Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

Exploiting Katrina

From James Glassman at Tech Central Station:

Katrina has nothing to do with global warming.
.................................
But that doesn't stop an enviro-predator like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. from writing on the Huffingtonpost website: "Now we are all learning what it's like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged. Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and - now -- Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children."
.................................
Or consider Jurgen Tritten, Germany's environmental minister, in an op-ed in the Frankfurter Rundschau. He wrote (according to a translation prepared for me): "By neglecting environmental protection, America's president shuts his eyes to the economic and human damage that natural catastrophes like Katrina inflect on his country and the world's economy."
.................................
Indeed, there is no evidence that hurricanes are intensifying anyway. For the North Atlantic as a whole, according to the United Nations Environment Programme of the World Meteorological Organization: "Reliable data…since the 1940s indicate that the peak strength of the strongest hurricanes has not changed, and the mean maximum intensity of all hurricanes has decreased."
.................................
But environmental extremists do not want to be bothered with the facts. Nor do they wish to mourn the destruction and death wreaked on a glorious city. To their everlasting shame, they would rather distort and exploit.

Bill C:

Glenn Reynolds links to articles supportive and critical of Glassman. It seems to me the problem is sample size. The letter in Nature says that warmer sea surface temperatures would lead to more intense cyclones. (Natch) Now we have to connect that to global warming and global warming to a solution. Not as simple as it sounds.

CLARIFICATION:

Both Kennedy and Tritten of Germany have used Katrina for political purposes. Kennedy used Katrina to spout off about the war in Iraq and Tritten used Katrina to promote the Kyoto Protocol. Until this kind of rhetoric is removed from the global warming issue I'm afraid it will not be taken seriously.

Bill O:

I see your point on how political opportunism can undermine the global warming argument, but I hope people wouldn't choose to downplay the potential impact this issue because of the rhetoric of uneducated partisans. There are a lot of other voices out there. In fact, here are three recent converts whom you should take seriously: I noticed in the two weeks leading up to the summer's G8 conference that The Wall Street Journal, Exxon/Mobil, and President Bush himself all conceded that greenhouse gasses contribute to global warming, with the first two actually stating that fossil fuels are a source of greenhouse gasses. This was a major shift for all three, as I had never seen anything but out-and-out denial previously. It seems that the argument has begun to move from "yes-or-no" to "how much" do fossil fuels contribute to GW. Hopefully we'll be able to put the rhetoric, politics and opportunists aside to judge the facts however they fall.

Bill C:

There has been an increase in surface temperatures. Atmospheric temperatures are not increasing. The increase has not been abnormal compared to what has occurred during the past. Just as it was a matter of time until a hurricane hit N.O. and there was very little we could do to protect the city, there is very little we can do to prevent global warming. We are kidding ourselves if we think that human efforts can change the weather on a global scale. I don't like bad science in any debate and the use of Katrina is nothing but politics. If we really want to try something we should be rapidly approving nuclear power plants and I don't see the Left championing that cause just yet. Let's work on making cheap electricity via nuclear power and then we can talk about tax incentives for switching to hybrid and hydrogen powered vehicles. More on the left using Katrina to flog global warming later.


 

Katrina observations

While watching the coverage someone compared the aftermath of Katrina to a nuclear detonation. In a way, this is worse and better. A nuclear detonation will be more contained than the disaster area that Katrina has created. A fission bomb would have a kill zone, depending on its size of no more than 15 miles. Katrina has devastated hundreds of miles. A nuclear detonation means fallout and the primary mission would be to get the survivors treated. However, that operation would be contained to a specific geographic area and the likelyhood of survival would increase as you move away from blast area. Because of the huge area covered and the fact that survivors are scattered ovedr this area, Katrina presents a huge challenge in coordination of federal and state disaster relief services.

The flooding of New Orleans is a disaster unlike anything the United States has faced since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. An entire city has been rendered inactive by the flood. I have not heard how many people are still in the city other than the superdome has roughly 10,000 people. All of these people will need to be evacuated because the city is not likely to be drained before the heat and standing water create a health crisis. I imagine that it will be easier to move these people to dry land rather resupply them. There are no firm estimates on when the city will be drained.

It is morbid to say but a nuclear detonation would be easier to manage because you would know with a fairly high degree of certainty the chance of finding suriviors in a certain area. After a hurricane, who knows how many people stuck around in what area? As far as managing this crisis, getting to the people in New Orleans is top priority. People in flooded areas will have to be picked up by boat and helicopter and this promises to be a race against time. I am sure this will rival the biggest airlifts history. We need to get people out of New Orleans before they start to panic. From news reports I have heard of looting and attempted carjackings and this will only get worse potentially putting rescue workers in danger. When I learned how to rescue someone who is drowning I was taught to avoid being grabbed at all costs. A panicking person will do whatever it takes to survive and that includes drowning their rescuer.

DIEGO: An interesting comparison of disasters. There is adequate warning for a hurricane and therefore time to prepare where presumably a bomb detonation is a complete surprise.

In the case of New Orleans I believe the mass flooding was expected at some point. It has been a topic of conversation occasionally in the news as well as among friends as I have visited the city several times. The fact that it is below sea level made the potential for disaster obvious. It seems that a complete evacuation of the city has been suggested (ordered?) and the focus for now should be on saving lives. But soon I think it should be questioned as to weather the city should ever be rebuilt. Private investors can return at their own risk but I'm not sold on using any government funds to help anyone return rather than relocate permanently.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

 

Housing Bubble Rap Up: August 2005

Before I continue with my cronicle of housing bubble craziness let me say that rarely do I see opportunities in the market that are as clear as I see in the stock market right now. Simply put, short the Dow with a stop at 10650. Less than three hundred points of risk gives you the potential of thousands of points of profit; if this is the beginning of the next phase in the bear market.

Ok, we start this episode of bubblemania with another article about the joys of debt. Not only is debt joyful but if you are mortgaged out the wazoo you are a 'fool'.

"If you paid your mortgage off, it means you probably did not manage your funds efficiently over the years," said David Lereah, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors and author of "Are You Missing the Real Estate Boom?" "It's as if you had 500,000 dollar bills stuffed in your mattress."

He called it "very unsophisticated."

Anthony Hsieh, chief executive of LendingTree Loans, an Internet-based mortgage company, used a more disparaging term. "If you own your own home free and clear, people will often refer to you as a fool. All that money sitting there, doing nothing." [Emph. added]


Before I continue let me say this. If you do have lots of home equity and you have a large chunk of money earning you interest upon which you live then it might make sense to take on a second mortgage. You would take that extra money and by into U.S. treasuries. I just have a feeling that most people are not being prudent with the home equity piggy bank.

The financial services industry is doing all it can to avoid letting consumers be foolish. [Snicker] Ditech.com touts home loans as a way to pay off credit cards, and Morgan Stanley says they're a good way to fund education expenses. Wells Fargo suggests taking a chunk out of your house to finance "a dream wedding."


1) Cutting credit card debt? Maybe, if you are a shopaholic it would be enabling.

2) Fund education? Go into debt so that your little darling can party for 4 years or become a LUG. Your call.

3) Dream wedding? Oh yeah, that's the only one that makes sense.

Many of these are first-time home buyers, and many of them are relatively young. The report calculates that the greatest increase in homeownership rates between 2000 and 2003 came in the 30-to-34 age group. Second-highest was 25-to-29.

"I think what's happening is that a lot of younger renters feel the ship is passing them by," said Hans P. Johnson, one of the authors of the report, titled "California's Newest Homeowners: Affording the Unaffordable." "If they don't buy a house now, they think, they never will."


Here in a nutshell is why Alan Greenspan is the worst Central Banker since John Law. Allowing the money supply to grow and fund a bubble distorts prices. People being people get caught in the mentality that trends will continue forever because humans think linearly.

Put another way, women like houses. It is a symbol of stability. Try telling your wife that you are selling your house to rent an apartment because you want to cash out before the bubble pops. Seem unreasonable? I could see her point. However, try telling your wife that you want to rent for a few more years because you don't want to be stuck in a depreciating asset. I expect you will get the same response either way. NO, house now!

Now back to the topic at hand. The goal of every Central Banker should be price stability. At some point everyone forgot that price stability should apply to assets like houses and stocks. They can get overvalued and then you end up with an economic dislocation that leaves some winners and usually more losers. But even worse, you shake peoples confidence in the free market system which is incredibly ironic to me. A quasi-government agency mismanages the nations currency and who gets blamed, capitalism. I hope that the blame is correctly passed on to the Federal Reserve System but I have a feeling that those politicians who love to bash free markets are going to foist the blame on our laissez faire, (Ha) market driven economy.

