Saturday, June 14, 2003

Joys of linkage

One 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'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.......continued

This 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 craters

You'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 difficulty

The 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 redux

This 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 time

Sam 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 back

In 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.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Hillary bashing

Well, I've been searching for a way to tackle the vicious heat that seems to ooze from the right wing whenever either the former President or the junior Senator from New York gets mentioned. I thought I understood it fairly well while Clinton (he) was in office, but I find it almost unfathomable now, as he's been out of power for 3 years. Of course, the occasion for the most recent flowing diatribes is the publishing of Hillary's memoir "Living History", which is currently #2 on the Amazon sales list (this must kill them).

In any case, read Joshua Chafetz of Oxblog -- here, because he says it as well as I ever could. I'm such a big fan of Oxblog, they are a group of 3 of the wisest kids I've seen around the blogosphere. So if for some ridiculous reason you read me but don't read them, bookmark their blog immediately. Now, let's see if those Oxford boys over there will tell their readers to bookmark me!!!! HA!

not as it seems?

Israel sent in gunships and attacked the motorcade of Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi today, wounding the Hamas leader and killing 2 others from his entourage. From his hospital bed, al-Rantissi pledged continued violence against Israel. In light of the recent progress of the 'road map', this attack would seem to have been a mistake from Sharon.


It is possible that one of 2 scenarios occurred here: One, that al-Rantissi was a long awaited target and he considered the summit in Aqaba as a sign that Israeli 'assassination' attempts of Hamas leadership would be politically untenable for a good faith period while pursuing peace. If al-Rantissi was thinking this way, he turned out to be wrong, almost fatally so. It seems the Israeli Mossad finally got a good look at a prime target finally popping up and, without knowing how long the opportunity would last, they and Sharon found it irresistible not to 'take the shot'.


Another possibility is that this was an Israeli message, even possibly winked at by Palestinian PM Abbas, to make clear their displeasure caused by Hamas disconnecting from the Palestinian government and the 'road map', as they did late last week. Despite Abbas' public statement that : such Israeli actions "sabotage" the peace process, it could be that Israel and Abbas are working somewhat 'in concert' to help weaken Hamas and try to make the coming necessary Palestinian civil war as bloodless as possible. If the 'road map' has any chance of success, the Palestinian people will have to choose between war and peace. They will have to choose who speaks for them; either the elected government, or the terrorist thugs of Hamas, al-Aksa and Islamic Jihad. In either case, nothing in the Middle East ever seems to get easier.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

That's Horse Racing

I'm pleased that New York's own Funny Cide lost his bid to become the first triple crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 yesterday. As the local favorite, owned by a consortium of six high school friends who are not particularly well-heeled, Funny Cide was the emotional favorite going into the race. Because the horse was also a gelding, the chance for the huge $10 million bonus weighed heavily in the minds of horseplayers, who know that the pattern for 3 year old males who perform well in the triple crown races is to immediately retire them, and make the big money in stud. With Funny Cide this was not an option, and whatever big money he will make will have to be on the track, winning races instead of in the barn, manipulated. (Honest, that's how it interesting subject in itself, stud of thoroughbreds is a big money business with the arousal of studs, the value of 'seed' and live foals an entire economic world unto itself; but that's for another post).

I used to be a fairly regular horse player, although that's slowed significantly now. But, I was fairly active for a 20 year period, from age 15 to about 35, so I saw a lot of horse flesh run and still don't miss watching most of the major races of the season. So it's from that perspective that I was glad that Funny Cide was unsuccessful yesterday. I've seen a lot of horses and the pantheon of the 11 thoroughbreds who've won the triple crown are a legendary group to horse players. They are literally the gods of the sport. If you're interested, you can check them all out here. Out of those 11, I actually went to see (and wager on) three of them: Secretariat , Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978. (Actually, I bet against Affirmed in '78 and was busted out.) Slew was probably the best horse I EVER saw run, and marked the first $50 bet I ever made (and cashed!). I heard stories from oldtimers when I first started hanging around the track about the abilities of other triple crown winners like Citation and Whirlaway, and these guys spoke with the same respect and awe that I felt for Seattle Slew. Quite honestly, a horse like Funny Cide did not present himself as an animal worthy to be included in the same company with these other champions. Why? Well, after watching thousands of races, you just get a sense of what a real champion should look and run like on the track, and Funny Cide didn't have that special impressive performance to me, either before or during a race. Andrew Beyer, famous author and horseplayer and inventor of speed figures said much the same thing on CNBC on Friday before the race. He eschewed all his numbers and just 'intuitively' eliminated Funny Cide from the race ----- if only because it was the last conclusive leg of the triple crown. He turned out to be right.

Let's go one step further, if only because I love racing, and take a look at other horses who have won the first two legs of the triple crown, only to get beaten in the final, grueling 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes:

Let me name four horses who I saw run who in my mind were significantly BETTER than Funny Cide, and who were also unable to close the deal: Real Quiet, Sunday Silence, Pleasant Colony and Spectacular Bid. Any one of those horses would have been comfortable standing in the same stable with the likes of War Admiral and Count Fleet but missed their ultimate goal by the combined hardship of those three brutal races and bad racing luck. I still cry thinking about the loss in the Belmont of Spectacular Bid, the best horse I ever saw NOT succeed in winning the triple crown, by dint of the most horrifying ride I've ever seen on a champion horse by the green jockey Ronnie Franklin. Agh, I still cringe remembering it.

In any event, it should be considered no small accomplishment to have won the first two legs and earn the chance to win the Belmont for a triple crown, and Funny Cide will have many more opportunities to prove that he's a greater horse than I assess him to be. But for now, his failure on Saturday strikes me as just about right................

Tiger at his blog went through the trouble of reading and subjectively rating all of the blogs in the NZBear 'newblog showcase' in which both he and I are entered this week. I've scored dully, to put it mildly, with a grand total of 1 link so far (the leader, mac-a-ro-nies, has 17 links).

Tiger rated the contestants with a score between 0 and 5 and four blogs scored a 'perfect' 5 - including Reason of Voice (why else would I be telling you this?). To Tiger's credit, he even gave himself a grade ----- of 3.5! Considering the poor showing I've made in the contest, we can either assume that genius goes greatly unrewarded in the blogosphere (ha!) or that Tiger and I jus' dunno what's good (double ha!). In any event, I appreciate Tiger's 'fair appraisal' of my work and will continue to write it the way I see it ----- Thanks Tiger!
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