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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Laura Bush's speech

Laura Bush gave the final speech of the evening (Transcript here). I thought that she gave a good speech, and that it accomplished a couple of strategic goals for the Republican party. The first goal, was to broadly attest to, and humanize the President. She combined personal viewpoints with her thoughts on the various accomplishments of the administration such as No Child Left Behind and the tax cuts. Her second goal, was to counter the image of the President as a lover of war and show his reluctance, and concern over sending American men and women to war. Here is how she did that:

No American president ever wants to go to war. Abraham Lincoln didn't want to go to war, but he knew saving the union required it. Franklin Roosevelt didn't want to go to war, but he knew defeating tyranny demanded it. And my husband didn't want to go to war, but he knew the safety and security of America and the world depended on it. I remember some very quiet nights at the dinner table. George was weighing grim scenarios and ominous intelligence about potentially even more devastating attacks. I listened many nights as George talked with foreign leaders on the phone, or in our living room, or at our ranch in Crawford. I remember an intense weekend at Camp David. George and Prime Minister Tony Blair were discussing the threat from Saddam Hussein. And I remember sitting in the window of the White House, watching as my husband walked on the lawn below. I knew he was wrestling with these agonizing decisions that would have such profound consequence for so many lives and for the future of our world. And I was there when my husband had to decide. Once again, as in our parents' generation, America had to make the tough choices, the hard decisions, and lead the world toward greater security and freedom.
I think that this was well done, and will have a positive effect. From a few polls I have seen, one of the negatives against George Bush, especially among women, is that he is too aggressive, that he loves war. These women are by and large strong on the issue of defending America, but want to know that any war is needed and the President wrestles with these decisions. I think that she got that message across well. The theme for the night was more on the social agenda, the compassionate conservatism of George Bush. There was plenty of war talk too, 9/11 is on full display at this convention, but education, tax cuts and prescription drugs were a big part of tonight's message. Personally, having mixed feelings about this aspect of George Bush's presidency It was a less effective night all in all to me. I like no child left behind, and I am always for tax cuts, but the Prescription drug entitlement I dislike and the rising deficits worry me.


Arnold Schwarzenegger gave his speech at the Republican Convention tonight (Transcript here). All in all I thought it was a good speech, but not as impressive as either of the speeches last night. His broad purpose was to outline the 'big tent' of the Republican party and provide a strong endorsement for George Bush and the War on Terror. He accomplished both admirably. He started with his history, how he came to America and what it meant, and then he explained how he became a Republican, in a way that surprised me:

finally arrived here in 1968.I had empty pockets, but I was full of dreams. The presidential campaign was in full swing. I remember watching the Nixon and Humphrey presidential race on TV. A friend who spoke German and English, translated for me. I heard Humphrey saying things that sounded like socialism -- which is what I had just left. But then I heard Nixon speak. He was talking about free enterprise, getting government off your back, lowering taxes, and strengthening the military. Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air. I said to my friend, "What party is he?" My friend said, "He's a Republican." I said, "Then I am a Republican!" And I've been a Republican ever since! And trust me, in my wife's family, that's no small achievement! I'm proud to belong to the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party of Teddy Roosevelt, the party of Ronald Reagan -- and the party of George W. Bush.
I certainly didn't expect to hear Nixon lauded at this convention and I don't think anyone else did either. The big tent part of his speech was focused on how you know you are a Republican even if you disagree with some of the specific positions of the platform. It was aimed to a degree at immigrants, but I think will have a pretty good resonance with a lot of independents.
Now, many of you out there tonight are "Republican" like me in your hearts and in your beliefs. Maybe you're from Guatemala. Maybe you're from the Philippines. Maybe Europe or the Ivory Coast. Maybe you live in Ohio -- Pennsylvania -- or New Mexico. And maybe -- just maybe -- you don't agree with this party on every single issue. I say to you tonight I believe that's not only OK -- that's what's great about this country. Here we can respectfully disagree and still be patriotic -- still be American -- and still be good Republicans. My fellow immigrants, my fellow Americans, how do you know if you are a Republican? I'll tell you how. If you believe that government should be accountable to the people, not the people to the government... then you are a Republican! If you believe a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of an interest group... then you are a Republican! If you believe your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does... then you are a Republican! If you believe our educational system should be held accountable for the progress of our children ... then you are a Republican! If you believe this country, not the United Nations, is the best hope of democracy in the world ... then you are a Republican! And, ladies and gentlemen ... if you believe we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism ... then you are a Republican! There is another way you can tell you're a Republican. You have faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people ... and faith in the U.S. economy. To those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: Don't be economic girlie men!
This is probably as good of a synopsis of the core Republican beliefs that I have ever heard, although admittedly it did leave out the positions of the Religious Right. Since I am pretty much with Schwarzenegger on what I like and dislike about the Republican Party, I enjoyed this. It was also interesting that he gave his 'girlie men' line that he had caught a lot of criticism over again. Next he went into a very pro-American, patriotic section of the speech that moved into the war on Terror. This section here was quite stirring.
You know, when the Germans brought down the Berlin Wall -- America's determination helped wield the sledgehammers. When that lone, young Chinese man stood in front of those tanks in Tiananmen Square -- America's hopes stood with him. And when Nelson Mandela smiled in election victory after all those years in prison America celebrated, too. We are still the lamp lighting the world -- especially for those who struggle. No matter in what labor camp they slave -- no matter in what injustice they're trapped -- they hear our call ... they see our light ... and they feel the pull of our freedom. They come here -- as I did -- because they believe. They believe in US.
It was a rebuttal to the belief that America has only enemies in the rest of the world. Like I said, a good, if not great, speech. Perhaps Schwarzenegger's greatest contribution to the convention was just him being there, and being Schwarzenegger.

A plea to C-Span

Please, please do not show any more Republican Convention goers dancing. The whole world knows that Republicans cannot dance. This is not news. It is not needed.

12 Nepalese killed in Iraq


An Islamic Web site has posted gruesome still images and videos of what it says is the killing of 12 Nepalese hostages by a militant group in Iraq. Footage posted on Tuesday showed one beheading and 11 others apparently shot from an assault rifle at the back of the head.
These men committed the crime of working for a Jordanian company in a free (i.e. occupied) Iraq and not being Muslim. Once in a while, it is good, perhaps necessary, to remind ourselves of the nature of the enemy we face. These men are thugs, nothing more. They are financed by other thugs, primarily men in power in Tehran and Damascus who hope that America will lose hope, lose the will to fight and abandon the middle-east to their tyranny. My condolences to the friends and family of these innocent victims.

Sharon vows Israeli pullout from Gaza

International Herald Tribune:

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon presented his Likud party on Tuesday with the most detailed timetable yet for Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and warned dissenters that the plan "will be implemented, period." . A Sharon ally in the cabinet said the evacuation of Jewish settlements in Gaza could begin by the end of the year, several months ahead of schedule.
I am strongly in favor of this withdrawal. The one big black mark against Israel, in my mind, is their settlements in the occuppied territories. Why this plan will not fully rectify the situation, it is a step in the right direction. A step witch once taken, I believe will lead to a complete dismantlement of the illegal settlements and hopefully, peace. The rest of the article talks about the political battles Sharon will face to actually make this happen. I don't know if he will succeed or not, but I think he is the only figure in Israeli politics who could, in the same way that only Nixon could go to China.

Today's Bleat

Go read Lileks. Why are you still here? He has some great stuff today on Giuliani's speech last night and a few heartly stabs at old media.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Giuliani's RNC Speech

Rudolph Giuliani continued in much the same vein as John McCain (Transcript). He gave similar salutes to the courage and leadership of George Bush along with a strong defense of the War in Iraq and moving remembrance of Sept. 11th. He also gave a brutal, albeit humorous, accounting of John Kerry as someone who lacks directions. Here are a few key parts:

