Saturday, January 31, 2004

Tribune supports Blair 

Chicago Tribune | The resolute Tony Blair: "Supporting an unpopular war and raising fees for college students hardly are ways to curry public favor. Blair has staked his career on the belief that both actions were right. At the end of the day, when Blair pops open that half-pint of Black Sheep Ale for relaxation, he can toast to a job well done."

He's made some hard choices that have been unpopular with much of the press in his own country and ours. However, I'm glad to see a major paper taking a stand and supporting a politician with enough courage to stand for his principles, principles of goodness, justice, and responsibility.

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It's cold out there 

Chicago Tribune | The wind chill's cold comfort

It's cold out there. One of the things that a resident of Chicago must adjust to quickly is the winter climate. However, even after scaring incoming first years from warmer climes here at the UofC with descriptions of the frigid weather, every year it takes even veterans a few weeks to get used to the winter weather. The greatest time to notice what this kind of living does to you is when the temperature just peaks over positive forty degrees Fahrenheit during those occasional warm-ups in January and February. Stepping outside, one is greeted by crowds of coat-less college-students wearing t-shirts and jeans. The cold hardens you, at least temporarily; but it gives you something to be proud of in these difficult winter months.

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Ohio Interstate Shooter 

ABCNEWS.com : Second Caller Claims to Be Ohio Shooter

I hope they catch this bugger soon. I'm from Ohio, and it's a little bit too close to home. He seems to want attention, so he'll inevitably make a mistake in his attempts to get press, like these if they're legit, and get himself nabbed.

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Civil War Brewing in Iran 

KansasCity.com - The Kansas City Star, breaking local news, sports, entertainment, business: "With negotiations hopelessly stalled, most reformers say they no longer have a choice but to stand up the 12-man council. Among the options being weighed by Khatami and his ministers are postponing the elections or including the names of the 2,450 blacklisted candidates on the ballots.

Either action would directly contravene orders from the council and lead to a crisis of political control."

Keep watching this, there is a possible revolution brewing in Iran; if it turns into a direct struggle between the president and his moderates and the theocrats, who apparently have decided to try to break the moderates once and for all, there may be drastic political upheaval in Iran. I hope that secular government comes to Iran, but I don't think that'll occur without many dying in the streets.

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A Letter of Mass Delusion? 

A letter from the WashPost that caught my eye:

Weapons of Mass Delusion (washingtonpost.com): "If one carries Peter D. Feaver's assessment [op-ed, Jan. 28] of intelligence overestimates to its logical conclusion, U.S. officials should be reprimanded for not attacking the Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Iran.

Contrary to Feaver's view that only war could have broken the alleged WMD risks posed by Saddam Hussein, the United States should have enforced a permanent presence of inspectors in Iraq through diplomacy, economic sanctions and, had Hussein threatened to remove the inspectors as he did in 1998, a convincing air campaign that went well beyond the Clinton administration's response at that time. Considering Iraq's frail condition, vigilant patience would have broken Saddam Hussein. The result: More than 500 young American soldiers would be alive today.

-- Bennett Ramberg

Los Angeles"

This seems like a persuasive argument, but it's really quite easy to dissect. First, one cannot carry logic to the conclusion of attacking such countries as the Soviet Union and China, because of definite Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) if the USSR was attacked and at least a probable MAD with China (the west coast would be pretty glassy in the best case); with North Korea an attack is more possible, but because of the thousands of artillery pieces pointing at South Korea's capital, the hundreds of thousands of casualties that would occur because of N. Korean retaliation make such an effort unacceptable at this time (although if diplomacy is seen to fail, such an effort may seem more plausible later, especially if the nuclear danger of N. Korea is seen to increase through trafficking of arms, etc). Iran is becoming more of a likely target by the day because of its admitted efforts to build a bomb, but it hasn't completely shut itself off from the world, and still plays diplomacy. It also has a rising opposition movement to the theocracy which shows promise, so jumping into a war that may be soon executed as a revolution seems like a poor decision. There are countries like Syria in which an argument for military intervention is more persuasive, since the military power of the country is minimal, and the risk it poses to US interests is great (terrorists moving into Iraq and Israel, support of Hezbollah, harboring of Baathists from Iraq, etc).

The second series of points made is almost as silly as the first. The United States did just what the writer claims, it attempted to enforce inspectors through economic sanctions and diplomacy. I wish the writer would have elaborated on what sorts of targets should have been hit in a more convincing air campaign (I also ask how convincing can it be when the whole aim is to only appear serious militarily?). Power plants, bridges, and other important targets would have hurt the Iraqi people, and destroying government buildings and palaces would have just forced money to be spent to build new ones, money coming from the oil for food program that should have been going to the starving Iraqis.

The most important thing to remember is that any attempt to break Saddam Hussein through sanctions would have to first break his people, forcing them to apply the direct pressure to him that we were so long afraid to use. If economic sanctions had continued, or been somehow intensified, it is certain that more than 500 Iraqi children alone would have been dead from malnutrition and disease, and thousands would have been killed by the repressive regime in an attempt to quell any uprisings from the people.

To break Saddam indirectly would have meant inflicting untold amounts of suffering on many innocents in Iraq. I like to think that our soldiers died to make men free and prevent such hypocritical atrocities.


See evidence for a brewing confrontation between the moderates and theocrates discussed here. Military action in Iran seems unlikely as long as the opposition is lively.

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Election Roundup 

David Brooks says "It's the tautology, stupid"; NYT editorial bord says "electronic voting machines cannot be trusted" at this time and calls Mrs. Bush "A Gift Horse"; Dave Shiflett says Dean's meltdown was really a "rebel yell" and Adam Wolfson says the press hasn't been this wrong about a candidate since Dewey. Rich Lowry says that the democratic candidates are "just some guy[s] with pretty hair saying pretty words because [they] like the way they sound." WashPost reports Kerry's hand is in the pocket of lobbeists.

