Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
No big gaffes, no great moments from either candidate. Both got stronger as the debate went on. All of that means that Bush won by not losing, although, foreign policy being Bush's strongest issue his campaign was no doubt hoping for a big win. That didn't happen.
Bush was Bush, not a great public speaker, a few times stumbling over his words, but he stayed on message and re-articulated his policy on Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. That's really all he had to do.
Like the challenger in a boxing match, Kerry needed to land a knockout punch to win this. He did not do it, though he did come across as stronger on terror than I had expected. Unfortunately, I don't know what he'll say tomorrow so it is hard to get too excited about that. Obviously Kerry was trying to walk a fine line in criticizing the President on Iraq but also having to acknowledge that he voted to authorize force and that he himself had characterized Saddam Hussein as a grave threat. I asked the question below, which part of his base will Kerry risk offending? The answer pretty clearly was the anti-war crowd, which I think was the best decision he could make - as long as he keeps the race close they will probably stick by him because they very badly want Bush out. If Bush has a big lead though going into the final couple of weeks, many of those on the fringe left will jump to Nader's camp.
Two criticisms of Kerry. He is still sticking with the "magic solution" meme. He is going to get our allies back with a summit (were they - French and Germans - ever really on board with us anyway?) and fix Iraq's problems, but never explains specifically what he would do differently. Second, he criticized Bush several times for "outsourcing" the job of catching bin Laden in Afghanistan but wants to outsource the job of Iraq to the U.N., French, Germans, or whoever.
One thing I did like was the general friendliness, respect, and lack of snarkiness that each candidate afforded the other. It was nice for each man to acknowledge that the other wasn't an evil obnoxious jerk and that they were both looking to achieve similar goals, but favored different processes. Perhaps that will tone down some of the hateful partisan rhetoric out there... okay it probably won't, but it does make me slightly less cynical about politicians... at least for a few minutes.
Lets face it, the debates are not much more than a glorified press conference for each side, especially given all of the camera and speaking rules for this one. Still, it is always interesting to see how the candidates perform and how the press spins the results. Conventional wisdom has Kerry in trouble at this point and if even half of these poll results are accurate, then tonight's debate is absolutely critical for his campaign. That is also not good news for Kerry.
George Bush has been surprisingly successful in past debates. I say 'surprisingly' because he is so often portrayed as a bumbling idiot, unable to think without Dick Cheney and the neocon cabal telling him how to do it. This actually helps him though because the bar is set so low. All Bush has to do is be better than expected - something he has done consistently in his political career. Misunderestimate him at your peril.
Kerry on the other hand can be long winded, but is also very nimble as 20 years in the Senate would suggest. Will he draw attention to his Vietnam service again? Bad idea if he does. The electorate does not care. Look at some recent history:
2000 Republican Primary Bush with his questionable National Guard service defeats John McCain a well known war hero and POW.
1996 draft dodging Bill Clinton gets all the swing voters and soundly defeats WWII hero Bob Dole
1992 Clinton defeats Bush I a decorated WWII fighter pilot
Kerry's biggest problem though will probably be what he says about Iraq. Either way he risks alienating a core group of his supporters. About one third of his base thinks we should stay the course in Iraq while almost half wants us to withdraw. That probably explains why Kerry has taken just about every side on this issue over the last few months. Who will he risk offending when they are all watching at once?
Monday, September 27, 2004
Eric Zorn/Home Invasion (Just Dial 911? II)
****Post has been updated below****
Eric Zorn is unhappy with Hale DeMar and the hero status some have accorded him. He writes in his Sunday Chicago Tribune column:
Hale DeMar, the Wilmette homeowner who shot and wounded a burglar inside his home last December, was celebrated as a hero by gun-rights groups nationwide.
But a look at recently opened police files in the case suggests that DeMar acted more like a vigilante than a hero--that it wasn't necessary for him to shoot the unarmed intruder to defend himself or his children, as he has claimed, and that he all but welcomed the confrontation in his home.
I wrote about this incident last February. The short of it is that Mario Billings broke into Hale Demar's home twice in 24 hours. The first time he stole several items including the house keys, the second time he was shot by DeMar. Eric Zorn's first major complaint is that DeMar "all but welcomed" Billings back by failing to immediately change the locks when the keys were stolen.
But would that have done any good? After all, the first time Billings broke in he did it quite easily without the house keys. Given that, how can we say with any kind of confidence that changing the locks would have prevented a second break in when it did not prevent the first?
Zorn's second crticism is that when Demar's security system alerted him to the breach (the second time) he should have immediately called police and stayed upstairs. But would the police have arrived at the scene in time? Maybe - though they didn't the first time. Because of that I think it a bit unfair to say that DeMar should have taken up a defensive position and relied on the police to do the rest when an intruder who may or may not be armed, and may or not be alone, is lurking downstairs.
Of course, if Billings had been armed and a better shot than DeMar, his children might have only memories of him left today. And if Billings had also been after the children instead of simply salable items to feed what he told police was his crack habit, they too might have suffered serious harm if their father's Charles Bronson routine had gone agley. Without a doubt this is a plausible "what if?" that Zorn puts forth. Of course, what if Billings (knowing the kind of loot that was inside) had come back with several more armed recruits intent on a big score, even if it meant violence against the homeowners? If Demar waited at the top of the stairs and shouted warnings it could have just as easily led to tragedy. There is the problem. Evaluating what-ifs is always dangerous. Once you allow yourself to make changes to history, you can demonstrate that any outcome is possible simply by selecting all of the what-ifs neccessary to make it come about.
For all DeMar knew, Billings would have kept coming back until he was caught - something that is not an easy thing for the police to do. As a recent victim of a home invasion, I understand all to well how difficult it is for the police to catch these guys, and I understand all to well how it feels knowing that someone out there knows how to get into your house and exactly what you have of value inside. I cursed Mayor Daley for Chicago's hand gun ban for several nights in a row as I slept with a couch pushed in front of a broken down door and a kitchen knife and pepper spray next to my bed for security. If DeMar decided the best way to protect his family was to be the aggressor on someone who broke into his home, rather than wait/hope for the police I can't second guess that. Even more compelling is that Demar's action is what finally put Billings in jail. If Eric Zorn would have done things differently for whatever reason I also wouldn't second guess that. Both Zorn's way and DeMar's way could lead to tragedy, or not. Both are difficult decisions with a lot of variables, including gut instinct, that must be considered. The weighing of the risks and how to protect one's home and children is a decision best left to each individual, rather than a city council.
I sent Eric Zorn the link to this post and, as he usually does, replied promptly. Below is our correspondence. (His words blocked and in italics)
I have a lot more on my blog today-- actually, billings didn't defeat a lock the first time, he just reached through a dog door. You'd have second guessed DeMar big time had Billings been armed just in case and a better shot than DeMar--- I fail to see how calling 911 and taking up watch at the top of the stairs wasn't way smarter. If Bilings starts to come up, you've got a corner, the dropon him and he's got a chance to run like hell at the first warning shot. Unless you just want to kill him.
Any outcome that isn't ideal will be second-guessed by someone. Maybe DeMar (who knows how good of a shot he is himself) calculated that the risk was greater to wait and hope the police end it than put an end to it himself. Maybe DeMar thought that if he waited for the police there was a good chance Billings would get away, only to come back another day. Or rob and injure someone else on another day. All of those are distinct possibilities. I see this as a case of DeMar wanting to put an end to it that night, he did, and no one was killed. Perhaps that wasn't the best way possible, but I don't know how one could prove it was or wasn't. In a harrowing situation such as this, I am willing to cut DeMar some slack for his decision.
In short, an intruder broke into a man's house, with children home, for the second time in 24 hours. Said intruder suffered non-lethal gunshot wounds and is now in prison. It just seems hairsplitting to devote a column to second guessing this all.
Hmm, well I suppose I don't disagree with much that Eric says, just his implication, which seems to be that DeMar is a shoot to kill irresponsible gun nut, and something could have gone wrong. (See Eric's follow-up column from today, and also more from his blog, here) I see a home got broken into for the second time in 24 hours by the same guy. Homeowner wounds criminal non-fatally, criminal is in jail. To me that is a satisfactory enough ending. Obviously that is not the case for others.
You give DeMar every last benefit of the doubt and ask no hard questions of him. Which is your right. But come on!
Change the locks.
If you can't change the locks, get your kids out of the house.
When the alarm sounds, call 911. It takes 10 seconds and then you know help is on the way.
He had all day to plan for this re-invasion and this is what he planned...no "harrowing situation" excuse, please.
And why is it hairsplitting to second guess him when so many people didn't seem to want to ask even basic questions about this matter before turning him into a hero?
Saturday, September 25, 2004
The Belmont Club is conducting a fascinating discussion on the social dynamics of terror cell sizes and the inherent trade-off they must make between functionality and security. The conclusion I reach is that the most meaningful resource to deprive a terrorist network of is state sponsorship. Go read the whole thing though, as per usual with the Belmont Club, the comments really advance the discussion in some interesting directions. Think law of diminishing returns, hierarchal structures of teamwork, chaos theory, anthropology and much more. It's posts of this quality that, on their own, justify the existence of the blogosphere.
Go read it already.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Dawn Turner Trice is a few times a week, very average, columnist for the Chicago Tribune's Metro section. From me she gets a once in while glance usually followed by a headshake and then a turned page. For whatever reason though, her column yesterday struck a nerve with me as I found myself still considering it today. So I sent her an email that got a little longer than I wanted so I'll post it here as well.
The middle section of her column is blocked in italics below.
Many of my detractors wanted to link the Iraq war to the 9/11 terror attacks.
Dawn, although I have obviously not read your email, I can't help but wonder if you are debating a straw man here or if it is that you really don't understand the connections. Of course Iraq had nothing to do with the logisitical planning/execution of 9/11. However, it is indisputable that Saddam Hussein had connections to and supported terrorism. Even if his links to Al-Qaeda were tenuous, his links to terrorism are anything but. (Don't underestimate how many of Saddam's oil for food dollars made their way to Al-Qaeda) Do you really believe that the only terrorism that threatens the United States or civilization is that which falls under the moniker of Al-Qaeda?
This, despite the findings of the 9/11 Commission and despite the findings of a recent draft report from the top U.S. investigator in Iraq that said there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when America invaded.
Wasn't that our main justification for going to war?
As far as WMDs go, no it was not our main justification for the war, it was one of many. This is an attempt to re-frame the debate. Can you please cite anyone, besides maybe Saddam Hussein himself, that argued that he had no WMDs before the war? Maybe you could even cite one of your own pre-war columns? You can't, every intelligence agency in the world believed this to be so. The only reason we now know it was wrong is because we invaded.
The manner in which Iraq is related to the wider war on terror is because the only long-term solution to the terrorist threat is the spreading of free societies. The dynamic in the Middle East was clearly not tipping in our favor and the region is in desperate need of reform. Middle Easterners deserve some hope for a better future and are worthy of democracy and all the promises of self-determination that we take for granted. Perhaps your argument is that Arabs are not capable of self-government?
Readers who didn't like the column wanted to justify the war by saying Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator.
Let him be? Perhaps you are right in some ways, although we did push him out of Kuwait and imposed a decades worth of sanctions and inspections. Oh yeah and also Bill Clinton, citing the continued threat of Saddam's WMD programs, ordered Operation Desert Fox where hundreds of Iraqi sites were bombed in a heavy air campaign. Not to mention our no-fly zone patrols that took fire from Hussein nearly every day for a decade. Even if all of this falls into your definition of 'letting him be' that still does nothing to advance the argument that it was right to 'let him be' and that we should continue ignoring his despicable acts just because we always have.
This is true. But he had been despicable for years, and for years we sat by and virtually just let him be.
Right now, there's genocide in Sudan and we watch because no terrorists there pose a threat to us, right? There are countries such as Israel, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and India that either have or are trying to build weapons of mass destruction. And yet we haven't drawn the line in the sand. Genocide in the Sudan only highlights the impotence of the UN. The US, indeed President Bush has been pushing the UN on this for months. Again Kofi Annan drags his feet and says that there aren't yet enough dead for it to count as genocide. Pathetic.
I don't know exactly what you are getting at with the last sentence, but here goes. Israel and India are allies and hence no threat to us. Iran may be a threat, but the reason we invaded Iraq is so we didn't have to invade everywhere else. The Mullahs have a tenuous grip on power there and are ripe for revolution. Perhaps a successful, free country next door could provide the little shove needed to overthrow that regime. But, Dawn, if you are arguing for an invasion of Iran, I am all ears.
North Korea already has nukes, and hence are more difficult to deal with. If we invade, we don't know how they would react. Almost surely they would start lobbing nukes into South Korea, and maybe even Japan if they have that capability. Is that risk worth it at this point? I think not. It would have been better to do something about them before they went nuclear... kind of like we did with Saddam Hussein. Or would you have preferred that we leave a nuclear Hussein for our children to deal with?
Pakistan like North Korea already has nukes, and at least for the time being are helping us in the War on Terror. If you'll recall before 9/11 they were the only country to officially recognize the Taliban, now they are at least on our side. Any change in government there would undoubtedly lead to an Islamic fundamentalist regime with nuclear capabilities rising to power. It would be silly, if not suicidal to have a single foreign policy dictum that applied universally to the rest of the world. You see, the world is a dynamic place - alliances, governments and attitudes are ever changing. Our foreign policy, as I am sure you would agree does require some nuance.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Peeling the Onion III
It's a point I've been hammering the last few posts but I'm going to do it again because Frederick Turner explains nicely how millions of pieces of disparate information all came together to expose Dan Rather.
Traditional journalism (usually referred to by the bloggers as the MSM -- Mainstream Media) limped behind the story. Mary Mapes, the CBS journalist who produced the unlucky 60 Minutes segment, had been working on it for five years, four years too late to smear Bush in the Bush-Gore election -- but it took the bloggers around 36 hours to track down the whole affair and to reveal the hoax at the heart of it.
Read the whole thing. The functionality of this system is strikingly similar to the textbook operation of efficient free market theory. They could learn a lot from each other.
