Thursday, October 30, 2003

You've already heard of chicken hawks and balking hawks. Here's a few additions to the aviary.

Larks - thought this whole war was a lark. Didn't expect the rebuilding to cost so much money

Ostriches - think everything is going just fine in Iraq.

Dodo birds - think maybe there will be a sale on nation rebuilding after the holidays, rebuild Iraq and get Afghanistan free.

Parrots - still repeat there must be weapons of mass destruction somewhere. You never know, some birds can be pretty smart.

Roosters - Good morning Iraq!

Soaring Doves - opposed the war with Iraq, but are prepared to pay the price to rebuild it. Suspect some of the money Bush budgets might be wasted, but that there's not as much as we need overall.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I'm not going to cut and paste Steven Den Beste's email, both because if he had wanted to publish it or leave it as a comment on my blog he would have, and because I've heard it's customary not to republish email that way. Many customs have a reason, so I tend to think twice before ignoring them. I often ignore them anyhow, but not right now.

In brief, he thinks the scenario pretty unlikely, and hard to speculate about anyhow since our method of attack would depend on many details of the problem and situation, and also that our troops need a year or so of rest. He does feel that Iraq would make a safe enough supply base, and none of the problems we currently have there would affect that.

I have to say, he sounds more plausible than this article from DEBKAfile:

Syria Calls up Reserves, Fears US-Israeli Military Pincer

At least for now, I'm going to lay to rest my fears of a Syrian invasion as the 2004 election campaign swings into high gear. This still leaves us with the problem of Iraq. Most of the Democrats seem to want to say that while the Bush administration wasn't prepared for the difficult job of rebuilding Iraq, it will definitely take less money than the Bush administration is asking for. I guess it's not an unambiguous oxymoron, a job COULD be very difficult yet not expensive. None of those who seem to want to call it that have said exactly how it should be done.

If a Democrat is elected, the easiest step will be to start using Iraqi companies to rebuild Iraq. It will be both less expensive and contribute more to rebuilding Iraqi building capacity. Fortunately all the companies getting the sweetheart deals, from Haliburton on down, seem to be Republican cronies. This once, political self interest and the national good will coincide.

The next step is an order of magnitude harder. We have to convince the Iraqi's that rebuilding Iraq is their responsibility. In a real sense it isn't, because if it doesn't get rebuilt it will be a horrible black eye for the United States and we must make sure it gets rebuilt - which involves making the Iraqi's believe it is their responisbility. Instead of blaming us when Iraqi (or Syrian?) terrorists kill a Shai cleric, they must come up with ideas which don't involve stretching our troops thinner yet. We can't guard everyone in Iraq from everyone else when we can't even prevent our own troops from dying. Most of the Shia seem to want us to rebuild - the attacks seem to come mostly in Sunni areas. We need to convince some Sunni leaders that they are better off now then if we were driven out and the majority Shia could do as they would. We need to convince the Shia they must rebuild Iraq themselves - no matter how much we in fact plan to do. Our erstwhile allies the Kurds could in fact be a difficult part of the problem. People being ejected from the homes they have lived in for many years with our tacit support is one of the reasons other groups distrust us. A worst case long term scenario would be refusing to allow Kirkuk oil revenue to help rebuild any other part of Iraq while using it to foment Kurdish revolution elsewhere in the region.

The third step is harder yet. We have to address the cancer eating us from within, the people who consider the American government their enemy. I mean of course those who consider any tax cut good, because the government could not possibly be trusted to spend the money for the benefit of the American people. Many who believed we would have no trouble rebuilding the Iraqi health care system don't trust our government to run our health care system. Every comparisn with single payer healthcare I've seen looks only at places that are having problems. The Dutch have a lower cost per capita than we do - and better healthcare. The cost of our healcare system to the taxpayers is the amount the government spends on inefficient programs like medicaid PLUS the amount taxpayers who also pay for insurance spend PLUS the amount lost in taxes since we make employer paid health insurance tax deductible despite the overhead that doesn't go to healthcare PLUS the lower salaries people earn to make up for their employer paid health insurance - if they have it. People were used to paying high taxes for world war II - and we rebuilt Europe by deciding we preferred the Marshall plan to a tax cut.