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See You on the Darknet 

See You on the Darknet - Why we don't really want Internet security. By Paul Boutin: "Walker's scenario is credible enough that Newsweek covered his essay in an article that only de-Orwellized it to the extent of changing Big Brother to 'Big Government.' But Newsweek also added the missing part of the story: a more nuanced sense of how Internet users would react to such a system. Using the Net without the feeling you're being watched, downloading and uploading stuff you'd get in trouble for leaving on your desk—come on, that's a major part of its appeal. Any privacy clampdown would boost outlaw computing as surely as the 55 mph limit did speeding*. 'Picture digital freedom fighters huddling in the electronic equivalent of caves, file-swapping and blogging under the radar of censors and copyright cops,' Newsweek concluded. They might as well have added: Cooooooooooool.

An ad hoc alliance of techno-rebels covertly transferring unauthorized data in defiance of network authorities—sound familiar, Neo? It's such a popular scenario that the same Microsoft researchers leading the company's secure computing efforts wrote a paper two years ago describing this inevitable backlash, which they dubbed the darknet. The darknet! Jeez, are they trying to make piracy cool? Who'd want to hang out on the boring old Internet when the other kids are on the darknet? The term has been picked up by mainstream publications including Rolling Stone, which defined darknets (plural) as 'file-trading networks created by and for small, private groups of people.' Instead of relying on KaZaA, these groups use programs like WASTE that let them swap wares on discrete networks without being remotely tracked. Even a cop with a subpoena would be hard-pressed to detect such a network's existence.

Microsoft's paper flatly warns that trying to shut down these networks could backfire:

There is evidence that the darknet will continue to exist and provide low cost, high-quality service to a large group of consumers. This means that in many markets, the darknet will be a competitor to legal commerce. From the point of view of economic theory, this has profound implications for business strategy: for example, increased security may act as a disincentive to legal commerce."


"...As the Net gets more powerful, other powers will feel increasingly threatened by it and try to take it under control. But to do so, they'll need the complicity of those who build the hardware and software. If the Consumer Electronics Show is any clue, the gadget makers have figured out that if the powers that be get their digital imprimatur and their secure Internet, the real money will be in darknets."

The Darknet has you, Neo...uhhh...just keep your eye on attempts to build anti-piracy protection into hardware. It'll never work becausae another company will make its name by selling its products without such protection. Barring massive government intervention, the net will always be a wild-west of information. And it should be, that's part of its value. It is a place where ideas may be exchanged freely and without oversight. If democratic advocates in China can use the net to help push for more freedoms in their state, than the music industry can find a way to deal with piracy. It's an exchange that's worth it.

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Friday, January 30, 2004

Rover Appears to Find 2nd Hint of Past Water 

Rover Appears to Find 2nd Hint of Past Water

With more and more evidence of water being discovered, a consideration of the implications of finding life needs to be made. The end of such a consideration is what if intelligent life is discovered? What would that mean to earthly religions? I really try not to think about it at this point, because it would entail a total change in how I approach God. See The Atlantic from earlier this year for just such a consideration of what ET would mean to the relationship between man and God.

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Dissent Magazine - Winter 2004 

Dissent Magazine - Winter 2004: "'The old-fashioned left used to be universalist-used to think that everyone, all over the world, would some day want to live according to the same fundamental values, and ought to be helped to do so. They thought this was especially true for people in reasonably modern societies with universities, industries, and a sophisticated bureaucracy-societies like the one in Iraq. But no more! Today, people say, out of a spirit of egalitarian tolerance: Social democracy for Swedes! Tyranny for Arabs! And this is supposed to be a left-wing attitude? By the way, you don't hear much from the left about the non-Arabs in countries like Iraq, do you? The left, the real left, used to be the champion of minority populations-of people like the Kurds. No more! The left, my friend, has abandoned the values of the left-except for a few of us, of course.'"

The left doesn't know what liberalism really is.

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No Evidence CIA Slanted Iraq Data (washingtonpost.com) 

No Evidence CIA Slanted Iraq Data (washingtonpost.com): "Congressional and CIA investigations into the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials, according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties."


""There was pressure and a lot of debate, and people should have a lot of debate, that's quite legitimate," Kerr said. "But the bottom line is, over a period of several years," the analysts' assessments "were very consistent. They didn't change their views.""


"The conclusion that analysts did not buckle under political pressure does not answer the question of why the intelligence reports were so flawed. Nor does it address allegations -- made by Democrats in Congress and Democratic presidential candidates -- that top Bush administration officials misused intelligence and exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq."

It is very good news for Bush that a major paper is reporting this story. The two questions that WP says aren't answered have several possible and plausibly likely solutions, found discussed here and here. Now Bush needs to go on the offensive and let it be known that he was acting in the best interest of America in the world (see VDH).

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The Shiite Surge 

The Shiite Surge

"Moderate voices, including some Iraqi exiles who lobbied hard for the American invasion, will tell you that it was the American decision not simply to liberate Iraq but to declare Iraq an occupied country that has turned the Shiites against the United States. Some radical clerics agree. Moqtadah al-Sadr's deputy in Najaf told me: ''The Americans say they're sorry about 1991, and that now they're liberators. At the beginning, in early April, that was very good. But when they declared an occupation, everything changed in our minds."

''Why should we believe the Americans have changed since 1991, when they showed no concern over our fate, when, after tantalizing us, they stood by as we were tortured?'' he continued. ''It is the same people, Cheney, Bush's son, the Zionist Wolfowitz,'' he said, referring to Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary. ''It is not our liberation they want; it is to strengthen Israel and to fight Islam everywhere in the world. We think you are crusaders, not liberators. If you were liberators, you would give us free elections, not the fake ones to put Ahmad Chalabi in power that the Americans want. That is what Moqtadah al-Sadr told Sergio Vieira de Mello'' -- the U.N. special representative killed when a truck bomb blew up the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad last August -- ''when he came to Najaf. And that is what we believe.''

