Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Friday, June 30, 2006

A Declaration

In anticipation of the 4th of July, Professor Rummel proposes a sort of Global Declaration of Independence.

Read the whole thing.

As well, his website is quite a resource.This Q & A is quite thorough for example and some of his visual representations of democide are very moving.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gay Pride Parade

Yes, I've wondered the same thing, isn't any parade at least a little bit gay? I think so.

The lady and I never miss the Chicago Gay Pride Parade, there are few things more amusing than spending a summer day drinking beer with friends and getting sensory overload in the form of colors and people watching.

Oh my... the people watching!

I took a bunch of pictures this year, about 175, to help a friend with his annual gay pride parade photo gallery project. I'll post a link when he completes the 2006 version, but for now, here's a preview:

George Takai was the Grand Marshall:

Not many good looking blonds in the parade:

No exception above, that's a man!

Colors everywhere, and so many people on rooftops and balconies.

Even the local lumber company was representin'

I'll throw up a link when the gallery is complete. Much, much more to follow.

Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Alternate Alternatives

Mark Steyn writes:

Perusing reports of this month's World Naked Bike Ride in San Francisco, I was impressed by the way the acres of sagging mottled flesh stayed ruthlessly on message: "RE-ELECT GORE" was the slogan on one man's bottom, as fetchingly dimpled as a Palm Beach chad, while beneath the "GORE" of his butt his upper thighs proudly proclaimed "NO WAR" (left leg) "FOR OIL" (right). "I'D RATHER HAVE THIS BUSH FOR PRESIDENT" read one lady's naked torso with an arrow pointing down to the presidential material in question. What a bleak comment on the bitter divisions in our society that even so all-American a tradition as nude bicycling down Main Street should now be so nakedly partisan. It's as if the republic itself is now divided into a red buttock and a blue buttock permanently cleaved by the bicycle seat of war.

OK, that really has nothing to do with this post, but how could I excerpt any of this column without including that? It's the next paragraph that I'm interested in:
OK, this metaphor's jumped the bike path. Let me see if I can find some historical analogy. Ah, here we go: Back in 1559, devastated by the loss of her last continental possession, Mary Tudor, England's queen, said that when she died they would find "Calais" engraved on her heart. When the Democratic Party dies, you'll find "NO WAR FOR OIL" engraved on its upper thighs. Despite the Republicans' best efforts to self-destruct, I can't see the Democrats taking either the House or Senate this November. As I said a few months back, even a loser has to have someone to lose to, and the Dems refuse to fulfill even that minimum requirement. It may be true that on critical issues such as Iraq and immigration the GOP is divided. But it's a much bigger stretch to conclude that the beneficiary of those divisions is likely to be the Democratic Party, which is about the last place one would look for a serious position on either issue.

It comes off as childish, no? The way the Democrats incessantly criticize without offering any substantial or realistic alternative. Nothing is easier than to sit back and watch someone else attempt an incredibly complex task, point out every one of their mistakes, and then make the (non-falsifiable) assertion that you would have done it better.

It's even easier when it is a large government attempting to build a civil, liberal and modern society from the ashes of 30 years of barbarism in a part of the world that has never experienced such a thing. And oh yeah, murderous thugs willing to indiscriminately blow up innocent Iraqi civilians and saw off heads on the internet are running around, desperately trying to sabotage the whole thing.

Of course there are going to be mistakes (no war goes without them) and of course they should be highlighted, but it should be done so in a constructive manner, with goals for improvement. Sadly, criticisms are, far too often, used as a partisan club.

Do these critics have any alternative suggestions? Actually yes they do, but Wretchard and Blackfive make mincemeat out of them. Not because of a difference of opinion on effectiveness or strategy, but rather because of the respective strategies inability to reside within the realm of objective reality.

John Murtha embodies this absurdity when he suggests to Tim Russert that we could defend the Middle East from Okinawa:
MR. RUSSERT: But it’d be tough to have a timely response from Okinawa.

