Friday, January 30, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson on the Iraq War:

"We are winning a difficult peace. It is not surprising that we have made scores of mistakes, since nation rebuilding in the Middle East has no recent pedigree — not targeting and storming into the Sunni Triangle from the very beginning, distrusting and defaming competent and patriotic Iraqi exiles, allowing thousands to stream in from Iran, dismantling the Iraqi army and police, restraining Americans in war from harming vital infrastructure only to allow Iraqis to ruin it in peace, lax security on captured weapons caches, keeping Iraqis in the shadows while we spoke about their reform, and trying to create a political utopia when the avoidance of tyranny was our real chore. Surely someone in the administration should have been explaining to the American people daily the historical nature of our victory, the critical issues now in play worldwide, and the humane nature of our sacrifice — if only to offer some counterweight to the monotonous negativism of National Public Radio, Nightline, the New York Times, and the Democratic contenders. Instead we have had mostly silence — reticence seen not as Olympian magnanimity, but rather as a sign of weakness that only emboldened critics and fueled the hysteria.

Yet throughout this tumultuous year, what amazes is not that we made errors, or major blunders even — but how quickly we reacted, adjusted, and learned from our mistakes. So we press on, learning as we go, combining power with justice, determined to leave behind something better than we found. We are comforted by knowing that for all the current yelling from Democratic candidates, our own intelligentsia, and the European mainstream, this has not been a war of conquest or exploitation, but something altogether different — a needed effort that, if we see it through, will end up doing a great deal of good for everyone involved.

Our efforts in Iraq to remove a genocidal murderer and inaugurate democracy are not a 'quagmire,' but one of the brightest moments in recent American history — and we need not be ashamed to say that, again and again and again."

This is the conclusion, for the whole thing, please go read it. VDH has a way of putting things succinctly that is simply brilliant.

One other, related thing I've been wondering about. If Bush lied to go to war in Iraq, why did he want to go to war? Are we really supposed to believe it was for oil? Or, as Howard Dean offered, the President wanted to get even with Saddam for Bush, Sr.? I haven't heard a really good legitimization for why the President would have lied to get into war.
ABCNEWS is on board with the list of 270 oil-for-food Saddam supporters. This is starting to snowball.
This is a good column by Dan Gillmor on a resource I use regularly called Wikipedia. I even contributed a bit on the article on Psychohistory. I was unaware that there were other "Wikis" out there until this article. A quote:

"Wikipedia, an encyclopedia created and operated by volunteers, is one of the most fascinating developments of the Digital Age. In just over three years of existence, it has become a valuable resource and an example of how the grass roots in today's interconnected world can do extraordinary things.

Almost anyone can be a contributor to the Wikipedia. Almost anyone can edit almost any page. (Only serious misbehavior gets people banned.) Thousands of people around the world have added their expertise, and new volunteers show up every day.

It defies first-glance assumptions. After all, one might imagine, if anyone can edit anything, surely cyber-vandals will wreck it. Surely flame wars over article content will stymie good intentions. And, of course, the articles will all be amateurish nonsense. Right?

Well, no.

Wikipedia does have its flaws -- including recent hardware problems that have made the site hard to use pending the installation of new server computers. But its very nature protects it from some of those other woes, and it has emerged as a credible resource.

Wikipedia is based on a kind of software called Wiki. A Wiki allows any user to edit any page. It keeps track of every change. Anyone can follow the changes in detail.

A Wiki engenders a community when it works correctly. And a community that has the right tools can take care of itself.

The Wikipedia articles tend to be neutral in tone, and when the topic is controversial, they will explain the varying viewpoints in addition to offering the basic facts. When anyone can edit what you've just posted, such fairness becomes essential.

`The only way you can write something that survives is that someone who's your diametrical opposite can agree with it,' says Jimmy Wales, a founder of Wikipedia."

Wales is right. They have flags that note if a topic is "controversial" and the user can view the debate. All and all, pretty cool.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Justin Katz has an interesting article about the Kay report over at Tech Central Station.
"Today's lull in the presidential campaign affords us an opportunity to look at the latest developments in the weird postwar debate over Iraq, in which certain American and British politicians and journalists, for reasons of partisanship, ideology or self-aggrandizement, have for months been trying to transform victory over Saddam Hussein into defeat for America and its allies." Go to OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today for a good, comprehensive wrap-up.
Paul Berman is accused of being a traitor to the liberal cause for supporting the President on Iraq and rebuts the attack while having 'A Friendly Drink in a Time of War' in the pages of Dissent Magazine.
I've been busy, hence the lack of posts, but I did catch this one. Apparently, according to some Iraqi newspapers, Saddam bribed Chirac with oil money. Wow! What a surprise! And Chirac wasn't alone either. This guy has some more information on the Russian links. Also, Hammorabi is an Iraqi blogger who delves a little deeper into who took what, but MEMRI has the best breakdown of all. Here are a few that I pulled from MEMRI about some of our "friends":

Canada: Arthur Millholland, president and CEO of the Calgary-based Oilexco company, received 1 million barrels of oil.

