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In Memoriam
Friday, May 28, 2003

My favorite brand of cigarette rolling tobacco has been laid to rest. Can't get it anymore, even from Europe.

This was some fine, fine smoke.


Goddamn it. I really liked that stuff.


The Marketplace Of Ideas
Thursday, May 27, 2003

I had a minor revelation last night.

I was thinking about the phrase "Marketplace Of Ideas", which nicely describes the way that old and new ideas compete with one another, with the best (or, more accurately, the most popular) becoming dominant over time.

Pushing the metaphor to its limits, I thought about the relationship between the supply of ideas and the demand for them, the incentives, the transaction costs, the effects of monopoly, monopsony, protectionism and free trade... all of it still made pretty good sense.

Then I asked myself an obvious question: What sort of currency is used here? If I want to be a wealthy man, walking into this place with a fat wad of fifty-dollar bills in my hand, what do I need to do?

The currency here is persuasion. Sell a lot of ideas, and enjoy the satisfaction of having persuaded others. In order to count yourself among the buyers, you must allow yourself to be persuaded.

In short, if you want a lot of money to spend in this valuable marketplace, just open up your mind. The more willing you are to be persuaded, the more mutually beneficial transactions you conduct, and the more wealth you accumulate.

Obviously, you must spend this money carefully, and, most likely, you only have so much of it that you are really willing to part with at any one time. Don't buy a lot of crap, or your wealth will surely be diminished. But don't be too much of a spendthrift, either - that money is just paper, worthless if unused. It's not enough just to shop for good ideas, you need to be willing to buy them. They don't help you if you leave them on the dealer's shelf.

And it is a buyer's market, too. The world is full of sellers, the competition is intense, and many of the products, old and new, are of remarkable quality. Sure, there's a ton of crap out there, but you'll learn to tell the difference - just try to pawn it off on someone else, and you'll quickly discover its real value.

Can you invest in ideas? Sure. The more belief you put into a good idea, the more it pays in dividends down the road, and effort invested in bad ideas tends to lose value over time. In fact, it might make more sense to think of this as a marketplace for stocks and bonds, rather than products. You have new, speculative ideas, old steady ideas, and prices that fluctuate with each breaking news story...

I'd like to propose the following as the Official Blogger's Motto Of The Moment:

Be Wealthy - Allow Yourself To Be Persuaded!

What's in your wallet?


Recognise This Guy?
Wednesday, May 26, 2003

This is Adam Pearlman:

Click for details

He was born and raised in California, on rural goat ranch in Western Riverside County.

Here's another look:

Click for details

He also goes by the names Abu Suhayb Al-Amriki, Abu Suhayb, Yihya Majadin Adams, and Yayah. The FBI would very much like to talk to him.

Pearlman is wanted "only for questioning" but don't let that fool you; he is also considered armed and dangerous, and his face is currently displayed right on the FBI's home page.

Several others share that same spotlight:

Pretty tough crowd

Pearlman caught my attention because he grew up here. His English is probably perfect, and he can blend in and travel around effortlessly. He can go just about anywhere and not raise the least suspicion.

Look at his photos again:

Adam Pearlman Adam Pearlman

Look at his mouth; as different as these photos are, that's one part of his face that is distinctive, and than isn't going to change.

Pearlman is 26 years old, of average height, weight, and build, probably not as fat as he looks in that first picture. I'd bet a dollar he has short hair and is clean-shaven now, too.

Try to remember that mouth. Maybe one of us will hit a million-to-one shot and actually spot this asshole.

Update, from Fox:

More details.


I've decided that there is a single, defining belief that separates most people who support the war in Iraq from those who oppose it. Most of the war's supporters see Iraq as a primary front in the larger war on terror, while opponents believe we entered Iraq for less noble motivations, and that Iraq actually distracted us out anti-terror effort.

I've mutilated Bush's speech from last night to extract just this part of his address. I think he means exactly what he is saying here, and, while others might disagree that this was the best way to go, I think we'd all agree that Bush's actions have been consistent with these beliefs:

[Zarqawi] and other terrorists know that Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror. And we must understand that, as well.

[...] The rise of a free and self-governing Iraq will deny terrorists a base of operation, discredit their narrow ideology, and give momentum to reformers across the region. This will be a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power, and a victory for the security of America and the civilized world ...by removing a source of terrorist violence and instability in the Middle East, we also make our own country more secure.

[...] Our terrorist enemies have a vision that guides and explains all their varied acts of murder. They seek to impose Taliban-like rule, country by country, across the greater Middle East. They seek the total control of every person, and mind, and soul, a harsh society in which women are voiceless and brutalized... they commit dramatic acts of murder to shock, frighten and demoralize civilized nations, hoping we will retreat from the world and give them free rein.

