a lead in picking up on things that are suspicious.

Second, and even more importantly, it gives Iraqis a responsibility for their own security that they haven't had heretofore. This gives them an investment in securing the country that has been absent while foreigners have been responsible. Now, they have the ability to do more than just criticize the way things are going, but to actively try and do something about it. Frankly, having responsibility for something important tends to make people more responsible.

The plan aims to put more pressure on the insurgents by forcing them into the position if attacking and killing their fellow Iraqis in order to attain their goals. That reality will be hard to square with the rhetoric of wanting to help build a new Iraq. As the Iraqi government becomes more independent, it will attract the loyalty of the citizenry, especially if we run into situations where the Iraqi government can publicly tell us to sod off.

Indeed, we might want to manufacture one or two such situations, now that I think about it.

This could go far in isolating the insurgents from any support they might have among the population. If the public begins to feel that they have a responsible and trustworthy government, and if, as looks probable, material conditions continue to substantially improve, much of the impetus to support people like the former Ba'athists or al-Sadr will simply dissipate, especially as the provisional government moves visibly towards free elections.

It's so crazy, it just might work!

Oh, and Wolfowitz quotes Iraqi bloggers a lot. That's a nice way of subtly directing people to sources of good news and optimism out of Iraq, without trying to point them at official sources. Deftly done.

You know, if this works even moderately well, George W. Bush will beat John Kerry with it like a red-headed stepchild. He'll brand Kerry in particular, and the Democrats in general, as the defeatist voices of pessimism and quagmire. And I'm not sure what Kerry's counter-argument could be. Nothing succeeds like success, after all.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Government 101 for Patrick Leahy

So little said, so much wrong...

"Mr. Attorney General, your statement lists accomplishments of the Department of Justice since 9/11. But you leave out a number of things. For example, of course, the obvious: Osama bin Laden remains at large," Leahy said.
In order to help Senator Leahy figure out this mystery...

1: It was not on the list of DoJ accomplishments because it had not been accomplished. That seems pretty straightforward.

2: Perhaps Senator Leahy could tell us which part of the Department of Justice is responsible for the capture of Osama Bin Laden? Until Bin Laden reaches the US, the FBI has no jurisdiction. Perhaps Senator Leahy would have him pursued by the Civil Rights Division?

Alternately, perhaps Senator Leahy should reserve this grandstanding for the next meeting with Donald Rumsfeld?

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:12 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

It's Not Torture if You're Just Smacking Them Around a Little Bit

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times are using their latest weapon to whack the Bush Administration; a classified legal opinion that essentially says we can slap terrorists around a little bit to get information out of them. As the Times puts it:

This week, The Wall Street Journal broke the story of a classified legal brief prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in March 2003 after Guantánamo Bay interrogators complained that they were not getting enough information from terror suspects. The brief cynically suggested that because the president is protecting national security, any ban on torture, even an American law, could not be applied to "interrogation undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority." Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt reported yesterday in The Times that the document had grown out of a January 2002 Justice Department memo explaining why the Geneva Conventions and American laws against torture did not apply to suspected terrorists.

The Times hysterically concludes, naturally, that this proves that what happened at Abu Ghraib is the personal fault of George W. Bush. Unsurprisingly, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), is pushing that same conclusion, in his new role as the Senate's left-wing partisan attack dog (Tom Daschle, facing a tough Senate contest in rightward-leaning South Dakota, has to pretend to be a moderate for the next 6 months).

I have to say that listening to Ted Kennedy lecture me on morality is irksome. In the "Number of Innocent Girls Killed" category, the score is still Ted: 1, Dale: 0. Until we've tied up that score, Ted, I don't need any moral preening from you.

In any event, I've written about torture here before. I don't like it. I can conceive of situations where I'd use it.

I don't trust torture too much. All too often, I think the recipient is more interested in telling you what he thinks you want to hear than he is about telling you the truth. If it's the only tool you have in your interrogation toolbox, then you're gonna come up with some bad information at times.

It appears, however, that the toolbox the Pentagon is using has a suite of 24 interrogation techniques that are classified, and that the Times and Post are calling torture. They don't know what these techniques are, you understand, but they know they amount to torture. That is nothing more than an assumption on their part, which makes their public garment rending seem a bit hysterical.

But, maybe its a true assumption, if you assume that anything other than polite questioning, after providing the prisoner with a hot cuppa coffee and a cheese danish is torture.

