Saturday, March 1

Speaking of second (and third, fourth, fifth, etc.) chances (as I discussed here and here), here's a nice list of UN resolutions from Paxety's Pages (found via Random Nuclear Strikes).
As usual, Friedman's column from this Sunday's NYT is worth a read. I agree with him vis-a-vis the President's vision, and I can concede that perhaps there were some diplomatic avenues not fully exploited, but I disagree on the fundamental idea that the current opposition is the result of the President's behavior in early 2001.

First off, however, I think that this is plain incorrect:

if taking out Saddam and rebuilding Iraq had been my goal from the minute I took office (as it was for the Bush team),

I believe that some members of the team (Wolfowitz, for sure, plus Cheney and Rumsfeld) wanted oust Saddam from the beginning, but I really don't think it became the President's goal until well after 911, as I think that changed his foreign policy agenda and his view of his presidency. Indeed, had Iraq truly been the main foreign policy goal, I think that Bush would have done a number of things differently from the beginning, perhaps along the lines that Friedman suggests.

I do think that Friedman is 100% right here:

A U.S. invasion to disarm Iraq, oust Saddam Hussein and rebuild a decent Iraqi state would be the mother of all presidential gambles. Anyone who thinks President Bush is doing this for political reasons is nuts. You could do this only if you really believed in it, because Mr. Bush is betting his whole presidency on this war of choice.

I concur with his general points about bridge-building, although I am not sure that even had Bush done all Friedman suggests that we would be in a better position vis-a-vis that French, Germans and Russians. Indeed, the only part of his argument that directly impacted any of these actors was the ABM treaty and the Russians. I have a hard time believing that if Bush had only supported Kyoto that the French and Germans would be on board right now. I think there are far deeper issues Bush's first year foreign policy at work here.

Also, a nit-picky point on something he has done before, and does right here:

And don't believe the polls. I've been to nearly 20 states recently, and I've found that 95 percent of the country wants to see Iraq dealt with without a war.

I have problems with polls myself, but this is just an empirically specious and methodologically ridiculous means of argumentation.

He is right about the Israelis and the settlement issue, btw.

Thanks to Boycott Hollywood for the link to PoliBlog. An interesting site will the latest rants from the denizens of the Left Coast. Enjoy!
Turkey Surprise: U.S. Seeks 'Clarification' of Turk Vote on Troops

Here's the interesting part:

The vote, carried out behind closed doors, ended with 264 votes for and 251 votes against with 19 abstentions -- an apparent slim victory for the government.

But the opposition Republican People's Party challenged the result on the grounds the government had not won the 267 votes needed to represent a majority of the 534 lawmakers present in the assembly.

Walter Williams has a pretty good column on an affirmative action bake sale.

Here's a news story (scroll down) about the event, and a similar sale at UC Berkely..

Would someone please inform Gary Trudeau as to how public education works in the US? This recent week's worth of Doonesbury is plain silly. It is hardly the Federal government's fault that Oregon didn't properly manage their own budget. Only 7% of K-12 dollars comes from the Federal budget, not to mention the fact that the President can't snap his fingers and send money to the states.
Four down, somewhere between 81 and 116 to go.
My thanks to Rhetorica, for adding me to the Professors Who Blog list.

Friday, February 28

Clearly, we are going to be better off once this Iraq situation is settled: Markets unsettled; 'it's just all Iraq, all the time'
For those who have no clue who theWiggles are. Although I will admit that they are less obscure than Rep. Kucinich.
When Worlds Collide

(This is the kind of thing one notices when one is both a political junkie and the father of three small boys 6 and under)

Is Dennis Kucinich really Jeff, the purple Wiggle?

I Report, You Decide:











If he is, then he's in trouble, since Australians can't run for President.
Stop the Presses: U.S. Is Skeptical; Blix Calls Baghdad's Cooperation 'Very Limited'

How does WaPo manage to be so insightful?

It would appear that Russert is King.
With friends like these...
Dan Rather has a column in the WSJ about his encounter with Saddam. The piece itself really doesn't say much, but it clearly proffers the thesis that Saddam's main motivator is survival. I would reject this notion and suggest that his main motivation is survival with power, and on his terms. He could survive by going into exile, or he could easily have survived with power, but sans WMD's if he would cooperate with the inspection regime.