[...] None of this is the expression of a religion. It is a totalitarian political ideology, pursued with consuming zeal, and without conscience.

Our actions, too, are guided by a vision. We believe that freedom can advance and change lives in the greater Middle East, as it has advanced and changed lives in Asia, and Latin America, and Eastern Europe, and Africa. We believe it is a tragedy of history that in the Middle East -- which gave the world great gifts of law and science and faith -- so many have been held back by lawless tyranny and fanaticism. We believe that when all Middle Eastern peoples are finally allowed to live and think and work and worship as free men and women, they will reclaim the greatness of their own heritage. And when that day comes, the bitterness and burning hatreds that feed terrorism will fade and die away. America and all the world will be safer when hope has returned to the Middle East.

[...] These two visions have now met in Iraq, and are contending for the future of that country.

Are there any among you who believe that Al Quada will fall harmless once Bin Ladin is captured or killed? Is there anyone here who thinks that finishing the job in Afghanistan will be enough, and the war on terror will be over?

Of course not.

All of us agree that it is necessary to attack the root causes of terrorism in order to find a lasting peace. All of us.

Some believe that the root cause of terror is us; that trust and hope can only be restored in the Arab world if we could be less of a bully, and more of a friend. In theory, this means we should support, and in some cases, even yield to the wishes of the peoples of the Middle East. In practice, this means supporting, and in some cases, even yielding to the governments of the Middle East, governments which abuse their people and hold them isolated from the world.

Others, like myself, believe that these governments are themselves the problem. The less they are allowed to abuse and isolate their own people, the less hatred and mistrust will directed against us. Free these people, and they will act less like caged animals.

In a perfect world, sure, we'd all like for everyone to be free. Everyone should have a say in how they are ruled; everyone ought to be able to choose their own beliefs. Nobody argues with this, certainly not anyone who can, in good conscience, call themselves a liberal. After all, this is basically what liberalism means.

Yet we do not try to liberalize the world. We do not invade in Africa, to overthrow any of the dozens of tiny hellholes that entrap millions. We don't do it, because the costs and the risks are terribly high. We can only justify this ghastly expense when such action is vital to our own interests.

I think that most of the who people oppose the liberalization of the Middle East really oppose it only because it is so dangerous. Not because it is wrong, or because it won't work to make us safer; only because of the terrible cost.

To you, I ask which is really the safer path in the long term. Could you even imagine a way to stop terrorism, while the Arab world remains a tyranny?

Others oppose the liberalization of the Middle East because they oppose any attempt to force our beliefs on others. I find this pseudo-liberalism to be perverse. These same people would never wish the lives of the average Arab on their worst enemy, yet they insist they hold the high moral ground by arguing for inaction. We heard from plenty of people like this when the Nazis marched across Europe, and we ignored them then, as well. These are bad men, doing nothing, and they deserve our contempt. They imagine that they are selfless, buy they are only callow and indifferent, racist and selfish in the extreme.

"Arabs don't want to be free, and they couldn't handle it if they were. The sovereignty of their rulers is more important than the welfare of their people. We should never interfere."

This is not liberalism; this is Pat Buccanan in a rumpled suit, an isolationist speaking of how little the people matter when the fates of governments are at stake.

We did not seek this war on terror, but this is the world as we find it. We must keep our focus. We must do our duty. History is moving, and it will tend toward hope, or tend toward tragedy.

And we must be worthy of this challenge, or we will lose.


Bush Bet!
Sunday, May 16, 2003

The Great Bush Economy Bet
You want a piece of the action? Read on...

I've made the following long-term bet with ManFish; he claims the economy will tank if Bush is reelected, while I remain certain that it will thrive instead.

We've got ten bucks on the line. This is serious stuff. Here are the rules:

IF Bush wins in November,
AND there are no major terror attacks in the US,
AND no new, major conflicts overseas,
AND if there are no significant tax increases:

THEN on June 31, 2006, the majority of the following statements will be true:

1) The latest available budget deficit, as a percentage of GDP, will be smaller than the deficit currently predicted here.

2) The budget debt, as a percentage of GDP, will be smaller than the debt currently predicted in the same document.

3) The DOW will exceed 10,800.

The following indicators will be at, or better than, their average for Clinton's second term:

4) Unemployment (seasonally adjusted)

5) Federal Funds Interest rate

6) 10 Year Treasury rate

7) Inflation

8) GDP growth (real)

9) Personal income (per capita, average of yearly percent change 97-00)

Loser pays ten bucks to a charity of the winner's choice.

You want a piece of this? Just send an email to BushBet@FecesFlingingMonkey.com and tell me which side of the bet you want; if somebody else wants the other side, I'll put you in touch with each other and you can work it out for yourselves. If you like the bet, feel free to copy the code and put it on your own website.

