Saturday, February 22, 2003

MY ANALYSIS OF THE IRAQ WAR -- AND WHY IT'S MY FATHER'S FAULT
(My analysis, not the war)

[Warning: the following contains stream of consciousness reasoning. ]

My father is one of the greatest logicians and rhetoriticians I know. He taught me to think, to analyze, and to support what I think. I am sure it causes him no end of frustration to see me arguing consistently from the left. (On the other hand, I'm amazed to find him a stalwart "dittohead" -- he can think rings around Rush standing on his head) Still, when we get together he makes me argue every point, won't concede a thing, and inevitably my mother chases us both out of the house until we get politics out of our system.

One thing my father has held as a firm belief is that there has never been a war in history that was not motivated by economics. As he put it, it always boiled down to Country A had something that Country B wanted, so Country B went to war for it. This, he said, was true even of the Crusades: the European Christians wanted free trade with the Mideast, so they "liberated" the Holy Land (sound familiar? hang on, we'll get to that in a minute.). People, he said, will ultimately fight for their pocketbooks and their stomachs. This was why the Chinese and Vietnamese went Communist: prior to Communism, they were beaten three times and fed once; under Mao and Ho, they were fed three times and beaten once, a net improvement for their personal economy. (He also turns a neat metaphor).

So as I've been reading and thinking about this whole Iraq thing, I decided that maybe I'll get a new inspiration of I apply this touchstone: where do the economic interests lie for the US and Britain and the few other countries who support Bush? Is that economic interest compelling enough to risk many thousands of US lives and hundreds of billions of otherwise scarce dollars for?

1. What does the US gain economically?

Oil, of course, first of all. But as has correctly been pointed out elsewhere, there really isn't a shortage right now, nor is there likely to be one in the immediate future. Oil prices are going up, but more so because of Venezuela than Iraq. Finally, it's indubitably true that Cheney, Bush, and their buddies will make much money from oil-related gains as a result of opening up Iraqi oilfields. So oil is a motivating factor. But is it the motivating factor? Bush is not real bright. Cheney is a greedy weasel. But I don't think either is so much so that they would put this nation to war so they can make a few extra billion bucks in their personal accounts. If that's the sole motivation, we have a much bigger problem than Iraq, and we ought to give thanks for the Second Amendment.

The United States has always been a trading nation. What is the most powerful international organization today? What organization has more clout to carry out and enforce its mandates than any other? Which organization has countries drooling to join, but is harder to get into than the Augusta Country Club for Sandra Bernstein? The World Trade Organization. It is not now, nor has it ever been, diplomacy that oils intercourse between the nations: it's commerce. The US does more of it than any other single nation (I think -- this is not a statement I can back up with a magic link), so we have a major interest in keeping it alive and profitable.

Currently the world economy is fueled by oil. No question. Although Iraqi oil, in and of itself, is not enough to tip the balance to an oil famine or glut, the geographical position of Iraq is such that anyone in that area with any kind of medium range weapons can threaten the other countries who have oil, from Saudi Arabia to Central Asia. Not to mention shipping in the Suez, the Persian Gulf, and the Mediterranean. Oh, yes, and Israel, too.

Countries who we don't like, but play by the rules, don't get attacked.. The Soviets always played by the rules and didn't threaten commerce; neither did the Chinese nor the North Koreans (until recently). Iraq, more than being a threat itself, is an example of the opposite. If Iraq gets medium or long range weapons again, they won't hit Cincinnati, but they will hit the Suez; they will hit the Med; they will hit Central Asia and mess up the flow of oil and goods..

Here is what happens if you don't fall in line with the world order of trade: We throw out your government and put in a new one. This is nothing new for the US, England, or even France. The Shah of Iran, Pinochet, Marcos, Noriega, King Farouk of Egypt -- all are examples of leaders we either replaced, put in place, or did both for our purposes. (The Soviets used to do it too, for their own purposes -- their hands are hardly immaculate in this practice).

Only a few have refused to be changed out at our whim: Castro, Kim, Khaddafi, and Saddam Hussein are the big ones. Castro, of course, had the protection of the Soviets, as did Mao and Kim Ilsong in 1949. Khaddafi for some reason resisted efforts to kill him but once we came close, he went into hiding and didn't bother anyone since. Maybe if Saddam had done the same after Kuwait, I'd be reduced to talking about the economy. But he didn't -- he made a genuine pain in the ass out of himself. Everyone agrees he's a madman and unless watched day and night will not only threaten trade but his own people (if the Kurds count as his own people -- you might ask the Turks that same question).

Someone you have to watch day and night eventually will find a weak spot, break loose, and raise hell again. This is true of Saddam. The other answer, then, if he won't play nice according to trade rules (remember that this is all for trade, and nothing else) is to take him out. He can't be taken out clandestinely because he has more protection than a --- metaphors fail me. Of course, the US has little in the way of clandestine assassination talent, which is a Good Thing. I must assume that clandestine efforts were tried before we resorted to this costly war thing -- but maybe not.

But remember that in addition to taking out Iraq, this war has another purpose: it is an Example to Others. Afghanistan was Act I of the Example: harbor terrorists and we come in and throw out your government. Iraq is Act II. We have to carry out the occupation of Iraq just to show that if you don't play along with the rules of commerce, the new penalty is this: not only might we try a clandestinely supported coup, but we may well just kick the shit out of your country.

So if my primary thesis is right, that the motivation behind the war in Iraq is to preserve world trade and US pre-eminence in world trade, the invasion of Iraq must go on. The UN is irrelevant, because this war is not for UN purposes, but for world trade purposes. The WTO has no military arm, at least so far.

2. What will it cost the US?

Economically, probably a couple hundred billion dollars. But since the budget is already tanking it in, and Bush doesn't seem to care, I don't look for that to deter him. Besides, if the thesis that a war to replace Saddam is economic in purpose is correct, once it succeeds, trade will increase, our economy will improve, and the US will be better able to afford the costs of this war.

In human lives, I will be very surprised if we lose more than five hundred GIs. Probably less. I rant and rave about how many body bags will come back from the desert but realistically I expect that the moment Saddam disappears, whether to collect his 79 virgins or to a US prison, the Iraqis will throw their weapons at Tommy Franks' feet.

In world standing for the US, we will lose our asses in the short term. We will be the big bullies of the common people.

If trade starts flowing again and the world economy blooms, however, we'll be the heroes of Frankfurt, New York, Tokyo, and Wall Street. Again.

So great, I am a citizen of a country that goes to war to kill off a few thousand people so the world economy can improve.

I hate it. I'll hate it even more if it works. I'll change my name to Lucullus and buy a toga.

And it's all my father's fault because I think he's right. When you come down to it, everything is motivated by economics.
THE LIBERALS BEGIN TO STRIKE BACK

I'm a television snob. I haven't watched network TV, with a very few minor exceptions (the Olympics, the Golden Globes or Oscars), in years. I'm the same way about radio. I listen to our community radio station or to NPR.

Last night I watched Bill Maher's new show on HBO and about wet my pants. I want to try to find a transcript (if anyone has one, please let me know) especially of the exchange between Bill and Ann Coulter, one of his panel. Here's my summary (NB: not a direct quote:
BILL: Ann, you recently wrote after the President's State of the Union address that anyone who disagreed with the President was a traitor. Isn't our country predicated on disagreement and free expression of disagreement with our President and other leaders?

ANN: No, you left out one important part. I said that anyone who disagreed with him about wanting a missile defense shield is a traitor.

BILL: I don't want a missile defense shield. I disagree with him. Am I a traitor?

ANN: You miss the point. We need a missile defense shield, to protect our country from missiles, and if you don't want to protect our country you're a traitor.

BILL: The people who are attacking our country don't have missiles, they have box cutters! But I still have the right to disagree with the President and that doesn't make me a traitor.

