July 31, 2004

Palast, on Kerry

Ok, so I'm not exactly a fan of Greg Palast, and a lot of this piece is pure dross, but he makes a few good points about Kerry's speech...

He told us tonight about some poor bastard in Ohio whose job evaporated when his company unbolted the equipment and sent it south. Hey, Johnnie, didn't you vote for NAFTA?
[...]
But my absolute favorite of the night was when Kerry told us, "Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. As President, I will ask hard questions and demand hard evidence."

But, as Senator, you didn't. No questions asked: you just closed your eyes and voted for the lie. I know it, and you sure as hell know it.

I disagree with a lot of what Palast writes--think Michael Moore as a reporter--but these are two points Senator Kerry would probably rather not face in an interview.


UPDATE: As long as we're on the subject, this line from Kerry's speech amuses me....

I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war.
An ironic line, coming from a fellow who had no problem with misleading us out of a war.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry's Vietnam Syndrome and National Defense

Amir Tahri does a brilliant fisking of John Kerry's statements on foreign policy and the War on Terror.

Some highlights:

Its been my feeling, and that's all I can attribute it too, that the left doesn't really believe we're in a war on terror. Oh sure, they know we've been in a war in Iraq, but when I hear them talk about "the war", that's the war they're referring too. I'm just not convinced the left takes the War on Terror seriously, which is one reason you hear all this vague rhetoric.

Why? Well Tahri makes a very important point to explain that:

At the same time, however, this is a new type of war because it is not about territory, control of natural resources, access to markets, and/or other classical causes of trans-national conflict. This is an asymmetrical war in which old tactics of low-intensity conflict have been redefined to allow the use of modern technologies.

This is a different concept of war. It is why you'll find many out there claiming it can't be a war because it doesn't include any of those things and war, by definition consists of "state-to-state" hostilities. Don't believe them. My dictionary also defines "war" as "hostility or contention between people, groups, etc." Make no mistake about it, we're in a war, a war which might include hostilites between states, but just as likely will mean war between a state and a culture which is trans-national.

The question is how do we fight such a war. Well not with the tactics of the last war that's for sure. And as Tahir points out, that's precisely where John Kerry is headed.

Exactly. We don't have a guerrilla force trying to conquer or secure territory. This isn't about land or a nation, like Vietnam was. This is about an ideology born of a religion which says, literally that the only "good" infidel is a "dead" infidel. Its not about conquering America or the west. Its about killing those who don't believe. Its about an winner take all perpetual war until one of the sides is destroyed.

Two points. I agree with Tahri when he says the choice is between "war and endless war". There is no "peace" to be had in this war as the other side's ideology won't allow it. We can't negotiate with this enemy. It is an all or nothing proposition for them. We have to understand this and make a determined effort to end the war by destroying them or be prepared to wage perpetual war with them. The lessons of Vietnam do not teach us anything in this regard except we must have the will to see it through. The one thing Kerry demonstrated with his opposition to the Vietnam war is he does not have that sort of fortitude.

As for the left's need to be liked (I say liked instead of respected because its obvious we're respected by the actions of both NoKo and Lybia) is why they've turned the language on its ear and call that desire a drive for 'respect'. You don't have to be liked to be respected, and I promise you, after Afghanistan and Iraq, we're respected in the world, to include a new-found respect by radical Islam. You don't hear the "paper tiger" talk in bin Laden's tapes anymore, do you? Whether we're ever "liked" by all is absolutely irrelevant to me. Respect, yes. Liking, don't care.

For a guy who spent so much time on the Senate Intelligence committee (the same guys who were blasted by the 9/11 Commission in terms of poor congressional oversight), Kerry seems a bit ignorant about what products intelligence agencies produce. They provide analysis. They provide assessments. They provide probabilities. They rarely, if ever, provide "facts".

They provide their products to leaders who's job is to make hard decisions based on these analysis, assessments and probabilities. If these agencies produced facts, there'd be WMDs in Iraq right now, wouldn't there?

So what Kerry is promising here is paralysis in face of a lack of irrefutable facts from intelligence agencies. But playing along, only when he has these "irrefutable facts" would he begin to enlist allies. Well great, but what if they say, "not in or best interest" or "gee that's nice but we have other priorities?"

The fact that there are irrefutable facts about some terrorist organization does not automatically mean allies are going to be interested in taking part in some operation. For whatever reason, Kerry seems to think it is the lack of these facts which kept some from participating in Iraq. In fact those who chose not to participate had precisely the same "facts" we did, but chose not to respond as we did. How does Kerry plan to handle that reality?

Tahri then points to some Kerry hypocricy and inconsistency:

So obviously, as pointed out here, preemption isn't a "new" policy. Nor is Iraq the "first war of choice". And, interestingly, in all three cases cited, the UN refused to sanction these American led resolutions of the problems at hand.

Neither Clinton or Bush made their willingness to do such a thing contingent on the support of "allies" or the UN. Kerry has.

And Kerry has also mischaracterized the effort in Iraq as "going it alone" when in fact it involves most of Europe and most of NATO.

Essentially Kerry and the Democrats claim is that you aren't multilateral enough unless France and Germany are with you. Of course that's simply poppycock. Tahri's last question is the important question. I have no confidence that if faced with that dilemma Kerry would 'go it alone' if necessary.

It is the tenet of the War on Terror which Kerry doesn't necessarily understand. You can't sit here in the US and wait for them to attack us and then respond. To win the War on Terror the war must be taken to the terrorists, allies or no allies. Multilatreally or if necessary, unilaterally.

Here's the problem with Kerry's quote. We have done precisely that, in the Balkans ... and Kerry was in favor of that. But Kuwait was a war of necessity as it threatened our national interest. Kerry voted against that one. How does one, based on those two examples, come to the conclusion that Kerry is serious about his claim, or that he even understands the difference he's espousing? His record indicates exactly the opposite of his claim.

Tahri's last point is critical. Leader's declare war, not intelligence agencies. Intelligence agencies provide their best guesses and leaders make decisions based on those and other factors. Kerry is of the opinion that decision should be foregone when it gets to him and all he would have to do is rubber stamp it. If that's how he see's his job, then we don't really need him, do we?

Excellent points about winning the peace. When was the Marshalll plan envisioned? Not before WWII, that's for sure. How was Japan's future planned? After the war when McArthur took over the occupation.

Any plan must have a foundation of facts. And those facts may or may not be obvious, evident or available before or during the war. To pretend that in the future Kerry and the boys can and will anticipate all contingencies and have concrete plans for "the peace" in place is simply disingenuous and naive. It again speaks to his lack of experience in these things to put forth such a naive promise.

Tahri's column is extremely important to those who want to understand the difficulties with Kerry's "vision" on foreign policy and the War on Terror. His analysis doesn't give one a warm fuzzy feeling when considering the possiblity of John Kerry at the helm of this particular boat.

Posted by McQ at 11:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 30, 2004

Kerry's Record - Navy

John Kerry has made much of his Vietnam service, even to the point that it has become a bit of a joke. But its clear he has decided to make it a centerpiece of his qualification claim to be Commander-in-chief. He has asked us to judge him on his record. He feels his Navy record as found in his FITREPs prove his leadership ability and his fitness for command.

Well, after reading them I'd have to disagree.

I’ve received and written a multitude of OER and EERs in my 28 years service (Officer Efficiency Reports and Enlisted Efficiency Reports). That’s what we called them in the Army. The Navy does the same thing but calls the reports FITREPs or Fitness Reports.

Since John Kerry has asked us to judge him on his record I took him up on it today looked up his FITREPs.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve written and received these for 28 years. I’ve served on promotion boards where they’re reviewed in detail I know what a good one looks like, I know what an average one looks like and I know what a bad one looks like.

So after reading his FITREPS (and by the way he has not released all of them) I’d have to say, in light of the Kerry camp's claims, they were a bit of a surprise. In my estimation they were at best average, and in a few, he had a some ratings which could be considered adverse.

After reading them, I wondered how to approach this subject, how to convey the way reports like this really were read and interpreted by the military in an understandable way without seeming to be slanting my explanation to the negative in order to discredit Kerry. In other words, how to fairly explain what were these reports really saying knowing the explanation wouldn't be well received by Kerry fans.

As an example, if you read the narrative in Kerry’s reports, they seem pretty good at first glance. But there are some points you have to consider when reading a narrative: Narratives aren’t that important in relation to the rest of the report and, in Kerry’s case, there is as much negative in those narratives as positive. How does one relate that without seeming to be biased against Kerry?

Again, I was at a stand still as to how to convey those points in an understandable and unbiased way. Its not something which is easily explained to those not familiar with the inner workings of military rating systems.

Additionally, it was a Navy Fitness report, so I wasn’t as familiar with the way some of the rankings worked as I would have been with an Army report. Same with some of the Navy specific terminology. But I am familiar enough with efficiency reports in general to understand these FITREPs weren’t at all as good as the Kerry people would like you to believe.

In an effort to put this explanation together, I began a little Googling around the net today looking for FITREP explanations. It was during that exercise that I ran across “The Swift Boat Veterans For Truth” website. Its an interesting and compelling site.

Before you go off the deep-end with “its an anti-Kerry site”, I’d make the point that while they certainly don’t feel Kerry is qualified to be commander-in-chief, they’re not wild-eyed tin-foil hatted righties who’s grist and ballast is conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated claims.

Their’s is a very well presented argument (made by former US Naval officers) against Kerry’s claims about and his version of his Vietnam and Navy record. As they say:

We regret the need to do this. Most Swift boat veterans would like nothing better than to support one of our own for America's highest office, regardless of whether he was running as a Democrat or a Republican. However, Kerry's phony war crimes charges, his exaggerated claims about his own service in Vietnam, and his deliberate misrepresentation of the nature and effectiveness of Swift boat operations compels us to step forward.

As to the subject of Kerry’s FITREPs, one of the most useful pages on their site is an explanation of how FITREPs are graded and read in the Navy. I read it very closely and found it to be an excellent capsule of how the system works. Other than terminology which pertains to the Navy, the system is almost identical to that of the Army. They provide an excellent context and explanation by which to better understand the reports that have been released by Kerry.

John Kerry's campaign representatives quote a few words from one of his best Navy fitness reports to support their misleading claim that Kerry's military evaluations were those of a top-flight officer. They carefully ignore the existence of several other reports that range from mediocre to substandard, thereby presenting an inaccurate picture of Kerry's service record.

There are also gaps in the documentation made public to date by the Kerry campaign, where no fitness reports are provided at all. Here we present an analysis of the available record.

This is an important point. There are no gaps in an officer’s record. His or her time is completely accounted for at all times and, as is apparent in Kerry’s record, even when they haven’t been in a command long enough to receive a full rating, their days are accounted for with a “not observed” FITREP. There will always be a FITREP to cover their service.

Moving on down the page you'll find a discussion of Kerry’s FITREPS. Before that, however, the Swift Boat Vets give you an excellent introduction to Navy FITREPs, how they’re written and read, and what they mean. This section is critical to understanding why Kerry’s FITREPs aren’t what he and his staff crack them up to be. For instance:

Second, what matters most are marks or grades above and especially below the norm. Marks below the norm may fall under a very positive word (e.g., “excellent”) and appear positive to the casual reader, but no matter: any mark to the right of the norm is a strong, clear sign to both promotion boards and assignment officers (e.g., “detailers”) that there is a performance shortfall. A mark to the right is a “ding.” You don’t want a ding in your FITREP.

The last section then applies those things crucial to understanding FITREPs to Kerry’s released FITREPs.

In his FITREP for his combat tour as Officer in Charge of a SWIFT Boat -– arguably the most important FITREP among those released by the Kerry campaign –- Kerry is not dinged but slammed in command, seamanship and ship handling and in all major leadership traits (28 JAN 69 ELLIOTT). To Kerry and perhaps to other junior officers, it is an okay FITREP. To detailers and selection boards, it is a negative fitness report that borders on the adverse. LCDR Elliott ranks him well below the norm in traits essential for command: force, industry, analytical ability, judgment and more.

The case is convincingly made that Kerry’s FITREPS don’t measure up to those of a great, or even good, leader. In fact, there are some marks which really question his leadership ability. That is further documented with a statement of another swift commander who had been Kerry’s OIC on a few occassions .

One has to wonder what the missing FITREPs reveal, but regardless, its my opinion that those he has released don’t measure up to his claims of good leadership ability. They show an officer who was rated poorly in judgment, personal behavior, command, seamanship and ship handling and leadership traits.

Interestingly, as pointed out on the site, other commanders don’t see the FITREPs previous commanders have written. However the “dings” noted show up consistently from command to command. Its not a particularly flattering or ringing endorsement of Kerry’s leadership ability. In fact his FITREPs don’t endorse his leadership ability at all.

It would be interesting to see the rest of his FITREPS. I believe, as the Swift Boat Vets do, that the next time Kerry et. al. scream for the release of all of Bush’s records, the same request should be made of Kerry.

After all, we’ve been asked to judge him on his record and it would be nice to have his entire record by which to do that.

Posted by McQ at 07:19 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

News From Iowa

The Iowa Electronic Markets have been a very accurate predictor of the results of US elections for the past several years. This market is a real, active futures market, where real people put down real money to buy futures contracts on the outcome of elections. These markets have been shown to be pretty accurate.

Ex post evidence suggests that prediction markets can be good at forecasting in the very short run. Berg, Forsythe, Nelson and Rietz (2003) summarize the evidence from 49 IEM election markets run between 1988 and 2000. Election-eve average absolute prediction errors average 1.37% for US Presidential elections, 3.43% for other US elections and 2.12% for non-US elections. They also find that the election-eve market forecasts generally predict better than the latest major national polls. New evidence presented in the current paper shows that markets are generally much better predictors than polls months in advance of the elections.

Judging by the IEM, Kerry has done a bit to pull within neck & neck of W over the last month. Based on the current closing price of the presidential election contract, Bush looks to be at about 51% ($0.510) in a race against Kerry. The Kerry contract puts him at 50% ($0.499). Yes, I know this comes out to 101%, but these are two separate contracts, and they are priced separately. What this says is essentially that the race is dead even, with an infinitesimally tiny edge for Bush.

Looking at the chart, you can see the "Kerry Bounce" in the IEM by the way the two lines come together. This is not, however, a convention bounce. The prices have been converging since the end of the last month. Interestingly, though, the Kerry price has held rock steady at 0.499 for the past four days. The Bush price, however, has gone from 0.492 on 27 Jul to 0.510 at the close today.

For control of Congress , the prices are as follows:

Control of the House of Representatives
Republicans Gain Seats: 0.417
Republicans Hold: 0.452
Republicans Lose Seats: 0.159

Control of the Senate
Republicans Gain Seats: 0.451
Republicans Hold: 0.112
Republicans Lose Seats: 0.410

If you are wise, you'll check these figures often.

Posted by Dale Franks at 04:01 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Do you really want to run on the Third New Deal?

Kevin Drum...

That was then, this is now:

Herbert Hoover, 1932: "Prosperity is just around the corner."

George W. Bush, 2004: "We've turned a corner, and we're not turning back."

I know that Democrats have been trying to pin the Hoover tag on Bush for a while now, but does he really think it's a good idea to help them along?
The Dems keep mentioning this, and I'm not sure why. After all, the Great Depression continued for about another decade after those jobs were lost under Hoover, due in large part to the generally poor government intervention.

Those economic policies led to a far longer depression than was otherwise ncessary. We didn't pull out until--at least--the beginning of WW2. There was protectionism, higher taxes, expansion of government programs to aid the poor and unemployed, and an expansion of all manner of new economic "rights" (read: privileges).

You might be forgiven for mistaking those ideas for this years Democratic Platform.

UPDATE: Yep. I guess they really do want a piece of that hot New[er] Deal action.

Posted by Jon Henke at 03:33 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Where have these guys been?

Under the headline "Kerry's Moment: Strong speech launches Democratic ticket" the Dallas Morning News opens with:

John Kerry's mission: Convince the more than 4,300 Democratic delegates gathered in the FleetCenter and millions watching on television that he is ready to be president. And, just as important, to be as appealing as possible so people want him to be president.

You've got to be kidding?!

His mission was to convince those 4,300 delegates? I defy the DMN to find one of them that wasn't planning on voting for Kerry before the convention.

Most important, he had to convince Americans that he has the stomach to keep the United States safe from the scourge of terrorism.

Ah, ok - "most important". That's a little better. But now we get into the part where we disagree. Well, disagree even more:

On the first score, Mr. Kerry was more passionate than he often has been and much more upbeat. "We can do better and we will," Mr. Kerry told the audience. "We're the optimists. For us, this is a country of the future."

Not with the litany of perceived ills and negatives Kerry's used throughout the campaign. True, many of the undecided haven't heard of him yet, and I would suggest even with last night, still haven't, the fact remains he hasn't been optimistic. He's spent the majority of his time telling potential voters how bad it all is. The fact is that he's decided to pretend to be optimitic in a convention which was more focused on image change than substance. Even more amazing is the Dallas Morning News bought it.

Mr. Kerry also tackled head-on the charge that he is a flip-flopper. He said it was a matter of detecting nuance. "Now I know there are those who criticize me for seeing complexities – and I do," he said. "Because some issues just aren't all that simple."

Well you know what, they're not as complex as he tries to pretend they are either. Believe it or not a "yes" or "no" answer requires only that, "yes" or "no."
Not some nuanced qualification which may be "yes" but then again may be "no" depending upon the direction of the political wind. Straight talk, straight answers, consistency and principle help one to be able to do that. To me the term "nuance" is simply the new cover for 'flip-flop". So while the DMN thinks he tackled it head-on, its a nuanced attack. But what's new?

On the question of national security, Mr. Kerry didn't equivocate. He launched his speech with his most effective line of the night: "I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty" – a not-so-subtle jab at questions surrounding President Bush's National Guard service.

I'm sorry but I literally cringed when I saw it. It was so lame as to be freakin' embarrasing. Now if he had to do that, if he was just driven to use that line and salute, it would have at least been bearable at the end. But at the beginning of the speech it hit me as an incredibly and stunningly ill timed geture. If that was for the vets out there it wasn't well received, at least not by veterans like myself. But there's more to that story than just his salute.

"I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president. I will never hesitate to use force when it is required."

And he turned a key theme Mr. Bush used against the Democratic ticket four years ago against President Bush when he pledged to restore trust and credibility to the White House.

All in all, it was an impressive performance and one that should serve Mr. Kerry well in his quest for the White House.

And of course he skipped the part where then denigrated the rest of us who 'defended this country' as young men at that time as well. Apparently that doesn't "fit" the persona and image of the "new" and "improved" John Kerry. A John Kerry who then attacks the 'trust and credibility' of the White House?

Don't make me laugh. I just wish the real John Kerry would stand up, because it sure as hell wasn't the one who was up there saluting.

Posted by McQ at 02:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Apocalypse Kerry

Lawrence Kaplan, writing in The New Republic, savages Kerry's speech of last night.

Regarding his own Vietnam, as opposed to the Hollywood production staged around him, Kerry asked his audience "to judge me by my record." The question has been asked before, but Kerry did not answer it in his speech: If his Vietnam service offers proof that he is "decisive," then why is it that for two decades Kerry has been "only an average Senator," as pro-Kerry columnist Al Hunt wrote in yesterday's Wall Street Journal? If his wartime feats prove that Kerry is "strong" on national security, then why did he oppose virtually every stand-out weapons system in the U.S. arsenal today, speechify against the first Gulf War, and refuse to fund the second? Why, indeed, unless no correlation exists between his biography and his record?

Kerry's speech last night showed how much distance there is between the two...As for the candidate himself, he uttered nary a word about democracy promotion, nor even a banality or two about promoting freedom abroad. There was no heroism here. Only what Kerry defended as "complexity."

Indeed, he spent far more time discussing domestic policy than he spent discussing foreign and defense policy. And when he did get around to discussing the matter of our national survival, he basically took a page from the post-Vietnam playbook favored by an earlier generation of Democrats. "We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad," the candidate declared to rousing applause, "and shutting them down in the United States of America." Suggesting that Europeans won't send troops to Iraq simply because they can't stand his opponent, Kerry promised to be nicer to our allies so we could "bring our troops home." Unlike, say, in Bosnia, he pledged to go to war "only because we have to." Leaving unsaid exactly by whom and at what cost, he dedicated himself to making America "respected in the world." Finally, and without saying precisely what it is, Kerry said he knows "what we have to do in Iraq." He has a plan, you see. Just like a candidate from long ago claimed to have a plan to end a war--the war that put Kerry on the stage last night and which, for him at least, wasn't so long ago at all.

This analysis, coming, as it does, from the nation's premier center-left publication, is just brutal.

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

They Should Have Picked Dean

Debra Saunders, after attending the Democratic National Convention, concludes that the Dems picked the wrong nominee.

If the Dems wanted an anti-war candidate, someone who actually says the things that, according to the New York Times, 86% of the convention delegates believe, i.e., that the war in Iraq was prima facie wrong, then they should've picked Howard Dean. What they have done, instead, is pick a man who opposes their most cherished belief. I'm not sure if they can keep up the facade of unity for another three months if it requires them to pretend to go along with a position they hate with a passion.

And I am pretty sure that, even if they can, it's not a very good thing for healthy political life. I doubt we want political parties that hide their true beliefs in order to spring them on the electorate as a surprise after the election, in a political version of some bait-and-switch scheme. The only destination on that road is a deep cynicism about the utility of elections and the democratic process (although, there is also an off-ramp to party self-destruction if the party gets a reputation for deception).

After the 2000 election, there were a lot of Democrats who believed that Al Gore would've run if only he'd moved farther to the left. If John Kerry can't keep ahead of W in the polls, or, at least, neck-and-neck, then I think that this Dem "unity" will dissolve like...like...something that dissolves really quickly in..I don't know...some kind of acid or something.

Sorry, I guess the simile well's run dry.

But my point is that if it begins to look like Kerry can't close the deal, then the Dems will go nuts, and will begin pressing kerry to move farther and farther to the left. If that happens, then, for the Dems, election day will be a fiasco. Because anyone who thinks that Al Gore lost because he didn't move far enough to the left is sadly unacquainted with reality.

Jon, with whom I agree about 95% of the time, thinks that the Democrats are "mobilized". Maybe he's right, but it seems to me that when your nominee is a guy who ostensibly supports the very thing you hate about his opponent, it'sa gonna take one helluva lot of motivation to go to the polls and vote for your nominee. After all, apart from the satisfaction of not being your opponent, what does he offer you that you really want?

Nothing.

Right now, the Democrats are trying to convince themselves that they are eager to vote for a candidate who offers them nothing on the most important issue of the day.

Good luck with that.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:08 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Emerods on Both Their Houses

The editors of the Washington Post weren't impressed bySen. Kerry's speech last night. They may not like W, but Kerry didn't give them much reason to change horses this November. They listened to him for 50 minutes, just like I did, and, like me, have no idea what Kerry is proposing for national security.

The responsibility of sending troops into danger should weigh on a commander in chief. But so must the responsibility of protecting the nation against a shadowy foe not easily deterred by traditional means. Mr. Kerry last night elided the charged question of whether, as president, he would have gone to war in Iraq. He offered not a word to celebrate the freeing of Afghans from the Taliban, or Iraqis from Saddam Hussein, and not a word about helping either nation toward democracy.

In Iraq, Mr. Kerry said, "We need a president who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden. . . . That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home." Mr. Kerry was right to chide Mr. Bush for alienating allies unnecessarily. But what is "the job" in Iraq? He didn't say...

Where Kerry was clear about what he wants to do, his proposals are, frankly, delusional.

Yet in economics as in national security, Mr. Kerry missed an opportunity for straight talk. His promises to stop the outsourcing of jobs and end dependence on Middle East oil are not grounded in reality. And Mr. Kerry failed to acknowledge the fiscal challenge posed by the imminent retirement of the baby boom generation, with its call on Medicare and Social Security. To the contrary, he raised the issue of Social Security only to reaffirm that he would not cut benefits -- a promise that a President Kerry might come to regret.

Frankly, I didn't expect this kind of panning from the WaPo. I thought they'd cut Kerry some slack.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Let's Judge Kerry by his Record, as requested.

After listening to John Kerry’s speech, I went on line for a transcript. I scanned it looking for nuggets. Specifics. Plans. Not the platitudes, emotional appeals and zingers. As I went through the speech, I copied what I found in order to comment on them. For a 55 minute speech, I didn’t come up with a huge list.

I ask you to judge me by my record: As a young prosecutor, I fought for victims' rights and made prosecuting violence against women a priority. When I came to the Senate, I broke with many in my own party to vote for a balanced budget, because I thought it was the right thing to do. I fought to put a 100,000 cops on the street.

And then I reached across the aisle to work with John McCain, to work to find the truth about our POWs and missing in action, and to finally make peace in Vietnam.

That’s it folks. He asks to be judged on his record yet all he offers as his accomplishments in the Senate are two votes and cooperation with John McCain?

19 years in the Senate and this is what he lists as his ‘record’. Pretty pitiful.

Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military.

Good and well said. I don’t believe it, but he gets credit for addressing what has been a common perception among the populace. I say I don’t believe it because of his record. Asking to be judged on it, I find nothing in his record or his “respected abroad” meme which leads me to believe this rhetoric.

We will add 40,000 active duty troops, not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended, and under pressure. We will double our special forces to conduct anti-terrorist operations. And we will provide our troops with the newest weapons and technology to save their lives and win the battle. And we will end the backdoor draft of National Guard and reservists.

As I’ve talked about before, you don’t just order up special forces soldiers and poof, there they are. That’s not as easy a task as Kerry would have you believe. Secondly, our problem of an overextened force in Iraq is not lack of special forces soldiers. Its lack of infantry soldiers.

Again, based on his defense record, I don’t buy the sudden intererest in providing our troops with the newest weapons and technology. His record just doesn’t support the rhetoric.

Lastly, as a retired reservist, I take exception and offense at Kerry’s characterization of the use of National Guard and reservists as a “backdoor draft”. Reservists and National Guardsmen are volunteers who understand what they’re volunteering for and what the possiblity of deployment is ... especially those who’ve done so since September 11th. This is another in a long line of attempts by the left to characterize our soldiers, both active and reserve, as victims.

As President, I will fight a smarter, more effective war on terror. We will deploy every tool in our arsenal: our economic as well as our military might; our principles as well as our firepower.
When I heard this I said out loud, “how?” Thankfully no one was around to hear that. I don’t believe John Kerry has a clue. Thus there is no “how”, just the inferrence that we aren’t deploying every tool in our arsenal, when, since the beginning, economic and military as well as law enforcement assets have been engaged in this fight. This is just empty rhetoric.
In these dangerous days there is a right way and a wrong way to be strong. Strength is more than tough words. After decades of experience in national security, I know the reach of our power and I know the power of our ideals.

Decades in national security? This from a guy who at the height of the Cold War pushed for unilateral nuclear disarmarment, for heaven sake. Again, judging by his record, I’m not buying.

As president, I will not evade or equivocate; I will immediately implement the recommendations of that commission. We shouldn't be letting 95% of container ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected. We shouldn't be leaving our nuclear and chemical plants without enough protection. And we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America.

I wasn’t sure if the “As president, I will not evade or equivocate” was a laugh line or a serious line. The man is known for both evasion and equivocation. His record points to him being a master of both. “I only own American cars”, but oh, “my family” owns those foreign cars. The examples are legion

That having been said, I agree with his point that we shouldn’t be letting 95% of the container ships in without inspection. I’d argue the adequacy of protection for nuclear and chemical plants is debatable, and the final line is simply a throw-away line meant to jab Bush for something he has no repsonsiblity for .... the federal government doesn’t open and close firehouses in the US, local governments do.

As President, I will not privatize Social Security. I will not cut benefits. And together, we will make sure that senior citizens never have to cut their pills in half because they can't afford lifesaving medicine.

I think Dale mentioned his reaction to this and it pretty well mirrored mine. In effect Kerry is saying “I will not do anything positive to save a program you’ve come to depend on, because frankly it won’t crash and burn on my watch." There's no political capital to be gained here, because Kerry knows only two approaches are viable. Privitization or raising taxes through the roof. But since Kerry has no record of leadership on this issue or any other, it doesn't surprise me.

Of course the last bit is the typical “lets scare seniors half to death by threatening their access to medicine despite the fact that a Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit I voted for is in place”.

First, new incentives to revitalize manufacturing.

Second, investment in technology and innovation that will create the good-paying jobs of the future.

Third, close the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas. Instead, we will reward the companies that create and keep good paying jobs where they belong: in the good old U.S.A.

First, what are they?

Second, what does that mean?

Third, how nice, tax cuts for corporations.

Next, we will trade and we will compete in the world. But our plan calls for a fair playing field because if you give the American worker a fair playing field, there's nobody in the world the American worker can't compete against.

Hello tariffs, trade wars and sanctions on the US.

And we're going to return to fiscal responsibility, because it is the foundation of our economic strength. Our plan will cut the deficit in half in four years by ending tax giveaways that are nothing more than corporate welfare and we will make government live by the rule that every family has to follow: pay as you go.

Well studies out there seem to disagree with Senator Kerry’s assertion here. For instance the National Taxpayer’s Union points out the following:

* Based on Kerry's promise to "pay for" every program he has proposed, U.S. taxpayers would each face an average additional $2,206 in higher taxes during Kerry's first year in office, and a cumulative increased tax burden of $6,066 over his first term.

* If Sen. Kerry's policy agenda were enacted in full, annual federal spending would rise by at least $226.125 billion during the first year of a Kerry Presidency alone. * Despite nearly $36 billion in spending cuts, $734.62 billion of Kerry's spending agenda remains unaccounted for, and presumably passed on to American taxpayers in the form of increased taxes or suffocating debt.

* Kerry has promised nearly $115 billion in social welfare, foreign aid, energy, and environmental handouts during his first term, including $2 million to restore voting rights to felons.

* Although Sen. Kerry claims Americans can look to his voting record when determining whether to trust his vow of fiscal responsibility, according to NTUF's BillTally and VoteTally reports, Kerry sponsored or cosponsored $182 billion worth of new federal legislation in 2003, and voted to increase federal spending by $466.5 billion during 2002. VoteTally figures for 2003 are unavailable due to Sen. Kerry's many absences.

* Kerry has announced only five cost-saving policy ideas out of a total of 70 policy proposals.

Hardly the “record” or the plan of a fiscal conservative who promises to balance the budget and cut spending.

And let me tell you what we won't do: we won't raise taxes on the middle class. You've heard a lot of false charges about this in recent months. So let me say straight out what I will do as President: I will cut middle class taxes. I will reduce the tax burden on small business. And I will roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals who make over $200,000 a year, so we can invest in job creation, health care and education.

Kerry’s claim is he can pay for everything, cut spending in half plus fund all the stuff above simply by rolling back one tax cut on 2% of taxpayers? It’s a no-go, its nonsense, its not possible. So where’ll he have to turn? Huge cuts in other discretionary spending (yeah, that’s likely) or raising taxes. His record points to the likelyhood that the latter will be his choice. So based on his record, again, I'm not buying.

One hopes, if he ever gets pinned down with a question concerning this he won’t evade or equivocate to the American people. His record, however, says otherwise.

Our education plan for a stronger America sets high standards and demands accountability from parents, teachers, and schools. It provides for smaller class sizes and treats teachers like the professionals that they are. And it gives a tax credit to families for each and every year of college.

A) What does this mean, i.e. set high standards and demand accountability from parents, teachers and schools? His record indicates that No Child Left Behind is something he’s most proud of since he pronounced it as “groundbreaking legislation that enhances the federal government's commitment to our nation's public education system ... and embraces many of the principles and programs that I believe are critical to improving the public education system" when he voted for it.

B) How are you going to “pay” for the tax credit for college?

Our health care plan for a stronger America cracks down on the waste, greed, and abuse in our health care system and will save families up to $1,000 a year on their premiums. You'll get to pick your own doctor and patients and doctors, not insurance company bureaucrats, will make medical decisions. Under our plan, Medicare will negotiate lower drug prices for seniors. And all Americans will be able to buy less expensive prescription drugs from countries like Canada.

This one almost made me gag. The old “fraud, waste and abuse” canard. The promise of every wannabe political hopeful. "It'll be different when I'm in charge!" What this can only mean is he plans on muscling up on the bureaucracy by adding another layer to seek this “bad stuff’ out and end it. An efficient bureaucracy? Yeah, I’m sold.

I was also tickled by the “we’ll negotiate lower drug prices” through Medicare, but by the way in case we can’t get them, there’s always Canada. Sounded so, well, evasive.

We value an America that controls its own destiny because it's finally and forever independent of Mideast oil. What does it mean for our economy and our national security when we only have 3% of the world's oil reserves, yet we rely on foreign countries for 53% of what we consume?

True but then the inference isn’t. The inference is we’re in Iraq because we’re dependent on ME oil. True its important, but as you see in the reference below, its only 23.5% of the total. We’ve spread our exports around with two of the largest exporters being to our north and south. So the attempt at inferring we’re totally dependent on ME oil is simply not true. Should we crank something up with Russia, we could most likely cut the ME out completely.

From January to May of 2003, the U.S. received 42.8% of its imported oil from OPEC nations and 23.5% from Persian Gulf countries. During that timeframe, Canada was the top exporter to the U.S., supplying 16.9% of our oil.


Moving on:

I want an America that relies on its ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi royal family.

Then get behind nuclear energy, Mr. Kerry.

And our energy plan for a stronger America will invest in new technologies and alternative fuels and the cars of the future — so that no young American in uniform will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

So here’s where the inference bears fruit. We went to war for oil.

Incredible.

I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush: In the weeks ahead, let's be optimists, not just opponents. Let's build unity in the American family, not angry division. Let's honor this nation's diversity; let's respect one another; and let's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States.

This, at least to me, was one of the more amazing statements in the speech. Another gag-reflex moment.

Let’s be optimists?

His entire march to the nomination has been a litany of negatives. After just telling the crowd in the Fleet Center that the war with Iraq was wrong, soldiers are dying for oil, education is a wreck, the economy is in the tank and American’s are having to import their drugs and too much oil, Kerry now wants to be optimistic? I had to laugh.

But on the other side, after reviewing this list of supposed grievances and purported “plans” by Kerry, I had to wonder, if this is all he can come up with, maybe we all ought to be optimistic.

Overall grade? C-. Long on rhetoric, veiled charges and inuendo, short on issues or specifics.

Now, I understand that one of the purposes here was to introduce himself to the American people. My reaction to that was how could a person who was a Senator for 20 years not be known by the American people ... unless he had no record to run on and hadn’t shown any leadership during that time?

So I beg to differ with Mr. Kerry when he says “I ask you to judge me by my record”. He really doesn’t want that at all. He wants you to judge him on the facade he’s erected, the platitudes and vague plans he’s put out there and to vote for him because he isn’t George Bush.

It'll be interesting if the one actual plan he has works or whether people will actually take him at his word and judge him by his record.

Posted by McQ at 11:15 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The Convention Bounce

I'm not usually one who cares too much about polls, except as a snapshot of general sentiment, however, Zogby's new poll shows a convention bounce of marginal proportions.

The polling was done on 26-29 July, so it doesn't include the reaction to Kerry's speech from last night. But the results can't be heartening for Democrats.

Presidential Ticket 27-29 Jul 6-7 Jul
Kerry/Edwards 48 48
Bush/Cheney 43 46
Undecided 6 3
Result Kerry +5 Kerry +2

Essentially, as of Thursday afternoon, the convention "bounce" moved three percent of Bush voters to the undecided category, while adding nothing to Kerrys. Compare that to the 17-point lead that Michael Dukakis had when he walked out of the Democratic Convention in '88.

Jon thinks, as he wrote earlier today, that it looks like Kerry's gonna win. I couldn't disagree more. First, as far away as the election is, it's impossible to say with any real accuracy who is going to win. There's a couple of months of campaigning still to go. Second, I think that Kerry's record has such substantial negatives--negatives which the voters haven't even begun to look at--that any prediction of a win is problematic.

Kerry can roll out his "Band of Brothers", for example, but I expect the guys at SwiftVets will also be rolling out the other 80% of Kerry's "brothers" who don't think he's fit to be Commander in Chief. And, for all the talk about the "Bush attack machine" the president hasn't even begun campaigning yet.

If, on 1 Nov, the polls are still showing a dead heat, then maybe then we can say that Bush is in trouble. But at this point, the race is still Bush's to lose.

In August of 1988, the Democrats thought they had a sure-fire winner in Mike Dukakis. By October, they were wondering what had possessed them to nominate this obvious loser. I think there's every chance that could happen again this year. The Dems are leaving Boston talking about a landslide.

They might very well be right, and the election will end in a landlside. But, barring unforseen events, it might not be the landslide they expect.

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A couple good ideas...

Two suggestions worth noting in the upcoming months....

Dean Esmay...

I will refuse to call him traitor, loser, liar, incompetent. He will be my President, my Commander In Chief, the Chief Executive of a great nation, elected by the will of a majority of the electors in these 50 great united States. So even if he does things I disagree with in conducting foreign policy, I will say, "I respectfully disagree with the President's directions, but I will do my best to express my dissent respectfully and hope that I am mistaken and that he has made the proper decisions after all."
I'd say it's fair to call a lie a lie; to call incompetence, imcompetence. On the other hand, it's vitally important that we not throw those terms about like.....well, like they've been thrown about over the past decade.

So, here's my pledge: if John Kerry is elected President--and, at this point, I suspect he will be--I will (almost certainly) criticize his policies and his actions, but not his motivations. I will engage in humorous snark towards the man at times, but I will treat the Presidency with respect. I will not assign John Kerry a mocking nickname as has been done to Bush. I will understand that the machinations of politics inevitably result in apparent contradictions, scandalettes, and embarrassments. I will not make more of them than they deserve.

Most of all, I will try to engage a President Kerry on substance, not superficiality. I will try to give him the same benefit of the doubt that I give to President Bush. And I will pay greater attention to those who do the same. Those who argue "I'm just doing it because they did it" will get short shrift, and I will try to call them on it.

It's the only intellectually honest thing to do.

The Commissar...

Disagree with a blogger that you respect today. And do so at least once a week.
[...]
intellectual debate, disagreement, give-and-take are necessary. That's the only way for ideas to grow, develop, and stay relevant. [...] And welcome the next VRWC blogger who disagrees with you.
I spend a great deal of my time engaged in debate with the left side of the 'sphere--and I find that valuable--but the Commissar is right. I should do so more often with the right.

If I--or anybody--always agree with "my side", then I'm really not doing a lot of thinking. I'm just repeating talking points.

And that's just bad blogging.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:06 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Estate Tax

For whatever reason, I've seen a recent resurgence of debate about the merits of the estate tax. Not sure what brought that on, but I thought I should cite one underreported aspect of the debate. The Joint Economic Committee has investigated the Estate tax and concluded.....it's just not that useful. Specifically, "the estate tax generates costs to taxpayers, the economy and the environment that far exceed any potential benefits that it might arguably produce".

To summarize some main points...

  • The existence of the estate tax this century has reduced the stock of capital in the economy by approximately $497 billion, or 3.2 percent.
  • The estate tax obstructs environmental conservation. The need to pay large estate tax bills often forces families to develop environmentally sensitive land.
  • Empirical and theoretical research indicates that the estate tax is ineffective at reducing inequality, and may actually increase inequality of consumption.
  • The enormous compliance costs associated with the estate tax are of the same general magnitude as the tax's revenue yield, or about $23 billion in 1998.
  • The deduction for charitable bequests stimulates little or no additional giving.
  • The estate tax raises very little, if any, net revenue for the federal government. The distortionary effects of the estate tax result in losses under the income tax that are roughly the same size as estate tax revenue.

To add a bit to that, the Joint Economic Committee also recently pointed out that charitable bequests have risen to a record level--even in inflation-adjusted dollars--despite the estate tax cut.

Since Democrats seem to consider economic utility calculations above the moral implications of wealth-taxation, one might imagine they would find this an appealing argument against the Estate Tax.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:50 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Joe Wilson Update

If you direct your web browser to RestoreHonesty.com, you'll notice a funny thing. It now goes straight to the Kerry/Edwards web site.

All mentions of Joe Wilson and his ravishing wife, the mysterious and seductive secret agent, Valerie Plame, have been expunged from the Kerry/Edwards web site as well. They have officially become non-persons, evidently.

Kerry webmaster Winston Smith was unavailable for comment, except to say that we have always been at war with Oceania.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 29, 2004

The Issue This November

Mark Steyn starkly lays out what the alternatives are in the upcoming election.

With every month, nuclear knowhow gets dissipated a little further into the murkier corners of the world. With every year, the demographic changes in Europe render America’s old alliances more and more obsolescent. Even if Kerry’s in the White House, French troops aren’t going to be fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Yanks in any major Muslim country: Kerry wouldn’t either, if he had Chirac’s Muslim population.

Sloth favours the Islamists. Readers may recall that I wanted Bush to invade Iraq before the first anniversary of 9/11. If he had done, he’d have saved himself a whole lot of trouble, and we might even be rid of the mullahs or Boy Assad by now. The President has to be a terminator: he has to terminate regimes and structures that support Islamist terrorism. And, if every bigshot associated with the cause winds up like Uday and Qusay, the ideology will become a lot less fashionable. All these girlie-man options sound so reasonable, but they’re a fool’s evasion, an excuse to put off indefinitely the fights that have to be fought — in Iran, North Korea and elsewhere.

Girlie men are ‘men without chests’ — in the C.S. Lewis sense, rather than the Schwarzenegger one. I didn’t come up with this choice, nor did Arnold. The enemy did. As I wrote back in 2001, the Islamists have made a bet — that we’re too soft and decadent to see this through to the finish. This November, one way or another, they’ll get their answer.

John Kerry tonight gave us all the right "no retreat, no surrender" rhetoric. It sounds good. But he leads a party whose delegates, by a factor of 9:1, wihs us to withdraw from Iraq. They wish to pursue the terrorists, as John Kerry has said, primarily as a law enforcement matter. Well, that's what Clinton did, and the end result was 911.

No matter how stirring Kerry's rhetoric may be for public consumption, the fact is that he will face extraordinary pressure from his own party to slack off on the war on terror. I think it is by no means clear tht he has the required ablity to oppose that pressure.

If he cannot, then we can expect our current problems with Iran, North Korea, and terror to careen out of control. I'm not sure we have the luxury of taking a 4-year holiday from history.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kerry's Night

Live blogging Kerry’s speech:

The run-up to the speech is all about being American. And about being a soldier. About what a good man Kerry is.

But, of course, that’s not what any of this is about. Let’s take it as granted that Kerry is a good man, a good husband, and a good father. Let’s also grant that Kerry served with distinction in Vietnam. Let’s grant that he loves the country.

But John Kennedy said it best in the campaign of 1962, when he was stumping for congressional candidates. Why, he asked, should the government choose the Democrats over the Republicans? Republicans are equally patriotic, equally dedicated to see the country move ahead. But what makes this election so important is that the two parties have clear and distinct differences in how they want to move the country ahead.

That is as important now as it was in 1962.

With that in mind, Kerry's record as a senator is what really gives me pause. No matter how good a man he may personally be, his public policy ideas require a closer look.

This is the conundrum of politics: personally pleasant people may have foolish or dangerous public policy ideas; unpleasant and nasty people may have very good public policy ideas. The measure of a person is not the personal warmth they exude, but the rationality of their policy.

Nice biography video. Morgan freeman is always good.

Oops, two videos, instead of one. He was nice to firefighter's families after a tragedy. Touching, but not much to do with what kind of decisions he'd make as president.

Vietnam vets from Kerry's navy service. Laying it on as thick as possible, I guess. Kind of odd, coming from a guy who argued in 1992 that Bill Clinton's military service—or lack thereof—was irrelevant.

But we aren't wondering what it was he did 30 years ago in Vietnam. The big question is what he'll do now.

Max Cleland:

Kerry will make the country wat it once was, and can be again. A country that is respected. A country worth fighting for.

So, as long as France and Germany likes us, that's the measure of how good a country we are? What if our allies are wrong? What if our allies are not as concerned about America's security as, say, we are?

And, by the way, some of us think the country is already worth generations of struggle.

Kerry's on. Finally. Thank God we didn't have another Bill Clinton-style 20-minute walk through the bowels of the FleetCenter.

I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty. «Salute»

Oh, please. You served in the Navy. We got it. Thanks.

Guess what wing of the hospital I was born in? I was born in the West Wing.

In other words, the left wing. Heh. He may come to regret that analogy.

As a boy in Berlin, then my dad was stationed there, I rode my bicycle into the Soviet Zone. My dad grounded me.

Translation: Even as a young child, I felt strangely drawn to socialism. Heh.

I will restore honor and decency to the White House. I will never mislead the nation into war.

«sigh» So, it's going to be the "Bush lied" meme, is it. No matter what the evidence to the otherwise. Every intelligence agency in the Western world, including ours, concluded Saddam had WMD. They were wrong. That means that Bush was wrong. Doesn't mean he mislead anybody.

Too bad Saddam acted like he had a WMD program. Would've saved everybody a lot of trouble. Including him.

We're told that outsourcing is good. It's not. It's bad. Keep American jobs at home.

So, despite the fact that economists are essentially unanimous in support for free trade, Kerry knows better. Back to protectionism. Why not Smoot-Hawley, while you're at it?

Look! On the stage: real veterans! At a Democratic convention!

Well, it is notable, mainly because the Democratic party has not, for the past few decades, been exceptionally friendly to either veterans or active duty personnel. Nor have veterans been notably visible in the party's confabs, either.

America will never go to war because we want to, but because we have to.

I thought we'd already figured out that, when planes started flying into buildings, you're pretty much at war.

I know what we have to do in Iraq. Bring in our allies, reduce the cost, reduce the risk to our soldiers. Better leadership will bring our allies in. But I'll never let anyone else have a veto over our security.

Good luck, I'm sure Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder are just quivering with eagerness to send troops to Iraq. So which is it? Make France happy, or keep fighting terrorism.

I will increase the size of the military by 40,000 troops. Increase Special Forces. Increase funding. We will deploy every tool in our arsenal. Our principles as well as our power.

Good.

We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America.

The operation of firehouses is not a federal responsibility. Iraq, a country we invaded and occupied, for better or worse, is.

See that flag. There was one of those on my swift boat. It got shot up, but kept waving. It covered the bodies of my comrades.

It's gonna be all Vietnam, all the time for the next couple of months, isn't it?

I will not privatize social security. I will never cut benefits.

No, of course, not. After all, I'll be long out of the Oval Office when SocSec becomes insolvent. Let my distant successor worry about it.

What does it mean when our jobs are shipped overseas?

It means that our unit labor costs are so high that it is uncompetitive to keep the jobs here.

New incentives to revitalize manufacturing. Technology investments. Close tax loopholes for shipping jobs overseas. Reward companies that keep jobs here.

Hmm, sounds like a tax cut for corporations.

We will reduce the deficit by half in 4 years. I will cut middle class taxes. I will reduce the taxes on small business. I will roll back the tax cuts for people making more than $200,000 per year.

So, basically, a tax increase. But only on those greedy, bloated plutocrats. They aren't paying their fair share. After all, what have the rich ever given us?

I mean, besides jobs.

When I am president, we will make health care a right for all Americans.

But we're still getting a middle-class tax cut? Boy, those reach people are gonna have to pay through the nose, I guess. 'Cause I don't know who is gonna pay for all this.

Message to W: Lets respect one another. Let's be civil.

This coming from a guy who, less than 30 minutes ago, just accused the president of misleading us into war. Thanks for the civility, there John.

Takes balls to launch that kind of hypocrisy on nationwide TV.

I learned a lot about American values on that gunboat in Vietnam. I learned that no matter our color, race, or religion, we are all in the same boat.

Yeah. Vietnam. That's what it's all gonna come down to.

Full text of John Kerry's Speech

Just for the record, I don't remember a presidential candidate ever talking so constantly about his military service in wartime. And we've had a number of war veteran presidents in the modern era. Harry Truman. Ike Eisenhower. John Kennedy. George Bush. And, aside from Bill Clinton, Every president since FDR has served as a military officer.

But this constant harping on Vietnam is just odd. And, if the Democrats had credibility on military issues or national security, it wouldn't be necessary. The fact that Kerry stresses it so much is a big clue that even Democrats realize that, when it comes to national security, the public's trust in them is iffy.

The main message of the night was: I can be Commander in Chief.

This goes straight towards W's perceived strength. He's trying to take the space that W presumably occupies as a wartime president. The risk of this strategy, though, is that he has two decades of senate votes that can be framed quite differently than that of a man who's strong on defense. Much of his record in the senate is one of cutting funding to the military and eliminating weapons systems. That strikes me a significant weakness, and he will, at some point, have to explain why his votes in the Senate are seemingly far different that those of the fighting patriot he's tried to present himself as tonight.

With the exception of the protectionist and health care bits, this was a speech that would've been perfectly normal at a Republican convention. It was all about patriotism, the flag, national security.

What it wasn't about, really, was policy. It was about John Kerry, personally. It seems as if he's trying to subordinate policy to a personal competition about the character of George W. Bush and John F. Kerry. There were no specifics about what to do in Iraq. How to get France and Germany back on our side. Just flat statements of intent, without any specifics about how to attain the stated goals.

I'm not sure you can run that kind of campaign for four months. You can't just say "I will make America better"; at some point you have to give us a roadmap as to how you're gonna make it better.

Bob Dole tried the "I'm a better man than Bill Clinton" route, and it didn't work out too well for him.

The telling thing about the night was that what really got the crowd on their feet was criticisms of George Bush. Calling the president essentially a liar, John Ashcroft a fascist, that was the stuff the crowd ate up.

It's not love of John Kerry that animates them. It's hatred of George W. Bush.

Overall, a good speech by Kerry. It sets the bar a little higher for W next month.

Posted by Dale Franks at 08:54 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Two words: Dorian Gray

Two words: Dorian Gray
Photo: AP/Ron Edmonds

Posted by Dale Franks at 02:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

He's got a million stories like this

He's got a million stories like this
Photo: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Posted by Dale Franks at 02:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

See? A million of 'em

See?  A million of 'em
Photo: Reuters/Gary Hershorn

Posted by Dale Franks at 02:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A New Grand Strategy

After my post touching on Grand Strategy last night, I find it interesting that in this morning's Los Angeles Times, former senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart calls for the creation of a new Grand Strategy for the United States.

A grand strategy is simply the application of a nation's powers to the achievement of larger purposes. I would argue we have three such purposes: to ensure security (both for ourselves and, where possible, for others), to expand opportunity and to promote liberal democracy around the world. And to achieve them, we can harness three powers — economic, political and military — far superior to anyone else's. Our economy is larger than the next four or five national economies combined. We have an unrivaled diplomatic and political network. And soon we will spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined.

But we also have a fourth power, shared by few if any other great nations in history. That power is contained in our founding principles, the constitutional statement of who we are, what we believe and how we have chosen to govern ourselves. The idea that government exists to protect, not oppress, the individual has an enormous power not fully understood by most Americans, who take this principle for granted from birth. Far more nations will follow us because of the power of this ideal than the might of all our weapons.

Hart has just published a new book, The Fourth Power: A Grand Strategy for the United States in the Twenty-First Century, that addresses this very subject. I haven't read it, so I don't know whether I would agree with his conclusions about what our strategy should actually be, but his analysis about the necessity of having a Grand Strategy is very accurate.

From 1945 to 1991, when the USSR fell into the ash-heap of history, our Grand Strategy was the containment and, eventually, the defeat of Soviet Communism. Practically every international effort we made, as well as many national ones, were predicated upon this strategy. This strategy was bipartisan, and its utility was unquestioned.

Since then, however, we've done practically nothing to create a national strategy. Lacking the overriding threat of Soviet Communism, we've let the idea of a necessary, worldwide, strategic goal for the United States lay fallow. After the end of the Cold War, the general feeling in Washington has been that, with the disappearance of the USSR, the need for a national Grand Strategy has vanished as well.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The War on Terror is in many ways strategic, at least in the sense that it requires a sustained worldwide effort to achieve a national goal, but it doesn't quite fall into the realm of Grand Strategy. Terror is a symptom of a problem we need to address through Grand Strategy. It is not the problem itself.

The problem is the lack of liberal democracy, and the lack of appreciation that the proper role of government should be limited to protecting the rights of the citizens, and that, for government power to be legitimate, it must operate under the free and open audit of the citizenry.

In addition, the ability to create wealth in many places in the world is extremely limited. As Hernando De Soto has pointed out in his book, The Mystery of Capital, there is nearly $9 trillion worth of "dead capital" in the Third World, because the owners of the capital cannot produce proof of ownership that would allow them to invest it, or borrow against it to create additional sources of wealth. In many countries, simply registering the ownership of a home may require years of effort, and literally hundreds of trips to various government offices. The 30-day escrow process that we take for granted will provide us with indisputable legal proof of ownership is, in most of the world, an unattainable dream.

