ChuckB's blog

How Can You Vote for a Guy Like That?

[DISCLAIMER: I have no illusions that I will influence anyone's vote with this posting, and that's not my intention. This is food for thought about how some of us are deciding how we will vote.]

That's the question Virginia Postrel answers in a blog posting with the same title. Here is an excerpt
(the same excerpt posted by Glenn Reynolds:

I'm not picking a boyfriend here either, or, for that matter, an intellectual mentor. Given the current balance of power in Congress, there are only two things the president can significantly affect: foreign policy and regulatory policy. I prefer Bush to Kerry on both. It's a cold calculation.

Though I supported the war in Iraq, I never thought it would be easy. In fact, I thought things would be worse. It was a high-risk venture, requiring long-term commitment to secure long-term, strategic gains. I wish Bush had warned the public more about the inevitable difficulties, but I do not feel betrayed. I feel no need to lash out at the president.

Voting is an expressive activity, but it need not be emotional. Andrew Sullivan's invocation of "The deep emotional bond so many of us formed with the president back then" does not apply to me. Bush leaves me cold and always has. I never wanted to hang out with him, so I don't take our policy differences personally. I never idolized his leadership, so I don't feel he's failed me. He gets my vote in part because I don't identify with him. He's just a hired hand, and he's better than the alternative.

I feel much the same way about Bush, and I am confident that there are Kerry supporters out there who likewise are not in love with their candidate and who are well aware of his shortcomings, and who nonetheless will be voting for him based on a similar line of reasoning. I just can't seem to get worked up into a Manichaean lather about this election, and frankly, I'm glad I can't. That doesn't mean I don't have a strong preference.

Blogs: Cronaca

Self-description:

Cronaca is a compilation of news concerning art, archeology, history, and whatever else catches the chronicler’s eye, with the odd bit of opinion and commentary thrown in. Since history does not seem to have come to an end, other posts reflect a historian’s-eye view of current events.

You can find all kinds of cool stuff here. A recent sampling: Oscar Wilde papers auctioned, evidence of a comet impact in southeast Germany ca. 200 BC, well-preserved Viking village in Ireland, use and abuse of beta-blockers among classical musicians. How's this for a blog entry title: Venerable clams?

Doggerel

You have probably heard this four-beat couplet that was tossed off by some anonymous wag in response to the opening of Milton's Paradise Lost:

Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.

A long time ago, back when I was still a cataloger, that couplet came across the wire in someone's email sig in an email on a library-related list (AUTOCAT, perhaps). I got a chuckle out of it, and then I emailed this response to the person in whose sig the couplet had appeared:

Milton need not war with malt
To prove that evil's not God's fault.
So hoist a brimming pot of beer
And read your Milton with good cheer.

So, I've been combatting false dilemmas with bad verse for about 10 years now.

How I vote

I am dissatisfied with all four of the political parties that lay claim to most of our attention (Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian). For instance, I dislike Republikkkan pork and corruption as much as Demokkkrat pork and corruption. For that reason, I describe myself as an independent.

Because of my political views, I must take certain precautions when I vote:

  • To vote Libertarian, I first cover my eyes.
  • To vote Republican, I first hold my nose.
  • To vote Democrat, I first run off the edge of a cliff.
  • I probably will never vote Green, since I will already have run off the edge of a cliff giving the Democrats a chance.

Iraq: a distraction from the Global War on Terror

Micky Kaus, a Democrat & Kerry supporter, doesn't mind pointing out discrepancies (scroll down to "Monday, October 25, 2004") in his candidate's many positions:

Finally, the Kerry camp may regret calling attention to that McLaughlin transcript. Earlier in the interview--which, remember, took place two months after 9/11, in the middle of our Afghan campaign against the Taliban--McLaughlin asks Kerry "What do we have to worry about [in Afghanistan]?" Here's the last part of Kerry's answer:

I have no doubt, I've never had any doubt -- and I've said this publicly -- about our ability to be successful in Afghanistan. We are and we will be. The larger issue, John, is what happens afterwards. How do we now turn attention ultimately to Saddam Hussein? How do we deal with the larger Muslim world? What is our foreign policy going to be to drain the swamp of terrorism on a global basis? [Emphasis added]

Wait--I thought shifting the focus to Saddam was a "diversion" and distraction from the fight against Al Qaeda! Not, apparently, when Kerry saw an opportunity to score political points by advocating it.

