Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Annan Could Have Served Himself Better

WSJ.com - Our Mission Remains Vital: "Of course the U.N. is far from perfect -- even if some of the recent allegations made about it have been overblown. The interim report of Paul Volcker's independent inquiry has helped put the Oil For Food program in perspective. Some of the more hyperbolic assertions about it have been proven untrue.
Yet I am the first to admit that real and troubling failures -- ethical lapses and lax management -- have been brought to light. I am determined, with the help of member states, to carry through the management reforms which are clearly called for by Mr. Volcker's findings."

I agree with Annan that there is plenty to be proud of in the UN's recent accomplishments, and that we need to keep this institution. He, however, loses credibility when he minimizes the Oil-for-Food and sex scandals to "lax management". He also, sadly, talks about "assertions being proven untrue". This would have been the perfect time to truly acknowledge the gravity of the complaints and crimes, in an effort to move forward. To still be arguing the validity of the questions against it, he is dragging it out, such that people will have a hard time taking the rest of this piece and his commitment to cleaning out the UN seriously. Owning up to his own poor management and assuring people all around the world that he has learned a lesson would have been a better start. With this piece, it only gives ammunition to his detractors that he should be removed.

Monday, February 21, 2005


We Need Qualified People of All Kinds

The White House Project leader, Marie Wilson, was just on with Neil Cavuto. The White House Project is an effort to get powerful female politicians to prepare their career such that they could be contenders for President. While many women's issues are close to my heart, I must say that this is a shallow effort. We want world leaders that can lead, not based purely on their gender. In fact, the perfect world would be one in which gender and color do not enter into the decision making at all. This world is the one where the resume and skills trump buzz issues. Instead of forming a club to encourage women to run for President, we should be finding qualified people of all backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, etc. to run. By doing this, they would be fostering candid exchanges of ideas from people of all kinds.


The New York Times > Washington > In Secretly Taped Conversations, Glimpses of the Future President

The New York Times > Washington > In Secretly Taped Conversations, Glimpses of the Future President: "This is an issue I have been trying to downplay,' Mr. Bush said. 'I think it is bad for Republicans to be kicking gays.'"

I think so too. What these tapes say about the future President is what I have sensed all along, that President Bush is far more moderate than he has been painted. I am still not sure how I feel about these tapes being released or even how I feel about them being made. The practical side of me says that it might have been too much to resist for Mr. Wead. On the other, more emotional side, it seems a bit selfish. I am still working that out, but the more important part of these tapes is that he is much smarter than we get to see from afar, and that he is not so far too the right that he partakes of the hate of the Christian right. It also shows that, while he might align with them politically, he does not allow Christian leaders to influence his leadership. It is merely the morals of the ideology, not the practical application as spelled out by the religious leaders that claim so much influence on our President. This allows him to be seen as particularly more autonomous than he is painted by his critics. That is a really important point.

Friday, February 18, 2005


Another Reason to Like and Trust Sour 'Kraut

2042: A Fiscal Odyssey (washingtonpost.com): "To bring the silliness full circle, the president himself has since admitted that there really is no trust fund. But his 2042 date is based on the idea that there is. We will never be able to reform the system if the chief reformer does not clearly articulate what the impending crisis is, when it is coming and why."

What he has to say is less important than what it says about him. In this WaPo piece, he faults the Presdent for not explaining the Social Security problem well and suggests that the American people simply can't be rallied around a problem that will happen in almost forty years. All of that may be true, but it is more important that a man who is a Fox contributor shows that he is more thoughtful than partisan.


You Learn Something Disturbing Everyday

The terror next time - The Washington Times: Commentary - February 17, 2005: " A blue-ribbon, congressionally mandated commission recently described an altogether different sort of nuclear attack, one made possible by the detonation high above the United States of a ballistic missile-delivered weapon. The panel was charged with 'assessing the threat to the United States from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.'
It concluded the EMP effects of such an attack at 40 to 400 miles above this country could so severely disrupt, both directly and indirectly, electronics and electrical systems as to create a 'damage level ... sufficient to be catastrophic to the nation.' Worse, the commission concluded 'our current vulnerability invites attack.'
The EMP Threat Commission recommends urgent steps taken to reduce that vulnerability by protecting electrical, water, telecommunications and other infrastructures against crippling by electromagnetic pulse. The same needs to be done with our military, also woefully unprepared for EMP attack. "

