August 2004 Archives
August 30, 2004
Good news about the "Induce Act." Despite the fact that "Sens. Orrin Hatch and Patrick Leahy, the sponsors of the bill, are determined to move forward with the legislation," I have heard from a couple of congressmen, on both sides of the aisle, that is has no chance of passing the house. In fact, it shouldn't reach the floor. Phew.
August 29, 2004
People have compared John F. Kerry to President JFK but it may be more fitting to compare him to Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Banes Johnson. Johnson, like Clinton, aspired to be President from a very early age, and much of his career was calculated toward garnering political power. World War II was his springboard and while he played cushy, bureaucratic roles for much of the conflict (he was in many senses a coward) he became intensely concerned that the war would end before he had a chance to have some battlefield experience, something he knew would be required to be successful in post-War politics. So he essentially injected himself into the theater during a 13 minute observer mission and obtained what many feel was one of the least deserved Silver Stars in American history, almost certainly earned more by political manipulation, rather than battlefield merit—and questions about that merit came from others who served along with him. LBJ actually brought a movie camera along with him to the war. LBJ then, as is totally counter to the military ethic of humility about ones accomplishments, shamelessly used his “war hero” status for his campaigning, wearing his Silver Star on his lapel.
In congress and later the senate he was perhaps most notable for his lack of legislative initiative or accomplishments. He knew very well that a man who didn’t take strong stands on legislation thereby avoided the risk of having those positions held against him while campaigning. Few of his peers accomplished less than he in terms of legislation, and yet LBJ, an indefatigable politician, continued to rise to power, becoming majority leader in the Senate. He was also a tireless and innovative campaigner, and his path to the Senate was an amazing tale of corrupt and brilliant voter manipulation across the state of Texas, amazingly defeating one of the most revered men in Texas political history, former governor Coke Stevenson.
LBJ, a man who’s political career was launched with an abbreviated combat service and exaggerated honors, who then went on to be a totally ineffective legislator but brilliant politician, and then went on to establish the Great Society—a huge leap forward for socialism in America—only to then be utterly destroyed in the ashes of Vietnam.
But from those ashes rose another politician with an abbreviated military tour of duty and some questions about his honors, who went on to a long and politically successful but legislatively vapid career, and who has tried to use his “heroism” for political advantage.
Let me not exaggerate: Kerry’s months of service in Vietnam were much more honorable than LBJ’s 13 minutes in WWII. Whether or not there was manipulation involved with some of his medals is still being debated, but what does seem clear is that Kerry had longer term plans as he went into battle. His typewriter, his movie camera, his reports… all speak to a man who had political ambitions from an early age. But where service was the coin of the realm after WWII, Kerry seems to have calculated that opposition was the best path to political glory when he returned to a nation in deep conflict over the Vietnam cause. This calculation served him well for the following decades, but who knew that when it came time for him to run for president the nation would be in a new, different war setting.
LBJ was also the last president to come from the senate, where Kerry helped hone his "you bet we might have" style of political leadership. It is conventional wisdom that the reason so few presidents come from the senate is that this deliberative body is not the best training for executive leadership.
The salient point here is that Kerry strikes one as coming from the LBJ, Clinton and perhaps George H.W. Bush class of candidates for whom political power, not principle, is the prime motivator. Unlike the likes of Reagan and perhaps Carter, their actions seem to be determined more from calculation than conviction. While we tend to focus on the left/right axis, I believe that the calculation/conviction axis is an important one to pay attention to because it will define how that individual will govern. In my view, conviction is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition for success. Carter’s humanitarianism, for example, may have been praiseworthy because it was deeply felt, but it resulted in an unsuccessful presidency. Reagan’s convictions, on the other hand, helped produce one of the most successful presidencies in American history. Clinton served over the sanguinity of the 1990s, but left with few, if any, signature accomplishments and a legacy of inattention to foreign policy that we are still paying for. For me, George W. Bush is a hybrid—far too often driven by political calculation but with some threads of real Reagan-esque conviction.
The parallels to Johnson should not call into question Kerry’s service, but they do speak to his character and what type of president would be.