The emphasis in the above transcript is Kaus's. Later in the same posting, he inserts this little editorial exchange:

[But you're for Kerry--ed. Yes. But just between us he's such a pathetic bull------r.]

Bush polling better among blacks than in 2000

Clarence Page writes:

Earlier this week, I found myself blinking my eyes in disbelief over statistics from two major polls showing a surprisingly big bump for Bush among blacks.

A New York Times poll released Tuesday shows an overall 47 percent support for Bush, 45 percent for John Kerry and 2 percent for Ralph Nader. But, in the race breakdowns, the Bush-Cheney ticket is buoyed up by an amazing 17 percent support from African Americans! (Kerry receives 76 percent of the black voters and Nader only 1 percent.)

Although 17 percent is still less than one-in-five, it is more than twice the tiny 8 percent turnout that Bush-Cheney received in the 2000 elections.

That same day, a poll with a much larger sample of black voters was released by the Washington-based Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a leading think tank on black-oriented issues. It showed a very similar black bump for Bush-Cheney: 18 percent versus 69 percent for Kerry and 2 percent for Nader.

Page's column is titled "An October surprise that ought to worry John Kerry". I'll be curious to see how it turns out.

Inquiring minds want to know ...

... what Michael Nellis thinks about the Assault Weapon Ban and the U.S. Second Amendment. He is welcome to post his thoughts here.

Security Council members deny meeting Kerry

Joel Mowbray in the Washington Times:

At the second presidential debate earlier this month, Mr. Kerry said he was more attuned to international concerns on Iraq than President Bush, citing his meeting with the entire Security Council.
"This president hasn't listened. I went to meet with the members of the Security Council in the week before we voted. I went to New York. I talked to all of them, to find out how serious they were about really holding Saddam Hussein accountable," Mr. Kerry said of the Iraqi dictator.
Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in December 2003, Mr. Kerry explained that he understood the "real readiness" of the United Nations to "take this seriously" because he met "with the entire Security Council, and we spent a couple of hours talking about what they saw as the path to a united front in order to be able to deal with Saddam Hussein."
But of the five ambassadors on the Security Council in 2002 who were reached directly for comment, four said they had never met Mr. Kerry. The four also said that no one who worked for their countries' U.N. missions had met with Mr. Kerry either.
The former ambassadors who said on the record they had never met Mr. Kerry included the representatives of Mexico, Colombia and Bulgaria. The ambassador of a fourth country gave a similar account on the condition that his country not be identified.

So what's the deal here?

Via INDC Journal, which did yeoman service in unraveling the CBS memo forgery scandal.

Neil Postman on Orwell and Huxley

The following quote made me think of the perennial signature of someone we all know and love:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much information that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distraction." In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
--Neil Postman Amusing Ourselves to Death pp. vii, viii (found quoted at threshold)

I don't know if tomeboy has read this book (I haven't yet), but at the very least there are strong sympathetic resonances between his brief sig and Postman's thought.

Personally, I don't concede the field entirely to Huxley--there are some good reasons for civil libertarians to be concerned. Even though we are still quite remote from anything like facism, some of the provisions of the Patriot Act trouble me (others seem to me the height of prudence). (Actually, I am beginning to suspect that the Federal Government's foolish war on drugs gave us a much bigger start down the path of authoritarianism than most realize.)

Still, consider the last four sentences of that quote, the ones I emphasized. Think for a moment how easily leisure comes to us now on the cusp of the new millenium. Consider how much more common leisure is now than even 50 years ago, and how much less common pain. If you were looking for a reliable way to influence, sway, manipulate a large number of affluent people, which would you choose: pain, or pleasure?

Hooray for the Canadians!

Seriously. From Afghanistan:

Littered with burned out Soviet military vehicles, the whole area is a junk pile strewn with every sort of live ammunition, fuses, unexploded shells, rockets, etc., all supposedly under the authority of Belgian troops (at the moment), who ignored it.

In the midst of examining the bunkers and taking photos, a Swedish UN guy, a French major and a German colonel arrived to make a fuss and order the Canadians to leave. The French major insisted his government had a deal with the Afghan government for the area, and ISAF had no business being there.

This cut little ice with Maj. Hynes, who is responsible -- not to the commander of Camp Julien, Col. Jim Ellis -- but to the ANA, which has now moved in to secure the site.

The French major was clearly bluffing, hadn't checked the bunkers and got a classic Canadian roasting from Maj. Hynes -- who was supported by a German general who was also appalled at the laxity.

"Now we've stirred up the hornet's nest," grinned Maj. Hynes. "Good. Now we may get some action."

