Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bing West reports from Iraq

Check out a good story by Bing West for the Atlantic Monthly. Third paragraph:
In January of 2007, as five new American brigades surged into Iraq, the national gloom was pervasive. Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, declared that the war was lost, and a complaisant press permitted this defeatism to pass without comment. There was good reason for this. Baghdad, the political heart of Iraq, was falling apart. Sunni extremists had succeeded in slaughtering enough Shiites to provoke a murderous backlash. Subjected to nightly raids by Shiite death squads, the Sunnis were being driven from the city. The U.S. military was reporting an average of 30 murders a day in Baghdad. Now, a year later, that number is two or three. Baghdad is not safe, but it is not disintegrating in a vortex of violence.
(Atlantic Monthly)
West paints a positive picture of the military success in Iraq, and a relatively bleak portrait of the political landscape. He sees the Maliki government as an impediment to reconciliation, referring to Maliki's sectarian bias on several occasions.

Worth reading.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

McCain the best GOP choice to confront Obama?

Yes, I cast my primary vote for Giuliani. About 24 hours later Giuliani bows out of the race. I'm marking that down to coincidence, and now it's on to new topics since the presidential race is changing.

I was thinking earlier today about how Sen. McCain stacks up against Sen. Obama, specifically with respect to Obama's decision to brand himself as the candidate of change. Listening to the Michael Medved radio show a few hours ago came close to preempting my post, for Medved cited recent polls that show McCain with outside-the-margin leads against Clinton or Obama.


I think it has to do with the comparison I had contemplated. Obama has ridden a wave of popularity by portraying himself as the candidate of change. He has little else to run on to distinguish himself from other candidates other than the fact that he expresses himself very well in speeches and seems generally very likable.

McCain, however, has the leftover "maverick" label and a legislative history of bucking the parties to find a middle ground. McCain has the ability to make a plausible grasp for the mantle of the "change" candidate. It's fair to point out that McCain's statements of policy paint him as a conservative, but Obama is no different in that respect*. And McCain has one advantage over Obama that makes up for the fact that he's not as likable: People are likely to have trust in McCain regarding his willingness to find a middle ground between the parties, and they'll trust him on national security.

Trust is always an issue with Democratic candidates during an election and 2008 should prove no different. Perhaps Obama can erode the McCain advantage with glitz, but he has an uphill climb because his record can't support his claim.

Not that I've abandoned the expectation that Sen. Clinton will win the nomination. But Clinton will have to play the game better than she has played it for the past four weeks.

*with Obama's policies correspondingly liberal


Misappropriating the Great Seal of Florida?

clipped from

blog it

Pardon my levity.

Occasionally I get a reminder of Democrat unhingedness over the 2000 election, such as when I check search pages for folks who ended up at my sporadically-updated companion blog, Bad Blogs Blood. One visitor dropped by my page regarding the issue of who stopped the Florida vote recount in 2000. The person had used the Google search for "gop operatives" + "florida" + "recount" and I decided to see what the first result (from had to say.

There were a few complaints that I didn't recognize, and one of them in particular was interesting enough for me to research.

One thing first. At the top of the page, just before the laundry list, it says:
To comment on the crimes cited below, click here.
Crimes, eh? Here's the crime in question, apparently committed by Jeb Bush:

  • Abuse of State Seal
  • Letter sent by Florida Republican party with Jeb's signature and the Florida state seal urging Florida Republicans to vote by absentee ballots


    As a lifelong Florida resident, I found it surprising that the action described might represent a crime. So I looked up the Florida Statues. As of 2007, we had this:
    493.6124 Use of state seal; prohibited.--No person or licensee shall use any facsimile reproduction or pictorial portion of the Great Seal of the State of Florida on any badge, credentials, identification card, or other means of identification used in connection with any activities regulated under this chapter.
    (The Florida Statutes don't link directly. Choose the appropriate year and then look it up by number)(I'm happy to report that the site now does link directly!--that's a welcome change)
    Doesn't exactly sound like what Bush did, does it? But as the 2007 statutes might not represent the law in 2000 ... but actually they do.

    I can't find any hint (other than that above) that using the state seal of Florida as described is unlawful.

    Sent them a message, I did. Perhaps it goes in the vertical file once they note my party affiliation (they asked for it on the form). Maybe not. I guess we'll see. Here's the message:

    What's this about the "crime" of using the state seal on a campaign letter? I can't find any evidence that the practice is criminal. If you can't either, then I suggest you re-word some aspects of your Web page.

    I don't normally append a note for spelling fixes, but let's just say that there is only one "s" in "Misappropriating" when it is spelled correctly.

    Tuesday, January 29, 2008

    Some preliminary detail on the BAE/Navistar JLTV

    BAE Systems and Navistar International intend to unveil a 16,000-pound Joint Light Tactical Vehicle prototype with a V-shaped hull, lightweight armor composites and changeable electronics at the end of February, company officials said.
    Author Kris Osborn went on to report that the proposed JLTV will feature a modular design.

    Taking a tip from the Rheinmetall prototype, hmm? Great idea if you can make it work. It's probably fair to say that the MaxxPro has a certain degree of modularity. Given the stringent requirements of JLTV program it shouldn't surprise at all if each of the competitors adopts that approach.


    Giuliani for GOP presidential nominee (Updated)

    It's a tough call (I only decided in the past week) because each of the candidates is good and flawed, but my choice will be Rudy Giuliani.

    If it were just a matter of flawed then the choice would be easier for the lack of good.

    Giuliani, despite his lack of credentials as a social conservative, put together a great team and did a nice job in the debates in terms of expressing a solid conservative foundation. I was satisfied with his pledge to nominate judges in the mold of Scalia.

    I think Rudy would do an excellent job of prosecuting the war on terrorism (that is, quashing the actions of radical Islamists while combating the ideology that prompts it) while pursuing sensible fiscal and economic policy. The same could probably be said of Romney, McCain and even Huckabee, perhaps, but I judge Giuliani as the most solid overall.

