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Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Debate - Recap

I judge this debate to be a tie. As I said previously, in some ways a tie is a win for Bush but certainly not enough to knock Kerry out of the race. I think Bush did very well at showing he is steadfast and a strong leader and also did well showing his compassion and his understanding of the seriousness of going to war. On North Korea Bush did far better than I expected, I think he won on that subject. Explaining the six party talks and why we need China's help was perfect and I think John Kerry's idea for bi-lateral talks won't sell to the American people. John Kerry I think managed to be both be stong and anti-war which will probably keep his divided base with him. I don't know that his plan for a 'summit' and more training of Iraqi police being his key peices will sell to the American people. I think he did a fairly good job fighting the flip-flop allegations but I don't know how well the complex way he uses to explain his 'consitancy' will sell. I also think he failed to score any points on the homeland security topics, such as port inspections and what not. He did hit this topic but as kinda a part of a laundrey list and it failed to have much impact. Kerry made one faux paus that I think may come back to hurt him in the post debate spin when he talked about pre-emptive policy and passing 'the world test.' I think Bush missed an oportunity to hit back hard here though. He should have said something like this: Around twenty years ago another country failed to pass the world test when Israel bombed the Osirak reactor in Iraq. The world roundly condemned this action at the time, but we are all glad that they took such action now. Transcript and videos here

Debate Night

A lot of people are saying that tonights debate may well determine the election. I think that there is still plenty of time for things to change, but I agree that this is the last best chance for the candidates. I'll try to take off my partisan hat for a moment and give a critique on what I think each of the candidates needs to do, and what their weaknesses/troubles might be. George Bush: Bush needs to project confidence (something he is good at) without appearing arrogant (something he is less good at). Continueing the convention established theme of being deeply concerned out sending our soldiers off to war will be a good strong point too. Bush probably also needs to show he is aware that everything is not going well. Appearing clueless as to the true state of things could play very badly, especially in the post-debate spin. One possible problem for him might be North Korea. The diplomatic strategy is to refuse to treat this as a crises so that NK won't feel they have the power to drive a hard bargin. Treating this as not a crises in the debate may cause W. too seem out of touch. Iran is less of a problem (debate wise) and I doubt Bush will have any trouble with questions on this topic. John Kerry: Kerry needs to clearly define his positions. He has to be direct and at least appear honest and sincere about what he says. Nuance and waffling will probably not play well. He needs to show that he is strong and committed to winning the war on terror. Kerry's biggest problem here is that his base is split. If he goes too pro-war he risks losing support of his base and if he goes too ant-war he risks driving independants to Bush. This makes it tough to spell out a clear policy. Added to this, is the flip-flop charge seems to be sticking in the mind of voters and whatever tack he takes can probably be characterized as a flip-flop. Kerry also has to disconnect himself from Europe/the U.N. most Americans want America to be in charge of our foreign policy. Allies are good, but in our mind we should be in the drivers seat. Kerry's challenge tonight is probably much greater than Bush's. First, he has a more difficult task, as described above, secondly he is currently behind so a 'tie' isn't good enough. Bush isn't the world's greatest debator, but he is very good at connecting with ordinary people, which is what these debates are mostly about, so a Kerry victory on points won't be good enough. I plan on watching the debates tonight and I will blog my reaction.

Kerry's problem

This interview segment with Diane Sawyer is emblamatic of John Kerry's problem:

DIANE SAWYER: Was the war in Iraq worth it? JOHN KERRY: We should not have gone to war knowing the information that we know today. DS: So it was not worth it. JK: We should not — it depends on the outcome ultimately — and that depends on the leadership. And we need better leadership to get the job done successfully, but I would not have gone to war knowing that there was no imminent threat — there were no weapons of mass destruction — there was no connection of Al Qaeda — to Saddam Hussein! The president misled the American people — plain and simple. Bottom line. DS: So if it turns out okay, it was worth it? JK: No. DS: But right now it wasn’t [ … ? … ]– JK: It was a mistake to do what he did, but we have to succeed now that we’ve done what he’s — I mean look — we have to succeed. But was it worth — as you asked the question — $200 billion and taking the focus off of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? That’s the question. The test of the presidency was whether or not you should have gone to war to get rid of him. I think, had the inspectors continued, had we done other things — there were plenty of ways to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein. DS: But no way to get rid of him. JK: Oh, sure there were. Oh, yes there were. Absolutely. DS: So you’re saying that today, even if Saddam Hussein were in power today it would be a better thing — you would prefer that . . . JK: No, I would not prefer that. And Diane — don’t twist here.
Now Diane Sawyer is not known for her tough, hard hitting interviews. Stragely though, she seems to have Kerry on the ropes here and after reading this excerpt I know less about what John Kerry things, what his message is, what his principles are then I knew before I read it. If Kerry has a similar performance in tonights debate his candidacy if effectively toast.

Media and Patriot Act

Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy posts on a recent court decision and the media's explanation of it:

As I noted in my post below, a recent decision of the Southern District of New York struck down part of a 1986 law known as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. How does the press report the decision? No mention of the 1986 law, of course. Instead, the press is reporting that the court struck down a major part of the Patriot Act, in a blow to the Bush Administration's overzealous response to terrorism. As I trace the history of the statute, this is quite inaccurate: the basic law was implemented in 1986, almost 20 years ago. To be fair, the Patriot Act did amend some language in this section; just not in a relevant way. As best I can tell, the court's decision does not rely on or even address anything in the Patriot Act. (See page 14-22 of the Court's opinion for the details of the statute's history.)
Read his entire post. This seems to be a lot of the difficulty about having a sensible debate on the merits or detriments of the Patriot Act. The media presents us with a skewed vision of what the Patriot Act really is and what it means. Most blogs aren't any better at covering this issue, because it is complex and people have very strong feelings on this sort of thing. It makes it difficult to sort out the facts from the hyperbole.

Jack Daniel's:

New York Post:

JACK Daniel's has sparked outrage among serious drinkers by unceremoniously lowering the proof of its famous Tennessee Whiskey from 86 to 80. ... Rich writes, "Jack Daniel's is, of course, a private corporation and they can do whatever the hell they want," but called the alcohol dilution "unfathomable blasphemy. They can lower the proof to zero and call it lemonade if they like. But that doesn't mean we have to drink it."
Lowering the proof of Jack Daniel's is letting the terrorists win! I am calling for massive protests. Riots in the streets. Lets take back our whiskey! Or we can just switch to Vodka.

Media and Blogs

Just go read Lileks already.

When Luther nailed his theses to the door, it was a challenge; some read what he had to say. Others wondered what gave him the right to pick up a hammer.

Zarqawi's Debate tactics


Suspected insurgents launched deadly car bomb attacks Thursday in Baghdad, killing at least 45 people -- most of them children -- and wounding scores more in operations aimed at Iraqi government targets. A hospital official told The Associated Press 35 children were killed. "We are obviously seeing a major onslaught by the terrorists on Baghdad and some other Iraqi cities," said interim Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

McDonalds on the Moon

Rand Simberg has a post talking about private enterprise and militarization of space. This is an interesting topic, one that I would enjoy discussing in detail at some point. This is not that point, instead I want to quote pseudonymous commenter Ben Zeen:

Vincent: And you know what they call a... a... a Quarter Pounder with Cheese on the Moon? Jules: They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese? Vincent: No man, gravity on the Moon is one sixth of that on Earth. They wouldn't know how the f*** to eat a Quarter Pounder there. Jules: Then what do they call it? Vincent: They call it a Twenty-Fourth of a Pounder with Cheese.
Read the post and the comments, most are far more serious, if less humorous, than this one.

Wash. State Senate Race

Powerline has some comments on the Murray vs. Nethercut Senate race here in Washington State.

If this isn't enough to turn the election in Nethercutt's direction, the people of Washington must be unconscious.
Sadly, the people of Washington are unconscious, which is why I don't bother following State politics very closely. I would love to see Nethercut win, not so much because I like him, but because I really dislike Patty Murray. I would be very surprised if he wins this election though.

Nigerian Peace?

This seems like good news.

A Nigerian rebel leader claimed tonight he had reached a peace deal that would bring an end to fighting in the oil rich south that has helped push up world fuel prices. Moujahid Dokubo-Asari, who heads the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, said he agreed to a peace deal with President Olusegun Obasanjo to end fighting in Africa’s leading oil exporter. “The president has given an express understanding that no troops will attack our people. And as along as they don’t attack, we won’t attack,” he said.

