.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


news & opinion with no titillating non-news from the major non-news channels.


I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Federalist Patriot Daily Quote:
   Jefferson, On Rights Derived from Natural Law

"A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate"

-- Thomas Jefferson (Rights of British America, 1774)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Chinese manipulating the copper market?:
     Mauldin conjectures "wildly"

According to John Mauldin of the weekly investor newsletter, Thoughts from the Frontline, the Chinese are coming up short on critically needed copper supplies. Apparently, a senior trader who works for/does not work for the Chinese State Reserve Bureau has been playing in the trading pits allegedly for personal gain. The Chinese claim to be ready to deliver 200,000 tons of copper into the market to stabilize the situation. Many think the Chinese are bluffing and are in deep you-know-what.

Mauldin speculates on more sinister state-sponsored motives. He first questions whether the Chinese would risk a bluff, fearing a loss of credibility in the eyes of the market.

They cannot bluff on this and ever be taken credibly in the copper or any other market. If they say they are going to deliver 200,000 tons of copper, believe it.

Instead, Mauldin conjures up a scenario of the Chinese sitting down for lunch, seeing themselves as,

getting screwed (that's a technical financial term) by foreign traders on metal prices in general and copper in particular. Someone quips, "We should show them and not buy any copper for a few months and let the price drop." And then the light bulb comes on, because with your massive reserves you could do just that. And not for just a few months. You could cause some pain in trading rooms all over the world... teach(ing) the market a lesson to not jack with you, because you could come into any commodities market at any time and do the same.

I wonder if I should risk shorting some copper futures...

Voting with their Feet:
     A Truer Measure of Success in Iraq

Max Boot wrote a revealing article in the LA Times last week. Loaded with juicy statistics that never get headline attention in America, Iraqis are measurably and demonstrably better off than they were two years ago, before and after Saddam got his butt kicked courtesy of American Grunts.

And the Iraqis know it and appreciate it.

Gratitude to Port McClellan.

History never repeats itself; but it often rhymes:
   Doom 'n Gloom vs Happy Pills

Thus starts a new book, Our Brave New World by Charles and Louis-Vincent Gave, on the new (yet again!) economy proclaiming that everything has changed and the old rules no longer apply. Specifically, that trade deficits don't matter anymore.

I chanced upon this from John Mauldin's weekly investors email, Thoughts from the Frontline, to which I have just recently subscribed. Mauldin compares this book with another, Empire of Debt by Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin, which argues exactly the opposite, notably that the global accounts payable is coming due.

Being a superficial devotee of Santayana, and one who enjoys discovering patterns anywhere I can, I find it amusing that the Gaves chose that particular quote to start off a book denying the current rhyme is valid.

I haven't read either book yet, but if Gaves' prediction is to be true, it can only be because of the demand pressures from a superheated Chinese economy. But the Piper will have to be paid sometime, so if the rules have indeed changed, it can only be a temporary blip.

And when one considers the proportional ratio between duration of the "good times" with the severity of the correction, then hat does not bode well in my mind.

I give us two or three years top. I just pray the correction is only a correction...

(the quote is allegedly Mark Twain's)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Federalist Patriot Daily Quote:
   On What Natural Law Is

"To grant that there is a supreme intelligence who rules the world and has established laws to regulate the actions of his creatures; and still to assert that man, in a state of nature, may be considered as perfectly free from all restraints of law and government, appears to a common understanding altogether irreconcilable. Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dissimilar theory. They have supposed that the deity, from the relations we stand in to himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is indispensably obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution whatever. This is what is called the law of nature....Upon this law depend the natural rights of mankind."

-- Alexander Hamilton (??)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Back from outer space:
   I have neglected my own site long enough

I have spent a considerable amount of time recently in the trenches of other sites, debating with mixed results. I will be spending the Thanksgiving Holiday festivities consolidating what gems and jewels I uncovered.