President Bush has made a faltering start in this direction by beginning a program to liberalize and democratize the Arab world. But the Arab world is not the sole locus of the problem, just the most radical one. The fact is that living under authoritarian governments, surviving from day to day in crushing poverty, while having no hope of social or economic advancement, is a prescription for frustration and discontent, at the very least.

"Where there is no vision", the Bible tells us, "the people perish." Since the end of the Cold War, we have had no great national vision. Perhaps it's time to go about the business of acquiring one once again.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:31 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

So, how's that NMCI deal working out for you?

EDS, the prime contractor for the navy's Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) boondoggle, about which I've written several times, has even more good news.

Capping several years of continuing losses on one of its biggest contracts, computer networking giant EDS yesterday said it lost $171 million in the past three months on a contract to help integrate the communications systems of the U.S. Navy and Marines.

In a conference call with reporters and Wall Street analysts, EDS officials added that they expect future losses on the $8 billion contract to be wider than they previously forecast.

Both the navy and EDS went about this project in the most stupidly cavalier way. What they bothshould've thought is, "Hey, this is the largest, most complicated, worldwide computer network ever built by man. I bet it'll be complicated. We better research this very well." Instead, the navy appears to have thought, "It's just a computer network. Big deal. Everybody has one." For it's part, EDS seems to have thought, "Eight billion dollars!? Wow! OK, we'll start right now. Now, what is it they want us to do, again?"

So, the whole project has become a steaming morass of incompetence and frustration.

But what I really, really like about the story, is this quote from EDS' San Diego spokesman, Kevin Clarke:

"People look at NMCI and think it's cost us a bunch of money, but it's also brought us a lot of money," he said.

This may not be the most oustandingly stupid statement I've ever read, but it's certainly in the top 10. If Clarke is to be believed, EDS' official position is that they lose money on every sale, but they make it up in volume.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Deceptiveness of the Democrats

Bob Novak points out the interesting dichotomy between what the Dem convention delegates believe...

The truth obscured by deception at the FleetCenter popped out in multiple ways. On Sunday, the day before the convention began, the New York Times-CBS poll of about one-fourth of the 4,322 convention delegates put them to the left of most Americans and most fellow Democrats -- including John Kerry. Nine of 10 delegates polled totally oppose the Iraq war, three-fourths support abortion on demand, only 4 percent back tax cuts, and only 5 percent oppose recognition of gay marriage.

...and what their platform says.

Anti-war activists dropped demands for U.S. troops to leave Iraq at a time certain. The platform handles divisive issues by simply ignoring them. It does not even mention partial-birth abortion, gay marriage, capital punishment, Alaska oil drilling or the Kyoto global warming treaty. It is hard to believe that such staples of liberal ideology could be kept out of a Democratic platform, but they were.

This is not, however, a good thing for the Democratic Party.

Let us assume Kerry is elected. Immediately after his election, the Left will demand certain policies, and Kerry will likely try to procure their passage. Now, as it happens, we've already seen how that works out, because that's more or less what Bill Clinton did upon assuming office. After running an election campaign in which he purported to be a moderate New Democrat, his first major initiatives were to repeal the ban on Gays in the military, and to implement Ms. Clinton's national health care plan.

Voters registered their disapproval at the first opportunity by putting both the House and Senate solidly under Republican control in 1994, a situation that, for the most part, has obtained to this day.

Bill Clinton, however, was a masterful politician. Indeed, whether you like him or not, the fact remains that he is this generation's finest politician. His response was to immediately move to the right, and to govern as a moderate/conservative.


If John Kerry cannot make that kind of transition, and I suspect that, as a far poorer politician, he cannot, he will cement the idea among the electorate that the Democrats have turned into a collection of Leftist whack jobs, which, as far as the party activist population is concerned, is essentially true.

Kerry will, in fact, have to deal with a vocal party constituency for withdrawal from Iraq, a blanket proscription against any forceful action against Iran, and calls for a leftward move in social policy, in terms of national health care, gay marriage, etc. If he goes along with that pressure from his party, it will amount to a rejection of the public stands he's taken--at least, as far as we can determine what his stands actually are--that will make him look weak and indecisive at best, and duplicitous at worst.

That bodes ill for future Democratic electibility.

But a Kerry loss wouldn't be much better. A chief complaint among Democrats about the 2000 election was that Gore lost because he didn't move far enough to the left. A Kerry loss in this election practically promises that on 2008, the Democratic Party's candidate, whoever she may be, will be forced much farther to the Left than even she finds comfortable.

Again, this will show the electorate that the Dems have descended into leftist moonbattery for the most part, harming their electoral chances for a generation.

For every Barack Obama, Harold Ford or Evan Bayh in the Democratic Party, there are three Charlie Rangels, Dennis Kuciniches, and Michael Moores. That's simply not helpful because a healthy political life demands that the country is presented with reasonable alternatives from both a center-right and center-left party. Being stuck with a center-right party and a moonbat leftist party doesn't fulfill that requirement.

Even more frightrening, if the center-right starts to feel they have a firm enough grip on power, the temptation to engage in a little moonbattery of their own might be too strong to withstand.

Still, perhaps the only solution to the current situation is for the Democrats to let the Left wing of the party call the shots until a series of McGovern-like electoral drubbings either a) brings the rest of the party back to their senses so that they reject the far Left, just as Niel Kinnock did with the British Labour Party in the 1980s, or b) starts the creation of a real center-left party that leaves the Democrats to go the way of the Whigs.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:26 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Incoherent Messages

So, I'm watching the convention, but I gotta tell you, it's just giving me mental whiplash. Barack Obama comes out one night and tells me that we're all one America. One big happy family. Then John Edwards comes out and, in what is essentially a rebuttal to Mr. Obama, tells me that there are, in fact, two Americas, and if I'm part of the America where we have to burn tires in our yard to keep warm, then I'm screwed. Then, Edwards proceeds to fisk himself, by telling me that he came from a modest background as the son of a mill worker and postal clerk, but then became fabulously wealthy. Uh, OK, but I thought you were from the Poor America that gets anally probed all the time by Rich America. So, if you can go from Poor America to Rich America, then why do we all need government help?

And then there's the war. John Kerry has said that we can't bring the troops home from Iraq. Gotta stay the course. Can't retreat. No Withdrawal. Wouldn't be prudent at this time. But, John Edwards says, If you have a kid in Iraq, and are worried that he's stuck over there, that "Hope is on the way." Then, there's noted political analyst Wycliffe Jean, singing about Kerry words to the effect that «he'll get voted in on Friday, inaugurated on Saturday, make peace on Sunday, bring the troops home Monday». Not only is that an implication that despite what Kerry says about staying the course, there's widespread expectation in his party that he'll do no such thing, Wycliffe Jean seems not to know that elections in this country are actually held on Tuesdays.

So, what does the Democratic Party believe based on the messages they're sending out from this convention? I dunno. Either they believe everything, or they believe nothing. But whatever they believe, it certainly is contradictory.

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Our vote is not for sale.....because your offer isn't big enough.

I'm particularly interested in one claim by Al Sharpton from last night's speech...

"In all due respect, Mr. President, read my lips: Our vote is not for sale."
Interesting. Powerful. And a bit hard to reconcile with what Al Sharpton has said elsewhere....
I'm running for President to:
  • Deliver Universal Health Care for the nation, not hidden benefits to the health care industry.

  • Help working people by giving them the biggest tax cuts - not the rich.
Or this...
Sharpton would raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.15 an hour.

Sharpton would repeal the North American Free Trade Agreement to keep jobs in the United States.

Sharpton would repeal all tax cuts and institute new taxes on the wealthy and corporations to pay for education, health care, and social programs. He would increase child tax credits and earned income tax credits.

That is the very definition of rent-seeking behaviour - attempts by special interests to gain rewards through government intervention.

As concerns the specific group of voters for which Al Sharpton speaks, their vote is most definitely--even explicitly--for sale.

UPDATE: Jeff the Baptist's comment reminds me that there is always the possibility that Sharpton's vote is not for sale, because it has already been bought. So, there's that.


UPDATE II:
Michelle Malkin...


James Joyner....


Posted by Jon Henke at 08:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Edwards quotes from Day III

John Edwards spoke last night. A few snips:

But we've seen relentless negative attacks against John. So in the weeks ahead, we know what's coming — don't we — more negative attacks.

Aren't you sick of it?

They are doing all they can to take this campaign for the highest office in the land down the lowest possible road.

From the party of the "Bush lied" meme, this seems a bit disingenous. From the party of the "Bushitler" image, it seems a bit hypocritical. From the party of the "Bush knew about 911" conspiracy ala Howard Dean and Cynthia McKinney, this seems to be an outright fabrication. But then Edwards is a trial lawyer.

My guess is he's sick of it because he doesn't like what the return fire looks like.

First, we can create good paying jobs in America again. Our plan will stop giving tax breaks to companies that outsource your jobs. Instead, we will give tax breaks to American companies that keep jobs here in America. And we will invest in the jobs of the future — in the technologies and innovation to ensure that America stays ahead of the competition.
FactCheck.org has looked into the offshoring scare and found it to be an argument that is severly wanting in terms of the impact those like John Edwards would have you believe:
There are no official figures on the total number of jobs that have gone overseas, but in May 2004 the Labor Department made its first-ever report on the portion of "mass layoffs" attributable to "overseas relocation." Their survey showed that only 2.5 percent of major layoffs in the first three months of 2004 were a result of outsourcing abroad .

That survey only covers companies that have laid off 50 or more workers at one time for 30 days or longer, and so may not be representative of all companies and all job loss. But it gives scant support for Kerry's theme.

Trying to assess whether offshoring might actually be a larger problem than the Labor Department figures indicate, veteran Democratic economist Charles Schultze tried another approach. He reasoned that if America's production needs were increasingly met by foreign outsourcing (and cheap imports) this would be shown as a rise in the value of U.S. imports relative to the overall economy, as measured by Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. But what he found was that the ratio wasn't rising at all - it had leveled off since 2000. He concluded that "there is nothing in the data to suggest that large increases in. . . offshoring could have played a major role in explaining America's job performance in recent years. "

FactCheck.org also points out that while the present tax code does indeed provide incentive for US companies to move overseas, its not Bush's fault, but indeed the fault of the tax code passed by Congress:

In fact, tax experts say the incentive has been there for decades - since there has been a corporate income tax. It's not Bush's doing.

The incentive exists because the US taxes corporations at rates higher than most other countries. According to the Institute for International Economics, the effective rate for US corporations was just over 30% in 2002, while mainland China's effective corporate rate was only 11.3%, Britain's 18.2%, Mexico's 15.1% and Indonesia's a miniscule 0.2%.

Furthermore, the US also attempts to tax money that US-based companies earn in other countries, but only after those profits are brought back to the US. That means profits that remain overseas, perhaps invested in new factories in low-tax countries, never get taxed at the higher US rates. And that's been true through both Democratic and Republican administrations.

In essence what Edwards is saying, but carefully not saying, is Kerry/Edwards plan tax cuts for corporations ... which, if known, would probably not play well with the Naderite wing of the Democratic party.

Edwards then promises:

To help you pay for health care, a tax break and health care reform to lower your premiums up to $1,000. To help you cover the rising costs of child care, a tax credit up to $1,000 to cover those costs so your kids have a safe place to go while you work. And to help your child have the same chance I had and be the first person in your family to go to college, a tax break on up to $4,000 in tuition.

We had an interesting discussion here about tax reform a few days ago. A national sales tax was discussed as the fairest way to do this. Take a look above and you'll understand why no real tax reform will ever forthcoming from congress. Look at the power politicians wield by being able to promise allowing you to keep more of your money to help defray the costs of programs they've helped drive up.

More Edwards:

We have millions of Americans who work full-time every day for minimum wage to support their family and still live in poverty — it's wrong.

What's wrong is we don't have millions of Americans who work full-time for minimum wage to support a family.

First the numbers:

Last year [2002], about 570,000 American workers reported earning exactly $5.15 per hour, the prevailing Federal minimum wage, and another 1.6 million reported with wages below the minimum. Together, these 2.2 million workers made up 3.0 percent of all hourly-paid workers.

Then the demographics:

Minimum wage workers tend to be young. About half of workers earning $5.15 or less were under age 25, and slightly more than one-fourth were age 16-19. Among teenagers, 10 percent earned $5.15 or less.

About 4 percent of women paid hourly rates reported wages at or below the prevailing Federal minimum, compared with about 2 percent of men.

Part-time workers (persons who usually work less than 35 hours per week) were much more likely than their full-time counterparts to be paid $5.15 or less (about 8 percent versus about 2 percent). About 1 in 10 workers putting in fewer than 15 hours per week earned the minimum or less.

Summary: 3% of all hourly workers, who are mostly young or part-timers, receive minimum wage. 3%. That has nothing to do with the millions more of salaried workers. So at best, this addresses less than 3% of those paid hourly while over 100 million hourly workers are above the minium wage. If you add salaried workers into this its a little over 1% of the total workforce.

Edwards, et al, would have you believe that 1% earning minimum wage stay there with "no hope". They're wrong:

"... wage growth among minimum wage employees is actually quite robust.

As would be expected, minimum wage employment is a common entry point to the labor force. Individuals with few skills enter the workforce at this wage but quickly experience wage growth resulting from increased skill levels. This study finds that minimum wage employees are five times more likely than all employees to be new entrants to the labor force. Over the 23 years of data studied in the report, nearly two-thirds of minimum wage employees who continue employment are earning more than the minimum wage within 1–12 months."

In fact, the study cited shows that "Between 1998 and 2002, median wage
growth averaged 10.4 percent for minimum wage employees but only 1.7 percent for workers earning above the minimum—more than five times higher
."

It isn't a minimum wage increase for the 'poor' Kerry/Edwards really want. Its the increase it will give union workers if the minium wage is increased that they're after. It always happens when the minimum wage in increased.

In other words, the aim is really to increase the cost of labor across the board on the one hand while telling us they're going to increase jobs on the other and using "poor families" with "no hope" as the bait. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that those two goals may work against each other.

UPDATE (JON): Tagorda has an evaluation of Edwards, as well...

Posted by McQ at 08:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blinded by the Shite

So, Atrios is Duncan Black. As a bit of trivia, it's interesting. It's not quite like unmasking "Deep Throat", but perhaps it is the blogosphere equivalent.

That, however, deserves nothing more than a "huh". Instapundit points out the real issue....

...Duncan Black who, among other things, works for David Brock's Soros-funded Media Matters operation. Nothing wrong with that, but if I were working for, say, Richard Mellon Scaife, I think somebody -- like, say, Duncan Black -- would be making something of it.
In fact, Reynolds is exactly right. Duncan Black would make something of Scaife-funded right-wing information, and he has done so in the past.

For that matter, Oliver Willis, who also works for the Soros-funded MediaMatters, has had no apparent problem criticizing Scaife-funded right-wing information.

So, what we have are two critics, bought and paid for by the left wing, criticizing some media outlets and pundits for being....bought and paid for by the right wing.

When can we begin calling them "Duncan Ruddy" and "Oliver Ruddy"?
(explanation)

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:01 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 28, 2004

Why all the Vietnam? II

The reason why John Kerry and his surrogates are pushing the Vietnam angle is simple. They are trying to make the argument that because Kerry served in combat in the Nam, he's qualified to e president of the United States.

12 years ago, Bill Clinton had no military service at all, yet Democrats--including Mr. Kerry--were keen to argue that it was irrelevant. Now, suddenly, military service is the chief qualification touted by Mr. Kerry.

That's an interesting argument, but there's not a lot of evidence that military service has much to do at all with the presidency. The job of the military--even at the highest levels--and the job of the presidency are two very different things.

The job of the military is to execute the orders of the president as a means of implementing his strategy. Even our highest generals have little or no input about strategy at that level. Our national objectives, as well as the shape of any subsequent peace--what B.H. Liddell Hart called "grand strategy"--are political, not military concerns. Military officers are concerned with strategy at the operational level. The president is concerned with grand strategy at the political level.

This doesn't mean that some generals are not keen strategists in that sense, and, many of the most successful generals are. Colin Powell, George C. Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and Alexander Haig come to mind. But, just being a general is no indication that one is a very good player at the game of grand strategy.

In a previous post, I used the example of Curtis LeMay. LeMay became a 4-star general in WWII, and directed the country's strategic bombing campaign against Japan. At his retirement, he was the Air Force Chief of Staff under John Kennedy. But I doubt if anyone even mildly acquainted with Gen LeMay would have mistaken him for a grand strategist. His primary advice to President Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis was to bomb Cuba, and he confidently predicted that if the President did so, the Soviets would do nothing. Fortunately, Kennedy disagreed.

Fortunately.

Gen of the Army Douglass Mac Arthur had served as the Army Chief of Staff in the 1930's, then was recalled to active duty in WWII, and eventually ended up as our supreme commander in Korea during the first part of the Korean War. Despite the direct orders of President Truman, he ignored warnings that the Chinese were preparing to intervene in Korea, and sent our troops straight for the Chinese border.

When the Chinese launched the surprise Thanksgiving attacks, Macarthur was stunned. Eventually, his unwillingness to obey orders, and his insistence on trying to bring in Chiang Kai-Sheck's Nationalist Chinese into Korea led to his dismissal.

Both generals were fantastically competent in their areas of expertise, but were poor strategists at the grand strategy level.

On the other hand, Franklin Roosevelt, who led the country through most of WWII, never served a day in uniform. Woodrow Wilson, who was president during WWI, didn't either. Yet no one would argue that they were incompetent in their role as commander in Chief, Abraham Lincoln's sum total of military service was a few weeks in the Illinois militia, yet he somehow managed to make it through the Civil War creditably, even though he was hamstrung by the equally arrogant and incompetent Commander of the Army of the Potomac, General McClellan, a man who was wonderful at building armies, yet fatally indecisive at using them.

So, then, with these examples in mind, what does John Kerry's service as a junior naval officer tell us about his fitness to be president?

Precisely nothing.

If generalship, or the lack thereof, cannot be correlated with effectiveness as commander in chief, a lieutenancy is hardly an awe-inspiring qualification.

The doubts about Kerry's fitness as president do not lie in his four years of active service. They arise from the two decades of recorded decisions he has made as a United States senator.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

John Edwards' Two Americas

Blogging live during John Edwards' Speech:

Doesn't want insurance companies and HMOs to ration healthcare.

Then who? There isn't an unlimited supply of health care. It's gotta be rationed somehow. If insurer's or patients themselves aren't, then I guess it'll be the government that does it under Kerry/Edwards. But make no mistake, until there is an unlimited supply of health care, it will be rationed.

If you aren't rich, you're one paycheck or layoff away from disaster. It's not possible to save any money. You can barely get by.

Somehow, after leaving active duty with $350 in my pocket, I managed never to need government assistance, even though I live in California. I had to work 70 hours a week at two jobs, but somehow, I managed to do it.

We are at war. We will win. Our military: great or what? Strong. Courageous.

And, so what will we do to win? Ask the help of France? Good luck. How about some specifics? You can say we'll hunt down terrorists. How? Where? Where are the enemies, and how will we go after them? What will we do if our allies chicken out?

It's not enough to say "I'm gonna do it!" You gotta tell me how.

You say we'll increase the military budget. Ok, and what will we spend it on? It's not enough to throw money at it. You say we'll hire more troops. Fine, where will we send them? Increase our troops in Iraq? Increase our nuclear arsenal. Build another carrier group? What about all those boys in Germany, will we still keep mthem there, or are there oher, more important things for them to do?

Those aren't specifics. Those are platitudes.

John Kerry knows all about military stuff. He served in Vietnam.

Really? I hadn't heard.

We don't get no respect from the rest of the world.

Oh. Well. that's more important than ensuring the country is secure. Better not do anything that gets the frogs PO'd. That is, after all, the important thing.

Hope is on the way. If you don't make enough money. If you can't go to school. If your kid is stuck in Iraq. If your medicine costs too much. Hope is on the way.

Hope, presumably, will be issued by Kerry/Edwards. Huh. And how's that gonna work? Will you just issue money? Force employers to may more? Withdraw all troops from Iraq?

And while we're on the subject, do any of these hopeless people have any responsibility for self-improvement? So far, it's all what goodies Kerry/Edwards are going to shower on us.

Too bad that government doesn't create wealth. And since it doesn't, whose gonna pay for all this hope?

Oh, right, tax increases on the "richest Americans". The top 10% already pay 67% of all income tax revenues. Clearly, not doing their share.

So, really, it's the same old Democratic stuff. Tax the rich. Spend more money. Free stuff for everybody. well, except for the rich,

Chris Matthews: Nothing about raising taxes. I guess he missed the part about tax increases on the "richest Americans".

Jon Meacham from Newsweek: No platitude was left behind. Not a policy-heavy speech. Optimistic, though, so 4.5 out of 5 stars.

In other words, it's all sizzle and no steak, but Meacham thought it was great. So did the Dems. But it was almost entirely empty of substance.

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Why all the Vietnam?

Are you wondering why the Kerry campaign is dwelling 30 years in the past, trying to use Kerry’s Vietnam service as the centerpiece at the convention instead of the more recent 20 years of his Senate record?

Reports have it that the convention center is covered with Kerry Vietnam era pictures (although I’m sure none of them include a tasteful “Winter Soldier” montage or a medal flinging pic). Kerry grandstands in his convention entrance using a water taxi as his “swift boat” and stocking it with his Vietnam “band of brothers”. Kerry’s super-8 film from Vietnam will play heavily in the film about the man, although we may have difficulty separating the real action from the reenactments. Ms. Heinz-Kerry lovingly tells the world that John got his medals “the old fashioned way, he earned them.”

Of course I know why they’re hanging out in Vietnam. Because that’s the last time he was actually strong on defense. OK, I’m being facetious. But really .... how do 120 days in a combat zone trump a 7300 days (20 years) in the Senate? Regardless of the Star Trek defense (“deflectors up, full speed ahead”) its his record in the Senate which tells the true tale of the real John Kerry, presidential candidate.

Not Vietnam.

The first thing one must understand is Kerry’s running away from the “L” word. Kerry is a liberal, but apparently not a proud one. Vietnam duty isn’t a typical “liberal” thing. But if you're trying to cover a liberal voting record, it does provide that deflector shield for which your looking.

Facts, however, give a little different picture. In 2003, per the Congressional Quarterly, he voted against the President 70% of the time (that’s when he showed up). Ted Kennedy, everyone’s liberal liberal only did so 53% of the time. In fact rankings from both sides of the fence clearly show Kerry’s liberal tendencies, with the Americans for Democratic Action (a liberal group) rating him at a lifetime 94 (which is more liberal than Kennedy) while the American Conservative Union rates him a lifetime 6. To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, “you might be a liberal if you’re to the left of Ted Kennedy.”.

While that's pretty damning itself, perhaps the most disturbing trait observed about Kerry is his desire to have it both ways in order to maximize the political capital to be had in any event or issue. Depending on the velocity and direction of the political wind he can be found to be for something at one time and completely against it later.

For example the Patriot Act. When it was passed Kerry said on the Senate floor, "It reflects an enormous amount of hard work by the members of the Senate Banking Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. I congratulate them and thank them for that work." Kerry said he was "pleased at the compromise we have reached on the anti-terrorism legislation."

Later, as the political wind shifted in the form of Howard Dean and it was more politically expedient to denounce the act, Kerry took a sniff and announced the Patriot Act was all John Ashcroft’s fault. "We are a nation of laws and liberties, not of a knock in the night," Kerry said. "So it is time to end the era of John Ashcroft. That starts with replacing the Patriot Act with a new law that protects our people and our liberties at the same time."

So the Patriot Act, for which Kerry voted, went from a great compromise piece of anti-terrorism legislation to an abomination foisted upon us by the right. Sniffing away, Kerry changed his tack and took some of the wind from Dean’s sails..

Another example is the “No Child Left Behind” legislation. Presently the story is that NCLB is "one-size-fits-all testing mania.". Even worse, according to Kerry, is the “fact” that it isn’t being funded. Of course that’s not true, funding for education under Bush is up 65%, but then the truth has never stood in the way of a good assertion.

Of course that wasn’t always the case. Its hard to understand his attacks on NCLB when he was so proud of being such an integral part in its introduction and passage. "This is groundbreaking legislation that enhances the federal government's commitment to our nation's public education system ... and embraces many of the principles and programs that I believe are critical to improving the public education system."

Back then he crowed about the passage of “his” bill: "Last year I worked with 10 of my Democratic colleagues to introduce legislation that would help break the stalemate and move beyond the tired, partisan debates of the past. Our education proposal became the foundation of the bill before us today."

Kerry helped birth the bill and but now denies he's responsible. The political DNA test denies his denial.

Probably the most famous of the wind sniffing events had to do with the war in Iraq. Last summer on Meet the Press, Kerry said: “"We did not empower the president to do regime change.” But in actuality, Kerry supported a resolution which specifically called for regime change not to mention the fact that Kerry voted for a Clinton resolution in 1998 which also called for regime change. Apparently Kerry was more than willing to authorize regime change in two different administrations, until, that is, the political winds changed. Either that or he doesn’t understand what the term “regime change” means or didn’t really read the resolutions for which he voted.

The denial on MTP is Kerry appealing to the anti-war left after being driven in that direction by the Howard Dean threat to his candidacy. But the others are also vintage Kerry. Like the NCLB, giving his vote but not really giving his vote. The now classic “I voted for the 87 billion before I voted against it”is more typical than he’d like to admit.

Those few examples give us a clue as to the reason why Vietnam is so very, very visible in Boston right now. The “attributes” outlined above will not be on display. In fact they’ll be well hidden, by design.

The question is can his 120 days in Vietnam give cover to his 7300 days in the Senate?

As we know the announced purpose of the event is to “introduce” John Kerry to America. The Democrats will tell you its because they want America to get to know the real John Kerry. But with all the Vietnam and none of the Senate you have to wonder about that. When you really consider the approach, it would seem disingenuous at best. It would seem, in reality, that they really don’t want America to get to know him that well. Not well enough to understand that his Vietnam service in no way portrays the ‘real’ John Kerry.


Posted by McQ at 07:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Boston D Party

Some random thoughts have crossed my mind while viewing and reading about the Democratic Convention.

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Jimmy Carter having a keynote address at the convention should strike you as a bit odd. After all, this is a guy whose humiliating performance as president, and subsequent defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan, more or less exiled him from the Convention. Nobody has allowed Jimmy Carter anywhere near a prime-time speaking slot at a convention for 24 years. I'm not sure it says good things about the Democrats that he has become one of the party's chief spokesmen this year.

I dunno, perhaps the fact that it's been more than 2 decades since his presidency, the Democrats feel that memories have faded enough to make him useful again. It's just interesting that a man whose presidency has come to be almost universally derided as an abject failure is now the eminence grise of the Democratic party.

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Barack Obama. I suspect that we'll be hearing a lot about this gentleman in the coming years. Unless, of course, he slips into obscurity like Harold Ford, who was the star of a previous Democratic convention.

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Maybe it's cruel, but Teresa Heinz-Kerry reminds me of Lisa (Eva Gabor) in Green Acres. Rich, cosmopolitan, and with an unplaceable foreign accent.

But a rather short-tempered, sharp-tongued Lisa. There's just a hovering sense that she's just a bit too tightly wound, and, at any moment, could explode, injuring innocent bystanders with a flying cloud of bitch shrapnel. I'm not sure she plays as well in Red-State America as she does in, say Manhattan.

Divider

How much of a polling bump are the Democrats really expecting to get out of this? More people are watching reruns of CSI: Miami, or the prime-time lineup on The WB than are watching ABC, CBS, or NBC. The networks are each pulling around 3% or less of the viewing audience. Maybe that'll pick up tonight when John Edwards, or tomorrow when John Kerry speaks, but so far, it's been a pretty eventless and unwatched convention. But, with ratings down by 24% compared to what they were in 2004, it strikes me that the Dems just aren't attracting a lot of interest. I don't think that indicates that a Mike Dukakis-like, 17-point lead is in the offing when this thing shuts down.

Although, in a sense, the last thing the Dems want is any controversial news coming out of this convention. They have to keep it as vanilla, centrist, and pleasing as possible, or they've got a problem. The fact is that, based on the polling I've seen, the delegates are way, way out of the mainstream on practically any issue you can name. 60% of the delegates at the convention want an immediate unilateral withdrawal from Iraq, for example.

They could get a lot more people watching if they let their hair down, and started proclaiming what they really believe. But, unfortunately, seeing the wave of Bush-hating moonbattery that would elicit would cause the electorate to recoil in disgust and horror at the thought of these imbeciles running the show for four years. Having an unwatchably boring convention is the best possible thing in the world for them, because hiding the true nature of the pathology than animates the Dems this year is their only hope for victory at all.

But, if nobody is watching, it's difficult to see how that translates into a massive increase in poll numbers when this thing shuts down.

Divider

The Edwards speech tonight will undoubtedly be another one of those "two America" deals. This irks me.

First, it strikes me—and, presumably, anyone with a lick of common sense—as pretty transparent to talk about how the other party is all about dividing Americans, while speaking for 30 minutes on the "two Americas" meme.

Yeah, they can call the president a lying warmonger, who's destroyed American credibility abroad, and the economy at home by tax giveaways to the rich, but that's not divisive. It's not divisive to tell the American people that they are the tools of rich corporate fat cats who are out to screw them, abetted by an administration that willingly does the bidding of bloated plutocrats, rather than working for the interests of the common people.

Talking about gay marriage or abortion, though. That's divisive.

But it takes a lot of gall to recite this foolishness with a straight face, and expect that no one will see the deeply hypocritical reasoning behind it.

Another problem with it is that, most people, if given the chance, would like to join the ranks of bloated plutocrats themselves. Americans may resent the rich on some level, but not so much that they want to close off the rewards for being rich, just in case they get a shot at wealth themselves. And they know that making it harder to create wealth means that their shot at obtaining wealth will become more remote.

A few years ago, a polling firm in Russia asked people if they would rather be rich themselves, or prevent a neighbor from becoming rich. The vast majority of respondents preferred to prevent their neighbor from becoming rich. That's the end result of the 'two Americas" meme--an ingrained resentment against wealth creation.

News flash to the Russians: with that attitude, you'll never have to worry about either alternative happening. That kind of resentment and divisiveness is destructive, both socially and economically. A society that resents the wealthy is a short step away from becoming a society that votes itself into penury by ensuring that no one can create wealth.

Finally, all this talk about divisiveness is just silly. Elections are supposed to be divisive. If the issues at stake in an election weren't divisive, there wouldn't be any reason to debate them, or to vote on them either, for that matter. The very nature of politics is divisive.

The framers of the Constitution made no provision for political parties. George Washington, in his farewell address, counseled against having them. But that was just a silly Utopianism. People are always going to disagree, about the issues, no matter how large or small the issues are.

Gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, Iraq: all of these are divisive issues, with different segments of the population holding deeply serious moral or philosophical positions in opposition to the other. The democrats pretend as if supporting gay marriage isn't divisive, while opposing it is. Quite apart from the fact that about 60% of the electorate opposes gay marriage, it's simply a stupid argument to press. Both sides of the argument are divisive. If they weren't, we'd all agree, for cripes sake.

Divider

With all this talk about the little people, the Democratic delegates sure seem well-insulated from the regular struggles of daily life, like meeting a payroll, or keeping a job.

More than half of the Democratic delegates are NEA union-member teachers, who essentially have jobs for life, and who can’t be fired for practically any offense outside of child-buggery, or espousing conservative or religious views in the classroom. That's a pretty good deal, compared to what most of us face.

The Democrats' biggest donor group is the trail lawyers, whose very livelihoods consist of convincing a jury that their clients are not responsible in any way, for the bad things that happen to them, even if they open a hot cup of coffee while traveling in a moving vehicle. And, naturally, they have to argue that, since they get at least a third of any money that gets awarded. That gives them a vested interest in pushing the "two Americas" meme. There is, after all, a lot of money in it.

Their most well-known spokesmen are Hollywood celebrities who make tens of millions of dollars a year for pretending to be people they aren't, while reciting lines written by somebody else. I guess it's easy to call for higher taxes when the rounding errors in your tax return are greater than the average worker's salary. So, if taxes are raised, and you can't find a good loophole, you'll make $36 million next year instead of $38 million. I hope that you can tighten your belt enough to scrape by, Hollywood-boy.

Then, of course, there are the grass-roots activist, who often consist of college students, whose sole life experience has consisted of being completely taken care of by others. But, college students believe a lot of very silly things that, by the time they're 30, and have had a chance to live in the real world, they'll no longer believe.

Divider

Nice hats. Very colorful.

Divider

Here's an interesting little exercise. Read Howard Dean's speech, and find a single nice thing he has to say about John Kerry.

But he's not bitter.

Divider

OK, what's the deal with the kids? Twelve-year-old Ilana Wexler comes out, tells Dick Cheney he needs a time out. The crowd goes wild.

Uh, she's twelve. I mean, OK, granted, the average 12 year-old child probably does have a better grasp of politico-strategic realities than the average DNC convention delegate, but still...I mean, you all realize that some adult wrote this for her, and she's just reciting it for your amusement, right? It's not like she spent a couple of weeks at the New York Times' morgue, researching issues from the last three years on microfilm.

Why are we supposed to get all giddy because they troop out children to say their lines?

Divider

Mickey Kaus got the following email:

The Times, CNN, and the convention LOVED Obama's "One America" speech.

So now what - does John Edwards come on as a rebuttal speaker?

Heh.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:45 PM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

Send Me (but not too close)

A line from Clinton's Convention speech highlights a bit of Kerry hagiography that has been bothering me a bit....

During the Vietnam War, many young men—including the current president, the vice president and me—could have gone to Vietnam but didn’t. John Kerry came from a privileged background and could have avoided it too. Instead he said, send me.

When they sent those swift-boats up the river in Vietnam, and told them their job was to draw hostile fire—to show the American flag and bait the enemy to come out and fight—John Kerry said, send me.

Well, not exactly. Sure, the Democrats have been having a Kerry-gasm over the recently-discovered merits of a Presidential candidate with military service, but it's a bit of a stretch to pretend that Bush avoided danger, while Kerry asked to be sent towards it.

Kerry certainly volunteered for duty in the Vietnam theater, and I respect his service--in fact, I'd even argue that his post-Vietnam opposition was sincere, well-intentioned and not a blanket condemnation of all veterans--as well as his purple hearts. I'm entirely unconcerned with debates over whether he was genuinely injured, or just kinda injured.

Bush, on the other hand, volunteered for a dangerous duty....but in the United States, rather than Vietnam.

Well, military service is simply not a part of my voting calculation, so I'm unwilling to parse purple hearts and Alabama weekends.

The difference, Clinton and the Democrats claim, is that John Kerry volunteered to go into the middle of a shooting range and take fire. Except, not so much...

"I didn't really want to get involved in the war," Kerry said in a little-noticed contribution to a book of Vietnam reminiscences published in 1986. "When I signed up for the swift boats, they had very little to do with the war. They were engaged in coastal patrolling and that's what I thought I was going to be doing."
Anytime somebody brings up the idea that John Kerry said "Send Me" into combat, remind them that--while his service was admirable--he said otherwise.

Note: this is not a critique of John Kerry's military service. It is a critique of his hagiographers....which, to be frank, sometimes includes John Kerry.


UPDATE: Ezra Klein has unleashed the Pandagonettes, who seem to want to argue about whether flying a fighter jet is safer than fighting in Vietnam, whether Bush made all his weekend assignments in 1973, and....well, they want to argue about pretty much everything but the points I made.

Is flying a jet inherently dangerous? Yeah, but not as dangerous as combat.
Did Bush volunteer for Vietnam? No.
Is piloting a swift boat well away from any fighting dangerous? Yeah, but not as dangerous as combat.
Did Kerry think he was signing up for duty that would see combat? No.

Those points are uncontested. So, while the Pandagonettes erect and destroy strawmen, my post stands. And Ezra's "hahahahaha" response is unbecoming of an intelligent blogger.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:04 AM | Comments (73) | TrackBack

Why No Bush Bashing in Boston?

Jonah Golberg hints toward an answer in todays USA Today:

The Boston Democrats are running on the fumes of a Bush-record-that-never-was. They gripe about how he's cut education spending, when he's increased it by more than 35%. They claim he lied about WMDs when he didn't. They say he's violated civil liberties when he's been fighting for the survival of liberty. They're betting everything that they can cross the finish line before the American public realizes that the Democrats are coasting on an empty tank.

The problem is if they revert to form during the convention it has two effects. The first is they look like the McGovernites they really are while displaying their irrational hate of Bush to the potential voters they're trying to sway. Not a vision they want on tape, and you have to give them kudos for attempting to avoid that. They want to seem like centerists even if they aren't centerists since that is where the election will be won.

Secondly, and probably most importantly, they would make debunking the lies they tell in passing about Bush on the campaign trail prime-time fodder. By doing that, they would open themselves up to a rather brutal and public fisking.

While their "Bush lied" nonsense is red-meat to their faithful, its a pack of lies now easily debunked by evidence and reports to the contrary for those who care to look or listen.

For more than a year, Democrats have been fueled by a violent, irrational hatred of George W. Bush. These feelings were almost never based upon facts, so much as on an almost glandular paranoia.

Librarians set fire to their records, lest Attorney General John Ashcroft's Gestapo find out who borrowed The Catcher in the Rye. They insisted that Bush was some sort of criminal mastermind and buffoon who could orchestrate a war for oil while not being smart enough to work as a spellchecker at an M&M factory. Countless anti-Bush canards contradicted each other, but consistency was a luxury the Democrats could not afford.

The problem for them is that not even the now decidedly anti-Bush press can conceal the fact that virtually none of these allegations were true. The Senate Intelligence Committee report, the British Butler Report and the 9/11 Commission report undermine every key allegation of the anti-Bush flat-earthers. The 9/11 Commission, which was being hailed as an oracular council of truth and light when it made Bush look bad, has essentially said the Patriot Act does not go far enough (and Ashcroft, by the way, never even poked his nose in a library); that Bush never lied and that several of Bush's more famous accusers did — including those who, knowing otherwise, insisted that Bush's "16 words" about Saddam Hussein's pursuit of uranium were lies.

So there you are. Are the Democrats trying to be more civil in Boston? Well maybe, to a point. Convention 101 says 'be positive". It also says "appear to be centerist". They're trying.

But that's not the only reason the Bush bashing is banned in Boston. In light of recent developments concerning the 911 Commission and the Butler Report, the virtual destruction of the viability of two now former Kerry aides and the positive statements concerning what Bush knew and when, they've been shown to be the ones pushing the lies. It is certainly to their advantage to change the subject for the moment, take a more civil tone and drop the Bush bashing to a mild and dull roar ... at least for now. Its a hell of an acting job. I'm impressed.

Of course, once the convention is over and they spread out across the country again, they can resume accusing Bush of being a liar. With the evidence to the contrary readily available, such accusations will be nothing more than a pack of lies themselves. But, being back in the sound-bite whirl of the campaign the media can conveniently ignore them ... and they will.

Posted by McQ at 07:46 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Iraq and Kosovo

Consistently saying that the war in Iraq has been a 'fiasco' and the we should now bring in NATO and the UN, anti-war types seem to be ignorant of the case study of a "fiasco" which involves both NATO and the UN.

Kosovo.

NATO and the United Nations should expand their security presence in Kosovo after failing to protect minorities from ethnic riots in March, a human rights group said in a report due out Tuesday.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said NATO soldiers and U.N. police had "failed catastrophically in their mandate to protect minority communities" as mobs of Albanians overran Serb enclaves in the U.N.-run province, torching up to 800 homes and dozens of religious sites.

Yes those who would have us believe that only the UN and possibly NATO can bring peace, harmony and organization to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl seem to somehow miss their latest 'success'. Kosovo, a province of Serbia and Montenegro (with a population of about 3 million) is, by all measures, a mess.

The two days of violence, in which 19 people were killed and 4,000 non-Albanians fled their homes, was the first time the ability of NATO and the United Nations to keep the peace had been seriously challenged in five years of international rule.

The 66-page report criticized the response of NATO's 19,000-strong peacekeeping force and 3,500 U.N. police officers, and pointed to a worrying lack of coordination.

"In numerous cases, minorities under attack were left entirely unprotected and at the mercy of the rioters," it said, adding much of the burden was placed on poorly equipped local police.

Of course NATO and the UN have an explanation and excuse:

In response, the U.N. mission said the report failed "to show an understanding of the extent of the challenge this violence posed to security forces." A NATO spokesman said troops had quickly stabilized the situation and prevented "a crisis from turning into a civil war."

Well I'm sure that was comforting to the 19 killed and the 4,000 who fled.

NATO and the UN have been in Kosovo for almost 5 years. Accomplishment? Well, they averted civil war according to them. But have they stood Kosovo up? Helped settle the area's ethnic tensions? Helped determine their eventual status? Kept the peace?

Apparently not.

But this nation building in Iraq would be a piece of cake if we'd just involve NATO and the UN, wouldn't it? We'd be done with the place in no time flat.

Right ... all you have to do is look at their track record to know that.

Posted by McQ at 06:54 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 27, 2004

Hoisting, Petards, etc.

Cassandra, at Jet Noise, wonders why the Dems seem to betting their panties in a wad about electronic voting machines. After all, that's exactly what they demanded after the 2000 election fiasco, isn't it?

It's not even close to November, and they're already cranking it up. Four years ago we just had to have touchscreen voting to correct the egregious inequities of the butterfly ballot (the same ballot, mind you, that elected the histrionic Mr. Daley of "people have been disenfranchised" fame -- several times, although he did not appear to think his own election was thereby invalidated). Now, having demanded touchscreen voting, Democrats everywhere are clasping their cheeks, Edvard Munsch-style in horror as they realize (somewhat belatedly) that there will be no paper trail...

Imagine... no dimples...no pregnant chads... no telltale depressions from which to infer voter intent or the lack thereof. Bupkiss. They really might have thought of this four years ago. This is what Mother meant when she said, "Be careful what you wish for".

Heh.

Posted by Dale Franks at 09:27 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Jimmuh's Convention Speech

You know, the more I read Jimmy Carter's speech last night at the Democratic National Convention, the more I remember why exactly it is we ran him out of Washington the first chance we got, embarrassed at ourselves for sending him there in the first place. Some of his rhetoric was just a bit too much, especially for those of us who remember what the state of the nation under Jimmy Carter was actually like.

[W]e cannot do our duty as citizens and patriots if we pursue an agenda that polarizes and divides our country.

Heh. That's pretty funny, coming from a guy whose party's major campaign theme seems to be the existence of "Two Americas".

Let us not forget that the Soviets lost the Cold War because the American people combined the exercise of power with adherence to basic principles, based on sustained bipartisan support. We understood the positive link between the defense of our own freedom and the promotion of human rights.

Really Jimmy? We all knew that that? I mean, I did, and so did all the people I knew, but during your four years in the White House, it wasn't entirely clear that you did.

While thousands of Cuban soldiers were running amok in Angola, you were kissing Leonid Brezhnev. While Soviet troops were preparing to invade Afghanistan, you were chiding us about needing to get over our "inordinate fear of communism". That is, when you weren't chiding us about what lily-livered girly-men we'd become with the famous «Malaise» speech.

Finally, the one notable occasion when you did exercise American power, to try and rescue the hostages in Iran during a fundamentalist Islamic revolution you fomented, it turned into a total freakin' disaster.

For those of us older than 35, it's probably not the best strategy to remind us of your pathetic "exercise of power with adherence to basic principles". 'Cause, frankly, when you had that as your charge, you didn't seem too freakin' competent at it.

Today, our Democratic party is led by another former naval officer -- one who volunteered for military service. He showed up when assigned to duty, and he served with honor and distinction.

He also knows the horrors of war and the responsibilities of leadership, and I am confident that next January he will restore the judgment and responsibility to our government that is sorely lacking today.

Having put in 10 years on active duty as a trigger-puller and bullet-stopper myself, excuse me if I don't get all mushy-eyed at the idea that serving as a company grade officer 30 years ago has any bearing whatsoever on Kerry's ability to lead the country. Richard Nixon was a former Navy officer, too, and I don't remember you getting all weepy about his military service and its relevance to the presidency.

Maybe if Kerry had served for 30 years, and ended up as a flag officer with 3 or 4 stars, you might have an argument about his strategic judgment. But, then again, maybe not. Curt LeMay wore four stars on his shoulders for nearly 20 years, and I wouldn't've wanted that loon within 1000 feet of the Oval Office, except as the subordinate of a president who had a freakin' clue.

With our allies disunited, the world resenting us, and the Middle East ablaze, we need John Kerry to restore life to the global war against terrorism.

And, speaking of Iran, one wonders if there'd even be a need to wage a global war of terrorism if you hadn't abandoned our chief ally in the region, the Shah, to the Islamic fundamentalists who overthrew him, thereby igniting the torch of radical Islam throughout the Mideast. And I think it'd be a bit tendentious to argue that the elevation of Ayatollah Khomeini improved the human rights situation in Iran.

Thanks to your fecklessness, Jimmy, the banner of Islamic revolution was raised high in 1979, and led directly to the horrid situation we face today.

So, telling me that John Kerry will follow in your footsteps doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. We're still suffering the ill effects of your four years of "leadership". I can hardly imagine what kind of crop a similar four years of John Kerry will sow that our children will have to reap the bitter harvest of, a generation hence.

In the meantime, the Middle East peace process has come to a screeching halt for the first time since Israel became a nation. All former presidents, Democratic and Republican, have attempted to secure a comprehensive peace for Israel with hope and justice for the Palestinians. The achievements of Camp David a quarter century ago and the more recent progress made by President Bill Clinton are now in peril.

And, of course, that is all George W. Bush's fault, I suppose. It has nothing to do with Yasser Arafat rejecting the peace deal Bill Clinton tried to broker. Nothing at all to do with Arafat's al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade or Hamas murderers shooting pregnant women in the stomach and head, or blowing up pizzerias filled with women and children.

Oh, and about your Camp David legacy: I don't see that you had much to do with it, frankly. Anwar Sadat had already flown to Jerusalem to make peace with Menachim Begin. The decision had already been made to secure peace between Egypt and Israel before you had anything to do with it. All you did at Camp David was to dot the T’s and cross the I's of a decision Sadat had made without even consulting you.

Elsewhere, North Korea's nuclear menace -- a threat more real and immediate than any posed by Saddam Hussein -- has been allowed to advance unheeded, with potentially ominous consequences for peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

Uh, yeah. Just out of curiosity, weren't you the guy who came back from NoKo in '94, telling us what a prince of guy that Kim Jong-Il was? I mean, you practically did the whole Neville Chamberlain bit, waving the agreement with Kim over your head, and announcing it secured peace in our time.

Meanwhile, your pilot had barely got the landing gear retracted after leaving the tarmac at Pyongyang before that little maniac Kim was planning on building strontium bombs like the cool missile that James Franciscus shot off at the end of Return to the Planet of the Apes. And now, somehow, all that is W's fault.

So, what, can we take it as a given that you'll support the president in an upcoming invasion of North Korea? No, I'm sorry, forgive me for asking. Of course you won't. Because there's no threat to the people and interests of the United States that you don't think can't be solved by a unilateral American retreat, is there?

And so I say to you and to others around the world, whether they wish us well or ill: do not underestimate us Americans. We lack neither strength nor wisdom. There is a road that leads to a bright and hopeful future. What America needs is leadership.

And, we'll probably get it as long as we can keep you and your ilk as far as possible from the levers of power.

Posted by Dale Franks at 09:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Freudian slip?

While bouncing around the country prior to his arrival at the Democrat Convention, Kerry was at a stop in Florida where this occurred:

When a man stood and said he feared that the new Medicaid prescription drug benefit would lead to weaker coverage for union retirees like himself, Mr. Kerry asked the audience, "Are you terrified of that happening?" and then said, "You should be."

"Because there's nothing to stop them from dropping you," he continued. "They're dropping people now."

Beside the usual scare tactics from Kerry, ensure you read what the man said carefully.

The man was afraid of what?

The new Medicaid perscription drug benefit would lead to weaker coverage for union retirees.

In other words the man is worried that the drug benefits he now enjoys from his union will be made weaker.

Kerry's answer .... "you should be [terrified] ... They're dropping people now."

Unions are dropping people now?

I wonder if Kerry caught the "union" part of the question? I wonder how pleased his union masters are with the answer.

Meanwhile in the real world, the government's drug program's rules were softened to include more of the elderly (the richest demographic in the US).

To answer the man's question, yes, they will use the Medicare and Medicaid drug program to weaken the coverage you now have. Why shouldn't they? If the government is going to give it to you at a reduced cost whether you want it or not, why should they duplicate the cost and the service?

And that includes unions.

Posted by McQ at 03:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Refugee from a Woody Allen Movie?

Nope .... just John Kerry.

r4086761383.jpg



For those wondering about the reference in the title hit the extended entry link.

182273.1020.A.jpg


A scene from Woody Allen's "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask" (1972) where the "sperm" are getting ready to do their "duty".

Posted by McQ at 12:02 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Anybody But Bush

Jonah Goldberg marvels at the Democratic Party's discipline, which, fueld by a an intense hatred of George W. Bush, has them fawning over a candidate they don't particularly like.

This is the logic of hate. It lets convention delegates who by every measure are far to the left of the mainstream of the Democratic Party, let alone the American public, cheer a candidate who has spent the past few months holding something of a fire sale on Democratic principles. According to a New York Times survey of delegates, 9 out of 10 say they think Iraq was a mistake and 5 out of 6 say the war on terrorism and national security aren't that important; yet Kerry is surrounding himself with soldiers to the point where it wouldn't be shocking if delegates were required to wear camo fatigues. Even Ted Kennedy would be hard-pressed to play a drinking game in which players had to swig every time the words "Vietnam" or "war hero" come up in Democratic speeches...

The real test will be to see how well the discipline holds.

Howard Dean is already throwing things at effigies of Bush, Cheney & Co. and popping the veins in his neck as if he's just about to turn into the Hulk. And Mrs. Heinz Kerry is already decrying "un-American" activities and telling journalists to "shove it" when they question the Democrats' script. The Democrats' smiley masks are doing the job, but they aren't comfortable and they come off quite easily.

The Democrats are always tempted--a temptation that Bill Clinton ruthlessly quashed--to put on another 1984, San Francisco deal that sends the public recoiling in shock and disgust. You may remember that in 1984, Walter Mondale promised us from the convention podium that, if elected, he'd raise our taxes. The delegates cheered and stamped and whistled, ecstatic at Mondale's brave truth-telling.

Based on the fact that Mondale then proceeded to lose 49 out of 50 states in the presidential election, one presumes the rest of the country was less affected by his honesty.

So now Kerry is trying to hold a convention that keeps the appropriate Clintonian--that is to say, dishonest--tone. No one will be allowed to, say, make comparisons of George W. Bush's last name to her own pudenda. No "Bushitler" signs will be in evidence. The whole point of the exercise will be to disguise the most deeply-held politicial opinions of the delegates, in order to present the most unthreatening face possible to the electorate.

It'll be interesting to watch, just to see if he can pull it off.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Welcome to the Machine

It looks like Paul Krugman reads WashingtonMonthly, but does not read QandO. This is unfortunate--though, not entirely surprising--as he repeats the recent "felon list" canard propogated by, inter alia, WashingtonMonthly. Krugman writes...

This year, Florida again hired a private company ... to prepare a felon list. Remembering 2000, journalists sought copies. State officials stonewalled, but a judge eventually ordered the list released.

The Miami Herald quickly discovered that 2,100 citizens who had been granted clemency, restoring their voting rights, were nonetheless on the banned-voter list. Then The Sarasota Herald-Tribune discovered that only 61 of more than 47,000 supposed felons were Hispanic. So the list would have wrongly disenfranchised many legitimate African-American voters, while wrongly enfranchising many Hispanic felons. It escaped nobody's attention that in Florida, Hispanic voters tend to support Republicans.

There are two problems with this:

  1. The list would not have "wrongly disenfranchised many legitimate African-American voters". This was a list of "potentials", and counties were supposed to "verify the information" and "contact the voters" prior to taking any action. The list itself--and the State's orders--could not disenfranchise voters. Only a failure to follow those orders could result in improper disenfranchisement. That is a rather important difference.
  2. "Hispanic voters tend to support Republicans".....is not quite correct.
    Hispanics favored Kerry 45 percent to 34 percent...
    In fact, the only reason the vote is close is the Miami-based Cuban Americans vote, which goes about 80% Republican. Outside of that very narrow locale, the Hispanic vote goes to Kerry by a wide margin, and the felon list in question does not simply leave off the Cuban Hispanics, which could create an electoral advantage for Bush. It excludes anybody who self-idenitifies as a Hispanic.

