February 28, 2005
Have we missed a new fad?
This is the silliest thing I've read this week. Matthew Yglesias writes, concerning the recent developments in Egypt:
...Yes, it's but a tentative step and things could still all work out poorly, but still, this is a pretty unambiguous success for Bush's second term freedom kick. It's also a stunning refutation of those of us who argued that he'd never follow through on his lofty rhetoric. Give the man some props.
And not just to poke fun, but it's actually important that props be given. Bush has, historically, gotten a lot of praise for his lofty rhetoric. He's also been rather diffident about actually doing something about it. But he decided to go do something. Test the waters, so to speak. If doing the right thing winds up just being met with stony silence, then there's little reason to think it'll be the start of a trend. But it should start a trend....
First, this is not a "second term freedom kick." We've been working on it since about, oh, September of 2001. And by "work," I mean "work." Not talk. It's probably impossible for a Democrat to grasp this, but Bush's lofty rhetoric is just a tool to help get a job done. Bush and his administration and our military stood firm during two years of bloodshed in Iraq and Afghanistan, while scoundrel dogs clawed and bit their ankles to the bone. They stood firm because of a dream that transformation in Iraq would start a process that could spread through the Arab Middle East. A dream that was greeted with derision by lefty-bloggers and Democrats.
Everything we've been doing in recent years has been patient spadework leading up to this moment.
And Bush is not "testing the waters." A successful election in Iraq was a necessary prerequisite to ramping up the pressure on the world's despotisms. It's no accident that he more-or-less ordered Egypt to democratize in the SOTU just days after Iraq's election. You think that wasn't planned long in advance? You think Bush just decided to take a flyer on Egyptian democracy as a whim of the moment?
And he doesn't need any props. He's not Bill Clinton. It's not about him. He sticks with his policies no matter how much scorn lefties heap on him. So how can anyone imagine he will stop for lack of their praise? Ludicrous. He's a man. Getting the job done is what matters. (Or maybe Matt means that people on the right should be praising Bush. No need, we're all on the same wavelength. And anyway we have been.)
And last of all, it's not the "start of a trend." The trend started...well, you can point to various dates. I would say a moment early in the Reagan administration, when President Marcos was in trouble, and some people (neocons, many of them) decided that the policy of supporting authoritarian dictators might not be the best way to prevent communist dictators. The new policy of encouraging democracy was pushed especially in Latin America. Not with "lofty rhetoric" a la Jimmy Carter, but with a lot of hard messy work, by people like Elliot Abrams and John Negroponte. They never got any "props," but by the end of Bush I, there was only one dictator left in this hemisphere.
The same people are manning this administration. Same veterans. Same toolkit. Same "new trend." Nobody's "testing the waters" or doing this stuff on a whim. It's been a neocon plot all along. Thank God. (And Yglesias is making the "reality-based" joke seem more utterly hilarious than ever. ''...We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities..." And here's Mr Reality-Based-Blogger himself, peering like Eustace Tilly at this new butterfly and imagining he's discovered something! "Reality!" I love it. I love it. I love it!)
February 26, 2005
"Zee Empire has ways of making you...democratize!"
Things are moving so fast that Bush's State of the Union seems like months ago. But it was just the beginning of this month. And one of the things I blogged about with glee was this line:
...And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.
It seemed like less of a suggestion than a politely-phrased order. I thought it was a splendid example of the confidence we have earned by persisting and winning in Iraq. We are at the point where we can just act as if our goals are inevitabilities, and that we expect that anyone sensible is going to agree. And that kind of confidence tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The crowds gather in the public square, with colorful banners and flowers and calls for elections....the tyrant, with cops and guns and goons at his command.....hesitates. Negotiates. Blusters. Crumbles.
But Egypt! Crazy. I assumed we were talking about YEARS! First the little guys fall. The little dominos. Lybia. Abu Dhabi. Lebanon. Whatever. The pressure slowly ramps up. Mubarak starts to sweat.
Boy was I wrong. Egypt. What did it take, three weeks? Awesome.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Mubarak and the ruling party will probably try to rig things so they stay in power. Makes no diff in the long run. And when Egyptian democracy comes it will be flawed in many ways. You Democrats out there will have lots to sneer at. There will be plenty of failures and back-slidings to smack your lips over. As you sit in the station and watch the History Train recede into the distance.
And what will be the picture, the image that will sum up this moment in history? Maybe, just maybe, a certain Secretary of State with a cool black outfit that makes Darth Vader look frumpy and dated?
Alan suggested she looks creepy, because of the Matrix effect. I think he's missing the point. The only question about any flamboyant fashion is, "can you pull it off? Do you have the style and looks and confidence to wear something splashy?" If you don't you look like a fool.
Condi's got it. The reality-based crowd are being pushed into the background. Buncha dweebs.
"a direct product of the hippie generation"
There's a great piece by Cinnamon Stillwell in SFGate....
As one of a handful of Bay Area conservative columnists, I'm no stranger to pushing buttons. Indeed, I welcome feedback from readers, whether positive or negative. I find the interplay stimulating, but I am often bemused by the stereotypical assumptions made by my critics on the left. It's not enough to simply disagree with my views; I have to be twisted into a conservative caricature that apparently makes opponents feel superior. ..
...But in some ways I understand where this perspective comes from, because I once shared it. I was raised in liberal Marin County, and my first name (which garners more comments than anything else) is a direct product of the hippie generation. Growing up, I bought into the prevailing liberal wisdom of my surroundings because I didn't know anything else. I wrote off all Republicans as ignorant, intolerant yahoos. It didn't matter that I knew none personally; it was simply de rigueur to look down on such people. The fact that I was being a bigot never occurred to me, because I was certain that I inhabited the moral high ground...
As Bay Area Republicans we know the bigotry she's talking about. It's not being disagreed with that's bothersome, but the assumption that anyone who doesn't follow the liberal line is too fascist or homophobic bother reasoning with. Do read the whole piece. And there's one other bit I want to quote:
...Being unapologetically pro-Israel, I was called every name in the book, from "Zionist pig" to "Zionist scum," and was once told that those with European origins such as myself couldn't really be Jewish. In the end, the blatant anti-Semitism on the left, even among Jews, only strengthened my political transformation. I was, in effect, radicalized by the radicals...
In our culture, the bourgeois world is symbolized by the United States and by Jews (required background reading: Among the Bourgeoisophobes, by David Brooks). Anyone who is leftish, or anti-bourgeois (ie "artists") is pretty much forced to be anti-semitic and anti-American. Which leads to some weird contortions if you happen to be Jewish or American and also leftish.
February 25, 2005
Soldats de la Grande Guerre
Thanks to Stephen Green)
February 24, 2005
"The battle is too unequal..."
A reader sends this article...
The head of the National Library of France says he worries that the vast digital library that Google is building in partnership with American and British institutions will quickly become a dominant force in scholarship -- and that it will have too much of an American tint to it....
...Mr. Jeanneney said action must come swiftly. If there is too much delay, he wrote, it will be too late. Once scholars start using Google's library, he said, it could become a bad habit that will be impossible to shake.
Mr. Jeanneney, in his essay, proposed a Europe-wide digital-library project. Europe alone, he argued, is equipped to take the reins of such an endeavor and establish itself as "a center of radiating culture and political influence without parallel on the planet."
The National Library of France has already placed 80,000 works and 70,000 images in its own digital library and will soon make available online reproductions of all major French journals since the 19th century. Those efforts, wrote Mr. Jeanneney, have earned the gratitude of online researchers and helped to spread France's influence around the world. But, he noted, "our annual spending amounts only to a thousandth of what Google has announced."
"The battle is too unequal," he said....
