Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The More Things Change...

I would have thought that the right in the U.S. would be backing off from trying to sell their laundry lists of pet enemies as means to "win the war on terror"

Apparently not. Perhaps most notable is their imploring of Bush to consider Saudi Arabia and France as "rivals, if not enemies". "Enemies"? Oh, that's lovely. How are they going to justify that, comparisons to great coalition democracies like Uzbekistan?

If WWII were fought this ineptly, Hitler would no doubt have passed away peacefully in his sleep. In his palace. In WASHINGTON.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

A Good Idea, But Not A New One

Steve Gillard sez "Let's take the gloves off", meaning that people annoyed at the shoddy and misleading treatment that Democratic politicians, Democrats, and liberals in general tend to get at the hands of the press should "adopt a reporter" and fact-check them intensively:

The media in America lives in a dual world, one where they want to hold people accountable, yet flip out when people do the same to them..

..I think it would be a really, really good idea to track reporters, word for word, broadcast for broadcast, and print the results online. Not just for any one campaign or cause, but to track people's reporting the way we track other services. If someone had bothered to question the reporting om Wen Ho Lee, he might not have been accused of espionage falsely by the New York Times. If someone had actually checked Jayson Blair's work, the Times might have fired his ass years earlier.

Keeping score of who's right and wrong, how many times they repeat cannards like Al Gore invented the Internet and make obvious errors. Not accusations of ideology, but actual data and facts.
This is an excellent idea. So excellent, in fact, that it's already being done- or else what did Steve think that outfits like the Media Research Center are for? Yes, they're obviously and completely biased towards conservatism, but it's that very act of constantly harping on the mainstream media that has allowed conseratives to "play the ref".

Atrios commented on this in his entry on this, saying: "We spend a lot of time focusing on the pundits, but it's really the journalists under the cover of 'objectivity' who turned the '00 campaign coverage into a travesty." This is substantially true; opinion/editorial stuff is really only important in how it affects how journalists report- the vast majority of people neither know nor care what the Op/Ed page of the NYT said over the past week.

Still, it's odd that neither Atrios nor Gillard commented that in this, as in so many things, it's all about figuring out how conservatives have been screwing with American politics and turning their own tools against them.

Edit: That said, I'm still entirely in favour of the idea, although I'd like to see integration of two versions of it, both mentioned in the comments thread for the article. The first is that it should be per-journalist- I think that makes sense, and will provide a real impetus to change when the journo figures out that the only way to get this guy off his back is to stop pandering to the right.

The other idea is a per-issue focus, where specific falsehoods like "Al Gore created the internet" are targeted.

I don't think these two are incompatible. What would be most useful is if those who were focusing on specific falsehoods create "falsehood FAQs", which contains both quick "talking points" and more complex responses for those who need it (like per-journalist writers) and a series of links to important evidence. All of these would be necessary because there's no doubt that Bush's Rolling Reelection Squad are going to pay close attention to something like this, and there's still more of them then there are of us... they're better funded, too.

So, pick a role. Either track a journalist, track a lie (and maintain a FAQ), or both. The former shouldn't simply quote the latter because it smacks of form letters, but the latter can serve an invaluable service, saving the former group dozens (perhaps hundreds) of hours of research. Take the "watchblog" phenomenon to the streets, and drive 'em nuts.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Damn Gold Bugs are Like Cockroaches In This Place

Courtesy of The Happy Reason Man, we get a particularly loathesome example of the Gold Bug, one that's been infected with, of all things, Mercantilism.

First, let me allow Adam Yoshida (a Canadian who devoutly wishes he were anything but- much like, say, Steven Harper) explain his idea in his own words.

Let’s step back for a second. Just how much does the United States owe? At the present time the entire US public debt stands at roughly seven trillion dollars. About 2.1 trillion dollars of that is held by foreign governments and investors. That percentage is seemingly increasing with time as foreign governments (especially the Chinese) continue to purchase American securities. While no comparable figures are available for most foreign nations: in 2001 China’s public debt was estimated at just 3% of its entire GDP so, in other words, the ratio of Chinese public debt held in the United States to American public debt held in China is massive.

So, what exactly do I propose? Simple: if China attempts to use its financial powers to interfere in the US economy, influence US policies, or do anything else harmful to the United States or beneficial to China, then the United States should repudiate every single cent of US public debt held by the Chinese government, Chinese businesses, Chinese citizens, or residents of China. In August of 2003 the Chinese were estimated to hold some $124 billion in American securities. That, of course, only counts those securities that we know about and does not consider the rapid rate at which the Chinese have been accumulating Treasury bonds.
First, note this phrase: "Do anything else harmful to the United States or beneficial to China". This means that Adam is forced to make a choice- either force a situation where both countries lose, or admit the possibility that both could win. He's obviously chosen the former. I'll get back to this later.

The normal reaction to an action like this would be "whoa! This would ruin the American economy! The price of American bonds, stocks, and dollars would drop like a stone because nobody could trust the Americans not to screw with it for obviously political reasons!" They'd have a point, too, because the only way that this sort of idea could possibly work is if the White House took over the functions of the Federal Reserve, as there's no way Greenspan would allow this. With the crash of pretty much every asset in the United States, one would think that Greenspan would be staunchly opposed. Yoshida's claim that the United States could simply insist that no further action is forthcoming is touchingly naive.

Yoshida supports this, though, because he thinks it'd do more damage to the Chinese:

Thinking about this, consider just what the loss of both the $124 billion in US Treasury bonds and a cut-off of trade with the United States (which, one way or another, would inevitably follow a US repudiation of all foreign debt owed to China) would do to a developing Chinese economy and, in particular, to China’s international economic position. The Chinese would be very lucky to survive such a move with only a lengthy economic depression. More likely, we would see famine, riots, and political disorder in China. The entire Chinese ‘new economy’ would disappear virtually overnight, making instant beggars of those who once aspired to mount a challenge to American power.
Yoshida's Canadian heritage have done him a disservice, because he forgets one word that every Canadian would know should lend him caution: CUBA. The whole reason Cuba's economy has been able to survive being completely cut off from the enormous American market is because other countries are willing to trade with it, and this is no doubt what would happen were the United States to cancel its Chinese debt. The loss of trade to the United States would be quickly made up by trade with other countries, especially when the price of Chinese goods and labour drops like a stone. The "New Economy" that really matters- that of ideas and skilled labour- won't go anywhere, and neither will the factories and workshops that have made China such a powerful trading country. Yes, the loss of foreign assets will hurt, but it won't cripple them, especially with the dominance of the government over the economy. They'll be able to buy other stocks and bonds in other markets in other currencies.

On the other hand, the United States economy will suffer a massive blow, due to the loss of billions of dollars in real investment and a staggering loss of credibility, one that would make history. How does Yoshida propose to deal with that? Unbelievably, he's going back to the gold standard.

The answer might be to time any moves against China with a surprise return of the US Dollar to the Gold Standard. This would be necessary, in part, to stem any loss of global confidence as a result of American economic actions against China. All Americans (and nationals of friendly foreign nations) could be given a fixed amount of time to exchange all of their old American dollars for new Gold-backed dollars, with all US funds originating in China being ineligible for transfer. With stern enough measures, I would expect that the Chinese would be unable to launder more than a small fraction of their massive reserves. Foreign banks (or nations) which collaborate with the Chinese, knowingly or unknowingly, would share in their fate.
For dollars? You jest. They'd be exchanging them for Euros, silly, that and Yen. The gold-backed dollar will be seen as entirely untrustworthy, considering the mercantilist move that prompted the switch. What's to stop the U.S. from changing right back to modern greenbacks, or decide to change the value of a dollar vis a vis gold? The Federal Reserve is already gone, so there would be no confidence whatsoever.

Meanwhile, the American economy would be plunged into a depression the likes of which the world has never seen. Never. A Stock market plunge, bond market plunge would no doubt cause people to hoard money, and switching to the gold standard would place the American economy into a liquidity trap the likes of which Keynes' worst nightmares would be a mere pale reflection. It would be the end of American economic dominance, guaranteed. The most market-unfriendly policy in Europe and Asia would be a minor irritant compared to the mess that would be the American economy, and investment would flood those regions.

American assets abroad would be worthless as well. Any country that owes the United States debt would have precious little reason to pay up and every reason to declare it just as "null and void" as the Americans did. What would happen if they decided not to change their debt into gold-backed dollars? As the old bills would be worthless, and as the countries' debts are denominated in such bills, the U.S. would discover that it had just lost as much foreign debt owed to it as it had owed to the Chinese! The South Americans would certainly be happy, but it'd ruin Corporate America.

So why do this? Why ruin your own economy? Only this: fear.

Now, I’m not advocating that any of this take place at the present time. After all: it would probably, in the short term at least, cost a fair number of American jobs. However, it’s good to have such a plan in America’s back pocket: and for the Chinese to know of it. Moreover, I would greatly prefer to endure the short-term dislocations caused by such a strategy than I would live to see the Chinese become more powerful than the United States.

