Reason of Voice
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
LEAVING!Thanks to XRLQ and Kathy Kinsley, "Reason of Voice" has a new home. Our new URL is: http://reasonofvoice.com/ (what else?). If you are not redirected there shortly, please use the link.
So, reset your bookmarks.........and wave stinkin' Blogspot goodbye!
Monday, June 16, 2003
Bloomberg sinks lowerIn a recent NYTimes poll, NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg recorded an approval rating of only 24%, 'besting' his own record of 32% recorded in the Quinnipiac poll of early May. No other New York mayor has ever polled lower, according to the Times. The NYPost, on the absolute opposite end of the political spectrum, jumped on the pile in its full blast editorial today, comparing the mayor (of course, unfavorably) to previous mayor Giuliani. Quote:
What can he do?
* He might take aim a the true root cause of the crisis: A health-care system that squanders billions on unnecessary hospital beds simply to employ legions of redundant health-care "workers."
* He might confront the municipal work force in a coherent way, targeting unneeded functions, as opposed to empty or marginal civil-service job items. There are 280,000 bodies on the city's payroll - unaffordable, even in good times.
* He might attack the lush benefit structure enjoyed by municipal employees - no-contribution health insurance and fat pensions, to note just two.
But he won't.
That is to say, Hizzoner wants an omelet - but he won't crack eggs.
What a simplistic approach. FIND THE WASTE, Mike, bleats the NYPost, a stalwart normally of any Republican.........but not Bloomberg.
On the contrary, Bloomberg has attacked the problem of a destitute city budget with all the aplomb that a multi-billionaire businessman should; just like a business. He has approached Pataki and the State Legislature for more funds and made a plea to the Federal government as well. Both Pataki and Joe Bruno have barely given Bloomberg lip service, and certainly no money.
Bloomberg has increased taxes, both personal and property, while aggresively attempting to reinstitute the commuter tax, a fully fair tax that was wrongly recinded. On the services end, Bloomberg has, without favoritism, slashed the budget in every area, including Fire, Police and Sanitation. He's cut in after-school programs and in the drug addiction programs, he's even cut staffing out of his own office. He's taken on Weingarten in the Teacher's union and the PBA while witnessing an outrageous increase in the MTA union package, which is NY State's responsibility to (mis)negotiate. No matter, Bloomberg has gotten the blame. Of course, such across-the-board cutting has made Bloomberg NO friends, despite being the most responsible mayor, (and that INCLUDES Giuliani), that this city has ever seen. Perhaps the pressures of a budget deficit this large has goaded the Mayor to apply more aggressive directives to his police and building supervisors to raise money with citations of petty offenses. Stories of bad tickets seem to crop up on the DailyNews regularily. (including this recent goofy loitering story.)
Even if true, these stories strike me as an easy attempt to sell papers at the expense of a Mayor in the public opinion basement. Is this the best attack on Bloomberg that can be reasonably made? Although giving out tickets to increase revenue strikes me as shallow, it's a tactic I'm apt to forgive, considering the economic dire straits of the City.
Does this prove once and for all that you can't do what's right and succeed in politics??? Do we need to be so cynical? Looks like Bloomberg is going to continue to act like a leader, despite what any poll says........good for him.
Mideast back-and-forthDavid Adesnik at Oxblog has been among the few to show dismay at Sharon and support of the NYTimes editorial that got Michael Totten so steamed.
Among the few, that is, except for Greg Djerejian. I read a number of his recent posts on the issue and felt the need to reply. Here's a reprint of the email I sent him:
Came to you through Oxblog where I had a recent link from David Adesnik. First, I love your blog although I don't always agree with it. It is, however, always well argued, documented and written. But can I suggest a possibility you might not have considered? In your post on 13/6 you quote Alpher: (a mideast analyst)
"The attack on Rantisi was a mistake any way you cut it," said Alpher. "You can't have it both ways. If you sign on to the road map process and agree to give [Abbas] a chance, then you have to show restraint. If, on the other hand, you think it's all a sham and that he is impotent, then don't sign on in the first place."
I initially thought that the assassination attempt on Rantisi was monumentally ill-timed, for all the reasons you've stated. But I also believe that the Palestinian people will have to undergo a limited Civil war before any peace process will have any chance of success. Mahmoud Abbas has made it clear that he is unwilling to confront the terrorist organizations among him. If those terrorist organizations cannot be coopted into agreeing to any two-state solution, and I believe that such a plan goes against every fiber of their being, then the influence of those organizations will have to be weakened if Abbas is to GAIN control of his state and their policies. Even the speech that Abbas gave at Aqaba was enough to incite the terrorists to violence.........they hardly needed the Rantissi assassination attempt.
Is it possible that the Israelis are somewhat strangely helping Abbas by eviscerating Hamas, enabling a positive decision of Palestinian policy toward Israel? Alpher's statement could just as easily be applied to the Palestinians: If you sign on to the roadmap, you have to show the willingness to deliver on the end of violence. If you're not willing (or you just can't) deliver on this, don't sign on. Abbas may not be able to take on Hamas and Islamic Jihad publicly, but the Israelis can.
Go read Greg here and tell him what you think.
Sunday, June 15, 2003
Happy Father's DayI'd like to wish everyone a happy Father's day. I am also the father of 2 wonderful children just entering puberty (eek!). I'm taking some time out to write because I've always felt ambiguous about Father's day. What man feels so confident about their fatherhood that they're entirely comfortable having it celebrated? I know I don't. There are the obvious characteristics that we all look at, financial and moral support and a general willingness to sacrifice one's own needs for the sake of one's children. I've always felt a bit short here...........not neurotically so, but enough that Father's day has represented a chance for me to rededicate myself to my kids and to try to emulate the ideal: MY FATHER!
Saturday, June 14, 2003
Joys of linkageOne of the wonderful side effects of 'big blog' linkage, is that I get to read a wider group of writers. Recently my post on the roadmap had garnered a link from Michael Totten and Oxblog. In the latter case, I was referred along with a post by blogger Martin Kimel, so on I continued along that surfing wave, straight to Martin, who is as clear a thinker as I've seen. Both he and David Adesnik of Oxblog have been 'counterfisking' the other on the Palestinian crisis and despite being on opposite sides, they both argue so cogently you're happy to read them both...............great stuff!
Well, straight into the blogroll he went, because while I don't mind reciprocity, I definitely don't need it in order to add someone. I blogroll those who I enjoy reading myself, so if you care for my stuff, pick anyone along the far right column....you're sure to get an intelligently constructed read from any and all of them (from all sides of the tracks!). But first, give Martin a look and let me know what you think.
Times bashing.......continuedThis piece from the agitator, shows how deeply, and for how long, the NYTimes has been cutting corners in their reporting. Conservative crusher Ann Coulter originally reported how the NYTimes has been using a canned 'man on the street' for reactions to human interest stories. Greg Packer, who was supposedly first on line to get a copy of Hillary's "Living History" from the 5th Avenue Barnes and Noble, was polled for his reaction. Seems that Mr. Packer has been polled and printed in the media more than 100 times.
Friday, June 13, 2003
Road map cratersYou've heard it all before: The inablility of Abbas to contain Hamas and terror groups, while professing to the world in Aqaba that terror attacks in Israel would cease. Then there's Sharon, whose assassination attempt of Hamas leader al-Rantissi seemed incredibly ill-timed. Now, after recent brutal suicide bombings in Jerusalem, The IDF has been given instructions to completely wipe out Hamas. Michael Totten does a good job of fisking the NYTimes editorial advocating the resurrection of the 'roadmap'
I had wished that Abbas would have been given more time, despite Hamas's refusal to repudiate armed resistance, but now realize, AGAIN, how ridiculous it is to expect a society to reverse itself after years of total indoctrination of seeking a holy death and the Jihad against the Jews. Anyone who needs reminders of this is required to watch this, a 6 1/2 minute mini-documentary about the PA's continued indoctrination program of children to seek "shaheed"; holy death by suicide bombing. Although presented by the not impartial Israeli organization Palestinian Media Watch, you realize by watching how Palestinian terrorist groups can, at will, let loose a fusillade of suicide bombers at their whim. There's no shortage of young Palestinians willing to die killing innocent Israeli civilians, it seems. What kind of society continues to teach this to its children? Charles Johnson at LGF provides almost a daily glimpse of this crazy culture.
As usual, the White House has asked for restraint, hoping somehow to salvage the 'roadmap'. But, once again, it's clear that the Palestinians have been offered everything short of shoving the Jews into the sea and their terrorist groups have chosen for them ---- for continued death.
So be it. I've been so slow to come around to this, hoping that there was a 'silent majority' of Palestinians who would realize the horror that they, and the Israelis, have borne particularly since Oslo in 2000 and demand a different route. I had hoped the Abbas would show the courage to lead and take on Hamas and other terrorist organizations head-on, and give his people a hope for peace. I was wrong.
The road map is dead. I only wish the Israeli Defense Forces godspeed and stay safe. Do what you have to in order to defend your land and your homes.
