Monday, February 28, 2005

The U.S. can sit back and watch Europe implode

Click here for AmazonThe "great" Mark Steyn hits another fastball out of the park. No one is lobbing up hanging curves to the one-man global content provider, yet he is consistently pounding out longballs. And if I were a bit more worldly I'd use cricket, not baseball, analogies given Steyn's heritage.

For the time-hampered, here are the highlights. But, of course, try and read the whole thing.

A week ago, the conventional wisdom was that George W. Bush had seen the error of his unilateral cowboy ways and was setting off to Europe to mend fences with America's ''allies.''

I think not... at the end what's changed?

Will the United States sign on to Kyoto?


Will the United States join the International Criminal Court?


Will the United States agree to accept whatever deal the Anglo-Franco-German negotiators cook up with Iran?


Even more remarkably, aside from sticking to his guns in the wider world, the president also found time to cast his eye upon Europe's internal affairs. As he told his audience in Brussels, in the first speech of his tour, ''We must reject anti-Semitism in all forms and we must condemn violence such as that seen in the Netherlands...''

...The ''violence in the Netherlands'' is a reference to Theo van Gogh, murdered by a Dutch Islamist for making a film critical of the Muslim treatment of women. Van Gogh's professional colleagues reacted to this assault on freedom of speech by canceling his movie from the Rotterdam Film Festival and scheduling some Islamist propaganda instead.

The president, in other words, understands that for Europe, unlike America, the war on terror is an internal affair, a matter of defusing large unassimilated radicalized Muslim immigrant populations...

...CIA analysts predict the collapse of the EU within 15 years. I'd say, as predictions of doom go, that's a little on the cautious side...

Europe's problems -- its unaffordable social programs, its deathbed demographics, its dependence on immigration numbers that no stable nation (not even America in the Ellis Island era) has ever successfully absorbed -- are all of Europe's making. By some projections, the EU's population will be 40 percent Muslim by 2025. Already, more people each week attend Friday prayers at British mosques than Sunday service at Christian churches -- and in a country where Anglican bishops have permanent seats in the national legislature...

...Until the shape of the new Europe begins to emerge, there's no point picking fights with the terminally ill. The old Europe is dying, and Mr. Bush did the diplomatic equivalent of the Oscar night lifetime-achievement tribute at which the current stars salute a once glamorous old-timer whose fading aura is no threat to them. The 21st century is being built elsewhere.

Mark Steyn, Chicago Sun-Times: U.S. can sit back and watch Europe implode

Good versus Evil

Click here for AmazonThe new Democratic chairman Howard Dean giving a speech in Kansas:

"This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good."

Oh. Interesting that he felt he needed to add that second sentence. Hugh Hewitt notes:

While political rhetoric can and indeed must become heated at times, the idea of tens of millions of Americans being "evil" is the sort of extreme, Michael Moore rhetoric which has taken the Democrats into the ditch and will keep them there. Will MSM follow up with the new DNC Chair and press him for details? Because Dean just labeled every Catholic Bishop and every major Evangelical figure "evil"...

...does Senator Clinton agree? Senator Schumer? Senator Reid? Minority Leader Pelosi? Shouldn't every Democrat in leadership be asked if those opposing them... are "evil?"

Methinks we won't be seeing those questions (a) asked by the MSM; or (b) answered by the usual suspects.

Iraq: All but Won

Click here for AmazonThe invaluable Jack Kelly of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette   nailed the mainstream media to the wall with his Sunday op-ed. His contention? The war in Iraq is all but won. He compares the situation to the battle of Iwo Jima: though the outcome was clear after five days, it took 35 days before the island could be declared secure.

Need proof? Well, when Hillary Clinton jumps on the bandwagon, you can be pretty sure the situation is safe. A politico with her experience wouldn't touch that kind of hot potato unless it was stuffed with green by John Huang (oops, did I say that out loud?). Hillary's remarks, including the fact that Iraq is functioning quite well, pretty much sums it up.

Blogger Austin Bay, a retired colonel in the Army reserve who served in Iraq last year, blames the public's disconnect on (surprise!) the MSM's unbalanced reporting. He notes that thousands of truckloads of material arrive in Iraq every day from Kuwait and Turkey and, once in a while, the insurgents get lucky and blow one up. That single flaming rig will dominate CNN's coverage for hours... without telling American viewers what's really occurring on the ground.

Lt. Col. Jim Stockmoe, chief intelligence officer for the First Infantry Division, roared with laughter as he recalled the increasing missteps of the resistance in Iraq in an interview earlier this month with British journalist Toby Harnden, writing for The Spectator.

"There were three brothers down in Baghdad who had a mortar tube and were firing into the Green Zone," Stockmoe said. "They were storing the mortar rounds in the car engine compartment and the rounds got overheated. Two of these clowns dropped them in the tube and they exploded, blowing their legs off."

The surviving brother sought refuge in a nearby house, but the occupants "beat the crap out of him and turned him over to the Iraqi police," Stockmoe told Harnden, "It was like the movie 'Dumb and Dumber.' " ...

...The number of insurgent attacks has fallen off significantly since the Fallujah offensive last November, and the attacks that are being made are less effective.

There are about 50-60 attacks a day on coalition forces, about half the pre-Fallujah level. Almost all are within the Sunni Triangle, and most are ineffective. "Most of these are ambush-style attacks that result in no casualties," noted StrategyPage...

Jack Kelly: All but won - The media can't see that Iraq is close to secure

The (Security) Hits Just keep on Comin'

Click here for AmazonThe hits just keep on coming. A flaw in the Paymaxx web-based W2 service may have explosed data on thousands of workers. The Bank of America may have lost control of more than a million customer records. And, of course, ChoicePoint permitted about 150,000 customer records to fall into the wrong hands, which will likely lead to a swarm of identity-theft cases.

And these are only the ones we're hearing about. What about the crimes that haven't yet been discovered by the victims, the companies, or the press? The ones that the crooks are still exploiting?

Rest assured, there are lots of them out there.

In each case, these situations could have been prevented. Some, as in the case of Paymaxx, may have been as simple as performing routine vulnerability assessment against a web application prior to rolling it into production.

These issues all boil down to combining processes, people and technology effectively: how are clients vetted before being permitted to tap into the corporate repository? Once they are vetted, is their behavior analyzed to determine whether it meets acceptable criteria?

These well-publicized cases, that translate into tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in market capitalization, point out a key facet of management in today's cyberworld of business: the security function is the cornerstone of today's business. If you try to operate any business, especially one tied to the Internet, without a serious approach to security, then you're driving around in the dark without headlights. Sooner or later, you're going to fly off a cliff or hit a bridge abutment.

Simply put, the CSO or CISO roles are paramount for businesses that link to the Internet. A pragmatic, not insignificant fraction of the IT budget needs to be apportioned to security each and every quarter. And assessments need to part of a regular process: vulnerability assessments, risk analyses, classification issues, process reviews, etc. The security organization needs to be stronger than ever. Because the risks are higher than ever.

Millions in market capitalization... and entire businesses... hang in the balance.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Big Blue backs PHP

Click here for AmazonIBM's announcement that it is backing the PHP programming language is no surprise to those who closely follow trends on the web. The proliferation of PHP-driven websites is astonishing: by every measure, it is the single most popular web application serving technology on the Internet.

The partnership with PHP creator Zend Technologies is built around a new bundle called ZendCore. It consists of IBM's Cloudscape embedded database and Zend's PHP development tools.

The telling quote:

One industry executive who requested not to be named said that IBM's push into PHP and scripting reflects IBM's disillusionment with the Java standardization process and the industry's inability to make Java very easy to use.

Given that Gartner has reported that more than 70% of J2EE web applications are utter failures, this should come as no surprise.

...To date, around 70 percent of initial Java implementations have been unsuccessful, according to new research from Gartner Group.

"An inordinately large number of large-scale Java projects have been failures," said Mark Driver, Gartner research director for Internet and ebusiness technologies. Big Blue backs PHP for Web development

The Revisionists

Click here for AmazonThe always interesting Betsy Newmark recently noted that military history is frequently taught as social history.

...The textbooks will usually have a brief summary of the military progress of the war. But there are several obligatory sections for every war: how the war impacted women, blacks, and other minorities. For World War II, the section on Japanese internment is always a major curriculum point. The military history is a minor point in comparison...

Several years ago, my daughter came home from school. She was visibly upset that America had dropped the A-bomb on Japan. It was obvious the teacher's agenda included a careful rewrite of history to villify Truman and the U.S. Military as utter monsters, without a thimble's worth of historical context.

Reading Flags of Our Fathers or Flyboys provides a bit more perspective.

It is hard to overstate the strength of indoctrination programs with which Japanese soldiers were inculcated with a barbaric philosophy of "no surrender".

The battle for the island of Attu in the Aleutians illustrated [the philosophy]... in May of 1943, after two weeks of fighting, only eight hundred Japanese troops remained. [They] had no ammunition left, and there was nothing they could do militarily. Troops of any other nation would have surrendered. On... May 29, 1943 the surviving troops were ordered to attack. Fewer than thirty survived.

On island after island, the Japanese employed these same "tactics" of senseless suicide attacks. Iwo Jima, the first component of territorial Japan invaded by the Allies, took a horrible toll on both sides: 21,000 defenders and 6,821 Marines perished, all for a patch of volcanic ash in the Pacific. In fact, the last Japanese defenders of Iwo Jima did not emerge from the fortified depths of the island until 1949.

Nearing the end of the war, the Japanese Imperial Headquarters -- in official communiques -- referred to 'Gyokusai of the One Hundred Million'... the "shattered jewel" (suicide attack) deaths of the entire population of Japan. Put plainly, the Japanese leaders were willing to sacrifice every man, woman and child on the island in the belief that divine winds (kamikaze) would prevent any invader from conquering Japan.

The result was the sober assessment by American military planners that utter devastation of the Japanese homeland was required, because surrender was untenable for the population.

A War Department report concluded that, "defeating Japan would cost [the Japanese] five to ten million deaths and the United States between 1.7 and 4 million casualties, including 400,000 to 600,000 fatalities." A postwar analyis indicated that these estimates were incorrect: they underestimated Japanese defenses.

To put this in perspective, D-Day required 175,000 invading troops. 7,000,000 American troops were in the Pacific by 1945 preparing for Operation Olympic, the first phase of invasion.

Put in these terms, there is no question but that the atomic attacks saved millions of lives on both sides.

The revisionists who discard history have no business teaching it.

Betsy's Page: Military History.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Who capped Rafik Hariri?

Click here for AmazonThe Kerry Spot has provided yeoman service in relaying expert analysis of the Hariri assassination. His expert notes that:

  • The bomb used around 650 pounds of TNT

  • It was placed in the middle of the road, therefore likely under the street itself and not in a parked car

  • It was placed in a curve in the road and intelligence regarding Hariri's route and schedule would have had to have been exact

  • The motorcade had electronic jammers, thus either a wire-triggered bomb or sophisticated jamming countermeasures were employed by the assassins

  • Hardly the work of amateurs. In fact, the assassination has the hallmarks of a serious, state-sponsored hit. TKS notes that we can therefore dismiss Juan Cole's asinine supposition that Hariri had been involved in a business deal gone sour.

    This leaves three potential states that could have been responsible: Syria, Israel, and Iran.

    The Iranians, conceivably, could have done this to put the west’s attention and heat on Syria. But my guy is skeptical of this kind of bank-shot skullduggery. The risk doesn’t seem to be worth the reward.

    Israel could have pulled it off, but it’s not clear that they would really want to kill Hariri. He was leading an increasingly-impatient Lebanese people who were chafing under de facto Syrian rule...

    And then there are the Syrians. The strongest argument against Damascus ordering the hit is that they’re too obvious a suspect. On the other hand, Syria clearly feels as if Lebanon is its backyard or colony, and that they can act with impunity there. In fact, they’ve killed more than a few Lebanese political leaders before...

    ...while the Syrians didn’t like Hariri, he was surprised that they were willing to kill the goose that was laying the golden eggs. And the economic importance of Lebanon to Syria can’t be understated. About 1 million Syrians work in Lebanon, earning cash and sending it back home. Sending money transactions through Beirut is an easy way for foreign companies to avoid the notoriety of working with the Syrian regime.

    What’s coming next? Well, the Syrians clearly completely misjudged the Lebanese reaction. A people who were previously terrified of even mentioning Hafiz Assad’s name, (instead they would curse the town he was born in) are now protesting in the streets...

    TKS: Straight Stuff on Lebanon and Syria (hat tip: PoliPundit).

    Wednesday, February 23, 2005

    "The Berlin Wall has Fallen"

    Click here for AmazonTelling quote from the leader of the "Lebanese Intifada" (Hat tip: TKS):

    Over the years, I've often heard him denouncing the United States and Israel, but these days, in the aftermath of Hariri's death, he's sounding almost like a neoconservative...

    "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

    WaPo: Beirut's Berlin Wall

    Barking Moonbats: Rove's Diabolical Plan

    Click here for AmazonTim Blair excoriates Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who on multiple occasions (most recently on CNN) has espoused the theory that Karl Rove created the bogus Rathergate documents.

    It doesn’t take an awful lot of imagination if you’re thinking about who it is that might have produced these false documents to try to mislead people in this very cynical way. It would take someone very brilliant, very cynical, very Machiavellian, and it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to come up with the name of Karl Rove as a possibility of having done that.

    This hysterical assertion possesses all the intellectual rigor of modern-day alchemy, performed by Jessica Simpson. In point of fact, this type of unhinged remark has been covered extensively by Charles at LittleGreenFootballs and Sounding the Trumpet, among others.

    But only the magnificent Blair has found and reported upon the only known transcript of the conspiracy in the making:

    ...Using contemporaneous reports and several eye-witness sources, this site is able to reconstruct the events of last August...

    (Rove enters the Chamber of Destruction and greets his assembled operatives)

    Rove: Gentlemen. Ladies. Mr. Gannon. Mr. Murdoch.

    (Various responses: “Hiya!” “Howdy.” “G’day.")

    Rove: People, you have done good work. You have tirelessly attempted to undermine John Kerry’s bid for the presidency. And yet the latest polling shows that Kerry may still win.

    (Murmured complaints: “Dang!” “This is soooo not happening.” “Can’t compete with a Magic Hat.")

    Rove: Silence! I cannot tell you how much this disappoints and angers me.

    (An assistant appears at Rove’s side with a baseball bat. He is waved away)

    Rove: But now is not the time for fault-finding, or skull-crushing. Now is the time for action. Serious action. In fact, the most serious action it is possible for us to undertake.

    Murdoch: You don’t mean ... ?

    Rove: Yes. It is time for us to deploy the Doomsday Device.

    (Several reel from the table in shock; two are ill)

    Rove: Mr. Gannon, please fetch the Device. And put some pants on, for God’s sake.

    Gannon: Y-yes sir. Right away, Mr. Karl, sir.