One has to wonder to what extent such naive or politically motivated rhetoric is believed by other Shias. Typically the most outspoken are the ones that have an agenda, so those Iraqi's that are trying to build better lives for themselves instead of getting quoted by the press are difficult to understand. This garbage about zionism and a second crusade, and how the decision to declare occupation instead of liberation (liberation to what, the anarchy and death that would have resulted in the inevitable power vacuum that would have occurred if American forces had left after the Baathist regime fell) is not worthy of print without attempting to get to the bottom of what most Shias really think about the state of their country. Of course, however, the NYT's has an agenda of making the war look bad, which seems to get in the way of real reporting. Quoting a few individuals does not mean that solid facts about the whole group have been gathered.

"When Sistani calls for a direct election, as opposed to the American plan for an indirect voting system based on regional caucuses, what resonates with ordinary Iraqis is their deep skepticism about American motives and their deep resentment of the American occupation. If ''one man, one vote'' is good enough for the Americans, why isn't it good enough for Iraqis?"

Well, why don't you try to answer that question, which has been answered many times: there is no system of voter registration to permit such a vote without risking massive voter fraud and corrupted elections.


"This ability to wait is often said to accompany the Shiites' almost cultic fascination with martyrdom and suffering. This stereotype, like all stereotypes, is at best a half-truth. But in the fall of 2003, the dominant view in Shiite Iraq was that there was nothing to be gained and much to be lost by confronting the Americans directly. Whatever firebrands like Moqtadah al-Sadr might say, it was better to wait the Americans out.

There are all sorts of explanations for this. One, put to me by Joseph Wilson IV, former U.S. charge d'affaires in Baghdad, was that as long as Americans were killing Sunnis, the Shiites had no reason not to sit on the sidelines. It was the Sunnis, after all, who had long stood in the way of Shiite rights and Shiite power in Iraq, and by a certain logic, anything that weakened the Sunnis strengthened the Shiites. The Shiites also realize that the Americans are eager to leave as soon as possible -- and to leave behind a ''democracy'' of one kind or another, which cannot help increasing the power of the majority. Having been excluded from power for so long, the Shiite leadership does not want, at the 11th hour, to ruin its chances of finally acquiring its rightful role in Iraq. ''We must wait,'' one cleric in Najaf told me. And, almost ruefully, he added, ''We in the Shiite majority of this country have been waiting to play our rightful role in Iraq since the death of Imam Hussein'' -- some 1,300 years ago. ''Having done that, we can certainly wait another six months.'' "

This is a worrysome view; Shias waiting for democracy to be established, and then turning it into a tyranny of the majority once America leaves. These seems to indicate that America is right in wanting to use a caucus system; allowing the majority to decide matters in a country that is not used exercising the moderation necessary in a democracy to prevent tyrannical excess by the majority will lead to inequality and attrocity. Democracy must be taught, and this will take time and a slow handing over of power to Iraqis.


"On that subject, Nazmi, like many scholarly Iraqis I met, was at pains to insist that the differences between the two sects of Islam should not be exaggerated. ''Yes, there are Sunnis and Shiites here,'' he said wearily, ''but they worship the same god, revere the same prophet, read the same holy book.'' Having said that, he readily conceded that ''nowadays in Iraq, the Shiites have become more aware of themselves as a group. Saddam Hussein's opposition to them, his perception during the Iran-Iraq war that they were some sort of fifth column, has made them less accommodating with the Sunnis than they were before.''"

An identity created by Saddam is one that will certainly be laced with his barbarity, even if it was in response to barbarity. If power is given to the Shias too quickly, I smell trouble for the Sunni's and Kurds, whether it be religiously motivated or purely one group identity beating up on another because it can.

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The Intelligence on Iraq: What Went Wrong? 

2 Letters I like from the NYT.

The Intelligence on Iraq: What Went Wrong? (7 Letters): "To the Editor:

"Re 'Dump Cheney Now!,' by Maureen Dowd (column, Jan. 29), and 'Report on Iraq Case Clears Blair and Faults BBC' (front page, Jan. 29):

Many politicians and others have been quick to judge the Bush and Blair administrations for leading their countries into an unnecessary war and are accusing both of manipulating intelligence. But based on the David A. Kay report and the Hutton inquiry in Britain, it appears that the two leaders acted on the intelligence information presented to them at the time.

Although in hindsight this intelligence may prove to be partly or completely erroneous, the president and the prime minister have a duty to protect their citizens. Had they stood idly by, they would have failed in this responsibility.

Bronxville, N.Y., Jan. 29, 2004"

To the Editor:

Re "Ex-Arms Monitor Urges an Inquiry on Iraqi Threat" (front page, Jan. 29):

Before judging Central Intelligence Agency analysts, we should recognize the inherent difficulty of assessing weapons in a country ruled by a barbaric totalitarian regime.

Recall how badly West Germany underestimated the slide of the East German economy, despite having a common history and language.

The real problem has been the weakness of our covert effort, which critics attribute in part to our overreliance on technology. But the use of technology was made necessary by public hostility toward covert spying and restrictions placed on it by well-meaning but naïve legislation.

And we have seen restraints, if not bans, on C.I.A. recruitment at top colleges. Why should we expect better intelligence if we discourage our brightest students from intelligence careers?

Ridgewood, N.J., Jan. 29, 2004

The writer is a retired captain, Naval Reserve Intelligence."

There is one thing that doesn't seem to fit: I'm a college student at The University of Chicago, and I know that the CIA recruits heavily here. It doesn't seem like there limited in what they do, I see recruiting posters in the most heavily traveled halls. Of course, my perspective is only one and a half years deep, so perhaps the CIA used to recruit more heavily?

