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Monday, January 31, 2005

Luke, I am your Potato

CNN.com :

-- A spud on the dark side. That's how toy maker Hasbro Inc. is promoting its latest Mr. Potato Head figure, Darth Tater. The toy spud will be available next month, ahead of the May release of "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," the latest installment in that film series. Darth Tater will come with a light saber, cape and helmet, in addition to the regular Mr. Potato Head accessories such as eyes, mouth and nose.
Click through to the article to see a picture of the Dark Potato of the Sith.

He should move to Washington State


Along a street in western Baghdad, a man thrust forward his ink-stained finger. 'Whatever they would do, I would still vote,' said Hamid Azawi, 57. 'Even if I was dead, I would still participate.' He hit his chest. 'The vote comes from the bottom of my heart.'
Even if he was dead he could still vote here! Seriously though, he and all the other Iraqis who voted are heroes.

Social Security

Victor at Dead Parrot society has some good post on social security here, here and here. Very insightful analysis.

More good news

Times Online :

We had already witnessed one sign that North Korea's totalitarian system is dissolving, even as its leaders boast of owning nuclear weapons to deter their enemies. "It's just like the Berlin Wall," Pastor Douglas Shin, a Christian activist, said by telephone from Seoul. "The slow-motion exodus is the beginning of the end." ... According to exiles, North Korean agents in Beijing and Ulan Bator are frantically selling assets to raise cash — an important sign, says one activist, because “the secret police can always smell the crisis coming before anybody else”. ... Bush’s re-election dealt a blow to Kim, 62, who had gambled on a win by John Kerry, the Democratic candidate. Kim used a strategy of divide and delay to drag out nuclear talks with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea through 2004. Kim lost his bet and now faces four more years of Bush, who says that he “loathes” the North Korean leader and has vowed to strip him of atomic weapons.
North Korea has been on the verge of collapse for a while now, especially since it's hopes of nuclear extortion have been blocked by the Bush administration. The real trick though is engineering a 'soft collapse' that doesn't reignite war on the Korean Peninsula. The multi-party talks, especially the inclusion of China are a big factor in that balancing act.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Iraqi Voting Disrupts News Reports of Bombings



Alaa at THE MESOPOTAMIAN says it better than I ever could:

I bow in respect and awe to the men and women of our people who, armed only with faith and hope are going to the polls under the very real threats of being blown to pieces. These are the real braves; not the miserable creatures of hate who are attacking one of the noblest things that has ever happened to us. Have you ever seen anything like this? Iraq will be O.K. with so many brave people, it will certainly O.K.

Iraqi Heroism

Today is a historic day. Initial estimates are that voter turnout in Iraq is higher than expected, and although the day has certainly not been free from violence the elections appear to be very successful. The Iraqi people, like the Afghans, have clearly shown that they will not be intimidated and they will be free. I salute their courage. Thugs and tyrants thoughout the region are filled with fear today.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Ramblings from the Roost: The Buddhist Attitude to God

Tsykoduk has written an interesting post on the Buddhist attitude toward God and the problem of evil. It has generated a fairly lively comment thread (which I have participated in heavily) and I thought some of my readers who may not visit Tsycoduk regularly (shame on you!) might enjoy. As I have mentioned before, I find all religions and religious discussion to be endlessly fascinating and fertile ground for wasted hours in fruitless debate. Always enjoyable.

Democratic Leadership

Belmont Club has an interesting post up about the race for DNC chair and what many prominent democrats see as the solution to their electoral problems. He also has some good points on how their solution hasn't been quite as well thought out as they may think it has been. Very interesting stuff.

Darfur Genocide


A bipartisan congressional delegation, accompanied by an Oscar-nominated actor, urged the United States and the international community Thursday to take action to end the war in the Darfur region of Sudan. The six-member delegation, led by Republican Rep. Ed Royce of California, recently returned from the region after getting a firsthand look at the humanitarian crisis and examining how the United States and other countries are responding. 'This killing goes on day in, day out,' Royce told a Capitol Hill news conference. 'I saw young children who have lost their hands. I asked one how, and he said by sword, by the Janjaweed [militia]. 'Many others have lost their hearing from the bombardment. We saw many crippled people. We know of the systematic rape that has occurred throughout this region, the plunder of crops and of cattle. 'And right now there are over 1.4 million displaced people wandering around in Sudan [and] about a quarter of a million over the border now in Chad as a consequence of this genocide.'
I haven't posted on this situation in a while, but it is not something we should ignore. I am glad some of our politician's are paying attention to this.

Progress in Iraq

The Washington Times: AP:

Authorities in Iraq have arrested two close associates of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, including the chief of the terror mastermind's Baghdad operation, the government said Friday, two days ahead of historic elections that extremists have vowed to subvert.
(via Powerline where even more progress is speculated on)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Condi's letter to State Dept. Employees

Citizen Smash has posted a letter from Condaleeza Rice to all State Department employees. It is very interesting to read. This paragraph here has some interesting stuff in it:

In these momentous times, American diplomacy has three great tasks. We will unite the community of democracies in building an international system that is based on our shared values and the rule of law. We will strengthen the community of democracies to fight the threats to our common security and alleviate the hopelessness that feeds terror. And we will spread freedom and democracy throughout the world. That is the mission that President Bush has set for you and me, and the great mission of American diplomacy today.
First off, the mention of a 'community of democracies' makes me wonder if the administration isn't thinking of building a serious alternative to the U.N., something I have mentioned before and strongly support. Second, the explicit assertion that the mission of American diplomacy is to spread freedom and democracy. This is of course a fundamental change in the mission of the state department. It will be interesting to watch how well she succeeds at making this goal a reality.

Safe, Legal, and Never

William Saletan, on Hillary Clinton's abortion strategy:

Not this time. Abortion is 'a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women,' said Clinton. Then she went further: 'There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances.' Does not ever have to be exercised. I searched Google and Nexis for parts of that sentence tonight and got no hits. Is the press corps asleep? Hillary Clinton just endorsed a goal I've never heard a pro-choice leader endorse. Not safe, legal, and rare. Safe, legal, and never. Once you embrace that truth-that the ideal number of abortions is zero-voters open their ears. They listen when you point out, as Clinton did, that the abortion rate fell drastically during her husband's presidency but has risen in more states than it has fallen under George W. Bush. I'm sure these trends have more to do with economics than morals, but that's the point. Once we agree that the goal is zero, we can stop asking which party yaps more about fighting abortion and start asking which party gets results.
This is the sort of policy, if the left embraces it, that could seriously erode Republican margins in the red states. It is also brilliant positioning for a potential Presidential race.

