Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina and global warming 

It didn't take very long for someone to seriously propose that the fury of Katrina and the resulting destruction of New Orleans was a result of Bush's failure to sign the Kyoto treaty.

On March 13, Bush reversed his previous position, announcing he would not back a CO2 restriction using the language and rationale provided by Barbour. Echoing Barbour’s memo, Bush said he opposed mandatory CO2 caps, due to “the incomplete state of scientific knowledge” about global climate change.

Well, the science is clear. This month, a study published in the journal Nature by a renowned MIT climatologist linked the increasing prevalence of destructive hurricanes to human-induced global warming. Now we are all learning what it’s like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged. Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and--now--Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children.

While absurd on its face, this has been well refuted over at Captain's Quarters.

According to Reason Magazine, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that if we do nothing, the rise in temperature over the next hundred years would average (among the various estimates) about 3.0°C. Full implementation of the Kyoto protocols would reduce expected warming over the next century down to a mere 2.86°C; that is, Kyoto gives us a reduction in anticipated temperature increase of 0.14°C over 100 years.

Okay, that gives us something to work with. 0.14°C divided by 100 gives us an expected reduction of 0.0014°C per year. Thus, from March 2001 to March 2005, we could have seen a reduction in warming of as much as 0.0056°C. But wait, there is more: in the five months from March 2005 to August 2005, there would have been an additional 0.0006°C, which brings the grand total to 0.0062°C if we
had implemented that furshlugginer treaty (we're assuming the globalistas' predictions are correct).

So what K. is saying is that the extra 0.0062°C (or 0.01° Fahrenheit, if that's your bag) spelled the difference between a pacific Atlantic ocean and a Force 5 hurricane that killed scores and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, flooding vast stretches of three states and stranding hundreds of thousands. And all for the want of a ten-penny nail!

Of course it figures that the allegation was made by a Kennedy. Really, you should read the whole thing.

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Remembering Soviet Afghanistan 

One day recently a commenter snarked that I did not know what I was writing about (can't even remember the subject) because I had not read Steve Coll's book Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From The Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. True at the time, but since the book was in my vacation book bag I quickly got work remedying that shortcoming. I am roughly half way through, and it is certainly well worth reading.

Among other things, it includes a tremendous amount of detail on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the resistance to that invasion, including particularly the American and Pakistani influence on that resistance. Last night I was struck by this passage, which desribes the damage inflicted on the Soviets in Afghanistan by January 1984, just four years into their nine-year occupation.
In January 1984, CIA director William Casey briefed President Reagan and his national security cabinet about the progress of their covert Afghan war. It had been four years since the first Lee Enfield rigles arrived at Karachi. Mujahedin warriors had killed or wounded about seventeen thousand Soviet soldiers to date, by the CIA's classified estimate. They controlled 62 percent of the countryside and had become so effective that the Soviets would have to triple or quadruple their deployments in Afghanistan to put the rebellion down. Soviet forces had so far los about 350 to 400 aircraft in combat, the CIA estimated. The mujahedin had also destroyed about 2,750 Soviet tanks and armoed carriers and just under 8,000 trucks, jeeps, and other vehicles.

Note that the Afghanis had done this without the use of suicide terror.

Assuming these data are true, the rate of human casualties does not seem any greater than that suffered by Americans in Iraq, although it is obviously traumatically worse than American casualties in Afghanistan. However, the destruction of war material is astonishing. I was unable to uncover (in about two minutes of trying) useful estimates of American aircraft and vehicle losses in Operation Iraqi Freedom, but I believe they are far less than Soviet losses in Afghanistan over a comparable period. If one of our loyal readers knows where such data may be found and can dump a link into the comments, it would be much appreciated.

I have absolutely no idea whether any useful conclusions can be drawn from the Soviet experience in Afghanistan (other than that we do not want to duplicate it). There are vast differences between Afghanistan of twenty years ago and Iraq of today, including that the entire nation was united in its opposition to the Soviets, and that the Americans and Saudis were pumping hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons into the hands of the insurgents. However, it is the most recent comparable case of a modern military fighting a jihadi resistance, and certainly worth remembering.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hating America 

We do not spend a great deal of time on this blog deconstructing the moral cretinism of the American left, but sometimes it is hard to resist. LGF linked to this story in the San Mateo County Times, which rather matter-of-factly reported that sweet little 11-year old Hannah Stutz had won the kids division of an art contest sponsored by the Northern California 9/11 Truth Alliance.

I thought it would be interesting to look at the first prize winner of that contest, by Chuck Bowden. It is called "Sheeple Love Sadists."

The artist provided the 9/11 Truth Alliance with commentary that is illuminating, to say the least:
This drawing was done with pencil, ballpoint pen & markers. This work not only covers the concept that the crimes of 9-11-2001 were all inside jobs, but that these horrific mass hate crimes against humanity have been conducted, by a cabal of sadistic nazified men (mostly) here in the USA, ongoing for a very long time.... AND ..... that only through the aiding & abetting of these crimes against humanity by those sheeple people, who lift not word of finger one in dissent, will these atrocities be complicitly enabled to continue.....

But wait, there's more. Written on the whites of the flag:

On Bush's shirt:
Any Militaristic Government which can murder 3,000 of it’s own citizen’s in cold blood, as the Bush Regime of Terror did in N.Y.C. on 9-11-2001, could then be looked upon as Criminally Insane enough to use a Nuclear Generated Tsunami as a Weapon of Choice.

Don't believe me?

Go here for the complete annotation (including the words radiating out from the swastika), including close-up shots so that you do not miss a single hate-filled word.

One can only wonder whether this is the same group that has latched on to Cindy Sheehan's publicity machine.

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Lucifer's hammer? 

Astronomers are debating what to do about Earth's close encounter with an asteroid in 2029 and again in 2036 - passages that might be too close for comfort.

Apophis, a 1,059-foot-wide asteroid, has excited astronomers since it was spotted last year. After observing it for a while, scientists concluded that it has only a 1-in-8,000 chance of ever smacking into Earth. But even that slim chance has them talking and NASA pondering how to keep track of it - just in case.

"The most likely turn of events is that it will miss us," says Steve Chesley of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which has monitored the asteroid since December as part of its normal watch over "near-Earth" asteroids. "We are prepared for the worst but certainly don't want to act too hastily."

Precisely how are they "prepared for the worst"? Actually, they aren't. They are full of horse pucky. They are merely proposing to put a transmitter on Apophis so that they can keep tabs on whether the odds of it hitting Earth go up.
The key question about Apophis is whether its 2029 trajectory will go through a roughly 2,000-foot-wide region called a "keyhole," says astronomer Clark Chapman of Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. If it passes through that region - that one-in-8,000 chance - its course would be deflected to make an impact with Earth in 2036 very likely, he says.

This asteroid passes near Earth every seven or eight years, but the 2029 trajectory is expected to be its closest approach. In the petition, Schweickart warned that waiting for better estimates of Apophis' likely path in 2020, after another flyby of Earth, would leave little time to deflect the asteroid away from the keyhole.

Don't worry, though. An asteroid of this size will leave a crater of only two miles in diameter. Of course, the collateral damage from the impact could have global consequences, but hey, there's only a 1 in 8,000 chance.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Canadian oil sands, Albertan independence and an investment idea 

If the invasion of Iraq were all about the oil, there is a much softer target just to the north. Via Chrenkoff:
The National Energy Board estimates there are approximately 1.6 trillion barrels of crude bitumen saturating the ground in northern Alberta. Bitumen -- a form of heavy, thick oil laden with sulphur and deficient in hydrogen -- can be refined into synthetic crude oil to make everything from gasoline to plastics. It is the lifeblood of every industrialized economy. According to the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, about 178 billion barrels of bitumen are economically recoverable using existing technology -- enough to produce more than 150 billion barrels of crude.

If these estimates are accurate, Canada's oil reserves rank second behind only Saudi Arabia's 260 billion barrels. And there are many who believe the current oil sands assessments understate the true potential here. The AEUB has projected that rising prices and improved technology could ultimately push the oil sands yield close to 300 billion barrels, which would make it the richest petroleum field in the world. By 2015, the oil sands are expected to be producing roughly three million barrels of petroleum a day. Assuming prices will average US$40 a barrel (well below where they are today), that suggests annual revenues of close to US$43 billion. (bold emphasis added)

Of course, huge amounts of oil is going to lead to huge amounts of wealth to fight over. Canada has never been one of the world's most united countries (how many other OECD countries have significant seperatist political parties?), but its divisions have long been more linguistical than economic (although economic differences once were a big factor in Quebecois seperatism). That may change:
In August 2001, Jean Chrétien foreshadowed the coming tension over Alberta's blossoming oil wealth during a speech in Edmonton. "We have to make sure that every person in every part of Canada benefits from the potential and the wealth that belongs to the people of Canada," he said. With those words, Chrétien jabbed a stick into the hornet's nest of western alienation. The reaction in the oil patch was swift and indignant. For many Albertans, it was just another sign that Ottawa was intent on stealing their birthright.

