Tuesday, October 31, 2006

One Demographic Overlooked By Politicians

The black vote, Hispanic vote, women's vote, rich vote, poor vote, management vote, labor vote, etc., all politicians pander to certain demographics. But there is one demographic that is widely overlooked in the stump speeches. The Poughkeepsie Journal has details.

Steven T. Vermilye was a home inspector and general contractor who grew up in Croton-on-Hudson - he and his father helped build the boat launch at Senasqua Park - went to college in Texas and settled in New Paltz in 1971.

Betty L. Johnson came from a small town in Virginia and moved to Beacon when she was 17, where she raised eight children while boxing duct tape at Tuck Tape and working in the kitchen at the Castle Point Veterans Hospital.

David S. Stairs was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and came to the mid-Hudson Valley in 1927, where as a 16 year-old he pounded hot rivets into the New York Central Railroad at Croton-Harmon and then spent 45 years working his way up through Texaco's research center in Glenham.

The three mid-Hudson Valley residents had little in common during their lives, but share one thing now: Records exist of them casting a vote after they died.

So, I'd like to introduce you to the most disenfranchised and ignored demographic in politics, the dead voters.

Happy Halloween

Monday, October 30, 2006

Lynne Cheney On Blitzer

Here is a video you may want to watch. Lynne Cheney delicately, elegantly, and brilliantly reverses the roles in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. In this clip, Mrs. Cheney becomes the interviewer and Blitzer becomes the interviewee.

This technique is an artform and she pulled it off magnificently. She did it in a most eloquent fashion and did not come off as angry and indignant. As a result of this reversal, Wolf appeared to look a bit uncomfortable (at least he did to me). He is the one used to putting people on the defensive. But in this instance, I think he was taken by surprise.

See what you think.

UPDATE (10-30, 4:05PM) - AC at Fore Left has some follow up to this interview here. It seems that Wolf is up in arms about Mrs' Cheney's refusal to give a pass to Mr. Blitzer on CNN's showing of the now famous sniper video and some of the other questions she presented to him.

AC makes an excellent point in his critique of the situation:

Blitzer's not fooling anyone. Enemy snipers have been operating in Iraq for a LONG TIME, yet they saw no reason to give them special coverage until less than a month before the election.

Iraq being the only issue that the Dems have a real chance of exploiting, this should come as no real surprise. But allow me to point something out that I do not recall being discussed, as of yet.

Given the success of the Jihadists' recent ventures into the film industry, has anyone considered that this video may have been part of a Pallywood movie set?

If this turned out to be the case, how credible would CNN appear, then? Move over al-Reuters.

Politicians Are Washing Their Hands Of The Situation

Via Drudge comes this article from the NYT about the rise in hand washing among politicians. Pols are forever shaking hands and therefore, there is a higher risk of them getting germs on their hands.

So on the surface, it's easy to see why some may look at this story and think that the pols are a bit on the uppity side. But when we use good science as a basis for support, we can see that
the best way to combat the spread of germs is to wask hands frequently. Since a restroom may not always be handy, the next best thing is germicidal cream or foam.

But if the truth be known,
plain old soap and water is always best. Too much use of antiseptic soaps or other kinds of germicidals, can cause superinfections that are resistant to such things.

So if I were to give the pols and any of my readers one good piece of advice during the upcoming flu and cold season, it would be to wash hands often, but use regular soap and water, if at all possible. It is just as good as anything else.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Doing Business The Good Old-Fashioned American Way

My blog friend Super Frenchie loves polls and uses them on a semi-regular basis, usually to show the areas that France beats America. And according to the polls he shows, there are some areas that France is much stronger in. But here's one poll you probably won't see on SF, anytime soon. It's called the Ease Of Doing Business Index.

Let's face it, France does have areas that far surpass the U.S., but business isn't one you think of, when you compare the two.

Let's look at the numbers shall we?

The overall rankings show the U.S. as being ranked 3rd in the world, while France falls way short at 35th.

Here are the ten sub-categories that determine the overall ranking and the ranking of both countries:

1. Starting a business.

US - 3rd
France - 12th

Not much difference, but still the U.S. wins.

2. Dealing with licenses.

US - 22
France - 26

Close, very close.

3. Employing workers.

US - 1
France - 134

This is where France is at a severe disadvantage. Labor unions in France are very strong.

4. Registering property.

US - 10
France - 160

Another tough category for France.

5. Getting credit.

US - 7
France - 48

Better than labor, but still an advantage for the US.

6. Protecting investors.

US- 5
France - 60

This is probably why foreign companies love investing in American companies.

7. Paying taxes.

US - 62
France - 91

This is not the best score even for the US, but still it beats France.

8. Trading across borders.

US - 11
France - 26

Not much distance in this one, either. But the US stills beats out the Republique.

9. Enforcing contracts.

US - 6
France - 19

Another close one.

10. Closing a business.

US - 16
France - 32

Still fairly close. One thing this may suggest is that it is easier to open a business (in both countries), than it is to close one.

What does this tell us? Certainly not the whole story.

I would tend to agree with most of the findings here, but not because the poll says it. This certainly is one indicator, but the main reason I would find this close to being so accurate is because, the people that I have known throughout the years that have had experience dealing with the French (and other countries) and the US, have told me this. This is what they have told me, as related by their personal experiences.

People that work for and with French companies can tell the story. You still have to analyze the source, but something this abstract and subjective is difficult to quantify. You can play with figures and numbers, but in the end, it's the people that know. They are the experts.

Why am I doing this?

I am certainly not trying to bash the French in anyway here,
this is something that SF and I were discussing on his blog, and I simply wanted to demonstrate a point.

The bottom line here is, there are advantages of living in France and working for French companies, if you are labor. But if you are trying to do business with them or you are trying to open a business, it's a little rougher. But the "ease of doing business" in France, is in no way, anywhere, nearly as harsh, as many at the bottom of this list.

In short, all things are a trade-off. It's what you get, when you lean one direction or another. Personally, I prefer the better business climate, as opposed to the better labor climate. But to each, his own. The French opt for more taxes to pay for the social programs from the government, and they opt for more regulation in the business sector.

I remember the days when I lived, worked, and did business in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was an old railroad town that now has Indiana State University as its largest employer. But that was not always the case.

TH sits at the crossroads of the nation, at the crossing of two national highways that have long been obsolete, US 40 and US 41. The railroads criss-crossed too. From Wisconsin to Florida, east coast to west coast, the bulk of intercontinental travel was on these routes, both road and rail.

The presence of railroads meant unions and the presence of unions meant business suffered. TH could have easily become the city Indianapolis is today, had it not been for a man named Eugene V. Debs, the powerful union leader and oftimes Socialist candidate for US President, in the early 1900s. In those days and many that followed, TH had a bad reputation for vice and corruption.

But it also had a bad rep for unions. For this reason, companies knew not to relocate there. And they didn't.

Even today, Terre Haute has a socialist attitude among the people. It's not likely to change much, either. But, there have been some changes over time. As union demands got too costly, factories left and relocated south. Some large plants shut down. But business is starting to flourish and recently TH was rated high on the list of places best to raise a family. But it still doesn't sit high on the list for a company to relocate to.

But alas, it was all too late for me. I have since left TH. Pricing labor right out of the market is a dangerous thing, sometimes. It's one of the many drawbacks to big labor, as I see it.

So. Agree, disagree; French, American. What do you think?