Is the use of drugs a method of torture? Is it torture to keep the lights on and play the "Stryper's Greatest Hits" CD all night long? Is it torture to tell the prisoner, "you better talk to me, or we'll hunt down your family and kill them all"? I dunno. It's certainly coercive, and it certainly isn't nice, but I'm not sure I care too much about being nice to the type of fanatics who, if the situation were reversed, would happily saw my head off with a K-Bar, live on al-Jazeera, if they got the chance. If you want to argue that we have to play by Marquis of Queensbury rules at all times against an enemy who'll not hesitate to stoop to any atrocity, then go ahead, but I probably won't listen too closely.

The fact is that for these prisoners, they've fallen into a crack in the law. Our US laws, for the most part, don't apply to them. They aren't protected by the Geneva Conventions. So, at least to a certain extent, we get to make up the rules about how to treat these guys. Moreover, they and their compatriots pose a threat of monstrous proportions to millions of innocent civilians.

If the price of treating them with kid gloves is to watch a million people in Chicago die from a release of weaponized smallpox, is that a price we'll happily pay? If we can prevent that by brutally beating an Al-Qaida courier or two, should we do it?

We aren't in Law Enforcement land anymore, kids. We aren't talking about trying to prevent a bank robbery, or tracing down a ring of car thieves and chop shops. We aren't even talking about preventing a bunch of guys whose middle names are "the"¹ from shooting each other in the head over a nice, hot plate of Penne Rustica at Carmine's Kitchen.

The type of international terrorism we are facing, combined with the ability to concoct improvised weapons of mass destruction, implies civilian deaths on an almost unimaginable scale. So, what's more important to you, preventing those deaths, or protecting the terrorists from some level of coercion and abuse?

The question that the administration is probably asking, is how do we balance the need to act more or less humanely with the need for information that might stop another 9/11 attack? And make no mistake, if there is another 9/11 attack, Teddy Kennedy will be the first person shrieking at the administration for failing to stop the attack, and wondering why, with top al-Qaida leaders in our custody, couldn't we get the intelligence from them that would've enabled us to stop the attack?

Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, John Kerry; they've all got it easy, because they aren't responsible for anything. All they have to do is throw bombs in from the sidelines, while keeping their skirts nicely starched. No matter what happens, they'll find something to criticize.

The Bush people, on the other hand, are accountable, and they're trying to thread their way between the need for information on one hand, and the threat of a pile-on by Amnesty International and their ilk on the other. I doubt that it's possible to come down with a policy that satisfies anyone, much less satisfying everyone.

As an aside, I also wonder how much of this wailing and gnashing of teeth is a result of the Democrats' desperation. The "no jobs/manufacturing/poor economy" argument is looking pretty silly right about now. As of yesterday, the "internationalize Iraq" died with a unanimous UNSC vote. And there's a very good chance that the "quagmire in Iraq" argument will die a messily public death sometime between now and November. So, how much of this torture hysteria is based on that realization?

I think the issue of physical coercion as it applies to al-Qaida prisoners is a very, very difficult one.

I have far less of a problem condemning what happened at Abu Ghraib, not only because the stakes there were much, much lower, but also because a much better argument can be made that the insurgents there--the Iraqi ones, anyway--fall under the protections of the Geneva Conventions. It's not an argument I'd necessarily agree with, but it's a plausible one. The 4th Convention applies protections to civilian insurgents in an occupied country, at least in certain cases. Also, I'd object for utilitarian reasons, because bad treatment there, if uncovered (as it was), would inevitably lead to negative repercussions. If there's a guy at Abu Ghraib you really think you need to talk to, then the first thing you do is take him somewhere else. Someplace more intimate. More private.

So,for the big al-Qaida guys, well, let's just say that they wouldn't be held at Abu Ghraib. I would be far more comfortable in dealing with them harshly than I would doing it more generally with the population at Abu Ghraib, where the circumstances make it an extraordinarily bad idea.

But, I think we have to acknowledge that for the hard-core al-Qaida guys, the question of how far to go when interrogating them has to be an extraordinarily difficult one, because the stakes are so very, very high.

I honestly don't know where I'd draw the line.
_____________
¹ Jimmy the Fish, Tony the Weasel, etc.

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blog Rolling

*** John Cole...

There simply is no excuse for corporate welfare, and you would think Republicans would know better. Perhaps they better think twice about invoking Reagan's legacy every five minutes if they keep trying nonsense like this:
House Republicans are trying to slip through a measure that would provide almost $10 billion in buyout payments to tobacco growers in return for eliminating an outmoded price support system under which many of them are losing out to foreign competition anyway.
If Bush loses the election, I think a good portion of the blame can be placed on the utter fiscal irresponsibility of the 'conservative' House of Representatives.
This may be the best example I've seen all year of just of how wrong government can go. They're paying farmers to support ending a bill which is hurting farmers.

I mean, even leaving aside the terrible, market-distorting, welfare handouts that are farming subsidies - leaving that aside - what the hell are we doing paying people to act in their own best interests? This is, I think, an example of the truism that--absent a crisis--most policies in a democracy tend to be controlled (or, captured) by small, vocal special interest groups.

*** Captain Ed has great news...

Okay, I know some of you have been waiting for this, and I'm ecstatic to deliver -- the First Mate has her new kidney and it's functioning already!
Perhaps the 'sphere's first blogged kidney transplant? It's been quite a journey to this point for the two of them, and I'll add my voice to the chorus cheering them on - both for the success of the operation and for their obvious devotion to one another.

*** Maureen Dowd is a piker. In an interview with Bush, Tom Brokaw has set the new excerpting standard.

*** A lot of good stuff at Right-Thinking lately, starting with this...

CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather has complained that television has "over-covered" the funeral of Ronald Reagan. [...] Similar comments were voiced by NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw [...] Jennings indicated that he intends to confine the funeral coverage.
Odd, isn't it, that there were no objections to the media saturation of the Abu Ghraib photos.
The Reagan story is only "over-covered" in the same sense that everything is "over-covered". However, in a 24 hour news cycle, with so many sources and consumers tuning in sporadically, rather than for extended periods, "over-coverage" is a very subjective phenomenon.

*** Bill at INDC Journal has an interesting look at another ANSWER rally participant.

*** Marc...

I may have noted this before, but a man can be judged by the enemies he makes. Reagan had all the right enemies. The fact that his death can work them up into a major fit just goes to show how effective he was at opposing them. If Fidel or Ted Rall hate Reagan so much, it just bumps him up ten notches in my esteem meter.
Reagan would wear their criticism like a badge of honor.

*** Alex Knapp has his head screwed on straight...

I try to ignore obnoxious, idiotic partisans, and you know what? It's pretty easy. When I think "liberal," I don't think Michael Moore--I think Matthew Yglesias. When I think "conservative," I don't think Ann Coulter--I think James Joyner (who I got this link from). When I want my libertarianism flavored with right-leaning pragmatism, I go Stephen Green. When I want it flavored with left-leaning idealism, I go Amy Phillips.
It's good advice. If you want to fringe-bait, you'll always find a fringe to bait. If you want to read serious arguments, look elsewhere. The fevered swamps of Democraticunderground, FreeRepublic, and antiwar.com do not render meaningless the arguments of the more serious proponents of liberalism, conservatism and libertarianism.

*** Tyler Cowen...

...libertarianism, in practice usually ends up closer to the right wing than to the left. "Individual responsibility" is a core moral intuition for most libertarians, and this puts them closer to conservatives, despite the considerable differences.
There is that--and that is an important confluence--but I also make the more utilitarian judgment that, on the whole, we are gaining social liberties, but losing economic liberties - and, for utility, I'd rather put my finger in the hole that's leaking.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Revisionist History

I haven't said much about Reagan's passing because, well, so much has already been said. But I'm becoming a little tired of the revisionist history we're now seeing put forth by the talking heads and pundits. What am I talking about? That version of recent history which essentially writes Reagan out of the events and policies which saw the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of what was essentially WWIII or the Cold War.

Thankfully there are those out there with much more ability to write and a much wider audience who are just as tired of this as I am. Dinesh D'souza is one of those writing in the NY Post:

Writing on Ronald Reagan's achievements in Newsweek, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. notes, "Reagan's admirers contend that his costly re-armament program caused the Soviet collapse. Maybe so; but surely the thing that did in the Russians was that time had proved communism an economic, political and moral disaster."

Funny: Here's Schlesinger in 1982, observing that "Those in the United States who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse" are "wishful thinkers who are only kidding themselves."

Many historians and pundits have refused to credit Ronald Reagan's policies for helping to bring about the Cold War victory, blaming communism's chronic economic problems. Yet, like Scheslinger, they failed to describe it as inevitable while Reagan was actually in office.