It was here in 2001 in lower Manhattan that President George W. Bush stood amid the fallen towers of the World Trade Center and said to the barbaric terrorists who attacked us, "They will hear from us." They have heard from us! They heard from us in Afghanistan and we removed the Taliban. They heard from us in Iraq and we ended Saddam Hussein's reign of terror. They heard from us in Libya and without firing a shot Gadhafi abandoned weapons of mass destruction. They are hearing from us in nations that are now more reluctant to sponsor terrorists. So long as George Bush is President, is there any doubt they will continue to hear from us until we defeat global terrorism. We owe that much and more to those loved ones and heroes we lost on September 11th.
He also gave a brief history of the struggle against terrorism, or lack thereof, over the last thirty years:
Terrorism did not start on September 11, 2001. It had been festering for many years. And the world had created a response to it that allowed it to succeed. The attack on the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics was in 1972. And the pattern had already begun. The three surviving terrorists were arrested and within two months released by the German government. Action like this became the rule, not the exception. Terrorists came to learn they could attack and often not face consequences. In 1985, terrorists attacked the Achille Lauro and murdered an American citizen who was in a wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer. They marked him for murder solely because he was Jewish. Some of those terrorists were released and some of the remaining terrorists allowed to escape by the Italian government because of fear of reprisals. So terrorists learned they could intimidate the world community and too often the response, particularly in Europe, was "accommodation, appeasement and compromise." And worse the terrorists also learned that their cause would be taken more seriously, almost in direct proportion to the barbarity of the attack. Terrorist acts became a ticket to the international bargaining table. How else to explain Yasser Arafat winning the Nobel Peace Prize when he was supporting a terrorist plague in the Middle East that undermined any chance of peace? Before September 11, we were living with an unrealistic view of the world much like our observing Europe appease Hitler or trying to accommodate ourselves to peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union through mutually assured destruction.
Here is the part where he really bashes John Kerry. I expect that the last bit will be in a lot of news stories tomorrow:
But it is important to see the contrast in approach between the two men; President Bush, a leader who is willing to stick with difficult decisions even as public opinion shifts, and John Kerry, whose record in elected office suggests a man who changes his position often even on important issues. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, John Kerry voted against the Persian Gulf War. Later he said he actually supported the war. Then in 2002, as he was calculating his run for president, he voted for the war in Iraq. And then just 9 months later, he voted against an $87 billion supplemental budget to fund the war and support our troops. He even, at one point, declared himself an anti-war candidate. Now, he says he's pro-war. At this rate, with 64 days left, he still has time to change his position at least three or four more times. My point about John Kerry being inconsistent is best described in his own words when he said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." Maybe this explains John Edwards' need for two Americas -- one where John Kerry can vote for something and another where he can vote against the same thing.
As with McCain's speech it is worth reading (or watching) the whole thing. Giuliani is a great man and I expect his strong words in support of Bush will have an effect on the electorate. As with McCain's speech, I was somewhat surprised with how forceful this speech was. The theme for the night was 'A Nation of Courage' and the key speakers expounded on that theme with clarity and obvious sincerity. Technically neither gave as good of speech as Bill Clinton did on the first night of the Democratic Convention, but in substance, they clearly exceeded him. The Republicans are clearly in a 'take no prisoners' offensive mode. I expect that this mood, as much as anything that is actually said, will have an effect on the electorate. The Democratic Convention felt like it was very careful, almost cautious. The Republican Convention so far, feels like a party that is confident in their ideas and their core beliefs. Somehow I think that will translate to the electorate. Yesterday I would have said the convention will give Bush a 2-3 point bounce, if the Republican Convention continues in this vein, I wouldn't be surprised to see a 5 point or greater bounce.

McCain's Speech

John McCain gave is speech tonight. Transcript here. It was a strong defense of George Bush's handling of the War on Terror and an even stronger defense of the Iraq War. It also contained a dig at Michael Moore that I am sure will be in all the papers. Here are a few good parts, but the whole speech was stirring.

It's a big thing, this war. It's a fight between a just regard for human dignity and a malevolent force that defiles an honorable religion by disputing God's love for every soul on earth. It's a fight between right and wrong, good and evil. And should our enemies acquire for their arsenal the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons they seek, this war will become a much bigger thing. So it is, whether we wished it or not, that we have come to the test of our generation, to our rendezvous with destiny.
Powerful words reminding us of the threat we face. I call this bit of the speech the fuck France segment:
And, as we've been a good friend to other countries in moments of shared perils, so we have good reason to expect their solidarity with us in this struggle. That is what the President believes. And, thanks to his efforts we have received valuable assistance from many good friends around the globe, even if we have, at times, been disappointed with the reactions of some.
This is the section in which he begin his strongest defense of the Iraq War, and throws in the attack on Moore:
The years of keeping Saddam in a box were coming to a close. The international consensus that he be kept isolated and unarmed had eroded to the point that many critics of military action had decided the time had come again to do business with Saddam, despite his near daily attacks on our pilots, and his refusal, until his last day in power, to allow the unrestricted inspection of his arsenal. Our choice wasn't between a benign status quo and the bloodshed of war. It was between war and a graver threat. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Not our critics abroad. Not our political opponents. And certainly not a disingenuous film maker who would have us believe that Saddam's Iraq was an oasis of peace when in fact it was a place of indescribable cruelty, torture chambers, mass graves and prisons that destroyed the lives of the small children held inside their walls. Whether or not Saddam possessed the terrible weapons he once had and used, freed from international pressure and the threat of military action, he would have acquired them again.
I won't quote any more although there were several more good parts to it. I highly recommend you read it yourself. My thoughts in summary are that it was a very well delivered speech and a strong defense of George Bush and his foreign policy. Bush couldn't have asked for more from McCain on this. Also, it is definitely set a tone of attack and strongly backing up the President's policies. No apologies and no holds barred. I expect that the entire convention will follow this tone.

Clerks 2


Kevin Smith is making another convenience store run. The writer-director of "Dogma," "Chasing Amy" and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" told the Associated Press on Friday that he has begun work on a sequel to "Clerks," his homemade indie classic from 1994.
Randal, in particular, is one of my all time favorite movie characters so I look forward to this movie. Hopefully it will capture the flavor of the original.

More on Kerry and Vietnam and why it matters

Gregory Djerejian of the Belgravia Dispatch writes on how Kerry's post-Veitnam testimony relates to the war in Iraq and the War on Terror. He mirrors many of my thoughts in this post. I highly recommend reading it.

Good news for Chocolate lovers


There's more good news for chocolate lovers. Scientists have found that eating dark chocolate appears to improve the function of important cells lining the wall of blood vessels for at least three hours. The study, involving 17 healthy young volunteers who agreed to eat a bar of dark chocolate and then get an ultrasound, found that eating dark chocolate seemed to make the blood vessels more flexible, which helps prevent the hardening of the arteries that leads to heart attacks.
Many of my friends, especially those of the female variety, will be very happy to hear this.

Friday, August 27, 2004



President Bush heads into the Republican National Convention next week with a small lead over Democratic challenger John Kerry in the all-important Electoral College, according to a new CNN analysis of state polling, advertising buys and interviews with campaign strategists and neutral analysts. Bush would receive 274 electoral votes to Kerry's 264 if the election were held today, less than 10 weeks before November 2 and three days before the opening of the GOP convention in Madison Square Garden. If Kerry were to pick up a state as small as Nevada, the electoral vote would be tied, throwing the election into the House of Representatives.
Of course this doesn't mean much at this stage. A couple weeks ago things were looking pretty good for Kerry and they might again a few weeks from now. The Republican Convention, the Debates, and any wild card events (esp. a terrorist attack) can all have dramatic effect on the way things will go. One thing about Polls I have been wondering lately, it is commonly accepted that the likely voter number is a more accurate predicter than the registered voter. How accurate is the likely voter number though? By this I mean, does the percentage of people voting match the percentage who say they are likely voters? I have never heard anyone discuss this and it would be interesting to know. Along those same lines, I wonder if, as I expect, the polling results show people are more likely to vote this year than in previous elections.

Marriage and Society

Jane Galt has a great post on marriage, single parent families, and society. I highly recommend it.

American Military Power: Good or Evil?

Perhaps the most significant factor in the whole debate over John Kerry's military service is the seldom asked, yet always present question of whether American military power is a force for good or a force for evil in the world. Following WWII, Americans almost unanimously viewed their military power as a force for good in the world. This was heightened by the revelations concerning the extent and depravity of the holocaust. It was clear that our enemy had been evil and that our actions had been on the right side. That belief was tested in Korea, where after a bloody war we achieved a draw and it was shattered by Vietnam. During the 70s and into the 80s American military power was largely regarded as evil. Even the plight of the Vietnamese boat people and the killing fields of Cambodia didn’t convince the American consciousness that we were not worse than the alternative. The pendulum began to swing again in the 80s, with Ronald Reagan’s outspoken patriotism and pro-American view. The collapse of communism and the very successful Gulf War rehabilitated the military in the popular view. During the 90s under President Clinton the record was somewhat mixed. Somalia was a tragedy, but we were clearly the victims. Bosnia was a very successful campaign even though many on the right (I confess that I am not innocent here) regarded it as a ‘wag the dog’ war. Perhaps even more significant, the 90s highlighted times when we failed to act, and the costs. Rwanda was the most serious of these failures and the activities there highlighted strongly the consequences of ignoring evil in the world. As events would later prove, lack of a serious response to Islamist Terrorism would also have dire consequences. 9/11 brought back a facet of American military power not seen since WWII, the need to battle enemies who would attack us directly. The nature of the Taliban and Hussein regimes also made it clear to most that our side was morally superior. While the balance of the view of American power has shifted over the years there have always been some on both sides who maintained strong views regardless of where the general public opinion lay. The Iraq war has brought out the vocal proponents of both sides of this debate in droves. For the Anti-War side, the rising popularity of the military was a direct threat, countering what they believed had been proven once and for all in Vietnam. For the Pro-War side, Iraq was a chance to finally lay Vietnam to rest and move forward. Unlike the first Gulf War or Afghanistan, Iraq was a war that was chosen, not a direct reaction to the actions of others. It was (and is) a test of whether American power could be an active force for good in the world. Naturally passions are high. Enter John Kerry. Perhaps no person has been a more powerful advocate for the idea that American military power is a force for evil in the world. His 1971 Senate testimony was eloquent, powerful, and damning. If you agree with him you love him for it. If you disagree, contempt is probably the least of your emotions. In the meantime, George W. Bush has become the one most gung-ho pro-Military action presidents. So this then is the debate: Is American military power good or evil? It is the question of Vietnam and the question of Iraq. The entrenched on each side will never change their opinions, but the election hinges on which way the popular consciousness decides.