August 27, 2004
Very cool discussion of "sell side advertising" from the minds of Ross Mayfield and John Battelle. Perhaps this has already been discussed, but I would take the idea a bit further--not just ads, but links. If I blog about a cool digital camera, I should be able to make a link to an ecommerce site selling that camera and get some juice. Perhaps there could be an open standard version of something like Vibrant's IntelliTXT in which certain key words and phrases link to advertisements. For every CD, DVD, book, or what have you a commerce site could publish SSLs ("sell side links") that any publisher or blogger could link to as they like. You could even have a market for these links, a la Google Ad Words, so that commerce players compete to provide publishers with the best payout for linking to them. Some cool possibilities here.
Excerpt from Battelle:
But here's the heart of Ross's transitive advertising model, or what I'd like to call Sell Side Advertising. Instead of advertisers buying either PPC networks or specific publishers/sites, they simply release their ads to the net, perhaps on specified servers where they can easily be found, or on their own sites, and/or through seed buys on one or two exemplar sites. These ads are tagged with information supplied by the advertiser, for example, who they are attempting to reach, what kind of environments they want to be in (and environments they expressly forbid, like porn sites or affiliate sites), and how much money they are willing to spend on the ad.
Once the ads are let loose, here's the cool catch - ANYONE who sees those ads can cut and paste them, just like a link, into their own sites (providing their sites conform to the guidelines the ad explicates in its tags). The ads track their own progress, and through feeds they "talk" to their "owner" - the advertiser (or their agent/agency). These feeds report back on who has pasted the ad into what sites, how many clicks that publisher has delivered, and how much juice is left in the ad's bank account. The ad propagates until it runs out of money, then it... disappears! If the ad is working, the advertiser can fill up the tank with more money and let it ride.
August 26, 2004
Google's IPO unquestionably represents an improvement on Wall Street tradition. The apportionment of shares was designed to be mechanistic (or so Google assures us) and not ridden with cronyism, as traditional IPOs are. Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page deserve a round of huzzahs (which we duly bestow).
One less gratifying lesson is that what's true after a company goes public is also true before: Investors take a hard look at management in judging a firm's value. The whole pith and moment of modern financial theory concerns the problem of trust between shareholders and management. Yet here was Google inviting investors to trust the company with $1.67 billion of their cash even as the company professed it had no need for cash and never bothered to explain how it would be deployed to produce a competitive return for shareholders.
More eyebrow-raising, Messrs. Brin and Page expressed little enthusiasm for having the Joe Public as a partner. They made it clear they were going along with an IPO mainly as a "liquidity event" so employees could cash out their stock options.
Worse still, they wrote this condescension into the company's bylaws, awarding themselves special voting rights that virtually guarantee that when their interests diverge from those of outside shareholders, outside shareholders will be the ones taking it on the chin. (Maybe that's why $135 was a nonstarter.)
The lesson from South Korea's success in broadband: full deregulation works. So argues Tom Hazlett in WSJ.com who goes on to say that the US's strategy of easing into deregulation was worse than just going cold turkey would have been. Excerpt:
In the mid-1990s, Korean policy-makers set out to inject competition into local telephone service. They enacted rules allowing rivals to challenge the erstwhile state monopoly, Korea Telecom. Yet, by mid-2004, KT still accounted for 95% of local phone lines.
A failure? On the contrary, Korea's policy has proved a smashing success. Because, as an additional lure to attract phone entrants, the government ended regulation of advanced telecom applications. The result: While competitors largely avoided (regulated) voice services, they invested billions to create new (unregulated) high-speed Internet networks. The broadband technologies unleashed by telecom rivals forced KT to modernize its network, which now serves just half of the high-speed market.
August 24, 2004
Apparently some in print media, obviously thretened by the immediacy of blogs, have decided to fight back with an innovative approach: clairvoyance. Here's how to scoop the real time of bloggers--write about the future *before* it even happens! Leave it to the open-minded lot at Harper's and that paragon of prognostication Lewis Lapham to cover the Republican Convention in print before it even started. I hear the Atlantic Monthly is responding by making Crossing Over's John Edward a regular contributor. How will blogs ever respond??
The Volokh Conspiracy citing Jacob Sullum covers it: "Perhaps the most revealing part of the article is the paragraph where Lapham pretends to have heard the speeches at the Republican National Convention that does not open until a week from today."
Praise for bloggers by Michael Novak on the Swift Boat Vets on National Review Online:
The Swift Boat debate is one of those cases that has persuaded me that if one seeks the truth of things, much more help is on the way from the best of the bloggers, liberal as well as conservative, than from the main organs of the national press.Whatever your take on this issue it is clear that the blogosphere has had much more interesting debate and analysis on this issue, as compared to the mainstream players such as the New York Times and Washington Post who have been unwilling or unable to actually tackle to Swift Boat charges themselves and instead have riveted us with the shocking scoop that... wait for it... some Republicans have been financing the Swift Vets (though it is rarely mentioned that the largest source of funding is from small individuals.) Now it would have been news if DEMOCRATS had been paying the bills, just as it would be news if Republicans were giving to MoveOn.org.
Most of the bloggers seem to me to be lawyers, to think clearly, and to have a very sharp eye for conflicting evidence. Most of the mainstream press, perhaps because of their editors, seem hemmed in by blinkers. It frequently startles me to discover how far behind the story they really are. The mystique of the mainstream press has self-destructed.
The most I've seen mainstream press tackle this issue directly it's been to condemn by insinuation the motives of the Swift Vets by suggesting they have changed their tune. Michael Novak puts the lie to that analysis:
After John Kerry's two campaign books came out — the more scholarly one by historian Douglas Brinkley and the more or less official one by writers from the Boston Globe — the Swift Boat Vets grasped for the first time John Kerry's view of his four-months service with them (from November 17, 1968 to March 17, 1969). In Brinkley, they read for the first time Kerry's contemporaneous (and also his recent) reports on that period — and they were shocked.I personally don't care much about what either Kerry or Bush did or did not do in the Vietnam era, but I am much more concerned about the ongoing movement to silence political speech in this country. McCain-Feingold was an abomination, in my view, as it regulated speech without doing anything to remove money from politics. In fact, as David Broder has pointed out, "The best one can hope is that new rules do not produce more unintended negative consequences than benefits. McCain-Feingold is flunking that test." Now we have the unseemliness of a major political candidate, John Kerry, asking his opponent to silence free, independent individuals, rather than responding to the merits of their charges. Shame on him. And shame on the Bush team for not defending the Swift Vets right to free speech and instead calling for an end to ALL 527’s! Whatever our politics, we should all be alarmed that beneath the surface what’s going on here is politicians pressing each other to silence independent and critical voice. MoveOn should have a right to spend whatever they want to get their message out and so should the Swift Vets, and so should anyone else who wants to be heard in this process. But we seem to be seeing, with calls from both sides for the other to silence critics, a collusion of politicians to cap the level of political discourse over our airwaves. The mainstream media won’t sound these alarms because their vested interest is to keep political discourse in their bailiwick—probably a big reason why the editorial pages of mainstream media have been the biggest supporters of campaign speech restrictions. So bloggers play an important role here.
In previous political races, more than once, some of these vets had traveled long distances to defend Kerry against unfair accusations that he was a "war criminal." They hated that charge, and putting aside what he had done to them, they defended him against it. They considered their service on his behalf to be a defense of all of them against the same charge.
Anyone who doesn’t believe that politicians will collude (and have colluded) on a bi-partisan basis to protect their power and create restrictions to grass roots opposition hasn’t been paying attention. The shame of American politics is that hardly any race is truly competitive. Well over 90% of US Congressional seats are locks for the incumbents and this has been accomplished by political rules and gerrymandering that heavily favor those that already hold the seats. In fact, the presidential race is one of the few in this nation that is truly competitive, and shame on BOTH candidates for calling for an end to free speech in such an important campaign.
August 22, 2004
Price gouging sounds awful, until you think about it beyond stage one, as Jeff Jacoby does in this piece on Boston.com. Excerpt:
IMAGINE a system that could instantly respond to a calamity like Hurricane Charley by mobilizing suppliers to speed urgently needed resources to the victims. Imagine that such a system could quickly attract the out-of-town manpower needed for cleanup and repairs, while seeing to it that existing supplies were neither recklessly squandered nor hoarded. Imagine that it could prompt thousands of men and women to act in the public interest, yet not force anyone to do anything against his will.
Actually, there's no need to imagine. The system already exists. Economists refer to it as the law of supply and demand. Unfortunately, too many journalists and politicians call it by a more pejorative and destructive name: "price-gouging."
Welcome to the blogosphere, Cato!
We aim to report on, and hopefully help to reverse, this dangerous trend of over-regulation of the Internet, communications, media and high-technology in general. We will not hide our love of liberty on this site and we will take every opportunity to castigate those who call for expanding the reach of government into these fields.
Those who are critical of Bush from the economic RIGHT should keep this in mind: Virginia Postrel points out that
After nearly four years, both the WaPost--in a three-part series, no less--and the NYT, in a more-modest single article have suddenly discovered that the Bush administration has taken a dim view of regulation. Now John Kerry is (suprise) joining the chorus of condemnation, suggesting that the administration's anti-regulatory stance is nothing more or less than corruption--a quid pro quo in exchange for campaign contributions.
August 21, 2004
Lame, lame, lame, lame, lame. The IOC banned Olympic athletes from blogging. This could have been a fantastic opportunity to engage a global audience by giving them an insight into the hearts, minds, and emotions of Olympic athletes, but obviously they just don't get it. Excerpt from this CNEWS story: Sports fans to find new tricks, features in Olympic web coverage but no blogs:
Hoping to take advantage of having an Olympic athlete in its ranks and the latest online fad, the University of Western Ontario recently set up a web log, better known as a blog, for rower Rosyln MacLeod.
But there's a major snag. She won't be able to post once she enters the Olympic Village in Athens because of International Olympic Committee regulations.
August 20, 2004
Despite the considerable amount of attention that RSS feeds have received lately, I continue to believe RSS is UNDER-hyped. This is not to say that feeds will cure cancer, or even that RSS will be the feed standard that will be around in a decade, but feeds represents the first new form of digital publishing since the web itself, and is really only the third significant way to publish on the Internet, after HTML and email. Email is great for correspondance. Traditional web pages are great for static content. Feeds are better than both for dynamic content--streams of information, be it news or blogs or inventories or what have you--and that's big.
To date the hype has been about RSS clients, and some web-based solutions, but the hype ought to be about the whole concept of a very new form of information delivery and the broader changes that will result. Note that we will actually READ feeds in a variety of different ways, including via web pages, email clients, and specific feed clients, but just because feeds will be published and viewed via the web and email, doesn't mean it is not something qualitatively new.
We all remember our first email experience, and our first web experience, and our first IM experience. We will all remember our first feed experience, too.
The Boston Globe is catching onto this, as evidenced by this piece: Enthusiasts call Web feed next big thing. Excerpt:
E-mail is crippled, concussed by an irrepressible spam stream. Web surfing can be equally confounding, a wobbly wade through bursts of pop-ups and loudmouthed video ads.
And that may explain the excitement these days over a somewhat crude but nifty software tool that automatically delivers updated information to your computer directly from your favorite Web sites.
Enthusiasts see these Web feeds as sketching the outline of the next Net revolution.
The technology behind them is called RSS and I rely on it daily to consult The New York Times, the BBC, CNET News, Slashdot and a few dozen other Web sites that employ RSS to make the very latest news stories or bits of commentary available for the plucking.
The New York Times wrote this about charter schools but here is the rest of the story. It shouldn't be a surprise that the teacher unions, like any vested interest facing movements that are challenging their monopoly, are eager to spread disinformation. Choice is a good thing! An excerpt from Chester Finn's piece in the New York Post:
THIS week's firestorm over the performance of charter schools can be traced to a mischief-bearing grenade hand-delivered by the charter-hating American Federation of Teachers to The New York Times.
The data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), regarding the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores of 4th graders attending a sample of charter schools in 2003, have been sitting around for nine months as NCES analysts have been (slowly) working on their own report. But in the meantime, AFT analysts released their own analysis to the Times. The story that resulted "Nation's Charter Schools Lagging Behind, U.S. Test Scores Reveal" is wrong on just about every point that matters. Let me note five points in particular from the AFT's findings.
