Thursday, July 31, 2003

Do Gays Have a Culture of Disease?

In today's New York Times, Harvey Fierstein writes

Harvey's editorial shocked me. My first reaction was "Oh God, how can this be?" My second reaction was "Good for Harvey. He's taking a brave stand." Yet another reaction was "I wish he put less emphasis on blaming the 'drug companies', 'medical community' and 'AIDs charities'." But that was a quibble, frankly. For most of the article, Harvey emphasizes how he will take personal responsibility to improve the situation and he urges all individuals to do the same. That's a message I can get behind 100%.

But, as I mulled over the editorial, I had a final reaction to the editorial "Is this true?" I mean, is Harvey really talking about a representative gay culture?

Over the last seven years, I've worked in a company with a large percentage of gays who are "out of the closet". It's a company whose leadership is openly gay, and as a result, the gays who work there feel comfortable being open about their sexual orientation. As a result of this open environment, I've always felt that I've seen further into the lives of gay people than would be the case if I worked elsewhere. I count gays among my friends. I brought my three year-old son to a wedding between two women. I've been to parties where the openly gay people have outnumbered the rest. In short, I feel like I know a little bit about being gay in America, even though I happen to be heterosexual.

Yet, I've never heard or seen anything like what Harvey describes. Is it a nationwide phenomenon among gays? Is he describing a sub-culture of the gay community? It just doesn't ring true to me. I don't believe Harvey is lying. He clearly believes what he wrote. It simply doesn't jibe, at all, with my personal experiences.

I'd like to hear thoughts from my readers on this. Thanks. 
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

A New 'New Mideast'
(registration required)

Tom Friedman points out the amazing circumstances that exist in the Middle East right now. The Iraqis have a 25-person Governing Council set to write a new Iraqi Constitution, and the Palestinians are trying to show that they can rule themselves responsibly. For my money, he could have given Bush more credit for the existence of new Palestinian leadership. Friedman is not above finding faults with the administration, and he takes some shots at the Pentagon here. His conclusion equivocates on whether or not all of this will last, but it's undeniable that we've accomplished some positive results in the Middle East which will be transformative if we can maintain our momentum.

Bonus points to Tom for putting a new spin on the "swamp" metaphor.

Billmon has the Eschaton folks all fired up over his latest post.

He's got me fired up as well, but in a different way.

It seems many on the Left are willfully ignoring the idea of "draining the swamp". Have they never read what Josh Marshall wrote in the run-up to the war? He was for it until the very eve of the war because he felt like we needed to do something major to "drain the swamp" that breeds terrorism. The only reason he backed off (when it was already too late, I might add), is because he didn't like how it was affecting the UN and other international institutions. Even now, he still says that creating a democracy in Iraq is an important thing. Have they never read Tom Friedman? He's been an advocate of the "drain the swamp" theory since 9/11. They're both solid lefties.

Does Billmon mention how creating an Arab democracy just might change some of the dynamics in the middle east that breed terrorism? No.

All he can see is in the short-term is disaster, and in the long-term greater disaster. To Billmon, the situation is unchangeable, so we shouldn't try.

I for one believe we should try, and not to free Iraqis from a sadistic dictator (although that's one hell of a benefit), but instead because our choice is to either drain the swamp or instead get used to ongoing terrorism on our soil.

I'm not willing to simply wait to get sucker-punched again. I'm for taking action to try to drain the swamp.

Republicans start to sense a 'sweep'

Can you say hubris?

I don't get this sense of confidence on the part of the RNC. Did they forget what happened to Bush 41? Do they really feel their base is fired up right now? George Will, Andrew Sullivan and the editors of National Review have all written recent articles saying Bush is not pursuing conservative policies. At the same time, social conservatives, as represented by the National Review and others, are angry that Bush isn't taking a stand for a Defense of Marriage Amendment and other like issues. Voters who rallied to Bush after 9/11 are now wondering where the WMDs are and when we are going to stop losing soldiers in Iraq. So why would the RNC be talking about sweeping elections that are over a year away?

My far Left friends know the answer is because the Bushies will "steal the election" to retain power. These are the same members of the Left who see "incipient fascism" in everything Bush does. For my money, it's simpler than that. The RNC is caught in the clutches of hubris. You can hear it in almost every quote from Grover Norquist. You can hear it in the article above. You can see it in the redistricting fight in Texas. I'm not Karl Rove, but this seems to me to be a recipe for political disaster.

UPDATE: Let's not forget that libertarians, normally trustworthy to vote Republican, have their issues with Republicans as well. Also, Orcinus (David Neiwert) feels I did him wrong. Here's his post. 
Monday, July 28, 2003

'Racism' claim lets kids down

This editorial is from Cynthia Tucker. She's responsible for the Editorial page of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Politically, she could easily write for The Nation

I'm not a minority (at least to the best of my knowledge, who knows what's included in my ancestry?). It makes me reluctant to reach conclusions about minorities of any stripe, because I don't have a personal frame of reference through which to make judgements. Certainly, I know, work with and have friends who are minorities, but I still don't believe I can truly put myself in their shoes. That said, some pundits say that black's in America have a culture, separate from non-black America which is not serving them well. This culture contributes to poor school performance and excessive incarceration rates to name a couple of challenges. Again, I don't know if those pundits are correct in their analyses. I just know they are out there.

Anyway, I believe strongly in personal responsibility. I want to see all people take it upon themselves to do what is necessary to get what they want from life. It wounds me to see people buy into the idea that because of the circumstances of their birth, their entire lives are pre-determined. That's why I call attention to this article. It is heartening to see a woman, Cynthia Tucker, with whom I disagree on almost everything, challenging black parents and children to take personal responsibility for their education. Bob Herbert of the NY Times recently had an editorial saying essentialy the same thing (see a summary here).

Does this mean there is a consensus? No. These articles come around every once in awhile. The good news is that two black liberals are issuing the challenge to black Americans. Perhaps there is reason to hope for change. When it comes to race issues in America, much attention has been focused, appropriately, on the need for white culture to change. And rest assured, I know that racism still exists in America. But it is also good to see that some black leaders recognize that not all problems will be solved by government programs and getting white America to finally end its racism. Some change will also need to come from within the black community. I find that an empowering message. And a great example of Timshel
Sunday, July 27, 2003
  Dave Barry on Timshel
(Well not really, but you'll see what I mean)

In this column, Dave Barry explains why he's not responsible for eating Cheez-Its, and tells us of his plans to sue Big Food. The Money graf

Read the whole thing. 
Friday, July 25, 2003

Why Timshel?

East of Eden is a book by John Steinbeck. The book is an updated version of the Book of Genesis. The name for this blog was inspired by the following passage from the book.

I believe with all of my heart that our circumstances do not determine our lives. Instead, I believe our choices determine our lives. That is not to say that our lives are not impacted by the country in which we were born or the family to which we were born or the tragedies which touch our lives. What I mean is that we are given a choice of how we respond to those things, and the power of that choice means that the course and merit of our lives is not determined by external factors, but instead it is determined by our reaction to those external factors.

You may wonder why that is relevant to a blog that focuses on politics. Yet to me, it has much to do with my politics. I believe that people are better off believing that there lives are filled with choices. They do not get the luxury of blaming their circumstances on external factors. We all decide how we respond to life's challenges, and there are excellent examples of people all around us who have found ways to overcome the most difficult burdens of birth and life. At the end of the day, we all choose. This is a principle that should be reinforced throughout our culture everyday. It's both empowering and scary. Empowering because we get to take responsibility for the consequences of our choices. Scary for the same reason. 

American soldiers really aren't spoilt, trigger-happy yokels

Here's an important article in the Telegraph (requires registration) from a British journalist who has been living and working with American soldiers in Iraq. It directly contradicts many of the media reports we get about how our troops go about doing their jobs.

Our media seems to have convinced itself that the American military is using more force than the British troops and doing a poorer job of building relations with the local Iraqi population. It's unfortunate that they aren't actually looking at the reality of the situation.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

This post from Josh does a great job of summing up the real reasons we went to war with Iraq. Here’s a couple of key grafs

Now as some of you may know, Josh originally supported the war, then on the very eve of the conflict, changed his mind. I believe he was right the first time. I supported then, and continue to support now, our efforts in Iraq. However, I feel this is a subject on which reasonable men can disagree. What’s important about this post from Josh is how it shows that, support the war or not, Bush’s failure to be honest with Americans about the real reasons for the war is terribly tragic. It’s not to say that a patient reader could not see all of the reasons for our choosing to invade Iraq. The information was out there to be found. See Josh’s articles as just one example. It’s that Bush chose to sell the war by emphasizing it as a reaction to Saddam’s existing WMDs. Now, the failure to find WMDs is affecting Bush’s credibility with the American people, as it should, and as a consequence may limit his ability to finish the job in Iraq. And that would be truly tragic.

Watching the Tide Turn Against Bush

I've seen the poll numbers that show Bush's approval ratings dropping like a stone. Analysis of those numbers can be found all over the place, so I won't pretend to have anything to add on that front. What's struck me is not the polls, as much as the reactions of my own friends and family over the last few weeks. My father-in-law was skeptical about going to war with Iraq, but by the time it started, he was a supporter. Now, he's back to being skeptical, and he said to me last week, "Bush is just like every other politician." My father-in-law also thought the last round of tax cuts made no sense and that "no one wanted those tax cuts." (He was referring to polls showing that tax cuts were not a high priority for Americans right now)

I have two very conservative friends, one who is a dittohead and another who thinks that Michael Savage is even better than Rush. Two weeks ago while visiting with their families, the dittohead was clearly uncomfortable with the failure to find WMDs and he also was disgusted with the way Bush has allowed government spending to grow over the last two/three years. The Michael Savage fan was in denial about the failure to find WMDs and he kept saying that if a Democrat were president, federal government spending would be even worse. The Michael Savage fan's belief in Republicans is unassailable, always has been.

If I look at my center-right and conservative friends, the failure to find WMDs and the growing deficit have shaken their trust in Bush. Only the most hardcore conservatives that I know, the ones who refer to Democrats as pinkos, still trust Bush as much as they did six months ago. It's probably the statment by my father-in-law that was most telling to me. When he said Bush is just like every other politician, I knew that Bush had lost the bond he formed with most Americans right after Sept. 11th. Does all of this add up to political defeat for Bush in 2004? I don't know. But with many Americans looking at Bush as just another politician, he's going to have to run on his record, not his charisma.
Friday, July 18, 2003

The Inimitable Lileks

Impressive speech by Blair today. I wonder how much press it will get. It sounded not at all like a Bush peroration, but when you pare away the accent you realize that both men are best suited by words that are tart, blunt, stark, and resolute. Not to say there aren’t differences - Blair’s speeches sound like the work of a keen and fierce intellect that has come to a certain conclusion by logical deduction. His heart has been informed by his head. In the case of Bush I think it’s the other way around. I suppose that’s the difference between being the leader of a nation that was attacked, and the leader of a nation whose ally was assaulted. What I found most invigorating about the speech was the tenor - the tune, not the notes. It was a speech sung in the key of War, and reminded us that we are just midway through the end of the beginning. If that.

Blair is, at heart, a socialist; I’ve no time for half the stuff he wants and most of the stuff he’d agree to. But he’d get my vote. We can argue about the shape and direction of Western Civ after we’ve made sure that such a thing will endure. I haven’t heard every single speech Tony Blair has made since he popped on to the political scene; I don’t know if he argues for increased license fees for domestic gerbils with the same passion and force. But today he sounded like a man who knew things, who knows that the threat is still grave, and cannot understand why others seek transient political advantage in exploiting those sixteen words. The people are worried, your majesty! "Oh, let them eat yellowcake."

When I hear a speech like Blair’s, I have to check the calendar. And the calendar is usually wrong. It may say 2/23, or 7/16, or 4/30. But I know what the date is, and the date is 9/12. It’s going to be 9/12 for a long time to come.

I think Lileks is being generous to Bush in how he compares him to Blair. The truth is that before, during and now after the war, no one has made the case for our actions better than Blair. Yesterday's joint press conference between Bush and Blair showed just how forcefully eloquent Blair can be when handling the press. His answers leave you convinced of his sincerity and his intellect. Bush just can't speak at that level. Bush's answers stagger along with the grace of a three-legged buffalo.

Bush owes Blair mightily for his rhetorical contributions, as well as the contributions of blood and treasure.

For my liberal friends who have been warned away from Lileks because of his political leanings, trust me you are missing out on a daily smile. Most of his Bleats focus on his day with his almost three year old daughter, and regardless of your political views, he'll make you laugh. Give him a try one week. My guess is you'll be hooked forever after. 
Thursday, July 17, 2003

I Know It’s Unfair to Say the Left Hates America, But…

Over at Eschaton, Leah has a post titled Saying “No” to Saddam. Here’s the first part of it.

So far, so good. This is looking like a great post. It looks like Leah is saying that even if she disagreed with the war, she can acknowledge that some good came out of it. Aaahhh… But not so fast, my friend. Leah wants you to know that our country should not feel good about this development. Instead, we should take the time to remember what bad people we normally are. And so now, she reminds us.

You see, don’t you? America really is made up of bad people (or at least the people we elect are bad) who don’t care about the suffering of others. In fact, we are complicit in the suffering of others. Don’t forget that. Don’t ever forget that. And the question she tacks on to the end there… That’s to remind us that we probably are looking to abuse the Iraqis still further. There is still more Leah has to share with us in the post, but I’m going to skip to the end of it.

Hmmm. A little mystery here. Leah says there is still reason to have hope, albeit slender, “given what the occupiers-in-chief have in mind.” I myself don’t know what she means by that, but it’s clear that Leah thinks the occupiers-in-chief have a plan that will try to thwart this moment of possibility for Iraq. Leah wraps up with.

So… Does Leah want the occupation to succeed? The question is so complex as to be almost unanswerable, but she will try nonetheless to come up with an answer in another post.

(/sarcasm off)

Now, I have no doubt that Leah is being patriotic in her own way. She wants us to remember how bad we can be, or our elected leaders anyway, so that maybe this time we’ll… well I guess I’m not entirely sure what she hopes we’ll do this time. Regardless, it’s hard to read her post and not feel like she used a positive moment as an opportunity to rail against the U.S. for mistakes made decades ago. And it’s easy to read her post and think, “wow! Leah’s sees everything through an America-is-bad prism.” I know that’s overly simplistic and perhaps unfair. But my guess is that most of middle America, at the gut level, would respond to her post in that way. 

New Howler Says Press Gets It Wrong AGAIN About the SOTU Controversy

This time Somerby takes Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post to task for misrepresenting the facts in the SOTU/uranium controversy. The kicker? Meyerson's article is titled "Inconvenient Facts".

While Adam in MA insists, as much as he loves the Howler, Somerby is the wrong one here. I'll leave it to the reader to decide. I still say it speaks well of Somerby that he's a watchdog on the press without regard to partisanship.

Now the non-partisan Spinsanity is saying that the DNC ad about the SOTU/unranium line is "guilty of inaccuracy".