ANN: (sulk)

If the other discussions about liberal talk radio take a similar format, I see a great future. Liberals do intelligent analysis and sharp sarcasm, most of which is lost on the right wing. By the time this exchange was over the audience was on its feet cheering Bill Maher.

Take note, Al Franken.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

A LIFE HAS A MAXIMUM VALUE

I've been reading with a great deal of interest the story of Jesica Santillan, the young lady in North Carolina who was given the wrong type of heart and lung transplant and almost died from it. Now she has a second heart and set of lungs -- in and of itself a miracle -- and has a chance of surviving. But there is a risk of long-term damage. More importantly, if there had not been a media brouhaha over this case, Ms. Santillan would have died, just another victim of medical malpractice.

The hospital where the surgery happened is not a podunk hospital. It's Duke University Hospital, one of the best in the country. Still, when it became clear that the hospital had screwed up, the coverup swung into high gear. According to Mack Mahoney, family spokesman and self-described "godfather" of Jesica,
[Mahoney] had to battle Duke Hospital's administration, which Mahoney said was "very hard to deal with" because it did not want unflattering publicity. That led Mahoney to hire a medical malpractice attorney.

"I hired him for my protection" because he understands medical terms and because Duke had legal representation.

After the first transplant surgery, the hospital administration tried to block Mahoney from seeing Jesica. It took the intervention of Sen. Elizabeth Dole to have that ban lifted, he said.


Remember that the Bush administration wants to put a cap on damages for medical malpractice of $250,000 in place. That means that this woman could collect no more than $250,000 for what she has to go through, whether she recovers fully without any harm at all, or whether she sustains horrendous brain damages, or whether she dies. That's all that the GOP says her life is worth. $250,000.

How much is your child's life worth? Do you want the government telling you what it's worth?
NOTHING IS TOO GOOD FOR OUR BOYS AND GIRLS IN UNIFORM

Irrespective of one's opinion of the justifiability of our coming war in Iraq, it seems that we must needs support the men and women who will fight it and die in it. Right, Dubya?

Right?

Right, Geedubya?

Apparently not. The Bush administration has cut funding for these soldiers', sailors', airmen's and marines' children's schooling.

Don't worry, GI Joe and Jane. While you're over in the desert dying, your kids will be getting nothing but the third-best education money can buy.

Thanks to Calundit for the tipoff.
KEEP UP WITH STATE POLITICAL NEWS

Here's an unabashed plug for The Political State Report, perhaps the most comprehensive blog on politics at the state level on the web. Kos, the owner and operator of The Daily Kos, manages this blog but doesn't make any contributions to it (when would he have time?). There are writers from almost every state, and from both sides of the aisle. Stop in and check it out. While you're there, look at the list of contributors on the right side of the page. If you see that your state is underrepresented (i.e., only has one writer) drop Kos a line and volunteer to write an article or two for the blog.

ANOTHER FRONT TO FIGHT ON

US combat troops will be fighting in the Philippines against Moslem rebels. According to the AP,
Hundreds of U.S. special operations troops will soon join Philippine forces in combat operations against Abu Sayyaf rebels in the southern Philippines, defense officials said Thursday.[. . .]

The deal marks a major escalation of U.S. military involvement in the Philippines.[. . . ]

In addition to the U.S. special operations forces and the support personnel, a team of about 1,000 Marines aboard Navy ships off the coast of the Sulu Archipelago will be available to respond on short notice with air power, logistics help and medical aid. [. . . ]

Several terrorist groups, some with suspected links to al-Qaida such as the Islamic extremist network Jemaah Islamiyah, operate in the Philippines and there have been a series of deadly bombings, kidnappings and other attacks against both government and civilian targets. An Oct. 2 incident blamed on Abu Sayyaf killed three people, including a U.S. Green Beret in the port city of Zamboanga.

Pentagon officials say investigations following some of those attacks have turned up information indicating there may be a stronger than earlier believed link between the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiyah of Indonesia.


A couple of observations:

1) This is how we started in Vietnam.

