August 27, 2005

Don't Overplay Your Hand

I was reading a piece about invading Iran on Chicago Boyz, basically a hypothetical or a thought experiment more than a real examination. It was intended to focus on the argument that attacking Iraq made us less able to attack Iran, and I found this part thought-provoking:
    Now, assuming that we decide to use force to deal with Iran, would we be in a better or worse position if we hadn't dealt with Iraq? Without a large body of troops already in Iraq, how exactly would we invade Iran? Over the mountains of Afghanistan? From Kuwait? Let's not be silly. Not only that, if you don't think we can invade Iran with an active insurgency in Iraq, how'd you like to try an invasion and occupation of Iran with Saddam Hussein in power next door? Maybe invade both at once? (Actually, that wouldn't have been a bad idea two years ago... better to be hung for a sheep, as they say. What're people going to do, accuse us of imperialism?).
It seems to me that by calling the Bush Administration fascist, imperialist and murderous, the hand has been WAY overplayed. If the Administration were to do something ACTUALLY fascist then the legitimate complaints could get lumped with the bad ones. It weakens the arguments.

Just like taking pills builds up a tolerance and a partial immunity, overplaying a political hand continuously for five years weakens your arguments and the influence they have over the audience.

Now, of course it actually doesn't make sense that attacking Iraq made us weaker in dealing with iran. If anything, the Libya effect acts to persuade the Iranians to stop fucking around and get on board, while the military board is FAR more favorable with access through the Iraq-Iran border, as well as the less accessible Afghanistan-Iran border. In a way, the Western powers overplayed their hand on nuclear proliferation by talking about it for years and years but not backing it up when it counts. The US action against Iraq, not just bombing but an actual invasion, definitely restores credibility behind a US threat.

Remember, Iran, Saddam was convinced up until mid-March, 2003 that France, Russia and Germany would stop the US invasion of his country. Don't think that the US would be scared to blow up some reactors if in two, five or ten years you're still non-compliant and threatening the world (Israel did it to the Iraqi Osirak reactor in the 1980s). Of course, here's hoping that diplomacy will pull out some really victories here.

Still, better a definitive military solution that fixes the problem than a feel-good diplomatic situation that only facilitates proliferation (exactly what happened in the 1994 Agreed Framework deal with North Korea).

The real reason some people think Iraq puts us in a worse position to attack Iran is that they see things in terms of victimhood. The US attacking Irq is a non-victim thing to do, so we're not in a good place to do more non-victim things. Cindy Sheehan, however, lost her son and that allows Maureen Dowd to bestow upon Sheehan the power of "absolute moral authority" for her victimhood. Certain people don't see it in terms of effectiveness or of overreach, but in Kindergarten terms of reference like meanies, bullies and so forth.

This sort of perspective would say that our victimhood gained by 9/11 was spent on the Taliban, overdrawn by Iraq, and that iran is just too far from our reach. It's not based in military strategy, since if anything we'd have more trouble holding down the no-fly zones over Saddam and invading Iran from Afghanistan, and it's not based on effectiveness, since even a horrible, violent quagmire in iran would still allow us to bomb their nuclear facilities. I really don't want to go to war with the Iranians, because I have many hopes for reform and a little hope for diplomacy. However, let's not assume that Iraq made us worse off in dealing with these guys.

Iraq gave us teeth to add to our threats, and it shows that even against a brutal insurgency and a chorus of negativity from allied countries we can make good on our threats. Libya's learned its lessons, and it's not going to help Iran's position to have a US ally on their border. Now what we need to do is hold up the carrot to balance the stick: dropping the sanctions and engaging in normal relations if they drop all the nuclear work and join the NPT.
Ruffini Straw Poll

The results of the Ruffini GOP straw poll are out. He had a list of a good 15 or so potential candidates, and then a second vote that included four fantasy candidates or the option of standing with the original.

In the original, I voted for Brownback of Kansas. First off, he's the brother-in-law of my second cousin (the brother of my mom's cousin's husband, which I think works out to second cousin's brother-in-law) so I have some familial connection. Honestly, though, I voted for him based on a few things that have nothing to do with family. He was elected to the House in the class of 1994 (heady times, those) and in 1996 he won Bob Dole's vacated seat. He definitely strikes me as a major idealist all around (he's one of the Republicans that self-termlimited and won't run for the Senate again in 2010), and he's clearly a pretty intelligent guy with a penchant for symbolism. He's pretty big on Christianity (he became a Catholic in 2002) but he's good at hitting messages with a more universal appeal. Mostly, I like him because he's pro-life and he favors more action with regard to genocide in Darfur. I'm not stuck to him, I just think it's a tragedy that it's such a non-issue.

Brownback will probably get backing from Santorum, a Senator I'm not particularly wild about, and he's already been pre-endorsed by Pat Robertson, which is not a particularly positive note. I suspect that Sam and I have profoundly different views on how a lot of the world works (though not so profound as my differences with most Democrats) and I might not be able to back him in good conscience down the road.

Giuliani won the straw poll strongly, with Allen coming in second. The four fantasy candidates, Condi, Cheney, Jeb and Fred Thompson, came out in that order in a lineup against each other and the regular candidates. Condi won in pretty much every formulation and in every group, which is funny for someone that never ran for office and has so many unknown positions. Actually, it's probably because of her many unknown positions that it's so easy to maintain popularity across the moderate-conservative divide, allowing every to see that she's intelligent, independent and accomplished.

I voted for Fred Thompson because his movies are awesome, as his persona, and because in the few media appearances where I have seen him he's always thoughtful, articulate, discerning and earnest. Very likable guy, as far as I'm concerned.

I was definitely not going to vote for Tancredo, and it would take a long, long campaign of endless socialism from the Democrats to get me to vote Tancredo instead of libertarian or write-in.

I don't have too many specific grievances against Pataki, except that he's pro-choice and just seems so dull and blah.

Huckabee is a poor choice, given his abysmal ranking from CATO on the Governoir's report card for fiscal solvency, and his recent foray into fighting childhood obesity (teen anorexia/bulimia is a far more real danger than fat kids).

I am still tempted to vote Hagel for his experience and his good record on fiscal issues, but I'm really off-put by what appears to be a real lack of interest in democracy-promotion as a foreign policy.

McCain would be awesome for his foreign policy, which in many ways is more passionate and intellectually rigorous than even the President's, but his domestic agenda would be more muddling and populist (BCRA, anyone?) aside from being pro-life and pro-tax cut.

Bill Frist seems like a good guy but I don't really get a strong sense of what he'd do in office.

Romney wouldn't be horrible, but aside from political triangulation being Massachusetts, Michigan and Utah I don't know what he'd campaign on.

I kind of like Allen, and he seems energetic, but I'm waiting to hear more from him.

I'm perpetually uncomfortable with Newt given what I know of his personal life, but he is a pretty well-spoken and visionary guy otherwise.

Rudy doesn't really have very defining domestic stances, and seems to me more like an empty vessel into which socially moderate bloggers inject their complaints about the GOP conservatives.

The whole affair only serves to remind me that it's WAY early in the process from a voter's point of view, and that none of them are close to perfectly matching my politics.

In conclusion, no to Tancredo, yes to Fred Thompson.
September Elections and the Free Liberals

The German and New Zealand elections are both coming this September, and the situations are roughly similar. Both are social democratic incumbents seeking third terms despite rocky terms in office and both electoral systems are mixtures of proportional representation (PR) and member districts (MDs). The German Christan Democrats and Free Democrats are essentially populist conservatives and free liberals, roughly akin to the New Zealand National and ACT parties. Of course, the German CDU is more conservative than the the Nationals, and the New Zealand ACT is pro-Iraq war while the German FDP isn't so much.

Germany will probably see Angela Merkel as Prime Minister in September, hopefully leading a coalition with the FDP. The Free Democrats aren't my personal favorite for foreign policy (no German party has anything like a foreign policy platform befitting a would-be permanent member of the UN Security Council) but they are the only ones backing anything remotely like an American-style free-market system. Were I German, I'd send my party vote to the FDP. It's been considered that a grand coalition of the CDU and SPD might come out of the election, with the Greens, Left and Free Democrats left to the side. Here's rooting for another CDU-FDP government.

New Zealand is looking like Labor ("Labour" they call it) will win anothe term. Things could change, of course, and it's quite doubtful Labor could pick up an outright majority. More likely, Helen Clark will work together a makeshift coalition like she has now, with support of variuous fringers like the Progressives, Greens, United Future (formerly a Christian-centrist party) and New Zealand First. It's possible she'll enter into an alliance with Winston Peters' political self-indulgence the New Zealand First party, in the process giving him all sorts of concessions about spending, welfare, nationalization and of course limiting foreign influence (it's a sort of centristy nationalist grouping with awkward appeal, since Peters himself is a native Maori). That would greatly suck. It's also possible that National might pull ahead enough to get NZ1 to side with them, but that'd take a pretty decent electoral showing.

ACT is looking, as usual, like it won't even win seats in parliament at all. Of course, it's looked that way every year then it bumps up right at the end. They're making a hard push to win an electorate so that they're not totally subject to meeting the 5% party hurdle for entrance to Parliament. Were I a Kiwi, I would party-vote ACT as well as support whatever candidate they ran in the local electorate.