Critics, after all, are accusing the Bush administration of making a misleading case for war using questionable evidence. But a new ad from the Democratic National Committee shows that some of his critics are guilty of inaccuracy as well.
The DNC doesn't quote the President in full, however. What he said was: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." While it is true that many intelligence analysts in the CIA, State Department and elsewhere did not believe this evidence, the British government still stands behind it.

Furthermore, while the ad says "A year earlier, that claim was already proven to be false," the articles the ad cites specify that members of the Bush administration believed that claims Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger were false. But Bush said "Africa," not "Niger," and Bush administration officials have recently said that the claim referred to other nations besides Niger.

This is all getting rather complex, isn't it? During the '90s I never could quite figure out what Whitewater was all about. This controversy hasn't reached that level of complexity yet, but it seems to be heading that way.

In fairness though, none of this needs to be this complicated. It appears to me that the administration has given it's enemies plenty to hang their hats on. I get the sense that Ari didn't know how to respond during the press gaggle that started this controversy. Then, he compounded the problem by issuing a short statement saying the line shouldn't have been in the SOTU. If he would have simply said that the line was based on the British report (as it was clearly stated in the SOTU), then the administration wouldn't be in this mess. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Ed Koch Defends Bush Criticizes Democrats

The world's getting a little wacky right now, isn't it? 

Somerby Continues to Defend Bush While His Readers Get Angry

Sorry, kids. Bush has gotten absurdly favorable press, during his campaign and during his presidency. No one has pointed that out more than we have. But when he’s been slimed, we’ve spoken up. And guess what? The same hapless people who slimed Bill and Al were spinning Bush this past Monday. Maybe you want to give these scribes to power to pick and choose their facts. But we think that would be very foolish. What happens when journalists are given that power? Review the past five years of work about the spinning of Clinton and Gore.

When I first started reading Somerby I thought he was a partisan hack who couldn't let go of the 2000 election. Then as I read him more often, I thought, "Partisan or not, the man is right." Now, it's clear he's not even a partisan. Talk about your bad first reads.

Troop Morale with the 3rd ID Is Pretty Low

Some quotes from this ABC News article

[Seargeant] was referring to the deck of cards the U.S. government published, featuring Saddam Hussein, his sons and other wanted members of the former Iraqi regime.

"The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz," he said.


"If [Rumsfeld] was here," said Pfc. Jason Punyahotra, "I would ask him why we're still here, why we've been told so many times and it's changed."

In the back of the group, Spc. Clinton Deitz put up his hand. "If Donald Rumsfeld was here," he said, "I'd ask him for his resignation."


It is Vega's job to maintain morale. That's not easy, he told me, when the Army keeps changing the orders.

"They turn around and slap you in the face," he said.

When asked if that's the way it feels, he said, "Yeah, kicked in the guts, slapped in the face."

While I know that no plan is perfect and that our military men and women are expected to adapt to changing circumstances, my heart goes out to these guys who've been over there for 10 months now. We need to rotate them out and quit making false promises. Tacitus has a thoughtful post on the morale sitution for the 3rd ID. 

Is Daily Kos Lying When They Say the Bush Team Is Lying?

Daily Kos has a post where the "lies" of the Bush administration are laid out for all to see. The post concludes with this

It wasn't soon thereafter that the Niger forgeries were exposed, though that didn't stop the administration from making claims completely unsubstantiated by the evidence:
On March 16, Cheney appeared again on "Meet the Press" and reiterated his views of the previous August about Hussein's nuclear program. "We know he's been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." The war began three days later.
This, my friends, is what's called "making shit up". Otherwise known, in more polite company, as a LIE.

Yet, surely Daily Kos is aware that the non-partisan Spinsanity already reviewed this "lie" over a week ago and found that it is more likely that Cheney simply mis-spoke. From Spinsanity's article titled "Unreliable Quotations"
Finally, a dispute has arisen over a quote from Vice President Dick Cheney, who said on the March 16 edition of NBC's "Meet the Press" that "we believe [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." To date, the assertion remains unproven, and has drawn heavy criticism in the dispute over statements made by the administration in arguing on behalf of a potential war with Iraq. However, as UCLA law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh points out in an article on National Review Online (echoing a point made by a several bloggers), commentators such as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Slate's Tim Noah and Salon's Joe Conason have neglected to point out the context of Cheney's statement. Specifically, Cheney said four times in the same interview that Saddam was pursuing nuclear weapons, not that he already possesses them, and the phrase "reconstituted nuclear weapons" makes little sense on its own (why would Saddam give up nuclear weapons if he possessed them?). Volokh argues that Cheney likely misspoke and that he meant to say "reconstituted nuclear weapons programs" or something similar, which is exactly what his aides told the Washington Post's Dana Milbank (see his May 20 White House Notebook column). Cheney's critics may believe his statement was intentional, but they owe their readers a clearer picture of the context in which he said it, as do too many other journalists and pundits of late, it seems.