"But", Krugman might respond, "a recent Herald/Zogby International Hispanic Poll found 'Bush at 57 percent among Hispanics in Florida, with Kerry at 38 percent'!"

Indeed. And if that's the evidence he'd cite, I'd suggest he use better methodology....

"The margin of error for the size of the sample is in the double digits..."
By way of contrast, the margin of error in the poll showing Kerry led among Hispanics was 3.7%.

As far as the insecurity of voting machines goes, Paul Krugman makes a good point, and his advice should be heeded. But the Florida felon list is hardly the evidence of malfeasance he'd have you believe.

Posted by Jon Henke at 11:09 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

America, meet John Kerry. John, this is America.

For most Americans, John Kerry is an unknown northeastern politician. This is, of course, the week Kerry begins changing all that. Mark Steyn writes that the real question is whether, after seeing John Kerry, the voters will like him.

Sadly, the stealth candidacy has come to an end. This week the real John F Kerry has to stand up, and, judging from the way those Senate and House candidates in tight races are staying away from the convention, a lot of bigshot Democrats aren't too sure Americans are going to like what they see.

If I were a mad scientist hired by Bush svengali Karl Rove to construct the most unelectable Democratic presidential candidate possible, I'd start with a load of big-government one-size-fits-all dependency-culture domestic policies. Next I'd throw in a consistent two-decade voting-record aversion to American military power. Then make him the kind of fellow whose stump speeches are always butt-numbingly ponderous and go on way too long because someone told him that if you intone a platitude slowly and sonorously enough it sounds like the Kennedy inaugural address.

He'd probably be a senator because, in a business that attracts pompous blowhards, senators are the crème de la crème. A senator from Massachusetts, because that's as near as you can get to running Jacques Chirac while still meeting the citizenship eligibility requirements. He'd have to be an aristocratic Massachusetts senator, because there don't seem to be any other kinds, but he wouldn't be glamorously high-class, like Jack and Camelot, just aloof and condescending and affected. And every time he tries to talk a little guy talk, a little hunting or baseball, it doesn't come out quite right. And he's so nuanced he's running not only as America's most famous war hero but also as America's most famous anti-war protester.

No, scrub that last bit. No one would believe it.

It's the likeability problem, and it seems to me that the more you know this guy, the less you like him.

Another thing that strikes me is the odd nostalgia for the September 10th world. The Democrats seem keen to remind us that, during the '90s, America was prosperous, and at peace. Well, maybe, but I'm sure December 6, 1941 looked pretty good from the perspective of 1943, too.

But, just as on 6 Dec 41, the Imperial Japanese Fleet was steaming towards Hawaii, the late 1990s were a time when a number of problems were steaming towards us, too. Al-Qaida was striking US targets overseas with relative impunity. The stock Market was topping off a bubble of "irrational exuberance" about the dotcoms. The Enron and Worldcom boys were playing fast and loose with there accounting, putting the savings and investments of millions of employees and stockholders at risk. There were lots of thunderclouds on the horizon, while we contented ourselves with wondering whether Gary Condit killed that intern with which he was having an affair.

The Democrats are promising a holiday from history. Now, that may be something extremely seductive, but it's not something they can realistically offer. Moreover, the last time we had it, in the 1990s, the Holiday came to a pretty depressing end.

For instance, it wasn't George W. Bush who damaged the Mideast peace process. It was suicide bombers blowing up women and children in pizzerias and on buses. George W. Bush doesn't control them. Our enemies do.

And that's a key point to remember: No matter how much we might want peace, no matter how much we desire an operational pause, or are fatigued with war, the decision to stop fighting doesn't lie with us. If our enemies want to kill and crush us, then we will be at war with them whether we wish to be or not. Pretending otherwise, as the Democrats seem to be doing in Boston, is the height of folly.

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Are you better off today?

John Podhoretz comments today on the risky Democrat ploy of playing the "Are you better off" game in this year's election.

The issues they're talking about really don't have the same impact that those Reagan talked about when running against Jimmy Carter. In fact, if truth be told, it would be a real double-edged sword:

"Is our country more united today?" Al Gore asked. "Or more divided? Has the promise of compassionate conservatism been fulfilled? Or do those words now ring hollow? For that matter, are the economic policies really conservative at all? Did you expect, for example, the largest deficits in history? One after another? And the loss of more than a million jobs?"

"In 1992 and 1996," Hillary Clinton said of her husband, "Americans chose a president who left our country in far better shape than when he took office."

"Our way is better," Bill Clinton said. "It worked better."

Did it? Or was it just the beneficiary of impeccable political timing?

What if Al Gore had won?

Had Al Gore been sworn in as president on Jan. 20, 2001, he would have been greeted by the very same recession that kicked off the Bush presidency. Enron and Global Crossing would have collapsed months later, just as they did in the Bush years. 9/11 would have been just as heavy a blow to the economy.

All the various phenomena that led to the recession and then to the very slow growth in 2002 and the first half of 2003 would have defeated the ability of any president to "cure" them.

Outsourcing would have been a big story under President Gore too. Job losses would have been a big story under President Gore. And the deficit would have ballooned to similar levels under President Gore — because despite Democratic claims to the contrary, the cumulative cost of the Republican tax cuts, which were designed to grow over time, has actually been relatively low.

So in reality, it can be argued that "your way" is what led us to the recession, the loss of over a million jobs, corporate corruption, intelligence failures and lack of imagination ending in 911, not to mention North Korea.

Is it really wise, then, to play this game when much of what went wrong can be traced right back to "your way?"

In fact, based on Al Gore's track record, it could be argued that if confronted with the same economic problems faced by the Bush administration, we'd still be in the recession soup.

I, for one, would argue that the economic condition of the United States would be far worse today under a Gore presidency, for a reason not frequently or commonly discussed. In both 2001 and 2003, President Bush followed the recommendation of his former economic aide Larry Lindsey. He decided to send every American household an advance on the tax refund it was guaranteed in the following year by the passage of the Bush tax cuts.

The first $30 billion went out in August 2001 — just weeks before the 9/11 attacks. That sudden flush of liquidity in the economy was of immeasurable help in keeping the nation from sliding into a depression as a result of the al Qaeda strike. It was unforeseen and unforeseeable, but it proved to be brilliant policy nonetheless.

In 2003, with the nation's economy slowing down again, Bush pushed through another tax-cut package that featured another $30 billion refund. That liquidity spike helped prime the pump for the explosive economic growth in the last two quarters of last year.

Yup, had we had President Al Gore, not a single solitary penny of tax cuts would have gone anywhere. Alan Greenspan has credited the speed of the recovery with those tax cuts, and the booming economy is giving lie to the Democrat claim that their way is better.

So they might want to reconsider the "are you better off" gambit. Because frankly, the answer is "given the alternative, you bet".

Posted by McQ at 10:37 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Convention Quotes - Night 1

Some snippets from last nights speeches at the Democrat convention which caught my ear. First Jimmy Carter:

In the meantime, the Middle East peace process has come to a screeching halt. For the first time since Israel became a nation, all former presidents, Democratic and Republican, have attempted to secure a comprehensive peace for Israel with hope and justice for the Palestinians.

The achievements of Camp David a quarter century ago and the more recent progress made by President Bill Clinton are now in peril.

Instead, violence has gripped the Holy Land, with the region increasingly swept by anti-American passions. This must change.

Elsewhere, North Korea's nuclear menace, a threat far more real and immediate than any posed by Saddam Hussein, has been allowed to advance unheeded, with potentially ominous consequences for peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

I'm not sure what Carter was smoking before his speech, but "violence has gripped the Holy Land?"

Where? Since Israel's unilateral withdrawl has begun and the wall has been going up, the intifada has all but ended. Violence is down ... way down.

The problem isn't with Israel but with apologists for the Palestinians like Carter. This is a region (read: Palestinians) which couldn't be more anti-American, a place where they danced in the streets on 911. What is Carter talking about?

As for North Korea, how has its "nuclear menace" been allowed to advance "unheeded" by this administration? It was certainly given lip service by the last administration as NoKo outfoxed them with promises while continuing to build toward nuclear weapons. But this administration has confronted the problem left by the last administration and engaged the region (unlike Kerry's plan to unilaterally engage NoKo) in confronting the NoKo nuclear problem. It seems to be on the road to success.

Always fun to hear a failed former president tell others how they should do their job.

Al Gore, on the other hand, was rewriting history as usual.

Let's make sure not only that the Supreme Court does not pick the next president, but also that this president is not the one who picks the next Supreme Court.

I agree Al. If we have to let's do precisely what we did last time and keep the Florida Supreme Court from changing election law on the fly.

We have to be crystal clear about the threat we face from terrorism. It is deadly. It is real. It is imminent.

But in order to protect our people, shouldn't we focus on the real source of this threat: the group that attacked us and is trying to attack us again -- al Qaeda, headed by Osama Bin Laden?

Wouldn't we be safer with a President who didn't insist on confusing al Qaeda with Iraq? Doesn't that divert too much of our attention away from the principal danger?

I delt with this yesterday, but obviously the Democrats are intent on pushing this theme as a "truth" regardless of the fact that going into Iraq was little if any distraction from going after al Qaeda. Apparently Al Gore's Vietnam tour of duty didn't endow him with the wealth of military knowledge John Kerry's did for him.

Clinton was, well, vintage Clinton. Charming, affable and dissembling to the max. I'm sure the party faithful missed the irony in this statement:

On the other hand, the Republicans in Washington believe that American should be run by the right people -- their people -- in a world in which America acts unilaterally when we can and cooperates when we have to.

They believe the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their economic, political and social views, leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on important matters like health care and retirement security.

Now, since most Americans aren't that far to the right, our friends have to portray us Democrats as simply unacceptable, lacking in strength and values. In other words, they need a divided America.

But we don't.

But you do. In fact, you just did the dividing Bill. The usual class warfare right there for anyone to see who can take the blinders off for a second and look.

Rich vs. poor, strong vs. weak, isolationist vs. globalist, unilateralist vs. cooperative.

It isn't the Republicans who are preaching about "two America's" on the stump, Bill, it's the Democrats. And it is critical to the Democrat's game plan that the divisions be perceived as real so they can exploit them as they always have in past.

I'd be interested to know whether Clinton thinks Washington should be run by the right people as well .... his people. The answer, of course, is "yes".

A night of red meat for the left (although not quite as vitriolic as in the past and thus more of a hamburger night in that regard instead of a steak) but not much new or of substance, at least for a political junkie. Pretty much what I expected. Pushing the myths, pushing the talking points, pushing the party line ... regardless of the truth. Welcome to the Democrat Convention.

Posted by McQ at 07:44 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 26, 2004

More on Taxation, complete with a shameless plug

Reader John F. observes in the comments to my earlier post:

What you say makes a lot of sense, but the current tax structure still makes it a political playhouse with the deck stacked against the taxpayer. What do you think about the efficacy of either a flat tax or the so-called fair tax, a tax on retail sales, only? Both would seem to simplify the Orwellian tax structure, and would seem to offer a boone to businesses of all stripes.

As it happens, I addressed this in my book, Slackernomics: Basic Economics for People Who Think Economics is Boring:

Under the National Sales Tax (I’ll just call it the NST, because I’m lazy and it’s shorter.), the personal income tax would be totally eliminated. No more Federal Income Tax withheld from your paycheck. No more IRS at all. No more scrambling to the post office on April 15th. The government would no longer have any business at all asking you nosy personal questions like how much money you made, and what you did with it. On the other hand, the price of almost everything in the country would rise by 20%.

Obviously, under the NST, poor people would be hit hard, unless a provision was made to exclude staple items like food, clothing, and shelter from the tax. Poor people spend a much larger percentage of their incomes just acquiring these basics.

Taxes that burden lower income earners more than they burden high wage earners are called regressive taxes. Taxes that place a proportionally higher burden on the richer members of society are called progressive taxes.

Assuming that the NST would exempt staple items and become more progressive (The "Fair Tax" has many of these exemptions to increase its progressivity), it might be a very effective tax for several reasons.

First, under the income tax code, the rich tend to pay less than their nominal tax rate, because they have the ability to shelter income in ways that many poorer people do not. They also tend to buy many more things, because they have the money to do so. The NST, by taxing consumption instead of income, would not allow them to avoid taxes in the same way the income tax does.

Second, there is a small but significant portion of the population that makes its living in, well, shady ways. Their income is never taxed, because they do not report it. The transactions that are not reported to the government, and incomes derived from those transactions, are said to be the underground economy or black market. The current estimates are that the underground economy is generating income that could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues. Many of these underground transactions are made in cash, though, and are difficult to trace, so it’s hard to tell what the actual size of the black market is. But if we assume that the US has a $10 trillion economy, and 10% of that is hidden payments for cocaine and hookers—or doing plumbing or construction work “under the table”—that’s an extra $1 trillion floating around out there that would be good for $200 to $300 billion in government revenues.

I want to stress here that I certainly have no personal knowledge whatsoever about any black market dealings of any kind.

The people who work in the underground economy do not pay income tax, but they buy goods and services like the rest of us. Under the NST, those goods and services would be taxed, and revenues would be increased.

Additionally, there is a generally accepted economic rule that says if you tax something, you get less of it. The income tax—and the proposed Flat Tax—taxes production. The NST taxes consumption. If your goal is to reduce consumption and increase savings, while at the same time removing the burden on production, then the NST is probably the best way to do this.

Under the NST, people who get raises or who get new, higher paying jobs actually get to take home that extra money, instead of having it eaten away by being put into a higher income tax bracket. This increases the incentive to earn more by producing more. At the same time, higher prices tend to make people consume less, freeing up more money for savings, which, in turn, can be invested.

On the whole, I prefer an NST. Not only for economic reasons, which I find compelling, but also for philosophical ones that I find even more compelling.

The main problem with a personal income tax is that it allows the government too much power over the individual. It requires that I report, under penalty of law, the exact amount of my income from all sources. If I take anything other than the standard exemption, I must give the government an increasingly detailed view of my personal finances.

That, frankly, is none of the government's business.

Equally disturbing is that the income tax allows the government to pick and choose between favored groups or desired social outcomes by alterations of the tax code. Large businesses that are able to spend money on lobbyists can collect all sorts of tax breaks and loopholes through manipulation of the tax code.

Politicians seem completely unable to resist monkeying with the tax code to produce politically desired social or financial outcomes. As a result, the tax code is a compendium of special interest tax breaks, arcane finance rules, and an impentrable mass of regulations. Call the IRS two separate times asking the same question about the same tax problem, and the chances are, you'll get two different answers.

As a result, it is almost impossible to fill out a moderately complicated tax return without violating some arcane tax provision that government can use, if they desire to do so, to bring you to heel. In my view, the personal income tax is a potential tool of tyranny.

I am far more comfortable with the NST. It immediately liberates the citizenry from any personal financial oversight from the government, which automatically makes it more conducive to personal liberty. The need for citizens to obtain accountants, tax attorneys, or the services of H&R Block would be completely eliminated. More importantly, the temptation to call down audits upon unpopular government critics would be ended completely.

Moreover, it completely--or, at the very least, substatially--eliminates the government's ability to use the tax code to produce political or social results desirable to the government.

Needless to say, such a tax system would also substantially reduce the size of the IRS, hence, the size of the federal government as a whole.

So, count me as a big NST supporter.

UPDATE (McQ): There is a NST movement out there which can be found at this link (FairTax.org). If you're interested take a look. From the website:

Simply put, the FairTax replaces the way we're currently taxed - based on our annual income - with a tax on goods and services. The FairTax is a voluntary “consumption" tax: the more you buy, the more you pay in taxes, the less you buy, the less you pay in taxes.
Posted by Dale Franks at 07:54 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Clinton on Bush

Interesting Brownstein column in the LA Times today where Clinton steps up criticism of Bush:

"The American people can decide who they think is right and wrong, but the Bush administration believed Iraq was far and away the biggest security problem of the country, despite the fact that there was more support for Al Qaeda within Pakistan and now we know more contacts with Iran,"

Two obvious points. Pakistan cooperated and is still cooperating, so the point of Clinton's critique concerning Pakistan has absolutely no merit. Second obvious point, which was clearly pointed out in the 911 report is that Bush did not believe "Iraq was far and away the biggest security problem of the country" as is witnessed by the attack on Afghanistan a year before Iraq. As reported in the 911 report:

Powell said that President Bush did not give Wolfowitz’s argument “much weight.” Though continuing to worry about Iraq in the following week, Powell said, President Bush saw Afghanistan as the priority. [...] Iraq was not even on the table during the September 15 afternoon session, which dealt solely with Afghanistan.

Apparently Clinton and Maureen Dowd have been comparing notes. It'd be nice if they'd consult a credible source.

He's just as exercised about Bush's doctrine of military preemption. "I think it's a very tricky, slippery slope," he said. "I think you have to be under an imminent threat to justify any kind of preemptive attack. First of all, it was never realistic because we are not going to go to war with Iran or North Korea. I think it's hard to even think of another case."

We have to be under imminent threat to justify any kind of preemptive attack? Well tell us, Mr. Clinton, what "imminent threat" did we suffer under as concerns Kosovo? This reeks of the usual Clintonian redefinition ploy.... the matter depending on what the definition of "is" is. Its the ultimate in selective memory and redfining his own "preemptive" tactics in the Balkins as something other than what they were.

"On balance," Clinton said, "Bush domestic policy is to cut taxes no matter what it does to the deficit and to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of people who share his values and economic interests. Abroad, his policy is to act alone whenever we can and cooperate whenever we have to.

This, of course, is simply pure and utter nonsense as concerns tax cuts. As has been shown here at Q and O, every one of Clinton's marginal rates was lowered in the Bush tax cuts, which means, quite simply, that it wasn't a tax cut for the rich, but a tax cut for all tax brackets. The spending, however, is inexcusable as far as I'm concerned and needs to be condemned as well as reigned in .... now.

A better way of stating Clinton's last characterization is to say Bush will act alone if he has too when the security of the US is at stake. That's what makes him a leader, something neither Clinton, or for that matter Kerry, seem to be able to grasp. But to characterize the Bush foreign policy as a preference for going it alone is just nonsense. The coalition of the willing simply puts lie to that assertion.

"Kerry's policy at home," Clinton continued, "is to say that we ought to have a government that has more fiscal responsibility and takes more initiative in education and healthcare, changes the energy and environment policy of the country to generate jobs and improve the environment and combat global warming. Abroad, he thinks we should cooperate whenever we can and act alone whenever we need to."

Well that's the Democrat line anyway. Nothing in all of the pandering Kerry has done during his campaign speaks to "more fiscal responsibility", especially when he speaks about healthcare or his other programs.

And its interesting that the guy who was charged by Congress in 1990 to come up with a strategic plan to address the possibilty of global warming never did so in the 8 years his administration was in Washington DC, while the Bush administration put the first ever plan together to do so, as well as spending more on the study of global warming that Japan and Europe combined. Yet Clinton jabs Bush concerning environmental policy? Pathetic.

But he believes Bush has taken significantly wrong turns in the war on terrorism, partly by downplaying the U.S. role in brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace, mostly by shifting resources and energy from Al Qaeda to the invasion of Iraq, especially given the global divisions over the war.

"We have an overstressed military, and we have committed far more resources to Iraq than to Al Qaeda," Clinton said pointedly. "I don't think every American president would have made that decision."

A couple of points here. Yes we have an overstressed military at this point, but its not because its in Iraq trying to rebuild it vs. chasing al Qaeda as Clinton would like to pretend (although it is due partly to the massive cuts in manpower for which Clinton is responsible).

Again Clinton's lack of understanding of the miltary shows itself. The war against al Qaeda is not going to be fought by conventional military forces, and those are the forces in Iraq. Its going to be fought by unconventional forces, law enforcment and intelligence agents (conventional forces in Afghanistan now are there primarily in a stability role). And those are who are in Afghanistan hunting al Qaeda. To continue to make the argument that Iraq detracted from going after al Qaeda is simply disingenuous.

Believe it or not the military can allocate assets, prioritize and multi-task. The fact that we're in Iraq, for instance, doesn't stop the missions in 147 other countries around the world where we have military missions in right now.

Would Clinton have invaded? As president, he portrayed former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as a threat in vivid language conservatives often quote today. And apart from asking whether Bush was moving too fast, he didn't publicly challenge his successor's decision at the time. Now, without answering definitively, Clinton strongly implies he would not have launched the war.

"I would have let [U.N. inspectors] finish their work, and then I would have decided," he said. "But the factors in my thinking would have been how well we were doing in Afghanistan stabilizing the entire country, and what our reasonable prospects of getting [Al Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden were. I still think he was the biggest threat to the country."

I'd love to know how he'd have "let" the inspectors finish their work when he'd have had absolutely no control over them being able to do so. While his rhetoric now suggests he would have not gone in, his rhetoric and that of others second-guessing Democrats sure was singing a different tune in 1998.

One other thing to remember .... Clinton is now singing this tune with perfect 20/20 hindsight and the benefit of knowing what he nor Bush knew before the invasion of Iraq. And that makes it just more in a seeming gale of political hot air rather than a valid critique of the actions taken by the Bush administration.

But then, keeping perspective, it is the election season.

Posted by McQ at 01:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Argument Against Tax Cuts

Bruce Bartlett, a supply-side prince who you'd think would usually be the last guy to argue against tax cuts, is now doing so in the Washington Times.

Bartlett's arguments are enormously important. To understand why, we need to look at one of the central theses of supply-side economics, the Laffer Curve:

The Laffer Curve
The Laffer Curve

What San Diego economist Art Laffer came up with is the idea--which the curve above illustrates--that there are always two tax rates that will provide the same amount of revenue to the government. If tax rates are too high, economic activity and economic growth are discouraged, which leads to lower tax revenues. If tax rates are too low, economic growth is encouraged, but the government's tax revenues are still decreased because they are not extracting revenues through taxation. Hence if tax rates are at point A or point B, they will produce the same amount of revenue, even though the rates may be quite different. So, there is, theoretically, an equilibrium point at which tax revenues are maximized, but economic growth is not hindered by excessive taxation. So, the goal of supply-side tax cuts was to fix tax rates as close as possible to this equilibrium point.

Now, this isn't as easy to do as it sounds. Notice that the curve doesn't show any actual hard and fast numbers, other than a 0% and 100% tax rate. The equilibrium point really falls at that rate at which the population consents to be taxed. During times of war, the population might consent to very high levels of taxation without any slowing of economic growth, because they perceive it to be a necessary adjunct to a great struggle for national survival. In that case, the equilibrium point might be way over on the right side of the graph. In peacetime, of course, the population may not wish to have high levels of taxation. Rates that were perfectly acceptable in wartime might in peacetime cause people to refrain from economic activity, because the rewards for doing so are too highly taxed. The equilibrium point has shifted to the left side of the graph, and the high tax rates are now hindering economic growth.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan made an excellent argument for tax cuts, for a number of reasons. First, there were a multitude of tax brackets that raised tax rates all the way out to 70% of income. Second, none of the tax brackets were indexed to inflation. This became especially troubling as inflation ran rampant in the 1970s. Wage increases that were barely able to keep up with the rising cost of living would drive workers into ever-higher tax brackets, thus reducing their real income.

At the same time, economic growth was slowing throughout the 70's, leading to an economic condition called "stagflation": stagnant economic growth and high inflation. This was seen as paradoxical, because one of the usual causes for inflation (outside of the government going crazy with the printing presses at the US Mint) was too rapid economic growth, as wages and prices rose because production was insufficient to keep up with demand. Low rates of economic growth were supposed to lead to disinflation, as demand for goods and services dropped. Instead the 1970s saw the worst of both worlds with the stagflation phenomenon.

So, the supply-side argument at the time was quite straightforward. Supply-siders argued compellingly that inflation was caused by an excessively loose monetary policy, and that stagnant growth was caused by high levels of taxation.

Appointing Paul Volcker to chair the Fed solved the first problem. He simply turned off the money spigot at the Fed. The process made 1981-1982 an unpleasant couple of years, as inflation was wrung from the economy by increasing the Fed Funds rate to 19% (it's at 1.25% now), but the rate of inflation declined from 12% in 1980 to 4% in 1983, and its trended down to around 3% or less since.

Electing Ronald Reagan solved the second. Reagan's tax plan, which was implemented in 1981, reduced the number of tax brackets to three, indexed the brackets to inflation, and cut the top rate from 70% to 28%. So, as soon as the Fed let up on the monetary brakes, the economy went off on a tear from 1983 to 1990--the longest peacetime economic expansion in US history, up to that time. And, following a mild recession in 1990, the economy again began to expand throughout the 1990s, until 2001.

But, as Bartlett points out today, the Republicans seemed to have learned the wrong lessons from Ronald Reagan's tax cuts. The whole point of Reagan's tax cuts were to produce an economically neutral tax structure, not tax-cutting for the sake of tax cutting. Now, the Republicans seem to have concluded that tax cuts, in and of themselves, are a good thing. That is by no means, true, however. Tax cuts may be politically popular, but they may also be economically unwise. Political popularity, of course, is always a compelling argument to politicians, though, so Republicans have begun to make "tax cuts" of one kind or another an annual event.

The 2001 tax cuts were a good idea. Eliminating taxation on dividends is a good, pro-investment, and hence, pro-growth tax policy. Cutting capital gains taxes is even better. Lowering income tax rates was a good idea, too, since based on the historic record, a 36% upper bracket was a skoche too high.

Since then, though, the race towards tax breaks has not been caused by a race toward economic neutrality, but for tax cuts as means of buttressing Republican political popularity. We've done rebates, and kiddie tax credits (It's for the children!), and a whole host of things that don't provide any long-term economic incentives to savings, investment, or growth. That's just simple revenue cutting.

Now, I'm certainly not against cutting revenue. In fact, I'm all for it if it would force the government to tighten it's belt, too. But that isn't what's happening. The growth in government spending seems to have been completely unrestrained by the reductions in revenue. And spending growth has been increasing not by a little bit, but by a substantial margin. So, where is the money going to come from to pay for all that extra spending?

Republicans would like to tell us that--as Reagan proved--cutting taxes increases revenue, so it'll all come out in the wash. The trouble with that argument, however, is that it assumes that we are still way over on the right side of the equilibrium point as far as taxes are concerned. Reagan cut taxes at a time when tax rates were indisputably on the right side of the Laffer Curve. Arguing that we're still there today, when, two decades later, we are almost precisely where taxes were in 1982, strikes me as a pretty foolish argument. I think we are at best spot on the equilibrium point, and more likely a bit to the left of it. And I wouldn't argue that was a bad thing, or that additional tax cuts wouldn't be nice if we reduced spending at the same time.

But cutting revenues and increasing spending, as we're doing now, is a recipe for fiscal disaster. There are still a lot of things the government has to do. We need a State Department to talk to foreigners. If that fails, we need a Defense Department to kill them. In a heavily urbanized society, we need a national transportation infrastructure, to ensure that we have enough Brussels sprouts for everybody in town.

But that--and whatever else the government does--all costs money, which means that someone has to pay for it. At the moment, we seem to be deciding that that someone will be our kids and grandkids. And I don't think they're going to be too happy about it. We've already saddled them with trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities in Social Security alone that will require our kids' FICA withholding alone to be somewhere around 33% of their salaries. We could go back to the 1960s rates of 70%, but, since that would result in a tax rate of 103%, paying one's tax bill would seem to be problematic. Unless, of course, everyone stopped working altogether, in which case they'd owe no taxes at all. But, take a look at the Laffer and see how much revenue a 100% tax rate brings in.

And, it's not as if the government isn't chock full of stuff that we can live without. What, for example, does the Rural Utilities Service do? I lived for two years in darkest North Dakota, happily catching the HBO feed from the G3 communications satellite. I think I can safety say that when you can watch satellite TV in Kief, ND, the RUS's job is pretty much done.

But, if you want government services, and apparently we do, then they have to be paid for, which makes tax cutting for tax cutting's sake is a prescription for fiscal disaster. I mean, I suppose it would make everybody happy to cut taxes to 0%, while delivering the same government services. But, that's the fiscal policy of Never-Neverland, not a rational commercial republic.

In the real world, trying to do what we're doing now means that, in the not-too-distant future, we will be looking at massive tax increases, to pay off the party we're having today. Even Bruce Bartlett thinks so.

UPDATE: This question has been asked by Gary and the Samoyeds (from the sig, it's unclear whther Gary is asking, or whether one of the dogs has a keen interest in fiscal policy):

Well, what about further rate cuts? Not credits or exemptions. Would trimming the top rate to 31% (where it was when Clinton took office) increase or decrease revenue?

Or, for that matter, what about corporate rates? Have they been raised or cut since the 80s?

First, personal tax rates have already been reduced to 31%, as part of the 2001 tax cuts, and inheritance taxes have also been cut. Corporate income tax rates have remained fairly steady, but taxes on dividends and capital gains have been cut.

The question of whether a cut in marginal tax rates from 36% to 31% will cause revenue to rise or fall is essentially unknowable. Bill Clinton's 1993 tax increase took the top rate from 31% to 36%. Despite all the bitching and moaning from supply-siders at the time that raising taxes would lead to irreparable budgetary harm as revenues collapsed, the exact opposite happened. Between 1993 and 2000, Federal receipts rose from $1.23 trillion to $1.88 trillion1, an increase of 52.3%.

In the 1990s, the information revolution and the huge increases in productivity it engendered more than compensated for any effect the Clinton tax policies might have had. Indeed, while it is true that revenues for the Federal Government grew by 28.4% from 1983-1988, following the recessions of the early 80s, that performance is worse than any six-year period of the Clinton administration. Indeed, in the six years after the Clinton tax increases, revenue grew by 36%. Supply-Siders are fond of blaming the tax increases of President George H.W. Bush for the 1991 recession, but have more difficulty explaining why the Clinton tax increases didn't have the same effect.

So, when tax rates are already at fairly low levels, the result of playing around with a few percentage points on marginal rates is unclear.

What made the Kennedy tax cuts so effective in the 1960s when the top rate was cut from 90% to 70%, or the Reagan cuts in 1981 so effective was that they implemented large, structural changes in both the rates and brackets of taxation. In both cases, the changes were designed to provide incentives to savings, investment, and economic growth.

That situation no longer obtains. Tax cuts do not provide revenue growth forever. If that was true, the Federal government could cut tax rates to 0% and would be rolling in dough.

Still, at least that kind of tax cut would provide an economic incentive towards economic growth. The trouble is that the types of tax cuts the Republicans have been pressing for since 1991 neither increase revenue nor provide any incentives for growth. They merely reduce revenues. That isn't a prescription for success.
__________
1 All figures are calculated using constant dollars to account for inflation.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:54 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Weekly QandO Roundup (bumped)

Readers: I'll be doing this Weekly QandO Roundup on a fairly regular (weekend) basis, but I thought I should bump it up for this Monday, so weekday readers can get an idea of what we've written this past week. Click the "excerpt" buttons to read a brief excerpt of each post.

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We post a lot here at QandO, and I sometimes worry that the barrage may push some valuable posts down and out of sight. With that in mind, I'd like to do a bit of a roundup post of interesting posts from the week. If you see anything of interest, click it and read.

* "The perspective of history and Iraq" (McQ) - A little "then and now" perspective.

* "The discipline of the free market" (Jon Henke) - a look at the inherent human weaknesses in a free market.

* "Sudan: The UN Leaps Into Inaction" (Dale Franks) - While people die, the UN is as useful as ever.

* "Krugmania" (Jon Henke) - Krugman demagogues, and Democratic bloggers cheer what they previously professed to despise.

* "Webmastering is hard...." (Dale Franks) - Funny, how the Joe Wilson links all died at JohnKerry.com.

* "There she goes (to Washington) again..." (Jon Henke) - Cynthia McKinney is back in Washington, and just as weird as ever.

* "Its a right-wing smear" (McQ) - Joe Wilson defends himself, lies. Yes, again.

* "Rationing Health Care" (McQ) - With scarcity come rationing. Even in health care.

* "Internationalization" (Jon Henke) - John Kerry's ace-in-the-hole (international support) is looking pretty impotent.

* "Partisanship" (Jon Henke) - We're becoming polarized, which is good for the Parties, but bad for facts. It's probably inevitable, though.

* "Fix The Military, But Do It Right" (McQ) - The "Peace dividend" of the 90s is being paid for today. McQ offers some solutions going forward.

* "Supply, Demand, and Prices: It's not just a good idea; it's the law." (Dale Franks) - Congress trying to shove through a drug law that is bad from both a Constitutional and economic standpoint. Dale explains.

* "9/11 Commission Report: Iraq" (Jon Henke) - A comprehensive look at the Iraq references in the 9/11 Report.

* "Collision Course with Iran" (Dale Franks) - Iran is a tougher military nut to crack than was Iraq. But it's different, too, and we have different options.

* "Oh, that liberal media" (Jon Henke) - Chris Matthews sets up a blog, and the blogroll is (was, initially) a surprisingly transparent ideological snapshot.

* "Faster, faster, more, more! Stop!" (Jon Henke) - Josh Marshall complains that the administration won't release documents. Until they do. Then, he complains about that, too.

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It's like our own little Carnival of QandO. Read around to see what you've missed from the past week.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rights v. rights

Greg Swann takes proper aim at the NRA and this bit of nonsense from them:

Self-defense took a big blow this week when the Utah Supreme Court upheld the right of America Online (AOL), America`s largest on-line service provider, to fire three employees whose firearms were stored in the trunks of their cars in the parking lot of an AOL call center in Ogden, Utah. In a decision that diminishes rights guaranteed under both the Utah and the U.S. Constitution, the court acknowledged the individual right to keep and bear arms, but said the right of a business to regulate its own property is more important!

Swann points out:

It's the same damn issue as the Aladdin, the right of the owners of a property to control what happens on that property. In a sane society, you could yell anything you wanted to in your own damn theater. You could store anything you wanted to in your own damn garage. But if you agree voluntarily to conditions of employment on another man's property, then run to the legislature to coerce that man and break your agreement--then you are the bad guy from whom people should seek to defend themselves.

Its cases like this where the NRA get themselves into trouble. As Swann says, if the rules are in place and you accept those rules, then you voluntarily give up that "right" based on your consent to the rules (in this case stating no firearm is allowed on AOL property). Not at all that different than Ronstadt and the Aladdin.

If we agree that the Aladdin owner, by his right of ownership, has the final say-so as to what is and isn't acceptable on his stage, then the same principle applies to the AOL parking lot, especially since the rules of employment, agreed to by these AOL employees, expressly forbid what they were caught doing.

H/T Billy Beck

Posted by McQ at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bigotry and hypocrisy

The New Hampsire Union Leader comes to the stunning conclusion that Linda Ronstadt is a bigot.

Wow, wonder what tipped them off?

“This is an election year, and I think we’re in desperate trouble and it’s time for people to speak up and not pipe down. It’s a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Republican or fundamental Christian. It can cloud my enjoyment. I’d rather not know.”

Imagine the storm from the left if, say, Dennis Miller had said "Its a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Democrat or a Jew."

We certainly wouldn't be hearing much about First Amendment rights from the left, would we?

Posted by McQ at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Internal Consistency

Mark Steyn is wondering how the debate over the War on Terror has descended into nitpicking about who did what three or four years ago, rather than about what to do in the next four years.

Case in point: former GA Senator Max Cleland, who, last week, declared that President Bush invaded Iraq because "he basically concluded his daddy was a failed president" and he "wanted to be Mr. Macho Man" so he "flat-out lied." This would, by the way, be the same Max Cleland who voted in favor of the Iraq War, and who ran campaign adds in 2002 that declared, "Max Cleland is a respected leader on national security who supports the president on Iraq."

But, somehow, there is no indictable past when it comes to Democrats. Kerry voted for the war, too? No, no, you misunderstand, Kerry voted to authorize the war as a bargaining chip, to show how serious we were, not to actually, you know, go to war. There was a whole nuance thing there that you're, like, totally missing. Kerry has voted consistently to defund the military to one extent or another for his entire career? What a scurrilous attack on the patriotism of a man who volunteered to serve in Vietnam, and who came home with three purple hearts!

Even more importantly, the Democrats are pretty much immune to the type of hypocrisy charges that are routinely flung at Republicans. In a world where Bill Clinton can lie under oath about getting some pork-snorkeling from a low-ranking intern in the oval office during the business day, and still get to serve out his term, leaving with a final honor guard and troop review after the inauguration of a new president, the careers of Newt Gingrich and Craig Livingston self-destruct instantly because they were getting a little on the side, and we didn't hear any of that "it's only sex" business in their defense from Democrats. Perhaps that explains why, in the "killing young party girl campaign workers" competition, Ted Kennedy leads George W. Bush by 1-0, yet Teddy still gets to be the tireless champion of women's rights, while W ends up as the patriarchy poster boy.

When your party espouses no transcendant moral principles, I guess, there's never anything to be hypocritical about.

The thing is, though, that all this stuff from the past--as interesting as it is, and as important as it may be to learn from it, in order to keep from making the same mistakes in the future--is secondary. Because, really, it doesn't matter if John Kerry got his three purple hearts from nicking himself while shaving because a nearby mortar burst made him flinch. It doesn't matter if George W. Bush missed a few months of weekend guard duty because they would cut too deeply into his drinking and driving practice.

What matters right now--and it's the only thing that truly matters--is who's trying to kill us, how we can stop them, and how we can kill them. And the Democrats simply can't fight on that ground.

Because their answers are the same old September 10th answers that led us straight to 911 in the first place. Make the French happy. Make the UN happy. Try to ensure we never use the military in any way that might conceivably cause us to suffer any casualties. Defer and delay action. Treat terrorism as criminal problem, and be sure you can get an indictment before apprehending anyone, because having to let them go later would be embarrassing.

You can stick that in a nice dress and teach it to dance, but it's still the same old whore of a policy the Democrats have been bringing to the national security party ever since George McGovern. They know it, we know it, and the American people know it, as Bob Dole would say.

No wonder they seem more concerned about picking apart the Bush Administration's distant past, rather than telling us where they expect to take us into the future.

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BuzzFlash gets it wrong

In commenting upon Margaret Cho being "uninvited" from performing at the premier Gay, Lesbian and Transgender event being thrown at the time of the Democratic Convention on Monday night its apparent Buzzflash doesn't understand the difference at work here:

Apparently, some Democrats got skittish because the Republicans made their usual double standard whines about a raunchy Whoopi Goldberg riff at a New York Kerry fundraiser. As we noted just on Saturday, the media and the Republicans have an inexplicable hypocrisy when it comes to comic values. Dennis Miller can imply that Kerry and Edwards are gay (not that it would matter, right), but let a Democrat go down and dirty on Bush and we have a moral values crisis! Hey, Dennis, was that Wayne Newton we saw you pawing?

Gee maybe I just missed it, but I don't recall George Bush wandering on to Dennis Miller's show and saying that he "conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country", ala John Kerry at WhoopiFest.

Do you?

Posted by McQ at 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry's pitch

The Christian Science Monitor has an editorial today which I believe distills the upcoming race nicely:

The main purpose of this week's Democratic convention is to sell John Kerry as a commander in chief. His Thursday night speech, especially, will be the sales pitch of his career.

He's in a dead heat with George Bush, and while polls show him beating Mr. Bush on leading issues of the economy and healthcare, he doesn't seem able to pull past the incumbent "war president" on combating terrorism. Neither can he best Bush in the category of "strong and decisive leader," qualities desirable of a president in wartime.

Kerry must define himself as a war-time leader that is strong on defense. That's an uphill slog given his anti-war rhetoric during the Vietnam era and his rather liberal record as concerns defense matters during his Senate career.

Additonally he's rarely, if ever, shown leadership during that Senate career. No major committee chairmanships and an attendence record which would get him sent to the principle's office were he in school.

This is why you hear so much about his 120 days in Vietnam. It is all he has to point to in terms of "leadership" and "command". Even that has a multitude of detractors as well as questions concerning the Purple Hearts he received.

Mr. Kerry and the Democrats are well aware of their vulnerability. Terrorism and Iraq compete with the economy as the country's No. 1 concerns. They plan to use this week's convention to showcase the decorated Vietnam War veteran not only as a courageous war hero who understands combat from the perspective of the troops but as a strong leader capable of running a war. Security plays an unusually large role in this year's Democratic platform, with the party pledging to increase the military by 40,000 troops, and to stay the course in Iraq to prevent a failed state and terrorist nest.

By November, it is my prediction, the economy will no longer play well for Kerry (its not playing that well now), which leaves him with the "War Time President" issue and not much else. The Democrat platform really doesn't do a good job of differentiating Democrats from Republicans this time around.

The issue which remains at the forefront for all is 911 and Iraq. The War on Terror defines this election, and the only way John Kerry can win it when it comes down to the moment of truth in the voting booth, is to have convinced enough of the voters that he's a better leader and will make a better commander-in-chief than George Bush.

The CSM believe the following is the difference Kerry must make which will work toward establishing a better model of leadership and command:

Kerry claims he would work more closely with US allies than Bush has. In the lead-up to the Iraq war, Bush alienated several key allies, such as France and Germany. With the recent transfer of limited authority to Iraqis and the drive toward Iraqi elections, those tensions have slackened. Bush has also been forced to seek more allied help. Yet his record of ignoring allies in antiterrorism policies still hurts him, while Kerry would offer a fresh start.

Frankly I see a little selective memory here on the part of the CSM. Bush didn't so much alienate key allies as run into a bloc with significant interests in the contiuned existence of Iraq under Saddam. And as we've outlined here on Q and O, there are numerous reasons those supposed "key" allies wouldn't go along. Few of those reasons had to do with the US's interest in regime change in Iraq for security reasons. That, however, was the US's reason for prosecuting war against Iraq. What Bush refused to do was allow the perceived threat against the US and action to remedy that situation to be held hostage by our "key" allies. Whether you agree that his actions against Iraq were right or wrong, the point in question is critical to the role of a US commander-in-chief.

So the question one must ask, if this is the principle difference between Bush and Kerry on this issue, is will a Kerry presidency suddenly find those "key" allies coming to our side and our way of thinking? Kerry seems to think so.

I'd have to give the answer as a resounding "no" for reasons outlined and referenced above.

The CSM then asks a key question of its own which is a natural follow-on to the question I've asked:

A key question for the future, though, is whether Kerry would hesitate to take action if many allies objected to a proposed US course, such as bombing Iran's nuclear facilities. Bush waited months for the UN to approve war on Iraq, but then lined up only a few allies, and went in without the UN flag. How long would Kerry have waited? And how much will he tailor US interests to the interests of allies in future antiterrorist plans?

If I'm not mistaken Israel has already said they would bomb such a facility out of existence if built, but the question the example raises is crucial. Will Kerry hesitate to act in the best interest of the US if he's unable to garner the support of the UN or "key" allies?

I think all indications point to a yes to that answer. Again, statements he's made in the past and during the campaign indicate a belief on his part that we shouldn't act without that sanction. In my opinion that is a truly dangerous policy in light of the realities of the War on Terror. Our commander-in-chief must reserve the right to defend the US through unilateral action if necessary.

So Kerry has a tough sales job ahead of him. Regardless of his 30+ year old 120 day combat tour his record after that has been anything but awe inspiring in terms of leadership in general and leadership specifically in defense or security matters.

Kerry casts his approach to security as more "thoughtful" and "effective" than the president's. But that perhaps reinforces voter perceptions that he's not strong and decisive enough. His checkered Senate voting record doesn't help: "no" on the Gulf War during Bush I, "yes" on the Iraq War during Bush II, and "no" to $87 billion in military spending to support the war in Iraq.

He has explanations for these variations, but apparently they aren't getting through. As millions watch, he'll get another crack at that.

In fact his approach to security revolves more around consensus with "key" allies than facing the fact that his sole job as President and Commander-in-chief is to protect America regardless of the opinion or participation of "key" allies. It is my opinion that most Americans believe that to be very important point in terms of the policies of a commander-in-chief. It is this difference with Bush that Kerry has to overcome. He's yet to be able to plausibly make an argument which does so, and as The CSM points out, he'll get his big chance this week.

It'll be interesting to see how he does.

Posted by McQ at 09:16 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Opportunitarianism

I tend to give little attention to meta-criticism of the politics of one party from partisans of the opposing party. Both Republicans and Democrats tend to paint each other in less than objective terms, and from a very different set of assumptions. It may be good red meat for the partisans, but it is rarely useful analysis.

Having said that, I find this commentary from Jesse Taylor very insightful...

I have to admit, I've always been a bit confused by the Bush Administration's attitude towards government? It's good when it does some things that interfere in people's lives, bad when it does others. But that badness and goodness doesn't really seem to stem from any ideological principle. They're not economic libertarians. They're certainly not social libertarians. They're more...opportunarians, to coin an awkward phrase that will almost certainly never be used again.
He's really only wrong about one thing: "opportunitarians" should be used again...and is, here. It's a good description of the neoconservative political ideology, in which traditional conservative principles of "smaller government" and a limited role for government are subservient to the very real--and very compromising--demands of electoral politics. Neoconservatives see this expansion of government as "natural, indeed inevitable"--certainly a defensible position--and seek to work within that framework for more marginal gains.

Thus, what Jesse complains about....a party focused on utilitarian political goals, rather than principle. It's uncomfortable to both conservatives/libertarians--who prefer a bit of principle in their politics--and to liberals, who dislike a moving target.

It remains to be seen whether the neoconservatives can gather enough of a coalition to make this opportunitarianism a permanent aspect of US politics. The alternative is a decisive fracture in the Republican Party....a break between the social conservatives, economic conservatives, libertarians, and moderates.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Maureen Dowd - literate irrelevance

There is very little upon which both the right and left side of the blogosphere agree, but there is one: Maureen Dowd is an astounding hack, and the only explanation for her presence on the NYTimes op-ed page involves some very compromising pictures of Arthur Sulzberger Jr and a less-than-reputable (probably) vertebrate.

Dowd's dedication to accuracy is as legendary as that of Michael Moore, and her pursuit of style over substance makes her columns as politically important as a fashion show. A bad one.

Her latest column is prima facie evidence. Beginning with a litany of current events that make her uncomfortable, she writes....

Call me crazy, Mr. President, but I don't feel any safer.

The nation's mesmerizing new best seller, the 9/11 commission report, lays bare how naked we still are against an attack, and how vulnerable we are because of the time and money the fuzzy-headed Bush belligerents wasted going after the wrong target.[emphasis added]

There are two problems with this:
  1. So far as I am aware, the President has not promised Maureen Dowd a rose garden. The world is dangerous and will continue to be so, whether our next President is George W Bush, John Kerry, Bill Clinton, or SafetyPup the Safety Dog. That Maureen Dowd has just recognized this since 09/11/01 is dispositive of nothing.
  2. (and most importantly) The 9/11 Report--the very report Maureen Dowd cites as evidence of " how vulnerable we are"--states: "Because of offensive actions against al Qaeda since 9/11, and defensive actions to improve homeland security, we believe we are safer today".

...which, in the context of an op-ed focusing on the 9/11 report and the question of whether we are safer or not--seems relevant to me. And it only gets worse....

The report offers vivid details on our worst fears. Instead of focusing on immediately hitting back at Osama, Bush officials indulged their idiotic idée fixe on Saddam and ignored the memo from their counter-terrorism experts dismissing any connection between the religious fanatic bin Laden and the secular Hussein.
Remember that? Remember how, immediately after 9/11, instead of attacking Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, we invaded Iraq?

No? Funny, I remember us invading Afghanistan, too. In fact, as evidence, she cites the fact that Rumsfeld mentioned the possibility of striking Saddam, along with Bin Laden. Left unmentioned is the fact that he wrote that prior to our discovery of who was behind 9/11...at a time when we were making contingency plans for everybody who could have been behind 9/11. Seems relevant, no?

And, as regards her assertion that "Bush officials indulged their idiotic idée fixe on Saddam" and ignored the lack of proof of connection between Iraq and 9/11.....well, Maureen must have also missed this bit from the 9/11 report...

Powell said that President Bush did not give Wolfowitz’s argument “much weight.” Though continuing to worry about Iraq in the following week, Powell said, President Bush saw Afghanistan as the priority. [...] Iraq was not even on the table during the September 15 afternoon session, which dealt solely with Afghanistan.
Later in the column, she takes on the generous job of reverse-fisking herself, writing that, if it weren't for the Iraq war, "they could have stomped Osama in Tora Bora. Now it's too late. Al Qaeda has become a state of mind."

Though, in the immediately preceding paragraph, she cites the 9/11 Commission Report, which states that Bin Laden's death "would not end terror. His message of inspiration to a new generation of terrorists would continue."

So, if I'm to understand Dowd, it's now "too late" to stop the spread of terrorism by killing Bin Laden....though, killing Bin Laden earlier wouldn't have stopped the spread of terrorism, anyway. Whatever. Either way, it's Bush's fault.

And that is Maureen Dowd. Literate irrelevance.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:27 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 25, 2004

"Am I at the right rally?"

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Posted by McQ at 06:52 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Why aren't they telling this story?

Reading through this week's issue of Business Week, I came across this letter to the magazine in the Readers Report section:

If this is all true, why in the world aren't the Republicans out there telling this story to anyone who'll listen?

Again we're spending more on studying climate change than both Japan and all of Europe combined?

Why didn't I know that before now?

The Bush administration has put the first strategic plan as part of its Climate Change Science Program as required by Congress in 1990? But I thought the Clinton administration was the big environmental administration. They never put a plan together in their entire 8 years? Bush is the first? Why didn't I know this before now?

And why did I have to dig it out of a letter to the editor of a business magazine?

The Republicans are going to have to do a whole lot better than this if they plan to get their story out before November.

Posted by McQ at 06:44 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Nader's "12 things Kerry will avoid"

Ralph Nader has a list of 12 things Kerry is most likely to avoid at the Democrat Convention. After reading through Nadar's list I agree that he's probably right, Kerry will avoid them. However I don't particularly agree at all that Kerry should not avoid them.

They're vintage Nader far left issues, which, hopefully will appeal to that 3 to 5% who might otherwise vote for Kerry and peel their votes away. Anyway, the 12 issues Nader thinks Kerry won't mention this week, in short form:

1. A call for a national crackdown on the corporate crime, fraud, and abuse that, in just the last four years, have robbed trillions of dollars from workers, investors, pension holders, taxpayers and consumers.

2. A demand that workers receive a living wage instead of a minimum wage.

3. A call for a withdrawal from the WTO and NAFTA.

4. That our income tax system be substantially revamped.

5. A call for a single payer health system.

6. Stand up to the commercial interests profiting from our current energy situation.

7. Demand a reduction in the military budget that devours half the federal government's operating expenditures at a time when there is no Soviet Union or other major state enemy in the world.

8. A call for electoral reform.

9. A call for reform of the criminal justice system.

10. Replace the Washington "puppet show with a Washington peace show for the security of the American, Palestinian, and Israeli people."

11. A call for the United States to begin a military and corporate withdrawal from Iraq.

12. A call to stand up to business interests that have backed changes that close the courtroom to wrongfully injured and cheated individuals, but not to corporations.

Nader's mad at the Democrats. He sees them as his closest ideolgocial kin and is miffed that they're trying so hard to shut him down. So he's decided to be as much as a thorn in their side as possible ... thus this op/ed.

Anyone who follows politics in this country knows quite well that Nader's 12 points are worth precisely the 3 to 5% vote he's likely to garner from them. But they also know that if Kerry were to adopt them, he'd lose much more than 3 to 5%. He might lose most of the middle thinking about supporting him. So this isn't really Nader trying to get Kerry to see it his way. This is Nader sticking it in Kerry's eye because the Democrats are playing dirty politics.

By the way, I'm with Nader on item 4.

Posted by McQ at 03:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Poles call it "totalitarian propaganda"

If ever a people were able to recognize "totalitarian propaganda" when they see it, the people of Poland, who were subjected to decades of it, might be those people. And when "Fahrenheit 911" opened in Poland this week, that's precisely how critics described it.

Gazeta Wyborcza reviewer Jacek Szczerba called the film a "foul pamphlet".

He said it was too biased to be called a documentary and was similar to work by Nazi propaganda director Leni Riefenstahl.

"In criticising Moore, I have to admit that he has certain abilities - Leni Riefenstahl had them too," Mr Szczerba said in his review.

[...]

"Michael Moore will not convince Poles with his film," the Rzeczpospolita newspaper said in its review.

"People are very sensitive to aggressive propaganda, especially when it pretends to be an objective documentary or a work of art."