Person for person, ACT probably has the best MPs in New Zealand. It would be a shame to lose the lot of them, given the work they do both in keeping the government honest and in influencing the issues up for debate. They've been so successful at the latter that the ACT positions on welfare, taxes, Waitangi and so forth that were almost obscure a few years ago are parroted by most of the other parties. And unlike the german FDP, ACT is a force for a more deployable, more effective New Zealand military and would be a more reliable ally with Australia and the US (though bear in mind Clark eventually sort of sided with the US by sending very few soldiers to Iraq, at one point limited to a single Kiwi).

Even if the CDU and FDP win, I don't see the US endorsing a German permanent seat on the UNSC. Aside from the politics of adding along India, Brazil and Mexico along with Germany, I think the Germans really shot themselves in the foot by going gaga over obstructionism in 2002. They are not as reliable an ally as they ought to be given our otherwise close connections (trade, military and otherwise). It would really suck having to deal with China, France and germany as permanent members, threatening to veto everything we ever did. The one thing Germany would bring is being one of the least anti-Semitic countries in the world.

If National makes it to government with ACT, we could see a few things. One, no more Kyoto in NZ. It's already unpopular after an unexpected economic boom turned NZ from an anticipated net gain under Kyoto to an anticipated net-loss under it. Not enough Kiwis believe in the cause of Kyoto to spend money on it, because it only passed with the assumption that it would give the government a nice big check for having more carbon sinks (forests) than carbon production. Two, the nuclear ban on ships in NZ harbor would be lifted. It's already been shown that AUckland hospital is FAR more of a radiological hazard than ships at dock in NZ, and a Cold War-era protest makes no sense after the Cold War's ended, so the only reason left is to spite the US and France. The prospect of reactivating the ANZUS alliance (Australia, New Zealand, United States) is more valuable than petty spite, but so is the free trade deal to follow; the nuke ban is the single largest obstacle preventing New Zealand from getting free trade with the US like Australia has, and the US isn't going to move on an NZ-FTA until the ban is lifted.

Germany and New Zealand have been stuck with selfish, conniving, manipulative opportunists of the social democratic persuasion. It won't be a shoo-in, but here's hoping that united center-right parties can bring some common sense back to both of these countries.
Permanence and Honesty

I think one of the single greatest obstacles to ethical and honest behavior
is aninability to be properly critical of oneself. Learning to judge one's ideas, beliefs, actions and statements objectively is a wonderful way to expect fairer standards of others and higher standards of yourself. This can be applied to groups, clubs, businesses, countries, religions, or any other method of clustering together individuals.

One of the biggest reasons why self-criticality is unattractive is permanence. This isespecially prevalent with regard to groups and institutions that are effectively permanent. I wish to focus on two types: national and ethnic groups, and longstanding institutions.

A national or ethnic group has little incentive aside from honesty and intellectual consistency to admit its mistakes. The exception is when a mistake is extremely obvious or when another group (like the US military) forces you to admit wrongdoing (like the Japanese in WWII). Most of the lies or disagreements are about history, who was right, who started it, who did what, who deserved it, and so forth. The Japanese don't like to mention the Rape on Nanjing (which is also a function of the Japanese tradition of ancestor-worship, and of effectively absolving all dead of sins), andother groups don't like to remember their mistakes and crimes. The operative fallacy is collectivism and identity. If you draw your worth from an ethnic grouping, then a tainted ethnic grouping is a negative worth; if the group is bad, it reflects negatively upon you.

The problem is permanence. Very few ethnic or national groupings (except American and some others) allow as regular practice converts and recruits. Marriage and adoption aside, if you're born X then the Y group doesn't think you can be Y. The permanence generally works the opposite way: if you're born X then you die X. This creates a strong incentive to make X ethnicity more valuable and not to admit too many negatives. You can't just drop X and become a Y or Z if X becomes associatedwith some past injustice.

Permanence - tradition - is a major factor in denying the truth and in avoiding objectivity about the actions of one's group.

The second group is institutions, by which I mean major ones. Essentially, I'm referring to governments and to orthodox religious institutions like the Catholic Church, and to branches of each like the military. The US military is notorious for being obsessed with its image and hiding scandals (though not with any particular skill or speed) and in basically trying to make itself look good. The biggest sign of this is that career officers that become anything approaching whistle-blowers are WIDELY presumed to have completely ruined their careers. The US military is in some ways crippled by this obsession with not disrespecting its image. Governments, too, have this impulse, but since disparate factions run governments there's a stronger opposite interest to expose mistakes and blame it on the other party.

The Catholic Church's problem with this issue is in, of course, the pedophilia scandals. The problem is of course confounded by the signature virtues of Christianityand Catholicism, namely forgiveness and confession, but it seems to me that this is more than just forgiveness. The pedophilia scandals of the Catholic Church are really about cover-up, otherwise why would all of these incidents be secret? It's an image thing, and it goes to the root of the institution as a permanent covenant between God and man (if I have any grasp of the theology).

Thepermanence of the Catholic Church contrasts with the less central role played by the Protestant churches. Those denominations change, sort and shuffle with times, and the internal factions and individual churches can move about. Although the lack of criticality is a problem general to people, it's less prevalent in institutions when they can be redefined or regrouped more easily.

Governments, ethnicities and major institutions like militaries or longstanding churches are all nearly permanent by design or in effect. They cannot be replaced easily, nor can deep-seated changes be cultivated quickly.

If a business, for example, commits some error in judgment or in its business model, it disappears. Enron was bankrupt by the end of November, 2001 and otherbusinesses caught in scandal and corruption fall as quickly. The guilty people hid from blame, but the people who did nothing wrong felt no real compulsion to protect Enron's reputation - why should they hide the truth when they did nothing wrong and when they could easily (job market cooperating) replace the impermanent Enron with another employer? Investors pull out, employees quit or are fired, and the capital and labor is moved into other businesses as soon as it's available. The military, the government, and ethnicities normally don't go out of business in the same way. We wouldn't just decide that this military is flawed and fired the entire Pentagon and all the soldiers.

It might be the case that an ethnicity incapable of dealing with the past or with a tainted history would fall out of favor with its members, who might leave outright or simply pay little or less attention to ethnic pride. But since ethnicity is often used (wrongly) as a proxy for describing its members, it would go right to character of the members if an ethnicity were widely known to have engaged in bad acts.

It might also be the case that a soldier or a Catholic, driven by a sense of duty or ethics, would forgo the potential backlash or bad press and openly acknowledge any wrongdoing colleagues have committed. The hypothesis, as it were, is not meant to be ironclad, nor is it meant to apply forever, everywhere in perpetuity. In general, however, the behavior of groups of people toward relatively permanent institutions will tend towards uncritical boosterism; more replaceable, less permanent institutions will be more prone to honest (and dishonest) criticism.

The permanence, in effect or in design, encourages a lack of self-critical behavior. The degree to which an institution is permanent or difficult to replace is the degree to which, ceteris paribus, its members will be influenced to dishonestly defend its reputation.

The assumption I could draw from this is that flexibility, individuality and decentralization of society (not just of government) encourage a more rigorous honesty. None of this is ironclad, of course, since there will always be other motivations for people to lie or to tell the truth. However, I submit that societal centralization and tradition in general are often formidable enemies of honesty.

August 23, 2005

Robertson on Chavez Assassination

Pat Robertson said on his show 700 Club this of Hugo Chavez, the anti-democratic President of Venezuela:
    We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.
He said that we should assassinate Chavez, largely because it's more effective and far cheaper than going to war. In principle, I agree, but I don't think Chavez currently qualifies.

Targeted killing of enemy leaders should be an openly stated goal of the United States. In my opinion it should be done in cases where there is some sort of congressional authorization, and only after the person in question refuses to surrender peacefully. We should admit to taking out the leader after it's done, because there's nothing to hide, and before it's done it should be clearly stated that not surrendering leaves him open to being killed. It requires more nuance than this, and ultimately it would be hard to kill leaders because they'd know to either surrender or go into hiding.

I don't think Chavez should be killed, though. It's quite likely that the election irregularities are the visible signs of him stealing the elections. The massive protests from what appears to be a majority of the country - business, labor, media, professionals - sugfgests that his only supporters are the rural poor. His actions in nationalizing land and business, including the oil industry and seizing lands together equivalent to the size of Belgium, betray his opinions on privacy and individual autonomy. His friendship with Castro, Saddam and the FARC terrorists in neighboring Colombia, not to mention the two separate coup attempts he led in the early 1990s against his own country, show his anti-democratic biases. His plans to re-establish Venezuela as a quasi-fascist "Bolivarian Revolutionary" state and to establish an anti-NATO, anti-US military coalition out of South American states show his deep-seated anti-US, anti-Western biases.

But he isn't fighting a war and he isn't committing genocide. He definitely needs to be out of power, but I don't think military action is justified. We shouldn't go to war with Chavez, and so we shouldn't use soldiers to kill him. Although targeted killings of enemy leaders is far quicker and cheaper than war, we shouldn't take that to mean that it should be done with far less evidence or cause than a war would require.

So, I agree in principle that we should use targeted killings, but I don't believe Chavez yet qualifies for such an action.
Buchananite or Kossack?

A commenter on DailyKos:
    Republic vs. Empire

    From what I've been reading it boils down to the question of whether we want to be a Republic or an Empire.

    For a long time (decades) most politicians in both parties assume we want to be an Empire.
Pat Buchanan's 1999 book was entitled A Republic, Not An Empire, and was about substantively the same choice. Of course, considering Buchanan's work with Nader against markets and trade and his general leeriness of corporations and business, we shouldn't be surprised when the left starts returning the admiration.