High-Tech Health Care

Wired News:

President Bush on Thursday proposed increasing federal funds to promote computerized medical records, which he said would save patients' lives and money as he touted plans to overhaul the health care industry. On the first trip of his second term, Bush said a standardized information technology system for doctors' offices and hospitals would help save lives endangered by poor or incomplete record-keeping, prescription errors and other problems.
This is a very good idea, and something that should be done although many hurdles exist. The biggest concern people will have, and not unjustifiably, is privacy issues. A few years ago I worked with an entrepreneur who was trying to develop a system like this. I helped him build a proto-type of what such a system might look like, so I have some idea of the challenges and concerns that such a system has to address. Full Disclosure: Although I never received any money for my work on this system I was promised a share in the company if it ever went anywhere. I don't believe that the guy is still pursuing this, although if he is I could conceivably benefit if such a system is built and the design I worked on becomes part of it. I am not holding my breath however.

Holocaust Lessons


The people who built, filled, and ran Auschwitz are, for the most part, dead. Pointing to their descendants and saying 'you did this' is counterproductive when there are people alive today trying to do it again. Point to them. Because while the previous Holocaust may not have been our fault, preventing the next one remains our responsibility.
Sadly, similar things happen too often and we do too little to stop them. Everyone of us has ancestors who have done horrible things, it was (hopefully no longer) a requirement for survival. We must always remember that we are fully capable of such despicable acts and that we therefore must vigilantly guard against them.

Harvard Hysterics

George Will offers some biting commentary on the Larry Summers controversy:

Forgive Larry Summers. He did not know where he was. Addressing a conference on the supposedly insufficient numbers of women in tenured positions in university science departments, he suggested that perhaps part of the explanation might be innate -- genetically based -- gender differences in cognition. He thought he was speaking in a place that encourages uncircumscribed intellectual explorations. He was not. He was on a university campus.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Elections in Iraq

Zeyad has an interesting post up about the hopes and fears of Iraqis for the coming elections. I suspect that the elections will be a success, despite some violence, and that this will be a great turning point. Doesn't mean violence will immediately cease, but bit by bit the terrorists and thugs are being forced to show their true colors and the fact that they are interested in power, not what is good for Iraqis.


>bt: Stop Bitching, Start a Revolution << Video (via Instapundit)

Seems a little harsh


Two boys were arrested for making pencil-and-crayon stick figure drawings depicting a 10-year-old classmate being stabbed and hung, police said. The children, charged with a felony, were taken from school in handcuffs. The 9- and 10-year-old boys were arrested Monday and charged with making a written threat to kill or harm another person. They were also suspended from school.
I can see giving these boys a severe talking to perhaps. A felony charge seems a bit much though...

Friday, January 21, 2005

Amazing wildlife photos

Check out this glorious shots of barking moonbats in their native environment.

Dirty Bomb?

When I first saw the story of the dirty bomb in Boston plot and the fact that it was all based on an anonymous tip I pretty much ignored the story. So this US News Article came as a bit of a surprise:

Police carrying radiation detectors patrolled Boston's subway system on Friday after the FBI added another 10 names to a list of people it wants to question over a reported 'dirty bomb' plot in the city. Authorities reassured area residents that there was no cause for panic two days after an uncorroborated tip triggered a Federal Bureau of Investigation manhunt. Media reports spoke of threats to explode a so-called 'dirty bomb' which disperses low-level radioactive material. "
Law enforcement officials seem to be taking this threat very seriously, perhaps simply out of an abundance of caution. Still, the effort here seems greater than I would expect from the information we know.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Small but Tough

Heh (via Blackfive)

This was surprising

How evil are you?

A new tone?

Guardian Unlimited :

A leading Saudi cleric issued a plea today for Muslims not to heed calls to wage terror attacks in the name of Islam. Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Sudeis, the state-appointed preacher at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, told pilgrims in a sermon marking the feast of Eid al-Adha that scholars must preach moderation to confront militants, who were using 'misguided and void' interpretations to justify violence. His sermon, dedicated to the 2.5 million Muslims performing the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, echoed comments made yesterday by Sheikh Abdul-Aziz al Sheik. The kingdom's grand mufti said the greatest test to the nation of Islam came from its sons who were 'lured by the devil' to carry out acts of violence. Sheikh al-Sudeis said militancy was not a valid interpretation of Islam. 'Because Muslims have strayed from moderation, we are now suffering from this dangerous phenomenon of branding people infidels and inciting Muslims to rise against their leaders to cause instability,' he said.
I heartily approve of the renunciation of terror, and am very glad that a prominent Muslim Cleric is making that call. I do approve of Muslims who 'rise against their leaders and cause instability' though, although peaceful means are preferable whenever possible. The Arab world needs less stability, not more in my opinion, and not just from a position of self-interest as an American (although that is a factor) but for the Arab peoples themselves. Their stratified, top down societies are probably incapable of competing in the globalized world. A little change could go a long way there. Of course this supposes real change, not merely the exchange of one set of masters for another.


Scotsman.com News :

Palestinian police will start deploying along the Gaza border tomorrow, with 1,000 men attempting to halt militant attacks on Israeli targets. It will be the first act of security cooperation with Israel under Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Israeli and Palestinian security officials said negotiations over the deployment were continuing, but the operation was expected to begin tomorrow.
This seems very promising. I still have my worries about the sincerity of Abbas's commitment to peace, but I would be very have to have those worries proved wrong. The rest of the article details some more violence that has broken out at the same time, highlighting how difficult this process will be even if both sides are fully commited. Still, difficult things have been accomplished before...

Why I voted for him

CNN.com - Transcript of Bush's inaugural address:

Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world: All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you. Democratic reformers facing repression, prison or exile can know: America sees you for who you are -- the future leaders of your free country. The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: 'Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.' The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side.
I voted for Bush because I believe that he deeply believes in what he said here. Realpolitics do intrude, and we can't always be all things to all people. But we can chose a side to support and refuse to excuse or rationalize away tyranny. The more we do that, the better the world will be. Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Clean Elections

Stefan Sharkansky, the writer of Sound Politics, and the best source of news on the Washington Governor's election has written an interesting op-ed in the Seattle Times:

Whether or not the judges allow a revote and no matter who is our governor at mid-year, the lessons of the botched 2004 election have inspired a movement for serious election reform. We can all see that our elections process, the core of our democracy, has broken down. I dare call this movement for clean elections and legitimate government a citizens' revolution. No, this revolution is not of the scale of the American Revolution of 1776, or of the current democratic revolution unfolding in Ukraine. But it is a movement for a sweeping change in an established order. The established order of our elections system is broken and so is our confidence in our elections officials and Legislature to fix the system. The changes will come from the citizens.
As I said before, I don't really think an second election is needed in this case, but I am very supportive of using the mistakes in this past election as a means to reform the system and make needed improvements.