French documents should certainly be preserved in digital form. And perhaps some Frenchmen should be preserved too. Future scholars my have questions about French language or culture, and it would be nice to be able to thaw out an expert now and then to answer any queries...
February 23, 2005
We've been working on a substantial do-it-yourself project. I'm going to blog it, just so I'll have the pictures and story in one place in case anyone asks or Googles. I'm fabricating countertops for our kitchen, (actually half the kitchen for the first stage) using Soapstone (Steatite. Not to be confused with Talc, which is also called soapstone).
Slab of 3/4" Soapstone on my rolling table. Click below for more.
Soapstone has several advantages over other stones. One of them is that it's easy enough to cut and shape so that do-it-yourselfers can tackle it. Another plus is that, although it is softer than granite or marble, it is also denser. It won't absorb stains. Lab benches are sometimes made of Soapstone. Also, it's appropriate for older homes—it's a traditional material without a glitzy modern look. We bought the stone from M. Teixeira Soapstone (pronounced: teh-SHARE-uh) which has just opened a San Francisco warehouse.
In the picture above you saw it in its natural light gray color. But the last task after you've installed your stone is to rub it with mineral oil. When you do, something dramatic happens! It suddenly looks like this:
This is the first piece we've completed. The grain of the stone jumps out when it's oiled.
Soapstone is not hard to cut using a diamond blade. But it's very dusty work. Everything will be covered with fine white powder. Do it outside. I found this simple cutting guide very valuable. Also I covered my table with an extra sheet of rough plywood and set the saw depth to just a little more than the thickness of the slab. Then I cut right on the table. That way the stone is always supported.
The stone used for countertops is 1 1/4" thick. I made the backsplashes from a slab of 3/4" thick stone. We wanted a curved section behind the stove, so I made a template from 1/2" MDF. I roughed the curves out with the saw, then used the template and a router with a pattern-following carbide bit to get the final shape. (I used this cheap little trimming router so that if working with stone damaged it I could just throw it away with a light heart. But so far it's fine.)
Also, the edges are easily finished with sanders, and scratches can be easily sanded out..
And here are the backsplashes in place...
Here I've glued two pieces together with a black epoxy, and I'm starting sanding. The epoxy is smelly stuff, you want LOTS of ventilation. The seam shouldn't have been so messy, but no matter, the excess was sanded off, and the seam disappeared once we oiled the stone. This should have been a two-person job; the glue hardens up quickly, and I barely had enough time.
That slight bend in the wall and the cabinets was tricky to do in stone. Lots of finicky adjustments, which usually meant hauling heavy slabs outside and then back in...
DONE (Almost. We're considering putting splashes at the ends of the counters...)
Important note: The glossiness of these counters is misleading. They've just been oiled.
Soapstone won't take a high polish like granite or marble.
NOTE: My comments close after 10 days. But feel free to e-mail me. (And if the issue is especially interesting I'll add it here as an update.)
February 22, 2005
These reflections, arising out of the present crisis....
From the First Inaugural of George Washington...
...Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either.
No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence...
February 21, 2005
Tom Bowler points out that the Gasping Media thought the law against outing CIA agents was just ducky when it looked like it might hurt someone in the White House. Treason! We need a Special Prosecutor!
Now that the Special Prosecutor is going after reporters, we're told that it's a nasty stupid law that should never have been passed. Phooey.
Even if you believe reporters should be allowed to protect sources so they will feel free to tell the reporters about crimes and wrongdoings in government , in this case the only crime was the act of taking to reporters. (Putative crime. It isn't looking now like the law was really broken.)
The press wrap themselves in the popular image of hard-digging investigative reporters going after the corrupt "interests." But real investigative reporting is rare, and for every instance there are a thousand where a "high government official" uses a reporter to stick a knife in somebody...Most of the "leaks" from government are from various factions trying to embarrass or hinder other factions. Reporters are happy to pass on the dirt and get a story, but there is nothing noble or admirable about it.
Industrial design triumph
As you have probably noticed, I sometimes fail to observe strict journalistic neutrality, and let it slip in some small way that I have a bias in favor of Apple computers.
But I'm afraid the good days may be almost over. A crackerjack new design team at DELL is pushing the envelope. A secret source has sent me a photo, and, hard as it is to believe, Dell may have leapfrogged Apple, and one-upped the design of the famous iMac.
I'm not able to post this on the main page, but if you click below you can have a sneak preview...
(Just teasin'. The Dell gadget is some sort of space-saver rack, and not an attempt to make a Gosplan iMac. Thanks to MacMischief)
One of the commonplaces of modern life is being told by liberals how superior the medical systems are in Cuba or China or Canada or Britain or Scandinavia...you've heard the stuff. However, if you keep your eyes and ears open you will also encounter bits and pieces of information that tell you that it just isn't so.
Those bits and pieces aren't much use in an argument. But recently someone had the perfect crushing retort. A Nobel Prize-winning jackass was pontificating on the great strides made in medicine during the Cultural Revolution...and....
...But, alas, there was someone in the audience who actually had lived through the Cultural Revolution in China, and had been one of Mao's "barefoot doctors." He didn't see things quite the same way as Mr. Sen. In fact, he said the comments had quite surprised him.
"I observed with my own eyes the total absence of medicine in some parts of China. The system was totally unsustainable. We used to admire India," said Weijian Shan, now a banker in Hong Kong. Mr. Shan then added an anecdote that tickled the audience, telling how when he first visited Taiwan in the 1980s and saw young medical school graduates serving in the countryside, he thought to himself, "China ought to copy Taiwan."
Mr. Shan added, about Mao's medicine, "If they had made the system optional, nobody would have opted for it."...
This is from a piece in OpinionJournal, entitled An 'Annie Hall' Moment. (The perfect title. Click on the link if you don't get it.)
February 20, 2005
time and again in Iran...
By CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer:
"Do you think President Bush will invade our country?" the young Iranian student asked hopefully, peering up from his keyboard in the darkness of a Teheran Internet cafe. "You know it is our great hope. America is the only country strong enough to free us from the mullahs."
I was asked the same question – often wistfully, always seriously – time and again in Iran, even as America’s military nightmare unfolded in neighboring Iraq.
This is not a real invitation to U.S. troops. A military invasion of Iran would meet fierce resistance, even from the young. But it is a measure of the anger and helplessness that consumes Iranian youth...
This is a case where, as Orrin pointed out, "If your own reporting conflicts with what you wish to believe, stick to your ideology, eh?" There is no evidence presented in the article that young Iranians would fiercely resist an American invasion. That's just simply an article of faith.
And oddly, it seems to be a widespread bit of dogma even among those who support our campaign in Iraq. I've several times had it happen that I mention the military feasibility of invading Iran to generally hawkish people, and am answered with instant scornful dismissal, as if even mentioning the possibility violated some taboo. As if it isn't even open to question that the Iranians would immediately rally to their government if we attacked.
Well, the hell with that. Nobody ever presents any evidence to support that view, so as far as I'm concerned, it's bullshit until proven otherwise.
We could invade Iran right now, but my suggestion is we wait until 2006. The Iranian people are aware of the elections in Iraq, but give them another year for it all to sink in. Since hundreds-of-thousands of Iranians visit Iraq for pilgrimages (and shopping and business) every year now, they will see clearly that we are disengaging from Iraq as quickly as we can, and are trying hard to establish democracy there. They will welcome a dose of the same medicine in their own country.
Perhaps I should add that to my list of reasons to invade Iraq, (or invade somewhere.) We should invade because that's the only way to show that we don't want to be occupiers, or to steal anything. Of course anyone who knows America, or American history, already knows we don't want to be proconsuls of distant shabby countries, and will hurry home as soon as possible. But actually a lot of Americans seem to have skipped school the day that chapter was covered.
AARP (American Assoc of Retired People) has been running ads attacking Bush's plans for Social Security private accounts. James K. Glassman at AEI writes...
...But the AARP is talking out of both sides of its mouth. It says that stock and bond investing is like playing a slot machine at the same time it promotes stock and bond investing by selling thirty-eight mutual funds to its members and taking a cut from each sale...
...AARP's funds include far riskier choices than advocates of Social Security reform would ever offer to American workers: for example, a Latin American stock fund, a junk-bond fund, and a fund that holds shares of companies based in such highly volatile markets as Indonesia and Russia.
AARP Services, the lucrative business arm of the AARP, entered into a deal with Scudder Investments to sell mutual funds to its members as part of a special affinity program. According to a prospectus, Scudder pays AARP an annual fee for the use of its trademark that ranges from .05 percent to .07 percent of assets. That can come to a lot of money. One fund alone, Scudder Growth & Income AARP, manages $5 billion...
Does anyone remember whose "law" it is that all organizations not explicitly conservative will become leftist in time? AARP is a good example. It is far to the left of the people it claims to represent. And, like many "non-profit" groups, its main purpose is to provide cushy high-paying jobs to people who sneer at jobs in the business world. A world which is not only are disgustingly capitalist, but has a horrid practice of favoring those whose work is actually effective, and even discarding those who can't perform! You can be assured that you will never hear that the board at AARP is bringing in new management because the organization has not been serving the interests of seniors effectively.
(Thanks to Betsy Newmark)
February 19, 2005
If you wondered, back when Scott Ritter was in the news, whether he had a screw loose, wonder no more. He's a nutbag, a la Noam Chomsky or Ramsay Clark, or all the other mud worms who ally with any monster as long as it's anti-American...
David Asman writes: According to Mr. Ritter, “The highly vaunted U.S. military machine, laurelled and praised for its historic march on Baghdad (search) in March and April of 2003, today finds itself a broken force, on the defensive in a land that it may occupy in part, but does not control.”
Offering no proof whatsoever, Mr. Ritter accuses the U.S. of conspiring with Iraqi assassination squads, and that, not foreign terrorists or former Saddam officials, is what started the post-war violence in Iraq: “Having started the game of politically motivated assassination, the U.S. has once again found itself trumped by forces inside Iraq it does not understand, and as such will never be able to defeat.”
As for the enemy, which he calls a “genuine grassroots national liberation movement,” Ritter is generous: “History will eventually depict as legitimate the efforts of the Iraqi resistance to destabilise and defeat the American occupation forces and their imposed Iraqi collaborationist government.”...
(Thanks to Byron Preston)
February 18, 2005
My friend Frank sends this picture of the Christo Gates in Central Park, and calls it "photographer's paradise."
Is it art? Is it good? Don't ask me. But I'll bet it's splendid to see. I remember the Christo Fence, which was not far from here. I hadn't paid much attention to the matter, and then one day while driving I came upon it unawares. it was stunning. A shimmering white cloth streamer that writhed and twisted its way across the rolling hills for miles...
As for the deep art questions, I liked this, from Patum Peparium:
On Christo's Latest
The surest sign
Of the philistine
Is the fear to be seen
As a philistine.
Here's the straight dope on the much-ballyhooed accusation that Brit Hume misquoted FDR...
February 17, 2005
Funniest thing this month...
I really laughed over this one. Maybe there's still hope for the English...
Times Online - Britain. WHEN 35 Greenpeace protesters stormed the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) yesterday they had planned the operation in great detail...What they were not prepared for was the post-prandial aggression of oil traders who kicked and punched them back on to the pavement...
...Protesters conceded that mounting the operation after lunch may not have been the best plan. “The violence was instant,” Jon Beresford, 39, an electrical engineer from Nottingham, said. “They grabbed us and started kicking and punching. Then when we were on the floor they tried to push huge filing cabinets on top of us to crush us.”
I love it! I love it! Crushing them with filing cabinets! (Considering the mental processes of the type of pathetic creatures who join Greenpeace, "huge filing cabinets" probably means somebody's in-box or a pencil-drawer.)
...They made their way to the trading floor, blowing whistles and sounding fog horns, encountering little resistance from security guards. Rape alarms were tied to helium balloons to float to the ceiling and create noise out of reach. The IPE conducts “open outcry” trading where deals are shouted across the pit. By making so much noise, the protesters hoped to paralyse trading.
But they were set upon by traders, most of whom were under the age of 25. “They were kicking and punching men and women indiscriminately,” a photographer said. “It was really ugly, but Greenpeace did not fight back.”...
So, they break in and violently disrupt things, then become "non-violent" and let themselves be beat up? Which chapter of Gandhi For Dummies is that in? Ludicrous.
(Thanks to Juddblog)
February 16, 2005
Questions two and three....
Professor Bainbridge has three questions for conservatives on Social Security reform. I'll leave number one to the economists, but I feel like I can answer two and three...
2. If we can achieve significant savings and ensure the health of the system with the changes mentioned in # 1, is there a non-ideological reason for introducing private accounts? Even proponents of private accounts concede that the transition costs will require trillions of dollars of government borrowing. Do we conservatives really want revenge on FDR and the New Deal at that price?
If you were starting Social Security today, would you not want private accounts? In fact, if you were starting ANY retirement or pension plan now, would you go for a "defined benefit" plan, or would you want a "defined contribution" plan? Of course you would want the latter. The big lesson of the 20th Century (after "socialism doesn't work) is "defined-benefit" plans don't work.
The "non-ideological" reason is: "better late than never." The thing was a botched job, so let's start fixing it and get things heading in the right direction. Even if there is no immediate crisis, the blob-creature is still going to be an endless drag on us. (And things could easily turn worse--imagine a big increase in lifespans, or a demographic collapse such as we see in Europe.)
It's not "revenge on the New Deal." It's the New Deal done the way it should have been done in the beginning.
3. Why aren't conservatives talking about other entitlement programs, such as Medicare, which reportedly is scheduled to go broke long before Social Security does?
For precisely the same reason we focused on Iraq, rather than tougher problems, like Iran, or easier problems, such as Syria. Social Security is probably do-able, yet is also difficult enough that success will have a transforming effect on the whole political landscape. Similarly the way people like Clinton or Krugman can be quoted as saying Social Security needs to be fixed is equivalent to the UN resolutions against Iraq. We have it on the record that there's a crisis. There is a widespread consensus that something should be done.
We are perfectly aware of the problems with Medicare. But that problem is both more difficult and less clear-cut. It's not psychologically ripe to to be tackled right now. A big win on SS however will make us feel like giants, and imagine that anything is possible!
February 15, 2005
Lee Harris has a good article in TechCentralStation on the word "hegemony," and how its meaning has been deliberately distorted for political purposes...
...For Grote, the fact that the Delian League worked, and worked so well for so long, was a point that needed to be brought emphatically to his reader's attention. Hence, his insistence on reviving the concept of hegemony. There had to be some simple way of referring to mutually beneficial confederacies led by strong, but not overbearing leaders -- leaders who, while leading, continue to respect the autonomy of their partners -- and what better word to serve this purpose than the Greek word that had originally been intended to refer to precisely such a confederacy?
By a sublime irony, this once useful linguistic distinction has been completely lost in the intellectual discourse of contemporary politics, and lost due to the fact that the world's greatest living linguist, Noam Chomsky, has perversely chosen to conflate the two words as if they were merely synonyms for the same underlying concept. Thus, Grote's precise and accurate revival of the original Greek concept has been skunked forever by Chomsky's substitution of the word hegemony for the word empire, so that nowadays the two are used interchangeably, except for the fact, already noticed, that hegemony sounds so much more sophisticated than empire. Why use a word that ordinary people can understand, when there is a word, meaning exactly the same thing, that only the initiated can comprehend?...
Chomsky's being an America-hating, dictator-loving socialist slimeball is very very bad. But his deliberately degrading the English language is pure evil.
if the Slovaks can, then why can't we?
Looks like Romania is the latest country to adopt a Flat Tax....
...A costly bid for popularity—or the new orthodoxy? Once upon a time, the "flat tax" was just a pet cause of free-market ideologues, spurned by practical politicians. No longer. Romania joins a lengthening list of converts among the post-Communist states of Eastern Europe. Estonia began the trend back in 1994, to be followed by Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia and Serbia. Last year Slovakia fixed a universal rate of 19 percent. Opposition parties are pressing for similar deals in Poland and the Czech Republic. Even fiscally orthodox Old Europe is taking note. "There is discussion all over the EU," says Katinka Barysch, of the Centre for European Reform in London. "People are asking, if the Slovaks can have such a beautiful and simple system then why can't we?"...
It is surely no accident that the flat tax is so popular in countries that have suffered under socialism. They understand all too well that governments strive to control their economies because that's the most effective way to control people. The same thing happens here, but because it is milder and more subtle many people remain hoodwinked by promises that regulation is intended to help them (and punish the bad people who have gotten rich [unless they are good rich people who give to the Democrat Party]).
Our politicians will not be enthusiastic about a flat tax, because they use the Tax Code to mete out punishments and rewards...
I've belatedly fudged up a web site for my cabinetmaking business. If you are interested, it's here. Feel free to comment or cricketize.
February 14, 2005
does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision...
We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason, because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and ages. Many of our men of speculation , instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and they seldom fail, they think it more wise to continue the prejudice, with the reasons involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice and to leave nothing but the naked reason, because prejudice, with its reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and an affection which will give it permanence. Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, skeptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice renders a man's virtue his habit, and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.
This was quoted in The Roads to Modernity, by Gertrude Himmelfarb, which Charlene and I have both just started reading. Great book so far. She dissents from the common academic wisdom that the Enlightenment was primarily a French affair, and that it was not very important. She puts British thinkers at the center, and argues their importance in forming the traditions of the United States. I don't know enough to really criticize her ideas, or review the book. But I like the flavor of it.
Born too early!
Charlene and I used to enjoy backpacking very much. She just noticed this item, which is pricey, but could eliminate some of the discomforts of life on the trail:
...In designing the Raku, Nunatak added sleeves and a drawstring-closure ankle hem to a standard mummy sleeping bag. To get in, loosen the drawcord at the bottom and slide the bag over your head; or enter via the main zipper, which runs down your sternum like in a jacket.
The extra-long sleeves keep your arms mobile but always insulated, and the bottom opening enables anyone to be a sleep walker. The benefits are numerous. No more cramped, cross-armed sleeping like the guest of honor at an open-casket funeral. No more twisting up in your sleeping bag every time you roll over. No more freezing your hands and arms when you want to read. No more enduring an uncomfortably full bladder while working up the nerve to answer nature's call on a chilly night...
February 13, 2005
Victory over CNN...
I just read in Stryker Brigade News about medals being given to soldiers who fought a ferocious action to rescue a downed helicopter and crew last September. I mention this because I'm fairly confident that the lefty slimeballs of the Gasping Media won't consider honoring American forces to be "news." (Except for local papers near Army bases)
The other media aspect of this, if you read the story, is that the crew of the downed Kiowa helicopter were rescued right away. And the helicopter itself was a wreck. But our troops and the "insurgents" fought a long bloody battle to hold on to a helicopter that wasn't going to fly again! Let us ask ourselves why.
WHY? Because the terrorists wanted to provide video footage to their allies in the world's newsrooms showing them dancing on an American helicopter, that's why. A battle was fought so that animals like Dan Rather and Peter Jennings and Al Jazeera and the BBC could strike a blow against America. American soldiers went into combat to prevent the scum of the media/Democrat party from portraying the Iraq Campaign as a Vietnam-style "quagmire" to try to help the Kerry campaign, and the general cause of appeasement.
You can read the whole story here, from Army Times. It will make you very proud. Or click below for a sample...
...By 9:30 a.m., B Company had consolidated near the crash site, but heavy enemy fire was preventing 3rd Platoon from securing the four buildings that formed an L-shaped high ground around the crash site.
A UAV flying overhead was monitoring a buildup of about 20 more insurgents linking up with several cars. They were taking RPGs and machine guns out of the trunks and moving east — straight into the alleyways that led to the Scout Platoon, Reed recalled.
Reed received word that two F-16s had come on station to provide close-air support, and the Sunday punch he needed now came in the form of a 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition.
The target was a burning wall at an intersection hit by RPG rounds earlier. The smoking structure was about 300 meters west of the 5-20 scouts and 300 meters due north of B Company.
The challenge was to drop the JDAM close to the enemy without harming friendly forces.
“Dropping a 2,000 pound bomb in the middle of a city close to maneuvering troops can get hairy,” said Reed, who was able to give his units a three-minute warning.
When Mason learned of the incoming JDAM, he saw his opening. “I said ‘OK, as soon as that bomb hits, I’m going to flank around and take those buildings.’”
Soon after, the JDAMs smashed into the battle zone with shocking force. The explosion drove a huge plume of smoke into the air.
“We moved under the concussion,” Mason said. “When that JDAM hit, they didn’t know what was going on.”
The blast stunned the enemy and B Company soldiers exploited the moment, rapidly dismounting and charging to clear buildings and secure an overwatch position.
It was now 9:57 a.m....
Those crazy guys eventually sawed off the rotors of the Kiowa and winched it onto a HEMTT truck and drove it home...all the while under morter fire.
Lunacy...of the common sort
Nobody knows what the ancient people of the American Southwest called themselves, but officials at the National Park Service want the public to quit referring to them as the "Anasazi." Their desire to purge this familiar term is so intense that Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park -- home to the finest examples of cliff dwelling architecture -- is refusing to sell books that have "Anasazi" in the title or the text.
That means government officials are blocking one of the best guides to archaeology in the region -- Understanding the Anasazi of Mesa Verde and Hovenweep, by David Grant Noble -- from going on sale at a bookstore specializing in this very subject...
And the term rock art is also verboten. Why? "Activists" find the words offensive, and of course, what the "activists" want the "officials" leap to provide. The whole thing is lunatic lefty idiocy for a whole slew of reasons. You can figure them as well as I can.
And no one ever asks "activists" why they don't do something practical to help Native Americans, rather than concentrating on stupid symbolic gestures. They probably care about actual tribesmen about as much as Lenin cared about actual workers. (And they will probably become professors at the University of Colorado.)
February 12, 2005
...security, and choice, and ownership
...Personal retirement accounts should be familiar to members of Congress, because you already have something similar, called the Thrift Savings Plan, which lets you deposit a portion of your paychecks into any of five different broadly-based investment funds. It's time to extend the same security, and choice, and ownership to young Americans.
-- President George W. Bush
We are doomed, doomed.
John Derbyshire writes in The Corner:
DECLINE OF WESTERN CIV
I have been dismayed and saddened at the number of readers who have written in to ask me who this Ancient Mariner was in my anecdote Thursday about Mrs Simpson. Oh Lord, don't they teach ANYTHING in school nowadays?
I guess Sam Coleridge had to make way for Maya Angelou. We are doomed, doomed. Very much like the Ancient Mariner.
February 11, 2005
every reason stated is garbage...