After that we can really rebuild Iraq. American companies outsource to India - why not Iraq? Some areas are safer than others, although even the safest would probably require some sort of government subsidy to encourage corporations to move in. Remember all that stuff about the 'root causes' being the failure of certain countries to produce economically? If that was the root cause it still is.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The era of worrying about bleeding heart liberals is over. It's time to think about the Limbaugh conservatives. I know I said liberals needed more compassion for him, but this is the only name available for a concept that badly needs a name.

I'm sure some liberals would call every conservative a Limbaugh conservative, and I can't feel too upset since many conservatives used to call every liberal a bleeding heart liberal before the word 'liberal' could be made to sound like a curse all by itself. What we need a word for is someone who is driven by fear and hate, much of which is rooted in his or her own personal life. I myself would not use this word for someone who used facts and logic to support conservative positions, without overt appeals to emotion. It's hard to listen to Rush Limbaugh for even a few minutes without suspecting that the conventional (liberal) wisdom, that conservatives might be cold hearted but are not over emotional, is wrong. Anger from his personal life has given his political pronouncements an authentic rage, and it has struck a chord in many listeners.

Since we're talking about Limbaugh, mnadatory jail sentences (probably much worse where I live in New York state that where he is) for certain classes of drug users are a good example. Not only is treatment more effective at preventing repeat offenses, it's also cheaper. A Limbaugh conservative is someone who doesn't object to spending more to lock someone up than it would cost to give them welfare, because they secretly feel that 'they' are the enemy, and locking them up is fighting them, but drug treatment isn't. Not only is treatment cheaper in the long term, it's cheaper in the short term. I am not now critisising people for failing to consider their enlightened self interest, but for being so overwhelmed by fear and anger that they will spend more for a failed policy than a successful one.

I guess we all have some Limbaugh in us, we all have fear and hatred, but most of us try to think rationally despite it. Those who wear it as a badge of honor are the true Limbaugh conservatives.

Monday, October 27, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 27 — A series of suicide bombings shook Baghdad early today, including an attack on the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross and blasts at four Iraqi police stations that punctuated two days of bloody violence in this capital city.

There are a few things we can learn from this story. Considering everything our military is pretty amazing. Even when they go all out they can only kill our soldiers one or two at a time at most, even when they're outnumbered and ambushed.

Second, we can't protect every Iraqi from every other Iraqi. If every Iraqi involved in the rebuilding of Iraq is a target, then the more successful our rebuilding program is the more vulnerable they are. I sure hoe those Iraqi police we're training will be skilled, dedicated, smart, and brave.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Alexa has spoken. I've been visiting Winds of Change much more often recently. My Alexa toolbar says it's the site visited most often by people who visit my site. Of course this could be a statistical artifact. I don't know how Alexa does their statistics, or how much one person who happened to visit both sites frequently would affect them.

Even so, I've been thinking about what our sites have in common, and (since their traffic is larger than mine) what they might be better at than I. It's a group blog, the voices I've seen the most of recently are Joe Katzman (the administrator) and Armed Liberal, so I risk overgeneralizing - email me if you know better, or post a comment. They seem to be a centrist blog, but favoring the Iraqi invasion, unlike mine. Armed Liberal, of course, opposes gun control.

I really liked one of the blogs Armed Liberal linked to - and the reasons he linked to it. Blognaut has a series of suggestions for the Democrats. These are not sarcastic right wing suggestions that they become Republicans, but genuine ideas. Not only that, I think he's just linked to the blog more deserving of additional traffic than any I've ever seen.

I browsed through his archives and I kinda liked this Armed Liberal quote from September ...
"Now I'm guilty as well of arguing that some level of international consensus is necessary to win the current war while also arguing that we need a relatively free hand to manage our economy. This is a hand smacked against the forehead to remind me that the two are inextricably linked."

