June 30, 2004

Re-post...

I just found the original piece about cell phone service in Iraq I mentioned below, I'll re-post it

by Stephen Pollard....Compounding the impact of the US’ military overstretch on security has been the State Department’s crippling bureaucratic mindset. Rather than recognising the exceptional nature of the Iraqi situation, officials have insisted at every point in applying the full rigour of US health and safety requirements, licensing procedures and other sundry impediments to progress. Take the mobile phone network. The sensible solution would have been to pick the most able and cost-effective operator and let them get on with it. But instead, the decision was taken to go through a full competitive tendering process, which takes an inordinate amount of time. One day, however, people suddenly found their mobiles working; a network had decided, to immense acclaim, to ignore the process and, indeed, get on with it. They were swiftly shut down, encapsulating just why things have been moving so slowly in Iraq: bureaucracy ahead of common sense...
My guess is that it's not just a case of "bureaucracy ahead of common sense." I think the people in our State Department are on exactly the same wavelength as lefty elitists everywhere...and they want us to fail.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:28 PM

We need Al Gore...

We need big government, and men like Al Gore, to protect those who are left behind by the greedy private sector.

LA Times, Millions Lost in Cyberspace: Tucked into the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was a little-known program called the "e-rate," setting up a tax that has cost consumers and phone companies upward of $2 billion a year. What has that money bought? A rudderless program riddled with fraud and waste.

The e-rate tax is aimed at providing schools and libraries with Internet access. The program, championed by Al Gore when he was vice president, was supposed to help schools allow low-income students to close the "digital divide" and gain new social and economic opportunities. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) began raising questions about it during a hearing on the program six years ago. Since then, its problems have become more apparent. The e-rate fund has distributed $12 billion over six years, and estimates place the amount wasted in the billions. Because of lack of oversight, it's impossible to know the extent of the losses...

There's so much waste and stupidity in this thing, it's likely that the billions spent have actually decreased school Internet access, compared to what would have happened it they were just left alone. And Internet access is becoming so common and cheap that there really isn't much of a "digital divide" anyway.

And what low income students actually need is to be taught the basics, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. The fuss about Internet access is just dust to cover up the failures of our public schools. Failures institutionalized in the Democrat Party, which gets its biggest contributions from the corrupt and evil teacher's unions, in return for blocking reform and crushing the hopes of the poor.

(Thanks, Bill Quick)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:05 PM

Pure lunacy..

Cori Dauber has a good dissection of this NYT article. Worth reading. I won't try to top her, but I noticed this quote:

...Of the $9 billion in contracts the Pentagon has issued so far, only $5.2 billion has actually been nailed down for defined tasks. Most of those projects are still in planning stages, though officials insist that the rebuilding effort will soon flower.

From the outset the designing of projects and awarding of billions of dollars in contracts proved slower than some officials had imagined.

Among other things, planning, oversight and competitive procedures were tightened after some of the earliest postwar contracts, awarded without competition to companies including Halliburton, were tainted by evidence of waste and overcharging...

I think most of the "waste and overcharging" stuff was bogus, but even if it wasn't, this is the most incredible example of penny-wise pound-foolish ever! The slowness of our spending has almost certainly contributed to the unrest in Iraq.

So what does it mean, folks? It means we are spending billions to provide extra military force in order to save millions in possible "waste and overcharging."

It means that the idiots who have been pounding on us with the steady drumbeat of Halliburton-Halliburton-Oil-Cheney-Halliburton are murderers who have contributed to the deaths of hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqis.
And it's all just utterly stupid; Halliburton isn't even a very profitable company. But more importantly, if the people who are always attacking the Administration and companies like Bechtel and Halliburton actually cared about their country, they would want us to spend what's needed to save American lives and win the Iraq Campaign.

In any war, time is the essence. Anything that slows us down is equivalent to a reduction in our forces. Our spending to fix iraqi infrastructure and generate jobs there is a weapon in the War. The people who have tied it up in red tape are attacking our forces more effectively than Al Qaeda is.

In war it is normal to spend wastefully (or what would be wastefully in a peacetime context) to gain time, to build up forces and weapons more quickly than the enemy. In war "quick and careless" spending saves in the long run.

I remember just after Iraq was liberated, and their phone system was knocked out, somebody in Iraq started a cell-phone service. It was desperately needed, but guess what? It was shut down! The despicable Islamists in our State Department shut it down! The proper rules of competitive bidding had not been followed, whine whine whine. And so it took a year to get them cell-phone service, and it's still patchy! But that's OK folks, because following procedures and keeping capitalism controlled is much more important than preventing our people from having their heads sawed off.

Probably some of this lunacy could be by-passed by the President, by issuing executive orders or some such. But the President only has a limited supply of political capital. Everything he does is horrendously difficult because everything he does is subjected to bitter political attack by Democrats. And in wartime, that means that our "loyal" opposition is sacrificing American lives to win political points.

And what really makes me feel bitter about this is that, during the 20th Century, most of our wars were Democrat wars. and those Democrat administrations and their wars were supported by the Republicans. That doesn't mean zero-criticism, but it means that Wilson or FDR or LBJ ever had to think, "I'd like to spend more money, I'd like to prosecute the war more vigorously, but it will mean a horrible battle with the Republicans, and I just don't know if we have the votes and the energy..." They never had to worry about that kind of crapola, because the Republicans were loyal. And the current lunatic rabble that calls itself Democrats is just the opposite; and they aren't about the return the favor and put their country first in its time of need.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:56 PM

The importance of unilateralism...

Captain Ed writes:

...Five years after international armed intervention and UN administration, Kosovo doesn't even have an effective police force, and no one wants to speculate on its "final status". This past March, as ethnic violence flared up again and Albanians attacked Serb homes, businesses and churches (a reversal of 1999's violence), UN 'peacekeeping' forces essentially stood by and allowed mobs to continue their destruction. Even though Serbia-Montenegro has sovereignty over Kosovo, for now, the UN will not allow them to exercise any political authority, but the UN provides little of its own. It's a landscape of (mostly) quiet anarchy...
Loathsome, and unbelievable. This is what Kerry stands for. It's almost impossible to discern what Kerry and the Dems are FOR, but putting the UN in charge of things is certainly on the list.

But hey, there's one big success in the UN quagmire in Kosovo. Al Qaeda isn't sending suicide bombers to prevent the establishment of democracy and order and capitalism there! I wonder why...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:07 PM

Protocols of the Elders of the Greens...

There's some sort of inevitable tide that pulls those who hate freedom and America towards anti-semitism. Here's that noted "Progressive," Ralph Nader, in a recent speech:

Israel National News:..."What has been happening over the years is a predictable routine of foreign visitation from the head of the Israeli government. The Israeli puppeteer travels to Washington. The Israeli puppeteer meets with the puppet in the White House, and then moves down Pennsylvania Avenue, and meets with the puppets in Congress. And then takes back billions of taxpayer dollars. It is time for the Washington puppet show to be replaced by the Washington peace show."...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:51 PM

What we get paid for...

I was just reading this new piece by den Beste, which is about almost everything, but included this:

Which usually means the US, which has had a chronically high trade imbalance for a hell of a long time, causing some to predict that we're heading at high speed for a cliff.

I don't know. I don't think it's possible for us to maintain a huge trade deficit forever. But I'm not so sure that the situation is quite as straightforward as those doomsayers claim...

One of the things I found most interesting in Thomas PM Barnett's book The Pentagon's New Map was an explanation of why the US can get away with a chronic trade deficit. We cover it in the short term by borrowing—we exchange our "paper" for BMW's and DVD players and Barbie Dolls. But it seems to go on forever, a perpetual free ride, a VISA Card with no limit. Why no crash?

Barnett says the world is essentially paying us to be its policeman. If China "tests" missiles right next to Taiwan, Asia's economy doesn't come to a panicky halt. Because the US will just happen to "test" a Carrier Battle Group in the neighborhood soon after. Both China and Taiwan can keep their factories churning out widgets instead of guns because they know darn well we are not going to tolerate any foolishness. Both China and Taiwan are content to keep buying our debt, to keep piling up mountains of it, because any big US economic contraction might force them to build their own aircraft carriers. Much of the world gets to concentrate on trade because we are handling their defense burden.

Barnett says Globalization is a system that benefits the US more than any other nation, because it is a sort of rebuilding of the world in our image. It's an expansion to global size of the freedom and opportunity and "rule sets" we have in the US. The game of globalization is rigged in our favor, but we "pay" for that advantage by assuming many adult responsibilities and burdens.

I was glad to learn that we aren't running a scam....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:16 AM

June 29, 2004

"How do I know this? Because my fellow Marines and I witnessed it with our own eyes."

You really gotta read this, about some totally phony Washington Post Iraq reporting, by someone who was there and knows the truth.

..."The refusal of Marine commanders to recognize Fadhil's new title has fueled particularly intense anti-American sentiments here," Chandrasekeran continued. "In scenes not seen in other Iraqi cities, U.S. convoys have been loudly jeered. Waving Marines have been greeted with angry glares and thumbs-down signs."

Readers must have concluded that Kut was on the verge of exploding. The entire city was ready to throw out the despised American infidel invaders and install their new "mayor" as their beloved leader.