China is our enemy. It might suit our short term purposes to deal with them for the present time, but we must never forget: they are our enemies. Better to die a thousand deaths than live in a world ruled by the Chinese. If we must, someday, pay an economic price to destroy the Chinese threat: so be it.
First, watch the "our" there, chum, neither Canada nor the United States treats China as a true enemy and has little reason to do so. More fundamentally, though, Yoshida is falling into an old pattern of ignorance, one that I mentioned earlier: mercantilism, the idea that economics is a zero-sum game that one country wins and one country loses. Both China and the United States gain from the Chinese ownership of American debt- China gains stable sources of a stable foreign currency, and the United States benefits from the billions of dollars in investment that is principally responsible for American capital-driven prosperity. Neither is the "winner", because there is no winner or loser, only trade of what one has for what one doesn't. Yoshida doesn't understand that. It makes sense, not many people do. That doesn't make his idea anything but lunatic.

I'll finish by noting, with amusement, the "better to die a thousand deaths" bit. It's actually richly ironic when it comes to China. See, prior to the infamous rapproachement between the U.S. and China in the early 70's, China was the more extreme of the two large communist powers. They intensively criticized the Soviet Union for playing nice with the imperialist oppressor. The Soviets, annoyed at Chinese extremism in the face of nuclear armageddon, reminded the Chinese that nuclear winter was in nobody's interest. The Chinese believed that they were willing to fight a nuclear war, because the survivors would build a socialist paradise on the ashes. The Soviet response went something like this:

"the Central Committee of the Soviet Union… cannot share the view of the Chinese leadership about the creation of a ‘civilization a thousand times higher’ on the corpses of hundreds of millions of people"

"Better to die a thousand deaths", Adam? I think the appropriate quote might be "I have seen the enemy, and he is us".


Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Uh Oh.

The ((bovine) shit has hit the fan- Mad Cow Disease has been confirmed in the United States.

I think the Canadians, Japanese and British are probably feeling a little bit of schadenfreude right now, but the important thing here is to use this as a reason to a) turn testing from a farce into some thing real and b) END COW CANNIBALISM.

I mean, really. I'm no vegan, vegetarian or anything of the sort, but it's a vile practice and needs to end. I'll pay an extra 50 cents for a burger to know that my nominally-herbivorous dinner hasn't engaged in a practice that has been an entirely-justifiable taboo for centuries.

This shouldn't even be up for debate, folks.


Edit: Link fixed.
Hey, this is interesting: Riverbend is doing recipes!

For those who don't know, Riverbend is the proprietress of Baghdad Burning, an Iraqi weblog that is invaluable for figuring out what's really going on in Iraq right now. The latest entry, Questions and Fears, shows Baghdad as a city rife with tension, where Saddam's capture probably hasn't had the positive effect that most Americans expect, especially with regards to the militia being put together out of, in Riverbend's words, "Chalabi's thugs, SCIRI extremists and some Kurdish Bayshmarga".

What bothers me is this- considering the Iranian situation, is it really a good idea to give militant Muslims guns, badges, and the legitimacy to harass those Iraqi women who decide not to wear the hijab?

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Law and Order Flashbacks

Courtesy of poster "Roderick" on Eschaton, we find out that Saddam Hussein might not get the death penalty after all. Why? Why else do you think? He's gonna rat out somebody else. Specifically, Syria.

Deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein could be offered a deal in which he would give his captors information on if and how he hid weapons of mass destruction and if he smuggled some of them into Syria. In exchange, he would face life imprisonment and not be executed for war crimes, senior Iraqis attending a conference here on the future of the region have hinted.
The story goes on to describe the mysterious convoys headed from Iraq to Syria on the eve of the war, and there has been a lot of speculation that Saddam's WMDs were in those convoys. Personally, I don't buy it, simply because there would be leftovers (like soil contamination and the like) that people simply haven't found in Iraq. It may well be weaponry, but it's probably not WMD, and it might well have been personnel.

Regardless, though, this creates a problem. If Saddam gets cut a deal by the Arabs, those Iraqis who don't sympathize with the deal will be outraged, and Bush will certainly catch some heat from those Republicans and other Americans who want to see Hussein swing. And even if they get proof that Syria accepted Saddam's weapons, what are they going to do? Syria is not a party to the chemical and biological weapons treaties, and there's no U.N. resolution forbidding them from having them. The United States doesn't have the manpower to hold two countries- it barely seems able to manage one. The U.S. could say that Syria's aid to Iraq makes them an enemy, but that's up to interpretation, and there's no way the Brits would come along. They could still build up a "coalition" by browbeating smaller countries, but without the Brits, it'd look like even more of a sham.

Iraq is still a problem, but it's theoretically manageable. Iraq and Syria? Lunacy.

Monday, December 15, 2003

No Bump?

Wow. I was expecting a huge bump for Bush's numbers, but over at Pandagon, Ezra Klein is relating a poll that says that it's had little effect at all:

ow this is interesting. ABC/Washington Post took a poll today, after Saddam's capture, asking respondents to rate the President's performance. Keep in mind that this is directly after the capture, when his bounce should be highest.

General approval went up 4 points from the last poll week (the poll is biweekly) to 57%, matching the approval from two weeks ago of 57%. It is well within the general range that Bush has been in. That basically means that this did little to nothing for Bush's approval ratings, which is a terrible blow to the president. It also demonstrates that the nation is divided right at that 57% line, after that, you get people who just won't like the President. That's mere conjecture, but there you have it.

Approval of his job in Iraq jumped 10 points, to 58%. Opinions on the War on Terror (going very well, well, not well, very not well) only moved up 3%, to 65%. People clearly don't see this as very important.

Those who see the war as worth fighting moved up 1 point, to 53% (That's really, really important). 90% think big challenges in Iraq lay ahead and people favor a UN Tribunal versus an Iraqi trial 52% to 39% (UN irrelevant my ass).

Saddam didn't make Bush invincible, in fact, it barely did anything for him at all. People seem quite locked in their opinions, tired of the war over there, and resistant to being swayed by every piece of good news. Contrast that with a couple months ago, when all good things that happened through Bush back into stratospheric levels, and the bad barely hurt him. I don't care what the Right says, 2004 is wide-fucking-open.

Update: I forgot to mention that 95% of poll respondents were aware of Hussein's capture.
It's a rare day when I get to say that I overestimated George W. Bush, but there you go.

If the public isn't swayed, though, then what does it matter? Two words: Media and Politicians. The media is going to be gamboling through this circus for a good long while, especially if the trial goes ahead and they have access to it. That'll color how they cover the presidential candidates, as they'll want to tie the candidates to other personalities (like Hussein) to make the stories easier to tell and fulfill their goal of avoiding policy as much as humanly possible.

(This is the mainstream media, of course. Opinion journalism is going to start calling the left a bunch of Saddam-lovers again, using arguments like "he'd still be in power if you were in charge". These precisely miss what the left was actually saying but are useful for scoring cheap political points.)

As for politicians, well, it depends. Many, like Dean, stand a good chance of alienating the press: even if the public doesn't seem to obsess over Saddam, the press certainly will. I think the Dems did a good job of emphasizing that they support the troops, not the president. This is precisely accurate to this situation: Bush didn't catch Saddam, and his ham-handed management and lack of postwar planning was and is more responsible for the problems in Iraq than anything individual soldiers have done.

Actually, come to think of it, a useful analogy might be the late 90's boom. The programmers at the bottom may have had toys, but they worked their asses off, and a lot of them were both brilliant and creative in their work. Despite that, their companies failed and they got canned. Should you blame them? No, it's not their fault. The problem was that the company never had a clear plan of action and was subject to incredibly poor management. Even if they succeeded in shipping a product or rolling out a website, the fundamental problems didn't go anywhere.

Just like in Iraq.

Why Did This Not Surprise Me?

Jesse looks over the right reaction, and he's angry:

But the sad thing is so much of the reaction was typified by... a thoroughly dishonest search for methods to smear Democrats and liberals, quite often not even with things they said or did, but instead their conjecture about things that we would say or do at some point in the future and/or things we didn't say or do because they're too lazy and/or deficient to actually look for that.
There's this continuous quest to discredit their opposition and/or turn them into traitors by pointing out that they dare differ in their reactions to events or their opinions in general. That's where "objectively pro-Saddam" comes from- an attempt to try to frighten the opposition into silence. (And this while people they link to make death threats.)

It's sad, it's annoying, and it's Stalinist as hell, even as right-wingers are using these Stalinist tactics to call their opponents Stalinists.

On Optimism

A slight followup to the post below. I'm not giving specific examples, but it seems that a lot of pro-war types are excorating anti-war types for having conditional or guarded reactions to Saddam's fall, as they're simply jubilant and believe that others should be as well.

There are some problems with that:

1) They're jubilant partially because it helps Bush. Were this President Gore, they wouldn't be acting nearly the same way. Period. If someone believes that Saddam's capture will indirectly hurt the United States by ensuring George Bush's re-election, then they have every right to state that, and to be attacked for that belief is infantile- one can be happy about Saddam and ticked about Bush.

(A historical example would be the Soviets beating the Germans and taking over East Germany. Beating Hitler was an unquestionably good thing. What happened to East Germany was not. How do you balance them out? You don't: just acknowledge both.)

2: There is a difference between trying to figure out what is going to happen and hoping that it is going to happen. One of the reasons why the situation in Iraq has been going badly (and, yes, Saddam's capture aside, the situation had been going badly) is that there was precious little planning done by the Pentagon, and the REASON why this happened was because Rumsfeld and Co. insisted that nobody even try to think about and plan about negative scenarios.