Steve Weinberg has an article in the Baltimore Sun on the lack of notes and indexes in certain non-fiction books...
...Authors such as Woodward, and, by extension, editors such as Mayhew and publishers such as Simon & Schuster, offer all sorts of reasons for failing to provide source notes: They clutter a book. Readers never look at them anyway. Readers trust us. The sources are too sensitive to be identified. Adding extra pages drives up book prices.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it conveys the tenor of the discussion. The point is that every reason stated to me over 35 years of discussion is garbage.
If readers dislike such "clutter," they can skip looking at the sources section. It seems like a common-sense conclusion that curious readers are inclined to trust journalists whose reporting is transparent more than they trust those whose reporting is veiled...[thanks to Amy Ridenour]
One of the dirty secrets of the book world is that even when books have indexes, they are usually feeble things. You probably imagine indexes being compiled with minute exactitude by monkish scholars with long white beards and lots of time. But my understanding is that they are actually done by low-paid hacks who have no interest in the book or subject.
February 10, 2005
Just kinda hilarious...
Microsoft Corporation has reached an agreement to acquire the anti-virus software company, Sybari Software Inc. Microsoft aims to expand its security software product portfolio with this acquisition....Sybari Software, with more than 10,000 corporate clients, specializes in software products that block e-mail viruses. The statement added that Microsoft was planning to offer its enterprise customers a new line of products to fend off spam, viruses and worms....[link]
I's only medium hilarious that Microsoft is making money selling products that try to fix problems with other Microsoft products. I'll hold off rolling on the floor until people have to pay for something that fixes a security vulnerability in the Microsoft anti-virus software...Update: Wellll... This was fast: Microsoft's AntiSpyware product is threatened by a Trojan horse that also tries to steal online banking details... [link]
February 9, 2005
neck-or-nothing rip roarin' every time a bull's eye salesman....
Natalie sprinkles derision on a certain notion we've all heard. It goes: "Would you have your appendix removed by an unqualified surgeon? Would you cross the Atlantic in a plane with an unqualified pilot? Why, then, would you permit an unqualified teacher to instruct your child?"
She dismembers the idea. And has an analogy of her own that is much better:
...It is obvious why teachers want to be placed in the same bracket as surgeons or pilots: it's to keep out competition from classroom assistants, home educators and other riff-raff. The irony is that there is a profession that resembles classroom teaching much more closely than either that of surgeon or airline pilot, and in which good performers are often much better paid than either.
That profession is sales. A teacher must get a sceptical audience to share his view of the desirability of what he is offering, as must a salesman. A good teacher must know his subject as a good salesman must know his product. For both there is more to success than product knowledge; enthusiasm and empathy are also involved. Both are born not made, although experience and training can help. For both the constant human interaction can be exhausting. Both will be rejected and insulted every day. The best love their jobs anyway...
Of course. And obvious once Ms Solent pointed it out to me...
Sigh. It's a slow time for blogging. I wish we'd get busy and invade somebody. I've been laughing over Harry Reid's petulant response to a RNC "hit piece" on him. It's nothing but his own record! And notice he's not claiming it misrepresents him. No. This reminds me of the old Cold War joke, that we should say to the Soviets, "You stop telling lies about us, and we'll stop telling the truth about you."
Of course when he's quoted saying things like, "Most Of Us Have No Problem With Taking A Small Amount Of The Social Security Proceeds And Putting It Into The Private Sector..." you can see why he's yelping. What pathetic losers these guys are.
Oooh, and how about this: “We’re Visiting Chile Because It Is Doing Interesting Things In Social Security And Other Parts Of Its Free Market System…” Tell 'em, Harry. Of course such free market innovations are too radical for the USA. Perhaps we'd better wait another 50 years, and let Chile test the waters. They are tougher than us...
Slippery Statement warning: Hoy notes that apparently several commentators have mentioned that Bush's budget will DOUBLE the co-pay for vets. Shocking! Heartless! Of course they don't mention any dollar amounts. Wonder why? [Hint. the current co-pay is $7]
Matthew Hoy also has a nice summary of the exchange where Chris Russert ambushed Rumsfeld with a doctored quote, two sentences pulled out of a long exchange and meshed to make Rumsfeld look bad. And Rummie pulled the actual transcript out of his pocket and insisted on reading it! I LOVE IT!Update: The Matthew Hoy permalink above doesn't seem to be working. (Not my fault! I copied it with care). Scroll to Sunday 2-6 on his weblog
February 8, 2005
This year. This year.
WHAT THE BIRD SAID EARLY IN THE YEAR
I heard in Addison's Walk a bird sing clear
'This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.
'Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
this year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.
'This year time's nature will no more defeat you,
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.
'This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.
'This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle, and undo the spell.
'Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart.
-- C. S. Lewis
I'm not an Alan Dershowitz fan, but this is good...
This story in the NY Sun tells about how Alan Dershowitz was bold enough to go to Columbia and condemn the anti-Semitism and pro-terror stances of professors in the "Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department."...
..."The kind of hatred that one hears on campuses like Columbia, and let me say especially Columbia, is a barrier to peace," Mr. Dershowitz said. "They are encouraging the terrorists. They tell the terrorists you will have academic support even if you oppose the peace process."...
"Oppose the peace process?" The typical Islamo-Lefty professor supports the terrorists as they shred women and children with nails and dynamite (preferably Jewish women and children, but American imperialists are OK too.) They are effectively terrorists themselves, and if this were a sensible country they would be given a nice comfy sabbatical at Guantanamo Bay. For the duration!
Omar recommended this tale, of an Iraqi boy, Pfc. Husam Razaq Almusowi, who was born in Iraq and grew up in the US, and joined the army to try to give something back to the country that saved his family in 1991...
...Escaping the bombs, large groups of Iraqis, mostly women and children, fled to Saudi Arabia, where they hoped to find safety at a refugee camp. Almusowi remembers the journey as if it were yesterday.
“We hitchhiked and walked all the way across the desert,” he said. “We camped out in the desert of southern Iraq and in the desert you can’t see anything at night. I remember finding a star and didn’t know what it was.”
When Almusowi awoke, he still had the metal insignia of a star in his hand. The morning light revealed the horror of their surroundings. “There were dead soldiers all around us and the star was an officer’s rank,” he said. “We spent the next day burying them and then we continued to move toward the border.”...
Almousowi's father was a general who plotted against Saddam. He was scheduled to be hanged on the day Allied bombs smashed his prison, allowing him to walk away. Almousowi is now an Army translator in Iraq.
February 7, 2005
"My name is James Watt."
What bliss to have the Internet at our command!! I've spent most of my life hearing lies and distortions about my party, and especially about Reagan and his administration, and having no way to rebut. (And here in California especially, you hear the damnedest things said about Reagan. Crazy stuff.) But the world has changed. This is by John Hinderaker (Hindrocket) at PowerLine, from a powerful counterblaste he has written to recent lying smears by Bill Moyers:
...I did some quick Google searches without finding anything noteworthy; in particular, I couldn't find Mr. Watt's Congressional testimony online. I put the matter aside, not having time to pursue it further.
Friday morning, I was sitting in my office when my telephone rang. On the phone was a soft-spoken man who said, "I'm calling for Mr. John Hinderaker."
"Speaking," I responded, in the brusque tone I use when fielding cold calls.
The man said, "My name is James Watt."
Mr. Watt is retired now, and has been out of public life for many years. He is a kindly gentleman who, with the aid of his grandson, enjoys surfing the web and keeping up on the news of the day. And he is understandably unhappy about being casually defamed by Bill Moyers...
James Watt has come in for an extra helping of defamation by lying leftist filth, for he combined the sins of being a conservative Reaganista with the even greater one of being an open Christian.