I do have an Arab-American acquaintance that was interviewing with the CIA to become an intelligence asset in the mideast, but he declined their offer. Perhaps the CIA needs to make its recruitment more attractive to help bring in the type of people it needs. The military offers bonuses and helps to pay for college for thousands of people, so why can't the CIA have such a plan as well?


Also one that seems to be very uninformed, but printed anyway.

"To the Editor:

"George Bush, in Denial" (editorial, Jan. 29) rightly takes President Bush to task for his "strategy of spin and evade" on Iraqi weapons. But calling for an independent investigation of "the apparent intelligence failures on Iraq" does not go far enough.

Paul H. O'Neill, the former Treasury secretary, has said the Bush administration was planning for an invasion of Iraq even before 9/11. So the focus of an inquiry must be broader than the question of an "intelligence failure." The American people deserve to know whether Mr. Bush or anyone in his administration were cooking the books to justify pre-emptive war.

Northampton, Mass., Jan. 29, 2004"

As discussed by Oxblog, this seems to be another example of the NYT's spinning a story and trying to make an untruth into a truth through mass-belief. For a paper with the resources of the NYT's, this is obviously intentional and quite disgraceful.

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Op-Ed Contributor: Givers and Takers 

Op-Ed Contributor: Givers and Takers: "Juxtaposing these maps provides a new perspective on the political landscape. (Interactive moment: Color in the blue and red states — then you'll get the full picture.) Republicans seem to have become the new welfare party — their constituents live off tax dollars paid by people who vote Democratic. Of course, not all federal spending is wasteful. But Republicans are having their pork and eating it too. Voters in red states like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are some of the country's fiercest critics of government, yet they're also among the biggest recipients of federal largess. Meanwhile, Democratic voters in the coastal blue states — the ones who are often portrayed as shiftless moochers — are left to carry the load.

For President Bush, this invisible income redistribution system is a boon. He can encourage his supporters to see themselves as Givers, yet reward them with federal spending in excess of their contribution — and send the bill to those who voted for his opponent. It's shrewd politics."

It's interesting that distribution of federal dollars is backwards from what most expect; that's probably due in a large part to farm subsidies, I surmise. Maybe this advantage the GOP has in pork partly explains why the budget is out of control. Of course, it does make sense that the coasts would be providing more tax dollars than other states, a higher population and a higher concentration of int'l businesses certainly means that states like NY pay more in taxes than Wyoming. A more in-depth exploration of the distribution of federal funds would be welcome.

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David Frum's Diary on Intel 

David Frum's Diary on National Review Online

A very smart reader of Frum's sends him an e-mail that seems to pierce the heart of the matter regarding the state of intelligence and Bush's reaction to it.

“In your NRO Diary entry for today, you wonder why the President did not -- and does not --houseclean at the CIA in light of the intelligence failures with respect to Iraq.

“(1) I've noticed that George Bush seems to highly prize loyalty, and to reward or try to buy same with very tolerant support. I seem to recall a lot more disloyalty and movement of top people in and out of previous Administrations. Is it possible Mr. Bush has a bit of a blind spot, in the sense that he doesn't fully understand people who can work for him while, so to speak, also working against him?

“(2) Is it not also possible that the ‘failure’ of intelligence in Iraq, and even pre-9/11, is much less significant than it is commonly painted? Perhaps our general expectations of what ‘intelligence’ can do are systematically overheated.


“My point is not to fling contempt on the intelligence community, but to point out that when it functions as we expect -- nay demand -- it will routinely provide threat estimates which are exaggerated, and regularly provide threat estimates which do so wildly.

“To make exact threat estimates requires either a time machine, so you can take advantage of the hindsight the President's critics are all indulging in so shamelessly, or else unbelievably precise knowledge of those very activities which our enemies are willing to invest the most in hiding.

“And, at some point, although is not germane to the main issues above, you have to point out that those who claim not to be our enemies have a responsibility to make -- or at least a vested interest in making -- their pacific intentions crystal clear. When a policeman yells 'Freeze! Police!' at someone running down the road, it's not unreasonable to expect that person to understand he should avoid
suddenly reaching into his jacket pocket, even if it's just to get out his handkerchief or cell phone. We don't expect the cops to be mind-readers and know it isn't a gun. We expect innocent people to cooperate in making their innocence clear.”

What important is that we thought Saddam had weapons, not just neocons, but practically the entire world intelligence community, and he did not allow inspections to prove his innocense. The one to blaim for the Iraq War is Saddam and no one else. He murdered tens of thousands and perpetuated an image of a thug; to do so is to court danger. Blame evil for its own mistakes, don't blame justice for giving evil what it deserves.

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Victor Davis Hanson on War 

Victor Davis Hanson on War on National Review Online

"In addition, the Baathists and Islamicists — a fraction of the Iraq population — sense that Americans despise ingratitude. They trust that at some point we will shrug and say, "If these people won't fight to protect the freedom we gave them, then screw them, bring everyone home, and let these tribal folk slaughter each other the way they have always done."

For the Islamicists' muddled vision of some theocratic caliphate run on Dark-Age principles to succeed, they must count on killing Americans and frightening Iraqis into inaction while the general quality of life erodes. Given the reputation of American largesse and know-how, our task is not simply to make Iraq no worse than it was under Saddam Hussein, but to greatly improve it, and to do so immediately. This makes things easier for the terrorists: They don't have to ruin the country, just make it chaotic enough to tarnish the image of an otherwise perfectionistic United States falling through on its promises of a better Iraq.

