Thursday, September 30, 2004

Debate analysis

Short answer: Kerry wins on style, Bush on substance.

It was the best I've seen Kerry. He came across strong and presented well. The debate rules allowed him to skirt specifics and rely primarily on general assertions, and he took advantage.

The President seemed a bit hesitant at times, although he was able to present better-backed arguments.

On the split screen shots, Bush often looked to be frowning as Kerry spoke, while Kerry did a lot of nodding while Bush talked. Both came off badly in those shots, in my opinion.

The real story of the debate is the opportunities Bush missed to nail Kerry, to wit:

1. Kerry complained about the troops body armor, which was part of the $87 billion he voted against. I think Bush mentioned it later, but not immediately.

2. Kerry keeps up his claim to bring in mysterious new allies. Which new allies, Senator? Be specific.

3. Kerry declared he would stop the bunker-buster bomb program. Bush should have pointed out they are designed as a deterrent against the deep bunkers some of the bad guys plan to hide in, Kim Jong Il as one example.

4. Kerry kept mentioning the Afghans we used at Tora Bora, claiming they let Osama slip away. That was a call by the field commander on the ground. Would Kerry be micromanaging military decisions from the White House?

5. Bush should have pointed out that he proposed troop shift from Europe would free up nearly two full divisions, the same amount Kerry proposes to create - BUT at no additional cost, while Kerry's plan will cost many billions from now on.

6. Bush should have pointed out that the process we are following on Dafur is the policy Kerry wanted us to follow on Iraq, and it is getting nowhere fast in the UN.

On balance, I think it was about even. How that plays out with the voters is hard to say. Kerry's style was good, and Bush's failure to rebut all Kerry's fallacies makes his substance win less . . . substantial.

If Kerry needed a big win, he didn't get it. But maybe he did well enough to earn a second look from some voters.

Debate advice for Bush

I would suggest he ask Kerry, "Man, what happened to you? What color IS that?" But questioning the opponent is against the rules.

If Bush follows the advice from Lorie Byrd over at Polipundit, he can hardly lose. Read it here:

Volokh's Iraq challenge

The Volokh Conspiracy has issued a challenge to "pro-war" bloggers to answer his three questions. Here is my response:


First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?


First of all, using hindsight does not change the situation in which the decision to invade was made. Every major intelligence service in the world believed Saddam possessed WMD, including the British, the French, the Saudis, and the Egyptians. He certainly behaved as if he had them, obstructing UN inspections {according to Blix} in violation of UNSCR 1441.

I suspect that Volokh really wants us to answer if it was a good idea EVEN IF no stockpiles of WMD were discovered.

The answer is still "Yes." Saddam did have the means with which to quickly reconstitute stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons whenever he chose, and once international pressure eased {note that France, Germany, and Russia were already violating the UN sanctions in place}, his nuclear scientists possessed the knowledge to proceed on developing nuclear weapons.

Saddam was a ruthless dictator, inimical to the interests of the United States and his neighbors, who harbored, succored, and funded terrorists, had invaded two of his neighbors and launched Scud missiles into two other countries, and had attempted the assassination of former President Bush.

In the first Gulf War, we listened to "our allies," the UN, and the "sensitivities" of Arab regimes, and backed off, leaving him in power. We continued to pay heed to these outside influences as Saddam flouted the ceasefire agreement for nearly 12 years, violated the UN economic sanctions, diverted funds from the UN "Oil for food" program, and regularly fired missiles at American and British planes enforcing the "no fly" zones.

Invading Iraq was not only a good idea, it was implementing US law as well as several UNSC Resolutions. In 1998 the Congress passed, and President Clinton signed into law, legislation setting the official US policy as "regime change" in Iraq.


Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?

I don't like to hear bad news, especially when lives are being lost. Who does?

However, bad news is news. News media has always covered bad news, because that attracts more readers or viewers than good news. It would be a mistake to believe that these reports mean our policy is failing, however. Have there been mistakes in strategy and tactics? Of course there have. There always are in war.

After the defeat of Germany in WWII, we occupied that nation for a full seven years before returning sovereignty to the German people, and maintained a strong military presence there to this very day, nearly 60 years after the "end of major combat operations."

Now, it is true that more American soldiers have lost their lives in the Iraqi occupation than in the German occupation. Three times as many have died during the occupation as were lost in combat. I grieve for every one of them, including Chance Phelps.

Despite the unseemly attitude evidenced by some on the left and in the media by our losses hitting the "magic number" of 1000, I seem to remember they were predicting our men would be coming home "in tens of thousands of body bags" before the invasion.

Come to think of it, they said the very same thing as we went into Afghanistan, didn't they?

To keep the number in perspective, remember that more Americans have been murdered in Washington, DC since we invaded than in Iraq.

I suppose they want us to get out of DC, too?


Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?

Let us clearly understand that it would be a grave error to assume that because criteria a, b, c . . . etc. are met, we have necessarily "succeeded," or that failure to meet one or more of the criteria we now set means we have "failed."

That being said:

We need to bring security and control to those areas still lacking them, and the Ba'athist insurgents and foreign terrorists must be defeated. Elections must be held freely and fairly. A stable Iraqi government must be able to govern the country without relying on US military forces for internal security.

But even fufilling these conditions would not necessarily mean "success" in the longer term. The essential institutions for a free society cannot be simply willed into being. These include an independent judiciary, the rule of law, and respect for the rights of property and contracts. In a nation and a culture which has no legacy of these institutions, implanting and establishing them is a daunting task.

"Success" in Iraq, as in life, must be measured in degrees. In neither case is "success" an all-or-nothing proposition. But deposing Saddam and his Ba'athist murderers is a damned fine start.