Schlesinger was one of many of that era that felt the proper way to "live" with the USSR was detente. Reagan didn't. He wanted the end to the "evil empire" and the only way he saw as sure fire in that regard was to engage them in one way or the other.

For that he was branded a "cowboy", "dangerous", and of course, "dumb".

It was impolitic to actually engage the other superpower. Why it would lead to nuclear war and holocaust.

Yes, the Pope had a role in the fall of the USSR. But it was a supporting role. Without American leadership, his was a role that focused only in one part of the Soviet bloc. And if Hungary was a lesson, without a more powerful opponent in the arena as well, Solidarity may well have gone the route of the Hungarian freedom fighters of the '50s.

One can't discount the role of Maggie Thatcher either. But again it was supporting role, and not the primary role. Britian just doesn't have the international weight of the US. When it came down to it, the job feel squarely to the US, and Reagan TOOK the job.

As for Gorbachev, I've always considered him more of a result of Regan's policies toward the USSR than one who was the inevitable leader of that system. Because of the US and its policies toward them, the USSR had to do some quick and dirty assessments of their future. The leadership knew there had to be changes and they saw Gorbachev as the guy who could make the necessary changes while still keeping the communists in power.

As with so many things, they were wrong. Gorbachev no more wanted the end result obtained than would have Leonid Breshnev. The fall of the USSR was a totally unintended consequence of Gorbachev's ascendence.

It was a totally intended consequence of Ronald Reagan's policies.

So when you see these people saying Reagan didn't have much to do with the USSR's collapse, its useful to remember what they were saying when he was hastening its collapse:

Then remember those things about Reagan that they would perfer you forget:

Ronald Reagan was a leader and one of the things that can be said about him is he had a vision and he worked toward that vision unceasingly. The results were and are profound as in a short while millions upon millions of people trapped for years behind the Iron Curtain were freed from its totalitarian grip and the world was changed forever. Not many men in history have changed the world in such a positive manner.

The revisionist historians can spin their tales today, but the real historians of years to come will dismiss their nonsense for what it is and credit one man with the primary responsiblity which brought down the "evil empire".

Or, in his own words:

"Who can forget those so-called 'experts' who said our military buildup threatened a dangerous escalation of tensions? What kind of fool, they asked, would call the Soviet Union an 'Evil Empire'?"

Why, Ronald Wilson Reagan, of course.

And we are all forever in his debt for doing so.

Posted by McQ at 08:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Nothing is ever good enough

Oliver Willis:

It amazes me that some people actually buy this Iraqi handover and "transition". After the handover, we still run Iraq from our embassy there. The new government has no real power. The UN resolution doesn't provide for any extra troops in the field.
Meanwhile, in reality, the Security Council Resolution--"Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations"--includes:

- "...a sovereign Interim Government of Iraq, as presented on 1 June 2004, which will assume full responsibility and authority by 30 June 2004 for governing Iraq..."
- "...by 30 June 2004, the occupation will end and the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist, and that Iraq will reassert its full sovereignty."
- "...the right of the Iraqi people freely to determine their own political future and to exercise full authority and control over their financial and natural resources;"
- "... the presence of the multinational force in Iraq is at the request of the incoming Interim Government of Iraq..."
- "... the funds in the Development Fund for Iraq shall be disbursed solely at the direction of the Government of Iraq..."

But "no real power", says Oliver.

With the dissolution of the CPA and the relegation of the US to ensuring internal security until such a time as the Iraqi's either build up their own security forces, or simply tell us to leave.....I'm left wondering where Oliver thinks the power rests in Iraq.

Of course, as long as there is a bone to pick, it will be picked...

Not to mention:

06/09/2004: DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
06/08/2004: DoD Identifies Army Casualty
06/07/2004: DoD Identifies Army Casualty
06/07/2004: DoD Identifies Army Casualties
06/07/2004: DoD Identifies Army Casualties
06/07/2004: DoD Identifies Army Casualty

Yes, war is difficult and people get hurt. Brilliant, thank you.

In the meantime, "Zero Casualties" is not our strategy in Iraq, though, and it should not be despite the rhetorical ammunition it gives opponents of the war. Casualties are the price we pay to accomplish our goal. They are, to be blunt, irrelevant to the question of whether we are winning or losing.