Isn't it funny that Paul Krugman can get it right (almost) but the National Review can't.

BuzzCharts and the rest of the supply-side community know better. Because America is being governed by supply-side economic policy, our housing market is very strong. It started with the Clinton capital-gains tax cut in 1997. It slowed down during the deflationary recession of 2000-01. It restarted when the Fed ended the deflation through a series of rate cuts. It was strengthened when President Bush cut taxes in 2001. And it culminated in the economic boom that started when the president implemented the final phase of his tax cuts in May 2003. Obviously, this kind of growth can’t continue forever, otherwise BuzzCharts’ grandchildren will be building their homes on the moon. However, if it’s not a bubble, it can’t burst.


So it is a bubble if it bursts unless it is a deflationary recession. You can quickly figure out with this point of view that the Fed should never raise rates. There is no need if there is no consumer price inflation. Asset price inflation is just peachy with the folks who write about economics at the National Review. It is a shame that they are blind to this possibility and it is comic that they refuse to call the popping of the internet bubble anything but a bubble. They will be similarly blindsided by the housing bubble and they will be rightly painted as cheerleaders for fiscal irresponsibility. Real economic conservatives should be championing a return to commodity standard which took the supply of money out of the hands of a Maestro who is more likely than not going to screw it up. Conservatives don't call upon bureaucrats to control any other aspect of our economy, why is our nation's currency any different?

Monday, August 29, 2005

 

It looks like New Orleans survived

...at least the French quarter. Anybody up for Mardi Gras next year? I want to show my wife the decadent life in America.

Update:

I am watching Fox and Shep is standing on a street in the French quarter. He said he stayed at a hotel across from Rick's Cabaret and I swear that is the same hotel that we stayed at during Brendan's bachelor party.

Update II:

Whoops. Let's put that vacation on hold. Hey how about diving the Superdome?

 

The Last PR Stunt












As the summer winds to a close we can look forward to two things, 1) the Chicago Bears are going to have a decent season and 2) Cindy Sheehan has jumped the shark. Whenever racehustler the "Rev." Al Sharpton takes up your cause you know that you don't have much longer before your movement cascades into adsurdity.

 

Iraq's Proposed Constitution

Mark Steyn:
If you'd been asked in 2003 to devise an ideal constitution for Iraq's very non-ideal circumstances, it would look something like this: a highly decentralized federation that accepts the reality that Iraq is a Muslim nation but reserves political power for elected legislators -- and divides the oil revenue fairly.

And if it doesn't work? Well, that's what the Sunnis are twitchy about. If Baathist dead-enders and imported Islamonuts from Saudi and Syria want to make Iraq ungovernable, the country will dissolve into a democratic Kurdistan, a democratic Shiastan, and a moribund Sunni squat in the middle. And, in the grander scheme of things, that wouldn't be so terrible either.

In Iraq right now the glass is around two-thirds full, and those two thirds will not be drained down to Sunni Triangle levels of despair. There are 1 million new cars on the road since 2003, a statistic that no doubt just lost us warhawks that Sierra Club endorsement but which doesn't sound like a nation mired in hopelessness. A new international airport has been opened in the north to cope with the Kurdish tourist and economic boom. Faruk Mustafa Rasool is building a 28-story five-star hotel with a revolving restaurant and a cable-car link to downtown Sulaimaniya.

To be sure, we shouldda done this, and we shouldda done that. Yet nonetheless Iraq advances day by day. The real quagmire is at home, where the kinkily gleeful relish of defeatism manifested by Cindy Sheehan, Joan Baez, Ted Kennedy et al. bears less and less relationship to anything happening over there. Iraq's future is a matter for the Iraqis now -- which, given the U.S. media, Democrat blowhards like Joe Biden and Republican squishes like Chuck Hagel, is just as well.

Friday, August 26, 2005

 

Bambi vs. Godzilla

Ok Goldberg and Cole, you guys have no excuse.

Via LGF, as Mr Johnson says, the mismatch of the century. Not since Mike Tyson squared off with that Irish guy after he was released from prison has there been a match more easily predictable. Hansen's academic background is a hindrance against a seasoned public debater. But Huffington is as eloquent as an aging Hungarian movie star. Hell, she made Arnold look like Cicero in a gubernatorial debate. Please let this be televised! If Hanson does not make her look like a Disney character he should be ashamed.

P.S. I think all conservatives with a sense of humor owe a debt of gratitude to Arianna for the Huffington Post. What a wellspring of humorous material.

Update:

The luddite, VikingPundit, has linked to this post. Wry? Oh, I looked it up. Thanks.

Ace calls it a clash of the Titans. He jokes.

Academic migrant workers blog has the schedule and the topic: Is the U.S. "internationalist or imperial."

Boghie warns Arianna. Hey shut up! Don't tell the stupid, thrill seeking kid that jumping off a building on his skate board is dangerous. Also, Boghie catchs the Huffington Post censoring good arguments in their comments section.

Aaron has put Arianna's face on the Hindenberg. Nice.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

 

That for which Casey died

Scott Ott replaces his voice for the Presidents and gives a much better explanation for the invasion of Iraq than I have heard, yet.

Dear Mrs. Sheehan,
You have asked me to identify the noble cause for which
your son died. I have not answered you personally out of respect for the
nobility of your son's sacrifice.
Being president forces me into the
spotlight, but I would rather stand in the shadows of men like Casey Sheehan.
Directing national attention on my response to your protest creates a
distraction from what matters. The focus of our attention, and our admiration,
should rest on people like Casey Sheehan, who stand in the breach when evil
threatens to break out and consume a helpless people.
The running story on
the news networks should be the valiant efforts of our troops -- the merchants
of mercy who export freedom and import honor. They trade their own lives for the
sake of others.
As a result, we live in a nation where a woman can camp
outside of the president's house and verbally attack the president for weeks on
end without fear of prison, torture or death. And the number of nations where
such protest is possible has multiplied thanks to the work of our
military.
You ask for what noble cause your son died?
In a sense he died
so that people like you, who passionately oppose government policies, can freely
express that opposition. As you camp in Crawford, you should take off your
shoes, for you stand on holy ground. This land was bought with the blood of men
like your son.
Now, 25 million Iraqis cry out to enjoy the life you take for
granted. Most of them will never use their freedom to denigrate the sacrifice of
those who paid for it. But once liberty is enshrined in law, they will be free
to do so. And when the Iraqis finally escape their incarceration, hope will
spread throughout that enslaved region of the world, eventually making us all
safer and more free.
The key is in the lock of the prison door. Bold men
risk everything to turn it.
Mrs. Sheehan, everyone dies. But few experience
the bittersweet glory of death with a purpose -- death that sets people free and
produces ripples of liberty hundreds of years into the future.
Casey Sheehan
died that freedom might triumph over bondage, hope over despair, prosperity over
misery. He died restoring justice and mercy. He lived and died to help to
destroy the last stubborn vestiges of the Dark Ages.
To paraphrase President
Lincoln, the world will little note nor long remember what you and I say here.
But it can never forget what Casey Sheehan did during his brief turn on earth.
If we are wise, we will take increased devotion to that cause for which he gave
the last full measure of devotion.
Our brave warriors have blazed a trail.
They have entrusted the completion of the task to those of us they left behind.
Let's, you and I, resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.
Let's
finish the work that they have thus far so nobly advanced.
Sincerely,

George
W. Bush



I know Bush has said it is about freedom but he never seems to convey what that freedom means. Certainly not in the way that Reagan spoke of freedom, in a way that made your heart soar and swear to do your best for humanity. That is Bush's fault for which so many conservatives seem worried about during these dog days of August, as if we buy into the playground taunts of the leftists, "Another vacation?" Yes, there are no telephones in Crawford.

I know the believers in this war of liberation hurt when they read about Cindy Sheehan and I fervently wish that the White House will find a voice that can really convey our sincere desire that the Iraqis shape their own democratic government with the benefit of a more satisfied populace less likely to turn their misplaced anger on the Western world. However, I must say that I have come to realize how little I care what people who don't understand that communism or socialism is slavery think. I don't care about people who embrace the producer of propaganda. I don't care if those with very little knowledge of history regurgitate lies about stolen elections and slander either my intelligence or honesty when they say that I support a fascist regime screaming this liturgy at the top of their lungs.

Why don't I care? Because to be liberal is to be a child.

