Thursday, September 30, 2004

Debate Wraithing

Pundits keep saying that there was no knockout punch. Let's keep the boxing metaphor. Here's the rant.

Kerry had the footwork. He moved around and threw a lot of punches but not enough landed to do Bush much damage. To the casual viewer Kerry won (just like in many boxing matches the untrained viewer scores the fight differently from the judges). He was coherent and concise and avoided his trademark Kerryism. He looked good, was poised and focused. Most importantly he didn't come off as the pompous dick he certainly can be.

Bush was slower and didn't show the dodging and weaving of Kerry. Bush has mastered a jab, a straight right and a hook and he threw them over and over. Bush was not quick on the counter-attack and he missed several prime opportunities.

Bush was quite disciplined though and I thought he effectively hammered Kerry on insulting our allies and Allawi. Those kinds of common sense attacks resonate with average voters. And Bush showed that has pretty much masterd Kerry's record. I bet this will pay off in future debates. Bush's disciplined punches only need to land a few times to send Kerry against the ropes. And Bush also has a strong chin. He can take Kerry glancing blows and go for a rope-a-dope if it comes to that. He has the stamina.

Okay, the metaphor is breaking down. Put simply, Kerry did well, Bush did good enough and in Bush's position 'good enough' wins the election. Kerry needs to repeat this two more times.

However, Kerry made a few tactical errors. He claimed, and his campaign maintains, that the war in Iraq is not part of the war on terror. During the debate he said that "weapons of mass destruction are pouring across the border." Later he made a big deal about increasing border control in Iraq, 'closing the border' was the phrase I believe. These comments passed by without a response by Bush, but they clearly play into his claim that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terror; that we are fighting the enemy abroad so we don't have to fight them at home; that the enemy detontating children in Baghdad is the same enemy that wants to detonate children in Tampa and St Louis.

Another Kerry tactical mistake that Bush failed to counter-punch on was North Korea. Bush favors a multi-lateral approach, joined by our allies and China. Kerry favors a unilateral approach. Yet Kerry spent several minutes desparaging Bush for his unilateralism. Bush should have sent him against the ropes on that one but the opportunity passed.

Other examples where Bush didn't hit back strong enough:

- The Clinton administration dropped the ball on North Korea years ago. The initial North Korean nukes were built under Clinton. Bush started on this then moved to a different issue.
- Iranian sanctions. Didn't Carter impose those sanction way back when? If so, is Kerry proposing we eliminate them? If he is, why hasn't he submitted a resolution in the Senate?
- Port security, Russian nukes, etc. Kerry has been in the Senate for twenty years. Bush could have asked where are all his bills to resolve these issue. It's funny how Kerry has lots of ideas a few months before the election and almost no record on these issues for the years prior.

So Kerry won. But this is a series of bouts, not a one-time championship match. Now the expectations for Kerry in Debate 2 (Electric Boogaloo) will go up. It's a town hall forum, which may favor Bush's down-home style.

Tune in next week for Wraithing the VP Debates.

Missing the Debate

I'll be on a plane tonight, flying home from another week in the consulting salt mines. This means I will miss the Big Debate. If the flight lands on schedule I may catch the last half in the car driving home. Wish me luch. Otherwise I'll be up late watch the repeat on C-SPAN. I'll be blogging later tonight in any case.

But before I sign off I just wanted to thank all my new readers, especially those who have left comments. I appreciate your thoughts so please keep them coming.

Also hello and thanks to a new Rant Wraith visitor reading these pages from the British Parliment. Welcome.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Kerry on the Roller Coaster

ABC's The Note has part of the transcript from Diane Sawyer's interview with Kerry this morning. Kerry walked right into the trap I warned about yesterday. (The Kerry campaign should read Rant Wraith because I'm spoonfeeding them what they need to avoid this shit. Hey, Kerry campaign, I'm available as a consultant anytime. Just send me an email. But if you're going to glom off my free advice how about droping some of that ketchup money in my tip jar?)

Here're the quotes:

DS: So it [the war in Iraq] was not worth it.

JK: We should not — it depends on the outcome ultimately — and that depends on the leadership. And we need better leadership to get the job done successfully, but I would not have gone to war knowing that there was no imminent threat — there were no weapons of mass destruction — there was no connection of Al Qaeda — to Saddam Hussein! The president misled the American people — plain and simple. Bottom line. [Notice how he doesn't quite answer the question or even complete some of the sentences. W is not the only one with articulation issues.]

DS: So if it turns out okay, it was worth it? [Which is what he just said in the paragraph above: "it depends on the outcome ultimately"]

JK: No. [WTF?]

DS: But right now it wasn't [ … ? … ]--

JK: It was a mistake to do what he did, but we have to succeed now that we've done what he's — I mean look — we have to succeed. But was it worth — as you asked the question — $200 billion and taking the focus off of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? That's the question. The test of the presidency was whether or not you should have gone to war to get rid of him. I think, had the inspectors continued, had we done other things — there were plenty of ways to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein.

DS: But no way to get rid of him. [That is correct. There was no way to remove Hussein short of military action.]

JK: Oh, sure there were. Oh, yes there were. Absolutely. [Huh? Such as? Why didn't he suggect a few of these methods two years ago? Or even now?]

DS: So you're saying that today, even if Saddam Hussein were in power today it would be a better thing — you would prefer that . . .

JK: No, I would not prefer that.

That last exchange is where Kerry is whipsawed by the roller coaster. He cannot bring himself to state what his position implies. If the war in Iraq was not worth it then he would prefer that Hussein was still in power and our troops were not being killed in Iraq. There is no other way to make sense of what he is saying. And there is nothing wrong with that position. It is defensible and coherent. I don't agree with it but it is sound and sensible.

Kerry is in danger of slipping into the untenible position of some war opponents that Christopher Hitchens identified two years ago: people who want Hussein removed but don't want to commit to the only method of achieving that. These are people who substitute wishes for policies, who are at best impotent and at worse are cynically disguising their passivity behind self-contradiction.

I don't think Kerry falls into this group. I think it is much simpler than that. He simply doesn't know what he wants; he only knows what he doesn't want. He doesn't want Hussein in power. He doesn't want US troops being killed. He doesn't want dangerous authoritarian regimes developing nukes. But being an executive leader, as opposed to a legislator, means having to take positive positions, having to makes decisions that result in actions, nor simply in further discussions. You have to know the results you want and decide on the best means to achieve it.

You need a better answer by tomorrow night John. If you need any more advice, email me. I'm quite expensive but you need all the help you can get.

Turkey and the EU: A Lose-Lose Situation

Turkey wants to join the E.U. The U.S. want Turkey to join the E.U. The European Commission wants Turkey to join the E.U. Just one little hang-up, "A majority of the European parliament is anti-accession, the various national parliaments are against it, and the national populations are overwhelmingly opposed." Christopher Caldwell has a scary piece about this and the possibility of an Islamic Europe.

This issue puts Europe in a lose-lose situation. If Turkey joins the E.U. millions of Muslims will have the legal right to migrate throughout Europe, and since Turkey's population grows faster* than any E.U. country, this makes it all but certain that Europe will Islamicized over the coming decades. (Or, as Bat Yeor put it, "Their future is Eurabia. Period.")

If the E.U. does not let Turkey in this will be a huge blow to the Turkish political elite and moderate Turks and a big boost to the Islamist opposition. Look for an Islamists backlash against the establishment and the growth of widespread anti-European sentiment. After all, Turkey has changed several laws to conform to E.U. standards. They've done their part. If the E.U. rejects them the Islamists can say that it was because Europe doesn't want an Islamic nation. And they will be right.

So Europe can let 70 million Muslims into the E.U. now or risk a growing anti-Europe Muslim nation on its least stable border. Not to mention millions of pissed off Muslims inside Europe's biggest cities. Lose-lose indeed.

* According to the CIA World Factbook, Turkey's population growth rate is 1.13%. France's rate is 0.39%. The U.K.'s is 0.29%. Italy's is 0.09%. Germany's is 0.02%. The growth rate for the European countries includes births by Muslim immigrants who have more children at an earlier age than their European counterparts. So in fact the growth rate for native Italians and Germans is more than likely negative.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

2004 Weblog Awards - The Dream Lives

That's right, even bloggers have awards. (I'm reminded of that scene in Annie Hall when Woody Allen complains there are too many awards in Hollywood. "Award for greatest fascist dictator, Adolph Hitler.") Check out the Official Site at

Nominations wil open November 3.

"Shake Hands with Jews? How Ridiculous."

MEMRI has a fascinating piece on Saudi attitudes toward Jews. Eight Saudi's responded to questions like 'Would You, as a Human Being, be Willing to Shake Hands with a Jew?' and 'Would you refuse to shake hands with a Jew?'

Guess what the responses are:

"Of course, so I wouldn't have to consider amputating my hand afterwards." It gets better and better.

