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July 31, 2004

This is very cool...

A British designer named Nicholas Roope has adapted old-fashioned Bakelite telephone handsets (the bulletproof ones that they used to make when the phone company owned your station equipment and had to provide free on-site repair service) for use with your cell phone.   He sells them on Ebay for $25 or so.

July 31, 2004 at 10:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

This is very cool...

A British designer named Nicholas Roope has adapted old-fashioned Bakelite telephone handsets (the bulletproof ones that they used to make when the phone company owned your station equipment and had to provide free on-site repair service) for use with your cell phone.   He sells them on Ebay for $25 or so.

July 31, 2004 at 10:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Honest Democrats denounce Moore

The Democratic Leadership Council's in-house rag (Blueprint Magazine) published a scathing review of Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country?.  Their biggest concern is that:

...the writer-filmmaker spreads a fog of misbegotten notions about America, politics, business, and international affairs among his youthful, left-leaning following at home and, indeed, around the world. Uninformed readers and viewers tend to believe everything he says.
It's worth reading.   (Via Instapundit.)

July 31, 2004 at 02:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 30, 2004

More on Kerry's speech

On further reflection, there were more specific policy statements in Kerry's speech other than just taxing the rich.   Needless to say, I don't agree with them.

Most importantly, on the question of terrorism and national defence, Kerry gave every indication that (as today's NY Post editorialized) he just "does not get it."   Here are two excerpts from Kerry's speech (both of which drew big applause from the Fleet Center audience):

...as president, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: The United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to. That is the standard of our nation.

... Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say: "I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm's way. But we had no choice. We had to protect the American people, fundamental American values against a threat that was real and imminent." So lesson number one, this is the only justification for going to war.

This sounds wonderful, but what does it mean in the context of a world where a few score of terrorists, armed with poison gas or pathological agents or a dirty bomb or (god forbid) a nuclear weapon, can kill thousands of innocents without warning (as in NYC, DC or Madrid)?   When does this threat become "imminent"?   After the bombs have exploded?   That was the whole point of deposing Saddam; he was an avowed enemy of the US, he had demonstrated a willingness to use WMDs in the past, and he had defied the international community for 12 years in refusing to disavow the use and development of these weapons.   If he were allowed to develop these weapons, and were to give them to Al Queda, the threat would not have become "imminent" until it was too late.   That is why President Bush said in his January 2003 State of the Union Address:
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late.
If Kerry means what he says, he is explicitly renouncing the strategy of preemptive action against terrorists who are seeking to kill us.   Now I realize preemption poses its own problems: when do you act, how can you be sure, when does preemption become adventurism, etc.   But when your enemies are trying to use any means necessary to inflict maximum civilian casualties without warning, the alternative -- waiting for "imminence" -- is unacceptable.   Unfortunately, it may take another 9/11 (or another Madrid) for this to become clear to the American people.   All I can say is that I hope (and would pray if I believed in it) that when the next attack comes, it does not include biological or radiological weapons.

Another specific that Kerry enunciated was his intention to require the government to use its massive purchasing power to negotiate down drug prices and allow the reimportation of drugs from countries which have already negotiated lower prices.   The basic problem with this policy is that it will sharply reduce drug companies' profits, and therefore result in a dramatic reduction in investment in new drug research.   Of course, it takes years for drugs to make it out of the lab and into the pharmacies, so it will take a long time for this lack of investment in research to have any effect.   But it is a shortsighted and simplistic solution to a complicated problem.

Anyway, there's more, but this is all I have time for this morning.

July 30, 2004 at 01:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Kerry's speech

I actually thought it was a pretty good speech.   Better than I thought he was capable of delivering (though I've never really heard him speak at length before).  From an emotional point of view, he came off as a very open, warm person, not too full of himself, even somewhat humble.   The themes he emphasized; nation, unity, service, opportunity, etc., were all very popular, though certainly not controversial.

Of course, he said very little about how he would achieve any of the widely shared goals he articulated, but who worries about the details?   The only specific proposal that I heard was that he was planning to raise taxes for families making more than $200k: those "tax giveaways to the rich".   Also that he knew what to do in Iraq, which was to get our allies to share the cost and the military burden.   (Good luck on that one, John.   If anyone seriously believes that will happen, I have great investment opportunity in a uniquely valuable piece of NYC's transportation infrastructure that I would love to speak to them about.)

I don't know how to handicap how much of a bounce the speech will give him, but I think it will certainly help. I wouldn't be surprised by a 5% jump in his polling results, but that's just a WAG.

One last thing: did anybody else find former Senator Max Cleland kind of creepy?

July 30, 2004 at 02:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 29, 2004

Do we really need to stay in Iraq?

I read a disturbing book the other day: Exiting Iraq: Why the U.S. must end the military occupation and renew the war against Al Queda.   The book (really a pamplet at 83 pages) is a report written by the Cato Institute Special Task Force on Iraq, directed by Christopher Preble.

The thesis of the report is simple: a long-term military occupation of Iraq is not in the US' best interests.   There are three inter-related arguments to support this conclusion:

  1. Occupying Iraq increases the terror threat to the US because the occupation:

    • Diverts resources from the fight against Al Queda and distracts the attention of political, military and intelligence leaders, and

    • Provides Al Queda and its Islamist allies with a powerful recruiting tool.

  2. A long-term occupation is risky, expensive and won't work because it:

    • Will continue to cost US taxpayers on the order of $50 billion a year in incremental expenditures

    • Squeezes the all-volunteer military

    • Risks having US troops become targets for the indigenous tribal, religious or ethnic groups seeking to gain power

    • Does not significantly enhance the US military's ability to project power in the region if it were to become necessary to do so in the future.

  3. Occupying Iraq won't help make the middle east more democratic

    • Historically, it has been very rare for democratic regimes to be established through foreign military intervention

    • Given Iraq's recent history and ethnic/religious makeup, creating a functioning democracy in Iraq is a very ambitious goal.
I don't know that I agree with all of these conclusions; particularly the one about the war in Iraq helping Al Queda.   (While fighting against the Coalition in Iraq may aid AQ's recruiting effort, the US forces have also been doing an excellent job of attriting Al Queda members fighting in Fallujah or Al Najaf.   And I'd rather see Al Queda mujahadin fighting against fully equipped US Marines or Army troopers in Iraq rather than fighting civilian cops here in the US.)   But Cato's arguments are thought provoking.

Thomas Ricks had a relevent article in Tuesday's WaPo reporting that the US commanders in Iraq are considering lowering the profile of Coalition troops in Iraq and pulling back to bases in rural or less populated areas.   This may be a good idea, since it would reduce the friction between Iraqis and Coalition patrols (which are generally better targets than they are effective at preventing civil violence in the country) and place Iraqi forces in clear control of their own security.   Of course, Coalition troops would be available to backup the Iraqis if necessary.

This issue presents a classic conflict between America's Wilsonian ideals and a more pragmatic, realpolitik view of US interests.   Interestingly, it is the Republicans who are advocating the idealistic, Wilsonian position that we have an obligation to the Iraqi people to help them move beyond autocratic forms of government.   Traditionally, "human rights" and advancing the cause of democracy have been Democratic issues, while Republican foreign policy has tended to view the world in more geostrategic terms where the enemy of our enemy is our friend, regardless of their domestic policies or respect (or lack thereof) for human rights.   Of course, the Bush administration argues that supporting democracy in the Mideast is an essential element in fighting the social and political tensions that have led to Arab terrorism.

Perhaps the Cato Institute is right that having removed Saddam (and the very real future threat he posed to his neighbors and the rest of the world -- notwithstanding the non-existant WMD stockpiles) and having made the point that no one can defy UN resolutions and cease-fire agreements with the US with impunity, perhaps we should leave the Iraqis to decide their own future.

I don't know that I am ready to accept this argument, but at some point the Iraqi people themselves will be responsible for creating the kind of government and society that they want to live in.   If our military presence and support is not wanted or needed, we should leave.

July 29, 2004 at 04:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2004

Those endorsements for Kerry keep rolling in...

Nothing unites European public opinion so much as the undisguised or barely concealed hope that Mr. Kerry will win...
- Gianni Riotta, columnist for the Corriere Della Sera
We advise the people of America not to continue to tolerate this oppressing, ignorant, pillaging, criminal, and discriminating administration. In the future, do not vote for Bush and his ilk.
- Ayatollah Javadi-Amoli, Friday sermon on Iranian TV

July 28, 2004 at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2004

Lawyers... feh!

Q  U  O  T  E  D

"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

-- Folk singer Woody Guthrie's standard copyright notice, conveniently ignored by The Richmond Organization, which has threatened to file a copyright suit against JibJab for its parody of Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."

From the invaluable (and wickedly funny) SiliconValley.com daily newsletter.

July 27, 2004 at 10:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Iran's centrifuge-rattling

Today's UK Telegraph has an article by Anton La Guardia reporting that according to unnamed "Western sources", Iran broke the seals placed upon its nuclear enrichment equipment by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in an apparent repudiation of its deal with "EU-3" (Britain, France and Germany).   If confirmed, this development means that Iran is resuming its work on technologies that would allow it to build atomic weapons in the next several years.   Needless to say, allowing Iran's corrupt and unpopular Mullahs to obtain nuclear arms is not a good idea.

Evidently, the Mullahs judge that the US is preoccupied with the coming elections and that the governments in the EU-3 are too unpopular at home for various reasons to risk taking a strong stand against the Iranians.   For the Bush administration, this problem comes at a difficult time, when the President is trying to avoid exacerbating international tensions and risk another bruising confrontation with our European "allies".

On the other hand, it is clearly a bad idea to allow an repressive Islamist regime that is an active supporter of international terror groups (including, according to the 9/11 commissions recent report, Al Queda) to obtain access to nuclear arms.   While the administration has in the past deferred to Britain (and, to a lesser extent, France and Germany) in managing the Iranian situation, perhaps it is time to for Bush to make a full-court press to have the UN Security Council consider the Iranian issue and the possibility of imposing economic sanctions.

While the conventional wisdom is that it would be a mistake to bring up a thorny international issue during a presidential campaign, time is not on our side in putting an end to the Mullah's nuclear ambitions.   Furthermore, confronting Iran may provide a "wedge issue" to highlight the differences between Bush and Kerry on national defence and the war against terror.   At the least, it may pressure Kerry to take a public stand supporting aggressive action against Iran -- which may be useful if he turns out to be our President come January...

July 27, 2004 at 09:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Technical difficulties

I am upgrading to Moveable Type's new version 3.0, which should be a good thing when I have it properly configured.   Until then, you will have to put up with the variously sized text that is currently afflicting my site.

Also, you now need to register with TypeKey in order to post comments.   Registration is free, and they won't spam you.   Restricting commenting to registered users will help protect the site from the dreaded comment spam and will save me a lot of time in manually approving new comments.


It appears that the formatting problem only effects Mozilla and Netscape browsers.   This annoys me, since I recently started using Mozilla for security reasons.   Nonetheless, unless there is a quick and easy fix out there, we may have to grin and bear it.

July 27, 2004 at 12:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack