While I have strong doubts as to the true identity of the person in the recent Osama bin Laden video, I have to say, that if President Bush wins the election solidly on Tuesday, then I for one would be glad that Osama bin Laden is still alive to see it. Watch it all crumble before you, day after day, loser.
In a recent post, The Brothers Judd posit the view that Kashmir will end up independent. I don’t want to discuss that in particular, but a larger theme.
Long ago, during the Middle Ages, warfare was somewhat abstract for most people. Wars were fought with relatively small armies and unless you village was in their path, the change of rulers meant little. There was a basic pattern of rulers and ruled and the particular identity of the rulers was not overly important. This is why the Norman kings could take over England without endless resistance to the “occupation”.
Later, however, nationalism developed and nations acquired significantly different forms of government and social compacts which meant that one’s rulers could make quite a large difference in one’s life. At this point, nationalistic resistance begins to become far mroe attractive to the average citizen.
I think we’re moving back towards the previous era. Liberal democracy is becoming the standard governmental structure and social compact and if you have that, the precise structure of one’s nation state matters a lot less. This is why you see devolution in places like Britian. With the rising level of free trade and the Pax Americana, there’s not much benefit to aggregating in large nation states and advantages to having a greater degree of local control. The centralizing impetus of the nation-state wars is fading.
This is one reason why I think that the EU superstate is doomed. There’s no good reason to believe that if, say, the idea of “France” is eliminated to aborb it in to “Europe”, why more regional political groupings wouldn’t replace it. Such was the fate of Yugoslavia and increasing it looks like the fate of Spain as well. France and Germany are well stocked with regionalities, not to mention the coming split in Belguim.
I think that this will also tend, at least for the next century, to make the USA even more of a hyper power. The only nations that won’t devolve toward more ethnically homogenous small states will be ones that have a strong history of assimilation and diversity. Such nations will remain geographically large and powerful. The only current nation of that type is the USA which will naturally become even more dominant as other nations split up. There’s nothing the EUlite can do about it either, as they’ve long since thrown in the philosophical towel on assimilation. I don’t see how this trend will end, although surely it will. I suspect it might well last until new nations are founded off planet, at which point those nations may drain the life from the USA the way the USA currently drains the life from the rest of the planet through its generous immigration and assimilation.
So Slate is upset at the lack of government action concerning the (relatively) high rate of AIDS in black women in the USA. The linchpin of this screed are the non-answers given by the Vice-Presidential candidates during their debate, in which shockingly neither had this issue at the forefront of their political agendas.
The article then develops a number of possible causes, although it does caution that it’s far from clear why this particular subpopulation has a much higher rate of incidence. I find the basic gist of the article depressing. It is yet another screed about how, if there’s a problem, the only appropriate response is a federal government program. What, exactly, this program would do is left completely unspecified. But it should certainly do something, even if (as the article belabors at length) we have no idea what the cause of the higher rate is. Of course, we do know the basic infection path for AIDS so one might be tempted to wonder why black women simply avoid such behaviors, which wouldn’t seem to be that difficult. It’s a sad mark of the times that the federal government is presumed to be responsible for controlling the personal habits and choices of “under-priviledged” groups. It seems to me to be just another way to put people back on the plantation.
P.S. One wonders if the same logic would apply to getting, say, journalism degrees, which seems to be another personal choice that’s not good for the recipient or the nation.
Election season 2004 has seen a disturbing rise in incidents like this, including attacks on Republican headquarters across the country and calls for the assassination of President Bush. But what’s really astonishing is that the Left thinks this all well and good and is whipping up such deranged passions even further. The entire Democratic campaign to win back wavering black support is based on telling them that the GOP is stealing their votes, while the Kerry campaign’s stated intention to simply declare victory on November 2nd and then fight it out in court reflects a total disregard for the democratic process. John Edwards wife even spouted some nonsense recently about how riots in PA would only be avoided in Mr. Kerry carried the state.
I was originally just going to snidely comment about how the Democratic Party is willing to destroy democracy in order to save it. But on reflection I realized that’s not the case. I think the commentor Brian nails the really dangerous idea that animates the Modern American Left (MAL) —
it’s the notion that the government rightfully belongs in the hands of the left. Thus a conservative gov’t is by definition illegitimate.
What this means is that in the view of the MAL a win by the Right and by President Bush in particular is of itself the destruction of democracy. In this paradigm, actions that just risks democracy are always to be preferred to the alternative, a Republican victory, which is the certain destruction of democracy.
It’s the same viewpoint that animates the EUlite as well, which is that there is a natural ruling class (the sophisticated masters of the art of presentation) and any legitimate government will have this class in charge. I just hope that the American Street still has the strength and perception to reject this self serving excuse for a political ideology.
Megan McArdle has been complaining about HP printer service. It seems her mom has an HP printer, lost the driver CD and the downloads from the HP website don’t work. McArdle has been going on about what an evil corporation HP is if they won’t just ship her mom a CD with the drivers. But this misses the real failure of HP, which is that the downloads from the web don’t work. That’s the real solution to the problem. What looks bad on HP is that HP is apparently aware of the problem and hasn’t fixed it post haste. Not shipping the CD, I understand. Not fixing the driver downloads I don’t. Let me tell you that where I work now, if a report comes in that a download doesn’t work it goes to top priority for the development team.
But HP, despite alledgedly being a printer company, has had this kind of problem for a while. Way back in the day, I was trying to get an HP printer to work on Windows NT. I failed. I thought this kind of odd, since HP shipped NT workstations and printers. I checked with a friend I knew at HP and he told “of course we have drivers for NT! We ship NT boxes. I’ll find it for you”. Well, as you might guess, a week later he came back and told me
Eventually HP got its act together there, but it sounds to me like HP stills need to invent a process to guarantee good printer driver software for customers.
