|What follows below are my own personal musings and impressions of the news of the day, events outside the news, and other things that blast across my radar screen. I included things that I wrote in the previous several days, to help provide a little history of my thinking. In truth, I have one very shameless reason for doing so: I want admission to the Rocky Mountain Alliance, and I assume the Lord High Chamberlain will only admit one after some sort of record is established. Thus, I provide a bit of a record to go from.
Posted at 6:52 pm
Occasionally, I will wander away from politics to talk other things that are important to me.
Like, have I mentioned how excited I am to see “The Return of the King”? The clips I’ve seen and the trailers got my heart beating, and I’m just convinced that this will be the movie to end all trilogies. “No triumph without loss; no victory without suffering; no freedom without sacrifice.” The best, grandest lessons of any movie any time in recent memory, with the notable exception of several Mel Gibson movies.
Of course, it’s easy to hook me. “The Return of the King” is a book I re-read probably every other summer. The lessons in it of sacrifice, courage, duty, real leadership and the responsibilities of command are powerful and worth visiting every other year.
The picture of Aragorn as the reluctant commander who accepts his role only out of a sense of duty is the picture I try to keep in my head when I picture my own leadership roles.
“So why haven’t I seen it yet” you ask? Because my firstborn daughter wants to see it with me, and we haven’t been able to coordinate all the schedules involved. If I can start to communicate the lessons of these books to her while she’s still young, maybe they can sink in. Then when it’s her turn to change the world, she will hopefully do so out of a sense of duty and responsibility, thinking only minimally about the perks of power and fame.
Posted at 5:40 pm
The Justice Department Civil Rights Division has ruled that the Texas redistricting plan pushed through by state Republicans with the leadership of Tom DeLay does not violate the Voting Rights Act. This, in effect, takes out the primary legal objection to the plan.
Of course, the real objection to the plan is that the redistricting gives the GOP a very good chance to pick up as many as 7 seats in the House in the 2004 election. That would crush the hopes of the Dems still thinking they can get back a majority in the House.
Posted at 4:30 p.m.
Much has been said and written over the last couple years about the growing acrimony in Washington. Indeed, with the campaign in full swing, the old rules that “politics stop at the water’s edge” have been just tossed out the window. There are those, mostly from the right, who criticize the constant public harping from the Dems about Bush foreign policy as unpatriotic and in blatant disregard of old rules of decorum. The left defends itself with free speech and their “responsibility to question their leaders,” not to mention falling back on the idea that “they did it too.”
So what is the real truth of the matter? Is there a model for how you’re really supposed to act?
Well, as it turns out, there is. “I think you give the commander in chief the benefit of the doubt. . .This is a foreign policy matter. I’m confident he’s working on the best intelligence available, and I hope it’s successful.” Who said these sage words?
George W. Bush. On August 20, 1998, on the day that U.S. warplanes on the orders of Bill Clinton bombed a pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan which was suspected of being a VX gas factory (for, or at least with the cooperation of Iraq.).
Which, if memory serves, was also a pretty big day in the Monica Lewinsky affair.
The point is that, given the opportunity to question the motives and thinking of a sitting President at an opportune moment, this current President decided to take the high road.
What a breath of fresh air.
This courtesy of Steven Hayes in the Weekly Standard via Powerline.
December 18, 2003
More good economic news today. New unemployment claims were down last week by a greater than expected amount (somebody should explain how this is major news, please) which pushed the stock indexes higher once again. With the Dow now comfortably over 10,200, and the Nasdaq pushing 2000, unemployment starting to turn around, the manufacturing and housing sectors starting to show strength, I don’t think the Dems have much of an economic leg to stand on.
Two odd court decisions today. The circuit court in New York ruled that Jose Padilla (the American who was detained for plotting to detonate a dirty bomb) cannot be held as an enemy combatant. I’m not very worked up about this one—he’s an American citizen who has committed treason—his situation should take care of itself through the normal legal challenges.
But the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled today that the US government cannot hold the prisoners in Guantanomo Bay without allowing them access to lawyers and other rights guaranteed to criminals in the U.S. Now, never mind that this ruling is in opposition to the First Circuit, who ruled on this matter several months ago; and never mind that this is in opposition to SCOTUS’ ruling following the apprehension of Nazi spies and terrorists after WWII; and never mind that the ruling itself indicates that the U.S. can get out of the predicament by transferring these detainees to actual foreign soil, not just an Army base. No, what is actually, truly, the stupid part of this decision was that the court felt compelled to weigh in while SCOTUS is waiting to rule on this very issue on appeal from the First Circuit. The Ninth Circuit has a reputation—Hugh Hewitt refers to it as the “most overruled court in the land—and this seems to reinforce that. I guess I don’t mind the ruling that much—I expect goofiness from this Court. What bothers me is the arrogance with which this court decides it is worthy to weigh in on SCOTUS deliberations.
