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October 31, 2004

George Soros Profile

Front Page Magazine has Part II of "The Man Who Would Be Kingmaker", by Rachel Ehrenfeld and Shawn Macomber up on the site. It's a revealing look at George Soros, the multi-billionaire funding the Democratic 527's and crusading to defeat George Bush. Based on his track record, the Democrats might have thought to ask just what it is he'll demand in return if he succeeds. Because this is a guy who doesn't do anything that isn't calculated to make him richer. Here's an excerpt: (Read Part I here.)

On September 16, 1992, Soros made his fund a cool billion dollars in a single day betting against the British sterling, helping to usher in what the Brits refer to as Black Wednesday. On that day, British citizens saw their currency lose 20 percent of its value. Trying to stave off the challenge to its currency, the British government had borrowed heavily before finally accepting defeat and allowing the devaluation of the pound. Soros was dubbed the Man Who Broke the Bank of England, a designation in which he seemed to take perverse pride.

Perhaps what is most interesting about the episode, considering Soros' recent professions of moral outrage at the Bush economic plan, is his blasé attitude toward social mores in business. "If I abstain from certain actions because of moral scruples then I cease to be an effective speculator", Soros told the London Guardian shortly after the incident. "I have not even a shadow of remorse for making a profit out of the devaluation of the pound." Pushed further, Soros gave an example. "Let's suppose speculation went on to push the franc," he said. "That would be wrong and bad. But it wouldn't stop me."

Later on 60 Minutes, when asked whether he felt any complicity in the financial collapses in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan or Russia, Soros was similarly blunt. "I think I have been blamed for everything," he said. "I am basically there to make money. I cannot and do not look at the social consequences of what I do." A few minutes later, he reiterated the point in even stronger language. "I don't feel guilty because I am engaged in an amoral activity which is not meant to have anything to do with guilt," he said. Worse was Soros' contention that, despite the fact that a single letter from him to the Financial Times recommending a 25 percent devaluation of the country's currency sent Russia into an economic tailspin, "I am actually trying to do the right thing."

Well, try harder, George. You've plunged half the world into depression to line your own pocket.

Peretz - Kerry In Denial

A few days after The New Republic endorsed John Kerry, editor Martin Peretz has questions for him that reflect what I think is a general unease with Kerry among those who are voting for him anyway.

John Kerry speaks, not unfairly, of George W. Bush's habits of denial. But Kerry himself is in denial. He is in denial about the United Nations. He is in denial about the Australian election that returned to office for an unprecedented fourth term its prime minister who has been, with his country, a pillar of the Iraq coalition. He is in denial about Japan, whose government, unlike Germany's and France's, does not carp at the United States. He is in denial about Afghanistan, where, for the first time in history, men and women, riding on donkeys and walking barefoot across great distances, have exercised the right to choose those who govern them. He is in denial about Iraq itself. The Jordanian daily Al Ra'i recently called Moqtada Al Sadr's apparent retreat from armed struggle "a farewell to arms" that is as politically significant as the establishment of the provisional authority. Has Kerry come close to recognizing this? Has he acknowledged that the Bush administration has negotiated with nato a plan to send, starting in November, up to 3,000 soldiers to train Iraqi troops? These soldiers will be under the command of General David Petraeus, who is mustering the military might and political will to retake much of the Sunni triangle. Many Iraqis now have second thoughts about opposing the coalition. Even the BBC has said as much. But Kerry hasn't.

October 30, 2004

Watching The Voting

I confessed to a slight case of election burnout in my first post back from Wizblog's weeklong forced hiatus. I'm wondering who among us doesn't wish this thing was already over. What I do know is that the last thing anyone wants to hear is one more blogger's opinion one way or the other. Any new visitor to this site could read the last few posts and know that I'm a Bush voter. For the regular reader, I'm a broken record. For months I've planned a "Why I'm Voting For Bush" post, to the point of having two different half-finished drafts in my list of unpublished entries.

If that gets done at this late date, it will be just because I forced myself to go through with the exercise, and for the additional purpose of organizing my own thoughts and justifying my own vote to myself. And of course, to be on the record personally, even if my voice has the same sound as the proverbial tree falling in the abandoned forest. Because I can't seriously entertain the notion that anything I say here and now could have the effect of influencing the vote of another American, much as I might like to do that to the benefit of the President. Are there really undecided voters out there?

I do continue to be awed and humbled each day by reading the words of others though, who are expressing themselves so much more eloquently than I could. And I will continue to try to post the best of those words here for my visitors to read, before and after Tuesday.

I have felt the need to contribute to the Bush campaign in some small way outside of my paltry financial contributions, so I've joined some friends in volunteering to work Election Day as a poll-watcher here in battleground Ohio. I have no idea yet what to expect in that effort, or even exactly where I'll be assigned. We have an organizational meeting on Sunday afternoon where all the details will be discussed, and we get our poll assignments. Reports of attempts at voter fraud by factions supporting Kerry have been numerous here in Ohio, and while I'm skeptical of the efficacy of poll-watchers of any stripe, I am furious at the attempt by the left to undermine the integrity of our electoral system, and willing to do whatever I can to help observe, document, and report the goings-on at polls, if it will help shed light on the problem.

My skepticism is based on my fear that much more "heat" than light will be generated by people who are either party-sponsored or self-appointed poll-watchers on Tuesday. The Democrats have already had their gameplan leaked to the public. That is, make accusations of disenfranchisement, even if there is none going on. Beautiful!

If I feel after the organizational meeting tomorrow that my presence at a voting place Tuesday would be counterproductive, confrontational or really anything beyond observation, I simply won't do it. But I also feel very strongly that voter fraud must be stopped, and it must be done now, before they get any better at it, either through practice or through apathy by the general public.

So tomorrow I'm going to go see what they have in mind for us volunteers to do on Tuesday. Then I'll decide if that squares with my idea of "helping". I'll post Sunday night on what's up.

Unsung Achievements

Three years after 9/11, the fact that Afghanistan has held an internationally recognized election, and is a functioning democracy, is a stunning accomplishment for the Bush administration. Like the turnarounds in Libya and Pakistan, and budding reform movements in Palestine and Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan was a notable success of the Bush administration's much maligned diplomacy.

The story of the liberation of Afghanistan, from the planning that started the day the twin towers fell, to the recent election, is recounted by Charles H. Fairbanks Jr. in the new Weekly Standard. Well worth reading in full, the piece notes how Bush's plan for an attack on the Taliban first required a 180 degree turn in our relationship with Pakistan. Fairbanks talks about how Bush pulled that off in this excerpt:

On October 7, 2001, President Bush began his military campaign against the Taliban's Afghanistan--in the shadow of tremendous difficulties. The United States neither shared a border with Afghanistan nor could get there by sea, and no war had ever been successful without these preconditions. We had no friends, having dishonorably abandoned the Afghans who'd fought the last great battle of the Cold War for us. And Afghan history suggested a deeper problem...

...All these obvious difficulties hung over the black, impenetrable future as Bush gave the order to begin. He knew he was taking huge risks. Those who make the facile case that Afghanistan was the necessary and proper war while Iraq was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" glibly ignore the risks Bush took in doing anything in Afghanistan.

The first step in waging the Afghan war was to neutralize the enemy's allies and acquire allies and bases for ourselves. To wage war on the Taliban, it was essential not just to shift, but to reverse the alignment of Pakistan, an enormous challenge. Pakistan was the Taliban's organizer and patron, while friction and sanctions over nuclear weapons, Islamization, human rights, and democracy had distanced the United States from our old ally. Moreover, Pakistan was itself a failing state, unstable politically, with vocal and rancorous Muslim extremist groups having deep roots both in the society and in the army. American military action or excessive pressure risked shattering the country's precarious order and bringing down the military government, with the extremists poised to take over or to submerge our anti-Taliban effort in wider chaos.

