Friday, November 01, 2002

Turkey's Having Elections, in case anyone's missed it. I know that if it isn't on the internet it doesn't exist for some folks, but C-SPAN is showing a pretty good piece on Turkey, their upcoming elections, and role in a possible war vs. Iraq this weekend that is pretty darn good. I recommend it if you have the time and interest.
"BY ITS own hand the economic life is being squeezed from Europe", says this article (link via Glenn Reynolds):
For the Euro-zone, the applause stopped long ago. In the cacophony that passes for policy coherence there has come an absurd but utterly predictable result: far from the euro providing greater stability and a platform for better performance as its apologists claimed, the economies inside the Euro-zone are now faring worse than those outside.
That much is self-evident and was predictable. I did figure they countries that adopted the Euro would get a growth bounce for the first year or two before returning to stagnation (because the problems those countries have has to do with economic policy and aren't things that a single currency can solve). But even the short-term "growth bounce" failed to materialize.
Nothing has more exposed the myth of the superior continental economic model than the flight of capital out of the Euro-zone and the stock market collapses this year. They have been breathtaking in their severity. At one point this month the German stock market was showing a collapse of 70% from its peak, double the percentage fall in the Dow Jones.
This spring and Summer the BBC World Newshour radio programe was almost gleeful about the falls in the U.S. stocks, and hailing it as showing the "American model" had failed. Meanwhile, market falls in Europe consistently exceeded those of America's exchanges, and their economies are even more moribund. Today they were reduced to pondering what our jobless rise means for them, with the realization that if they're to be pulled out of recession, it will be due to America. This for people who expected the EU to become the world's engine of growth. They're in the ditch (again), and calling for us to tow them out:
Barely a week now passes without another red pencil taken to forecasts for economic growth in the Euro-zone. Last Friday, it was the turn of the National Institute for Economic & Social Research. As if 1.4% growth last year was not slow enough, it now forecasts that the Euro-zone will only manage growth of 0.9% this year and 2.1% next.

As for Germany, which accounts for about a third of output in the zone, GDP will rise by only 0.4% this year, and by 1.7% next, a shadow of the subdued growth in America - the economy that Europe so despises. . .

It is not the world slowdown that has caused this performance collapse, but the interaction of entirely self-inflicted wounds: over-regulated labour markets, a relentless rise in the government share of the economy, a growing tax burden, regulation out of every orifice and a desperate rearguard action against all and every attempt to dismantle state aid and subsidies. The same clique that greeted the bursting of America’s new economy bubble as proof of the flawed Anglo-Saxon model is the same one that, now their own economy has fallen into a far deeper slowdown than that in the US, turns to blaming US policymakers for not doing enough to pull the rest of the world including the EU out of the mire.
The problem, of course, is the very nature of the EU's structure: it is an impersonal bureaucracy, with it's policies based on the idea that planning and direction by beaureocratic fiat and regulation is the rational way to achieve success.

Since they're not going to change their ideological mindset in a way that would allow them to fix the problem, they're not going anywhere. Look at Japan: they've been stagnant for a decade now, and the most recent plan to finally adress their financial services and banking sector problems is still hotly resisted. If anything, the mindset of European policy shapers is even more intractably hidebound than those of Japan's.

About a decade ago, Lester Thurow wrote a book where he declared that it would be the "House of Europe" that would supplant America as the world's dynamic economic leader. The only reaction such a statement would get now would be a horse laugh. Come to think of it, that was the appropriate reaction even then. Many people knew better, but their advice was waved off.
Democratic Party Officials Planned Wellstone Rally according to this article:
Political operatives at the Democratic National Committee in Washington developed the plan to turn the memorial service for Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone into a political rally, top party sources tell Capitol Hill Blue.

The party also urged the Wellstone family to ask Vice President Dick Cheney to not attend the service and concocted the excuse that security for the VP would disrupt the event even though Secret Service security was required for former president Bill Clinton, who was invited and who did attend.

Rick Kahn, the Wellstone campaign worker and friend, worked the highly partisan crowd into a frenzy with strong rhetoric urging them to get out and elect replacement candidate Walter Mondale.

"That was the plan all along and it was one of the reasons we didn't want Cheney at the event," says one Democratic political operative who spoke only under promise that his name not be used. "It was a high stakes gamble but this is a campaign that demands high risks."
Well, it certainly didn't seem like an unscripted event and one of the speeches were off-the-cuff. As George Will notes, following the rules is for Republicans:
So began the pre-election phase of the Minnesota Democrats' post-election campaign. Yes, campaign. The Floridization of the nation is the Democrats' aspiration. Before dawn the day after Election Day 2000, as the Democrats' lawyers began descending on Florida, Bill Daley, chairman of the Gore campaign, said, "Our campaign continues." Yes, campaign. . .

In politics, lawfulness is not always mandatory, according to the Lautenberg Principle. That principle was pioneered by New Jersey's Democratic Party and its servant, the state's Supreme Court, which rewrote state law to allow former Sen. Frank Lautenberg to take the ballot place of Sen. Robert Torricelli, a likely loser.

The principle is that campaign and election laws are laws for Republicans and suggestions for Democrats. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Whip, understands. Passionately supporting recent campaign finance reforms to regulate political behavior - of others - she said:

"This beautiful city in which we serve, 200 years ago was built on a swamp. And a swamp it is again today, a swamp of special-interest money. . . . We have an opportunity to create a new architecture of political fund-raising."


This year, Pelosi, swamp-drainer and architect, built for herself two political action committees, an attempt to evade campaign-finance laws by doubling the amount she can receive and contribute. The Pelosi aide serving as treasurer of both PACs says the Federal Election Commission approved them. An FEC spokesman denied that, and this week, Pelosi suspended one of the PACs lest, the treasurer said, they "become a campaign issue."

So Pelosi's decision had nothing to do with the fact that the PACs violate the campaign laws she praises and multiplies but regards as mere suggestions.
Speaking of the Political Speech Regulation Act of 2002, check out this editorial in the New York Sun.
Human Rights Watch has finally found time to condemn Yasser Arafat's PA for failing to take sufficient action against terrorism.
Horse-Trading and Deal-Making continues at the UN. Here I do believe that it's in Bush's, and America's, interest for the resolution to fail. Pretending the UN is a forum that America's foreign policy should defer to is an idea that should die. I've said that before and will likely say it again. That's why I haven't continued to post on this topic with each and every utterance from one diplomat or another on the "progress" that's being made.

France can just go pike it. I don't know why our guys keep saying "France can just go pike it if they don't like our resolution" but then bowing to their desires anyhow.
Norman Ornstein is one of the most respected political scientists and observers of American politics in the country. None the less, I have to disagree with this piece by him published in the Financial Times.

Losing elections is never good. Not if you want to actually accomplish your agenda, rather than polemicize against the other side while signing their legislation. Clinton "did well" after the Democrats lost in '94 only in the purely political sense. After that his "accomplishments", legislatively, were mainly in signing Republican bills and getting marginal modifications of them. His ability to pursue his own policy agenda was greatly curtailed.

Now, Ornstein writes:
Control of both houses of Congress does mean control of the agenda but what good is that if you cannot muster enough votes to pass bills and enact laws?
For better or worse, the partisan division has meant that the parties have stood together with each other, for the most part, on many significant votes. Lets put it this way - turn Ornstein's question around. Has Tom Daschle had an easy time of it as Senate Majority leader with only a one vote margin of control? No. But is he, are the Senate Democrats, better off than they would be if the margin was the other way? You bet.

Similarly, though the Republicans had only Cheney's tie-breaking vote to give them the majority in the Senate before Jeffords Jumped, it's obvious that the Republicans - and Bush - were in a better place, for them, than they were after the switch. Ornstein goes back to the recent past for an example, again, but I don't think it serves his point:
. The Republicans' attitude was that he was on his own. The president's priority, a budget plan including tax increases and budget cuts, took months to enact, eventually passing without any Republican support by a single vote in each house.
So? What's your point? That a stark contrast between the parties is somehow bad? Control has drawbacks (because the voters then know which party to hold accountable)? Perhaps, in a certain purely electoral advantage sense (we can do better in the next election running against the "obstructionism" of the other side if they're in control of at least one chamber in Congress). But ask any partisan Democrat that actually, sincerely, wanted to achieve certain policy goals rather than just having issues kept around to run on the next time because "they weren't done due to Republican foot-dragging and obstructionism" which years of the Clinton Administration held the most promise: the first two, or the last six.
If the Republicans do hold the House and recapture the Senate, the margins will be razor-thin - probably a slightly smaller margin in the House (three or four seats out of 435) and another tie in the Senate, which would have to be broken by Dick Cheney, vice-president. Republicans will require perfect unity, which will create constant tensions between moderates and bedrock conservatives.
Guys like Ornstein have been saying things like this every election since '96: "the Republican's control of the house is so narrow, they'll have a hard time sticking together and getting anything done." During the pre-Bush era, they also pointed to Clinton as having the ability to make sure that their position would be difficult, because, we were told, he'd be able to pick off enough moderate and Liberal Republicans that he'd be able to control the legislative agenda.

Didn't work out that way, then. As for the "tensions within the party" argument, that's true whether one is in control or not (the Democrats have internal divisions and tensions, and indeed one of the stories of the past year and a half has been Daschle's fear that Democrat Senators will vote as so many House Democrats do, with the Republicans, if legislation comes to the floor for a vote or if a judicial nominee is allowed a full vote on the floor. Thus he has used the tools that he has as leader of the majority to prevent such things, to the best of his ability.) If the Republicans were in the majority, they'd be able to use the agenda-setting tools that Daschle has now.

Likewise, anyone who's observed politics for a long time knows that having a large majority can often exacerbate whatever internal divisions there is in a party: think of Tip O'Neil's experience as Speaker of the House. He had majorities that would be considered solid compared to the situation we have now. But that didn't prevent conservative Democrats from voting with the Republicans to advance Reagan's policy initiatives (tax cuts, defense increases, etc). Indeed, it seemed to make it more likely, rather than less likely - they didn't fear losing the majority as much, so they didn't cohere.

The fact that Ornstein's article doesn't take into account the fact that for every Republican who might vote with the Democrats on legislation, there is a Democrat who votes with the Republicans. This has played out on bill after bill, and has meant that in the House, the narrowness of the Republican's majority hasn't hampered them as much as Ornstein's article would suggest. If anything, that is even more likely in the Senate - thus there is a reason why Daschle has packed the Judiciary Committee, for example, with the people he did, and a reason why the Liberal Senators have used it to prevent nominees from even reaching the floor. If they did reach the floor, they'd be confirmed.