August 18, 2004
Steve Forbes points out the flaws in John Kerry's economic plan--to the extent a coherent economic plan can be found. Just as the Clinton presidency has bizarrely been given a pass on its foreign policy record and how its action, or inaction, may have contributed to the problems we confront with terrorism and in Iraq and North Korea, the Clinton economic track remains similarly unexamined. Clinton came into office during an economic recovery, which he retarded by years due to his tax increases, and then left office with the country going into recession, exacerbated by the Rubinesque idea that it was better to pay of federal debts than provide tax relief so that individuals and businesses could pay off their household and business debts (which then began to balloon.) And, to the extent there were economic successes--such as NAFTA, welfare reform, a moratorium on Internet taxation, capital gains reform, etc.--these were primarily Republican initiatives. We should be aware of the history of this economic policy as we consider whether we want to repeat the mistake of Clinton and Rubin in the form of John Kerry. An excerpt from the Forbes article:
Alas, the Democrats are afflicted with the Curse of Robert Rubin. They think that Mr. Rubin persuaded Bill Clinton to boost taxes in 1993 and that, while the move was unpopular (it helped cost Democrats control of both houses of Congress for the first time in four decades), the tax hikes cut the deficit, which, in turn, reduced the "crowding out" of private investment by government borrowing, which, in turn, drove down interest rates. Result: a golden age of prosperity. The lesson: Raising taxes works! For Democrats, this is akin to a drunk hearing the news that more drinking means better health.
Unfortunately for the country, Mr. Rubin's nostrums are nonsense. There is no correlation between budget deficits and interest rates. In fact, no sooner did Mr. Clinton sign that tax legislation than interest rates began a relentless climb. The 30-year Treasury bond went from 5.87% to more than 8% in a little over a year. The economy, which had begun a big recovery in the second half of 1992, hit the brakes. The economic growth rate for 1993 was less than it had been the previous year, when President Bush senior was running for re-election and Mr. Clinton was crying, "It's the economy, stupid." It was not until 1996 that the economy surpassed the growth rates it had achieved in the latter half of 1992.
The Curse also ignores the real factors that made the 1990s possible: the virtual elimination of inflation, which was the equivalent of a tax cut, particularly for capital gains; the 29% slash in the capital gains levy in 1997; the virtual elimination of capital gains taxes for most home sales (which triggered a housing boom that's still with us); the moratorium on Internet taxation; welfare reform (which Mr. Clinton twice vetoed and signed only when pollsters told him that his re-election chances would be hurt if he didn't); Nafta, which was a form of tax-cutting; and a new GOP-controlled Congress that would kibosh any more idiotic Clinton initiatives like national health care, and at least for a while, exercised real spending restraint. Being a bond man, Mr. Rubin himself has little understanding of entrepreneurial capitalism and the vital impact of tax incentives and disincentives.
No matter. John Kerry and his fellow Democrats are in Robert Rubin's thrall -- tax increases are the economic elixir.
August 16, 2004
Henry Miller writes in the LA Times that There's a Cure for Frivolous Drug Lawsuits. He notes that:
Experts estimate that our tort system costs Americans $180 billion annually in higher costs for purchases as diverse as Little League baseball bats and automobiles. That's more than $1,500 per household annually in increased product costs.A regressive tax to be sure, and one that is paid primarily to trial lawyers (and then funneled to Democratic politicians--the trial lobby being one of their biggestr contributors.) And the effects go beyond a financial burden on society as Miller's example suggests:
Morning sickness — the nausea and vomiting that afflicts more than half of all pregnant women — can be debilitating. There used to be an excellent prescription medication to treat it, but the manufacturer stopped selling the drug in the United States. Safety problems? Unprofitability? Not at all. Frivolous, debilitating lawsuits killed this drug.
During the 1970s and 1980s, nearly 2,000 lawsuits were filed against Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, alleging that the company's drug, Bendectin, had caused birth defects in the offspring of women who took it to prevent morning sickness. Not a single judgment against the company was upheld, but ultimately Merrell Dow discontinued manufacturing Bendectin because of fears that an unreasonable jury might some day award huge damages.
