Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The Gloves Come Off

Unable to wait another minute, President Bush has begun the campaign for reelection. Last night, at a meeting of governors of both parties at the White House, Bush unveiled his stump speech, and began his campaign in earnest, with almost eight months to go before election day.

Bush made it clear that this campaign will be about Kerry's record.
"The other party's nomination battle is still playing out. The candidates are an interesting group with diverse opinions," Bush said. "They're for tax cuts and against them. They're for NAFTA and against NAFTA. They're for the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act. They're in favor of liberating Iraq, and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts."
And, there is even a hopeful sign that Kerry is willing to go along. In a statement issued in response to the Bush speech, Kerry averred:
But the American people haven't forgotten this president's failed record, because they have to live with it every day. George Bush's credibility is running out with the American people. They want change in America, and I'm running because I am determined to bring that change and put America back on track.
But no Zero Base Thinker is fooled by this rhetoric. Kerry knows that he has no chance running the antiwar campaign he could have run if he had been in the fray in 1972. The war against Jihadistan is no Vietnam conflict. The people know that in this war, we all live on the front lines. The only reason that Kerry has such a deeply antiwar stance, is that he had to run against Dr. Dean the Scream, who pulled his party so far to the left that they can shake hands with Pat Buchanan and the big "L" libertarians. But even as slimy a creature as John Forbes Kerry will have a very hard time sliding back over to a stance that is in favor of a strong defense. He is still saying things about making the war into a law enforcement operation, and he is still insisting that France and Germany hold veto power over any American use of force. And, he has opposed every significant weapon system that made our vistory so breathtakingly one-sided. These positions are unacceptable to a majority of Americans. Any analysis of Kerry's political career will show that JFK will do everything in his power to appear to be more like his opponent between now and election day, insofar as these mainstream ideas like survival of our culture are concerned. That is why Bush is, indeed he must, make J.F.Kerry's record the central thrust of the campaign. That is also why Kerry is trying to make peripheral issues the centerpiece of his campaign. He wants a debate on what Bush and he were doing during the Viet Nam war, and Bush wants to talk about what the two men have done the last four years, and the next four. Logic says that the Bush strategy will prevail, but logic does not always rule in politics.

There is still a wild card in the woodpile though. Hillary. There is great danger to what Bush is doing vis a vis Hillary Clinton. If Bush succeeds in convincing most Americans that Kerry is a worthless pile of leftist trash too soon, even the democrat leadership may get the idea that they will need a candidate who can pretend that National Security is a priority for them, too. And those who have been paying attention have surely noticed that Hillary has been pretending to be that very thing for several months now. There is danger here that Bush began his campaign too soon. Hillary would make a much more serious opponent. She has many more voters fooled than the rest of them do.

I know that many pundits say that it is too late for a Clinton candidacy now, that it is too late for her to appear on the ballot. Yet, I have this nagging nightmare, in which the convention is deadlocked, and the solons of the left bring out their secret Hillary weapon. I can only hope that Bush and Co. are as smart as they think they are. Hope, and pray.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Mending Fences

Clifford D. May has an article up that wonders about the good things that might happen if the fence that Israel is erecting between itself and the West Bank is successful in stopping the murder/suicide attacks in the Holy Land. This is quite a rosy scenario. It is a measure of just how crazy our world has become, how easy hatred of Jews is in today's world, that to advocate the end of the murder of Jews is considered an almost impossible dream. But that is indeed the way things are today on Planet Earth. The piece also goes into a capsule history of the region that is perfectly brief and complete; pithy, as O'Reilly would say. It is quite worth the read. After May describes the upcoming case in The Hague in which the palestinians are seeking to have the fence declared a criminal act, he says:
But what if all that is ignored, the fence is erected -- and it works? The benefits to Israelis are clear. Less obvious is that under such conditions it also would be possible to relieve Palestinian communities of the stress of Israeli military occupation. Tanks and troops could pull back. Curfews could be lifted. Checkpoints could be removed.