This is what the pro-war bloggers seem to be trying to do. If Saddam's capture reduces the number of attacks, then that's important. If it doesn't, that's also important. Trying to figure out which is going to come is perfectly legitimate. Is the former preferable? Yes. The latter can still happen, and it should still be discussed. Blogging isn't about P.R. for your favorite politician.

Oscar Wilde Would Be Horrified

I'm not saying that I'd really be happy about getting as badly misrepresented by this guy as Atrios, Hesiod, Kos and Co., but to not even get a mention...

Then again, maybe I just wasn't easy enough to misrepresent.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

"We Got Him"

You already know about this, so I won't waste your time. (I haven't read the other bloggers on this as of yet.) The question is what it means: both politically, and strategically.

(One observation is obvious: the Iraqis will be overjoyed about this, and well they should. They needed their demon exorcised, and now they can finally stop looking over their shoulders.)

Strategically, this will help the U.S. to finally ascertain the exact nature of the Iraqi resistance- or should, if they play it right. Most of the speculation in the media has been that this will cause a short-term increase in terrorist attacks, followed by a rapid decline as Saddam loyalists are forced to deal with the reality that he's gone. This will likely be true, if the attacks really are motivated by loyalism to Saddam and not to another figure (such as the clerics or Bin Laden); if they are motivated by sheer hatred of the Americans, then it's unlikely that they'll cease. If they don't, then that's the clearest indication yet that resistance is not tied to any wish for a return to Saddam's regime but to the Americans themselves. If that is the case, then they have a much harder job ahead of them, as they will have lost their Snowball.

(Note that there may well be some crossover here- Saddam likely was responsible for the caches, but there's no guarantee that it's only loyalists using them).

In addition, the odd circumstances of Saddam's capture and his calm, cooperative behavior will have real effects. I'm not quite sure, however, whether it'll be seen as a massive embarassment for anti-U.S. forces or not. It may well drive people into Bin Laden's camp, simply because he has not been captured yet, and because Saddam's capture is certainly a blow to secular pan-Arabism.

Politically, one can divide the real results into left and right, Democrat and Republican. The Republicans, naturally, will gain huge morale and argumentative power after this, and Bush's popularity will certainly increase. I had predicted this earlier- the so-called "third bounce" that I had been waiting for since the war ended. This is likely to be the last bounce, however, unless they capture Osama, which has proven itself to be a much more difficult job. (Or impossible, if he's buried under rock at Tora Bora.) I expect that Bush's ratings will get a massive boost after today's speech, possibly 15-20%. The question is whether he can retain that, and that goes back to the strategic question I mentioned earlier. Without Saddam to pin the resistance on, Bush is in a position where he absolutely needs resistance to die down, or else Americans will start seeing Iraq as an intractable problem that cannot be solved by finding and killing the supposed "mastermind". The personalization of this aids Bush right now, but may hurt him later. If the resistance does die down, though, Bush is in an excellent position, especially if the economy continues to improve.

The Democrats, on the other hand, face a huge test. Now, if the candidate were smart, they should have been wargaming this from the very beginning of the runup to war. This was entirely predictable, and if they didn't predict it, they're dumber than Bush has ever been accused of being. I can't have been the only one who saw the third bounce on its way.

One candidate was already all over this, and was in an AMAZING position to exploit this: Joe Lieberman, whose performance on Meet the Press may well reactivate his candidacy in the eyes of the press. If the resistance dies down, it's likely that Democrats will return to the "support the war, not the president" tactics that characterized them in 2002 and early 2003, and that aids Lieberman.

Everybody else is in a bind of a sort. Most will probably walk the line, but it's clear from both MtP and the reactions from other news outlets that all eyes are on Dean. He opposed the war, if not the proper conclusion of it, and he will will be asked some difficult questions. Lieberman was hammering over and over again on one simple line: "if Dean had his way, Saddam would be in a palace, instead of a prison". (It's pretty clear that Lieberman knew what to do when this happened.) Dean needs to respond to that, and respond quickly and well. If not, then his candidacy will be damaged, perhaps fatally. What should he say? I'm not sure- I'm not Dean or Trippi. Like I said, though, they'd be absolute idiots not to have seen this coming, and their sound bite on this should have been fully developed months ago.

One final thing: the dealbreaker here could be the trial. This is a surprise- I wasn't expecting the Americans to take Saddam alive. The Iraqis want a trial in Iraq, but the Americans may not oblige. If they don't, this could be an enormous source of tension between them and the Iraqis. If they do, then the "coalition" and potential Iraqi investors may scream about kangaroo courts, and anti-American groups will say that Bush's puppets in the IGC were just doing their master's bidding and getting their master's revenge. It could further alienate the Islamic world from the United States, and nobody needs that.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Cowardly Little Poodle

You know what I like about bloggers?

The calm, rational exchange of ideas. The friendly byplay of people with different points of view, and the acceptance that there will be differences, but that our shared humanity should, nay, must dictate a certain level of respect and collegiality.

Just kidding. In the real world, Emperor Misha (worthless little troll and boil on the ass of humanity that he is, and no, I haven't linked to the pool of festering disease-ridden septic leakage that is his website and don't intend to start now) is threatening the life of a Kucinich backer. And then saying that he isn't, claiming :

As to the "death threats", I've read through the above post at least a dozen times by now and, try as I might, I simply cannot locate any threats made by me against Mr. Blumrich's life, unless you call "you're a rat bastard swine and I'd like to kick your ass seven ways from Sunday" a "death threat", in which case I'm sure that Mr. Blumrich will find that rather a large number of such threats have been issued lately, publically and otherwise.
Well, let's give the worthless little turd the benefit of the doubt. He gave out the man's address and even published a map to his home, so there's little doubt that he's encouraging his minions to go there and do...something. But what?

Well, let's see. There's this:

His Majesty would much rather let her loose on Dennis the Fuckwit Ghoul's scrawny little ass and assorted tender parts of his anatomy, equipped with a bunch of dull, rusty implements.
And then there's this:

Here's a hint to you, Eric: The gov't can't do anything to you over that ad, but that's the extent of your protection under the First Amendment.

The rest of us, however, aren't the gov't, in case you've forgotten, and quite few of us would be more than happy to wipe that nervous little grin off your traitorous mug - with a belt sander.
Nice and peaceable, and I especially liked the inability to figure out where a simple "a" should be placed (hint: between "quite" and "few").

Oooh, and then there's this:

Not saying anything in specific, mind you, but we'd be damn careful about showing our face in public if we were you. You just never know who that perfect stranger behind you in that alleyway might be. Could be a sibling or other relative of one of the fallen soldiers that you just took a dump on the grave of, and G-d only knows what might happen then.
"Nothing in specific"... naturally.

And then there's the coup de grace:

Eric may not be famous enough to be a pick for the 2004 Dead Pool, but there's another signed Imperial Mug for the first LC to inform me that Eric Blumrich has died in a "tragic" accident.

Accidents DO happen, you know, and that's the kind of news that would definitely make my entire day.
A mug! Very nice. So now you're rewarding people for his death!

And, lest we get too focused on one single posting (maybe the chihuahua was having a bad day?), perhaps we can call up his solution to the Palestinian issue?

"Kill 'em, kill 'em all.


In reality, dog boy, this is clearly incitement, and no amount of "but killing is illegal, so don't do it pleez" bull is going to change that. You're no different than those Rwandan radio guys who were calling Tutsis "cockroaches" and exhorting Hutus to pick up their machetes and "go to work". Had the internet's right wing had any remaining credibility at all, they'd at the very least rebuke you and delink you. Since you serve the same purpose as the LGF trolls in inspiring convenient hatred, I'm not optimistic. I have little doubt that they'll do nothing but defend you, if they even mention this.

Were a liberal to say "it'd be a really great thing if somebody neuter ed the doggie before he breeds", though, or a simple Transmetropolitan-esque "I want to shit in your heart", I think the reaction would be decidedly different.


(POLITE emails about the matter should be sent to Hosting Matters here)

Clark on The Daily Show

It was a great interview. Really, really great- this was the kind of thing that could really sway opinions (assuming enough people watch). Jon was surprisingly quiet and low key, asking fairly open (yet probing) questions and keeping the jokes to a minimum, and Clark's stories and comments came out as pretty natural, despite having surely been pre-rehearsed. It dealt with the "you have no political experience" question very well, and Clark seemed quite comfortable, more so than many of his other guests.

I'm thinking that Jon is a closet Clark supporter more and more, especially considering how relatively unsupportive he's been of Dean, and the fact that Dean is the last major contender (aside from Kerry) who hasn't appeared on the show. He could simply be working up to Dean, or it may be the Dean campaign that has been rebuffing Jon's overtures. Still, after this interview and the reality that it's turning into a Clark/Dean/Gephardt race, it may be safe to assume that there's a real reason they haven't brought Dean on.

Instapundit is Objectively Pro-Communist


By the by, Glenn, I hadn't noticed the bit where you said "Communists are, in my opinion, as bad as Nazis: mass murder, totalitarianism, etc...calling them "Marxists" instead doesn't fool anyone."

