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September 30, 2004

Power Of Faith

I've read a lot of idiotic things in the media about George Bush's faith in God. I think it's time for an attitude check. This is my President:

"On our way out of the office we were to leave by the glass doors on the west side of the office. I was the last person in the exit line.
As I shook his hand one final time ... I then did something that surprised even me. I said to him, 'Mr. President, I know you are a busy man and your time is precious. I also know you to be a man of strong faith and I have a favor to ask you.' As he shook my hand he looked me in the eye and said, 'Just name it.'
"I told him that my step-Mom was at that moment in a hospital having a tumor removed from her skull and it would mean a great deal to me if he would consider adding her to his prayers that day. He grabbed me by the arm and took me back toward his desk as he said, 'So that's it. I could tell that something is weighing heavy on your heart today. I could see it in your eyes. This explains it.' From the top drawer of his desk he retrieved a pen and a note card with his seal on it and asked, 'How do you spell her name?'
He then jotted a note to her while discussing the importance of family and the strength of prayer. "When he handed me the card, he asked about the surgery and the prognosis. I told him we were hoping that it is not a recurrence of an earlier cancer and that if it is they can get it all with this surgery. He said, 'If it's okay with you, we'll take care of the prayer right now. Would you pray with me?' I told him yes and he turned to the staff that remained in the office and hand motioned the folks to step back or leave.
He said, 'Bruce and I would like some private time for a prayer.'
"As they left he turned back to me and took my hands in his. I was prepared to do a traditional prayer stance standing with each other with heads bowed. Instead, he reached for my head with his right hand and pulling gently forward, he placed my head on his shoulder. With his left arm on my mid back, he pulled me to him in a prayerful embrace. He started to pray softly. I started to cry. He continued his prayer for Loretta and for God's perfect will to be done. I cried some more. My body shook a bit as I cried and he just held tighter. He closed by asking God's blessing on Loretta and the family during the coming months.
"I stepped away from our embrace, wiped my eyes, swiped at the tears I'd left on his shoulder, and looked into the eyes of our President.
I thanked him as best I could and told him that my family and I would cntinue praying for him and his family. He has a pile of incredible stuff on his plate each day and yet he is tuned in so well to the here and now that he 'sensed' something heavy on my heart. He took time out of his life to care, to share, and to seek God's blessing for my family..."

By his own admission, Mr. Bush hasn't always been the man he is today. He admits to having made some mistakes when he was a young man; to not always having been as responsible as he would have liked to be.

However you feel about God and religion, I've watched this man grow in stature over the last four years. He has been baptized by fire and he has emerged unscathed. His faith has given him a serenity, a calmness and resolution, but above all, a kindness and humanity that (if anything) have been deepened by the trials of a contested election, a recession, a horrific attack that took 3000 lives, and two wars.

Faith can indeed move mountains. It is not something to fear: it's something that should lift us up and inspire us in times of trouble. Perhaps that is what America sees in George W. Bush: not so much the man he was, but the man that, with God's help, he has become.

Thanks to JW for the tip, via Right Wing News

- Cassandra

September 30, 2004 at 10:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (43) | TrackBack

C-Bi-aSsed

Some fools never learn...

You're a famous news anchor, recently caught airing a false story based on forged memos. A source tells you the administration will reinstate the draft shortly after the election. Being a seasoned professional (rather than a fly-by-night minion of the pajamahadeen) you:

a. practice due diligence
b. provide balance by reporting that the bill to reinstate the draft was sponsored by Democrats
c. fact-check Rep. Rangel's erroneous claims on minorities in the military
d. reassure voters that, having only 14 sponsors, the bill is dead in the water
e. report the truth: the White House has always opposed the draft and Democrats who say otherwise are misleading voters.
f. none of the above

- Cassandra

September 30, 2004 at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Measuring Success In Iraq

Interesting article on public opinion in Iraq by James S. Robbins. A few highlights:

"Do you feel that Iraq is generally heading in the right direction or the wrong direction?" In July, 51 percent said right direction, 31 percent said wrong direction. An Annenburg survey from that same period in the United States did in fact show almost the opposite result (37 percent right track, 55 percent wrong track), as the president rightly observed.
Incidentally, of those who said Iraq is on the wrong track, only 5 percent said it is because of unemployment, which tends to undercut John Kerry's model of an insurgency being fuelled by the angry unemployed. He stated Monday that unemployment in Iraq is over 50 percent, and Al Jazeera reported in August that the rate was 70 percent. But polling over the summer showed unemployment typically in the teens. The nationwide figures were 14.1 percent in June, 13.8 percent in July, and just under 12 percent in August. There are of course regional variations; for example unemployment in the southern city of Umara was 35 percent in June (dropping to 25 percent in July) — but in Baghdad the unemployment rate was below the national average (12 percent in June and 9 percent in July). In Najaf the July rate was under 9 percent. Rates that high are nothing to crow about by our standards, but they make more sense than Kerry's inflated figures. Also worthy of note is the finding that average household monthly income increased 72 percent from October 2003 to June 2004, according to surveys conducted by Oxford Research International.

(for a little perspective here, France has had unemployment figures as high as 8.8-11%)

Among the Kurds, 85 percent think life has improved since the fall of Saddam. In the Mid-Euphrates region and the south, 52 percent are more satisfied. In Baghdad there was a three-way split between better, worse, and don't know. And in the Sunni Triangle only 12 percent think things have gotten better, understandable given both the fact that they had enjoyed special privileges under Saddam
When Iraqis were asked what issues concerned them the most, crime ranked as the number one initial response, at 39 percent. The insurgency ranked fifth at only 6 percent.
There is broad approval (in the 60-percent range across the board) for the government, judges, the police, the army, and national guard. Sixty-two percent rated the interim government as either very or somewhat effective, and sixty-six percent placed Prime Minister Allawi in the same category.

The Iraqis have a strange dichotomy of views on job creation:

When asked the best way to alleviate unemployment, a whopping 45 percent responded, "Start large public works programs." Creating jobs by encouraging investment came in last at under 6....Seventy-four percent believe that government, rather than individuals, are responsible for people's wellbeing. The statement "It is the role of the State to create wealth for the people" attracted 69 percent support, and "Wealth must be fairly and equally divided among the public by the State" was viewed favorably by 85 percent. On the other hand, 69 percent approved of the statement, "It is the responsibility of the individual to create wealth and the State must protect that right," and 60 percent agreed that "A person must earn their way in this world." So maybe the Lockean worldview has a chance after all.

- Cassandra

September 30, 2004 at 09:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Just One Question

George Will thinks Bush should ask Kerry just one question during the first debate:

"Everyone in the solar system knows my thinking on Iraq. But no one, probably not even anyone on my opponent's campaign plane, knows his thinking, as of now, 9:17 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. So, I invite him to take my time — all of it — and tell a bewildered nation what he thinks, at least tonight, at least between 9 and 10:30 p.m. Specifically, he says we must 'succeed' in Iraq. What would he call success? What is more important, success or meeting his deadline of removing U.S. forces in four years? What, aside from the allure of his personality, makes him think 'the world' will help?"
Kerry's problem is that he does not have either the ideas or the courage to take the debate where it needs to go — to an uncomfortable confrontation with some comfortable American attitudes. Bush believes, as most Americans always have, in natural rights: He believes a particular kind of civic order — democracy, representation, the rule of law, a large sphere of privacy and individual autonomy — is right for the fulfillment of human nature. But Bush also seems to believe — at least the slapdash nonplanning for the Iraq project suggests this belief — that a natural right implies a natural, meaning a spontaneous and omnipresent, capacity.
Does Kerry differ from Bush concerning this consequential idea? Kerry's differences about Iraq are mostly retrospective (what he would have done differently) or his own kind of wishful thinking ("the world" riding to the rescue).
Kerry ridicules Bush's May 1, 2003, appearance on an aircraft carrier, beneath that "Mission Accomplished" banner. But Kerry chose to begin his campaign using as a prop an aircraft carrier, a symbol of America's capacity to project power. Where would he project it? North Korea? Iran?
Kerry believes that Iraq, which Bush calls the "central front" in the war on terror, is actually a "profound diversion." But to what would President Kerry divert U.S. resources now going to Iraq? He has suggested that Iraqi elections are part of his plan for U.S. disengagement. If he doubts they are possible, does he really have a plan?
By late this evening we may know whether, beyond wishful thinking, Kerry's real answer to the Iraq conundrum amounts to telling Americans to face defeat gracefully. In which case, he will have to do just that.

