February 28, 2003
Gondor News Update (Hat tip

Gondor News Update (Hat tip from Paul (UK))
The original link may be slow as it has many comments. Therefore I've posted the entire update.

MINAS TIRITH (Gondor News Network) - Thousands of peace activists took to the streets of Minas Tirith and other cities of Middle Earth today to protest what they termed a rush to war with Mordor. "We need more time for diplomacy," said a key member of the Middle-Earth Security Council, Saruman the White. "I am not convinced by the evidence presented by my esteemed colleague, Gandalf the Grey, or that the Dark Lord Sauron presents an imminent danger to the peoples of the West."

Many of the people protesting war in Mordor agreed with Saruman's remarks. "Sauron says he’s destroyed his Rings of Mass Destruction (RMD) and that’s good enough for me," said one fellow carrying a sign that said "Elrond is a Balrog." Another demonstrator urged, "Give the RMD inspectors more time. There’s no reason to rush to any judgment just because Mount Doom is belching lava, the Dark Tower is rebuilt, and Osgiliath has been decimated." A third protester piped up, "I haven’t heard a single bit of convincing evidence connecting the Nazgul with Sauron. I think they destroyed Osgiliath on their own initiative without any support from Sauron. Besides, it's understandable they’re angry with Gondor. We haven’t done nearly as much for the Orcs and Goblins and Easterlings as the Nazgul and Sauron have. It’s understandable they throw their support to them. It’s our own fault really."

As the protesters continued their march through the city, they chanted, "No blood for Mount Doom," voicing a common sentiment that the leaders of the Western peoples are really seeking to get their hands on the powerful Mount Doom, where the One Ring of Power was allegedly forged.

Gandalf the Grey was unavailable for comment. A spokesman said he was in an undisclosed underground location, which sources have revealed is codenamed: Moria.

Somehow, I think JRR Tolkien would approve.

Update: I found a German professor with his own theory.

Fraud in AdvertisingIn general, one

Fraud in Advertising
In general, one would not be shocked to discover that an advertiser has stretched the truth a bit. Indeed, most people I know place advertising executives into the same category as politicians, journalists, used-car salesmen, lawyers, and tax collectors - hardly a bunch that invokes trust. But one usually expect there to be a grain of truth behind the ads. Not this time.

Bermuda has been using pictures of Hawaiian beaches to lure tourists to Bermuda. That’s like Ford using pictures of a great Chevy Truck to get people to the Ford dealership. Wonder if the news will be a boost for Hawaii? "Even the folks in Bermuda wish they had our beaches."

No Guts, No ServiceA Dane

No Guts, No Service
A Dane who supports the liberation of the Iraqi people refuses to serve French and Germans.

On Friday, Mr Bjerre put two home-made pictograms on the restaurant door with a bar across each one. One features the silhouette of a man sporting the colours of the German flag, the second those of the French flag.

"The French are cowards and they are banned for life, and as long as the Germans behave disloyally towards the USA, I can't be bothered to make food for them," he said.

Denmark is one of the many European countries that disagrees with France, Belgium, and German. Mr. Bjerre’s countrymen certainly approve of Mr. Bjerre. Bjerre reported record sales for the first weekend of his new policy.

February 27, 2003
Real Life HappensReal life is

Real Life Happens
Real life is keeping me very busy, so it will be Friday or Monday before I resume blogging. Have a great weekend!

February 26, 2003
Estrada Update – more rope

Estrada Update – more rope for the Democrats
Some people never learn. The Democrats continue to pick stupid fights with President Bush and squander political capital that they will need later. Marcelo Rodridguez of The Black World Today comments:

No one is denying Estrada's qualifications. The American Bar Association and the Hispanic National Bar Association support his nomination. Many see him as a potential Supreme Court nominee.

Nothing in Estrada's public record indicates that he is an unflinching ideologue of the right, a Spanish-speaking Clarence Thomas, as some Democrats have said, referring to the last Supreme Court justice appointed by George Bush Sr. Yet the Democrats have opposed his appointment with much more zeal than that of the much more extreme John Ashcroft as attorney general -- and they controlled the Senate at the time.

Now, as the minority party, Democrats are pulling all-nighters to block Estrada. It's a double standard that is bound to be seen, justifiably or not, as racially motivated -- as if a white, male, ultra-conservative is somehow more acceptable to the Democrats than a marginally conservative minority.

Rodridguez is correct, no one is seriously questioning Estrada’s qualifications - even the liberal ABA endorsed him. I tracked down Estrada's resume along with some other interesting information at the US Department of Justice. According to Reuters, an organization called the Latino Coalition will be “airing spots on Monday in Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida and in the Washington area that urge listeners to call their senators in support” of Estrada. These ads will run on Spanish-language stations. I’m sure the Democratic Senators in these states do not wish to sacrifice their next election to help Senate Minority Leader Daschle. Within the Hispanic Community, President Bush is adding to the pressure according to Fox News.
"They're blocking the vote on this good man for purely political reasons," Bush told supporters in a White House event where he alternately spoke Spanish to bring Hispanic backers to their feet.

"I will stand by this man's side until he is sworn in!" Bush said.

Democrats are feeling the pressure and probably resent Senator Daschle for making this an issue. The Washington Times announced that a fourth Democrat, Senator Bill Nelson (Florida) broke ranks yesterday to support Estrada. Senator Miller (D-Georgia) was especially candid in his comments.
Mr. Nelson joins Democratic Sens. John B. Breaux of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Zell Miller of Georgia, who already have said they will support Mr. Estrada and vote with Republicans if they try to invoke cloture, a procedural move that requires 60 votes to limit debate and force a final vote.

Mr. Miller said his party's opposition to Mr. Estrada is "all political" and can be attributed to pressure from outside interest groups.

”The groups run everything around here," the conservative Democrat said Monday.

Thanks for the honesty Zell. To bad you have decided not to run again next time. Of course, that may be why Miller is being so frank – what can Daschle do to someone who is retiring from politics? Nothing.

Senator Graham, Florida's other Senator (Democrat), has not made any decisions yet about Estrada. He is currently recovering from heart surgery and probably hopes the issue is resolved before he goes back to the Senate. However, Graham says he will be entering the 2004 presidential race and certainly doesn’t want to irritate the Hispanic vote. If the issue is still in doubt when he returns, I suspect he’ll support Estrada.

I’m not sure how long this will drag out. I believe President Bush is willing to let this nomination process hang over the Democrats as long as possible. As the 2000 election showed, every vote may count in 2004. The Democratic Party obstructionist policies may come back to haunt them.

February 25, 2003
The Jacksonian CodeFor those trying

The Jacksonian Code
For those trying to understand why many Americans support the forceful liberation of Iraq, you may want to read The Jacksonian Tradition. Den Beste of the USS Clueless considers himself almost a Jacksonian and has referred to this article many times now. Today I noticed that Dean has discovered it and others seem interested in it. The article is rather long and is probably only of interest to those who follow politics. If you are not one of those, let me summarize it for you.

The principles of the Jacksonian code are self-reliance, equality, individualism, financial esprit, and courage. Self-reliance includes giving honor and respect to others and this courtesy is expected in return. Equality is taken very literally – “No one has a right to tell the self-reliant Jacksonian what to say, do or think. Any infringement on equality will be met with defiance and resistance.” Individualism is defined as “everyone must find his or her way: each individual must choose a faith, or no faith, and code of conduct based on conscience and reason.” Financial esprit is summed up as “While the Jacksonian believes in hard work, he or she also believes that credit is a right and that money, especially borrowed money, is less a sacred trust than a means for self-discovery and expression.. Credit is seen less as an obligation than as an opportunity. Jacksonians have always supported loose monetary policy and looser bankruptcy laws.” Courage is obvious, but goes hand-in-hand with the Jacksonian love of weapons and willingness to protect his country. Jacksonians play fair with honorable opponents and unfair with dishonorable opponents.

I know many Jacksonians, although most of them are not aware of the label. Despite admiring many of the qualities listed above, I would not consider myself a Jacksonian. I do not think dishonorable conduct by an opponent justifies dishonorable conduct by our side. To be clear, I have no problems with my government eliminating terrorists without warning. I have a major problem with any policy of deliberating targeting civilians and think the idea of Mutual Assured Destruction is unethical and obscene. I also disagree with the Jacksonian view on credit. One should borrow only in cases of emergency or for an investment (a house, an education, etc.). And credit is a serious obligation, treating it otherwise is foolish.

However, whether one admires Jacksonians or not, there are many of them in the States. They are yet another reason why the US will never allow their sovereignty to be placed under the UN. Jacksonians don’t care if other countries go their own way or join us – they can respect either decision. However any country or organization that tries to actively stop Jacksonians from doing what they believe is right (such as liberating Iraq) had best be respectful or they will be treated with scorn and ignored. This is what is currently happening to France in US public opinion.


Imagine that you are an Iraqi officer. You have been careful not to show too much initiative as your brighter – but less wise – peers have a habit of disappearing in case they would someday plot to eliminate Saddam Hussein. Rumors of invasion are rampant, but you also hear that the French and Germans are doing everything in their power to protect Saddam’s reign.

After another anxious day at work, the pressure continues to build. Saddam’s secret police have done another sweep of “untrustworthy” citizens and another co-worker vanishes. The workday finally ends and you head toward home on foot. After fifteen minutes you are almost home. Then your cellphone – one of your few luxuries – rings.

You answer the phone wondering if the attack has finally started. To your amazement, the voice on the other end starts listing many of Saddam’s atrocities. You look around, you could get killed for just listening to this. No one seems to be paying any attention to you. You keep walking home, trying to look causal. The voice identifies itself as an American and advises you not to resist when the war comes. The American says Saddam’s days of tyranny are numbered, but only those who fight for Saddam will be harmed. He then wishes you well and hopes you choose wisely when the time comes. You hear a click and the voice is gone. What do you do?

A far fetched scenario? Not really. See this article. No wonder anti-Americanism is growing – Tyrants around the world are wondering if they are next.

The Next Space Race? (hat

The Next Space Race? (hat tip to Transterrestrial Musings)
The Boston Globe had a nice piece about China’s space program including what it might mean for revitalizing the US space program. Our politicians don’t seem to fund our program unless the face an external challenge. Perhaps the first Chinese in space will motivate the US to put some resources into space just as Sputnik did. The Chinese have been working on their space program for years, without much to show for it. However, this time they have actually moved their schedule forward. Instead of putting a person in orbit in 2005, they now say they will do it this year.

Good for them.

February 24, 2003
A Time for WarIn January

A Time for War
In January I predicted that the war to liberate Iraq would begin by Washington’s birthday unless Saddam fled Iraq or was deposed. Obviously, I was wrong. Despite the unilateralist rhetoric from the “Let’s give sanctions and inspections 12 more years” camp, I have been pleasantly surprised by how much President Bush has considered international opinion.

Since January, his administration (along with bloggers and the free press) has changed the Western perspective from this being perceived as another US/UK issue denounced by most of Europe to this being largely a Franco/German/Belgium defense of Saddam vs. most of Europe and the US. Today a draft resolution was submitted to the UN Security Council by the UK and the US. This resolution would be the 18th UN resolution about the problem of Saddam. The draft builds upon Resolution 1441, which gave Saddam 60 days (which have long passed) to disarm or face serious consequences. The new resolution would state Iraq did not cooperate and would now receive serious consequences. France, Russia, and Germany also pressed forward a rival resolution asking for more inspectors and time.

On March 1, the next inspector report will be given to the UN. I don’t expect it to change the minds of anyone involved. However, I do expect a final vote to take place soon that may determine the future of the UN. As Bush and Blair have repeatedly stated, in accordance with Resolution 1441, they will remove Saddam by force if he does not comply. If the UN votes against an additional resolution, the war will still take place. But the UN will be shown to be even more ineffective than is commonly believed. I have no prediction on what France will do if the UN votes again in favor of “severe consequences.” Will they use their veto? Or will they go with the consensus since they can’t change the real outcome anyway?

George Bush and Tony Blair have gathered a coalition of the willing. They have ample proof that Iraq is in violation of Resolution 1441. The combined militaries of the coalition are now in position, or mostly in position. The only part that is still going slowly is obtaining permission from Turkey to use their country for a two-pronged attack. Their government has mostly approved this and a final vote in their Parliament is expected tomorrow. I now predict that the war will start by the third week of March.

Sam’s Bus Ride

A friend of mine in California wrote this analogy. Drew is a gifted writer and should probably write his own blog. However, he has resisted my previous suggestions in this regard. So, with his permission, I have decided to occasionally post some of his writings at Solport.

Sam gets on a city bus. People from all over town are on the bus. After a few stops a family gets on: Saddam, the father, his wife, Mrs. Iraq, and their three small sons, Sunni, Shia and Kurd.

Saddam isn’t a nice man. He takes out a club and beats Mrs. Saddam, Sunni and Shia until they are bloody. No one on the bus does a thing. Eventually Saddam even kills little Kurd. And he keeps on beating the others. Sam looks around and no one on the bus is doing anything, but Sam decides that enough is enough. He goes up to Saddam and says “Stop. Stop absolutely. Don’t do that or I will use whatever force it takes to stop you from killing Mrs Iraq, Sunni and Shia like you just killed little Kurd.”

German Justice, Part 2 –

German Justice, Part 2 – and Thoughts on the American Penal System
Alex (Germany) wrote in response to my first post on German Justice. He had some interesting comments about German law and shared his perception of US law.

Our understanding of ethical punishments is quite different from the one in the US. A sentence exceeding the normal lifespan of a human would only cause shaking heads in Germany. Not only is a death sentence unthinkable (I recognize that lately there have been some stirrings in the US, too), but it is common thinking over here, that imprisoning somebody for the rest of his life is not acceptable.

In my response to you, I’ll try to clearly distinguish between US history, US common opinion, and my opinion. Historically, the US didn’t use to give punishments greater than the expected lifespan of the guilty either. A century ago, a sentence of 200 years would have caused Americans to shake their heads too. At that time, if the crime was a capital crime the killer was simply executed. There were a few life sentences given to some criminals, but the sentence was “life” in these cases, it wasn’t 200 years or so.

About 40 years ago, many well-intentioned folk tried to reform our justice system. Many of these folks became entrenched as activist judges and developed new practices regarding holding criminals. This resulted in more and more time off for “good behavior.” Hardened criminals were serving shorter and shorter periods of their sentences before being released on parole. Many of these criminals then committed new crimes while on parole. Finally many citizens had had enough and the politicians acted. Since federal judges are hired for life, they had no realistic way to remove the activist judges from their positions. So the politicians encouraged prosecutors to ask for consecutive sentences that sounded ridiculous. For example, a serial rapist who had ravaged 20 women might get a sentence of a 100 years, ensuring he would serve at least 30 years behind bars before being eligible for parole. Some state politicians also passed other laws for crimes in their state (like minimum sentences for certain crimes and life sentences if you commit three crimes).

In my opinion, the politicians solved the wrong problem and created a new one. The problem was mostly caused by activist judges. Instead of reforming our judicial system by legislating easier ways to remove judges (or even using the few methods we have), they reduced the amount of power judges had over criminal cases. Not only did this not completely resolve the original problem (as activist judges still cause problems), it tied the hands of judges in cases where society would have been improved by showing mercy to the guilty.

Many people in the US (including myself) have concerns about the death penalty. For the most part, this is not because of any objections to the death penalty, but because of concerns about how it is applied. There have been several public cases recently where some innocent people ended up wrongfully convicted and placed on death row. Americans are shocked and outraged by this and want our judical system fixed. One of the tenets of American justice – as declared by our founders – is that it is better for multiple guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be jailed. However, in every single representative study of the American people that I have seen, the overwhelming majority of Americans support the death penalty when there is no doubt to the criminal’s guilt.

Not even persons who are found guilty of murder of first degree. The only exception are people, who suffer under psychic abnormalities so great that they'll pose a permanent threat to society (the real perverts, repetitive child abusers, those kinds of people). Those are sentenced to jail for limited amount of time and are then taken into 'preventive detention'. Once they have reached this stage, they can be released any time by the medic responsible for their therapy.