Frank Gaffney describes a weapon that "could instantly transform this country from an advanced 21st century to an 18th-century society". Not being in the intelligence community, I had never even heard of this kind of weapon, and quite frankly, could have gone without knowing. Not anticipating the threat of Al Quaeda was a blessing. What happened was bad enough without the fearful anticipation. Now, however, we are in an age where we can actually hear about these things and take them seriously. Being hit once like that in our lifetime offers us the realism to know that the truly unthinkable can and does happen. My peace of mind comes from knowing that we have a strong and serious President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and others. The thought of having Madeline Albright's "Oh, we can talk them through this" strategy with our enemies frightens me. Knowing that Condi will be swift with her verbal response and knowing that the President will back that up with swift military responses makes me feel more confident and safer. I appreciate Frank's story today, because it puts the spotlight, for the public, on a topic that is new to us. We can now understand when we begin the public discussion of how to protect against this kind of weapon. Thanks, Frank.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


UN Inspectors Drunk, Not Inspecting

Telegraph | News: "At another monitoring site where the UN was supposed to check humanitarian aid supplies, Mr Ventham noticed 'the team leader and his fellow countrymen [the nationality is unstated] spending the majority of their time in each other's rooms drinking vodka as opposed to managing and leading the team'.
There he noticed small vessels and barges moving to a small island each night."

While I have not the first clue as to the truth of these allegations, it seems they should be explored. If the institution was unquestionably ethical, I would look at this article differently, but we know that the UN and Cotecna have serious ethics issues. I hope to hear more about this.


Scheer Simply Makes No Sense With This One

What We Don't Know About 9/11 Hurts Us: "Would George W. Bush have been reelected president if the public understood how much responsibility his administration bears for allowing the 9/11 attacks to succeed? "

Not surprisingly, Clinton's name is not in this or any other article about blame for 9/11. This argument is just in conflict with common sense and says that the person supporting it has only partisan goals. It is probably articles like this that helped Bush get re-elected, as the public, left or right leaning, couldn't stomach the idea of blaming a man after eight months in office without even discussing the man who had spent eight years there. I suppose it serves my party for men like Scheer to continue these ridiculous arguments, but I would prefer a higher level of discourse complete with common sense.


Sowell Promotes the True History of the Anti-Slavery Movement

Ending slavery - The Washington Times: Commentary - February 12, 2005: "A very readable and remarkable new book just published 'Bury the Chains' by Adam Hochschild traces the history of the world's first antislavery movement, which began with a meeting of 12 'deeply religious' men in London in 1787.
The book re-creates the very different world of that time, in which slavery was so much taken for granted that most people simply did not think about it, one way or the other. Nor did the leading intellectuals, political leaders, or religious leaders in Britain or anywhere else in the world.
The dozen men who formed the world's first antislavery movement saw their task as getting Englishmen to think about slavery about the brutal facts and their moral implications.
Their conviction this would be enough to turn the British public, and ultimately the British Empire, against slavery might seem naive, except that this is precisely what happened. It did not happen quickly and it did not happen without bitter opposition, for the British were then the world's biggest slave traders and this created wealthy and powerful interests defending slavery. "

This served as a prudent reminder of who began this paradigm-changing movement. It also suggests that it wasn't changed by kids in tye-dyed shirts, but, rather, God-fearing men who saw the evil in owning others. His observation that, because these men would be bundled with the "religious right" by Hollywood, is true and quite sad. It is an important tale to tell regardless of how their principles were taught in today's terms. Looking at their bravery, in terms of the time they lived, would make for a great tale, ala Schindler's List. We should read this story, and others like it, and be reminded that slavery still exists in disparate places. We are still looking for twelve brave men to take these cultures on, and shift their thinking.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


David Mamet Even Writes a Good Editorial/On Arthur Miller

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Attention Must Be Paid: "We are freed, at the end of these two dramas [The Crucible and The Death of a Salesman], not because the playwright has arrived at a solution, but because he has reconciled us to the notion that there is no solution - that it is the human lot to try and fail, and that no one is immune from self-deception. We have, through following the course of the drama, laid aside, for two hours, the delusion that we are powerful and wise, and we leave the theater better for the rest."

The Death of a Salesman is one of my favorite plays. As Mamet opens the editorial, we too, all know these characters in our own lives. It felt real for all of us. Admittedly, I enjoy the delusion of seeing myself as powerful and wise, but it is the power of a well-written drama that it could take me down a peg, and force me to enjoy it. It is the power of the creatives and the intellectuals that I am drawn to, and clearly this man had an equal amount of both, superlative to most.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


What is the True Purpose of Journalists?

Larry Kudlow on Eason Jordan, CNN, and the Blogosphere on National Review Online: "To recap, at last month�s economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jordan publicly accused the U.S. military of deliberately targeting journalists in order to assassinate them. "

I am a big fan of Kudlow's, but he cites the blogosphere as "doing its duty" by putting pressure on CNN after Jordan's ignorant comments. His comments are really the stuff of conspiracy theorists, quacks and outsiders. There is even a bit of mad hubris involved. Think of this. The US is fighting terrorists and trying to take down a regime, but yet they are taking time out to target journalists. While I truly believe that the military can chew gum and walk at the same time, I also think they had much bigger fish to fry than this news network while fighting a war. But as far as the blogosphere doing its job, I say we may have gone a bit far. Journalists have a "it's our job to keep public figures honest" line that they all go by. You hear them all of the time. The problem, however, is that I am not so sure I like that. They also consistently scream that they must put stories in context. I am not so sure I like that either. The talk shows are built for that sort of thing, but I would like news stories to just report the news and for the reader to put it into their own context. Journalists believe that readers don't have the capacity to understand the news. While it is true that some don't, it is hubris to think that they should spell it out for all readers. It also opens the door wide open for partisan spin. Partisan spin isn't just about politics either. It could also refer to their beliefs of right and wrong, what is/is not, should, should not be, acceptable, etc. Journalists love this, because it gives them the opportunity to help shape American culture, but their original job, as I understand it, is merely to report happenings. Shaping American culture and reader's thoughts about those happenings goes way beyond their original purpose. In fact, I think Kudlow would normally agree with this sentiment, but, because he agrees with the bloggers, he is not going to say so now. With the recent upheaval in news, this may be the perfect time for us all to consider how we get and ingest the news going forward.


Annan Spins

How to Move Iraq Forward (washingtonpost.com): "The success of the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq has created an exciting moment of opportunity. It matters greatly that Iraq's transition is a success. I am determined to make certain that the United Nations will play its full part in helping the Iraqi people achieve that end.
But it also matters that the international community, which has been angrily divided over Iraq, now recognizes that we all share a common agenda: to move Iraq from the starting point -- its successfully completed elections -- to a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future. "

While on the one hand, Annan, in this WaPo editorial, is talking about bringing the world community back together to try to further Iraqi democracy, he is clearly also trying to sell anxious Americans on the legitimacy of UN work in these matters. With the spotlight on the abuses of Oil-for-Food, he has no choice but to remind people of what they do well. Annan also cites the U.N.'s credibility because it opposed the war with those in Iraq that are still deciding whether they have a place in this democratic process. That is spin. I believe that we need to clean up the U.N., and not abandon it altogether (because doing so, as I understand it, would be to take away all of the funding it needs to survive). I also, feel, however, that their lack of support throughout the past year and a half gives it little credibility to anyone that matters or could be any help in this new democracy. Annan was wise to write this piece in order to continue to sell the U.N. after the recent headlines, but he does himself little good when he spins his anti-war status as assistance in bringing Iraqi's to the table.

Monday, February 07, 2005


David Kay and Poor Political Rhetoric

Let's Not Make the Same Mistakes in Iran (washingtonpost.com): "Fifth, a National Intelligence Estimate as to Iran's nuclear activities should not be a rushed and cooked document used to justify the threat of military action. Now is the time for serious analysis that genuinely tries to pull together all the evidence and analytical skills of the vast U.S. intelligence community to reach the best possible judgment on the status of that program and the gaps in our knowledge. That assessment should not be led by a team that is trying to prove a case for its boss. Now is the time to reach outside the secret brotherhood and pull in respected outsiders to lead the assessment. "

I have immense respect for David Kay. In fact, I held all conclusions until the February date when his team's report came back last year. That is how I came to understand that the intelligence really was faulty. I was always taken with him when he spoke on news shows. He has a clear command of his profession, and it sparked my confidence in him. When he said there were no WMD, then I knew it must be so. This piece, however, has several key words that tell us that he is not in support of this government. "Cooked document", "Prove a case for its boss", Secret brotherhood". These are not helpful. They do nothing but attempt to undermine our leadership. We should not forget, after all, that when he appeared on those news shows before the war, that he believed that there were WMD too. If anything, he helped "sell" the war. He may regret that now, but it was his reading of those "cooked documents" that helped convince me. I am not suggesting that he doesn't have the right to all of these thoughts or that he is no longer credible, but rather that this, too, needs to be seen in his greater context.


A Great CB Line Ala Krauthammer

WSJ.com - Free to Dance:
"Iraqis turned out to vote in great numbers, with enthusiasm and determination. Surprise. "

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Here's Why We Aren't Fighting For Tax Reform: We Don't Yet Believe

A Taxing Challenge (washingtonpost.com): "The absence of public clamor for tax reform is partly explained by the fact that federal tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product is at the lowest level -- 16.2 percent -- since 1959. "

George may be right, but, I think the bigger reason that there is no public clamor is that the public does not trust that it can be done. To simplify the tax code, do away with the IRS, etc. sounds more pie-in-the-sky than the promise of moon exploration many years ago. People of all stripes would love to see that happen, but we all know how powerful the lobbying groups are. In fact, there are probably more lobbying groups than we could count. The other problem is that Congress is a place of negotiation, like it or not. While their pull-and-tug has left us with a ridiculous tax code, something will have to fill that negotiation vacuum. The adjustment costs to a new system would be high, with considerable numbers of IRS workers unemployed over the course of several years and CPA's and such also obsolete. These people will fight with all they've got, so the President needs to convince Americans that this can be done if he wants us to fight for him.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


A Prudent Reminder

WSJ.com - Don't Forget the Iraqi Troops: "Many observers have focused critically on setbacks with respect to the Iraqi security forces. And over time, the performance of units has been somewhat mixed. Early on, in particular, some forces did not perform as well as hoped. But this is not without historical precedent. George Washington repeatedly expressed frustration with poorly trained troops, many of whom fled from battles. At one point, Washington threw down his hat, whipped fleeing soldiers with his riding crop, and muttered: 'Are these the men with which I am to defend America?' They were; and he did. Americans won their battle for liberty because they were willing to take the risks and make the sacrifices that freedom requires. The Iraqis' performance last Sunday shows that they are ready to do the same. They deserve our respect for their courage, and not criticism from the safety of thousands of miles away."

While we can respect journalists, and I do, we should probably take our defense policy lessons from the experts. The press serves a very special and important function, but they do not have the wherewithal to use military history to make decisions. Their foundation of information is much broader than Secretary Rumsfeld's on these matters. He has, after all, overseen two wars. They have merely sat back and watched, as we all have. They certainly have the right to criticize, but that is to be taken in the context of their area of expertise.

Friday, February 04, 2005


Noonan Sketches the SOTU

WSJ.com - Normal Service Resumed: "The end of the speech offered an unforgettable moment. When the mother of Marine Sgt. Byron Norwood, who gave his life in Iraq, was honored in the balcony, and then leaned down to embrace the woman in front of her, an Iraqi who had lost her father to Saddam, and who had just voted -- when that mother embraced that woman it said more than words could about what we are doing and why. Sacrifice brings progress; courage brings deliverance; love born in Pflugerville can liberate in Fallujah. It pierced the heart.
As for the Democratic response, Harry Reid looks and talks like a small-town undertaker whom you want to trust but wonder about, especially when he says the deceased would love the brass handles. Although Nancy Pelosi continues to look startled, even alarmed, her comments are predictable and pedestrian. Both seemed eager not to agree with Ted Kennedy's recent 'Iraq is Vietnam' statements, which more and more seem not just stupid but scandalously so. Absent endorsing radical defeatism, however, Mr. Reid and Ms. Pelosi had little to say. They made Important Sounds. Neither seemed sincere or serious. The president seemed both."

Ms. Noonan may have taken a drilling after her scathing piece on the inaugural address, but she redeems herself to those critics with this one. I felt she was entitled to her opinions, and I was not moved by the inaugural either. It lacked emotion, and told me little that I didn't already know. In fact, a week later, I remembered little of what he was trying to get across other than his main point: we are the nation that will fight for freedom for all people on this planet, whether popular or not. That is a message I can support.
Here, Peggy fabulously points out the important themes of the speech, but for anyone who watched, there was only this moment. Seeing an Iraqi woman proudly displaying both a Peace sign and an ink-stained finger as if to say, 'This is why you have paid this price'. Her embrace with that Mother was clearly not staged, and more than a little emotional. I got the sense that the Mother and the world watching all felt the gratitude that the Iraqi woman had for all of our sacrifices during this time. She'll never understand the price we paid, but we will never understand how different it is to leave your home in the morning to go to the voting booth and arrive alive back home in the evening. Us Americans have been blessed not to have a tyrannical leader's regime shoot people at random in our streets or put decapitated heads on sticks in the town square. Whether you agreed with the war or not, we should be proud of this accomplishment as it will be part of the American legacy.
As for Reid and Pelosi, she is right. He is just slightly off normal, and Pelosi was right on message. Their message is a delicate one as it has to be less virulent than Kennedy's and forceful enough to satisfy their constituencies. I did not envy their task. It seems, if history speaks of their philosophy at all, it will remember them as pols and not that of event drivers. No matter what you think of the wars that led up to it, there are more than a few people who are appreciative to live in freedom because George Bush had the fortitude to win it for them. He is the event driver, and he will be remembered as such.

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