August 22, 2005

The Ethics of Torture

Set aside for a moment domestic laws and ratified international agreements regarding torture. Forget the implications of torture with regard to public or world opinion. When is physical torture ethical and when is physical torture unethical?

I have a simple jumping-off point: torture is not inherently unethical. Torture itself is morally neutral and can even be used in the service of both moral justice (inherent good) and pragmatic deterrence (instrumental good). We must again set aside everything but the act of torture; slippery slopes, bad press, criminal prosecutions are all irrelevant in this academic bubble. Torture can be good and torture can be bad, because torture is nothing more than a certain type of violence. Torture and violence are neutral actions. Of course, both of them can have tremendously bad consequences if used lightly - but again, forget the slippery slope for now.

Let's say that we have a terrorist whom we know is a terrorist. Just to be clear that this is a bad guy, we'll say our hypothetical terrorist both planned and undertook lethal actions against innocent men, women and children for being of the wrong nationality, race or faith.

Torturing this terrorist is a moral good when it serves justice; a lot of people don't like vengeance, but I'm personally a big fan of vengeance. Yay, vengeance. In my view, it is inherently good to punish the terrorist for the murders he committed, up to and including taking his life.

Torturing the same terrorist is an instrumental good when it deters or prevents future terrorist actions. This is why state torture generally exists: to beat information out of people. I'm not aware of the track record on how often good information can be physically tortured out of someone, but that sort of consideration would be critical to determining how instrumentally good torture would be; instrumentally-good torture is contingent on getting usable information to prevent further harm, or to deter terrorists for fear of being tortured.

Of course, what the terrorist and his ilk do to innocent people is also torture. Chopping off the heads of journalists and diplomats is decidedly torture. They are particularly brutal and will commit their torture against wholly innocent people for the sake of media coverage. Their torture is inherently bad because it is performed against innocent people.

That's the key to being inherently moral: the target must be deserving. The actor is irrelevant; the target is everything. A terrorist torturing a terrorist is inherently good, and a FBI agent torturing an innocent civilian is a moral bad. This brings us into the intent and thoughts of the torturers. It's my opinion that the act is separate from the actor's thoughts. Someone who enjoys torture on a visceral level (perversion, sociopathy, psychopathy, etc.) is an immoral person, whether or not the torture is moral or not. One terrorist could torture another terrorist out of a personal desire to kill a human being, making him an immoral person, while the act of torturing the targeted terrorist would be good for reasons of justice and vengeance. For the reverse to occur (good actor, bad act) would require a case of mistaken identity on the part of a well-intentioned torturer. Mistaken identity is perhaps the best argument in the case against real-world torture.

It's all well and good to confirm that violence, including torture, has its positive uses. If we lift the academic bubble, however, we can see that it's potentially quite dangerous to allow.

First, torturing people not convicted of crimes leaves open the very real possibility that an innocent person is being tortured. This is a problem, because there is no inherently good torture against an innocent person. Moreover, it's hard to get good intelligence from an innocent person (natch). And of course, the potential backlash from torturing someone later proven conclusively to be innocent would be severe.

Second, torturing guilty people might eventually lead to torturing people merely suspected of guilt, or to torture being accepted in everyday domestic crimes. Torture has long been a part of the police arsenal in many countries, and even in some liberal democracies the line against torture (including the protection against self-incrimination) is not nearly as strong as it really ought to be. This is the slippery slope argument.

Third, there's again the pragmatic question of whether torture is the best or even a good way of getting information. It's very possible that a beaten and bloody suspect will simply lie and give up bad or dangerous information in order to spare himself. Desperate people, especially desperate murderers that hate you and your 'people,' aren't great sources of information. The experts could better speak to this question than I could, however.

Fourth, we have a longstanding tradition, rightly so, of protecting the criminals and miscreants in our charge. They are fed, clothed and sheltered, given the right to legal recourse and appeals, and have the right to confidential interaction with their lawyers. I would not feel comfortable losing any of these rights, even for convicted murder-rapists. There's another question whether foreign combatants captured in period of war or conflict are covered by some or any of these protections, of course. The biggest pressure to use physical torture is against those held abroad (including Guantanamo) as terrorists or suspected terrorists.

Fifth, of course, is the potential backlash at home and abroad that torture would produce. It's no fun being told what to do or changing actions to avoid bad reactions, but if the underlying action is a mixed blessing then something like bad press is a pretty good reason. After all, if it ends up encouraging hatred of our country or if it ends up weakening our other foreign policies (like liberalization and democratization) then it's an instrumental bad.

I simply don't think it's appropriate for the state to engage in torture. If the state is going to exact vengeance, it should be done through incarceration and the death penalty, and after trials, appeals, counsel and all the rest. It's unnecessary for vengeance, so if it's justified it must be for pragmatic reasons. I'm not convinced that better information comes from a torture policy than from other avenues, nor am I delighted by the potential backlash or the slippery slope possibilities. I think the value of being a role-model nation is far greater than any supposed increased intelligence assets we may garner. The military conflicts we're fighting are important, but the political struggle to democratize the Middle East is the real conflict.

State torture itself is not automatically immoral, but it is a danger that risks the lives and liberties of innocents and threatens to undermine our primary foreign policy objective with regard to democratization. We should strongly restrict physical torture of those detained by our forces or our allies, avoid turning over captives to notorious torturing groups, and limit ourselves to more subtle and effective methods of gathering intelligence.

August 21, 2005

Religion in the Iraqi Constitution

Many people are concerned over the drafting of the Iraqi constitution and the role given to religion within it. I know why they're worried, but I think it's a relatively poor indicator.

It would be wonderful if a non-sectarian, non-religious constitution came out of Iraq. Religion has no need to be included in a legal document. It's entirely appropriate in a declaration like our Declaration of Independence or something along those lines. A declaration simply states what's going on and what we value. A constitution is a framework for the bounds and authority of the state, and the rights and avenues for redress open to the populace. Religion can be a valuable inspiration, but it's not particularly useful to codify explicitly sectarian values in law.

However, if the constitution does come out with religious gobbledygook about Allah being the supreme source of law, or the inspiration and reliance on the sharia, it's not immediately the end of the world or even of the democratic reforms in Iraq. The Egyptian constitution says the same thing: "Islam is the Religion of the State. Arabic is its official language, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia)." Egypt is no picnic of a government, being deceitful, authoritarian, socialist and dictatorial, but it is one of the more secular countries in the Arab world. In fact, one of the main justifications that Mubarak and his supporters use to justify their anti-democratic rule is to ask democrats whether they want to let the Muslim Brotherhood into power. The constitution might say one thing, but that doesn't mean the government or the society is controlled by radical Muslims.

It might be something done for political purposes, it might be done out of habit and tradition, it might be done to undercut religious opposition, or it might be a sign of much more troubling things to come. I'm definitely rooting for a nonsectarian Iraqi founding document, but if one fails to emerge I don't think we should overreact to what it might mean. Let's not focus on what their rhetoric is, good or bad, and instead make sure that they protect the rights and privileges of their citizens.

Whatever happens, women got to vote in the last election. I don't think things are looking rosy for the religious zealots in Iraq, no matter what flowery phrases they might get inserted in the preamble.
Sheehan's Insanity

I earlier blogged that the President is under no obligation to meet with Cindy Sheehan but that he should anyway in order to call her bluff. I don't think that's still appropriate. If Cindy Sheehan is willing to apologize for, retract and/or condemn some of her worst statements, then I think it would be appropriate. Meeting with the President might even be a good way to tempt her into distancing herself from her absurd comments.

First and most prominently, it's not always fair that people are associated with support from politically controversial strangers, but the right thing for a public figure (Cindy Sheehan has courted the press, she's effectively a public figure) to do is to make clear her position. David Duke's support should be clearly supported or denounced. Duke specifically held her up as an opponent of the Jewish war and Jewish media. She should make clear her feelings on that endorsement. Additionally, this would be the point to make clear just what she meant in saying thatr her sent was sent to die "for Israel." That's an effectively anti-Semitic comment and she needs to clarify just what she meant. If it turns out she does condone (not agree with, but condone) anti-Semitism in thought or rhetoric then the President should not meet with her.

Second, she said America was not worth fighting for and has made statements saying that our entire history is dishonorable. If she's actually anti-American and not just misquoted then the President should not meet with her.

There's one thing to meet with a grieving mother making crazy statements to the media in order to respectfully disarm her "protest." After all, it's not like she's going to convince him to stop the war. It's another thing to meet with her when she's doing it in service of hatred or bigotry. Moreover, meeting with her sends a message; it's unfortunate that meeting with a crazy grieving mother sets a mild precedent for other crazy people, but it's much worse to set a precedent that you can make fun of an ethnicity or this country because of that pain and still meet with the President. It's not a bright line distinction, but it's a sufficient one.

And thirdly, Sheehan's remark insulting the President's daughters was just uncalled for. From Sheehan's original account of their meeting he was nothing but respectful of her loss. She has no reason to insult his children in that manner. Suggesting the President should be willing to risk his own children, though a character attack, is a valid rhetorical point (though not a convincing logical one, since a man could be a hypocrite in his actions but correct in his words) but there was no reason to insult the twins. She should apologize for that comment. Nobody in this debate has insulted her son and there's no reason to insult his daughters.

Sheehan's unlikely to apologize. She sounds just unhinged. She brings in the Jews, the neocon-PNAC agenda, the war for Israel sake; she calls a combat KIA 'murder,' calls the president's daughters names; she insults the country by saying it's not worth fighting for and then she wants to meet the President again in order to bitch and complain about it all. Sorry, that's just bonkers. It was bad enough when she just had bad opinions and was merely bordering on what a broad cross-section of Americans would call inappropriate.