And if you haven't heard, here's a summary of what Moyers is saying:
...Like pretty much everything Moyers writes, the article was an attack on the Bush administration. Specifically, he alleged that the Bush administration's policies, as they relate to the environment, are "based on theology" and therefore "delusional." Moyers' theme was that the Bush administration, and Republicans in general, don't care about the environment because they are crackpot Christians who believe that the world is about to come to an end. That being the case, why worry about future generations?...
But do read the whole thing! Free your mind of cant. (Because the world is coming to an end any day now, and you will be left behind if you are thinking bad thoughts!)Update: Powerline reports that Moyers has apologized handsomely for retailing an urban legend about Mr Watt. Excellent.
February 6, 2005
#175: Even when he makes a valid point, no one notices
KRUGMAN TRUTH SQUAD
It’s a testament to how much radioactivity Paul Krugman has picked up over the years from his excessive partisanship and nastiness that even when he makes a valid point, no one notices. His admirers assume he can do no wrong, and his critics consider him a political hack. We’ve always prided ourselves as acknowledging the few times (very few!) when Krugman has it right. Now is time to do so again. In Many Happy Returns (02/01/05) he makes a point so potentially devastating to the Bush Social Security reform initiative that we doubt it could survive if this point were exploited effectively.
Here’s the deal. All economic projections beyond a few years are very sensitive to assumptions about economic growth rates, i.e., the growth rate of the GDP. In many cases these assumptions are buried in footnotes, but they are always there if you look hard enough. In the case of the Social Security Administration, their projections of two crucial dates (2018 when the trust fund begins running a deficit and 2042 when the trust is depleted) are based on an assumed annual GDP growth rate of 1.8%. The SSA claims that rate is based on historical experience but, in fact, they used only the period from 1966 to 2000 to make the calculation. This period includes the episode from the late 60s to the mid 90s when productivity in the US “fell off a cliff.” Economists are still debating exactly why this happened but whatever the reason it is definitely over now. Growth in 2004 will be near 4% and since 1995 it has averaged about 3% including the 2001/2002 recession. The low growth episode of the 70s and 80s should be considered a historical aberration and not a basis for projections of the future.
Now what Krugman and the Democrats should be doing is jumping up and down and demanding that the SS Administration rerun their projections using what most economists would consider a reasonable growth rate. If this were done we have no doubt that for rates over 3% the current “problem” dates of 2018 and 2042 dates would be pushed out further by at least 20 or 30 years. Some doctrinaire Krugman critics have tried to argue that since future SS benefits are tied to wage indexes higher economic growth rates would have little effect, i.e., higher growth rates would mean higher wages and therefore higher benefits. Sorry guys! Nice try, but it won’t work. The wage indexing affects only the marginal cohorts, i.e., those who retire each year. Recipients already retired receive only a CPI boost. This means that wage indexing phases in slowly and the impact is pretty far out.
Make no mistake. If the SS Administration used a more reasonable growth rate, the SS “problem” would be much reduced if not eliminated. Economic growth works wonders.
So why don’t Krugman and the Democrats ride this horse to victory? We’re guessing but it’s probably because acknowledging the higher growth rate would mean acknowledging a great Bush economy. This may explain why Krugman simply accepted the lower growth rate and spent most of his column in an overly complicated attempt to show why such a low growth rate is inconsistent with the administration’s stock market returns assumptions.
He’s right about that too, by the way. The administration shouldn’t get away with using a low growth rate assumption to trash the SS outlook and then use a higher rate to tout a SS reform initiative.
Hurts just to think about it...
I just read a fascinating article in Wired, about a new method of pain control being used in Iraq...
...Now Buckenmaier is leading a group of army doctors and nurses determined, as he puts it, "to drag the military kicking and screaming into the 21st century." His team believes the future of wartime pain control is a new form of anesthesia called a continuous peripheral nerve block, which takes a more targeted approach by switching off only the pain signals coming from the injured limb, leaving patients' vital signs and cortical functions unimpaired...
....The blocks used by Buckenmaier and his team are made possible by the recent invention of small, microprocessor-controlled pumps which bathe nerves in nonaddictive drugs that discourage the transmission of pain signals. The pumps also can be used for weeks after surgery, enabling soldiers to adjust the level of medication themselves as they need it.
For soldiers evacuated from the battlefield, the advantages of nerve blocks over traditional methods of pain control are clear. The wounded troops flying in and out of Landstuhl are often in misery or a narcotized stupor, while those treated with blocks remain awake and pain-free despite massive injuries....(via Stryker Brigade News)
February 5, 2005
Thank you Mr Abrams....
The Washington Post has a snarky and deceptious announcement:
Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair, was promoted to deputy national security adviser to President Bush. Abrams, who previously was in charge of Middle East affairs, will be responsible for pushing Bush's strategy for advancing democracy...
...His name surfaced last year as part of the investigation into who leaked the name of a CIA operative whose husband publicly disputed Bush administration claims that Iraq tried to buy uranium in Africa. White House spokesman Scott McClellan has said that Abrams denied responsibility.
Once again, the Gasping Media fail to give us the information we need to understand what's going on. The Plame reference is just a smear-by-association, and is beneath contempt. ("Surfaced." The usual passive-voice smear tactic.)
As for Iran-Contra, if you get your history from the approved sources, you don't know that the result of the affair was that Nicaragua became a democracy, instead of the Cuba-style totalitarian dictatorship that all the fashionable people (including John Kerry) were supporting and rooting for. Abrams was in the thick of that. But there's a lot more about Elliot Abrams that the WaPo doesn't want you to know...
This is by David Frum:
...One of the great ironies of Abrams’ career is that this man so reviled by the left is probably the single figure most responsible for what honest leftists ought to recognize as one of the most important achievements of the 1980s: the abolition of the old double-standard in favor of anticommunist dictatorships.
From the 1930s until the 1980s, the United States tolerated (more or less unhappily) Latin American authoritarianism, on the old principle, "he may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch." The motives for this tolerance were understandable, even pardonable: Latin America did not spontaneously generate democratic alternatives, and the United States was too busy saving Europe and Asia to divert attention and resources to help invent such alternatives. In the context of global struggles first against Nazism and then against Communism, the United States allowed itself to be associated with some fairly disgusting regimes.
However, by the late 1970s, the Cold War had stalemated itself in Europe and Asia, and Latin America was emerging as the conflict’s hottest front. Abrams was one of those who perceived that the United States had to invest more effort and prestige in the region. He recognized that just as the authoritarianism of Portugal, Spain, and Greece had weakened the anticommunist cause in Europe, so now dictatorship south of the Rio Grande was weakening the anticommunist cause in Latin America. Abrams became a forceful advocate of democratization in Mexico, in Chile, in Argentina, and in Brazil. When the Republicans entered the executive branch in 1981, the only Latin countries whose governments had been competitively elected were Costa Rica, Colombia, and Venezuela. By the time they left in 1992, the only Latin country without a competitively elected government was Cuba...
slime-worms of manhattan...
SFC Paul Smith has been posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism during the battle for Saddam Hussein Airport.
It got good coverage around Ft. Stewart and Savannah, home of the 3rd Infantry Division, good coverage in Florida, SFC's home state, and good coverage in Australia.
You can read about it on any of these links.
But you can't read about it in the New York Times.
Shades of Brian Chontosh.
More on the phenomenon here: "Why Aren't Reporters Interested in the Valor of our Marines?"
What is it with the New York Times? How out of touch are these people?
Was Smith's story just not "fit to print?" ....
