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Monthly Archives: June 2004

Or at least tell Jeff.

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Home Improvement Blogging

June 14th, 2004 - 1:06 pm

So far today, I’ve entertained:

The trash guys. They needed extra money to take away all the extra trash. What extra trash? Enough cardboard to ship an entire kitchen’s and one wet bar’s worth of cabinetry, wood and plaster from the old soffit, and enough drywall to uncover all our kitchen electrical works. Plus three trash bags filled with insulation. And a twenty-plus-year-old microwave oven.

The electrician. He’s still here. We’re still having to decide things, figure out unexpected problems, and make compromises

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I really didn’t mean to make this a full afternoon of Euro-blogging, but here’s solid evidence that not all EU voters had their heads stuck where the sun don’t shine:

George Galloway’s attempt to enter the European parliament with his anti-war party Respect ended in failure last night.

The former Labour MP secured 91,175 votes but was beaten by Labour and the Conservatives, who each picked up three seats, and the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, who each secured one, as well as the UK Independence party, who will send Gerard Batten to Strasbourg.

Mr Galloway needed 115,000 votes to get a seat.

Don’t hang your head too low, Georgie. Sixth place really isn’t all that bad–that is, if you’re Vanderbilt.

Hat tip: The Mighty Tim Blair.

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It’s About Gaaaaas!

June 14th, 2004 - 12:40 pm

A thought about Martini Boy’s EU-vote speculation below:

Is the trend in the Western democracies an anti-incumbent one? If so, that spells serious trouble for President Bush in November. The same tide sweeping against Labour in the UK, the left-leaning SDU in Germany, and conservatives in Italy and France, could wash up against the status quo in Washington, too.

Or, is the European backlash less against the ruling parties, and more against the new status quo of EU supranationalism? If so, then an internationalist like Kerry could have trouble against the more-nationalist Bush.

Here’s another possibility. I believe oil and gas prices are the major, unremarked-upon factor in both the EU vote and Bush’s recent poll numbers. There’s been a good bit of speculation about how the improving US economy isn’t being reflected in Bush’s numbers, but I maintain that people are reacting to the April-May price spike at their gas stations much more than any unemployment or growth statistics.

When you’re looking at $2 or more a gallon, it’s a tough sell to tell people that the rest of the economy is roaring along, even if it really is. Oil and gas prices eventually affect literally everything in the economy, and people have seen enough recessions closely following oil spikes to not be nervous about a price jump this dramatic. I bet that’s even more true in Europe, where growth is slower (if existant), unemployment much worse, and gas prices are even higher.

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Just Not Getting The Message

June 14th, 2004 - 12:29 pm

Here’s another story about the “disastrous” EU parliamentary elections. This quote just jumped out at me:

Outgoing European Parliament President Pat Cox described the results as a “wake-up call” and warned European leaders that they had to demonstrate the EU’s relevance to voters.

“Regrettably, Europe is too absent from European elections in east and west,” he said. “States need to engage, particularly in central and eastern Europe, in voter education of EU institutions.”

Um, Mr, Cox, is is just possible that you might have it the wrong way ’round? Shouldn’t you be considering the possibility that the voters (and non-voters) are “educating” the politicians about just how much they really want the EU meddling in their (and their nations’) affairs?

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Once A Weasel…

June 14th, 2004 - 12:14 pm

From the “what did you really expect?” department, we give you Jacques Chirac, the best ally that Saddam’s money could buy:

Chirac’s performance benefited mightily from his tolerance of wide chasms between his words and his deeds. “France will never forget what it owes America,” the French president told some 6,000 D-Day veterans and assorted guests in his talk on Sunday in the Norman coastal town of Arromanches. A few days later he opposed America’s requests for deeper involvement of NATO in the pacification of Iraq, saying such a move would not be “opportune”; fought to water down Bush’s program to foster the growth of democratic institutions in the Middle East, stating that he opposed such “missionary” work; and responded with a vigorous “non” to Bush’s plea that Iraq’s creditors join America in forgiving “the vast majority” of the debts incurred by Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s regime. (Within the G-8 nations, Japan is owed $4.1 billion, Russia $3.5 billion, France $3 billion, Germany $2.4 billion, and the United States $2.2 billion.) And just to make certain that none of the anti-American voters at home get any idea that he has moved too close to the Americans, Chirac decided to pass up President Reagan’s funeral to keep an unspecified “previous commitment” in Europe.

Apparently, remembering one’s debt to America, France’s “steadfast friend and ally,” and honoring that debt are two different things. Iraq’s monetary debt to France must, Chirac insists, be paid, but France’s moral debt to America remains in the need-not-repay file.

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June 14th, 2004 - 11:43 am

Where European voters go, American voters often follow. And vice-versa. It’s no coincidence that Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Brian Mulrooney, and Helmut Kohl all helmed their nations at the same time.

It’s also probably no coincidence that Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Gerhard Schroeder, etc — you get my point already, I’m sure.

So what to make of this? Read:

Europe’s governing parties received a mauling from disgruntled voters Sunday as preliminary results from the EU Parliament elections showed opposition parties making sweeping gains across the continent.

In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats suffered their biggest post-war setback, picking up just over 20 percent of the vote. British Prime Minister Tony Blair fared little better, with little more than one in five voters backing his Labor Party. But the left’s worst performance was in Poland, where the ruling party of premier-designate Marek Belka was virtually wiped out by populist right wing groupings.

Conservative governments also took a pounding from voters who used the European Parliament elections as a mid-term protest vote. In Italy, fierce opposition to the conflict in Iraq saw the center-left grouping of European Commission President Romano Prodi trounce the pro-war party of Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi, while in France, President Jacques Chirac’s UMP party mustered only 16 percent of the vote. Other governments that took a battering from voters included the Dutch, Danish, Belgian, Hungarian and Slovak ones.

The only administrations to break the trend were the Spanish and Greek governments, both enjoying honeymoons with their electorates after recent election victories.

Is the trend in the Western democracies an anti-incumbent one? If so, that spells serious trouble for President Bush in November. The same tide sweeping against Labour in the UK, the left-leaning SDU in Germany, and conservatives in Italy and France, could wash up against the status quo in Washington, too.

Or, is the European backlash less against the ruling parties, and more against the new status quo of EU supranationalism? If so, then an internationalist like Kerry could have trouble against the more-nationalist Bush.

We might not know the answer until November.

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For Grognards Only

June 14th, 2004 - 11:30 am

Now this is a wargame.

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Happy Birthday

June 14th, 2004 - 10:36 am

“Hoosier Dave” tells me the Army turns 229 years old today.

So let me add with a smirk — gee, and I thought we abolished slavery in 1865.

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Nice Catch!

June 14th, 2004 - 10:29 am

And a fine time was had by all.

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June 14th, 2004 - 9:25 am

Hot off the press:

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed on Monday a constitutional challenge to the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance recited by schoolchildren, without deciding the key church-state issue.

The justices ruled that California atheist Michael Newdow lacked the legal right to bring the challenge in the first place. “We conclude that Newdow lacks standing,” Justice John Paul Stevens declared in the opinion.

I still don’t think the Pledge is a big deal, but that doesn’t mean the Supremes don’t look like they found an excuse to duck the issue.

UPDATE: As I wrote (and headlined) this piece, it sounds like I’m accusing the Supreme Court of ducking the issue. Almost, but not quite. I wrote, it looks like they ducked it — which some people will accuse them of doing. And perhaps with some justice.

But I should have been a little more clear, and written “appears” or “gives the appearance of” or some other such weasely phrase, to get across what I meant. I honestly don’t know if the Suprmemes were trying to duck, trying to establish case law on non-custodial parents, or simply doing what they felt was right.

To be even more weasely, I can’t say I’m not unpleased with the way things turned out. Bad cases make bad law, and this one stank.

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Progress on the Southeastern Front

June 14th, 2004 - 8:09 am

Is Pakistan really, finally, truly getting serious about fighting al Qaeda? Maybe:

In Pakistan, fighting along the Afghan border (South Waziristan), have left over 70 dead (17 soldiers, the rest tribesmen and foreign fighters). The Pakistani army, aided by American photo satellites, radio interception facilities and UAVs, has located the villages and compounds where the al Qaeda activity has been taking place. Now that al Qaeda has declared war on the Pakistani leadership (via several recent assassination attempts), the Pakistani army is striking back. The last offensive, in March, was halted because the tribes said they were willing to give up the al Qaeda members and wanted to negotiate terms. The tribal leaders either lied, or couldn’t deliver. This time, there is little or no room for delay and negotiation.

More here.

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June 14th, 2004 - 7:57 am

Johnathan Rauch, Friedrich Hayek, and the libertarian case against gay marriage.

Obiovusly, I don’t agree — but unlike most of the gay marriage debate, it’s fascinating reading.

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Plan B II

June 14th, 2004 - 7:52 am

From the Daily Telegraph:

Reading the IAEA’s reports on Iran in the past year, there are good reasons to fear that the mullahs, behind the guise of a civil nuclear power programme, are secretly trying to build an atomic bomb or at least develop a “just in time” capability to build one at short notice.

