September 16, 2008

Head Games

I think that Ann Althouse is missing the boat on her fisking of Obama's "Honor" ad. This ad has an audience of one, John McCain. McCain's famous for holding his honor in high regard. He moved mountains to erase the stain of being caught up in the Keating Five scandal. He's also famous for his temper. Being called dishonorable like this isn't going to directly move a lot of voters. It's too crude, too 'in-your-face' to move the undecideds. But if McCain loses his cool, if he goes into a sputtering rage in defense of his honor, now that would move independents.

Every other effect of this campaign is incidental. Obama's banking on being able to break McCain psychologically. If Obama's campaign can do it, McCain's not the same man who withstood the N. Vietnamese interrogators so well. But I don't think Obama can, no matter how low he goes.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:48 AM

August 30, 2008

The Rise of the West (Republican Westerners)

While some have noticed that there is no Southerner on either ticket, what's more interesting to me (and less remarked on generally) is that both Republicans are from the West. Reagan's style was at least partially derived from his region and we're likely to see, win or lose, a different Republican party emerging from this race.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:51 PM

March 16, 2008

Half a vote? Why not 3/5ths?

After reading about the Democrat's delegate dilemma, this proposal by Senator Ben Nelson (D) seemed to strike almost the right chord:

Meanwhile, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, a Clinton supporter, raised the possibility of seating his state’s delegates based on the January vote — which Mrs. Clinton won 50 percent to 33 percent — but awarding each Florida delegate only half a vote at the August convention. That would mean that Mrs. Clinton would narrow the delegate gap with Mr. Obama by a net of 19 delegates, rather than the 38 she would have gained under the January result. She trails Mr. Obama by more than 100 delegates, according to most counts.

But why 1/2 a vote? Why not give the Floridian's a little more, let's say 10% more. Giving them 3/5ths a vote would have the added benefit that the DNC could sell access to a unique pay-per-view event, the press conference where reporters ask Barack Obama whether he's ok with counting delegates on a 3/5ths basis. Proceeds could go to a worthwhile charity, say the United Negro College Fund? It would be a train wreck of epic proportions, one that any political junkie worth his salt couldn't look away from.

People are people and the Dems already count too many delegates as less worthy of full voting rights. Either you're in the club and have the vote or you're out. This fractional voting idea is nonsense and historically insensitive nonsense at that.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:07 PM

March 05, 2008

Democrat Delegate Math

RealClearPolitics provides the raw numbers on the delegates. After subtracting Florida and Michigan, there are 2642 Pledged Delegates in the pool. There are 795 Super Delegates as well for a total of 3437 seated delegates. You need 2025 to carry the nomination apparently (both RealClearPolitics and ABC News agree). This sets up a very strange situation where you need 58.9% of the seated delegates to get the nomination. At present time, with only 52 of Texas' 193 delegates assigned, there are only 752 delegates left to win and Obama has only 1280 Pledged delegates. If he gets all of them, he'll have 2032 delegates, 8 more than he needs to win the nomination. With Texas being called for Clinton, it's highly unlikely tonight that he'll get the nomination absent superdelegate votes and by morning it will be mathematically impossible as there will be only 611 Pledged Delegates left and Obama's not going to have 1414 Pledged Delegates come morning. He only has 1280 right now.

Absent the DNC lowering the 2025 figure or seating Michigan/Florida which puts 366 mostly Clinton delegates on the convention floor, the Democrat Party presidential nomination will be decided by the Super Delegates. The political junkies wet dreams will come to life this summer. The smoke filled rooms are back.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:56 AM

January 22, 2008


Well, I don't regret supporting Fred Thompson but I certainly hoped that he'd stick things out longer. The Republican party needed him and he folded. The country needed him too and his withdrawal leaves us with unappealing candidates all around.

It's going to be a very sad 4 years.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:34 PM

January 21, 2008

My Guy for President

Now that I've got a job, I just donated to Fred Thompson. You should too. Here's a Fred donation link to make it easy.

This was my first political donation. It felt good. It also inflicted serious budgetary pain, but Fred's worth it.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:40 PM

August 24, 2007

Vietnam Ghosts

The Democrats have been hauling out hoary cliches about this or that war being "another Vietnam" for years. Now Bush is ramming it right back down their throats and saying "welcome to the next 20 years in the political wilderness" as the GOP prepares to saw the McGovernite limb off as the Democrats have climbed too far out there to scamper back to mainstream credibility.

The Democrat "another Vietnam" move has always been about making the american people lose faith in the military to get the job done and lose heart and abandon the war and the war party, the GOP. This riposte telegraphs the upcoming GOP campaign for the american people to once again lose faith in the Democrats to lead on national security for another generation.

In short, this has very little to do with foreign affairs and everything to do with electoral politics. For a different view, you might try here, where Dr. Barnett takes a domestic politics free look at Bush's VFW speech. He's right, in a sense. Bush's speech doesn't serve the country well if what he's talking about is foreign policy. Fortunately Bush isn't.

Ultimately, I think will stick out Iraqification much as we stuck out Vietnamization and the new government will have a crucial advantage over the post-withdrawal S. Vietnam government. Their oil will provide them with enough funds to buy weapons sufficient for their defense no matter how craven and spiteful the US Congress becomes. That may be the Democrats' best hope to salvage their national security credentials going forward. Once we train the Iraqi military sufficiently, the Democrats won't be able to betray our friends to our enemies much as the net roots will want them to.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:17 AM

August 21, 2007

Assembly of Experts Watch

The July 30th death of Ayatollah Ali Meshkini is going to be an early indicator whether Rafsanjani's reputed strong majority in the 4th Assembly of Experts actually will vote together. Up for grabs is the Chairman's seat and a level of operational control of the chamber that will pick the next Supreme Leader of Iran. They'll be gathering sometime after August 23.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:35 AM

March 29, 2006

Senate Insanity?

Are Senators crazy? This is the thought that occurs after reading Tony Blankley's latest. The US electorate is piling on in one direction and the US Senate is piling on in the opposite direction.

This is a recipe for electoral suicide and US Senators are not notable for senseless acts of political suicide. So why are they doing it? The Senate and House have amply shown that presidential leadership on an issue does not bring an automatic assent. The Dubai Ports World explosion shows that.

So why do it? This is where Blankley is really falling down on the job. He doesn't even ask the question because to ask the question is to answer it. What bad outcome is viewed as likely to happen if Mexico and the rest of Latin America doesn't have its unemployment woes significantly addressed by liberal US immigration policies? What kind of turmoil is brewing south of the border if we don't have a guest worker program? What bad effects are going to happen in the USA if the inevitable political instability of another 5 million mexicans get shoved back over the border (almost certain to be unemployed) leads to regime change in Mexico? Are these countries really that unstable?

It seems that 3/4ths of the Senate thinks that they are and are willing to risk their careers to avoid that bad outcome. This is a rare bit of political courage, especially since few seem to be willing to point out how humiliating it is for Mexico that they can't create enough jobs to absorb their own population's workers. Pointing out that reality is also a recipe for instability.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:52 AM

March 20, 2006

The Death of UIA: Hurrah

The key threat to Iraq's cohesiveness has never been Kurdish separatism or Sunni insurgency. It has always been that the Shiites would maintain cohesiveness for too long and dominate the early government. When the Shia have a united front, they cannot be turned aside and that means that they don't have to engage in the give and take and decent treatment of minorities because they don't have the proper fear that tomorrow they will be in the minority. This dangerous period may soon be passing. We'll know for sure in a few days. If SCIRI bolts UIA it's dead, as dead as Poland's Solidarity is dead. Thank God for that. And this means that the new government is depending on Sunni votes, an entirely positive outcome which will hopefully accelerate the transition of Sunnis from out in the cold and shooting at the system to being players inside the system and fighting those who want to tear it down.

If UIA dies, Sadr has an important decision to make. Does he go in opposition or does he enter into a national unity government and get what power he can? Or does he go for the brass ring and go all the way outside with his military wing? The last would be an utterly foolish choice but his backers may not give him an option. It's always been a mystery to me how tightly Iran hold's Sadr's strings. Here's another opportunity to find out.

HT: The Fourth Rail

Posted by TMLutas at 07:50 PM

March 04, 2006

The Peril of Direct Election

The New Yorker recently ran a puff piece on a new proposal for the direct election of the President of the US. It astonishes me how such a piece ignores the greatest problem with the system, the increased influence that corrupt urban political jurisdictions will gain in the proposed system and the increased incentives for everybody to cheat.

Corrupt city administrations that engage in vote stealing often don't much matter for federal elections. they uniformly go one party legitimately so they don't change the party balance in the Congress. They are located in states that vote reliably for one party or the other and thus don't affect the Electoral College. Thus, they've been left to fester, a problem for the gubernatorial races and local administration but an electoral nullity. With direct election, this all changes.

Every stolen vote becomes a stolen vote that matters. Every election glitch that causes votes to be lost becomes a crisis for the system. And if even one state decides to monkeywrench the thing, the whole system might come crashing down.

It's a disaster in a 50 state federation.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:38 PM

February 16, 2006

Too Clever by Half

Charlie Cook says that Democrats might not want congressional majorities and thus modulate their efforts to try to get a gain but not enough to tip control of Congress. This may very well be right and Charlie Cook is famous as an electoral prognosticator for good reason.

The problem with the scenario is that electoral gains are not so easily calibrated. Both the Republican party and the people have a say as to how many seats the Democrats have come January. If the Democrats are so foolish as to not actually try their best, they may find that instead of a satisfactory gain that sets them up for 2008 majorities, President Bush's electoral reputation will get burnished again as he survives yet another mid-term without losing seats in Congress.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:15 AM

February 06, 2006

Lying Carter

President Carter is either a complete partisan hack or he's gone senile judging from this article. You can maintain that the NSA wiretap program is legal or illegal in my book. I think there's a fundamental grey area and President Bush went up to the edge of it to gain advantage for the intelligence services of the US and to the detriment of our enemies, foreign and domestic.

It's been admitted by all the principals in Congress that this administration has regularly briefed Congress regarding this NSA program and did it from the beginning right up to the point the operation was blown by the NY Times. It's likely that secret briefings are still ongoing. Democrats as well as Republicans were briefed in accordance with the procedures that the Congress has set up for highly classified programs. The ranking members and chairmen of the Intelligence committees as well as majority and minority leaders of each congressional house were briefed. That's the way they did it In Jimmy Carter's White House too.

Unfortunately, Carter's either forgotten or he just doesn't care much for the truth. He's throwing cheap, partisan gasoline on the fire to gain advantage for his side. That's despicable. The only excuse would be senility and at that point, shame on his handlers to let him shoot his mouth off like that.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:46 PM

January 26, 2006

Hamas in Power

Well, Hamas won and now everybody has to deal with it. President Bush in today's press conference took the bull by the horns:

Q Mr. President, is Mideast peacemaking dead with Hamas' big election victory? And do you rule out dealing with the Palestinians if Hamas is the majority party?

THE PRESIDENT: Peace is never dead, because people want peace. I believe -- and that's why I articulated a two-state solution early in my administration, so that -- as a vision for people to work toward, a solution that recognized that democracy yields peace. And the best hope for peace in the Middle East is two democracies living side-by-side.

So the Palestinians had an election yesterday, and the results of which remind me about the power of democracy. You see, when you give people the vote, you give people a chance to express themselves at the polls -- and if they're unhappy with the status quo, they'll let you know. That's the great thing about democracy, it provides a look into society.

And yesterday the turnout was significant, as I understand it. And there was a peaceful process as people went to the polls, and that's positive. But what was also positive is, is that it's a wake-up call to the leadership. Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo. The people are demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to be able to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent education and they can find health care.

And so the elections should open the eyes of the old guard there in the Palestinian territories. I like the competition of ideas. I like people who have to go out and say, vote for me, and here's what I'm going to do. There's something healthy about a system that does that. And so the elections yesterday were very interesting.

On the other hand, I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform. And I know you can't be a partner in peace if you have a -- if your party has got an armed wing. The elections just took place. We will watch very carefully about the formation of the government. But I will continue to remind people about what I just said, that if your platform is the destruction of Israel, it means you're not a partner in peace. And we're interested in peace.

I talked to Condi twice this morning. She called President Abbas. She also is going to have a conference call today about the Quartet -- with the Quartet, about how to keep the process on the road to peace.


Q If I can follow up, sir.


Q Are you cautioning Prime Minister Abbas not to resign? And --

THE PRESIDENT: We'd like him to stay in power. I mean, we'd like to stay in office. He is in power, we'd like him to stay in office. Sorry to interrupt. I knew this was a two-part question, so I tried to head it off.

Q Will this affect aid to the Palestinians? Will you be able to work with Hamas if they're -- assuming they take on a large share of the government?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I made it very clear that the United States does not support political parties that want to destroy our ally, Israel, and that people must renounce that part of their platform. But the government hasn't formed yet. They're beginning to talk about how to form the government. And your question on Abbas was a good one. And our message to him was, we would hope he would stay in office and work to move the process forward.

Again, I remind people, the elections -- democracy is -- can open up the world's eyes to reality by listening to people. And the elections -- the election process is healthy for society, in my judgment. In other words, it's -- one way to figure out how to address the needs of the people is to let them express themselves at the ballot box. And that's exactly what happened yesterday. And you'll hear a lot of people saying, well, aren't we surprised at the outcome, or this, that, or the other.

If there is corruption, I'm not surprised that people say, let's get rid of corruption. If government hadn't been responsive, I'm not the least bit surprised that people said, I want government to be responsive.

And so that was an interesting day yesterday in the -- as we're watching liberty begin to spread across the Middle East.

President Bush, short version, unless you want an aid cutoff, Hamas, merge your militia into the PA armed forces and change your charter so it doesn't mandate war.

The EU, not being unitary, is less organized but it seems to be lining up on a parallel course. If Hamas wishes to be able to pay government salaries or even continue its own charitable work, it needs Western aid. That aid will not be forthcoming without a renunciation of violence and a merger of the PA armed forces with the Hamas militia under the PA banner.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:51 PM

November 03, 2005

What Would the Descent of the West Look Like?

I'm reading Dalrymple's latest and was shocked at this section:

I noticed one day that his mood had greatly improved; he was communicative and almost jovial, which he had never been before. I asked him what had changed in his life for the better. He had made his decision, he said. Everything was resolved. He was not going to kill himself in an isolated way, as he had previously intended. Suicide was a mortal sin, according to the tenets of the Islamic faith. No, when he got out of prison he would not kill himself; he would make himself a martyr, and be rewarded eternally, by making himself into a bomb and taking as many enemies with him as he could.

Enemies, I asked; what enemies? How could he know that the people he killed at random would be enemies? They were enemies, he said, because they lived happily in our rotten and unjust society. Therefore, by definition, they were enemies—enemies in the objective sense, as Stalin might have put it—and hence were legitimate targets.

I asked him whether he thought that, in order to deter him from his course of action, it would be right for the state to threaten to kill his mother and his brothers and sisters—and to carry out this threat if he carried out his, in order to deter others like him.

The idea appalled him, not because it was yet another example of the wickedness of a Western democratic state, but because he could not conceive of such a state acting in this unprincipled way. In other words, he assumed a high degree of moral restraint on the part of the very organism that he wanted to attack and destroy.

Dalrymple has put his finger on a crucial weakness of the Islamist cause. The entire enterprise counts on a continuing moral restraint on the part of the West. It was a great shock to Al Queda that the US has launched the GWOT and not just lobbed a few missiles in "precision strikes" as in the past. But the tendency obviously remains to assume a great deal of moral restraint on our side (Dar al Harb).

Of course, as a practical matter, we have the technical capability to end things rather quickly. Even the emaciated militaries of W. Europe are quite capable of massive destructive acts far beyond anything that Islamists are capable of generating. The destruction of the entire world, for that matter, would be a targeting exercise doable over a long lunch in the US, and possibly Russia. If the target list were restrained to muslim nations, the UK, France, and the PRC would find themselves in that list.

Yet the Islamists universally ignore the danger that even a fraction of these technical capabilities will ever be used. They cannot imagine that the nice restrained kaffirs can ever revert back to the internecine warriors who for centuries would regularly make the streets run with blood and were the most accomplished and cruel butchers on the planet. They pretend that they can. In fact, they try to provoke overreaction in order to galvinize more muslims to their extremist variants of Islam. I sincerely believe that they do not understand the explosives that they are playing with.

I remember being in Bucharest, watching the images of 9/11 unfold, nightmarishly on the TV. A relative asked me what the US will do. I reacted instinctively, but truly. "The US will wake up, and the world isn't going to like it." I stand by those words to this day. The US has woken up, and the world hasn't liked it.

I have no such instinctive knowledge of France. I know enough to see the players. Given the right combination of factors, we could see an awakened France. The world would like it even less. An awakened France would not have the internal checks and balances that the US system has that have restrained our reaction more than most outsiders understand.

The next President will be elected in 2007. Chirac is out and Villepin is going to fight with Sarkozy for leadership of the Gaullists. If Villepin wins the internal struggle, France will have soggy (Gaullist) and soggier (Socialist) toast as its major party electoral choices.

This leaves Le Pen as the only alternative for those who believe that there should be no mini-3rd world autocracies in France. It would be better for Sarkozy to win and provide a major party option for law and order. The worst result would be for Villepin to not only win but purge Sarkozy and his faction, driving them into an alliance with Le Pen's National Front.

If the National Front makes the Presidential 2nd round again, its an earthquake that rolls across the entire EU. In the worst case, a Sarkozy fortified NF would have a good shot at winning.

I'm spinning the stuff of nightmares here. It's much more likely that the NF will continue its slow rise, or even fall if Sarkozy provides a more respectable outlet for the law and order impulse. I do wish I knew more about the internal politics of France. The French may soon start to matter in a way they haven't in decades.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:54 PM

August 29, 2005

The Nature of Iraq

it seems that a federalist Constitution has passed out of the Iraqi parliament on the exact day that the leading cleric in Iraq came out against federalism. This provides a great opportunity for observers of Iraq to see the influence of Sistani, of religion in general among the Shia, of the impulse to national solidarity versus sectarian centrifugal forces.

If this constitution fails because the Sunnis vote in large numbers against the constitution and the Shia split with secularists voting for it and religiously influenced Shia joining the Sunnis to tank the thing, the neat scenarios of Iraq will all come undone on every side. This is as it should be if Iraq is going to ever survive over the long haul. Coalitions must shift, no one man will ever be guaranteed to be in a persistent majority. So when you find yourself in a majority, you will be conciliatory and moderate, knowing tomorrow it will be you in the minority position. This is a recipe for a mess. It's also a recipe for a civilized, democratic, Iraqi republic.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:23 PM

August 26, 2005

Saudi Political Reform Timeline

It appears that Crown Prince (and now king) Abdullah set out a roadmap for Saudi democracy earlier this year in conversation with State Department Secretary Rice. This is not new news (the statement was June 20), but it is severely undercovered news. I do wonder what the Religious Policeman thinks of it all or even if he's heard.

In any case, 20 years is a reasonable time line for progressive reform acts to spread the number of posts subject to election and to create a cadre of politicians capable of running the country. It's likely that Abdullah won't make it another 15 years so the big question is whether his successor will sign on to the plan.

HT: Thomas PM Barnett

Posted by TMLutas at 01:38 PM

May 29, 2005

Early Chuckles

Just told my wife about the French "non!" and she immediately put herself in the French elite's shoes.

Oh no! What will we do? Our nation is not as mentally retarded as we thought. We didn't brainwash them enough.


It's possibly the most honest commentary I'll read about the referendum all week.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:40 PM

France's EU Vote

With the French voting no on the EU constitution, there's a great deal of speculation going on about what it means. Let me be one of the early ones to ask, how did French muslims vote, yes or no (and why)? I don't expect to have a quick answer.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:16 PM

April 23, 2005

Doing Important Business

Ken Salazar believes that we shouldn't delay important business in the Senate by talking about judges that are controversial and will be filibustered. I think it's disingenuous but there's a legitimate point buried in there somewhere. The Senate is not normally a 24/7 shop. Simply add an hour on to Senate operating hours for every hour the Senate debates judges. That way the Senate will not overly delay other business by considering judges. If there were a shred of legitimate concern in this complaint, this measure would relieve it. I don't think, in the real world, that anybody on the left would be particularly happy if this compromise were offered.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:22 PM

April 07, 2005

Republican Schiavo Idiocy

Well, it looks like the Democrats didn't plant the Schiavo "talking points" memo. As soon as the fellow confessed, he resigned. Good riddance. It's sad that Mel Martinez couldn't get competent staff straight out the gate but hopefully he'll pick himself up, dust off, and do better with Brian Darling's replacement in future. I would be very surprised to hear the name Brian Darling associated with Republican politics in the future.

Captain's Quarters is an excellent blog (and where I found the Schiavo memo story) and I recommend that anybody but Canadians look around for its excellent commentary on a wide variety of issues. Canadians should consult the Gomery Commission and their legal counsel before proceeding to view such jury pool tainting stuff.

[self-censorship note: I originally had a link to CQ's front page around the word "proceeding" but deleted it because it might be too provocative.]

Posted by TMLutas at 09:29 AM

April 06, 2005

Democracy Fantasists

I'm going through the Democracy Corps March 2005 polling where this ugly piece reared its head and bit me

But even before that, in our March survey, we showed Bush and the Republicans quite vulnerable to a serious challenge. As a start, the Clinton family defeats the Bush family on who should lead the country in the years ahead. In a race between Senator Hillary Clinton and Florida Governor Jeb Bush for president, the Democrat wins by 3 points, 50 to 47 percent. She runs particularly well with young voters, women, including white women, college and unmarried women, and even holds a narrow advantage in the rural areas. She beats Bush by 7 points among independents and takes 11 percent of Republicans (greater than Bush’s vote with Democrats).

The second sentence is simply nonsense to me. "[T]he Clinton family defeats the Bush family on who should lead the country in the years ahead" is just so abominably wrongheaded and anti-republican that it's breathtaking. It's the politics of clans, of aristocracy that is behind that phrase and that leading Democrat pollster/consultants said it says something truly sad about the current state of the Democrat party. Democrat, Republican, or other we all should be concerned about the fate of the republic because there is a natural anti-republican tendency that goes along with being number one for so long. We have to stay sharp and strangle any impulse to aristocracy, to elitism, to the birth of an empire or we will, at long last, finally have lost what the founding fathers have given us. In Benjamin Franklin's famous turn of phrase, we have "a republic, if you can keep it". We need to keep it and keep it strong.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:29 PM

March 24, 2005

Do Victims Have an Obligation to Protest

A Power Line item on Terri Schiavo talking points has this update:

UPDATE: Jon Miners writes: "The reason the authenticity of the Schiavo memo is not in dispute, is because those in a position to know haven't disputed it."

This brings back memories of the Rathergate controversy. Back then, this same line was trotted out by Democrat partisans but soon collapsed under the weight of obvious forgery evidence in the controversial texts. Could we be seeing round two of exactly the same tactic on the part of savvy Republicans?

The question that nobody seems to be asking is whether not protesting a fraudulent document is a legitimate tactic in the political arena. On the pro side, there's generally no obligation to speak up to denounce crime anywhere. It also breaks up the he said/she said dynamic in media coverage by not providing any "she said" rebuttal. The mainstream media are then either forced to do their own work to verify or run stories that are fundamentally unbalanced and risk their careers if they end up backing fraudulent documents. In the end, the risk to career will force independent verification to come back in style.

On the other side, not issuing a denial means you have to do an awful lot more work and some people will believe the lie far longer than otherwise. Increasing the number of deluded, conspiracy theory believing people is not generally healthy in any democratic republic.

So which rationale is more convincing? I'm tending toward the innovators in this instance, at least for now. The down side of having a hard core of true believers who buy into all those documentary lies will hopefully not express itself violently. I'm willing to entertain emails to the contrary.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:10 AM

March 23, 2005

Draft Fallacies

Phil Carter is still on his we're going to have a draft kick. It's idiocy because it commits one of the cardinal sins in predicting the future, assuming that things will continue to move in a straight line. This is the "if we continue to do [x] at the current pace" fallacy.

We're a democratic republic. Our system is all about putting feedback loops in place that stop us from doing unnecessary harm to ourselves by making the pain of doing so a real impetus for party change and policy shift in the halls of government. I've yet to see any analysis that shows that this feedback process is broken. In other words we won't have a draft because we'll cut back on doing things with our military and take a breather before we have to impose a draft.

If that means that the Iraqis have to live with an insurgency for another two years over optimal, that's going to have to be the price paid to retain our own system's capacity to do another Iraq if necessary. In other words, we won't ruin a very good military manpower system in order to hurry a process that, while necessary for our own security, does not have a set "drop dead" date. Like every other time in our nation's history, the real world will see the voters and the political class continually making shifts in order to avoid doomsday scenarios. We've only really failed to do it once, over slavery, and I hardly think we're going to go to those extremes over the issue of shrinking the Gap.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:52 AM

March 22, 2005

Republican Trustfunder Failure

Michael Barone provides an outline of Republican cultural failure in an examination of the trustfunder left. He doesn't quite put it that way, but it is a damning indictment. Republicanism, as an ideology, is pro success, pro-wealth, pro-opportunity to achieve. But once you've achieved, once you've made it, there seems to be little effective work done to stop the guilt machine of the left to work on the rich and their progeny to convince them to turn on the very ethic and morals that propelled them to the heights that they have achieved.

Essentially, modern conservatism and libertarianism are both feeding into the maw of trust funder leftism that dominates that demographic today. This dooms the GOP and the right in general in the US to eventual doom unless they figure out how to fix the institutions that lead to this "rich man's leftism". I suspect that eventually the code will be broken but until it's drawn starkly as an electoral time bomb, the party won't wake up to its peril.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:00 AM

March 04, 2005

No Clinton Scandals!

Prof. Bainbridge goes the wrong way in this post regarding a Hillary 2008 run. Hillary will be elected or defeated on the fundamental basis of her vision for America and how it should go forward from 2009-2013 when her term would end mid-January. What here husband did in the 12th hour of his time in the White House will be of little interest to anybody but those who are already voting against her. Investigations are simply not in the cards and not good for her Republican opponent, or even her Democrat primary opponents.

Hillary Clinton is likely to be scary enough that she will be defeated but only if the Republicans campaign against her, the candidate, and her ideas and policy prescriptions, not on her husband's political dirty deeds. Republicans already went through a round of going down that self-defeating electoral cul-de-sac. They don't need to revisit defeat again.

Hillary Care is a legitimate topic of discussion because she did it. She ran that task force. It would be appropriate to ask her whether she'd do it all over again the same way and, if not, what she's learned in the meantime. Asking her how she would handle transparency, honesty, and openness issues differently than 1992-2001 when her husband was President is also fair game if personally uncomfortable for her just as the same issue was raised for President GWB with regards to his father's policies.

Please, Republicans, spare us politically minded investigations. They should have been done in 2001-2003 if they were to be done at all.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:04 PM

February 09, 2005

Iraq Election Results Delayed 1 Day

Iraq's election results will likely come out one day late as protests and recounts force further checks to ensure the integrity of the vote. Considering our own election problems, a day behind schedule isn't too shabby. There doesn't seem to be too much shouting going on about the delay but it's useful to note it. I do wish we had a better scorecard so we even knew the parties who were sure to be seated and the parties on the edge who were fighting for representation.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:28 AM

January 25, 2005

Social Security Reform Crisis Date

David Adesnik gets the date wrong when Social Security is going to go into crisis. He views it as a matter of accounting. It is not. Social Security will be changed, at the latest, when a majority of the electorate knows that during their retirement years, their lifestyle will take a drop during the 2042 cuts.

The argument runs something like this:

When you're old, tired, have worked a lifetime, and really can't work anymore, the current social security program is going to take a dump on your financial balance sheet and you're going to end up having to ask "you want fries with that", "welcome to Wal Mart", or some other such low paid job that your tired, worn out body will still be barely capable of doing and will fill the hole in your financial resources. When it happens is up to the growth level of the US economy over the next few decades but our best guess is that you, personally, will get nailed sometime during your "golden years" with the bill for not reforming now.

That's an argument that will change enough votes that the political crisis for Social Security will hit long before the economic crisis arrives for the program. And, in the end, it's the first of those two crises that matters. Thus, the economic analysis is a bit beside the point. The political coalition to change Social Security grows with every year. Whether it's hit majority status yet is likely to be settled in the 2006 elections as Bush is likely to reward failure on the reform front with a strong effort to remake Congress on fidelity to reform grounds.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:25 PM

January 23, 2005

Iraq Election Countdown

It looks like there are 5 provinces on the "not so good" list in Iraq right now.

Sever: Salah al Din, Al Anbar
Worrisome: Baghdad, Diyala, Ninewa (where Mosul is)

Since Baghdad is one of them, I'm pretty sure that the worrisome list is where they'll pour in lots of extra troops and make sure the election is still run, leaving the two hardest cases with low turnouts.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:52 AM

January 18, 2005

Foolish Hardball

Ryan Lizza is learning all the wrong lessons from the Democrat defeat on health care reform in the Clinton administration:

Defeat breeds defeat. In Clinton's case, time brought not only a more organized opposition but also a crush of events--a bruising budget battle, political scandals, international crises--that sapped his political capital and distracted him from focusing on health care. The lesson for Democrats is obvious: The harder it is for Bush to pass other parts of his agenda, the harder it will be for him to pass his Social Security plan. Conversely, easy Bush victories on his budget, energy bill, tort reform, and judicial nominees will strengthen his hand on Social Security. At one point in 1994, Clinton believed a swift victory on what seemed like an easy-to-pass crime bill could serve as a springboard to revive health care. But, rather than hold their fire for the health bill, Newt Gingrich and his troops launched an all-out attack on the crime bill that caught the White House completely off guard. Similarly, today some Democrats believe that a fight over a highly polarizing Supreme Court nominee could be the magic bullet that saps the energy from Social Security. 

The Republican party has spent years setting up the impression that Democrats are obstructionists, fighting unfairly to block judges for partisan reasons and keeping good people off the bench. Picking a fight against a SC nominee in order to set themselves up for Social Security reform is tailor made to feed right into that longstanding Republican narrative.

The idea a little further on that the Democrats are about to emerge as reformers real soon now makes an appearance:

Many Democrats today argue that their route back to power depends on transforming themselves into a party of reform. Some of these Democrats are scared that mere opposition--and denying Bush's claim that Social Security faces a "crisis"--hampers their efforts. But Republicans faced the same challenge in the early '90s and found that the two goals were not mutually exclusive. They didn't just kill health care reform, they used its corpse as a platform to redefine themselves as a reform movement that swept away the Democratic majority. 

The reforms that Republicans pushed in the Contract with America were well integrated in a united Republican party, were consistent with, or at least acceptable to, all major sub-party interests, and had been well chewed for many years at Heritage, Cato, and all their smaller brethren in the think tank community. There is no such well formed reform agenda available to Democrats right now.

Maybe a decade from now such an agenda will exist and the Democrats will come storming back. I doubt it will come so soon. The Democrats have yet to really face the reality that they're no longer the majority party and the Republicans have yet to grow in arrogance enough to need to be booted out.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:26 PM

IL Worries

The Chicago Tribune analysis of GOP implosion really lays out some of the major reasons why I've been nervous about returning to Illinois. With the GOP losing credibility on both wings, Democrat corruption on the march in Chicago, it's tough to see how the state is going anywhere but down over the long haul.


HT: watersblogged

Posted by TMLutas at 08:46 AM

January 14, 2005

Parallel Universes

Robert Kuttner must be living in some alternate dimension. In his world

There's a standard story about partisan gridlock: The American electorate is mostly middle of the road. The voters want the parties to work together and solve national problems. Both parties have become captured by extremists.