Islam vs Orthodoxy

We often speak of the war on terror as a struggle between Islamism and 'the West.' But there is another player in this drama, one that has yet to be mobilized: Eastern Orthodoxy. While Orthodoxy shares many basic beliefs with Western Christians, don't be fooled into thinking they are just another denomination, like Methodists. Eastern Orthodoxy has a long history of resisting Islam and, after the fall of Byzantium, suffering under Islamic rule. The history of this struggle and suffering is not forgotten by millions of Orthodox Christians. A political entrepeneur could easily use this history to resurrect or construct stories and myths for mobilizing believers.

Look into my crytsal ball and let's imagine a possible future.

After another attack by Chechens, the Russian military goes on the offensive with all the subtlety and precision that the Russian military is known for. In response, Islamists in Istanbul use a truck bomb to destroy the Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church, killing His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.

From Greece and Ukraine, throughout eastern Europe, Serbia, Russia, and Georgia, to American cities like Chicago, Orthodox Christians go ballistic. Mosques are burned and Muslims lynched from Bulgaria to Vladivostok. Enraged Egyptians retaliate by sacking the Monastery of St. Catherine's at Mt Sinai, killing the monks and pilgrims and desecrating the sanctury. Serbs and Kosovars overwhelm local UN troops and begin armed confrontations. (This area is a tinderbox waiting for a spark. Rioters attacked UN troops with grenades earlier this year. Dozens of churches were also destroyed.)

This scenario may seem unlikely but it is not impossible. Islam and Eastern Orthodoxy share a long 'faultline' that runs through dozens of countries. Millions of Muslims and Orthodox Christians live close together, much closer than do Muslims and Westerners. For millions of Orthodox Christians and Muslims, the "Others" are not far away and seen mostly through the media. They are down the street, in the next village or across a border within driving distance. This creates a situation where armed individuals, farmers, workers, average folks, can be mobilized to take violent action. We saw intimations of this in the Beslan schools seige where Russian men attacked the school with their own rifles and locals lynched a terrorist trying to escape.

Right now it looks like the Caucuses are to our current situation what the Balkans were to the Great War. In my speculation Bartholomew I plays the role of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. I'm sure there are other candidates. The situation is so fragile, the animosities so deep and the history so bloody and bleak that any number of events could set it off. And all of this is beyond our control.

Quit Dicking Around with Defeatism

Another must-read column from Christopher Hitchens in Slate. He lambasts the democratic establishment, the Kerry campaign and speifically Teresa Heinz Kerry (or is it Heinz-Kerry?) for the paranoid fantasy that Bush captured bin Laden and will announce it as an 'October Surprise.'

"The unfortunately necessary corollary of this—that bad news for the American cause in wartime would be good for Kerry—is that good news would be bad for him. Thus, in Mrs. Kerry's brainless and witless offhand yet pregnant remark, we hear the sick thud of the other shoe dropping. How can the Democrats possibly have gotten themselves into a position where they even suspect that a victory for the Zarqawi or Bin Laden forces would in some way be welcome to them? Or that the capture or killing of Bin Laden would not be something to celebrate with a whole heart?"

Don't miss the jab at Joe "Puppet" Lockhart. Read the whole thing, you unclean infidel.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Roller Coaster vs the Framework: Viewing War with and without Context

The Wraith's blood pressure shot up today on reports that terrorist brainiac and al-Qaeda ideologue, al-Zawahiri, was captured in Pakistan. The reports were quickly denied.

Nevertheless, the story is all-to-believable and illustrates just how quickly things can change. This is a war, with progresses and set backs just like any other war. You never know what the next update will bring. That's why politicians can't fall into the trap of responding to events as they occur. Rather a successful politician must have conceptual framework into which the various events will fit. Otherwise the politician finds himself on an intellectual and emotional roller coaster, optimistic after a capture, defeatist after a successful attack.

It's ironic because Kerry is portrayed as the intellectual and W as the boob, but Kerry is the one on the roller coaster and W is the one with the framework. You may not agree with or like W's framework, but it provides him consistency and steadfastness in the War on Terror and in Iraq, which, not coincidentally he sees as part of one and the same struggle. From the start of the war, through Hussein's capture and the transfer of power to the sieges of Fallujah and Najaf and the current insurgencies (there's more than one) W has maitained one viewpoint and advanced one argument. You may think this is stubborn but it is what all vicotorious war leaders do. (I'm not saying that W is Lincoln but look back on Lincoln during the Civil War. He continually and consistently pushed his generals to take the war to the Confederacy. Through victories and defeats, some horribly bloody, Lincoln maintained a single vision of what the war was and how to win it. History now records McClellan as the general who refused to fight and the eventual loser in the election of 1864 but at the time he was a hero to millions of Americans who saw Lincoln leading them into a war they could not win.)

Kerry's supporters claim that he is not inconsistent, just that his position has 'evolved.' But it's interesting how his position evolves in parallel with events. After Hussein's capture Kerry issued the now famous quote, in a debate against the anti-war Howard Dean, that whoever thought Hussein should still be in power was unfit to be president. Nine months, later after attacks and assassinations, Kerry's position is 'evolving' into something very close to that of Dean's. This is not the flip-flop crap. It's a symptom of something deeper. Kerry does not yet have a mental and emotional (much less spiritual) framework into which he can fit the various facts of the war in Iraq and the war on terror. It is this structure which gives the facts of war a larger context and meaning, so that a tactical defeat can be understood as a strategic advance or vis-a-versa. All Kerry has are facts, events that by themselves provide only the immediate and contextless meaning of an anecdote.

This is not to say that there is no anti-war framework available to him, it's just that it is easy to caricature and hard to defend. There is a consistent anti-war arguement. For example, the capture of Hussein would not be an unqualified good in this framework, the arguement being that if Hussein was still in power Iraq would be stable and the risk of instability outweighs the risk of Hussein ruling Iraq, even if he would be developing WMDs after the sanctions were lifted. Kerry cannot make this arguement without alienating many voters.

If Kerry is elected he will have to decide how to think about the War. Events happen to quickly and there is too much information to patiently and deliberatively consider each fact on its own. Without a method of relating these facts, without a vision of the war in the largest sense, without a political and historical context to judge events as they occur, Kerry's presidency will be like his campaign: always responding, always on defense, always behind events, analyzing the last attack as our enemies prepare for one after the next. And the one after that.

Today's Reading List - No Campaign News Included

Taking a break from the tedious campaign. Here are a few non-campaign pieces worth your precious time.

An article in NYT about a film by a brave ex-Muslim member of the Dutch parliment. She confronts the hidden abuse of Muslim women and receives death threats for it.

A WaPo opinion piece about the lessons of Jenin for US troops in Fallujah. The lesson from Israel's war on terror (detailed further in the New Republic) is that military force, properly applied, works, plain and simple. Islamist terro can be defeated. At a cost.

Also in the New Republic, a Moscow Dispatch on the possibility (or likelihood) that Russia will go fascist.

Here's something we don't hear enough about: Nigeria. Reuters says "Growing concerns over militancy in Nigeria" are partly behind today's record oil prices. Think Sudan is bad? If Nigeria collapses into a religious civil war, it'll make Sudan look like a traffic accident.

Have a great day!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Non-Election News

Another foreigner shot and killed by al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. A French technician for an electronics company.

Iran successfully tests new and improved Shahab-3 missile. This can carry a one-ton warhead at least 800 miles.

The British are holding four men involved in a plot to purchase radioactive material for a possible dirty bomb. The material in question may not exist but the plot was all too serious.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Thoughts Written Late at Night

I am gripped by anxiety, seized by a physical and spiritual trembling. I feel it in my abdomen, below my sternum. I shudder with a dread I cannot articulate. I fear that the world I grew into, the ideals I hold dear, the structure and values of my life are fading into an irretrievable past.

I am not talking about Iraq or bin Laden or the deficit. These are mere details in the foreground. Behind that, blurred by distance, beyond the haze and mist of everyday trivia, the latest beheadings or explosions, the candidates and the passing scandals, I discern the outline of a catastrophe that dominates the horizon, so vast that it is nearly invisible; it looms before us and we mistake it for the sky.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

RatherGate 2.0

If you thought the CBS admission that the documents "could not be authenticated" (rather than that they were clearly forged) and Dan's weak apology would end this story then you were wrong. It opened up whole new frontiers. And the story is developing so quickly I don't have time to keep up right now.

Allahpundit links to WaPo, WSJ, and USA Today articles about Burkett and his "source," the shadowy Lucy Rameriz, who Burkett never even met. She transferred the docs to him through a Third Man. Then Burkett burned them.

Things have gotten so bad that Allahpundit feels sorry for Bill. So does Roger Simon who thinks CBS "exploited" him.

... all you can wonder is what was going through the minds of the CBS producers when they trusted this poor man. It is certainly more than possible that Burkett is lying, but it couldn't be more obvious he is a highly disturbed invididual.

Meanwhile, Kerry campaign adviser Joe Lockhart admitted communicating with Burkett just days before CBS aired the story. He is the second Kerry campaign confidant, after Max Cleland, to have some contact with Burkett in the days leading up to this.

The conspiracy theories write themselves.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Agony of Defeat

CBS surrenders.