As any system, this does not always work, but all in all we are quite comfortable with it. Harsh punishments don't cause the crime rate to drop in our experience. At least in theory we try to reintegrate everybody into society.
Regarding the events of 9/11 - our penal code was not prepared to deal with that. A truly lifelong sentence may have made sense for this kind of crime, in the light of the overwhelming desire to take some kind of revenge. But revenge is a principle that has no place in our penal system.

Revenge shouldn’t have a place in any judicial system. The reasons for harsher penalties in the US are due to different perspectives on justice, punishment, and deterrence, not a desire for revenge. For example, all of the major religions practiced in the States (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) teach that people should leave vengeance to God and earthly punishment to the State. They further teach that the State should execute those who commit murder. And this perspective is not just held by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Most of the atheists that I have met also share this belief (the part about the State executing those who commit murder). Note: In parts of Jewish and Muslim history, the family (tribes) were the State – in those cases, the family sometimes had the obligation to punish wrongdoing. However, I don’t know any modern day Jews who believe that applies today since we live under non-family government.
So far, the court has ruled out the maximum that it could. We'll have to see, whether it stays at that or the upcoming appeal can reduce the punishment. His defendants seem to quite optimistic about their chances. Due to the secretive nature of al qaeda, evidence for his contribution in 9/11 seems to be indeed scarce.

Best wishes


Thank you for sharing. I appreciate you making the time to write. I’ll also share my opinions about punishment and deterrence, but my opinions are not the opinions of the majority of Americans. When I’ve discussed them with my politically knowledgably friends, I find myself called a radical by my conservative friends and a conservative by my liberal friends. Hence, yet another reason I consider myself an independent.

In general, I consider most extended prison sentences a waste of resources. Prisons are a waste of human life – people sitting in prisons, usually not doing much other than trying to avoid unpleasantness and exchanging criminal expertise with each other. A few criminals take advantage of the educational options open to them, but the majority show no interest in this. Prisons are a waste of human life in that many other people are employed to do nothing other than guard, feed, clothe, and otherwise provide services to the criminals. Prisons are a waste of taxpayer money that could be better spent elsewhere or given back to the those who earned it by reducing taxes.

My liberal friends wince when I say I support the death penalty. They argue that the death penalty is no longer a deterrence against murder and some research supports this claim. However, the deterrence issue is a red herring. Less than 200 people are executed in the US per year. However, there are over 20,000 homicides per year. With odds like that, would you expect the death penalty to be much of a deterrence? The amazing thing is some research still supports the deterrence idea. What do you think the research would show if all convicted murderers were executed? If there is no question that a person is guilty of murder, I support their execution. Execute them and make their organs available to those who can use them. They took the lives of innocents, let their death also give life.

I also support the castration of all convicted rapists. If there is no question about the guilt of the rapist, castrate them and let them go. If implemented nationwide, I would bet my house that the number of rapes in this country would show a dramatic reduction.

My conservative friend wince when I say I would not jail people for most of their crimes. There are many other punishments that would help society and also deter crime. Depending upon the crime, I would support sentencing people to community service, imposing major fines (e.g. 20% of the criminals income for the next 4 years), confiscating goods, etc. This way the criminal repays society for his actions, but also stays in society. As it is now, society pays many times (first for the crime, then by the lost of the criminal’s taxes, then by paying for the criminal’s imprisonment, then by expensive rehabilitation efforts that usually fail on those embittered after being in prison for many years).

In some respects my penal philosophy could be considered libertarian. However, most the libertarians I know promote legalizing everything exception violations to property rights (note: they consider rape and murder to be violations of property rights since the victim owned their body). However, Libertarians usually want to jail these criminals.

February 21, 2003
The Importance of PerspectiveThe Wild

The Importance of Perspective
The Wild Monk has an interesting post that shows what a difference a world-view can make.

The hard left, always on hair-trigger alert for American malfeasance, sees Bush's willingness to brashly rewrite the rules as proof that he is a reckless cowboy. He is placing the existing world at risk because he's too ignorant - or malevolent - to understand that blame for Saddam rests with American policy and that military action will only make things worse. Ever mindful of the Arab street and the North Korean psychopaths, they panic that his uncouth American posturing will simply fan the flames of anti-American hatred.

On the right, Bush is morphing into the new Reagan: determined to do what is right to protect American interests regardless of the nattering of impotent [French, Belgium, and German] Europeans or the prevailing leftist wisdom declared in the New York Times. The right sees a man who isn't afraid to tell things as they are - to hell with the Arab street and their fundamentalist poison - and who isn't afraid to force murderous Islamic thugs to back down even on pain of death. In this view we have been plunged into a new world order regardless of our wishes or desires. To pretend otherwise is to abdicate the responsibility given to us by history and by the heritage of liberal democracy. In this view, the only wise path is to engage this new world order on its own terms: to take war to the enemy and to act decisively to protect the nation and the wider civilization. We must act now, says the right, before the enemy strengthens or our own resolve weakens.

But, in adopting either ideal, each of us would do well to avoid descending into kataleptsis: the hateful smear, the sneering derision, and the collection of little hatreds, snubs and indignities like pennies in a penny-jar that we hope to redeem for a larger and more satisfying payback some day. That path may provide victory in battle in the short run but it will surely bring about an even greater loss to the cause of international peace and democracy in the long run.

I found this to be quite an interesting post. Other than disagreeing with his lumping the diverse countries of Europe into one category, I think the Wild Monk has done a great job in capturing the mindset of both the American Left and Right. His admonishment to treat even our political opponents with respect is wise if we hope for relations to improve. This is true for both domestic and foreign politics. Of course taken to an extreme, that would mean no more French jokes. As long as Chirac is in power, I’ll practice another adage as well – moderation in all things.

update: The Wild Monk agreed with me - he has revised his post. Instead of lumping all European nations together, the post now says "old" Europe.

German JusticeOn Wednesday, the Hamburg

German Justice
On Wednesday, the Hamburg state court convicted el Motassadeq of 3,066 counts of accessory-to-murder and sentenced him to 15 years in jail. Assuming no time off for parole or good behavior, this works out to be just under 1.8 days for every accessory to murder charge.

Many papers have stated this was the maximum sentence that could have been imposed by law for these charges. I do not understand this. I understand that German law gives a maximum sentence of 15 years for those guilty of accessory-to-murder. However, each count is a different charge. Why couldn’t the court have sentenced him to 15 years for each count or approximately 50,000 years in prison to ensure he spent the rest of his life behind bars? If any of my German readers have comments on this, please let me know.

Update: Paul (USA) emails that:

IIRC under German law you can't be convicted more than once for the same crime. The crime was "accessory to 3066 murders" that's one crime. There were not 3066 seperate murders, there was one set of actions that ended up killing 3066 people. One action = one crime.

It's like someone robbing your house. They get arrested for robbery one time, not once for each item they steal. ( actually, they probably get away with it ;) )

If Paul is correct, that explains a lot. Of course, there were also a few other charges, but this would make such a light sentence a bit more understandable. I'd promote changing the law for future situations, but I'm not going to criticize any nation for following their own laws in this matter. That is completely within their right as a sovereign nation. And given their law, they gave him a harsh sentence.

Further Update: Axel (Germany) emailed me and confirmed Paul's understanding. He also had some interesting comments that I'll share in a new posting.

The German People Deserve Better,

The German People Deserve Better, Part VI (hat tip Kolibri)
Angela Merkel, the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, is yet another reason I am optimistic German-American relations will improve once Schröder is no longer in power. Merkel wrote a column in the Washington Post.

The most important lesson of German politics -- never again should Germany go it alone -- is swept aside with seeming ease by a German federal government that has done precisely this, for the sake of electoral tactics. The Eastern European candidate countries for membership in the European Union are attacked by the French government simply because they have declared their commitment to the transatlantic partnership between Europe and the United States.

But there is a more positive side as well. An agreement was reached at the emergency EU summit on Monday: On the basis of U.N. Resolution 1441, participants decided on a coordinated attitude to be adopted by the Europeans in the Iraq conflict. The agreement, which was long overdue, has forced the German federal government to make its first change of course in its policy toward Iraq. As the German parliamentary opposition, we welcome this change and expect the German government's behavior on the U.N. Security Council to be in accord with the EU decision, although we also have reason to doubt it will be.

I wish I could vote for this person. Not only does Merkel see the flaws in the current German government position, Merkel understands how to deal with dictators.
… the history of Germany and Europe in the 20th century in particular certainly teaches us this: that while military force cannot be the normal continuation of politics by other means, it must never be ruled out, or even merely questioned -- as has been done by the German federal government -- as the ultimate means of dealing with dictators. Anyone who rejects military action as a last resort weakens the pressure that needs to be maintained on dictators and consequently makes a war not less but more likely.

Merkel is also optimistic about continuing a friendship with America
For the party that I lead, our close partnership and friendship with the United States is just as much a fundamental element of Germany's national purpose as European integration.

Merkel obviously doesn’t speak for all of Germany anymore than I speak for all of America. But Merkel could quite possibly become the next German president. I hope so.

May Schröder’s reign be short-lived.

Splitting the White VoteSlate tackles

Splitting the White Vote
Slate tackles this pressing issue:

reporters had a different subject on their minds. "John Kerry is already in the race and is raising a lot of issues about the Democratic Party's record" on matters important to white voters, one journalist told Gephardt. "What are you going to be bringing to the race that he hasn't already been pointing out in terms of that issue?"

Gephardt called the question silly, but his inquisitors kept going. "Where do you think your base is going to come from?" asked one. "Will it be men? Will it be the white community?" Another chimed in, "I'm having a little trouble understanding why you believe that this political dynamic between you and Kerry is a silly question. … You're going to be vying for some of the same constituency, are you not?"

Slate makes it clear that this is a parody and these events never occurred. They used it to make a point:
The presidential contender who endured the racial grilling at the Press Club was Carol Moseley-Braun, the former Democratic senator from Illinois. The questions she was asked are reprinted verbatim above, except that they were about blacks and women, not whites and men, and her presumed rival was the Rev. Al Sharpton. Most whites have trouble seeing why questions like these are shallow and offensive. Once the colors are reversed, the coarseness is easier for us to recognize.

For a change, Slate makes a very good point. However, I don’t believe “most whites have trouble seeing why questions like these are shallow and offensive.” Rather, most liberal journalists have a problem in this area. It is part of what some call the "bigotry of soft expectations." Hopefully this will help open their eyes.

February 20, 2003
Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken (KFC)

Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken (KFC) (hat tip WSJ)
According to the European edition of Time:

U.S. marines and soldiers will drive into battle across the dusty plains of Iraq with caged chickens atop their Hum-Vees.

The chickens, which were otherwise destined for Kuwaiti dinner tables, will work in the same way as canaries in coal mines used to. Small traces of poisonous gases or chemical agent will kill the birds and warn troops to put on their gas masks. "A sky full of oil can mask some chemicals," says Warrant Officer Jeff French, a nuclear, biological and chemical officer for a marine battalion in Kuwait. "Using chickens may sound basic but it's still one of the best ways we have of detecting chemical agent."

Chickens were also used in this manner in the first Gulf War. Despite the obvious need for such tactics, I wonder how long it will take PETA to protest.

Response to BenI received an

Response to Ben

I received an email today from Ben Cohen.  It is obviously a form letter as I do not know him.  I know of him, but I do not know him.  And he obviously does not know me or he wouldn't have sent me this email.

Hi, I'm Ben Cohen, Co-Founder of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. You may only think of me as that smiling face on the side of a pint of ice cream, but today I am writing about something far more serious. Like millions of Americans, I am worried that our government is rushing us off to a war in Iraq that we don't need to fight. That is why I created a way for everyone in America to send free faxes to the President and their Representatives in Congress urging them to support the United Nations Inspectors and not a rush to war.

It's fast, free, and easy. Just go to this link and fill out a short form. We'll find your Representatives, add your name and address to a pre-written fax (so they know it's from someone in their district), and send it off for free.

United Nations inspectors have returned to Iraq to hunt down and destroy weapons of mass destruction. This is a triumph for the UN, the rule of law - even for President Bush who pushed so hard for this. So why does he seem hell-bent on making sure that no matter what happens it will lead to war?

Please go to this web site to send the President and your Representatives in Congress a fax urging them to help the UN Inspectors win this conflict without war. And then forward this email to all your friends asking them to send their free faxes.

Dear Ben,

I can understand why the people you are trying to reach may need your help to identify their representatives. But if they cannot even identify their representatives, why do you trust their judgment on international decisions? Perhaps you hope these people may also believe you when you talk about a "rush to war." Iraq has defying the UN for 12 years now, and a response in 2003 is a rush?

As James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal has stated, it is already too late to "rush" to war.

  • "Hussein will be given 'a last chance to comply before he gets clobbered,' The New York Times on Monday quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying."--CNN.com, Jan. 27, 1998

  • "Annan Admits Iraq Trip Could Be Last Chance for Peace"--CNN.com, Feb. 18, 1998

  • "Clinton: Iraq Has Abused Its Last Chance"--CNN.com, Dec. 16, 1998

  • "The Rush to War"--headline, The Nation, Aug. 7, 2002

  • "Secretary of State Colin L. Powell . . . and his advisers have decided that they should focus international discussion on how Iraq would be governed after Mr. Hussein--not only in an effort to assure a democracy but as a way to outflank administration hawks and slow the rush to war."--New York Times, Aug. 16, 2002

  • "Christian Leaders Urge U.S. to 'Stop Rush to War' With Iraq"--headline, United Methodist Church press release, Aug. 30, 2002

  • "A Reckless Rush to War"--headline, editorial, The American Prospect, Sept. 25, 2002

  • "We have not been told why . . . we must rush to war rather than pursuing other options."--Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), Sept. 30, 2002

  • "We are rushing into war without fully discussing why."--Sen. Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.), Oct. 3, 2002

  • "The White House suggested Wednesday that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has missed his 'last chance' to disarm."--CNN.com, Dec. 18, 2002

  • "Future European Union members endorsed a joint declaration Tuesday warning Saddam Hussein he has one last chance to disarm."--Associated Press, Feb. 18, 2003

Why do you think the Iraqi people should continue to suffer? Don't you realize they are brutally beaten and tortured? The Globe and Mail does. I do. While you enjoy your millions, that you earned while our military men were protecting our safety, Saddam was poisoning his people. I'm glad you did well in our protected environment, but don't Iraqis deserve to be safe too? Don't you realize that Resolution 1441 gave Saddam 60 days to comply and he has not?

Thank you for your letter, but the price of complicity in keeping Saddam in power is higher than I want to pay.  I have copied my respresentatives to remind them of my position.  Thank you for motivating me to write them yet again.


Admiral Quixote

A Day for Common GroundAnother

A Day for Common Ground
Another friend emailed me a dated link to a liberal UK paper. If you are not familiar with the Daily Mirror, it has been described as “a notoriously left-wing daily that is normally not supportive of the Colonials across the Atlantic.” This post was written on September 11, 2002 by Tony Parsons. He’s not in full agreement with the US, but he understands what is at stake.

The campaign in Afghanistan may have been less than perfect and the planned war on Iraq may be misconceived.

However he believes America has acted calmly in response to the September 11 attacks and he is thankful for our restraint.
The anti-American alliance is made up of self-loathing liberals who blame the Americans for every ill in the Third World, and conservatives suffering from power-envy, bitter that the world's only superpower can do what it likes without having to ask permission.

The truth is that America has behaved with enormous restraint since September 11.

Since it is an older article, I won’t quote much from it. But it is a useful reminder as to why we are trying to make the world a safer place.

Another Reason to HomeschoolI was

Another Reason to Homeschool
I was pleased to receive this link from a very far-left friend of mine. In times of strong disagreement about how to make the world a safer place, I am grateful that we can still find common ground on other issues. The post is a lengthy post about why many smart people (“nerds”) are miserable in American public high schools. It is a very candid look at the experience of a nerd and his thoughts on the matter. A few highlights:

Bullying was only part of the problem. Another problem, and possibly an even worse one, was that we never had anything real to work on. Humans like to work; in most of the world, your work is your identity. And all the work we did was pointless, or seemed so to us at the time. At best it was practice for real work we might do far in the future, so far that we didn't even know at the time what we were practicing for. More often it was just an arbitrary series of hoops to jump through, words without content designed mainly for testability. (The three main causes of the French and Indian War were... Test: List the three main causes of the French and Indian War.)