By sending Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to Pakistan's military boss, General Pervez Musharraf, with essentially an ultimatum--making big threats and promises, and postponing all secondary issues--President Bush was able to reverse Pakistan's entire foreign policy. Musharraf shifted in a few days from ally and sustainer of the Taliban to our ally, providing bases and intelligence, and turning over many al Qaeda leaders including eventually the planner of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Not since 1939 has world politics seen a reversal of alliances so sudden and stupefying.

Since the Iraq war, there has been endless whimpering about President Bush's arrogant refusal to line up allies. Somehow Pakistan is never mentioned. Pakistan was the indispensable ally to deal with Afghanistan and al Qaeda, and simultaneously the ally hardest to win. Bush won this ally. (He also won Central Asian bases and cooperation, much against the wishes of regionally dominant Russia and China.) In fact, President Bush converted Pakistan from probably the most important state sponsor of terrorism in the world to a major partner in the war against terrorism. There are incessant complaints that Pakistan's cooperation is not wholehearted, and in themselves some of these may be justified. But as so often with criticisms of established policy, proper criticism tends to omit the entire background that makes everything else possible. Any cooperation out of Pakistan at all--much less the extensive cooperation we now enjoy--is an enormous asset. That we have it is not good fortune, but the result of a titanic effort of will on the part of President Bush's team.

October 29, 2004

Saving The Third World

One of the good things I clipped this past week and saved for the blog was this Foreign Policy article called "NGOs: Fighting Poverty, Hurting the Poor". (via aldaily.com) To borrow from Taranto, "What would we do without media-savvy western activists?"

The war against poverty is threatened by friendly fire. A swarm of media-savvy Western activists has descended upon aid agencies, staging protests to block projects that allegedly exploit the developing world. The protests serve professional agitators by keeping their pet causes in the headlines. But they do not always serve the millions of people who live without clean water or electricity.

Refresher Course

Please check out Deroy Murdock's summary, in pictures and in text, of Saddam Hussein's reign of terror, as well as his integral role in the larger terror war we're still fighting.

Back From The Edge

Wizblog is back up tonight after being down for almost exactly one week . More on the whys and wherefores in a minute, but first, thanks for coming back. Especially if you got an error message the last time you tried the link (since midnight Friday 10/22). Please leave me a comment if you tried and failed within the last week to link to Wizblog. This is toward a goal of determining if anyone on the planet even knew that Wizblog was down for an entire week. And no, J.J., you don't count.

It was undoubtedly a positive thing to have happened, in retrospect. As my son noted tonight, it can now be confirmed that the earth did not spin off its axis because Wizblog was down for a week. So that's a good thing to know for down the line. And besides, I really had election burnout and the World Series was on TV. I didn't disengage from the blogosphere or anything like that, and I saved lots of stuff to post, some of it not even having anything to do with the election.

Our crash was a hard drive failure at Valueweb, the computer storage rental service in Florida that we had hosting Wizblog and a half dozen other blogs. Valueweb was to be relocating equipment from their Miami to their Ft. Lauderdale data centers, and had notified the customers by email that at the appointed hour of 10/22 at midnight, the service would be down until 8 a.m. Saturday, a mere eight hours.

To make a long story longer, that email ended up in the Spam folder of the addressee, the aforementioned son Andy, who is the technical force behind the whole enterprise. He scrambled into action Saturday morning, but when the whole weekend went by with no service, there had to be more to it than a server relocation issue.

Sure enough, they eventually notified Andy that the hard disk had been damaged and was deemed unsalvageable. So we were potentially missing several days worth of posts, which had been put up since the most recent full backup. I was able to retrieve Google-cached versions of about half of them, so only about five days worth of posts were at risk, but regardless of the amount of data lost, Andy had several days work ahead of him, reinstalling operating systems, databases, Movable Type, and all the blog data, remotely, in his spare time. Thanks, Andy. You're the man!

Anyhow, these places will ship you the damaged hard drive if you ask them to, so by Thursday Andy had his hands on the thing. Worst case was that it would be technically impossible or prohibitively expensive to recover the relatively small amount of bloggage that had been lost. On a flyer, Andy just tried hooking it up to his computer first, and the thing fired right up. He was able to recover everything, and had us back up in a flash. Best case.

One lesson learned is that had I even thought to subscribe to my own blog among my Bloglines feeds, none of this scrambling to retrieve cached pages and recovering data files from damaged hard drives would have been necessary. D'oh! I'm still a newbie at this RSS and XML stuff. Baby steps.

Now to go look for the stuff I've been collecting all week...

October 22, 2004

Baseball Tonight

I'm surprised by how jazzed I've been by the baseball playoffs. Just watched the Cardinals win and pennant celebration. They look awesome and I've got to believe they're the prohibitive favorites.

I thought Clemens deserved a better fate today. The broadcasters speculated that "he might win the Cy Young Award and ride off into the sunset", on reports that Clemens may retire. But knowing what I know about him, I can't imagine that he'll allow his last ever appearance to be a Game 7 NLCS loss, giving up the game-winning home run. Nope. He obviously still "has it", throwing 94 mph to kids half his age. A matchup with the team whose cap he my well wear into Cooperstown would have been fun. But the Red Soz - Cardinals is a storybook Series, a reprise of 1967.

I've been posting a lot of Page 2 stuff from ESPN, because I think it's so consistently funny and well done. Read all of Sports Guy and Red Sox fan Bill Simmons on Game 7 with the Yankees. Here's a taste: (ellipses mine)

When Francona lifted Lowe in the seventh for Pedro Martinez, and Pedro allowed those two rockets to Matsui and Williams ... I mean, all those old demons came roaring back. It was the ultimate test. Like a recovering alcoholic opening that hotel mini-bar and seeing those tiny liquor bottles. Our room went silent, save for a few F-bombs and the echoes of the "Who's your Daddy?" chants. Poor Francona had unwittingly plugged Yankee Stadium back into its socket; I kept waiting for him to pull off the Paul Shaffer mask and reveal he was actually Grady Little.

I can't even describe the things I was thinking about. Terrible, horrible things. Dark things. I just kept remembering the words of my magazine editor, Neil, who called the series "Shakespearean" Wednesday afternoon. Well, if you were Shakespeare, how could you top last year's collapse if your ultimate goal was for an entire base of fans to kill themselves? Wouldn't you have their team roar back from a 3-0 series deficit, then blow an 8-1 lead in the deciding game? Wouldn't that do the trick?...

...Only Jeter seemed to care that the Yankees were getting smoked -- there was one replay earlier in the game, after his RBI single, when he pumped his fist and shouted at his dugout, "Come on!" He seemed desperate. The Yankees never seem desperate. Now they were headed home for the winter, headed for the No. 1 slot on ESPN50's "Biggest Chokes" show in 2029...

...You have to be from here to understand. You just do...

...And yeah, I know. We need to win the World Series to complete the dream. But you can win the World Series every year. You only have one chance to destroy the Yanks.

I expect we'll start hearing all kinds of good things now about the Yankees, now that they're choking losers. I don't expect we'll be hearing them here.

October 21, 2004

"It Ain't Special"

All the smart money has had Carlos Beltran in pinstripes for 2005 and beyond. And he sure has earned them if he wants them. Page 2's Eric Neel no doubt speaks for legions of us who would love to see Beltran say no to George. Neel claims to have purer motives than say, for example, mine might be:

The phone won't stop ringing now, you know. The big boys are about to come calling, and they're bringing their checkbooks with them. You've got five tools and a long line of zeroes laid out in front of you. It's your world, Carlos. The rest of us are just visiting.

And you know who the first visitor will be, don't you? That's right, The Shipbuilder. He's going to tell you Bernie, god love him, is on his way out. He's going to wax poetic about Joe D and Mickey, talk to you about a legacy and a lineage, about your spot in the history books. He's going to bring a pinstriped jersey and a mountain of cash to your door.

And all the while, Scottie B's going to be rubbing your shoulders the way Angelo rubbed Ali, giving you the full Jesus Shuttleworth treatment, saying, "You're beautiful Baby, you're beautiful."

And he'll be right. And you'll deserve everything they throw at you. And you should swoop on this chance like a gull going for a toddler's lunch at the beach. You've earned this. Fate and your talent have conspired to bring you fortune. Congrats.