    I'm ignoring polls that predict how each candidate would fare against the Democratic nominee at this point. Those polls change slightly less than the wind. Ultimately the campaign and the candidates determine that outcome. Romney lost some support from me because I do think that his Mormonism will be an issue for some, but more importantly Romney doesn't seem to have the quality of being broadly likable.

    Some conservatives voice a concern that a vote for Giuliani is a vote for McCain over Romney. I can live with that, though I'd prefer Romney over McCain. Yet here again I would ignore the polling data that show McCain as the better general election candidate of the two.

    Whatever the case, the GOP nominee will be vastly preferable to the alternative.

    Paul Mirengoff over at Power Line posted similar thoughts at almost the same time I posted, albeit without revealing how he intends to vote. The primary schedule gives him a bit more time to decide ... and he may have more reason to nix Giuliani pending the outcome of today's elections.


    Monday, January 28, 2008

    Word Trek: The Search for Chekhov

    I think I'm developing an automatic suspicion of quotations. Today, my curiosity spiked over the context of a quotation appropriated by Stephen Pinker for inclusion in a book, with the quotation credited to Anton Chekhov.
    I say that in preparation for this lunch, I've pitched this idea to friends in New York and received rather heated, negative responses. I've learned that upon hearing the above, most people immediately make leaps to some of the great evils of the 20th century. Pinker shrugs and smiles.

    In the preface to his book, he quotes Chekhov: "Man will become better when you show him what he is like." Pinker chops his side salad into bite-sized pieces. But what happens when we begin to base all our judgments about people and their actions on their innate human nature?

    (Financial Times)

    There weren't many Google hits for the full quotation minus Pinker's last name, and none of them provide either source or context. The helpful resource Wikiquote (use the same caution of all wiki sources) did not so much as mention the quotation even in its "unsourced" section.

    Finally, I found a book at Google that featured the quotation with a footnote. Unfortunately, the Google preview omitted the page with the footnote! The footnote provides an excellent indication that Chekhov did write the words. The path to the context is opening up, but will require a bit more digging.


    Sunday, January 27, 2008

    Making sense of the news: MRAP death in Iraq

    In reading news accounts and commentary on the soldier recently killed after an IED explosion under his MRAP vehicle, a couple of points have come up that could stand clarification.

    First, some news accounts appeared to indicate that this fatality was the first soldier killed in an MRAP.
    We've learned today that this casualty was the first to happen inside of an MRAP, or mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle.
    ( (NBC affiliate))
    USA Today's Tom Vanden Brook continues his excellent reporting on such matters:
    WASHINGTON — The U.S. military on Tuesday announced the first death of a soldier in a bomb attack involving one of its newest models of armored vehicles.

    The death occurred Saturday when a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle rode over a homemade bomb buried in a road in Arab Jabour, south of Baghdad. Three other soldiers in the MRAP vehicle survived the blast, Maj. Anton Alston, a military spokesman, said in an e-mail.

    Soldiers have died in the past in older-model MRAP trucks used by explosive ordnance (sic) teams and combat engineers.
    (USA Today)
    Vanden Brook sums it up nicely. Military officials were talking about one particular MRAP model (apparently it was a MaxxPro, built by Navistar) that had recently been deployed to Iraq.

    Those who got it wrong have a fair excuse. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell helped:
    And as the secretary noted on Friday, those vehicles are a proven life-saver in the battlefield. Of course, they are not, as we have pointed out for months now, fail safe. And over the weekend, just south of Baghdad we lost our first soldier in an IED attack on an MRAP.
    The military helped quite a bit with that piece of misinformation, it turns out:

    "An American soldier was killed in an improvised explosive device attack on a MRAP vehicle in Arab Jabour" on the southern outskirts of Baghdad on Saturday, US military spokesman Major Winfield Danielson said on Tuesday.

    "This was the first fatality involving an IED (roadside bomb) attack on a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) anywhere," he added.

    (Agence France-Presse)

    Second, I've noticed criticism of news accounts (specifically one in The New York Times) based on their paraphrase of a military spokesperson.

    2. "Colonel Adgie, the battalion commander... said initial examination suggested a 'deep-buried I.E.D.,' which was there for some time, rather than one set off by remote control."

    Those two things are not mutually exclusive.


    True, they're not mutually exclusive. The story doesn't suggest that, however, though it might be made as a plausible inference even if the words used in the story don't really imply it. It is fair to read it as offering the spokesperson's view that the IED had been in place for some time, using the "deep-buried" portion of the quotation as an added descriptive.


    Friday, January 25, 2008

    The Imperfect Analysis Department

    OK, I've had my moments, such as when I made the ill-fated prediction that the Caiman MRAP would be put out to pasture by BAE Systems.

    Huffington Poster Bob Cesca staked out some rarefied territory with his inept analysis of the MRAP fatality from earlier this week. I hope I can't compete.
    On Tuesday, an American gunner was killed when his MRAP vehicle hit a roadside bomb south of Baghdad. His comrades inside were wounded despite the MRAP armor. Reports didn't say whether or not the bomb was what's called an "explosively formed penetrator" or EFP roadside bomb which critics have warned has the power to rip through an MRAP's armored hull.

    We make better armor -- they make deadlier bombs. Don't be afraid, though. Six months from now we're going to win the shit out of this war. But wait! Don't nobody move! Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, says the war has ended!

    (The Huffington Post)

    Uh, Bob, the reports didn't mention whether or not the bomb was an EFP, but the reports gave enough information for you to figure it out on your own. Easily. Take the Jan. 23 edition of the LA Times. Please.

    BAGHDAD -- A soldier killed last weekend just south of here was the U.S. military's first fatality in a new fleet of heavily armored vehicles designed to protect soldiers from roadside bombs, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Tuesday.

    A bomb that went off under the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected truck near Arab Jabour did not penetrate the cabin but threw the vehicle into the air and caused it to overturn, Morrell said.

    Between "did not penetrate the cabin" and "threw the vehicle in the air" how could anyone think that the bomb in question may have been an EFP?

    Making the deadlier bomb in this case meant making a very big bomb. Very big bombs require more explosive material than do smaller bombs (hopefully that concept requires no explanation).