UPDATE: The challenge was posted not by Volokh himself, but by Orin Kerr, a featured poster at the Volokh site. Kerr is a former clerk to Mr. Justice Kennedy, and is now a Law Professor at GMU.

Sorry for the mix-up.

Tony, Billy, and YOU

I am going to reproduce an entire article here. After Jim Robinson {Free Republic} got slapped down for arrogant copyright violation, most internet message boards have instituted strict "clipping" policies, allowing only a snippet of a copyrighted work to be reproduced.

To paraphrase Dan Quayle, "What a shame to lose one's testicles, or never to have had them at all."

BUT ~ there is a "Fair Use" exception to copyright protections, which provides that copyrighted material may be used for "purposes of . . . education or discussion . . ."

Don't get me started on how the Disney Corporation has fought for bastardization of the constitutional protections allowed for protection of intellectual property rights. That is a proper subject for another post . . .

For your education, and, I hope, discussion, I offer you William Kristol's latest from the Weekly Standard site.

Blair Makes the Case
President Bush should note his ally's words.
by William Kristol
Weekly Standard

AS PRESIDENT BUSH prepares for Thursday night's debate, he might want to take a minute to read the remarks on Iraq and the war on terror by his ally Tony Blair, in his annual speech Tuesday at the Labour party's annual conference in Brighton:


The evidence about Saddam having actual biological and chemical weapons, as opposed to the capability to develop them, has turned out to be wrong.

I acknowledge that and accept it.

I simply point out, such evidence was agreed by the whole international community, not least because Saddam had used such weapons against his own people and neighboring countries.

And the problem is I can apologize for the information that turned out to be wrong, but I can't, sincerely at least, apologize for removing Saddam. The world is a better place with Saddam in prison not in power.

But at the heart of this, is a belief that the basic judgment I have made since September 11th, including on Iraq, is wrong, that by our actions we have made matters worse not better. . . .

Do I know I'm right?

Judgements aren't the same as facts. Instinct is not science. I'm like any other human being as fallible and as capable of being wrong.

I only know what I believe.

There are two views of what is happening in the world today.

One view is that there are isolated individuals, extremists, engaged in essentially isolated acts of terrorism. That what is happening is not qualitatively different from the terrorism we have always lived with.

If you believe this,

we carry on the same path as before 11 September. We try not to provoke them and hope in time they will wither.

The other view is that this is a wholly new phenomenon, worldwide global terrorism based on a perversion of the true, peaceful, and honorable faith of Islam; that its roots are not superficial but deep, in the madrassahs of Pakistan, in the extreme forms of Wahhabi doctrine in Saudi Arabia, in the former training camps of al Qaeda in Afghanistan; in the cauldron of Chechnya; in parts of the politics of most countries of the Middle East and many in Asia; in the extremist minority that now in every European city preach hatred of the West and our way of life.

If you take this view, you believe September 11th changed the world; that Bali, Beslan, Madrid, and scores of other atrocities that never make the news are part of the same threat, and the only path to take is to confront this terrorism, remove it root and branch, and at all costs stop them acquiring the weapons to kill on a massive scale because these terrorists would not hesitate to use them.

Likewise, take the first view, then when you see the terror brought to Iraq you say: here, we told you; look what you have stirred up; now stop provoking them.

But if you take the second view, you don't believe the terrorists are in Iraq to liberate it.

They're not protesting about the rights of women--what, the same people who stopped Afghan girls going to school, made women wear the Burka and beat them in the streets of Kabul, who now assassinate women just for daring to register to vote in Afghanistan's first ever democratic ballot, though 4 million have done so?

They are not provoked by our actions; but by our existence.

They are in Iraq for the very reason we should be.

They have chosen this battleground because they know success for us in Iraq is not success for America or Britain or even Iraq itself but for the values and way of life that democracy represents.

They know that.

That's why they are there.

That is why we should be there and whatever disagreements we have had, should unite in our determination to stand by the Iraqi people until the job is done.

And, of course, at first the consequence is more fighting.

But Iraq was not a safe country before March 2003.

Few had heard of the Taleban before September 11th 2001.

Afghanistan was not a nation at peace. . . .

It's simply that I believe democracy there means security here; and that if I don't care and act on this terrorist threat, then the day will come when all our good work on the issues that decide people's lives will be undone because the stability on which our economy, in an era of globaliaation, depends, will vanish. . . .

Military action will be futile unless we address the conditions in which this terrorism breeds and the causes it preys upon.

That is why it is worth staying the course to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan, because then people the world over will see that this is not and has never been some new war of religion; but the oldest struggle humankind knows, between liberty or oppression, tolerance

or hate; between government by terror or by the rule of law. . . .

I have changed as a leader.

I have come to realise that caring in politics isn't really about "caring." It's about doing what you think is right and sticking to it.


William Kristol is editor of The Weekly Standard.

I present the above only for purposes of education and discussion. If News Corporation, the owner of the copyright, chooses to come after me, so be it.

In the immortal words of John Kerry, "Bring it on!"

Kerry, clearly

This exchange was put on PoliPundit, but their server is down right now - doubtless because of their increasing traffic, they do a great job - but I can link to a part of it on Powerline:

Diane Sawyer interviewing John Kerry:

DIANE SAWYER: Was the war in Iraq worth it?

JOHN KERRY: We should not have gone to war knowing the information that we know today.

DS: So it was not worth it.

JK: We should not — it depends on the outcome ultimately — and that depends on the leadership. And we need better leadership to get the job done successfully, but I would not have gone to war knowing that there was no imminent threat — there were no weapons of mass destruction — there was no connection of Al Qaeda — to Saddam Hussein! The president misled the American people — plain and simple. Bottom line.

DS: So if it turns out okay, it was worth it?

JK: No.

DS: But right now it wasn’t [ … ? … ]–

JK: It was a mistake to do what he did, but we have to succeed now that we’ve done what he’s — I mean look — we have to succeed. But was it worth — as you asked the question — $200 billion and taking the focus off of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? That’s the question. The test of the presidency was whether or not you should have gone to war to get rid of him. I think, had the inspectors continued, had we done other things — there were plenty of ways to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein.

DS: But no way to get rid of him.

JK: Oh, sure there were. Oh, yes there were. Absolutely.

DS: So you’re saying that today, even if Saddam Hussein were in power today it would be a better thing — you would prefer that . . .

JK: No, I would not prefer that. And Diane — don’t twist here.

Now, if Kerry is this confused about his Iraq position and policy tonight, we may as well call ol' "Dandy" Don Meredith in to have a few belts, and belt out a rousing rendition of "Turn out the liiiiiiights, the party's oooooooooooooover . . ."

Stupid is as stupid does

I have long contended that Patty Murray {D-WA} is the dumbest United States Senator currently serving. Given the membership in that esteemed body, her status is no small achievement. Her only "qualification" for office was that she was a "Mom in tennis shoes."

If the voters of Washington had put her stinky old tennies in the Senate, they would doubtless have more intelligent representation.

Rep. George Nethercutt - who unseated Democratic institution Tom Foley a decade ago - is running against her this year. Nethercutt isn't exactly the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, either, but he at least approximates higher primate intelligence, which places him far above Murray on the food chain.

He's been trailing the whole campaign, and is still behind by high single digits {9% in the last poll I saw}. His latest ad may change that, though.

George figured out that if the public wasn't responding to his own entreaties, he needed to get another spokesperson. He picked . . . Patty Murray. The ad, which can be seen here [hint: select "Windows Media small," it seems to work better].

Patty really stuffs both her tennis shoes in her mouth in this video from around the time of the Afganistan invasion. She goes on and on about what a great humanitarian Osama bin Laden is. Must be seen to be believed.

Whatever possessed the people of Washington to take her seriously is well beyond me. After this ad, we should see some awakening there.

Tip o' the hat to Powerline for the link!

Where were you when the CBS Eye blinked?

La Shawn Barber, who I mentioned in an earlier post on worthwhile women bloggers, is asking for input from bloggers and readers on the Rathergate fake documents scandal.

Specifically, she wants to know where readers got their information on the scandal: the "big" blogs, smaller bloggers, message boards, CBS . . . {okay, I'm kidding about the last one}.

Of bloggers, she asks what role you may have played in the development of the story.

The lady asked for input, so go put in.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Senator, I feel your stain

Much is being made of John Kerry's sudden change of skin color. He turned up with an orange face the other day, which sent the blogosphere spinning with speculation as to the source. A bad spray-on job? Too many carrots and pieces of pumpkin pie?

I sympathize with the Senator. Among many good genes, my late mother also passed on her fair complexion. An old friend from my salad days used to introduce me as "the original white boy from South Carolina!" Original? I'm not that old . . . but I'll freely admit that when the first indigenous person called a European settler a "Paleface," he was looking at a chap with skin tone similar to my own.

In my youth, this was an issue. Tan was in, pale was out. Tan is healthy looking and attractive to girls. Pale is sick and repulsive. Sunning didn't help. I have always gone from fish-belly white to lobster red in about two hours. Even liberal amounts of SPF-5000² only seemed to turn my body into an abstract-looking mozaic of shades of scarlet and hot pink.

So, when the first "tan in a bottle" product came out, I immediately bought some. It was to be applied at night, and would allow me to wake up with a "deep, golden tan." I could almost hear the girls sighing as I slathered it on.

Upon awakening, I found that the promised "deep, golden tan" was actually . . . well, orange. Not burnt orange, or orangish brown, but traffic-cone bright orange. It took a few days for it to wear off, and in the meantime I was the object of much unwanted attention. The girls weren't "ooo-ing" and "ahhhh-ing," they were pointing and giggling. I looked like the comic book character The Thing, or about like John Kerry does now.

I'm afraid I can offer the Senator no advice beyond staying behind locked doors and allowing no cameras near him. Maybe his wife could buy him a chemical peel.

On the bright side - and I don't mean Kerry's face - he could be carving out a place in history. Bill Clinton was famously called our "first Black President;" perhaps if John wins, he will be known as our first Orange President.


UPDATE: Lorie Byrd has a very plausible set of food theories over at Byrd Droppings.

Personally, I suspect it was a case of an illicit sweet potato experiment gone horribly wrong.

Islands in the stream, that is what we are

Ann Althouse skewers Kerry's lame metaphor about changing horses midstream thusly:

We'll never hear the end of this horse in the stream business. It just keeps getting new frills. So we need a "taller horse," because the current horse "drowning" as we go into "deeper waters." And now we've added a waterfall. So I guess we need a special kind of horse that's especially good at surviving a precipitous drop, which you'd really want in a situation where two horse were simultaneously going over a waterfall and you decided your horse was less crashworthy and that it would be a good idea to try to get onto the other horse while you were still in the waterfall. That's quite the metaphor.

Read the whole thing at the link above.

It reminds me of an old Wick Fowler review of a vaudeville act, where a man blew a cork out of a bottle by puffing on the bunghole. It went something like this:

Now, if he had blown the bunghole through the corkhole, or the cork through the bunghole, or the corkhole through the bunghole, or the bunghole through his asshole; well, that would have been something.

If the Democrats had a candidate like Wick Fowler, well . . . that woulda been something.

Debate advice for Kerry

Since I previously described the extreme pressure on Kerry for the first debate {"Hey Johnny - don't choke!"}, it seems only fair, in the balanced and bipartisan tradition I have tried to establish for, lo, these last four days, that I pass along some tips for him, courtesy of BlameBush!:

[Click the link to read the whole thing, John. If you can't figure it out, call Al Gore. He isn't doing anything].

First, I recommend you begin the debate by immediately sucking the air out of the room. Bush will try to loosen things up, crack jokes, and give the debates a casual, more folksy tone. Don't let him! Once you let the Shrub start speaking to the audience like he's the friendly neighbor who borrows their lawn mower on weekends, they'll go into sensory overload and shut down whenever you start patronizing them like the ignorant children they really are. Indeed, allowing Bush to connect with the viewing audience was Gore's fatal mistake in 2000. Therefore, it is vitally important that you kick things off by reminding everyone of how miserable they are - how the economy is the tank, the environment is on the brink of collapse, and the war in Iraq is all but lost. Use ominous words like "quagmire", "squandered", and "Terayza" to pull a dark shroud of gloom over the evening. Have the stage crew dim the lights whenever you speak, and utter your bromides in a deep, forboding baritone. As long as you maintain a sense of hopelessness and doom throughout the debates, you'll be in your own element. Likewise, anything optimistic Bush says will make him look out of touch.

Secondly, you must stay on the offensive concerning Iraq. You have a keen sense of 20/20 hindsight, so use it to point out all that's gone wrong with the war. The Abu Ghraib atrocities, for instance (and be sure you refer to them as 'atrocities'). Point out that if you were calling the shots, you would have allotted extra resources to provide sensitivity training for the troops, and educate them concerning the Geneva convention and international law.

You should definitely read the whole thing; it's a hoot!

Note though, that Lincoln is on the five dollar bill, not the ten. Hamilton is on the ten, and is much better looking.

Think not of the ninety-and-nine

I first found Blackfive by reading the Mudville Gazette, now posting from Iraq. Blackfive has a number of essays posted which should be mandatory reading, but none more moving than the account of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Strobl, who escorted the remains of Chance Phelps, a Marine killed in battle in Iraq, home for burial.

Here is a little of it, but I strongly recommend reading it all at the link on Chance's name above.

I practically bumped into Chance’s step-mom accidentally and our introductions began in the noisy hallway outside the gym. In short order I had met Chance’s step-mom and father followed by his step-dad and, at last, his mom. I didn’t know how to express to these people my sympathy for their loss and my gratitude for their sacrifice. Now, however, they were repeatedly thanking me for bringing their son home and for my service. I was humbled beyond words.

I told them that I had some of Chance’s things and asked if we could try to find a quiet place. The five of us ended up in what appeared to be a computer lab—not what I had envisioned for this occasion.

After we had arranged five chairs around a small table, I told them about our trip. I told them how, at every step, Chance was treated with respect, dignity, and honor. I told them about the staff at Dover and all the folks at Northwest Airlines. I tried to convey how the entire Nation, from Dover to Philadelphia, to Minneapolis, to Billings, and Riverton expressed grief and sympathy over their loss.

Finally, it was time to open the pouch. The first item I happened to pull out was Chance’s large watch. It was still set to Baghdad time. Next were the lanyard and the wooden cross. Then the dog tags and the Saint Christopher medal. This time the chains were not tangled. Once all of his items were laid out on the table, I told his mom that I had one other item to give them. I retrieved the flight attendant’s crucifix from my pocket and told its story. I set that on the table and excused myself. When I next saw Chance’s mom, she was wearing the crucifix on her lapel.

By 1400 most of the seats on the gym floor were filled and people were finding seats in the fixed bleachers high above the gym floor. There were a surprising number of people in military uniform. Many Marines had come up from Salt Lake City. Men from various VFW posts and the Marine Corps League occupied multiple rows of folding chairs. We all stood as Chance’s family took their seats in the front.

It turned out that Chance’s sister, a Petty Officer in the Navy, worked for a Rear Admiral—the Chief of Naval Intelligence—at the Pentagon. The Admiral had brought many of the sailors on his staff with him to Dubois pay respects to Chance and support his sister. After a few songs and some words from a Navy Chaplain, the Admiral took the microphone and told us how Chance had died.

Chance was an artillery cannoneer and his unit was acting as provisional military police outside of Baghdad. Chance had volunteered to man a .50 caliber machine gun in the turret of the leading vehicle in a convoy. The convoy came under intense fire but Chance stayed true to his post and returned fire with the big gun, covering the rest of the convoy, until he was fatally wounded

While some in the media could barely disguise their glee at the one-thousandth American to die in Iraq, we must remember that each soldier who laid down his or her life was an individual, with a family, a personal life cut short on our behalf.

Throughout our history, the American soldier has fought valiantly and heroically, willing to sacrifice unhesitatingly, that our nation be a safe haven for Blessed Freedom. They were not mercenaries, or soldiers of fortune. They were farmers and shopkeepers and secretaries and construction workers and accountants and short-order cooks, who rose to the occasion. Their strength has ever been augmented by what they were fighting for. Their truth is marching on, as those caissons go rolling along.

Mourn for them as the individuals they were, and the lives they might have had but gave for us. Mourn Chance Phelps, and never let his sacrifice be soiled by forgetting why he so bravely offered it.

Do I feel a draft?

When Josef Goebbels visited the Soviet Union in the early 1930's he was particularly impressed with the communist propaganda operation, which he described as The Big Lie. It didn't matter how outrageously false your claim was, if it was repeated often enough and loudly enough, people would begin to believe it. He then coopted the communist formula for Hitler.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Now Betsy's Page is reporting that CBS, Rock the Vote, and others are echoing the Kerry campaign in repeating the old internet hoax about a draft:

Ratherbiased, unlike most everyone in the country, still watched the CBS News show. And they look at how CBS had a story tonight about fears that the draft will be brought back. This is all part of a liberal tactic to scare people into voting against Bush because they fear a draft will be brought back.

Last week, I posted about an anonymous e-mail going around to college students scaring them about the draft. However, almost everything in the e-mail was a lie. Here's a thorough debunking at

Hindrocket posts tonight about another e-mail being sent around by Rock The Vote (supposedly a non partisan group - Ha!) scaring kids about a draft.

I guess this is the only way the Dems can think to retake the advantage among women and young voters. Focus groups must be showing that this is a winner for Kerry. So, in order to get some political advantage, liberals are willing to scare kids and their families about something that is just not going to happen.

[Click on link above to read full post and access hyperlinks]

Long after the original hoax was debunked, Charles Rangel {D-NY} introduced a draft bill into Congress. There was no support; both party leaderships dismissed the idea. But Rangel is a smart chap. He wasn't trying to pass a bill at all. He just wanted an actual House bill number on record to give the hoax renewed credence.

A despicable rumor spread by cynical manipulators. But then, I suppose the same could be said of the Democratic Platform.

Next, OJ will be offering marriage counseling

Lorie Byrd over at PoliPundit points out that the venerable Al Gore - a/k/a "the formidable debater," and later "the sighing eyeroller" and "the stalker" - is actually giving Kerry advice on debating George Bush, in the New York Times, no less!

My confidential sources {who recently provided CBS with a blockbuster story} tell me that the Times originally wanted Ann Richards - former Texas Governor and rumored to be the stupid ugly sister of Phyllis Diller - to do the debate advice piece. It seems that "last call" fell well past deadline, so they had to look elsewhere, and Al wasn't busy.

BTW ~ the NYT and many news sites require "free registration." If you hate wasting the time to set up free email accounts and filling out their forms as much as I do, visit BugMeNot next time. They maintain a database of usernames and passwords for most news sites. Plug in the URL of the place that requires you to register, and they supply an already-registered username and password so you don't have to give out {or, make up} any personal information to read the site.

Oil, free markets, and guinea hens

The price of oil topped $50 a barrel yesterday, an all-time high in dollar amount. Adjusting for inflation, though, it is still less than half the price after the Iranian Revolution.

Of course, that is trivia. No one cares what the relative cost was 25 years ago. Oil is 30% higher than last year, and that is what people notice. And that translates to an increased cost to the American economy of roughly $68 billion per year - about 6% of our GDP. It is fair to say that our economic growth rate would be at least 2% higher if oil had remained at pre-Iraq levels.

Still, industry analysts say there is still a 1% excess capacity on the production side. That is historically low, so while there is no immediate shortage, the markets fear that possible disruptions of supply in Iraq or Nigeria {where BP has had to shut down production of several facilities due to security concerns} or Venezuela could create a sudden shortfall in supply. Even so, the "fair market" price should be in the $28 - $35 per barrel range, say the experts.

For the markets, perception is reality. The free market does a wonderful job of allocating goods, services, and resources to their most efficient use, but the process by which it accomplishes that end is chaotic.

Fearing supply disruptions, investors began buying up oil futures contracts to lock in prices at current levels even before the Iraq War commenced. They profited by this defensive buying, so they did it again. And again. And again. And . . . well, you get the idea.

There are two primary motivators for investors in a free market. The first is desire for gain {or, as the left would call it, greed}. The second is fear of loss. The tech/internet stock bubble of 1999 - 2000 was fueled by the first. Investors saw these stocks going up and up, and bought into them. That most of the high-flying companies, savvy though their technologies were, had not yet figured out how to actually make money was lost in the stampede to buy.

With oil, it is the second and stronger motivator, fear of loss, which rules.

Always anticipating disaster has a way of feeding on itself, especially when such speculation also brings large profits. That the price of oil is inflated beyond reasonable supply and demand formulae is as irrelevant to the speculators in oil today as were simple business fundamentals to the speculators in NASDAQ five years ago.

When I was a boy, my family kept guinea hens for a while. These creatures were usually inobstrusive and stayed out of trouble on their own. But they were better than watchdogs, because whenever anything unusual came near, they began a cacophonous cackling which would wake the dead, and fled for their very lives. Anything would set them off, day or night, which is why we eventually got rid of them.

The markets are behaving like guinea hens on oil prices right now. Sooner or later reality will set in, and the price will fall, perhaps preciptiously, back to "normal" levels.

I'll never be able to get ten gallons of gas for $3 again, like I was in 1971. But then again, no one is able to get the amount of work out of me for $3 they could back then, either.

Kerry's debate challenge

With the first debate, on foreign policy, upon us, there is widespread speculation on what will happen.

For a challenger trailing in the polls and Electoral Vote count to debate a sitting President in time of war is a daunting task. Kerry has already set himself up for serious questions on his treatment of our allies, and claims he could attract help when all potential donors have announced publicly they will refuse. Never mind his constantly shifting positions on Iraq . . . Bush leads him by a wide margin when polls ask "Who is better suited to fight the War on Terror?" and "Who is a stronger leader?"

As if he didn't have enough problems, he seems to have received a bad orange spray-on tan in recent days. Unless he's angling for the Finding Nemo vote, he better get that fixed before Thursday night.

But the real obstacle for John Kerry is that he will have to come down on one side or the other of the Iraq situation. Attempts at "nuance" will fall flat in this type of forum. But Kerry's elusiveness on Iraq isn't born of indecisiveness, but of political reality. His party is divided on the subject; taking a strong stand either way will cost him substantial support.

How he resolves this dilemma will impact not only the perception of the debate, but the election itself. I think he will try to further refine his "yes, but done better" position {Iraq position #36.a.2 in your Kerry program}, because the swing voters he must win over will not buy a "cut and run" strategy. But will his antiwar leftist followers be there for his GOTV efforts if he does?

Kerry's quagmire reminds me of one of my favorite Dilbert cartoons:

Dilbert: I'm having trouble with this proposal for new equipment . . .
Dogbert: How about this: "Give us $5 million for new technology so we can pump up our resumes and get out of this hellhole you call a company."
Dilbert: Well . . . I feel obligated to say something about our customers.
Dogbert: How about: "I'm glad I'm not one of them!"

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Joy in Mudville

My favorite military blogger went offline some time ago as he was deployed to Iraq. But thanks to the miracle of modern technology, The Mudville Gazette is back!

Small wonder if the troops that move among these drooping trees, that sleep within these sagging tents, that sweat beneath this burning sun, aren't beginning to droop a bit themselves. Those same pundits would certainly have you believe it's so.

But here's what I noticed in the DFAC today: young faces. Young determined faces. Not much older (but far wiser and much more mature) than the crowd at a high school lunch room. You can tell without asking what these guys think. They look you in the eye. And if you can stand to look back you'll see into the eyes of the undefeated. There is no quit here, no early out, no cut and run. These are young men with an ugly job, America's finest sent to do our worst and best, and they make me feel old and inspired all at the same time.

So here is the first impression of your fine young sons: They walk straight and tall with heads held high in this war-torn world, in this sagging land. I wish you who can only read of defeat trumpeted in your newspapers or on your TVs could have walked among them and seen this for yourselves

Read the rest here.

Thanks to Instantpundit for pointing out his return!

Allies? What allies?

I keep hearing John Kerry claiming he will involve more of "our allies" in Iraq to ease the burden on our troops and budget. Who on earth is he talking about?

Britain, Poland, Australia, South Korea, Italy, Japan, and thirty-something others are with us already. Oops, Senator Kerry called them "the coalition of the bribed and the coerced." Tels diplomatie! Guess they will be heading for the door if he's elected . . . and he has also insulted Iraqi PM Allawi while still in this country, an unprecendented diplomatic faux paus.

What about France and Germany and Belgium, then? Well, none of them have any significant military forces to offer in the first place, having downsized their already minor commitment to defense after the fall of the Soviet Empire, and each of them has publicly declared they will NOT help in Iraq no matter who wins the US Presidential Election.

So, then . . . WHO exactly is going to jump on board for a war Kerry described as "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time . . ."? WHO would be dumb enough to do that? I mean, besides Canada? "I love it when you talk French, Morticia! It drives me wild!"

Are these "allies" the mysterious "foreign leaders" Kerry claimed were supporting him? Has he been working secret back-channel negotiations with Burkina Faso and Moldova? What could they send us besides a request for funds?

Or are these imaginary allies? Cambodians with Chinese rifles?

What gives Kerry the right to claim - or his minions any rational basis to believe - that he could add more allies to our cause?

Seeing red!

The best of the many sites monitoring the Electoral College race {that's the one that counts, remember? Just ask that Gore chap . . . } is Tripia's State by State. They use the basic formula of RealClearPolitics by taking all the recent polls and averaging them out.

What is cool about Tripia is that you can customize the view. For instance, if you want to ignore Zogby's Internet poll and forget Rasmussen and Harris, you can do it easily, and the map changes to reflect the different results from the pollsters you specify.

No matter how many different ways I try it, though, there sure is a lot of red out there . . .

Secret missions, secret plans, secret hopes

The indispensible Jim Geraghty reports from the Kerry Spot at NRO:

Look at the lead paragraphs of this
AP story from today:

SPRING GREEN, Wis. — Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry told
voters in America's Dairyland on Monday that President Bush had a secret plan
that would hurt milk producers after the election.

Kerry tried to convince voters in this rural community, where he is practicing for Thursday's debate, that he would look out for dairy farms here even though he hadn't always in the past. In the 1990s, Kerry supported the Northeast Dairy Compact, a regional pricing program that propped up prices for Northeastern dairy farmers over objections from their Midwestern counterparts.

"We've had a difference between the Midwest and the Northeast," Kerry said. "I'm going to be very upfront with you about it. "As a senator representing Massachusetts, I fought for the dairy compact and fought to have our dairy farmers get help," the four-term lawmaker said. "I'm running for president of the United States now and I intend to represent all the farmers of America."

I wonder if that would make a good quote for a Bush ad in New

Also, do you feel like you're having a hard time catching up with all
of Kerry's charges of "secret plans"?

He's charged Bush with having
secret plan to call up more troops after the election.

Kerry has suggested that Bush has a
secret plan to bring back the draft.

Slings and Arrows is on the "secret plan" beat, and has found that Kerry has accused Bush of having secret plans to privatize Social Security, wage nuclear war, cut social services, manipulate oil prices to benefit the Saudis, cut VA Benefits, cut Education Funding, and send jobs overseas.

[More on link above].

Nice catch, KerrySpot and SlingsandArrows!

Kerry loves his own secrets - secret plans to get France to send troops and money it doesn't have to Iraq, secret missions to Cambodia when the rivers were blocked to Swiftboats, secret battles with the Khymer Rouge years before they operated in the area, secret hopes that some poor dumb soul somewhere is buying it all.

BUT ~ when he accuses Bush of having "secrets" that exist only in the paranoid imaginations of the radical left, his attitude towards secrecy takes a 180° turn. Those "secrets" are bad - bad - evil bad! Never mind that they are only accusations without basis in reality.

To take Kerry seriously requires a flight of fancy. Relax, let all your muscles relax. Unwind, close your eyes, see only with your mind's eye . . . That's it! . . . Now, concentrate . . . let your mind go blank and your limbs go limp . . . see yourself . . . you are on a boat, deep inside Cambodia . . .good, good . . . now see yourself fired upon by Khmer Rouge troops who didn't exist, or those who did, but never contested border areas at the time . . . yes, that's it . . . see the secret agent in your boat . . . doesn't he look just like Martin Sheen? - never mind . . . must see Colonel Kurtz . . . good, now you've got it . . .

Or maybe you don't. Oh well, we tried . . .

A man of imagination

If we want a leader with a vivid imagination, maybe John Kerry IS the guy!

He imagined he was in Cambodia - and "seared" the vision onto his memory.

He imagined he owned a Chinese assault rifle {no doubt purchased from an unlicensed Khymer Rouge dealer in Cambodia}.

He imagined he is qualified to be President of the United States.

Man, that guy is a true visionary!

Some men see things as they are and say, "Why?"
Kerry dreams of things that never were and says, "I was there!"

Et tu, PoliPundit!

Wow! Now I've been linked on PolitPundit too!

Many humble obeisances . . . while I retire to my lair to compose a speech while listening to Peter Gabriel's Big Time . . . gee, I better start writing something profound now . . .

. . . but I can't help but "imagine" {with a tip of the hat to John Kerry, "Imagine all the people, voting just for me, Yoo-hoo may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, I hope some day you'll join me, for some harmless UN fun . . ."} that at this rate, in a week or two I'll have Dan Rather's job . . . .



Southern Appeal

I'm flattered to have garnered a mention on the excellent Southern Appeal by JD, one of the leading writers in LA {Lower Alabama} - especially since I'm now celebrating two whole days of this . . . he gives me a bit too much credit, though: my cousin is the physicist, I have a rudimentary knowledge at best.

Thanks, and a hearty "Roll Tide!" to you!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Women Bloggers: Wonkette vs the Worthwhile

The recent NYT blogger profile concentrated on leftist bloggers and, despite the immediate protests of my fellow conservatives at being ignored, was less than complimentary of them. Reporter Klam was pretty clearly fascinated by Wonkette, whose writing shows an inordinate propensity toward the nether regions of the human anatomy, with frequent scatological and sexual references. Now, I will admit I used to have a similar fascination with potty humor, but then I turned fourteen.

Wonkette did have a very funny picture up: Secrets Plans of Kerry HQ. Loved that one. But, on balance, perhaps the prevailing pervasively pernicious perfidy of her partners on the left would be preferable to the vain and vacuous vapidity of the niche she has created for herself.

For instance, when she speculates on the size of Kerry's penis, she loses me. I am far more concerned about his undetectable testicles.


Lest I be labelled misogynist, I should point out that there are many worthwhile female bloggers out there who write well and make their points without tittering on about poop or pee-pees.

For instance, there is Ann Althouse, a centrist law professor at Wisconsin. Her essay on How Kerry lost me is a great read which sheds insight on the problem Kerry is having with the moderate voters, especially women, this year.

Then there is Lorie Byrd, a working mother who is one of the mainstays at Polipundit {a blog I visit regularly and recommend highly}. She also occasionally posts on her own site, Byrd Droppings. Her post today on health care exposes the fallacy of nationalized medicine:

I have read many stories of people in Canada waiting for weeks or even months for hospital treatment, sometimes even for serious health concerns such as cancer. (It seems that Americans who can, cross the border for prescription drugs, and Canadians that can, cross the border for timely and quality medical services.) Even more frightening than that, however, are first hand accounts I have read recently. I have been part of a cholesteatoma internet support group for several months now and have seen stories from those having problems both here and in other countries. Here the main problems, in addition to those related to the condition itself, are with insurance companies and are related to how much of the surgery and other expenses of treatment they will pay. The problems for those with government-run health care, in my opinion, are much more troubling. One woman in the cholesteatoma group wrote that she was on a waiting list for months for her surgery. When my daughter was first diagnosed, her ENT doctor told us he was having surgery himself and that if we wanted him to do the surgery we would have to put it off for four weeks. Although she had already had tubes put in her ears twice by this doctor, and we liked and trusted him, we chose to have a partner in his practice do the surgery, rather than wait. I cannot imagine being in the position of knowing that there was something growing in my daughter's ear that was destroying her hearing, and potentially causing damage to her brain, and we had to just wait and let it continue to grow for months. If I was in that position, I would imagine that I would sell or mortgage whatever I needed to in order to travel to wherever it was possible to have the surgery done sooner.

Read the rest at the link above.

Then there is Betsy Newmark, a history teacher from Raleigh, NC. Betsy's Page reminds me of a more comprehensive Best of the Web sometimes. {She also includes the Best of Best of the Web . . . }

Another woman blogger I've been reading lately is La Shawn Barber. I like what I've seen so far, but I doubt Joe Lockhart shares my opinion! Even though the original MSM report was retracted, I will never be able to look at Joey the Pooh again without laughing - which is a great improvement on the scowl he has brought to my face for years.

So, there are indeed worthwhile women bloggers who can be informative and insightful without adopting the Wonkette style: rude, crude, nude, and tatooed.


UPDATE: Lorie Bird isn't exactly a "working mom." She informs me she was a "stay-at-home mom" until all her kids were in school, and now only works during school hours. So, it would have been more accurate to describe her as a "stay-at-home working mom." Not that there isn't honor, if not glory, in all the possible permutations . . .

Jeremy Rifkin: Still Crazy After All These Years

From over at Tech Central Station, Henry I. Miller, MD, reviews the latest silliness from the Nutty Professor:

Professional worrier Jeremy Rifkin's pronouncements always remind me of the
characterization by one-time Speaker of the House of Representatives Thomas B. Reed of his political opponents, "They never open their mouths
without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge."

Rifkin's assertion that Americans' consumption of beef causes domestic violence were absurd. So were his claims that biotechnology threatens "a form of annihilation every bit as deadly as nuclear holocaust," and that a small-scale field trial of a
gene-spliced soil bacterium could change weather patterns and disrupt air-traffic control.

The rest is at the link above.

Larry, we hardly knew ye

An often mentioned name as a potential Democratic nominee for a SCOTUS vacancy is Lawrence Tribe of Harvard.


Power Line: "Democrats' Top Scholar Charged With Plagiarism
I got to know Larry Tribe in the days when Deacon and I were stalwarts of the Dartmouth debate team, and Tribe coached the Harvard team. Shortly thereafter, he was one of my professors at Harvard Law School. Larry was never exactly a friend, since he was a teacher and I was a student, but I knew him and considered him a nice guy and one of the most lucid intellects I've encountered.

In later years, Larry became famous as America's leading Constitutional Law scholar. His treatise, American Constitutional Law, dominates the field. Tribe, a practicing lawyer as well as a scholar, has argued 36 cases in the United States Supreme Court. He is now one of Harvard's University Professors, the highest honor the university bestows.

Tribe also went on to become the Democratic Party's top lawyer and, arguably, its leading intellectual. He created the legal and intellectual justification for the Democrats' shameful destruction of Robert Bork's career, a role that probably ended Tribe's own hopes of a Supreme Court appointment. Among other politically charged cases, he represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore.
Now Larry Tribe stands accused of plagiarism. Joseph Bottum, books and arts editor of the Weekly Standard, presents overwhelming evidence to support his claim that Tribe's 1985 book, God Save This Honorable Court, was largely copied from a 1974 book called Justices and Presidents by the University of Virginia's Henry J. Abraham. Bottum's case rests on the relentless citation of example after example where it is clear that Tribe has copied both the substance and, in many cases, the exact wording of Abraham's text. Most damning is Tribe's repetition of errors, like slight misquotations of original sources, in Abraham's book.

Why did he do it? In a sense, Tribe seems to have fallen prey to" [Hindrocket's PowerLine comments continue at link above; Bottums' article can be read here: Weekly Standard.

The fight ahead

Belmont Club: "Just after Izz El-Deen Al-Sheikh Khalil climbed into his white Mitsubishi in Damascus a bomb planted in the vehicle exploded, ending his career. Khalil was member of the military wing of Hamas living in the Syrian capital. The Syrian government blamed Israel for the attack, characterizing it as 'an Israeli act of state terrorism in the heart of Damascus'. Israel responded coyly, neither confirming nor denying their involvement in Khalil's death. But the strangest reaction of all was from Hamas."

Interesting article and comments.

My own thoughts, posted as a comment at the Belmont Club a few moments ago:

"Doug's point is well taken. Time is NOT on our side, it is on theirs. As Rumsfeld famously commented regarding preventing terrorist attacks, "We have to be right every time; they only need be right once."

As nuclear weapons proliferate to undependable regimes, the only thing that keeps the terrorists from attacking us with nukes is that they don't have them yet. The same is true of chemical and biological WMD as well. When they obtain them, they WILL use them.

It is a race against the clock. We must kill or eviscerate ALL the potential terrorists before the weapons with which they can strike become even more terrible. Bringing democracy, contract law, and independent judiciaries to the Muslim world will ultimately succeed in coopting the source of new suicide attackers, but it is a process which will unfold in decades, not years.

We don't have that kind of time.

We are undertaking some of the active measures required, as evidenced by the recent killings in Afghanistan and Pakistan of key al Qaeda operatives. Libya seems to have preemptively succumbed to the threat of force. But we need to step it up dramatically.

As mentioned in a comment above, the terrorists who will carry out these attacks don't care if they die. When their lawyers, bankers, patrons, and apologists, who never seem quite so anxious for martyrdom, start paying the price, their organizational back may be broken ~ but not before.

I have no doubt that John Kerry would respond forcefully, perhaps even including such drastic measures, to a WMD attack on America. I have no such confidence that he would pursue Islamist terror with similar vigor preemptively.

Frankly, I'm not sure that George Bush will take preemption to its necessary extremes to succeed, either. But he will surely be more likely to do so than Kerry would.

# posted by Adjoran : 11:22 AM "

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Old Gray Lady, she ain't what she used to be

The Ace of Spades is fuming about the ten-page spread in the NYT, which manages to highlight several leftist bloggers while virtually ignoring conservative sites with consistently higher traffic and greater influence - and failing to mention the blogosphere's role in exposing the faked CBS documents at all.

Sadly, it is par for the recent course of events at the Old Gray Lady {who has also deserted her nickname it seems; perhaps now she should be called "The Old Rainbow Lady?"}. The New York Times was long the most reliable newspaper in the world. It has taken only a few years to turn the once-great paper into little more than a bad journalistic joke.

Under the leadership of Executive Editor Abe Rosenthal, the Times maintained its old traditions. The editorial pages were unmistakably liberal, including Rosenthal's own columns, but if a story appeared in the news columns, you could take it to the bank and get a deposit slip. Unfortunately, old Honest Abe retired shortly after Sulzberger, Jr. was given the newspaper as his personal toyland. Evidently the family realized that Junior wasn't going to be able to land a position otherwise {for good reason}.

Junior brought in Howell Raines and a new attitude. Although Raines was a casualty of the Jayson Blair scandal, his editorial style has persisted. The paper is now little more than a semi-official organ of the Democratic Party, particularly the left wing.

Despite the ballyhooed post-Blair reforms, fact-checking remains little more than a theoretical obligation, and balanced presentation of the facts is unheard of. The errors and excesses of writers like Krugman, Dowd, and Kristof are legion, and the stuff of modern legend.

It is truly sad to watch the death throes of an icon of the newspaper business. The principal remaining value of the Times to its readers is fish wrap.