Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ford’s National Nightmare

The U.S. entered its dark period in Spring 1965. Confronted with the impending collapse of the South Vietnamese government at the hands of North Vietnam/Vietcong forces, the U.S. under President Johnson responded by sending American combat troops to carry on the fight. From that point on, life turned bleak in America. Events and the media drove Johnson from office three years later. Johnson’s successor Nixon was also a failed president; he got us out of Vietnam, but committed the Watergate-related crimes.

Both Johnson and Nixon wrongly played economic policy for short-term gain. Their economic decisions generated inflation, recession, or stagflation—a combination of both—for most every year from 1967 to 1983. In foreign affairs, we were driven from Vietnam in 1973, and South Vietnam and neutralist Cambodia collapsed in 1975. By mid-1979, President Carter was indicating a “national malaise,” not his administration, was responsible for America’s continuing economic and foreign problems. In late 1979, Iranians seized the American embassy in Tehran, and the subsequent hostage crisis, including Carter’s aborted effort to rescue the hostages, dominated the remaining days of his failed administration. It took Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s to pull us finally out of our national funk.

Gerald Ford was an accidental president in the midst of this bleak period. He was appointed Vice President in late 1973, after evidence of Spiro Agnew’s corruption forced the elected Vice President to resign. Nixon knew Ford, popular in Congress, would receive easy confirmation. Nixon also thought Ford’s well-known limitations, including his total lack of charisma, might cause Congress to hesitate before removing Nixon from office.

In his two and a half years as president, Ford brought the nation badly needed decency and calmness, symbolized by the good feelings surrounding 1976's Bicentennial celebration of American independance. But Ford did little to solve America’s economic and foreign problems—to end our real national nightmare. The November 1974 mid-term elections, three months after Ford took over, were a Republican disaster. Ford, though personally honest, made it worse for Republicans by tying himself to Watergate when he granted Nixon an unconditional pardon from Watergate crimes, an effort to dispose of Watergate that blew up in Ford's hands.

Ford committed another major blunder when in 1976, he denied to a national audience in America's first presidential debates since 1960 that Poland and Eastern Europe were under Soviet domination. His mistakes helped make Ford the third president in a row forced to leave office before reaching his constitutional limit.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

China 2007

Gordon G. Chang has a lengthy Commentary article on why trouble is brewing in China:

Every society changes from one day to the next. But the economic and social transformation in China, especially since the beginning of the reform era in December 1978, has been particularly startling. Mao regimented the Chinese people, oppressed them, clothed them in totalitarian garb, and denied them their individuality. Today, they may not be free, but they are assertive, dynamic, and sassy. A mall-shopping, Internet-connected, trend-crazy people, they are remaking their country at breakneck speed. Deprived for decades, they do not only want more, they want everything.

Undoubtedly, the Chinese leadership knows it’s riding a tiger. It stays upright by surging China forward economically, moving fast enough to keep a potentially-restive population in line. Everything about governing is easier, including moves toward freedom and democracy, when the economy grows. Lessons learned in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea may—actually, should—work for China.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Paul and Faith

Christianity is the world’s largest religion. Christians believe in the New Testament, the oldest part of which is letters Paul wrote to Greek-speaking Christian communities in the mid-1st century. Luke’s nativity story came decades later.

Paul had a clear idea of his faith, and he wrote clearly. In Paul’s time, Jesus Christ’s time, life for most was nasty, brutish, and short. Stoicism was one popular response to brutal lives. Stoics taught that people who committed themselves to matters beyond their control such as wealth, health, careers, or lovers were set up for having bad fortune ruin their well-being. Better for people to redirect their efforts toward things that cannot be taken away, such as one’s freedom to think whatever one wants, one’s honor, and one’s sense of duty.

Christianity is certainly about personal freedom, honor, and a sense of duty. But Christianity adds the hope of triumph over death. Christians believe Jesus died for our sins, and will return, in Paul’s words, to “rescue us from the wrath that is coming” (I Thess 1:10). Jesus died for us, asking that we believe in him. If we believe, we will have eternal life. In exchange for faith, we get more than the Stoics’ sense of well-being.

Paul understood believers want instruction in how to live in faith. Paul offered that help. Most powerfully, he taught us how to love. Yet Paul believed in justification by faith, not works. We don’t love, we don’t do good, in order to get to heaven. Rather, by believing in Christ, by embracing an innocent, itinerant rabbi who sacrificed his life on a wooden cross—for Jews like Paul, the most degrading way one could die—to atone for our sins, we gain a faith that makes us want to reciprocate by becoming loving, giving individuals.

The Christian world is an alternate world, one where the weak become strong, where the poor come first, and where giving is greater than receiving. It is, however, a faith that is very much of this world. Believers live in the here and now. Belief, love—they work both on earth and for eternity.

Today, we know much more about how the human mind works than people did in Paul’s time. Yet there is so much we still don’t know. That means we’re still asked to take the same “leap of faith” Paul challenged us to make 2000 years ago.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Marine Corps: Massacre Occurred at Haditha

I earlier recommended caution regarding what actually happened at Haditha. We now have official charges against Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich and seven other marines. Wuterich seems to have gone berserk after an IED killed one of his marines, reacting by killing twelve innocent people, including women and children, and inciting three others under his command to “shoot first and ask questions later.”

So the mainstream media was right about a crime, but probably shouldn’t have condemned the entire system as a result. Among other facts, the Marine Corps has charged four officers who weren’t even on the scene with dereliction of duty in connection with Haditha.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Oprah, Tiger, Barack, Beyoncé

Just so you know, I don’t think much of TIME.

The last time TIME picked an African-American Person of the Year, he was the chief symbol of the Negro race's drive for equality. Decades have passed since 1964, when TIME made the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. its Man of the Year.

In 2006, it’s no longer about being black. It’s about being dominant and incidentally black. For we surely live in a completely different world.

And is this world big enough to contain Beyoncé? OK, so “Dreamgirls’” Jennifer Hudson may have better pipes (she certainly got the better part and the better songs), but Beyoncé is unquestionably the “It” woman of 2007. It’s been coming on for years, and now it’s move aside Britney, sorry Christina, and bye-bye Madonna. You're all hardly "Irreplacable." Nobody is bigger than Beyoncé. Color? Being non-white in a non-white world hardly hurts. But with Beyoncé, it’s beyond color; it’s the overwhelming power of the total package. Beyoncé, at 25, is Entertainer of the Year. Worldwide.

And yet she’s fourth on our list. The top spot goes to Oprah, the single most powerful influence on Western culture today. How could Oprah not have been TIME’s Person of the Year years ago? Is she a competitor to TIME? Actually, I don’t think TIME is any longer in Oprah’s league. Really, in this era of money buying not happiness, but rather big hips, who speaks more directly to our needs than Oprah? If you ask American women who they most admire, Oprah is #1. Oprah—way, way, beyond being a successful black woman.

Not a surprise, Oprah’s power. And does anybody dominate any single sport with such grace, such intelligence, such articulateness as Tiger? Such an upper class, once lily-white activity. Because golf is an individual sport, person against the elements, because it is played everywhere, because normal sized people play it well into their 50’s and 60’s, golf has incredible appeal. And Tiger is golf, the symbol of golf’s worldwide growth, bigger than any golfer ever.

Barack, unlike the other three, is still mostly potential. But the job he seeks, President of the United States, is the world’s biggest. And look. No president has ever been a Harvard Law Review editor. Barack was not only an editor, he was President of the Law Review. Now, Barack is perfecting his skills at appealing to moderation, to consensus, to working together at a time when the country is crying for an end to the bitter, partisan divisiveness that has dominated American politics almost continuously since 1988, and maybe since 1966. Yes Barack is black. He’s white too. Bringing us together.