To this end, they ask impoverished fathers to sacrifice their children to blow up Americans. After all, for a mere life and a cheap RPG, he can do much more than take out a half-million-dollar vehicle with its degreed driver: He can send a message to the U.S., saying that killer-terrorists can be far more evil than America can be good. And while the terrorists snipe, mine, and murder, they seek an international pass as the "invaded," who merely wish to remove the "occupier" from their "home soil" — a corny rallying cry to be sure, but hackneyed enough for the cynical Europeans to accept it as a good reason to stay out of Iraq and let the Americans be smeared as imperialists for bringing democracy to the oppressed.

This is classic asymmetrical warfare, and we can handle it with the current strategies employed in such conflict. First, by training Iraqi police and militias and putting them into harm's way, Iraqis sooner or later are going to turn on those — often non-Iraqis — who kill their own. To that end, the more we can change our forces from highly observable armored divisions into lighter counterinsurgency teams, the less visible and vulnerable our own troops will be. These transformations are, at last, underway.


"We are winning a difficult peace. It is not surprising that we have made scores of mistakes, since nation rebuilding in the Middle East has no recent pedigree — not targeting and storming into the Sunni Triangle from the very beginning, distrusting and defaming competent and patriotic Iraqi exiles, allowing thousands to stream in from Iran, dismantling the Iraqi army and police, restraining Americans in war from harming vital infrastructure only to allow Iraqis to ruin it in peace, lax security on captured weapons caches, keeping Iraqis in the shadows while we spoke about their reform, and trying to create a political utopia when the avoidance of tyranny was our real chore. Surely someone in the administration should have been explaining to the American people daily the historical nature of our victory, the critical issues now in play worldwide, and the humane nature of our sacrifice — if only to offer some counterweight to the monotonous negativism of National Public Radio, Nightline, the New York Times, and the Democratic contenders. Instead we have had mostly silence — reticence seen not as Olympian magnanimity, but rather as a sign of weakness that only emboldened critics and fueled the hysteria.

Yet throughout this tumultuous year, what amazes is not that we made errors, or major blunders even — but how quickly we reacted, adjusted, and learned from our mistakes. So we press on, learning as we go, combining power with justice, determined to leave behind something better than we found. We are comforted by knowing that for all the current yelling from Democratic candidates, our own intelligentsia, and the European mainstream, this has not been a war of conquest or exploitation, but something altogether different — a needed effort that, if we see it through, will end up doing a great deal of good for everyone involved.

Our efforts in Iraq to remove a genocidal murderer and inaugurate democracy are not a "quagmire," but one of the brightest moments in recent American history — and we need not be ashamed to say that, again and again and again."

This is a great article. America is doing the right thing, despite the fact that doing what is good is not always easy. I can't put it better than VDH, so read the whole article, and realize that this is a great time for America, and an improving one for many in the world.

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Ramesh Ponnuru on Patriot Act (and "Safe" Act) 

Ramesh Ponnuru on Patriot Act on National Review Online

"The complaints are not exactly true, since the power to issue sneak-and-peek warrants pre-dates Patriot. Delayed notice can be authorized in one of five conditions: 1) when notification would endanger someone's life; 2) when it would cause the target to flee; 3) when it would result in the destruction of (or tampering with) evidence; 4) when it would cause the intimidation of potential witnesses; and 5) when it would "otherwise seriously jeopardize[e]" an investigation or "unduly delay[] a trial." The Safe Act would make it impossible to issue such warrants in the last two cases. In other words, targets in terrorism investigations would have to be notified even if notification would allow them to intimidate witnesses or otherwise jeopardize the investigation. Not for nothing do law-and-order types call this Safe Act provision a "terrorist tip-off" policy. This is not just a retrenchment of Patriot; it's tougher on law enforcement than pre-Patriot law.

Current law lets the judge who issued the warrant extend the delay in notification "for good cause shown." The Safe Act restricts the conditions for an extension to the first three listed above. Again, this is more restrictive on law enforcement than pre-Patriot law."

While the Patriot Act is a law with mistakes, a proposed solution that is even more riddled with ill-considered "solutions" is not going to help the situation at all. Such modifications that give law enforcement less power than pre-Sept. 11 are just foolish, and asking for abuse if they are enacted.

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The China Riddle (washingtonpost.com) 

The China Riddle (washingtonpost.com): "China is the question, but what's the answer? Everyone recognizes that China's emergence as an economic superpower is a surpassing development, even if we don't know its full significance. A China of 1.3 billion mostly impoverished people will influence only its immediate neighbors. A China that is the world's sixth-largest economy and fourth-largest exporter, with stunning economic growth rates (9.1 percent in 2003) and ambitions to excel in almost every technology, is something else entirely."

This article brings to mind Jon Mearscheimer's book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, in which he outlines a strategy for the United States to keep China from emerging as a challenge to its hegemony for the sake of US interest and to avoid the very real chance of a hegemonic (world) war between the powers in the future. I think the US needs to examine China's policy not to revalue its currency, and thus continue in a way cheat in the world economy. That, and its attempts at acquiring tech any way possible (including espionage), and realize that these strategies are indicative of a power that wants to increase its own influence at the expense of others. The US needs to give China some of its own medicine, exercise some of its current hegemonic power to check China. I personally would rather live in a world in which the most powerful nation is like America, a nation that is hesitant towards Imperialism and is a liberal democracy on sound footing. Allowing a totalitarian oligarchy to make a bid for manning helm of the world seems to be inviting disaster.

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OxBlog Spoof 

OxBlog: "Posted 6:20 PM by Josh Chafetz
BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID ... of Limecat! (Thanks to OxFriend KJ for the URL)"

That cat owns your soul...see the glint in its eyes?

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Theory in chaos | csmonitor.com 

Theory in chaos | csmonitor.com: "Specifically, says theory's reformed bad boy, '[theory] has been shamefaced about morality and metaphysics, embarrassed about love, biology, religion and revolution, largely silent about evil...' And that, as Eagleton says, 'is rather a large slice of human existence to fall down on.'"