It would be like me telling my boss who I think she should hire for a job, having not sat in on the interviews, having not a good reputation in the office, and in direct contradiction of the stated intent of the original interview committee. While I’m certainly entitled to give my opinion, it doesn’t mean squat coming from me, and, having failed to participate in the process, means even less. Oh, well—one more for SCOTUS to knock out of the park. Er, . . but who knows about SCOTUS?
And, oh yeah—Howard Dean not only stood by his statements from the last two days, he expanded on them, saying that we’re no safer than we were prior to 9/11. Even Joe Leiberman described that delusion as “self-evident”ly wrong. Oh, well—people that far out to lunch are not worth the time it takes to rebuff them.
Posted at 11:59 pm
Also the Dow Jones made a major move today to close over 10100. This should pretty much solidify its hold on that psychological benchmark. Hopefully, the news that the economy is getting better stupid had better start trickling out.
Posted at 7:45 pm
So, once again today Howard Dean iterated his belief that the capture of Saddam Hussein does not make America safer. He did this yesterday as part of a “major” foreign policy address, but I chose to leave it alone, thinking he’s just had too much coffee, or was off the cuff, or some other charitable explanation for his obvious delusions.
But today he said the same thing on CNN to Wolf Blitzer. And, amazingly, there are those who choose to defend that position (prominently in Denver, one afternoon radio talk show hostess (hint, hint)). So, rather than dismiss it as derangement, let’s go through this point-by-point, establishing the logical foundation for the idea that Saddam’s apprehension does increase our security.
And then we’ll dismiss it as derangement.
First, the apprehension of Saddam has led directly to the further apprehension of Fedayeen and high-level members of the Hussein regime, not to mention the breaking of several terrorist cells in Baghdad. This increases the security situation in Iraq, which has an immediate benefit to the safety of American troops in Iraq.
Besides that, there is the ability now to re-task those SpecOps forces who were hunting for Saddam to other objectives—I don’t know, maybe Osama. That has the potential to be a major improvement to American security if these forces can up the pressure on Al-Qaeda and send that hornet’s nest scurrying out into new caves.
Secondarily, the improvement to American security in Iraq will eventually lead to the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, and their redeployment to other parts of the world that need attention. This not only gets us out of Iraq and makes it possible for the Iraqi people to handle their country themselves—which is a bonus for the whole world—but possibly puts these troops in the front lines of homeland defense or other gathering threats (the Korean peninsula, for instance). All of which dramatically increases American security, and, hence, its safety.
In and of itself the apprehension of Saddam Hussein does not prevent any attacks. But it sets (and has already set) in motion a series of events which do prevent attacks, provide intelligence, and create a more stable environment in which to foster a democracy in Iraq.
Besides which, on its face, the position that his capture is irrelevant is foolish, phony bluster, and just plain wacky.
December 15, 2003
The Dems still don’t quite seem to get it, on more than one front. For starters, only Joe Leiberman has the savvy to take this opportunity to point out the obvious: had Howard Dean had his way, Saddam would still be in power right now rather than in prison. Dick Gephardt and John Kerry took their swipes at Dean today, but pretty ineffectually. And then a whole bunch of them gave foreign policy speeches today—including Sen Clinton—and they all fell back on the tired old cliché of “internationalizing” the situation in Iraq. Like Kofe Annan and the UN are ever going to be able to make anything out of this situation—they ran at the first sign of trouble. And our “Allies”? Thank you very much—England is already there with us.
In an unrelated note, do you suppose Howard Dean thinks he is Jed Bartlett (of the West Wing)? Think about it—Howard Dean only stands about 5’7”, a very unusual stature for a presidential candidate, and the same height at Martin Sheen. Dean is the governor of Vermont, Bartlett formerly of New Hampshire. Neither are lawyers or career politicians—Dean is a doctor, Bartlett a Nobel-prize winning economist. Both have wives who are doctors and who continue to practice through the campaign. And Howard Dean is scoring points for his quickness on his feet, a trait of Bartlett’s that is the source of much angst on the show. I think Howard Dean thinks he’s the smartest kid in the class, and that his passion and rhetoric will get him past any obstacle to his election, in much the same way as the fictional Jed Bartlett.