No, Saddam's actions clearly demonstrate that he is hoping to push this situation to brink, and that the US will back down or be stopped (because its a bluff, because of the French, because of the protestors, etc.). He has outwitted the international community for twelve years, so he has some cause to believe he will do so know. Cleary he wants to survive and maintain the status quo ante.

Thursday, February 27

Interesting, although not all that surprising, given the current uncertainty: CNN.com - Support for Bush's re-election falls below 50 percent

I maintain that a successful war with Iraq (which I think to be likley) will bolster both the President's political capital, and the economy. Further, polls like this with a lack of an actual known opponent are notoriously unhelpful. Still, the numbers are indicative of difficulties for the President, to be sure. Although my "reverse 1992" scenario is playing out: Forty-Three looks vulnerable about 2 years out, and the Dems are flocking to the primaries, which is the direct opposite of Forty-One's fortunes.

Intriguing: The SF Chronicle is reporting thatCondoleeza Rice is considering a run for CA governor in '06. This will feed speculation that Dr. Rice has presidential aspirations. (Thanks to Daily Pundit, where I first saw the link).
Um, has anyone told Martin Sheen, that he really isn't the President?
Who knew the Aussies were such sticklers for rules?
And the Dance Continues...:
Iraq agreed "in principle" Thursday to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles, as the chief U.N. weapons inspector had ordered, a U.N. diplomat told The Associated Press.
I wonder whose "principles" will be applied?
James Tarranto at OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Todayalso noticed the odd way the House of Common's vote was covered (as did I here):
Parliament Isn't Revolting

Belying claims that Prime Minister Tony Blair is in trouble, Britain's House of Commons yesterday gave his Iraq policy a strong vote of support. "Lawmakers by a vote of 434-124 approved a government-sponsored motion which backed the prime minister's efforts to resolve the crisis through the United Nations and called on Iraq 'to recognize this as its final opportunity' to disarm," the Associated Press reports from London. Another motion, stating that "the case for military action against Iraq [is] as yet unproven," was voted down, 393-199.

Blair won these votes with the support of 77.8% and 66.4% of parliamentarians, respectively. That's a pretty convincing margin, but look how the left-wing media spin the story:

"Britain's Blair Suffers Parliament Revolt Over Iraq"--Reuters

"Blair Suffers Huge Revolt on Iraq"--CNN

"Revolt of the Backbenchers: Blair suffers biggest rebellion as 121 Labour MPs vote against war"--ndependent

"Rebel Vote Stuns Blair"--Guardian

When Congress passed the Iraq war resolution in October, 77% of senators and 69% of House members voted "yes"--very close to the margins by which Blair prevailed in the Commons. We don't remember reading a lot of stories back then about the "huge revolt" against President Bush.

I will note that Tarranto does seem to miss one point, which is that there were a lot of Labourites who voted against Blair, which is an unusual event, hense all the "revolt" talk--but that is about party politics--legislatively, Blair clearly won, which is what matters at this point.

Novak's column on the same topic is instructive as well. The politics of this situation are both remarkable and potentially quite significant. The Dems damaged this process with the Bork nomination back in the 1980s, and they are looking to further damage it with this filibuster.
George Will's current column on the Estrada nomination is worth a read.
Another Democrat is poised to entered the fray. Florida Senator Bob Graham has filed papers to allow him to start down the road for a bid for the Dems' nomination in '04. Graham is an interesting candidate, due to the Florida connection (you all remember Florida, right?) and the fact that on some levels he is more hawkish than even Bush (he argues we should go after Hamas and friends, although precisely how he wants to do this is unclear to me). His entry continues a trend I commented on here
Larry Elder provides a cavalcade of the utterances of political geniuses today. The winner (and it is hard to choose):
Janeane Garofalo: "The world would be better off with multiple superpowers." When asked if that means our enemies should be more powerful Garofalo said, "Sure . . . when Communist U.S.S.R. was a superpower, the world was better off. . . . The right-wing media is trying to marginalize the peace movement."
Really, I can understand that some have moral objections to war, but arguing that having the USSR back would be a good thing utterly vitiates the intellectual integrity of Ms. Garofalo and her ilk. I know I long for the days when total nuclear war was a real possibility and Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Europe were under the thumb of authoritarian dictators. I especially love the implication that having the USSR in place was a good thing mainly because they were a counter-balance to the US. Remarkable.

