Sunday, February 27, 2005

Bestview Respite

I am off to the Amazon for a cruise tomorrow and at $0.70 per minute to use the internet on the ship, I doubt I will be offering up this drivel on a regular basis until I return. I might come on to report on my pirhana fishing experience and if I get mobbed by a bevy of scantily clad natives I may let you know about that. Otherwise, you can just assume I am gorging myself on culinary delights and sitting on my veranda watching for monkeys in the trees.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Howard Dean

Am I the only one who is really enjoying the new Howard Dean? He has not been seen or heard from since being named Chairman of the dems.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Tidal Wave picture found on a damaged digital camera. It was taken by a couple who did not survive the tsunami after taking this phot.
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We have a big problem in Viet Nam and this one could be even bigger than the one we had before. Bird flu, especially the one caused by strain H5N1, is a disease with a reservoir in birds and especially chickens and ducks which are raised for domestic consumption by humans. The virus causes disease in the chickens, which is of considerable economic consequence, since the animals die and when the disease occurs in a flock, the only real way to contain its spread is to eradicate the rest of the birds. Viet Nam, the country hardest hit, has some 70% of its population raising chickens in the backyard to provide a major source of the family income. Problem no. 1 arises when the family refuses to report the disease in their birds to avoid losing all of their income. So the disease can't be contained. A second problem is the birds are essentially raised in the same space occupied by the humans so close contact with infected birds is inevitable. Problem no. 3 is caused by the fact that the virus is mutating rapidly, like all influenza viruses, and this guarantees that the virus will jump from animals to humans as it adapts to a new host. This has already happened and there has been a 70% mortality in the humans who have contracted the disease.

So, the dire prognosis is for the bird flu virus to establish itself in a greater and greater number of people and spread rapidly from person to person through respiratory droplet transmission. Depending on the extent of transmission, a pandemic could be experienced in which literally millions of people die. A vaccine is being developed, but it will be very difficult to vaccinate the population likely to be affected and if the virus mutates rapidly enough the vaccine being developed could be a poor one. This is really scary.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Global Warming Nonsense

A few years back Michael Mann published a graph of temperatures that resembled a hockey stick laying on its side, with a rapid increase over the last century. His data and methods have been repeatedly challenged and debunked, though true believers refuse to admit what could only have been intentional fraud. Reading the MSM one would think that global warming caused by humans was an accepted fact, yet the facts themselves don't agree. We may be in a warming period (it's too early to tell as temperatures have only risen a little over half a degree over the last hundred years) but that fits a trend that we know has been going on forever. NASA,which is a big man-made global warming proponent, acknowledges that over the past millennium the earth's temperature has risen and fallen several degrees having nothing to do with humans. They note for example that:
Unusually low solar activity between 1645-1715 likely triggered the 'Little Ice Age' in regions like Europe and North America ... During this shift, winter temperatures cooled as much as 2 to 4 degrees F - enough to freeze rivers and alter agriculture, economy, disease, etc. Yet they go on to add that: Changes in the sun's energy was one of the biggest factors influencing climate change during this period, but have since been superseded by greenhouse gases due to the industrial revolution. So a four degree change is natural, but we somehow know that a much smaller one is not? We know that prior to the Little Ice Age things were warmer than they are now. The Vikings settled Greenland and grapes were grown in England. (Note: The Little Ice Age is now thought to have covered the entire earth not just the northern hemisphere. Volcanic activity may have also contributed. Much of the recent cacophony about unnatural disaster centers around computer models and simulations done by global warning alarmists. These predict an increase in temperatures of several degrees in the next hundred years, changes they claim would be catastrophic, caused by human activity. (Some don't think higher temperatures would be so bad). Without even going into the problems with bias in computer models, we can't even build a model that will duplicate past known data. Why then should we have any faith in their predictive abilities?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Military News from Iraq