What utter rubbish. In our headquarters, we had a small red splotch on a large map of Kut, representing the neighborhood that supported Abbas Fadhil. When asked about him, most citizens of Kut rolled their eyes. His followers were mainly poor, semi-literate, and not particularly well-liked. They were marginal in every sense of the word, and they mattered very little in the day-to-day life of a city that was struggling to get back on its feet.

We knew the local sentiment intimately, because as civil affairs Marines, our job was to help restore the province's water, electricity, medical care, and other essentials of life. Our detachment had teams constantly coming and going throughout the city, and Chandrasekeran could have easily accompanied at least one of them.

Since he didn't, he couldn’t see how the Iraqis outside of the red splotch reacted to us. People of every age waved and smiled as we rumbled past (except male youths, who, like their American counterparts, were too cool for that kind of thing.) Our major security problem was keeping friendly crowds of people away from us so we could spot bad guys...

Slanted reporting to support the Liberal agenda is nothing new, though it is at a fever-pitch right now, due, I believe, to the 70-Year Cycle. My dad, who was in the nursery business, knew a greenhouse owner in the South. During the Civil Rights Era, this guy's face appeared on the cover of LIFE Magazine, as a grotesque rabble-rouser screaming up opposition to blacks. The trouble was, the photo was actually snapped at his company picnic, when he'd had a few drinks and was singing with his mostly-black employees...I'm sure millions of leftish types saw that picture, and thought of themselves as superior beings in contrast to the troglodytes of the Old South.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:41 PM

to be happy must seem monstrous...

I think this is dead-on. Orin Judd, writing about William Buckley's retirement, says:

...Mr. Wieseltier has--quite unintentionally--put his finger on one of the key reasons why: Mr. Buckley made conservatism not just respectable but fun. Conservatism, which proceeds from the correct understanding of Man's nature as revealed in the Fall, can be rather a dark business. It is also, however, the source of all comedy. Liberals like Mr. Wieseltier--with their mistaken belief that men are basically good and that the world is therefore perfectable--are necessarily "troubled" by its rather parlous state. To be untroubled, even happy, as Mr. Buckley unquestionably was, despite the myriad causes for unhappiness all around us, must be monstrous in the eyes of the Left. One corollary of the great truth that to a liberal life is a tragedy but to a conservative a comedy is that conservatives find liberals amusing while liberals find conservatives appalling....
I get upset when Ultras portray Rush Limbaugh as some sort of brownshirt who tortures people at Abu Ghraib, but actually, the whole situation is pretty funny. Liberals were perfectly correct to say that Rush's famous Abu Ghraib remark was improper, (and hypocritical phonies to show no interest in what Rush actually thought). But at the same time they are like stiff and pompous straight-men in a Three Stooges movie, who can't even see the jokes. Same with Ann Coulter. Of course it was in disgusting bad-taste for her to say we should conquer Arab countries and convert them to Christianity. But so is a pie in the fat lady's face, or a poke in the eye...

I have this mental picture of some weedy Chomskyite from Berkeley solemnly announcing that eye-injuries are no laughing matter, and that a twisted nose can take years to heal— and even worse, the Stooges are damaging people's self-esteem...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:16 AM

Guess who's got "talk-radio!"

From AP: On the airwaves, Iraqis rejoice and warn terrorists

...Her message was echoed by dozens of people on the day interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was given a letter that transferred sovereignty of the country back to its citizens after about 14 months of coalition administration. But in the midst of adulation for the new government, callers urged that all must be vigilant for insurgents seeking to sow more chaos in a country plagued by violence since Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled.

"I send all the Iraqi people my blessings," said Ali, a caller from Baghdad. "But I warn these terrorists, all the Iraqis will rise up and strike them with steel."...

(Thanks to Betsy Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:23 AM

June 28, 2004

What a great time to be alive!

Note, Condoleeza Rice to the President, "Iraq is soverign."

A note from U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to President George W. Bush, confirming the formal handover of power in Iraq (news - web sites) on June 28, 2004 is seen in this White House photo. The note was passed to Bush during a NATO summit in Istanbul and read: 'Mr. President, Iraq is sovereign. Letter was passed from Bremer at 10:26 a.m. Iraq time -- Condi,' prompting Bush to scribble back: 'Let freedom reign.' Photo by Reuters.

Thanks to Athena at Leaning to the Right

* Update: Betsy Newmark writes: I saw on TV this moment taking place. She passed the note to Bush who wrote his note on it and passed it to Don Rumsfeld who got a big grin on his face. Bush then whispered the news to Tony Blair who also smiled broadly and the two leaders then shook hands. It was cool being able to see that little moment of history and the note. I bet that little note will end up in the future Bush Presidential Library.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:33 PM

"who also speaks Turkish, Arabic and Kurdish and is currently learning Spanish..."

Amazin' story, from Stryker Brigade News...

MOSUL, Iraq – If the Army had an adopt-a-child program, Logan Omar Sahle would be the poster child. For more than a year, the 13-year-old boy, who contends he’s 13 and a half, has lived and worked with Coalition forces Soldiers at a forward operating base in Mosul. The boy speaks four languages and his official title at the FOB is translator and supervisor, but he is a Coalition forces Soldier at heart.

“I love American Soldiers. I want to help them in every way possible, because without them we (Iraqis) would have nothing,” said Logan, who also speaks Turkish, Arabic and Kurdish and is currently learning Spanish.

“When Saddam ruled Iraq, he would kill somebody for speaking English or Kurdish. Things were very bad, but now we are much happier and I can speak all my languages freely.”

Not a day goes by that Logan doesn’t use his four languages. At the FOB, he helps Soldiers with more than 50 workers, who maintain buildings, electricity and plumbing.

“It would be very difficult to do my job without Logan. Some of the workers only speak Kurdish, Turkish or Arabic. Rather than having a translator for each group, Logan can talk to all of them,” said Staff Sgt. Phillip Powers, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the contracted workers on the FOB for 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team).

“We tell him what we need done and then he supervises the workers on the project...

...Logan’s story is both compelling and sad. His uncle was killed by members of Saddam Hussein’s regime for speaking Turkish in Baghdad. One of 11 children, Logan learned English from his mother, who speaks seven languages....

You can see a picture of Logan Sahle here.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:01 PM

Mistakes

One thing that really bugs me are the people who write, with ponderous grief, that the coalition has made mistakes in Iraq. Of course we made mistakes. Every single war we've ever fought has been a mish-mash of mistakes and blunders!

So why did we usually win our wars? Because every single war anyone else has ever fought has been a mish-mash of mistakes and blunders! The very essence of war is blundering in the dark. Using human beings as fingertips, to try to locate sharp moving objects.

What's important is not 'avoiding mistakes." (I'd like to see the complainers point out the mistake-free war they are comparing to.) What's important is learning from mistakes. Learning and adapting quickly.

This is a good article on the subject:

What is striking in Iraq, though, is an emphasis on learning from mistakes and moving forward, because there isn't any alternative. This is noteworthy among two groups in particular: Iraqis who have signed on at considerable risk to build a new democratic government, and U.S. soldiers and Marines...

...When some Iraqi units fled in the face of attack in April, it prompted a debate here in Washington: Will Iraqis fight for themselves or won't they? In Iraq, allied officers examined cases where Iraqi units had stood their ground (in Mosul, for example), studied why other units had failed and tried to adjust accordingly. Marines near Fallujah discarded numerical quotas for training Iraqi troops and concentrated on finding a few good sergeants. Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, turned to Iraqi party leaders to supply assigned numbers of troops and to tribal leaders for police recruits. He set up new joint operations centers, to enable coordination between U.S. and Iraqi forces even while allowing Iraqis to report up through their own chains of command.

The same kind of improvisational pragmatism is evident in Adnon Palace, where the new Iraqi government is taking shape in a frenzy of corridor encounters and cell phone conversations about armed forces organization, amnesty and reconciliation, paying civil service salaries, and a hundred other gargantuan challenges. "I want to guard against major expectations," said Barham Salih, the new deputy prime minister. "This is a country that is in dire trouble."...

One oddity about the article is that the author says: By noting this distinction, I don't mean to join with critics of "negative reporting." Iraq-based reporters are focusing on violence because that is overwhelmingly the most important story, shadowing everything else that happens...

But unconsciously that's just what he's doing. For instance, he notes that Iraqi units fought in Mosul and didn't run. But that wasn't reported! You never heard anything about it, while the Kerry-crowd drooled with pleasure at our problems in Falluja. But in fact, Mosul was the real news! Read this! Violence and terrorism in the Middle East isn't news! It's just dog-bites-man.

What happened in Mosul, what's happening in hundreds of Iraqi local council elections, is strange and new! News. Fascinating. Unprecedented. An Arab country acting like no other Arab country. But the news media have intentionally buried the real story, to help elect their candidate and preserve their sinking Party. Jerks.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:25 AM

June 26, 2004

Steyn again, on a favorite subject of mine...

Mark Steyn has a great column on a subject I've often mentioned; the change in our Latin America policy during my lifetime. The switch from our supporting dictators to encouraging democracy. A product of the Reagan years. A product of the folks known by the fuzzy term "neocons." Who were brought into the halls of power by...Ronald Reagan.

...If you think the democratization of Arabia is a long shot, so was the democratization of Latin America. But it happened. And the only thing to argue about is how much credit you want to give the Reagan Doctrine. You want to blame the US for acts of genocide against the Mayans by the Guatemalan military? As you wish. But that, in fact, is an example of what happens when Washington is absent. The Guatemalans reckoned they could handle the insurgency and buy arms on the international market, so they set to it, without any pesky foreigners around to complain about human-rights abuses (unlike, say, the Balkans, where the atrocities occur in plain sight of the UN peacekeepers).

But anyone who thinks Reagan wanted to oppress Central Americans and keep them in poverty doesn’t understand his profound belief in economic prosperity as the engine of peace and freedom. Central America in the first half of the Eighties had negative GDP growth: minus one per cent. In the second half, there was annual GDP growth of two per cent; in the Nineties, five per cent. Throughout Latin America, voters turned to parties who promoted privatization, free trade, hard currencies – or, in a word, Reaganomics. Ask yourself this: does today’s Latin America incline closer to western values or Che and Fidel’s?  

Fernando Henrique Cardoso knew the answer. He wound up as President of Brazil, abandoned “Dependency Theory”, embraced globalization, and advised his people to “forget everything I wrote”. They did. Maybe the west’s dewy-eyed liberation theologists still mooning for Daniel Ortega should do the same...

Thanks to Samizdata.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:22 PM

fig-leaf

Instapunk has a great essay on how leftizoids use Rush Limbaugh as an excuse for their most egregious excesses...without, of course, contaminating themselves by actually listening to the man.

...The only problem with all this is that it's not true. Limbaugh's fabled ego is in large part a manufactured persona, one that cleverly counterpoints his confident and often satirical monologues about politics. Every time he returns to his standard self-congratulating refrains -- "I, in my infinite wisdom, have figured out more than the amateurs in the audience can do by themselves," "I, who can discover the truth, making zero mistakes, with half my brain tied behind my back" -- he is winking through the airwaves at his ditto-heads, reminding them that they are hearing personal opinions inflated with sarcasm and a profound sense of fun. He is sharing his most important message of all, not to take it all too seriously, because in that direction lies misery.

That's why one of the most enduring, and sometimes infuriating, aspects of Limbaugh's radio persona is his insistence on a Reagan-like optimism. Many of the ditto-heads, far from echoing his pronouncements, try to penetrate that optimism with anecdotal evidence from the heartland of the myriad ways that American liberty and culture are in decline. He is unfazed by such sermons and seeks to reassure them that all is not lost....

...Nor is he mean. He is courteous to callers, and even when it becomes obvious that the angry person at the other end of the phone has lied to the screener in order to vilify him, he allows them to make their principal point, and he attempts to respond with reason or humor rather than hostility. He may hit the kill switch after an exchange or two, but usually he does so only after a caller has begun repeating himself -- the equivalent, on radio, of the dreaded 'dead air.'...

The caricature Limbaugh, (and the caricature dittoheads) are part of a larger caricature, the "wingers," proto-fascist knuckle-draggers, cartoons cherished by people who would never dream of asking an actual right-winger (like me) if the story has much connection with reality.

It's all rather pathetic, but, well, I suppose if you are going to undercut your country and your President in time of war, and lend moral support to blood-drenched fascist dictators, you need a wee bit of a fig leaf. So you invent some new "fascists" on the right, and, presto, the left is once again "anti-fascist."

I myself don't think "fascism" actually exists, either now or in the past. All those regimes which are generally agreed to be fascist are actually socialist movements tricked-out in some scraps of right-wing or nationalist or conservative rhetoric to try appeal to a wider audience. Which is why scholars have found it impossible to agree on a definition of fascism.
But it's one of those things which, since it didn't exist, had to be invented. Leftists find fascism essential to justify their brutal usurpations, and the so-called fascists get to claim to be fighting "socialism." It's win-win.

Just as the Left was anti-anticommunist, so too then are they anti-antiterrorist --Robert Spencer


Posted by John Weidner at 5:50 PM

4-G

If you are wondering about the term Fourth Generation Warfare, here's a sample of the sort of things that happen, from Belmont Club:

...In what was probably the most psychologically revealing moment of the battle, infantrymen fought six hours for the possession of one damaged Humvee, of no tactical value, simply so that the network news would not have the satisfaction of displaying the piece of junk in the hands of Sadr's men...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:12 AM

June 25, 2004

Click...

Take a look at this BBC elections map. Just click on one of the regions. It's a tour de force of web graphics.

(Thanks to Iain Murray.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:18 PM

?

Brian Tiemann saw this in a television ad:

Fahrenheit (Fah"ren*heit). adj:
The temperature in the atmosphere when it reaches the boiling point.
I've nothing to say...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:40 PM

But still the vine her ancient ruby yields...

Dave Trowbridge has a fascinating blogpost with pictures on the details of planting his new vineyard. "Forest Pool Vineyard." (It's not, as who should say, a big vineyard. But it's very sincere.)

I like the droid that pounds in the posts...

In her days every man shall eat in safety
Under his own vine what he plants; and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbors
-- King Henry VIII

Posted by John Weidner at 7:31 PM

This is one Augean Stable that's not gonna be cleaned...

Every now and then I read someone who says, "Why doesn't Bush clean house at the State Dept?" Or, "Why doesn't Powell crack the whip over his contumelious subordinates?" God knows it needs to be done, but, in fact, it can't be done. Joel Mowbray explains why:

...Common sense would dictate that the President of the United States would have the ability to shape his entire administration, including his foreign policy team.

But when it comes to the State Department, common sense doesn’t apply. Even most senior positions are filled by careerists, people who do not change from one administration to the next. And because of union rules that even Jimmy Hoffa never would have had the guts to demand, State’s career Foreign Service employees can’t be fired by the Secretary of State—even for a felony conviction.

Sounds crazy, yet it is sadly true. Clinton’s Secretary of State Warren Christopher ignored personnel policy and fired a woman who had plea-bargained to a felony count—of defrauding the State Department. She sued, she won, she got her job back, and got back pay. Why? Because, the court ruled, the Secretary of State can’t fire even a convicted felon.

To add one more level of institutionalized insanity, the Secretary of State does not even have any authority over personnel decisions, except for the small percent that are considered politically-appointable. All hiring, firing, transferring, and promoting is done by a panel of senior Foreign Service Officers (FSOs).

This presents very real political problems, especially when current FSOs harbor as much contempt for Bush as the 26 signers of the letter explicitly endorsing the defeat of the President come November...

State Department toads feel perfectly free to sabotage America's foreign policy, thumb their noses at the President, and indulge their love for murderous dictators er, ahem, stability at all costs...and in general, like liberal elitists everywhere, scorn the wishes of voters, especially American voters.

I'm going to give Colin Powell a lot more sympathy and understanding in the future. (thanks to Betsy Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at 5:26 PM

June 24, 2004

sooner than you think...

Rand Simberg pointed to this excellent article on SpaceShipOne:

...He [Burt Rutan] did suggest that while “barnstorming”, or carrying passengers for $100,000 or so, will take place soon, a mature space tourism industry won’t appear until vehicles are available that can carry passengers for $30,000-50,000, with a second generation that can lower the price to as little as $10,000. In any case, Rutan’s focus is on far more than just suborbital space tourism of any flavor. “Yes, we will be doing barnstorming,” he said. “However, we’re heading for orbit sooner than you think.”...
"sooner than you think." Wow! My sister's husband is one of the engineers, and he invited us down for the flight. Alas, we were off on our vacation and couldn't make it. So no blogging from Mojave...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:26 AM

some good questions...don't hold your breath waiting for answers

William Kristol has some pointed questions...

...But however blame may be apportioned between the commission's staff report and the media's tendentious coverage of it, Kerry has chosen to enter the fray. So we can now have the fundamental debate the country deserves: Does Kerry deny what the Clinton administration consistently maintained, what the Bush administration asserts, and what appears utterly clear--that Saddam Hussein had ties with terrorists and terrorist groups, including al Qaeda? That Saddam "created a permissive environment for terrorism," as a spokesman for British prime minister Tony Blair put it? No one else denies that the man who mixed the chemicals for the 1993 World Trade Center bomb, Abdul Rahman Yasin, came from and returned to Baghdad, where he lived for the next 10 years. Does Kerry?...

Does he think Saddam's terrorist ties were so negligible that we could confidently pursue a war on terror without dealing with Iraq? Did the Bush administration simply "want" to go to war in Iraq, as opposed to believing it had a responsibility and duty to do so?

Furthermore: If Kerry had known in October 2002 when he voted to authorize that war what he now knows, would he have voted differently? Does he believe we would have been better off confining the "war on terror" to Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan? Does Kerry disagree with the conclusion of his fellow Democrat, Joe Lieberman, who argued last week that "to call the war in Iraq separate and distinct from the larger war on terrorism is inaccurate. Iraq today is a battle--a crucial battle--in the global war on terrorism"?....

Posted by John Weidner at 8:47 AM

June 23, 2004

Over the swan-road...

One treat of our little vacation was a stop in Fargo for lunch with Alan Sullivan and Tim Murphy. We liked them a lot. Alan's a blogger who seems to think a lot like I do, but with enough difference to often irritate me into thinking. But I have to say it's damned peculiar to have lived in San Francisco for decades and then have to go all the way to North Dakota to meet our first gay venture-capitalist/poet! Or should I say poet/venture-capitalist? That's Tim.

We got Alan and Tim to autograph a copy of their translation of Beowulf, recently published. Here's a little bit of it. I think they get the flavor of Old English better than anybody...