More Iraqi difficultyThe US military characterized this attack in Iraq as a raid against a 'terror' camp, in which 70 Iraqis were killed. It's more likely an aftershock battle of the Iraqi war proper, trying to root out the last of the Baathist loyalists who have been buzzing around American forces, killing soldiers in various ambushes and small firefights in the last several weeks.
There is no need to falsely rename necessary battles to secure the country, even if the Administration prematurely declared the war entirely over in Iraq. What is crystally clear is how difficult the job that remains. When will civil obedience and security return to Iraq? They'll get there, but painstakingly slowly. I fear that we will see more stories like this one for a fairly long time.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
WMD reduxThis post is necessary to restore a balance (or restore my balance). I feel that too many in the blogosphere, including the blogfather himself, have defended too strongly against weapons of mass destruction queries. My pal (and super site designer) Kathy Kinsley has chimed in here, referencing the Instapundit and Mark Steyn here. All are designed to counter the 'where are they?' questions of WMD's in Iraq.
Well, I don't have the readership of any of those guys, but I'll try and take them on because all of their arguments seem unnecessarily partisan and inevitably revolve around the same four central points:
Point (1) - What's the matter, aren't you glad to see Saddam toppled?
This is a vaiation of the realpolitik argument: The ends justify the means. "we don't care if weapons are ever found, because we've liberated the Iraqi people, and rid the world of a really bad guy".
Point (2) - Well, if he fooled us, he fooled YOU TOO
There wasn't any secret service in any country who believed that the Coalition would find Iraq completely empty of NBC (Nuke, Bio, Chem) weapons, so you can't blame the US for proceeding with the best guess information at the time, can you?
Point (3) - they're there, somewhere -- we need more time, or they've been moved.
Disbelievers.............After the recorded Iraqi usage of chemical weapons in the Iran/Iraq war and in the North after Gulf War One and after the 'evidence' trotted out at the UN by Colin Powell in February, they've got to be there somewhere. And anyway, wasn't it Saddam's burden to prove that they were gone?
Point (4) - No, the war wasn't only about WMD's, where'd you get that idea?
Here, defenders of the administration will recall various Bush (or Powell or Rice or Rumsfeld) quotes pre-invasion, talking about liberation, area stability, regime support of terrorists, failure of Iraq to meet other UN resolutions etc........ therefore 'proving' that the rationale for war wasn't based solely on the 'clear and present danger' that the administration claimed Iraq posed to the region and the US.
There are other points to be made, but these are the most prolifically repeated. Almost all the well written arguments orbit around these 4 points. I'd like to take them briefly one at a time:
(1) (you liked Saddam?) No, I also wanted to see Saddam gone. He was a sadistic, brutal, murdering dictator. So are Mugabe and Kim Jong Il and General Than Shwe in Burma and the repressive Chinese government for that matter and many, many others. While extending justice and liberty around the world is a noble cause, it is not the expressed purpose of the US military to do that, nor would it be advisable. And to claim that the US was, all of a sudden, so deeply concerned with the oppression of the Iraqi people, as opposed to the human rights violations perpetrated against the Cambodians or the Congolese or the Sudanese or the .........well, it's all just laughable.
(2) (fooled ya!)This is a horrible excuse. Just as our military is the mightiest, so must our resources for directing that military be unassailable. That means that our intelligence must be the best, most complete and most honest. If Israel is rightly held to a higher standard of behavior in the Middle East because of its culture and success, so must the United States be willing to be judged much more rigorously on the information it uses to wield its tremendous power. We simply don't have the luxury, while being the only uncheckable superpower force, to be so grossly fooled.
(3)(they're there) Wake up - there's nothing there and probably hasn't been for quite a while. We have to face the strong possibility that the Iraqis, despite their inscrutable visage, were actually telling the truth about their weapons - they had none. Their programs could have literally died after Gulf War One as the treaties proscribed. The economic sanctions, no-fly zones and (limited) inspections might have been much more successful than anyone thought. It is simply not possible to completely bury, alter, hide or move a thriving WMD program without ONE WITNESS inside the country being able to attest to it. So far, not one soul has come forward claiming to have been a scientist in Iraq working recently on a weapons project, nor has there been a lab technician or a truck driver or a security guard or a bookkeeper. Army personnel who have been feverishly searching for weapons are being sent home. They're not even still sure that those 2 measly sterile trucks they found were mobile labs, as was claimed. There's clearly very little, if anything, to find.
(4) (Lotsa other reasons for war) Were there other arguments made for war with Iraq? Yes. Were they mentioned during the buildup? Of course. But denying that the war was not PRIMARILY based on WMD and the danger that they presented is just historical revisionism. Bush's 'call to war' was consistently: "If Saddam will not disarm, then we will disarm him". Wolfowitz admits (in his Vanity Fair article) that WMD arguments were the ones that 'everyone could agree on'. Powell's search for Security Council approval were based on WMD 'evidence' exclusively. Jack Straw, the British Foreign minister, repeated that Iraqi disarmament was Britain's ONLY dog in the fight, and the Brits were not even looking for regime change as a necessary result. Quite simply, approval from the American public for going to war with Iraq was curried almost entirely on the represented dangers of the ongoing Iraqi WMD program and the fears inspired by permitting Saddam to continue ------- and anyone who denies that now is just rewriting the script.
However, this post was not intended as a 'debunking' of defensive arguments. My point is that this issue of WMD (or their lack) should not be turned into a political football. Bush advocates, I fear, are throwing their bodies in front of this bullet to protect the President simply from partisan instinct. Of course, there will be Democrats looking to wrap their arms around it and make it a political issue, although I sure wish that they wouldn't. I was a big supporter of the war in Iraq and still am. That does NOT, however, allow me to excuse this brewing scandal. It is crucial to understand what has happened here, for what could be more important than the processes and arguments used for our government to wage war and put our soldiers at risk in our name? Nothing, I say. So, without pointing fingers or expecting anything, I surmise that one of two things happened:
EITHER - The CIA is an incompetent organization of boobs. They are advising the leaders of our government with variously partial, unchecked, useless or cooked intelligence while claiming total mastery and competence in their art, embarrassing our President and Secretary of State; in which case a lot of guys must be fired and our intelligence organization restructured.......
OR - The CIA provides the best intelligence it can into the activity of impenetrable societies like Iraq, which is little, unfinished, with unknowns aplenty and without a true basis upon which to make judgments and they characterize their information as sketchy; in which case the administration spun, pushed forward or manipulated what information there was to 'make' a case for going to war. Even with the best of intentions, this would be simply unacceptable. Of course, it's more likely a complex combination of the two scenarios.
Either way, John McCain would like to know, and so should everyone else, regardless of their political alliance.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Waksal will do timeSam Waksal, former head of ImClone, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for insider trading of his company stock. He pleaded guilty to tipping off his family and trying to sell his own shares when he illegally learned news that his company's prime drug, Erbitux, was not going to be approved by the FDA.
This ruling was clearly designed to set the bar for the other 'CEO epidemic' cases yet to come. In throwing the book at Waksal, there'll be a cry for plea bargains from other executives facing indictment from their shenanigans in companies like Enron, Global Crossing, Tyco and others. Waksal's position at the head of the company gave him no excuses for his behavior. White collar crime of this magnitude deserves this kind of punishment. But of course the money that Waksal siphoned off from investors is as nothing compared to the hundreds of millions stolen by the likes of Lay and Skilling and Ebbers and Dennis Kozlowski. Recently, investors filed a class-action suit against Tyco, claiming that 'cooked books' at the company had defrauded them of $6 Billion dollars. We might have seen an even larger suit against Enron, if the company had managed to survive. Of course, that one was stripped bare.
What I'd really like to see is a few of these really big guys get some jail time too, as well as being stripped of all their money. The Waksal sentence will make that easier, but I'm not holding my breath. Lay, Ebbers and Kozlowski were big contributors to political campaigns of both parties. Dwayne Andreas of ADM and his family helped escaped jail time in their price fixing scandal by being politically well connected. Similarly, in addition to political contributions, Enron's philanthropic efforts, particularly around Houston, were legendary. Unfortunately, these things make a difference when indictments are made and convictions are sought. While the wheels of justice may grind slowly, when it comes to big money crooks like these, it often just stops rolling. It's already been quite a while for the Justice department to be working on these cases. We'll see.................
Blix strikes backIn an interview with the UK Guardian, lead arms inspector Hans Blix accused the Pentagon of running a smear campaign on him while he was making reports to the UN on the state of Iraqi WMD progams, calling them 'bastards'. Ooooooh. For a lifetime diplomat, them's fightin' words. Apparently emboldened by his upcoming retirement and the ongoing WMD questions, Blix let loose.
Mr. Blix did have a very difficult time being in center stage in the UN, having to run the fine line between real facts and US pressure. Discussions of him in the american media were never sympathetic, assessments running the gamut from 'incompetent apparatchik' to 'lying weasel'. Let's call a spade a spade: Mr. Blix's inspection teams did all they could do and were reporting fairly at the time ---- and while a 'smear campaign' sounds a bit overwrought, I'll bet there was more than a little pressure applied to him. He's entitled to lash back out a little now.