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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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sino-African Trade on the Rise:
   Staged to overtake American-African Trade

The World Socialist Web Site examines the rapid growth of Sino-African trade and offers a more than slightly slanted view of the international strategic implications (guess who the heroes are).

But it is worth a critical read, particularly in the context of those same Sino-American strategic implications.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

And now, for something Completely Different!:
   Gamers and Bit-heads

I don't know what step in the 12-step process is confession, but, Hi. My name is Jay and I am an unrepentant Gaming addict and consummate Bit-Head.

Axis and Allies. Diplomacy. Civilization (the board game, dummy!). Champions. Bismarck (with scale models spread across the barracks floor, not pegs on a plastic board). Takamo.

Star. Fleet. Battles.

I am starting to salivate.

I grew up playing games. CandyLand. Chutes and Ladders. Monopoly. Life. Stock Market. Chess. Risk. All before the age of Ten. My younger siblings long gave up playing games with me. I like to win too much. And I did. Win, that is. Last Christmas, as my little one opened up her present, which happened to be a game she had been begging for, my sister said, "Samantha, don't play with your Papa!"

No respect!

When Jobs and Gates created the PC industry, me and my cohort flocked to all the cool 8-bit computer games that would run on an incredible 64K computers. The Vic-20. TI's excellent but poorly marketed PC whose name I can't even remember anymore. Intellivision. (Atari sucks!)

The Amiga.

And then we started writing our own. A geek-friend even got a BASIC sub battle program published in one of the burgeoning mags (Byte, I think).

But my world opened up when I found a gaming group when I was stationed in Germany. Dudes. We would start getting set up Friday after work, be ready to start Saturday morning, and by Sunday afternoon realize that we were getting hungry and make a chow hall run.

My favorite story is when this supply weinie (we were all mechanics and technicians) wanted to "play with the big kids". Now, I was fairly new to the group and hadn't yet come to realize just how hard it can be to get and establish gaming groups on base, given duty rotations and such. I didn't like the guy and couldn't understand what had blinded my cohorts to his obvious shortcomings.

So, when he was given the choice of selecting the first game of the weekend, and he chose Risk (groan! c'mon! that is like organizing a poker night and playing ol' maid or go fish!), I prepared my strategy.

Laying down our initial allotment of troops, I made sure to place my pieces in countries adjacent to the weiner. When it was my turn, I stacked all my reinforcements onto one country and proceeded to mow down his countries. He was dumbfounded. "Hey", he whispered, "Doesn't Jay know how to play the game? He is spreading himself out too thin!" Of course, he was probably more concerned that I was playing poorly at the expense of his troops. Yet no one made a comment. They understood only too well.

Please understand, when it comes to The Game, there are no friendships. It is kill or be killed. After my turn was over, after I had grossly thinned out the weiner's line as well as mine, the next guy, who happened to be my best friend, plowed through the both of us like flatulence through a crowded room.

The weinie never came back and I never had to explain my 'poor' strategy to my cohort.

Strategy is about attaining objectives. I got mine. The weiner never understood this because he failed to understand my objective.

Ok, I can be a bastard. Get over it.

Anyway, the whole point of this tirade, the whole point of missing the early bus and the regular bus, and nearly the last bus, is to tell you about a great Internet strategy game. Space - Glory through Conquest. It is a killer build-stellar-economies-conquer-the-galaxy turn-based strategy game. Well, it is a killer game only because of the kind of game it is. The user interface sucks, and I can think of a couple dozen changes I would make, but I am hooked.

Check it out @ space.coldfirestudios.com.

No, I am not getting anything for this. I just want to meet you on the field of battle and wipe the universe with what victuals I leave you.

Gotta go. My four year old said she wanted to play another round of Dora's CandyLand when I get home.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Coming Trade War with China, Part Three:
   Continental vs Maritime Countries

blue pencil edits @ 04:50pm

I seem to not be the only one developing the Coming War with China thread.

China developing its first aircraft carrier battle group: Vietnam building new deep-water military port

China has long been a continental and insular country. They built the Great Wall to stem historic barbaric invasions from the north, and the Himalayas act as a natural barrier as China secured her western and southern frontiers from foreign influence and for their own development.

Chinese naval activities rarely reaches out beyond their littoral waters, if even that. The dubious claims of Gavin Menzies in his book, 1421: The Year the Chinese Discovered America aside, China never exhibited much interested in exochina. They are a self-centric people, declaring themselves to be at the center of the world, letting the world come to its doorstep rather than venture far from the motherland.

But China of late is testing the deep blue waters. Several years ago, there was a local rebellion in Fiji or Samoa (I think it was the Fiji Coup in 2000, but I didn't save any of the references I had). At the time a great deal of speculation and charges circulated about Chinese "influence" providing "on-site advisory" assistance to the rebels.

Why? And who cares about a few small islands in the middle of a vast ocean?

Look at a map of the Pacific. Any Chinese geo-politician and historian concerned with the unchallenged strength of the US Navy in the Pacific would recognize that one of the inherent strengths owned by US PAC Fleet is the depth of its rear operating area. Worst case scenario for any US PAC Fleet deployment to trouble spots in the West Pacific would simply require the Fleet to take the long way around to the east, much as the American Fleet used the East Pacific in the WWII Pacific War to get fleets and logistics around the Japanese.

American interests in the West Pacific include, among other things, the international sea lanes in and around Indochina. American economics and her projection of global power relies heavily on ensuring free transit of trade and military deployments through these seas.

Recent littoral contests in the East and the South China Seas, mostly over control of vast oil fields believed to be there, disturb what little tranquility exists in those seas. Piracy is indeed rampant there, but that only highlights the value of the sea lanes. The possibility of a country staking claim over the area is not a welcome thought.

In WWII, the US Navy staged a comeback from the eastern Pacific around the Solomon Islands and ultimately rolled up the Japanese forces as they pushed west.

Any guesses where Fiji is? At the eastern end of that island chain. Pointed like a dagger at PAC Fleet's hind quarters.

Having a friendly nation in the eastern Solomons would at the very least give the Chinese a valuable ELINT recon post to monitor American fleet activities. When things get hot, it could be used, if occupied and fortified, to attack the USN's soft under-belly, as Churchill advocated the attack in the Mediterranean as a stab into the under-belly of the Axis. It doesn't have to be a full-scale occupation and assault. Just being able to be the bee in the bonnet of US Naval rear area operations would be a very profitable investment to any Chinese operations and adventures in the West Pacific.

Historically, at least in modern history, large scale conflicts between maritime and continental nations generally favor the maritime nation. Countries have natural advantages. Large countries with a strong agriculture and bordered by potential adversaries who have easy access to the heartland typically develop a cultural and a historical bedrock that is strongly tied to the land. Maritime countries who depend on trade for survival and who live off the sea and rely heavily on their large coastal areas for primary defense develop a much more mercantile and mobile culture and history.

The eighteenth and nineteenth century French were the continental country in opposition to the maritime nation of England. And the twentieth century conflicts between Nazi Germany and the Allies, followed closely by the Cold War between the Soviet Union and America, were similar face-offs between continental and maritime countries.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the French Navy repeatedly lost control of the waters around Europe as British Adm. Nelson defeated them first at the Battle of the Nile, denying the French access to the riches of faraway India and stranding Napoleon's forces in Egypt, and then again at Trafalgar, once and for all established the supremacy of the British Navy over the French. After that, it was just a matter of time before Waterloo.

During WWII, one potent reason for Germany losing the war was it could not defeat the advantage of the two great maritime powers of the day, Britain and America. German U-boats and pocket battleships were used to shut off the flow of supplies from America to Britain and Russia. But Britain and America held natural and historical advantages in maritime operations and, though deadly, the U-boat and capital ship threats were shut down.

Once isolated from maritime shipping and deployments, the Germans were effectively surrounded and isolated.

And having another continental army rolling them up from the East didn't help. Had the Red Army not had the support of maritime Britain and America as it pushed across the vast continental Ukrainian plains, could they have thrown back the German war machine as they did? Surely the proverbial Russian winter fatally impaled both Napoleon and Hitler, but the Russians have never been able to push west except in self-defense and with formidable allies further west, threatening their opponent's rear. In fact, I don't think they ever really tried.

Even in the Cold War, superpower era of MAD, the encirclement of the Soviet Union, and their failure to encircle America, was due in large part to our Carrier Battlegroups, which numbered up to 15, if I recall. The Soviets could barely field a single carrier. Only in global submarine operations could the Soviets even attempt a challenge, but if you can't operate in the sea openly, you are not the master of the high seas.

With global trade being so integral and vital to a global nation's interest, it is little wonder that mastery of the high seas would be paramount, even now more than ever. It is also little wonder that it will be on the high seas where global domination will be challenged and asserted.

Is there really a natural advantage for maritime nations in such conflicts? Will the current and future Sino-American face-off reflect the same geo-politics? Can the Chinese overcome American maritime advantages? Or am I just exhibiting American-centric arrogances?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Horowitz's Cuba-China-Iran Axis Diatribe:
   Yes, yes, I do take it seriously. But. Seriously!

Frederick W. Stakelbeck writes a sensational article at David Horowitz's hard hitting soft copy FrontPageMag.com on the Cuban-China-Iranian Axis, Soviet-style.

gratis to discarded lies.

(yes, I am dripping with sarcasm and double entendres)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

   The Dead Lawyer Joke Defense

From the OpinionJournal of the WSJ, Best of the Web,

Why Did the Lawyer Cross the Road?

A crackdown on jaywalkers in the Los Angeles Civic Center resulted in nearly 250 citations in the past six months--and a $500,000 civil-rights lawsuit claiming that attorneys were being unfairly targeted by county police officers," reports the Los Angeles Daily News:

The lawsuit filed by Beverly Hills attorney Robert W. Hirsh says he has seen officers from the Los Angeles County Police cite lawyers jaywalking across Hill Street, between a parking garage and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, while ignoring fellow law enforcement officers doing the same thing.

"It's wrong for them to play gotcha with attorneys, but turn a blind eye to their law enforcement brethren," said Hirsh, who was not ticketed himself. "When the police have the temerity to violate the civil rights of attorneys, then no one in a free society is safe."

But consider No. 3 on the Canonical List of Lawyer Jokes:

Q. What's the difference between a dead skunk in the road and a dead lawyer in the road?

A. There are skid marks in front of the skunk.

Inasmuch as this joke is funny because it is true, lawyers are at higher risk than regular people from jaywalking. Thus the county should have no problem proving in court that its selective enforcement has a rational basis.

The Coming Trade War with China, Part deux:
   Future History with Niall Ferguson

updated 1/18 1:00pm

I was going to include this as an afterthought to my yet-unpublished response to MBMc and Curious Dave, but it seems to deserve its own thread.

Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and author of Empire: The Rise and Fall of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power (New York: Basic Books, 2003) and Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire (London / New York : Penguin Press, 2004) among others, postulates at the Telegraph on January 15th a future history of the beginning of the Great Gulf War of 2007-2011,

Yet the historian is bound to ask whether or not the true significance of the 2007-2011 war was to vindicate the Bush administration's original principle of pre-emption. For, if that principle had been adhered to in 2006, Iran's nuclear bid might have been thwarted at minimal cost. And the Great Gulf War might never have happened.

Of course, this from discarded lies may negate the precept for that bleak future history,

To recap a previous post, there have been more and more interesting deployments by the USAF to the Middle East, both in number (a wing has 72 planes; we just sent 5½ × 72 over there) and in kind (F-117a, F-16C/D, F-15E, A/OA 10). Five entire fighter wings: the 388th, the 49th, the 122nd, the 4th and the 18th. On top of that, two fighter squadrons (four=a wing, I think, so this is another half-wing) have deployed for four month rotations in recent days: the 336th and the 355th. And now, Israel is making far more belligerent noises than we've been accustomed to hearing with regard to Iran. We've gone from Israel saying "this is the whole world's problem" to this: Israel prepares to launch attack on Iran nuclear sites. Things are heating up fast.

Interesting times, as the Chinese are wont to say.


MBMc, on his own Port McClellan, had offered a contemporary version of Ferguson's future history from John Keegan a few days before, and from the same paper, the Daily Telegraph. I had missed it as I have been ping-ponging these past few days from one holiday event to another.

Living in a first-generation multi-ethnic family is not easy!

btw, January 29th starts the two week festivities for the Year of the Dog...

(I need more vacation time!)

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Coming Trade War with China:
    On the Horizon

In the wake of his 1991 book, The Coming War with Japan, Dr George Friedman launched his company, Stratfor.com, to provide timely intelligence forecasting of world events. While I took issue with Friedman's original target identification (Japan) and his short-sighted political analysis, his economic analysis raised legitimate red flags.