...A thane of Hygelac     heard in his homeland
of Grendel's deeds.     Great among Geats,
this man was more mighty     than any then living.
He summoned and stocked     a swift wave courser,
and swore to sail     over the swan-road
as one warrior should     for another in need.
His elders could find     no fault with his offer,
and awed by the omens,     they urged him on.
He gathered the bravest     of Geatish guardsmen.
One of fifteen,     the skilled sailor
Strode to his ship     at the ocean's edge

He was keen to embark:     his keel was beached
under the cliff     where sea currents curled
surf against sand     his soldiers were ready.
Over the bow     they boarded in armor,
bearing their burnished     weapons below,
their gilded war-gear     to the boat's bosom.
Other men shoved     the ship from the shore,
and off went the band,     their wood-braced vessel
bound for the venture     with wind on the waves
and foam under bow,     like a fulmar in flight...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:35 PM

June 22, 2004

Thank you, Ali...

I'm trying to catch up on blog-reading after being away. It's hard. I just noticed this by Ali, at the indispensable IRAQ THE MODEL:

Iraqi soldiers save U.S. marine. I don't know why all we get (all of us) is pictures of a bunch of idiots throwing bricks at burned cars. Why don't they cover such stories!? Now of course I'm not surprised, I'm only disgusted by the attitude of the major media.
Disgusted is just the right word. Read the story, it's great! Thrilling. You won't see these things on TV or in your newspaper; the Media Wing of the Democratic Party suppresses such items. You're wasting your time, suckers, the era of the appeaser is about over.

Even if the newsmedia could suppress the truth entirely, even if they succeed in convincing Americans that Iraq is a hopeless quagmire, their party will still be crushed in November. It's probably impossible for the nihilist crowd to understand this, but ordinary Americans still believe in our country, in our freedoms and traditions. And we are willing to fight for them. And we will keep up our courage even in the darkest and most difficult times.

You watch. I'm predicting it. The War on Terror will be long and difficult, as the President has said. Democrats will continue to cackle with pleasure at every Coalition mistake and reverse, but ordinary Americans will just get more stubborn and tough and tenacious. (And if Ali is any indication, Iraqis will too.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:15 PM

cool gadgets....

Combat PDA's

...The U.S. Army is sending more than three hundred Commander’s Digital Assistant (CDA) hand held computers to Iraq with platoon leaders and company commanders later this year. This CDA is a new design, based on experience with CDAs sent to Iraq last year. The CDA is basically a militarized PDA (Personal Digital Assistant, like the Palm). PDA technology is changing so fast, especially by traditional military procurement standards, that the army expects to have a new version of the CDA every year or so. The 2005 model (shipping out later this year) will have satellite phone capability and be able to download maps, along with instructions overlayed on the maps.... (via Donald Sensing)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:46 PM

Two quotes by den Beste...

Obviously he's racist and sexist, and we don't need to pay attention to anything he says. (My friend Bill tossed off this definition of "racist" in a letter I received this morning: anyone who is winning an argument with a liberal. I wonder if that's the reason I get called a racist so often? I would extrapolate from his definition that a "sexist" is any man who is winning an argument with a liberal woman.)....Steven den Beste
And in the same piece...
Before the fall of the Soviet Union, the "party line" in the west was that it was useless to try to compete with the USSR because the Soviet economy was strong and the Soviet military was formidable, and there was no way it was going to collapse, so we should negotiate and try to come to some sort of accommodation, instead of relying on competition and military build-up. After the USSR collapsed, the party line changed to this: The USSR had always been a basket case and its collapse was inevitable anyway. (We always said that, and it turned out we were right.) So there wasn't any need to rely on competition and military build-up; we should have negotiated and tried to come to some sort of accommodation while we waited for the inevitable collapse.

We have seen exactly the same thing happen in the "War on Terror"...

...Prior to the Madrid bombing, the "party line" was that the threat of terrorism had been massively overblown and the American response was preposterously excessive and totally unjustified. Rather than try to rely on military might and confrontation, we should instead negotiate and try to come to a peaceful accommodation. (In a spectacular example of bad timing, the International Herald Tribune notoriously published an opinion piece which said exactly that on the day that Madrid was bombed.)

After Madrid, the party line turned on a dime, and became: It's apparent that the use of military power and confrontation to deal with the threat of terrorism is a failure. We should instead try to negotiate and come to some sort of accommodation.

You may have noticed a common theme in the party line. (If so, you're probably one of those racists who try to learn by looking at history with open eyes.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:48 AM

June 21, 2004

Change in the weather...

Here's a very interesting Italian article, Bush Brought a Gift for the Pope, on religious changes in the US, and in American politics...

...But there is also underway a noticeable drawing together between Bush and Catholics in the United States. In the surveys for the November presidential elections, a majority of Catholics favor the reconfirmation of the incumbent president. And this in spite of the fact that he is a Methodist, while his opponent, the Democrat John Kerry, is a Catholic.

That’s not all. An even more relevant convergence is underway, the one taking place between Catholic Americans and their most heated religious rivals: the evangelical Protestants. This convergence is an absolute novelty in the history of the United States. And it has consolidated with the Bush presidency....

...The novelty is that, for some time now, the most inner circle of Bush’s collaborators has included a very authoritative Catholic priest. He is Fr. Neuhaus, a former Lutheran pastor, who converted to Catholicism in 1990 and was ordained a priest the following year by the archbishop of New York at the time, John Cardinal O’Connor....

...Meanwhile, the pope of Rome is no longer the Antichrist for the evangelicals of the United States. In a recent survey of them, John Paul II won first place for popularity, with 59 percent saying they view him favorably, ahead of Pat Robertson, with 54, and Jerry Falwell, with 44 percent.

And the pope returns the affection, with an eye for the November presidential election. In the June 4 edition of “Corriere della Sera,” Luigi Accattoli, the Vatican journalist who most faithfully reports the views from the pontifical palazzo, wrote that the pope has already decided: he prefers the evangelical Bush to the Catholic Kerry. And “he wants to help him with the Catholic voters.”....

Evangelical Christians have also become the most pro-Israel group in our politics. Probably they support Israel more strongly than American Jews do. They are finding much common ground with religious Jews.

One thing I find curious is that people of a leftish sort seem incapable of seeing these movements. For them, "the Religious Right" are knuckle-dragging fascists and cowboy morons, who want to establish a medieval "theocracy." The much-more interesting truth is quite invisible to them. Someone like John Ashcroft is invisible, he can only be seen as a caricature. It seems to me to be the kind of blindness you see in those who don't dare examine their own positions too closely, for fear of finding nothing much there.

If you are interested in President Bush's faith and views, try this interview in Christianity Today, by a panel of religious thinkers.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:40 PM

Some pix from our vacation...

The high point of our vacation was spending a few days on a ranch in North Dakota. Knife River Ranch is no dude ranch, it's a working cattle ranch that also has cabins for a few guests. Ron and Lois Wanner and their sons are the best sort of hosts; we felt right at home. Entertainment is just loafing by the river, or watching the ranch work, or taking horseback rides—usually just riding along as the Wanners check up on cattle or horses in distant fields. Betsy got to to help chase cattle that had broken through a fence.
herd of young horses
Here we rode out in the evening to take a look at a herd of younger horses, not yet ready to be trained.

Betsy feeding a new colt
and here's our daughter Betsy feeding a week-old colt whose mother doesn't have enough milk...

Posted by John Weidner at 2:25 PM

June 20, 2004

We're back...

We've just returned from seeing some stupendous chunks of the USA...I'll try to blog this and that as I find time. Though I hardly feel adequate to the task. This country is so big, so beautiful...

Most of all I was deeply affected by the Great Plains. Mountains and forests, well, California's got some of the best. I'm used to them. But those vast open spaces...vast and green. (We have wide lands too, but ours are brown! Brushfire warnings are up already.) Of course the greenness takes a somewhat different meaning when friends in N Dakota talk about how nicely Spring is coming on. In California June is Summer...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:32 PM

June 11, 2004

hasty addition, while waiting for the airport shuttle at 3AM

E-mail from our old friend Peter Pribik...

Once in a Lifetime

The string of cars stretched for about a mile from the
Moosburg exit ramp. The Lexus, the jalopy, and the
Arafat mobile all crawled along patiently for about an
hour before we parked in the lot of Moosburg college,
which had been shut down for the day to provide a
staging area for the visitors. Next to me a woman was
arrested in a struggle with a folding wheelchair. Her
husband was heaving his cast out of the back seat.

They had come from a place in the desert some two
hours away. Charles is a pastor. California native.
His wealthy paunch was hemmed in by a Proud American
shirt his wife had conjured up for the occasion. He
had been in a bad way back in the Sixties. Drugs and
alcohol. He had needed Jesus. To pay back his debt he
went to Seminary. Now he tends to a flock of three
hundred in a retirement community. He performs forty
funerals a year.

Thus we had been standing in line for about fifteen
minutes when a girl in uniform informed us that the
handicapped could proceed to the front. Like in the
Bible, the first shall be the last and the last shall
be the first twittered his chipmunk wife Rose, paused
to reprimand herself – always going on about religion.
She had only managed this shirt with a heart-shaped
flag and some slogan about caring for the environment
but at least it’s something. Oh, and I was very lucky
that it was overcast. Normally we’d be sweating in 110
degrees. Perhaps that too was the doing of the Lord?
Yes, yes she nodded.