"But for some academics, what the rejection of theory is really about is the joyous rediscovery of literature itself. There is today "a renewed appreciation of the irreducible particularity of an art work, an author, an historical moment, a particularity that theory may illuminate but never fully explain," according to Dennis Todd, professor of British literature at Georgetown University."

Amen. I've taken an English class, 19th Century British Novels, and I'm glad to say there was no post-modern crap involved. It was a study of the historical evolution of novels, as well as some of the stylistic tricks employed by authors at that time; it introduced me to Thackery. Read Vanity Fair, it's great.

Up with art, down with nonsense.

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InstaPundit.Com: Power of Ten 

InstaPundit.Com: "POWERS OF TEN: This is pretty cool."

I have to agree with Mr. Reynolds. That is a very cool presentation. Check it out, it'll only take a second.

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Instapundit.com: Chirac bribed by Iraqi Oil? 


If only such a report can be verified. It'd finally show the world who's interested in advancing civilization, and who's really a weasel.

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Thursday, January 29, 2004

The End of Marriage in Scandinavia 

The End of Marriage in Scandinavia: "The 'conservative case' for same-sex marriage collapses. "

I don't see in this article how gay marriage is the linchpin that weakened marriage to the point of collapse in the Nordic countries. I can see it possibly being one of many steps that could destroy marriage, but the author needs to indicate a more direct effect gay marriage has on hurting traditional marriage to make the argument stronger. I think that the link that social norms could be altered to severely weaken marriage by allowing gay marriage, but someone needs to step up to study this process to provide better evidence. A theoretical approach could work, but I don't know enough Weber to try myself.

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State of Our Discourse: Update 

The column is getting published with "very few edits". I guess I'll learn what third-party editing is like when I see a copy of the paper. I'll post up the printed version and discuss what I think when it hits the streets.

Now, for my next trick, "Why is God in the closet on campus?"

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Robert P. George & Gerard V. Bradley on Archbishop Raymond Burke 

Robert P. George & Gerard V. Bradley on Archbishop Raymond Burke on National Review Online: "Raymond Burke, who was installed this past Monday as archbishop of St. Louis, has an answer. He has declared that public officials who act to expose the unborn to the violence of abortion may not receive Holy Communion, the sacramental symbolic of Church unity."


"What about the allegation that Burke's actions show that he is a fanatic?

The bishop said that he acted for two reasons. One was to warn Catholic legislators that their unjust acts were spiritually harmful to them — "a grave sin." The other was to prevent "scandal": that is, weakening the faith and moral resolution of others by one's bad example. Having made every effort to persuade pro-abortion Catholic legislators to fulfill their obligations in justice to the unborn, Bishop Burke articulated the obvious: Any Catholic who exercises political power to expose adisfavoredd class of human beings to unjust killing sets himself against the very faith he claims to share. The Church cannot permit such a person to pretend to share in the faith he publicly defies. By receiving communion — the sacrament of unity — pro-abortion Catholics are pretending exactly that. The bishop has called a halt to the pretense.

Scandal is not a peculiarly Catholic or even religious concern. Business executives who wink at accounting shenanigans or racist humor permit a corrupt or racist corporate culture to flourish. We have all heard of cases where male employees' sexual bantering was tolerated, despite a firm's pretense of wholesomeness and sexual equality. Actions speak louder than words. Where leaders do not act to uphold stated principles, everyone concludes that the principles are nothing more than cynical propaganda. No one need take them too seriously.

Scandal occurs in religious communities in the same way, and has the same effect. When Catholic Church officials did nothing about priests who abused children, those who knew the facts had to wonder: Do church authorities not really mean it when they say these acts are immoral? Are such acts really wrong, if nothing happens to those known to perform them? If they are wrong, wouldn't the bishops act decisively against those who commit them?"


"...Many insist that "separation of church and state" means that no religious leader may presume to tell public officials what their positions may and may not be on matters of public policy. ..."

The separation of Church and State means that they are separate and cannot influence the doctrine of one and the policy of the other. It means that the church is free to decide who is a member and who is not. By implying that separation means that one cannot excommunicate straying sheep if they have turned into wolves is to turn the meaning separation of church and state on its head.

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Frank J. Gaffney Jr. on WMDs & David Kay 

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. on WMDs & David Kay on National Review Online: "The president should, instead, feel grateful to the erstwhile head of the Iraq Survey Group, both for his past, courageous public service and for his present candor. And there is no better, or more appropriate, way to express his appreciation than to ask him to replace George Tenet as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI)."

This seems to agree with me in a visceral way. It'd also be a bold stroke that would shut the opposition up about the problems in the CIA. They've been declaring his merits as he talked, so now appointing him'll leave them biting their lips. Aside from politics, I think he's proven himself to be an honest, intelligent man who cares for his country. What more could you ask for?

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Economist.com | Iraq's elusive weapons of mass destruction 

Economist.com | Iraq's elusive weapons of mass destruction: "George Bush and Tony Blair exaggerated, but they did not lie"

The Economist is a voice of welcome moderation. I think the expression, first spoken to me by my IR Prof Charles Lipson, that The Economist is Time or Newsweek for grownups, is quite adroit.

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Mr. Kay's Truth-Telling (washingtonpost.com) 

Mr. Kay's Truth-Telling (washingtonpost.com): "The partisanship and demagoguery that have overtaken the discussion of Iraq's missing weapons mean that investigations of the intelligence failure by the Bush administration or Congress are unlikely to be thorough or credible. The only proper approach to the problem, suggested yesterday by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and quickly seconded by Mr. Kay, is an independent inquiry. The president and Congress should agree on the appointment of an expert, nonpartisan commission with full secrecy clearance and subpoena power to examine why the intelligence on Iraq proved wrong and to report on how such failures can be prevented in the future. 'It's not a political issue,' Mr. Kay told National Public Radio. 'It's an issue of the capabilities of one's intelligence service to collect valid, truthful information.'"