United States: Samir Vincent received 10.5 million barrels. In 2000, Vincent, an Iraqi-born American citizen who has lived in the U.S. since 1958, organized a delegation of Iraqi religious leaders to visit the U.S. and meet with former president Jimmy Carter. Shaker Al-Khafaji, the pro-Saddam chairman of the 17th conference of Iraqi expatriates, received 1 million barrels.

Great Britain: George Galloway received 1 million barrels.

France: The French-Arab Friendship Association received 15.1 million barrels. Former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua received 12 million barrels. Patrick Maugein of the Trafigura company received 25 million barrels. Michel Grimard, founder of the French-Iraqi Export Club, received 17.1 million barrels.

Brazil: The 8th of October Movement, a Brazilian Communist group, received 4.5 million barrels. Fuwad Sirhan received 10 million barrels.

The Indian Congress Party received 1 million barrels.

Russia: The Russian state itself received 1,366,000,000 barrels. The list also included the following:

Companies belonging to the Liberal Democratic Party received 79.8 million barrels - the list notes the name of party president Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The Russian Communist Party received 1 million barrels. The Lukoil company received 63 million barrels. The Russneft company received 35.5 million barrels. Vladimir Putin's Peace and Unity Party received 34 million barrels - the list notes the name of party chairwoman Saji Umalatova. The Gazprom company received 26 million barrels. The Soyuzneftgaz company received 25.5 million barrels - the list notes the name Shafrannik. The Moscow Oil Company received 25.1 million barrels. The Onako company received 22.2 million barrels. The Sidanco company received 21.2 million barrels. The Russian Association for Solidarity with Iraq received 12.5 million barrels. The Ural Invest company received 8.5 million barrels. Russneft Gazexport received 12.5 million barrels. The Transneft company received 9 million barrels. The Sibneft company received 8.1 million barrels. The Stroyneftgaz company received 6 million barrels. The Russian Committee for Solidarity with the People of Iraq received 6.5 million barrels - the list notes the name of committee chairman Rudasev. The Russian Orthodox Church received 5 million barrels. The Moscow Science Academy received 3.5 million barrels. The Chechnya Administration received 2 million barrels. The National Democratic Party received 2 million barrels. The Nordwest group received 2 million barrels. The Yukos company received 2 million barrels. One Russian company which phonetically reads as Zarabsneft received 174.5 million barrels. Vouchers were also granted to the Russian foreign ministry, one under the name of Al-Fayko for 1 million barrels, and one to Yetumin for 30.1 million barrels. The Mashinoimport Company received 1 million barrels. The Slavneft Company received 1 million barrels. The Caspian Invest Company (Kalika) received 1 million barrels. The Tatneft Tatarstan company received 1 million barrels. The Surgutneft company received 1 million barrels. Siberia's oil and gas company received 1 million barrels.

In addition, the son of the former Russian Ambassador to Iraq received 19.7 million barrels. Nikolay Ryjkov, a former prime minister of the USSR, received 13 million barrels. The Russian President's office director received 5 million barrels.


These are just a few. MEMRI has many more with sources cited.

It seems like many of the defenders and go-slow champions seem to have had less than entirely pure motives. Like I said before, imagine that!

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

I neglected to blog about the death of Captain Kangaroo, but it was felt, as much as the passing of Mr. Rogers. Streetcarmike.com does a good page on all things Captain. I started many a day with the Captain. He'll be missed. I only wish he could have lasted longer, both on the air and off. I'm sure my kids would have loved him.