(Technical note: Yeah, we know that we have 'averaged averages' here to calculate our targets, but that's close enough for a bar bet!)


The Wife and I haven't had a cell phone for years.

Not that we hadn't wanted one - cell phones are a basic safety accessory that everyone ought to have, even if they are just stashed in the car and forgotten until they are needed. The problem was that we didn't want to spend $30 a month for something that we'd hardly ever use.

The good news is, Virgin Mobile has a sweet deal now - you can get a perfectly nice phone for about $70, and it only costs you $7 a month to keep it active. There are some details that I'll describe below, but the bottom line is that just about anyone can now afford to keep a fully-functional phone in their car.

It works sort of like a pre-paid calling card. You get the phone, put some money into it, and you can talk until the minutes run out. No billing, no contract, nothing. You can sell the phone or give it away as a gift and nobody cares. You don't even need a credit card.

The only catch is that you need to put at least $20 into the phone every three months to keep it active. That's the $7 a month I mentioned. If you never use the phone, the money just keeps building up. So long as the phone remains active, all of the money you've paid in remains available for you to use.

There are no special changes for long distance, no roaming fees, no time restrictions. It costs nothing to accept a call, but outgoing calls are a bit pricey - 25 cents a minute for the first ten minutes, 10 cents a minute after that. This is much more than you'd pay on a traditional cellphone, but it's cheap when you need it for an emergency or just for occasional use.

The K7 Rave

I bought the cheapest model they offer - the $70 K7 Rave - and coughed up an extra $20 for the car charger, and $10 for the two year replacement warranty (a good idea for anything that you might drop). The car charger not only charges your phone, it lets you run the phone, too, so you never have to worry about getting stuck with a dead battery. The whole package came to $108 after tax at Best Buy.

I used Virgin's website to activate the phone and 15 minutes later it was working just fine. It's a little clunky looking but it is easy to use, and the sound quality was fine. I set it up so that it would automatically draw from my credit card when the money ran low, so I wouldn't have to worry about running out of time if something bad happened. Then I put it in The Wife's car and I felt a lot better.

The V5 Slider (the top slides up to expose the keys, instead of flipping)

The next day I decided to get one for myself. Unlike The Wife I'd prefer to keep my phone turned on, and on my person, so I bought the pricier, much smaller Slider V5. It ran me an extra $80 but I'm already in love with it. I need to receive calls more than I need to make them, so hopefully it will all work out pretty well.

The only annoying thing is that you do have to remember to give them money every three months. It's easy enough, and they say they will send you a message on your phone to remind you when you are due, but if your phone is always off you'll never see the message. I figure that I can put up with that four times a year, so I just marked it off on my calendar so I won't forget. Problem solved.

Any of you who have been putting this off really ought to consider this one. Cell phones are life savers, and my local Best Buy is just about sold out of them now.


Odds And Ends
Thursday, May 13, 2003

First things first:

Nick Berg was not killed because of the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib. He, like Daniel Pearl, was killed in that particularly grotesque manner because he was Jewish. They will probably do it again, too, when yet another American Jew falls into their hands.

Anybody who was surprised by that video has simply not been paying attention.

I may be in a minority here, but I think that the rebuilding of Iraq has been going incredibly well. Yes, we have faced some real challenges that we didn't expect, but we have risen to these challenges, and we have met them with remarkable consistency.

You don't measure your success by how easy the job was. You measure it by how well you've dealt with the things that were hard.

Years ago, our biggest fear was the hundreds of thousands of casualties and the millions of refugees that the war would certainly create. Would there been water and food and shelter for the fleeing masses? Would the cities become killing fields? Would we find ourselves engulfed in a wider war with Arab armies from Iran and Syria? Would Turkey move in to capture Kurdish land? Would we have enough troops to do the job?

You remember how that all turned out: shockingly, incredibly well. The UN packed up their empty refugee camps at the Saudi border and left.

Months ago, the big issues were infrastructure and jobs. People without power or water, people rioting for back wages, the Iraqi treasury broke and deeply indebted. There really were some huge problems - and it took us less than a year to restore the nation to better-than-pre-war levels, virtually across the board.

Weeks ago, there was a 'Sunni Rebellion' that 'threatened to expand' and 'engulf the whole region' in the sort of 'quagmire' that 'Dan Rather' has been 'praying for'. Every city was the next Stalingrad, thousands more troops were desperately needed, and we could not possibly hold the place together on our own. Poor planning! Failure to admit mistakes! Quick, somebody call Kofi - maybe if we apologize like we really mean it, he'll summon his invisible army and get us out of this mess!

Weeks pass, and the only quagmire I see is the one that the bad guys have backed themselves into. They are trapped, the locals hate them, and they are dying like flies. The new Iraqi security forces have emerged stronger and better, and our Marines have managed to do a very nice job, thank you very much, without any need for the French or the Germans to cover their backs.