Oprah, Tiger, Barack, and Beyoncé. Four amazing Americans, four outstanding citizens of the emerging, 21st Century world.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Please, No Protectionists!

In an editorial, the San Diego Union expresses concerns about Barack Obama’s economic views:

With his opposition to many trade deals and his Wal-Mart bashing, Obama has tentatively allied himself with [protectionists], all the while depicting himself as a thoughtful centrist. But there is nothing thoughtful about ignoring the vast evidence that free trade and relatively unfettered capitalism have made America prosperous—or arguing that a company whose low prices help millions of families make ends meet and which has no trouble filling jobs should abandon its business model and become an adjunct welfare agency.

The two parties shouldn’t be dividing over the worth of free trade or capitalism. But Republicans ruled and Democrats were scrambling for a role to play when the Great Depression hit in 1929. The Democrats’ rise to power—the party dominated America from 1932 to 1968, and continued to dominate Congress for an additional 26 years—stemmed from its identification with government as a force to counter capitalism’s failings. So Democrats have a tough time with capitalism. Government is good; business is bad.

Now that Democrats are back in power because Bush failed to fight the Iraq war effectively, the heart of the party wants to return to its anti-business roots. Any free trader will struggle in the Democratic primaries. Meaning it’s quite possible than whoever wins the Democratic presidential nomination will be—in contrast to Bill Clinton in 1992 (pictured)—unqualified to manage the U.S. economy.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Helping the Middle Class

Economist and ex-Harvard president Larry Summers has an LA Times piece on how to play “win-win” with the middle class:

If the new Congress sees itself as having any kind of economic mandate, it is for policies that "stand up" for ordinary Americans against the perceived threat from corporate and moneyed interests. . .

Although workers have normally received about three-quarters of corporate income, with the remainder going to profits and interest, labor has received only about one-quarter of the increase in corporate income since 2001. . . ordinary American families do not feel like they are in the same boat as corporations and their chief executives, or even able to benefit from the same rising tides.

. . . populist economic policies . . . rarely achieve their objectives but incur huge collateral costs. Policymakers forget at their peril that globalization has enabled the U.S. economy to enjoy the very favorable combination of low unemployment and low inflation, and that without open markets, product prices would be rising much faster than they are, making living standards even worse for middle-class families.

[Find] policies that complement the market system while responding to fairness concerns. [Restore] the progressivity of the tax system — where much can be accomplished without changing the rate structure.

[Don’t] audit disproportionately the tax returns of those in the bottom half of the income scale at a time when most of the $500-billion tax gap comes from those with high incomes.

There is no policy justification for allowing the corporate income tax to be eroded through the pervasive use of tax shelters and the manipulation of transfer-price rules. Not only does this cost the government revenue, it puts unfair competitive pressure on firms that try to meet their obligations to their workers and their country.

[Also:] disclosing executive compensation, leveraging the volume of government purchases, making the financing of education more equitable, finding ways to assure that businesses continue to take responsibility for the healthcare costs of their workers . . .

President Kennedy famously challenged Americans: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." In the years ahead, this question will be put with increasing force to American corporations.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Global Warming: The Audacity of Hope

The New York Times’ Steve Lohr has a lengthy piece about the gains from pricing the cost of carbon creation more accurately:

Global warming can be seen as a classic “market failure,” and many economists, environmental experts and policy makers agree that the single largest cause of that failure is that in most of the world, there is no price placed on spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. . .

“Setting a real price on carbon emissions is the single most important policy step to take,” said Robert N. Stavins, director of the environmental economics program at Harvard University. “Pricing is the way you get both the short-term gains through efficiency and the longer-term gains from investments in research and switching to cleaner fuels.”

. . . only with some sort of federal policy in place . . .will it become clear what carbon cleanup or fuel-switching moves [utilities] may have to make, and on what sort of timetable.

Combating global warming. . . will require over-the-horizon breakthroughs involving safe nuclear energy, hydrogen power and advanced carbon sequestration — or technologies that have not yet been imagined.

But even today, there are sizable opportunities, by insisting on more efficient energy use, that are not being seized, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. In a new report, the institute. . . estimated that the yearly growth in worldwide energy demand could be cut by more than half through 2020 — to an annual rate of 0.6 percent from a forecast 2.2 percent, using current technology alone.

Available steps that would yield a more productive, and efficient, use of energy include compact fluorescent lighting, improved insulation on new buildings, reduced standby power requirements and an accelerated push for appliance-efficiency standards.

[One way] of pricing carbon [is] to place a cap on total emissions and then let polluters trade permits to emit a ton of carbon dioxide. . .Then, companies able to go below their emission targets would be allowed to sell their unused “permits to pollute” to companies that could not. . .

China and India, energy specialists say, would certainly avoid joining any international effort on global warming without an emphatic move by the United States. “Every year we delay, we contribute to another year of delay in China, India and elsewhere,” said Jason S. Grumet, executive director of the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan group of energy experts.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hey, Look, Patton!

Tony Blankley, writing in the Washington Times:

Official Washington, the media and much of the public have fallen under the unconscionable thrall of defeatism. Which is to say that they cannot conceive of a set of policies -- for a nation of 300 million with an annual GDP of over $12 trillion and all the skills and technologies known to man -- to subdue the city of Baghdad and environs. Do you think Gen. Patton [bold added] or Abe Lincoln or Winston Churchill or Joseph Stalin would have thrown their hands up and said, "I give up, there's nothing we can do"?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Did Rahm Emanuel lie about his knowledge of Mark Foley? Yes.

Glenn Greenwood, on his blog, goes after Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rahm Emanuel for lying about his 2005 foreknowledge of the Mark Foley scandal:

[ABC's “This Week”’s George] Stephanopoulos explicitly asked Emanuel: "I just want to ask you plainly -- did you or your staff know anything about these emails or instant messages before they came out?"

Emanuel interrupted the question with an emphatic "no." Then, once Stephanopoulos was done with the question, this is what Emanuel replied: "George, never saw 'em . . . . " A moment later, Stephanopoulos said to Emanuel: "So you were not aware of them, had no involvement?" Emanuel replied: "No. Never saw them. No involvement. . . ." [Later,] Emanuel replied: "No. Never saw them. The first time I ever saw these things, right here was when Brian Ross broke the story."

When summarizing the reasons why he believed that the GOP House Leadership was guilty of poor judgment and a cover-up in the Foley scandal, this is what Emanuel said: ". . . In 2005, [Mark Foley]'s appointed to head the Missing and Abused Children Caucus for the Congress. When he wants to retire, they ask him to run for re-election in 2006, even knowing -- clearly -- that there is something amiss and wrong here.”

On Friday, the House Ethics Committee released its Report [which] found that "the Communications Director for both the House Democratic Caucus and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also had copies of the emails in the Fall of 2005" (p. 76). . . .It is now being reported by CNN that not only was the DCCC's Burton aware of the e-mails in 2005, but so, too, was Emanuel.

Did Rahm Emanuel explicitly and clearly lie during his October appearance on ABC?

Emanuel would likely say that he did not "lie," because each time he was asked whether he was "aware" of the e-mails -- which he plainly was -- he never denied being "aware" of them. Instead -- he would likely argue -- he changed the subject by denying that he ever "saw" the e-mails. . . But that argument, ultimately, is nonsense. If you listen to the video, there is little doubt that Emanuel was lying in every meaningful sense of that word. He not only denied having "seen" the e-mails, but also interrupted Stephanapolous's first question about whether he was "aware" of the e-mails with an emphatic "no," and at least on one other occasion, denied not only having seen the e-mails, but also having been aware of them. Those denials were just outright false (i.e., "lies").

[And when] Emanuel emphasized how inappropriate it was for Republican House Leadership to allow Foley, in 2005, to become the Chair of the Missing and Abused Children Caucus despite what Emanuel called the "warning signs" about Foley's behavior[, he] was aware of at least some of these same "warning signs" in 2005, and he said nothing about them at the time. He was guilty of doing exactly what he was piously and indignantly accusing the GOP House Leaders of doing -- namely, knowing about the Foley e-mails to pages and taking no action.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Do We Need to Win?

Bush asked [Archbishop Pietro] Sambi,
[papal nuncio to Washington,] whether he had any ideas for winning the war. According to Catholic sources, the papal nuncio responded that the Vatican did not fight but only prayed.

--Robert Novak, Columnist

Those who believe the West faces a growing struggle against Islamic extremism see Iraq as the battle’s crucial front. To the rest, other issues are more important, more immediate.

There seem three views on U.S. involvement in Iraq:

1. We never should have gone in; we should be out yesterday. Vietnam already taught us this! What’s left to learn? The soul of the Democratic Party is wrapped around such a view. To progressives, the U.S. has far better priorities. Elective wars overseas steal food out of the mouths of children and the elderly, and play to a military-industrial complex that in order to thrive, despoils the environment and kills people. Elective wars are so wrong that it is right to root for U.S. military defeat.

2. There are no permanent enemies, only permanent interests.
Considering what truly mattered to the U.S., the cost of Vietnam was out of proportion to any possible gain. Kissinger covered our retreat by re-ordering priorities away from Southeast Asia. If we could get along with China, why worry if Saigon went Communist? Kissinger’s realpolitik finds its current face in the Iraq Study Commission’s James Baker, who would have courting Iran and Syria be the 2007 version of Kissinger’s wooing of Mao and Brezhnev.

3. If we cave to extremism now, it will get worse later. This is how FDR and Churchill saw World War II, and how Reagan viewed the Cold War. It’s Bush’s view of Iraq today. Now fighting to win is much in disfavor. Yet some military historians argue that the U.S. Army under Gen. Abrams turned the Vietnam war around after Tet 1968, only to be undermined by politicians and media-shaped public opinion. And today, it’s not the U.S. military’s fault that Baghdad remains insecure. Two recent arguments for having the U.S. military take over Iraq come from the Hoover Institution’s Shelby Steele, and the American Enterprise Institute’s Reuel Marc Gerecht.

We once had generals who fought to win (George S. Patton, pictured). Now diplomats help us retreat with honor.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Who Gives. . .And Who Doesn't

ABC’s John Stossel has a report about who really gives to charity:

the idea that liberals give more is a myth. Of the top 25 states where people give an above-average percentage of their income, all but one (Maryland) were red -- conservative -- states in the last presidential election.

"When you look at the data," says Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks, "it turns out the conservatives give about 30 percent more. And incidentally, conservative-headed families make slightly less money."

Researching his book, Who Really Cares, Brooks found that the conservative/liberal difference goes beyond money:

"The people who give one thing tend to be the people who give everything in America. You find that people who believe it's the government's job to make incomes more equal, are far less likely to give their money away." Conservatives are even 18 percent more likely to donate blood.

. . . while the rich give more in total dollars, low-income people give almost 30 percent more as a share of their income. Says Brooks: "The most charitable people in America today are the working poor". . . Note that Brooks said the "working" poor. The nonworking poor -- people on welfare -- are very different, even though they have the same income. The nonworking poor don't give much at all.

What about the middle class? Well, while middle-income Americans are generous compared to people in other countries, when compared to both the rich and working poor in America, Brooks says, "They give less." . . .

Brooks says one thing stands out as the biggest predictor of whether someone will be charitable: "their religious participation." Religious people are more likely to give to charity, and when they give, they give more money -- four times as much.

[And,] says Brooks, "Religious Americans are more likely to give to every kind of cause and charity, including explicitly nonreligious charities. Religious people give more blood; religious people give more to homeless people on the street."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Iraq: November Better for Americans

Here’s our latest monthly, highly abbreviated version of the Iraq Index, published and updated twice a week by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution:

Americans Killed in Action, Iraq (monthly average)

2003: 32
2004: 59
2005: 56
2006: 55
November: 57

Americans Killed in Action, Vietnam (weekly average)
1965:* 30
1966: 97
1967: 177
1968: 263
* = First U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, 5.3.65
Vietnam table compiled by Galen Fox using Defense Department sources.

Note please—the Vietnam KIAs are weekly, not monthly, averages.

Crude Oil Production (m. bbls./day)

Prewar: 2.50
Goal: 2.50
actual: 2.04 (11/06)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 3,600 (11/06)

Since our last monthly Iraq report, American KIA's are down significantly, 40 below the year's October high. The 40-person drop in American KIA's to near the yearly 55-a-month average is information the mainstream media chooses not to report. Instead, the media now gives only daily figures of Iraqis and Americans killed. The U.S. KIA for November dropped because U.S. Baghdad-area combat activity declined, not because Iraq suddenly became more stable. But the media, having avoided the true explanation for October's high figures, can't now explain away the November drop. So now it just ignores the monthly death toll it was all over last month, when October's election-eve totals were so high.

At the same time combat deaths were down, oil production in November continued to fall, and is now significantly below pre-war levels. Electricity output also declined, but that drop is seasonal; power demands go down in the winter.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Moderation and Democrcy

Moderation in all things.

--Terence, Roman Comic Dramatist (185-159 BC)

I am intrigued by the fact that almost every person I am familiar with believes s/he is a relative moderate. No matter what the level of extremism, each finds someone who is more extreme. Which, I suppose, is theoretically so. It’s a simple, comforting thought. I’m here, the meat in the sandwich, and I’ve got at least one breaded cover on each side of me.

Anyway, it’s nice to know moderation gets lip-service at least. Moderation’s why democracy is such an important system of governance. Moderation is about not having a corner on the truth. Democracy lets ideas contend for influence. We can believe we are entirely right, and maybe we are. After all, look at those wrong people on each of our wings. But none of us are all right, all of the time.

So the Big Idea, the right idea, is democracy, the idea that lets all ideas contend for power. Told this year (links to related blog entries, below) that Isaiah Berlin (pictured)’s essay on “Two Concepts of Liberty” is one of the 20th Century’s most important, I’ve become a Berlin convert, Berlin escaped Nazism and Communism to proclaim mid-century at Oxford the profound importance of allowing individuals to pursue truth on their own, and the necessity of protecting them from the “truths” of others.

Please see these entries:

Freedom (July 4, 2006)

Socialism Lives (May 13, 2006)

Final Thoughts on "Two Liberties" (May 6, 2006)

"Positive Liberty" Plagues Both Parties (May 5, 2006)

Or is It "Positive Liberty"? (May 4, 2006)

Is It "Negative Liberty" We Value Most? (May 4, 2006)

"Two Concepts of Liberty" (May 1, 2006)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Can't Push Democracy Toothpaste Back In

Johns Hopkins Prof. Fouad Ajami, writing in U.S. News, makes the case for sticking by the Bush Doctrine:

In Iraq and in Lebanon, the furies of sectarianism are on the loose; and in that greater Middle East stretching from Pakistan to Morocco, the forces of freedom and reform appear chastened. Autocracy is fashionable once again, and that bet on freedom made in the aftermath of the American venture into Iraq now seems, to the skeptics, fatally compromised. For decades, we had lived with Arab autocracies, befriended them, taken their rule as the age-old dominion in lands unfit for freedom. Then came this Wilsonian moment proclaimed in the course of the war on Iraq.

To the "realists," it had been naive and foolhardy to hold out to the Arabs the promise of freedom. We had bet on the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, thrilled to these young people in Beirut's plazas reclaiming their country from Syrian tyranny. But that promise, too, has been battered, and in the shadows, the old policy of ceding Lebanon to the rule of Syria's informers and policemen now claims a measure of vindication. On the surface of things, it is the moment of the "realists," then: They speak with greater confidence. The world had lived down, as it were, to their expectations. And now they wish to return history to its old rhythm.

But in truth . . [w]e can't shy away from the very history we unleashed. We had demonstrated to the Arabs that the rulers are not deities; we had given birth to the principle of political accountability. In the same vein. . . the Shiite stepchildren of the Arab world have been given a new claim on the Arab political order of primacy and power. . .The Sunni Arab regimes have a dread of the emancipation of the Shiites. But . . . we ought to remember that the road to . . . the terrors of 9/11 had led through Sunni movements that originated in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Terror and ruin can come in Sunni and Shiite drapings alike.

. . . The American project in Iraq has been unimaginably difficult, its heartbreak a grim daily affair. But the impulse that gave rise to the war was shrewd and justified.

Siding with democracy is siding with the future.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Uncle Sadr

Woops, Iraq’s Uncle Ho does exist.

He is Muqtada al-Sadr, as one can see from flamingly anti-war CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer’s recent report:

Al-Sadr is the thirtysomething heir to a religious dynasty. His grandfather's picture is pasted all over the Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad that bears the family name: Sadr City. . .

Muqtada al-Sadr himself has only basic religious training. He is married, but childless, and keeps his private life away from the camera. But he flaunts his ferociously anti-American message, which boils down to "Get your troops out."

But it's not only that message that appeals to many of Iraq's Shiite majority, many of whom are poor and powerless. When bombs in Sadr City killed more than 200 people last Thursday, al-Sadr's organization raced to the rescue with first aid, crowd control, and the next day, compensation.

So there it is. Al-Sadr, protector of innocent women and children, and anti-American to boot, which remember, is the right thing to be if you are an anti-(American) war correspondent like Elizabeth Palmer, and anti-war like CBS’s Vietnam correspondents—Palmer’s heroes—were in the early 1970’s.

Monday, November 27, 2006

If Iraq is Vietnam, Where is Uncle Ho?


Etymology: Middle English appesen, from Anglo-French apeser, apaiser, from a- (from Latin ad-) + pais peace -- more at PEACE
1 : to bring to a state of peace or quiet : CALM
2 : to cause to subside : ALLAY
3 : PACIFY, CONCILIATE; especially : to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles

Before “appeasement” acquired its undesirable third meaning, it was a respectable word used by pacifists who wanted to prevent a second world war. In the end, pacifists were done in by Hitler, a human being so evil he made war necessary.

In the 1960’s, U.S. foreign policy leaders justified going into Vietnam by saying the U.S. needed to avoid “another Munich.” We saw giving into Communism’s rising influence over South Vietnam as analogous to the West’s conceding Czechoslovakia to Hitler in 1938, and forcing ourselves to go to war later at much greater cost.

The analogy was faulty. Vietnam was a civil war, not another domino in Communism’s drive for world domination. The Soviet Union, China, and Vietnam all had their separate interests; their leaders turned out to be nationalists more than Communists.

One could actually see Vietnamese nationalism in the person of its ruthless Comunist leader, Ho Chi-Minh. For decades, Ho fought to get the French out of Vietnam. He didn’t do so to have the Americans take their place.

One fact struck me in James Q. Wilson’s article about the media’s parallel efforts to get us out of Vietnam and Iraq. In the early 1970’s, Wilson found, “Of 164 references to North Vietnamese policy and behavior, 57 percent were supportive.”

Today, the hate-fueled speeches of Ahmadinejad, Bashar Assad, Hezbollah’s Nasrallah, and others the media wants America to “talk peace with” are remarkably similar to Hitler’s—they're about eliminating Zionists from the face of the earth. At least so far, the enemies of the U.S. seem too radioactive for the media to attempt to market as garden-variety nationalists.

And that makes “appeasement”, in its third meaning, the right word for Western talk of giving up territory in exchange for peace.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Pink Party Rules!

Ellen Goodman, your party, the Pink Party, has control. So be my guest,it's your time,it's your agenda:

Speaker-elect Pelosi has broken the "marble ceiling" and has the bruises to show for it. Yes, there will be more women in Congress than ever before, but so far the percentage has only gone up from 15.4 to 16.4485981. Hold the applause.

This was, however, the year women provided the Democratic margin of victory. If men had been the only voters in Missouri, Montana or Virginia, we'd have a Republican Senate. This is also the year in which women drove the agenda.

Pollster Celinda Lake, who coined the terms "soccer mom" and "security mom," hasn't found the right moniker yet for women in 2006. She tries out two of them — "change moms" and "had-enough women" — and then settles for an explanation, "Women solidified around change a year ago and didn't budge."

They were the first to think the war was going sour and first to believe the economy was going downhill. And, at the family heart of the matter, a majority of women unhappily concurred that their children were going to be worse off than they are. . .

So if women drove the agenda, what will make things "better"?

At the top of everyone's mind is Iraq. . .Beyond that, women voters . . . are looking for a broad, overlapping domestic agenda. . .The post-election survey done by Ms. Magazine and the Women Donor Network showed surprisingly that a majority of women listed rebuilding after Katrina as a top priority for the next Congress. Katrina was a turning point for women who saw the government's reaction as cold indifference. "Katrina" also became a stand-in for the issues of poverty and division.

. . .for many, the biggest concern still is health care. As Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, one of the new breed of young moms in Congress, says, "I don't want the next generation of moms hand-wringing over how to deal with the sniffles and waiting until it turns into pneumonia." It's past time to make health care available to all kids.

As for education, especially early education and child care? The desire to truly "leave no child behind" tops terrorism on the female list. And for women who share a family-table view of the world, economic security includes the increasingly elusive retirement security. . .

[More] good news from one of the post-election surveys[:] voters are three times more likely to see female politicians as trustworthy.

Friday, November 24, 2006

To gain peace, we have to fight, not run.

The hard work of building a new Middle East will be done by the Arabs, or it won't happen.

--David Ignatius
Washington Post

the anti-Bush wave . . . is a new force. Powerful technologies--the Web, TV and newspaper front pages--combine to amplify ancient human barbarities every day from the Sunni Triangle. . .Baghdad has become the blood-soaked, psychological equal of the Somme or Gettysburg. The sense grows daily among the American public that helping "them" is hopeless and "we" should pull back to our shores.

--Daniel Henninger
Wall Street Journal

As Daniel Henniger says, the U.S. is full of David Ignatius-types who say we have no business striving for democracy in the Middle East. Thomas Paine:

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

Why is militant Islam posing such a problem for today’s world? Among the several answers: 1) the humiliation Israel inflicted on Arabs in the wars of 1948, 1956, and 1967; 2) Israel’s efforts to frustrate creation of a viable Palestinian state; 3) the contrast between Israeli prosperity and high unemployment in the surrounding Arab countries; 4) the unrestrained assault of libertine Western culture, via television, movies, music, magazines, and the internet, on traditional Muslim values; 5) the vast and growing oil wealth of the Middle East, and the determination of the authorities who control that wealth to deflect hostility away from them and toward non-Muslims; 6) the asymmetrical ability of terrorists to wreak havoc on those who have much to lose, and who unlike terrorists are not willing to sacrifice their lives; 7) terrorism’s growing successes, beginning with Algeria in 1954-62, airline hijackings from 1968, the Munich Olympics in 1972, the virtual destruction of Lebanon in 1975-90, the Iranian revolution and occupation of U.S. Embassy Tehran in 1979, the successful effort to drive the U.S.S.R. from Afghanistan in 1979-89, assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981, Hezbollah’s creation and subsequent destruction of the Beirut U.S. marine barracks in 1983, PLO hijacking the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985, the rise of Hamas, its control in Gaza and use of suicide bombers starting in 1987, the rise of Al-Qaeda in 1993-2001, Al-Qaeda’s success in Iraq, especially with IEDs, from 2003, the radicalization of Iran and its pursuit of nuclear weapons under Ahmadinejad from 2005, Hezbollah’s renewed attacks on Israel in 2006.

The answer to all this would seem to be U.S. support of more democracy, not less, more free market successes, not less, with both generating peace, not killing, peace that benefits Muslims more than the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Media on Iraq: Losing is Winning

Former Harvard government professor James Q. Wilson has written a very long City Journal article about the media’s hostility to war and professional military. Here are highly selective excerpts:

When the Center for Media and Public Affairs made a nonpartisan evaluation of network news broadcasts, it found that during the active war against Saddam Hussein, 51 percent of the reports about the conflict were negative. Six months after the land battle ended, 77 percent were negative; in the 2004 general election, 89 percent were negative; by the spring of 2006, 94 percent were negative. This decline in media support was much faster than during Korea or Vietnam. . . People who oppose the entire War on Terror run much of the national press, and they go to great lengths to make waging it difficult. . .

[Of course, it began in Vietnam.] When Douglas Kinnard questioned more than 100 American generals who served in Vietnam, 92 percent said that newspaper coverage was often irresponsible or disruptive, and 96 percent said that television coverage on balance lacked context and was sensational or counterproductive.

An analysis of CBS’s Vietnam coverage in 1972 and 1973 supports their views. The Institute for American Strategy found that, of about 800 references to American policy and behavior, 81 percent were critical. Of 164 references to North Vietnamese policy and behavior, 57 percent were supportive. . .

Sociologist James D. Wright directly measured the impact of press coverage by comparing the support for the war among white people of various social classes who read newspapers and news magazines with the support found among those who did not look at these periodicals very much. By 1968, when most news magazines and newspapers had changed from supporting the war to opposing it, backing for the war collapsed among upper-middle-class readers of news stories, from about two-thirds who supported it in 1964 to about one-third who supported it in 1968. Strikingly, opinion did not shift much among working-class voters, no matter whether they read these press accounts or not. . .

But in the Vietnam era, an important restraint on sectarian partisanship still operated: the mass media catered to a mass audience and hence had an economic interest in appealing to as broad a public as possible. Today, however, we are in the midst of a fierce competition among media outlets, with newspapers trying, not very successfully, to survive against 24/7 TV and radio news coverage and the Internet. As a consequence of this struggle, radio, magazines, and newspapers are engaged in niche marketing, seeking to mobilize not a broad market but a specialized one, either liberal or conservative. . .

Focusing ever more sharply on the mostly bicoastal, mostly liberal elites, and with their more conservative audience lost to Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, mainstream outlets like the New York Times have become more nakedly partisan. And in the Iraq War, they have kept up a drumbeat of negativity that has had a big effect on elite and public opinion alike. Thanks to the power of these media organs, reduced but still enormous, many Americans are coming to see the Iraq War as Vietnam redux. . .

[A deep] suspicion, fueled in part by the Vietnam and Watergate controversies, means that the government, especially if it is a conservative one, is surrounded by journalists who doubt almost all it says. One obvious result is that since World War II there have been few reports of military heroes; indeed, there have been scarcely any reports of military victories. . .

The mainstream media’s adversarial stance, both here and abroad, means that whenever a foreign enemy challenges us, he will know that his objective will be to win the battle not on some faraway bit of land but among the people who determine what we read and watch. We won the Second World War in Europe and Japan, but we lost in Vietnam and are in danger of losing in Iraq and Lebanon in the newspapers, magazines, and television programs we enjoy.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Democrats Achieve Landscape-Changing Victory

Pew has done a major poll post-election that is the first good look at how much the Democrats’ victory has altered the political terrain. Here are some of the survey’s major points:

• Reactions to the Democratic victory are as positive as they were to the GOP's electoral sweep of Congress a dozen years ago. Six-in-ten Americans say they are happy that the Democratic Party won control of Congress; in December 1994, roughly the same percentage (57%) expressed a positive opinion of the GOP's takeover.

• Half of Americans approve of the Democrats' plans and policies for the future, which also is comparable to approval of the GOP's proposed agenda in 1994.

• By 51%-29%, more Americans want Democratic leaders—rather than President Bush—to take the lead in solving the nation's problems. Twelve years ago, the public was divided over whether GOP congressional leaders (43%), or President Clinton (39%), should take the lead in addressing national problems.

• Roughly six-in-ten (59%) say Democratic leaders will be successful in getting their programs passed into law; again, this is on par with the confidence that Americans voiced about GOP legislative prospects in December 1994.

• The public is dubious that the election will lead to increased bipartisanship on Capitol Hill—just 29% think that relations between Republicans and Democrats will get better in the year ahead.

• The broad opposition to President Bush among independents is reflected in their strong preference (53%-25%) that Democratic leaders, rather than the president, take the lead in solving the nation's problems.

• Sen. Barack Obama has emerged as the leading rival to Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party's nomination—39% of party voters back her, compared with 23% for Obama.

• Regarding Iraq, the public remains divided over whether the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible (48%) or keep troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized (46%).

• Roughly seven-in-ten voters (69%) say they got most of their campaign news from television, and more voters relied on cable news (30%) than either network news (24%) or local news (22%).

Friday, November 17, 2006


This from the AP’s Stephen Ohlemacher (11.14.06):

Decades after the civil rights movement, racial disparities in income, education and home ownership persist and, by some measurements, are growing.

White households had incomes that were two-thirds higher than blacks and 40 percent higher than Hispanics last year, according to. . .the Census Bureau. . .

“Race is so associated with class in the United States that it may not be direct discrimination, but it still matters indirectly,” said Dalton Conley, a sociology professor at New York University and author of Being Black, Living in the Red.

When will those white people stop discriminating against poor blacks and Hispanics? Hasn’t it been almost 400 years already? Enough is enough, I say.

Except for one inconvenient fact, dropped in the same story, but not explained or in any way related to discrimination, direct or indirect:

Asian household incomes were 19 percent higher than whites’ and almost double the income of black households.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fact I Didn’t Know

We [Democrats] are a civil bunch, owing to our contentious upbringings. With a smart well-spoken woman for Speaker instead of the lumbering mumbling galoot who covered for the Current Occupant. . .

--Garrison Keillor

Lake Wobegon, a place "where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average" is led by a man who is openly a Democrat. In fact, Garrison Keillor, whose work is based upon poking gentle fun at solid, Midwestern values, has even authored a book—timed for the 2004 effort to bring Bush down—titled Homegrown Democrat. Keillor begins his book by saying he can be excused for being a Democrat because he was born that way. Yet the thrice-married Keillor was also born a Christian Fundamentalist, which he, equally openly, no longer is.

Surprise but no surprise: Public Radio’s most famous entertainer and hayseed is a declared Democrat.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

MSM Returns to Power

[T]his is not the first time Democrats have tried to personalize their message around an unpopular Republican figure. Starting in 1996, the poster child was Newt Gingrich. . . And Democrats have tried this tack before against Mr. Bush, in the 2004 election. . .But what [Bush] had going for him in [2004] was Sen. John Kerry. . .In 2006, there was no way for Mr. Bush to turn the questions and doubts about him into a comparative question.

--Todd Lindberg, Washington Times

The mainstream media (MSM) can’t win an election on its own. But make a mistake, and the MSM will get you. Particularly if you are a Republican playing to a conservative base. Particularly if you took us into an elective war.

The modern “politics of personal destruction” seemed to begin in 1988, with Lee Atwater’s Willie Horton commercials against Michael Dukakis. But the MSM had by 1988 already brought down Johnson, Nixon, and, somewhat without thinking, Jimmy Carter as well. 9-11 briefly threw the MSM off-stride, but when Bush went into Iraq, the MSM started an uninterrupted effort to drive down Bush’s poll numbers, and drive him from office unless he left Iraq first.

Success in Iraq would have pushed the MSM off-stride again. And that was (and remains) Bush’s most urgent task—succeed in Iraq. Iraq success would have overcome the absence of WMD, the Plame Affair, the failure to kill Osama bin Laden, Abu Ghraib, delays in building an Iraqi government, stillborn privatization of social security, Katrina, increased Iraqi sectarian violence, and the rise of Iran extremism. Lack of success in Iraq enabled the MSM to pound into the public consciousness an image of Bush as an incompetent failure, an image that combined with Mark Foley’s, did cost Republicans control of Congress.

For the MSM, however, it’s not enough just to break Bush’s power. Measured against the media giants of a generation ago who drove two presidents from office and ended a war, the current crop cannot celebrate until America is out of Iraq.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Yin-Yang D.C.? You’re Kidding, Right?

Exit polls showed that, once again, self-identified moderates made up a near-majority of the electorate — 47 percent — and this group split 62 percent to 36 percent Democratic — a 9-point Democratic gain from 2002 and 8 points above 2004.

--Roll Call’s Mort Kondracke

: complementary division, male and female, two halves combine to make a whole. Many hope that Democrats in Congress and President Bush will create a female-male, yin-yang complementarity. Voters—the moderates who replaced partisan Republicans with new Democrats—are tired of bitter division and want cooperation and progress.

But yin-yang unity is not to be. Why?

The country is pretty evenly divided into two warring camps. The Republicans effectively nationalized congressional elections in 2002 and 2004, turning out Democrats for being wrong on the War on Terror. Now we have a third straight nationalized election, this time by the Democrats running in every section of the country against Bush and (the heretofore-unknown) Mark Foley. Nationalized elections and polarization are the result of efficient political operations that find and bring home their voters. These nationalized elections are here to stay, and will keep America divided.

2008 will shape the next two years in Washington. Democrats in Congress aren’t interested in passing the kind of legislation Bush might sign. They’re interested in electing a Democratic president in 2008, so they can truly take over. Every issue they push through Congress will be designed to divide Republicans from the national majority, so that Democratic control will replace divided government. Every Congressional investigation of Bush administration wrongdoing will reach for the same objective. Taking over Congress is just a first step to true power.

Only united government produces real change. The last burst of real Democratic creativity came in 1964-65, when in the aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination, Democrats had the full control they needed to pass tax reform, civil rights legislation, Medicare, and the National Education Act. Reagan had a burst of creativity in 1981-82, because a Republican Senate and Southern “Blue Dog” House Democrats provided the majority needed to cut taxes and the size of government. Then after Clinton beat back Newt Gingrich’s effort to shut down the Federal government in 1995, the two united to produce welfare reform and the balanced budgets that turbocharged our late 1990’s economy. Clinton needed Republicans to give him a record to run on for re-election. And Gingrich fully understood he was aiding Clinton’s re-election. Democratic leaders, unlike Gingrich, hope for their own president in 2008. Once everything is pink, Democrats will achieve their next burst of creativity.

A couple of other points about divided America:

• Rahm Emanuel, guru of the House Democratic take-over, is not only a Clinton insider, his Hollywood agent brother Ari gives Rahm a direct link to Beverly Hills. According to Wikipedia, “Bradley Whitford's character Josh Lyman on NBC television series The West Wing is. . . based on Emanuel. His younger brother Ari . . . inspired Jeremy Piven's character Ari Gold on the HBO series Entourage.” Hollywood, of course, represents the polar opposite to Evangelical America.

• Unified rule can blow up in your face. To hold Republicans together, Bush had to entertain the views of his extremes (House Republicans would only pass programs supported by a majority of their majority, which equals minority rule). Extremism ended up costing Republicans the election. The same thing happened in 1993-94, the last time Democrats controlled everything.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What Sort of Man Votes Pink?

I will not forget the wound to our country and those who inflicted it. I will not yield, I will not rest, I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people. The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.

President George W. Bush
September 20, 2001

Today, the party of Bush and Reagan stands for the courage to die overseas to keep America safe from terrorism at home. We wish other nations would join the fight. We know we can only support the Muslims who lead their own nations toward democracy and prosperity. But we cannot give up just because the going gets tough.

Or can we? What sort of man would leave Iraq when Sunni and Shiite terrorists still rule the streets? What sort of man votes pink?
Well, there are millions, including:

Card-carrying men of the liberal elite. Intelligent people are opposed to Iraq because they see the venture as politically-inspired; designed to perpetuate Republicans in power at the expense of the coalition of government, media, arts and entertainment, academe, and nonprofits that benefit from government money or mandates Republican rule threatens.

Coalition men. Union leaders, though the union movement is increasingly female as jobs shift to government and the service sector. Workers in the industrial sector hard-hit by free trade policies. Men who are part of minority groups that benefit from the Democratic coalition, including African-Americans.

Secular men.
Those opposed to the role religion still plays in America, a force centered in Hollywood, where the film industry long chafed under restrictions imposed by religious pressures. Hollywood relies on emotion as well as logic to make its points, and is the most effective counterweight to faith’s emotional element. (Pictured, Hollywood actor and director Warren Beatty with Diane Keaton in “Reds.”)

Why Republican?

Women and Democrats go together. As mentioned earlier, half of all U.S. women are single, and this group picked Kerry over Bush in 2004 by 25%. In 2006, one-third of the Democratic candidates in the most crucial U.S. Senate and House races are female (v. one-fifth of the Republican candidates). Democrats are the party of minorities, and for some (mathematically illogical) reason, we lump women with minorities.

The biggest reason many women are Republicans is religion. As Democrats are the party of women, Republicans are the party of faith. A woman who practices religion may not be a Republican, but the draw will be there. By the same token, a secular woman is overwhelmingly likely to be a Democrat.

Iraq: Worst Month in Years

Here’s our latest monthly, highly abbreviated version of the Iraq Index, published and updated twice a week by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution:

Americans Killed in Action, Iraq (monthly average)

2003: 32
2004: 59
2005: 56
2006: 55
October: 97

Americans Killed in Action, Vietnam (weekly average)
1965:* 30
1966: 97
1967: 177
1968: 263
* = First U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, 5.3.65
Vietnam table compiled by Galen Fox using Defense Department sources.

Note please—the Vietnam KIAs are weekly, not monthly, averages.

Crude Oil Production (m. bbls./day)

Prewar: 2.50
Goal: 2.50
actual: 2.30 (10/06)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 4,100 (10/06)

Since our last monthly Iraq report, American KIA's are up dramatically, to their highest level since November 2004. The death toll was so high in October that it raised the 2006 monthy average to 55, almost the same monthly average as 2005's 56. And oil production is down, electricity output flat. The statistics underline headline news that the U.S. is doing poorly; news that comes on the eve of a mid-term election focused on our involvement in Iraq.

Late September Iraqi poll results offer additional bad news. By 52% to 47%, Iraqis think events in their country are moving in the wrong direction; in June, a plurality of polled Iraqis said the country was headed the right way. Even worse, now a majority--62%--of Shia have joined the overwhelming majority of Sunnis who approve of attacks on U.S. forces. In January, only 42% of Shia welcomed attacks on Americans.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Party in Pink

[Democrats] would have America leave Iraq before the job is done. That's the kind of withdrawal that Osama bin Laden has been predicting. He and his followers believe that America doesn't have the stomach for this fight, and they are absolutely convinced they can break the will of the American people.

—Vice President Cheney

11.2.06 speech

It’s pretty clear TV networks chose red to represent Republican states because they wanted to avoid associating Democrats with “Reds.” Nobody will admit it, though (see here).

Democrats are the party of the left, and red was their color. Republicans began with the Civil War and Lincoln, so blue was their color. But to really nail the Democrats of today, recognize they are the pink party. And in fact, there is a women’s peace organization associated with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan that calls itself CodePink (website here).

Pink is the Democrats’ right color for these reasons:

1. Women dominate the Democratic Party—women and men sympathetic to feminism. The civil rights struggle was the great cause of the 1960s—equal rights for all. Almost seamlessly, the work that went into ending Black segregation shifted to realizing full equality for women, including “the right to choose.” Democrats led this effort and their party remains the home of activist women. The energy level of Democratic women remains so much higher—compare Hillary and Laura, or Pelosi and Libby Dole. And add the intelligent, hard-working teachers—one of every four Democratic convention delegates is a member of the National Education Association.

2. The Democrats’ agenda is a women’s agenda. All war is bad, a wasteful and costly diversion from real concerns. We go overseas only to help the desperately poor or to stop genocide. Otherwise, Americans should be supporting government and nonprofit programs helping our own—minorities, the elderly, children, the poor, the sick, and women. In the traditional family, the male was the bread earner and the female was stuck with whatever he brought home. Think of business as the traditional male. Think of government as the family’s female—once a tiny economic factor, now playing a major role balancing and compensating for business (male) failings.

3. Women drive the Democrats’ dream. To me, the Democrats’ agenda seems so tired, so old-fashioned. When business broke down during the Depression, government was there to lift us up. Now business, not government, represents the future. Unleashed, business is able to deliver jobs and prosperity to people of any status, including the most needy (if indirectly, through taxes on business growth). But to women, especially baby boomers, it is so obvious equality has yet to be achieved that there can be no question of abandoning government’s corrective role. Government must rebalance the scale. “Affirmative action” still makes sense.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Media Cares about Midterm Election; Swinging Hard for Democrats

“Media Mix” columnist Peter Johnson, writing in USA Today, reports on the biased coverage of the 2006 campaign, as seen in the three major TV networks:

An analysis by the Center for Media and Public Affairs of midterm election stories aired on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts Sept. 5-Oct. 22 found that 2006's coverage has been almost five times as heavy as in the [last] midterm elections: 167 stories, compared with 35 four years ago.

The study found that three out of four evaluations of Democratic candidates' chances of winning — such as sound bites — were positive, compared with one out of eight for Republicans. Coverage has been dominated by two major themes: the effects of the Foley scandal, and the impact the Bush presidency is having on the party's congressional candidates.

The Foley scandal produced 59 stories alone, compared with 33 on Iraq and 31 on terrorism/national security issues. "What's hurting Republican candidates is the media's focus on two non-candidates: Mark Foley and George W. Bush," says center director Robert Lichter.

Because of the focus on Foley, the re-election race of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., was featured in 42 stories. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was featured in 10 stories, even though he's not up for re-election this year. Sen. Hillary Clinton's possible 2008 presidential run was grist for nine stories.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Rock Sinking

[T]he overwhelming failure of the Administration’s Iraq gamble is now apparent to all. This war of choice has pointlessly drained American military strength, undermined what had originally appeared to be success in Afghanistan, handed the Iranian mullahs a strategic victory, immunized the North Korean regime from a forceful response to its nuclear defiance, and compromised American leadership of the democratic world.

— Hendrik Hertzberg
The New Yorker

Below, you will find all posts to date on Iraq. They paint a similar picture: tough going in Iraq, made tougher by the Mainstream Media (MSM)'s determination to make Iraq the issue that defeats Republicans in 2006, so that victorious Democrats will act quickly to get the U.S. out of Iraq. It is a mission that the MSM, which truly believes it's wrong to be in Iraq, has elevated to cult-like status (see Hertzberg's rant above).

The MSM achieved its current power position by toppling two presidents in the Vietnam era. The MSM feels that to maintain its post-Vietnam/Watergate credibility, it needs to get the U.S. out of Iraq. This is big stuff.

Robert Frank, a Cornell economist, has written in the book Luxury Fever that "Animals will fight viciously to protect territory that they hold, but they won't fight nearly as hard to extend their territory." Why? Gaining territory won't benefit them much, but losing territory is a threat to their existence.

With newspaper circulation down, with cable TV, talk radio, the internet, and YouTube encroaching on their sovereign territory, the MSM is fighting viciously to hold on to the credibility it has. Bush's Iraq war must be destroyed.

Iraq on Tenterhooks (3.5.06)

Bush and Iraq: For Better, for Worse (3.16.06)

WMD: Absence Fooled Saddam Too (3.23.06)

Iraq: Stability or Democracy? (4.3.06)

Rumsfeld Screwed Up. Long Live Rumsfeld. (4.15.06)

Kerry’s Secretary of State Rewrites History (4.16.06)

It’s Iraq, Stupid. (4.25.06)

Iraq: Good News is No News

Iraq: Almost There

Waiting on Haditha (6.1.06)

Slow “Progress” in Iraq

Iraq’s Excellent Day (6.8.06)

Iraq: Measurable Progress

Iraq Security Situation: Bad in Baghdad

Friedman’s “Plan B”: Exit from Iraq? (8.7.06)

Iraq: Another Tough Month

The Problem with Extremism

Stop the War

Iraq: Poll Says “No” to Partition (10.2.06)

Boots on the Ground (10.13.06)

Facts on the Ground

“Let’s You and Him Talk” (10.19.06)

Iraq.Vietnam.Iraq.Vietnam.Iraq.Vietnam.Iraq (10.27.06)

From Shawcross, Who Opposed U.S. Policy in Indochina, A Warning (10.29.06)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Reformation: Prelude to Democracy

This is Reformation Sunday (Martin Luther pictured). The Reformation’s call for people to read the Bible and develop their own personal relationship with God—discussed here earlier—began the democratic process five centuries ago. It is only in the last 100 years that democracy has finally come to fruition in our world.

From Shawcross, Who Opposed U.S. Policy in Indochina, a Warning

In 1979, British author William Shawcross wrote an important book called Sideshow that documented Kissinger’s complicity in the destruction of Cambodia. Now Shawcross, who supports Bush and Blair in Iraq, is deeply concerned that the media are preparing the Middle East for destruction. Excerpts:

The bias in much of the coverage of Iraq - in Britain, the US and Australia - helps only those violent extremists who are trying to destroy the country.

It dreadfully discourages all those millions of Iraqis who need our support to build a decent society.

President George W. Bush was not wrong when he said recently that the spike in terrorist attacks in Iraq is similar to the 1968 Tet communist offensive in Vietnam. Both aimed at domestic opinion.

Al-Qa'ida and the Shi'ite terrorists hope to inflict defeat on Republicans in US elections in November that will weaken American commitment to the future of Iraq and thus strengthen Islamism throughout the world. As [Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister said], we need to be "realistic, not defeatist".

The key to success is to strengthen and encourage the elected Iraqi Government led by Nouri al-Maliki. He has desperately serious problems. . .

Armchair pundits in the West like to blame the crisis in Iraq on mistakes made by Washington, particularly by Donald Rumsfeld. There certainly have been mistakes, but whether the present situation would have been markedly different without them can never be known.

Moreover, the mistakes were tactical, not moral: soldiers have not died plundering or colonising Iraq, they have died trying to help Iraqis make it better.

The blame for the present horrors lies above all with the monstrous al-Qa'ida, Baathist Sunni terrorists and the equally vile Shia militia, which are abetted by Iran. The vast majority of deaths in Iraq are being inflicted by Muslims on other Muslims, for reasons that have little to do with Western forces.

. . . a premature pullout would condemn Iraq and the region to unbelievable horror. And it would be a famous victory for our Islamist enemies, who declared war on the West long before we went into Iraq and liberated 23 million Muslims.

If we allow ourselves and the overwhelming majority of Iraqis to be defeated, that defeat will be the first of many in the region and the world. The Islamists will give no quarter.

Friday, October 27, 2006


I’m worrled the Mainstream Media’s determination to get us out of Iraq will snatch defeat from the jaws of hope. I’m not alone. Here’s excerpts from Caroline Glick, writing in the Jerusalem Post:

Today, the public debate in the US revolves around one question: When are we leaving Iraq? The conventional wisdom has become that US operations in Iraq are futile. Due in large part to politically driven press coverage, Americans have received the impression that the US cannot succeed in Iraq and that consequently, their leaders ought to be concentrating their efforts on building an exit strategy. Comparisons between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam War are legion.

Last Wednesday, President George W. Bush was asked whether it is possible to make a comparison between the recent sharp rise in violence in Iraq and the Tet offensive in Vietnam in January 1968. Bush responded by noting that then as now, "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election."

During the Tet offensive, the North Vietnamese attacked 40 South Vietnamese villages simultaneously with a massive force of 84,000 troops. The offensive failed utterly. 45,000 North Vietnamese soldiers were killed, no ground was taken. Yet, when then US president Lyndon Johnson declared victory, the American people didn't believe him.

Walter Cronkite, the all-powerful anchorman of the CBS Evening News had told them that the US had lost the offensive. Who was the president to argue with Cronkite? In March 1968 Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection.

So when the media wonder if one can compare the battles in Iraq today to the Tet offensive, what they really want to know is if they have successfully convinced the American public that its military has lost the war in Iraq. . .

The situation can be reversed. The media are no longer the power they were in Cronkite's day. Were the administration to challenge the networks, the networks would be forced to adjust their coverage to reality. . .

For Israel, the results of the American debate over the future of the war in Iraq are of critical importance. A US retreat will place Israel in grave danger. The eastern front. . . will make a comeback - replete with massive quantities of arms and tens of thousands of trained jihadi soldiers who will believe that they just won their jihad against the US. . .

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Coming Great War

Niall Ferguson predicts World War III, writing as the historian he is, looking back from the future. Iran’s Ahmadinejad is the Hitler who started it all. Ferguson predicted this in January, well ahead of my comparison of Ahmadinejad to Hitler.

Excerpts from Ferguson’s analysis:

The first underlying cause of the war was the increase in the region's relative importance as a source of petroleum. On the one hand, the rest of the world's oil reserves were being rapidly exhausted. On the other, the breakneck growth of the Asian economies had caused a huge surge in global demand for energy. . .

A second precondition of war was demographic. . . [I]n Iran. . . the social conservatism of the 1979 Revolution - which had lowered the age of marriage and prohibited contraception - combined with the high mortality of the Iran-Iraq War and the subsequent baby boom to produce, by the first decade of the new century, a quite extraordinary surplus of young men. More than two fifths of the population of Iran in 1995 had been aged 14 or younger. This was the generation that was ready to fight in 2007. . .

The third and perhaps most important precondition for war was cultural. Since 1979, not just Iran but the greater part of the Muslim world had been swept by a wave of religious fervour. . . 'Islamism' was as potent as either of the extreme ideologies the West had produced in the previous century, communism and fascism. Islamism was anti-Western, anti-capitalist and anti-Semitic.

A seminal moment was the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's intemperate attack on Israel in December 2005, when he called the Holocaust a 'myth'. The state of Israel was a 'disgraceful blot', he had previously declared, to be wiped 'off the map'. . .Ahmadinejad, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, craved a more serious weapon than strapped-on explosives. His decision to accelerate Iran's nuclear weapons programme [gave it] the power to defy the United States; the power to obliterate America's closest regional ally.

. . .American opinion was strongly opposed to an attack on Iran. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 had been discredited by the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein had supposedly possessed and by the failure of the US-led coalition to quell a bloody insurgency. Americans did not want to increase their military commitments overseas; they wanted to reduce them. . .

So history repeated itself. As in the 1930s, an anti-Semitic demagogue broke his country's treaty obligations and armed for war. . .The devastating nuclear exchange of August 2007 represented not only the failure of diplomacy, it marked . . . the twilight of the West.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fundamentalists: Getting It Right

Reviewing the book The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back by Andrew Sullivan, NYTimes columnist David Brooks takes on the elitist perception of America’s evangelicals (covered earlier here):

[I]f I hadn’t been reviewing this book, I wouldn’t have finished it. I have a rule, which has never failed me, that when a writer uses quotations from Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and the Left Behind series to capture the religious and political currents in modern America, then I know I can put that piece of writing down because the author either doesn’t know what he is talking about or is arguing in bad faith.

As any number of historians, sociologists and pollsters can tell you, the evangelical Protestants who now exercise a major influence on the Republican Party are an infinitely diverse and contradictory group, and their relationship to these hyperpartisans is extremely ambivalent.

Conservative Christians are fully assimilated into commercial American life and, in a variety of different ways, critical of it. They get divorced as much as anybody else, if not more. They are as consumed by doubts and aware of their weaknesses as anybody else, if not more. They generally share — along with the pope — the belief that reason must be used to nurture faith.

And yet in his description of “fundamentalists,” Sullivan captures none of this complexity. His book would have benefited from more reporting — or any. He snips out egregious quotations of various conservative activists from The Nation, or from books critical of the religious right, and he leaves the impression that these quotes represent reality. He assumes that whatever is most offensive to the secular ear is most authentic to religious conservatism.

If he had spent more time with the people he describes as fundamentalists, he would have found that this category has no meaning. Many people disagree with him (and me) about gay marriage. Many people do believe that truth is revealed, and that one must work one’s way toward it. And yet to divide the world between fundamentalists and autonomous free thinkers is to create a dichotomy that distorts more than it reveals.

. . . the United States was. . . founded . . . by the assertion of a universal truth — that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain rights. The United States is a creedal nation, and almost every significant movement in American history has been led by people calling upon us to live up to our creed. In many cases, the people making those calls were religious leaders. From Jonathan Edwards to the abolitionists to the civil rights leaders to the people fighting AIDS and genocide in Africa today, religiously motivated people have been active in public life. They have been, in their certainty and their willingness to apply divine truths, fundamentalists — if we want to use Sullivan’s categories. You take those people out of American politics and you don’t have a country left.

. . . if American conservatives give up their optimism and their universal creed, they will once again be a small sect at the fringes of political life.