Saturday, February 22

A good piece on the lib's quest for their Limbaugh in Slate. The point about shock jocks is intriguing, and not something I have heard before. I think there is something to it. I do think that Fisher downplays the importance of content, but he is right--the bottom line is presentation and the skills of the host (something Limbaugh freely admits, if the libs would just listen).
This seals it: call the war off.
This is something to pay attention to:
An extra 150 United States troops are expected to arrive shortly in Colombia to bolster a rescue mission for three Americans being held hostage by FARC rebels.
The US has been slowly increasing its presence in Colombia for some time, especially since the Pastrana-initiated (the Colombian president from 1998-2002) "Plan Colombia." The combination of the narcotics problem, the stated policy of the Uribe administration to pursue a policy of confrontation, and the recent evidence of IRA-linkages to the FARC are all likely to continue to increase direct US military involvement in Colombia.

I study Colombia for a living (amongst other areas of interest) and actually find this current move to be somewhat surprising. The US troops currently in Colombia are there to train the Colombian military, and are not allowed to engage in combat. I am not suggesting that this will lead to direct engagement, but even the use of US troops for search-and-rescue is a fairly significant event.

For those who claim that the US is overly fond of itself, it is worth noting that we clearly have a superior sense of freedom of the press than do some of our allies. I noted the French's 1881 Press Law yesterday (here, here, and here), and now I find (via the Daily Pundit) that the Russian have issues as well (although I guess that is less surprising than the French).

Friday, February 21

Gee, really?
President Saddam Hussein's government, apparently emboldened by antiwar sentiment at the U.N. Security Council and in worldwide street protests, has not followed through on its promises of increased cooperation with U.N. arms inspectors, according to inspectors in Iraq.

and I'm shocked!
One U.N. official here said that since Friday's Security Council meeting, "we have not seen any positive moves on the part of Iraq." Another charged, "They are not fulfilling their promises."

All from Thursday's WaPo
I came across this site: Web Pages That Suck learn usability and good Web design by looking at bad design, which appears to be both amusing and useful (a nice combo).
A further update on the French and the Sun's prank: Sacre Bleu: Sun's French stunt is 'disgusting' and 'very disagreeable'
Proving, as I noted the other day, that it is never too early to talk about the 2004 elections, here's a column on that topic.
Wow, only five months late and the government didn't collapse or anything. Who says we have to increase spending every year or face ruin?
Here's some info on France's "insult law" from a 1997 column in Oak Ridge Tennessee's local paper, of all places.

The legal source is the French press law of 1881, which hasn't applied in some time, but still...
You have got to be kidding me:
the Sun risked a $48,000 fine by publishing a special French edition, which blasted Chirac as a "worm" on its front cover. France's "insult laws" make it a criminal offense to disparage the president (from Slate).

Although come to think of it, if we passed such a law in the US, then the anti-war protestors, who have been piling on Dubya, could easy foot the bill for the deficit.
Yummy. And you've got to love the menus. These aren't your father's k-rations.
Thomas Sowell's column makes an excellent point concerning the current quest for a liberal Rush Limbaugh: their solution is (in classical liberal fashion): to throw money at the problem. Those who want insta-Rush seem not to understand that Limbaugh got where he is today by hard work and talent (any objective evaluation of Limbaugh has to conlcude that his popularity is more than his message, but rather is because he is extremely good at what he does--indeed, he single-handedly revived AM radio).

Thursday, February 20

What??! It's NOT true love?

[UPDATE: Shockingly, Dave Barry found this funny as well.]

William Safire's column in today's NYT is worth reading, and encapsulates some of my frustrations with the critics of the administration's Iraq policy: the argument not over the basic goals and objectives, but rather a gaggle of hand-wringing over what might go wrong. I agree that we have to account for contingencies, and that there are potentially serious pitfalls to be associated with a war with Iraq, but the fact that something might go wrong is not, in and of itself, a valid argument against action.
The fame of PoliBlog spreadeth: I've been Blogrolled by ScrappleFace.

