May 31, 2004

Happy Memorial Day

Mr. Lileks gives us a micro--nay a nanobleat for Memorial Day. I won't steal his image, you should follow the link.

But on this day we remember those who climbed over the bar anyway. It would sound fine and noble to say we will never forget, but of course we do; otherwise we wouldn't have to have a day to remind us again. That's natural; can't be helped. Men like my father wouldn't be comfortable with a daily parade of thanks, anyway; like many heroes, he didn't take every opportunity to remind us what he'd done, nor did he want to be viewed exclusively through that prism. He would shake off the word "hero," in fact. He would prefer "sailor." To a certain man of a certain age, that said it all. I was a sailor. And it still says it all. If you're listening.

Thanks to Lileks pere and all who serve What a blessing to share a country with these great men and women.

UPDATE: I don't have a link to the Memorial Day poster, he seems to be having some trouble with archive links. (I wish I had stolen it now.) I'll add a great Lileks quote from today:

If you’re going to have a boundless ego, I recommend boundless insecurity as a chaser. Keeps you motivated.

That captures me more than I like to admit...

Posted by jk at 02:59 PM | What do you think? [0]

May 28, 2004

General Clark in TNR

Now, a commercial for a leftist rag.

You should subscribe to The New Republic. It’s $20/year for a digital subscription. Liberals will find some very intelligent criticisms of the Bush administration, looks at progressive candidates and politicians. And Conservatives: Machiavelli and Sun Tzu both agree on “Know Thy Enemy.” The writing is pretty intelligent.

This week, they print the most insane piece of drivel on Iraq you’ll see. It’s a guest piece from General Wesley Clark. For me it makes Senator Kerry look good. In the same issue, though, they also print an astute and insightful (mirabile non dictu) piece from VDH. Side by side, a stirring argument of ideas.

I’m not going to “fisk” General Clark’s article. Just the hits:

But today, 14 months later, the mission is in shambles, scarred by rising Iraqi popular discontent, continued attacks against U.S. forces, infiltration of foreign fighters, mounting civil strife, and no credible sense of direction.

Shambles is a loaded term. All of his points are very subjective and I would disagree with each of them.

American public opinion has clearly turned against the mission. Some have already pronounced it a failure. Others, giving up on the idea of a unified Iraq, are seeking to salvage some measure of success by suggesting we break up the country, a proposal that would implicitly reward the Kurds--and invite more trouble later. Still others suggest that we reduce our ultimate objective from Iraqi democracy to Iraqi stability. All the critics warn that, if we don't change direction, we are headed for failure.

“Some,” “others,” “still others,” and “all the critics” Quite a lineup – I would hate it if some thought jk was very stupid, others think he dresses funny, still others find his guitar playing trite, and all his critics disregard his economic views.

While our troops should help secure the borders and handle internal threats that are too large for the still-nascent Iraqi forces, they should, as soon as possible, stop policing the country for one simple reason: They're not very good at it. Instead, we need to involve Middle Eastern countries and the larger international community in building a unified Iraq with a representative government that doesn't threaten its neighbors or serve as a magnet for Al Qaeda recruiting and that exerts enough control to ensure domestic stability and promote economic development.

First a quick swipe at the troops from the former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. Well, at least he has a plan. Neighboring Arab countries and the UN will lead this inchoate nation to democracy! I mean, that’s what they do, don’t they? It’s funny that President Bush hadn’t thought of this…

First, the United States must correct the "dynamic of conflict" that it has injected into the region. In essence, the Bush administration has scared Iran and Syria into believing that, if the United States is successful in its occupation of Iraq, they will be the next targets. To the Iranians and Syrians, the implication is that their survival depends on dragging the U.S. mission in Iraq into failure. Furthermore, America's perceived pro-Israel bias, and its failure to engage seriously in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has fed the poisonous atmosphere fueling Arab anger toward the United States and its efforts in Iraq.

For thousands of years, these people all lived like brothers, then the US injected a dynamic of conflict onto the region. It really sucks that Syria and Iran are scared. If we had those two human-rights champions on our side…And why hasn’t President Bush turned Yasser Arafat into Saint Frances yet? What gives with that?

Thus far, the Bush administration has been unable to win much backing from European and Middle Eastern states, but addressing fears of U.S. hegemony and spurring the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will help dispel Arab anger and enhance U.S. credibility in the region and abroad…

Has not inspired those shining beacons of human freedom to support Iraqi liberation – man that must be our fault!

Then he proposes a Bosnia-style diplomatic solution for Iraq (fight the last war much?), fights a straw-man about Kurdish independence that nobody’s drumming for (I’d be receptive) and closes like he opened, fatuously and prevaricative:

The last thing we want to do in Iraq is stay the course. We must make a substantial course correction--immediately. What is ultimately at risk in Iraq is not just the future of the Iraqi people, but regional stability in the Middle East and U.S. influence and security itself. Intervening in Iraq a year ago was optional--and, in my view, unnecessary. But we now have no choice about whether to succeed: We must.

We must cut and run – history demands it!

Posted by jk at 07:22 AM | What do you think? [0]

May 27, 2004

Kerryopoly

I try to be high minded, but this gop.com game made me laugh: Kerryopoly - Can You Afford to Live Like John Kerry?

You get $40,000 (national household income average) and you roll the dice to see if you can afford: $1000 haircuts, $1800 bicycles, mansions, jets...

I think Best of the Web complained about the Republican Survivor game These are not high minded pursuits, but I think they can be a little fun. I don't mind providing a link to each. (I think the GOP one is more clever, but I would say that, wouldn't I?)

Posted by jk at 04:37 PM | What do you think? [0]

Vice President Gore

Alex at pstupidonymous has a great and well captioned picture of VP Gore.

It sent me Googling for Peggy Noonan's piece comparing VPs Gore and Burr. Sadly, I couldn't find it.

Posted by jk at 10:14 AM | What do you think? [1]

4.4% Annual GDP Growth (yawn.)

"If Bush gets elected, this recession will turn into another Great Depression," said a beloved relative of mine yesterday. I am glad I was out of earshot.

I might have spoiled the festive occasion (they bought birthday boy lunch at his favorite US Indian place) with little tidbits of news like: Economy Picks Up Pace in First Quarter:

WASHINGTON - The economy grew at a 4.4 percent annual rate in the first quarter of this year, slightly faster than previously thought and fresh evidence that the recovery possessed good momentum as it headed into the current quarter.

Maybe I watch too much Larry Kudlow on TV, but kids we are in a boom! How big? How long? Nobody knows -- but only the Democrats see depression (I love the casual assertion that we are in a recession after six, eight quarters of growth?)
Although consumers and the federal government did their part to support the economy in the first quarter, the better reading on GDP for the period in large part reflected stronger investment by businesses to build up inventories, a good sign that companies are more confident about the economy's prospects.

From April to June, the economy is expected to grow at a rate in the range of 4.5 percent to 5 percent, according to some analysts.

My economic heart screams!

Posted by jk at 09:52 AM | What do you think? [2]

Documented AlQueda - Iraq link (yawn.)

The WSJ Ed page is not afraid of attacking liberal shibboleths. Today's lead editorial:

We realize that even raising this subject now is politically incorrect. It is an article of faith among war opponents that there were no links whatsoever--that "secular" Saddam and fundamentalist Islamic terrorists didn't mix. But John Ashcroft's press conference yesterday reminds us that the terror threat remains, and it seems especially irresponsible for journalists not to be open to new evidence. If the CIA was wrong about WMD, couldn't it have also missed Saddam's terror links?