She's gone past all that to have all sorts of crazy things to her name. I've heard she disputes that she said some of the things, and if so I retract all the relevant comments; if she has been misquoted I am sympathetic because there's little in this world so pernicious or lasting as a falsified anecdote. I really suspect that most or all of it is legitimately attributed to her, however.

If for some reason the President does decide to meet with her, I have several suggestions. One, include her in a meeting with other parents, so she doesn't monopolize the meeting. Two, have it be a meeting that was already scheduled, so she's not forcing a major change. Three, squeeze her in at the end, briefly, so that it doesn't detract unnecessarily from the experience of the other parents (and so they can simply leave if they don't want to hear it). Four, ideally the meeting will be at least three weeks away, so that her protest until then has no point and the coverage will die down, and will be neither in Crawford nor in the White House so that it doesn't require inviting her into his home. And five, listen respectfully, don't insult her, and answer with a concise defense of the war, a defense of this country, and an indictment of the terrorists.

Of course, at this point I'm not sure it's quite so good an idea to deal with her. I still think it would silence them because (quite stupidly) their one demand is for her to get a second meeting with the President. I don't see a lot of benefits to her from geeting a few minutes to rant about the Jews and the evil Americans to the President, and I do see benefit in him politely but firmly refuting her statements. It would be unfortunate for the President to meet with a woman that's made anti-Semitic and anti-American statements and who needlessly insulted his daughters. I absolutely don't blame him for not meeting with her even if she does apologize completely for all the boneheaded, bigoted or moonbatty comments she's made.

I guess I just appreciate the potential for contrast. There's Sheehan on one side, totally controlled by emotions, totally aligned with far-left political consultants and media representatives, talking about how evil the Jew-neocons at PNAC are, how they controlled the US into going to war for Israel, and how America deserves to lose. Then there's Bush on the other side, being decorous and resolute, reasonably pointing out that the terrorists attack people of all races and faiths, that they attack without cause, and that the blame must lie with the murderers and not the murdered.

August 19, 2005

Democrats Need Coercion

Apparently Democrats need coercion because they can't get away with their boneheaded ideas without lawmakers forcing rule changes on the economy. At least that's the first thing that popped into my head when I read what Air America tried to do to avoid paying for its mistakes. Plagued almost from the beginning by funding shortages and trouble with creditors - including a scandal involving an overdue substantial loan from the nonprofit Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club - in May 2004 apparently the management of AIr America dodged their debts by simply moving into a new shell corporation. It was the same management, but they tried to transfer the assets without transferring the liabilities. That's just dumb.

Of course, it's not directly related and just because people with a leftist bent run Air America doesn't mean leftists in general are this way. Still, the parallels of being tragically bad with money and unable to accept the consequences are funny, if not particularly enlightening.

August 18, 2005

Equality in the Military

I just had a passing thought that relates to the military, especially to female officers. Rather than distinguishing men and women with different standards, uniforms and address, maybe it would help promote unity if they were treated the same.

It's probably a bad idea to have coed showers and bathrooms, but I think expecting every soldier to fit the same weight and fitness training standards is an obvious step. Currently, there's a very explicit form of affirmative action going wherein there are widely different standards for men and women. This is part of the reason why keeping women out of combat might be a pragmatic good, since the military requires so much less from them. It's unfortunate that women are expected to be inferior to men, which helps perpetuate (not without merit) the idea that women have less of a place in the armed forces than men.

But beyond that step, which would almost certainly take an order from the President or an act of Congress to enact, the same uniforms and address should be used. Giving female soldiers and officers skirts and blouses, even relatively tough cuts and designs, helps set them apart from the men. Addressing them as "ma'am," even though it has a firm basis in language and history, can also serve to separate. I don't know how necessary or effective it would be, but maybe addressing female officers and male officers the same way could help to streamline some of the problems in the forces.

Of course, other issues of menstruation, sex, pregnancy and rape aren't going to go away because they're intrinsic to being women (although pregnancy and menstruation can be controlled through protection and chemistry). The problems of sexual harassment and of male soldiers compromising missions to save female soldiers aren't going to go away with uniform changes or adjusting the language involved.

However, given that the tradition of keeping women out of the military used to be longstanding and has now been done away with, it seems trivial to keep language or uniform traditions when there's at least a plausible reason for doing away with them. The least we can do is not keep sub-standard soldiers just for the sake of appearances. We don't change standards in order to make sure weak and slow people are represented in the military.

August 17, 2005

Barone's Blog

Michael Barone's blog is only a couple weeks old but it's already full of insightful commentary. Barone has a good grasp of politics and has a great track record, including publishing biennial editions of the Almanac of American Politics (the most recent one just came out). His blog is well worth reading, and so it's now going to the blogroll in the left column.
Nuclear Power

If you're worried about global warming, carbon/methane pollution, or the cost of oil/gas, then let's get some more nuclear plants in construction. More research would also be really great (especially if they ever prove cold fusion as possible).

It's great for the people scared of global warming, because it doesn't throw carbon, methane and other heat-trapping elements into the sky. Personally I have my doubts about some of the features of global warming theory, mostly focused on our inability to really prove much of anything about it, but it's moot if we move to nuclear power.

For those concerned about the negative effects of air pollution, nuclear power's negative pollution is more easily contained and controlled. I'll concede that disposing of nuclear waste is definitely an issue, especially given lengthy half-life issues, but I'll take pollution we can handle, transport and bury over pollution that's simply thrown up into the air. Nuclear waste is one of the biggest problems connected to the source, but I'd argue that it's more controllable and ultimately safer (I'll leave storage in Nevada aside for now).

Nuclear power is also not closely dependent on oil prices, which in the last decade have fluctuated from well under $20 a barrel to over $60 a barrel. The price of oil reflects a lot of factors, like the high demand in China, but it can also be skewed both by Middle Eastern politics and by various government interventions. The price is likely to be somewhat more stable and to be lowered as technology makes production and safety measures cheaper.

Personally, I think the benefits of nuclear power are many. Aside from powering the general grid, it could also be used to produce hydrogen fuel cells. Electrolysis is the process of running electricity through water to make hydrogen and water. When you recombine hydrogen and water you produce water and electricity. That means that running a car on hydrogen and oxygen produces only water as a side effect. The problem is that it takes power to separate the water, so hydrogen fuel cells are more like a way to make energy portable rather than directly produce energy. Using nuclear power to create hydrogen fuel cells could be a way to make cars run cleanly and efficiently (pollution and global warming aside, most people consider cleaner, nicer-smelling cars to be more valuable than the alternative). It would require redesigning the fuel tanks of cars, as well as getting the fuel cells to consumers (possibly direct delivery at first, then eventually just through fuel stations).

I don't think the benefits are obvious enough or alternatives' drawbacks critical enough yet to make the market support the change at this time. Especially since it appears there's still a large amount of oil left, other factors than oil-supply shortage would have to be the decisive one. I would think that techno-geeks and guilty, wealthy Democrats would be a good market for fuel cell cars; people with the means and interest in buying a fuel cell car for environemntalism or pure technological novelty. This is of course all just conjecture.

The appropriate policy response, however, is to slowly phase out all the energy meddling of the government - both the subsidies and industry supports that distort the market positively and the unnecessary, burdensome regulations that negatively distort the market. Eventually I suspect that the advantages of nuclear power will give it a greater role in providing both home and automotive energy.
I Can't Stand Ethanol

Ethanol is one of the dumbest things the federal government lays its hand on. Yes, I know every Senator wants to be President one day and Iowa is the first caucus state, but does that mean Iowans are incapable of sticking with USEFUL products and innovations?

With the energy costs of planting and harvesting, transporting and refining the corn to make ethanol it actually costs MORE energy to make ethanol than it produces on its own. Yes, the energy is going to force an extra four weeks of Daylight Savings Time on us (two weeks extra on both ends) and cost the airlines billions and travellers hassle time in being unsynchronized withour neighbors just to save a comparatively light amount of energy, but they continue to lavish subsidies on ethanol to cancel out those gains. Absolutely absurd.

This is why a planned economy is ludicrous. Not only are we all forced to foot the bill so that 100 Senators can avoid pissing off Iowa, but instead of the federal government being punished for making a bad investment, the administrators of the country's wackiest investment fund (the General Federal Revenue) are rewarded when they start campaigning 3 years and eight months before the next election.

Frankly, if corn producers in Iowa and elsewhere want to make ethanol - which is expensive, dirty, degrades engines and costs more energy to make than it produces - then they can damn well pay for it themselves. I'm not asking them to pay for my products and pretending that they're getting great benefits out of it. Ethanol isn't worth the cost and doesn't provide sufficiently marketable benefits.
Avoid Yahoo! Chatrooms At All Costs
By Adriana [Guest Blogger]
adrianicalism@gmail.com

Never debate in a Yahoo! political chatroom. A few weeks ago I found myself yearning for an angry anonymous internet brawl. Every so often I get a hankerin' to undermine the political beliefs of my fellow man. For some reason I decided to try Yahoo!. I found the voice chat feature especially cool. Yeah, instead of typing an excellent point that destroys your opponent's entire philosophy and then noticing your point got lost somewhere in between the porn bots and the fifteen year old posting the URL to his blog, the voice chat guarantees that you're heard. I also mistakenly thought that voice chat would ensure some minimum level of civility. In text chat your heart-felt and well-intentioned arguments tend to be misinterpreted. And forget about making a sarcastic remark. Boy, was I wrong.