The problem is that the average undecided voter doesn’t particularly like the smartest kid in the class, but they do like George W. Bush.
Just a thought. Classify it with Charles Krauthammer’s BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome).
December 14, 2003
“Ladies and gentlemen: We got him.”
With those words, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer announced to the world the capture of Saddam Hussein at a farmhouse outside Tikrit. He was taken, without resistance, in a “spider hole” by elements of the 4th Infantry Division. He looks tired and haggard, with a long, unkempt beard and ratty, lice-infested hair. He has, apparently, been living quite a miserable life, even though he was found with $750 k.
The long-term results of this are hard to assess, at this point If he holds true to form, he’ll give up all the intel we need from him, and we’ll find the WMD’s, the stashes of money, and all the insurgents and their plans. Then again, he could hold out, and be difficult, and we’d never get the info we need. At any rate, the scenes of celebration around Iraq are good, and the Iraqi people will probably start a complete turnaround to shut down the insurgency.
Of course, in the short term, the violence will probably escalate, as it did early this morning with three attacks on civilian targets in Iraq. The dead-enders have to make a statement, somehow.
December 13, 2003
ABC News just ran a story on the gigantic “loophole” left open by SCOTUS for people like George Soros to jam millions in IECs, with no accountability or regulation. Of minor credit to ABC, it did mention that the GOP has been slow to jump into this part of the game, since W as so effective raising money in $2000 increments—legally.
This should be the story of the 2004 election—who is giving how much to what causes, and to what ends is that money being used for. If the case can be made that big contributors to political parties corrupt the process, how much greater is the potential for corruption when individuals are allowed to give millions to fringe groups unrelated to the sort of scrutiny that the normal political process takes it through. If the media is really serious, it would start tracking the activities of George Soros, and others like him, and giving a regular accounting of his activity all the way through next November.
Part of our strength—part of our weakness
The army has decided not to court martial Lt.Col. Allen West. LtCol West is stationed in Iraq, and is in charge of some of the troops doing the counter-insurgency work there. Two months ago, his squad took into custody a person who had information about attacks on US soldiers, but would not divulge this. Mr. West took that individual outside, threatened him, and discharged his weapon in close proximity to the man’s head twice, after which the man sang like a bird. The result: a major attack was foiled, possibly saving dozens of U.S. lives.
Of course, that’s illegal, so the army took the man into custody, and put him under investigation.
I am very happy for the result of this inquiry. If the life of LtCol West saved had been my brother, I would be ecstatic—and I think most Americans agree with me and understand that. If this poor Iraqi has a little hearing difficulty as a result, tough noogies.
You know, if we want to get serious about “winning the peace”, we’re going to have to be willing to take the gloves off a little bit. Winning the peace will require that we stomp down the violence, first. We hear reports—filtered through the regular media—that American soldiers are acknowledging the futility of interrogations, because the Iraqis know that there’s very little that we’re willing to do to them for not cooperating.
I realize that the prohibition against “cruel and unusual” punishment is part of what set America apart from the rest of the world at its inception, and is still part of our greatness. But the rules have got to change in a war zone. I know the left thinks that we deserve whatever we’re getting, and so—to make the moral case for ourselves (as if 60 years of bailing the world out hasn’t accomplished this)—we have to follow Marquis of Queensbury rules. But when the other side builds makeshift explosives, packs them tight with nails, broken glass, coiled springs, and anything else they can find to maximize damage, you have to recognize that you’re in a street fight and (as our friends at Powerline pointed out) at that point you have to observe the Chicago Way (for those of you who don’t get that reference, do yourself a favor: run out tonight and rent “The Untouchables.”) As the movie points out, the important question is simple: what are you prepared to do?
December 12, 2003
Oh, yeah. Two more important pieces of information this week. The Dow Jones Index close above 10,000 on Thursday for the first time since May of 2002. And, being the market expert that I am, Iwas fully expecting the market to give some of it back on Friday. But, being the market expert that I am, I was wrong. Friday’s market closed up about 30, staying above 10,000 in surprising fashion. Most of the analysis that I’ve heard seems to be bullish on this market. That’s only good news for the administration—the market’s up over 20% this year, and could climb even higher, maybe even threaten the record (11,600) before the next election.
Second, the Pentagon announced that only companies from countries who have provided assistance in the war will be allowed to compete for the first wave of the $18 billion in reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Predictably, the left and the candidates are howling about how stupid and wrong-headed this is, how it only builds more barriers to international cooperation, and how we’re abandoning our allies.