Children believe in foolish consistencies like pacifism. All war bad? All peace good? Is anything worth fighting for? Of course, the answer is nothing in this world at this place in time. Leftists are utopians and the road to utopia is paved with the corpses of the unbeliever. Children are not born with empathy for those outside of their immediate family. They must be taught social skills like the golden rule. Rejecting the truths of religious teaching about human nature is a sure way to raise a spoiled child or an adult that has little reguard for the humanity of those who disagree with him. Children hold onto myths and superstition in the face of contrary evidence. They feel betrayed when they learn there is no Santa Claus or they desperately search for a replacement quasi-faith when the human race is not up to the vigors of the new Soviet system. Leftists mock Christians because they are rigid in their beliefs, unwilling to compromise. Look in the mirror. Then ask yourself which beliefs are immutable.

I have known this on some level for a long time. My personal way of dealing with the large numbers of people who continue to spout leftist dogma is by mocking their beliefs. There is a reason for this. Children don't respond to reason. If you can ridicule their ideas and make them realize their foolishness they are much more likely to accept what you say. Children don't like being the object of taunts because they are so used to being the taunter. Want to enrage a leftist? Laugh at their beliefs. It doesn't usually work with conservatives because we are used to it. Conservatives are supposed to be the objects of derision. My goal is not to convert but to embarrass. A child doesn't stop believing in Santa Claus because you sit down and have a rational talk about the reasons for the myth and its impossibility, they stop because some kid made fun of them. Well, pacifism in the face of a fanatical enemy who has stated your conversion or death is his goal is Santa Claus. If you don't get it then that is too bad. Whether you like it or not the adults are going to protect themselves and you by default. Someday, if you grow up, you will thank us.

P.S. Socialism is the Easter Bunny.

 

Is Sparky coming back soon?

John, you might be getting close to your dream of reincarnating Sparky. (Via Drudge)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

 

Book Recommendation: The Tipping Point

I just finished a former NY Times #1 best-seller called "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell and I highly recommend it. Although this book has nothing to do with politics, I think you all would find it interesting. It analyzes the phenomena of how social epidemics are started in everything from fashion trends and children's television to crime rates and the spread of VD, and explains why small changes in implementation can make a big difference in results. This almost makes it sound like a Marketing text, but it really is more of a Psychology-of-Business-and-Current-Affairs book, if there is such a thing. I'm kind of struggling with a description, so I'll just agree with one of the book's reviewers who calls it "a how-to on the science of manipulation".

Check it out.

 

Tear down The Wall




















I can't believe I didn't think of this until now.

Now for some relevant lyrics:

Who let all of this riff-raff into the [White House]?

I am just a new boy,
Stranger in this town.
Where are all the good times?
Who's gonna show this [President] around?
Ooooh, I need a dirty woman.
Ooooh, I need a dirty girl.

Dragging behind you the silent reproach
Of a million tear-stained eyes

When [Bill] went [after women]
There w[as a] certain [WH aid named Blumenthal] who would
Hurt the [women] in any way they could

Hey, Floyd's lyrics certainly go well with the Clinton administration. Feel free to add on!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

 

Court Awards Illegal Aliens Arizona Ranch

By defending your property, you now risk losing your property

This (registration required, see BugMeNot) is outrageous:
(Illegal aliens) Mr. Mancía and Ms. Leiva were caught on a ranch in Hebbronville, Tex., in March 2003 by Mr. Nethercott and other members of Ranch Rescue. The two immigrants later accused Mr. Nethercott of threatening them and of hitting Mr. Mancía with a pistol, charges that Mr. Nethercott denied. The immigrants also said the group gave them cookies, water and a blanket and let them go after an hour or so.

The Salvadorans testified against Mr. Nethercott when he was tried by Texas prosecutors. The jury deadlocked on a charge of pistol-whipping but convicted Mr. Nethercott, who had previously served time in California for assault, of gun possession, which is illegal for a felon. He is now serving a five-year sentence in a Texas prison.

Mr. Mancía and Ms. Leiva also filed a lawsuit against Mr. Nethercott; Jack Foote, the founder of Ranch Rescue; and the owner of the Hebbronville ranch, Joe Sutton. The immigrants said the ordeal, in which they feared that they would be killed by the men they thought were soldiers, had left them with post-traumatic stress.

Mr. Sutton settled for $100,000. Mr. Nethercott and Mr. Foote did not defend themselves, so the judge issued default judgments of $850,000 against Mr. Nethercott and $500,000 against Mr. Foote.
Link via The Shadow of the Olive Tree:
It is completely beyond me why anyone, even a legal resident, should expect to receive millions of dollars from people who detained them when they were trespassing. Especially when said people, having detained them for an hour gave them cookies and a blanket and sent them on. If ever there was a sign of a justice system that has been hijacked by the loonies this is it.
Angry Guy gets it right:
So let me get this absolutely straight: If an illegal alien is grabbed by any American and held against their will they can sue and take that person's property?

This certainly isn't the same United States I was born into.
It sure isn't.

A state of emergency has been declared in both New Mexico and Arizona and Texas' 16 border counties have formed an alliance to request federal help, all because of the recent the surge of illegals and the attendant violence. It seems nobody can (or will) protect Americans living along the border, not even the residents themselves, who now risk everything should they attempt to protect themselves.

As both The Shadow of the Olive Tree and Angry Guy note, the ranchers would have been better off had they killed the trespassers and disposed of their bodies. Given this court decision and the ever escalating violence in the area, how long will it be before at least a few property owners in the border states feel they have no other choice?

 

UN Power Grab

Subverting democracy by stealth

John O'Sullivan writes about the latest UN power grab:
In less than a month's time -- Sept. 16 and 17 -- the world's great and good will be gathering at the United Nations in Manhattan for what is officially called the High Level Plenary Meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. This meeting, attended by the heads of government of most countries, including the major powers, has become a regular event in recent years, but one of ceremonial importance rather than of substance.

This year it will be very significant indeed. For the plenary session will almost certainly pass an obscure document, now circulating in draft form among U.N. delegations, that calls on the assembled governments to reaffirm their support for the U.N.'s Millenium Declaration Goals and the other declarations of U.N. conferences over the last 30 years. It will ask them to support the achievement of these goals in a co-ordinated and integrated manner, to renew their commitment to . . .

Falling asleep already, are you? Well, that is precisely the intention of those who composed these anodyne phrases. When bureaucrats seize power, they do it not with swords but with chloroform. And this document is a power grab by people of whom you have never heard, the officials of the U.N. Secretariat, working in tandem with the diplomats of those countries and international organizations that would like to expand the power of the U.N. and its various agencies.
------------------
What harm is there in signing onto to these desirable outcomes even if we believe that they are either unobtainable or very distant? As scholars like John Fonte of the Hudson Institute have shown, there is very considerable potential harm. These treaties and declarations include enforcement mechanisms such as "monitoring" bodies. Sovereign democratic nations such as Canada have had to host delegations from the U.N. investigating whether their budgetary cuts in welfare violate some commitment they made on welfare rights.

Worse, these commitments change when judges interpret the treaties in a way no one would have predicted when they were signed. A topical example: the British government is currently trying to deport terrorist suspects it considers a danger to the public, but the courts maintain that such deportations are contrary to Britain's signature on the European Declaration of Human Rights.

In other words, the most sensitive and vital political questions are removed from democratic parliaments and the voters and handed over to an international committee nominated by foreign and often despotic regimes. (Emphasis mine.)
John Fonte labeled this philosophy Transnational Progressivism. He describes how the UN and its supporting organizations seek to subvert democracy in order to further their own agenda:
A good part of the energy for transnational progressivism is provided by human rights activists, who consistently evoke "evolving norms of international law." The main legal conflict between traditional American liberal democrats and transnational progressives is ultimately the question of whether the U. S. Constitution trumps international law or vice versa.

Before the mid-twentieth century, traditional international law referred to relations among nation-states. The "new international law" has increasingly penetrated the sovereignty of democratic nation-states. It is in reality "transnational law." Human rights activists work to establish norms for this "new international [i.e. transnational] law" and then attempt to bring the U. S. into conformity with a legal regime whose reach often extends beyond democratic politics.

Transnational progressives excoriate American political and legal practices in virulent language, as if the American liberal democratic nation-state was an illegitimate authoritarian regime. Thus, AI-U.S.A. charged the U. S. in a 1998 report with "a persistent and widespread pattern of human rights violations," naming the U. S. the "world leader in high tech repression." Meanwhile, HRW issued a 450-page report excoriating the U. S. for all types of "human rights violations," even complaining that "the U. S. Border Patrol continued to grow at an alarming pace."
The UN is a corrupt, unaccountable bureaucracy which aspires to world governance. Global elites, including many American politicians, portray it as a putative world authority to which the US is subordinate. How long will it be before liberal American judges begin to see things this way?