They can only be relevant if they distract us from the goal, and persuade us that "casualties=failure". Oliver--and many war opponents--seem all to willing to refocus our attention on casualties, rather than our goals in Iraq.

Goals which, you will note, we are moving towards.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:54 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Easing into old age

Well its that day again. What we of the older generation would just as soon ignore forever more. Ye olde birthday. Today I hit the grand old age of 56.

56.

Hell, when I was 23 I never thought I'd live to be 56. Of course at 23 I was a 2LT in the infantry which meant that thought had some immediate relevance.

But some time and some distance have made me understand that being 56 is really a pretty good thing. It certainly beats the alternative, that's for sure. Its a bit bittersweet ... it'll be one of the only birthdays I've ever had where my mother won't call me a precisely 5pm and say "I remember this day x number of years ago so well. The retreat cannon (at Ft. Knox) fired and you were born." It was always a special moment, me being her first born. It was also my last grand entrance.

56.

I'm not ready to be written off yet, but I'll tell you, now that I'm an "old fart" I get to be crusty and dispense a little wisdom. Today seems like a perfectly good day to do that. Its a good day to pass along some truisms, or if not truisms, at least some observations I've made passing through life.

One -- if you can find a good woman and stay with her, your life will be profoundly changed ... for the better. I've been with my sweetheart for almost 30 years. I don't know what I'd do without her and don't want to find out.

Two -- Grandchildren are your reward for raising your children. You should (and will) always enjoy how precious and wonderful they are. You should be a part of their lives if you can.

Three -- One of the more profound things I discovered plowing through life is this: Never, ever let someone else define happiness and success for you. You'll never live up to their expectations nor will you ever be happy or successful ... those are things YOU have to define. Do so and be happy AND successful.

Four -- Be a man of your word. Without it you're not much of anything. With it you're someone others will seek out and trust.

Five -- If you have 5 true friends in your life, you are indeed a rich person. Strive to find them and when you do, cherish them. Sounds cliche, but there are friends and there are aquaintences. Friends are rare.

Six --- And this is really passed on from my dad ... "You live between your ears". I can't tell you how many times remembering that has literally saved my life, or if not my life, the situation I was facing at the time. Its amazing what one can do when they remember that.

Enough. I'll try to come up with another four to round it out to ten by the time I hit 60.

60.

I may be 56 but I still can't conceive of 60.

It is said that "old age" is all in the mind. Well I've got news for everyone ... it may be a state of mind, but it is also a physical reality. But such is life.

Let the good times roll.

Posted by McQ at 07:22 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Knowledge

Billy Beck...

I just went the last round in e-mail with a person [...] who wrote this:
"You cannot truly know anything."
I wonder how many of you out there can see the utterly ridiculous fallacy in that statement, which was presented as a flat epistemic principle.

Ps. -- I am not going to tell who it is.

That would be me, and if Billy has another view on the matter, he's certainly not explaining it, except to say that my arguments are rubbish, and his--whatever they may be--are correct. As an assertion, that's certainly strong enough. As an argument, that's embarrassingly meaningless. But we've been down that road before.

Perhaps my use of the word "know" was imprecise. Perhaps I could better state it as "we cannot correctly be absolutely certain without complete information, and we do not have complete information". I thought my first message communicated that idea, but I'll have to accept responsibility for my imprecision.

Understanding "know" to simply mean "to believe one has correct knowledge", we can all "know" a great many things, including things that are wrong. For example, many people "know" the Earth is round. They're wrong, but they still "know" it. They are not, of course, as wrong as those who "know" the Earth is flat, but they're still wrong.
(hint: the Earth is a sphere)
UPDATE: Per readers, it is more specifically a "oblate spheroid". As far as we can tell. :)

The problem - always - is that we have incomplete information. Without complete information, we can only make an approximation of reality. Often, we can make quite a good approximation (gravity), but we are still refining our understanding and knowledge. Without complete information we can do no more than understand reality through the filter of our experience.

Reality is, of course, concrete, fundamental. Humans, however, percieve it with incomplete and faulty senses. (which is why we are always learning more - and, often, learning that we have been wrong)

Billy may, of course, disagree. I'd be interested to know why he disagrees - and how he makes that judgement without a complete set of information. Alternately, he could just call it "patently idiotic crap" and challenge me to fight about it.

...which would be just about par for the course, and of absolutely no use to anybody. Probably the reason this was the "last round".

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:56 AM | Comments (29) | TrackBack