And, indeed:

Dustin Hoffman: "I believe -- though I may be wrong, because I'm no expert...

My thanks to Marstonalia for Blogrolling PoliBlog.
More on the powerful logic of Dennis Kucinich, who decided that he is now pro-choice--but it has nothing to do with the fact that he is running for the Democratic nomination for president. And please ignore his anti-abortion voting record, if you please.

Kucinich's view on the war were detailed here.

Wednesday, February 26

Slate has a fascinating piece about who watches news in a story whose headline is about Donahue's demise on MSNBC. Turns out, that based on a Pew Research Center study, the plurality of viewer of TV news are self-identified conservatives (even those who watch CNN). This has interesting implications for the talk radio discussion that has been going on here, elsewhere in the Blogosphere, and in the mainline press.

A basic summary of the data:

The Pew poll found that 46.4 percent of regular Fox News Channel viewers self-identified to the pollsters as "conservative" or "very conservative," and only 17.7 percent self-identified as "liberal" or "very liberal," which shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody who's viewed Fox. But the regular CNN watcher tilts right in almost the same proportions: 39.7 percent right versus 16.1 percent left. Similarly, at MSNBC, 40.4 percent of regular viewers self-identify on the right and only 15.8 percent on the left. (For those keeping score at home, here are the percentages of moderate viewers: Fox, 31.7; CNN, 37.7; and MSNBC, 37.9. Don't know/refused to answer accounted for 6.5 percent.)
and in regards to broadcast news:
Regular evening-news viewers self-identify as conservatives, moderates, and liberals in numbers very close to those of cable network viewers (CBS: 40.7/37.1/12.9; NBC: 43.2/33.5/15.5; ABC: 41.9/36.7/15.8).
All very interesting. And, no doubt, will cause much debate as to the why.
Thanks to JustMyOpEd - Thoughts and Opinions for the link.
The coverage of the vote in the British Parliament is fascinating. First off: Blair won the support he wanted from the Commons (indeed, by a three-to-one margin), but also faced a rebellion by his members of his own party via an attempted anti-war amendment (which failed).
Legislators voted 434-124 in favor of a government-sponsored motion that expresses support for working through the United Nations and urges Saddam Hussein to seize a "final opportunity" to comply fully with the Security Council's demands.

They rejected by a tally of 393-199 an amendment to the motion which said "the case for military action against Iraq (is) as yet unproven."

via Sfgate.com

The amazing thing is that if one looks at a list of headlines via Google News one find a most remarkable phenomenon: the US sources note that Blair won a victory, but the European sources note that he suffered a “rebellion” or a “revolt” or that “MP’s voted against the use of force.”

This is a rather remarkable illustration how just headline writing can be a significant way to spin a story. Further analysis of the headline is warranted.

Some info on the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) from the State Department via the Naval Postgraduate School.

Also noteworthy, a CNN.com story identifies the ASG as an al qaeda-linked organization.

Here's a happy story from the CSM: Iraq to 'outsource' counterattacks

Now, I thought that the Iraqis had no ties to terrorists, and, in fact, Islamic terrorists wouldn't work with Saddam, because he's an "infidel".

The Philippines government, which deported an Iraqi diplomat earlier this month, says the Iraqi embassy in Manila was building contacts with Abu Sayyaf, a kidnap-for-ransom group in the southern Philippines that US soldiers have been helping to fight for the past year.
and
The clearest evidence is the case of the Iraqi diplomat Hisham Z Hussein, who also went under the alias of Hisham Al Hidith and Abu Geith, according to Philippines intelligence officials.

He was expelled from Manila on Feb. 13, after he was linked by Filipino police to two bombings, including one that killed a US soldier and two Filipinos. The potential threat has security officials in the US and abroad increasing their surveillance of potential Iraqi agents, particularly the country's diplomatic missions.