If you are going to make a case about the administration's "lies", you should make sure your accusations can hold up under scrutiny. Has Daily Kos never read the Howler? 
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
  Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler Defends Bush

Wow! All this time I thought Somerby was partisan. It turns out he just hates the fact that America's pundits can't get their facts straight. From the Howler

No, the case isn’t complex, or hard to state. But the Washington press corps has turned hard against Bush in the matter of uranium-from-Africa. And there they go again, dear readers! At present, many journalists are bungling the facts, in a way which harms Bush, when they discuss this hot topic.(emphasis was in the original)

Give it a read. 

At Eschaton, Leah has a wonderful post pointing out several good things that have happened in Iraq.

The formation of the Iraqi Council. The Iraqis ability to have public debate for the first time in 30 years. Iraqis are saying that they want the U.S. to stay until they form their own government, but then leave immediately thereafter, which is the expressed policy of the administration. The fact that Iraqi leaders are using the term "Taliban of Iraq" to describe the rogue killers trying to kill our soldiers and return Iraq to the good ole days. So, what's the conclusion?

It's just possible that the Iraqi people may save the Bush administration from the worst consequences of its own arrogance and incompetence.

(jaw drops. hits floor.) Can the Left give the Bush administration no credit? Every tragedy in Iraq is Bush's fault, but any good news is in spite of Bush? Come on, already. 
  Who Is More Out of the Mainstream? Bush and His Religious Beliefs or the Left and Their Mocking of Those Beliefs

Today's Wall Street Journal has an opinion article called The Evangelical President
America's - commander in chief answers to a higher Power

The money graf

Far-left extremists have likened the president to the Taliban. The comparison is ridiculous, of course. Removing antireligious bias from federal grants, calling for good works, spending more on volunteer programs, and imbibing policies with compassion may not satisfy those of us who'd like to see smaller government, but it is a far cry from creating a theocracy. And finding inspiration from a higher power is an excellent antidote to typical Beltway cynicism.

Some commentators on the Left, ranging from the Far Left like Eric Alterman to center-Left pundits like Josh Marshall, have latched on to any story that gives the appearance that Bush's religious beliefs are out of the mainstream, even crazy. Both Josh and Eric ran with a Haaretz story that said, "according to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, President Bush said during their meeting in Aqaba, Jordan that 'God told me to strike at Al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.'" Now, it should be obvious to anyone with good instincts that the quote is wrong. In fact, SpinSanity dissected the quote and took Eric and Josh to task for using it.

When Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler investigated the claim (as reported June 27 by his colleague Al Kamen, a Post columnist), he found that the quote was taken from minutes of the meeting written by Abbas in Arabic (perhaps from an account he heard from a translator if he does not speak English), which was then provided to a reporter in Arabic. It was subsequently translated back into English for the final report. Moreover, Abbas is neither a transcriber nor a disinterested source, and there are no corroborating accounts. Nonetheless, Josh Marshall credulously touted the quote on his Talking Points Memo blog on June 30 without any disclaimers as to its accuracy, as did Eric Alterman in greater length on his Altercation blog on MSNBC.com.

There are many examples where self-identified members of the Left have latched on to scraps of quotes to distort what Bush or members of his administration have said around religion.

The thing that strikes me about these attacks is the extent to which it makes the Left look out of step with mainstream America and even their own political base. Sober commentators like Bill Keller of the NY Times have examined Bush's religious beliefs and concluded that they are neither crazy nor out of the mainstream. America itself is a nation of believers. Last year, a study of Americans showed that about two thirds of Americans (64%) report that religion is a "very important part" of their lives. This is especially true among women (74%) and African Americans (89%).

So, when Left pundits are mocking Bush's religious views, to whom do they think they are talking? Two of the most religious groups in America are women and African Americans who are traditionally strong Democratic constituencies.

Bush's religious views are good politically. Attacking him for his views only alienates the Left from mainstream America.  
  Steve Gilliard (Daily Kos) Thinks the U.S. Is Losing the War

Steve quotes at length from a Dean Broder column. Then, Steve concludes, in his own words.

The war and the economy are looking worse and worse for Bush, that irresponsible tax cut, the war without end, the totally inept fumbling. But for Broder, who gave Bush a pass before, after that dastardly, oral sex loving Clinton, to say the Dauphin is screwing up is remarkable.

What's next, concluding that we're losing the war?

Steve over-reaches here. Exactly which war are we losing? The Iraq war? Does he think the Saddam regime is on the verge of coming back? I suppose when you are focused on every negative piece of information you can find about Iraq, your mind might come to the conclusion that we're losing. It's not the case, however. We're facing daily tragedies where our soldiers are killed. But Saddam is not about to come back.

Perhaps Steve means the war against terrorism, but there is even less evidence to support that claim. The bombings in Saudi Arabia two months ago killed 35 people of which 9 were Americans. It was the biggest terrorist strike against Americans since 9/11 and it didn't even take place on American soil. All evidence points to the fact that we are winning the war on terrorism, and clearly we've won the war with Saddam. Sadly, the occupation of Iraq will bring us the deaths of more soldiers, but to conflate that with losing the war you have to be living in serious denial.
  Three Democrats Seeking Their Party's Presidential Nomination Snub the N.A.A.C.P.

