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11/29/2003

The amusing BBC  

The BBC story on Hillary Clintons visit to Iraq......
Hot on the heels of George W Bush, former first lady Hillary Clinton flew into Iraq to meet US troops.
She said she wanted to thank US soldiers for their "extraordinary work" and to highlight humanitarian projects set up by the US.
No reaction to her visit....no commentary. The story consists of a few quote critical of the administration and calls for greater UN involvement.

But, when they mention the Bush visit, the BBC story suddenly discovers commentary .....
Iraqis are divided over the significance of the previous day's flying visit made by Mr Bush.

"We cannot consider Bush's arrival at Baghdad International Airport yesterday as a visit to Iraq," said Mahmoud Othman, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council.
"He did not meet with ordinary Iraqis. Bush was only trying to boost the morale of his troops."
...and that was it. The opinion was "divided", but (suprise!) they only talked to the division that disliked the visit. No mention of what the other side thought.

You know, I'm not a big fan of the bias on FoxNews, but at least I don't have to pay for it. The BBC, though......

Bush in Iraq; Critics in disarray.... 

Bush's Thanksgiving trips to Iraq has created an interesting conundrum for his critics. How do you criticize a President for doing something so....nice? And how do you criticize it without also criticizing Hillary Clintons Afghanistan/Iraq trip? (itself, a very nice thing)

Well, apparently, there's no shortage of things to dislike about a President speaking to the troops and serving them turkey. These guys must have really hated Mother Theresa) (no, I'm not comparing Bush to Mother Theresa...but if you find nice gestures so offensive, I'd imagine she's your anti-Christ)

Here's what passes for intellectual consistency among the critics:
Alternet, was against this Bush visit to the troops....
George Walker Bush, President of the United States of America, flew into Baghdad International Airport under cover of darkness, accompanied only by his usual retinue of mainstream press syncophants, to spend two hours mouthing platitudes and getting his picture taken in the company of 600 hand-picked military personnel.
Alternet, previously.....
It is almost certain, as well, that like all of the hundreds of U.S. troops killed in this war to date, these dead soldiers will be interred or memorialized without the solemn presence of the President of the United States.
...
"The President, the Pentagon and, to a lesser extent, the Congress has shown that they don't have any regard for the people who are fighting the war on their behalf."
If he doesn't show up, he doesn't care about them.....if he does, he's pandering. Must be a real timesaver, not having to change your argument when the facts change.

Stumbling out of the gates 

Well, Thanksgiving was a wonderful and fulfilling time, with the parents in town and more good meals than I could shake a stick at. (leftovers!) As a result, blogging has been limited. No offense, but screw you guys, I had better things to do.

Briefly, anyway.

Now, with nothing better to do, I'm back to blogging.

11/27/2003

Happy Thanksgiving.... 

Only one post today....a thought about why we give thanks:
"One of the traditions the Pilgrims had brought with them from England was a practice known as 'farming in common.' Everything they produced was put into a common pool, and the harvest was rationed among them according to need.

"They had thought 'that the taking away of property, and bringing in community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing,' Bradford recounts.

"They were wrong. 'For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much imployment that would have been to their benefite and comforte,' Bradford writes. Young, able-bodied men resented working for others without compensation. Incentives were lacking.

"After the Pilgrims had endured near-starvation for three winters, Bradford decided to experiment when it came time to plant in the spring of 1623. He set aside a plot of land for each family, that 'they should set corne every man for his owne particular, and in that regard trust to themselves.'

"The results were nothing short of miraculous. Bradford writes: 'This had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted than other ways would have been by any means the Govr or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave far better content.''

"...Given appropriate incentives, the Pilgrims produced and enjoyed a bountiful harvest in the fall of 1623 and set aside 'a day of thanksgiving' to thank God for their good fortune."
God may allow it to happen, but it was no divine miracle that led to the first Thanksgiving....it was personal responsibility, property rights and economic freedom.

Capitalism.

I'm thankful for that.

(link via Poorandstupid.com)

11/26/2003

Blog Rolling.... 

Tomorrow I'll probably be grateful for all of this......
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* Lileks is taking off the entire month of December from The Bleat. Something about "too much work" and "exploding brains".
That's terrible news! I demand a full refund!
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* Tom Maguire has too many interesting posts to mention at once, but allow me to highlight this piece on Krugman. Maguire went to a Krugman speech, and comes back with interesting details and observations.

He also makes an Asimov allusion, that Krugman himself has made.....although, I'm not entirely sure it was intentional. And I may be pulling this out of nowhere.....but, until Maguire blogrolls me, he doesn't get to complain!
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* David Adesnik becomes the first person to discuss politics and "sex on Jupiter". He gets bonus points for making a good point out of it.
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* MarginalRevolution explains why, despite the best intentions, our government programs have failed the black community miserably.
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* Shell, at AcrossTheAtlantic, wants to make a deal.....
If I promise to pay for all the prescription drugs that my parents need in their old age (which will be significant: Mom has fibromyalgia), can I opt out of paying for Medicare for all the other seniors in America?
That's an easy one, Shell. No.
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* Via Right-Thinking, this gaffe.....
Nevada memo to George Bush: When making a first presidential visit to a state, use the right pronounciation of its name.

Bush, in Las Vegas on Tuesday, repeatedly said Ne-vah-da. To properly pronounce Nevada, the middle syllable should rhyme with gamble.
Uh....apparently, I've been mispronouncing it my whole life, too. I had no idea.
Think they'll still let me come to Las Vegas?
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* Susie, on bras.....
If it's pretty and lacey it's about as supportive as the Emperor at an A.N.S.W.E.R. rally. If it supports, it looks like something they used to restrain the less lucid inmates at Bedlam, and is about as comfortable as Ted Rall at a Dittohead convention.
Clever. Political. Amusing. That fits my criteria.....it is now my own opinion, in case anybody should ask how I feel about support undergarments!
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* In response to this story, The Cracker Barrel Philosopher suggests we "stand by while they devour their own".
I'd suggest we should shake our heads and roll our eyes, too. Read it, and do so.
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* Single White Male asks a question....
Some kin of yours invites you over for Thanksgiving dinner and when you get there, much to your dismay you discover a totally vegan Thanksgiving! You don't want to give thanks for tofu and rice. What do you do? What do you do?
Simple.

I'd give thanks for our position on top of the food chain....a position which allows us to control our environment to such an extent that we can produce things like computers, medicine....and cars which we can drive to the damned store for a real turkey.

Amen.
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* Rocket Jones gives a brief description of nuclear submarines....with a helpful photograph, in case you're thinking of getting on one.
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* Ipse Dixit doesn't think much of the scandal du jour, writing....
"...the desperation evident in the Democrats' non-scandal of the week: Their complaint that the Bush ad that's had their knickers in a twist over all week digitally altered the President's SOTU speech (to clean up a verbal hitch from the original). The content didn't change one iota, just the manner of delivery.
This sort of thing is hardly worth mention, much less "scandal".

Audio producers routinely edit to improve the flow of a voiceover. It's done every day, and it has nothing to do with "honesty", and everything to do with the constraints of a 30 second spot that is supposed to "flow". If it had changed the content or context, there would be some valid complaint. There was not.

Finally, I'd point out that the change was likely done by the agency that produced the spot. It was a decision made by the copywriter and producer, and the sort of decision they make every day, without thinking twice. It's not a scandal, it's the way that business is done.

Goose/Gander politics..... 

For the sake of comparison:

The Senate Intelligence Committee, on documents the Bush administration wants to withhold....

Lieberman....
"The fact that the Bush administration is not cooperating with a commission investigating how September 11th happened is outrageous," Lieberman, a Democratic presidential candidate, said Sunday. "What are they hiding?"
Rockefeller....
Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that his committee has also had difficulty getting documents from the administration.

"We're going through some of the same problems - a lot of the documents that we've requested from the Department of Defense, from the White House and the National Security Agency, we do not yet have," he said on "Meet the Press."
Thomas Kean.....
"I will not stand for it. That means that we will use every tool at our command to get hold of every document. ... Anything that has to do with 9/11, we have to see it - anything."


Now, flash forward to today.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, on documents they want to withhold.....
Earlier this week, several Judiciary Committee Republicans, including Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Larry Craig (Idaho), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) objected to what they feared would become a open-ended fishing expedition into committee business.

"We strongly object to allowing anyone to read backup tapes or other electronic media from the Judiciary Committee server, the Exchange server or otherwise breach the privacy of our electronic files and communications," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Pickle dated Nov. 22.
Well, judging by their leaked memos, the Senate Intelligence Committee would certainly know all about "fishing trips".

I love this bit, too....."They also demanded that the inquiry be limited exclusively to an examination of the 14 Democratic memoranda that were leaked to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times.

Especially, coming on the heels of this...."The president said the inquiry should be limited to the House and Senate intelligence committees, whose proceedings are generally secret. Senate Democratic leaders want a broader investigation, involving some committees that would be free to air their findings.

For me, but not for thee?

Senate calls the plumber..... 

Recent leaks of Democratic memos have revealed some despicable behind-the-scenes politicking. (special interest collusion and racism; politicization of intelligence data for partisan advantage)

There is no excuse for them. But, there is also no excuse for this.....
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced last night that a committee aide has been suspended after an internal investigation determined that the aide had accessed sensitive Democratic computer files that were leaked to the press.
Four things should happen immediately:

1: He should be fired.
2: If the action was illegal, instead of simply unethical, he should be prosecuted.
3: Republicans should create safeguards, so this doesn't happen again.
4: Democrats should do the same.

Fortunately, it seems that they are doing the right thing. The latter two steps may be accomplished, too, according to the story....
Meanwhile, the sergeant-at-arms also informed Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that members of his office will work with the Judiciary staff to create separate computer systems for Republicans and Democrats on the committee, as the Democrats have requested.

Until now, majority and minority committee staff has shared a computer system.
Well, that was just a monumentally bad idea, comparable to leaving your diary out in the living room. Your kid brother wouldn't be right to read it....but you shouldn't be suprised, when he does.

The despicable content of the memos does not excuse the unethical behaviour....nor does the unethical behaviour excuse the despicable content of the memos.

UPDATE: John Cole comments:
"Sure you caught us trying to politicize the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee. We were going to bully the Chair, obfuscate evidence we found to our distaste, distort and leak out of context intelligence to the press, and then wait until the election cycle to launch our own partisan investigation for maximum political gain, BUT YOU WERE NOT SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT. Those were private memos."

Can you ever imagine yourself, while standing in a court of law, saying "Sure I e-mailed my mistress about my plans to kill my wife- but you weren't supposed to read it"
Uh. No, I can't.

Presidential candidates and the draft..... 

A recent story on Howard Deans draft deferment has brought criticism, both of Howard Dean and of the story.

Did Howard Dean "dodge the draft"? Of course not....he took advantage of existing military medical rules. There's nothing dishonorable in that, any more than it was dishonorable for Bush to join the National Guard, rather than the Air Force. Critics of both men have set up an artificial standard of duty, and I'm having trouble understanding how we arrived at this standard.

Regardless of the "rightness of the war", the draft was involuntary servitude. Those who served deserve respect, absolutely.....but was it dishonorable to not seek that slavery? Is it dishonorable to seek a legitimate, and legal, alternative? I can't see why it would be.

As somebody who doesn't particularly think ill of Bush OR Dean for their service record, I have to ask.....when did volunteering for the military become so mandatory? Howard Dean is excoriated because he took an "out" to which the military agreed. Bush is excoriated because he joined the military...but he didn't join it enough, I guess.

Joining the military is a noble thing to do. Not joining is hardly ignoble.

There are two Letters to the Editor in the New York Times today, which put this in perspective.

First, the utilitarian defense....
As one who contemplated the Vietnam draft two years after Howard Dean did in 1970 (front page, Nov. 22), I have never been critical of anything that anyone did to avoid being sucked into that useless meatgrinder of a war, whether I agree with their politics today or not.

By 1970, it was clear that we would never "win" the war, and that one's own death in battle would not in any way help the national defense. The idea of dying for President Richard M. Nixon's plan to achieve "peace with honor" seemed especially pointless.
And second, the reality defense.....
Having written historical studies of the draft, I can recall receiving telephone inquires from journalists in other political campaigns.

The inquiries concerned the perfectly legitimate deferment of Bill Clinton, the perfectly legitimate alternative service by George W. Bush, and the perfectly legitimate noncombat assignment of Al Gore.

These inquiries were all perfectly legitimate in the interest of a story or a biography of a candidate.

But I always had the feeling that the journalists would have been delighted with the news that one of these political aspirants was a draft dodger, defined as someone who used an illegitimate means of avoiding service.

The journalists were disappointed. More to the point, I don't think one's draft status has any political legs today.
I suspect he is right about the latter. The voters don't seem to care that much about a candidates military record any longer. (Quick! Somebody tell John Kerry-who-was-in-Vietnam!)

Republicans tried to use it against Clinton in the 90s, to little success. Democrats have tried to use it against Bush, to little success. Republicans and Democrats may try to use it against Dean. I doubt they would have any more success this go-round.

11/25/2003

Touchy today? 

After a particularly tiresome rant by Barney Frank, Dale Franks has just about had enough of the whining.....
"...the Republicans are just being terribly, terribly unfair. Why, they are using their majority to pass legislation, even when the Democrats disagree! Majorities passing laws? It's practically the end of consensual government!
...
Of course, when the minority party prevents even a floor vote on judicial nominees, that's a valid exercise of parliamentary democracy. So, I guess, democracy is only threatened when the elected majority passes laws, but not when a vocal minority uses parliamentary tricks to subvert the nominations process.

Cry me a river, Barney. You're part of the minority party. You don't like it? Win some elections. Until then, suck it up, legislation-boy."
A Republican President passing Conservative legislation makes Democrats very unhappy. But Bush, for all intents and purposes, is a Democrat when it comes to social spending.
.....and yet, he's still got that (R) beside his name.

This just drives the Democrats insane.

And the conservatives aren't too happy, either.

There they go again.... 

Europe shelves a report on anti-semitism, because of....well, anti-semitism.
A German sociologist who led an unprecedented, comprehensive research study on the causes of anti-Semitism in Europe, has charged that an "overly-politically correct" European Union, which commissioned the research, "buried" the report for fear that it could spark civil war.

The report on anti-Semitism in Europe was shelved by the EU's racism watchdog after it found that Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the incidents, the London-based Financial Times reported last week.
You see, you can't mention the problem, or everybody will notice how anti-Semitic some people are.

I guess the Euros don't go in for that whole "solution" thing.

Well, sorta. They went in for another "Solution" the last time they had a big anti-Semitism problem. And, hey, they ignored it then, too.

The Emperor, a former Euro, comments. It should come as no suprise that he isn't kind......
What makes this whole mess even MORE despicable is the fact that the EUnuch Commissars always preen themselves with how "superior" they are in dealing with racism, and yet, when they don't like the answer, they'd rather let the synagogue burnings go on than do a damn thing.

It's one thing that they don't have the testicular fortitude to deal with trouble OUTSIDE of their cozy little statist utopia, but to ignore the rise of a repeat on that bloody stain on their honor that was the Holocaust, IN THEIR OWN MIDST, makes me want to puke with disgust.

I realize once more that the Grand EUrinal never was, nor will it ever be called my "home". I was just unfortunate enough to be born there. You disgust me, and I am ashamed to have ever been one of you.
It's not all bad there. Many of the former Soviet nations have stood with us in Iraq. Poland and Italy have lost soldiers, but they have not run.
The UN, on the other hand, has turned tail at every opportunity.

Now, what was that proposal I heard about sending UN troops to Israel to "protect the Palestinians"?

Riiiight.

This probably cuts down on grocery bills.... 

Freaky....
Doctors and experts are baffled by an Indian hermit who claims not to have eaten or drunk anything for several decades - but is still in perfect health.
The obvious explanation is "he's lying".

But, even if he is lying, this part is still very curious.....
Prahlad Jani, a holy man, or fakir, who is over 70 years old, has just spent 10 days under constant observation in Sterling Hospital, in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.

During that time, he did not consume anything and "neither did he pass urine or stool", according to the hospital's deputy superintendent, Dr Dinesh Desai.

Yet he is in fine mental and physical fettle, say doctors.

Most people can live without food for several weeks, with the body drawing on its fat and protein stores. But the average human can survive for only three to four days without water.
Give it a few weeks. If he's still doing fine, then we'll talk about miracles.

Maybe they found him in one of Saddams jails.... 

Godless commies not so godless anymore....
In the new Iraq, even the Communist Party has adopted the politics of religion.

Karl Marx may have denounced it as the opiate of the masses, but Iraqi communists are promoting religion as a central part of the national fabric.

"We are a country where the absolute majority are Muslims and we cannot ignore the fact that Islam could be in many ways important for us," said Minister of Culture Mofeed al-Jazaeri.

Jazaeri, a member of the Communist Party's politburo, says the priority for Iraq today is not the secular separation of religion and state, but promoting a culture of democracy that accommodates Iraq's delicate ethnic and religious mix.
Marvelous. They're not "godless", anymore.
Unfortunately, they're still commies.

I loved this line, in particular....
"We are trying to create a new democratic Iraq," he told Reuters in an interview.
Uh....democracy? You sure that's the word you wanted? I don't recall that "democracy" thing being a strong suit for you communists.

Fiscal responsibility: Going, going, gone..... 

The Opinion Journal (correctly) observes that Republicans are no longer the Party of fiscal responsibility....

In response, John Cole says....
"...nothing in my experience, and in particular the rhetoric of the Democrats during the Drug Benefit debate, even gives me the slightest impression Democrats would be any better."
Your distrust is well placed, Cole.

According to the (non-partisan) National Taxpayers Union, when computing the net annual agenda of each lawmaker.......
House Democrats called for an average of $417.6 billion in new spending, nearly 13 times more than House Republicans ($32.3 billion). Annualized over 10 years this level of increases ($4.2 trillion) is over twice the size of the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 combined ($1.7 trillion).
Republicans might be busting the budget....but the Democrats wanted far more.

As NTUF Senior Policy Analyst and study author Demian Brady said, "The results of sponsorship records during the 107th Congress show that there is indeed a difference between Republicans and Democrats: one party proposes bigger government, while the other party proposes much bigger government."

Anti-spam libertarians..... 

As a libertarian, I've long been conflicted about the role of government in the regulation of spam.

No more, though. Ipse Dixit has an insight that clears up my misgivings.....
Spam is not free speech - no speech that requires the target of the speech, rather than the speaker, to pay for the means of transmission can be legitimately called "free."
That's why I love the blogosphere. Every day, I read something that makes me say "huh. I hadn't thought of that."

He goes on to say there is no workable legislative solution, so we're forced to pursue technological means. I'm not so sure.

I've already suggested a better solution to the Telemarketing problem than a national "Do Not Call" list. Simply adapt that to email. Thus: Non-solicited advertisements must be sent from "active" email addresses, or must include a phone number, so that the recipient may correspond with the advertiser to confirm the validity of the advertisement.
It's perfectly in line with the Government role in preventing fraud and regulating commerce.

As it stands now, spam recipients are largely neutered. We can deal with it, or delete it. Not many other options, and very little way to complain. In fact, most spam offers neither a workable return address, nor a phone number at which we can make a complaint.

Change that, and there will suddenly be a cost involved with this venture....consumer outrage will have an avenue of expression. The cost/benefit ratio will change dramatically for spammers.

It's a (generally) market solution to the sort of problem that new technology is imposing on us. And it wouldn't require a large government bureaucracy. Seems more workable than a "do not spam" list.

On the Medicare bill...... 

Recently, Matthew Yglesias wrote......
I don't like the genre of posts where people condemn others for not blogging about a certain subject -- everyone should feel free to write about what interests him. In particular, I greatly sympathize with people who are disinclined to write about Medicare, since it's an incredibly boring issue. On the other hand, it's also a very important one, and so it's unfortunate that, as it happens, none of the leading lights of the blogosphere right care to lend us their thoughts on it.
Well, he's right. Medicare IS boring.....and, while I'm no "leading light", I've ignored it along with too many of the right/libertarian blogosphere.

I think there are a couple reasons for that, above the "incredibly boring" reason cited by Matthew.

1: The Medicare bill is largely antithetical to conservative/libertarian beliefs in the first place. The differences between the Republican and Democrat positions are the bill are minute, compared to the differences between the C/L position and their positions. To many of us, arguing over the merits of the Republican/Democrat versions amounts to arguing over the merits of stale bread and old meat.

Both have their features, but neither is particularly palatable.

2: Complexity: Yesterday, as I was listening to an NPR discussion of the Medicare bills features and problems, I realized how hopelessly complicated it was. Much like private health insurance, it's unlikely you'll ever understand it unless you actually need it.....and it's unlikely you'll actually understand it, then, either.

Is that any way to run the government? So impossibly complex that you need a phalanx of lawyers to make head or tails of it?

Adam Smith suggested four maxims for fair taxation, including these two.....
'The subjects of every State ought to contribute towards the support of the government as nearly as possible in proportion to their respective abilities—that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the State.'

'The tax which each individual is bound to pay ought to be certain and not arbitrary. The form of payment, the manner of payment, the quantity to be paid ought all to be clear and plain to the contributor and to every other person.'
It strikes me that these would also be a good rule for government benefits. (if such must exist)

Fairness does not simply mean equal access....it also means simplicity of access. Benefits should be "clear and plain". That means no means-testing....and it means no low-income cutoffs.

This Medicare bill fails miserably on those counts.

Zoom Zoom..... 

Remember that amazing 7.2% GDP growth we saw last quarter? Highest growth in 19 years.
Well, forget it. It's been revised.

New figure: 8.2%

Here are a few website that don't mention current economic performance......

* The Democratic National Committee News Headlines.

* The Official Democratic Party Blog

* Dick Gephardt's website "A Miserable Failure", which purports to keep track of Bush's economic record. In fact, the homepage shows no updated press releases since September. (I'm shocked!).

* The Howard Dean Blog.

* The Howard Dean "News Coverage" section of his website.

* Atrios.

Frankly, no coverage is expected.

The Dean Recession.... 

Econopundit runs the Howard Dean Plan through an economic model, to find out what effect his tax policies would have had on the economy.....

If Deans plan had been in place, we'd have seen....

* A milder recession, but a "dramatically slower recovery".

* An "unemployment rate runs about a tenth of a percent less through 2003, but about a half percent higher for the rest of the forecast period".

* "real GDP would have been substantially reduced"

* The "deficit, though effectively cut in half, would still be substantial and growing".

* "even a rescinding of the tax cut is insufficient to restore the lost surplus of the 1990's boom"

* "a tax-induced $300B reduction of the deficit "costs" an average annual real income loss of about $125B during the forecast period -- roughly the equivalent of 2 million lost jobs, over and above all the losses recorded in manufacturing."

A further point, though.....Howard Dean would have eliminated the tax cut, but that doesn't mean he'd be anything resembling fiscally responsible. In fact, per his plan, the expenditures would grow at an enormous rate.

See this post for detail on the medical/fiscal train wreck.

And remember Econopundits model. They confirm what Alan Greenspan said recently......
"Tax rate increases of sufficient dimension to deal with our looming fiscal problems arguably pose significant risks to economic growth and the revenue base" and that "such risks . . . warrant aiming to close the fiscal gap primarily, if not wholly, from outlay restraint."
Unfortunately, as fiscally bad as Howard Dean would be......President Bush is proving no better.

11/24/2003

Campaigning practices.... 

Am I missing something, or is it still a violation to have political campaigns inside churches?
And if so, then why is Howard Dean doing so....and putting the pictures on his blog?

If anybody knows more about that law, I'd appreciate details.

Blog Rolling 

Better read than dead.....
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* Don't turn around, uh oh oh, Der Commissar's in town. Or, he's on the blogroll, anyway. And he has good advice on building traffic.
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* In every dark cloud, there's.....well, a little schadenfreude. Dale Franks revels in it.
Still, it's funny to note that the president, a Republican, will beat on the Democrats like egg-sucking dogs for their opposition to a Medicare prescription drugs benefit.