I realize you're a law professor, not a political science professor, but hasn't anybody sat you down and explained the difference between Marxism-the-analytical-framework and Communism-the-system? Have you ever wondered how people could call themselves "anarcho-marxists" or "anarcho-socialists" and remain internally consistent, when Communism- as you pointed out- is totalitarian? Do you even know what Communism is (or, at least, was), or were you just getting it from those nifty CNN Cold War documentaries? I'm no Marxist, largely because I think it is terribly flawed as an analytical framework and is unworkable in practice, but I gotta say:

For someone who is objectively pro-Communist, you're sure ig'nint about it.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Canada's Not Left Out After All

The Globe and Mail has the story.

The Prime Minister, speaking to reporters on his last official day in office before Paul Martin takes over, said Mr. Bush had telephoned him in the morning to congratulate him on his 40 years in office and that was when Mr. Bush made the promise.

"I had a discussion with Mr. Bush who called me at 7:40 [a.m. EST] to wish me good luck, and we discussed the relations between the two countries.

"He thanked me for what we're doing in Afghanistan and the offer of money for the reconstruction of Iraq [Canada has put forward $300-million], and he told me that the mention of Canada in some press that we were to be excluded from economic activities in Iraq was not appropriate, and he was telling me basically not to worry," Mr. Chrétien said.
Good news for Martin, as he doesn't have to deal with angry party members and citizens. Bad for France and Germany, as they've lost an ally, and this has turned into an American vs. European thing.

(Assuming, of course, that Bush was telling the truth and maintains this position when the heat's off.)

With Canada out, the one to watch might well be Russia, if only because they've got so much debt to hold over the Iraqis' (and thus the Americans') heads. Putin must still be annoyed, and with good cause. Russia really isn't that far from Iraq, after all.

The Wurlitzer is Being Recalibrated

Bush is, apparently, setting up to fight Dean.

Wondering about strategy? Wonder not:

A day after Al Gore endorsed Dr. Dean, giving the former Vermont governor his strongest claim yet to the role of front-runner for the nomination, Democrats as well as Republicans scrambled on Wednesday to assess and adapt to the changing political landscape. Dr. Dean's Democratic rivals sharpened their attacks on him, even as Republicans — perhaps motivated as much by a desire to guard against complacency in their ranks as by any newfound respect for Dr. Dean's electoral strength — talked of their plans for a tough general election faceoff against him.

One Republican who speaks regularly to White House officials said there was serious thought about pursuing the earliest and most aggressive of the plans under consideration: putting Mr. Bush into full campaign mode soon after he delivers the State of the Union address in late January. In that way, the Republican said, Mr. Bush could get a quick start on defining Dr. Dean as too far to the left for the country before the former Vermont governor can wrap up the primaries and begin trying to move himself toward the political center.
It's actually not a bad strategy- using the primary process against him. In some ways, though, it's contradictory, because the entire reason Dean has pulled ahead is because the primaries aren't really deterministic this year- as this story demonstrates. If he becomes inevitable, Dean can quickly move to the center, possibly before the primaries are even over. Frankly, it wouldn't be too hard for him- the Bushes are running up against a centrist whose biggest "liberal" issue- the War in Iraq- is NOT something they'll want to run on.

(His anti-free trade leanings would also be hideously stupid to attack, considering it'll drive all manner of manufacturing workers into his arms. Which is probably why he has them.)

And on Dean's electability?

Still, Dr. Dean's ability to energize Democrats and potentially attract new voters, while raising large sums of money without the benefit of an established national reputation, has generated some concern within the Bush campaign, where much of the early betting had been on Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri as the most likely nominee. The campaign continues to warn against overconfidence among its supporters by stressing that the 2004 race could be as close as the one in 2000.

"They do not underestimate Dean, because Dean is able to stir the energy in the Democratic party grass roots," said Deal W. Hudson, the editor of Crisis Magazine and an influential religious conservative who is in regular contact with the White House. "That makes him potentially the most formidable of the Democratic nominees."
I think the "Dean can't win" meme is going to evaporate pretty soon. He's neither Goldwater nor Mondale nor McGovern, and the Republicans aren't so stupid at campaigning that they can't recognize a potential anti-Reagan when they see him.

This new wariness may also partially be for positioning reasons. They want to ensure that they get turnout and hard money donations when it counts, which will be important when fighting the Deaniacs. They also certainly don't want Bush to look like he's failing, or that Dean has momentum, which is what "Bush is inevitable" could lead to when the true partisan makeup of the country shows its face.

Last point I want to bring up, because it's a good one:

But the Republican National Committee and the Bush campaign are intensively reviewing their opposition research on Dr. Dean. The party is conducting polling not just on how Mr. Bush would match up against Dr. Dean but also on what effects Dr. Dean, as his party's presidential nominee, would have on other races, especially for Senate seats.
This is important, because one key Bush strategy would be to split the Democrats against themselves. It would be both easy and smart to employ the Wurlitzer not just against voters, but against politicians, creating the impression that backing Dean will mean that they're seen as just as liberal as he is. That would doom both- voters would go anti-Democratic anyway if they saw the Dems as soft on Terror (or whatever), and Dean's isolation would seriously hurt him.

I'm almost certain, however, that this is why Dean has been reaching out to candidates with what really matters: the wallets of his followers. The Wurlitzer can only provide a false "centrist" imprimatur for one's campaign- Scaife isn't going to bankroll a Democrat, after all. While that's valuable, money is far more valuable, and a ton of small hard money donations (with the possibility of more to come) is more valuable still. The most important reason why Dean has been so successful is because of the Dean machine's ability to raise money and gain rabid followers over the Internet. As we've seen, both can be as easily re-aimed as the Wurlitzer. Dean's followers genuinely feel like they're doing something useful and important by aiding Dean and the Democrats, and Dean employs a simple but profound truth: people might not be willing to spend $2000 at a time, but they'll spend $20 without a second thought, and do it multiple times.

(Yes, Bush will use this too. He's still behind the curve.)

In any case, this was to be expected, and I'm still convinced that win or lose, Dean's campaign is going to change politics. If it is just a rallying cry like Goldwater was then that'll be one thing, but I am seriously wondering if the Democrats have stumbled upon their very own Reagan. The only thing left is to make him more comfortable on television, and that isn't that hard a job nowadays.

Bush Defends the Contracts

More on the contracts issue.

Honestly, the more you think about this, the more predictable this action was. The Bush administration places high value on loyalty and has a history of personalizing its opposition to the extent that those who honestly dislike the Bush administration's policies are characterized by Bush proxies as "rabid Bush haters". These countries are "disloyal to their American allies", and it's pretty clear by now that diplomacy is irrelevant, so there's little reason to believe they wouldn't do this. There's even less reason to believe they'll relent, although the negative media coverage might affect things somewhat.

In any case, the real story, to me, is how the targets of this policy will respond. Europe going to the WTO is a no-brainer, and I wouldn't discount that affecting Bush just yet. The precedent of Bush backing down on the steel tariff does suggest that he might back down.

Russia is torn- they (and by "they", I mean Vladimir Putin) want to be a U.S. ally, but nationalism is the watchword in Russia right now, and this is a profound insult to Russia, especially considering their relatively benign reaction to the end of the ABM treaty.

Again, it's Canada that's really the one to watch here. The CNN piece notes this, too:

In Ottawa, incoming Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said the decision was difficult to understand because his country already spent $300 million to support Iraq and also has troops in Afghanistan.

"I find it really very difficult to fathom," said Martin, who will take the helm of Canada's government Friday from Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

"There's a huge amount of suffering going on there, and I think it is the responsibility of every country to participate in developing [Iraq]."
The fact that Martin didn't even try to dodge around this or make much of any reference to "our American allies" speaks volumes, at least to me. Saying "I find it really very difficult to fathom" easily translates to "those bastards screwed us over" in this case. This will make Martin's hoped-for good relations with the U.S. difficult at best. Canadians won't stand for it, no matter how much they like him, it'll hurt Canada's international reputation, and he'll face the prospect of losing a significant number votes and seats to the leftist NDP in the next election.

(This would seem unlikely, but voting for the NDP carries little risk in the next election. Martin will almost certainly not lose to the new Conservative party, so "strategic voting" isn't necessary, and there could be a great reward in it if the Conservatives stay unpopular and the NDP gets a shot at becoming the official opposition. The NDP will be pushing these ideas HARD in Atlantic Canada and in Toronto, and it's quite possible that it'll stick.)

It's funny- Bush came this close to having a strong ally to the North. Now, he's just embarassed the most popular politician in the most successful political party in North America, and possibly in the developed world. Good job, Mr. President.

A little dated, but still good

Matt Yglesias made a good point about the belief that two-party politics are inevitable in American politics:

This view of the American electoral system as inimical to third party politics is the result, I think, of an unfortunate over-emphasis on presidential politics. The Canadian parliament and the British House of Commons are both elected along very similar lines to the US House of Representatives (first past the post elections in small, single-member constituencies) and each feature five parties with representation in parliament.

In those Westminster systems, however, there's no real point to electing MPs unless you stand a reasonable chance of electing a majority because it doesn't really matter what any individual member thinks. In the US, however, where we have two parties in pretty even balance and a politics of ad hoc coalition-building, minor parties with just a handful of representatives could make the difference on several key votes. Reps Flake and Paul really might be well-advised to leave the GOP, see if they could recruit a couple more like-minded backbenchers, form a small Libertarian caucus, and try to run candidates in a few more ideologically friendly districts. None of them would ever get elected president, but then again none of them are ever going to be elected president anyway.
He has a point, and I think it's legitimate, although it does require legislators who don't have even an eye on the Oval Office, and parties that are willing to give up that possibility. Most politicians would want to join one of the big established parties simply because having the *possibility* of a presidential candidate being from your party is compelling, but the American system isn't nearly as party-centric as the Westminster one.