CBS News President Andrew Heyward: "Based on what we now know, CBS News cannot prove that the documents are authentic, which is the only acceptable journalistic standard to justify using them in the report. We should not have used them. That was a mistake, which we deeply regret."

Rather apologizes.

"We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry."

Bloggers declare victory. Sweet victory. And this isn't the end.

CBS News and CBS management are commissioning an independent review of the process by which the report was prepared and broadcast to help determine what actions need to be taken. The names of the people conducting the review will be announced shortly, and their findings will be made public.

Wizbang for one wants Rather's head for a trophy. The struggle continues. But today people will savor the sweet aroma of Dan's defeat. Mmmm... smells like cinnamon.

Crude Moral Calculus

There's an ongoing discussion among Belmont Club, journalists Mark Steyn and Andrew Sullivan, and others, about the number and nature of Iraqi deaths in Iraq. Andrew claims that Iraq is suffering "two 9/11s a month" (whether this is measured in absolute or proportional body counts is unclear but you get the picture). Belmont Club does a fantastic job analyzing the casualty statictics.

But everyone in this argument (which goes far beyond the aforementioned bloggers) is missing the key element of this issue and indeed of the question "Is Iraq better off now than before the war?" Iraqis were dying before the war. Thousands of Iraqis. They just weren't being killed in public.

Look at it in more detail. Saddam Hussein filled mass graves with Iraqi corpses every year for 25 years. (The pictures convey an emotional impact that numbers cannot. Please take some time and visit Even Human Rights Watch said in May 2003 that the mass graves hold at least 290,000 bodies, perhaps as many as 400,000.

However, since Andrew Sullivan is counting not just civilian deaths but those killed in ongoing military actions, let's consider not just the Iraqis who were murdered (many after horrific torture) but also those killed in war during Hussein's reign.

The State Department addresses this question as of 12/19/03: "Over one million Iraqis are believed to be missing in Iraq as a result of executions, wars and defections, of whom hundreds of thousands are thought to be in mass graves."

Do the math people. If an extremely low estimate of 350,000 Iraqis died in the 25 years of Hussein's rule that mean 14,000 people died every year. That number could be doubled or tripled depending on the way you count the victims of the regime. And this was an ongoing effort by the government with no end in sight. If Saddam had died and either or both of his sons taken charge the killing would have continued year after year after year.

Belmont Club compiles a list of various estimates of fatalities in Iraq. Even Amnesty International claims only 10,000 deaths, including combatants.

Of course this is all a sad little game. The numbers are really an attempt to create a moral equivalence between the current situation and the Baathist regime by setting up a crude moral calculus: If regime victims are less than liberation victims then liberation is a moral wrong. Forget everything else about life during the regime and after. Just count corpses.

By this logic if one more person dies during the war/construction than during the fallen regime, then the liberation is a moral failure and by extension it should not have been undertaken. Not only is this a kind of cowardice, it sets a standard for all current and future dictators: you can torture and rape and repress people all you wish, just be sure to kill one less person than it would take to defeat you and rebuild the country. That way none of the Great Powers will confront you. And none will.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

UN to Sudan: Stop It. Please

Or what? C'mon, seriously. Do you think a majority of the Security Council will vote for sanctions and that they will actually be enforced? Who's going to enforce this? What if the monsters running Sudan judge that the atrocities are worth the cost?

What are the atrocities? Let's not be squeemish. Mass rape. Slavery. Brutal, hand to hand mass murder. This is from the Telegraph:

Bokur Hamis, 21: "Each of us was raped by between three and six men," said Bokur. "One woman refused to have sex with them, so they split her head into pieces with an axe in front of us."

Baxit Zaruuk, 14: "In Khartoum we were all taken to a place along the Nile and raped at gunpoint." She was handed to a soldier as his "wife".

Regarding the coordination and logistics of transporting abducted women from Darfur to Khartoum, "It is solid proof of collusion between the government and the army in rape, abduction and slavery of children and women."

I will be very impressed if the Security Council can take meaningful action. But my expectations could not be lower.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Western Philosophers on Islam 1: Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), in The World as Will and Representation, vol II, page 162:

"Temples and churches, pagodas and mosques, in all countries and ages, in their splendor and spaciousness, testify to man's need for metaphysics, a need strong and ineradicable, which follows close on the physical. ... Sometimes it lets inself be satisfied with clumsy fables and fairy-tales. If only they are imprinted early enough, they are for man adequate explanations of his existence and supports for his morality.

Consider the Koran, for example; this wretched book was sufficient to start a world-religion, to satisfy the metaphysical need of countless millions for twelve hundred years, to become the basis of their morality and of a remarkable contempt for death, and also to inspire them to bloody wars and the most extensive conquests. In this book we find the saddest and poorest form of theism. Much may be lost in translation, but I have not been able to discover in it one single idea of value."

Naomi Klein: Tinfoil Idiot

Naomi Klein co-wrote this bizarre article in the Guardian spinning conspiracy theories about the abduction of two Italian women working in Iraq. Here is one bit of 'evidence' that the abductors were not Islamist fanatics but "foreign intelligence agencies out to discredit the resistance."

"And then there were the weapons. The attackers were armed with AK-47s, shotguns, pistols with silencers and stun guns - hardly the mujahideen's standard-issue rusty Kalashnikovs."

WTF? I thought AK-47s are Kalashinovs? Technically, the AK-47 rifle is one of a series of submachine guns developed by Mikhail Timofeevitch Kalashnikov. In vernacular usage "Kalashnikov" refers to any of these. The AK-47 is only the most popular. (The AK-47 is the most wide-spread weapon in the world.)

Back to Naomi. After botching such basic facts to back up her wild speculations, she goes on to insinuate that the Italian aid workers were taken by the CIA. The CIA? If we have learned one thing since 9/11, it's that the CIA is yet another borderline incompetent bureaucracy more concerned with preserving itself as an institution (and as a budgertary entity) than anything else. I doubt the CIA could abduct two specific Italian aid workers in Baghdad even if it wanted to. Which it doesn't.

Put your tinfoil hat back on Naomi. The satellites are broadcasting into your teeth again.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Who Doesn't Love Naked Children?

I know what she means. She has good intentions. But the way she says it plays into the out-of-touch weirdo stereotypes.

"Clothing is wonderful, but let them go naked for a while, at least the kids," said Heinz Kerry

There's nothing sinister about her. She was talking about prioritizing emergency shipments to hurricane victims. "Water is necessary, and then generators, and then food, and then clothes."

So far the Kerry campaign handlers have done a pretty good job of keeping her on-message or at least out of the papers since her odd-ball performance in Boston. Is this a rare lapse or a sign that their discipline is breaking down?

Howard: Paralysed UN Unable to Do Anything about Mass Murder

Aussie PM Howard bitch-slaps Kofi after the Distinguish Secretary General declared the invasion of Iraq "illegal." (Yo, Kofi, who died and made you Judge of Humanity and Final Arbiter of Planetary Justice?)

Howard called the UN "paralysed" (which is putting it politely). Then he added this stinging criticism:

Instead, he turned the tables on the United Nations, saying it was structurally incapable of acting on major crises, citing the current one in Sudan's Darfur region.

Howard said more people were dying in Sudan now than in Iraq

Ouch. The reason, of course, is that the mass murder, rape, and organized violence in Sudan is not technically illegal. Thanks Kofi.

Record Traffic Yesterady

Thanks to Allahpundit's link. Welcome new readers, especially our friends at the CIA, Stanford, Harvard, Kent State, Boston College, and of course, CBS. Share the joy by using the Email Post button. Leave a comment. Leave a threat. Glad you're here.

Undecided My Ass

Larry David Disses the Undecideds.

Anyone who can't make up his or her mind at this point in the campaign should forget about the election entirely, buy a pint of ice cream and get into bed.

Amen Larry.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Facts, Fiction, Whatever

Rather either allowed forgeries to be presented as facts or deliberately did so. Add this to the NYT Raines/Blair meltdown over fictional stories presented as fact. And Lewis Lapham reporting "from a parallel universe" on the Republican Convention before it happened.

As Roger Simon points out, this is bigger than Rather, it's "an entire system of news delivery on trial."

This story is snowballing before our eyes. What the suits and pencilnecks at CBS don't realize is that the blogosphere is not doing this for money. I have a different job Dan. The pajama brigade is doing this out of passion. They won't just forget about this. They will stay with this story as it sucks the oxygen out of all other news.

Standards? For You, Yes. For Us, No Thanks

Here are the CBS standards. Talk to someone who saw something in the past and make sweeping statements based on this and this alone.

They have Killian's secretary saying that the contents of the memos are accurate although she declares that the actual memos are not authentic. She is remembering events from 30 years ago.

Ok. We have scores if not hundreds of Iraqi scientists, dissidents, and defectors who claim to have seen and worked on Iraqi chemical munitions and biological stockpiles. Not 30 years ago. Not 20 years ago but five years ago. Three years ago. Now sure, we can't find the actual munitions. But the CBS standard doesn't seem to demand actual proof, just the 30 year old memory of one person.

Well, that's the standard for CBS. The standard for you is an authentic and verifiable document trail and/or physical evidence of any and all claims.

Sorry Dan, you flopped. Welcome to Rathergate: Week Two.

CBS Epistemology

Scuttlebutt in the blogosphere is that the CBS News press release, now re-re-scheduled for 5 pm, will declare the documents to be forgeries but the content to be accurate. (See Allahpundit, Ace of Spades, etc.)

Ok kids, we are now leaving Intro to Journalism and entering Philosophy 101: Theories of Knowledge. If the prediction is correct CBS News will be arguing that regardless of evidence or even in the lack of evidence, the staff at CBS News have non-material access to the Truth. CBS journalists can 'discover' or 'reveal' the essence of reality without perceiving any object or event in the physical world. This is called mysticism.

If that is the CBS News press release then it is no longer a journalistic enterprise but a cult, a Temple of Spiritual Truth, a Church of the Higher Knowledge.

This makes Dan Rather a televangelist. Can you feel the power?

All the News that's fit to forge

NYT: Only the Guilty Will Be Charged

How postmodern! Forgeries are Accurate. Fiction is News. William Gaddis is spinning in his grave.

Killian Signature Comparison

A signature comparison from the 3 docs with signatures. (Click to enlarge.) CBS chose not to air the 24 June memo, for whatever reason. Allahpundit has a post about the possible importance of the various signatures. ABC reported last night that document expert Emily Will warned CBS that she was suspicious based on reviewing only one document.

"I did not feel that they wanted to investigate it very deeply," Will told ABC News.

How long until CBS cracks? Place your bets people.

UPDATE: ABC was incorrect. Emily Will reviewed two of the docs but only one was used in the 60 Minutes II story. Nevertheless, she had numerous doubts about what she examined. A CBS press release is due soon. Perhaps it will contain more information. Or more BS. Or unauthenicated information about BS.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

"Intellectually Defensible?" Maybe. Politically Disastrous. Oh Yes.

Time magazine intends to praise Kerry but really reveals one of his key weaknesses. Addressing the Iraq War, Time writes:

Perhaps what's most frustrating for Kerry's supporters is that his position is not that complicated—and is intellectually defensible.

He voted for the war to strengthen Bush's diplomatic leverage with allies and against the reconstruction money as a vote of no confidence on the handling of the aftermath

Emphasis added. To my unsophisticated mind, and I bet to most voters, a vote for the authority to go to war is just that, a freaking vote to authorize war. It is not a tactical move to "leverage" our allies. It is not something clever and multi-dimensional. This is not chess. It is what it says it is, a vote authorizing the president to use military force. To vote for it and then claim that the president shouldn't have used the authority may be intellectually defensible but it is not obviously so.

The vote against the reconstruction funding is even worse. Hey, Kerry, this ain't a parlimentary system, pal. We don't have votes of no confidence. At best his vote was election year posturing to outmaneuver the left wing but it was primarily a vote against the funding.

This is why Senators don't win the White House. The slippery, tactical mindset of Senators, thinking three moves ahead, always hedging your bets, never saying never, leaving room for maneuver, does not translate well to the straight talking realm of presidential campaigning.

Monday, September 13, 2004

C.B.S. Confidential

Everything Is Forged... Everyone Is Lying... And Some Things Are What They Seem.

Incumbent Power

The power of an incumbent president running for reelection may be such that it is impossible to defeat him in all but the most extraordinary circumstances. In the elections since 1945 Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton all won reelection, usually by a substantial margin. Only twice, 1980 and 1992, was the incumbent defeated (not counting 1976 since Ford was never elected in the first place).

1980 - Carter loses his reelection bid. Three factors lead to the loss.
1) The economy. It was so bad in so many ways that they had to invent a new word for it (stagflation anyone?). Interest rates, inflation, unemployment. There was simply no good economic news in the late 70s.
2) An unprecedented overseas crisis. The Iranian revolution, the hostages, the failed rescue attempt. They invented a TV show (Nightline) just to cover this one mega-story of American helplessness and victimization. Add to this the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Carter's less-than confidence inspiring response of boycotting the Moscow Olympics and again, bad news all around.
3) An opponent with rare communication skills and charisma, Ronald Reagan.
If any of these three factors had been different, Carter could have won reelection.

1992 – Bush Sr loses his reelection bid. Again, a trifecta lead to the loss.
1) The economy. While not nearly as horrible as it was in the late 70s, the recession of 90-91 came at the end of a decade of growth. People were accustomed to a more or less positive economic environment and they were shocked by the downturn. Add to this increasing nervousness over competition from Japan and the relative economic picture was not pretty.
2) An unprecedented third-party candidate. We tend to forget now that for a while in early summer Ross Perot lead in the polls. People were genuinely enthusiastic. Then he went flaky and dropped out. Then he dropped back in and still finished with 19 million votes.
3) An opponent with rare communication skills and charisma, Bill Clinton.
If any of these three factors had been different, Bush Sr could have won reelection.

Looking at 2004 one sees possibly two of these factors. The economy is stable with signs of growth but enough people feel enough anxiety that the opposition could exploit the situation to his advantage. The war is unpopular or at least enough people are ambivalent about it and open to ideas by the opposition. The third key factor is missing: the opponent with rare communication skills and charisma. (Kerry actually has a kind of negative charisma and a bizarre communication style where the more he says, the less people understand.) Without that, history tells us that the incumbent president, wielding the power of the office and relying on the inertia of the American electorate, will win.

Despite what Dan and his hack expert say, the default settings for Word produces the same effect as the May 4th doc. The 1s looks very similar to the lower case Ls. Notice the exact same spacing for both the '111' and the 'Ellington'. Nice try Danster. You're getting desperate.

Coming soon ...

Exclusive! Secret JFK Memo from Anonymous Source

Exclusive! Must credit Rant Wraith! Documents from anonymous source show JFK thought CBS "idiots".

It was Inevitable:

Yes, kids, you read that right. is up and running.

Today there were numerous editorials and columns (NYT, Investors Business Daily, Dallas Morning Herald) devoted to this scandal, some even calling for resignations. I wonder how long CBS can stand the heat. Stay tuned.

Superscript vs Lower Case

Let’s settle this once and for all. The claim that some authentic 70s era TANG documents display superscripting is just plain wrong. This is the doc everyone, including CBS, use as evidence that superscripting was available. Unfortunately of them, this is NOT superscripting as the modern MS Word user understands it. This is merely the use of lower case letters, in the same font and typeface, raised half-way up the height of an upper case character. Notice the ‘th’ after 111 in line 5. The ‘t’ is the same as used in ‘Intcp’ later in the same line.

Compare to this. Notice the ‘th’ after ‘111’ is NOT just lower case letters. The ‘t’ in ‘th’ does NOT match the ‘t’ in ‘Report’. Today’s word processor superscripts are NOT just lower case letters. They are special characters applied by the logic of the software. The typewriter that created the authentic doc did not create the forgery.

It gets worse. Save the authentic doc and examine it up close. Look at how the characters do not quite line up in the authentic doc. The '1's in '111' are not quite even. However in the fake, every character is perfectly level and evenly lined up.

Sorry Salon. Try again.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Provoking a Nuclear Strike

There's a Simpsons episode that takes place in the future where Krusty the Clown tells this joke.

"What's the difference between Pakistan and pancake? I dont know any pancakes that have been nuked by India!! Too soon?"

I thought about this joke earlier this week when a Russian general said that the Kremlin wasn't considering 'nuclear strikes'. The denial leads one to ask: what does it take to provoke a nuclear strike? What kind of atrocity would make the Kremlin consider such strikes? The attack on Middle School #1 killed 350 or more people. The attack on the Moscow theater in October 2002 could have killed many more than the 129 who died there. What if the Chechens attacked several sites simultaneously - schools, hospitals, government offices? What if the death toll was in the thousands?

At what point would the Kremlin say, 'fuck it' and nuke Grozny and other locations throughout Chechnya? I think that the Russian threshold is lower than our own. I believe that a few thousand dead Russians, especially in Moscow or St Petersburg, would the government right to the edge.

What about India? There have been so many terror attacks in the past three years that we have forgotten about some of them. Who now remembers the attack on the Indian parliment on December 13, 2001? Only 14 people died but the intent was clearly to decapitate the Indian government. What attack would finally provoke India to strike Pakistan with its nuclear arsenal to end the threat once and for all?

And once that frontier is crossed, will it make the next strike easier or more difficult?

WaPo Paints a Bleak Picture for Kerry

But as the number of truly competitive states has shrunk, Kerry is faced with the reality that he must pick off one of two big battlegrounds Bush won four years ago -- Florida or Ohio -- or capture virtually every other state still available. To do that, he must hold onto several states Al Gore won in 2000 that are now highly competitive.

Ouch. Kerry's entire strategy (such as it is) hinged on not losing any Gore states from 2000. A single loss win doom his campaign. Don't they know this? Why is Kerry running ads in Georgia? Dude, it's a lost cause in GA. Don't waste your money.

