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9/30/2003

General Clark, theoretical physicist 

This story has hit the blogosphere quickly:
"I still believe in e=mc², but I can't believe that in all of human history, we'll never ever be able to go beyond the speed of light to reach where we want to go," said Clark. "I happen to believe that mankind can do it."

"I've argued with physicists about it, I've argued with best friends about it. I just have to believe it. It's my only faith-based initiative."

So Clark believes that FTL (or, time) travel could be possible. Ha ha, what a rube, right?

Not so fast.
"The conclusion of this lecture is that rapid space-travel, or travel back in time, can't be ruled out, according to our present understanding."

That's Stephen Hawking, by the way.

In the forward to his book "A Brief History of Time", he writes:
"Einstein's General Theory of Relativity seems to offer the possibility that we could create and maintain wormholes, little tubes that connect different regions of space-time. If so, we might be able to use them for rapid travel around the galaxy or travel back in time."

Now, granted, Mr Hawkings domestic policies are even less well-thought-out than General Clarks, but I think we can assume he has some credibility in the field of physics.



Quick thought on the Plame Affair 

Suprised there hasn't been more discussion about this point.

In recent days, we've heard:
"....a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife."


And this:
"An administration official told the Post two White House officials leaked the information to selected journalists to discredit Wilson."

Ok
Major allegations. Major story.

So, I am to understand that there are six Washington journalists who have important details on the biggest story in Washington.....and they are sitting on it? All of them?

That sounds......improbable.

UPDATE: The Washington Post is now reporting a second gunme....er, journalist:
Another journalist yesterday confirmed receiving a call from an administration official providing the same information about Wilson's wife before the Novak column appeared on July 14 in The Post and other newspapers.

The journalist, who asked not to be identified because of possible legal ramifications, said that the information was provided as part of an effort to discredit Wilson, but that the CIA information was not treated as especially sensitive. "The official I spoke with thought this was a part of Wilson's story that wasn't known and cast doubt on his whole mission," the person said, declining to identify the official he spoke with. "They thought Wilson was having a good ride and this was part of Wilson's story."

This fits with my impression that the leak may have occurred because the leaker didn't actually know she was a covert operative.

That's an important point, legally.



Chemical weapons loose in Iraq?  

The CSMonitor has a report that could either be nothing.....or an important discovery:
As the video rolls, it's clear the three men are discussing a container of a chemical they knew they shouldn't have. "[It] will shake the nerves: This material is involved in the production of VX gas. And you know, sir, our international situation," says the man with the small mouth.
......
Habbush: "Was the stuff good?"

Mr. Abdul Wahab: "Sir, the first test proved it came from the Muthanna Establishment, where they used to make chemical weapons..."
......
Abdul Wahab goes on to indicate that the intelligence service plans to sell the cylinder to the "Arab Cleaning Establishment" via the National Monitoring Directorate, an Iraqi agency initially formed in the early 1990s as a liaison between the government and UN inspectors. He seems confident that the transfer can be accomplished discreetly. The Monitoring Directorate "won't bring the name of our apparatus into it," he says.

The audio is garbled here; we can't be sure if we're getting the name of the Arab Cleaning Establishment exactly right. Is it a legitimate company or a cover for chemical weapons factory?

Abdul Wahab: "They [the National Monitoring Directorate] will take it [the cylinder] to them [the Arab Cleaning Establishment] and they will test it and if it's not expired, then it's OK, and they will work with it, for a sum we will agree on. If it's expired we won't be able to benefit from it."

No idea how this will turn out, but it illustrates the problems in proving that Iraq had WMDs prior to the war.

Specifically, the problem is that it was covert. Secret. Designed to avoid detection. Even when they were being honest, oddly enough:
Our cylinder may still be out there. It may have been put to some nefarious use. But from the available evidence, it appears the Iraqis followed a responsible course of action in the summer of 2000. Learning about a loose cylinder of HF, the Iraqi Mukhabarat mounted an operation to recover it. Then the officials disposed of the chemical - at least according to the intention stated on the videotape - by sending it to a soap factory. In other words, they dismantled this WMD.

If they did comply and we were mistaken about their current programs?

Well, it's not for lack of signals to the contrary from Saddam.


Another Gitmo arrest 

Foxnews is reporting that another person has been arrested for, allegedly, spying at Gitmo:
A physician working as a translator at the U.S. prison camp for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was arrested Tuesday, a federal law enforcement official said.
........
Agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (search) noticed documents that appeared to have come from the prison camp and that they suspected of being classified. The FBI was called in to interview Mahalba, who denied the documents were his, the official said

That is, what, the third person arrested in connection with Guantanamo Bay in about a week?

Do we have a flypaper strategy there, too?


9/29/2003

Esmay points out the obvious 

Dean Esmay, who is no stranger to a good point, makes a good point:
By any rational person's standards, most of the evidence we've seen is that Iraq is going amazingly, fantastically well, better than any rational person would have hoped for before the war began. The media keep giving us nothing but casualty figures--which are extraordinarily light by any historical measure, but pumped up as if they are horrifyingly huge--and not doing anything else in the country.

It's to the point where even Democratic congressmen are saying that this irresponsible media coverage is killing our troops, by simultaneously demoralizing them and emboldening the dwindling enemies they face.

.........

I suppose Democrats can hardly be blamed for jumping all over the President, claiming he "had no plan" for post-invasion Iraq. Even though many of them know that's a bald-faced lie, it's easy for them to rationalize when it looks like the plans the administration laid out are failing--even though they aren't.

They can also hardly be blamed for claiming we have flubbed the greatest military victory in human history, with an astonishingly low number of civilian and military casualties, and even though our occupation has suffered extremely tiny numbers of casualties and has racked up impressive victory after impressive victory against dwindling guerilla forces.

Even though the vast majority of Iraqis are known to be either friendly to the Americans or, at worst, mistrustful but cautiously optimistic. Because the media's doing such a piss-poor job at its job, it's easy for Democrats to smell blood and act like the political animals they are.

You know, I've not heard one single story that indicates that the post-war Iraqi transition to democracy is being prevented. Not one.

I hear stories of problems, and incidents, some of which, unfortunately, cost lives.
But not one of those incidents is preventing us from transitioning control to a democratic Iraqi government.
Not one.

That is why we are there now.
That is our goal.
That is our exit strategy.

It is being accomplished efficiently and it is being accomplished quickly.

Yet, in the midst of such success, Howard Dean and John Kerry call for Donald Rumsfelds resignation, due to his "failure to plan"?

And these men want to be President?
Words fail me.



Power failures in pro-war countries? Hmm... 

Samizdata has an interesting point:
"Italy has just had a major blackout.

Let's see now... USA, UK, Italy... I wonder if Spain has had one yet? Each blackout has a prosaic explanation, but taken all at once this rash of failures flags these blackouts unusual in a statistical sense if nought else."

So the countries who supported the military removal of Saddam Hussein are experiencing power failures?

I guess we should add one more to that list.

Don't forget Iraq.




Myth-busting 

Bill Herbert, who does excellent debunking work, finds the story on the investigation into the "put" options that sold short at high volume just before the 9/11 attacks:
"On Sept. 10, 2001, put options on AMR were 17 times their average volume of 269 contracts. On Sept. 6, 2001, UAL put options were traded at more than four times their average volume of 711 contracts.

At the same time, some experts cautioned that because of the light volume in most option contracts, an increase can seem eye-popping.

London regulators thought they had something in the short-selling of big airline stocks before Sept. 11, but traced the activity to one of their small competitors.

This is why I cannot buy conspiracy theories.
The (seemingly) "strange circumstances" almost invariably turn out to have perfectly normal explanations.

Hey, coincidences happen, especially for those who want them to happen.
The real coincidence would be if there were no coincidences.


The Plame Affair takes a turn for the confusing.... 

Agatha Christie would have been proud. The Valerie Plame Affair just keeps getting more intriguing.

In his column today, Clifford May writes:
"On July 14, Robert Novak wrote a column in the Post and other newspapers naming Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.

That wasn't news to me. I had been told that — but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhanded manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.

Curious. So, quite a few people knew that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative, and even spoke of it.

If this is correct, it could indicate a number of things:

1: Valerie Plame was not a covert operative, and revealing her identity was not a gaffe under federal law.
- But then, why would the CIA and Justice Department investigate? Surely this is something that would be quickly apparent.

2: The leak had occurred well before the WHofficial passed the information along, which might indicate the WHofficial did not know her position was classified.
- A distinct possibility.

3: The WHofficial mentioned that Valerie Plame had recommended him, but did not mention the CIA connection.
- Novaks column actually didn't say it was the WHofficial who mentioned that she was a CIA operative....he cited CIA officials, too.

