Along the Tracks

Friday, September 26, 2003

20 Questions the Media Will Not Ask Concerning Iraq

1. Where is all the money from the UN’s Oil for Food Program?

2. How many people have now lived at least six months longer than they would have under Saddam?

3. How many civilians were really killed in the major combat portion of the war?

4. How many civilians have been killed since the end of major combat?

5. How unreliable is the Iraqi electric distribution system in comparison to, say, the Washington, D.C., area system?

6. How many people (estimates allowed) are crossing into Iraq from its neighbors each month?

7. How many people entering Iraq are Iraqis returning after escaping Saddam in the past?

8. How many Iraqis are suffering for lack of health care, lack of food, lack of potable water, etc.? (Not individual hard luck cases - good figures.)

9. How many Iraqis are directly involved in the “guerilla war” campaign against coalition forces?

10. How many non-Iraqis are directly involved in the “guerilla war” campaign against coalition forces?

11. What precisely has Bremer’s administration been spending billions of dollars on? (Show us the buildings, bridges, factories, power plants, oil fields, etc., assuming they exist.)

12. What was the average Iraqi’s income prior to the war, and what is it now?

13. What did Saddam do with his weapons of mass destruction and the component programs? (Don’t ask what “people” think; go find out!)

14. How many American and British service men and women in Iraq believe the cause of Iraqi democracy is hopeless?

15. Was the “looting” of the National Museum and Library an inside job?

16. How would international troops change the minds of the “guerilla” fighters?

17. How would additional American troops be useful in the 15 or so attacks and firefights per day now experienced by the 150,000 troops (10,000 per attack) in Iraq?

18. Is Saddam Hussein actually dead, and the tapes and such are all a hoax?

19. What is an average day in Iraq like for an America soldier? (Remember, the ratio of attacks to soldiers is 1:10,000, so a bloody firefight is clearly NOT average.)

20. What would Iraq be like if the coalition pulled out early and left things to the U.N. and Iraqi players? (Explore this with examples and a wide range of experts, please.)

NOTE: Some answers might validate my opinions on Iraq; some might blow them to pieces. Either way, I need to know, and so do Americans in general. Why won’t the media ask these questions?

UPDATE: Thanks, Glenn.

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We be jammin’

I had a lot of fun last night, jamming with my brother and a friend of his out on the wild shores of Harrison Lake (okay, we were in his bedroom, about 100 yards from the shore). We played some Petty, some ZZTop and some Hendrix - and even though I am clearly a biased judge, we didn’t sound too bad! In fact, we sounded pretty good. A few more sessions, and we’ll be ready for the big time ... er, for the Fayette bar scene, small private parties, etc. Mostly, we’ll be having a blast. I’ll keep you updated, and if I get really crazy, maybe I’ll figure out how to put a recording or two of ours on the site.

Last train to Clark’s-ville

Andrew Sullivan seems to have had a change of heart about Wesley Clark. He’s impressed by the general’s performance in last night’s Democratic debate - and wowed by the praise Clark heaped on the Bush team in May of ‘01, tracked down by Drudge.

I fear Andrew may have given in to wishful thinking. I agree it would be good for the country to have a Dem who is strong on defense, fiscally conservative in act as well as deed, committed to fairness at home and the expansion of democratic values abroad.

Unfortunately, I really doubt such a Democrat exists. Clark’s willingness to jump back and forth on Iraq, as well as his prior suggestions that the initial response to 9/11 should have focused on police work, rather than a military strike on terrorist strongholds, betray a lack of commitment to the War on Terror.

In fact, if there is a Democrat somewhat close to what Sullivan (and I) seek, I think Joe Lieberman’s it. He’s a little too willing to “play to the crowds” of Democratic activists by straying from his historical positions on things like school choice and affirmative action - but I tend to forgive that, since it’s his only hope of being nominated. Frankly, I believe it’s a vain hope - the Dems will never nominate someone as centrist (conservative, really) as Lieberman.