(Actually, come to think of it, that may be the problem. American politicians already enjoy far more freedom than their counterparts elsewhere- that might mean that independent-minded legislators won't be so alienated as to leave. The anti-RINO and -Dino movements may change this, however.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Didn't back us? GET OUT.

No, really, this is an excellent idea.

The Pentagon has decided to bar nations that did not support the war in Iraq from bidding on $18.6 billion in contracts to rebuild the country, according to a directive released Tuesday.

The ruling, in a memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, excludes Russia, Germany, France and other non-members of the coalition from bidding on one of the most ambitious reconstruction projects since the end of World War II. It is the strongest U.S. retaliation yet against war opponents.

Only firms from Iraq, the United States and its coalition partners — 63 nations in all — will be allowed to compete for major contracts to rebuild the electrical and water systems and the housing, transportation and oil infrastructures. Britain, Spain, Italy and many Eastern European countries will be able to bid....

The administration said the ruling is not designed to punish and should not slow efforts to win broad support. A Pentagon official, who did not want to be identified, said banned nations can still send troops or money and become eligible: "We'd welcome their support."
At precisely the time when the United States most needs the real support of other countries and has had its international reputation so severely damaged... the time when it has become a near-laughingstock for having so miserably failed to justify its haste and fearmongering prior to the war... they're playing this silly game? Unbelievable. And it's not like that "invitation" will change a thing. Indeed, it's likelier to convince non-supporters to stay out than anything, because it's such a naked attempt to bribe people to get onside.

It's also going to have an impact on North American relations as well. Not so much in Mexico, as I doubt that Vincente Fox has his eye on too many Iraqi rebuilding contracts, but definitely in Canada.

The new Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, had said in the past that he intended to build a better relationship with the United States, and has taken steps to show that he means it. He's up against the reality that most Canadians (and most Liberals) feel vindicated and prescient in their opposition to the war. Any attempt by the United States to tie together closer relations and foreign policy support will pit Martin against his own party and the vast majority of the country. Coupled with the renewed anger that the softwood lumber issue will create in the west (traditionally more pro-American than the rest of Canada) and you've got every indication that the relationship will grow chillier.

No doubt that this isn't good news for Canada from an economic point of view. The United States has precious few real allies right now, however, and the serious differences in North America over American foreign policy are a serious blow to whatever soft power the U.S. has remaining, and Iraq shows that hard power simply isn't enough.

(And this doesn't even address how Europe and Russia are going to react. Emperor Putin's been scorned, and I doubt he'll like that.)

It continually amazes me how a group of people can be so effective at gaining power, yet so inept at wielding it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

A Question for David Brooks:

Just wondering about this quote:

The only problem is that us rural folk distrust people who reinvent themselves. Many of us rural folk are nervous about putting the power of the presidency in the hands of a man who could be anyone.
Why refer to Howard Dean in this way, yet so assiduously avoid Dear Leader and his "ranch"?

I realize you have a mandate to get Bush elected, and heaven knows that outside of your status as "token conservative" you've done little to warrant your lofty post at the New York Times, but this sort of hypocrisy is just embarassing.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003



I always wonder about this, too

Kristof on those evil gays:

Recently I wrote a column arguing that there is growing evidence that homosexuality has a biological basis, and that this is one more reason not to discriminate against people on the basis of whom they love.

The result was a torrent of fire and brimstone from readers who are aghast at gay marriage, and who accuse me of blasphemy for defending vile behavior that they say God is on record as denouncing. Never mind that the Bible also advises that people who work on the Sabbath should be stoned to death (Numbers 15:35) and condones the beating of slaves 'since the slave is the owner's property' (Exodus 21:21). Somehow it's only the anti-gay bits that seem engraved in stone.
The answer is obvious: the critics aren't actually gay, and don't own slaves.

This warms my heart

The Beeb reveals that some Rwandan media execs got the book thrown at them. Why? Read on:

wo Rwandan media executives have been sentenced to life in prison for their part in the 1994 genocide.

A third was given a 35-year jail term after a private radio told ethnic Hutus to kill members of the Tutsi minority, saying "exterminate the cockroaches".

The station - Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines - also broadcast lists of people to be killed and revealed where they could be found.
I'm for freedom of speech- in fact, I'm pretty hardline on freedom of speech. Still, the example of what happened in Rwanda shows that there is not only a line that must not be crossed, but that incitement to genocide is not something one can file away under "Nazi stuff/part of the past/supernaturally evil/nothing to do with ME", but is a very real and very modern phenomenon, and is inextricably tied with the dehumanization of others.

What this has to do with American radio and its own hate-a-thons I'll leave to the readers.

Friday, November 28, 2003

King Bush?

Matthew Yglesias isn't very charitable about President Bush's little trip to Iraq:

Scanning around the web, it seems to me that too many of my liberal colleagues are willing to give the president credit for today's little stunt supporting the troops. Consider, however, whether you think that the leaders of the Democratic Party would have been wildly opposed to taking a little Thanksgiving-time trip of their own to pose with the troops for photo ops. Seems to me that they would love to have done that. But they weren't invited. And not only were they not invited, but the planning for the trip was kept secret so that they couldn't protest at not being invited. Result: Many photos of GOP supporting troops, zero photos of Democrats supporting troops. Very good outcome for the president.
Matt has a point, but the problem is endemic to the system, not to Bush himself. Bush was visiting them as a candidate next year, yes, but also as the President of the United States, with all the ceremonial importance that that entails. It's not that different from when the royal family met with people in the rubble of London during the Blitz, and the Queen Mother was (justifiably) adored for that.

The problem isn't the visit. The problem is that you can't extricate the President's role as Head of State from his role as Head of Government, so every ceremonial duty and benefit that accrues from the former can be used to aid his use of- and retention of- the power of the latter. Were the presidency a symbolic role like the British Queen, it wouldn't be an issue, but the symbolic leader and the man who gives the military its orders are one and the same. It wouldn't matter whether his name is Bush, Clinton, Kennedy or Washington.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Bush in Baghdad

Well, I'll give him one thing- it's a damned good trick that he pulled off, going to Baghdad. It even had that theatric aspect that seems to be increasingly characteristic of the administration:

he troops had been told only that they were gathered for Thanksgiving dinner with a VIP guest in the mess hall at Baghdad International Airport.

L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, added his own drama to the surprise. Billed as the special guest along with coalition forces commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Bremer opened the program by telling the soldiers it was time to read the president's Thanksgiving proclamation.

He asked if there was "anybody back there more senior than us" to read the president's words. Bush emerged from behind a curtain as cheering soldiers climbed on chairs and tables to yell their approval.
There's no doubt whatsoever that this will end up in RNC ads just as soon as they can edit the tape together.

The real question, for me, is what prompted this visit. Was it simply a political stunt, or is Bush actually concerned about what is going on over in Iraq? It's probably more the former, but I think there may well be an element of the latter as well. The about-face on Iraq was sudden enough and jolting enough that it may well have been, amazingly enough, Bush's own idea. I have no doubt he's been fed nothing but spin since the get-go. Even if he had access to real information, though, it seemed as if he had convinced himself (or had been convinced) that things were fine.

After the CIA report and Bremer's trip to Washington, could it be that Bush's illusions were shattered, and that he himself is trying to improve the situation? Seems unlikely, but it's possible, especially if he knows things, bad things, that we don't.

Anyway, interesting factoid from the article:

When Bush's father visited U.S. troops at a desert outpost in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving Day 1990, in the runup to the first Gulf War (news - web sites), he became the first U.S. president to visit a front-line area since President Nixon went to Vietnam in 1969.

Dwight David Eisenhower, as president-elect, visited Korean battle fronts in December 1952 and President Lyndon Johnson made two wartime trips to Vietnam.
Bush-the-Elder visited before his war began; Nixon and the rest visited when their wars was already going downhill. Needless to say, a presidential appearance does not mean that the war is going swimmingly; indeed, considering the record of the wars mentioned, it would imply that things really aren't that good.

Not that there's much controversy over that, but it'll be useful when the RNC ads come up and the rolling re-election squad start lauding Bush for his bravery and thoughfulness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Matt and Canada

Don't get me wrong, I like the work, but I've gotta ask... why has Matt Yglesias become so interested in Canadian politics over the last little while? Especially considering that, well, he just moved to DC?

(Or did he move again to Ottawa and nobody told me?)

Due South

Can't remember who originally linked it (CalPundit, perhaps?), but there's a new group blog focusing on South American issues called Southern Exposure that has just started up.

As a starting point, I like the comments that Stephen George made about Lula's difficulties in Brazil. He reveals the difficulties that Lula is having in getting his agenda passed, and they're doozies, not the least of which being the rock-solid belief of many on the left (Brazilian and otherwise) that "ought implies can" need not apply if the situation is sufficiently bad or if you're sufficiently passionate. The situation is dire, no doubt, but Lula is the best hope the MST (landless) in Brazil have. Especially considering that, no, there ain't gonna be no revolution. We've got to play the cards we're dealt.

