October 01, 2003

For Blair, Game, Set and Match

Rumors of the prime minister's premature retirement were, in fact, greatly exaggerated:

The government today comfortably won a vote on Iraq at its Bournemouth conference - after a two hour debate which saw pro-war delegates outnumber and out-clap critics by about two to one.

...For the government, Ann Clywd, the prime minister's human rights envoy in Iraq, broke down in tears as she described the sight of 10,000 skeletons in a mass grave in Iraq she witnessed earlier this summer.

She received a standing ovation from around one third of the closely split audience when she concluded: "I believe Tony was right to end the evil that was Saddam Hussein."

Not only has Tony Blair removed the threat of losing office, he's ably convinced a majority of political allies and rivals to help keep Britain on course. The speeches he made were among his finest. A skilled politician and national leader, on the right side of history, wins again.

Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 03:05 PM | TrackBack | Iraq's Emancipation

We Hear You - Front Line Voices

Frank J. Fleming's dreamchild is born. Let the media middleman step aside, and read our citizen soldiers' letters as first-hand as HTML can provide.

Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 11:29 AM | TrackBack | The War for Freedom


After the summary failure of Enron, Halliburton, Taliban Quagmire, Afghanistan Forgotten, Iraqi Quicksand, Occupation Quagmire, and Sixteen Words to develop into Bushbane, I'm one to be a little wary and weary of would-be scandals - especially in their first week. If you ask me, Bush's opponents used their third "Wolf!" cry some time last year; it's nothing to grow flustered about at the outset. At the very least, reality needs to be separated from outrageous innuendo; the press doesn't help its reputation or domestic politics when journalists run out of the initial set of facts to throw at headlines and tickers, and start guessing to complete the triangle. When Valerie Plame is considered an American James Bond without cause, Karl Rove's or the White House's participation is based on partisan assumption, and when the Washington Post downgrades its lead story from describing "senior administration" or "senior White House" officials to "administration officials," we should take it as a sign to give the matter some breathing room. At least I plan to. I'd remark that it's interesting to see Robert Novak's column, published in mid-July, resurface just as the press was beginning to take some serious heat on poor reporting in Iraq (just as the Sixteen Words resurfaced after Iraqi Quicksand met Toppling Statue) - but that would only add to the speculation.

  • Instapundit juggles punditry and reader response, e.g., chainsaws. My admiration.
  • Pejman Yousefzadeh is skeptical, and with solid rationale.
  • Via IP, Tom Maguire gives the affair a good shucking.

    ALSO: Some on the right have been mediating a bit by agreeing that it's "An outrage! Outrage!" Jim Geraghty reminds us that classified leaks, intentional or accidental, are nothing new to Washington. His point is a little tu quoque, yes, but some of the worry I heard from a friend last night seemed to be drawn from the impression that a leak like this was absolutely unprecedented [and couldn't have been anything but a calculated hit]. And though some take Joe Wilson to be an impeccable diplomat and foreign affairs specialist, the man seems to be his own worst rhetorical enemy, "frog-marching" flamboyance and all. A little too eager to inject means and motive, especially given his ideological past. [Damn, I've gone and speculated again.]

    ANOTHER LOOK: Pontificating is easier than I thought (at least I waited several days). James Robbins goes after Wilson's trip. First of, if Clifford May is to be believed, Dick Cheney would not have been likely to select Wilson; more logically, he'd delegate specifics to the CIA. They chose Wilson. Robbins' analysis returns us to July - where a convergence of Wilson, forged documents and the State of the Union Address formed the basis for this latest episode - and posed the question of how drinking mint tea for eight days qualifies as definitive investigative analysis:

    Uranium trade with Iraq was illegal after all; you could not expect to get a straight answer from anyone involved in it. Moreover, the wounds of 9/11 were still fresh, and this was only a few months after Coalition forces had swiftly overthrown the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. What country was going to freely admit to selling illegal WMD material to the only ruler in the world who openly praised the attacks on the Twin Towers? As noted, Wilson came away with no evidence that the 1999 uranium sale had taken place. But over the last few months, particularly since Wilson's New York Times piece, this very narrow finding has been taken as proof that Iraq never even tried to obtain uranium. That was not the question Wilson was sent to Niger to answer, and his investigation certainly never came close to being that thorough. Yet the press reflexively cites this brief visit as the basis for the definitive answer on the entire Niger uranium controversy.