Except -- and we know we have no right to ask this -- we want you take a pass on the Yanks.

It's not a hater thing, it really isn't.

Having read it all, I think it's a little bit of a hater thing. But good.

One Monkey Down...

It was great to see the Red Sox get one huge monkey off their backs last night, but for me it's only because that monkey was the New York Yankees. The Curse of the Bambino remains. It's not beating the Yankees that the Sox needed to shake the curse. It's winning it all. Long live The Curse! I'll be rooting for the NL in the Series.

October 20, 2004

Kofi Annan and Pre-emptive Exoneration

Claudia Rosett dices and slices Kofi Annan's lame argument that Saddam couldn't have bought the U.N. Security Council votes of France, Russia and China:

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, finds it "inconceivable" that Russia, France or China might have been influenced in Security Council debates by Saddam Hussein's Oil for Food business and bribes. "These are very serious and important governments," Mr. Annan told Britain's ITV News Sunday. "You are not dealing with banana republics."

This has been Mr. Annan's chief response so far to the extensive documentation cited in the recent Iraq Survey Group report, from the CIA's Charles Duelfer, that under cover of the U.N.'s Oil for Food relief program Saddam was trying to buy up pals on the U.N. Security Council. Mr. Duelfer tells us that under the leaky U.N. sanctions and corrupt Oil for Food program, Saddam had already built the networks and was amassing the resources to rearm himself with weapons of mass destruction as soon as U.N. sanctions were entirely gone.

With the aim of shedding sanctions, Saddam, according to his regime's own records, was throwing billions in business and millions in bribes to France, Russia and, to a lesser extent, China, all veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council. As it happened, sanctions were indeed eroding, and these three nations opposed the decision of the U.S. and Britain that Saddam either had to shape up or be shipped out.

But in Mr. Annan's view, Saddam's oil money had nothing to do with it. Nobody buys the officials of France, Russia and China. They are serious and important.

... maybe that's how the world would appear to anyone dulled for decades by U.N. diplo-speak--and Mr. Annan has toiled there for 42 years. But in the modern world, the notion that Russia and China in no way qualify as banana republics might be news to the state-muffled media of both countries...

... Mr. Annan did not actually deny that the Chinese, Russians and French had taken big payoffs from Saddam. Mr. Annan merely disputed that the Chinese, Russians and French would have delivered anything in return for the bribes. In other words, they may be corrupt, but at least they weren't honest about it.

The Bush administration had to know when they went back to the U.N. in January of 2003, that there was no possible way France or Russia would vote to enforce Resolution 1441 and authorize regime change in Iraq by the U.S. military, given how they were being bribed by Saddam. In 2001 Britain and the U.S. had tried to expose the corruption and get the U.N. to acknowledge the kickback schemes and graft apparent in the Oil-For-Food program, and Kofi Annan either couldn't or wouldn't.

For his part, Annan had a booming "aid program" going, the U.N.'s biggest ever with over 5000 U.N. employees in Iraq. Time will tell if he was being personally enriched in the process, along with top aides like Benon Sevan. It was into this den of thieves that George Bush was expected to venture, to get the approval of diplomats from countries that were getting hundreds of millions of dollars to oppose him. Bush was to convince them to end their own personal gravy trains if he was to put together a truly legitimate coalition. How could that not have worked out?

Worse, the bribes were coming from the billions skimmed by the dictator himself from the program that was set up to sanction him, and to do what he wouldn't...feed his own people. The money was quite literally stolen from the Iraqi people, as it had come directly from the sale of Iraqi oil, the revenues earmarked for food and medicine.

The unbelievably cynical game of France and Russia was to prevent the U.N. from enforcing their own resolution, one they had voted for, and continue to press for an end to sanctions, when the really big payoffs in oil lease contracts would have kicked in for them. I do so hope that the Volcker Report ends the career of Kofi Annan, though I suspect he'll just "retire". And the crooks from Europe that sold out the Iraqi people to get rich while keeping Saddam in power can all rot where they sit.

UPDATE 10/21: Nile Gardiner, writing at The Heritage Foundation site, recommends that Kofi Annan step down while the investigation into Oil-For-Food proceeds. (via Friends of Saddam)

Let It Happen

The Yanks have already set one negative record, allowing the Red Sox to be the first team ever to pull even after being down 3-0 in a series. So why not fold up completely?

Reversing the traditional roles of the two teams, it is the Yankees who must now contemplate the potential consequences of a historic collapse. It is the Yankees who must bear the burden of proof concerning character and choking in tonight's Game 7. If the Yankees should lose, and be forced to watch the Red Sox celebrate on their hallowed home grounds, it would surely rank as the most galling moment of George Steinbrenner's overbearing ownership.

I am truly ambivalent about who wins this series. I dislike the Red Sox only slightly less than I do the Yankees. But if you love the game, you must admit that they have been playing great baseball.

"Stale And Transparent Canards"

Thank you, David Brooks, for saying what needed to be said. In The New York Times, no less. Since the NYT archives articles after only a couple days, I have cut and pasted the whole damn thing excerpted the piece "liberally" at the link below.

Kerry Off the Leash


October 19, 2004

John Kerry wasn't nominated because of his sparkling personality. He wasn't nominated because of his selfless commitment to causes larger than himself. He was nominated because he's a fighter. At the end of every campaign he comes out brawling. This was the guy who could take on Bush.

So nobody could imagine how incompetent, crude and over-the-top Kerry has been in this final phase of the campaign. At this point, smart candidates are launching attacks that play up the doubts voters already have about their opponents. Incredibly, Kerry is launching attacks that play up doubts voters have about him. Over the past few days, he has underscored the feeling that he will say or do anything to further his career.

In so doing, he has managed to squelch any momentum he may have had coming out of the first two debates. Some polls have him stagnant against Bush. More polls show Bush recovering from the debate season and now pulling slightly ahead. The blunt truth is that Kerry is losing the final phase of this campaign.

Let's review the string of heavy-handed assaults from the Kerry-Edwards campaign.

On Monday, Kerry told seniors in Florida that Bush is plotting a "January surprise" to cut their Social Security benefits by as much as 45 percent. "That's up to $500 a month less for food, for clothing, for the occasional gift for a grandchild."

As Kerry knows, that's ludicrous - it's a stale and transparent canard that Democrats have brought out in election after election, to less and less effect. President Bush has not entertained and would not entertain any plan that cut benefits to seniors. Bush would sooner give up any Social Security reform than cut benefits.

Kerry's second wild attack is that Bush would reinstate the draft. The administration, which hasn't even asked for trivial public sacrifices in a time of war, does not want to bring back the draft. The Pentagon does not want to bring back the draft. The Republican Party does not want to bring back the draft. Given the nature of military technology, it doesn't make sense to bring back the draft. There may be some in the bureaucracy taking precautions, but it is hard to imagine an attack with less basis in fact.

Kerry's third attack is the whole Mary Cheney thing. That's been hashed over enough. But remarkably, Kerry has not apologized. You use somebody's daughter to attack the father and his running mate. The parents are upset. The only decent thing is to apologize. If anything, an apology would make Kerry look admirable. But Kerry, in his permanent attack dog mode, can't do the decent and politically advantageous thing.

The fourth assault is Kerry's attack on the Bush administration's supposed "ban" on stem cell research. John Edwards's ludicrous statement that if Kerry was president, people like Christopher Reeve would be able to get up and walk was only the farcical culmination of a series of exaggerations about the possibilities of finding cures for Alzheimer's and spinal cord injuries.

I'm not trying to make a moral point here about sleazy campaigning. Politics ain't beanbag, and in the final days of a close campaign, exaggerations are the norm. I'm talking about competence and what this period says about Kerry and his campaign.

Bush's key vulnerability is that people fear he is in over his head. By lashing out wildly, Kerry muddles all that. Instead his blunderbuss approach suggests a candidate devoid of perspective, driven by unattractive and naked ambition.

Why is he doing this? First, because in the insular Democratic world, George Bush is presumed to be guilty of everything, so the more vicious you can be about him, the better everybody feels.