4: Valerie Plames name was already being leaked left and right, so the WHofficial assumed that the information was already known....and simply confirmed what was public knowledge.
- Again, a possibility. Once the information became know among the Washington corps, it becomes increasingly likely that it will be discussed.....and, if it's being discussed all over, who are you most likely to cite? The White House carries the most prestige.


Again, these are all simply possibilities. The story grows more confusing by the day.
What this country needs is a Hercule Poirot.

UPDATE: Jane Galt makes an excellent point:
"...leaks aren't this administration's style."
...........
"This wasn't something they could do in secret and hope not to get caught, which is the usual sort of overconfidence politicians fall err to. If this is true, they were doing something wrong and telling a major columnist to print it in a major national newspaper, which is breathtakingly stupid."

Good points. Fits with my earlier point.....it just doesn't make sense, on many levels, for this to be an "revenge attack".



The Rich get poorer 

Interesting data at PoorandStupid:
"As leftist rhetoric continues to assert on an almost daily basis that the current federal government deficit is the result of tax cuts for "the rich" that have hardly even taken effect yet, new statistical data from the Internal Revenue Service helps reveal the truth. Our friend Bruce Bartlett points out that the new data on tax-year 2001 (here and here) reveals that the aggregate income of the top 1% of taxpayers fell by $243 billion, reducing their share of total income from 20.8% to 17.5%. In other words, the rich got poorer."

I'm not suggesting we hold fundraisers for them, or anything. It's just worth pointing out that, while the rich may get richer, faster (and people will begin claiming that the "wealth gap is too big!").....
.....they can also get poorer, faster. (and, oddly, those same people don't mention it)

Income growth, at that level, is subject to wild swings.
Hey, let's bear in mind, in 2002 Bill Gates had "lost $42 billion in the past three years".

Hey, I wonder if that lost income among the investment class could help account for the 150 billion drop in industrialisation investment?
And if that drop could help account for the lower business spending, which drove the economic slump?
And if that lower spending might be helped by a tax cut for investors and investments?

Nah....sounds too much like tax cuts for the rich.
.....and we all know their money would be better spent on more government, rather than more jobs, right?


OPEC: "Screw you, and the SUV you rode in on" 

As if we need further proof of their bad intentions, Saudi-dominated OPEC has cut oil output, setting the stage for sustained high oil prices this winter.
Odd, though, because prices are unusually high right now, and OPEC has generally tried to keep prices at moderate levels.

With that in mind...here's an interesting insight from Lexington Green at ChicagoBoyz:
"If a decision does not seem to make economic sense, you have to ask: does it make political sense?

Absolutely, yes. If I were the Saudis and the Iranians and Hugo Chavez and others in OPEC, I think it would be worth it to suffer some economic loss in the short term if I could bring on a recession which would finish off Bush's chances of reelection. The Saudis in particular know that they are in the cross-hairs. Get rid of Bush, and you have a new lease on life.

Makes sense to me.

There is very little that the Saudi princes (and neighbors) need to fear....certainly not in the oppressive, dictatorial environment in which they rule.

But there is one thing that they fear, and that is a United States that has decided, as with Iraq, that it is time for them to go.

We might consider their lost revenue a campaign contribution to the "Anybody but Bush" fund.



Letter to the Editor - Economy 

Interesting Letter to the Editor in todays Richmond Times Dispatch.

James Casey, Assistant Professor of Economics at Washington and Lee University, explains the mystery of the "jobless recovery" despite GDP growth:
"The mystery emerges when we consider this "growth" in terms of increased unemployment. The economy grows as men and women continue to lose jobs. Surely this is a mystery to the folks who want the public to believe tax cuts create jobs. But it is no mystery to me or my secretary - that is, my former secretary (but more on that later).

Economic growth as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) in today's American economy is mostly a function of productivity gains from technological inputs. Let me put this into comprehensible English. I am currently wearing headphones, attached to a microphone. I am speaking slowly yet somewhat clearly. On the screen in front of me the words I speak are typed into my Microsoft Word document without me stumbling over my awkward fingers. I purchased the program and the headset in order to end the shame of typing my own documents when my secretary is unavailable to take dictation. This purchase is an expenditure or injection into the economy. GDP thus grew when I purchased this program. Additionally, as I sit here and "write" without actually writing, I find my own productivity increased. Or so my dean tells me. I am able to finish this letter in 10 minutes and move on to the next one. Again, GDP has grown.

Let's review. I purchase a product (GDP up). I can "type" faster (GDP up again). And no jobs were created; in fact I actually fired my secretary because I don't need her assistance anymore. Therein lies the mystery of the jobless recovery. The economy grew and one job was eliminated. No jobs! No kidding! No mystery!

We all want high wages, low inflation and full employment, don't we?

Of course, we also want low prices.

Take your pick, but you can't have your economic cake and eat it, too.

Either you subsidize low-value production with high prices and/or inflation, or you have some people making less than they'd like.

Only one route, though, will lead to economic and social progress.



Ted Turner: "Doomed! Doomed, I tell you!" 

According to the APwire, Ted Turner has opened his mouth. With the usual results:
"Billionaire Ted Turner isn't holding out much hope for the future -- saying he thinks humanity will be extinct within the next 50 years.

Frankly, it's amazing he made it this far. Would somebody just hand him a "The End Is Near" sign and direct him to a street-corner?

Sure sure, he's a media mogul and has built a giant empire, so he must be pretty smart, right?
I suppose so, but even in this idiot-savants area of expertise, he manages to work in some jaw-droppers:
"I think the media is too concentrated, too few people are controlling too much...."

The Media is too concentrated. That's "bad".
According to Ted Turner.

Too bad this didn't prick his conscience until he was done making his billions doing the consolidation.

Unbelievable.
Stick with what you're good at, Ted. Keep killing those bison, and leave the crystal-ball stuff to people more qualified than you.




FoxNews on Radio 

The AP reports a move we should have seen coming:
(APwire, so no link)
"There's a published report that Fox News Radio
will expand its service.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Rupert Murdoch's Fox News
wants to deploy a feisty mix of talk and information to unseat the
industry's entrenched radio information players."

Well, there is certainly room for a more modern talk radio format.

Here are the (Fall 92) top political talk-radio audiences, according to Talkers Magazine:
(Weekly cume low-end estimates 12-plus in millions)

1. Rush Limbaugh 14.50+
2. Sean Hannity 10.50+
3. Dr. Laura Schlessinger 8.00+
3. Howard Stern 8.00+
4. Michael Savage 6.50+
5. Art Bell - 4.00+
5. Jim Bohannon 4.00+
5. Dr. Joy Browne 4.00+
5. Don Imus 4.00+
6. Neal Boortz 2.50+
6. Ken & Daria Dolan 2.50+
6. Clark Howard 2.50+
7. Mike Gallagher 2.25+
7. G. Gordon Liddy 2.25+
8. Glenn Beck 1.75+
8. Kim Komando 1.75+
8. Jime Rome 1.75+
8. Doug Stephan 1.75+
8. Bruce Williams 1.75+
9. Tom Leykis 1.50+
9. Michael Medved 1.50+
9. Bill O'Reilly 1.50+
9. Dave Ramsey 1.50+
10.Bob Brinker 1.25+
10.Dr. Dean Edell 1.25+
10 Phil Hendrie 1.25+
10.Rusty Humphries 1.25+


Limbaugh, while as popular as ever, is growing stale. His audience hasn't grown in the past 2 years.
We've all heard what he has to say, and it's just not that interesting, any longer, to hear him repeat the same tired canards.

By the way, notice that Limbaugh does NOT have his claimed 20 million listeners?
You have to play with the numbers for a long time to make it look like he does, but it can be done, due to the way Arbitron measures "listeners". The cited 14.5 million listeners include everybody who tunes in for at least 5 minutes, in a week....and if you tune in twice? You are two listeners.

Bill O'Reilly, while an effective TV host, is just not very good on the radio. His ratings reflect that. He is on in major markets, but he is generally on the low-rated also-ran talk radio stations.

Hannity? Why does he have an audience at all?
He's not as good on the radio as he is on TV, and his best attribute on TV is his hair.
I have yet to hear him win an debate on the radio. In fact, the first four times I heard his show, he got smacked by a liberal who was more knowledgeable than was Hannity.

Dr Laura? Her day is over. Her ratings are falling, and she's been dropped in many markets.

Michael Savage? Well, they probably didn't have any trouble filling the Roman Colisuem either. For awhile.