'This Land' belongs to you and me

The EFF reports that Ludlow Music has backed down on it's suit against JibJab for copywrite infringement relating to the This Land is Your Land Bush/Kerry parody. If you haven't seen the animation yet, check it out. It's hilarious.


Jacob Sullum has a great article in Reason Online about the attempts to silence the 527s.

Observers dismayed by the bitter partisanship of this presidential campaign should be happy now that George W. Bush and John Kerry finally agree on something: It turns out they both believe in using the government to silence their critics.
Now I'm not totally happy with the laws governing 527s. I think that they should be able to say positive as well as negative things about a candidate. I think that they should be able to coordinate with a campaign if they so choose. I say this even though the Democrats would probably benefit more than Republicans from this. I believe in free speech.

Lileks on Motivations

James Lileks has written an article on the motivations of George Bush and John Kerry and a few other presidents/candidates. His conclusions are fairly similar to what I wrote here.

Sistani succeeds


A peace deal brokered by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Shiite radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr brought peace and quiet Friday to Najaf, in ruins after three weeks of fighting between al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia and U.S. and Iraqi forces. A senior al-Sadr representative said most Medhi Army members had turned in their weapons.
I heard about this deal yesterday, but decided to wait to post on it until it actually happened. I have been fairly pleased wtih the actions of al-Sistani since the invasion. He hasn't been exactly in favor of America or the occupation, but he has seemed to genuinely support and Iraqi democracy.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Iranian Divorce Court

Via Allah comes this heartwarming story from Iran.

Iran's judiciary ordered a man to be released after he killed his unfaithful wife in the courtroom, because the woman's immediate forebears are not alive to claim retaliation, press reports said Thursday. According to the newspaper Shargh, the man, identified as Mahmoud, had filed a complaint against his wife and her lover when he had found out that she was cheating on him. When she appeared in court in Shahr Ray city in Tehran province in 2003 he lost control and stabbed her to death.But a court sentenced him Wednesday only to pay compensatory "blood money" to the "parents of the blood", who are in fact himself and their three children, because the parents of the murdered woman, Fatemeh, 29, are dead, Iran newspaper said.
Nuff Said.

Kerry on C-Span

Via Instapundit John Kerry will be on C-Span tonight at 8pm. The bad news for Kerry is that it will be his 1971 Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Well, they say any publicity is good publicity..... Update: Here is some commentary on Kerry's testimony, including some area where he was somewhat misleading.

John Kerry's Dog

Washington Time:

"I have always had pets in my life, and there are a few that I remember very fondly," Mr. Kerry replied. "When I was serving on a Swift Boat in Vietnam, my crewmates and I had a dog we called VC. "One day as our Swift Boat was heading up a river, a mine exploded hard under our boat," he continued. "After picking ourselves up, we discovered VC was MIA (missing in action). Several minutes of frantic search followed, after which we thought we'd lost him. We were relieved when another boat called asking if we were missing a dog." Said Mr. Kerry: "It turns out VC was catapulted from the deck of our boat and landed, confused but unhurt, on the deck of another boat in our patrol." J.J. Scheele, program director of Humane USA, confirmed yesterday that her organization did, in fact, receive the above statement from the Kerry campaign. No military records on Mr. Kerry's Web site, which aides say is a complete accounting, mention a mine exploding under his boat or any dog. The only report of a mine detonating "near" Mr. Kerry's PCF 94 was March 13, 1969, when Mr. Kerry says he was injured and a man knocked overboard.
Perhaps VC was part of the secret mission to Cambodia. (Hat Tip: Hugh Hewitt)

Check out this hot personal ad

Heh via Jenn's Blog

Pre-convention bounce?

Bill Hobbs, of HobbsOnline notes several polls that are breaking in Bush's favor. With the Republican Convention coming up, the Kerry Campaign mired in the mud of Vietnam (or perhaps Cambodia), and generally postitive developments in Iraq and with the economy, things are looking good for the Bush Campaign.

Scheduled to explode any day now...


In a discovery that has left one expert stunned, European astronomers have found one of the smallest planets known outside our solar system, a world about 14 times the mass of our own around a star much like the sun. It could be a rocky planet with a thin atmosphere, a sort of "super Earth," the researchers said today.
Kal-El should be arriving soon.

Don't throw me in the briar patch

Karl Rove is a genius, as this article shows.

President Bush on Thursday sought to ease differences with ally Sen. John McCain by promising to take legal action to stop a wave of ads by outside groups, including those attacking the war record of Bush's presidential election rival John Kerry. The White House said Bush made the commitment to file a lawsuit against the Federal Election Committee when he spoke to McCain in a telephone call from Air Force One. The Arizona Republican and Vietnam veteran has called on Bush to do more to end anti-Kerry ads by a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has accused Kerry, McCain's friend and the Democratic presidential nominee, of lying about his Vietnam War service.
In one stroke, Bush rises above the Swift Boat Mud, ensures that the SBVT will continue to recieve media attention, and makes himself look decisive and powerful while Kerry is just whinning. I wish I was Karl Rove.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Woo Hoo! Riches just around the corner

Google is going to pay people to blog.

Looking to lure new users to its Blogger publishing platform, Google plans to give up a slice of its own advertising pie. The search technology darling announced plans to share the profits from its AdSense self-service program that helps publishers serve up contextual advertising. The move is a significant departure from Google's previous policy of keeping all its revenues earned from AdSense.
I doubt I'll ever see any signifigant revenue from blogging, but it is nice of Google to share.

Free Trade = Good Politics?

Wall Street Journal:

These are the times that try a free-trader's soul. It is an election year, and the trade deficit is way up. The U.S. imported $55.8 billion more in goods and services than it exported in June. Loss of jobs has become the economic issue, and the outsourcing of jobs abroad the metaphor for it. Amidst all of that, Robert Zoellick is doing something intriguing, almost shocking: He is pushing free trade as hard as ever. More interesting, his boss, President Bush, who is busy running for re-election, is backing him all the way. ... So in theory, at least, free trade is a win-win for the U.S. -- provided, the other side lives up to its deal. Which the administration, of course, pledges it will ensure. That is at least a coherent economic message at a time when the Bush team is straining for one, and has the added benefit of being one the president firmly believes. Expect to hear more of it next week at the Republican national convention, and beyond.
One of my disappointments with Bush was his backing of the steel tarrifs. I hope that Bush does make free trade a key part of the convention next week and argues for it forcefully.

How to Heal Health Care

When I saw that this article was co-authored by Bill Frist and Hillary Clinton I had to post it. Basically, the article says that all our health care woes will be fixed by greater use of information technology. The ideas in the article are interesting, and sound good. But I think that IT productivity gains will be hard pressed to equal out rising costs due to increased malpractice insurance and more expensive cutting edge techniques.

Think twice before targeting Iran: A fisking

This article by Youssef M. Ibrahim in USA Today cries out for a fisking, so I will happily oblige.