But there is a deeper assumption, which has marred Democratic politics for years. Some Democrats have been unable to face the reality that people have been voting for Republicans because they agree with them. So these Democrats have invented the comforting theory that they've been losing because they are too virtuous for the country.

According to this theory, Republicans - or usually some omniscient, omnipotent and malevolent strategists, like Lee Atwater or Karl Rove - have been tricking the American people into voting against their true interests. This year, many Democrats decided, we'll be vicious in return.

The truth, however, is that voters are not idiots. They are capable of independent thought. If you attack your opponent wildly, ruthlessly, they will come to their own conclusions.

October 19, 2004

Direction of U.S.- Israel Policy At Stake

Naomi Ragen, an American author living in Jerusalem, makes her case; "Why this Jewish American is voting for George W. Bush". (Via Free Republic) I'll not excerpt this, but suggest you read it all. It is emotional and strongly worded, but what about this election has not been? I'm reminded by reading it that this election is about so much more than Bush and Kerry.

I am not familiar with Ragen, but I can relate to her puzzlement at the support for Kerry among American Jews, despite their traditional affinity for Democrats. His voting record on issues affecting Israel, and on issues dealing seriously with terrorism shows he's no friend of the Middle East's only established democracy. (Before Bush, no qualifying adjective would have been needed there.) Here's Ragen's website , if you're interested.

And if you haven't yet done so, check out complete listing of the legislative product produced by John Kerry in his 20-year Senate career, documented here by factcheck.org. It would be laughable if we weren't a few rocks of crack cocaine away from putting him in the White House.

Using Mary Cheney

No matter how the spin machine tries to minimize it, the Mary Cheney line by Kerry appears to have been a major gaffe for him. I think Jonah Goldberg got it about right that the remark says much more about Kerry than it does about Mary Cheney or her parents.

The fact that Kerry used Mary's homosexuality was secondary. Gay rights, gay marriage, etc. — all of that is incidental to the fact that Kerry relished the opportunity to use Mary Cheney.

I'm no huge poll watcher, but the polls clearly show that most Americans "got it." Kerry can't resist the gravitational pull of a political opportunity....He has terrible political instincts. And I don't think anyone can deny that his comments were driven by political instinct and not the "integrity, integrity, integrity" he claims his mother drilled into him.

...what if George W. Bush had said "divorce is a difficult issue. On one hand we all think society is healthier when marriages are healthier. On the other hand, we understand that good and decent people sometimes have irreconcilable differences. I'm sure if you asked John Kerry's first wife, she would tell you that there are no easy answers..." Or if he had said, "I'm sure if you asked John Kerry's lovely daughters whether it was easy for them to cope with their parents' divorce..." Or what if Bush had said, "America is a land of great opportunity for immigrants. I'm sure John Kerry's second wife Teresa, who was born in Africa, would agree..."

In any of those scenarios, I guarantee you that "getting it" would not have been a problem for the press.

Who's Whose Daddy?

What are the most lopsided matchups in sports history? Who "owns" whom? ESPN.com's Page 2 takes a stab at it. (Hint: the Yankees are mentioned)

October 18, 2004

JHA vs. RFK Jr. Redux

Jonathan Adler, Case Western-Reserve University professor of environmental law, reviews Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s book, Crimes Against Nature, and finds it full of errors and distortions of the Bush administration's environmental record. No surprise there, but neither is Adler a shill for this administration where environmental policy is concerned.

Adler was also asked to write a "defense" of Bush's air pollution policies for the Philadelphia Inquirer, which he does rather persuasively (requires free registration). So many of the Democratic criticisms of the Bush environmental policies are short on specifics and long on scary rhetoric. Certainly there are legitimate criticisms to be raised and debated. But it takes so much less effort to claim that the sky is falling and by the way, Bush is Hitler.

Take a look at The Commons, a group blog promoting free market environmentalism, where Adler is a contributor. And here's the JHA archive at NRO, where you can see that he has a track record of successfully skewering the hyperbolic scaremongering of RFK Jr.

Ott Rules

From the incomparable Scrappleface:

John Forbes Kerry, father of two heterosexual daughters, today apologized for referring to the sexual preference of Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter during last night's final presidential debate.

"There's nothing wrong with being one of God's homosexual children," said Mr. Kerry, an openly-heterosexual veteran of foreign war who is also a U.S. Senator, "And far be it from me to pry into the private life of Mr. Cheney's lesbian child, who is gay and a homosexual. People can't choose whom they will love, and so I should not have mentioned that his daughter is a lesbian person, and not a heterosexual, but in fact a gay homosexual woman who is a lesbian with the last name Cheney."

October 17, 2004

Aid And Comfort

Michelle Malkin links to a BBC report that says:

The commander of the UN peacekeepers in Haiti has linked a recent upsurge in violence there to comments made by the US presidential candidate, John Kerry.

Earlier this year Mr Kerry said that as president he would have sent American troops to protect Jean-Bertrand Aristide who was ousted from power in February.

The Brazilian UN general, Augusto Heleno, said Mr Kerry's comments had offered "hope" to Aristide supporters. Much of the recent unrest has centred on areas loyal to Mr Aristide.

More than 50 people have died over the past fortnight.

JK never did buy into that "politics stops at the waters' edge" stuff, even (especially?) in wartime. He was doing this 33 years ago, and hasn't learned much.

By the way, Michelle also has two excellent posts up dealing with the flu vaccine shortage and its causes.

October 16, 2004

Voter Fraud Roundup

There's a good summary of news stories relating to voter fraud and intimidation over at Winds of Change.

Buckeye Humiliation

The fan forums at Bucknuts.com are buzzing tonight after Ohio State's third straight loss, this one a 33-7 butt-kicking by Iowa. In recent weeks, in my Buckeye-induced funk, I have tried to rationalize the bad OSU football being played by noting that the team had a record 14 players drafted into the NFL from last year's team. Who could simply "reload" from that? But that's not it. Programs like Ohio State always reload, and we have. It's partly inexperience, but it's mostly coaching. We're getting outcoached week after week.

If we ended the season with three losses, and they were to Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin, teams with comparable talent, I suppose I could buck up and say wait till next year. I could swallow hard and accept that we play a deadly boring brand of offense..no, a Stone Age brand of offense...but we win consistently. (Actually, that hasn't really been good enough for me. This past January, after the Buckeyes won the Fiesta Bowl to finish 10-2 and in the Top 5 in the country, I wrote that Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line coach "Jim Bollman must go".) Nothing has changed, except the winning part. The offensive scheme is pathetic. To say that the play-calling lacks creativity is to say that Johnny Damon needs a little trim.

Instead of Bollman going, Defensive Coordinator Mark Dantonio went...to Cincinnati as Head Coach, and the ever continuity-minded Tressel promoted from within instead of hiring an experienced hand at running a first-rate Division I defense. It took company-man and new Defensive Coordinator Mark Snyder five games to realize that you can blitz a defensive back as a way to get pressure on the opposing quarterback. He inherited a young, but very deep and talented defense, and proceeded to let the 1-3 Northwestern Wildcats run up over 500 yards on it, mostly by not trusting the talent that he has to play man-to-man coverage, and to pressure the QB.

There are dozens of other excuses that could be rattled off to explain away losing a couple of games this year, from an untested quarterback, to the loss of the defensive coordinator, to the large NFL exodus. The offensive line is not up to traditional OSU standards, and there are no Heisman candidates at running back to be sure. But the team still has superior talent to every team they have played so far this year, and yet they are 3-3. By now, the teams we have beaten have proven themselves pretty ordinary (Marshall, N.C. State) if not downright lousy (Cincinnati) and two of our three losses are to Big Ten also-rans Iowa and (gag!) Northwestern. We haven't even played our toughest games yet, and it's hard to imagine that anybody left on the schedule now thinks that they have no chance to beat us. Worse yet, the team is playing like they don't have the expectation to win.

Earlier tonight, I posted to one of the fan forums under a discussion thread titled "Are We That Bad?". Here's the (somewhat repetitive) text of that post:

Is it fair to say that Iowa's talent isn't four touchdowns better than OSU's?

Then it's coaching. Period.

We have played six games this year and have been outcoached in all but one. (N.C. State) (Cincinnati doesn't count...they gave up 49 points to freakin' Army for God's sake!)

Snyder and Bollman are both pathetic. Let's see, we keep putting offensive linemen into the NFL (Stepanovich and Olivea are both starting as rookies, for example and yet they underachieved as college players, individually and collectively.) Bollman has two jobs for this team...Offensive Line coach and Offensive Coordinator. Both spots scream out for the incumbent to be replaced. How much longer will it take for Tressel to decide that, personal loyalty and friendship aside, this guy needs to go?

This is not an opinion formed for me by a 3-game losing streak. Regulars here know that I have been calling for Bollman's head since 2002. He's pitiful. And JT is ultimately responsible for his being pitiful...for allowing him to be pitiful...and for pitiful play-calling himself.

As to Snyder, it took him until the fifth game before he even ONCE sent a DB on a blitz, and our lack of pass pressure reflected it. His zone defense makes me absolutely nuts. At the college level, defense is about penetration, pressuring the passer and disruption of the play in the backfield. Rush three, drop eight is a loser's defense unless it's 3rd and 30.

The classic example is the night-and-day difference in the approaches to playing Michigan that OSU and USC took last year. I don't think anyone needs reminders on that one.

For me, a 33-7 humiliation is better than a 17-16 squeaker loss. Maybe Tressel will wake the hell up. But I'm not counting on it. Maybe now, at least the posters who countered every single post that was even remotely critical of JT with the "25-2" or "27-2" or "28-2" mantra will be shut up temporarily. One hopes.

This team is weaker at offensive line and at running back than any Buckeye team that I can remember, and that goes back to about 1963. But even that weakness doesn't account for the way this team has played this year, even in victory.

This is not a well-coached football team.

Afghan Elections Post-Mortem

From Oxblog's Afghan correspondent, another example of how the blogosphere does what the major media won't.

UPDATE 10/16: The Wall Street Journal is one major media outfit that is willing to acknowledge how big this election really is.

Defeatism On Display

The Telegraph declined to publish this piece by Mark Steyn, pulling one of his articles for the first time ever. I guess it's because he comes down pretty hard on Great Britain, both the government and the people, for their conduct in the Kenneth Bigley kidnap-murder. A fairly classic example of shooting the messenger, methinks.

October 15, 2004


Hanson on fire.

On Wisconsin

Speaking of campaign promises from John Edwards, this is freakin' hilarious. (via BOTW)

"A Very Good Life It Can Be"

The other day, when I posted the pandering of John Edwards to those are desperately hoping for a cure for debilitating diseases, and who may have bought into the Kerry campaign's deceptions about a "ban" on stem-cell research by the Bush administration, I wondered if we'd hear from Charles Krauthammer on the matter.

Krauthammer, a paraplegic for virtually all his adult life owing to an auto accident, didn't disappoint.

In my 25 years in Washington, I have never seen a more loathsome display of demagoguery. Hope is good. False hope is bad. Deliberately, for personal gain, raising false hope in the catastrophically afflicted is despicable.

Where does one begin to deconstruct this outrage?

First, the inability of the human spinal cord to regenerate is one of the great mysteries of biology. The answer is not remotely around the corner. It could take a generation to unravel. To imply, as Edwards did, that it is imminent if only you elect the right politicians is scandalous...

...For 30 years I have heard promises of miracle cures for paralysis (including my own, suffered as a medical student). The last fad, fetal tissue transplants, was thought to be a sure thing. Nothing came of it.

As a doctor by training, I've known better than to believe the hype -- and have tried in my own counseling of people with new spinal cord injuries to place the possibility of cure in abeyance. I advise instead to concentrate on making a life (and a very good life it can be) with the hand one is dealt. The greatest enemies of this advice have been the snake-oil salesmen promising a miracle around the corner. I never expected a candidate for vice president to be one of them.

Lowering one's expectations I guess, is the answer.

October 13, 2004

Outsourcing Myths

Since 2000, of all the job losses in the U.S., the percentage that is attributable to outsourcing is about 1%. In other words, it's a non-issue. The Kerry camp's standard line has been one of ridicule, that "the Bush administration thinks that the outsourcing of U.S. jobs is a good thing for our economy". Can you imagine that?

Only if you look at the subject honestly, and consider the studies that have been done on its effects. Bruce Bartlett does some of that here:

In July, economist Martin N. Baily, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Clinton, looked at who benefits from outsourcing. He found that for every $1 spent by a U.S. corporation on outsourcing to India, only 33 cents stayed in India. The other 67 cents came back to the U.S. in the form of cost savings, new exports, and repatriated profits. However, productivity gains add another 45 to 47 cents of value to the U.S. economy. Thus, on balance, the U.S. economy gains $1.12 to $1.14 for every $1 invested in outsourcing...

Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. is a large recipient of outsourcing from other countries — i.e., insourcing. In 2002, the U.S. ran a healthy trade surplus in this area — receiving $22 billion more in outsourcing from other countries than it paid in outsourcing to other countries.

The number of jobs gained from outsourcing approximately equals the number of jobs lost.

Much more if you read it all, and in the event you haven't seen it before, check out the fine essay by University of Chicago professor Daniel Drezner, The Outsourcing Bogeyman.

Dozens Of Decisions

Polipundit has posted an email he received from a Bush White House official who has watched the administration's policy-making process up close. Please read it all. To me it was chilling.

October 12, 2004

Miracle Worker

Apparently there is absolutely nothing that is beneath the dignity of the Kerry campaign...

...not the vicious lie that one million black Florida voters had their votes stolen in 2000...

...not the baseless lie that the Bush administration plans to reinstitute a military draft...

...not the outright false claim that the Bush administration "banned" embryonic stem-cell research.

And now, not the cynical exploitation of the death of Christopher Reeve in an attempt to perpetuate that last lie...

Here's John Edwards, from his speech in Newton, Iowa: (via Drudge Report)

"Well, if we can do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

This is truly despicable.

UPDATE 10/12: Brain Shavings reacts, having done more than a little research on the topic:

I expect reporters and even editors to fall for hype now and then, but politicians running for president have science advisors whose job it is to keep their guy from saying stupid and dishonest things. The facts are not in doubt:

1. There is no ban on stem cell research. The only restriction is on federal funding of research on stem cells derived from embryos destroyed after August 9, 2001.
2. Embryonic stem cell research derived from destroyed embryos is morally repugnant, especially since those cells are obtainable from umbilical cords and placentas.
3. Embryonic stem cells hold less scientific promise than stem cells from adult sources.

John Kerry and John Edwards need to fire their advisors and apologize for a shameless lie that cruelly gives false hope to people with spinal cord injuries.

And read Tigerhawk's post for a different perspective.

Before Edwards' shameless pandering today, Leon Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, had a piece in the Washington Post called "Playing Politics With the Sick", that's worth a look.

From 9/24/04, this piece from Edward Morrissey on the so-called "ban", which appeared in the N.Y. Sun. Lots of good technical information for the scientifically ignorant bozo like me.

UPDATE 10/13: A related proposal being debated in California is troubling for lots of reasons. Wesley J. Smith is on it.

Some other good articles by Wesley J. Smith can be found here , here , and here.

Chrenkoff's "Good News" Part 12

By this time I hope Arthur Chrenkoff needs no further introduction.

Something For Everybody

Who says you can't please all of the people, all of the time?

October 11, 2004

Last Word on Bush vs. Kerry II

I missed Friday's Presidential campaign debate, conflicting as it did with my weekend in Columbus for Buckeyes football. Okay, that's just my excuse for missing the debate. I can't stand these things even when the guy I want to win is a competent debater, and his opponent something other than an empty suit. So I was glad to see that Jonathan Last had a round-by-round account of the proceedings for me when I got home.