And that's not all. Currently, life on the West Bank is dreadful – poverty is rampant, unemployment is epidemic, freedom is non-existent. It doesn't need to be that way. It wasn't always that way.

In 1967, Israel took the West Bank from Jordan. That was the price Jordan paid for launching an attack against Israel from the West Bank – joining Egypt and Syria in what was intended to be a war to drive Israel into the sea once and for all.

Ironically, under Israeli rule from 1967 to 1993, the West Bank's economy was among the fastest growing in the world thanks to burgeoning commerce between Israelis and Palestinians. Health care improved and the mortality rate dropped. Where there had been not a single institution of higher learning, by the early 1990s there were seven universities in the West Bank.

What stopped this momentum? The “Oslo peace process.” In 1993, the Israelis brought Yasser Arafat back from exile in Tunisia and put him in charge – angering many local Palestinian leaders. Arafat made the territories under his control a safe haven for all manner of terrorists. Then, in 2000, at Camp David, he turned down an Israeli offer for full statehood in 95% of the West Bank and Gaza and launched a wave of terror beyond anything Israel had ever experienced. In response, in 2002, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered his soldiers to re-occupy the West Bank.

For the average Palestinian, Arafat's rein has been all guns, no butter. He has done nothing to spur development, and he has nurtured corruption. Schools have taught not skills and vocations, but hatred of Jews and the glories of dying as a suicide bomber. While billions of dollars in foreign aid have poured into the Palestinian Authority's coffers, employment and income have fallen. But Arafat has become one of the richest men in the world.
And were average Palestinians to enjoy some peace, quiet and economic opportunity, perhaps they would be less inclined to continue to passively accept Arafat's failed leadership. Perhaps they would be bold enough to demand leaders willing to fight terrorism and corruption, initiate democratic reforms and negotiate in earnest with Israel.

Such a scenario frightens Arafat as no helicopter gunship ever could. That is why he has orchestrated next week's hearings at The Hague. The purpose is not really to argue about the route the fence will take. Israel has been negotiating with American diplomats on that, and Israel is willing to talk with others – though not with terrorists. You don't negotiate with burglars where you may put your burglar alarms.

No, the real point of the hearings in The Hague is to challenge Israel's right to self-defense, to put on trial Israel's right to exist, to ask a respected international body to issue a license to kill Israelis.

But what if this effort fails? What if people see the hearings for the propaganda exercise they are? What if the UN's court is dismissed as having compromised its integrity, having become no more serious a body than the UN's Commission on Human Rights – which is headed by Libya and includes such chronic human rights violators as Saudi Arabia and Syria?

And what if the barriers, fences, walls – call them what you will -- succeed in separating two societies now locked in mortal combat, giving both a chance to calm down, cool off and look squarely toward the future? Is there a chance that, at the end of the day, the fence could become a bridge to a new era? Is it not worth a try?
Beautifully put.

One Step Closer?

The Hydrogen economy is, an article in the journal Science says (as reported in The Monitor), one step closer to practicality. It seems that some scientists have found a way to create Hydrogen on the vehicle, from Vodka. (Well, actually a solution of 40% ethanol. But that is as good a definition of Vodka as any.) The ability to make the Hydrogen on board from a tank of relatively benign liquid, rather than having to store on board this almost impossible to store volatile gas, would be a great advance. It further is reported that all of our gasoline can be replaced by this fuel, with the only downside to this being, well, let the man speak:
One such hurdle:It would require at least 40 percent of the cropland in the US to produce enough ethanol to power the nation, according to the new NRC report
Tiny little problem like that. Nothing we can't handle. We would merely have to give up all of that useless wheat, soybean, and cattle grazing land and turn it to corn production.

I hate to always be the guy who points out the flaws in arguments, but the entire raison d'etre of Zero Base Thinking is to examine the facts without the influence of too much in the way of hopes, dreams, and expectations. Hydrogen is a good thing, and this idea is surely a great advance in the eventual realization of a sustainable energy source for humanity, but the entire debate will always redound to the cost of producing energy. Make no mistake - that cost is the only thing between where we are today and almost unlimited wealth for everyone on the planet. And Hydrogen is still only a means to store energy. That energy must be produced, or harnessed, first. What this new process accomplishes is merely to make the storage of hydrogen cheaper and easier.

There are a few other problems with using Ethanol as a fuel. First, the government must approve a new poison that can be added to the fuel that will not spoil the efficiency of the process. (Yes, believe it or not the government insists that all ethanol be poisoned before it can be sold for a non beverage - and non-taxed - use. I know that denatured alcohol, the presently available form of such ethanol, can not be used in many chemical processes that require Ethanol. So a new poison must be found. We can't expect scientists to pick up on a silly little detail like that, it's more of an economist's question.)

The left always complains that we don't do enough, or invest enough in alternative energy sources. Wrong on both accounts. We, both the government and the corporate world, are constantly working, spending, and looking for alternatives. Hydrogen is a promising technology that is being pursued. But there is no easy magic wand that will make our energy problems go away. As in:
The NRC said that while hydrogen could "fundamentally transform the US energy system ... the impacts on oil imports and carbon dioxide emissions are likely to be minor during the next 25 years," even with huge investments.
The truth of the matter is that we are definitely moving into the future, a future that will be there whether we have democrats or republicans in charge. Both sides want the same things: clean air and water, less crime and poverty, better education. The mindless charge that the republicans do not want any of these things is hysterical. We are moving toward a better world. It just takes a little more time than any of us would like. What I am reporting today is definitely good news. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Another Issue Off the Table

Democrats and Lefties must be very unhappy this morning. The former CEO of the notorious Enron Corporation, Jeffery Skilling, was arrested, and an indictment is expected to be issued presently. While the picture of Skilling in handcuffs is gratifying to one who has been telling the lefties for over two years that this would happen, there is no joy in Mudville today. The left is not happy. In their little world, when justice prevails, and a Republican administration looks good, the news is all bad.

The issue of, well, it goes by many names. But the idea that the Bush administration is a corporatist shill, that lawlessness is the name of the corporate game, that there is no justice for wealthy malfeasors under the republicans... in a normal or fair world it would just go away. There is nothing new about businessmen going to jail. At and near the top in American business, the place where I live, fear of the law is pervasive. Jail, and other sequelae of government interference, oops! regulation of business are common occurrences any time publicly traded stock is a factor. The leftist whining about two Americas, two sets of laws, it is all so much hooey.

As I have said many times, if this guy, or any one of dozens of others who have been in the news for the last few years for similar behavior, did what "they" said he did, i.e. steal shareholder money, lie to increase the price of Enron stock, or otherwise violate our very strict rules of corporate behavior, he will go to jail. In fact, as I write this, he is in jail in the basement of the Federal Courthouse in Houston. In the fullness of time the government will have their chance to present the evidence to a jury of people with good jobs or pensions. And, if the government doesn't piss the jury off, and if he is indeed guilty, he will go to prison. In any event he will lose most of his fortune, and will surely spend a long, a truly lousy period of time being hated by those he formerly thought were his friends.

Of course, the left will not agree with a word I have said. They will argue that this is just a drop in the bucket, and Skilling will get off, and all the rest of their lies and denial, since they do not believe that the system works, and they refuse to allow their argument to be sullied by the facts. But the truth is that, today, the system worked, and this long anticipated arrest has taken place. One more piece of the puzzle fits into place. And, in a fair world, this issue for the left would be off the table. But it's not, not entirely. They will continue to carp and whine about the unfairness of it all. But to those in the great middle, even in the rhetorical world where we live, this action by the feds has deflated the force of the issue against Bush in this election cycle. And that's a good thing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Bold New Plan, or Brazen Pandering?

John Dunshee over at his fine blog "Just Some Poor Schmuck" has a post detailing some of the latest utterances by the candidate-apparent, including some of his latest grand give-away plans. As I say, this give away plan is the same old crap. And now that most taxpayers no longer have any income taxes to pay, other than the payroll tax, voters have no reason not to vote for every entitlement they see in the democrap candy store. It is a shameful situation that, a little bit down the line, threatens our very nation.

Back during the founding of our nation, doubters wrote that democracy could not work past the point that the voters realize they can vote themselves largesse from the federal treasury. We may be about to reach that point. After it happens, historians will realize that it was this idea of a progressive income tax, which insulates most of the people from the need to pay for any of these goodies, that sealed our fate.

Meanwhile, over at Brothers Judd, there is another post about some of the concerns that democrats are having over a likely Kerry candidacy, that should attract a lively discussion. Clearly John Forbes Kerry is a flawed candidate, but Bush has his own problems as well. Anyone who thinks that this election will be a cakewalk for the Republicans is in for a surprise. As long as about half of the voters believe that the war is over, we are in danger of another Clinton style hollow presidency. It could happen. Believe it. This is no time to relax.

Sleeping With the GOP

Recently the Village Voice ran a column detailing their investigation of how the campaign of Al Sharpton is being financed by noted conservative gadfly, Robert Stone. As the Voice puts it:
Roger Stone, the longtime Republican dirty-tricks operative who led the mob that shut down the Miami-Dade County recount and helped make George W. Bush president in 2000, is financing, staffing, and orchestrating the presidential campaign of Reverend Al Sharpton.
Now, that is one sweeping statement. There must be some truth to it, though. These guys do seem to deserve each other. Yet, even though Stone and Sharpton come from the opposite ends of the political spectrum, they seem to have a lot in common. As Stone has said, he and Sharpton share "a mutual obsession: We both hate the Democratic Party." And, as The Voice points out:
Sharpton and Stone are, in a sense, brothers under the skin, outlandish personalities too large to be bound by the constraints that govern the rest of us. Stone was the registered agent in America for Argentina's intelligence agency, sucking up spy novels; Sharpton was a confidential informant for the FBI, wiring up on black leaders for the feds. Stone is a fashion impersonator, dressing like a hip-hop dandy; Sharpton, having shed his gold medallion and jogger suits, now looks like a smooth banker. Stone was involved in Watergate at the age of 19; Sharpton was a boy-wonder preacher. Stone's mentor from the days of his youth was Roy Cohn; Sharpton's was James Brown. Sharpton is a minister without a church; Stone is almost as rootless, having left the powerhouse Washington firm he helped form years ago. Each reinvents himself daily, if not hourly, as if nothing in their past matters.
But one must remember that this is a hit piece by The Voice. They will do anything to undermine any opposition to the democrat nominee. The Tampa Tribune has a more reasonable take on the Sharpton campaign, and Stone's involvement with it.

Looking past the obvious take, that Sharpton has sold out to Stone for the cash, there is something laudable about what Sharpton is doing. The democrats have been running roughshod over the blacks for a long time. African-American vote totals over 90% garner them no respect, or substantial appointments, from the democrats who win their contests. At least Sharpton will make them promise him something before he will go away. But, what if they won't bow down to the Reverend Al, the way they assuaged Jesse Jackson's ego?

There is a rumor that Stone will back Sharpton in an independent run in 2008, against Hillary. Now, isn't that a deal breaker? I'll bet it's almost enough to get Hillary rooting for Kerry in 2004. Almost.

Time To Pay Attention

With the political season already upon us, way too early, and the war to end all wars simmering away, it is easy to lose track of the other myriad issues that should concern us. One of the most important of these issues is the debate over global warming. This administration has shown no interest is what they consider the small stuff, and evidently global warming is one of those issues. I fear that they will allow this junk science to affect policy, with disturbing results possible. Since many on the side that is against the fruition of the Kyoto protocols believe the issue to be won, those in favor of Kyoto will continue to chip away at the public perception of the state of scientific understanding of global climate.