    Which makes one wonder why in the world the White House reacted to the July grilling with the defensive embarrassment they did, or even now - but that's for another day. Wilson's discoveries are one man's conversations; would French, Chinese or Syrian officials be willing to speak openly around a four-star pool about their weapons exports Troika? Probably not. So even though Wilson's opinion piece in the New York Times, with all its promotion by the left, was politically disruptive, its factual content to transcend the few weeks of the SOTU flap was minimal. As Robbins points out, we have nearly twenty-five years of history to match against Wilson's excursion; Wilson could still be right, but his testimony is hardly the last word. It wasn't any substantive refutation, and not enough for the high echelon of the White House to consider grounds for a drive-by - if that were even their style.

    And incriminating the White House is the value of this incident, isn't it? Robbin also quotes Novak's consistent defense that Plame's identity was far more conversational than directive - that's problematic for pushing the scandal. If a departmental official or three spoke out of line, they get fired; that's the end of it, and the Bush administration could actually gain.

    More to unfold, undoubtedly.

    MORE: Andrew Sullivan is thinking along the same lines, in that Wilson's utter contempt for all things rightward - especially the White House - will undercut his credibility.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 09:24 AM | TrackBack | Domestic
  • September 30, 2003

    Eyes on the Prize

    As per my finger-snap title, if only Action Jackson were over in Baghdad, embracing "all the colors of the rainbow" as Iraqis prepare to apply measured care to swift progress in drafting a constitution. French, one-month-and-out anarchical nonsense aside, we should expect a full range of disagreements, walkouts, journals, appeals to the populace and even some Federalist Paper letters in news publications. It won't be polite all the time - nor will it be intellectually dull. That will be something to look forward to. Until then, Iraqis themselves know the significance of the document they will begin to craft:

    "It's impossible to do it in six months as Mr. Powell wants," said council member Dara Noureddine, the council's liaison with the committee. "It's unreasonable. It takes more time than this - much more."

    Noureddine, the council member most involved in determining how to draft the constitution, said in an interview today that Iraqis first need to decide how to select the drafters. Then those people will have to be chosen. Once they finally gather to begin drafting the document, they will have to sort through a raft of contentious issues, including whether to adopt a presidential or parliamentary system, and whether Islam is recognized as the sole basis for laws. Resolving those matters almost certainly will involve lengthy debates among not just the delegates but politicians, religious figures and other prominent members of Iraqi society.

    "The most difficult battle will be the battle of the constitution," said Noshirwan Mustafa, a senior official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the country's two large Kurdish political parties. Noureddine and other Iraqi leaders insisted that the entire process cannot be accomplished in less than a year. "This is our future," he said. "This is for the next generation, not just for the next few years. One should not be hasty in formulating the constitution."

    Some Iraqis are eager to see the occupation end, constitution or not - that's probably nothing to worry about, a bit of nationalist bravado and domestic posturing to win popular support. But Iraq leaders should accept the fact that the United States will simply not leave the country without a pluralist, self-governed society in place. One of America's expectations is that Iraq's new leaders are sensible and considerate, not impatient.

    Glenn Reynolds wonders about the constitution's specifics and offers some bloggers' thoughts, particularly on Federalism. Given the tentative nature of even the preliminary negotiations, it's unlikely anything concrete exists. Nor can assurances from any one constitutional delegation, when the convention begins, be appreciated as more than part of the political and legal debate. With that in mind, we can return to the standards set in place by the occupational authority:

    L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator of Iraq, has said the constitution will be "written by Iraqis, for Iraqis." But he has also said the Bush administration expects the final document to embody principles adopted during a U.S.-sponsored conference of Iraqis in April near the ancient ruins of Ur. Those principles include federalism, democracy, nonviolence, a respect for diversity and a role for women.

    Those are about as serious as the legal requirements established by the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers in Japan: opening of elections, privatization of property, a breakup of the zaibatsu plutarchy, among many other individual rights. Will the Iraqis be expected to follow the rules to properly found liberty - including Federalism? Judging by Bremer's consistent performance, and adherence to and enforcement of liberal fundamentals - not least the major economic victory in the Finance Ministry last week - we have no reason to doubt that federalism and the separation of powers will help define modern Iraq.

    ALSO: A look at our own Constitutional Convention of 1787. The process wasn't linear, taking several months - even with an existing body of fair laws like the Articles of Confederation and without the baggage of modern, Stalinist tyranny.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 02:00 PM | TrackBack | Iraq's Emancipation

    Believability Officially Designated as 'Unfreaking'

    That laptop I've been tussling with has provided a couple of interesting (and wistful) glimpses into the past. A flash of the BIOS actually required an operating system based on DOS - so Windows 2000, which we had recently plunked down on the system for an employee's quick-and-dirty field work, wouldn't do. We don't have a copy of Windows 98 lying around the office, so I turned to an unused, legal copy of Windows 95. There I was, leaving the world of Windows 3.1 for Workgroups behind again - it was very 1996-1997. I successfully flashed the BIOS but, as I explained previously, failed to accomplish my ultimate objective.

    Before pressing on - shutting down and removing the Windows 95 installation in the process - I glanced at the hard drive's free byte count. How much disk space did the old software consume? 70 megabytes. 70 megabytes might get you about fifteen MP3s - certainly not a modern Microsoft operating system. A dream, especially on the ancient 4-gigabyte drive. See "streamlined." While it wouldn't hold a candle to the applicability, flexibility and stability of Windows 2000 and (according to some) Windows XP, Windows 95 indeed lived in an age before the dawn of bloatware.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 10:37 AM | TrackBack | Technology

    What Are You Doing, Dave?

    If technology were a boxer I'd be technically knocked out. I lost a battle to a laptop at work yesterday - to be continued today - and through some bungling of legendary proportions, I managed to have this site pulled down for the better part of eight hours this morning. I've outdone myself, wouldn't you say?

    More later.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 09:37 AM | TrackBack | Quips


    'It is not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work - work with us, not over us; stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.'

    Reading the letters: Andrew Sullivan examines the breadth and depth of a good man through his correspondence.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 09:32 AM | TrackBack | Domestic

    September 29, 2003

    Getting Arnold's Ear

    Arnold Steinberg marvels at Arnold Schwarzenegger's easy time with the last conservative left to split the Republican vote, Tom McClintock:

    [I]ronically, Tom McClintock's campaign has pretty much let Arnold off the hook. Schwarzenegger's high profile was an early gift to McClintock, but his campaign didn't know what to do. If the state senator had confronted Arnold daily, a dozen cameras would have covered him. Here was the perfect storm for an indigent candidate like McClintock who could barely afford paid media: unlimited free media.

    Perhaps the turning point was the Great Debate last week. This was McClintock's final opportunity to turn the corner. For reasons that only he knows, Tom McClintock did not engage Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    One word: influence. Consider how far Schwarzenegger has moved rightward from the center/center-left since August. Warren Buffet is now a dirty word while Milton Friedman is in. Arnold has moved from a clear refusal of the vaunted "no-tax pledge" to a cautious embrace of the principle. Though he mouthed off against Ward Connerly's Proposition 54, Arnold is just as dedicated in rhetoric for Proposition 187 and against legislation allowing illegals to obtain driver's licenses.

    It's easy to imagine how the campaign might have turned out had Bill Simon and McClintock watched Arnold's polling remain steady far beyond the first week of novelty, shrugged their shoulders and dropped out: even as a liberal Republican, Schwarzenegger would have run to the right of Cruz Bustamante. He would not have had to moderate as many - or any - of his general policy stances. He may not even have had to configure a platform, Davis' recall inevitable and Bustamante's campaigning so uncharismatic. But Simon badgered Arnold into putting his sloganeering into writing before dropping out (and notice that Simon, who could have easily remained Republican-neutral, endorsed Arnold even before the state GOP.) McClintock may not have performed with the wit that Schwarzenegger used successfully against Ariana Huffington - which, apparently, delighted the average center-right Joe Voter - but he certainly impressed observers with his command of issues. Schwarzenegger is likely to both subtly polish his image as part-time policy wonk and refine a moderate-conservative message. He'll continue to do so as long as McClintock stays in.

    Darrell Issa was the bellwether of this race: when Schwarzenegger entered, he knew it was the actor's to lose. Chances are every other serious campaign - that excludes the just-for-kicks-and-grins candidates, the megalomaniacs and the former oddball comedians - came to the same conclusion. So is it any wonder why McClintock, regarded by an expert observer like Steinberg to be more interested in ideas than allies or elections, would be best served forcing a winning Schwarzenegger to be electorally beholden to as much of McClintock's own platform as possible? According to most polls, Arnold doesn't need the conservative holdout's share anyway. But it's close enough to make the big guy sweat. And unlike Simon, who in his endorsement seemed to be furtively slipping Arnold a resumé, neither McClintock's withdrawal nor his support of Schwarzenegger would be necessary.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 04:58 PM | TrackBack | Domestic

    Fudge Ripple, My Eye

    Forget the Maraschinos. What would you put on this stuff, tartar sauce?

    What's a treat from the West without a twist from East? Now, we've all heard rumors about Japanese ice cream. The Mainichi Daily News actually canvassed the product line. Read on - you might develop an appreciation for the ever-ordinary French Vanilla.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 03:11 PM | TrackBack | Only in Japan

    Master Class

    Bill Buckley on Democrat hyperbole:

    That is a great deal of money, but of course needs to be viewed in perspective. In the current fiscal year, the non-defense budget deficit will increase by $120 billion, which is nearly five times the rich-cuts. Those increases in government expenses, which ran more than 20 percent higher than indexation, were not criticized by the Democratic candidates in part, one must suppose, because most of them were voted for by Democratic congressmen.

    And that perspective brings us to muse on how such as Senator Lieberman parlay that one percent tax cut for the rich as causing the national debt, deficits, illegitimacy, and malaria. Bush "sent us in a deficit that will cost the middle class, our children and grandchildren, all sorts of money in the future." The burdens and the liberties enjoyed by our grandchildren are more closely related to whether we can stop terrorism and swollen government than to any initiative by Mr. Bush to restore $25 billion to the people who earned it and keep on doing so.

    Their spending-versus-tax-relief response is very much along the lines of "We're keeping the pool filled, so don't you dare water the grass until it's absolutely necessary!" What about placing tax cuts above terrorists and dictators in the threat hierarchy? As Fred Barnes noted to co-host Mort Kondrake on Saturday's The Beltway Boys, Howard Dean's effortless reference to Bush as the real "enemy" spoke volumes about where the Democrats are today - and more so, where they're headed.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 08:32 AM | TrackBack | Domestic

    September 28, 2003

    Thank Goodness

    The autocrat, Wahhabist-promoting Saudis won't be sending any of their armed forces into Iraq. Seeing as how Saudi nationals, under the flag of terrorism, are already underway in the country, we can most likely agree that Iraq's reconstruction doesn't need any more meddling, er, aid from Riyadh.

    Here's hoping the Bush administration made the proposition as unattractive to the kingdom as possible.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 01:15 PM | TrackBack | Iraq's Emancipation

    The Fickle Finger of...Charity?

    I'm always happy to help out freshly minted bloggers and promote the Axis of Naughty in the same move. So, one and two. Done. I'll keep an eye on the scorecard; you read both weblog entries. If you blog, vote yourself.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 08:47 AM | TrackBack | Technology

    September 27, 2003

    More Like Themselves

    Saying goodbye to office colleagues yesterday evening, I climbed into my car and turned the key. The radio, left on from my drive to and from lunch, started to play. Roger Hedgecock on.

    Hedgecock? I looked at the dashboard clock - it was what it should have been, a little bit before 5 o’clock. We’d all left a little early on account of it being Friday. So - why Hedgecock?

    Roger Hedgecock is the former mayor of San Diego and host of a West Coast radio show. He’s Rush Limbaugh’s understudy, the most frequent fill-in for when Limbaugh is on vacation or at a doctor’s appointment - in fact, Hedgecock had taken the helm just a couple of days ago. But not today. The local AM station, WTAM, plays Rush from noon to three. It’s also the carrier of Cleveland Indians game coverage. Sometimes - too often, I say - the Indians play afternoon games and WTAM bumps Rush for baseball. They replay his show later - at night. Not during another show, certainly not that of local screed-jay Mike Trivisonno, who airs right after Rush.

    I’ve never been much of a fan of old Triv: his repertoire usually leaves me with a vacant stare. You see, living your entire life in a suburb on the far edge of Greater Cleveland insulates a man from most of the city’s culture and events. Old neighborhoods, the club scene in the flats, the Rich East Side and the Far East Side; they usually don’t ring a bell. Cleveland’s politics, owned by Democrats for decades, are as familiar to me as Timbuktu’s. (Our Congressional district reelected Dennis Kucinich by a margin of four to one last year, can you blame me?)

    Then there’s sporting. Browns? They almost went to the Super Bowl in, oh, 1987 but John Elway’s Broncos managed to ensure that Denver could be destroyed in post-AFC Championship celebration riots instead. Indians? They put together a dream team in 1994, made it to the World Series in 1997 and lost to the Marlins. I watched the limp final game - I’m certain the numb anticlimax affected the team as fatally as the fans. It’s like reading The Natural after watching the movie and discovering that Robert Redford’s literary counterpart strikes out; yes, dear, it ruins your day. In 2001, Mephistopheles returned and the Tribe went back to living on the standings’ ground floor. Now, I’m always pleased by either team’s occasional success - but you won’t catch me following them. It usually takes me a few seconds to recognize a mascot idol sitting on someone’s front porch. Ah, yes. The sports teams.

    And that’s all Triv’s domain - Cleveland sports, living, politics, miscellany. The man himself has got a face only a mother could love; but then his paycheck is from radio broadcasting, not half-naked catwalk modeling. Even if he weren’t a hopeless chain-smoker, the guy has a voice that was microphone-ready by age twelve. He’s full of vinegar and the other famous, acidic liquid; but don’t call him “obnoxious.” Call him...“bombastic.” Triv’s humor is self-deprecative and usually only mildly offensive; his co-host and regular guests round out an entertaining cult show for Clevelanders.

    The operative word above is “usually.” I’d never heard of Mike Trivisonno before I came back home from college - remember what I said about unfamiliarity. One day, I’d left him on after Rush’s show had ended, and it was only a few minutes before I overheard some of Triv’s choice remarks: the topic was guns, the specifics of which I’ll never know. But when the phrase “gun nuts” came out of the kitchen counter radio’s speaker, it took only a stomp from across the room for me to shut old Triv off and resolve to give the fellow a pretty wide berth.

    As with yesterday, I’ll occasionally catch a second or two of Trivisonno’s show, revving up the car to drive home, before I stick in a CD. Not long after September 11th, I had the misfortune of listening to and continuing to listen to one of the least-made-for-professional-radio-broadcasting ramblings in all of amplitude modulation’s history. It was the picture of a man who should have taken a day or two off - a bona fide meltdown for thousands of open-mouthed listeners. Triv swerved like a drunk on a slalom course, with a “Senator’s Son” here and a “They attacked civilians for what our government did” there. He didn’t sound like he meant what he was saying but true enough, there he was, hosting a mass-media event and bloody well saying it all. I kept the radio on long enough to hear a couple of callers so irate they must have singed Triv’s earphones - before slamming it off.

    A minor brouhaha bubbled up from the episode. People called for Trivisonno’s release from the station. Apologies were made, Triv and the station, implicit and explicit. Triv tucked his tail and bit his lip, and for a few months afterward dealt with tense listeners easily put over the edge by his occasional goof-off antic.

    I still don’t listen to the man regularly, but it’s to be sure that Triv hasn’t run his mouth off a cliff since.

    As I pulled out of the office parking lot, destination apartment, Roger Hedgecock pressed on. He was reading something - a news report? No, it was too lively and illustrative. An opinion column? It was about Iraq. And it was glowing in idealism - it couldn’t have been a news report, then.

    When Roger was done, Mike Trivisonno came on. I had been listening to Roger Hedgecock on the Rush Limbaugh show from two days prior, reading a letter bursting with pride and optimism from Navy Seabee Senior Chief Art Messer, stationed with the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment in southern Iraq. Why was Triv playing it? Word of mouth about the press painting every report from the country shroud-black had found its way to Cleveland’s favorite blue-collar, cynic jock. And the idea stuck in his head. “You should have listened to this the other day,” Triv beamed, “it was some classic radio.” Letters like these, he went on, even if slight exaggerations, balance persistently negative coverage from traditional news sources.

    There ought to be a saying: When Cleveland knows about something, the secret’s out. Thousands of listeners - the same people who called and wrote in droves responding to Triv’s unhinged performance two years ago - must have heard the good news spread by a radio jock they know. They undoubtedly joined millions more across the country. Even the elites are catching on. Dan Rather finally found the frequency (Kenneth) - so how long can it be until Jennings and Brokaw offer stately explanations for their networks’ FIRE/MURDER news-gathering techniques, and promise to include in future broadcasts the hundreds of substantive metro stories straight from Iraq?

    The Trivisonno show went to commercial and as I rounded a corner, I ran headlong into one of those moments where you know the momentum has shifted to your champion. Eight o’clock at night on an election night, hearing about the first returns that scream nothing but “landslide” - that’s what one of these moments feels like. I slipped a CD in - U2's The Unforgettable Fire. Track two, “Pride.”

    It’s one of my favorite songs - written by Bono and the gang twenty years ago as a eulogy for Martin Luther King, Jr., but it aged well into a timeless celebration of vision and courage. "Auld Lang Syne" for stadiums. Here’s the king: it simply doesn’t stop rocking until fadeout. Same chord pattern save for the bridge, over and over; just a few rhythm and arrangement change-ups to keep things fresh. But it’s exactly that insistent, faithful cadence that begs volume be wrenched to eleven, every play.

    I shuttled down a side street, music blaring, knowing that in a few years Iraqis themselves would be hanging clothes lines, mowing lawns and playing in the street as cars blaring classic radio rock passed. Only they'd enjoy themselves without the subtle dread they'd all feared would stay with them throughout their lives. The letter came back, line by line:

    The railroad is running again! The railroad has not run since 1991. In the city of Hillah, the power stays on 24 hours a day and it has more power than prior to the war. Some Iraqis are worried about getting too much food from the coalition because they don't have enough room in their homes to store it...

    ...The markets are open...

    ...Most of the Iraqi men want to buy Chevy pickups...

    ...In the Universities, the girls have tossed their deshakas (long black dresses with head and face coverings) and are now wearing western style clothes and even some are wearing short sleeves. The favorite drink is Pepsi, followed by Coke. They want us to bring them any and everything American. Any item made in America or that is from America is worth money over here...

    Soon enough, the American market will brace for an Iraqi invasion - a fleet of imports unique to Iraqi culture and abilities. The same know-it-alls who pronounced a struggling, late 1940s Japan as DOA never heard of transforming robots, computer chips or animé. Their journals are sitting on the same ash heap of non-prescience as the think tank predicting one human being for every three square feet of earth by the mid-1980s.

    ...The Iraqis have a saying about the situation over here "Every day is better than the day before". Life is flowing back in to this country and it is fun to watch and I am so glad I got to watch it happen...

    ...They are starting businesses everywhere. They want to build shopping malls and factories, they want McDonalds and Jack in the Box and Pizza Hut. Of course anything American Fast Food, because of the stories the troops are telling them...

    One of the many tragic mischaracterizations of American culture - a culture derived from the freedoms protected by the Constitution - is that it is only about ethnicity or geography. I’m as white as snow, but neither Anglo-Saxon nor noble-born; that guy over there is as dark as night. We’re both Americans, contributing to and receiving from a common society. The Iraqis, from Messer’s letter, want to be more like us. Let them - freedom from natural rights doesn’t carry a patent. America didn’t invent it - we were simply the first country to understand how to establish and fortify it. Liberties draw the best from any man or woman, anywhere in the world. When people want to be more like Americans, what they’re really pining for is the freedom through which they will become more like themselves.

    Freedom unfetters human potential and it dooms authoritarianism and extremism to wither and rot. That’s the real story, here. Go home, Eeyore. Take the black cloud with you, Joe Btfsplk. The soldiers know better; the American people know better; old Triv can count himself in. Most of all, the Iraqi people know better. In a short time, peaceful and inspirations to their fellow Arab, they’ll have to give the journalism noir, trying to count them out at the start, at least a good grin.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 01:01 PM | TrackBack | Iraq's Emancipation

    September 26, 2003

    Freeing Iraq, One Child at a Time

    Just back from the far side of the moon? You're in time to shop for Chief Wiggle's toy drive for Iraqi kids. I'll be heading to the necessary stores tomorrow.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 08:50 PM | TrackBack | Iraq's Emancipation


    For children, rabbits should be left to imagination - that way, nobody gets hurt.

    I'm not the one to direct a person to animal-care informational sites - "animal rights" goosesteppers drive me mad - but after reading this column in National Review today I couldn't help but remember when my friends and I stumbled upon a rabbit warren. In our youthful, blissful stupidity, we children ended up driving the mother away and killing (mostly indirectly, we tried to be gentle) all but one of them. I still feel like I should be paying reparations to bunnies - if they ever formed a government, of course, to send the checks to.

    There's a connection between premature bunny expiration and Mrs. Gurdon's children. I offered this helpful site if any doubt remained in her mind why the family pet chose early admission to the great clover patch in the sky.

    My own advice to her? Try a dog next time. They're durable.

    ALSO: And, speak of the long-eared devil, Anna is back!

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 04:20 PM | TrackBack | Quips

    Veto Moscow

    Vlad Putin visits Bush for a White House meeting today. Much to the disappointment of myself and others who hoped that Russia would step up its pace towards Western pluralism and governmental transparency - who could have blamed us with the country's continual foiling of OPEC mischief, flat tax reform and Washington-bound gestures of goodwill at the beginning of the Bush administration? - we've watched what may be an arcing regression into old Soviet habits.