So, what should happen in talk radio?
As the old-style audiences grow older, radio will do what it always does.....it will aim younger.
And how do you do that? Make your topics interesting and relevant to 30-somethings, and produce your shows. Something that the Limbaughs of the radio-world have left behind.

Couple current shows are getting this right:

1: Glenn Beck, whose show is the most interesting, well-produced, and modern of the talk radio genre right now.

2: Lionel, who has a more laid-back approach, mixing politics, events and sarcasm with a wonderful talent for storytelling. (and he has a legal background, so he knows his stuff)

Talk radio will have to move away from "Republican Talking Points".

Perhaps.

On the other hand, according to the AP story, FoxNews may decide to do this:
"And while several Fox commentators already have radio talk
shows, Fox wants to syndicate more of its television personalities
on radio.

Status Quo.

I hope not.....there's room for somebody to change the talk radio format paradigm again.

I would hate to think it might be Al Franken.



9/28/2003

The Case of the Diplomats Wife 

The Valerie Plame case has taken a turn towards investigation.
The CIA, which had been conducting their own internal investigation, has now asked the Dept. of Justice to look into the allegations that a white house official "outed" Wilsons wife Valerie Plame.

As usual, JustOneMinute has the complete story, and a very thorough timeline.

At this point, it seems pretty damning for somebody in the White House, although it's not at all clear whether this was a deliberate act, or a mistake.

For the record, after first claiming it was "Karl Rove", Wilson later backed off that statement, saying that "Karl Rove" was shorthand for a "senior WH official".
In other words...."just kidding! Sorry about the slander!"

There are a few more odd statements from Wilson, which call his credibility (or, at least judgement) into question. Tom Maguire, at JustOneMinute, has those details.

Something about this bothers me, though.
It's got all the makings of a good Agatha Christie novel.....it's a regular whodunit.

Except, one thing is missing. Motive.
Sure, I know "revenge" has been tossed out, but that seems kinda...weak.

What official, in their right mind, would cut their own throat, in order to tweak Ambassador Wilson?

What could they hoped to accomplish?
Some possibilities:

1: She gets named, and loses her ability to work, sending Wilson "A Message".

- But......the WHofficial, would have to know that a lost CIA operative would turn immediately on the person who outted her.

2: A private tweak, if the WHofficial knew she wasn't actually a covert operative, to send Wilson A Subtle Message.

- Again, what's the use? Would you expect a former ambassador to get quiet after being tweaked? What's he got to lose?
Possibly, the WHofficial operates like a high school girl, but I'd White House officials credit for being a bit more sophisticated than that.
Again, though, the consequences are worse than even the *best* possible outcome.

3: The "Oops".
What if the White House official knew *some* details about the appointment of Wilson, but didn't actually know that his wife was anything more than a run-of-the-mill CIA operative? (in other words, "not covert")
Perhaps they thought she was a former source? Inactive? In short, working in a publicly known capacity.

It seems possible that the WHofficial may have done this inadvertently....may have passed on a detail which was word of mouth at the White House, and seemingly innocuous....but turned out badly.

In this case, while still a crime, it would provide an explanation for the lack of "motive".
No motive was necessary, because no crime was intended....the official was unaware that they were "outting" somebody in the first place.

It would certainly tie up loose ends.


UPDATE: On the other hand......I guess there is precedent for an unusually stupid, useless, ineffective criminal act, that defies logic, within a Presidential administration.

Whitewater.

So, while it defies logic, it doesn't defy possibility.
I'm putting my money on one of two things:
1: The Oops.
2: The minor aide who acted on their own initiative, got caught up in the intrigue and went to far.......in short, somebody didn't think it through and screwed the pooch.

While the former is far less objectionable, they deserve to be canned in either case.
(assuming she was a covert operative, AND assuming it was a White House official who gave the total information, rather than a reporter putting together pieces and coming to the correct conclusion)


9/27/2003

A General riddle... 

The entry of General Clark into the Presidential race has caused some very amusing reactions from both parties.
The Republicans have started digging for dirt.....trying to unearth some reasons to dislike the guy.
The Democrats have either circled the wagons to keep him out (he's not a real Democrat!), or adopted him as one of their own. (anything to beat Bush!)

Is it possible that neither party is right? It might be.

His actual candidacy has been an interesting dichotemy.
Rarely has somebody caused so much excitement, with so little substance.
As Peter Reinart wrote:
"...many of the Democrats who cheered Clark's entrance into the race don't particularly care; for them, Clark's resume is the message. Once again, the Democrats are trying to solve an ideological problem with a biographical solution."

Presumably, substance will come later, once the shiny uniform begins to wear thin.
(It happened for Arnold, and he's only running a two month race)

So far, his opponents (on both sides) have been able to come up with 4 main "problems":

1: Once, he made a poor tactical decision in Kosovo.
- Had he carried it out, it might have caused some international tension. An officer called him on it, and nothing came of it. No story.

2: He first said he'd have signed the authorization for war, then said he'd never have supported the war.
- Clearly, he expressed himself poorly, but it seems equally clear that he meant he'd sign an authorization to approach the UN, but would not have wanted the US to go in without the UN. Again, not much of a story.

3: He was once a supporter of (gasp) Republicans.
- So?

4: Some former Generals dislike him.
- Is that very unusual, in that competitive and pressurized arena? I doubt it.


A little something there for everybody to get peevish about, but not much substance. Certainly nothing that would preclude him from consideration.

Andrew Sullivan has been dishing the Clark dirt in the blogosphere. Plenty of bloggers have been suggesting reasons why he should, or should not, be considered.....funny, isn't it, considering how little we actually know about him?

Yet, they may all be wrong, if Clark actually is willing to stand up to both parties as he claims.
And that's the riddle.....might Clark be just enough of an enigma that he would be nearly impervious to partisan rhetoric from both parties?

The Democrats will be loathe to levy the hysterical criticism, that has been their mainstay, against one of their own. If he does not support their bills, they can't exactly say "Those Republicans don't care about the people".
If he carries through on the war on terror, the Republicans will be hard-pressed to say that he's throwing away the countries security.
God knows, after these last couple years, the Republicans can't criticize him if he is even marginally fiscally responsible.
So, will he he be tough with security?

In a speech in early 2001, he said:
"You see, in the Cold War we were defensive. We were trying to protect our country from communism. Well guess what, it's over. Communism lost. Now we've got to go out there and finish the job and help people live the way they want to live. We've got to let them be all they can be. They want what we have. We've got some challenges ahead in that kind of strategy. We're going to be active, we're going to be forward engaged. But if you look around the world, there's a lot of work to be done. And I'm very glad we've got the great team in office: men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condolzeezza Rice, Paul O'Neill--people I know very well--our president, George W. Bush. We need them there, because we've got some tough challenges ahead in Europe.

Hard to find much to object to, there.
"Active"? "Forward engaged"? "A lot of work to be done" around the world?
I mean, the guy's talking like a neo-con.

Now, granted, he's not a neo-con, but he also does not seem to be the sort of fellow who is likely to turn over our national security to a "Department of Peace".

So, perhaps he's the sort of fellow who can fight the war on terrorism, and make Ted Kennedy only "marginally hysterical".

Certainly, a reduction in the defeatism at home would make it harder for the terrorists to believe they can win.
Both Rumsfeld and Democrat Jim Marshall have said that, by the way. When Rumsfeld says it, though, it's "suppression of dissent". You understand the difference, right?


What about his domestic policies, though? Well, so far, we just don't know that much.
At the debates, he came out in favor of choice, the environment, health, Mom, apple pie, and good weather.
Less than a week ago, the "Issues" section of his website was blank.

So, since we know nothing about him, we're all free to hypothesize.
Let's jump in.

What if Clark is willing to advocate a roughly fiscal-conservative agenda?
What if Clark is willing to control federal spending, and reduce the deficit?
What if Clark is willing to oppose the Dems on such budget-busters as nationalized health care?
What if Clark is a free-trader?
What if Clark, in addition to those things, can be credible on the war on terror, and can finish the job in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Assuming all of those....wouldn't that make him substantively better than Bush, even from a conservative/libertarian point of view?
It might. It might, at that.

So, if he does have those qualities, would the Republicans be willing to concede as much?
Would the Dems admit claim they'd agreed with him all along, or would they resist him, as much as they've resisted Bush? (and with similar accusations?)

If.......then, I'll be very interested to see both the Republicans and the Democrats stumble all over themselves to explain why he's still such a bad guy/good guy.

It would certainly be interesting to have somebody in Washington who forced both parties to face their own hypocrisy....and maybe eat it.


When life hands you irony, make ironade.... 

So I was driving home today, and passed a book-sale at a nearby church.
"Hey," I thought, "book-sale! Score!"