Not fit--if you are the sort of urban lefty trendoid sophisticate who works for the NYT. Bastards. I can just see their lips curling in disdain for the sort of red-state bumpkins who join the military. I don't wish terrorist attacks on anyone, but if it just happened to happen to certain "journalists" who disdained to report a Medal of Honor winner, and if it just happened that their last words, as their heads were sawed off (in time to make the news cycle) just happened to be wish for the US Army to arrive..............I would laugh!
(The sentence above: "you can't read about it in the New York Times" is a link to a search of the Times website. So we can check again easily and see if anything shows up.)
It's pretty ironic to see CNN complaining about "propaganda." This article is about Pentagon-sponsored Internet news sites. [link to one of the sites English version]
Pentagon sites: Journalism or propaganda?
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Department of Defense plans to add more sites on the Internet to provide information to a global audience -- but critics question whether the Pentagon is violating President Bush's pledge not to pay journalists to promote his policies.
The Defense Department runs two Web sites overseas, one aimed at people in the Balkan region in Europe, the other for the Maghreb area of North Africa. It is preparing another site, even as the Pentagon inspector general investigates whether the sites are appropriate.
The Web sites carry stories on subjects such as politics, sports and entertainment. The sites are run by U.S. military troops trained in "information warfare," a specialty that can include battlefield deception. Pentagon officials say the goal is to counter "misinformation" about the United States in overseas media.
At first glance, the Web pages appear to be independent news sites. To find out who is actually behind the content, a visitor would have to click on a small link -- at the bottom of the page -- to a disclaimer, which says, in part, that the site is "sponsored by" the U.S. Department of Defense...(Thanks to PowerLine)
I don't think this should be compared with the flap about paid journalists. These sites are for overseas consumption, and are comparable to Voice of America, or Radio Free Europe. And, much more importantly, they are not promoting President Bush's policies, they are promoting America's policies!
The Pentagon leads America's military, and the source of its authority is Congress, and ultimately the people. The attitude CNN displays here is a prime example of the loathsome way our Democrats and our news media hold themselves aloof from their country and its current war. They stand apart and sneer.
The other thing to remember is that the news media are a battleground in the War on Terror. Most of the horrific things the terrorists do are aimed at getting media coverage. I've heard from milbloggers that most of the bombings in Iraq are in the mornings, to catch the daily news cycle in the US.
And if outfits like CNN were even neutral in the War, then Pentagon news sites would probably not be necessary. But CNN or AP are on the other side. They never give this kind of scrutiny to terrorist web sites. In fact they hurry to rebroadcast whatever propaganda the terrorists put out, without any scrutiny....as we saw recently with the hostage GI Joe doll story.
February 4, 2005
From a particularly stupid New York Times editorial...
The confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general yesterday was depressing. The president deserves a great deal of leeway in choosing his own cabinet. But beyond his other failings, [WHAT other failings? Besides being Republican?] Mr. Gonzales has come to represent the administration's role in paving the way for the abuse and torture of prisoners by American soldiers and intelligence agents.
He only "represents" it because you Dems are pushing that line this week. Thousands of people are involved in making our policies on prisoners. Any of them could be said to "represent" them.
...Giving him the nation's top legal post is a terrible signal to send the rest of the world, and to American citizens concerned with human rights.
Bullshit. The NYT's relentless attempts to prederve Saddam and then to help the terrorists trying to destroy Iraqi democracy sent a terrible message to those in the world striving for freedom. Fortunately the NYT is becoming a shrill irrelevancy.
..The 60-to-36 vote for confirmation was also preceded by a depressing debate. ... But this debate had a sinister overtone as well: in a ham-handed way, the Republicans tried to portray a vote against Mr. Gonzales as an act of bigotry...
It's rank bigotry. You Dems think blacks and Hispanics should stay on your plantation and be grateful for crumbs. You always attack minority conservatives with especial venom. Think nobody's noticed?? You know, and we know you know, and hate, that Gonzalez might well be the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court.
It was Mr. Gonzales who asked for the original legal advice from the Justice Department on the treatment of prisoners in the "war on terror." There was no need to go through that exercise; the rules were clear...
No, they are not clear, the WOT presents novel situations unprecedented in history.
...But Mr. Gonzales gave the president the flexibility he wanted, first in the Justice Department memo outlining ways to make torture seem legal,
Rubbish. Here's what's really behind this:
...the positions Gonzales has taken on detainees go to the heart of the crucial debate over our national sovereignty. Gonzales has based his positions regarding detainees on the treaties to which the United States has consented, and ignored Protocols adopted by much of the world but rejected by the U.S. He has relied on a definition of "torture" more restrictive than the norm propounded by international advocacy organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, which effectively considers torture to be any coercive method of interrogation designed to break down the prisoner's resistance, regardless of physical or mental impact. Gonzales has, in short, upheld this country's right, as a sovereign nation, to be bound only by international rules to which we have consented. To the left, this is unforgivable...[link]
What's repulsively slippery about the arguments we get from the NYT and the left is that they define "torture" according to the fads of the international left, but never state clearly that that's what they are doing. So the reader is left to imagine people screaming in agony, while what's actually being discussed is keeping terror suspects awake for long hours or shouting at them or threatening to send them to Gitmo.
Another loathsome trick we see often is to lead people to think that the Geneva Convention is intended to protect prisoners. Which makes America's refusal to grant POW status to WOT detainees seem perverse and wrong. But the Convention is intended to protect civilians, by keep combat separate from them. POW status is a reward, a carrot offered to those armies that fight by the rules. Since the terrorists we are fighting violate the rules of war daily, to say they should enjoy POW status is to say that the rules of war should be jettisoned.
Which is exactly what the international left does say, but of course they want those rules waved only for "insurgents" and "freedom fighters." The US should be bound not only by its own laws, but by the "consensus" among those "concerned with human rights."
...The idea of "shared space" is to denude a street of most of its conventional markings and features and create a different urban landscape in which motorists and pedestrians are put on an equal footing, so to speak. Drivers start to behave in a very different way amid the new uncertainty, moving slowly, making eye contact with pedestrians, and becoming aware of much more than whether the lights have gone red. Or so the theory goes.
Evidence from Dutch towns is impressive. Safety records have improved, local officials report, and accidents, when they do happen are far less serious, because of the slow speeds.
Yet overall cross-town speeds are no slower than before, because intersections are far more fluid and snarl-ups are rare...
Actually this is something we've all experienced. Imagine you're in the parking lot at the end of the ball game, and you slowly drive forward while people stream all around you. No one gets hurt. And the bit about overall speed being no slower rings true to me. City traffic often seems to me to move faster than traffic in the suburbs, where you may have three lanes in both directions, but you have to wait at each traffic light for the North-South traffic, then the North South left-turn lanes, then the East-West left-turn lanes...torture.
Big and ugly...
In this Washington Times article, Republican lawmakers say President Bush's hope of cutting 150 government programs is laudable, but impossible...
..."They're talking about 150 [programs]. I think over a period of two or three years we got two [cuts], so I don't know what they're talking about," New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete V. Domenici said about the plan. "If they are talking about tiny, tiny programs, then maybe but we'll have to see."... (Thanks to Betsy N)
My guess is that we see here the well-known principle that a big bold unpopular program is often easier to pass than a small one. This could be like the military base-closing program. Or like the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, where Ridge first proposed a few sensible changes, and got lost in a blizzard of opposition. Bush told him to come back with a bigger bolder plan, and ask for everything he thought he needed, and then they would work to pass it. And so it happened.
Also, with several big bad proposals on the griddle, there's always the chance that one will slip through easily while the obstructionists are savaging the others.
The Democrat quoted in the article thinks we should roll-back the tax cuts. Ha ha ha. That's SO 2004....
