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Sunday, January 30, 2005


Election in Iraq!

Democracy continues to spread. Today, what the left has been saying was impossible happened. A relatively peaceful election in Iraq occurred, on schedule. The administration resisted the calls for delay, and proved the pessimists wrong yet again. The naysayers who said Iraquis didn't want freedom were....wrong. The pessimists who said our military solutions could not be achieved were...wrong. The passifists who said we should just let the terrorists have their way were...wrong.

It's true terrorism is far from vanquished. GWB never said this was going to be a quick result. As much as we hate war, as much as we would love to embrace passivism, as sickened as we are that brave young men and women die in battle, it now must be admitted, after Afghanistan and Iraq that military objectives and solutions can be legitimate and are possible to accomplish.

The appeasers have been wrong throughout history. Their mantra is that nothing we can achieve on the battlefield is worth the sacrifice of the lives lost. Though that sacrifice is always tragic and hurtful, consider the costs of appeasement: seventy years of an Orwellian nightmare called the Soviet Union; 20 million dead, mostly civilians, because the Nazi's were allowed to grow powerful;, 47 years of Cuban impoverishment; 50 years of Maoist torture, from which the Chinese are only now emerging; at least a million dead compliments of Sadam. Not to mention the atrocities continuing in Africa, and the growing menace in Venezuela. The stifling theocracy in Iran. A society so awful in North Korea, that its people will do anything to escape. The cost of allowing these cruelties is also incalculable.

One of the constants of human weakness is greed, and with that comes the temptation for the strong to subjugate the weak. As long as that remains a human constant, the right thinking peoples of the world will, on occasion, have to stand up and be counted. The war on terror, and the battle for Iraq are part of that. The failure of most of the Europeans to join us is the continuing 65 year story of their appeasement strategy, grown out of their disastrous WW1 experience. Maybe that was understandable once, but it's time for them to grow up.

Meanwhile, I had to chuckle at GWB today, appearing before the cameras, trying to be Presidential and avoid that "I told you so" smirk. That's OK George. Just keep doin' what you're doin'. History will get it right.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Iraq Intrigue

WSJ's editorial page has made for especially interesting reading the past couple of days as we close in on Election Day in Iraq. The continuing story of the politics surrounding Allawi, the CIA's and State Department's man, and Chalabi, the Administration favorite (as well as the pick of the neo-cons and the WSJ editorial writer) is going to finally come to a head.

Skipping the history and all the analysis, here are a few very definite opinions I have about the whole situation, and how to interpret what happens next.

First, it is a wonder that any administration gets anything done given the intractability of our key bureaucracies in the foreign policy area. Particularly at State and the CIA, it seems that leadership was either unable or unwilling to rein the career bureaucrats in, and GWB was not forceful enough about getting his own way. Of course, it's no easier when the press and the loyal opposition do everything they can to undercut the administration, especially Defense, and glorify the careerists. So you have the spectacle of GWB trumpeting CIA misinformation as the reason to go to war when there were plenty of other justifications available. Then you have State supporting a policy of what? - a passive approach to occupation, exactly wrong as Mr. Halperin pointed out in the Journal this week (again).

Well democracies are messy, and not just fledgling ones.

I think that there will be a decent turnout in Iraq this week, possibly a larger percentage of eligible voters than WE normally get. However, it will be mainly Shiite and Kurds turning out with predictable results. This means that the current government may lose, with the Sistani forces winning. The irony is that the press will spin that as a loss for the Bush administration when they never really wanted Allawi to begin with. Instead, that will be a very well earned defeat for State.

One of the most insulting pieces of spin has been the media's insistence on referring to the terrorists in Iraq as an "insurgency." Of course, they don't want to use the word terrorist since that would imply that the Bush logic connecting terror and Iraq was correct all along. They could also call them Baathists, but they don't want to do that since that would imply that the enemy was formidable enough to take seriously. But people who bomb their own civilians and police force indiscriminately, engage in ritual executions and suicide attacks, etc. are nothing if not terrorists.

The Democrats continuing howling about the administration's policies in Iraq is a long run loser for the party. They insist again and again that the administration admit it was "wrong," presumably forgetting that we already had an election about that (which the Dems lost) and also forgetting that there is not nearly enough historical perspective for anyone to judge our actions for sure yet. The hysterical attempt to delay the Rice nomination at State does not reflect well on Reid, Kennedy and the like. This seems to be a party searching for a semi-permanent minority position. Lest one think that's impossible, consider the position of Britain's inept Conservative Party, or for that matter, Republicans for most of the period 1932-1968. You can spend a long time in the wilderness!