This is the wrong time for the United States to take on Iran, the dominant demographic, military and cultural force of the Persian Gulf, as its new foe.
I don’t think Iran is exactly a new foe, I would call them an old foe with which we have be holding a cold war. A cold war that Iran’s support of terrorists, the Sadrist insurgency in Iraq and desire to build a nuclear weapon is fast heating up.
Yet, that is exactly where the Bush administration is headed. In the past few weeks, Bush administration officials, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, have said they will use any means to stop Iran from pursuing plans to build nuclear weapons. They leaked stories to the media about plans to bomb industrial sites in Iran, including the Bushehr nuclear reactor.
Personally I sure hope so. I don’t desire war, but I desire nuclear-armed mullahs even less. And the only hope of avoiding both is if Iran is sure that they will get war if they don’t abandon nukes.
Iran's response was swift. Gen. Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corp, said that if attacked, Iran would "retaliate everywhere."
By this, we must suppose that Iran is threatening to sponsor terror groups if they are attacks…oh wait they already are…I guess they will sponsor terror attacks more if they are attacked. At least they can’t get a terrorist group a nuclear weapon…for now.
Even the country's defense minister, Ali Shamkhani, has warned that Iran retains the option of pre-emptive strikes to prevent an attack on its nuclear facilities. Such a strike would likely target Israel — which took out Iraq's nuclear facility in 1981 — virtually ensuring a widespread war in the Middle East.
Maybe. That is a risk. But the estimations of the reaction of the Arab street have been widely off in the past. After all, invading Afghanistan was going to ignite the Arab Street and provoke general war in the region. Invading Iraq was going to ignite the Arab Street and provoke general war in the region. Regardless, if we can’t deal with this sort of threat now will it get better in the future after Iran has nukes?
Nothing would unite Iranian moderates and hard-liners more than an attack on their country and, above all, the destruction of their prized nuclear reactor. Iranians are not easily intimidated. They lost nearly a million people in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, launched by Saddam Hussein in 1980. In the end, the Iranians prevailed. Saddam backed down How quickly we forget.
Saddam did back down, but that war wasn’t exactly a win for the Iranians either. And we do know how American military compared with that of Iraq in a head to head contest. Iran knows that too, and I bet that the mullahs ARE just a bit intimidated. Hence their funding of Sadr and their push to develop nukes. The mullahs understand that Iran and the U.S. are on a collision course. And they are hoping to delay that collision until things are a bit more favorable for them.
Najaf's powder keg Washington's threats could not come at a worse time. The ongoing standoff in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, between U.S. forces and the American-selected Iraqi government on one hand and the elusive Mahdi Army of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on the other, brings us closer to a confrontation with Iran.
Yes, as has already been stated Iranian funding for the Sadrist insurgency does bring us closer to confrontation. Although I would think that more of the blame for this lies with Tehran than Washington.
For Shiites the world over, Najaf is the holiest of holy sites, the resting place of their superhero, Imam Ali. Ninety percent of Iran's 69 million people are Shiites. U.S. forces wisely have made every effort to avoid damaging the Imam Ali shrine, where al-Sadr and his militants have been holed up. Any desecration of the building would create huge popular pressure inside Iran and among Shiites the world over to support al-Sadr. The problems for the United States would then grow exponentially.
Well, the World Trade Center was one of the holiest sites for capitalists the world over. Unfortunately our enemies are less mindful about destroying things we value then we are about destroying things they value. Once again though, I think he may be overestimating the anger of the Shiites if the shrine were to be destroyed most will realize, correctly, that the blame falls on Sadr who is the one who chose to make the shrine into a battlefield and, reportedly, has wired it to explode.
So, before the United States decides to take the plunge with Iran, it is imperative to ponder what happens the day after we lock horns. A confrontation with Iran could considerably widen the Iraqi quagmire, threaten the survival of any government in Iraq and unleash a wave of terrorism, car- and suicide-bombing attacks against all American interests in Islamic countries as far as Pakistan and as close as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iran would make sure of that. No cakewalks here.
Yes. Iran supports terrorists. It will continue to support terrorist if we don’t attack it. It will try to support terrorists if we do attack it. It will stop supporting terrorists when the mullahs are removed from power and a more enlightened government takes over.
Just as ominous, it is not possible to conduct two wars in the single region of the world where two-thirds of the global oil and natural gas reserves reside without pushing oil prices even higher than their current record levels of nearly $50 a barrel. Such a conflict would wreak havoc on the U.S. and world economies.
True, a major attack on Iran would cause a rise in gas prices that could cause serious economic trouble to the world. A nuclear weapon going off in New York could also cause a bit of an economic stir. It might be better, economically, to get it over quickly rather than having another war in the gulf region in five years. Also, consider that if we don’t stop Iran from getting nukes, Israel will, even if they have to nuke Iran themselves. That isn’t exactly a rosy economic picture either.
In a long conversation with me recently, a senior American diplomat in the region who is the top expert on Iran shrugged off Iran as a "paper tiger." That is a serious error, more so if this is the kind of advice flowing back to leaders in Washington.
Compared to the full force and power of the United States, Iran is a paper tiger. Bringing that full force to bear on the problem is difficult, but not impossible. Mostly it requires leadership and a population which understands the severity of the threat.
Iran's vast influence Iran's tentacles reach far and wide. They were amply demonstrated in the 1980s and 1990s in Lebanon, where Hezbollah, the Iran-sponsored militia, forced both the United States and Israel to unilaterally withdraw their troops.
Yes, thanks for reminding us again. Iran is a major sponser of terror.
Just as a reminder, a few weeks ago, the Iranians stirred a little trouble in Bahrain when threats were made against Americans. The words came from some of the 475,000 Shiites who constitute a majority of the population of Bahrain, where the United States maintains its largest naval base in the Persian Gulf. The Bush administration panicked and ordered all U.S. dependents to leave immediately.
What? Iran sponsors terror you say? And they make threats against Americans?
If a confrontation with Iran erupted, we would be taking on more than a single country. Iran and Syria have maintained a 25-year strategic alliance. Both have been targeted by neoconservatives for "regime change."
Yep, that is because both of these countries … sponsor terrorists.
Together, they share the longest open borders with Iraq. They have built and retained armed militias inside Iraq for years, and those forces have been considerably reinforced in the past 14 months.
Yes, Iran and Syria are using proxy forces to battle the United States in Iraq and prevent a free society from emerging there. I think you are getting off the point of why we should NOT attack Iran. Oh, and those borders go both ways…one reason invading Iraq was in our strategic interest.
More arms, men and logistical support would flow through these borders to attack overtaxed, demoralized U.S. troops already locked in a war of attrition. Both countries would also press into action various dormant terrorist cells, which would attack, among other things, oil facilities in the region.
Leaving aside the characterization of our troops as overtaxed and demoralized, isn’t the removing the source best way to stop this ‘flow of arms, men, and logistical support’?
Iran rejects the charge that it is making nuclear weapons. It has accepted international inspection of its nuclear facilities, but has defiantly declared that it will continue its uranium-enrichment program for scientific purposes. Russia, which is cooperating with Iran's nuclear efforts, supports that position.
Iran rejects the charge one day, and asserts its right to make such weapons on another day. And it has not accepted unlimited international inspections. The fact that Russia is getting paid to help Iran develop nukes is not a comfort.
There is room here for more talks and compromise. Translation: There is no need to lunge, again, into war, now or a year from now.
Strictly speaking this is true. We can wait until Iran has nuclear weapons. We can even wait until Iran gives a nuke to a terrorist group and we lose Washington, New York, or Tel Aviv. After that, we won’t be able to wait any more.
Neocons, be they Republicans or Democrats, ought to ponder the consequences of taunting Iran and opt instead for a dialogue.
Germany, France, and Great Britain are talking like a storm, and we all know that France in particular is far more talented than the U.S. at nuance and diplomacy. If they succeed in getting Iran to abandon it’s nuclear ambitions I will cheer for them. I am not holding my breath however.

More on Campaign Finance and Free Speech

Required Reading: So Much for Free Speech Its all about 527s, Campaign Finance Reform, and why this doesn't work with the First Amendment. This bit is especially pointed:

The media poorly describe what's happening. Campaign finance reform is a respectable cause. It's inconvenient to say that the First Amendment is being scalped. Few do. The New York Times recently ran a story on two campaign lawyers -- one Democratic, one Republican -- who bring cases before the FEC to bend "the complex rules to their clients' maximum benefit." The story barely hinted that, once candidates need lawyers and rulings to say what they can do, their constitutional protections have disappeared.
This is a very important point. I am all for the rule of law and lawyers are a valuable part of that. Past a certain point however, when lawyers are needed for things that should be obvious and routine (another good example of this is fair use copyright law) then the system has broken down. If you need a lawyer in order to exercise your rights then essentially you no longer have those rights. You especially do not have those rights if you are poor. I wonder what part of 'Congress shall make no law' confuses them?

Welcome Bill to the Blogosphere

Check out The Edge of Reason, his first post, on 527s, is well written and I expect great things ahead.

Iraqi Soccer team loses to Paraguay

Washington Times:

Paraguay put a dent in Iraqi's amazing Olympic soccer journey Tuesday night with a 3-1 semifinal victory. The Iraqis can still earn its country's second ever Olympic medal with a win in the bronze medal game against Italy on Friday.
It has been an amazing performance so far, even with this disappointing loss. Good luck the the Iraqi team on Friday. Nabil is disappointed but still upbeat.

Web of Connections


A top lawyer for President Bush's re-election campaign resigned on Wednesday after disclosing he provided legal advice to a group that accuses Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry of lying about his Vietnam War record. Benjamin Ginsberg was the second person to quit the Bush campaign over ties to the group, called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The Bush's campaign insists it has no relationship with the group and has denied Kerry's charge the president's re-election team is using such "front groups." "I have decided to resign as national counsel to your campaign to ensure that the giving of legal advice to decorated military veterans, which was entirely within the boundaries of the law, doesn't distract from the real issues upon which you and the country should be focusing," Ginsberg wrote in a letter to Bush. A copy was released by the Bush campaign.
The attempt by the Kerry campaign to smear the Bush Campaign with the actions of the Swift Boat Vets. seems total without basis to me. Even Leaving aside the fact that Kerry lawyers have similar ties to 527 organizations, the idea that an individual might work for more than one group or give legal advise to the campaign and a 527 group is a long way from saying that the two groups are coordinating their actions. I would suppose that there are a limited number of lawyers that specialize in campaign finance law. Since both 527 groups and political campaigns would need to draw on this limited pool, one would expect overlap to occur.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Sudan silences critics

The Daily Star:

Less than a week before a critical UN Security Council meeting on Darfur, Amnesty International on Wednesday accused the government in Khartoum of intimidating and imprisoning scores of Sudanese villagers, journalists, translators, lawyers and human rights activists who dared to speak out about a conflict that has left more than 30,000 people dead and more than a million displaced.
Enough is enough. The Sudan Government is commiting genocide against its own people. It is time, past time, for the world to fully and forcefully condemn this atrocity and take steps to protect the people of Darfur. This is a moral responsibility that we can not shirk.