The turnover of sovereignty will happen on time, and the nation will continue to function. We will continue to meet every challenge ahead as we have met every challenge before, and we will prevail.

Our guys are amazing. They have been brilliant, and they are not getting a tenth of the credit they deserve.

If Rumsfeld ought to resign over the Abu Ghraib scandal, then Kofi Annan ought to go to prison for the Oil For Food scandal. Humiliating and frightening prisoners is nothing compared to running a billion-dollar protection racket for a man with his own ideas of what 'wide-scale torture' really meant.

Enough of this crap already. Yes, we did wrong, and we dealt with it the way Americans should - promptly, fairly, and with remarkable thoroughness. There was no cover-up, no delay. We apologized and admitted our failures. There is nothing here for us to be embarrassed about now. There is nothing more to apologize for.

No nation in history has ever been more humane, more just, or more open under these circumstances. Not one, ever. Personally, I take it as a source of great pride that this level of excellence is routinely expected of us. I'm happy that the world expects so much of us and us alone, and I'm happy when we meet their demand.

Here's something you won't see on television. A young Marine is in charge of a convoy that gets caught in a vicious ambush. He tries to get around it and his command vehicle runs right into an enemy machinegun emplacement.

Here's what happens:

...Brian Chontosh gave the order to attack. He told his driver to floor the humvee directly at the machine gun emplacement that was firing at them. And he had the guy on top with the .50 cal unload on them. Within moments there were Iraqis slumped across the machine gun and Chontosh was still advancing, ordering his driver now to take the humvee directly into the Iraqi trench that was attacking his Marines. Over into the battlement the humvee went and out the door Brian Chontosh bailed, carrying an M16 and a Beretta and 228 years of Marine Corps pride.

And he ran down the trench. With its mortars and riflemen, machineguns and grenadiers. And he killed them all.

He fought with the M16 until it was out of ammo. Then he fought with the Beretta until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up a dead man's AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up another dead man's AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo.

At one point he even fired a discarded Iraqi RPG into an enemy cluster, sending attackers flying with its grenade explosion. When he was done Brian Chontosh had cleared 200 yards of entrenched Iraqis from his platoon's flank. He had killed more than 20 and wounded at least as many more.

Jesus Christ.

Chontosh gets a well-deserved Navy Cross and our media ignores him. What's the matter, is this story not timely? Not relevant to world events? Not dramatic enough for you?

Or is it just that it is wrong to glorify war - even as ask our own men to wage it?

"By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, 1st Lt. Chontosh reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service."

That's what the citation says.

And that's what nobody will hear.

That's what doesn't seem to be making the evening news. Accounts of American valor are dismissed by the press as propaganda, yet accounts of American difficulties are heralded as objectivity.

I'll put it another way:

"We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful."

Sometimes, I really do wonder whos side those people are on.

Look, this is not a controversial issue. Clearly, we ought to honor our own heroes. We ought to celebrate their courage and their achievements, not only to reward them, but to inspire others to follow. This is blindingly obvious, and it is, quite frankly, the very least we can do for men like this.

Well, I honor him. Him, and the many others who's names I'll never know.

It's the very least I can do.


A Thousand Words
Saturday, May 8, 2003

Nothing profound here, I just thought this was interesting.

Check out this photo. That's a US Marine, at his post near a railway station in Fallujah:

US Marines of 2nd Battalion 1st Marine Regiment maintain their cordon at the key flashpoint Fallujah railway station on May 6, 2004 in Iraq.

Here's another view:

Lieutenant Jason Radion, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, stands beside a position as US Marines of 2nd Battalion 1st Marine Regiment maintain their cordon at the key flashpoint Fallujah railway station on May 6, 2004 in Iraq.

He's got a cement wall between himself and the enemy, and sandbags all around; pretty good protection against rifle fire and grenade fragments. He's also gone to some trouble to assemble a barricade of iron bars, and he's carefully scattered some fist-sized rocks all around. No dirt, just rocks, all about the same size, all around his position.

He's preparing himself for a hand-to-hand fight. Those rocks are there to make footing difficult for the attacker.

I was surprised when I first noticed that, but I guess I shouldn't be. There's more to it than laser-guided bombs and thermal gunsights.


This is a tough post to write.

I'm going to offer some perspective on the alleged torture of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. I do not want to dismiss any of these claims, to minimize the severity of our misdeeds, or to defend those who failed us and failed their mission. However, I do believe there is more to this than many people understand, and that this story is not entirely what it seems to be.

I want to be very clear - based upon what has been reported in the press, what happened here was terribly wrong, and the people who are most responsible for this are the people in charge. Some of these folks belong in prison. Nothing I'm going to say beyond this point is going to relieve them of their responsibility for their actions, and for the actions of their subordinates. Not only have they violated the boundaries of decency that we expect of our military officers, they have failed to maintain control of their own people and have endangered the entire mission in Iraq. This is serious stuff, and I would expect serious consequences to follow.