[T]he 10 most competitive states are, in order of electoral vote strength, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, West Virginia and New Hampshire.

Iowa? Minnesota? Wisconsin? These states have voted Democratic in the last 4 elections, including the Dukakis debacle of 1988. Good Lord, Minnesota voted for Mondale. Minnesota hasn't voted Republican since 1972. Can Kerry manage to lose Minnesota? What a feat!

Bush Has Substantial Lead in Ohio

This NYT article has W ahead by 9 points in Ohio. This makes it mathematically very difficult for Kerry. If W wins Ohio Kerry must win both PA and FL to have a chance. See for yourself on this LA Times interactive electoral map.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Non-forgery News Roundup

If your sick of fonts and typeface and details about the IBM Selectric, here's a roundup of other news.

Mullah Omar to the State Dept in 1998, 2 days after U.S. missiles struck al Qaeda training camps, "He said that in order to rebuild U.S. popularity in the Islamic world and because of his current domestic political difficulties Congress should force President Clinton to resign."

Muslim lawyer demanding sharia in Canada, "Every act of your life is to be governed by [sharia]. If you are not obeying the law, you are not a Muslim. That's all there is to it."

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in a speech Friday, "Where America is undoubtedly ahead of us is in a variety of non-material resources - namely a positive attitude, energy and the corresponding mentality."

He goes on to list several American traits that Germans should copy. These, Schroeder said, include: confidence, self-trust, willingness to take risks, courage to face life, and calmness.

He also praised what he said was the general American culture of "encouragement" and "personal responsibility."

Finally, an update to the Saudi Revolution Watch. A car bomb exploded outside a bank in Jeddah. Another small device exploded in front of a different bank sometime later. In case you forgot, it's Sept 11.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Lileks Says It All

James Lileks' really cool blog nails it on the head.

The old-line media, like its Boomer components, got old, and like the Boomers, it preferred self-congratulation to self-reflection. And so the Internet had it for lunch, because the Internet does not have to schedule 17 meetings to develop a strategy for impactfully maximizing brand leverage in emerging markets; the Internet does not have to worry about how a decision will affect one’s management trajectory; the Internet smells blood and leaps, and that has turned the game around, for better or worse. So we’re back to where we were in 1904 – except that the guys on the corner shouting WUXTRY, WUXTRY aren’t grimy urchins selling the paper – they’re the people who wrote the damn thing, too.

Kaus on Miller

Mickey Kaus on the Dennis Miller show talking about CBS: "They'll be throwing bodies out the window before this is over." Then he goes on to speculate that Gephart would have been a better candidate than Kerry. And he's a Kerry supporter.

Only 52 days until the election.

The Internet Revolution Continues

First it was big business. Amazon and others took on the big corporations in the 1990's. Some survived, some didn't but they changed the way business operates. People were stunned by the speed and power of the revolution against brick and mortar institutions. The music industry in particular was nearly destroyed and still hasn't developed a model for the internet age.

Next it was political parties. Howard Dean nearly hijacked the Democratic party last fall based on internet donations and communications. continues to develop that trend.

Now bloggers have dealt a huge blow to a major news organization, one of the pillars of American journalism. Other news outlets should be on notice.

The big questions is, who's next? What is the next big institution to feel to power of the internet?

CBS Faces Asymmetrical Blog Reporting

CBS has been ambushed by small, agile, shadowy oppenents. Just like Kerry in the Swift Boat scandal CBS has everything to lose and its opponents have very little.

Let's say RightWingDickHead blog releases a 10-point list of reasons why the docs are fake. CBS must refute all 10. If 9 of the charges are obsurd but 1 stick, CBS loses its credibility and RightWingDickHead loses nothing. He isn't part of a multi-billion dollar corporation trying to sell ads and draw viewer based on his credible reporting. He's just some guy with a free blog. If CBS spends time and money utterly destroying his credibility, he just opens a new blog.

CBS's problem is that they are facing hundreds of blogs with tens of thousands of readers. Over the past two days more people have been fact-checking this story in the blogosphere than even work at CBS, maybe even the number who work at Viacom. They can bitch all they want about how the partisan internet is filled with rumors but that won't change the fact that they have been caught with their pants down.

Asymmetrical campaigning and this CBS fraud scandal have demonstrated the relative decline of formerly powerful institutions (big media and political parties) and the rise of informal, distributed networks. Powerline, LGF, Whizbang, Allahpundit and the other blogs are not related by a corporate org chart, a political party or by commercial interests. In many (even most) cases these people have not met each other and do not know the other bloggers' real identities. (Certainly their readers who proved most of the footwork and expertise can be and in many case are anonymous.)

The American people are not fucking stupid. It's just that prior to now they couldn't communicate with each other and share their opinions and experiences. I hope other reporters learn from this. Don't think that you can just make shit up. We are watching and reading and we will catch your lazy or corrupt asses.

Forgeries, Nepotism and 'Framing the Guilty'

Rather is doomed. If the Kerry campaign even looked cross-eyed at these docs prior to the 60 Minutes report then the election is essentially over.

What is so pitiful is that the basic charges against W are more or less true and everyone knows but no one cares. Of course Bush Sr got W into the National Guard. Big Fucking Deal. "Nepotism in American politics." That's Dog Bites Man news. How do you think Jesse Jackson Jr got into the Congress? Or Al Gore? Politics is lousy with the children of the powerful getting jobs based on phone calls from Mommy or Daddy. For that matter so is the media. You think Andrea Koppell is a reporter for CNN because she was the most qualified for the job? Right. And Stephen Baldwin is a talented actor.

So, Bush Sr made a phone call in 1968 and got W into the National Guard, just like thousands of politicians, business leaders, and academics all over the country. This is not the story. The "fake" story is that there is a convenient document trail kept in the "private" files of W's commanding officer for 35 years indictating that he did not obey a direct order to get a physical exam. It may be a smoking gun but it's a gun carved out of soap.

It looks more and more like the Dems or someone sympathetic to them forged these memos in order to document what they already believed to be true be but was just so difficult to prove. They tried to frame man they believed to be guilty. Then they got caught and the fallout will be far worse than the original scandal.

And it couldn't happen to a nicer crowd.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Who Forged The Docs?

The blogosphere has pretty much reached a concensus that some or more likely all of the docs are forgeries. Especially now that the story has moved to the mainstream media via WaPo, AP, ABC, and Fox. Now the question is, who forged them?

Whizbang thinks it's either the Kerry campaign or the DNC. I'm not so sure. It could have been a few individuals with connections to one or both. But I don't buy the idea that it's a coordinated effort by either. These people aren't that organized or disciplined.

My image is more like two ambitious, low-level functionaries, hopped up on conspiratorial enthusiasm, hovered over a laptop in an apartment in suburban VA, slurping coffee and having a forge-fest.

Whoever did it better consider moving to Mongolia on the Friday afternoon flight. There is soooo much shit hitting so many fans that the wet dung blast will spread far and wide.

WaPo Weighs In

The Washington Post, hardly a neocon stronghold, has an article on the forgeries. It's looking worse and worse for CBS.

The Post contacted several independent experts who said they appeared to have been generated by a word processor. An examination of the documents by The Post shows that they are formatted differently from other Texas Air National Guard documents whose authenticity is not questioned. ...

In addition, Flynn said, the CBS documents appear to use proportional spacing both across and down the page, a relatively recent innovation. ...

"It would be nearly impossible for all this technology to have existed at that time," said Flynn, who runs a document-authentication company in Phoenix.

This is developing fast. I think CBS has been had. They were so eager to get the story out that they failed the most basic journalistic standards. If true, this will be a milestone in the blogosphere and one more nail in the mainstream media coffin.

Even DU Thinks They're Fake

Holy Shit! Even the Lefties over at the Democratic Underground are questioning the doc. One poster, Must_Be_Free (with over 1000 DU posts) thinks they are forgeries based on the LGF MS Word test.

Before you get too hopeful that this means reason has broken out over at DU, read the fine print.

My hunch is that this thing is a Trojan horse created by team Rove.

If Rove was that kind of diabolical genius, we would be doing better in Iraq.

Slow Motion Crash at CBS

Let's recap. CBS has copies of documents they 'obtained' from unknown sources, who claim they are from the author's personal files. The author died years ago. CBS doesn't have or won't release the originals and insists that their sources must remain anonymous.

Numerous bloggers working overtime have raised serious questions about the authenticity of these documents. Many have called them flat-out forgeries.

Now Powerline, who is acting as forgery central in this story, links to this AP report:

Gary Killian said his father wasn't in the habit of bringing his work home with him, and that the documents didn't come from the family.

The personnel chief in Killian's unit at the time also said he believes the documents are fake.

"They looked to me like forgeries," Rufus Martin said. "I don't think Killian would do that, and I knew him for 17 years."

Aside from the typeface/font issues and the questions of the source there is the issue of terminology and military standards, which, let's just say, the docs don't meet. More at Powerline.