Sarin gas shells and terrorist links are not just political pawns, either. The same editorial points out that he topics are pretty germane as we face "chatter" and threats in 2004:
The reason to care goes beyond the prewar justification for toppling Saddam and relates directly to our current security. U.S. officials believe that American civilian Nicholas Berg was beheaded in Iraq recently by Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, who is closely linked to al Qaeda and was given high-level medical treatment and sanctuary by Saddam's government. The Baathists killing U.S. soldiers are clearly working with al Qaeda now; Saddam's files might show us how they linked up in the first place.

Posted by jk at 09:24 AM | What do you think? [9]

May 26, 2004

Colonial Hell

I've only myself to blame. Why would I watch a PBS show and be surprised? A PBS reality show? Why didn't I just sign up for a dozen root canals?

But I got hooked on the first episode of "Colonial House." You take a couple dozen, whiny PBS liberals and have them re-enact a 1628 New England colony. It's an interesting premise ("My god, Jennifer! I do so miss our Volvo!")

Live there? I really couldn't bear to watch. I watched the first few and then tuned in last night to see them fail when the company assessor graded their viability as a colony. For those of you lucky enough to miss it, here's the greatest hits:

-- First, there is trouble because many of the people who've signed up to re-enact a puritan community refuse to attend church. I'm sure it was optional in 1628...

-- An endearing young African American leaves in the middle. He's not "quitting" mind you, he is just realizing how the hard work sets the stage for the introduction of slavery 50 years later. I guess this is personal and I should probably not comment, but I can't buy it. He was badly needed and let them down.

-- Now that I've lost any pc-cred, let's discuss the Native Americans. These guilt-ridden 21st Century honkies are so afraid of offending anybody, they trade 25 pounds of goods for six pounds of beaver pelts. Then come home to flagellate themselves for being white.

-- Another tribe arrives with a female leader (very 1628, I'm sure), and alas, our community has made a promise to the first tribe not to trade with another, so they are invited in, refuse to eat, hector the colonists about how evil Thanksgiving is, and there is no trade, just an extra heavy dose of self-flagellation committed silently and laconically in front of a community fire.

-- So I tuned into the last show to see how badly the assessors would beat them up: they lost buckets of money, authority was resisted. Nope, turns out the assessors were grading on a curve! Why yes, they lost a gob of our money and people don't go to church, but they've established friendly relations with the local indigenous population and have a great sense of "community."

I guess they had to give them the benefit of the doubt. These folks lived a pretty rough life for 119 days. The premise is flawed because everybody knows they can walk off the set and go back to their Cusinart any day.

Saw them go back to their regular lives: husband and wife college professors in California (can't make this stuff up!), another couple in Lowell MA, and young guy who goes to Thailand so "I can f***** drink all the f**** beer I want! No f*** Dominic rationin' my f*** one beer a day! I drink f*** eight or ten f*** beers a night!" One fellow decides to pursue a vocation in the clergy, I guess that’s two different spiritual revelations.

That's my rant. I won't watch any more shows like that. I'll go back to "Buffy," "Angel," and "Kudlow & Cramer." I promise.

Posted by jk at 10:10 AM | What do you think? [1]

May 25, 2004

What is truth?

Thinking people everywhere celebrate Miles Davis's birthday on May 26 (ahem, the same as jk).

Now, some lowlifes at NPR are trying to claim that it is today, the 25th. What a bunch of biased liberal dirtbags! Tom Vitale at eLibrary knows what's up and tried to clear things up on "All Things Considered:"

According to most encyclopedias and music history books, today is the 75th anniversary of the birth of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. In fact, he was actually born 75 years ago tomorrow, on May 26th, 1926, in Alton, Illinois. Davis is one of the most influential musicians in the history of jazz. He also continues to be its best-selling artist.

Happy Birthday, Miles -- tomorrow!

Posted by jk at 04:38 PM | What do you think? [6]

The President's Speech

I meant to post a review, but the Wall Street Journal Political Diary wrote mine -- and better:

George Bush's speech last night was businesslike and unpanicked. He didn't produce a magic carpet to get us out of Iraq, but he did convincingly show that he has a destination. He also left listeners reasonably comfortable that we have the troops, money and brains to get there by the kind of ad hockery that, in the real world, is the only way to go. Mr. Bush was especially strong on how Iraq fits into U.S. goals for the future of the world. But, let's face it, most Americans have now placed Sept. 11 into a normalized perspective. They don't see the struggle as the equivalent of World War Two or the Cold War, a continuing crisis that justifies putting normal concerns and aspirations on hold. In fact, Mr. Bush said it best a long time ago: This particular battle will be going on in the background for decades, while public attention most of the time will be elsewhere.

Until Abu Ghraib, Iraq itself was becoming a backburner issue in the campaign; the economy and health care were leaping to the fore. Let's hope it happens again. To succeed in Iraq, the U.S. needs the freedom to improvise and exploit the sort of flexibility that, at best, tends to leave the public confused and uncertain. Mr. Bush, as far as his electoral ambitions are concerned, might be better off devoting himself to taking ownership of the economic recovery rather than making weekly appearances in defense of his Iraq policy. In fact, our bet: The next big splurge of national security interest will come not from Iraq anyway, but when al Qaeda mounts its next attack in Europe or the U.S.

--Holman W. Jenkins Jr.


I liked the scars from the bike accident -- as they said in "Slapshot," it makes him look mean!

Posted by jk at 12:41 PM | What do you think? [9]

May 24, 2004

Paean to Petrol

Pete Du Pont (who lost a GOP Presidential primary debate when his opponent pointed out that his name was "Pierre") writes an excellent semi-regular column in the WSJ called "Outside the Box."

Today he offers some facts on gas that you may not hear in other media outlets:

And in spite of what you read in the paper--outrageous gasoline prices entered into Google gets you 15,000 links--its current inflation-adjusted price of $2 a gallon is about its median price over its 85-year existence, and with the exception of the 1980s spike, it has been steadily declining over the decades.
Better still, improving technology has increased the number of miles one can drive on a gallon of gasoline, to 22 in 2000 from about 13.5 in the early 1970s . So the cost of gasoline per mile driven has fallen nearly in half, from more than 13 cents to a bit more than seven cents.

Meanwhile median income for a family of four (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased to more than $63,000 today from less than $46,000 in the 1970s.

Family income is up, and the cost per mile driven is down, so as a percentage of income, gasoline costs are substantially less and are an economical bargain for all of our families.

Burning gasoline is very much cleaner than it was 20 years ago too. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, lead emissions have nearly disappeared; carbon monoxide is down 62%, sulfur dioxide 52%, nitrogen dioxide 24% and ground-level ozone (smog) 18%.

Cleaner fuel, cheaper fuel and better mileage mean greater access to the things that matter in life. Gasoline-powered cars are a very good thing indeed.


We're not going to all die tomorrow because some folks enjoy driving little trucks (and Johngalt likes big trucks)?

Innovation got us from there to here. If the gub'mint doesn't help too much, I think it will take us forward into better energy sources -- Pierre thinks so too.