But my contention has always been, long before Deng and before the end of the Cold War, that it would be China, not Japan nor Russia, that would emerge as the 21st Century contender for America's domination in world affairs. Only China had the latent resources and cultural integrity to mount a serious challenge. And as anyone studying empires would know, every empire gets challenged at some point in time.

In my "debates" at InTheseTimes.com, David (known as Curious David here), offered this challenge, When did WWII really start, and has WW3 already started?

The starting gun is this entry in wikipedia.com. Was it the German invasion of Poland, the Japanese invasion of China or the Italian occupation of Ethiopia. I would add the Spanish Civil War to this litany, even though Spain was "neutral" in the war against fascism.

Now, I think it goes without saying that it was Germany's invasion of Poland that precipitated all those regional conflicts into a single "world" war, but David's comment is legit. There is always a road to war before the war actually appears on the horizon. The road to WWII hinged on the rise of fascist states after the Great Depression, and the threat that emerged from them.

Today, the conflicts seem to (still) be nationalist. The small brush fires immediately in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War were sparked by the lifting of the superpower restraints on regional conflicts. Long simmering national ambitions, like an unwatched pot, boiled over. Kosovo, Somalia, Iraq and Iran, all added fuel that fired the ambitions of local tyrants.

Then Iraq invaded Kuwait and America became a Hyper-superpower.

I don't believe that WW3 proper, will start in the Middle East. China is the future potential adversary. Only a direct conflict between China and America has the potential for escalating into world conflagration.

It will (has?) start over trade. China seeks the riches of the free market, without fully embracing its realities. We'll do business with you, they say, but you must come to us. And leave your profits here. That Chinese-centric meme has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Every time I see an article like this one on trade tensions between China and the rest of the world, I cannot help but feel the future bearing down.

The seeds for WW3 have long been planted.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

My Quote for the Moment: Madison,
   on the Nature of Factions

So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.

--- James Madison, Federalist X
November 22, 1787

al Qaeda mere mercenaries?

And still more from the NYT article, though I quoted this paragraph in my last post, I didn't recognize the gem until just now,

The tribe was furious, and its members tracked down the three men who carried out the killing. Elders from the tribe held a trial in a local farmhouse and interrogated the men for days. They said they worked for a fighter from Saudi Arabia who bankrolled the attacks, Mr. Samarrai said.

The Samarrai brothers said Al Qaeda's appeal was based less on religion than on money. The Iraqis who killed the sheik were believed to have received $500 to $1,000 for the job, and the same amount for dozens of other similar killings, Waleed al-Samarrai said. He said local insurgents had changed allegiances, lured away by Al Qaeda's money.

al Qaeda needs culture sensitivity training:
 Failed to understand the locals when going to war in another country

More info from the NYT article referenced earlier.

al Qaeda seems to be suffering from the same lack of cultural understanding that critics of American troops in Iraq have been harping on for some time.

"The tribes are fed up with Al Qaeda and they will not tolerate any more," said a senior Iraqi intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The intelligence official confirmed reports that a Sunni tribe in Samarra had tried and executed Qaeda members for their role in assassinating a local sheik.

"It was a beautiful mistake," the intelligence official said of the sheik's assassination by Al Qaeda. "Now the tribes will kill Al Qaeda. Now they have the courage."

An Attack's Repercussions

Samarra, north of Baghdad, had been infiltrated by Al Qaeda's fighters. In desperation, a local sheik, Hekmat Mumtaz al-Baz, traveled to Baghdad in September to meet with Iraq's defense minister and ask for help, said one of the sheik's aides, Waleed al-Samarrai. A few weeks after the visit, the sheik was shot dead by Qaeda gunmen in his yard.

The account was confirmed by a member of the tribe, and a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Baghdad. Mr. Samarrai spoke in an interview in Al Wasat Hospital in Baghdad, where his brother, Salim, the sheik's bodyguard, who was wounded in a fight with Al Qaeda, was convalescing.

The tribe was furious, and its members tracked down the three men who carried out the killing. Elders from the tribe held a trial in a local farmhouse and interrogated the men for days. They said they worked for a fighter from Saudi Arabia who bankrolled the attacks, Mr. Samarrai said.