I just happen to think the blogosphere needs more people looking for original solutions and trying to see both sides of things. There are already plenty of essays trying to justify the 'mainstream' ideas that are already out there, including in newspapers.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

An open letter to Steven Den Beste of USS Clueless:

Suppose that the embargo has no effect for a few months, and we decided to invade Syria. I'm assuming that the situation in Iraq hasn't improved (or gotten too much worse) but the administration is convinced that Iraq can be rebuilt if and only if trouble from the Syrian side of the border is stopped, and that Syria will be much easier to rebuild since there will be no unoccupied Syria to make trouble as in Iraq today.

Would this be militarily difficult, risking actual defeat? Would it involve leaving parts of Iraq unoccupied, except for places such as Bagdad which might involve serious casualties to recapture? Would having Iraq as a supply base (even an unsafe one) help? How would you expect such a war to be undertaken? Do you think there is any chance of this actually happening?

This has been running through my head for awhile now. I don't know if you'll have time to answer or even read this, but the questions are thought provoking enough that I might post this as an open letter anyway.

David Weisman

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Let the pretty little would be rebels and thugs who like to sing about cop killers sing about KaZaA.

I'm sure the RIAA, the Recording Industry Association of America, would love that. I'm sure they would explain that none of those cop killer songs was meant to be taken seriously. Neither would these be. Somehow I don't think any rapper would dare even think about it. Drawing a knife in a nightclub may lead to inconvenience, but it doesn't trash your career like this would.

Maybe there's an opportunity here for small bands here, they could lead where the anti-establishment establishment would not dare follow. If it's already been done I couldn't find it, googling songs about KaZaA produces millions of results, but "songs about KaZaA" produces only a few irrevelant ones.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Do liberals have compassion for Rush Limbaugh? Should they? Is there poetic justice?

I think we all agree that if it were a liberal pundit who was revealed as an addict under similar circumstances, Rush Limbaugh would have a field day. Do we need liberal Rush Limbaughs? Al Franken would seem to feel the answer is yes, but I'm not sure if a Rush Limbaugh could be truly liberal whatever his politics.

Suppose a violent thug is jailed for assault and battery. Well and good. But suppose the guards encourage other prisoners to beat the thug repeatedly and severely. No judge sentenced him to this extra punishment. Some would see a rough poetic justice in this, since his victim never had a trial either, but I think most liberals (and some conservatives) would agree we owe it to ourselves though not to him to prevent this. We want legal justice, not poetic justice. If it's determined that these beatings are not cruel and unusual punishment, let a judge determine the frequency and severity.

Already some conservatives want to make a distinction between getting addicted to medication and getting addicted to drugs solely used to get high. Good. Let's encourage them to write this distinction into law so that it won't only benefit celebrities. It could be a first step in drug law reform.

A few liberal columnists have tried to take a sympathetic look at the lonely and angry Rush Limbaugh behind the curtain, but I don't think anyone has truely succeeded. If we could do that, we might actually have the moral force to put compassion and rationailty back into politics. Let us feel our own anger and glee at the fall of Rush Limbaugh, and use it as a key to understand his anger at so many other groups. I am not yet convinced the two angers are always so very different.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.

As Halloween nears, both Den Beste and Bush have begun propagating a new conventional wisdom on Iraq. The liberal media is making it sound much worse than it is, and its worse than it would be if the liberal media stopped giving support to the terrorists.

I don't watch Fox news, but I regularly read headline stories from The Washington Times. I might have seen one or two stories about some good things happening in Iraq a long time ago, but even they seem to find more bad news to write about. Are Fox News and The Washington Tines false conservative news outlets, or are there more stories than I've seen, or do conservative as well as liberal news outlets find violence to be more newsworthy? If the latter, those who allege deliberate manipulation perhaps owe an apology.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

A Plan for Iraq : If the Democrats Dared

Listening to congressional democrats can be pretty funny. They're not criticizing the money we spend on occupying Iraq. They're concerned about the much smaller amount designated to help rebuild it. And they're not saying how it should be done either.