- Cassandra

September 30, 2004 at 08:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Are Blogs Revitalizing Democracy?

Bloggers are playing an important role in the 2004 election, but are they having a more far-reaching impact on society? I believe that by allowing readers to participate in the news cycle, bloggers are revitalizing democracy:

The 2004 presidential campaign has marked the coming of age for Internet 'blog' journals as a cutting edge political tool for raising cash and revving up political support.
These people have strong political beliefs and they share them. In many respects you sign up for a blogger in the political realm because you're interested in their viewpoint and what they're reading. They are, in a sense, an editor on your behalf," Finberg said.
This year, both the DNC and RNC made history by inviting webloggers to attend and chronicle their conventions. Bloggers served up a fresh, often irreverent perspective on official events with plenty of behind-the-scenes commentary not previously available to the average voter. But besides their unique perspective, bloggers have another advantage over traditional media: real-time sanity checking of major news stories fueled by millions of readers who supply tips, stories, criticism, and live feedback. This incredible network allows bloggers to respond with lightning speed to world events and provides real-time vetting of facts, allowing frequent updates as stories develop. These are resources unavailable to traditional media:

The individual blogger is backed by an army of thousands:

The web diarists often see their role as pointing out errors, bias and inconsistencies in the more established press. "There's a lot of good information that's being written on these web logs There's a lot of linking to things that people might not otherwise find," said Finberg.
Bloggers flexed their muscle when they played a key role in exposing documents broadcast in a CBS television program on President George W. Bush's Vietnam era military service as likely forgeries.
"CBS is a prosperous network and it can afford to hire a number of fact checkers, but it can't afford to hire a million fact checkers," he said. "The fundamental fact of the Internet age for people in the media is, your audience knows more than you do."

Moreover, blogs expose media bias and correct the errors of the mainstream media, which in the past has not been good about acknowledging mistakes or correcting the record. Nowhere is this more important than during an election year:

"Presidential campaigning, in which allegations fly fast and furious without always being vetted or substantiated, is the perfect domain for bloggers."
"It's a new accountability tool, and it's going to become more important," said Tapscott, director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative thinktank.

So what are the drawbacks of blogs?

Obviously, they're partisan. The mainstream media has made much of this charge, but recent news stories suggest significant partisanship exists in the mainstream media as well. A simple examination of the relative coverage given to the Swift Vets allegations and the Navy's ongoing investigations of John Kerry's medals, vs. the four-year media blitzkreig on the Bush AWOL story and Kitty Kelley's trashy drug rumors (which her main source has vehemently denied) should be sufficient to demonstrate that the media are hardly immune to bias. Indeed, a recent Rasmussen poll showed Americans believe 4 out of 5 of the major news stations are biased in favor of John Kerry. Most voters no longer trust the media; since 1994, ABC, NBC, and CBS have lost approximately 50 percent of their viewers. Brent Bozell comments:

"Fifteen years ago you had about 20 percent of the American people that believed the media were biased. Today that number is 89 percent."

Professional media accuse bloggers of a lack of professionalism. Responding in real time, they often post stories as they happen, which can lead to later retractions:

In tone, blogs are a cross between political newsletter and tabloid tear sheet, using informal and sometimes raunchy language that may turn off some readers. And critics say that, mixed in with the reputable information, blogs often traffic rumor, innuendo, and unfounded accusation.