The Samarrai brothers said Al Qaeda's appeal was based less on religion than on money. The Iraqis who killed the sheik were believed to have received $500 to $1,000 for the job, and the same amount for dozens of other similar killings, Waleed al-Samarrai said. He said local insurgents had changed allegiances, lured away by Al Qaeda's money.

Members of the tribe swept the town and arrested 17 people they suspected were associated with the sheik's killing. In one house raid, the tribe found men from Sudan, Morocco, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, a member of the tribe said.

Al Qaeda's fighters struck back during the tribe's offensive. A foreign Arab believed to be a Saudi wearing in a suicide belt blew himself up at the sheik's funeral, killing one guest and wounding two, said Salim al-Samarrai, who said he witnessed the attack.

As a lesson to all those associated with the sheik's death, the tribe staged a public killing. While the sheik's father watched, men with machine guns shot the three men who carried out the assassination, the Samarrai brothers said.

"Someone from outside the tribe should not tell us what to do," said Waleed al-Samarrai, standing next to Salim's hospital bed. "It is unacceptable for us."

   Light at the end of the Iraqi tunnel
just in time for 2006 elections

Two exciting pieces of news that must have the White House celebrating the holiday seasons a little longer than normal!

From the pages of the Weekly Standard last week, proof that Iraq had real and tangible connections to al Qaeda et al.

THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq.

(gratis to Port McClellan)

And from the NYT today, cracks beginning to be detected in the Sunni insurgency as Sunni insurgents, looking to participate in the political process, are turning on their al Qaeda "friends".

The split within the insurgency is coinciding with Sunni Arabs’ new desire to participate in Iraq’s political process, and a growing resentment of the militants. Iraqis are increasingly saying that they regard Al Qaeda as a foreign-led force, whose extreme religious goals and desires for sectarian war against Iraq’s Shiite majority override Iraqi tribal and nationalist traditions.as the Iraqi Sunni insurgences.

(gratis to Outside the Beltway)

In your face, Dimwits!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My name is sufren and you are a jerk:
   Say that three times fast and go to jail

It is now illegal to annoy someone and misrepresent yourself at the same time on the internet.

But it is alright if you leave your Social Security number.

It's illegal to annoy

A new federal law states that when you annoy someone on the Internet, you must disclose your identity. Here's the relevant language.

"Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

I'd give a hat tip to Reddragyn, but he is just another annoyingly shrill liberal progressive Democrat. But I am not sure which of those adjectives would be found to be most annoying.

Getting mugged would be cheaper:
   Sometimes libertarians (or is that Libertarians?) get it right

Why am I surprised at these statistics? It is as if somebody had been snooping in my private journal, but reason.com is a libertarian site. They'd never do that, would they?

A new Tax Foundation study, released just in time for those of you who are getting a jump on your 1040s, puts the cost of complying with the federal income tax at $265 billion in 2005, or 22 cents for every dollar collected. The compliance cost, which was 14 cents per dollar in 1990, is down slightly from the 2004 figure of 24 cents.

This burden consists mainly of the value assigned to 6 billion hours of effort, based on average pay for professional tax preparers and average hourly compensation for the general population (for people who prepare their own tax forms). It does not include the costs associated with litigating tax disputes, operating the IRS and the U.S. Tax Court, or tax planning aimed at minimizing liability. Unsurprising bottom line: The tax code is too damned complicated, dedicated as it is to myriad goals aside from generating revenue.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Undemocratic Democrats:
   Democracy and Freedom, but only if I say it is.

Am I the only one who sees the inherent contradiction in Byron Williams' Rediscovering democracy article at workingforchange.com?

Time to return to first principles in Washington

"The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colors breaking through."

-- Alexis de Tocqueville

Could 2006 be the year that we reclaim our democracy?

As we begin the new year, reclaiming our democratic traditions seems to be a priority greater than even the war on terror.

Reclaim it? Was it stolen? Did I miss the putsch?

This (il)logic hyperbolic rhetoric assumes, of course, that the minority party (you know, the one that legitimately lost the last election) is the only legitimate choice of the electorate, regardless of the electoral results.

It also seems the Democrats are not afraid of using the 'fear' factor in politics.

Oh, wait. That is supposed to be the Republican's forte.

Silly me.