Looking around, I found a book of the collected writings of Mao Tse-Tung, and a book by Che Guevara.
At a Church. A Methodist Church.

Btw, I ended up getting "Kissinger", by Kalb, "Economics Explained", by Heilbroner/Thurow, and "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers", by Paul Kennedy.
If you know anything about them, I'd love to hear any thoughts.


9/26/2003

Bush gets another Clinton defender..... 

According to Fred Barnes, Hillary Clinton has pointed out that Bush didn't actually lie about WMDs....in case anybody hasn't already made up their minds....
""The intelligence from Bush 1 to Clinton to Bush 2 was consistent" in concluding Saddam had chemical and biological weapons and was trying to develop a nuclear capability, Clinton said this morning.
And Saddam's expulsion of weapons inspectors and "the behavior" of his regime "pointed to a continuing effort" to produce WMD, she added.

The senator said she did her own "due diligence" by attending classified briefings on Capitol Hill and at the White House and Pentagon and also by consulting national security officials from the Clinton administration whom she trusts. "To a person, they all agreed with the consensus of the intelligence" that Saddam had WMD.

Clinton isn't normally a defender of the Bush administration. And on other issues, especially Bush's handling of postwar Iraq, she was highly critical. But she agreed, with qualifications, that preemptive military action may be necessary in certain cases, as Bush has argued was the case with Iraq.

Couple points:

1: She would be in a position to know. She and Bill were, after all, "The President".

2: Hillary, to her credit, is trying to be a Statesman on this issue, it seems. Rather than go for the rhetorical "meat-throwing", she's conceding that the facts are the facts, and arguing on matters of policy.
That is both honest and smart.
Smart, because, if she intends to run for higher office....she has got to rid herself of the uber-liberal archetype image she acquired in the 90s and establish herself as a broad-appeal Public Figure with integrity.
Honesty can do that.

Meanwhile, I'll eagerly await the claims that "Hillary Lied!"
...but I won't hold my breath.

(link via Samizdata, who has been added to the blogroll)


Predisposed to believe the worst..... 

Recently Bush and Cheney made separate statements on whether there was any connection between Iraq and 9/11.

In response to the question......

Cheney said "We don't know".
Bush said "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th".

Of course, critics immediately claimed that was a contradiction.
MSNBC wrote:
Bush issued what amounted to a correction of another statement Cheney made on Meet the Press. When asked about the possibility of a connection between former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Cheney said, "We don't know." Three days later, Bush said in response to a question that the government has no evidence of such a link.

That was pretty much the meme on the democrat side of the blogosphere, too.

But, is that right? Did Bush contradict Cheney?
I don't think so......and neither does James Bowman.

James Bowman makes an excellent point, in response to Russerts question "What happened?":
Well, of course nothing happened. Duh! The two statements are the same. "We don't know," and "we have no evidence" are practical equivalents, yet Russert clearly thinks the one amounts to a disavowal of the other.
...........
To say "we have no evidence" does not mean that the administration "does know." It means that it doesn't.

Excellent point.

(link via Pejmanesque)

9/25/2003

Bush says 9/11 changed his assessment of Saddam Hussein's threat  

From Boston.com:
President Bush said Thursday the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, ''changed my calculation'' about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein after the administration early that same year had played down Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

''You know, for a long period of time, we thought oceans could protect us from danger,'' Bush said. ''And we learned a tough lesson on September the 11th.''

That is the connection between Iraq and 9/11. I'm amazed, sometimes, that reasonable people cannot see that. When the world changes, your assessment of the world changes, too.
It'd be a poor President who thought that the war on terror began and ended with Afghanistan.

Somewhat juvenile side note......The rather appropriate link for this story is as follows:
www.boston.com/dailynews/268/wash/Bush_says_9_11_changed_his_ass

- Yes, Mr President, 9/11 changes all of our asses.


Myth-Busting the CIA/OBL connection... 

Pretty much the whole blogosphere is linking this article about the myth of CIA support for Bin Laden.
Well, I don't want to miss that train.

In Frontpagemag.com, Richard Miniter writes:
It is time to lay to rest the nagging doubt held by many Americans that our government was somehow responsible for fostering bin Laden. It's not true and it leaves the false impression that we brought the Sept. 11 attacks down on ourselves. While it is impossible to prove a negative, all available evidence suggests that bin Laden was never funded, trained or armed by the CIA.

Bin Laden himself has repeatedly denied that he received any American support. “Personally neither I nor my brothers saw any evidence of American help,” bin Laden told British journalist Robert Fisk in 1993. In 1996, Mr. Fisk interviewed bin Laden again. The arch-terrorist was equally adamant: “We were never, at any time, friends of the Americans. We knew that the Americans supported the Jews in Palestine and that they are our enemies.”

Of course, the response to this has been "Oh, Bin Laden. That's a great source. How could you trust that guy?"
Well, the author does go on:
Those who contend that bin Laden received U.S. funds usually make the following argument: America financed the Afghan rebels, bin Laden was among the rebels, therefore, in one way or another, America gave money to bin Laden.

This ignores a key fact: There were two entirely separate rebellions against the Soviets, united only by a common communist enemy. One was financed by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and was composed of Islamic extremists who migrated from across the Muslim world. They called themselves “Arab Afghans.” Bin Laden was among them. When the Saudis agreed to match U.S. contributions dollar-for-dollar, the sheikhs insisted that their funds go exclusively to the “Arab Afghans,” possibly including bin Laden. Meanwhile, U.S. funds went exclusively to the other rebellion, which was composed of native Afghans. Mr. Bearden told me: “I challenge anyone to give any proof that we gave one dollar to any Arab Afghans, let alone bin Laden.”

So, why does the myth persist?
That should be fairly obvious:
Some find the myth persuasive because they do not know that America and Saudi Arabia funded two different sets of anti-Soviet fighters. Others on the anti-American left and right, in both Europe and America, find it oddly comforting. It gives solace to those who want to think the worst of us. The CIA-funding myth allows them to return to a familiar pattern, to blame America first. Whatever the cause, this myth weakens America’s case for the war on terror by setting up a moral equivalency between America and Al Qaeda. This animates protests at home and makes it harder to win allies abroad.

It fits. Why look any harder, if it goes so well with your assumptions?
People have a tendency to not check their premises, when they like the results.

Reminds me of the persistent myth that "The US gave Iraq permission to invade Kuwait."
Never happened.

Some selective, but dishonest, quotations from the transcript of the meeting between Ambassador April Glaspie, Saddam Hussein, and Tariq Aziz can make it look as if the US might have implied such.....
In context, however, it quickly becomes apparent that no such thing ever occurred.

I should blog about that sometime soon. It's a bothersome myth, in large part because it's so demonstrably false.
Remind me to do so, if it's of interest to you. I'll round up my research and do it sooner or later.



Ok, THIS is the quote of the day...... 

Australian PM John Howard:
"I hear the French and others complaining about the Americans and us on Iraq.

I might remind them that the bombing of Serbia and the action to help the people of Kosovo was not carried out by the NATO countries including France with the approval of the UN Security Council because the Russians said they would veto any resolution authorising that military action.

So the relevant countries including France just went ahead and did it.
In legal terms that is exactly the same as what happened in Iraq."

Hard to find a hole in his logic.
Allow me to remind you....France is opposing the US for their own reasons, and not out of some abstract, high-minded moral principles.


Why I hated Bush on my summer vacation. 

Dale Franks reads a really juvenile article by Jonathan Chait, points out that he's weird, then continues living the normal life that is so common among the sane.

Chait, in The New Republic, writes:
"There seem to be quite a few of us Bush haters. I have friends who have a viscerally hostile reaction to the sound of his voice or describe his existence as a constant oppressive force in their daily psyche."

Dale responds:
"Wow.

That tells me a lot more about your friends than it does about W. Most of all, it tells me that your friends are freaks.

Whatever happened to "We'll have to agree to disagree"? Whatever happened to "I think you are incorrect"?

As Lileks said, it seems we have two different kinds of political debate now:
1: I disagree with my opponent's position.....and therefore I shall oppose it.
2. I disagree with my opponent's position.....and therefore I believe he has sex with goats.


And just like the GOP in the 90s, the Democrats have decided that Bush cannot just be wrong...
....he has to be evil.


I think this (bipartisan) tendency stems from the basic willingness to cut your own team slack, but not that of the other guy.

Your team? You'll examine the explanations and complexity closely, and you'll give them the benefit of the doubt if that complexity shows they might be right.
The other guys? They get no slack....if they might be wrong, you'd best assume they are.