    Using a larger explosive will make the bombs generally easier to detect and harder to position. That puts pressure on the enemy. EFPs haven't lived up to the hype thus far, probably because AQI is disrupted to the point that the insurgents simply can't take advantage of the more advanced technology required to make on (as with acquiring copper disks that typically constitute the payload). If the insurgents want to rely on EFPs then they have another pressure point on their operations.

    AQI is having a very tough time in Iraq. Their best bet is to try to score a few high-profile victories (like blowing up MRAPs) and then let antiwar-types write about it as though it's the end of the world, putting pressure on the government to do a premature drawdown.

    As for Cesca's claim that the insurgents simply respond to better armor by making better bombs ... what took them so long? We've been ramping up the use of MRAPs in Iraq for six months, and the program wasn't exactly a closely guarded secret.

    Posts like Cesca's simply undergird the impression that liberals are rooting for defeat. He suggests that Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria claimed the "war has ended" though Zakaria actually wrote that the "war has largely ended." Perhaps Cesca just needs a reminder to avoid over-reliance on hyperbole.

    One wonders what sorts of blog entries he'd have composed during WW2.

    Updated URL 1-25-08

    Thursday, January 24, 2008

    Democrats and fiscal responsibility

    Remember those first Bush tax cuts? How irresponsible they were?
    President George W. Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut plan is fiscally irresponsible, dangerous for the economy, blind to America's future needs (especially those associated with the retirement of the baby boomers), and heavily targeted towards benefits for the wealthy Americans who least need tax relief.
    (Democratic Leadership Council)
    Evidently most of those concerns have been set aside by Democrats as they look to distribute (borrowed) government funds to taxpayers and non-taxpayers alike. Giving money raised via taxation to people who don't pay taxes is apparently what the Democrats see as the most effective way to stimulate the economy in the short term, as it avoids the spectre of allowing those who pay the most in taxes from getting their money back.

    There is an economic rationale for lower-income citizens spending more and thus fending off cuts in production and jobs. Unfortunately for next year's government revenues, according to economic ideas supported by the Congressional Budget Office, the spending done by those same people results in economic activity that does the least to encourage government revenue growth.

    The point, however, is that Democrats do believe in deficit spending whole-heartedly. The government can go into debt in order to buy your vote (perhaps the votes of those who find that Democrats give them money they never paid in taxes). They can make up the difference later by levying more taxes on the rich (and so on ...?).

    On a sobering note (a note sounded by Rush Limbaugh the other day, as I recall), it seems to me that the current Democratic leadership should have little interest in economic growth. They tend to be extremely concerned with global warming and our dependence on fossil fuels. A big, healthy economy these days uses fossil fuels.

    Seriously, think about it.

    Give low wage-earners money and they tend to buy food, gasoline and other essentials. All of those things encourage the type of economic activity that utilizes energy. The Democrats can't seem to make good on their aims regarding our energy situation without either killing off a large segment of the population or magically coming up with an energy source that operates with efficiency comparable to that of fossil fuels.

    Don't bet on nuclear energy with the Dems in charge. They don't want to be that much like Europe (or near-future Iran).

    The U.S. has about a half-dozen more nuclear power plants than France.

    So what will you do, Democrats? We don't want to spoil the Alaskan wilderness or risk getting oil on our Gulf shrimp (unless it's the Chinese who do it under Cuban auspices). We don't want to have another Three Mile Island. When crunch time grows near, will the Dems put their focus more on supply, or demand?


    Wednesday, January 23, 2008

    JLTV competition set to roll

    The contract battle begins in earnest.
    The Army and Marine Corps plan to invite manufacturers to submit competing proposals to build the follow-on vehicle to the ubiquitous Humvee at the end of January, in what is expected to be one of the largest-ever vehicle acquisition programs.

    The Army said at least two firms will be selected in June to build the prototypes for the follow-on, dubbed the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, followed by a 27-month-long technology demonstration period. The Army then will award contracts to two firms to proceed with a vehicle development and demonstration phase, at the conclusion of which the service will select a single manufacturer to begin production.


    MRAP will probably look like peanuts compared to this program.


    Checking the checkers at Politifact: Huckabee on the signers of the Declaration of Independence (Updated)

    Liberal/progressive and secularist sites have apparently been making a big deal out of Mike Huckabee's declaration in one of the GOP debates that most of the signers were "clergymen."

    I'm inclined to think that Huckabee simply misspoke (meaning "Christians" instead, which would put him in very safe territory), but it has been noted that the Huckabee statement has a parallel in the writings of David Barton, who has received abundant criticism over the accuracy of his accounts of American history.

    While it is possible that Huckabee was echoing the views of Barton, one should hesitate to draw that conclusion without the benefit of additional evidence. For starters, one would think that some journalist might be interested enough in Huckabee's statement to ask him on what basis he made the statement.

    I've run across some anecdotal evidence that Huckabee claims he simply misspoke. The followup question to such a statement from Huckabee is "What did you mean to say?"

    And that brings me to the realm of political fact-checking. I've gone on record more than once praising (Annenberg fact-check). And I've gone on record expressing my skepticism about the new political fact-check project from The St. Petersburg Times, called "PolitiFact."

    The Annenberg folks don't even mention the Huckabee faux pas, and I think that's a justifiable move given the nature of the statement. It has little impact on the context of what Huckabee was saying at the time (he was stressing the importance of his pro-life stance).

    PolitiFact is all over Huckabee, in contrast:
    We'd like to give Huckabee every benefit of the doubt, but even if you consider former clergymen among the signers the best you could come up with is four. Out of 56. That's not "most," that's Pants-on-Fire wrong.
    The quotation above represents the summary paragraph. I have three main problems with the PolitiFact analysis. First, they fail to provide any evidence that they consider that Huckabee may have simply misspoke, which belies the claim that they would like to give Huckabee every benefit of the doubt. As such, that claim comes off as a sneer at Huckabee.

    Second, they overlook the potential Barton connection, which is really the only way that the statement has any political import. It would be politically interesting if Huckabee had uncritically accepted bad historical information from Barton or the like. It is hardly at all interesting if Huckabee simply meant to say "Christians." The lack of interest in this angle paints PolitiFact as uninterested in anything but superficial facts in this case (for comparison, I intend to see if PolitiFact took note of Hillary Clinton's apparent belief that Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf was due to stand for election in January of this year--that's a politically interesting error).