That's not to say it doesn't have its fans in that country:

But politicians opposed to Poland's involvement in the US-led occupation of Iraq have urged people to see the film.

[...]

"The film contained some propaganda, but there was also a lot of truth in it," Pole Elzbieta Karwinska, 58, said after seeing the film.

"But I see no direct connection between the film and the Polish army in Iraq. I think that Poland is in Iraq for completely different reasons," she said.

Meanwhile in Australia, Moore is characterized as the "quintessential Ugly American". Seems like a fit to me:

This week, an Australian government minister described Moore as "the quintessential ugly American", after the film maker criticised the Australian prime minister's support of US President George Bush, saying: "What is John Howard doing in bed with an idiot?".
Posted by McQ at 01:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A testy confrontation

Interesting video of two apparent Republican demonstrators who are confronted by Sen. Bob Kerrey as he goes into the 911 commission's press conference releasing the report.

Things are a little testy out there. Note who began the name calling first. And then, tell me how much hell Kerrey will receive from the left for such "conduct unbecoming" ala Dick Cheney.

Hat tip to my Bro for this one

UPDATE: Reader Alex give us a link from a Trenton NJ newspaper which carries the story.

Posted by McQ at 12:27 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Meanwhile, in Iraq...

... insurgents/terrorists clash with American and Iraqi troops and get the usual treatment:

American and Iraqi forces clashed with insurgents in a battle that escalated from gunfire to artillery barrages early Sunday north of Baghdad, killing 13 Iraqi militants, the U.S. military said.

Iraqi forces and U.S. troops suffered no casualties from the fighting in Buhriz, 40 miles north of Baghdad.

This is why they're more inclined to use terror in the form of car bombs, IEDs, drive-by shooting and kidnapping to try to get their way. They're simply thugs who use the way of thugs.

Also Sunday, the military said one U.S. soldier was killed and another injured when a roadside bomb exploded as they were escorting a fuel convoy. The explosion Saturday afternoon occurred outside the city of Beiji, 90 miles south of the northern city of Mosul, U.S. Army spokesman Master Sgt. Robert Powell said.

In the Baghdad suburb of al-Dora on Sunday, gunmen killed Brig. Khaled Dawoud, the former head of Baghdad's Nahyia district under Saddam Hussein, and his son in a drive-by shooting, police Lt. Mustafa Abdullah al-Dulaimi said. Dawoud's son was not identified.

The car was raked with bullet holes, its windows shattered and its interior covered in blood, according to APTN footage.

Gunmen also killed two policemen Sunday morning as they traveled to work at the Mahmoudiya police station 25 miles south of Baghdad, police Lt. Alla Hussein said. The attackers escaped.

But its becoming clear, even to them, that toe-to-toe they just don't have a chance.

Posted by McQ at 11:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 24, 2004

Obesity and liberty

Another aspect of the new "health crisis", and probably the one that is most disturbing, is the elevation of obesity to the status of a disease and what that means in terms of your liberty.

Medicare announced on July 15 that, after proclaiming for 40 years that obesity is a personal problem, not a clinical one, it now classifies the No. 2 cause of preventable death in America as an illness.

What Medicare did, without so much as a "let's consult with the payers" is reach deep into your pocket and add another cost for you to 'share'. Yes, dear reader, you are now going to pay for diet programs, stomach stapling and diet maintenance. They may not have taken the money yet, but for each "disease" they insist on creating, its only a matter of time before they fund its treatment.

Instead of obesity being a personal problem, it is now your problem. And you will pay, like it or not, to help anyone classified as "obese" lose that weight , if they're a Medicare (and most likely Medicaid) member.

That's good news for people such as Abramson and thousands of others across the nation. More than 64 percent of Americans are categorized as overweight or obese, and medical conditions resulting from obesity are the source of a $100 billion drain on the health-care industry, according to the American Obesity Association.

You bet its good news ... now that $100 billion dollar drain will be slowed to a veritable trickle, with a dam made up of your greenbacks.

Many of those dollars are spent annually in Durham, which is home to some of the nation's top weight-loss programs. It's unclear just what Medicare will pay and how quickly payments can be claimed.

But you can rest assured the "American Obesity Association" will be pushing its weight around trying to get top dollar for weight loss programs. After all, they don't have to foot the bill, you do.

But industry watchers say the designation probably will have a ripple effect on private health insurers, which must consider whether to provide coverage for treatment of obesity. "Medicare is the tail that wags the dog when it comes to insurance coverage," says Dr. Francis Neelon, Rice Diet Program medical director.

Which essentially means not only will more be paid out by Medicare, but more will be demanded by your insurance carrier in order to pay for its eventual coverage of obesity as a disease.

Yes dear reader, fat people have feelings too. And they have just been told that it's not their fault their mouth flies open every time their hand approaches it. We live in a guilt and responsibility free society now.

To prove that, the government has taken the responsibility for obesity away from people that are obese and given it to you. The government has determined its a disease and you get to pay for it being treated as such ... in facilities like this:

The Rice Diet Program is one of several obesity treatment programs located in the Triangle. Others include the Duke Center for Living, Structure House and Rex Weigh.

The average cost for treatment at one of these facilities ranges from $2,000 to $7,000 for a stay of one to six weeks, but each also has programs for long-term patients.

If you can imagine, there are skeptics out there who have difficulty believing Medicare can afford this:

Gerard Musante, founder of Structure House, questions whether Medicare can even afford to take on the cost of obesity treatment, which totals an estimated $36 million annually in the United States.

"If this thing gets really crazy and people come out of the woodwork for this treatment, then the government is going to have to decide how they're going to pay for this," Musante says.

Phaa ... Medicare doesn't have any money, only tax payers have money. No sweat Gerard, we'll just up the Medicare tax a bit. Don't even need to ask the tax payers if they'll pay, we'll just do it, says our benevolent government.

Because everyone knows "taxation without representation" is nothing but a quaint old phrase today.

A year-and-a-half and 70 pounds ago, 62-year-old Eileen Abramson's doctor told her it was time for a change.

Abramson, just 5 feet tall, was classified as morbidly obese. Debilitating conditions caused by her weight, which she doesn't wish to reveal, forced her to stop working. She could barely walk the 20 feet from her kitchen table to the front door.

Even though Abramson was taking a dozen medications each day to treat the symptoms caused by her obesity - diabetes, chest pains, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and nerve pains - the source of those potentially fatal conditions wasn't recognized as an illness by her health-care provider, Medicare.

As a result, Abramson's two sons bore the $30,000 cost of her year-long treatment at the Rice Diet Program in Durham.

[....]

Abramson, who has lost enough weight that she now needs only cholesterol medication, believes it's time for insurance companies to provide coverage.

"I'm doing the impossible," she says. "It's costly, and there are people like me who can't afford treatment, but they need it."

Apparently Ms. Abramson comes from a different era than I do. I've was always taught that you get yourself out of predicaments you get yourself into without demanding others bail you out.

My guess is Ms. Abramson's journey into obesity wasn't one of denial on her part. I'd also bet she knew what the consequences were of getting to the stage she eventually found herself. But even more interesting is that after she larded up, it became everyone elses problem and she had no problem asking others to deny their priorities in life in order to subsidise treatment for a "disease" that was entirely avoidable.

Yes, a bit of an insensitive rant, I admit. But this nonsense is another in a long line of abuses that just make me see red. The Patriot Act is small potatoes when compared to the insidious erosion of our liberties this sort of unilateral government action poses. We see it almost every day, and the normal reaction by the majority of the people is "wha...?"

Time to wake up and smell the doughnuts.

Posted by McQ at 03:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

America's newest health "crisis"?

As with every new "health crisis" I've found it best to sit back and let it sort itself out before seriously jumping on the bandwagon (bran muffin anyone?).

Our newest crisis? Obesity, of course.

"Junk science," he says. "That's the real epidemic."

Campos and a minority of other scholars and researchers are challenging the science behind ever-more-shrill pronouncements on the hazards of heft. They want to stop the obesity feeding frenzy.

Fat chance.

Two-thirds of us are now deemed overweight, with half of those classified as obese, according to the government. In March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said obesity was killing at least 400,000 Americans a year, almost as many as the 435,000 death toll from tobacco.

Obesity skeptics say this is the latest in a long string of exaggerations.

Obesity is the new health growth industry (uh, no pun intended). But there is a minority out there who see another Chicken Little science scare in the making.


"There's this tremendous cultural hysteria about this issue which is really not justified at all by the scientific and medical literature," said Campos, a University of Colorado law professor and author of "The Obesity Myth." "P.T. Barnum — wherever he now may be — must be furious with the notion that he can't get in on this thing."

Campos and others contend that study after study — including those of 1.8 million Norwegians and 115,195 Massachusetts nurses — have found that people who were overweight had a lower risk of death than those who were lean. Some studies (such as one of 9,228 middle-aged and elderly Israeli men) have reported that people who intentionally lost weight died sooner than those who stayed fat.

On the other side are the defenders of the "obesity is bad" mantra.

Mainstream obesity researchers object strenuously to this analysis, and say the skeptics are quibbling, misreading the data or cherry-picking medical facts.

They say that hundreds of studies show beyond reasonable doubt that there is a link between obesity and unhealthy conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, as well as a higher overall risk of death.

"There are hundreds of people who've spent their careers studying obesity," said James Hill, director of the center for human nutrition at the University of Colorado in Denver. "And if there's one thing everyone agrees on, it's that obesity has negative health consequences."

But I kind of come down on the side of Barry Glasner's explanation. I've just seen it too many times in the past (man I wish I had a bran muffin!).

USC sociology professor Barry Glassner sees something familiar about the obesity epidemic he reads about daily. It reminds him of headlines about flesh-eating bacteria and satanic preschool molestation — topics explored in his 2000 book "The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things."

"From the hysteria from government officials and the media, one could easily get the impression that gaining a few pounds is the equivalent of taking up smoking or removing the seat belts from your car," he said.

The current obesity flap, he said, is one more example of what sociologists like to term a "moral panic." Obesity is the ghoul du jour — and predictably, our reaction is over the top.

So sit back and watch it happen as we see countless articles, specials and events aimed at the "Fattening of America". Then, as usual, watch it slowly ebb away.

Now, where are those bran muffins?!

Posted by McQ at 02:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Plame Affair

I'm not sure this is necessarily a mitigating factor for the person who named Valerie Plame, but it may have some relevance....

The identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame was compromised twice before her name appeared in a news column that triggered a federal illegal-disclosure investigation, U.S. officials say.

Mrs. Plame's identity as an undercover CIA officer was first disclosed to Russia in the mid-1990s by a Moscow spy, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In a second compromise, officials said a more recent inadvertent disclosure resulted in references to Mrs. Plame in confidential documents sent by the CIA to the U.S. Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy in Havana.

The documents were supposed to be sealed from the Cuban government, but intelligence officials said the Cubans read the classified material and learned the secrets contained in them, the officials said.

So, here's the deal: the fact that her identity was compromised in the past could indicate that the CIA was not really attempting to safeguard her identity. It might also indicate why she had not been sent overseas in quite some time. (and, possibly, had not been assigned many sensitive contacts)

On the other hand, it still doesn't excuse any leak of classified information.

Me...I'm still sticking with the least irrational explanation: somebody in the White House disclosed her name, but didn't know her association with the CIA was classified. Otherwise, it's hard to believe a public official would commit a felony to the press, in a manner designed to get publicity for no obvious gain.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Faster, faster, more, more! Stop!

Josh Marshall has been absolutely unrelenting in his demands that the Bush administration release his National Guard Records.

  • Feb 8, 2004 - "...in the relatively near future, as much as they may wriggle, his aides will either have to come forward with those records or go back on the commitment the president made in front of the whole country."
  • Feb 10, 2004 - "...it's not clear to me what hold up there would be on releasing all those records to news organizations. And another matter. The White House is already trying to wriggle out of the president's commitment to release all the records about his military service."
  • Feb 10, 2004 - "More to the point, this is still the White House selectively releasing records. As nearly as I can tell the president is still refusing to waive his Privacy Act rights and allow the government to release all his military service records to the press, without having them filtered through the White House."
  • Feb 11, 2004 - "Can't come clean. Won't release the records he said he would. Sorta seems like there's a problem lurking in there, don't it?"
That was then, though, and this is now. Today, Josh Marshall is crying uncle...
Of course, the fact that the White House has wrangled this issue down to poring over a million different records that I myself can hardly keep track of means they've largely neutralized this issue through that classic Washington method of the death of a thousand docs.
Shorter Marshall: "Damn you, President Bush, for taking my advice!"

It's sad to see somebody whore himself out like this for a party.


UPDATE: As David Adesnik writes in another context, Marshall "might begin by asking whether perhaps, just perhaps, arrogance, selfishness, disloyalty and contempt for open government are personality traits on which Republicans do not have a monopoly".

Yeah, that seems like a useful question for Josh to ask himself.

UPDATE II: Gerry writes "Mr. Henke, his blog is called "Talking Points Memo". Of course it is going to be nothing but party spin."

Good point.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:18 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

NATO troops to Olympics but not Afghanistan?

Good old NATO. It can honor a request from Greece to provide security for the Olympics ....

NATO will likely soon agree to a Greek request to ensure security at next month's Olympic Games, to guard against a possible terrorist threat, a spokeswoman for the alliance said.

"We can confirm that there has been a second Greek request relating to counter-terrorism aspects of security assistance to the Olympic Games," she said.

... but its having a hell of a time honoring its committment to Afghanistan:

After months of delay, NATO has ordered hundreds more peacekeepers to Afghanistan to help provide security during presidential elections, but the deployment still appeared to fall short of 3,500 troops that were promised.

Well here's a thought ... how about taking the troops you seem willing to commit to the Olympics and sending them to your first committment, Afghanistan. If NATO can scrape up enough troops for Greece's eleventh hour request for security, it can certainly do the same for its year old committment to Afghanistan.

If there is actually a will to honor it, which I'm coming to doubt. Must be taking lessons from the UN.

Posted by McQ at 10:35 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 23, 2004

Fat and Fatter

OK yes, that's insensitive as hell. But then so is life. I'm already tired of these people.

Imagine "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker Michael Moore and singer Linda Ronstadt onstage in Las Vegas, singing "America the Beautiful" at the very same casino resort where she was booed and told not to come back, because of remarks praising Moore.

It could happen - as early as September.

Recommendation: reinforce the stage before you have that "extravaganza" .... and put a padlock on the food locker.

Posted by McQ at 06:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Parsing Kerry

Quote of the day? This one from Kerry ... not that its a particularly great one, or that its true. I guess its just typical:

Kerry said Bush promised "to build a legitimate international coalition, to go to war as a last resort." It appears "more and more evident ... that they intended to go no matter what," Kerry said. "The president broke his word. That's why I say he misled America. ... He went back on his word with respect to an issue that involves the lives of our young Americans."

Maybe its just me, but I don't recall any stipulation that the coalition be "legitimate". Talk about a loaded word. Legitimate by who's definition? This is called "moving the goal posts".

Kerry can't honestly claim the action was unilateral. It obviously wasn't. So, for cheap political points, he instead he chooses to call those, like Britian, et al. who participated members of an illegitimate coalition. While this may please Jaques Chirac, I'm not so sure Tony Blair or other members of the coalition of the willing would be quite as tickled.

Isn't Kerry the guy who says just electing him will make everyone our friends again? Yeah, even old illegitimate Tony.

Again, the message here is "if it isn't through the UN, its "illegitimate". Have you been keeping up with the UN lately?

"... to go to war as a last resort". This is one of my favorites. He gave the UN and Saddam almost 14 months to do something .... anything .... to prevent the war. Both Saddam and the UN did nothing to prevent it. So at that point, what other resort was there, Mr. Kerry?

Then there's his assertion that it appears "more and more evident ... that they intended to go no matter what..."

Kerry (and most of the media) have apparently missed the 911 report which points to Bush making Iraq a lower priority, putting off Iraq, etc. If you missed it, Jon has written extensively about it here with cites from the report which make the point both clearly and emphatically enough that even Kerry might understand it.

Of course the false premise that the war wasn't a last resort gives rise to the false conclusion that "he broke his word". That's a nice way of saying "he lied". Based on history and the 911 report I'd say Mr. Kerry was dead wrong.

If he keeps repeating this mantra now that its out that he's wrong, then I'll be forced to say "he lied" the next time.

Posted by McQ at 02:46 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Does she really just not understand?

Linda Ronstadt strikes again:

Linda Ronstadt's political message sent close to a hundred concert-goers home early Thursday evening.

What had been a mellow evening at Wente Vineyards, with the crowd even serenading her with "Happy Birthday" at one point, turned into a rush for the exits by some fans angry by her encore tribute to filmmaker Michael Moore.

"She just had to do it," one fan steamed as he headed for the parking lot. "It was good until the end," another yelled to TV crews waiting outside the concert.

"She's getting out of line; it's ridiculous," said Cindy Williams of Livermore, as she left during the last song of the evening.

Sigh. I wonder when artists of all stripe are going to realize that people pay money to hear or see them perform, not sermonize or comment on politics.

If Ronstadt wants to plug Moore and his movie, she should buy an ad. Otherwise, wise up Linda. Get a freakin' clue. The public isn't interested in who you think is a great American, especially when a good number of them think the guy you're touting is a "Desparado" of a unflattering sort.

They're only interested in that for which they paid good money ... to hear you sing!

Via: BitsBlog

Posted by McQ at 02:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Small Convention Bounces predicted

Pollsters think there will be little of significance in terms of a "convention bounce" for either party in this election:

John Kerry will get a boost after the Democratic Party's convention in Boston next week and President Bush will gain some momentum in the polls after the GOP's pre-Labor Day convention. Both parties will try to play down expectations so as to exceed them.

Still, party officials are hoping that strong performances by their candidates during the four-day conventions will have effects lasting to the November election.

Those hopes may be dashed this year, however. Several pollsters say that Bush and Kerry are unlikely to see significant gains because few undecided voters are out there.

I happen to agree, but not for the reasons the pollsters cite:

"In this closely divided electorate, it is probably unrealistic to expect Bush or Kerry to get much of a bounce," said American Enterprise Institute polling expert Karlyn Bowman.

"There's an intensity level here early on that is unprecedented," said Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, who added that the country is very politically polarized and mounds of cash have been spent early on in the campaign season.

"This election is primarily going to be determined by what happens in the real world — the economy and Iraq — not by the campaign," he said.

If one part is the economy, then its steady improvement works against Kerry. If the other part is Iraq, its steady improvement works against Kerry as well. But they only work against Kerry if the Bush team can get the word out there as to the improvement in both areas.

Rasmussen is correct, there is quite an intensity. But I'm not sure I agree with him as to how wide-spread that intensity is. Yes, the sides are pretty polarized, but I have difficulty believing, at this stage in the campaign, before both candidates are officially blessed at their conventions and the campaign begins officially, that 90% of the electorate have made up their minds.

If so that is a phenomenal number of people suddenly converted to political junkies out there.

When you see polls out there which say that a large minority of voters really don't know who John Kerry is at this point, I think the pollsters may be a little too close to their work. And when you add to that what polls have shown among Democrats concerning Kerry, I'm not ready to believe the 'intensity" converts into votes for Kerry at this point:

Even among fellow Democrats, Kerry has a ways to go to convince voters that he has the right stuff. According to a June 3-13 survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 42% of Democrats give Kerry a grade of "C" or worse for making a compelling case for his candidacy. "His strength is that Bush is weak," says Pew Research Center Director Andrew Kohut. "He has still to make the case for himself. He's not associated with any big themes or big ideas."

I don't think the lack of huge convention bounces has much to do with voters having their minds made up in the 90+% range, quite honestly. For instance, look at this:

However, comparing the Gallup Poll (search) against itself may provide some perspective. According to Gallup, in 2000, Democrats received an 8-point jump; Republicans got a 4-point boost. In 1996, Democrats went up by 5 points, and Republicans by 3. In 1992, Democrats shot up by 16 points, and Republicans gained 5. In 1988, Democrats gained 7, and Republicans 6.

Bounces have been small for quite some time. The real reason? Conventions have no drama. They have no effect. They're staged events, they're rallies, they're infomercials ... and with other entertainment choices out there, few choose to be bored by politicians. Consequently when the polls are taken after the convention, there's just not much of a difference between the before and after poll.

Until and unless the conventions again come to be meaningful events, neither party should expect a big bounce coming out of them.

As if contradicting his own words concerning the intensity out there, Scott Rassmussen says:

"Most of the people that you need to persuade are not going to watch the conventions."

I agree ... so look for, at most, a dead-cat bounce for both sides.

Posted by McQ at 01:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Oh, that liberal media

Chris Matthews has started a blog: Hardblogger

Interesting. So, check out his blogroll:


Other than Instapundit, do you see a single right-of-center blog on that list? Perhaps TheNationalDebate? Other than that, it's a showcase of the left, the far left, the far-far left, and the communist left.

I mean, what the hell? They're not even trying anymore.

UPDATE: Power of blogs? Coincidence? I can't tell, but they've changed the blogroll extensively since I posted this. It now shows only the bloggers that are accredited for the convention. Prior to this change, the list was as noted above.

So, depending on your assumptions about the media, I either found them in a moment of embarrassing transparency, or.....well, I can't think of another explanation off the top of my head.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:45 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

You have to read Kerry very carefully

While perusing a Business Week interview with John Kerry, I was a bit amazed by the man's audacity when answering a question about marginal tax rates:

BW: So you believe that just by rolling back tax cuts for top-end taxpayers, you can fund a health plan and deficit reduction?

Kerry: Yes -- absolutely. Let me be very clear: I like low marginal rates. I fought to get low marginal rates. I voted for going down to the 28% and 14% brackets [in 1986]. I am not going to raise marginal rates -- ever -- above the rates we had under Bill Clinton.

Parsing time: "I like low marginal rates. I fought to get low marginal rates. I voted for going down to the 28% and 14% brackets [in 1986]".

So in 1986, per Kerry these rates were more than enough. Inference ... we should have low marginal rates like the 28% and 14% I voted for. Remember, he likes low marginal rates. He's a low marginal rate kinda guy.

OK. Moving along: "I am not going to raise marginal rates --- ever ...".

Sounds pretty definitive doesn't it? "not going to raise marginal rates" Never, ever. No way, no how!

Caveat time: "... above the rates we had under Bill Clinton."

Oh. So then, Mr. Kerry, you are going to raise marginal rates.

History time. Remember, in 1990, Bush, under pressure from a Democratic Congress, raised the top rate from 28 percent to 31 percent. In 1993, Clinton created two new upper brackets, one at 36 percent, and the other at 39.6 percent. Guess who voted in favor of both? So while he voted for the 28% and 14% in '86 he also voted to raise the marginal rate in '90 and '93. Somehow that didn't make it into his answer.

The marginal rates when Bush took office?

15, 28, 31, 36, and 39.6

And since the tax cuts?

10, 15, 25, and 33

Notice that reduction in the marginal rate in each of the brackets (with one bracket being combined).

So Kerry is telling a big fat one, folks. He's either "not going to raise marginal rates --- ever ...", or he's going to raise marginal rates back up to where they were under Clinton. Obviously the latter is the plan despite his claim he's not raising them. And that doesn't just mean the top marginal rate either. He means all of them (although he knows it would be political suicide right now to actually admit that openly).

Remember he's just said that marginal rates wouldn't ever be raised ... higher than Bill Clinton had them. Review the rates above before and after the tax cuts . The marginal rates before the tax cuts are Bill Clinton's marginal rates. Those are the rates John Kerry is leaving open to be raised if he's elected.

So much for being a low marginal tax rate kinda guy.

More of Kerry trying to have it both ways.

I'm a little disappointed that Business Week let him get away with this nonsense.

Posted by McQ at 10:55 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Collision Course with Iran

What to do about Iran. It's a real puzzler, especially since the president, beleaguered by the progress in Iraq, or the perceived lack of it by his critics, seems keen to paint himself as a man offering four peaceful years.

I doubt he'll get 'em.

But, the problem of Iran isn't going to go away. We know now that Iran has ties to al-Qaida, and is providing safe harbor for some of its operatives. And, of course, there's the whole nuclear deal.

So now, Bush critics like the almost incomprehensible Maureen Dowd, are saying that Bush should have taken on Iran, instead of Iraq.

Granted, Iran is a problem, and there's certainly much to be done about getting rid of the mullahs. But it's the height of hypocrisy for Dowd and her ilk to even bring it up in this fashion. The fact is, As soon as Bush made the "Axis of Evil" statement, Dowd's crowd could hardly contain themselves from frothing with anger over the very concept of an "Axis of Evil". Now, she's arguing for an invasion of Iran?

You've got to be freakin' kidding me. The Left wanted nothing whatsoever to do with an invasion of Iran or Iraq, so coming back and hitting the president with Iran, two years after the fact, is just laughable. If Bush had even mentioned he was considering such a move, the Left would've collapsed in an apoplectic fit. Which, come to think of it, is actually an argument in favor of such a policy. But I digress.

Actually, it's about the only argument in favor of such a policy. As Charles Krauthammer points out today, an invasion of Iran would be an entirely different matter than an invasion of Iraq.

Iran, as Krauthammer points out, is a serious country, with a serious army. No, they aren't anywhere near as good as our boys are, but then again, they probably wouldn't melt away into the countryside like the Iraqis did, either.

The same people who were yelling "Quagmire!" in Iraq on D+8, would've been wailing and gnashing their teeth like biblical prophets if they'd had to deal with an Iranian invasion.

There are two undeniable facts when it comes to Iran:

  1. Instead of using military force against Iran, we have been steadily following the multinational route that is so revered by our friends on the Left. The result has been completely ineffective, leaving Iran closer now to having nuclear weapons than they were when the whole multilateral process started. The preferred policy of our Leftist friends has been an abject and utter failure.
  2. If the Left had their way back in 2002, there would have been no invasion of Iraq, or Iran. In fact, there would've been no invasion of Afghanistan, either, for fear of the Brutal Afghan Winter™. No matter how the Left tries to dress it up by getting all bloodthirsty over Iran now, the fact is that if we'd followed their advice, the Taliban would still be shooting women in the head with AK-47s for impiety at public executions in Kabul's soccer stadium. Uday would still be stuffing Iraqi dissidents into industrial plastic shredders feet first, and the Iranian Mullahs would still be gathering fissionables for their weapons program.

Those two facts are undeniable, and anyone with a lick of sense will immediately recognize it, no matter how Maureen Dowd tries to dress it up and make it more presentable. You can dress a poodle up in puffy skirts and make it walk on its hind legs, too, but anybody with eyes to see can tell that it's still a dog, and not Marie of Romania.

As it happens, fortunately, we have several options for dealing with Iran that didn't exist in Iraq. The Iranian Mullahs, although brutal guys by anyone's reckoning, simply don't have the same kind of perverted totalitarian drive that Saddam Hussein's regime displayed. As a result, there is a fairly lively reform movement in the country. There is increasing domestic pressure to overthrow the Islamic Republic and replace it with a more secularized, democratic regime.

So, unlike Iraq, there is an indigenous opposition movement, both in and out of the government, to whom support can be given. We can destabilize the Mullahcracy in ways short of war.

In short, there are other options.

I suspect one reason why W has been following the multinational route in Iraq so far is that he wants to show the absolute bankruptcy of such a policy. At some point, he'll be able to say, "Look, we tried it your way and we got bupkis. A big fat goose egg. Now, we're gonna do it my way, and make it happen." And he can probably do it without one US soldier ever having to fire a single shot.

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Saddam and Usama. Or Osama. Or whatever the heck his name is

Byron York details some of the 9/11 Commision's report about Iraq and al-Qaida. Remember when we were told that they'd never ever cooperate with each other, because Osama hated Iraq's secular Ba'athist government?

In February 1999, for example, the CIA proposed U-2 aerial-surveillance missions over Afghanistan. The report says that Richard Clarke, then the White House counterterrorism chief, worried that the mission might spook bin Laden into leaving Afghanistan for somewhere where it might be even more difficult for American forces to reach him:
Clarke was nervous about such a mission because he continued to fear that Bin Ladin might leave for someplace less accessible. He wrote Deputy National Security Advisor Donald Kerrick that one reliable source reported Bin Ladin's having met with Iraqi officials, who "may have offered him asylum." Other intelligence sources said that some Taliban leaders, though not Mullah Omar, had urged Bin Ladin to go to Iraq. If Bin Ladin actually moved to Iraq, wrote Clarke, his network would be at Saddam Hussein's service, and it would be "virtually impossible" to find him. Better to get Bin Ladin in Afghanistan, Clarke declared.

National-security adviser Sandy Berger suggested that the U.S. send just one U-2 flight, but the report says Clarke worried that even then, Pakistan's intelligence service would warn bin Laden that the U.S. was preparing for a bombing campaign. "Armed with that knowledge, old wily Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad," Clarke wrote in a February 11, 1999 e-mail to Berger. The report says that another National Security Council staffer also warned that "Saddam Hussein wanted bin Laden in Baghdad."

"Boogie to Baghdad", indeed.

So, essentially, Clinton's National Security people knew that Saddam and Osama had some flirty thing happening. Yet, the Democrats were unsparing in their criticism that OBL and Saddam would never, ever be interested in any convergence of interests. Both the New York Times and Washington Post assured us repeatedly that this talk of al-Qaida-Iraq ties were nonsense.

Well, it seems they both hated us more than they hated each other, and that there were links between them.

<sarcasm>I'm confident that both the Times and Post will soon make appropriate and highly public corrections.</sarcasm>


Posted by Dale Franks at 09:41 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

9/11 Commission Report: Iraq

While Iraq is not central to the 9/11 Commission Report, I thought it could be interesting to see what they have to say about it.

Holy crap.

While certainly not conclusive evidence of extensive collaboration, the 9/11 report seems to give a great deal of weight to the charges that there were "ties" between Iraq and Al Qaeda. It also rains on the parades of one Mr. Clarke, who had claimed Iraq was a diversion, that there was "absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever". In fact, it is quite devastating on that point, using Clarke's own words. We'll get to it.

I've compiled all the (notable*) Iraq references in the report....

Page 58 - Bin Laden built his Islamic army with groups in various countries, including Iraq.

Page 61 - Bin Laden willing to explore a relationship with Iraq.

Page 61 - Bin Laden agrees to stop supporting activities against Saddam; Reports indicate Saddam may have supported, or at least tolerated, Ansar al-Islam.

Page 61 - Bin Laden met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer, and asked for assistance. No evidence of an Iraqi response. This was not the last attempt.

Page 66 - Iraq took the initiative to contact Al Qaeda.

Page 125 - Clarke points out that Iraq had discussed hosting Bin Laden.

Page 128 - Clarke suggests that a chemical factory is probably the result of an Iraq-Al Qaeda agreement. Chemical evidence backs that up.

Page 134 - Clarke discusses the possibility--even likelihood--that Bin Laden would move to Baghdad, if attacked in Afghanistan, and cooperate with Saddam.

Page 334 - Clarke's report found anecdotal evidence of an Iraqi link to Al Qaeda, but no compelling case that Iraq was involved in 9/11.

Page 335 - The Camp David discussions....

Page 335 - DoD presents the three priorities: al Qaeda, the Taliban, Iraq

Page 335 - Bush did not accept that Iraq was an immediate priority.

Page 335 - Bush decides Iraq is off the table, barring new information.

Page 335 - A WoT Phase Two could include Iraq, if necessary.

Page 335 - Wolfowitz continues to push for Iraq.

Page 336 - Blair asks about Iraq; Bush tells him Iraq is not the immediate problem.

Page 336 - CENTCOM/General Franks wanted to plan for possible movement against Iraq. Bush rejected it.



Page 502 - Iraqi Fedayeen member not involved with 9/11 plot.

Page 559 - Clarke and Bush dispute versions of post-9/11 meeting. Clarke's secretary claims they did meet, but Bush's manner was not "intimidating".

Page 559 - No credible evidence of Iraqi involvement in 1993 WTC bombing.

* "Notable"=non-tangential mentions.

UPDATE: I should mention what I'm taking away from this...

  • It appears that Mr Clarke was not being completely forthright--or, at least, spinning very hard--when he claimed the President and Rumsfeld were focused on Iraq and had pressured him about to conclude otherwise, and that there had been no connections between the two.
  • Iraq made overtures to Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda made overtures to Iraq. And we--including Richard Clarke--concluded that Bin Laden may seek Baghdad as a safe harbor and partner if pressured elsewhere. That seems....important.
  • There is some circumstantial evidence--and Clarke's speculation--that a chemical factory could be a result of cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
  • Bush assertively rejected the "Iraq/9.11" scenario advanced by some of the NeoCon faction.
  • Paul Wolfowitz comes out of this looking very poorly. In fact, while many in our government had a "failure of imagination", it seems Wolfowitz had too active an imagination.
  • The "Iraqi Fedayeen/9.11" story turned out to be nothing, as do claims that Iraq was behind the 93 WTC bombing. This seems to back up Tenet's previous assertion that Iraq was stopping short of cooperating in attacks against the West.
UPDATE II: I should note that neither I nor the 9/11 Report are claiming that Iraq and Al Qaeda were engaged in an ongoing collaborative relationship. I merely point out that there was quite a history of mutual overtures, an apparent willingness to work together, and possible historic cooperation on chemical production/training.

I neither suggest, believe, nor consider it relevant to the prewar calculation, that Iraq was in an ongoing cooperative relationship with Al Qaeda. As Bush said, the danger from that relationship laid in the future.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:53 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Are we safe?

Per the 911 report there were 9 opportunities that various agencies had to disrupt the 911 attacks. Having reviewed the 6 listed below in the Atlanta Journal Constitution this morning, and they're nothing new, I'd have to call the opportunites in name only.

They include:

1. Failing to put two of the al-Qaida operatives who took part in the Sept. 11 attacks on the terrorist watch list to keep them from entering the country. Terrorists Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar entered in January 2000 after they had been observed meeting with senior al-Qaida leaders in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, earlier that month. The government failed to track them down when they came, even though they used their own names.

[CIA/FBI]

2. Failing to link the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui in August 2001 with heightened warnings that a major attack was coming. Moussaoui is now awaiting trial for allegedly conspiring in the attacks.

[FBI/CIA]

3. Failing to discover false statements on visa applications or detect passports that were manipulated in a fraudulent manner.

[Immigration]

4. Failing to expand "no-fly lists" to include names from terrorist watch lists.

[CIA/FAA]

5. Failing to search passengers identified by the computer-based CAPPS screening system during a time described by CIA Director George Tenet when there were so many warnings that al-Qaida was about to attack that the "system was blinking red."

[CIA/FAA/Airport Security]

6. Failing to take steps to protect cockpit doors against entry by those bent on suicide hijackings despite warnings that al-Qaida was considering using airplanes as weapons to attack the United States.

[FAA]

I've put the agency or agencies I feel were responsible in those 6 "opportunities" underneath the item in brackets "[]".

1 and 2 are the result of preexisting problems with the CIA and FBI exchanging information. In short, they don't. And the result was when the surveilance and coordination should have gone from international to internal there was never a handover. The ball was dropped. 1 and 2 are the result of a systemic problem that's been identified (and was known to exist before 911, in fact its been known to exist for decades). They claim there's a mechanism in place now to do those sorts of exchanges in a timely manner. Fixed?

3. is a problem of an overwhelmed and inept bureaucracy which extended the visa, 6 months after his death, of one of the hijackers. Where we stand on fixing this sort of problem is a mystery, but I assume its not much better at this point than it was then unless major structural and procedural changes (and not just changing its name) have been implemented. Fixed?

4 and 5. More sharing of information snafus. Unless there's a mechanism in place for that information to be transfered quickly to the FAA's ATS department and acted upon swiftly, there's no reason to believe the system is any better today than it was then. Fixed?

6. I see this one as a matter more of complacency than incompetence. We hadn't had a hijacking in a decade. We were lulled into a false sense of security. This one actually is on the way to being fixed.

So 5 of the 6 major problems had to do with the sharing and coordination of information we had but didn't properly utilize. Much of that might have been sorted out if there was a single intelligence clearing house whose responsibilty was to gather input from all agencies and "connect-the-dots". And as you recall, "connect-the-dots" was a term in major use when all of this was being reviewed.

I've read and heard the arguments against an Intel Czar, and that may not be what we need. But we need some method of coordinating and disseminating intelligence gathered in a useful and timely manner. We need to have a group who's entire job is to work toward "connecting-the-dots". If that means grouping all agencies under an Intel Czar, so be it. But if so, he or she must not only be given the responsibility to coordinate intel, but also authority over all other agencies. Without both, the job won't get done.

I haven't yet made up my mind if that's the best route to go, but regardless of the route chosen its going to be a long and tough change. Intel agencies in existence are not going to want to give up their power easily nor are they going to want to submit to the direction of a super-agency. Bureaucracy 101.

But the possible catastrophic results of this continued insularity, lack of cooperation between agencies and failure to share information is foreordained.

Look at the list of those 6 opportunites above. Had we been coordinated, cooperating and sharing information between agencies before 911 there is a distinct possibility that they might actually have been opportunities, as we'd have actually had the mechanisms in place to identify and act upon the information gathered.

As it stood though, to call those "opportunities" in light of the problems which existed at the time is simply an exercise in hyperbole. There was no real opportunity at all to disrupt these people with the dysfunctional intel system we had in place at the time and to pretend there was is to give much to much credit to a system that doesn't deserve it. It also infers that the fix is easy. Its not.

So while they're nothing new until we can put "fixed" beside each one of those 6, I have to agree with the report, we may be "safer" than before 911, but we are far from safe. Until we see "fixed" by them, we shouldn't delude ourselves into believing we are.

UPDATE: I've tracked down two more of the 9 "opportunities" over at Fox.com:

7. Not sharing information linking individuals in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole (search) in Yemen to al-Mihdhar, who had contacts with a longtime FBI informant. The Cole attack killed 17 American sailors.

[FBI/CIA]

8. Not taking adequate steps in time to find al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi in the United States.

[FBI]

9. Not recognizing that some hijackers' passports were fraudulent.

[Immigration]

Pretty much 'more of the same' concerning information sharing and a dysfunctional INS. Makes one realize why the dots were hard to connect.

Posted by McQ at 08:42 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ex (Washington) Post Facto Revisionism

Couple oddities from the Washington Post.

*** WizBangBlog notes this...(also here)

The Sept. 11 commission report offers a broad critique of a central tenet of the Bush administration's foreign policy -- that the attacks have required a "war on terrorism."

The report argues that the notion of fighting an enemy called "terrorism" is too diffuse and vague to be effective.

As WiBangBlog notes, that is a somewhat misleading representation of the 9/11 report, which says in no uncertain terms...
...In this sense, 9/11 has taught us that terrorism against American interests “over there” should be regarded just as we regard terrorism against America “over here.” In this same sense, the American homeland is the planet. But the enemy is not just “terrorism,” some generic evil. This vagueness blurs the strategy. The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism —especially the al Qaeda network, its affiliates, and its ideology.
[...]
It is not a position with which Americans can bargain or negotiate. With it there is no common ground—not even respect for life—on which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated.
So, rather than critiquing the "central tenet of the Bush administration's foreign policy" that the attacks required a war on terrorism, the 9/11 commission actually agrees with the tenet, but wished to define it much more sharply and prosecute it more ruthlessly.

*** Reader (and friend) Curt sends me this bit from a WaPo story.....

The notion of one of Washington's most respected foreign policy figures being subjected to treatment that had at least a faint odor of a sting operation is a strange one. But the peculiarities -- and conflicting versions of events and possible motives -- were just then beginning in a case that this week bucked Berger out of an esteemed position as a leader of the Democratic government-in-waiting that had assembled around presidential nominee John F. Kerry.
Huh?

1: Why would it be odd that a person--respected, or otherwise--would be subject to a sting operation after he had been found absconding with classified documents? In fact, why was he only subject to a "sting operation" that led to an investigation? Why was he not met in front of the building by a team of gun-toting FBI agents?

2: (as Curt wrote) 2. "Democratic government-in-waiting" Did I miss an election?

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 22, 2004

Just wondering ....

OK, other than hearing that its still going on, I haven't followed the Scott Peterson trial at all. But for whatever reason, this headline, "Peterson got private mailbox before wife vanished" caught my eye.

"Really", I thought. So I looked at the first paragraph:

On the day before he reported his wife missing, Scott Peterson rented a post office box where he later received private correspondence from his mistress, an investigator testified Tuesday.

OK, I know this may come off as completely unfounded. I know I've no reason to look at this one bit of information and come to any conclusion, especially when I have acknowledged being mostly ignorant about the case.

But I've got to tell you, its hard to believe someone who's going to kill his wife is going to worry about renting a PO box to hide love letters from his sweetie so his wife won't find out.

Or am I missing something here?

UPDATE (Dale):

Since I live out here in California, I have to follow the case whether I want to or not.

So far, what it seems the prosecution is doing is playing defense. Nearly everything they've presented to date seem to be stuff they think the defense counsel, Mark Geragos is going to bring up. So they're trying to defuse a whole raft of stuff before even presenting the case.

A lot of court observers are wondering why they just don't get on with it. Sooner or later, they are going to have to present a compelling narrative to the jury. They have to tell the story of how Mr. Peterson killed his wife. To date, though, they haven't even begun to do that.

The word is that this stuff is really all preliminary. Once they feel they have brought all this stuff up first, and forced Geragos to address it in cross-examination, they are hoping that they will have defused it. They can then present the narrative of the actual crime.

Later, if Geragos wants to address it again in the defense's case, they are probably hoping that the jury will find it all bit yawn-inducing to cover the same ground again.

I think it's a moderately high-risk strategy, though, because it has the danger of irritating the jury. The jury wants to hear the narrative, too, and all this stuff seems so unrelated, that by the time the prosecutors begin the narrative, the jury may feel a bit sullen and resentful at having so much of their time wasted.

So far, though, you're right. They haven't made much of case for Mr. Peterson's guilt.

Having said that, the general rule is, when you find your defendant a few hundred yards from the Mexican border with a passport, $25k in cash, and dyed blond hair and beard, he's pretty much guilty as hell.

It also explains why Mr. Peterson is being held on remand, instead of being out on bail.

Now, as far as the PO Box goes, perhaps Mr. Peterson was hoping his relationship with Ms. Frye would remain a secret during the investigation. That way, hge could still receive correspondence from her without letting the police know he was doing so.

Unfortunately for Mr. Peterson, Ms. Frye preferred to sing to the police like Barbra Streisand as soon as she learned the truth about Mr. Peterson's marital status. Somehow, I don't think he expected her to walk into MPD and start volunteering info.

Posted by McQ at 06:22 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Style Evolves

Reader Sean alerted me to the fact that the comment preview shows the "peekaboo" error in Internet Explorer.

I have converted the page to a table, instead of DIV tags, and the error should now be fixed. I should have done this earlier, but I overlooked it.

Actually, what should be fixed is Internet Explorer, so it can handle DIV tags the way they are supposed to work, and do, in fact, work in Mozilla.

Posted by Dale Franks at 05:14 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

NMCI Update

I wrote the following email to the NMCI customer satisfaction people today:

I have an outstanding ticket, for which I'd like to take the customer survey. The ticket number is SDH917448. My NMCI email address is edwin.franks@navy.mil.

I'd like to take the survey on my NMCI machine. I can't though. For almost two months now, I haven't had a working machine. And apparently it can't be fixed. Or, rather,m it can be fixed, but no one seems willing to actually do it. Everyone I talk to has a deeply reasonable excuse about why they cannot fix my machine. That's why I'm writing to you from my personal email address.

Not that that matters, anyway. Because my machine has been down for so long, my time limit to fill out a customer satisfaction survey has expired.

Although, now that I think about it, you probably don't want a customer satisfaction survey from me. Because if I ever get the chance to fill one out--which, at the moment, seems rather unlikely, since no one seems interested in rebuilding my machine--I will flame your whole organization as the slack-jawed, clueless incompetents they are.

Better examples of goal-oriented organizational discipline and competence can be gleaned from Keystone Cops movies. Hiring the Three Stooges would undoubtedly cause a threefold improvement in your customer service. I can only pray that, when Congress wakes up and discovers the true depth of your incompetent bufoonery, the Department of the Navy will be forced to drive EDS out of the contract like some kind of poison troll.

Fortunately, for me, my installation has purchased entirely new computers to issue to us. So, in addition to having to pay NMCI, we will also have to pay to maintain our own IT serves. The difference, of course, is that, unlike the "service" you provide, our computers will actually work.
Additionally, it also means that, henceforth, I can spurn you as I would a rabid dog.

Sincerely;
Dale Franks

This afternoon, I received the following reply:

Dale,

From your note, it is obvious that you are frustrated with your NMCI equipment and service. I am coordinating with our technical support folks to address the issues you are facing. I'm glad you included the ticket number.

You are correct that the survey event has ended, but we do accept your comments, opinions and suggestions submitted to our mailbox at nmcicustomersatsurveys@eds.com.

I sincerely hope that we can improve your opinion of our services through improved delivery.

Thank you for contacting us,
Marc


Marc Carraway
EDS/NMCI - Customer Satisfaction Survey

Oh, you're quite welcome, Marc.

Posted by Dale Franks at 04:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Soldiers answer Andy Rooney

Back in April, 60 Minutes curmudgen Andy Rooney wrote an article in which he essentially called the soldiers in Iraq (and especially National Guard soldiers) "victims". Of the National Guard and reservists he had this to say:

About 40 percent of our soldiers in Iraq enlisted in the National Guard or the Army Reserve to pick up some extra money and never thought they'd be called on to fight. They want to come home.

I commented twice during that time, once voicing my disgust for Rooney's pompus and condescending column and once posting Oliver North's reply to Rooney.

Well its been a few months, but Robert Alt at NRO has now provided us with the soldier's reply ... National Guard soldiers. Rooney said reporters should ask 5 questions of the troops. Alt does so. I think you'll be very heartened by the answers these fine young men give. It makes you feel pretty damn proud of them.

In answer to Rooney's claim they're victims, they set him straight.

"We're not victims. We signed up for this. Many of us re-enlisted." Addressing the idea that National Guard members didn't know what they were getting into, Lt. Naum said the vast majority of the soldiers who are E-4 and below enlisted after 9/11 — after we were at war, and thus with the knowledge that they were likely to be called up. Sgt. Black explained that many of the men not only volunteered once to join the National Guard, but volunteered a second time to come to Iraq. Indeed, a number of the men in this very platoon either transferred into the platoon to serve in Iraq or specifically volunteered to be deployed.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, they're very appreciative of your support. So keep it coming.

Posted by McQ at 04:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jeff Goldstein break

The guy is just funny. I have to go over there at least once a day to get a laugh break. His latest, which had me cleaning coffee off my screen ... again, is below:

9 names for Ben & Jerry's Ted Kennedy tribute ice cream.*

1. 40 mg. Lipitor Crunch
2. Scotch Almond Neat, and no, I don’t want any goddamn water with it
3. Mint Chocolate Fillibuster
4. Hooterlicious Sour Cream Potato Skin Frenzy
5. Star Spangled Spending
6. Krispy Kegger and bring on the hookers!
7. Juniper Berries, Cocktail Onions and Cream
8. Rocky Load
9. Cookies and Kopechne

*It exists. In my head

If he's not a part of your daily blog stops he ought to be.

Posted by McQ at 03:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

OK, NOW they're equal ...

Heh ... You knew it would happen, you just wondered when:

Two Canadian women who were among the first same-sex couples to get legally married may become the first same-sex couple in Canada to get a divorce.

The two, who decided to call it quits after getting married last summer, are trying to get the country's Divorce Act amended so they can go their separate ways, a lawyer for one of the women said today.

Wonder who gets the golf clubs.

Posted by McQ at 02:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Iraq and al Qaida connections

One of the tidbits being reported about the 911 Report is its confirmation of ties between Iraq and Osamma bin Laden's al-Qaida:

The highly anticipated report provided new details on contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida, noting that Osama bin Laden began exploring a possible alliance in the early 1990s. In one new disclosure, the report says that an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan in July 1998 to meet with the ruling Taliban and with bin Laden.

Intelligence indicates that Iraq may have offered bin Laden safe haven, but he declined after apparently deciding that Afghanistan was a better location. The report says although there were some "friendly contacts" between Iraq and al-Qaida and a common hatred of the United States, none of these contacts "ever developed into a collaborative relationship" and that Iraq was not involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Let's see, OBL explores a possible alliance with Iraq, an Iraqi delegation meets with OBL in Afghanistan, Iraq offers OBL safe haven.

Well there it is ... Dick Cheney was right. There were ties and contacts between Iraq and OBL.

Wonder if that will make it past page A27 in the NYT if it makes it at all.

Posted by McQ at 01:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Supply, Demand, and Prices: It's not just a good idea; it's the law.

Susan Estrich, no Republican hack by any means, writes that the Senate is trying to pass a bill that's flatly unconstitutional.

What Congress is trying to do is to ensure that cheaper Canadian drugs will be available for re-importation to the United States. After all, many senior citizens buy drugs from Canada, because of the price. So, in it's "wisdom" the Senate is attempting to repeal the law of supply and demand by requiring that drug companies produce and sell prescription drugs to foreign exporters at the same prices they sell them to foreign governments and consumers.

Now, first of all, as Estrich points out, that's just flatly unconstitutional. And it's not a little unconstitutional, it's not even a close call. As Estrich puts it:

How could this legislation NOT amount to a violation of the takings clause? Whether you considered it a per se violation, or applied a rule of reason, or looked at it from the perspective of due process or straight takings clause, or from the perspective of patent law, I kept getting the same answer.

Moreover, the Senators know it to be unconstitutional, because Congress' own lawyers told them so.

And what about the Congressional Research Service when it looked at this problem? Could it have missed the obvious? If the bill did what it was supposed to, Congress' lawyers concluded, it would be per se unconstitutional.

So, the constitutionality here is simply a no-brainer.

From an economic standpoint, though, what is even more irksome is that it illustrates precisely what is wrong—and has always been wrong—with the government's intervention in health care. It is the irrational desire to believe that health care can be made affordable by controlling prices by fiat.

But, as Jon pointed out a few days ago, that's a hideous misunderstanding about how prices work. The price of a good or service isn't some capitalist rip-off designed to hoover your pocket empty so that some fat cat can light his Havana with a hundred-dollar bill. Prices reflect the balance between supply and demand.

You know, in computer work, we have a saying that's a bit of a joke, but in nonetheless true: When developing software, you have three options: a quick delivery time, a huge range of bells and whistles, or a low price. Pick any two.

Similarly, prices, demand, and supply work the same way. You can't change one of those three items without fundamentally affecting the other two. If you artificially change one of those economic factors, the other two will reflect that artificiality. If you artificially lower the price, demand will rise, but the supply of the product will decrease, leading to shortages. If you artificially raise the price, demand will fall, leading to surpluses.

In addition, it is not only supply and demand that regulates prices, but the seller must be able to recoup the production costs, as well. If a product cannot be sold at a price greater than it costs to produce, then, the product will not be produced. You can't lose money on every sale, but make it up in volume.

It takes 10-15 years and costs $800 million on average to bring a new medicine to market. That's 15 years of research and $800 mil down the drain before you even sell your first tab on the street. Moreover, once you get the drug approved, you are on the patent clock, so you've only got a few years to make that $800 million back before your drug goes generic, and all your competitors start making it.

It's easy to paint the drug manufacturers as plutocratic greedheads who are charging your granny $400 a month for her Plavix, so that they can go to PhARMA conferences in Barbados. And, you know what, there may even be a little truth to it.

But so what? If you set up economic incentives that make it ever more difficult to recoup that $800 mil, then you might as well shoot granny in the head right now, because, in a fairly short time, you won't be able to get her any new drugs anywhere, for any price.

If you really want to seriously affect the cost of new drugs, then, as a first step, you might want to look into streamlining FDA regulatory approval. Why does it take 15 years to get new drugs to the market? It's because the FDA's regulatory process is needlessly long and complicated. For instance, after you perform two phases of clinical trials to determine the safety of a drug, which, really, should be the FDA's main concern, you then have to spend another 2 to 5 years doing Phase III Clinical trials to determine the drug's efficacy.

So, during that 2 to 5 years that the new drug is in Phase III trials, how many people will die for lack of it? Depending on the disease, that number can be pretty high. You can cut a third of the time and cost off of bringing drugs to market just by eliminating the requirement for Phase III testing.

And, frankly, Phases I and II don't really catch all the safety hazards, now that we're on the subject. Remember thalidomide? That was fully approved, until the horrific birth defects that resulted from its use became apparent.

But safety concerns are at least legitimate, even if we grant that Phase I and II testing won't catch all the problems. Drugs are complicated, and so is the body, so any drug use is a crapshoot until you get a large enough population to study, which, you can never really get in clinical trials. You can get the obvious things, but that's really about it.