I will then be taking a slightly new direction, from one of somewhat random commentary to a more focused look at where we are going, beyond the current trials and tribulations, and, hopefully, shining that light back on those current trials and tribulations.

I have also removed the "strikeout" HTML from the link to Fightin' Titans. It was a petty and pithy thing to do and I apologize for that...

More to come soon....

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Federalist Patriot Daily Quote:
   On the True Nature of Liberty

"Liberty is not to be enjoyed, indeed it cannot exist, without the habits of just subordination; it consists, not so much in removing all restraint from the orderly, as in imposing it on the violent."

-- Fisher Ames (Essay on Equality, 15 December 1801)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Federalist Patriot Daily Quote:
   On Tempered and Rational Discourse

"As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought in all governments, and actually will in all free governments ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so there are particular moments in public affairs, when the people stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow mediated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice and truth, can regain their authority over the public mind?"

-- James Madison (likely) (Federalist No. 63, 1788)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Reblogged - Food Fight!:
   The Morality of Torture

For those that know my temperament, nuf said.

update 11/20 - Well, it wasn't my intention, but it became exactly that.

A food fight.

oh well. You can bring a horse to water, but...

Friday, November 11, 2005

We must get Iraq right:
   McCain calls for a winning strategy in Iraq

Senator McCain delivered the keynote address at a "Winning the War in Iraq" luncheon sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute on November 10.

Here is some extended extracts of that address. All highlights are mine.

The world has witnessed ...

Iraqis of all stripes exercising those very democratic habits that critics predicted could never take root in a country with little democratic tradition. They voted in January for an interim government. They put Saddam on trial and dictators throughout the world on notice. They produced a landmark constitution that, while not perfect, nevertheless enshrines critical rights that go far beyond the standards elsewhere in the region. On October 15, they braved explicit death threats from Zarqawi and his ilk in order to determine their future democratically. Try as they might, the terrorists and the insurgents in Iraq got no veto. Instead, an Arab country adopted a democratic constitution by a free vote for the first time in history

The Middle East will be forever changed by the choices we have made, and by those we continue to make over the next months. We must get Iraq right.

The Stakes

There is an understandable desire, two and a half years after our invasion, to seek a quick and easy end to our intervention in Iraq. But should America follow these calls, we would face consequences of the most serious nature.

When America toppled Saddam, we incurred a moral duty not to abandon the people there to terrorists and killers. If we withdraw prematurely, risking all-out civil war, we will have done precisely that. I can hardly imagine that any U.S. senator or any American leader would want our nation to suffer that moral stain.

Instability in Iraq would invite further Syrian and Iranian interference, bolstering the influence of two terror-sponsoring states firmly opposed to American policy. Iraq’s neighbors – from Saudi Arabia to Israel to Turkey – would feel their own security eroding, and might be induced to act.

Withdrawing before there is a stable and legitimate Iraqi authority would turn Iraq into a failed state, in the heart of the Middle East. We have seen a failed state emerge after U.S. disengagement once before, and it cost us terribly. In pre-9/11 Afghanistan, terrorists found sanctuary to train and plan attacks with impunity. We know that there are today in Iraq terrorists who are planning attacks against Americans. We cannot make this fatal mistake twice.

Some argue that it our very presence in Iraq that has created the insurgency, and that if we end the occupation, we end the insurgency. But in fact by ending military operations, we are likely to empower the insurgency. Zarqawi and others fight not just against foreign forces but also against the Shia, whom they believe to be infidels, and against all elements of the government. Sunni insurgents attack Kurds, Turcomans, Christians and other Iraqis, not simply to end the American occupation but to recapture lost Sunni power. As AEI’s Fredrick Kagan has written, these Sunni are not yet persuaded that violence is counterproductive; on the contrary, they believe the insurgency might lead to an improvement in their political situation. There is no reason to think that an American drawdown would extinguish these motivations to fight.