(Note-I generally don't use a lot of polls, but made an exception to illustrate something. I especially eschew pre-election polls. The only election poll that counts, is the one on Election Day.)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Maliki Malady

From NPR's All Things Considered comes this article.

Iraqi troops raid part of Sadr City, the Baghdad stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The U.S. military, which provided support in the mission, says the raid targeted the leader of a Shiite death squad. Iraq's prime minister angrily denied approving the raid.

Who was this death squad leader aligned with?

The U.S. military says Iraqi Army forces came under fire during the raid and requested support from U.S. aircraft, which fired into the district. Four men were killed, two of them reportedly members of Sadr's militia. Sadr is a key political ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who complained at a news conference that he wasn't consulted about the raid.

And who is Sadr connected with? Iran.

This is precisely why George Bush the elder did not take out Saddam, when he had the opportunity (something he was highly criticized for). Iran's influence among the Shiites has always been strong. There is a certain kinship they feel towards others of their minority sect. They would have aligned themselves with Iran back then, just as they are doing now.

Maliki's disapproval of the raid is highly suggestive that he is more closely aligned with Sadr than he would like all of us to believe. Instead of doing what politicians usually do when something is successful (which is take credit), he apppears to be be distancing himself because he fears Sadr, who I believe is calling a lot of the shots. He has more power in the Shiite community than the Prime Minister.

As I have said before, this thing may have to be partitioned off for the overall good of the region. No one wants to publicly say that now before the election. But I just cannot see any other way around it. Maliki blames the Sunnis, the Sunnis blame the Shiites (both of them hate America), and there is just too much bad blood between the two, to think they have any realistic chance to unite under one flag.

I think Maliki is part of the overall problem. He is not a leader, he is weak and ineffective. He is nothing more than a puppet if he must check with a radical hotheaded cleric, before performing functions, vital to national security. Iraqis, like Americans, have few leaders that are willing to stand up for what is right. They are puppets to special interests. In Iraq, it's terrorist interests that prevail.

In any democracy there will be problems with special interests, but to align with terrorists is certainly more problematic than with anything we have here. This is one reason why Iraq is failing. The Iraqi people are failing. They do not know how to hold anyone in their government accountable. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Art/Science Of Lying.

It must be election time. Massive amounts of money are flowing, attacks ads are everywhere, and politicians are working overtime to come up with lies to refute lies they have been caught in.

Take Harold Ford Jr., candidate for U.S. Senator from Tennessee, for instance. CNN has outed him for claiming he was a lawyer, when in fact, he never passed the bar exam.

But as you may expect, Ford claims he never called himself a lawyer.

Well, here is proof that he did here and here.

When politicians lie in this day and age, it's a pretty safe bet someone, somewhere, will have a tape of it and will call them on it, when they try to lie their way out of it.

Campaigns are job interviews. If an applicant were to get caught lying on an application or during an interview, they would not get hired. If they were hired and would get caught later, they would be terminated. (The private sector is funny about those kinds of things.)

But elected officials have always been exempt from that, because the very culture of politicians promotes misrepresentation. If a politician claims they were instrumental in getting some piece of legislation, it may only mean they voted for it. When an allegation initially appears, the spinmeisters work fast and hard to deny it.

Often, if it's a subtle accusation, it will get ignored and sometimes a bigger story will come to provide some relief. But there are many times when this does not happen and the media becomes relentless to pursue it until it must be addressed. That's when the science of lying comes in very handy.

We hear so much about the "culture of corruption" and allow partisans to use that phrase against each other, but we fail to see that this really has become a way of life for almost all politicians and their staffs. Once something is done, so much, without thought or regard for the integrity of the office they occupy, it becomes a pattern. It becomes second nature. Deflect, deny, and dissuade by any means necessary becomes the order of the day and becomes a habit so much, they don't have to even think about it. It becomes natural.

Something we all will not tolerate in our professional and personal lives, we tolerate from those we choose to represent us and lead us. How many pathological liars have you ever known personally? Did you enjoy conversing with them? Did it irritate you that they had the audacity to think you were so stupid that you would believe anything? Did they insult your intelligence?

That's what these damned people we elect are doing. And that's when you can see that this is an artform. They stroke us like we are a painting and we respond, sometimes grudgingly, but we do respond. We pick the lesser of the two evils as we see them, and many fail to realize that the choices are almost always the bottom of the barrel.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

French Anxiety Grows As Tensions Rise

The IHT is reporting that there is growing anxiety in France, as the first anniversary of the French riots nears.

When the call came about a car burglary in this raw suburb north of Paris one night last weekend, three officers in a patrol car rushed over, only to find themselves surrounded by 30 youths in hoods throwing rocks and swinging bats and metal bars.

Neither tear gas nor stun guns stopped the assault. Only when reinforcements arrived did the siege end. One officer was left with broken teeth and in need of 30 stitches to his face.

The attack was rough but not unique. In the past three weeks alone, three similar assaults on the police have occurred in these suburbs that a year ago were aflame with the rage of unemployed, undereducated youths, most of them the offspring of Arab and African immigrants.

Last year, many French attributed this violence to socio-economic reasons. Today, there are still many French that believe this. While this may be one component, maybe it's possible there is more to this.

From the LA Times comes an excellent piece of expository writing, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Like the two Americas seen by John Edwards, Ms. Ali sees two Europes. She uses two metaphoric references to describe each.

IN AFRICA, we sometimes used animals to say things on sensitive issues to avoid discussing the messenger instead of the message. So I shall use the ostrich and the owl to sketch the two most important positions on immigration and pluralism in Europe.

Two birds with two markedly different characteristics are her choices. One is known for burying its head in the sand, while leaving the rest of its body exposed, and the other is the symbol of wisdom.

The view of things in Europe today, as the ostrich sees them, is bright. He sees an open market of 450 million people with an amazing potential. He sees a thriving economy and the free movement of people, goods, money and services. Immigration, to the ostrich, can only be viewed as an opportunity for an aging native population. Borders are better open than closed. Islam is a faith like Christianity, and Muslims shall adapt their religion to life in Europe.


Then there's the owl, which is a night bird and gets, more often, a glimpse of the dark side of things. Europe is healthy and wealthy, but the owl worries that it may not be so wise.

The shadow side of the free movement of people, for instance, is the trade in women and children for the ruthless sex industry. Also, weapons go unnoticed from hand to hand, from country to country. Some of these weapons could be biological, chemical or worse.

You will have to read the rest of the essay to get the deeper meanings of her analogies. But know this one thing, as an American I can understand how many take for granted the things we do.

Before 9-11, many Americans could not fathom that an attack of this nature could and would be launched within the territorial boundaries, of the United States. There were warning signs, to be sure. But overall, there was this tendency to believe that terrorist attacks occurred against the U.S., outside its boundaries.

As we were able to see on that fateful day, this is not the case.

France is a secular nation. Most of its citizenry wants the republic to be a model of diversity and to be known for its attitudes of tolerance towards all cultures, all faiths, and all ethnicities.

Now, this is a noble thought (and is all well and good). But what if some cultures, faiths, and ethnicities are not tolerant towards secularism? What if theirs is an ideology that seeks to impose its will over certain sections of France, America, or any other nation that so freely has welcomed immigrants into its land?

Other than the riots of last year, France has been relatively unscathed in the area of Islamic violence. The Airbus incident and others we may or may not know about have been successfully thwarted. There have been no train bombings like the ones in Britain and Spain, and certainly there has been no attack of the magnitude of 9-11.

Many that claim the violence of last year was due to economic reasons, are failing to take into account that the other ethnic groups are not rioting, not attacking police, and are making better concerted efforts to assimilate into French society. Do we see Celtic, Slavic, and Indo-Chinese riots? Do we see areas of towns inhabited by these groups spawning the kind of angst and anxiety that the Muslim areas are?

These are not hostile questions here, I am truly hoping that my French readers can help shed some more light on this subject. Because from where I sit, I am not buying that this upsurge in violence is rooted in socio-economics.

It may or may not be an organized effort by a specific Muslim group led by a radical Muslim cleric, like many in neighboring countries. But, once this thing really gets out of control, who knows what kind of opportunist may rise up to take advantage of the situation?

Addendum - Other news agencies covering this are:

AFP (via Canada.Com)

The Scotsman

Kommersant (Russia)

The Times Of India

The Herald Times (Aus.)


But as it turns out, France is not the only country facing unrest,
Hungary isn't in too good of a shape right now, either.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Thursday's Thought More Thoroughly Examined

Thursday I posted a thought that (to my surprise) garnered some responses that were interesting.

If you took all of the wealth and redistributed it equally so that everyone had equal wealth, it would only be a matter of time before the same people that have it now, would get it all back.

Now, we all know that this not going to happen. This is just a hypothetical question that cannot be proven or disproven with verifiable quantitative data. We'll never see this, but it can be debated and it often is, in some context or another.

Human beings are, by nature, greedy. And like any other human trait, there are varying degrees of greed. Some people are certainly more greedy than others. (However, it must be pointed out that not all greed is money-based.)

Capitalism is a system that flourishes with greed, as its foundation. In many ways, it is a necessary evil that ultimately ensures an economy will be sound. Without greed, what incentive would there be to produce anything of any real value. Since the beginning of time, there have been people that channeled that greed into successful ventures that have created wealth. Entrepeneurs.

Entrepeneurs are innovators that take ideas and turn them into wealth. They get an idea, they develop that idea into a workable venture, and then they sell that idea. When others buy into the idea, it produces wealth. That wealth is then used to create jobs, which in turn generates revenue for the company and the state, through taxes. To turn an idea into a successful venture, the innovators must be willing to assume risks. (Risk capital is part of any growing company's budget. If it isn't, it won't grow for very long.)

Since not all people are risk takers, there must be a group known as, non-risk takers. These are they that (for whatever reason) do not assume risks. These people usually sell their time to the risk takers to make the things that the risk takers want to make and sell.

I know that most of my readers already know this, especially if they have had any kind of economics course. My purpose is not to insult anyone's intelligence here, but to set this up for the reasoning behind my theory.

If we were to take all of the wealth in the world (or even the country) and reallocate it evenly to all citizens, on the surface that would seem to level the playing field and give all an opportunity, for a new way of life. But how many would use their new-found wealth to take risks? How many would hold on to it? How many would blow it on things that would not create more wealth, for themselves?

My theory is based on the premise that the risk takers would still prevail because they would keep coming up with ideas to create more wealth for themselves. The non-risk takers would mostly spend that money and the money would all end up back into the hands of the entrepeneurs.

In essence, this is the old capitalism vs. socialism debate.

Those that want rewards based on risk-taking, hard work and subscribe to the above mentioned principles are capitalists. They want individuals to control the means of production. They want the people that put up their hard-earned money and take their chances on the open market, to reap the bulk of the benefits.

To me, this is fair. If I invest the money, I should get the lion's share of the profits, should there be any. In turn, I must absorb the losses if that turns out to be the case. (Therein lies the risk.)

Labor assumes a much smaller risk. They only sell their time to the owners. They want the workers or the state to control the means of production. Sure, they assume some risk but not like the innovators. They take a risk on which company they work for. If they elect to work for a company that goes belly up, they lose their jobs. By the same token, they benefit when they choose to work for a company that does well. They get to keep their jobs. But overall, their chances of financial ruin are far greater than the ones that take the chances with their money.

Socialism in its purest form, dictates that the people should all be equal. The community is preferred over the individual and therefore, it advocates for workers to share in the bulk of the rewards, despite the fact that they did not take the bulk of the risks required to make the company successful. This is called "sweat equity".

Now, there is no pure form of either capitalism or socialism. There are elements of both found in any successful economy. How successful an economy is, depends on which way and how far that economy leans. Too much capitalism, pretty much creates an opportunity for the risk takers to exploit the non-risk takers. Too much the other way, will kill opportunities and will ultimately discourage risk taking.

So, there needs to be a balance, but it needs to be balanced more towards those that produce wealth. If the climate is hostile (towards business) enough, why would I not put my risk capital into a savings account and let it draw interest. It would be my right, but how many jobs would I create doing that? How many hungry children would be fed if people could not find employment, because I didn't want to risk losing what I had?

To understand where I am coming from, I would recommend reading the story of New Harmony, Indiana.

A noble experiment at the outset, the whole thing collapsed mainly because of the lack of incentives. Each member had jobs to do, all were to be treated equally. But when it became apparent that those that worked harder got no more than those that didn't, and when those that worked less got the same as those that worked more, it fell apart. Why should I do my job well, when the next guy that goofed off much more than me, got what I got?

So, the same reasons that doomed this small community would doom a larger group of people, if this model were to be adopted. Taking wealth away from those that worked hard for it and redistributing it among those that didn't want to work so hard for it, would be utterly disastrous. No matter how much you help some people, there are those that are not going to appreciate the help. They will only want more, and will want to exert less energy to get it. That in turn, will discourage those that have a good work ethic from trying.

So to briefly summarize, if you did a one time unconditonal wealth re-distribution and let the chips fall where they may from there, the same people that lose it, will (for the most part) get it all back, by continuing to work hard and take risks to get it back. Those that do not want to work hard and take very few risks, will (for the most part) give it all back, one way or another.

I am reminded of the quote by John Locke:

All wealth is the product of labor.

Anywhere there is wealth, someone had to work for it.

Yes, some inherited it. But someone before them worked for it, before they passed it on.

Yes, I know some steal it and get it by other forms of illegal activities. But in some bizarre way, you could make the case that stealing and organized crime is certainly hard work, if you want to avoid arrest.

And sure, I know that there are many people that receive it for doing nothing, when they could definitely get out and work for it. They aren't producing wealth at all. Someone (usually the government) is merely re-allocating it, by taking it from the person(s) that produce it and giving to those that produce nothing.

So as we can see, obtaining wealth and producing wealth are two entirely different things. Those that would obtain the wealth will willfully surrender it to those that produce it. Those that produce it, will get it back. Until someone changes who and what they are, the same old patterns will play out.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

An Explanation On The Explanation

I have been quite busy over the last several days. I recently had surgery and have worked my way back to a full schedule; and although I am glad to be almost back to full strength, things that I enjoy have to be out on the back burner, at times.

Some have been patiently awaiting an explanation on a thought I posted on Thursday. But alas, I have been unable to complete the post. Last night I was watching a football game that wasn't too competitive, so I made a good faith effort to finish the post for publishing this morning.

Well, Blogger was down. I cannot complain about it, because Blogger is free. But it always seems that when I am in a busy stretch and finally get a moment of peace to post something, that's when it is most likely to go down.

So today, I have more committments, one of which includes going to the city where my son attends college and taking him out for a good Sunday afternoon meal. He has sustained life support systems on dorm and food court food for awhile, and I feel that he could benefit from some more palatable nourishment from a good Italian restaurant, in that area.

But when I get back later in the day, I will once again attempt to get the "explanation post" and maybe get to start work on another. Until then, have a happy Sunday. And as always, thanks for reading PYY.

PS-If you want to consider this an open thread for sports talk or whatever, have at it. Cardinals won game one of the series last night, but Detroit was a bit rusty from a long layoff. Tonight will tell the story on how this series will go.

As for college football, how about that Notre Dame comeback yesterday? Nothing new, if you have followed ND for 40+ years as I have.

Georgia Tech got blasted by Clemson last night (GT is where my stepson attends college and I am sure all is not well in Techville this morning).

Today is NFL, Colts should win today, if they do not look past Washington. They have the roughest part of their schedule coming up starting next week, when they go to Denver and then to New England the following week.

How about your teams how did they do?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Quotable Quotes

Recently I posted some of my favorite quotes, when I got into a busy stretch. Time is short for me today, so I'll leave you with some more of my favorite quotes.

A prudent question is one-half of wisdom. - Francis Bacon

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance. - Confucius

Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something. - Plato

Much learning does not teach understanding. - Heraclitus

The virtue of justice consists in moderation, as regulated by wisdom. - Aristotle

In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. - Erasmus

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Thought For Today

Time constraints are back to being a part of my life, once again. Today is one of those days. So I will leave you all with a brief thought to chew on:

If you took all of the wealth and redistributed it equally so that everyone had equal wealth, it would only be a matter of time before the same people that have it now, would get it all back.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Time To Heal

For those that didn't read yesterday's post scroll down and give it a read, first. I am about to add to that here, so in some respects you can consider this a sequel to that post.

Now, I am not trying to front her out and put her on the spot but, the more I think about it, Ms Miami (a frequent commenter here at PYY) left a comment that I feel deserves more attention:

we are a culture heavily focused on the present and the future and we're pretty unique in the world.the rhetoric surround the balkan wars in the 90s had a lot to do with centuries-old grudges.

the northern irish tend not to forget the battle of the boyne.asian cultures, layered in centuries of ancestor worship, are not as eager to just 'let bygones be bygones'...

(i'm not arguing that this is the most helpful mentality, just that it's not likely to disappear)

She is 100% right, there are some deep wounds here. But I can see none that cannot heal, not if healing is actively promoted.

Here is my reply to her comment:

I understand what you are saying. It's just that I see western Europe (and believe me the history of grudges on that part of the continent is quite deep and extensive) getting along very well despite all of the wars, conflicts, and territories that have changed hands over the centuries; and I think that if they can put aside their differences for the sake of peace, so can Asians, so can the Northern Irish, and so can those in the Balkans.

South Korea and Japan both have vibrant societies they produce well, and they have a good standard of living. Korea still has a little further to go to be as prosperous as Japan, but they are doing better, as time goes on. Neither countries need each other in an economic sense, but both have more to gain than they have to lose.

Standing firm against a common threat is the only sure way to solve this NK situation peacefully. By standing together it puts pressure on China to do the right thing. China does not want to blow their road to economic dominance in Asia, and a falling out with both countries would likely force China's hand to get with the program here.

Now, what does all of this mean?

China has the greatest influence over North Korea, that's pretty much agreed upon by all. As a result, there can be no peaceful solution to this crisis, without their support. I know, they supported some watered-down sanctions and voted for them, but that doesn't guarantee that they will honor the resolution, no matter how weak it may be. But if South Korea and Japan were to make a concerted effort to put aside their differences and build a new relationship, China would be under more pressure to abide by the terms of the resolution.

Let's look at why I say this.

Political Calculations, Ironman has some 2004 stats on GDP that will tell the story of the two Koreas and Japan. You can compare them with China and see that the People's Republic is just beginning to flourish. And from the numbers we can see, they outproduce both SK and Japan, by quite a lot. But when you look at the GDP per capita, we can see that belongs to Japan and SK, by a long shot. Japan is well developed and SK is getting there. Together they could have even more economic leverage.

But not if they cannot look past events of over 60 years ago.

Letting the wounds of the past heal and forging a new era of cooperation between the two nations is the only way China will have competition for economic supremacy and as a result, political supremacy. China desperately wants to be the kings of the east, but SK and Japan must not allow them to grow without competition.

After all this time between WWII and now, China is still afraid of Japan. But imagine the anxiety that South Korean and Japanese alliance would bring, if they stood together in pressuring China to get NK under some resemblance of control. As a result of a new alliance, China would probably modify many of its positions and therefore could greatly improve its image, over the course of time.

Of course, I did fail to mention one detail in this.

Japan and South Korea must be allowed to pursue nuclear weapons. South Koreans may object to it at first, but as Kim becomes more defiant and his behavior becomes more erratic and unpredictable, they may re-think that stance. Japan, on the other hand, would probably be more receptive to this idea. In fact, Japan needs to be allowed to re-build its conventional forces, if nothing else. As time moves on, SK is becoming more and more industrial, Japan has been for years. They have all of these means of production, many factories can be converted to manufacture tanks and other defense equipment that can be used for the defense of their islands.

Now let's make one thing clear here, it doesn't particularly elate me to think that nukes could and would proliferate further. But if they are going to proliferate to countries like NK and Iran, it only stands to reason that nations like SK and Japan should be allowed to pursue them for strategic defensive purposes.

China has them. Russia has them too. And now it appears that NK has an under-developed form of nuclear weaponry. The U.S. cannot and should not be expected to provide all nuclear support, should Japan or SK suffer a nuclear attack of some kind from any of these countries. Therefore, it only makes sense for them to have the option of defending themselves.

Both countries have been staunch allies of the U.S., despite some occasional differences. So, trust should not be a huge concern, here. Both are model democracies. They are not without flaws, but they enjoy more freedom than anywhere else in Asia, with the exception of maybe India.

Let's be straight here. It's time for the Bush administration to develop a policy on Asia. It's time to facilitate a healing process between SK and Japan, as part of that policy. They need to be strongly encouraged to sit down and talk about their differences. To wait any longer (or ignore it altogether) would be quite foolish and would not be in the United States' best interests. In fact, to continue to dodge this issue, would have serious repercussions for the entire world, if not addressed soon.

Not only are legacies at stake here, peace is at stake too. So, now would be a good time for Condi to shine. Now would be a good time for some much needed attention to be given to this part of the world.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

When Is A Score Settled?

The IHT is reporting that the U.S. Congress was posied and ready to vote on a resolution to rebuke Japan for WWII.

After four years of writing to lawmakers and trooping up to Capitol Hill, the Korean-American community, two million strong, was preparing to declare victory.

Congress was on the verge of approving a groundbreaking resolution urging Japan to acknowledge formally its responsibility for the enslavement of more than 200,000 Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian and other women and girls in the 1930s and 1940s to provide sex for imperial Japanese soldiers.

Sixty plus years after the fact, it's difficult to understand why the Koreans are trying to pick scabs on the wounds, instead of letting them heal. Many of those responsible for the atrocities committed by the Japanese are either dead or so old, they probably do not know what day it is.

Let's look at some things that Japan has done to atone for those acts, in the years that followed the war.