The whole story can be read here. Any Canadian readers care to tell us what a "classic Canadian roasting" entails? As polite as Canadians are reputed to be, I don't think I want one from Major Hynes.

Wretchard >> Blackfive.

Good news: malaria vaccine looks promising

Here's something I hope librarians and library-hangers-on (I mean that in the best possible sense :) of all stripes can agree on: a clinical trial of a malaria vaccine is yielding promising results. Nature has the story, and there are many more links at Google News.

Europe: the model? (1)

With America's report card returning such grim results and the possibility of a fascist president once again being elected, one is tempted to look elsewhere in the world for examples of societies to follow. Naturally, we look to our European cousins, for, as we know, they have perfected the art of life. A shorter work week. Longer vacations. Stronger labor unions. Generous unemployment and welfare benefits. Universal health care. Peace-loving governments. Why can't the US be more like Europe?

If we go on for long this way, however, reality is apt to slap us in the face. From our Irish correspondent in Munich we learn that things are not going well for that more enlightened, sophisticated continent to our East:

Up to 40,000 young Germans are now living in the Bay Area. Officially, 110,000 people left Germany for good last year, but the real figure may be double that as many of those who departed didn't go thorough the "deregistration"
procedure required by the authorities. An imploding economy, relentless taxation, mass unemployment and encroaching gloom has got them heading for the exits.

The situation must be terrible in Europe's largest economy, if so many Germans are flocking to a country that can't manage better than a series of 'D's on its report card. Shouldn't we warn them that they are headed into a hail of bullets, both literal and figurative? (A wag might ask how many Americans have fled the other direction to escape persecution and economic ruin in the US.)

To such a pass have things come that even Guardian columnist Will Hutton (a socialist, by some accounts) is compelled to worry that Europe is reaching crisis point. It seems that France and Germany, those two paradigmatic paradises of social democracy have run up hard against the wall of economic reality. Unemployment in both countries is around 10% (almost 2x the US's), and the EU's economy is expected to have grown in 2004 by 1.7% versus the US's predicted 4.2%. Does the US really want to be more like Europe?

So what has happened to cloud the brows of Western Europe's happy sophisticates? Hutton has the right answer in general terms, and you should read the whole of his article, but we can get more economic detail from this Bloomberg article. First, France:

In France, unemployment rose to 9.9 percent in June. Chirac's government says a law reducing the statutory work week to 35 hours from 39 hours has curbed households' purchasing power, hurt government finances and driven some companies to relocate abroad.

Even so, Chirac said last month he won't revoke the legislation introduced by the Socialist government that preceded his. Instead, he plans to encourage labor unions and business federations to come to their own arrangements as he seeks to
prevent companies from moving jobs abroad.

"We need less taxes and more freedom for employers so that they can negotiate labor rules with their employees," said Jean-Francois Roubaud, head of France's largest federation for small and medium-size companies, in a telephone interview in Paris. "We have too many taxes, too many labor restrictions and France is over-regulated."

Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has called for changes to the law and plans steps to narrow a budget deficit that the government predicts will exceed the EU's limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product for a third year in 2004, after reaching a seven-year high of 4.1 percent of GDP last year. He may leave his post to run Chirac's party in November.

"Sarkozy's departure would slow down reforms, because he's tenacious, popular, and has strongly spoken in favor of freezing spending and trimming the deficit," said Maryse Pogodzinski, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Paris.

France's corporate tax rate is 35 percent, compared with a median rate of 19 percent among the eight Eastern European countries that joined the EU on May 1.

"The tax pressure on companies and individuals who make money is so heavy that there is no incentive to invest," said Yves Bouget, founder and chairman of HF Company, France's No. 1 maker of automated appliances including interphones and remote control devices for television sets.

"The government needs to reduce taxes on profit," said Bouget, whose company is based south of Paris in Esvres sur Indre and has units in Spain, Italy, Belgium and Poland. "One shouldn't be surprised if the French economy doesn't create value or growth." [emphasis mine--ChuckB]

Wait! It sounds like you need to lengthen the work-week, reduce taxes on business profits, and relax labor laws. But that means becoming more like the U.S. That's just wrong! That's just so ... un-European.

Sadly, the situation for Germany looks even worse:

Germany, the continent's largest economy, abounds with reasons why Western Europe is losing the competition for investment and jobs to the U.S., China and India -- and the low-tax Eastern European countries that, after entering the European Union in May, are competing right on Germany's doorstep.