Another Abu Ghaib Report

New York Times:

The prisoner abuses photographed at the Abu Ghraib facility in Iraq were unauthorized "acts of brutality and purposeless sadism" that served no intelligence-gathering purpose, but indirect responsibility for these and other, more widespread abuses goes all the way up the chain of command, an independent panel reported today. Problems at the prison "were well known" within the military, the panel's chairman, James R. Schlesinger, said, and corrective actions "could have been taken and should have been taken." But the panel found that military commanders and staff officers in the field and in Washington bore more responsibility than the Pentagon's civilian leaders for not preventing the abuses, which prompted outrage at home and abroad when the photographs were disclosed in April.
So my basic thoughts at the start of the Abu Ghraib scandal have been pretty weel born out. Rumsfeld didn't authorize this, but the entire chain of command is in some way implicated for failing to make sure that their subordinates were doing their job so that such things could not occur. It is difficult to decide how much punishment should be born for indirect responsibility like this. Certainly a blackmark on the records. Also seems that a courtmartial would be going too far. To me, as important as punishment is making sure this doesn't happen again. Oh, and throw the book at the sadists who actually were doing the abuse.

The Purpose of Schools

Aric, the Raging Squirrel, posted about Charter Schools a couple of days ago. I have been thinking about a making some sort of response since then, but our differences on this issue are fairly small and not really worth going over (even if he is a pinko commie). Here is one line that got me thinking though:

Secondly, while the source of Charter School funding is public, many of the charter schools are set up by private organizations, potentially causing a conflict if the views espoused by the organization conflict with those of the State.
Now I think Aric made a poor choice here in using the word views, I think he meant purposes. Even if he did not, that brings up an interesting question to me. What exactly are the legitimate purposes that government has in providing public education? I will attempt to answer that question from my quasi-libertarian free market promoting perspective. There may well be other legitmate purposes than those I mention here, and doubtless there are many purposes that some people think are legitimate which I do not, but here is my off the cuff thoughts on this. I use the generic term government rather than specify national, state, or local governments. Exacty what the resposibilities and powers of each of these levels should be is a seperate debate. 1) Civics: It is certainly in our interest as a democracy to ensure that our citizens know the mechanics of self government as well as a general understanding of the history of our nation and it's founding principles. The ability to gather and evaluate knowledge is also desirable and requires certain bedrock skills. Because it is in all of our interest, as the least educated vote counts as much as the most educated vote, this seems to be a very legitimate reason for government to be providing public education for all. One tricky point here is that government should not be providing political indoctrination, and the line between civics and partisanship can be very blurry. This includes both the manner in which subjects are taught as well as which subjects are covered. It is probably impossible to please everyone, all the time on this point, and majority rule here seems very inappropriate (I don't think that anyone would be comfortable with the idea that elections give a mandate to indoctrinate children in a certain direction) it seems that the government should on the one hand strive to be moderate and on the other allow multiple choices of education to reflect different values. 2) Economic Opportunity: There are in my view two ways to justify the government having a legitimate interest in developing the economic opportunity of it's citizens. The first, is that every good producer increases the economy as a whole and thus benefits all (the converse that non-producers produce costs to all is also true, although for legitimacy this depends on the idea that social programs are also legitmate.) Since the better everyone does economically, the better I am likely to do as well public, and hence government, support of education seems desirable. To a large degree the justification for this hinges on the fact that we are talking about minors who have no resources in and of themselves and lack the capacity to make their own decisions. This is also related to my second justification for government support of education on the basis of economic opportunity. We have as one of our founding principals that all people are created equal. Now, manifestly we are not all born with the same economic resources availible to us, and recieving a good education is correlated with both the resources availible to the child and the resources the child will be able to attain later in life. Although the phrase 'its for the children' makes me reflexively look to my liberties, in this case a strong justification can be made for a partial reallocation of resources from the wealthy to the poor on behalf of those who, through no fault of their own are born with less resources. This does need to be carefully balanced so that the ability of parents to give their children opportunities they didn't have is not taken as this is a powerful motivator for economic activity and independence and family need to be valued. That being said, to a certain extent government leveling of the playing field is desirable here. More pure libertarians would argue that though the moral responsibility of those with more to help those, particularly children, with less does exist that does not translate into the right of the government to use force to madate the fulfilling of this responsibility. I have a certain sympathy for this arguement but given both the moral and the neighborhood effects of educated citizens on the general economic prosperity of the nation I find that the balance lies in favor of government sponsored education. It is interesting to me that, in my opinion, the case is much stronger for the civics arguement than the equality of opportunity arguement. I would also say that on the whole, public education is better at producing people who are able to compete economically (or at least take the next steps i.e. college) than it is people who have a good understanding of civics and the mechanisms of government. It is also interesting that when people are complaining about public education they are almost always complaining about it's failure to provide economic opportunity, rather than produce citizens who understand their role in a democracy.

More on Kerry vs Swift Vets

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal give a pretty balanced summation of the controversies the Swift Vets have leveled against John Kerry and his reponse to them. It makes a couple of points that are worthy of quoting.

What did Mr. Kerry expect, anyway? That claiming to be a hero himself while accusing other veterans of "war crimes"--as he did back in 1971 and has refused to take back ever since--would somehow go unanswered? That when he raised the subject of one of America's most contentious modern events, no one would meet him at the barricades? Mr. Kerry brought the whole thing up; why is it Mr. Bush's obligation now to shut it down?
Vietnam is perhaps the most contentious split in American politics. It has been hanging over the political discourse for 30 years, to such an extent that even someone like me, who is too young to remember the controversy then, has opinions on and is troubled by, the events of that war and the peace movement at home. Vietnam is such a serious divide that we have almost ignored it, in an effort to maintain civil politics. John Kerry, amoung the most divisive figures to emerge from that era, and running on a platform of vietnam heroism on the one hand and anti-war leadership credentials on the other has forced the divide back to the surface. Add in that Boomers always enjoy reliving their glory days and we expect a very shrill political season this fall. In some ways this bit is even more interesting:
The "war crimes" canard isn't so easily handled, however. It relates directly to our current effort in Iraq, where U.S. constancy is as much an issue now as it was in Vietnam. Mr. Kerry's denunciation of the U.S. at that time presaged a career in which he has always been quick to attack the moral and military purposes of American policy--in Central America, against the Soviet Union, and of course during the current Iraq War that he initially voted for. It's certainly fair to wonder if Mr. Kerry will have the fortitude to fight to victory in Iraq if he does win in November. Or will he call for retreat the way he and so many other liberals did when Vietnam became difficult?

Monday, August 23, 2004

Demographics is Destiny

This AEI article on demographics is an interesting read. The last section of the article is on American exceptionalism to the demographic trends prevalent in the rest of the developed world.

So how can we explain this fertility discrepancy? Possibly it is a matter of attitudes and outlook. There are big revealed differences between Americans and Europeans regarding a number of important life values. Survey results highlighted in The Economist (November 2003) point to some of these. Americans tend to identify the role of government as "providing freedom," while Europeans are inclined to think of government in terms of "guaranteeing one's needs." Attitudes about individualism, patriotism, and religiosity seem to separate Americans from much of the rest of the developed world. Is it entirely coincidental that these divergences seem to track with the big cleavages between fertility levels in the United States and so much of the rest of the developed world?
While the causes of this phenomenom are a mystery, a few of the effects are fairly obvious. Any nation with a below replacement fertility value will naturally have a declining level of economic and military power over time. Fewer workers, and more elderly to care for will place a huge challenge on the governments of these countries. Challenges that are otherwise impossible to ignore. Even more intrigueing is the fact that many of the nations with declining population are, relative to world values, sparsely populated. As they continue to empty out, one would expect immigration of one form or another to move in. If the new population is not assimilated into the previous culture (through unwillingness on the part of the host country to accept them or a change so rapid that assimilation works in the opposite direction) these countries national characters may drastically change. Another demographic trend that is troubling is the disparity of the male-female ratio, especially in countries such as China. Currently 120 boys are born for every 100 girls. The effects of this trend are difficult to know with certainty but they are unlikely to be positive. In a couple of decades there will be millions of chinese men who will either have to resign themselves to not having a wife or seek their wives outside their own nation. It is hard to imagine either alternative being very palatable to the majority and doubtless this will lead to wide unrest. Of course, the other solution is if 1 in 6 young chinese men were to die. Widespread warfare could cause this outcome, but that is certainly not an solution to hope for.