As columnist David Broder has written, "Washington has become such a partisan cockpit, with constant sniping between the parties on Capitol Hill and gridlock in the House and Senate."

The voters have to be sick of partisan wrangling and worried about unsolved national ills. But everything else about this fable is wrong.

For starters, one party has indeed been captured by extremists, but the other one has moved steadily toward the center.

In this world, we have a Democrat party that has abandoned it's tentative thoughts on Social Security reform to go full blown obstructionist (even the DLC is going to denounce them). History seems to be in scarce supply in Kuttner's parallel universe. Bill Clinton's Social Security commission proposals to privatize never happened over there and only Bush's "commission stacked with members committed to one outcome -- privatization" ever existed.

Radically reconstructing civil marriage through the courts instead of the legislature in this world turns into a kumbayah desire for tolerance "[o]nly on issues of tolerance -- gay rights, women's rights, rights of the disabled, affirmative action -- have Democrats continued to push democracy outward, and they have paid dearly." Perhaps they've paid dearly because a working majority of american voters understand that tolerance isn't what is being pushed here.

The parallel universe comparisons go on and on. Democrats won't ever gain power again without coming out of their alternate universes and gaining a better appreciation of the real one that we all live in. In the old days, you used to be able to get away with this sort of trickery because ordinary people had limited access to alternative story lines and news facts. That world is gone forever and good riddance.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:45 PM

January 10, 2005

Palestine Election Thoughts

If Abbas had been elected in the US, we'd already know how long his term was, and speculation would already be starting on who would be opposing him for reelection. Maybe it's just my tired brain but I can't even figure out how long his mandate is for. Anybody can have an election once. They can even have a new one at the death of the previous strongman but that's not democracy.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:35 PM

January 08, 2005

Letter to the Paper XXXVIII

Jonathan Gewirtz graciously posts about one of my previous items something entitled Libertarian Clueless III wherein I take to task the go for broke all or nothing libertarians who seem so dominant in the LP today. While reading through the site further thoughts came to me on fixing the LP:

I do not agree that the LP is inevitably dead. With so few dues paying LP members, a committed band of reasonable libertarians can take over just about any party organ and run candidates who have a chance of winning. I think that a reasonable set of principles for candidates would sound something like this:

1. I believe that Thomas Jefferson was right when he said that that government which governs least, governs best
2. I believe that we can do better at following his advice than our current crop of politicians are doing
3. I believe that improving our government by governing less will better meet the needs of all the people
4. I believe that forcing changes without first showing the happy ending of better government is short sighted and impractical. Small government is a habit which serves the people well and I pledge to work tirelessly to not only reduce government but create the societal consensus to make those changes stick.
5. I believe in humane transitions from the old to the new so that people are never sacrificed for principle.

There is nothing in this statement of candidate principles that should be objectionable to a sane LP. Such a statement would be objected to because it would leave in place certain forms of coercion for a time until public opinion understood the solution and the coercive law or regulation would be removed. A second objection would be leveled at the extra coercively extracted expenses on transition costs. Both objections are in error and desire Bismarck's tasty sausage without the disturbing sausage making.

The problem for libertarians who want to actually affect policy is that the LP is the crazy uncle who you just can't get rid of. Every time you start to make headway you either have to hide your libertarianism or you have to deal with the fact that the LP has poisoned the well and turned off many of your potential partners. The LP must be fixed because the all or nothing libertarians won't ever let it die.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:12 PM

January 07, 2005

King County First

I think that the Washington election for governor provides an interesting opportunity for Republicans in 2006. With the mid-count judicially imposed rule change only affecting counties that had not certified their elections to that point, Democrats got a great bonus as the only county that had not certified by that point was King County, a Democrat stronghold. If a future statewide race shows a similar close result, it would be a great symbol for all the Republican county election officials to refuse to certify their own counties until the lawsuit had settled the rules. This would have the dual effect of dramatically publicizing Democrat attempts at voter disenfranchisement and actually eliminating the intended effect, that Republican counties vote under one set of rules while Democrat strongholds vote under a different set.

You read it here first.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:21 PM

December 13, 2004

Romanian Politics II

The Liberals won the Romanian presidency

The preliminary official numbers are as follows:
Traian Basescu 51,75%
Adrian Nastase 48,25%

Prime Minister Nastase has conceded.

This means that the head of state is now Liberal while who will form the government and select a prime minister is still unclear with the Social Democrats having the right to try first. To make the math work, they need to get to 167 seats.

Their electoral alliance socialist/humanist got 132 seats. Add in the hungarian chauvinist party's 22 seats and they have 154, 13 shy. The only other available source of votes are the minority parties.

Romania's constitution gives 18 recognized minorities 1 seat each in the House of Deputies (lower house) and, for the first time under the current constitution, they're the power brokers. If the liberals can pull 6 of them to their side, the PSD can't form a government without going to the PRM, something that would absolutely kill Romania's chances for integration with the EU and guarantee a PSD defeat in 2008.

But taking on each minority deputy means taking on a different party's demands for patronage and policy input. If the PSD goes for the minimum number to form a government, they'll have a 16 party coalition. If they get all the minority parties in, they'll have a 21 party coalition.

Any student of parliamentary politics knows that this has very little chance to last the full parliamentary term. Early elections are all but foregone in that scenario.

The people who really run Romania in the smoke filled back rooms do not want early elections. They've never wanted early elections, seeing it as a nasty step backwards towards the post WW II Italian laughingstock model of politics.

The latest is that the humanists are talking of bolting the social democrats. The hungarian chauvinists are saying all bets are off if the humanists do that, and all of a sudden, a liberal government seems very possible.

The back rooms are still full of smoke and the deal makers are wheeling and dealing in an opera that would make Boss Tweed or Mayor Daley (either one) smile and nod in recognition of the very familiar rhythms of power ebbing and flowing among the people who really matter.

Some day, the bosses will be broken in Romania as Tammany Hall was broken, but not today, not today. That's going to be a generational fight, hopefully starting in 2008.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:54 PM

This Journalist Has Bush Figured

Fred Barnes has a few words to help out those who have stumbled the past few years in understanding George W Bush. GWB is:

Barnes nails it and it's surprising how few in the mainstream have figured out Bush as well. The Presidency is the most powerful post in the world and everybody analyzes the President, no matter who it is or how long he'll serve. Bush constantly surprises but he's an open book if you just look the right way. It's not like any of these characteristics were hidden over the past four years.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:23 PM

December 09, 2004

Talk to Hispanics, Win Hispanic Votes

Richard Nadler does excellent work debunking anti-immigration agitprop, specifically that somehow the Democrats, and the left in general, own the vote of Hispanics.

It turns out that where hispanic voters are actually presented with a Republican/conservative message in their local/spanish language media the vote shifts significantly over areas where such campaigns are not run. This means that there are significant opportunities for Republicans to become competitive in that vote and thus it makes sense to court them extensively. If the Hispanic bloc shifts from its current 2:1 Democrat tilt to a more balanced 1:1, or even better for Republicans, the Democrat party is going to have one more huge secular demographic trend going against them.

It's going to be an interesting next couple of decades in US political demography.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:25 AM

November 29, 2004

How Russia Should Maintain Influence In Ukraine

Russia should look to the UK/US relationship if it is serious about its need to maintain influence over Ukraine. The UK has good relations when it has an ideologically friendly party alignment (center-right Thatcher with center-right Reagan, center-left Blair with center-left Clinton) as well as opposite ideological tendencies (center-left Blair with center-right Bush).

If Russia could generate that sort of relationship, appeal both to western Ukraine as well as the more russified eastern section, it wouldn't have to put its thumb on the scales and spend so much political capital ensuring that "Russia's man" won the election. All the major parties would nominate people acceptable to Russia. This is going to be difficult because Russia has not been a good steward of Ukraine, dominating instead of partnering.

Russia has the same problem that the US has in Latin America where it has heavy handedly intervened in the past. You can get a lot of votes in Brazil by promising to spit in Uncle Sam's eye. That's always been the case. Spitting in Moscow's eye is always going to generate opportunity for Ukraine's political class. That's going to be the case until the first time Russia puts its thumb on the scales to prefer an honest pol coming out of Ukraine's west and figures out how that politician can be successful while Russia is happy in its essential interests.

Dr. Barnett has the question right when he addressed this issue. The only problem with his approach is that he seems to think that we're the ones who should be asking it. We should not. It's Russia's problem to solve and us butting our noses in that relationship infantilizes Russia and will inevitably cause resentment.

President Bush has got it about right. Electoral irregularities need to be adjudicated and settled by Ukrainian institutions before we, or anybody else, recognize one or the other candidates. Can you imagine if some country had recognized Gore during the recount phase in 2000? It wouldn't have been better if a country recognized Bush during that same period.

The situation in Ukraine is not settled, according to the law. If the courts find fraud, Russia should stay out. In fact, the best thing we should all do is to sit on our hands and let Russia be the first to recognize the official results. That would be a tremendous statement of respect and deference to Russia that would cost us absolutely nothing but could salvage honor and pride in the East.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:55 AM

Deadlock in Romania

Well, it looks like Romania's deadlocked its political system this election. For those not in the know, Romania has a French electoral system with both prime minister and president. Parties elect parliamentarians based on party lists and parties receiving less than 5% of the vote are out of the running.

The presidential race results are as follows

1. Adrian Nastase 38.07% (incumbent prime minister, neo-com)
2. Traian Basescu 35.46% (classic liberal)
3. Corneliu Vadim Tudor 11.97% (racist romanian)
4. Marko Bela 6.81% (racist hungarian)
5. Gheorghe Coriolan Ciuhandu 1.90% (christian democrat, late entry)
6. George Becali 1.83% (soccer entrepreneur)
7. Petre Roman 1.48% (social democrat/neo-com)

So we're off to the runoffs with Adrian Nastase and Traian Basescu facing off in two weeks. Basescu looks pretty good to win unless Nastase can make some pretty good deals for both sets of ethnic extremists, romanian and hungarian (hey, we're less chauvinist than France!).

The parliament seems deadlocked
House of Deputies

1. PSD + PUR 34.12%
2. PNL - PD 32.90%
3. PRM 12.50%
4. UDMR 8.08%
5. To be assigned 12.40%

There is little chance for a majority government forming. Even if the PSD & PUR went and partnered with PRM, an event that would make the Austrian Freedom party partnership look like a minor kerfuffle, they would only have 47.43% of the seats, not enough to make the pain worthwhile. Since the UDMR, a hungarian nationalist party that is every bit as chauvinist as PRM, can't stand the PRM, there's no available coalition except PSD&PUR + PNL&PD which would be suicidal for all concerned except PSD who get their vote like turn of the century ward politicians did in Boston, NYC and Chicago. They buy it.

The Senate vote is similarly split:
1. PSD + PUR 34.44%
2. PNL - PD 33.21%
3. PRM 13.11%
4. UDMR 8.15%
5. To be assigned 11.09%

Apparently, certain minor parties had slates for the lower house but not the upper which increased the major party vote in the upper house.

A small note on the neo-com label, which is short for neo-communist. This is not your father's communism. It has all the ideology, flag waving and other veneers stripped off and all that's really left is the hunger for other people's money and dishonesty. The neo-coms are largely supported by the opportunist class, a fickle group but the neo-coms know how to be good butt kissers.

HT: @rgumente

Posted by TMLutas at 09:28 AM

November 27, 2004

Ukraine Diplomats Rebel

460 Diplomats sign protest letter arguing that the recent national elections were stolen. This is betting your professional career, and perhaps more, if the pro-Russia side of the current electoral strife ends up winning. Don't be surprised if there is a rash of political asylum applications if Yanukovych carries the day.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:28 PM

November 23, 2004

Urban Archipelagos

Some Democrats are advising a retreat to an urban only strategy. This is breathtakingly stupid for several reasons. The first is that the Republican party has an urban policy to go along with its policy for suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas. You might or might not agree with it but Republicans have something to say about improving the lives of all of the people.

If Democrats cede that ground and become an "I don't care" party once you leave the urban core, they will not only get trounced in non-urban areas but will also come under pressure in some of their urban strongholds. An awful lot of people in urban areas want to move to the suburbs. An even greater number of them have parts of their families in suburbia, other parts in the urban core. Saying my party doesn't care what happens to your relatives is a good way to lose those voters.

Other problems are that urban areas are going through their own adjustments and it's not that friendly to Democrats. When did the last mayor leave NYC's Gracie Mansion? It was David Dinkins in 1993. NYC has had a decade of Republican rule. From what I understand, Republican registration has more than doubled during that time to the 20% range. How brain dead do you have to get to lose mayoral elections when you have 80% of the vote registered for your party?

Even as a liberal wet dream, the archipelago strategy of retreat and regroup in urban centers doesn't pass the laugh test. Unfortunately, I think it's likely to gain some adherents on the left.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:38 PM

November 21, 2004

Iraqi Election Countdown

They've set a date for Iraqi elections, January 30. By my count that makes it 70 days of hard, violent struggle until elections and finally we can start to see whether democracy will make a difference in Iraq. I think it will. I think that we will end up having a reprise of Afghanistan, a lot of apocalyptic talk, a lot of fear, even among the participants, who will get up and go vote on election day even though they think they might die of it.

For those in the US, 70 days seems like an awfully short campaign period. It's not, as a great many elections are run under just that sort of tight window in parliamentary systems around the world.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:58 AM

November 19, 2004

Election Violence Followup

Remember the Wisconsin tire slashing incident where 20 Republican rental vans had their tires slashed to try to drive down the Milwaukee Republican vote? Arrests have been made and surprise, surprise, it's a Democrat hothead (the son of a congresswoman) and, surprisingly, a trucked in Democrat party official from Virginia.

I'm not too fond of dirty tricksters on either side of the political divide. At best, you get a cheap laugh and grudging admiration for a work of destructive art. Slashing tires is just mean and scary and I hope both parties in Milawaukee can keep things from spiraling to the next level in the campaign sewer.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:03 PM

Is A Senate Seat Worth Agriculture?

The rumors about offering Agriculture to Sen Ben Nelson (D), if true, indicate a few things. Republicans both want to get as close as possible to 60 Senators in that house and Republican Agricultural policy under President Bush is either nonexistent or can adequately progress without the Secretary of the Department being a Republican.

I don't buy into the idea that there are no significant ideas inside the Republican party to improve agriculture so what gives? I think the answer comes in three letters, WTO. With the expiration of the "peace accords" on agriculture, we're going to be forced, step by step, down the road to reduced tariffs, liberalization of markets, and generally the small government approach.

This is going to occur regardless of who controls the Department so why not buy a Senate seat (a Republican governor would nominate Nelson's successor) with a Cabinet post and gain credit for a measure of bipartisanship while you're at it. Sure, you lose some patronage posts and boy do the Democrats need them, but the cost is well worth the gain. If Rove hasn't made such an offer, he should.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:14 PM

November 18, 2004

Dick Morris Phones One In

Dick Morris is right when he says that the election wasn't won on abortion but he obviously wasn't paying attention when he selected his example of unacceptable behavior on judicial nominations. Rehnquist votes pro-life so substituting Thomas for Rhenquist would not change the balance but neither would putting in a pro-life nominee to substitute for Thomas. The voting balance on abortion issues would not change a bit with Roe being defended and occasional regulatory measures passing SC scrutiny.

Morris really loses it on analyzing tax reform and Social Security. There is no possible way that any reform isn't going to be intensely scrutinized for Morris to say

Everybody knows Bush would rather die than raise taxes, so people will trust him to make the package at least revenue-neutral.

is foolish to say the least. Instead, I predict that websites will spring up that let you calculate your tax burden under the new rules without much effort at all. I wouldn't even be surprised if the makers of tax software are roped in to produce updates for their prior year customers so that you can take last year's data and calculate the differences in every bill variation. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if people paid a few bucks for the service. There will be no tax simplification in the Morris plan because, like the AMT, people will just calculate twice (now three times) and pay the lower tax.

Morris' Social Security idea of indexation to a fixed average retirement benefit is vulnerable in the out years to exactly the sort of pandering that has got us in the current mess. Seniors will likely vote for somebody who adds a year to the average retirement benefit in good times and will severely punish those who want to subtract a year when the economic burden starts choking growth. It's this one way ratchet effect that is at the heart of the social welfare conundrum faced all over the free world. By shifting towards a market based system, we escape the ratchet effect.

Morris should have dipped into his reserves and submitted an evergreen reserve column. He embarrassed himself with this one.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:51 PM

Practical Libertarianism: Connecting Private Solutions to Libertarian Political Action

In a multi-post symposium over the future of libertarianism (I’d link but there is no search box) comes this gem

Secondly, and lastly, the commenter asks me how I can find the federal government too incompetent to deliver the mail, yet trust it to spread democracy. Well, I am all for postal privatization, but, you know what -- the mail, ultimately, does get delivered.

This is the normal person’s objection to classic doctrinaire libertarianism in a nutshell. The mail eventually arrives, food arrives on our table, the system works so why rock the boat? And it’s not an unreasonable position to have, that ideological change must be proven to work better before applied, that blindly following a political faith into policy prescriptions without detailed plans of how it will work is dangerous.

The government is more than willing to provide solutions. They might be inefficient, provide precedent for all sorts of long-term threats to our liberty, might even be counterproductive when examined more closely but when you have something and you’re trying to compete with it by offering nothing, nothing will lose most every time.

That’s a real challenge to libertarianism because while the reality is that the replacement is not “nothing” in the libertarian system, it very much is “nothing political” with private action substituting for public. With private action and public action fully bifurcated, this reasonably translates into “nothing” in the public mind because work in the public interest done by private groups is not generally connected to the political work necessary to avoid government crowding out private action. How to make that connection in the public mind is one of libertarianism’s greatest challenges at the moment.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:08 PM

November 17, 2004

The Challenge For Small Government Advocates

For those of us who have our heads out in the sunlight (instead of stuck in an orifice) who believe that smaller government would be better for society, we inevitably come to a big problem. Big government solutions will always have an attractiveness to politicians because, unlike small government solutions, they can be readily identified with a party, with a politician, can be packaged into a brochure that says "I did this, reelect me". Aside from any ideological positions a particular pol may have, all politicians deeply desire the ability to say such things because they are the fundamental, bedrock argument for reelection and a continuing career for the politician. Personal interest must be taken into account.

The small government advocate's cupboard of accomplishments is always going to be less well stocked than his big government brethren's. The problem is easily illustrated by President Bush's father President GHWB with his thousand points of light. A charity is started, does GHWB get the credit for it? The practical answer is generally not, even though his creating a space for that charity might have been crucial in the decision for it to be called into existence. Another charity increases its activities, is GHWB credited? Again, no, as it might have done so anyway.

The social good that a small government politician does is only partially captured by current mechanisms while the social good that a big government politician does is counted and counted again as it's the gross good, not the net that gets credited to him. Indirect, negative private effects are seldom linked unless they are very obvious and such negative effects often take many years to show up as Atlee in the UK and Wagner in NYC played to their benefit.

This is an insight that, unfortunately I don't have a definitive answer for. Perhaps someone will suggest something in comments.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:01 AM

November 10, 2004

Episcopal Influence

Bush enlarged his catholic vote from 47% to 52% while Kerry saw Catholic support drop from Al Gore's 50% to 47%. The Catholic vote for Other drops from 3% to 1%. But who were these voters? The exit poll service attendance numbers tell the tale.

Bush rose only marginally (1%) in service attendees who go at least weekly. His great increase in religious voters were in the nominally religious who go monthly or less often (3%-4%). I would guess that in the nominal group, we're disproportionately talking about "christer" Catholics, a priestly term for those who show up CHRISTmas and eastER and are no-shows throughout the rest of the year. This does not jibe very well with the "jesusland" critique launched by many on the left. A crusading army of twice a year Catholics is just not something that most people worry much about and, hopefully when serious election analysts point this out, Democrat partisans will drop the jesusland meme in quiet embarrassment.

But what is it that drove occasional Catholics into Bush's arms? It likely was the hierarchy for many of them. Any voter literature left at church would have been unread, any social group inside a parish would most likely target the guys who showed up on a regular basis. The only factors that a generally non-attending Catholic would pick up would be episcopal announcements and Kerry's heresy trial in Boston and the heresy trial was kept very, very quiet and inside baseball.

That pretty much leaves the bishops in the drivers seat, able to shift significant numbers of nominal Catholics and likely to be gearing up for a continuation of their strategy to improve the Catholic conscience in ways that secular vote counters will ignore at their peril. The Bishops seem to be out to create a true Catholic vote. Both parties need to take notice or become a permanent minority.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:34 AM

November 04, 2004

Exit Polling Data

Available here, it provides a wealth of information (if it's accurate, I'm still waiting to find out the facts on the early exit poll debacle). Here are a few important stats that the professionals will be chewing over for the next couple of months.

George W Bush carried the senior vote 54%-46%. Social Security reform is a go!

If you earned more than $50k your income group was pro-Bush, the higher you earned, the more this was true.

GWB got about 40% of the union household vote, 38% of the actual union vote. My understanding is that this is historically high for Republicans, you usually get about a third of the union vote.

Kerry continues the odd Democrat party trend on education. Democrats do well with the super-educated and the badly educated while Republican voter education stats look more like the conventional bell shape.

Republicans have pulled even in party ID. If Zogby doesn't go into the tank and change his methodology, he (and all the other pollsters who use party ID screens from the most recent presidential race) should be getting more Republican tilting polling results for the next four years.

There was a 7% point difference between those who think Kerry attacked unfairly (67%) and Bush attacked unfairly (60%).

Surprisingly, Kerry did his best on terrorism among people who were very worried about terrorism (56%-44%) while Bush did best among those who were somewhat worried about it (56%-43%). The somewhat worried group is over twice as large as the very worried group.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:28 PM

November 03, 2004

Right Wing Conspiracy Theories

Now that the election is over, we can find out whether the right wing moonbat theories about George Soros manipulating oil to influence the US election had any basis in reality. If we've got $30 oil in 3-6 months, there are going to be a great many forensic accountants looking into things to see how much political manipulation was going on. I hope this bit of conspiratorialist talk on the right turns out to be false but look for it to be, quietly, followed up on.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:05 PM

November 02, 2004

Daschle v Thune

Maybe the international observers should have headed to S. Dakota where Tom Daschle attempted to get Republicans barred from monitoring to prevent fraud at polling stations on indian reservations. Supposedly, they were rolling their eyes and making faces, which intimidated people from voting.

I'm sorry, elections are an adversarial process and you have poll watchers from both sides to keep things honest. That's just the facts of life. To try to remove observers in precisely the zones held under greatest suspicion of pro-Democrat voter fraud in the tight senatorial election of 2002 doesn't come close to passing the smell test.

What do they make american indians out of in N. Dakota, two parts cowardice, three parts servility? The idea that somebody rolling his eyes at me are enough to drive me away from voting is insulting. If I were the subject of such a lawsuit to "protect" me, I would feel humiliated that I wasn't considered to have a strong enough character to exercise my rights under anything but hothouse conditions.

For shame, Sen. Daschle.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:19 PM

Comparative Incivility

Reading about election day illegalities steams me. This article on Wisconsin problems has two knuckleheads blocking a Kerry campaign parking lot (removed but not arrested) and 30 GOP vans rented to help get out the vote had their tires slashed.

We're just at the beginning folks. It looks ugly.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:59 PM

October 31, 2004

SDB Update

Steven Den Beste has a rare update announcing some endorsements made by others regarding the 2004 US presidential election. I think it's pretty safe to say SDB's not a Kerry fan.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:16 AM

October 29, 2004

Bin Laden Alive, Supports Anybody But Bush

A new tape seems to have definitively answered the "is he dead" question in the negative. Bin Laden's alive, more than a bit grayer, and while not specifically endorsing Kerry, seems to clearly be an ABB (anybody but Bush) kind of guy (maybe he's a heartbroken Deaniac).

Vote accordingly.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:35 PM

October 20, 2004

War Polling Implications

Putting aside the presidential race for a moment a new poll has huge implications on the War On Terror (WOT).

Where the poll got interesting was on the war. 69% said the war on terror was a real war as opposed to a figurative war. The Republicans were most likely to feel that way at 87% and the Democrats least likely to feel that way at 56%. Independents were at 65%. Interestingly, this quesiton really captures the 9/11 mentality, I think. When asked if the war was being waged too aggressively, not aggressively enough, or just right, surprisingly 32% said not aggressively enough with 35% saying just right. Only 25% thought it was being waged too aggressively. When asked which candidate would "more aggressively fight the war on terrorism," 61% said George Bush and only 25% said John Kerry.

The question in the poll that stood out was "do you think it is more important to win the war in Iraq or end the war in Iraq?" 46% said win and 46% said end. Republicans at 69% said win and only 23% of Democrats said win. Among Independents, 46% said win and 45% said end.

That approximately 7 in 10 voters feel that we are in a real war, a war that is non-westphalian, is incredibly disruptive to the current international system which is based on westphalian principles and which can not survive in a non-westphalian world. This poll means that a durable majority in the country that supplies nearly 50% of the world's military force essentially believes that all the international applecarts are going to have to get turned over. Furthermore, this is one of the two issues that they feel are most important for the country to face today. This is an electoral tiger that neither candidate is entirely comfortable riding though President Bush comes a lot closer to popular sentiment than Senator Kerry.

What I truly wish would be that this section of the poll gets expanded out and run internationally. The expansion would ideally detail both the consequences of WOT being a real war and answer the question of who started and who can stop this war.

Did the WOT start when George W Bush proclaimed it or did prior Al Queda attacks start it? If a new president stops fighting the WOT as a war and takes a law enforcement approach, does that mean that the war is over or do underlying facts have to change in our enemies before the war can be over? What has to happen, who has to give up for the war to end? And, most provocatively, do the people know and understand our enemies' war aims, what we would have to do for them to declare victory?

I suspect that if the poll were taken among the political elite and among the general population, a huge, yawning chasm would appear in their responses. In this bifurcated nation between the people and the powerful, it would be President Bush on the side of the people, with the powerful's champion being Senator Kerry.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:18 AM

October 17, 2004

DenBeste Can't Give Up Blogging

For those who don't regularly check in to his site anymore, he's got a special item over at the USS Clueless that is positively brief, for him. It's very counterintuitive to think that Gallup's famously optimistic Bush September polling results were actually a plot to set up Kerry for an October comeback story line that would have Kerry cresting on election day and taking the presidency.

As always, a provocative item.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:52 PM

October 15, 2004

Lileks '06!

Apparently there's a draft Lileks for Senate movement and he's not in favor. He obviously doesn't know about one of the prime benefits of a Senator. You can say what you want, have it published in every library in the country within a week on the taxpayer's dime, and you are your own editor. Do you want to talk about recipes? I've seen an entire chapter of a book devoted to senatorial recipes read into the Congressional Record. Don't care to bother standing up and reading it? You can have it inserted without even showing your face in Washington. Do you regret some language you used on the floor of the Senate? You've got days to magically edit out all your blunders. It's a wordsmith's dream, I tell you.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:34 AM

October 13, 2004

Affirmative Action

Kerry's a classic liberal on affirmative action. It's nothing much new and it'll be more of the same.

Bush's response is pretty classic conservative, set up a fair environment and let people achieve. The benefit of reelection campaigning is that he's got statistics showing that it's working.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:17 PM

They're Violating the Rules Left and Right

Wasn't this supposed to be the domestic policy debate? It's at least 1/3 foreign policy and Schieffer isn't coralling things to where they should be.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:09 PM


Schieffer should have done the work to at least find a formulation that wasn't quoting a Kerry talking point.

Kerry wants to double the special forces. If we actually could do it, I'd welcome that but they just can't seem to graduate more people through the programs without lowering standards. Lower standard special operators means more casualties.

But boy it sure sounds good.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:06 PM

Schieffer's Doing Questions on the Fly

Schieffer asks whether Bush would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Bush says there will be no litmus tests for his judges. Kerry says he will have litmus tests. What a difference in principle.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:03 PM

Minimum Wage

Kerry wants a $7 minimum wage saying 9.2 million women will benefit. How many of those people will actually have jobs he leaves out.

$0.76 on the dollar? Oh. My. God. Comparable worth will make a comeback under President Kerry? Ugh!

Posted by TMLutas at 08:59 PM


Bush is sticking to his guns on immigration reform and pitched temporary worker cards without amnesty.

The borders are more leaky today according to Kerry (next round he back tracked a bit). Kerry just came out in favor of both amnesty and employer immigration raids.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:56 PM

Jobs Agreement

At least both of them agree that getting more people to work is what is going to fix the economy.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:51 PM

Social Security Reform

Thank God somebody finally said that doing nothing is the worst option.

Kerry's plan takes benefit cuts off the table and any changes other than raising social security taxes.

Wow, Kerry just went against Alan Greenspan on Social Security. That's going to give Rubin and the Wall Street boys heartburn.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:49 PM

Kerry's Robbing Bush 2000

Kerry's healthcare sales pitch sounds an awful lot like Bush's Social Security reform plan from four years ago. You aren't forced to do anything but it's going to be an awfully good offer.

Bush just played with a bit of fire by attacking "major news network" credibility. I wonder if Schieffer's going to get back at Bush over it.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:42 PM

Health Care Costs

Kerry's stepping badly by bringing up drug reimportation when the flu vaccine (made in the UK) is widely contaminated.

Unfortunately, Bush didn't take the opportunity to make the connection.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:38 PM

Catholic Church Condemnation of Kerry

This is something of a "Kerry only" question. Bishops are condemning politicians who take positions like Kerry and what is Bush supposed to say? He's got a decent segway into talking in favor of the culture of life but there should have been more for him to grab hold of.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:34 PM

Gay as Choice

Bush professes that he's not sure whether homosexuality is a choice or inborn. Kerry's sure that it is not a choice. As far as I can tell the science is closer to Bush. I wonder who is going to slam Kerry for not waiting for the science?

Posted by TMLutas at 08:31 PM

First Time I've Seen Ted Kennedy Called Conservative

Quick, somebody check to see if Kennedy's had a stroke. Bush just called Kennedy the "conservative Senator from Massachussetts".

Posted by TMLutas at 08:28 PM

Schieffer Has a Good Question

It's nice to see the idea of automation as a source of job loss being addressed in the debate.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:23 PM

Kerry Swings Below the Belt

Did Kerry really just compare President Bush to Tony Soprano? Why yes, yes he did.

In a season where Republicans are being more vilified than any time since the 'Daisy ad' slammed Goldwater so vilely.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:22 PM

Schieffer's Letting Kerry Off the Ropes

A bad round for Kerry? No extension on that round. Let's see if that pattern continues...

Posted by TMLutas at 08:18 PM

Pay as You Go

Kerry's babbling. He seems to have gotten flustered over the idea of explaining how he's going to pay for his programs.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:15 PM

Bush Reiterated That We're in a Real War

Will the foreign policy wonks out there finally dig down and analyze the consequences of the fact that we're in a non-Westphalian war? I hope so, but I can't imagine why they'll start doing their job right now.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:10 PM

Live Blogging

Bob Scheiffer's starting off badly. Are we going to be as safe as when we grew up? What kind of crack is he smoking? Returning to the era of duck and cover is nothing I want to return to.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:05 PM

October 06, 2004

Bye, Bye, 9th Circuit

One of the more malevolent influences on US jurisprudence has been the gargantuan 9th Federal Circuit Court. It's a huge monstrosity that sits in San Francisco and rules over much of the West. It is famously, the country's most liberal circuit court and also its most reversed. Today, the House of Representatives voted to split it by a vote of 205-194. The court is being split in three with the new 9th circuit being limited to only California and Hawaii.

Ding dong, the witch is dead! Now on to the Senate!