Negative Campaigning 2006, part Deux:
   and so it begins...

(updated 4:10 pm)

The website, workingforchange.com is in full swing today. Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post and WfC contributor, challenges Bush's sincerity and commitment to freedom (compared to whom, I ask??),

While we continue to uncover more and more about the lies and deceptions the Bush administration used to lead us to war in Iraq, let's not lose sight of the lies and deceptions that are being used to keep us there — namely, the idea that we are sacrificing American lives in the name of spreading democracy, freedom and human rights throughout the world.

For proof of how utterly insincere this claim is — and how empty is George Bush's lofty rhetoric on the subject — all you need to do is look at the kid glove treatment he gave the Chinese during his visit. Business and trade issues such as preventing movie pirating were clearly at the top of the president's agenda. Freedom, democracy and human rights were reduced to throat clearing preliminaries. Hey, who has time to worry about dissidents being locked up when the new "Harry Potter" flick is being stolen?

Huffington goes so far as to congratulate Ronald Reagan for standing firm on his human-rights convictions vis-a-vis Soviet dissidents. Yeah, and he was roundly criticized by Huffington's comrades for standing firm on SDI in Iceland.

Say, wasn't Bush criticized for taking a more aggressive stance against the Chinese in the pre-9/11 days? You remember, Bush's belligerence after China shot down our EP-3 plane off the coast of Hainan, and the "strategic competitors" comment?

What do the liberals want anyway?

Oh, yeah, that's right.

The White House. At any cost.

btw, Huffington has a book out, Fanatics and Fools: The Game Plan for Winning Back America. Might be worth a read.

Negative campaigning in 2006:
   One Democrat's strategy

E.J. Dionne, Jr advocates a 2006 salt-the-earth campaign for the Democrats at workingforchange.com. Dionne thinks it is a winner. But it is just the same ol same ol that has cost the Democrats election after election.

The only thing I agree with is that 2006 is "immensely important".

Elections at midterm can be low-interest affairs or immensely important. This fall's congressional elections will be a big show with large consequences because 2006 is looking a lot like the political years 1958, 1966 and 1978, all of which heralded major political transformations.
conservatives can't win elections on their own. They need moderate votes, and significant support outside the old Confederacy.
Bush and Rove's careful management of the politics of moral issues — show the religious conservatives you're with them without alienating moderates — collapsed during the Terri Schiavo controversy.
The president's Social Security privatization proposal reminded many blue-collar and middle-class voters why they had once voted Democratic. Such voters did not trust the free market enough to agree to cuts in their benefits.
The increasing unpopularity of the war in Iraq has struck at the heart of Bush's appeal to the center.
Three strikes and you're out: The social-issue right can't help Bush if its support drives away too many moderates. Pro-business economics can't help if it drives away many in the middle class. And the war on terror doesn't help if Bush is seen as managing it badly.
It is customary in columns of this sort to say somewhere around now that the Democrats will need to come up with a plan, a message, a program, etc., etc. I'm all for such things. But in 1958, 1966 and 1978, the out party gained ground largely by exploiting the failures of the party in power and exacerbating the contradictions in its coalition. If the Democrats prosper in 2006, it will be because whatever program they come up with achieves those goals.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Regime Change in Syria?
   Former Syrian VP calls for uprising

Assad "does not deserve to be president" says Abdul-Halim Khaddam, vice president of Syria untilhe resigned in June 2005.

Khaddam claims that the assassination of former Lebanese President Hariri a year ago could not have happened without the knowledge and assent of the former Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon. He also said there is no way that it could have happened without Syrian President Assad's knowledge either.

According to the London Guardian,

In his interview with al-Arabiya satellite channel last week, Mr Khaddam said Hariri had been "subjected to many threats" from Syria. He quoted Mr Assad as telling Hariri in August 2004: "You want to bring a [new] president in Lebanon ... I will not allow that. I will crush whoever attempts to overturn our decision."

There is a great deal of speculation that Khaddam sees the problems plaguing Syria as a chance to head a new Syrian government, though he protests that he is not seeking such a thing.

Iraqi family killed in US airstrike:
   US warplanes pursuing 3 insurgents seen planting IED

The NYT (here and here), the WaP (here), and the BBC (here) reported last Wednesday that about a dozen Iraqis of one family were killed January 3 when F-14s strafed and bombed a hose in Baiji after unmanned aerial recon saw three people plant a roadside bomb and then fled into that building.