Monday, November 24, 2003

"Poor and Stupid" once again lives up to its name

First, somebody should let Donald Luskin know about a few key facts:

From there it was only a short time until it was a scandale -- and it went beyond the usual Krugman-watch suspects. Even the anonymous ultra-leftist 'Atrios' commented on it critically on his Eschaton blog. What could even he say but, 'Now This is Shrill!' On Thursday it broke into print, with Josh Gersten's front-page story for the New York Sun. So what could the Times do but put some distance between itself and Krugman?
By no stretch of the imagination is Atrios an "ultra-leftist". Luskin wouldn't appear to have the faintest concept of what a radical leftist actually looks like, but here's a hint: Atrios ain't it. (Neither is Krugman, as is readily obvious when one compares Krugman and pretty much anybody on the radical left, many of which hate him.) Even if he were an ultra leftist, though, calling Krugman "shrill" is a joke. It's intended to satirize the attitudes and language of the hard right, and obviously does so quite well.

Second, I'd just like to point out that the flap over the cover is abominably stupid. Donald Luskin writes for the NRO, which prominently features Ann Coulter's book. Ann, of course, will pack more hate into one column (the latest features accusations that the Democrats are genocidal) than an entire bookshelf of Krugman covers. (He's also drawn the comparison between Krugman and Hitler on his own site. Don't have a link, but I may add one later.) He who is without sin...

In any case, this is all meaningless folderal. It's a game, and the name of the game is "invalidating criticism of the President". We've already seen it with the full-court press against "Bush haters", and attacking this cover is merely another tactic supporting the overall strategy. The idea that someone may legitimately hate Bush for what he's done or what he represents goes unmentioned, and for a good reason: they know that most people are probably divided on Bush, believing that he's screwed up but also believing that he's the best choice to deal with the terrorist threat. By trying to play up critics as irrational, they make the latter aspect look like the more rational one, and allow people to reconcile their conflicted attitude towards the president by saying "well, I'm a rational being, and if that attitude's irrational I can ignore it". The funny thing is, it's like a chinese finger trap, because the more Bush screws up, the more strident the criticism, and the easier it is to attack them for being "irrational".

Coupled with the natural forgiveness that the American public has towards the president due to the ceremonial aspects of the role of Head of State, and you've basically got Bush's reelection strategy. You've also got the core of the Dean strategy: harness the anger to get volunteers on the streets and the base to the voting booths, and rely on the low turnout of swing voters to keep them from voting against him due to the fear of his strong stand. To extend the analogy, he intends to snap that trap in two.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Just busy, not dead

Sorry about the lack of posts, although I do have to admit not being overly predisposed to paying much attention to the Jacko story... not that I'm overly fond of what he is accused of doing, but I doubt that there's anything to be said that hasn't aready.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Heads of State Aren't Made Alike

From CNN:

The last time he dined with the Queen in 1992- at his father's White House, wearing cowboy boots emblazoned with GOD SAVE THE QUEEN- he asked if she had any black sheep in her family. 'Don't answer that!' his mother Barbara interjected, trying to avoid embarrassment.
It's like living in a twilight zone episode, isn't it?

Sunday, November 16, 2003


17 more dead soldiers, due to two Black Hawks colliding while trying to avoid ground fire.

Five additional soldiers were injured; I just hope that it was "sprained ankle" injured and not "need the kind of wheelchair with a joystick" injured.

Bush Bails

There's little reason to describe this any other way:

Iraq's Governing Council and the American occupation authority agreed Saturday on the terms of a radical new plan for the country's political transition that would end the U.S.-led occupation by July 1 and could facilitate a significant withdrawal of U.S. troops next year.

In a major revision of the Bush administration's earlier political blueprints, the new plan authorizes the creation of a provisional national assembly that would assume sovereignty and serve as Iraq's interim government until a constitution is written and elections are held. The administration had demanded that a constitution be drafted and elections convened before a transfer of power, a process that could have stretched into 2005.

Although the creation of the assembly will result in the dissolution of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, its leaders nevertheless hailed the accelerated handover of sovereignty as a victory for Iraqis. "This is a feast for the Iraqi people," said Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader who holds the council's rotating presidency. "This is what Iraqi people were dreaming to have."
The Iraqi people... and the guerillas. I have little doubt that this will be seen in the Middle East as a major victory by anti-American forces. They got what they wanted: they wanted the Americans out, and the Americans are getting out, far quicker than that "long hard slog" rhetoric ever suggested. It's fair to say that the U.S. won't get everything it wanted, either:

But just as it speeds up the political transition, the process will introduce a new level of uncertainty for the U.S. government. By ceding sovereignty to a provisional administration, the United States will lose veto power over the content of Iraq's constitution and the shape of the government. The Bush administration also will have no guarantee that formerly exiled Iraqi political leaders, with which it has long cultivated ties, will be chosen in the caucuses.

"When sovereignty is transferred, sovereignty is transferred," a senior White House official said. But the official added that the administration expects to have "a good working relationship" with the provisional government.

Talabani said U.S. troops would remain as "invited guests," but he added that precise details on the size of the force and its role would have to be worked out with the U.S. government. Adnan Pachachi, another council member, said the negotiations would be "between two sovereign powers."
"Expects" doesn't cut it in heavy traffic: this leaves the Iraqis open to pretty much do whatever they wish, including (if necessary) the nationalization of oil. This is, obviously, not what the U.S. was going for. It's excellent news for the Iraqis, as they'll regain the sovereignty they wanted so badly, but there are probably a lot of very angry people in the Pentagon right now.

Why did this happen? It's pretty obvious:

The midyear handover would enable President Bush to head into the 2004 election with a much smaller -- and less vulnerable -- contingent of U.S. forces in Iraq. Under Saturday's accord with the Governing Council, the United States would sign an agreement with the provisional government that would stipulate the size and function of the U.S. force in Iraq after June, although U.S. officials expressed confidence that the new government would endorse a continued U.S. military presence. Pentagon officials have said they want to base tens of thousands of soldiers in Iraq for the next few years.
This is what this is all about- the most politically conscious White House in recent memory strikes again. With the economy (perhaps) improving, Iraq was the big sticking point for the Bush administration, and they needed to do something to alleviate the situation. This is exactly the timing they need... a pullout early enough so that it'll be done with in time for the election, and late enough so that it won't

a) fade from memory
or b) leave Bush holding the bag for whatever nasty consequences follow the pullout.

Indeed, there may be a plan to go right back in after the election; I wouldn't be surprised.

In the balance, however, this could be welcome news. "Could be" because the whole thing sounds hasty as usual and that could backfire... but hopefully, it'll be the first step towards a truly free Iraq.

Edit: On the other hand, according to CNN, Rummy insists that "The timetable or the way ahead that the (Iraqi) Governing Council has been describing relates to the governance aspects of the country and not to the security aspect... [t]hat's on a separate track."

So maybe things won't be so different after all. Or maybe the divide over Iraq is reaching a breaking point. Thing is, if this is a contest between Rummy and Rove, Rove will win. No question.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Swing Voters: RIP?

There was a short blurb on CNN'swebsite a few days ago about the off-year elections, and the further polarization of voters.

The results of last week's off-year elections gave both parties something to cheer about. Republicans accelerated their conquest of the nation's governorships, particularly in the South, with victories by Representative Ernie Fletcher in Kentucky and Haley Barbour in Mississippi.

The Democrats gained control of the New Jersey legislature and saw John Street win re-election as mayor of Philadelphia. Together, the results sketched in sharp relief the emerging political landscape.

The country remains closely divided between the two parties, with partisanship more pronounced, and the South, in particular, becoming hostile terrain for Democrats.

"This is a very different political climate than it was even a year ago," says Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, which released a study showing the country more polarized than it has been since 1994, when angry voters put the Republicans in control of Congress.

This hardening of attitudes also helps explain why the swing voter, so sought after during the 1990s, is getting less attention. The name of the game for both parties is getting their core voters to the polls.
Bolding mine. Liberal bloggers (especially the Dean set) have been discussing this for a while, and it's important for Democrats to avoid "fighting the last war". Considering that "Democrats=traitors" memo, it looks like the Republicans are well aware of what next year is going to look like, and are already preparing. With Dean a more likely candidate than ever, it seems inevitable that the Dems are going to move in the same direction.

On the one hand, it's refreshing to see that the cult of nonsensical "bipartisanship" that was hampering Democrats (and American democracy) for ages is finally ending. On the other hand, I worry about just how far this will go. That "death to Dems" fantasy may not be one forever. Just ask Timothy McVeigh.

Friday, November 14, 2003

StrawBear, anyone?

As another example of what I was referring to in my previous post, I give you the comments section for this post. It is not just filled with strawman arguments about "the left" and "liberals" (as well as every other kind of logical fallacy classified by man) but some sentiments which, when understood properly, are profoundly disturbing. Witness this one post by one "section9":

Where this all leads to is a bottom line. Not only is the Left not capable of governing this country, it is certainly not capable of winning this war. That will make all the difference in an election that will be conducted in the middle of a war. I strongly suspect that the American people will not want to change horses in midstream.
Leave aside the nonsense about "the American people", and look at what this guy is really saying. He's saying that the left is incapable of running the country or winning the war. Since there is no doubt whatsoever that he has conflated the War on Iraq with the War on Terrorism, and considers the latter a war for survival, I can't help but conclude that he believes that liberals cannot be allowed to govern the country. At any cost.