Orrin Judd writes about how Senator Kerry would have to deal with Iraq:
The reality, of course, is that both because he misunderstands the overall War and because he couldn’t afford to be seen surrendering, a President Kerry would be forced to pursue combat more vigorously in Iraq and not trust to the political solution that the President has built into the process.
I simply don’t believe this at all. One need only look at the example of how South Vietnam was abandoned without much political cost. Certainly Kerry in particular suffered no ill effects from that. So why wouldn’t he do the same thing in Iraq? Negotiate in secret with the enemy then betray our allies while declaring it a victory? Kerry doesn’t have to prosecute the war, he simply as to claim to be prosecuting the war. He’ll also have the ready made excuse of lack of international cooperation. Just how out of character would it be for Kerry and Chirac to pretend to discuss the issue with an understanding that the real goal is to look busy while delaying action until it’s irrelevant? It’s a perfect setup for keeping words and deeds completely separated. A Republican dominated Congress won’t make much difference because any successful effort will depend on Presidential leadership. Without that, Kerry will use the just described techniques to bog down any action. I think Judd is engaging in a lot of wishful thinking here.
The rumours of a potential draft continue to be pushed by the Democratic Party, including Senator Kerry. It’s yet another demonstration that the Democratic Party is either as deeply cynical and dishonest as its detractors claim, or is far too clueless to be allowed to occupy high office.
I won’t go in to why a draft would not, in fact, strengthen the military but would most likely weaken it as that’s been covered copiously elsewhere.
What I haven’t seen discussed is the political side of the issue. One need only conduct a simple thought experiment. Suppose the occupation of Iraq or Syria is going badly and we supposedly need so many more troops that a draft is indicated. The unexamined assumption here is that there is no other way to achieve the postulated military objectives. But that is simply not true. There may well be no way to do it with a minimum of foreign casualties but that’s not quite the same thing. I can’t envision a situation where the result couldn’t be achieved through an application of sufficient high explosives, if one is willing to inflict massive collateral damage. Who seriously believes that our political leadership, faced with the choice of imposing a draft and significantly increasing American casualties, or bombing foreigners until the rubble bounces, would chose the former instead of the latter?
While I can see the point of those who say that the recent flap over a columnist in the Guardian calling for assassins to get President Bush is a bit of an overreaction, they seem to miss the real point. The root of the problem is that humor needs to be sufficiently outré that it can’t be mistaken for serious commentary. Those who compare this to Swift’s Modest Proposal are prime examples. Even in his day, no one would have publically and seriously agreed with Swift’s proposal. But here in the USA, we have people doing just that (via LGF) about this proposal for President Bush. Moreover, passing by on Bush in paricular, people do assassinate US presidents while no one actually ate an Irish baby. The Guardian columnist ought to ask his friends on the Left why they’ve used such overheated rhetoric that there’s no place left for satire.
The Brothers Judd mention that the EUlite are trying yet again to expand their influence using “soft power”:
The EU’s outreach program to sometimes dangerous places beyond its borders marks a dramatic shift in Europe’s perception of how it can play a key - perhaps central - role in world affairs: The strategy is one of exploiting economic clout to both achieve influence on the world stage and shape the rim of Europe. Perhaps Europe might even school America - and its many Euro-cynics - in the merits of persuasion rather than force.
I’m not going to talk how Iran is making a mockery of the EUlites soft power efforts, that’s been well covered elsewhere. What I think is the real plan, however, is for the EUlite to wait until the USA intimidates the mullahs into compliance or the USA encourages the citizenry to rise up and overthrow the mullahs. At that point, the EUlite (having put down the marker early on) will claim that is European soft power that did all the heavy lifting, just as the EUlite are now taking credit for Libya abandoning nuclear weapons. You think they’re idiots, but they are in fact clever cynics.
As the electoral cataclysm approaches, I find myself expecting the worst - a narrow victory for Senator Kerry marked by vicious legal fights and fraud. I’d also agree that President Bush’s most effective opponent has been Old Media, not the Kerry campaign.
For the same reasons I said back in 2000 that if Bush won or even came close, it would be very embarrassing for Gore, I think in this election if Bush doesn’t achieve a clear victory over Kerry it will mark a serious campaign failure on Bush’s part. It’s hard to think of a more perfect candidate for Bush to crush. What I expected during the closing weeks of the campaign was a series of one to two week attacks on Kerry, highlighting his weak Senatorial record, his support of hostile regimes, etc. I figured that Rove’s problem was too many attack point. Yet what has been unleashed recently? Perhaps I’m missing it because I live in a hard core Democratic Party aligned state that’s only going to go for Bush if he pulls off a Reagan-esque landslide. It’s hardly a mistake for Bush to not waste time and money campaigning here. Or is Old Media still powerful enough to basically shut down the President of the USA?
Ultimately, though, I have to put blame where it belongs, on the voters. The root problem in my view is that there’s little or no electoral backlash from saying outrageous things like calling for insurrection if Bush wins, or asking our soldiers to die for the UN, but not for the USA. I’m with Dean Esmay that a Kerry victory will same something, and not a very pleasant something, about modern day America.
Random Jottings is pondering gerrymandering. There is some discussion of having a non-partisan commission but as a commentor asks, how do you prevent that from being captured by partisan hacks? Well, the only way to do that is to make it ineffectual which kind of defeats the purpose.
I think they are missing the bigger issue, which is the true genius of the Founding Fathers. You don’t try to eliminate partisanship, because that’s a fools errand (or the essence of Socialism, take your pick). Instead your system needs to harness it as a driving engine. Make the partisans do the work but structure it so that the damage done is minimized.
As I’ve mentioned that before, it seems that the gerrymandering problem could be solved by a very simple system. After the census, any citizen can submit a redistricting plan. A plan must generate the correct number of Congressman and must have a ratio of the largest district to the smallest district of 1.2 or less (or pick some other close to 1 number) in terms of voting population size in order to be valid. The valid plan with the shortest total borders wins.
Now, this won’t completely stop gerrymandering. One can still get away with a little bit by making almost all well designed districts with just a few protuberances. But it also makes for an interesting contest between the parties - how much can you go out of a minimal solution before the other side beats you on overall length? And of course the good government types can submit their own maps, although I suspect that formatting requirements will keep the rabble out. That’s OK, the real driver is competition between the parties.
All the commission does, then, is scan the lists, verify validity and total the borders (this makes it ineffectual, thereby inhibiting capture). All the maps become public domain, of course, so that the commission can be checked up on.
Of course, this will never be adopted because it doesn’t satifsy either the hacks or the good government types. The former’s disatisfaction is obvious. The latter will not appreciate it because it’s a general solution that’s mostly right, rather than a perfectly planned equisitely balanced solution. Of course, that kind of solution never works in practice but that hasn’t deterred them in the past.
I’ve been wondering about a formal peace treaty with Iraq. One of the key points for me about the invasion of Iraq was that the USA was already at war with Iraq (why President Bush didn’t bring this up is beyond me).
Now, I think we can reasonably expect that the USA will be at peace with the new Iraqi government, to be elected in January. Will we make it official? I’d think that an official peace ceremony would be an excellent public relations move. I wonder if it’s in the works. I would certainly agree that waiting to sign it with the new government would be the best choice, but given the lack of dicsussion of this point among the political classes (both before and after the invasion) it may have simply fallen off the radar. That would be a definite foreign policy failure.
It’s gonna be a slow week. I’m way behind on almost everything. I used to not have enough topics to write about, now I have too many and too much I want to say about each one.
Tim Blair has been torturing the Guardian for their effort to influence the American Presidential election. The idea was, apparently, that the Guardian would pass out the addresses of voters in a swing count in Ohio to Brits, who would then write letter that would persuade the American voters to vote for Senator Kerry.
While I admire Blair’s effort at mockery, I think he misses the point that this is not about persuading American voters nor even having any impact on the election. That would be far too effective to be popular with the type of EUlite chatterati who read the Guardian. It is, of course, just one more internal psycho-drama where in the chatterati play the role of Cassandra, bravely warning the doomed of how they are going to fall. I simply don’t believe that anybody at the Guardian thinks that Americans (particulary the inbred rural types who live in the MidWest) are intelligent enough to appreciate the sophisticated logic of the writers. That kind of payoff, where when President Bush wins their negative views of Americans are reenforced, may be part of the draw as well.
Now that all other justifications for the war are known to be lies, the warmongers are thrown back on one, endlessly repeated: the world is a better place without Saddam. No doubt it is. But that’s the Tony Martin school of foreign policy [Martin was a householder who shot dead a burglar who had broken into his house in 1999].
Given how the average Ohioan citizen is likely to consider the issue of the propriety of blowing away an intruder in their house, this may well do more to encourage a vote for President Bush than anything else. Dawkins is obviously completely clueless about the attitudes of the people he’s writing to and he just as obviously doesn’t care. He’s writing for the readers of the Guardian, to appreciate his devastating wit in putting down the stupid Yanks. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dawkins neglected to actually mail the letter off after submitting a copy to the Guardian.
As I was reading about the Ownership Society vs. the Welfare State and about the possibility of the EU dropping economic ties to Israel, I realized that there is a relationship between these and the widening political gulf across the Atlantic.
One of the points raised in the latter article was the coming Islamization of Europe. I’m not sure this is really significant, as Islamic culture has not, so far, been exactly a wellspring of economic success. If Europe ends up colonized by present day Islam, it won’t matter if it drops economic ties the same you wouldn’t notice if the local kids lemonade stand closed up.
Beyond that is that I find strong parallels in the trend in the USA toward the Ownership Society while Europe clings to welfare-statism and the preferences for different sides in the Israel / Arabia conflict.
When the typical American sees the scenes of poverty and despair in Palestinian territories, his first thought is likely to be “why don’t they fix that”, just as he would think “get a job!” of someone on welfare. An American would ask “why don’t the Palestinians dump their corrupt leaders, stop attacking Israel and build their economy?”. Americans expect people to fix their own problems and ask for help only after a good faith effort involving hard work has failed. The maximalist demands of the Palestinians seem just like the whining of the professional welfare class who demand full membership in society without any effort or sacrifice on their part (like these people). Americans naturally favor the Israelis because they built a modern, liberal, rich society out of a desert.
Europeans, on the other hand, judging from their attachment to a welfare state, see it entirely differently. If someone is suffering, the causation isn’t relevant. What’s important is that some government fix the problem. The idea of how asking about costs is a mean, cruel thing to do. While I believe that judenhass plays some role, I wonder how much is simply the blithe disregard of costs the plagues so many other European policies. One need only look at what the Swedes are doing to themselves to help the “downtrodden” to see that it’s not all judenhass.
Here’s a dirty little secret - most programmers aren’t very good at programming. How I loved code reviews when I point at some bit of code and ask “How could this possibly work?”. The nonplussed expression that signified the question “how am I supposed to know?” was always a joy. Or sometimes the victim would pull his printout closer, picking at it fearfully with his eyes as if it were the simple but beautiful language of an Incan monkey god rather than code he typed up the previous week. But nothing matched the thrill of victory when their spirit would fail them and they’d ask me to explain their code to them.
Oddly, management stopped letting me do code reviews. Too Nietzchian for them, I guess.
Oh, how I miss those days when I would crush my co-workers, see them shrivel before me and hear the lamentations of their friends!
P.S. This was actually an endless source of social problems bewteen us and the California office. They were touchy feely concensus based. We were hardy MidWesterns who were just plain brutal. But we always figured it like combat training - the more you sweat in development, the less you bleed from customers.
Dean Esmay has a post about the Democratic Party misunderstanding the mindset of conservative Christians. The Kerry campaign seems to believe that conservative Christian will fail to turn out for President Bush if it becomes well known that Vice President Dick Cheney has a daughter who is a lesbian. Esmay claims that this is a bad misreading of the conservative Christian mindset. That’s worth reading on its own, but I found the comments against Esmay’s claim more interesting.
The basis for most of the counter arguments was the assumption or outright support for venality. I.e., that Cheney shouldn’t act politically on any principles, but only on what would be personally best for his family. I thought that was being venal but apparently it’s the standard of principle for some people today.
Exemplifying Esmay’s original point, the dissenters are completely dismissive of the idea that President Bush and Cheney might hold the positions concerning homosexuality from any principle. It is simply presumed that it’s pure political calculation (which in itself is odd, castigating a politician for taking a politically popular position).
At that point, Cheney taking a position that alledgedly harms his daughter1 is considered “selling out”. I thought holding to a political position even at personal cost was the principled stand. I wonder if the same logic would work if Cheney had given his daughter his Halliburton stock and then took positions that benefited Halliburton so as to ensure his daughter’s financial future. Or would Cheney be expected to act against his own family in that case? I suppose that if you don’t have any basic principles yourself except selfishness, it’s hard to grasp that others might.
1 Given that his daughter has the same position on the issue, it’s rather presumptious to claim that she’s harming herself.
I’ve been following the pending Supreme Court case involving the death penalty for 16 and 17 year olds. What strikes me as very puzzling is the “concensus” logic. As it’s explained by Old Media (obviously a weak source of information), the logic is that if no one does something, then it shouldn’t be done. But if no one is doing it, then what’s the point? If every state outlaws the death penalty for offenders under 18 years old, then what’s the point of a Supreme Court ruling? To lock in the political zeitgeist of the moment? This from many of the same people who endorse a “lviing” Constitution? It sounds like trying for a “gimmie” — “we got close so the Supreme Court should throw in the rest of the states”. I think it should be left up the various States and the Supreme Court should have refused to hear the case for this reason. It’s there is a concensus in which case the decision is superflous or there’s not, in which case it’s presumptious.
Over at Winds of Change is an interesting discussion of post-modernism / deconstructionism and how it impacts the modern Left.
The problem with fighting post-modernism is that some things are purely social constructs (such as this symbol system we’re using to communicate). It’s the software that runs on top of the hardware of reality. Post-modernism, as the phrase is commonly used, is the claim that all is software. That works as long as you live far enough above grubby reality. Philosphers who live in the refined air of Paris cafés do. It is (as usual) the not-so-priviledged who suffer from the effects.
On the other hand, if one’s ideology is dieing because of its incompatiblity with objective reality (which is the state Marxism has been in for several decades), rather than trying to adjust the ideology to comply with reality one can adopt the formless of post-modernism to cover up the upleasant details.
As other commentors noted, full bore post-modernism is intrinsically nihilistic, so modern Marxists need to be a bit careful of it. But few indeed can truly embrace nihilism and so with a bit of emotional appeal that can be kept in line and the violence of the true nihilists makes an excellent tool for destroying one’s political opponents (the only people Lenin really feared were the nihilists, whom he carefully disposed of one by one after they had contributed to smashing up the Czarist state).
The best defense against post-modernism is having to deal with the quotidian concerns of every day life. This is probably a big reason why the EUlite despise the USA and Americans, because our government is controlled by those sort of people and as a result the USA is a hyperpower. The EUlite don’t fear the Caliphate despite the philosophical differences because it leads to obviously worse results. This is why the USA was popular while mouring its losses on 12 Sep 2001, but hated when it started doing something about it.
No Illusions writes about how the EUlites plan to overtake the USA in ten years is failing. One of the key points is how the Kyoto Climate Change Treaty will begin to hurt in a couple of years, once Russia has ratified the agreement.
The official story from Russia is that Russia will sign the treaty in exchange for EU approval of Russia’s WTO bid. One rumour is that the economic minister is in favor of ratification because it provides a very convenient excuse for any failure to achieve economic goals.
But what if Russia is playing a deeper game? I think we can assume that if something can occur to some weblogger, then it is quite plausible that the same idea occurred to people who are paid to think about such things. In that case, could Russia have forseen the impact of Kyoto on the struggling EU economy? What will the EU do when it needs the economic growth but is hobbled by Kyoto? Abandon the treaty? Or simply ignore its provisions as France does with EU debt regulations? In such a case, Russia might well do the same, citing EU evasion as justification.
If the treaty is renegotiated, Russia can then either get it tweaked to Russia’s benefit or drop out of the revised treaty (or simply put it off for a long time). Meanwhile, they’re in the WTO and won’t get booted out for blowing off Kyoto.