What we saw was an extraordinary example of what chaos and complexity theorists call spontaneous self-organization. Out of a highly communicative but apparently chaotic medium an ordered, sensitively responsive, but robust order emerges, acting as an organism of its own. Suddenly a perfectly-matched team of specialists had self-assembled out of the ether.
The process was powered by the mighty search engine of Google, with its instantaneous access to all kinds of information and the addresses of experts to dispense it. The persuasiveness of replicable graphic experiment helped catalyze the moment of conviction: for many the decisive moment was the Little Green Footballs display of the Microsoft Word text flashed alternately upon the forged memo text. The dazzling speed and monstrous bandwidth of the information flow had crossed some kind of threshold, in which thousands of minds could act as neurons in a sort of super-intelligence -- an intelligence with not merely cognitive, but moral characteristics.
For as the story developed, something remarkable began to happen. The new community became aware of itself as a community -- the group mind, so to speak, had awakened, yawned, and seen itself in the mirror. As the various blogs, comment threads, and link systems cohered and came together, they started to recognize, exult in, and reflect upon their own power and speed, and a new tone entered the discussion.
Monday, September 20, 2004
Media and Information (Peeling the Onion II)
When the Sunday Chicago Tribune runs a front page article on blogs it proves they now matter, even if the article itself proves that the Tribune still doesn't understand blogs:
AUSTIN, Texas -- Hundreds of thousands of readers know him simply as "Mike," the creator of rathergate.com, an Internet blog spearheading a petition drive demanding the resignation of CBS News anchor Dan Rather because of his alleged liberal biases.
Ahhh a "Republican political operative" and we all know that we can't trust anything a Republican says. And what exactly is Dan Rather's, or any reporters, background and motives? Are we to assume that none of them lean either right or left? Or perhaps it is just that journalists are the only members of society capable of setting aside their biases for the higher cause of truth.
But what the visitors to his blog did not know when he launched it early last week was that "Mike" is Mike Krempasky, a 29-year-old Republican political operative from suburban Washington, D.C., a detail some might have found relevant.
The conservative bloggers who ignited a frenzy this month over allegations that Rather relied on forged documents in a Sept. 8 "60 Minutes" broadcast questioning President Bush's Air National Guard service insist they are force-marching the nation's mainstream media into a new era of transparency and accountability.
They extol the virtues of millions of ordinary citizens using blogs, a kind of personal Internet diary, to collectively check, vet and comment on everything they read in newspapers or watch on TV.
But there's a catch: Some of the anonymous bloggers aren't so eager to endure the same scrutiny of their backgrounds and motives.
"Blogs are supremely transparent," Krempasky said in a telephone interview. "With a very few exceptions, bloggers are real people that can be reached and talked to and held up to the light."
Once again the media falls victim to their own arrogance and attempts to make an argument from authority. Tribune writer Howard Witt makes nothing more than an ad hominem attack on Krempasky by questioning his credentials rather than the validity of his arguments. It doesn't matter who says a thing, it only matters if that thing is true - a liar can tell the truth, a smart person can sound dumb, an idiot can put forward a proper thought. Attacking the speaker, rather than what was spoken is nothing less than a dismissive intellectual shortcut. Because internet arguments are close to anonymous it is the facts that must be checked, and thanks to tools like Google it is relatively easy to do. Of course most of the media remains unconvinced.
Nowhere on Krempasky's site, however, did he disclose that he is the political director for American Target Advertising, a Virginia firm run by Richard Viguerie, the conservative strategist widely credited with inventing political direct mail and helping Ronald Reagan and numerous other Republicans get elected.
Nevertheless, many leading newspaper editors and TV directors are generally disdainful of bloggers, who assume the mantle of the free press but operate outside of traditional journalistic rules that aspire to fairness, balance and rigorous editing and fact-checking. They remain unmoved by the mass e-mail and fax campaigns organized by rathergate.com and other conservative blogs demanding an end to what they consider liberal bias in the news media.
Much like the free market, where values and costs are efficiently communicated in the form of a price, the internet aggregates millions of pieces of information (and disinformation) from the market place of ideas. The blogosphere writ large (which anyone with an internet connection can be a part of) acts as editor, writer, and publisher. Such is the nature of this new information beast. The sooner legacy media recognizes this and makes the proper adaptations the better chance they have of saving their crediblity, earnings, and perhaps even authority. Power to the people indeed.
"While some of these individuals are making a serious and thoughtful contribution to our global dialogue, too many simply contribute to the sense that we're in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all," New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. told an audience at Kansas State University last week.
But that free-for-all is precisely the point, the bloggers reply. In their free marketplace of ideas, they say, good information eventually pushes out bad, and truth ends up trumping falsehood.
"I've seen some criticism that bloggers are not edited, and that's true--we don't have traditional editors," said [Charles] Johnson, (Little Green Footballs) the Los Angeles blogger. "But the more important point is that with a readership of several thousand at any moment, if I post something incorrect or debatable, I'll receive e-mail within minutes. I've actually got thousands of editors looking over my shoulder."
Friday, September 17, 2004
The Gender Gap
The Chicago Tribune reports:
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Teresa Conway is hardly a by-the-book Republican.
Wow, sounds a lot like the sentiments I have heard my girlfriend and her mother express over the last 3 years - both live in/are from Chicago.
Four years ago, she supported then-Vice President Al Gore. But since casting that Democratic ballot, she married, had two children and has gradually become a devoted supporter of President Bush. She doesn't mind parting ways with the Republican Party on abortion and gay rights, explaining: "We really can't get into those things until we are safe."
"There are Sept. 10 people and Sept. 11 people and I'm a Sept. 11 person. It scared the life out of me," said Conway, 31. "I'm not one of those hard-core, all Republicans, all the time, but I don't believe there is another man alive that could run this country better with respect to our safety."
Some are saying that Illinois is now in play but I doubt it. Statewide, Illinois is Democratic powerhouse and the Illinois Republican party has less mojo than a John Kerry corpse. However, this trend is likely indicative of a wider trend, if not nationally, at least in the Mid West and without a solid majority of women voters there is no possible way for Kerry to win this.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Peeling The Onion
Yet for good or ill, the genie is out of the bottle. Before the Gutenberg printing press men knew the contents of the Bible solely through the prism of the professional clergy, who could alone afford the expensively hand copied books and who exclusively interpreted it. But when technology made books widely available, men could read the sacred texts for themselves and form their own opinions. And the world was never the same again.
--Wretchard - Belmont Club
So it was in 1436 when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press that a revolution of information dissemination was spawned, and so it is today - 500+ years later - that we find ourselves in the midst of another information revolution.
Frederich Hayek, the great economist and Nobel prize winner, taught that information is a valuable commodity, it is bought and sold. Thanks to the internet revolution of the 90's information is practically given away. Today, just about all of the information (and misinformation) in the world is available and transferable to and from just about every corner of the world. Fitting that the blogfather himself, Glenn Reynolds offers this valuable insight:
But all fun aside, I think there are some important lessons for Big Media -- and for everyone else -- in the rise of the blogosphere. They stem from the fact that bloggers operate on the Internet, where arguments from authority are difficult since nobody knows whether you're a dog.
Mainstream Media had created its momentum and cemented its reputation as a high trust authority. But because of the availability of information, blogs rose to (albeit limited) prominence accelerating the spread if information, and putting at least a measurable amount of pressure on the powers that be. How else to explain this op-ed piece from New York Times ombudsman Daniel Okrent headlined, Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?
In short, it's the difference between high-trust and low-trust environments.
The world of Big Media used to be a high-trust environment. You read something in the paper, or heard something from Dan Rather, and you figured it was probably true. You didn't ask to hear all the background, because it wouldn't fit in a newspaper story, much less in the highly truncated TV-news format anyway, and because you assumed that they had done the necessary legwork. (Had they? I'm not sure. It's not clear whether standards have fallen since, or whether the curtain has simply been pulled open on the Mighty Oz. But they had names, and familiar faces, so you usually believed them even when you had your doubts.)
The Internet, on the other hand, is a low-trust environment. Ironically, that probably makes it more trustworthy.
That's because, while arguments from authority are hard on the Internet, substantiating arguments is easy, thanks to the miracle of hyperlinks. And, where things aren't linkable, you can post actual images. You can spell out your thinking, and you can back it up with lots of facts, which people then (thanks to Google, et al.) find it easy to check. And the links mean that you can do that without cluttering up your narrative too much, usually, something that's impossible on TV and nearly so in a newspaper.
his opening sentence:
"Of course it is."When was the last time we heard an admission like this from Evan Thomas, a Newsweek editor:
There's one other base here, the media. Let's talk a little media bias here. The media, I think, wants Kerry to win and I think they're going to portray Kerry and Edwards I'm talking about the establishment media, not Fox. They're going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and there's going to be this glow about them, collective glow, the two of them, that's going to be worth maybe 15 points.
(More examples here.) What I'm leading up to of course is RatherGate. On 60 Minutes II Dan Rather came out with more evidence that Bush was privileged and used it to evade some of his National Guard duty. (Don't we all know that already? Hasn't that already figured into the voters calculus?) The problem was that the documents were forgeries, and it was the blogosphere that, just a few hours after they were made available on-line, cried foul.
10 years ago this story of the forged documents never would have happened. Dan Rather made a statement from authority, it would have been presumed as such. But as the LA Times, among other big newspapers, have acknowledged, "Blogs are Major Players."
While it was a handful of blogs, most notably, Powerline and Free Republic that did most of the heavy lifting, it was the aggregation of the knowledge in the blogosphere that truly give it strength. Be it a typeface designer in the 70's or ex-military guys familiar with the jargon, it was the collective knowledge of the millions of readers and bloggers, that gave this story its legs. As it stands now, the evidence is pretty overwhelming that the documents are forgeries, and all of that evidence can be found in a relatively accessible magical place called the internet. It's a brand new paradigm.
Yet, despite all this, CBS is sticking to their story. It highlights not only the arrogance of legacy media but also the manner in which their judgement is clouded. Given the fact that guys in pajamas in their living rooms were able to spot the documents as fake in a few hours, how could CBS have been duped like this? Simple. They weren't. The document experts that were used, are saying that they warned CBS that the documents were of questionable authenticity, and that CBS ignored their warnings. Yet a network that considered the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to be tabloid politics felt that the phony documents aired on 60 Minutes II were good enough.
Perhaps this is what troubles the left, they have become insulated - constantly reinforcing each others beliefs, never exiting their own cocoon. Maybe this is why I have a pretty smart friend who insists that the country is "nearly unanimous" in its opposition to the war in Iraq. (Disclaimer, I do live an artsy/hip part of Chicago, most here are Naderites at heart.) Perhaps this is why they so easily explain away Bush's convention bounce to flawed polling. Whatever it is, reality will hit them eventually, but for now it has come beckoning for Dan Rather. No longer can he feel safe in speaking soley from a position of authority, but rather must come armed with transparent sources and facts, secure in the knowledge that there are a million or so fact checkers out here waiting.
CBS has already given their statement but I haven't read it and won't until tomorrow. Until then, developing.....
I'm going to try and post something substantive on media and blogs with regard to Dan Rather and his phony memos, but for now I am just glad that he hasn't gotten his hands on this memo. If he were to.... game over. ;)
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
One of my former college professors, Rod Lemon, had an extended letter to the editor/short op-ed piece published in last week's Chicago Tribune. It's not long so I will reproduce almost all of it here.
Management consultants typically judge the job performance of a chief executive officer based on how well the CEO's company performs relative to other companies in similar market situations. Yet in this presidential election, political analysts evaluate President Bush's economic performance based simply upon whether U.S. manufacturing employment or the unemployment rate is greater today than at some prior date.
Bush is criticized because there are fewer manufacturing jobs today than 4 years ago. No mention is made that the U.S. economy was seven months into a recession when he entered office in 2000 or that Europe and Japan were in recession long before then and have remained in recession, with low economic growth and high unemployment rates.
Economies typically suffer deeper recessions after long spurts of growth such as experienced during the Reagan or Clinton years. Yet under Bush the 2000-2001 recession was quite mild. Further, the U.S. economy's gross output has increased significantly since 2002. Our recession was short-lived; this is in sharp contrast with Japan, Germany and to a lesser extent France.
Over the last 4 years, the total civilian labor force employed in the U.S. has increased by 3,185,000, while total German employment fell by 735,000 until recently. In Japan, there are 1,280,000 fewer jobs today than 4 years ago. It appears that Bush's stimulus packages of tax cuts did generate jobs and help the economy.
Structural changes -- low-cost transportation, low-cost communication, low trade barriers, high mobility of capital--have improved consumer welfare (more goods available at lower prices) while placing new demands on the blue- and white-collar labor force and all corporations. Both workers and corporations must adjust or be left behind. The need to be competitive also places limits on governments, because high taxes and costly social programs place a drag on the private sector and lessen its ability to succeed in a global economy.
The fact that workers and industries have had to adjust over the last 4 years is not the fault of the Bush administration; rather it is a reality that affects all industrial countries. When you evaluate President Bush with the German or Japanese prime ministers, the comparison becomes more valid. This latter comparison, while more complex than presented here, highlights that Bush may be one of the more successful current leaders of an industrial economy.
I've never been one to give a president much credit/blame for an economy as they simply do not have nearly the influence that the electorate gives them (politicians) credit for, especially in the short term. They can certainly not hurt it by staying out of its way though. That said, I do think that President Bush's tax cuts helped to soften the blow of the recession, especially given the shocks of corporate scandal, 9/11 attacks, and two wars. (When was the last time a recession saw plasma TVs flying off the shelves while unemployment averaged around 6% or less throughout?)
The American economy, because of low taxation and its highly competitive environment, proves itself to be much more flexible and dynamic than our European counterpart, who have also burdened themselves with large welfare states. While other countries struggle to emerge from the recession and double digit unemployment, the U.S. is now on track for growth and wealth creation. President Bush deserves at least as much credit for softening the blow of the downturn as Clinton does for standing aside and smiling as the technology boom roared past.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Kerry and War
(via Stephen Green) George Will notes more troubles for the Kerry campaign:
In his speech last week to the American Legion convention, Kerry said that in Iraq he, as president, would have done "almost everything differently." The indisputable implication is that if he had been president since 2001, America would be in Iraq.
But when pandering to Iowa's Democratic activists last winter, Kerry placed himself among the "antiwar candidates." More recently he has said that even knowing what we do about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, he would still have voted to authorize force. But on Monday he said Iraq was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." He has said that "it would be unwise beyond belief" for America "to leave a failed Iraq in its wake" -- and that too few U.S. troops are there. But he has also said that he will bring some of them home -- "where they belong" -- in his first term. Then he said in his first year. Then in his first six months.
A bigger problem with setting an advance date (rather than an advanced condition) on when we'll be out of Iraq is it lets the insurgents and derailers of democracy know just how long they need to hang on. It says 'lay low for a few months/years, we'll leave and you can take over.' I still don't understand why Kerry didn't take a "me too" position in the war on terror and simply say, "yes it was right to rid the world of Saddam, but now we need to build and lead Iraq to democracy. George Bush is not the man to do that, I am." Instead Kerry has chosen nothing but vagaries when it comes to outlining any sort of future for the Middle East. Bush has at least defined a vision for freedom and functional societies eventually emerging in the region. It's an ambitious project to be sure, but if Kerry has a better plan to make the world safer, let's hear it already.
Here is what Kerry said last month with regard to going to war, even knowing what we do now about weapons of mass destruction.
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. (Reuters) - Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said on Monday he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing force against Iraq even if he had known then no weapons of mass destruction would be found.
That's about as clear as one could get, I wonder though, how that plays with his anti-war constituency and if his worry that they would jump to Nader is the primary reason he hasn't repeated it.
Taking up a challenge from President Bush, whom he will face in the Nov. 2 election, the Massachusetts senator said: "I'll answer it directly. Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it is the right authority for a president to have but I would have used that authority effectively."
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Closer to Ruthlessness
Like the hostage theatre situation in 2002 this Russian hostage crisis again ended in barbaric tragedy. Expressions of shock at the over 340 innocents killed echo throughout the media, as though somehow the previous victims of terrorism were in some small way culpable. That is one of the hallmarks of terrorism though as the Belmont Club notes in the context of the French journalists kidnapping:
The most diabolical aspect of the terrorist's cruelty is that they have placed the symbolic dagger of execution into the hands of the French themselves. The French open their schoolday with the the subconscious understanding that upholding the headscarf ban may end the lives of two men. This tranferrence of guilt is terrorism's greatest lie: that the ultimate responsibility for a hostage's death lies in the failure of his loved ones to capitulate fully to their monstrous demands. It is a lie which the Left never tires of repeating but it is false all the same. Albert Camus once wryly wrote in the Rebel that "on the day when crime dons the apparel of innocence -- through a curious transposition peculiar to our times -- it is innocence that is called upon to justify itself." He was referring to Stalin, but alas, both for the world and for France, the evil the Left worshipped never died.
The scene in Russia was one of chaos and horror as fleeing children were shot in the back. This is nothing new, but rather another in a long line of displays of the inhuman cruelty that the enemies of civilization are capable of.
Understand, if we fought the Islamo-fascists with the same morality (or lack there of) that they fight us Tehran, Mecca, Damascus, and more would be parking lots shaded by mushroom clouds. Perhaps the crowning jewel of civilization is our collective ability to show restraint from acting upon our intrinsic violent nature. It is our culture of tolerance, our institutions, and society writ large that manages to slow this impulse. But what happened in Russia inches us away from such restraint. For it is not the resolve of the West that is weakened by such ruthlessness, but rather, with each attack it is a piece of our collective civilized sense that is whittled away, towards a more nuke 'em all response. As I have said before it is not a question of who will win this war, but rather which parts of the earth will be scorched and how many innocents will die. Time is the enemy of us all. Will the Middle East get on a path of reform, where the murderous gangs of Islamism are marginalized, or will one of them manage to detonate a nuclear or chemical device in a populated area causing us to respond in kind? But, it won't even take that, for as compassionate as one may be and as much one may find comfort in the romantic belief that violence is never the answer, you need only to look to yourself and ponder this, what will you do when they come for your children?
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
The Kerry Crash Continues
Dick Morris has postulated on a few occassions that some Democrats want Kerry to lose as a neccessary condition to set up a Hillary for President run in 2008. As interesting as it sounds I don't give the theory much credence, but then I look at how the Kerry campaign has been mis-managed over the last month or so and I start to have questions. Then I read things like this and wonder if they didn't somehow get John Kerry to actually join the conspiracy, here's what Kerry had to say as he campaigned in Pennsylvania yesterday:
"Everybody told me, 'God, if you're coming to Canonsburg, you've got to find time to go to Toy's, and he'll take care of you,'" Mr. Kerry said, dropping the name of a restaurant his motorcade had passed on the way in. "I understand it's my kind of place, because you don't have to - you know, when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling: Ah, what do you want?
The Republicans spent the better part of their convention painting Kerry as flip-flopper and he offers up made for sound bite campaign fodder like this? Is anyone managing this campaign?
"He just gives you what he's got, right?" Mr. Kerry added, continuing steadily off a gangplank of his own making: "And you don't have to worry, it's whatever he's cooked up that day. And I think that's the way it ought to work, for confused people like me who can't make up our minds."
Saturday, September 04, 2004
Lots of politically correct lefties and some Middle Eastern clerics expressed outrage at the French ban on headscarves. They were right to do so. We here in the West do not legislate dress, leave that to Saudi Arabia and the Mullahs in Iran. But where are those clerics now? Where is the outcry over kidnapped journlalists in Iraq or the hostage taking and killing of children in Russia?
Oh yeah that's right. The Israelis occupy the Palestinians and they built a fence, so kidnapping and slaughter of children is given a pass. But don't worry France is hot on the trail, they have secured endorsements from Yassar Arafat, Hamas, and Moqtada Al-Sadr.
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
RNC Day 2
On second thought, back to day one. I think that this part of Giuliani's speech was far and away the most important:
Terrorism did not start on September 11, 2001. It had been festering for many years.
And the world had created a response to it that allowed it to succeed.
The attack on the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics was in 1972. And the pattern had already begun.
The three surviving terrorists were arrested and within two months released by the German government.
Action like this became the rule, not the exception.
Terrorists came to learn they could attack and often not face consequences.
In 1985, terrorists attacked the Achille Lauro and murdered an American citizen who was in a wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer.
They marked him for murder solely because he was Jewish.
Some of those terrorist were released and some of the remaining terrorists allowed to escape by the Italian government because of fear of reprisals.
So terrorists learned they could intimidate the world community and too often the response, particularly in Europe, was "accommodation, appeasement and compromise."
And worse the terrorists also learned that their cause would be taken more seriously, almost in direct proportion to the barbarity of the attack.
Terrorist acts became a ticket to the international bargaining table.
How else to explain Yasser Arafat winning the Nobel Peace Prize when he was supporting a terrorist plague in the Middle East that undermined any chance of peace?
Before September 11, we were living with an unrealistic view of the world much like our observing Europe appease Hitler or trying to accommodate ourselves to peaceful co-existence with the Soviet Union through mutually assured destruction.
President Bush decided that we could no longer be just on defense against global terrorism but we must also be on offense.
It was our collective appeasement to terrorism, in hopes that they would just go away, over the last 30 years that brought on 9/11. Giving in or doing nothing may buy a nation time, but it won't get a pass. An appeaser is no threat to a terrorist so they move on, knowing they can come back and kill the appeaser last. See the the indignation of the French over their kidnapped journalists right now. How is is that they, who were great the opposers to the Iraq war, could be targets they wonder. That is why their response to the kidnappings thus far has been along the lines of "but we're freinds!!!" Nope, we are all infidels. Even if you vote for John Kerry or are a fan of Michael Moore.
Anyways, on to Day 2.
Most of the speeches last night were run of the mill politics, which doesn't have a lot of appeal to me. The Bush daughters were funny, and self-deprecating if not a little odd at times. It certainly helped their images though which up to this point, were out of control drunk college chicks.
Laura Bush was obviously reaching out to women voters, she made a real effort to show the human side of George Bush and express the difficulty and anguish with which Bush and Blair poured over the big decisions. It was probably effective in terms of softening her husband's hardened reputation.
Arnold was, as expected, the highlight. He made it a point that there is room for disagreement in the Republican Party. This should be obvious but it really isn't with the conservative wing of the party at times. Overall the speech took a very libertarian tone. He talked of free enterprise being the cornerstone of growth and progress. He talked about the value of immigrants and that Americans admire the ambition and work ethic of them, and most importantly that anyone who wants to come here and play by the rules and work hard will be welcomed with open arms. It's cliche but it is for a reason. This is one of the few countries that it doesn't matter who your parents are, you really can come with nothing and make a nice life for yourself, and an almost guaranteed better one for your children. Especially when compared to the rest of the world. The Democrats used to have a monopoly on helping the little guy and new immigrants, perhaps that is changing.
Most importantly though, they stuck to their moderate tone. I can only hope the 'family values/morality legislation' wing doesn't rear its ugly head over these last two days. Though I am not holding my breath. I think Bush has to do something to energize the evangelical base, there are a lot of votes in there.