Leaders of the nation's most prominent black civil rights organization attacked three Democratic presidential candidates today for failing to show up for a forum that the group held here at its annual convention.

The six Democratic presidential contenders who did attend the forum by the N.A.A.C.P. appeared on a stage alongside empty chairs with placards bearing the names of the three who did not attend: Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio
"You now have become persona non grata," the N.A.A.C.P president, Kweisi Mfume, said, referring to the candidates who did not attend. "Your political capital is the equivalent of Confederate dollars."
(emphasis added)

Confederate dollars? OUCH! 
Monday, July 14, 2003

This chart from Reuters is one of the most disheartening things I've ever seen. And if I'm reading the story correctly, these projections don't include the impact of the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Conservatives cannot deny the obvious - Republicans spend our money like drunken sailors. It's disgraceful. 
  China Attempts to Persuade North Korea to Join Multi-lateral Talks

SEOUL (Reuters) - A senior Chinese official handed a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in what diplomats said was a move to try to persuade Pyongyang to agree to multilateral talks on its nuclear ambitions.
Diplomats in Seoul said Dai's trip was highly significant. It comes a week after South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun visited China and urged Hu to help persuade the North back into talks.

"As much as anyone can influence North Korea, the Chinese can," said one senior diplomat in Seoul. "China is playing a crucial role in trying to get them to the table."

Everytime the North Korean situation takes one step foward it is immediately followed with one step back. However, it's good news that the Chinese are intervening to attempt to drive multi-lateral talks. The Bush administration is right on this. China, South Korea, Japan and Russia are the countries with the power to influence North Korea. And China has far more power than the other three. The U.S. has very little ability to deal with North Korea, if we negotiate without the other parties. It would be great if this represented a breakthrough, but it's impossible to know how far the Chinese are willing to push the North Koreans. 
  Bush Spends Like a Drunken Sailor and Conservatives Come to Grips with the Fact that Bush Isn't Conservative

From Neal Boortz site:
Federal government spending under Bush has increased at a rate faster than of any year during the Clinton era.
George Bush has yet to veto one single spending bill.
George Bush has teamed up with congressional Democrats to pass massive spending increases in education, agriculture and other areas.
George Bush has been in office for almost three years, and has yet to recommend the elimination of one single government-spending program.

From the Editors of National Review
And while the Court issued its edicts and the rest of the world adjusted, a huge prescription-drug bill made its way through Congress. That bill will add at least $400 billion to federal spending over the next ten years, and it comes on top of already gargantuan spending increases over the last five years. The fact that a pro-growth tax cut is going into effect this summer hardly compensates for these developments — especially since expanding entitlements threaten to exert upward pressure on tax rates in the future.
Bush has requested spending increases, and not just for defense and homeland security. He has failed to veto spending increases that went beyond his requests. But let it not be said that the president has led his party astray. Many congressional Republicans have strayed even more enthusiastically. Bush originally wanted to condition prescription-drug benefits on seniors' joining reformed, less expensive health plans. When the idea was raised, House Speaker Denny Hastert called it "inhumane." Congressional appropriators — the people who write the spending bills — have been known to boast that they would beat the president if ever he dared to veto one of their products.
It is not Bush's fault that Democrats oppose entitlement reform, or that the public wants it less than it wants a new entitlement to prescription drugs. He should, however, have used the veto more effectively to restrain spending. Had he vetoed the farm bill, for example, Congress would have sent him a better one. We need presidential leadership on issues other than war and taxes. Instead we are getting the first full presidential term to go without a veto since John Quincy Adams.
And as recent events underscore, this is not a bad time for conservatives to declare their independence from the GOP establishment.

As long as Bush's popularity level is high, he doesn't need conservatives. Conservatives aren't going to defect to the Democrats, although if things continue on their current trends fiscal conservatives might.

Jonah Goldberg said something interesting during a Wolf Blitzer roundtable this weekend. He said that if the Democrats nominate Dean, it will be good for the Republican party, but not conservatives. To understand what he meant, you need to understand that Goldberg thinks Dean would get crushed in the general election. As a result, Bush would win by large majority and not need to respond to the demands of conservatives. While I think it's far too soon to know how Dean would do in the general election, I think the rest of that analysis is spot on.

If Bush wins re-election by a wide majority, he's going to spend this country into a crushing debt that will hang over us for years to come. 
  Mandela Praises Bush

Nelson Mandela called on Europe on Monday to match Washington's commitment to fighting AIDS (news - web sites), but a European Commission (news - web sites) official said it was not ready to make new funds available.

The former South African president praised President Bush (news - web sites) for making a quantum leap in funding AIDS research and treatment and said he had "moved the debate from hundreds of millions of dollars to tens of billions."

"Given the size of its collective population and economy, Europe should at least be matching if not exceeding the United States contribution," Mandela told more than 5,000 delegates at the International AIDS Society conference in Paris.

Europe Says Thanks But No Thanks

"We are not going to be putting new money on the table," Jean-Charles Ellermann, spokesman for the European Commission, the largest European donor, told Reuters, adding it was still possible individual member states might contribute more.