Posted by jk at 12:05 PM | What do you think? [7]

May 23, 2004

Paris Airport Collapse

A section of the new passenger terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport collapsed this morning. After the now obligatory denial that any terrorism was involved, officials declared, "It's the structure that gave way, the structure itself."

The article provides a photo of the collapse in which one can see an intact section of the structure next to the failed section. An elegant and futuristic web of steel and glass covers an internal structure that can best be described as a perforated oval concrete tube. Notwithstanding the questionable aesthetic appeal of walking through a giant sewer pipe, one is left wondering why concrete was used as the structural component. Modern polymer supplemented concrete is a remarkable building material, enabling clear-span bridges hundreds of feet in length. But its strength lies in its mass. The structural design feature of strength versus aesthetic design features of light and visibility are at odds with each other. So this design approach represents a challenge, though a forced one rather than an elegant and delicate balancing act, demonstrating the human ability to successfully design and construct unlikely structural elements.

The problem is that this failure gives engineering a bad name. And why? Because the final design uses window openings with square corners! And in an airport, no less. The problem with square corners is that they create what is known as a "stress concentration" point. (This mode of failure occured in early aircraft designs using square windows as well.) The stresses in the areas near the corners of the openings can be orders of magnitude (10, 100, 1000 times or more) higher than in the rest of the structure, while the simple incorporation of radiused corners can reduce these stresses to geometric multiples (2, 4, 8 times or more) the nominal stress. Look closely at the picture and you can see cracks intersecting the corners of the windows. These cracks may have been a result of the root cause failure rather than a cause of it, but they are failures nontheless.

Another pitfall of these stress concentrators is that seemingly minor variations in the fabrication process can create unpredictable weaknesses. These variations include things like the unfortunate location of a large piece of aggregate at the corner, or a slight undercut at the corner from ill-fitting forms. In other words, no experienced engineer worth his salt would agree to a designer's demand that the windows have square corners. The verdict must certainly be that the engineers were either inexperienced, incompetent, or politically subservient to the vanity of the designer. Any of these scenarios are a recipe for disaster, as we can clearly see.

UPDATE 24 May- Fox News reports "France may tear down terminal after roof collapse." That's exactly what they should do if, as I postulated yesterday, the failure is due to unsafe design. The FNC article even mentions the "hundreds of square windows" that "honeycomb" the roof, but with no suggestion that this is a problem.

French newspaper Le Parisien asks on this morning's front page, Comment est-ce possible (How is this possible?) Using Altavista's Web page translator I examined the possible explanations the paper gave: The building's opening was delayed one week pending approval of the "commission of safety;" a workman was killed on the construction site; a large lamp fell from the ceiling (during an inspection, I understand); the floods in France last March were a concern; construction union representatives denounced, at the time, the pressures to open on schedule; and finally, "the report of the low "relative" cost of the buiilding..., established by the Court of Auditors at the beginning of 2003, calls other questions today." And yet, still no mention that the problem may lie with the design.

"How is this possible?" As I explained yesterday, incompetence, inexperience or politics are likely explanations. These are classic traits of a collectivistic society such as France's. No individual takes responsibility for fear of being reassigned. Individual ability is not encouraged or nurtured in education establishments. Assignments are awarded based on "pull" or influence, and not on ability or merit. This is why it is imperative that we resist the growing influences of relativism and multiculturalism in our universities. That is what makes tragedies such as this "possible."

Posted by JohnGalt at 10:08 AM | What do you think? [14]

May 21, 2004

How's December Sound?

Yahoo! News - AP: Kerry Considers Delaying Nomination

BOSTON - Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (news - web sites) is considering delaying accepting his party's nomination to gain time to raise and spend private contributions and lessen President Bush (news - web sites)'s multimillion-dollar financial advantage, The Associated Press has learned.

Can we call McCain-Feingold a "mulligan" and try again? I opposed campaign finance "reform" early on on constitutional/free speech grounds, but the lameness and insane consequences of this bad law surprise even me.

Posted by jk at 02:21 PM | What do you think? [4]

May 20, 2004

Disgruntled Hawks

Jeffrey Bell's fine article in this week's Weekly Standard makes an intelligent comparison between Vietnam-1968 and Iraq-2004:

It is often recalled, as an oddity, that the breakthrough Eugene McCarthy vote in New Hampshire in March 1968 consisted more of hawks than doves. But that McCarthy vote was no oddity. The turn against the Johnson-Humphrey war strategy, and the ultimate passing of presidential dominance to the GOP, was not due to the doves, most of whom wound up voting for Humphrey in November 1968. The center of gravity of American politics shifted because of Vietnam hawks voting their frustration at the loss of a simple, understandable mission.

I am not going to jump into the naysayers camp. But I agree strongly with the Bill Kristol/Al Davis school of punditry: "Just Win, Baby!"

The real depression I feel is not the emboldenment of the doves after Abu Graib, the malaise is the hawks' legitimate concern that the administration has lost its devotion to victory. I hope it is not so, but there is less and less empirical proof that this is not the case. Bell continues:

Rumsfeld may never have fully believed in the president's democratic mission in Iraq. That may have made it a simple decision to choose, in Falluja and perhaps elsewhere, to put a cap on American casualties at the expense of achieving decisive victory over antidemocratic and anti-American forces. But that sense of a loss of mission, not the level of U.S. casualties, is the gravest threat so far to the Bush war strategy, and thus to the Bush presidency.

This segues unfortunately well into Peggy Noonan's anecdotal conversation with a frequent-GOP-voter who may vote for Kerry:
And oddly enough she's starting to feel a little like Mr. Bush can be let go because maybe he has already done the job he was meant to do. He did what we hired him for. He got us through 9/11, he led us through, he got the Homeland Security Department. He cleaned out Afghanistan. Then he moved into Iraq, he fought hard. And maybe that's the job he was supposed to do. And maybe now we can let him go. Maybe Kerry's supposed to handle it the next few years.

Posted by jk at 12:09 PM | What do you think? [0]

Did I Beat Lileks?

Probably not. But it's great to see a writer whom I admire carrying the torch I held yesterday. Lileks:

Questions: is the Oil-for-Food scandal characteristic of the UN, or not? Is the Abu Ghraib scandal characteristic of the US Armed Forces, or not?

Which body acted swiftly to investigate? Which body opened itself to public hearings and condemnations? Which body put the bad guy in the dock, held a trial, and pronounced sentence? Says AP:

Within hours of Sivits' court-martial, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington that abuse of prisoners in Iraq will be investigated thoroughly up the chain of command, "and that includes me."...

Kofi? Your move.


Good stuff! And listen to his commercial for Smiley's Coffee.

Posted by jk at 10:37 AM | What do you think? [0]

Which States "Swing?"

My favorite Jazz story: A young Marcus Roberts meets his hero, Thelonius Monk, and requests advice for a young piano player comin' up.

"Swing," says Monk.

A great answer, but the young turk understandably wants a little more than one word, so he presses: yes that's important and all...but what do I do after that?

"Swing some mo'"

Is that a true story? I dunno --- but it's a great story.

What is true? Polls would have us believe that both Colorado and New Jersey may be in play in 2004. If Bush loses Colorado, he's in deep kim chee. (This Boulder-guy thinks that Nader's appearance on the ballot as the Reform Party candidate wipes out any miniscule chance to paint this state blue.)

