Friday, January 24, 2003

Time was that conservatives didn't have a whole lot of nice things to say about the Chinese Communist party. Times have changed. Nathan Newman finds a freeper praising the nice things about China, like:

1. No ACLU there.
2. No "Three Strikes". They have "Zero Strikes".
3. No Mexican illegal immigration problems.
4. No affirmative action problems.
5. No slave reparation problems.
6. No anti-death penalty activists.
7. No peace marchers.
8. No multicultural problems
9. No NAACP, NOW, PETA, or those gay/AIDS organizations
10. No Hollywood
11. No anti-military demonstrators
12. No hassles if you want to play Dixie and fly the Confederate Battle Flag at the same time

But most of all, the Freeper effusively praises the Chinese for using "slave labor" (his term, including the scare quote) to build the great wall and keep out immigrants.

Which means that Free Republic may have caught up to the radicals on the left, who were making a similar case some time ago:

You're a star-belly sneech you suck like a leech
You want everyone to act like you
Kiss ass while you bitch so you can get rich
But your boss gets richer on you
Well you'll work harder with a gun in your back
For a bowl of rice a day
Slave for soldiers til you starve
Then your head skewered on a stake
Now you can go where people are one
Now you can go where they get things done
What you need my son:

Is a holiday in Cambodia
Where people dress in black
A holiday in Cambodia
Where you'll kiss ass or crack

Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot
Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot

And it's a holiday in Cambodia
Where you'll do what you're told
A holiday in Cambodia
Where the slums got so much soul

(That is, of course, Holiday in Cambodia by the Dead Kennedys, a band which you'd think, from the name alone, would be hugely popular on Free Republic...)

Thursday, January 23, 2003

So, why exactly are we going to war on Iraq? Tom Friedman has an answer. Condi Rice has another. Tom seems to think that Condi's is just flat wrong; Condi doesn't talk much about Tom's directly, but she certainly isn't acting like someone who takes much stock in it.

Since she speaks for the warmongers themselves, let's start with Condi:

Eleven weeks after the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution demanding --- yet again --- that Iraq disclose and disarm all its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, it is appropriate to ask, "Has Saddam Hussein finally decided to voluntarily disarm?" Unfortunately, the answer is a clear and resounding no.

There is no mystery to voluntary disarmament. Countries that decide to disarm lead inspectors to weapons and production sites, answer questions before they are asked, state publicly and often the intention to disarm and urge their citizens to cooperate. The world knows from examples set by South Africa, Ukraine and Kazakhstan what it looks like when a government decides that it will cooperatively give up its weapons of mass destruction. The critical common elements of these efforts include a high-level political commitment to disarm, national initiatives to dismantle weapons programs, and full cooperation and transparency.

In 1989 South Africa made the strategic decision to dismantle its covert nuclear weapons program. It destroyed its arsenal of seven weapons and later submitted to rigorous verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Inspectors were given complete access to all nuclear facilities (operating and defunct) and the people who worked there. They were also presented with thousands of documents detailing, for example, the daily operation of uranium enrichment facilities as well as the construction and dismantling of specific weapons.

In short, the South Africans had their paperwork in order. The Iraqis do not. Therefore, the army's on the march.

To be fair, Iraq's cooperation with the inspections regime has in fact been grudging at best. And there are troubling gaps in their declarations (or at least, the edited versions which the United States finally released to the rest of the Security Council) --- it doesn't say, for instance, where all the biological war materiel which we know they had at one point actually went. And Condi makes the most of that.

But her argument, at best, shows that there is a problem. She doesn't even try to argue that the right solution to that problem is an immediate attack with 150,000 American troops, no matter how many promises we have to break or how many alliances we sunder in the process, nor how badly we will piss off people around the world whose cooperation may be needed for the next crisis.

Besides, given the fuss the Americans made over a dozen empty warheads in a box, the current Iraqi regime has every reason to believe that if they described how the stuff was destroyed, it would just be called more lies, and if they did lead the inspectors to really substantial stocks of war materiel (if they even exist!), Dubya's crew would point to that as the long-sought concrete evidence of WMD programs justifying an attack. They really can't win.