Not all facts are in, but for now, let's assume for the sake of this discussion that the bulk of the accusations are true. They include:

1) Prisoners being stripped, humiliated, threatened, screamed at, slapped, and held under uncomfortable and substandard conditions.

2) Many of the prisoners who were abused in this way were not known to be cooperating with the enemy; a significant number of ordinary civilians may have been mistreated.

3) Prisoners being doused with the liquid from chemical lightsticks.

4) Prisoners being unofficially photographed while being mistreated.

5) A few instances of more severe activity - beatings, sexual abuse, rapes, and possible murders.

From a citizen's perspective, this is an unmitigated disaster. Certainly, this is not the right way to treat these prisoners.

Would it have been the right way to treat a different opponent? The answer may surprise you.

What is the correct way for the military to interrogate a dangerous enemy? Not some ordinary Iraqi off the street, but somebody like Bin Ladin's right-hand man? What should we do with him? What are the limits of the acceptable use of force?

I'm certainly no expert, but my opinion has been strongly guided by this excellent article in Atlantic Magazine, describing the modern methods of interrogation. (If you haven't read it, please take the time to do so. My summary does not do it justice).

As a general rule, we do not torture prisoners. We will, however, apply tremendous psychological pressure in order to extract information from them. This is a correct and necessary balance between the two urgent, competing demands we make of our interrogators: the unquestionable need for essential strategic intelligence, and our determination not to violate a basic standard of decency.

We do not cause permanent injury to people, and we do not subject them to overwhelming pain. We do not abuse their innocent family member in front of them, or apply these tactics to children. We do not withhold medical care or food to a level where it places the subject in real physical danger.

We do deprive them of sleep and comfort, profoundly isolate them, and fill them with unremitting anxiety, humiliation, and fear. This can be ugly stuff. Unwashed, thrown into a cold and filthy cell, doused with ice water, subjected to long periods of blinding light and violent noise, alternately comforted and screamed at, slapped around, kneeled on, tied into uncomfortable positions, held in solitary for months at a time. They are repeatedly and carefully interviewed, sometimes elaborately tricked, and psychologically broken down. They are not physically tortured, but they are made to surrender their knowledge despite their most desperate effort to keep their knowledge to themselves. That's what military interrogation is. It's raw force. You beat the person down, mentally if not physically, but they are beaten nonetheless.

From a civilian perspective, these psychological techniques are brutal; from an interrogator's point of view, they are remarkably humane. This distinction brings us to the first of our basic problems - against whom may these abusive tactic be employed? It's one thing to abuse Bin Ladin this way, quite another to employ them against a bystander who was swept up in a routine operation.

My opinion is that a force continuum is appropriate here; these worst methods should only be applied to the worst people, those with the highest likelihood of providing essential information. Lesser level of force are appropriate for lesser levels of detainees. (I believe, but do not know for sure, that this sort of a graduated scale is currently employed by our forces).

Let's look at our list of allegations again:

1) Prisoners being stripped, humiliated, threatened, screamed at, slapped, and held under uncomfortable and substandard conditions.

2) Many of the prisoners who were abused in this way were not known to be cooperating with the enemy; a significant number of ordinary civilians may have been mistreated.

Now, it's possible that this is just the result of poor discipline, of unchecked brutality on the part of the captors. It's also possible that this is an initial application, correctly targeted or not, of established interrogation techniques.

Which is it? I don't know.

It may turn out that many of the people abused in this way where considered higher value detainees, people who fit our current criteria for this level of coercive force. It might not. This is one of the details that will come out.

3) Prisoners being doused with the liquid from chemical lightsticks.

I know for a fact that this is harmless; a few years ago, I got drunk enough at a Fourth of July celebration to do this to myself. The effect was impressive at night, especially when you allow the liquid to dribble out of your mouth. This is perfectly consistent with the sort of interrogation guidelines that I'd expect us to follow. It probably scared the crap out of these people, but it did them no harm.

4) Prisoners being unofficially photographed while being mistreated.

Now, this is bad - these photos convinced me that we have a serious command failure here. These guards are utterly undisciplined, and these photos caused substantial harm to the mission. Big mistake, no doubt about it. But is it torture? No, not if the images they captured were images of authorized behavior. If they were not authorized, then yes, we are seeing nothing more than common brutality and it should be severely punished. We'll know when the investigation is complete.

5) A few instances of more severe activity - beatings, sexual abuse, rapes, and possible murders.

Unforgivable. Early reports suggest that the sexual abuse was done exclusively by other Iraqis, under our employ. However, their leadership - our officers - are utterly responsible for this.

Other reports suggest the possible murders may have been the actions of a single CIA officer, currently under investigation. If these allegations are true he will spend the rest of his live in prison where he belongs.

There may well have been a cover-up. There were probably a variety of command failures, at different levels of our military, than allowed unchecked abuses to continue. There may have been some real brutality on the part of some of our people on the ground. Some of this is certainly the case, and everyone wants to see justice done.

However, we may also find that there is much less here than there seems to be. This is a military prison where detainees were being prepared for interrogation, and if we wish to be fair, the allegations have to be viewed through that lens. It is possible (but by no means certain) that this is not quite as simple, or as terrible, as it first appears.


There seems to be a perception among some people that the military stonewalled the investigation into this abuse, that they failed to take action after the Taguba Report was made available to them. That's nonsence.

Here is an excellent timeline of events compiled from various media sources. (Via IP)

The Taguba Report was released in Feburary. A month earlier we had already canned a General and had two courts martial ready to go!

We were on this right from the start, and conducted our investigation honorably.


The New Conservatives
Saturday, May 1, 2003

Before I dive into this, I want to remind everybody where I stand; I am neither a conservative nor a liberal, a Democrat nor a Republican. I'm not even a Libertarian, believe it or not - I scored a whopping 16 out of 100 on the Libertarian Purity Test, and I'll seriously question the sanity of anybody who scored over sixty.

I have any number of left-wing views that I am proud to defend, and I happily hold a similar number of right-wing opinions. I bitterly oppose both the Democrats and the Republicans on a number of issues, and I even support some things which no current politician would ever seriously recommend. Basically, I'm a mutt. (Sure, 9/11 turned me into a hardcore hawk so that makes me a Bush fan for now, but if 9/11 never happened I'd probably be crucifying the guy).

I believe that partisanship is a good thing, and that debate, moderation, and competition serve us well in government. I have good friends on all sides of the issues and I'd think much less of myself if I did not. There are good ideas all around, and I am convinced that no ideology is good enough to provide all the answers, all the time.

Having said that, I'd like to point out something that I think is kind of important. This is likely to annoy some of you, but honestly, I'm not going just for the cheap shot here. I really mean this:

The Democrats Have Become The New Conservatives

I'm serious. Take a quick look at their big domestic issues now:

Don't weaken abortion laws.
Don't weaken affirmative action laws.
Don't weaken the public school system.
Don't weaken the unions.
Don't weaken welfare.
Don't weaken environmental laws.
Don't weaken gun control laws.
Don't weaken liability laws.
Don't weaken Medicare.
Don't weaken Social Security.
Don't get too far into debt.
And of course, stop taking so many chances overseas.

There is no innovation here, no new plan or new future, nothing bold or risky or daring. It's a gigantic holding action. The only real change ever discussed is an increase in scale, an increase of quantity rather than kind. You can run the same speeches from the 1980 race and nobody would notice the difference.

What about real reform, new ideas that might work or that might not? School vouchers, tort reform, individual Social Security accounts, eliminating subsidies, basing affirmative action on need rather than race - these are big ideas, things that just might take off and really work out well. These are not illiberal ideas, but they challenge the status quo and the Democrats generally oppose them.

Now, don't get me wrong, the Republicans are not exactly great innovators either, but they are supposed to be conservative. When these folks are beating you at the new ideas game, you know you got some serious problems.

Democrats claim (sincerely, I believe) to be devoted to the interests of the least among us, but in practice they seem devoted primarily to the status quo. Sure, our schools suck, but don't innovate; sure, Social Security is going broke, but don't change it; sure, lawsuits are eating us alive, but don't alter the rules of the game. In each case we are told it is unproven, it is too risky; this is the language of the conservative. The actual effectiveness of any program is always secondary to maintaining the stability of the program.

But surely there must be some times when the Democrats take the lead? Are they pushing hard for gay marriage? Rolling back the drug war? Backing the little guy and reforming copyrights in a way that makes us proud? Addressing illegal immigrants by some method that doesn't involve all of us looking the other way?

Nope, nope, nope, and nope. Their big domestic ideas of the decade - the decade! - were NAFTA and welfare reform. They were damn good ideas, too, but sadly, they borrowed each of them from their opponents, and passed both of these measures against the wishes of their core.

Left to their own devices, they will always fall back on the tried and true. The central core of virtually every domestic issue the Democrats address is to make the tax system even more progressive than it already is. Tax the poor less, and tax the rich more, and increase funding to every program we have, even if that program has hopelessly failed us again and again. The schools suck? Increase funding. The elderly are getting older? Increase funding. Lawyers sucking the money out of the hospital's budget? Increase funding. Just please, never, ever cut anything. Change nothing. Leave all our programs alone.