Likewise, the Senator from Massachusetts is in pretty deep if he can't pull a win in the Garden State: Yahoo! News sez:

Democrat John Kerry and President Bush are in a virtual statistical dead heat among registered voters in New Jersey polled by Quinnipiac University.
[...]
Kerry's favorability is poor in New Jersey, which Al Gore (news - web sites) won by 16 percentage points in 2000. Twenty-seven percent approve of the Democrat, 28 percent don't and 33 percent are mixed, according to the poll.

How can anybody not dig this?

UPDATE: The AP Headline is "Kerry Edges Bush in NJ Poll." No, I am not claiming bias, just missing the story.

Posted by jk at 08:48 AM | What do you think? [0]

May 19, 2004

Great Iraqi Blog

The very existence of Iraqi blogs seems a good reason to support the liberation of Iraq. There are now quite a few good ones and they cover a wide political spectrum.

I really enjoyed this one, Iraq The Model

Glenn links to an inspiring letter from an American Soldier, but I enjoyed the views of the blog author himself:

My arrival day was the day when a rally of support and gratitude to the coalition passed the streets of Samawa. The scene was very delightful for me, I, who believe in the necessity of establishing a strategic partnership with the free world represented by the coalition, because this the only way for Iraq to rise again, prosper and join the modern, free world. Such partnership, the way I see it, is vital for the free world in its war with terrorism, the corner stone of which is to establish peace and stability in the ME. Yes, we should put our hands in each other's because we have a common destiny. It was a very encouraging thing to see that the simple people there understood the case and this is probably the first time where people go out to the streets to thank and support our allies in the coalition, but strangely it came from ordinary, simple people not from those who claim to be civilized intellectuals.

Well worth some time to read several postings.

Posted by jk at 02:39 PM | What do you think? [0]

Kerry Demonization, May 19

Another filthy right wing rag has blasted Senator Kerry today. The New York Times Ed Page sez:

Senator John Kerry demeans the seriousness of his own candidacy when he suggests that President Bush could single-handedly bring down fuel costs. Senator Kerry has urged the administration to stop buying oil for the [Strategic Petroleum Reserve], as if that would make a difference. Fortunately, some residue of shame has kept him from joining the other Democrats calling for the reserve to be raided. The government's oil purchases have taken place at a time of higher prices, but they are not a major cause of the increase.

HatTip: WSJ Political Diary

Posted by jk at 11:02 AM | What do you think? [0]

Abu Graib vs. Oil-for-terrorism

I had it all wrong in my tirade. The shame is not that the media have focused on Abu Graib over Nicholas Berg, the shame is that they have focused on Abu Graib over the UN Sandal.

Like Johngalt mentions below on the 9/11 commission, we have endless capacity for navel-gazing and examining all of our own wounds.

Yet, few media organizations will join the WSJ Ed Page and investigate the UN:

In the scandal over the U.N. Oil-for-Food program in Iraq, Kofi Annan's main line of defense has been that he didn't know. Perhaps he should take a closer look at internal U.N. Oil-for-Food audit reports, more than 50 in all, produced by his own Office of Internal Oversight Services--the same reports he's declined to share with the Security Council, or release to Congress.
[...]
A U.N. spokesman says all the internal audit reports on Oil-for-Food have now been turned over to the U.N.-authorized inquiry headed by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker. But under terms drawn up by Mr. Annan, Mr. Volcker not only lacks the power of subpoena, but must submit his own report directly to Mr. Annan. And guess who has the final say over what we get to see--or not see. Why, Mr. Annan, of course.

Posted by jk at 10:22 AM | What do you think? [4]

911 Bloviation

After making my morning coffee I turned on the tele to see if there was any news. No, just live coverage of the 911 Commission holding another hearing. This time with Rudy Giuliani giving testimony.

This commission has got to be the biggest waste of time, money and effort in modern times. It's as if after VE day, while combat still rages in the Pacific, a handful of washed up prohibition-era former politicians were given millions in cash and government resources to interview Admirals and cabinet officers trying to figure out why a warlike enemy conducted a sneak attack on us in an unimaginable way. And beyond that, postured for the press that the attack was not an act of war but was in some way a necessary rebuke for the arrogance and unsustainability of our way of life.

Gag me.

Posted by JohnGalt at 08:07 AM | What do you think? [1]

May 18, 2004

Best and Brightest

We really are chasing the best people out of public office. Who but egomaniacal gas bags would want to put up with rancorous partisanship? WSJ Political Diary today includes a nice farewell to a good man:

White House special envoy for the Western Hemisphere Otto Reich will leave the Bush Administration in June. He says the reasons are "personal," but one factor that made his tenure less than gratifying was a gross pattern of abuse on Capitol Hill in the confirmation process.

Mr. Reich originally had been George Bush's nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in 2001. He had the votes to be confirmed. But Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd and his first lieutenant on the Senate foreign relations committee, Janice O'Connell, blamed Cold-War warrior Reich for the defeat of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas in the late 1980s and were determined to block his nomination.

Vicious mud slinging ensued. At least one sloppy, lazy "journalist" spread rumors that Mr. Reich had ties to a Cuban terrorist. Mr. Dodd also whispered to Senate colleagues that the nominee was going through a hostile divorce and hiding assets from his wife. None of the charges stuck for the simple reason that they lacked merit. Finally, Mr. Reich reports that Ms. O'Connell told another Hill staffer that she had a plan to make it financially impossible for him to take a government job by raising questions about the sale of his private consulting business. Under the terms of the deal, Mr. Reich was scheduled to receive payments over four years, something State Department lawyers told him was completely legal and ethical. But Mr. Reich tore up the contract anyway. Out of mud, Mr. Dodd simply refused to allow the confirmation hearings to proceed.

Mr. Reich went on to serve honorably in the White House instead, putting spine in Bush policies in Latin America. He might have stayed longer (and many others might be more willing to serve) if such abuses of the confirmation process had not been tolerated.

--Mary Anastasia O'Grady


I love the hurly burly of politics. I have admitted that I was over the top in my opposition to President Clinton.

I have no solution to rancor, but I'd like to see both sides limit it to high-level elected officials. Let Senate, House and Presidential candidates take the gloves of a'la the 1800s Republicans and Federalists (the occasional New Jersey Duel could be scheduled on Fox). But judges and Assistant Secretaries of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs should be allowed to do their job and keep away from the fray.

Posted by jk at 11:45 AM | What do you think? [0]

Air America Gear

There's nothing new about selling merchandise to promote your organization, even for broadcasters. FNC's 'The O'Reilly Factor' has its "Factor Gear," for example, including mugs, umbrellas, T-shirts. This may be a first, however. From the liberal 'Air America' radio show, heard on eleven! stations nationwide, the "Classic Thong." From the product notes: "This product is designed to fit juniors. [i.e. girls, not women] It fits snug, [you don't say!] sizes run small." Well they did say "classic" and not "classy."

Posted by JohnGalt at 11:26 AM | What do you think? [7]

May 17, 2004

Quote marks?