I announced to Political Lobby 3 that I am a libertarian, that I believe in free markets and free people. Not really a controversial statement, I thought. Some ignorant southerner--an insult I liberally scattered throughout my subsequent conversations with him--saw my self-description and called me a "communist." A communist? I don't know, maybe I'm a little behind on my reading of the Communist Manifesto, but I am fairly sure 'communists' aren't down with 'free markets.' After repeatedly telling him that I'm a capitalist, that I oppose all coercive taxes, that I support free trade, that I'm against government interference in any sector of the economy, he shouted "commie!" one more time at me before putting me on ignore. He didn't actually, they never do, but he soon left the room after suggesting that I am a woman of loose moral standards. (He said that I'm a "whore" who is probably going to get pregnant in a year and have an abortion. So much for southern hospitality.)

I saw him again later that night and I tried to pin him down on the definition of "communist." He avoided the question, of course, clearly not knowing the meaning of the word, and resorted to attacking my age. Yes, apparently if you're 22 years old, you don't have the knowledge or requisite life experience to comment on, well, anything. I responded,"Yeah, I'm only 22, and it's sad that a 22 year old knows more about communism than a 50-year-old man." He started to brag that he fought in Vietnam as a marine for my freedoms - blah blah blah. Once he actually showed an interest in libertarianism, he said that I was a "silly and naive little girl" for objecting to government safety nets like Social Security, welfare, and health care. That's right - he called me a "communist" just before defending socialistic programs. I gave up trying to reason with him on any adult level after that.

I realized a few things from my Yahoo! chat encounter. 1) Drunk and uneducated older southern men like to frequent political chatrooms on weekday nights. 2) There aren't a whole lot of wacko conspiracy theorists in this world, but the few that do exist all seem to congregate in chatrooms. 3) I'd like to buy the world a dictionary and keep it company. 4) Sometimes I underestimate the intelligence of others, but I met some seriously bright and well-informed folks who actually taught me a bit. And finally, 5) Yahoo! chat contains some of the most vile, disgusting human beings on the internet. If you really need to sound off, join a message board for your own sanity.

August 16, 2005

The "Grieving Mother" Status Doesn't Excuse Blaming Israel

Cindy Sheehan, in mid-March:
    Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full well that my son, my family, this nation and this world were betrayed by George Bush who was influenced by the neo-con PNAC agendas after 9/11. We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy … not for the real reason, because the Arab Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy.
Look, everyone feels sympathy for the relatives, friends and spouses of soldiers that died in combat zones. But sympathy doesn't elevate bad ideas into good or even neutral ones. The best sympathy does is to soften or silence our criticism of grieving relations that say stupid, bigoted or untrue thing. And example would be when Mrs. Cosby blamed her son's death on racism, and saying that the Slavic immigrant who killed him must've learned his racism in the US because there is none over there.

Sympathy can get us to ignore it when somebody says something inarticulate or awkward, bigoted or cruel, because we realize that under normal circumstances they might not have said it aloud or even have thought it. But sympathy doesn't lend any credibility to a dumb argument.

When she blames Israel as the source of terrorism against us she gives an unhelpful and anti-Israel view of the world more credence. When she asserts that we fought Iraq for Israel, and repeatedly refers to the neocon PNAC agenda, she sounds like a frothing anti-Semite. Unfortunately, anti-Semites seem to agree with that view of Sheehan. Aside from Michael Moore's support, Sheehan's anti-Israel comment garnered her the support of David Duke (renowned racist and former Klansman). Here's Duke's blog entry giving a point-by-point description of how this is a Jewish war for Israel against America's interests.

I don't know that Sheehan hates Jews, but I do know she clings to the same irrational arguments that bigots like David Duke and Jew-hating terrorists use to make their points. She didn't say anything specific about Jews, but she mentioned the major points - she blamed the US and Israel instead of the terrorists, she said this was nothing but a war for Israel, and she asserted that a neocon cabal led by PNAC was behind the conspiracy to 'murder' her son. Taken together, the neocon/PNAC reference is an allusion to Jews controlling the government.

When somebody makes a reference to a Jewish person as a Fagan or a Shylock, they don't need to be explicit to be understood as anti-Semitic slurs. By the same token, when somebody says that the neocons at Project for a New American Century are controlling the government to wage war for Israel, and that America and Israel deserve to be terrorized and bombed over our allegedly joint foreign policy, it's not unreasonable to connect the dots and see an anti-Semitic conspiracy of sorts.

Maybe she's just spouting off theories she read on the Internet or something and she would be genuinely disgusted by bigoted explanations behind the war (that could very reasonably be opposed without the slightest tinge of hatred for Jews), in which case she ought to be perfectly clear about it. It's possible somebody might reference Fagan only for the stingy aspects and not realize that it's a longstanding anti-Jewish slur, and it's possible that somebody might talk about a PNAC conspiracy to send Americans to die fore the world's only Jewish state, but I'd say the assumption in both cases leans toward anti-Semitism.

Either way, what she said is wrong even if she herself is Jewish. It's bad logic, it's bad policy, it's bad IR and it's just idiotic. The terrorists have it out for us no matter what, they aren't going to stop, and they haven't stated a point at which they will stop fighting, killing, bombing and murdering. The same people fight in Chechnya (some of the 9/11 bombers were on their way to fight in Chechnya when an AQ recruiter stopped them in germany and invited them to training camps in Afghanistan) and in Sudan and in Kashmir, and none of those things are about Israel or America. Wholly irrational.

Again, the lefties should be careful about giving too much of a platform to Cindy Sheehan or she'll become something like the Jane Fonda of the war in Iraq.
New London's Punitive Measures

Apparently the national backlash against eminent domain in the wake of Kelo v. New London, including efforts in many states to limit or restrict its use, didn't get back to New London, CT. In addition to seizing the land of residents in order to give it to Pfizer for a corporate park, New London is now charging the residents back rent. The logic is that they lived on city property for the five years they were fighting the eminent domain. That's just punitive, whether or not it has any legal standing.

One resident is going to be charged around $300,000 in back rent, and the Kelos are going to be wiped out by a $57,000 bill. Not only that, but by state law the residents are getting the 2000 rate in compensation, not the 2005 rate (real estate is a lot more valuable right now). This is not necessary. I don't know how legally credible it is, but this seems obvious as a case of punishing people that tried to fight city hall.

If the legal case is weak, then I would hope some group or philanthropist will simply give the residents money to pay off the bills. In order to recoup the losses there could be an Internet fundraising drive. I don't think we could make the hundreds of thousands needed, but it's not right that these people will be bankrupted after being evicted.

Another good target for Internet fundraising would be to get the city officials tossed out at the next election. I'd put up some money for a good challenger candidate in New London that promises not to toss residents out of their homes for the sake of tax revenue.
From Wilson to Sheehan

Okay, so when Roberts was nominated some lefty bloggers said that it was a move to stop criticism of Rove over the Wilson-Plame business and the like (a satirical 'Rove' memo from one of the Huffington Post's eighty bajillion bloggers pops to mind). What's interesting is that the Cindy Sheehan business has actually been taken up as the cause of the week by raving lefties. She is the mother of a fallen Marine who decided that her earlier positive visit with Bush was actually a negative one, that she needs to get another visit with the leader of the free world for some reason, and that America and Israel are to blame for terrorism.

Silly me, I was blaming the people that strap bombs to jets and metros terrorism. Thank you, Cindy Sheehan, for explaining to me that the root of terrorism against the US is actually a 2003 invasion of Ba'athist Iraq. I guess Mohammed Atta and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the rest were just shrewdly attacking us in 2001 in order to preemptively respond to an invasion that hadn't happened yet. Your grasp of human nature and international relations astounds me.

If the left really thought the Rove-Plame-Wilson story was going anywhere, why did they drop it? Well, because it had so many holes shot through it. The evidence looks like Rove didn't do anything and he's allowed any reporter to discuss it, waiving his confidentiality as a source. Moreover, Wilson's supposed debunking of the African uranium story ha been itself debunked; there is good evidence of Saddam trying to buy uranium from Africa. Bringing up the story again just shows that there was good reason to think Saddam had weapons.

The story was very weak but momentum and the anger of the left kept it going, especially since reporters are extremely invested in a story about reporters and sources. When it was bumped by Roberts it was actually good for everybody because the left just looked stupid pushing the story as Rove's downfall when the most conclusive part of the affair was that Saddam WAS trying to get uranium from Africa.

The Cindy Sheehan story isn't that much better, though. She veers close to very dangerous waters when she blames America and Israel for being attacked. The balance of the story is lost:

- her original description of the meeting with Bush was very positive, but then much later she said it was a negative meeting
- her family disagrees with her and thinks the son would not appreciate what she's doing
- she can't be reasonably cast as a simple grieving mother, given that she's using political consultants, press representatives, and even doing television ads
- she's way overplayed her hand on opposing the war by blaming America and Israel, which is very unpopular and damaging with most Americans, including moderate opponents of staying in Iraq

The longer the story goes on, the more pro-war people can point all this out. It will be very hard to overcome these mistakes because they're so hard to undo. If she changes her story and tries to partially recant her blaming of the US and Israel then she just looks like a politician, like her handlers and spin doctors have come in to do their work. It's a weak story on balance.