Near as I can tell, it was they who abandoned us. And, from a point of logic perspective, had France, Germany, and Russia had their way in the U.N., the war would have never happened. Therefore, these reconstruction contracts would have never been made available (what? Saddam was going to rebuild on his own?). Therefore, those who opposed the war have no stake in one of the results of the war, and have no reasonable basis to expect to benefit from the outcome of an action they opposed. Now, that doesn’t mean that those countries don’t have a right not to forgive the billions of dollars of Iraqi debt that Saddam piled up during his time. They most certainly have that right.
The problem that too many—mostly on the left—seem to have is an unwillingness to accept consequences. When Iraq agreed to a treaty, there were consequences built in for non-compliance. But when it was time to enforce the treaty, the left could only howl “reckless war-monger” and hold out for more time. What they seem to hate more than anything, it seems, is for someone to actually stand up and enforce a consequence.
So in the context of the current debate, I do think that other countries have every right to oppose the United States—but there are going to be consequences for that opposition. And it doesn’t come from any sort of political pique. Any good parent knows that if you continue to let a child push your buttons without there ever being a consequence, not only will the child continue to push the buttons, but the respect the child has for the parent starts to erode. If France wants to oppose us and conspire to thwart US initiatives in the U.N., fine—just don’t throw a hissy fit when we toss the car keys to the good children.
When America goes through the motions of outreach to fundamentalist Moslem regimes, they see that as a sign of weakness. When Israel came to Camp David and gave away the farm, the Palestinians launched the Intifada; likewise, attempts America has made to appease Moslem states has actually weakened our state of security. As Machiavelli said, it is better to be feared than loved. In this world, so many have no capacity at all to love us, so they had better fear us—“friends” and enemies alike.
December 11, 2003
Been a bit under the weather of late—bad reaction to a flu immunization. So blogging has been light, but I’m back.
Several interesting developments this week. Howard Dean picked up the endorsement of form VP and presidential nominee Al Gore. It remains to be seen whether this carries any significant weight (other than Al Gore, himself), but every recent poll shows Dean’s lead opening up in surprising fashion. One Iowa poll I saw tonight even has him up on Dick Gephardt by 11 points. He could take out Gephardt in Iowa, Kerry in New Hampshire, Edwards in South Carolina, leaving just Joe Leiberman and Wesley Clark to compete beyond the first week in February. I would expect th nomination to be wrapped up on Super Tuesday, barring some major gaffe.
Which he is quite capable of. About ten days ago on a NPR broadcast he threw up against the wall this gem: “One theory I’ve heard, the most interesting theory, and it’s only a theory—I don’t think it can be proven—is that George Bush was warned by the Saudis in advance of 9/11.” Now this is the sort of crackpot conspiracy theory one would expect from Carol Moseley Braun or Denis Kucinich, but Howard Dean is the frontrunner—pretty soon the standard-beared of one of the two major parties in this country. He’s going to have to learn to tone down the rhetoric pretty quickly. At this point, his greatest strength in getting the nomination will absolutely be his downfall in the general election: his mouth.
Two days ago the Supreme Court upheld major provisions of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act. The two major provisions upheld were a ban on soft money (given without limit to political parties for expenditure at the parties’ discretion) and a 60 day ban on advertising advocating or attacking a particular candidate. The first part I’m not too worked up about—besides, George Soros and his 527 Independent Expenditure Committee (IEC) has already pretty much blown the lid off the idea of regulating political expenditures. But the second part is so obviously a violation of the First Amendment that even people who voted for it in Congress recognized it as unconstitutional as they were voting for it. It strikes me as absolutely Twilight-Zone like that SCOTUS could come out so completely wrong.
And what is even more troubling is that the 5-4 majority opinion was written by Sandra Day O’Connor. That’s now three major cases she’s gotten wrong in the last several months—the two University of Michigan affirmative action cases, the Texas anti-sodomy case, and this one. It’s remarkable that this person who for a decade has been the pivotal swing vote on a sharply divided court has practically become a reliable vote for the left. Maybe she should have considered putting a time limit on this ruling, too.
I have two theories. One: O’Connor is feeling such guilt over the 2000 Florida recount debacle that she’s decided to trample on many of the positions of the people she sided with in that case. Or, two: in this most recent case, the obviously foolish voting patterns of Congress became a source of irritation for her and some of her other justices that they decided to make Congress lay in the bed they made for themselves.
At any rate, this surely highlights the importance of getting solid constructionists on the bench, and solidifies this (the Rhenquist Court) Court’s standing as one of the most uneven and split-personalitied in history.