It looks like Russia may well be planning to collect their side of the bargain (entry to the WTO) without having to actually pay out. That would make them cleverer than the EUlite, but that’s not very high praise these days.
Apparently the debate over how the Cold War was won still rages. It’s a matter of some import these days, because of the rough analogy to WWIV, the Caliphascist War. Of course, much of the Left has already rewritten history to claim that the Left supported the West during the struggle which means that they won’t be learning much from it. But that aside,the goal currently seems to be to go on about the inevitability of the collapse of Communism (despite the Left’s claims of how it was going to be the West that collapsed in economic and/or ecological destruction) so as to make the military contribution seem irrelevant.
It is the case that Communism was doomed to collapse as long as the West continued to exist. What people fail to note is that Communism still works better than, say, raw brutality such as Ba’ath Iraq. It’s simply unable to compete with liberal democracies. This means that one solution to collapse would be to destroy the liberal democracies and become the best organized society. This was prevented by having a strong military that could contest the USSR both tactically and geo-strategically. Absent that, the USSR would have expanded and gradually overun the liberal democracies. Whether it could do so faster than it collapsed internally is an open question, but I’d rather not run the experiment.
Because of this, President Reagan’s military build up wasn’t necessary to cause the USSR to collapse. It did, however, bring about the collapse much sooner than otherwise. That, to me, is more than sufficient to justify the effort. Shifting forward the time when hundreds of millions would live better, freer lives and the threat of world wide nuclear devastation removed seems worth quite a lot. If, of course, one puts a non-zero value on the lives and well being of foreigners. But I guess we’ve long known that progressives just don’t feel that bond of common humanity.
I dread coming home. You know things have taken a paradoxical turn when Germany feels safe, sane, and free by comparison with the United States of America. But that’s how it looks to me.
That’s how it looks to the Germans too. The idea that we might actually re-elect George Bush is unfathomable - indeed, inexcusable - to them. As one of them put it to me, “We can forgive you for electing him once. As we ought to know, any electorate can make a tragic mistake. But if you elect him twice, we will start fearing you Americans as much as we currently fear your government.”
And the problem is, what? That Perry’s German friends won’t like him? I, personally, am just fine with drop outs from WWIV who willfully give up arms fearing Americans. Maybe, if they shiver in fear of us long enough, they’ll actually decide to do something about it instead of just whining. Or perhaps they’ll just whine quietly. Perry’s got a very distorted view of the USA if he thinks any significant fraction of the citizenry is going to be bothered by this. I suspect that it would overall be a net plus for President Bush if it were generally known.
However, I don’t see any evidence of this current “fear” of our government, or in the last German elections the candidates wouldn’t have gone so far out of their way to irritate the USA. Is this the same fear that our local “dissidents” have for speaking out against President Bush because thousands of celebreties and other public figures have been shipped off to gulags?
One is left wondering, if these German friends of Perry’s are scared of what the USA has done in the last few years, how they would react to the USA unleashing a real can of whup ass. They’d probably just keel over on the spot. But as tempting as that is, we shouldn’t let our foreign policy be influenced by the chatterati of failing nations.
I’m spending too much time thinking about stuff when I’m reading books these days. Something that hit me recently was the idea that trading with enemies is intrinsically bad. That’s rather an odd viewpoint, though, isn’t it? If it’s a bad thing, why is the enemy doing it? Doesn’t the same logic apply on the other side? That means that essentially both sides are voluntarily doing something to harm themselves. In real life, of course, both sides believe that the trade benefits them more than the other side. Otherwise the side that thought it was losing out wouldn’t be trading. Yet the view of trade as automatically bad if it’s done with enemies persists and sadly, I’m getting too old and cranky to just let it slip by anymore. Ruins some formerly good books…
I can only hope that the various reports of a new law in the UK are hysterical, but given the source that seems a forlorn hope. In essence, the bill would allow senior government officials to declare an emergency and then act to alleviate it. What makes a situation an emergency? That’s up to the judgement of the senior government official. How can the official act? In just about anyway the SGO wants. He would have the power, among others, to
It’s seriously difficult to see how this doesn’t give any SGO the legal right to impose a dictatorship. Yet it’s not some delusion of black helicopter paranoia, but a real law being put up for a vote. It’s a nice setup for some serious civil strife when two different SGOs decide to implement different regulations. We may give UK Prime Minister Tony Blair a lot of credit for things he’s done right, but remember that this legislation is also a creation of his.
I heard some bit on NPR this morning about how the ACLU is protesting the Bush administration’s record on civil rights and what a danger Attorney General Ashcroft is. It was so depressing. The fact is, there is a very serious threat to our civil liberties and our liberal democracy coming out under the Bush administration, a threat so serious that it’s difficult to be hyperbolic about it. But it’s not the jack-booted thugs of Evil Fascist™ Ashcroft. The threat is called Campaign Finance Reform. That overturning that law isn’t number one on the ACLU’s project list is proof positivie that the organization is simply not serious about civil liberties in America. While the ACLU at least has some opposition to it, the ACLU’s “solution” — full public financing — is almost as bad CFR. I believe that, if our Republic survives, in 30 or 40 years CFR will replace the Alien and Sedition Acts as the archetypical example of political hysteria attacking the foundations of our Republic. Yet when was the last time the ACLU blasted the Administration and brought it up?
Instead it’s the Patriot Act. Yeah, the Patriot Act is overbroad but it could be fixed with a little softening around the edges. It certainly doesn’t eviscerate the Bill of Rights while givin enormous political power to an unelected rabble of partisan hacks and corporate tools (i.e., Old Media) like CFR does. It’s important to keep in mind that, as bad as CFR is, what’s worse is the precedent it sets where funadmental liberties (such as free speech) can be set aside on behalf of “good governance” as determined by the political fads of the day.
It’s all kind of a sick joke by the Supreme Court. Congress and President Bush flagrantly abandoned their duty to uphold the US Constitution, counting on the Supreme Court to bear the burden. But the Court called their bluff and now we’re all stuck with the toxic fallout.
Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said negotiators on Tuesday hammered out the basis for an agreement to end fighting with followers of radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
U.S. forces have been daily attacking the vast Baghdad slum of Sadr City to knock out the cleric’s militia and pressure him to lay down his arms in favor of negotiations.
Yah, you think there’s some kind of relationship between those two facts? Rather than just being violence for the sake of violence or an over-reaction, the small but targeted strikes going on put time on Allawi’s side. If negotiations bog down, he gets to say “Well, let’s try again tomorrow, with those of you left alive after tonight’s bombing”. I expect that’s doing wonders for motivating the other side.
It’s a continuing astonishment how pro-violence the “anti-war” coalition really is. The current violence in Iraq is being maintained by the caliphascists. Without their attacks on pretty much any human they can target, Iraq would be basically peaceful and moving towards elections and lifting of the occupation. Yet the “anti-war” coalition seems to be in full support of the caliphascists. If they’re really anti-war, why aren’t they calling on the caliphascists to stop the vioence, to talk to the Americans and the Iraqi Provisional Government to work out an agreement? Because, you know, talking is always better than fighting. Unless, apparently, it’s fighting against the USA and its allies. As has been said many times, they’re not anti-war, they’re on the other side.
Only by working longer and moving towards the US social model can Europe hope to attain its Lisbon goals, according to Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, Dutch Minister of Economy, speaking at an event in Brussels on 7 October.
Modernising the European social model is a matter of urgency if Europe wants to maintain its model of choice in the long term and close the productivity gap with the US, believes the minister
I still have to wonder — why? The essential problem here continues to be refusing to face tradeoffs. Europe can afford its socialism if it is willing to accept a lower standard of living than the USA. It’s having both that’s the problem. Note that despite the heavy burden of government, Europe still managed to grow its economy since the 1990s. Moreover, as long as the Anglospheric economy and the USA in particular continue to advance, Europe will be dragged along as well, if for no other reason than they can import cheaper and better goods from the technological and economic advancement of the rest of the world. As long as Europe is unwilling to face these tradeoffs, their economic policies will continue to be incoherent.
Via Little Green Footballs is some advice from Seattle Times columnist William Pfaff. It’s basically to do what De Gaulle did when he took power in France in 1958 and negotiated Algerian independence.
I found that advice extremely odd - the argument in France was whether to keep Algeria as a colony. De Gaulle’s primary insight was that Algerian would fight viciously for independence and France didn’t have the will to completely crush the rebellion. I can’t see how that would apply to Iraq, because
This is just another example of the idea of a true American Empire with imperial conquests taking root in the Left. They don’t dare state it explicitly, because it’s laughable, but instead use it as a backdrop so as to get some mileage from it without having to defend the concept. But absent that backdrop, this advice simply makes no sense. But perhaps that’s not a good criteria on which to judge Pfaff.
As I was driving home from work today, warming the globe and observing various species of formerly alive fauna along the road, I pondered just how hungry I’d have to be to eat more recently deceased instances of those species. Pretty darn hungry, I figure. But then it occurred to me — there aren’t really any poisonous meats, are there? Basically, if I’m trying to survive I can eat any animal I kill. I don’t have to consult guides or unrealiable heuristics to determine if a carcasss is edible. That would seem to be a big advantage for carnivorous types. That means vegetarians should be more concerned about the survival of civilization than carnivores, although that doesn’t seem to hold true in practice. Kind of odd, don’t you think?
The Brothers Judd report that the locals in Fallujah are trying to negotiate with the Provisional Government about how to keep the Coalition from attacking. It sounds to me like the IPG is pushing for a workable deal, which includes
The goal here is to have Fallujah under the control of the IPG and any deal that accomplishes that is a big step forward.
But my co-worker BBB asked me an interesting question about this - where will the foreign caliphascists go? Will they just slink out and leave the country? Head for the hills? Attempt a take-over of some other town? Lay low by blending in to the populace? Or resist to an end involving hostages and massacres? Surely not even the caliphascists are stupid enough to not grasp that the Coalition and IPG are grinding away at their territorial control fast enough that none will be left in the not too distant future. What the caliphascists do in response will be the biggest danger. Maybe, though, they’ll just move to the cites of France.
In another pile of invective passing as analysis , Fred Kaplan slams President Bush about his speech on Wednesday. It’s another pile of assertions based on misquotes and willful ignorance with just a couple of actual arguments lost in the mush. Having read the transcript of Bush’s address myself, I wonder if Kaplan himself actually paid read it before writing his article.
Kaplan hitches a big part of his argument the claim about Paul Bremer’s comment on troop levels, even though that turns out to be misquoted (not to mention that we would have had a lot more troops except for the actions of Turkey and France, but it’s not polite to bring that up).
In what I think is the only point with substance, Kaplan brings up General Eric Shinseki and his statement that a successful occupation would take hundreds of thousands of troops. This is bit of a better argument. However, we weren’t going to have that many troops, so there’s a deep question of was it better to have the occupation we’ve had or have left the Ba’ath in power? I know what my answer is but it would be nice to see critics address the point instead of just carping. But at least there’s an actual issue there.
But the most stunning thing in the article was Kaplan’s claim that it is a “great remaining mystery … why we went to war in the first place”. Kaplan should try reading political weblogs, which were filled with explanations. Even Senator Kerry admits that there there at least ‘23 reasons’ for invading Iraq. That would seem to put it outside the “great mystery” category. Yet Kaplan can’t be bothered to acknowledge a single one of them. It’s that kind of willfully obtuse position that makes the anti-Bush position consist primarily of whining instead of arguments. One can, of course, disagree with the reasons, but it’s simple naysaying to pretend such reasons haven’t been stated or to presume that all such reasons are simply a cover for an unstated ulterior motive.
The comments to the post I was discussing yesterday were informative as well. The primary argument in favor of the insurgents was to “kick out the occupiers”. No thought was given as to whether violence was the best method for doing so. Clearly achieving some result was secondary to simple violence. In this we see once again that it’s not really about the Iraqis or their future but about the Leftists who support the insurgents. I think this preference for violence over results is the confluence of three dehabilitating trends in the modern Left:
The sad part is that this melange of motivations is presented as for the benefit of the Iraqis, when it’s really about satisfying the primal urges of the Stoppers. I doubt that they’re fooling anyone but themselves.
Paul Bigley, brother of Ken Bigley who is apparently being held hostage in Iraq, has endorsed the Stop the War Coalition. What this finally brought in to focus for me is the bizarre claim that the violence in Iraq is about a “war of national liberation”. The violence is in fact about national subjugation by caliphascism.
One can object to the invasion of Iraq on many levels, but the idea that the goal was conquest is simply delusional. How people like the Stop the War Coalition and Paul Bigley can say that with a straight face, or those reporting on them can write it up as if it were serious escapes me. The Coalitions plan has always explicitly been for a return to control by Iraqis and I have yet to see any even half way plausible counter-claim. This idea of “national liberation” is particularly odious when the primary goal of the violence seems to be to prevent elections. It would seem that true nationalists would be aiding the Coalition and Provisional Government efforts to hold open and fair elections. A true nationalist movement could then win the elections and kick the “occupiers” out. But there, you see, is the whole problem. The factions supported by Bigley and his fellow travelers in the Stop the War Coalition aren’t popular. The Iraqis may not like being ruled by Americans but it seems clear that they would like being ruled by the insurgents even less. But the Stoppers have never let the opinions of the wogs influence their policy.
Over at No Illusions is a summary of some of the news out of Fallujah. In a turn that’s no surprise to me the local inhabitants of Fallujah seem to have become disenchanted with the caliphascist crew now in charge. The threat of partial elections that would exclude areas not under the control of the provisional government appears to also be a factor. And what the caliphascists offer - endless years of repressive government and swaggering gunboys? The attraction of that seems to be going past its sell-by date.
I managed to miss the launch (had to meet with Boy One’s teacher for annual review) but watching the live web cast now, it looks like SpaceShipOne is descending nicely. Given the excitement in everyone’s voice, the presumption at this moment is that SpaceShipOne hit the required altitude mark (current estimate: 360K feet). Out to space twice with a four day turnaround on a shoestring budget. Very impressive.
UPDATE: SpaceShipOne has landed safely. Definitely looking like they got the prize. Boo-yah!
Beyond the desire to defeat the enemy in detail, there is the issue of not wasting lives and efforts on chimeras. As noted in the previous link, the wars we will be fighting for the next half century or so will be ideological wars where we will not be able to forcible impose our ideology on the target population1. This puts a limit on how fast things that are worth doing can be done. As I noted earlier, the first battle in Fallujah ended with the Coalition trying out local Iraqi forces. It didn’t work. However, the key point is that there isn’t much pointing in conquering Fallujah until the use of Iraqi forces is possible. The current push in Samarra is another attempt to have the Iraqi forces demonstrate whether they are ready. I expect that the Coalition commanders are watching closely how the Iraqi forces perform in order to judge how soon to move on other strongholds. Because of the push for elections, we’ll likely have to take some chances because the measure of the Iraqi forces is not just the assault, but holding control afterwards. As many others have noted, the smart jihadis probably just put their guns in hiding places when the assault started and are waiting for the Coalition to move on. It is at that point that the Iraqi forces will need to show their mettle.
1 Some will claim that we are, but until there are re-education camps, population relocations and mass round-ups, such claims are ahistorical blather. Ask the American Indians or the former inhabitants of Soviet Central Asia what forcible imposition of ideology looks like.
From the SMCCDI:
Cities such as, Tehran, Esfahan, Hamadan, Ardebil, Shiraz, Kermanshah, Ahwaz, Falavarjan, Oroomiah (former Rezai-e) and Yazd were widely affected by these unrests. The most violent clashes have been reported from Esfahan where the crowd attacked public buildings, banks, Islamist centers and patrol cars in retaliation to the brutal attack of militiamen which were sent to stop their public peaceful demosntrations.
It is a good question why these clashes aren’t getting more attention in the West. While the facile answer is that it violates the ideological bias of Western media, that’s only sort of true. The real issue is that Old Media finds it difficult to report stories that don’t involve Western forces or issues because it makes the framing unclear. If the West is involved, then it’s obvious that the West or its proxies are the villians of the piece and their opponents the stalwart resistance. Without a clear frame, one might have to do actual research or investigation to get the frame right and it’s rare sort of journalist who does that kind of thing anymore.
On the other hand, while I would like few things better than to see the mullahocracy get its well deserved come-uppance, I’m not sure just how unstable these protests make the regime. What if the Iranian papers had reported the imminent demise of the USA based on the LA riots of ‘92? The mullahs have faced unreset before and they’re still there. The problem is that neither Senator Kerry nor even President Bush has made any kind of serious effort to support the dissident elements in Iraq. I don’t see the mullahs losing control without strong external support from someone and we all know that it’s the USA or nobody. Why Bush isn’t using this as a wedge issue against Kerry, I cannot understand. What constituency is there for chatting up the mullahs except the CIA and the State Department, both of which already hate Bush?
While I don’t believe in the accuracy of polls showing a sudden surge for Senator Kerry, I do think that Kerry’s debate performance sets the stage for such a comeback. This is one of the dangers of making mockery of your opponent a central theme. If the opponent shows up and doesn’t look like an idiot you have a problem. Kerry’s performance will likely boost the enthusiam of the campaign staff (there may not be enough to go around for all the senior advisors, though). I think that theory that this is more “rope-a-dope” is grasping at straws. It seems to me that the Bush campaign is the one that got sucker punched, by presuming too strongly that Kerry would screw up in the debate. As Junkyard Blog notes, President Bush did very well in interviews with questions just as difficult as the ones in the debate just the previous week. It’s not unreasonable to wonder why Bush didn’t do as well in the debate.
We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks and the next debate. I still think the Bush campaign can hold on and increase Bush’s lead but Kerry has now shown that they’ll need to work on it, not just let Kerry self-destruct.
The big news in Iraq is the recent push on Samarra. One can presume it’s part of the strategy that involved an earlier decision to not pursue combat in Sunni areas back in April. That strategy had two parts. First, defeat in detail for the caliphascists. This means concentrating one’s strength against part of the enemy, defeating that and then repeating as necessary. The other was the Iraqification of the effort, in that any victory by the Coalition alone would be temporary (this is in fact one of the valuable lessons from Vietnam).
It looks like the strategy is doing reasonably well. The Sadrites are a broken force. This means that the Sunni factions will be facing Coalition and Iraqi forces who don’t have to watch their backs.
There’s another factor as well, one that I haven’t seen mentioned much elsewhere. This is that nothing seems to do more to discredit the caliphacists in the view of the local population than the caliphacists themselves. One notes that according to news reports, the locals in Samarra were asking the Coalition forces to sweep out the caliphascists. We all know how popular Al-Sadr is in Najaf these days. Even the Nigerians are getting tired of Shari’ah. Some things can’t be explained, only experienced. The joys of life under Al Qaeda and its ilk appear to be one of these. This matters because ultimately it’s not about killing whatever caliphascists happen to be toting guns today (although that’s never a bad idea), but discrediting them in Iraqi public opinion. The Viet Cong insurgency was crushed, requiring their cause to be fufilled by an invading army from the North. Somehow, it doesn’t look like that will be the case this time.
Via Little Green Footballs I found an article by Victor Davis Hanson. It is a description of the hate fest for President Bush, focusing on the numerous calls for his assassination by non-fringe elements of the American Left.
Hanson seems to think that this demonstrates a new level of viciousness on the part of the American Left, but I’m not so sure. Perhaps in the upper reaches, but I think the acceptance of it is part of the same parochialism that cause the Left to view everyone else as just like Americans except with less money. I doubt any of the authors of these threats would actually seriously consider for a moment really attacking the President and that it’s obviously not to be taken seriously. The same way the repeated statements of violence from the caliphascists aren’t taken seriously. It’s generally a matter of mystery how the caliphascists can state their program of violence, murder and oppression openly and not be called on it by the fellow travelers in the USA. I’m beginning to believe it’s because dismissed as political hyperbole just as the statements Hanson discusses are. “It’s just theater - why, everyone I know does it!”.
The recent Presidential debate has gotten me thinking about Iraq again. It’s probably been said many times before, but it continues to strike me as odd that the Left objects so much to President Bush’s overall plan for the Middle East. Is not the mantra of the Left in this regard “root causes”? And that our foreign policy should be directed at those root causes? I don’t think you can get much more “root” than the very form of government and society in those nations. I suspect that it’s a sign of the failure of conviction on the Left that the only form of intervention in root causes is some form of dependency re-enforcement. It’s like seeing a drug addict addressing his robbery for drug money by paying for his drugs and guns.
Perhaps it’s simple consistency after the ideas have fled. Domestically the Left stands for creating a multitude of groups whose primary cohesiveness comes from how they depend on money extracted by government from someone else. It works for them locally, why not globally? For a formerly internationalist movement, the Left has certainly sunk in to a rather narrow parochialism.
From a pro-war position, what circumstances would prove that the Iraq experiment is a failure, so that we could pursue a different strategy?
I’m not sure what counts as a different strategy. Fundamentally, there are four choices:
Option (2) seems to be the Democratic Party / EUlite plan but I can’t see the USA adopting it (which is a reason the Kerry campaign is floundering). Many of the people I know who support the invasion see option (4) as the likely alternative if (1) and (2) are out.
The problem with option (3) is that a little bit of that is worse than none. I’m not so sure that it’s such a bad option, as it worked reasonably well with Germany and Japan (and for all our troubles with Germany, we have little fear that it will be attacking / invading the USA anytime soon). However, it’s an all or nothing kind of thing — done in a haphazard way (as has been the wont of USA foreign policy in the past) it breeds hate but not fear. There is little so dangerous as being a formerly repressive regime.
Because of this, I will consider the current efforts a failure when the American street is arguing between options 3 and 4, rather than 1 and 2.