Wednesday, June 30, 2004

In an attempt to do something a little different and in light of the recent hand-over of power in Iraq – I would like to pose the following questions (WARNING: Answers require projection!)

First, what is the worst-case scenario that can happen in Iraq and the greater war on terror?

Second, given everything that has happened, what is the best possible outcome you can realistically see with Iraq and the war on terror (including after the US election and beyond)? Or, more simply put: what do you realistically hope for?

Finally, what do you expect to happen?

I’ll provide my answers sometime tomorrow.
Glenn Reynolds on the success of the war. Who'd woulda thought that blowing up fellow muslims was bad for PR?
I promised myself that I would withhold judgement on Farenheit 9/11 until AFTER I see it, unlike many on the ideological oppposite end of the spectrum...

After reading the Christopher Hitchens article posted by Jeff, I was disappointed.
I couldn't explain why... Hitchens has always been one of those essayists who while I don't agree with him frequently, I admire his ability as a writer and the breadth and depth of his knowledege. But something just felt... I dunno... well, it felt below his usual caliber of writing.

And then had a link to the following critique of Christopher Hitchen's review of F9/11 (why does that sound like some overpriced sports car?).

While I find that the reviewer veers sometimes into ranting (which, to be fair, Hitchens did as well) he does point out some of the flaws in Hitchen's argument. Too bad though that this won't get the same level of exposure as Hitchen's. But then again, maybe it will.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Enthusiastic article about Bush's performance in Iraq. And a story about Iranian migration to Iraq.
Cheney weak on defense.

So we can get a ticket with a draft-dodging defense cuttter or a ticket with a combat-decorated defense cuttter. Put me down for the latter.
OUCH! Nicholson Baker will publish an anti-Bush book. And so soon after EL Doctorow's commencement speech. Coincidentally, wasn't VOX the book that Monica loaned President Clinton?
The diplomatic end of the Bush administration is having successes, too.

Monday, June 28, 2004

So the Handover has happened.
Iraqi reaction could be called wary at best.

The following dialogue is from today's bleat by James Lileks:
A minor political note, if you’re interested in such things. The other day a young girl came to the door to solicit my support for her presidential candidate. I asked her why I should vote for this man. She was very nice and earnest, but if you got her off the talking points she was utterly unprepared to argue anything, because she didn’t know what she was talking about. She had bullet points, and she believed that any reasonable person would see the importance of these issues and naturally fall in line. But she could not support any of her assertions. Her final selling point: Kerry would roll back the tax cuts.

Then came the Parable of the Stairs, of course. My tiresome, shopworn, oft-told tale, a piece of unsupportable meaningless anecdotal drivel about how I turned my tax cut into a nice staircase that replaced a crumbling eyesore, hired a few people and injected money far and wide - from the guys who demolished the old stairs, the guys who built the new one, the family firm that sold the stone, the other firm that rented the Bobcats, the entrepreneur who fabricated the railings in his garage, and the guy who did the landscaping. Also the company that sold him the plants. And the light fixtures. It’s called economic activity. What’s more, home improvements added to the value of this pile, which mean that my assessment would increase, bumping up my property taxes. To say nothing of the general beautification of the neighborhood. Next year, if my taxes didn’t shoot up, I had another project planned. Raise my taxes, and it won’t happen – I won’t hire anyone, and they won’t hire anyone, rent anything, buy anything. You see?

“Well, it’s a philosophical difference,” she sniffed. She had pegged me as a form of life last seen clilcking the leash off a dog at Abu Ghraib. “I think the money should have gone straight to those people instead of trickling down.” Those last two words were said with an edge.

“But then I wouldn’t have hired them,” I said. “I wouldn’t have new steps. And they wouldn’t have done anything to get the money.”

“Well, what did you do?” she snapped.

“What do you mean?”

“Why should the government have given you the money in the first place?”

“They didn’t give it to me. They just took less of my money.”

That was the last straw. Now she was angry. And the truth came out:

“Well, why is it your money? I think it should be their money.”

Then she left.

And walked down the stairs. I let her go without charging a toll. It’s the philanthropist in me.

The rest of the Bleat is about the Marx Bros. and not that flattering. He was commenting on the new MGM box set - which he recognizes as past their prime. But I think he needs to re-watch the Paramount stuff again.
Call it the Cassandra Complex:
Orrin Hatch's INDUCE Act puts America first!

Bush made a mistake when he said those 16 words were a mistake. This piece was in the Financial Times. On a somewhat related note, apparently there were mines in Iraq producing yellowcake.
The emperor has no clothes, literally. Ireland shouldn’t suppress these photos. In fact, if I was on the Bush campaign, I’d hope these pics did get out. He could use the help with the woman vote.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Another reason the Bush economy isn't translating into votes for the incumbent.

Yet what is receiving almost no attention from those pontificating on the economy is the nature of the growth they so admire. In fact, it demonstrates a massive growth discrepancy between corporate profits and wages. As the Economic Policy Institute calculated last month, corporate profits have grown by 62 percent since the first quarter of 2001, but "labor compensation" -- which includes paychecks and benefits -- grew only 2.8 percent, and "private wage and salary income" fell by 0.6 percent.

In turn, the EPI study concludes:

"Most of this growth in total labor compensation has been accounted for by rising non-wage payments, like health care and pension benefits. Rapidly rising health care costs and pension funding requirements imply that these higher benefit payments are not translating into increased living standards for workers, but are rather just covering the higher costs of health care and pension funding."

Other recent confirm the view that living standards are not improving and may even be declining. This week, Bloomberg reported:

"A 2.2 percent rise in wages in the 12 months through May has been more than offset by a 3.1 percent gain in consumer prices. It's unlikely that employees will get raises that outpace inflation over the next five to 10 years, said William A. Niskanen, former acting chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors during the Ronald Reagan administration.… Niskanen and other economists cite global competition, which forces companies to keep costs down, shrinking union clout and continuing slack in a labor market…"

- from the Center for American Progress

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Hitchens doesn't take kindly to Moore. This is from last Monday. It's odd that OKC was one of ten cities picked for the initial release. I haven't watched tv enough to see an ad, and now the clock is ticking thanks to campaign finance reform.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Interesting commentary on security from one of the men who helped define it for the Digital Age. More about Bruce Schneier here.

Also of interest. Orrin Hatch once again proves he knows absolutely nothing
about technology. Rather long article, but the annotations make it palpable.
So much for the Bush proposal.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Screwy. I still like the Washington Times, though.
Did the Bush administration settle for appeasement of North Korea?
Or, 1994 Redux

BEIJING - U.S. negotiators presented the first detailed U.S. proposal Wednesday on resolving the standoff with North Korea, offering energy aid and a security guarantee in exchange for Pyongyang’s agreement to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.....

"Our credibility has more to do with resolve than it does with empty platitudes of peace and goodwill." - Jeffrey Hill, 12/3/03

Question: Are the only choices appeasement to nuclear blackmail or stalemate? Would China sit by while American troops occupy land right next to their border? Would a full-fledged invasion be necessary? Given enough time, would the North Korean government collapse the way the Soviet Union did?
This showed up on Instapundit. It's an old CNN story from 1999 which has Saddam offering bin Laden asylum.

Monday, June 21, 2004

North Korea hates America. Is that a causality link between Kim Jong Il and al Qaeda? Why not? It wouldn’t just be out of pure hatred that Il would desire to harm us, but a shared hatred might draw Il and al together. Il hates us for his own reasons, what does it matter to him why al hates us?

I happen to believe that going after Saddam scared the hell out of Kim Jong Il & will affect his behavior in our favor. It considerably weakens his nuclear hand. A nuclear attack on the US, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, would almost certainly require the organization and support of a state sponsored nuclear program. I’m not talking about a dirty bomb, but a detonated nuclear device. Saddam would have been a prime suspect because we didn’t know that status of his weapons programs. Il would’ve been another suspect. There are probably less than half a dozen other plausible suspects: Iran, Pakistan come to mind. With the removal of Saddam, the circle tightens. Il is sick in the head, if you ask me, but he’s not suicidal & it’s no good for him to sweat it out in a shorter line-up.

That said, he’s still a threat. And by the comments I’ve heard from both of you, I will assume that if the time comes to move on N. Korea, the administration will have your full support.
May I See Your Papers Please?

The 5th amendment takes a heavy blow. Well, I guess living in a country where our lawmakers can initiate something like the PATRIOT Act to deal with us common rabble, but then not obey the law themselves, it's to be expected.

And just remember - as long as you're not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to fear... Unless you look like you're the type who would do something wrong.

Friday, June 18, 2004

I can’t say that I put much stock in the 9/11 Commission or the CNN & NYT coverage of it. I’d be very surprised if the commission comes up with any significant recommendations that the Bush administration hasn’t already pursued. The anti-war assumption that a link between Saddam and al Qaeda is so doubtful is simply unrealistic. The left is so ready to criticize Bush for seeing things as black and white and for his lack of nuance that it is odd that they can’t fathom a secular government cooperating with a radical Islamic terror group, nor can they distinguish between Saddam’s ties to al Qaeda & his involvement with 9/11. And it’s odd that the left would completely rule out the latter because there isn’t a long paper trail to base it on. Fact: Saddam’s Iraq and al Qaeda communicated and had agreements. Both hate America. What is not known: just how deep those ties went. We also don’t know if Iraq had anything to do with 9/11. What we should assume: that Saddam and al Qaeda would cooperate to hurt the US. Is that so complicated – so steeped in what-ifs that the left can’t grasp it?

Reactions to the commission’s statements regarding Iraq and al Qaeda:

Russia warned the US that Saddam wanted terrorist attacks in the US post 9/11

9/11 commissioner comments on the comments

and another commissioner

Bush’s reaction & insistence that there were links

Cheney’s complaints on how the story has been covered

Clinton Administration on al Qaeda / Saddam ties

A USA Today story

Andrew Sullivan

And a fairly comprehensive piece in Tech Central

Thursday, June 17, 2004

History repeats itself. (That is to say: Republican administration making idiotic proclamation about nutritional value of fast food products served in school cafeterias).

Ketchup and Fries constitutes a full vegetarian meal in the eyes of the current Administration, building as they do on their former glory.

Proof that Bush IS a Reaganite.

But then again, may be not:

'Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency, he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference."

Ron Reagan Jr.
remarks at funeral of his father,
June 11, 2004
The Law Applies to Everyone EXCEPT The Attorney General

(linky found on Boing Boing - A Directory of Wonderful Things)
Found this link (bottom of post) reading a discussion on the differences in Empiricism (i.e. right wing) vs Postmodernism (i.e. left wing) (all terms used there as sweeping generalizations for economy's sake) as applied to dogmatic thinking in political/economic discussions. That thread is still going... mostly seems to be a case of each side offers valid qualifications to their arguments, but it still seems to boil down to an "I'm right you're wrong" discussion from both sides.

The interesting thing about the below link is that they make the argument that Left vs Right is a flawed representation of political ideology. Given that the nature of most issues consist of multiple factors - generally attributed to social/political/economic/religious areas of influence, they propose using an X-Y axis. While still very general, it does make for a more accurate snapshot of one's ideology, I'm thinking.

Given the self-declared slants of involved parties in this little forum, I thought it would be fun to see where we all measure up when questioned by an objective observer. Are you as conservative/liberal as you think? Take this and see!

The Political Compass

Posting my results in a later entry.
It's time to declare independence from the foreign occupiers!
How can Kerry justify wanting a VP who's more hawkish than the president? It just goes to show that he stands for nothing. While Kerry's been keeping the McCain rumor alive - hope against hope - McCain stumps for Bush.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I've been meaning to post more, but things have been hectic lately. In the meantime, here's an interesting post about oil. Below that is a good post about Rudyard Kipling. For something spicier, Mark Steyn assesses the European mainstream and Victor David Hanson sees a pattern.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Saturday, June 12, 2004

The invasion was a good use of our resources

The invasion of Iraq was the best use of our resources – if winning the war on terror is the aim. Sure our intelligence was sketchy. Intelligence always is. But does that make it the failure that everyone seems to think it is? Should we improve it? Sure, we should always be trying to improve our intelligence. But, flawed as it may have been, it was good enough to point us in the right direction in a post 9/11 world. Saddam ran a regime that supported terror and had an association with al Qaeda. Saddam also developed and used WMDs and had a capacity to make more. He was also actively deceiving the world community. Those facts alone were enough to fear the passing of WMDs from the Baathists to al Qaeda. As Bush aptly put, Iraq was a “grave and gathering threat.” As for stockpiles? Iraq had plenty that were unaccounted for – I see no one disputing that. And I see no one disputing that Saddam violated 1441. But the terror/WMD threat was never about stockpiles. It was about small amounts that could be smuggled into our borders or those of our allies. Given what we know now would you say that Bush was wrong to fear this scenario? What we don’t know can always fill a book. Failure to locate WMDs is important in so much that terrorist might get to them before we do. But, in such a circumstance, you don’t just go after your intelligence agencies, tying up resources and creating an atmosphere of bureaucratic fear in the CIA & then assume that the war in Iraq was a mistake. No, you expect your agencies to examine their own performance and work on improvements. Heads should role when the president decides it’s in the interest of winning the war.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Non corporate-funded-thinktank commentaries on the G8 summit:

Interesting that the G8 summit was held on a private island off the coast from a primarily african-american town that hosts "four Superfund sites, seventeen identified hazardous waste sites, six actively polluting industries and hundreds of illegal toxic dumps".

And Kyoto was at the bottom of the list of important resolutions - as mentioned in a previous post. Oh... but there's no correllation, nor am I inferring any. Just making an observation.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

The difference between selling arms to Iran and selling arms to Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the 80s:

Our stated policy was not to deal with Iran. Not only that, but Iran was dealing with Hezbolla to release a few American hostages at the time, so that went against the law about negotiating with terrorists. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have never held American hostages for 444 days, nor are they part of today's Axis of Evil.
What's wrong with the war on terror?

In my view, the whole Iraq thing comes down to two questions:
1) Was it the best use of our resources given that our assessment of Iraq's capabilities was based on sketchy intelligence? (Remember, Osama is still out there, unless he's at Gitmo awaiting W.'s October surprise. Not only that, but poppy production is in full swing in Afghanistan)
2) Are we killing or capturing more terrorists than our actions are creating (a question that Rumsfeld did not yet have the answer to when recently asked at a Congressional hearing)?
Here's a list prioritizing areas to focus on to improve life on earth. And it validates some of Bush's positions.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Good news in Iraq: Aside from the U.N. Resolution, which is a nice feather in Bush's diplomatic cap, there's new evidence to suggest that we didn't invade Iraq just to grab her oil.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Or as Dude has commented, you could concentrate on the differences. Though the differences he mentions are mainly with circumstance and not with leadership:

1) You can't deny that Bush is a Reaganite. No doubt he marked the differences between Reagan's foreign policy and his dad's and ultimately chose the former well before Perle and Rice got him up to speed in 1998. I’m guessing he started developing his diplomatic philosophy after his dad lost to Clinton. But I must confess that I'm not quite sure what Dude’s point is regarding when Reagan and Bush each developed their foreign policy strategies.
2) I’m sure someone is willing to point out that we sell arms to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, two countries that prefer not to have a de-Baathed democratic Iraq in their backyard. The Iran/Contra scandal is a significant blemish on Reagan’s record. By the time all is said and done, Bush may well have a scandal to mar his record. So far the opposition hasn’t found it.
3) Regarding net job gains: again, the circumstances are very different but not necessarily the men. Bush took over right as the tech bubble had burst. There was no bubble that I know of that Reagan inherited, except perhaps the inflation bubble. Surely you don't think Bush is responsible for the bulk of job losses that happened before he had a chance to implement any part of his economic policy? But granted, Bush might have a better job record if he'd cut taxes even sooner than he did.
4) Of course Reagan worked with NATO. NATO was an alliance tailor made for the cold war, but not the war on terror. I would assert that the same spirit that provoked Reagan to position Pershing IIs in Germany (which caused a great stir among our European allies - though I guess they signed off on it in the same way the Security Council passed 1441)...that same spirit, I say, can be seen in Bush cleaning house of obsolete arms agreements and revamping our foreign policy. Don't look now, but the Cold War is over and so is the usefulness of many of the agreements, alliances and stratagems that were created to fight it. When an alliance no longer works, you must change it or scrap it – but you shouldn’t let it sit there and tie your hands from protecting your interests. I recall George Washington warning against long-term foreign alliances. I also recall the web of such alliances that facilitated so much suffering during the Great War. I believe both Reagan and Bush remembered those things as well. Neither settled for the status quo or the conventional wisdom – much to the chagrin of foreign leaders and many legislators. Does that mean that NATO is irrelevant? Not necessarily, but it’s going to have to continue changing to meet the new needs. The same goes for the U.N.
5) I doubt Bush condemned the gassing of Kurds when it happened. Oh well, that’s no reason not to condemn it now.
The Passing Of Reagan... Film at 11

(must...resist....urge to make jokes about the American Body Politic having finally gotten rid of the remains of the spicy meal that was the Reagan Era...)

Anyway - coming from the left side of things I guess I should weigh in on the passing of Cowboy Ronnie and make the expected comments on him being so horrible, evil and blahdy blahdy blah. But that's expected innit? ...and you can find that on perhaps a couple thousand other websites. Alternet has an interesting listing of "unflattering things" about Reagan's time in office that pretty succinctly sums up all the noisemaking that could be done in that regard.

