Monday, February 28, 2005

Lebanese Government Resigns

It will eventually become difficult for even the most ardent George W. Bush hater to deny that US actions in the Middle East have done quite a lot to break a decades long stalemate and that that shake-up looks very much like a giant infusion of democracy.

Update: link to Reuters article

Update: Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt:
"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Bill Press on Eason Jordan

Cable talk shows continue their coverage of the blogosphere and the Eason Jordan story. In particular MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough tonight invited Hugh Hewitt, Radley Balko, Ana Marie Cox, and Bill Press to discuss the issues at play. Bill Press led off the discussion and immediately tried to establish his blogging street cred by point out that he is, in fact, a blogger. However, he immediately began under cutting himself by introducing this caveat to the Jordan story, “if that is what Eason Jordan said.” (this blogger is sure that Press added the emphasis himself) only to try and redeem himself by saying that an MSM voice who doesn’t read blogs “is so last century.”

Press then went on to list a number of things that the MSM has that the blogosphere lacks. He said they (bloggers) have “no credentials, no sources, no rules, no editors, and no accountability” and that thus “they are going to make mistakes.” What Press overlooks, and lamentably the well credentialed members of the blogosphere failed to point out, is that not only do many bloggers have sources of their own, but that the MSM is the biggest source for every blogger.

In theory and practice our sources are well credentialed, with many important rules, editors and accountability. What Press doesn’t say is that the blogosphere’s biggest successes to date are when the rules and layers of protection designed to separate MSM from bloggers break down, if only sales people across this country could get all their leads this well qualified. Adding to this would be the well chronicled position about how bloggers and commenters police themselves and how many of the leading figures in the blogosphere’s biggest stories are often well recognized as experts in the fields they are commenting on at the time.

Of course, Press really cannot say these things about the relationship between the blogosphere and MSM; at least, not if he wants to continue to be an important member in good standing. In one important way, he does distinguish himself from Eason Jordan in not forgetting this. Plus, he did actually say “mainstream media” twice.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Social Security History

Washington and the Blogosphere alike are abuzz with the topic of Social Security Reform. (here here here here) One of the most helpful things bloggers and comment posters can do is to brush up on their history of Social Security. Both blind faith in the President’s position and blind bashing of it as destroying or disrespecting the history of Social Security serve to benefit no person or agenda.

So, just a little history of Social Security……

  • Social Security Act passed and signed into law in 1935. The law said that taxes would be collected from the outset, but that benefits would not be paid out until January 1942.
  • In 1939 Congress and FDR worked out the Social Security Reform Amendment of 1939. Among the reforms were added benefits like after death payments to children under 16 and for widows.
  • There was one other important change and one lack of change. The 1939 Amendment changed the start date for payments to 1940 rather than 1942 and did not increase payroll taxes to offset the 2 years the fund was not accumulating money.

Today we have a looming shortfall. Neither political party can or will deny this. Our history with Social Security shows that even the great Democrat saint, FDR, was willing to change social security and do so in a politically expedient rather than economically sound manner. As this current debate over Social Security reform plays out readers should keep in mind that Washington politicians have been playing around with Social Security for a long time, “borrowing” against surpluses for example.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Shawn Tully on MSNBC

Fortune contributor Shawn Tully was on MSNBC last night. He made a statement about Social Security that I cannot find confirmation for via Google. However, if it is accurate it is an amazingly insightful angle into the question of whether there is a Social Secuirty crisis. His statement, paraphrased, is:

To bring Social Security into ERISA compliance today the US government would have to contribute $11 Trillion.

That is a big number to fully fund America's safety net of pension plans. I think it highlights the greatest difference between the mindset of Washington and that of the rest of the country, or at lest the blogoshpere.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Hitchens on Iraq/Vietnam

Normally I find Christopher Hitchens to be an enjoyable and insightful essayist who finds an interesting perspective that is neither patently right nor left. In his latest piece, “Beating a Dead Parrot,” Hitchens typically finds that centrist position yet fails the test on interesting and insightful. Making the case that Iraq is for Bush what Vietnam was for Johnson is a difficult or impossible task. While certain Washington Democrats have been ebulliently repeating this claim any time a television news crew is within earshot, hoping against hope that it will stick to the walls of American kitchens from coast to coast.

In rebuttal to the analogy that Democrats want to draw, Hitchens fails to illustrate the real and powerful contrasts between the two favoring only a litany of unimportant point counter-point examples about how Vietnam was not under a decade of UN Sanctions and that Iraqi insurgents are not being re-supplied by organized governmental entities. Both of these are unquestionably true. However, neither bears significantly on the validity of an equation of Iraq with Vietnam. It is much more illustrative to point out the measurable differences between the accomplishing goals in each action. In Vietnam, The US never really got past “GO.” Significant territorial gains for the South Vietnamese were never made, substantial destabilization of Ho Chi Minh never got off the ground, and from nearly the beginning US military forces were fighting against the current to maintain their positions. All that and more has been accomplished in Iraq. This past weekend’s elections are particularly important in demonstrating just how different Iraq and Vietnam are.

Perhaps the most impressively lacking portion of the article is Hitchens’ failure to address the blatantly partisan claim of an Iraqi quagmire. It is not hard to recall that the red badge of failure, quagmire, was originally foist upon this Iraqi War early on as US troops paused to allow supplies to catch up with the incredible progress ground forces were making as the assault on Baghdad progressed forward. Shortly thereafter US troops moved on Baghdad, deposed Hussein’s government and began to set the stage for a new government, an impressive reversal of fortunes to say the least. As Iraq approached an historic election, US Democrats once again tried to apply the label quagmire to a situation ready to show significant progress. Intent on inspiring fear of an unending commitment to what they paint as the killing fields of the Sunni triangle, Democrats directly and indirectly attempt to weave the tale of Iraq, Vietnam, and the joining of a quagmire. In the wake of elections with greater turnout than US elections, ink stained fingers point the way to freedom and democracy. That’s a far cry from a quagmire.