So, Dems, how do you like Mediscare tactics now?

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* BlackFive has "exclusive Paris Hilton" photos! Really.
Uh...but when you get there, don't blame me. I'm just the messenger.
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* Free Speech notes Andrew Sullivans criticisms of both parties and suggests a new party...."pragmatic Libertarians".

I've thought the same thing for some time. We need a Libertarian party that works toward a limited government. Right now, the LP refuses the play the game at all. That's a recipe for failure, and exactly why I can't join that party. I consider myself a Hobbesian libertarian.
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* The Carnival of the Capitalists is up at Truck and Barter. Next week, all CotC employees will be fired and the Carnival will be farmed out to India. Stock will triple!
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* Matthew Yglesias has fascinating comments on the JFK legacy and the LBJ dichotemy. I disagree with him often enough, but Yglesias is a smart, thoughtful fellow, and makes interesting arguments. I wouldn't want to be on the other side of a debate with him.

That, alone, is a good reason to read him.
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* Bill Herbert has terse words for double-standard bearers.
Let's see if I have this straight: Howard Dean can run a campaign ad attacking Dick Gephardt for supporting the latter's support for the Iraq war, and that's daijobu.

But Bush cannot run an ad responding to criticism over his decision to overthrow Saddam, because that would be questioning the patriotism of his critics.
I think very little of Bush's ad. But I'm not buying the Democrats martyr act......not when they're making allegations which are every bit as slanderous.
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* Bill Hobbs has interesting links on the situation in Afghanistan. Did you know that 83% of Afghans interviewed felt safer now, than under the Taliban?

It's a quagmire. They just haven't been told, yet.
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* And finally, Frank J on Bush's negotiating style.....
Bush soon found his wife who was washing dishes in the kitchen. "Quick, Laura," Bush yelled, "I'm negotiating the Medicaid bill and I need my shotgun."

SOA protesters: "We can dish it, but we can't take it!" 

This story (from my hometown of Columbus, Ga) is just too amusing for words.....
COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) - Demonstrators gathered outside Fort Benning to protest a military school were hit with a sonic barrage Saturday: patriotic music Army officials had blaring from the main gate.
A crowd estimated by Columbus police at 8,000 gathered to protest the school once known as the School of the Americas, which they blame for Latin American human rights abuses. It appeared to be the largest first-day gathering in the 14-year history of the protest.

The Army's loudspeakers, playing "The Army Song" and "God Bless the U.S.A.," were 50 yards away from where protesters were speaking to the crowd.

Leaders of School of Americas Watch, which has protested at Fort Benning every year since the early 1990s, said they planned to sue over the noise tactic and accused the Army of a "psychological operation."

"There's a lot of ill will being caused that's not necessary," said the Rev. Ray Bourgeois, SOA Watch founder. "The closer we get to closing that school down, the meaner they get."

"We figure if they can play their music, we can play ours," post spokesman Rich McDowell said. The Army said the music came from a tape made by the wife of a Fort Benning soldier currently serving in Iraq.
I guess, like Tom Daschle, these protestors believe that "criticizing those who criticize is McCarthyesque."

Personal anecdote: I've spent most of my life in Columbus, and had plenty of interaction with Benning soldiers. (You can't live in Columbus and not) They didn't think much of SOA students. Their military education was fairly rudimentary....nothing like the criticisms levied against SOA.
The SOA protestors are many of the same people that participate in protests around the country. The Columbus Police learned that they had chartered a large number of buses to bring protestors up from the recent Miami/WTO protests, to beef up their numbers. If the protests are large now, it has a lot more to do with their organizational abilities than with actual popular resistance to SOA.

Related anecdote: My brother-in-law, a policeman in Columbus and one of the police who did riot-duty at the protests, related a planned event that would have matched the above story for rich amusement.

The plan was for a large group of bikers to hold a protest directly across the street from the SOA protestors. At the moment the SOA protestors planned to be silent, with some marching across the Benning border to be arrested.......the Bikers had planned to hold a "Loudest Harley" contest.

Unfortunately, the event was scrapped, due to security considerations. I would have enjoyed that.

(link via both Cold Fury and Right-Thinking, both of whom have additional comments)

The Iraq/Al Qaeda memo makes the New York Times.  

The New York Times Editorialist staff is an interesting mix of the sublime and the ridiculous.

Dowd and Krugman, on one hand, seem unable to break out of their own stereotype. William Safire and Thomas Friedman, on the other, are generally above grandstanding. If all of them were to write editorials about the Bush administration, one suspects they would end up with....
* Safire: The Right Administration for a Difficult Time.
* Friedman: A Tale of Daring Choices and Missteps.
* Krugman: TYRANNY! LIES! DOOM!
* Dowd: Sneer Eye for that Bush Guy.
With that in mind, it's nice to see that the New York Times has deigned to cover the Weekly Standard story about Iraq/Al Qaeda connections. Unfortunately, it seems the editorialists have to take the ball because the reporters have already moved on. The last......well, the only report on the memo was November 20th.....4 days ago.

William Safire has now written two columns detailing the memo, compared to only one actual report of the memo. Sad, isn't it, that the editorial page has to carry the reporting water for the New York Times?

In today's editorial, Safire manages to point out that it is a story, without grandstanding on the potential import of the story.......
"Intrepid journalists will ultimately bring the full story of the Saddam-bin Laden connection to light. In the meantime, the F.B.I. should stop treating 9/11 as a cold case."
Is there any doubt that, were the memo dismissive of a connection, Paul Krugman would be trumpeting this story in every editorial as proof of administration lies? Of course not.

It's nice to see Safire take a measured, cautious approach to the story. It would be even nicer if the New York Times followed the story in the first place.

Reviewing history..... 

In light of the Pulitzer Committee's decision not to rescind Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize, let's review New York Times comments on various Holocaust deniers......

Regarding famous Holocaust denier David Irving, New York Times writer Frank Rich wrote that publishing Irving's book "Geobbels" was "...the willing execution of the truth" and that Irving was "Hitlers Spin Artist".

Contrast that to the New York Times portrayal of Walter Duranty......
"All of us at The Times are fully aware of the many defects in Walter Duranty's journalism, as we have and will continue to acknowledge. We regret his lapses, and we join the Pulitzer board in extending sympathy to those who suffered as a result of the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine."
While Irving is (appropriately) described as "Hitlers Spin Artist" in the New York Times......Duranty is simply labeled "slovenly".

Does the New York Times have a lower exchange rate for human rights atrocities against Ukranians?

That's a lot of RPGs... 

Interesting factoid from Iraq.....
THE WEIGHT OF WEAPONRY STORED IN IRAQ IS ESTIMATED BETWEEN 600,000 AND 1 MILLION TONS COMPARED WITH 1.8 MILLIONS TONS OF THE ENTIRE WEIGHT OF WEAPONRY OF THE U.S. ARMED FORCES. THE COALITION FORCES MUST DESTROY THEM BEFORE THEY FALL IN THE WRONG HANDS BUT IT IS GOING TO TAKE A LONG TIME. (AL-HAYAT, LONDON, NOV. 19 2003)
You know, weaponry isn't free. Gotta pay money for that stuff.
So, when the Associated Press claimed......
Since 1990, when Iraq was one of the most prosperous Arab nations because of huge oil reserves, living standards have plummeted, and average monthly salaries dropped from the equivalent of $500 to $10.
...bear in mind, that living standard dropped because Saddam chose firepower over food.

Regarding Saddams money, the website antiwar.com claims "No doubt some of this goes for weapons purchases."
To say the least, guys. And you spent years making excuses for him.

11/23/2003

Silliest meme of the week.... 

I've gotten this "Tommy Franks said they were going to suspend the Constitution!" thing in my inbox a couple times already. Seems it's making the rounds.

So, let's dispense with this nonsense.

An (suprise!) Atrios commenter wrapped up the meme pretty well....
The most interesting part is where Franks speculates that if a WMD attack occurred on American soil - or possibly elsewhere - the Bush administration would jettison the constitution altogether in favor of a"military form of government."
Well, uh, no he didn't.

First, though, let me point out that, in the event of a catostrophic event like a nuclear attack, I wouldn't be suprised at martial law. We suspended aspects of the Constitution during the Civil War, and the Presidents "War Powers" are very, very extensive. They were excercised in WW2, as well, to an extent. So, it's not much of a stretch to say that the Constitution would be suspended in the event of a nuclear attack. By any administration, Republican or Democrat.

So much for the idea that what Franks allegedly said was schocking.

But General Franks didn't actually say that.
Discussing the hypothetical dangers posed to the U.S. in the wake of Sept. 11, Franks said that "the worst thing that could happen" is if terrorists acquire and then use a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon that inflicts heavy casualties.

If that happens, Franks said, "... the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we've seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy."
So, for starters, he didn't limit it to the United States....he pointed out that it would happen in "the Western world, the free world". But that's not all.....
"It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world - it may be in the United States of America - that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps, very, very important."
Tommy Franks specifically said it would be the population which would cause the changes.

So, in other words, when the Daily Kos writes that this is a "stunning revelation" and "if another terrorism attack occurs Bush will likely declare martial law and the Constitution will apparently be 'discarded'".......he's making it up.

He must be, because Tommy Franks didn't say it.

Sorry 

Blogging has been light this weekend, because my power has been out. Seriously....we didn't lose power during Hurricane Isabel, but two pleasant days in a row have caused blackouts. I don't get it.

Yesterday, it went out from about 2pm-6:30pm. Today, 9:30am-5pm. So, this weekend, my son and I have spent time outside, getting to know the neighbors....and thank god for nice ones, at a time like this.

At any rate, tonight, just before the power came back on, Alex and I walked down to the lake. A good 20 minute walk, if you stay on the walking trail. Beautiful night and Alex hadn't had a nap today, so he was pleasantly low-key. We walked to the dock, where he sat on my lap for awhile. "See that, Alex? That's a star. Uh....or an airplane. I don't think stars move that fast." He didn't care.....he was fascinated by the night sky.

"And that's Venus. Or Mars. Or the North Star. Or something. You know, I really wish I'd paid more attention to astronomy." By that point, he'd already moved on...."baaah, baah!" (translation: "quack") "No, Alex, the ducks are sleeping for the night. I don't know where they are. Ok, I suppose they're over there, if you like. Certainly looks like a place ducks would sleep."

That's why kids grow up thinking Daddy knows everything. As long as we can get away with it, we just make it up. They don't know any better. We only send em to school to unlearn all the nonsense Dad has been giving them.
"Daddy, Daddy...teacher said nobody knows everything!"

Nah, that's all lies, kid. Daddy knows everything. Stick with me, and you'll be fine.

So, it's all the way dark and we start to head home. He walks for a bit, but we come to the trees, where everything is dark....and he wants to be picked up. He comes around in front of me with his arms up. The universal toddler symbol for "pick me up, Daddy". Happy to. C'mon up. Here we go, into the darkness. Don't worry, you're with Daddy....you'll be fine.

And he was fine, but my back wasn't. After awhile, that kid gets heavy. When we get out of the woods and halfway home, I put him back down. "Alex, Daddy's back hurts. Can you walk for a while? Good boy."

Off we go. For 30 feet. Back still hurts.

But he's tired, and maybe a little scared of the dark.....arms go up. "No problem, buddy. Up ya go." And on the way home, I remind him that Daddy will never be too tired to pick him up when he needs me. He just puts his head down on my shoulder.

He won't remember any of this. He's too young.
I do, though. Every day. Every time I have to be away from him, I will think of nights like this. I may carry him for 20 minutes, but he carries me for hours.

11/22/2003

CIA, KGB, JFK.....WTF! 

If it weren't documented, I'd think this was even more far-fetched than the conspiracy theory it is debunking. You know the one about how the CIA was behind the assassination of JFK? Well, as it turns out......
How is it that Americans have come to embrace a conspiracy theory that reads like a script written by the KGB, the CIA's mortal Cold War adversary? Well, it turns out that Moscow's relentless propagation of that virulent theory and its prevalence here are no mere coincidence. One of the more amazing stories to seep out of the former Soviet empire is the role Moscow played in exploiting Americans' psychological vulnerability after the assassination, and in preying on their devotion to due process. We can piece together this concerted effort only now with the release of documents from Soviet archives -- some disclosures authorized, some not. Taken together, they prove that the KGB played a central, pernicious role in fomenting the belief that the CIA was involved in Kennedy's assassination.
The WaPo story seems to have the goods.

The Cold War was much more than just "Mutual Assured Destruction". Psychology, espionage and propoganda were more effective than we ever knew. Possibly more than we will ever know.

Amazing.

Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'. 

Robert Prather enters the Salam Pax debate that started with the Lileks bleat. Both sides make good points, but I think I'm with Prather, who writes....
"If he knows so much, why isn't he a member of the Iraqi security force our military is furiously training so they don't have to spend the next decade in that shithole?
.....
Salam, it's very simple: without our military and our President, whom you mock, there's a high probability that your little ingrate ass would be getting stuffed into an industrial-grade plastic shredder at this very moment. As I said earlier, gratitude isn't necessary because we did it for ourselves, but a little silence on your end would be nice. Better yet, help rebuild your country."
And that's the point. If Salam wants things to improve, he'd be better of encouraging his own countrymen to take responsibility for their own well-being. I understand very well why he did not, probably could not, resist Saddam. It's not honorable, but it's understandable.

But Saddam is gone now. Stand up. Walk.

But quit complaining that the country carrying you out of the minefield isn't moving fast enough.

Blog Rolling...... 

Weekend warriors....
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* Jennifer has disovered a trend.....hit counts are being boosted by people searching for the Paris Hilton sex tape. And she doesn't get it....
Seriously, is it that exciting to see some rich girl getting boffed? I'm all for porn, but why would there be so many thousands of people looking for this girl's sex tape?
Well, for starters, Jen, you're a girl. That probably takes a bit of the bloom off the rose for you.

That kind of traffic is like taking a caffeine pill to feel better. Sure, you get quite a surge, for a bit, but it goes away, and doesn't come back.
And the return to normalcy feels like a bit of a letdown.
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* Organ donation for profit? Tyler Cowen has interesting comments, and a possible winner of an issue for the Dems to run on in 04.
Imagine the political rhetoric, "no more cheap kidneys from abroad!". etc., Gephardt could mention this to kidney-selling states in the debates and get all the heads nodding.
I'm really suprised the concept of selling organs has never been widely practiced. I suppose there's a natural human distaste for something so crass....but it is a practical solution. We sell plasma, why not more?
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* Marcland links to the History of Michael Jacksons face.

Creepy. The guys face changes more often than Argentina changes Presidents.
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* Spam Rage?

Oh, like we couldn't have seen that coming.
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* David Bernstein responds to the silly claim that "You will never change the hearts and minds of terrorists by bombing them."
That's OK, I'll settle for their death. I don't think we changed the hearts and minds of too many Nazis during World War II, either.
You just can't negotiate with people who want you dead more than anything else.
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* Ipse Dixit is 3 years old. 3! That's, like, old in blog-years.
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* WizbangBlog has a roundup of commentary on the recent "Howard Dean/Vietnam Scandal".
At least, people are wanting it to be a scandal. I don't buy that any more than I buy the "Bush was AWOL" stuff. In both cases, they were kids who simply took advantage of the then-current standards in the military. Nothing wrong with that. It's not glorious service, but it's not wrong, either.
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* Crooow Blog is full of interesting links today. Even more than usual, I mean.
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* Fox puritanical? That's hardly the way I'd describe them, but Lee at Right-Thinking seems to think so. Apparently, they draw the line at "hot guy-on-guy action".
If that's puritanical, then color me a puritan. I can live without it. Women may disagree, of course.
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* Not to beat a dead horse, but if you'd like to link to QandO, feel free to do so.
If you blogroll me, and let me know, I'll be happy to reciprocate.

11/21/2003

I guess we owe the protestors a bit of gratitude, after all.... 