Monday, January 26, 2004

One question, given that David Kay has said that he found no evidence, much less stockpiles, of WMD, does this mean Bush lied? I don't think so, but it does skewer the logic of the Bush haters who say he "conspired" and "lied" about the threat. How so? Well, if Bush is so evil, so conspiratorial with all of his "Imperial" power, don't you think he would have been sure that we would have found WMD ? Also, it wasn't only the US intelligence agencies that missed this one, apparently a whole bunch of others, including many in the UN missed also missed it. It's also important to restate, even if he didn't have WMD, why didn't Saddam say so? Spare me the "saving face" argument or the theory that he was hoodwinked by his own scientists. It was up to him to come clean, not up to the UN to prove he had none. This doesn't mean I excuse the obvious problems that appear to exist within the CIA. They need to be fixed. The President and his Administration should come forward and say so. On the other had, there can be no doubt that without pressure from the US and the UN "inspection regime," Saddam would have restared his WMD programs in a heartbeat. The war was justified. Iraq is and will be a better place for the average Iraqi now. Patience and persistance will prevail.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Bush to propose spending freeze says the Washington Times. Let's hope he sticks to this. The only problem I have with the President is his proclivity to spend. Now, this is still far outweighed by his leadership in the War on Terror and his other foreign policies, but it does cause some concern. I'm not sure about Keynsian economics (Boilerplate: in times of economic downturn, deficit spending is ok to spur the economy) as I'm not really an economist and I'm interested in looking closer at the economic theories of Hayek...but that will have to wait while I research the American Enlightenment, The Imperial Wars during the Colonial Era in the U.S., the French and Indian War and even a little bit of Medieval Women's literature. Phew. Meanwhile, only a little more than a week until 38. <-- (You should know what that means.)

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Terrence O. Moore of the Claremont Institute has an interesting essay about "The Sons of Murphy Brown" and how they are either "Wimps" or "Barbarians." He begins:

"More than a decade ago the nation was in a stir over the birth of a fictional boy. The boy was Avery, son of Murphy Brown. Television's Murphy Brown, played by Candice Bergen, was a successful news commentator who, after an unsuccessful relationship with a man that left her alone and pregnant, bore a son out of wedlock. The event, popular enough in its own right, became the center of political controversy when then Vice President Dan Quayle in a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California lamented that the show was "mocking the importance of a father." Suddenly the nation polarized over this question of 'family values.' But the controversy over Murphy Brown's childbearing soon died down. The characters on the show became more interested in Murphy's hairstyle than her baby, as did perhaps Murphy, who eventually found a suitable nanny in her painter so she could pursue her career without abatement. The show was off the air before Murphy's son would have been seven. Vice President Quayle was not reelected. Eleven years later, it is worth pondering what might have happened to Avery had this story not been just a television show. More to the point, what is happening today to our boys and young men who come from 'families' not unlike Murphy's and who find the nation as divided now as it was then over the 'values' by which we ought to raise them?"

What does Moore think happened? Two things, some became "Barbarians" and some became "Wimps." The essay describes the differences, here is a sample of how they differ in relating to the opposite sex:

"... the wimp may take an interest in the opposite sex. But his approach to dating and relationships is different from the barbarian. The barbarian has simple appetites. His ideal is the Playboy playmate or the winner of a hot legs contest at Daytona Beach, and his ultimate aim in any relationship or encounter, whatever he may say, is sex. As an athlete, the barbarian is a hero of sorts. He walks with an unmistakable air of confidence. The wimp, on the other hand, has more complex reasons for wanting women. Although sex is certainly one of his desires, more than sex he needs affirmation. He desperately needs a girlfriend to boost his self-confidence. Having someone else notice him will somehow show the world that he is not a total loser. The wimp also needs someone to hear his laments, to commiserate with him when he is feeling down, to discover his secret self. Since he has few qualities or achievements to recommend him, he seeks to appear 'interesting' or mysterious. Initially, the wimp might seem amusing to an unsuspecting young lady and very different from the insensitive jocks and rowdies she has known. Ultimately, however, the wimp seeks to draw her into his web of melancholy and self-pity. The story always ends unhappily since romance cannot be based upon pity or the thin facade of personality. He might mope and whine his way into a woman's bed but will find excuses to avoid 'commitment.' The wimp will begin the relationship by saying, 'You're the only one who understands me' and end it by saying, 'You don't understand me at all.' The truth is that there is not much to understand."

He explains how we came to this, mostly from changing the way we raise our boys at home, in school and in society as a whole. He closes with this about what Murphy Brown's son may be going through now:

"So how is Murphy Brown's little Avery doing? He is 11 now. He has grown up under an overbearing mother who has occasionally brought men home, though none has stayed. While Murphy has pursued her successful career, Avery has been showered with material possessions to give him something to do during the long stretches of the day when he finds himself at home alone or left to an indifferent nanny, finished with his half hour of easy homework, which his mother will check over and often redo for him after they have eaten the pizza or take-out Chinese she picked up on the way home from work. Every time Avery has a problem at school or in the neighborhood, Murphy solves it for him with the same decisiveness she demonstrates at the network, thus proving to her son and to herself that she is a good mother.