Meanwhile Allahpundit has been looking at W's address on the docs. It seems that W had moved from that address in 1970, two years prior to the documents' creation.

The forensic experts are piling on all over the place. Ace of Spades has a post on kerning.

Forgery or not, the pressure for CBS to release the originals or recant will build over the weekend as the blogosphere goes into overdrive. Keep watching.

Forgery Investigation Update

CBS posted 4 documents regard W's National Guard service or lask thereof. Let's look at a few in detail.

Exhibit A - This doc from May 4 1973. Notice the superscript in sentence 2. "Report to 111th F.I.S."

Exhibit B - This doc from August 1, 1973. Notice the lack of superscript in sentence 2. "to commander, 147th Frt" UPDATE: This document is from 8/1/1973, not 1972. My bad.

Exhibit C - This doc from August 18, 1973. Again notice the superscript near the end. "from 187th in Alabama"

Riddle me this - why would a document created in May '72 display a feature not found in a document created in August 73, a feature which then mysteriously reappears 18 days later. Remember, they were both supposedly created by the same man? Apparently at the same place (two of these have letterhead with an address)? Did he use different typewriters, one with a very fancy (and probably expensive) superscript feature and one without? Did he bounce back and forth between them?

More to come.

Update: Though I made an error in the date of Exhibit B, I am still suspicious of some of these documents.

CBS faces Death by a Thousand Blogs

The pencil necks over at CBS (once the gold standard of broadcast journalism) must be sweating bullets. Last night on 60 Minutes 2 they aired a report about W shirking his duties in the Texas Air National Guard. Key to the report were some document CBS "obtained" from the personal records of W's superior, Lt. Col. Killian, who died several years ago. I watched it and yawned and went to get a beer.

Well the blogosphere is twitching with accusations of forgery and the evidence is mounting.

Powerline has examined the details of a document supposedly typed in a Texas Air National Guard office in 1972: the proportional type, the font, the spacing, the size of the paper (the military used 8x10 1/2 not 8 1/2x11 like today), the apostrophes. Most damning is the use of a superscript in "187th" when superscripting was less-than widespread or even non-existent of typewriters at that time. The updates are continuing.

LGF took the opposite route and used brilliant simplicty. Charles retyped the content of the memo into MS Word and lo and behold, the text was exactly the same. Exactly, the line breaks, word spacing, font. He even superimposed the documents to demonstrate how identical they are. He didn't change any of the Word settings. You can try it yourself.

Allahpundit has links to other documents of the era (signed by W even) that demostrate fixed space type and non-superscripting. When retyped in Word that document does not reproduce identically.

This is a small sample. The documents may not have been forged but CBS needs to declare how they "obtained" them before this calms down. Ignoring this wil make it worse. These guys would love nothing more than to catch a big Mainstream Media outlet with a pile of forged documents and Dan Rather's head up his ass. The truth will set you free, CBS.

The blogosphere never sleeps.

Could This be the Trigger?

Earlier in the summer various reports speculated that a future message from bin Laden would be the 'trigger' for a new round of attacks. Today al Jazeera released a tape from al-Zawahri, al Qaeda ideologue and bin Laden's right-hand man.

“The defeat of America in Iraq and Afghanistan has become a matter of time, with God’s help."

Stay tuned.

Going to Make You Look Like Idiots if It's Not Too Late Already

I'd like to remind my loyal readers that Rant Wraith is non-partisan. I'm not rabidly pro-Bush. There are many, many issues on which I disagree with W's position. The deficit and the debt are frightening. I'd support rolling back the tax cuts from a few years ago - even the ones on the middle class. I think the Medicare drug giveaway will come back to bite us in the ass (and it will be a very expensive bite). I'd like to force auto makers to increase fuel efficiency (although I'd trade drilling in ANWR to get it). I'd like to means-test Social Security and Medicare and raise the retirement age.

However, as a former campaign staffer, as a political junkie, as a freaking American voter I am appalled at the ineptitude of the Kerry campaign. It's almost like he wants to lose. And not just the Swift Boat stuff either (although his non-response to the charges was a disgrace). Here's a classic example courtesy of kausfiles:

Spirit-crushing foolishness from my candidate, John Kerry. The nation is trying to figure out how to fight global terrorism and he's talking about having "not just a Department of Health and Human Services, but a Department of Wellness." How about a Department of F***ing Perspective? If Bush is smart he'll be ridiculing Kerry about this for the rest of the month. ...Thanks, Iowa!

Kerry changes his view on Iraq so often it's become a game trying to track down which prior view he contradicts today. Here's a perfect example from Bill Kristol, nailing Kerry's current view of Iraq as "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time":

On December 16, at Drake University in Iowa, Kerry asserted that "those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."

Less than a year ago. During the primaries. Does he even remember that? Isn't someone on the campaign keeping up with this? Has that much changed in 9 months? If so, he should explain how he got from "doesn't have the judgment" to "wrong war".

I have to agree with this brave voter in St. Paul (via The Note):

"Katie Simenson, 41, a massage therapist, accused the Democratic ticket of letting Republicans suggest that Mr. Edwards had taken frivolous cases as a lawyer and that Mr. Kerry was a waffler and soft on defense.

'They're going to run you right over and make you look like idiots,' Ms. Simenson said.

Mr. Edwards sought to answer, promising 'to fight every day between now and Election Day" and assuring her that Mr. Kerry "is strong, courageous and he is a fighter.'

'And I like to believe I am the same thing,' he said. But Ms. Simenson shook her head.

See guys, promising to fight is not the same as actually fighting. I could go on and on. The "sensitive" war comments. Kerry's incomprehensible speech patterns, the "I am not unaware of" stuff. Add all this to the vacations (who takes days off when running for president?), the skiing, the motorcycle and his other rich-guy activities, his refusal to release his full military or medical records or Teresa's tax records (though W has released all of his) his utter lack of a coherent message or the most rudimentary campaign discipline or any charisma... You can see where I'm going. I'll end with an anecdote from Instapundit (quoting the NYT) that sort of sums it all up:

Everybody told me, 'God, if you're coming to Canonsburg, you've got to find time to go to Toy's, and he'll take care of you,'" Mr. Kerry said, dropping the name of a restaurant his motorcade had passed on the way in. "I understand it's my kind of place, because you don't have to - you know, when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling: Ah, what do you want?

"He just gives you what he's got, right?" Mr. Kerry added, continuing steadily off a gangplank of his own making: "And you don't have to worry, it's whatever he's cooked up that day. And I think that's the way it ought to work, for confused people like me who can't make up our minds."

You said it dude, not me.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

60 Minutes - I'm Confused

Tonight "60 Minutes" will interview Ben Barnes, prominent Texas politician. Here's a biography from Texas Monthly.

"He was a member of President Johnson’s Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, U.S. representative to the NATO Conference in 1967, and United Nations Representative to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1968.

In 1969, Barnes was elected lieutenant governor of Texas and served from 1969 to 1973

His big moment on "60 Minutes" is headlined as "Texan Rues Getting Bush Into Guard."

The CBS timeline records these events:
- May 27, 1968: "Walter B. Staudt, commander of the Texas National Guard, interviews Mr. Bush and recommends he be accepted for pilot training. The president's application for enlistment in the Guard is approved."

- July 12, 1968: "The three-member Federal Recognition Examining Board reports Mr. Bush is qualified for promotion to 2nd Lieutenant."

- July 14, 1968: "Mr. Bush attends basic military training in San Antonio."

Now color me confused but how did Ben Barnes "get" Bush into the National Guard if he was in Geneva during 1968? How did he "get" the Examining Board to agree that W was qualified for promotion? Even CBS says that W was already in basic when Barnes was still in Europe. This is the smoking gun? This is the best the Dems can come up with?


Terrorists Plan to Hit Dutch Parliament, Airport and a Nuclear Reactor

"The Justice Ministry suspects terrorists have drawn up plans for an attack on the Dutch Parliament, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Borssele nuclear reactor, the Defence Ministry and the Leidschendam office of the AIVD secret service."

The single suspect was arrested in June for involvement in a supermarket robbery. In his apartment the authorities found bomb-making chemicals, night goggles, and floor plans for possible targets.

The Dutch government issued a terror warning in July and it is still in effect.

The man is a Dutch citizen of Moroccan origin. He will appear in court on September 23.

William Pfaff: Appeasement is the Answer

Here are some key quotes from his piece in today's Internation Herald Tribune, "The pattern is global, but the causes are local":

"Putin's terrorism problem is specific to him and to Russia. America's terrorism problem is specific to the United States, its past, its foreign relationships and its policies. Israel's is a matter of Israel's relationship with the Palestinians."

Let's skip the first sentence for now. On to America's problems. We've had a terrorism "problem" for a generation, through Democratic and Republican administrations, during the Cold War and after. We fled Lebanon and Somalia and that didn't help. The PLO never had a better friend than Clinton and that didn't help. We saved the sacred land of Saudi Arabia from an atheist Baathist thug, and that didn't help. We give billions to Egypt and Jordon. Turkey is a close NATO ally. No help.