After checking out that link, take a look at the aid Japan has provided to its neighbors.

What many are failing to realize here is, Japan is a totally different country led by a totally different group of people, and yielding a very different culture from the one that took part in WWII, with the Axis Forces. They are a model of capitalism and representative democracy. Part of the reason China overhauled their economic system was due to the success of the post-war Japanese economic system.

How much longer must the Japanese be penalized for the sins of their fathers? Why must we keep bringing up old wounds? Old wounds sometimes lead back to war, if left unresolved. Not only that, it would seem to me that Koreans would be better served by concerning themselves with the ones that can cause fresh wounds, today. The North Koreans are looking to be more of a threat to the South, than what the Japanese were.

To ignore them, while holding a grudge against those that would be valuable allies against those that wish to wound today, is both counter-productive and ridiculously stupid. Both stand to be threatened by NK, both should use this as an opportunity to build an important bridge to close gaps. And the U.S. Congress has no business in catalyzing this further.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Can The Dems Bayh A Red State?

Many insiders (both GOP and Dem) think that Hillary is going to run and has the nomination all but locked up in 2008. There have also been many that have pretty much conceded this would be a two-way race between Sen. Clinton and Mark Warner (with some giving the edge to the more moderate Warner).

But with the surprise exit of Mark Warner last week, there are many feeling left out in the cold. They are the anti-Hillary voters and they feel all that's left is a choice between the Deaniac candidates, and her. (Although she has tried to paint herself more as a centrist over the last couple of years, there are many that haven't been sold, yet.)

But not so fast.

Here comes Sen. Evan Bayh (IN), following in his father former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh's footsteps. And if you live in Iowa or New Hampshire, you will no doubt see him coming soon. In fact, he has already been to both states quite frequently, lately. And now with Warner out, there are some prospective supporters out there who would love a moderate Democrat that could carry a red state.

Bayh carries a red state every time he runs, in an Indiana election. In 2004, a very polarizing presidential campaign, he won a landslide re-election bid with a little over 60% of the vote, while Bush won the state handily. Since Indiana is almost as red of a state as there is, that's what I call carrying a red state. Iowa is a red state with similar demographics to Indiana, despite the popularity of the liberal Tom Harkin.

According to the Indy Star, Bayh is now is seizing on an opportunity that could prove crucial to posing a credible challenge for the party's nod.
He is actively wooing potential Warner supporters.

Bayh is an attractive candidate for moderates everywhere, and that includes Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike. And if the Dems are truly interested in regaining the White House with a mandate, they really should take a look at him. His lack of name recognition and slow flow of campaign dollars should both be resolved after a strong showing, in Iowa. That's where Kerry's momentum began, as the anti-Dean candidate.

But the one thing that will hurt him the most in the party will be his vote on Iraq. Never mind that Kerry voted for the war, he was able to tap dance his way out of it. Hillary did too, but most Dems will forgive her, when the moment of truth arrives.

But Bayh may not be so lucky with the Kos Kids and the Dean wing of the party. They will be dead set on making o8 another referendum on Bush, despite the fact he won't be running. (Bayh has not vascillated on the vote, but has criticicized Bush's handling of the war and has done so with growing frequency.) The question will be, how much of the Democratic base is actually hard left, as opposed to just being anti-Bush?

Time will tell how Bayh will fare in the primary process. But one thing is for sure, no one has a lock on it just yet. One only needs to look at the Carter campaign in 76 and the Clinton campaign in 92 as a model. At this point in both of those races, it was assumed that others would be vying for the nomination, and few experts gave either a chance.

That's just about where Evan Bayh is right now.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Beast That Just Will Not Die.

It's been no big secret that Air America has been hurting for quite awhile now. Face it, there just isn't a market for liberal talk radio. If there was, they would be in the black, stations would be paying THEM to air the show, and a whole host of copycat networks and shows would crop up, to compete for the market share. But none of this is happening, yet they still hold out some glimmered ray of hope that it will take off.

So, after losing massive amounts of money and losing markets left and right (no pun intended), they do what everyone that cannot hack it does.
They file for Chapter 11.

Now, I have watched parodies of many presidents in my days. Rich Little did impressions of LBJ and Nixon, quite well. He was funny. Saturday Night Live was a bit more irreverent in their portrayal of Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton. But they were funny, and that was the intent.

In both the cases of Little and SNL, those skits and impressions were meant to be funny. But neither focused strictly on a President. Little did other impressions and SNL did other skits. Neither could afford to waste an inordinate amount of time, focusing on just one aspect of hilarious realities. Versatility is what keeps things fresh and not painting themselves into a corner is what makes and keeps comedians successful.

Now enter Air America, the world's first and only network to be formed to poke fun at and ridicule , one man only. Oh, they make fun of everyone they deem to be right wing (which is anyone that disagrees with them). But the primary focus is to portray Bush, as a cross between a bumbling buffoon and some kind of satanic force.

But that's okay by me. I am not losing millions of dollars of my own money, just to slam a man I hate. I am not begging for money, to keep my job.

They are.

That's either die hard capitalism or it's stupidity.

But the real story here is not the failure of the network. It is the fact that none of these people involved with this flat project are planning to give up. One can use the Book of Revelation as an analogy.

In the book, John saw a seven-headed beast with ten horns. He saw one of the heads with a deadly wound. Yet, the the wound was healed, the beast did live, and all of the world wondered after the beast. All of this is well and good, but with one disqualifying exception. All of the world is NOT wondering after THIS beast.

Arbitron ratings certainly aren't, either.

Hat Tip for the link:
Eclipse Ramblings.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Blame It On The Rain

You know, this is one of my favorite songs. Although they will be best known as the ones in the lip sync scandal, it really is a smooth little tune by Milli Vanelli (or whoever they really were); and it pretty much sums up a lot of what I have been saying here at PYY, since it's inception.

Blame it on the rain (rain)

Blame it on the stars (stars)

Whatever you do don't put the blame on you

These very words, by themselves, describe the attitudinal and cultural flaws that have become so pervasive, here in the U.S. and the rest of the world. They illustrate a certain lowering of value standards.

Evidently so does Joan Vennochi of the Boston Globe, so evidenced by her latest column entitled, Blame game has no winners.

IT'S TIME grown-ups embraced a sentiment popular today with kids: ``My bad."

The expression -- launched from missed passes and shots during pickup basketball games -- means ``It's my fault. I take responsibility."

The rest of the article demonstrates the insanity of just how the political world sounds to those outside it. It shows how they must have used the lyrics of this song as the primary basis for developing these standards of attitudes and ethics. The fine art of blame casting and failure to take responsibility is a required block of instruction for all future politicians, and it is now carrying over to the rest of the people.

And we wonder where kids learn to lie, cheat, and steal. All they need to do is follow Congress to any minor degree, and they can see all three in perfect functional operation.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

French Claim NK Nuke Test Failed: Meanwhile The Blame Game Continues

The AP is reporting that France is claiming the North Korea Nuke test was a failure.

France said outright for the first time Wednesday that North Korea's proclaimed nuclear test produced such a small blast that it must have failed, and analysts warned such challenging talk could lead Pyongyang to try again.

Now, many on both ends of the spectrum are not completely understanding that this is a sticky issue. As usual, both ends are pointing fingers at each other, ad nauseum. But if we stop and think about it for a minute, it really doesn't matter. This is not going to bring about a resolution to this.

What makes this so sticky is illustrated, by the snippet I cite from the article. France made their findings public and critics have a valid point. The point being, saying that they know the test was a dud, may incite them to try again. One cannot argue with this rationale, especially knowing how erratic this guy can be.

But there is another side to this argument that those same critics must also understand. It is critical that governments speak to their people frankly to dispel fears when necessary, and only if that be the truth. By not informing the public, there is that chance that fear and panic could set in, and affect a lot of things that could cause more problems than what we already have.

Sometimes you have to weigh this thing out, there is no cut and dried right answer here. If nothing was said (by anyone that knew) and people were to go into a panic, what kind of anger would that provoke? How upset would that make you, if you found out the government knew something that could alleviate your fears in the face of a real and present danger, and they didn't tell you?

The bottom line here is this, it matters not that the French went public with this information. Kim Jung Il is going to do what he wants to do, at least until countries like China and Russia get tough with him. They desperately need to communicate the fact that if they continue to threaten the US, Japan, and South Koreans, it will be a serious mistake.

The Chinese and the Russians have to understand that by letting this go on, it will disturb the world markets everywhere, eventually. That means that both nations will suffer, as well. Doing nothing is only going to reinforce the behavior.

In this country, finger pointing will not work either. The right is blaming Clinton for allowing Kim to blackmail the United States. The left is blaming Bush for not adhering to the deal. Clinton and Carter worked out a deal in good faith, Kim reneged on his part of the deal (plain and simple). Bush is not Clinton nor Carter, and is choosing not to allow Kim to blackmail us.

The person(s) to blame here is (are) not Bush, not Clinton, and not Carter. Kim Jong Il is the person to blame. But since it's an election year, the finger pointing is rampant. It's time to stop the petty childish blame game and move towards a solution. Instead of tearing down, it's time to put some heads together and come up with some real options.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The State Of Free Speech At Columbia University (Embracing Tolerance 101)

No doubt by now, you have heard of the incident that occurred last week at Columbia University , the one that involved leftist students disrupting a speech, which was to be given by some of the Minutemen. The NY Post has some commentary on this incident, here.

Nearly 40 years after activist students trashed the executive offices of Columbia University (all in the name of "peace," don't you know), another crowd of young hooligans Wednesday violently broke up a speech at the Ivy League campus - physically attacking the speaker, forcing him to flee and sparking a brawl.

This time, the cause is "free speech."

No kidding.

How ironic it is that a group of people that "claim" they support free speech would use radical Marxist and Nazi-like tactics to stop someone they disagree with from giving a talk that they were invited to give. The right to free speech these people claim to be fighting for, was blatantly, intentionally, and explicitly denied to the Minutemen (and the College Republicans that invited them and obtained legitimate approval from the university). It's nothing more than the epitome of hypocrisy and in my opinion, it trashes the very institutions and basic civil rights, this great nation was built on.

Let's make something perfectly clear here, I am not criticizing the leftists for their opinions, here. As weak and flawed as I think their thinking may be, they have a right to be heard. Whether I agree with them or not, is not relevant to this argument. They have a right to their beliefs and they have a right to communicate and express those beliefs, in the proper forums, at the proper times. But they do not have the right to disrupt another groups free speech, just becaue they disagree with them.

As the old saying goes, my rights end where yours begin, and that is applicable here. But that doesn't seem to matter to some people. Because, from the actions seen here, these people committed a premeditated, wanton, and willful act of suppressing the rights of the Minutemen (and the College Republicans). They denied these people their Contitutional rights as afforded them by the very document that they wish invoke, when it suits their specific interests.

Why did they do it, you ask? Let's look at some more of the piece in the NYP, for a weak excuse of an answer:

"It was fundamentally a part of free speech," one protester told The Columbia Daily Spectator. "The Minutemen are not a legitimate part of the debate on immigration."

What a narcissistic and egocentric display of reasoning, this is.

What a thoroughly weak and faulty argument, this is.

Who has the right to determine, who is (or is not) part of any debate, in this country?

Any American citizen that chooses to make a claim and attempt to support their claim, has the fundamental right to be a part of this (or any other) debate. In my opinion, there would be no debate right now, if it were not for the Minutemen bringing this issue, to the forefront. The Dems don't want it debated, they want the votes. The GOP doesn't want to debate it, they want the cheap labor. But yet, almost 80% of the American people want this debate. So if it isn't them, someone has to press the issue. Otherwise, 80% of the people are not getting a voice.

But the MoveOn.Org (and other extremist groups) cult members have no use for debate. Far too many of them are programmed robots. They spew out programmed little catch-phrases provided to them on a daily basis, through e-mails and web sites, also known as daily talking points. After receiving their daily marching orders, they hit the news shows, blogs, and the message boards, and repeat the same old tired propaganda and offer little actual proof that their message is sound. But my, how they have those catchy slogans.

Have you ever tried to have a debate with a MoveOn.Org (or other such entity) member? They are not people that you can have an intelligent, rational debate with. When you counter their arguments with sound logic (or better yet, hard facts), they either fly off the handle and become insulting or they claim you are a Nazi-like neo-con and further claim you have insulted them. This, they do, all in the name of free speech.

One of the catch words you will hear from these political Moonie-like cult members, is the word tolerance. How much tolerance was shown to the Minutemen, this past week? Do these men not pay taxes? Are they not entitled to convey their message free from suppression by spoiled little rich kids that are desperately trying to get even with their parents? What have these kids done for their country? What contribution have they made to society?

The truth of the matter is, they have yet to produce anything of any real value, yet. And when they get out into that cruel and cold world, let them pull a stunt like this in the private sector, and watch what happens.

Now, I do not claim to have all of the answers here. I would be very skeptical of anyone that claims they have them all. But, talk to some MoveOn.Org members and they'll let you know real quick, they have it figured out. They have all of the answers and anyone that disagrees with them is an idiot, moron, or some other form of derogatory name.

So tell me again, how is this a sincere effort to embrace the concept of tolerance; then tell me again, how does this equate to free speech? And remember, I still have that mountain cabin, just outside Orlando, for sale. (And as a footnote, I am considering putting up my ocean beach house in Kansas up for sale as well.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea Claims Nuclear Test Has Been Conducted

I had a post ready to go up this morning on North Korea and it's nuclear program. Unfortunately, it was based on the premise that NK hadn't conducted a test, as it had previously said it would do. (So, needless to say, it's been scrapped.)

Now, all indications are pointing to the fact that they have conducted a test, despite all of the warnings from all of the concerned parties, to include the UN. In the end, nothing mattered to the North Korean government, except its strong committment to make an openly defiant gesture to its neighbors, and the world.

Pundits will be having a busy news day, today. We will no doubt be saturated with this story on all of the news channels and will most likely lead all of the major network newscasts, this evening. But all of the Monday morning quarterbacking will not prove to be successful in averting a crisis, nor will is change what appears to have happened.

Many of the pundits that are already critical of the Bush administration will do what they do best, that is, blame Bush. But, this crisis was not the direct result of any failure in the administration's current policy towards NK, rather it was the failure of NK's neighbors to dissuade it, from opening this fresh can of worms.

China, who clearly has had the most influence over its bellicose neighbor in the past decade or so, has been the most negligent. Their laissez-faire approach to this mess has yielded nothing in the way of meaningful solutions. They have the ability to settle NK down, yet they have chosen to largely ignore the situation, until very recently (and even then they did vitually nothing except issue a few strongly worded statements)

Russia has been negligent, in that, it hasn't pressured China enough to use their influence to head off this moment. Russia helped create this state. In the 1950s, they (as the Soviet Union) strongly supported NK's communist government and used them as a tool to spread communism.

Their hope was to spread their faulty ideology, presenting it as a panacea of utopian principles that the Russians themselves, would abandon much later down the line. But even with the rejection of communism (because of its overt failure to meet the needs its citizenry) in Russia, North Korea (along with Cuba) has maintained Marxism works. This they have done, despite the fact that many people live in the harshest of conditions and in deep poverty.

South Korea has been less negligent than the other two, but one cannot completely dismiss their blindness, in this situation. They have been more concerned with making peace with the North Korean state, but without the insistence that NK give up its nuclear program, at least until recently.

Leftists have demonstrated in Seoul, off and on for the past several years, and have done what leftists do best, blame the U.S. for the ills of the world. All the while, they have overlooked the fact that NK has made no efforts and no strides whatsoever to ease any tensions, not have they made any attempt to help the North Korean people by ridding itself of political oppression and economic suppression.

What happens now, will be difficult to predict. But if past reactions are any indication, we can all get ready for a lot of words of condemnation, but little else. The UN will certainly take up the idea of sanctions, but the big question will be, will China approve them?

It's not likely. But one cannot say it's a complete impossibility, they will reject that kind of response. But if I were a betting man, I wouldn't recommend anyone putting a lot of money on it, unless the money is severely troubling them.

With veto power in the UNSC, China may be the big roadblock in all of this. And if this turns out to be the case, we will all be able to see once again, how utterly useless the UN has become. All of the diplomacy, all of the threats have not produced a desired result in the recent past, so it will not pay to be overly optimistic about this case.

But even if China is cooperative, and goes along with implementing severe economic sanctions, I would not hold my breath. The "Oil For Food Scandal" is still too fresh in my mind, to have cause for optimism. And if the UN fails to agree on harsh sanctions, there will be at least one option that can and should be considered, that would be a bold move and could prove effective.

Japan should be allowed to re-arm itself, free from post-WWII restrictions. Today, it is a modern, peace loving democracy, dedicated to free enterpise. It has no human rights issues and has treated their neighbors with respect. Although China and SK still refuse to completely forgive them for hostile actions in WWII, this is a new generation of Japanese society. The Shoguns are gone, the Samarai are gone, and the military establishment has been virtually dormant for years. Those that committed the acts of the past are either dead or too old to have much influence on today's Japan.

We can go the UN route, if the world needs confirmation that the UN is worthless. But if and when it fails, do not be surprised to see the dawning of a new era, in Japanese foreign policy. Do not be surprised to see a nuclear Japan to counter-balance the rogue state of North Korea.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Enter The Political Underworld

Enter The Network Of Political Operatives

Deep behind the scenes of the political world lies a network of internal spies, whose sole purpose is to wreak havoc on the opposing party and expose everything they possibly can, real or imagined. Democrats and Republicans alike, live in this world. They are the unnamed sources, the hacks, and the moles that one day hope to receive some kind of reward for their services; and suffice it to say that some of them will do almost anything to get recognition for their meritorious services, at some point down the road.

Gone are the days when a person could show up at a local party office, volunteer to distribute leaflets, make phone calls to prospective voters, and other kinds of legitimate methods of laborious services to get candidates elected. As a matter of fact, gone are the days when being a servant to the people actually meant getting the most votes based on a campaign of competing ideas, visions, and hopes. But, we now must fully understand that the world has changed much over the past couple of decades, much of it due to the rapid boom in technology.

Using the media always has been a tool of the political world. The Federalist Papers is a collection of essays written to newspapers by three men (under the pen name, Publius) to New York newspapers (and later compiled in a book), arguing for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Many would argue that Alexander Hamiltion, James Madison, and John Jay were being a bit on the sneaky side by using the same pen name to make their cases. But if only their critics had lived to see this day, then they would see just how far this cloak and dagger process has evolved.

From the use of newspaper editorial sections to weekly periodicals, from radio to television came a golden age of political manipulations, delivered by using the media as a messenger. And although mudslinging is certainly nothing new, the advent of electronic media has helped present more distorted pictures of opposing political candidates and the supporters that back them.

Enter the internet.

With the introduction of the internet, a certain "specialized" clandestine underworld has developed, a world in which anonymity is much better maintained than in any prior form. With the print media, television, and radio there was some measure of accountability. Now, anyone that can afford a cheap computer from Sam's Club can set up a system, get online, and put out their messages for the world to see. These messages are harder to track and harder to pinpoint.

Enter the message boards.

message boards (and chat rooms) became the craze, a whole host of people with a reasonable guarantee of anonymity, found an outlet for socialization; and it was something that happened pretty much in real time. Chat rooms were one thing, they were instant. But message boards were something you could post for all to see when you had the time, and others could come around and read it, when they had the time.

In the midterms of 1998 and the Presidential election of 2000, message boards were used as a medium of communications for many political operatives. Democrats and Republicans both used their PCs at home (and at work) to do hatchet jobs on each other, in the forums.

On the political AOL boards (where I first met this medium of communication), there were people with multiple screen names that would post derogatory and accusatory posts against the other side and were often times baseless ad hominem attacks, designed to demoralize (and of course, garner votes in the process). In short, they were paid (and unpaid) hacks that would form alliances based on political party and in some cases ideology. Some knew each other offline beforehand. Many came to know each other online and eventually networked offline, too. Campaign directors saw a golden opportunity to use this as a means of political espionage and thus incorporated this into their strategies and their budgets.

Many of the posts would get personal with the persons behind the screen names. But all would debase the other side with the freedom of knowing that they were in an anonymous world, and the likelihood they would never become known was pretty good, as long as they didn't cross certain lines.

Enter the blogs.

Weblogs and online journals go back to 1994, but the real explosion occurred after 2000. People could have creative control over things. They could write an opinion about something (with or without anonymity) and could have visitors come to the site, read the material, and comment on it if they so desired. Many people would set up family blogs so that fanilies that were scattered across the country (and world) could interact and keep in touch. But others would set up campaign blogs for specific candidates, either pro or con, positive or negative.

As message boards would come and go, the control of the content rested solely with the operators of those boards. Constant complaining from members to the board monitor about the nasty nature of posters became widspread. When it got out of control, sometimes the only thing for them to do was shut down the board altogether. Members would then scatter and have to set up a new existence on other boards.

The blogs became a way for those same operatives to conduct their hatchet jobs, and have creative contol of what topics were to be cussed and discussed. And when bloggers exposed the Rathergate stunt, the media world had officially been put on notice that bloggers were not just a bunch of hacks, anymore.

They reached a pinnacle, a point whereby, they had to be recognized as a group of intelligent people that were tired of having to put up with collusion and bias in the media. People, then, began to recognize that bloggers were becoming a reputable source of information and commentary; and doing it more and more as time went on. In fact, it is so much so that the media has joined in and somewhat conceded to the blogosphere, as is evidenced by the many columnists that now have their own blogs.

Enter the blogosphere.