But Phase III is much harder to justify. Look, after Phase II clinical trials, you already have a pretty good idea about efficacy. Usually—although, admittedly, not always—if your Phase II patients suffered no side effects, but they all died of their diseases, anyway, you've gotta figure that the efficacy results aren't good. But, if it does work, and all your patients went into remission of their lung cancer, then it's a pretty harsh judgment to force the company to keep the drug off the shelf for another three years, while tens of thousands die, so that you can run it through efficacy trials.

No, if you're really concerned about drug prices, then, as Ronald Reagan told us so many years ago, Government is the problem, not the solution.

UPDATE (JON): Dr Galen has more, including a breakdown of retail pharmacy sales by country.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:48 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Fix the military, but do it right.

I've been troubled by all of this "we need more troops in Iraq but we don't have enough to send more" talk. For whatever reason, it just didn't sound right to me. So when I read this today, I did a little digging:

"The Army is stretched dangerously thin," Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, in a hearing on Wednesday.

"We are growing the Army as fast as we can," General Schoomaker said later in the hearing.

Well OK, that's great General Schoomaker. But here's my problem. At the height of Vietnam, 1968, we had 550,000 troops there. True we also had an active force of 3,550,000. But the percentage committed to Vietnam was 15% of the total force.

Right. So fast forward to Iraq. We have 130,000 to 160,000 there out of a total force that is significantly smaller (1,423,348 as of Dec, 2003). But when you look at the percentage of the force committed, its only 9 - 11%.

The question then becomes "why was 15% sustainable in 1968 and 10% isn't in 2004?"

A few reasons. Back in 1968, we had much more ground combat power than we do now. That was because of the Cold War and Vietnam. We had to maintain our Cold War forces in Europe while we also fought a hot war in Vietnam. So more of the total force was made up of ground forces than other forces.

Secondly, since the end of the Cold War, we've expanded our military's presence through out the globe. And while some of these missions are only comprised of 3 or 4 personnel, we have military representation in 149 countries including the US and its territories. Now that will spread your forces thin when your end strength is 1,423,348 for the entire military.

Lastly, we played "peace dividend" with our military at the end of the Cold War and essentially gutted them thinking there weren't any foes left worthy of that size military (hello, China?!). That was a mistake. We also came to believe, again mistakenly, that our technology could be used in lieu of ground combat power. Much the same thought process was adopted by intelligence agencies. Based on our experience of the last few years, both were wrong.

So what's the solution?

Obviously, grow the military as Gen. Schoomaker has said they're doing. But do so in a way that addresses the ground combat power deficit. In other words, as anachronistic as the infantryman may seem in today's laser-guided war era, he's still the only part of the military which can take and hold ground.

Secondly, put some of the sustainment capability (combat service and service support) back in the active military. It doesn't all (nor did it ever) belong among the reserve components. Not if we're going to fight a War on Terror which will require long deployments. But when this is done, keep the teeth-to-tail ratio lean. More teeth and just enough tail to sustain and support them.

Third, give up some of the high tech weaponry ... at least for the time being. While its important to keep the technological edge, it may not be as important to have 10 squadrons of F-22 Raptors than it is to have 10 divisions of infantry light fighters. Maybe instead we go with 5 squadrons to fund the 10 divisons.

Lastly, cut our troop strength in Europe drastically. Get them out of there. Shift some to the east if we must, but there is absolutely no reason to continue to subsidize Europe's defense when they are quite capable of doing so themselves. Time to make they pay their way. Same with Korea.

Posted by McQ at 12:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

9/11 Commission: "we believe we are safer today"

There's a great deal more, both critical and otherwise, but I'll post one small bit from the Executive Summary of the 9/11 Commission Report....

Are We Safer?

Since 9/11, the United States and its allies have killed or captured a majority of al Qaeda's leadership; toppled the Taliban, which gave al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan; and severely damaged the organization. Yet, terrorist attacks continue. Even as we have thwarted attacks, nearly everyone expects they will continue. How can this be?

The problem is that al Qaeda represents an ideological movement, not a finite group of people. It initiates and inspires, even if it no longer directs. In this way, it has transformed itself into a decentralized force. Bin Laden may be limited in his ability to organize major attacks from his hideouts. Yet, killing or capturing him, while extremely important, would not end terror. His message of inspiration to a new generation of terrorists would continue.

Because of offensive actions against al Qaeda since 9/11, and defensive actions to improve homeland security, we believe we are safer today. But we are not safe.

Very interesting. In case of future "are we safer today" debates, please reference this section of the report. (this is not necessarily applicable to the separate question of whether the Iraq war has made us safer)

For a quick overview, I recommend you read the Executive Summary.

UPDATE: Captain Ed has another interesting passage....

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Rules are for the little people

The Washington Post's John F. Harris and Susan Schmidt have constructed a timeline on the missing Sandy Burglar...uh, Berger...document fiasco.

Berger visited the National Archive to look at Top Secret documents in September. After he departed, archive staff noticed some documents were missing. They were, naturally concerned, because they are liable for criminal prosecution if they let classifieds go walkies.

So, when Berger returned on 2 October, they specially coded some documents to more easily tell if any were missing after his second visit. Unsurprisingly, there were.

So, now we have two visits by Berger, with classified documents going missing on each visit. That's a lot of "inadvertent" document taking.

As his attorneys tell it, Berger had no idea in October that documents were missing from the Archives, or that archivists suspected him in the disappearance. It was not until two days later, on Saturday, Oct. 4, that he was contacted by Archives employees who said that they were concerned about missing files, from his September and October visits. This call -- in Berger's version of the chronology, which is disputed in essential respects by a government official with knowledge of the investigation -- was made with a tone of concern, but not accusation.

Concern, you see. Not accusation. Although, it appears that, despite the non-accusatory tone, Berger decided to lawyer up, anyway.

Berger, his attorney Lanny Breuer said, checked his office and realized for the first time that he had walked out -- unintentionally, he says -- with important papers relating to the Clinton administration's efforts to combat terrorism.

Berger alerted Archives employees that evening to what he had found. The classified documents were sensitive enough that employees arrived on a Sunday morning to pick them up.

Now, that should tell you how serious it was. Archive officials were working on a weekend.

Oh, but wait, it gets better.

Several days later, after he had retained Breuer as counsel, Berger volunteered that he had also taken 40 to 50 pages of notes during three visits to the Archives beginning in July, the lawyer said. Berger turned the notes over to the Archives. He has acknowledged through attorneys that he knowingly did not show these papers to Archives officials for review before leaving -- a violation of Archives rules, but not one that he perceived as a serious security lapse.

So now it's three times that Berger acknowledged violating the note review process, and two times when classified docs disappeared.

By then, however, Archives officials had served notice that there were other documents missing. Despite searching his home and office, Berger could not find them.

Yeah, I bet Sandy just searched his whole office from top to bottom.

So, now, it appears that Berger walked away with several drafts of the millennium report, the Clinton Administration's after-action report on the terrorist activities surrounding the Y2K celebrations. Subsequently, those drafts all disappeared.

There is more than a whiff of scandal about this. But, what is also interesting to me is the mind-set that this performance indicates. It is the sheer arrogance of a man who believes that the normal rules that apply to the little people don't apply to him. He's Sandy Berger. He's above all that.

Had you or I done something like this, we'd be sitting in a federal detention center already.

And this "inadvertent" line just takes the cake. We are talking about 50-page documents, and he's inadvertently taking three or four at a time. And he doesn't notice that he's walking out the archives with an extra ream of paper tucked away in his little leather portfolio?

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

"Trick or WTF?"

I can only hope this is someone's idea of a spoof, but it appears to be real:

When kids in Boston go out trick-or-treating on Halloween, hoping to collect such holiday favorites as Snickers Bars, Milky Ways or other confectionary delights, there's one house they know to avoid.

While other residents dole out the more traditional Halloween fare, Teresa Heinz Kerry likes to surprise the costumed visitors to her Beacon Hill mansion with foil packages of Heinz ketchup.

In yesterday's Washington Post, reporter Ceci Connolly did her best to spin Heinz Kerry's cheesy stunt, claiming that the kiddies were "thrilled" when they were handed Teresa's Halloween booby prizes because her ketchup treats "made for perfect fake blood."

Yeah, I'd be thrilled if I were a kid. Thrilled enough to stomp the packet flat on her stoop just to see how far the "treat" would squirt.

Amazing.

UPDATE: Apparently its at least a "legend" per this blurb (the above cited Ceci Connolly from WaPo):

Scope out Kerry's ooh-la-la Beacon Hill home on historic Louisburg Square, where legend has it Teresa Heinz Kerry thrilled neighborhood kids one Halloween with packets of ketchup that made for perfect fake blood.
Posted by McQ at 11:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Its all about Bush, is it?

Showing their true Anti-American colors, fans spat on Lance Armstrong on the latest leg of the Tour de France.

Asinine German cycling fans harassed five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong during yesterday’s grueling ride though the French Alps — two of the “idiots” spat on him, and another spectator chased him while wearing a “F - - - Bush” T-shirt. By the end of the day, of course, the spit on Armstrong was exchanged for a bath of champagne, thanks to the Texan's time-trial victory.

But the win did not erase what had happened.

"I don't think it's safe," said Armstrong, who is on pace to win an unprecedented sixth tour in a row. He called the German fans "horrible" — but said that animosity "motivates me more. I think it puts a little fuel on the fire."

In a TV interview, he complained about the Germans' "disgusting behavior."

Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc struck an apologetic tone.

"There were lots of aggressive fans," he said, calling the two spitters, "idiots."

Yeah, I have to go with Armstrong's characterization: Idiots.

Many Europeans are openly contemptuous of the American.

That sentiment was captured in a roadside sign last week that read, "Lance Go Home."

As a result, Armstrong has bodyguards during the three-week race.

"Nothing against the French, but in France, they're after us," Armstrong said.

Hey Lance, kinda telling that in France the winner's shirt is yellow, wouldn't you say?

Europe, at least "old Europe" can't stand a winner, especially if the winner is American. This bodes well for a 'pleasant' Olympics, doesn't it?

Posted by McQ at 10:32 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Partisanship

Ezra Klein--of whom I think highly, despite disagreeing with him more often than not--writes an exceptionally thoughtful piece on partisanship....

In short, the Republican Party is a coalition of political philosophies that share some common interests....and differ a great deal on others. At the end of the day, though, the tie that binds is their interest in preventing the Democratic Party from instituting their political philosophy.

And, really, in a multi-party government, this is the way is has always been and always must be. (roughly speaking) Liberals believe government exists to improve society. Conservatives/libertarians believe government exists to protect society, rather than change it.

But they're all wrong.

Government has no absolute "proper role", any more than a stick has a "proper role". The role depends entirely upon the will of the user. Government is merely a means of focusing and/or ameliorating power. The ends of that power depend entirely upon the will of the most powerful (be it the majority, the strong, or the most interested participant).

This bears a very fundamental relation to what Ezra says next....

As blogs and radio and Fox and magazines and a thousand other sources of information allow the informed amongst us to become more informed about only their own side's arguments, the apathetic and barely aware swing voter becomes more and more important.

People like me and Safire exist more to convince those who're not irreversibly steeped in partisanship than to cast our own vote. We are constants in the electoral calculus, always ready to swallow our misgivings and vote for our boy based on our disgust with the opposing party. Now, maybe one of us is right -- I certainly believe I and my ideals are -- but more and more I fear that if we aren't, we'd never know.

In a society where the government is run by the majority--or, at least, the most interested--this polarization is almost inevitable. Face it, nobody--not even political junkies--can possibly be completely familiar with the complexities of each issue. We can't even really get our head around all the details of our own arguments....god knows we don't often try to understand the best arguments put forth by the other side.

So, we use the same mental shorthand we use in every other area of our life. (i.e., X said yes, Y said no. I trust X more than Y. X must be right, and supporters of Y must be bad people)

I fear that principles set many partisans on their path before partisanship brings them the rest of the way. People like Limbaugh and Moore don't so much appeal to the ideals of their audience as demonize their opponents, and though there's an unfortunate necessity for both sides to fight with the same firepower, the end result is a conversation about each other rather than our values. When the constant reinforcement centers around beating them rather than electing us, I'm not sure what we end up with. No, that's not true, I am sure. It's the much-talked about 50-50 nation, a bunch of Cubs and Sox fans chanting in the rafters for the next partisan homerun. And if that contravenes their values -- like the Bush's Medicare expansion or NCLB -- who cares, we socked them a good one!
I see this far too often in the blogosphere, and it bothers me a great deal. Far too many blogs are hesitant to criticize their own side, or quick to nail the other with insufficient information. (perfect example) It doesn't so much bother me that they believe it, as it bothers me that they (and "we"? yeah, sometimes) promulgate the misinformation and polarization.

But, perhaps this is the unavoidable paradigm. So long as human nature remains what it is, intellectually honest pundits will never be as effective as flamethrowers. Arguments will occur in absolutes, rather than the margins.

Ezra's post is worth reading, and thinking about. I fear, though, that no amount of thought will change the fact that--if you have any intention of winning--the coalition is more important than the principle.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:26 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Inappropriate for either side

Apropos of a discussion that was had here a few days ago:

A Republican lawmaker says it was inappropriate for a GOP office to display a bumper sticker declaring: "Kerry is bin Laden's Man. Bush is Mine."

Kentucky Rep. Anne Northup said she found out about the stickers over the weekend and doesn't want any more distributed. "What campaigns need to center on, debates need to center on and the party needs to focus on are ideas," she said.

Good for her and she's right. This is sort of nonsense which should always be deemed inappropriate by both sides. It would be nice to see those on the left do the same with the "Bush-Hitler" meme or WhoopieFest, etc. If the left wants to talk about values, those are two places in which they can demonstrate their seriousness.

Posted by McQ at 09:51 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Greenspan: It's the Spending, Stupid.

Alan Greenspan...

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Wednesday that Congress has lost the ability to manage crucial long-term budget issues and new mechanisms are needed to keep future costs from ballooning beyond the nation's ability to pay.
Translation: cut spending.
Greenspan defended President Bush's three rounds of tax cuts, saying they had helped ensure that the 2001 recession was mild and brief and have provided critical stimulus to keep the current rebound on track.
Translation: it's not the tax cuts. Citizens do more productive things with their money than does the government.
But he warned that rising deficits could become a problem over the next decade as Social Security and Medicare costs escalate with the retirement of baby boomers.
Translation: Seriously. Spending. It's too high.

I don't know how much more clear Greenspan could be. Fortunately, Greenspan does...

"I would prefer lower spending and lower taxes and lower deficits," Greenspan said.
So, lower taxes, lower deficits, and cost controls on big budget items like Medicare and Social Security. Sounds like a good start. And in a story that seems somehow related....
President Bush yesterday set out the broad principles that he said would guide his domestic agenda for a second term, saying he would tackle education, health care, energy and the economy through an emphasis on limited government, individual responsibility and the power of markets.
[...]
He suggested that he would seek to extend or tighten rules requiring welfare recipients to seek work, and to emphasize the role of community colleges in training workers. He talked of expanding access to health care. And he alluded, without being specific, to his proposal to add personal investment accounts to Social Security.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:15 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The stakes in the Sudan

A WaPo editorial in today's paper cuts to the chase concerning the future of the UN:

As Mr. Annan knows, the United Nations will be marginal to global security if it can't respond to clear catastrophes such as Darfur. If countries -- such as France -- that frequently scold the United States for unilateralism want the United Nations to be taken seriously, they need to push the Security Council toward sanctions and humanitarian intervention.

Both Annan and France dither and fiddle while apparent genocide continues in Sudan. Its almost as if ignoring it will make it go away. Yet it continues, unsurprisingly, to get worse:

Civilians are still dying as a result of militia attacks, and the militias' systematic destruction of wells, agriculture and villages has left more than 2 million people in need of food aid. Only a handful of foreign troops have been deployed; civilian protection has been entrusted, grotesquely, to a police force consisting partly of ex-militiamen; and food shipments are reaching only a third of those in need. It is as though, in the wake of the West's failure to prevent Rwanda's genocide, the gods of history are asking, okay, if we give you a second chance and months of warning, will you do better? So far the prospect that 300,000 to 1 million people may perish -- an estimate offered more than a month ago by Andrew S. Natsios, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development -- is failing to galvanize serious action.

Sudan is a clear-cut example of the type of "mulitlateral" action the left screams and rants about ... multilateral action the UN was made for and France demands the US limit itself too. Yet when faced with this perfect opportunity to take such action, to make the UN relevant again, what's the reaction?

The U.N. Security Council, which could pressure Sudan's government into reining in the militia by passing a resolution imposing sanctions and authorizing armed humanitarian intervention, is moving at a glacial pace. The United States has drafted a resolution, but council members such as China, Pakistan and Brazil value the principle of sovereignty more highly than the human purpose that sovereignty is meant to serve: a stable international order that allows people to live in peace. Other council members, notably France, do not oppose a resolution but show little enthusiasm for it either, thereby making inertia a key ally of the resolution's opponents.

Here the cause is humanitarian and the world, in the guise of the UN, ignores the problem. Up to two million people at risk due to a genocidal government and the UN debates.

The Washington Post's ironic conclusion, should the UN continue to ignore the problem?

If Europeans and other rich donors won't act, then the United States will have to do so. This would add to the unfairness with which the world's burdens are shared -- American taxpayers already pay most of the bills for global security. But if nobody else will act to save up to 1 million civilians, questions about sharing the burden must be put aside.

You mean .... gasp .... act unilaterally?

One wonders if the Washington Post editoral board has ever heard of UN resolution 1441 and the fact that one of the primary reasons the US formed its own coalition to go into Iraq is because the UN, as seems to be its modus operandi under the abysmal "leadership" of Kofi Annan, sat on its rear end and tried to talk the problem to death.

Perhaps even they are now seeing that the source of the problem isn't the US, but, instead, the inaction of the UN.

While I already believe the UN is a marginal institution at best, lack of action ... swift action .... in Dafur will probably convince even the last of its defenders that the UN has become completely and utterly useless.

UPDATE: The Telegraph does an excellent job of contrasting the swiftness of the UN's general assembly in overwhelmingly condeming Israel's decision to defend itself with its snail-like pace when addressing the Sudan:

While fiddling as people die in Sudan, the world body has overwhelmingly condemned Israel for taking a step which has drastically cut the number of deaths from Palestinian suicide bombings. On Tuesday, by 150 votes to six, with 10 abstentions, the General Assembly approved a resolution ordering the Israeli government to dismantle the barrier on the West Bank.
Posted by McQ at 08:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Internationalization...

John Kerry's policy towards Iraq really doesn't seem to be much more specific than "if I'm President, everything will work". For instance....

“I’m glad that the President is working with the UN. This is important. In addition to negotiating a resolution at the United Nations Security Council, it is even more important to get other countries to commit resources and troops to our mission in Iraq. [...] It is essential that he get troop and resource commitments for our mission in Iraq to relieve the burden on our troops, to help achieve the stability to support this UN resolution and to internationalize the presence on the ground.
This is "essential", he says. And it will help "relieve the burden", and "achieve the stability". This, from the beginning, has been John Kerry's Big Plan for Iraq, and his major difference with Bush.

Of course, it all depends on the rest of the world...

When the U.N. Security Council voted six weeks ago to authorize a protective force, it expected contributors to step forward. But countries have balked at taking part in a force expected to include 1,000 troops and several dozen bodyguards. Diplomats said many nations were hesitating because of the dangers — including a wave of kidnappings — and costs as well as the continuing unpopularity of the U.S. invasion.
Even when they vote to help, the rest of the world can't step up to the plate.

Presumably, John Kerry has a Secret Plan to, I don't know, convince the insurgents to stop all that insurging, and make the war in Iraq popular again. Unless he gives some details on that plan, though, it's a bit hard to take him at his word about the utility of this whole "internationalization" thing.

(link via Outside the Beltway, which has more commentary)

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sidebar (bumped up)

I'm curious what the readers of QandO think of the Quick Links sidebar we recently installed on the right. Do you find it useful? Ignore it? Like it? Wish it would just go away? Want us to continue it? Post more/less often?

Just asking.....

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:02 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 21, 2004

How lame is the UN you ask?

Very.

In another setback for U.S. efforts in Iraq, the United Nations has been unable to secure enough troops to protect a U.N. contingent headed to the country to help with elections and rebuilding.

When the U.N. Security Council voted six weeks ago to authorize a protective force, it expected contributors to step forward. But countries have balked at taking part in a force expected to include 1,000 troops and several dozen bodyguards. Diplomats said many nations were hesitating because of the dangers — including a wave of kidnappings — and costs as well as the continuing unpopularity of the U.S. invasion.

The more I watch this useless collection of fools the more I'm convinced unilateral action is the way to go. 1,000 troops. About a battalion. And they can't even put that small a force together.

I really feel for the people in Dafur Sudan if they're hoping to see blue helmets in their part of the world any time soon.

I wonder if Kofi has the mental acquity to understand that if the world isn't safer now its not because of the US, but because of pathetic performances like this.

Leadership is not the strong suit of the UN or Kofi Annan and he and that blighted institution work to prove that everyday.

Posted by McQ at 06:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kofi says world not safer

Kofi just can't find it in himself to agree that we're now safer than we were a few years ago.

The world is no safer than it was three years ago, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday, countering President Bush's claims he had made the world a safer place.

[...]

"No, I cannot say the world is safer today than it was two, three years ago," the U.N. leader said.

Well its certainly not safer for scam artists like Kofi's son, but it would be difficult to claim its not safer when we have the Taliban gone, al-Qaeda on the run, Iraq under new and safer management, Lybia doing the non-nuke thing, Saudi Arabia actually pursuing terrorists, NoKo agreeing to talks and making the appropriate noises and fewer and fewer suicide attacks in Israel.

I don't know about you but that seems like a list of events and occurrances which I would deem fall into the category of making the world a safer place.

Here's a thought. Maybe Kofi was speaking strictly about UN actions to make the world safer. In that case I'd agree ... if we waited on Kofi and the third world debating club, he'd be precisely correct.

Just ask the Sudan.

Posted by McQ at 03:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Ignorant rant

Well hopefully not on my part, but certainly on Michael Moore's part. In case you missed it, Moore felt compelled to defend his fellow traveler, Linda Ronstadt in a letter to Bill Timmons of the Aladdin Hotel (my next stop the next time I visit Vegas).

In the letter Moore, as usual, gets it wrong, or perhaps better said, only half right (which is also typical of Moore).

What country do you live in? Last time I checked, Las Vegas is still in the United States. And in the United States, we have something called "The First Amendment." This constitutional right gives everyone here the right to say whatever they want to say. All Americans hold this right as sacred. Many of our young people put on a uniform and risk their lives to defend it. My film is all about asking the questions that should have been asked before those brave soldiers were sent into harms way.

You notice he also got a plug in for his film.

What did he get half right? Well the fact that you have "the right to say whatever" you "want to say". What he forgot, of course, is that you are also responsible for whatever you say and your words can have consequences. "Fire", crowded theater, etc.

He also cites the First Amendment. Like many Constitutional pseudo-scholars, Moore seems ignorant of the fact that the First Amendment right to free speech protects your speech from government interference.

Let me say that again. The Founders ensured, through the First Amendment, that you would enjoy the right to speak out against your government and the government would do nothing to stop you.

Now I don't recall Bill Timmons being in charge of a government agency called the Aladdin Hotel. What Timmons did was perfectly within is rights as a property and business owner. He removed someone who had upset his customers (much like Ms. Goldberg and Slim Fast) and essentially made her take responsbility for her unwelcome remarks. Moore, as does Ms. Goldberg, thinks this is a violation of their right to "free speech". Both are wrong.

For you to throw Linda Ronstadt off the premises because she dared to say a few words in support of me and my film, is simply stupid and Un-American. Frankly, I have never heard of such a thing happening. I read that you wouldn't even let her go back up to her room at your hotel! Are you crazy? For crying out loud, it was a song DEDICATION! To "Desperado!" Every American loves that song! Sure, some people didn't like the dedication, and that's their right. But neither they nor you have the right to remove her from your building when all she did was exercise her AMERICAN right to speak her mind.

Thunder buns is wrong again. Timmons has the exclusive right to remove Ronstadt (or any other disruptive influence) from his business. Un-American? Nope, very American. In fact the right to property is one of the most important rights Americans have. She exercised her American right to speak out and Timmons exercised his American right to make her leave his property. I don't see the problem.

Some day the Mound of Mendacity will get something right ... but I wouldn't hold my breath until then. If you do you're going to be very, very blue.

Posted by McQ at 03:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Rationing health care

Once more into the "socialized medicine" breach, we find the inestimable Walter Williams pointing out its fallacies using our neighbor to the North as the example.

After first assuming for the sake of argument that the false premise "health care is a right" is valid, he cites a study which gives a litany of delays (also recently covered by Dale) and other problems incurred by this system to include a "doctor drain":

Adding to Canada's medical problems is the exodus of doctors. According to a March 2003 story in Canada News (www.canoe.ca), about 10,000 doctors left Canada during the 1990s. Compounding the exodus of doctors is the drop in medical school graduates. According to Houston, Ontario has chosen to turn to nurses to replace its bolting doctors. It's "creating" 369 new positions for nurse practitioners to take up the slack for the doctor shortage.

If a person can't earn the income they expect to earn where they live, while the next country over will allow them to earn that expected return, it shouldn't be a surprise then to see migration from the the place restricting income potential to a place which will meet income expectations ... ask the illegal immigrant building your house if you don't believe it. Same principle.

Additionally, to tighten its hold as the exclusive provider of health care, Canada has further clamped down on private funding of one's own health care with something that is eerily similar to that proposed in the late and unlamented "Hillary-care":

Some patients avoided long waits for medical services by paying for private treatment. In 2003, the government of British Columbia enacted Bill 82, an "Amendment to Strengthen Legislation and Protect Patients." On its face, Bill 82 is to "protect patients from inadvertent billing errors." That's on its face. But according to a January 2004 article written by Nadeem Esmail for the Fraser Institute's Forum and titled "Oh to Be a Prisoner," Bill 82 would disallow anyone from paying the clinical fees for private surgery, where previously only the patients themselves were forbidden from doing so. The bill also gives the government the power to levy fines of up to $20,000 on physicians who accept these fees or allow such a practice to occur. That means it is now against Canadian law to opt out of the Canadian health-care system and pay for your own surgery.

Welcome to 'freedom of choice', welcome to the right to trade value for value, welcome to government force. Welcome to 1984.

But the money paragraph follows:

Health care can have a zero price to the user, but that doesn't mean it's free or has a zero cost. The problem with a good or service having a zero price is that demand is going to exceed supply. When price isn't allowed to make demand equal supply, other measures must be taken. One way to distribute the demand over a given supply is through queuing -- making people wait. Another way is to have a medical czar who decides who is eligible, under what conditions, for a particular procedure -- for example, no hip replacement or renal dialysis for people over 70 or no heart transplants for smokers.

Jon recently and ably covered "price" and "cost". Williams also discusses price and cost. But he brings another aspect into the equation.

Scarcity. And with scarcity come rationing.

Health care as a service is finite. There are only so many doctors, nurses and hours in the day. Health care as a product , however, has an infinite demand which makes it a product which will be rationed. And that means that in any health care system there has to be a system of rationing. The method of rationing is primarily where the fight is.

We ration through price under our system. In Canada, there is no price to the consumer, but that doesn't change the dynamics (or the cost) of health care or the fact that health care must be rationed. Regardless of the system, service remains finite and demand remains infinite. All Canada has done is change the form of rationing health care. Instead of using price, it must now use other criteria and methods.

One method (or result depending on how you want to look at it) is waiting 14 to 24 weeks for an examination you can get in 1 in the US. Since price is no longer an object, everyone wants the service, and you simply have to wait your turn.

Another and more insidious method of rationing health care in a "zero price" system is denying health care for reasons other than price. As Williams points out, "Another way is to have a medical czar who decides who is eligible, under what conditions, for a particular procedure -- for example, no hip replacement or renal dialysis for people over 70 or no heart transplants for smokers."

Denial of service sets parameters which decide those not 'worth' the scarce service be denied that service. Again, as rationing is inevitable in any health care system, this particular form of rationing is especially likely in a "zero price" system once the queuing mechanism finally becomes to unwieldy (and delays too long to further tolerate)

The point is, regardless of the system of health care, there will always be a system of rationing because of the characteristics I've mentioned above. The question then becomes how to do so. You'll see folks like me, Dale and Jon pushing market solutions driven by individuals and their choices as the preferred method.

That's because it is a system which is more likely to be responsive to and tailor itself to the actual needs and desires of those who are demanding health care. That's not the case with a centrally planned, top-down system (i.e. a socialistic model) in which other people decide what and how much health care you should get. If you pay for a certain amount (or all) of your own health care, the rationing system is essentially built-in. You will deny yourself non-essential health-care and limit yourself to using the system only when you see a real need. That as opposed to a system where it costs you nothing to seek medical attention, even for the most trivial matter and encourages you to use it by costing you nothing out of pocket.

If we go along with the false premise (for the sake of argument) health care is a "right", shouldn't you be the one deciding how much health care you get? And if so, shouldn't the system which best provides you that ability be the system of choice?

Well why in the world, then, is anyone considering a socialist model?

UPDATE (JON): Beltway Traffic Jam

Posted by McQ at 01:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Oh, then "nevermind"

We know the cave-in by the Filipino government will have its consequences, but it seems that among the terrorists, there may be a gang 'who can't shoot straight'.

A militant group said Wednesday it had taken two Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian hostage and would behead them if their countries did not announce their intention to withdraw their troops from Iraq immediately.

However, none of those countries were part of the 160,000 member coalition force in Iraq.

The "Holders of the Black Banners" haven't yet reacted to this revelation.

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

The Big Bang

Not sure what to make of this breaking story yet, but UPI is reporting that three nuclear warheads might have been found in Iraq.

Iraqi security reportedly discovered three missiles carrying nuclear heads concealed in a concrete trench northwest of Baghdad, official sources said Wednesday.

The official daily al-Sabah quoted the sources as saying the missiles were discovered in trenches near the city of Tikrit, the hometown of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"The three missiles were discovered by chance when the Iraqi security forces captured former Baath party official Khoder al-Douri who revealed during interrogation the location of the missiles saying they carried nuclear heads," the sources said.

They pointed out that the missiles were actually discovered in the trenches lying under six meters of concrete and designed in a way to unable sophisticated sensors from discovering nuclear radiation.

Before you get your panties in a wad, however, Reuters is reporting that Iraqi Interior Ministry officials are denying the story.

I am very ambivalent about this. If the story was confirmed as true, it would raise as many, or more, troubling questions as it answered.

Posted by Dale Franks at 09:45 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Its just hillarious

Yes folks, in an attempt to point out how serious national security is to Bill Clinton, he's weighed in on Sandy Berger's behalf:

Bill Clinton defended his embattled national security adviser Tuesday as a man who "always got things right," even if his desk was a mess.

"We were all laughing about it on the way over here," the former president said of the investigation into Samuel "Sandy" Berger on classified terrorism documents missing from the National Archives. "People who don't know him might find it hard to believe. But ... all of us who've been in his office have always found him buried beneath papers."

Well goodie. And one must assume, Mr. Clinton, that he also wandered the halls with classified material in his socks in order to further entertain you.

Clinton said he has known about the federal probe of Berger's actions for several months, calling this week's news a "nonstory."

"I wish I knew who leaked it. It's interesting timing," he added.

Perhaps, but even more interesting to me is Clinton's cavalier toss-off of security matters. Of course this is the guy who left the aide with the nuclear football to walk back to the White House one time, so it shouldn't come as that much of a surprise.

Posted by McQ at 09:18 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Its a right-wing smear

Joe Wilson goes into VRWC mode to defend himself from what he characterizes as a "right-wing smear" against he and his wife concerning the claims he made when he supposedly investigated whether Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger.

To review, his conclusions, found in a NYT op/ed piece in July of 2003 were as follows:

Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

[...]

I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program — all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.

But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.

Charge: Intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was "twisted" to "exaggerate" the Iraqi threat.

Evidence: Does not support the charge. Two separate investigations, one British (Lord Butler's) and one US (Congressional investigation into the CIA) concluded that the President and the administration did not exaggerate intelligence nor pressure operatives to come to a conclusion they wanted. They also concluded that the "16 words" used by Bush in the SOTU address were correct.

Result: Charge unfounded.

That is the nut of this argument. Joe Wilson was found to be wrong about his conclusion that the US went to war based on "twisted" and "exaggerated" intel and he was also wrong in his conclusion that Iraq had not sought yellowcake from Niger.

You'd think he'd be smart enought to shut-up and go away.

But no. Today we're treated to a Joe Wilson whine about a right-wing smear job (ironic isn't it, him protesting a 'smear' after the smear job he did on Bush):

For the last two weeks, I have been subjected — along with my wife, Valerie Plame — to a partisan Republican smear campaign. In right-wing blogs and on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the National Review, I've been accused of being a liar and, worse, a traitor.

I certainly wouldn't go as far as call the man a traitor, but a liar ... possible. More likely though is the fact that Joe Wilson was a poor investigator with a big-mouth who attempted to leverage a mole-hill into a partisan political mountain ... and failed.

But per Joe, its all the right-wing's fault. He's just a guy doing a job he was asked to do (you know, such as writing an op/ed piece accusing the President of "twisting" and "exaggerating" intelligence to justify war).

I went to Niger, investigated and told the CIA that the report was unfounded. Then, in July 2003, I revealed some details of my investigation in a New York Times Op-Ed article. I did that because President Bush had used the Niger claim to support going to war in Iraq — to support his contention that we could not wait "for the smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud" — even though the administration knew that evidence for it was all but nonexistent. Shortly after that article was published, the attacks began: Administration sources leaked to the media that my wife was an undercover CIA operative — an unprecedented betrayal of national security and a possible felony.

Let's be clear here, the attacks began with Joe Wilson's op/ed piece. He seems to think its a benign act to accuse the President of twisting and exaggerating intel and lying.

In the last two weeks, since the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on intelligence failures, the smear attacks have intensified. Based on distortions in the report, they appear to have three purposes: to sow confusion; to distract attention from the fact that the White House used the Niger claim even after CIA Director George Tenet told Bush that "the reporting was weak"; and to protect whoever it was who told the press about Valerie.

Distortions in the report? What distortions? What's clear is the CIA wasn't privy to the real intel held by the British. Their conclusion was based, rightly by the way, on viewing and rejecting the Italian forgeries. But here's an important point: Joe Wilson had based his conclusion on his trip, not the Italian forgeries. And as he mentions in his NYT op/ed piece, Bush's "16 words" were based on neither the forgeries or Wilson's report:

The British government published a "white paper" asserting that Saddam Hussein and his unconventional arms posed an immediate danger. As evidence, the report cited Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium from an African country.

Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.

This intelligence has since been deemed to be correct.

Meanwhile, an examination by a British investigative panel that was released days after the Senate committee report said that the allegations about Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa were "well-founded" and that Bush was on solid ground to repeat Britain's concerns in his speech.

So how is it distorted to point to that? And, I've never understood where clearing something up is an attempt to 'sow confusion'. But one supposes when they've been shown to be both incompetent and disingenuous, they might consider the truth as 'confusing'.

Wilson then tries to focus the smear on the supposed outing of his wife by administration officials and denies she had any role in his assignment to the job in Niger. That appears to be a story now sorting itself out in which Wilson may be found to have lied concerning her role. But while Wilson attempts to make this the focus of the "smear" the Congressional report: questions his truthfulness:

The committee also questioned Wilson's repeated denials that his wife had "anything to do" with his selection by the CIA to go to Niger. It quoted from a memo by Plame that lays out Wilson's qualifications for the assignment. Wilson and the CIA confirm that the agency, not Plame, selected him for the mission. He says the memo merely laid out his qualifications after he was picked.

The memo, of course, blasts his claim she hand nothing to do with his assignment to the job all to hell. Obviously signing a memo laying out a candidate's qualifications doesn't qualify as "doing nothing".

Going on, Wilson yammers:

The attacks against me should not obscure the facts. The day after my article in the Times appeared in July 2003, the president's spokesman acknowledged that "the 16 words did not merit inclusion in the State of the Union address."

The Senate report makes clear that senior leadership of the CIA tried repeatedly to keep this unsubstantiated claim out of presidential addresses. Three months before the State of the Union, on Oct. 6, 2002, the CIA sent a fax to the White House stating that "the Africa story is overblown." Tenet testified that on that day he told the deputy national security advisor the "president should not be a fact witness on this issue" because "the reporting was weak."

He's right, the facts shouldn't be obscured. And the fact is the CIA was focused on the wrong "claim". Bush cited the British report, which had been initially generated by the French. The British report did not cite or use the fraudulent Italian papers as its basis. So yes, fact, the CIA was correct to repeatedly try to keep the fraudulent Italian report from being cited, but that wasn't the report which Bush cited.

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

Note the cite. Review Lord Butler and the Congressional CIA report. The cite is correct.

The right-wing campaign against me and Valerie does not alter the reality that someone in the Bush administration exposed her identity and compromised national security. I believe it was a malicious act meant to keep others from crossing a vindictive administration.

Of course he offers nothing but opinion here, or should I say, he offers the left-wing claim that its all about vindictiveness while denying the attack was begun by Wilson's July '03 op/ed in the NY Times which demanded answers.

Most important, when it comes to the Niger claim — and so many other claims underlying the decision to go to war in Iraq — it is the Bush administration, not Joe Wilson, who spoke the words that have cost us more than 900 lives and billions of dollars and have left our international reputation in tatters.

Wilson's last gasp is pathetic, even by the standards by which we've come to judge the radical left. Even after seeing its basis destroyed, he again tries the "Big Lie" canard which claims or infers it was all 'twisted' and 'exaggerated' information purposely designed to make the threat seem more than it was. As we've now found out, those claims are false. But Wilson and the left will continue to push it for all its worth, if for no other reason than to disguise their incompetence and lack of will in the War on Terror.

Posted by McQ at 08:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

There she goes (to Washington) again...

With apologies to Georgia-dwelling McQ--this is probably more of his beat, though I did live in Georgia for 24 years--I have to mention this little gem....

Democrat Cynthia McKinney, whose tirades against President Bush helped get her tossed out two years ago, appeared headed back to Washington on Tuesday...
Cynthia "What did this administration know [about September 11th] and when did it know it" McKinney is back. A few comments:

HipHop.bmp

I kid you not. Her own words....

Cynthia McKinney is a strong advocate, mentor and supporter of the Hip-Hop community. Her unique popularity among the members of the Hip-Hop generation and young people across the United States of America has made her a trusted voice on behalf of producers, retailers and consumers of Hip-Hop entertainment.

Should be an interesting couple years.

UPDATE: And she's not the only peachy keen candidate from Georgia. Henry Hanks has another winner...

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:40 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 20, 2004

"Grossly Unfair"

Megan McArdle, otherwise known as Jane Galt, says she doesn't have much to say about the whole Sandy Berger Deal. But, she says it well.

But perhaps we should not be so sceptical. I recall that someone, who shall remain nameless, was unfairly subject to a similar investigation while we were in high school. This person had, entirely inadvertently, stuffed some things into their trousers while browsing in their local supermarket. Unfortunately, they forgot to take them out again to pay, resulting in the sort of grossly unfair investigation that Mr Berger is now suffering, although in their case it was conducted by a bystander who turned out to be an agent of the NYPD. The story was then "maliciously leaked" to our hapless victim's parents, resulting in much embarassment as they attempted to explain how they had 'forgotten about" a pack of bologna, two one liter bottles of soda, one jar of Vlasic Extra Large Dill Sandwich Pickles, and a can of whipped cream. The years have not dimmed the fallout from this malicious smear, perpetrated by a store owner who was no doubt a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. As this stories develop, we need to keep in mind that many Americans use their underwear to store things when they have too much to carry. Innocent until proven guilty ain't just a river in Egypt.

Once, as a young child, I was at a grocery store with my grandmother when I inadvertently swallowed several grapes in the produce section. My grandmother's response, upon discovering me in the act of this entirely understandable error, was similarly unpleasant.

Grossly unfair.

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

In case you were wondering about '08

We haven't even put the '04 election to bed and already the Democrats are talking about '08. And who is their leading candidate?

Well, no surprise here:

Delegates to next week's Democratic National Convention already have an idea about 2008 if presidential candidate John Kerry should lose this fall: They would favor Hillary Rodham Clinton over John Edwards as their next standardbearer.

Although the choice wasn't overwhelming, it was telling. It also identifies Ms. Clinton's closest rival ... at least as this point:

Among the more than 3,000 delegates interviewed, or roughly 70 percent of the 4,300-plus who will attend the four-day event beginning Monday in Boston, most were reticent to offer a favorite, optimistic about Kerry's chances on Nov. 2. Some 36 percent said "none" when asked whom they would like to see as the party's candidate in 2008.

Clinton was favored by 26 percent overall and Edwards 17 percent. Among women, Clinton led Edwards 34 percent to 16 percent. The breakdown among men was Clinton 22 percent, Edwards 21 percent.

[...]

In the AP survey, Clinton was more popular than Edwards among delegates who were white as well as those who were black or Hispanic. She also was the choice of those who said they were in a union.

Of course when asked about all this, Ms. Clinton said that in '08 she'd be hard at work on the reelection of Kerry/Edwards.

Of course, Hillary ... of course.

Posted by McQ at 10:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Webmastering is hard...

...especially if you have a very big web site to manage. Pages get erased inadvertantly. Over time, links get broken, because it's so hard to update everything. That's probably why the text of Joe Wilson's New York Times op/ed piece, "What I didn't Find in Africa" no longer works at John Kerry's...uh, I mean, Joe Wilson's Restore Honesty web site.

Hold on a sec...

«pause»

Now, that's odd. If you go to the John Kerry web site and do a search for "Joe Wilson", or "Joseph Wilson", or "Ambassador Wilson", it doesn't return any documents at all that actually mention Joe Wilson. Huh. Nothing mentioning Joe WIlson's web site if you do a search for "Restore Honesty" or "restorehonesty.com", either.

Man, is that just the wierdest coincidence, or what?

(Via Tim Blair)

Posted by Dale Franks at 09:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Are those classified documents in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?

The things that interests me the most about this whole Sandy Berger deal--like Reason's Tim Cavanaugh is what, exactly, he took out of the archives and got rid of.

Like Cavanaugh, I suspect that rather than being some hideously important national security deal, it was just something that makes Berger look stupid.

Still, even if that's what it was, it doesn't mean that they are entirely tangential to the 9/11 commission's work.

All in all, though, I prefer to operate by the rule that one shouldn't posit a conspiracy when simple stupidity will suffice for an explanation.

And it does tend to confirm my general impression of Kerry that this buffoon was his top foreign affairs/national security advisor.

Just as it confirmed my worst impressions about Clinton's foreign policy leanings when he hired him originally.

Posted by Dale Franks at 09:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Michael Moore beats Haliburton

Seems the corpulent one's propaganda piece earned more than Haliburton in the last quarter. Does that make him a war profiteer?

Posted by McQ at 06:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Where's the NAACP when you need them?

Apparently being black isn't good enough to involve the NAACP in all cases of bigotry or racism. That so-called "non-partisan" group dedicated to protecting the rights of blacks now requires the black person to be of the correct political persuasion before they'll step in. Otherwise there's deafening silence (or the victims are called "puppets of the white man").

However there are others willing to step into the breach when the NAACP fails to step forward:

Because of the racially-insensitive content of a recent cartoon, members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 are asking Universal Press Syndicate to cease the distribution of comics drawn by Ted Rall. Project 21 also is challenging several other civil rights-oriented groups to join in the demand.

A July 1 comic by Rall suggests "appropriate punishments for deposed Bushists" that parodies alleged treatment of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. The panel featuring Bush Administration national security advisor Condoleezza Rice has her saying "I was Bush's beard! His house nigga. His..." She is interrupted by a character wearing a shirt reading "You're not white, stupid" who says, "Now hand over your hair straightener."

"Is it OK for Ted Rall to use such vile language because he's using it against a black conservative?" asks Project 21 member Michael King. "I'm beside myself with anger over this comic."

Good for them.

I agree, its despicable .... and it proves conclusively that insensitive and bigoted remarks certainly aren't the exclusive territory of the right by any stretch.

Posted by McQ at 05:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The secret of Sandy Berger's Pants

With the deepest sorrow, John Kerry's campaign is pushing Sandy Berger overboard. Of course, not all Democrats are so intolerant.

Democratic strategist Richard Goodstein, however, said Kerry should "absolutely not" drop Berger from his team.

"The documents that Sandy supposedly took were copies. There are copies elsewhere throughout the [National] Archives and elsewhere in Washington, so it's not like he was trying to cover something up," Goodstein said.

Uh huh. The availability of copies, in case you didn't know, has very little to do with the reason that documents are classified. It's usually the content of the document. I guess this needs explaining, because, if Mr. Goodstein is any example, some people are a bit unclear on the whole classification thing.

The fact that Kerry has pulled the plug on Berger's participation in the campaign indicates to me that there's some worry about the seriousness of this.

You see, here's the deal. There are rules when dealing with classified documents. In general, you cannot remove classified documents from their facility at all. Berger says he "Inadvertantly" put them in his "portfolio" (briefcase). A likely story.

And one that's made less likely by him and his lawyer admitting that Berger smuggled out notes in his pants jackets and...socks. Socks, for cripe's sake.

The rule is that any notes you take on classified materials has to be reviewed, to ensure you haven't copied down classified info. After it's reviewed, your unclassified notes are returned to you. Berger evidently didn't want to go through all that, so apparently he's admitting to intentionally smuggling those notes out of the archives.

Then he expects me to believe that his taking of actual documents was inadvertent?

Sure, Sandy. Whatever you say.

Posted by Dale Franks at 05:07 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Oh wonderful!

Oh man ... does this guy ever go away?

Pop star Michael Jackson, facing a trial on child molestation charges, is about to become a father to four more children -- quadruplets -- by way of a surrogate mother, Us Weekly magazine reported on Tuesday.

Citing unnamed sources close to the self-proclaimed "King of Pop," the magazine said Jackson recently spent time with the pregnant mother-to-be in Florida, where he stayed in a $4,000-a-night luxury hotel suite in Miami Beach.

His fascination with children goes beyond normal to obsessive.

Is it at all possible to set bail so high that even he can't pay?

Posted by McQ at 04:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Eligiblity not required

Remember this?

In 1999 under the Clinton administration, the federal government agreed to compensate black farmers for decades of racial discrimination that shut them out of billions of dollars in federal subsidies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to pay at least $50,000 to each eligible black farmer.

Apparently only a part of the money ... the 2.3 billion of your money ... has been paid out:

However, the USDA rejected payments to 82,000 of the 94,000 black farmers who applied -- or about 87 percent -- because of insufficient documentation and missed filing deadlines, according to a report released on Tuesday by the.

The USDA has paid black farmers $800 million of the $2.3 billion settlement, the group said.

And the reaction?

"What we concluded is that this entire settlement has been a complete failure at every turn for the farmers," said Arianne Callender, the activist group's general counsel.

"The only place left for the farmers to receive justice is the United States Congress, which should step in and demand USDA pay off these claims and move on," she added.

Both groups criticized the Bush administration, saying it aggressively fought the black farmers' claims. The environmental group said the Justice Department spent 56,000 hours at a cost of $12 million to oppose some of the compensation claims.

"I think its a national disgrace ... for the Bush administration to come into office and put a screeching halt to payments," Boyd said.

They put a screeching halt to payments?

Let's back up. Didn't the Environmental Working Group report say 87% were rejected for "insufficient documentation and missed filing deadlines".

In other words, the applicants couldn't prove they were eligible or the didn't bother to file within the time set aside for filing, right?

But here's something which isn't reported in the story:

Of those who met the initial deadline, more than 60 percent have received compensation.

Oh. So the majority of the claims which provided documentation in the time prescribed were approved. For some reason that just doesn't sound as damning as "87% were denied". In fact, it indicates that most of the farmers supposedly "denied" never filed. Rather hard to have 87% "not paid" while at the same time having paid 60% of the claims propertly substantiated and filed on time.

Additionally:

The study finds that of the nearly 66-thousand claims filed between the first and second deadlines, more than 63-thousand were rejected by an arbitrator.

Which says to me that even though the applicants were given a second opportunity to file, the vast majority still couldn't substantiate their claim.

By the way, the second deadline was September 2000. As I recall the Clinton administration was still in office.

But its the Bush administration's fault that they just didn't hand out the money to the ineligible, no questions asked?

Silly me. And all this time I thought it was the job of government to safeguard our tax money.

Not to worry though, it appears the Democrats are going to try to ride to the rescue:

John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, said he met with Democrats on Monday and was "very optimistic" that lawmakers would soon introduce legislation to help black farmers.

How swell.

Posted by McQ at 03:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Draft? Expand the Volunteer Force instead

The "fairness" police seem to feel there's too much "burden" being imposed on the poor in this country (not to mention a lack of diversity) when it comes to military service in the War on Terror.

The obvious answer, at least to them, is to reinstate the draft. Somehow it is eminently more fair to randomly disrupt the lives of all citizens rather than allowing those who choose to serve to do so. For the life of me, I've never been able to follow that line of reasoning.

Nathaniel Fick, a former Marine Captain, makes the case that instituting the draft would, in effect, "dumb down" the military as well as making it less effective. You see the military is already much more selective of the candidates it takes than any draft would ever be. And it is the intelligence and the motivation (the desire to excel) of these soldiers which has helped make our military so formidable. He also neatly destroys the "diversity" myth in his article.

In Iraq, I commanded a reconnaissance platoon, the Marines' special operations force. Many of my enlisted marines were college-educated; some had been to graduate school. All had volunteered once for the Marines, again for the infantry, and a third time for recon. They were proud to serve as part of an elite unit. Like most demanding professionals, they were their own harshest critics, intolerant of their peers whose performance fell short.

The dumb grunt is an anachronism. He has been replaced by the strategic corporal. Immense firepower and improved technology have pushed decision-making with national consequences down to individual enlisted men. Modern warfare requires that even the most junior infantryman master a wide array of technical and tactical skills.

Honing these skills to reflex, a prerequisite for survival in combat, takes time - a year of formal training and another year of on-the-job experience were generally needed to transform my young marines into competent warriors. The Marine Corps demands four-year active enlistments because it takes that long to train troops and ensure those training dollars are put to use in the field. One- or two-year terms, the longest that would be likely under conscription, would simply not allow for this comprehensive training.

You don't make a competent soldier in a year or even two years. He learns his trade in those two years and becomes competent in the third and fourth. But again I want to emphasize the most important part ... volunteers want to be the best they can be. Its no different than choosing your field of work in the civilian world and trying to excel. They work toward this competence with a fervor shared by those in any line of endeavor where the work is chosen and not forced. It is as important to them to be viewed by their peers as an equal when it comes to ability and expertice as it is to any young college grad starting his first job.

Not so with draftees. Flick has had the pleasure of dealing only with volunteers in his time in the service. I had the experience of commanding both draftees and volunteers. I was an infantry platoon leader during the draft. I was also an infantry company commander as the volunteer force began. The difference, put succinctly, is like night and day.

I'd never, ever want a draft military again.

While most draftees did their duty, there were a percentage which were constant discipline and motivation problems. And competence? Competence was something they just didn't care about one whit. Frankly, they were not worth the dissention they brought to the force or the danger they posed to their comrades.

And while draft supporters insist we have learned the lessons of Vietnam and can create a fair system this time around, even an equitable draft would lower the standards for enlistees. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was chastised for saying Vietnam-era draftees added no value to the armed forces. But his error was semantic; the statement was true of the system, if not of the patriotic and capable individuals who served.

The current volunteer force rejects applicants who score poorly on its entrance aptitude exam, disclose a history of significant drug use or suffer from any of a number of orthopedic or chronic injuries. Face it: any unwilling draftee could easily find a way to fail any of these tests. The military, then, would be left either to abandon its standards and accept all comers, or to remain true to them and allow the draft to become volunteerism by another name. Stripped of its volunteer ideology, but still unable to compel service from dissenters, the military would end up weaker and less representative than the volunteer force - the very opposite of the draft's intended goals.

Standards are high and the ability and efficiency of our military reflect the impact of those standards. We shouldn't change standards and rules which have made us this successful just to be "fair". It doesn't make sense. If we feel we don't have enough in the military to do the job, then we should expand what works ... not scrap it and replace it with something which was detrimental to our Armed Forces the last time we tried it. If we need more in the military, then expand the volunteer military to meet those requirements. But the draft, as Fick states, and I agree, is a bad, bad idea.

And while draft supporters insist we have learned the lessons of Vietnam and can create a fair system this time around, even an equitable draft would lower the standards for enlistees. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was chastised for saying Vietnam-era draftees added no value to the armed forces. But his error was semantic; the statement was true of the system, if not of the patriotic and capable individuals who served.

The current volunteer force rejects applicants who score poorly on its entrance aptitude exam, disclose a history of significant drug use or suffer from any of a number of orthopedic or chronic injuries. Face it: any unwilling draftee could easily find a way to fail any of these tests. The military, then, would be left either to abandon its standards and accept all comers, or to remain true to them and allow the draft to become volunteerism by another name. Stripped of its volunteer ideology, but still unable to compel service from dissenters, the military would end up weaker and less representative than the volunteer force - the very opposite of the draft's intended goals.

While Rumsfeld may have been politically incorrect in his assertion, in my experience, draftees overall were mostly a detriment to the force in general. And with them came draft resisters, draft protests, and finally a seeming hate for the military in general (which was acted out toward individual soldiers during that era) were the result of this misguided policy. I don't want to see it repeated.

Renewing the draft would be a blow against the men and women in uniform, a dumbing down of the institution they serve. The United States military exists to win battles, not to test social policy. Enlarging the volunteer force would show our soldiers that Americans recognize their hardship and are willing to pay the bill to help them better protect the nation.

Amen. When you have the best, don't mess with it. Make it better if you can, and support it with all you have. But please, please, please, save us and our military from the misguided nonsense of the "fairness" police and the draft.

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

Laugh-testing Marshall

Josh Marshall, on the timing of the Sandy Berger story....

However, it seems equally clear that the surfacing of this matter is the product of a malicious leak intended to distract attention from the release of the 9/11 commission report.

Consider the timing.
[...]
The most obvious, and probably the only, explanation of this leak is that it is intended to distract attention from the release of the 9/11 report due later this week. That would be yet another example of this administration's common practice of using the levers of executive power (law enforcement, declassification, etc.) for partisan purposes.[emphasis added]

What, you mean the report the entire country is focused on now, because of this story? Yeah, this story has shoved that right under the rug.


UPDATE: Also failing the laugh-test...the Eschaton attempt to assert that--because of the Clinton connection--the Berger issue is getting more attention than the Valerie Plame outting.

They can't seriously believe that, can they?

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

Krugmania

Democrats go into high dudgeon whenever a Republican suggests that Osama Bin Laden would prefer a President Kerry. So, when Paul Krugman suggests that "nothing in Mr. Bush's record would make [the terrorists] unhappy at the prospect of four more years", the Democrats denounce that, as well.

Right?

Well.....

First, Krugman skewers the idea that Bush has been tough on terror. The device Krugman uses to make his argument seems extreme, it's thus rendered all the more powerful when you see how perfectly it fits.
As it turns out, they never really had a problem with the "Bin Laden would vote for (blank)" slur at all. They just hated when it was applied to their candidate.

It's the principle of the thing, you see.

NOTE: My favorite, linked above, is this Carpetbagger post, which contains the following lines. Re: allegations that terrorists would prefer Kerry over Bush...

It's disgusting and offensive, of course...
re: allegations that terrorists would prefer Bush over Kerry....
"...a genuine classic..." [...] " a devastating piece that everyone has to read."
It's hypocrisy, writ large, and if you want to call yourself "disgusting andd offensive".....well, I won't stop you.

Absent that admission, I will eagerly await the rationalizations.

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:40 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Sudan: The UN Leaps Into Inaction

Mark Steyn writes that the situation in Sudan shows how horribly broken the UN is.

The UN system is broken beyond repair. In May, even as its proxies were getting stuck into their ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan was elected to a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Commission. This isn't an aberration: Zimbabwe is also a member. The very structure of the organisation, under which countries vote in regional blocs, encourages such affronts to decency.

The Sudanese representative, by the way, immediately professed himself concerned by human rights abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

The UN, as the Canadian columnist George Jonas put it, enables dictators to punch above their weight. All that Elfatih Mohammed Ahmed Erwa, the Sudanese government's man in New York, has to do is string things out long enough to bog down the US call for sanctions in the Gauloise-filled rooms. "Let's not be hasty," Erwa told the Los Angeles Times. And, fortunately, not being hasty is something the UN is happy to do in its own leisurely way until everyone is in the mass grave and the point is moot.

The peculiar fantasy of the UN is that each member state is equally legitimate. The "ambassadors" sent to the UN by murderous thugocracies judiciously shake their heads--more in sorrow than anger, of course--and counsel their fellow ambassadors not to be too hasty. Because these situations are always so "complex", and the "cycle of violence" is so easily started. The complexities must be "studied" before any "hasty action" is taken.

And the other UN ambassadors pretend that these are the legitimate arguments of a legitimate government, and nothing is done. Until, of course, the minority Serbs, Croats, Macedonians, Hutus, Tutsis, Christians, Animists, Buddhists, Muslims, or whatever the case may be, have all been shot and interred in shallow mass graves. At which point, there's no need for UN action at all, since the trouble-causing minorities have departed.

No need to be "hasty". These problems solve themselves, really.

"Aid agencies have found it difficult to get visas." That sentence encapsulates everything that is wrong with the transnational approach. The UN confers on its most dysfunctional members a surreal, post-modern sovereignty: a state that claims it can't do anything about groups committing genocide across huge tracts of its territory nevertheless expects the world to respect its immigration paperwork as inviolable.

Why should the West's ability to help Darfur be dependent on the visa section of the Sudanese embassy? The world would be a better place if the UN, or the democratic members thereof, declared that thug states forfeit the automatic deference to sovereignty. Since that won't happen, it would be preferable if free nations had a forum of their own in which decisions could be reached before every peasant has been hacked to death. The Coalition of the Willing has a nice ring to it.

One day, historians will wonder why the most militarily advanced nations could do nothing to halt men with machetes and a few rusting rifles.

Because the second we did do something, the piteous moans of impotent rage would begin on the Left. It would be all "western racism" and "no war for oil" and "Bush lied" every time we intervened somewhere. We'd get tedious "history lessons" about the price of US arrogance every Sunday ojn Russert from humorless Dashle/Kennedy/Pelosi types. R.W. Apple would be doing regular body counts as part of his continuing "quagmire" op/ed pieces.

It's hardly worth the trouble. Better to let Charlie Rangel get himself arrested in front of the Sudanese embassy a few times. After all, it makes him feel good, like he's doing something important, and the DC cops certainly aren't gonna let him experience any real discomfort.

Better to take some gentle goading from the Left for doing nothing, than to do something, and have to sit idly by while Michael Moore makes tens of millions of dollars with a new documentary that details your family's close connections with the family of the late Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, which explains how intervention in Sudan is really only a cover operation for sending a secret Delta Force team into Ethiopia to recover the Lost Ark of the Covenant, so you can bring it to Washington and smite African-Americans with deadly sicknesses through the use of this ancient and diabolical Jewish artifact, because your land-developing political contributors need the land currently occupied by minorities to build grotesque capitalist shopping malls with secret underground chambers where small children are sacrified and eaten in satanic rituals.

No, it's, better to pretend that the Sudanese government is legitimate, send them a few sharply worded notes, and maybe slap some economic sanctions on them. Then you can shake your head in sorrow at the inability to get the UN to move, and express deep regret that, since American security isn't really at stake, you can't justify acting alone.

That would be unilateral.

And who knows, maybe it would force the Left to start making the case for intervention, rather than carping about letting American boys be killed in a "nation far away, about which we know little".

But probably, not.

Posted by Dale Franks at 09:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Making the unwanted available to everybody

Dean Esmay...

The Democratic Party has released its Platform for 2004.

This is the great thing about the Internet. In elections past, it was very hard for the everyday citizen to find things like this. Now anyone can get important civic documents like this with just a few clicks!

Just think: decades ago, things like this were written, but almost nobody had access to it, and almost nobody read it. Today, we all have access to it.

But we still won't read it.

Truly, we've come a long way, baby.

Posted by Jon Henke at 09:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sandy "G Gordon" Berger

At this point, I'm not entirely sure what to make of the charges against Sandy Berger. However, two things do stand out to me:

1: This is such an irrational act--the idea that he could walk out with classified documents, and nobody would notice or care--that it strikes me that there must be an explanation. As with the "outting of Valerie Plame", I believe that intelligent people simply don't act in such an irrational manner.

2: Unless I'm missing something, this charge seems like a reach....

It will be difficult to explain to anyone's satisfaction why Berger felt the need to stuff notes from sensitive documents down his pants.
Why would that be difficult to explain? I can't speak for Sandy Berger, but my pants are where I keep my pockets. The cited story says Berger stuck "them in his jacket and pants", which doesn't really indicate whether he had put them in pockets or not....but that doesn't seem like an unreasonable assumption, unless we have specific information to the contrary.

We'll have to wait for more information, but I doubt this will be the scandal it first appears. I'm most reminded of the Paul O'Neill mini-drama with classified documents, in which he was eventually cleared.

UPDATE: If this is true, it would seem to bode less well for Berger...

Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket, pants and socks, and also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio.

Pants, jacket....I can see that. Socks? Well.

UPDATE II: The "socks" story isn't holding up so well...

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:38 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Cleland repeats the "Big Lie"

The more I read about Max Cleland, the more I'm of the opinion that he's become slightly deranged since the loss of his senate seat. How else to you explain the following?

In a conference call with reporters, Cleland said the president went to war in Iraq “because he concluded that his daddy was a failed president” for not having removed Saddam Hussein from power after the first Gulf War. Therefore, Cleland explained, the younger Bush decided to “be Mr. Macho Man” by removing Saddam himself.

Cleland also said the president “flat-out lied” when he asked Congress to authorize war in Iraq. “He told us four things,” Cleland said, listing Bush’s claims of Iraq weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons programs, attempts to acquire yellowcake uranium in Africa, and ties to al Qaeda. “All of that was a pack of lies,” Cleland said. Both Cleland and Kerry voted to authorize the war.

So, his argument is Bush went to war to avenge "daddy"?

I see.

And according to Cleland, the rest was simply "a pack of lies" used to justify W's war of revenge.

After reading his comments (or perhaps now, false charges is a better description) I have to wonder if Max has been held incommunicado for the last couple of weeks and fed nothing but obsolete Democrat talking points before he was "unleashed" on reporters.

As Jon so aptly pointed out about the "Bush Lied" crowd, they have no intention of conceding the field. Apparently their plan is to ignore emerging contrary facts and continue repeat their lies (and that's what these now become since we have information which directly refutes their charges) in the hope that a significant enough portion of the voting population who haven't been paying attention, or are predisposed to agree, will buy into them.

Anyone who's been paying attention knows of the reports which now refute the "Bush lied" charge concerning the uranium in Africa and WMDs. They're not even really debatable points anymore. Yet Cleland, in the face of this evidence, continues to push this lie. And obviously, if as it now seems clear, Iraq was attempting to acquire yellowcake from Niger, it should be just as clear that was aimed at a "nuclear program" in Iraq. Lastly, while there's been no hard evidence of a working relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq, there has been plenty of evidence of a "connection", however loose. And that speaks to "ties" of some sort.

Cleland's false charges strike me as those of a bitter political operative suseptable to being manipulated by a ruthless campaign which feeds and uses his bitterness in order to continue pushing the "big lie". Its a pity. Max Cleland was once a man I admired and respected. Perhaps it now become clearer to some why the voters of Georgia refused to reward Max with a second term.

UPDATE: Debra Saunders takes a whack at the "Bush Lied" crowd in the guise of Kerry:

Yet the senator said in a primary election debate, "I don't regret my vote. I regret we had a president who misled the nation and broke every promise he made to the Congress of the United States."

"Broke every promise" apparently is long-hand for "Bush lied."

Bush lied. Those two words have become such a mantra that it is hard to know how to begin addressing them. There's the awful knowledge, which makes me want to vomit, that U.S. intelligence was severely flawed -- and those flaws fueled a war. It was Hussein's flouting of the U.N. cease-fire agreement that made the war not only possible, but justifiable. Still, war was more avoidable than America knew.

"I think every premonition I had about the downside of this war was proved prescient," Kerry also told The Chronicle, "and it comes out of the experience that I personally had when we lost the consent and legitimacy of our nation in the war that I fought in."

And yet Kerry voted for this war. How can a man so savvy and sophisticated -- so prescient, if he does say so himself -- have been misled by that simpleton Bush?

"Proved prescient," yet "misled."

Now that is nuance.

Heh ... old, dumb "W".

Posted by McQ at 08:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The discipline of the free market

Tyler Cowen--one of the more interesting bloggers I read--links to this statement by Robert F Kennedy Jr....

"The best thing that could happen to the environment is free-market capitalism. In a true free-market economy, you can't make yourself rich without making your neighbors rich and without enriching your community. In a true free-market economy, you get efficiencies and efficiency means the elimination of waste. Waste is pollution. So in true free-market capitalism, you eliminate pollution and you properly value our natural resources so you won't cut them down. What polluters do is escape the discipline of the free market. You show me a polluter, I'll show you a subsidy — a fat cat who's using political clout to escape the discipline of the free market."
This is a pretty fundamental assumption of many libertarians and proponents of the free-market. It follows from the a priori assumption that, in a free market where all transactions are voluntary, no actor will engage in a transaction that is not to his benefit. Therefore, every exchange will increase the overall wealth and well-being of a society.

Now, that's a reasonable assumption, except for two things:
1: imperfect information.
2: externalities.

These two factors can result in exchanges that reduce the wealth/well-being of a society, even though it was no part of the original intent of the transaction.

  • Imperfect information can result in transactions that don't benefit one or both sides of the transaction. (ex: I give you $5000 for a used car, thinking it's worth it to me....but, as it turns out, the car is a lemon. With better information about the state of the car, I could have made a better choice)
  • Externalities (def: "...costs or benefits arising from an economic activity that affect somebody other than the people engaged in the economic activity and are not reflected fully in prices.") are perfectly illustrated by pollutants. The pollution given off by a factory is not a factor in the cost of making a product, and--though it has a cost--has no direct reflection in the price of the produced item. In other words, it assigns a cost to people not involved in the transaction

Those are the limitations of the free market. So, what's the solution?

Well, it occurs to me that, with respect to pollutants, we could solve the externalities problem by assigning a tax to effluents. The problem would lie in assigning a value to each unit of pollutant produced that approximates the true cost to society, but if that could be done, then a tax on effluents could very nearly solve the externalities problem of pollution.

What about "information"? Well, that's a bit harder. We've never had perfect information, though we're getting better and better at it. It occurs to me that, if we can roll the cost of externalities into the cost of production, then government would serve the people best by ensuring they had as much information as possible.

If such were done, rational decision-making--the lifeblood of growth--would be enhanced immeasurably.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:15 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

July 19, 2004

Welcome to the real world, Whoopie

This is an interesting quote. To me its quite telling.

"While I can appreciate what the Slim Fast people need to do in order to protect their business, I must also do what I need to do as an artist, as a writer and as an American -- not to mention as a comic. It's unfortunate that, in this country, the two cannot mesh," Goldberg said in a statement.

What that means is she really can't appreciate what Slim Fast has to do in order to protect their business as she feels her "needs" as an artist, writer and American are or more important than theirs. And because we dummies out here can't see that, well, "the two cannot mesh".

Welcome to the real world, Whoopie. In the real world there are consequences for your actions. In the real world you're held responsible for what you say. In the real world, when you take active steps to alienate and insult 50% of your audience, they'll let you know. And they'll also let companies you represent know about their displeasure with you.

In case you don't realize it ... its an old tactic of the left. They call them "boycotts". Effective, aren't they?

When it comes to advertising contracts, Ms. Goldberg, you represent the product only until the business which owns it concludes you no longer are fitting to do so, at which point they usually say something like this:

"We are disappointed by the manner in which Ms. Goldberg chose to express herself and sincerely regret that her recent remarks offended some of our consumers," a spokesman of the company was quoted as saying.

Apparently, Whoopie, Slim Fast considers the 'needs" of their customers to be of much more importance than your need to be outrageous, denigrating, insulting, vulgar, and drunk on stage. And that's how it should be ... in a free society.

Posted by McQ at 06:59 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The perspective of history and Iraq

History can't always give us the answers to today's dilemmas. But what one can usually find, if he studies it carefully, are eras or events which help lend perspective to those dilemmas. Victor David Hanson has done a masterful job of providing this sort of perspective concerning war and the SANFUs and foul-ups that are an endemic part of such undertakings. He uses WWII's history as a scalpel to neatly carve up the arguments of critics of the war in Iraq and the subsequent occupation of that nation:

Indeed whom to blame? If the atmosphere which exits today were prevalent then, George Marshall may very well have found himself before the Senate Armed Forces committee being lambasted while newspaper editors from Peoria to Portland called for his resignation.

Yet here we have misinformation, intelligence failures, blunders, poor decisions and bad luck all conspiring to make D-Day and the breakout a tragic failure.

But it wasn't, was it? Americans and British and Canadians died by the thousands. But the survivors adapted, regrouped, reorganized and overcame. They broke out. Sergeants studied the hedgerows and made big iron plows which they attached to their Shermans which allowed them to push through the hedgerows instead of going up and over them and exposing their thin-skinned bellies to German Armor. Armor units began adapting a sort of gang approach to defeating their heavier armored and upgunned foes. They attacked them in groups with one part of the group working their way around behind the panzers to attack the more lightly armored rear.

It would seem self-evident to anyone that has taken the time to study it that the conduct of war is imprecise at best and sometimes just pure chaos. One has to deal with imperfect information, fluid events, blunders and failures by your own side as well as the courage and ability of the enemy. This makes any plan simply a starting point, because, as has been immortalized in Murphy's Law, a plan usually doesn't survive first contact. Adaptation is where war's are won.

Intelligence failures happen, a lot. Your enemy has committed himself to seeing that you don't get a particularly clear or complete picture of his capabilities. That doesn't mean decisions can be delayed. Decisions made based on faulty intelligence result in failures, blunders and deaths. Such is war.

Some more examples?

See the parallels to the current events in a certain Middle Eastern country?

And after all of that, we spent almost 6 years getting Germany to the state we presently have in Iraq.

But no one seems to remember, know or understand the lessons of history, at least among the critics of this war. Instead the critics have become vicious in their attacks, blantant in their disapproval and stunning in their ignorance.

Perspective. Again we find ourselves in a situation we've been in before and unsurprisingly, at least among those who understand what that means, not everything has gone 'according to plan'. What does that mean?

In the short period between June and August 1944, military historians can adduce hundreds of examples of American amateurism, failed intelligence, incompetent logistics, and strategic blundering — but not enough of such errors to nullify the central truth of the Normandy invasion. A free people and its amazing citizen army liberated France and went on in less than a year to destroy veteran Nazi forces in the West, and to occupy Germany to end the war. Good historians, then, keep such larger issues in mind, even as they second-guess and quibble with the tactical and strategic pulse of the battlefield.

We should do the same. Errors were committed in the Iraqi campaign as they always are in war and its aftermath. Saddam didn't use WMDs as we had expected — neither did Hitler, and as a result thousands of GIs carried bothersome and superfluous gas masks across France and Germany for nearly a year.

Yes, we've made mistakes in Iraq. Yes, we had an intelligence failure. Yes, that intelligence failure led us to make mistaken assumptions and plan based on those faulty assumptions. Yes, that has cost American lives. Yes, we could have done some things differently. And yes, we probably could have done some things better.

But to believe that what has happened was based on lies and "rushed" into, that what has happened was done on the fly with no plan, to believe that we should have known Iraq would disintegrate as it did after our attack is simply to live in an alternate universe. To believe that requires complete ignorance about military history in general and very recent military history specifically.

Again, let's put this into perspective:

Given that there were many valid reasons to remove Saddam in a post 9/11 climate, we can lament that the administration privileged the casus belli of worries over WMDs, which proved to be based on flawed intelligence — a shortcoming that the United States in wartime has often experienced. As far as the war itself, we removed Saddam from power in three weeks under impossible conditions of driving nearly 400 miles from a single small front without tactical surprise. We have paid a steep price for the reconstruction — perhaps 900 combat dead, tragically. Yet due to our soldiers' courage and sacrifice, after little more than a year there is the beginning of the first consensual government in the Arab Middle East, and elections are slated on a schedule far ahead of our efforts after World War II. Just as the liberation of France and the final defeat in Germany overshadowed the horror and stupidity of the war on the ground in 1944, so too, when all is said and done, the fact of a free Iraq — not the hysteria about Abu Ghraib, Joe Wilson, or Richard Clarke — will remain.

Looked at in that light, what's been accomplished in Iraq is nothing short of a miracle. Yet the critics won't let go ... even if they "supported the war before they didn't support the war":

When the impact of our action in Iraq is considered in days to come, historians won't be looking at all the caterwalling we hear from the left, but will be focused on precisely the points VDH makes concerning the effect not just in Iraq, but in Saudi Arabia, Lybia, Pakistan, Iran, Syria and among other states and groups. Is the area more of a threat to the interests of the US or less of one? At this point, any unbiased observer would have to lean very heavily to it being much less of a threat to the US's interests than it was previous to the war in Iraq.

And that, of course, brings us to the politics of the war and the angry left:

Kerry said, on one of the weekend shows, that he would, in fact, act preemptively if intelligence warranted such action. Of course one wonders, since Kerry and Edwards were aware of the same intelligence Bush had concerning Iraq, what level of a threat both would consider great enough to rise to that level? And one would further wonder, considering the collossal failure of our intelligence concerning Iraq, what sort of reliablity they'd insist upon seeing before they'd really act. 100% perfect and reliable intelligence is impossible, but if that's your standard then its easy to say you'd act preemptively.

When all is said and done, history points to what has happened in Iraq as "normal" when viewing events of that size, complexity and magnatude. Yes, we'd all have liked it much better if we had perfect intelligence, our plan worked to perfection and our enemy had coooperated and folded like a wet paper box and never challenged us again (while we enjoyed the flower-drenched adulation of the Iraqi people).

But that's not the hand we were delt, just as in Normandy, when we faced a foe with better equipment, sited defensive positions which used the terrain to their advantage and seasoned troops. It cost us thousands of lives then and we've lost many hundreds now. But the result was a free and stable Europe, and that has been of benefit the entire world. Its unfortunate that the beneficiaries of that European legacy as well as the American left seem to have forgotten that lesson of history.

Posted by McQ at 06:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Listen to me now and believe me later...

Now that the Richard Riordan imbroglio has blown over, the newest PC firestorm in California is that Governor Arnold mocked the Democrats in the state lej as "girlie men". The term comes from the old Dana Carvey/Kevin Nealon "Hans and Franz" routine on Saturday Night Live. California Democrats have responded with the same jolly mirth they always show.

Democrats said Schwarzenegger's remarks were insulting to women and gays and distracted from budget negotiations. State Sen. Sheila Kuehl said the governor had resorted to "blatant homophobia." [Quasi-interesting historical note: Ms. Kuehl played "Zelda" on the Dobie Gillis TV show in the early 60s--Ed.]

"It uses an image that is associated with gay men in an insulting way, and it was supposed to be an insult. That's very troubling that he would use such a homophobic way of trying to put down legislative leadership," said Kuehl, one of five members of the Legislature's five-member Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus...

Assemblyman Mark Leno, a San Francisco Democrat who is chairman of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus, said he was glad Schwarzenegger didn't repeat the "girlie men" remark Sunday, saying it was "as misogynist as it is anti-gay."

"To disparage a group of law abiding tax paying citizens is just wrong," Leno said.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Democrat, said that while he wasn't upset by the remark, his 13-year-old daughter was.

"She's a young girl who knows the governor and really likes him a lot and didn't find the term to be a positive term, and finds it to be derogatory," Nunez said. "It was no question a very, very insensitive comment to make. I personally am not intimidated or threatened by it, but I think it really is beneath Gov. Schwarzenegger."

The Dems are just the Kings of Not Getting It. Arnold says that they're "girlie men", and their immediate response is to whine, act offended, and get all huffy, just like...well...girlie men.

Note to the Dems: It's called a sense of humor. Look into it. Oh, and while you're at it, get over yourselves.

Jebus, can you imagine John Kerry winning, and having to listen to these people lecture us about sensitivity for four years?

«sigh»

At least Arnold didn't call them "stupid, dirty girlie-men".

Posted by Dale Franks at 05:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Shut up and Sing

Linda Rondstadt will no longer be welcome as a performer at the Aladdin in Las Vegas. During her encore at the Saturday night show, she praised Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11. The audience, apparently, disagreed.

Ronstadt's comments drew loud boos and some of the 4,500 people in attendance stormed out of the theater. People also tore down concert posters and tossed cocktails into the air.

"It was a very ugly scene," Aladdin President Bill Timmins told The Associated Press. "She praised him and all of a sudden all bedlam broke loose."

Timmins, who is British and was watching the show, decided Ronstadt had to go — for good. Timmins said he didn't allow Ronstadt back in her luxury suite and she was escorted off the property.

Ronstadt's antics "spoiled a wonderful evening for our guests and we had to do something about it," Timmins said.

More crushing of dissent, obviously.

Posted by Dale Franks at 04:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Even their hometown paper is dissing them

The Seattle Time's tech reporter, Kim Peterson (who, considering Microsoft is based in Redmond must have a fascinating job) runs down the current problems with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. Many security geeks are, in fact, telling their clients to dump IE completely.

Indeed, over the last month or so, IE's market share declined by almost 1% in favor of Mozilla. Of course, after that drop, IE was still 93.8% of the browser market.

Still, I was one of the 1% that made the switch to Mozilla, after being hit by a drive-by download. On balance, I still prefer the features of IE, and would prefer to use it, but I just can't do so when every day a new security hole is found.

A big part of the problem is this:

Art Manion, an Internet security analyst with US-CERT, said the organization doesn't specifically recommend specific products, such as Web browsers. It has said, however, that a user can avoid the problems associated with Internet Explorer by using a different Web browser. But doing so can cause other issues, he said, because some Web sites require features in Internet Explorer.

There are flaws that exist only in Internet Explorer because of the way the browser was designed, Manion said.

For example, Internet Explorer groups Web sites into different security zones, each with its own policies, he said. It uses a complicated mechanism that checks whether sites can cross into different zones and what actions can be performed in those zones.

There have been a series of patches over the years as flaws are found in the zones, but the fix is in a different spot each time and the patches sometimes don't solve the problems, he said.

Clearly, this is just too complicated a security model. It would be great if worked perfectly, but it's so complicated I'm not sure it can be made to work without constant security patching, which is really no security at all. Great idea, but we've tried it, and the MS boys can't seem to make it work right.

Russ Cooper, a senior scientist at Herndon, Va.-based TruSecure, puts the issue more bluntly. He suggested that Microsoft fire its entire Internet Explorer team, bring in a new group of developers and build a new Web browser from scratch.

I think Russ has got a pretty good point. It doesn't matter how many useful features a browser has if the security holes are constant and serious. But, even if MS doesn't do that, at the very least, they should simply scrap the current security model of "zones", and go strictly to a site-based security model, that defaults to turning off VB active scripting and ActiveX. If the site uses anything other than plain vanilla HTML, CSS and JavaScript, then the user will have to decide to turn on the appropriate features for that web site, and only that web site.

That'll be a lot more inconvenient for the user, but it'll be a lot more secure.

Additionally, MS can block VBscript from accessing sensitive programming objects like the file system or registry, unless the user specifically disables those features.

The problem is that, in the past MS has erred on the side of user convenience, and forced the user to close potential holes if they wanted to. But hindsight seems to indicate that, from a security standpoint, that was the wrong way to go about it. Better to have everything closed, and allow the user to open it, than to have everything open, and hope that the user is experienced enough, or wise enough to open only that which is necessary.

Then again, it doesn't matter what model you use if the application has exploitable security holes anyway.

If MS can't provide adequate security with the setup they've got now--and obviously they can't--then they need to redesign the setup.

Posted by Dale Franks at 03:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lost Moral Authority

The Arizona Republic's Doug MacEachern has only one retort for those who complain that the US had no right to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq:

If you truly believe that sending U.S. troops into Iraq was the gravest, foulest mistake of the current generation, if you are convinced no justice was served by attacking Baghdad and that the Iraqis should have been left to deal with Saddam as best they may, then you forfeit the right to complain, ever again, about human-rights abuses anywhere in the world.

This includes the currently fomenting international outrage over Sudan. United Nations word-quibbling aside, Sudan is about as close as you get these days to a level of genocide comparable to what Saddam brought to Iraq. But you no longer have any moral right to suggest your nation is failing its duty to help the tens of thousands of helpless victims in Sudan.

You have no honest right to hector the U.S. for failing to level economic sanctions against China for the Chinese barbarism in Tibet.

You forfeit any right to complain about what the U.S. failed to do to save a million Tutsis from murderous Hutus in Rwanda. You can never again curse the timorous West, including the U.S., for failing to rein in Pol Pot in Cambodia.

Saddam, after all, is someone who, according to Human Rights Watch, "disappeared" about 300,000 Iraqis. That doesn't count the various episodes of Kurd-gassing, destroying the Marsh Arabs, or the various wars in which he engaged. Saddam was one of the world's worst human rights violators.

Now, many of the same people who want to hang W from the yardarm are the same people who are demanding that we do something about Darfur, in Sudan. Democratic members of Congress like Charles Rangel want to have it both ways. They want to paint Iraq as desperately wrongheaded, while still getting themselves "arrested" during anti-Sudan protests, and calling for US intervention there.

No reason the administration has given is good enough for them on Iraq. Not WMD, not the tyrannical nature of the regime, not terrorist ties; nothing. So, then, what compels us to intervene in Sudan? If they think the Iraqis should've sucked it up, then why not the Sudanese? IF the invasion of Iraq diverted our attention from the real enemy, al-Qaida, then why wouldn't intervention in Sudan do likewise?

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

"Strategery ‘04 – Going Right, Right Now"

Wow. When Ricky West endorses a candidate, he really endorses a candidate.

This should be played at the GOP convention. If you have a high-speed connection, you have to watch the whole ~5 minute movie he has posted at his site.

Really, incredibly well done. For that alone, he's getting blogrolled.
(link via Steve Verdon)

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:14 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Good News from Iraq

Arthur Cherenkoff rounds up a collection of positive signs from the newly sovereign (legally, at least) Iraq.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Open Borders

Heather MacDonald's article on illegal immigration in the current issue of City Journal concludes:

Immigration optimists, ever ready to trumpet the benefits of today’s immigration wave, have refused to acknowledge its costs. Foremost among them are skyrocketing gang crime and an expanding underclass. Until the country figures out how to reduce these costs, maintaining the current open-borders regime is folly. We should enforce our immigration laws and select immigrants on skills and likely upward mobility, not success in sneaking across the border.

Assimilation. That has been, is, and always will be the only sure road to succcess for immigrants. But assimilation takes time, and the current wave of illegal immigration robs us of the time to assimilate immigrant communities.

What we end up with without assimilation--and it's happening now--is a permanent underclass of immigrants, and their descendants, and all the social pathologies a permanent underclass implies.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:41 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Random Thoughts, Experiences and Ruminations from 24 Hours on the Road

Just completed a 1500 mile round trip (about 24 hours road time). Thursday to Sunday. That much time on the road gives you plenty of time to think, sometimes about the oddest things.


  • I'm a horrible singer but it does help keep you awake.
  • Its amazing the songs you'll dig up just to stay awake ... like the entire first verse of "Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier".
  • Dawn is awesome, especially if you're the only car on the road and in the middle of nowhere. Big orange disk hanging above the trees. Beautiful. And the sunsets weren't bad either.
  • I hate garage sales. The reason I went to Ft. Smith Arkansas was to try to sell some of the stuff left in my mother's home prior to sale of the house. Let me clarify. Garage sales can be fun, if you're buying. But selling sucks. Gather the stuff, price it, put the ad in the paper, put it out, dicker all day in 95 degree weather, put it away, drag it back out, repeat. Man am I glad that's over.
  • You can't go home again. It is indeed true that you can outgrow your old home town. Don't think I could live in that little town ever again. Its not like its a fast growing area. When my dad was transfered there in '64, it had a population of 64,000. Today it stands at about 80,000. I guess I've just become a big city boy over the years.
  • Going back roads is a welcome relief from interstate driving. I took US Hwy 64 out of Memphis instead of I-40 (which is eternally under construction - or perhaps re-construction). Went through endless miles of rice and soybean fields, which, believe it or not were quite pretty. Some neat small towns too, for instance Augusta AR home of the "Hubcap Hamburger". Uh, no I didn't stop and sample.
  • Listened to a Muslim talk show somewhere near Oxford, MS. Local show, probably out of the university. The topic was what Bill Cosby had been saying. The two young men who were discussing it were is absolute agreement with Cosby and spent quite some time discussing his thoughts. The interesting part was they did so in the "dialect" of the day, which, quite frankly, I thought was quite effective considering the target audience.
  • Somewhere in the middle of Arkansas I picked up Michael Savage on the radio. Its the first time I've ever heard him ... and the last. Grating voice, and with his accent he had the temerity to make fun of Edward's southern accent? Missed the irony completely. Yuk.
  • Heard Michael Reagan talk about Ron Reagan speaking at the Democrat National Convention. Per Michael, Ron didn't even vote for his dad, so this really came as no surprise to him. But he did say that Ron's pushing the wrong message ... that fetal stem cell research hasn't yielded anywhere near the progress that's been made on adult stem cell reasearch. He says all you have to do is follow the money ... its all going to the adult stem cell side.
  • There are a ton of religious shows on the radio at least in MS, TN and AR ... that and AM gospel music.
  • I'm so damned tired of fast-food I can't see straight. Hard to cook in an empty house and just too tired to go sit in a resturaunt, so I had a tendency to go out grab something and wolf it down. The only vegetable I saw in 4 days was a french fry (oh, and ketchup). OK, wait, that's not true ... I went one night to the Catfish Cabin and feasted. Some great "down-home" food with the obigatory and wonderful sweet iced tea.
  • Local television ads are still a hoot. And let me tell you, they're even "better" in Fort Smith, AR. My favorite was Bubba (really that was his name) and his dad, dressed in battle dress fatigues "blowing up" prices at their family used car lot while American flags flew behind them. The dialogue was priceless, but I was laughing so hard I can't remember it.
  • As you get older, you have to make more bathroom breaks. In my younger days I was good for a tank of gas (that's 'gasoline', not the other kind). Now I only get half that mileage.
  • There's nothing like finally getting home, getting into your own bed and sighing with full and complete satisfaction. I slept like a rock last night.

Posted by McQ at 11:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush Lied?

Michael Barone writes that the Bush Lied crowd has lost all credibility.

The last few weeks haven't been very good for the "Bush Lied" crowd.

For instance, Joe Wilson's credibility has been demolished. Joe Wilson, who finally appeared on CNN this weekend--meaning that we can call off the search parties-- finally admitted that his wife was a "conduit" to him for the CIA to ask that he check things out in Africa. A month ago, he was saying she had nothing at all to do with it. Now, she's a "conduit".

But that's not what the Congressional report on our intelligence failures say. The report flatly contradicts Wilson's story on nearly every point. Even worse, the report of Lord Butler indicates that the president's "16 Words" about Iraq attempting to obtain yellowcake uranium from Africa were true, as well.

Bush may have been wrong, his intellignece may have been faulty, but as far as we can tell, he was telling us the truth as he perceived it at the time.

Not that it will stop the "Bush Lied" crowd. They are interested in the truth only insofar as it promotes their purpose: the removal of George W. Bush from the presidency. They're perfectly happy to promote a lie with equal zeal if it can be done effectively.

So, the "Bush Lied" meme will not die. These folks will keep pushing it with intensity, knowing it to be untrue.

UPDATE (JON): I was about to start a new entry for this, but I note that Dale has already done the set-up for me. Providing a perfect case-in-point to Dale's assertion that the "Bush lied" proponents are going to keep pushing their theories, Josh Marshall, in response to the WaPo ombudsmand claim that it was "a bipartisan report", writes...

But on the Wilson-Niger matter it's not unfair to identify this as a Republican document since the Democrats did not agree with the majority's conclusions on this matter. Indeed, as the Republicans themselves (specifically Sens. Roberts, Bond and Hatch) complained in their 'additional views' (p. 442) section, "Despite our hard and successful work to deliver a unanimous report ... there were two issues on which the Republicans and Democrats could not agree: 1) whether the Committee should conclude that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's public statements were not based on knowledge he actually possessed, and 2) whether the Committee should conclude that it was the former ambassador's wife who recommended him for his trip to Niger."
Good point, right? It's obviously partisan, because the Republicans concede that the Democrats don't agree with it.

Except, not so much.

It's always worth noting what Marshall leaves out. Scan just a bit down the report, and you'll read....

The details of the Committee's findings and conclusions on this issue can be found in the Niger section of the report. What cannot be found, however, are two conclusions on which the Committee's Democrats could not agree. While there was no dispute with the underlying facts, my Democrat colleagues refused to allow the following conclusions to appear in the report:

Conclusion: The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador's wife, a CIA employee.
[...]
Conclusion: Rather than speaking publicly about his actual experiences during his inquiry of the Niger issue, the former ambassador seems to have included information he learned from press accounts and from his beliefs about how the intelligence community would have or should have handled the information he provided. [emphasis added]


Note that these statements are not disputed in the "Additional Views" from the Democrats on the committee, and the "underlying facts" are not disputed at all.

Marshall leaves this out, which is unfortunate. And, it might be argued, somewhat fraudulent.

It has, however, become standard operating procedure for Marshall, as the Belgravia Dispatch has been documenting thoroughly.

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

Aljazeera introduces, tramples on code of ethics

Al Jazeera now has a code of ethics.....


So, viewers will be treated "with due respect", and the channel will "address every issue or story with due attention to present a clear, factual and accurate picture".

Those are their principles, but if you don't like them, they have others. In the very same story, Al Jazeera reports on Taysir Alouni, an Al Jazeera correspondent in Spain being prevented from leaving the country "on charges that he has links with al-Qaida". Al Jazeera writes...

Investigators in Spain have enforced limitations on Alluni's movement for months, but have not found any evidence to back their accusations.
They "have not found any evidence"? Funny, but the Spanish case against him involves quite a lot of evidence. And lest you think this had "slipped by" Al Jazeera, read what they had previously reported....
...Judge Balthasar Garzon determined there was sufficient evidence to hold the 56-year-old further and not release him after his week long detention. A copy of his decision says evidence suggests Alouni joined an Islamist group in 1995 that may be a support group for al-Qaida.
That's "due respect" from Al Jazeera. They can't even make it all the way through the story announcing their "code of ethics" before violating it.

More, I think, than the insurgents, this is what we are fighting in the Middle East: control of information. As long as the entrenched Middle Eastern interests control it, they control a billion.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:48 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

It's not rocket science, either

This line from an LA Times story will be the source of much discussion around the 'sphere today....

But make no mistake, this moment of blogging legitimization — and temporary press credentials — doesn't turn bloggers into journalists.
He writes that like it's a bad thing.

Look, there's a lot of discussion about whether blogging is journalism, but I think it largely misses the point. We are not reporters, nor do many of us attempt to be. Bloggers are pundits, and blogging is journalism in the same sense that punditry is journalism.

For better or worse, that leaves blogs free to go beyond the facts that any given reporter can confirm and cite. With that box a bit less sharply defined, we can engage in the aggregation of facts reported by others.....and even speculation.

And really, how is that so different from the editorial pages of any given newspaper?

If we leave aside the somewhat derisive tone, though, the LATimes story makes some tough, but true, points about blogs....

- "However, bloggers, with few exceptions, don't add reporting to the personal views they post online, and they see journalism as bound by norms and standards that they reject."

- "...common attributes of the blogosphere: vulgarity, scorching insults, bitter denunciations, one-sided arguments, erroneous assertions and the array of qualities that might be expected from a blustering know-it-all in a bar."

- "Journalists increasingly read blogs to pick up tips. Blogs have become a network of capillaries that feed the nation's veins of information. For that reason, blogging's freewheeling, unfettered style makes it a juicy target for manipulation."

- "Blogging is especially amenable to introducing negative information into the news stream and for circulating rumors as fact. Blogging's fact-checking apparatus is just the built-in truth squad of those who read the blog and howl loudly if they wish to dispute some assertion. It is, in a sense, a place where everyone has his own truth."


Note: See Joe Gandelman for a less sympathetic take on this article. (via Instapundit, who has a round-up of opinion)

UPDATE: Jesse Taylor takes a look, too. He isn't impressed. Makes this great point, too...

The independence comes from the fact that the very basic manner of participating in the medium has such low entry costs.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Ali in the Family

The Palestinians finally rise up and demand responsibility from their leadership...

Backing down in the face of widespread protests, Yasir Arafat has replaced his cousin as Palestinian security chief and asked the former chief to return to his job.
Yeah. Nepotism. That's Arafat's real problem.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 18, 2004

Kid-Blogging

Apropos of nothing, except the fact that I like blogging about my kid, here's Alex at the neighborhood 4th of July party on the lake.....

Dscn1550.jpg

And, below the fold, eyes closed, Alex and Mommy.....

Dscn1551.jpg

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I'll tell you what's fair....

In a WaPo column today, Michael Kinsley abuses one of the most used, misused, and destructive words in political discourse: "Fair". You'd think, if we were going to use it as a political "Trump Card" so often, there'd be a specific definition, wouldn't you?

Well, there isn't. And for good reason, too. If it were defined, it would be darned hard to keep changing it.

First, Michael's argument, which deals with the "fairness" of military service....

One is fairness: When you're asking young people to disrupt their lives and risk dying for their country, that burden ought to be spread across society, not concentrated among those desperate enough to volunteer.
"Fairness". "Ought". Why, Michael? Why "ought" this be done? And why should it be done with military service, and not--say--service in Washington, where Representatives are all either wealthy, or very nearly so?

And why "ought" this burden be distributed by something other than voluntary choice? Well, that one I can answer: cause Mikey doesn't like it.....

At the very least, the sons and daughters of the elite don't have to sign up for any reason except a real desire to serve in the military. By contrast, economic pressure and a lack of other opportunities may lead a poor kid to join the Army even if, on balance, he might prefer a career in investment banking.
On balance, I'd prefer a career in the NBA, but Michael Kinsley hasn't gotten around to arguing for my inclusion in that draft.

However--somewhat to his credit--Kinsley seems to recognize the inherent problem with institutionalizing slavery, even if it serves his tastes....

So is this unfair? Yes, of course it's unfair. But replacing the volunteer Army with a draft is an odd way to address this unfairness. The practical effect would be to deny this poor kid the opportunity he or she is currently taking, without creating any new opportunities to replace it. Meanwhile, someone else who doesn't need or want this opportunity would be forced into it. Result: two people doing something they don't want to do.
And that's really it. Michael dances all about it for the entire column, devoting mere words the "problem" of individual liberty. But isn't that the very heart of the issue? Busybodies fancy themselves "only concerned for fairness/the public good", but at the end of the day, conscription is no more worthy a goal than slavery. A draft, no less destructive to human rights than the salt mines.

Finally, Kinsley gets to the concept of "fairness"....

The other way to equalize a draft is a lottery. Everyone registers, then whether you get called is a matter of luck. In a way, of course, that's how it works now. If you're lucky enough to be born prosperous or well-connected, you don't have to serve. The advantage of a draft lottery is that it would redistribute the luck for at least this one occasion. The disadvantage is that it's still luck and still unfair. Some will serve against their will, most won't have to. Arbitrary unfairness is better than systemic unfairness.
Where to start?
- I wasn't born to a wealthy and prosperous family, yet I am not in the military. Yes, I know Kinsley is talking about the "distribution of enlistment", but that is a wholly different thing. In no case, rich or poor, is military service a requirement. Yet, Michael speaks of the well-to-do, as if they have somehow gotten a "get-out-of-jail-free" card - one which is unavailable to the poor. That is, of course, contradicted by reality.

In the end, it seems Michael's version of "fairness" would be one in which enlistment was spread evenly across income demographics.....but to whom is that more fair? What individual profits--in any sense--by such a distribution?

I can't think of one.

That brings me to this: what is "fair"? The definitions likely intended by Kinsley are....
- Having or exhibiting a disposition that is free of favoritism or bias.
- Just to all parties; equitable
- Being in accordance with relative merit or significance.
- Consistent with rules, logic, or ethics.

Of course, a voluntary system is the very definition of each of these, since no person will voluntarily sign up for service unless they feel it is a "just" deal for themselves.

No, whatever Kinsley thought he was saying, the definition of "fair" he communicates--and the definition of "fair" most applicable to so many arguments from the left--is this:
- Of pleasing appearance...

And, really, isn't that what Kinsley wants? A system of service that conforms to his sense of "fair play", regardless of the desires of the actual, you know, people involved.

As far as proponents of mandatory military service are concerned, the conscripts are nothing more than slaves, to be divided between the salt mines and the cotton fields in the way that makes those proponents feel best about themselves.

It's only fair, you know.

(Link via I Love Jet Noise, who calls Kinsley the "'Hat of the Week" for being "unclear on the concept of military service")

ADDENDUM (Dale):

And why is it only military service that has to be scrutinized for this fairness? Rich people hardly ever sign up to be cops or firemen, either. So, essentially, the burden of protecting our property, accompanied by the danger of death by smoke inhalation or incineration falls disproportionately on the poor.

Come to think of it, I don't see too many rich people working at the DMV, either. Clearly, the rich are just shirking their societal responsibilities.

Except for little things, like, you know, creating jobs and stuff.

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:12 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 17, 2004

5 Minutes of Research. That's all I'm asking...

Their paranoia may be understandable, but it gets in the way of critical thinking. A great many leftish blogs are getting their dander up over this story of a felon-purge of the voting rolls in Florida. The problem, they say, is not that felons are being purged from the rolls, but that...

...Hispanics were largely overlooked because of glitches in how the state records information about race and ethnicity.
To whch Kevin Drum responds....
It's wrong again! In a way that just happens to favor Republicans! Again! But it was just a mistake, honest! We are deeply concerned and disappointed! Honest!

Sometimes it's just more than you can stand.

Well, he should try standing it a little bit longer. Or, at least doing a little research, before implying that the Florida Republicans are guilty of such a momentous crime.

Indeed, Drum cites Publius, who starts the misleading trope with this....

Many Hispanic voters vote Republican
.The Cuban population votes overwhelmingly Republican. And I suspect that's why only 50 — yes, 50 — Latinos were on a list of 47,000 names.
So, what are they missing? Well, this...
And in 2000, Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore received 75 percent of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote in Florida.
75%!!! Now, unless those voter rolls are targeted very specifically at Cuban-centric counties, this bit of information is almost a complete repudiation of the idea that Republicans are trying to swing the election by purging non-GOP voters, while leaving GOP ethnicities intact.

But what about today? Is the hispanic vote working for Bush? Well, hardly....

The poll also indicated the Hispanic vote is somewhat up for grabs. Hispanics favored Kerry 45 percent to 34 percent, but 14 percent said they would vote for another candidate and 8 percent were undecided.
Finally, it's worth reading the original article that seeded this paranoia, to find out why hispanics were left off the purge list in the first place....
The state's criminal database, used to find the names of felons, did not have "Hispanic" as a category. Voter registration rolls do. When the two lists were matched, the Hispanic discrepancy made an accurate count impossible.

So, let's recap:
- Florida wants to make sure inelegible voters cannot vote, so they compile a "potential ineligibles" list for the counties to double-check and confirm.
- Florida compiles a list from its voter and criminal databases, which use different ethnic breakdowns, causing a shortage of Hispanic suspects on the list.
- Hispanic voters tend to prefer John Kerry. Leaving out Cubans, they overwhelmingly prefer Democrats.
- Democrats are upset that Florida may have sent out a list that doesn't purge voters most likely to vote for John Kerry.

Unless there's something here I'm missing, this looks like the Democrats paranoia has just bitten them in the ass. And the bloggers went for it...hook, line and sinker.

UPDATE: Surprisingly, a normally reasonable guy at Tacitus goes for this, too. I mean, 5 minutes on Google. That's all you gotta do.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:16 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 16, 2004

Style Evolves

Behold, the new right sidebar! We aren't actually sure what we're gonna do with it yet, but it'll be pretty darn impressive, let me tell you.

Also, geek note: for those of you who are linked to "qando.net/blog", your link should still work fine. If you are directly linked to "qando.net/blog/index.htm", which, I hasten to add, you shouldn't be, your link will no longer work. The page extension has been changed from .htm to .asp to allow us to create the sidebar dynamically without having to edit the main page template all the time.

I hope you like these little improvements here and there. Of course, I think we're getting to the point where I have so customized our MT setup that it will be be impossible to ever upgrade to a new version...

UPDATE (JON): The sidebar will be a good place for us to link interesting posts and stories, without creating an entire post for them. For example, if you've written something you feel is worth a little attention and you send one of us a link to it.....well, that's one place we might put it. (of course, we might not. You never really know, but you can always feel free to send it to us)

So, it's always worth checking the sidebar, as we'll update the links whenever we find something worth passing along.

As always, we'd be curious to know what you think of the feature.

Posted by Dale Franks at 07:57 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Kerry/Dole '04

Glad to see Jonah Goldberg agreeing with what I've been saying for quite a while (excuse me, I pulled a muscle patting myself on the back ... argh!):

Even before Kerry picked Edwards, everyone in Washington was comparing Kerry to Bob Dole. The UPI asked last April, "Is Kerry turning into Bob Dole?" Earlier this spring the buyer's remorse over Kerry was getting intense. Slate.com columnist Mickey Kaus launched a "Dem Panic Watch." The Associated Press reported, "Democratic leaders fear he's getting 'Gored.'" The New York Observer declared, "The Trouble Is, So Far Kerry Stinks on TV." Newsweek reported that Democrats see a "listless and message-less mishmash" in the Kerry campaign, while Time said Kerry had "something of a gift for the toxic sound bite." The Village Voice simply declared, "John Kerry Must Go."

Similar panic gripped the GOP about Bob Dole eight years ago. Then, for a fleeting moment after the Kemp/convention bounce, Republicans were giddy. Even California was "in play" for Republicans! But Kemp merely had a placebo effect. Clinton glided to victory, to the metaphysical consternation of the Clinton-haters.

Kemp, however, gave Dole a huge bounce. Edwards didn't even give Kerry a dead-cat bounce. It'll be interesting to see the size bounce they enjoy after their convention.

Posted by McQ at 07:06 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Under: "You've got to be kidding..."

The answer? Uh, no, no kidding:

The date of Sept. 11, 2002, was mistakenly put on a plaque attached to a fence at Ground Zero, officials admitted yesterday. The incorrect date remained on one of the memorial plaques for nearly two years as countless thousands visited the 9/11/01 attack site and, presumably, saw the sign.

That was until this past Monday, when 21-year- old Justin Matley spotted the error and fired off an e-mail to the Port Authority.

The PA acted immediately.

"As soon as we were told about it, we took the sign down," said PA spokesman Steve Coleman. "It is in the process of being replaced."

Well kudos to the PA ... too bad they didn't check it 2 years ago. A bit like December 7th, 1944 being cited as the "day that will live in infamy" on the WWII Memorial. I wonder if 2 years would have passed before that gaffe was discovered?

Posted by McQ at 06:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Atriosterical

So you know where "Holden" stands on the subject of whether Bush was responsible for 9/11....

Last week I gave a shout out to the Beastie Boys, and today I say: give it up for Jadakiss:
[S]even words in his new song ``Why'' -- ``Why did Bush knock down the towers?'' -- has gotten Jadakiss the most mainstream attention, and criticism, of his career. [...]
I believe the word is "word".
In case you're unclear, let me translate that for you: at Eschaton, one of the regular posters just said "word" to the question "Why did Bush knock down the towers?"

So we're perfectly clear, let me further clarify: this is Eschaton. The same blog at which Atrios once said the mainstream press pretended "that they weren't responsible for all the Clinton hooey", which made him say "God I hate these people."

Yes, once upon a time, at Eschaton, they pretended to dislike accusing the President of murder. They got over it.

UPDATE: Sweet, sweet irony. Immediately after Holden praised Jadakiss for laying the blame on Bush, another Eschaton poster tries to defend their honor against those who wuold claim they're trying to blame Bush for 9/11....

I wish that people like this and this would understand that trying to find out what happened on 9/11 doesn't mean you don't place ultimate blame for the attacks on the terrorists.
You got that? They're just as opposed to Bush the terrorists as Bush everybody else.

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Labeling

Pejman is spending a lot of time defending himself over a post in which he said...