That said, there's still a real emotional appeal to be made and they're also going to pursue the populist thing about waiting on the road to talk to Bush. That'll keep the story going and they'll be waiting for Bush to speak with her. What do they really hope to gain from her speaking to him? It's not like he's suddenly going to reverse promises made to Congress, to allies, to soldiers and above all to the Iraqis and withdraw. What's he going to do, address Congress about his orders to withdraw the troops and suspend aid to Israel, then explain that some fallen Marine's mother told him to? Come on.

If I were Bush or his advisors, my suggestion would be to let the proxies make or not make the four arguments I listed above (the changed story, the son's opinion, the professional entourage, and blaming Israel) and to avoid any of them. They should mention that Bush already did have a meeting with her and that both sides thought it was a very positive one. Then they should schedule her to be included in a meeting -one that's already been scheduled- with Bush that includes the friends and relatives of other fallen soldiers. She can be squeezed in as part of a pre-arranged function in order to voice her concerns.

The president should thank her for her concerns and repeat his sorrow over her loss; then he should tell her that the terrorists are committed to our destruction, that their hatred has been boiling over at least since 1993 and arguably back to 1979, and that they are not rational people that will stop if we stop. They are the kind of people who murder over nothing but ethnicity, who butcher relatives for being gay, who slice up women for the crime of being raped, and who are so politically repressive that the dissent we've taken for granted for centuries is only now becoming a possibility there, and then only because of the efforts of our brave soldiers and of Arab dissidents.

It's not like she's going to assassinate him and she's not going to do anything more than words. If she uses the opportunity to insult the President then it just makes her look cheap. Bush doesn't have to meet with her, given her rhetoric, her status as a proxy of crazy leftwing types, and the fact that he already had a meeting with her. But I believe if he included her in a meeting with other parents it would undercut even the paltry populist and emotionalist arguments going right now, and it would give an opportunity for the President to prepare a concise, respectful, but forceful response in support of the War on Terror.

The long-term risk is that a lot of crazies would suddenly think they could consume all the President's time with their crazy theories. There are a lot of people in the country with all sorts of beliefs about aliens and the CIA and the Jews and so forth and making the President personally interact with all of them would be a waste of time and would present a security risk. By including her in a meeting already arranged for the benefit of others, it sets a far weaker precedent; she didn't get her own meeting, she got five minutes of somebody else's meeting.

And can I just say that if I died as a soldier or contractor overseas and a relative or friend of mine tried to manipulate the situation to do something that I would have fiercely opposed had I been around to do so, I'd be fiercely pissed off. That is not cool at all unless you acknowledge the opinion as your own. She's trying to use her son and herself as victims and martyrs when in reality it appears the son believed iun what he was doing. The disrespect in this situation comes from the mother until she acknowledges that her son would have or might have disagreed with what she's doing.

In conclusion, the left should be careful about embracing a political amateur as the cause of the week because they tend to say very unpolished things and can come off as crude and insensitive. They can't make their case on arguments or policy, so they've reduced themselves to cheap emotional pleas.

August 15, 2005

Predictions Are Harder Than Explanations

After something in politics has happened, it's relatively easy to give an explanation for why it happened. It's more valuable and more difficult to predict trends and events before they happen.

Before Roberts was nominated, the prediction was that a fight was all but inevitable due to the structure of the actors in the fight and the nature of the disputes lately. The various interest groups, especially on the left-wing, raise money largely based on their utility in opposing right-wing judicial efforts. If they disappoint and can't stop Bush's nominees, they lose their value. The Republicans were sold to a lot of social traditionalists as valuable in bringing about a more restrained or more conservative judiciary. If they disappoint then they won't be replaced as the left-wing groups might be, but certainly they stand to lose support that translates into greater turnout and greater contributions. The emotions of the issue and the long-standing fight over nominations culminating in the filibuster fight really pointed toward a great SCOTUS fight. After all, if the Democrats fought that hard against appellate court nominees then they'd have even more of a reason to fight a Supreme Court nominee.

Now that Roberts seems, so far, to be largely impervious to serious controversy (to the point where lefties get burned testing the waters with inappropriate personal attacks) the question is predicting what will happen next. Let's assume that Roberts confirmation goes ahead pretty smoothly with the support of 70-odd Senators, the left-wing groups are embarrassed by attacking inappropriate subjects and being forced to recant or withdraw, the document business doesn't really go anywhere after the White House has already offered up so many privileged documents and Roberts takes O'Connor's seat on the Court. Will this make the next appointment (following Rehnquist or maybe Stevens) to the Supreme Court, in all probability done by President Bush, more likely to be contested or less?

First of all, the environmental factor will be short-term reduced. Everybody is mad at everybody, or at least the left-wing and the right-wing are both angry at each other, but in the short term a pretty peaceful confirmation can tend to calm things down. However the underlying problem would still be present and unresolved. Moreover, the groups with their expectant donors and reputations for divisive rhetoric would still be their without a fight. The right would have a prize but the left would be even further embarrassed after losses in 2002, 2004 and Roberts. The right has the real objections to how the Supreme Court operates (all the left really decries at all is Bush v. Gore) but the left has been whipped into a mouth-frothing frenzy the last five years and they really aren't going to slow down without some victories.

It seems pretty clear that Roberts' successful confirmation is more the exception than the rule. If anything it will lessen the immediate hostility while contributing to the anger of the left in future showdowns. Moreover, Bush's next pick is going to have to be a mute in order to have as slim a record as he or she will need to be confirmed.

The best thing the left can do is hitch a ride and endorse Reoberts. He's going to pass and they have nothing to stop him. If something shows up that makes it easy to stop him they can switch positions and say new and disturbing information has come to light that blah blah blah. Otherwise, endorsing Roberts would give them something great: the ability to more credibly claim that all their objections to other nominees are reasonable. Any criticism that their kneejerk opposing nominees in order to oppose Bush could be better deflected. Roberts would be a token conservative that they accepted.

Of course, this would be deceptive and calculating, but that's superior to their current position, which is simply deceptive.

August 14, 2005

The More Things Change

From the 1912 Progressive Party campaign platform:
    The Progressive party demands such restriction of the power of the courts as shall leave to the people the ultimate authority to determine fundamental questions of social welfare and public policy. To secure this end, it pledges itself to provide:

    1. That when an Act, passed under the police power of the State is held unconstitutional under the State Constitution, by the courts, the people, after an ample interval for deliberation, shall have an opportunity to vote on the question whether they desire the Act to become law, notwithstanding such decision.
Remember that at the time the Lochner line of Supreme Court cases held a great many state laws as invalid violations of substantive due process and the liberty of citizens. Progressives were the main force to interfere with people's lives, socially and economically, so they REALLY did not like that line of reasoning.

In an unrelated part of the same platform, I liked this bit:
    Alaska

    The coal and other natural resources of Alaska should be opened to development at once. They are owned by the people of the United States, and are safe from monopoly, waste or destruction only while so owned.

    We demand that they shall neither be sold nor given away, except under the Homestead Law, but while held in Government ownership shall be opened to use promptly upon liberal terms requiring immediate development.

    Thus the benefit of cheap fuel will accrue to the Government of the United States and to the people of Alaska and the Pacific Coast; the settlement of extensive agricultural lands will be hastened; the extermination of the salmon will be prevented and the just and wise development of Alaskan resources will take the place of private extortion or monopoly.
Their general position on conservation, of course, was a bajillion times more sensible than the modern Democratic no-to-antyhing stance.
    Conservation

    The natural resources of the Nation must be promptly developed and generously used to supply the people's needs, but we cannot safely allow them to be wasted, exploited, monopolized or controlled against the general good. We heartily favor the policy of conservation, and we pledge our party to protect the National forests without hindering their legitimate use for the benefit of all the people.
Idealism for Iraqis

Orin Kerr has an interesting idea about the debate over Iraq. He says that, assuming everyone in the debate wants the best for the US and Iraqi democracy, the division over the wisdom of the war in Iraq will bring us different interpretations of the same two options of staying or leaving now. Some people will believe that if the US stays the results will be good (option 1) while others believe staying would be disastrous (option 2). Some believe that if the US leaves now the results would be positive (option 3) and others think it would be horrific (option 4). The following is a comment I made to his post.

I don't think I've heard many people believably advance the idea that 3) is a likely outcome. The real debate is between anti-war people, who rank pessimistic leaving over pessimistic staying, and pro-war people, who rank optimistic staying over pessimistic leaving.

Although personally the aspect of the war more interesting to me is whether the Iraqis are seen as irrelevant or valuable. Most pro-war people, genuinely or not, characterize the Iraqis as valuable to defend. Most anti-war people characterize the Iraqis as irrelevant (not worth American dollars or soldiers). The opposite would be pro-war people unmoved by any Iraqi hardships before or after Saddam, and anti-war people who claim the Iraqis would benefit from withdrawing US intervention.

It's easy for somebody pro-war to claim to care about the Iraqis, since it costs nothing (except ethical consistency, if the beliefs are not sincere) to use it as one of many arguments for the war. It's very difficult for somebody anti-war to claim to care about the Iraqis, since in all likelihood the Iraqis would be all kinds of screwed-over if we left too soon (echoes of 1991 and the hundreds of thousands of Shi'a murdered when the US let Saddam put down the uprisings).