A Baiji police colonel, Sufyan Mustafa, told Reuters that the family members killed in the bombing did not include any suspected insurgents. "There were no terrorists in this house," he said.

Google searches and searches at the NYT, the WaP and BBC have identified no further followup stories.

NYT search link
WaP search link
BBC search link
Google links:
- Sufyan Mustafa (Baiji Police Colonel)
- Ghadban Nahd Hassan (family member quoted by AFP)
link to AFP story in Turkish Press

Exit Strategy:
   What needs to happen before we can leave Iraq

Lt Gen John Vines, the operational commander in Iraq, identified what needs to happen in Iraq before Iraqi security forces can take over control from American troops,

"The ability of the ministries to support them, to pay them, to resupply them, provide them with water, ammunition, spare parts and weapons is not as advanced as the competence of the forces in the field. We must make significant progress in that area before they can conduct independent operations."


"The reason it's important to look at areas like governance and infrastructure is because oil is the lifeblood of Iraq. If they don't produce enough income to support their security forces, members of those forces could turn to ulterior purposes and could become militias or armed gangs."
This is from a NYT article today.

al Qaeda declares victory:
   Cool! Maybe they'll go home now

From Reuters in Dubai,

Al Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri said in a video aired on Friday that U.S. plans to withdraw troops from Iraq meant Washington had been defeated by the Muslims.

"(U.S. President George W.) Bush, you must confess that you have been defeated in Iraq, Afghanistan and you will be too in Palestine soon," said Zawahri in the video broadcast by Al Jazeera television.

Given yesterday's violence in Palestine, I think Zawahri is a bit premature in declaring the kind of victory al Qaeda has truly achieved in Iraq or Afghanistan

Sorry. I couldn't resist the sarcasm


Iraqis blame American troops for deaths:
   er, I mean, they blame al Qaeda in Iraq

Washington Post led off yesterday's article on the escalating violence in Iraq with these two paragraphs:

BAGHDAD, Jan. 5 -- The residents of Ramadi had had enough. As they frantically searched the city's hospital for relatives killed and wounded in bomb blasts at a police recruiting station Thursday, they did something they had never publicly done: They blamed al Qaeda in Iraq, the insurgent movement led by Abu Musab Zarqawi.

"Neither the Americans nor the Shiites have any benefit in doing this. It is Zarqawi," said Khalid Saadi, 42, who came to the hospital looking for his brother, Muhammed. Others said they hoped that sympathies in the city, considered a hotbed of support for the Sunni Arab insurgency, would turn against Zarqawi's faction.

They blamed al Qadea??

Who'd've figured?

The article goes on to describe the reaction of the "Man on the Iraqi Street" to accusations that the American troops are responsible,

The Ramadi residents responded to the attack with fury. Nearly everyone at the scene said they believed it had been ordered by Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq, considered the most ruthless and best-organized faction in the insurgent movement.

"People in this city helped Zarqawi a lot, and I hope this would make them change their minds," said Saad Abid Ali, a captain in the Iraqi army hit by shrapnel in the legs.

Another group of people beat a doctor in the hospital after he told an Iraqi journalist that U.S. forces were to blame for the attacks.

My Quote for the Moment: Abigail Adams,
   on the Character of George Washington

[He] has so happy a faculty of appearing to accommodate and yet carrying his point that if he was not really one of the best intentioned men in the world, he might be a very dangerous one.

Abigail Adams

Federalist Patriot Daily Quote: Publius,
   on Reason in Politics

"In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever character composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. ... Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob."

-- Alexander Hamilton and James Madison
(Federalist No. 55, 15 February 1788)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

My Quote for the Moment:
   Jay on the Necessity of Government

From the Federalist Papers, No. 2. Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence, :

Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers.

John Jay
October 31, 1787

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory:
   Podhoretz rebuts

Norman Podhoretz, writing The Panic Over Iraq at Commentary the week before last month's Iraq elections, explains that the recent panic of anti-war critics is the result of their

realization that the chances of pulling off the proverbial feat of snatching an American defeat from the jaws of victory are rapidly running out.

Podhoretz writes an excellent rebuttal of alleged failures in the Iraq War, arguing that we are winning, both militarily and politically.