February 3, 2005
Every silver lining has its cloud. Just look for it.
Blimpish had a good one on the Iraq election:
...Compared to the Cassandras' wilder predictions, it's all gone quite swimmingly, hasn't it? Even the Beeb hasn't been able to be other than positive today, despite looking for the cloud on the silver lining.
Which leaves me to wonder: how long until they do a 180 and start to ask about how the US and Britain can oppress such an assertive, vibrant young democracy?
Give it a day or two.
February 2, 2005
From the SOTU....
A couple of things really grabbed me. This:
...while we encourage a higher standard of freedom. Hopeful reform is already taking hold in an arc from Morocco to Jordan to Bahrain. The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.
I've been saying, probably to the point of tedium, that the Iraq Campaign was going to pay off hugely by giving us the credibility and moral capital to push for peaceful change. But this is astonishing! George W Bush now has enough juice to almost order Arabia and Egypt to hold elections! But "order" isn't the right word; it's more like the Godfather saying that it would warm his simple Italian peasant's heart if you would do him this little favor...I bet Hosni choked on his hummus when he heard that one! Ha ha. Call it the No Backwater Left Behind Act.
...America's immigration system is also outdated — unsuited to the needs of our economy and to the values of our country. We should not be content with laws that punish hardworking people who want only to provide for their families, and deny businesses willing workers, and invite chaos at our border. It is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take, that rejects amnesty, that tells us who is entering and leaving our country, and that closes the border to drug dealers and terrorists...
There's the nigger in the woodpile ooops, pretend I didn't write that. But what does this mean? If the border is really closed to terrorists and drug dealers it's also closed to illegal aliens. But they aren't mentioned. Or are they de facto guest workers? I'm not going to try to guess, but one thing's for sure: this President isn't going to have one of those second terms that fizzles out quietly.
Sluts R Us...
Moira (whose handsome new blog seems to be inspiring her to get off the dime) has a nice tirade on the ugly hip-hugger pants that are the "fashion" now..
...I've long since passed the age where fashion is allowed to intrude on style, but this state of affairs deeply annoys my daughter. She has the typical girlie love of clothes (and a mama who would be happy to indulge her, within reason), but clothes merchants have failed to win our retail dollars because of their inexplicable long-term attachment to "hippie crap". That's my daughters term - we approach a girls' department, she casts a knowing eye over the wares, expresses disgust at inevitable items from the Sluts R Us and L'il Bimbo labels, and proclaims "Let's go somewhere else, Mom. Nothing here but hippie crap." (Yes, I try to discourage crass language, but in this case I feel the description is suctinct and apt.)...
I'm flummoxed by the sheer stupidity of the low-rider pants fashion. Imagine a style of clothes designed to make women's legs look shorter, their hips narrower and their stomachs fatter! This does not compute. And I was around for the first iteration, back in the 60's and 70's. The style was so ubiquitous that I couldn't see it and never thought about it. But I must have hated it unconsciously, because one day I noticed a visiting French girl wearing some pleated high-waisted slacks, and it was an instantaneous revelation. They flattered her shape, and she looked great!
On the positive side, there is a current style I like very much. That is the way many gals wear their hair pulled straight back into buns (or braids or whatever). I like the clarity and cleanness of that look very much. It's the opposite of hippie flakiness.
February 1, 2005
Story too good to check...
It looks like that story about the German waitress being pressured to take a job in a brothel is a bit of shoddy journalism by the Telegraph. Pretty much not true. Chicagoboyz has the dope...
Maybe there's hope for this guy...
Mark Brown in the Chicago Sun Times has a column that, to his credit asks: What if Bush has been right about Iraq all along? Hold that thought Mark. Good, but I do have a few comments to interject...
[Brown writes]...On the other side of that barrier is a concept some of us have had a hard time swallowing:
Maybe the United States really can establish a peaceable democratic government in Iraq, and if so, that would be worth something.
Would it be worth all the money we've spent? Certainly.
Would it be worth all the lives that have been lost? That's the more difficult question, and while I reserve judgment on that score until such a day arrives, it seems probable that history would answer yes to that as well.
It's ALREADY worth it! We've already changed the thinking of the whole region, and changed the way the world looks at it. The fearsome "Arab Street" is starting to look like people with blue fingers. And there's also the little matters of the tens-of-thousands Saddam would have tortured and butchered if we hadn't stepped in. And the malnourished Iraqi children--remember them? And all those Jihadis we are fighting in Iraq--they would have been doing who-knows-what if we hadn't invaded...
I don't want to get carried away in the moment.
So if the news were bad would you be trying not to get carried away? Hmmm?
Going to war still sent so many terrible messages to the world.
That free people believe in their way of life enough to fight for it? Yeah that's a terrible message. 50 million people liberated from hideous tyrannies? Another terrible message--if you are a fascist pretending to be a "progressive." Whereas appeasers helping a monster like Saddam didn't send any. messages. at. all. Nooooo...
Most of the obstacles to success in Iraq are all still there, the ones that have always led me to believe that we would eventually be forced to leave the country with our tail tucked between our legs. (I've maintained from the start that if you were impressed by the demonstrations in the streets of Baghdad when we arrived, wait until you see how they celebrate our departure, no matter the circumstances.)
The demonstrations were in fact small and NOT impressive, except through the eyes of wishful thinking. And some of the demos were anti-terrorist. Bet those didn't get much play in the Sun Times.
...In and of itself, the voting did nothing to end the violence. The forces trying to regain the power they have lost -- and the outside elements supporting them -- will be no less determined to disrupt our efforts and to drive us out.
I see. Our opponents are fusion-powered robots who never feel discouragement when they've been defeated. In fact that's been the lefty line ever since 9/11. We musn't fight, because attacking the terrorists "will only create more of them." "Kill a terrorist and his five brothers will immediately become death-commandos." Crap.
How come you guys never wonder if killing an Iraqi or Afghan election-worker might cause HIS five brothers to become "no less determined" to fight for democracy? In fact that happens a lot, but you ignore those stories.
...Somebody still has to find a way to bring the Sunnis into the political process before the next round of elections at year's end.
There will be LOTS of Sunnis in the new government, because there are lots of Sunnis on the candidate lists. I'm guessing this won't be noticed by the Gasping Media, who only notice pressure groups and not individuals. For instance it doesn't matter how many black people Bush consults (or puts in his cabinet.) If he's not talking to the NAACP, then he is "snubbing blacks."
...The Iraqi government still must develop the capacity to protect its people.
Duh. And is your paper going to HELP by starting to report the successes as well as the failures in this process? I won't hold my breath.
...And there seems every possibility that this could yet end in civil war the day we leave or with Iraq becoming an Islamic state every bit as hostile to our national interests as was Saddam.
NO, your statement is simply wrong. There is LITTLE possibility of those things. How do I know? The same way I knew the election was likely to be a success. There is a lot of information available that is not reported in your crummy paper. For instance there are opinion polls taken in Iraq. I bet they didn't get any headlines in the Sun Times, or you would be aware that Iraqis are overwhelmingly moderate, and are eager for neither a civil war nor an Islamic state. I knew that in late 2003, from the results of Iraqi local elections (which also didn't get headlines). I knew, YOU missed the news-story.
Quote for today...
...God how I hate communists. What a loathsome collection of hateful scum, yet somehow most of the world still thinks of them as misguided idealists. That is the most disgusting part of it. Everyday I'm surrounded by Americans who have a fondness for a system that exceeded the Nazis in misery, destruction, and death, a system that turned every ideal it claimed to hold into a sick Satanic joke that makes me weep as I laugh. And they think they are enlightened for it, as they live their happy lives of capitalistic wealth, safety, and freedom. I need to spit.