WSJ's Best-of-the-Web has had fun teasing Reuters about its use of scare quotes around terrorists. But Mr. Taranto has declared "A New Low inScare Quotes" and I have to agree. The NYTimes runs the following headline about Bush's Commencement Address to Concordia University:

Bush, at a Commencement, Hails 'Honor' of U. S. Troops in Iraq
You really can't make this stuff up...
Posted by jk at 02:39 PM | What do you think? [0]

Kerry Demonization, May 17

From that incorrigible right-wing organ, "Time" magazine. Joe Klien, and an anti war reservist are both a little tired of the Senator's nuanced position on Iraq;

"Kerry's aides insist that the Senator's Iraq reticence is merely an act of patriotic high-mindedness reflecting a desire to show support for the troops and to not 'politicize' the issue. Oh, please... Sooner or later, he will have to tell us whether he thinks the war was worth it. He will have to say whether he believes America has a responsibility to restore stability and rebuild Iraq. He will either have to stick with his U.N. plan and hope the international community will support the new Iraqi government with a major peacekeeping effort, or support the premature withdrawal of American troops, if that is what Bush decides to do"

Hat-tip WSJ Political Diary

Posted by jk at 02:23 PM | What do you think? [0]

"Nonexistent" WMD detonates in Iraq

No web story to link on this yet, but Fox News just aired parts of a live press conference with Maj. Gen. Mark Kimmet discussing an artillery shell that had been rigged as an IED (improvised explosive device). The bad news is that the explosion occurred before it could be disabled. The good news is that the device was poorly rigged and the mixing of two chemical components required to activate the deadly nerve agent did not occur.

Or maybe it didn't release nerve agent because... IT ISN'T REALLY THERE! Yeah, that's it.

Developing...

Posted by JohnGalt at 08:45 AM | What do you think? [1]

May 13, 2004

A thousand words

TheGoodTheBadTheMedia-X.gif
Cox and Forkum -- always available on the Berkeley Square Blogroll

Posted by jk at 01:34 PM | What do you think? [0]

How Winning the Cold War Led to 9/11

Imagine a different Nov. 4, 1979, in Tehran. Shortly after Iranian terrorists storm the American Embassy and take some 90 American hostages, President Carter announces that Islamic fundamentalism is not a legitimate response to the excess of the shah but a new and dangerous fascism that threatens all that liberal society holds dear. And then he issues an ultimatum to Tehran's leaders: Release the captives or face a devastating military response

When that demand is not met, instead of freezing Iran's assets, stopping the importation of its oil, or seeking support at the U.N., Mr. Carter orders an immediate blockade of the country, followed by promises to bomb, first, all of its major military assets, and then its main government buildings and residences of its ruling mullocracy. The Ayatollah Khomeini might well have called his bluff; we may well have tragically lost the hostages (151 fewer American lives than the Iranian-backed Hezbollah would take four years later in a single day in Lebanon). And there might well have been the sort of chaos in Tehran that we now witness in Baghdad. But we would have seen it all in 1979--and not in 2001, after almost a quarter-century of continuous Middle East terrorism, culminating in the mass murder of 3,000 Americans and the leveling of the World Trade Center.

Wow. This is it, friends. I've been meaning to blog this since Monday but only today had time to read the entire thing. It was well worth it. This long but emminently well-informed essay by Victor Davis Hanson is the best I've read yet in the mainstream press discussing all aspects of the war on terrorists, and the events before and after 9/11.

It amazes me that this man is a professor at a California public university (Cal State - Fresno) and hasn't yet been lynched. He can't even be dismissed as one of those "wacko religious conservatives."

If you are really in the mood to expand your knowledge and understanding of geopolitics since WWII, you'll want to read this entire article. For the time-challenged, here are a number of excellent excerpts, with the best in boldface:

Thereafter, these historical lessons [role of appeasement in the fourth century B.C. fall of Greece] should have been clear to citizens of any liberal society: We must neither presume that comfort and security are our birthrights and are guaranteed without constant sacrifice and vigilance, nor expect that peoples outside the purview of bourgeois liberalism share our commitment to reason, tolerance and enlightened self-interest.

In the face of such visceral anti-Americanism, the problem may not be real differences over the West Bank, much less that "we are not getting the message out"; rather, in the decade since 1991 the Middle East saw us as a great power that neither could nor would use its strength to advance its ideas--that lacked even the intellectual confidence to argue for our civilization before the likes of a tenth-century monarchy. The autocratic Arab world neither respects nor fears a democratic United States, because it rightly senses that we often talk in principled terms but rarely are willing to invest the time, blood and treasure to match such rhetoric with concrete action. That's why it is crucial for us to stay in Iraq to finish the reconstruction and cement the achievement of our three-week victory over Saddam.

If Marx receded from economics departments, his spirit re-emerged among our intelligentsia in the novel guises of poststructuralism, new historicism, multiculturalism and all the other dogmas whose fundamental tenet was that white male capitalists had systematically oppressed women, minorities and Third World people in countless insidious ways. The font of that collective oppression, both at home and abroad, was the rich, corporate, Republican and white United States.

The fall of the Soviet Union enhanced these newer postcolonial and liberation fields of study by immunizing their promulgators from charges of fellow-traveling or being dupes of Russian expansionism. Communism's demise likewise freed these trendy ideologies from having to offer some wooden, unworkable Marxist alternative to the West; thus they could happily remain entirely critical, sarcastic and cynical without any obligation to suggest something better, as witness the nihilist signs at recent protest marches proclaiming: "I Love Iraq, Bomb Texas."

Of course, pampered Western intellectuals since Diderot have always dreamed up a "noble savage," who lived in harmony with nature precisely because of his distance from the corruption of Western civilization. But now this fuzzy romanticism had an updated, political edge: The bearded killer and wild-eyed savage were not merely better than we because they lived apart in a premodern landscape. No, they had a right to strike back and kill modernizing Westerners who had intruded into and disrupted their better world--whether Jews on Temple Mount, women in Westernized dress in Tehran, Christian missionaries in Kabul, capitalist profiteers in Islamabad, whiskey-drinking oilmen in Riyadh, or miniskirted tourists in Cairo.

Yet in the new world of utopian multiculturalism and knee-jerk anti-Americanism, in which a Noam Chomsky could proclaim Khomeini's gulag to be "independent nationalism," reasoned argument was futile. Indeed, how could critical debate arise for those "committed to social change," when no universal standards were to be applied to those outside the West? Thanks to the doctrine of cultural relativism, "oppressed" peoples either could not be judged by our biased and "constructed" values ("false universals," in Edward Said's infamous term) or were seen as more pristine than ourselves, uncorrupted by the evils of Western capitalism.

This nonjudgmentalism--essentially a form of nihilism--deemed everything from Sudanese female circumcision to honor killings on the West Bank merely "different" rather than odious. Anyone who has taught freshmen at a state university can sense the fuzzy thinking of our undergraduates: Most come to us prepped in high schools not to make "value judgments" about "other" peoples who are often "victims" of American "oppression." Thus, before female-hating psychopath Mohamed Atta piloted a jet into the World Trade Center, neither Western intellectuals nor their students would have taken him to task for what he said or condemned him as hypocritical for his parasitical existence on Western society. Instead, without logic but with plenty of romance, they would more likely have excused him as a victim of globalization or of the biases of American foreign policy. They would have deconstructed Atta's promotion of anti-Semitic, misogynist, Western-hating thought, as well as his conspiracies with Third World criminals, as anything but a danger and a pathology to be remedied by deportation or incarceration.

In contrast, George W. Bush, impervious to such self-deception, has, in a mere 2 1/2 years, reversed the perilous course of a quarter-century. Since Sept. 11, he has removed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, begun to challenge the Middle East through support for consensual government, isolated Yasser Arafat, pressured the Europeans on everything from anti-Semitism to their largesse to Hamas, removed American troops from Saudi Arabia, shut down fascistic Islamic "charities," scattered al Qaeda, turned Pakistan from a de facto foe to a scrutinized neutral, rounded up terrorists in the United States, pressured Libya, Iran and Pakistan to come clean on clandestine nuclear cheating, so far avoided another Sept. 11--and promises that he is not nearly done yet.

Posted by JohnGalt at 01:16 PM | What do you think? [1]

Cheer Up, Hawks!

So says Charles Rousseaux in a Tech Central Station column.

He writes for the Washington Times. I am not familiar with his work, but he squeezes off some great lines in an upbeat assessment of the War:

...much of the debacle chatter is coming from the decoder-ring wielding members of the right wing conspiracy. It's as if a coterie of conservatives has taken out temporary memberships in the R.W. Apple Jr. quagmire club.

Pretty good. How about:
The fights in Iraq appear to be having a positive effect on the War on Terror. Osama bin Laden has had a lot of reasons to hit the bottle of Old Jihad lately. According to a State Department report released last month, terrorism hit its lowest level in 34 years in 2003.
[...]
Many of Operation Iraqi Freedom's premises have proved false, and its costs and sorrows are undeniable. Yet progress continues to be made, and the potential of a democratic Iraq is unmistakable. With a little perseverance it may still fulfill some of that promise. The quagmire conservatives should be aware of some of the legitimate good news coming from Iraq, or at least listen to the advice of singer Corey Hart in his 80's hit, "Never Surrender," "Just a little more time is all we're asking for/Cause just a little more time could open closing doors. . .

Posted by jk at 11:57 AM | What do you think? [0]

Berg Photo

I will not watch the video, but we cannot run from the images. Here is a screen shot of Nick Berg.

I'd do anything to "take back" the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison. That treatment was absolutely wrong, and we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. Of course, we've apologized. We've held Senate investigations. We are holding courts-martial. We all know that we're not going to hear any apologies from these people or their superiors.
berg.jpg
We are at war with religious nuts, this is what they look like. This is how they behave.

More at JunkYardBlog

Posted by jk at 10:54 AM | What do you think? [1]

The Media Have Overplayed Their Hand

It's not just Jeff Jacoby who spots this. I think everybody has spotted the double standard. Jeff just phrases it a little better:

As I write on Wednesday afternoon, the CBS News website continues to offer a complete "photo essay" of naked Iraqi men being humiliated by Americans in a variety of poses. But the video of Berg's beheading, CBS says, "is too gruesome to show." No other network and no newspaper that I have seen shows the gory pictures, either.

What exactly is the governing rule here? That incendiary images sure to enrage our enemies and get more Americans killed should be published while images that show the world just how evil those enemies really are should be suppressed? Offensive and shocking pictures that undermine the war effort should be played up but offensive and shocking pictures that remind us why we're at war in the first place shouldn't get played at all?

Yes, Virginia, there really is a gaping media double standard. News organizations will shield your tender eyes from the sight of a Berg or a Daniel Pearl being decapitated, or of Sept. 11 victims jumping to their deaths, or of the mangled bodies on the USS Cole, or of Fallujans joyfully mutilating the remains of four lynched US civilians. But they will make sure you don't miss the odious behavior of Americans or American allies, no matter how atypical that misbehavior may be or how determined the US military is to uproot and punish it.

Posted by jk at 09:54 AM | What do you think? [2]

Requiescat in Pace

We lost another great one last week: Jazz guitarist Kessel dies

SAN DIEGO - Barney Kessel, a high-profile jazz guitarist who performed with Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, and Art Tatum and backed countless other music greats, has died, his wife said. He was 80.

Sad to say that hearing he had died, I was not sure that he was alive. The article explains that he stopped performing in 1992 after a stroke. What an awesome guitar player.

We are fortunate to have some incredible young(er) guys now keeping the flame alive. But Joe Pass is gone, Tal, and now Barney Kessel. I will be seeing Bucky Pizzarelli next September at the Summit Jazz show -- he is becoming one of the last of that great generation of guitar players.

Thanks for all the tunes, Barney! RIP

Posted by jk at 08:53 AM | What do you think? [0]

May 12, 2004

Two letters

Both from Troops in Iraq, and both with hat-tips to Professor Glenn.

First, a Marine asks BLACKFIVE: Email Direct From Fallujah - "What Happened To Our Country?"

The Marines are in high spirits. The troops in Fallujah are doing what Marines do best, and they're true professionals. Everyone else is driving forward, wondering what all the fuss back home is all about. We don't feel that we're losing anything - in fact, we're finally addressing issues that should have been addressed some time ago. The world seems to have forgotten what war looks like. It's not supposed to be pretty and happy. Force is used to kill those who are perpetrating evil on the people of Iraq. The images need to be put in perspective, something the news agencies just don't have time for.

Semper Fi. The next letter is from an Army Spc: "I ask that the American People Be Brave:"
I ask that the American people be brave. Don't fall for the spin by the weak and timid amongst you that are portraying this battle as a disaster. Such people are always looking for our failure to justify and rescue their constant pessimism. They are raising false flags of defeat in the press and media. It just isn't true.

Last year in April while the main war was still going on to defeat Saddam Hussein's military, I myself gave a class to my company of the 16th Engineers about the threat posed by Sadr and the prospects for conflict with his militias. Though my fellow soldiers didn't appreciate having to attend a class at 8am on one of our last days before deploying to Baghdad, they can tell you that what is happening now is no surprise. I used open and general information that my superiors were already aware of.


He details the seriousness of the fight with Sadr, the awareness of the delicacy of the situation, and the successes that the Coalition has made. We're not getting the news from the news.

Thanks for your service, gentlemen.

Posted by jk at 10:12 AM | What do you think? [0]

Convention Schedule

E-mail from a friend:
> 6:00pm - Opening flag burning ceremony.
> 6:30pm - Anti-war rally no. 1.
> 6:40pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
> 7:00pm - Tribute theme to France.
> 7:10pm - Collect offerings for al-Zawahri defense fund.
> 7:20pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast
> 7:25pm - Tribute theme to Spain.
> 7:45pm - Anti-war rally no. 2. (Moderated by Michael Moore)
> 8:00pm - John Kerry presents one side of the issues
> 8:25pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
> 8:30pm - Terrorist appeasement workshop.
> 9:00pm - Gay marriage ceremony.
>
> 9:30pm - * Intermission *
>
> 10:00pm - Flag burning ceremony no. 2.
> 10:15pm - Re-enactment of Kerry's fake medal toss.
> 10:30pm - Cameo by Dean 'Yeeearrrrrrrg!'
> 10:40pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
> 10:50pm - Pledge of allegiance to the UN.
> 11:00pm - Double gay marriage ceremony.
> 11:15pm - Maximizing Welfare workshop.
> 11:20pm - John Kerry presents the other side of the issues
> 11:30pm - 'Free Saddam' pep rally.
> 11:59pm - Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.
> 12:00am - Nomination of Democrat candidate.

UPDATE: Okay maybe that's a little mean-spirited but in the same mail I received my 40% coupon from Borders for preordering "My Life" by Bill Clinton (hardcover or audio cassette read by the author). I just snapped, sorry.

Posted by jk at 08:34 AM | What do you think? [4]

May 11, 2004

Mr. Chairman!

As I have blogged before, I am hoping that Bob McTeer from the Dallas Fed is soon promoted to Fed Chairman (so long, Mr. Greenspan and thanks for all the fish!)

He has a guest editorial in the Wall Street Journal today (paid site) that objectively evaluates the potential of a spike in oil prices causing another recession. He points out that higher oil prices have predicted nine out of the last ten recessions but also warns that there have been four false alarms. And that the economy is moving away from a direct correlation:

Under this scenario, Dallas Fed research suggests GDP would suffer a one-time reduction of 0.9% -- not all at once but spread out over several years. An economy racing forward at 3.5% to 4% annually can weather the loss of several-tenths of a percentage point. A decade or two ago, a similar run-up in oil and natural gas prices would have done more damage to the economy. Three factors explain why we've become less sensitive to energy-price shocks:

* First, shifts in the composition of output and investments in more efficient plants, equipment, homes and vehicles have cut the energy-to-GDP ratio by more than 50% since the early 1980s. In the airline industry, for example, the average fuel per passenger mile has fallen by about 25%.

* Second, today's price hikes aren't as severe as many of the past episodes. Adjusted for inflation, for example, today's crude prices would have to rise to $75 to $80 a barrel to get where they were in 1981, which would mean gasoline prices of $3.50 per gallon or higher.

* Third, the economy benefits from experience gained over the years in dealing with higher energy prices. Companies that survived past episodes are less likely to misjudge the impact of expensive oil and natural gas on their own businesses and on others with whom they trade.


Posted by jk at 09:26 AM | What do you think? [0]

May 10, 2004

The Maslow Myth

There is more to life than politics -- even in an election year. Virginia Postrel pens the cover story to Innovation Magazine and mirabile non dictu, it's an eye-opening look at consumerism, style, art, and economics.

Human beings do not wait until they have full stomachs and a roof that doesn’t leak before they satisfy their aesthetic needs. Given a modicum of stability and sustenance, people have always enriched the look and feel of their lives through personal adornment and decorated objects. Poor people created the body decoration illustrated in National Geographic. Poor people built cathedrals in Europe and sand paintings in Tibet. Poor people turned baskets and pottery into decorative art. Poor people invented paints and dyes, jewelry and cosmetics.

Five thousand years ago, unimaginably poor Stone Age weavers living in Swiss swamps used fruit pits as beads to work intricate, multicolored patterns into their textiles, work that archeologists have found preserved in the alkaline mud.

These artifacts do not reflect societies focused only on “lower-order” needs. Aesthetics is not a luxury, but a universal human desire. The anti-capitalists who criticize markets for luring consumers into wanting more than meets their basic needs and the capitalists who scoff at
aesthetics for detracting from serious work are missing a fundamental fact of human nature.


I am a big fan of Abraham Maslow, but I'm a bigger fan of Ms. Postrel -- and I think she's got him here. The real story is not to discredit the hierarchy of needs but rather the importance that people place on art.

PDF reader required, but it's great -- read it.

Posted by jk at 12:41 PM | What do you think? [0]

Ahh, The Iron Lady

The WSJ Ed Page has a superb tribute to PM Thatcher today, WSJ.com - Maggie Moments (paid site only, sorry!)

British Tories are this month celebrating the 25th anniversary of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's ascent to power.

The "Iron Lady" led her country for 11 years, during which she shaped the modern, successful Britain, leaving a powerful legacy that her party is wise to celebrate and from which other leaders would be wise to learn.

Inheriting a Britain with high unemployment, militant unions and rampant inflation, Baroness Thatcher abandoned the socialism of past governments -- asserting that "to cure the British disease with socialism was like trying to cure leukemia with leeches." She instead introduced free market reforms -- cutting taxes, privatizing state-owned enterprises and defeating overly powerful labor unions.

Famously euroskeptic -- a stance linked to her abhorrence of socialism and bureaucracy -- she warned, "We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed at a European level, with a European superstate exercising a new dominance."

In foreign policy, democracies had to stand firm against aggression. She once reprimanded the House of Commons thusly: "I seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air." And after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, she memorably told a hesitant U.S. President George H.W. Bush "this is no time to go wobbly.

She even had a word to say on how to defeat terrorism: "Democratic nations must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend."

To those who place their faith in international bodies she offered this warning: "To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects." And for those who insist on their own importance in the world, she had this to say: "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."

Finally, to politicians who base policy on public opinion rather than principle: "If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing."

But perhaps her best-remembered phrase was her challenge to critics at a party conference, who wondered whether she should back off from her aggressive economic-policy proposals: "You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning." Consensus politicians, take note.


I'd say all those ideas hold up well today. She is still abused badly by the BBC elitists, I heard a unbelievably cruel interview with a BCC reporter last time I was there. She is, alas, not well, and has lost her beloved Dennis.

I always thought of Mrs. Thatcher, Reagan, and Pope John Paul as the three lions who defeated Communism and freed half the world. They are all suffering from poor health today -- let us keep their ideas alive.

Posted by jk at 08:29 AM | What do you think? [0]

May 08, 2004

Everybody else will be fine

This AP Headline really stuns me:

More Bad News May Be on the Way for Bush

The article is about the horrific prisoner brutality pictures and Secretary Rumsfeld's warnings that more and worse are on the way.

I am a political animal all the way. I annoy my friends with a political angle to almost every situation. But to couch this story completely in the realm of electoral politics seems over the top even to me.

Yes it reflects poorly on President Bush. But it has dishonored our entire nation and our superb professional military. Those were truly the most telling ten words that the AP editors could pick out?

Okay, now that they have opened the politics of this scandal, I have to laugh at another headline: "Kerry faults Bush for Abuse Scandal." This guy blames his speechwriters for the content of his speeches yet expects us to believe that a Kerry administration would have a keen grip on every private and lance corporal half a world away.

Posted by jk at 02:29 PM | What do you think? [0]

May 05, 2004

Truth and Legitimacy

Sometimes it is difficult to discern the truth (n. 1. Conformity to fact or actuality) such as when there is little physical evidence and the only witnesses are interested parties. "He hit me first!" "No, he did!"

Sometimes it is not so difficult. But even in these cases a "baffling phenomenon" often occurs. Men who are certain in their rational judgement of the truth then claim to be confused as to what the truth is. This phenomenon is described by Chicago engineer and objective thinker Jack Wakeland in yesterday's edition of Robert Tracinski's "TIA Daily." (A subscription is required but I have a 30 day free trial.)

Wakeland first refers to a NY Times article about a skirmish that occurred in Iraq. THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ: BAGHDAD; Attack in Iraq: Many Versions, Obscure Truth:

Times reporter Ian Fisher concluded of the skirmish between American soldiers and Arab militiamen that "determining the truth of what happened in incidents like this one is becoming increasingly difficult. Reality, at this pivotal moment for the Americans in Iraq, is a kaleidoscope of versions." Yet Mr. Fisher spends the rest of the article drawing a very clear portrait of exactly what happened--a portrait as objective and precise as the transcript of a murder trial.