    (Gannon exits the room; the anxious conspirators listen as the sound of several vaults being sequentially opened echoes throughout the Chamber. Presently Gannon returns, carrying a briefcase)

    Rove: Open it.

    (Gannon enters the security code—DAILYKOS—and the briefcase springs ajar. Looking away in fear and torment, he nudges the briefcase towards Rove)

    Rove: And now it is time. Time to unveil our most hideous, most perfect plan. (Rove grips the briefcase with both hands) Do you people truly know of the evil that man can attain? Do you know of the Dark Lord’s majesty? Do you know of a terror so sublime that any lesser atrocity—Salem; the Holocaust; our coming assassination and cannibalism of the Pope—will from this point on make you giggle like little girls? Behold!

    (Rove removes from the briefcase several sheets of paper. He studies them intently; every eye in the room is trained upon him. Finally, Rove speaks ...)

    Rove: This is the frickin’ Doomsday Device? A bunch of bogus National Guard memos? What the hell?

    Clarence Thomas: Well, what we thought we’d do, see, was hand these over to the media and ...

    Rove: Oh, come on! These are dated 1972 but they’re in Microsoft Word! Hellloooo! You think anybody in their right mind will fall for these? Oh, look here; you haven’t even changed the default settings! Why, I could type these up at home!

    Ann Coulter: With respect, sir, the plan was to ...

    Rove: Plan? Plan? Listen, legs, this plan wouldn’t fool a Kennedy! Or a crack-addicted homeless person! This so-called plan wouldn’t rate a segment on Air America! This plan I’m looking at wouldn’t be posted at Democratic goddamn Underground! This half-assed, retard plan isn’t worth the ...

    Hugh Hewitt: Actually, we were thinking of giving the memos to Dan Rather.

    Rove: Proceed.

    Tim Blair: Rove's Diabolical Plan

    Belgian Waffles

    Click here for AmazonThose crazy Belgians are at it again. Under the guise of an addled brand of pacifism, a fair number of Belgians have objected to President Bush's visit. Unfortunately, they appear to burying their heads in the sand, ignoring the rise of Islamofascism in places like the Netherlands. Big Trunk at Powerline comments:

    Several readers have pointed out to us the Daily Standard column on the Belgian anti-Bush urinal: "Piss off." Let us recall that in December 1944 Belgium was the object of Hitler's last major offensive. Thousands of American heroes served and died to repel the offensive and to liberate Belgium. Click here for an excellent site devoted to the battle. Hitler's last gasp came shortly afterward in the lesser-known Operation Nordwind.

    Stephen Ambrose's terrific book Band of Brothers tells the story through the eyes of E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division -- a unit that served "from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest" (as the book's subtitle states). The men of E Company served on the front lines in ferocious, almost unimaginably arduous and brutal combat for the last twelve months of WW II. Many died, many were horribly injured, some survived. God bless Stephen Ambrose for capturing their story before even those who had survived died natural deaths...

    At the very end of the book Ambrose briefly summarizes the postwar lives of those who survived. One of those who overcame a paralyzing injury suffered at Bastogne and survived was Corporal Walter Gordon. He went to law school and struck it rich through the exercise of great acumen in the oil business.

    In December 1991, Mr. Gordon read that the mayor of Eindhoven, Holland had refused to meet with General Schwarzkopf because as general of the forces that served in the Gulf War General Schwarzkopf "had too much blood on his hands." Ambrose recounts that Gordon wrote to the mayor of Eindhoven as follows:

    On September 17, 1944 I participated in the large airborne operation which was conducted to liberate your country. As a member of company E, 506th PIR [parachute infantry regiment], I landed near the small town of Son. The following day we moved south and liberated Eindhoven. While carrying out our assignment, we suffered casualties. That is war talk for bleeding. We occupied various defense positions for over two months. Like animals, we lived in holes, barns, and as best we could. The weather was cold and wet. In spite of the adverse conditions, we held the ground we had fought so hard to capture.

    The citizens of Holland at that time did not share your aversion to bloodshed when the blood being shed was that of the German ocupiers of your city. How soon we forget. History has proven more than once that Holland could again be conquered if your neighbor, the Germans, are having a dull weekend and the golf links are crowded.

    Please don't allow your country to be swallowed up by Liechtenstein or the Vatican as I don't plan to return. As of now, you are on your own.

    This is a message that badly needs to be delivered to our former Belgian friends.

    Powerline: Piss off

    Tuesday, February 22, 2005

    A Gun Only Smokes After It has been Fired

    Click here for AmazonTrodwell intimates that Koizumi and the government of Japan simply "get it". A recent BBC report suggests that draft legislation will authorize the defense minister to activate Japan's anti-ballistic missile defense system. This is a major change from the current system, which relies upon a relatively complicated beauracracy to engage defenses, even though Japan lies within spitting distance of certain maniacal crackpot dictators.

    Those who oppose missile defense, especially, need to read the whole thing. Or, as Trodwell says, "Go ye therefore hence, and suckle at the teat of wisdom":

    ...because it is assumed that North Korea has not yet contrived a nuclear warhead small enough to be delivered by ballistic missile, there is no urgency in establishing a ballistic missile defence system, and certainly no urgency in devolving launch authority below Cabinet level.

    The only people who would advance such an argument are those who fail to understand the Bush Doctrine; which, in a word, means NOT waiting until you are hit before taking appropriate measures. In other words, if you know that North Korea is working on a nuclear weapon (e.g. if they tell you they have one); if you know they are working on an inter-continental ballistic missile (e.g. if they fire one over your country); and if you suspect they might not like you (e.g. if they threaten to turn your country “into a sea of fire”), then waiting until the missile has actually been launched and is 7 minutes away from Tokyo (or 13 minutes from Anchorage) is not a viable policy option. This is not rocket science, and both Koizumi and Bush appear to get it. Some people, however, still do not. Many probably aren’t mentally equipped to get it.

    (It's not that they're dumb; it's just that they're liberals, and lack the capacity for rational thought necessary to connect cause and effect. I know, I know, redundant.... Put it this way: "Some are born stupid; some have stupidity thrust upon them.")...

    ...In a world where unstable dictators have ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, anyone who waits for a “smoking gun”... could very well end up in a smoking hole.

    Right Thinking People: A Gun Only Smokes After It has been Fired

    Fisking SEDHE

    Click here for AmazonI wrote an editorial for one of the metro dailies a few weeks back. SEDHE is, I think, a group blog based in the Midwest that took issue with the editorial. In it -- written only days before the Iraqi election -- I reprised Joshua Muravchik's key points regarding the crucial onset of democracy among predominantly Arab countries in the Middle East.

    Rather than address any of the salient thrusts of the article, Mark (of SEDHE) pulled the Al Franken-esque trick of chipping away at the periphery in hopes of discrediting the larger argument. Let's take a quick, Fisky look at Mark's objections to my piece:

    "In 1776, there was exactly one country in the world with an elected government: the United States of America." Really, Doug? By my calculations, there were no elected governments in 1776, since the United States did not exist until 1789! Once again, we have confused the Declaration of Independence -- a persuasive essay -- for the Constitution -- a legal document.

    Yes, because we all remember celebrating the bicentennial in 1989... it was a glorious winter day, with just a hint of spring rustling through the Berkshires, ah... I remember it well. And, each year, of course, we celebrate the birth of our country on March 4.

    All that being said, Mark needs to go back to his seventh grade American History textbook. You know, the illustrated one with the picture of The Continental Congress. Yes, that Continental Congress, an elected set of delegates and the government for the United States during the American Revolution (1775-1783). Because Britain wasn't going to let the colonies form their own government, some people in the congress believed independence was their only alternative. It approved the resolution on July 2, 1776 and on July 4 it adopted The Declaration of Independence. Most observers -- other than SEDHE -- believe the date of July 4, 1776 marked the formation of our country.

    Aside from being flat out wrong, Mark in no way addresses the point of the article. Namely that from 1776, democracy as a form of government went from 0 to 117 countries. The tide of democracy is inexporably washing away authoritarian regimes.

    He then gives us a lesson in contemporary geo-politics. "Israel is the sole democracy among 18 states [in the Middle East]. The handiwork of George W. Bush is therefore astonishing: Afghanistan, the Palestinian Authority, and -- within days -- Iraq will have held elections." Not so fast there, Sunny Jim. What did George W. Bush have to do with elections in the Palestinian Authority?

    All that negotiation Bill Clinton did with thieving billionaire terrorist dictator Arafat worked out well for the peace process didn't it? Bush's refusal to speak with Arafat -- and support for democracy -- made the PA election process inevitable once the PA thug (thankfully) expired. But don't believe me. Ask the liberals in Israel:

    ..."There is a change in the atmosphere," said Amram Mitzna, a leader of Israel's dovish Labor Party...

    And SEDHE's post gets even better.

    ...let's talk about these elections in Iraq... Mark my words: tomorrow's election will be a bloodbath.

    I heard the Iraqi elections called many things: successful, a moving tribute to freedom, vindication for Bush. I think we can safely say it was not, however, a bloodbath. Much as Mark may have hoped for that.

    ...Let's go back to that statement that Israel is the sole democracy in the Middle East. What happened to Turkey? Last I checked, Turkey was a secular democracy and it was one of our good friends...

    The scholastic website Nationmaster ranks Turkey 34th of 36th European and North American countries in terms of civil and political liberties (only Bosnia/Herzegovina and Belarus rank lower). The measure of freedom is not simply holding an election... it is liberty, plain and simple.

    And what is this "18 states" thing? Did Mr. Ross pick 18 states at random? By my count (and by the Columbia Encyclopedia's), there are 12 states in the Middle East: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. Where did the other six states come from?

    Let's count, shall we? It's not very hard... really. Using About's Geography Guide: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, and
    Yemen. That's 19... if you assume that Lebanon isn't a puppet of Syria, which -- according to the United Nations -- it is. In which case, there are 18 sovereign countries.

    But I digress. There are major issues Mark could have attacked. Instead, he chips away at the edges, hoping for a victory in a minor skirmish. For, as we all know, on the big issues the Left's batting record ain't real good.

    ...So, in short, Mr. Doug Ross... has demonstrated that he knows nothing about the world except what he is told by the Bush administration... I loathe the Bush administration.

    'Nuff said.

    There will come a day

    Monday, February 21, 2005

    The John Kerry Form 180 Counter

    PoliPundit: The John Kerry Counter


    Click here for AmazonFrom Townhall, Diana West reviews Bat Ye'or's Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. Bat Ye'or is uniquely qualified to dissect the entangled links between Europe and the Arab League:

    ...the political, economic and cultural bonds between Europe and the Arab world... were designed to create "a global alternative to American power."

    How? shepherding... war on Israel. This would come about in exchange for freely flowing Arab oil into Europe, which would come about in exchange for freely flowing Muslim immigration into Europe, which would come about in exchange for research and development and labor and education and tourism and cultural ties between the Europe and the Arab world ... which would all come about with an increasing independence of (and, indeed, hostility toward) America.

    This goes a long way toward explaining the behavior of Old Europe -- the heart of Eurabia -- since Sept. 11. It also leaves a question hanging when The New York Times pegs Muslim immigration into Europe to a simple "postwar labor shortage"...

    Diana West: Eurabia

    Sunday, February 20, 2005

    There Will Come a Day

    There will come a day when the Democratic Party will perform some serious, introspective analysis on itself. How has it moved so far Left? How has it lost all of the South and the Midwest -- and for that matter, a huge percentage of all counties in the country? How it also lost 97 of 100 of the the fastest growing counties? Where has it gone awry?

    And why does it, shockingly, continue to lose despite the "fifteen points" advantage that the mainstream media purports to offer the Democrats?

    Well, in my opinion, any self-analysis won't take much effort.

    No party has been more wrong, more often, on serious issues of national import than the Democratic party since 1972:

    * Wrong about the evil represented by Communism during the Cold War, concomitant with its estimated one hundred million civilian deaths.

    * Wrong about the best strategies to end the Cold War peacefully.

    * Wrong about fighting Communism aggressively in Latin America.

    * Wrong about revamping welfare, most recently by opposing the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, which has been a success story by nearly every measure (memo to self: if I don't hear about it in the MSM, the news must be good for the administration).

    * Wrong to think that peace in the Middle East was ever achievable by appeasing thieving terrorist dictator Yassar Arafat.

    * Wrong about the mantra that the administration waged a "War for Oil" (or to fill Halliburton's coffers, take your pick).

    * Wrong that the post-9/11 attack on the Taliban would turn Afghanistan into a quagmire.

    * Wrong about the need to postpone the Iraqi elections, despite their outcries that it would be impossible to hold elections with terrorism rampant throughout the country?

    The Left needs to revisit the biographies of great Presidents like Truman, Roosevelt, and Kennedy. These men were Democrats vested in the concept of liberty and willing to defend freedom. It is certain that all three would be considered hardline conservatives by today's standards.

    Today these great men would be either Joe Lieberman DINO's or would have simply have upped and moved to the GOP.

    GM's Woes

    Click here for AmazonFriday's Wall Street Journal reported that GM's highly touted new models have seen disappointing sellthrough. Specifically, the Pontiac G6 (pictured at left, of Oprah giveaway fame) and Buick LaCrosse are moving slower than Kirstie Alley at the Golden Corral buffet bar.

    Here's a memo to GM's senior execs from a lowly car-loving peon: stop building cars that you want to build... and start building cars that consumers want to buy.

    Click here for AmazonTake a gander, for example, at the difference between the G6 Concept, at left, and the production car, above. The G6 has the typical crappy Pontiac grille, not the sweet mesh of the concept. The G6 has the standard GM-ish wheel configuration, not snazzy nineteens sheathed in swelled fenders like the concept. The concept car was something that consumers would buy. The G6 is the same sort of predigested pap -- designed for the masses and not the enthusiasts -- that GM has been trying to pitch for years. It hasn't worked for years -- and it's not working now.

    Click here for AmazonTake a late-model Honda Civic, for example. Its lithe, compact body has been heavily influenced by the BMW 3-series sedan (GM: you could do a lot worse than to simply build a 3-series clone).

    Click here for AmazonHere's a late-model Nissan Altima. Its visual cues appear borrowed directly from Audi's old, sleek A4. It's inexpensive, attractive, and reliable.

    GM needs to pick out an existing, highly respected, Japanese or German brand, and start building clones. It could be Nissan/Infiniti, Toyota/Lexus, or BMW. It really doesn't matter. It's obvious GM's execs can't execute creatively -- with the possible exception of Cadillac -- so they need to follow the leaders.

    Beautify your grilles, add blingified wheels, add quiet, torquey powerplants with 4-valve-per-cylinder technology... and, of course, improve quality. Incentivize the workers (unionized or not) with Consumer Reports' famous color-coded report cards. Better report cards: better comp packages for workers. Force the workers to have skin in the quality game using metrics everyone on the planet can understand.

    Oh, and when you have a well-received concept car, try not to suck away all of its appealing features as it moves towards production.

    Saturday, February 19, 2005

    Trapping Rumsfeld

    Click here for AmazonBlogger Joe Fairbanks (hat tip: Best of the Web) notes this exchange between Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D., Calif.) and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. During testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Sanchez attempted to trap the SecDef:

    Sanchez: Unfortunately, as I said, this committee has had a hard time assessing where we really stand with the Iraqi army as an effective fighting force. Over the past year, we've received incredibly widely fluctuating estimates of that. And I think you have a real credibility problem on this issue.

    Rumsfeld: Fluctuations of what?

    Sanchez: The fluctuations of--the numbers that you bandy around about how many troops we really have out there that are Iraqi police, et cetera, et cetera. . . .

    Rusmfeld: Now, you say we bandy around numbers. They're not my numbers. I don't invent them. They come from Gen. Petraeus. . . .

    Sanchez: I have Petraeus's numbers. They're different than your numbers, by the way.

    Rumsfeld: Well, what's the date? They aren't different because these came from Petraeus. He may have two sets of numbers, but they are not different if the date's the same. The date on my paper here is Feb. 14. What's yours?

    Sanchez: Dec. 20.

    Rumsfeld: Not surprising there's a difference.

    The transcript does not record whether Sanchez left the room, completely embarrassed, at this point.

    Friday, February 18, 2005

    Has CNN been checking out my blog?

    Click here for AmazonI don't know. Maybe they finally read a copy of Hugh Hewitt's new book.

    Either way, Hugh points to this transcript from CNN"s Inside Politics that sounds startlingly close to what I described in Which MSM Outlet will Get "It" First?... the "it' being the blogosphere.

    Here's what I asked:

    ...the most interesting stuff is happening on the Center Right side of the blogosphere...

    ...who in the MSM is ready to break new ground, find new market share, and get serious about the stories emerging from the blogosphere?

    Jacki Schechner is a "CNN Blog Reporter" that is surveying -- guess what? -- the center-right blogs for the hot topics of the day. In the broadcast, she mentioned Hugh, VodkaPundit, Powerline, LGF and the NRO's Corner... all within a couple of minutes.

    For those of you keeping score at home... it looks like, of the old guard, CNN has landed the first blows.

    Things to think about while waiting for Dan Brown

    Click here for AmazonHere's something to ruminate on while you wait for the next Dan Brown book. I came across this little snippet on a web site recently:

    The Vatican has a 5,000 square foot library that was sealed in 1215, with specific instructions that it was not to be opened until February 19, 2010.

    Imagine the historic and religious treasures this cache must hold.

    The anti-Americans

    Click here for AmazonIt's not very difficult to pick out key events where the Democrats made fundamental, mindbending mistakes that ended up costing them yet another election.

    The wretched Jimmy Carter inviting bloated moviemaker Michael ("Riefenstahl") Moore into the presidential box at the Democratic National Convention.

    Nancy Pelosi and a host of other Democratic congressional leaders pitching a repeal of the Patriot Act after meeting with groups like CAIR.

    And now George Soros, the ultimate Democratic bagman, shows his true stripes by funding the defense of convicted terrorist abetter Lynne Stewart. Stewart, you may recall, was convicted on February 10 for providing material aid to terrorists and lying to federal investigators.

    The material aid she apparently provided? She was assisting Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was sentenced to life in prison in '96 for involvement in the first WTC attack and attempted attacks against the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, as well as the UN building, in NYC. Stewart subsequently promised to abide by government rules to suppress communications between Rahman and his followers, because they had threatened a series of terrorist attacks in the U.S. to force his release.

    Billionaire financier George Soros, whose opposition to President Bush's conduct of the war on terror caused him to pour millions of dollars into the effort to defeat the president, made a substantial donation to the defense fund for radical lawyer Lynne Stewart, who last week was found guilty of giving aid to Islamic terrorists.

    According to records filed with the Internal Revenue Service, Soros's foundation, the Open Society Institute, or OSI, gave $20,000 in September 2002 to the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee.

    In filings with the IRS, foundation officials wrote that the purpose of the contribution was "to conduct a public education campaign around the broad civil rights implications of Lynne Stewart's indictment."

    Answering questions by e-mail, Amy Weil, a spokeswoman for the Open Society Institute, said the foundation contributed to Stewart's fund because "it appeared to us at that time that there was a right-to-counsel issue worthy of our support."

    Yes, folks, this is your Democratic party in action. Words escape me.

    NRO: Soros Funded Stewart Defense

    Gmail Opens Up

    Click here for AmazonIt looks like Google has opened up the floodgates and is now permitting anyone to register with its Gmail service. I've been using it since May of '04 and far prefer it over my AT&T web-mail address. It's not just the 1 gigabyte of space, it's the thick-clientish user interface, tremendous search capability and the auto-sensing and type-ahead of contact names. In fact, the automatic type-ahead feature is far more advanced and helpful than similar features on almost any real, think-client app.

    Here's the email announcing the new, wide-open service:

    [Gmail]... comes with 1,000 megabytes of free storage, powerful Google search technology to find any message you want instantly, and a new way of organizing email that saves you time and helps you make sense of all the information in your inbox.

    And here are just some of the things that we've added in the last few months:

    - Free POP access: Take your messages with you. Download them, read them offline, access them using Outlook, your Blackberry or any other device that supports POP

    - Gmail Notifier: Get new mail notifications and see the messages and their senders without having to open a browser

    - Better contacts management: Import your contacts from Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, Outlook, and others to Gmail in just a few clicks. Add phone numbers, notes and more. Even use search to keep better track of it all.

    If you don't have it, go get it or send me an email and I'll reply with an invite if you have problems signing up.

    Thursday, February 17, 2005

    The Ignorant Thomas Oliphant

    Click here for AmazonThere are certain columnists who consistently deserve an appellation. Consider, for example, "The Great" Mark Steyn, columnist for the National Review, New Criterion, Spectator, Daily Telegraph, etc. Steyn's continued brilliance is deservedly highlighted on a regular basis by seasoned observers like Hugh Hewitt and New Sisyphus.

    Boston Globe columnist Thomas Oliphant (he of the annoying, "heh-heh-heh-heh" laugh) visited the Imus show this morning and lived up to his longstanding prefix, "Ignorant". And if you think I'm being cruel about his laugh, don't worry, it was openly mocked on the program by, if you can believe it, Camilla Parker-Bowles. Or maybe that was an impersonator, I'm not sure. In any event, his comments have defined a high-water mark for ignorance. Allow me to describe what kind of garbage he dispensed this morning.

    Of his major diatribes this morning, Oliphant first asserted that the administration's Iraq policy had made allies of Iran and Syria. Ruminate on that statement for a moment: audacious and moronic, no?

    Consider what Geostrategy-Direct has said about the terrorist group Hezbollah, for instance:

    ...For nearly 20 years, Hezbollah has been armed and trained solely by Iran, while Syria provided the group a haven in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley...

    In fact, a Google search for "iran hezbollah syria yields a paltry 144,000 results. Only someone with partisan blinders on... or completely ignorant... or both would posit that Iran and Syria have been brought together by the Iraq war when Hezbollah is living, breathing proof of a decades-long alliance.

    Not ignorant enough for you? Well, Thomas Oliphant is out to prove he can do even better. He next asserted that the administration's stance on Iran (e.g., espousing freedom for the Iranians in the State of the Union speech), was encouraging the Mullahs to crack down on the reformers.

    Natan Sharansky, on the other hand, a man who suffered for years in a Soviet Gulag believes exactly the opposite: namely that endorsing freedom emboldens the enslaved and disheartens the oppressors:

    In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth – a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us...

    Come to think of it, Oliphant was consistently wrong about Reagan, too. Pentagon advisor Richard Perle recently said that the president's speech, "caused elation among dissidents in Iran."

    But perhaps Tom, whose most painful recent experience probably involved a hangnail while waiting in line at Starbucks Martha's Vineyard, understands better than Sharansky the mindset of Iranian dissidents.

    Oliphant is a man who probably isn't smart enough to know intellectual honesty if it hit him in the head with a two-by-four. Either that, or he is a serial prevaricator with a proclivity for mouthing untruths like a Pez dispenser.

    In any event, it is entirely deserving to affix "the Ignorant" to his name from this point forward.

    The Wretched Former President

    Click here for AmazonThe commissioning of the attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter is cause for a moment of reflection on our 39th president. A man of failed policies at home and abroad. A man possessed of a distinct lack of moral clarity. A man for whom Communists and Islamofascists were not enemies, but allies to be leveraged in campaigns against America. Too harsh? Read on.

    Sure, we could simply point to Carter's horrific record as president: the human rights disasters occasioned by his failed policies in Iran and Nicaragua. In fact, the fall of the Shah and the rise of the Mullahs in Iran -- directly attributable to Carter - provided the central bastion for Islamofascism leading up to 9/11. His failure to support the Shah also emboldened the Soviets, who rolled into Afghanistan in 1979, correctly figuring that Carter would do nothing but bluster.

    And everyone over the age of forty probably recalls the astronomical inflation rates during the Carter years (I, for one, had a 16% loan on my first automobile purchase). Henry Kissinger summarized it best:

    ...The Carter administration has managed the extraordinary feat of having, at one and the same time, the worst relations with our allies, the worst relations with our adversaries, and the most serious upheavals in the developing world since the end of the Second World War...

    Peter Schweizer, author of the new book "Reagan's War", scoured once-classified KGB, East German Secret Police (Stasi), and Soviet Communist Party files. He has found startling ties between high-ranking Democrats and the leaders of the Eastern Bloc. Chief among the Democrats was Jimmy Carter, who approached the Russians in 1980 when it became clear that Reagan's campaign was in upswing. Yes, read that again. Carter went to our mortal enemies the Soviets, during the Cold War, to cut a deal to beat Reagan:

    ...Russian documents that show that in the waning days of the 1980 campaign, the Carter White House dispatched businessman Armand Hammer to the Soviet Embassy...

    [Hammer] explained to the Soviet ambassador that Carter was "clearly alarmed" at the prospect of losing to Reagan. Hammer pleaded with the Russians for help. He asked if the Kremlin could expand Jewish emigration to bolster Carter's standing in the polls.

    "Carter won't forget that service if he is elected," Hammer told Dobrynin.

    Powerline's Hindrocket has been a bulldog in pursuing Carter's history, which paints the man as an opportunist intent on building a legacy at the expense of his country. Hindrocket quotes Steven Hayward, author of The Real Jimmy Carter :

    ...Carter [lusted for a] Nobel Peace Prize for years, seeing it as a means of gaining official redemption for his humiliation at the hands of the voters in 1980. He lobbied quietly behind the scenes for years to get the prize, and finally met with success in 2002 when the... committee saw an opportunity to use Carter as a way of attacking President Bush and embarrassing the United States. The head of the Nobel Prize committee openly admitted that this was their motivation in selecting Carter. Any other ex-president would have refused to be a part of such an obvious anti-American intrigue, but not Jimmy...

    And Carter was the perfect target when Iraq's Oil-for-Food lobby attempted to influence American opinion to relax the sanctions on Saddam Hussein.

    * * *

    Yes, the name USS Jimmy Carter   is sure to strike terror in our nation's enemies. Heaven knows, his name alone terrifies me. Because America can't afford another President as wretched as Jimmy Carter.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2005

    Which MSM Outlet Will Get "It" First?

    Gaining Competitive Advantage using the Blogosphere

    Click here for AmazonThe first MSM outlet to devote regular column inches or broadcast minutes to the topics rippling through the blogosphere will be at a significant competitive advantage. Translation: the MSM can stop the ratings and circulation bleeding without wholesale personnel changes and with only minimal investment.

    Imagine, say, the Old Yorke Times or, heaven forbid, the LA Dog Trainer offering a daily or thrice-a-week recap of the latest buzz on the blogosphere. Call it "Blogosphere Buzz" or some such hep jargon. The premise, though, is simple.

    Big, big stories like Rathergate, the Eason Jordan Affair, and the Swiftvets are breaking first in the blogosphere. And the MSM will find a huge, receptive audience for serious, blog-related buzz.

    There are a few discrete steps, though, that any MSM outlet must take in order to pull this off:

    o Realize, first and foremost, that the most interesting stuff is happening on the Center Right side of the blogosphere. Why? Heaven knows, the MSM has already spent enough time and energy hammering away at the Right. Would Mary Mapes have had five years to work on an exposé of Bill Clinton's ROTC attendance record? So most of the good stuff is going to be coming from the massive Center Right blogs led by the likes of InstaPundit.

    o Hire a serious and savvy blogger, who -- for reasons stated above -- must be from the Center Right. Captain Ed and Michelle Malkin come to mind.

    o Give their columns ultra-fast turnaround time. In fact, have your chosen one syndicate a blog that happens to hit the print media (or broadcast media) mere minutes before it's published on the web. It has to be timely. Otherwise, don't bother.

    o Provide new and better ways to transmit concise URL information to readers or viewers. Start using a branded facility patterned after TinyURL to make blog and story addresses microscopically sized. Best of all, it's easier to centrally track which stories are resonating.

    So... my question is: who in the MSM is ready to break new ground, find new market share, and get serious about the stories emerging from the blogosphere?

    What's that I smell in the distance? Ah, the enticing smell of cold, hard cash.

    Update: the days of journalists taking an oath of omerta to join its clubby, insular world are over. Blackfive eloquently states:

    The media, because its function is as a gatekeeper of information, has been more successful at hiding its errors and biases and, well, lies than any other industry.

    That’s changing, and they don’t seem to like it. The scrutiny they apply to government and business – “sunlight is the best disinfectant” and all that – is now being applied to them, and they don’t seem to like it.

    Hey– every other industry and profession has had to deal with outside media scrutiny since the invention of, well, the news itself. Why on earth should the media itself be immune?

    The Cold War: Analyzing the Left

    Click here for AmazonThe inimitable New Sisyphus asks an important question: what lessons can be learned from the Cold War about both the Left and the Right?

    During the Cold War years, the Left pointed to U.S. support of brutal dictators and neo-colonial ties to places like the Phillipines and Korea. Fighting Soviet expansionism was more about expanding corporate coffers and less about spreading democracy.

    At the same time, the Right explained that war -- even a Cold War -- makes strange bedfellows.

    Think about World War II: we allied ourselves with the Soviet Union to rid the world of the immediate threat National Socialist Germany represented. We supplied it guns, planes and tanks. Our diplomats shook hands and shared vodka with Communist Party functionaries and gave speeches in honor of Stalin. Does any of this mean that the U.S. was and is complicit in the Gulag or Russia's tyranny in Eastern Europe? No, of course not. What it means is that war makes strange bedfellows. As Churchill--a real statesman--explained at the height of WWII, if Germany invaded Hell, we should immediately sign a pact with the Devil to defeat it.

    Further, to assume that a few high-powered corporate board members dictate U.S. foreign policy is naive: the conflicts of the world are far too complex for this to occur and the U.S. has always had a track record of evangelizing the cause of liberty and human rights - even among its ostensible friends.

    Aftermath of the Cold War

    With the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a unique opportunity to test both positions.

    In Central America (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala...), the U.S. withdrew its support for dictatorial, authoritarian regimes. In South America (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay...), the U.S. severed ties with military governments and helped to strengthen the middle class.

    In Europe, even though it was not in its financial interest, the U.S. pushed for the reunification of Germany and provided succor to emergent democracies in Eastern Europe. In Asia, Indonesia and Korea werre encouraged to democratize, which both have done.

    ...And when the newly democratic government of the Philippines asked for the keys to Subic Bay and Clark Air Force Base, we shrugged, handed them over and said our good-byes. Hardly the act of "neo-colonialists."

    The post-Cold War period provided time for citizens to evaluate the diametrically opposed positions of the Left and Right. New Sisyphus posits that most observers have begun to recognize the inherent failures of the Left to either depict or predict the nature of the real world.

    ...people are mostly rational and, with the facts being what they are on the ground, most people have begun to give credence to a philosophy that simply has done a better job of explaining the world around us...

    The Right isn't so much winning people over as it is simply allowing the Left to repeatedly demonstrate its incorrect positions. Even today, the flawed viewpoints of the Left are highlighted for all to see: the Afghani and Iraqi elections are simply the latest milestones in a litany of failed predictions.

    No wonder the Left continues to lose steam: its worldview has been wildly error-prone and, therefore, embarassing. The end of the Cold War exposed the Left's hollow arguments, but they are done yet. For even today, in the Mideast and elsewhere, they are still being exposed. Most U.S. citizens inherently understand that the Left is seldom right.

    New Sisyphus: Testing Left and Right - the End of the Cold War

    Monday, February 14, 2005

    Die in Britain, Survive in the US

    Click here for AmazonThe Spectator's James Bartholomew provides a UK perspective on the divergent approaches to healthcare in his country and the US. In short, while our healthcare system is an expensive mess, it delivers far superior results for all involved when constrasted with the UK's National Heathcare System (NHS).

    His lengthy treatise is worth reading in its entirety. For the time-impaired, here are the highlights.

    Which is better - American or British medical care? If a defender of the National Health Service wants to win the argument against a free market alternative, he declares, ‘You wouldn’t want healthcare like they have in America, would you?’

    ...the American system is so bad that even Americans - plenty of them anyway, if not all - want to give it up. They want something more like the Canadian system or our own National Health Service. That is what Hillary Clinton wanted and there are still plenty of people like her around.

    ... [How do we judge the two systems?] Let’s try the simple way first. Suppose you come down with one of the big killer illnesses like cancer. Where do you want to be - London or New York? In Lincoln, Nebraska or Lincoln, Lincolnshire? Forget the money - we will come back to that - where do you have the best chance of staying alive?

    The answer is clear. If you are a woman with breast cancer in Britain, you have (or at least a few years ago you had, since all medical statistics are a few years old) a 46 per cent chance of dying from it. In America, your chances of dying are far lower - only 25 per cent. Britain has one of the worst survival rates in the advanced world and America has the best.

    If you are a man and you are diagnosed as having cancer of the prostate in Britain, you are more likely to die of it than not. You have a 57 per cent chance of departing this life. But in America you are likely to live. Your chances of dying from the disease are only 19 per cent. Once again, Britain is at the bottom of the class and America at the top.

    ...The more one looks at the figures for survival, the more obvious it is that if you have a medical problem your chances are dramatically better in America than in Britain. That is why those who are rich enough often go to America, leaving behind even private British healthcare. One reason is wonderfully simple. In America, you are more likely to be treated. And going back a stage further, you are more likely to get the diagnostic tests which lead to treatment...

    ...[Diagnostic tests] are underperformed in Britain: first, because there is a shortage of equipment and second, because the equipment is underused. Britain has half the CT scanners per million of population that America has (6.5 compared with 13.6). It also has half the MRI scanners (3.9 per million of population versus 8.1). In Britain these machines are generally used during business hours only, regardless of the fact that some are extremely expensive. At the Mayo Clinic in America, by contrast, an MRI scanner is in use around the clock.

    ...In Britain 36 per cent of patients have to wait more than four months for non-emergency surgery. In the US a mere 5 per cent do...

    ...The [Americans] who face major problems [with the system] are somewhere between middle-income and poor. They are the ones who are not earning enough to take out an insurance policy, or not one with a high limit on medical expenditure. So if they come down with an illness which requires a long - and therefore ruinously expensive - stay in hospital, their insurance may run out and they may have to sell their homes or even go bankrupt. Those who are temporarily unemployed, between jobs, are similarly vulnerable.

    The numbers are not large in relation to the whole population. We are talking about a minority of the American population - figures of 35-45 million are mentioned - which is not insured and which is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Of that minority only a small proportion will need fairly long-term hospital treatment. But financial disaster can happen and sometimes does. People lose their homes, their savings, everything. Half the bankruptcies in America are people who had previously been ill. In Britain the system might kill you. In America the system will keep you alive but might bankrupt you.

    ...the curious thing is that the new, improved, simple state system of Britain does not work as well as the American muddle. You have a better chance of living to see another day in the American mishmash non-system... than in the British system where the state does everything. It is not that America is good at running healthcare. It is just that British state-run healthcare is so amazingly, achingly, miserably and mortally incompetent.

    A monolithic government bureacracy bloated and inefficient? Who'da thunk it?

    Spectator: Die in Britain, Survive in the U.S.

    Sunday, February 13, 2005

    Book Review: Nelson DeMille's Nightfall

    You need not be a conspiracy theorist to enjoy DeMille's latest

    Click here for AmazonDeMille resumes his entertaining John Corey series with Nightfall . Corey, the ex-NYPD detective, is now working on an FBI anti-terror taskforce as a contract employee. In the summer of 2001, he and his wife Kate attend a memorial service honoring the fifth anniversary of TWA Flight 800, which ended minutes after takeoff in a catastrophic explosion that took all 230 lives aboard.

    Despite hundreds of eyewitness accounts that stated something resembling a surface-to-air rocket had touched off the explosion, hundreds of FBI agents, NTSB personnel, and other governmental parties came to the conclusion that an internal spark had triggered an explosion in the central fuel tank. Having investigated the original incident, Corey's FBI agent wife is fed up with the apparent stonewalling and clues her husband onto an interesting, and not widely known, fact regarding the investigation.

    A couple was apparently videotaping themselves during a risque frolic in the surf when the explosion occurred. Some investigators believe that their videotape captured the crucial events. One problem: the couple disappeared, most likely because they were adulterers, and there's no way to identify the pair other than a lens cap left on a beach blanket.

    Corey doggedly pursues the investigation in an entirely unofficial manner and is quickly confronted with resistance from his administrators. Some top-level officials don't want him turning over any rocks and unearthing more details. And they're willing to take extreme measures to make sure he doesn't pursue the investigation.

    As other reviewers have noted, the plot lags towards the middle of the book. But few other authors have mastered sarcastic, entertaining patter in quite the way DeMille has (although Raymond Chandler comes to mind). When Corey arranges to meet an old partner at a Chinese restaurant, he describes the scene:

    "They were prepping the day's mystery dishes in the kitchen, and I thought I heard a cat, a dog, and a duck, followed by chopping sounds, then silence. Smelled good, though."