Case in point.....the recent statements by General Clark, in which he seemed to flip-flop on his position regarding the war.
First, he claimed he would have probably voted for the authorization, then he claimed that he "never would have voted" for the war.

Of course, Republicans jumped on this as an example of pandering, flip-flopping, etc.

Democrats? They pointed out that there was more nuance to his meaning, although he expressed it poorly. In short, he would have signed an authorization to approach the UN to enforce compliance, but he would have never signed off on the war without the UN.

Are they right? Maybe so.

And there's the rub.....
The GOP assumes that is not true, for a variety of rationalizations.
The Dems assume this is true, for a variety of rationalizations.

Both sides are believe whichever position makes their guy look better.
And they pretty much always do, when there's room for doubt. Comfortable conclusions are the order of the day.

And when you take every conspiracy theory constructed around the slightest fact....every "it could be true".....every incident of disagreement....
You end up with a large group of people (Hi, Krugman!) who sincerely believe that Bush is comparable to the Third Reich.

After all, if you discount any other possible explanations, then Bush must be a pretty evil fellow.....

Of course, the same could be said for anybody who becomes President.
And I think we can count on that becoming the new reality.

The opposition has become "radicalized"....and it's not going to be stopped. Certainly not by reality.


UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg has an excellent comment in The Corner, which backs up my point:
"For two years now we've been told that Bush is a fascist or flirts with fascism -- wars of choice, wore a flight suit, um some other stuff I suppose. Well, now we have a former general who fought the greatest war of choice of the last 50 years in the former Yugoslavia who preaches the need for "a new patriotism" and claims that every issue under the sun is one of "security" (see that Saletan piece Ramesh linked to). Am I crazy, or don't you think that if Clark were running as a Republican against an incumbent Democrat, we'd be hearing the F-word constantly?"

Why yes...we would.


Quote of the Day 

Worth remembering:

"It is as fatal as it is cowardly to blink at facts because they are not to our taste."

- John Tyndall, English physicist (1820-1893)


Iraq/Al Qaeda connections? 

Why does the Administration keep contending that there are "ties" between Al Qaeda and Iraq?
Haven't they heard the news?!? There are none.

It's been on all the anti-war websites, and they wouldn't lie, you know.
There are not any "ties" between Al Qaeda and Iraq.

Other than the ones that exist, of course.
Richard Miniter writes, in techcentralstation.com:
"Those who try to whitewash Saddam's record don't dispute this evidence; they just ignore it. So let's review the evidence, all of it on the public record for months or years:

* Abdul Rahman Yasin was the only member of the al Qaeda cell that detonated the 1993 World Trade Center bomb to remain at large in the Clinton years. He fled to Iraq. U.S. forces recently discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, that show that Iraq gave Mr. Yasin both a house and monthly salary.

* Bin Laden met at least eight times with officers of Iraq's Special Security Organization, a secret police agency run by Saddam's son Qusay, and met with officials from Saddam's mukhabarat, its external intelligence service, according to intelligence made public by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was speaking before the United Nations Security Council on February 6, 2003.
.........
* In October 2000, another Iraqi intelligence operative, Salah Suleiman, was arrested near the Afghan border by Pakistani authorities, according to Jane's Foreign Report, a respected international newsletter. Jane's reported that Suleiman was shuttling between Iraqi intelligence and Ayman al Zawahiri, now al Qaeda's No. 2 man.
.........
(Why are all of those meetings significant? The London Observer reports that FBI investigators cite a captured al Qaeda field manual in Afghanistan, which "emphasizes the value of conducting discussions about pending terrorist attacks face to face, rather than by electronic means.)
.........
* An Iraqi defector to Turkey, known by his cover name as "Abu Mohammed," told Gwynne Roberts of the Sunday Times of London that he saw bin Laden's fighters in camps in Iraq in 1997. At the time, Mohammed was a colonel in Saddam's Fedayeen. He described an encounter at Salman Pak, the training facility southeast of Baghdad. At that vast compound run by Iraqi intelligence, Muslim militants trained to hijack planes with knives -- on a full-size Boeing 707. Col. Mohammed recalls his first visit to Salman Pak this way: "We were met by Colonel Jamil Kamil, the camp manager, and Major Ali Hawas. I noticed that a lot of people were queuing for food. (The major) said to me: 'You'll have nothing to do with these people. They are Osama bin Laden's group and the PKK and Mojahedin-e Khalq."
.........
* In 2001, an al Qaeda member "bragged that the situation in Iraq was 'good,'" according to intelligence made public by Mr. Powell.
.........
* Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi was sent to Iraq by bin Laden to purchase poison gases several times between 1997 and 2000. He called his relationship with Saddam's regime "successful," Mr. Powell told the United Nations.
.........
* Documents found among the debris of the Iraqi Intelligence Center show that Baghdad funded the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan terror group led by an Islamist cleric linked to bin Laden. According to a London's Daily Telegraph, the organization offered to recruit "youth to train for the jihad" at a "headquarters for international holy warrior network" to be established in Baghdad.

But, other than those "ties", there are none.
And, per the anti-war crowd, we should just ignore these. It's probably nothing, anyway, right?

Bear in mind, though, that these are the same people who accuse Bush of being negligent for being cautious in his response to "terror possibilities" before the war.

Seems the only thing consistent about their criticism is that, regardless of the circumstances, Bush is always wrong.
At least they're consistent.


Fiscal responsibility starts at home. Which is in in New Jersey, apparently. 

From the Timesdispatch today:
Said New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, a Democrat, on providing state subsidies to keep the NBA's Nets and the NHL's Devils in the Garden State: "There is simply no justification for state dollars being used to guarantee the profits of team owners. In the past, in New Jersey and across the country, cities and states have invested taxpayer dollars to subsidize teams. We have other priorities. If New York wants to subsidize team owners with [its] dollars, that is [its] right. But in New Jersey, those days are over."

I'm not moving to New Jersey or anything, but I'm impressed.
Here's a politician who understands that taking money from one group to subsidize another is often called "stealing" in the real world. And it should not be done.

Well, I may have assumed a bit, but he's on the right path.




The Next Big Thing. Maybe. 

(link via pejmanesque)

Tyler Cowen, at the Volokh Conspiracy has a description of the research that could revolutionize the internet:
It is called PlanetLab and enjoys backing from some serious parties. Here is one description:

"The project is called PlanetLab, and within the next three years, researchers say, it will help revitalize the Internet, eventually enabling you to:

forget about hauling your laptop around. No matter where you go, you’ll be able to instantly recreate your entire private computer workspace, program for program and document for document, on any Internet terminal;

escape the disruption caused by Internet worms and viruses—which inflicted an average of $81,000 in repair costs per company per incident in 2002—because the network itself will detect and crush rogue data packets before they get a chance to spread to your office or home;

instantly retrieve video and other bandwidth-hogging data, no matter how many other users are competing for the same resources;

archive your tax returns, digital photographs, family videos, and all your other data across the Internet itself, securely and indestructibly, for decades, making hard disks and recordable CDs seem as quaint as 78 RPM records."

Maximum portability, ease of use, increased speed and power, security......yeah, that's pretty much everything we want.

Sounds great.

Of course, I remember"Flooz", so I'll believe it when I see it.



9/24/2003

The Allende Myth 

One of the enduring myths of the socialist is that of Allende and "the other September 11th".
When you get into an argument with a socialist on whether "socialism can work", depend on this.....they'll bring up Salvador Allende.

Except, the reality wasn't quite the same as the myth.

Came across this essay, which should lend some perspective to the legend:

The failed and tragic attempt by Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity at creating socialism in Chile in 1970-1973 has become a myth for the world left, presented as the possibility of a peaceful and democratic transition to socialism that was destroyed only because the almighty CIA acted as master puppeteer of the Chilean reaction. The myth reinforces itself; while the Cold War context is never mentioned, neither is the fact that the CIA’s workings are well documented whereas the Cuban and Soviet interventions are still mostly unknown. The Allende myth may be good for keeping the socialist faith alive, but it evidently contradicts the historical facts.

While Augusto Pinochet’s brutal post-coup repression and terrorism cannot be justified, it is essential to explain what led him and the Chilean armed forces to the fateful coup d’état, outside of the fantasy that had him bursting onto the democratic Chilean political scene on September 11, 1973 with readymade CIA orders to stop a beautiful, pacific and liberating socialist dream. For I have no doubts that if the Chilean Marxist experiment had ended in civil war, as it appeared to most observers at the time, it would have been an even greater tragedy or, had it ended as the totalitarian society it pointed to, it would have lasted much longer and would have brought Chileans much more suffering than Pinochet’s ugly but temporary dictatorship.

An excellent, balanced and scholarly essay. Worth reading, if that's the sort of thing that appeals to you.