Don't let it drive you nuts

David Warren has a post up that is well worth reading. Best part:

The purpose of terrorism is to terrify: to drive us nuts, to leave us incoherent, to make us run away. To spread fear and confusion, feeding upon each other. To make, for instance, the American electorate think: "O dear, Iraq is a nightmare, we had better get out right away." But that will not do. Instead, we must look, as calmly as we can, right into the heart of the carnage, and find, unblinking, a way to bring it to an end.
I know some disagree, but I find it to be important to look into the heart of this darkness. To see the images of the twin towers, the videos of beheadings, the images from a security video of the Madrid explosions and the sickening massacre at Beslan. There are several reasons for this. First, I think it is an honor to the victims to acknowledge what has happened to then, to not let it then become just a number. Second, perhaps most importantly, by looking unblinking at this carnage and letting it fill us with a terrible resolve it takes the victory from the terrorists. Their purpose is to terrify, our response must be too look at their works and not be afraid. (hat tip: Instapundit)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Democracy: A sturdy truck

I really like this David Brooks column. First he gives us a bit of historical perspective:

Conditions were horrible when Salvadorans went to the polls on March 28, 1982. The country was in the midst of a civil war that would take 75,000 lives. An insurgent army controlled about a third of the nation's territory. Just before election day, the insurgents stepped up their terror campaign. They attacked the National Palace, staged highway assaults that cut the nation in two and blew up schools that were to be polling places. Yet voters came out in the hundreds of thousands. In some towns, they had to duck beneath sniper fire to get to the polls. In San Salvador, a bomb went off near a line of people waiting outside a polling station. The people scattered, then the line reformed. "This nation may be falling apart," one voter told The Christian Science Monitor, "but by voting we may help to hold it together."
Compartively of course, Iraq and Afghanistan are both much better off than El Salvadore was in 1982. Additionaly, they have much more support from the U.S. This doesn't mean things will be quick or easy, but it does help to realize that they are do-able. Brooks also offers these two criticisms:
As William Raspberry wrote yesterday in The Washington Post, "the new consensus seems to be that bringing American-style democracy to Iraq is no longer an achievable goal." We should just settle for what John Kerry calls "stability." We should be satisfied if some strongman comes in who can restore order. The people who make this argument pat themselves on the back for being hard-headed, but the fact is they are naïve. They've got things exactly backward. The reason we should work for full democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan is not just because it's noble, but because it's practical. It is easier to defeat an insurgency and restore order with elections than without. ... It's simply astounding that in the United States, the home of the greatest and most effective democratic revolution, so many people have come to regard democracy as a luxury-brand vehicle, suited only for the culturally upscale, when it's really a sturdy truck, effective in conditions both rough and smooth.
One thing that really bothers me is when people claim that a given group are not 'ready' for Democracy. In my opinion, this is pure bigotry. I have a lot more faith in people than that.

Terrorists losing?

David Ignatius argues that they are in the Washington Post:

Looking at the gruesome images of beheadings and suicide bombings in Iraq, it's easy to think that the Islamic holy warriors are winning. But a new book by a distinguished French Arabist named Gilles Kepel argues the opposite case. For all the mayhem the jihadists have caused, he contends, their movement is failing. ... Perhaps it takes an outsider -- a Frenchman, even -- to help Americans see the war on terrorism in perspective. Saturated in terrorism alerts and images of violence from Iraq, Americans may miss the essential fact that the terrorists are losing. And because we see this as a war against America, rather than one within Islam, we may miss the real dynamics.
He has some interesting perspectives. I think the jury is still out on who is winning or losing, but in balance I think our side has the advantage. In some ways the terrorists themselves are our best propaganda. Few Muslims wanted to live under conditions like Taliban controled Afghanistan. Fallujah under terrorist control is a similar advertisment to Iraqi's of what their options are. In some ways I think this is the best justification for our pullout from Fallujah in April (a very controversial decision).

The Wisconsin Gambit

The Kerry Campaign is not doing well in Wisconsin, a state they really need if they hope to win this election. Powerline reports on an attempt by Kerry to swing the votes of dairy farmers in his favor:

Kerry said Bush is opposing an effort to extend the Milk Income Loss Contract that helps dairy farmers when milk prices drop and is set to expire in October 2005. He said the Bush administration would wait until after the election to act so voters in swing dairy states wouldn't turn against him. The Bush campaign issued a statement that said accounts of White House opposition to the milk program are false.
Nothing unusual as far as politics go, but ironically Kerry had to explain further because of past votes affecting midwestern dairy farmer:
In the 1990s, Kerry supported the Northeast Dairy Compact, a regional pricing program that propped up prices for Northeastern dairy farmers over objections from their Midwestern counterparts. "We've had a difference between the Midwest and the Northeast," Kerry said. "I'm going to be very upfront with you about it. As a senator representing Massachusetts, I fought for the dairy compact and fought to have our dairy farmers get help," the four-term lawmaker said. "I'm running for president of the United States now and I intend to represent all the farmers of America."
So Kerry is trying to win the support of mid-western dairy farmers by promising to flip-flop. Emblematic of his campaign.

Interesting point on the Iraq War

Sebastian Holsclaw made a statement justifying the war in Iraq, in response to Orin Kerr;s questions, that I had not heard before:

Saddam had become an enduring hero and symbol of the West’s inability to follow through when met with the slightest resistance. This dangerous idea is what allowed Al Qaeda to believe that it could strike in New York City and be safe in Afghanistan.
I wonder how true that is. Given Osama's most consistant demand was for U.S. forces to leave the Gulf Region (and Saudi Arabia in particular) I can certainly imagine a level of admiration on his part for Saddam, even though Saddam was not properly religious and was the cause of the U.S. forces being there in the first place. I expect that Mogadishu had a more signifigant impact on Osama's belief that he would be safe (assuming he did believe that) but Iraq's defiance of the U.N. certainly is similar in some ways to what happened in Somalia.

The Spandex Paradox


Health Insurance

Clayton Cramer has a long post on health insurance. I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but he makes some good points. (via Instapundit, where there are more Health Care links as well.) I might work up a long post of my own on health care at some point. I have a few ideas but they are not fully formed yet.

War Heroes

This post on war heroes matches a lot of my thoughts.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Sprit of America

I have mentioned Sprit of America before, but seeing a post on them by Instapundit reminded me that it might be a good idea to mention them again here as well as donate some cash to that worthy cause. Check out their site and what they are doing if you are unfamiliar with them. This is a cause that anyone should be able to support.


I didn't buy Hillary Clinton's Living History even though I think she is a fascinating character with a great story to tell. Problem is, I don't think right now she is at all interested in telling her story, so much as selling herself as a politician. While that can be interesting in its own way, that isn't the Hillary story I want to read. I have read two other Hillary books recently though, Rewriting History by Dick Morris and American Evita by Christopher Andersen. Both give essencially the same view of Hillary, although I was surprised that Dick Morris's book was the kinder of the two. Obviously neither book presents Hillary in a very favorable light, although some of the facts in her life are very interesting (although a number were missing from Living History). I am not much in favor of Hillary's politics. I am convinced that she would do anything to gain power and subverts her own moral beliefs to that quest. Even with those negatives however, I would prefer her as a candidate for President over John Kerry. On thing about her is that I am convinced she is tough. If you are interested in Hillary, but just want to read one book on her, I recommend Dick Morris's book.

Lessons from WWII

If you don't read Belmont Club everyday you are missing out on some of the most insightful commentary on the War on Terror availible on the net. Today's post by Wretchard is no exception:

While Midway is enshrined in popular glory, it was really Guadalcanal that represented the graveyard of Japanese forces, the Island of Death upon which Japanese naval and military reinforcements were dashed heedless and seriatim, until there were no more left to send. But no one knew it at the time; and when US forces embarked on a final sweep of the island they discovered to their surprise that the remainder had been totally evacuated by Japanese forces. The most popular account at the time, Richard Tregaskis' nearly-forgotten Guadalcanal Diary is useless as a work of history, written too close to the events and burdened by the misconceptions of the time, though it faithfully preserves the atmosphere of the early 1940s. Officers rarely use historical comparisons without intending some point and Powl leaves us in no doubt that he means Iraq to be the graveyard of the global Jihad.
Was it a mistake to fight at Guadalcanal? Obviously not, but we didn't know we were winning that fight until it was won. Don't forget that lesson

Suburban Sprawl causes health risks?

Washington Post:

People who live in sprawling communities tend to suffer more health problems, according to the first study to document a link between the world of strip malls, cul-de-sacs and subdivisions and a broad array of ailments. The study, which analyzed data on more than 8,600 Americans in 38 metropolitan areas -- including the Washington region -- found that rates of arthritis, asthma, headaches and other complaints increased with the degree of sprawl. Living in areas with the least amount of sprawl, compared with living in areas with the most, was like adding about four years to people's lives in terms of their health, the study found.
This seemed pretty fishy to me. The first rule to remember with statistics is the correlation does not equal causation. The article does quote a few skeptics of the study toward the end:
"I remain a skeptic of the research, in part because the results they find are weak," said Samuel R. Staley, a senior fellow at the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based libertarian group. "This study seems particularly prone to spurious results -- results that are statistically related but really don't tell us much about causes." Peter Gordon, a professor in the school of policy, planning and development at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles agreed, calling the study "junk science." The areas studied, for example, are so large they could not distinguish important neighborhood differences, he said. "Describing places this large via a simple ad hoc 'sprawl' index is nuts," Gordon wrote in an e-mail. "People have been suburbanizing for a very long time. Yet, life expectancy keeps getting longer."
I agree fully that the lifestyle of many people (myself included) in the suburbs isn't very healthy. Fast food and little exercise is an obvious bad health choice to make. I don't know that you can conclude that this is caused by the suburbs however.