    Despite a sluggish plot here and there, Corey is a consistently entertaining character and the mystery of Flight 800 is compelling. In fact, I suspect every person who reads this book will be googling the topic upon finishing the book.

    Saturday, February 12, 2005

    Fisking Michael Standaert

    Click here for AmazonThe LA Times' review of Hugh Hewitt's new book Blog is enlightening. The Times   selected a person named Michael Standaert, with whom I am unfamiliar. I do know this... he has literally set the standard for left-leaning MSM shills to follow. He will be hard to top.

    I hereby call him out for a brisk fisking.

    ...this book is a sustained effort of partisan hackery aimed at further eroding trust in what the author Hugh Hewitt calls "mainstream liberal media," which for him means anything to the left of Rush Limbaugh. This regurgitated mantra, in the hands of skilled marketers, can be applied to the latest hot brand — in this case anything to do with blogs...

    In a non-subjective, academic, and peer-reviewed study Tim Grose-Close and Jeff Milyo, of the University of Chicago and Stanford University, meticulously vetted the mainstream media. Their conclusion?

    ...Although we expected to find that most media lean left, we were astounded by the degree...

    Michael, Stanford and U. of Chicago are hardly bastions of conservative thought. Methinks there is a rather large problem in asserting that the mainstream media is anything but biased. Unless, of course, you can provide a peer-reviewed study that mainstream media is biased to the right. I won't hold my breath.

    [Hewitt is] ...a sort of right-wing Robin Hood stealing from the rich liberal mainstream media and giving back the correct information to the hinterlands...

    Right wing Robin Hood? I can hardly detect even a scintilla of biased sarcasm there, can you? Standaert's agenda couldn't be more clear than if he electronically scrolled it over Times Square during rush hour.

    ...Hewitt has chosen the Protestant Reformation as a mirror on how blogging is leading a reformation against the mainstream media. He focuses largely on the case of "Rathergate" at CBS and how blogs were the first to point out the discrepancies in the documents CBS anchor Dan Rather said alleged that President Bush received preferential treatment during his National Guard service...

    The lynchpin analogy of the book is startlingly accurate. And I've noticed that you, Mr. Standaert, have no answer to Hewitt's assertions. The Rathergate affair is, well, rather well-documented. Born in the bowels of the Free Republic message board, it resonated through the blogs at speeds the MSM could only dream of achieving.

    [Hewitt's] ...fanatical fervor leads him down the path of triumphalist bombast...

    When the entire world of the mainstream media has been demonstrably upended, such a statement is neither accurate nor even responsible. The only bombast I have detected thus far, is yours, Mr. Standaert: the imprimatur of the LA Times   is hardly a substitute for common sense. As experts have, on multiple occasions, already demonstrated.

    ...Without traditional media to feed off of, there would be little for most political bloggers to link to and comment on...

    Ah, the centerpiece of the review. And amazingly, shockingly, startlingly wrong... as even the events of the last several days have demonstrated. The blogosphere first reported upon and then proliferated the story of the Eason Jordan affair in a manner reminiscent of... Genghis Kahn (sorry, couldn't help myself)... an uncontrollable wildfire, thanks to people like Mr. Hewitt.

    ...Lott's and Rather's own miscues and ethical lapses were what ultimately brought them down — not bloggers...

    Hardly. One is left simply to wonder how many Rathergates and Easongates have occurred, unreported, over the years. It is an unsettling thought.

    ...It was up to USA Today, part of that liberal mainstream media, to uncover the scandal that journalist Armstrong Williams was being paid by the Department of Education to talk up the federal "No Child Left Behind" program — not bloggers...

    Ah, the proverbial victory for the MSM over the new media. But even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time. The MSM has its place, but there is little question -- especially after the Jordan affair -- that the blogosphere now holds the leash on the poodle.

    ...The other fallacy is that blogging will supplant mainstream media and that the emergence of blogs will be similar to the outcome the invention of the printing press had on furthering the Reformation by giving common folk access to the Bible in their own languages. There are cases to be made about how the blogging revolution will change mainstream media habits and dissemination, but unfortunately Hewitt's "independent" position advocates right-wing, corporate or advertisement blogging...

    Once again, reality intrudes into Mr. Standaert's artificially constructed world. The blogosphere is already leading the MSM around by the nose. One only need look at the circulation woes of the LA Times and its owners or the catastrophic ratings slide of CNN. Stories like the Swiftboat Vets and Eason Jordan burst from the blogosphere to Fox, not the other way around.

    ...Hewitt is a bit more forthcoming about the ethical dilemma faced among the top tier of political bloggers who may or may not get paid to advocate for causes, saying "bloggers should disclose — prominently and repeatedly — when they are receiving payments from individuals or organizations about whom or which they are blogging." But in the book, Hewitt describes how blogs should be used by opinion makers to get their points across through directly influencing the most prominent bloggers...

    Because their credibility, the foundation of trust, is at stake. It's called accountability, and its a concept that has been foreign to the MSM... until now.

    What Hewitt fails to see is that there already is a growing infrastructure of litblogs available that are independent, not beholden to a single publisher and not taking payola to promote or trash competitors' books.

    Talk about a non-sequiter. Litblogs? You mean litblogs like this and this? That happen to be the tiny fiefdoms of one Michael Standaert? Outstanding, my friend. It's lovely that you've been able to embrace, even for just a few minutes (which this review could hardly have occupied), altruism and resist pitching your tiny genre of the blogosphere. Oh wait, you couldn't... and didn't.

    The Times  and its brethren (the AJC and CNN among them) are still in denial, hoping that the good old days will return and that the importance of the blogosphere will somehow magically dissipate. Bad news, boys. It won't.

    Attempting to tar bloggers like Hugh Hewitt in an attempt to win back credibility is not only pathetic. It's laughable. The circulation numbers and Nielsen ratings are cold, hard reminders that there's a new sheriff in town. Better get used to the idea.

    Carter/Clinton Legacies: "Death Match with Terror"

    Click here for AmazonThe "legacies" of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton keep growing in new and frightening ways. With North Korea's pronouncement that they do, indeed, possess nuclear weapons must also come a reassessment of the failed policies of non-proliferation agreements bound by promises and not actions.

    In 1994, many observers had viewed Carter's visit to Pyongyang with skepticism. The trade seemed one-sided at the time: concessions by the U.S. in the form of billions in nuclear technology, oil and humanitarian aid in exchange for promises by North Korea to abstain from nuclear weapons development.

    While Carter netted a Nobel Prize for his efforts, North Korea was able to surreptitiously pursue development of its nuclear arsenal. In March, 1999, the Washington Times   reported that North Korea had pursued uranium-enrichment technology for its nuclear weapons program, aided and abetted by none other than Pakistani nuke dealer A. Q. Kahn.

    While Pakistan officially denied assisting the North Koreans, the LA Times    reported in August of that year that North Korean technicians were working in Pakistani nuclear labs as part of a secret agreement to exchange missile technology for nuclear know-how.

    Well how about that? Kim Jong Il actually lied to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Who would have thought it possible? The problem with nuclear weapons nonproliferation agreements today is that they create the temptation to plan contingencies on the basis of intent rather than capability...

    The alternative is to abandon the "sophisticated" view of a stable international order and understand that we are a planet in crisis; that in some meaningful sense humanity is in a death match with terror.

    One can only hope that the appeasement mentality, with its centuries-old track record of failure, will be utterly and completely abandoned by politicians before it's too late.

    Belmont Club: Death Match with Terror