We made our way through the maze of access ramps, shy
midriffs, fat Mexican mamas with kids, overdressed
Philippinos, tank-topped mealy trash, ponytails and
ties. Rose chatted it up with the Secret Service man
who searched us. No cameras or photo cell phones. This
one’s just a regular cell phone, see? And it’s off.
Thank you so much, we really appreciate you being here
Charles hawed.

I have a battered picture of my father in his office
at Radio Free Europe. The wall next to him is covered
with memories from his travels. Mount Everest. An
Egyptian beauty from the Valley of the Kings. Among
them your eye will catch the mien of delighted
surprise of Ronald Reagan. Of all the
Czech-turned-American employees at RFE only two voted
for him, the actor, the cowboy, the dunce. At home, he
was a hero. Finally a man who saw the Soviets for what
they were. And said so. Without equivocation. Father
had waited for him for a long time. Shaken by
Watergate he had voted for Carter. Now we had Ronnie
and Maggie.

I was seven when Reagan was first sworn in. The
memories are vague. Aerial shots of thousands of
Germans holding hands along a highway to forestall the
deployment of Pershing missiles. Ronnie riding a
horse. Ronnie as Darth Vader on the cover of Der
Spiegel. Ronnie and Maggie glancing at one another in
adoration. The gentleman made in America and the
impeccable Lady. The royal couple of a child’s
daydreams. They had no choice but to hate him. A
middle school friend sedulously repeating the insight
that you just can’t tell Gorby to tear down the Wall.

Slowly the shuttle bus lumbered up the serpentine past
the phalanx of media vans to the top of the crest
where the Presidential Library is perched. A hushed
line followed the portico into the vestibule and back
out and along the opposing edge of the atrium. Past
the casket we measured our steps as best we could,
quickly glimpsed at the guards so as not to bother
them, turned on the way out to take a last glance.
Just outside a helpful old man handed the dew-veiled
eyes a cup of water.

A TV man interviewed Charles. Why was he here today?
Seeing these children here today, he quivered, sighed,
and I have a grandchild who’s almost three years old,
and to know that she doesn’t necessarily have to live
under the immediate fear that I’ve lived under all of
my life


Back at the parking lot Rose and I exchanged phone
numbers. They called me this morning. Wanted to make
sure I had gotten home OK. As I was driving away, the
line at the exit ramp had grown to a couple of miles.
Electronic signs warned visitors that the shuttle
delay was 3 ½ hours. I have heard of a group of
Lithuanians who arrived after work at seven and left
at five thirty in the morning. Somewhere on the way I
had a burger at Carl’s Jr. under a flag at half-mast.
I got out my flask and had a shot of whiskey in honor
of the Gipper. On the long drive home a tired mind was
blissfully devoid of thoughts.

The Reagan Library was to be located on the campus of
Stanford University. But outraged students ensured
that it is now in the suburban no-mans-land of Simi
Valley. When I visited the library with my parents in
1997 I thought it was a shabby place for Reagan to
have settled for. Inching past rows of identical homes
around key holes and immaculate lawns yesterday, I
thought that I would not want to live here. Yet this
is a much better home for him. In every corner of the
vast SoCal sprawl people got into their cars and drove
to this corner to pay their respects. Take a sampling
of this mass, picture it trundling down The Strip in
Las Vegas and you have the fashionable nightmare of
the suave Cosmopolitan. The simpletons who actually
believe in the American Dream. Yesterday I saw humble
people who came to honor a man they could look up to.
A sublimation of their aspirations. Something higher
than themselves yet of them. Many eloquent speeches
will be delivered by serious men over the next few
days. But the quiet patience, the modest reverence,
parents sharing the awe of their children: such is the
greatest tribute a leader can hope for.

Meanwhile, the intellectuals are doing their best to
debate Reagan’s record. In particular, much ink is
being spilled about his Cold War legacy. Economics,
folks, Economics – we would have won anyway. This is
the critics’ half-hearted concession. It is true, the
Soviet Union would have imploded economically sooner
or later. Former Prime minister of Post-Soviet Russia
and economist Yegor Gaidar averred in his Hitchcock
lectures at Berkeley that the Soviet Union lived out
the 70’s only because of the propitious oil crisis.
Yet who dared to suspect this at the time? As Glenn
Gavin has reminded us in Reason (11/2003):

Arthur Schlesinger, just back from a trip to Moscow in
1982, said Reagan was delusional. "I found more goods
in the shops, more food in the markets, more cars on
the street -- more of almost everything," he said,
adding his contempt for "those in the U.S. who think
the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and
social collapse, ready with one small push to go over
the brink."

Not only was Reagan deemed delusional but in fact
dangerous. Perhaps you’ve heard the anecdote: drunk
Russian generals sitting around hollering that now may
be the time to press the button, before the Americans
get too far ahead under Reagan. I suspect that none of
those who repeat it ever had the privilege of sitting
down with a group of Russians for a drink. And all
those churlish taunts he made. Here’s Hendrik
Hertzberg, venerable pundit of The New Yorker, back on
March 29, 1983 in the Washington Post:

Something like the speech to the evangelicals is not
presidential, it's not something a president should
say. If the Russians are infinitely evil and we are
infinitely good, then the logical first step is a
nuclear first strike. Words like that frighten the
American public and antagonize the Soviets. What good
is that?

Natan Sharansky was kind enough to provide an answer
in his recent reminiscences in the Jerusalem Post:

In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison
cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave
me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda.
Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of
President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to
call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on
walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's
"provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We
dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the
free world had spoken the truth - a truth that burned
inside the heart of each and every one of us.

In 1990 I accompanied my father to his high school
reunion in Prague. About twenty people aged 53 had
gathered for the occasion. Three were émigrés. Three
looked 53 to our Western eye. The others would have
had you to get up unsolicited on a bus to offer them
your seat. With one or two exceptions their eyes had
lost their glimmer. Warped, shriveled, subdued, they
were free, at 53, to live out their days. At least
they would see their grandchildren growing up with
dignity and hope.

If it is a simplification to say that Reagan won the
Cold War, if one should always mention the brave souls
that festered in prisons throughout the East bloc,
then Maggie Thatcher has summed it up perfectly:
Reagan gets more credit than anyone else for our
victory. Imagine that the Cold War had ended fifteen
or twenty years later. Another generation of somnolent
corpses. My brother’s Czech wife was twelve during the
Velvet Revolution. Dozens of my friends and fellow
students are from Russia, the Ukraine, Romania, and
Bulgaria. I’m sure you too know someone from the other
side.

The very same people who abhor war remind us of
ballooning deficits. Deficits that freed a generation.
Should he have been niggardly? Supporting the Contras
was right, selling weapons to the Iranians is a
shameful, indelible stain. It should always serve a
reminder. But another generation of somnolent corpses?


He did not read Proust at bedtime, they say. Standing
up to the Soviets, beating them at their game: sure,
it was a simple idea. So simple that only he dared to
have it. Historian Richard Pipes remembers:

I found in my dealings with him on Soviet Russia that
he was, in some respects, naïve for he could not
understand that the Soviet leaders actually wanted
their people to be poor and oppressed because their
power and privilege rested on this condition. He
thought they simply followed a false ideology and that
if he showed them how to make their people free and
prosperous they would follow his advice. The
misconception was rooted in his kindness and
humanness. It took some persuasion to convince him how
things really stood: and he embraced this truth in
sorrow.

Thank you for your sorrow Mr. President.

June 8, 2004

Posted by John Weidner at 3:33 AM

June 10, 2004

blogging break

I'm off and away for about ten days. If the chance offers I may do some blogging from the road, some "Random Red State Jottings," as our friend Dave said...

But perhaps, if I'm lucky, as the reality of vacation sinks in, all this Internet and warblogging stuff will seem impossibly remote and trivial, and I won't think of it at all. Just read books and enjoy some scenery...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:04 PM

Last....26th....above average....do the math

Lots to ponder here...

Deseret Morning News. Utah is still last in ed spending. But state ranks 26th in nation in ratio of income spent for students: When it comes to the amount of money spent on each public school student, Utah continues to rank last in the nation, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report.

      The report released Tuesday shows Utah's spending per student at $4,890 in 2002 — $8,290 less than the District of Columbia, which topped the list at $13,187. The state closest to Utah is Mississippi, which spent $5,382 per student, according the census. Utah would have to boost its state spending by more than $300 million just to bump itself off the bottom of the list, said Mark Petersen, spokesman for the State Office of Education.

      However, Utah holds steady on its test scores — well above the national average in science, and is slightly above average in reading and math, Petersen said. "Considering the resources spent, it's a remarkable bargain the taxpayers are getting," Petersen said...


   

Posted by John Weidner at 8:41 AM

We love ya when you're down...

AOG writes:

Sympathy is only for the crippled

It’s just astounding to me the level of repitition of the canard that President Bush squandered the world wide sympathy that came from the attacks in 11 Sep 2001. While that’s technically true, what’s left unsaid is that the only way to not have squandered it was to stay a wounded, ineffectual nation. Nations that fight back, that take action don’t get sympathy. Shakespeare had Hamlet express this exact thought:

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?
The sympathy of the world (and especially the EUlite) is for those who suffer. That’s “squandered” as soon as one takes arms. In the choice between being a fallen nation viewed sympathetically or a butt-kicking world-striding colossus, give me the latter every time.

