Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The More Things Change...

I would have thought that the right in the U.S. would be backing off from trying to sell their laundry lists of pet enemies as means to "win the war on terror"

Apparently not. Perhaps most notable is their imploring of Bush to consider Saudi Arabia and France as "rivals, if not enemies". "Enemies"? Oh, that's lovely. How are they going to justify that, comparisons to great coalition democracies like Uzbekistan?

If WWII were fought this ineptly, Hitler would no doubt have passed away peacefully in his sleep. In his palace. In WASHINGTON.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

A Good Idea, But Not A New One

Steve Gillard sez "Let's take the gloves off", meaning that people annoyed at the shoddy and misleading treatment that Democratic politicians, Democrats, and liberals in general tend to get at the hands of the press should "adopt a reporter" and fact-check them intensively:

The media in America lives in a dual world, one where they want to hold people accountable, yet flip out when people do the same to them..

..I think it would be a really, really good idea to track reporters, word for word, broadcast for broadcast, and print the results online. Not just for any one campaign or cause, but to track people's reporting the way we track other services. If someone had bothered to question the reporting om Wen Ho Lee, he might not have been accused of espionage falsely by the New York Times. If someone had actually checked Jayson Blair's work, the Times might have fired his ass years earlier.

Keeping score of who's right and wrong, how many times they repeat cannards like Al Gore invented the Internet and make obvious errors. Not accusations of ideology, but actual data and facts.
This is an excellent idea. So excellent, in fact, that it's already being done- or else what did Steve think that outfits like the Media Research Center are for? Yes, they're obviously and completely biased towards conservatism, but it's that very act of constantly harping on the mainstream media that has allowed conseratives to "play the ref".

Atrios commented on this in his entry on this, saying: "We spend a lot of time focusing on the pundits, but it's really the journalists under the cover of 'objectivity' who turned the '00 campaign coverage into a travesty." This is substantially true; opinion/editorial stuff is really only important in how it affects how journalists report- the vast majority of people neither know nor care what the Op/Ed page of the NYT said over the past week.

Still, it's odd that neither Atrios nor Gillard commented that in this, as in so many things, it's all about figuring out how conservatives have been screwing with American politics and turning their own tools against them.

Edit: That said, I'm still entirely in favour of the idea, although I'd like to see integration of two versions of it, both mentioned in the comments thread for the article. The first is that it should be per-journalist- I think that makes sense, and will provide a real impetus to change when the journo figures out that the only way to get this guy off his back is to stop pandering to the right.

The other idea is a per-issue focus, where specific falsehoods like "Al Gore created the internet" are targeted.

I don't think these two are incompatible. What would be most useful is if those who were focusing on specific falsehoods create "falsehood FAQs", which contains both quick "talking points" and more complex responses for those who need it (like per-journalist writers) and a series of links to important evidence. All of these would be necessary because there's no doubt that Bush's Rolling Reelection Squad are going to pay close attention to something like this, and there's still more of them then there are of us... they're better funded, too.

So, pick a role. Either track a journalist, track a lie (and maintain a FAQ), or both. The former shouldn't simply quote the latter because it smacks of form letters, but the latter can serve an invaluable service, saving the former group dozens (perhaps hundreds) of hours of research. Take the "watchblog" phenomenon to the streets, and drive 'em nuts.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Damn Gold Bugs are Like Cockroaches In This Place

Courtesy of The Happy Reason Man, we get a particularly loathesome example of the Gold Bug, one that's been infected with, of all things, Mercantilism.

First, let me allow Adam Yoshida (a Canadian who devoutly wishes he were anything but- much like, say, Steven Harper) explain his idea in his own words.

Let’s step back for a second. Just how much does the United States owe? At the present time the entire US public debt stands at roughly seven trillion dollars. About 2.1 trillion dollars of that is held by foreign governments and investors. That percentage is seemingly increasing with time as foreign governments (especially the Chinese) continue to purchase American securities. While no comparable figures are available for most foreign nations: in 2001 China’s public debt was estimated at just 3% of its entire GDP so, in other words, the ratio of Chinese public debt held in the United States to American public debt held in China is massive.

So, what exactly do I propose? Simple: if China attempts to use its financial powers to interfere in the US economy, influence US policies, or do anything else harmful to the United States or beneficial to China, then the United States should repudiate every single cent of US public debt held by the Chinese government, Chinese businesses, Chinese citizens, or residents of China. In August of 2003 the Chinese were estimated to hold some $124 billion in American securities. That, of course, only counts those securities that we know about and does not consider the rapid rate at which the Chinese have been accumulating Treasury bonds.
First, note this phrase: "Do anything else harmful to the United States or beneficial to China". This means that Adam is forced to make a choice- either force a situation where both countries lose, or admit the possibility that both could win. He's obviously chosen the former. I'll get back to this later.

The normal reaction to an action like this would be "whoa! This would ruin the American economy! The price of American bonds, stocks, and dollars would drop like a stone because nobody could trust the Americans not to screw with it for obviously political reasons!" They'd have a point, too, because the only way that this sort of idea could possibly work is if the White House took over the functions of the Federal Reserve, as there's no way Greenspan would allow this. With the crash of pretty much every asset in the United States, one would think that Greenspan would be staunchly opposed. Yoshida's claim that the United States could simply insist that no further action is forthcoming is touchingly naive.