The people who push the Kyoto protocol are indefatigable in their quest, as they have pursued this issue for at least one hundred years. No, not global climate: that is only a handy tool for them. Their quest is the redistribution of wealth, from the wealthy nations to the "developing," or "third" world. They believe that wealth is a zero-sum game, and that, if only America and Western Europe could be made poorer, the less fortunate will become richer. When their theme was "socialism" or "communism," they picked up enough support to form a few empires, as well as sundry lesser nations that followed this now-disproved theory. Now that the utopian movement has been shown to be a complete failure, they believe that they can get enough support by the chicken little approach: e.g. convince enough mothers that their children are in danger, and thus garner enough support to get the planet to cross this rubicon of "Carbon reduction."

If they were sincere in their quest, Kyoto would not expressly exclude nuclear power as a way (the only practical way-ED) to mitigate CO2 emissions under the protocol. They can not even agree that trees, which absorb CO2, should be allowed a role in mitigation. What this means is that, under the Kyoto protocol, the only way for a country to achieve compliance is to burn less fuel. While some gains are possible with new technologies and efficiencies, the massive CO2 decreases required can only be accomplished by the impoverishment of the developed countries. Of course, since this is no way to sell the deal, any accolyte of "global warming" would deny that this is their goal, and instead try to misdirect your attention to the plight of the children, and back those scientists who are willing to buck their academic establishment into a corner of needing to prove a negative, which is, as we all know, impossible by definition.

Today in my hometown paper there is a letter to the editor by one of the true believers, and for once, this writer is willing to concede a little bit to reality. While soft-pedaling the import of the information, he does concede that the current climate changes as seen in ice cores are a mirror of past conditions (who was burning fossil fuel ten thousand years ago? -ED). Instead of pursuing the scientific case, which is a loser for his side, he launches into fear-mongering, predicting that, given the choice between starving and raiding, humans will raid. To avoid such total lawlessness, he implores us "to give this critically important issue the attention it rightly deserves."

I agree. If we fail to pay attention to this issue, the other side will creep back into relevance. Since the editors of newspapers will print this hysterical side to the argument, we must make sure that those in positions of political power know for an absolute fact that, those of us who are paying attention still think that this is an important issue for the future economic health of our world. And, if indeed we shall undertake to cause changes in our climate, it must be science, not politics, that determine the course of action to take. If it is decided that we should cool the climate, there are many possible technologies that are prohibited from consideration under Kyoto. The Bush administration should, by all means, finance research into alternatives.

For one thing, Hydrogen, which has been touted as a solution to the Carbon emissions problem, is of absolutely of no use unless we develop another source of cheap, clean power. If nuclear is off the table, what other power source can be made available? Hydrogen is, after all, only a means to store energy, since we can't mine it, and it doesn't grow on trees. For another approach, we could look into ways to decrease insolation on the planet's surface, which is more likely to reduce atmospheric temperatures that reductions in carbon dioxide within a lifespan, or less.

But most important of all is the research, which at present is driven by an academic establishment that buys the political case behind Kyoto, so that it is unlikely to fund additional research that will actually increase our understanding of global climate. It has been said that basic research takes too long, but that is all part and parcel of the chicken-little approach. To the true believers, if we wait, their issue will die. So they persist in their prediction that the sky is falling, and we must act, NOW. I, for one, do not believe that it is falling. I am not at all sure that the Earth is even getting warmer. I don't believe that global sea level is rising, and I wonder what to make of the fact that Antarctic ice is increasing. But I have no fear of the truth. More research is definitely indicated in the area of climate and climate change. I say: "Bring it on!!"