Mandela praises Bush. It was just Thursday of last week when Eric Alterman gloated

Most powerful man in the world arrives in South Africa; What happens?

“Revered former president, Nelson Mandela, who sharply criticized Bush on Iraq and once said Bush “cannot think properly,” arranged to be out of the country while Bush is here. The country’s dominant political party, the African National Congress, led a 2,000-person march to the U.S. Embassy today in protest of Bush’s visit. Hundreds more marched in Cape Town. President Thabo Mbeki left the country after a half-day with Bush to attend the 52-nation African Union meeting in Mozambique.”

Note that “the reception contrasted markedly with the large and adoring crowds that greeted former president Bill Clinton five years ago; some still have photos of Clinton in their homes.”

I'm sure Eric will find room in his next Altercation to note Mandela's praise of Bush.

  The Wall Street Journal Agrees with Howard Dean - Says We Should Send Troops to Liberia

Decisions to deploy U.S. troops are always a serious matter and must ultimately be taken on a case-by-case basis. In Liberia, the Bush administration is in a unique position to make a profound difference for the entire West African region at relatively low cost and with far-reaching political benefits for the United States. Sending U.S. forces at the head of an international peacekeeping mission is the right thing to do and the president should authorize deployment.

I agree wholeheartedly with this. At relatively low risk, we could make a big difference (see my post below on Why I Agree with Dean that We Should Send Troops to Liberia). When Howard Dean and the Wall Street Journal agree on the use of the military, you know you've got the makings of a Left-Right consensus. 
  French secret service 'kept CIA in the dark over Iraq and uranium'

The above article is from the Telegraph in the UK (registration required).

The French secret service is believed to have refused to allow MI6 to give the Americans "credible" intelligence showing that Iraq was trying to buy uranium ore from Niger, US intelligence sources said yesterday.

MI6 had more than one "different and credible" piece of intelligence to show that Iraq was attempting to buy the ore, known as yellowcake, British officials insisted. But it was given to them by at least one and possibly two intelligence services and, under the rules governing cooperation, it could not be shared with anyone else without the originator's permission.

US intelligence sources believe that the most likely source of the MI6 intelligence was the French secret service, the DGSE. Niger is a former French colony and its uranium mines are run by a French company that comes under the control of the French Atomic Energy Commission.

US sources also point out that the French government was vehemently opposed to the war with Iraq and so suggest that it would have been instinctively against the idea of passing on the intelligence

This could change the dynamics of the SOTU "lie" significantly. In many ways, it doesn't address the complaint of the Left that the Bush Administration was deliberately mis-leading the country into war. However, it has the potential to change the news coverage from a focus about the president's veracity to a question about whether or not the French did have information about Iraq seeking uranium from Africa "recently". It'll be interesting to watch this play out. 
  The New Meme - The Media Is Lying About What Bush Said in the SOTU

The new meme was written by Clifford May in the National Review. He ignores entirely the question of who pushed to have the line put in the State Of The Union Address. That's the big question and a fair question. 
Sunday, July 13, 2003
  Ari's Leaving in the Nick of Time

Ari is fortunate that he was already planning to leave the whitehouse for two reasons. One, this State Of The Union situation is going to become even more of a problem. Two, Ari practically created the problem himself.

Ari couldn't handle questions about the source of the line during a press conference and said he would look into the matter and release a statement that evening. He then released a statement saying that the line never should have been included in the speech. If instead he said that the line was based on a British intelligence report, the questions might have been directed at the British who are standing behind the report. Even if the British crumbled under the scrutiny, the whitehouse could have argued they made a mistake relying on British intelligence.

I think that Ari, or whomever actually wrote the statement Ari released, blew this one. I'm not defending what the whitehouse did. I'm just saying that the truth never had to come out if they played the politics correctly. Now the British are mad at the whitehouse for saying their report was no good. While simultaneously the whitehouse is saying, "Hey the British are standing behind the report". What a cluster.

From the New York Times

Three months after the fall of Saddam Hussein, 25 prominent Iraqis from a variety of political, ethnic and religious backgrounds stepped onto a stage here today and declared themselves the first interim government of Iraq.

The members of the Governing Council said they would begin meeting in continuous session on Monday to decide on a rotating presidency or a similar leadership structure. As its first act today, the Council abolished six national holidays that had been celebrated under Mr. Hussein's 24-year rule and created a new national day.

In their place, the Council declared April 9, the day that Baghdad fell to allied forces as Mr. Hussein went into hiding, the national day of a new Iraqi state.

Perfect choice for a first declaration. The symbolism is great.

The very diversity of such a large Council raised questions of whether it would be able to project unified goals and principles in a chaotic transitional period where significant segments of the population were pulling in different directions.

I disagree. I see the diversity of the Council as its greatest asset. This is the group which will run Iraq, along with Bremer, while they work on a new Constitution. The diversity of the Council gives them every incentive to create a Constitution that will ensure many of the freedoms we enjoy in our Constitution.

The liveliest moments of the news conference occurred when some council members disputed questions from the news media. The Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani criticized a BBC correspondent for suggesting that the interim government would have limited powers and therefore little legitimacy among the Iraqis.