The combination of my four-choice-set and your three-choice-set (if 3 is excused as too improbable to be genuinely believed) is that the pro-war side has all the idealism. Since most of the leave-now arguments rely on pessimism about the war and not idealism about leaving, the pro-war arguments about fighting for freedom and democracy win the idealism award in that match-up. And since it's so difficult to claim to be motivated by love of humanity or liberty by consigning Iraqis to chaos, theocracy and terrorism, the pro-war people can easily continue to tout the benefits to regular Iraqis and again win the idealism contest.

Of course, simply being idealistic doesn't make you right, but the opposite (a stunning lack of ideals or idealism) suggests that baser interests like partisanship or amoral self-interest are at play.

August 12, 2005

Man Fired For E-Mailing Misogyny From Work (tip to the Captain)

Michelle Malkin's take on the Cindy Sheehan business (the mother who's alienated her family by blaming President Bush for her Marine son's death in Iraq, even though in a visit with Bush nine weeks after the incident she was all positive on the encounter) attracted a great deal of abuse from the anti-war, anti-Malkin types. Recall that a week or two ago a leftist blogger made a taxonomy (so-called) of right-wing blogs that credited her as an affirmative action hire who has succeeded largely due to having breasts (he was a little cruder). Well about eight steps of crude misogyny beyond that is a man who had this to say to her via e-mail (as toned down by Captain Ed) :

"YOU STINK you nasty C*NT! Eat S**t and DIE bitch!!"

Unfortunately for one Patrick Mitchell, formerly of the Ogletree Deakins law firm in LA, e-mails are not anonymous and use of work internet resources to send hateful, sexist comments completely unrelated to work are not tolerated. Much credit to the law firm for firing Mitchell, a legal secretary, and to managing stockholder Gray L. Geddie, who called Malkin to give sincere apologies for the "vile" e-mail.

I wish I could say that creepy-level internet sexism from 'normal' adults surprised me, but it doesn't. From my own experiences online I can verify that sexism, including deeply disturbing borderline-rapist sexism, surfaces often in the face of an intelligent and controversial female figure. Some guys just expect women to be cute and not intellectually threatening (typing in pink, cursive fonts with lots of smileys and exclamation points), and when they see themselves losing several exchanges in a row they resort to sexist name-calling, misogynistic stereotypes, sexualization of the opponent and even threats of rape.

The Internet doesn't promise to be good, only more direct.

UPDATE: Malkin herself has a nice illustration of the same effect here about Katherine Harris' appearance on Hannity and Colmes.
Stop Overusing 'Big'

If your argument relies on finding and labeling your opponent as 'Big' this or 'Big' that then it's not a good argument. Big Business, Big Media, Big Money, Big Tobacco, Big Government - any usage where the big has to be capitalized to Big is just a lame attempt at populism. Alot of the time people do it from habit or just to make an argument appear stronger, but relying on an extremely vague appeal to emotion is a logical fallacy. If your argument doesn't work without the Big then doesn't work with it.

And by the way, 'Big Money' (saw it just a minute ago at DailyKos) is especially stupid. At least come right out and say 'the bourgeoisie.'

August 11, 2005

Jimmy Carter: Whining, Lying, Bitter Jackass

I still don't like Jimmy Carter. First remember that his foreign policy was supposed to be based on morality despite shining examples to the contrary like the Carter Doctrine and support for the despotic Shah. Then recall that his moronic domestic policies were uninspiring and dangerous, ranging from establishing the separate Dept of Education as a political favor to teachers' unions for their electoral support to his incredibly uninspiring non-solutions to the national malaise of the time.

After his presidency he played diplomat at times when nobody asked him to, often violating, abusing or ignoring the poilicy goals of the Administration in power. He again showed the lie of both his claims to honesty and human rights when he complimented Kim Il Sung as 'vigorous and intelligent' and said they were not an outlaw nation - even though North Korea is a Stalinist regime that's murdered tons of its own people, criminalized refugee emigration, killed a tenths of its population through famine and established a system of at least ten death camps. Way to strike a blow for honesty and morality, asshole. And the deal Carter struck despite lacking any authorization? It was the disastrous Agreed Framework that (in application) allowed North Korea to get free electricity on the US' dime while continuing to develop nuclear weapons. By the way, it's now admitted to being a nuclear-armed state, and defectors have told us their strategy for a conflict with the US is to nuke our bases in Japan and South korea in order to cause enough US casualties to make us withdraw. Really effective, Carter.

Jimmy Carter's also been having fun speaking out against the US and the war in Iraq, said the conflict was based on lies, and urged the closing of Guantanamo Bay. Great sense of balance there. He criticizes gitmo and Iraq but praises Kim Il Sung and Castro. Again: asshole.

This piece today from George Will shows that Carter is also something of a fibber and a gossip.

And by the way, his one real success, the Camp David Accord, was only found amidst the wider failure of his six-sided talks and notably failed to come to any real decision about the Palestinians, but was also largely brokered due to the intentions of Begin and Sadat. Good job, Jimmy. You managed to take five hostiles and scratch out a peace treaty between the two sides that wanted peace independently of your talks. Glad to see that all the violence in the region is all over and the controversy behind us.

Jimmy Carter: don't believe the hype.

August 10, 2005

Davis-Bacon Act

In a discussion of the Davis-Bacon Act on labor wages and a John Stossel piece against it at QandO, the negative effects against unskilled and poor laborers are highlighted. What's left unsaid is that the exclusionary effect was the intent of the legislation.

The debate on the bill was full of comments about migrant workers, cheap labor, unskilled labor and so forth that were being transported from the South to perform basic duties in Northern jobs. At the time, the vast majority of such workers, especially in the South, were black. This was part of the debate as well, though usually the masked terms like 'cheap' and 'migrant' labor were used. Representative Clayton Algood came right out and said that cheap "colored" labor transported in and housed in cabins for the duration of a job were in competition with "white labor" throughout the country.

The point of Davis-Bacon was to keep black workers from dominating certain construction industry positions and from competing with white laborers. It gave unions a great deal of power both since the 'prevailing wage' was often explicitly the union wage (in areas where 30% of the relevant workforce was unionized) and because they had control over the apprenticeship process and the trained labor. As mentioned at QandO, when you're forced to pay expert wages, you're going to want to hire expert laborers. Union men were hired and had to be paid union wages, and the union membership process was often quite racist and even ethnically determined (Irish unions, Italian unions, etc.).

August 09, 2005

Rule of Ambiguous Socialism in Congress

Political sword-brandishers have blocked the attempt by a Chinese entity to legally purchase Unocal, an oil company based in the US, when a false controversy caused CNOOC to drop its bid. The clearest losers are the shareholders of Unocal, who in aggregate lost a billion dollars (Unocal is going to Chevron for $17.6 billion now). But the victims of the process are the free market and the ethical consistency of the United States government.

The free market operates under the assumption that individual property owners will do as they wish with their own assets and that in the end more efficient and prosperous outcomes will result than if a small number of central authorities made the decisions. A number of factors aid the free market. The biggest is that a person with interest in an endeavor will seek to maximize the benefits to himself. Less acknowledged but also quite important is the diffusion of authority from a small grouping like a parliament or a price control board to all the individual actors in an economy; if some of the actors make mistakes, it won't harm the others, but if a central authority makes a bad decision everyone else has to pay for it.

In this case, the excited fears about China - a country with whom we are not at war and engage in theoretically normal trade relations - petitioned the government to intervene in the free market. They wanted to violate the rights of the buyers and sellers for a political reason, even though no crime was even suggested. The free market doesn't always come to the right decisions and it's not guaranteed to even come to the best decision; it is designed to come to the most just solution, wherein the actual agents of a financial transaction are the only ones with say over what is to be sold and for how much.

How can the US argue for free trade when we oppose it in such high-profile circumstances? This seriously damages our credibility and when we go to the table in WTO negotiations or future FTA wranglings we'll be chained to another instance of blocking free trade. It makes it appear as though free trade is an excuse to get US interests into other countries without allowing reciprocal access for foreign businesses - exactly what the anti-globalization far-left already argues (the anti-globalization far-right argues more the opposite, that it lets foreigners have an unfair advantage).

The real tragedy is the idea that somehow blocking CNOOC acquisition of Unocal was a threat to national security. Unocal is largely an Asian operation already, so it made sense that the Chinese would want Unocal to fund their economic expansion. Unocal only accounted for less than one percent of US oil consumption. If the Chinese stopped Americans from buying that relatively tiny amount, how could that really be considered a national security risk?

Better yet, let me ask which is more reasonable: 1) Chinese economic interests, in the middle of a continuing, progressively-larger economic expansion that has enormous demands for basic materials like energy and cement, decided to buy a largely-Asia-based oil producer that's based in the US, or 2) the Chinese government, in a fit of secretive and malignant deception, decides to spend billions of dollars in order to deprive US consumers of less than one percent of their oil consumption, even though the demand would easily be met by other energy companies?

The Chinese government has a criminal past and a shady present, but we ought to be encouraging the growth of an economically vibrant China as a precondition for a strong middle class with democratic aspirations. I think blocking the sale had nothing to do with national security and everything to do with dividing the world almost arbitrarily into enemies and allies. China is not our friend, but that doesn't mean we should see every Chinese act as one of aggression, or that we should try and spite the aspirations of the Chinese people, who are NOT our enemies.
Website

I've updated the World Report section of the website which was plagued by dead links. Few of the reports in it are complete, but it's no longer the neglected slum of the website.

August 08, 2005

Huffington Post, DailyKos, Democratic Underground

Going around various online hangouts for the political left is a very interesting and enlightening foray into the minds of leftists. It's useful to see what animates people. I look especially at what they choose to communicate - and not to communicate. They all have their different focuses (Huffington Post is elitist, DailyKos is hyper-activist, DemocraticUnderground is raving rartisans), but I've come up with a few basic observations that often hold true when reading over a large sample from such sites.