This has happened with legislation as well: legislation that would have passed on Republican terms because enough Democrats would have voted for it have never been given a floor vote. This is the power of being in the majority: even a razor-thin majority. The situation would completely flip if the Republicans managed what they are highly unlikely to manage, and returned to the majority in the Senate. This is why the campaign for control of the Senate has been so fierce, and why the Democrats have been willing to go for the balls in so many elections and even find ways to overthrow the law in an effort to keep even a one seat majority. It's all for power. The power of being in the majority.

I'm not suggesting that the Republicans should stoop to the methods of the Democrats in pursuit of majority control. But it does illustrate how important, what a significant advantage, it is to be in the majority. Just ask Bill Clinton.

Frankly, Norm Ornstein and the other sages of political science who are suggesting that it's better for a party to lose than to win are out to lunch on this one. This has been a Big Idea among the political cognocenti over the last several election cycles. But it's one of those things that is so obviously wrong - and increasingly wrong as we look at actual experience and compare it with the theory - that I'm begining to suspect it's one of those things that falls into the category of "an idea so stupid, only an intellectual could possibly believe it". Ornstein is far from the only person to have made this argument. In fact, if I recall correctly, Glenn Reynolds was among those holding this idea.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

American Militarism and Violations of International Law, South American Style. I wonder if those who make a fetish out of militarism and violating treaties will treat Lula's Brazil the same way they treat Bush.
Mr. da Silva, a left-wing populist who campaigned on promises to improve conditions for the country's vast population of poor, promised military leaders he will forego Brazil's adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and refocus efforts on building up nuclear weapons.
Some how I doubt that the EU will get excersized about a friend of Castro and terrorists violating treaty obligations in the same way they get bent out of shape when the U.S. doesn't follow treaties it hasn't ratified.

It'll also be interesting to see how those people who wring their hands when "money that could go to adress grave economic needs and the poor is spent on defense instead" will react. My guess is that, because it's a Leftist engaging in the buildup, it'll be ok.
Alan Page For Senate Well, I've heard (through the grapevine more than anything else; I.E. nothing confirmed-reliable) that Alan Page was more than willing to run for Senate in Minnesota. But The Party went with that Bridge to the 20th Century, Walter F. Mondale instead. Speaking of which:

If Elected, Mondale Promises to Push SALT II Treaty Ratification, vows to end "arms race" between the U.S. and Soviet Union.

Anyhow, back to Page. I know a bit about him since, well, I'm into the NFL and thus I'm interested in their standouts. In addition to being a former Vikings great, Alan Page is a a well respected Supreme Judge in Minnesota. He's much younger than Mondale. The speculation I've heard is that the Democrats backed away from running him because they didn't think he would appeal to Minnesota voters.

Frankly, if that's true, that's horse shit. Page isn't just an ex-football player who stumbled into the state's Supreme Court on his fading glory; he's a capable jurist (and a "law and order Democrat"), who would have had wide appeal. He would have represented a bridge not to the past, but to the 21st century (to invoke a mantra of the Democrats). NFL background helped Steve Largent (also not politically incompetent), and would have worked well for Page, who likely has at least as strong a "name recognition" in Minnesota as the '70s retread they did tap for the job. So why didn't they run Page?

We've watched the spectacle of The Party abandoning McCall in New York rather early on (yes, it was a longshot. It would have been a longer shot for Andrew Cuomo. But I have to think they'd have given Mario's son more cash sooner and more frequently, and made a real run of it). In Nevada, the Dems have walked away from their candidate for Governor, Joe Neal. In Minnesota they avoided a candidate who I think could have galvanized the country in a way Mondale just doesn't, and who could have been around for twenty or so years if things went well for them (even if Mondale wins, I really can't see him serving beyond this term - and I have my doubts that he'll serve a full term, even, though that will depend in part on who wins the race for Governor).

The other day I was questioning the Democrat's bench because they keep resorting to fossils, and asking why they weren't able to find new, up and coming faces. Well, in Minnesota, they had at least one. They just didn't call him up. My question is why?
The Fight To Organize the Senate is already heating up.
The Star Tribune weighs in on Tuesday night's Mondale for Senate rally:
However they were intended, Kahn's words were an affront to the Republican candidate, Norm Coleman, and those who support him. We can understand Kahn's state of mind, but we must repudiate his message. There can be no capitulation in this race. Coleman and Mondale owe Minnesotans a vigorous contest of ideas.
CNN also reports on the fallout.
The Usual Democrat Election Tactics don't seem to be working as well as they usually do. I suppose that's what happens when something is overdone and people start to catch on to how little substance there is to it. Meanwhile, at least someone is doing something about vote fraud this time around.