February 22, 2005: For the last three days, a brigade of coalition troops (U.S. Marines and Iraqis) carried out Operation River Blitz west of Baghdad. Based on information collected last November in Fallujah, and since, roadblocks were set up throughout Anbar province, and raids carried out in Ramadi (the capital of the province) and other largely Sunni Arab cities along the Euphrates river. Anbar province has been the scene of most Sunni Arab violence in the last year, but that began to change after Fallujah was cleared out last November. Since then, anti-government attacks have been fewer, as have coalition casualties. Arrests of terrorists have increased, and more Sunni Arab groups have defied the terrorists and began negotiating with the government. These Sunni groups, led by tribal and religious leaders, are often heavily armed, with informal militias (formal militias are illegal) containing hundreds, or even thousands, of armed men. The Sunni leaders have avoided ordering their followers to not attack the government or coalition forces, lest they have a little civil war on their hands. But that is now changing, as more Sunni Arabs, fed up with the chaos, and seeming futility of fighting the government and coalition forces, try to switch sides. The more deliberate attacks on oil facilities and utilities (like water and power), have only made life more uncomfortable. The battle of Fallujah last November made it clear that anti-government claims to have "liberated" Fallujah were just more empty propaganda. Following that, the widespread arrests of Sunni Arabs involved in the terrorism, added to the feeling among Sunni Arabs that they were backing a losing cause. Despite deliberate attacks on Shia religious festivities in the last week, the Shia dominated government continues to offer deals to Sunni Arab leaders who were willing to stick their necks out, and order their followers to cool it with the violence. These Sunni Arabs do face some real danger, for the Baath Party and al Qaeda leaders are willing to go after prominent Sunni Arabs for "disloyalty." For Sunni Arabs, the battle for Iraq is far from over.

Your humble blogger on left with siblings at Mom's 90th birthday last November.
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Happy Soldier in Iraq
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Social Security Redux

Bush opened the gate to raising taxes as a part of Social Security "reform". He said we can consider increasing the income level from $90,000 that is subject to FICA taxation. That is not only raising taxes, it is not something that will contribute to solving the problem. We have more money coming into the treasury from FICA taxation now than is going out in the form of payments. If you think giving the politicians even more to spend on things other than social security will cure the long term problem brought on by demographic certainty, this pig in a dress may appeal to you.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter Thompson

I must have a big gap in my 60's and 70's literature knowledge that prevents me from getting as excited as I should be about some druggie who shoots himself with a shotgun a la Hemingway.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

This makes sense to me.

Terri Schiavo Spared by 'Endangered' Designation

(2005-02-19) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has, at least temporarily, saved the life of Terri Schindler-Schiavo, the Florida woman whose former husband, Michael, had planned to disconnect her feeding tube on Tuesday.

The 11th-hour reprieve came in response to a plea from the Schindler family to have Terri classified as a silver rice rat (Oryzomys argentatus), considered an endangered species by the state of Florida and the USFWS.

"It was a longshot," said activist Randall Terry, who has recently come to the aid of the Schindler family in their efforts to save Terri from death by starvation. "But if we can prove that Terri is a silver rice rat, her life is protected by the state and the federal government."

Mr. Terry contacted the USFWS after learning that it is illegal to kill dozens of creatures in Florida, including the leatherback seaturtle, the marsh rabbit, the saltmarsh vole, the shortnose sturgeon, the Choctawhatchee beach mouse and the oval pigtoe (a mollusk).

"If we can apply to get Terri classified as a different endangered species each month, we can give her several more years of life," Mr. Terry said. "I know it sounds dehumanizing, but under our laws a rat has more of a right to life than this woman."

My mind can't handle this!

AS you read this, try to comprehend something that is 300,000 trillion miles away. You can start by realizing that a trillion is 1,000,000,000,000. Once you multiply those two numbers, try to get your mind around the fact that this distance is only one half the distance across our Milky Way Galaxy which in turn is only a small fraction of the universe.