REP. MURTHA: Well, it—you know, they—when I say Okinawa, I, I’m saying troops in Okinawa. When I say a timely response, you know, our fighters can fly from Okinawa very quickly. And—and—when they don’t know we’re coming. There’s no question about it. And, and where those airplanes won’t—came from I can’t tell you, but, but I’ll tell you one thing, it doesn’t take very long for them to get in with cruise missiles or with, with fighter aircraft or, or attack aircraft, it doesn’t take any time at all. So we, we have done—this one particular operation, to say that that couldn’t have done, done—it was done from the outside, for heaven’s sakes.

The 'one particular operation' Murtha refers to is the bombing of Zarqawi. Similarly, Blackfive demolishes Murtha's plan with a simple map display, and these comments:
The straight yellow line extending across the middle of China and Iran is the distance from Okinawa to Baghdad as the crow flies which is approximately 4200 nautical miles. Obviously, the Chinese and the Iranians wouldn't be cool with that, but let's just roll with it. The max combat range for the F-16 with external fuel tanks and 2000 lbs of ordnance is 740 nautical miles so that's like a minimum of SIX midair refuelings in EACH direction.

This little display is hardly worth putting together, but I did it to demostrate that this man is dangerously deluded and not at all serious about an issue of critical national security significance. He is out there in the MSM just winging it and not being called to account whatsoever for statements that are so outlandish and absurd that they defy all attempts at comprehension.

So Murtha's proposition is logistically impossible, yet he seems unaware, or maybe he just doesn't care. Criticism panders.

The other alternative to the Bush strategy has been put forth by Democratic think tank, Center for American Progress. Like the Murtha/Okinawa plan, this one also mounts a serious challenge to the rules of logic. Wretchard performs his typically keen analysis and notes:
This is frightening in its own way, not only because it contains obvious internal contradictions (shown in the table below) but because it never comes to grips with the fundamental questions that have been raised, but never answered about the strategy in Iraq.

But read the whole thing. The details are quite interesting.

And just yesterday I came across one more plan put forth by the left. Aziz P over at Dean's World summarizes a strategy that seems strangely... familiar


3. KEEP WMD FROM JIHADISTS (esp soviet nukes!)


5. DISSEMINATE DEMOCRATIC IDEALS (note: not neccessarily democracy!) WORLDWIDE



Fascinating is it not? This is generally what US policy has been since, oh about 2001. Not much alternative here. Follow the link to Dean's World for some good comments. Also, I want to note, that I would love for the left to actually jump on board with this, but given the rhetoric of leading Dems (Murtha, Kerry, Kennedy) that seems quite unlikely. As well, we all know that the devil is in the details, and as a commenter over at Dean's world notes, the list currently reads something like:

1. Make Strategic List
2. ???

If you're keeping score, that's 1 suggestion that is logistically impossible, one that contains so many contradictions it says nothing at all, and one that bears a striking resemblance to what we are already doing.

Monday, June 19, 2006

45 Days

I can't figure out what to make of this:
Al-Qaeda terrorists came within 45 days of attacking the New York subway system with a lethal gas similar to that used in Nazi death camps. They were stopped not by any intelligence breakthrough, but by an order from Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman Zawahiri. And the U.S. learned of the plot from a CIA mole inside al-Qaeda. These are some of the more startling revelations by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind, whose new book The One Percent Doctrine is excerpted in the forthcoming issue of TIME. It will appear on early Sunday morning.

U.S. intelligence got its first inkling of the plot from the contents of a laptop computer belonging to a Bahraini jihadist captured in Saudi Arabia early in 2003. It contained plans for a gas-dispersal system dubbed "the mubtakkar" (Arabic for inventive). Fearing that al-Qaeda's engineers had achieved the holy grail of terror R&D — a device to effectively distribute hydrogen-cyanide gas, which is deadly when inhaled — the CIA immediately set about building a prototype based on the captured design, which comprised two separate chambers for sodium cyanide and a stable source of hydrogen, such as hydrochloric acid. A seal between the two could be broken by a remote trigger, producing the gas for dispersal. The prototype confirmed their worst fears: "In the world of terrorist weaponry," writes Suskind, "this was the equivalent of splitting the atom. Obtain a few widely available chemicals, and you could construct it with a trip to Home Depot — and then kill everyone in the store."