The Heritage Foundation is "conservative" and therefore the implicit assumption is raised that they are biased in defending a Republican Administration. But the EPI's ideological inclinations are never discussed.
Kevin Drum thinks that's just dumb...
Well now. Perhaps the real secret behind this is that this is how these groups label themselves.
To which, Pejman responds here....but, I think, he misses out of the most relevant issue, which is: if we go strictly by self-identification, we're going to have some awfully misleading news reports. Consider a reporter saying the following.....
  • The "nonpartisan" National Center for Policy Analysis
Or, for that matter, the home of (Democrat-advocate) Kevin Drum....

No ideology at any of em, don't you know. Just a bunch of independent, non-ideological free-thinkers, and who knows where they'll come down on an issue?

So, I'm thinking Pejman has the best of this argument.

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

NAACP Followup

A couple of points worth mentioning concerning Bush's refusal to address the NAACP Convention in Philadelphia.

He's not the first candidate to do so (although he is the first president to do so in a while):

In 1996, candidate Sen. Bob Dole skipped the convention, feeling that he was going to be "set up." He ended up with about 12 percent of the black vote — about average for GOP presidential candidates over the last three decades.

In 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush attended, gave a rather well-regarded speech with concrete proposals and some gentle self (GOP)-deprecation. His reward? The NAACP's Voter Education Fund ran stunningly unfair ads in the fall of that year, suggesting that he opposed punishing the vicious killers of James Byrd. (Bush had declined to sign a hate-crimes bill whose provisions had nothing to do with race.)

Bush ended up with 8 percent of the black vote — less than Dole got for having nothing to do with the NAACP four years before and the smallest GOP proportion of the black vote since Barry Goldwater in 1964.

So beside the NAACP rhetoric, the return hasn't been so hot either.

Then there's Kerry's rhetorical shot across Bush's bow ... something he'd find difficult to do if really pressed:

Speaking yesterday at the 95th annual NAACP convention, Sen. John Kerry took a jab at President Bush for declining the convention's invitation: Kerry stated that he wouldn't be afraid to speak to audiences with which he disagreed.

Right .... Bob Jones University and the NRA will be calling soon.


Posted by McQ at 11:33 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Government, as a comedy sketch

David Hogberg points out that even the best of intentions have unintended consequences...

Let’s suppose that the federal government decides to subsidize a certain product. That is, it decides to give the consumers of that product money to purchase the product. Now, what will happen to the price of that product? Will it increase or decrease? Remember, price is a function of supply and demand. If you said that Congress has artificially increased demand with its subsidy, you get a star. If you said that leads to an increase in price, two stars.

Most of you probably got two stars. Not that difficult.

But apparently the concept eludes those folks on the Des Moines Register editorial board.

You see, they are outraged—outraged!—that the “ingrates” in the drug industry have “jacked up prices” to “three times the rate of inflation” thereby “nullifying any benefit from the drug discount cards that were part of the Medicare bill.”

Alas, it never occurs to the Register that the benefit in the Medicare bill is the reason why drug prices soared.

Indeed, Congress keeps trying to repeal the laws of supply and demand. The results are always the same, but, godblessem, they keep trying....

I'm reminded of the Kids in the Hall sketch, where the car won't start. Scott Thompson tries everything: he turns the key over and over, looks under the hood, kicks the tires, tries to surprise the car....he even paints it.

Still, nothing. But, godblessem, he'd tried.

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

Coup d'Etat

Tempers from the 2000 election evidently haven't cooled. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) went off yesterday and had to be censured for the following remarks on the floor to Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN).

I come from Florida, where you and others participated in what I call the United States coup d'etat. We need to make sure it doesn't happen again," Brown said. "Over and over again after the election when you stole the election, you came back here and said, 'Get over it.' No, we're not going to get over it. And we want verification from the world.

Ms. Brown wants UN election monitors at our polling stations.

John Kerry is now riffing on the same theme. Already, Kerry says, he has teams of lawyers ready to descend upon the polls to enforce the law.

Go right ahead, I say. Let's see how the American people will react to the idea of UN election monitors and lawyers descending on the polls like hordes of locusts. Yeah, Dems, run on that platform.

Posted by Dale Franks at 09:52 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Inside BlogBall

Via Obsidian Wings, I find this: Denigrating the Overblog 2004

Of course all us little peeps are celebrating the underblog.

But what about the overblog? Who's getting entirely too much traffic and doesn't deserve it? Got any nominations?

Sure, it's a little "Inside BlogBall", and way off the beaten political track, but it's always fun to do a little blog-Navel Gazing. So, I will.....

Most of his commenters nominate Wonkette for most overrated, and I can't say I disagree. Never been sure what the attaction was, though, perhaps, it is similar to why people read family and company newsletters. Sure, there's never anything actually interesting in them....but there's always a chance you'll read some dirt on somebody you know.

Instapundit also comes in for some grief, with which I have to disagree. Bill from INDCJournal left a comment which saves me the trouble....

I've got to defend Instapundit here - yes, it's easy to aggregate links, but it is NOT easy to read through the sheer volume of material that he culls through every day, and then present a cohesive linking narrative that covers stories from his angle. No, it's not voluminous, brilliant prose or creative genius, but it takes a certain type of impressive autism to do that on a daily basis. His traffic is well-deserved.
Absolutely. There really is a reason so many people visit--and revisit--Instapundit on a daily basis. It allows us to skim the headlines put together in a coherent way, and jump off from there. It's worthwhile to do that with some leftish bloggers, too.

One "Phil Smith" leaves a pretty funny (because it's true) comment, too...

Josh Marshall. It's like reading one of those interminable Victorian epistolary novels. "Dearest Amelia, I cannot elaborate for reason of Propriety, but I have it on Excellent Authority that our most despised opponent (who shall remain nameless) is shortly to be hoist with his own Petard. More than this, I cannot say; except that it shall involve Thoroughly Revealing Insights into this evil man's oh so negligible Character, and will issue from one of his Most Trusted confidants."
Heh.

LT Smash comments on his current 5000+ traffic count...

Here's a tip for building traffic: GO TO WAR. You don't even have to be a very good writer -- folks will check in every day just to make sure you're still alive!

Now, I have my own thoughts on which blogs are overrated, and which are underrated, but taste is entirely subjective, and I'm not interested in abusing the overrated simply because I am uninterested in their schtick......except, apparently, for Wonkette, who is to blogging as Anna Nicole is to television.

Still, Denigrating the Overblog 2004 is interesting, and worth a read for those who care to navel gaze at the blogosphere....

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:50 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Vietnam Dodge

Best of the Web finds this gem....

Bush also took issue with Kerry's pronouncement this week that he and running mate John Edwards were proud of the fact that they opposed in the Senate the $87 billion aid package for Afghanistan and Iraq. Kerry said they had done so because "we knew the policy had to be changed."

"He's entitled to his view," Bush said. "But members of Congress should not vote to send troops into battle and then vote against funding them, and then brag about it."

Kerry's campaign responded that Kerry had served in the Vietnam War and questions linger about Bush's wartime service in the Texas Air National Guard.

What a flaccid, tired attempt to shield themselves from their record. And I'm a critic of Kerry who thinks that--though, I disagree with him--his vote against the $87b appropriations bill was well-reasoned, consistent and defensible.

Kerry could be setting himself up for a fall, if the Bush campaign can take advantage of a few public uses of this Vietnam-immunization tactic to parody John Kerry.

Also, there's the small matter of the fact that it's intensely dishonest--and utterly useless to voters--to deflect policy questions by referencing Vietnam.

Note: possible motto - "John Kerry: He didn't dodge the draft, but he's been using the draft as a dodge ever since".

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:21 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Ketchup

Straight Dope settles the long-standing leftish tale of the Reagan administration categorizing ketchup as a vegetable....


So, in the best spirit of politics, an apparently good idea had created a lot of waste, and the "ketchup" rule was simply a work-around to "[save] money while having no impact on the kids". And this created a fire-storm of criticism, which didn't really help kids at all, but scored political points. (natch)

Life lesson 1: when something in the political world seems too irrational for words, there's probably a good explanation....and the carping partisans won't be telling you.

Life Lesson 2: Government regulations force a lot of really stupid compromises.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 15, 2004

Ah, the Libertarian Party

Read this, and it'll give you a pretty good idea about why many people consider the LP a collection of nut jobs. Oh, well-meaning nut jobs, to be sure, but still, a whiff of crankery is always emanating from the party somehow or another.

It seems the Libertarian Party, in nominating Michael Badnarik, unknowingly picked a man of...uh...unorthodox views.

Badnarik believes that the federal income tax has no legal authority and that people are justified in refusing to file a tax return until such time as the IRS provides them with an explanation of its authority to collect the tax. He hadn't filed income tax returns for several years. He moved from California to Texas because of Texas' more liberal gun laws, but he refused to obtain a Texas driver's license because the state requires drivers to provide their fingerprints and Social Security numbers. He has been ticketed several times for driving without a license; sometimes he has gotten off for various technical legal reasons, but on three occasions he has been convicted and paid a fine. He also refused to use postal ZIP codes, seeing them as "federal territories."

Well, at least you can say this: having Badnarik perp-walked out of the campaign by federal agents on national TV will solve the LP's problem with getting mainstream press coverage.

(Via Instapundit)

UPDATE:

It appears that Badnariks official site/blog has linked to us. Evidently they're unhappy with the article to which I linked.

UPDATE II:

Yes, they are upset at the "smear" I'm spreading. Commenter "Seth", who apparently has some position or other with the Badnarik organization, writes:

[I]t's not true, for the most part. The Liberty article is heavily distorted, and it's obvious to those who know the facts (which is clearly not most of the people quoting the article)

Well, then, what part of the article isn't true? When asked, "Seth" replies:

He didn't file [income taxes]. So what? Neither does 1 out of 5 people, according to the IRS itself.

So, in point of fact, he is an admitted tax evader.

Requiring a social security number for non-SS reasons is a violation of the law. He refused to let them get away with the violation, and his defense, including in court, was often upheld (ie the charges were dropped).

In other words, the article accurately reported Badnarik's history of driving without a license, and his subsequent mixed court results.

I'm not even going to try and argue the Zip Code issue, because I don't have the facts.

Translation: So, yeah, that might be true, too.

But, of course, if it's true, how can it be a smear?

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:37 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Style Evolves

For those of you who wish to leave comments, you will notice that the comments templates now have a variety of HTML tools you can use to make doing comments a bit easier. As a symbol to my committment to henceforth make the site equally usable by IE and Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox readers, the tools work with either browser version.

They work a bit differently in IE than in Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox, however:

IE: You will have to highlight a piece of text, even if it's just a space, in order for the tools to place the HTML tags into your comment.

Mozilla: You don't have to do anything special at all. Click the tool, and the HTML tags will appear at the cursor location.

Also, you may note that the web site now has it's own Favorites Icon.

It's the little things.

I hope that commentors will now find the comments much easier to use, and allow a greater range of expression without all that tedious manual typing of HTML tags.

All these tools are now yours. Use them wisely. Use them in peace.

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:38 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Ann Coulter: Merciless

Yes, Yes, I know it's impolitic to admit it, but it's true. Sometimes, Ann Coulter is funny. And she does a pretty good job of skewering Joe Wilson in her column today.

The implicit deal the government has always had with worthless, rich WASPs is they get trivial, make-work jobs with the Foreign Service so they can go around calling themselves "diplomats"; but the trade-off is, they're not supposed to make fools of themselves or commit treason. It's not that high a hurdle. Unlike the Ivy League WASPs of yesteryear, at least worthless WASPs from the lower-ranked schools like Wilson have, thus far, managed to avoid treason. Merely being an ass shouldn't cause many problems for the country – except that: One political party embraced the ass.

Wilson is an "unpaid foreign affairs adviser" to the Kerry campaign. (In yet another testament to the wisdom of the market, all Wilson's "jobs" seem to be unpaid.) Indeed, Wilson's website, denouncing the perfidy of the Bush administration, was created and paid for by "John Kerry for President." (Why haven't any crack investigative journalists noticed that?)

Heh.

By the way, that's the trick with Ann Coulter. Don't read her expecting to find out anyhting. Just look at her as a comedian. I mean, she's at least as funny as Whoopie Goldberg making "Bush" jokes while pointing at her nether regions.

And, you know, even though I originally didn't intend to go there, isn't the thought of Whoopie's nether regions just frightening? I think unprotected exposure to that would be something you'd be working out in therapy for years.

Posted by Dale Franks at 03:43 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Whatever happened to Joe Wilson?

I haven't seen Joe Wilson on TV or in print for a few days. I wonder what's happened.

Just curious.

Posted by Dale Franks at 03:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

QandO Linguistics Lesson

I learned something new today, at No Blog Here...

...QandO (pronounced quan do which is an ancient Aztec word for 'useful shit')
And you can be sure he knows what he's talking about, because he reads QandO.

Posted by Jon Henke at 12:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Clinton Defends Bush. Again. Democrats ignore. Again.

Captain Ed points me to this interesting story on Bill Clinton's recent comments in Great Britain...

Bill Clinton says that no government could have failed to act against Iraq after the 11 September 2001 attacks in view of intelligence provided. The former US president told the BBC that UK intelligence on the activity of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was more "aggressive" than Washington's.
[...]
The former president told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that before the war everyone had thought that Iraq still had chemical and biological weapons stockpiles.
In a separate interview with an Australian broadcaster, Clinton said....
"I think he (Mr Bush) was right to demand that we have the UN inspection and if the UN inspectorate said Saddam Hussein is not cooperating I would have supported the military action even if the UN didn't," Mr Clinton told Sydney radio 2GB in a wide-ranging phone interview from the US.

Mr Clinton said the Bush administration had been focused on getting rid of Saddam Hussein and was not just concerned about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Pay careful attention to those two highlighted statements. They directly contradict the current Democratic claims that:
1: the absence of WMDs invalidates the justification for war.
2: we should have waited for UN approval.

Say what you will about his Presidency, but Bill Clinton has been a far more honorable politician over the past 2 years--agreeing often with Bush despite his own Parties virulent drift, and disagreeing with civility--than have many of his peers in the Democratic Party.

UPDATE: Beltway Traffic Jam

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:54 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Health Care Reform

David Broder's Washington Post column today describes the concern that senate majority leader (and heart surgeon) Bill Frist has about the US health care system. And there are a lot of concerns.

A brief overview of some of them should suffice:

  • US Spending on health care is around 15% of GDP, every year, which is about twice the average for OECD countries.

  • Costs are rising 4 times faster than wages, and are doubling about every 7 years.

  • 44 million Americans have no health insurance, a figure that is rising by about 2 million per year.

  • An estimated 98,000 people die each year from medical errors.

  • Hospitals and doctors invest 50% less per year in information technology than retail establishments.

These are not signs of robust health, and picking a bit at the edges won't solve these problems.

A huge part of the problem is that we have, in fundamental ways, segregated medicine off from the general economy. Payment for medical services is mainly made either through government programs, or through third-party insurance payments. In both cases, neither method provides any incentive for the patient to control costs by rationing his health care.

Health care customers are almost entirely insulated from the cost of their own health care. We can see this in something as simple as a regular doctors visit. Let's say a doctor charges $120 for an office visit. What does the patient care about that? A $10 co-pay gets them in to see the doctor whether they have dengue fever, or just a case of the sniffles. Someone else is paying the remainder of that $120 visit and it isn't the patient. As a result, the price of a doctor's visit does not perform the rationing function that prices do in the general economy. So, people go to the doctor more often than they should.

Outside of medicine, increased demand would drive up the price of a good or service. But, in the health care world, increased demand doesn't drive up the price for the consumer. He still has his $10 co-pay. So, he has no incentive to reduce his demand for health care.

Additionally, because of our odd system of employee-provided health insurance, his employer is paying the freight for the insurance premiums. So, if the monthly premium rises, it's the employer that takes the hit, not the actual consumer, who, still has his $10 co-pay. Unlike practically every other good or service you can think of, in our health care system, the health care consumer doesn't pay for almost any of it, but gets to "purchase" essentially as much as he wants.

In the regular economy, when prices start to rise, consumers begin limiting their purchases of that good or service. In medicine, however, when prices start to rise, consumers are mainly unaware of it, because, they aren't actually paying for it in the first place.

That means that insurance companies and businesses have to be the bad guys. Coverages have to be limited. Insurance premiums rise. Employees are forced into HMOs. Doctors have to be paid through capitation, instead of fee for service, which means that they have to take on a huge number of patients to make a profit, meaning that each individual patients gets less care.

The Left then informs us that it's because business owners and insurance companies are greedy corporate oligarchs, who are only interested in increasing profits through the exploitation of the proletarian masses. The fact that the greedy exploiters are giving away more or less free--or, at least, very low cost--health care to the masses is, of course, never mentioned.

And then, of course, there are payments from the government, to cover Medicare and Medicaid. Plus state-level medical programs, like California's Healthy Families program. Cost control measures are even more tenuous in such programs; moreover, they are rife with fraud of the worst sort, because comprehensive monitoring and auditing are almost impossible, both because of the size of the programs, and the relative incompetence of government programs to account for spending in general.

But, wait a second, that's only the payment side of the house. The cost side is equally bleak.

It costs a lot to run a hospital, or even a plain old doctor's office. Medical malpractice for an everyday specialty like OB/GYN runs upwards of $100,000 per year. If you specialize in something risky, like cardiology, or neurosurgery, you could end up shelling out $250,000 a year in malpractice premiums.

That's just the price of entry. That's 1 or 2 hundred grand you've got to shell out even before you nail up the shingle on your door.

Why is the price so high? Because there's a very good chance that John Edwards or his ilk will sue the pants off of you or someone you know, channel the disembodied spirit of a dead child for a jury specifically chosen for its utter ignorance of medicine and things medical, and convince them to award $50 million to a plaintiff.

Frankly, if we had started out to intentionally design a system that inflated costs, we couldn't have done a better job.

If you want medicine to work, and by work, I mean, operate in the same way that obtaining any other good or service works, then you have to make the system market based.

Eliminate 3rd-party medical insurance payments. Make consumers bear the cost of their health care, so that they will ration it themselves as it suits them.

If you want the price mechanism to work properly, you have to make the people who consume health care the people who pay for it. Now, this doesn't mean that we eliminate health insurance. But, it does mean that consumers should be paying for it, not businesses. Let businesses take the money they currently pay for health premiums and pay it directly to the individual as salary.

Modify the tax code to make health insurance premiums deductible, or even tax-credit them. This would have the practical effect of having government subsidize the cost of health care indirectly, while leaving the responsibility for actual payment in the hands of the consumer. After all, the government already subsidizes health care, and gets screwed by doing so because of the cost-inflating nature of third-party payment.

Limit the scope of malpractice suits through tort reform by implementing a "loser pays" system to cut down on questionable malpractice suits. All too often, insurance companies will settle even frivolous claims, because they cannot recoup the cost of defending them, even if they win. Loser pays would greatly reduce the incentive to do so, while, at the same time, leaving them vulnerable in cases of real malpractice.

These suggestions, of course, comprise a massive change to the nature of health care finance. But the system we have is breaking down, is twice as expensive as anyone else's, and is getting more expensive every day. We simply can't ignore the problem any longer.

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:42 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Basic Human Rights...

I've got just as many jokes about this post as the next guy, but he really does make a good point....

...I would like to expound on this concept of "A women's choice to do with her body what she pleases".

Why can't women go topless then? Or nude completely? If it is so important that women* have complete control over their bodies, why do they allow the government to tell them they must cover up their breasts and genetalia?

I'm not trying to be snotty, it's just that it perplexes me why something as simple as clothing is ignored while something as complex as abortion is made out to be the pinnacle of freedom.

So, here's what you do.
- Strip.
- Walk into the headquarters of NOW.
- Make a speech about womens inalienable right to control their own body.
- Keep talking until they call the police on you.
- Lesson learned, run away. Very quickly.

Food for thought.

(link via Brian Fertilizer)

Posted by Jon Henke at 10:20 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Consequences, intended and otherwise...

A very interesting recent TCS column on how some 1990s era economic reforms may be manifesting themselves today....

There are three facts being shouted round the political echo chamber at the moment: that jobs growth is poor, that corporate profits as a portion of the national income have risen to unprecedented levels and that low wage growth is leading to an increase in inequality. That these facts may be true or not is irrelevant to my concern which is that they are not actually three separate things. They are exactly the same thing.
Indeed, this has much more to do with boring economic realities like supply and demand, than it has to do with politicians. As Jane Galt wrote a bit back, "with less bargaining power, workers are taking a smaller share of the growing pie."

Back to Tim Worstall's TCS column...

The point of all this comes here....
For several decades it was a given that by the time we got down to 5.6 % unemployment we would expect to be seeing wage inflation. That's where we are now and as is rightly pointed out we don't have that inflation. So what happened, has there been some structural change in the economy since the last recession, something that would change the relationship between unemployment rates and income gains? Well, yes, there has been: welfare reform.
Indeed, as we lower the incentive to remain unemployed - or, more specifically, as lower allow the disincentives of unemployment to more closely approximate their natural level - people will tend to find a good excuse to find some employment. In some cases, certainly, welfare programs support a genuine need on the part of the recipient. In other cases, though, it subsidizes poor choices....and encourages more of them.

In much the same manner, it's bothered me that we kept extending unemployment benefits after the recession was over in 2001. After all....

Many empirical studies have confirmed the theoretical prediction that longer-term Unemployment Insurance (UI) entitlement leads to longer unemployment duration.
....and according to a House Ways and Means Committee release, these Unemployment benefits "can increase the probability of unemployment and extend the time a person is out of work, among other outcomes."

So, it seems we had a good idea in 1998--to allow the disincentives of unemployment to be more obvious to the individual--but we've forgotten all about it since then. It's worth remembering.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 14, 2004

Suitcase Nukes

I am going to have to respectfully disagree, in part, at least, with my colleague, McQ, on the seriousness of the issue of portable, or "suitcase" nukes.

First, it is certainly possible to build such a device. The smallest nuclear device ever created by the US, was the W-54 warhead, which was created for use in the Davy Crockett nuclkear bazooka. There was also a backpack version of this device, the Mk 54 SADM. This warhead weighed 51lbs, or 23kg. This was a 1-kiloton warhead, which compared to the 13kt Hiroshima bomb, makes it pretty weak in nuclear terms.

As to whether the Sovs ever built such a suitcase nuke device specifically, well, that's hard to say. The Center for Non-proliferation Studies has looked at the possibility, and finds it's difficult to say if such devices even existed.

The report points out that there are indications that Spetsnaz troops were assigned to plant nuclear mines in case of invasion. But, with a suspected weight of 90KG (198 lbs) that CNS identifies, you'd need a pretty big frickin' suitcase.

For the most part, the worry about Soviet-era suitcase nukes seems to have come from one intervies of General Alexander Lebed conducted in 1997, where he made reference to them. Before that time, references to them were almost non-existent, as have references to them from Russian sources since then. At the time, though, the statements touched off a firestorm in Russia, but with inconclusive results. As CNS concludes, practically every participant, from Gen. Lebed to Minatom officials had perfectly good reasons to hide the truth, whatever it might have been.

We do know, though, that the Sovs did have nuclear 152mm howitzer shells that weighed around 30kg (66 lbs) but they were a) small-yield (from 0.1 to less than 1 kt), and b) required regular and frequent routine maintenance to remain operational. Moreover, the indications were that these shells were maintained in a less than fully assembled state, in order to maintain positive control over them, with rapid assembly to take place in case of war.

Very short maintenance cycles would, in any event, be required to keep such a device operational. While it is possible to produce a 10kt yield with a fairly light device i.e. slightly less than 100kg (220 lbs), using a minimum of plutonium to achieve critical mass, the device would require the use of tritium to increase the yield. Without proper and regular maintenance, the yield would within a couple of years, decline to minimal levels as the tritium degraded.

Finally, there is the issue of positive control mechanisms (PCM). The soviets were quite keen on separating the authorization to use nuclear weapons from the physical possession of them. In general, the KGB controlled the launch codes with the Armed forces controlled the weapons. Anyone in possession of a weapon, who could sell it off to a terrorist group or rogue state, would not be in possession of the PCM that made the weapon operational. That would render the weapon useless for ordinary purposes.

So, to sum up:

1. It is possible the Sovs produced some miniature devices, though the evidence they did so is sketchy.

2. The devices would probably be a bit big for suitcases, weighing in at around 80-120kg.

3. The devices would require frequent routine maintenance, or would become inoperational.

4. The positive control mechanisms usually present in nuclear weapons would prevent their use as designed, and would be practically impossible to circumvent.

What remains then is the possibility of extracting the nucelar materials for use in a radiological device, or "dirty bomb" by terrorists, or for rogue states to extract the processed nuclear material for use in a nuclear weapon of their own design.

So, I am not particularly worried about the possibility of a bunch of suitcase nukes going off in the near future. This doesn't mean the government should ignore the threat, but there's no reason to be exceptionally worried about the possibility.

REBUTTAL: (McQ) And with equal respect I'm going to have to offer a bit of a rebuttal to my esteemed colleague, Dale (we sound like a couple of UN ambassadors for heaven sake).

"Suitcase nuke" is simply a euphemism for a relatively small and portable nuclear device. There's no requirement that it actually fit in a suitcase. As Dale notes, the US has a whole family of "suitcase nukes" which are officially known as Atomic Demolition Munitions. In fact, this link shows pictures of such US devices.

Please note in the first picture that the total weight of the entire device is less than 400 lbs with a yield up to 15 kilotons. Also note that its not much bigger than a can of fountain syrup used in a fast food resturaunt. Certainly nothing that would be that difficult to move around or disguise.

So obviously there's no question the technology does exist to have devices larger than 1kt in a relatively small package.

As to the problem of maintenance, the IPCS piece I cited points out that the program for bin Laden is being run by "a Western educated Arab nuclear scientist, (turned Islamic Jehadi) and assisted by five Turkoman Muslim. Others too have been brought from CAR countries." In other words they hired in the maintenance help.

Obviously because of the maintenance requirement, their contingent would have to be larger than the first six mentioned but that has to be assumed to have been covered by the fact that IPCS notes "others" were brought in later. There's also a discussion of Pakistani help at other sources which I'll try to run down again.

The problem of PCM is also addressed in the piece:

To overcome the technical problems of coded transmissions for activation of these nuclear suitcase bombs (Russian technique,) it is reported that Laden’s nuclear experts could “hot-wire” them and these can be used by human-bomb volunteers from amongst the Islamic Jehadis seeking martyrdom.

I'm not an expert in these things but I have enough experience to know that there's usually a work-around to just about everything. The fact that the PCM is mentioned as well as an implied work-around ("hot-wire") infers the problem was recognized and addressed.

As to the genesis of the reports, it appears the Center for Nonproliferation Studies may have some conflicting "conclusions". Drs. Scott Parrish and John Lepingwell agree that Lebed's testimony wasn't fully convincing, but they also note that the government denials became "increasingly self-contradictory and less credible."

Pertaining to Lebed and the government of Russia, Parrish and Lepingwell note:

It certainly does indeed stand to reason that if we had them, they'd have them as well. Anyone at all familiar with that era know the USSR developed many copies of US and Western weapons and weapons systems. Getting the goods on a 10 to 15kt ADM isn't at all beyond their capability. And its further not beyond reason to conclude that they might have significantly improved on something first built in the '70s by the '90s.

Parrish/Lepingwell conclude:

Lebed's charges have therefore not been adequately dismissed by his critics, nor fully substantiated by his supporters. The claims that the Soviet Union never built ADMs ring hollow, but neither is there any solid evidence indicating the loss or diversion of such weapons. This does not mean that the threat of diversion does not exist, though. The social, political, and economic stresses that wrack Russia provide strong incentives for military "insiders" to steal nuclear weapons.

Again, if one reviews the history of the collapse of the USSR its not at all a stretch to make the case that nukes could have been diverted for economic reasons (some scientists weren't paid for 2 plus years) as well as emerging religious reasons (especially among the newly minted muslim states where these "buys" by OBL are alleged to have taken place).

One other bit of information which really seems to throw more weight to the argument that some nuclear devices could have been lost than to the side which says they're all accounted for comes from Dr. Alexie Yablokov (Boris Yeltsin's former science advisor)in a 1997 interview:

During beginning of '70s, in USSR have been made some number -- nobody knows exactly -- some number of small- sized suitcase-size nuclear munitions. For what? For terroristic [purposes]. Exactly; only for terroristic [purposes].

So here we have the admission that in the '70s ADMs were made, but they don't know how many. How's that for nuclear accountability?

I would speculate that its also probable that except for a few, no one knew how long the program continued nor how it evolved. And just because the US discontinued its ADM program years ago does not mean the USSR did so as well.

It seems, then, rather improbable that a resonable claim can be made that a) all nuclear devices are accounted for and b) that the USSR's ADMs were only small yield devices. According to Yablokov's statement, there would be no way to corroborate either claim.

So while I think Dale makes some good and cogent points, I don't share his relative lack of concern about the possibility of nuclear attack by terrorists using small portable nuclear devices. I don't think anyone would argue that the administration was worried about ICBMs falling into terrorist hands.

There are too many loose ends in the former USSR, many brought about by the secrecy endemic to a totalitarian regime, to have me not believe, in this particular case, that where there's smoke there may be fire. Money talks and BS walks and when OBL was hunting nukes, money was talking very loudly in the former USSR.

REBUTTAL (Dale):

I have some problem with the idea that the nuclear experts could have 1) performed the required maintenance, or 2) could simply have "hot-wired" the PCM.

The maintenance were are talking about isn't quite as simple as checking to see that all the electrical connections are working. There is the matter of replacing the tritium, which would require a fairly sophisticated engineering setup to replace the yield-boosting mechanism, as well as having access to the appropriately refined tritium on a regular basis. Those are not inconsequential hurdles.

As far as PCM goes, having worked nuclear security for a couple of years, I don't think hot-wiring will do the trick. Each nuclear device is equipped with what the US calls Permissive Action Links (PALs) that prevent the device from unauthorized arming or detonation. In general, the PALs consist of electronic devices that not only require an authorization code, but the code must be appropriately encrypted. For weapons manufactured after the 1970s, they generally require that the code be transmitted from a centralized, remote location, preventing local troops from arming them. In addition, PALs are generally buried deep within the warhead, to prevent hotwiring without disassembling the weapon.

"Hot-Wiring" the PAL means completely disassembling the weapon, replacing the PAL with a rather tediously manufactured non-cryptographic, electromechanical replacement. It's not a simple matter of simply "cutting the blue wire".

This would require a facility of some degree of sohistication that includes radiation isolation, and waldo remotes to perform the actual operation. Such facilities are hard to find anywhere in the Arab world. Indeed, the technology to even build them would have to come from outside the region.

And this facility would need to be available on at least a quarterly basis for the regular replacement of at least the tritium yield-increasing modules, as well as the other components on some less frequent, but necessary basis as well.

I just don't think this could be done without state sponsorship. It's not just the requirement to have nuclear scientists (whatever that means), but a rather sophiticated manufacturing/maintenance infrastructire that cannot be built ad-hoc, but that requires sophisticated equipment and facilities generally unavailable anywhere in the Mideast, outside government facilities.

I just think that the article glosses over the technical hurdles to modifying such weapons, without direct state sponsorship.

LAST POINT FOR McQ Dale makes good points as usual. However, I'd simply point to the possibility of such state sponsorship being no further away than Iran, a state we know precious little about except a) its engaged in a nuclear program of its own (so the facilites and technical expertice certainly exist) and b) is known to sponsor terrorists.

DALE RESPONDS:

Ah, ha ha, but now we're talking about something other than a terrorist attack. Now we're talking about an overt act of war, by one state sponsoring a nuclear attack on the soil of another. We've stepped outside the terrorist sphere, and are back in the sphere of hot state-on-state action.

Posted by Dale Franks at 06:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Kerry, Bush, and the Dow

Andrew Sullivan quotes Jim Cramer, of CNBC's Kudlow & Kramer about how the market is arbitraging the election.

I have been slow to recognize the bigger issues that are just killing this market in part because I wanted to believe that the current President Bush is smarter than he sounds or looks. I wanted to believe that he could articulate correctly why we went to war in some foreign land where a thousand guys have died and billions have been spent. But he hasn't. He had terrible intelligence and bad homework, stuff I fire people for regularly and always have.

What we see now in the market is a gradual realization that Bush will be forced out in November and a new man will be president, a man who may not be better for the stock market but one who arguably may not be worse if simply because a gridlocked government is better than the drunken spending and the no-vision team we have in now.

It's always funny to hear a Democrat complain about "drunken spending".

In any event, just looking at a 6-month chart, things don't look too good in the market.

6-Month Stock Chart
6-Month Stock Chart

That's a pretty bearish formation, if you're a technical analyst. It's a series of declining highs and declining lows. Now, maybe Jim is just being a partisan Democrat here, but he may also be right, and the market may be forecasting a Bush loss in November. There does, after all, seem to be some historical evidence to support such a contention. And even Jim's partner, Larry Kudlow is advising his readers to watch the stock market.

On the other hand, FDR was re-elected in 1936 and 1940 with far worse stock performance, so, as the investing gurus say, "past history is not an indication of future performance".

Still, the existence of a bearish market in an election year isn't usually a good sign for incumbent presidents who, FDR aside, generally lose when it happens. It may also be an even more telling sign now, when so many more Americans belong to the investor class.

Frankly, the signs for Bush's re-election don't look particularly good right now--always with the caveat that things may change when the conventions start focusing the electorate's attention on the campaign. For an incumbent president to be stuck in a dead heat with a relatively unknown senator, well, that's not a good sign, even this early.

Now, we've seen some very good economic news this week, including big rises in consumer confidence. So, a rally could get sparked off, especially if we see another round of very good employment numbers for July. But if the market remains in the current doldrums, it would seem to indicate that Bush' re-election prospects are a bit chancy.

Posted by Dale Franks at 04:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Nukes and elections

At the risk of being called alarmist and a charter member of the tinfoil hat brigade, let me speak the unspeakable and throw this out for your consideration.


Per Newsmax
, "Osama's Revenge: The Next 9/11: What the Media and the Government Haven't Told You," by Paul L. Williams (Prometheus Books) contains allegations that al-Qaida may have as many as 10 suitcase style nuclear devices in the US in sleeper cells.

To me this is an important story, but one that hasn't received the coverage and followup it deserves since it first emerged in 1996. So if you'll indulge me:

"The Chechen Mafia reportedly sold twenty nuclear suitcases in Grozny to representatives of Osama bin Laden and the Mujahadeen [in 1996]. For their weapons, bin Laden paid $30 million in cash and two tons of heroin."

Al-Qaida's leader, says Williams, is a major drug producer and runner in Afghanistan.

"It is the drug money, not the bin Laden family fortune, that is the financial engine for al-Qaida," he points out.

Today, Williams says, more than 40 Russian "nuclear suitcases" cannot be accounted for.

As I said, this is not new. We've been hearing it on and off for years, in fact since the story broke in 1997 of General Lebed's allegations that there were portable nukes missing from the former USSR. For instance, Fox/US News reported in January of this year:

Former Russian National Security Adviser Alexandr Lebed in 1997 alleged that up to 100 portable bombs that looked like suitcases were unaccounted for since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. He said the devices have an explosive capacity of one kiloton — the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT — and could be activated by a single person, killing as many as 100,000 people.

They also validate Williams story (or perhaps he validates theirs):

Usama Bin Laden allegedly has already purchased a number of nuclear suitcase bombs from Chechen organized crime groups and there have been reports that he has backpack bombs.

US officials, while not denying the existance of these devices have said they have no evidence of any missing nuclear weapons from the old Soviet Union:

"We have not seen any hard evidence of suitcase-sized nuclear devices unaccounted for or falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue states," former FBI Director Louis Freeh told Congress two years ago.

One must remember though that our intelligence community had no evidence of the 9/11 threat and did have evidence of WMDs. In other words, until proven conclusively to be true, Freeh's claim should be viewed skeptically. After all, Williams comes from the same organization, the FBI, as Freeh. And Williams claims precisely the opposite is true.

So what about the threat Williams describes. If true, what is the magnatude of the threat the US faces?

What kind of damage could such a weapon do? The CIA estimates the Russian nuclear suitcases to have an explosive yield approaching 10 kilotons.

Williams, referring to estimates by Theodore Taylor, a prominent American physicist who miniaturized the atomic bomb and visited the site of the World Trade Center in 1993, says a suitcase bomb could "emit intense thermal radiation, creating a fireball with a diameter that would expand to 460 feet. The core of the fireball would reach a maximum temperature of 10 million degrees Celsius ... ." The author says the heat that collapsed the Twin Towers never exceeded 5,000 degrees Celsius.

Had such a bomb been used in 9/11, Williams claims, "The World Trade Center towers, all of Wall Street and the financial district, along with the lower tip of Manhattan up to Gramercy Park and much of midtown, including the theater district, would lie in ruins."

Significant. Very significant.

Loss of life?

Of those who might survive the blast, 50 percent of the survivors could expect to die at the rate of "250,000 people on any given day," Williams reports.

How would they get them (or did they get them) in to the US?

Williams points out that the borders with Mexico and Canada are still dangerously porous and not equipped to detect the smuggling of nuclear materials.

U.S. seaports are even more vulnerable, he argues.

Another reason the "open borders" crowd isn't dealing with a full deck.

Targets?

Though New York City would seem to be the No. 1 target of another attack by al-Qaida, Williams points out other U.S. cities have been mentioned in intercepted intelligence chatter.

Among those discussed: Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Miami, Washington and Rappahannock County, Va.

Why a small rural county in Virginia? Williams says it houses the underground command center the White House would use in time of war.

Another list included Las Vegas and Houston.

Again, I don't want to be or seem alarmist, that's not the point in this. The point is to lay out a how very significant this sort of threat is in general. Its also to specifically look at the the threat of OBL having suitcase nukes as Williams alleges.

Is Mr. Williams scenario a viable one? Well, based on what I've been able to Google, it seems credible. Its a story which certainly won't go away. For instance, in March of this year, Sky News reported:

Al Qaeda's second-in-command has reportedly boasted the terrorist group has bought nuclear bombs on the Asian black market.

Osama bin Laden's biographer Hamid Mir said Ayman al Zawahri made the admission during an interview. The Pakistani journalist talked to both Osama bin Laden and al Zawahri in 2001 and asked if al Qaeda had nuclear weapons.

Mr Mir said al Zawahri laughed and replied: "If you have $30m, go to the black market in central Asia, contact any disgruntled Soviet scientist, and dozens of smart briefcase bombs are available.

"They have contacted us, we sent our people to Moscow, to Tashkent, to other central Asian states and they negotiated and we purchased some suitcase bombs."

Mr Mir made his claim in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation programme.

Again, the experts all said "unlikely" but I've yet to see anything other than Freeh's claim that there isn't any indication of missing nuclear weapons ... and in light of Williams disclosures, that just doesn't give me a big warm fuzzy.

The concern about missing Soviet nuclear weapons began soon after the collapse of the USSR. Bin Laden's attempts to acquire them began in earnest in 1996. Here's a pre-911 write-up from the "Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies" (independent think tank devoted to studying security issues relating to South Asia) on the subject of his quest for nukes.

Assuming this report is accurate, it leads to a number of possibilities since that time.

The first possibility this report seems to give is if OBL was able to acquire nukes, they were not in the US as of April of 2001. That means the plan for their use may not have been complete at that time, 5 years after their acquisition.

A further possibility exits that the attack on Afghanistan might have either destroyed the weapons or sealed them forever in their deep caves. But to my knowledge we've never heard a peep from any source about finding such devices or indications of such devices in Afghanistan. So assuming they survived, they obviously were moved out of Afghanistan (Iran?). They could have also been moved prior to the war and are now in another location, perhaps the US itself.

Obviously, if they still exist, we have to believe the aim of al-Qaeda, if they already haven't done so, will be to get them into the US. Again citing the last report, that means between April of 2001 and now, barring their destruction in Afghanistan, they could have been or could be in the process of being smuggled into this country.

Serious stuff, especially in light of the threat by al-Qadea to disrupt the elections this November. Can you imagine a more devastating way in which to do so? Our emergency services would be immediately overwhelmed. It would be catastrophic.

Can our security appartus respond and prevent such an occurrance? Well, in the absense of information concerning the whereabouts of the bombs, I'd have to say probably not. We have huge and essentially unguarded borders. To believe we have them "covered" is simply foolish. We have no magic technology which allow us pinpoint these devices at will (if we did we would know if any were missing and where they are right now). As with the foiling of the bomb plot at LAX, it will take alert security forces, great detective work and a large dose of luck.

But I, for one, have never been one who's particularly fond of banking on good luck, especially with stakes this high. I hope this is all nonsense, but if not, it certainly brings the worry of a new terrorist attack to a different level. 10 "Hiroshimas" in this country at the same time do give the possiblity of bringing Ameria to its knees. And that's just not a pretty thought.

Posted by McQ at 03:13 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Talking Points from Neo-Con Central

Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard editorial for the 19 July issue addresses the deep unseriousness of the Democrats about the war on terror.

Jay Rockefeller, the committee's ranking Democrat, claimed that, because of the flawed intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, "Our standing in the world has never been lower. We have fostered a deep hatred of America in the Muslim world, and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is more vulnerable today than ever before."

Consider the extremism of Rockefeller's statement. Our global standing has never been lower? Our nation is more vulnerable than ever before? Then consider the facts. Since the 9/11 attacks, the United States and its allies have deposed the Taliban in Afghanistan and overthrown Saddam Hussein's Baathist despotism in Iraq. The Pakistani/Libyan international nuclear weapons bazaar has been shut down. Al Qaeda operatives not already killed or captured are on the run, with no safe base of operations remaining in the world. All this has made us more vulnerable?

That's actually a funny thing for Rockefeller to say, especially since he's the guy who said on the senate floor, prior to the war:

Saddam's existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities pose a very real threat to America, now. Saddam has used chemical weapons before, both against Iraq's enemies and his own people. He is working to develop delivery systems like missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that could bring these deadly weapons against U.S. forces and U.S. facilities in the Middle East...He could make those weapons available to many terrorist groups which have contact with his government, and those groups could bring those weapons into the U.S. and unleash a devastating attack against American citizens...Some argue it would be totally irrational for Saddam Hussein to initiate an attack against the mainland United States, and they believe he would not do it. But if Saddam Hussein thought he could attack America through terrorist proxies and cover the trail back to Baghdad, he might think it not so irrational.

Perhaps Senator Rockefeller has just "grown".

But, it seems to me to be a hard argument the Democrats are trying to push. There hasn't been another 9/11-style attack since the original one. Or, for that matter, a USS Cole bombing, or a Kenyan embassy attack. The taliban government in Afghanistan is gone. Saddam Hussein's current palace is a 12x12 concrete cell, with all indications that his accomodations in the near future will be reduced to a 6x2 pine box. Both Afghanistan and Iraq are on the road to free elections for the first time in the memoray of practically anyone now living. The vast majority of Al Qaida's leadership has been killed or imprisoned.

And the result is that we are less safer? That Al Qaida is more of a threat?

That's just demagoguery.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:41 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Ex Post Facto Regret

William F. Buckley notes that there is nothing inconsistent in holding to the ideas that a) we should have gone to war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq and b) if we knew then what we know now, we wouldn't have done so.

An open question: If the commander-in-chief has evidence satisfying to his intelligence systems (and to those of the British, the French, the Germans, and the Russians) that a dictator who has used such weapons before — and has twice invaded neighboring countries — has such weapons now, is there a reasonable alternative to military action? Not in the judgment of those who believe the president must act on the most cautious probabilities. If later in the day, after the fighting has ended, one learns that the weapons weren't in fact there, how does this discredit the thinking that took him to war on the assumption that they were there?

Reason fortifies the two positions: 1) that we should have gone to war, and 2) that we need not have gone to war.

We can whine now about how wrong the intelligence was, and how we wouldn't have gone to war if we knew the truth. But--and this is an important point--we only know the truth because we went to war and overthrew Saddam's regime.

In the interim, we've overthrown a tyrant, liberated a people and put them on the road to more or less democratic self-government, and removed a proven regional military threat.

So, we didn't find WMDs? Well, cry me a river.

But, when you think about regret for past actions, it seems to me that Saddam Hussein is the guy who really should be wishing he took a different path.

I bet that pussyfooting around with UN inspectors doesn't look like such a hot plan now, huh? Want some more tepid water to go with that bread? Any rope preferences for the noose? Is nylon OK, or are you one of those hemp tradtionalists?

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

W says "Thank you, Whoopie"

Heh ... I'm sure this doesn't come as a surprise:

President Bush yesterday tagged rival John Kerry as an "out-of-the-mainstream" Hollywood liberal by pointing to last week's New York fund-raiser in which Whoopi Goldberg reeled off an X-rated Bush-bashing rant.

"The other day my opponent said, when he was with some entertainers from Hollywood, that they were the heart and soul of America," Bush told crowds in the Democratic but socially conservative towns of Marquette, Mich., and Duluth.

"I believe the heart and soul of America is found in places right here," Bush added to cheers from two giant crowds as he sought to move the values debate to the center of the race.

If considered carefully from a damage-control point of view, it becomes clear why Kerry's crew is a bit shy about releasing the tape. But my bet is that won't stop the "event" from making the next round of commercials from the Bush crowd attacking Kerry's characterization of Hollywood libs being the "heart and soul of America".

Up at the top of the stands of a Marquette stadium stood four kids proudly holding a long white banner with red and blue letters that proclaimed: "We are the heart and soul of America."

Kathleen Erikson, 57, said she was so angry at Kerry's claim that "those type of people" are America's soul that she made the banner.

There's an old political maxim which in effect says, "When your opponent is in the midst of destroying himself, get out of the way and let him do it."

W says "thanks", Whoopie.

UPDATE: Slim Fast says "bu bye" Whoopie.

Florida-based Slim-Fast said it was "disappointed" in Goldberg's remarks at last Thursday's $7.5 million star-studded fund-raiser at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

"Ads featuring Ms. Goldberg will no longer be on the air," Slim-Fast General Manager Terry Olson said in a statement, adding that the company regrets that Goldberg's remarks offended some customers.

Can't wait for the anticipated "suppressing freedom of speech" nonsense and the "blacklist' claims from the limo liberals in Hollywood. You certainly won't hear "actions have consequences" though ... that'd be too much like taking responsibility for what you say.

H/T Billy Beck

Posted by McQ at 11:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The IC and Israel's right to self-defense

In an op/ed piece in the Boston Globe, Jeff Robbins details the anti-Israel bias in the UN.

Not much of a shock there. But while reading it I was struck by this paragraph which gives a good distillation of a point a lot of people continue to miss pertaining to conflict there:

When the Israelis pleaded with the Palestinian leadership to stop the murder of its citizens, it refused to do so. Confronted with the Palestinian refusal to stop the deliberate murder of Israeli civilians and the international community's silence on the subject, the Israelis had a choice: to continue to hope vainly that the Palestinian leadership would have a change of heart or to take steps to defend its civilians. They chose the latter, through a security fence that, whatever tragic hardships it imposes on innocent Palestinians, offers the Palestinian leadership a choice of its own: to either stop the terror and see the fence come down or continue the killings and see the fence completed.

Peace in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict requires both sides to work toward it. The Palestinians have shown very little if any desire to participate in such a process. They've done little to stop attacks against Israelis. This unwillingness on their
part to stop the violence leaves little in the way of choices for Israel.

I find it hard to condemn a nation which tries to defend its citizens against attack. Its therefore hard for me to find fault with Israel when it decides to wall off its attackers and prevent them killing Israelis. Obviously there's another alternative. Israel could take a page from its Arab neighbors, declare its intent to "wipe Palestinians from the face of the earth, to push them into the sea" and go on a bloody rampage against them. As a nation, it certainly has the means to do pretty much that if they so chose.

But instead they opt for a defensive measure ... and are roundly condemned.

Which brings me back to the discussion of the submission of sovereignty to world bodies. The latest condemnation of Israel, as Robbins points out, comes from the International Court:

One was reminded of that wisdom when news came last week of the long-expected International Court decision condemning Israel for having begun construction of a fence in 2002 in order to stop the campaign of murder of Israeli civilians launched by Palestinians two years earlier. Issued by judges appointed by the UN General Assembly, the result was foreordained the moment the court accepted the Palestinians' challenge to the fence while simultaneously refusing to consider the Palestinian campaign of targeting Israeli civilians that had brought about the decision to construct the fence in the first place.

This is the bias Israel faces not only in the UN, but in what passes for "international law". A complete whitewash of Palestinian responsibility for the decision by Israel to build the fence. No consideration at all of the huge mitigating factor of persistant Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens. A complete acceptance of the Palestinian claim that it was the only injured party in this little charade.

Justice?

About as much justice as there is with a lynch mob. It is a decision worthy of the worst kangaroo court.

This travesty points to why it is so important that the US retain its sovereignty and reject such institution as the International Court. The concept of a "fair and benevolent world government" may be an enticing utopian vision, but current attempts fall far short of that goal. Justice demands equal treatment, fairness and impartiality. It demands that the arguments of both sides be heard and weighed and a fair decision be rendered. It requires that the political realm be banished from that of justice.

The current International Court decision against Israel's fence points to an international institution that is not ready for prime time and does not deserve to be supported by the US. The IC chose politics over justice, and that's simply unacceptable. The decision also underscores the fact that the US should continue to resist participation in or submission to the rulings of such institutions.

Israel, in the meantime, should do what is necessary to protect its citizens, and it should be unwaveringly backed by the US in that endeavor. After all, we demand nothing but the same right ourselves.

Posted by McQ at 09:52 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

The Cost of Socialized Medicine

Dale makes an important point about the health care “solution” that socialized medicine purports to offer.

Pay close attention here: When they promise their plan will “reduce costs”, they really mean their plan will “reduce prices”.

There is a difference.

Prices and costs are interrelated, but they are not the same thing. Price is the mechanism that is used to equalize supply and demand. For example, if demand for a product rises, while the supply remains steady, the price of that
product will rise.

Costs, on the other hand, include not only prices, but a variety of other things, as well. For example, going to college has a price (called tuition) that runs about $10,000 per year. But because you are going to school instead of working full-time, you forgo some income for four years. So in addition to the $10,000 price of an education, there is also an “opportunity cost” of an additional $15,000 a year or so. That makes the true cost of a college education $25,000 per year. The price of tuition is only a fraction of the true cost of an education.

Now, note what John Kerry promises his health care plan will deliver...

“John Kerry takes on the number one issue facing America's families--the spiraling cost of health care. Kerry's health care plan will cut premiums, cut waste, cut greed, and cut Americans a break.”
Now, note that, of the “costs” Kerry associates with health care, only one--waste--could be called a “cost”. “Premiums” are not costs of
health care, but prices paid to cover the costs associated with health care. You could legislate $1 price ceilings on insurance premiums, and that would not reduce the cost of health care. Doctors and nurses would still have to be paid, scalpels purchased regularly, electric bills for the hospital paid, etc.

It would simply force you--the consumer--to bear that cost in one of two ways.

Option 1 is that you'll get sick, stay sick, then die...but for only $1! (imagine the savings!) Since that level of premium will make it impossible to hire doctors and nurses, build hospitals, and buy any medical equipment, you'll get exactly the amount of health care your $1 premium payment buys: none at all.

Option 2 is that the government will subsidize health care, requiring an increase in taxes. Your premium--or price--will still be just $1, but the actual cost will include not only the premium payment, but also the additional taxes extracted from you to pay for your health care. You might get more or less decent health care--although Dale's example of Canada might make you want to question that--but you'll pay far more than a dollar for it.

As for “greed” and “a break”, those are simply ways to avoid saying “I don't like the balance between supply and demand that the price reflects, so I want to change it by fiat”. Of course, if that were possible, those price and wage controls in the 70s would have worked out marvelously.

You do remember the 70s, right? Disco, long lines at the gas stations, and
double digit inflation? Fortunately, disco is dead. Unfortunately, the ghost of Richard Nixon is still wandering the halls of DC assuring politicians that, “hey, we're still Keynesians now, right?”

Question: why is “waste” a problem in the health care industry, but not in, say, the agricultural industry where we actually subsidize waste? More to the point, why is waste not a significant problem in any free market industry? If it could exist for long, I'd be mowing yards for a living, and doing that living in a mansion on the lake. Sure, it would be expensive, but I could just pass that expense on to my customers, who won't mind paying me upwards of $1000 to subsidize my waste, right?

Wrong. Until we repeal human nature, the natural competition in a free market simply won't allow waste to exist to a significant degree for very long. Which brings me to "greed".....