The article is particularly good on the geopolitical significance of the Albertan oil sands, and is well worth reading in its entirety. Then consider two questions.

First, will Albertan seperatism ensure American access to Canadian oil? That is, if Ottawa squeezes Alberta too hard, it may try to secede from Canada. If it does so, the United States will be in a position to guarantee Albertan security, or support Canadian efforts to keep it in the confederation. Ottawa will know that if it wants Washington's support, it will have to guarantee that in a pinch Canadian oil flows south, rather than west to China and India.

Second, should you buy Suncor (NYSE: SU) stock? Suncor has the inside track on the Albertan oil sands because of its extraction technology and expertise. From the (hotlinked) chart below, you can see that it has enjoyed a tremendous run in the last year. Does it remain a good value in the mid fifties? Probably, over the long run at least, but predicting stock prices is not a TigerHawk forte.

Disclosure: I did get this one right -- I bought Suncor more than a year ago, in the low twenties. The way I look at it, I have fully hedged my short position on gasoline for many years to come.

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Should Iraq execute Saddam? 

In this photo released by Iraqi Special Tribunial ousted President Saddam Hussein, is seen being questioned by Chief Investigative Judge Raid Juhi(unseen). Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in remarks that he would not sign a death sentence against his ousted predecessor Saddam Hussein even if it costs him his job.(AFP/IST-HO/File)

Iraq President Jalal Talabani, it turns out, is opposed to the death penalty as a matter of principle, and has therefore said that he will not sign a death sentence for Saddam even if it means that he will have to resign his job.

One's first impulse is to imagine that the price of Talabani's principles may be very high. Saddam will remain alive if Talabani has his way, and that means that there will always be the potential for his release. Will that potential inspire the Ba'athist rejectionists and sustain them in their war? And then there is the matter of justice. Can the victims of Saddam's oppression -- living and otherwise -- achieve the closure necessary to build a better Iraq if Saddam lingers actually, rather than only in memory?

It is possible, though, that Talabani's resolute commitment to his principles are exactly what the new Iraq needs. Talabani's politically dangerous position is proof that he is willing to put principle over political expediency, something that has rarely happened, I am sure, in the history of modern Iraq. This is especially significant in a society defined by violence and broadly willing to use capital punishment. If the people see and appreciate his example it could redefine what it means to be a leader in Iraq and perhaps even the broader Arab world.

Talabani's rejection of the death penalty may also advance American interests, even if it does give hope to the rejectionist insurgency in Iraq. It is, after all, the ambition of the United States to revise the way Arabs think about their leaders. Is it not possible that Talabani's stand will cause Arabs everywhere to demand more "principle" from their own governments?

There may also be a specific wisdom in letting Saddam live. If Iraq executes him, Arabs who oppose the new government of Iraq (both internally and elsewhere) will have a new martyr who cannot then be destroyed. There is the risk that in death Saddam would morph into an awful hero of anti-American Sunnis everywhere. If he is locked up under sufficiently degrading circumstances and condemned to spend the rest of his life consorting with common criminals, Iraqis may see their one-time tormentor as the vicious animal that he is. This may do more to discredit Ba'athist rejectionism than any execution ever would.

Finally, there is the "Ron White argument," which that great comedian offered up to explain why he was not in favor of executing Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden, he argues, is "spiritually prepared to die for Islam." However, White goes on, he is "spiritually ill-prepared to lick grape jelly from Thunder Dick's butt crack" (he also adds that "comedy isn't pretty," and in recognition of that I hereby apologize to my readers). I think much the same can be said of Saddam. Don't execute him -- chuck him into the general prison population and throw away the key. And then occasionally release a video of him fighting "Mohammed the Monster" for a chicken wing.

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The return of the Iraq marshes 

According to Al-Jazeera, Iraq's vast marshes, destroyed by Saddam to reach Shiite fighters hiding there, are now 50% restored. Al-Jaz's article is excellent apart from the usual omission: there would be no restoration of the Middle East's most important wetlands and no return of the "marsh Arabs" to their home of many thousands of years were it not for the United States of America.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Katrina: The geopolitical significance of the Port of Southern Louisiana 

Blogging as I am from an Adirondack camp with no broadband, scratchy dial-up, and no television, I am massively out of the Katrina loop. I am, however, a Stratfor subscriber (there are worse ways to blow $99/year), and that entitled me to this afternoon's email alert on the possible economic consequences if Katrina smashes the Port of Southern Louisiana. Here are the best parts:
A Category 5 hurricane, the most severe type measured, Katrina has been reported heading directly toward the city of New Orleans. This would be a human catastrophe, since New Orleans sits in a bowl below sea level. However, Katrina is not only moving on New Orleans. It also is moving on the Port of Southern Louisiana. Were it to strike directly and furiously, Katrina would not only take a massive human toll, but also an enormous geopolitical one.

The Port of Southern Louisiana is the fifth-largest port in the world in terms of tonnage, and the largest port in the United States. The only global ports larger are Singapore, Rotterdam, Shanghai and Hong Kong. It is bigger than Houston, Chiba and Nagoya, Antwerp and New York/New Jersey. It is a key link in U.S. imports and exports and critical to the global economy.

The Port of Southern Louisiana stretches up and down the Mississippi River for about 50 miles, running north and south of New Orleans from St. James to St. Charles Parish. It is the key port for the export of grains to the rest of the world -- corn, soybeans, wheat and animal feed. Midwestern farmers and global consumers depend on those exports. The United States imports crude oil, petrochemicals, steel, fertilizers and ores through the port. Fifteen percent of all U.S. exports by value go through the port. Nearly half of the exports go to Europe.

The Port of Southern Louisiana is a river port. It depends on the navigability of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi is notorious for changing its course, and in southern Louisiana -- indeed along much of its length -- levees both protect the land from its water and maintain its course and navigability. Dredging and other maintenance are constant and necessary to maintain its navigability. It is fragile.

If New Orleans is hit, the Port of Southern Louisiana, by definition, also will be hit. No one can predict the precise course of the storm or its consequences. However, if we speculate on worse-case scenarios the following consequences jump out:

* The port might become in whole or part unusable if levees burst. If the damage to the river and port facilities could not be repaired within 30 days when the U.S. harvests are at their peak, the effect on global agricultural prices could be substantial.

* There is a large refinery at Belle Chasse. It is the only refinery that is seriously threatened by the storm, but if it were to be inundated, 250,000 barrels per day would go off line. Moreover, the threat of environmental danger would be substantial.

* About 2 percent of world crude production and roughly 25 percent of U.S.-produced crude comes from the Gulf of Mexico and already is affected by Katrina. Platforms in the path of Katrina have been evacuated but others continue pumping. If this follows normal patterns, most production will be back on line within hours or days. However, if a Category 5 hurricane (of which there have only been three others in history) has a different effect, the damage could be longer lasting. Depending on the effect on the Port of Southern Louisiana, the ability to ship could be affected.

* A narrow, two-lane highway that handles approximately 10,000 vehicles a day, is used for transport of cargo and petroleum products and provides port access for thousands of employees is threatened with closure. A closure of as long as two weeks could rapidly push gasoline prices higher. (bold emphasis added)

This time tomorrow, we may well have a sense of the damage. Keep your fingers crossed, or invoke whatever totems you otherwise touch for the people of New Orleans and the economy of the United States.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Prison sentences and crime 

Being an alumnus of the University of Michigan (among other fine institutions), I get regular emails summarizinng the academic work of its professors. Much of it reveals the difference in thinking between academics and everybody else. A couple of days ago the "U of M" sent me a link to this article:
Long prison sentences have minimal effects on young criminals

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Young offenders aren't necessarily deterred from crime after they turn 18 even when they know they could be slapped with a much longer prison sentence, a new study co-authored by a University of Michigan researcher suggests....

"Our results suggest that offenders are highly impatient and impulsive people. It is hard to deter people with these characteristics from committing crime, just by threatening them with longer sentences," said David S. Lee, who, with McCrary, co-wrote "Crime, Punishment, and Myopia," which appears on the National Bureau of Economic Research website. Lee is an economics professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

Well, yeah. They can't be deterred, so that is why they must be locked up until they are old and feeble and we do not have to worry about deterring them. The authors of the study grope their way toward this conclusion, without actually reaching it (at least in the press release -- I confess that I have not read the study itself, which costs $5 online):
A natural policy implication, McCrary said, would be to spend less money on prison expansion and more money on policing. "Even with highly impatient or myopic criminals, doubling the odds of punishment will double the effective price of crime."

The press release both suggests that long prison sentences do not deter crime, but more policing, which will raise the odds of capture, will deter crime. Increased odds of a short prison sentence is better deterrance than shorter odds of a long sentence? Perhaps true, but I would be amazed if the paper actually demonstrated that.

I think we know the reason why the authors of the paper seem to have deliberately missed the critical point that prison interdicts crime. There's no social science, and therefore no career advancement, in proving that locking criminals up prevents them from committing crimes!

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The Iraqi constitution compromise 

I admit it. I'm on vacation with limited internet access and am not at all up to speed on the back-and-forth over the Iraqi constitution, including particularly the fight over "federalism." If you are in the same situation, read Publius Pundit's excellent summary of the issue.

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Friday, August 26, 2005

Considering dissent and limited war 

A few days ago I wrote a post about the efforts of the Filipino insurgency of 1898-1901 to influence the American election of 1900. The insurgents stepped up attacks in advance of the election, hoping to boost the candidacy of William Jennings Bryan, who ran for part of the campaign on an "anti-imperialist" platform. The post quoted American soldiers from that long-forgotten war who viewed the anti-war activists at home as having undermined their efforts in the Philippines. The post, which actually said nothing about the Iraq war, generated a lot of comments by the standards of this blog.

When a democratic nation is at war, there are inevitably those who will object to the way in which the war is being fought, or that it is being fought at all. If the war is manifestly for the country’s survival or otherwise of great moment, the objectors will be so marginalized that they and their arguments will have no effect on the politics of the country, the morale of its military, or the tactics of the enemy.

Dissent can, however, have an enormous impact on the means by which a democracy wages a limited war, the persistence with which it wages the war, or whether it wages the war at all. This post considers the objectives of domestic dissent to limited wars, the impact of anti-war dissent on the means of fighting the war and the morale of the soldiers at arms, the different types of anti-war dissent and, finally, whether some objectives and types of dissent are more moral than others.

I write about this subject not because I claim any particular expertise – I do not – but because it is burdened with more than the usual amount of sloppy thinking and emotionalism on both sides and I can’t resist a challenge.

Regarding the current limited war in Iraq, opponents object to virtually everything about the war – that we invaded in the first place, the stated and unstated reasons for the invasion, how it is being fought, and the lack of a “plan” for coalition withdrawal -- but having learned at least one lesson from Vietnam they claim nevertheless to “support our troops.” This claim is sometimes true, and sometimes malarkey. Meanwhile, supporters of the war sometimes charge, or at least imply, that dissent hurts the morale of our soldiers and gives aid and comfort to the enemy. Even if this is true, or only sometimes true, the charge in and of itself does not dispose of the morality of dissent because it leaves no room for principled public discussion of the propriety of the war or the effectiveness of its prosecution. Our democracy requires room for anti-war dissent, even if the price is aid and comfort to the enemy.

Assuming, arguendo, that anti-war dissent does give aid and comfort to the enemy (I discuss why this must be so later in the post), are there types of dissent that more efficiently balance the benefit (robust public debate about a topic as momentous as the war) with the costs (the sending of signals that embolden the enemy and demoralize our own soldiers) than other types? If so, are these more efficient methods or arguments of dissent more moral or legitimate than methods or arguments that do little to advance the debate but do relatively more damage to the American war effort? These are the questions that interest me.

The objectives of dissent. Dissenters to limited wars have numerous objectives, honest and otherwise. I am not regularly invited to their strategy sessions, but it seems to me that the objectives of today’s American anti-war protestors include or included at least the following with respect to the war in Iraq:
 To prevent the war from starting and, having failed in that, to end the war as quickly as possible even if by unilateral withdrawal. Their motives for wanting early American withdrawal vary, and include honest geopolitical perspectives (some think that the occupation of Iraq is strengthening, rather than weakening, al Qaeda) to less honest intentions (including many of the motives implicit in the additional objectives set forth below). For purposes of this discussion, though, motives are not nearly as relevant as objectives and methods. (There are those who opposed the war in the first place on the grounds that it was strategic folly, but who support its continuation because they believe America’s vital national interests are now at stake, even if they weren’t when the war began. The members of this exclusive club are not dissenters, however much they may object to the Bush administration, because they clearly support the continuation of the American war effort.)

 To deter this or any future administration from launching a war under similar circumstances in the future.

 To give effect to personal morality (i.e., to promote American withdrawal from a war that they believe is inherently immoral).

 To weaken the President and his supporters politically to achieve unrelated objectives.

 To advance the political interests of certain Democrats at the expense of other Democrats.

 To advance the bureaucratic interests of one federal agency over another.

 To prevent any more casualties among American soldiers.

 To increase their own influence among Americans and foreigners who also oppose the war in Iraq.

 To oppose the President’s policies simply because they hate him and what he stands for.

 To vent their own frustration or rage, without any other clear objective in mind.

 To weaken the United States, which even some American far leftists believe is an inherently immoral nation.

Obviously, not every dissenter embraces all of these objectives, and virtually all dissenters would deny some of these objectives (what normal person would admit that their objective is to vent their rage?). Most would take great umbrage, ingenuously or otherwise, at any suggestion that their objective is to weaken the United States (since at least the last election Democrats have taken to accusing their pro-war opponents of “questioning their patriotism” even on those occasions when the opponent has done no such thing – apparently they think there is political mileage in that accusation). Be that as it may, I believe that the foregoing is a reasonably complete list of the objectives for anti-war dissent (additions are solicited in the comments).

The impact of anti-war dissent. A civil insurgency such as the one raging in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq cannot defeat the United States, in the sense of vanquishing its armed forces. It is perfectly within the capacity of our country to spend $80 billion a year on this war and suffer perhaps 1000 fatalities a year ad infinitum. The insurgency can therefore have only two victory conditions. First, to shape the political circumstances of post-war Iraq. Second, to induce the United States and the rest of the coalition to withdraw from Iraq (some insurgents would probably be happy to see this result under any circumstances, but al Qaeda wants humiliation to accompany the withdrawal). It is therefore manifestly the case that to the extent that anti-war dissent achieves those of its objectives that require an American withdrawal, the domestic opponents of the war have helped the enemy achieve at least the second of these victory conditions. And, since American withdrawal would probably (although not necessarily) increase the political leverage of the insurgency, it might also help the enemy achieve its first victory condition. How can it be otherwise?

Dissenters often (but not always) claim that they “support the troops.” Fairly or not, one often gets the impression that many of them do not really like soldiers and claim that they support them only as a political tactic, to avoid the backlash that followed the anti-war protests during Vietnam. Be that as it may, since our soldiers are fighting for the expressed purpose of preventing the enemy from achieving its victory conditions, it seems to me obvious that one cannot both advocate withdrawal and “support the troops,” at least in this superficial sense. “Supporting the troops” means nothing if it does not mean supporting their principal and motivating endeavor, which is to kill the enemy or otherwise deprive it of its capacity to fight. Advocates of early withdrawal do not “support the troops,” at least as long as most of the troops in question believe in their mission, which seems to be the case today. Moreover, certain forms of dissent quite explicitly undermine the troops. For example, activists who seek to obstruct military recruitment raise the chances that any given soldier will have a longer tour in the Iraq theater. Preventing the replacement of a soldier is precisely the opposite of "supporting the troops".

In any case, for a few people on the right the simple fact that anti-war dissent can help the enemy and undermine our soldiers is enough to destroy its legitimacy (it is actually very difficult to find examples of this point of view, but the left keeps claiming that the right says this, so it must be true). They are wrong. The American system of government depends on open and public debate about policy. If some of that debate has the unintended consequence of giving hope to the enemy or demoralizing our soldiers, that is an acceptable price to pay. Our soldiers understand that the free society they defend exercises its freedom by arguing over the propriety and conduct of limited wars. They also understand that reasonable Americans can disagree about limited wars without being “unpatriotic,” even if their arguments inflict collateral damage on the war effort.

However, certain anti-war dissenters have objectives that have very little to do with furthering public debate about policy. In some of those cases, the objectives are purely political and inherently self-centered. If these dissenters in the pursuit of these personal objectives inflict collateral damage on the war effort and undermine our soldiers, is it not fair to suggest that these dissenters are not acting patriotically? If a dissenter’s primary objective is to advance the political interests of one Democrat compared to another -- to assist the candidacy of Howard Dean at the expense of Hillary Clinton, for example -- is that dissent “worth” the collateral damage to the same degree as forthright public debate? Suppose that an anti-war dissenter does not really care about the war, but is using her dissent as a pretext to oppose the President because she is worried that he’ll appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices? Is that dissenter not aiding the enemy and undermining our soldiers to achieve an unrelated political objective? The First Amendment guarantees that dissenter her right to speak, but it does not protect her from the opprobrium that will fairly attach.

Think about these questions as we examine the various types of dissent, and whether some types are more moral than others. In the nomenclature of this post, dissent that efficiently balances our systemic interest in robust public debate with the collateral damage it inflicts is "legitimate," and dissent that causes gratuitous collateral damage to the war effort to achieve a different political objective or a personal one is not legitimate.

The types/methods of anti-war dissent.

In the last three or four years, we have seen anti-war dissent in many forms. Sitting in the living room of an Adirondack camp in front of a fire and a “cubble o’ paints” in the hole, I came up with the following methods of dissent off the top of my head:
 Votes against the war in the Congress;
 Carefully reasoned written argument that acknowledges counterarguments, such as in academic journals;
 Less well-reasoned opinion essays, such as editorials in the New York Times, that rarely acknowledge counterarguments;
 Votes against pro-war candidates in elections;
 Public demonstrations against the war, at various levels of vitriol;
 Propaganda calculated to discredit the United States government, such as the Lancet’s thoroughly discredited article estimating civilian casualties in Iraq;
 Press coverage and propaganda that deliberately emphasizes bad news and ignores good news;
 Permanent, government sanctioned demonstrations, such as “Arlington West”;
 The production and distribution of anti-war films and documentaries, including Fahrenheit 911;
 Organized public anti-war advocacy, such as by recognized “talking heads” or movie stars;
 Calculated interference with the recruitment of new soldiers for our all-volunteer force (such as at many universities and certain high schools);
 Encouraging foreign regimes that oppose the war to escalate their pressure on the United States, or encouraging members of the coalition to withdraw;
 Events staged for the press primarily for the purpose of damaging the President politically, rather than making a reasoned argument for withdrawal (such as Cindy Sheehan’s absurd press event in Crawford); and
 Social pressure (imagine supporting the continuation of this war in Princeton!), anti-war blogs and bumper stickers and other one-to-one sloganeering and pamphleteering.

Readers are invited to pump in other examples.

Certain of these methods of dissent are built into the constitutional system -- votes in Congress, for example. Other forms of dissent -- declaring support for foreign governments that oppose the war -- are disloyal and not legitimate (again, even if lawful under the First Amendment). The production of an anti-war propaganda film (a more honest version of Farenheit 911, for example) is legitimate if shown within the United States, because it furthers our national interest in robust debate. It is not legitimate to show it outside the United States, because its only purpose (other than to earn profits for its producer) is to undermine support for American policy among our allies. The legitimacy of most of the rest of these methods of dissent depends on the objective to which they are deployed.

The morality of anti-war dissent. This post has argued that in the case of limited wars, anti-war dissent -- or at least effective anti-war dissent -- almost inevitably hurts the war effort and undermines our soldiers. The very system that the soldiers defend, however, depends upon robust public debate to establish policy, including foreign policy. Dissenters whose primary objective is to change American policy concerning the war are, by and large, dissenting legitimately. They are appropriately balancing the costs of the dissent -- the promotion of the enemy's victory conditions -- with its function in our system.

However, there is a lot of anti-war dissent that is primarily motivated by other objectives, or which use methods that are designed not to persuade Americans that policy should be changed, but to interfere with the fighting of the war. Dissenters who are actually furthering some unrelated political objective or simply working out their personal rage may be acting lawfully -- the First Amendment is very powerful mojo -- but they are not acting legitimately. It is not legitimate to damage our war effort and undermine our soldiers because you hate George Bush, want to protect Roe v. Wade, are ideologically opposed to all war, believe that the United States needs to be cut down to size, want to bolster the fortunes of a particular Democratic candidate, believe that the State Department has been disrespected, believe that the Pentagon is inept and corrupt, or want to discredit Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. If you do that, you are being frivolous with the lives of our soldiers and helping the enemy without the benefit of having advanced the important public discussion over whether we should change American foreign policy. In short, your objectives and therefore your dissent are illegitimate, and it is not unreasonable for your opponents to attack you as unpatriotic. You are.

Similarly, if you use tactics that interfere with American policy -- if you attempt to obstruct military recruitment, campaign against American policy outside of the United States or to foreign audiences, demonstrate against weapons manufacturers, and so forth -- you are deliberately undermining the American capacity to win the war. This is not legitimate anti-war dissent (again, even if it is lawful), and it is by no measure patriotic.

Release the hounds.

[I will keep this post on top for a couple of days, and update it with links and further commentary, probably this evening. Right now, I have a date to climb a mountain.]

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Read Yon 

Michael Yon's blog from Iraq is being mentioned and linked to all over the place, but on the chance that some of our readers don't get out much, I'll just pass along the tip. If you are interested in reading fascinating first person accounts of combat operations in Iraq, you should visit and bookmark Michael Yon.

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Is Russia in irreversible decline? 

Via Drudge, a troubling report out of Russia. The headline is "More abortions than births in Russia," which is discouraging by any standard of meaure, but the article contains other statistics, which if true are not encouraging about the future of the largest country in Europe.

For every 1,000 Russians there are 16 deaths and just 10.6 births, a gap that isn’t being filled by immigrants, leading to a population decline of about 750,000 to 800,000 a year.

Out of every 1,000 Russian newborn babies, more than 12 die before they are one year old, an infant mortality rate five times higher than in Iceland and three to four times higher than in Finland, Sweden, Spain and France, Russia’s Federal Statistics Service reported last week.

The average Russian man now dies at 58.8, the shortest life expectancy in Europe and five years fewer than 15 years ago, the Statistics Service said. Russian women have the fourth-lowest life expectancy in Europe, 72 years, the service said, citing its own data and figures from the World Health Organization and European Union.

This is certainly distressing news.

I do have one peeve with the article, which begins with the following clause: "Russians, whose lives are shorter and poorer than they were under communism..." implying that if only the communists were still running things this terrible state of affairs would not exist, when in reality Russia remains in a downward spiral caused by communism. The current system and state of things in Russia is not the result of some misguided choice to abandon communism, but is what remains after its collapse.

I don't know what the solution is for Russia, but it is not a return to the old system. That door is closed.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

High gasoline prices, SUVs, conservation, and so forth 

Glenn Reynolds has lots of links and discussion about high gasoline prices, the reasons for the SUV boom and the unpopularity of regulation. Glenn points to this post by Tom Maguire, also worth reading. Maguire weaves together the Bush administration's new proposed fleet mileage regulations and the political reaction from environmental and consumer groups.

If you are worried about gas prices, the first place to start is this chart, which reflects the actual and "real" (inflation-adjusted) prices that one man paid for his gasoline since 1979. If you are over 40 or so, you remember what it was like back then and you recognize that even today's prices are child's play by comparison.

The Instapundit post includes interesting discussion about the intersection between the SUV craze and the current generation's obsession with safety. Reynolds:
First, the SUV craze isn't solely the result of car-buyers being idiots. It's in no small part an artifact of government regulation. Andrew Sullivan, in a post that Tom links, notes that people used to just toss the kids in the back of the station wagon (at least I hope that's what he means by the "trunk.") Do that now, and you'd practically be charged with child abuse. (Accusing SUV owners of treason is a bit, er, excitable, too.)

Now you have to strap them into car seats until they're quite large. This produces demands for more room, DVD players, etc., to keep them amused, and the like.

A subsequent emailer:
I've been saying this about car seats and seat belts laws causing SUV's popularity for three years now to all the liberals I know in Jackson Mississippi and keep getting blank stares in the process. Maybe since they don't have kids they don't get it. Don't forget the passenger-side airbag effect as well, keeping older kids in the backseats with their siblings deep into the tween years. The bottom line is--if you have more than two children, you HAVE to drive an SUV or minivan.

This argument seems true, as far as it goes, but it is not an argument for SUVs compared to minivans, which get much better gas mileage. It also does not explain why the popularity of SUVs is a primarily American phenomenon. Surely our relatively cheap gas is also a factor. Europeans, who might not drive SUVs anyway because of their narrow streets, are currently paying the equivalent of US$6 per gallon or more. Even Americans would make do with smaller cars at those prices.

It seems to me that there are a number of true statements about the current high cost of gasoline and American public policy:

1. Gasoline prices are high by historical standards, but not as high as they were during the Carter years.

2. Someday, perhaps in the near future, gasoline prices will be higher than they are today.

3. Someday, perhaps in the near future, gasoline prices will be lower than they are today.

4. Higher fuel prices have an impact on the economy, but because we produce an additional dollar of GDP with a lot less energy today than in 1979, high fuel prices have much less impact than they once did.

5. By and large, people are not altering their behavior to contend with higher gasoline prices. For example, you don't see people turning off their engines at long lights or while waiting for a drawbridge. When I was a kid, people did that all the time, just as they do in Europe and Asia even now. Just today, I walked out of the Dunkin' Donuts in Tupper Lake, New York, a working-class town in the poorest county in New York State. Most every vehicle in the parking lot was a light truck or SUV, and several of them had their engines running while the people ran in for their donuts. Has the average speed on the interstate highways declined at all in the last few weeks? If so, it is imperceptible.

6. It would be wonderful if as a nation we could nudge the economy into consuming less petroleum. We ship a lot of money to a lot of disgusting countries to import the oil that we burn in our gas tanks. We subsidize the price of that oil with a significant geopolitical investment, including a significant amount of defense spending (the Iraq war need not be about "grabbing the oil" for this to be true). And, of course, there is always the chance that the greens are right and that incremental carbon is the cause of global climate change.

7. A huge part of our gasoline consumption really is frivolous. This is obviously true in my family -- which is, admittedly, affluent -- and in many other middle and upper-middle families. How many people carpool to work? I know that at our company, a huge proportion of our employees could carpool to work (in that they live close to at least one other employee), but do not want to suffer the inconvenience. Not even with gasoline prices at $2.50 or more per gallon. I imagine that the average American family could cut its gasoline consumption by 10% or more with no meaningful impact on its quality of life. I'm sure that we could.

8. A huge part of our gasoline consumption is structural. Housing developments are built miles from essential businesses like grocery stores, liquor stores and coffee shops. In many suburbs even in dense places like New Jersey you have to drive a couple of miles to get to the first retail business. To a great degree, we have built high gasoline consumption into the political decisions that we have made at the town zoning board.

I am writing all of this from the bench in front of the Tupper Lake, New York public library, which is the only WiFi hotspot for miles. I had to drive 5.4 miles to get here, and will now drive 5.4 miles back. Blogging takes gasoline, too.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Summer Blogging 

The weather in the New York area is startlingly and unusually beautiful at the moment, which in turn has led to light blogging and heavy vacationing. I do want to chime in on Charlottesvillain's comment on Buchanan's political analysis. It is exceptionally ironic that Pat Buchanan, an isolationist, quasi fascist, xenophobic fringe rightwinger has correctly identified the problem posed by the fringe left to the Democratic Party. The fringe ain't 5-10% to the left as it is to the right. It might be as large as 33%. It is this exact split that derailed Lyndon Johnson in 1968, that fomented the disaster of the 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago, and why, in times of war, the Democratic Party seems desperately unlikely to secure the Presidency. The President's first job is to ensure the nation's security, and the American people don't seem inclined to trust the Democratic Party with that job despite George W. Bush's weaknesses. Imagine for a moment that a war continues in 2008 and the Republicans put forward a stronger candidate. It could be a runaway for the Republicans...

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Buchanan on Hillary and the Dems 

I agree with Pat Buchanan on little other than that we both feel that Democrats in government tend not to represent our interests. Usually I don't bother reading his commentaries. Today I did, and I found some of his analysis thought provoking, whether or not any of it comes to pass.

The reason Democrats must worry today is that the anti-war movement taking shape is virulently anti-Bush; it is lodged, by and large, inside their party; it is passionate and intolerant; it has given new life to the Howard Deaniacs who went missing after the Iowa caucuses; and it will turn on any leader who does not voice its convictions.

Consider Hillary's predicament. She is saying she supports the war and the troops, but the war has been mismanaged and America needs new leadership. No risk there. Hillary's problem is she is three years away from 2008, the anti-war movement increasingly looks on her as a collaborator in "Bush's War," and Democrats like Feingold are going to give anti-war militants the rhetoric and stances they demand. Hillary's most rabid followers will depart if she does not leave Bush's side -- to lead them.

The Democrats' dilemma is hellish. If this war ends successfully, Republicans get the credit. If it ends badly, Bush will be gone, but anti-war Democrats will be blamed for having cut and run, for losing the war and for the disastrous consequences in the Persian Gulf and Arab world.

It has been conventional wisdom for some time that Hillary will be the Democratic nominee in 2008. Perhaps my senses are warped by the torrent of anti-war coverage, but at this point in time it is hard to imagine the anti-war segments of the Democratic party (and their supporters in the media) even listening to a candidate who "supports" the war, let alone voting for them. And can the nomination be won without them? It is difficult to know at this point, because their megaphone is so much larger than the quiet supporters of the war, and there are still so many potential turns this conflict could take (not to mention the potential changes in Clintonian strategy).

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Progress in Libya and its relevance to Israel's security 

Via Glenn, Gateway Pundit has a round-up of positive developments in Libya, and the continuing thaw in Libyan-American relations. The Libyans are clearly campaigning for diplomatic recognition from the United States, loudly proclaiming that the two countries are on the verge of exchanging ambassadors. Richard Lugar, fresh from his victory lap in Morocco, visited Libya this week and reportedly held talks with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi over the restoration of relations, so there may be truth to this claim. The Bush administration clearly sanctioned Lugar's visit, but made clear that he was not going as the administration's "representative." No matter. Lugar is the "highest-profile" American ("rank" not being a relevant criterion when describing Senators) to visit Libya in an official capacity (or perhaps any capacity) in decades.

One commenter on the Gateway Pundit post asserted that the "[t]he truest test of Libya's transformation will be when they join their fellow Arab nations, Egypt and Jordan, in establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel.(not hardly likely.)". This strikes me as a profoundly unrealistic standard. Like it or not, the more "democratic" an Arab country gets, the less likely it will be to establish ties with Israel, at least over the short run. Arabs, in the main, hate Israel, and Arab voters will not reward representatives that go out of their way to break Israel's isolation. If near-term diplomatic recognition of Israel is the measure of success, we should halt all our efforts to foster representative government in the Arab world.

Of course, one hopes that the opening of the Arab political system will eventually open the minds of Arabs toward the minority tribes in their region (Jews, Kurds, Druze and so forth), but that liberalism will not immediately follow democracy. It may take decades.

Libya, though, is a long way from becoming a democracy, and still builds its foreign policy around the interests of its ruling family. Ironically, it may be more likely to recognize Israel while the Gaddafis remain in power. For at least 18 months there have been subtle reports in the press of contacts between Israel and Libya. We should not expect full diplomatic recognition to come from this thaw (although that is possible), but Israel's security benefits even if Libya merely cools the anti-Israel rhetoric and cuts off the money to the terrorists, both of which it appears to have done.

Separately, I hereby predict that Richard Lugar will be the next Republican Secretary of State.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

These kids know how to party 

Via Drudge:

CANTON, Ohio -- There are 490 female students at Timken High School, and 65 are pregnant, according to a recent report in the Canton Repository.

School officials are not sure what has caused so many pregnancies, but in response to them, the school is launching a three-prong educational program to address pregnancy, prevention and parenting.

Well that ought to help. Three prongs are better than two! But here's the real punch line of the article:

The newspaper also reported that students will face mounting tensions created by unplanned child-rearing responsibilities, causing students to quit school and plan for a GED. This will make it difficult for the Canton City School District to shake its academic watch designation by the state.

Uh, ya think?

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Civil insurgency, the anti-war movement, and Democratic political strategy 

More than 100 years ago, an insurgency waging war against the United States sought to bolster an American anti-war movement and the political fortunes of the opposition Democrats.

Max Boot’s very entertaining history of America’s “small wars,” The Savage Wars of Peace, contains a passage that describes extent to which the insurgency in the Philippines (1898 – 1901) understood and acted upon American presidential politics. The leader of the insurgency, a young, charismatic provincial mayor named Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, was well aware of the election of 1900:
Aguinaldo intensified his campaign in the months leading up to the U.S. election of 1900, hoping to deliver a victory for the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan, who had proclaimed his opposition to imperialism. Some of the more outspoken American anti-imperialists even openly wished for Aguinaldo’s victory “against our army of subjugation, tyranny and oppression.” Many soldiers fighting in the Philippines were bitter about the antiwar rhetoric coming from home. “If I am shot by a Filipino bullet,” complained General Henry Lawton, who was in fact killed shortly thereafter, “it might just as well come from one of my own men … because … the continuance of the fighting is chiefly due to reports that are sent from America.”