German labor costs are six times the Eastern European level, according to a report published on August 24 by the Cologne-based IW research institute. A corporate tax rate of 37 percent is almost twice that of neighboring Slovakia, which now makes more cars per person than any other Eastern country.

For German corporate standard-bearers such as Siemens and DaimlerChrysler, the only expansion is abroad. With German unemployment at 10.6 percent, the most workers can hope for is to keep their jobs. Munich-based Siemens won an extension of the work week at two phone factories to 40 hours from 35 hours at no extra pay after threatening to cut 2,000 jobs there.

Schroeder's law reducing jobless benefits from January 2005, the first cuts in unemployment welfare since World War II, prompted thousands to take part in Monday demonstrations throughout August in east German cities including Leipzig and Berlin. Protesters threw eggs at the chancellor during an Aug. 24 visit to the eastern city of Wittenberge. ...

The cuts in unemployment benefits "are highly overdue," Norbert Quinkert, the head of Motorola Inc.'s German unit, said in an interview. "They will raise the pressure on the jobless to take up work. The government must not let up in those efforts."

"Lobby groups, especially labor unions, still exert too much influence, so that companies' investment plans often get clouded by unnecessary haggling," said Quinkert, whose company employs 3,500 people in Germany. He said he gets frustrated with the slowness of decision-making in Europe: "In the U.S. decisions are simply taken more quickly," he said.

Schroeder said on July 10 that he will focus on putting into practice laws already passed, rather than trying to win support for more cuts in welfare or an over haul of labor restrictions.

"Schroeder's welfare cuts can only mark the beginning of more far-reaching changes," said Kudiss at the BDI. "New laws on other burning issues -- for instance health, pensions and even taxes are just as important."

As the government puts off further action, there is little to breathe life into domestic demand, which contracted in the second quarter as exports drove economic growth. German business confidence dropped for a third month in four in August as record oil prices threaten to further hurt consumer spending.

"The economic outlook for Germany, then, is pretty grim," said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York. "German companies producing goods and services for the domestic market will remain in trouble." [emphasis mine--ChuckB]

It sounds like more of the same: cutting taxes, cutting unemployment benefits and other welfare, decreasing the influence of labor unions, increasing the work week. They should never have let those East European countries into the EU. Curse those New Europe parvenus! They are ruining everything.

Both Hutton and the Bloomberg article have some information on the electoral and political challenges facing Chirac and Schröder. The picture isn't pretty. Schröder seems to realize the urgent need for changes, but he has become quite unpopular as he has pursued them. The situation must be dire indeed if a politician as pragmatic and calculating as Schröder feels compelled to push through deeply unpopular reforms. Chirac, on the other hand, doesn't seem terribly interested in reforms--apres moi, le deluge? My suspicion is that he is taking a note from Arafat: hunkered down and concerned for little else besides his own political survival. It will be interesting to see how he fares against Sarkozy's likely challenge.

Concerning the future, Hutton warns:

It could all turn ugly; an unratified European Constitution, stagnating economies, new dark nationalist politics and a fragmenting European Union.

Just a reminder: he isn't writing about the US there--that's a European report card he's giving. For a quick glance at some of the "new dark nationalistic politics", see my next journal entry, hopefully later today.

Stand Up to Putin

In the Washington Post, Robert Kagan has harsh words for Bush, because Bush has no harsh words for Putin as he takes Russia closer to totalitarianism. Read it--it's good.

I blame John Ashcroft.

Via Oxblog.

Compare and contrast

Genuine documents on Bush's military service from the Pentagon placed side-by-side with a memo from CBS's collection at the Washington Post.

Via Stuart Buck.

Burkett email

From an AP story:

The retired Guard official, Bill Burkett, said in an Aug. 21 e-mail to a list of Texas Democrats that after getting through "seven layers of bureaucratic kids" in the Democrat's campaign, he talked with former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland about information that would counter criticism of Kerry's Vietnam War service. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the e-mail Saturday.

"I asked if they wanted to counterattack or ride this to ground and outlast it, not spending any money. (Cleland) said counterattack. So I gave them the information to do it with," Burkett wrote.

Burkett, who lives just outside of Abilene, wrote that no one at the Kerry campaign called him back.

As Hindrocket at Powerline points out, the above statement is consistent with the scenario that has Burkett as the source of the documents and Max Cleland as Rather's unimpeachable source. Mere consistency in no way proves the case, however. We'll see.