    Third (and I've complained about this before) PolitiFact uses a graphic to represent their judgment of truth value, and that graphic conveys moral judgments where moral judgment may be inappropriate. Note that they find Huckabee's error "pants-on-fire" wrong. Anyone who is culturally literate associates that phrase with the rhyme "liar-liar-pants-on-fire." If Huckabee simply misspoke (see PolitiFact's disinterest in that possibility at #1), there is no question of a moral lie. If I'm talking to a friend and say the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated New York Yankees at Spring Training, and I meant to say the Tampa Bay Rays then plainly I am not trying to sell the lie that a hockey team defeated the Yankees.

    PolitiFact comes across as petty and unprofessional in this example.


    Nothing at all at PolitiFact on Hillary Clinton's malaprop about Musharraf.

    The CNN version carries the Clinton explanation, that she was referring to Musharraf's party, not to Musharraf himself. Compare her explanation with Thomas Houlahan's analysis
    (read it all if you don't know the history):

    She then said something that betrayed a serious lack of knowledge about Pakistan and called her own credibility on the subject into serious question.

    "If President Musharraf wishes to stand for election," she told Blitzer, "then he should abide by the same rules that every other candidate will have to follow."

    My immediate reaction was: "Did I hear that correctly?"


    MRAP fatality in Iraq

    BAGHDAD (AFP) — A new-style anti-mine armoured vehicle the US military is hoping will reduce casualties from roadside bombs in Iraq has proven vulnerable, with a first soldier killed in an attack at the weekend.

    "An American soldier was killed in an improvised explosive device attack on a MRAP vehicle in Arab Jabour" on the southern outskirts of Baghdad on Saturday, US military spokesman Major Winfield Danielson said on Tuesday.

    (Agence France-Presse)
    The "new-style" description may indicate that the vehicle in question was a Navistar MaxxPro (or perhaps the BAE/Armor Holdings Caiman). The accompanying photo shows the Force Protection Cougar, which probably means nothing more than the fact that AFP had some stock photos lying around and wanted to run an MRAP photo with the story. We also get a photo of a tank for some reason. Perhaps because of "Bradley" being mentioned in the story.

    The details of the report (thin, thus far) appear to indicate that any model could have been involved, since the entire vehicle was tossed in the air and had a bad landing while the gunner was in the turret. Even MRAPs are vulnerable to a very last blast forces. Even if the passenger compartment remains intact, injuries and fatalities may occur.


    Monday, January 21, 2008

    Agence France-Presse features Caiman photo

    For a time, MRAP reporting featured the Force Protection Cougar almost exclusively.

    A generous order of Navistar's MaxxPro vehicle helped that model achieve the photographic equivalent of MRAP rock-star status over the past six months or so. The RG-33 has made a respectable showing, though I'd judge it less than the media presence of the Cougar and the MaxxPro.

    Still, the most-ignored MRAP vehicle with the largest U.S. order is the Armor Holdings (BAE) Caiman. Photos have been difficult to come by--Prior to today I had not noticed any published by the mainstream media. France's national press, Agence France-Presse (aka AFP) today placed the photo of an array of Caimans next to a story about deploying MRAPs in large numbers to Afghanistan.

    It's too much to assume that the picture serves to indicate that the Caiman in particular will end up in Afghanistan. Strange marriages of photo with story from the past illuminate that point effectively enough.


    Hillary's health-care memos

    Captains Quarters is reporting that the mainstream media have shown little interest in the publication of memos attached to Hillary Clinton's universal health care task force.

    The most controversial excerpts thus far remind me of the type of thing for which the Bush administration has been criticized; that is, coordination between the White House and other agencies to promote something.

    I had delayed comment since I like to refer to the original documents whenever possible. The confidential memo from Jay Rockefeller contains some interest because of its somewhat ruthless tone, but understood in terms of national politics it shouldn't be particularly shocking. Again, the most shocking thing might be that this type of memo would be big news about Bush's autocratic tendencies but can't even seem to elicit a yawn from the mainstream media.

    Rockefeller's memo, via Judicial Watch.


    Sunday, January 20, 2008

    Robyn Blumner puts lipstick on a pig

    The pinata of the St. Petersburg Times, Robyn Blumner, is at it again this week, creating a terrific segue from my commentary on the column of her fellow SPT editorialist Bill Maxwell. Maxwell noted that Barack Obama is not "ideologically black."

    I noted in my commentary that Maxwell had engaged in identity politics, and offered my (nonpartisan, in this instance) condemnation of the implication. If a given way of thinking is inextricably linked to a group, such as a racial group, then one become a type of racist merely for disagreeing with an idea that is not racially linked (save for the notion of identity politics). In effect, identity politics would serve as a handy vehicle for ensuring that people focus on their differences rather than what they might hold in common.

    Blumner's column this week consists, more or less, of an apologetic for identity politics. A shallow apologetic to be sure, since she doesn't even acknowledge the problem with identity politics that I brought up in answer to Maxwell's column and highlighted at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
    Concern about this aspect of identity politics has crystallized around the transparency of experience to the oppressed, and the univocality of its interpretation. Experience is never, critics argue, simply epistemically available prior to interpretation (Scott 1992); rather it requires a theoretical framework — implicit or explicit — to give it meaning. Moreover, if experience is the origin of politics, then some critics worry that what Kruks (2001) calls “an epistemology of provenance” will become the norm: on this view, political perspectives gain legitimacy by virtue of their articulation by subjects of particular experiences. This, critics charge, closes off the possibility of critique of these perspectives by those who don't share the experience, which in turn inhibits political dialogue and coalition-building.
    Blumner sweeps the drawbacks safely under the rug for her readers. Identity politics are a good thing, she argues, and the negative connotations associated with the terms have been unfairly attributed to Democrats!
    (I)dentity politics has been unfairly conflated to mean that part of the American left that sees the world through the lens of racism and misogyny.
    (The St. Petersburg Times)
    If you figured that Blumner would offer an example of the supposedly unfair conflation, you'd be mistaken. I can't even detect any clue as to what term has been conflated with "identity politics."

    Here's the bottom line: If you want to have a political movement that benefits your particular group, however you define that group, that's fine with me. That isn't identity politics. That's just plain old politics. When you start to say that some relatively immutable characteristic of your group (such as sex or race) is unavoidably identified with that group's ideas then you're engaged in the worst type of identity politics. What people like Bill Maxwell have tried to do to Barack Obama (and Colin Powell) is only slightly better than that. People who think like Maxwell paint Obama as an inauthentic black man based purely on his life experience and ideology.

    That's not fair regardless of your political stripe. That type of technique is not fair applied to Obama nor is it fair applied to Hillary Clinton (or Condoleezza Rice for that matter). It is an illicit attempt to marginalize alternative views.

    Blumner doesn't see it that way, of course.
    I am interested in what the term "identity politics" communicates and how it is used to shut down discussion on national issues that are of great importance to large slices of the electorate.
    I'd love to see how the term "identity politics" is used to shut discussion on important national issues. No, really, I would. I'm past expecting examples from Blumner, however.

    I can give an example of how identity politics per se is used to marginalize a competing political voice. Just read Bill Maxwell's column. A black man like Barack Obama is apparently not ideologically black if he acts more-or-less colorblind in the sense envisioned by Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.

    "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

    Sorry, Dr. King. We've entered a new era in which the content of your character is measured by the color of your skin combined with your adherence to group ideological orthodoxy. The era of identity politics, that is.

    I'm supposing that I could espouse the same views as Barack Obama and be "ideologically white." I'm also supposing that those who say that Obama is not ideologically black do not view his failure in that department as a positive state of affairs.

    Identity politics: Fatal to muliculturalism (which has problems enough as it is), bad for democracy.

    Just say no.


    Friday, January 18, 2008

    Defense Secretary Gates: "The need for these vehicles will not soon go away"

    Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a speech at Spawar in Charleston, S.C., addressing MRAP outfitters.

    The backdrop looks like a MaxxPro. I suppose it's the most photogenic MRAP thus far.

    SecDef Robert Gates


    Thursday, January 17, 2008

    Arming Iraq: Humvees

    Baghdad, Jan 17, (VOI) – The Iraqi ministries of defense and interior will receive 650 U.S. Humvee vehicles as part of efforts to build up the capability of the Iraqi army, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
    (Aswat Aliraq)
    Many seem to overlook the importance of Iraq as a trade partner with the United States. Antiwar rhetoric paints the war as an endless expense that inevitably turns into financial loss. While victory in the war offers no guarantees by itself, the benefits of trade (including arms) and oil supply offer the potential of a strong economic benefit. And that's ignoring the invaluable prospect of a strong Middle Eastern ally with a predisposition to favor representative government and the continued defeat of the aims of al Qaeda.


    AP story on MRAPs

    The Associated Press put out a story about MRAPs, focusing on Force Protection.

    Two out of three of the accompanying photos were of Navistar MRAPs, however. A bit careless for a wire service with a reputation to protect. At least they got a shot from inside the Force Protection plant.
    I asked my guide in the back seat where to park as I swung my 19-ton "MRAP" by the plant where the massive military trucks are made. "Anywhere you want," said Mike Aldrich, a vice president at Force Protection Inc., a company that builds the vehicles.

    That's right. I own the road.

    (The Associated Press)


    The "Pick Flick"/"Vote Clinton" parallel

    SlateV put together a little patchwork video building the parallel between Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) from "Election" and presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY).

    I found it amusing; you be the judge as to whether it leaves a mark.

    Ouch. The default dimensions were really something. No fair overlapping "Day By Day."

    Hat tip to Power Line.

    Wednesday, January 16, 2008

    John Yoo: Terrorists waging "lawfare"

    Thanks go to the good folks at Power Line (via RealClearPolitics) for highlighting this important story.

    After being sued by convicted terrorist Jose Padilla, I wonder whether our nation today has the same unity and tenacity to defeat the great security challenge of our day, the rise of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. Even as our brave young soldiers fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, and our intelligence agents succeed in disrupting follow-ups to the 9/11 attacks, terrorists are using our own legal system as a weapon against us.

    They use cases such as Padilla's to harass the men and women in our government, force the revelation of valuable intelligence and press novel theories that have failed at the ballot box and before the president and Congress.

    "Lawfare" has become another dimension of warfare.

    (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    The United States' legal system offers a number of avenues for exploitation by terrorists. Of particular concern, here, is the propensity of Americans to offer assistance to the terrorists in advancing these legal attacks.

    John Hinderaker tacked a comment on the end of Scott Johnson's post at Power Line:

    Just be grateful those folks are so patriotic. God only knows what they would do if they weren't.



    Tuesday, January 15, 2008

    Virtual training for IED removal

    NewswireToday - /newswire/ - Daytona Beach, FL, United States, 01/15/2008 - In direct response to an urgent need from the Army’s engineer school in Ft. Hood, Texas, the first-ever Virtual Route Clearance Trainer (VRCT) to support soldiers who operate the U.S. Army’s newly introduced MRAP family of vehicles has been developed.

    Raydon developed and delivered the first VRCT to the field 90 days from contract award. The U.S. military is currently utilizing fewer than 500 MRAP vehicles, but has placed orders for the production of an additional 10,000.

    The only one of its kind, the VRCT is specifically designed to prepare soldiers who will operate the Mine Protected Clearance Vehicles (MPCV) Buffalo, Vehicle Mounted Mine Detectors (VMMD) Husky, and the Medium Mine Protected Vehicles (MMPV) RG-31, which interrogate, spot, mark and sweep for IEDs and hidden land mines in Iraq.
    I'd imagine a training program like this one would benefit from frequent upgrades as new methods are used to conceal IEDs. In any case, it probably helps if a trainee has experience at identifying certain types of known threat. Dealing with the novel stuff comes with field experience, no doubt.


    Monday, January 14, 2008

    Surprise contender for MRAP II: The Caiman

    OK, so maybe I'm the only one surprised. The Caiman had not warranted mention in any of the stories I had seen about the MRAP II competition, though it was clear enough that parent company BAE Systems (parent of Armor Holdings, Inc., maker of the Caiman) was competing.

    As one of only two contractors chosen, BAE Systems will produce Category I MRAP II test vehicles based on the companys Caiman 6x6 design and Category II MRAP II test vehicles based on the companys RG33 6x6 vehicle. Six Category I MRAP II vehicles, along with improved armor solutions, will be provided to the customer in March 2008 for testing under the contracts initial delivery order.

    The RG33 and Caiman vehicles have the right balance of payload capability, automotive performance, and blast protection, and have proven extremely capable of handling the significantly increased requirements of MRAP-II, said Matt Riddle, vice president of Wheeled Vehicle Programs. Our designs offer mobility upgrades that significantly increase payload capacity and enable the integration of superior survivability enhancements across the threat spectrum.


    Based on the media reports of the early MRAP II competition, I had mused that the 1,000 or so Caimans (almost all of the Cat. I variety) ordered as part of MRAP I represented the total number the military would possess. Apparently the vehicles have performed well under test conditions.

    I certainly would not have predicted that the Caiman would square off with the (Ceradyne) Bull to secure a win in the MRAP II competition. The RG-33 ... maybe.


    Sunday, January 13, 2008

    Blumneconomics III

    That pinata of The St. Petersburg Times, Robyn Blumner, gave me the week off last week by writing about the possible genetic component of obesity. I think she went two consecutive weeks without attacking President Bush. Miracles never cease.

    This week, Blumner again wears her progressive economic notions on her sleeve, though I suspect the type of veiled rhetoric that helps keep progressive ideas from being identified as explicitly communistic or socialistic.

    Blumner wants granite countertops, and it appears that her wishes may be blamed on greedy capitalists who have contaminated her thinking. She could remain content with Formica if not for the hypnotic spells of corporate elites. She doesn't have to have granite "quarried out of the earth in a damaging way." Get real, Robyn. You're telling me you can't detect any environmental harm from the manufacture of Formica?

    As is often the case, Blumner's column is an informal book review where the book was authored by one of her progressive heroes. The hero in this case is Benjamin Barber, a "distinguished fellow" at the ("non-partisan") Demos think-tank.

    So, what's Barber's position on capitalism?
    Yet ultimately, Barber argues that all of these strategies will fail because they do not address the market systems need to create excessive consumerism and addictive materialism in order to survive. The only solution, Barber argues, is "a transformation of capitalism back into a needs-satisfying economic machine, and a transformation of democracy back into the sovereign guarantor of all domains private, the market domain included." The only way to do this, and also save capitalism from itself, is to democratize globalization.
    If the market systems "need to create excessive consumerism and addictive materialism in order to survive" then doesn't that imply that Barber sees the market system as ultimately untenable (unsustainable)? Saving capitalism from itself apparently requires the democratization of globalization. What's that supposed to mean?

    Barber addressed the question in a 2007 interview:

    But wait a minute. Aren't we champions of the global free market?

    Well yes, because we're the original capitalists who think the invisible hand works better than the heavy hand of government. But no, because our ideology aside, we've always looked to a partnership between government and the market. Think the New Deal, the Great Society.

    The real American formula is a free market overseen by a free people through free democratic institutions. And that's where the global marketplace goes wrong. The economy is globalized, but democratic oversight remains national.

    So who can regulate the flow of workers across borders the marketplace doesn't even recognize? Assure that trade negotiations don't hurt Americans? That pet food doesn't kill pets? That toys don't kill children?

    Ain't nobody out there who can. So we have to figure out how to democratize globalization.


    Though it's tempting to go off on how the "New Deal" (1930s) and the "Great Society" (1960s) show how the United States "always" looked to a partnership between government and private enterprise, let's get right on to the meat of the issue. Barber wants global democratic oversight.

    Think ... of some sort of minimalist, global democratic body with the real right to regulate trade in capital, goods and labor.

    Too utopian? Well, it's not like the states regulate much today as it is — it's more or less a global free-for-all, where brute force competes with anarchy. In comparison, utopia, transnational regulation may end up the far better and more sensible alternative.

    Yes, probably too utopian. It is a contradiction in terms. A "minimalist" organization with the power to govern global trade? If it has the power to govern global trade then it has the power to enforce its decisions.

    I do have some sympathy for Barber's position. Corporations operating purely on the basis of a profit motive have the potential to do great harm to society in the long run. I don't think that capitalism is solely to blame for the problem. The problem stems from globalization in conjuction with open-ended pluralism. Pluralism denies capitalism a broad ideological foundation that would temper its excesses. Companies in search of profit can shop among the nations for the state that best serves their immediate purposes. Corporations could turn into super-states in that type of system.

    Frankly, I don't trust talk like Barber's when it comes from progressives. Truly democratic economic oversight gives most of the economic power over to the Chinese as things currently stand (if we go by the numbers). I'm inclined to view this type of rhetoric as a pretty way of advocating government control of the economy (communist style). Though of course the new bosses would never abuse their power the way their predecessors did.

    The United States was an experiment in federalism as well as an experiment in representative democracy. To the degree that minimalism is ensured in a global trade framework it leaves room for the type of freedom that the United States has traditionally represented.

    The example from Blumner's column (related through a quotation of Barber) illustrates the problem. He bemoans the lack of freedom in Los Angeles to choose an efficient form of public transportation. Los Angeles chose that route. Other municipalities chose other paths. How does Los Angeles choose public transportation other than having the will of the minority enforced?

    "Democratic" in these types of situations seems to be a euphemism for government elites enforcing their vision of what is best for the majority.


    Thursday, January 10, 2008

    The Times' Bill Maxwell on "ideologically black"

    Regular reader (sic) may have noticed the special disdain I hold for the opinions of editorial columnist Robyn Blumner of the St. Petersburg Times.

    Another columnist I've read for years in that newspaper is Bill Maxwell. Some of Bill's opinions are pretty good. Sometimes not. He's not as consistent as Blumner, in other words.