Senator Kerry’s call for the withdrawal of 20,000 American troops by year’s end represents, I believe, a major step on the road to disaster. Drawdowns must be based on conditions in-country, not arbitrary deadlines rooted in our domestic politics.

The President and his advisors understand that, and I praise their resolve. They know that the consequences of failure are unacceptable and that the benefits of success in Iraq remain profound. And yet at the same time there is an undeniable sense that things are slipping

Adopt a military counterinsurgency strategy.

For most of the occupation, our military strategy was built around trying to secure the entirety of Iraq at the same time. With our current force structure and the power vacuum that persists in many areas, that is not possible today.

Instead, we need to clear and stay.

Rather than focusing on killing and capturing insurgents, we should emphasize protecting the local population, creating secure areas where insurgents find it difficult to operate. Our forces would begin by clearing areas, with heavy force if necessary, to establish a zone as free of insurgents as possible. The security forces can then cordon off the zone, establish constant patrols, by American and Iraqi military and police, to protect the population from insurgents and common crime, and arrest remaining insurgents as they are found.

In this newly secure environment, many of the things critical to winning in Iraq can take place – things that are not happening today. Massive reconstruction can go forward without fear of attack and sabotage. Political meetings and campaigning can take place in the open. Civil society can emerge. Intelligence improves, as it becomes increasingly safe for the population to provide tips to the security forces, knowing that they can do so without being threatened.

As these elements positively reinforce each other, the security forces then expand the territory under their control. We’ve done this successfully in Falluja. Coalition and Iraqi forces cleared the area of insurgents, held the city, and today Iraqi police and soldier patrol the streets, with support from two American battalions. And when the Iraqi forces are at a level sufficient to take over the patrolling responsibilities on their own, American troops can hand over the duties. Falluja today is not perfect, but our aim is not perfection – it is an improvement over the insecurity that plagues Iraq today.

To enhance our chances of success with this strategy, and enable our forces to hold as much territory as possible, we need more troops. For this reason, I believe that current ideas to effect a partial drawdown during 2006 are exactly wrong. While the U.S. and its partners are training Iraqi security forces at a furious pace, these Iraqis should supplement, not substitute for, the coalition forces on the ground. Instead of drawing down, we should be ramping up, with more civil-military soldiers, translators, and counterinsurgency operations teams. Our decisions about troop levels should be tied to the success or failure of our mission in Iraq, not to the number of Iraqi troops trained and equipped. And while we seek higher troop levels for Iraq, we should at last face facts and increase the standing size of the U.S. Army. It takes time to build a larger army, but had we done so even after our invasion of Iraq, our military would have more soldiers available for deployment now.

Foreign jihadists, Baathist revanchists and Sunni discontents do not necessarily share tactics or goals. Recent Sunni participation in the constitutional process – and especially the decision by Sunni parties to contest parliamentary elections – present opportunities to split Sunnis from those whose only goal is death, destruction and chaos.

Build loyalty in the armed forces.

The lesson of Afghanistan is instructive. There, the United States insisted – over initial objections from the Afghan Ministry of Defense – that each new military unit be carefully calibrated to include Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and others.

Pressure Syria.

For too long, Syria has refused to crack down on Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists operating from its territory. President Assad said last month that his government distinguishes between those insurgents who attack Iraqis and the killers who attack American and British troops, which “is something different.” This is the same mindset that has led Syria to defy the United Nations over the assassination of Rafik Hariri, give sanctuary to Palestinian terrorist organizations, and attempt to maintain some hold on Lebanon.

Let me conclude by stating the obvious: America, Iraq and the world are better off with Saddam Hussein in prison rather than in power. Does anyone believe the stirrings of freedom in the region would exist if Saddam still ruled with an iron fist? Does anyone believe the region would be better off if Saddam were in power, using oil revenue to purchase political support? Does anyone believe meaningful sanctions would remain or that there would been any serious checks on Saddam’s ambitions? The costs of this war have been high, especially for the over 2000 Americans, and their families, who have paid the ultimate price. But liberating Iraq was in our strategic and moral interests, and we must honor their sacrifice by seeing this mission through to victory.