August 13, 2004
Clay Shirky writes this excellent primer on the issue of spectrum as property v. spectrum as commons. It's worth reading for those interested in a useful overview. However, while Shirky makes an eloquent case for the spectrum-as-public-good side, he doesn't do a very good job of laying out or responding to the other side on this issue. When he does present the conter argument it is in the context of how and why the vested interests will object to this new regime. But there are real arguments against the commons approach (not about pretecting vested interests) that are worth more debate (remember the tragedy of the commons anyone?). Fortunately we have Tom Hazlett for that. An excerpt from Shirky:
The FCC is considering opening up additional spectrum to unlicensed uses -- the same kind of regulatory change that gave rise to Wifi. Much of the spectrum being considered for unlicensed use is currently allocated for broadcasters, however, so FCC's proposal creates tension between incumbents and groups that want to take advantage of the possibilities inherent in unlicensed spectrum.
August 10, 2004
Dartmouth professor Douglas Irwin argues that critics of free trade have nothig to offer as a productive alternative and most refuse to tackle the real issue with "concrete suggestions about how to make the economy stronger." Instead of fearing and trying fruitlessly to block competition, we should be figuring out ways to better compete. Here's an excerpt:
Many of the free-trade critics raise legitimate and important issues about wages and job creation in the United States. One would think the debate would focus on strengthening the economy or empowering workers in a difficult labor market. Workers can be empowered by allowing them to have portable retirement accounts rather than pensions tied to a particular employer. The portability of health-care benefits should be examined, as well as the design and incentive structure of current unemployment insurance programs. The tax-related costs that fall on companies that hire U.S. workers should be reassessed.
Unfortunately, many of the free trade critics seem more intent on bashing the idea of free trade than on coming up with constructive solutions to the problems they identify. Rather than do some hard thinking about labor-market policies, the critics try to put forth reasons why free trade doesn't work in today's world because this or that condition does or does not hold anymore. (Though technology has made services now much more tradable than in the past, this does not compromise the case for free trade, as is sometimes suggested.)
August 6, 2004
Victor Davis Hanson describes "a return to childhood"--call it the New Immaturity, or perhaps the New Childishness. Some excerpts:
I would never have imagined that journalists, academics, actors, artists, and the intelligentsia in general would have so opposed the end of dictatorship and promotion of democracy abroad. And who would have thought that Vietnam would become the source for Democratic nostalgia, rather than the usual recrimination? Did anyone think the appointment of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, promises of $15 billion in grants to combat AIDS in Africa, and lectures to the politically powerful Arab world to cease the genocide of black Sudanese would earn George Bush slurs evoking the Taliban, the old Confederacy, and fascism? Have we become children who live in a world of bedtime stories, afraid to face the cruel truth around us? ...
In a word, we have devolved into an infantile society in which our technological successes have wrongly suggested that we can alter the nature of man to our whims and pleasures — just like a child who expects instant gratification from his parents. In a culture where affluence and leisure are seen as birthrights, war, sacrifice, or even the mental fatigue about worrying over such things wear on us. So we construct, in a deductive and anti-empirical way, a play universe that better suits us.
August 4, 2004
I'm a fan of wi-fi and believe unlicense spectrum has its place, but there is a tragedy-of-the-commons issue with allocating too much spectrum to unlicensed uses, and not allowing the property rights approach to prosper. What this comes down to is the FCC trying to pick winners by backing current technologies, but they have a poor track record of doing this and often the support for current technologies has come as a much larger cost of hampering future technologies. Thomas Hazlet waves the red flag in this piece in Barron's. Excerpt:
Take the TV band, encompassing more than twice the total bandwidth now allocated to wireless phone service, yet absurdly underutilized. Rather than auction liberal use rights for unoccupied TV channels, allowing rival technologies to compete, the commission staff is drafting rules that would permit only low-power devices -- like Wi-Fi.
The regulatory rationale: "The Commission's rules for unlicensed transmitters have been a tremendous success. [The experience] shows that there could be significant benefits to the economy, businesses and the general public in making additional spectrum available for unlicensed transmitters."
Wrong. More unlicensed spectrum may have value, even though unlicensed bands made available in the past decade have largely proven a bust, but the FCC central-planning mandate is not the way to gauge this complex economic evaluation.