Saddam may retain the relics of an active weapons program --- or he may not. (And we still have nothing to show skeptics around the planet who suspect he doesn't, and that the United States is grabbing oil fields on a pretext). But that's different from having a program that's in full force. Which brings us to Friedman, who just takes it as a given that:

... what really threatens open, Western, liberal societies today is not Saddam and his weapons per se. He is a twisted dictator who is deterrable through conventional means. Because Saddam loves life more than he hates us.

So, Friedman thinks the administration's official case just doesn't make sense. If an attack is to be justfied at all, then in his view, "Regime change is the prize". Why?

What threatens Western societies today are not the deterrables, like Saddam, but the undeterrables --- the boys who did 9/11, who hate us more than they love life. It's these human missiles of mass destruction that could really destroy our open society.

So then the question is: What is the cement mixer that is churning out these undeterrables --- these angry, humiliated and often unemployed Muslim youth? That cement mixer is a collection of faltering Arab states, which, as the U.N.'s Arab Human Development Report noted, have fallen so far behind the world their combined G.D.P. does not equal that of Spain. And the reason they have fallen behind can be traced to their lack of three things: freedom, modern education and women's empowerment. ...

It is not unreasonable to believe that if the U.S. removed Saddam and helped Iraqis build not an overnight democracy but a more accountable, progressive and democratizing regime, it would have a positive, transforming effect on the entire Arab world --- a region desperately in need of a progressive model that works.

That's the New York Times' resident Deep Thinker, studiously ignoring the role of the United States' current allies in stoking up anti-Western jihaddi war fever, from the state-sponsored mullahs of Saudi Arabia, to the sponsors of the Taliban and Kashmiri separatists in the Pakistani ISI. Nor, it seems does he take much notice of last Sunday's declarations from Powell, Rumsfeld, and of course, Ms. Rice that an indigenous coup leaving another strongman in power would be perfectly fine with them. Whatever is motivating Dubya's crew, they are not burning to create a beacon of democracy.

Besides, mere exposure to Western ways of doing things does not damp the fervor of the Muslim fanatics that Friedman wants to control. Remember that Al-Qaeda has actually had success recruiting from Muslims who have lived in Western democracies all their lives. (Remember Richard Reid?) As far as Al-Qaeda is concerned, they are explicitly fighting a clash of cultures. They aren't fighting because they want democracy. They're fighting because they want their own brand of vicious theocratic dictatorship.

That means, among other things, that no matter what the United States occupying army does in Iraq, Islamist propagandists will have a field day portraying them as colonial overlords, and trumpeting American disrespect for Muslim culture (which they will be sure to find --- remember how appalled the Saudis are by female troops?) As lefty bloggers have been pointing out for months, an American puppet regime in Iraq is what Osama bin Laden wants. Simply as a government, it would be no more objectionable to him than the current, largely secular Baathist regime, which he already regards as an enemy. And it would be an endless source of useful propaganda. A more powerful recruiting tool would be difficult to imagine.

Aside from a naked oil grab, the WMD case for attack is the only one that makes even a glimmer of sense. And as in North Korea (which has been rather less cooperative with their own inspections regime of late) the sane course of action in dealing with the WMD problem would be to keep up the pressure, and let the inspectors do their work.

The war starts in February.

Monday, January 20, 2003

So now it's official --- Saddam Hussein's hand-picked chieftains and deputies can avoid a war on Iraq, say Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice. Which would put a quick end to the warblogger fantasies of a democratic beacon to the rest of the Arab world, but hey, the administration never claimed to be doing that sort of thing anyway. Not much.

But how does this relate to the destruction of the weapons of mass destruction which are the ostensible cause of the crisis? Never fear, says Powell...

Mr. Powell also said the United States would have to ensure that any government replacing Mr. Hussein would also have to disarm under the demands of various Security Council resolutions.

But neither in the Times article, nor in the transcript of the CNN interview that it's based on, does he say how the plotters of the coup would need to prove the same negative that we're asking of the current regime. But then again, since these would be just Saddam's deputies, it's possible that they're nice guys. Perhaps we'd relax the standards a bit and take their word for it.

Yet more news from Boston: One index of the current state of the economy is department store discount levels. They currently stand at 50% or more off, and the sales clerks in at least one department store expect them to stay that way at least through February.

This can't be good...

Teresa Nielsen Hayden writes about animal hoarding --- people who live with dozens (or sometimes hundreds) of half-starved animals, packed into way too little space, insisting on their own good intentions ---

Hoarders say they love animals, and characteristically believe that they have exceptional insight where animals are concerned. They also believe they're "saving" them from certain euthanasia. They refuse to let them be adopted by others. Some can't even bear to relinquish their animals' corpses.

--- despite the obviously desperate condition of the animals they are keeping ---

To me, the most striking feature of the animal hoarder's psychology is their state of complete and utter denial . This is not your usual "Your father never did that, you don't understand what he was going through, and why do you insist on only remembering the bad things?" kind of denial. This is world-class craziness. Hoarders insist there's no problem, the house is just a little messy, and their critters are fine--even when the feces are a foot deep, animals are dropping dead and other animals are cannibalizing them, or the poor beasts have chronic infections that leave them with masses of scar tissue instead of eyes.

What, I wonder, would it look like if policymakers took this attitude toward the poor? They would confine the poor to live within confining rules which make them miserable, in everything from school curricula to reproductive health, ignoring evidence that the rules, far from doing good, actually left the poor as badly off or worse than in sections of the country that followed other policies. At the same time, they would be blind to the fact that poor people in the country are increasingly hungry and poorly housed. And, since we're talking people here, they'd do the same with money, which they'd try to divert away from the poor, lest the poor act for themselves to get out of their dependant state. And they would justify all that by claiming special insight into the conditions of the poor, as if they had a mental block on perceiving the real effects of their policies.

Folks, I give you Republicans, hoarders of the poor.

In the comments, readers wonder if she isn't raising this as a metaphor for the book-infested condition of their own abodes. Naaah... can't be. She's not talking about my huge collection of old computer manuals. Besides, that Fortran III manual might actually be valuable...

More news from Boston: it seems our new Republican regime here in the Bay State is close to the Republican mainstream than the old one in at least one respect:

One week into Governor Mitt Romney's administration, a stern letter was sent to Massachusetts Environmental Police officers: Under no circumstances were they to speak to the news media or to state legislators about policy matters in the department. Employees who engaged in authorized conversations would be disciplined, the memo said.

A similar missive warned employees of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife: ''Please advise any media representatives that call you that you are unable to assist them at this time.'' ...

As many as 40 of 60 press secretaries at state agencies could be removed in the coming weeks, as their duties are absorbed in an expanded governor's press operation, which will be headed by Eric Fehrnstrom, a top campaign aide. Legislative liaisons and lawyers who previously worked for state agencies will join the governor's office, as the administration tries to block what officials described as cross-messages, such as managers lobbying against state agencies suing one another.

Employees are not only supposed to keep from informing the public (through reporters) about what is going on at their agencies, but they are also supposed to ignore or defer even direct inquiries from the legislative branch, which has many of them hopping mad:

Some worry that they cannot advocate, even on their own time, for preservation of environmental programs or their jobs or talk to lawmakers to urge funding.

Several contacted the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility to speak out against a memo that warned them not to speak out.

''This is a sad sign when you attempt to take the constitutional rights away from your employees,'' said one of those employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ''There's a sense that this is a rather dictatorial administration.''

The state constitution guarantees people the right to ask their legislators for ''redress of the wrongs done them and of the grievances they suffer,'' said Kyla Bennett, director of the New England chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Good to see that our local Republicans are as firmly committed to their vision of democracy as their fellow partisans in the White House...