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

All Hail the Royal He

We Americans are so lucky. Now that John Forbes Kerry is about to contend for the highest office in the land, we find out that he has royal blood in his veins, and was a cousin to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And he is not only royal by blood, but he was a friend of the previous American royal, and former owner of the sobriquet JFK, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

According to an article published last week,
Senator Kerry's mother was a Forbes whose ancestor, Rev. John Forbes (died 1783), was a noted Anglican clergyman and magistrate in East Florida. Rev. Forbes' wife was Dorothy Murray, daughter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's matrilineal immigrant ancestors, James Murray of North Carolina and Massachusetts and Barbara Bennet of North Carolina. (Thus Kerry and FDR are fourth cousins twice removed.) The Forbeses, Murrays and Bennets were all of royal descent.

Senator Kerry's mother's mother was Margaret Pyndal Winthrop of the family that founded Massachusetts Bay, a granddaughter of Robert Charles Winthrop, Speaker of the US House of Representatives and a great-grandson himself of Revolutionary statesman James Bowdoin, for whom the college is named. The wife of R.C. Winthrop, Speaker of the House, was the daughter of a Cabot and great- granddaughter of a Higginson and a Pickering of the Boston Brahmin families of those surnames.
Now, isn't that special?

And lest we lose sight of the real John Forbes Kerry in all this talk of ancestors long dead, let us remember something of the current JFK. This is the man, when defending B.J.Clinton's (lack of) service record, said: "We do not need to divide America over who served and how." Yet now John Forbes Kerry is viciously attacking President Bush's service record, who, after all, did serve in the Texas Air National Guard. This attack, it seems to me, opens the door to an examination of JFK's own record on military and national security issues.

John "Benedict" Kerry is an essay that reprises the Career of Benedict Arnold, noted American General in the Revolution, and noted traitor in that same conflict, and compares Arnold to J.F.Kerry, who also was an American officer in war who subsequently took political actions that undermined American policy, and contributed in some small way to the deaths of thousands of America's allies.

Kerry's record on national security issues is definitely an issue that bears some scrutiny.

The campaign has not truly begun, and we will have many months to explore this man, and it is proper that we examine his history, and attempt to discover his fitness to serve in the highest office in the land. Even though the democrats have not had their convention yet, it is becoming crystal clear that john Forbes Kerry will be the nominee. Therefore, let the games begin!

UPDATE: Blogger has added an RSS Site Feed. It's new, and not universally compatible. Let me know if you have any problems with it.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Shooting out of Both Sides of their Mouths

So now Strategy Page has an overview of European outlays for military strength, and the outlook is grim:
Since the Cold War ended in 1991, defense spending has been in decline throughout the world. In 1990, NATO countries average spending on defense was 4.7 percent of its GNP. By 2002, even after the terrorist attacks on America, it had reached a low of 1.9 percent.
On the one hand, they refuse to approbate any use of force by the United States in the political realm and, on the other hand, they unilaterally disarm themselves, leaving the American armed forces as the sole military organization with the strength to operate against any opponent stronger than Chad.

At least they appear to be modernising the forces that they are retaining:
The good news in all this is that Europe, agonizingly and slowly, is following the US lead in deploying transformational weapons and introducing new asymmetrical tactics for fighting terrorists. Lighter and more mobile brigades are being fielded by most Western countries, especially in Britain and Germany, equipped with light armored vehicles (LAVs), laser range finders, and GPS. Aircraft will be used with greater efficiency and in smaller numbers, armed with precision munitions and stand-off weapons. New amphibious vessels are also being built, along with aircraft carriers, and fast sealift vessels, all geared toward expeditionary warfare.
So they are showing the appearance of keeping pace qualitatively, yet they are quantitatively slimming down their forces to the point where they could be, at best, a minor player in any major action.

It really sucks to be taken advantage of like this. They would never dare to disarm themselves unless they were pretty damn sure that we would be available on a moment's notice when and if we are needed. They decry our role as the world's policeman, yet they refuse to arm any other cop on the beat. It is all so, well, Continental.