AP: "Ooh, ooh...we're biased, too!" 

The AP has joined the "unsupported-editorializing-as-news" parade, with a story from the wire today. (no link to the wire)

The failure-mongering begins with the headline....which is absolutely unsupported by the rest of the story:
Iraqis who heard Bush speech are mostly critical

Note, though, that the AP only offers one comment, to back up this assertion.

That's called anecdotal evidence. It's also called "meaningless", among most journalists.

But not at the AP, who has perfected the science of polling to such a degree that they can extract larger social trends based on the opinion of one unemployed Iraqi colonel.
(Baghdad, Iraq-AP) -- As President Bush continues to seek international help for the people of Iraq, some Iraqis are not impressed with his speech to the U-N General Assembly.

- Some Iraqis are not impressed? Say it isn't so!

Look, some Americans were not impressed with Bush's speech to the UN.
...or with the response to hurricane Isabel.
....or with the outcome of last nights baseball games.
....or with their choice of breakfast cereal this morning.

Regardless of the issue, "some people" will always be unimpressed.
I don't think that means we need to call in the UN every time there's anything less than unanimity.

The AP, however, has magically deduced that "some Iraqis are not impressed" means that "Iraqis....are mostly critical".

I'm not sure how they did it, but it's quite an amazing feat.
Or, dishonest. Whatever.
Others couldn't see or hear the speech because they still have no electricity months after the U-S-led war.

- Actually, many Iraqs didn't have electricity before the war, either.

Prior to the war, "most of the available power was diverted to Baghdad, leaving the rest of the country with about 12 hours per day."

Funny, I don't recall dispatches complaining of the lack of power under Saddam. I guess everybody just suddenly got upset about it, in mid-April.
Of course, right about that time, as if by magic, complaining no longer got you killed.
I wonder if there could be a connection?

Oh, and for what it's worth.....many people in Virginia couldn't watch Bush's speech, because they don't have power, still.
Again, I'm not sure this constitutes a quagmire.
In addition to disrupted utilities, many Iraqis say they face raids, random gunfire, the danger of bombs aimed at coalition soldiers and a higher crime rate.

- Oh? How would we know? Did they keep good records of the crime rates, under the previous regime?
How do we stand on "raped by Uday" nowadays?
How about "mass graves"......that number climbing or falling?

Somehow, I don't think a temporary rise in looting totally offsets the decrease in "tortured, raped and killed".
One Iraqi asks what type of benefit they would receive from a democratic system in the middle of the chaos.

- Well, for starters, now you can actually do something about the problems.

Previously, Iraq had a one-shot policy on complaints.
Do it once, and you'd get shot.

So, if complaints are rising....well, gosh, maybe it's partially due to the fact that complaining will no longer get you killed.
A former Iraqi army colonel says Bush talked about liberating the Iraqis -- but he says the reality is that the Americans liberated "only the criminals and bad people."

- Well, here it is. The AP's justification for the headline claiming Iraqis were "mostly critical".
One unemployed former member of Saddam Husseins army.

Notice the irony?
For the first time in his adult life, this guy is free to criticise the government of Iraq.....and his complaint is that he's not free.

Well, Colonel, maybe you should do something about that.......now that you won't be killed for doing it, I mean.

That's gotta be worth something.


The Valerie Plame Affair 

Heads up:

Tom Maguire, at JustOneMinute, continues his excellent coverage of the Valerie Plame Affair.

If it's a case you're following, his timeline is vital.

In his latest, he makes a couple excellent points:

1: It's not actually clear who revealed her affiliation, based on Novaks column.
2: It's not quite clear that she's even a "covert" operative.

I'd like more information to come out about this.
It may be a serious mistake.....it may be a non-story. As of now, we just don't have enough information to make a judgement.

In the meantime, Tom Maguire is doing good work.




9/23/2003

Chirac the Casbah 

At the UN today, Chirac dispensed with a few puzzlers:
""The culture of confrontation must give way to a culture of action aimed at achieving our goals."


Uh huh. Isn't that pretty much what we were saying all along, there, Jacques?

Specifically, which "action" were you proposing that would "achieve our goals"?
Because the only thing I can recall is your opposition to anything that would force Iraq to comply with "our goals".
A strong opponent of the war, Chirac insisted that the right to use force can only come from the U.N. Security Council.

How very European of him......"Rights", he claims, come from the central Government, rather than from the consent of the governed.

I don't think he's read our Declaration of Independence.
It would disagree.

Hopefully, Americans have not so forgotten the roots of our government, that they would abandon our right to self-determination to the goodwill of whoever happens to be on the Security Council this year.

Finally, there's this bit of wishful thinking:
"No one can act alone in the name of all and no one can accept the anarchy of a society without rules."

Yes, Jacques.....they can. They do.

Iraq acted on their own; Al Qaeda acted on their own; Even France has acted on its own dozens of times in Northern Africa, and other places.

It would be nice if we lived in a world in which the bad guys asked permission before being bad, and then lived with the decision. We do not.
You do not contribute to the solution by pretending otherwise.

There's only one reality, whether you recognize it or not.....if your premise does not match reality, you'd better change your premise, because reality ain't gonna change for you.

The reality is that the best intentions of the UN, unbacked by swift and consistent force, are nothing more than "good intentions".
....and you know what road they pave.

As far as I'm concerned, Chirac is welcome to travel that road first.


The Axis of Isabel 

Meryl Yourish survived the Hurricane, although she had to evacuate our city to do it.

Well, whatever gets you through the 'cane.

I was lucky enough to be among the 5% of people in our area who never lost power, even though most of the neighborhoods nearby did.
On the other hand, every time somebody asks me "So, is your power back on, yet".....I have to answer "I never lost power", followed immediately by "don't hit me".

Yourish, though, made a couple comments that I thought were worth addressing:
"Overall, I think our disaster management teams are a disgrace.
..........
As far as I can tell, FEMA is great if you want to get the money to fix your home up after disaster has hit. Where were the FEMA teams when Virginians and Carolinans needed water, food, batteries, ice, and flashlights?"

Um.....they were on the way. I'm pretty sure they're not the "Federal Hold Your Hand Agency".
Presumably, those Virginians and Carolinians were responsible for taking care of themselves at some point.
"And it's a major discomfort and pain in the butt for the rest of us."

And we need federal assistance to deal with this?
This is how government gets too big. People vote to have their problems solved by somebody else, rather than the always difficult "personal responsibility" thing.

And since there's no such thing as a free lunch, who pays for it?
Well, usually, somebody else.

In her defense, she ackowledges these points in a later post, but I thought the point was worth making.....me being a libertarian, and all.
"And trust me, neither a visit by Tom Ridge nor President Bush makes me any more confident that my power is going to come back on any sooner.

Amen, sista sledge.
Why in the world do politicians feel they must personally visit the scene of various natural disasters? Is there something they can see, that the rest of us missed?
Is Bush going to take a look around and say "You know, I think you guys had a hurricane", whereupon we'll all slap our foreheads and say "Of course! How could we have missed it!"

Do these politicians ever offer useful suggestions? Do they do anything useful at all?

Actually, come to think of it, the last two questions are pretty applicable even without a natural disaster.


Daschle: Help, help! We're being repressed!!!  

Just when you think it can't get more stupid......
Follow this sad little exchange:

First, Senator Kennedy claims that the case for war was a "fraud":
"There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud."

He also claimed that a CBO study claimed that the administration could not account for almost half of the money that had been appropriated for the war.
For the record, the CBO study showed no such thing.

In response, Bush, along with a few Republicans, called Kennedy's remarks "uncivil".
"I don't mind people trying to pick apart my policies, and that's fine and that's fair game. But, you know, I don't think we're serving our nation well by allowing the discourse to become so uncivil that people say -- use words that they shouldn't be using."

Got it so far?

Kennedy: "Bush committed fraud".
Bush: "That was uncivil".

So, how does Senator Daschle react to this?

He claims that Republicans are making "an orchestrated effort to attack those who criticize."

Uh huh.

"Uncivil". That's an attack.

Let me get this straight.......
When Democrats call Bush a "fraud", it's just fair criticism.
When Republicans call Democrats "uncivil"......well, that's just going too far.

These, I guess, are the rules of Tom Daschles playground.....
"You shouldn't do it, cause we can't take it!"

Suppression of dissent, indeed.

UPDATE: Oh, good lord. John Hawkins has the full quote and it's even more unbelievable than the part I thought was bad.

Here it is, in all of its glory:
""Any time somebody speaks out criticizing this administration or its policies, there is this orchestrated concerted effort to attack those who criticize. Criticizing those who are vocal in their personal criticism, their approach, their concerns, is McCarthyesque."