Many Americans correctly see how the UN threatens to US national security interests. We are constantly forced to compromise our core values in pursuit of our foreign policy goals. Often, these compromises are counterproductive. Or worse, as was the case with Iraq. But many miss the larger picture: The designs of the UN are fundamentally incompatible with American constitutional values. Indeed, the UN's very existence is a threat to them and to America itself. Americans need to recognize this and insist our political leaders act accordingly.

 

Haloscan bot?

Is it possible to have 'bot' that automatically posts random comments into haloscan? For instance, pick random paragraphs from DU and post them into Haloscan comments? If so, I think that is the most likely explanation for Jean/Julia/BillClinton. This person (or computer) seems to automatically respond to _every_ posting with F9/11, anti-Rovian, evil-genius monkey hysteria. I suppose it's also possible that these posts are by different individuals each parroting the DU's latest rants...

Jean/Julia/BillClinton/whoever you are, I have learned to skip your posts and I never click on the links you provide. If you have real, authentic, homegrown opinions then you should express them yourself (something a 'bot' cannot do) rather than link to others' work.

I look forward to more enlightened and civil discourse.

PS: I apologize for using my 'host' privilege to address a single(?) poster and hope these things won't crop up again.

 

Dribbling circles around the Democratic party


Inspired by Vikingpundit's take on the "Moonbats declare war on the DLC."

Maybe the Democrats believe they�ll win the next election just because they can't possibly keep losing. As Krusty the Klown kvetched after betting against the Harlem Globetrotters: 'I thought the Generals were due!'

Hey John, what was definition of insanity?

P.S. I bet you didn't know Ken Mehlman was black? Yeah, I'm outing him.

Monday, August 22, 2005

 

Party Rule or Party Ruin?

Perhaps both, to the detriment of the country

The Washington Post reports about the deepening rift among Democrats over Iraq:
Democrats say a long-standing rift in the party over the Iraq war has grown increasingly raw in recent days, as stay-the-course elected leaders who voted for the war three years ago confront rising impatience from activists and strategists who want to challenge President Bush aggressively to withdraw troops.

Amid rising casualties and falling public support for the war, Democrats of all stripes have grown more vocal this summer in criticizing Bush'’s handling of the war. A growing chorus of Democrats, however, has said this criticism should be harnessed to a consistent message and alternative policy,— something most Democratic lawmakers have refused to offer.
AJStrata comments:
That is because rooting against a US success in Iraq is political suicide - something the manic leftward fringes could care less about. They don'’t want to be popular, they want to be right!
Unfortunately, it isn't political suicide to seek vindicationion of their particular beliefs above all else, though it is electoral suicide. Recognizing this, centrist Democrats seek vindication via spin (registration required, see BugMeNot):
Some pro-Democratic commentators are urging a cease-fire, lest the party play into the hands of the GOP. In the words of Kevin Drum, who aired his concerns online the other day, "This is about the last thing we need." Unless warring Democrats "knock it off," he warned, "we can be sure that Karl Rove will do his best to hammer this wedge straight through the heart of the Democratic party, as the 2006 [congressional races] begin to heat up."

But prominent liberal activists such as David Sirota aren't going to knock it off. Sirota looks at the latest Gallup poll and finds that 33 percent of Americans now favor full withdrawal from Iraq - which beats partial withdrawal (23 percent), status quo (28 percent), and sending more troops (13 percent). And he notes that a majority now believes the war has made Americans less safe at home.

"This sentiment gives Democrats an opening," he said recently. "We can now make the case that an exit strategy from Iraq will actually strengthen our national security. We have to stand up for our principles. There is strength in national-security prudence. There is weakness in national-security impulsiveness, as Bush has demonstrated. People will believe us. They have the evidence in front of their eyes every night on the evening news."
Other Democrats see in the current situation an opportunity to redefine patriotism:
Since 9/11, patriotism has become the most potent "values issue" in U.S. politics. To compete in America's heartland, Democrats must challenge Republicans' claim to be the authentic voice of American patriotism.

The problem for Democrats is that an important part of their base -- upscale white liberals -- seems torn about the meaning of patriotism. Republicans are ruthlessly effective in exploiting this ambivalence. Questioning Democrats' patriotism has been an ugly, but undeniably effective, GOP tactic from last year's "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" campaign against John Kerry to Karl Rove's recent canard that liberals counseled "therapy and understanding" rather than retaliation in response to al Qaeda's attacks on America.

Even so, many Americans are beginning to wonder just how much more Republican-style patriotism they can afford. In Washington today, conservative hotheads abound who think diplomacy is for sissies and who delight in throwing America's military weight around. They belittle longtime allies who have the temerity to disagree with Bush administration policy. They complain, illogically, that the United Nations is both hopelessly weak and an intolerable check on U.S. sovereignty. This belligerent, overbearing chauvinism has stirred anti-American passions around the world, made U.S. efforts in Iraq more costly and difficult, and tarnished America's moral reputation.

You might think that Congress would have its hands full with escalating violence in Iraq, exploding public debts, a growing competitive challenge from Asia, and plunging public confidence in President Bush's Social Security plan. But GOP super-patriots ignored such distractions and found time recently to ram through the House a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning -- of which there was a grand total of one incident in the entire United States last year.

Such antics give Democrats an opportunity to expose what lies beneath the fulsome facade of GOP patriotism -- an atavistic nationalism in which the ruling passion is the will to power, not love of country. The right answer to GOP jingoism, however, cannot be left-wing anti-Americanism. Of course, progressives can criticize their country and still be patriotic. Indeed, one of the highest forms of patriotism is being honest about your country's flaws and taking responsibility for fixing them. (Emphasis mine.) But it is what's in your heart that counts. Are your objections rooted in a warm and generous affection for your country, or in a curdled contempt for it? Too many Americans aren't sure if the left is emotionally on America's side. And that's a big problem for Democrats
It's also a big problem for America as a whole when even Democratic moderates express such contempt for American nationalism and see nothing but sinister motives behind our war effort. And it's utterly ridiculous to assert that its the Republicans who politicized patriotism when, as the author unwittingly reminds us, its really the other way around:
The problem with the liberal concept of 'patriotism' is that they are patriotic only to their personal conception of what the country should be. This renders the idea of patriotism meaningless - it is trivial to say that one has a loyalty to one's own world views. Their unbridled criticism results, then, from the failure of the country to satisfy their individual tenets about what it should be.

The conservative idea of patriotism is more externalized - love of country as it is, even when it doesn't match up to our notions of what it should be. This tempers the criticism from the right, and provides a natural unity and cohesion (called 'marching in lockstep' by our friends on the left).

The left is like the naive bride who marries a guy presuming that she can change him into someone she can love. The right is the bride who decides that she loves him, warts and all.
Unsurprisingly, Kos takes an extreme position, preparing a secret, scorched earth plan to make the 'moderate' DLC "radioactive"
My draft version of this post included a whole refutation of Marshall's aargument, but really, it's all irrelevant. Ultimately, this is the modern DLC -- an aider and abettor of Right-wing smear attacks against Democrats. They make the same arguments, use the same language, and revel in their attacks on those elements of the Democratic Party that seem to cause them no small embarrassment.

Two more weeks, folks, before we take them on, head on.

No calls for a truce will be brooked. The DLC has used those pauses in the past to bide their time between offensives. Appeals to party unity will fall on deaf ears (it's summer of a non-election year, the perfect time to sort out internal disagreements).

We need to make the DLC radioactive. And we will. With everyone's help, we really can. Stay tuned.

 

Bubbles and Canaries

The search for a harbinger of doom in the stock and real estate markets

I am sure you have heard of Google. I am sure you know that Google went public in August of last year and proceeded to triple. If you did not know this factoid, that is ok, most people are not giving the stock market anywhere near as much attention as they did five years ago. GOOG has been the cat's meow since its launch giving investors not an ounce of angst. That has changed over the past month. GOOG topped out on July 21st with an interday high of 317.80 and it is currently 275.10 (-4.90 on the day). I think GOOG is an excellent candidate for the stock that will signal the end of this rally. The canary in the coalmine.

Bill Fleckenstein in his most recent column for MSN Moneycentral has a different candidate for the canary in the real estate bubble coalmine.

Up until very recently, finance companies were able to come up with more and more imaginative products and expand the pool of potential speculators in the real-estate market -- thereby making it possible for prices to hold steady or be driven higher.

But a contact in the subprime-lending arena (lenders who specialize in making loans to borrowers with less-than-stellar credit records) suggests to me that it's becoming increasingly difficult for originators of subprime mortgages to sell them at a profit. Unless all of these are booked on the originator's own balance sheet, we'll start to see credit being cut off to the more marginal real-estate speculators -- the driving force, at the margin, behind the real-estate market.