But here again is one of the major strengths of blogs: if a story is proven false, it's a rare blogger who isn't deluged with emails and comments. Most bloggers will publish an update to correct the story immediately. I would argue that blogs are uniquely accountable to their readers in a way the MSM are not: if we are consistently wrong, our readers stop listening and find someone who can get the story straight.

The article leaves out another important advantage of blogs: posts are supported by links to the sources used to support the story. The more credible blogs use multiple sources to support a post. Readers can follow the links to learn more and evaluate the credibility of the information supplied. This is not possible with the nightly news or daily newspaper.

Strangely, the main advantage of blogs was never mentioned in the article, and it's an important one: blogs make the news cycle interactive. Blogs with comments enabled allow readers to discuss the news, argue policy and trade facts, offer links to related stories, correct false or misleading information, and offer their insights for debate and review by the Internet community.

Even non-commenting blogs let readers participate by emailing the blogger (who more often than not will respond) and by contributing stories. Most readers like to see their names on the screen and many important stories are broken, not by the investigative work of the blogger, but by an intrepid reader with a modem and a thirst for information.

By allowing readers to participate in the news cycle, break stories, investigate rumors, and share their thoughts with a vast network of other readers who care passionately about world events, blogs are revitalizing democracy. People are meeting on the web to discuss the issues instead of on the front porch or down at the corner store. But for the first time in years, they're talking. The once-disconnected and apathetic voter is getting involved in a way he or she hasn't in years, and it's exciting to see.

A more involved and informed electorate is one by-product of blogging that's here to stay, and all the pajama putdowns in the world can't take that away.

- Cassandra

September 30, 2004 at 07:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Outsourcing: The Facts Are In

Daniel Drezhner:

For about a year now, Americans have become fixated on the idea that the Internet had enabled firms to easily subcontract business services - including call centers and software development - overseas. I've read countless newspaper articles with anecdotes about American computer programmers who trained their Indian replacements and were then let go. The phenomenon landed simultaneously on the covers of Time, The Economist and BusinessWeek.
Now, however, we can add some actual figures to the overheated debate. The Government Accountability Office has issued its first review of the data, and one undeniable conclusion to be drawn from it is that outsourcing is not quite the job-destroying tsunami it's been made out to be. Of the 1.5 million jobs lost last year in "mass layoffs'' - that is, when 50 or more workers are let go at once - less than 1 percent were attributed to overseas relocation; that was a decline from the previous year. In 2002, only about 4 percent of the money directly invested by American companies overseas went to the developing countries that are most likely to account for outsourced jobs - and most of that money was concentrated in manufacturing.
Many companies moving jobs overseas have also received a bum rap. Lost in all the clamor about I.B.M.'s outsourcing plan was the company's simultaneous announcement that it would add 5,000 American jobs to its payroll. For the second quarter of this year, the company reported a 17 percent increase in earnings, allowing it to trim its outsourcing plan by a third and raise its overall hiring plans by 20 percent. The conclusion is obvious: I.B.M.'s outsourcing of some jobs helped it reduce costs, increase earnings and hire more American-based workers.

Part of the decline in outsourcing (at least in the tech sector) may be due to something I predicted a few years ago in my own field, the software industry: hidden costs. Although outsourcing to a cheaper labor pool is initially enticing, there are hidden costs: significant communication complexity, language barriers, cultural differences, time differences that impede the smooth flow of information and make it harder for project teams in different countries to collaborate, and the all-important productivity factor. Over time these hidden costs start to manifest themselves, making outsourcing (despite the lower wage scale) less attractive to some firms.

But it's not surprising, really, that the labor market should work the same way as the rest of the economy. In the long run, healthy competition and low barriers to trade both allow and incentivize firms to allocate resources more efficiently, resulting in better decisions, higher profits, and eventually, lower prices for consumers.

Hamstringing US firms in a desparate attempt to fix a non-problem is not the answer. Issues that make it harder for US workers to compete in the world economy (like lack of math and technical skills or immigration) should be directly addressed by Congress; not by making it impossible for our corporations to compete in the global marketplace.