Tsunami death toll rises to 225,000

Guardian :

The death toll from the Boxing Day tsunami disaster increased to more than 225,000 today as the Indonesian health ministry raised the number of dead in the country by more than 50,000. A statement said the new figure of 166,320 was based on fresh reports from the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. A senior ministry official said it included many people who had previously been listed. ... Fatality rates in some parts of Aceh stood at more than 75%, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. In some places, 100% of housing had been destroyed, and in the town of Calang, 90% of people died - 6,550 of the pre-tsunami population of 7,300.
Even after having a couple of weeks to get used to this and see the various photos of the destruction this is still hard to imagine.

Why we went to war in Iraq

Crush Kerry catches Senator Boxer in a lie.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Photos of Iraqi Election Signs

IRAQ THE MODEL has posted some picture of some election signs. Interesting to look at.

Spreading democracy

The Washington Times: Editorials/:

Mr. Bush thinks big. Some might have imagined the war on terror to have been his great project and the one on which his legacy would stand or fall. But here, he has subsumed even that task under the broader 'philosophical argument of the age': The best weapon against terror is political participation of the sort only democracy allows. Terror is born of alienation from the political process, from denial of the ability to participate in making the decisions that govern one's life. But isn't the war on terror really a war against Islamist radicalism? Yes, but considered in terms of 'the philosophical argument of the age,' that radicalism is itself an expression of alienation. It will not survive the extension of democracy and political participation, at least not in nearly so virulent and dangerous a form. Islamism grows where Muslims lack democracy, understood in the sense of a permanent political system of self-governance with regular elections and protected minority rights. Islamism has grown in democratic Europe precisely because of Muslim alienation from politics there.
This is exactly how I feel and I am confident that history will reflect very favorably on those who stood on the side of democracy on this issue.

Monday, January 17, 2005

My ideas on how Social Security should be done

I made this statement in the comments of a previous post, but I think it is worthy of putting up as a main post to let everyone know what my more or less ideal Social Security program would be like. I am enough of a libertarian to be a little queasy about the idea of government mandated savings accounts at all, but since I am also unwilling to see old people starve I can see a societal interest in such things. My basic outline for a program would be investments with a small range for choices for workers from pure government bonds to a mixed portfolio of bonds and market index funds (like standard and poors for example) to the most extreme investment choices of a pure index fund portfolio. Even that isn't exactly what is considered high risk, so no one would be able to invest all (or even any) of their money in Global Crossing for example. Remember also we are talking about younger workers so even if the market was flat for their entire time of investment they would still not have 'no money' they just wouldn't have seen an increase in their savings. While this would represent a problem, I would challenge you to find any solution that will be acceptable if we have a flat economy for the next 30 or so years. I recall explicitly from you posts on the subject claims that the crisis is overrated because growth projections are too low in the studies. I expect that if we assume no growth at all 2042 is a lot later that the SS fund will be able to pay it's liabilities. There would also have to be some rules as to how fast you can draw down your account upon retirement. In addition to this program, I would have a safety net for those who are poor and unable to work. This would provide for those who never worked, who were never able to work, or who retired with insufficient funds to cover their remaining years (perhaps because they lived an extraordinarily long time.) The main point here is a means tested program for those who don't have money and cannot work regardless of reason. Rather than fund this program by the current regressive payroll tax, I would fund it from the general budget (mostly income tax). I think that this program would be far better for the poor than our current system and a lot fairer. I acknowledge though that their will be a transition cost to achieve this system and paying for that might be difficult.

Target Iran?


The United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday. The article, by award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, said the secret missions have been going on at least since last summer with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites. Hersh quotes one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon as saying, 'The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible.' One former high-level intelligence official told The New Yorker, 'This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign.'
Two possibilities occur to me here. One, we are planning an assault against Iran. Two, the is an orchastrated link to get Iran to voluntarily end it's nuclear ambitions. If I had to bet though, I would say that it is a combination of both. A leak with the hopes that Iran will change it's mind, but with a real plan to follow through should it not do so. I think this is the right approach. Update: The Pentagon reacts to Hersh's claims.

Shrinking Deficit

The Washington Times: Commentary:

Here's one story you won't find on tomorrow's front pages: 'The U.S. budget deficit is shrinking rapidly.' The headline would be accurate, but the mainstream media are much more interested in talking down this booming economy than telling it like it is. Last week's Treasury report on U.S. finances for December shows a year-to-date fiscal 2005 deficit already $11 billion less than last year's. In the first three months of the fiscal year that began last October, federal cash outlays rose 6.1 percent and tax collections grew 10.5 percent. When more money comes in than goes out, the deficit shrinks. At this pace, the 2005 deficit is on track to drop to $355 billion from $413 billion in fiscal 2004. As a fraction of projected gross domestic product, the new-year deficit will fall to 2.9 percent, compared with last year's 3.6 percent. Wire reports are loaded these days with accounts of an expanded trade gap (driven mostly by slower exports to stagnant European and Japanese economies, along with higher oil imports due to the energy price peak). But not a report I can find mentions the sizable narrowing in U.S. fiscal accounts. Behind this really big budget story is the even-bigger story: The explosion in tax revenues has been prompted by the tax-cut-led economic growth of the last 18 months.
Sounds like a win for the Bush tax cuts to me.

Trouble to the South


The Bush administration expects to focus much of its attention in a second term on promoting a political transformation of the Arab Middle East. But it may also have to spend some time on a parallel problem: preventing the unraveling of the democratic change the United States successfully nurtured a generation ago. As Ronald Reagan began his second term 20 years ago, the United States was struggling to foster democracy in Latin America. Amid deep skepticism in Washington, Reagan's team promoted imperfect elections in Central America while trying to train the feckless army of El Salvador to defeat insurgents. Meanwhile, it pushed dictators with whom the United States had once been friendly, such as Chile's Augusto Pinochet, toward holding democratic elections. In the end, democracy did sweep the region, extending to every country but Cuba. When several challenges to the new order were successfully turned back during the 1990s, it appeared irreversible. Now Latin America's buried tradition of authoritarian populism is making a comeback, fueled by sluggish economic growth, corruption and weak leadership. In the past few weeks, what had been a slowly deteriorating situation has begun to snowball:
The weakening of democracy in Latin America is troubling, and something that needs to be addressed. Venezuala is a huge part of the problem here, but a solution will not be easy to come by.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A positive step

Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

A top PLO decision-making body called on Palestinian militants Sunday to halt attacks against Israel, charging that the violence gives Israel an excuse to carry out military operations. The PLO Executive Committee issued its statement in Ramallah. It followed a militant attack late Thursday at the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel that left six Israeli civilians dead, setting off Israeli reprisal raids in Gaza. A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, downplayed the announcement, repeating Israeli policy that the Palestinians will be judged by their deeds and not their words.
I am glad that the PLO is calling for an end to the attacks. It would be even nicer though if they were calling for an end to the attacks because they were wrong, not just because Israel hits back harder. Still, any positive sign is a reason for hope.



Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi told Iran's hard-line Revolutionary Court on Saturday she won't obey a vague summons on her to appear for questioning, even if it means she will be jailed -- an open challenge to a powerful body that has tried and convicted many pro-reform intellectuals. Ebadi, the first Iranian and Muslim woman to win the Nobel peace prize in 2003, vowed in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with The Associated Press to resist hard-line threats against her life and will never bow to intimidation. 'I do continue to receive anonymous death threats in various forms such as threatening letters and calls,' Ebadi, 57, said. 'I've come to believe people who send threatening messages are linked to certain people who provoke them.' 'This is intimidation. My record shows that I won't give in to intimidation.'
This is the sort of thing that can bring an end to despotic regimes. Sadly, I am sure the mullahs know that and the puts Shirin Ebadi in very serious danger. I continue to hope that reform in Iran can occur peacefully and without too much bloodshed but I also fear that this hope will not come to pass.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Vice President Discusses Social Security Reform

Dick Cheney gave a speech on social security reporm. I think he made some pretty good points. I also think that the idea that the retirement accounts the President is proposing will be able to be transferred via an inheritance is a great idea and will probably increase support for this idea. It is also worth noting that I would probably prefer the idea of personnal accounts over the Social Security system we have now regardless of how well or poorly the system is doing financially.


Thought Not: An Open Letter to My Mother:

The Outlook for Social Security

Here is the Congressional Budget Office's The Outlook for Social Security. While this certainly does not mean that privatization is the solution, it is clear to me that this is a problem and something we would be wise to deal with sooner rather than later.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

More Depressions Like This, Please

This TCS article looks at the economic numbers for Bush's first term. The conclusion:

So, when you add it all up, we now have accelerating: Job growth Wages Consumer net worth Stock valuations (up 50% from their post-recession lows) Home ownership and prices GDP Frankly, with depressions like these, who needs expansions?

Good News

I received word last night that my Brother-In-Law has returned from Iraq after nearly a year there. I am certainly happy he has returned home safely and grateful for his sacrifice. I know it has been hard for him, missing among other things the first year of his youngest son's life.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Gregoire Sworn in As Washington Governor

ABC News:

Democrat Christine Gregoire, winner of one of the closest governor's races in U.S. history, was inaugurated Wednesday amid a legal challenge that could undo her election. Gregoire, 57, a scrappy three-term attorney general who took on the tobacco industry, took the oath of office before a joint session of the Legislature. Republicans had battled for weeks to delay her inauguration. Republicans in the House Chamber rose along with cheering Democrats to greet her swearing-in, but did not join in the applause. Backers of her GOP rival, Dino Rossi, continue to push for a whole new election to decide the race.
While I am unhappy with the tainted aspects of this race, especially so since Washington used to be known for clean elections, I do not support a new election. Primarily this is because in this heavily liberal state I expect that Gregoire would win a new election and so nothing would change.

The Bush Doctrine

Norman Podhoretz has written an article on the Bush Doctrine and it's opponants. It is a very good read and I recommend it. This bit here I think is especially interesting:

But there would be a heavy price to pay for placing so much stress on the issue of WMD. Not only did the failure to find them severely injure the case for invading Iraq; perhaps even more injurious was that the emphasis on WMD obscured the long-range strategic rationale for the invasion. For while the immediate objective was indeed to disarm Saddam Hussein, the larger one was to press on with 'draining the swamps' - whether created by religious despots, as in Afghanistan, or by secular tyrants, as in Iraq - that were in Bush's view the breeding-grounds of terrorism in the greater Middle East. Nor could those swamps be drained only by strong-arming the regimes under which they had been festering. It was also necessary in this view to replace these regimes with elected governments that would work to fulfill the hopes of 'the peoples of the Islamic nations [who] who want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation.'
Obviously in retrospect the WMD arguement turned out to be bad. I do regret, and did at the time, that the drain the swamps arguement was largely ignored and overlooked. I still believe the idea of regimes in the middle east that would actually benefit their people, and hence benefit us, is very sound policy and the only realistic response to the dangers of our time. I acknowledge however that this goal is lofty and difficult to achieve.

The Torture Myth

The Torture Myth (washingtonpost.com):

Or listen to Army Col. Stuart Herrington, a military intelligence specialist who conducted interrogations in Vietnam, Panama and Iraq during Desert Storm, and who was sent by the Pentagon in 2003 -- long before Abu Ghraib -- to assess interrogations in Iraq. Aside from its immorality and its illegality, says Herrington, torture is simply 'not a good way to get information.' In his experience, nine out of 10 people can be persuaded to talk with no 'stress methods' at all, let alone cruel and unusual ones. Asked whether that would be true of religiously motivated fanatics, he says that the 'batting average' might be lower: 'perhaps six out of ten.' And if you beat up the remaining four? 'They'll just tell you anything to get you to stop.'
This of course is a key factor in the question of whether or not we should torture people. I am certainly of the opinion that torture is useless as a method of obtaining confession, because a tortured person would indeed say anything to escape the torture. As to whether it would be useful for scenarios like 'where is the bomb' where the information could be independantly verified, this article obviously implies that it is still not a useful method, although other information that I have seen contradicts that assertion. Obviously this is not something that is easy to research and the answer any expert will give is likely to be clouded by personnal bias and opinion. A seperate issue is 'even if it does work, is it worth the costs?' I certainly have seen some very good arguements that it isn't, or at least isn't in almost all situations. Additionally, the very definition of torture is obviously subjective which further clouds this issue.

Prescription Drugs

Richard A. Epstein has written an interesting article about a couple of books that criticize the Drug Industry. He gives some very good reasons why some of these criticisms haven't been thought through properly.

Jerome P. Kassirer and Marcia Angell, both former editors in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, are two of the industry's harshest critics. The titles of their new books - On the Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health and The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It, respectively - reveal Kassirer and Angell's shared conviction that the current practices of pharmaceutical firms border on intentional misfeasance. But the authors are wrong. Their inability to grasp fundamental economic principles about market incentives, gains from trade, the time-value of money, and the importance of innovation leave the authors open to easy attack. Reading these books, I felt proud to be an occasional consultant for PhRMA, the industry trade association, and Pfizer, the largest pharmaceutical firm.
I generally think that our drug industry is producing miracles and that we would be unwise to tamper with it, especially to tamper with it in a revolutionary manner. That doesn't mean it is above all criticism, or that we can change any of the regulations governing it, but that we should be very careful in doing so.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Elections, not an Election

Tod Lindberg writes about what a democracy really means:

Would-be tyrants and freedom fighters alike take note: The essence of democracy is not simply an election. It's an election held in the expectation that there will be a subsequent election. In a mature democracy during election season, each side campaigns as hard as it can. But each side does so in the knowledge that, win or lose, victory or defeat is subject to reversal at the polls in the next election. Youwin some,you lose some. The profound implication of this is that the stakes of the political game are diminished for the players. Conduct a thought experiment by imagining a contrary scenario: one final election, in which we would settle once and for all who makes political decisions. If you are looking for a way to return politics to its status as literally a matter of life and death for participants, this is surely how. If everything is at stake, then "fighting" is no longer merely a metaphor for political conflict.
I would add to this, that along with a future election, a true democracy needs to have guarantees of basic rights that elected officials cannot take away (or at least not take away easily.) These limits on power of government are also crucial in reducing the stakes of any given election.


Natan Sharansky opines in the OpinionJournal about prospects of a mid-east peace following the Palestinian elections:

Whether the election of Abu Mazen will be a turning point in the search for peace depends critically on whether the Free World, led by the U.S., is prepared to link its policies toward his new government to the degree of freedom the Palestinian Authority affords its own citizens. Though many of Abu Mazen's recent statements are not encouraging--from pledging to follow in Yasser Arafat's path to assuring Palestinian terrorists that he will protect them from Israeli reprisals to demanding a so-called right of return to pre-1967 Israel--George W. Bush's understanding that the key to peace lies in building a free society for the Palestinians is a source of optimism. If Mr. Bush makes it clear that the U.S. will support him only if he dedicates himself to expanding freedom within Palestinian society rather than on feeding resentments, then the chances that Abu Mazen will become a genuine partner will improve immeasurably.
He makes some very good points and I agree with him on the steps the Palestinians need to take. I am very skeptical that Abu Mazen will be interested in taking these steps however. He has inherited Arafats position, and with it the money that can be funneled from the Palestinian people. In truth, it would take a very impressive person to voluntarily let such a sweet deal go. I hope I am wrong though, and that Abu Mazen is a lot more than he appears to be.

Dick Morris continues his crusade against Hillary

New York Post Online Edition: postopinion:

THE indictment of Hillary Clinton's 2000 campaign-finance director, David Rosen, may pose a threat to the senator's presidential bid. For now, the federal indictment is focused only on Rosen, but it is not hard to see the process creeping up the campaign food chain to the senator herself. At issue are the expenses the campaign incurred in an August 2000 fund-raiser for Hollywood glitterati. Rosen was indicted for claiming that the event cost $400,000 when, federal prosecutors allege, he knew the actual cost to be $1.1 million. Under federal campaign-finance rules, the Clinton campaign was obliged to pay for 40 percent of the cost of the fund-raiser. So, if the gala cost $400,000, the campaign had to pay only $160,000, but if the price tag was actually $1.1 million, the campaign would have been on the hook for $440,000. By understating the cost of the party, Rosen was, in effect, giving Hillary's campaign an extra $280,000.
I like Dick Morris, he has a joyfully amoral view of politics for the most part. His personal vendetta against Hillary sometimes goes to far in my opinion, although many of the issues he raises, as in this example, seem legitimate. I don't know how innocent or guilty Hillary is in this matter. I would bet though that if this involved Senator Santorum (to give an example) rather than Senator Clinton we would be hearing a lot more about it...

The Counterterrorism Blog

The Counterterrorism Blog is touted as "The first multi-expert blog dedicated solely to counterterrorism issues, serving as a gateway to the community for policymakers and serious researchers. Designed to provide realtime information about cases and policy developments." I've looked through it a bit now, and it looks like a very interesting blog. Check it out.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Bush and Jobs

The Dead Parrot Society has a good analysis, with links, up on job loss and gain for Bush's first term. Right now it looks like he has come out about even.

More on WA Governor Election

This Wall Street Journal Op-Ed has some interesting information on the governor election here.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Necromancy in Washington

Captain's Quarters has a good post up on the latest fun in my State's Governor election. Perhaps we should all wear orange and black in protest.

How to Interrogate Terrorists by Heather Mac Donald

Heather Mac Donald has written an in depth analysis of what interrogation methods have been used by the U.S. Army, in Afghanistan, Cuba, and Iraq. It made me quite angry. I had no idea that our soldiers were treating these terrorists so well and I think heads should roll as a result. Sadly, heads probably will and have rolled as a result, Nick Berg's for example. I urge everyone to read this article.

I'm Jealous

Check out Stephen Green's Christmas Present. Pure Geek Envy

And People wanted him to be President

NewsMax.com: :

Visiting with U.S. troops in Baghdad on Thursday, failed presidential candidate John Kerry trashed Commander-in-chief George Bush for making 'horrendous judgments' and 'unbelievable blunders' that have undermined the war effort. In a series of demoralizing comments first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the defeated Democrat griped, 'What is sad about what's happening here now is that so much of it is a process of catching up from the enormous miscalculations and wrong judgments made in the beginning.' Kerry said that because of the Bush administration's mistakes, "the job has been made enormously harder."
Even if you agree with his statements, wrong place, wrong time, Senator.

Freedom of Speech

FrontPage magazine.com :: Dissident Arab Gets the Treatment by Ahmad Al-Qloushi:

When I read the assignment I remembered back to my high school in Kuwait. Many of my teachers were Palestinian; they hated America, they hated my worldview, and they did their best to brainwash me. I did not leave my country and my family to come to the United States to receive further brainwashing. I disagreed completely with Dye and Zeigler’s thesis. I wrote an essay defending America’s Founding Fathers and upholding the US constitution as a pioneering document, which has contributed to extraordinary freedoms in America and other corners of the world - including my corner, the Middle East. Professor Woolcock didn’t grade my essay. Instead he told me to come to see him in his office the following morning. I was surprised the next morning when instead of giving me a grade, Professor Woolcock verbally attacked me and my essay. He told me, “Your views are irrational.” He called me naïve for believing in the greatness of this country, and told me "America is not God's gift to the world." Then he upped the stakes and said "You need regular psychotherapy." Apparently, if you are an Arab Muslim who loves America you must be deranged. Professor Woolcock went as far as to threaten me by stating that he would visit the Dean of International Admissions (who has the power to take away student visas) to make sure I received regular psychological treatment. This scared me. I didn’t want to be deported for having written a pro-American essay, so as soon as I left his office I made an appointment with the school psychologist. She let me go with a comment that I don’t need regular therapy. As I left her office, I couldn’t help thinking that even my Palestinian high school teachers had never tried to silence me or put me in therapy.
Read the whole thing. Here is the essay he wrote.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Worth trying

Tom Friedman's latest op-ed is well worth reading:

In short, we need these elections in Iraq to see if there really is a self-governing community there ready, and willing, to liberate itself - both from Iraq's old regime and from us. The answer to this question is not self-evident. This was always a shot in the dark - but one that I would argue was morally and strategically worth trying. Because if it is impossible for the peoples of even one Arab state to voluntarily organize themselves around a social contract for democratic life, then we are looking at dictators and kings ruling this region as far as the eye can see. And that will guarantee that this region will be a cauldron of oil-financed pathologies and terrorism for the rest of our lives.
This has always been my central argument for the war on Iraq. Simply put, I believe that Democracies cannot exist peacefully with repressive regimes. Sure, there can be temporary peace, detante if you will, but nothing more. In most regions of the world, this isn't a huge problem. Yes, there are plenty of countries that have repressive regimes, but we are encouraged by and large by the fact that democracy is making progress almost everywhere. Until Iraq (which is hardly a decided issue, although I am optomistic) the almost meant the Arab world. If Arabs are incapable of democracy (a position I strongly dispute) then the best we can do, perhaps all we can do, to do put them under our boot. From a practicle point I doubt that we would be very good at such an endeavor and were we to become the type of society that would be good at it, well, that would not be a victory I would seek. So Iraq is a desperate gamble that Arabs CAN live in a Democracy. That they CAN accept that those not of their tribe have rights as well. My understanding of Arab history as well as that of other nations and peoples leads me to the firm belief that both are undeniably true. My reading of Iraqi blogs leads me to the belief that they not only can they do this, but that they will do this.

Army Reserve in trouble

Washington Post:

The head of the Army Reserve has sent a sharply worded memo to other military leaders expressing 'deepening concern' about the continued readiness of his troops, who have been used heavily in Iraq and Afghanistan, and warning that his branch of 200,000 soldiers 'is rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force.' In the memo, dated Dec. 20, Lt. Gen. James R. 'Ron' Helmly lashed out at what he said were outdated and 'dysfunctional' policies on mobilizing and managing the force. He complained that his repeated requests to adjust the policies to current realities have been rebuffed by Pentagon authorities. The three-star general, who has a reputation for speaking bluntly, said the situation has reached a point at which the Army Reserve is "in grave danger of being unable to meet" its operational requirements if other national emergencies arise. Insistence on restrictive policies, he continued, "threatens to unhinge an already precariously balanced situation in which we are losing as many soldiers through no use as we are through the fear of overuse."
I do think that one mistake the Bush administration has made as been in not increasing the size of the regular armed forces, starting a couple of years ago. I still think though that rather than increasing any of our existing service branches, what really needs to be done is the creation of a new branch with a focus on 'nation building'. Admittedly though, this would be a long term plan and the issues we are facing at the moment would be the same regardless of whether something like this had been done or not. In some ways, they might be more severe as it would entail a rather signifigant shake-up in the existing military.

More on Torture

THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH has a bunch of interesting links and points to make about Torture and the Gonzales hearings. Also of interest, although supporting the other side, is the old Den Beste post that one of the commentators pointed out. In many ways the debate we as a nation are having on this issue is a disappointment, probably because it is such an emotional topic. Part of the blame lies in the fact that many, on both sides, either are currently or have in the past, used this sort of thing as an attempt to score political points rather than to analyze the issues and work toward a resonable consensus. Another interesting problem in this debate is the frequent conflation between what we can do (legally, ethically) and what we should do (pragmatically.) It seems to me that it is best to work out what can be done in various situations first, and then work out what it the best pragmatic choice within those limitations. Many though it seem have a prefered pragmatic solution and engage in logical contortions to show that only their particular pragmatic solution is a legal/moral option. As with many issues, I tend to bounce back and forth to a certain extent. Their are good arguements on both sides of this debate.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Gib has a good set of links on Turkeygate. If you haven't seen this yet check it out, it is amusing at the least.

Prescription drugs

Jack Stoller has an interesting post up about prescription drug costs.


Belmont Club has a very good post on torture up. There are obvious similarities between this issue and the detention without trial issue I wrote on yesterday. Read the whole thing. His final thoughts are very worth pondering:

Just as the torturer who claims that he serves a higher cause stands on false ground so too must the man who advocates gentleness with terrorists accept that the pursuit of his moral good will often be bought by the suffering of children. On every battlefield men have tried to strike a balance between saving their lives and saving themselves; and the choice though hard is before us.

Egyptian Nukes

Sydney Morning Herald :

The United Nations atomic watchdog agency has found evidence of secret nuclear experiments in Egypt that could be used in weapons programs. Most of the work was carried out in the 1980s and 1990s but the International Atomic Energy Agency is also looking at evidence suggesting some were as recent as a year ago, according to unidentified diplomats. The Egyptians had 'tried to produce various components of uranium' without declaring it to the Vienna-based IAEA, as they are bound to under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, one diplomat said.
They are, of course, claiming this is for peaceful purposes. Obviously no one believes that. As always, the question which arises is what to do about it. We can hope that Egypt will be embarassed about these revelations and chose voluntarily to back away from such development out of fear of becoming a pariah. In this circumstance, I think that a likely result. Egypt is certainly not my favorite government in the world, but the seem to have a desire for 'legitimacy' and to be a member of the world community, so I expect they will publicy abandon this sort of thing and refrain, at least for a while, in any further expiraments of this nature. If they should not do so, well, things will become difficult and in truth their are not any really good answers, only less bad ones perhaps.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Indefinite Detention

Honest Partisan has posted on this PBS Online NewsHour page about indefinite detentions.

The Bush administration is exploring ways to hold suspected terrorists for a lifetime, even if they haven't been convicted by a court. According to Sunday's Washington Post, administration officials are preparing plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries. Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman told the Post, "Since the global war on terror is a long-term effort it makes sense for us to be looking at solutions for long-term problems."
The rest of the page includes a debate between John Yoo and David Cole (for and against respectively.) Both make some good points. Now, we do not know the content of these plans, so specific criticisms are difficult. However, I certainly am not happy with the basic idea of someone being held indefinitely without a trial. Nonetheless, it is a problem, that is difficult to deal with and in truth we do not have very good legal precedent on how this should be dealt with. First off, it is important to understand that many of these people have not committed crimes in the traditional sense. For example, while it is illegal for a U.S. citizen to go train in a terrorist camp, their is certainly no U.S. law that makes it illegal for an Afghani (or Saudi) to do so. While you might could in some cases get them on a conspiracy charge, I believe that conspiracy usually has to be pretty definite and it also seems to me that jurisdiction problems could occur. These are examples why people feel that a law enforcement approach to terrorism will probably not work. This is paralleled in classical wars, and these sort of problems are what the Geneva Convention strove to sort out, at least for conflicts between nation states. By this I mean that we do not consider it a crime for an enemy at war to plot the deaths of Americans however, we also do not consider it wrong to detain captured enemy soldiers until the end of a conflict. In other words, indefinitely. At the same time, we have expected standards that we expect and enemy to maintain, failure of which constitutes war crimes and we have certain obligations to enemy soldiers. Given that terrorists are non-state actors they are obviously not party to the Geneva Conventions. They neither adhere to the standards and cannot expect the same rights. Further complicating the matter is the fact that because they are non-state actors, and deliberately shadowy organizations, the end of the conflict will be difficult to determine. There will be no clear point at which the war has ended, either against terrorism in general or a given organization in particular. It seems obvious to me that we need a vigorous debate that deals with these realities and comes to a solution that makes sense. Unfortunately, that is not what has occurred. Any attempt by the Bush administration to bring up the issue is met by loud cries about tramping on international norms and violating civil liberties. For the administrations part, they have in this instance been too cloaked in secrecy and too willing to go to far, or at the very least go quickly to edge of too far as some of the abuse stories coming from Guantanamo have made clear. In addition they have been far too quick to assert, and too slow to justify executive privilege. Neither side has stalwartly served the national interest in this. Here is my quick ideas for what might be a reasonable solution. First, have a clear time limit in which the names of detained individuals must be published. Six months or a year seem reasonable, as by that time I would expect that any intelligence gained would have largely been exploited or expired. If a rare individual was still needed to be held in secrecy I would think that a Federal panel of judges could provide an addition period of being held in secret. Second, I would think that all detainees deserve a periodic review of their status. This would not be a trial in the classic sense, but the case should be review in some manner. I think that having a bi-annual review period would be a ball park figure. I would have this review conducted by 3 Federal Judges. Basically, I would have the United States submit to each of the judges the reason it felt that this person should be detained. The detainee would submit their reasons as to why they should not be held, why they are no longer a threat (or that they never were if that is their contention.) additionally, family and friends of the detained should be allowed to submit to the reviewing body any evidence they feel is relevant. The three judges chosen by lot for each case, would independently review the documents and decide whether the person should be detained or released by majority vote.

Good news in poverty reduction

San Francisco Chronicle:

It should come as heartening news that 2004 was one of the most prosperous years in history. Not because the U.S. economy grew by a solid 4.3 percent, but because developing countries experienced an explosive 6.1 percent economic growth. According to a recent study by the World Bank, 2004's growth reflected 'an expansion without precedent over the past 30 years.' Equally encouraging, the report notes that 'the rapid growth of developing economies ... has produced a spectacular, if not historic, fall in poverty.' Amazingly, the World Bank report did not get much coverage in our mainstream media. It seems the press was more interested in covering the evils of globalization than in taking notice of how world trade -- which grew by an astounding 10.2 percent this year -- is driving economic growth.
This of course ties directly into what I was talking about in my post on Bill Gates and Bono yesterday. I also highly recommend this book on Globalization for those of you who would like a better understanding of what it means to poor nations and why fears of it are largely misplaced.



There are reports of child trafficking, sexual abuse and pedophilia. And of grieving parents taking children from hospitals and orphanages to replace the ones they lost. In Aceh, where 35,000 children have been orphaned or separated from their parents, Indonesian officials warned that child traffickers were smuggling children out the province for illegal adoption. The Medan-based fraternal group Aceh Sepakat believes at least 20 orphans were sent to Malaysia and Bandung in West Java by child traffickers posing as adoption foundations. Another foundation has offered Acehnese orphans to potential foster parents via short messaging services. On Monday, the Indonesian Government issued a regulation banning the movement of Acehnese children under 16 from Indonesia .

Monday, January 03, 2005


Anders Jacobsen has promised to give $1 for everyone who links to relief agencies and back to his challenge. A classy response and certainly worthy of my support. International aid organizations: UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) United Nations' World Food Programme Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors without Borders (donate!) CARE International The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies UK/Europe: Disasters Emergency Comittee (DEC) - comprises a raft of aid agencies, including the below and others British Red Cross Save the Children UK North America: American Red Cross Canadian Red Cross Save The Children Anders Jacobsen: Webloggers: Give to tsunami victims and I'll give too! (Hat Tip:A&W)

An Unlikely Pair

When you see an op-ed writen by Bill Gates and Bono you have to take a look. Actually, they make some pretty good points and have some good ideas. Here is the crux of their propossal:

For a start, we hope that the leaders of every developed nation will resolve to take four crucial steps in 2005. The wealthy world has already committed itself to some of these ideas. Promises made must be promises kept. First: double the amount of effective foreign assistance - possibly through the International Finance Facility, a UK proposal to frontload aid and get it flowing immediately. A British- and French-backed initiative using the same principles is ready to roll now and could save five million lives by increasing child immunisation. Second: finish the job on poor countries' debts. They need more than relief - they need full debt cancellation. Third: change unfair trade rules, creating a pathway for poor countries to reach self-reliance. Fourth: provide funding for the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, a more aggressive and coordinated approach to developing an HIV vaccine.
These are actually all things I agree with, particulary the third point. There are a variety of unfair trade rules out there, some, sadly, instigated by America. One of the best tools for poverty reduction is trade and we should do all that we can to support it.

Behold the Power of Science

This is the type of science that can change the world. What I want to know is where is our goverment in the funding of such important expiramentation. (hat tip: Smack My Booty)

The UN: Always focusing on what's important.

Be sure to read thisDiplomad post. Highlight:

The team has spent the day and will likely spend a few more setting up their 'coordination and opcenter' at a local five-star hotel. And their number one concern, even before phones, fax and copy machines? Arranging for the hotel to provide 24hr catering service. USAID folks already are cracking jokes about 'The UN Sheraton.'
Hard to decide whether to laugh or cry.


I havn't blogged about the ongoing genocide in Darfur for a while. Even with horrific world events such as the tsumani however their is no excuse for forgeting man-made catastrophes. This Christian Science Monitor op-ed is a good reinder of what is happening there:

Forced evacuations and mass rapes; brutal ethnic killings and rampaging militias; oil profits and arms sales. The deadly mix of politics, economics, and insecurity has displaced 1.6 million people and killed tens of thousands in the Darfur region of western Sudan since early 2003. The United Nations recently described Darfur as the 'world's worst humanitarian crisis.' This is not a humanitarian crisis. It is a war. Humanitarian assistance, in the absence of political and military engagement, can actually exacerbate the conflict. The label "humanitarian crisis" conveniently absolves the rest of the world from taking political and military action in Darfur. By providing generous humanitarian assistance, governments and the UN claim to take meaningful action. But genocide cannot be resolved by donating blankets and food to the potential victims.
Read the whole thing.

Grand Strategy

This Foreign Affairs essay is well worth reading. There is a ton of stuff I agree with totally here, a few things I question, but as a whole it is thought provoking and extremely astute. I urge you to read it all. One bit that caught my interest though is this:

Pre-emption defined as prevention, however, runs the risk--amply demonstrated over the past two years--that the United States itself will appear to much of the world as a clear and present danger. Sovereignty has long been a sacrosanct principle in the international system. For the world's most powerful state suddenly to announce that its security requires violating the sovereignty of certain other states whenever it chooses cannot help but make all other states nervous. As the political scientist G. John Ikenberry has pointed out, Washington's policy of pre-emption has created the image of a global policeman who reports to no higher authority and no longer allows locks on citizens' doors. However shocking the September 11 attacks may have been, the international community has not found it easy to endorse the Bush administration's plan for regaining security. ... President Bush's decision to invade Iraq anyway provoked complaints that great power was being wielded without great responsibility, followed by an unprecedented collapse of support for the United States abroad. From nearly universal sympathy in the weeks after September 11, Americans within a year and a half found their country widely regarded as an international pariah.
This draws attention to a central challenge for America, and the world. I am always distrustful of any great level of power that does not have a check upon it's use. Now, I do not think that American military power falls in that category, because I understand that the American people provide that check, and I trust them to do so correctly. It is however, understandable that other nations, and other people, would not share my optimism. To combat this I do feel that we need to subordinate certain aspects of American military power to some international body. Now obviously we should not limit our ability to respond in any way to a clear and immediate danger, nor limit our ability to respond to any given attack, but their is the category of conflict, the preventative wars such as Iraq where we could suborn our choices to some exterior body, were that body of a sufficient moral nature to deserve such power. At the moment, I do not believe such a body exists. I have previously proposed however, a 'League of Democracies' which would accept member only of nations that had met clear criteria as a free, open and democratic society. If such a body were formed, I would be willing to by treaty, give that body (via a majority or perhaps 2/3 majority vote) the unique moral authority to authorize a preventive war, or a war for humanitarian reasons. Obviously building such a League would be a great diplomatic challenge. The U.N. would of course be in opposition as would many NGOs and other groups heavily invested in the current system. Russia, China and France in the least would be in opposition as this organization would weaken the U.N. and they hold a great deal of power within the U.N. system. I expect that beyond France, the E.U. bureaucracy itself (similar in many ways to that of the U.N.) would also be in opposition. Of course there would also be those on both the left and the right that would oppose such a scheme as well. However, such a system would also have allies. Japan, India, Brazil and Poland would all likely support such a plan, as they would gain influence, and perhaps more importantly, prestige, under such a scheme. Much of 'new Europe' and other rising democracies would as well. A quick look at both demographic trends and economic trends would show that these are the very nations that are going to become increasingly significant powers over the coming century. Creating a 'New World Order' with them in mind seems wise. Despite their reputation for 'diplomatic bungling' I have observed that the Bush administration has been able to accomplish a great deal in this arena when their heart is really in something. While this would be a huge challenge, it would also be a huge accomplishment that would catapult Bush into a revered place in history.

Relations between China and Russia warm

New York Post Online Edition: postopinion:

Until recently, the Sino-Russian strategic partnership has been a relatively hollow construct, confined to political rhetoric, trade and weapons sales. But after Putin's October visit, Chinese President Hu Jintao asserted that 'Sino-Russian strategic coordination has attained an unprecedented high level, ' while Putin proclaimed that the relationship had reached 'unparalleled heights.' For some time, there was broad agreement among foreign-policy elites that both Beijing and Moscow were more interested in developing good relations with Washington than with each other. This may no longer be the case. Recent developments indicate that the tectonic plates of Sino-Russian relations are shifting. We better pay attention.
In some ways, I view this as a good thing, while both Russia and China are, at best, strategic adversaries of the United States, the more they each are involved in the rest of the world the better of we are simply by virtue that engagement tends to be less dangerous than isolation. Further, the need to compete will cause both of these countries to inevitably, although perhaps slowly and perhaps in fits and starts, evolve toward a more free society. Nonetheless, the article is correct in pointing out that this is something we have to pay attention to. China wants, and needs, reunification with Taiwan and it would be easy for a horrible miscalculation to be made there. We need to make it clear to China that a military solution toward Tiawanese reunification will be met with unlimited American opposition. And yes, I believe that that should include nuclear weapons as an option. This is not to say that I want to nuke China, but we owe Taiwan, as a staunch ally, protection. That means any and all means necessary. I don't think we would need nukes to defend Tiawan. I hope we won't need anything at all because I hope China won't try anything. But should China conclude (rightly or wrongly) that they could conquer Tiawan in spite of the American conventional military, the knowledge that that is just the first obstacle might prevent them from making a mistake.

Tide of Grief

This Newsweek Article provides an overview of the Tsunami disaster and some glimpses at individuals and how it affected them. This is the sort of tradgedy we can never fully understand, but somehow, trying to understand nonetheless can make us better people. (hat tip: Random Gemini)

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Stinginess Update

Yahoo! News:

Desperate, homeless villagers on the tsunami-ravaged island of Sumatra mobbed American helicopters carrying aid Saturday as the U.S. military launched its largest operation in the region since the Vietnam War, ferrying food and other emergency relief to survivors across the disaster zone. From dawn until sunset on New Year's Day, 12 Seahawk helicopters shuttled supplies and advance teams from offshore naval vessels while reconnaissance aircraft brought back stark images of wave-wrecked coastal landscapes and their hungry, traumatized inhabitants. "They came from all directions, crawling under the craft, knocking on the pilot's door, pushing to get into the cabin," said Petty Officer First Class Brennan Zwack. "But when they saw we had no more food inside, they backed away, saying `Thank you, thank you.'