Avery has posters on his wall of Eminem, Kobe Bryant, and Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit. He is becoming interested in girls but is still too shy to say much to them. Still, he has learned a lot about women on the internet, and his favorite rap songs tell him precisely how to relate to women and what women want. His mother, for her part, has told him a lot about the value of "respecting people." Avery has never been hunting or fishing. True, Avery and his mother used to have fun times at the park and on trips when she could get away from work, but now he is beginning to pull away from her when she rubs his head in an affectionate way. They are not as close as they used to be.

The next few, crucial years of Avery's life will determine what kind of man he will be. Will he rest in wretched contentment with the ease and luxury provided by his oft-absent, deep-voiced mother, or will he rebel with other boys his own age, raised much like him, by finding his own rites of passage in drugs and sex and acts of petty delinquency, or worse? Will he become a wimp or a barbarian?"







Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson notes that "the president realizes that his singular leadership in this deadly struggle is such that unease elsewhere with his budget and immigration initiatives must remain for most of us just that — unease. Where the president is great the opposition is pathetic; and where he is on weak ground, they are still weaker — as evidenced by the collective ankle biting of Dean, Clark, and Kerry and the responses of Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle." My sentiments exactly.
Australian Caroline Overington lets her readers know this about Americans: they like Bush, and they are not stupid . She points out something many non-Americans either fail to see or ignore:

"Because I live in New York, I rarely get to hear the voice of this majority. Instead, I get magazines such as Vanity Fair, which last month had a column by the editor angrily listing statistics from the war in Iraq. Such as: number of American soldiers killed: 500. Number of weapons of mass destruction found: 0.

But, as some readers pointed out, there were statistics missing from the list. These include: number of mass graves uncovered in Iraq: around 260, containing as many as 20,000 bodies. Number of people liberated from brutal, murderous leadership: 12 million. And number of times Bush lied about receiving oral sex from a White House intern: 0."

Europeans and the world at large receive much of their information from these very same people in publications in cities like New York, LA, or Washington. Hence the view that not even we like or support our President. The belief is not tha America is a force for good in the world, but rather a pseudo-Imperial Hegemon led by a dumb, cowboy who is supported by culturally crass, ugly Americans. Caricatures such as that are tired and old and only expose those who hold them as ignorant. To those of you who think you know all about America from what you hear from New York media outlets or the BBC, I encourage you to shake-up your sources for information on America. Read some newspapers from the heartland online. Blogs are also a good source, BUT, to be honest, they are often written by those espousing one or other extreme who too often have turned a deaf ear to arguments opposed to their own. There are good ones, but when reading blogs, one should approach them with a critical eye, as they should all other media sources.

But that isn't really what Overington's column is about. She goes on to detail an encounter on an airplane:

"I remember sitting on a small plane, travelling from North Carolina to New York, when the war was a few weeks old. I was reading USA Today and, as I opened it to study a map of Iraq, one half of the newspaper fell into the lap of my fellow passenger. I turned to apologise, but he said: 'No problem. Actually, do you mind if I have a look?' Together we studied the picture, trying to work out how far the Americans were from seizing power. It was clear from the diagrams that troops were near Saddam's airport, and close to the centre of Baghdad. I turned to my seat mate and said: 'I don't think this is going to be a long battle, after all.' It was only then that I noticed, with horror, that he had started to cry. And then I noticed something else: a photograph, wrapped in plastic, pinned to his lapel. It was a picture of his 20-year-old son, a young marine who died in the first days of the war. The man's wife was sitting across the aisle from us. She had a round bowl on her lap, filled with water and some drooping tulips. The movement of the aircraft was making the water slop around. She was trying to wipe her hands, and her tears.

The couple told me they had just been to a private meeting with Bush to discuss the loss of their son. At the time, it was already clear that Saddam didn't have any weapons of mass destruction. 'But I never thought it was about the weapons,' my seat mate said. And, although I can't remember his exact words, he also said something like: 'We have always stood up for freedom, in our own country, and for other people.'"

Touching and it really gets to the heart of the matter, as Overington further explains:

"Any student of history knows that this is true. America saved the Western world from communism. America saved Australia and, for that matter, France from a system that would stop you from reading this newspaper. Americans support the war in Iraq and, by extension, Bush because they see it as part of a bigger picture. Like everybody, they now know that Saddam was not the threat they thought he was (at least, not to them) but they still think it was a good idea to deal with him, before he became one. The price of freedom is high. You might think you would not sacrifice your life for it, but maybe you don't have to. After all, 20-year-old Americans are doing it for you, every day."