One more item from the Hans Blix interview.........
So maybe there was a wish on the Iraqi leaderships' side to create an impression that they were still dangerous, that there still was something. Now, that doesn't explain things up to the end, because surely they didn't want to remain interesting to the moment of their own destruction. So at the end, I think there must have been some poor calculation of the risk of the brinkmanship, that maybe they said, 'well, people are marching in the millions around the world on 3rd Ave. and 2nd Ave. and in London and Washington, and the French and the Germans and the Russians are against war, and they will not pull it off.'
Is it just me, or is Hans Blix implying that the anti-war marches may have actually prevented a peaceful resolution to the problem in Iraq?

Wow.

So the support of the anti-war marchers....the aid and comfort they gave the enemy...allowed Saddam Hussein to lead his country to war?
There's a term for people like that......."enablers".

War-enablers.

Ironic, isn't it?

UPDATE: I see I've gotten a Misha-lanche, which means lots of new visitors. Thanks for reading....feel free to look around. Bookmark QandO, blogroll it, come again.

Hans Blix, on the war 

I've never bought the meme that Hans Blix was biased against the US. He seemed to have a poor understanding of his duty after Resolution 1441, (it was to determine if Iraq was cooperating, fully and immediately....not to inspect the entire country) but I believed him to be a fair, impartial and objective inspector.

With that in mind, there was an absolutely fascinating interview with Hans Blix a couple months ago. Excerpts of particular interest....
Q: What do you believe about these unaccounted items now?

A: ...I'm inclined to think that they were destroyed in 1991 probably, as they said. This is also what (Hussein) Kamal (head of Iraq's secret bio-weapons program) said when he defected. So, it could still be a lie, but I'm inclined to that conclusion. And that is why I'm asking the question now, 'If they did destroy in '91, if they didn't have anything of significance after '91, why did they conduct themselves in a manner that gave rise to consistent suspicions?'
That's a pretty good question, and one that was never really addressed by the anti-war crowd, who preferred to believe the burden of proof was on the US. (which it wasn't, as a cursory reading of the UN resolutions will show) Blix also asks good questions about US intelligence, and they deserve answers, too.
Q: When you consider the four examples you gave of things that turned out to be unfounded, what conclusions do you draw? Was it part of an American and British plan?

A: Well, it's a little like witch hunting. If you believe there are witches, and you look hard, you will probably find them; they did so in the Middle Ages. They wanted to come to that conclusion. And people have said that, we looked a lot at his (Saddam's) record. He's a man who really wanted them and he made use of them in the past, and he probably still has ambitions, so the suspicion was justified - I think so too.

However, I think that what stands accused today is the culture of spin and the culture of hype. Now, we are used to advertising, exaggerating and hyping things, and we don't take it so seriously. We know that you guys (journalists) want to make sensations of everything, so you are likely to exaggerate a bit and pick out the juicy pieces. And we also know that governments have to simplify to explain to the public that we want to pursue this policy for the following reasons, and it cannot be too complicated. But at the same time we expect governments to be very respectable and to be dependable and I think here is where they went too far. They over-interpreted what they saw. They wanted to come to a conclusion, and they served (up) things that in some cases certainly turned out to be wrong... In Iraq's case, exclamation marks were placed where question marks should have been used...

I'm not accusing Bush or Blair for telling lies deliberately; I don't think so. I think what they said, they said in good faith.
Unlike the inspectors, the President and Prime Minister are in the position of having to make decisions. To his credit, Hans Blix recognized this.......
Inspectors in a way we were in an easier situation; we didn't have to declare war, we didn't have to take decisions, we were to present an accurate picture for the Security Council.
Regarding the difficult position Iraq put the world in, Hans Blix said.....
Our suspicion was of course that if they say that we destroyed it all unilaterally - sorry you weren't there but we destroyed it all - did they squirrel away some of it; that was the suspicion. And our suspicion was particularly strong on anthrax...There are strong indications that they retained some (anthrax)...
Regarding his relationship with the US, Blix said....
My relations with Colin Powell and (National Security Adviser) Condi Rice and with (U.N.) Ambassador (John) Negroponte were absolutely civil all the way through and I never felt there was any inappropriate pressure... But the media yes; The rightwing hawkish media, they were voracious.
He's right, too. Some members of the media seemed to percieve Blix as a man with an axe to grind. In my opinion, they were wrong to do so. (which is not to say he was above criticism...he just wasn't "Saddams Man in the UN".)

There's much much more to the article, both critical of the US and critical of Iraq. It's a very worthwhile read.

Thought on Al Qaeda 

We're all saddened by recent attacks in the Arab world against the Italians, British, the UN and others. Some claim the attacks are due to their affiliation with the United States in the war on Iraq......

Uh....except, I guess, for the attacks against the UN.
And Turkey.
And Saudi Arabia.
And the attacks against the Iraqi people.

But, except for those, it's just blowback for helping the US fight the Iraq war, right?

Andrew Sullivan asks if it is "spectacularly dumb from a strategic point of view?"

Perhaps, but it's not really very different from their strategy prior to Iraq. As Donald Sensing wrote "I see no evidence that bin Laden has ever had any plan except violence itself, committing it where he could, when he could. "

Prior to Iraq, they simply tried to commit violence against their enemies....and now they have the same strategy. But something is different, isn't it?
Now, they can only commit that violence in their own backyard....the Middle East.

That is exactly why we had to take the war to them, to make Al Qaeda fight in their own neighborhood. Eventually, their neighbors are going to get tired of them.

I'm gonna regret posting this..... 

Bill Hobbs went there......
The bad guys in Baghdad are launching rockets from carts pulled by donkeys. Now it can be said: It's time for the American military to kick some ass.

Atrios: "Islam flawless!" 

Atrios is upset at a recent BC comic strip, calling it "his not very subtle attack on Islam."

A little background....the comic strip is so subtle, I had to read the comments at Atrios to understand what it had to do with Islam. You see, BC walks into an outhouse that has a crescent moon on the door. Once inside, he asks "Is it just me, or does it stink in here?"

The crescent moon is apparently a symbol of Islam. The author, as I understand it, is trying to say that something is foul within Islam.

But Atrios disagrees. No, apparently in Atrios world, pointing out that there is a problem within Islam is just out of bounds.

Except, of course, when Atrios points out that there's a problem within Islam......
I'm happy to say...that "Islamists" are a problem, as long as we're all on the same page as to what that means - Islamic Fundamentalist Theocrats.
Is it just me, or does it stink in there?

I don't get it..... 

John Kerry, touting his national security credibility, says he wants to "reach out to U.S. allies", because Bush has "alienated U.S. allies".

Maybe he plans to win the approval of our allies by calling them "a fraudulent coalition", again?

At least Bush had the sense to antagonize our enemies.

Down in the rhetorical gutter 

The Republican National Committee fires their first dirty volley....
After months of sustained attacks against President Bush in Democratic primary debates and commercials, the Republican Party is responding this week with its first advertisement of the presidential race, portraying Mr. Bush as fighting terrorism while his potential challengers try to undermine him with their sniping.

The new commercial gives the first hint of the themes Mr. Bush's campaign is likely to press in its early days. It shows Mr. Bush, during the last State of the Union address, warning of continued threats to the nation: "Our war against terror is a contest of will, in which perseverance is power," he says after the screen flashes the words, "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists."
Jeez, guys. Nobody is attacking the President "for attacking terrorists". The Democrats oppose the way he attacks the terrorists, not the action in itself.

I had little tolerance for the fools who charged Bush with "waging war for oil/political gain", rather than addressing the real arguments made. I have just as little tolerance for fools who misrepresent the Democrats position.

Tapped out.... 

I'm not a believer that Saddam was "behind 9/11", but I do think there's reason to believe that Saddam was supportive of Al Qaeda. The recent memo gives us, at the very least, reason to suspect the connection very strongly.

Nick Confessore, however, dismisses the Iraq/Al Qaeda connections, because "hey, it's not new".....
WHY DID THE MEDIA IGNORE THE STANDARD'S SCOOP? Because there wasn't anything new in it, according to Newsweek's Mark Hosenball and Mike Isikoff. Not only did the leaked memo from Doug Feith contain nothing new, but most of what it did contain was not exactly first-rate intelligence.
His criticism is valid. His conclusion is ridiculous. Arriving at that conclusion, based on the valid criticisms he makes, is much more "faith-based" than the intelligence analysis that he is criticizing.