Reblogged - The WMD Argument:
   Why there was nothing wrong for Bush to Sell the Iraqi War as a WMD issue

Michael Young posted an article at reason.com criticizing Seymour Hersh's rebuttal and disbelief of Syrian involvement in Hariri's assassination simply because Hersh doesn't trust anything the Bush Administration says anymore.

Naturally, the debate has devolved into questioning Bush's credibility, given that he "lied" to the American people about Iraqi WMD in the lead-up to the Iraqi War.

My rebuttal to that debate:

Ultimately, skepticism is the responsibility of the individual.

For those of us who knew the global dangers inherent in the Middle East before 9/11, for those of us who heard the clarion call of the 2002 Axis of Evil Speech, long before WMD became the reason for action, for those of us who knew the Iraqi WMD issue as being fundamentally relevant, but only in the context to the larger dangers of the Middle East; for us, when we heard the arguments of Iraqi WMD, we knew it for what is was: a sales pitch, and ultimately, a successful sales pitch.

That is what democratic leaders do, they persuade. Even dumb up an issue, if necessary.

Iraq had to be dealt with. That was evident after 12 years of defiant resistance to world pressure. After 12 years the world, from Saddam's point of view, was irrelevant.

WMD has not been found. But it is an easy argument, given Saddam's past activities and predilections, that he got rid of the material until only for as long as it would take for the heat to die down. What does a drug dealer do when the DEA raids his house? Down the toilet, boys. We can get more after we get bailed out of jail. And it has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Saddam previously did have, and use, WMD material and WMD programs.

Restocking his WMD hordes, reviving his WMD programs would have been, in my humble opinion, his first priority once the attention of fickle and faint of heart democracies been distracted or just tired out. It is no secret that Saddam thought himself a stronger man than any American leader, given that he "outlasted" nearly a half-dozen presidencies. The successful Selling of the Iraqi War is not something I would be ashamed of, if I were in Dubya's shoes. And I don't hold it against him, if only because I have my own cognitive ability to rely upon.

Now, I am not trying to be an Apologist for Machiavellian politics, but it is an oft quoted statement that we get the politics we ask for.

Federalist Patriot Daily Quote:
   Washington's Lifelong Service to His Country

"Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country."

-- George Washington (upon fumbling for his glasses before delivering the Newburgh Address, 15 March 1783)

Reblogged - Redrawing Iraq's Borders
   Can Iraq be successfully partioned?

In response to a news piece at Port McClellan on Jordanian reaction to the Zarqawi terrorist attack in Amman, I dug up the ol' ghost of partitioning Iraq along cultural lines:

I am always hopeful that in the end, democracy will prevail, and in a united Iraq.

But, ever the realist, I have not much confidence in that. Not so much in a failing of Iraqi democracy, but in a failing of the Iraqi nation. Because, as a nation, it really isn't. Just some lines drawn on a map at the convenience of European (British?) rulers.

Ever the optimist, I also don't believe the Mesopotamian people really want anarchy, and I respect their intelligence enough to not believe they want a country of feudal, or even tribal, duchies.

People congregate on ethnic, cultural, even ideological lines. We like living in a community of kindred spirits.

So, maybe what we need, or maybe what will simply happen, is another redrawing of boundaries. Since the toppling of Saddam began to be considered in earnest, the three nations of Iraq have been an ever present reality. Kurds, Shiite, Sunni.

What would really be wrong with an independent Kurdish state in the north, a Shiite nation to the south, possibly, probably in some political relationship with Iran, though the line between Arab and Persian may be stronger than believed, and a nation in the east of Iraqi, Jordanian and Syrian Sunnis?