The worst stretch was junior high school, when kid culture was new and harsh, and the specialization that would later gradually separate the smarter kids had barely begun. Nearly everyone I've talked to agrees: the nadir is somewhere between eleven and fourteen.

Why is the real world more hospitable to nerds? It might seem that the answer is simply that it's populated by adults, who are too mature to pick on one another. But I don't think this is true… I think the important thing about the real world is not that it's populated by adults, but that it's very large, and the things you do have real effects… When the things you do have real effects, it's no longer enough just to be pleasing. It starts to be important to get the right answers, and that's where nerds show to advantage. Bill Gates will of course come to mind. Though notoriously lacking in social skills, he gets the right answers, at least as measured in revenue.

Adults can't avoid seeing that teenage kids are tormented. So why don't they do something about it? Because they blame it on puberty. The reason kids are so unhappy, adults tell themselves, is that monstrous new chemicals, hormones, are now coursing through their bloodstream and messing up everything. There's nothing wrong with the system; it's just inevitable that kids will be miserable at that age.

This idea is so pervasive that even the kids believe it, which probably doesn't help. Someone who thinks his feet naturally hurt is not going to stop to consider the possibility that he is wearing the wrong size shoes. I'm suspicious of this theory that thirteen year old kids are intrinsically messed up. If it's physiological, it should be universal. Are Mongol nomads all nihilists at thirteen? I've read a lot of history, and I don't think I've seen a single reference to this supposedly universal fact before the twentieth century. Teenage apprentices in the Renaissance seem to have been cheerful and eager. They got in fights and played tricks on one another of course (Michelangelo had his nose broken by a bully), but they weren't crazy.

The mediocrity of American public schools has worse consequences than just making kids unhappy for six years. It breeds a rebelliousness that actively drives kids away from the things they're supposed to be learning.

If life seems awful to kids, it's neither because hormones are turning you all into monsters (as your parents believe), nor because life actually is awful (as you believe). It's because the adults, who no longer have any economic use for you, have abandoned you to spend years cooped up together with nothing real to do. Any society of that type is awful to live in. Occam's razor says you don't have to look any further to explain why teenage kids are unhappy.

If you are interested in education, I encourage you to read the entire post. I think he is right and the public educational system in America isn’t just broken, the entire design is defective. I do not yet know what I’ll be doing with my children. However my wife and I will either home-school our children or send them to a small private school.

Presidential ElectionsI see more and

Presidential Elections
I see more and more Democrats lining up to run for President in 2004. However that race already bores me. I’ll pay attention to it much later, but the result of the November 2004 election is largely outside of the control of the Democrats. It primarily depends upon two things – 1) how the war on terrorism is going and 2) how the economy is doing. The only question of immediate concern is how many Democratic contenders will make it to the end of 2003. Since they all seem to strongly favor every type of abortion, I really don't care which one makes it. If only the Democratic party was big enough for pro-life candidates.

I am far more interested in the 2008 election. My left-leaning friends keep telling me they expect to vote for the first US female president as they expect Hillary Clinton to run and win. It surprises them when I say I may also vote for the first female US president in 2008. If National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice runs, I would seriously consider voting for her. She’s bright, competent, and experienced. My reservations are that I don’t know where she stands on many issues – she has been very careful to keep her opinions to herself as she correctly sees her role is to enable President Bush to implement his policy. There will be time enough to drive her own policy if she runs for office and wins.

Clinton vs. Rice in 2008. Now that would be an interesting race.

Estrada Update (Hat tip to

Estrada Update (Hat tip to Reductio Ad Absurdum)
Byron York looks beyond the filibuster bluster and give the White House credit for providing a subtle method for proceeding to a vote.

The White House responded [to the objections of the Democrats] the next day with a 15-page, single-spaced letter from counsel Alberto Gonzales. Most news reports characterized it as a refusal of Daschle and Leahy's request — which it was — but missed the letter's between-the-lines suggestions for compromise.

On the issue of questions for Estrada, Gonzales noted that Daschle and Leahy cited just one inquiry that Estrada did not answer -- a question about his judicial role models. Gonzales wrote that Estrada in fact discussed that very issue in response to a written question from Sen. Richard Durbin (Ill.). “ Beyond this one query, your letter does not pose any additional questions to [Estrada],” Gonzales said. “Additionally, neither of you has posed any written questions to Mr. Estrada in the more than three months since his all-day committee hearing.”

In that sentence is what appears to be a White House message to Democrats: You can ask more questions. There’s nothing in Gonzales’s letter to suggest that Estrada would not answer them.

On the second issue, the White House is standing firm against giving the internal Justice Department papers to the Senate. But Gonzales went out of his way to point out that some high-level Democrats have already seen the documents. The papers were, after all, written by Estrada during his time in the Clinton Justice Department. “It also is important to recognize that [Clinton] political appointees have read virtually all of the memoranda in question,” Gonzales wrote, “namely, the Democrat Solicitors General Drew Days, Walter Dellinger, and Seth Waxman.”

Gonzales also points out that none of those former officials have objected to Estrada's nomination. That’s another unspoken suggestion to Democrats: If you want to know more about the memos, ask the Democrats who have seen them. Days, Dellinger, and Waxman would most likely cite the same confidentiality concerns that led them to join other former Solicitors General in declaring release of the memos to be a bad idea, but they might be able say there was nothing in the papers that they found disturbing.

If York is correct, then the Bush administration is carefully and quietly working on moderate Democrats. Once several more of them join the Democrats who are publicly supporting Estrada, a vote will be called and Estrada will be confirmed. But keep the pressure on – if you are a US citizen, contact your Senators and ask them to help bring the Estrada nomination to the floor for a vote.

February 19, 2003
Ebola and BatsAccording to National

Ebola and Bats
According to National Geographic, bats may be the natural reservoir for Ebola. That is, bats might be the carriers for one of the most contagious diseases known to man. The disease requires a host besides primates to survive since it quickly kills 50 to 90 percent of its victims through massive internal bleeding. So far, there is no cure.

The article doesn’t speculate on next steps, but if bats were confirmed to be a natural reservoir for Ebola (and were the only such reservoir), it would be possible to eliminate the disease. Ideally a bat vaccination could be developed or even a strain of bats that wouldn’t carry it. Time will tell.

The Accordions of War, Part

The Accordions of War, Part III
Good old Chirac – he has done more to help promote the cause to remove Saddam from power than any other person. While the countries that were formerly under Soviet control already understood the importance of removing Saddam, Chirac telling them to shut up has made them even more vocal about their positions.

Hospodarske Noviny of the Czech Republic The French president is without doubt walking on thin ice when he tries to base European foreign policy on the principle of anti-Americanism. His theory does not even have the support of the majority of EU member states.

Neatkariga Rita Avize of Latvia All right, Monsieur Chirac. Perhaps we are poor. Perhaps we were not raised properly. We do not know about fine wine and the various directions of avant-garde art. But we do not repay those who have helped us and who continue to help us with ingratitude.

Diena, also of Latvia Perhaps there are some in Paris who want to be the patriarch of Europe's "family", letting others in the family "knock on the door" humbly. By denying the right of others to hold independent views, however, France runs a risk of being alone with its own view.

Verslo Zinios of Lithuania It seems France, the nation with old pedagogical traditions, decided to continue educating the European juniors.

Sme of Slovakia Jacques Chirac's degrading message to the candidate countries can actually be taken as a compliment. The French President admitted defeat in his rage. Suddenly the 15 [EU members] succeeded in resolving within a couple of hours a matter on which they were not able to agree for months. It was the "new Europe" which forced "the old" to overcome itself.

Narodna Obroda, also of Slovakia "When [Chirac] reproached the candidate countries for not having discussed their attitudes with the others to a minimal extent at least, he forgot that it was mainly France and Germany who, since the very beginning, have taken a negative stance on a possible use of force against Iraq and on Turkey's request for ... military aid without asking about positions of other countries.

After being being oppressed by the Soviets and then freed, it is obvious that the citizens of these countries understand the importance of liberating the Iraqi people and the importance of speaking out. These people give me hope for a better, stronger Europe.

Useful “Junk” mailI received an

Useful “Junk” mail
I received an email from Seven twenty-four telling me about a broken link on my site. It was generated by a bot. Unlike most the spam I receive, this was greatly appreciated and helpful. It intrigued me so I went to their site and looked around. Their site makes money by inexpensively checking for broken links at other sites. Since this site is currently a labor of love with no revenue, I am not going to subscribe. However, if you run a commercial site and do not have the ability to test your own site for broken links, I recommend you investigate Seven twenty-four.

Human Shield PhilosophyAccording to the

Human Shield Philosophy
According to the U.S. News and World Report, State Department spokewoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz was asked to comment on Westerners acting as human shields in Iraq. I’ve always wondered why journalists asked people questions like this. If they want to know, why don’t they go ask those traveling to be human shields? But that would require more effort than the typical journalist expends. Anyway, Jo-Anne had a wonderful response.

"While you're at it, you might as well ask me why moths fly into porch lights."

Live by the Toy, Die

Live by the Toy, Die by the Toy (hat tip Defense Tech)
According to DEBKA

Last month, Palestinian toy importers in Jerusalem and Ramallah were told to order hundreds of these toys [remote control planes] for distribution to Palestinian children in hospitals. Subsidies from European Union member-governments could legitimately be allocated to this humanitarian purpose.

The model airplanes were purchased in Europe and shipped quite openly to the Palestinian shopkeepers.

According to our sources, not a single toy reached an injured Palestinian child. The model planes were sent to Palestinian workshops for conversion into miniature air bombers with explosive payloads. Tanzim militiamen from Arafat’s Fatah, sent out to open areas near Jericho to test the new weapons, discovered they could fly to a distance of 1 kilometer and an altitude of 300 meters. The only problem was how to guide the plane to target inside an Israeli built-up area when it was no longer visible to the remote control holder. A small adjustment was made in the engine enabling him to cut it out from a distance, so that it dropped to the ground and blew up.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
According to Hamas, the men were working on a pilotless aircraft, a radio controlled flying bomb, when they were targeted by an Israeli hit squad.

While it's unclear whether the men were the victims of their own bomb or an Israeli hit, it is known that one of those who died was Nidal Farahat, accused by Israel of helping to develop the Qassam rockets used in a number of attacks on Israel over the past year.

Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, confirmed that the government was aware of the plan to build flying bombs.

I hope my European readers see how their taxes are being used and complain to their leaders. I also think the idea of using remote controlled planes as bombs is unfortunately going to spread. They are cheap and simple devices that can be easily mastered by those without technical training. This is yet another example of why the war on terrorism is so important. In a free and modern society, there is no way to completely defend yourself from a determined attacker and remain free. Our options are to become a police state (unacceptable), live in fear for the rest of our lives (unacceptable), or keep the terrorists on the run until they decide terrorism doesn’t work.

A Cartoonist PerspectiveA European friend

A Cartoonist Perspective
A European friend of mine asked me what typical Americans thought of the Saddam problem. That is hard to say since we are such a diverse country. I’ve been sharing my thoughts on this at this blog and I have also been posting the perspectives of others.

However, I decided to look at editorial cartoons as another way to summarize the issue. After all, a picture is worth a thousands words. To my surprise, the overwhelming majority of US editorial cartoons were strongly for removing Saddam from power. I’ve collected many of them here – along with a few from international cartoonists. Warning: If you have a slow connection, the page may take some time to load.

February 18, 2003
An Englishman’s PerspectiveBrian Micklethwait of

An Englishman’s Perspective
Brian Micklethwait of Samidata had an excellent post today that had two main points. First he discusses why America will be more assertive in using its power to liberate oppressed people and defend itself and others from terrorists. Then he discusses why America will not create and keep a world-wide empire. I agree with both points.

Two French PerspectivesIn keeping with

Two French Perspectives
In keeping with my desire to better understand the perspective of people from around the world, here are two French perspectives. The first one is from Oliver.

75% of the French population is against an war under the situations we have now. Most French people would like to see Saddam removed from power but that's another question!

Let me try to explain you how I see the USA (when I say USA I always mean the government, not the American people !): The USA is arrogant, self-convinced, and doesn't take care of others. No other way is tolerated than the American way. Allies are there to do what the USA wants, they are helper but don't have to have an opinion different from the USA. If you don't do what the USA wants from you, then you are silly and bad and the USA will not play anymore with you.

I had to read this several times to make sure I was really reading this correctly. Compared to Chirac, the US government has been quite restrained. Now, I freely admit that the US perspective and the French perspective are much different. That is fine – there will be many times when reasonable people disagree. Airing out these differences is usually a good thing as it causes people to check their facts and assumptions.

However, there is a big difference between disagreeing with someone and actively working to thwart someone. This is why so many Americans are mad at the French. France has been actively working to thwart the intentions of a sovereign nation (the US) working with many other sovereign nations, to remove a perceived threat. Some nations are respectfully disagreeing with the US (e.g., Russia) and we are not saying we “will not play” with them anymore. However Russia understands the difference between disagreeing and thwarting. Friends disagree – Rivals and enemies thwart. And yes, the US government will probably reduce the amount of resources they spend for playing with countries that actively thwart (or attempt to thwart) us.

In comparison, France threatens countries who simply dare to disagree with it. Let’s look at what Chirac has said about EU and potential EU members. Last night, Chirac said:

At a late-night news conference on Monday, Chirac said the 13 should have consulted the EU before issuing their joint letters and they had "missed a great opportunity to shut up." He also said Romania and Bulgaria had jeopardized their chances of joining the EU by joining the pro-American camp.

I thought the French were supposed to be the sophisticated ones? When the highest elected official in the land tells other countries to “shut up” and threatens Romania and Bulgaria (the French can veto their admittance into the EU), that is not being sophisticated. That is crude. And to use your words, that is France not wanting to allow others to “play.” I, and other Americans, are not the only ones upset about this.

Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda retorted: "We are not joining the EU so we can sit and shut up."

Romanian President Ion Iliescu asked whether France and Germany had asked anyone's permission before issuing their own joint anti-war statement last month, which unleashed a wave of pro-American letter-signing by other European governments.

Forgive me if I answered this question a bit strongly, but I cannot believe someone from France of all countries would say this. I could understand this from a citizen of a country such as Japan who usually works quietly and politely to make their points. From that perspective, the US may be perceived as loud and arrogant. The US has more resources than most countries, so the actions of our government has a bigger impact. Countries who disagree with the actions of the US will not be happy no matter how few or many other countries agree with the US – that is the way of the world. I may not be happy with how Bill Gates spends his money, but it is not my place to say what he does with it. It is his money and he can and will spend it as he pleases.
Now to the war that will probably and sadly come sooner or later:
The UNO has controllers in Iraq, Saddam is more or less willing to let them do their job. Is there any reason to attack the Iraq ? I think no, except the oil, the USA would like to put the hand over.

Sigh. Do you really think the US is doing this to get their hands on the oil? This is clearly one of the main reasons for France to support Saddam’s reign as French oil companies stand to lose billions in profits if Saddam falls. After the war is over, I suspect non-French oil companies will given the opportunity to develop Iraq’s fields and the money will go to the redevelopment of Iraq, not to the US. The US will lose money on this operation, but the world will be a safer place. Actually I suspect the US government in their presumed role of operating a caretaker government will probably give some contracts to the French just to avoid the issue. I wouldn't - but the US government doesn't play nearly as hardball as they could. Not that I expect the French government to be grateful, either.
BTW: Does the USA let UNO controllers in the land to control his ABC-weapons ? No !

The US has not been in violation of UN resolutions for over 12 years.
The news proves that the US secret service have for the danger of Iraq were copied from a student work from for 12 years. Could you still thrust in a government that wants to legitimate a war with such constructed proofs?

The report to which you refer was provided to the US by British intelligence. Unless you think Powell was an idiot, he obviously didn’t know this report had been plagiarized. He was fully aware that 100% of his presentation would be examined by the media and other opponents looking for mistakes.

Nor was this material of great import – No one argues that Saddam has violated UN resolutions for 12 years. No one argues that Saddam is violating Resolution 1441. The disagreement is about what to do about this violation.