His two points:
1: "Nothing new in it": Great. So what?
Why is new information required to evaluate the information contained in the Feith memo? If we have 50 data points on collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda, why would it be necessary that we have a 51st which dates from the last month?

New information would be valuable....but the lack of new information does not invalidate the previously known information.

2: "most of what it did contain was not exactly first-rate intelligence": So, some of it was first rate intelligence, then? Why would you not address that information?

As the memo noted, "entries #4, #11, #15, #16, #17, and #18, from different sources, corroborate each other and provide confirmation of meetings between al Qaeda operatives and Iraqi intelligence in Afghanistan and Pakistan." Multiple corroborations is pretty much the definition of "first rate intelligence" data. It is intellectually dishonest to dismiss the entire story, simply because some of the items are questionable.

I bet Nick knows that, but he also knows the implications of acknowledging that this story is credible. Expect Democrats to keep playing defense. They have to.

But men are still sexist pigs, right? 

Women make less money, largely because of women...not men. I doubt this study will be making the "Womens Studies" curriculum anytime soon......
Women received less salary than their male counterparts partly because they generally work fewer hours than men, are likely to leave the labor force for longer periods and tend to hold jobs that pay less, a congressional study found.

But even after accounting for key factors that affect earnings, women, on average, make only 80 percent of what men earned in 2000, according to the study released on Thursday by Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York and John Dingell of Michigan.
According to the GAO report (pdf), the 44% difference is reduced to about 21% when adjustments are made for differing factors affecting earnings.

The Summary of Results included the following.....
"Some experts have identified potential reasons for an earnings difference:
* some women trade off advancement or higher earnings for a job that offers flexibility to manage work and family responsibilities.
* discrimination resulting from societal views about acceptable roles for men and women or views about women in the workplace may affect womens earnings.
I would also question whether the former factor may have some causal impact on the latter factor. I can't see how it could not.

Their concluding observation contains about the most libertarian thing I've ever seen from a government agency.....
* An earnings difference resulting from individual decisions about how to manage work and family may not be a problem, unless the decisions are not freely made.
You don't say? So, the government is now recognizing that decisions have consequences? How long till we can get some legislation to put a stop to that?

11/20/2003

Religious intolerance.... 

President Bush was criticised in May for having "very strong ties to fundamentalist Christians, most notably Franklin Graham" who had "delivered a Good Friday message at the Pentagon, despite an uproar over his previous slander of Islam as 'a very evil and wicked religion'."

And here is the dangerous "fundamentalist Christian" Bush in an interview today.....
Q "Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister. Mr. President, when you talk about peace in the Middle East, you've often said that freedom is granted by the Almighty. Some people who share your beliefs don't believe that Muslims worship the same Almighty. I wonder about your views on that."
...
PRESIDENT BUSH: "I do say that freedom is the Almighty's gift to every person. I also condition it by saying freedom is not America's gift to the world. It's much greater than that, of course. And I believe we worship the same God".
Franklin "Islam is Evil" Graham is going to have a conniption.

Blog rolling...... 

In other news....
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* Damn, I wish I'd thought of that.
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* Frank J, on Protestors....
FUN FACTS ABOUT PROTESTORS

* They are called "protestors" because there is something which they "protest". Only God know what, though, because they're so damn incoherent.

* Protestors like to yell a lot, but it's hard to hear what they're saying. It's probably about how much they like Saddam and dictators since them being deposed seems to really get them riled.

* Like bees, protestors operate in swarms, but they don't produce anything useful like honey.
Now I understand.
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* Adesnik points out that the French are having little success in the Ivory Coast.

Meanwhile, France wants to tell the United States how to handle Iraq.
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* Parapundit has an interesting insight...
Now that so much criticism has come down on the Bush Administration about their Iraq WMD predictions the Bushies find themselves in the position of being seen as the boy that cried wolf. But the story from Aesop's fable is being ignored by partisans intent on scoring points against the Bushies: the wolf eventually came.
Brilliant point.
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* The Belgravia Dispatch is one of the more interesting blogs I read daily. Gregory Djerejian consistently finds interesting angles. Today, he writes that Maureen Dowd is "sophomorically hyperbolic". (read: writing about politics with all the insight and perspective of a teenage girl)
Granted, that's not an unusual position. Who hasn't said something similar about Dowd lately?
But Gregory offers and interesting point to support for his assertion.....
"...on the day after a major speech by Bush on the importance of bolstering international institutions--the very fora Dowd says Dubya is so intent on wrecking--you would think she might write about this with more caution.

Perhaps she might even be chastened into employing a modicum of sober, intelligent analysis, no?"
She might, Gregory. But, she won't. It's her only pony and she's riding it.
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* Protest pictures.......They're fed up! They're not gonna take it any more! And they're funny!
(link via Cold Fury)
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* Robert Musil has more on the ridiculous UK cover-photo of the Krugman book.
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* Marauding samba bands! We must leave Iraq immediately!
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* Fellow Richmond blogger Meryl Yourish asks a good question....
"...why do I constantly want to pronounce his blog name "Quando?"
Why not? That's how it sounds in my head, too.

Hey, if there's ever a Richmond blogger gathering, let me know. I'll be there.
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* Family Guy may be back!
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* Remember the Afghan beauty contestant? The Cap'n has an update. And pictures.

You're just going to check it out for the article, right?

TechCentralStation 

A recent Washington Monthly column by Nicholas Confessore has criticised TechCentralStation.com for "idea laundering"....
...TCS doesn't just act like a lobbying shop. It's actually published by one--the DCI Group, a prominent Washington "public affairs" firm specializing in P.R., lobbying, and so-called "Astroturf" organizing, generally on behalf of corporations, GOP politicians, and the occasional Third-World despot. The two organizations share most of the same owners, some staff, and even the same suite of offices in downtown Washington, a block off K Street. As it happens, many of DCI's clients are also "sponsors" of the site it houses. TCS not only runs the sponsors' banner ads; its contributors aggressively defend those firms' policy positions, on TCS and elsewhere.
Essentially, Nicholas Confessore is accusing TCS of dancing with those who bought them.

Two points.....

* Across the blogosphere, TCS writers disagree, saying they've never been told what to write.

* Confessore does not mention other corporate-funded websites that disseminate information designed to advance the agenda of those corporations.

For example, there's one consistently partisan site funded by the following groups......
Waters & Kraus, Democratic National Cmte (Employees), Baron & Budd, Pederson Group, Azimuth Alternative Assets, Bain Capital, Silber Pearlman LLP, Tregan Partners, Lehman Brothers, Loral Space & Communications, Apax Partners, Credit Union National Assn, Washington Group, Global Green USA, Goldman Sachs, Center for Middle East Peace/Econ Coop, Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corp, US Senate/John Kerry, Us Senate/Tom Daschle, InfoUSA, Trans National Group....
That website is the homepage of the Democratic National Committee. I wonder if Confessore is also worried that they will "simulate or amplify constituent opinion on behalf of corporate clients"?

Or, maybe it's just a right-wing phenomenon......

Keeping the memo alive..... 

In the absence of much media attention, the blogosphere is staying on the Iraq/Al Qaeda memo, demanding answers. ("what's this? Preaching to the choir, you say!? I simply don't know what you're talking about!")

My contribution today is this quote from another flack for the Bush administration......
"Anybody who says there is no working relationship between al Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence going back to the early '90s--they can only say that if they're illiterate. This is a slam dunk."
That was said by former Clinton administration CIA Director James Woolsey.

Gay marriage.... 

A few things I'm having trouble with.....

* Andrew Sullivan writes...
THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, WE ARE FREE AT LAST: In one state, gay people have become equal citizens under the law
Marriage, through history, has been man/woman. That has been the definition of the term, whether the culture did it for contractual or religious reasons.

Man/woman was axiomatic. Should it be changed?