A much smarter stance would be one of support for the war effort, while at the same time making constructive suggestions about things the administration could be doing better (Lord knows, there are enough of those!). A model of such statesmanship is Connecticut Senator Lieberman, who I expect will go down as one of the clearest thinking and positive contribuors among current leadership. Such an approach would leave Democrats much better positioned to assume power when the country goes through one of its inevitable mood swings.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Thoughts on MLK day

Since my daughter's school choir was singing at the local MLK Day festivities yesterday, I found myself there at the beginning of the program and stayed long after her group had done their part. There was quite a bit of talent on display, along with the usual embarrassingly bad local "acts" and also a few interesting remembrances of the honoree. Of course, some of those "remembering" were born post 1968, so they "remember" Dr. King through news film footage and history books. Some seemed to grasp the enormity of his accomplishments, but as they say, you really had to be there. One speaker, a senior from Cornell who has served as an Alderman in his town despite his youth and seems to be determined to be an East Coast version of Senator Obama, made some very interesting observations from that perspective, before deteriorating into a parroting of the liberal positions on social security, taxes, the Iraq war, etc. One would like to believe that Cornell develops more sophisticated thinkers, but though I live in hope, I should know better by now.

One of the local ministers took on the unenviable task of reading the "I have a Dream" speech King gave at the Lincoln Memorial. To his credit, he made no effort to imitate King's delivery, but did it in his own style, somewhat underplayed, and surprisingly effective. I think King's oratorical mastery sometimes served to overshadow the content of his talks. By the time he delivered "I have a Dream," the speech had been polished to perfection, like a comedian's monologue performed hundreds or thousands of times before you see it. When an artist is so well prepared and confident in his material, that is when (s)he can seem the most spontaneous and relaxed, even though all of what you see is tightly rehearsed and performed verbatim. News footage of earlier King speeches show him experimenting and testing variations on the major themes in prior speeches, until they were just perfect.

That speech is tied together so brilliantly - from the "promissory note" to the "dream" - to "let freedom ring" and finally "free at last." As with many of his speeches, the themes are not original - he quotes poems, songs, etc. - the brilliance is in how they were woven together to make his point and most importantly, to move his listeners. When I see the film from the March on Washington speech, I still get chills, and it's 40 years old.

Though Dr. King gave the second greatest speech in American history, and probably had several others in the top ten, he was not a saint. His personal life was fodder for FBI rumor mongering and he apparently earned his reputation as something of a swordsman. He opposed the Vietnam war, certainly a position shared by many of us at the time, but a position that has not emerged unscathed by historical perspective, I regret to say. To a great degree, he lost control of his younger followers in the mid-sixties, many of whom gravitated to more radical and violent leaders. Whites preferred dealing with him because he was dedicated to non-violence, but that only served to disaffect younger, less patient Blacks. In fact, his star in the Black community was just regaining its prominence when he was cut down.

It's hard for me to understand that there are still many in the country who would prefer not to celebrate this day as a holiday. I know many people who make it a point to carry on business as usual. I guess that is their right - this is a free country. However, there is also little doubt that MLK day has grown more firmly established as a national holiday, as it should be. Dr. King's reputation and position of prominence, unlike the Kennnedy's, Malcolm X and other of his contemporaries, seems to be growing with the passage of time. I consider this the natural result of the importance of his accomplishments, their continuing relevance for so many of us even today, and his devotion to America and his determination that it mature as a nation.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Predictions 2005

Sorry for the long hiatus. It's just that I've been thinking about what may happen this year and I did want to get this important info out before the year was over. However, by waiting, my "predictions" can now be even more accurate.

January - The Indianapolis Colts streak into the Super Bowl, first shocking the Patriots, then dismantling the surprising Jets. In the pitiful NFC, the injury riddled Eagles are a shell of their former selves enabling the Falcons to make the big game. Somehow, the Iraq elections come off, though there is a dispute about whether provisional ballots in Mosul should be counted. The Yankees sign Sammy Sosa to shore up their depth chart weakness (third string) in right field. Jason Giambi claims that his weight loss is not due to the absence of steriods, but instead is caused by a previously undisclosed bout with anorexia.

February - The Bush administration proposes that young people should be allowed private social security accounts, that would be used to purchase variable annuities at retirement. If the monthly income from the annuity exceeds their promised social security benefit, the government would be "off the hook." Since in many cases, no benefit would be paid at all by the government, the administration claims its plan has achieved "actuarial viability." In baseball, pitchers and catchers report. The Mets are forced to restore Mike Piazza to their #1 catcher spot since as Casey used to say, "If you don't have a catcher, there will be a lot of passed balls." This is not a problem when Glavine is pitching since the hitters can be relied upon to stop pretty much everything with their bats.

March - The basketball season drones on, although only boxing fans seem to care. The NY legislature, in response to reform outcries, decides not to even try to produce a budget this year, hoping that then no one will care that it would have been late again. Gary Hart announces his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic nomination, closely followed by Dennis Kucenich (or whatever his name is).

April - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman anounces that he has reached agreement on a new three year contract with the players union, whereby the players will take over ownership of the teams, and the owners will be paid a salary to run them. Bettman announces a twelve game regular season, followed by the usual two month playoff schedule. Tiger finds his game and romps to a 6 shot Masters win.

May - The Bush administration announces its new tax proposal, eliminating all deductions and lowering the tax rate to zero. "This will save the most amount of paperwork of all the plans we considered," says the President proudly. Treasury Secretary Snow announces that no one will actually have to file under the new plan. When asked how the government will obtain revenues, he responds "we will have to learn to steal. We have asked President Putin to come from Russia to show us how it's done."

June - The veteran Red Wings, fresh from the shortened regular season, win the Stanley Cup. San Antonio beats Shaq's Heat in the NBA Finals. The Mets and Yankees are cruising in first place. Barry Bonds walks for the 100th time in 230 plate appearances. He is batting .420 with 17 homers and a slugging percentage of 1.370. "It's not that hard when they never call a strike on him," sniffs the Mets' Pedro Martinez. Lee Janzen rises again from obscurity to win his 3rd US Open.

July - New York comes in fourth in the Olympic selection sweepstakes for 2012, won by Paris. The US considers a boycott. "Can't stand them Frogs," says the head of the US Olympic Committee. Beltran hits #30 for the Mets, still cruising in their division. Ernie Els wins the British open, edging hard luck Monty by 1.

August - Curtis Strange is banned from the Champions Tour for being too boring. Bonds draws his 150th walk. Kevin Stadler wins the PGA playing with his shirt half out of his pants. Congress amends the Bush tax proposal. Instead of no one filing, now everyone will have to file under the alternative minimum tax. As for Social Security, House Minority Leader Pelosi calls the Bush proposal dead on arrival, saying she strongly prefers insolvency to any benefit cuts. The Atlanta Braves have won 20 straight and trail the Mets by two.

September - The players, who are now the NHL owners, have toted up their 2005 losses and voted to disband the league. The Braves overhaul the Mets to win the NL East by six. Giambi retires after making only 30 plate appearances, going hitless for the Yanks, who nevertheless win their division by 14. The US is routed in the President's Cup. Hillary Clinton says she may be a 2008 candidate for President, but she is so excited she may seek the nomination of BOTH parties.

October - In a replay of the 1948 World Series, the Indians beat the Braves in 6 games. The Israeli's and Palestinians both agree that they cannot make any sense of the Bush roadmap, but they make peace anyway. In frustration, Democrat Senate minority leader Reid asks if everything Bush touches has to turn to gold, no matter how poorly conceived. There is no comment from the administration. "We're all going on vacation until after the New Year," says the Bush press secretary.

November - The stock market is down 5% for the year. Not to worry, says Treasury Secretary Snow. "The Federal Government has no money or investments anyway." Jerry Seinfield announces that he will star in and produce a new comedy for NBC beginning in February. "This time, we'll try to do a show about something, though George and I haven't figured out what yet."

December - Dick Clark returns to Times Square for New Year's Eve. He doen't look a day over 35. The Yankees sign free agent Barry Bonds. "It's a Moneyball thing," says George Steinbrenner. "Did you see his on base percentage last year?" The Giants are 13-3 with Eli Manning achieving stardom. The Jets also make the playoffs. The Tuna retires as Dallas coach, along with Dick Vermiel, Joe Gibbs, and all the others whom the game has passed by. And another year is history.

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