This is the most reactionary group of people I've ever seen in my life. Anything that can't be fixed with more spending is fixed with top-down control. Steel workers losing their jobs? Impose a tariff. Porn on the internet? Ban it. Tobacco smoke in your favorite restaurant? Pass a new law. In classic conservative form, their gut instinct in the face of uncertainty is always to clamp down and control. Good forbid that anything should be left to sort itself out. God forbid that anything emerge unplanned.

Young people - college kids especially - often think that their face is the face of the Democrats. They think that their casual acceptance of sex, their easy tolerance of gays, their willingness to legalize pot, and their hope of a legal, file-sharing world is the sort of thing that the Democrats are putting together for them. They could not be further from the truth.

The face of the Democratic party is, more accurately, the face of the soccer mom - risk-adverse, parentalisitc, and always concerned for the sake of the children. Drugs are a horror, and even cigarettes are an unnecessary evil. Porn is not only distasteful, it's an actual physical hazard that causes violence against women. Public schools are virtual shrines, government regulators are on the side of the angels, and gay people can just go do their thing so long as they do it somewhere else, thank you very much. I don't want my kid getting any ideas.

The face of the Democratic party is not that of the hot chick you saw at the Phish concert. It's the face of Kyle's Mom from Southpark.

Perhaps their most conservative trait of all is their inability - and I choose that word carefully, I mean an actual inability - to understand that military matters have evolved substantially since the Vietnam War. It was what, like forty fucking years ago now? Listening to these people rehash the lessons of Vietnam is like listening to a dotty old retired general talking about World War One at the dawn of the nuclear age. Forty years is a long time. You don't buttonhole the captain of one of them new B-52s and offer advice on how to dig trenches. You certainly don't watch the Marines of 2004 take some third-world city and cry "Stalingrad". It's just not the way it is anymore.

To recap:

They want no fundimental change to exisiting domestic programs.
Their foreign policy is stuck decades in the past.
They reflexively address uncertainly with top-down control.
In every campaign, their Big Idea is always the same (a massive increase in an existing program, paid for by the wealthiest among us).
On domestic issues, they can recycle their speeches from two decades ago and nobody would notice the difference.
The only real innovations they have actually passed since '84 have come from the other side.

This, my friends, is a conservative political party.

And speaking to my liberal friends - if I have any left at this point - I'd like to offer a suggestion, of which you would almost certainly approve:

We really don't need another conservative party. One is quite enough.


Update: You had to know this was coming...


Feces Flinging Monkey

The Gore Melt-Down

Vodkapundit notes the curious media silence following Gore's speech; for something as newsworthy as an hour-long rant by a former Vice President, it has received remarkably little coverage.

Betsy's Page (one of my favorite blogs) reprinted this excerpt of John Podhoretz's comments. I think he gets it exactly right [emphasis mine]:

I am not kidding or trying to score a cheap rhetorical shot when I say that watching Gore rant and rave and scream and yell and lose all connection with reality, common sense and even proper comportment at this moment of great stress for the Republic, even his most passionate supporters should thank God that he was not the one whose hand was on the Bible on Jan. 20, 2001.

In a speech yesterday denouncing U.S. policy in Iraq, he compared George W. Bush first to Richard Nixon, which is excessive. Then he compared Bush to Faust and said the president had lost his soul in pursuit of a policy of "domination."

He accused the United States of setting up an "American Gulag," thus comparing the incidents at Abu Ghraib to Josef Stalin's vast slave-prison archipelago that shackled nearly 30 million people in an Arctic wasteland and caused the deaths of many millions more.

He has, in essence, declared that the monstrous American creeps we've seen in the Abu Ghraib photographs are victims as much as those they humiliated: "On the list of those he let down are the young soldiers who are themselves apparently culpable, but who were clearly put into a moral cesspool. The perpetrators as well as the victims were both placed in their relationship to one another by the policies of George W. Bush."

[...] A man who was very, very nearly president of the United States has been reduced to sounding like one of those people in Times Square with a megaphone screaming about God's justice. It is almost impossible to believe that this man was once vice president of the United States.

Just Think...


This guy could be president now.

Suckered Again

That ultra-cool story about the Russian girl who rode her motorbike through the wreckage of Chernobyl is probably a fake.


Another Myth Dies

Saddam was not supporting Al Queda. You've heard that one before, right?

Well, the wild-eyed conspiracy theorists at ABC News beg to differ...

US Lawyer Not Madrid Bomber

An American lawyer was arrested after the FBI matched his fingerprints to a bag used by terrorists during the Madrid bombing.

They fucked up the match. It wasn't him.

Most people have no idea how sketchy fingerprint evidence really is.

Do You Have An Irish Grandparent?

Can you prove it?

If you can, you can probably get a Irish passport, and enjoy the benefits of dual citizenship.

If you're the sort of person who might like to work in Europe someday, this can be a very big deal for you.