    The topic was addressed in last week's powerful Wall Street Journal op-ed by chess master Gary Kasprov, entitled "KGB State." With the article available on the web only to Journal subscribers, I found an excerpt at the Center for the Future of Russia, an active weblog run by conservative think-tank National Center for Public Policy Research. With a feather in my cap - and a link to add sometime soon - here is their best capture:

    The bottom line is the collapse of infant democracy in Russia is contrary to vital U.S. interests. With de facto liquidation of the institution of a free press (hardly noticed by the U.S. State Department) and increasing power of the former KGB, now called the FSB, Russia is increasingly overloaded with anti-U.S. hysteria. State-controlled media have been competing with the ultra-nationalistic press in slamming American policies right, left and center. All this is breeding xenophobia and fascism. In the new election list of the Communist Party, lifetime leader Gennady Zuganov - no friend to the West - is joined by two Nikolays: Haritonov, proud KGB colonel, renowned for his demands to bring back the statue of KGB founder Dzerzhinsky to Moscow's Lubyanka square; and Kondratenko, the ex-governor of the Kuban region whose views on Jews and Caucasians would have made Jean-Marie Le Pen look like a liberal.

    The Journal follows up today with advice to President Bush who, far from what you'd hear from his critics, is often too congenial with heads of state:

    Mr. Bush thinks of himself as a shrewd judge of character, and he concluded early on that he and Mr. Putin were friends. Their rapport makes it easier for each to pick up the phone when there are problems and strengthens back-channels of communications.

    ...If their friendship is genuine, Mr. Putin could stand to hear some of Mr. Bush's Texas candor this weekend. Specifically, he needs to hear that the continuing erosion of democracy in Russia is jeopardizing the stability of U.S.-Russian relations.

    The United States needs a strategic partner - not a second-rate rival. As with Afghanistan, Bush will do himself and Mr. Putin a favor by enduring an unpleasant moment or two for the sake of long-term relations that include both countries in the category of "free."

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 01:53 PM | TrackBack | The War for Freedom

    Citizen Bloggers

    My introduction to Frank J. Fleming was a side-splitting fictional vignette about a televised debate between George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein. Words were exchanged and Saddam, suspicious of his Texan nemesis from the start, ended up getting kneecapped with a presidentially wielded Louisville Slugger.

    Fit comic brilliance with the grace of serendipity and you'll find one of the most popular, successful weblogs yet. But like most able humorists, Fleming can flash a serious side when events dictate:

    Our troops are still out there, and their blood is still getting spilled. They're fighting for each other, they're for us, they are fighting for Iraqis, and they are fighting for the world as a whole. It is obscene that there are those who will use their deaths as propaganda against the very things for which they died. In the war on terror, the media is one of the fronts, and maybe it's one we're equipped to handle. The politically concerned of the blogosphere is thousands strong, but maybe, if we all work together, we can make enough noise that millions will hear us.

    No rationing, no war bond rallies, no night-and-day factory output - that is the war on terror in the homeland today. With little more than memories of September 11th and color-coded threat indicators as physical reminders of civilization's peril, we should consider our gift, peace of mind, as a blessing. But from that fortune we risk complacency - the same inattention that brought about the attacks two years ago. So how can we aid the war effort? A collection of teachers, students, families and professionals who support the defense and assertion of liberal democracy, we civilians have few greater opportunities to help our friends, neighbors, leaders and soldiers take heart than with blogging.

    A quotation from Franklin Delano Roosevelt about the fortitude of free nations at war would work perfectly right about here. We all know it, so let's keep it close.

    UPDATE: This ain't just shouting into the wind. It's on MSNBC's radar.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 12:19 PM | TrackBack | The War for Freedom

    Two Shades of Clark, Again

    Just when he seemed to be posting nothing but errata, politicized BBC headlines and compromising photographs of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the inimitable Matt Drudge found quite a powerful glimpse into the confused political mind of Wesley Clark:

    During extended remarks delivered at the Pulaski County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in Little Rock, Arkansas on May 11, 2001, General Clark declared: "And I'm very glad we've got the great team in office, men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice... people I know very well - our president George W. Bush. We need them there."

    Drudge continues to list what are undeniably heaps of praise Clark offered to Bush, Reagan and conservatism in general. Can it be argued that events since have changed Clark's mind about the president? Yes, and that's almost certain to be the Clark campaign's defense - not only can the former general squirm out of the tight spot in which he'll be with the leftward Democratic base, but he can shift his weight and use the "gaffes" as part of his attacks on Bush's leadership. It will likely mollify Democrats - though this news, if carried by enough of the mainstream media, might alienate pro-war moderates while it emboldens the Republican base.

    More difficult to shed will be the other gratuitous compliments - statements that speak of Clark's core values, now quite different given the man's present company. And a simple case of disillusionment will be more difficult to prove to anyone but Clark supporters. The man is a liar, he doesn't often know what he's talking about - or, as is sadly becoming apparent, he alters his entire ethical and moral shape to fit the circumstance. Once again, he comes off looking unsuited for the presidency.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 12:01 AM | TrackBack | Domestic

    September 25, 2003

    Plastics: 20th-Century Detour?

    And we thought it was only good for July picnic grills and cooking derivatives:

    The world's first environment-friendly optical discs made from corn will hit the market from December this year, a Japanese manufacturer has announced.

    Officials of Sanyo Mavic Media Co., a subsidiary of electronics giant Sanyo Electric Co., said they have found a way to manufacture 10 high quality compact discs from a single corncob.

    Named "MildDisc" by Sanyo Mavic, it is equal to conventional plastic optical discs in quality and produces no dioxin or other hazardous material when it is burnt. Moreover, MildDiscs can be degraded into the [soil harmlessly] by micro-organisms.

    If this technique is adopted industry-wide, consider the benefits: farmers are given access to another market while the relative abundance of corn knocks record prices down even further than the latest Universal attempt at making nice with consumers. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, The Magic of CornTM could put to rest archaic subsidies and illegal file sharing in one agrarian-space-age stroke!

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 04:30 PM | TrackBack | Only in Japan

    Tanks for the Memories; Extending Meine Hande; Money and Mouths; A Good Year; Not Just the Letter of the Law

  • Providing even less tactical advantage than they did in 1917 and 1918 are two French, World War One-era tanks found in Afghanistan. Spotted in a scrapyard by Special Forces, the tanks have been brought back to Fort Knox, where they are slated for restoration in the Patton Museum. Perish the thought that the armed forces lack an appreciation for the finer aspects of military archaelogy and kit-bashing fun. Says Colonel Tim Reese:

    With a little luck, we'll get one up and running.

  • I expect races to be scheduled soon after.

  • What's Afghanistan without Teutonic enthusiasts? Germany has reopened its culture exchange center, the Goethe Institute, in Kabul for the first time in twelve years:

    "The focus is on the common search for a new way forward after more than 20 years of war and destruction, a way forward which draws on the gentle power of culture," said Wolfgang Bader, the deputy general-secretary of the Munich-based institute, at an opening ceremony.

    Today, the people of Kabul can enjoy films and music performances - unthinkable under the Taliban. New radio stations and newspapers abound.

    Temporary instability from persistent terrorists is certainly worth modern, civilized living. According to reports, the Goethe is soon to be joined by French and British institutions for Afghans eager to learn about their respective language and societies. The United States looks to sponsor the creation of public libraries in the country - though since Afghans are already aficionados of our movies and music, American cultural power may be most memorably served by the raising of the Golden Arches in downtown Kabul.

  • Many nations sniffed at the expulsion of the Taliban; will they now stiff Afghanistan as it struggles towards pluralist liberty? Keeping true to pledges of monetary support to the nascent democracy was the cause for some scolding and more lobbying by Colin Powell with Kofi Annan and interim Afghan leader Hamed Karzai, in a private session with donor nations at the United Nations. The United States has already set an example; it remains to be seen whether other nations will follow.
  • According to Bush adminstration officials, Afghanistan's farmers produced a surplus of food to the point of seeking buyers.
  • The Afghan constitution is in a complete draft form, pending the gathering and reflection upon public opinion; in the White House's words, "an extrordinary number of surveys."

    Merely witnessing a constitution created to best satisfy and serve the people of Afghanistan is an amazing sight, given international resignation to the country's despotism before September 11th. However, as the Kansas City Star and the Christian Broadcasting Network warn, an constitution with incomplete individual freedoms - most notably the freedom of religion, a sore point from Afghani calls for the Sharia - is a dangerously vulnerable document, and would spell eventual doom for the infant civil society. Concerns must be addressed by the Bush administration to aid pluralists like Hamed Karzai, and Afghanistan can continue on course towards modernity.

  • ALSO: Additional comment on the last item. I am swayed by neither well-meaning and diplomatic words nor warm smiles, nor pleasant speeches when they're insubstantial; if Bush is serious about destroying terrorism by implanting true and durable freedoms, he must risk political discomfort by challenging the country's possible descent into Taliban-like totalitarianism. There is no such thing as a people's choice for their own oppression.

    Posted by Michael Ubaldi at 11:04 AM | TrackBack | Afghan Watch
    uBlog, FigureConcord.com's intellectual wing, is the answer to M. Ubaldi's fascination with politics, religion, liberty, morality, philosophy, ontology, ethics and all other topics he'd love to engage through the typewritten word. Snout-to-snout, mind-to-mind; dialogue is Man's rowboat to discovery.

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