2) Our forces are getting spread pretty thin.

3) If I were Kim Jongil and wanted to cause some real trouble, I'd be sorely tempted right now. After a North Korean fighter overflew South Korea yesterday, it kinda looks like he might be inclined to cause some trouble.
A MUSICAL INTERLUDE

From Nitpicker comes the following:

"It's All My Decision"

(to the tune of "That Old-time Religion")


We're gonna get that Saddam Hussein.
Karl Rove says that he's insane.
Showed me big trucks from a spy plane.
That's good enough for me.

Chorus:
It's all my decision.
It's all my decision.
It's all my decision.
And that's good enough for me.

We'll try not to hurt their people,
though their "uprising" was darn feeble
(and I ain't seen one damn steeple)
And that's good enough for me.

Chorus

Al-Qaida is connected
and I hope that proof's collected,
'cause bombs get Dick "erected,"
That's good enough for me.

Chorus

If they're weapons, Saddam's sought 'em.
Colin Powell says that he's got 'em.
Says Rumsfeld: "Hell, I brought 'em!"
That's good enough for me.

Chorus

Chirac, I think he hates me,
misunderestimates me,
but Tony Blair fellates me,
and that's good enough for me.

Chorus

Yes, Britain's "report" was a copy
and our intel has been sloppy,
but he tried to kill my Poppy.
That's good enough for me.

Chorus

So, if you need more explanation,
Ashcroft's got you a new location,
Cause you're an enemy of the nation,
Now sing along with me.

Chorus (All):
It's all your decision,
It's all your decision,
There'll be no more divison,
If you force... us... we'll... a-...greeeeeee!

I can't add anything to that.
FIRST SHOTS FIRED IN LINCOLN MAYORAL RACE

Coleen Seng's campaign runs a poll showing she's 25 points ahead of Glen Friendt (which she announced at the Democrats' Patriot Dinner last Saturday). Friendt replies not with a poll saying he's actually neck and neck or even ahead of her, but with accusations that the questions in the poll violate the non-aggression pact between himself and Seng. He claims that because the questions talk about Friendt's business practices, and place them in an unfavorable light, the poll is a "push poll" and, ergo therefore, is mudslinging.

Nonsense.

Jon Camp can show you mudslinging. Bob Van Valkenberg can show you mudslinging. Stephen Charest can show you mudslinging. This poll is nothing. Friendt's just cranky because the poll shows him so far behind, so he has to explain it away.

The Journal Star won't publish the results of the poll because the Seng campaign won't release the poll questions. (More on the J-S story to come). I am a bit intrigued that Rick Hoppe (a nice guy who is far too young to be as jaded as he is after many campaigns) won't release all the campaign questions. But, he's the strategist. This is his poll, and was done to help him tweak Coleen's campaign, so I don't begrudge him that.

Friendt does promise to deliver results of his own poll, and to release all the questions. I will be very surprised if his poll shows him any less than even with Seng. Funny thing about polls.

We also get a glimpse today into what Friendt will do with his administration if he is elected mayor of Lincoln: make Lincoln "business friendly."
He presented four ways to help stimulate job growth in the city:

• Set a business-friendly tone at City Hall.

• Complete a strategic plan for economic development to help properly focus city resources.

• "Supercharge" the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, which receives city funds, by expanding participation in the group and ensuring key players are working toward the same ends.

• Better coordination with local colleges and universities.
Note that the first item is "Set a business friendly tone at City Hall." Does that mean that the door will now be wide open for any and all businesses to the Mayor's office for sweet deals? I begin to fear for our neighborhoods, as Friendt said not one word about them.

Business, business, business.

This will be a great place to do business. It used to be a great place to live.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE FIVE "Ws" OF JOURNALISM?