"The Council has a lot of authority, appointing ministers, diplomats, budgets, security," Mr. Talabani said. He then accused the BBC of having been biased toward Mr. Hussein's government during the war.

The strongest comments were directed at the Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera. "The satellite channels are expecting Saddam to come back, but he is in the trash can of history," Mr. Uloum shouted after someone else questioned the legitimacy of the interim government. "I am very sorry these Arab channels betrayed their Arab brothers."

Oh, how great to see a member of the new Iraqi Council hit the BBC right between the eyes with that comment. The BBC was filled with apologists for Saddam's regime and predicted doom for the coalition at every step. And then to have member of the Council speak out against Al Jazeera... it's almost more than a supporter of the war could hope for. So many goals of the war were present in this one meeting of the Council. Most importantly, the first steps were taken towards Iraqi rule by its own people. Additional steps were taken towards creating the first Arab democracy. And finally, one of the great hopes of the war was to establish an Arab country where the Arab people would get news that was reality, as opposed to news that was meant to prop up Arab dictatorships. All of the above were only approached in baby steps. But that they are finally being approached at all is reason for optimism. It feels good to hear something positive out of Iraq. 
  Why I Agree with Dean that We Should Send Troops to Liberia

From SFGate

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a prominent opponent of the war in Iraq, called Wednesday for dispatching U.S. troops to Liberia to head off a human rights crisis.

Dean said. "There is an imminent threat of serious human catastrophe and the world community is asking the United States to exercise its leadership."

Just before the Iraq War I was at a party where I met two Bosnian Muslims. They described to me the horror of their lives in Bosnia during the war years(Muslims had it the worst). They absolutely loved Clinton for sending our military to stop the violence, and they gave me a perspective on intervention which I wouldn't have otherwise.

The UN was impotent in the face of the Bosnian crisis. The UN passed four resolutions demanding an end to the violence. They might as well have passed resolutions commanding the earth to stop rotating. In the face of the ongoing violence, the UN sent some of their people to Bosnia. Those UN folks, according to my Bosnian friends, spent their time visiting battle areas, counting the weapons and bombs each side had, then leaving. At which point, the fighting would start all over again. I've never seen hate as palpable and vivid as the hate the Bosnians had for the UN. FWIW, they felt the same about NATO which waffled until Clinton insisted we were going in.

Clinton sent our military to Bosnia and saved the lives of my two friends and countless other Bosnians by his actions. I was untouched by the Bosnian war prior to meeting my new friends. Had anyone asked, I would not have had an opinion good or bad about what Clinton did. I now know it was undeniably the right thing to do.

It's the right thing to do now in Liberia, as well. There is no other practical solution for the problems there. Dean is right we should do this. I hope the admnistration chooses that course. 
  A surprising Defense of the Republican Plans for Malpractice Reform from Michael Kinsley

Quoting fom Slate's The Lawsuit Lottery

What is wrong with a $250,000 cap on payments for pain and suffering? Why should one person get $5 million, another $500,000, and yet another nothing at all for essentially the same injury? The fact that $250,000 can't begin to compensate for the pain and suffering a patient may have endured can demonstrate that $250,000 isn't enough money, or it can demonstrate that money's ability to compensate for non-monetary losses is inherently limited.(emphasis added)

Kinsley hits the issue squarely on the head. It's impossible to objectively assess the "correct" compensation for pain and suffering (direct economic losses are different and quantifiable). Democrats are on the wrong side of this issue, but are probably stuck there because of their dependence on contributions from trial lawyers. Kinsley has more to say on this subject than what I quote above. As they say... read the whole thing. 
  An Eerie Quiet

The conservative blogs/websites have been eerily quiet today on the uranium sentence contained in Bush's State of the Union Address. Andrew Sullivan's blog and National Review's The Corner have not mentioned a word about the story., yet they have posted other much more minor stories. Center-left blogger Mickey Kaus and center-right blogger Glenn Reynolds also have posted this weekend, but neither has mentioned the SOTU story.

Can anyone imagine this story being ignored by the above bloggers if it were a Democratic president in power? I can't.

For the record, I'm a supporter of the War in Iraq. Although for me it's never been about existing WMDs. It's always been about my belief that Saddam would eventually get nuclear weapons and also that it was important for the U.S. to try to establish a democracy in the Middle East while simultaneously showing our willingness to fight when necessary. There is more nuance to my beliefs than is contained in those two sentences, but I'll leave it at that for now.

It seems clear to me that Bush wanted to get every available argument into his SOTU speech. He and his team clearly over-reached. If there is a political price to pay, then they have no one to blame but themselves. Their best hope now is that in trying to inflict political damage, the Left also will over-reach. Signs of that already abound if you check the various liberal sites. The Left seems to want to use this as an opportunity to say that all Bush statements are lies. If they push too hard, then this will all look like partisan sniping. If they let reporters do there job right now, the reporters will certainly bring out the ugly truth. Then, the whitehouse won't be able to lay the controversy off on the Left.

The next few days should be interesting. 
email me at erik_cons-at-hotmail.com
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 / 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 /

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