Meanwhile, subprime-mortgage company New Century Financial (NEW, news, msgs) recently lowered its earnings projections, even though its loan volume is supposed to be rising. What that means, among other things, is that the company is facing margin pressure, which jibes with my contact's information. (I added to my New Century short position last Wednesday. I'm trying to be alert to additional problems, as it's beginning to feel to me like the short side of the entire housing ATM is slowly becoming an investible idea, not that I've done much about it just yet.)

In any case, I believe what's now changed is that, with the advent of problems in the subprime arena, the pool of potential buyers will begin to shrink. That will be a very big development, as it is a significant change at the margin. All important change tends to begin at the margin, and I think this is a perfect example.

Thus, the macro winds have shifted, I believe, and none of those shifts has occurred in a way that is bullish for U.S. assets. Bottom line: It's my opinion that a top is being formed (or is already in place), both in the housing market and the stock market. That spells trouble for an economy built on the unsustainable strategy of trying to speculate our way to prosperity.


So keep an eye on GOOG and NEW. I agree with Mr. Fleckenstein that real estate is in a bubble and the hardest thing to do is predict an end to a bubble. (Saying you are in one is actually extremely easy, just say it and wait for people to vehemently disagree with you) It is helpful to look at what is the fundamental mechanism that is fueling the borrowing and the availability of credit for subprime lenders facilitated with imaginative financing schemes is the number one candidate/culprit. Remember, 2000 to 2003 was phase one in the bear market. Phase two was the rally and phase three will be much worse because of this simple reason: all hope is abandoned as memory of the bull market is erased from the collective consciousness.

Have a nice day!

Update:

In repsonse to Diego's and Bill O's comments here are a couple links to articles about how new types of mortgages are driving housing prices.

Stop for a minute and consider that interest-only and adjustable-rate mortgages now comprise roughly 60% of all home loans (with "interest-only" contributing one-half to two-thirds of that). Just about four years ago, they may have accounted for less than 20%. That's not to say these two flavors of mortgages couldn't become even more popular -- because they could -- but to illustrate the magnitude of the potential problem we could ultimately face.

For those who think that real estate can never go down, I should note, as I did in my May 5 column, a like-minded belief among Japanese property owners in the late 1980s, where values have subsequently declined for the last 14 years. That decline, however, may finally be in the process of changing.

Another prevailing myth in the real estate market: We can always ride out any bumps in the road. While that may have been partially true in the past (assuming you didn't lose your job), it may be less likely in the future, given the huge percentage of people taking out interest-only and adjustable-rate mortgages.

For instance, if you had a 30-year $300,000 mortgage at 5.5%, it would cost roughly $1,700 per month (before taxes and insurance). If you took out an interest-only mortgage, your payments would start out at $1,375 but would rise in a few years to between $1,800 and $2,200, depending on how rates fluctuated in the future, assuming they went up. (Of course, rates could be higher or lower, depending on the prevailing policy.)

If you pick one of the super-duper interest-only mortgages that permit borrowers to basically choose their payment, you could shoehorn into the same $300,000 loan with a monthly payment of about $965. But a few years down the road, that would rise to around $2,200. That's a mighty hefty jump. (These numbers are meant as approximations, just to give you some feeling for the size of the jump that's staring lots of folks in the face.)



The housing affordability lesson I was taught is that your cost of housing should not exceed 35% of your net income. So if you have a married couple that take home $100,000/year they can afford a mortgage+taxes = $35,000; let's say $30,000 after property taxes. If you can structure an interest only loan allowing you to borrow $300,000 for $965/month then that couple can afford to pay $777,202. [=({30,000/12}/965)*300,000] Suddenly paying $500,000 looks prudent. But then you get into the interest rate game and the you must hope that real estate at least stays the same and that there is no loss of income. Bubbles are built on easy credit. I know this will end badly because of all the economic variables that have to remain ideal for the people who have borrowed beyond their means.

 

Star Car Wars!

Borderline absurdity.

Newt Gingrich (from Polipundit via Powerline News):

I don't understand it. It seems to me, as a national security matter, we're going to spend 9 billion dollars a year on a missile defense; we ought to spend some money on making sure they don't drive the nuclear weapon in instead of flying it in a rocket.

Emphasis added. Unfortunately this may be what it takes before we see any serious effort to secure our borders.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

 

Howard Dean's Democratic Party

Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results

Democrats are failing to take advantage of Bush's sagging poll numbers:
Democrats hoped they would be scoring political points in this year's election cycle as a result of increasing terrorist violence in Iraq and skyrocketing gasoline prices that have combined to send President Bush's job-approval ratings plunging into the low 40s.

But things are not turning out as they hoped. The Democrats are beset by internal division over the lack of an agenda, carping from liberals who say party leaders are not aggressive enough in challenging Mr. Bush's nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court, bitterness among abortion rights activists after criticism by Democratic leaders that forced them to pull a TV advertisement attacking Judge Roberts, and complaints from pollsters that they have no coherent message to take into the 2006 elections.

Independent pollster John Zogby says that although Mr. Bush is not doing well in the polls, the Democrats aren't doing any better.

"The Democrats aren't scoring points in terms of landing any significant punches on Bush or in terms of saying anything meaningful to the American people," Mr. Zogby said.
Whenever they try to say something meaningful, its negative and/or demonstrative of the fact that they are living in an alternative reality:
What is so demagogic about Dean's stance is his insinuation that women were better off under the Saddam dictatorship. He is following the lead taken by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Brookings Institution on Feb. 25 last year. She quoted Iraqi women leaders as ''starting to express concerns about some of the pullbacks in the rights they were given under Saddam Hussein. He was an equal opportunity oppressor, but on paper, women had rights.'' She contended that ''as long as they stayed out of his way, they had considerable freedom of movement.''

Clinton in 2004 was not nearly so over the top as Dean in 2005, but both are contradicted by people who know the situation better than they and are not driven by partisan concerns. Nina Shea, director of the religious freedom center at Freedom House, responded to Clinton's claim: ''Women's rights [under Saddam] were largely an illusion.''

In 1989, when the dictator was at full power, Iraqi dissident and intellectual Kanan Makiya said: ''Male domination has not been done away with. It has found a substitute in the all-male Revolutionary Command Council, the higher army command and the ever-so-male person of Saddam Hussein.''

Howard Dean is not the first politician to distort facts in his own interests. But many activists in the party he now leads are puzzled over what he thinks he is accomplishing politically. Is it good politics to contend that Iraq was better off under Saddam than even a flawed Islamic republic? Does it make sense politically to tell Americans that more than 1,800 troops have died to make life worse for half of Iraq's population?
To most Americans, the answers to these two questions are obvious. As usual, the leaders of the Democratic Party get them wrong.

The Democrats have known for some time that their strategy is hurting them more than the Republicans. Yet they persist. Why?

Sadly, the biggest overall losers from this are the American people.

 

For the Chicago Sports Fan

With the Sox on a 5 game skid, Rex Glassman, er Grossman, potentially out for the year and the Cubs, well, just being the Cubs, here's something for you Chicago sports fans to consider:

"If you really want to enjoy sports, do what I did. Become a Harlem Globetrotters fan. There's no losing, no stats, no strikes, no contract hassles, no postseason, and no annoying media. Just winning every night. "

George Carlin - Braindroppings

DIEGO: I choose to suffer, GO WHITE SOX!!!!


 

When Liberals pretend to be Conservative

Through a link in our comments section to the Belmont Club: Memento I found this website. The cunning realist (TCR) claims to be a conservative but he isn't. I suspect that he is claiming this in order to build up traffic to his blog. It looks like it has worked because his comments are filled with lefties screaming the usually leftist bile. In his post The Tall Trees, TCR displays his lack of a humor by taking something Rush Limbaugh said without irony. (Something that seems to be a terminal problem for Media Matters) I responded:

TCR,

You (Large distance) The point

You really should listen to Rush more often if you are a conservative. I don't think you are a conservative because you look to Media Matters and repeat their analysis without question. Both you and MM don't get that a lot of what Rush says is done to be humorous. He calls it using obsurdity to illustrate the obsurd. It is meant to be funny and it is to conservatives.

Of course, your average liberal/person-who-posts-comments-on-your-blog does not think it is funny. I would be surprised if they did since their beliefs are the object of ridicule. Ridicule. That is a new tool that the right has been using since the beginning of its ascendency and it has liberals hopping mad. No one likes their icons or convictions held up to all and made fun of. That is why so many liberals hate Rush. Take Rachel Corrie for example. To a conservative she was a young, useful idiot who did not have the sense to stay out of the way of a bulldozer. She was given a Fiskie by LGF in 2003 making her the 'idiotarian of the year'. She is affectionately known as St Pancake. I find this characterization hilarious but if I mention it to a committed liberal they have a fit.