    This week's column by Maxwell touched on a sore point regarding race. The column talked about Barack Obama and how race plays in his political ascendancy, comparing Obama to Colin Powell in some ways.

    Blacks such as Powell and Obama defy all of the negative black stereotypes. Powell is the child of Caribbean immigrants, and Obama is the child of a white Kansan and a black Kenyan. Neither has the tragic baggage of American slavery in their pedigree. Both are light-skinned and have what we blacks refer to as "good hair." They are physically pleasing to most whites.

    Both succeeded in bastions of white power. Obama earned degrees from Ivy League universities and serves in the U.S. Senate, a white man's club. Powell rose to the highest position for a commissioned officer in the U.S. military.

    And, for sure, neither Powell nor Obama is ideologically black.

    (The St. Petersburg Times)

    Ideologically black. How's that for being whacked on the head with the iron skillet of identity politics?

    It never ceases to amaze me how some activists have apparently completely abandoned the colorblind dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in favor of identifying specific types of thinking as racial. How will the nation ever realize Dr. King's dream if an ideology is identified with a specific race?

    Maxwell ends his column with a call for honesty regarding the role of race in politics. OK, then, here's some honesty about the role of race in politics. President Johnson risked the ire of Southern Democrats by pushing civil rights legislation, necessarily getting it passed using a coalition of Northern Democrats and Republicans--most blacks had been politically Republican up through that time, it being the party of Lincoln and the party of emancipation.

    LBJ's move paid huge dividends politically. Blacks repaid LBJ by almost monolithically supporting the Democratic Party ever since. It apparently didn't matter that they were supporting the party whose tent included Democrats who had fought hard to maintain racial segregation.

    LBJ's "Great Society" set up entitlement programs for the poor, including public housing projects--policies that probably sped the disintegration of black social culture (breaking down family structure and eroding the work ethic), though that effect certainly wasn't limited only to blacks.

    The type of opinion Maxwell expressed in effect forbids a black person from disagreeing with "Great Society"-type policies. Regardless of how sincerely one may think the policies are bad for blacks, demagogues like Maxwell would apparently have you believe that that a certain public policy (the one to which Maxwell subscribes, perhaps?) is authentically black. Dissent from that apparently makes blacks traitors to their race to one degree or another.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.


    Another study on war-related deaths in Iraq

    This one puts the number far lower than the Johns Hopkins study published in Lancet. The studies, according to the linked story, used similar methodology though this study by the World Health Organization in conjunction with the government of Iraq consciously tried to correct the problems for which the earlier studies were criticized.

    The three-year toll of violent deaths calculated in the survey is one-quarter the size of that found in a smaller survey by Iraqi and Johns Hopkins University researchers published in the journal Lancet in 2006.

    Both teams used the same method -- a random sample of houses throughout the country. For the new study, however, surveyors visited 23 times as many places and interviewed five times as many households. Surveyors also got more outside supervision in the recent study; that wasn't possible in the spring of 2006 when the Johns Hopkins survey was conducted.

    (The Washington Post)

    Hat tip to Power Line.

    "EE-9 Cascavel" for Iraqi Army (Updated)

    While looking up MRAP news I found this little story about Iraq obtaining the EE-9 "Cascavel" armored vehicle. First I've heard of this one (following military hardware is a relatively recent and part-time hobby for me).
    clipped from

    The Cascavel ("Rattlesnake") is manufactured by Engesa, a Brazilian firm from what I can tell.


    How about a little YouTube video of the Cascavel in action?


    Tuesday, January 08, 2008

    Another JLTV partnership: Oshkosh teams with Northrop Grumman

    Defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. and Oshkosh Truck Corp. on Tuesday said they are partnering to compete for a multibillion-dollar contract to build the Pentagon's next-generation of lightweight vehicles.

    If selected for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program, which is designed to replace the current fleet of Humvees used by the Army and Marine Corps, Northrop Grumman will be the prime contractor and systems integrator while Oshkosh Truck's defense group will design and manufacture the vehicles.

    (AP, via Businessweek)

    The new partnership will compete against Boeing/Textron, Lockheed Martin/Armor Holdings (BAE) and General Dynamics/AM General.

    Force Protection appears to see its Cheetah vehicle, submitted for MRAP II, as a potential replacement for the Humvee. Struggling manufacturer PVI has a somewhat similar vehicle, the Protector.


    Sunday, January 06, 2008

    Giants step on Bucs, 24-14

    The visiting Giants played close to mistake-free football and ended the Buccaneers' season with a 24-14 victory at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

    Earnest Graham ran well, but the Bucs' young offensive line failed to adequately protect quarterback Jeff Garcia, which led to offensive inconsistency. Though Garcia was only sacked once, he rarely had the luxury of throwing from a set position, even when the Bucs were moving the ball successfully. Joey Galloway, playing with an injured shoulder, wasn't much of a factor. Indeed, it could be said that the Bucs gave themselves a liability by throwing deep as it led to either incompletions or interceptions (2).

    The defense stuffed the Giants early, but once New York mixed in short and intermediate passes into its playcalling the Giants put together some good scoring drives. The loss of safety Tanard Jackson may have also played a role. No other safety on the Bucs' roster has his coverage ability.

    The Giants got their lead with a couple of plays where the defense wasn't fooled but failed to make the play. On one, Ronde Barber showed blitz then dropped into coverage but failed to make the play on a hard-thrown pass by Eli Manning. On another, Derrick Brooks sniffed out a screen pass to Brandon Jacobs and tried to bat the pass away by reaching around Jacobs instead of tackling him as the ball arrived. Brooks whiffed on defensing the pass and Jacobs scored on the play. The television announcers made much of the Giants' playcalling keeping the Bucs off-balance. That may be, but those two plays were not good examples of it. In those two cases the Giants simply made the play despite not fooling the defense. That's one way to play winning football, of course.

    Special Teams:
    Unfortunately, the special teams continued their trend of at least one problem play per game in the latter half of the season. Though Josh Bidwell had a subpar day punting, the big breakdown was Michael Spurlock's fumble of the opening kickoff of the second half. The Giants recovered the ball and scored a field goal, going up 17-7.

    Up Next:
    Well, I'd like to say the Cowboys in Dallas but that task now falls to the New York Giants. For the Bucs, it's time to think of the 2008 draft and next year's season.

    This team outplayed the predictions of most (my friends say I predicted a 9-7 regular season; I honestly can't remember but I like to think I predicted 10 wins even though that would have been wrong). The team made some strides with its biggest weaknesses, those being the offensive and defensive lines. It looks like the Bucs made the right call in drafting Gaines Adams, who turned in a pretty good second half of the season, including a playoff sack of Eli Manning. The Bucs are missing one thing on defense: a defensive tackle who disrupts the offense 80% as well as Warren Sapp did it. Unknown Jovan Haye turned in a pretty good season, ending up near the top of the league in the number of tackles for a defensive tackle.

    The team is in nice shape at linebacker and defensive back, but has a decision to make about Brian Kelly. Kelly might be the Bucs best cornerback when healthy, but he has had trouble staying healthy for the past three years.

    Needs heading into the offseason:
    1) disruptive defensive tackle
    2) center to match the rest of the offensive line
    3) game-breaking wideout to complement/replace Galloway
    4) a quality cornerback (moves to #2 depending on what happens with Kelly)
    5) a kick/punt returner

    The Buccaneers have a nice amount of cap space to play with, so I expect at least one of the above needs to be addressed through free agency--though you never can tell how a free agent will work out. Gruden's success with Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell, Joe Jurevicius and Ike Hilliard make it a good bet that at least one free agent wide receiver will challenge for a starting role next season.

    The Bucs may rely on draft picks to try to address the other needs.

    As for coach Gruden, I think he established that this team is headed in the right direction. His hire in 2002 was intended to get the Bucs a Super Bowl win before the window of opportunity closed for a team on the path to salary cap trouble. He accomplished that.

    After the Super Bowl win, the goal was to get the most out of the team during its transition. The results there were mixed, as the team was forced fill needs through free agency because of lost draft picks spent to secure Gruden. The few remaining draft picks were not used wisely, if retrospect is any indication. Fifth-round pick Jermaine Phillips in 2002 was a notable exception during those first three years.


    Saturday, January 05, 2008

    I want that

    Pretty much the ideal support for house plants. Or your collection of Godzilla action figures.


    Iraq casualties for December '07 stay near November levels

    What does it mean?

    Some believe that data such as that reflected above has no value at all because the "documented" deaths are simply those the governments wants the public to know about. They believe that the press is controlled tightly enough to allow the government to more-or-less spin the data as it pleases. And there is probably some element of truth to that. Assuming any significant number of "undocumented" deaths, the actual number of deaths cannot help but exceed the number of documented deaths.

    It isn't quite possible to entirely hide information under a rock these days, however. People in Iraq have cell phones and computers. Not in the numbers that the Japanese have them, but they're there. Information will get out one way or another. The people who go to Iraq lately (without any exception of which I am aware) have noted that Iraq seems more peaceful than it did before the surge strategy had time to effect change. Markets have reopened, and the daily routines of life have been largely reestablished.

    In short, there's no denying that the the path toward sectarian civil war has been stalled if not entirely thwarted.

    Now the opportunity exists for Iraq to establish the first Arab democracy and spread that model to its neighbors. In the global war on Islamic terrorism this is a key move. The United States should not shy from coaxing Iraq along the path toward good governance.


    Force Protection's making Cheetahs

    Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Force Protection Inc., the largest supplier of blast-resistant trucks to the U.S. Marine Corps, plans to limit production of its new Cheetah vehicle because the model has yet to win a contract.

    Force Protection plans to start production this quarter at a new plant that will reach monthly capacity of 200 Cheetahs by year end, Michael Aldrich, vice president for government relations, said in an interview today. That's a ``much longer ramp-up'' than originally planned, he said.


    Gutsy move by Force Protection. The story includes a number of interviews that compare the company's strategy to the "Field of Dreams" or the way Detroit builds cars. Make the car and worry about selling it later.

    Is the Cheetah good enough right now to forestall competition and get Force Protection's foot in the door on the coveted JLTV program?

    Force Protection obviously hopes so, but judging from the last two big rounds of MRAP orders the military likes what its getting from BAE Systems (the RG-33 and the Caiman) as well as Navistar (the MaxxPro).

    The military's interest in the (Ceradyne) Bull may represent the military's intention to use that vehicle for specialized purposes.

    The Cheetah may represent Force Protection's last-ditch effort to make itself a major player in military vehicle production over the long haul.


    Friday, January 04, 2008

    U.S. poised to ally with Libya

    WASHINGTON - Libya's remarkable transformation from U.S. foe to friend is almost complete.

    Despite unresolved terrorism and human rights concerns, the United States took another step toward ending decades of hostility with the North African nation on Thursday as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with the Libyan foreign minister in the highest-level contact between the two countries in Washington in 35 years.

    (AP, via The St. Petersburg Times)

    Bush is so incompetent that his cowboy diplomacy is failing to make Libya hate us enough to forgo new political ties.

    Or ...

    The U.S. is so hated internationally that Bush is forced to make friends with nations nobody likes?

    Give it time. If the next administration doesn't fumble the ball with Libya perhaps this will figure in as part of Bush's positive legacy.

    As for being hated abroad, the United States is a bit like the New York Yankees. They have that incredible payroll, so few other than Yankee fans want them to win. I know I like the Yankees much better when they lose.


    Leaving Iowa

    Democratic Party:

    It's only Iowa, but I'm slightly surprised at the Obama win (as well as the showing by Edwards). Clinton is the only real candidate among those three (as inexperienced as she is, she still has more than the other two).

    Would Democrats really offer up a national candidate as green as either Edwards or Obama?

    Republican Party:

    Again, it's only Iowa, but Mike Huckabee's shift in status from als0-ran to the top tier of GOP candidates certainly changes the landscape. Early on, I had hoped that either Huckabee or Duncan Hunter would start gaining some traction. After learning more about Huckabee's record, I wish that it had been Hunter instead of Huckabee.

    Huckabee strikes me as more moderate and smooth-talking version of George W. Bush. I have doubts about the viability of his campaign, as with Romney.