This isn't a new argument, of course. It's incredibly common. It is, naturally, profoundly anti-American. That's the nice thing about wrapping yourself in the flag: you can get away with wiping your ass on it at the same time, because nobody can see you do it.

(Edit: it has now degenerated into Randroid propaganda. What is it about political debate that compels people to switch to rants about economics whenever possible?)

Creepy Fascism?

Edit: I meant "creeping"... but you want to know what? It works either way.

Perhaps, as Orcinus lays out. He makes the point that the Bush administration isn't acting especially fascist, but that those that support it are slowly embracing the "liberals are traitors" line and are starting to be quite vocal about their support for an extreme and "eliminationist" (in Orcinus' words) response.

Once such response is quoted by Jesse:

WASHINGTON-January 6, 2004. A paramilitary organization calling itself the Christian Liberation Front changed the balance of power in Washington by a pair of brutal attacks this afternoon. A force estimated at about 200 CLF commandos stormed the Supreme Court building, killing 35 people, including five Supreme Court Justices. At the same time, a contingent of 1,000 CLF paramilitaries attacked the Hart Senate Office Building, where a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting was being held. Approximately 50 people were killed in the attack. Once the commandos had seized the building, they systematically killed Democratic senators from states with Republican governors. Here is a list of the 21 senators killed

Daniel Akaka Byron Dorgan Mary Landrieu
John Breaux Bob Graham Blanche Lincoln
Hillary Clinton Ernest Hollings Barbara Mikulski
Kent Conrad Daniel Inouyye David Pryor
Tom Daschle Tim Johnson Harry Reid
Mark Dayton Ted Kennedy Paul Sarbanes
Chris Dodd John Kerry Chuch Schumer

Joe Lieberman was campaigning in South Carolina, and missed the assassins. The attackers turned themselves in to police, and are proudly confessing their crimes, cooperating with authorities.

If the governors appoint Republican replacements, there will be 72 Republicans in the US Senate until replacement elections can be held. Even if a few Democrats are named, there will be likely at least 60 votes to vote for cloture and appoint replacements for the slain Supreme Court justices, changing the balance of power on the court.
The original source, predictably, couches the whole thing in hypotheticals and goes on about it being "in the darkness of his mind".

Problem is, it's in the darkness of a lot of minds (witness the "lined up and shot" quote), and these sorts of things have a way of moving from thought to action. Then, of course, you end up with Germans breaking glass, or Hutus picking out machetes.

"First they came for the liberals...."

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Now I can call the site "the award-winning" Shadow of the Hegemon

I received notification from the Blogger Forum that I just made their list of "top 10 Blog*Spot sites".

Must be the titles.

Soros and the Dems

The Democrats have made a very, very useful friend: George Soros, whose dedication to defeating Bush has already benefited and the umbrella group America Coming Together (ACT) to the tune of $5 and $10 million, respectively. The story behind his decision to underwrite the fight against Bush is interesting as well:

In past election cycles, Soros contributed relatively modest sums. In 2000, his aide said, he gave $122,000, mostly to Democratic causes and candidates. But recently, Soros has grown alarmed at the influence of neoconservatives, whom he calls "a bunch of extremists guided by a crude form of social Darwinism."

Neoconservatives, Soros said, are exploiting the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to promote a preexisting agenda of preemptive war and world dominion. "Bush feels that on September 11th he was anointed by God," Soros said. "He's leading the U.S. and the world toward a vicious circle of escalating violence."

Soros said he had been waking at 3 a.m., his thoughts shaking him "like an alarm clock." Sitting in his robe, he wrote his ideas down, longhand, on a stack of pads. In January, PublicAffairs will publish them as a book, "The Bubble of American Supremacy" (an excerpt appears in December's Atlantic Monthly). In it, he argues for a collective approach to security, increased foreign aid and "preventive action."

"It would be too immodest for a private person to set himself up against the president," he said. "But it is, in fact" -- he chuckled -- "the Soros Doctrine."
The nice thing about Soros' support is that the Republicans, really, can't do very much to stop him. Any attempt to attack Soros will run up against their own shadowy supporters, especially the notoriously publicity-averse Richard Mellon Scaife, and the reality that the left is quite willing and able to match them shot-for-shot in any war over financial backing.

It also means that the Republicans are in a tricky position vis a vis fundraising. Scaife's support will blunt Bush's primary funding advantage, and can be used to underwrite criticism of the Bush government, using the same techniques that Scaife employs for the right. In turn, this will allow Howard Dean (and the other candidates, but especially Dean) to employ small-amount supporters specifically for positive and comparative advertisements- the kind of stuff that Soros won't be allowed to touch. Soros' book and notoriety will ensure that any organization he underwrites gets free media attention and a fair shot at influencing the public discourse. Assuming that the grassroots Dean support remains as an ABB group even if he doesn't win, neither Soros' nor the candidates' money will need to go to GOTV efforts, because there will be volunteers aplenty, and they'll be swimming in money to support their efforts.

Karl Rove has just had a very bad day.

The Sideshow, Dean, and the "Stars and Bars"

I had been asked a little while ago what I thought of Dean's little screwup over the "people who paint Confederate flags on their cars" line. Personally I found it to be bad politics, because Dean is more likely to alienate people than attract them with that sort of line. Avedon Carol, however, disagrees, and I have to admit that she makes a pretty good case.

Dean could have been smoother (like including the context that gives the remark it's weight), but he was right in essence; one of the things people like me despise about the current occupant of the White House is that he is not a president for the whole country, but just for his narrow range of supporters.

As a Democrat, I already understand that not everyone in the party agrees with each other, so Confederate flags by themselves don't get my blood up much. What interests me is policies that will work for us all, and the guys with the Confederate flags actually have nothing to lose by abandoning the Republican Party, and Democrats lose nothing by letting those guys feel like they can be Democrats. The trick is to stop pretending that those damn flags are more important than whether people can feed and clothe their kids, plan for their futures, and take advantage of being citizens of the richest country in the world.

Meanwhile, blacks don't benefit from losing elections over trivia like flags and decals and then ending up with their economic choices and chances being slashed. The food on the table, the roof over your head, the places in the classrooms, the jobs - those are the things that matter. Crap like the Confederate flag is a distraction, and makes people take their eye of the ball.
Now, I'll admit that Avedon does have a point, but one of the things that people tend to forget about politics is that it isn't simply economics wearing a different mask. Politics is politics, and economics is economics... and although they overlap, trying to make them out to be the two faces of Janus is a bad idea. It isn't just about "economic choices", it's also about the social and political environment that you live in. That environment consists largely of symbols- politics is rife with the things, and anybody who has spent any time in the company of a fierce monarchist in the U.K. or a proud American (with their constitution) can understand just how powerful these symbols can be. The whole point of painting a confederate flag on ones car (or hanging it over your bedroom wall, or whatever) is its symbolic value.

The problem, though, is that nobody gets to control what that symbolic value means to other people, and with the confederate flag, that symbol means- and always will mean- support for racism, on one level or another. Like the swastika, any benign meaning it might once have had has been wiped clean away by the odious and racist acts that were perpetuated under its symbolic watch. Ignorance could be an excuse, but "heritage" definitely isn't, because that heritage is irrevocably tied up with one of the worst crimes against humanity that North America has ever been witness to. (Not the worst anywhere, and probably not even the worst in N.A., but awful enough to recoil from).

So, no, Avedon, there is something about "that damned flag". Not economically, but politically.

(That being said, I agree absolutely with Avedon that northerners do themselves no favors, politically, by lording "our middle-class tastes over those Hustler-reading, pick-up truck-driving, smoking drinkers of lager". That being said, its not like the judgement goes one way, and I'd say the South has had a lot more influence on American political culture lately than the North has.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

No Crimethink here!

About the only good thing about this story is that it finally and completely kills the "liberal media" spin. It's good to know that in the face of RNC pressure, CBS is more than willing to cave in.

(Keep in mind, it's not like the RNC is a big sponsor or anything like that. Nope, they're just politicos. They just happen to be politicos who, apparently, get to censor what we watch. Doubleplusgood.)

Chaos doesn't begin to describe it

I was planning to write a post about these attacks on American soldiers, and then I find out that Spain is apparently pulling out its diplomats, despite the inevitable American wrath this will incur. All this after a previous roadside bomb attack today took its toll of lives (and, likely, limbs).

Coupled with the economic news, it looks like we may be in the fantastic situation where Bush is running on his economics and trying to stay away from Foreign Policy. Which, honestly, is somewhat bad news: Americans tend to rally 'round the president a lot more when his foreign policy is weak than when the economy is weak.

Doubt it'll make much of a difference to the dead American soldiers, though. Them, and the dead Iraqis that we never hear about.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Titles Added

Um, read the title. Which you can now.

(I'm liking this "Blogger as Blogger Pro" thing more and more. Almost makes me not wish I had one of those fancy Movable Type sites.)

(Edit: This is kind of fun. I might go back and start adding titles willy-nilly to my old posts. It'll be a good dry run for that massive indexing exercise that I really have to get around to, sooner or later. Unless somebody knows of an indexing tool for blogs, perhaps?)

Reagan and the Cold War?