Anyway, TCR you are not a conservative. I suspect you are faking it in order to build up a readership for your blog. Good job, it has worked. A lot of liberals want to believe that they can convert conservatives to their side even as they have been steadily losing political power for over a decade. Keep up the good work you sly dog.

Humor is subjective. It is perfectly understandable that a liberal would not laugh at Rush's comment. I don't think Al Franken or Jeneane Garofalo are funny. John O says that anything Whoopi Goldberg has said has not made him so much as smirk.

 

Yet More Clintonian Spin

The Permanent Revisionist

Bill Clinton:
I also wish,” he continues, “I desperately wish, that I had been president when the FBI and CIA finally confirmed, officially, that bin Laden was responsible for the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. Then we could have launched an attack on Afghanistan early. I don’t know if it would have prevented 9/11, but it certainly would have complicated it...I always thought that bin Laden was a bigger threat than the Bush administration did.
The New York Magazine article is here.

Does his timing have anything to do recent revelations about Able Danger? Or is it this:
State Department analysts warned the Clinton administration in July 1996 that Osama bin Laden's move to Afghanistan would give him an even more dangerous haven as he sought to expand radical Islam "well beyond the Middle East," but the government chose not to deter the move, newly declassified documents show.
Skip to next paragraph

In what would prove a prescient warning, the State Department intelligence analysts said in a top-secret assessment on Mr. bin Laden that summer that "his prolonged stay in Afghanistan - where hundreds of 'Arab mujahedeen' receive terrorist training and key extremist leaders often congregate - could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum," in Sudan.

The declassified documents, obtained by the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch as part of a Freedom of Information Act request and provided to The New York Times, shed light on a murky and controversial chapter in Mr. bin Laden's history: his relocation from Sudan to Afghanistan as the Clinton administration was striving to understand the threat he posed and explore ways of confronting him.
-------------------------------------------------
The newly declassified documents do not directly address the question of whether Sudan ever offered to turn over Mr. bin Laden. But the documents go well beyond previous news and historical accounts in detailing the Clinton administration's active monitoring of Mr. bin Laden's movements and the realization that his move to Afghanistan could make him an even greater national security threat.

Several former senior officials in the Clinton administration did not return phone calls this week seeking comment on the newly declassified documents.
In the Bullpen comments on Clinton's claim:
That’s laughable to an extent, but very sad that Clinton would say such a thing. The 9/11 Commission report details four chances in which Clinton had the chance to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden, but pulled out at the last moment. Author Richard Minter of Losing Bin Laden details twelve (12!) chances Clinton missed the mark.

This isn’t just playing Monday morning quarterback, this is outright revising history and trying to minimize his ineffectiveness to kill or capture Bin Laden. It is true that up until 1995 or 1996 no one thought of Bin Laden as anything more than a financier, but they quickly learned who he was and still shied away from attemps due to legal issues and not wanting to support Afghan tribes to find and capture him because there might be innocents who died. Well, over 20,000 people have died as a result.
As does Captain Ed:
Clinton's insistence on "proof" refers to a legal certainty that demonstrates his continuing fecklessness on the war that Islamists had declared on the West years earlier. In fact, he already had "proof" that al-Qaeda and bin Laden had masterminded earlier attacks on US interests, especially the twin Embassy bombings in Africa in 1998. One reason that the FBI knew of Khallad was because they had established Khallad as one of the terrorists who helped plan and execute those attacks.

Besides, take a second look at the wording used by the consummate lawyer in his assertion to Jennifer Senior. He would have "launched an attack". That is what he did after the embassy bombings; in the words of his successor, Clinton launched a two-million dollar missile at a ten-dollar tent and hit a camel in the butt. Did it disrupt anything else that al-Qaeda had planned? Not at all.

The long record of gross ineffectiveness based on the faulty premise that terrorism required indictments and civil trials created the Clinton legacy on al-Qaeda, not a lack of opportunities. Clinton's whine about "proof" demonstrates that very clearly. He had all the "proof" he needed to order military action in November 2000 to retaliate against bin Laden and the Taliban for sheltering him and chose not to do so. His attempt now to recast himself as a terrorism hawk who had the misfortune of bad timing makes him even more pathetic than ever.
Bryan Preston comments, wondering (scroll to next post) why former members of the Clinton administration have been silent recently:
This has been a very interesting couple of weeks, culminating in what amounts to a docu-dump today. Lt Col Shaffer is now front and center risking his career on this story, and Rep. Weldon has been hinting that more officers may come forward to shed yet more light on Able Danger. We've had the State Dept's 1996 warning about al Qaeda come out on the same day that Mary Jo White's second Gorelick Wall memo surfaced, both of which point at the various reasons al Qaeda survived the 1990s with sufficient strength to attack us on 9-11. Those reasons turn out to be, unsurprisingly, that the Clinton administration created an atmosphere of legalese that hindered the prosecution of what should have been a war all along, and that the chief architect of that atmosphere was none other than 9-11 commissioner Jamie Gorelick. Foolishly violent prosecution at Waco and its fallout seem to have played their role in all of this too--the Pentagon's posse comitatus fears seem to have had more to do with Waco hangover than the Wall. And in the midst of all of this, we had Clinton's incredible statement that he wished the Cole bombers would have been identified on his watch so he could have had the satisfaction of striking at bin Laden himself. As though it wasn't obvious from the get-go that the Cole was an al Qaeda operation...? As though Clinton hadn't already bombed that factory in Sudan on much flimsier reasoning...? As though Clinton himself hadn't declared war on al Qaeda long before he even left office, only to do next to nothing about the actual problem...? Clinton's latest lie doesn't pass the laugh test. He's losing his touch.

Clinton knows his legacy is going up in flames. The rest of his former administration are running for cover--where have Sandy Berger and Jamie Gorelick been lately, anyway? Shouldn't they be talking to some sympathetic reporter by now, if only to defend their reputations?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

 

The Belmont Club: Memento

Wretchard comments on recent revelations concerning Iran's nuclear program:
None of these revelations matter because virtually no Western politician can ever use force again to prevent a regime, even one openly dedicated to terrorism, from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The subject is verboten because the Left has declared it so. Unless something radically changes, it is only logical to prepare for the consequences of this head-in-the-sand policy, a possible catastrophe beside which September 11 will diminish into insignificance. Perhaps this event is already inevitable and those future victims beyond saving. But even so, it is important to begin the work of opening our eyes now, so that we might avoid the blindness which took the world of the 1930s and the 1990s over a cliff. Some mental disease in Western culture has allowed it to stand idly by while evil grew to monstrous proportions around and within it; an infirmity dignified with the name of pacifism. Perhaps it has already killed some of us reading this post; and the least we can do, if our final moments come, is to realize why we died.


Bill C:

George Orwell wrote this concerning pacifism during the second world war and it certainly applies today:

Pacifism. Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’. The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security. Mr Savage remarks that ‘according to this type of reasoning, a German or Japanese pacifist would be “objectively pro-British”.’ But of course he would be! That is why pacifist activities are not permitted in those countries (in both of them the penalty is, or can be, beheading) while both the Germans and the Japanese do all they can to encourage the spread of pacifism in British and American territories. The Germans even run a spurious ‘freedom’ station which serves out pacifist propaganda indistinguishable from that of the P.P.U. They would stimulate pacifism in Russia as well if they could, but in that case they have tougher babies to deal with. In so far as it takes effect at all, pacifist propaganda can only be effective against those countries where a certain amount of freedom of speech is still permitted; in other words it is helpful to totalitarianism.

Bringing our troops home before the job is finished in Iraq would be a victory for the Islamists. Our troops know this and say so when confronted with the possibility. Abandoning Iraq would leave a bigger problem that would need to be corrected later. It would certainly be a boon to terrorists. Cindy Sheehan is asking the President to leave Iraq. Doesn't she realize that this will only lead to more terrorism? Pacifists don't seem to think through their convictions to the obvious conclusion.

 

Grief and those who use the grieving

Victor Davis Hansen makes some excellent points:

The liberal media is delighted with Cindy Sheehan. This is the woman who lost a son in Iraq and has camped outside President Bush's Crawford Ranch, intending to stay until the President speaks with her or returns to Washington.

No one should trivialize Ms. Sheehan's grief, nor fail to understand why she is angry and wants to hold someone accountable. Yet the media's eagerness to publicize and exploit a grieving mother's anger and sorrow can be criticized, for it points to a larger pathology in our culture — the privileging of the suffering victim as someone who possesses superior insight and so must be heeded and catered to.

This elevation of the victim into a combination sage and secular martyr reflects conditions peculiar to the modern world. Most important is the simple fact that compared to the vast majority of humans who've ever lived, we in the West today have been freed from the everyday suffering and misery that earlier generations accepted as part of human existence.

We still want to achieve our various noble aims and good intentions –– peace, freedom, security, and prosperity for all –– but only if we can do so without making anybody suffer or even feel bad, including our enemies. We want utopia, a world in which everyone is well fed, secure, and happy, but we want it on the cheap.

If a drunk driver is on trial, only incompetence allows on the jury someone who has lost a loved one to a drunk driver. Yet when it comes to war, we think just the opposite. As much as we respect and sympathize with Ms. Sheehan's grief, then, we are under no obligation to respect her opinion about the necessity or justice of this war, or give it any more of a hearing than anybody else's.

Those reasons should be debated and discussed through the political process, and they should reflect as much as possible fact and rational argument. Presenting those facts and arguments is the job of a responsible media. Unfortunately, exploiting suffering and indulging their political prejudices are often more important to the media than providing their fellow citizens with the resources needed to make the best decision.

Emphasis added.


 

Kelo Case Cruelty

Not over yet

This seems unbelievable:
Those who believe in the adage 'when it rains, it pours' might take the tale of the plaintiffs in Kelo v. New London as a cue to buy two of every animal and a load of wood from Home Depot. The U.S. Supreme Court recently found that the city's original seizure of private property was constitutional under the principal of eminent domain, and now New London is claiming that the affected homeowners were living on city land for the duration of the lawsuit and owe back rent. It's a new definition of chutzpah: Confiscate land and charge back rent for the years the owners fought confiscation.

In some cases, their debt could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Moreover, the homeowners are being offered buyouts based on the market rate as it was in 2000.
The article says that state law requires using 2000 market rates. I wonder whether the semi-public New London Development Corp., hired by the city to facilitate the deal, is just haggling with the losers in the case. Or is the NLDC, as one of the lawyers for the residents suggested, being greedy? Or merely vindictive?

 

Cindy Sheehan, the Newest Leftist Saint





















First Alger Hiss was beyond criticism. A poor man being persecuted in a witchhunt. Lately pointing out that Rachel Corrie was anti-American tool of Palestianian Radicals and that her death was pointless brings a paroxysm of rage. Call her a useful idiot and you can forget it. Cindy Sheehan is on her way to liberal beatification. Christopher Hitchens better be careful.

 

Blogger

For some reason, my posts are jumping around, changing dates and relative position. I don't know why. Has anyone else experienced anything like this?

DIEGO: I just changed the date on what was the lead post to put it in correct order. I don't know why it changed on it's own.

Monday, August 15, 2005

 

Venezuelan Justice

Via In the Bullpen:
Thousands of young men and women from leftist groups participating in the world youth festival cheered when the judge on Sunday read the verdict ending the two-day trial: “Condemned, for crimes against humanity.”

“We declare President George W. Bush in particular as guilty, of being directly responsible for the crimes,” said Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel as he continued to read the verdict.

The mock trial was part of the festival, hosted by Venezuela and held under the slogan “Against Imperialism and War.” Events included debates and forums on issues ranging from proposals for wiping out poverty to aiding alternative media to opposing US imperialism worldwide.

 

Priorities

In politics, they make all the difference

James Wolcott has a lousy priorities:
The fact is that by subscribing to Bush's War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq with every corpuscle of your tired body you've made common cause with Republican conservatives, neoconservatives, and Christian fundamentalists who are dedicated to destroying those parcels of liberalism on which you stake your tiny claims of pride. When you align yourself with the likes of Hugh Hewitt, author of that polemical gem of understatement If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It, or Michael Ledeen, you've allied yourselves to political gangsters dedicated to waging permanent war abroad and cultural war here.
To Wolcott's own logic, Talldave applies a different set of priorities:
The fact is that by opposing Bush's War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq with every corpuscle of your tired body you have made common cause with Ba'athists, bin Laden, Zarqawi, and Taliban fundamentalists who are truly dedicated to destroying those parcels of liberalism on which you stake your tiny claims of pride. When you align yourself with the likes of Saddam Hussein, author of perhaps 2 million murders, or Mullah Omar, you’ve allied yourself to real political gangsters dedicated to waging permanent war abroad and terrorist war here.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

 

Able Danger

We need to know the truth

Perhaps I was too hard on the 9/11 Commission. Perhaps. But they do have trouble telling the truth:
Clearly the Commission has little credibility left. Five days ago, no one could remember the July 2004 briefing, and the Commission only admitted to it when pressed by the New York Times. Four days later, they have a prepared rebuttal with everything but pictures showing how they gave the allegations serious consideration but ultimately rejected it. Why? As I posted yesterday, the naval officer did not have any documentation with him -- which would, incidentally, have landed him in Leavenworth for life -- and the time frame didn't match up with the Commission's understanding of when Atta entered the US.

Color me unimpressed. If the Commission had this level of understanding about Able Danger and the July 2004 briefing, why did it deny knowledge of the program and the subsequent briefing that named Atta? The statement itself shows the absurdity of taking Hamilton, Kean, and the Commission at face value.
AJStrata has an updated timeline and a useful summary.

The Bergen Record has more:
In those horrific weeks after the attacks, the official story line was that U.S. counterterror officials had no idea who Atta was before that murderous plot unfolded - or where he was before 9/11. Only after the attacks could authorities track Atta's movements.

Now that story seems to be false.

Federal officials confirmed last week that a year before the attacks, a top-secret military intelligence team was following Atta and three suspected terrorists who turned out to be hijackers. The intelligence operatives tried to sound an alarm but were rebuffed by government lawyers who feared possible legal complications of using military spying techniques to keep tabs on foreign visitors in the United States with legal visas even though they might be terrorists.

A former member of the military intelligence team told me in an interview that it had enough data to raise suspicions. "But we were blocked from passing it to the FBI."

The connect-the-dots tracking by the team was so good that it even knew Atta conducted meetings with the three future hijackers. One of those meetings took place at the Wayne Inn. That's how close all this was - to us and to being solved, if only the information had been passed up the line to FBI agents or even to local cops.
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On the phone last week, the former Able Team member I interviewed told a depressing story of that (CIA-FBI) cooperation that never took place.

His story, he says, tells us just how close U.S. officials could have come to breaking up the 9/11 plot before it unfolded. But there was one problem: The U.S. government did not want to hear what this sleuth and his 10 teammates had to say - before and even after the 9/11 plot.

By mid-2000, the Able Danger team knew it had important information about a possible terrorist plot. Because of a peculiar series of computer links that went through Brooklyn, the team began referring to the four future hijackers as the "Brooklyn cell." Their movements and communications were raising too many suspicions.

The Able Danger sleuth, whose interview with me was arranged by the staff of Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., asked that his name not be revealed so he could maintain his top-secret counter-terror role. He emerged from the shadows of spying and intelligence analysis last week because he wanted to set the record straight.

One of his targets is the 9/11 commission. The commission's staff, he says, ignored him when he approached them on two occasions to spell out Able Danger's work.

Another target are Pentagon lawyers. The sleuth says he and other Able Danger team members became so concerned during the summer of 2000 that they asked their superiors in the Pentagon's special operations command for permission to approach the FBI. Their superiors approached Pentagon legal experts. Those experts turned down the request
Via Jim Geraghty, who comments:
In my previous post, I had stated that the accounts of Weldon’s guy and the 9/11 Commission were so different that this can’t be a simple misunderstanding – somebody’s lying. And an account with a lot of details (like the Commission’s Friday release) tends to seem more plausible than a vague one. Well, this account offers a lot of details. Anybody in North Jersey want to contact the Wayne Inn? They remember anybody who looked like Atta staying a year? Do they still have their pre-2001 guest records?
Captain Ed:
If the Commission's response had its virtue in its details, then Kelly's scoop in the Bergen Record matches it. The obvious conclusion -- someone is lying, either the Commission or the intelligence source for Kelly and Weldon, or possibly everyone. The Commission and Weldon appear to have enough problems with credibility, especially the former after the denials and evasions they released all week long. Congress has to step in and find out what really happened with Able Danger.
He's right. Congress needs to investigate this matter. Now.

UPDATE: New York Post:
As a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, Gorelick wrote the infamous order creating a "wall of separation" that precluded intelligence on terrorists from being shared with law-enforcement agencies — the very "wall" that kept Able Danger from passing along the information it had uncovered on Mohammed Atta.

As The Post's Deborah Orin reported Friday, then-U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White — who headed up key terrorism prosecutions, like the first WTC bombing — blasted Gorelick's order in blistering memos at the time.