Yoshida supports this, though, because he thinks it'd do more damage to the Chinese:

Thinking about this, consider just what the loss of both the $124 billion in US Treasury bonds and a cut-off of trade with the United States (which, one way or another, would inevitably follow a US repudiation of all foreign debt owed to China) would do to a developing Chinese economy and, in particular, to China’s international economic position. The Chinese would be very lucky to survive such a move with only a lengthy economic depression. More likely, we would see famine, riots, and political disorder in China. The entire Chinese ‘new economy’ would disappear virtually overnight, making instant beggars of those who once aspired to mount a challenge to American power.
Yoshida's Canadian heritage have done him a disservice, because he forgets one word that every Canadian would know should lend him caution: CUBA. The whole reason Cuba's economy has been able to survive being completely cut off from the enormous American market is because other countries are willing to trade with it, and this is no doubt what would happen were the United States to cancel its Chinese debt. The loss of trade to the United States would be quickly made up by trade with other countries, especially when the price of Chinese goods and labour drops like a stone. The "New Economy" that really matters- that of ideas and skilled labour- won't go anywhere, and neither will the factories and workshops that have made China such a powerful trading country. Yes, the loss of foreign assets will hurt, but it won't cripple them, especially with the dominance of the government over the economy. They'll be able to buy other stocks and bonds in other markets in other currencies.

On the other hand, the United States economy will suffer a massive blow, due to the loss of billions of dollars in real investment and a staggering loss of credibility, one that would make history. How does Yoshida propose to deal with that? Unbelievably, he's going back to the gold standard.

The answer might be to time any moves against China with a surprise return of the US Dollar to the Gold Standard. This would be necessary, in part, to stem any loss of global confidence as a result of American economic actions against China. All Americans (and nationals of friendly foreign nations) could be given a fixed amount of time to exchange all of their old American dollars for new Gold-backed dollars, with all US funds originating in China being ineligible for transfer. With stern enough measures, I would expect that the Chinese would be unable to launder more than a small fraction of their massive reserves. Foreign banks (or nations) which collaborate with the Chinese, knowingly or unknowingly, would share in their fate.
For dollars? You jest. They'd be exchanging them for Euros, silly, that and Yen. The gold-backed dollar will be seen as entirely untrustworthy, considering the mercantilist move that prompted the switch. What's to stop the U.S. from changing right back to modern greenbacks, or decide to change the value of a dollar vis a vis gold? The Federal Reserve is already gone, so there would be no confidence whatsoever.

Meanwhile, the American economy would be plunged into a depression the likes of which the world has never seen. Never. A Stock market plunge, bond market plunge would no doubt cause people to hoard money, and switching to the gold standard would place the American economy into a liquidity trap the likes of which Keynes' worst nightmares would be a mere pale reflection. It would be the end of American economic dominance, guaranteed. The most market-unfriendly policy in Europe and Asia would be a minor irritant compared to the mess that would be the American economy, and investment would flood those regions.

American assets abroad would be worthless as well. Any country that owes the United States debt would have precious little reason to pay up and every reason to declare it just as "null and void" as the Americans did. What would happen if they decided not to change their debt into gold-backed dollars? As the old bills would be worthless, and as the countries' debts are denominated in such bills, the U.S. would discover that it had just lost as much foreign debt owed to it as it had owed to the Chinese! The South Americans would certainly be happy, but it'd ruin Corporate America.

So why do this? Why ruin your own economy? Only this: fear.

Now, I’m not advocating that any of this take place at the present time. After all: it would probably, in the short term at least, cost a fair number of American jobs. However, it’s good to have such a plan in America’s back pocket: and for the Chinese to know of it. Moreover, I would greatly prefer to endure the short-term dislocations caused by such a strategy than I would live to see the Chinese become more powerful than the United States.

China is our enemy. It might suit our short term purposes to deal with them for the present time, but we must never forget: they are our enemies. Better to die a thousand deaths than live in a world ruled by the Chinese. If we must, someday, pay an economic price to destroy the Chinese threat: so be it.
First, watch the "our" there, chum, neither Canada nor the United States treats China as a true enemy and has little reason to do so. More fundamentally, though, Yoshida is falling into an old pattern of ignorance, one that I mentioned earlier: mercantilism, the idea that economics is a zero-sum game that one country wins and one country loses. Both China and the United States gain from the Chinese ownership of American debt- China gains stable sources of a stable foreign currency, and the United States benefits from the billions of dollars in investment that is principally responsible for American capital-driven prosperity. Neither is the "winner", because there is no winner or loser, only trade of what one has for what one doesn't. Yoshida doesn't understand that. It makes sense, not many people do. That doesn't make his idea anything but lunatic.

I'll finish by noting, with amusement, the "better to die a thousand deaths" bit. It's actually richly ironic when it comes to China. See, prior to the infamous rapproachement between the U.S. and China in the early 70's, China was the more extreme of the two large communist powers. They intensively criticized the Soviet Union for playing nice with the imperialist oppressor. The Soviets, annoyed at Chinese extremism in the face of nuclear armageddon, reminded the Chinese that nuclear winter was in nobody's interest. The Chinese believed that they were willing to fight a nuclear war, because the survivors would build a socialist paradise on the ashes. The Soviet response went something like this:

"the Central Committee of the Soviet Union… cannot share the view of the Chinese leadership about the creation of a ‘civilization a thousand times higher’ on the corpses of hundreds of millions of people"

"Better to die a thousand deaths", Adam? I think the appropriate quote might be "I have seen the enemy, and he is us".