An Iraqi Sunni nation would be poor, destitute, landlocked; a base of continued foment and strife. United with their religious and ethnic and tribal cousins in Jordan and Syria just might balance all the necessary equations.

And to think, I've always objected to be called a Utopian Dreamer...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Evolving electorate kicks school board butt:
   Entire pro-ID school board routed in elections

From the NYT, maybe there is hope for parents who want to hold school boards accountable for their educational responsibilites.

All eight members up for re-election to the Pennsylvania school board that had been sued for introducing the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in biology class were swept out of office yesterday by a slate of challengers who campaigned against the intelligent design policy.

Man In Space:
   Russia offers China assistance in 2018 manned lunar mission

posted at my Man In Space blog,

Russia is ready to help China implement its lunar research program, the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency said Monday, reports RIA Novosti.
(Anatoly) Perminov said Russia could help China train its astronauts for a space walk and develop lunar research equipment. He explained that Russia did not intend to participate in a joint research program but to simply provide assistance, including support for China's manned lunar exploration, a project envisioned for 2018.

Science brief:
   Early A B C inscription found in Israel

From the NYT, 10th century BC proto-Hebrew "letters on a stone found near Tel Zayit resemble Phoenician"

In the 10th century B.C., in the hill country south of Jerusalem, a scribe carved his A B C's on a limestone boulder - actually, his aleph-beth-gimel's, for the string of letters appears to be an early rendering of the emergent Hebrew alphabet.

Archaeologists digging in July at the site, Tel Zayit, found the inscribed stone in the wall of an ancient building. After an analysis of the layers of ruins, the discoverers concluded that this was the earliest known specimen of the Hebrew alphabet and an important benchmark in the history of writing, they said this week.

If they are right, the stone bears the oldest reliably dated example of an abecedary - the letters of the alphabet written out in their traditional sequence. Several scholars who have examined the inscription tend to support that view.

Experts in ancient writing said the find showed that at this stage the Hebrew alphabet was still in transition from its Phoenician roots, but recognizably Hebrew. The Phoenicians lived on the coast north of Israel, in today's Lebanon, and are considered the originators of alphabetic writing, several centuries earlier.

Federalist Patriot Daily Quote:
   Franklin on Virtuous Behavior
who, more than Poor Richard, is so eminently qualified?

"Be in general virtuous, and you will be happy."

-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to John Alleyne, 9 August 1768)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Federalist Patriot Daily Quote:
   Madison on Government and Morality

"If individuals be not influenced by moral principles; it is in vain to look for public virtue; it is, therefore, the duty of legislators to enforce, both by precept and example, the utility, as well as the necessity of a strict adherence to the rules of distributive justice."

-- James Madison (in response to Washington's first Inaugural address, 18 May 1789)

Monday, November 07, 2005

   Replace the UN?

I have been spending FAR too much time in the fertile fields of InTheseTimes.com and have neglected my own blog. I will be consolidating all I have said, at least into something not too embarrassing. The passion in the heat of battle makes one say things one really shouldn't.

Anyway, in a lengthy to-and-fro in response to a piece by Congressman Kucinich, Democrats: It's the War, one poster suggested the blasphemous proposal of replacing the UN with a Union of Democracies (capitalization is mine).

Out of respect for someone whose ideas I would encourage, I am waiting for permission to reprint. But for now, you can find it here. Click on special discussion page at the bottom, go to page 2 of 2, and search for union of democracies.

update: I have permission. Here it is, with one requested markup:

The UN has, to a large extent, been taken over by anti-democratic forces, and should be replaced with a union of democracies. This would be a good time to restore the founding principles of the UN, get rid of the deadwood (ie France), and make a new and more representative organization. The Security Council would then be reorganized around, say, Great Britain, Brazil, India, and Indonesia, with Russia and China offered conditional membership depending on their continued progress toward democracy. The USA should remain outside the reorganized UN, but a close supporter of democratic actions, with or without the UN.

--- scorp