Factcheck.Org on Bush's TexANG service

Factcheck.Org, which is run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at UPenn has an analysis that largely vindicates W's TexANG service. Here's the summary:

With Democrats openly accusing President Bush of being "AWOL" from his Air National Guard service during the 1970's, the White House released personnel and payroll records showing Bush was paid and credited for service during the period in question. And despite a six-month gap in service while working on a Senate campaign in Alabama, Air Force Reserve records show Bush was credited with enough points to meet his requirements for that year -- barely.

Factcheck.Org and Spinsanity.Org are good sites for folks of all political persuasions to bookmark in these days in these days of dizzying political rhetoric.

[Journal entry deleted]

This journal entry has been deleted for the time being.

Houston Chronicle article on possible source of CBS memos

Captain Ed points us to an article on Bill Burkett in the Houston Chronicle. Burkett is the man many now suspect of having supplied CBS with the forged memos concerning W's National Guard service. Here is what emerges from the story:

  • Burkett claimed in 2003 that while in the Texas National Guard he had been sent to Panama as punishment for refusing to alter W's personnel records. However, he later admitted to the Chronicle that "That statement was not accurate, that is overstated."
  • On 8-13-04 he wrote: "I have found no documentation from LTC Killian's hand or staff that indicate that this unit was involved in any complicit way to either cover for the failures of 1LT Bush, or to provide him pay or certification for training not completed."
  • During W's 2000 Presidential campaign, Burkett claimed to have heard both ends of a TexANG officer and Bush's then chief-of-staff, but he has since changed his story (in what way the report doesn't say).
  • In February, Burkett claimed to have seen some of Bush's records in a garbage can at a National Guard base in Austin. George Conn, a friend of Burkett's who Burkett said took him to the base, denies Burkett's account. The Guard says that no TexANG records have ever been stored at that base.

As far as I know, it hasn't been established that Burkett furnished the memos to CBS. The mutability of his testimony does not inspire trust. He may be the little boy who cried "Wolf!", but at this point I am not inclined to give him much credence.

One reason to be skeptical of the U.N.

As a forum for diplomatic tag-team matches, I think the United Nations is great. There needs to be a place where representatives of nations can talk multi-laterally and try to solve diplomatic problems. But as soon as it arrogates to itself the powers of government (legislation, adjudication, administration), I respond as did Professor Wagstaff: "Whatever it is, I'm against it!".

One reason I think the U.N. is fatally flawed as a body for anything but diplomacy, and possibly for humanitarian work, is expressed by Australian PM John Howard, responding to Kofi Annan's assertion that the invasion of Iraq was illegal:

The problem with the United Nations - it is a wonderful body in many respects and it does great humanitarian work - is that it can only proceed at the pace of the collective willingness of the permanent members... You are seeing it now, tragically in Sudan. The body is paralysed. It is not doing much and the reason is you can't get agreement among the major powers. And people are dying, thousands of people are dying every month in Sudan.

How do you get around this kind of problem? If this was the way politics worked in any Western democratic republic, the voters wouldn't stand for it. There is no such check on members of the U.N.

Via Chrenkoff.

Blogs: Belgravia Dispatch

Greg Djerejian's blog Belgravia Dispatch is an excellent blog to read in tandem with The Belmont Club. I am tempted to say that, if the Belmont Club is the Department of Defense, Belgravia Dispatch is the State Department. You can read about Mr. Djerejian's qualifications--they are impressive. He lacks Wretchard's unusual, literary prose style, but he is a clear-headed and unflinching observer of and commentator on the Iraq war and on the war on terrorism. He does not hesitate to criticize what he perceives as mistakes, missteps, and crimes. He was harshly critical of the Bush administration over Abu Ghraib (see, e.g., this posting, which also contains a definite note of self-criticism as well).

His recent posting Revisionist History Watch takes issue with accusations that the Bush administration has bungled post-war Iraq because it refused to learn from U.S. experiences in Bosnia. Djerejian responds from the point of view of one who was on the ground in Bosnia. Today he critiqued Wretchard's assessment of casualty patterns in Iraq, reaching this conclusion:

Listen, we're all in this together. Suger-coating and potentially dubious number-crunching exercises aren't going to win this war. Understanding (at least as best as one can judiciously ascertain) where we are right now, however, might help. And, truth be told, it ain't all that pretty. No, it's not Tet, not by a long shot. But it's not a rinky-dink little insurgency fully contained and emasculated in Anbar province either. It's something in between, and the sooner we accept that, the better for all of us.

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