Numerous providers of advanced technologies, from Qualcomm to ArrayComm to IP Wireless to Navini Networks, ache to provide wireless broadband to homes and businesses via licensed frequencies. Such valuable wide-area options, excluded by unlicensed rules, could be neatly deployed on exclusively assigned spectrum. Surfing today's Wi-Fi bubble, the Commission leaves tomorrow's promising wireless technologies on the beach.
"As president," Kerry declared, "I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: The United States of America never goes to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to. That is the standard of our nation."
Sound reasonable? Well it is of course patently not true that there is such a "time-honored tradition" in America, as Robert Kagan points out:
... American diplomatic historians may have contemplated suicide as they reflected on their failure to have the smallest influence on Americans' understanding of their own nation's history. And perhaps foreign audiences tuning in may have paused in their exultation over a possible Kerry victory in November to reflect with wonder on the incurable self-righteousness and nationalist innocence the Democratic candidate displayed. Who but an American politician, they might ask, could look back across the past 200 years and insist that the United States had never gone to war except when it "had to"?One can never be sure with Kerry because he hasn't been all that specific about what his foreign policy will be, but if this rhetoric and his record are to be believed, we may be in store for a new isolationism--and a new unilateralism (which, after all, is what only fighting wars of absolute necessity means.) Kagan:
The United States has sent forces into combat dozens of times over the past century and a half, and only twice, in World War II and in Afghanistan, has it arguably done so because it "had to." It certainly did not "have to" go to war against Spain in 1898 (or Mexico in 1846.) It did not "have to" send the Marines to Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Nicaragua in the first three decades of the 20th century, nor fight a lengthy war against insurgents in the Philippines. The necessity of Woodrow Wilson's intervention in World War I remains a hot topic for debate among historians.
And what about the war Kerry himself fought in? Kerry cannot believe the Vietnam War was part of his alleged "time-honored tradition," or he would not have thrown his ribbons away. But America's other Cold War interventions in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are also problematic.
For someone who professes to seek better relations with the rest of the world, Kerry's doctrine of necessity would base American foreign policy on narrow, selfish interests far more than the alleged "unilateralism" of the Bush administration. Some Europeans have been quietly worrying that what they consider Bush's overambitious foreign policy will be followed in the United States by an isolationist backlash. After hearing Kerry's speech, they may worry a bit more.Though I suspect that if Kerry were to take office, his attitude would change. Bush's certainly did--though his retreat from wariness of "nation-building" has more to do with 9/11 undoubtedly than anything else--but consider that Clinton bombed five sovereign nations without permission from the Congress or the UN. My biggest problem here: who knows WHAT to expect from a Kerry presidency?
Clinton is famous for saying "It's the economy, stupid." But frankly there is a lot of stupidity about the economy, these days. Thanks to George Shultz for pointing out the facts. (And note the cool chart that spells it out.) Excerpt:
When you look at the record, a quick summary is this: President Clinton inherited prosperity; President Clinton bequeathed recession.
The 2001 recession was short and shallow, with employment - always a lagging indicator - the last part of the economy to rebound. ... by now a third piece of the record appears clear: the recession President Clinton left behind has turned into prosperity under George W. Bush.
August 2, 2004
BEqual (B=) has a great idea: video games for the family. Here's how the founder, Rowland Hanson, describes it:
b= is creating alternatives to video games that the entire family can play together. There is an increasing awareness that video games are very de-socializing for families. And, even worse, many of the most popular video games are literally reinforcing negative, graphically violent, images with kids.
Here is the Blogcritics review of their Time Troopers DVD Game. Excerpt:
Time Troopers by BEqual, "Smart Games For Family Fun," is a DVD based trivia game, along the lines of Trivial Pursuit DVD, but without the pies, and about history, as it is published in cooperation with the History Channel. The classic spoke wheel is replaced by a spiral galaxy-like spinning wheel. John Cleese hosts the show as Agent Wormold of IM6, an obvious play on MI-6, the British Intelligence Agency. The subjects include geography, politics, history, names, places, and people.Check it out!
Bequal is trying to make a product that inspires the whole family to spend time together, and learn together.