P.S. This is the same reason why Israel doesn’t get any sympathy for the attacks on it - Israel fights back

I think Israel gets a double-dose of this nonsense. 2,000 years of Diaspora has taught the world that Jews are supposed to be victims. Having Israeli children shredded by suicide bombers loaded with shrapnel is just a signal to the world, to get ready to scrutinize closely any Israeli retaliation, and harshly critize them for the crime of fighting back. One of the huge benefits flowing from 9-11 is the ending of the world's sucking-up to vile terrorist scum like Yasser Arafat and his murder-gangs. They've long been proxy-Jew killers for....well, the list of Arafat fans is a long one...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:59 AM

June 9, 2004

#159: Flailing and shrillness escalate...

P. Krugman
KRUGMAN TRUTH SQUAD

Once again Paul Krugman proved he is a world-class jerk with two articles in the last three days that show he's willing to slander anyone who doesn't agree with his now proven-to-be-incorrect views of the U.S. economy. The Maestro Slips Out of Tune (06/06/04) is yet another cheap shot at his old nemesis Alan Greenspan, published in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Then in his regular column The Great Taxer (06/08/04) he first takes some swipes at Ronald Reagan and then, as a means of getting President Bush, pays Reagan a back-handed compliment for reversing some of his initial tax cuts, something Bush has refused to do.

Squad readers will not be surprised to learn that both of these articles are very similar. Remember the Krugman motto: Why write two or more different columns when you can be paid two or three times for just recycling the first one?

The essence of both writings can be summarized in a quote form each. From The Maestro Slips out of Tune:

"Either way, Greenspan did something remarkable. After becoming a symbol of America's economic turnaround in the 90's, and anointing himself the nation's high priest of fiscal probity, he lent crucial aid and comfort to the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history. In the end, that will be his most important legacy."
And from The Great Taxer:
"The contrast with President Bush is obvious. President Reagan, confronted with evidence that his tax cuts were fiscally irresponsible, changed course. President Bush, confronted with similar evidence, has pushed for even more tax cuts."
Notice that the veracity both of these quotes PRESUMES that Krugman's long held, pessimistic view of the U.S. economic outlook due to the Bush fiscal policy is correct. Thus he slams Bush for pursuing a fiscal policy in the face of evidence of its irresponsibility and slams Greenspan for abetting him in becoming the "most fiscally irresponsible administration in history."

And just what is the evidence of fiscal irresponsibility one might ask? The answer is, there is none. In fact, all the evidence supports the opposite view. Bush's fiscal policy has worked like a charm. Now that employment has started to grow rapidly the economy has entered one of those golden zones where a recovery becomes self-sustaining. One by one, Krugman's arguments of a renewed slump have fallen to the wayside. He can no longer grouse that the economy may stall when the tax cut stimulus stops, or when the home refinancing stops, or when the consumer gets tired of shouldering a burden that should share with capital spending. And jobs! We can't imagine what Krugman will say about the rapid payroll growth. As we have said before, jobs were the last arrows in his quiver and he's shot them and missed.

As he stews in his own juices over the next few months, we expect his flailing and shrillness to escalate. Hang on!

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]

Posted by John Weidner at 8:36 AM

June 7, 2004

"a truth that burned inside the heart"

Jerusalem Post: In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth – a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.

At the time, I never imagined that three years later, I would be in the White House telling this story to the president. When he summoned some of his staff to hear what I had said, I understood that there had been much criticism of Reagan's decision to cast the struggle between the superpowers as a battle between good and evil.
Well, Reagan was right and his critics were wrong...(Thanks to Pejman)

Three years later! Amazing.

You can bet your last dollar that, even as Copperheads heap scorn and vituperation on President Bush, and magnify any mistake made by America a hundredfold, there are poor wretches in concentration camps and prisons and refugee camps praying right now for America's help. 'Cause there ain't no other help available. And it's the job of the Democrats, and of leftists everywhere, to make sure that help doesn't come!

Posted by John Weidner at 10:06 AM

Prediction by Peggy

Reporters who regularly slammed Ronald Reagan while he was president are quietly seething now that they're forced to mouth platitudes about the man's greatness, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan said Sunday night.

"[Journalists] are willing, over the next few days, to concede what is so obvious that they have to concede it - his personal goodness, etc.," Noonan told Matt Drudge on his radio show.

But with a solid week of commemorations for the conservative icon still ahead, liberal reporters will barely be able to contain themselves, she predicted.

"I'll bet they start pulling a few political [stunts] - kind of letting their biases out a little bit more. And I'll tell you, there's going to be an explosion next weekend [after Reagan is buried].

"That will mean that the elite journalistic media will have gone through seven days of talking kindly about Reagan," said Noonan. "I would say that by next Friday night, they're going to blow."[link]

They will bring up Iran-Contra for sure. Here's another view of that affair. The poor poor Nicaraguans...due to Reagan's meddling they've been stuck having elections ever since! Instead of a trendy Commandante that Hollywood lefties and Jimmy Carter and J. Kerry could fawn over. How tacky.

Ever notice how, once countries like Nicaragua start having elections, they drop off the map? That is, the media map. They are not news any more. If you measured things by media exposure, Cuba would be bigger than all the rest of Latin America combined! And if you are tempted to feel angry when Hollywood nitwits fawn over Castro, stop a minute to feel sorry for them! He's all they have left, in the entire Western Hemisphere!! One garrulous old gray-beard with a wrecked economy.

If the Left is acting crazy these days, sympathize a bit, think how they must feel, as whole chunks of the planet just vanish before their eyes...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:19 AM

June 6, 2004

More on the New Map...

Phil Fraering posted this comment on my post about The Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P. M. Barnett.

I have not read the book, but I find some of the author's reported conclusions to be unlikely; the major threats of the twentieth century came from modernized, "core" nations: Japan, Germany, (and to a lesser extent) Russia.

Also, many of the 9/11 hijackers were from the more "connected," educated, and wealthy parts of their societies. Take Mohammed Atta, for example; he had a degree in urban planning from a German college.

The modern world still provides as fertile soil for the true-believer fanatic as it ever did; if it didn't, Berkeley would look a lot different.

It wasn't modernization that changed things, but globalization. The first blooming of globalization was squelched in the 1930's by economic nationalism, by the high tariffs thrown up to protect against the Depression. If the developed nations had lowered tariffs after 1929, the Stock Market Crash probably would have been just another business cycle, and Naziism would have fizzled out. Russia was cut off from the flows that globalization brings until the 1990's.

The big by-product of our involvement in the world during the Cold War was to allow globalization to happen. In fact that's probably the real story. First Europe and Japan, then a variety of other nations grew strong economically because we shouldered most of the defense burden. (It was our best investment ever. No need to thank us; globalization is really America's Operating System adopted by the world, and we profit the most out of it.)

Think of what happens today when a country gets into a financial crisis. Remember Mexico in 1994? A large part of a country's wealth can evaporate in HOURS as traders around the world dump their stocks and bonds. (And the money can flow back to a place like Mexico just as fast. Make reforms and you get instant gratification. Very educational.) Any threat of war would be much worse. Or imagine a US vs Mexico war. A huge chunk of "our" industry is across the border. A big portion of "their" population lives here. Because of NAFTA, Mexican trucks roll freely on our highways. We are entangled with them. And either country would be economically crippled if its ports were mined or airports shut down. Or communications lines were cut or satellite access blocked.

War would be ridiculous. But more important to our current situation, a terrorist movement (or a war-mongering nationalist movement) in Mexico will never grow big enough to really threaten us, because it would be squelched as soon as the threat to Mexico's wealth and trade became obvious. Most Mexicans are now well aware of how important trade and stability are to their hopes of buying a new car or wide-screen TV. Same goes for Berkeley. There are lots of wackos there, but they trek to gourmet natural foods restaurants, not to terrorist training camps. And they probably have jobs in the next-door capitalist haven of Emeryville. Any slow-down in the world's economy would be felt painfully in Berkeley too.

Almost all our military interventions during the 1990's were in places with a per-capita income less than $3,000. That seems to be a threshold. Above there the crazy violence mostly stops. (But it needs to be real wealth—not just having a lot of oil.) Mohammed Atta was "modernized," but the Arab region is not. They still have monarchies! Ludicrous. The desire of wealthy Saudis to fund terrorists was never counterbalanced by cabinet ministers worried about foreign investment drying up if there was a climate of disorder. Developed countries worry intensely about their bond ratings, and if those are threatened, action is taken. Corrupt left-leaning sleaze-ball demagogues are tossed out in favor of reformers who promise a favorable business climate. (Think Schwarzenegger!)

Phil, read the book! Then tell me if I'm on the wrong track.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:51 AM

June 5, 2004

"speaking Aramaic without subtitles"

I liked this piece by Mark Roberts. But his idea is so far-out, most people will consider it to be something like science fiction. What if, maybe, maybe, Mr Tenet resigned for the same reason he said he was resigning for?

...Most politicians and pundits can’t relate to this because they put their careers first and their families second (or third, or fourth, or lower). These priorities are so deeply ingrained that they simply become a given. Thus when George Tenet claims to put fatherhood first, it’s as if he’s speaking Aramaic without subtitles. Most people just don’t get it.

Thus the resignation of George Tenet holds up a moral mirror, inviting us to examine our own values. How do we weigh family and work? What comes first in our lives? What comes first in our society? However we might answer this question for ourselves, we should know that the people of greatest influence in our society generally put family second (or lower), and they expect us to do the same...