The Journal Star story about Coleen Seng's poll today is the most gooped-up, confused gobbledygook I've seen since the last J-S story about city hall I read. I know I am a lawyer and used to reading long, confused crap, but ye gods and little fishes, can't someone write a simple, straightforward sentence saying who, what, when, where, and why? Instead, we get this:
[Headline:]Seng's poll breaks deal, Friendt says

Statement in a recent mayoral candidate poll: Coleen Seng has been in government too long, has had 16 years to solve our problems and doesn't have the energy to lead our city.

The follow-up question, also in the poll, but paraphrased: How persuasive is that statement when deciding who should be Lincoln's next mayor

Question not in the poll: Who's behind this??
Am I dense or did I miss the relationship between the headline, which says that Seng has broken some kind of deal, and the lead paragraph, which is a question slamming Seng?

The rest of the story gets worse. Go read it for yourself. Then maybe if one of my readers can refer a professor from the School of Journalism to me to explain when the five "Ws" got dropped from the curriculum, I will quit complaining.

By the way, I'm a blogger and a commentator, not a reporter. I am exempt. Nyah, nyah, nyah.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

THOSE DAMN LONG HAIRED KIDS PROTESTING THE WAR...

Like 83 year old former Nebraska Congressman Clair Callan, who went to Federal District Court to file suit against the President to prevent him from making war without complying with the War Powers Act.
"This could be settled overnight if the president would call Congress in and say, `I want you to declare war,'" Callan said.

"I don't think the issues have been discussed properly by Congress," he said. "If they were, I'm not sure Congress would declare war."

So far, the former Democratic congressman [who is 83 years old] said, Congress has abdicated its constitutional responsibility and the president has failed to meet his obligations under the War Powers Act.

"The Constitution says only the Congress can declare war," Callan said. Instead, it "voted to give sole authority for that decision to the president, telling him: `It's up to you.'

"If this country is ready to put the lives of thousands of young Americans at risk, asking Congress to fulfill its constitutional responsibility is the least we could do."


If this is a justifiable a war as Bush says it is, let's do it the right way instead of doing an end run around Congress. That little exercise that was done back a few months ago hardly counts. Remember what Abe Lincoln wrote over 150 years ago...

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

WHAT COMES NEXT? NOT A DEMOCRATIC IRAQ

If you thought the war in Iraq was being fought to set up a democraticaly elected government representing all Iraqis, think again. It looks like there will be a military governor which will use the same governmental structure in place now -- minus Saddam.

Wouldn't that be like Germany using the Nazi government minus Hitler?
RANDOM COMMENT

Until I get over this back problem and get off these drugs (I haven't had this much chemical fun since I saw ELO at the Civic Auditorium with "Bob the Freak" in 1979) my entries will be reduced and probably more incoherent than usual.

Being whacked out is fine for a few hours but I can't understand why anyone would want to be in this state for days at a stretch.
LIKE PULLING A TOOTH

The US has decided that it will invade Iraq and throw Saddam Hussein out, with or without the support of NATO, the UN, or the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. Everybody agrees that this is so.

Let's get on with it.

The longer Bush delays, the more damage will be done to alliances all around the world. NATO had its first major breach over defending Turkey (who has long been a red-haired stepchild in some countries' eyes anyway) during an Iraq invasion; the EU seems to be splitting between "old Europe" and "new Europe;" and of course the UN Security Council, rarely a model of unanimity, is its normal fractured self. People are going bonzo over "what will happen next" and "who's going to do what."

It reminds me of having a tooth pulled at the dentist: the anticipation is worse than the pulling. So if you're going to do it, get on with it. The longer you delay, the worse the fracturing will be. Go ahead, maybe you'll be right: Saddam will turn up dead, the Iraqi people will welcome us as liberators, the Kurds won't fall on our troops from behind, and Iraq won't turn into a guerilla quagmire. Then everyone who protested you, especially the French, looks like a doofus and you look like a hero. And if you're wrong, you have two years to fix it.

Get on with it.

Monday, February 17, 2003

EXTORTION BY ANY OTHER NAME

Wasn't it just a year ago that our President was promising to bring honesty back to Wall Street, and a couple of years ago (okay, three) that he was promising to bring integrity back to government? Apparently some haven't gotten the news, such as Ohio Rep. Michael Oxley (R-OH), who, according to the Washington Post, is demanding that a lobbying firm put a Republican in place in the firm:
Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) and members of his staff are pressuring mutual fund companies to hire a prominent Republican to represent them in Washington, according to congressional and industry sources.

The push is part of a broader campaign by Republicans to place party loyalists in top jobs at corporate lobbying offices and trade associations, Republican lobbyists involved in the effort said.

[. . . ]

The pressure comes as Oxley and Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.), who also serves on the committee, are ramping up an investigation of mutual fund companies. They are examining whether funds overcharge customers and provide enough information to investors, among other issues. (emphasis mine)


The fox is pressuring the farmer to hire a weasel to guard the henhouse, it appears.
LIBERAL RADIO?

Via Daily Kos to the couch, where I have been all day since my back went sproing (and it didn't even happen at work so I can sue my boss), comes the news that a new coalition is in the making for a new take on liberal radio.

This has more potential wrinkles than a cat has hairs. From the article, it sounds like maybe someone has finally figured out that the left neither needs nor wants its own "Rush Limbaugh." For one thing, liberals think too much to buy into the Limbaugh approach. Even educated conservatives pay little attention to Rush. Instead, the approach that seems to be on the horizon is to capitalize on the left's talent for biting sarcasm. Al Franken, George Carlin, Jon Stewart, and even born-again liberal Ariana Huffington have the potential to appeal to a great audience of liberals looking for laughs generated by the ridiculous situations set up by the right every day.

Hell, I'd even try it if they'd let me. Anybody else?

Sunday, February 16, 2003

NEXT, FRENCH BREAD, FRENCH DRESSING, AND FRENCH KISSING...

Bloggodfather Atrios tips us off to this:
Pa. legislator wants to ban French wine from state stores

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to ban state-owned liquor stores from selling imported French wine and spirits, saying he's fed up with France's opposition to a possible U.S.-led war on Iraq.

State Rep. Steve Barrar, a Republican from Delaware County outside Philadelphia, said he will introduce a resolution this month ordering the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to prohibit state stores from carrying and selling French booze.

[. . . ]

"By not supporting us now, this is the last straw. Something needs to be done, and what better way than to hit them in their pockets?"

[. . . ]

"I even said to my kids I'm not buying french fries, I'm so mad at the French."


Not buying french fries will really make a dent in the French economy, I'm sure.

UPDATE

The idea of boycotting all things French is catching on. Some things we should be rejecting as far too French:

- French kissing

- French ticklers (not going to go there...)

- The Louisiana Purchase (give it all back)

- The Statue of Liberty (send it all back but the middle finger)

- Belgian waffles

- French fashion

The possibilities are endless.
WAR AND PEACE

I see in the Journal Star and World Herald that the administration is hastily reworking its proposed resolution on Iraq. Considering that there is clear and convincing evidence that we're in this on our own, I think that's not a bad idea. However, I can't get rid of the suspicion that there are some in the administration who would start military action without any kind of authority from the UN whatsoever. Remember Bush's tough words during the State of the Union address? On January 30th, Bush said that he "will not wait long to act against Saddam, even if the United Nations refuses to back his actions."

So is Bush playing his own delaying game by seeking to "rework" a Security Council resolution? Couldst be. But he better be aware that dissent is not just outside our own borders. I do know this much: last night at the Democrats' Patriot Dinner, stickers were available that said "NO WAR!" A good half of the attendees were wearing them. Those who were wearing them weren't long-haired freaky people (I had almost the longest hair of any of the males there, and mine is perhaps collar-length). Instead, the "NO WAR" stickers were on the jackets of white-haired veterans who said they don't want America to become an aggressor nation -- like Russia (that's a quote!). They were on the dresses of soccer moms who have believed in the United Nations as they grew up. They were on the sweaters of college kids who are convinced that Bush has lost touch with reality.

When the veterans oppose your war, you really ought to stop and think again.