Many people, like myself, are just average joes that have gotten tired of yelling at the TV, night after night, watching the blatantly biased reporting of the oversensationalizing MSM. (In my opinion, Fox news does the best job overall, but they are not free from spin and often beat the stories into the ground, ad nauseum. They too, miss things, overlook things, ignore things, and overstate things. They too, must be watched and kept honest, as realistically possible. So, they too, must be included into the realm of media criticism.) But not everyone that administrates a blog can be trusted.

this blog for instance. Radar Online has a write up about it that you need to read. It accuses the blog of being bogus, and further asserts that it was set up only after the Foley scandal broke. Now, Foley deserves his constitutional rights should there turn out to be criminal activity involved here, but he doesn't get sympathy from me for his behavior, none whatsoever.

But this isn't just about Foley.

Exactly what the truth is in this case is not yet clear. But it's apparent that he did something. Why would have resigned so quickly, checked himself into an alcohol rehab facility, and come out with the story he had been molested by a clergyman, years ago?

No, this post is about the political underworld that very well could have been responsible for sitting on this information and leaking it out now, just weeks before the election. This is about an underhanded covert world of strategists and consultants that plan and plot to create upheaval. And sometimes that could very well mean sitting on a story, planting bloggers to do dirty work that they don't want to do overtly, and then waiting in the wings for the fallout that is most certainly sure to occur.

The purpose of this post is not to defend Foley, nor is it to criticize the people that exposed the situation. It's purpose is to give you an idea of how sophisticated these hacks are and how the readers of these blogs must be aware that this kind of activity is widespread.

Democrats, being the opposition party (which desperately wants back in control) is the party that is more likely to take risks like this, not only because of the anonymity that is provided, but because they have to go on the attack. They have no choice. They have no plan, they have no vision, they have not set a reasonable platform to run on, with the exception of campaigning against Bush. They, therefore, must rely on dirty tricks and manipulation that is much further devolved than many may realize.

It is about blogs becoming an integral part of major campaign process and the fact that it is here to stay. Peter Daou of the
Daou Report has recently turned over the reins of the blog that bears his name, over to a man by the name of Steve Benen, his co-editor. Why, you ask? So Mr. Daou can be Hillary Clinton's blog advisor. Now, let's get this straight here, there's not a thing wrong with that, in my opinion. It just illustrates just how big this blog craze will be for the remainder of this election, and 2008. (Both Peter and Steve have been kind enough to plug PYY on occasion, and I'd like to say a special thanks for that.)

Enter Photoshopping.

Already, we have seen the alterations of file photos in the TV world. The Rosie O'Donnell and Katie Couric slimdown jobs were subtle manipulations. We've also seen jihadists use Photoshopping for their propaganda needs. But this next job looks like the work of GOP hacks.

The Knox News is carrying a story about a GOP mailout with a photo of Harold Ford Jr. (the Democratic candidate for Senator representing Tennessee), with darker skin.
(HT: Booker Rising)

Enter common sense.

So we see that this is not just Dems that pull this kind of stunt. Both sides are guilty, it's just that one side needs it more than the other. But make no mistake, this is not an isolated instance, for either party. And it's likely to continue for as long as there is an internet or Big Brother tries to shut the blogs down, whichever.

Make no mistake, shutting down blogs is not the answer to these kinds of things, but letting the reader know what's out there and allowing them to judge the works found on these sites for themselves is a much better way to go.

You have heard the phrase buyer beware? Well, reader beware is the key phrase to remember. Reader beware.

Do not allow yourselves to be fooled. Do not get sucked up into this world. By all means, read. But read with skepticism, read with a critical eye. And do not fall for the political trickery that is so pervasive, in the world of politics today. Think long and hard as you read anything.

But above all, think.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

It's Foley Time

Here is an essay about the Foley situation that offers some objective, non-partisan opinion, free from partisan hackery.

Dr. Pierre Atlas, assistant professor of political science and director of the Franciscan Center for Global Studies at Marian College, wrote a piece for the Indy Star entitled, Scandal reveals hypocrisy and arrogance of power. It needs no commentary from me and is pretty much a mirror image of how I feel about the entire mess.

But I will add a few things to the mix.

1. If the Dems cannot regain control of at least one house of Congress in this current political climate, they can't win, period.

2. The only reason they are not running away with this thing after the Foley affair was made public, is they have no plan, no vision, and no idea what they will do after they regain power (with the exception of initiate impeachment proceedings, if they win the House). Beyond that, they are still the party of the clueless, in my estimation. Think of what a slam dunk it would be for them, if they actually had something of any substance to run on besides a scandal on the side of the opposition.

3. The only hope the GOP has to keep control of the Congress is for Hastert to step down for the good of the party. It's still not sure bet, but if he digs in and it is found that he is negligent in the entire matter, they will not keep control. One or both houses will surely fall. If he steps down now, it gives the GOP time to reinvent themselves, a bit. But as I said, it's still a longshot.

4. It is openly apparent that the GOP has become drunk with power. If the Dems had anything that resembled a plan, I'd give them a look. Meanwhile, I keep looking for something, and have yet to find it.

5. Maybe it's time for the Dems in their present state (meaning the Deaniac wing) to govern and show the nation what they bring to the table, because much of the electrorate believes that anything is better then what we have now. And frankly, it's not. It's not a bit good as it stands right now, but if you can't imagine how bad it can get, maybe you need to see it with your own eyes. The state of American politics is certainly at an all-time low.

Telegraph: Attacks Increase On French Police. (Is It Intifada Or Good Old-Fashioned Thuggery?)

A commenter left a link to this article in the Telegraph about the increasing number of attacks on police, in France. (Not having much else to post on this morning, I thought I'd post this to get some input from some of my French readers on this story.)

Radical Muslims in France's housing estates are waging an undeclared "intifada" against the police, with violent clashes injuring an average of 14 officers each day.

As the interior ministry said that nearly 2,500 officers had been wounded this year, a police union declared that its members were "in a state of civil war" with Muslims in the most depressed "banlieue" estates which are heavily populated by unemployed youths of north African origin.

It said the situation was so grave that it had asked the government to provide police with armoured cars to protect officers in the estates, which are becoming no-go zones.

I have heard from many Frenchies that this is mostly a socio-economic intifada and is rooted in organized crime, much like the gangs that wreak havoc in most large American urban areas.

Senior officers insisted that the problem was essentially criminal in nature, with crime bosses on the estates fighting back against tough tactics.

But there are some that are beginning to have their doubts.

However, not all officers on the ground accept that essentially secular interpretation. Michel Thoomis, the secretary general of the hardline Action Police trade union, has written to Mr Sarkozy warning of an "intifada" on the estates and demanding that officers be given armoured cars in the most dangerous areas.

He said yesterday: "We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists. This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their 'comrades' free when they are arrested."

With the Redeker affair fresh in everyone's mind right now, as well as other incidents in Europe, this argument could become a more credible one and certainly will be an issue as the French Presidential election takes place next year. How Sarkozy handles this will certainly have a big impact on how that election turns out.

Is organized crime limited to just the Muslim sections? If not, then why do not other areas break out in this kind of violence against authority?

This needs to be examined more closely and from an objective mindset. And if it turns out to be more to it than just the secular explanation, the future of France will include more violence, resulting in more instability. And one thing I have learned from the French, they don't like uncertainty. In fact, I know of no country in the western world that does.

The thing to note from this article is, the French police unions are getting restless. One thing the French cannot afford right now, is to have the Police union get unhappy to the point that there is a strike. If that were the case, bedlam would surely occur.