Anyone know if some whales have gone missing?

My friend Bill sent me this article about some scientists at 3M who have made, in essence, transpartent aluminum.

Iran, #1 foreign policy concern

Amir Taheri has written a good roundup of Iran-U.S. history and the current state of the conflict between America and the mullahs. His concluding paragraph:

With the mullahs determined to develop and deploy nuclear weapons, the stakes in this 25-year war are certain to rise. Regardless of who wins the U.S. presidential election, Iran is likely to emerge as the No. 1 foreign policy preoccupation in Washington next year.
I agree completely. I am alarmed that our presidential candidates and the majority of voters are largely ignoring this issue. When President Bush included Iran as a part of the Axis of evil, it wasn't a joke and it wasn't a mistake. In fact, recent events have shown Iran both more dangerous and more intractable to change than it appeared to many at the time. While President Bush hasn't made a big deal of Iran in recent months, possible to give the Europeans an open field in which to resolve the current nuclear crisis, we can from his past actions in other theaters and his previous words on the subject develop a pretty good picture of what Bush will do over the next year or two if he is re-elected. I expect him to continue to strongly condemn Iran, try and get support from international organizations, issue an ultimatum, and then, if all of those options have failed to cause serious behavioral changes on Iran's part to use military force. At this point, I cannot guess if the force will be precision raids or a general invasion. That will depend largely on two factors, one, the estimation of how effective precision strikes will be, and two the availability of the needed forces for an full invasion and regime change in Iran. As for Senator Kerry, it is very hard to say what he will do. I can with confidence say a few things though. Any ultimatum issued by John Kerry to Iran will have a greater likelihood of being ignored than the same ultimatum by President Bush. Bush has proved that he isn't bluffing when he says that sort of thing and that he is willing to bring it on. Kerry will have less credibility on that matter. Second, if military action against Iran does become in the best interest of the United States, Kerry will have a more difficult time pulling it off. If he is elected, it will be on the basis of him not being George Bush, rather than as a mandate for Kerry as he is. Further, a significant portion of his own party will likely oppose any war in the region. Lastly (and unfortunately in my mind) many Republicans will oppose him on partisan grounds. I fear that these factors may conspire to weaken Kerry's ability to respond to Iran effectively even if one gives him the benefit of the doubt on his personal abilities and motivations. If Senator Kerry were to speak out strongly on his perceptions and plans for Iran now that would lessen some of his weaknesses in this regard. The more he can make his policies and issues a part of the political campaign the more he will be viewed as a candidate in his own right rather than just a non-Bush. It will also probably lessen any partisan wrangling if the time comes to act if he has clearly stated his position in the past, rather than having it appear opportunistic.

Good news from Afghanistan

Arthur Chrenkoff has a roundup of good new in the Wall Street Journal.

What Peanuts character are you?

You are Schroeder!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


It is interesting to try to get into the mind of people who are running for President (or other political office) and try to divine their motivations for seeking such an exalted status. Now lets take it as a given that anyone who wants to be President loves power and has a fair amount of hubris. Anyone without those qualities would not seek the job. Take that away, and what, if anything, is left. Now of course this is largely a judgment call, formed from a candidates history, words, and sometime just gut intuition and it is something I think every serious voter does as a way to analyze how a candidate will truly act in office. I thought it would be interesting to write out my thoughts of the deeper motivations several Presidents and presidential candidates that I remember as well as my thoughts on the two men currently running for office. I won’t provide any links or evidence to back up my thoughts, as these impressions are more ethereal than that, but if anyone has a different view, or thinks I am dead wrong, feel free to make your own observations in the comments. Jimmy Carter: I think that Jimmy Carter had (and has) a sincere desire to make the world better and a strong desire to make the world more peaceful. Ronald Reagan: It certainly seems that Reagan had strong beliefs on making America militarily stronger and creating a corporate favorable environment for business. In particular, Reagan wanted to confront, and defeat communism. Walter Mondale: Mondale seems to have bona fide classic democratic values on such things as labor unions and opposition to corporations in principle. George H. W. Bush: This is a bit of a mystery to me. The last time he competed in a primary was 1980, which is stretching it a bit for me. His presidential campaign was based upon a continuance of the Reagan legacy and his term in office was largely conducted along those lines. After Reagan had redefined the political spectrum, this pretty much made him a moderate and he governed as such. I don’t know if he was a true believer in Reagan’s policies or if he had adopted them on pragmatic grounds. Mike Dukakis: Like everyone else, my only enduring image of Dukakis is that he looked really silly in a tank. I have no idea what he was truly for behind the campaign spin. This isn’t to say that there wasn’t anything, just that I have no idea what it was, and in truth, never really tried to find out. Bill Clinton: Politically Clinton is a moderate and it is tough to find anything Political that really drove him. Certainly I think Hillary’s ambitions had an effect here, but Clinton’s biggest drive seems to be love of attention (separate from pure power.) Clinton seems to love the spotlight and for him, the relentless scrutiny of politics seems to be something that he feeds on, as opposed to many political personalities who like the power, but don’t enjoy the press and publicity that comes with it. Bob Dole: Dole seemed to me to believe in the Republican Party as much any particular principal. Perhaps this is because he has been prominent in national politics for so long. Al Gore: Al Gore seems to have strong populist sentiments similar to Walter Mondale. I remember being surprised at his convention speech in 2000 at how much populist rhetoric he brought up and how much it contrasted with Clintonian centrism. His activities since the election seem to confirm that belief. George W. Bush: In 2000 I didn’t see a whole lot of deep principles behind Bush. Perhaps the strongest motivation for him was a desire to ‘redeem’ his father’s image from the elder Bush’s loss to Clinton in ’92. He also seemed to have a core belief in reforming education, perhaps that was an influence of Laura Bush. 9/11 changed a lot of people, perhaps no one more than George W. Bush. I believe that he is now totally dedicated to defeating Islamic Fundamentalism and that this has become the defining goal of his life. John Kerry: Largely a mystery as has been noted by many others. Certainly it seems like he as wanted to be President since he was young and hobnobbing with the Kennedys. Beyond the desire for power though I can’t see anything. Perhaps I am blinded by partisanship on this though.

Iraqi Soccer update

The Iraqi team defeated Australia. Tonight they will play Paraguay and if they win, they will be in contention for the gold medal. Nabil is celebrating again as well.

Bad Month

Chris Lynch gives us this post detailing the major Kerry campaign events and mis-steps during the month of August so far. Not a great month for the Kerry campaign. (via Instapundit

Friday, August 20, 2004

Against Free Speech


The Kerry presidential campaign on Friday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging ads from an anti-Kerry veterans' group are inaccurate and "illegally coordinated" with Republicans and the Bush-Cheney campaign. The complaint was filed against Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. It states that "based on recent press reports and SBVT's own statements there is overwhelming evidence that SBVT is coordinating its expenditures on advertising and other activities designed to influence the presidential election with the Bush-Cheney campaign."
Obviously the SBVT are trying to influence the election. They don't like John Kerry and they don't want him to be president. They are entitled to their opinions and they are entitled to share those opinions by buying ads to get out their message. Personally, I am of the opinion that the Navy gave John Kerry his medals, and while that is not in and of itself proof that he deserved them, on that issue that is good enough for me. Questioning whether he has made up stories to further his political goals (Christmas in Cambodia) or whether his actions upon returning home from the war were a betrayal of the troops seem to me to be totally fair game however. This is doubly true since John Kerry has made Vietnam such a big part of his campaign. Others will differ on what is important and what is not about the person they choose to elect as President. Good. Let everyone hear all the opinions and make up their own minds. This is not a partisan issue for me. I disagree with MoveOn.org but fully support their right to create and buy advertisements. On this I disagree strongly with the Bush Campaign who would like to shut down all 527s. If fact, I disagree with McCain-Feingold. I don't think that the government should regulate speech, particularly political speech. We do not need the government to protect us from ourselves. This part of the article seems deceptive to me:
The ad, part of a $600,000 ad buy in battleground states, is funded primarily by Republican contributors from President Bush's home state of Texas, according to federal records.
SBVT recieved a lot of it's initial funding from a few Republican contributers from Texas Washington Times:
But the $158,750 in donations that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth reported in its last IRS filing show a strong bias among its donors. Of that total, $100,000 came from Texas developer Bob Perry. A profile published in the Dallas Morning News in November indicated that Perry has donated more than $5.2 million to Republican candidates running for office in Texas. Perry has also given generously to national conservative causes, according to IRS filings collected by the Center for Public Integrity. In 2002 he gave $250,000 to the Majority Leader's Fund of Tom DeLay, R-Texas, $170,000 to Americans for a Republican Majority and $50,000 to the conservative People for Enterprise, Trade and Economic Growth. The next $50,000 of the $158,750 donated to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth came from John O'Neill and Harlan Crow, who gave $25,000 each.
My understanding though, is that one of the effects of the first Swift Boat add, and it's primary purpose, was to get funding from a wide variety of people. I also understand that it has been very successful at doing so, hence the new $600,000 ad. The last IRS filing for SBVT was on June 30, well before any of the ads were broadcast so it is difficult to know exactly who has contributed since (a quick web search failed to reveal any information on this.) Note that even if SBVT had received most of their money from a single source (AKA George Soros's contributions to MoveOn.org) this would still be legal. Convincing a rich person to fund your controversial positions may be difficult, but it is possible, unlike trying to convince a government to fund them. This is why the right to free speech is so important. I believe that the American people are capable of making up their own minds about issues like these. Apparently the Bush and Kerry campaigns do not and would prefer to fully control the debate.

Sadr militia still active

Looks like I jumped the gun in my post about the disbanding of the Sadr militia the other day. Based upon the news reports I thought this was a done deal but it looks like the fighting is still not over. I am still confident that the Iraqi government and Coalition forces will successfully put down this insurgency. I hope that this can be accomplished without the destruction of the Imam Ali mosque, but that choice is largely in the hands of the insurgents.

Iran threatens attack

Yahoo News:

Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani warned that Iran might launch a preemptive strike against US forces in the region to prevent an attack on its nuclear facilities. "We will not sit (with arms folded) to wait for what others will do to us. Some military commanders in Iran are convinced that preventive operations which the Americans talk about are not their monopoly," Shamkhani told Al-Jazeera TV when asked if Iran would respond to an American attack on its nuclear facilities.
In the words of George W. Bush "Bring it on." I dispise the Iranian regime. I think that they are one of the greatest threats to America and Middle East stability. The oppress their citizens and export violence. I would welcome the end of that government with glee. That being said, I would prefer to aviod war. I would prefer to the Iranians to voluntarily stop persuing nuclear weapons. I would prefer that they chose to not support terror. I would prefer that they take their theocratic boots off of the necks of their citizens. Unfortunately, this is not gonna happen. Right now, absent clear provocation, the U.S. is not prepared to militarily invade Iran, although I wouldn't rule out a surgical strike or two against nuclear infrastructure. But if they give us that provocation, I won't be entirely sad about that.


Bruce Bawar has written a comprehensive essay on Anti-Americanism in Europe. I highly recommend it. (via Varifrank) This bit particually intrigued me:

Yet he can still see why even highly Americanized foreigners refer to the U.S. as an empire. Why? Because as they struggle to learn and speak English and to find a comfortable meeting place between America’s culture and their own, these foreigners are acutely aware that Americans don’t have to make a comparable effort. English is our language; American culture, our culture. It is our exemption from this otherwise global burden of adaptation, Purdy suggests, that makes us seem “imperial.” He’s right; indeed, an intense consciousness of the imbalance he describes, and the resentment it fosters among non-Americans, is an ever-present factor in the life of any remotely observant American expatriate. “While there is no need,” Purdy adds, “to admire or accept” the notion of American empire, “there is no escaping the need to understand it,” for “the idea of American empire is a part of the world’s imaginary landscape.”
We have all heard the aphorism of America being the shining city on a hill. I think we fail to realize how high that hill can be and how blinding the light that shines from it is to many in other countries. American dominance is something that cannot be ignored by anyone. Our culture, our values, and our economy have a huge effect on the rest of the world and forces them to adapt to us. Now I firmly believe that this is a positive effect. The world does need to become more like America in many ways, but I understand that change is difficult. I can imagine the mental turmoil of a Pakistani who sees his country impovrished and his culteral values challenged by America. Knowing that a language not his own is a prerequisite for the highest levels of success in his own land. Or the anger of a Frenchman, looking at his own nation which not to long ago was a great empire in it's own right and a power to be feared, having to acknowledge, if only internally, that French power has become a mere shadow. He loves his language, believes it is the most beautiful in the world, but for him too, English is the language of the world. What so many miss though, in their hatred and fear of America, is how we got to where we are. Yes we are blessed with a fertile, rich land but it is our culture, or elements of it that are responsible for our success. Primarily, we treat individuals and ends unto themselves not merely means for a stable society. We allow people of all nations to become Americans and still retain their own culteral history. You cannot be an Arab-Frenchman or a Japanese-Pakistani. In America, you can be who you are and be American too. This focus on individuality and willingness to assimilate gives our nation tremendous power. In my mind it is our greatest virtue.

Swift Boat Veterans and media bias

Deborah Orin has a good article in today's New York Post on the Christmas in Cambodia story. Here is her closing paragraphs:

Their online dialogue is punctuated with questions about why the "mainstream media" have been mostly ignoring this story — and why the 13 pro-Kerry vets are automatically assumed to have more credibility than 264 anti-Kerry vets. Just imagine the coverage if 264 vets who served with Bush in the Texas Air National Guard made similar charges. For those bloggers, this story has become a test of the mainstream media's credibility — and its liberal anti-Bush bias.
Now I know the blogosphere is beating to death the media bias thing, and I doubt that I have anything of substance to add, but it is disturbing. The Bush AWOL story was based pretty much on the memory of one guy, who did not remember Bush being in Alabama. The Swift Boat Vets in contrast have many witnesses who claim first-hand knowledge. Equally important is that President Bush as acknowledged that he wasn't the greatest example when he was younger. His story's central theme is someone who found God and changed his life. Kerry, in contrast, claims that he is still the person he was then. Both his heroism in Vietnam and his anti-war activities after are integral parts of his political persona. To me, that means that Vietnam era events of Kerry's life have more signifigance than Vietnam era events of Bush's life.

New Swift Boat ad

You can see it here. Unlike the other ad, this one deals with what John Kerry did upon returning home from Vietnam. I think it is far more relevant than the ad attacking his medals. At most, that ad only speaks to his character, and even then it is mostly about his character as it was 30 years ago. This new ad, dealing with John Kerry's anti-war activities, which he as not repudiated, although he has said he regrets some of his language choices, seems to me to hit more to the heart of who John Kerry is. Some people view his anti-war activities as a positive. Some view them as a negative. Others don't care. But what he did then does I think speak a lot about who he is now, especially as he has made Vietnam the major theme of his campaign. I could respect John Kerry as a war hero. I could even respect him as a war protestor, although I disagree. The man trying to be both at the same time is harder to respect.


Read this letter written by Ben Stein to an Army wife. Too good to excerpt. I want to add my appreciation to all the men and women who serve our country and the families who struggle as they are left behind. I marvel at their sacrifice. My brother-in-law is in Iraq right now, having left my sister and my four nephews, including an infant, behind. I have seen the pain this seperation causes them and the strength and courage they display on a daily basis. I am proud of them and humbled by their sacrifice. (via Blackfive)

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Abu Ghraib report

The Daily Star - Politics - Probe clears US officers of wrongdoing:

A report into the prisoner abuse scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison clears US military officers from any wrongdoing but faults them for creating conditions that allowed the mistreatment to go on. The New York Times and USA Today dailies said Thursday. The report by Major General George Fay is expected to blame at least two dozen military intelligence personnel, civilian contractors and Central Intelligence Agency officers for wrongdoing, unidentified Pentagon and military officials told the newspapers. The document, which is still under revision, is expected to be presented to the US Congress early next week, said the Times. It could be made public as early as Friday, said USA Today.
This seems to be about the right balance to me. It remains to be seen what sort of punishment the various people will recieve.


Frederick Turner writes in TCS about falling media credibility and both it's causes and it's consequences.

But for a while most of us felt that we had an established press whose canons, techniques, competition, and honorable tradition gave us news that was fairly reliable and when in error, honestly so, or at least the result of the coarsening and immediacy implicit in the medium. That trust is gone -- not just among Republicans and conservatives, but as the polls show, among Democrats, Independents, and liberals as well. It was bad luck for the Gray Ladies that their minions chose to break the tradition of trust just at the moment that powerful new media emerged from the boiling ferment of electronic technology, and that alternatives now exist. It may be that the old media are now self-destructing, and that like the medieval Vatican, the Ching Dynasty, the Holy Roman Empire, the French Academy, the Victorian Church of England, and the Communist Party, they are losing their hard-won authority because of wanton abuse.
I have been thinking a lot on this subject recently. It is discouraging, when even news junkies like me, have a difficult time determining what is true. Major media seldom investigates anything any more, reporting by press release is far more common than reporting by investigation. And spin is ubiquitous. With the internet it is possible to fact check a lot of these things, to find out more details, other points of view, and conflicting data, but this requires a lot of effort and sometimes doesn't yield clear results. We are too often left with just guesses and gut feelings.