It sounds very believable to me, being very much a family person. On the same subject, I recommend Karen Hughes' recent memoir, Ten Minutes from Normal. It's good reading, and it centers on her decision to move back to Texas, because her family was very unhappy in Washington.

This is wandering off the subject, but I just remembered it. One (of many) interesting things in the book about Bush is an example of how he tests people to see if they really believe what they are saying. (I've heard he does that, but hadn't read any examples.) On Hughes' first day as press secretary for Bush, who is running for Governor of Texas, she enters his office with a bunch of phone slips. And explains that they are questions from reporters that need to be answered. He immediately says "Don't answer them!"

She writes: "My whole life as a press secretary passed before my eyes." Summoning up all her courage, she delivers a passionate speech on the importance of being straight with reporters, and answering their calls the same day, and then eventually realizes he's pulling her leg. I found that very funny, "Don't answer them!"

Posted by John Weidner at 9:50 PM

A Time For Choosing

A famous speech by Ronald Reagan, 1964

I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this.

It's time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, "We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government."

This idea? that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream-the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, "The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits."

The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.

Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, "What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power." But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.

Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we're denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate. They tell us we're always "against," never "for" anything.

We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem. However, we are against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments....

We are for aiding our allies by sharing our material blessings with nations which share our fundamental beliefs, but we are against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world.

We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward I restoring for our children the American Dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him.... But we can not have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure....

Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return to traditional proportionate taxation? . . . Today in our country the tax collector's share is 37 cents of -very dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp.

Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize that the doctor's fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can't socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he'll eat you last.

If all of this seems like a great deal of trouble, think what's at stake. We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. Winston Churchill said that "the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits-not animals." And he said, "There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty."

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.


Posted by John Weidner at 4:50 PM

This is the book you MUST read...

If you have nothing else on your summer list, read The Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P. M. Barnett. You owe it to yourself...

Among other reasons, because this is the most optimistic book I've ever read. Not because he minimizes the difficulties facing mankind, but because he points out something I've been vaguely groping towards. If nations reach a certain point of prosperity and "connectedness," they don't slip back! (So far.) They stop fighting wars with their neighbors. They continue to grow economically. They move towards more democracy and freedom. So there are victories in our struggles that can be permanent. That can pay back whatever we invest in them a hundredfold, because that place becomes a permanent plus on the world's balance sheet.

...Let me tell you what we get when we do these difficult things. What America gets in return is the end of war as we know it. It gets a global economy with nobody left on the outside, noses pressed against the glass. Most important, it gets a definition of what constitutes the finish line in the global war on terrorism. In sum, shrinking the Gap gets us the final piece to the puzzle that is global peace. The end of the Cold War solved the threat of global conflict, and America's continued willingness to play Leviathan has effectively ended state-on-state war. What stands between us and the goal of making globalization truly global is the threats posed by the forces of disconnectedness—the bad individual actors that plague the Gap. Defeat them by denying them the Gap as their own and the Core wins this war on terrorism, plain and simple...
Even if you don't agree with it, this book will expand your thoughts. And Barnett is a very good writer, with fascinating stories to tell, and lots of detail on how things work in Washington and in the Pentagon.

There were a lot of "ah ha" moments for me in this book. I'll try to blog some more soon.

Also, it's not a pro-Bush screed. You don't have to be a bagel-eating Neocon to enjoy it.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:04 AM

"A day of peace and happiness in Najaf..."

Mohammad writes:

:: At last, a day of peace and happiness in Najaf after two months of fear and blood.
I can't describe how happy the Najafis were when they appeared on TV welcoming the IP forces that started to patrol the streets after Muqtada's militia left the city. I don't know if that scene was shown on western media or not but to me, their celebrations were similar to those Najafis had when they got rid of Saddam a year ago. I Hope this joy lasts for a long, long time.
A lot of of Copperheads were obviously delighted by Muqtada Al Sadr's rebellion. They said we had failed in Iraq, because there is violence and disorder. They claimed we had suffered a defeat.

I disagree totally. But it's hard to argue with those people, because I don't share their underlying premise. I don't think our goal is to bring order to Iraq. I think (just my humble opinion, not an official position of the Secret Neocon Brotherhood) our goal is to teach the Iraqis how to do it themselves. And for that, some disorder is a good thing. The people of Najaf, the people of Iraq, have learned a big lesson. Remember, the people of Najaf were getting rich from the resumed pilgrim trade. Al Sadr put a stop to that, and now it's going to start up again. Lessons that hit the pocketbook tend to sink in.

The next Iranian-backed would-be tyrant will have a much harder time of it. The Iraqi "immune system" is stronger now. Al Sadr, and the Falluja rebels, did Iraq and us a favor. A test hard enough to strain the good guys, but not enough to break them. Our Marines were icy professionals in Falluja, but Jeez, think about the next urban scrap they get into! Every move we made in Falluja is going to be studied and criticized and analyzed for years to come. (One can't even imagine Syria or Iran doing that) Guys who fought there will be teaching in ever-more realistic MOUT training facilities in the years to come.

And I suspect the American, (and British and Australian and Polish, etc.) people have learned a valuable lesson. Leftish news media and politicians bent every effort to create panic and despondency and doubt. I suspect the world's immune system is stronger now.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:54 AM

I was thinking of voting for Kerry because he's a Free Trader, but....ooops!

The Washington Times, Kerry Trading Places On Trade: The trade agreement that the United States and Central American countries signed Friday could become a casualty of election-year posturing, with Sen. John Kerry leading the deal's push over the political precipice. This is a shame, because the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) bolsters prospects for the region's development while expanding markets mainly for U.S. agricultural producers and fabric-makers.

    In Mr. Kerry's latest incarnation, he has criticized America's trade deals in general and CAFTA in particular. This positioning is surprising, since Mr. Kerry had consistently supported major trade initiatives....

If you listened to their rhetoric you would think Democrats care about little brown-skinned people in little brown-skinned countries....but you would be wrong.

(via Judd)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:53 AM

June 4, 2004

Bizarro World

The ever provocative Dave T posted this quote

To make a long story short, the results of a second Bush administration would be as follows: A bankrupt United States possessing a broken military -- as Phillip Carter has recently reported for the Prospect, it will take years to reconstitute the supplies that have been cannibalized for the Iraq venture -- faces off against a nuclear-armed Iranian regime that’s seen its two regional adversaries replaced with failed states in which Iran-affiliated warlords wield disproportionate influence.
This is a sort of Bizarro World where everything is the opposite.

We've seen this so many times. Left-leaning Westerners believing the propaganda of totalitarian experiments long after the people living there ceased to believe it, long after the "People's Paradise" has become a hollow shell, ready to collapse into the impoverished mess it really is. Saber-rattling, parades and mass demonstration are not signs of strength—except to comfortable Westerners wistful for orderly places without the mess and confusion of freedom and capitalism.

Iran is the failed state in that neighborhood. The Mullahs have to import foreign thugs because they don't trust their own police and military to put down demonstrations. Hundreds of thousands (some estimates are in the millions) of Iranians are in Iraq right now to find jobs and start businesses. They seem to have a different idea of what constitutes a "failed state." Iran is a place where decent women turn to prostitution to feed their children. Me, I'd risk car-bombs in Iraq to escape that sort of "successful state." And I, (and I'd guess most Iraqis) would prefer the risk of bombs to the risk of a secret-police dungeon.

And nuclear weapons won't make Iran strong. We will just have to be more careful, but regime-change is coming. The world isn't going to put up with much more Kim Jong Il nonsense. Too late for that. Madeleine Allbright isn't coming back.

And two million Afghan refugees have returned home. They don't seem to see a "failed state." They see many traditional problems plus some huge new opportunities and real economic growth. It was the Taliban that was the "failed state." And those warlords are losers. Dead-enders. "Moustache Petes." They may well wreck things for the Afghans, but they will never build anything. they aren't for anything. Sooner or later they're gone. Like those other Iranian hopes Al Sadr and the Falluja rebels. Losers.

And pace Phil Carter, our military is only low on supplies by our own internal standards of what we would like to have. We could burn half our equipment tomorrow, and still be better supplied than any other nation's military. We could sink 90% of our ships and still have the world's strongest navy. Our military budget is roughly equal to all the other countries on earth combined, BUT, it is not, by our historical standards, particularly high! Far from being bankrupted, we aren't even working up a sweat yet.

US defense spending as a percentage of GDP

Our military has its problems, but they are in many ways problems coming from being too strong! It would probably be useful right now if we could swap an armored division for an equivalent number of Civil Affairs troops and MP's. After the Cold War ended we kept thinking a big bad foe would turn up sooner or later. And ignoring the fact that all our military operations now seem to be in places where enemy divisions are not the problem, and "unconventional" is the only game in town.

We built the world's best tanks, and now we wish we had built more up-armored Humvee's. Well, bad call. But, we are cranking them out as quick as we can, and will soon fill the backlog. But if this kind of thing is lamented as a crushing problem, then you can see why lefties always want to discourage the study of history. Big supply problem is when your recruits drill with broomsticks, and are issued real weapons on the way to the troopships. Problem is like at Midway, with torpedo bombers not much faster than the ships they were chasing! Problem is Americans storming the Argonne Forest without tanks.