Got that? Criticizing the administration is fine.....but criticizing people who criticize the administration, well that's just wrong.

Funny, I don't recall Senator Daschle refraining from criticizing Clintons critics in the 90s.
I guess he was going through his McCarthyesque period, at the time.


Comments 

I've changed my comments function to a different service, so all previous comments have been erased.
I'd love to have saved all the old comments, only I didn't, so.....

Feel free to use the new comments feature for praise, criticism, suggestions or abuse.
I can take it.




Calling the anti-war crowd on their lies...... 

One expects some inaccurate statements to be passed around in the political scene.
It's part of the process.....information comes and goes, and it doesn't always get vetted for accuracy before it becomes "common knowledge".
(reference: this post)

However, the sheer number of inaccuracies that have been propogated in opposition to the war are astounding, and the fact that they are allowed to continue....even allowed to pass the editorial test....is beyond comprehension.

It's as if the media has taken a holiday from accuracy. They have traded the truth for the urban legend and it's a great disservice to the public discourse.

Case in point.....the recent Leonard Pitts article.

Usually, I appreciate Pitts a great deal. He's got a good grasp of common sense and balance....he's a worthy read.
In fact, even in today's column, I largely agree with him. He makes excellent points about the absolute necessity of putting our money where our mouth is, in Iraq.

Yet, in reaching the right conclusion, he manages to pass on many of the myths of the anti-war crowd.
Fact-checking, it seems, is up to the blogosphere.


Myth-busting, in order:

1: Pitts: "Tell me again why this trip was necessary? Saddam Hussein represents an imminent threat, said the White House. A threat, maybe. But imminent? There was little concrete evidence of that."

- The White House said the threat was imminent? That's news to me, Mr Pitts.
I bet it'd be news to the President, too, who actually said "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent."

Rather than saying the threat was "imminent", he said the threat was not imminent, but could be, one day.
Big difference, wouldn't you say?

Leonard Pitts is better than this.



2: Pitts: "Finally, there was the broadly hinted notion that Mr. Hussein had something to do with Sept. 11."

- Hinted by whom, Mr Pitts? Not the Bush administration.

In fact, what Bush said was "Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein."
Why would we have to "imagine" this, if Bush intended to deliver the implication that Saddam had *already* been a part of 9/11?

More to the point, the survey data from the Washington Post indicates that the US public thought Saddam was involved in 9/11 long before Bush said word one on the topic, and that percentage has actually gone down in the 2 years that Bush has, allegedly, been "trying to connect the two".

So, not only do the anti-war proponents of this meme not have ONE quote to back up their assertion....the polling data doesn't back up their assumption, either.

Hard to believe that Leonard Pitts is passing along this myth.



3: Pitts: "Truth is, many Americans were so hot for war that we hardly seemed to need a reason. So hot, in fact, that we could scarcely tolerate anyone who wasn't. To raise a question about what we were doing, much less risk a criticism of it, was deemed by some a treasonable offense."

- Wha?!? I recall quite a lot of talk about how "dissent is being suppressed" in the YEAR LONG DEBATE over the war.
What I don't recall is any actual "suppression of dissent".

Oh, sure, country music fans rebelled when the Dixie Chicks insulted their President.....
But, then....that's dissent, too, isn't it?

Of course, it's Mr Pitts right to claim that the country music fans were wrong.....and should not have done what they did.
But let's not pretend that one expression is "suppression of speech" while the other is not.



4: Pitts: (on the topic of the reason for the size of the bill) "We broke a lot of stuff in Iraq.

- No, sir. Saddam Hussein broke a lot of stuff in Iraq.
Compared to him, the US military was a kitten.

Our 3 week war cannot begin to compare to the 20+ years of war, self-sustained sanctions and economic deprivation that Saddam Hussein brought upon Iraq.
To blame the US for the state of the long-neglected Iraqi infrastructure is ridiculous, in the extreme.

Mr Pitts is better than this. Or, he should be.


Fortunately, he also makes comments worthy of his reputation:
"How quickly would division become solid opposition, how much more of a seedbed for anti-American extremism would that region become, if we were to turn away now and leave the nation in a state of anarchy and disrepair?"

Amen. Stick to your guns, Mr President.

....and, if you have a minute, hit Ted Kennedy with the Clue-bat.


9/22/2003

The Emmy's 

Remember the MTV award show awhile back, when Britney/Madonna/Christina kissed?
Lots of fuss about that the next day, and hundreds of news stories about The Kiss continued for weeks.

Huge coverage, right?

Well, I saw about 12 seconds of the Emmy's last night, and caught this:
"Opening the show, comedian Gary Shandling got a big smacking kiss from "Raymond"'s Garrett..."

Fallout today? One paragraph, buried in a CNN story.
Picture? No.

Big difference in coverage, huh?

Know what?
I don't think anybody's too dissappointed.


Bring in the UN!!! 

It's beginning to look like a quagmire....

Reports out in the last couple days indicate:

- at least 28 civilians killed in the last few days.
- a continued lack of power, which is expected to last longer.
- powerless water treatment plants, and residents forced to boil what water there is.
- thousands still living in shelters.
- major damage to infrastructure.

The APwire is reporting that:
"...as the days grind on, patience is wearing thin over a lack of supplies and information, and isolated instances of price-gouging."

Clearly, we are not prepared to handle this on our own, and should immediately turn over authority to the UN.

Of course, some people in Virginia, where this is occurring, may disagree.




9/21/2003

Iraq and Al Qaeda....connected? 

So, does Bush lie when he claims that Iraq and Al Qaeda have "ties"?

If you think so, you're going to have to explain this:
According to the indictment, bin Laden and al Qaeda forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in Sudan and with representatives of the Government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah with the goal of working together against their common enemies in the West, particularly the United States.

"In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the Government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq," the indictment said.

"Lies! All Lies!", you say?

Tell President Clinton.
That State Department press release was issued "04 November 1998".

Clearly, we've long had reason to believe that there were ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
(link, via Right-Thinking.com)


Myth-busting 

Still attempting to find one single fact to back up their assertion that Bush "tried to connect Iraq to 9/11", some have begun passing around this Presidential letter to Congress:
March 18, 2003

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Sincerely,

GEORGE W. BUSH

The people spreading this as "proof that Bush tried to connect Iraq to 9/11", include such high-profile groups as Truthout and Democrats.com.

They tend to note two things:

1: The fact that he felt it necessary to cite 9/11 in his justification for the Iraq war.

2: The actual wording, which justifies taking action, followed by a mention of the groups who participated in 9/11.

These arguments indicate either a profound lack of understanding....or or a lack of reading comprehension.

I'll address them in order:

1: Why did he cite 9/11 in this letter to justify the Iraq war?

This is simple.
He didn't mention 9/11, and the groups that caused it, specifically in regards to Iraq.....he merely cited the operative language from the "Joint Resolution to Authorize the use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, which reads as follows."
Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;

In short, those were not his own words, used as justification for the attack, but a simple citation of the relevant passage from the authorization.
It is typical to cite the whole passage, rather than create new verbage.


But, they say.......

2: ....what about the fact that he cited that passage....the one about the groups that committed the acts of 9/11?

This is where the reading comprehension problem comes in.

Apparently, in their haste to find anything to back up their assumption, they misinterpret the grammar of the text.

I'll give an example, to make this clear:
I support the troops, including those in Iraq.

According to the above statement, would you assume that:

a: I only support the troops in Iraq.

Or:

b: I support the troops in Iraq....but I also support other troops.


Clearly, the latter is a poor, bordering on stupid, translation of the obvious intent of the statement.
Yet, it's the exactly translation that the anti-war crowd is imposing on the Bush letter to Congress, which cites "terrorists and terrorist organizations".
Clearly, Saddam was a supporter of, and participant with, those groups who committed terrorism.

The word "including" doesn't seem to impress them as relevant.

Actually, this is fairly typical of many anti-war arguments. Given two or more alternatives, they'll choose to believe whichever one lets them say "Bush lied".
This is not intellectually honest. It is also thoroughly tiresome.

In the meantime, while many continue to assert that "Bush tried to connect Iraq with 9/11", the fact remains that those assertions cannot be backed up with one single quote.

Not once did Bush ever say it, or even imply it.

In fact, even the New York Times concedes that point:
The White House has never said Mr. Hussein was part of the Sept. 11 plot, though from the moment of the attacks there was a search to determine whether he was linked. As Mr. Bush has described the Iraq conflict as part of the war on terror, he has drawn a loose connection, saying that after Sept. 11, 2001, the United States could no longer tolerate the kind of threat Mr. Hussein posed or risk that Mr. Hussein's weapons could reach the hands of terrorists.