I do question whether or not we do have a mole inside Al-Qaeda, it doesn't seem likely. Then again, perhaps it's a piece dis-information.... some carefully planned psy-ops just to push up the paranoia inside AQ?

More importantly, was it really called off by Zawahiri, and if so, why? My first thought was of a heavily commented on op-ed from Amir Tehari. A few months back, Tehari postulated that the new strategy of Islamic theocrats is to 'wait Bush out.'

For the past several weeks Mr. Abbasi has been addressing crowds of Guard and Baseej Mustadafin (Mobilization of the Dispossessed) officers in Tehran with a simple theme: The U.S. does not have the stomach for a long conflict and will soon revert to its traditional policy of "running away," leaving Afghanistan and Iraq, indeed the whole of the Middle East, to be reshaped by Iran and its regional allies.

To hear Mr. Abbasi tell it the entire recent history of the U.S. could be narrated with the help of the image of "the last helicopter." It was that image in Saigon that concluded the Vietnam War under Gerald Ford. Jimmy Carter had five helicopters fleeing from the Iranian desert, leaving behind the charred corpses of eight American soldiers. Under Ronald Reagan the helicopters carried the corpses of 241 Marines murdered in their sleep in a Hezbollah suicide attack. Under the first President Bush, the helicopter flew from Safwan, in southern Iraq, with Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf aboard, leaving behind Saddam Hussein's generals, who could not believe why they had been allowed live to fight their domestic foes, and America, another day. Bill Clinton's helicopter was a Black Hawk, downed in Mogadishu and delivering 16 American soldiers into the hands of a murderous crowd.

According to this theory, President George W. Bush is an "aberration," a leader out of sync with his nation's character and no more than a brief nightmare for those who oppose the creation of an "American Middle East." Messrs. Abbasi and Ahmadinejad have concluded that there will be no helicopter as long as George W. Bush is in the White House. But they believe that whoever succeeds him, Democrat or Republican, will revive the helicopter image to extricate the U.S. from a complex situation that few Americans appear to understand.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's defiant rhetoric is based on a strategy known in Middle Eastern capitals as "waiting Bush out." "We are sure the U.S. will return to saner policies," says Manuchehr Motakki, Iran's new Foreign Minister.

One of the big ironies of the times is that, because the administration has been so successful at preventing further attacks on US soil, it has given critics more freedom to criticize.

Bush exaggerates the terror threat for political gain, 9/11 was a lucky shot, there is no real threat, etc.

All of that would ring quite hollow if this subway chemical attack actually materialized. Osama bin Laden made a tremendous miscalculation in thinking that America would choose appeasement in the wake of 9/11. To the contrary, it managed to wake most of us up to the reality that we neither could or should continue to ignore the murderous dysfunction of the Middle East, because it does affect us. Lethally.

Things are different today though, we've gone 5 years without an attack. As Tehari notes, "the general assumption is that Mr. Bush's plan to help democratize the heartland of Islam is fading under an avalanche of partisan attacks inside the U.S." Hard to argue with that observation, and our enemies overseas understand it as well. A successful attack would likely reverse that trend, so they'll wait for a more opportune time.

I can see why it is an attractive strategy, and it might be the best available given the other really bad alternatives most of our enemies are left with. Personally, I have gone back and forth on whether or not the 'waiting out Bush' strategy will actually work. I think it very well might, but, like Tehari, I probably lean a bit the other way:

But how valid is the assumption that Mr. Bush is an aberration and that his successor will "run away"? It was to find answers that this writer spent several days in the U.S., especially Washington and New York, meeting ordinary Americans and senior leaders, including potential presidential candidates from both parties. While Mr. Bush's approval ratings, now in free fall, and the increasingly bitter American debate on Iraq may lend some credence to the "helicopter" theory, I found no evidence that anyone in the American leadership elite supported a cut-and-run strategy.