The perceived link between the insurrectos and the Democrats backfired for both. The Republicans were able to paint their opponents as unpatriotic, and Bryan, who had actually abandoned anti-imperialism as an issue just before the election [Bryan was against the war before he was for it! – ed.], was trounced by the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket. (bold emphasis added)

There is, frankly, enough in the history of America's war in the Philippines to persuade most Americans that the "other side" has not learned the lessons of history in its conduct of or opposition to the war in Iraq. Nevertheless, the prescience of this passage is all the more remarkable in that Boot was writing in 2002, well before the present American counterinsurgency or last year’s absurd presidential campaign.

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Is atheism a religion? 

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has recently ruled that "atheism" can be a religion (a prison inmate's religion, in the case at bar). If so, Cassandra (careful, as always, not to get her "Hanes Ultra-Sheers all into a knot") wants to know what this does to Establishment Clause jurisprudence:
So where does that leave the ACLU's quest to remove all mention of God from the public square? Since Atheism is, by definition, disbelief in God and our august Court has just ruled that Atheism (like secular humanism, which is really more of a philosophy than a formal movement) is a religion, does this not turn the ACLU's drive into a religious crusade?

That's a good G_d-damned question.

I'm not a prayer-in-the-schools buff, but neither do I understand or respect the passion of some activists for driving all expressions of faith from the public sphere. I have thought for twenty years that the courts were, by and large, grossly overreading the Establishment Clause. This case does not change my mind.

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Monday, August 22, 2005

Are juries up to the job? 

Jane Galt suggests that the first Vioxx verdict against Merck is pretty disturbing evidence that juries are not capable of finding facts in complex cases:
According to the Wall Street Journal, jurors were swayed by things that simply shouldn't have been a factor--an irrational belief that the CEO should attend the case (Merck is sued hundreds of times a year; should the CEO stop running the company so the jurors can feel special?), and even more disturbingly, a desire to get on Oprah. You only get on Oprah if you find for the plaintiff.

Every successful big lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company reduces the capital available to the industry, and the willingness of the industry to spend capital on developing new drugs, rather than novel ways to package things already on the market that they haven't been sued for. As Richard Epstein says, it's no good saying you only want to target the bad companies; investors have no way of telling, in advance, which companies jurors will decide are "bad". This case was widely viewed as a slam dunk for Merck, given that the plaintiff's deceased husband had neither the use profile, nor the cause of death, associated with Vioxx's problems. In the case of companies that are misbehaving, that is a cost we have to bear. But there seems to have been little evidence that Merck was misbehaving, and no scientific evidence that the drug caused the death the plaintiff was suing over.

This points up a larger problem, which is that even under the Daubert standard of scientific evidence, lay jurors are disastrously ill-equipped to cope with complex technical arguments. An acquaintance who is a securities litigator told me shortly before 9/11 that they try their damndest to keep cases out of court, because the issues are so complex that even the lawyers have a hard time getting a handle on them, and "if you explain it to the jury, it takes six weeks, and they hate you more with every minute--and at the end, they still don't understand it."

Read the whole thing.

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Roberts is a funny man 

The more I hear about John Roberts, the more I like him.

After the Supreme Court struck down efforts by Congress to veto actions taken by the executive branch, Mr. Levitas, a Democrat from Georgia, proposed that the White House and Congress convene a "conference on power-sharing" to codify the duties of each branch of government.

Asked to comment on the congressman's proposal, Mr. Roberts mocked the idea, and him. "There already has, of course, been a 'Conference on Power Sharing,'" Mr. Roberts wrote in a memo to Mr. Fielding. "It took place in Philadelphia's Constitution Hall in 1787, and someone should tell Levitas about it and the 'report' it issued."

Other examples of the judge's wit are emerging. Frankly, I cannot imagine a more important quality than a good sense of humor (ok, maybe integrity) for a Supreme Court nominee to have in this day and age. I look forward to many interesting and entertaining writings from this likely future Justice.

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The Left squeezes the Democrats again 

This morning's Washington Post has an interesting article describing the inability of the leadership of the Democratic Party to reach a coherent position on the war. Activists on the Left are pushing the Democrats to call for withdrawal, but party warhorses Reid, Biden and Clinton quite sensibly believe that success in Iraq is "too important for the country." They also worry, I'm sure, that pushing for unilateral withdrawal will remind the country that Democrats of the current generation always push for unilateral withdrawal.

Cindy Sheehan has revealed this division more profoundly, because the activist base is using her to turn up the heat. Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee Chairman, thinks that none of this matters because it is the responsibility of the President, not the opposition, to come up with a plan for Iraq.

Well, the President does have a plan for Iraq, but the opposition does not like it. And it would help the credibility of the opposition if it acted as though it had any idea what it would do if it were in power, notwithstanding Chairman Dean's argument that merely opposing the President is sufficient.

Whether one thinks it was wise to invade Iraq or foolish, even the most strident opponents of the war agree that we are now fighting al Qaeda in Iraq. Whether one thinks we had a casus belli against Iraq in 2003, al Qaeda declared war against the United States in 1998. People who argue for withdrawal from Iraq today are therefore calling for the United States to retreat from a battle with al Qaeda. Why are they doing this? In some cases, it is because they are willing to suffer a defeat against al Qaeda in order to humiliate George Bush politically. In other cases, they believe that we are at war with al Qaeda because we are present in Muslim countries, and they believe that we should make peace with al Qaeda by withdrawing not just from Iraq, but from all Muslim lands. There are even those on the left (and undoubtedly among those putting heat on the Democratic leadership) who believe that al Qaeda is, essentially, a threat "made up" for some nefarious purpose (generally involving Israel).

The only argument in favor of withdrawal from Iraq that does not amount surrender or denial is the claim that a tactical retreat from the Sunni Triangle will improve our chances in the broader war. Not only will we have more resources to fight al Qaeda elsewhere (the argument goes), but withdrawal from Iraq will reduce al Qaeda's ability to attract funding and recruits.

Is there any example in all of military history or in al Qaeda's own conduct to suggest that this might be true? If al Qaeda believes it has the United States on the run, is there any possibility that it will not use this victory to attract more money and recruits? Today, a potential donor or volunteer has to worry that his treasure or blood will be sacrificed for nothing. After an American retreat from Iraq ultimate victory would seem possible, and the money and recruits would pour in.

Perhaps worse, a retreat from Iraq would shatter American credibility with the regimes that matter the most: Arab and Muslim governments that are in a position to infiltrate and hammer al Qaeda. For better or for worse, the Arab world knows that the Bush administration will back up its words with deeds. That is of enormous value in our contest to coerce Arab and other Muslim regimes more effectively than al Qaeda.

The Bush administration is vulnerable on Iraq, but it is for not trying hard enough. If the Democrats want to win in 2008, they should attack Bush from the right. They should criticize him for not doing more to attract soldiers into the armed forces, for not rebuilding the armed forces to deal with civil insurgency, and for not putting enough soldiers into Iraq to pacify larger parts of the country. This is the only winning strategy against the Republicans, and the Democrats are fools not to adopt it. They don't, because the head-in-the-sand anti-war movement has held the party in thrall since 1972. American voters know that, and will keep electing Republicans (by and large) until that changes.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

The political significance of Latinos to the GOP 

As previously reported, I have been reading (as just finished) The Right Nation, an outstanding and balanced survey of the rise of the American right and its significance both in American politics and abroad. The authors, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge are a couple of Brits (with names like those, who would have guessed?) who write for The Economist. I do not recall ever having read a better book about American politics. Whether you are left or right (there are aspects of The Right Nation that will annoy you regardless, which is evidence of the book’s value), it is essential reading.

The Right Nation is both history and political analysis, and as such it is packed with interesting passages. I was particularly struck by the authors’ analysis of the political significance of America’s growing Latino population, which at first blush bodes well for the Democrats:
Demography gives Democrats hope. Although they are not always the most conscientious voters, hyphenated Americans increased their share of the voting electorate from about a tenth in 1972 to almost a fifth in 2000 – and coule make up nearly a quarter in 2010. So far these new minorities have overwhelmingly supported the Democrats. The only big exception has been Cuban-Americans, who have stuck by the Republicans in the belief that they will take a harsher line with Fidel Castro.

Micklethwait and Wooldridge go on to argue, however, that the Democrats cannot be certain that they will maintain their lock on Latino voters (bold emphasis below added):
We think this picture may begin to change. The big question about the Latinos is whether they will end up voting more like blacks or Italian-Americans. Blacks have stuck loyally to the Democratic cause, but most immigrant groups become more Republican the longer they stay in the country. They move to the suburbs, losing contact with the Democratic Party’s great urban political machines. They start their own businesses, making them more receptive to the Republican Party’s anti-regulation message. All these things seem to be happening to Latinos as well. One analysis of Latino voting in ten states in the 2002 election found that about a third of Latinos plumped for Republican Senate candidates and almost half for Republican governors. George Bush won about 40 percent of the Latino vote nationally in 2004. The great exception remains California, where Latinos were driven firmly into the arms of the Democratic Party not by underlying social trends but by Pete Wilson’s colossal political blunder in supporting Proposition 187, which sought to deny state benefits to illegal immigrants. “We were being called lazy and loafers,” says Gregory Rodriguez, a Los Angeles-based writer. “There is no more antiwelfare voter than a Mexican immigrant.”

This sort of comment underlines another claim made by Republican optimists: that Latinos are worthy strivers – hard working, God-fearing, family-oriented and upwardly mobile. They have the highest male workforce participation rate of any measured group – and one of the lowest incidences of trade union membership and welfare dependency (only 17 percent of immigrant Latinos in poverty collect welfare, compared with 50 percent of poor whites and 65 percent of poor blacks). Latinos are arguably the family-oriented ethnic group in American society. They also have a marked propensity to start their own businesses and buy their own homes – both incubators of Republicanism. Rodriguez, who did a detailed study of Latinos in the five-county L.A. area in the 1990s, argues that the most common experience is one of upward mobility in the middle class. The study shows that in 1990 U.S.-born Latinos had four times as many households in the middle-class as in poverty and that about 50 percent of U.S.-born Latinos had household incomes above the national average. The percentage of Latino immigrants in poverty declines sharply the longer they stay in the United States – and the percentage who own their own homes rises sharply. Within twenty years of arriving in the country, half of Latinos own their own homes.

This is not to say that Latinos are likely to move en masse into the Republican fold. The flow of poor South American immigrants into low-paying jobs will always provide a flow of recruits into the Democratic Party. Nevertheless, the likelihood is that the Latino vote will split increasingly along class lines, as the more established Latinos follow the pattern of Italian-Americans. There is no reason why the Republicans cannot make inroads into the Latinos provided they don’t shoot themselves in the foot by supporting restrictive policies on immigration. Bush, who won two in five Latino votes in 2004 (compared with Bob Dole’s one in five in 1996), is certainly aware of this. He floated the idea of a comprehensive guest-worker program early in his presidency, but the idea was scuttled by security concerns after September 11. In January 2004, he returned to the subject, proposing giving temporary legal status to the 8 million – 10 million illegal immigrants in American (half of whom are from Mexico). The move, which was broadly welcomed by the Mexican government, probably helped the Republicans win Latino votes in swing states like Florida, New Mexico and Nevada.

The Republican Party has always had a strong nativist streak – remember that the stridently anti-immigration “Know Nothings” were among the GOP’s antecedents just before the Civil War. The question is whether that tendency – which is still strong (although less manifestly anti-Catholic than its 19th century version) in the Pat Buchanan wing of the party – will dominate Republican policy on immigration. Bush’s proposals on immigration, including especially his benign attitude toward illegal immigration from Mexico, have met their most strident opposition on the right. At the moment, at least, the Republicans show every likelihood of “shooting themselves in the foot” with Latino voters once Bush is out of the picture.

Perhaps, however, pro-immigration forces within the Republican party can devise a policy that separates those who are genuinely concerned about border security from the nativists who simply do not want to see more Latino immigration. One can imagine a policy that encourages documented, legal immigration from Mexico and points south, and at the same time polices the border sufficiently to keep out al Qaeda. Could that thread the needle sufficiently to attract Latino voters to the GOP and keep the nativists from staying home, or worse, voting for the Democrats?

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Gone fishin' 

This is where I'll be for the next couple of weeks. I will probably post most every day while on vacation, because blogging relaxes me. Unfortunately, though, my web access up here (north of Tupper Lake, New York) is dial-up so my blog reading will decline significantly. This is all to explain in advance why my posts will seem strangely disconnected from the blogosphere chatter, at least until the Friday before Labor Day when we return.

The 'Villain and Cardinalpark, of course, will also post as the spirit moves them.

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The "luckiest man in Iraq" 

Major K:
While Dup is still missed by his brothers in Charlie Company, there is another story from that horrible day that Dup was killed. Dup was not the only one fired upon by the arhabi sniper. A second shot was fired that hit SGT C. in the throat. He was not grazed on the side, he was shot through the center of his neck.... SGT C. was evacuated to the Military Hospital in the Green zone where he was pronounced the luckiest man in Iraq. The sniper's bullet had passed through his neck and throat with an absolute minimum of damage. It missed his carotid artery, jugular vein, spine, and spinal cord by millimeters. He was offered the opportunity to fly to Germany and probably then on to the US to recuperate by the medical staff. He turned it down. He wanted to get back to his men and his brothers in Charlie Company. (italics emphasis in the original)

This strikes me as the sort of story that would have been reported heavily during World War II, and is not today. Is that because the military does not publicize it, or the press does not print it?

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Untreatable disease 

If you have ever driven in New Jersey, you may have suffered from one of these awful maladies.

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The longest-held POWs are released! 

A couple of months ago we wrote about the longest-held POWs in the world. The Polisario Front, which resisted the government of Morocco until the intervention of the United Nations in 1991, has held more than 400 Moroccon POWs for twenty years or longer.

Today, they were released.
Morocco welcomed home 404 prisoners of war on Thursday, the last of more than 2,400 to be freed after being held by Western Sahara's exiled Polisario Front independence movement, some for more than two decades.

Two privately chartered planes carrying the prisoners, some of them more than 60 years old, landed in the southern city of Agadir, about 600 km (375 miles) from the Moroccan capital.

State television showed the men wearing baseball caps and sports clothes and carrying sports bags rushing to buses after landing. Some knelt in prayer as soon as they left the plane.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the prisoners' release in Tindouf, southwest Algeria, followed U.S. mediation....

Kofi Annan tried to bask in the glow of this American success, but there is no question that once again American intervention achieved what the Security Council could not achieve:
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the release and hoped it would "serve to foster better relations between the parties and contribute to overcoming the present political impasse," his chief spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said....

Rabat thanked the U.S. administration for helping end the "ordeal endured by hundreds of prisoners" who had been held "in a blatant violation of international law" after the end of the armed conflict in 1991.

Neither the Polisario Front nor Algeria were to be thanked for the move, it said. "Their liberation is a belated fulfilment of an international obligation which has been demanded several times by the U.N. Security Council, yet it was ignored."

The Security Council "demanded" the release of these Moroccon prisoners "several times," but it was "ignored." American intervention, however, was not ignored. Algeria and the Polisario Front listened to the United States after having ignored the UNSC. Why?

Feel free to propose answers in the comments.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Duty calls 

Do you think Cindy Sheehan's mother had her stroke before, or after, reading Ann Coulter's outstanding -- but harsh -- column on the "commander in grief"? Or perhaps it was from watching her daughter exploit her grandson's death on behalf of MoveOn.org.

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Big 10 Football: Why the Hawkeyes should win it 

Long time followers of Big 10 football will recall that it was and is a league dominated by "Big Two" football powers Ohio State and Michigan. The two teams accounted for all Big 10 champions from 1968-1980. Beginning with Iowa's Rose Bowl appearance in 1981, the dominance of the Big Two was only slightly diminished by the emergence of periodic powers among the "Little Eight." In most years, the Ohio State/Michigan game still has a bearing on the title in some way, such as last season where Ohio State's victory over Michigan allowed Iowa a share of the title with Michigan, and in 2002 when Ohio State's victory over Michigan completed an 8-0 sweep of the Big Ten, giving the Buckeyes a share of the title with the 8-0 Hawkeyes.

So it should come as no surprise that most previews of the coming Big 10 football season pick Ohio State to win it and Michigan to finish second. Both are good teams. But anyone who has closely followed the Big 10 in recent years knows that the Iowa Hawkeyes under Captain Kirk Ferentz play championship level football, and the team enters 2005 in a very strong position to challenge for the title, much stronger in fact that in 2002 and 2004, when the Hawkeyes came away with a share. This is a well coached program with a great system in place.

The Iowa Hawkeyes have finished the last three seasons ranked #8 in the country, including bowl victories in the last two seasons over LSU and Florida. The team entered each of these seasons with major graduation losses, and an inexperienced quarterback. In 2003, the team had to replace 4/5 of its offensive line, and all its experienced receivers to graduation or injury. In 2004, the team again had to replace its offensive line, and through a freakish streak of injuries, lost its top four running backs to injury and finished the year ranked 116th in rushing, and with an eight game winning streak that including lobsided wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin.

In picking Iowa to finish third in the Big 10 this year, the media are focusing on the loss of its defensive front four to graduation, including all-American defensive end Matt Roth. Aside from that loss, however, the Hawkeyes appear to be very strong. Junior quarterback Drew Tate was last year's hero, and gives Ferentz an experienced quarterback to start the season for the first time in five years. His two favorite receiving targets, Ed Hinkel and Clint Solomon, are top returning receivers in the conference. The offensive line, a Ferentz trade mark, struggled last year with injuries and inexperience, but returns this season experienced and deep. While it may not achieve the dominance of the 2002 OL (which sent 4 members to the NFL including Robert Gallery). The Hawkeye running game, while still a question mark to some degree, will begin the season with healthy bodies and should be effective.

While the sportswriters question the Iowa defense, it is likely to be a strength once again. Competition to replace the defensive front four is intense, and a talented unit is likely to emerge with experience. There is no such competition at the linebacker position, where Iowa returns Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge, among the best tandems in college football. The secondary returns experience as well, with four year starter Antwan Allen and three year starter Jovon Johnson at the corners. Johnson enters the season needing only 4 interceptions to tie the Iowa career record of 18, set by legend Nile Kinnick.

Trouble for the Hawkeyes could come from their schedule. In the last several years, Iowa has established a dominating home field advantage, winning 18 straight at Kinnick Stadium. Home games this year include Michigan and Minnesota, plus patsies Indiana and Illinois. Iowa must face Ohio State, Purdue, Northwestern and Wisconsin on the road. (Penn State and Michigan State have rotated off the schedule.) Non-conference rival Iowa State is also a road game.

The Ohio State game on September 24th appears to be the key to the Hawkeye season, as it appears early and potentially before Iowa's defensive line has gelled. OSU, however, has not had a particularly dominant running game under Jim Tressel, so it is unclear who will have the advantage in that particular matchup. Michigan is also a big game, but the Wolverines must come to Kinnick, and Ferentz has shown the clear ability to match up well against Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, with Iowa winning two of the last three. Michigan is expected to have a potent offense this year, but it will be interesting to see whether quarterback Chad Henne can adjust to the game without Braylon Edwards, the best receiver in football last year.

The official prediction: Iowa will at least share a piece of the Big Ten title, probably with a 7-1 conference record and a loss at Columbus. Purdue, which does not play Ohio State or Michigan, could be up there as well. I will also predict that Penn State and Michgan State will both come up with some surprising victories that impact the title.

If Iowa can escape Ohio State with a victory on September 24, I predict they will go undefeated and face USC in the Rose Bowl, where they will lose.

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The "most Democratic" state in the country 

I am sitting in meeting listening to one of Trenton's most accomplished
lobbyists handicap the New Jersey governor's race between Senator Jon
Corzine and Republican challenger Doug Forrester. Internal campaign polls
(as well as public journalistic polls) show that the race is Corzine's to
lose. Even after recent revelations that he forgave a loan he had made to
his girlfriend - who also happens to be a union boss - Corzine remains in
the lead by ten points or so.

The lobbyist points out that this is not surprising, since by some measures
New Jersey is the "most Democratic" state in the country. It is the only
state with a Democratic governor, Democrats in charge of both houses of the
legislature, Democrats in both Senate seats and in a majority of the House
delegation, Democratic judges sitting in a majority of state courts, and to
have voted for both Gore and Kerry.

Given that New Jersey suffered huge casualties on September 11, has the
highest per capita income in the country, a below average unemployment rate,
brutally high taxes, and an astonishingly incompetant and corrupt
government, one is forced to wonder whether the New Jersey Republicans could
be any more inept.

(Via Blackberry)

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Pleistocene Park 

If a group of US researchers have their way, lions, cheetahs, elephants and camels could soon roam parts of North America, Nature magazine reports.

The plan, which is called Pleistocene re-wilding, is intended to be a proactive approach to conservation.

The initiative would help endangered African animals while creating jobs, the Cornell University scientists say.

Don't you love the way every weird idea gets better if it can be said to "create jobs"?
"If we only have 10 minutes to present this idea, people think we're nuts," said Harry Greene, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, US.

I daresay. But then...
"But if people hear the one-hour version, they realise they haven't thought about this as much as we have. Right now we are investing all our megafauna hopes on one continent - Africa."

During the Pleistocene era - between 1.8 million to about 10,000 years ago - North America was home to a myriad of mega fauna.

Once, American cheetah (Acinonyx trumani) prowled the plains hunting pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) - an antelope-like animal found throughout the deserts of the American Southwest - and Camelops, an extinct camelid, browsed on arid land.

But man's arrival on the continent - about 13,000 ago, according to one prevalent theory - pushed many of these impressive creatures to extinction.

Their disappearance left glaring gaps in the complex web of interactions, upon which a healthy ecosystem depends. The pronghorn, for example, has lost its natural predator and only its startling speed - of up to about 60mph - hints at its now forgotten foe.

By introducing living counterparts to the extinct animals, the researchers say, these voids could be filled. So, by introducing free-ranging African cheetahs to the Southwest, strong interactions with pronghorns could be restored, while providing cheetahs with a new habitat.

Actually, I think this is a pretty cool idea. But then again, I'm not a farmer in Nebraska. If ranchers are going to resist the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, farmers are not going to be happy to have cheetah lurking in their corn.

But it is still pretty cool. Any coastal blue-staters out there who want to argue that the red states should import African big cats into their ecosystem?

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Protesters demand surrender 

Hundreds of candlelight vigils calling for an end to the war in Iraq lit up the night Wednesday, part of a national effort spurred by one mother's anti-war demonstration near President Bush's ranch.

The vigils were urged by Cindy Sheehan, who has become the icon of the anti-war movement since she started a protest Aug. 6 in memory of her son Casey, who died in Iraq last year...

The Franco-Left alliance rouses itself:
More than 1,600 vigils were planned Wednesday from coast to coast by liberal advocacy groups MoveOn.org Political Action, TrueMajority and Democracy for America. A large vigil was also planned in Paris.

And protesters demand that we surrender:
"This war must stop," said Al Zappala, 65, whose 30-year-old son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, died in an explosion in Baghdad in April 2004...

Kenny Jones brought his 6-year-old daughter, Scouten, to a vigil in Portland, Ore.

"I was raised to believe that war is no solution," Jones said. "Her mother and I are raising her that way, too. This war is illogical."

Whether or not it was wise to invade Iraq, even critics of the war agree that al Qaeda has gone there to fight us and kill the new Iraqi republic in its crib. Al Qaeda declared war on the United States on May 26, 1998, and had perpetrated acts of war before then. Cindy Sheehan's protestors are proposing our surrender, rather than al Qaeda's. This, in and of itself, is proof that they do not "support the troops," risible claims to the contrary.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Christopher Hill: Our man at the Six-Party talks 

Christopher Hill is the Head of the U.S. Delegation to the Six-Party Talks over the Norks and their nukes. I am watching him on C-Span answering questions from the foreign press (that's the kind of guy I am). He is a witty, sharp guy who is modest in tone and cautiously optimistic about the progress being made in the Six-Party talks. He is fast on his feet, answers questions directly, and gets journalists from all over the world laughing at humble but entertaining one-liners. I had never seen him in action before, and am impressed. On the frail evidence of one C-Span press conference, I think we have a good man on this very difficult strategic problem.

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The TigerHawk license plate frame 

Behold the TigerHawk license plate frame. I've been driving around for four years endorsing John Roberts for something, but only recently have I known what.

Actually, even I didn't notice my rank partisanship until SportsProf pointed it out to me one day.

This car used to belong to my mother-in-law, who unfortunately passed some years ago. Suffice it to say that she would be very distressed to learn that she had also pre-endorsed John Roberts.

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Blogger's intuition 

Per Cassandra, I took this "intuition" test. I feel that it isn't accurate. At least that's what my gut tells me.

More Emotional

You have:

The graph on the right represents your place in Intuition 2-Space. As you can see, you scored above average on emotional intuition and about average on scientific intuition.Keep in mind that very few people score high on both! In effect, you can compare your two intuition scores with each other to learn what kind of intuition you're best at. Your emotional intuition is stronger than your scientific intuition.

Your Emotional Intuition score is a measure of how well you understand people, especially their unspoken needs and sympathies. A high score score usually indicates social grace and persuasiveness. A low score usually means you're good at Quake.

Your Scientific Intuition score tells you how in tune you are with the world around you; how well you understand your physical and intellectual environment. People with high scores here are apt to succeed in business and, of course, the sciences.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Scientific

free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Interpersonal
Link: The 2-Variable Intuition Test written by jason_bateman on Ok Cupid

I'm fairly sure that I have friends who would not agree with this result.

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