How true. This is not meant as an attack on our European Allies, but maybe it is a reminder that, yes, the United States may be the biggest kid on the block, but all in all, it's not a bully...more like the brother who watches out for his siblings and doesn't necessarily ask for anything in return. (By the way, I can hear the sarcastic saying, "Yea, Big Brother, hahahah," but I believe they are only looking to obfuscate the truth of what I say with pithy remarks.) Sure, a lot of the benefits gained by other countries for the United States' committment to its own agenda can be considered accidental, but they are still tangible. In working towards a safer and more democratic world, the U.S. is not only securing its own interests, it is doing the same for the world.




Monday, January 19, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson has a take on the Immigration policy proposed by President Bush. He is against it and explains why in his usual, logical style.
Next stop: Super Bowl

Friday, January 16, 2004

Charles Krauthammer explains the President's Modest Proposal for space exploration. I am an advocate, and Krauthammer puts it better then me:

"Establishing the first human habitation on a celestial body would not just allow for extraordinarily interesting science (from geology to astronomy) and be the locus for extraterrestrial manufacture. It would be -- those without an ounce of romance in their souls are advised to skip the rest of this sentence -- the most glorious human adventure since the Age of Exploration five centuries ago. "

I'm a Sci-Fi kinda guy, always have been. I'm also a "dreamer" (even Conservatives can dream) and have hopes for humanity greater than what can be attained on this world. Man has, is and always will be an explorer. It's time we rediscovered that core human characteristic.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Robert Roy Britt, Senior Science Writer for Spac.com writes today at MSNBC about the cost of humans on the moon and Mars. His tagline is that "Bush must quickly reorganize plans, fund one focus," and the best pull is this:

"The money is there
The 2004 federal budget is $2.2 trillion. NASA's is $15.5 billion. Reasonable estimates suggest the space agency's share of the pie would need to rise gradually to $20 billion within a few years if footprints are to be made in Martian dust within a generation.

First, Bush aides say, the plan will call for a return to the Moon, in part so new technology critical to a Mars mission can be tested.

In 1995, NASA scientists and engineers developed a plan to put astronauts back on the Moon by 2001 for $3 billion or less. Other estimates nowadays put the cost at around $15 billion over five years.

That's $3 billion a year. NASA has the money.

About half of the agency's budget is already spent directly on human spaceflight. Nearly $4 billion is earmarked annually for the shuttle program. The cost of the space station is elusive, but it exceeds $1 billion each year. Another $2 billion or more goes to supporting research and maintaining the infrastructure needed for all human spaceflight activity."

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Finally, here is a Glance at Bush Immigration Changes Plan as well as a summary of the President's speech on the matter. More fodder for thought.
In October of 2002, Dan Griswold published an apparently comprehensive study that addresses many of the issues mentioned below. You can find the pdf file here. I'm digesting it myself and will remark more later.
I am initially inclined to tepidly support the President's new immigration policy, as I believe that there are just some jobs that the average American worker won't do, like picking apples or lettuce, or doing menial labor, etc. It sounds kind of elitist, but it seems true. Lo and behold, Mark Krikorian at National Review Online has an illuminating column titled, er...Jobs Americans Won't Do. Very interesting stuff.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I'm a dreamer, ok, so I dig this Mars stuff. Here's the first picture taken by the Mars rover Spirit.
The American Thinker is a new website I just found. It revisits the "stolen" election of 2000 to remind us all of what really happened. It's a long article, but this is the important part:

"The US Supreme Court decision over-ruling the Florida Supreme Court had two parts: the first a 7 to 2 vote over-ruling the vote counting system established by the Florida Supreme Court ; the second a 5 to 4 vote, requiring the vote count to be concluded almost immediately so that Florida could participate in the Electoral College process.

Had the second decision been 5 to 4 the other way, it is likely that the Florida count would not have been concluded in time for the state to determine a winner and select a slate of electors to the Electoral College. In that case, one of two scenarios would have played out. One is that the Florida legislature, Republican dominated, would have selected the Bush electors to vote in the Electoral College. Alternatively, no Florida electors would have been selected, and neither Bush nor Gore would have won a majority of the Electoral College vote. In that case, the US House of Representatives, voting by states (as in 1824), would have picked Bush since the GOP controlled more state delegations than the Democrats. So even if the 5-4 portion of the U.S. Supreme Court decision had gone the other way, Bush would still have become our President. "