What is with the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay ? Against all international treaties, without trial they are held prisoners. Is that justice in USA ?
The USA wants a war for every price and nothing will convince them. Hey, how should G.W. Bush be reelected if there is no war that tighten the population to his president? He absolutely needs some success, because in the home policy he is not very successful
I think North Korea is much more dangerous than Iraq. There is no real proof that Iraq has an A-Bomb but it's known that N-Korea has it, but N-Korea has no oil....

What international treaties do you think the US is violating? And if you think Bush started action against Saddam Hussein to help his reelection, you don’t understand US politics. After September 11, President Bush declared a war on terrorism to eliminate those who would commit further attacks against the US. His popularity was very high after eliminating the Taliban in Afghanistan. The upcoming war with Iraq has actually hurt his popularity, not helped it. In fairness, I will agree that he now has strong political reasons to attack Iraq. I’ve discussed this earlier, but the political repercussions of backing down would kill any chance he has of being reelected, so in that part you are correct. However, Bush is a smart politician and his approval would have been even higher if he had continued to ignore Iraq as his predecessor did. Whether Bush is right or wrong, he started action against Iraq because he thought it was the right thing to do.

I don’t think Iraq has an atomic bomb yet either – but that is another reason to resolve the problem now instead of later. Yes, North Korea is more of a long-term threat. However, contrary to the claims of France, Germany, and Belgium, the US government does try to work with the international community. Iraq has been in violation of UN resolutions for 12 years now, thus the current situation. The Bush administration has repeatedly asked the UN Security Council to consider the North Korea problem and they have recently agreed to do so. Before rushing to war with North Korea, don’t you think we should give the UN Security Council time to act? Hopefully not 12 years – as they gave Iraq – but at least a reasonable amount of time? And it would be wise to have resolved the Iraqi problem before having to even consider military options in North Korea. Hopefully they will not be needed, but it would be foolish to put the world in a situation where the UN finds multiple nations simultaneously violating its resolutions.

Last week N-Korea said it could do a preventive strike against the USA because the USA are threatening Korea. That message was very interesting: when you replace USA by Iraq and N-Korea by USA you have the same message Mr. Bush is sending to Iraq....

That is true. All countries will act in this manner when they believe they are in danger. Even Japan – which is largely as pacifistic as Germany for much the same reason – has announced they will launch a preemptive strike on North Korea if they feel threatened. Japan's position has been supported by other countries as well.
To go back to Saddam: I don't like Saddam and I would see him removed but do we have the right to do it that way ? I don't like Mr. Bush too... Should we now try to remove him by the same way ?

If President Bush was killing and torturing his own people, AND had been violating UN resolutions for 12 years, AND many countries thought the risk of leaving him in power was greater than the risk of removing him, then yes. Fortunately, these conditions do not apply. Likewise, the US has no plans to use its military to eliminate French weapons of mass destruction.
I think he is playing with fire and I'm afraid it will explode in the face of us all in the western countries.... The result will be an upcoming of the radical Islamists in the laic governments in the region, and then we will really have to fair them.
Because then we will have the same situation as in Israel (another instance where the USA doesn't know what justice is), where you are safe nowhere, where every day a bomb can explode somewhere in the bus or a plane or simply the bar you are going to have a drink after work.

I’m not sure if I completely understand you here, but I agree the situation is very dangerous. However, many people believe the dangers of leaving Saddam in power are much higher than the dangers of removing him from power. I am one of those and I would rather not leave a fire burning when we can eliminate it. I take comfort in that the predictions of an Islamic uprising if we attacked the Taliban were clearly proved wrong.
I hope you could understand what I'm writing and could see what I wanted to say.



Oliver, even though I obviously strongly disagree with your position, I appreciate your writing. Thank you very much for sharing your perspective.
The dissident frogman, as his cyber identity implies, disagrees with the standard French view. He writes:
I'd be honored to see my humble contribution to the struggle against the worldwide idiotarians hosted on your fine blog. As for the Frenchmen, well... to my durable shame, all I can give you is an apology for the pitiful stance of my country.

No apologies needed. Today seems to be pick on France day at Solport, but my country has more than its fair share of those who hide their heads in the sand. I am glad to provide an example of a French citizen who is doing his part to remove Saddam from power.

I completely agree. Thank you for sharing.

The Accordions of War, Part

The Accordions of War, Part II
France’s only aircraft carrier is heading home according to the BBC. But they don’t seem convinced.

"I assumed the Charles de Gaulle would steam on to the Gulf," said Ewan Southby-Tailyour, editor of Jane's Amphibious and Special Forces. "I think the statement about it returning home might be just "today's statement".

If, as analysts suspect, the Charles de Gaulle eventually turns round once again and sails back towards the Gulf, it will take around two days' extra sailing to get back to the eastern Mediterranean.

So if this is mere posturing, it only costs the French 2 days to make a political statement.
From there - or from closer to the Gulf - the French vessel could be used to deploy French aircraft to join any war on Iraq. Around 40 aircraft are on board, including fighter jets and reconnaissance planes.

Although France is still strongly backing extended weapons inspections, it sees war as a last resort, and is thought to fear being sidelined militarily if war does finally come.

This is quite a cynical posture by the liberal BBC (of course the Brits can rarely resist a chance to slam the French). Surely the French wouldn’t be so hypocritical as to actively attempt to fight the war if (when) it occurs?

I hope not. The military power of 40 French aircraft is insignificant compared to the forces already in the area provided by the Coalition of the Willing. I suspect the logistical efforts of trying to coordinate these minor forces would be more of a liability than an asset to the war effort.

The Accordions of War, Part

The Accordions of War, Part I
Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Babbin’s quip Going to war without France is like going deer-hunting without an accordion has inspired the title for my comments on French ‘cooperation’.

NATO has agreed to support Turkey’s original request for defensive support. How this this occur? The decision was removed from the political component of NATO – which has 19 members including France – to the Defense Planning Committee. Fortunately for the other eighteen members, France withdrew from this committee in 1966. Without French involvement, the other eighteen nations quickly agreed to support Turkey. (If you are interested in the details see CNSNews or Fox News.)

February 17, 2003
It’s Miller TimeI only subscribe

It’s Miller Time
I only subscribe to basic cable so I don’t have access to channels like MSNBC. I’m happy with that. I only subscribe at all so my children can watch PBS Kids. However, I really regret not being able to watch a very liberal Phil Donahue host a very independent or conservative Dennis Miller. I don’t know if Miller is a conservative or an independent, but he’s made it clear he isn’t a liberal.
I learned of Miller’s visit with Donahue after reading Peggy Noonan’s column.

Did you see Dennis Miller debate the war and politics with Phil Donahue on Mr. Donahue's cable show? Mr. Miller won, but in a way he didn't defeat Mr. Donahue, he defeated Mr. Donahue's smugness, his assumption that he speaks from a moral height. Mr. Miller didn't accept Mr. Donahue's assumption, he challenged it directly and knocked it down. And his analysis of the American Civil Liberties Union's position on public Christmas nativity scenes--that it opposes them ferociously, but if a guy walks by, climbs the fence and tries to have sexual intercourse with one of the nativity scene's animals it'll rush passionately to defend his rights--was astutely observed and vividly put. And yes he should have used the words "sexual intercourse."

This intrigued me, so I did a search on the internet.
According to Kevin Gossett, Miller had quite a few zingers for Donahue.
"He's my President and I'm proud of that..."

And to Phil: "Your reticence to see black and white may have led to your becoming prematurely gray..."

My new favorite quote from Miller: "Why did we learn to walk upright, if we're going to be spineless?"

Or it could be "I want to continue to fight for your right to miss the point."

I love it! I may adopt that last one myself – it captures the essence of the “Liberate Iraq” mindset.

I kept searching and found some more comments from Media Research.

Miller's best two humorous zingers of the night:

-- On the New York Times: “If only Saddam Hussein would open an all-male country club somewhere in Iraq, so the Times could get behind this invasion.”

-- On Osama bin Laden: “I think that he made a fatal error when he said that he didn’t approve of drinking wine or adultery. Because now the French and Clinton are on board.”

After reading this, I started to wonder what other popular comedians were saying about the war. A quick internet search found some quotes captured by the Curmudgeon.
"Luckily, France and Germany still say they are still our allies. You know, the same way Bill and Hillary are husband and wife." --Jay Leno

"Did you all see Colin Powell speaking with the U.N.? He was very persuasive, but still some folks want more evidence. France wants to see more evidence. Well, hell, I was thinking the last time France wanted to see more evidence it rolled into Paris with a German flag." --David Letterman

"Going to war without France is like going deer-hunting without an accordion." --Jed Babbin, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense

Babbin hasn't been known for his comedic talents, but that image is priceless. Anything else would be gilding the lily, so I’ll stop here.

Status Update, the US Economy,

Status Update, the US Economy, and US Employment
Thank you to those who have sent me detailed perspectives on how you see the Iraqi issue. Rest assured, I will respond to the issues you raised sometime this week. However, I have recently been spending most of my time on just this issue to the neglect of other subjects near and dear to my heart. So I have been using my "Solport time" today to work on my economic references. If you go to the reference section you will see that Solport has now doubled the number of items in the reference section...

The links provided in the economics section may prove useful for those who have an interest. However, I also plan on providing my own perspective on the economy with more detail being added over time. Today I made some charts available about US employment. I will update these on a monthly basis and discuss what I see in my blog.

Please understand that these charts are based on the US as a whole. Within the US economy, some industries will usually act contrary to the whole. For example, graduate school enrollment tends to increase during a recession. With that disclaimer out of the way, let me discuss the US employment situation.

I found the recent employment data interesting. Jobs in the manufacturing sectors are still slowly increasing. Manufacturers are still being cautious, but opportunities are increasing.

There was a surprisingly large drop in hiring for the non-manufacturing sector. However, I really want to see next month's data before drawing any conclusions. Unfortunately, the data I use for non-manufacturing jobs are seasonally adjusted before I get it (this is not true for the manufacturing data). Some economists attempt to smooth out their data by making adjustment for known patterns. For example, retailers generally hire lots of temporary help toward the end of the year to help with the Christmas shopping demand, and then release them in January when the shopping rush is over. So various economists (including those employed by the US government) make different adjustments to the data toward the end of the year and at the beginning of the year. I'm leery of this practice in general, but I'm especially skeptical this year. Retailers didn't hire lots of people this year because they were concerned (correctly) that many shoppers would cut back or shop on the internet. Thus, they didn't fire many people this January either. So the traditional seasonal adjustments used by many economists simply did not apply this time. But they were used anyway. So don't put much faith in any recent data that has been seasonally adjusted. I expect to have a clearer picture of the non-manufacturing employment situation next month.

February 15, 2003
Behind the ScenesSteve Den Beste

Behind the Scenes
Steve Den Beste has another well-written article on the problems with speaking loudly but never acting. Since Steve is a fine writer, I won’t try to summarize his thoughts, go read it yourself. However, I wonder if he is underestimating President Bush as so many other people have. The nature of a bluff is that one will not (or cannot) follow through. By definition, those not privy to the thoughts and capabilities of the potential bluffer, do not know if a warning is a bluff or a promise. In this case, it is obvious to all that the United States and its allies have the capabilities to defeat Saddam and his minions. So it all comes down to President Bush’s thoughts and future actions if Saddam continues to defy UN resolutions.

I do not believe Bush is bluffing. Other than some leftists who think this is about oil (which shows they have little understanding of economics – if someone disagrees, send me a note why and I’ll be glad to post it and comment), this is about national security. Even Bush’s opponents agree that President Bush sincerely feels Saddam Hussein is a danger to the security of the US. He may be wrong – and this is the position of France, Germany, and several other nations. But since he believes the US is at risk, he will follow through and remove this particular threat.

Even if you doubt Bush’s sincerity, there are now political reasons for Bush to attack Iraq. 30-40% of American citizens almost always vote Republican, just as 30%-40% of American voters support the Democrats. It’s the folks in the middle (like myself) who aren’t really attached to either party who decide each election. According to most polls, Americans are not too impressed with Bush’s handling of the economy. However, they strongly support Bush’s handling of the war on terror (America considers the Iraq problem as a part of this larger effort). If Bush backed down against Iraq at this point, he would lose the 2004 elections in a landslide. He knows this, and like most politicians he wants to stay in office.

America is a diverse nation and you will see pro-war protests and anti-war protests. I have friends who are strongly against the war. However, I have noticed something – Almost every single anti-war protester is a confirmed Democrat and did not vote for President Bush in 2000 and will vote against him in 2004 no matter what Bush does. Do you think President Bush cares about appeasing this group? Of course not – from a political perspective there is nothing to be gained and a lot to be lost. (By the way, I am NOT saying all Democrats are anti-war – there are many Democrats who also believe the risks of leaving Saddam in power are much higher than the risks of removing him from power).

So Saddam will be removed from power. Bush cannot afford to back down even if he so desired – and he does not. America’s military is still preparing to act along with an ever-increasing “Coalition of the Willing.” In the meantime, President Bush is seeing who our friends truly are. Friends may disagree at times, and that is expected and understandable. However, friends do not make special efforts to thwart each other. Rivals and enemies may do so, but friends do not. It is apparent that certain governments that Americans considered allies are not. President Bush is merely giving them more rope with which to hang themselves.

The future of the UN and NATO are questionable. It looks like the UN is slowly awaking to this threat to its future. Iraq has unexpectedly “relinquished its four-week turn as president of the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament.” I wonder what caused this? I’m sure Saddam didn’t agree to this without a quid pro quo. I suspect it will be a while before we learn the reason why, but it is one more sign that people in the UN do not believe President Bush is bluffing about Iraq or about the relevance of the UN.

February 14, 2003
UN UpdateThe full text of

UN Update
The full text of Colin Powell's response to Blix's report is available here.

What a World

I just emailed my Congressman to ask him to support H.R.25, the Fair Tax Act of 2003. (Hat tip to Anne Wilson for bringing this to my attention). This bill would eliminate the Federal Income Tax and replace it with a national sales tax. As Anne points out, this would be the best bill for the environment ever passed since the sale of used items would not be taxed, but new items would be (thus stimulating an increased demand for used and reliable equipment and a decrease in planned obsolescence). It would also help fight urban sprawl by making new housing more expensive and encouraging urban development. I doubt this bill will even pass the House and it is certain not to pass the Senate, but it may lay the groundwork for a future change in taxation. I urge you to write your representative and ask them to support and promote this bill.

When I wrote my Congressman, I found this note on his web-site.

Letters mailed to my Washington office have to go through a two to six week irradiation process, following the procedures now implemented upon the anthrax-tainted letters arriving to Capitol Hill last October. I would urge you to continue contacting me; however, emailing me is the best way to ensure a timely response.

What a world! Hopefully we can make it better for our children.

Anticlimatic UN Presentation

There were no surprises at Blix’s presentation today. Those holding both positions will claim their stance has been validated. According to this summary:

Blix told the council that no weapons of mass destruction were found in the country, but did not rule out the possibility of some existing. He said the main problem lay in locating such chemical weapons as the deadly VX nerve agent Iraq was known to have had in 1998, which are not on the Iraqi declaration.

Blix also reported findings by experts that one of Iraq's new missile systems, Al Samoud-II, exceeds the range limit set by Security Council resolutions. "The experts concluded that, based on the data provided by Iraq, the two declared variants of the Al Samoud-II missile are capable of exceeding 150km in range. This missile system is therefore proscribed for Iraq," Blix said.

It will be interesting to see how things unfold from here. The Chirac crowd will say that inspections are working (now that Saddam is actually worried) and the Bush alliance will say that Saddam is still not cooperating and the absence of information on the VX nerve agent is further proof. The next few days should be quite interesting at the UN as the various parties negotiate.

I am also quite interested in what NATO will do now. Will Germany, France, and Belgium continue to block Turkey’s request for aid? Germany had said all along they would help Turkey if needed, but would not release NATO forces for even planning purposes until after Blix’s report. We live in interesting times.

February 13, 2003
The German People Deserve Better, V

According to The Scotsman, Schröder is facing pressure to resign from fellow Germans who are appalled at the current state of German-American relations.

The CDU chief, Angela Merkel, said simply: "He has let Germany down badly and he should resign. That’s it."

Friedrich Merz, the party’s parliamentary chief, said: "He has placed himself in a prison of his own building. This policy of standing up to the US over Iraq has served to do nothing but isolate Germany in the world community."

Gerhard Lutz, a political analyst, said: "Schröder is basically saying to America: ‘We are important - we deserve to be listened to.‘ But this is the roar of a mouse, and the tone is hectoring in a way that the Bush White House finds offensive. Mr Schröder’s legacy could well be that of the man who did more to single-handedly diminish German influence in Europe and the world than any other in post-war history."

This article highlights why I am still optimistic that German-American relations can be saved. If Schröder resigns, the relationship could be reaffirmed before it is too late. I do not expect the new government to come out in support of the war – a majority of the German people still oppose it – but there are reasonable ways to disagree. Allow me to humbly suggest a speech for the new German leader.
Ever since the Marshall Plan, Germans and Americans have cooperated. Together we tore down the Berlin Wall. With American support, the German peoples were reunited. We have seen the Soviet Union disbanded and former adversaries become friends. Together, we have accomplished great things through cooperation and there is much goodwill between our countries. Unfortunately, the acts of my predecessor have lowered these reserves of goodwill.

I stand before you to help rebuild them. Germany and the United States of America are two sovereign countries. At times, we will disagree on certain issues. That is natural, and there is nothing wrong with that. For example, we disagree on what should be done about the Iraqi problem. Along with some European countries, we would like to give diplomacy more time to work. Along with other European countries, the US says Iraq has had more than enough time. It is obvious that our countries have strong disagreements here and both countries are firm in their resolve. But there is a difference between agreeing to disagree and actively thwarting the plans of a friend. In our recent actions, Germany has aided in thwarting the activities of those who favor armed intervention in Iraq. To those people, especially our friends in the United States and Turkey, we apologize. This will not be repeated as long as I am in office.

I still disagree with the position of our friends who support armed intervention. However, Germany will not veto the use of NATO forces to defend a member. Nor shall we use other means in any attempt to thwart countries who favor armed intervention. We shall continue to express our views, diplomatically, because that is what friends do when they disagree. I offer my hand in renewed friendship to those who have been our friends for many years now.

Thank you.

I do not know how this speech would be received in Germany. I have an informed guess how it would be received in the US. President Bush would welcome it and any consumer boycott against Germany would be ended before it seriously took root.

May Schröder’s reign be short-lived.

Chirac and Schröder Risk Economic Woes

Last month I warned that the actions of Chirac and Schröder might result in American boycotts of Franco-German firms. According to the BBC, there isn’t any evidence of this yet, but German businesses are so concerned about this possibility that they are paying for full-page ads in American papers this weekend. These ads will stress the strength and depth of ties between the two nations over the past half century. Why are German businesses so concerned? The US is their second-largest international customer, buying approximately $45 billion dollars worth German products each year. According to Forbes, German exporters warned this week that Berlin's diplomatic rift with the United States over Iraq could mean a 10 percent drop in German exports to the United States and shave 0.33 percentage points off the country's economic growth this year.

The BBC is wrong about there not being any evidence yet. There is ample evidence that the policies are Chirac and Schröder have already resulted in Americans boycotting French wine, cheese, and bonds. The US government has reduced the involvement of German manufacturers in military projects, and has strongly hinted that the deployment of American troops to Germany will be greatly reduced in the future. Even Brussels – who tends to escape most of the negative publicity in the US given the louder rhetoric from Chirac and Schröder – is stating to see an impact. Forbes pointed out that in Antwerp, the country's second city and the world's largest diamond distribution centre which exports some $2 billion of polished gems a year to the United States, the outlook was less sparkling. “We are receiving signals pointing at delays or cancellations of orders," said a spokesman for the city's Diamond High Council.

I fear this is just the tip of the iceberg. So far, the impact has been relatively small. But it appears that Americans are starting to seriously organize both local and national boycotts. Germany financiers fear the impact on both the German stock market and their automotive industry. According to Reuters:

"There is a clear risk of that (U.S. investors selling German equities). We are already seeing that in the real economy with suppliers of goods or services being discriminated against because they are German," said Victor Moftakhar, fund manager at Deka Group.

…analysts said worsening relations could lead to a U.S. boycott of German products or lead to the White House slapping higher import taxes on German exports, which would especially hurt the country's automakers.

"If the boycott against German products in the U.S. is further inflamed by politics, the car makers could suffer," said Michael Punzet, analyst at Landesbank Rheinland-Pfalz.

Market watchers said Berlin's opposition to war might cause further damage to the already battered economy and Germany's stock market.

"We are treading on very dangerous terrain, with Schroeder not even willing to give the U.S. a little finger. He could have offered humanitarian help," said Ulf Moritzen, fund manager at Nordinvest in Hamburg.

For my part, I can understand Chirac’s position. The French ignored many of the UN sanctions on Iraq and have close business ties to Saddam’s reign. They profited immensely from this. Along with Russia, the French have a lot to lose with a regime change. It is reasonable to say that keeping Saddam in power is in France’s best interests. This is not true of Germany. Schröder’s decisions are forming an unnecessary wedge between Germany and America and do not appear to be in the best interests of Germany. The German people deserve better. However, if Schröder continues on this path until he is up for reelection in 2006, I fear the damage will take years to repair.

February 12, 2003
Feedback from Germany

These comments are from Germans who are willing to share their perspective. This is from Andreas.

The election of Gerhard Schroeder last summer was (almost) as tight as the election of Bush. A lot of people do not agree with him, especially in questions with Iraq and US. I did not vote for him, and a lot of good friends and relatives didn't either.

I think the reason that Schroeder managed to win the election was the big inundation in South-East Germany just before the election. He did a good job in this matter. (Ok, he did what everyone else would have done....but he gave hope to the victims - and money to rebuild the completely destroyed villages.)

Even before the election, he said "Germany will not agree to a war in Iraq no matter what." This lead to a big discussion all over Germany two weeks before the election. A lot of people disagreed with him. Personally, I can’t believe that "some" people agree with him.

Now we have Schroeder - and we have to live with him until 2006. I hope it will only be until 2006. But as long as Germany’s mountain of debt is still growing and the number of unemployed is not going down, I think (hope) nobody wants to have him any longer.

I really hope the whole situation will calm down again...


I hope it calms down again too – hopefully before 2006. Maybe things will get better after the war. Many thanks for sharing your perspective.

This one is from Erwin.

If you want to defend Germany the best thing to do is show them the issue from another point of view and ask a few different questions.

OK, let’s post your point of view and your questions. I'll try to answer them and maybe this will help Germans and Americans better understand each other.
Instead of asking "why is Germany against war?" you can ask "Why does the US want to wage war today instead of waiting at least until the report from the inspectors is finished"

Many nations, of which the US is one of the most vocal, took UN Resolution 1441 seriously and literally. The purpose of the inspections was not to find what Saddam had hidden – the original set of inspections (with many more inspectors) showed Saddam could hide things if he wanted. The purpose of the inspections was to give Saddam one last chance – after 12 years of UN demands – to comply within 60 days or face the consequences. He did not comply and he will face the consequences. Inspections for the sake of inspections serves no useful purpose.
"Why does Powell present satellite pictures with a resolution that was outdated 25 years ago? Certainly if you keep in mind the Gulf War lies and their manipulation of photos"

I’m not going to defend lies told in the first Gulf War. Sometime politicians are just foolish – Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait was more than reason enough for the first Gulf War, there was no reason to make up things. As your question demonstrates, all that does is sow distrust.

However, I will defend Powell’s showing of low resolution pictures. Many nations in the world would pay dearly to know the resolution of US satellite cameras. It would be foolhardy to give them this information for free by making high-resolution photos available for analysis.

"Why don't we sit down and figure out what we want to do with the region now instead of waging a hugely expensive war and come to the conclusion that it wasn't worth it, we did too much or too little, had the wrong objectives etc"

This was done last year and Resolution 1441 was the result. And please note that the US approached the UN and brought the issue before the security council. Compare this to Schröder who – as Andreas pointed out – unilaterally announced Germany would not participate in any war with Iraq no matter what.
"What are our alternatives in this? Is there any compromise between diplomacy and war and have we exhausted all options?"

There are two compromises that are still viable.
Compromise 1 – Saddam is removed from power (voluntarily or in a coup d'état).
Compromise 2 – Saddam comes clean and starts cooperating.
In my opinion, neither are likely. Saddam isn’t going to leave and has been protecting himself against revolt for his entire rule. There wasn’t much of a chance for Saddam to come clean, but whatever chance there was has been greatly diminished by the disagreements within the West.
"Why is Bush putting his credibility and the credibility of the US on the line at this early a stage? There's no way for him to back out on this?"

Whether he is correct or not, President Bush believes that Iraq is a threat to the US. He is obligated to protect us from enemies both foreign and domestic. He is doing so. He has no plans to back out as that is not even a consideration when he believes the security of the US is at stake. Unless one of the compromises mentioned above occurs, he will lead the “Coalition of the Willing” to remove Saddam from power.
"Why is the US playing games with both Iraq and the international community? They knew Saddam wouldn't cooperate with everything in their timeline"

I think this is a loaded question with the “games” terminology, but I’ll try to answer. The US, along with many other nations, has been fairly straightforward on the main issue. Saddam hasn’t fully cooperated in 12 years, so - as you assume - the Bush administration did not expect Saddam to cooperate in 60 days. If the UN had given Saddam another 12 years, I doubt they would cooperate with everything. The UN gave Saddam a last chance for peace and he declined.
Don't get me wrong.. I am not even all that against the war. It's just that Americans usually only get to see the US point of view in the press and might not be aware of some of the things that have happened and are happening.

I very much appreciate your input. We have an expression called the “Devil’s Advocate” – it describes someone who argues the opposite view in order to make you think things through. I appreciate your playing that role in this exercise.
Is it well known what the US did in the Middle East. Does everyone know that Saddam was once the US' best friend? Who build his atomic bomb proof bunker? Who financed the war on Iran?

Well, calling him the US’ best friend is a bit strong, and I’d like to see some evidence on the war financing, but I’ll freely admit that the US backed Saddam early in his reign. During the Cold War, when the US truly feared nuclear annihilation, the US supported virtually anyone who was not communist. This was one of our great mistakes. To our credit, we have largely stopped supporting such countries (although I’m not thrilled with our current support of Pakistan even if their leader is helping in the war against terrorism).

Of course, the US is hardly the only country that makes this mistake. And while the US supported harsh regimes with the goal of stopping communism, why do other countries make this mistake? France and Germany armed and supported Iraq up to the Gulf War (and perhaps afterward) in the search for high profit margins.

Who was the guy that helped the US fighting off the Russian in Afghanistan? What was the name of the organisation that was set up and trained by the CIA to do this?

I assume you are referring to Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization. Yes, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the US were instrumental in training bin Laden and his organization for fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. This was consistent with the US policy of doing virtually anything to stop communism. So I would agree that we are partly responsible for creating this organization. However, what should be done now?

Let us learn from President Clinton’s inaction. His administration had opportunities to go after bin Laden, but chose the wait and see approach. September 11 was the response. This should serve as a warning for more wait and see approaches to Iraq.

US foreign policy has not been a very long-term planning process and yesterday's allies are today's enemies. Combine that with the fact that the US has been lying to it's own people and the international community during the Gulf War makes for quite a bit of skepticism in the rest of the World.

Again, I agree with you about the lying. It is counter productive. I hardly consider this flaw unique to America (e.g., just Monday France denied they were creating a new plan with Germany hours before Chirac announced it…), but it is still wrong.

I also can understand your perspective on the US’ lack of a long-term planning process. If you are correct, that flaw is also not unique to America. It seems inherent in true democracies where the leadership of the country periodically changes parties. In which case, all we can do is try to learn from previous mistakes and clean up the mess. From history, we know the risks of leaving Saddam in power greatly outweigh the risks of removing him from power.

However, I would argue that American foreign policy has actually been consistent over the long-term. After WWII, the US was concerned about the communist threat. It’s policies (with rare exceptions like the four years of the Carter administration) were aimed at containing and fighting communism no matter what the cost. And at great cost, the US won the Cold War. In the process, a lot of dictators flourished – some with support from the US. The US didn’t expect the Cold War to end as quickly as it did, and is still internally debating our next objective. Bush has a long-term plan that involves eliminating the terrorist threat from the world. Will it be implemented over the long-term? I think it is too early to say. It will be implemented over the short-term.

Don't tell me that Bush has done everything he did based on the stuff that Powell presented last week. They are playing a game, Iraq is playing their game and the rest of the world is trying to figure out the truth and then what to do about it.

No, I don’t think anyone believes that Bush is basing everything upon what was presented. Powell merely presented clear and compelling evidence that Iraq was not in compliance with Resolution 1441 – as Hans Blix had already stated. I admire Blix – he clearly opposes war with Iraq, but he is being honest about his findings. Many nations – not just the US – will remove Saddam from power if he doesn’t immediate comply with Resolution 1441.
And some of the rest of the world (namely France, Germany, and Belgium) are doing more than their fair share of game playing. The leaders of these three countries may have mortally wounded NATO with their actions this week. I certainly hope not.

Erwin, thank you for your response and your questions. You can play Devil’s Advocate anytime.

Update:  Regarding Erwin's comment that It's just that Americans usually only get to see the US point
of view in the press and might not be aware of some of the things that have happened and are happening.

Andy Freeman writes:

This one sentence demonstrates two things that Euros do that infuriate Americans.

(1) It assumes that Europeans have access to information that Americans don't.

(2) It assumes that Americans would adopt a more European position if we did have said access.

Both assumptions are, for the most part, incorrect.

And, to the extent that we are ignorant of European affairs, the more we find out, the greater the contempt. (France and Germany should pray that the US does not find evidence linking them to sanction violations.)

I'll end on a positive and constructive note. Europeans would do well to figure out why Americans think that cowboys are a force for good. (It follows that using "cowboy" as an insult is a horrendous mistake.)

Europeans should be aware that this is a stereotype we have of many Europeans. Like most stereotypes, there is some truth to it. Since many of our public schools do a poor job educating our folk, some Europeans have the tendency to assume all Americans are ignorant of the issues and that the opinions held by all Americans are due to ignorance. Thus a quick tutoring job should result in Americans seeing things in a new way. I have been on the receiving end of these several times – including on subjects in which I could teach. When I find myself in this circumstance I try to keep my sense of humor and ask leading questions. But there are also many “Arrogant Americans” who look down on all Europeans simply because the US has the strongest military in the world. My entire purpose in starting this thread – and posting comments – is not to facilitate the exchange of insults. Rather I hope to provide a small forum for people to hear various perspectives on the Iraqi issue before the German-American gulf becomes a problem for German and American citizens.

Of course, if I continue to post comments, I’ll need to upgrade my blog to allow direct comments. I may look into that soon.

In Defense of Germany

Stephen Green has a post about Germany that scares me. It starts well enough, complimenting an article by Steve Den Beste – and I also highly recommend this post of Beste. However, Green’s concern that “we’re seeing now simply Germany going back to being, well, goddamn German” frightens me. Not because of what Germany might do – but because of what this may foretell of future American-German relations if Green’s concerns are shared by most Americans.

The one bright spot in this is that I think Green’s concerns are based on incorrect assumptions. Green says his current thoughts are largely based upon:

Germany’s recent problem with us isn’t just Gerhard Schroeder and his opportunistic, vote-grabbing anti-Americanism. A recent poll showed that perhaps as much as 90% of the German public thinks the US is a greater threat to world peace than Iraq, and that the US is a “warmonger nation.” That shocking number can’t be explained away by Schroeder’s opportunism, what with his own poll numbers being in Nixon territory, and his governing coalition close to collapse. No, there has to be something deeper going wrong here.

Let’s not get too carried away by a poll. I suspect that if someone counted all of the conflicts in the last 100 years, the U.S. has probably fought in more wars than any other country. From our perspective, we have been (mostly) trying to save other countries (e.g, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Kuwait, etc.), but sometimes we do it for other reasons (e.g., Panama). Germany feels vast amounts of guilt over WWII and their culture has actually become anti-war in compensation. So I can certainly understand why they might consider us warmongers even as we see ourselves as the defenders of the free world.