The only problem with such a plan is that if it doesn't go off perfectly it will turn into a partisan slug-fest. And, even if the report was released without a fight in committee, if Bush was blamed (along with the CIA, of course) but Congress wasn't, or even if both were blamed since Bush is one man whereas Congress is a gaggle, it would be twisted into points by the other side. Of course, there is a chance that it could exonerate Bush like Hutton did for Blair. I don't foresee such a plan getting anywhere beyond the editorial pages and stump speeches.

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Maureen Dowd's Clever Tripe 

Op-Ed Columnist: Dump Cheney Now!

The think that makes me both admire and hate her column are her attempts at cleverness. Sometimes they're great, like her article last year titled "Dances with Wolfowitz", a title that brought several laughs.

What kills me, though, is how she can say so little, and what she does say is mostly incomplete or incorrect (see a KTS writup of a major misquote), and veil it with her smooth-flowing writing. Throwing a few metaphors and literary references in there, and bam, the column appears to have substance.

But, it doesn't. It's clear she really likes demeaning the President. I mean, comparing his mental state to a brutal killer of thousands really seems like an accurate statement, doesn't it? (Yes, I know that people have died in the military endeavors that he has ordered. However, any person who likens that to the mass murder Saddam has ordered is loony.) But she continues, describing Iraqi Freedom as an effort to put a better ending to Gulf War I. No matter the end of oppression and the chance at democracy Iraq now has. It's better to make a reference to novels and seem witty.

It is true that our intelligence community, as well as England and Europe's, before the war believed that Saddam had WMD, if not nukes than at least chem and bio. It is also true that we haven't found any, so there is an increasing probability that he had small or no quantities of said weapons. However, one must concede the difficulties of penetrating a dictatorship and gaining accurate intelligence about weapons. She doesn't even discuss anythingi about the intelligence gathering process, or suggest what we should do besides fire those in charge. Even if that was done, she doesn't suggest who should be in their place, or what their policies should be beyond 'fix things'.

Yes, the CIA is not doing its job. Yes, we need people who can penetrate countries like Iraq to gain human intel (so, that would mean hiring arab-looking spies who speak arabic and know the culture, if not natives themselves. Take not, CIA, you haven't hired many yet).

However, Ms. Dowd, you must realize that while criticizing Bush in a mildly entertaining but misleading and derogatory way may sell some papers, it isn't going to change any minds, all it's going to do is split your readers to their partisan wing of choice. And, no one in the administration will listen to you if you choose such a rhetorical style for presenting your views.

Write a column that actually tries to inform and improve the state of the country. Make it seem like you care, because right now you just seem to be having fun at the mistakes of others and the suffering of a nation. You've got a high enough soap box to do better than this, and such a position demands that you do so. The old cliche is right: with power comes responsibility.

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Some thoughts on the first real day 

As I sit here working on my assignments for tomorrow (reading about 'The Spartan Mirage'-if you ever get a chance to examine the complex but fascinating historiography of Sparta, do it), I noticed I really agreed with basically every post I blogged yesterday. I think I'll need to make sure to blog the articles I also disagree with so I don't appear to be, what some term, a 'ditto-head'. Self criticism is wonderful stuff.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Oscars - LotR's Deserves Win 

Oscar nods: happy surprises, a few omissions

Go Jackson and 'Lord of the Rings' is all I have to say. If Jackson and company don't win Best Director and Picture, it will be a travesty. LotR's is the finest eleven hour piece of cinema I have ever seen, not to mention one of the best movies of all time when compared to ordinary pictures as well.

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Army Plans Four-Year Boost of Forces 

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage

Good news. Relying on the Reserves to the extent that we have been is unfair to them and unfair to the nation. We need to be using professional soldiers in the current conflict, not citizen soldiers who have are highly integrated into the civilian world; they're being away from home for years at a time damages their families, their careers, and possibly their civilian lives in general. While they did swear to defend the nation, we should understand that their commitment as Reservists is different than full-time soldiers.

Temporary reliance on reserves in emergencies is acceptable, but the military needs to be restructured for the long haul in the battle against terror. Since it seems obvious that as the US maintains commitments abroad that the current size of the regular military is inadequate, as the reliance of thousands of Reservists has indicated, the total numbers in the standing military need to be increased. I'm for streamlining the Army, but I think that it can be done while at the same time weaning it off of its over-dependence on the Reserves. Then, when the nation has a dire emergency, there will be plenty of soldiers on hand and waiting in the wings to heed the call.

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Alan Greenspan's Duty 

Alan Greenspan

If Greenspan can fix this one obvious flaw with Bush's policies, the out of control spending and rising deficit, and set him on the right track to historical glory in his next term, than I say go for it, Maestro.

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Mark Krikorian on Immigration 

Mark Krikorian on Wall Street Journal & Immigration on National Review Online

The economic realities of the amnesty plan proposed by GWB need to be more widely disseminated. The plan effectively turn the US labor market in a world-wide labor market. Every American worker would be competing with any other person in the world with the ability to travel here and interview against them. Such a massive pool of labor would inevitably lead to wage deflation even in higher-paying white collar jobs.

No other country would be doing this, so why should the US turn itself into an economic experiment and labor side-show because enforcing the law is difficult?

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BBC & Hutton Report 

Jed Babbin on BBC & Hutton Report on National Review Online

Too bad we don't have an investigation proceeding on the NYT. There needs to be more wide-spread exposure of the inaccuracies in columns (see KTS for examples of such 'errors') and biased, agenda driven reporting that pollute the so-called 'paper of record'.

Andrew Apostolou on David Kelly & BBC on National Review Online

On the BBC, I have to agree that it's good to see the 'beeb' take a rightly deserved fall. Hopefully after heads roll more responsible leadership will bring less bias to the BBC's reporting.