And focusing on equipment is shortsighted anyway. Human skills and morale are at least as important. We could give half our gear to the Chinese or the "European Union" but that would not make them foes that could come close to beating us. Fighting skill is more important than supplies.

We are right now grinding up equipment in exchange for the priceless asset of experience. It's a good trade. The old Soviet army looked formidable partly because they rarely trained...so all their equipment was always in beautiful shape. (And information is now much more important than any of the other things. We can see any building on the globe by satellite, and destroy it with pin-point accuracy. KaBoom! But that doesn't help if we don't know which one al-Zarqawi is hiding in.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:20 PM

Even cooler than "dot-com?"

By Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY
Iraq is making its first claim for an internationally recognized presence on the Internet.

Iraq's media commission and the U.S.-led administration in Iraq want to set up Web addresses using the domain code ".IQ" as the final tag. That would mean addresses for Web pages would be distinctively identified on the Internet with Iraq's own country code...[link]

(Thanks to Jeff Jarvis)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:30 PM

June 3, 2004

"A people which forgets its past cannot build a bright future..."

Good speech by Silvio Berlusconi. Thank you, Mr Prime Minister!

Posted by John Weidner at 9:06 PM

CONTEST! ... Gratuitous References, Superfluous Digs...

I invented, in this post, an imaginary "gratuitous reference to Abu Ghraib." Something we are seeing in the press way too often these days. Tom Bowler suggested a contest. I like it. Then Lyle mentioned another oft-seen gratuitous dig at the President: "...seeking to reverse his declining poll numbers..."

And I'm sure you can think of others. In what many see as an attempt to subtly distance himself from the shadow of his father, President Bush today hailed National Broccoli Month.

So, in a spirit of inclusiveness, all superorogatory jabs at the President are eligible! Invent!

"So what's in it for me?" you ask. That's a pretty selfish attitude in wartime, pal! But in fact, you can win big! Glory, of course, is the only prize sought by a Preux d'Homme Littérateur, but in addition you can win a Random Jottings Coffee Mug! This is a very rare item! In fact it is so rare, it was only thought of half an hour ago. But it will probably eventuate sometime soon.

* Update: The problem with this contest is that the New York Times may win! Read this, by Tom Smith, on the NYT's reporting on the President's commencement address at the Air Force Academy. a sample:

...The president's remarks appeared to try to strike a balance between frightening Americans and offering himself as the only choice to lead the nation out of danger and to shore up his credentials as commander in chief in an election year when polls show support for the Iraq war and his presidency declining...
The President's speech, by the way, is well worth reading.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:17 AM

Not gold but only men can make...

Take a look at this Memorial Day post by Athena. It has, among other things, the number (or estimates) of battle deaths and wounded for all our wars. Also "other deaths in service" starting with the Mexican War. Interestingly, WWII is the first war where battle deaths are higher than "other deaths in service."

There's also this poem:

A Nation's Strength

What makes a nation's pillars high
And it's foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.

And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor's sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 AM

June 2, 2004

A small point cleared up...

Here's an interesting report from Iraq. Worth reading.

One thing I found noteworthy, because I've heard the same story:

...I read another article by a New York Times reporter who compared the term "Haji", which some soldiers have used when referring to an Iraqi person, to the term "gook" used as a derogative in Viet Nam. Again this is not the case. I have asked several Iraqis, including Police Officers and interpreters who have said they feel honored to be called a "Haji" because it refers to some who has made or is trying to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Again, it seems that trying to put down the military is more important than getting the facts straight...
I suppose someone might turn Haji into an insult, but it seems unlikely. Anybody hanging around an Arab country knows it's a term of respect.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:38 PM

Gratuitous references...

Best of the Web has started featuring gratuitous references to Abu Ghraib inserted into news stories. At first I found them infuriating. But on second thought, they are good news. Those guys are obviously desperate! The news media thought they had a new Watergate, that would propel them into the stratosphere of moral preening, and also bring their party back into power. But if they have to push the story in such a ridiculous fashion, then obviously the plan isn't working. It's just another news story.

Here's my imaginary gratuitous reference...

CONGLOMERATED PRESS, JUNE 2, 2004: President Bush, seeking to turn attention away from the growing scandal of abuse by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison, sent a message of congratulations to Winifred Wilson, of Oblimquit, Maine, who is 110 years old today. Miss Wilson was a Red Cross volunteer during WWI, an conflict which brings to mind the disturbing stories of abuse and torture perpetrated by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Winifred Wilson attributes her long life to "always looking on the bright side," and avoiding fatty foods..

Posted by John Weidner at 9:11 AM

June 1, 2004

softball....

There's something just unbelievable in today's Best of the Web. Just scroll down to the section: Salon Asks the Tough Questions. It's about a John Kerry interview in Salon. But Taranto doesn't post any answers. Just the questions. It's devastating.

You've heard of softball questions? This is softball taken to a new level, sort of like when you teach a child to bat, and you wrap your arms around him and hold the bat with him and help slap the ball into left field...

If you read my blog, you know why. It's the seventy-year cycle, and time's run out on the clock. Democrats are desperate, and they are acting crazy.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:09 PM

a culture of experimentation...

Don't miss this piece on Falluja in OpinionJournal. It explains a lot of what's going on:

...What they needed to do was drive wedges into the enemy ranks--divide and conquer. From studying the enemy, the Marines realized the insurgents can be separated into five disparate groups with widely varying goals: foreign fighters (some of whom are very skilled bomb makers), religious extremists, violent criminals released from prison by Saddam and willing to kill for money, Saddam loyalists (those Col. Coleman described as "bloody up to their elbows" in the old regime) and former military personnel.

The Saddam-look-alike former general who turned up to help coalition forces in Fallujah notwithstanding, that last group offered the best opportunity. It turns out there are a lot of former military personnel in Fallujah. These are mostly Sunni men who were professional soldiers and are patriotic and proud of their military service. Many sat out the invasion last year believing the coalition's promise that if they abandoned Saddam, they would have a future in the new Iraq. But since the fall of the regime, the coalition hadn't provided them with any opportunity for meaningful work. As a consequence, many were joining the insurgency.

That's when a former Iraqi general stepped forward and promised the Marines that within 24 hours he could assemble 300 Iraqis ready to battle the insurgents. The next day he met his promise and within a few days the ranks of the brigade swelled to 900 men. Col. Coleman tells me there are so many former Iraq soldiers willing to fight insurgents that the "Fallujah Brigade" could easily grow to several thousand if the Marines would let it....

What particularly interested me is the way the Falluja Brigade is considered an experiment:
...The Fallujah Brigade, however, doesn't have free rein. The Marines constantly test it to make sure it is fulfilling the coalition's goals. These tests include submitting to civilian rule, taking large-caliber weapons off the streets, ensuring the rule of law is prevailing in the city, working with and positively influencing city fathers, and adhering to all the Geneva Conventions and rules of war that the Marines themselves must follow. So far the brigade is passing these tests...[so much for "turning the city over to the general"]
This may sound strange to you, but I don't have a lot a faith in government planning. Nor am I much impressed with the critics of the planning for Iraq, since most of them are touting some wonder-plan that would have made the whole thing a breeze. I don't buy it.

What I find impressive and encouraging is when I see a culture of experimentation and trial-and-error. Feedback. When the people actually in contact with the problem are allowed to try different things, and learn from what works. I've heard that this is characteristic of the culture of the Marine Corps. If you try something and it flops the commander is likely to say, "Well, you learned something, didn't you?"

I was similarly impressed with the CERPs program. We gave our commanders a pile of cash and told them to solve problems in their area. By all reports it has worked very well. The article mentions that the Marines have $500 million to spend in their area. That's smart! (And I'll bet none of it gets embezzled, and little of it gets wasted. Trusting people is the secret of efficiency.)

In fact, I think what we should do is give Bechtel and other similar contractors $10 billion or so each, and tell them to forget the red-tape and just do what's needed! I bet we would get far more bang for our bucks that way. Of course that would hand the Copperheads a political weapon to use against the administration and capitalism. Hmmm. I got it—find a War Democrat and put him in charge! Someone like Zell Miller. Or maybe Armed Liberal.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:00 PM

#158: Hardly worth mentioning...

P. Krugman
KRUGMAN TRUTH SQUAD

Things are becoming desperate over at Paul Krugman Headquarters. In Dooh Nibor (06/01/04) he takes a week old "leak" from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and spins it into yet another "tax cuts for the rich" tirade. The trouble is this memo has already been batted around between the Kerry Campaign and the OMB for days now. It's old news to anybody who has been paying attention. Furthermore, the memo itself turns out to be just a mechanical projection that serves as a starting point for budget analysis. It is not a decision document. Here's how the OMB's J.T. Young put it to Reuters in response to Democratic claims of massive spending cuts.

"This memo is a process document only. It is a routine, normal part of the budget process. It merely allows us to begin the process of putting together a budget... It is not a decision document. While we intend to hold the line on spending and cut the deficit in half over the next five years, it doesn't mean we can't adequately fund our priorities as is done in the president's current budget as well as in his past budgets."
This is the end of the story. There was no story. Only Krugman could get away with column on the cheap like this because his editors at the Times aren't paying attention either.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]

[Me, I'm in favor of "tax cuts for the rich." My campaign slogan will be, "The more you earn, the lower your tax rate!" ]

Posted by John Weidner at 10:40 AM