So, the next time somebody says that Bush tried to "connect Iraq to 9/11", ask them if they are a liar, or just ignorant.
Those are the only two choices.



9/20/2003

C'mon! (slap) Perspective! 

Victor Davis Hanson puts everything in perspective:
Few in the heat of summer 1864 saw that the war had, in fact, been fought rather brilliantly — and the tide had already almost imperceptibly shifted for good. Grant had worn Lee down in Virginia. Sheridan was loose in the Shenandoah Valley. Uncle Billy Sherman was grinding his way to Atlanta — and aiming at larger things still.
........
We are near the end of such a pivotal summer ourselves, the type that defines not just a presidency, but an entire nation for generations to come. After the spectacular victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, public ardor for the conflict is temporarily cooling. Because of the past recession, the effects of 9/11, the tax cuts, and the cost of the war, we are running up billions in projected annual budget deficits. Our own McClellans and contemporary Copperheads deride the president as a miserable failure cheek by jowl with major newspapers.

Few stop to appreciate that 50 million are now liberated with the first chance of real democracy in the history of the Middle East. We almost take for granted that the Taliban and Saddam Hussein are gone and that 90 percent of Iraq is functioning under local democratic councils — in an irreversible process that is taking on a culture and logic of its own. We are angry not that the situation in the occupied countries is stabilizing — so far at a cost of less than 300 — not 300,000 — American dead, but that they are not yet normal societies. Few Americans ask why and how Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran are suddenly whining privately rather than shouting defiance.

Indeed, in spite of all the carping about each individual problem, the whole story is one of dramatic success.
Problems are to be expected.....they are "problems", though, and not "failures".
Like Sisyphus, we have pushed our terrible rock nearly to the top of the hill. We need only a few dramatic final and critically symbolic shoves — either the capture of Saddam Hussein, proof of bin Laden's demise, textual or material evidence of WMDs, or the finalization of a legitimate government in Baghdad — to go over the top, showing the discontented at home how far we have come. But just as Sisyphus was forever doomed to start pushing his rock anew — once it cascaded back just as he reached the apex — so shall we too have to start all over again should we lose our nerve with the summit now within sight. And such large boulders roll faster and in deadlier fashion downhill than during the slow and arduous push up.

Short Version: Winning is hard. Losing will be much harder.
Expecting the U.N. to curb the chaos in Iraq is understandable, but I think delusional. It has no real record of nation-building — but a long history of watching millions die and rot from the Balkans to Rwanda. True, if a Western country finally takes a strong stance, then the U.N. tags along well enough and can provide cosmetic legitimacy so dear to influential elites in Europe and America; but it never by itself really solves the problem.

Hey, didn't I just mention that

Yet sophistication is not morality. Neither is nihilism. More people, remember, fried in France this August while its social utopians snoozed at the beach than all those lost in Kabul and Baghdad together. I think an American pilot who flew over the peaks of Afghanistan or a Marine colonel now patrolling in Iraq was far more likely to ensure that his aged mother back home lives under humane conditions than was a Frenchman this summer on his month-long vacation on the Mediterranean coast. So remember, this August Americans lost 100 brave soldiers fighting selflessly for the liberty of others while thousands of Frenchmen perished through their children's neglect and self-absorption.

Ouch. But I don't think he meant that in a flattering way, so....

The whole thing is excellent. Read it all.



9/19/2003

The League of Extraordinary Metaphors 

So, there's a basketball team that won their championship last year.
Unfortunately for them, this year they are hobbled by small injuries and nagging questions about their viability...

Still, they're the champs and they got there for a reason.

Well, this year, the league is gunning for them. Everybody has their sights set on the champs, and they're building their team to beat em.

One team is fairly ordinary......a decent team, and they've made a run at the championship before. Not exciting, but solid.

Another team is young and exciting. They're got new game plans, and unique lineups.....but they're untested. Still, they're brash and energetic, and they might just work their way into the finals.

A few other teams are talking a big game, but not many people are picking them to win the championship. It's a long season, though.

Finally, there's one more team. They're new to the league.
In fact, so far, we don't even know who's on the team or what their plan is....but they look formidable. And observers are excited about their entrance.

So, what has everybody so excited about this team?
Well, all we know so far is that they have a nice uniform. Granted, it's not much, but it's all we have, right now.

No word on who will be playing the key positions.
No word on how they plan to approach the season.

In fact, we've no idea about how they can play at all.....but they DO have a nice uniform. It's the uniform of a real team, a winner.

So, people are excited. I mean, sure it's just a uniform, but nobody can find anything wrong with that uniform.

Meanwhile, the champs have a couple injuries and the other teams have their assorted weaknesses.....
But the Uniform.....my god, it's flawless. It's the uniform of a Champion.


Oh, by the way, General Wesley Clark has entered the Presidential race, although he hasn't announced his positions.

Still, he's a General, you know.


I survived Isabel.... 

Well, it was called the "worst in company history" by Dominion Virginia Power, but Isabel is past us and I'm alive to blog about it.

In fact, while 95% of the people in the Richmond area are without power today, mine never went out.
While trees went down around my neighborhood, not one tree in my yard dropped more than leaves.

So, I guess I have a lot for which I can be grateful.

Oh, and allow me to point out that Meryl Yourish fled our fair city to weather the storm with friends in parts south. And, as of this writing, she has yet to blog today, despite writing that QandO was "a fellow Richmonder who will be stuck at work while I'm partying".
Well, Meryl, at least I could still blog!

I must thank Yourish, though, for organizing the Axis of Isabel. Nice to learn of the blogosphere in my own sphere.


9/18/2003

The inherent weakness of the UN 

I've already written about the problems caused by France's "Balance of Power" political gambit at the UN.

There are two more questions, though.
1: Is the UN an effective venue for ensuring world security?
2: Is the UN an effective venue for ensuring our national security?

Those two questions may, or may not, have the same answer.

First, is the UN even capable of achieving the goals it sets out for itself?
The United Nations Charter sets out the goals of the UN:

1: To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.....
2: To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights.....
3: To establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained....
4: To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom....

Has the UN accomplished those? In order:
1: Clearly no.
2: Not very often. In fact, they pay a great deal of respect to those nations who specifically do not respect fundamental human rights. (see: Syria, Cuba, China, etc)
3: Treaty enforcement? Contract enforcement? The UN? When?
4: This is one area in which the UN has made some progress. Why? The UN provides a convenient venue for nations to agree on things they are already likely to agree on.

So, to answer the first question.....no, the UN is not capable of ensuring world security, but it can facilitate such action among nations who are already likely to do so.

But, can the UN effectively ensure US security?

Henry Kissinger, in the excellent book 'Diplomacy', wrote on the problems of previous international security arrangments:
"The weakness of collective security is that interests are rarely uniform, and that security is rarely seamless. Members of a general system of collective security are therefore more likely to agree on inaction than on joint action."

An excellent description of the UN's futility in addressing the very real problems that have plagued the world for decades now, isn't it?
He goes on:
"They will either be held together by glittering generalities, or may witness the defection of the most powerful member, who feels the most secure and therefore least needs the system."

Let's apply this to today:

- Glittering generalities: Resolution after resolution to declare that Iraq was STILL not complying, but the members of the Security council deplored this, declared that, recalled yet another thing......none of which contained a specific resolution. Just generalities, which sounded good, but led to nothing.
And all the while, Security Council members threatened to Veto ANY resolution that ended in war.

- The defection of the most powerful member: The United States-led coalition.

- "...who feels the most secure and therefore least needs the system":
Oddly, today we have the opposite scenario.
In our case, the US did not leave the system because we felt too secure, but because we felt insecure within the system.
The system failed to provide the security that it's own charter demanded.

So, why did we need it?

Kissinger goes on, speaking now of the politicians of the time:
"Neither Wilson nor Castlereagh was able to bring his country into a system of collective security because their respective societies did not feel threatened by foreseeable dangers and thought that they could deal with them alone or, if need be, find allies at the last moment. To them, participating in the League of Nations or the European Congress system compounded risks without enhancing security".

The difference today is that we do feel threatened by forseeable dangers.....and the organization that exists for that purpose is now co-opted by nations who often have as much in common with our enemies, as with the US.
Glittering generalities are the rule, and inaction is always easy to agree upon.

Our cooperation with the UN does not always ensure our own interests, but it gives our opposition a voice in the decision.
.....and that is an untenable position from which to win a war.

The UN is a useful tool. We should never regard it as anything more.

UPDATE: Dale Franks has more on the topic.


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