Clark, on the other hand, appears completely willing to tailor his “beliefs” to whatever will get him the nomination. He’s basically a tabula rasa to the public, so he can get away with it. His Drudge-posted speech demonstrates something that appears over and over in Clark’s recorded statements - a burning desire to ingratiate himself with the powerful. Then, it was the Bush team. Now (as before in the ‘90s), it’s the Clintons (Andrew mentions this Clinton-entanglement as a fear, but it sure looks like a reality). If Clark is beaten soundly in the early primaries and Howard Dean becomes the nominee-apparent, I have no doubt Clark would soon be singing Dean’s praises, looking for a VP slot.

That “ideal Democrat” described above, I might add, is indistinguishable from what I would consider the “ideal Republican.” I think Bush has done well on national security and the war, but his open checkbook policy on the budget is indefensible. Steel tariffs, farm subsidies, bureaucratic spending, prescription drugs without Medicare reform - the list of anti-conservative (liberal) policies this president has foisted upon us in the name of politics is ridiculous. If Bush returns to his conservative roots in the coming year, he can allay a lot of fears both on the right and among independents (who are for the most part budget conservatives as well). If he fails to do so, he could face a real fight next fall.

UPDATE: Thanks to readers Gerry Balsley and Ira Cushing for clearing up two dumb mistakes on my original posting. Clark's speech was in May of '01, not a decade earlier; and while a "tabla rosa" might look stately in the dining room, a "tabula rasa" is what I intended.

I guess maybe we had it cranked a little too loud last night!

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Thursday, September 25, 2003

More Blackwell validation

Anyone who sends the Blade’s Marilou Johanek off the deep end has earned a shining badge of honor in my book.

And does she ever go off on Ohio’s Secretary of State! “It’s all about Ken” ... “Blackwell is so darned transparent” ... “the Ken Blackwell Show” ... “no slouch at getting noticed” ... “a driven politician” ... “the opportunistic Secretary of State” ... “he offers nothing constructive, just a lot of warmed over rhetoric” ... “the political climber standing on his anti-tax soapbox” .. “it’s just all about Ken.”

Of course, we get the obligatory leftist racial slur against any non-white Republican: “He knows his party has to pay attention to him because so few other blacks are willing to stand under the GOP banner, and he’s only one of three black Republicans in the country to hold elected statewide office. As the nation’s most senior black elected Republican, Ken Blackwell gains easy access to the national stage.”

In other words, Johanek tells Blackwell to stay in his place - quietly in the background of the Democratic race-mongering machine. Charming, eh?

If Johanek had bothered to investigate, she would discover:

A) Most Republicans are fiscally conservative and anti-tax, matching Blackwell’s position perfectly. Tom McClintock has garnered national attention among Republicans for his equivalent position on California’s budget. Last I looked, he’s not black, as if that makes any difference at all.

B) Blackwell has maintained his fiscal conservatism through 20 years of public service. This is no attention-seeking effort. It’s his lifelong platform - which includes service on a major conservative panel in the mid-‘90s on tax reform.

C) As I recall (a hedge, I know; I'm researching this and will update), Blackwell favored the conservative GOP proposal during state budget negotiations this spring which would not have raised taxes and would have initiated a number of reforms. He has repeatedly argued against tax hikes. Establishment, country club Republicans - upon whom Johanek lavishes praise, a pox on their house if ever there was - ignored the conservative caucus in the legislature and Blackwell (and other state Republicans, it should be mentioned) and pushed through the tax hike and an 11 percent biennial budget increase.

D) Even now, Blackwell’s referendum plan offers ample opportunity for the legislature and governor to correct their mistakes and repeal the tax. They could do it now, to set the issue to rest; or they could do it in next year’s session after Blackwell collects the signatures (and he will, make no mistake). If the referendum reaches a vote, it will pass, I have no doubt, and the tax will be rescinded 30 days after the vote in November, 2004. As Johanek herself notes, this only ends the tax seven months before it is “supposed” to be stopped anyway. That finality, however, will require the legislature and governor to allow it to sunset, something many in the GOP believe will not occur without public pressure.