Seriously, this is a good proxy for party confidence in winning the executive. With the creation of two new circuit courts next year, there will be an unusual number of judgeships open for appointment. The party that is confident of winning the White House has a partisan interest in pushing this through while the party that believes it will lose has every interest in killing the measure. The prediction so far seems to be that the Democrats are going to try to kill the idea in the Senate.

HT: The Corner

Posted by TMLutas at 06:15 PM

October 05, 2004

Senator Gone!

Apparently, as President of the Senate, Vice President Cheney spends Tuesdays at the Senate. After almost four years of doing this, he finally met Sen. Edwards. That's just a sad commentary about Edwards' actual work habits in government.

Correction: It appears that outside Sen. Edwards' actual duties as Senator, they've met 1-3 times in the past, with the most solid contact being a national prayer breakfast. The larger point that Edwards doesn't do his actual job very well, doesn't seem much disturbed.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:55 PM

Best Political Commentary of the Season

From The Corner

Seen on an Austin, TX street corner:

Posted by TMLutas at 05:13 PM

September 24, 2004

Where are the Democrat Wise Men?

Glenn Reynolds is questioning Kerry's patriotism and he makes a good case for it. Having a major player in the Kerry campaign call Allawi a Bush puppet because Allawi is saying some things that support the Bush narrative on Iraq is just beyond the pale and materially harms US foreign policy in Iraq to the point where some unknown number of extra people on the margin are going to get hurt/killed because of the support the Kerry campaign is giving to the insurgent narrative.

There are honest, honorable ways to fight an election in time of war, increasing our own casualty count by helping spread enemy propaganda is not one of them. Fire Joe Lockhart!

Posted by TMLutas at 10:18 AM

September 21, 2004

What If the Polls Are Wrong?

Al Hunt's got a recent article running under the headline "What If the Polls Are Wrong?" and laying out all the reasons for Democrats not to despair. Essentially, he's counting on a massive influx of new voters to turn the tide for Kerry. There may be some of that. But bad polls may be hiding a Republican trend as well. The key is how ashamed are 9/11 Democrats and Independents of their newfound Republican beliefs?

That 9/11 is going to change voting patterns was a given in 2001 but you don't here much about it in 2004 during the first presidential election since that disastrous day. How many 9/11 Democrats are out there is simply not known, for the simple reason that the Democrat party has worked, and worked hard and long, for defectors to feel ashamed. Voting for the GOP is not just a difference of opinion for core Democrats, it's a betrayal, a vote for evil, for grandma starvers, church burners, a vote for the lynch mob. But some number of people who have internalized all that political/cultural baggage are still going to go into the privacy of the voting booth and vote GOP because there's a war on and the Democrat party is too full of deluded appeasers who are going to get people killed, people who are close to home.

The nightmare scenario for Democrats is that they're going to be true to themselves in the voting booth but won't tell the truth to a pollster. The ground could be shifting under their feet and, because of the internal shame culture that the Democrat party has formed over long years of effort, they'll never know it until election eve, 2004 and possibly for some time beyond.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:18 AM

September 10, 2004

The Bush TANG Forgeries?

Like everybody else, I'm indebted to Powerline's ongoing account of the investigation into CBS' 60 Minutes bombshell documents purporting to demonstrate that President Bush did not properly complete his service and did not deserve an honorable discharge. The kicker for me is kerning, something that typewriters simply don't do but word processors have done for the last couple of decades.

Proportional font spacing is something that is being touted as another dead giveaway. Unless you really want to discuss the minutiae of 1960s/1970s technology I'd stay away from that one. IBM's famous Selectric typewriter is monospaced but IBM did make something called the Executive, which even had multiple fonts. It does not, however, appear to have been able to kern, nor is it clear that the Texas Air National Guard was in the habit of using such a high end, fancy machine to type ordinary memos.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:26 AM

September 07, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXX

Kerry's hunting faux pas came up again over at One Hand Clapping. While Kerry legitimately made a goof and it's important to the race, Kerry's actual mistake, talking about shotgun hunting for deer, isn't what people are talking about. Here's what I left in comments:

Actually Kerry's hunting faux pas isn't hunting deer with a shotgun. A quick round of googling will let you know that Massachusetts has a shotgun season for deer. His faux pas was that he had no clue how unusual that was and didn't preface his comments with a simple factual statement that Mass. has such a season and it happens to be his favorite.

He may like to personally hunt but he's disconnected from the larger hunting culture. That sense of connection is the entire point behind a politician mentioning that he does certain things.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:54 AM

August 25, 2004

Return of the Weathermen?

Apparently the bombers are getting out of jail recently and some have taken on organizing roles at the anti-RNC convention protests. I've been thinking that some of the worries on the right have been overblown regarding protests but the Weathermen were hard core violent. If they aren't drummed out of any role, if these hard line communists are acceptable coalition partners on the left, the unthinkable is starting to get thinkable.

Will serious violence happen? I hope not. The chance of the left being that kind of stupid is low. It's not as low as it was last week though.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:20 PM

August 24, 2004

Where Bush's Immigration Strategy is Coming From?

Global Transaction Strategy is the title of an older Dr. Barnett article. There's lots of good stuff about how the world is shaping up and how it needs to continue for us to all survive this dangerous time. One of the neat things about broad thinkers is that you can go back and find nuggets that you didn't notice the first (or the fifth) time you read a piece:

In effect, emigration from the Gap to the Core is globalization's release valve. With it, the prosperity of the Core can be maintained and more of the world's people can participate. Without it, overpopulation and under-performing economies in the Gap can lead to explosive situations that spill over to the Core. One hopeful sign of the future: The Philippines has demonstrated that such flows can be achieved on a temporary deployment or "global commuting" basis without resorting to permanent emigration or generating increased xenophobia in host nations.

I can't think of a better description of President Bush's worker visa proposal than a real attempt to put the above paragraph into policy for the US to create a real pressure release valve. Politically, the guest worker visa program never has made much sense. What xenophobes there are in this country are disproportionately on the right side of the political spectrum which means when they're not voting fringe, they'll tend to vote Republican. So why would President Bush take the political risk that this portion of his voting coalition will sit on its hands come November?

Business interests don't mind the current situation too much. Plenty of labor moves into the country in the current situation and they aren't hounded by 'la migra' as in the bad old days of mass immigration raids which shut down business and could decimate a workforce. A minor tweaking of some specialized skills categories would have made business pretty happy without rocking the boat too much.

It's only when you look at it as a national security issue, providing a safety valve while you thin out the infrastructure of illegal border crossing does this initiative make any sense and Bush apparently feels strongly enough about it to risk losing some of the immigration averse vote that he might otherwise have.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:05 AM

August 23, 2004

Kerry's Senate Testimony

CSPAN has Kerry's full transcript of his testimony before the Senate in 1971 on Vietnam. As it's become relevant to all those puzzling over SBVT's 2nd commercial, if you haven't read it, read it. Furthermore, if you've read a bowdlerized version, with ellipsis chopping out relevant bits, go read it again and see who's been messing with your head and how.

The Kerry campaign is claiming that he was not making these accusations of horrible atrocities himself. It's a big stretch to say so at best. Here is the kicker:

I am here as one member of the group of veterans in this country, and were it possible for all of them to sit at this table they would be here and have the same kind of testimony.

SBVT has a great deal to be angry for. Kerry wasn't making accusations on the part of a group of vets but in the name of all vets. Usually, witnesses are given the transcript before its made official and Kerry had an opportunity (when he had more sleep and time to reflect) to change the to a and not claim the mantle of all veterans. Nobody would have said a word in protest.

Here's more:

I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.

Kerry's not representing the WSI veterans or even VVAW the group he associated with but "all those veterans", "the group of veterans in this country" and that's what makes Kerry's subsequent testimony stink so bad. I won't pull the rest, go read the sickening transcript for yourself. WSI was long ago exposed as a pathetic tissue of lies. VVAW lost Kerry when members started seriously discussing assassinating pro-war US Senators. This is ancient history except for the truth telling and lies being told about it today. Those acts of faith and betrayal open a window on a prospective Kerry presidency and on the current state of the soul of one John F. Kerry.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:35 AM

August 21, 2004

So What if Bush Condemned the Swifties?

Let's play make believe for a minute here. John Kerry has demanded that George W Bush condemn the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads and demand that they be pulled off the air. Pretend for a minute that President Bush did just that and SBVT pulls the ad soon after. How soon do you think the lawsuits will start flying?

SBVT is a 527 organization, a group that cannot coordinate its political activities with a campaign. President Bush would have given an instruction and been followed. That's a pretty good case for coordination and a hefty FEC penalty for the Bush campaign as well as financial headaches for SBVT and its funders as the IRS gets involved.

Update: Well that didn't take long. It seems like the Kerry campaign decided to let fly with what they've got when the Bush campaign didn't take their bait.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:12 PM

August 08, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXVII

The Annenberg Center's site writes about the Swift Boat Veteran's for Truth ad and, unhappily, seems several days behind the facts:

Doesn't it embarrass you folks that George Elliot has been saying for days that the Boston Globe article you cite misquotes him and he stands by his Swift Boat Veterans for Truth affidavit while you make no mention of that fact? I don't expect you to run lockstep in spin or interpretation but I would expect an organization entitled Fact Check to keep up with the facts.

Be fair and cite the August 6 Houston Chronicle article claiming his "retraction" hit the Boston Globe as a result of reportorial error. You can find the Houston Chronicle article on the web here:

The press release denying the Boston Globe report went out the same day as the story (August 4). As of my writing, that's 4 days ago.

I wonder when they'll fix the article with the new facts as they evolve? This is a gut check time for Annenberg.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:38 AM

August 07, 2004

Saudi Elections

The Saudis have announced their election timetable for upcoming local elections:

The timetable for the elections has been divided into three phases. The first phase will be in Riyadh Province this coming November, just after Ramadan, the month-long Muslim fast. Elections in the four southern provinces and the Eastern Province will be in December, before the January 2005 Hajj season; and for the rest of the country, when the annual pilgrimage is over.

This phased election pattern is not the best, to say the least. The only thing worse than a phased election system was Saudi Arabia's previous pattern of no elections at all. But you take what progress you can get in the great game of connectedness. If the Saudis end up being happy about it and it gets them closer to rules based consensual government, so be it.

So good wishes to all the brave souls who will try to bring an independent presence to KSA governance. They're going to need it.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:18 PM

Kerry's War Problem II

The Democrat lawyers have given us a splendid opportunity to test the truth claims of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. According to a letter circulated to TV stations Louis Letson is "a man pretending to be the doctor who treated Senator Kerry for one of his injuries" which is a clear statement of fact, that Louis Letson is not one of Senator Kerry's treating physicians for his wounds that resulted in his purple heart citations.

So who were his treating physicians? And what do they remember about Senator Kerry's wounds? Journalists should be following this up.

Another interesting aspect of the letter is that it lays the burden of verifying truth on the stations, stating that false and libelous charges by independent committees can expose stations to libel charges. This is a dangerous course for a campaign which is so heavily supported by independent expenditures.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:27 PM

Kerry's War Problem I

Kerry's problem with the Swift Boat Veteran's for Truth as shown in the recent ad attacking his record is manifold. Some of it is about Kerry's well publicized about face after he returned from Vietnam. The ad script outlines thirteen charges. Three of those thirteen charges are crimes. They are

1. Louis Letson: "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury."

2. Van O'Dell: "John Kerry lied to get his bronze star ... I know, I was there, I saw what happened."

3. Grant Hibbard: "He betrayed all his shipmates ... he lied before the Senate."

I'm not quite sure about the 10 other charges. I'm not even sure whether there are statutes of limitations that mean that these crimes are no longer prosecutable. I do know that if the first crime, lying about his first purple heart is true, Kerry is guilty of a further crime, relying on a false citation to get him out of Vietnam. Kerry once famously asked how do you ask the last man to die for a mistake (US operations in Vietnam). How did Kerry ask somebody else to serve 8 months of his Vietnam service if he got out illegitimately?

If Kerry had not run so heavily on his war record, it's likely that a lot of people would let old stories like this die out. But Kerry is running heavily on his Vietnam record, to the point of it crowding out his Senate record in Kerry advertising efforts. That means that his conduct during that period deserves extra heavy scrutiny. If Kerry's actions in Vietnam are his biggest qualification according to Kerry, we should not be judging a lie.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:42 PM

August 02, 2004

Chilling Free Speech

So Elliot Spitzer is warning Republicans about how they should exercise their free speech rights when they come inside his jurisdiction during the Republican National Convention. If Republicans step across the line of propriety, Spitzer threatened "we will not let you do it."

It was unclear from the press report whether he was speaking in his capacity as senior NY Democrat, NYS Attorney General, or both. But even if it were a purley party affair (as a quick phone call to the NY AG press office confirmed) can anybody imagine the furor if John Ashcroft spoke like that? It would be on page one of every major daily the next day. So while my little headline above might be over the top, it would have been par for the course if John Ashcroft had behaved in identical fashion.

HT: The Corner

Posted by TMLutas at 03:36 PM

July 30, 2004

Making the World Love Us

After a night's sleep and a bit of reading, I think I know what the price will be for a Kerry success in making our traditional allies love us again. As I've noted in the past one of the major player factions on the global stage is a group of people who thrive on monopoly/monopsony profits, providing the spider thin controlled connectivity that most Gap states have to the Core in order to supply the elite's whims for expensive cars, jet setting travel, and PS2s.

The US has played along with this game in the past but the major unforgivable sin of this Bush administration in old Europe has been threatening all these sweet, cosy deals by wanting to open connectivity wide and bring in all the world's major players into these countries, bringing prosperity and freedom to the Gap while costing the established players their ultra-fat profits.

This is the heart of France and Germany's beef with us, the reason why they are so implacable in their enmity. Major contracts are threatened, established relationships would largely be rendered worthless, and a high amount of unpredictability would ensue with US firms winning an awful lot of those new opportunities. The problem is that Bush wants to bring too much competition, too much free market, too much rule of law into the Gap. Pace, Dr. Barnett this is not a neo-marxist critique but rather a very capitalist one.

Kerry has an opportunity to reestablish peaceful relations with Germany and France, Russia and the PRC by letting them maintain and expand their network of spider-thin connectivity webs, by running the GWOT as a war without Gap shrinking. Satisfy these established powers, don't force rule set resets in the Gap, and all will be right with the world. We will have glowing press releases. The UN will bless our military endeavors. All we have to give up is any hope of ending the war by appeasing the implicit villains.

We would end up in an Orwellian nightmare, 1984 writ more complex with a kaleidoscope of ever shifting enemies in the Gap, reaching out and striking us in unpredictable, bloody ways but with us unable to do much more than we did in the Clinton administration. The major difference is that the tents will not be empty, individual terrorists will be killed. The only problem is that we will be accelerating their creation with every strike.

If the opposition we're encountering in old Europe is truly centered around the hidden villains, Kerry's boxed himself into authorizing a perpetual war. It'll be containment v. rollback all over again with GWB being the early rollback guy and Kerry accepting aggressive containment as the best we can do without losing France and Germany again.

Do we really need another four decades of continuous cool war before another heir to Reagan comes along and rolls back the Gap? I certainly hope not.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:12 PM

July 29, 2004

Kerry Speech Blogging

(all times CST)

Yup, they're going to try to flank Bush from the right on national security. Starting off with a salute and "reporting for duty" says it all.

We had 50 years of peace and prosperity? What happened to Korea, Vietnam, stagflation?

judge me by my rhetoric? I bet you the transcript says judge me by my record. Either is ok for Kerry, just not in combination.

"She (Mrs. Kerry) speaks her mind and she speaks the truth." That's going straight into the campaign commercial feedstock. Wait for it to come out every Theresa gaffe.

blood... pressure... soaring...
Somebody should book Kerry for grand theft of record. Three quarters, if not more, of what Kerry is touting is exactly what George Bush is doing.

Yes, the flag belongs to everybody, but when people make a habit of burning it, trampling on it, tearing it to pieces, and flying it upside down to just make a political point are not how you respect that shared symbol. Kerry can't reclaim the flag for the Democrats without challenging the desecrators.

Privatization, benefit cuts, and tax increases are the available solutions to fix social security. Kerry just took the first two off the table. At the peak of the baby boomer demographic bulge, that would mean a >50% payroll tax.

Hey, let's swap tax loopholes around! I'm going to enjoy hearing the details on that one.

Is anybody going to believe that all the spending promises are going to be covered by tax increases for the wealthy? And a tax cut for the middle class to boot. Can we have a pony with that too?

You want to cut wasteful tests out? Pass a loser pays tort reform. That's not going to happen in an administration with Sen. John Edwards, Esq.

Drug reimportation? That's going to be gotterdamerung for socialized drug systems in any country that we authorize reimports

Now that's a nasty insinuation, that Bush is misusing the Constitution for political purposes.

And then he has the gall to talk about taking the high road!

Now believing in science is an issue to campaign on?

On the bright side, he got in and out on time. All in all it wasn't as bad as I feared but that was only because what was in the speech was so vague that it was impossible to see it as meaning much. A lot of great things that we'd like to fund but we don't have the money for.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:14 PM

The Coming Death of the Democrat Party

The NY Times has an astounding article that lays out, step by step, how the money bags currently behind the Democrat party are preparing to kick its rotting moldering carcass to the curb. Essentially, they're spinning off the money arm into unregulated 527 committees and waiting to fight for the soul of the party the next time that the Dems are out of power. If they lose that fight, look to see 1 or two cycles where they pull the money plug and push a new party to the fore, something without the huge history and baggage that the donkey has accumulated these past decades.

I've long wondered which of our two tottering parties was going to bite the bullet first, Democrat or Republican. Clearly, the Democrat party is further down the road to destruction.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:06 PM

July 28, 2004

The Right is Winning on Education

Here's the Brookings Institute's commentary on John Kerry's education proposals for K-12:

Kerry advocates exempting education spending from [his proposed] cap on discretionary spending by proposing a ten-year $200 billion entitlement to the states for education spending.... Roughly half the total...would be devoted to No Child Left Behind (the signature Bush education law).

One of the most important things that can happen to a partisan initiative championed by a president is to be confirmed by the next president of the opposing party. It's something like the way a boa constrictor tackles a meal, you squeeze down and then hold firm. The problem in education has always been long and ineffective feedback loops

That No Child Left Behind is being confirmed this way shows that over the next generation or so we will see the end of the teacher led war on productive reform. With testing and standards for performance the dead wood of bad theories, bad administrators, and bad teachers are going to retire early or be thrown out. It's not going to be a pretty process and far too many children will still be lost before we're done but even when the federal government changes hands, we're not going to have disastrous levels of backsliding.

That's real news.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:56 AM

July 26, 2004

Tail Wags the Dog in Bean Town

I was off to go rent a few movies tonight and had NPR on for convention coverage. I caught a speech (somebody from Wisconsin, didn't catch the name) talking about healthcare. It was a solid Democrat speech, nothing astounding, nothing off-key. One of the promises on healthcare caught my attention, that John Kerry would insure that domestic partners were given full healthcare benefits under his new plan.

In the real world, that would benefit an awful lot of heterosexual unmarried couples and would be a lot of money. The NPR analysis was what convinced me to write about this standard buy votes with programs promise. They completely missed the heterosexual angle and simply viewed it as a code talk for reaching out to homosexuals.

Homosexuals are somewhere between 1%-3% of the population and only half that can even theoretically take advantage of a domestic partnership healthcare law. Unmarried cohabiting heterosexual couples are far more than that and will be the big gorilla in getting this past the Congress. The sexual fidelity effects will predominate negative as well as heterosexuals have one reason less to marry even as it might make the numerically smaller number of homosexual couples bed hop a bit less.

But homosexuals punch far above their weight in Democrat party politics so the tail wags the dog and the majority effects aren't even considered.

Blech, the Democrats haven't changed a bit.

I'm glad I rented a few films.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:56 PM

Political Ad Scripts I

Draft I


After a particularly brutal war that raged all across Europe, everybody gathered in a place called Westphalia to settle things and make sure that there would never be a repeat. The solution they came up with, national sovereignty, saved the world from countless horrible, nasty wars ever since...

Until now...

It's been over 350 years since royalty, military and spiritual leaders all gathered together to hammer out the Peace of Wetphalia. Since then, a few unimportant colonies in the wilderness of the New World became the greatest power on Earth. The International Law that depended on Westphalia's national sovereignty principle stretched and grew and became a huge, complex structure on which rested many treaties, many organizations.

But today the great threats to our security come from people who simply do not accept the limits of national sovereignty. They make war in an older, more brutal fashion because they can't get what they want any other way. They organize across borders and can't be eradicated by declaring war on a nation, or even a group of nations.

For the first time in America's history, the underlying foundation of the world system is up for grabs. A big chunk of the world is too frightened to even try to address the big question. Others see the issues but are just too small to do the work without us.

President Bush broke 350 years of precedent and declared war on a non-state group, he implicitly challenged the world to move beyond Westphalia. The world, to a great degree, has ignored his call because they hope that the next President of the United States will let us all get back to the business of letting us be killed by terrorists at a "sustainable" rate. They are too frightened to do anything else...

Are you?

current running time 1:00

Posted by TMLutas at 08:23 AM

July 23, 2004

Article 3 Section 2 Comes Alive

Via Outside the Beltway comes notice that the US Congress has been reduced to the use of blunt force instruments to restrain the judiciary. Clause 2 of Article 3, Section 2 of the US Constitution reads as follows:

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

In short, the Congress has always had the power but has never had the courage to limit the judiciary. The judiciary has usually had the good sense to reign in their wilder impulses before Congress gets around to passing an Article 3 limitation law. It looks like the gay marriage issue is going to cross the line.

In a way it's pretty sad. the Exceptions and Regulations clause was always viewed as an "in case of emergency, break glass" type of Congressional power. I'd have hoped never to have to see the day it was used. If it passes, look for more and more political factions to try to replicate it.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:21 PM

July 21, 2004

I Wonder About Berger

Now that Sandy Berger has dropped from the Kerry campaign, there isn't much to say about the sad affair until actual evidence comes out and there's a decision on prosecution. The only question left is what did Kerry know and when did he know it? Was there a time when the sentiment was uttered that it's ok to be a foreign policy advisor for the campaign and be under criminal investigation for illegally removing classified material at the same time as long as the media doesn't get ahold of it?

There are two ways of answering that question. The first is from inside the campaign. They do have a self-interest to shade the truth if they knew earlier so any statements of denial have to be weighed against their general commitment to truth-telling on other issues (frankly, I'm not impressed). The other way of telling would be for the investigative bodies to let us know if, as part of the investigation, the Kerry campaign had been contacted about this matter and when such contact occurred. This could still turn into a two day story with some continued deft PR on the part of the Kerry campaign. I hope that the AP report on Berger was the first they knew of the story for their sakes. But then, what does that say about Sandy Berger?

Posted by TMLutas at 11:19 AM

July 20, 2004

Burying the Lead to Protect Kerry

Via Glenn Reynolds I see that Sandy Berger is under criminal investigation for unauthorized removal of classified documents. Who is Sandy Berger? There's the rub. The AP calls him a former Clinton administration advisor. But it would be just as accurate and an awful lot more topical to note that he is an official Kerry campaign foreign policy advisor, Kerry campaign official spokesperson, and on the short list for a high role in any prospective Kerry government.

Is anybody asking embarrassing questions of the Kerry campaign on this matter? Since this criminal investigation has been going on for months while Kerry continued to embrace Berger, does anybody doubt that somebody should be asking such questions? With the uproar starting to boil in the blogosphere, it seems like it's only a matter of time before such questions start to be asked but the first impulse is clear, bury the lead.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:42 AM

July 13, 2004

Why Vote When You Will Lose

Glenn Reynolds asks why vote on an amendment that will fail and asks if he's missing something. He is. In general, there are a lot of people flying false flags on moral issues. John Kerry verbally says he believes that life begins at conception (which is Catholic doctrine) but does absolutely nothing to temper his pro-abortion voting record. So putting people on the record by voting on this is going to expose a lot of frauds and people will take notice. They will put the results of the vote in their voting guides and some people will change their vote for Senator on the issue. Prof. Reynolds seems to imply that these people are already Republican base but I don't think so. I think that an awful lot of them are Democrat Catholics who are usually content to believe their politician's blather about family values at the annual church dinner.

We'll see.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:20 AM

July 12, 2004

The Electoral College

AEI has a very good book out called After We Vote on the Electoral College and what exactly happens after we vote in November until the new President and Vice President are sworn in in January. For the political junkie in all of us:

Posted by TMLutas at 01:04 PM

July 07, 2004

Libertarian Nomination II

LP Presidential candidate Michael Badnarik has filled in his previous too vague position on the War on Terror/Iraq invasion.

I think I liked him better vague. That status is much better than what he's come up with after more careful thought.

He claims that the Middle East "do not hate us for our freedom. They do not hate us for our lifestyle. They hate us because we have spent many years attempting to force them to emulate our lifestyle." This is simply, demonstrably false. Like most regions, there are several political currents in the Middle East. One, the Islamist current, absolutely hates us for our lifestyle and say so loudly and proudly. You only have to read what they write and listen to what they say.

The Islamist current is the animating force behind Al Queda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, and most of the rest of the Who's Who of Middle East terror groups. Even adopting relatively conservative social customs will not placate these people. They, by holy writ, are obligated to humiliate christians and jews, treating us as second class citizens with circumscribed rights and differential taxation. It is a religious commandment to make "people of the Book" dhimmis. For atheists and other religions humiliation is not enough. Only death will do for the Shinto faithful, the Buddhist, and the atheist.

It is true that the US has made a hash of things by supporting authoritarians over the past several decades. President Bush has admitted it and has turned over a new leaf in US foreign policy, trying to undo the damage we have done, a task that has been very much advanced by the invasion of Iraq. Whether active attempts to undo prior damage is a better strategy than withdrawing and letting the locals sort themselves out is debatable but we have multiple stories, multiple threats, and with Islamists on the rise it is impossible for us to responsibly leave the area entirely.

Badnarik has a long way to go before he achieves a responsible libertarian Middle East policy.

HT: Volokh Conspiaracy

Posted by TMLutas at 06:56 PM

July 06, 2004

Kerry's Abortion Problems

James Taranto's missing a turn on Kerry's abortion somersaults. Mr. Personally Opposed is not only following a long line of Catholic Democrats, he's also giving ammunition to the hierarchy to deep six the newly filed heresy accusations on exactly this subject. Believing in the Catholic faith but not fully acting on those beliefs is something that everyone who is not a saint is guilty of at some time. In fact, fully acting on Catholic beliefs is a pretty good working definition of sainthood.

Kerry cannot take the absolutist pro-choice position without ensuring that heresy charges are going to be a real and ongoing story in this campaign. At the same time, there is no better way to cleave the Democrat party electoral coalition than to be a pro-life Democrat post-nomination and pre-convention so becoming functionally pro-life is a non-starter. So he ends up in the classic Democrat straddle personally opposed to abortion but functionally pro-choice.

At a certain point, the US bishops will no longer stand for it. The question is whether that point will come before this November.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:03 PM

June 30, 2004

Bring the Troops Home From Where?

Driving through downtown Chicago today, I saw a protest marching by Buckingham Fountain. It was small, as such things go, maybe 30 people and I only had time to read the biggest sign which read "BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW". My first reaction was annoyance, the signs had caused traffic on Lake Shore Drive to slow down and back up and it probably delayed my arrival home by 5 minutes.

Thinking more about it, I wish that I could have asked them if they wanted the troops home from South Korea, Japan, Germany, and the dozens of other places where we base abroad. No doubt their major focus is on Iraq but read at face value this was a protest by the tie-dyed left that was blatantly isolationist. Isn't isolationism supposed to be the province of the loony right wing nuts?

Posted by TMLutas at 11:00 PM

Partisan Lows

I always thought that the absolute low for vicious partisanship was reached in the campaign against Andrew Jackson. I recall a caricature of him sitting down on a pile of skulls with his sword out and embedded in the pile. Now, via Andrew Sullivan, I find we've sunk to identical depths in the campaign against George Bush. The Nation owes the nation an apology for running such trash. Unfortunately, it's likely to only get worse as the campaign unfolds. The ability of the sane left to restrain these lunatics seems woefully underdeveloped.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:17 AM

June 29, 2004

Foreign Policy Brickbats

It's pretty clear that Foreign Policy Magazine has little love for George W Bush. A recent e-mail I got from them had the following items:

Imperial Amnesia
Europe's Quiet Leap Forward
Bush's Willing Enablers
The Metrosexual Superpower
Iraq's Excluded Women
Counting Civilian Casualties

And that's just in the free (or free registration) content. All the articles downplaying US accomplishments, hyping alternatives to the US and knocking George W Bush and his administration directly.

While I could get into a point by point rebuttal of a lot of the hot air that passes for serious criticism (I'm shocked, shocked, I tell you to find turmoil in a country with an active, foreign sponsored insurgency), It would make this post far, far too long. Rather, I think that what's really eating at the FP folks (and much of the rest of the left and right establishment) is that George W Bush has upset an apple cart that is so fundamental to their entire world view that, at all costs, his decision must not be confirmed by the next president of the opposite party. I'm speaking of Bush's decision to embrace post-westphalianism as the underlying logic beneath US foreign policy in his administration.

These people are not dumb. They simply hold that countries do not declare literal war against terrorist groups. War is reserved to interactions between states and has been since the Peace of Westphalia. In fact, when an Israeli cabinet minister declared that Israel was in a war with Hamas, he was savagely attacked and the Israeli government had to repudiate the idea. Since this happened after President Bush declared that we were in a GWOT, declaring war on all terrorist groups, the lack of condemnation in the US case is telling. They know that if they try to pull that kind of direct full court press on the US they will fail, uniting the country behind the President and his strategy.

Instead, they have opted for a death by a thousand cuts. Serious people with serious resumes write protest letters. Serious magazines devote article after article showing how GWB is an awful president and ruining the world. No good news gets reported, no risks are ever judged to have paid off. Only bad news, all the time, will be fit for print until this idea is dead and buried.

Unfortunately, the establishment has no realistic answer to the question of how to stop the terrorists without the framework of war. They would just prefer to keep the insecurity and dying to a sustainable level and value stability over problem resolution. In short, they are morally bankrupt and float in a sea of innocent victim's blood. They are the collective authors of the nasty bargains we have made to keep corrupt autocrats in power all over the world.

There was a time when such a bargain, compared to nuclear annihilation, seemed the lesser of two evils. In todays world, it is the greater of evils and must be named, shamed, and put aside as unworthy of our consideration.

The task of reforming the international system to unwind all the corrupt bargains of the past is huge. It can't be done all at once successfully. In fact, the terrorists' only hope of victory is for the US and allies to take on more than they can chew at once and strike in the zones of weakness that will inevitably form.

This struggle is the great challenge of our generation. And you won't hear about it for quite awhile on the evening news. They, after all, are not observers in the struggle, but participants.

Like Eisenhower confirmed FDR's New Deal, Nixon confirmed LBJ's Great Society, and Clinton confirmed Reagan's vision of America, GWB's foreign and domestic policy must not only succeed, but succeed in such a way that the next President from the opposing party will leave the heart of it untouched. There are two ways to avoid this. You can have an alternative intellectual framework to offer and implement when elected, and you can make the achievements of the policy so disreputable that agenda-less drift in wartime is preferable. It is that latter alternative that is what FP and all of the EU ankle biters are after.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:04 AM

June 28, 2004

Canada Election Prediction

I don't have actual numbers, but one thing is certain to come out of the current election. The idea that there is some sort of Liberal lock on the governing of Canada is dead. When I first found out about Flit (my eventual blogfather) there were several rounds of jokes about how the Conservatives would never get their act together sufficiently to challenge the Liberals and that Canada had become a one party state.

'Nuff said.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:26 AM

June 25, 2004

Where I Defend Michael Moore

Pay attention because this won't happen too often. Michael Moore is likely to have his free speech stifled this summer and fall. His odious movie, Farenheit 911, looks to get entangled in the campaign finance restrictions of McCain-Feingold, interfering with his right to promote his work. This is a sad, disgusting spectacle and utterly predictable.

Michael Moore's beliefs and mine are miles apart. But he has a right to peddle his views, no matter how mistaken, even in wartime. To not be able to advertise his movie because such advertisements would fall too close to an election is a very disturbing sign that the 1st amendment (and with it the health of our electoral system) is dying on the vine. It is all our responsibilities, as citizens, to ensure that we revive our system of free speech.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:25 AM

June 06, 2004

Tasteless Politics

With the passing of Ronald Reagan at the advanced age of 93, most mourn his passing (as I do), some people cheer in a disgusting display of partisanship, and some people can't take off their political hats for even one day.

K-Lo wonders why CNN's Bill Schneider would warn conservatives not to "politicize Reagan". I can spot it now and it's a slam dunk. The obvious meme that's waiting for Rove to notice is "win one for the Gipper". Look for it to show up, quietly, discreetly, in very Republican circles over the election campaign.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:27 AM

May 31, 2004

Libertarian Nomination I

The Libertarian Party has nominated Michael Badnarik as its candidate for the presidency of the United States. For the first time in my voting career I can't vote for a Libertarian Presidential candidate.

War is the most important responsibility of the state. It is the protection of the polity against outside enemies in its most elemental form. The following (from Badnarik's campaign site) simply disqualifies him in my eyes:

Michael doesn't have enough information to know whether or not the United States should be there or not, however he strongly suspects that the real motivation for being there is probably economic rather than ethical.

You just can't say "I don't know" to the foremost question of the hour and hope to get my vote. Even Kerry would have a better chance of getting my vote than this guy.

HT: Hit and Run

Posted by TMLutas at 03:11 PM

May 26, 2004


Reading about the Martin campaign kickoff it seems there seems to be a Canadian disease floating around the great white north. With the incumbent prime minister acting as if the US has cooties, it seems to me that he is put in a bit of a pickle. Anytime the US gets to some new social science innovation first, any canadian who advocates imitation to keep up, or adoption and improvement, can be tarred with the libel of betraying canadian values. Or at least that's the logical conclusion of PM Martin's apparent campaign strategy. Such a strategy of reflexive anti-americanism has not stood Gerhard Schroeder in good stead and is more than likely to turn around and bite Martin even sooner as Canadian dependence on the US is much greater than the FRG's.

It really is sad that the incumbent liberals can't seem to come up with something better than updating the kindergarten taunts of cooties.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:26 AM

May 24, 2004

Calling All Moonbats

If Kerry actually goes through with the idea of not formally accepting the nomination at the convention, the tinfoil brigade is likely to be looking very carefully at the DNC bylaws. At stake is the right to continue to dip into the money pool raised for the primaries and not touch the general election funding until later in the campaign. This is major league silliness but some people are taking it seriously so before the rush, somebody really ought to ask the FEC what is the triggering event before we get too close to the convention and pure partisanship reigns.

Then again (putting my own moonbat hat on), maybe Kerry's maneuver is a blessing in disguise. Why not just not accept the nomination at all and just go forward in the "primary" portion of the election cycle through to election day? That would be one way to get rid of the odious public finance portion of the presidential election.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:25 AM

May 21, 2004

On the Care and Feeding of Copperheads

The American Copperhead is a North American poisonous snake renowned for striking without warning.

It's also a political label:

The Copperheads were a group of Northern Democrats who opposed the American Civil War, wanting an immediate peace settlement. They were also called Peace Democrats. They were against emancipation, formed groups to persuade Union soldiers to desert, and helped Confederate prisoners of war escape. The name Copperheads was given to them by Republicans, explicitly comparing them to venomous snakes that strike without warning.

I'd previously noted that there's a delicate balance between labeling members of the loyal opposition too harshly and letting people get away with disloyalty, hiding behind the skirts of honest opponents. The encyclopedia article really provides a good working definition. Copperheads self label as Peace Democrats, seeking a cut and run, pull out end to the war. They don't want to liberate the muslims or arabs and may be self-interested in doing so or bigots who do not subscribe to the general american proposition that all men are created equal.

At the same time, we need to do better than Lincoln, who suspended habeus corpus and arrested Copperheads to influence an election. The nation survived but the incident is rightly viewed as a blot on our national honor. We must not fall into that trap again.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:26 AM

May 17, 2004

Walking a Line

Supporters of the Bush administration need to take care to walk a fine line between cheerleading and tearing down your own side according to Prof. Bainbridge. He's right, of course, and he's shading over to the criticism side of the line. He sells cheerleading a bit short though.

People need to be reminded of the virtues of Bush 2 or they won't vote for him and there won't even be a Bush 2.1 (his construction but it's a nice one). Grim necessity does not assemble majority coalitions very often. Prof. Bainbridge is going to vote for Bush, he assures us, but he is no happy warrior and is not likely to inspire many others to follow in his footsteps.

For me, Bush support is more than a grim necessity. He's not perfect, but given the hand that was dealt him, he's done a good job as president and deserves another term. For someone who is supposed to be simple, he's taken a finely balanced Congress and done admirably well at passing legislation. Even at his most statist moments (and he's not a libertarian, by no means) the damage has largely been temporary (steel tariffs) or mixed in with important reforms (medicare drug coverage) that had been stalled for decades. There is nothing uglier than legislation that gains a majority in a finely divided Congress. Bush has walked the line admirably.

To a surprising extent, Bush has also managed to keep certain dogs from barking. With an american left that has no shame about criticizing that Republicans are both doing too much and too little, Bush has avoided waking the Democrat dog that savages Republicans as military industrial complex shills and war mongers. This country would be in a far more precarious position today if a bill enlarging the armed forces would have been defeated by Congress. Bush, no doubt counting the votes, avoided the internationally explosive defeat and hardly anybody even notices. Whoever is president in 2005 will be able to push an enlargement bill through on wider margins because Bush, wisely, held his fire.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:03 AM

May 10, 2004

Kerry's Honesty

Viking Pundit notes that at least one of Kerry's fabled "come from behind" wins was due to campaign finance chicanery. This time Kerry seems to be starting early, going along with the full throated assault on the new campaign finance restrictions embodied in Democrats embrace of 527 committees. Now I'm no fan of restricting money in campaigns but it seems to me that civil disobedience is not something you try to pull under the table nor is it appropriate to do it in a presidential race.

When the inevitable last minute charges come that Bush is violating campaign finance rules, remember, this is Kerry's political MO. He's just not trustworthy.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:33 PM

May 08, 2004

Drug Reimportation Caution

Mort Kondrake's column on drug reimportation is a gem in general but one bit deserves extra amplification:

A recent Congressional Budget Office study found that importing drugs might not save consumers much money, especially if demand from the United States causes prices to rise in Canada and European countries, if those countries limit exports or if drug companies limit supply to those countries. Meanwhile, drug discount cards exist - but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and others, as part of a general effort to discredit the Medicare law, are urging seniors not to acquire them.

John Rother, national policy director of AARP, told me that the Democrats "have gone off the extreme end. The cards give poor seniors a $600 credit on their cards, giving them drugs almost for free. You'd think Democrats would want to help this constituency."

Rother said that while there "are problems" getting the discount card system started, seniors should be able to get a 30 percent discount, "which is almost what they'll save by going to Canada."

Drug reimportation savings were always a chimera. Price controls were always about cost shifting some of the local fair share to non-controlled states, not cost reduction overall for the development, education, and distribution of pharmaceuticals. But to have politicians try to convince seniors in need of relief that they shouldn't get it in order to score a political point is just reprehensible.

The headlines should be blaring, "Democrats to Seniors, Pay More For Now" and "Conning Granny on Drugs" but they aren't and likely won't be. As seniors figure out that they're being fooled, the traditional Democrat advantage in this age group is likely to erode. That won't change much this election but the Democrat party is eating its seed corn and unraveling its coalition over the long haul. That's got to hurt.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:16 AM

April 29, 2004

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XXIII

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XXIII is below:

What Democrats must offer is a sense of realism: when the United States goes to war it had better be prepared to stay where it has fought, to fix what it has broken, and to work with allies for years, if necessary, to consolidate its victories. We must demonstrate staying power, not just firepower, whether in the Balkans or Afghanistan or Iraq.

It just amazes me that a member of the administration that ran home from Somalia with its tail between its legs after one horrific incident (Black Hawk Down) can write the above paragraph and not even tangentially address the credibility chasm that Democrats bring to the table on the issue of sticking out reverses and staying the course in foreign interventions. But it's worse than ignoring Somalia and the other examples of Democrat ADHD (yes, there are Republican examples too but President Bush has already made it clear that they were a mistake, something that's lacking on the Democrat side). One of the scary features about our political system is that governments change regularly for domestic political reasons. If there is no consensus on foreign policy, the US will never manage to stay the course because the incoming party will have an entirely different course in mind and foreign partners and opponents will develop an entirely unhealthy interest in US domestic politics. They will have to in order to arrange their own affairs.

So where is the commitment to forging bipartisan consensus across party changeovers? It's nowhere to be found which means that we're likely to continue to get nasty last minute transition surprises when we go from Democrat to Republican administrations for the foreseeable future.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:34 PM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XXII

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XXII is below:

Of course, there will also be times when the war on terrorism tests our military, as in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Yemen, and in the Philippines. What will the war on terrorism require in terms of new doctrines, tactics, equipment, and training? How will it change our military organization? How can we defeat this new enemy while upholding the values that protect our own troops in wartime and that define who we are? The Bush administration has not addressed these questions. A Democratic administration must answer them.

The Bush administration believes that our military should be reserved for war fighting; it came to office averse to peacekeeping and nation building and deeply suspicious of long-term U.S. military deployments overseas. This prejudice drove strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq -- with disastrous consequences. After driving the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, the administration delegated the building of a nation to the same warlords who destroyed the Afghan nation in the early 1990s. As for Iraq, it sent the minimum number of troops needed to defeat the enemy, without simultaneously deploying forces to occupy and secure the ground those troops were liberating. The result was postwar chaos that emboldened terrorists and soured the coalition's relationship with Iraqis.

This is bizarro world stuff. Yes, there's some truth to it but in a very backwards sort of way and any resemblence to the actual situation on the ground is somewhat coincidental. Yes the military will be called on to defeat terrorism. In fact, Democratic criticism to date has largely rested on the idea that it has been called on too much to deal with the subject. The Bush administration's redefinition of war in post-Westphalian terms is such a huge change that it's been given a soft open, ie it's been stated simply (we're at war with Al Queda) and matter-of-factly because it upsets so many applecarts that to engage in significant public analysis invites the panicked formation of a grand coalition against the idea. Tony Blair can get away with explicit references to post-Westphalian international systems. The US president can't without starting something that may not end well for us. There is a lot of ground work that has to be done and, like the rest of the Bush administration initiatives it imitates, it will probably surface, nearly fully formed, at an appropriate time.

It is an unexceptional truth that the Bush administration was focused conventionally in its military thinking prior to 9/11. But blame them for that and you might as well condemn FDR while you are at it. He too made a considerable U-turn from his original campaign ideas of national military strategy.

The Democrat party simultaneously does not want to give the military more money, wants it to have more troops, and is the most sensitized portion of the country to the idea of US casualties. The truth is that if you reduce per soldier spending you get more casualties. You have fewer protective devices, less training, less skills, less experience, and that means more dead soldiers. The fact that we are not in a time of exploding military expenditures is precisely because Democrats are salivating at the political drubbing they would administer to George W. Bush if he were to dare submit such a budget and the margins in Congress are so thin that the administration dares not give them that set piece battle.

So the military stretches.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:43 AM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XXI

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XXI is below:

Most Democrats agree with President Bush that terrorists, and even recalcitrant regimes on occasion, must be confronted with force. The question should be how, not whether, our military and intelligence assets are employed, and whether we are adapting them rapidly enough to the challenges the United States faces today.

Since the Cold War ended, we have witnessed two generations of military reform: from amassing huge armored units to an emphasis on deploying light forces anywhere in the world, and from analog-based technology to the digital information age. The war on terrorism will require a third military transformation. Although we still need the capacity to fight conventional wars, we now must seek out and destroy enemies that hide in the shadows, often among civilians, without tanks or fighter planes. At heart, this effort will be an intelligence challenge. A new administration should launch a major retooling of our intelligence agencies, including appointing a director of national intelligence with authority over our entire intelligence budget, rather than the 20 cents on the dollar that the current CIA director controls.

This is theoretically very reassuring but I worry about the contrast between Democract and Republican response to military recalcitrance to the use of force. In Kosovo, purposeful delay removed Apache helicopters from the arsenal of usable military platforms. The civilians wanted them used and the military didn't. The military won that argument, but not honestly. Before Iraq was invaded Gen. Shinseki said in Congressional testimony that we would need several hundreds of thousands of troops to occupy Iraq, a figure we simply didn't have over the time necessary to transition to a free Iraqi government. Even today, it's clear that Shinseki's estimates were completely out of line and designed, once again, to dictate to civilian authorities whether military force could be used. Rumsfeld fired him for it.

There is a new transformation that needs to occur but it's not simply an intelligence transformation. It's the creation of Tom Barnett's Sys Admin force. If it is simply an intelligence operation, how are we supposed to get hold of these terrorists hiding in the shadows? Are we supposed to ask nicely of the governments who have been well bribed to protect them? Or perhaps we should just violate their national sovereignty and take them out. More likely, we will end up exactly where the Clinton administration was, with UAVs taking pictures of terrorists but us unable, legally, to do anything about them.

To go into these countries requires a new intellectual framework to go beyond the Westphalian strictures of national sovereignty. A revitalized intelligence operation won't get the job done because if they do what's necessary without the concomitant reform of post-Westphalianism, they'll go to jail, whether via some US trial or an ICC process. Remember, Democrats would bargain away our reservations on the ICC in exchange for more cooperation on the Global War On Terror so even if we don't try these people, you can be sure that an indictment will come out of the ICC and, at the very least, the usefulness of these agents will come to an end in any ICC signatory nation.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:13 AM

April 28, 2004

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XX

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XX is below:

A Democratic administration should seek to strengthen global rules against proliferation more generally. The existing Non-Proliferation Treaty (npt) established an important norm. Since 1975, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Taiwan, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine, and now Libya have reversed course and given up their nuclear weapons programs under its auspices. But the npt remains flawed, because it permits countries to develop all the building blocks of a nuclear weapons program and then to withdraw from the treaty without penalty once they are ready to enrich uranium or produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

We should press for a new bargain. Nuclear powers such as the United States should help non-nuclear countries develop nuclear energy and provide them with uranium. But they should maintain control of the fuel cycle, taking back spent nuclear material and storing it securely so it cannot be used to build weapons. (Clearly, there are risks associated with how and where fuel is stored, but there is no risk-free alternative.) Any country that seeks to escape this strict system of controls should be subject to automatic UN sanctions. To hope to convince non-nuclear powers to agree to this arrangement, the United States should lead by example. That means giving up the Bush administration's irresponsible plan to develop a new generation of low-yield nuclear weapons (which sends the message that nuclear weapons are a useful instrument of war) and joining the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

First, Libya gave up their WMD not because of the NPT but because the US led a coalition to go beyond the NPT inspection regime:

As a result of our penetration of the network, American and the British intelligence identified a shipment of advanced centrifuge parts manufactured at the Malaysia facility. We followed the shipment of these parts to Dubai, and watched as they were transferred to the BBC China, a German-owned ship. After the ship passed through the Suez Canal, bound for Libya, it was stopped by German and Italian authorities. They found several containers, each forty feet in length, listed on the ship's manifest as full of "used machine parts." In fact, these containers were filled with parts of sophisticated centrifuges.

The interception of the BBC China came as Libyan and British and American officials were discussing the possibility of Libya ending its WMD programs. The United States and Britain confronted Libyan officials with this evidence of an active and illegal nuclear program. About two months ago, Libya's leader voluntarily agreed to end his nuclear and chemical weapons programs, not to pursue biological weapons, and to permit thorough inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. We're now working in partnership with these organizations and with the United Kingdom to help the government of Libya dismantle those programs and eliminate all dangerous materials.

But the problem of peaceful nuclear development can be solved without having to import designs or expertise from current nuclear powers. What justification is there for interfering with a country that is creating their own nuclear program without outside aid or outside fuel? The reality is that there is nothing wrong with a free, stable nation developing and maintaining a nuclear program. It provides new competition in the nuclear field. The fundamental problem is and has always been the quality of national leadership and national institutions. As time goes on, unstable countries will gain the ability to gain the bomb. In fact, with Pakistan as a nuclear power we have arguably already crossed that threshold. The cure for this is not a new treaty but a new relationship with these countries, creating the conditions for them to join the Functioning Core. As they do so, the concerns we naturally have will dissipate as their stake in the maintenance of the present order grows.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:55 PM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XIX

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XIX is below:

We need the same kind of "overt action" plan for Iran, offering -- in full public view -- normal relations in exchange for total renunciation of nuclear aspirations and terrorism by Tehran. Let the Iranian government say no to such an offer and be the obstacle to its people's aspirations, a decision that would create its own dynamic inside Iran. We have other problems with Iran and North Korea, including their appalling human rights abuses. But those can best be addressed if we first bring them out of isolation.

President Wilson must be rolling over in his grave. To give the mullahs of Iran normal political relations with the United States as they internally repress their own people is not normal Democrat politics. When a regime like that in Iran is no longer even able to staff the machinery of repression with their own nationals but must import palestinians and other foreigners to crack heads and beat down dissent it's a regime on its last legs. Giving Iran a new lease on life will stifle Iraq's possible role as a safe haven for pro-democracy Shiites to come study and plan in Iraq's religious centers and create a genuine alternative to the distorted Islamic interpretations now in vogue among the governing mullahs of Tehran.

Sandy Berger, it seems, would rather play for a tie rather than to fight to win. That's a real shame because we need two parties willing to fight to win this war. War cannot be a permanent state and the only end to it is to win or surrender.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:16 PM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XVIII

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XVIII is below:

A Democratic administration must clearly and promptly test whether Kim Jong Il intends North Korea to become a nuclear factory or whether he will negotiate his way into the international community. U.S. officials must put a serious proposition on the table -- a nationwide, verifiable dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs in exchange for economic and political integration -- and be prepared to sequence implementation in a reciprocal way once the ultimate objectives are accepted. We must be prepared to take yes for an answer. And if Pyongyang's answer is no, South Korea, Japan, and China will join us in coercive actions only if they are convinced that we made a serious, good-faith effort to avoid confrontation. The worst option is one in which cash-starved North Korea becomes a supplier of nuclear weapons to al Qaeda or Hamas or to radical Chechens, who then deliver them to Washington, London, or Moscow.

And the North Koreans will simply say that they will not talk about such vital matters until the important issue of the shape of the table is resolved. The US will either confess to wanting a deal badly enough to give away the store or be stuck negotiating the shape of the table with neither a yes, nor a no available to use to convince our regional partners to take further action against North Korea. Indirect pressure can be used, but it is already being used.

The United States has already demonstrated that it is willing to take yes for an answer. The demonstration has quite publicly happened in the case of Libya, which is now well on the way to restoring its position in the community of nations despite a long history of bad behavior. The difference is that there is a demonstrated change in attitude and action. North Korea has not undergone the same change. It has not uttered a real yes so our behavior hasn't changed towards it.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:41 PM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XVII

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XVII is below:

The one country that we know has the capacity, and conceivably the inclination, actually to sell a working nuclear weapon to a terrorist group is North Korea. Yet the administration has reacted with inexplicable complacency as North Korea has crossed line after line on its way to becoming the world's first nuclear Wal-Mart. Pyongyang is now capable of producing, and potentially selling, up to 6 nuclear weapons at any time -- possibly 20 a year by the end of this decade -- something that even the most dire intelligence estimates did not predict in Iraq. We do not know how much plutonium North Korea has reprocessed into useable nuclear fuel over the past 18 months, since it expelled international monitors while we were busy negotiating the shape of the table.

For those not familiar with the term, to negotiate the shape of the table is a diplomatic tactic, seldom used by the US, to engage in a contest of wills, insisting that certain trivial issues must be negotiated before any talk of substance starts. The loser is he who agrees to the other's proposal for 'the shape of the table' thus admitting that he is the weaker party who will be giving the bulk of concessions when it comes to the substantial portion of the negotiation.

In the Korean War, it literally took the form of negotiations of the shape of the table at which talks would proceed and the excruciating length of these negotiations are where the term comes from.

Sandy Berger is preemptively announcing that in any negotiation with North Korea under a Democrat administration following his advice, the US will be the weaker party and the N. Koreans can wear us down with delaying tactics at will. How he can possibly give away the store so early and so publicly is beyond me. What is he thinking?

Posted by TMLutas at 12:23 PM

The Missing Kerry Poll

Reading this Village Voice "dump Kerry" editorial the thought occurs that if dump Kerry becomes a serious meme in Democrat politics, shouldn't polling be done of Democrat party delegates and electors on the matter? And this isn't just an intramural Democrat party spat. If President Bush is wise, he'll look at what happened to the Republican candidate when Sen. Torricelli was pulled from the ballot late in the race. The presidency is a funny post. It's not elected directly.

What people vote for is a slate of electors. If the electors are willing to jump ship if Kerry sinks enough, the Bush campaign had better have a plan 'B' in mind because they are going to need one. There would be little time to do opposition research, prepare messages catering to the new candidate's weaknesses and change gears quickly enough to win. In fact, the electors have the (never actually exercised to date) right to vote somebody else into the White House than the candidate to whom they were pledged.

Now Kerry's been eulogized before, as recently as this very campaign. If he comes back, fine, we'll have a conventional presidential race. But it would be interesting to poll the delegates and the electors to see what Kerry's numbers are. It would be a unique media product and would genuinely provide new information about Kerry's base strength.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:09 PM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XVI

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XVI is below:

Another hopeful section:

The Bush administration's argument for invading Iraq rested, in part, on the belief that the United States cannot wait until a WMD threat is imminent before taking action. Yet its overall approach to combating WMD proliferation defies the logic of this position.

A Democratic administration should use every tool at its disposal to prevent WMD threats from arising before force becomes the only option. The most obvious early measure Washington can take to keep deadly weapons materials from falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue regimes is to secure them at source. Yet the current administration has shown little interest in accelerating or expanding programs to do this. Indeed, President Bush tried to cut back the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program for the former Soviet Union early in his term. At our current pace, it will take 13 years to complete security upgrades at every site containing plutonium and highly enriched uranium in Russia. With increased funding for Nunn-Lugar, this process could be accelerated to 4 years. Beyond Russia, dozens of research reactors contain the raw materials for making a radiological or nuclear weapon. We should lead a global effort to secure nuclear materials at all such sites.

I don't know why Nunn-Lugar spending fell victim to the budgetary ax. I wish it hadn't. If it is as effective as advertised above, it needs to be strengthened. If it's not working, don't starve it, scrap it, and tell Russia that now that its economy is running high on petrodollars it's going to have to shoulder its own responsibilities for keeping control of its own nuclear weapons material.

The present situation is one of my own difficulties with this administration and I wish they would sort this out better.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:08 AM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XV

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XV is below:

Iraq, too, will require a generational commitment by the international community. Regardless of whether the war was justified, everyone now has a profound stake in Iraq's success. The disintegration of that country along ethnic and religious fault lines would destabilize the Middle East and energize radical movements that threaten the world. A stable and democratic Iraq, on the other hand, would stimulate reform throughout the region. Attaining the latter outcome will require continuous involvement in Iraq's reconstruction and political development, as well as a proactive military posture that does not leave foreign troops hunkered down in bases and barracks, delegating security to an ill-prepared Iraqi security force. But that level of involvement will be unsustainable -- and will be considered illegitimate by ordinary Iraqis -- unless it is viewed as a truly international, rather than exclusively American, effort.

The irony is that the Bush administration's unilateralist approach has let our allies off the hook: it has given them an excuse to shirk these and other global responsibilities. A Democratic administration would not be so dismissive of our allies on the issues that matter to them. In turn, it would have authority to demand far more of them on the issues that matter to us -- whether stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, democratizing the Middle East, or combating the spread and potential use of WMD.

And if these allies say no thank you, they'll stay out of Iraq anyway? You end up right back where the "unilateralist" Bush administration has placed us, in a posture of selective cooptition, cooperation and competition balanced in the same relationship. They're not wholehearted allies, but not enemies either. They are self-announced strategic competitors but not competitors in raw geopolitical strength. They're ankle biters trying to draw down US strength so they don't have to climb what they feel are impossible heights to catch up with us.

Anybody can pick a pretext about which to be outraged. Kerry's support of the Sharon plan would do fine all by itself. Diplomacy is often the art of making mountains out of molehills and vice versa in the neverending pursuit of your country's permanent interests. If the French, German, and other governments who are balking now are doing so based on their permanent interests, no amount of calm soothing words will smooth their ruffled feathers. The feathers are ruffled as part of a political strategy, one that will not be denied.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:40 AM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XIV

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XIV is below:

As we re-engage in the peace process and rebuild frayed ties with our allies, what should a Democratic president ask of our allies in return? First and foremost, we should ask for a real commitment of troops and money to Afghanistan and Iraq. Now that NATO has finally agreed to lead an expanded peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, there is a desperate need for European forces to augment the existing U.S. military presence in the country, to ensure that it does not return to a state of chaos that threatens our interests. Afghanistan, with Pakistan, remains a frontline battleground in the war on terrorism. But given the state of transatlantic relations, there is little support in Europe for sending troops on dangerous missions there. A new administration will have to overcome this challenge if it is to restore security to Afghanistan and relieve the burden on U.S. forces.

This section denies the idea that transatlantic issues are anything more than one presidential administration's pique. If it weren't for that darn prickly George W Bush, France would not be talking about a multipolar world, trying to create a European Union that is a counterweight to the US. There would be no talk about an EU army competing with NATO. There would be no stereotypes of ugly americans floating around. But of course all this occurred during the Clinton administration too so it's very hard to tell where Berger is getting this idea that the only thing that has fundamentally changed has happened in the past few years and is exclusively on this side of the Atlantic.

Certainly the Bush administration is guilty of refusing to paper over differences and they did start off their relationship by stomping on the lit bags of feces left by the Clinton Administration (ICC & Kyoto). That didn't make things any better. But would smiling and playing nice, ignoring the ankle biting have improved things? Or would it just have worsened the US position. Without a frank recognition that the causes of friction exist on both sides of the relationship, it's impossible to even address the question. This is embarrassing for a senior diplomatic voice to offer up in a serious piece for a magazine like Foreign Affairs.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:21 AM

April 27, 2004

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XIII

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XII is below:

As part of a new bargain with our allies, the United States must re-engage in what the rest of the world rightly considers the cornerstone of a lasting transformation of the Middle East: ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So long as that dispute continues, Arab rulers will use it as an excuse to avoid reform and to resist open cooperation with the United States in the war on terrorism.

A point may have been reached where unilateral steps by Israel to protect its security are inevitable. For more than three years now, the people of Israel have been subjected to a brutal, unprecedented assault. But the Israeli government's moves must be a way station, rather than an illusory end point, advancing changes in Palestinian leadership that could help foster a negotiated settlement. If Israeli withdrawals from Gaza and the West Bank are coordinated with the Palestinians, and if an Israeli fence is seen as a temporary measure shaped by security and demographic concerns (as opposed to a land grab), hope for a real solution will be preserved. If not, the vacuum left by the withdrawals could result in a failed terrorist haven dominated by Hamas radicals. In this nightmare scenario, the suicidal Palestinian strategy of terror would continue, pushing Israel not to the sea but to the right. A long-term war of attrition would leave Israelis even more divided and disillusioned, and a whole new generation of children in the region would grow up seeing the United States as the problem, not the solution.

U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has traditionally rested on two pillars. We are Israel's staunchest ally. And we are an honest broker between the two sides, which has made us not impartial, but, rather, partial to an agreement that both assures Israel's security and guarantees a dignified life for Palestinians. A Democratic administration must return with energy and urgency to these principles. It should stand solidly behind Israel in its fight against terrorism and help ordinary Palestinians to liberate themselves from a leadership concerned with little more than its own survival. It should also lead the international community in offering a realistic vision of how life would look for Palestinians if they were to accept and respect the security and existence of the Jewish state of Israel. And it should offer the outlines of a two-state solution -- giving Palestinians something to gain and something to lose. The stakes are enormous and there is no way forward without active American engagement.

Likely this was written prior to the presentation of Sharon's unilateral Gaza withdrawal which seems to fit all the qualifications of a Berger foreign policy in this area. And the continuation of the suicide strategy is in doubt now that Israel has made it clear that being a pro-suicide bombing leader forfeits any immunity you might have against assassination. Sandy Berger should be happy.

Indeed, it seems he is happy and has convinced Kerry to come aboard the Sharon initiative. That's got to make a lot of the left spit nails but where are they going to go, Nader?


Posted by TMLutas at 04:11 PM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XII

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XII is below:

The Democratic approach to resolving disputes with Europe over treaties should be pragmatic, focused on improving flawed agreements rather than ripping them up. International law is not self-enforcing. It does not, by itself, solve anything. But when our goals are embodied in binding agreements, we can gain international support in enforcing them when they are violated. By the same token, nothing undermines U.S. authority more than the perception that the United States considers itself too powerful to be bound by the norms we preach to others.

A useful corollary might be not to sign things that can't get past the Senate. Kyoto would still be under negotiation if it were not for Sandy Berger's old boss Bill Clinton signing away what he knew would have to be unsigned. Signing treaties that you know are unacceptable to the national interest is a good way to set up talking points in the next election but is highly deleterious to our nation's standing. It is a poor principle that no matter what is signed at the 11th hour, no agreement is too lopsided, unfair, or unworkable to deserve repudiation by the next government. Truly adopting such an idea would be a step backwards for our system of government as we went back to the old style of transitions where hostility reigned and damn the national interest.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:02 AM

April 26, 2004

Berger's Vision: The Fisking XI

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part XI is below:

A Democratic administration will need to reaffirm the United States' willingness to use military power -- alone if necessary -- in defense of its vital interests. But it will have no more urgent task than to restore America's global moral and political authority, so that when we decide to act we can persuade others to join us. Achieving this reversal will require forging a new strategic bargain with our closest allies, particularly in Europe. To this end, Washington should begin with a simple statement of policy: that the United States will act in concert with its allies in meeting global threats as a first, not last, resort. When we ask our allies to join us in military action, or in nation-building efforts in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, we should be ready to share not just the risks but also the decision-making. That is what we did when NATO went to war in Bosnia and Kosovo, and what the administration irresponsibly failed to do when NATO invoked its collective defense clause to offer aid to the United States in Afghanistan. The U.S. side of the bargain must also include a disciplined focus on our true global priorities, starting with the war on terrorism, undistracted by petty ideological disputes over issues such as Kyoto, the ICC, and the biological weapons convention.

I expect that the US will not have to repeat the methods and tactics that we used in Afghanistan and Iraq because these were an artifact of the shift from peace to war. The cross-border entanglements where major political players are compromised by dictators are going to come out, have started coming out. As the scandalous behavior of all too many becomes clear, what will also come clear is that such behavior, no matter how profitable in the short run, will be exposed and will destroy reputation and livelihood when it is uncovered. A virtuous circle is starting to form and will emerge over the next few years cleaning up the politics both at home and abroad and reducing the influence that such compromised figures have in our foreign policy decisions.

This requires no new strategic bargain, merely a recognition that they've cleaned up their act and are acting in their own interest and no longer as shills for dictators. When we are truly negotiating with our allies, we can give them all that Sandy Berger says we should. The disturbing thought is when we have allied governments bought and paid for by our enemies Berger would still have us share command, share all information, and give them heavy influence over our actions.

It's also instructive that Kyoto, a treaty embodying principles preemptively rejected 95-0 by the US Senate is included in a list of 'petty ideological disagreements'. If anything is passed 95-0 in the US Senate, you can be very sure that this issue is not a subject of mere petty ideological disagreement.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:22 PM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking X

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part X is below:

Going into Iraq, the Bush administration believed that most of our allies would get on board if we made it clear that the train would leave without them. It also believed that we did not need the legitimacy UN authorization and involvement would have bestowed. Those theories did not stand up to reality. Washington's failure to gain the support of capable allies (France, Germany, and Turkey, rather than, say, the Marshall Islands) vastly increased the human, financial, and strategic costs of the war and has threatened the success of the occupation.

This section assumes that there was some magical method of overcoming the fact that powerful actors in our "capable allies" were bought by Saddam. It is still not laughable that such a scenario could have existed yet, just as it was not laughable for some time to defend Hiss or claim that the USCP was not controlled by the Soviets. Eventually the damning truth came out as it will in this case. I don't think Sandy Berger will be very proud of this statement a decade from now.

The administration continued to squander U.S. influence with its allies even after the war. Much has been said about the Pentagon's rash decision to deny Iraqi reconstruction contracts to companies from NATO allies such as Canada, France, and Germany, just as the United States was asking them to forgive Iraqi debt. But few people noticed the administration's even more bizarre decision to suspend millions in military aid to countries that supported the war because they refused to grant Americans full immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the end, we treated "new Europe" as shabbily as we treated "old Europe."

As for the UN, a few months after the Iraq invasion the administration found that the leader of Iraq's dominant Shia community would not even talk to American officials, much less accept our plan for elections in Iraq. So Washington begged the UN to step in on our behalf: a belated recognition that our actions are seen as more legitimate when the international community embraces them.

News Flash, high Democrat policy wise man advocates US allow troops to go before kangaroo court. We don't belong to the ICC because we think that the ICC is not a proper tribunal and will be filled with abuses. Berger doesn't take the stupid but defensible position that we should join the ICC. Instead he is saying here that we should not act in any way to actually defend our position. He is trying to forge a linkage between support for Iraq and permitting the prosecution of our troops via a court that we feel would create unjust prosecutions. Defending our interests is treating our allies shabbily. Much better, in Berger's eyes, to treat our troops shabbily and not insist on treaties that complicate our allies' relationships with the French.

The UN, of course, was the focus of two major successful resolution campaigns and a major speech at the UN by President Bush. Since this doesn't fit the mold of a presidential administration determined to sideline the UN, history is ignored for a good story line. What ended up happening was that we were forced into a choice between action and inaction with sanctions coming apart at the seams and Saddam in the home stretch of his campaign to get out from under the post-Kuwait restrictive regime. At the last possible minute before we lost our good weather, we invaded. It was a close run thing.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:44 PM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking IX

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part IX is below:

A posture of strength and resolve and a willingness to define clear terms and to impose consequences are clearly the right approach for dealing with our adversaries. But where the Bush administration has gone badly wrong is in applying its "with us or against us" philosophy to friends as well as foes. Put simply, our natural allies are much more likely to be persuaded by the power of American arguments than by the argument of American power. Democratically elected leaders -- whether in Germany, the United Kingdom, Mexico, or South Korea -- must sustain popular support for joint endeavors with the United States. When we work to convince them that the United States is using its strength for the common good, we enable them to stand with us. But when we compel them to serve our ends, we make it politically necessary, even advantageous, for them to resist us. It would have been hard to imagine a decade ago that leaders of Germany and South Korea -- two nations that owe their existence to the sacrifice of American blood -- would win elections by appealing to anti-Americanism.

The problem here is that Berger is thinking too much in terms of black and white compared to the nuanced position of the Bush administration. No, I'm not kidding and yes, you read that correctly. The a large part of the exercise of Westphalia was in reducing nuance. The complexities of a particular country were reduced to a broad unit called the state. Everybody was homogenized and restricted from interacting with the component pieces of the state. You just took whatever where the outputs of that state and dealt with the ruling government to fix any problems you had with what ever came out. The internal workings were none of your business.

In the Westphalian revisionist efforts of the Bush and Blair governments, we're opening up those units called states and finding out that a large part of why entities such as Iraq were fundamentally unfixable were because some people had long been forging non-Westphalian alliances for private gain. People in the Functioning Core who are well connected politically are taking money from dictators in the Non-Integrating Gap in order to frustrate efforts at overthrowing the tyrants and moving these societies into the Core. This is becoming public in the slow motion catastrophe that is the oil-for-food scandal.

In such a situation where your allies are riddled with traitors who are in foreign pay and the obstructionism of a friend who doesn't yet see reason is indistinguishable from the obstructionism of a paid enemy agent there has to be a period of clarification where we sort the sheep from the goats.

Berger provides no recognition of this reality on the ground and his simplistic and naive position ignoring these important realities handicaps and will continue to handicap his ability to give useful advice.

How, exactly, would a future Democrat president address our current and future Cardinal Richelieu-like plotters who wield enormous influence with governments all across the Functioning Core? How are we supposed to react the next time governments in the Core are bought off by dictators in the Gap?

Posted by TMLutas at 12:38 PM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking VIII

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part VIII is below:

Likewise, we must reject the convenient fallacies that free markets inevitably give rise to free societies or that globalization by itself will lead to peace. Nations and leaders are not captive to abstract historical forces but act in accordance with their interests and ambitions. For the foreseeable future, the United States and its allies must be prepared to employ raw military and economic power to check the ambitions of those who threaten our interests.

There are two forms of competition challenging the US right now, competition and friction within the Functioning Core and the dangers that are emerging from the Non-Integrating Gap. The competition and the friction within the Functioning Core is at its lowest ebb in centuries. There are no civilizational conflicts on the horizon. There are no alternative great ideas that people will die in their millions for. We are in a period of consolidation and cleanup in the victory of free market capitalism over other economic systems and pluralism in the Core as a social system.

Berger is right that globalization, by itself, does not inevitably lead to peace but that is a half-truth. The kind of frictions that it does not help out with are intra-Core frictions, the very problems that we can put on the back burner because of their low threat level. The chance of Islamists coming in and imposing Sharia is much higher than the French coming in and forcing us to recite in school how "our fathers, the Gauls" created everything.

Where globalization and adopting the Core's rulesets does promote peace is in the friction and danger coming out of the Non-Integrating Gap. Since this is our primary security challenge of this era it's disturbing that Berger isn't talking about the elephant in the room.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:51 AM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking VII

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part VII is below:

And now, for a more hopeful section:

Bush administration hard-liners have not been bashful about defining and defending their vision. In an election year, Democrats must also be clear about what they believe and about what they would do to advance U.S. security, prosperity, and democratic ideals, to restore our influence, standing, and ability to lead. Democrats must outline a foreign policy that not only sets the right goals, but also rebuilds America's capacity to achieve them.


Every postwar administration, Republican and Democratic, has believed that there are things in this world worth fighting: threatening regimes or individuals who deserve to be called evil and can be stopped only by force. And today, although we must try to change the political and economic conditions in which terrorist movements are spawned, we must recognize that simply addressing root causes will not stop committed terrorists from attacking the United States and our allies; such people must be apprehended or killed.

The only thing that I would add to this section besides a bravo, well done is that there is one other thing you can do with committed terrorists, you can attack their belief system. This is a crucial distinction and an important challenge for anybody seeking high political office in the US today. Getting the government to publicly challenge the Islamist's belief system is a very difficult thing to do because it runs smack into the first amendment's protection of religious expression and the religious peace treaty that marks the miracle of so many faiths sharing the same country peacefully where in other nations the same faiths fight and kill each other. It used to be that I'd idly wonder how we would handle a modern day thuggee, a religion that is a murder cult. Would we do better than the british who exterminated it or could we even do as well? We now have the chance to find out but Sandy Berger doesn't even address the issue in this otherwise admirable segment.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:41 AM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking VI

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part VI is below:

The real "clash of civilizations" is taking place within Washington. Considering the open differences between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, it is even playing out within the Bush administration itself. It is not really a clash over discrete policy issues -- the merits of the war in Iraq, the costs of the Kyoto Protocol, or the level of spending on foreign aid, for example -- but between diametrically opposed conceptions of America's role in the world. It is a battle fought between liberal internationalists in both parties who believe that our strength is usually greatest when we work in concert with allies in defense of shared values and interests, versus those who seem to believe that the United States should go it alone -- or not go it at all.

This is simply misstating the situation at hand. Yes there are fights but they are fights of action versus inaction. Nobody has made a single speech, opinion piece, or policy paper advocating going it alone rather than with more allies as a preferential strategy. The question is whether the loss of any ally should cause us to stop our fight when we can bear the burden and achieve victory alone. Sure, going it alone is more risky and carries a greater burden in both blood and treasure. That is not the same as "go it alone -- or not go it at all."

Why would someone who has served at the highest level of government in our diplomatic service make such an obvious blunder? They wouldn't and that makes this partisan spin, not honest policy prescription. The real dividing line is who are the essential allies who may, by their real or threatened withdrawal, extract any concession in a coalition in order that the operation may go forward at all? If such allies exist, they should be named. Berger never does name them because to do so would expose the utter bankruptcy of the position. The greatest power in the world would be revealed as a horse and we would know the identities of the riders.

From a political viewpoint, it is much better to just saddle up and let our betters choose the rider of the day. Is that what serious Democrat foreign policy has come to in this century?

Posted by TMLutas at 08:45 AM

April 25, 2004

Berger's Vision: The Fisking V

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part V is below:

These ["U.S. power -- particularly military power -- is the only real force for advancing U.S. interests"] are not new ideas. During the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, a hard-line faction of congressional Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Robert Taft, fought virtually every measure to build the postwar international order. They opposed NATO and the permanent deployment of U.S. troops in Europe, believing we should rely on the unilateral exercise of military power to defeat Soviet designs. They fought the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and turned against the UN. And they disdained "one worlders" such as Eleanor Roosevelt for their support of international law. Taft Republicans were briefly dominant in the U.S. Congress (until the combined efforts of Democrats and internationalist Republicans such as Dwight Eisenhower relegated them to the sidelines). But their radical world-view never drove policy in the executive branch -- until today.

This section is so detached from reality that I'm having a hard time trying to figure out where to start. International Communism was an existential challenge but it was generally not a challenge to the Westphalian system though there were some tertiary aspects to Communism that did threaten the system in theory. You might recall that theoretically the state was eventually going to wither away.

The true state of things today isn't a mainstream choice between two forms of action to counter this threat but rather between real action and verbal posturing. The reality is that parts of our international system have either always been dysfunctional or have grown that way. Ronald Reagan tried to force reform by withdrawing from UNESCO. And his method worked, after 20 years...

So if the IAEA is ineffective in N. Korea and Iran, and it is missing proliferation cabals like the Libyan group effort recently abandoned should we withdraw and wait two decades for reform to happen in the UN? Or should we take the Bush approach and create a new institution, the Proliferation Security Initiative? The PSI may not have the fancy offices and institutional age and weight that the IAEA has but it does have one advantage, effectiveness.

The pattern of opting for effective action once permanent institutions prove ineffective is a continuing theme for the Bush administration. But what is the Berger alternative for effective action once a permanent part of the international system shows itself as ineffective or worse? There doesn't seem to be one other than to take the defeat gracefully and just live with it. Such a strategy is simply not acceptable wartime thinking.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:41 AM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking IV

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part IV is below:

As a result, although the United States has never enjoyed greater power than it does today, it has rarely possessed so little influence. We can compel, but far too often we cannot persuade. Our most important global initiatives, from advancing reform in the Middle East to defeating terrorism, will likely fail, unless there is a change in approach -- or a change in leadership.

So, we compelled Libya to give up its WMD programs (what a trick that was), it's just coincidental that Saudi Arabia is talking about elections for local positions for the first time, and democratic protests in Syria have nothing at all to do with demonstrated US resolve.


The foreign policy debate in this year's presidential election is as much about means as it is about ends. Most Democrats agree with President Bush that the fight against terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) must be top global priorities, that the war in Afghanistan was necessary and just, and that Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed a threat that needed to be dealt with in one form or another. Over time, moreover, the Bush administration has, at least rhetorically, embraced the Democrats' argument that to win the war on terrorism the United States must do more than destroy something bad; it must also construct something good, supporting other peoples' aspirations to live in freedom and peace and to conquer poverty and disease.

But the manner in which the Bush administration has advanced these goals has been driven by a radical set of convictions about how the United States should act on the world stage. Key strategists inside the administration appear to believe that in a chaotic world, U.S. power -- particularly military power -- is the only real force for advancing U.S. interests, that as long as the United States is feared it does not matter much if we are admired. These same people believe it is best to recruit temporary "coalitions of the willing" to back our foreign actions, because permanent alliances require too many compromises. They believe the United States is perforce a benign power with good intentions and therefore does not need to seek legitimacy from the approval of others. And they believe that international institutions and international law are nothing more than a trap set by weaker nations to constrain us.

Actually both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair understand that the entire international system is based on some bedrock assumptions about national sovereignty. The World Bank, the IMF, the UN, the entire edifice of international institutions all assume that the national sovereignty principles first enunciated in the Peace of Westphalia still hold true today.

The problem is that the Islamists think so too. They have built their battle plan around the idea that they can walk the fault lines of Westphalia, that they can have their cake (be stateless and free from western warfare) and eat it too (attack the West with impunity and cause long term capitulation through a series of ever worsening accommodations).

It is not that these Westphalian institutions were built to restrain the US. They were built to restrain everybody and herd them into only acting at the nation/state level. Such restraints will cause us to lose the War on Terrorism.

This is a key point in US and UK strategy. If you miss this, you have no hope of understanding either Bush or Blair or crafting an opposition alternative that might improve on the present policy in either ends or means.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:42 AM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking III

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part III is below:

Such negative feelings result in part from a natural resentment of U.S. military, economic, and cultural might, about which we can do little and for which we need not apologize. But they have been accentuated by the manner in which the Bush administration has pursued its goals. The administration's high-handed style and its gratuitous unilateralism have embittered even those most likely to embrace American values and invited opposition even from those with most to gain from American successes. All around the world, fewer and fewer people accept that any connection exists between their aspirations and the principles Washington preaches.

We are just starting to find out how many nations had prominent politicians bribed into supporting Saddam. In such an environment there was no realistic chance of either exposing the bribe takers or getting any sort of traditional coalition assembled against Saddam. Too many people were feeding on oil-for-food money, selling their souls for oil contracts.

The practicalities of such a situation are that you have to gather who you can so you can turn over the rock and expose the ugliness hidden underneath. Once that is done, you trace the threads back and find out who the corrupt were who went along with starving children to line their own pockets.

But Iraq is not unique. This nasty little scenario repeats in tyranny after tyranny. Our hands are not 100% clean either. There are forces in this country that have established interests in tyrannical, disconnected regimes and they shill for dictators to protect their financial interests.

The practical effect of not being high handed and unilateral is inaction, gridlock, and talk as a substitute for results. That might have been acceptable in the Clinton administration when we refused to recognize that the Islamists had declared war on the US but in wartime this is unacceptable.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:08 AM

Berger's Vision: The Fisking II

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part II is below:

Similar contradictions abound in other parts of the world. Washington is committed to defending South Korea if war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, yet growing numbers of young South Koreans see the United States as a greater threat to security than North Korea.

I personally recall anti-american protests, even violent ones as far back as the Reagan administration. Youth groups protesting against US forces in Korea are not new and have been growing long before George W. Bush took office. Yet somehow the biggest protests when we move our troops out of Seoul is because we are moving them so far away from the DMZ not that we are staying in South Korea at all. The further away the Korean War sinks into the mists of time and away from living memory, the less Koreans, especially the young, will feel a sense of gratitude. This is a fact of human nature, not of any policy or personality in the US.

We have made our position clear. If S. Korea truly wants us gone, we'll pack our bags and leave. When confronted by the willingness to walk away, it's amazing how quickly anti-american posturing dries up. We are no longer spending our treasure to defend S. Korea from global Communism. We are there because we gave our word and because we are needed.

We are waging a war on terrorism that is as vital to Europe's security as to our own, yet increasing numbers of Europeans associate it with self-interested American power and therefore press their leaders to reject it.

Maybe all those Democrats talking about blood for oil and spinning fantasies about pipelines in Afghanistan might have had something to do with this perception? Again, anti-american developments are like Athena issuing from Zeus' skull, fully formed and armed without any inconvenient issues of who is midwifing these attitudes.

Staying the course and step by step creating a free Middle East will end these flights of fancy as Europeans tire of being laughed at for believing such fables as 9/11 was actually done by a cabal of US intelligence operatives. While the US may have misconceptions of the political scene in Europe, the ignorance is mutual as any reader of Davids Medienkritik could tell you.

Unfortunately, our State Department has been hamstrung with a dysfunctional organizational system for many years. Reform of that system should proceed as soon as Homeland Security and the DoD reorganizations are settled. Our public diplomacy needs voices that are clear and effective. We haven't had that for a very long time.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:29 AM

April 24, 2004

Berger's Vision: The Fisking I

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part I is below:

Speaking before the National Endowment for Democracy last fall, President George W. Bush delivered an important statement of American purpose. He rightly argued that the United States has an interest in political freedom in Muslim countries, because the absence of freedom denies people peaceful avenues for expressing dissent and thus drives them toward shadowy, violent alternatives. He fairly criticized past administrations for having been too tolerant of authoritarian Arab regimes. And he committed the United States to the difficult but vital task of supporting more open and democratic societies in the Middle East.

But with few exceptions, the democratic activists, politicians, journalists, and intellectuals in the Muslim world -- our natural partners in this effort -- met President Bush's speech with skepticism, even disdain. Across the Middle East, his words did little to improve popular perceptions of the United States and its intentions.

The problem with what Berger is saying is that he is stripping the criticism of crucial context. When you have over half a century of actual history in the region of supporting authoritarian, brutal regimes and betraying your own founding principles, it is highly unrealistic to think that a speech is going to change much. In fact, only retrospectively will arabs come to look at the Bush's NED speech as the turning point where the US returned to advocating honestly and sticking to its principles. What are missing are US actions at the time of the speech, actions that have started to be shown in Iraq today. As the dates for transition are hit and promises are kept, arabs will start to see not only pretty words but actions.

All the arab criticism that I saw from arab liberals and democrats was very much in the Missouri "show me" tradition. This is not unreasonable when the US is working to reverse multi-decade trends in its own actions. It's unreasonable to think that Berger doesn't know this very well.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:39 PM

April 19, 2004

Canada's Treason

Via Innocents Abroad comes a disturbing notion from north of the border, conservative opposition to liberal policies is not just mistaken, it's anti-canadian. This news, available via Canada's National Post shows a disturbing lack of understanding of what democratic republics are all about. The loyal opposition is only loyal as long as it agrees to stay outside the halls of power, in opposition. If they make a serious run at replacing the powers that be, they represent "anti-canadian" ideas and values.

The question begs to be asked (and I'm sure the Martin Liberals will develop the theme of conservatives being anti-canadian as they go on) what are anti-canadians doing being allowed to vie for power in Canada? This is delegitimization of dissent far beyond anything seen in the US outside of an Ann Coulter book. It's a betrayal of the premise of a free society that all the major poles of thought in the country are presumed loyal and that policy differences are just that, policy differences, and do not require some loyalty oath to the various government programs upheld by one particular political strain.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:13 AM

April 15, 2004

The RNC Makes a Joke

Kerry's Middle Class Misery Index has just begun it's second life as a comedy device. The RNC adopted just the right tone, creating a competing Index De Le Miserables (IDM) with the most ridiculous measuring tools available. And how did they create it? "Same way the Kerry campaign did."


Posted by TMLutas at 12:58 PM

April 14, 2004

Stupid Kerry Statistics

In 1976, Jimmy Carter ran using something called the Misery Index. This was unemployment added to inflation and tracking that number didn't look too good for President Ford. Carter won, in part on the back of the Misery Index. Four years later it came back to haunt him because the Misery Index numbers looked even worse under Carter. Ronald Reagan won office by asking, twice, "are you better off now than you were four years ago?" The response in 1980 was no, we weren't, and in 1984 yes we were.

The Misery Index worked because it was simple and spoke to a real sense of how we were doing in a way that just about anybody could understand. Now John Kerry wants to make a new statistic part of the US political conversation, the Middle Class Misery Index. The first clue that this is a bogus statistic is that Carter gets a better economic rating in his four years than Reagan does. That doesn't pass the laugh test.

Kerry's political misery index is also confusing. The higher the index is, the better according to Kerry but the index includes numbers that are both good when they get higher (median family income, homeownership rate, and private sector job growth) and bad when they get higher (college tuition, health costs, gasoline cost, and bankruptcies). This means you have to invert the values for four of the seven components, something a bit more challenging than adding up two numbers.

I predict that this is going to sink like a stone.

HT: Iraq Now

Posted by TMLutas at 09:28 AM

April 10, 2004

Questions and Answers

For What it's Worth has just gotten added to my daily read. The idea of asking questions and listening to the answers is worth encouraging in any man of the left.

The first question reads:

"Is It Unfair To Point Out That Bush And Rice Should Have Anticipated An Imminent Al Qaeda Attack On U.S. Soil? "

I put my answer in comments and reprint it here:

It is correct to say that the first obligation of a government is to protect the people. The government that was headed by George W. Bush objectively failed in that task with the 9/11 attack just as the government headed by Bill Clinton failed in the first WTC bombing, the Cole bombing, the embassy bombings, etc. I don't know of a presidency who has had a military engagement on his watch who didn't objectively deviate from perfection. No doubt the widows and orphans concerned contained people who blamed that President. I can't condemn that. But what is the use of the question?

It is extremely naive to imagine that such questions are raised out of disinterest and a curiosity to see whether the current President is perfect. The intent of such questions, in the vast majority, is to place blame and to convince people that President Bush does not deserve a second term. And for that, you need not an objective scale but a comparative one. And by changing the scale, we have to change the answer, if we're honest.

George W Bush was not perfect. He deviated from the perfect national security presidency. But in comparison to his predecessor and the post Church committee national norm on intelligence, GWB did just fine, somewhat above average.

Where Bill Clinton kept snapping pictures of Osama Bin Laden for his scrapbook but couldn't get his act together to do more than that, George W Bush pulled the UAVs to arm them. Had 9/11 not intervened, the fifth snapshot of the series (and the first in the Bush presidency) would have been the last.

But attacks that had been planned for well over a year met defenses that had atrophied over literally decades of neglect and abuse. And that time, it was the attackers who got lucky.

If you dare ask such questions in the face of our decades long history of weakening intelligence and domestic security, you also have to ask the following question. If GWB had taken the actions necessary to roll up these 20-30 attackers, if he had actively gone after the sleeper cells, if all the things that we now agree are necessary had been proposed in late January 2001, what would have happened and where would you have stood?

HT: QandO

Posted by TMLutas at 11:46 PM

April 01, 2004

More Football

I ran a series on Bush's Lucy Strategy where I put our President in the place of Lucy, always convincing Charlie Brown to take another shot at kicking the football, always delighting in pulling it away at the last minute. Now Dean Esmay has a different football analogy, the mousetrap play, another way of gaining by misdirection. In the end, it amounts to much the same thing.

The really funny thing is that so many can write about this, for so long, and people don't seem to get it. They enjoy the caricature of George W. Bush so much that they are unwilling to face the reality of him. They are addicted to not treating him or his ideas seriously and realistically. In a way, that's almost the definition of a party that needs more time out of power so I guess things work out in the end.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:42 PM

Kerry's Health Status

Does Kerry have a health problem or just a health records problem? It seems like Kerry wants to continue in the tradition of Bill Clinton, who also never fully opened his medical records. While this is a frequent early campaign jousting tool as candidates try to draw a line between their privacy and the needs of the country to ensure that their leadership isn't going to cause a worldwide crisis by dropping dead at an uncomfortable moment. Kerry has a little bit more of a problem here than even usual as his genes are at least somewhat Ashkenazi jewish and that genotype has some unusual (and thank goodness relatively rare) vulnerabilities that are fair game in the health record derby. This is a political danger that he's got to face up to as most people still think he's of irish extraction and while he hasn't lied about it for the most part, its going to come up eventually and his long-term record of being happy to let people live with a mistaken impression of his ethnicity as long as it served him politically is bound to come out.

There are pretty obvious ways of playing things unfairly here and the risk only grows as long as Kerry delays. This assumes that there is no hidden condition there that would be a problem. But we don't know that, do we? And if John F Kerry has anything to say about it, we never will.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:43 AM

March 27, 2004

Where's Kerry's Quick Reaction Team?

One of the worst things to have is supporters who step over the line. You can't really control people from declaring their support for you but what you can do is repudiate their actions. Kerry has an obligation to step up to the plate and clearly declare that people who use their fists to express their support are unamerican thugs who have no place alongside him.

I truly hope Kerry doesn't win for many reasons but he has a basic obligation to keep alive the tradition of peaceful politics in the US. That means denouncing violence when it breaks out.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:43 PM

March 26, 2004

Letter to the Paper XII

Here's something I let off at The Chicago Report debunking the idea that Clarke is unassailable and the Bush administration should just give up on fighting back:

One of the things that makes it so annoying about complaints regarding the changeover between the Bush and Clinton administrations is that everybody is overlooking the toxic effects of the changeover sabotage. I'm not just talking about porn in the printers and broken W keys on keyboards. There were a bunch of last minute policy orders and regulations that were simply done to please core Democratic constituencies but would be impossible for any administration to sustain as in the national interest. This included foreign policy where Clinton did a last minute signing on the ICC even though it had been repudiated 95-0 in the Senate even before it went out for signature and ratification.

In other words, it was dead but the Clinton administration thought it was OK politically to embarrass the US worldwide by signing on to such a treaty knowing that it would have to be repudiated by Bush, and soon. In such an atmosphere, what confidence could the Bush administration have in anti-terrorism? Was it real or was it just another policy booby-trap? This would have explained a great deal of delay in getting serious work done on terrorism under the Bush watch.

The Bush administration took one in the shorts for the country in their early effort to 'change the tone' in Washington. They purposefully didn't keep very good records of the damage and have avoided charging the Clinton administration with policy sabotage. It is unlikely that they will be officially going after them at this point on those grounds. They've got too much invested in the let the dead bury the dead policy they came in with.

But we shouldn't forget that the sabotage happened. It was real, and it had both silly and substantive elements to it. In an administration where the highest priority was terrorism and where they viscerally knew that lives were on the line, they would never have done such counterproductive things. This, more than any administration statement demonstrates the fraud that Clinton and his administration truly cared about national security.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:43 AM

March 25, 2004

What Would Happen to An Honest Russian Pol?

Let me draw out a thought experiment. It's 2004 and next week somebody in Moscow invents the new Rubik's cube. A week later, his good buddy invents the next Tetris. They become near instant billionaires, all honestly, by the end of the year. by the end of 2006 they've decided to invest some of their wealth into creating an honest political movement that will compete with the security services dominated Putin followers so that elections in 2008 will have a choice.

So, assuming that there are no skeletons in their closets, they have paid all their taxes, and they are proposing a sane ideology, what would happen to them and their dream of a new Russian political pole? Such a movement would be a tremendously positive step in one sense, because it would provide a serious alternative to the current administration without giving in to corruption or bringing back any failed totalitarian retreads.

There are two major possibilities. First, Putin the thug emerges and in a campaign of dirty tricks and skullduggery destroys them and hounds them out of the country. This is the fear that people who believe in the idea of Russia backsliding into a new authoritarianism are worried about.

The second possibility is a bit more hopeful. Putin, the believer in the dictatorship of law, emerges from the Kremlin and runs a clean campaign on his record and probably clobbers them anyway but the new movement gains considerable parliamentary representation and draws a lot of strength away from the crazier elements of Russian politics.

So which scenario will likely happen? It's hard to tell. The truth is that Putin's spy dominated government is plausibly undercutting the rotten remnants of the old system, both Soviet and Yeltsin era. If they are just cleaning out the corrupt rich and laying the stage for the development of new, honestly earned fortunes, they will hold power for quite some time and eventually be beaten by some of the clean parties they make possible. But we won't know the reality of it until new Russian political movements without ties to dirty politicians and dirty money emerge to challenge Putin's commitment to law and order in the electoral process.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:25 PM

March 24, 2004

The Pre-9/11 Mindset

One thing puzzles me about the line of defense that the Clinton administration alumni are using, that there was a pre-9/11 mindset that blocked stronger action against Al-Queda:

The commissioners on the Sept. 11 panel asked the same question over and over: Why didn't the Clinton administration take stronger military action against al Qaeda's Taliban refuge in the 1990s, when the Sept. 11 plot was being hatched?

Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright's consistent response was simple: "You have to go back to the pre-9/11 mindset." By this she meant that before Sept. 11, stronger military action was politically impossible; thus the blame for the Clinton administration's failures to act preemptively against al Qaeda rests on everyone, not specifically on the commander in chief.

Why is it that the pre-9/11 mindset existed for Clinton but did not exist for Bush? Why aren't Madeline Albright and company eviscerating Clarke's accusations that Bush dropped the ball and was insufficiently aggressive before 9/11? Wouldn't the logic of their argument carry through that it is grossly unfair to insist that President Bush should be blamed anymore than President Clinton should be blamed for failing to take action in an atmosphere where decisive action was politically impossible?

Don't expect the mainstream media to ask such questions of Clinton alumni, nor should you expect good answers even if the questions do get asked. It's smoke and mirrors hiding a political hatchet job with attacks coming from multiple angles, designed to trip up President Bush no matter what he does to counter them.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:20 PM

Dick Morris' Optimistic Blowout

Dick Morris is starting to think that a blowout is the likely result in November. I doubt it. If we were in a normal election under the old rules of campaigning he might have a point. Kerry is showing signs of fatal weakness. He has trouble explaining certain votes on basic issues and he apparently did not choose some of his political associates very well in his youth.

But what Morris is ignoring is that this is not a normal election. The rules have radically changed regarding election speech and the newly potent 527 committees are going to be cranking out the political venom with no accountability available until after the election. So if Bush pulls away come Labor Day, by mid October look for a flood of Democrat Party dirty tricks and shady expenditures designed to skirt the law and kneecap the Republican campaign.

This isn't over yet. It's barely begun.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:32 PM

It's Not the Crime, It's the Coverup I

Clayton Cramer's noting that Kerry's campaign is trying to get witnesses to lie to the media over whether Kerry was present when an assassination plot was debated at the VVAW to kill US Senators in favor of Vietnam. Now Kerry helped to defeat this idea from becoming VVAW policy before resigning over the issue according to eyewitnesses and FBI record indicate that Kerry was there but Kerry maintains that he wasn't. The reason is that his absence would excuse him from any obligation to report the conspiracy to law enforcement.

Clayton Cramer thinks this entirely destroys Kerry's viability as a candidate. I'm not sure he's right. It could be worse than that and deny him the nomination even though he has a majority of delegates pledged to him.

Let's swallow the Kerry spin for a moment that his presence is only a historical footnote. What is the campaign doing trying to get witnesses to lie instead of telling the truth? What else is there in his biography that has been covered up successfully?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:46 AM

March 20, 2004

The Need for Memory II

The snarky Tbogg opines that Robert Moran has no common sense because "everybody falls" when they snowboard. But falling from a stage is abnormal so there's a difference between the Dole fall in the '96 race and Kerry's fall now. Somebody should tell Sen. Kerry that falling is normal when you snowboard because he told reporters "I don't fall down." So is Kerry now the guy lacking common sense?

Sometimes you need an elephants memory to catch the hypocrites, other times, a week's worth will do just fine.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:49 PM

The Need for Memory

Robert Moran compare's Dole's embarassing campaign fall to Kerry's and notes that Kerry's fall was not included in any of the pictures used to accompany the story. It's amazing, I had completely forgotten about the Bob Dole pictures and the mini-scandal that had surrounded their use. At that time the news media swore up and down that they were not being partisan and would have published photos of a falling Bill Clinton.

Bob Dole was the previous major party candidate challenging a sitting president of the other party from his perch in the Senate. The only difference is the party label. If the papers weren't lying about their commitment to feature pictorials of future falling Democrats, at what point did they change the rules and who changed them?

The hypocrisy and bias spans many years.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:22 PM

March 18, 2004

OKC Mistakes, Spanish Lessons?

One of the things that I remember about the Oklahoma City bombing was that originally, everybody thought that it was the work of Islamic terrorists. It took some time to sort out that, no, we had a domestic terror operation on our hands (to this day some people in the political fever swamps think that a Middle Eastern John Doe #2 had something to do with things).

I look at articles like this and wonder how would things have changed if Spain had reacted as the US public did after the OKC tragedy and the error in pointing out blame in those first few days? And then again, what would have happened if the US public had acted as the Spanish one did after the Madrid bombing?

Posted by TMLutas at 03:27 PM

March 17, 2004

Zapatero's Vietnam?

The Belmont Club's Wretchard speculates that Zapatero has adopted a strategy strongly reminiscent of Lyndon Johnson's in Vietnam, calibrate your fight so you don't overly provoke the other side but that you don't lose. Winning is never even in the picture. This ends up costing thousands upon thousands of lives and in the end, even the most callous of free people tire of neverending casualties without prospect of ever winning.

Now the minor parties have a momentous choice to make. Zapatero isn't guaranteed to lead the next government. He can only do so with the support of at least two other parties (unless the PP loses its mind and supports Zapatero). They need to satisfy themselves that Zapatero not only has a plan to manage terrorism but to beat it. Otherwise, their votes of support for his government will put blood on their hands as much as fighting against terrorism with no intention of winning would bloody the hands of Spains socialists.

I really do wonder how things will turn out.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:19 PM

March 16, 2004

It's the May, Not October Bombing I'm Worried About

The blogosphere seems to have started worrying about a repetition of the Madrid strikes in the US. The phrase "October Surprise" is back again doing new duty. But I'm not worried about an October surprise at all. The tendency of US voters to give the US president a boost in popularity in time of crisis is too well known for such a bombing to be likely.

Instead, worry about May. In an April-May-June bombing, the rallying effect (which will last for 3-4 months) will have dissipated and the negative effect on the President's rating regarding his handling of homeland security will assert itself. If we can get into the late summer without a successful operation in the US, we're largely home free from any chance at an effective Al Queda attack. They still might bomb, they still might kill people, but they won't have much chance of changing an election in a way they like.

And changing election results is the bottom line because the US has elections more than any other country in the world. I've seen years with three elections, without runoffs or cancellations. The spring has school board elections, the summer has its primary season and late fall we have regular elections growing up in Westchester County, NY. With many state and lower elections on a one year offset of the federal cycle, voters have a yearly chance to speak their mind.

Now imagine if all those elections became realistic targets for terrorist strikes. This nightmare is what spaniards are likely not to understand about US annoyance with their 11th hour, post bombing, change in electoral preferences, much as most US people don't understand how central trains are to the EU lifestyle since the US has give or take 1/10th of the population density of Europe and a correspondingly less used train system. Election bombings are a special US nightmare for as long as we hold near continual elections. Changing the system would very much transform the US for the worse.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:04 AM

March 15, 2004

Who's Next For Election Bombings

Andrew Sullivan believes either the UK or US is next for an election eve bomb. But if Spain was chosen for the twin sins of being former muslim territory and being part of the coalition of the willing the next obvious candidate by those criteria would be Romania which holds national elections this fall. While Romania's status was always... complex with regard to the muslims, no doubt they view that territory as theirs as much as Spain is regarded as part of a lost Dar al Islaam.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:39 PM

A Message to Future Electorates

My fellow voting citizens of the free and semi-free world. You are a potential lab rat for terrorists. Spain's horrific Madrid bombing was the first iteration of a renewed terrorist experiment. The question they want answered is "what is the effect of high explosives on the ballot box?" Until the destruction of the terrorist's nihilist death cult, they are likely to continue the experiments.

Such experiments are costly to them and for them to continue, they need positive results. There is only one result that is entirely negative for them, no change whatsoever in voting behavior. That is the only result that will likely end the rain of bombs just in advance of elections.

This is not something that a government can manage, only its citizens. It is not something that can be easily managed in the white hot passion of events, with blood in the streets and bodies everywhere. Such things are only possible ahead of time, by calmly and thoughtfully asking yourself what you would do at the ballot box in the face of such a disaster. What statement can you make that will discourage such events in future, both for your own elections, and elections in other nations.

I don't pretend to give you any sort of partisan political advice. Your beliefs will guide you. But unless we all band together and agree that we will simply not react to such provocations more will die, and there is no guarantee that next time it will not be your neighbors or your family who suffer.

Terrorists want to change our behavior and are willing to use explosives to do it. You have the ability to resist this in a way that the government does not. You have a responsibility to exercise that ability for the sake of all of us.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:50 AM

How Many Swing Voters?

One of the great unanswered question regarding Spain's election is how many people swung? That is to say, what is the difference in voting patterns between that predicted by reliable polls just before the bombing and the actual poll results. This is the percent of the vote that the terrorists can convince to move their way with a bombing. The electoral reality is that you want your base to go out to vote but what usually moves elections is this swing percentage.

It is also the safety margin for Spain's next election. If the conservatives are leading with less than this percentage, it pays for terrorists to repeat their performance with a bomb right before polls. If it exceeds it, they've just created another Bush, but one with an explicit electoral mandate to go all out against them. Unfortunately my spanish is practically nil and I don't have access to such polling figures so I can't personally calculate the numbers. However, I wonder what the major media's excuse is for not reporting them?

Posted by TMLutas at 09:46 AM

March 13, 2004

Letter to the Paper VIII

Thomas Lipscomb's NY Sun article on how John Kerry resigned from VVAW over at Outside the Beltway. The affair is a shocker, if true. This shouldn't be left to wander around in the fever swamps and it should be easily debunked if John Kerry is telling the truth that he did not attend the fateful four day meeting.

Clearly VVAW was being monitored by the government. It's quite possible that the FBI files on this radical group can exonerate John Kerry. If he's telling the truth, Kerry can likely provide corroboration of his actual location during those four days in November, 1971. If he's lying, it's important to uncover that too.

Discount Blogger commented on the Outside the Beltway article and thought that this is automatically right wing character assassination. I left the following in comments over there:

After reading the article and the comments at outside the beltway, I've come to a somewhat different conclusion. Kerry, at age 27, had some significant difficulty spotting violent, treasonous nutcases but when push came to shove he resigned which speaks well of his ultimate judgment.

The question really is what are you supposed to do when you belong to an organization that has a significant minority (a lone nut wouldn't have caused Kerry to resign) that believes in political assassination.

Clearly, they knew that they were being spied upon by the government. They had to move twice to avoid that spying just to debate the assassination plot. So, assuming that the two eyewitnesses who place Kerry at the meeting are correct, and the three sources affirming the assassination plot are also correct, does this have as much relevance to judging Kerry fit for the presidency as to the pacing of George W. Bush's National Guard service?

I think it does. The presidency creates the most microscopic public examination of a person's history and character available on the planet. This is fit for probably the most influential executive position on the planet. The meat grinder is always toughest for first time presidential contenders like Kerry.

If Kerry wasn't there, there should be corroborating witnesses for that time period. They should be produced and it should be done as soon as possible. This is a four day time period we're talking about when Kerry was already a public figure. At the very least, the FBI records of the meeting should be released. If the evidence shows he wasn't there, fine, case closed and it's despicable right-wing mudslinging.

But if he was there, at the very least he's been lying in a significant way about his past political history. That says something about John Kerry that should be relevant to voters and it should say something about how deeply journalists need to fact check John Kerry's other statements about his political past.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:26 AM

March 11, 2004

Viking Pundit Gets Suckered

It never fails, every election cycle, right after the nominations are settled, most people in the US turn off politics. They shut it out and let the skeleton crew of interested and obsessed fight it out over the period before Labor day when they wake up and pay attention in order to make the final decision. It's in this period, the period that doesn't count for most voters, that the vast majority of pro-republican stories run.

You can count on it like clockwork yet Viking Pundit is running an article marveling at the alternative universe he finds himself in. He suspects he's landed in an alternate universe. He hasn't the frontloading of the Democrat party nominating process has also front loaded the wave of positive stories for Republicans when few are paying attention.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:38 AM

March 10, 2004

What's misrepresentation?

If you say one thing yesterday and another thing today is that misrepresentation? That's the problem that I have with this Spinsanity title "Kerry joins others in misrepresenting his platform". After all, can't you have grown from one position to another? Or might you be lying both times? Or might you even be confused and not know what's going on? To say that Kerry is misrepresenting his position is to engage in a very particular set of spin. It says that his official position papers are his actual position and that when he strays from that, he's actually misrepresenting himself.

This might be too cruel or too kind but it would only be right by merest happenstance because Kerry's positions on so many issues seem to be in flux. For a site like Spinsanity that is devoted to cutting through political spin, such a candidate is a real challenge and it looks like they haven't thought through this problem. When you have a position and somebody else claims it is something else, that's clear misrepresentation. But when you do it to yourself, that's very often going to be something else.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:43 PM

March 09, 2004

The Kerry Weathervane

In writing up a comment on Kerry's candidacy I came up with the image of Kerry's policymaking process being akin to a weathervane. Sometimes the weathervane points this way, sometimes that. And sometimes it spins so rapidly around you can't tell where it points. But what is the wind that blows the weathervane? It can't be a core of philosophical beliefs. There would be no policy straddling with those. And it can't be just classic finger to the wind political polling. Kerry wouldn't have such out of mainstream voting records for the ACU and ADA. There's something there that motivates him but I can't tell what it is or whether this mysterious force would lead Kerry to make good decisions if he ends up working from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for the next four years.

Update: As of this writing, I just got a notice that Nickspace is moving to a new location. You may find the link above at the old site for now or perhaps the new one.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:17 PM

The Germans Invaded Pearl Harbor?

One of the funniest moments in Animal House was Bluto (John Belushi was a comedic genius) rousing his fellow fraternity members with an impassioned speech exclaiming:

Bluto' s inspirational speech: "Over? Did you say, 'over?' Nothing is over until WE decide it is! Was over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!"

Boone: "Germans?"

Otter: "Forget it. He's rolling."

Lileks is having a Bluto moment:

But Kerry? It reminds me of the cover in ’84 after the Democrat convention: it had a picture of Dukakis, looking confident and secure. The cover said “THE DUKE.” It played right to the emotions of his supporters: we are not entirely unenthusiastic of his candidacy, Reagan is insane, and our guy has a great nickname that makes us feel cool when we say it! Landslide loss.

Dukakis ran in 1988 against George Bush, Reagan's Vice President.

But don't stop him, he's rolling.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:32 PM

Lia Roberts 2004 I

Lia Roberts, I can safely report, is not overly impressed with herself. If you ask the Nevada Republican Party about her they will give you a contact number. She's still personally picking up that number. John Kerry style politicians have staff for that. She doesn't, even though she could afford it. She'll be in Romania through April 4 so things might change as her run gets more organized but its nice to see a well financed candidacy for such an important post where the candidate isn't in a bubble surrounded by a nearly impenetrable barrier of staffers.

As of March 1st she's no longer the head of Nevada Republicans though no doubt President Bush will still take her calls. Resigning a party post is normal and expected under the circumstances. Still the Nevada Republicans are getting 5-10 calls a day from press and romanian-americans asking for information about her run. As time goes on, I expect that number to increase.

The fundamental problem for romanian centrists and sane right wingers is that until Mrs. Roberts' candidacy, they had no obvious practical place to turn to for the 2004 presidential election. The left will likely be uniting around the current prime minister, Adrian Nastase while the xenophobic right will rally to Corneliu Vadim Tudor (or as his detractors like to call him VC Tudor). That left a broad swathe of the romanian electorate up for grabs, still reeling after the monumental stupidity the center right engaged in in 1996 by creating an electoral "Contract with Romania", promising to resign if they didn't fulfill the contract terms, and then, to a man, going back on their word.

Lia Roberts is not implicated in that long ago mess. She was busy heading up the Nevada Federation of Republican Women at the time. The question is whether she will be able to cobble together a coalition sufficient to get her into the 2nd voting round where broad style coalitions quickly form up for the last push to the Presidency.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:27 AM

March 08, 2004

UN Legitimacy

Lack of UN approval has been cited as a problem in Iraq by an awful lot of people. Kerry would have worked really, really, really hard at getting the UN on board so we could have the maximum amount of legitimacy.

But, as the UN bombing soon proved, not only do we have different criteria than the UN on when military action is called for, we have different criteria on installation security and how many casualties are required before we tuck our tail between our legs and scamper for the exits.

I would truly be interested in Kerry's response to a hypothetical where France, Germany, and the UN all blessed the Iraq operation but afterwards turned tail and ran at the very beginning of the occupation due to very light casualties. Would that change the legitimacy of the operation and when and how would it lose legitimacy. And if it remained legitimate, why does it remain legitimate? Is their initial assent a permanent stamp of legitimacy?

If an initial assent maintains legitimacy throughout the operation, UNSC 1441's last chance provisions along with Saddam Hussein's proven lies subsequent to this mandatory UNSC resolution would seem to provide just such initial legitimacy. If initial legitimacy doctrine doesn't apply, wouldn't that mean that we should have turned tail when we lost a chopper or two in the Sunni Triangle? Does it mean that Italy should have withdrawn after its horrible losses in their barracks bombing disaster?

Why are we there now after taking many more losses than the UN took before it withdrew because of military danger? Would we still be there if it had been a Kerry presidency?

Posted by TMLutas at 11:29 AM

March 07, 2004

Letter to the Paper VI

Hellblazer writes that I'm not only whiny because I don't like the idea that 9/11 is only ok to bring up in Democrat campaign materials, but that the RNC is the real free speech villain because they are trying to get campaign commercials pulled as they violate the new rules of McCain-Feingold.

Here's the reply I left in his comments:

The position that I've had has always been that the campaign finance rules were idiotic and that full disclosure and unlimited free speech are the best rule for the US political system.

That being said, after an incredible multi-year demonization campaign, largely run by left wing and Democrat partisans (though some Republicans, most famously John McCain, were leaders in this), the law has changed and everybody's required to follow the new rules.

The truth is that Democrats shot themselves in the foot with McCain-Feingold, as a matter of practical partisan politics. That they did so in the pursuit of an outrageous violation of the US Constitution's guarantee of free speech (yes, I know the USSC doesn't agree) makes it all the more delicious that they find themselves in a practical bind because they are unable to raise as many hard dollars as Republicans. Now the 527 committees are a game that both sides are playing, just like the soft money awfulness that arose out of Buckley v. Valeo. But these new committees have to follow the rules. They can avoid the restrictions (like individuals can avoid taxes) but they cannot evade them (in tax terms that's an audit, a fine, and maybe jail time if you're blatant about it).

The truth is that the law has changed in the past year. For a lawyer to claim that it's relevant that such commercials were legal under the Buckley v. Valeo rules is simply not relevant. Commercials that run now have to comply with the law after McCain-Feingold, the FEC rulings implementing it and the USSC affirming its constitutionality. If you don't like your free speech infringed (and I agree that this infringement is outrageous), you should have the law changed.

The worst result possible is to have one or both sides violate the law instead of changing the law to conform with the well understood limits to government action regarding free speech that ruled from the founding into the 1970s. That's what is trying to accomplish. That's what the RNC is calling them on. And if it takes a few pulled TV licenses to create a new majority coalition to repeal McCain Feingold's free speech limitations, so be it.

Oh, I forgot to directly quote the's lawyer comment. Here it is:

"The federal campaign laws have permitted precisely this use of money for advertising for the past 25 years," he said.

Again, the point of McCain-Feingold was to make certain things that were legal for the past quarter-century illegal. I hope they aren't paying this lawyer much. Even if he's pro-bono, he's being compensated too much.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:27 PM

Who the Heck is Lia Roberts?

"Who is Lia Roberts?" is something that I keep hearing, in one form or another, in the romanian emigre community. I once had the pleasure of hearing her speak before a romanian crowd and I understand US politics enough so people are asking me. For those outside the tribe, Lia Roberts is the State Chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Party. She is a dual citizen (as am I) and has announced that she will be running for the presidency of Romania and plunking down a $15 million dollar campaign war chest to finance her campaign. This is a big deal in Romania as the 2000 races for the presidency saw expenditures run from $1M-$5M. Dick Morris is advising her and President Bush seems to look on her candidacy with approval (a wise move given his own race in 2004).

Right now, I'm leaning towards getting my paperwork in order so I can vote for her this fall. But she hasn't closed the deal yet with many, even in the romanian-american community that could be a source of money and definitely will be where a lot of romanians will turn to for advice about this unexpected development in politics. I figure this to be an issue to cover and a place where I might make my own real contribution to the evolution of events in the real world so be prepared, this blog is likely to significantly up its romanian political level.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:42 AM

March 06, 2004

How to Tell North Korea's Favorite

North Korea, bombastic, crude, dissembling and enraging it may be but it's leadership is not stupid. They know that George W. Bush would like to settle the issue of their nuclear program but if they wait a year, George W. Bush may no longer be President.

N. Korea has two options, it can rush into an agreement with President Bush if they think he will give them a better deal or, if they think a President Kerry would serve their interests better, they can keep the door open to negotiations while ensuring that nothing much happens until the new administration opens for business in January, 2005.

There are no circumstances which Kerry can directly influence the direction of negotiations and there are no circumstances where it would pay for Bush to delay a success in negotiations past the elections. Thus, the US side is very predictable in its actions. The only thing that will vary is North Korean behavior based on North Korean political evaluation of the two potential US presidents from 2005-2009. North Korea's evaluation of who would be worse for their repressive dictatorial regime will be crystal clear. So far, it seems the dictators prefer President Kerry.


The Financial Times is playing this same 'kremlinology' style game of observing the North Korean's preferences and has an article observing that John Kerry is getting very good press in N. Korea.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:22 PM

March 05, 2004

Is 9/11 a Legitimate Campaign Issue?

I have to take some issue with today's WSJ editorial on 9/11. It leads off with an inaccuracy:

September 11, 2001, marked the worst foreign attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor--the bloodiest ever on the American mainland. It's certainly been the defining event of George W. Bush's Presidency. But according to Democrats and their media echo chamber, it now shouldn't be a campaign issue.

This is patently false because it's not what the Democrat party and their presumptive nominee John Kerry have been claiming. Instead what they are saying is that Democrats, including John Kerry, can fault President Bush for any problems leading up to or following 9/11 and even claim that he is not doing enough in the war on terror. The Wall Street Journal is complicit in perpetuating a fraud, that the upper echelons of the Democratic party have any appreciable reserves of good faith. What they want is to take 9/11 off the table for Republicans only, making it illegitimate only for them to raise the issue.

Free speech for me but not for thee is a recipe for the end of civil society. The irony that such attacks are likely to be largely funded by George Soros is a bitter turn of events.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:26 PM

March 02, 2004

Too Cute by Half I

I had my own entry in this category earlier so I understand that such things can be done in fun or as a fantasy. Here's one that just hit my mailbox where the writer says "In case it isn't clear, I'm dead serious about every word of this.":

A Petition to the United States Congress on behalf of John F. Kerry

Whereas section 3 of the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution states:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

And whereas John F. Kerry, United States Senator and contender for the office of President of the United States, did swear an oath as an officer of the United States Navy to support the Constitution of the United States, and did subsequently organize and participate in street demonstrations which comforted the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), whose forces were then in actual combat against the forces of the United States, and which had the affect of aiding them in the defeat of the Republic of Vietnam, then allied to the United States, Mr. Kerry is ineligible under the Constitution for the office of President and for the office of Senator to which he was elected by the people of Massachusetts.

Whereas Mr. Kerry served honorably in combat against the enemies of the United States, and whereas his subsequent actions were protected by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, both as free speech and as an exercise of the right to petition for redress of grievances, and whereas Mr. Kerry’s actions do not rise to the level of treason, defined in Article 3, Section 3 as requiring adherence to the enemies of the United States, and testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, as well as providing both aid AND comfort to these enemies, I hereby petition the Congress to exercise its power under the Constitution to remove Mr. Kerry’s disability to hold office under the United States. Furthermore I ask that Congress formally establish the precedent that all other persons who actively supported the enemies of the United States during the war in Vietnam by street demonstration or similar act, but who were not convicted of any related crime, will also have such disability removed.

The problem starts with the assumption of guilt. This is simply unamerican. I happen to think that what John Kerry has done regarding war crimes accusations is despicable and that depending on further evidence, it is possible that he might have violated his oath and committed treason to the United States. However, you just don't assume such things.

The presumption of innocence is too important to be thrown overboard for mere political advantage and prosecutorial discretion is an important ancillary principle of US law. If the full time professionals think that it'll do the country more harm than good to prosecute, I am willing to go along with that. Those that disagree need to petition for a prosecution. If they're feeling forgiving afterwards they can petition for a removal of the disability. This is worse than the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. It's not verdict first, trial afterwards. This is clemency first, then verdict, then trial, a most bizarre and uniquely destructive concoction.

I suspect that the "Too Cute by Half" title is going to get a workout during this election season. It's too bad.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:09 PM

God, Lincoln, and My Presidential Ambitions

I'm informed by Richard A. Heddleson in email that, contrary to my previous pessimism, my response to the question "Is God on the side of the US" is not disqualifying at all. Abraham Lincoln apparantly shared my opinion and said "My great concern is not whether God is on our side, my great concern is to be on God's side."

Yeah, me and Honest Abe, we're like peas in a pod.

So now all that stands in the way of a Lutas presidency is a pesky constitutional amendment and any appreciable skill at political campaigning.

Piece of cake.


Posted by TMLutas at 04:48 PM

March 01, 2004

I Will Never Be President of the United States

Even if the Schwarzenegger amendment passes I'll never make President. Here is why my future presidential aspirations are doomed. Lileks has a great bleat today in which he dissects a very insightful question:

President Bush has said that freedom and fear have always been at war, and God is not neutral between them. He's made quite clear in his speeches that he feels God is on America's side.

Is God on America's side?

Lileks says that the answer to this one, if you want to actually win the White House, is to say yes and move quickly on to another subject. My impulse would have been different and I'd likely have been clobbered in the sound bite war that would have followed. I would have answered "No, God is not on our side. When we're good and just, we're on His side." Of course, the first sentence would have played nationwide through to election day.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:23 PM

February 29, 2004

Kerry has a Gerald Ford Moment

Gerald Ford, famously, was hurt badly when he declared Poland to be a free state. Will John Kerry be similarly hurt now that he has declared Haiti a democracy? He should be but probably won't for two reasons, one with a hidden sting. First, it's much further away from election day so it's likely that this will all be forgotten by the time labor day rolls around and the general public starts paying attention. The second reason is the more dangerous one. Because Kerry probably isn't going to get called on this in any serious way (outside the blogosphere), he's much more likely to make this mistake again, and with countries that have more influential emigre populations. Sometimes it doesn't pay to have the media on your side. You can afford to be sloppy too much of the time so your professional standards as a politician tend to slip.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:36 AM

February 27, 2004

Sistani Shows Maturity

Well, it looks like a way out has been found without humiliating anyone or yielding to balloting in an easy to cheat environment. Elections will not have to be done before handover and it looks like a caretaker government will be set up in Iraq to oversee the first elections without setting off a civil war.

There should be major celebrations over this. It's a huge step forward in Iraqi political maturity and a brightening of prospects for a free and stable Iraq. Any bets on how much the media will celebrate this?

Posted by TMLutas at 02:47 AM

February 22, 2004

Run Ralph Run

Ralph Nader is running for President as an independent. While this is awesome news for Republicans everywhere it should also be good news for those opposed to campaign restrictions on free speech. There is a great 'good for the gander' set of moments to be minded here. Ralph Nader's power base has always been his nonprofit organizations that are not traditionally considered partisan political but are widespread and influential. Will the FEC regulate the Nader's 'PIRG empire as part of his campaign organization? It's way too early to tell but the schadenfreude just keeps going and going on this one.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:19 AM

February 21, 2004

War Crimes

What an interesting idea John Kerry has about war crimes. The actual perpetrators are innocent!

WOODRUFF: Two other very quick things, Senator. One is, it's been reported that, well you're aware of this, Vietnam veterans upset with the fact that when you came back from the war, you went to Capitol Hill, and you testified in so many words against the kinds of things that U.S. soldiers were doing over there...

KERRY: Yes, I did.

WOODRUFF: To the Vietnamese.

KERRY: Yes, I did.

WOODRUFF: They are saying, in effect, you were accusing American troops of war crimes.

KERRY: No, I was accusing American leaders of abandoning the troops. And if you read what I said, it is very clearly an indictment of leadership. I said to the Senate, where is the leadership of our country? And it's the leaders who are responsible, not the soldiers. I never said that. I've always fought for the soldiers. In fact, not only did we oppose the war, but we proudly stood up and fought for the additions to the GI Bill so that vets would be able to use it. We fought for the V.A. Hospitals. I wrote the Agent Orange legislation with Tom Daschle. I helped with the post-Vietnam stress syndrome outreach centers.

I'm proud of the record of fighting for soldiers and for veterans. And the fact is if we want to redebate the war on Vietnam in 2004, I'm ready for that. It was a mistake, and I'm proud of having stood up and shared with America my perceptions of what was happening.

This is nonsense and historical revisionism of the worst sort. Fortunately, Kerry's actual testimony is available:

I would like to talk on behalf of all those veterans and say that several months ago in Detroit we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged, and many very highly decorated, veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia. These were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command. It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit - the emotions in the room and the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.

They told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

The FBI has a special section to catch teenage concentration camp guards who did things like this and far less. They are pursued decades later with a justified ferocity. If these american war criminals exist and they are judged not to have committed crimes because they were not even following orders, but violating official policy while being condoned by their command structure, the only decent thing to do would be to shut down the Office of Special Investigations.

But Kerry won't follow up and do this. He won't do it because it would eviscerate his jewish support and cost him workers, money, and votes in some key areas. But his idea of war crime justice requires him to either have war crimes trials for nazis and americans who committed acts that were just as bad or to close the book on such things and make a mockery of the bipartisan 'never again' commitment the US has had for decades.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:13 PM

February 20, 2004

God Protect Warrior Democrats

If you've read my blog, you know that I believe that there is a crying need for an optimistic, positive grand strategy to replace the outmoded cold warrior think of post WW II. I also think that the leading candidate for this is the new rulesets.project work of Thomas Barnett. He does important work that seems to be highly influential in the Bush administration's approach to the world today. In fact, he's got a book version of his theories which you should preorder right now.

I was lucky enough to get a review copy and have read it. It was better than I hoped, a true call for a decent foreign policy that has the twin virtues of working (so we can escape the specter of perpetual war) and being moral, true to our most cherished ideals. I also found out how consequential some of his analysis has been in the recent history of our country.

I was absolutely surprised to find out he was a Democrat. I suspect that he's going to be in desperate need of a copy of How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy : (and Found Inner Peace) as he's likely going to go through a meat grinder of insults and brickbats from the left after this book.

It's not that he advocates anything that an honest Democrat would be constitutionally opposed to. It's that he's had the honesty and courage to say that the Bush administration (outside of some fairly serious communication faults) has pretty much made the right moves on national security and his strategy is largely the correct one. And he's done so in an election year when national security is likely to be the most important issue on the voters' minds.

He ends up being a Scoop Jackson Democrat updated with all the nerve and an updated vision fit for a new century. If there were a thousand like him leading Democrat think tanks, I wouldn't be so worried about this country. Unfortunately he's committed the sin of truth and he's likely to be hounded out of the party for it.

I hope that I'm wrong, that there is still room for sane Democrats with a broad vision for America's security future. I doubt it though. Then again, God's in the miracle business so here's to the warrior Democrats, may they thrive, multiply, and take back their party to a sane road.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:54 PM

February 17, 2004

A Poll Question I'd Love to See

I'm getting more and more tired of the whole obsessive focus with Vietnam. Here's a poll that I'd love to see asked.

The two major party candidates for the Presidency were adults in this decade, the '90s, the '80s, the '70s and the '60s. Considering their actions, their personal and public record how would you order each record in terms of their importance?

Is there any doubt that people would large view the most recent record as most important and the actions of either man's youth as least important? But is that the way things are being covered?

Posted by TMLutas at 03:40 PM

February 16, 2004

Young and Irresponsible Bush

One of the things that commentators like Phil Carter don't take into account in nit picking George W. Bush's record is that between those days and today, President Bush has explicitly said he had an epiphany that turned his entire life around. This "come to Jesus" moment was well discussed in the 2000 campaign and President Bush has himself said that he was "young and irresponsible" in those years.

When you take into account that the American people have already been told about this reformation, that he far larger lapses in character have been factored into the people's judgment of him before he was elected the first time and the entire episode becomes the picayune irrelevancy that it always deserved to be. Really, which is worse, skipping a couple of make work guard drills and then subsequently drilling more often to back and fill in his absences or driving drunk and stopped by a policeman? I think that the latter is clearly the worse offense but the people were told and elected him anyway.

There is an awful lot of overuse of the "youthful indiscretion" excuse in the US' political class but if anybody deserves a pass, its a politician who has had a well known reform moment, turned over a new leaf, and stuck to his new principles thereafter. GWB's record in his first term deserves close scrutiny. Voters can differ on his record. But a man's who has publicly and sincerely reformed does not deserve to have his pre-reform past thrown in his face to the exclusion of his post-reform behavior.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:00 PM

Foreigner's Election Temptations

William Murcheson's recent Washington Time's piece on the signals Kerry is sending foreigners got me a bit concerned. Putting myself in the shoes of said foreign interests, the question arises whether I would abide by the restrictions on foreign donations for US electoral politics in such a crucial US election?

Certainly, the history of our last major excursion into funds coming in via the PRC during the Clinton years did little lasting damage to the PRC's DC standing. So what's to stop them from doing it again? What's to stop others from following the PRC's lead? The election will be long over by the time such crimes are uncovered and, if the right candidate wins, there will be gratitude, if the wrong one ekes things out, there is an old american tradition of magnanimity in victory to draw on.

So, especially with campaign finance systems in flux and untried new laws creating all sorts of interesting opportunities, wouldn't today's Johnny Chung just open up his own 527 committee and skip the country when the investigators finally catch up with him? What's the practical reason not to do this?

Posted by TMLutas at 12:51 PM

February 13, 2004

Russian Stability II

Earlier I mentioned some questions that I thought would further a loyal opposition. Clearly, at least one of the topics I raised is an actual election year issue

My Question:

1) If, God forbid, you were suddenly struck down, are you comfortable with the level of leadership you would leave behind in all major parties that no matter who won, Russia would be led by a responsible figure that the nation could survive? If no, what is your plan to take us out of this dangerous situation?

Putin's response on the subject:

Putin reiterated his stated opposition to prolonging his time in office, limited to two terms. But he indicated he would choose a preferred successor, saying that the task of any top leader ``is to propose to society a person he considers worthy to work further in this position.''

That attitude is not nearly good enough for Russia. I keep hoping that someone will push Putin for reforms in this area. The truth is that while a party leader cannot pick his opposition directly, he can move the statistical center of the electorate in such a way that anybody who has a serious shot at national office must take sustainable positions on the major issues confronting the country. Putin has a responsibility to lead Russia's electorate to such conclusions so that no matter who his opposition picks, no matter who his own party picks, Russia will survive, even thrive, no matter who wins the election.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:56 AM

February 12, 2004

Peggy's Paragraph

Peggy Noonan's asking for Bush's election paragraph. Here's my offering:

We're at war. We have a serious, positive strategy to prosecute and win the War on Terror. Our opponent does not. Without such a strategy we will eventually be worn down and lose this war, and in the process losing our precious freedoms. A closely divided Congress can be held up on any issue by tiny groups of legislators of either party obstructing vital legislation until they are paid in pork. Winning the War on Terror requires swallowing those outrages which will persist as long as the Congress is closely divided. We need larger majorities.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:29 PM

Spinsanity Inanity

John Kerry, among others, has signed a letter arguing against the passage of a constitutional amendment to the Massachusetts state constitution defining marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. Spinsanity is arguing that the AP unfairly labeled this as a pro-gay marriage letter. If John Kerry had signed such a letter a year ago, this interpretation would have been accurate but there are only three ways this can go after the state supreme court ruled that gays were being harmed by current practice and their recent advisory opinion that a civil union bill would be insufficient and a marriage bill was required of the legislature:

1. The legislature passes an amendment defining marriage as purely heterosexual. Gay marriage is defeated
2. The legislature and executive decline to enforce the judicial decision. Jacksonian executive supremacy is resurrected. Gay marriage is defeated
3. The legislature obeys its master, the judiciary, and passes legislation as per the judges' diktat. Gay marriage becomes law in Massachusetts

The letter's text clearly shows Kerry is against option 1. The AP title implies that Kerry's preferred outcome is option 3. If that reading is unfair, the only alternative is option 2, something that is both a stretch given Kerry's past record and something that would be clearly disastrous for his presidential bid.

So for the AP to have been wrong they had to have been too nice to Kerry and were really trying to positively spin a glaring sign of a man unfit to be president. I rather think that the AP was right, though it seems to have retracted its correct characterization (wimps).

Posted by TMLutas at 04:39 PM

Disingenuous Bush Bashing

Phil Carter over at Intel Dump sniffs at President Bush's guard service "Not exactly exemplary service for the guy that we now look to for leadership as Commander-in-Chief, but maybe he's a late bloomer."

Yes, maybe he is but how would we know without a more recent record to demonstrate it, like, oh 3 years of good wartime presidential leadership? Supposedly he's writing a larger piece on the subject of how this is still relevant nowadays and I'll be fascinated to see if he manages to square the circle. I have strong doubts he'll pull it off.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:32 AM

February 11, 2004

Who's Establishment?

There seems to be a desperate campaign on to demonstrate that liberals are not the establishment. It really is funny in a way. After their long march through the institutions, after decades of dominance not only in the official halls of power (that at least have elections for potential changeover ever two, four, or six years) but the unofficial ones of the media, lobbyists, academia, and intellectual salons, liberals, having suffered some partial reverses are campaigning as if they are already wilderness toughened and ready to 'take back' america.

In fact, they're only starting to go through the process of melting away the dross that adheres to any movement in power, the intellectual self-searching that accompanies defeat and regrouping for a shot at the brass ring. A quick run through the great issues of the day and the liberal answer almost entirely consists of either conventional banalities or frightening moonbattery.

There is no equivalent to William F Buckley on the left, an erudite liberal who spends much of his energy in stripping the movement's crazies of any influence as WFB did to the John Birch Society, and later, the Objectivists. Sadly, all political movements need such a figure because the nuts are ever with us and they are remarkably diverse in their ideological madness.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:05 AM

February 10, 2004

Stalling Your Way to Economic Wisdom

The great Wal-Mart profit demolition machine is running out of steam. It's aggressive price cutting tactics have lately been hurting its own bottom line so much that its stock is lagging and it is embarking on a new policy of raising prices to increase margins and profitability. This will also allow more of its competitors to survive in the face of competition with the retail behemoth without resorting to legal maneuvering to "save our local stores" via zoning and other restrictive practices that have been popular with stunned competitors who did not see a way to fairly beat the giant in the marketplace.

This is just one example of wider phenomenon, the use of panic to provoke government intervention in the marketplace. In combination with the tendency of government to be a one way ratchet, it's what's fueled the explosion of government intervention all across the West.

A popular tactic is just to stall, delay, study, and hope you can keep it up long enough for the panic to subside and solutions to be worked out in the private sector. Once that happens, government solutions are no longer necessary and you can deal with the next panic.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:46 PM

February 09, 2004

What Happened to Kerry's Decorations?

Kerry famously threw some of his military decorations over the White House fence. Were they just swept up and thrown away? Or were they preserved? I'm curious on this point as I examine Kerry's past record. I think that President Bush should try to bury the past of Vietnam and offer John Kerry his ribbons back and any of the other ribbons and medals tossed over that fence by military anti-war protesters who have changed their minds. They could make a nice ceremony out of it in the fall....

Here's a page that gathers a bunch of accounts both pro and contra Kerry (though the majority are contra).

Posted by TMLutas at 02:34 PM

February 08, 2004

Good News, Good Politics

Incumbents profit politically from good news on their watch. It's just a fact of life in a society that elects its politicians. But Juan Non-Volokh is raising a bit of fuss over the new medicare ad campaigns that the administration is launching.

He admits that it is good policy but seems uncomfortable that it is good politics. There are fairly well developed rules over mixed cases like trips that are both political and government related. A formula determines how much the politician's campaign has to write a reimbursement check to the government. But constituent communications which simply inform people of new changes in law are only indirectly beneficial to a campaign. They are the good record that the incumbent runs on. They are not, in and of themselves, campaign messages that should be paid for privately. If such things had to be paid for privately, or even a portion privately, the entire system would grind to a halt as people were less and less well informed about what the law was and how they could take advantage of this or that new provision. By that reasoning, the individual members' campaigns should pick up a portion of the publication costs of the Congressional Record.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:21 PM

February 07, 2004

Keep Your Powder Dry II

Professor Bainbridge is crowing that he gets results and suggests that I'm wrong about Bush keeping his powder dry. He uses as evidence the naming of the intelligence committee and Bush's 1 hour interview tomorrow on Meet the Press.

But the start of the conversation was about Bush's millions. I would suggest that neither action will dent Bush's campaign balances in any significant way. The commission and appearance will both be on the taxpayer's dime as they should be. President Bush may be starting to get ready to go on offense, but I suggest that the spending will still be kept almost nonexistent until the nominee of the Democrat party is known.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:42 PM

February 06, 2004

Dean's Contributors Haven't Deserted

It looks like the faithful haven't given up on Howard Dean. His Wisconsin fundraising drive (700k by Sunday) was fulfilled in one day. He's now raised the bar to double the ad buys.

Is this throwing good money after bad? I'm sure the Deaniacs will say no but we'll know after Wisconsin. If Dean and Edwards just don't give up it may be that they can keep Kerry below 50% of delegates. Now won't that be a fun convention to watch.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:09 PM

February 05, 2004

Primary Documents: John Kerry & Vietnam

John Kerry served in Vietnam. He was honored with some of the highest honors this country gives for his actions there. When he came back from his military service, he joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He participated in something called the Winter Soldier Investigation. He went to Congress to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding that investigations and he made grave accusations against this country in that testimony.

The Winter Soldier Investigation (WSI) was subsequently followed up with an official investiagation by the Naval Investigation Service (NIS) on the request of Senator Mark Hatfield. No charges were brought out of that investigation but apparently several phonies were uncovered. The full story can be found here.

If Kerry is going to stand largely on his character, on his biography, his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is fair game in judging him fit for the Presidency. Does he still stand by that testimony? Should he?

Posted by TMLutas at 07:44 PM

Rule of Law Warning Light

Byron York has a column in the Hill that should have honest patriots worried regardless of their partisan affiliation. The topic is the "we wuz robbed" North Dakota Senate election of 2002. For those who have forgotten, the Republican challenger lost that election by 524 votes and there were sworn affidavits of hundreds of false voter registrations among many other Democrat illegal actions.

In the end, Sen. Tim Johnson kept his seat, nobody has been tried, much less convicted for the scandalous behavior, and it looks like nothing has changed in North Dakota law or practice to prevent a repeat as Thune tries again against Sen. Daschle in 2004.

What is really worrying is York's implicit call that the rule of law isn't working and that if the other side is cheating we might as well join them:

For their part, Republicans should have learned a valuable lesson from that race. And the lesson is: Cheating works.

Bring in lots of lawyers from Washington, New York and Los Angeles. Intimidate the honest, well-meaning elderly ladies who work at the polling places. Observe the rules governing polling-place behavior when those rules work in your favor. Break them when they don’t. If your candidate wins, ignore the inevitable charges of misconduct from the other side.

If authorities treat the loser’s evidence as they treated the Republican case in 2002, the whole thing will end up a murky mess, which you can then claim as total exoneration.

And the best thing is, while the other side complains, you’ll have your man in the Senate.

This is a call to lawbreaking. It's despicable and, in an atmosphere of poor electoral law enforcement, inevitable.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:16 AM

February 04, 2004

Keep Your Powder Dry

Professor Bainbridge is worried and wondering what George W. Bush waiting for? He's got almost a hundred million in the bank and has no presence on the air, is not fighting back against Democrat attacks at all.

The answer seems to be at least partially outlined in my previous article. GWB's waiting for all his opponent's chips to be on the table, for the also-rans to be chased off the table and then he'll place his bets. It's quite possible to wait too long. Dole in 1996 is a case in point. But we're nowhere near that point yet. This is the highest stakes poker game on the planet. My bet is that Lucy will still pull the football away successfully.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:04 PM

February 03, 2004

Joe's Out Where Do His Delegates Go?

Joe Lieberman has has left the building. His quest for the presidency is over. The only currency he has now are the 25 delegates he had declare for him. With Edwards, Dean, and Clark all staying in, it's quite possible that at the convention where these delegates go might matter if Kerry can't close the deal and get his delegate count above the magic 2161 level.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:27 PM

Current Delegate Count

And we have a new Democrat leader. Yes, it's only today that Kerry moved into first place in the race that counts, the delegate race.

You need 2161 delegates to win. 426 delegates have either been assigned via votes or are superdelegates who have declared a preference for a particular candidate.

The rankings are:

CandidateDelegates% of Delegate Assigned
Sen. John Kerry16739.2%
Gov. Howard Dean11426.7%
Sen. John Edwards8319.5%
Gen. Wesley Clark317.2%
Sen. Joseph Lieberman255.8%
Rev. Alfred Sharpton40.9%%
Con. Dennis Kucinich20.4%

John Kerry is clearly in the lead but he's got to do better to end this fight before the convention.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:58 PM

February 01, 2004

Andrew Sullivan's Politics

Jude Wanniski's The Way the World Works is a useful tome in a lot of ways. Among other things it covers the distressingly common situation where what you want electorally is an eagle but all that is on offer from the political mainstream is a chicken and a parrot.

This also comes in handy when looking at political electoral quizzes. Andrew Sullivan went and took CNN's political quiz that determines your presidential compatibility on the issues. Surprise, surprise, he's a relatively sane Democrat. I took the test too with radically different results. The test says more than you might think.

The Democrat party has been going on and on for years about how they're "right on the issues" but have trouble connecting to people. AS' scores show this phenomena in spades. It turns out that for a certain demographic, this is exactly the truth.

It was a pure issues test and he ends up being a moderate, DLC style Democrat in his political beliefs (so much for the idea that he's america's most famous gay conservative). His scores were "Lieberman 100 percent, Kerry 95, Clark 90, Edwards 88, Sharpton 86, Dean 83, Kucinich 76, Bush 61". Maybe I'm a little off base but I worry about somebody who is nodding his head up and down three quarters of the time Dennis Kucinich is speaking. My own DK score was 10% which puts DK in the category of being about as right as a stopped clock.

My full scores were:

100% Bush
47% Lieberman
35% Edwards
31% Clark
30% Dean
28% Kerry
27% Sharpton
10% Kucinich

For me, this indicates that mainstream politics is not really offering what I'm looking for. Mainstream politics is a pretty contiguous arc and the high drop off between Bush and my first Democrat (who I agree with AS is Lieberman) means I'm off the arc somewhere and Bush is my closest point of contact. He's the parrot, the Democrats are variously scrawny and disease ridden chickens and I'm still looking for a winning eagle but willing to settle.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:54 PM

January 31, 2004

Campaign Finance

On the bright side, the news media is honest. They actually believed the idea that if you are miles ahead in fundraising, you are a shoe-in for election. This explains their reaction to Dean and their virtual coronation of him before Iowans started to pay serious attention to the race.

On the even brighter side, the news media was completely wrong. The best funded candidate didn't win. He didn't even come in second. Dean's implosion has got to give Mitch McConnell, campaign finance reform's enemy number one, a real sense of satisfaction. When there is a serious discrepancy between fundraising prowess and attractiveness as a candidate, the money didn't save Dean much as it doesn't save most people in Dean's position.

On the dark side is the virtual certainty that most news media didn't notice the puncturing of the underlying assumptions behind McCain Feingold and will be just as sure next time that funds are everything, and are very likely to be wrong once again.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:13 PM

January 30, 2004

Elections 2004 Personal Preference List

I just took this quiz on which presidential candidate I'm most compatible with (Democrats and Republicans listed only). The top of the list was expected, Bush but the % agreed was surprising as were some of the choices lower on the list. I never would have guessed I'm more of a Clark voter than a Dean man. The biggest surprise for me? Sharpton didn't come last, but that's only because I always seem to forget that Kucinich is still running.

My results:
Score Candidate
100% Bush
47% Lieberman
35% Edwards
31% Clark
30% Dean
28% Kerry
27% Sharpton
10% Kucinich

HT: Daniel Drezner

Posted by TMLutas at 02:46 PM

January 28, 2004

Bush Confusion

This Spinsanity item debunks a Dean charge that President George W Bush kicked 84k students off the Pell Grant program. What happened was that in 1992, under President George HW Bush, the current president's father, a law was passed to annually update certain state tax data that's used to determine eligibility for Pell Grants.

The Clinton administration never implemented the law, though they did not have any legal right to do so. With the new administration coming in, they decided to end this illegal defiance and did an update from the 1988 (!) data that had been used to that point. Accumulated changes meant that the old inaccurate formulas gave roughly 84k students who shouldn't have had Pell grants participate in the program. Dean called the entire affair the consequences of Bush tax policy. In a way, he's right. He's just got the wrong Bush.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:29 PM

January 27, 2004

Current Democrat Delegate Counts

In voting for president, its often useful to remind yourself, it's the delegates that count.

CNN has a 2004 delegate count page. The rankings might surprise you. Kerry's gaining, but despite two first place wins, Dean's actually winning the delegate race right now based on his strong showing in reeling in superdelegates. This won't hold up forever but if Kerry doesn't get enough of a financial bump to properly contest the next round of primaries, he very well could fade.

Keep an eye on the delegates.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:07 PM

January 22, 2004

Welcome to the Year of the Monkey

Taranto's having fun with the bushorchimp people in the following item:

Monkeyfishing With the Angry Left
Today the Chinese ring in the new year--a little late, or maybe a little early, since the year on the Chinese calendar is 4702, the Year of the Monkey. It's sort of fitting that President Bush should face re-election in the Year of the Monkey, since Bush-haters often liken him to a monkey or related primate. (From "This is a little project I decided to start once I realized how much George W. Bush looks like a chimpanzee. . . . Several of you out there have been emailing and signing in the guestbook about how it is cruel to the chimps to compare them to George W. Bush.")

Yet according to, "Monkeys are fun and loving persons who are always cheerful and energetic. They are very clever. Give a monkey a boring book to read and he'll turn it into a Musical. Better yet, he'll invite everyone to see it free! That's how talented, creative and generous monkeys usually are."

Then again, monkeys are also French-looking, at least when they eat cheese and surrender.

Nixon's The Committee to Reelect the President was forever immortalized by the alternative acronym CREEP. I wonder when those leftist low brows start regretting their choice of insults during the year of the monkey.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:37 PM

Defanging the Welfare State

I've written before that I think Bush a transitionary figure to a government based on effective types of spending only on legitimate government aims. The liberal welfare state has always rested on two main pillars:

1. The beneficiaries were potent vote getters and highly visible while the expenses were spread around and hidden as much as possible
2. Nobody ever really measured effectiveness and insisted on systemic accountability. By the time one program was painstakingly demonstrated to be a bad idea and shut down more than one program had been created to supplement and replace it.

With both of these pillars strong, government growth became a one way ratchet up. Holding the line on spending created a network of highly offended people that could be stitched together for a durable electoral majority while disgust at government inefficiency, waste, and counterproductive spending was never able to coalesce into a durable counter-majority. Instead it was spasmodic and faded over time.

George Bush's domestic agenda is to dismantle pillar number two. Most probably he calculates that if he can do that, the american people, in combination with his successor, can demolish pillar number one without him.

All of the initiatives that he is pushing have been dollar cost indifferent but insistent on choice and accountability by measuring results. For these purposes, choice and measuring results are the same. You can't have meaningful choice if you can't figure out which choice is better. And what's the point of measuring results if you can't choose to change things. The goal of all this is not to cut spending (as a look at his fiscal record makes obvious). The goal is to reverse the direction of the national policy one way ratchet.

Even with razor thin legislative majorities, he's been able to push through a great deal of this sort of reform. The problem is that the thinness of these majorities means that any individual senator or representative has an enhanced bargaining position to extract a bit of money for his constituency. In effect, President Bush has to rent his majority. Any fool in america knows, it's generally more expensive to rent than to own.

Earmarked funding expenditures have exploded. Deficits are ballooning. All the fiscal conservative instincts of the country are screaming in agony. But if the ratchet is reversed, it'll all be worth it, just as Reagan's deficits were a worthwhile price for breaking the back of stagflation and the death of the soviet bloc. All these three provide multi-decade dividends to the United States.

So what's a fiscal conservative to do besides grin and bear it? The only variable that is in play is the thinness of Republican majorities and the bipartisan minority of fiscal conservatives. The President is getting his agenda passed, as all presidents do, on a twin pillar structure of ideological compatibility and party loyalty.

If there were more representatives and senators who were ideologically fiscally conservative, Republicans, or both, the President's position at the bargaining table would be improved. He would be able to hold a dutch auction to lower the price for getting a majority for the major reforms that still need to be passed. In the best case, he wouldn't have to rent anybody at all, being able to pass accountability/choice legislation on the strength of ideologically fiscal conservative Republicans alone. That, unfortunately, is an unlikely pipe dream in this decade. The stars are unlikely to align so well in the conservative's favor anytime soon.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:08 AM

January 21, 2004

State of the Union: Scared Democrats

In the responses to the State of the Union, Bill Richardson's stands out. He doesn't give an inch on economic growth, unemployment, campaign finance, educational policy, or health care. He simply ignores the recent economic growth, the mystery of the household employment survey showing rising employment while the employers survey shows few job gains, the passage of McCain Feingold with presidential support, the no child left behind act, and Health Savings Accounts.

If this speech had been rendered in english, the outrage would have been enormous at this obvious disconnect between reality and rhetoric. But even Bill Richardson can't simply ignore President Bush's temporary worker plan. Hispanics are paying too much attention. He minimizes it, he hems and haws, he says we Democrats would do better but it is obvious that this is damage control.

The contrast in styles is striking. The Democrat party is scared that it's going to lose the hispanic population on this one. They know that a great many hispanics would be more than happy to be rich mexicans on their savings from their hard US jobs than poor americans living in the high cost US. Diverting hard working hispanics to return to their home countries to live the good life is electoral demographic poison for the US Democrat party. They can't survive it because it cuts into their interests in multiple ways.

They lose domestically by slowing down the tide of poor hispanic voters. They lose internationally because a rich mexican who worked his way up the ladder doing hard work in the US will be more likely to politically support a center-right PAN than a center-left PRI or an even more left PRD. Similar incentives will occur no matter where these immigrants return to. They also lose on the 'savior of the little guy' image front. By giving more choice and another way of 'making it', the Republicans offer themselves as a different kind of kind, compassionate, ordinary people. This will lead to less lopsided vote totals driven by Democrat demagoguery of Republicans as cruel and heartless. They can't afford to compete on an even playing field against another ordinary party.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:27 PM

State of the Union: Why Bush Isn't Clinton

Professor Bainbridge opines that on the domestic front Bush is a Republican Clinton. He's wrong, and you can tell by Ted Kennedy's face during the address. Kennedy's ticked off because he's a smart politician who has been around a long time. He knows what Bush is doing to him and all other big government liberals.

Bush is spending money to buy the votes right now because he's got almost no legislative majority. He will often have to rent one from both parties. So spending goes way up. But buried in all that pork are little changes in assumption. You can see it in the veto threat he issued on the new medicare plan. Democrats might come and take your medicare away. Nobody laughed, nobody chuckled at the thought. It was taken as part of legitimate political discourse that the Republican party might be more giving and generous than the Democrat party.

This is domestic revolution. Since the new deal, there has been a one way ratchet for more government spending. The Democrats were the givers of money and the Republicans were the rarely necessary but sometimes useful scolds who tempered generosity. Bush is making a new consensus of Republicans being the givers of choices, social empowerment, and the Democrats as rarely necessary but sometimes useful scolds who temper generosity. George Bush has taken the sign marked Sysiphus that has hung around the Republican elephant's neck and neatly hung it on the Democrat donkey. The trend will be for Democrats to be rolling stones uphill from here on in.

As their legislative majority grows, Republican administrations won't be held hostage as easily before. They'll be willing to lose a few Senators or Congressmen because they have the votes to spare. The Republican Sysiphus finally got the stone up the hill and it will soon land on Ted Kennedy's head. He knows its coming and isn't enjoying the prospect.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:10 AM

January 19, 2004

Iowa Labor Brawl Results

Does anybody remember that this was supposed to be the battle of labor? The two halves of the modern US labor movement had picked different candidates. Government labor unions organized for Dean. Industrial unions stood by Gephardt. Iowa is supposed to be where organization is king and labor is supposed to be the big suppliers of manpower for the Democrat party.

Well, government unions 'won' the battle with their industrial counterparts but together, they pulled only only 28.5% of the vote (1951 of 1993 districts reporting). Kerry, with his own formidable, non-union ground operation, pulled 37.6% of the vote to take first place but the big embarrassment for organized labor was Edwards who had the weakest organization of all four candidates but did better than both labor backed pols put together, winning 31.8% of the vote on a series of positive speeches and a winning smile.

The labor movement fought it out in the fields of Iowa and the trial lawyer won. Edwards is the big winner of the night, making the most of his weak hand. Kerry has to be given his due, keeping his powder dry and surging at just the right time. Organization made a difference, giving Kerry 1st place.

Will labor prove as weak in the rest of the contests? With Gephardt gaining zero delegates and not going on to New Hampshire (he's returning to his native Missouri instead), it seems clear he will withdraw, freeing up the industrial unions to support another candidate. Will it be Dean? Will it even matter?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:36 PM

December 22, 2003

USA 2004: Now With 40% Less Free Speech

Robert Robbopines about the recent USSC ruling on campaign finance reform and comes up with a statistic that floored me. The new law illegalizes 40% of the spending on politics that the two major parties spent on elections. Assuming this is correct, the implications are large, and severe.

Let's assume, for the moment, that McCain-Feingold simply took the law and matched it to bedrock common law morals. This means that in 2000, 40% of expenditures of both major parties were dirty. I highly doubt that 40% of Enron's expenditures fell into this category, nor did Anderson's misdeeds amount to 40% of the money it handled either yet our criminal justice system placed huge penalties on both corporations, practically destroying them as unacceptably corrupt.

If the Democrat and Republican parties really engaged in such corrupt practices, neither of them deserves to be on the ballot in any state. We should tear them both down and start over.

Furthermore, Republican prowess in getting hard dollars means that this 40% is unlikely to be distributed evenly across party lines. Democrats are probably higher than 40% with Republicans dragging the average down. There is partisan advantage to be gained here so why aren't Republicans weilding it?

This is nonsense only because McCain-Feingold is not legislation that goes after corrupt practices or even substantially after corrupt practices. I would argue the same need to start over with new parties if the figure was 33% or even 25%. McCain-Feingold isn't about getting dirty money out of politic. You can tell this by the dog that doesn't bark. The idea of splitting off from corrupt Republicans or Democrats is very much a fringe phenomenon. If McCain-Feingold was actually what it represented itself as the dog would bark and the parties would be destroyed. Americans are not a corrupt people and they wouldn't tolerate having parties this dirty running the country.

Once the corruption angle is taken away, all that is left is limits on free speech. Welcome to the new USA, now with 40% less free speech. I predict that somehow, to nobody's surprise, the new version will be far less filling.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:07 PM

What's Mainstream

Howard Dean is right when he brings up the question of what is mainstream in US foreign policy. The answer he gives, sadly for Democrat electoral chances, is wrong.

George Bush's foreign policy is a departure from 60 years of bipartisan foreign policy. It is a radical shift and to pretend otherwise is to not be a serious analyst of the situation. But is it out of the mainstream? Or is it more correct to say that the bipartisan foreign policy limits and rituals of the cold war era have been abandoned by the mainstream in an astonishing display of presidential leadership with Howard Dean being the standard bearer of a liberal reactionary impulse to stick with the past.

The fundamental question is whether 'everything changed' after 9/11. For those who think that it did, sticking with the old bipartisan consensus looks and sounds as foolish as delivering goods with a horse drawn wagon in the age of the internal combustion engine.

But is this undeniably radical current in the US the new mainstream? I'm sure that there is frequent polling done on this by both major parties and the answer is in doubt, thus the clear choice of foreign policy solutions in a Bush v. Dean major party contest.

Is our foreign policy framework a virtual Augean stables requiring a herculean effort to make ready for a new age? Or is our traditional foreign policy consensus from 1945-2001 still the right long-term framework for handling today's challenges?

My answer to that is clear. A Dean administration based on the same old, same old principles he currently advocates would be a disaster of the first order for the United States. Whether that view, or its polar opposite is the prevailing sentiment of voters in November is very much up for grabs.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:10 PM

December 17, 2003

Micro v Macro Politics

Mark Steyn well notes the tendency for the current Democrat party to concentrate on micro issues while Republicans hold a large lead in macro issues. Unfortunately, this is not a very good dynamic for the US, or the world. It sets up a nasty cyclic situation where big issues, like ending the Cold War, dealing with the War on Terrorism, etc. will become a Republican preserve which, as soon as they solve them, will lead to them being thrown out on their ear to be replaced by micro-politics specialists like Bill Clinton and Howard Dean who, ignoring the big issues, set up the world for another set of crises requiring Republicans to put right.

The truth is that both micro and macro politics works better when there are two realistic, well thought out alternatives available for the voters to choose from. It did urban america no favors to have the Republican party largely cede urban politics in the '70s. It does our national security no good to have generally unserious responses to the War on Terror coming from the Democrat party today.

HT to Balloon Juice

Posted by TMLutas at 03:18 PM

December 15, 2003

The Kill More Sodiers Act of 2003

I recently wrote about evidence that the Democrats and Republicans have come together and acted like adults to increase troop strength, taking politics out of the equation. A bill has been introduced, HR3696 on the subject. This is neither a bipartisan bill, nor does it approach things in a responsible way, nor is it ever likely to see the light of day. All the backers of this bill are Democrats (yes, I checked the official list).

Increasing the mandated number of bodies without increasing the funds available to train, pay, and equip these new soldiers is a recipe for more military deaths in future. This is a horrible idea and the 26 sponsors/cosponsors should be ashamed of themselves.

The roll-call of shame (from the Library of Congress' bill summary):

Original Sponsor:
Rep Tauscher, Ellen O. [CA-10]

Rep Alexander, Rodney - 12/8/2003 [LA-5]
Rep Brady, Robert - 12/8/2003 [PA-1]
Rep Cooper, Jim - 12/8/2003 [TN-5]
Rep Davis, Susan A. - 12/8/2003 [CA-53]
Rep Edwards, Chet - 12/8/2003 [TX-11]
Rep Evans, Lane - 12/8/2003 [IL-17]
Rep Frost, Martin - 12/8/2003 [TX-24]
Rep Hill, Baron P. - 12/8/2003 [IN-9]
Rep Holden, Tim - 12/8/2003 [PA-17]
Rep Holt, Rush D. - 12/8/2003 [NJ-12]
Rep Israel, Steve - 12/8/2003 [NY-2]
Rep Larsen, Rick - 12/8/2003 [WA-2]
Rep Larson, John B. - 12/8/2003 [CT-1]
Rep McIntyre, Mike - 12/8/2003 [NC-7]
Rep Meehan, Martin T. - 12/8/2003 [MA-5]
Rep Meek, Kendrick B. - 12/8/2003 [FL-17]
Rep Moran, James P. - 12/8/2003 [VA-8]
Rep Murtha, John P. - 12/8/2003 [PA-12]
Rep Ortiz, Solomon P. - 12/8/2003 [TX-27]
Rep Reyes, Silvestre - 12/8/2003 [TX-16]
Rep Rodriguez, Ciro - 12/8/2003 [TX-28]
Rep Skelton, Ike - 12/8/2003 [MO-4]
Rep Smith, Adam - 12/8/2003 [WA-9]
Rep Taylor, Gene - 12/8/2003 [MS-4]
Rep Turner, Jim - 12/8/2003 [TX-2]

If you have the misfortune to be living in anyone of these people's districts, make this an issue and ask them why they signed onto the kill more soldier's act of 2003 (HR3696). Good equipment and good training means the US has an incredibly low casualty rate. How dare these people try to jeapordize it? More troops and more money have to go hand in hand.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:09 PM

5 Little Indians

John Breaux just announced his retirement That takes the Democrat retirement parade to 5 southern Democrats in the Senate. The last time I recall this sort of an exodus was in the House of Representatives before the 1994 election that gave the Republicans their first majority in four decades.

Make no mistake, it's going to be a hard fought race next year and a lot of things can happen in the meantime but southern Democrats seem to be betting on a Dean nomination which takes the party to the left and 6 years of Senate minority status thereafter.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:49 PM

The Strange Case of the Non-Greedy Secretary

It's something of a truism that all bureaucratic organizations want more people, more money, and more influence. So why is DoD secretary Donald Rumsfeld fighting against a larger force structure?

I speculated in A Hypothetical Scenario that we're in something of a military bind, needing a larger force structure but with the administration unwilling to ask for one unless they are absolutely sure that it will be passed by large margins in Congress.

I have repeatedly since then looked for evidence debunking this scenario. So far, this is the first I've come across that there might still be a bipartisan patriotic majority. It still has a crazy Kabuki dance kind of feel to it with everybody playing stylized roles in order to move the story along without great conflict. You have a DoD Secretary playing B'rer Rabbit and saying that there is no analysis that shows we need more troops. You have the Chairman and Ranking Minority member of the House Armed Services Committee spearheading a move to twist the reluctant B'rer Rabbit into the briar patch of a bigger military.

What's the point, you might ask. Well, the temptation to play to the crowd, to create a fight and play populist resister to the evil militarist Republican meanies has got to be very tempting for the Democrat party right about now. The Bush administration has carefully avoided playing the set piece pinata in that script. They aren't likely to change now. Yet we need more conventional forces breathing room. It seems like the adults in both parties have worked out a reasonable compromise. The Democrats get to show they're militarily serious and avoid losing a huge swath of middle america. The Republicans get the troops they want without being abused for being militarist.

Good show all around.

Acquire, Identify, Engage for pointing to the article.
Intel Dump for pointing to Acquire, Identify, Engage.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:54 PM

December 12, 2003

An Idea For 1st Amendment Lovers

The core of the 1st amendment guarantee of free speech has always been political. Yet here we are today in a confusing situation where recent rulings have granted more protection to peripheral activities like nude dancing than to core issues of political speech. Both activities have opponents and both justify their actions on corruption, in the case of strip joints it's moral and societal corruption, in the case of political speech it's an appearance of political corruption that is the great charge.

I would suggest that every blue stocking Comstock prude in the country should be heading to the courthouse door and filing on repeats of their earlier defeats on the grounds that peripheral free speech activities cannot reasonably be protected with more vigilence and fidelity than core political speech at the heart of the 1st amendment. The SC's ruling is horrible but I don't think we've seen the worst of it yet.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:43 PM

December 11, 2003

The Difference Between Pork and Spoils

Michael Williams believes that because someone is going to make an awul lot of money on reconstruction contracts in Iraq, that makes them spoils of war. It does not. The war was only incidental to the contracts from a political point of view (as opposed to national security). If the political faction behind KBR gets a contract, they don't care if it's in support of war related reconstruction or AIDS initiative infrastructure construction. It's money for KBR and their political backers. It's corporate pork to the extent that unnecessary expenditures went from US taxpayers to KBR. Btw: the example could be Bechtel, Halliburton, or any of the reams of politically connected firms that feed off of government contracts. I'm not implying anything about KBR other than they're good at extracting money from the US govt.

A spoil of war must, of necessity, be coming out of the hide of the defeated power. If the money is coming out of the pockets of taxpayers in the winning countries or interested neutrals, it might be pork, it might be a political payoff, but it is not a spoil. The term spoil implies that a party is despoiled ( defines this as "To deprive for spoil; to plunder; to rob; to pillage; to strip; to divest"). This is a linguistic necessity. But who has been despoiled? Where did the money come from? To speak of spoils of war in Iraq implies that the US is robbing Iraq. That is not true and requires too much explanation to be of any practical benefit other than misleading propaganda.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:04 PM

I'm Depressed

After reading about the triumph of the campaign finance reform law in the Supreme Court, a profound feeling of depression settled over me. I have lots of opinions over what's been going on in the last 12-24 hours but fundamentally, with restricted freedom of speech, does it matter much any more?

You only get to be a virgin once. It's a sad day for the US.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:43 AM

December 10, 2003

Avoiding Nixonian Taint

Bruce Bartlett writes:

Veteran Associated Press reporter Tom Raum wrote that Bush is "retracing the steps of Richard Nixon three decades ago" on Nov. 29. On Dec. 2, Wall Street Journal columnist Alan Murray said, "Presidents Nixon and Bush may turn out to be bookends to the conservative era, with their big-government drift." The former took office at the end of a liberal era when voters were not yet ready for conservative policies, while the latter took office at the end of a conservative era when they have grown tired of efforts to limit government expansion, Murray wrote.

Lastly, Newsweek reported in its Dec. 8 issue that it was now "conventional wisdom" that Bush is following the Nixon model: "Medicare bill passes, economy surges. Thanksgiving stunt a PR coup. Like Nixon in '72?"

This is very dangerous for President Bush. Nixon is one of the few presidents in history reviled almost equally by left and right. The former will never forgive him for Watergate and bringing down Alger Hiss. The latter remains disgusted by Nixon's wage and price controls, his creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory agencies, and his overtures to the Soviet Union and Red China.

There is still time for the Bush administration to demonstrate that it's concessions to higher spending were the tactical one step back by proving that there are two steps forward. Competition and accountability measures have to be more than just words in the legislative debate to get right wing votes in the Congress. They have to have real teeth and be rigorously applied. President Bush needs to go back to the Congress again and again to strengthen these measures where the first implementation was not strong enough. In this, things are no different than with his tax policy. Multiple tax cuts were enacted because an intervening election made the impossible, possible. 2005 will be a critical legacy year. If President Bush gets reelected and has a friendlier Congress to partner with, conservatives have the right to expect that the first timid steps made today on creating both choice and accountability will be revisited and improved. Anything less would be nixonian at its worst.

This does imply an obligation on President Bush's critics who sling the nixonian label around. The current vote balance in the Congress provides an all too plausible excuse for current action. It's not time yet to sit things out in the fight for more Republicans in Washington.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:07 PM

December 09, 2003

Persistent v. Transitory Internet Identity

David Brooks in today's New York Times has stirred up something of a tempest over his characterization of the Internet as the home of transitory pseudonymity.

Everybody talks about how the Internet has been key to his fund-raising and organization. Nobody talks about how it has shaped his persona. On the Internet, the long term doesn't matter, as long as you are blunt and forceful at that moment. On the Internet, a new persona is just a click away. On the Internet, everyone is loosely tethered, careless and free. Dean is the Internet man, a string of exhilarating moments and daring accusations.

Andrew Sullivan and Jeff Jarvis fire back that long term persistence is what counts. In truth both sides have a point.

It is trivially easy to create a pseudonymous identity. True anonymity is almost as easy if you know what you are doing. Such net identities are put on and thrown off by some multiple times a day as a matter of convenience. Thus David Brooks is right.

However, creating a sense of credibility, of authority, of being taken on faith as someone of good will, that requires a persistent identity. With the net being a fairly persistent forum and highly searchable, being all over the map will cost you. Thus Jeff Jarvis and Andrew Sullivan are also right.

So what is Dean trying to pull here? I believe that he is counting on his transitions from left wing liberal in the primary to general election centrist will be handled as 'just normal politics' and that the mainstream liberal media will cover for him as they did for most nominees for whom 90%+ of the press corps is going to vote for.

This is very much an open question to my mind. I don't think that anybody really knows whether the Donald Luskin like truth squad brigade will be loud enough to matter. Where are americans going to get their impressions of Dean when they start paying attention around Labor Day 2004? It'll be a wild ride, that's my only prediction.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:17 PM

December 08, 2003

Hothouse Libertarians

Politically, I fall into the broad family of Libertarianism. As there is no particularly libertarian major party in existence right now in the US, this provides people like me with some practical electoral difficulties. They break down to the choices of sitting on the sidelines carping about "the violence inherent in the system" denying the system the legitimacy enhancement of my participation, voting straight ticket Libertarian party (who almost never win) or picking one of the two major parties and trying my best to improve it. Being a minarchist, and thus obsessed with the practical question of how much smaller can we get government, I often pick option 3 though in some circumstances actually voting libertarian makes sense. It all depends on whether voting libertarian in that particular election will conceivably swing the results and whether ballot access in future elections will be affected.

Why am I going through all this personal political opinion? It's important to the subsequent point of why I'm disagreeing with everybody else mentioned hereafter.

I don't have much of a beef with Glenn Reynolds because his contribution is almost entirely the link that set me off on this topic. He's wrong because he agrees with Professor Bainbridge but I can't say why he's wrong because he doesn't tell me why he so imprudently agrees with the good professor.

Speaking of Professor Bainbridge he's a bit nasty when he says The Mises Bloggers are Stark Raving Nuts. I agree with him that they are wrong but nuts? That's fighting dirty and unworthy of an academic. I'll come to the defense of Karen De Coster and agree that the War on Terror is false phraseology.

The fact that the worst of the non-integrating gap states that are the greatest threat to the current system also tend to be terror supporting states does not mean that our underlying cause is against terrorism per se. It rather is against the underlying problems that cause these states to grab onto the tactic of terrorism. The root causes lead to the poisonous branches of cults of nihilism that flower into the violence of terrorism. The problem isn't solved by merely clipping the flowers. They will merely come back. Clipping the noxious flowers is, however, necessary. This is where I part company with 'the Mises bloggers'. Karen De Coster's item ends with the following paragraph.

However, I'll never understand the leaners and their support of hegemony, war, and false phraseology such as the "war on terrorism." That's the stuff that separates the wheat from the chaff, and ultimately, freedom from chains.

In the first charge (hegemony) I think she's being unfair. I have no doubt that there would be no major tears shed amongst the leaners if France, Germany, Russia, Italy, China, and a dozen other countries were free of statism's grasp and giving the US economy a run for its money. Such a multipolar world of giants striving against giants in open, fair competition would be a good thing for the US even though it would destroy any thoughts about US hegemony.

The second charge (war) is as false a phraseology as the war on terror. War, like terrorism, is a tactic engaged by states to resolve various problems. Can war be justified? A war against tyranny can be, a war to defend yourself against aggression is also justified. The question really is which wars are justifiable and which are simply unjust.

The third charge (false pharseology of the War on Terror) is, as I stated above, true. The problem is that the falseness of the phraseology does not justify an anti-WoT position. The War on Terror is a propaganda statement and like all propaganda statements is crafted with a particular purpose in mind. If propaganda doesn't strictly conform to the truth the honest evaluater has to separate the kernels of truth from the obfuscation and misdirection.

There is an honest and proper case to be made in the practical world for the policies that are grouped under the War on Terror and which can be supported on libertarian grounds. You can't just say that there's a smidgen of falsehood in politics and stalk off to the side. That's hothouse libertarianism and while of theoretical benefit in maintaining ideological purity, it will serve us no good from the perspective of keeping the real chains that the islamists would put us all in.

In the real world, the Islamists are the bigger and more immediate threat. All those who would clap us in chains and take away our freedoms must be fought against but the ugliest and most direct threats should be addressed first. The fight against the excessive spread against security measures is a worthy one. But it is a fight that cannot destroy the tools necessary to defeat the Islamists, the Communists, and all the coming manifestations of the cult of nihilism.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:16 PM

November 27, 2003

Trumping Sistani

Bruce Rolston rightly points out how imam Sistani has been a major force in post-Saddam politics.

Juan Cole relates that he has proposed a serious challenge to plans to democratize Iraq by demanding that Iraq's new basic law provide for direct elections and a clause subordinating the legislature to the restrictions of sharia, and the interpreters of sharia, the imams.

Coupled with Sistani's other objection, that the writers of the new constitution must be directly elected, a solution is right before our eyes. In a tug of war an effective tactic (if you can pull it off) is to give some unexpected slack, throwing the other side off balance and then pulling them to defeat before they can regain their footing. If Sistani wants the imams over the legislature, that's not unacceptable if the people are over the imams. "No law may be passed in contravention to Islamic law" is a recipe for Iran II, a theocracy that will not serve Iraq well. "No law may be passed in contravention to Islamic law without the assent of the people in referendum" is a workable formula, giving mosque the power to influence but not having the final word. Can Sistani argue for the supremacy of the people in direct elections while simultaneously arguing that the people should have no voice whatsoever if the imams issue a fatwa? You might as well have Sistani nominate the constitution writers. I doubt that the Iraqi people would want to place themselves under another tyrannic yoke. How could Sistani argue against this?

Sistani's demand requires a great deal of thought and adjustment. It's not unworkable though, if Bremer and the CPA can see sense and work for practical solutions. It won't be the United States in the end but it need not be a failed society. Could anyone doubt that a referendum mechanism would override the worst of Iran's theocratic excesses? Properly structured, a recognition of the faith of Iraq's overwhelming majority need not turn into theocracy. Iraq can see what happens when the mosques have the final say, poverty, stagnation, and decline. It's unlikely that this is what they want for their own state.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:30 PM

November 24, 2003

Political commercials 'R' us

This firm, as pointed out by Slashdot offers quick, pre-made TV commercials that can quickly be adjusted for use by businesses who don't have the budget, or the time, for the traditional production experience.

Right now this is exclusively aimed at commercial purposes but the concept is eminently suitable for use in the political sphere, even more so. While you absolutely want to differentiate your commercial offering, political candidates often benefit by sticking to a theme, demonstrating that they are a known quantity.

This would also provide an opportunity for non-partisan political groups to make commercials that can be plugged into like minded campaigns. Did you score a 100% on the ADA/NRA/ACU/NOW questionnaire? Congratulations, you now have access to their media library which, if you use it, can cut the cost of producing advertising by more than half.

Just a random musing as the US election cycle gears up for its quadrennial extravaganza.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:28 PM

November 20, 2003

Bush's Lucy Strategy: George Soros Plays Charlie Brown

George Soros' article in the December issue of The Atlantic is a classic case of a potential ally being suckered in with Bush's enemies into making a fundamental mistake regarding George Bush's intentions.

If there is one thing crystal clear about the strategic situation of Al Queda and the US, it is that US is working to serialize the conflict while Al Queda is seeking to parallelize it.

The US wants to avoid making a major wartime shift in its economy and pushing defense spending from the 3%-4% it is currently at to quickly jump to the 6%-7% range. Such wartime spending is sustainable for a time but it would do a great deal of harm to the worldwide economy as money was sucked into the US war machine. Thus you see a desire to immediately take problems on only if they cannot be delayed without unacceptable cost to US interests. This perfectly explains why the larger threat of North Korea's nuclear program is being handled with comparative kid gloves to our treatment of Saddam.

The Iraqi sanctions regime was under tremendous pressure by Iraq's French, German, and Russian commercial partners and patrons. It is a truth that few want to admit today. Without the invasion, Saddam had a good shot at being sanctions free in 2004. Soon after, we would likely have found out just how good Saddam was at reconstituting his weapons programs with the huge revenue stream of unfettered oil sales at his disposal. It would likely have been an unpleasant lesson and one that would have cost a great deal of blood and treasure to correct.

North Korea, by comparison, is an easy solution. A six month sealed northern border and there won't be enough resources left to maintain the army. The removal of the regime with one less bent on proliferation would occur relatively quickly.

The PRC doesn't mind tweaking Uncle Sam's nose (in fact, they delight in it) but Pyongyang's nuclear armament will have Beijing in range long before it will have Washington. Would Kim Jong Il and company blackmail its major patron to get better aid terms? It would happen in a heartbeat. For that reason and others Beijing and Washington agree that the Korean Peninsula must remain nuke free.

Compared to the awesome scope of the task of the War on Terror, the US military is woefully undersized to take the problem on all at once, thus the need for serialization. Flat out announcing such a strategy of serialization to compensate for the US' military weakness would be profoundly counterproductive. So we get hints and the wink and nod treatment. Striking "at a time and place of our choosing" is a classic formulation to convey the tactical constraint without explicitly admitting to it.

But what is the plan? It appears to be two pronged and audacious in its scope. Simultaneously eliminate the dysfunctional governing arrangements that create and harbor terrorist movements while attacking the underlying legitimacy of our immediate foe Al Queda by creating a sense in the majority of muslims that Al Queda is apostate.

The strategy for pursuing the WoT is hidden out in plain sight because of two defects. The first is a constitutional one in that any strategy of dealing with the root causes of Al Queda's theology has a profound 1st amendment problem in interfering with the free exercise of religion. You can sense the difficulty of the problem by playing out the theoretical problem, if the US of today were in charge of colonial India, could it legally eliminate thuggee?

The second problem is parallelization in spades. Every two bit dictator and thug ruling a corner of the world is a target and if they knew it, and knew that the US was coming soon, they could coordinate, plan trouble, and launch it simultaneously. The whole world would be in flames and not enough firefighters would be available.

This inability to directly and officially acknowledge the animating strategy behind US administration actions has led George Soros desperately far astray. The New Rule Sets (NRS) that the administration are pursuing are fully compatible with Soros' long standing commitment to the model of the Open Society. In fact, the sketchiness of some of the civil affairs work implied by NRS is likely due to the ready availability of Open Society work that Soros has lavishly financed over the past decade plus in the old Soviet bloc. Why reinvent the wheel when Soros has already done a great deal of the groundwork. Unfortunately, Soros is quite fond of the Democrats and has long funded many leftist pet causes so it is unlikely that there is enough trust between the Bush administration and him to let him in on the plan and thus he is taken in by the deception and comes to fanciful conclusions.

Even so, September 11 could not have changed the course of history to the extent that it has if President Bush had not responded to it the way he did. He declared war on terrorism, and under that guise implemented a radical foreign-policy agenda whose underlying principles predated the tragedy. Those principles can be summed up as follows: International relations are relations of power, not law; power prevails and law legitimizes what prevails. The United States is unquestionably the dominant power in the post-Cold War world; it is therefore in a position to impose its views, interests, and values. The world would benefit from adopting those values, because the American model has demonstrated its superiority. The Clinton and first Bush Administrations failed to use the full potential of American power. This must be corrected; the United States must find a way to assert its supremacy in the world.

The error of this construction is, once again, illustrated by North Korea. A regime adhering to these power principles has no interest in a multilateral solution to the problem of a nuclear North Korea. So why is the US so doggedly supporting the multilateral model? Soros' guess at US principles fails to fit known evidence. Charlie Brown is once again on his back and Lucy didn't even have to pull the football away.

Another sign of divergence from reality is Soros' observation that neoconservatives "publicly called for the invasion of Iraq as early as 1998". The date is significant because that is when the official position of the US government was first aligned with regime change in Iraq (the text of the relevant law is here). The Congress authorized arming and supporting military resistance to Saddam Hussein. If advocating regime change in Iraq in 1998 is neoconservative ideology, Bill Clinton is functionally a moderate neoconservative, but that's absurd as Soros' article early on establishes a bright line "discontinuity" between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush's respective foreign policies.

Much is made of George Bush's West Point speech with regard to preemption but reading the speech you have to discard an awful lot of it to just pick out the points friendly to Soros' thesis.

Sure, there's "And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives". But that comes after

This war will take many turns we cannot predict. Yet I am certain of this: Wherever we carry it, the American flag will stand not only for our power, but for freedom. (Applause.) Our nation's cause has always been larger than our nation's defense. We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace -- a peace that favors human liberty. We will defend the peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.

There's much more to chew over in the speech. It's worth rereading the whole thing to see how disingenuous it is to declare that Bush is against open societies.

Soros is on more solid grounds when he describes the genesis and effect of bubbles but his entire point rests on his having a more accurate understanding of the true world picture than the Bush administration. For an outsider, that's normally a tall order but Soros has made billions on having superior insight. And if his explanations would fit all the public facts of Bush administration foreign policy, his long track record would weigh heavily on attempts to debunk him. Many people have gone broke trying to prove George Soros wrong.

Unfortunately for his theory this time, it doesn't adequately explain why Bush chose Iraq for military intervention and not North Korea. Why is preemptive unilateralism in play in one and not the other. A theory that doesn't explain all the facts will always fail to a theory that does (or at least explains more of them). The argument for Korea first is pretty compelling. It solves a half century of conflict. It dismantles a much more advanced nuclear threat. It would instantly dispel the enemy's line about this being a war on Islam. Korea has a lot going for it so why the softer multilateral approach?

The answer is simple, the Bush strategy is not what Soros thinks it is. The finance maestro has been suckered by an MBA who is probably the world's most famous "imperfect graduate".

Posted by TMLutas at 02:48 PM

Bush's Lucy Strategy

There was a recurring theme in Charles Schultz's long running comic Peanuts. Lucy would offer to hold a football (american) and Charlie Brown would kick it. At the last moment, Lucy would pull it away and laugh as Charlie Brown launched himself into the air and fell, in pain, flat on his back. Lucy, great psychological manipulater that she was, could always convince Charlie Brown that this time, the football would not be moved and that he could kick it but would always get her way in the end, leaving poor Charlie Brown frustrated and vowing never again.

President George W. Bush is Lucy minus the dress.

Objectively looking back at his career, you can see how time after time he carefully holds the football and perfectly times how to pull it away. Time after time, his opponents lie there, flat on their backs, struggling to overcome their political pain, and wonder how they got beat.

This sets up an awful dilemma for the observant Bush supporter. On the one hand, you want to crow about it. On the other, you worry that giving the game away will let the opposition adjust and win more often. Today, I'm going with the first hand.

The problem with Bush as Lucy is that he does it so well. He's purposefully creating a distorted perception of what's going on in the world, in the US, and in his administration to the point where not only enemies are miscalculating but potential allies are too.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:31 PM

October 09, 2003

Recall Foolishness

The idea that the CA recall will be the birth of a neverending cycle of recalls every six months is a testament to straight line thinking. The recall effort against Davis that ultimately succeeded was not the first. The prior recall failed largely because turnout was high enough to drive the signature requirement out of reach. Part of the assumptions that led to this pernicious meme was that the recall was widely suspected of being even lower turnout than the last regular election which would have left the winner in an even more vulnerable position. This assumption just turned out to be wrong. This hasn't stopped the people from continuing to be frightened by it.

The facts are clear. 7,738,821 votes were cast which means that 928,659 petition signatures were required (12% of the vote total). As of today, the recall election vote totals are 8,363,376 which translates into a new signature requirement of 1,003,606. So voters are going to likely be less angry with the new governor, opponents will have a higher requirement of signatures, and for every 8 1/3 absentee votes that are added to the total vote count, it increases the signature requirements by one vote.

Let every vote count is a principle that I don't see being shouted out very much at this point by Democrat operatives. It's not in their interest.

This brings up an important principle of this new recall world, positive campaigning and driving up total vote totals saves you from future recall. The reality is that negative campaigning in California just got more expensive, much more expensive. It would serve us all well to recognize it.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:08 PM

Getting by Giving

Glen Reynolds writes about the web phenomenon of giving up control to gain power. Immediately, that reminded me of a similar statement made by Newt Gingrich around 1994. Several times in remarks broadcast on C-SPAN he said that the true secret of the Republican revolution that took over the House of Representatives was that they would give up power in order to gain control. The general concept of politically gaining by yielding seems to have a longer US pedigree than we generally remember.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:35 AM

October 07, 2003

The New Jackson

Andrew Sullivan observes that Arnold Schwarzenegger is deeply threatening to a lot of people on both the left and the right because he is culturally different, a new phenomenon. This isn't something new in American politics. Every once in awhile a new cultural wave rolls onto the political scene and the forces of the establishment have always been scandalized. The first figure to represent this kind of turnover was Andrew Jackson. After his inauguration (which his predecessor refused to attend), he invited the 20,000 odd spectators to the White House. The resultant party was so wild, President Jackson had to crawl out of the White House to escape. The disaster did have one lasting effect, the creation of an 'inaugural parade'.

So will Arnold shake up Sacramento the way Jackson shook up the Capitol? We'll all see but nobody should have any illusions that this kind of shift is anything new.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:40 PM

September 26, 2003

Now Bush isn't even #2?

The left has often made the charge that President Bush is a mere puppet to Dick Cheney who really runs the country. Well the frenchman whose bestselling novel claims that 9/11 was all a US plot has put out another derivative card deck listing its own axis of evil, the Bush 'regime'. Here, President Bush isn't even the number two man on the list, but is all the way down to number 5.

The new number two is Dick Cheney, the Ace of Diamonds. The top five are:

1. Donald Rumsfeld
2. Dick Cheney
3. Ralph E. Eberhart
4. Franklin Graham
5. George W. Bush

There are two jokers in the deck. They are Osama bin Laden and Colin Powell.

Words fail.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:21 AM

He's Nuts!

Charles Krauthammer has a good column on Ted Kennedy's recent attack on Pres. Bush, claiming that the Iraq war was political opportunism.

Krauthammer decries this as being mentally unhinged. He uses the word "deranged". This would be a normal political gut punch from one ideological opponent to another except for one thing, Charles Krauthammer is a psychiatrist who entered politics by being Jimmy Carter's director of psychiatric research planning. Is this then, a professional opinion?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:13 AM

September 24, 2003

Why Max Cleland is a Former US Senator

The US South has possibly the highest concentration of military, active, former, and reserve in the entire country. Max Cleland is a genuine soldier. A decorated Vietnam War hero who lost three of his limbs fighting for his country. And he lost his Senate seat to a great extent on his lack of military judgment? As someone who didn't follow Georgia politics that much, this turn of events just seemed... weird. I mean, how bad could he be? Now I know.

In an article attacking the administration for following Lyndon Johnson down the road to Vietnam's quagmire he gets the basic facts of the situation so wrong that he would be a certified menace if the people of Georgia hadn't retired him to the safety (for the nation) of academia.

Don't underestimate the enemy. The enemy always has one option you cannot control. He always has the option to die. This is especially true if you are dealing with true believers and guerillas fighting for their version of reality, whether political or religious. They are what Tom Friedman of The New York Times calls the "non-deterrables." If those non-deterrables are already in their country, they will be able to wait you out until you go home.

In arguing against underestimating the enemy, he underestimates the enemy. These non-deterrables do exist but he ignores one crucial fact. A great many of them are engaged in an enterprise of worldwide conversion to their brand of Islam. If we go home they will follow us and continue the fight there. In that case, civilian casualties are our civilians, not somebody else's.

If the enemy adopts a "hit-and-run" strategy designed to inflict maximum casualties on you, you may win every battle, but (as Walter Lippman once said about Vietnam) you can't win the war.

This presupposes that there is a strategy for which there is no counter, that in the case of any adversary the US faces, if they adopt this strategy, they will win. If this were true, we are doomed as a power and might as well give up right now. It is, of course nonsense.

Superior US combat abilities mean that the battles will likely fall into our favor but both Vietnam in the 60s and 70s and Afghanistan in the 80s were wars where major powers invested large amounts of resources to ensure that those hit and run tactics could continue. Absent those resources, such tactics are as doomed as the armed anti-communist resistance of post WW-II E. Europe.

If you adopt a strategy of not just pre-emptive strike but also pre-emptive war, you own the aftermath. You better plan for it. You better have an exit strategy because you cannot stay there indefinitely unless you make it the 51st state.

Here, former Senator Cleveland is implying that there is no exit strategy. But just a short time ago Paul Bremer laid a credible strategy out on the op-ed page of the Washington Post. In due time, a constitution will emerge and elections will proceed with us drawing down our troops as the situation stabilizes. Artificial timetables that are rigidly adhered to will only rush things and increase the chances that, some time in the future, the US will have to do this again in Iraq.

If you adopt the strategy of pre-emptive war, your intelligence must be not just "darn good," as the president has said; it must be "bulletproof," as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed the administration's was against Saddam Hussein. Anything short of that saps credibility.

It is highly unlikely that intelligence will be "bulletproof" in this world until it is far too late to do anything about it. No doubt, the intelligence services of 1939 Poland heard rumblings about Nazi aggression but there were some doubts about it right up to the time when troops started crossing the borders. What we have here is a naked appeal to forget the lessons of 9/11 and go back to the intelligence era that the Church Committee created, cautious, fearful of career ending error, and underestimating the threat time after time.

If you want to know what is really going on in the war, ask the troops on the ground, not the policy-makers in Washington.

Funny, there is a great deal of information coming out of Iraq straight from the troops and none of it seems to support former Senator Cleland's assertions. The creation of the blogosphere has made it easier than ever to get information direct from the troops. If we were in trouble, we'd see it both in military blogs and a wave of court martials for defeatism and other likely whistleblower crimes. The troops seem mostly mad that people like former Senator Cleland are giving heart to the enemy with their unrealistic negativity.

In a democracy, instead of truth being the first casualty in war, it should be the first cause of war. It is the only way the Congress and the American people can cope with getting through it. As credibility is strained, support for the war and support for the troops go downhill. Continued loss of credibility drains troop morale, the media become more suspicious, the public becomes more incredulous and Congress is reduced to hearings and investigations.

And what is to be done about the Cassandras in our midst? What happens when the media are the liars who leave out all the good news? When the morale drainers are in the anti-war dissenters? What happens when the elites give no punishments in credibility when time after time the anti-war crowd is wrong, wrong, wrong? For those of us who have access to a wide variety of news sources, it's not so bad but for those who only get their news from these sources, it's draining. The liars can come in both pro and anti war forms.

Hats off to the people of Georgia. I wish other states were so discerning in their Senate delegations.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:42 AM

September 07, 2003

Burma Shoot

I just love advertising done in the old 'burma shave' style of multiple signs along the roadside. I just saw my first ever political one on I-80 on my way to a picnic at Starved Rock state park in Illinois. Whatever your stand on the 2nd amendment, three cheers to the Champaign County Rifle Association for doing something innovative and interesting to get their message across.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:54 PM

July 18, 2003

Reagan the craven, Bush the cowardly?

I normally like Victor Davis Hanson but his effort today has got to be one of his weaker ones. How often do you find Reagan being criticized as an appeaser in an US mainstream right wing publication? Yet there it is.

But foreign policy is not the only area of US policy that is seriously out of whack and by applying Hanson's analysis, any politician who compromises to form a winning coalition in other areas can later be called a coward or an appeaser. This certainly includes the present occupant of the White House.

When the history of racial preferences is finally written after they are killed off, should GWB's timid brief in the Michigan case be called craven? When US public pension funds explode in an unsustainable sea of red ink is it fair to strongly condemn GWB for not solving the problem as promised?

This road leads to a destination of no heroes to emulate, no good men in politics because none hold firm all the time. The US system forces compromise. To ignore the greater good enabled by a compromise is not proper historical analysis because it ignores context. Reagan did cut and run in Beirut but his larger military record is one of reversing the Carter era perception of US weakness both in the US and without.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:40 AM

Well we coulda impeached him but...

Bob Graham has launched the next trial balloon in the campaign to dirty up President Bush for next year's election. I can see the next step of the campaign already. "If we only had more Democrat House members, we would have presented all our evidence but now you, the voter, have the job of fixing that".

Posted by TMLutas at 09:54 AM

July 17, 2003

Mark Steyn misunderstands the Democrat's Niger attack

Mark Steyn writes that Bush won't be hurt by the current assault over Niger yellowcake uranium. He's wrong. Bush is vulnerable on this, if he turns out to have lied.

Some have argued that the Republicans are the daddy party and the Democrats are the mommy party. This is somewhat true, but incomplete. To be more accurate, the Republicans are the independence, honest, don't tread on me party while the Democrats are the bring home the bacon, compassionate, humane party. When there is no major external threat, who cares to pay the price for a don't tread on me attitude but likewise, who cares how much bacon we have if we never get to enjoy it, having been blown up by our enemies.

Both parties get in trouble when they are viewed as violating their core beliefs. Democrats are frantic to avoid framing school choice as compassionate for school children because then their defense of teacher union position would fatally weaken them. Likewise, attacks on Republican honesty have a disproportionate effect on Republican electoral chances. The Democrats have always promised to bring home the bacon, not that the bacon that they brought home was theirs. The white lie for compassion's sake is also an acceptable Democrat tradeoff.

That's why the Niger yellowcake story is important, it directly attacks a Republican core feature and Democrat strategists have gone after the one that would uniquely affect someone with the surname Bush, the honesty factor. The Democrat hope is that the "read my lips" betrayal of Bush the father would be revisited on the son. It also explains why Bush's spending extravaganza is threatening to Democrats as well. If Republicans are now compassionate conservatives who bring home the bacon, that doesn't leave much reason to pull the Democrat lever.

Neither party is acting as crazy as some observers seem to think they are. They're just engaging in the timeless classic political game, guard your base, extend your coalition. So far, it looks like President Bush is winning. In that assessment, Mark Steyn does get it right.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:58 PM

July 12, 2003

Where next on the witch hunt parade

Now that George Tenet has taken responsibility for the, now demonstrated false, Niger uranium accusations, what's the next on the witch hunt parade? Clearly, the Democrat strategy of creating the impression that the Iraq war was illegitimate will continue but it's pretty thin broth and getting thinner.

With stories about the "Sunni Triangle" regularly coming out, its become clear that the attacks are only coming from the most unsympathetic of minorities, Sunni Arabs who disproportionately benefited from Saddam's bloodstained regime. Kurds seem focused on rebuilding their areas, not committing revenge killings, and while Shia unhappiness with their post-Saddam progress gets stirred by Iranian agents, their greatest difficulties seem looting related, something almost useless for Democrat political ambitions.

Oh well, maybe the upcoming Iraqi anniversary spree will provide sufficient gore or tales of black unemployment will fire up the Democrat base. If they don't, the Democrats might have the unthinkable on their hands, a Republican dominated government with insufficient Democrat Senate votes to reliably hold a filibuster. The US era of divided government will be over.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:52 PM