#1 The ENEMY! There is almost always a personified enemy. This is also true of places like Free Republic or LGF comment sections, but it's significant that your stock partisan leftists like to see a personified enemy. They even like to build up individuals into mega-enemeies, even when it doesn't fit the facts. Nixon, Bush, Reagan, Giuliani, anybody who can be forced to sit as proxy for all the evil things every imagined right-winger supposedly once considred doing will receive rhetorical lashings. I find this habit disturbing wherever it crops up, first because it usually involves a fair amount of anger, hatred and vitriol, and second because it usually involves an incredibly narrow-sighted view of people in order to turn the scapegoat into pure evil. Hopefully nobody is comfortable with the practice of projecting extreme hatred at scapegoats, fueled by ignorance or untruths.

I don't know about you, but I like my true enemies to be actions and concepts, and people are only evil inasmuch as they do evil things.

#2 The story. There's got to be a story. There has to be a good guy and a bad guy and the good guy is all good and the bad guy is all bad. The good guy usually can't do anything without help from outside himself, whether it's from a friend, a community, or a political group. The bad guy is devious, greedy, insensitive and inhumane, and he does not seek redemption in the end. The story need not be true or plausible, it only has to send the right message and be both trite and coerced.

#3 The hyperbole. Both the enemy and the story are usually found with the hyperbole. The enemy's hyperbole is that he deceives everybody or that he bought everybody's loyalty, he's dumb as a board or his father gave him everything. The story's hyperbole is usually something like a protagonist that's orphaned, poor, outsourced out of a job, and Hispanic, or a black single mother fighting against all odds, or a single female struggling to make it in a man's world, or a simple peasant farmer forced to work in a textile factory. The hyperbole underpins the whole experience, because if you're too stupid to get who's good and who's bad, the hyperbole really socks it to you.

Of course, the hyperbole should insult the intelligence of people who hear it for the same reason. It should also insult the stylistic tastes of anyone forced to listen to the story about the beautiful young, outsourced, lesbian, Hispanic, black, Asian single mother working eight jobs just to decide between paying for heat and paying for food, who also happens to be handicapped but not in an unattractive, let's-pull-the-plug sort of way, who is then forced to confront the ugly, fat, sexist, racist, homophobic, evangelical, white, anglo, domineering father, mega-corporate executive who starts wars for money and forces people to buy deadly products they don't want but who is defeated by the government regulators without repenting or reforming.

I'm forced to exaggerate the exaggeration to a ridiculous degree simply because the hyperbolic stories I've read are already so unashamedly exaggerated.

#4 The team. It's astounding how often 'we' and 'us' are used in these venues. The constant reassurances that a group of people support the speaker or that the speaker supports that group comes off as an emotional dependency. It's almost as though the identification with a group is the goal in itself. I think a lot of leftists seem to just want to be in the good-guy group, to the point where it's more important than being actually good, independent of the group.

#5 What's not said: the principle. What is tragically under-emphasized is an objective principle that could apply to any situation and hence could be used against a person of any party (or race, sex, religion, etc.) objectively. A political exposition should flow from principles to lead to the solution. Without stating the principles - those things we want to accomplish - the search for a solution is disorganized. The result is often confusing or even contradictory views of different subjects, like emphasizing near-absolute liberty of action for women getting abortions, but emphasizing the need for government ownership of retirement accounts. Picking and stating simple principles that can be applied outside a unique situation is often missing in the places I've mentioned. They're cast out to make room for more hyperbole.

Overall, the image I'm left with is rhetoric tailored almost exclusively to emotional self-validation. We're good, they're bad. I'm good, he's bad. The enemy is critical to the dichotomy, the hyperbole strengthens the differences, the team gives approval that the good guy is good, and the story is the difference itself. A principle would only get in the way by forcing one to admit that people don't always neatly fall all on one side of an objective principle.

Naturally, not everybody at these places is like this and even the people who are like this are not solely or completely like this. I wish only to make the point that it seems to be a factor in the political identification of many leftists to create enemies and stories in order or fill the void left by a lack of objective principles.

August 07, 2005

NCAA and Indians

The NCAA apparently came out again Native American-themed mascots for teams. The argument of the people against using American Indians as team mascots is that this is offensive:



While this is not:

August 03, 2005

EU Anti-Trust

I heard a radio story about the EU trying to encourage more civil torts for anti-trust cases against businesses in Europe. Their complaint was that the regulators can go after big-names like Intel but smaller violators get away with being overly successful ('uncompetitive') and more civil litigation could stop it. The statistics cited showed that the US has far more civil anti-trust cases than the EU. What I found intriguing about both the EU position and the NPR reporting was how the position of business owners, stockholders and potential business owners was totally absent except as 'victims' of uncompetitive practices. The pack of lawyers chomping at the bit to sue the pants off of any company in the EU that expands too quickly, too far or too long didn't ring any bells as a major future impediment to growth - and to job creation. It was surreal, like a report from the 1970s or earlier that somehow doesn't realize that making life difficult for businesses CAN have consequences to the success of businesses.

The problem in the EU is that the state is the biggest violator of competitive principles. Various EU governments nationalize industries and technologies and keep private competitiors either weak or illegal. Canada's even worse, where private health care is (or was, before the Quebec court ruling) flatly illegal in most cases.

It's almost a parody how the old lefties see business as something to be controlled, punished and deterred, rather than a series of voluntary transactions among colleagues and interested parties that need only be honest and peaceful. I'm almost surprised that Democratic politicians don't have "Get Tough On Capitalism" pin buttons.
Berlin At It Again

The Checkpoint Charlie memorial in Berlin was torn down right after the Fourth of July. Now left-wingers in the Berlin city government have a second outrageous tourism goal: bring back a Soviet-era statue of Lenin that stood in East Berlin. The Medienkritik story that brought this to my attention included a Reuters segment quoting a German tourism expert. The expert called Berlin's Communist period the most asked-after by tourists. Well, then, why the hell did they knock down the Checkpoint Charlie memorial without setting up a replacement? Surely they don't think that tourists are interested in glorifying the Communist period.
US Car Companies

If American auto producers would stop worrying about 'employee discount' schemes and start fixing themselves, then they'd be in good shape. As it stands they're pricing themselves out of business. Ford, GM and Chevy are all now in a price war. By focusing their advertising more and more on prices, they're not earning the prices they do charge. If all you're talking about is how cheap your cars are, then why shouldn't the cars be even cheaper in six months? They need to earn the prices they do charge instead of only charging less. If I just wanted a cheap car, I'd buy a Geo Metro or something.

US manufacturers have long been struggling in many car markets, including compact pickups, but now they're having trouble competing with Japanese models even in full-size pickups. Ford dominated the roads, not just in pickups but with its pickup being the most common of any car type. Now there's real competition from Japanese models.

More than that, auto manufacturers need to look long term at being freed from inflexible structures of the past. Pension agreements and union rules are burdening the airline industry and the auto industry. The Japanese have a lot of structural problems that burden them with inefficient practices, but good designs go a long way.

The US automative industry has a lot of factors in its favor, but without some creativity and flexibility, they're going to continue fighting more and more difficult price wars.
Stupid Old People

I really have a problem with old people. Old people are scared of teenagers, especially in groups, probably because teenagers aren't slow moving, boring and silent. What really pisses me off is when old people feel entitled to welfare (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) or how they ask for an AARP discount EVERYWHERE. Fucking entitled old people. Then everyone wonders why younger people are cynical and disaffected. Entitlements and politics are tilted toward giving old people undeserved respect and attention.

Sorry, I'm not an Asian; I don't worship old people. Old people that I don't know should be fucking glad that they're breathing. I'm glad to help people with decreased faculties of any age, but old people don't deserve respect just for NOT DYING. If anything, I'm fucking tired of subsidizing old people's spending. Politicians and the media help build up these sacred cows by always bending over to old people and eventually the old people believe it.

Sorry, I'm not going to give old people respect because they happened to be three years old during the Great Depression. Oooh, real hardship there. What were they going to do, commit suicide? That's a real accomplishment, not dying.

Rant over.
"Over There"

The first television series about the war in Iraq has its good points, but I really don't see myself enjoying the show. The ability of the show to portray violence, cursing and the like were exceptional and will probably merit watching at least portions of future episodes. The writing is pretty cheesy at times and relies on a lot of warmed-over writing techniques (nicknames, cliches, heavy use of stereotypes, etc.). A few of the details about strategy are both original and realistic, but there are tons of mistakes of all shapes and sizes. The soldiers are restrained when they should have obliterated a terrorist holdout. They fire when no targets are apparent, even though for some reason they're supposed to be pinned down. They're un-reinforced and pinned down when they should have had lots of backup and heavy support. They move together in close line formations over open ground instead of spaced out and one at a time.

I'm sure a lot of these decisions were made in ignorance in order to craft a certain scene that the writers wanted to portray, but it's misleading when the show presents itself as a no-holds-barred look at Operation Iraqi Freedom. It also goes to great lengths to make the soldiers seem like they were roped into the military. I am worried about the bias to spin the war as more difficult than it is; many media outlets are drawn to making all wars seem like their fictionalized account of Vietnam.

I'll probably catch a few more episodes to see what it's like, but the stereotypes, bad strategy and MSM editorializations will almost certainly get in the way.