Israel's "problem" is with the Palestinians. Except for its problem with Syria. And Hizbullah. And Iran. And Saudi Arabia. So what's the point again. On to Russia's "specific" problem.

"Today there certainly are international reinforcements fighting for the Chechens, and there are increasing numbers of radical Islamic teachers and clerics in the Caucasus. Like Iraq, the region has become a battlefront in the war of Islamic radicals against the infidels."

So much for specificity. The real question that the first paragraph raises is this: why are all these so-called local problems between Muslims and non-Muslims? Why aren't the Tibetians setting off bombs in Beijing? Where are the Jain seperatists in India? Why aren't the Quebecois killing Canadian school kids in Ontario? But all over the globe it is Muslim "militants" killing non-Muslims who dare to rule over them with man-made laws. Nigeria, Sudan, Indonesia, Thailand, Central Asia, Spain. Muslims even act violently against minorities who accept Muslim rule. Look at the Copts in Egypt or Jews in Turkey. The pattern is global and the causes may involve local issues but clearly all these conflicts share numerous characteristics, the chief of these being that they involve Muslims fighting non-Muslims.

Pfaff seems to always blame the non-Muslims: Russians, Americans, Israelis. Certainly all three of these nations could have managed conflicts better in the past. All three made mistakes. America and Russia have a number of internal minorities and have foreign policies that impact regions all over the globe. It seems to be Muslims, not Hawaiians or Siberians or radical Catholics that are murdering civilains. If the US and Russia are so opressive and heavy-handed, so inept at relating to other cultures, why aren't others launching attacks. Do the Muslims in Chechnya and Palestine and Iran bear no blame? If Islam has been "hijacked" why is this particulat religion so easy to hijack while others are not? Pfaff doesn't have time for these questions. He wants to get to the heart of the piece.

"If the terrorist auction has a tangible value, such as an independent Chechnya (if that is what the Beslan terrorists wanted: nobody has yet said what they wanted, assuming that they wanted anything tangible), there is no solution except to give it to them."

Well, that's an answer. There are many answers. Stalin had a different answer - forcibly deport the Chechen people to the frozen tundra of outer Siberia, send many to prison camps and outright kill some more. I don't like that answer either. But it's an answer. Don't kid yourself William, there is always a military solution.

I, on the other hand, have a solution that combines both options. Give the Chechens their shitty little country and seal the border with barbed wire, trenches and mine fields. Shoot anything that crosses it. The Chechens could impose Sharia and a barter economy in their slice of the Caucasus mountains. How long would they last? And once they are their own recognized independent country there would be no reason for any attacks. In fact any attack coming from Chechnya would be an act of war by internation law. Then Russia could crush them utterly. This solution is a win-win. Or a lose-lose depending on your point of view.

Russia Denies Considering Nukes - Not that Anyone Asked

"We will take any action to eliminate terrorist bases in any region of the world. But this does not mean we will carry out nuclear strikes," Russia's Chief of Staff General Yuri Baluyeveski was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

I'm glad he was quick to dismiss the nuclear option. Of course, I don't know of anyone who suggested it in the first place. Was this seriously debated in the Kremlin? What does this denial reveal about the mindset of the Russian military? What could happen after the next, inevitable atrocity?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

1000 U.S. Dead in Iraq - 3000 U.S. Dead in U.S.

Today was the big day. The One Thousandth American was killed in Iraq. Over at the Democratic Underground they are beside themselves with glee. Somehow that magic number will make millions of voters turn against Bush and support Kerry. I don't get it.

Let's put this in perspective. There are one thousand dead since March 2003. At this rate it will take 54 months, four and a half years, to equal the number who died in one day, on one morning, in September three years ago.

A third as many people (338) were killed this weekend in Russia as Americans have been killed in Iraq in 18 months.

A fifth (201) as many were killed in Madrid in a few minutes on March 11, 2004. Nearly that many (187) were killed in one night vacationing on Bali in October 2002. These were all civilians.

This is war. It will get worse. Before it's over we will look back on the casuality figures from Iraq and marvel at how few soldiers were killed during such a difficult operation.

Monday, September 06, 2004

That's $2.5 Mil per reporter. What a Deal!

The "militant insurgents" who I prefer to call "severe critics of French journalism" are demanding a $5 million ransom for the two reporters. That's with the anti-war euro-pussy discount. Oh, and one more little thing: "a promise of no military and commercial dealings with Iraq."

There's 48 hour deadline on this offer. Call now and get a free "I Paid $5 Million to Appease a Death-Cult & All I Got Was this Lousy T-shirt".

So right now the top levels of the French government are asking themselves: Do they take American Express?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

More Advice to Kerry: Attack W on Iran

Everyone who is paying attention knows that the Iranians are building the Bomb. Nuclear mullahs with long range ballistic missiles will be a epic crisis, up there with the Nazi/Soviet invasion of Poland. We can all see it coming.

Here, again, is a way for Kerry to attack W's strength. Kerry should ask what this administration is doing to prevent a nuclear Iran. He should spell out what he would do. Hammer W on this. But he can't. The far left would throw a hissy-fit if he even looked cross-eyed at the Iranian theocrats. Another missed opportunity for him and another important issue will go unaddressed in the campaign.

Beslan: Russian for 'Madrid'

WaPo: The Russian government admitted Sunday that it lied to its people about the scale of the hostage crisis that ended with more than 300 children, parents and teachers dead in southern Russia.

Just like in Madrid, the first response of the goverment is to lie, downplay and cover-up. Now that the public knows the scale of the horror and who the villains are, people are going to be pissed, just like in Spain. I mean super-fucking-crazy pissed. Not just at the jihadist (most of whom are dead) but also at the government for not revealing the extent of the attack and for having no real response. The Russian Special Forces (which I guess are 'special' like kids who eat paste are 'special') were clearly unprepared to assault a civilain soft target held by armed terrorists even after the debacle at the Moscow theater. Did they think it would never happen again? Don't they practice or plan?

Now Putin is in deep shit. He has to respond in a way that the average Russian can see and appreciate. No Spanish-style flakiness for Vladimir. He can't just arrest a few (or a few hundred) Islamists and call it a wrap. The Russians aren't going to stand for people just going to prison over this. But what else is left? Yeltsin already tried a scorched earth policy in Chechnya. Remember Gronzny in 1996? An urban battlefield of bombed out ruins and refugees in rags.

What options does Putin have? As the Belmont Club posts the army is poorly equipped and underfunded. They don't have the kind of high-tech arsenal of the U.S., much less the highly trained and disciplined troops. They have less-than state of the art military hardware and a bunch of poorly paid 19-year old draftees.

Whatever the response you can bet it will not be nuanced or subtle.

Advice to Kerry: Attack the Saudis

Look, Bush is only up because Kerry is a terrible campaigner. W is vulnerable on several fronts. One line of attack that I think everyone, left and right, could appreciate is the Saudi front. No one likes these assholes.

Every time Kerry mentions the Saudis he gets a big applause line. W, Cheney, and numerous other administration officials have histories of working with the Saudis that I don't think most voters know much about or would approve of.

The ads almost write themselves. Show W praising the Saudis as valuable partners in the War on Terror, then cut to an ominous voice reading exerpts from the 9/11 Commission report.

"Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of al Qaeda funding..." (page 171)

"... so many (of the 9/11 terrorists) were Saudis because Saudis compised the largest portion of thepool of recruits in the al Qaeda training camps." (page 232)

"Recommendation: The problems in the U.S.-Saudi relationship must be confronted, openly." (page 374)

Why isn't Kerry doing this? Are the hacks on his staff just not that clever or is there some Democratic constituancy that holds them back?

Medicare, Medical Technology and our Aging Population

Medicare premiums are going up. That's the big news. The Democrats will attack Bush on this and the Republicans will try to dodge it. What no one will address is the structural problem, the glaring flaw in the very idea of Medicare.

It started as part of LBJ's Great Society in the 60s. Through Medicare the federal government would pay to treat senior citizens, age 65 and over, of their illnesses and conditions. It was all very well-intentioned.

However, 40 years later, people live much longer, the list of treatable illnesses and conditions has greatly expanded, the population of seniors has grown and the medical technology has produced a vast array of complex and expensive treatment options, including drugs, devices, and surgery. But the definition of Medicare has not responded to these changes. The age of enrollment is still 65 and we still do not means-test those who are eligible. Costs rise in part because of the 'scope-creep' of the program itself. Every year it covers more people with more conditions and treats more illnesses with more technology. Hence it costs more.

What we have is a program that promises to serve any senior with any medical treatment in perpetuity. We have to ask ourselves: Who should Medicare not cover? What conditions should Medicare not cover?

We often hear that X is the Number One killer of this or that group. There will always be a Number One killer. People have to die of something.

Friday, September 03, 2004

One Enemy. One War. One Victory.

9/11. Israel. Bali. Madrid. Beslan, Russia. How long until the front comes to London, Paris, or Berlin? How long until Chicago, LA, or Detroit?