Lunatic.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Uh Oh.

The ((bovine) shit has hit the fan- Mad Cow Disease has been confirmed in the United States.

I think the Canadians, Japanese and British are probably feeling a little bit of schadenfreude right now, but the important thing here is to use this as a reason to a) turn testing from a farce into some thing real and b) END COW CANNIBALISM.

I mean, really. I'm no vegan, vegetarian or anything of the sort, but it's a vile practice and needs to end. I'll pay an extra 50 cents for a burger to know that my nominally-herbivorous dinner hasn't engaged in a practice that has been an entirely-justifiable taboo for centuries.

This shouldn't even be up for debate, folks.

Mmmm

Edit: Link fixed.
Hey, this is interesting: Riverbend is doing recipes!

For those who don't know, Riverbend is the proprietress of Baghdad Burning, an Iraqi weblog that is invaluable for figuring out what's really going on in Iraq right now. The latest entry, Questions and Fears, shows Baghdad as a city rife with tension, where Saddam's capture probably hasn't had the positive effect that most Americans expect, especially with regards to the militia being put together out of, in Riverbend's words, "Chalabi's thugs, SCIRI extremists and some Kurdish Bayshmarga".

What bothers me is this- considering the Iranian situation, is it really a good idea to give militant Muslims guns, badges, and the legitimacy to harass those Iraqi women who decide not to wear the hijab?

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Law and Order Flashbacks

Courtesy of poster "Roderick" on Eschaton, we find out that Saddam Hussein might not get the death penalty after all. Why? Why else do you think? He's gonna rat out somebody else. Specifically, Syria.

Deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein could be offered a deal in which he would give his captors information on if and how he hid weapons of mass destruction and if he smuggled some of them into Syria. In exchange, he would face life imprisonment and not be executed for war crimes, senior Iraqis attending a conference here on the future of the region have hinted.
The story goes on to describe the mysterious convoys headed from Iraq to Syria on the eve of the war, and there has been a lot of speculation that Saddam's WMDs were in those convoys. Personally, I don't buy it, simply because there would be leftovers (like soil contamination and the like) that people simply haven't found in Iraq. It may well be weaponry, but it's probably not WMD, and it might well have been personnel.

Regardless, though, this creates a problem. If Saddam gets cut a deal by the Arabs, those Iraqis who don't sympathize with the deal will be outraged, and Bush will certainly catch some heat from those Republicans and other Americans who want to see Hussein swing. And even if they get proof that Syria accepted Saddam's weapons, what are they going to do? Syria is not a party to the chemical and biological weapons treaties, and there's no U.N. resolution forbidding them from having them. The United States doesn't have the manpower to hold two countries- it barely seems able to manage one. The U.S. could say that Syria's aid to Iraq makes them an enemy, but that's up to interpretation, and there's no way the Brits would come along. They could still build up a "coalition" by browbeating smaller countries, but without the Brits, it'd look like even more of a sham.

Iraq is still a problem, but it's theoretically manageable. Iraq and Syria? Lunacy.

Monday, December 15, 2003

No Bump?

Wow. I was expecting a huge bump for Bush's numbers, but over at Pandagon, Ezra Klein is relating a poll that says that it's had little effect at all:

ow this is interesting. ABC/Washington Post took a poll today, after Saddam's capture, asking respondents to rate the President's performance. Keep in mind that this is directly after the capture, when his bounce should be highest.

General approval went up 4 points from the last poll week (the poll is biweekly) to 57%, matching the approval from two weeks ago of 57%. It is well within the general range that Bush has been in. That basically means that this did little to nothing for Bush's approval ratings, which is a terrible blow to the president. It also demonstrates that the nation is divided right at that 57% line, after that, you get people who just won't like the President. That's mere conjecture, but there you have it.

Approval of his job in Iraq jumped 10 points, to 58%. Opinions on the War on Terror (going very well, well, not well, very not well) only moved up 3%, to 65%. People clearly don't see this as very important.

Those who see the war as worth fighting moved up 1 point, to 53% (That's really, really important). 90% think big challenges in Iraq lay ahead and people favor a UN Tribunal versus an Iraqi trial 52% to 39% (UN irrelevant my ass).

Saddam didn't make Bush invincible, in fact, it barely did anything for him at all. People seem quite locked in their opinions, tired of the war over there, and resistant to being swayed by every piece of good news. Contrast that with a couple months ago, when all good things that happened through Bush back into stratospheric levels, and the bad barely hurt him. I don't care what the Right says, 2004 is wide-fucking-open.

Update: I forgot to mention that 95% of poll respondents were aware of Hussein's capture.
It's a rare day when I get to say that I overestimated George W. Bush, but there you go.

If the public isn't swayed, though, then what does it matter? Two words: Media and Politicians. The media is going to be gamboling through this circus for a good long while, especially if the trial goes ahead and they have access to it. That'll color how they cover the presidential candidates, as they'll want to tie the candidates to other personalities (like Hussein) to make the stories easier to tell and fulfill their goal of avoiding policy as much as humanly possible.

(This is the mainstream media, of course. Opinion journalism is going to start calling the left a bunch of Saddam-lovers again, using arguments like "he'd still be in power if you were in charge". These precisely miss what the left was actually saying but are useful for scoring cheap political points.)