But the memos, like the Able Danger information itself, were not included in the Kean Commission's final report.

When Gorelick's order first came to light, and critics demanded she quit the commission and instead appear as a witness under oath, Kean bristled.

"People ought to stay out of our business," Kean huffed.

Now, sadly, Americans are learning the price of not having held the commission's feet to the fire.

Kean and his fellow commissioners have been barnstorming the country, arrogantly demanding more information from the White House, even though they've concluded their work and the commission has officially disbanded.

Before Kean & Co. start making demands on the White House for information, it's time they started providing some of their own information to the people they were meant to serve.
Jim Geraghty:
Military intelligence guy says there were 11 guys who worked on Able Danger. And he’s specific about what they found – they identified four names that ended up becoming hijackers.

Okay, eleven guys. Step forward. Show us your notes from that era. Folks in authority, declassify what you need to in order to protect sources and methods. Somebody show us something to indicate this isn’t just one guy spouting off a wild “see-I-told-you-so-but-no-one-listened” story and a congressman seeking to sell his book.

If Weldon and military intelligence guys are right, then somewhere in a secure vault in the Pentagon is the evidence to back this up.
John Podhoretz is a skeptic:
Evidently, as Jim reports, it was well known that two of the hijackers lived in the Wayne N.J. motel. But see, if that were true, it would also be well-known that Atta had lived there, since this information was gleaned right in the aftermath of 9/11. That fact would not have just emerged yesterday -- or in a single-day story in the Bergen Record in 2003 in which a local police chief alleged without providing proof that Atta had lived in the motel. We would have known more about this before yesterday.

Theory: the source of the story about Atta being in Wayne NJ is Weldon's original source (we know the reporter for the Bergen Record was introduced to his source by Weldon's office). He may have done a little data mining on his own and found the Bergen Record story from 2003. And now everything he and we know about the hijackers is getting thrown into the mix like a big salad to "prove" something that, unless some actual paper turns up, is unprovable and not entirely believable
AJStrata has more.

 

Iran's Nuclear Ambition

A diplomatic success

From a transcript of an Israelil TV interview of President Bush:
Q: You mentioned Iran and I wonder, Mr. President, how imminently is the Iranian threat? There was a release lately of the U.S. intelligence that they won't have any capability in the next 10 years. Is this your latest information, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: My latest information is that the Iranians refuse to comply with the demands of the free world, which is: do not in any way, shape or form have a program that could yield to a nuclear weapon. And the United States and Israel are united in our objective to make sure that Iran does not have a weapon. And in this particular instance, the EU 3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- have taken the lead, been helping to send the message, a unified message to the Iranians.

Look, in all these instances we want diplomacy to work. And so we're working feverishly on the diplomatic route. And, you know, we'll see if we're successful or not. As you know, I'm --

Q: And if not?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, all options are on the table.

Q: Including use of force?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, as I say, all options are on the table. The use of force is the last option for any President. You know, we've used force in the recent past to secure our country. It's a difficult -- it's difficult for the Commander-in-Chief to put kids in harm's way. Nevertheless, I have been willing to do so as a last resort in order to secure the country and to provide the opportunity for people to live in free societies.
A few hours later:
But German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, one of the most prominent European opponents of the U.S.-led war on Iraq, told an election rally on Saturday the threat of force was not acceptable.

In what appeared to be a reference to Bush's remarks that "all options are on the table", Schroeder told the crowd in his home city of Hanover:

" ... let's take the military option off the table. We have seen it doesn't work."
Unfortunately, some people know what does work:
In comments that will infuriate EU diplomats, (Iranian Nuclear Affairs Negotiator) Hosein Musavian said that Teheran took advantage of the nine months of talks, which collapsed last week, to finish work at its Isfahan enrichment facility.

'Thanks to the negotiations with Europe we gained another year in which we completed the [project] in Isfahan,' he told an Iranian television interviewer.

Mr Musavian also claimed that work on nuclear centrifuges at a plant at Natanz, which was kept secret until Iran's exiled opposition revealed its existence in 2002, progressed during the negotiations.
----------------------
"The IAEA give us a 50-day extension to suspend the enrichment and all related activities," he said. "But thanks to the negotiations with Europe we gained another year, in which we completed the [project] in Isfahan."

The plant, about 250 miles south of Teheran, carries out an early stage of the cycle for developing nuclear fuel, turning yellowcake into UF4 and then into UF6, a gas essential to enrichment.

"Today, we are in a position of power," Mr Musavian said. "Isfahan is complete and has a stockpile of products." Mr Musavian also said that Iran had further benefited from sweeteners offered by the EU, including the invitation to enter talks on Iran joining the World Trade Organisation.
Video here.

As The Economist notes:
At Isfahan, natural uranium (yellowcake) is turned into a gas that can then be spun in centrifuge machines to produce more usable uranium. So far, Tehran has not restarted work on the most sensitive part of the nuclear fuel cycle, uranium enrichment -- —a process that can be used to make either fuel for reactors or nuclear warheads. But it may be about to do so. On Wednesday, workers unsealed the section of the Isfahan plant where the final conversion to create weapons-grade uranium is carried out, again under IAEA supervision.
----------------------
Earlier this year, the Europeans persuaded America's president, George Bush, to support their incentives-based approach. He agreed that Iran could open talks on membership of the World Trade Organisation and import spare parts for its ageing fleet of civilian aircraft. But Tehran’s decision to back away from the process, coupled with recent political developments --— America criticised the election that brought Mr Ahmadinejad to power --— has complicated things. Iran seems determined to dust down its nuclear programme. And it is not clear that its government, having failed to take the carrots, would respond any more encouragingly to sticks.
Not good, especially considering Iran has also been cultivating an alliance with China these last two years.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

 

Patriotic Knowledge & Expression

More of both, please

The National Anthem Project aims to reinvigorate the public's interest in our national anthem. (Link via Bookworm.) It's a good idea. Considering the national anthem is sung (or played) before major sporting events, I'm amazed at how many people I run across who don't know the lyrics. Unsurprisingly, given the state of education in this country, fewer still know anything about the history behind the song (e.g. that is has nothing to do with the Revolutionary War).

Something which saddens me more, however, is that so few Americans know much if anything about "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" -- not its lyrics, not its history, not even its name are well known. I must usually cite the first line whenever I ask someone about it. People are at least familiar with that, although many associate it with the South (how ironic!) in some way, particularly with college football teams from the region.

I was quite shocked at the reaction a number my friends had to my suggestion that that it replace or precede the national anthem at sporting events, particularly the very first MLB and NFL games after the September 11 attacks. They just didn't make the connection. A few were actually offended by the idea. As I see it, collective displays of patriotism should, at least occasionally, consist of more than just expressions of love for the country, or of dissent (ha ha). We should commemorate days of national significance, like Memorial Day and Veterans Day. And September 11 and December 7. (Perhaps May 8 and August 14 as well.) Singing America's fight song is a particularly appropriate way to do this. Especially to commemorate September 11, as it would serve as a patriotic reminder of the gravity of the situation in which we currently find ourselves.

(Hey Bill O and Matt O, do either of you remember which version of The Battle Hymn's fifth verse we were taught in grammar school? I certainly do. Vividly. And truthfully, I thought the fifth verse was the last verse as I don't recall being taught that sixth verse at all.)

Writing about this I'm reminded of my first trip downtown after the Sep 11 attacks. That Saturday, I went to meet a friend at his office in a building near East Wacker Drive, a double decked road on the south bank of the Chicago river which was undergoing reconsruction. Walking there from the LaSalle Street Station, I saw for the first time the concrete barricades surrounding many of the buildings. The Loop seemed unusually quiet, more like a Saturday in January than in September. It was all very depressing. But as I came nearer his building, I heard a sax playing 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic' over and over. I thought this was pretty cool.

When my friend and I left his office about four hours later, I could hear the sax still playing it. Though we were in a hurry and he was utterly indifferent to the situation, I insisted we seek out the saxophonist, something which turned out to be unexpectedly difficult. We could hear the music over a block-wide area, but we just couldn't locate the source. I finally spotted the guy on a large mound of dirt right underneath the road, a support pier at his back. I'd never before (or since) seen a street musician in such an inaccessible spot. There was a reasonable amount of pedestrian traffic and the music could be heard across a wide area; possibly it could even be heard on the other side of the river. But I wondered how he expected anyone to get near enough to tip him. It wasn't until after we got on the el that I realized he wasn't interested in tips at all -- he had chosen that spot because its combination of location and acoustical properties projected maximum effect.

Upon realizing this, I felt a little ashamed of my cynicism. I've thought differently of street musicians ever since, though I have yet to tip one.

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