Western civilization if fighting ONE war against ONE enemy.

W on Top. Kerry faces dark Labor Day.

The Blogosphere is electricified by this Time poll that shows Bush 52%, Kerry 41% (Nader 3%). With so little time left it looks like it's W's race to lose. Kerry cannot come back on his own. He has to run a fantastic, flawless campaign while Bush has to implode in the next 8 weeks. Needless to say, it's unlikely.

Over at the Democratic Underground they are torn between panic, recrimination, self-righteous indignation, deperate hope, and canibalism.

And Kerry still has to face attacks on his trips to Paris to negotiate with the North Vietnamese. And his 20 year Senate record. The Republicans will stay on the attack and keep him off balance for the next few weeks. If Kerry wants to stay in the race he needs to deflect the attacks and launch a counter-attack. Otherwise, he's toast, Dukakis-style.

Update: It was inevitable. DUers have seen the handwriting on the wall for Kerry. Rather than face the reality that this man is a terrible campaigner they have started insulting the intelligence and integrity of the American voter.

"Why do we seem to be the only developed nation in the world where so many people are just so ignorant, misinformed, and sometimes just downright nasty?"

Anybody wanna bet how long before they start questioning the value of democracy itself?

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Message? I Don't Need a Message. I Was in 'Nam

I didn't see W's speech. I was driving and only managed to catch a bit on AM radio. (I'll catch the webcast tomorrow and post my invaluable thoughts.) By the time I got home Kerry had responded. The Fall campaign has begun.

I had some time driving to think about Kerry's problem. He can't present his message in a simple direct manner. W has a clear message. I'm surprised that the Dems don't get this. You have to treat the American voters like executives in a corporation: their time is valuable, they are busy and will only give you a limited amount of time to make your case. I think of the campaign message as an executive summary - a bulleted series of high-level issues.

Think of Clinton's "It's the economy, stupid." It was brilliant. It was concise and memorable. It declared Clinton's focus and implied that Bush 41 was out of touch.

W is clearly the pro-war candidate. Kerry has only a few choices:

1.) He can be the non-war candidate - he can downplay the importance of the war compared to a larger, more important issue. Clinton did this in '92. He had no foreign policy experience and Bush 41 had decades of it. Bush 41 spent much of his term dealing with foreign policy issues (remember vomitting in Japan? remember the Madrid Conference?). So Clinton ignored foreign affairs, dodged Bush 41's strength and hit him with a larger issue that more people cared about, the economy. Kerry can't really use this tactic since the War in Iraq and the larger War Against Jihad are so prominent in our lives and the economy simply isn't that bad.

2). He can be more pro-war than W. For example, he could pledge more troops in Afghanistan. He could criticize W for letting Sadr get away, for not taking Fallujah, for not capturing Zarqawi the beheading serial killer. Kerry could attack W for not closing the Syrian border, for allowing Syria to interfer in Iraqi society. Kerry could attack W as soft on Iran's nuke program and promise sanctions or other 'serious measures' to deter an Iranian Bomb. He could say W was waffling and weak when facing North Korea. On and on. But Kerry can't do this without being eaten alive by the left wing of the Democratic party.

3). Kerry could be the anti-war candidate. This has the appeal of being simple and clear. It fits on a bumper sticker. It has an aura of moral superiority. It is easily exploited for sentimental value. The Left would love it. But Kerry already voted for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whoops.

That's about it for options. What he can't be is the "Somewhat pro-war but in a different manner candidate." No one knows what the hell that means. If your message requires further explanation then it isn't a message. The explanation is. But if it's two pages of long conditional sentences then you have failed.

Instead of an executive summary think of a campaign as the concept for a film. It has to 'fit in your hand.' It has to contain all the essential elements but it can't be too detailed. W's concept is an epic film. "After a devastating surprise attack, a determined president rallies the nation to take the fight to the bad guys." What is Kerry's concept? "A war hero forges a broader coalition against shadowy enemies." Not quite the same is it?

"Stronger at Home, Respected in the World" is a flop. Notice it's not Strong but Stronger. The first word of his Plan For American is a comparative. That's his problem in a nutshell.

If W's says "I'm strong and decisive," what does Kerry say? "I have some medals and I speak French."

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

"Black Widows" in Chechnya

It sounds like something out of a comic book.

A cultlike network of militantly Islamic Chechen women known as “Black Widows” is playing a critical role in what increasingly looks like a coordinated wave of terrorist attacks on civilian targets around Russia.

Asymmetric Campaigning and Kerry's Symbolic Targets

Salon spends most of their Kerry panic article beating the dead horse of the Swift Boat Vets credibility "problem". Sure, some of these guys are flaky and less than credible. What Salon and the other Dems who are pulling their hair out over this don't get is the nature of asymmetrical campaigning.

Like asymmetrical warfare, asymmetrical campaigning involves a small, mobile force with nothing to lose (SBVT) attacking a large, expensive institution with a lot to lose (the Kerry campaign). The attackers can shoot and miss over and over. The defenders must defeat every attack. The attackers do not have any goal beyond the attack itself. The defenders have a larger goal beyond merely deflecting each attack.

The Swift Boat Vets don't have to be credible as people. Indeed, like guerilla warriors, the more anonymous they are the better because it keeps the focus on the attack itself. Remember, the SBVT aren't running for president. If Kerry tries to fight a battle of credibility attrition with the Swifties, trying to damage their credibility while they damage his, then Kerry will go down.

The Swifties can throw out 10 charges. The Kerry campaign must respond to all of them. If only one charge sticks (like Christmas in Cambodia) then the SBVT have succeeded.

Like in asymetrical warfare the attacks do not have to inflict substantial damage - often a symbolic target is more valuable. I mean, who cares about Kerry's medals or if he was in Cambodia or not? I don't. But Kerry made his Vietnam service a symbol for his integrity and courage. Any attack on the symbol inflicts damage on the characteristics it symbolizes.

What can he do? How do you defeat this asymmetrical campaigning? Sure, he could do a press conference and answer each charge one by one in great detail. Snooze. That risks elevating the charges further. He could release his military records but that's probably a Pandora's box of future targets.

The way to defeat asymmetrical attacks on symbolic targets is to de-symbolize the target. His first mistake was to emphasize his Vietnam service so much. Now he has to reduce it's importance, to downplay it, to de-mythologize it. Kerry should come out and say something like this.

"Sure I worked the military bureaucracy to get as many medals as I could. I filled out paperwork and pushed it through the system. You'd do the same thing. Were are those medals due to super-human bravery? No. But so what? You think Bush earned all his grades at Harvard too? Grow up. Sure I told tall tales about my 'secret missions' into Cambodia. Lots of vets tell tall tales. So what? That's the best you can do? If exaggerating my military service from 35 years ago is my big character flaw then I can live with that. I'm not a saint. If you can honestly say that you have never exaggerated your experience, to your co-workers or neighbors, at a party, to make a point to your kids, then hey, good for you. Like anyone, any vet, stories from my youth became more colorful over time. But my convictions, my ideals, my vision of American and my hopes for my fellow citizens have not changed and will not change as we struggle to realize that vision together. Good night."

Then respond to the Swift Boat Vets with a parody of their commercial mocking their obsession with events from the 60s. Hire some comedy writers and make an ad in the same style, with the same earnestness about an average Joe who exaggerated about some trivial part of his past. Make us laugh and the next time the Swift Boat ads come on we'll laugh at them. Undermine their attack by essentially admitting their point but trivializing it, making them look petty and obsessive.

He could follow the same tactic regarding his anti-war protests. After the convention, after the Swift boat ads fade away, the 'Kerry as anti-war protest weeny' ads start. How will he respond? Probably the same way he responded to the Swifties - by whining and bitching and throwing a tantrum about how the press isn't doing it's job by debunking these unprincipled, unfounded, immoral attacks. Yawn. He should say something like this.

"Look. I'd been to Nam. I'd seen young men get blown up for no real reason. When I cam back I was anger. I mean super freaking crazy with anger. I said and did some things that I shouldn't have. It was a difficult time. Like I said, I was angry and that was my way of working through it. What was I supposed to do, spend the 70s drinking and snorting coke?"

This strategy requires Kerry to admit that his 4 months in Vietnam was not the height of bravery and that his anti-war protest was more psycho-drama than political courage. But he can't. His Vietnam service and protests are pillars of his personality. He cannot disavow them or downplay them or laugh off attacks on them. Thus he is the perfect target for asymmetrical campaign attacks. He has too many symbolic targets to defend. And his attackers have nothing to lose.

I hope the Dems learn a lesson from this. But I doubt it.

Democratic News

Rather than spend more time on Arnold's convention speech, let's look at what the Dems are doing while the spotlight is elsewhere.

Kerry shuffles his campaign staff. A sly tactical move or not so quiet desperation? Tactical desperation? Should Kerry attack? Are more staff changes coming? Even Salon is losing confidence.

Ron Silver has defected. Zell Miller defects tonight.

The Democratic Underground is really starting to panic. No they're not. Ok, maybe a little.