A huge explosion halfway across the galaxy packed so much power it briefly altered Earth's upper atmosphere in December, astronomers said Friday.

No known eruption beyond our solar system has ever appeared as bright upon arrival.

But you could not have seen it, unless you can top the X-ray vision of Superman: In gamma rays, the event equaled the brightness of the full Moon's reflected visible light.

The blast originated about 50,000 light-years away and was detected Dec. 27. A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers).

The commotion was caused by a special variety of neutron star known as a magnetar. These fast-spinning, compact stellar corpses -- no larger than a big city -- create intense magnetic fields that trigger explosions. The blast was 100 times more powerful than any other similar eruption witnessed, said David Palmer of Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of several researchers around the world who monitored the event with various telescopes.

Tsunami Connection?
Several readers wondered if the magnetar blast could be related to the December tsunami. Scientists have made no such connection. The blast affected Earth's ionosphere, which is routinely affected to a greater extent by changes in solar activity.

"Had this happened within 10 light-years of us, it would have severely damaged our atmosphere and possibly have triggered a mass extinction," said Bryan Gaensler of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

There are no magnetars close enough to worry about, however, Gaensler and two other astronomers told But the strength of the tempest has them marveling over the dying star's capabilities while also wondering if major species die-offs in the past might have been triggered by stellar explosions.


The Sun is a middle-aged star about 8 light-minutes from us. It's tantrums, though cosmically pitiful compared to the magnetar explosion, routinely squish Earth's protective magnetic field and alter our atmosphere, lighting up the night sky with colorful lights called aurora.

Solar storms also alter the shape of Earth's ionosphere, a region of the atmosphere 50 miles (80 kilometers) up where gas is so thin that electrons can be stripped from atoms and molecules -- they are ionized -- and roam free for short periods. Fluctuations in solar radiation cause the ionosphere to expand and contract.

"The gamma rays hit the ionosphere and created more ionization, briefly expanding the ionosphere," said Neil Gehrels, lead scientist for NASA's gamma-ray watching Swift observatory.

Gehrels said in an email interview that the effect was similar to a solar-induced disruption but that the effect was "much smaller than a big solar flare."

Still, scientists were surprised that a magnetar so far away could alter the ionosphere.

"That it can reach out and tap us on the shoulder like this, reminds us that we really are linked to the cosmos," said Phil Wilkinson of IPS Australia, that country's space weather service.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Rob Fender of Southampton University in the UK. "We have observed an object only 20 kilometers across [12 miles], on the other side of our galaxy, releasing more energy in a tenth of a second than the Sun emits in 100,000 years."

Some researchers have speculated that one or more known mass extinctions hundreds of millions of years ago might have been the result of a similar blast altering Earth's atmosphere. There is no firm data to support the idea, however. But astronomers say the Sun might have been closer to other stars in the past.

A similar blast within 10 light-years of Earth "would destroy the ozone layer," according to a CfA statement, "causing abrupt climate change and mass extinctions due to increased radiation."

The all-clear has been sounded, however.

"None of the known sample [of magnetars] are closer than about 4,000-5,000 light years from us," Gaensler said. "This is a very safe distance."

Cause a mystery

Researchers don't know exactly why the burst was so incredible. The star, named SGR 1806-20, spins once on its axis every 7.5 seconds, and it is surrounded by a magnetic field more powerful than any other object in the universe.

"We may be seeing a massive release of magnetic energy during a 'starquake' on the surface of the object," said Maura McLaughlin of the University of Manchester in the UK.

Another possibility is that the magnetic field more or less snapped in a process scientists call magnetic reconnection.

Gamma rays are the highest form of radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum, which includes X-rays, visible light and radio waves too.

The eruption was also recorded by the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array of radio telescopes, along with other European satellites and telescopes in Australia.

Explosive details

A neutron star is the remnant of a star that was once several times more massive than the Sun. When their nuclear fuel is depleted, they explode as a supernova. The remaining dense core is slightly more massive than the Sun but has a diameter typically no more than 12 miles (20 kilometers).

Millions of neutron stars fill the Milky Way galaxy. A dozen or so are ultra-magnetic neutron stars -- magnetars. The magnetic field around one is about 1,000 trillion gauss, strong enough to strip information from a credit card at a distance halfway to the Moon, scientists say.

Of the known magnetars, four are called soft gamma repeaters, or SGRs, because they flare up randomly and release gamma rays. The flare on SGR 1806-20 unleashed about 10,000 trillion trillion trillion watts of power.

"The next biggest flare ever seen from any soft gamma repeater was peanuts compared to this incredible Dec. 27 event," said Gaensler of the CfA.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Valuable History Lesson

Tomorrow marks the 60th anniversary of the start of the battle at Iwo Jima. 110,000 Americans and 880 ships began their assault on this small volcanic island where the Japanese had put in miles of tunnels and bunkers with 361 artillary pieces, 65 heavy mortars, 33 large naval guns, and 21,000 defenders ready to die. The American defenders were willing to take 40% casualties in the first assault and even before the assault, the Navy's bombardment of Iwo Jima cost more ships and men than we lost on D-Day. At 9 a.m. on the 19th, the marines loaded down with 70 to 100 pounds of equipment hit the beach and immediately sank into the thick volcanic ash. Some 556 feet above this beach stood Mount Suribachi where the Japanese could direct their fire along the entire beach. Some 1800 marines were killed or wounded in the first 18 hours of the invasion. It took 4 days of bloody fighting to capture Mount Suribachi and that was only the beginning of the battle for Iwo Jima which drug on for another month and cost nearly 26,000 men. Forty men were in the platoon which raised the flag on Suribachi and only 4 would survive unhurt. Their company would suffer 75% casualties. Twenty out of 21 Japanese would die where they stood. One in three Marines would be either killed or wounded and 27 Marines and naval medical corpsmen would receive Medals of Honor.

The lesson for today according to Arthur Herman, the author of the article in today's Wall Street Journal recounting these events, is that free societies can afford only one response to totalitarians who confront democratic societies. Who outlasts whom? At Iwo Jima, it was the Americans who prevailed and in Viet Nam and Cambodia, it was the totalitarians with consequences which we are facing today in Iraq. Today, some in this country think the totalitarians may still win in Iraq and a few even hope so. This will not be the case if we remember those who served at Iwo Jima.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A metaphysical question

If the hockey league fell in the forest and nobody heard, would anyone care?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Comcast Gift

My cable TV provider recently decided to move MSNBC from the basic, but very expensive, package to the digital package which requires a set-top box I don't have. A consequence of this is that now there is absolutely no chance that I can inadvertently click onto the new program this loser network created for Ron Reagan.

Military E- mail from Iraq

One of lots of E-mails home from here.

Started going out in the cycle of patrols the last few days. The only one really suffering are the gunners because of the cold. As people have said many times on this site ... if you've got cold weather gear, bring it. Maybe only until the end of March, but you'll need it.

When I origianaly prepared to come here, we joked about making an award for FOBbit of the Month. Now it seems like there are plenty of people in my unit that will be in contention! It's especailly disheartening since we are in an infantry unit and we run so many patrols a day, that there are those people who never will have to leave the FOB. Ever.

Then I look at it the other way. When we all get home, nobodys loved one is going to care if somebody did 365 patrols or none. Loved ones are only going to care that there's came home from Iraq.

It is a lot different than when we were here the first time. Despite the news that you may get in the States, the “insurgents” are loosing. Big time. It is unfortunate that we have to go around wearing “Samarri suits” to keep us alive if we do get attacked. But the fact of the matter is, thier will is broken. They know that every act of aggression against us will be met with crushing force.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Federal Budget Cutting

The Wall Street Journal has an article today which should be avoided by all with blood pressure problems. It describes several programs which Bush has proposed eliminating and then expalins why the cuts will never happen. Senator Stevens of Alaska who chairs the Appropriations Committee protects the $8.5 million budgeted for something called the "Exchanges With Historic Whaling and Trading Partners" program. Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio insists that the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati should get $2.2 million in federal dollars even though they have raised over $100 million from private sources such as Oprah and Muhammed Ali. There are others just as egregious which are supported by various politicians of both parties, but they also point to one program with a $1 million budget which was killed. It forgave student loans for child care providers and its main sponsor was Senator Paul Wellstone who is no longer with us. It is sad to think that plane crashes are the only route to boondoggle programs being discontinued.

Random Thoughts

Television yesterday featured two completely worthless activities. First was the NFL Pro Bowl which is held in Hawaii and none of the players want to participate in the actual game. You simply can't watch it and if you are not careful when clicking to other channels, you might wind up with the Grammy Awards on your screen and the sights and sounds forthcoming from that are potentially lethal.

Internet bloggers have claimed two more victims who lost their jobs (in addition to Dan Rather) because of information diseminated by this medium. Eason Jordan, the head of CNN news, made a stupid claim that our military was targeting reporters for death in Iraq and this came on top of his earlier claim that CNN had suppressed news from Iraq so as not to make Saddam look bad and possibly taking it out on CNN reporters. Good riddance. Then liberal bloggers outted a man who obtained press credentials under a pseudonym, asked easy questions of Bush at press conferences, and may even be gay. The regulars at the White House were just aghast that their environs could be invaded in this manner. Now the big question of the day is just who is a journalist? The problem as I see it is we may broaden the definition in such a way as to include bloggers as part of the journalist community. If that happens, I may have to reconsider this activity.

Howard Dean's first excursion as head of the democrats will be to Mississippi. That should be interesting.

I wonder if the most perfect love song for this Valentine's Day is Charlie Robison's rendition of "You aren't the best but you're the best that I can do?"

Friday, February 11, 2005

Good Law

I just read in our local paper that a Republican lawmaker here in Georgia has proposed a law that would allow a parent can go down to the driver's license office and for $15 suspend the license of their child under the age of 18 for a period up to 90 days. I think that is just great and I would go one step further and suspend the license, for the same 90 days, of any student who is sufficiently disruptive to warrant expulsion from school.

Freedom of Speech

The lefties are coming out strong and loud in support of Ward Churchill's right to say anything he wants in regard to how the victims of 9/11 deserved what they got and the U.S. deserves more of these attacks for its past and current actions. Many conservatives are reluctantly agreeing that his speech is and should be protected, but many are also asking if the same liberals would be so quick to come to his defense if he was shouting the notion that blacks deserved slavery and should be sent back to Africa, etc., etc. Somehow, I don't think so. The President of Harvard couldn't even get by with suggesting that women MAY be less adapt in the sciences than men. The resulting firestorm has Dr. Summers backing down on all fronts and he may lose his job before Ward Churchill. These are similar sides to the same issue.

Tom Friedman has it figured out

Here's the truth: There is no single action we could undertake anywhere in the world to reduce the threat of terrorism that would have a bigger impact today than a decent outcome in Iraq. It is that important. And precisely because it is so important, it should not be left to Donald Rumsfeld.

Democrats need to start thinking seriously about Iraq - the way Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton have. If France - the mother of all blue states - can do it, so, too, can the Democrats. Otherwise, they will be absenting themselves from the most important foreign policy issue of our day.

Democrats do not favor using military force against Iran's nuclear program or to compel regime change there. That is probably wise. But they don't really have a diplomatic option. I've got one: Iraq. Iraq is our Iran policy.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ward Churchill's Mistake

I guess everyone has heard the idiotic ravings by the tenured Professor of something at the University of Colorado. Now with the publicity he seems to be challenged to come up with more and more outrageous pronouncements. A few years ago, this would have been a local story with maybe a furor involving only the Colorado Board of Regents and the governor. Now, however, we have bloggers and Ward Churchill has unleased a mighty hoard of fact checkers and background diggers. Here is an example from He will retain his free speech, but lose his job, I predict.

Ward Churchill has publicly stated that more 9/11-type attacks on our homeland may be "necessary" to prevent the U.S. from doing evil. He has built his academic career on unsubstantiated claims that he is a Native American. In addition, according to University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos, Churchill apparently has fabricated a story about the U.S. Army intentionally creating a smallpox epidemic among the Mandan tribe in 1837. Citing a paper by Thomas Brown of Lamar University, Campos reports that Churchill simply invented almost all of the story's most crucial facts, and then attributed these "facts" to sources that say nothing of the kind.

In addition, according to Campos, John Lavelle, a Native American scholar, has documented what appear to be equally fraudulent claims on Churchill's part regarding the General Allotment Act, one of the most important federal laws dealing with Indian lands. Lavelle also accuses Churchill of plagiarism.

HINDROCKET adds: Two readers have submitted comments on Professor Churchill that I think are of interest. Tracy Allen notes that "His degrees are from Sangamon State University, an 'experiment' in Illinois that appears to have been designed to create a convergence of Marxists and anarchists. Here is a link from a couple of the believers about how the Corporate State destroyed their utopia:"

Among its other unusual qualities, Sangamon State recruited professors via ads in Rolling Stone magazine and didn't grade its students. The experiment was terminated in 1995 when Sangamon State became a "normal" member of the Illinois system, as the University of Illinois at Springfield. Churchill thus came out of an academic background in which activism was prized more highly than scholarship, which would seem consistent with his later practice of fabricating historical evidence to support preordained political conclusions.

David Bell worries that Churchill may not be as outlandish a specimen of academia as one would hope:

It is a good thing that you and others are pointing out the frauds and misdeeds of Ward Churchill. But there are two larger points that need to be made about this.

First, how did the University of Colorado allow such a preposterous fraud to rise so high in their institution? And how many other such frauds are on their tenured faculty, and why? What strange mission is UofC on (with taxpayer money, no less?)

Second, what does this say about the state of American academia? The fact is that Churchill is only one of the most ludicrous examples (let us hope) of what has become business as usual on even the most prestigious of campuses. To wit, as long as someone claims to be a member of an officially-sanctioned victims’ group, and as long as he says and writes “controversial” (read “polemical”) attacks on The Man, who really cares whether his credentials, his writings or his utterances have the slightest basis in fact? After all, “fact” itself is a quaintly na├»ve notion in the lofty redoubts of academia today, except for all the facts the deconstructionists, polemics and Oppression Studies charlatans get to assert, with immunity from the laws of deconstruction, contextualism and so on that they impose on all others.

Ward Churchill is only an absurdly extreme example of a pandemic that has all but destroyed the great universities of this country... But the real story is the iceberg of which Ward Churchill is merely a small broken off chard. The larger story is one people like David Horowitz are flogging, but I think it is important one for the blogosphere to pick up---as important as the exposing of the fraudulent and seditious MSM. And the Churchill incident is the perfect occasion to begin to raise the broader theme.

Comment from Niall Ferguson, WSJ

"Premature promises to leave on this or that date dishearten those who are supportive of American policy and embolden those who see an American withdrawal as the precondition for their own violent seizure of power."

That seems self-evident to me and I wonder if even Senator Ted Kennedy with his besotted brain also realizes that when he calls for our withdrawal plans?

Monday, February 07, 2005

You gotta scare seniors some way. launched a false TV ad in the districts of several House members, claiming through images and words that President Bush plans to cut Social Security benefits nearly in half. Showing white-haired workers lifting boxes, mopping floors, shoveling and laundering, the ad says "it won't be long before America introduces the working retirement."

Actually, Bush has said repeatedly he won't propose any cuts for those already retired, or near retirement. What calls "Bush's planned Social Security benefit cuts" is actually a plan that would hold starting Social Security benefits steady in purchasing power, rather than allowing them to nearly double over the next 75 years as they are projected to do under the current benefit formula. The White House has discussed such a proposal, and may or may not adopt it when the President puts forth a detailed plan expected in late February.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Tim Russert: Do you believe that Iraq is less a terrorist threat to the United States now than it was two years ago?

Kerry: No, it's more. And, in fact, I believe the world is less safe today than it was 2 1/2 years ago. . . .

Russert: Is the United States safer with the newly elected Iraqi government than we would have been with Saddam Hussein?

Kerry: Sure. And I'm glad Saddam Hussein is gone, and I've said that a hundred times.

Does he agree with Ted Kennedy's view that America is the problem and should get out? No and yes:

Russert: Specifically, do you agree with Sen. Kennedy that 12,000 American troops should leave at once?

Kerry: No.

Russert: Do you believe there should be a specific timetable of withdrawal of American troops?

Kerry: No.

Russert: What would you do?

Kerry: I understand exactly what Sen. Kennedy is saying, and I agree with Sen. Kennedy's perceptions of the problem and of how you deal with it. . . . I agree with Senator Kennedy that we have become the target and part of the problem today, if not the problem.

From IBD

Off The Dean End

Politics: Talk about timing. Just when Iraq’s elections are bringing victory closer in the war on tyranny and terror, the Democrats are embracing a defeat strategy.

How else does one account for the fact that the party is about to choose Howard Dean, a candidate who couldn’t get past the Iowa caucuses, as the man to lead it back to power? Dean doesn’t have the party chairmanship sealed up, but he became the odds-on favorite to win after getting the support of state party leaders this week.
And what, other than a deep-seated defeatism, can explain the party’s response to this week’s good news from Iraq?
Harry Reid, the top Senate Democrat, reacted to the election by calling on President Bush to reveal an “exit strategy,” as if getting out was all that Americans wanted.
As Reid knows full well, Bush already has a strategy — to build a democratic Iraqi state capable of defending itself — and is executing it. But Reid and other Democratic leaders simply cannot or will not give Bush credit for anything, especially for success in Iraq.
They seem to assume that bad news for Bush is good news for them, and good news for Bush must be denied or explained away.
This is the mind-set of the left-wing activists who seem increasingly to be setting the agenda for the whole party.
Not all Democrats think this way. A few prominent ones, such as Sen. Joe Lieberman, understand what’s at stake and keep their partisanship in bounds on foreign policy issues. But the rise of Dean suggests their influence on the party is weak and getting weaker.

Dean’s appeal to centrists is feeble. His appeal to Republicans, by choice, is nil. “I hate the Republicans and all they stand for,” he told one New York City audience this week while admitting that he admired the GOP’s “discipline and organization.” His strategy is not to win Republicans to his side, but to treat them as the enemy, to learn from their success and use the knowledge to bury them.
If the party goes with Dean rather than a moderate, it’s deciding in effect to become a party of the left, energized by anti-war activists but increasingly cut off from the politically centrist, morally conservative voters who tend to decide elections.
Already, Bush and the GOP have made inroads on moral issues with black preachers, who have been among the Democrats’ best friends. Dean hardly seems the man to reverse that trend.
If the Democrats pick him, they will help confirm the suspicion of those who think the party takes black voters for granted or is too obsessed with Bush and Iraq to care what blacks really think.

I'll take the cruise, kids.

This is a note to my two daughters:

Average total cost for an 80-year-old American to live out the rest of his or her days on a luxury cruise ship: $230,497

Average cost to live them out in an assisted-living facility: $228,075

- Harper's Index, February 2005

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

BBC Errors Consistent

The BBC has apologised for incorrectly broadcasting figures which suggested more Iraqi civilians had been killed by coalition and Iraqi forces than by insurgents.

Why is it the BBC always seems to make mistakes in the same direction, i.e. to make the U.S. look as bad as possible?

Personal Unsecured Loan