Saturday, March 8

Well, it does appear that the US can walk (fight al Qaeda) and chew gum (prepare for war in Iraq): US captures seven in Afghanistan.

Not to sound too cynical, but I wonder how long before some Dem charges that the only reason that we are focusing on al Qaeda right now is to make the President look good so he can launch a war on Iraq?

Intriguing: Officials Narrow Bin Laden Search to Caravan although I remain skeptical until we actually have him in custody. It strikes me as odd that somehow we would be tracking him and the information would make it to ABCnews.com, especially after all the "we have his sons"/"no we don't"/"maybe we do" business since yesterday.
Gee whiz, this alone is enough to convince me that the Blix report is less than convincing:
[The] Iraqi newspaper Babel - which is run by President Saddam Hussein's son Uday - says the reports by the weapons inspectors were "fair".

Not to mention:

The dossier details the weapons of mass destruction Iraq may still possess:
  • Up to 10,000 litres of anthrax
  • Scud missile warheads fitted with deadly biological and chemical agents
  • Pilot-less aircraft, or "drones", that intelligence reports say far exceed the 150 kilometre (93 mile) limit allowed by the UN

As OTB pointed out this morning, the lack of mention of the drones in Blix's oral presentation is something of a signifincant omission.

Source: the BBC

My thanks to A Small Victory and SpiffyWaffer for Blogrolling PoliBlog.
Max Abrahms has a good piece on United Nations at NRO.

Upon reading this piece I find that I am further bolstered in my own thoughts on the subject: that the only function the UN really plays right now is for the less powerful states to pressure/affect the United States, and/or use it as a means of wringing concessions out of the US in exchange for cooperation (or at least no obstuction) for what the US wants to do, and could otherwise do by itself anyway. The idea that they are pursing the "will of the international community" is plain silly. Heck, the US Congress doesn't really pursue the "will of the American people," but rather the compromise position of 535 individuals representing myriad interests, and its members are a whole lot more on the same page than are the members of the UN. Indeed, compromise is often impossible in the UN context, and hence the problems we see whenever the Security Council has to actually do something serious. In interanational affairs it is often necessary to resort to force, and that is something that makes compromise difficult.

These kinds of reports are annoying: $1.82T Shortfall Predicted in Bush Budget, not for political reasons, but for methodological ones. While I understand the need to make projections, to pretend as if they are written in stone is problematic. We really don't know what the next ten years will bring budget-wise, and therefore the usefulness of such projections for policy-making as anything more than a general guideline is highly questionable . If one were to go back and find similar projections in the early 1990s, one would find that the projections were for deficits as far as the eye could see. No one predicted the boom of the 90s, and no one knows what will happen in the next 10 years, so posturing based on these projections is either willful ignorance, or disingenuousness.

On a political front, I think that the main solution to deficits is economic growth, and that restructuring elements of the tax code, like the double-taxation on dividends, will spur growth, and hence result in more money in the treasury.

Funny how the Iraqis can find document when they want to
ElBaradei's report yesterday all but ruled out the use of the tubes in a nuclear program. The IAEA chief said investigators had unearthed extensive records that backed up Iraq's explanation. The documents, which included blueprints, invoices and notes from meetings, detailed a 14-year struggle by Iraq to make 81mm conventional rockets that would perform well and resist corrosion. Successive failures led Iraqi officials to revise their standards and request increasingly higher and more expensive metals, ElBaradei said.(from WaPo)

I must admit that I remain unconvinced that the falsification of two pieces of evidence means that Saddam has totally abandoned his nuclear ambitions. Although I will also say that said ambitions aren't the best argument for war, anyway, as the chemical and bio weapons are an immediate threat.

Friday, March 7

Line of the Day (ok, actually yesterday, but who's counting?): Commenting on Bill Clinton's signing with CBS to revive "Point/Counterpoint" on 60 Minutes, Bob Garfield of NPR's On the Media said the following:
"It's potentially extremely degrading to the presidency, but of course, that a pantry that President Clinton has been in before." --Said on All Things Considered (3/6/03).
Hmm, and I thought that the Arab Street was supposed to increasingly turn on us as we approached war . Rather, according to this story, "Saddam's popularity among Arab masses may be waning"
Saddam once was applauded as a hero who stood up to the United States when no other Arab leader would. Today, Arabs increasingly portray him as a reckless despot who is not doing enough to save his people or his neighbors from a conflagration, and who has taken the region to war twice before.
As Mickey Kaus points out this may be some evidence to support the "Strong Horse Theory" (a theory that I subscribe to, by the way).
Congrats to Boycott Hollywood for the following formulatio: "Hans Blix is the Judge Ito of the United Nations." It has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?
An interesting piece in The New Republic Online about Mike Farrell's Sunday appearance on MTP. Overall it demonstrates well the ineptitude of Mr. Farrell. (Although the article's gratuitous worship of Marin Sheen is a tad odd).
This story, from today's WaPo raises an ongoing issue (discussed by James at OTB recently)--the idea many are proffering not an argument against war, per se, just an argument about who supports us. I concur with OTB--this is a weak position, to say the least.
In separate Capitol Hill appearances a few hours before Bush's prime-time news conference, Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it would be premature to invade Iraq without trying to win broader international support.

I mean, what's the important issue here: whether the war and its aims are justified or not (i.e., whether there are a moral and national interest arguments to support the action), or is it simply a question of how many people agree with us? I find it questionable that the best test for the worthiness of public policy is how many people agree with you. To quote your Mother: "If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you do it too?"

I am willing to risk short-term "isolation" (Daschle's whines in the story that "The situation has put us in a more isolated position than I ever anticipated") if the policy is the right thing to do. I suspect that once we are succesful, much of the "isolation" will end. And even if some of our "allies" remain aloof, I still think that pursuing the right policy in terms of US national interests trumps making nice with people who are worried about their interests, not ours. (And yes, shockingly, France, Germany, Russia, China, et al. act out of self-interest as well).

Electoral Shocker! Castro gets sixth term unopposed

(Tip of the hat to: Max Jacobs at Common Sense & Wonder)
While I must confess to being initially not all that impressed with the President’s press conference last night I have noted something interesting since: while the overall presentation last night was rather ho-hum, that his responses have made terrific sound bites. I saw several clips last night on TV before going to sleep and heard several on NPR this morning driving into work. His responses sound reasonable, thought out, and calm. Further, they convey specific ideas in short snippets of audio/video.

Also, I think that the following was accomplished:

  • He unequivocally informed the Securtity Council that A) he expected them to vote, and B) that he was going to proceed regardless. This sets the tone for the Blix presentation today and the vote on the 18th resolution.
  • He may have reached some folks who really aren’t paying attention—people who will watch an “unusual” event like a prime time news conference (not news junkies like me who knew all this stuff weeks ago).
  • I think that the event helps set the stage for the next prime time stop he makes: the announcement that hostilities have begun.
  • As a colleague pointed out this morning, the somber mood was likely an effort to counter-act the cowboy image/rush to war thesis.

At any rate, I would reiterate that you should all pay attention to the sound bites and reevaluate the way one looks at the press conference through those lenses. I think that that aspect of the event was masterfully played by the White House. This is an especially salient point when one considers that most people will get their impressions from the sound bites, as most folks don’t watch these things, and even if they tune it, they don’t watch the whole thing.

Thursday, March 6

This is just frightening for some reason:

Now, if the DNC can just find this "Unnamed Democrat" dude, and if they can keep national conditions the same through November 2004, they're set: Poll Shows Bush Would Lose to Democrat in Election
Not surprising: Republicans Lose Senate Test Vote on Estrada, although unfortunate. Here are the basics:
On Thursday, four Democrats joined all 51 Senate Republicans in voting to end debate and move to confirmation.

Forty-three Senate Democrats and one independent, James Jeffords of Vermont, voted against it. Sen. Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat recovering from heart surgery, did not vote.

The four Senate Democrats who crossed the political aisle in support of Estrada were: Bill Nelson of Florida, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Zell Miller of Georgia and John Breaux of Louisiana.

And I fear this is correct:

The battle is seen as a possible dress rehearsal for Bush's first U.S. Supreme Court nominee...

I continue to maintain that while the Dems have the legit right to use the rules in this fashion, that they are nonetheless damaging the nomination process, given that they have given no plausible reason to justify their actions.

Still a microbe, but up to the ominous 666 (from 832 yesterday) at The Truth Laid Bear Blogosphere Ecosystem. If only I could make it up to Multicellular Microorganisms!
ScrappleFace has made an amazing discovery: Study: Human Shields Fail to Deter Islamic Militants
You would think that Bay area libs would be happy: SF Bay area gas prices reach new record, I mean, aren't the libs always saying we should be more like Europe?

And gee, who's fault is this?

California usually has higher gas prices than most other states because the state has higher fuel taxes and requires a special blend of lower-smog fuel. Nationally, gas prices averaged $1.68 Tuesday, according to AAA. The record is $1.72, set on May 15, 2001.
More info on the changes to the presidential nomination landscape:
As many as 12 states may hold primaries or caucuses next February, party officials said today, taking advantage of a new Democratic Party rule that permits the contests to begin one week after the New Hampshire primary, which is Jan. 27. In 2000, there was not a single major Democratic primary or caucus in the month after New Hampshire.

With the new rules for 2004, Democratic officials said, they were trying to devise a fast-paced schedule that would produce an early nominee, spare their candidate the expensive and debilitating rigors of a prolonged nominating battle and impose order on a famously unruly system.

States who are late in the game, are really going to be out of it now...which makes one think that further compression is likely. It is also interesting that a highly compressed schedule, mixed with a large number of candidates, actually increases the chances of convention-level conflicts. It also means, therefore, that the pre-primary season is key, and that the goal is to be a front-runner well before January of 2004. This really does have the potential of seriously restructuring campaign strageties.

Further, the money angle is interesting. Not only is it noteworthy (although by no means surprising), that campaign-finance issues are driving part of the decision-making, but the earlier the primaries take place, the sooner candidates have to have lot of cash. Compression of the primaries will make it harder for candidates who do not already have tons of cash, to be able to mount a credible campaign. Undecided folks and late-comers, such as Sen. Graham, or especially ,Wesley Clark, may almost certainly too late at this point. Indeed, I suspect that some of the folks who have announced, are already too late.

Don't forget to toss in your two cents on the Big "I" Award
Neat trick, if you can pull it off: Bin Laden dead AND alive
Ya know, the thing about suicide troops is that you can only use them once...

Wednesday, March 5

Drudge is reporting that "CBS NEWS plans to revive commentary segment 'Point/Counterpoint' on 60 MINUTES -- With Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, beginning this Sunday night, newsroom sources say!". Boy, I can hardly wait.
Thanks to John Lemon of John Lemon's Barrel of Fish, another Blog by a conservative political science prof, for his plug of PoliBlog.
My thanks to You are Skewed for Blogrolling PoliBlog.
Courtesy the joke section of Pavefrance.com
"You know why the French don't want to bomb Saddam Hussein? Because he hates America, he loves mistresses and wears a beret. He is French, people." --Conan O'Brien
The amazing thing is that, according to their counter, they have had almost 320,000 visitors: Cheese Racing (via Dave Barry)
For those who enjoy both Monty Python and making fun of the Human Shields. (via RWN)
The Big "I" Awards

I am instituting a new award, to be given as needed, to be known as the Big "I" (as in idiot) Award.

The current nominees are:

  • Chrissie Hynde:
    Between songs, the pugnacious Hynde… opined that she hopes the United States loses if it goes to war with Iraq ("Bring it on! Give us what we deserve!"),
  • The Human Shields stuck in Beirut:
    Two red double decker buses and a white London taxi that ferried anti-war activists to Baghdad to serve as "human shields" are stranded in Beirut with their owner short of the $5,500 it costs to ship them home.
  • The New Zealand woman who wants Bush to Crucify Here:
    A woman in New Zealand says she wants President Bush to understand the kind of pain and suffering a war with Iraq would cause.

    She wants Bush to crucify her -- on live television.

  • The Woman who thinks that being human shields would make a great class project
    Political science, religious studies, sociology and global studies classes in colleges and universities might consider participating in the human shield as a course project for those who are willing.

Vote via the Comments link (and yes, I know it is a hard choice).

Interesting:
U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said on Wednesday Iraq had been proactive recently in helping inspectors but he would not want to extend inspections on that basis because Baghdad's past track record had not been good.

(story here)

Where does Powell get this stuff?:

"From recent intelligence we know that the Iraqi regime intends to declare and destroy only a portion of its banned al-Samoud inventory," he told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"It has in fact ordered the continued production of the missiles that you see being destroyed... It has also begun to hide machinery it can use to convert other kinds of engines to power al-Samouds," Powell said.

I mean, really isn't it obvious that Saddam is doing his best?

Maybe we should move the primaries all the to the December after the general election, and just get it over with: District Insists On Early Primary:
A unanimous D.C. Council voted yesterday to move next year's presidential primary to Jan. 13 -- ahead of every state...
Hey look: PoliBlog is an "insignificant microbe", i.e., ranked 834 out of 1162 on the TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem. On the one hand, I have higher aspirations than that, on the other, the Blog has only been around about two and half weeks. I'll take what I can get.
Line of the Day: "Shut up you minion, you (U.S.) agent, you monkey. You are addressing Iraq," he said. "You are insolent. You are a traitor to the Islamic nation," --( Izzat Ibrahim, second-in-command of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council to the Kuwaitis at the Islamic Summit in Doha, Qatar)

(source: ABCNEWS.com

Tuesday, March 4

Indeed: " the president's critics, showing an amazing tolerance for cognitive dissonance, fault him simultaneously for acting as though America can be the world's constable - and for allowing Iraq to divert him from the task of solving the North Korean crisis."--George Will
Thomas P.M. Barnett of the US Naval War College, has a very interesting piece in this month's Esquire (a nod to LGFs for the link). On the one hand, Barnett's division of the world into the "Core" and "Gap" makes some sense (although it isn’t wholly unique), his argument about globalization and connectedness is worthy of consideration, and not unlike things Thomas Friedman often argues.

I also agree that the “gap” countries are more likely to be sources of conflict, but I think that he underplays one major issue, and that is that the amount of threat that a given country represents is more an issue of radical Islam, than it is of lack of connectedness. Haiti and Colombia, for example, top his list of trouble spots. I would argue that while Colombia in particular is going to loom larger and larger in US foreign policy, it is not a direct threat to the US the way radicalized Muslim terrorists are. Indeed, radical Saudi Arabians are more of a threat to the US than are members of the FARC. For one thing, the FARC (or their lesser known guerrilla compatriots, the ELN) doesn’t have the capacity to overrtake the Colombian state. The conflict in Colombia is a stalemate: the guerrilla can’t take the state, and the state can’t defeat the guerrillas. Further, the irony with the Colombian situation is that it is the very War on Drugs that we wage that inflates the price of cocaine, that makes fighting profitable. Sans drug money, the FARC whithers.

At any rate, the Barnett piece is worth a read.

Hmm, if Reuters is publishing optimistic-sounding stories, maybe the US will get the new resolution after all...
Interesting:
France has all but ruled out using its veto in the U.N. Security Council to block a U.S.-backed resolution paving the way for war on Iraq , a weekly newspaper reported in its Wednesday edition.
More info on the Iraqi-Abu Sayyaf link from WaTi. This goes along with info I blogged here.
What a waste of resources (from NRO):
"Including federal, state and local officials, our estimate is about 1,200 were involved, just on that day," Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman Will Glaspy says by phone. Among them, "easily hundreds" of U.S. agents were deployed "about 103 U.S. Marshals alone," Justice spokesman Drew Wade adds. "It was just exhaustive." The Feds responsible include prosecutors in eleven U.S. attorneys' offices from southern California to western Pennsylvania. Rather than guard America's docks and porous borders from the next Mohamed Atta, Customs and Immigration and Naturalization Service personnel joined the anti-pipe posse.

I have never used drugs (I honestly don't even know what marijuana smoke smells like) and pray that none of my boys will ever indulge, but as one who studies Colombia and, by extension, the drug problem, I have to say that this represents an enormous waste of resources. We live in a world of finite resources, and choices have to be made. The War on Drugs in general is not delivering, and needs to be seriously evaluated--we aren't getting what we are paying for.

(Thanks to OTB for the link)

For some reason, I find this to be amusing.
This is so confusing:
A decade ago, after her election to the U.S. Senate, Carol Moseley Braun introduced a hyphen to her name after 15 years in politics.

Now, it's gone.

[...]

By way of formal introduction, she will now be Ms. Braun, not Ms. Moseley-Braun.

An interesting take on peace protestors from a former demonstrator of the Vietnam Era. (thanks to joyfulchristian for the link.
James K. Glassman has an interesting column atTechCentralStation He makes several key obersvations, including:
But even Greenpeace's own position paper on Exxon Mobil, "The Tiger in the Tanks," admits there are subtleties involved: "Only time will tell which oil company will benefit most from a war with Iraq…. U.S. oil companies are only likely to benefit if Bush secures a regime change in Iraq, whereas a peaceful resolution is likely to leave French, Russian and Chinese oil companies as the main winners."

Of course, another way to put this is that the French, Russian and Chinese oil companies stand to benefit if a brutal dictator who has already invaded two of his neighbors, killed dissenters, used chemical weapons, and failed to abide by 16 U.N. resolutions remains in power.

and, indeed:

If Greenpeace truly places the environment over ideology, why does it coddle the worst polluter the world has ever seen? I am speaking, of course, of Saddam Hussein, who, faced with defeat in 1991, set fire to 613 oil wells in Kuwait, the country he invaded. An extensive study by Geneva-based Green Cross International found that 60 million barrels of oil were released in the desert, forming 246 oil lakes, covering a surface of 49 square kilometers. "The smoke and soot contaminated 953 square kilometers of desert" and soiled 800 miles of coastline. "The amount of oil released was…twice as large as the previous world record oil spill" - and 20 times as large as the Valdez spill in Alaska.

One would think that Greenpeace would be leading the first armored column into Baghdad to bring history's number-one eco-criminal to justice.

A new blog by the editorial cartoonists Cox & Forkum
An amusing web site dedidated to Dennis Kucinich (also thanks to a post at The Agitator)
One would think, that given the way their financial markets reacted, that Turkey will have another vote and this time the results will be different. The government only needs three votes.
I have to admit this is pretty funny (via The Agitator)

Monday, March 3

As a Political Science Professor, I wouldn't recommend this:
Political science, religious studies, sociology and global studies classes in colleges and universities might consider participating in the human shield as a course project for those who are willing. Graduate students could write theses out of the experience. Students the world over could organize the travel and recruiting, themselves. There could be local chapters, like Amnesty International. Or it could be organized using the framework of the Peace Corps. It begins here, but continues beyond today and this month, and America and Iraq. This is the movement that Mahatma Gandhi began and that we want to manifest on a level that has never before been possible - or at least that has never before been tried.

You have got to be kidding me:

As long as enough people will go that it publicly shames aggressors out of killing thousands who travel to a place to create positive, nonviolent solutions, there's not a lot more danger than one faces on an average trip to the average country at any given time. I won't say it's a trip to Paris, but the very scale of this movement is, itself, a very strong protective factor.
Nothing like European class.
Too bad--I actually was curious to see how this might've turned out: ABC's Donaldson Won't Be Defecting to MSNBC
Hmm, I don't think that these will end up in my children's library.
Hmm... Does this mean that Cheney is his interogator? Let's hope:
The U.S. official told Reuters in Washington that Mohammed had been taken out of Pakistan to an undisclosed location for interrogation after his capture with two other al Qaeda suspects.
Sabbath Punditry Moment of the Week

For those who missed it, an amusing snippet from the Fox News Sunday Panel:

HUME: You got to love Hans Blix. You know, if I die I'd like to come back as Hans Blix's son. He'd never be in any trouble...

(LAUGHTER)

... any effort would be good enough, there would always be progress, he would always be saying I'll be doing better next time, the grades would never be bad enough to get you in any real trouble. It would be great.

I think this falls into the category of a face only a mother could love.
North Korea is a happy, happy place.
Under threat of severe penalties, the vast majority of North Korea's 22 million people are not allowed any contact with the outside world — letters, telephone calls, travel, radio or television programs.

And this is a great idea. Nothing like helping out their brethen to the North:

South Korea's state-owned Korean Broadcasting Service increasingly airs programs intended not to provoke the North and to promote peaceful coexistence on the peninsula.

I am not an expert on Asia, but it strikes me that the South is making a grave error in their current dealings with the North. I understand being tired of the tension and constant threat of potential conflict, but playing nice only helps the Dictator.

Oh, and by the way: 10 down, 110 go:
Baghdad began on Saturday destroying some 120 missiles, meeting a key U.N. deadline. A total of 10 missiles, whose range Blix says exceeds the 150-km (93-mile) limit allowed by U.N. resolutions, have been scrapped so far.
Ya know, it is funny how Iraq starts to cooperate (sorta) right around the time that Blix is due to make a report. Is it just me, or shouldn't they have disclosed information on VX and anthrax back in December, if such information existed?

Sunday, March 2

Wow. I am shocked to learn that Saddam would exploit these peace-loving visitors:
[M]any of the British peace activists who travelled to Iraq to present themselves as "human shields'' against a military attack are reported to be on their way back home even before a single shot has been fired.

The reason is said to be differences with their Iraqi hosts over where they should be deployed. While the volunteers wanted to be with the civilians to help them in the event of a war, the Iraqis apparently insisted that they would serve as more effective symbols of resistance if they were to be stationed at strategic sites like power stations and oil refineries. For many, this was simply too scary and, preferring safety to valour, they decided to return home.

And, really:

Sixty-eight-year-old Godfrey Meynell, a former sheriff from Derbyshire, broke out in cold sweat when he discovered that the power plant, he had been asked to guard, looked like a potential "prime target'' for enemy fire. "I'm ashamed to be leaving you at this time of need but I am going out of pure, cold fear,''
My thanks to Random Nuclear Strikes for Blogrolling PoliBlog.
Nothing like thoughtful argumentation to make a point.
This is hylarious (although some of the pictures are kinda frightening).