Johanek calls for Blackwell to demonstrate leadership. How? By following the herd! Quote:

“If the political climber standing on his anti-tax soapbox wants to be taken seriously as a leader and not just an articulate Republican anomaly, he’s got to do more than cry foul after the fact. That means coming up with a committed ‘vision thing’ to tackle challenge head-on with specific possibilities that are open to bipartisan consultation and necessary compromise.”

Note the importance of bipartisanship in this. That is precisely the route Gov. Taft took, and it has given Ohio a high-tax, anti-business climate, which will continue to be a drag on the state’s economy. The GOP has dominant control in Ohio because Ohio voters are basically conservative realists. They don’t want big state government. They don’t want higher taxes. They want responsible management.

A tax hike in the midst of a serious statewide recession, while unemployment is high, coupled with a huge increase in state spending, is irresponsible. If it offends the establishment that someone is stepping forward to do something about this lack of integrity on the part of many in the GOP leadership, so be it.

And if it offends the “sensibilities” of Marilou Johanek, all the better!

Congratulations, Mr. Blackwell.

P.S. - What do I need to do to get her to slander me? Who knows? But I’ll keep trying ....

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Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Blackwell validated

Full disclosure required: I really think a lot of Ken Blackwell, Ohio’s Secretary of State, and hope he’s the next Buckeye governor.

Now, for the news portion of this post: If find it absolutely fascinating that more and more (scroll to Wed., Sept. 17) people are questioning the accuracy and, even more importantly, security of direct recording electronic systems. Those systems, of course, are the ones Blackwell leans against for Ohio, preferring instead a paper-ballot, optical scanner system, which has actual, real ballots that can be checked by humans and even hand counted, if necessary.

Blackwell’s endured a fair amount of heat for both his unhurried study of systems and his preferred choice, which many critics claim leaves Ohio “behind the curve in technology.” From what I’ve seen, he did the job he was elected to do - assure fair and accurate elections statewide. If the technology of direct recording electronic systems is not yet proven, it makes no sense to spend millions on them, only to have some quirk - or intentional fraud - occur which throws the results of an entire election into question. Maybe touchscreens and other electronic technologies will one day be part of a system proven both secure and accurate. Until that occurs, we should stick with systems that can be monitored separate from the machine taking the votes.

Nice job, Ken.

THANKS to Instapundit and Kaus for several links.

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Monday, September 22, 2003

It couldn’t possibly be patriotism

The New York Times cranks out the spin story of the day, claiming the uptick in military enlistment is due to the bad economy!

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that a tough job market and the lack of funds to attend college can provide a pool of potential enlistees. And to be fair, the NYT gives a head Army recruiter a five-word quote that supports the economic angle. But I refuse to believe patriotism is not the primary factor. Does the Times expect me to accept that young people are really signing up to a strict lifestyle, limited economic prospects in the short term and potentially laying their lives on the line, but are ambivalent about their country and its government - at a time of war?

This disrespect of motivations inside the military is rampant in the media - especially the New York Times. If you’ll recall, during the rescue of Jessica Lynch, the Times made a big deal of her family’s humble background, and claimed she only joined the Army because she had no other opportunities in Bush’s America. Such accusations were insulting then, and are insulting now.

Interestingly, the Times has discovered that minorities do not represent a larger percentage of the enlistees than in the population as a whole. Good news, right? Not according to the Times: “The drop in black recruits may be tied to the Army's increased focus on the college market, military officials say.” In other words, a lack of college opportunities has denied African-Americans the chance to be represented above statistical proportions. Thus, no matter what the level of recruitment of minorities, it is universally bad news.

Another insult to our service men and women, courtesy of the New York Times.

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