I’m not going to worry about the “greater threat to world peace” poll – especially because I haven’t seen any information about the poll. Was it a representative sample? How was the question asked? What questions proceeded it? My background is in Marketing and it is very, very difficult to create an unbiased questionnaire. On the other hand, it is very easy to get the results you want by manipulating your sample, the questions, and the question order.

I have high hopes that German and American relations will heal once Schröder is no longer in office. I have many German friends with which I correspond and they seem to have a diverse set of opinions. I read articles (example) which show how German leaders are dismayed at the outcome of Schröder’s policies. So I believe my hopes for better German-American relations are well-founded.

May Schröder’s reign be short.

Update: This response from Augusto.

Don't know why you isolate Panama there, since from the perspective of the Panamenians (me included) it resulted in the liberation of the country too from a coked up pinnaple faced dictator.

As for the rest of the comment, my last name is German but I know very little of German culture. Anti-Americanism is in Vogue today (even in Puerto Rico!) so I wouldn't single out the German people that much. It's just their insipid govt. trying to distract the populace.

Thanks for the feedback and clarification.

Graphical Physics Lesson

(Hat tip to Dean)
If you have a high-bandwidth connection, you may be interested in seeing what happens to a crab under 2700 psi (normal conditions) when it encounters a 3 mm wide slit at 0 psi. Warning: PETA would not approve.

Real Navy Seals

The Navy has dispatched some well-trained sea lions to help protect their ships. If any diver tries to approach an American ship – say to place an explosive under the hull – they may be in for the shock of their lives. The sea lions have been trained to carry a special clamp in their mouths which they can attach to a suspicious person, Commander John Wood, Special Operations Officer Naval Forces Central Command, told Reuters. The clamp is attached by a line to a flotation device which marks the swimmer for security personnel to apprehend him.

The US military is amazing.

We Still Appreciate You Germany

Readers of this site know that this author is not a fan of Schröder and believe the German people deserve better than their current leader. However, I will give Schröder credit for supporting the work in Afghanistan. Germany and the Netherlands have taken over the joint command of the Afghanistan peacekeeping organization. Your support is noted and appreciated.

I hope you note that despite previous misgivings, President Bush supported Germany’s request to have NATO play a larger role in Afghanistan – this would have provided more resources to more safely perform the peacekeeper mission. I also hope you note that your current ‘ally’ Chirac vetoed this as well. Of course, this is not really a surprise given Chirac’s history.

February 11, 2003
Another Estrada Update

Hours after I compliment some Democrats for not acting in a partisan manner, Obstructionist Daschle strikes again. Senator Daschle is at least posturing that he has 40 votes to filibuster and he might. I bet it is very close though. Daschle’s reason for the filibuster:

While stopping short of saying they would kill the nomination, they said they would filibuster -- or delay a vote -- until Estrada more fully answers questions about his legal views and the Bush administration provides memoranda he wrote while he worked in the office of the solicitor general in the Justice Department.

Daschle has a pattern of misrepresenting the facts to smear opponents. In this case, he – along with Senator Clinton and a few others – is making an issue out of nothing. Paul Weyrich discussed why the Bush administration would not provide these memoranda.
The Times [and now Daschle] forgot to point out what every living ex-Solicitor General had to say about the then-Democrat dominated Judiciary Committee's request for the memos that Estrada wrote in the Solicitor General's office. What these distinguished attorneys told the "Gang of Ten" was that this was an unprecedented request that, if granted, would have a debilitating effect on the Office of Solicitor General in representing the United States. Signing that letter were Democrats Archibald Cox, Drew Days, Walter Dellinger, and Seth Waxman as well as Republicans Robert Bork, Kenneth Starr, and Charles Fried.

So the biggest objection that Obstructionist Daschle is willing to mention is that Estrada, like every single nomination before him with Solicitor General office experience, refuses to release confidential material. Every single living Solicitor General agrees with this decision, yet Daschle and his gang pretends this is a controversial issue.

Daschle is really worried that President Bush will nominate Estrada for the Supreme Court in a few years. Estrada is clearly qualified, but he believes that judges should enforce the law and not create the law. This is anathema to leftist Democrats so they are trying to taint Estrada now – vs. risking annoying Hispanics even more if Bush nominates Estrada for the Supreme Court. But why doesn’t Daschle just say he doesn’t agree with this philosophy? I would still disagree with him, but he’d have my respect for intellectual honesty.

Hopefully more Democrats will join Senators Ben Nelson (Nebraska) and Senator John Breaux (Louisiana) in supporting Estrada. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve heard Senator Miller (Georgia) will do so. According to Family News in Focus, the following Senators are still considering the issue: Bill Nelson (Florida); Mary Landrieu (Louisiana); Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas); Tom Carper (Delaware); Mark Pryor (Arkansas); Daniel Inouye (Hawaii); Robert Byrd (West Virginia); Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico); Evan Bayh (Indiania); Ernest Hollings (South Carolina); Jim Jeffords (Vermont) and Joe Biden (Delaware). If you live in one of these states, please contact your senators and ask them to support and promote the nomination of Michael Estrada.

Estrada Update

Two Democrats have now stated they will vote for Michael Estrada to be confirmed. Senator Ben Nelson (Nebraska) joined Senator John Breaux (Louisiana). According to the Washington Times, Senator Nelson was convinced that Estrada “wouldn't bring a personal agenda to the bench and that he [Estrada] understood the difference between being a judge and making the law.”

A friend in Georgia told me that Senator Zell Miller will also support Estrada, but this is currently unconfirmed. It is good to see Democrats that have the courage to do the right thing even when some of their leaders want to make this a partisan issue.

Updated Links

I’ve modified my links. I’ve found some more thoughtful sites (I especially suggest you try Cut on the Bias - the link takes you to a nice example). My linking to these sites does not mean I agree with them -many times I do not. However, these sites are usually thought provoking and that is to be encouraged.
I’ve also eliminated some links to keep my links to a manageable number. I am not trying to link to every good blog – so if I eliminated your site from my list it is not an indication that I find you thoughtless. However, I am trying to link to sites where the author generally has a different perspective than I do.

Follow the Money

(Hat tip to Dean)
Khidhir Hamza, a former director of Iraq's nuclear-weapons program who fled to the West, believes the actions of France and Germany are due to the huge profit margins they receive by selling to a rogue state.

What has become obvious is that the U.N. inspection process was designed to delay any possible U.S. military action to disarm Iraq. Germany, France, and Russia, states we called "friendly" when I was in Baghdad, are also engaged in a strategy of delay and obstruction.

In the two decades before the Gulf War, I played a role in Iraq's efforts to acquire major technologies from friendly states. In 1974, I headed an Iraqi delegation to France to purchase a nuclear reactor. It was a 40-megawatt research reactor that our sources in the IAEA told us should cost no more than $50 million. But the French deal ended up costing Baghdad more than $200 million. The French-controlled Habbania Resort project cost Baghdad a whopping $750 million, and with the same huge profit margin. With these kinds of deals coming their way, is it any surprise that the French are so desperate to save Saddam's regime?

Germany was the hub of Iraq's military purchases in the 1980s. Our commercial attaché, Ali Abdul Mutalib, was allocated billions of dollars to spend each year on German military industry imports. These imports included many proscribed technologies with the German government looking the other way. In 1989, German engineer Karl Schaab sold us classified technology to build and operate the centrifuges we needed for our uranium-enrichment program. German authorities have since found Mr. Schaab guilty of selling nuclear secrets, but because the technology was considered "dual use" he was fined only $32,000 and given five years probation.

Russia has long been a major supplier of conventional armaments to Iraq--yet again at exorbitant prices. Even the Kalashnikov rifles used by the Iraqi forces are sold to Iraq at several times the price of comparable guns sold by other suppliers.

Saddam's policy of squandering Iraq's resources by paying outrageous prices to friendly states seems to be paying off. The irresponsibility and lack of morality these states are displaying in trying to keep the world's worst butcher in power is perhaps indicative of a new world order. It is a world of winks and nods to emerging rogue states--for a price.

Whether or not there are other – darker – reasons for France and Germany to oppose Saddam’s deposal, it is becoming clearer and clearer that money is a large part of the reason.

Thoughts on France, Germany, Russia, and the UN

Steve Den Beste had a very interesting post yesterday. He had two main points. First of all, he discussed the potential motivations for France, Germany, and Russia in attempting to prevent the US and its allies from going to war with Iraq to remove Saddam from power. He also discussed the end of the UN's effectiveness.

He pointed out Russia’s interest in keeping Saddam in power was due to rational self-interest since Iraq owes them a lot of money, but that Russia wasn’t making big waves to stop the war since this isn’t crucial to their national security. Earlier, I had opined that Russia’s cooperation with France and Germany was due to increased economic ties between these countries – and I stand by this. But Den Beste has provided another reason to understand Russia’s position.

However, it is difficult to understand the position of France and Germany. Den Beste makes it very clear that their opposition is not a morale opposition to war in general, but is specifically opposition to the U.S. and its allies removing Saddam Hussein from power.

I simply don't believe that Germany and France would be willing to sustain, let alone cause, the kind of damage they have just for the sake of moral inhibitions.

No one is asking Germany itself to fight. That's not the point being made here. Schröder is going well beyond that point; he's trying to prevent the US and UK from fighting even if German troops are not involved.

it's provably wrong that they are doing all this to prevent war, given that they themselves are fighting one right now in Côte d'Ivoire. It's not that France opposes war in some sort of generic sense; it's that they oppose this particular war by the US against Iraq for purposes of deposing Saddam.

Germany approved of the bombing in Yugoslavia. Remember that? it's not the case that Germany is now the world's biggest principled pacifist which works to prevent anyone anywhere from ever fighting about anything. And if they were, then why haven't they denounced the French intervention in Côte d'Ivoire? In fact, with little fanfare, the UNSC passed a resolution authorizing the French military intervention in Côte d'Ivoire a few days ago. Germany voted for it. Where is that grand public opposition to all war anywhere for any reason?

No, like France the reality is that what Germany really opposes is this particular war, by the US and UK, which will remove Saddam from power.

This begs the question as to why France and Germany are willing to damage European and U.S. relations in an attempt to save Saddam’s regime. Den Beste speculated that they are afraid of what may be found in Iraq if a caretaker government takes over and examines what was actually imported from France and Germany. I hope this is not the case even if it would explain a lot.

While Den Beste clearly makes his point that Germany and France are opposed to this war in particular, not war in general; I’m not convinced by his perspective on the UN.

…the UN is finished as an effective institution (if it ever was one).

One thing is apparent: there's no chance, none whatever, of a new resolution authorizing war passing in the UNSC. France will veto it, possibly joined by Russia. So should we submit one?

That's going to be a big discussion between the US and UK in the next couple of days. The general feeling from the Bush administration was that they didn't want to submit another resolution unless they were certain it would pass. On the other hand, Tony Blair has promised his unruly MPs that he would not send British troops to war unless he either had another UNSC resolution or there was an "unreasonable veto" of one.

Certainly a French veto at this time would satisfy his requirement for being unreasonable; no rational person could consider the French/German plan to be a real alternative. It is blatantly obvious that it is a delaying maneuver.

I suspect that in this case Blair will prevail. I think we (most likely the UK formally, but it will in practice be both) will submit a new resolution and it will be vetoed. And then we'll fight anyway, and win, and once we've occupied Iraq we're going to learn a lot of things.

Most of Den Beste’s points about the UN are similar to points I have made in the past – however, I disagree with his premise that “the UN is finished as an effective institution.” I think that is premature. Assuming China and Russia do not veto a new resolution – should one be submitted – I think the UN will continue. Once the war with Iraq is over, I think there will be changes. If France doesn’t change their tune soon, I suspect they will lose their privileged position as a permanent member of the security council. It will (and should) be given to India. France was only given the seat due to an accident of history and politics – and they have shown they didn’t deserve the honor. If this is done, the UN will be around for years to come and will be (at least) as effective as it has in the past. That doesn't mean I expect it will be very effective, but I don't see it getting worse.

February 10, 2003
Russia joins France & Germany

I am providing the full text of this declaration since I could only find it via a subscription link to the Financial Times. After denying that such a plan was in the works, France President Chirac made the following statement.

The following is a translation of the full text of a joint declaration from Russia, Germany and France issued by French President Jacques Chirac on Monday after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on Sunday.

"Russia, Germany and France, in close coordination, reaffirm that disarming Iraq, in accordance with the relevant resolutions since U.N. Resolution 687, is the common objective of the international community and must be achieved as soon as

At least we agree on the goal – disarming Iraq.

"There is a debate on how this should be done. This debate must continue in the spirit of friendship and respect that characterises our relations with the United States and other countries. Any solution must be inspired by the principles of the United Nations charter as were recently quoted by the secretary-general Kofi Annan.

I wouldn’t characterize our current relations with France as one of respect. And Schröder seems to be doing his best to bring German-American relations down as far as possible. When UN resolution 1441 was agreed to last year, all of the members involved were clear that Saddam had 60 days to take steps. To his credit, even though he supports more inspections, UN inspector Hans Blix made it clear that Iraq was not cooperating and was thus in violation of resolution 1441. On February 5, Colin Powell revealed some recordings that made it absolutely clear the Iraq was deliberately hiding illegal weapons from the inspectors.

"U.N. Resolution 1441, adopted unanimously by the U.N. Security Council, provides a framework of which the potential has not yet been fully exploited.

The resolution made it clear that Iraq must cooperate and disarm in 60 days (which have since passed) or suffer severe consequences. This nonsense about “not yet been fully expoited” can be translated as give Iraq 12 more years.

"The inspections led by the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have already produced results. Russia, Germany and France favour the continuation of the inspections and a substantial reinforcement of their human and technical capacities through all possible means and in liaison with the inspectors, in the framework of the U.N. resolution 1441.

Results? Yes, the UN inspection team has concluded that Iraq is not cooperating in violation of resolution 1441. Yes, the UN inspection team refused to interview Iraqi dissidents and turned them over to Iraq’s ‘police’ force. We don’t need more UN results – we need UN resolve.

"There is still an alternative to war. The use of force can only be considered as a last resort. Russia, Germany and France are determined to ensure that everything possible is done to disarm Iraq peacefully.

This means Germany and France are scared that the US and their current allies will go ahead despite them. And given the growing economic ties between these countries and Russia, they’ve convinced Russia to stand with them.

"For the inspections to be completed, it is up to Iraq to actively cooperate with the IAEA and the UNMOVIC. Iraq must fully accept its responsibilities.

Or what? More resolutions? I’m sure Chirac didn’t intend the irony, but this language is similar to that of resolution 1441.

"Russia, Germany and France note that the position they are expressing is similar to that of a large number of countries within the Security Council."

Ah, the main point of the message. Russia and France have veto power in the UN security council and Germany is currently one of the rotating members. Looks like a second UN resolution may not happen. Since UN resolution 1441 gives international approval to such an attack, a second resolution wasn’t really needed. However, it would have been very helpful to some coalition partners (e.g, Tony Blair). It will be very interesting to see if the US goes ahead and asks for a second resolution and forces a vote. If France and Russia veto it, it may be the end of the UN given that many nations are going to disarm Iraq even if a few other countries object. If France vetoes it, but Russia abstains (my guess), the UN may survive. In this case, I suspect the US will sponsor a UN amendment to give France’s veto power to India – if the UN refuses, America will withdraw from the UN and the UN will join the League of Nations.

Attacking Iraqi – Low-Risk Destruction vs Higher-Risk Liberation

I received an interesting email from an American named Paul. He has an interesting perspective on how we should attack – if and when the decision to attack has been made.

At some point in time we need to answer the question: Is war with Iraq inevitable?

Once we can, in good conscience, answer "yes" to that question, we have consigned many people to death. That being the case, we have the most capable Air Force and Navy in the world, either of which is capable of reducing Baghdad (and in fact all of Iraq) to rubble, while minimizing the risk to American Troops. Why send 100's of thousands of American men and women into harm's way when we have this alternative? True, the civilian losses would be very high, but their side seems oblivious to our civilian losses (in fact civilians seem to be their preferred targets). One doesn't produce Biological and/or nuclear weapons to take out military targets.

The Iraqi people have had ample opportunity to depose Saddam Hussein and have chosen not to. (and I don't want to hear about how they are afraid to move against him. If 100,000 civilians rose up en masse he could be easily put down. Hell, get someone in his kitchen and poison his dinner. He uses fear, I have to think that if the Iraqi people truly believe that we would rather blow up a good number of them, rather than suffer Mr. Hussien to live, that their attitude would change dramatically.)

On this point, I would strongly disagree with Paul. We Americans were fortunate enough to be born into a relatively free country and this has shaped our thoughts. We know revolutions are possible and – other than the poorest among us who live in high-crime areas – most of us do not fear for our lives on a daily basis. The Globe and Mail has a detailed background article on Saddam Hussein and the political environment in which Iraqis are raised.

In perhaps his most famous episode of political theatre, Mr. Hussein summoned 350 members of his Revolutionary Command Council to a meeting in 1979. A one-time intimate associate was pushed on to the stage; for two hours, he named names and gave details of a putative plot against Mr. Hussein.

As he reeled off the list of his alleged co-conspirators, guards appeared and dragged away the weeping or screaming party members, 60 of them in all. Mr. Hussein took the stage afterward and wept over their treachery; thoughtfully, however, he recorded the whole episode on video, rounding it out with footage of the men, their mouths taped, being executed.

But it was not long before another side of Mr. Hussein began to show. He undermined the army, and immediately started to create a network of state police apparatuses, and to eliminate potential rivals. His appointed thugs began their reign of torture and murder; they have killed thousands of Mr. Hussein's opponents over the years.

The one undisputed fact about Saddam Hussein's years in power is his monstrous cruelty. He has forced suspected traitors to watch videos of their wives being raped or their children tortured. "From 1982 on, it's been known that any opponent of the regime will not only be jailed, shot and tortured, but their family will suffer the same fate," Mr. Cockburn says. "Consequently, it's very difficult to organize an effective opposition. People just won't do it, for perfectly understandable reasons."

His relationships with his children are predictably fraught. His eldest son, Uday, is a drunken thug, almost as feared in Baghdad as his father. He maintains his own jail for people he dislikes in his office at the Iraqi Olympic Committee, which he heads. Uday was paralyzed in an assassination attempt in 1996, and his father appears now to favour his more level-headed second son, Qusay, as his heir.

Mr. Hussein also has three daughters with Sajjida; in one of his better known incidents of public brutality, he had their husbands killed in 1996 (not a banner year in the Hussein family). The sons-in-law, brothers Saddam and Hussein Kamal, defected to Jordan and told tales about their father-in-law's biological and chemical weapons programs. A few months later, Uday was sent to tell them they could come home and be forgiven; apparently unfamiliar with their father-in-law's feelings about betrayal, they did indeed return home, to an affectionate welcome -- and then were shot to bits, days later, in a mighty gun battle.

And he is positively obsessive about the possibility of assassination, employing three surgically altered body doubles and fleets of decoy cars, and obliging staff at his numerous palaces to prepare meals each day, to give the appearance he is in residence. He employs food testers, sheet testers, clothing testers, ink testers. He is said to never sleep in the same place for more than a day or two, and never for more than four hours at a time.

He has rarely travelled outside Iraq, and neither have his advisers. He is isolated as a result, and capable of grave miscalculations such as the invasion of Kuwait that precipitated the Gulf War. Those around him know better than to give him critical advice, so he hears only what they believe he wants to hear; he makes most decisions alone.

But Mr. Hussein has clung to power through every disaster. The war he launched against Iran in 1980 left 400,000 Iraqis, mostly conscripts, dead in the course of eight years. His Kuwait adventure in 1990 brought the total humiliation of the Gulf War, with Baghdad in ruins and rebels in control of 14 of the country's 18 provinces. He has outlasted innumerable coups and plots; the country cannot muster an effective opposition against him.

I do not believe the Iraqi people have the capability to rise up against Saddam Hussein without help. In a shameful episode of Western history, many nations (including the US) encouraged Iraqis to revolt during the Gulf War and strongly implied military support would be available. Many Iraqi tried to revolt, the West protected the Kurds, but merely imposed sanctions on the rest of Iraq. Saddam then killed those who revolted (including torturing the families of the rebels).

However, my disagreement with this point does not answer Paul’s main question – why risk American lives for Iraqis? I’ll post the rest of Paul’s comments and then respond.

Many will point out that it is impossible to hold territory without a Ground Force Presence. To which I respond - Who said anything about holding territory? I thought all we were interested in was removing Iraq's leadership and its ability to cause harm to others?

I'm sure our Turkish friends would be overjoyed to take possession of the Iraqi oil fields.

Let's move our thinking into the 21st century. We have planes/missiles/bombs, why not use them?

I'll leave the rationale behind whether or not we SHOULD attack to whomever wants to take up that topic. I have concerns over HOW we should attack. We are the most powerful nation in the world, but the world perceives us as being impotent. It is obvious that they don't/won't love us. Alright then, let them fear us. Whatever it takes to ensure the safety of OUR people.


Paul’s main point is very pragmatic. The US has the power to bomb Iraq to rubble at a very low risk to American lives. Once a decision has been made to eliminate Iraq as a threat to the US, why not do this in the matter that least threatens US lives, no matter how high the cost to the Iraqi people? Machiavelli would probably have approved. The early Roman Republic would certainly have approved. I don’t.

I’ll offer several reasons. The first reason is a Christian argument. (Whether or not my readers are Christian is not relevant to this point – President Bush is certainly a Christian and his views on morality will influence his orders.) The Christian concept of a “just war” has been discussed since the time of Christ. Slaughtering innocent citizens is not part of a just war. Liberating the Iraqi people is much more in line with a just war and would be more appealing to a Christian like President Bush.

The second reason is long-term. If the West occupies Iraq and builds a stable democracy there, this should have a big impact on the region. It may encourage citizens of other Middle Eastern countries to strive for their own political representation. During the Cold War we supported a lot of dictatorships like Saudi Arabia. I think that was a mistake, but it is easy for me to say this after the Cold War is over. Nevertheless, the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria are not pleased with the idea of a democratic Iraq. This is not a surprise. I suspect President Bush and his advisors have been doing a lot of planning over the future of Iraq. If successful, Americans and Iraqis will be the better for it over the long-term.

For these two reasons, I support liberating the people of Iraq as well the elimination of Saddam Hussein.

Reporter Fools Reporters

This is a very short article that clearly shows why most people don’t trust the media. As a whole, those in the media don’t do their homework.

Estrada Update

The Democrats are still discussing a filibuster, while Senate Majority Leader Frist hopes for a vote tonight or tomorrow. Raul Damas, a conservative Hispanic, hopes the Democrats try a filibuster – he calls it political suicide.

February 07, 2003
Man-Machine Finale

I “watched” the final game in real-time over the internet. Kasparov finished the six-game tournament with style. Despite playing black, Kasparov played to his strengths and went on the offensive after an early queen trade. After a rook sacrifice, he offered the Deep Junior handlers a draw. They declined. A few moves later, they offered Kasparov a draw and he accepted.

So each competitor ended the tournament with a 1-1-4 record against each other. I expect these types of Chess matches will soon be history as Chess AIs - and their hardware - continue to improve to the point where humans cannot compete. But it was nice to see Kasparov manage a draw against today's technology.

Education Woes

Despite Schröder’s anti-American rhetoric, Germans and Americans have many things in common. Unfortunately, one of them is flawed public school systems. While US universities are still world-class, our K-12 public school system - when considered as a whole - is pathetic and has been known to be weak for decades. However, German schools now appear to be doing an even worse job educating their students according to the International Herald Tribune.

American teenagers rank higher than the Germans in all three subjects [reading literacy, mathematics, and science] despite studies that found one in 10 young Americans cannot find his country on a blank map of the world.

I have no solutions for reforming public schools. All we've proved in the US is that throwing money at the system doesn't help. My eldest child will be old enough to start school next fall. My wife and I are seriously considering home-schooling.

Cloned Sheep Dies of Unknown Causes

Modern science brings us many new tools. Like traditional tools, they can be used for good or for evil. However, things are rarely this black and white to the user – especially before the results of using the tool are fully understood. Animal cloning offers many potential advantages. For example, it can help restore endangered species. However there are a lot of unknowns about cloning. How good a copy is a clone? Dolly – the first cloned sheep – was afflicted by premature aging.

Reuters tells of the mysterious death of Matilda – Australia’s first cloned sheep. After a quick autopsy, Matilda was cremated because due to its decaying condition – at least according to the director of the South Australian Research and Development Institute. However, skeptics of cloning are doubtful of that reasoning. At this time, I am not going to tackle the pros and cons of human cloning. However, I will say that any attempt to clone a human should be banned until the procedure is 100% safe with animals. This would that give society time to have an informed discussion of the issue, but that is a side-benefit. It is simply unethical to clone human life when we don’t know if the clones will age prematurely, drop dead for no apparent reason, or have other unknown problems.

Ohio Bureaucrats Claim Their Power Trumps U.S. Constitution

The gall of some government officials astounds me.

Paul and Linda Walsh filed a lawsuit after police and caseworkers entered their home without a warrant and without permission. The social workers said they were acting on an anonymous tip about unspecified “hazards” in the home, and claimed they had a right to enter the home without a warrant.

The social workers threatened the family, saying that if they were not allowed in the home they would take the children away from the parents. In papers filed with the court, the Walshes said that a social worker even blocked their driveway with her car when the family tried to leave to attend a church function that evening.

The social worker summoned police, who frisked Mr. Walsh and threatened to arrest him on charges of obstructing official business if he did not allow the caseworkers into the home. Walsh said that he then allowed the workers to enter the home rather than risk being jailed.

The caseworkers found nothing in the home that constituted an immediate hazard to the family.

Fortunately the Walshes were not from France. They filed suit against “the caseworkers, the Erie County Department of Job and Family Services, the Erie County Board of Commissioners, the City of Vermilion, Ohio; and three Vermilion police officers.”
Defendants told the court that the Fourth Amendment prohibitions against illegal searches and seizures do not apply to them in such circumstances. They asked the court to throw the case out, but the court refused.

In a forceful opinion, US District Judge James G. Carr wrote: “Despite the Defendants’ exaggerated view of their powers, the Fourth Amendment applies to them, as it does to all other officers and agents of the state whose requests to enter, however benign or well-intentioned, are met by a closed door. There is...no social worker exception to the strictures of the Fourth Amendment. ...Any agency that expects to send its employees routinely into private homes has a fundamental obligation to ensure that those employees understand the constitutional limits on their authority.”

The court stated that because the Walshes refused consent, and because the anonymous complaint did not supply persuasive evidence of an emergency, the caseworkers had no option but to either “leave the [Walshes] alone and in peace” or seek a search warrant.

The court further ruled that the police did not have probable cause to detain, frisk, and threaten to arrest Walsh, since he was not breaking any law but merely asserting his “fundamental right to be left alone.”

Thank God for a judge that enforces the Constitution. This is why I support judges that believe their job is to implement the law instead of creating the law.

The German People Deserve Better, IV

According to the Financial Times (subscription link), the US government has greatly reduced a German company’s involvement in the development of a manned ground combat vehicle. Citing “logistical difficulties” for the reason, DARPA gave a greater role in the project to General Dynamics, the United Defense Limited Partnership, and the Lead Systems Integrator (all American companies).

Logistical difficulties – heh.

The Germans aren’t fooled either.

Although there have been no clear short-term repercussions for German defense orders, "the atmosphere towards the German armament industry has clearly changed to the disadvantage of the industry", said Helmut Harff, defense industry spokesman at the BDI, Germany's main industry federation.

This is obviously a signal that the US government may stop spending American dollars to support German industry if Schröder continues to pursue anti-American policies. It is also quite mild as shots go – the contract was expected to be worth $36 million dollars. I believe President Bush and his administration is just showing Germany that they cannot both pursue a policy of anti-Americanism AND received largess from the American taxpayer. Once Schröder is gone, many Americans (including myself) expect German-American relations to improve. If not, I expect we’ll probably move our military bases out of Germany (perhaps into Poland – whose extremely pro-American government has already expressed interest). But I expect relations to improve once Schröder is gone.

May Schröder’s reign be short-lived.

February 06, 2003
The German People Deserve Better, III

According to the AP, Schröder’s month is getting worse. Not only did he did Schröder lead his party to defeat at the polls, it seems several of the other political parties in Germany are dismayed at the state of German-American relations.

"One doesn't always have to like the American rhetoric," Wolfgang Schaeuble, a lawmaker and former leader of the main opposition Christian Democrats, said on MDR radio. "But the fact is that, unfortunately, that is how we are behaving."

"Alarm bells should ring in Berlin when Germany is placed on the same level as countries like Cuba and Libya," said Michael Glos, parliamentary leader of the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union.

Taking up the refrain of the conservatives who were narrowly defeated by Schroeder on an anti-war platform in last year's election, he accused the chancellor of leading Germany into diplomatic isolation.

May Schröder’s reign be short-lived.

Update: Steve Den Beste has some comments.


I've added some new links to my Communications section. One of the unexpected benefits of starting this blog has been the exposure to additional blogs as others send me comments.

Another Wargamer's Analysis of Iraq's Chances

(Hat tip to Vodka Pundit)

James Dunnigan has listed the ten worst things that could happen to the US if the West invades Iraq. Some of them are very, very unlikely, but that isn't the point. The point that Dunnigan makes is that Iraq still loses. I find his list interesting, but I believe he did a lot of work and then missed stating the main point - perhaps because it is self-evident to him. The main point is that any of these worse case scenarios is less risky than leaving Saddam in power. Let's examine the risk of leaving Saddam in power.

7 Things That Can Happen if Iraq is NOT Invaded

7. Assume the appeasers are correct and Iraq does not pose a threat to the world outside of the Middle East. Saddam continues to do his part to ensure the Middle East has more than its share of human misery with his actions, including funding Palestine suicide bombers. Dissatisfied Iraqis continue to be beaten and tortured while the UN does nothing. This is the “best-case” of these scenarios.

6. In addition to the aforementioned problems, Saddam provides training and resources to international terrorists. Using Iraq as a place to hide from those fighting terrorism; Al-Qaeda's leaders regroup, plan, and implement additional terrorist acts against the West, including releasing biological weapons in Western cities.

5. In addition to the aforementioned problems, Saddam eventually develops nuclear weapons. He then invades Kuwait again and warns the West that if they interfere he will nuke Israel. He also states that he has buried nuclear weapons in the Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil fields and if he loses, he will detonate them and contaminate the oil for centuries to come.

4. In addition to the aforementioned problems, Saddam smuggles nuclear weapons near or in Western cities as additional blackmail if the West interferes with his plans of conquest of the Middle East.

3. In addition to the aforementioned problems, North Korea considers the West a paper tiger after Saddam remains in power despite defying 12 years worth of UN resolutions. Many analysts already believe North Korea has some nuclear weapons and it is currently restarting its nuclear reactor to produce more. Exploiting their missile technology, North Korea starts selling nuclear-tipped ICBM to rogue nations in exchange for much needed cash. Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are among the initial purchasers.

2. After selling nuclear weapons to multiple nations, North Korea declares war on South Korea, calling for them to recognize they are under the jurisdiction of North Korea. North Korea’s ICBM’s can now reach the coastal cities of the U.S. and the SDI authorized by President Bush is still about five years from being effective. Thus, North Korea threatens to launch ICBMs at the US if they interfere.

1. In addition to the aforementioned problems, Iraq or North Korea sells nuclear weapons to Al-Qaeda or another terrorist organization. Terrorists attempt to blackmail the West. Eventually, they detonate one or more nuclear weapons in major Western cities.

I stopped at seven things because this exercise was too depressing. And while some of these scenarios are unlikely, all are possible. While war is a horrible thing, does anyone truly believe leaving Saddam Hussein in power is less risky than removing him?

February 05, 2003
Man-Machine Update

Kasparov and Deep Junior are both 1-1-3 now after playing to a draw today. The last game in their match will be played Friday. In the point system being used (1 point for a win, 1/2 point for a tie), both players have exactly 2.5 points. IMO, the best that Kasparov can hope for now is a tie since this was his last game as white. If you are not familiar with Chess, white goes first and has a slight advantage. At this level of skill, a slight advantage is important.

Moore's Law states that processing power doubles every eighteen months. So in just over nine years, new PCs will have as much processing power as Deep Blue did. And even if the current state-of-the-art software running in Deep Junior does not improve, this means that a typical PC should be able to beat any human Grand Master at Chess with ease, let alone have problems beating normal mortals. And the software will improve - I have been following the matches and I believe the software has improved with each game. It will be interesting to see what we as a society elect to do with the possibilities inherent in inexpensive tools that can surpass human abilities in certain endeavors. Will it free us to be more creative? Or will we become a world of couch potatoes with a rich subclass of computer repairmen?

Go read ScrappleFace

Their satire on Powell's speech humorously points out why most people don't trust the Left on matters of national security better than logic ever will.

We evacuated everything

Powell has finished his presentation. I didn’t expect him to present much that was new – the case about Saddam is mostly he is a bad man who should be stopped while it is relatively easy to do so. However, there was some new information. The Washington Post has a nice summary of his presentation, including some surveillance audio.

…the tape was an intercepted conversation between officers in Hussein's Republican Guard. The voices were discussing a modified vehicle one of them had that was made by an Iraqi company, which Powell said was a weapons manufacturer.

"We have this modified vehicle," one of them said as the two discussed a pending visit by a U.N. weapons inspector.

"I'm worried you all have something left," the second voice says.

"We evacuated everything. We don't have anything left," the other replies.

Enough said. The only remaining questions are:

1) Will France use this new information to save face and back the international coalition to disarm Saddam?
2) When will Saddam be removed from power?
3) How long will it take before the hide-their-heads-in-the-sand crowd comes out and says the world doesn’t have enough evidence to go after Saddam?

Unlike the other two questions, this one is easy. We’ll hear from them today and they probably already had their press releases prepared before Powell spoke.

Update: A full transcript of Powell's remarks is available here. The entire transcript is long, but worth reading if you have the time. Another recording reveals ``Nerve agents. Stop talking about it. They are listening to us. Don't give any evidence that we have these horrible agents.''

631 Days!

Very early in his administration, President Bush nominated a host of judges. They had one thing in common – they believe their job is to enforce the law vs. creating the law. While I question some of President Bush’s economic decisions, I 100% support his judicial nominations to date. It looks like some Democrats – the ones who delight in judges who unconstitutionally impose social policies that would never be passed by representatives who have to face elections – are gearing up to stop as many of these nominations as possible. For example, let us look at Miguel Estrada. His nomination was held up by the Senate Judiciary Committee for 631 days! Fortunately, these Democrats lost control of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January after November’s elections and the Republicans only needed a few weeks to review Estrada’s qualifications before releasing his name for Senate approval or disapproval. This is one of the reasons Independents like myself get disgusted with the Left. There is no reason to hold up a nomination for almost 2 years! If you disagree with the nomination, state so, release the nomination for a Senate vote, and vote against him. Don’t hide behind the need for more review while you are really waiting for another President.

Now that Estrada’s nomination has been finally released, the Senate should vote on his nomination shortly. So is he qualified? Well, Miguel Estrada comes recommended by the American Bar Association – hardly a friend to conservatives – as well as the expected business and Hispanic organizations. In the words of Paul Weyrich, Estrada exemplifies the American Dream, a legal immigrant who came to this country as a teenager speaking little English, but graduating from Harvard Law School and demonstrating his knowledge of the law by arguing 15 cases before the Supreme Court. Weyrich has done his homework and rebuts the smear tactics being used by Estrada’s opponents.

In a more emotional piece, Leo Lacayo claims It is high time for Latinos to come to the aid of other Latinos and stop being the peons of the political plantation that Democrats want to keep us on. Dare we go stray from the fold and take the good path-- the path to freedom and greatness, so that the Jesse Jacksons and the Tom Daschels of the world can be denied the hijacking of our representation? I wonder if this will energize the “Hispanic” community to swing Right? That is certainly the hope of the Republicans and the fear of the Democrats.

However, I doubt it. Even though Estrada, if confirmed, would be the first Latino to serve on the D.C. Court of Appeals, the very idea of a unilateral “Hispanic” community makes as much sense as expecting a diverse Europe to speak with one voice. First of all, I believe the entire idea of racism is a leftover relic of Darwinism and needs to be abandoned. As modern biologists have discovered, humankind is one race. The biological definition of different species is when they cannot interbreed. I don’t think anyone is ignorant enough to say different people groups cannot procreate. But even if there was value in grouping people by ‘race’ – which I doubt – the Hispanic grouping is more artificial than most. The cultures of Mexico, Cuba, and Spain are quite different from each other. Yet if you come from one of these countries (or many others where Spanish may be spoken), you may be considered Hispanic. As you might expect, people from different cultures will have different values. And a lot depends upon where they reside in the U.S. as well. For example, Hispanics in Texas overwhelmingly voted Republican and love George Bush. While Hispanics in California overwhelmingly voted for the Democrats, mostly due to how Californian Republicans responded to immigration issues.

So I don’t expect Estrada’s nomination will influence any of the Hispanics who are already firmly behind one party or the other. But I do expect the Independents amongst us – whether they are “Hispanic” or not – will be watching the Senate carefully. Seeing how worthy judges are treated will influence our voting behavior. If you are an American citizen, I urge you to contact your Senators and ask them to support Michael Estrada.

Update: According to Fox News, The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Honduran-born Estrada last Thursday on a 10-9 party line vote. Looks like some of the Democrats are going to try for a filibuster. But two Democratic senators -- John Breaux of Louisiana and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota -- have approached GOP Senate Judiciary Committee staff aides and requested information about Estrada that they can use to defend a potential vote in favor of his nomination.

Feedback from Europe

I’ve received some interesting email from European readers of this blog. From Paul in the UK:

France (Chirac) has come out strongly anti war. I predict this will cause many undecided Brits to swing pro war. France keeps flouting EU rules, whilst we spend £££ obeying them, and Chirac has been insulting our PM to keep his own voters happy. Our normally tongue-in-cheek press is turning very anti French, as opposed to the usual wry snobbery towards them.

Who says Chirac isn’t helping the effort to disarm Saddam?

From Ralph in Germany:

I know some people, who remember World War Two...War is something, we (who haven’t experienced it) don't understand...A lot of different feelings like hate, feelings to be anxious and feelings to leave countries who try to start a war are normal... Our grandpa's fought against each other (in WW2) and every side was anxious to face each other...Steven Spielberg showed it very realisticly with his movie "Savin' Private Ryan"

I don't want to kill a person I don't know for economy advantages, because I imagine being at the battlefield and I'm just anxious... I hear incoming fire and feel the impact of guns close to the earth and I'm trying to hide from the projectiles and I want to run away from this scenario and wish, that the guys who start the war hit each other with fists of peace...This guys who look for power have to face each other without forcing the civil population to do that...

So we should set up a 1:1 fight between Saddam Hussein and George Bush? Interesting idea, but I doubt either would go for it. Incidentally, the US support for war is highest among our military, which is a volunteer force.

Gentlemen, thanks for the comments. I always appreciate feedback, especially from those overseas who share their perspectives.

February 04, 2003
Wisdom from Britney Spears

This week’s Time (February 10, 2003) has a quote from Britney Spears after she visited the Sundance Film Festival. Sundance is weird. The movies are weird – you actually have to think about them when you watch them. At first I dismissed this as simply another sign of the foolishness of asking celebrities for their opinions on anything outside of their field. You know, like listening hearing some Hollywood type give his opinion on AIDS because he plays a doctor on TV… These comments aren’t worth any serious thought, but are usually worth a laugh.

However, Britney IS in the entertainment business and this is actually a worthy comment about the industry. Most content coming from Hollywood doesn’t require any thinking – in fact the entertainment value goes up if you can put your thinking on hold so you don’t see all the gaps in the “logic” of the film. The success of the Sundance Film Festival is actually an indictment of Hollywood and Britney was smart enough to figure this out. This puts her several steps above the typical Hollywood director.

Peggy Noonan and the SOTU

The State of the Union already seems like old news in our fast-paced world, but Noonan's comments on it are interesting. Her perspective on the Democrat's reactions to Bush is also entertaining. I don't completely agree with her, but there is enough truth to it to make liberals squirm. It just shows the problem to defining yourself as against Bush as opposed to standing for something. Other than supporting every type of abortion, current Democrats don't seem to stand for much in common. Some comments by Noonan.

Yeah, I think he's [President Bush is] tying them [The Democrats] in knots. They say he's a lone cowboy but he goes with Colin Powell and approaches the U.N. and asks for its help. They say he's a unilateralist so he shocks them the other day with an unexpected statement of support from eight European leaders--including a great man and idealist named Vaclav Havel. They say they need more detail so he announces Mr. Powell will go to the U.N. Security Council with a full brief. They say Mr. Powell is a lone voice of sanity in the administration and Mr. Powell comes out powerfully to back the president. They say they need proof of "imminence" of Iraqi attack, and Mr. Bush counters that, um, terrorists and dictators don't send notes announcing they'll be coming to visit.

Her comments do point out some problems with the Left. If I were running the Democratic party, I would focus on paying off the National Debt and welcoming pro-lifers into the party. The younger generations may not agree with the Republicans on many issues, but the majority of them oppose abortion.

The German People Deserve Better and They Know It

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder should have paid more attention in his American history class. Abraham Lincoln once stated that "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." His anti-American rhetoric served as ear-candy for long enough for Schröder to win office, but many Germans are dismayed at how his heavy-handedness has set German-American relations to their lowest point since WWII. They showed it at the polls, handing Schröder, in his own words, one of his most bitter defeats. To make matters worse (from Schröder’s perspective – better from those interested in the truth), German health minister, Ulla Schmidt, has recommended that Germany stockpile smallpox vaccine to guard against a possible terrorist attack. When one’s own health minister believes Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and is willing to share them with other terrorists, it makes it hard to accuse President Bush of not having credible evidence against Iraq. It is past time to stop fooling people, Mr. Schröder. Hopefully the German people will continue to show their displeasure with Schröder’s tactics in future elections. And future students can read about how NOT to run a country by studying Schröder’s short-lived reign.

Man-Machine Update

Kasparov and Deep Junior are both 1-1-2 now after playing to a draw on Sunday. Two games remain in their match. In the point system being used (1 point for a win, 1/2 point for a tie), both players have exactly 2 points.

February 03, 2003
Thoughts on the Economy and Bush's Plan

Earlier I promised to discuss my mixed feelings about Bush's economic plans.  But first let me give you some background on how I think the U.S. economy works.  My thinking has been greatly influenced by Professor John Hoagland at Michigan State University and the following graph of the economy is based upon his research and data provided by the Institute for Supply Management.  The tags are my own.

Economies are complex beyond belief and no one truly understands all of the variables involved.  For example, the impact of stockholder distrust after disasters like Enron are not captured here.  However, Dr. Hoagland has been advocating that disruptions in supply chains are the single biggest factor and have been responsible for virtually all of the recessions in U.S. history (and presumably other nations, but his focus has been the U.S. economy).  He spent decades studying steel strikes in the U.S. and how the resulting supply chain disruptions would cause periodic recessions.  Some points in favor of his theory - 1)  Since long-term steel contracts became available (which minimized both the fluctuations in steel prices and union strikes), the U.S. economy grew for years without a recession.  2)  Based upon his theory, in the late 90s he predicted the Y2k recession.  He thought that since managers (and consumers) were stocking up in 1999 in the fear of computer meltdown, the resulting supply chain disruption would cause a major recession shortly after 2000 - when nothing occurred and businesses and consumers started consuming their stockpiles instead of buying more.  I wish I had known of Dr. Hoagland's prediction earlier, I would have sold all my stock in January 2000...

I've labeled the impact of the Y2k Recession on the graph.  When terrorists struck on 9/11, the resulting disruptions were noticeable in the U.S. economy, but not mortal.  From the graph, it looks like it set back the recovery by a few months.  However, on March 5, 2002, President Bush implemented a Steel Tariff.  This may or may not have been for political reasons, but it was a huge mistake from an economic perspective.  It disrupted the nation's supply chain yet again and made our recovery from the Y2k Recession a slow road.  Since then, I think the Bush administration has been shocked at the impact this has had on the economy.  Once they realized the size of their mistake, they have been passing more and more exemptions to the Steel Tariffs.  After each exemption is passed, the economy starts doing a bit better.

What does this have to do with Bush's proposed tax cuts?  It gives me a predisposition to be skeptical about them.  President Bush has already made one very big economic mistake by implementing the Steel Tariffs - and there is good evidence he did this for political reasons.  I am sure that President Bush and his staff didn't expect the Steel Tariffs to have such an impact, but politicians shouldn't make economic decisions for political reasons.  But we live in the real world and unfortunately, such considerations do impact policy decisions.  So what is good about the proposed tax cuts?  It eliminates several dubious tax policies (such as phasing out the marriage penalty and eliminating the double taxation on corporate profits by eliminating the dividend tax).  It take more money out of the hands of Congress - always a good thing.  It might boost the economy just as Reagan's tax cuts boosted the US economy 20 years ago.  It might.

On the other hand, Congress is increasing spending with the help of both parties.  Pork is flying left and right, Gulf War II will cost tens (or hundreds) of billions even if we use the Iraqi oil to pay for rebuilding Iraq (I do not think we will use any of the Iraqi oil to pay for the invasion, but it would be completely ethical to use their oil revenue to rebuild Iraq).  Except in cases of extreme emergencies (such as defending this country) or opportunity (such as purchasing Alaska) running a national deficit is immoral.  It is stealing from our children to pay for our current wants.  President Clinton finally convinced his party (the liberal tax and spend Democrats) that they would have more money in the long term if they quit running deficits and paid off the national debt.  A "conservative" President Bush gets elected and doesn't appear to care about the deficit.  When did the Democrats and Republicans trade places?  President Bush is gambling that the reduced taxes now will result in major economic growth later.  It may pay off.  I hope so.  But I think it a foolish and unethical gamble.

The "greatest generation" and the baby-boomers got us into this massive debt.  The baby-boomers are going to start retiring soon and expect the younger generations to pay their retirement expenses.  I glady fund the retirement of the WWII generation with my FICA taxes. I am not so charitable with the Baby-Boomers - who will go down in history as the generation that legalized abortion, saying quality of life was more important than life itself. They had better hope successive generations don’t feel that way about euthanasia. While they are still employed, they should pay off the debt for which they are responsible.  As a generation, they voted for politicians who got us into debt.  As a generation, they need to get us out of it.  Anything else is unethical.

February 01, 2003
Good-bye Columbia and Crew

It is a sad day for Mankind. Seven astronauts died today due to a yet unknown problem with Columbia upon reentry. I heard a former shuttle astronaut remark that the Columbia had been slightly damaged upon liftoff when an object from the launch tower fell and hit Columbia. Until we know more, this speculation makes more sense than any other theory I’ve heard. The only thing that I’m sure about is that this was NOT due to terrorists. The U.S. would be hard pressed to stealthily attack a rapidly moving object (traveling approximately 12,000 miles per hour) over 200,000 feet off the ground. It is beyond the reach of low-tech terrorists on the run.

I recall the demise of the Challenger from a combination of an engineering design flaw and a poor management decision to launch under poor conditions. The shuttle program was grounded for a long time while this problem was studied. I don’t expect a long delay in the next launch after the Columbia’s demise since it is clear that the shuttles are quite capable of safe reentry.

I will note that America’s shuttle fleet is aging. Other then the Endeavor – which replaced the Challenger in 1992 – all of the shuttles are about twenty years old (Columbia first flew in 1981). Nasa’s fleet of space trucks needs upgrading. I hope President Bush and Congress will dedicate monies to build a new generation of space shuttles with current technology. I further suggest that we name the first one the Ilan Ramon. If you are an American citizen and agree with me, please write your representatives. And keep the family, friends, and co-workers of the Columbia in your prayers.



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