A nuclear Iran would precipitate a Middle East arms race that could prompt Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to secure their own nukes. Israel is unlikely to sit idly by while Iran arms itself with atomic weapons and long-range missiles.

As the IAEA’s governors meet in Vienna this week to decide how to deal with Iran’s latest evasions, Mr ElBaradei has told the Telegraph that Teheran keeps “changing its story”. Despite good progress, the IAEA chief said inspections “cannot go on forever”. Sound familiar?

All too familiar. The rest of the piece is even scarier.

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The Memory Hole

June 14th, 2004 - 12:53 am

French students, apparently, aren’t taught that those who never learn history, are doomed to collaborate again. Read:

On the eve of D-Day ceremonies, an association dedicated to the memory of Saint-L

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Required Reading

June 14th, 2004 - 12:42 am

Bill Safire on Oil-for-Food investigation stonewalling — by Paul Volcker.


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Days of Wine and Roses

June 14th, 2004 - 12:39 am

Some weekends, it’s hard not to love being me.

Friday night, Matt and his gorgeous fianc

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Oxymoron. . .

June 14th, 2004 - 12:00 am

. . . with the accent on moron. Here’s the teaser from a Sundy NYT op-ed by Dave Eggers:

Colleges should require students to volunteer.

With a teaser like that, why bother reading the damn thing?

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Plan B

June 13th, 2004 - 6:02 pm

From the AP:

Toughening its stance in advance of a meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Iran on Saturday said it would reject international restrictions on its nuclear program and challenged the world to accept Tehran as a member of the “nuclear club.”

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi rejected further outside influence on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions two days before the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors meets to discuss Iran’s highly controversial program.

“We won’t accept any new obligations,” Kharrazi said. “Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club. This is an irreversible path.”

Meanwhile, the EU still just wants to talk:

Musavian went on to say that the draft resolution prepared by Britain, France, and Germany for the IAEA Board is not dissimilar to IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei

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June 13th, 2004 - 11:36 am

Britain isn’t the only EU country where the incumbent party is in trouble:

The European parliamentary election confirmed a clear trend in German politics: The SPD and Chancellor Schroeder are on their way out. Today, Sunday, June 13, the Socialists registered their worst election loss in postwar history, dropping at least 7 percentage points to a projected 22%. The conservative Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) took advantage of the Socialist’s collapse to claim two times as many votes with a projected 46% result, giving them the largest number of seats from Germany’s 99 seats in the European parliament.

And then:

The election results in the state of Thuringia were a further disaster for the SPD, with the party dropping over 4% to an abysmal 14.5% of the vote there. If the Greens are unable to pass the 5% hurdle to gain seats the state parliament, the CDU will have the absolute majority.

Signs of a wider trend? Maybe not — voter turnout (a problem only in America, claim europhiles) was miserable.

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Freedom to be an Ass

June 11th, 2004 - 3:56 pm

No difference at all.”

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Empty Victory For The Bells

June 11th, 2004 - 1:20 pm

This week probably marked the beginning of the end of an eight-year battle between the old Baby Bell local telephone monopolies and many of their would-be competitors for local telephone service. A federal appeals court recently struck down a set of 1996 Telecom Act rules that had been forcing the Bells to sell wireline access to local service competitiors at government-regulated rates.

The Bells, regarding local services as their proprietary golden goose, successfully sued to gain control over such access and pricing. The story isn’t completely over, but the FCC and Bush Administration have both passed on appealing to the Supreme Court. The CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers), including AT&T and a large number of upstart companies, will undoubtably file an appeal of their own, but the current conventional wisdom holds that their odds of success are slim.

Personally, I’ve got mixed feelings about this whole affair. On the one hand, as a good conservative, I’m wary of the government artificially setting the price for anything. On the other, as a telephone customer and free-marketeer, I utterly despise the local Bell monopolies, my “own” version, BellSouth, in particular. The Bells’ whining about being over-regulated always ignores the fact that their networks and wiring have been subsidized by governments at all levels for over a century. Their claim to “own the lines” rings hollow (pun certainly intended) when you look at all the fees and bogus tack-ons they’re allowed to pad their profit margins with at the expense of customers with no alternatives.

Either way, the law is the law, and the Bells now legally have the right to run their competition out of business–or so they may delude themselves. Like many other twentieth-century dinosaurs, the Bells are fighting a battle over territory that becomes less and less desireable with each passing day. So the Bells own traditional local wireline service. How much longer will it be before the reaction to that fact is, “So what?”

Cellular phones, broadband (both wired and wireless) and internet telephony are all poised to make the Bells’ monopoly status a moot point. If your home is within range of a cell tower and cable modem service, it’s entirely possible to cut the Bells off at the cord, right now (I would add DSL service to that list, but in most places, the Bells control those lines and won’t allow you to have “dry-wire” DSL service from any provider without also paying for a Bell wired voice line).

I cut BellSouth off myself, back in January. When my then-fiancee and I merged our cellular service, I added on a third line for $10 a month. Using number portability, I had my home telephone number switched to that new cell account, and with a $40 CellSocket base station, was able to use all my existing home telephones through that account. We can still receive and make calls from any phone in the house, with our old phone number, but BellSouth doesn’t see a dime from any of them. My local phone bill went from nearly $30, with no services like call waiting, caller ID, or voice mail, to $10, with every service known to man included for free–plus free long distance.

I like this very much. No doubt BellSouth is somewhat less happy about the situation, as they’re losing numbers off their network in droves. Boo-freakin’-hoo for a corporation whose idea of “customer service” has been, “we’re the phone company, so you’ll take what you get and like it” for decades.

With Vonage and similar VOIP services up and running, and any number of new wireless technologies in the ramp-up stages, there’s no reason why thousands, if not millions of others will also be telling the Bells to get bent. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys, as far as I’m concerned.

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Mo’ Press Bias

June 11th, 2004 - 12:29 pm

The Hollywood Reporter looks at all the Reagan coverage, and decides that Brokow and Jennings were wrong to complain that it was all too much:

They needn’t worry, because if the Internet is an accurate guide for what’s on the minds of Americans — and studies indicate that it is — then the public in big numbers is craving news about the recently deceased former president.

At Yahoo! searches for Reagan spiked 5,314% Saturday, the day he died, compared with the daily average. Since then, the portal has seen huge numbers of searches for information about Reagan’s funeral, scheduled for Friday, and his presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif. Lycos said that Reagan-related searches between Monday and Wednesday were 12 times what they were in the seven days before his death.

But then the very next sentence reads:

The major online news sites, not surprisingly, have dedicated an inordinate amount of space to Reagan, and the strategy seems to have paid off. [emphasis added.]

Merriam-Webster defines inordinate as “exceeding reasonable limits.”

Which is it, Mr. Hollywood Reporter: Is the Reagan coverage what the people want, or is it inordinate?

Big Media thinks the correct answer is, of course, “both.” What the people want — what the audience they serve wants — is not what the press thinks is reasonable. So when you read stories like this and feel disdain for the press, remember that the feeling is mutual.

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Text of Thatcher’s Reagan Eulogy

June 11th, 2004 - 11:34 am

We have lost a great president, a great American, and a great man. And I have lost a dear friend.


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More on Pew

June 11th, 2004 - 11:24 am

Roger L. Simon says, “The bad news is we’re ignorant, but the good news is we’re no longer duped.”

Read the whole thing.

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June 11th, 2004 - 10:13 am

Kerry selects his running-mate — but the Church calls it a sin.

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Meanwhile, On the Other Side of the World

June 11th, 2004 - 8:53 am

There’s still news happening outside of Washington:

While Britain’s results in the EU vote will not be clear until Sunday, the local vote showed a stinging backlash to Blair, whose popularity has slumped amid lingering doubts about his judgment and truthfulness.

Blair’s Labour Party had been expected to suffer losses – the usual fate of governments between national elections. Instead, the focus was on the size of the loss, which appeared to be significant with results from 65 of the 166 local councils declared.

Labour was down 159 seats; the main opposition Conservative Party had gained 77 seats; and Britain’s third largest party, the Liberal Democrats – which staked its campaign heavily on it being the only major party to oppose the war – gained 68 seats.

The British Broadcasting Corp. projected that Labour would trail in third place with 26 percent of the total vote, behind the Conservatives on 38 percent and the Lib Dems on 30 percent.

Is this the beginning of the end for New Labour?

Blair’s New Labour has been a little bit Old Labour, and a little bit old(er) Tory. Given the choice between faux-conservatism, real conservatism, and one small (but genuinely anti-war) party, British voters seem to be chosing between the two real alternatives.

The national elections should be very interesting, indeed.

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Credit The Liberator, Not The Dictator

June 11th, 2004 - 6:44 am

I’ve made a concerted effort to ignore most of the anti-Reagan carping from the press and the far Left over the last week. It’s no suprise that the Guardians, New York Times, Ted Ralls and Jeff Cohens and Fidel Castros of the world weren’t sorry to see the Gipper depart. It’s also deeply comforting to know that all of the above still have to wake up every morning realizing that Communism is dead–and knowing in their hearts that Ronald Reagan killed it. In this case, there’s no need to ask, “Why do they hate him?” The answer is self-evident: because he destroyed that which they held most dear.

But even the most dedicated media filter can’t help but let through the media/Leftist meme that Reagan was simply fortunate in his timing; it was really Saint Mikhail of Stavropol who “ended the Cold War.” This quaint fiction ignores the history of the 1980′s, to say nothing of their happy ending. Gorbachev, the last dictator of the Soviet Union, “ended” that conflict by losing it, and his own grasp of empire, in a popular revolution.

Lest we forget, this dictator did not “step down,” or “release” power–he was removed by his own people. Lest we forget, just months after being awarded a Nobel Prize for not invading his neighbors (by those standards, every U.S. President should earn the award for years in which they fail to march on Canada and Mexico), Gorbachev sent KGB black beret thugs into Lithuania and Latvia, where they murdered numerous pro-democracy activists. Noting that Gorbachev was the “least bad” of the USSR’s sordid pantheon of despots comes close to the very definition of damning with faint praise.

As George Bush (41) aptly noted, Communism didn’t fall. It was pushed.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the people who were there, most particularly those who were behind the Wall:

I was going to open up the commentary today with the Lech Walesa WSJ column, but Martini Boy beat me to it overnight. Still more than worth the read.

Another Steve re-run, but still relevant for today, is this note from a 2002 Michael Novak column:

“You know what caused the downfall of the Soviet Union? You know what did it?” demanded a senior [Soviet] general, a little flush with vodka.

Some racked their brains with thoughts of missile defense, perpetual shortages of everything from soap to vodka, the U.S. military buildup. The general banged his fist again. “That damn speech about the evil empire! That’s what did it!” The general was standing now, and to the questioning eyes of one American he added: “It was an evil empire. It was.”

Also note these stories, first this about former subjects of the Soviet Union honoring Reagan, and another here, and finally honors from leaders of now-free states liberated by Reagan’s policies. They will not be saying the same things about Gorbachev on the day he goes to his own reward.

Here’s another column from a freed Soviet, who recalls,

On the morning of April 20, 1989, the day my family leaving Moscow, a knock came on my parents’ door. It was our next-door neighbor. Ours being one of the Soviet Union’s cramped, communal apartments, I mean that quite literally. Waving a bottle of vodka, he insisted my father drink a toast. He wanted to celebrate our new freedom, which also meant his: By leaving him our half of the apartment, we were bypassing Soviet restrictions on the sale of state property.

Agreeing, my father suggested they toast to Gorbachev. After all, our neighbor was a common day laborer, unlikely to be up on the complex realities of international politics; and more than likely to have imbibed his fair share of politburo propaganda, which Gorbachev, in his hick Caucasus accent, spouted daily. Our neighbor only laughed. “Gorbachev? You think Gorbachev gave me this apartment? We’ll drink to Reagan. Reagan gave me this apartment.”

He gave you a lot more than that, comrade. And I’m sure you know it today.

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Attention, Bloggers

June 11th, 2004 - 1:22 am

Tick, tick, tick. . .

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From the Front Lines

June 11th, 2004 - 1:20 am

In today’s OpinionJournal, former Polish Solidarity leader (and President) Lech Walesa says that the Poles owe their liberty to Ronald Reagan. He goes on:

I often wondered why Ronald Reagan did this, taking the risks he did, in supporting us at Solidarity, as well as dissident movements in other countries behind the Iron Curtain, while pushing a defense buildup that pushed the Soviet economy over the brink. Let’s remember that it was a time of recession in the U.S. and a time when the American public was more interested in their own domestic affairs. It took a leader with a vision to convince them that there are greater things worth fighting for. Did he seek any profit in such a policy? Though our freedom movements were in line with the foreign policy of the United States, I doubt it.

I distinguish between two kinds of politicians. There are those who view politics as a tactical game, a game in which they do not reveal any individuality, in which they lose their own face. There are, however, leaders for whom politics is a means of defending and furthering values. For them, it is a moral pursuit. They do so because the values they cherish are endangered. They’re convinced that there are values worth living for, and even values worth dying for. Otherwise they would consider their life and work pointless. Only such politicians are great politicians and Ronald Reagan was one of them.

Somehow, I’m more likely to agree with the estimation of Reagan by a man who risked everything to lead his people to freedom, than I am the likes of. . .

. . . oh, who wants to name names and point fingers on the day of Reagan’s funeral? If nothing else, the man earned that much.

But as Lech Walesa will tell you, he earned much more than just that.

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