As for politicians, well, it depends. Many, like Dean, stand a good chance of alienating the press: even if the public doesn't seem to obsess over Saddam, the press certainly will. I think the Dems did a good job of emphasizing that they support the troops, not the president. This is precisely accurate to this situation: Bush didn't catch Saddam, and his ham-handed management and lack of postwar planning was and is more responsible for the problems in Iraq than anything individual soldiers have done.

Actually, come to think of it, a useful analogy might be the late 90's dot.com boom. The programmers at the bottom may have had toys, but they worked their asses off, and a lot of them were both brilliant and creative in their work. Despite that, their companies failed and they got canned. Should you blame them? No, it's not their fault. The problem was that the company never had a clear plan of action and was subject to incredibly poor management. Even if they succeeded in shipping a product or rolling out a website, the fundamental problems didn't go anywhere.

Just like in Iraq.

Why Did This Not Surprise Me?

Jesse looks over the right reaction, and he's angry:

But the sad thing is so much of the reaction was typified by... a thoroughly dishonest search for methods to smear Democrats and liberals, quite often not even with things they said or did, but instead their conjecture about things that we would say or do at some point in the future and/or things we didn't say or do because they're too lazy and/or deficient to actually look for that.
There's this continuous quest to discredit their opposition and/or turn them into traitors by pointing out that they dare differ in their reactions to events or their opinions in general. That's where "objectively pro-Saddam" comes from- an attempt to try to frighten the opposition into silence. (And this while people they link to make death threats.)

It's sad, it's annoying, and it's Stalinist as hell, even as right-wingers are using these Stalinist tactics to call their opponents Stalinists.

On Optimism

A slight followup to the post below. I'm not giving specific examples, but it seems that a lot of pro-war types are excorating anti-war types for having conditional or guarded reactions to Saddam's fall, as they're simply jubilant and believe that others should be as well.

There are some problems with that:

1) They're jubilant partially because it helps Bush. Were this President Gore, they wouldn't be acting nearly the same way. Period. If someone believes that Saddam's capture will indirectly hurt the United States by ensuring George Bush's re-election, then they have every right to state that, and to be attacked for that belief is infantile- one can be happy about Saddam and ticked about Bush.

(A historical example would be the Soviets beating the Germans and taking over East Germany. Beating Hitler was an unquestionably good thing. What happened to East Germany was not. How do you balance them out? You don't: just acknowledge both.)

2: There is a difference between trying to figure out what is going to happen and hoping that it is going to happen. One of the reasons why the situation in Iraq has been going badly (and, yes, Saddam's capture aside, the situation had been going badly) is that there was precious little planning done by the Pentagon, and the REASON why this happened was because Rumsfeld and Co. insisted that nobody even try to think about and plan about negative scenarios.

This is what the pro-war bloggers seem to be trying to do. If Saddam's capture reduces the number of attacks, then that's important. If it doesn't, that's also important. Trying to figure out which is going to come is perfectly legitimate. Is the former preferable? Yes. The latter can still happen, and it should still be discussed. Blogging isn't about P.R. for your favorite politician.

Oscar Wilde Would Be Horrified

I'm not saying that I'd really be happy about getting as badly misrepresented by this guy as Atrios, Hesiod, Kos and Co., but to not even get a mention...

Then again, maybe I just wasn't easy enough to misrepresent.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

"We Got Him"

You already know about this, so I won't waste your time. (I haven't read the other bloggers on this as of yet.) The question is what it means: both politically, and strategically.

(One observation is obvious: the Iraqis will be overjoyed about this, and well they should. They needed their demon exorcised, and now they can finally stop looking over their shoulders.)

Strategically, this will help the U.S. to finally ascertain the exact nature of the Iraqi resistance- or should, if they play it right. Most of the speculation in the media has been that this will cause a short-term increase in terrorist attacks, followed by a rapid decline as Saddam loyalists are forced to deal with the reality that he's gone. This will likely be true, if the attacks really are motivated by loyalism to Saddam and not to another figure (such as the clerics or Bin Laden); if they are motivated by sheer hatred of the Americans, then it's unlikely that they'll cease. If they don't, then that's the clearest indication yet that resistance is not tied to any wish for a return to Saddam's regime but to the Americans themselves. If that is the case, then they have a much harder job ahead of them, as they will have lost their Snowball.

(Note that there may well be some crossover here- Saddam likely was responsible for the caches, but there's no guarantee that it's only loyalists using them).

In addition, the odd circumstances of Saddam's capture and his calm, cooperative behavior will have real effects. I'm not quite sure, however, whether it'll be seen as a massive embarassment for anti-U.S. forces or not. It may well drive people into Bin Laden's camp, simply because he has not been captured yet, and because Saddam's capture is certainly a blow to secular pan-Arabism.

Politically, one can divide the real results into left and right, Democrat and Republican. The Republicans, naturally, will gain huge morale and argumentative power after this, and Bush's popularity will certainly increase. I had predicted this earlier- the so-called "third bounce" that I had been waiting for since the war ended. This is likely to be the last bounce, however, unless they capture Osama, which has proven itself to be a much more difficult job. (Or impossible, if he's buried under rock at Tora Bora.) I expect that Bush's ratings will get a massive boost after today's speech, possibly 15-20%. The question is whether he can retain that, and that goes back to the strategic question I mentioned earlier. Without Saddam to pin the resistance on, Bush is in a position where he absolutely needs resistance to die down, or else Americans will start seeing Iraq as an intractable problem that cannot be solved by finding and killing the supposed "mastermind". The personalization of this aids Bush right now, but may hurt him later. If the resistance does die down, though, Bush is in an excellent position, especially if the economy continues to improve.

The Democrats, on the other hand, face a huge test. Now, if the candidate were smart, they should have been wargaming this from the very beginning of the runup to war. This was entirely predictable, and if they didn't predict it, they're dumber than Bush has ever been accused of being. I can't have been the only one who saw the third bounce on its way.

One candidate was already all over this, and was in an AMAZING position to exploit this: Joe Lieberman, whose performance on Meet the Press may well reactivate his candidacy in the eyes of the press. If the resistance dies down, it's likely that Democrats will return to the "support the war, not the president" tactics that characterized them in 2002 and early 2003, and that aids Lieberman.

Everybody else is in a bind of a sort. Most will probably walk the line, but it's clear from both MtP and the reactions from other news outlets that all eyes are on Dean. He opposed the war, if not the proper conclusion of it, and he will will be asked some difficult questions. Lieberman was hammering over and over again on one simple line: "if Dean had his way, Saddam would be in a palace, instead of a prison". (It's pretty clear that Lieberman knew what to do when this happened.) Dean needs to respond to that, and respond quickly and well. If not, then his candidacy will be damaged, perhaps fatally. What should he say? I'm not sure- I'm not Dean or Trippi. Like I said, though, they'd be absolute idiots not to have seen this coming, and their sound bite on this should have been fully developed months ago.

One final thing: the dealbreaker here could be the trial. This is a surprise- I wasn't expecting the Americans to take Saddam alive. The Iraqis want a trial in Iraq, but the Americans may not oblige. If they don't, this could be an enormous source of tension between them and the Iraqis. If they do, then the "coalition" and potential Iraqi investors may scream about kangaroo courts, and anti-American groups will say that Bush's puppets in the IGC were just doing their master's bidding and getting their master's revenge. It could further alienate the Islamic world from the United States, and nobody needs that.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Cowardly Little Poodle

You know what I like about bloggers?

The calm, rational exchange of ideas. The friendly byplay of people with different points of view, and the acceptance that there will be differences, but that our shared humanity should, nay, must dictate a certain level of respect and collegiality.

Just kidding. In the real world, Emperor Misha (worthless little troll and boil on the ass of humanity that he is, and no, I haven't linked to the pool of festering disease-ridden septic leakage that is his website and don't intend to start now) is threatening the life of a Kucinich backer. And then saying that he isn't, claiming :

As to the "death threats", I've read through the above post at least a dozen times by now and, try as I might, I simply cannot locate any threats made by me against Mr. Blumrich's life, unless you call "you're a rat bastard swine and I'd like to kick your ass seven ways from Sunday" a "death threat", in which case I'm sure that Mr. Blumrich will find that rather a large number of such threats have been issued lately, publically and otherwise.
Well, let's give the worthless little turd the benefit of the doubt. He gave out the man's address and even published a map to his home, so there's little doubt that he's encouraging his minions to go there and do...something. But what?

Well, let's see. There's this:

His Majesty would much rather let her loose on Dennis the Fuckwit Ghoul's scrawny little ass and assorted tender parts of his anatomy, equipped with a bunch of dull, rusty implements.
And then there's this:

Here's a hint to you, Eric: The gov't can't do anything to you over that ad, but that's the extent of your protection under the First Amendment.

The rest of us, however, aren't the gov't, in case you've forgotten, and quite few of us would be more than happy to wipe that nervous little grin off your traitorous mug - with a belt sander.
Nice and peaceable, and I especially liked the inability to figure out where a simple "a" should be placed (hint: between "quite" and "few").

Oooh, and then there's this:

Not saying anything in specific, mind you, but we'd be damn careful about showing our face in public if we were you. You just never know who that perfect stranger behind you in that alleyway might be. Could be a sibling or other relative of one of the fallen soldiers that you just took a dump on the grave of, and G-d only knows what might happen then.
"Nothing in specific"... naturally.

And then there's the coup de grace:

Eric may not be famous enough to be a pick for the 2004 Dead Pool, but there's another signed Imperial Mug for the first LC to inform me that Eric Blumrich has died in a "tragic" accident.

Accidents DO happen, you know, and that's the kind of news that would definitely make my entire day.
A mug! Very nice. So now you're rewarding people for his death!

And, lest we get too focused on one single posting (maybe the chihuahua was having a bad day?), perhaps we can call up his solution to the Palestinian issue?

"Kill 'em, kill 'em all.

Lovely.

In reality, dog boy, this is clearly incitement, and no amount of "but killing is illegal, so don't do it pleez" bull is going to change that. You're no different than those Rwandan radio guys who were calling Tutsis "cockroaches" and exhorting Hutus to pick up their machetes and "go to work". Had the internet's right wing had any remaining credibility at all, they'd at the very least rebuke you and delink you. Since you serve the same purpose as the LGF trolls in inspiring convenient hatred, I'm not optimistic. I have little doubt that they'll do nothing but defend you, if they even mention this.

Were a liberal to say "it'd be a really great thing if somebody neuter ed the doggie before he breeds", though, or a simple Transmetropolitan-esque "I want to shit in your heart", I think the reaction would be decidedly different.

Sickening.

(POLITE emails about the matter should be sent to Hosting Matters here)

Clark on The Daily Show

It was a great interview. Really, really great- this was the kind of thing that could really sway opinions (assuming enough people watch). Jon was surprisingly quiet and low key, asking fairly open (yet probing) questions and keeping the jokes to a minimum, and Clark's stories and comments came out as pretty natural, despite having surely been pre-rehearsed. It dealt with the "you have no political experience" question very well, and Clark seemed quite comfortable, more so than many of his other guests.

I'm thinking that Jon is a closet Clark supporter more and more, especially considering how relatively unsupportive he's been of Dean, and the fact that Dean is the last major contender (aside from Kerry) who hasn't appeared on the show. He could simply be working up to Dean, or it may be the Dean campaign that has been rebuffing Jon's overtures. Still, after this interview and the reality that it's turning into a Clark/Dean/Gephardt race, it may be safe to assume that there's a real reason they haven't brought Dean on.

Instapundit is Objectively Pro-Communist

Busted.

By the by, Glenn, I hadn't noticed the bit where you said "Communists are, in my opinion, as bad as Nazis: mass murder, totalitarianism, etc...calling them "Marxists" instead doesn't fool anyone."

I realize you're a law professor, not a political science professor, but hasn't anybody sat you down and explained the difference between Marxism-the-analytical-framework and Communism-the-system? Have you ever wondered how people could call themselves "anarcho-marxists" or "anarcho-socialists" and remain internally consistent, when Communism- as you pointed out- is totalitarian? Do you even know what Communism is (or, at least, was), or were you just getting it from those nifty CNN Cold War documentaries? I'm no Marxist, largely because I think it is terribly flawed as an analytical framework and is unworkable in practice, but I gotta say:

For someone who is objectively pro-Communist, you're sure ig'nint about it.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Canada's Not Left Out After All

The Globe and Mail has the story.

The Prime Minister, speaking to reporters on his last official day in office before Paul Martin takes over, said Mr. Bush had telephoned him in the morning to congratulate him on his 40 years in office and that was when Mr. Bush made the promise.

"I had a discussion with Mr. Bush who called me at 7:40 [a.m. EST] to wish me good luck, and we discussed the relations between the two countries.

"He thanked me for what we're doing in Afghanistan and the offer of money for the reconstruction of Iraq [Canada has put forward $300-million], and he told me that the mention of Canada in some press that we were to be excluded from economic activities in Iraq was not appropriate, and he was telling me basically not to worry," Mr. Chr├ętien said.
Good news for Martin, as he doesn't have to deal with angry party members and citizens. Bad for France and Germany, as they've lost an ally, and this has turned into an American vs. European thing.

(Assuming, of course, that Bush was telling the truth and maintains this position when the heat's off.)

With Canada out, the one to watch might well be Russia, if only because they've got so much debt to hold over the Iraqis' (and thus the Americans') heads. Putin must still be annoyed, and with good cause. Russia really isn't that far from Iraq, after all.

The Wurlitzer is Being Recalibrated

Bush is, apparently, setting up to fight Dean.

Wondering about strategy? Wonder not:

A day after Al Gore endorsed Dr. Dean, giving the former Vermont governor his strongest claim yet to the role of front-runner for the nomination, Democrats as well as Republicans scrambled on Wednesday to assess and adapt to the changing political landscape. Dr. Dean's Democratic rivals sharpened their attacks on him, even as Republicans — perhaps motivated as much by a desire to guard against complacency in their ranks as by any newfound respect for Dr. Dean's electoral strength — talked of their plans for a tough general election faceoff against him.

One Republican who speaks regularly to White House officials said there was serious thought about pursuing the earliest and most aggressive of the plans under consideration: putting Mr. Bush into full campaign mode soon after he delivers the State of the Union address in late January. In that way, the Republican said, Mr. Bush could get a quick start on defining Dr. Dean as too far to the left for the country before the former Vermont governor can wrap up the primaries and begin trying to move himself toward the political center.
It's actually not a bad strategy- using the primary process against him. In some ways, though, it's contradictory, because the entire reason Dean has pulled ahead is because the primaries aren't really deterministic this year- as this story demonstrates. If he becomes inevitable, Dean can quickly move to the center, possibly before the primaries are even over. Frankly, it wouldn't be too hard for him- the Bushes are running up against a centrist whose biggest "liberal" issue- the War in Iraq- is NOT something they'll want to run on.

(His anti-free trade leanings would also be hideously stupid to attack, considering it'll drive all manner of manufacturing workers into his arms. Which is probably why he has them.)

And on Dean's electability?

Still, Dr. Dean's ability to energize Democrats and potentially attract new voters, while raising large sums of money without the benefit of an established national reputation, has generated some concern within the Bush campaign, where much of the early betting had been on Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri as the most likely nominee. The campaign continues to warn against overconfidence among its supporters by stressing that the 2004 race could be as close as the one in 2000.

"They do not underestimate Dean, because Dean is able to stir the energy in the Democratic party grass roots," said Deal W. Hudson, the editor of Crisis Magazine and an influential religious conservative who is in regular contact with the White House. "That makes him potentially the most formidable of the Democratic nominees."
I think the "Dean can't win" meme is going to evaporate pretty soon. He's neither Goldwater nor Mondale nor McGovern, and the Republicans aren't so stupid at campaigning that they can't recognize a potential anti-Reagan when they see him.

This new wariness may also partially be for positioning reasons. They want to ensure that they get turnout and hard money donations when it counts, which will be important when fighting the Deaniacs. They also certainly don't want Bush to look like he's failing, or that Dean has momentum, which is what "Bush is inevitable" could lead to when the true partisan makeup of the country shows its face.

Last point I want to bring up, because it's a good one:

But the Republican National Committee and the Bush campaign are intensively reviewing their opposition research on Dr. Dean. The party is conducting polling not just on how Mr. Bush would match up against Dr. Dean but also on what effects Dr. Dean, as his party's presidential nominee, would have on other races, especially for Senate seats.
This is important, because one key Bush strategy would be to split the Democrats against themselves. It would be both easy and smart to employ the Wurlitzer not just against voters, but against politicians, creating the impression that backing Dean will mean that they're seen as just as liberal as he is. That would doom both- voters would go anti-Democratic anyway if they saw the Dems as soft on Terror (or whatever), and Dean's isolation would seriously hurt him.

I'm almost certain, however, that this is why Dean has been reaching out to candidates with what really matters: the wallets of his followers. The Wurlitzer can only provide a false "centrist" imprimatur for one's campaign- Scaife isn't going to bankroll a Democrat, after all. While that's valuable, money is far more valuable, and a ton of small hard money donations (with the possibility of more to come) is more valuable still. The most important reason why Dean has been so successful is because of the Dean machine's ability to raise money and gain rabid followers over the Internet. As we've seen, both can be as easily re-aimed as the Wurlitzer. Dean's followers genuinely feel like they're doing something useful and important by aiding Dean and the Democrats, and Dean employs a simple but profound truth: people might not be willing to spend $2000 at a time, but they'll spend $20 without a second thought, and do it multiple times.

(Yes, Bush will use this too. He's still behind the curve.)

In any case, this was to be expected, and I'm still convinced that win or lose, Dean's campaign is going to change politics. If it is just a rallying cry like Goldwater was then that'll be one thing, but I am seriously wondering if the Democrats have stumbled upon their very own Reagan. The only thing left is to make him more comfortable on television, and that isn't that hard a job nowadays.

Bush Defends the Contracts

More on the contracts issue.

Honestly, the more you think about this, the more predictable this action was. The Bush administration places high value on loyalty and has a history of personalizing its opposition to the extent that those who honestly dislike the Bush administration's policies are characterized by Bush proxies as "rabid Bush haters". These countries are "disloyal to their American allies", and it's pretty clear by now that diplomacy is irrelevant, so there's little reason to believe they wouldn't do this. There's even less reason to believe they'll relent, although the negative media coverage might affect things somewhat.

In any case, the real story, to me, is how the targets of this policy will respond. Europe going to the WTO is a no-brainer, and I wouldn't discount that affecting Bush just yet. The precedent of Bush backing down on the steel tariff does suggest that he might back down.

Russia is torn- they (and by "they", I mean Vladimir Putin) want to be a U.S. ally, but nationalism is the watchword in Russia right now, and this is a profound insult to Russia, especially considering their relatively benign reaction to the end of the ABM treaty.

Again, it's Canada that's really the one to watch here. The CNN piece notes this, too:

In Ottawa, incoming Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said the decision was difficult to understand because his country already spent $300 million to support Iraq and also has troops in Afghanistan.

"I find it really very difficult to fathom," said Martin, who will take the helm of Canada's government Friday from Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

"There's a huge amount of suffering going on there, and I think it is the responsibility of every country to participate in developing [Iraq]."
The fact that Martin didn't even try to dodge around this or make much of any reference to "our American allies" speaks volumes, at least to me. Saying "I find it really very difficult to fathom" easily translates to "those bastards screwed us over" in this case. This will make Martin's hoped-for good relations with the U.S. difficult at best. Canadians won't stand for it, no matter how much they like him, it'll hurt Canada's international reputation, and he'll face the prospect of losing a significant number votes and seats to the leftist NDP in the next election.

(This would seem unlikely, but voting for the NDP carries little risk in the next election. Martin will almost certainly not lose to the new Conservative party, so "strategic voting" isn't necessary, and there could be a great reward in it if the Conservatives stay unpopular and the NDP gets a shot at becoming the official opposition. The NDP will be pushing these ideas HARD in Atlantic Canada and in Toronto, and it's quite possible that it'll stick.)

It's funny- Bush came this close to having a strong ally to the North. Now, he's just embarassed the most popular politician in the most successful political party in North America, and possibly in the developed world. Good job, Mr. President.

A little dated, but still good

Matt Yglesias made a good point about the belief that two-party politics are inevitable in American politics:

This view of the American electoral system as inimical to third party politics is the result, I think, of an unfortunate over-emphasis on presidential politics. The Canadian parliament and the British House of Commons are both elected along very similar lines to the US House of Representatives (first past the post elections in small, single-member constituencies) and each feature five parties with representation in parliament.

In those Westminster systems, however, there's no real point to electing MPs unless you stand a reasonable chance of electing a majority because it doesn't really matter what any individual member thinks. In the US, however, where we have two parties in pretty even balance and a politics of ad hoc coalition-building, minor parties with just a handful of representatives could make the difference on several key votes. Reps Flake and Paul really might be well-advised to leave the GOP, see if they could recruit a couple more like-minded backbenchers, form a small Libertarian caucus, and try to run candidates in a few more ideologically friendly districts. None of them would ever get elected president, but then again none of them are ever going to be elected president anyway.
He has a point, and I think it's legitimate, although it does require legislators who don't have even an eye on the Oval Office, and parties that are willing to give up that possibility. Most politicians would want to join one of the big established parties simply because having the *possibility* of a presidential candidate being from your party is compelling, but the American system isn't nearly as party-centric as the Westminster one.

(Actually, come to think of it, that may be the problem. American politicians already enjoy far more freedom than their counterparts elsewhere- that might mean that independent-minded legislators won't be so alienated as to leave. The anti-RINO and -Dino movements may change this, however.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Didn't back us? GET OUT.

No, really, this is an excellent idea.

The Pentagon has decided to bar nations that did not support the war in Iraq from bidding on $18.6 billion in contracts to rebuild the country, according to a directive released Tuesday.

The ruling, in a memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, excludes Russia, Germany, France and other non-members of the coalition from bidding on one of the most ambitious reconstruction projects since the end of World War II. It is the strongest U.S. retaliation yet against war opponents.

Only firms from Iraq, the United States and its coalition partners — 63 nations in all — will be allowed to compete for major contracts to rebuild the electrical and water systems and the housing, transportation and oil infrastructures. Britain, Spain, Italy and many Eastern European countries will be able to bid....

The administration said the ruling is not designed to punish and should not slow efforts to win broad support. A Pentagon official, who did not want to be identified, said banned nations can still send troops or money and become eligible: "We'd welcome their support."
At precisely the time when the United States most needs the real support of other countries and has had its international reputation so severely damaged... the time when it has become a near-laughingstock for having so miserably failed to justify its haste and fearmongering prior to the war...

...now they're playing this silly game? Unbelievable. And it's not like that "invitation" will change a thing. Indeed, it's likelier to convince non-supporters to stay out than anything, because it's such a naked attempt to bribe people to get onside.

It's also going to have an impact on North American relations as well. Not so much in Mexico, as I doubt that Vincente Fox has his eye on too many Iraqi rebuilding contracts, but definitely in Canada.

The new Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, had said in the past that he intended to build a better relationship with the United States, and has taken steps to show that he means it. He's up against the reality that most Canadians (and most Liberals) feel vindicated and prescient in their opposition to the war. Any attempt by the United States to tie together closer relations and foreign policy support will pit Martin against his own party and the vast majority of the country. Coupled with the renewed anger that the softwood lumber issue will create in the west (traditionally more pro-American than the rest of Canada) and you've got every indication that the relationship will grow chillier.

No doubt that this isn't good news for Canada from an economic point of view. The United States has precious few real allies right now, however, and the serious differences in North America over American foreign policy are a serious blow to whatever soft power the U.S. has remaining, and Iraq shows that hard power simply isn't enough.

(And this doesn't even address how Europe and Russia are going to react. Emperor Putin's been scorned, and I doubt he'll like that.)

It continually amazes me how a group of people can be so effective at gaining power, yet so inept at wielding it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

A Question for David Brooks:

Just wondering about this quote:

The only problem is that us rural folk distrust people who reinvent themselves. Many of us rural folk are nervous about putting the power of the presidency in the hands of a man who could be anyone.
Why refer to Howard Dean in this way, yet so assiduously avoid Dear Leader and his "ranch"?

I realize you have a mandate to get Bush elected, and heaven knows that outside of your status as "token conservative" you've done little to warrant your lofty post at the New York Times, but this sort of hypocrisy is just embarassing.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Instafic!

Brilliant.

I always wonder about this, too

Kristof on those evil gays:

Recently I wrote a column arguing that there is growing evidence that homosexuality has a biological basis, and that this is one more reason not to discriminate against people on the basis of whom they love.

The result was a torrent of fire and brimstone from readers who are aghast at gay marriage, and who accuse me of blasphemy for defending vile behavior that they say God is on record as denouncing. Never mind that the Bible also advises that people who work on the Sabbath should be stoned to death (Numbers 15:35) and condones the beating of slaves 'since the slave is the owner's property' (Exodus 21:21). Somehow it's only the anti-gay bits that seem engraved in stone.
The answer is obvious: the critics aren't actually gay, and don't own slaves.

This warms my heart

The Beeb reveals that some Rwandan media execs got the book thrown at them. Why? Read on:

wo Rwandan media executives have been sentenced to life in prison for their part in the 1994 genocide.

A third was given a 35-year jail term after a private radio told ethnic Hutus to kill members of the Tutsi minority, saying "exterminate the cockroaches".

The station - Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines - also broadcast lists of people to be killed and revealed where they could be found.
I'm for freedom of speech- in fact, I'm pretty hardline on freedom of speech. Still, the example of what happened in Rwanda shows that there is not only a line that must not be crossed, but that incitement to genocide is not something one can file away under "Nazi stuff/part of the past/supernaturally evil/nothing to do with ME", but is a very real and very modern phenomenon, and is inextricably tied with the dehumanization of others.

What this has to do with American radio and its own hate-a-thons I'll leave to the readers.