The reason was that almost all realized that the 9/11 attacks have changed the way most Americans see the world and their own place in it. Running away from Saigon, the Iranian desert, Beirut, Safwan and Mogadishu was not hard to sell to the average American, because he was sure that the story would end there; the enemies left behind would not pursue their campaign within the U.S. itself. The enemies that America is now facing in the jihadist archipelago, however, are dedicated to the destruction of the U.S. as the world knows it today.

Those who have based their strategy on waiting Mr. Bush out may find to their cost that they have, once again, misread not only American politics but the realities of a world far more complex than it was even a decade ago. Mr. Bush may be a uniquely decisive, some might say reckless, leader. But a visitor to the U.S. soon finds out that he represents the American mood much more than the polls suggest.

9/11 aroused us to the brutal, complicated state of humanity. It provided a tangible reminder that it is our peaceful and prosperous Western Societies that are the historical exception and that poverty, war, and murder are, sadly, the norm. That's not something that will leave our collective conscious anytime soon.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Effect of Cuts

A few years ago I wrote a post about the laffer curve and how tax cuts can actually increase government revenue. Of course, back then, Bush's tax cuts were touted as a scheme that would 'benefit the rich' (which is just silly) while only driving us deeper into the black hole of national debt.

Seems, as I suggested, that the opposite is taking place:

Aided by surging tax receipts, President Bush may make good on his pledge to cut the deficit in half in 2006 - three years early.
Tax revenues are running $176 billion, or 12.9%, over last year, the Treasury Department said Monday. The Congressional Budget Office said receipts have risen faster over the first eight months of fiscal '06 than in any other such period over the past 25 years - except for last year's 15.5% jump.

The 2006 deficit through May was $227 billion, down from $273 billion at this time last year. Spending is up $130 billion, or 7.9%.

The CBO forecast in May that the 2006 deficit could fall as low as $300 billion. Michael Englund, chief economist of Action Economics, has long expected a deficit of about $270 billion this year. Now he thinks there's a chance the "remarkable strength in receipts" will push the deficit even lower.

With the economy topping $13 trillion this year, a $270 billion deficit would equal less than 2.1% of GDP, easily beating the president's 2.25% goal. Bush made his vow when the White House had a dour 2004 deficit forecast of 4.5% of GDP, or $521 billion. The actual '04 deficit came in at $412 billion, or 3.5% of GDP, before falling to $318 billion, or 2.6% of GDP, in 2005.

A CBO analysis last week noted that withheld individual income and payroll taxes are up 7.6% from a year ago, with the gains picking up in recent months.

"Those gains suggest solid growth in wages and salaries in the national economy," CBO said.

While gains are broad, those at higher-income levels are enjoying bigger salary hikes. Because they pay higher rates, federal tax revenues soar when they do well.

Those making over $200,000 now pay 46.6% of total income taxes, presidential adviser Karl Rove recently said. That's up from 40.5% - despite Bush's tax cuts.

Instead of having the regressive and disasterous effects that the economic illiterates predicted, the aftermath of tax cuts are now a period of growth, the 'rich' paying more in taxes, and government taking in more revenue. Now, I don't necessarily believe that the second and third conditions are good things, but it is what's happening.

Who'da thunk it?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Reading

Two posts worth your time:

First Rand Simburg has a great link filled post on Zarqawi, including an outstanding perspective from Claudia Rossett.

And I guess this post is related from the standpoint that the death of men like Zarqawi can only be considered a good thing for gay rights: Dave Price writes In Defense of Gay Marriage. As is usual at Dean's World, a good discussion follows.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Good Start

It's not often that death puts me in a good mood, but sometimes it does happen.

Of course this doesn't mean that all those fascist slaughterers who make their political statements by bombing civilians and insisting that half the population stay inside wrapped in sheets will just give up and join society, but it certainly gives momentum to civilization.

Today, my day is made.

More: Iraq the Model has more. And you can hear further thoughts from Omar in this interview conducted by the Wretchard from the Belmont Club here.

More Still: Dave Schuler is rounding up reactions from Iraqi blogs. He promises to update often.


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