Wednesday, February 19

The entry of Richard Gephardt into the Democrats' presidential explor-o-rama got me to thinking about comparisons between 1991 and 2003. There are of course the superficial, although in some ways remarkable, parallels: the whole Bush/Iraq business, but there is also a very different response from the Democratic Party’s presidential hopefuls.

In 1991 there was a clear race not to be the guy to lose to a popular incumbent, as Forty-One was in the stratosphere popularity-wise in early 1991. The exit (indeed, the lack of entrance) of any of the Dems' first string let then B-team player Governor William Jefferson Clinton of Arkansas find his way into the nomination (lest we forget, in 1991 Clinton was considered an up-and-comer for the Dems, but he was by no means considered a heavy hitter). Of course, many of the Democrats had to be cursing themselves by mid-1992, when it became clear that they had given up the chance, perhaps the best chance of their careers, to become President. None predicted (nor could they have), Forty-One’s precipitous tumble in the polls, or the Perot factor.

So, it is not surprising that in 2003, the response is quite different. Rather than be swayed by Forty-Three’s high popularity numbers late last year/into this year, or even the possibility that a successful war will be to his benefit, the strategic decision has clearly been made not to make the mistake of 1991. Better to start a run now, and pull out later, than to never run and find out an opportunity was lost. As a result, there is already a remarkably crowded field, and it looks like it may get even more crowded (Wesley Clark? Bob Graham? Christopher Dodd? The entire cast of River Dance?).

At any rate, the 2004 electoral cycle is therefore playing out as an inversion of the 1992 cycle. I will go on to predict that the outcome will also be the reverse, as at this point I believe that Forty-Three will outdo Forty-One and win re-election.

I believe that the most likely scenario over the next year or so runs like this: we have a successful engagement with Iraq. As a result of said action, gas prices will start to come down, as the newly freed Iraqis will be allowed to sell their oil on open markets (plus, the Venezuela situation will likely have calmed down some more by then). The removal of the unease associated with the uncertainty over the war will have a positive effect on the stock market, which will have commensurate effects (some real, some psychological) on the rest of the economy. Indeed, Greenspan pointed out last week that there is a good deal of pent-up potential in this economy that is waiting for a good reason to bust forth.

As a result, the President will be in excellent shape going into 2004, and the first string Dems will find themselves in the same position as in 1992: sitting at home after election day, but this time will have had to pay for the privilege by actually running.

It will be interesting to see (if the war is successful) how many of the Hopefuls decide that the result of their Exploratory Committees will be a decision not to run, as the basic result should be known in a few months.

Indeed, the sad truth for the Dems is that their best shot at winning in 2004 is that if something bad (indeed, something really bad) happens: disaster in Iraq, the deterioration of the economy, or another massive terror attack. Their current lack of a positive message is a serious problem for their party. I don't see this as beyond their control (in that they have no choice but to be negative), but as an indictment of the current state of the policy. They are lost.

Well, that’s my analysis, and I’m stickin’ to it (at least until I have new data!)
Kewl: I have been Blogrolled by The Skeptician.
James Taranto's "Best of the Web" e-mail (via the WSJ) has this rather telling (and, I am certain, far from exhaustive) list of "last chances" for Monsieur Saddam:
"Hussein will be given 'a last chance to comply before he gets clobbered,' The New York Times on Monday quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying."--CNN.com, Jan. 27, 1998

"Annan Admits Iraq Trip Could Be Last Chance for Peace"--CNN.com, Feb. 18, 1998

"Clinton: Iraq Has Abused Its Last Chance"--CNN.com, Dec. 16, 1998

"The White House suggested Wednesday that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has missed his 'last chance' to disarm."--CNN.com, Dec. 18, 2002

"Future European Union members endorsed a joint declaration Tuesday warning Saddam Hussein he has one last chance to disarm."--Associated Press, Feb. 18, 2003
Really--how can anyone take seriously the charge that more time is needed for this process to work? If one is oppossed to war in principle (i.e., war is bad), then say so.
A good'un from The Onion (worth it just for the picture).
Some interesting responses to the Chirac speech mentioned yesterday:
Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said in a retort to Mr Chirac: "We are not joining the EU so we can sit and shut up."
and
"In the European family there are no mummies, no daddies and no kids - it is a family of equals," said Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz.

Tuesday, February 18

I found this rather amusing toon bloghoping. It is worth a look. (Thanks to Daily Pundit).
I'm with Ed Bark: give CBS an emmy for being the only network to be showing something other than Joe Millionaire or Michael Jackson shows last night.

Speaking of Joe M.--how depressing is it that the finale of the series was one of the most-watched shows of all time (according to Drudge's current headline)?

Chirac has been reading the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, as this story attests.

Clearly, the French believe that the best way to counter the United States is to alienate everyone.

And you have to love this: Chirac called the letters "infantile" and "dangerous," adding: "They missed a great opportunity to shut up."

Monday, February 17

I'm annoyed with the French, too, but this is plain silly.
There is empirical evidence for the contention (discussed on Sunday) that France's main motivation is simply to impede the US. A Reuters poll indicated that:
Offered a choice of three reasons to best explain why they opposed going to war, 76 percent of the anti-war camp said they "dislike they way the United States is behaving in the crisis".

Just nine percent said the were mainly against military action because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was not a threat to international security and 13 percent chose to explain their view by saying the crisis did not affect France's interests.

.

Utterly remarkable--nothing like using spite to make foreign policy. (Thanks to ScrappleFace for bringing the poll to my attention).
The excerpt of Tony Blair's speech in today's WSJ is worth a read.
Who says TV execs aren't full of original ideas?

Sunday, February 16

Whilst speaking of the French, I was engaged in a discussion of Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws (an important work that had profound influence on the US Constitution’s system of separation of powers and checks and balances) where the author discusses why we have society, and he notes:
Fear, I have observed, would induce men to shun one another; but the marks of this fear being reciprocal, would soon engage them to associate.
In other words, peace and human relations arise, at least partially, out of the mutual fear humans feel for one another. This particular philosophical point of view (which differs radically from Hobbes) struck me as amusing in the current conversation of French diplomacy, and their historical propensities to surrender and appease.

I am not acussing Montesquieu of being the Father of French Diplomacy, but nonetheless thought the passage ironic and highly entertaining.
I find it rather ironic that if the French game is to try and be a check to US power (a thesis I am finding increasingly persuasive), that they are vitiating (or is that Vichy-ating?) their one source of power vis-à-vis the US: the UN Security Council. The only serious power the French wield on the world stage is the veto that derives from their permanent seat on that Council and it appears to me that the ongoing diplomatic conflict is going to result in a diminution of the Council’s sway on the US. If that happens, the French will have been the chief cause of their own loss of influence.

Their actions in NATO mirror this behavior and consequence.
I ended up catching part of Face the Nation today--and it just confirmed what I have always thought: Bob Schieffer is the driest and most boring of all the Sunday Morning hosts. I'd rather watch Stephy, and that's saying something.
Just sad, Larry: Single supporter braves snow to hear Moseley-Braun speech. (And somewhat hylarious).
Woody Hochswender's column in today's NYT's criticizes the anti-SUV crowd and those who argue that US consumption of oil and US presence in the Middle East is somehow the reason for terrorism. It occurs to me: has anyone considered all the good that the billions of dollars that the US has sent to buy oil from the Middle East has done? Were it not for Western concumption, what little infrastructure that exists in many Middle Eastern countries simply wouldn't be there. Indeed, if the regimes in place were a bit more democratic, the people of the oil rich states would be exceptionally well off--especially if US citizens were to continue gassing up their SUVs.
As a researcher, I must admit that I don't like the idea of ever destroying information, but one does wonder if it is worthwhile to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the 2000 ballots in Florida. It makes sense to donate documents of relevance to a museum or research institution, but as Florida's acting Secretary of State has noted, the value of the actual ballots is slim, given the number of time they have been handled.