There is quite a bit more in the article. Worth the read.
My thanks to Common Sense and Wonder for Blogrolling PoliBlog.
More on the same topic from Brent Bozell

THis echoes a point I have made in some comments on Daily Pundit and Hit and Run:

It's got to be one of the dumbest $10 million investments ever. How off the wall is this business proposition? Start with the notion that a network, liberal or conservative, can somehow be just imposed on the populace. Rush didn't just appear on the scene and -- shazam! -- attract 20 million listeners. He toiled in the radio vineyards for years, went national in 1988, and didn't really reach national distribution until 1991. Even then, while conservatives were latching on to him in droves, he didn't truly become a nightmare in liberal heads until Bill Clinton arrived to corrupt the nation in 1993.
And, indeed
Conservative talk radio was never planned in a corporate boardroom (or at our VRWC meetings). It was an unintended consequence of arrogantly liberal national media outlets, who, over time, have insulted every Republican/conservative voter as a racist, a sexist, and a believer in heinous imaginary causes like starving all the poor people and killing all the innocent Iraqi civilians to get their oil. Big Media's utter dismissal of a conservative perspective meant utter dismissal of a conservative audience. When offered an alternative in a talk-show host that spoke their language, they pounced to embrace Rush Limbaugh.
More on the lib's RushQuest, from Jonah Goldberg.

And the fact that Franken didn't see the irony in making this statement where he made it may indicate why the libs will fail in their quest for a dominant talk raiod vioce:

Meanwhile, Franken, author of "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot," thinks there's another reason for not trying to ape Rush. "I think the audience isn't there for a liberal Rush," he said on the "Donahue" show, "Because I think liberals don't want to hear that kind of demagoguery."
Shocking News: "A CBS News poll finds most Americans are convinced that the Bush Administration has already made its mind up to take military action against Iraq."

Gee, I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that the President keeps saying "Saddam's time is running out" and "there must be regime change in Iraq"?

Who knew?


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what number are you?

this quiz by orsa


Tuesday, February 25

An amusing (and spot on) piece from the Weekly Standard

And it contains the Line of the Day

"I know facts don't matter to people whose favorite hobby is shouting..."
-Larry MIller in the Weekly Standard, 02/25/2003

And, indeed:

In fact, if there's one thing history has taught us, it's that the best thing that can ever happen to a country is to go to war with us and lose. This was so obvious after the Second World War that a wonderful satire was made, "The Mouse That Roared," about a little, impoverished country that decides to declare war on the United States for the express purpose of immediately surrendering and being rebuilt afterwards with foreign aid.

The movie's worth watching, btw. It stars Peter Sellers.

(Thanks to Neophyte Pundit for pointing out the story.)

Gee, I'm shocked: MSNBC Dumps Donahue Talk Show Due to Weak Ratings. I suppose this is part of the conservative dominance of the media, too? Or maybe it is because no one wanted to watch Phil rant.
Excuse me? sending a half dozen letters about their weapons programs is "new cooperation"? But, meanwhile, they won't destroy the missiles? Hello, Dr. Blix?
Maybe it is all about the oil, as this story in the CSM details.
But France also has economic interests that would be more lucrative if Saddam Hussein stays in power. Iraq France's TotalFinaElf has contracts with Iraq to develop the Majnoon and Bin Umar fields, once sanctions are lifted. In addition, Iraq owes France billions in foreign debt accrued from arms sales in the 1970s and '80s, which experts say could be virtually uncollectible in the case of war.
Richard Cohen's WaPo column is worth a read. If anything, it will introduce you to the stellar logic of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and this impressive feat of reasoning:
to maintain that the coming war with Iraq will be fought to control that nation's oil. Kucinich, a presidential candidate, has made this charge before, and when Tim Russert asked him on "Meet the Press" to back it up, here is what he said:

"I base that on the fact that there is $5 trillion worth of oil above and in the ground in Iraq, that individuals involved in the administration have been involved in the oil industry, that the oil industry would certainly benefit from having the administration control Iraq, and that the fact is that, since no other case has been made to go to war against Iraq, . . . oil represents the strongest incentive."

OK, because Bush and Cheney worked in the oil industtry it is ipso facto the case the war with Iraq is about oil?