I. Don't. Care.

But I find it a bit odd for Sullivan to claim that the historical definition of marriage is, itself, a violation of his freedom. Marriage is also defined as "one man/one woman". Is that a violation of my freedom to marry multiple women? If one assumes the definition is not as axiomatic as once conceived, then this is the logical conclusion. If it is simply a contract between willing participants, why should polygamists be denied equal protection under the law?

I'm in favor of the government allowing "civil unions" between any two consenting adults, purely as a matter of contractual law. If a church chooses to recognize "marriage", that is their own right.

But, I see little reason to change the definition of "marriage" to coincide with "civil unions".

* "Sandy Rios, president of the Concerned Women for America, a conservative religious policy group, declared on her radio program, which reaches one million listeners"...
"The time is now. If you don't do something about this, then you cannot in 20 years — when you see the American public disintegrating and you see our enemies overtaking us because we have no moral will — you remember that you did nothing."
American disintegrating? Enemies overtaking us?

Sandy, I don't think the Republic will fall, because Steve and Tony have to pay the marriage penalty on their taxes. That sort of argument will win you nothing but derision.

* The religious argument that.....
"...the primary purpose of marriage is the generation and nurturing of offspring".
Well, you can certainly assert such, but I can point to other purposes for marriage, (companionship, love, support, legal rights) and I can point to situations in which the "generation and nurturing of offspring" would be impossible, (impotence, old age) yet marriage is not prohibited.

Religious institutions may continue to define "marriage" in any way they prefer. This ruling does not create any obligation on them. But, by the same token, those religious groups may not define marriage to government.

Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, after all.

11/19/2003

Blog Round-up 

Better read than dead......
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* The Carnival of the Vanities is up at PeakTalk.

This week, I think I'll scan the entries for interesting blogs, and create a new blogroll category of temporary blogs to review. Perhaps I'll find some useful new bloggers.
***********************************

* Atrios finds a pretty embarrassing slip, in which a Saddam quote was attributed to Tom Daschle. (The story was corrected)

Atrios writes...
Never fear, I'm sure this quote will pop up on every wingnut site from now until the end of time.
Well, it's on yours. So that's one.
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* Luskin has a picture of the cover of the UK version of Paul Krugmans book, "The Great Unravelling".......comparisons to Hitler, allegations that Bush was in the pay of Enron. Yeesh, Paul, just hyperventilate already.
***********************************

* More embarrassing memos. Croooow Blog has details.
***********************************

* Everybody and their brother is linking to the story about Michael Jackson being investigated for possible child molestation. This is news?

Maybe Jackson should move to Europe so he can be given standing ovations and awards without having to deal with all that messy "being arrested for molesting children" stuff.
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* I realized, with all the new visitors lately, that I haven't mentioned this in a bit. I offer reciprocity, so if you blogroll me...mention it to me. I'll return the favor.

The US is not "pulling out early" 

I'm as worried as anybody (well, almost anybody) about our target date of June 2004 to turn over political power to Iraqis. However, I think some have mistaken that early turnover as a sign that the US is "running". I don't think this is the case.

For starters, that turnover does not involve the removal of US troops from the region, so we will still be providing them with the security necessary to sustain the new government. Essentially, we are following the Afghan model, without all the problems that exist in Afghanistan. (tribalism, small US presence, large opposition, lack of infrastructure)

In other words, the things that prevent Afghanistan from being more successful are not big problems in Iraq.

Our problem in Iraq is knowing when we can turn over power. Can it be sustained? Will the new government reflect the will of the people? Can they provide for their own security? Are they ready?

Much like children who grow up and leave home, there's no clear answer about "when they're ready". If they go too early, they can get into trouble. If we keep them too long, we can get into trouble.

So, what to do? Just as with those children, the solution is to give them responsibility, while you can still protect them. Let them test themselves while there is still a safety net. And that means turning over some responsibility before you know for a fact that it will succeed.

Fred Kaplan writes that this is happening right now......
The decision to pull the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division out of the "Sunni Triangle" city of Ramadi—and to turn local security over to Iraqi officers—might be the most significant step since the U.S.-led occupation began six and a half months ago. If the Ramadi experiment succeeds, it could serve as the road map to a responsible exit strategy. If it fails, it will dramatize the depths of our predicament, the utter lack of good options, the tenacity of the—dare we say it?—quagmire that bogs us down.

The experiment, which the division's commander, Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., said Monday could take place as soon as January, will not only test the worth of the newly trained Iraqi security officers, who reportedly number 1,600 in that city of 250,000 residents. More critically, it will reveal vital clues about the insurgents—their aims, their tactics, and their level of popular support.
We're not kicking the kids out of the house. We're handing them the keys to the car.

If they pay for the insurance, follow traffic rules and bring it back in one piece....it's theirs.
Our job will be done.

Mohammed Atta 

The Mohammed Atta story has resurfaced with the DoD memo leak. Of course, there remains the problem of the FBI denials, because car rental and hotel records were found for Atta during the time he was supposed to be in Prague.

Those items have been mentioned to criticize Dick Cheney's repetition of the story. Josh Marshall wrote:
But contrary to Mr. Cheney's claim that "we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it," US intelligence officials have thoroughly discredited that report.
Well, not so "thoroughly", after all, Josh.

Slate reports........
In Washington, the FBI moved to quiet the Prague connection by telling journalists that it had car rentals and records that put Atta in Virginia Beach, Va., and Florida close to, if not during, the period when he was supposed to be in Prague. The New York Times, citing information provided by "federal law enforcement officials," reported that Atta was in Virginia Beach on April 2, 2001, and by April 11, "Atta was back in Florida, renting a car." Newsweek reported that, "the FBI pointed out Atta was traveling at the time [in early April 2001] between Florida and Virginia Beach, Va.," adding, "The bureau had his rental car and hotel receipts." And intelligence expert James Bamford, after quoting FBI Director Robert Mueller as saying that the FBI "ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on," reported in USA Today, "The records revealed that Atta was in Virginia Beach during the time he supposedly met the Iraqi in Prague."

All these reports attributed to the FBI were, as it turns out, erroneous. There were no car rental records in Virginia, Florida, or anywhere else in April 2001 for Mohamed Atta, since he had not yet obtained his Florida license. His international license was at his father's home in Cairo, Egypt (where his roommate Marwan al-Shehhi picked it up in late April). Nor were there other records in the hands of the FBI that put Atta in the United States at the time. Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in June 2002, "It is possible that Atta traveled under an unknown alias" to "meet with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague." Clearly, it was not beyond the capabilities of the 9/11 hijackers to use aliases.
None of this is "proof" that he was meeting with Iraqi intelligence officers....but it does mean the matter has not been "thoroughly discredited".

There's much more in the Slate piece, none of it particularly comforting.

Mark Steyn.... 

...is priceless.

Take this bit, for example:
In late September 2001 Mr Inyadullah was holed up in Peshawar awaiting the call to arms against the Great Satan and offered this pithy soundbite to the Telegraph's David Blair:

"The Americans love Pepsi-Cola, we love death."

That's it in a nutshell - or in a nut's hell. And, like Mr Inyadullah, if it's Pepsi or death, the fellows on the streets of London this week choose death - at least for the Iraqis. If it's a choice between letting some carbonated-beverage crony of Dick Cheney get a piece of the Nasariyah soft-drinks market or allowing Saddam to go on feeding his subjects feet-first into the industrial shredder for another decade or three, then the "peace" activists will take the lesser of two evils - ie, crank up the shredder. Better yet, end UN sanctions so Saddam can replace the older, less reliable shredders, the ones with too many bits of bone tissue jammed in the cogs.

Well, Saddam's gone, on the run with no Grecian 2000 and all out of Quality Street. But it's a measure of the intensity of this psychosis that the "Stop The War" crowd may well manage to turn out more people this week than they did during the war. The war stopped six months ago, some 80 per cent of Iraq is peaceful and well governed, and the overwhelming majority of Iraqis I spoke to when I was there want the Americans to stay, rather than cut and run like the UN, Oxfam and co. But screw the Iraqi people; the "peace" crowd know better than the ignorant natives what's good for them.
That last bit remains the most mystifying aspect of the ongoing anti-war movement.

I wonder if the anti-war protestors would be willing to carry those same protest signs in Iraq? I don't wonder how they would be received.

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