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David Frum on Democratic Candidates Messages' 

David Frum's Diary on National Review Online

I agree that the heroism of Kerry in Vietnam will not hold up against the onslaught of critique that will hit his foreign policy platform if he is nominated.

I also agree that Dean still has momentum, especially here and on other college campuses. Whether that'll turn into more primary votes in the near future remains to be seen.

I'm still pulling for H.D., though, since Carl Rove's machine will take all of those glorious foot-in-mouth and left-wing quotations that he has been blaring on the stump and use them to show how clueless he is. Dean for Democratic Nominee 2004!

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Jonah Goldberg on Independents 

Jonah Goldberg's Goldberg File on National Review Online

It's true, waiting until the Presidential election to begin engaging intellectually with politics is silly. And to claim that the candidates are more important than the party is equally silly. The time to pay attention to a candidate is during the primaries, when he's appealing to what will be his base if he wins. Those insiders are the ones that will be appointed and will determine policy through their own powers and through lobbying.

One needs to come to a clear understanding of the ideologies of the parties before trying to make political decisions such as voting. If one doesn't, than one is truly uninformed, ignorant, disengaged, and a fool.

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BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Whale explodes in Taiwanese city 

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Whale explodes in Taiwanese city

While this may not be a breaking piece of world news, I thought it was worthy of a smile or two.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The State of Our Discourse 

This is an article that I wrote for the Chicago Weekly News. I plan on writing for one of the campus newspapers regularly from now on.

What better place than The University of Chicago to watch the State of the Union address, right? One can sit down in the lounge of the dorm, prop the legs up, and partake in the glories of our democracy with fellows of similar experience and intellectual ability. Then, one can engage in vigorous discourse about the various points and policies articulated in the speech with one’s academic comrades-in-arms. The “Life of the Mind” as official propaganda would put it, and all that. Yeah, right. What actually occurred in my part of campus was quite far from such an ideal.

Let me briefly recount some of the stand-out features of my experience watching the President’s address. There was much shouting and yelling, with such well-articulated, vigorous invectives as “Die!” and “You suck!”; there was a constant volley of rolled up socks hurled at the television whenever Bush, or a notable member of his cabinet such as Rumsfeld, appeared on screen or a new point was made by the President that disagreed with the segments of the audience so armed. Requests for fewer interjections were mostly ignored, and one of the two Republicans in the room was driven out in disgust at what he felt was extreme disrespect for the President (full disclosure: I was the other Republican).

I could now launch into a critique of the liberal rage that until Dean’s meltdown (summed up by one utterance: “Yeeeaaarrrrgggghhhh!”) filled his stump speeches and drove his supporters on, or explain fundamental defects in liberal ideology and political strategy, at which the frustration that was at base of my classmates own meltdown is perhaps directed. While I think the latter might prove to be an interesting discussion, one that would be filled with an explanation that even liberals feel that Bush is currently in a strong political position (did you see the glazed look in Ted Kennedy or Hillary Clinton’s eyes last Tuesday? Or looked at the Gallup polls that state that Bush has a sizable lead over an unnamed democratic challenger?) and likely to win re-election, and thus may only let their frustration out in displays of emotion, won’t go into either. The real issue that seems to jump out at me after watching the State of the Union in such a colorful atmosphere is one of discourse.

I tend to agree with my fellow Republican mentioned above that certain aspects of my fellows’ behavior Tuesday were a little over the top (such as the flung footwear); however, in my opinion all could be forgiven if such vigor was also directed at debating the merits of the issues. But, it wasn’t. After the speech ended the socks were gathered, the crowd dispersed, and not one point was argued.

In my opinion one of the greatest benefits of going to the UofC is the great conversations. However, the general nature of the conversations is not political. In fact, when conversations flow in such a direction, they are usually curtailed by an impulse not to offend. Even I, when expressing a political point of view that is generally conservative, now put all sorts of qualifiers on it so that people won’t look at me funny (for any more reasons than they already have); trying to have a meaningful discussion of religion and God from an evangelical point of view is quite difficult, to say the least. To do so is to risk being branded with a negative label. Judging from the poor turnout at Campus Crusade, it seems that God is in the closet. Such a state of affairs makes expressing a socially conservative point of view difficult, since many reasons for holding such a view are religiously motivated.

It used to be the stereotype that college campuses were liberal; however as recent Gallup and Harvard polls have shown, many campuses have shifted right. Such changes don’t seem to have occurred at elite colleges, as one Stanford student newspaper reports last year. This seems to be the case here at the UofC as well. While one may say that Chicago has a large fiscally conservative voice, as pioneered by Milton Friedman and continued by much of the economics department, social liberalism still is imbedded in much of the institution. This may be due simply to the fact that many professors attended college and cut their political teeth during the social changes of the 1960’s and 70’s; whether such social views are deeply imbedded or are more temporary and will change when the faculty rolls over to a younger generation remains to be seen. The reaction to the State of the Union here at the UofC seems to point to a possible split in the beliefs of college students, depending on whether they attend an elite institution many less notorious universities. What such a split would mean in terms of the academic and political leanings of a future generation of professors remains in the realm of speculation.

The war of ideas is far from over, especially in a nation that is characterized as “50/50” by international news sources such as The Economist, but this war doesn’t seem to be quite what one would think. It seems to be one in which once a side is chosen, little crossover occurs. It seems to be a war in which loud, venomous emotion is displayed, but little material struggle occurs. A phony war, perhaps? What the reaction to the State of the Union that I saw seems to beg is a reexamination of one’s views. Have you recently considered the merits of a point of view you disagree with greatly? Have you even examined the merits of your own side recently? Such interplay and discourse would be to the benefit of all political actors, and the direction of the nation.

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The Beginning 

Just started the blog. Hope to start posting more soon.

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