I think Mr. Kuninich needs to read the Hitchens piece I referernced earlier, as well as this piece on France's interest in the region (raising the question about to whom it is that oil is the issue). An excerpt of interest:

Last year, Chirac's France made more money out of the UN's oil for food program than any other nation, and has consistently lobbied for reduced sanctions.
Christopher Hitchens has an excellent piece in Slate that argues that Bush has hardly been rushing to war, and indeed that "Washington has been too patient with Saddam Hussein and for far too long."
I must say, I just don't get this.

And surely, Saddam wouldn't do this:

And some of the activists have expressed concern that they could be forcibly relocated to other sites of greater military or political value at the last minute.

"If that happens, I wouldn't be happy, but there are some things that are beyond our control," said Evans, the stagehand. "That's a risk we're willing to take to prevent this war."

.
Do people have nothing better to do? (and I refer to the complainers, not the sculptress).
A good one from ScrappleFace.

Monday, February 24

Déjà vu Three: Gee, This Doesn’t Sound Familiar at All!

(From an ongoing series)

THE DEAL ON IRAQ: THE IMPLICATIONS; Buying a Deal as Hussein Buys Time, The New York Times, Feb. 23, 1998,
Section A; Page 1; Column 3, By R. W. APPLE Jr.

The overriding issue, Mr. Clinton declared only last week, was whether the Iraqi President would "allow the U.N. inspectors to complete their mission with full and free access to any site they suspect may be hiding materials or information related to Iraqi weapons-of-mass-destruction programs."

[…]

Nor is it clear that Iraq will soon be even reasonably free of weapons of mass destruction.

[…]

Once again, the Iraqi leader has retreated, but he has bought time to move war materiel and perhaps to hide it more effectively. Few in Washington believe tonight that the last chapter of the story has been written.

Although Mr. Hussein has promised for the first time since the Persian Gulf war in 1991 to permit full access to all suspected sites, there is no assurance than he will ultimately permit it.

Unless he has undergone a conversion almost as dramatic as Saul's on the road to Damascus, he will try to preserve his arsenal. He may revert to his long-established pattern of stalling, obstructing and redefining terms. But on the other hand, he may adopt new tactics in pursuit of an old strategy.

"He clearly hasn't undergone a conversion," said Richard Haass of the Brookings Institution, who dealt with the Middle East at the National Security Council in the Bush Administration. "He will almost certainly continue to try to cheat and keep his weapons. But this time he may not try to obstruct the weapons inspectors. He may not be able to, and he may not have to.

"My guess is that during this four-month stalemate he will have dug deeper holes and found other ways to hide the stuff from inspection."


I see--a "Fair and Independent" judiciary means a "liberal" judiciary
A classic from The Skeptician
Gee, and I really thought that the suit had merit: Judge Rejects Suit to Block War on Iraq
Déjà vu: Iraq. Last week I was inspired by a James Tarranto “Best of the Web” e-mail to do some research on past “last chances” regarding Iraq, and James of OTB promised I would be forthcoming with some more examples. I haven’t finished my research, but here are a couple of déjà vu-esque stories for your reading pleasure:

Déjà vu One: Where Have I Heard this Before?

But American officials and representatives of the special commission said the report was irrelevant because the real issue was unfettered access to all sites in Iraq that might harbor weapons of mass destruction. The report came just hours after the arrival here of Secretary General Kofi Annan for talks with the Iraqis that are seen as the last chance to avoid an American military strike. Talks begin on Saturday and are expected to extend into Monday.

[…]

By manipulating the sites in a shell game, a United Nations official said today, Iraq is trying to drive a wedge between the special commission and the United Nations.

Date: Feb 21, 1998

The New York TimesSECTION: Section A; Page 4; Column 1; Foreign Desk
HEADLINE: STANDOFF WITH IRAQ: IN BAGHDAD; U.N. Team Calls Iraq Sites Smaller Than Thought
BYLINE: By BARBARA CROSSETTE
DATELINE: BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 21, 1998

Déjà vu Two: At Least the French are Consistent: Paper Trumps Force


European allies warmly hailed the accord brought back from Baghdad tonight by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Even before President Clinton had given his view on the agreement, President Jacques Chirac of France approved of it. In a 35-minute telephone call, the two leaders agreed that it was all right, said Mr. Chirac's spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna. "According to the information now in their possession, the accord which was signed appears to comply entirely with the United Nations resolutions and abides by the recommendations made by the five permanent members of the Security Council," she said.

Date: Feb 23, 1998

The New York Times

HEADLINE: THE DEAL ON IRAQ: THE ALLIES;Europeans Offer Praise For Accord With Iraq
SECTION: Section A; Page 11; Column 2; Foreign Desk
BYLINE: By CRAIG R. WHITNEY
DATELINE: PARIS, Feb. 23, 1998

Well, at least the work of the Secretary General was worthwhile, and that four years later Saddam disarmed…

The first in an ongoing series...

Poor Pete Rose, he just can't get any respect.
This is utterly hylarious. A sample:
I tell Burrows that if he is willing to submit to an interview, I am willing to review his book at length in The Washington Post. The only catch, I said, is that I am going to say that it is, in my professional judgment, the worst novel ever published in the English language.

Silence.

"My review will reach 2 million people," I said.

"Okay," he said.


And yes, the book is real.

My thanks to Sara of Reason Hit and Run.

A quick Google of the title indicates that the book is the rage of the Blogosphere.

Sunday, February 23

Sabbath Punditry Moment of the Week

Fox News Sunday ended their panel section with a clip of Carol Mosely Braun at a press conference. The question came up (I am not sure why) as to what her major was in college. She stated she couldn't remember, but thought it might have been political science (this site says that indeed, it was).

Not an auspicious start to her presidential bid.

Friedman's column in today's NYT is worth a read. Two good excerpts:
In an open society, there are simply too many threats, too many openings and too many interactions that are built on trust. You can't even begin to secure them all without also choking that open society. Which is why the right response, after a point, is not to demand more and more security — but to learn to live with more and more anxiety.
and
[T]he only survival purchase I've made since Code Orange is a new set of Ben Hogan Apex irons, and why my all-American survival kit would include: a movie guide, a concert schedule, Rollerblades, a bicycle — plus a reminder to attend your local PTA meetings, Little League games, neighborhood block parties and your book club and to get plenty of tickets for your favorite sports team.

Leave the cave-dwelling to Osama.
Indeed.
The argument that if we don't consult the allies now, that they won't be involved in the rebuilding of Iraq misses a fundamental point: Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world (second to the Saudis). While the war isn't about oil, much of the rebuilding will be.
I am watching Dick Gephardt on Meet the Press and he is currently criticizing the economy and blaming the President for the economic problems of the last several years. Without getting into the fact the recession started at the end of the Clinton administration (a fact, not a criticism of Clinton), I have to ask a question: are politicians (Reps and Dems) really so dense as to believe that as soon as a given president takes office, that he is responsible in all ways for the economy? Do they really think that a law here, a budget there, and one can either fix or break the complex nexus that is the US economy? Either they really don't understand, or are banking on the fact that most Americans don't understand. Neither option is all that flattering.

I am not arguing that policy makes no difference, but rather that 1) there is a substantial lag time for any policy to do good or ill to the economy, and that 2) for the most part, policy only affects the economy at the margins. If it were easy to create jobs and growth, we'd always have jobs and growth. Indeed, if a more vigorous government was all that was needed for economy largesse, then the Japanese and Europeans ought to be kicking our tails. However, that is hardly the case, see the Will column I noted below for some stats.

Indeed (via George Will):
In Europe, anti-Semitism has been called the socialism of fools, which is confusing, because socialism is the socialism of fools.

The whole column is worth reading. I am not fully comfortable with the linking of European anti-Semitism and European anti-Americanism (although I take his point), but I accept the broader thesis, which I have argued myself (and noted to some degree here and here), that the obstructionism vis-a-vis America's Iraq policy is more about America than it is about Iraq.

Even more significant is his discussion of Europe's "semi-suicide" at the hands of socialistic policies.

I continue to be amazed that the Dems seem not to have a message aside from the fact that they don't like the way that Dubya is doing things and that they would like the Dow to be higher. This is the same message that they had in the 2002 elections, and look where that got them. The closest thing to a policy alternative that I keep hearing is the age-old "we need to spend more money" argument, and that hardly qualifies as a) anything new, and b) a true alternative in substance.