50 Coolest Websites

They've been out for a while, and they're from Time Magazine so consider the source, but I found a few I'd agree with, and lots I didn't know anything about among the 50 Coolest Websites. I immediately added a couple of the reference sites to my blogroll, starting with RefDesk.com, a comprehensive portal-type site for information of all sorts. And FedStats.gov has tons of data that only the government can provide. Boring, but useful.

And Bloglines.com made the list too. I had asked my son a week or two ago what RSS aggregator he would recommend I download to organize and display updates from all my favorite blogs and news sites. He turned me on to Bloglines, a relatively new, web-based aggregator site that has a lot of cool features, eliminates the need to install an application, and is accessible from any computer. After a few days of experimentation, I'm sold. It's addictive. But now I'm afraid that I'll spend countless hours just reading blogs and sports sites, and news and magazine sites and...oh, wait...

Afghan Elections


Glenn Reynolds posts an excellent roundup of reports and reactions on the elections in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Power Line)

October 10, 2004

Ledeen Profile

The Boston Globe has a great piece on Michael Ledeen, NRO contributor, author/journalist and Wizblog regular.
I had not been aware of his earlier professional career as a historian of modern Italy. Ledeen's "faster, please" approach to Iran is neatly summed up in his latest article. He says that Bush and his administration had a "failure of vision":

Had we seen the war for what it was, we would not have started with Iraq, but with Iran, the mother of modern Islamic terrorism, the creator of Hezbollah, the ally of al Qaeda, the sponsor of Zarqawi, the longtime sponsor of Fatah, and the backbone of Hamas. So clear was Iran's major role in the terror universe that the Department of State, along with the CIA one of the most conflict-averse agencies of the American government, branded the Islamic Republic the world's number one terror sponsor. As it still does.

I'm not sure exactly what Ledeen had in mind to bring about the end of the mullahs' regime in Iran, without "a single bomb or a single bullet", since he spoke only vaguely of providing "support". The regime rounds up and kills democratic dissidents now, as they did immediately after Afghanistan, when Ledeen says the time was right. I do believe, however, that he is absolutely right about this first point:

There will be no peace in Iraq so long as the terror masters rule in Damascus, Riyadh, and Tehran...

...The main problem remains the failure of vision, never more evident than in the first presidential debate. The president dismissed the question about Iran by talking only about the nuclear "issue," while Senator Kerry, incredibly, restated his belief that the same policy that failed to deter North Korea would somehow work with the Iranians. The president knows who the Iranians are, while the senator is an active appeaser. But neither was inclined to deal with the central issue, which is that the Iranians, the Syrians, and the Saudis are killing our men and women in Iraq, and we are playing defense, which is a sucker's game.

In the past week, the Iranian people have again taken to the streets in every major city in the country. The chatterers pay no heed, because there is only one zero-sum game that interests them, which is the election, and the election is about Iraq, or so they say.

Except that it isn't, really. It's about the war. The real war, the regional war, the war they are waging against us even if we refuse to acknowledge it.

Faster, damnit.

October 8, 2004

Duelfer Report Disclosures

The Duelfer Report "blows the lid off" the Oil-For-Food scandal. Here's WSJ's Claudia Rosett, this time at NRO; (ellipses mine)

As Duelfer documents, Oil-for-Food allowed Saddam to replenish his empty coffers, firm up his networks for hiding money and buying arms, corrupt the U.N.'s own debates over Iraq, greatly erode sanctions and deliberately prep the ground for further rearming, including the acquisition of nuclear weapons. As set up and run by the U.N., Oil-for-Food devolved into a depraved and increasingly dangerous mockery of what was advertised by the U.N. as a relief program for sick and starving Iraqis...

...there is so much here, involving so many businesses and officials and illicit networks worldwide, that it may take a while for many of the disclosures to be winnowed out, and sink in. But what it boils down to is that the U.N. provided cover for Saddam to steal, smuggle, deal, and bribe his way back toward becoming precisely the kind of entrenched menace that all of the U.N.'s erstwhile integrity and well-paid activity was supposed to prevent — equipped with weapons that may even now be killing both civilians and Coalition troops in Iraq.

On the WMD front, Duelfer reports that while no weapons of mass murder were found, Saddam had made a point of preserving the know-how. By corrupting the U.N. setup of sanctions and Oil-for-Food, he was deliberately amassing the resources and networks to go right ahead as soon as sanctions were gone...

...The standard U.N. defense, offered up periodically by Annan and his subordinates since Annan finally conceded this past March that there had been, perhaps, quite a lot of "wrong-doing," is that Oil-for-Food performed as well as possible under difficult circumstances. A little corruption, we are given to understand, can creep into even the loftiest humanitarian endeavors.

This was not simply a little corruption, however. And it was not vague, and it was not faceless, and it was anything but benign. The Duelfer report takes us right into the caverns of corruption, political rot, arms traffic, and U.N. complicity that under cover of a relief operation was allowing Saddam to to prosper.

CNN has the earthshattering story based also on the Duelfer Report, that there is now evidence (called "alleged schemes" by CNN) that Saddam used lucrative oil vouchers to bribe Russian, French and Chinese officials and diplomats as a means of influencing their foreign policies and that of the United Nations Security Council. If an "alleged scheme" was their standard for a story, why wasn't CNN reporting this one in February of this year, when we joined many others in linking to the list of bribery recipients.

David Brooks of The N.Y. Times on The Duelfer Report.

(Since the Times archives their stuff after a few days, click below to read the whole Brooks piece when the link dies.)

The New York Times

October 9, 2004

The Report That Nails Saddam


Saddam Hussein saw his life as an unfolding epic narrative, with retreats and advances, but always the same ending. He would go down in history as the glorious Arab leader, as the Saladin of his day. One thousand years from now, schoolchildren would look back and marvel at the life of The Struggler, the great leader whose life was one of incessant strife, but who restored the greatness of the Arab nation.

They would look back and see the man who lived by his saying: "We will never lower our heads as long as we live, even if we have to destroy everybody." Charles Duelfer opened his report on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction with those words. For a humiliated people, Saddam would restore pride by any means.

Saddam knew the tools he would need to reshape history and establish his glory: weapons of mass destruction. These weapons had what Duelfer and his team called a "totemic" importance to him. With these weapons, Saddam had defeated the evil Persians. With these weapons he had crushed his internal opponents. With these weapons he would deter what he called the "Zionist octopus" in both Israel and America.

But in the 1990's, the world was arrayed against him to deprive him of these weapons. So Saddam, the clever one, The Struggler, undertook a tactical retreat. He would destroy the weapons while preserving his capacities to make them later. He would foil the inspectors and divide the international community. He would induce it to end the sanctions it had imposed to pen him in. Then, when the sanctions were lifted, he would reconstitute his weapons and emerge greater and mightier than before.

The world lacked what Saddam had: the long perspective. Saddam understood that what others see as a defeat or a setback can really be a glorious victory if it is seen in the context of the longer epic.

Saddam worked patiently to undermine the sanctions. He stored the corpses of babies in great piles, and then unveiled them all at once in great processions to illustrate the great humanitarian horrors of the sanctions.

Saddam personally made up a list of officials at the U.N., in France, in Russia and elsewhere who would be bribed. He sent out his oil ministers to curry favor with China, France, Turkey and Russia. He established illicit trading relations with Ukraine, Syria, North Korea and other nations to rebuild his arsenal.

It was all working. He acquired about $11 billion through illicit trading. He used the oil-for-food billions to build palaces. His oil minister was treated as a "rock star," as the report put it, at international events, so thick was the lust to trade with Iraq.

France, Russia, China and other nations lobbied to lift sanctions. Saddam was, as the Duelfer report noted, "palpably close" to ending sanctions.

With sanctions weakening and money flowing, he rebuilt his strength. He contacted W.M.D. scientists in Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria and elsewhere to enhance his technical knowledge base. He increased the funds for his nuclear scientists. He increased his military-industrial-complex's budget 40-fold between 1996 and 2002. He increased the number of technical research projects to 3,200 from 40. As Duelfer reports, "Prohibited goods and weapons were being shipped into Iraq with virtually no problem."

And that is where Duelfer's story ends. Duelfer makes clear on the very first page of his report that it is a story. It is a mistake and a distortion, he writes, to pick out a single frame of the movie and isolate it from the rest of the tale.

But that is exactly what has happened. I have never in my life seen a government report so distorted by partisan passions. The fact that Saddam had no W.M.D. in 2001 has been amply reported, but it's been isolated from the more important and complicated fact of Saddam's nature and intent.

But we know where things were headed. Sanctions would have been lifted. Saddam, rich, triumphant and unbalanced, would have reconstituted his W.M.D. Perhaps he would have joined a nuclear arms race with Iran. Perhaps he would have left it all to his pathological heir Qusay.

We can argue about what would have been the best way to depose Saddam, but this report makes it crystal clear that this insatiable tyrant needed to be deposed. He was the menace, and, as the world dithered, he was winning his struggle. He was on the verge of greatness. We would all now be living in his nightmare.

E-mail: dabrooks@nytimes.com

October 7, 2004

Taranto Today

Must reading (first item). I realize that that always sounds presumptuous and pompous. Okay, I'm over that.

Glenn Reynolds has more on the findings of the Iraq Survey Group.

So does Power Line.

And The Scotsman reports on those Iraqi Intelligence agency documents that show how Saddam bought support in the U.N.

Saddam Hussein believed he could avoid the Iraq war with a bribery strategy targeting Jacques Chirac, the President of France, according to devastating documents released last night.

Memos from Iraqi intelligence officials, recovered by American and British inspectors, show the dictator was told as early as May 2002 that France - having been granted oil contracts - would veto any American plans for war...

...Saddam was convinced that the UN sanctions - which stopped him acquiring weapons - were on the brink of collapse and he bankrolled several foreign activists who were campaigning for their abolition. He personally approved every one.

To keep America at bay, he focusing on Russia, France and China - three of the five UN Security Council members with the power to veto war. Politicians, journalists and diplomats were all given lavish gifts and oil-for-food vouchers.

Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister, told the ISG that the "primary motive for French co-operation" was to secure lucrative oil deals when UN sanctions were lifted. Total, the French oil giant, had been promised exploration rights.

The Bush Economy

Why is the best kept secret in this campaign the strength of the current U.S. economy? That Kerry is getting away with trashing the Bush economic record is the administration's own fault. They really could do a better job of educating voters on the strong upward trend in the economic picture over the last two years. If your record is good, run on it.

James Glassman's TCS column seems optimistic that enough people believe the economy is on the right track for it to be a positive for Bush in the campaign. A lot of people I come across in business and elsewhere don't seem so convinced, though they're still in the minority. It is tough to make a living out there, and businesspeople are working hard for what they earn. But for there to be this persistent belief among so many people that the overall economy is lousy when the traditional indices say otherwise, some part of the explanation has to be big media's negative spin, and their unwillingness to acknowledge the strong recovery and the high-growth economy, much less credit Bush administration policies for them. An excerpt from Glassman:

My guess is that the emotional and cynical appeals that Kerry is making won't work -- for the simple reason that the real economy is alive and well and getting better. "The U.S. will probably grow more in the second half than in the first," says David Malpass, chief economist for Bear Stearns. I agree.

The unemployment rate today is lower than the average of the past three decades. Household wealth has soared to a new record, and 69 percent of Americans own their own homes, the highest proportion ever.

Last week, the final figures for Gross Domestic Product in the second quarter were announced. GDP, the nation's total economic output, grew nearly 5 percent for the year. That's greater than in any 12-month period during the Clinton administration. Personal income is up 5 percent in the past year, and business spending is strong. Inflation is tame, and interest rates are low. Compare the United States with Kerry's paragons abroad. Unemployment in France is 9.9 percent; in Germany, 10.6 percent.

On Friday, statistics on employment will be released. August showed a gain of 144,000 jobs, but, because of the hurricanes, the increase could be smaller for September. But there should be a dramatic upward revision for past months as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reconciles the payroll survey, which shows a net loss of about 800,000 jobs during Bush's term, with the household survey, which shows a gain of 2 million jobs.

Kerry, through distortions and obfuscations, will try mightily to convince Americans that Bush has messed up the economy. If reality counts, he won't get away with it.

George Will is taking on the more fundamental fears of the Democrats about a second Bush term. Some of their most valued benefactors; trial lawyers, organized labor, and teachers unions are threatened by tort reform, privatization, and school choice respectively. What Will calls "the Democratic Party dependency-bureaucracy complex" is under attack by the free market system, and fearful that many of those reforms, and reform of Social Security are supported by majorities of American citizens. Excerpting Will:

Bush is pressing to put hundreds of thousands of federal jobs up for competition with the private sector. Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform says: "The people who cut the Pentagon lawn are government employees. Why?" People listed in the phone book will do it cheaper. How many of the 15 million state and local government jobs could be privatized, with how many billions of dollars in savings?

The public education lobby -- one in 10 delegates to the Democratic convention was a member of a teachers union -- wants government to keep impediments in the way of competition. That means not empowering parents with school choice, including the choice of private schools, which have significantly lower per-pupil costs.

Welfare reform, the largest legislative achievement of the 1990s, diminished the Democratic Party's dependency-bureaucracy complex. That complex consists of wards of government and their government supervisors. And Bush's "ownership society" is another step in the plan to reduce the supply of government by reducing the demand for it.

Will says some of the "Democratic rage" is explainable by Bush's leadership of the movement that threatens this status quo. In other words, it's nothing personal, Mr. Bush. It's naked self-interest talking here.

October 6, 2004

Painful Cultural Facts

Check out Roger Sandall's wonderful essay Out of Africa, from his site The Culture Cult. Here's an excerpt, but go read it all: (ellipses mine)

...despite the fact that men like Kofi Annan may well have their hearts in the right place...they are incapable of dealing with the problem. Because of course it isn’t a "problem" in any useful sense of the word. Problems are manageable. Problems have solutions. Human intelligence and human will can puzzle them out.

But the immeasurable gulf between the existing state of African society and the modern world, the "big ditch" dividing communal kin-based cultures and modern economic arrangements in country after country, on a continental scale, is not something bridgeable by political will. Nor (in the case of Sudan) can a war in a huge country be terminated by uncomprehending foreign soldiers when it has been going on for fifty years, and before that intermittently for centuries, and has today a strong messianic element in which the Arab north sees itself as having an Islamic duty to overrule, dominate, convert, and if necessary murder the part-Christian non-Arab south.

As if this didn’t make things bad enough, add also the fact that the Kofi Annans of the world belong to a rarefied and very privileged African elite of international bureaucrats who think in terms of Commissions and Conferences at which more-or-less impractical protocols are discussed and more-or-less noble resolutions are passed. They have personally escaped and put behind them the murders and misery of their homelands, they have risen into the well-fed social stratosphere of diplomacy in Geneva, Paris, London, and New York, and they understandably value the glittering lifestyle this provides. They constitute a class with distinct interests of their own, interests not necessarily coinciding with those of millions of subsistence farmers trying to scratch a living from the African soil.

(via aldaily.com)

October 5, 2004

On The Ground

It's so hard to know what's really going on in Iraq, and almost impossible to stay up on the overall War on Terror, even for Internet addicts like me. We get next to nothing from the Bush administration, least of all any admission that things might be going less than swimmingly. The idea there may be to try to counterbalance the all-quagmire-all-the-time theme of major media coverage, but I'm afraid that doesn't work. Bloggers offer some of the best resources available. Here are a few that help me.

Command Post does a good job on their Iraq Page of collecting and presenting major media stories as they appear. And Arthur Chrenkoff has become absolutely indispensable with his "Good News" series, which by the way is anything but a pro-war sugarcoating of the situation in the Middle East. It is serious, it is exhaustive and it is balanced. If you read only one news resource on Iraq, make this it.

I have long been a fan of Dan Darling's Regnum Crucis blog. Dan has an encyclopedic grasp of the players, trends and events in the War on Terror, and his commentary is always an education for me. Dan recommends reading Iraqi blogs as a way to get a feel for life on the ground in Iraq. He has a whole blogroll section devoted to them, and advises us to "read them all", and for good reason. They range in tone from fiercely anti-war and anti-Bush to sincere gratitude to America, to utter frustration at the challenges and dangers of just living in such a chaotic place. Darling notes that we don't really know if all these blogs even originate in Iraq, but it's hard to imagine some of this gut-wrenching testimony being phony.

A good place to start might be a site called Iraq The Model , one of the more widely read of the genre. Alaa of The Mesopotamian relates that a close relative is kidnapped for ransom, an increasingly common event in a country still largely devoid of civic order. They paid, they got their loved one back. It's happening hundreds of times a day. Incredible. And I think I have stress when my favorite football team is behind in the 4th quarter.

Jihad Watch is another good WOT information resource that is becoming a habit for me. And make Belmont Club a regular stop for Wretchard's unique perspectives on the war and other stuff. Enough? Enough.

October 4, 2004

Documents Surface From Iraq

A news organization called CNSN, the Cybercast News Service, (which I have never heard of before today) has published a "Special Report" in which they claim to be in possession of documents from Iraqi Intelligence. Here's an excerpt:

(CNSNews.com) - Iraqi intelligence documents, confiscated by U.S. forces and obtained by CNSNews.com, show numerous efforts by Saddam Hussein's regime to work with some of the world's most notorious terror organizations, including al Qaeda, to target Americans. They demonstrate that Saddam's government possessed mustard gas and anthrax, both considered weapons of mass destruction, in the summer of 2000, during the period in which United Nations weapons inspectors were not present in Iraq. And the papers show that Iraq trained dozens of terrorists inside its borders.

One of the Iraqi memos contains an order from Saddam for his intelligence service to support terrorist attacks against Americans in Somalia. The memo was written nine months before U.S. Army Rangers were ambushed in Mogadishu by forces loyal to a warlord with alleged ties to al Qaeda.

CNSN has invited credentialed journalists to examine the documents, and the report contains testaments to their credibility by various experts, but I'm sure the next several days should provide more information on their provenance and their authenticity, as more experts weigh in on the evidence. In the meantime, they seem to confirm yet again the many ties between Saddam's Iraq and Islamist terrorist organizations, which have already been documented by people like Stephen Hayes. Here Hayes discusses how those links are treated by The 9/11 Commission Report, and Senate Intelligence Committee Report.

I'm not sure how much of this information could be considered "news", since others have reported on many of Saddam's ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Some connections, such as to the PLO and to Abu Nidal, have long been open or otherwise proven. However, it would certainly help the Bush campaign if these documents were found to be authentic, bolstering the case for WMD's and Iraq's links to terror.

For that very reason, it seems prudent to wait until such authentication happens before getting too wrapped up in the story.

UPDATE 10/5: Stephen Hayes points to the many ways that the Kerry campaign is distorting the truth about Saddam's links to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

October 3, 2004

Partial Tribe Post Mortem

The Indians won their final game of the year today, 5-2 over the Twins. Okay I admit I was sweating it out a bit, because going into the 3-game series with Minnesota, they only needed to win one game to land right on my April prediction of 80 for their win total, and it took them till the final game to do it. It's an annual bet among golf league guys to pick closest to the number of Tribe wins. But at five bucks a guy, the bragging rights are better than the cash.

So even though they fell one win short of playing .500 baseball, that litle surge at the end of the year brought them back from their late-August fade, and left all kinds of reasons to be excited about next year. Grady Sizemore finished strong. He had a homer, triple and single yesterday, and tripled in a huge insurance run with 2 outs in the eighth today, then scored another one on a wild pitch. He and Coco Crisp each stole a home run from over the fence, saving another three runs. Who the third and fourth outfielders will be next year is up in the air between Gerut, Lawton, or Ludwick. And if those names don't thrill you, maybe they don't thrill Mark Shapiro either. I've read a couple of different places now that Shapiro will make a run at signing Richie Sexson in free agency. Think how that bat would look in an order with Hafner, Martinez, Blake, Ludwick and Broussard.

Lee and Westbrook look like solid starters now, and even though we had high hopes for Lee, we didn't really know in April if we had anything there or not. Now 14 wins apiece later, those two with C.C. make a good front three for '05. Let's hope we can bring back Wickman, at least until we find out who our closer of the future is. All he did was save 13 games in 14 tries down the stretch, totally stabilizing our whole bullpen. We don't even want to think about what might have been had we been able to convert even half of our 20 blown saves in the first half of the season.

The infield is more of a muddle, but the problem is an excess of talent, and a need to balance veteran experience with young guys who are ready to take off in the majors. Nice problems to have. If Shapiro could land Sexson, and pick up a solid starter and/or closer, we could make a run at the Twins.

Thanks for everything, Omar.

Hitchens Interview

British journalist Johann Hari interviews Christopher Hitchens, and can't figure out how he can be backing "this awful President". Of course the Left's reaction to 9/11 provided the impetus that drove Hitchens from their ranks.

He is appalled that some people on the left are prepared to do almost nothing to defeat Islamofascism. "When I see some people who claim to be on the left abusing that tradition, making excuses for the most reactionary force in the world, I do feel pain that a great tradition is being defamed. So in that sense I still consider myself to be on the left." A few months ago, when Bush went to Ireland for the G8 meeting, Hitchens was on a TV debate with the leader of a small socialist party in the Irish dail. "He said these Islamic fascists are doing this because they have deep-seated grievances. And I said, 'Ah yes, they have many grievances. They are aggrieved when they see unveiled woman. And they are aggrieved that we tolerate homosexuals and Jews and free speech and the reading of literature.'"

Hitchens has positive comments on Paul Wolfowitz and neoconservatism in general, making the point that promoting freedom and democracy abroad is preferable in the post-9/11 world to the previous doctrine of support for tyrants in the interest of some elusive "security". Unspoken but implied is that this is a classically progressive idea that does nothing to separate Hitchens from his liberal principles.

Hari wants Hitchens to "come home...we need you". At what cost to Hitchens' principles though? He backs Bush on the principle of strong opposition to totalitarian Islamofascism, while rejecting others on the right like Buchanan and Kissinger on equally sound liberal principles. But there doesn't appear to be much tolerance on the Left for that kind of independent thought, with its deviance from party orthodoxy. And there's nothing the Left reviles more than an apostate; Chambers, Podhoretz, Horowitz. Like those men, Hitchens seems to feel that it is the Left that has left him. (via Arts & Letters Daily)

October 2, 2004

A Blind Spot For U.S. Iraq Policy

Reuel Marc Gerecht fears that the insurgency in Iraq may well get worse before it gets better, precisely because of the U.S. policy of gradualism and Iraqification, not despite it. According to Gerecht, we have overlooked the growing religious fundamentalism of the Baathist Sunni Muslims that even the secular Saddam recognized and accommodated. The closer the country gets to an election that will institutionalize majority rule by the hated Shia Muslims, the more the insurgency is likely to spread to the mainstream of the Sunni citizenry. Gerecht is certainly no administration apologist. His analysis mixes almost equal parts of hope and dread. Read it all if you're interested in more than soundbites on the situation in Iraq.

What Global Test?

Larry Kudlow on some little inconsistencies that Bush might have pointed out during the debate:

Time and again on the campaign trail Kerry argues for a grand international alliance to win the Iraq war. He repeated this in the debate. But in 1991 the U.S. headed a grand alliance of 36 nations that was fully backed by a United Nations resolution. And Kerry still opposed that war to liberate Kuwait. The U.N.-backed coalition included Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar. All the pieces were there, including the cause of justice. Still he voted against it. How, knowing this, can anyone believe Kerry when he says he will show us a better way to defeat our terrorist enemies today?

If ever there was a military action that passed the “global test” — which Kerry argued for in the debate — the Persian Gulf War was it. It overwhelmingly met Kerry’s dubious standard — and still he opposed it. This reveals a credibility problem of the first order.