Speaking of the usual tricks; tomorrow is officially "Dirty Tricks Day" - the Friday before an election is generally when certain types of folks will leak salacious and/or disreputable things about their opponents: just enough time for it to impact the voters over the weekend but not enough time for it to be given thoughtful consideration and/or debunked. Remember, this is how it unfolded in 2000. Don't be surprised if there's more of the same around the country this time around: that one had a significant affect.
Europe as an Example to Emulate: disected at Regions of Mind. (Link via Glenn Reynolds).
The British bought 67 AH-64 Apache helicopters, which are being delivered on time, but they're to be mothballed for five years because the pilot training program has lagged behind schedule.
The Good News in the "War on Bad Philosophy" is that our enemies help us gain allies. This is quite the reverse of those who were warning that if we actually fought terrorism, rather than finding some way to soothe the psychic wounds of fanatical killers, we'd be helping them gain allies. I always thought that was just so much bovine fecal matter (coming from the usual crowd), and it seems that my instincts were right.
GDP Growth was 3.1% in the third quarter. I expect that when the revisions come out later, it will be somewhat less. Still, if that can be sustained, it's pretty solid and helps alleviate some of my worries about a "double dip". But, then, the economy grew by over 5% in the first quarter, and that wasn't sustained, and as the report says, it's questionable whether this rate of growth will keep going or fade.

I don't know why the un-named economists mentioned in the story expected growth of 3.5-4%. The economic data throughout the quarter has been mixed at best. This is higher than I expected it would be.
"Say Yes" So if some person does something despicable, is it appropriate to hit them back with the same? Generally not. But sometimes? Yah.
"The Party" Rally: On Tuesday Democrats in Minnesota took the opportunity of Wellstone's death to indulge in a Four-Hour Hate directed at anyone who disagreed with them. This was in between yucking it up, glad handing, and pressing the flesh. Billed as a Memorial service and conducted amidst a climate where Democrat polls had admonished Republicans to cease campaigning, Mondale, the man who replaced Wellstone in the race, was prominently featured (seen hear behind Hillary Clinton, D-NY).

The crowd booed those who had come to pay their respects for Wellstone despite the political disagreements they had with him. They also cheered overtly partisan speeches tying Wellstone to next Tuesday's election. Senator Tom Harkin engaged in finger pointing and used his remarks for overt campaigning. Most people have focused on Rick Kahn's exhortations, and I'll get to them shortly, but I found Harkin's speech to be disturbing and it hasn't gotten enough attention. I'm going to do something unspeakably tasteless in transcribing portions of Harkin's speech, because it's the only thing appropriate for the tastelessness of the moment, and because there is a cadence to it that I think is, well, like I said - disturbing. He invokes Wellstone's green bus and then goes on:
". . .so tonight, and tonight I ask you all, will you stand up, and join together, and board that bus? SIEG HEIL!" [other listeners heard Tom Harkin say "SAY YES" here, but I have to record what it sounded like to me]

AUDIENCE (in unison): YES!

TH (yelling and gesticulating): "For Paul Wellstone will you stand up and keep fighting for social and economic justice? SIEG HEIL!
[other listeners heard Tom Harkin say "SAY YES" here, but I have to record what it sounded like to me]

AUDIENCE (in unison): YES!

TH (yelling and gesticulating): "For Paul, for Paul, will you stand up and keep fighting for better wages for those who mop our floors and clean our bathrooms, for those who take care of our elderly, take care of our sick, teach our children, and help our homeless? SEIG HEIL!"
[other listeners heard Tom Harkin say "SAY YES" here, but I have to record what it sounded like to me]

AUDIENCE (in unison): YES!

TH (yelling and gesticulating): "For Paul, will you stand up and keep fighting for cleaner air, and cleaner water, for a cleaner environment for our children and our future? SIEG HEIL!"
[other listeners heard Tom Harkin say "SAY YES" here, but I have to record what it sounded like to me. There is also loud stomping at this point.]

AUDIENCE (in unison): YES! [thunderous cheers and thumping.]

TH (yelling and gesticulating): "For Paul, will you stand up and keep fighting for peace and understanding and to stop the exploitation of women and children around the world? SIEG HEIL!
[other listeners heard Tom Harkin say "SAY YES" here, but I have to record what it sounded like to me]

AUDIENCE (in unison): YES!

TH (yelling and gesticulating): "For Paul, will you stand up and keep fighting to end discrimination based on race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation? SIEG HEIL!"
[other listeners heard Tom Harkin say "SAY YES" here, but I have to record what it sounded like to me]

AUDIENCE (in unison): YES! [boisterous cheers, foot-stomping, and whistling]

TH (yelling and gesticulating): "For Paul, for Paul, will you stand up and keep fighting for the poor, the homeless, the underclass on the roadside of life? SIEG HEIL!"
[other listeners heard Tom Harkin say "SAY YES" here, but I have to record what it sounded like to me]

AUDIENCE (in unison): YES! [ongoing rapturous cheers and whistling].
Actually, to some it seemed more like something out of the old Soviet Union. It certainly wasn't appropriate for what was billed as a non-partisan memorial service, from people who spent the first part of the week decrying any partisanship, any mention of politics before Paul Wellstone had been laid to rest. We do have here, I think, the whiff of the One-Party State. It fits in, thus, with what is going on in New Jersey (where the candidate who might lose must be replaced by one more likely to win, because the other side must be prevented from winning office), and the attempts to delegitimize any issue that won't help The Party, trying to say that such things as where one stands on war is not appropriate for political debate near election time in contexts where it might harm The Party's chance's. This attitude was all the more explicit in the now infamous speech of Rick Kahn:
"A week from today, Paul Wellstone's name will not, and cannot, be on the ballot. But there will be a choice none the less, either to embrace his legacy in the United State's Senate, to keep his legacy alive, either to keep his legacy alive, or bring it forever to an end [loud, campaign-like "NO!" from audience]. Tonight, we are filled to overflowing with overwhelming grief and sorrow"
Neither Kahn nor the audience was sounding either sorrowful or aggrieved at this point; and if pictures say a thousand words, then there was not much grief and sorrow in evidence.
"If Paul Wellstone's legacy comes to an end, within just days after this unspeakable tragedy, our spirits will be crushed and we will drown in a river of tears. We are begging you" do not let this happen. We are begging you to help win this election for Paul Wellstone. You can be the answer to his prayers if you help us win the election for Paul Wellstone."
Waving Wellstone's corpse for political advantage. He goes on, exhorting the audience to produce victory in the election, until ultimately he calls upon various Republicans to cede the election in the name of Paul Wellstone:
"Senator Domenici, Senator Brownback, Senator Lugar, Senator Hegel, and Senator DeWine, who are here tonight, are all Republicans
He's asking members of the other party to help defeat themselves, just as the mock-opposition parties in some African states are expected to defer to the dominant party and accept defeat:
"for whom Paul had the utmost respect, and whom he considered true friends"
Thus I cannot help but think that Paul Wellstone would not have liked the way he was used that night by those who claimed to be the custodians of his legacy and memory.
"Can you not hear your friend calling you one last time to step forward on his behalf to keep his legacy alive, and help us win this election for Paul Wellstone? Representative Jim Ramsted, you are the highest ranking elected Republican official in the state of Minnesota You know that Paul loved you. He needs you now. I am begging you please. Let the people of this state hear your voice, on his behalf to keep his legacy alive, and help us win this election for Paul Wellstone!"
So he's calling on Ramsted to issue his concession speech before the voters even go to the polls, "for Paul"? Or to tell Coleman to let the wookie (Mondale) win? Kahn seems to invoke love the way the Ministry of Love did - as a whip against enemies. Note that throughout this section, Kahn's audience is showing it's "overwhelming grief and sorrow" by cheering every line boisterously. Kahn says he's asking them to do this in answer to a prayer of Paul's. Putting a prayer in Wellstone's mouth. I tend to doubt Wellstone would ask this of anyone. Kahn seems, to me at least, to be abusing Paul's memory. But then, he knew Wellstone better than I. But if he's right, then Paul Wellstone was not the decent man I thought he was. Because this was an indecent display.

Yes, especially with the Tom Harkin stuff, I may have gone a bit too far. What's the point of having one's own weblog if you can't go too far when you want to? I try to avoid going over the top too often. Sometimes it's needed to illustrate the point - some people didn't hear the speech and so it's hard to convey it's tone and tenor. In any case, Harkin's remarks didn't deserve any respect, so I gave them none.

Yes, they have said sorry, and I forgive the person who apologized. But that doesn't mean they should get all the "gains" but avoid all the consiquences of this debacle.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Democrat Party Activists shown entering Florida a week before the election in a major get out the vote drive.

DNC Bagman Terry McAuliffe has said that he would do whatever it took to defeat Jeb Bush in next week's election.
Who's Politicizing Wellstone's Death?:

Tomorrow or tonight I'll try and post a transcript of some of the remarks. It seems I'll have to type them up from audio recordings, since I haven't been able (in an admittedly hasty search) to find a transcript on the web.

In any case, a sharp contrast between this nakedly political advertisement and how Paul Coverdell (R-GA) was treated when he died. But, then, that didn't involve a party trying desperately to cling to power, resorting to waving the dead corpse as a means to garner sympathy and intimidate the opposition into silence (ceasing campaigning).
Harry Stein on being smeared in the media:
In the increasingly illiberal world of orthodox liberalism, competing ideas are answered not by argument but by a pose of moral superiority and by-the-book invective.
Saudis Looking For Nukes according to this Defense & Foreign Affairs piece re-published at Frontpagemag:
Highly-reliable sources indicate that the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has, since the beginning of October 2002, and possibly before, begun active efforts to acquire completed nuclear weapons.

It is known that Saudi officials had approached officials of the Government of Pakistan in this regard, on the basis that Saudi possession of such weapons would act as a deterrent to any possible Israeli threat of nuclear force against Saudi Arabia.
I actually tend to think they want them because they know once Saddam is gone in Iraq, that they will shortly stop being seen as "allies" in the West. Thus they're after them for the same reason Saddam is - to deter us. That will allow them, they believe, to continue to export Wahhabi extremism. I hope we're taking steps to make sure these guys don't succeed.
So Esera Tuaolo, former Green Bay Packer, has come out as Gay. Sterling Sharpe, former all-pro Green Bay Packer wide receiver and current ESPN analyst, said that "if [Tuaolo] had come out on a Monday [during the season, while he was an active player], he'd have never seen the other team." He'd never have made it through the week's practices to the game on Sunday. His own team-mates would have turned against him (before anyone gets mad at Sharpe, my impression was that he was stating this as something he thought would happen, not as something he thought should happen). LeRoy Butler, Packers all-pro Safety and leader of the Defense in the '90s, backs up what Sterling said:
First of all, I'm proud of Esera Tuaolo. By coming out to the world, he did something a lot of guys would never have the guts to do. We were teammates in Green Bay, and I know him pretty well. And now, knowing that he's gay, it doesn't change anything. I don't have any bad feelings about it. To me, it's not that big of a deal. But the reality is, I may be in the minority. . .

Sexuality is a sensitive, emotional topic that evokes many opinions and feelings. Any time you bring a subject of such serious nature into the confines of a locker room, there is potential for disaster. So, it's tough to say that everyone would be okay with it.

A lot of guys would be upset. Particularly because football players shower together. I'm sure a lot of guys are looking back right now and wondering if Tuaolo was checking them out. For many players -- and for many heterosexual men in general -- it's distressing to know that a guy you're sharing soap with is gay. I have to admit, if I knew an openly gay guy was in the shower, I would not be in a rush to go in there.

The situation seems, if anything, like a retrogression. Look, I'm not Gay and I can understand why players would be uncomfortable showering with and rooming with someone who is (during training camp and on the road, players share a room with a teammate). I've had a friend and co-worker, who was Gay, be attracted to me, and it was uncomfortable. So I "get it". But as David Maraniss wrote in his biography on Lombardi, the Green Bay Packer's coach had a policy that no gay player would be harassed or treated any differently from any other player. That was in the '60s, before Stonewall. I'm sure there are more gay players in the league. The only question is whether they're going to be allowed to be who they are without being shunned - or worse - by their teammates.

The fact that this involves a former Packer's player (with two others commenting on the atmosphere he thought existed and the reception anyone would get who came out, and all three being players I highly respect) made the contrast all the more striking to me, given the Lombardi policy I noted above. Lombardi became coach of the Packers more than fourty years ago and departed Green Bay more than thirty years ago. From the sound of it, things are much worse now.
India Rejects Calls to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions at the UN Climate Change Conference. Their argument is that
"Climate change mitigation will bring additional strain to the already fragile economies of the developing countries and will affect our efforts to achieve higher GDP growth rates to eradicate poverty speedily."
So we have the recognition that the Kyoto process does harm economic growth. We also have a situation where large countries, growing rapidly (and thus being the greatest source of emissions growth in upcoming years) will preclude any possible reduction in "global warming".

It's also true that Europe, in getting the baseline date set at 1990, managed to insure that they wouldn't have to make major sacrifices. Other countries also get various "credits" insuring that their interests are secured. Ultimately, the only country expected to make major sacrifices for absolutely no gain (given all the exemptions that would have prevented any benefit from resulting) was Uncle Sucker. That's no doubt why there is all the outrage over the fact that we refused to play the chump and shackle ourselves with this treaty.

Note the picture chosen by the BBC to go along with the story: it shows someone holding up a placard with "stats" on it. The example used is that of a U.S., not European, citizen. We know who the target is here. It isn't global warming as such (the treaty is essentially ineffective as a mechanism for reducing global warming), it's the United States.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Life in Arabia and prospects for reform pondered in the Financial Times:
While Saudis have often been touchy about any criticism of their way of life, oftenjustified by the adherence to the austere Wahabi form of Islam, a debate is now developing about social reform.

For now the debate is cautious and largely focussed on the economic impact of restrictions on social behaviour. In particular educational reform and the greater engagement of women in society are seen as essential measures as Saudi Arabia's once generous welfare state erodes and women are forced to work.

Pressure for change is also being driven by the need to address dangerous excesses, whether in the form of religious radicalism or other extremist behaviour, and increasing interest in Saudi Arabia from the west, which has long refrained from criticising the social restrictions, human rights abuses and undemocratic political system.
Perhaps there's more going on behind the scenes than we know about:
The west will also increasingly demand social reform in Saudi Arabia. The simmering troubles behind the kingdom's facade of normality were highlighted by the fact that 15 young Saudi men were among the 19 hijackers in the September 11 terrorist attacks and that many more have fought for Islamist Muslim causes in Chechnya and Bosnia in recent years.

"The external relations of Saudi Arabia have been based on arms sales, security, oil exports and the presence of large western communities. People didn't worry about the peculiarities of Saudi Arabia because they did not affect them," says a western diplomat in Riyadh. "Now the peculiarities are seen as creating a threat for the west They are no longer acceptable."

After September 11, the Saudi education system came under severe criticism as a key contributor to radicalisation of the country's youth.
But most importantly are the internal calls for reform:
Some of the harshest criticism comes from domestic sources. Moderate religious scholars say that excessive segregation is counterproductive. "Taking a hard line on protecting general morality has undermined values," argues Sheikh Abdelaziz Algasim, a religious scholar in Riyadh. "Relations between men and women are practiced through channels which lead to exploitation of women, harassment and sometimes even rape.
My guess is that the House of Saud won't be indulged as much, either by America or by their own people, following the war with Iraq. One reason they have made a fetish out of regional "stability". It seems to me, also, that there are some parallels between the unfolding situation in Iran and that of Arabia.
Dumping on France is kind of like "Barrelfisking" - superfluous and unchallenging, but just too fun to enchew. So, that being the case, we have this Houston Chronicle by "Thomas" (actually George; see the update below) Will. It's not even specifically about France, but the headline writer got his (or her) own dig in. Why shouldn't headline writers join the fun?

Back to the column itself, Will says:
It has been said that housing developments are named for what is destroyed by development -- Rolling Acres, Forest View, Green Meadows. The EU's budget rules are named for what they impede: they are named the Stability and Growth Pact.
Which is such an apt analogy, I wish I had thought of it. Will gets to France, but uses it as a means to make a point about the EU as a whole:
France illustrates Europe's feckless desire to have geopolitical weight without paying the price, particularly in military muscle, for such weight. Even if Europe were ever to summon the will to wield real power, its fading economic vigor would preclude doing so.
A point I've been making here but which all too many people don't want to believe (they have, for whatever reason, a vested interest in trusting the EU - mainly because the people who do so, many of whom are not Europeans, have an antipathy for America's role in the world).