Gattaca IRL

Eugene Volokh has a post on a recent 9th circut en banc ruling that allows the collection of DNA from people who are on probation for crimes and how this could be the first step on a slipperly slope toward universal DNA collection. I generally have only limited respect for right to privacy concerns like this one. I understand that such any system that gives the government more knowledge of it's citizens gives the government greater power and that this power has the potential to be abused. My lack of respect for the arguement in general comes from two factors. First, such things are inevitable. Not in specific perhaps, we could prevent the government from collecting and storing DNA as a routine matter, but the larger issue, that of governments, corporations, and even individuals being able to find out an astonishing array of information in on people is only going to grow and there is really no stopping it. As technology improves and continues to make the world a smaller place, the world will come more and more to resemble a small town where everyone knows everyone elses business and anonymity doesn't exist. This will be the result of a lot of increasingly interrelated systems that have numerous positive benefits, but the cost will be a certain loss of privacy. The second objection I have to the privacy arguement is based on the first. Since the capability to identify, track, and pretty much nose into anyones life will exist, I would rather have the capabilities for such things by the government be official, rather than secret. If we are all aware that the government can monitor us we can keep an eye on how they use that information. If it is a secret then we cannot.

Charter Schools

Dan Drezner has a good post on this article that appeared in the New York Times on charter schools.

Oprah jury finds defendant guilty

Random Gemini posted this a couple days ago about Oprah being called up for Jury duty. The trial is over now and the defendant was found guilty.

A US jury convicted a man of murder after a trial that turned into a media frenzy because TV chat show host Oprah Winfrey was in the jury box. Jurors deliberated for more than two hours before convicting 27-year-old Dion Coleman of first-degree murder in the February 2002 shooting death of 23-year-old Walter Holley.
At the time, I agreed with Random Gemini that this was a great example Oprah was setting in performing her civic duty. I still think that is true, but the article points out a couple of unfortunate side effects of a celebrity juror.
TV cameras shot her every move outside and inside the court building's bustling lobby, and more than a dozen reporters and sketch artists filled many of the seats in the cramped courtroom. "This is not good for the victim's family. This is not about Oprah Winfrey, the fact is a man has been murdered," Ms Winfrey said.
Would it have been better if Oprah had found a way to avoid being on the Jury to prevent the trial from becoming a media circus? If she had she would have probably been castigated in the press for 'getting out of it'. Interesting twist to the story anyway.

Oil Prices

This article from CNN Money talks about oil prices and discusses whether the current high prices are a bubble effect or not. Interesting read. Between instability in the Middle East, uncertain Venezualan politics and trouble between Yukos and the Russian government there is plenty of reason to worry that oil production might be disrupted.

New cultural highpoint!

Via James Lileks we proudly present this triumph of culture. Click on the link and try to contain your joy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Birth of a Democracy

Read this post by Zeyad of Healing Iraq about the goings on of the Iraqi National Council in their struggle to build a democracy. Yeah, it's messy, disorganized and often silly, but it is working. Read this also. It the announcement of Ali and Mohammad, of Iraq the Model, that they will be running for the Iraqi National Assembly.

Press coverage of the Olympics

This article gives an example of some rude behavior by some American journalists at the Olympics. Ever since my father brought it to my attention years ago, I have noticed how the American press covers the Olympics. And I don't much like it. My dad once told me a story of which I don't remember all the details now. It was probably from the '84 games. An American was favored to win a race and didn't, he came in second. A huge disappointment. The press ran up, immediately asking how he felt and how disappointed he was. In the same race was a Canadian athlete who finished last. The Canadian press rushed up to him as asked 'You just achieved a personnel best at the Olympic games? How great does that feel?" What a difference. It seems that all Americans are expected to win and when they don't the press are very happy to rush in and find out how devastated they are. Sure, sometimes the athletes in question are favored to win and losing can be devastating. But we all know that. We don't need the quote from the moment of disappointment. I would like to see more coverage of athletes that score a personnel best at the Olympics, whether they win or not. Athletes who overcome amazing odds to get there. Sure we should celebrate the winners. But lets make it about the struggle to be the best, rather than purely the struggle to win. Oh, and it would be ok to focus a little bit of camera time on non-Americans too. (article link via Instapundit)

Kerry criticizes troop redeployment plan


Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says President Bush's plan to redeploy up to 70,000 troops overseas will not help in the war on terror or relieve an overextended U.S. military. Senator Kerry made the comments at the same veterans convention where the president announced the redeployment on Monday.
Well, moving troops from Germany to the U.S. this won't directly help the war on terror. But I don't see how it hurts. And it does make it easier on troops being deployed troops to various locations if they are based in the U.S. rather than overseas. In essence, we are going to have to send our troops out to fight in various countries. That is why we call it a war. So let's give them a more permanent home they can be at when they aren't deployed rather than having them be deployed in Germany and THEN also deployed to the Middle East. Seems to me this is better for the military personnel, which is good for the military. This line also is interesting:
"And this hastily announced plan raises more doubts about our intentions and our commitments than it provides real answers," he said. "For example, why are we unilaterally withdrawing 12,000 troops from the Korean Peninsula at the very time we are negotiating with North Korea, a country that really has nuclear weapons."
South Korea has very capable armed forces. If they wanted to, they could mop up North Korea quickly and easily. Problem is, any confrontation on the peninsula would result in a huge number of civilian casualties. Seoul is about 30 kilometers from the border and within the range of NK artillery. Even without nuclear weapons a war would be very harsh on South Korea (and worse on North Korea). North Korea is ruled by a crazy person. I mean really really crazy. And even though he should know that North Korea can beat the snot out of him, we have troops there to make sure that he knows that if he attacks, he will be fighting the United States too. Militarily our troops in South Korea are pretty insignificant. Diplomatically they are very important. But the fact that we need to keep a troop presence there so that North Korea doesn't forget that if they attack the South they will also be attacking us, the number we have there currently and the number that we need to achieve that goal are not necessarily the same. It seems pretty obvious to me that we can withdraw 12,000 troops from South Korea and the remaining troops can still perform this mission just fine. John Kerry knows this too. Update: The Raging Squirrel comments on this as well, with more details. And he agrees with me!

Another view of 'Two America's'

This TCS Article about crime and how it dispropiantly effect the poor. A good read. Like prohibition, I feel that the War on Drugs, is increasing, rather than decreasing crime, especially in poor urban areas. Drugs are a problem, but fundamentaly they are an individual's problem and society should largely butt out. If the resources used to fight the war on drugs were turned on crime that actually has victims, America would be a better place. (article via Instapundit

Sadr disbands Militia


Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has agreed to Iraqi demands that he leave the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, disband his Mehdi Army and "enter into the mainstream political process," his spokesman said Wednesday. The announcement came after the nation's interim defense minister said Iraqi forces were prepared to raid the mosque where the Shiite Muslim militiamen are holed up.
Great News. It seems to me that the Iraqi and U.S. forces have learned exactly how to defeat this sort of insurgency. First, you don't give up. Keep applying pressure. Second, don't let them lure you into committing atrocities. Be patient. Third, let them hang themselves. These are thugs, and given time they will enrage the population, thus allowing support for things like an assault on the Iman Ali mosque. Lastly, be a little flexible. Yeah, it would be nice if Sadr was arrested, but it is more important to stop the violence, so long as you don't allow violence to succeed it is a win.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


This is a lot of fun, for those who like this sort of thing anyway.

Iraqi soccer team wins again


Instead of playing for their lives under a torturous regime, Iraq's soccer vagabonds played as though they had the time of their lives last night. Pushing the play relentlessly in front of a delirious partisan crowd, the driven Iraqis struck for a pair of second-half goals to keep their fairy-tale Olympic odyssey alive with a 2-0 thumping of Costa Rica.
The article also talks about the sad status of Iraqi soccer under Uday Hussein.
The match clearly was much more than a game to the Iraqis, who for years fielded one of the best squads in the Middle East before Uday Hussein, one of Saddam Hussein's two sons, gave a cruel new meaning to taking one for the team. After a 1997 loss to Kazakhstan in a World Cup qualifying game, for example, the players were badly caned on the soles of their feet. On another occasion, defeated players were dragged on the pavement until their skin became raw and then were forced to leap into raw sewage. Such was the unhealthy life of an Iraqi soccer player.
Nabil is celebrating as well.

Kerry's one point plan

More than a grain of truth in this.

Hijab Olympics

New York Post:

The Greek organizers of this summer's Olympics, which began in Athens yesterday, claim that more women athletes are competing than ever before. Women are also playing a high-profile role in making the whole enterprise, the biggest of its kind in Greek history, run as smoothly as possible. Seen from the Muslim world, however, the Athens game will look like a male-dominated spectacle in which women play an incidental part. According to officials in Athens, the number of Muslim women participating in this year's game is the lowest since 1960. Several Muslim countries have sent no women athletes at all; others, such as Iran, are taking part with only one, in full hijab. And state-owned TV networks in many Muslim countries, including Iran and Egypt, have received instructions to limit coverage of events featuring women athletes at Athens to a minimum.
The article doesn't say, but I am very curious as to what sport the Iranian woman in the full hijab is playing. This part also explains a lot about the Muslim world:
"The question how much of a woman's body could be seen in public is one of the two or three most important issues that have dominated theological debate in Islam for decades," says Mohsen Sahabi, a Muslim historian. "More time and energy is devoted to this issue than to economic development or scientific research. "
Speaks for itself. (via Stephen Green who also gives us this post, which certainly does provide some support for the idea of Olympic competition turning men into crazed sex fiends.)