(Via C90)

That Didn't Take Long

Justice is served to yet another Hamas leader; extra crispy, no fries.


There's More To It Than Laser-Guided Bombs And Thermal Gunsights

Another example of the unheralded courage of our allies. Thank god these people are on our side.

(Via IT)

This Is Unforgivable

I'm sorry, but there is just no excuse for this - these machines should not be used to count votes.

If any private company showed the sort of negligence that the county government is currently displaying, they would be sued out of exisitance.

Nader On The Ballot In Florida

And Michigan! And Colorado! And four other states, too! Yeerrgghh!

Go for it, you stupid, psychotic bastard. Run! Run like the wind!

Iraq War "Unwinnable"

Rep. John Murtha, the Democrat's idea of a hawk, claims the war in Iraq is "unwinnable". Our options, he says, are to either restart the draft, or "get out".

Them democrats sure scare easy, don't they?

I'll suggest a different approach to winning the war:

Click for larger version. Yes, you may make a copy.

Here's a hint: one of these suggestions might actually happen.

Prisoner Abuse Update

There seems to be a perception among some people that the military stonewalled the investigation into this abuse, that they failed to take action after the Taguba Report was made available to them. That's nonsence.

Here is an excellent timeline of events compiled from various media sources. (Via IP)

The Taguba Report was released in Feburary. A month earlier we had already canned a General and had two courts martial ready to go!

We were on this right from the start, and conducted our investigation honorably.

Don't Be Stingy With That Rope

...or else the fat bastard won't be able to hang himself, and all his friends.

I'd like nothing more than for Fahrenheit 911 to be widely released right before election day. Let's associate the political left with Michael Moore at every opportunity, and maybe he can kill John Kerry's future as quickly as he killed Wesley Clark's.

The Puppet Theaters

John Weidner nails it with this post.

Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel

Look, it's really quite simple:

My economic policy is not to export American jobs, but to reward companies for creating and keeping good jobs in America. Unlike the Bush Administration, I want to repeal every tax break and loophole that rewards any Benedict Arnold CEO or corporation for shipping American jobs overseas. [2/10/04]

...so we will, I pledge to you, shut down every loophole, every incentive, every reward for every Benedict Arnold CEO or company that want to exploit the tax code and take jobs and money overseas at the expense of the American people... [2/3/04]

...so help me God, we're going to rip out of it and kill any incentive, any reward, any benefit for any Benedict Arnold company or CEO that ships jobs out of this country because of it... [2/8/04]

...remove every single provision that gives a benefit or a reward to any Benedict Arnold CEO or corporation for sending jobs or profits overseas - and sticks you with the bill. [1/19/04]


But the Benedict Arnold line applied, you know, I called a couple of times to overzealous speechwriters and said 'look that's not what I'm saying.' Benedict Arnold does not refer to somebody who in the normal course of business is going to go overseas and take jobs overseas. That happens. I support that. I understand that. [5/3/04]

I guess he's talking about those other corporations. You know, the ones who ship jobs overseas in some special way that's not in the normal course of business. You know! I'm sure you can think of some examples yourself. I mean, there have to be some examples... it's not like this guy has just been lying for the last six months, right? Anybody?


"Overzealous speechwriters". What an ass.

(Via FR)

Meanwhile, In Enlightened Europe

... you still can't get a grape tomato. They're illegal.

By The Way...

Don't forget to observe May Day this year.

Quote Of The Day

You've probably heard the good news - Thomas Hamill, captured three weeks ago in Iraq, escaped from his captors unharmed.

Helped arrest two of his captors, too!

Dig a little deeper, and the story gets better. James at Hell In A Handbasket found this gem:

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters Hamill was in good health. "He has spoken to his family. He is now ready to get back to work," Kimmitt said.

Damn. That guy's tough.

Two Worlds

Two men shot at a passing car today. When the car spun off the road, the men walked up to it and machine-gunned the five people inside - a pregnant woman and her four daughters.

Here's how Aljazeera reports it:

Palestinian resistance fighters have killed five Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip before being shot dead by Israeli occupation troops.

[...] The violence erupted as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud party cast votes on his plan to pull settlers and soldiers out of Gaza, home to 1.3 million Palestinians.

Wow. The violence simply erupted, just like that.

If Arafat survives though the weekend I will honestly be surprised. Violence can erupt almost anywhere.

Don't Let Anybody Tell You It's Easy

Here's an especially good story about an Australian sniper who served during the Korean war.

I suppose I should be grateful that I can't even imagine what this was really like.

(Via TB)

None Shall Provoke Me With Impunity


Day By Day, by Chris Muir. Used with permission.

Day By Day, by Chris Muir

Cox And Forkum, Used with permission.

Achewood, by Chris Onstad. Used with permission.

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