“Greed” could possibly be defined as “prices that are higher than needed to reach equilibrium” (i.e., strike a balance between supply and demand with no shortage or surplus). But if that exists, why would it be able to continue? After all, if Acme HC is making a whopping 20% net profit on their product/service, wouldn't somebody else, equally greedy, move in to undercut them and make a whopping 19% profit? To which Acme would respond by lowering their prices to achieve a 18% profit. (And, human nature being what it is, we can reasonably assume this will continue until profits are at a level below which there is no further incentive to enter the market)

Well, that's how it works for burritos, camping supplies, computers, and virtually every other product you can imagine. Why not the very heavily regulated industry of........

Oh.

Say…do you suppose the high prices in health care could have something to do with the barriers that regulation puts up to prevent other producers from entering the health care market? Well, perhaps. And, since these regulatory barriers have been driving up the cost of health care for so long, is the solution to just....er, throw up an entire wall?

Well, apparently so. At least, that's what John Kerry is telling us when he says his socialized medical plan will lower the costs of health care.

To conclude, let's put this in simple terms: (with some assumptions with which you may feel free to take issue if you disagree)

  • Assume you have 100 units of health care available at any given time. The demand, of course, is essentially infinite--or, at least, indefinite...but always larger than the supply. The supply is infinitely--or, at least indefinitely--expandable.
  • Assume that any reduction in supply/increase in demand which does not result in a corresponding change in price will serve to either lower the quality or quantity of the supply of health care.
  • Assume that we want the supply of health care priced at the market equilibrium point - neither above, causing surpluses of unused health care despite existing demand….or below, creating a shortage of health care.
Examples: Shortage: 1 doctor has 10 sick patients, but since health care is so inexpensive they’re demanding a great deal of it, so that he can only get to 5 of them. The other 5 go without health care. Surplus: 1 doctor, with time for 10 sick patients, but only 5 can afford to pay for treatment. The other 5 go without health care.
  • Assume that we would rather increase the supply of health care, rather than decrease the demand by rationing, which would involve some rather unsavory, shall we say, “forced medical decisions”. (think: Logan's Run)

Now, to increase that supply as quickly as possible, should we:

a) Legislate price/regulatory controls on the supply, and lower price barriers on demand: both of which reduce the incentive to create additional units of health care, and increase the demand for those units...

Or

b) Deregulate--i.e., “increase”---the supply, and let the market determine the quantity--and quality--of health care units it is willing to
accept.

Further questions:

  • In what other industries have we ever instituted answer a) successfully?
  • If we are unhappy with the quantity or quality of health care being delivered, and price is no longer a useful mechanism for increasing/decreasing it, how will we effect a change?

It strikes me that, before we go further down this road, these questions need to be asked of, and answered by, proponents of socialized medicine.

Note: Dale Franks deserves credit for a great deal of this, either directly--in our conversation about the concepts--or indirectly, through his book--Slackernomics: Basic Economics for People Who Think Economics is Boring--which gives a very good, readable, even funny, look at basic economic concepts....
.....and which you should really go buy right now.

Posted by Jon Henke at 08:27 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sovereignty for allies?

Tom Blankley of the Washington Times has a excellent article on the basis of our differences with Europe. He quotes extensively from an article by Henry Kissinger which distills the essence of those differences, and as Blankley notes, makes Kerry's claim he'd bridge the rift appear to be so much political hot air.

Henry Kissinger deftly destroys Kerry's claim with some good points. But to put the argument in context he first observes:

Mr. Kissinger argues that: (1) the global scene is more fluid than it has been for centuries, (2) the center of gravity of world affairs is moving to the Pacific, (3) the major actors are defining new roles for themselves, and (4) the transformation is about basic concepts rather than tactical issues.

Kissinger notes that power in the world is fluid and always shifting. In this case center of gravity is shifting away from the European/American axis and toward the giant nation-state of China. Consequently, much in the way of differing issues begin to emerge in the wake of that shift.

"Differences between America and Europe are serious and substantive. But the reason the results of recent U.S.-European diplomatic encounters have proved so disappointing — despite serious efforts from both sides — is that the historical evolutions underway on the two sides of the Atlantic are different."

Or, in other words, nations each have differing views of how the world is evolving. They also have differing priorities as a result.

To put this further in context Blankley quotes Britian's Lord Palmerton's famous diplomatic maxim:

As Lord Palmerston explained the classic British foreign policy maxim: Britain has no permanent friends, only permanent interests. And so it has been for all nations and alliances.

That's simply reality, and as Kissinger points out and Blankley underscores, the permanent interests of Europe and America are in the process of diverging, possibly for good. For instance:

He goes on to argue that "the most important event in Europe is the progressive erosion of the nation-state," which is leading them to reject, as a matter of principle, the right of any nation to exercise national sovereignty, particularly when resorting to the use of military force.

This goes to the root of the problem and belies the claim Kerry and company make that if they had been in charge, those who opposed the "alliance of the willing" would have been happy to have lent their support. The problem isn't personalities, its priorities. Certainly nothing Kissinger points too would lead one to believe the power of personality would have helped at all.

Rather, as they spend most of their time on issues of European unification, "these non-state attitudes toward international relations are becoming deeply embedded in European public opinion." Mr. Kissinger doubts whether these building attitudes "can ever be again fully reconciled with the experience of a country driven by state concepts or with the notion of alliance as traditionally conceived." Meanwhile, "By contrast, America remains [with such other countries as Russia, China, Japan and India] a traditional nation-state, insistent on sovereign freedom of action."

So we have a group of nations (which includes Britian who sees themselves as largely sovereign) in which the "traditional nation-state" still exists and who demand the right of sovereign action when necessary. That group is opposed by a group of "nations" in which the sovereign nation-state is at best in a state of flux, and for all practical purposes has ceased to exist (the EU) and reject the "rights" of sovereignty.

Its not hard then to understand the insistance of the latter group on the supremacy of world bodies such as the UN and International Criminal Court. Nor is it difficult, on the other hand, to understand the rejection of that supremacy concept by the group nation-states which demand sovereign rights. The result? Diplomatic conflict.

Mr. Kerry is only playing into the public's (and the popular media's) belief that personalities and "chemistry" between world leaders determines the success of diplomatic engagements.

If Kissinger's thesis is correct, and it certainly seems logical, then Kerry's concept as described by Blankley is very naive and points to someone who really doesn't have a grasp on the new reality of global politics. Its a glib tossoff which plays to the uneducated belief that personalities decide alliances and not interests. As history teaches us, that's patently untrue.

Blankley concludes:

The only coin of the realm — so to speak — which the continental Europeans will accept will be American concession of some of our sovereign rights to the international order that the French-led Europeans are trying to bring to life. Assuming Mr. Kerry is as smart, informed and nuanced of mind as he claims to be, he well understands this deeper reality.

Based on Kerry's purported belief that its a personality problem, its not at all evident he does understand this deeper reality.

And that is the point. Every move France, and to a lesser extent Germany, make highlight this difference in priorities. They're nations who are submitting their sovereignty to the EU. They recognize the danger in this which is why they insist through their diplomatic actions that other nation-states, such as the US, submit their sovereignty as well (in this case to the UN). It explains why any attempt by the US to exercise their sovereign rights is met with hostility as well as diplomatic efforts to block such an exercise by the likes of France and Germany.

As for Kerry?

He should level with the electorate and discuss just how much of our sovereignty and national interest he is prepared to barter away in the interest of regaining European friendship and cooperation. It has become a matter of principle with the Europeans that they will not diplomatically barter with us in the traditional sovereign manner. What they want is our acquiescence in the new international, de-sovereigned order they are trying to bring into being. Where does Mr. Kerry stand on this central international challenge?

Those are the questions he must answer. Because in the interest of "alliance" with the nations of France and Germany, our right to sovereign action becomes the price, our submission to the will of the UN and ICC will be their demand. Kerry should make it clear whether he believes giving up a portion of our sovereignty is worth the price of alliance with France and Germany.

Is "alliance" of a higher priority to Kerry than retaining the sovereign right of the US to act in its own self defense? Based on Kissinger's analysis, there is a choice to be made.

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

July 13, 2004

September 14th

Mozilla.org has announced that their target release date for Firefox 1.0 is 14 September 04.

I expect that I'll obtain Firefox 1.0 as soon as it's available, but there are some things that worry me. Just perusing the Firebird release forum, is seems like there's a lot of worry that v1.0 will still be a bit buggy. As one poster writes:

With 1.0 there are no more 'Beta & Pre-release' excuses. This time it is win or bust, and you cannot win with a loser... As for being sidetracked, being on date with a bugggy 1.0 will not get Firefox sidetracked, it will bury it altogether.

This is a valid concern. First, a lot of users distrust open-source software. Maybe that's unfair, maybe it's not, but that's the way it is. Combine that with a buggy 1.0 release, and you run a very good risk of killing the product.

Way, way back in the dim mists of time, before Windows 3.11, there was Word Perfect. Word Perfect was a perfectly nice little company in Salt Lake City that made word processing software. By the time they released WP5 for DOS they were the big kid on the block as far as word processing software goes.

Now, the folks at Novell, who, in case you didn't know, used to be in the networking business, paid something like $230 million to buy WP, and make it a Novell product. They immediately began working on WP6 for windows.

Time goes by, Novell releases WP6 to great fanfare. Now, Win 3.11 users have WP! Yippee!

Except for one little problem. It had a tendency towards instability. Not to put too fine a point on it, it blew up like a suitcase nuke at the slightest provocation, covering the room with tiny bits of vowels and consonants.

The Novell people jumped back into the lab, and, as soon as they could, released WP6.1. It actually worked.

But, it was too late. The big shift to Word had already begun in the interim, and Novell had missed the boat. A couple of years later they sold WP to Corel. For about $80 million.

Nice job, Novell. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anybody that Novell later got its butt kicked in the networking world, too, and is now an open source, Linux-dependent company.

Losers.

But, the whole point opf my little story is that, when you get people's expectations up, and you tell them you have a more secure browser, with cool features, you better deliver a more secure browser with cool features--that works.

I see a lot of people in the forum responding with stuff like, "Oh, no one has every released a perfect bit of software." Yeah, that's true enough, I suppose, but there's a thin line between "less than perfect" and "sucks chrome off bumpers", and a wise developer stays as far as he can on this side of the line.

I'm just saying...

Posted by Dale Franks at 05:40 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Why the media's treatment of Bush doesn't matter

Ok, maybe it does matter, but not in the way they think it does.

I've made this point before, but excuse me while I belabor it again. If you'll dial back the time machine to Clinton's reelection campaign, you'll remember the vicious attacks from the right he weathered in his successful bid.

Those on the right were incredulous. "How in the world", they asked among themselves, "can anyone this dishonest and sleazy (slick as in "Slick Willy") retain the presidency? What is wrong with the people of this country? We laid it all out, we shouted about it, we ran out the "Clinton Chronicles" and yet the voters chose him for another 4 years".

Like the left and Florida 2000, there are those on the right who still haven't gotten over that.

Does the prelude to the '96 vote sound at all familiar to 2004?

Clinton's success has been written off to the theory that it was about sex and the American people have a tendency to not take those sorts of things that seriously.
I don't particularly agree with that assessment, and it'll become clear later on in this screed. There was also the economic argument. The economy was good and they weren't willing to rock the boat (and again, the sex thing just wasn't that big of a deal). Don't partcularly buy that one in it entirety either.

But if you have a tendency to accept those sorts of explanations about Clinton's successful reelection bid, how in the world do you explain this:

"Media coverage of President Bush has been largely unflattering this campaign season, but there's little indication the bad press has affected the country's view of him," the Boston Globe reports, citing a survey released yesterday.

Why hasn't all the negative media coverage affected the country's view of him? Why haven't we seen his numbers go south because of this sort of coverage? How has he been able to weather this sort of adverse media covereage and still be more than competative in his reelection bid?

My theory? Its a three-part theory. Part 1 says Bush, despite his problems and despite the fact that voters might not agree with everything about his policies, is a known quantity. What you see is what you get. People are more comfortable with what they know than what they don't know. Kerry, to this point, is an unknown, at least as a leader. If its true the country continues toward a more conservative bent, this makes sense. The majority of Americans aren't going to just change for the sake of change. The reason's have to be very compelling, and to this point, Bush's opponents (and the media's) arguments haven't risen to that level (just as those opposing Bill Clinton were unable to make compelling enough arguments about his removal).

Part 2 has to do with the power of incumbency. Right or wrong, good or bad, this nation has, for the most part, been in the boat with George W. Bush for the War on Terror. In their heart of hearts they know its a fight we must fight and win. We squabble about the hows, but there's very little dissent concerning the why.

So having gotten in the boat with W, they're not particularly open to political rivals who take pot shots at the boat with the desire of sinking it. Its one of the reasons Kerry is being so circumspect about his "stance" on Iraq. Straight answers? ... don't look for one from those guys. Part of the reason Bush's numbers aren't particularly affected by the negative media is because a majority of Americans still identify with him and the fight. Again ... without a compelling reason to change, and especially in a war, they're likely to stay the course with the incumbent.

Part 3 has to do with American's loving the "underdog". You'll note that politicians love to call themselves "comeback kids". That's because Americans love stories about people who overcome obstacles to succeed. Its as American as San Louis Obisbo (I'm just tired of apple pie and want a little Hispanic inclusion). What the right did in '96 was make Clinton "embattled". They made him "human" and the exposed his human foiables. People identified with him and his problems and felt empathy. That empathy translated into support.

Bush is in a similar situation. He's under vicious attack from the left and the media. He's perceived as being "ganged-up" on. That casts his attackers as bullies and he as the "underdog" ... after all, what chance has someone against giant media conglomerates or Hollywood's deep pockets and large mouths. And, the attacks are perceived by a good portion of the population as "crossing the line" of civility and good taste.

What comes out of this is a resentment. People resent their president being treated this way. They felt the same sort of resentment about Clinton's treatment by the right as well as empathy toward Clinton's plight. It is my contention that the same sort of resentment is building in the population toward the left and their-over-the- top treatment of Bush. For every "Wellstone Memorial" and "Whoopie Fest" they turn off a significant portion of the undecided.

As for the challenger:

"The findings may be more ominous for the Democratic challenger, John Kerry, who — at least until last week's selection of John Edwards as his running mate — was largely missing from national campaign coverage and had left an 'indistinct' impression on voters with one notable exception. The study found that the public says he is significantly more likely to 'flip-flop' on the issues than Bush," reporter Mark Jurkowitz said.

When Bob Dole was running against Clinton, his campaign essentially settled in the "Doldrums", no pun intended. It wasn't a very dynamic campaign, and while I think he had issues, what I recall most clearly is the feeling that he was running as "I'm not Clinton" instead of any distinct policy difference. This allowed the Clinton campaign to define Dole just about any way they wished.

I see no real difference with the Kerry/Edwards campaign. And what's coming out about the Democrat Party platform isn't particularly awe inspiring or differentiating. If it remains as its being reported now, it will have difficulty grabbing independent voter's attention (and it won't attract disaffected Republicans because its essentially an affirmation of Bush's last three years).

Essentially, because of Kerry's absenses, his failure to take definative stands, his lack of charisma and his record, its been fairly easy for the Republicans to define him. And because there are a tremendous number of voters out there now who say they really don't know who John Kerry is (29% according to Business Week), its a fair bet that many of them will believe (or do believe) the Republican definition of John Kerry. Again, as the Business Week poll points out, although 37% have a favorable opinion of Kerry, 55% think Kerry says what people want to hear. Any questions as to whence that idea came?

Add to that his being identified with the Moore/Goldberg (not to mention the NAACP, MoveOn.org and George Soros) left and the Titanic heads toward the iceberg.

" 'Neither of these guys is in control of their message, but it's probably not hurting Bush as much,' said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. 'Bush has suffered a huge onslaught of [negative] news coverage, but it's generally not having any impact on people's perceptions. Meanwhile, Kerry has not made much of an impression because he's been absent. ... The news is probably, on balance, worse for Kerry.'

Why is it "on balance" worse for Kerry? Because he's the challenger, and you usually don't get many chances to make an impression and thereby define yourself. Kerry's been absent for many of those chances and the opposition has been pretty successful, then, in defining him.

Add to that the feeling of "togetherness" no matter how slight that the people feel toward Bush and the fact that he's a known quantity at a tough time, and it spells problems for the challenger. This is one of the reasons John Edwards may have added a smile to the campaign, but no bump. Adding someone who is essentially a political neophyte, no matter how charming, to a ticket running in a war-time campaign, apparently doesn't appeal to many Americans or so the lack of a bump would indicate (at least to me).

Now the conventional wisdom seems to be, per Zogby, et. al, that we're so polarized and locked in that there aren't enough uncommitted voters to be swayed to bounce anything. I simply don't believe that is true. Other than us political junkies, there are a whole heap of folks out there who haven't even begun to pay that much attention to this race. But, despite that belief, you'd think the naming of a VP candidate on your party's ticket might elicit even a little excitement, if you were at all excited about the Presidential nominee to begin with, correct?

So maybe Edwards isn't the problem.

Which brings me to the close here .... I've been saying it for months and I'm going to remind you again. Kerry, now Kerry/Edwards have peaked. They're "there". This is as good as it gets. Yes there will be a convention bounce, but it'll be a fairly flat one and will dissapate rather quickly. And when all is said and done on election day, unless the Democrats come up with a much more compelling case for change than they have, and barring any disaster on the Republican campaign side, George W Bush will have another 4 years to sort out this War on Terror.

The left needs to go ahead and get its crying towels ready for the occasion.

Posted by McQ at 02:19 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Some good words for the CIA

Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at the non-partisan (i.e., liberal) Brookings Institution, defends the CIA in the New York Times today.

There are three main issues to consider. Did Iraq possess chemical and biological weapons in the period just before the American-led invasion? Had it reconstituted its nuclear weapons program? And did it have meaningful, operational links to Al Qaeda?

As we have been learning over the past 15 months, and as the Senate report has just reconfirmed, the intelligence community indeed did get its answers to the first two questions wrong. But it clearly got the third right. Moreover, on the vital matter of chemical and biological agents, the agencies' overall assessments were entirely reasonable. Yes, with the advantage of hindsight and complete access to Iraqi territory we now know they were largely wrong. But we did not have such hindsight or access in 2002 and early 2003.

Let's face it, it would have taken an overwhelming body of evidence for any reasonable person in 2002 to think that Saddam Hussein did not possess stockpiles of chemical and biological agents.

Thank you, voice of reason.

The other problem that too many people are forgetting is the sheer difficulty of collecting useful intelligence in a totalitarian state, a difficulty that is magnified in Iraq by other factors.

No matter how sophisticated your electronic intercepts and satellite pictures are, getting real, reliable confirmation often relies on having somebody on the ground, physically, to collect intelligence. Anybody with decent OPSEC and COMSEC can fool your ELINT capability, or at least mask their activities from it.

And getting people in to tell what's going on in totalitarian states is a pretty big hurdle.

For example, during the Cold War, it was relatively easy to take your average caucasiany, slavic-looking fellow, send him to DLI to learn Russian, and have him learn it well enough to fool the locals after 18 months or so.

But actually getting him into Russia to do some spying against the Soviets was an extraordinarily risky businesses, and frankly, didn't usually work out to well. Occasionally, we'd get hold of a Russian like Lt Col Oleg Penkovsky, who was willing to work for us from the inside, but the Sovs usually caught them and bumped them off after a while, too.

Iraq was even tougher. Most Americans, after all, can't physically pass for an Iraqi. And you not only have to teach him Arabic, but a particular dialect and accent found only among the people of the Sunni Triangle. But, even then, the hurdle gets higher, because Saddam tended only to promote people to positions of responsibility, i.e., where they would learn things worth knowing, if they were people who came from his local region in Iraq and were known to him personally.

That's a type of security that, barring an insider you can run as a double agent, is just impossible to break.

And, even if the above were not true, one of the CIA's biggest problems since the 1970s, when the Democrats in Congress broke the back of the Operations Division through the action of the Church Committee, has been creating and running HUMINT. Everybody in the 1970s was convinced that human intelligence was a thing of the past, and that ELINT was going to solve all the intelligence problems of the future. Accordingly, they dumped all the old OSS "cowboys" out of the DO, and the agencies HUMINT capability has been crippled ever since.

Intelligence gathering is as much an art as a science, and intelligence analysis is even more so. Obviously, the CIA dropped the ball here, and there are problems that need to be fixed. But having Congress use the agency as a whipping boy for political purposes simply isn't helpful.

Posted by Dale Franks at 02:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Kerry v. The War

John Podhoretz skewers John Kerry on his Iraq War position, and deservedly so.

John Kerry has finally spoken the words that make the November election an unambiguous choice. On "60 Minutes" on Sunday night, according to the official transcript released by CBS News, Kerry said: "I am against the — the war."

He tried to qualify them, to fudge them a bit, but no matter. The words are now out there and can't be taken back.

The possible future president of the United States opposes the war in Iraq now being fought by 130,000 American troops.

Fine, so what is your plan to withdraw without sacrificing everything we've fought to accomplish there? I'm still waiting to hear the answer to that question, and so far, I've been disappointed.

And, by the way, since you're so against the war, why did you vote for it? That seems like a pretty important question.

He and John Edwards were reduced to advancing a headshaking argument on "60 Minutes" to explain why they were right to vote to authorize the Iraq war and why they are right to criticize George W. Bush's supposed "failure" to build international support for that war.

If President Bush had had greater success in building international support for the war in Iraq, they said in unison on Sunday night, "we would have found out" that Saddam Hussein did not have stockpiles of banned weapons.

Try to follow the twisted logic here. Kerry and Edwards say, if we'd done better building a coalition to go to war with us, we would have somehow magically discerned that Saddam didn't have WMD and therefore we wouldn't have had to go to war at all.

You, realize, of course, that makes no sense whatsoever. I mean, it's not just wrong, it's stupidity on toast.

As Podhoretz points out, everybody thought Saddam had WMD and everybody thought he was a threat to us. Vladimir Putin even announced it last month. He essentially said that the Russian1 intelligence organs2 received indications several times that Saddam was preparing terror attacks against the US.

Even more important and telling, if the French or Russians had evidence that Saddam didn't have WMDs, don't you think they would've mentioned it? I mean, just in passing?

So those who sought to prevent us from going to war with Saddam thought that a) he possessed WMD and b) he was actively pursuing terrorism against the United States.

And yet, according to Kerry and Edwards, if those folks had decided to join us rather than try to stop us, they would have led us to the supposed truth about how little at risk we were from Saddam.

Wow.

That's not even revisionist history, it's just bad fantasy. It makes no logical sense whatsoever.

Moreover, it brings up another, most important question. Clearly, the Ivans and the Frogs were just as wrong about Saddam's WMD programs as we were. So, what happens to the US if they're wrong in the other direction, i.e., they tell us there's no threat at all when, in fact there is? What do we do if US and Franco-Russian intelligence assessments disagree?

Do we just have to suck it up, and accept their condolence telegrams gratefully when they miss the next 911, and we fail to act for fear of upsetting them?

The implication from John Kerry is that we will defer to our allies, leaving the central questions about our National Security essentially in the hands of foreign leaders in capitols far away. It implies that the role of the President of the United States is to ask the permission of our European cousins or the UN before responding to threats to our security.

Kerry probably isn't keen to explain his policy that way, for obvious reasons, but that is basically what his conception of the president's national security role is, if we are to believe his statements.

[Kerry] never speaks about the Iraq war in terms of protecting America from terrorism, or advancing democracy in the Muslim Middle East, or liberating a suffering people from more than 30 years of tyranny and chaos.

He offers no cause higher or nobler than "stability."

That cannot stand. Kerry cannot lead this country to a successful resolution of the hostilities in Iraq if the only positive value he sees in victory is "stability." The country won't stand for it.

An Iraq under the thumb of a pro-American general might be "stable" but it's hardly the outcome we've been pushing for.

But, of course, if Kerry's in a bind, he can't say anything positive about the outcome of the war in Iraq. He is, after all against it; therefore, if he makes the outcome of the war sound even remotely positive, he makes his anti-war position look foolish.

Overthrowing a totalitarian dictator, liberating 25 million people, assisting in the creation of a more or less liberal, democratic state, allowing hundreds of thousands of refugee expats from the Ba'athists to return home, all of that has to be denigrated and denied, or, at least, left unmentioned. Because "I'm against the war," is very very difficult to differentiate from, "I'm against the positive outcomes of the war, and the spread of liberty to a formerly imprisoned people." After all, if you admit that the outcome of the war was positive, i.e. the liberation of the Iraqi people, then you have to also explain why being against that is a good thing.

Better to pretend it's all been a tragic failure.
__________
1 Even after all this time, do you know how hard it is not to write the word "Soviet", instead of Russian? Old habits die hard.

2 The Russians refer to things as "organs" a lot. Those Russians love their organs. It's kinda creepy, actually.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:22 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Assault Gun Ban

Today's Los Angeles Times explains that the federal ban on assault weapons is about to expire.

Two months from today, the federal assault weapons ban dissolves like a wisp of gun smoke.

They say that like it's a bad thing.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Were they wrong?

The editors of the Los Angeles Times note that Kerry and Edwards are in a bit of a bind, because, while they wish to attack the President in morally charged terms about how the country went to war in Iraq, they refuse to adequately explain why they also voted for the authorization to go to war.

Forgive the lengthy excerpt but the argument they make is important:

Do they regret these votes? Were their votes a mistake? These are not hypothetical questions. And they are questions the Democratic candidates for president and vice president cannot duck if they wish to attack Bush on Iraq in such morally charged language.

After all, the issue raised by the Senate Intelligence Committee report is not whether the Bush administration bungled the prosecution of the war, or whether there should have been greater international cooperation, or whether the challenges of occupying and rebuilding the country were grossly underestimated. When Kerry says "they were wrong," he is referring to the administration's basic case for going to war. Kerry supported that decision. So did Edwards. Were they wrong? If they won't answer that question, they have no moral standing to criticize Bush.

Reluctance to answer the question is understandable. If they say they stand by their pro-war votes, this makes nonsense of their criticisms of Bush. If they say they were misled or duped by the administration, they look dopey and weak. Many of their Democratic Senate colleagues were skeptical of the administration's evidence even at the time. If Kerry and Edwards tell the probable truth — that they were deeply dubious about the war but afraid to vote no in the post-9/11 atmosphere and be tarred as lily-livered liberals — they would win raves from editorial writers for their frankness and courage. And they could stop dreaming of oval offices.

This bothers the edtors of the Times intesely. But, it seems, not because what the refusal to answer says about the two Johns' character--although that is part of it--but because of the practical effect it could have on the election.

The great pity will be if this bind leads the Democratic candidates to back off from their harsh, and largely justified, criticism of Bush. The Democrats could lose a valuable issue, and possibly even the election, because the Democratic candidates were too clever for their own good.

Yes, that would be a pity, wouldn't it?

The Dems want to have it both ways. On the one hand, they want to show that they have national security credentials that prove they have the cojones to go to war when necessary. At the same time, they want to criticize the president for his mendacity and effrontery for actually doing it.

I suspect that the presidential debates will be forums in which this tension between those votes and what they are saying now will be mentioned frequently.

A failure to come up with convincing answers to these questions will not be helpful to them.

Posted by Dale Franks at 11:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is the Democratic Party's position on Iraq?

What does the Democratic Party as a party hold to be it's corporate position on the war in Iraq? It is, after all, the most important issue in this election, and the outcome there is the largest foreign policy challenge before the country.

Well, the current draft language for the Democratic party platform puts it this way:

People of good will disagree about whether America should have gone to war in Iraq.

As Rich Lowry writes, that's a total cop-out.

What to make of a political party that doesn't officially have a position on the biggest policy question in our politics? The Democratic-platform language on Iraq is almost meaningless. People of good will disagree about most everything, up to and including abortion and child labor — yet the Democrats manage to have positions on those issues. Iraq war, yes or no? The Democrats answer with a definite maybe.

And the Dems wonder why the electorate has shaky trust in them when it comes to national security issues.

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:20 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The trial lawyer gravy train

Sturat Taylor's National Journal column asks an important question:

What are the chances that a Kerry-Edwards administration would slow down the trial-lawyer lobby's gravy train? Or that it would reform a medical-malpractice system in which (according to the best estimates) 80 percent of claimants are not victims of malpractice and over 90 percent of actual victims receive no compensation -- a system that has added as much as $2,000 to the cost of delivering a baby in Florida and has forced some good doctors out of lawsuit-plagued specialties such as obstetrics and surgery? Or that it would curb the kinds of lawsuits that punish people and companies that have done nothing wrong; that force New York City's taxpayers to shell out over $500 million a year in tort awards and settlements (including $6.3 million to a pedestrian hit by a drunk driver who disregarded signs and mounted a curb that the jury later found to be too low); that deter development of better contraceptives and other liability-prone products; and that suffuse our society with a fear of litigation, evidenced by the removal of monkey bars and jungle gyms from public playgrounds and the reluctance of schools to discipline unruly students or fire incompetent teachers?

The plaintiff's bar in this country is a complete disgrace. It has spawned a type of irresponsible and pernicious litigiousness. The result is that money is sucked out of our pockets every day to compensate for the the legal costs added to the price of products we buy. It's driving doctors out of medicine because they can't afford the malpractice insurance premiums.

And guess where Edwards gets his big-money donations?

Posted by Dale Franks at 10:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Free" Health Care

Dr. Robert Cihak writes that Canada's health care system is working just fine. Unless you get, you know, sick, or anything.

On average, a patient in Canada must wait 17.7 weeks before receiving hospital treatment. In 1999, that meant that, in a single year, 192 patients who needed heart bypass operations either dies, or became too sick to have the surgery--which, of course, means they died in due course as well--by the time their spot on the waiting list rolled around.

And this lenghty waiting is standard in Canada. 21% of hospital administrators in Canada said that the waiting time for breast cancer biopsies was more than three weeks. That compares to 1% of US administrators. Hip replacement surgery for the elderly? 50% of Canadian administrators say the wait averages 6 months. In the US, 86% say the wait is less than 3 weeks.

And that's the system that the Left wants to try and replicate in the US?

Posted by Dale Franks at 09:39 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Attention: Please adjust your partisan talking points accordingly....

Kevin Drum does some myth-busting of his own. In response to a bit of "common knowledge"--i.e., Kerry is the "most liberal Senator"--that's been propogated by critics of Kerry, Kevin pulls a Harvey and points out the rest of the story....

Courtesy of one of Andrew Sullivan's correspondents, here are the rankings for the past five years:

2003: Kerry - 1st (96.5) Edwards - 4th (94.5)
2002: Kerry - 9th (87.3) Edwards - 31st (63.0)
2001: Kerry - 11th (87.7) Edwards - 35th (68.2)
2000: Kerry - 20th (77) Edwards - 19th (80.8)
1999: Kerry - 16th (80.8) Edwards - 31st (72.2)

Average: Kerry - 12th (85.9) Edwards - 24th (75.7)

The rankings for 2003 are skewed by the campaign season, and a longer look shows that Kerry is liberal, but hardly a Paul Wellstone liberal, and Edwards is smack in the middle of the Democratic pack.

I'd imagine that their....er, somewhat spartan attendance record doesn't give them much opportunity to shore up their moderate credentials, either.

In any event, this seems to disprove the idea that Kerry is the "most liberal Senator". For what it's worth, I don't really get the impression that Kerry is significantly more or less liberal than many other Democrats.


UPDATE: McQ, Bithead and others make some good points in the comments section. To boil them down....

None other than the ADA who rank these people give John Kerry a lifetime 92.
It's an interesting, and valid, point. However, I have to take exception with this survey as simply improbable. For one thing, there seem to be an awful lot of "did not vote"'s beside John Kerry's name. I can find no explanation for how they account for this, but it would seem to make the methodology suspect.

In addition, they seem to base their rankings on a list of issues of importance to them, which certainly leaves room for a wide variance in potential outcomes.

For another thing, does anybody seriously believe that John Kerry is to the left of Dennis Kucinich? Is any elected official in Washington to the left of Dennis Kucinich?

Still, the dispute is a valid one, and I'd be curious to hear both your and Kevin's response.

Posted by Jon Henke at 06:35 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

July 12, 2004

Where is everybody?

Have we been struck by some plague I don't know about? Where are all the commenters and trackback links? Is everybody on vacation? Didn't anybody notice the classy new post separation lines I created with the little "Q&O" logo last night? Isn't anybody reading today?

It's like a death chamber in here.

Hello?

Hello?

Anybody?

Posted by Dale Franks at 04:54 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Tech-Trolling Continues

I love writing these little tech posts. Mainly, because all the anti-Microsoft types—who, I'll admit, I deliberately troll for—get all hot and bothered. For example, reaction to last night's post brought out some interesting comments.

The marketshare argument is utter nonsense. The Apache web server trounces Microsoft's IIS in marketshare, yet has had and continues to have far fewer critical security flaws.

Well, two things come to mind. First, the dismissal of the market share argument is simply silly. Virus makers aren't out targeting web servers. They target end users. Oh, sure, some people will hack into web servers for a little mischief, but the really big viruses that propagate all over the world are targeted at users, not at web servers. So, the market share of Apache web servers is utterly irrelevant to the market share argument I was making, which was about client systems, not servers.

And, actually, it's probably factually wrong, too. Yes, the Netcraft survey shows that 62% of web sites are hosted on Apache servers. But there are some problems with that statistic. Apart from anything else, There's a huge pro-Apache bias built into the way Netcraft does the survey. One Apache web server may host hundreds of web sites. A single server running IIS, on the other hand, does not host huge numbers of web sites like that.

And, even if we acknowledge that many more sites are hosted on Apache, so what? Just because a million 12 year-old girls host their "My Little Pony" web sites on some cheap web host that uses Apache, who cares? The real question is, among people who use their web sites to make money, what do they use?

Well, as it happens, we know that, too, because Port80 software conducts monthly surveys of the top 1000 corporations web sites to determine who runs their web sites. According to them, 53.9% of the top 1000 corporations use Microsoft IIS compared to 20.3% who use Apache.

Huh. What'd'ya know?

It turns out that the people who are in the business of making money off their web sites overwhelmingly use IIS. Oh, and by the way, who do you think hackers are more interested in hacking; some high-schooler's "Fun at Band Camp" web site, or a big corporate site? If you think it's the latter, then you're right.

You've also just blown the hell out of your "huge Apache market share" argument, too.

Nice try, though.

Hm, Secunia's report has Windows XP with 46 advisories, Mac OS X with 36 and it's the Apple boys that have to "suck it up"? Wow, talk about spin. That's well over 25% more advisories for the Windows product. The truth is that new code is very much worse than old, tested code when it comes to security and Apple, with its fast release times, is putting out a lot more new code than Microsoft in the measured period yet still had fewer security advisories. Bill Gates' towel boy brigade is reduced to arguing that 25% more advisories are not significant when Apple released a new version and they didn't.

Well, no, as a matter of fact those differences in the numbers aren't all that significant. The amount of time that the community of hackers, security firms, and consulting firms put in on testing Windows dwarfs, by several orders of magnitude, the effort put into testing the Mac OS—or anything else related to Mac—to destruction. So, if you think that, because Mac had 10 fewer known security problems announced than Windows, it means Mac is a much more secure operating system, you're just living in dreamland.

95%+ computer users have a PC. If you think that OS X is receiving the same level of scrutiny that Windows is, with, then you're kidding yourself, especially when you remember that a lot of MS security flaws are exposed through hacking. Well, to be perfectly frank, there's just not a lot of hacking going on in the Mac world. And why should there be? Mac-targeted hacks really have no hope of quick or effective propagation, when they affect less than 5% of the computer world, so why bother?

So, let's not pretend that Mac's OS X was built by former KGB agents employing all their sinister wiles to make a gold-level seal of security. Because we do not, in fact, know that to be the case. Moreover, we will never know whether or not it's the case until it's been hacked to death on a daily basis like Windows has. You may think so. You may believe it with every fiber of your being. But you cannot possibly know it to be factually correct, because it hasn't been exposed to that level of testing.

And, with less than 5% of the user community employing the Mac, it never will be.

On the other hand, if your argument is, "Mac is more secure because nobody gives a damn about hacking it," well, then, I guess you're right.

But let's say, arguendo, Macs empirically are more secure. Part of the reason is that you can't really do much with them from a programmer's point of view. The tools for cross-application automation with hooks into the OS X API just don't exist. As a result, there's not a huge development community that makes database front-end software for dynamic applications.

I would say that makes the Mac considerably less useful as a business tool than the PC, unless you're willing to shell out big bucks to a C programmer to do in one year what a VB/VBA guy can do in three months.

"It's more secure because it does less", isn't really a big selling point. And the tag line of, "Oh, and it costs more, too," doesn't help much either.

But it's not just the number of advisories that matter. IE gets an advisory and we all wait for the patch, day after day, knowing that we're vulnerable but trapped by Active X and DHTML into being forced to use a known vulnerable product.

Well, yes, but that's because the product unifies a whole set of completely dissimilar applications (web browser, word processor, spreadsheet, email client, database) into a single programming interface that interacts directly with the OS API, and providing that right out of the box to the desktop user.

Maybe it takes, I dunno, a little while longer to ensure the security patch doesn't screw up some other part of what is an extraordinarily powerful and integrated software development system.

I'm just guessing, you understand.

Mozilla gets an advisory and is patched in 24 hours.

Yeah. Because it's a browser. It may be a nice browser, with really cool skins you can apply, but it's a browser! The whole Mozilla.exe file is only 98.3 KB, for cripes sake! "Oooh, they do updates fast!" Well, get a clue, Dick Tracy, if the file's less than 100 KB when it's compiled, how hard can it actually be? Microsoft Word's exe is 8.41 MB. Excel is 6.83 MB. Access is 4.46 MB.

Huh. I wonder if takes longer to fix an 8 MB word processor application file than it does to fix a browser application file that's 85 times smaller!? I don't know, but if I was to hazard a guess, I'd say, uh, yeah.

So, don't expect me to come over all freakin' impressed because Mozilla can issue a browser fix in a day. I mean, please...

Posted by Dale Franks at 04:41 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

What can the NAACP deliver for Kerry?

Well if this poll by the Black America's Political Action Committee is any indication, not as much as they infer or imply they can:

Fewer than one in three black Americans "definitely" believe that Kerry is the best candidate to replace President Bush, the poll said.

Thirty-two percent said they would have preferred someone other than Sen. Kerry to replace President Bush (18 percent said they "probably" would have preferred someone other than Kerry to replace President Bush, while 14 percent said they "definitely" would have preferred someone other than Kerry to replace President Bush).

"The results show that while the majority of African Americans are in favor of selecting a new president, they are not completely sure that Senator John Kerry is the next best option," said BAMPAC President and CEO Alvin Williams said.

The more I read about both sides of the political spectrum the less I believe the base is as solid as each side would like the world to believe they are. Bush's spending policies have softened his conservative base, and on the other side, even with the addition of Edwards, there's very little enthusiasm among much of the left (note, not the extreme left ... yellow dogs are fine with them so long as they aren't named "Bush") for him.

Just as important, this poll points to further marginalization for the NAACP and their strident and partisan anti-Bush rhetoric. It appears their "hold" on the 12,000,000 black voters they like to cite is tenuous at best. I believe the day of the monolithic black vote are over, and it might pay organizations such as the NAACP to heed polls such as this, get more in touch with their constituency and better represent them. Doing so might move them out of the self-marginalizing category into which they're sinking, as do most organizations when they become too radical and extreme.

Posted by McQ at 02:14 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

I say animals can have rights when they starting taking responsibility

Silliness run amuk...

Legislation to be announced by the Government this week will give courts the power to impose fines of up to £20,000 and 12 months in jail on people found guilty of mistreating animals. Anyone under the age of 16 will be banned from owning a pet and goldfish will no longer be allowed to be given as prizes at fairgrounds.

The legislation could lead to gardeners being fined for killing insects, worms, caterpillars, slugs and snails, if scientific evidence proves they have suffered pain and distress.

Soon, they'll be reduced to suing slugs for damages. I'm not sure why animal rights groups get so carried away with this anthropomorphic stuff, but I sure hope the human race didn't claw its way to the top of the food chain just to have it all end like this - one long, litiguous battle for the bottom.

Posted by Jon Henke at 02:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Quick Hits

A few assorted thoughts, as I sit about the house with nothing to do but PS2....(which, come to think of it, isn't all that bad)

*** The lack of a significant bump in the polls from the addition of John Edwards has been covered widely, and is often accredited to voter apathy--or even dissappointment--at the prospect of John Edwards as Vice President.

I'm not so sure that's entirely true, although the alternative isn't terribly encouraging for the Kerry campaign, either.

I think we're witnessing arbitrage. The market (read: people being polled) had already taken into account the likely Vice Presidential candidates and--unless there was a great surprise--responded. So, polls were not likely to change very much as a result of Kerry's choice. Had Kerry chosen somebody unexpected, we could have seen a different story in the polls, as voters reacted to an unexpected scenario. He didn't, though, and the voters had apparently already taken his choice into account.

So, counterintuituve though it may seem, the "bump" Senator Kerry got from his pick of John Edwards actually came before he made the choice.


*** In response to the ICJ's decision against the Israeli wall--and, I would imagine, nearly every decision by the ICJ and the UN where Israel is involved--the Commissar has a great line...

The Commissar cannot understand why the Jews refuse to get quietly on their buses and wait to be blown up.
Truly, to understand this, one must be in touch with the Tao of the UN. It is a very simple three step process.
1: On which side is Israel?
2: That side is guilty.
3: What's for lunch?


*** Remember that silly NewsMax story about Kerry "flipping off a veteran in front of school-children"? Silly, because it was hearsay, and the only "sources" were two people with very obvious partisan grudges against Kerry. Oh, and it's highly unlikely that a Presidential candidate would flip the bird to people in public.

At the time, many of us thought the story was just a ridiculous smear. Oliver Willis, for example, wrote...

...serial smear-artist Ted Sampley is now a friend to the RNC and their cohorts in the right-wing press. Witness this howler of a story claiming that Kerry flipped the bird at Sampley while attending Memorial Day services. Now, its quite likely Sampley deserved the finger and much more - but there isn't much of a chance under the sun of Kerry doing that when so many cameras are following him around... on Memorial Day... during an election.

Still, the GOP lapdogs are on it in a display that can only be deemed "pathetic" [...]
Senator Kerry, when they start making up crap about you, you're obviously on the right path

And he was right.

Sadly, Oliver Willis is peddling this crap....

At the front of this second bus was The W himself, waving cheerily at his supporters on the other side of the highway. Adam, Brendan, and I rose our banner (the More Trees, Less Bush one) and he turned to wave to our side of the road. His smile faded, and he raised his left arm in our direction. And then, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States of America, extended his middle finger.

Read that last sentence again.
I got flipped off by George W. Bush.

This is from some kids LiveJournal entry. And Oliver calls it "Just another example of the Bush regime's contempt for its citizens". In the comment section, Oliver defends himself by saying "The problem is, this fits right in with Bush's pattern of behavior, whereas the fictious Sampley event goes against the reality".

Translation: I believe every word that kid wrote, because he wrote exactly what I wanted to read.

*** The left has a follow-up to Michael Moore's movie..."a documentary film that exposes Fox for what it is: partisan spin, not news."

Ok. Fine. I can accept that Foxnews is biased to the right. And I don't even need this films co-sponsors Moveon.org and the Center for American Progress to point it out to me.

But, before we get too high and mighty, how about you check out that beam in your own eye....

MoveOn.org is an issue-oriented, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that gives people a voice in shaping the laws that affect their lives. MoveOn.org engages people in the civic process, using the Internet to democratically determine a non-partisan agenda, raising public awareness of pressing issues, and coordinating grassroots advocacy campaigns to encourage sound public policies.
And the Center for American Progress...
The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all.
Foxnews isn't really "news" says the "nonpartisan" Moveon.org and Center for American Progress...which aren't really nonpartisan.

Posted by Jon Henke at 01:02 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Rewriting History

Anti-Immigrant Fever is sweeping the state of Arizona, according to this op/ed piece in today's LA Times by Tamar Jacoby.

Call it Proposition 187 redux. Last week, backers of a ballot measure dubbed "Protect Arizona Now" turned in petitions signed by 190,887 residents of that state calling for the initiative to be put to voters in November. The local political establishment was stunned. No one had expected the measure, which would deny state services to illegal immigrants, to garner anything like that kind of support — over 50% more signatures than required to get it on the ballot.

Yes, I'm sure the Arizona pols were just as stunned over this as California pols were stunned a few years ago by Prop 187's massive popularity. And why shouldn't they be? Democrats are told by their La Raza activist backers that everyone they know hates the very idea. Their businessman backers tell Republicans that no one in the business community wants anything like this to pass. So, as far as the politicians are concerned, no one wants such a proposition.

Well, no one important, anyway, like, say the electorate.

So, politicians are slack-jawed with stupefaction when these ballot measures appear to have overwhelming popularity.

Either way, in Arizona as in California, the political stakes could hardly be higher. A polarizing, partisan fight would have serious repercussions for the state Republican Party and the national debate on immigration policy. Few Californians need to be reminded how Republican support for Proposition 187 all but killed the party's chances with Latino voters.

"Latino Voters" is a problematic phrase. For the most part, in fact, it's practically an oxymoron. Despite the fact that 13% of the California population is Hispanic, they only make up 3% of the actual voters. In 2000, George W. Bush could have gotten the vote of every Hispanic voter in the state, and he still would've lost California.

But, despite the fact that 187 "killed" the Republican Party's chances with the Hispanic electorate, somehow, Arnold Schwarzenegger got 31% of the Hispanic vote in the gubernatorial recall election.

So, I guess the party wasn't, like, killed killed.

Now, maybe Hispanic voting will become increasingly important, sometime in the future. But the simple fact is that, at current, the vast majority of Hispanics don't vote.

Still, PAN opponents also have some advantages. Arizona voters seem to understand that what is occurring in their communities is not something the state can cure by withholding basic services from transients. Unlike in California, where early polls showed as much as 75% to 80% of voters in favor of Proposition 187, a recent survey in Arizona showed support for PAN hovering closer to 60%.

Oh, there's only 60% support in Arizona. Why, that's practically a freakin' failure, I guess. If only 60% of the electorate supports it, why, it's almost not popular at all.

In other political contexts, 60% support is spelled "L-A-N-D-S-L-I-D-E".

More important, unlike in California, most Republican elected officials appear to be opposed to the measure. No member of the Arizona congressional delegation, or any other statewide politician, has supported it. And business leaders, who understand the value of immigrant labor, are adamantly against, at least in private meetings.

That's because they've fallen for the rather fantastic line that Prop 187 failed in California because of a lack of public support. That is a revision of history. Proposition 187 failed because activists took the proposition to Federal Court in San Francisco, where the most liberal--and most overturned--federal circuit in the nation killed it. The Democratic governor, Gray Davis, then decided not to appeal the decision.

Let's not kid ourselves that this has any meaning whatsoever than can be attached to what the voters actually want.

California's Proposition 187 debacle holds several lessons for PAN's opponents.

This would be, remember, the "debacle" that 60% of Californians voted for.

But not, evidently, the important 60%.

The biggest mistake then was the failure to create a broad-based, bipartisan coalition to denounce what could easily have been characterized as an extremist measure. Instead, it was the opposition that appeared extremist: all Mexican flags and protest rallies. Arizonans needn't repeat that blunder. After all, the business community, the political establishment, unions, immigrant advocates, Latino leaders and the state's active religious left all share reservations about the measure.

Note the important thing missing from the list of supporters: a majority of the electorate. This was precisely the same coalition that opposed Prop 187 in California.

But, the thing is, business leaders don't turn out votes. And, in right-to-work states like Arizona and California, unions don't either. The people who can turn out large numbers of people, however, are the immigration/Latino activists.

The result: All Mexican flags and protest rallies. Rallies composed largely of people who are ineligible to vote.

The critical question is whether this widespread but until now muted disapproval will translate into vocal opposition and an aggressive effort to block the initiative.

This would be the "widespread" opposition that, not counting the undecideds, makes up about 35% of the electorate in Arizona.

This article is really an interesting spin on the whole history of Prop 187 and what it means to the current proposition in Arizona. It is an endemic spin, too, that implies Prop 187 wasn't popular, and that most Californians didn't support it.

But it just isn't true.

Posted by Dale Franks at 12:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Briefly...

Not a lot of blogging from me in the past few days, due to illness. Nothing serious, but I was in a lot of pain Saturday night and Sunday. The fever broke last night, and I'm going to rest and recover today.

With that being said, I did want to point out one great rhetorical flourish which serves to demonstrate the bottom-line mendacity of Paul Krugman's economic analysis in the pages of the NYTimes.

Remember all those [Paul Krugman] New York Times columns...about how Bush's budget deficits will turn the US into an Argentina-like banana republic? That's all out the window, because John Kerry doesn't want to use his proposed tax hikes to reduce the deficit. He wants to spend it all on health care. So now, in his most recent column, Paul Krugman wants to spend it on health care, too. Anybody but Bush.
But...but....but Paul Krugman is a Great Economist, and everybody knows Great Economists have decided that deficits and spending increases are only dangerous if they're done under a Republican President......

(sigh)

There is a great deal more about which I want to blog, and I may get to some of it today, but if I don't....you know why.

UPDATE: See this take by Econopundit, too...

Professor Krugman, isolated academic that he is, ignores the law of unanticipated consequences owing to his lack of sophisticated knowledge of real-world employers and employees
[...]
Now consider this. There are currently hundreds of thousands of struggling small businesses whose health insurance bill constitutes the simple difference between profit and loss. Doesn't Krugman worry they will dump their plans in anticipation of newly-minted government programs designed just for workers like theirs?

The law of unanticipated consequences suggests the very announcement of the Kerry/Krugman plan -- indeed, the very appearance of today's NYT Krugman editorial -- may result in fewer low income families with health insurance.

Indeed, when health care is "free" to the consumer, it will be used as if its value is zero, with no concern for the scarcity of the resource, or the pressures of supply and demand. We will still have to allocate the health care resources somehow, despite the fact that consumers will feel free to consume with no apparent limits.

Unfortunately, with third party insurance systems, and insidious government regulations, our current system is already doing this. A nationalised health care plan will only do the same.....but moreso.

Posted by Jon Henke at 07:59 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 11, 2004

Suck it Up, Apple-Boy

The Danish computer-security firm, Secunia, has released a report showing that the Microsoft Windows operating system is not significantly more unsecured than other operating systems. Moreover, the Macintosh OS doesn't appear to be significantly more secure that other operating systems. Oh, and Red Hat Linux sucks, too. But Mac's OS X has the highest proportion of "extremely critical" flaws.

Heh.

The thing that makes Microsoft stand out is the sheer prevalence of Microsoft Windows, and the ubiquity of MS Office. The two things that make Microsoft such a target is the sheer prevalence of Microsoft Windows, the ubiquity of MS Office, and the demands of the user community. Rats. Alright, the three main...

Ok, before we descend to far into Spanish Inquisition territory, let's just keep it at that.

When everybody is using Windows and MS Office, it becomes the big hacker target by default. So, some script kiddie that finds and utilizes a security weakness for them automatically enters the big time. One hack gets huge publicity because it affects so many people.

The other problem is a real quandary for Microsoft. Business customers for Microsoft products support a huge developer community. There are tens of thousands of people who go to work every day to use or create custom designed applications that use office automation that makes Access, Word, Excel, and Outlook work seamlessly with each other through code. I regularly have to create Access database front-ends for SQL server databases. These front-end applications use shell commands to call up HTML help files, and use Microsoft Word as a dynamic report generator, or Outlook to create new contact lists from the SQL database. In addition, these applications generally store values to the registry for things like user preferences. When I make one of these little apps, I've got the whole Windows world in my hand.

And I like it.

What customers--from small business to large--need is a unified programming environment that they can use to automate business information processes. And that is largely what the MS Office/Windows combination gives them. But here's the rub: To fully take advantage of that power, they need to access the Windows operating system, and make it do stuff.

Even having the browser tied directly into the operating system is extraordinarily useful, because, using the same programming object, you can switch between calling up local files on the users computer to pulling down data stored on the corporate intranet from other locations all around the world, with just a few lines of code.

That's power, my friend.

That allows them to leverage some pretty extraordinary power into their applications. But the downside is that, by opening up the Windows applications programming interface (API), you open it up to all sorts of malicious coding as well, unless of course, your OS code is security-perfect.

But, with millions upon millions of lines of code to make the OS work, perfect security is a goal that is unattainable. The best you can hope for is to converge towards perfect security, without ever quite reaching it.

This is a huge quandary for a company like Microsoft. On the one hand, their customers have an absolute demand for the type of programming power that has improved the ability of businesses to of automate information-related business processes, and, incidentally, spawned a huge development community that didn't even exist 15 years ago. On the other hand, like any other extraordinarily powerful tool, it carries with it the possibility for misuse.

This is not to say that Microsoft doesn't have a responsibility to perform serious secu