So here's a plan for Iraq. Remember how Saddam finally allowed the inspectors back in when Bush was getting ready to invade? As far as we know now, if there were still WMD in Iraq those inspectors might have found them. But nobody took the threat seriously until the armies began to mass.

Now what we need is a credible threat that we might leave. Not that we just walk out and leave a Somalia. But we start talking to some of the leaders of groups of Sunni's closest to the areas where the most troops are being killed. Do you really want us to walk out? Who would enter the power vacuum? Iran, and a Shi'ite theocracy?

Of course to threaten someone they need something to lose. There has to be some kind of process so that anyone who has a grudge can't just kill any Sunni leader they want in a drive by shooting - not even if he was a member of the Baath party. Not even if he was probably guilty - at least not without a trial. Otherwise they already have anarchy, and need not fear it.

The threat is stronger than the execution. To actually walk out and leave a mess would be a horrible blow to American prestige, and perhaps create the breeding ground where Al Qaeda really could build a nuclear bomb. Even to threaten it would be a blow. But we need some kind of threat for those who refuse to do their utmost, and since unlike Saddam we can't threaten the relatives or whole towns of our enemies, perhaps this is it. And not just for the Sunni's. It seems pretty odd that many people should be more eager to protest against America than the people who actually killed a Shia cleric.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Is patriotism a crime?

I would never attack anyone from Holland who was proud of the Dutch national health care system - possibly the best in the world. I would never attack anyone from Japan or Taiwan or South Korea or Germany for pride in being part of one of the handful of nations to establish (with help, but many have tried and failed with or without help) successful democracy from autocratic beginnings. Here is someone who attacks my previous post for an excess of patriotism because I admire a partial solution to a problem many countries have failed to solve - even if in this case it is of our own making. We have emotional racial divides with large economic differences, but we are nowhere near civil war. I don't know which would be sadder, to find that Phil isn't proud of living in a country that started on the road to representative democracy well before the French revolution, or to find that he is but gets upset when other people are proud of their countries.

I have a critic from the opposite end of the spectrum as well (at least I assume Phil is a liberal), one who speaks more to the point. Arthur Fleishman of Untold Millions responds both on his blog and in my comment section. First to correct a couple of misunderstandings. When I wrote "They say that African Americans who achieve are stigmatized because people believe they only did so through affirmative action. Many people who believe this would hate them for other reasons even if there were no affirmative action." I meant that some people have argued that affirmative action hurts minorities because others will assume any minority member with a good job got it through affirmative action and did not deserve it. I agree with the latter clause. I'm not implying that all those who make this argument are racist, but I am implying that most of those who would automatically assume the person did not deserve their job are racist, and that getting rid of affirmative action would not change their mind about the minority employee, and that this argument is invalid.

Here is the question that I feel I've already answered but he feels I haven't.

"So I repeat the questions that you avoided. What has been the model for overcoming disadvantages? And why shouldn't African Americans have the opportunity to use the same model that has been so useful to others?"

Certainly many minority immigrants have found great success here. This model has not worked equally well for all however. I've believe I discussed some of the groups it worked best for - and the reasons that appeared to be so. The short answer however, is that this model has worked very imperfectly for some minorities. Of course, it would be silly to assume any problem is exclusively the fault of any one of the paries involved. I'm pleased to say I've read articles by black people concerned that elements of the cultures of certain black subgroups might be part of what was holding them back. Do the rest of us have the courage to think hard about what role we play in the problem, or not? Are you saying that since the system without affirmative action has worked well for some Asian and other groups, it must be perfect and bears no further examination? I have already commented on the problems members of certain minority groups faced not in the past but today, and why I consider it prudent to take action on an ongoing basis. I think it would be difficult to make any constructive changes in the program in the current emotional atmosphere, but I will think hard about which ones might help anyway. Do you have any ideas, other than saying we should ignore the fact that certain groups are not teated equally by many people when they can get away with it, and avoid giving those groups compensating advantages at all costs?