Update: Alert Reader Michael McElwee writes to say that the Houston Chronicle messed the byline; the author is George Will (and yes, I know who he is), not "Thomas" Will.
It's Not News that people are unsettled about the state of the American economy. But even so not every sector is getting the gaspipe:
Despite the weak economy, a wide range of companies are doing well enough that they expect to pay bonuses as rich as - or in many cases richer than - they did a year ago. While prospects don't look so great if you work on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley, employees in healthier sectors are expected to hit the jackpot when this year's bonuses are paid out in early 2003.
Weak Democratic Bench: So this hasn't been given as much notice as I thought it should, but there's an odd pattern in the wake of the unfortunate misfortunes of Democratic candidates. Mel Carnahan dies and the best person the Democrats can find to replace him is his widow (elderly and widely acknowledged to be a political naif). The Torch withdraws from the race in New Jersey for fear of losing, and the best person the Democrats can find to replace him on the ticket is The Lout, a lich. Paul Wellstone dies and they pick Walter Mondale, who's been out of electoral politics for half my lifetime, to replace him. Patsy Mink dies and they don't even bother to try and replace her on the ticket. Last I heard, they're running her corpse for Congress.

Missouri's a "toss up" politically. But the other three states - New Jersey, Minnessota, and Hawaii, have very solid Democrat leanings. Where are the up-and-coming people that could have been put on the ticket and give voters some excitement? This is the party of the future, the "progressive" party? Yes, I know that in each case some younger names were touted (Mondale's son, for example, in Minnessota). But in each case they thought they'd be better off running the old guy - less confident, apparently, in their "young bulls". Now, in New Jersey and Minnessota, I hardly think that either Lautenberg or Mondale, when they're selected - er, elected, will serve out their terms (and I know Mink won't). But the party bosses are afraid, in each case, of putting the guy who'll be the real Senator in to face an up or down vote.

Meanwhile, in New York, the young Frank McCall, after crushing a guy who was running largely on his old father's rep (Cuomo), is so far behind that the DNC has decided to cut it's losses, financially, and the infighting over blame has already begun. This in a race that, at the end of the primary, everyone thought would be tighter (they figured Pataki would win, but that the Dems could make it a race).

Is it just me, or is the Dem's "farm system" failing to produce people who are attractive candidates for higher office?

Actually, it's not just me, and there's a reason why the Democrats have had a hard time finding new, thoughtful, quality people who want to run with a "D" next to their name, and it's related to the reasons why they tend to run on the basis of telling the voter what horrible things the other guy will do in office more than they run on what new ideas they will propose. But we'll go into the reasons for that another time.
Media Test Case the Boston Globe says no role played by Islam in killings. Meanwhile, the Associated Press wire service has done some actual reporting and managed to discover that, surprise surprise, he attacked a Synagogue last year.

"Nothing to see here, move along" still is the basic message that most news outlets are spinning - when, that is, they're not implying a connection between soldiering and snipering down civilians.

Monday, October 28, 2002

The Most Revealing line in this article has nothing to do with the friction between France and Britain. Instead, it is this remark:
In Brussels, Mr Giscard d'Estaing unveiled the proposed outline for a new EU constitution, which he believes will endure for the next 50 years.
So then they really do plan on emulating the French model, which has had a new constitutional dispensation every generation or so (what number "Republic" are they up to now? Fourth? Fifth? I've lost track. And we mustn't forget the "Empires" and restored monarchies that were interspersed amid the "Republics" for quite a long period there). d'Estaing goes on
Mr Giscard d'Estaing has compared it to the work of the US founding fathers and their Philadelphia convention in 1787.
But our Constitutional order has stood for a might longer than fifty years.
The Telegraph also identifies what unites the "Axis of Evil" inspite of the disimilarities that people point to:
The fight to prevent the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction among truly evil people is the significant battle of our times. It is not the bellicose rhetoric of hegemony, as the Left or pacifists would have it.
More on Frenchmen This time from the Torygraph:
Tony Blair launched a scathing attack on France yesterday for trying to defend the European Union's £30 billion a year Common Agricultural Policy.

Mr Blair, clearly angry at not being told in advance of a Franco-German deal which aims to keep CAP spending at around current levels until 2013, broke off from the talks in Brussels to denounce a farm subsidy system that was "damaging the developing world". . .

Clearly targeting the French President Jacques Chirac, Mr Blair said the "two key things" all EU leaders needed to remember were their commitment to the 1999 deal to change the CAP and the need to offer a plan for liberalisation of trade to the new round of World Trade talks. . .

The French, the chief beneficiaries of the CAP, have infuriated London by standing out against the total reform of a subsidy system that is skewed in favour of their own, and Mediterranean farmers.

M Chirac's refusal to do more to liberalise their energy market has also angered Britain.
As my English friend said when he sent me the link to this article: typical Frogs, wanting to pork barrel along at everyone else's expense.
On Russians and Frenchmen:
It is has been widely claimed that Mr Putin will, after the horrors of Moscow, feel compelled to co-operate with the Americans over Saddam. This is to assume that the Russians are the real problem at the United Nations. They are not. Mr Putin has legitimate commercial and strategic interests in the region and is entitled to drive a hard bargain with Washington. That is what he is doing and it is not resented. The grotesque recent grandstanding by Jacques Chirac is an entirely different matter.
From the London Times.
Some Thoughts On Germans. I endorse them whole-heartedly (the thoughts on Germans, not Germans), even though I'm "of German heritage" (100% on both my mother's and father's side, my maternal and paternal grandparents on both sides, etc). So in the current rage for "identity politics" I should stick up for the "German community". But screw 'em. My maternal Grandfather parachuted over the Rhine to fight NAZIs, not fight alongside them (and was wounded). I think he would be equally appalled at the idea that the men in his unit that died were on the same moral level as the S.S.

I don't believe in intergenerational guilt (where someone is guilty because their antecedents did something rotten and wicked, but they didn't themselves), but neither do I believe in covering up the past or mystifying it in a postmodern haze of equivalency.

Likewise, I think that this is an insult to the Germans who were members of the "Front of Decent People" and died trying to overthrow Hitler (and it was more than one guy). It eliminates the moral distinction - and there's a reason why, too; because recognizing the distinction means recognizing that there was choice involved. That choice involved various levels: from participation, to acquiescence, to opposition. That choice, and the ramifications not just for the people who made it but for us, means that we have a different amount of reverence for the dead who were victims of, rather than participants in, the NAZI (or, for that matter, Communist) regimes.
The al-Queda - Chechen Terrorism connection (Link via Instapundit. Indeed, he has more links on this than I'll be able to catch up with at the moment).

Now, I'm not one to say that Russia completely wears the "white hats" in Chechnya - but some people want to romanticize the Chechen rebels as if they were noble "freedom fighters" and that's far from true, either. This is simply the most visible of the atrocities they've committed. The fact that they, PLO-like, continued violence in the period between the end of the "first Chechen war" and the start of the second (indeed, their ongoing attacks against Russians led to the second and current Chechen war), alongside of the ties they forged with some of the most murderous and extreme Islamist movements abroad only emphasize this.

Now, as I said, I don't romanticize Russia's behavior in Chechnya, either (there's a reason why I completely and totally dismissed arguments from Russians over the effect our precision campaign in Afghanistan would have, and likewise their hand-wringing about what will become of the Iraqi people if we campaign there, given the indiscriminate bombardments that characterize Russia's campaign in Chechnya.)
The Unseemly and False "Mourning" of the Democrats So they know who they're going to put on the ticket to replace Paul Wellstone; it will be Mondale - it's openly aknowledged. But they plan on holding off as long as possible. Why? Sorrow?

No - politics. They think that by drawing things out they can force Coleman to keep his campaign suspended (and accuse him of lack of sensitivity if he re-starts it before they officially name Mondale). This is insincere mourning, and very dispicable: using Wellstone's corpse for political advantage.

Not that this behavior surprises me one bit.

Update: The Dems are already conducting a campaign on Mondale's behalf, hiting the circut talking about what a great guy he is, what he'll do in office (just like Wellstone!). They just want to de-legitimize campaign efforts by their opponents (showing, once again, their inclinations towards One-Party Statism), waving the corpse of Wellstone in Coleman's and the Republican's face to intimidate them not to campaign, while the Dems are conducting their own campaign for Mondale the whole time.
The Two Faces of John Mohammed: decorated soldier and demolitions "expert" or mediocre soldier, "nothing special" as a marksman.

One thing's for sure, they're playing up the soldier aspect and minimizing the Nation of Islam aspect. So far our test case is showing a bit of . . .well, the expected. A far cry from the hand-wringing and hysteria over the militia ties of McVey. (Oh, and CNN has taken to referring to him by his pre-moslem name, "John Williams". As Instapundit points out, this seems to be the media practice for any convert to Islam that commits terrorist acts. In other contexts, they use the Islamic name chosen by the individual. But for terrorists, they swap out in Newspeak fashion - think the shoebomber and "Taliban John", both of who had their Moslem names slipped down the memory hole in the news stories about them).

I can say something on behalf of the Post story. Most of the "reporters" commentating in Mohammed's weapons skills highly emphasize and harp upon the fact that he won an "expert" marksmanship badge, as if this is highly significant. The post story is correct in saying that's "nothing special". Every soldier undergoes weapons qualification once a year. Even in support units (such as the one I was in), there are usually at least a half dozen people in every platoon or section who qualifies with a expert rating (I missed expert by a couple shots, qualified as sharpshooter, and I'm definitely nothing special as a marksman). In combat arms, where there is more practice, I would guess that the exception is anyone who doesn't qualify with an expert rating.

But there's been a big buzz in the media about his "expert" badge, which only shows how little familiarity with and contact with the military there is among most reporters. It's like they don't even have anyone in their family, much less circle of friends, who's ever served. Basic military knowledge isn't part of their background. Kind of like so many in the "anti-war" crowd that call people "chickenhawks" while having minimal knowledge of, or experience with, the military themselves (or real sympathy or identification with people who serve. This might be why the majority of those actually serving are underwhelmed by the "chickenhawk" accusation - they know that the anti-war crowd isn't with them for the long haul).

Now there are some people who do have standing to make a "Chickenhawk" argument, people who served in combat. But I notice that the vast majority of them don't associate themselves with such arguments, much less make them themselves.