One of the responses to my earlier piece about FDR and Reagan argued that Reagan didn't win the Cold War- that it was a "45 year bipartisan effort". This is wrong.

It was neither a "bipartisan effort" that won the cold war nor the actions of one man. It was a war that was never won at all. The Russians decided to turf it, largely because it simply didn't work. The end of the Soviet Union was at heart an internal matter, which is why nobody was able to predict it beforehand. (Please don't mention Reagan and Thatcher. That was bluster, not prediction.)

As for the annihilation I predicted- no, that is not speculation. Prior to Gorbachev, the Soviets were in disarray- Reagan was able to act tough due to the leadership problems. Gorby ended those, but Gorbachev was only one man. The reason his reforms failed was because of the tension between reformers and conservatives within the Kremlin, including between his close advisors. One conservative named Ligachev came very, very close to taking over. The rhetoric was crystal clear: were they to take over, the Soviet Union would no longer be as conciliatory as it is, Perestroika and Glasnost would have ended, and the devolution of power that led to the breakup of the Soviet Union would have been immediately halted.

After that, of course, Reagan's belligerence would have been answered by belligerence in triplicate. And, quite possibly, nukes, as the Russians remained quite paranoid about their American counterparts.

I maintain my position that there was only one man who ended the Cold War, and his name was Mikhail Gorbachev. He didn't intend for it to end the way it did, but he was responsible nonetheless. Reagan's role was, at best, subsidiary. More likely, it was entirely counterproductive.

Matt weighs in

Hmm... the title field isn't showing yet. I'll have to fix that.

Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias had a nice piece on the debate over the Democrats I mentioned below.

Kevin Drum's got himself embroiled in a quagmire-like debate with hawkish liberals or ex-liberal hawks or whatever you want to call them.In response, some things to consider doing before you defect from the Democratic Party:

Take a deep breath. Look in the mirror. Take another deep breath. Look at some photos of your liberal friends and family. Ask yourself:

-Do you really believe that they opposed the Iraq War because they wanted Saddam Hussein to stay in power; do you really think they don't care if your hometown gets destroyed by terrorists?

-Try reading some actual policy statements put out by Democratic foreign-policy hands, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and members of the Armed Services Committee. Ask yourself: Do the views expressed therein really sound like the characterizations of them you've read on NRO and the hawk blogs?

-Look again in the mirror, focusing this time on your hairline and that little space next to your eyes that gets wrinkly when you squint. There's no easy way to say this, but . . . you're getting old. I am too. It's scary, it happens to us all. Ask yourself: Has the left really changed, or am I just that cliché guy who stopped really caring about the poor as I aged?

-Take a look at the transcript of the latest White House press conference. Find some other examples where the president had to respond on-the-fly to questions. Ask yourself: Given the perilous international situation, am I really comfortable with the fact that a total moron is president of the United States.

Read this post again. Consider the condescending tone, the cheap psychoanalysis, the refusal to confront your actual arguments. Ask yourself: Isn't this exactly what I've been doing all this time?

Just an exercise.
Nicely said. I'm much meaner, as I tend to label such people as either "suckers", "tools" or "sadly mistaken" (depending on my mood at the time) but he makes an excellent point. Look, the whole reason that neo-conservatives play nice with some liberals is precisely so that these divisions will happen. It's a game; we're the pieces. Somehow, though, it's a game where we lose every time.

Liberal Cage Match

Calpundit wonders why Armed Liberal took him to task for an earlier entry about terrorism; he believes it to be his tone.

The problem here isn't your tone, Kevin, it's AL's. His gratuitous and senseless attacks on the Democrats for disagreeing with his own position deserves criticism, even if the prescriptions he comes up with are correct. It's the old "gain credibility with the right by attacking the left" game, and its no more palateable when being done by AL than MK. Less, actually, because AL has a lot more credibility.

There's no reason whatsoever that a Democrat couldn't adopt most of the suggestions that AL brought up (the extra division might be a hard sell, but other than that) but they're bringing up a problem that he isn't: that his proposals won't make a bit of difference unless America does three other things.

First, it needs to recultivate alliances with traditional allies that have been alienated by the "war of civilizations" rhetoric. Attacking Islam isn't going to sell in Europe, where Muslims are a significant minority, and alienating Europe is bad strategy if you're trying to play the "West against the rest". Second, it needs to rebuild its soft power assets through actions that demonstrate integrity and consistency in its foreign policy that goes beyond self-interest. Third, it needs to be completely decoupled from conservative government-hating bullcrap, which is the only reason I can see that his sixth recommendation about moving away from "big bureaucracies" exists.

The problem here is that old Republican game of believing that there's only one way to look at foreign policy, and it's theirs. The comments on AL's page are filled with "ooh, you've spoken Truth, but those nasty Dems won't ever understand it". Please. Not only does that make you either a practictioner or a tool of the post-structuralist "define the debate the way we want it" games that define neo-conservatism, but it's simply not true: the "lefty critique" has a lot to recommend it even if you don't like it because it challenges your worldview. It can be countered, but I've never met a response to that critique yet that wasn't a pathetic exercise in knocking down strawmen. (Or "Fisking", which is just a strawman turned on its head.)

(It's like how the right tries to defend Iraq nowadays; a pathetic exercise in namecalling barely worth the effort of reading, much less response.)

Like I said, I like a fair bit of what AL has had to say, but he's Kausing it up whilst knocking down strawmen. It needs to stop. We've all got better things to do.

Titles! And Sponsor!

Ok, I switched one thing with the site... I added titles. It should make RSS aggregation a little easier, and make the whole thing look a little better.

(The only problem is that now I have to come up with the damned things all the time.)

By the by, thanks again to my new sponsor (that you can see over to your left). Kindly click to find out all about how we ended up in Iraq, and (perhaps) how we might get out of it.

If anybody else wishes to sponsor Shadow of the Hegemon, just click over on the adstrip. Or here. Or try the Paypal link.

While I'm not going to go any sort of sad sob story (how could you verify it?), rest assured that support would be truly appreciated and extensively lauded.

Friday, October 31, 2003

It may seem like the only blog I've been reading lately is Eschaton, but it ain't the case- regardless, I've found yet another interesting link to a CNN story about that new miniseries, "the Reagans", and the RNC's attempts to vet the content before it airs.
Gillespie said that if CBS denies the request, he will ask the network to run a note across the bottom of the screen every 10 minutes during the program's presentation informing viewers that the miniseries is not accurate.
This would seem like an odd request. The Republicans do not own the rights to the story of the Reagans, or to interpretation of the historical record, whether it be part of their own history or not. They've also brought out some serious threats if they don't get what they want- they're going to run television and print ads attacking the veracity of the series, and even threaten to buy them during the show itself. Why bother to do this, though, when they'll be attacked for playing fast and loose with the truth about any number of other oppositional political figures as well, including (but not limited to) the Clenis (tm) himself?

Oddly enough, this isn't about Clinton. It isn't about Reagan either, not really. It's about one man: Franklin D. Roosevelt. I am convinced that the entire reason behind the baffling and embarassing crusade to deify Reagan and convince people that his presidency was the best thing the Republic has ever seen is to try to blunt the reality that the most popular and influential president of this century was a Democrat- worse than that, a Democrat that they never beat. They instituted term limits because Roosevelt humbled them four times in a row, and face the problem that the man who almost singlehandedly brought them out of the worst crises of the century for America (the Depression and WWII) was not only not part of their party, but utterly hostile to everything they stand for.

In order to legitimize their movement, they need a symbol for it that can represent its success. Goldwater was its father, but he was electorally unsuccessful- spectacularly so. Bush I was ambivalent and a one-termer to boot, and Nixon was, well, Nixon. That leaves only two people: Bush the Younger and Ronald Reagan. They're already trying with Bush the Younger, but it's a story still being told, and true-blue conservatives are already becoming somewhat disenchanted with the guy's political maneuvering. This leaves Reagan, and only Reagan, so they are forced to do whatever it takes to turn the guy into the best president this century has seen.

So the efforts are everwhere. We see it at Republican conventions where they run retrospectives about Reagan. We see it in the cheap corner-store "special" magazines that popped up after 9/11. We see it in the manipulation of economic figures to try to simultaneously credit Reagan for both the prosperity during some of his presidency and the prosperity of most of Clinton's presidency, despite that line of argument implying that Carter was responsible. We see it in the consistent revisionist repetition that "Reagan won the cold war", despite the simple truth that had anybody else been in the Kremlin besides Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan's belligerency would have led to annihilation. We see it in practically everything the movement says about Bush II, too, because they're trying to mold him into a younger Reagan, without all that pesky Alzheimers.

This miniseries threatens that project, perhaps fatally. The Reagans aren't the people that the Republicans want you to think they are. They're not as bad as some might think, but are by no means the heroic stereotypes the Republicans are trying to make them out to be. Nancy remains the woman who consulted mediums on a regular basis, and Ronald remains the man that said that "we drop the bombs in ten minutes" because he didn't know the mike was on. And, perhaps most damagingly, he remains the man who ignored the AIDS crisis throughout his entire presidency, in part leading to one of the worst plagues affecting the modern world. Perhaps most damning, however, he's simply no Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and nobody in the current version of the Republican party ever could be.

No matter how hard they try, they can't get around the fact that the "Grand Old Party" is not the party of Lincoln anymore. It is, at heart, the party of Nixon.