Find out how American you are (Hat tip Gib)

Under God

Eugene Volokh was guest blogging last week on GlennReynolds.com. His last post, on Friday, discussed the House bill limiting the courts ability to limit the jurisdiction of the Federal and Supreme courts on this issue. He provided an interesting commentary on why this isn't a good idea for those who want to keep 'under God' in the pledge. I think that those who are opposed to 'under God' are missing a significant point of this issue by focusing narrowly on the idea that somehow having the pledge include the words 'under God' violated the principle of seperation of church and state. Basically, my interpretation of the phrase 'under God' is that it is an explicit acknowledgement that the authority of the state is constrained by being subservient to a higher authority. In other words, that so long as the nation is behaving in a moral fashion (it is being true to the higher authority) we owe it allegiance. Should that condition not be satisfied, allegiance to the higher moral authority would take precedence. In our language, God is the catchall term for that higher authority. Our nations traditions and laws make it clear that it is the providence of the individual to determine the exact characteristics and properties of that higher authority and what our individual duties to the higher authority are. For some, this is the Christian God, for others Allah, and for an atheist it would be the personnal moral code he believes is necessary to be a good human being. From this perspective, it seems as though the 'under God' phrase would by and large be more attractive to the left rather than the right. It allows for such things as civil disobediance in cases when the laws are not moral without the breaking of one's personnal Pledge of Allegiance.

Questions for pro-war bloggers

Orin Kerr has posted three questions for pro-war bloggers at the Volokh Conspiracy site. They are good questions, and deserve answers, so here is my best shot.

First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?
I still strongly believe that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea. The only non-catastrophic way I see for us to win the War on Terror is a transformation of the Middle-East via democracy. Iraq was, and is, the best option for a place to start. It's violations of the U.N. security council resolutions, horrendous treatment of it's own people, and the fact that it had a relatively educated populous all gave me hope that Iraq could become, in relatively short time, a prosperous democracy in the heart of the middle-east. I have not given up on that hope. Indeed, although the violence is troubling, I see a lot of signs that it is succeeding. Even should that hope prove false, I still think that is was something that had to be tried. In addition there were a lot of secondary benefits to the Iraq war somewhat unrelated to my main reason for supporting the war. Saddam Hussein was a monster to his people and he is gone. I celebrate that. Saddam Hussein did have ties to terrorists of various stripes and was pursuing research into WMD. It is clear that had the sanctions program collapsed (as was likely) his WMD programs would have been up to speed very quickly. In addition, the successful negotiations with Libya and the resultant unveiling of the A.Q. Khan network were, at least in part, a result of the Iraq war.
Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?
My first reaction, is that these things suck. It would be nice if everything was going perfectly in Iraq and the peace and brotherhood had sponeaneously erupted throughout the country following our invasion. It didn't happen, and I didn't expect it to happen, although I will admit that I expected things to be better there by this time. However, I view a lot of these problems as confirmation of my basic premise in question 1. Part of the reason for negative developments in Iraq is that a lot of different groups such as Syria, Iran, Al-Qaida-linked terrorists seem to feel that a successful Iraq would be a threat to them. We are fighting several proxy wars at once against groups whose focus is to make Iraq fail. It is also important to remember that in a war the enemy gets to make moves too. Sometimes their tactics will be successful although hopefully their overall campaign will fail. I never expected an easy victory or that every move we made would be an unqualified success.
Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?
This is a tough, though valid question. Part of the difficulty with asymetical warfare is that it is tough to know if you are winning or not. Sometimes, the periods that seem the worst to you, also seem the worst to your enemy. I acknowledge however that this is a poor position from which to make policy. One truism of war is that you have never finally lost until you quit. So from a negative perspective, if we leave Iraq without that country being a stable democracy we have failed. I don't believe having an 'exit strategy' as a way to win wars, rather it is a good way to lose one. Sun Tzu said:
Put them in a spot where they have no place to go, and they will die before fleeing. If they are to die there, what can they not do? Warriors exert their full strength. When warriors are in great danger, then they have no fear. When there is nowhere to go they are firm, when they are deeply involved they stick to it. If they have no choice, they will fight.
Strategically, Iraq is a spot from which we have no place to go. We are commited and failure now, would be catastrophic. There are a few milestones that can give us a feel for which direction things are going in Iraq however. The elections in January will be one. Even partial elections (skipping provinces that are too dangerous) will be a success, if full elections can be achieved that will be a huge success. The rumored offensive in December against Fallujah, spearheaded by the Iraqi forces, will be another chance to evaluate how things are going. In the past the Iraqi troops have not performed all that well. The December offensive will be a good chance to evaluate their ability and morale. Eventually we will know of course that Iraq was a success if it becomes a stable, prosperous Democracy that exerts a positive effect on the rest of the middle-east. I am hopeful that that will have happened in part within 5 years. On the converse, if in 5 years Iraq is still experiencing the violence it is seeing now, if it's government is viewed as illegitimate by it's people, and if it's armed forces prove to still be unable or unwilling to confront the terrorists and thugs they are arrayed against it will be time to abandon our efforts there and admit defeat.

Mount St. Helens shows signs of Volcanic unrest

The Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network:

Seismic activity at Mount St. Helens has changed significantly during the past 24 hours and the changes make us believe that there is an increased likelihood of a hazardous event, which warrants release of this Notice of Volcanic Unrest. The swarm of very small, shallow earthquakes (less than Magnitude 1) that began on the morning of 23 September peaked about mid-day on 24 September and slowly declined through yesterday morning. However, since then the character of the swarm has changed to include more than ten larger earthquakes (Magnitude 2-2.8), the most in a 24-hr period since the eruption of October 1986.
I take volcano's very seriously having lived through two of them now (the 1980 St. Helens eruption and the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption). Happily, I am far enought away from Mt. St. Helens that even another major eruption is unlikely to do more than give us a nice coating of volcanic ash.

Carnival of the Liberated

Dean's World is hosting the Carnival of the Liberated stop by and check out the great Iraqi blogs.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The UN fiddles while Darfur burns

New York Times:

The resolution passed, and it was a good day for alliance-nurturing and burden-sharing - for the burden of doing nothing was shared equally by all. And we are by now used to the pattern. Every time there is an ongoing atrocity, we watch the world community go through the same series of stages: (1) shock and concern (2) gathering resolve (3) fruitless negotiation (4) pathetic inaction (5) shame and humiliation (6) steadfast vows to never let this happen again. The "never again" always comes. But still, we have all agreed, this sad cycle is better than having some impromptu coalition of nations actually go in "unilaterally" and do something. That would lack legitimacy! Strain alliances! Menace international law! Threaten the multilateral ideal! It's a pity about the poor dead people in Darfur. Their numbers are still rising, at 6,000 to 10,000 a month.
Read the whole thing. Then tell me why we should worry about being multi-lateral instead of moral. (via Instapundit)

Friday, September 24, 2004

Medical Smart Cards

This article is pretty interesting to me.

Low-income residents of the New York City borough of Queens are taking active roles in their healthcare by carrying their personal health records on chip-embedded "smart cards," public hospital officials have reported.
A few years ago I helped some guys develop a prototype of a similar system in an effort to get some venture capitalist money for them to develop a full fledged system. Basically all I did was build an application that looked like it worked to display the concept, but it was very interesting stuff. Sadly, I think the timing (2001) was against them getting any VC money and I haven't heard anything from them in a long time now, although for a while they would send me letters on their progress. Too bad it didn't succeed and make a pile of money. Would have been nice.

Afghanistan update

This Peter Bergen Op-Ed is well worth reading. Democracy is coming to Afghanistan, in fact it is coming much faster than I expected. I figured it would be at least 5 years, possibly as long as a decade before Afghanistan could become any sort of positive force for the region.

Issues, Part 6: Economic Stimulus

Part 6 of my discussion of issues in this election, based on comments made by Nicolas Farly on Farleyman's Blog (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) Nic Said:

6. I feel the Bush Tax-based system for recovery is horrific. While it temporarily has brought about relief for America it will hurt us in the long run with the increased deficit leaving future generations to foot the bill. "When the economy needed short-run stimulus without increasing the long-run deficit, President Bush got it backwards, passing an initial round of tax cuts that Economy.com found had no effect in lifting us out of recession.” He then passed more deficit-increasing tax cuts that Goldman Sachs described as "especially ineffective as a stimulative measure." When small businesses and families needed relief from skyrocketing health-care and energy costs, he chose sweetheart deals for special interests over serious plans to reduce costs and help spur new job creation."
I am skeptical of the power of the President, or Government in general to have much effect on the economy. In my opinion, the best thing they can do is stay out of the way. This doesn't mean that I oppose all government regulation, but I don't think it is the Government's job to spur new job creation. Even if I were to be convinced that it was the Government's job, it is highly unlikely that I would be convinced that they could do it well. The 2001 recession was a natural, and needed correction from the over-optimistic bubble of the late 90s. The fundamentals of the economy were still sound and a recovery was, in my opinion, pretty much assured. As to the issue of the tax cuts, well, in the words of Zell Miller, "I never saw a tax cut I didn't like." Yes, I disapprove of deficit spending and in a perfect world a tax cut would go hand in hand with a spending cut. Unfortunately, there are few politicians who don't like to spend money. Even so, I still like the tax cut. My theory is that there is an acceptable level of deficit spending that is going to exist. The only times this won't occur is when the government is strongly partisan and divided between the parties (yes, from a purely economic standpoint this does mean that I think a Kerry victory would be a good thing). Absent these conditions the government will overspend to a politically acceptable level. War increases where this acceptable level is, and that is why we have such high deficit spending currently. The fundamental problem though is how much the government spends, not how they finance it (taxes or deficit spending). Since I believe that the government will deficit spend to a politically acceptable level, a tax cut will still cut the total amount of government spending. I am aware that this is purely a theory and many economists would disagree with me on this (others would agree, thats the great thing about economists, you can always find someone who agrees with just about anything). As to the specific merits of this tax cut, as opposed to other tax cuts that could theoretically be implimented. This one seems pretty good to me. The most important step that we could take is to simplify the tax code. Both Bush and Kerry have come out in favor of this, although I am sure the exact measures each would take to do so would be different. However, this is something that is most likely to be accomplished if a single party is in control of congress and the presidency. Since there is no chance that Democrats will retake control of the House and it is very unlikely they will take control of the senate, a Bush victory seems the most likely way that this will happen.

Compare and Contrast

These photos are not entirely fair. They are really funny though.

Firsthand Info

Naomi sent me this link to a great post from a Marine Major in Iraq. Very interesting stuff. He mentions the IP and Iraqi SWAT quite a bit. We have had mixed success with Iraqi forces. I think that we have learned a lot from our failures there and now have a plan and a training program in place that will make things a lot better in the future. Judging by the frequent bombings of IP stations and recruiting facilities the bad guys agree with me.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Democrats to ban the Bible?


Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November. The literature shows a Bible with the word "BANNED" across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word "ALLOWED." The mailing tells West Virginians to "vote Republican to protect our families" and defeat the "liberal agenda."
I have spoken out against sleazy campaign practices by the Democrats and I would be remiss if I ignored this. Democrats have NO plans to ban the Bible. A Kerry victory will not cause the incarceration of Christians. Neither Kerry, nor any Democrat is the anti-Christ. These sort of tactics are shameful.


I just saw a TV spot of a Kerry campaign event. The music that was playing was Van Halen's Right Now" Specifically this part:

Miss the beat, you lose the rhythm, And nothing falls into place
How appropriate.

Peace between India and Pakistan?


India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for a sustained war on terrorism and reaffirmed his willingness to continue peace talks with nuclear neighbor Pakistan. Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf, who will meet Singh in New York on Friday, has already promised a bold approach to resolving the Kashmir dispute that has bedeviled relations between the two South Asian rivals for half a century.
There are a lot of roadblocks to this happening, but the fact that they are willing to talk, and appear open to negotiation is a great start. Settling the Kashmir issue would be a huge benefit to the war on terror. Oh, and you can bet that it was a lot of U.S. diplomacy that is making this happen.


Read this Volokh Conspiracy post. The thing to remember about war is the enemy gets to act too. Sometimes, at least in the short term, they get to win.

Blogroll update

Since it is my birthday I decided to employ the Hobbit tradition of giving things to others today. All you get is a link on my blogroll. Hah! Those who already had a link..well you get nothing! Seriously, thanks to all who sent me their good wishes today. It is much appreciated.

Ayad Allawi addresses Congress

The Iraqi interim Prime Minister gave a speech today before a joint session of congress. You should read the whole thing. Here are a few excerpts:

We are fighting for freedom and democracy, ours and yours. Every day, we strengthen the institutions that will protect our new democracy, and every day, we grow in strength and determination to defeat the terrorists and their barbarism. ... Well over a million Iraqis were murdered or are missing. We estimate at least 300,000 in mass graves, which stands as monuments to the inhumanity of Saddam's regime. Thousands of my Kurdish brothers and sisters were gassed to death by Saddam's chemical weapons. Millions more like me were driven into exile. Even in exile, as I myself can vouch, we were not safe from Saddam. And as we lived under tyranny at home, so our neighbors lived in fear of Iraq's aggression and brutality. Reckless wars, use of weapons of mass destruction, the needless loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and the financing and exporting of terrorism, these were Saddam's legacy to the world. My friends, today we are better off, you are better off and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. ... They said we would miss January deadline to pass the interim constitution. We proved them wrong. They warned that there could be no successful handover of sovereignty by the end of June. We proved them wrong. A sovereign Iraqi government took over control two days early. They doubted whether a national conference could be staged this August. We proved them wrong. Despite intimidation and violence, over 1,400 citizens, a quarter of them women, from all regions and from every ethnic, religious and political grouping in Iraq, elected a national council. And I pledge to you today, we'll prove them wrong again over the elections. ... Neither tyranny nor terrorism has a place in our region or our world. And that is why we Iraqis will stand by you, America, in a war larger than either of our nations, the global battle to live in freedom.
This is just a flavor, the entire speech is equally compelling. If I was an Iraqi I would be proud to have Ayad Allawi as my Prime Minister, as an American I am pleased to call him an ally and a friend. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to agree:
"I think the prime minister is, obviously, contradicting his own statement of a few days ago, where he said the terrorists are pouring into the country," Kerry said. "The prime minister and the president are here obviously to put their best face on the policy, but the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story." ... "The United States and the Iraqis have retreated from whole areas of Iraq," Kerry told reporters outside a Columbus firehouse. "There are no-go zones in Iraq today. You can't hold an election in a no-go zone."
Is this the man who is going to use his diplomatic skills to bring us more allies? Allawi gave a strong speech, acknowledging difficulties and laying out his plan to overcome them. Kerry responds (why is he responding anyway, this wasn't a Bush speech) by saying Allawi is just putting his 'best face' on the situation. I understand that Kerry feels he has a better chance the poorer the situation in Iraq is, but this seems to me to be getting close to working against efforts in Iraq.

Terri's Law overturned

New York Times:

Fourteen years after Theresa Schiavo slipped into a vegetative state, Florida's highest court said today that Gov. Jeb Bush violated the constitutional tenet of separation of powers when he signed a law to keep Ms. Schiavo alive against her husband's wishes. In a unanimous ruling, the high court said that a law passed by the Legislature in October 2003, referred to as "Terri's Law," granted the governor unconstitutional power to overturn several court decisions that granted Michael Schiavo the final say-so on his wife's fate.
This is a tough issue, but I think that the court was right here on the basis that laws should never be passed that are geared toward a single individual. When it is all said and done, this is a decision that should be Mr. Schiavo's to make. It is a horrible choice he has, and I feel for him that he has had to deal with the tradgedy in his life.

Tradgedy in Haiti


Hungry, thirsty and increasingly desperate residents of Gonaives, Haiti, burned tires in protest and attacked each other in a panic to get scarce food and water Thursday as workers struggled to bury hundreds of victims of Tropical Storm Jeanne. More than 1,100 were killed, 1,250 were missing and the toll was still rising Thursday, six days after the storm hit.
Sadly, things will likely get worse before they get better as disease has now become a real threat to the surviving population.

More on Iran

Vodkapundit has a good post on Iran, with some views on why Iraq was the right decision as well. Interesting reading.

So that's why it's called the Milkey Way

It has a sweet center.

Twinkies in Peril

Yahoo! News:

Interstate Bakeries Corp., maker of Hostess Twinkies and Wonder Bread, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday after struggling with more than $1.3 billion in debt and high costs.
Many of my female friends will be especially distressed at this news. (via Jenn's Blog, where you can also get nude yoga information)

Happy Birthday to Me!

I have turned one year younger today (after I turned 29 I decided to reverse course) so everyone should wish me a happy birthday and buy me lots of stuff. For any who are curious, if I hadn't decided to get younger each year I would now have reached the Hobbit age of majority today.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Al Qaeda morale

Arab News:

The Al-Qaeda terror network attracts young Saudis and then controls them by threats of jail and torture by security forces if they desert, two captured recruits told Channel One of Saudi Television. In a program entitled “Special Facts From Within the Cell” which aired late on Tuesday, Khaled Al-Farraj and Abdul Rahman Al-Roshoud said the militants used heavy psychological pressure to win over and maintain the loyalty of their members.
Disgusting practice, but possibly a good sign if they feel the need to shore up the morale of their recruits in this manner. These thugs can be beaten, like any others.

John Kerry raises draft fears

ABC News:

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, citing the war in Iraq and other trouble spots in the world, raised the possibility Wednesday that a military draft could be reinstated if voters re-elect President Bush. Kerry said he would not bring back the draft and questioned how fairly it was administered in the past. Answering a question about the draft that had been posed at a forum with voters, Kerry said: "If George Bush were to be re-elected, given the way he has gone about this war and given his avoidance of responsibility in North Korea and Iran and other places, is it possible? I can't tell you."
Now, anyone who knows anything about our military or political system knows that the chances of Bush or anyone reinstating the draft are pretty much nil. In fact, the only movement to instate a draft is being sponsored by Democrats, cheifly Charlie Rangel of NY and Jim McDermott of my own state (sad though I am to admit that). Simply put, this is a scare tactic and unbecoming of John Kerry. Update: More on draft scaremongering here

Iranian Nukes

Christian Science Monitor:

Defiance plays well in Iran. That's one reason why the Islamic republic is now resuming steps toward uranium enrichment - directly flouting a UN agency's demand to stop the development of technology that could be used in a nuclear bomb. Iran's calculation also shows that Tehran has learned lessons from US policy toward other fledgling nuclear states such as North Korea to Pakistan. In short: The West is more respectful and generous with nuclear-equipped states, rogue or not, experts say.
A couple of points here. First, if you believe that Iran's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, I got a bridge to sell you. Second, is the interesting point of whether it is, or is not, wise from Iran's point of view to acquire nuclear weapons. I am not sure that Iran is correct in their estimation here, although I do understand that they look at North Korea and Pakistan and see apparent benefits. Both of these countries are in situations that are quite different from Iran, and I think have more bearing on their situation than their possession of Nuclear weapons. First, North Korea. North Korea is backed by China, at least to a degree. China certainly wants NK as a buffer between itself and South Korea and would certainly be troubled by a U.S. occupation of that country. Added into this, getting China to work with us toward the goal of disarming North Korea has given us some hope that this situation can be resolved peacefully. Another factor that makes North Korea differnt than Iran is that even absent nuclear weapons North Korea's conventional weapons threaten a large percentage of the civilian population of South Korea, a key ally. Because of these factors, it is easy to argue that North Korea is in more jeopardy, rather than less because of it's nuclear program. Should we lose faith in the negotiations, or should we discover any selling of nuclear weapons (a very real possibility) I imagine that a military strike would follow quite quickly. Absent a nuclear program, North Korea would be peacefully left to destroy itself without outside interference. Pakistan is a different situation. I of course have no inside knowledge of what the negotiations between the U.S. and Pakistan were after 9/11 but it seems pretty obvious to me that we issued some serious ultimatums. Pakistan complied, buying for themselves a get out of jail free card and have been a strong ally in the war on terror, although internal opposition to Musharef, accompanied by not infrequent assasination attempts, is troubling. I expect that part of our deal with Pakistan includes monitoring of their nuclear capabilities and if the current government were to fall we would quickly take out those capabilities. Iran of course is quite differnt from both of these countries. They don't have strong backing from a powerful patron nation, they have not commited themselves to fighting the war on terror (well, at least not fighting it on OUR side) and they have little ability to threaten our allies with their conventional military forces. Nuclear weapons would change the scenario. It would make a strike against Iran more, not less likely.

Issues, Part 5: Patriot Act

Part 5 of my discussion of issues in this election, based on comments made by Nicolas Farly on Farleyman's Blog (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3, Part 4) Nic said:

5. I feel the Patriot Act needs to be revamped. While I see this need for this legislation, I feel it can be rewritten to keep certain civil liberties that are being abused!
I admit to being concerned when the Partiot Act was first past because of the speed at which it was done. I think that maintaining our civils liberties is of great importance, although I do think that the balance of security vs. liberty must take into account what the threats are. Nic didn't mention any specific portions of the Patriot Act that he disagrees with or give any examples of what he feels is being abused. I find that to be fairly common amoung those who oppose the Patriot Act. Here is an ACLU page on the Patriot Act and the problems that organization has with it. It is a pretty good description of some of the potential problems with the Patriot Act, although I do not agree with everything they say. Here is a page that defends that Patriot Act. Google can quickly find more arguements on both sides of this issue. To a great degree I think that the core of this debate is a result of technological changes. In a globally connected world some norms established in the past are no longer valid while at the same time technology has made potential invasions of privacy easier to do. In the past, purchasing something was basically done in public, in full view of everyone. Now, a purchase can take place in the privacy of one's home. At the same time, it was difficult in the past to keep records of all purchases that everyone made while now it is a reletively trivial exercise. Acknowledging these realities is probably a good first step in debating what powers the government should have in conducting surveilance on its citizens (and others). I find that for the most part, both sides in this debate only acknowledge the changes that benefit their side of the debate which leads them to making falacious arguements or into battling straw-men. I don't claim to have all of the answers here. I have kept my eye out for Patriot Act abuses and have not seen anything that really bothers me as of yet. On the whole, I think that the Patriot Act is a good law and takes needed steps to combat terrorism but I am open to arguements that certain portions need to be changed or that greater oversite needs to exist in certain areas. Of course it is worth noting that John Kerry as a Senator has technically more power to change this law than John Kerry would as President. While the President is considered the leader of their party, and Presidents have quite a bit of influence their constitutional power as dealing with passing new legislation or ammending existing legislation is limited to their power of veto. We all know what Bush has said and done in regards to the Patriot Act. Has John Kerry, as a Senator, acted on what he has said?

Contest of Wills

Austin Bay has a great column up. Required reading. Excerpt:

Thug arrogance is an all-too common feature of the world's hard corners, where the criminals have dominated for so long they are certain their iron wills and unmitigated violence will eventually cow all opponents. Scholarly strategists describe war as a clash of wills. The world's Mohammad Bogys have a lot of willpower -- and all too often it only breaks when Free World troops jam a rifle barrel into the cold amazement of their eyes.
These thugs can be beaten. All it takes is a refusal to give in. Our refusal and the refusal of the Iraqi people. So far, the Iraqi people have been consistently taking steps in the right direction, they as a whole haven't always performed as well as we might wish, but they have been getting stronger, more resolute. After the tyranny of Saddam Hussein this is no small miracle. Unfortunately, American will power has proved somewhat fickle. Nearly half the country supports a candidate for President who has made his desire for withdrawal from Iraq obvious and has shown no support for Democracy in that nation. Even many who were initially for the Iraq war have given up, claiming that Democracy is unrealistic and impossible in that nation. Don't give up on Iraq. Democracy can succeed there and will, if our will proves stronger than that of the thugs who would rule that nation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Legal vs. Moral

Dennis Prager has written an essay claiming that the left values legality while the right values morality. I am not sure it boils down as simply as that, but it is an interesting way of looking at things.

Democratic Success in a Muslim Nation

Christian Science Monitor:

Like Iraq, Indonesia is also a largely a Muslim nation, also beset by civil strife, Islamic terrorist bombings, and a poor economy. And its longtime dictator was recently ousted. Perhaps then the election held on Monday in this large Southeast Asian archipelago might serve as a lesson for the election scheduled for Iraq in January, one that's in doubt because of ongoing violence. With 155 million eligible voters, Indonesia directly chose its president for the first time on Monday, as well as electing local, regional, and national legislators. The voting was largely peaceful and, despite many complexities, conducted on one day (although official results are two weeks away).
Obviously Iraq and Indonesia are two very different places but still, good news is good news. Update: This article about Turkey is also interesting. I was worried when the Turkish elections propelled a stongly Islamic party into power, but it appears that this has been a benefit, rather than a setback for Democracy in the Middle-East (although Turkey is not an Arab nation)
For decades people have held up Turkey as a model for Muslim politics. But as Graham Fuller points out in an insightful essay in the Washington Quarterly, this was a Western fantasy. Kemal Ataturk's hypersecular republic, allied to the United States and Israel, was never going to move the hearts of Muslims. The AK Party has changed even that. By softening the edges of Turkey's secularism, by emphasizing clean government, by reaching out to the Middle East, it is becoming a more approachable model for Muslims. But to build this image it must be able to do things that reflect the concerns of the Muslim masses, not the elites.

The Hope of Freedom

President Bush gave a speech at the U.N. today (Transcript Here). Here is perhaps the most important point:

In this young century, our world needs a new definition of security. Our security is not merely found in spheres of influence or some balance of power, the security of our world is found in the advancing rights of mankind.
I will freely admit that my belief in Democracy being the silver bullet for terrorism is based upon faith and hope rather than facts, although certainly their are facts that support this hypothesis. Right now we are in the early stages of testing this hypothesis in Iraq, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan. So far, the results are mixed. I will admit that I expected things to be going smoother my this time. On the other hand, things are certainly better than my worst fears. It does not seem at all likely that Iraq will become an Islamic theocracy and civil war, though still a possibility, has not broken out. In general the population of Iraq seems supportive of their government and want a democracy. That being said, the insurgency in the Sunni triangle and, too a lesser extent the Sadrist uprising, continue and are troubling. What is difficult to analyze is how much of this violence is truly home-grown and how much of it is the result of foreign instigation by such countries as Iran and Syria. From what I can determine, the Saddam supporting regime loyalists have either been totally defeated or have joined up with the Al-Qaida linked movement headed by Zarqawi. The ease with which these regime remnants have melded with Zarqawi's organization should give pause to any who felt that Al-Qaida and Saddam would never work together. At the moment however we must admit that it is not certain the hopes for Democracy will succeed in Iraq. Even if it does, there is the possibility that the Democracy Domino effect that is hoped for will not take place. Even if the greater middle-east largely becomes Democracies we will then have to see if in fact this does prove to be an antidote for Al-Qaida style terrorism. Obviously this hope rests upon a lot of ifs. While there is nothing that America can do to guarantee any of these steps from taking place, there are things we can do to make the outcome we desire more likely. First and foremost is a strong commitment to supporting the people of Iraq in their fight for democracy. That being said, what if this strategy fails, at any step? What options do we have, and what would be the likely result of such options. Mark Helprin has written an essay on a different method of fighting the war on terror. It is worth reading, and some of the defensive ideas (border control, screening, etc.) make a lot of sense right now. As to his more offensive strategies, to me they are a second option, should we fail in Iraq. This is the heart of his strategy:
To coerce and punish governments that support terrorism, until they eradicate it wherever they exercise authority. To open for operations any territory in which the terrorist enemy functions. To build and sustain the appropriate forces and then some as a margin of safety, so as to accomplish the foregoing and to deter the continuing development of terrorism. To mount on the same scale as the military effort, and with the same probity, the necessary civil defense. To reject the temptation to configure the defensive capabilities of the United States solely to the War on Terrorism, as this will simultaneously stimulate China's military development and insure that we are unprepared for it. These should be our aims in this war.
I call this the client state paradigm. Basically it would mean decapitating any regime that supported terror, letting the decapitated country fend for itself, and should the new leadership support terror doing it again. At the same time, any country that fought against terror, however brutal and cruel would be our friend and free from any reprisals. The also means enacting de-facto global hegemony as part of this plan is to insist that American forces be given free reign to enter any territory which contains terrorists. I can see, if sufficient resources were allocated to such a plan, that it might work. It would be a least as expensive as our current plan and it is very doubtful that we would have any international help in such an undertaking. We could do it however, and for a time, probably solve the terror threat. It is also important to note that we are enacting some of the elements of this plan now. A good example of this is Pakistan. Pakistan has earned a free pass in the war on terror in exchange for supporting us in this war and hunting down Al-Qaida members in its territory. We are helping them in this endeavor, but have not demanded access to Pakistan's sovereign territory, as Halprin's plan would. It must be said though, the we support Musharref because he is out thug (although less thuggish than many). Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait and other nations are similar although the exact circumstances differ in each country. The main problem I have with the client-state strategy (well the main pragmatic, rather than moral problem) is that while it would work for a while, I don't know if it would work for very long. Eventually under such a scenario America would relax it's guard. Our brutal clients in the middle east would likely either slip back into supporting terror or fall themselves, likely, in this scenario, to a very anti-American government. The specter of terror would rise again, and be perhaps more dangerous as technological advancements will likely make WMD capacities easier to obtain in the future. In many ways, Halprin's plan is the gateway to the scenario I most fear, although certainly preferable to nuclear detonations in several western cities or submitting ourselves to Sharia law. It is however, the sort of plan that I think will gain more favor if several terrorist attacks happen in the United States or if one catastrophic one were to happen. It is the quick, dirty and completely amoral way to destroy terrorism, at least for a time. I think the Democratization Scenario holds a lot more hope. It is a doorway to a different, better future. I cannot guarantee that it will succeed, but it is worth trying for, worth sacrificing for.

Vodkapundit: "Kerry thinks you're stupid"

Stephen Green posts:

What, exactly, did Kerry think Bush was going to do with his authorization of force, have it framed and mount it on an Oval Office wall? Bullshit. Kerry knew his vote meant war. You knew it meant war. Amazon tribes so primitive they don't even know they're living in Brazil knew it meant war. Single-cell organisms knew it meant war. Yet Kerry expects us to believe he was only voting to give Bush some extra diplomatic muscle? Forget the polls. Forget the Electoral College. Forget the economy, the war, and 9/11. Forget if you're a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Green. Just remember that John Kerry thinks you're stupid.
Well said.

A cunning plan

Evan at Brain Terminal theorizes:

But if we can't decipher Kerry's plans, neither can al Qaeda. Therein may lie the true strategic brilliance of John Kerry: after four years of Kerry in the White House, Osama bin Laden will be so damn confused, he just might forget who his enemy is.
This may be the best reason I have heard yet for electing John Kerry as commander in chief. link via Instapundit

Monday, September 20, 2004

Issues, Part 4 Halliburton

Part 4 of my discussion of issues in this election, based on comments made by Nicolas Farly on Farleyman's Blog (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3) Nic said:

4. I am against the "no-bid" Halliburton policy that this administration has granted. I feel the tax-payers of America should demand that we get the best bang for our dollar! If that's Halliburton, that's fine, but is it, we dont know.
In 2001 Halliburton won the LOGCAP contract. Basically, this means they won, in bidding, to be the company that gets no-bid contracts. Our armed forces rely on civilian support for certain logistical tasks. These needs often arise quickly and can be the result of a fluid situation so the military plans ahead and figures out who it will ask before the need arises. Halliburton had this contract from 1992-1997 and they have had it again since 2001. To the best of my knowledge, no impropriety has been alleged in Halliburton being awarded the LOGCAP contract in 2001, and I expect if there was any evidence of such a thing we would have all heard about it. There have been some questions about whether a specific no-bid contract awarded to Halliburton subsidiary Kellog Brown & Root to fight oil well fires after the Iraq invasion should have been awarded as part of LOGCAP. It is my understanding that Congress has in fact decreed this contract to have been awarded properly. There is no evidence at all that Dick Cheney, a former Halliburton CEO, was involved with these contracts in any way. There have also been some disputes between Halliburton and the Pentagon on the number of meals delivered to troops and fuel prices on fuel supplies they have delivered. As far as I know, Halliburton has not been proven to have done anything wrong. Such disputes between contractor and contractee are common in both the public and private sector. You can read more about this here, here, here and here. Quite a bit of noise has been made about the Dick Cheney-Halliburton connection. That is probably a good thing as absent any scruntiny the possibility for corruption does exist. However Cheney and Halliburton were both aware that any deals Halliburton made with the Bush administration would be subject to such scruntiny. It is doubtful that either would purposefully do anything improper in such an environment.

Some words from Iraq

Zeyad, Healing Iraq:

The most likely scenario in the event of a premature withdrawal of occuppation forces is this: Sadr will move to gain control of the south and most of Baghdad, other Shi'ites will submit by intimidation. The Marji'iya will have no power to intervene unless they are willing to allow a violent civil war between the various Shi'ite factions. Iran is likely to interfere, but perhaps not directly. At the same time, Sunni elements will move to consolidate their power over their areas. The fundamental foreign and Salafi constituent would be too weak to control any area. Each town would be virtually independent until the strongest (and most ruthless) group can control the Sunni areas north of Baghdad. The Kurdish region would break off the rest of Iraq and the Peshmerga would move to control oil fields in Kirkuk. Later, there would be a bloody confrontation between the different groups until one subjugates the others and controls the country, this would probably take years and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would die, many more would try to leave Iraq.
Alaa, The Mesopotamian:
Very hard thinking of the required strategy is required; and with all the powerful, technically advanced people on the side of the majority of the Iraqi people who just long for a peaceful decent outcome of this situation; surely the right solutions can be found. This can’t be harder than reaching the moon or splitting the atom! When I recover a little bit from this latest ordeal perhaps I can contribute a little thinking of my own, too.
Ays, Iraq at a Glance:
I wonder how some people especially in United States dare to say that the war on Afghanistan was wrong and after that the war on Saddam was wrong, yes, the regime might differ, but they are alike in the same crazy results, both support the terror, one of them directly and the second indirectly, that one prepare AlMujahideen and the second support them, and of course not only Saddam, there are other regimes who support and help terrorism, I think you’d better stand with your president against the terror, reelect him, I’m sure you don’t want to see another attack inside of America, you don’t know what’s going on overseas, you don’t know how the enemy is growing.
Sam, Hammorabi:
The only way to prevent civil war in Iraq is to capture or kill those who plan for such a thing. There strategic areas controlled now by the insurgents and some have already become very established bases for them, should now be controlled as quickly as possible by the Iraqi government. If these regions become under the Iraqi government control the insurgent will loss their bases and scattered in a way make it very difficult for them to plan major attacks. Weakened rats trapped then so easily. On the same time the Shia, Kurds, Christians, and others who were oppressed by the previous regime should unite and they should realized well that, the Arabs and their poisonous media like Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabyiah and others are aiming to keep them under the same role of absolute Arab Sunni power which oppressed the others.
Nabil, Nabil's Blog:
The Iraqi national gaurds made a big operation in Baghdad in Hifa street, about 1000 soldiers from the Iraqi national gaurds did the operation and they succeed, they arrested a lot of criminals and catch a lot of ammunition, this was the biggest operation that Iraqi troops did after beating Saddam's regime. And I am so proud of them and I wish them luck to catch all the criminals and the thieves.

Celsius 41.11

The trailer for the anti-Michael Moore film can be seen here.

Kerry's Patriotism

Instapunk has a lengthy post in which he examines and criticizes John Kerry's patriotism. Normally I would not link to such a thing, but Instapunk did explored this criticism in a thoughtful, respectful manner, and his analysis is worth looking at. I do not believe that John Kerry is unpatriotic precisely. I believe he is wrong about a number of issues. I also feel that he is put his ambitions ahead of his patriotism on a number of occasions. There is one paragraph from Instapunks post that I think is especially interesting.

The major singled out the media for criticism, but it is impossible to avoid the realization that Kerry is a leading participant in the "negativity" about Iraq, even if it is impossible to determine his preferred policy. When he says that Iraq was "the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time," he is telling the Iraqi people, and our troops, that they can't rely on continued support from the U.S. government if he is elected. When he says that George Bush spent $200 billion on Iraq that should go to prescription medicines or schools in the U.S., he is fueling the Iraqi fear that we will "cut and run." When he hints that he will set a definite timetable for bringing U.S. troops home, he is telling the insurgents to keep fighting until America leaves and he is telling the Iraqis not to help the American troops because a definite day will come when the insurgents can take their revenge on "collaborators."
I wish that the dynamic of this campaign was different. In a perfect world there would be a bi-partisan agreement that America having decided through the constitutionally approved process to invade Iraq and attempt to establish a democracy in the middle-east was now fully committed to success in Iraq and that victory was the exit strategy. The parties could fully debate domestic plans, and debate differing methods and options for winning the War in Iraq and elsewhere in the War on Terror, but both sides would be equally committed to success. Sadly, this is not the case. Even if one give John Kerry the benefit of the doubt here (and that is a large gift) it is clear that a substantial portion of the democratic party disagrees with the war and even now thinks we should simply leave Iraq. If one gives John Kerry the benefit of the doubt on this issue, it is obvious that this faction of the Democratic party is having a strong effect on how the political campaign is run and is instrumental in shaping this debate. It is impossible to believe that this influence would disappear after Kerry wins the election. Obviously, it is equally plausible to believe the John Kerry is in fact anti-war and views the current conflict in Iraq in much the same was that he viewed the conflict in Vietnam. Regardless of whether or not you agreed with the decision to make Iraq the main front in the war on terror, that decision was made. It was made in a legal manner with the full approval of congress. We are now committed. Even if you think this was a mistake, it seems obvious to me that failure in Iraq would be a huge setback. If Iraq fails, any hope of democracy in the Arab world is set back at least a generation. Radicalism and Fundamentalism will increase with and we will feel the effects here at home, possibly in ways that are almost to terrible to contemplate. The Iraqi people have been brutalized for 30 years. Saddam taught them that if you stick your neck out to do what is right, your head will be lopped off. In this climate the only way they will prevail against the brutal thugs allied against them is if they have full confidence in the unwavering support of the United States. It is easy it assume that both the Iraqi people and their terrorist enemies view John Kerry's commitment to democracy in that nation to be tepid at best. If I were an Iraqi, I would have grave concerns for the future of my country if John Kerry wins the election in November. In this climate I would be reluctant to help out the coalition forces, fearing I would be abandoned as happened, to our shame, in 1991. If I was a terrorist I would do everything in my power to cause casualties and present Iraq as a failure to the American people, knowing that a 2 month offensive right now could win this war for me. The way John Kerry has conducted this campaign in relations to the War in Iraq has helped our enemies and discouraged our friends in that country. This is the simple truth. Even if John Kerry had been a strong supporter of the war or even if George Bush wins in November, I cannot of course guarantee we will achieve our goals in Iraq. This will, in the end, depend on the Iraqi people. But the best chance for success is if the Iraqi people know that America will do everything in its power to assure success. I believe strongly that Iraq represents the best hope of the Arab world. That democracy can change a region for the better. I wish John Kerry agreed with me. Update: My friend Naomi sent me this post from a combat medic in Mosul. He expresses similar sentiments with much more impact than I ever could. We owe a great debt to men like him, and especially his friends who have sacrificed everything for our freedom.

December Offensive announced

ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

US and Iraqi security forces are planning a major offensive in December to claim back insurgent strongholds such as Fallujah, Ramadi and Samarra. The new security plan has been drafted by the top US general in Iraq, George Casey, and the Iraqi Interim Government. December is the earliest that the new Iraqi security forces will be fully trained and operational and it falls between the November presidential elections in the United States and the planned Iraqi elections in January. Brigadier General Nigel Alwn-Foster who works on training the new Iraqi Army, told reporters that a December offensive bore risks but the risk would be less then than now because there would be more Iraqi forces available. He said chances for a victory would be high in December. By then more than 7,000 members of Iraq's elite intervention force would be ready to push into so-called no go areas like Fallujah which is seen as a source of suicide bombings and a hideout for Al Qaeda linked terrorists like Abu Mussab al Zarqawi.
via Command Post In the comments at the Command Post there is some discussion about why this offensive would be announced ahead of time. I thought that I would offer my opinions on that. First, the blatantly political. A December offensive is after the U.S. elections. Announcing an offensive now give George Bush the ability to say he has a plan, without having any risk of the plan failing before the elections. Having the offensive announced now, will also give political cover to continue the operation even if Bush should lose the election in November. Also, obviously a major offensive needs to take place before January will obviously have to take place if the Sunni triangle is going to participate in the Iraqi elections. More important however is the strategic and tactical aspects. Usually in warfare the element of surprise is of huge importance. However, in this it is much less useful than the psy-op of the bad guys knowing this is coming. The first stage of this plan has already taken place. We have ceded territory to the terrorists/insurgents, giving them an area to call their own. Now, we are giving them time to prepare a defense of this area. We are doing this because we want a pitched battle. If we can find them, we can kill them and if they choose to defend their territory we can find them. Alternatively they can chose to go into hiding. If they do this, first off they lose face and appear weak. That alone would make this operation a partial success. It would weaken the moral of their members and cause more of the general populous to throw in with the government, leading to more information for the good guys to use. In either case, they have to start diverting resources from attacks to other measures, either to defend their current holdings or to maintain secrecy. Lowering the number of offensive operations the terrorists can take place over the next few months is also a positive step.

Americans and Foreign Policy

This P J O'Rourke article is great. Read the whole thing. One excerpt:

As of early 2004, America didn't seem to have the answers for postwar Iraq. Then again, what were the questions? Was there a bad man? And his bad kids? Were they running a bad country? That did bad things? Did they have a lot of oil money to do bad things with? Were they going to do more bad things? If those were the questions, was the answer "UN-supervised national reconciliation" or "rapid return to self-rule"? No. The answer was blow the place to bits. A mess was left behind. But it's a mess without a military to fight aggressive wars; a mess without the facilities to develop dangerous weapons; a mess that cannot systematically kill, torture, and oppress millions of its citizens. It's a mess with a message - don't mess with us.
(vis Crosblog)

Friday, September 17, 2004

In the land of CBS, where the Memos lie

Check out this great image put together by Stacy of Random Gemini Weirdness.

Issues, Part 3: War and the UN

Continueing my discussion of issues based on points raised by Nicolas Farley. See also part 1 and part 2. Nic said:

3. I am not against the War's in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there needs to be a different approach. It's clear that our methods are have an effect in Iraq, but I feel that we need a change of coarse with better world-wide UN led support
I assume that anyone who reads this will be fully aware of my views on Afghanistan and Iraq and the general pro-active democracy promoting ideas in the war on terror. I also post frequently on the current state of affairs in Iraq and the difficulties and opportunities we have there. As such, in this post I will address the narrower issue of UN backing and world support. I believe, that as globalization continues, we will eventually need some sort of one world government. Such a supra-national organization could do a lot of good in the world and solve many problems. However, the nature of such a government is not incidental, rather it is central, to my support of such an idea. While the devil is in the details, suffice it to say that I would only support such a government if it was a representitive democracy with guarantees of basic human rights. The UN as it is currently constituted does not meet these requirements. It can, and does, serve many useful purposes but I do not feel, given the character of its members, that it confers any special moral legitimacy. The UN is a collection of states that confers equal standing (with the exception of the 5 permanent security council members) to all nations, regardless of their national character or moral nature. Thus you have such idiocies as Libya being the chair of the Human Rights Commision and pre-invasion Iraq being slated for a seat on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Commision. The idea that all nation states should be considered equal, regardless of their nature, is a post-modern conceit that we cannot make moral judgements of other cultures. I reject this belief. Freedom is better than totalitarianism. Human rights are not relative. Democracy is superior to authoritarianism. Free markets are more fair than command and control economies. Added to the inherent problems with the nature of UN members is the unfortunate fact that the UN beauracracy as a whole is corupt. This was amply demonstrated in the oil-for-food scandal. It is questionable whether UN support of the Iraq war would have translated into meaningful military or economic aid in Iraq. Germany is stretched to the limit and France quite obviously views American hyper-power as a greater threat to the worlds security than Islamic Terrorism. While Russia does have signifigant armed forces they could deploy, they lack the money and logistical capabilities needed. Also it is worth noting that with the partial exception of Britain and Australlia, no nation is militarily sophisticated enough to coordinate effectively with modern U.S. forces in combat, although they can be effective in a peacekeeping capacity. As to economic support for the war in Iraq and the rebuilding, we have had a fair amount of success in getting Iraqi debt forgiven. Beyond that, no major economic help was ever likely. Germany, France, and Russia are all in fairly serious economic recessions and unlike the U.S. have yet to begin any sort of economic recovery. All other major economic powers, with the exception of China, have contributed to signifigant amounts to the Iraqi reconstruction. Yes the U.S. has, and will continue to, bear the lions share of this process. That is inevitable if we want this mission to succeed. Obviously, there is a stark difference here between the current war and Gulf War I. The lion’s share of that wars cost was paid for my Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Basically, those two countries were outsourcing their national defense in that war. This was never going to happen with the war in Iraq as establishing a democracy in Iraq, one of the primary goals of the war, is designed to fundamentally alter the nature of the greater middle-east over time. Obviously this is not in the interest of the ruling families of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, although I believe it to be in the interest of the people of Iraq. It is fair to note here a couple of things. First, Bill Clinton did not have a U.N. mandate for the military action in Serbia. While certainly some anti-war democrats did protest that action, the mainstream democratic party did not have any complaints (that I know of) of him on that score. Second, John Kerry opposed the first Gulf War even though we did get U.N. approval and had wide international support. To my knowledge, he has not publically explained this vote. The Iraq War is a case where John Kerry can legitimately be criticized as a flip-flopper. When the war appeared popular he voted for the authorization to go to war. Later, when Howard Dean’s anti-war stance seemed very popular he voted against the 87 billion to supply our troops. Since then, he as veered from moderately pro-war positions to severe anti-war positions, at one point promising to begin reducing our troops in Iraq within the first six months of his administration.
Early in the campaign, Kerry maintained that it was impossible to predict when U.S. troops would return home without talking to the commanders in the field. He even suggested increasing the number of U.S. troops. This summer, however, Kerry set a new goal of reducing troops by the end of his first term. But in an interview with National Public Radio in early August, he said he could "significantly" reduce troops during the first six months of his administration -- a new position aides immediately set out to soften in private conversations with reporters.
I don’t think even many democrats are sure as to how John Kerry would deal with the War in Iraq and this indecisiveness would send a dangerous message to our enemies.

More trouble for CBS

ABC News:

The man cited in media reports as having allegedly pressured others in the Texas Air National Guard to help George W. Bush is speaking out, telling ABC News in an exclusive interview that he never sought special treatment for Bush. Retired Col. Walter Staudt, who was brigadier general of Bush's unit in Texas, interviewed Bush for the Guard position and retired in March 1972. He was mentioned in one of the memos allegedly written by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian as having pressured Killian to assist Bush, though Bush supposedly was not meeting Guard standards. "I never pressured anybody about George Bush because I had no reason to," Staudt told ABC News in his first interview since the documents were made public. ... "He didn't use political influence to get into the Air National Guard," Staudt said, adding, "I don't know how they would know that, because I was the one who did it and I was the one who was there and I didn't talk to any of them." ... "He was highly qualified," he said. "He passed all the scrutiny and tests he was given." Staudt said he never tried to influence Killian or other Guardsmen, and added that he never came under any pressure himself to accept Bush. "No one called me about taking George Bush into the Air National Guard," he said. "It was my decision. I swore him in. I never heard anything from anybody."
Now, Staudt could be lying but he is the best source of information on this and without strong evidence of falsehood on his part, a fair minded individual has to give him the benefit of the doubt. It will be interesting to see if CBS now makes any retraction since not only the documents, but the central premise of their story has been called into question. Note, Staudt does say in the article that he supports Bush. However, unless one is to believe that he is blindly partisan or bought off, in my opinion his support of Bush adds strength to his claims rather than detracts from them. It is fair to assume that Staudt is a patriot who cares deeply about the armed forces. If Bush was a total screw-off in the TANG it seems unlikely that Staudt would support him as commander in chief.

Issues, Part 2: Abortion

Nicolas said:

2. I am pro-choice. While this is a hot topic across the country, so I'd like to explain my view. I am strongly against in cases of incest, rape, or where the mother or the child is at risk. I am not for it in cases where it is used as a method of birthcontrol. Some people need to get off their lazy asses and and use contraceptives or just not have sex at all! If you're not responsible enough to buy a condom and/or have the female of the relationship on a birth-control method, then you don't need to be having sex. In my opinion, this is one of America's greatest downfall, its to layzie and needs to be pro-active in living it's own lifestyle. George W. in his first 8 month of office cut federal funding for abortions even in cases of rape, and incest! This is not the right thing to do. We need more counseling sure! We need to love the people in the center od theses cases because they are victims too!
My views on abortion are rather similar to Nic's. It is an issue that is troubling for me, because I cannot accept the idea that before birth a fetus is a thing but after birth it is a person. Pre-mature babies show this distinction to be farcical. On the other hand, as a libertarian leaning conservative, I am distrustful of government involvement in personal decisions, and obviously abortion is a very personal decision. This issue hinges on the status of when a fetus is a person, something that right now science can give us no answer for, leaving us to philosophy. Basically my personal compromise is that abortion should be legal in the first tri-mester, illegal in the third tri-mester and a line should be drawn somewhere in the second. I will add in that third tri-mester abortions should be legal when the physical (not emotional) health of the mother is at risk. Abortions due to rape or incest should be able to be taken care of in the time period before the line is drawn. This answer is not totally satisfactory to me, but it seems like the best compromise available at the time. Along with this, I would argue for support of pregnant women who choose not to have an abortion but instead want adoption. As to some specific points in this debate: Federal Funding for Abortions. Much like with stem cells, using tax payer dollars to pay for abortions is a different issue that permitting or denying the procedure. A certain amount of deference needs to be made to the simple fact that taking people's money and using that money for something they find morally objectionable requires a higher bar than allowing private individuals to make their own choices. This argument can of course apply to pacificists and military spending as well, but long tradition, and large majorities support spending in such a manner while the country is more divided on abortion. It is difficult to convince me that the public has a vested interest in providing abortions to people as a method of contraception. This applies to both foreign and domestic spending. Partial Birth Abortion. I find this practice to be disgusting. In my research, I can find no evidence that this is ever physically necessary for the safety of the woman, indeed partial birth abortion seems to be more dangerous to the woman than giving birth. I know that some doctors have claimed that partial birth abortions were necessary for the health of the woman on grounds of emotional/mental health but I have little patience for the idea of killing an otherwise viable human being for your mental health. The abortion lobby is dead wrong on this issue. John Kerry, who has constantly voted against partial birth abortion bans is also wrong. Abortion as a Fundamental Right. Was Roe v. Wade the right decision? I personally believe that how issues are decided, in other words who gets to decide, is as important as what decision is reached. One can make good arguments that the Supreme Court was wrong in taking this particular decision away from the states and that constitutionally this decision should fall under the realm of the 10th Amendment
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
I am not a lawyer, but my understanding of Roe vs. Wade was that the Supreme court used the 14th Amendment to get around this. This is relevant portion of that amendment
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
This of course is a hot debate among constitutional scholars but my gut feeling tells me that although this statement can be stretched to cover abortion, such stretching lets it cover just about anything, rendering the 10th Amendment moot. One could argue the merits of the 10th Amendment, but changing it should require the constitutional process, not the solitary action of the Supreme Court. Note that I have this concern, even though I agree with the substance of Roe vs. Wade:
(a) For the stage prior to approximately the end of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman's attending physician. (b) For the stage subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health. (c) For the stage subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.
I will add though, that some physicians have, I think improperly, extend the preservation of the health of the mother to include mental and emotional health, which basically makes all abortion regulation illegal which is not what Roe vs. Wade said. On other subset of the abortion debate is to whether medical people/clinics should be required to perform abortions even if they find is personally immoral. I do not think that the government has any place in compelling people to do things they find morally wrong. One could possibly make arguments for this on the narrow issue of a doctor refusing to counsel abortion even when the mother is in physical danger, but on the larger issue of voluntary or contraceptive abortion I do not believe that the government should be involved. As to the candidates, I am obviously in between George Bush and John Kerry on this. However, since our current legal system is more in line with Kerry than I am, and I do not expect any sudden or radical changes, Bush's positions in general do not trouble me. As an aside, John Kerry has said that he believes life begins at conception yet he supports abortion, even as I mentioned above, partial birth abortion. I find this dichotomy incredible and indefensible. If you believe it is a life, than abortion is murder and should not be allowed. If you believe life doesn't begin until birth, than any abortion procedure should be allowed. John Kerry is not in the middle here, he is on both extremes at once.