So - instead... allow me to ramble on about the overall journalistic circle jerk (in my opinion) that has been going on in mainstream media concerning the passing of the man, Ronald Reagan.

Watching CNN yesterday - most of the pieces I saw relating to Reagan were praising him. Eulogizing is fine for those who know a person recently deceased, or due to similiarities of ideology would be inclined to praise them. BUT - Since these are subjective situations... they're better left to the editorial commentary sections of news programs and websites. When an institution that portrays itself as "neutral" (as American News Stations tend to) presents an image of the man that (from what I saw yesterday) reveal few, if any, flaws... the whole thing comes off as rather suspect.

If we truly wanted to give the man the respect he would be deserving as a leader of this country - we should in hindsight examine his actions objectively. After all, what was he to most of us? Our primary interaction with him was the fact that he made decisions which affected the way our country functions, and our place in it, for better or worse. But instead of a respectful overview of what he got right and what he got wrong, I was inundated with fluff piece jouranlism that nearly convinced me that Reagan's time in office was as close to heaven on earth as we're likely to see until the Rapture happens for all you Christians.

I realize I've defined myself as a non-objective participant by referencing an article on a left-leaning website before making my argument, along with the running snark commentary...
(Hold on - gotta adjust my tinfoil hat - there)
But I contend that this was done out of trying to find some counterbalance to the "Morning in America, Smiles and Jelly Bellies" effluvia that constituted most of the reporting I saw yesterday. By the end of the day it was my personal quest to find something, anything, that was not portraying Reagan as some sort of demigod who America was blessed with having as a leader for (apparently) too short a time.

Now, it could be argued that the mainstream news sources are merely reflecting the opinions of the public at large... okay fine, but that's editorializing, not reporting. If journalism is meant to be a means of relaying factual accounts of events for those who do not directly witness said events in the present, and then provide a record for future generations what occured at a a specific time... (an idealistic appraisal perhaps) then our current standards of journalism falls far from this mark.

Hell even this posting is guilty of that but then again, I would not indicate in anyway that this was meant as journalism. Definitely editorializing, but not journalism. I mean, I would be hard pressed to be able to verify Reagan's divinity one way or the other... though I often did smell brimstone when he was on television. Increasing the dosage seemed to help with that.

So - to put more of a left/right, us/them, right/wrong, libertive/conserval, democan/republicrat, spin on things and keep with the spirit round these parts:


Portaying Reagan PURELY as a great leader and neglecting to point out his failures in contrast to his successes, has made American Journalism as laughable in our portrayal of our political system and our leaders as the Soviet Union was criticized for "back in the day". The buffoonery of our current duly installed psuedoleader not withstanding... "Mission Accomplished" anyone?

Monday, June 07, 2004

And who can help remembering Reagan without recognizing the similarities he has with our current president?
An interesting piece on Palestinian tunnels. I'm sure the canned goods mentioned at the end of the article make up a significant percentage of tunnel traffic.

Friday, June 04, 2004

A good article by Mr. Krauthammer.

Plus, words of wisdom from Tony Blankley.
Hey Dude,
So why did you leave off the other 280 million American names? Regardless, I appreciate the company. As Bush likes to say, "I look forward to a spirited debate."

The world is a funny place: a president makes the decision to release about 50 million souls from tyranny and put them on the road to freedom and about half the American people think he's the most vile, stupid, evil, incompetent thing ever to move into the White House. And the lion's share of these same people say they champion human rights. Curious.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

People who could do a better job than Bush (in order of preference, kinda):

Joe Biden
Madeline Albright, if she were eligible
Bill Richardson
Mario Cuomo
John McCain
Richard Lugar
Bob Kerry
Colin Powell
Sam Nunn
Bill Bradley
John Kerry
Bill Graves
Evan Bayh
Lamar Alexander
Al Gore
Ralph Nader
John Edwards
Elizabeth Dole
Chuck Hagel
Charles Schumer

Every time Kerry blames Bush for failing to build alliances and squandering long time friendships with this war, I truly wonder if he knows why countries form alliances. If he thinks for a minute that they do it out of a simple sense of friendship and goodwill, then he has no business being in the White House. Also, when he talks about the new post cold war realities and that we need to prepare for it, I wonder what he thinks Bush has been doing for the past three and a half years. It seems to me that Bush understands that our cold war alliances and policies must change and has been working feverishly towards that end. As far as Bush’s diplomatic prowess, I thought this was an excellent take on the interim Iraqi government and the outsmarting of the UN.