Wakeland then cites examples of the phenomenon in Bob Woodward's latest book and in a UN report on Global Warming. Woodward's book paints a positive historical picture of the administration's determination to protect America, but in appearances promoting the book Woodward bashes them for rushing to act without sufficient regard for the consequences. The UN report concludes in several hundred pages that scientific evidence of a warming climate or of fossil fuel contribution to such warming was ambiguous, but the executive summary of that report claimed it was a scientific indictment of man-made CO2 emissions.

These are examples of intellectual fraud and, to any rational person who takes the trouble to see it, the "nuanced" conclusions are completely illegitimate. Those who blindly assume the validity of these illegitimate conclusions can be excused as uninformed or disinterested. But there are also those who see what is happening, or have it explained to them, and insist on defending the illegitimate conclusions as "justifiable manifestations of alternative perspectives" (e.g. "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.) For their complicity in deceiving the uninformed, these people threaten the existence of a human civilization that is progressive, rational and free - the precise objective of Islamic (and other) terrorists.

Click "Continue Reading..." to see the entire Wakeland essay.

TIA Daily Feature Articles


7. A "Baffling Phenomenon"

Why Does a Reporter Work to Find the Truth--Then to Dissolve It?

by Jack Wakeland


There was a fascinating piece in last week's New York Times (the piece should be available until the end of the week at: http://tinyurl.com/2c57r) about a skirmish that occurred in Baghdad. The article self-consciously admits to the existence of a baffling phenomenon: men, certain in their rational judgment of the truth who, nevertheless, claim to be confused as to what the truth is.

Times reporter Ian Fisher concluded of the skirmish between American soldiers and Arab militiamen that "determining the truth of what happened in incidents like this one is becoming increasingly difficult. Reality, at this pivotal moment for the Americans in Iraq, is a kaleidoscope of versions."

Yet Mr. Fisher spends the rest of the article drawing a very clear portrait of exactly what happened--a portrait as objective and precise as the transcript of a murder trial. By his own statement, Mr. Fisher arrived on the scene of a skirmish six hours after it happened and gathered nearly all the facts in a total of 45 minutes of on-the-spot interviews.

Ian Fisher is a superb reporter. But by what stretch of HIS imagination could he conclude that "In recent weeks, it has become harder for Western reporters to sift through conflicting accounts of incidents like this one."

In a court of law, conflicting accounts are resolved by jurors making a judgment on the credibility of the witnesses. Did they see all or only part of the incident? Was their judgement impaired? Are they telling the truth about what they saw?

In a court of law, the judge excludes hearsay. People in the neighborhood of yesterday's skirmish in Baghdad told Mr. Fisher that "they had heard that four children had been killed but had not seen the bodies themselves." In a court of law this statement would not be admitted.

Ask yourself a question. When it comes to determining the truth, what is the difference between the way a court of law reaches its conclusions and the way an honest man reaches his?

None.

But on the "Arab Street," rumor and hearsay--usually accompanied by ornate anti-Semitic conspiracy theories--are the staple of political conversation.

Ian Fisher is an extraordinarily productive reporter with superb judgment on what are the facts and the truth. His mind works with the precision of a court of law…and with far greater speed. Why would such a man, educated in Western universities, pursuing an intellectual profession, rising through the ranks to become a top reporter at the world’s greatest newspaper--why would such a mind bow to the opinions of every unemployed resident and every bigoted anti-intellectual passer-by on a dusty street in Baghdad?

Another case of this "baffling phenomenon" is the Washington Post's Bob Woodward.

Mr. Woodward just finished a round on the talk show circuit selling his book on the inner workings of the Bush Administration while it was deciding if and, then, how and when to invade Iraq. The book is a sequel to a book he wrote a year ago about the Bush Administration’s reaction to 9/11.

In his most recent book, Mr. Woodward presents the actions of those in the White House with all the clarity, color, and drama worthy of the historical moment. The book captured the Bush Administration's focused determination to defend America--and Western Civilization--from Arab-Nationalist- and Islam-inspired terrorism. It painted such a favorable portrait of the Bush administration that President Bush’s press office posted a link to his book on the White House web page.

But in his TV appearances promoting the book, Bob Woodward states that the Bush Administration rushed to judgment on the question of invading Iraq. That it ignored all evidence of future difficulties and evidence that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction might not exist. That it was wildly optimistic about the reception America would get as an occupying power. That it had no realistic plan for rebuilding Iraq.

This pattern is very reminiscent of the United Nations report on Global Warming. A several-hundred page summary was published on the scores of scientific (and quite a few psuedo-scientific) investigations into the possible existence of and causes of global climate change. It showed that these studies produced ambiguous results. No clear findings existed in the scientific corpus that the climate was warming or that warming was caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. None of this, however, prevented the committee leadership in charge of issuing the report from pasting an executive summary on the front of the study stating that it was a "scientific" indictment of man-made CO2 emissions. Few, very few, of the scientists whose views were dishonestly misrepresented have ever stepped forward to remove their names from the UN report.

Ian Fisher’s newspaper article is just the most recent case of this "baffling phenomenon," Men who think rationally and reach firm conclusions and establish them with certainty are later willing to distort or accept the distortion of the product of their own judgment--because they have adopted the view that man’s mind is incapable of reaching firm conclusions on what the truth is.

(Jack Wakeland is a engineer in Chicago and a frequent contributor to The Intellectual Activist.)

Posted by JohnGalt at 08:26 AM | What do you think? [10]

May 04, 2004

Two for the Price of One

Remember when Bill Clinton was elected President and Hillary promised to pitch in for free, making them a "two for the price of one" team? A prospective Kerry presidency would give us a similar bargain, but it doesn't involve Theresa.

Jay Leno points out, "If John Kerry is elected, he would be the first president to deliver the State of the Union address and the rebuttal."

What a deal!

Posted by JohnGalt at 10:47 AM | What do you think? [2]

JFK: Unfit for Office

"How can a man be commander in chief who for over 30 years has accused his "Band of Brothers," as well as himself, of being war criminals?

I have been surprised that more people who knew John Kerry during his war hero days hadn't piped up about the JFK they knew. It now appears that, in at least one case, they were just biding their time. When JFK pulled his third purple heart out of a cracker jack box and requested early transfer stateside, someone had to assume command of his boat. That man, John O'Neill, penned today's WSJ op-ed. O'Neill does not offer any opinion on Kerry's war record, but blasts him on the anti-military propaganda he peddled afterward.

"Neither I, nor any man I served with, ever committed any atrocity or war crime in Vietnam. The opposite was the truth. Rather than use excessive force, we suffered casualty after casualty because we chose to refrain from firing rather than risk injuring civilians. More than once, I saw friends die in areas we entered with loudspeakers rather than guns. John Kerry's accusations then and now were an injustice that struck at the soul of anyone who served there."

This sounds like the same selfless strategy we're applying in Iraq, and the same exaggeration of the bad acts of a few bad apples we're seing there as well. Why is Vietnam important now? Because in that case these tactics were new, and they worked. We've been there before people and this time we know better.

Posted by JohnGalt at 10:41 AM | What do you think? [2]

May 03, 2004

Light Blogging

..to non-existent this week. I am hosting a conference all week.

Talk among yourselves. Whoa --- Silence has started!

Posted by jk at 05:21 PM | What do you think? [0]
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