- Cassandra

September 30, 2004 at 05:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 29, 2004

The Real Battleground

Despite all the hand-wringing about how badly things are going in Iraq, Mr. Allawi may have been taking his life in his hands coming over here:

The terrorist movement in Iraq, at times graced with the label of "insurgency," is in no position to impose its will on the nation. With the help of its outside backers, it could, to be sure, continue kidnappings and killings for years.
More than a dozen countries (Colombia, Peru, Malaysia, the Philippines, Algeria, Egypt, etc.) have experienced similar terrorist movements in recent decades. In every case, the terrorists, having pushed the limits of brutality as far as they could, were ultimately defeated.
It took Peru almost a quarter-century to defeat and destroy the vicious Shining Path. At no time, however, did it manage to threaten the basic structures of the nation or, ultimately, to divert its process of democratization. In Colombia, an insurgency that dates back almost 40 years is now facing certain defeat. It took the British almost 12 years to defeat the so-called "insurgency" in Malaya which, despite massive support from China and the U.S.S.R., was doomed from the start.
The ultimate reason for terrorist movements' failure is the same that constitutes their raison d'etre: Individuals and groups choose terrorism because they know they cannot mobilize popular support.
The terrorist hopes to force history in his direction with the help of bombs and guns. He tries to substitute his will for the will of the people. While claiming to fight in the name of the people he is, in fact, excluding the people from the political process if only because "ordinary citizens" are not prepared to die, let alone kill, for abstract ideas.
The danger for Iraq's future lies elsewhere.
It comes, in part, from Americans who want Iraq to fail because they want President Bush to fail.
Others want Iraq to fail because they want America to fail, with or without Bush. The bitter tone of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan when he declared the liberation of Iraq "illegal" shows that it is not the future of Iraq but the vilification of the United States that interests him.
Add to this the recent bizarre phrase from French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. The head of the Figaro press group went to see him about the kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq; Raffarin assured him they would soon be freed, reportedly saying, "The Iraqi insurgents are our best allies."

Recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan reflect the last gasps of a desperate struggle for power, led by those who can never hope to gain it legitimately. The terrorists fight because they know if they put their case before the people, the vast majority of decent, law-abiding citizens would never support them.

What is going on here in America is no different. Behind the hand-wringing, the defeatist whining, the cries of "we shouldn't be building fire stations in Baghdad and closing them in Peoria" lies the same desperate struggle for power. Only the weapons of choice are attrition and lies. And like the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, the enemy among us seeks to gain through fear, despair, and deception what they cannot hope to gain through honest disclosure of their real goals.

Unlike the old nursery rhyme about sticks-and-stones, the battle of words over here may well determine the outcome of that very real flesh-and-blood war half a world away.

- Cassandra

September 29, 2004 at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

M. Chirac, Schroeder to M. Kerrie: No Sale, Cherie

The party's over...
They've burst your pretty balloon
And taken the moon away...

- Cassandra

September 29, 2004 at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Mother Of All Flip-Flops

I've been watching this story for a while, but there's been a bit of a brouhaha (sorry Don!) about what Kerry actually said back then, so (unlike Dapper Dan) I didn't want to jump on it until it had been checked out a bit more.

To be honest, I was inclined to believe the story the first time out. I trusted the sources and as you know, I dislike Kerry intensely and this just sounded like him. But at the same time, I was too busy to give the story the time it deserved and didn't want to be unfair. In RealClearPolitics, Tom Bevan has been covering the story for a while, and doing it nicely. Check out all of his excellent post:

On November 9, 1997 Kerry gave a speech of his own free will on the floor of the United States Senate that was entered into the Congressional Record with the title, "We Must Be Firm With Saddam Hussein."
In the speech Kerry not only laid out the case for aggressive military action against Saddam Hussein, he cited Saddam's pursuit of WMD as the main rationale for action:
"We must recognize that there is no indication that Saddam Hussein has any intention of relenting. So we have an obligation of enormous consequence, an obligation to guarantee that Saddam Hussein cannot ignore the United Nations. He cannot be permitted to go unobserved and unimpeded toward his horrific objective of amassing a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. This is not a matter about which there should be any debate whatsoever in the Security Council, or, certainly, in this Nation. If he remains obdurate, I believe that the United Nations must take, and should authorize immediately, whatever steps are necessary to force him to relent— and that the United States should support and participate in those steps."
Kerry went on to argue that the threat posed by Saddam was so grave and so real that the United States should act unilaterally, if necessary:
"While our actions should be thoughtfully and carefully determined and structured, while we should always seek to use peaceful and diplomatic means to resolve serious problems before resorting to force, and while we should always seek to take significant international actions on a multilateral rather than a unilateral basis whenever that is possible, if in the final analysis we face what we truly believe to be a grave threat to the well-being of our Nation or the entire world and it cannot be removed peacefully, we must have the courage to do what we believe is right and wise".

Tom adds:

Let's put these remarks in some context. Kerry gave this blistering speech in response to the fact that on October 29, 1997, Saddam Hussein kicked U.S. weapons inspectors out of Iraq. Kerry argued it was "unthinkable" that Saddam be allowed to scuttle the inspection process and defy the will of the international community.

The World Trade Center had not yet been attacked. Saddam had not yet openly applauded that attack. We did not yet have the unanimous UN resolution 1441 behind us, nor 5 more years of defied UN resolutions, evasive responses to inspections, millions of tax dollars spent on enforcing no-fly zones, how many Iraqis starved under the sanctions and the corrupt Oil for Food program. How many Iraqis buried in mass graves since 1997? How many dead in terrorist attacks funded by Saddam's money?

John Kerry thought Saddam was a threat then. Why not now? Perhaps because he wasn't running for President?

Via Dave Mendoza

- Cassandra

September 29, 2004 at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack

File Under Ignorance Is Bliss...

Oh...and don't forget those 20-foot alligators living in the sewers...

Yes, the political urban legend that black voters in Florida were harassed and intimidated on Election Day four years ago is making a comeback. Only yesterday Jimmy Carter, fresh from blessing Hugo Chavez's dubious victory in Venezuela, moaned that in 2000 "several thousand ballots of African Americans were thrown out on technicalities" in Florida, and that this year more black than (Republican) Hispanic felons are being disqualified to vote--as if all felons weren't supposed to be barred, regardless of race.

Mr. Carter's concern for convicted felons is laudable. Strangely, though, he cares not a whit for the active duty military disenfranchised by Al Gore during the 2000 election. But then the DNC feels that convicted felons ought to have more of a right to vote than law-abiding military veterans who are fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently their "support of the troops" doesn't extend to supporting their right to vote.

Perhaps race conspiracists like John Kerry (who, interestingly, couldn't summon sufficient outrage during the last four years at the "disenfranchisement of one million blacks" - a number he conveniently has no facts to back up - to do anything about, preferring to squirrel the number away in his memory for use on the campaign trail) can explain facts like these:

In June 2001, following a six-month investigation that included subpoenas of Florida state officials from Governor Jeb Bush on down, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report that found no evidence of voter intimidation, no evidence of voter harassment, and no evidence of intentional or systematic disenfranchisement of black voters.
In Florida, as in many other states, the manner in which elections are conducted, including all of the essentials of the voting process, is determined at the county level. In 24 of the 25 Florida counties with the highest ballot spoilage rate, the county supervisor was a Democrat. In the 25th county, the supervisor was an Independent. And as for the "felon purge list," the Miami Herald found that whites were twice as likely to be incorrectly placed on the list as blacks.

So just who "stole the election" down in Florida?

UPDATE: It's Autumn in New York, the apples are ripe, leaves are crunching underfoot... and everywhere you go, the smell of voter fraud is in the air... Dee-lightful.

- Cassandra

September 29, 2004 at 08:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack