Tuesday, March 30, 2004

"What would I do if I were NSA?" Edition part I.

I.
WHAT IS AN NSA?


A few days ago, the oldman kvetched jokingly that Bush was an evil tyrant intent on taking over the world. Part of that musing included the "The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord" a light hearted look at some suggestions for how to deal with the job of being a cinematic-esque evil genius intent on world domination, and how to avoid common pitfalls to such a career path.

Since that post, a great deal of criticism of Dr. Condoleeza Rice the National Security Adviser (BBC) has emerged especially regarding her testifying before the 911 commission (MSNBC). Despite assurances otherwise, this is undoubtedly a precedent setting event. This is not entirely a bad thing however. As the article notes:

***
Part of the problem, he notes, is that the role of the national security adviser has expanded over time - especially since the Nixon administration, when Henry Kissinger held the position - and become much more public, complicating the rationale that originally supported the adviser's immunity from testimony...

"They are in the foreground, they are issuing orders, making decisions - and giving public statements all the time. And so for the executive branch to take the position that this person can't open his or her mouth without violating executive privilege just seems less and less plausible."

***

If National Security Advisers are out front, giving press briefings, going on talk shows, advocating policies, then they are acting as political officials of the executive branch and deserve a certain degree of public scrutiny. This is not exactly an separation of powers issue since the commission is not an arm of Congress (hat tip to Talking Points Memo).

II.
"IT'S ALIVE!" OR WHO'S TO BLAME,


To put the critcisim of Dr. Rice in perspective, here is a Salon piece from 2000 referring to "Condi" Rice as "Bush's secret weapon". More recently, as Daniel Drezner discusses the National Security Council has fallen into disrepute with blame falling variously to Cheney taking it over, Condi being too weak a NSA to deal with headstrong principals, Bush being asleep at the wheel, etc.

The oldman's reponse to which reason is at fault is "Yes,".

Ultimately the POTUS is responsible as the primary elected executive official. If he's not willing or able for whatever reason to run the national security and foreign policy shop, then it's up to him to select and support an individual who will speak and act on his behalf. Since right now, the division of labor is one part Condeleeza Rice babysitting the Prez and one part Cheney running amok by stepping into the power vacuum then the blame for that falls squarely on GW's shoulders.

For those apologists who suggest a Kerry ticket would be worse as an unknown than another four years of Bush-Cheney, just imagine what things will be like when Rice steps down as she says she wants to, and Colin Powell leaves as he had indicated he probably will in private. Before betting on another four years of Bush, we should ask who is he going to get to replace these two and what the NSC would look like with Cheney and Rumsfeld left unchecked.

If Bush were to either tell Dick to step down on medical grounds "to spend more time with his family," or to stop coming to meetings and play more golf, and replace Rice with someone expected to do the NSA's job, and a moderate like Armitage to replace Powell then I would strongly consider voting for Bush. A few more changes, and that would clinch it for me - especially if he replaced Cheney with somebody like Guiliani as Kelli suggested on Drezner's blog. Even more so if he dumped Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith. Pick Barry McCaffery or even Shinseki for Sec. Def for crying out loud. Somebody. Anybody but a neo-con! (the only exceptions I might take is Robert Kagan or Bill Kristol,).

I am a Republican at heart afterall, but I regard the liklihood of such a last minute Pauline conversion as low. Given how unlikely such a change of heart would be ("I've seen the light! And will be a Pragmatic Republican hence forth, not dividing the nation but appointing competent officials to increase its security and prosperity!") and with the cabinet constructed as it is now, I'd have to say that a Democrat I immensely dislike is better than a Republican likely to run the country into the ground. And truly, I have no love for Kerry.

III.
SO WHAT WOULD YOU DO BETTER?


While we're on the subject of fantasizing about a pragmatic Republican leadership and cabinet, let's continue in this vein and ask just what would the oldman do if he were NSA? Well the first thing would be to hire somebody else to babysit Bush and instead do the NSA's job. What is the NSA's job you ask? To Advise The President On National Security And Foreign Policy, And Carry Out The President's Directives Through Leading The National Security Council. Note, no babysitting in that discussion. The President does not need a friend. The President does not need somebody to "hang with". He can appoint a friend if he feels the need for a buddy. The National Security Adviser's job is forming and executing policies furthering the National Security Interests of the United States of America. That clear enough? Great, let's get to some details now.

Swopa at Needlenose blog has argued that the structure of the Interim government is botched. Additionally, Talking Points Memo among many sources has documented how we have appointed corrupt ineffective schemers to run Iraq, furthermore Iraqis regard the appointed IGC members as useless and corrupt puppets.

So besides putting a lot more time in on the escalating Taiwanese Crisis (Oldman1787), getting more money to Russian nukes (GAO) to get them off the market, focusing on directly targeting Alqueda and bin Ladin, the oldman would do the following regarding the Interim Authority in Iraq:

IV.
The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became NSA #2


Let's first assume we really picked just the wrong guys. My notion is to pick a representative "Senate" or "house of lords" with 100 members from all native parts of Iraqi society - the tribes, a few clerics, high standing women, that's roughly proportional to the demographics of Iraqs (a few Turkmen, etc.).

Their job would be to act as a legislature. Then they set up a series of elections to elect a "house of reps" or "house of commons". The house of commons picks a Prime minister and forms a government by coalition - let's say 60% required.

Veto power would reside in a separate President, with 2/3rd majority in both parts of the bicameral legislature to overcome it. Initially, the appointed head of the US occupation would stand in for the President temporarily.

After the house of commons becomes elected, then they devise an electoral system for the upper house. Then the upper house elects by 2/3rds majority the President.

Then the US head of occupation steps aside.

In the meantime, the US head and eventually PM would propose legislation that would govern Iraq. It's probably the most stable and fair way to do things. It's the elections in the upper house that would be tricky, how to keep it representative. Perhaps like the house of lords, it could remain by fiat or appointment for some time as a hedge against demogogery.

The house of commons would be entirely responsible for writing the constitution, and passing most long term laws. The ruling coalition (60% say) would form the government, and run the bueracracy.

This proposal draws from features in our own government, the British system, and democracies around the world. It includes direct election of representatives, probably on a provincial basis, and the formation of the bureaucratic heads of government based on a coalition system. Party affiliation would not be necessary however, so it wouldn't be how the house of commons was elected. Perhaps a national party electoral system for the upper house or Senate would be appropriate since this would guarantee eventual proportional representation.

The Prime Minister as the head executive figure would be powerful and capable of introducing legislation, but he would be constrained by the formal head of state the President whom the 2/3rds consensus figure in the Senate would guarentee that he would be a moderating force. With the veto requiring two thirds majority in both houses to overcome, this would put the scotch to a Shia theocratic state as long as the minorities stuck together. Indeed, playing the the moderates versus the hardliners among the Shias, the Kurds and Sunnis could get their agendas passed.

The rest of the parlimentarian and legislature rules, as well as sticky questions about Federalism and localism can probably be hashed out through the "House of Commons" and then ratified by 2/3rd majority in the "Senate" or "House of Lords". Hence a Constitution could be formed by the people, for the people, and with the people of Iraq so that it should not perish from this earth. This would be better than the unrepresentative botched job piece of drek that has no popular legitimacy that we currently call the "basic law" or interim Constution (via Needlenose) currently in place.

So that's the first thing (technically second since the first thing I'd do is get someone else to be Bush's buddy) I'd do if I were NSA!

This goes against the grain, since the old Imperial saying goes "Never ask for a job; never refuse one." but heh, this isn't Britain, this is America and certainly the oldman could do a better job than the one Rice has done so far as NSA so Bush White House, consider this the first page of the oldman's application / petittion for the job!

Fire Rice! (and retire Cheney) and hire the Oldman instead!

Do you think that's so farfetched? This is the Bush Admin's idea: Pick a PM but without the support apparatus and using the botched Constitution. Whatever their degrees and credentials, the Bush people haven't delivered the goods.

As for the IGC, we put these fools on the IGC in power, and we need negotiate nothing with them. Better to dissolve them and institute a new body with some genuine representativeness and a phased handover of sovereignty than put into place measures that will produce a corrupt ineffective body of stooges whose inevitable crimes we will be blamed for!!!

The Bush Administration truly has no better ideas, so I figure if we're gonna have any chance at surviving this at all, I volunteer myself to either be NSA or be put in charge of fixing Iraq.

Monday, March 29, 2004

John Kerry getting no love on WoT

Akim on Empty Days blog conveniently hosts one of the oldman's posts about the Democratic lack of credibility on the WoT. Elsewhere on Needlenose blog, in the midst of the Clarke controversy the oldman predicted that Kerry was still behind. Stirling Newberry has more on the reversal of Kerry's fortunes.

The USA Today story about Bush's most recent poll numbers confirm that indeed, just as the oldman predicted, that while Bush's credibility numbers are down he's actually pulled ahead of Kerry among registered voters.The gap is even bigger among likely voters.

***
The Bush administration did not do all it could to prevent the attacks, 54% say, and 53% say the White House is covering up something about its handling of intelligence before Sept. 11.

Still, 67% say the administration should not have been expected to prevent the tragedy.

But Americans' doubts have not meant greater reluctance to return Bush to office.

In a two-way matchup, Bush leads Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, 51%-47%, which is a 7 percentage-point gain in three weeks for Bush and a 5-point drop for Kerry. Three weeks ago, when Kerry was coming off a string of primary victories, Bush trailed him by 6 points.

If independent Ralph Nader is included, he gets 4%, Bush 49% and Kerry 45%.

The poll suggests that Bush campaign ads charging Kerry with a flip-flopping record in the Senate are taking a toll. Before they began, 60% rated Kerry favorably and 26% unfavorably. Now, 53% view him favorably and 36% unfavorably.

"Bush seems to be having some success in selling the idea that Kerry's voting record in the Senate is all over the place," says Maurice Carroll, polling director at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.
[emphasis added]
***

This as the oldman predicted over at the Blogging of the President 2004 means that:

***
That's what Dem's don't get. It's not enough to portray Bush as ineffective, selfish, and abusive of power. Those will only help him get relected.

We're talking essentially about a challenge situation. Kerry has to show himself able to challenge Bush in basic ruthlessness, cunning, and decisiveness. Only then if he's nicer will he get the electoral nod.

I've tried explaining this before and have been told that the jobs situation and Iraq will defeat Bush, not Kerry. I think this is idealistic, but dead wrong. Think about Dukakis. Think about Dole falling off the podium. People won't vote in a weak President. They will vote in a corrupt or lying one. But not a weak one, or one percieved as weak, especially not when they're concerned about security.

They'd rather have the big mean ineffectual corrupt alpha male than the well intentioned but not so nasty nice guy. That's the key to this whole thing.

***

Unless Democrats realize what is going on and get some credibility in the WoT, the election is over for all intents and purposes. It is not enough to just engage President Bush on the issues. Without a credible forward engagement plan on Iraq, terrorism, Alqueda, that assures the President that the Democrats and specifically John Kerry "get's it" about how serious the problem is, then the election might as well be conceded barring unusual and unexpected future revelations.

In retrospect, taking a vacation in Idaho for a week was a castatrophic error that has put the Kerry campaign on a backfoot. Despite the Democratic advantage in that most of their policies are ones that the public prefers, they're getting killed by political gamesmanship (MSNBC) and the Bush PR blitz. Kerry can recover from this setback, but he won't until he not only "get's it" about how serious this race is but he begins to show it. He's got to be "hungry" for it, or voters won't respond. Sking in Idaho sent the wrong message to the public, that Kerry couldn't care less. Now he's got to start from scratch again.

Taiwan situation escalating politically,

The BBC reports that the Taiwan election controversy is going to court, with the opposition leader Lien Chan demanding a recount that has been agreed to in principle by the incumbent and tenative victor Chen.

However, the Washington Post reports that Chen is claiming a mandate for his independence initiatives despite a dead heat statistical tie in the election results.

***
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, speaking in his first interview since a failed attempt on his life and a narrow election victory that his opponents are contesting, declared Monday he had won a mandate from voters to press ahead with an agenda to develop Taiwan as an "independent, sovereign country" despite the risk of war with China.

Chen vowed to go forward with plans to write a new constitution for Taiwan within two years, a move China has said could amount to a declaration of independence and compel it to seize the island by force...

The United States is committed to helping Taiwan defend itself against a Chinese attack, but officials have expressed concern that Chen's plan to draft a new constitution might draw U.S. forces into an unnecessary military confrontation with China. The Chinese government claims sovereignty over Taiwan and threatens to seize it by force if it formally declares independence...

"The fundamental reason I won this presidential election . . . is because there is a rising Taiwan identity and it has been solidified," Chen said. "I think the Beijing authorities should take heed of this fact and accept the reality."

"I think we have reached an internal consensus that insists on Taiwan being an independent, sovereign country,"
[emphasis added]
***

Read the transcript of his interview yourself:

"I think the key issue is not that I personally refuse to accept the "one China" principle. It's the 23 million people of Taiwan who cannot accept the so-called "one China" principle."

This represents a major escalation of the political stakes, because Chen is rejecting the "One China" Principle that China's leaders have declared that they are willing to go to war over.

While Chen has stated that he opposes the "One China" principle previously, he had left himself some wiggle room on his position with sufficient rhetorical ambiguity to stand short of commiting himself to an open break.

***
"We cannot possibly accept the 'one country, two systems' formula and become a local government of the People's Republic of China."
...
"Who knows if these two separate countries (Taiwan and China) might become one over time? We do not exclude any possibilities for the future."
***

This therefore his remarks now can be construed as a significant break with previous ambiguity regarding the situation.

This has blown up to the extent that the moviestar Jackie Chan has condemned the Taiwanese election results even as the Taiwanese themselves struggle to deal with the aftemath of the election (BBC). The Washington Post has a internet chat briefing given by a senior policy fellow at the the Brookings Institute regarding the internal politics of Taiwan.

Despite the oldman's fondness forJackie Chan, in recent times the stunt-crazy film star has become marginalized in the Asian film industry because of personal scandal. His films also have had varying degrees of pro-Chinese propaganda slants.

This is a troublesome situation since the The New Republic Online discusses how the military doubts we could fight another war right now besides Iraq!

As one Army official puts it, "The [Pentagon's civilian] policy folks say that our military is large enough to carry out Operation Iraqi Freedom while simultaneously dealing with North Korea. But, if you put that question to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they would be pulling their hair out."

Woah! Is this guy nuts? He's bearding China at the very same time that we're tied down in Iraq, and now he's gambling we'll back him as he provokes a war with China (FAM)!!!

Unfortunately, Taiwan is unable to credibly deter or deflect a Chinese attack (especially a rapid strike) at present, despite greatly increased levels of U.S. assistance. Indeed, it appears that many Taiwanese political and military leaders incorrectly believe that the island does not need to acquire such capabilities and can rely on the United States entirely.

Sounds like ... a man with nothing to hide: Clarke calls for declassification

I.
A MAN WITH NOTHING TO HIDE,


MSNBC reports that on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday morning Clarke calls for declassifying his own testimony:

***
Richard Clarke, the former chief counterterrorism adviser at the White House, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that he “would welcome” the attempt by leading Republicans to declassify his two-year-old testimony before Congress.

Clarke, who has criticized the Bush administration’s preparedness for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, also said Rice’s private testimony before the commission should be declassified, as well as e-mails, memos and all other correspondence between Rice and Clarke.

Let’s declassify all of it,” Clarke said to NBC's Tim Russert, moderator of the program, “ ... because the victims' families have no idea what Dr. Rice has said. There weren't in those closed hearings where she testified before the 9-11 Commission. They want to know.
[emphasis added]
***

II.
LIES, DAMNED LIES


To the oldman, it sounds like Clarke is a man with nothing to hide. Clarke isn't exactly objective, but as Kevin Drum points out he had good reason to be bitter. The White House on the other hand, can't seem to get it's story straight. As the NYT reports, the WH admits that Bush pressed aide over Alqueda link to Iraq early after 911:

***
The White House acknowledged Sunday that on the day after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush asked his top counterterrorism adviser, Richard A. Clarke, to find out whether Iraq was involved.

Mr. Bush wanted to know "did Iraq have anything to do with this? Were they complicit in it?" Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, recounted in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes."

Mr. Bush was not trying to intimidate anyone to "produce information," she said. Rather, given the United States' "actively hostile relationship" with Iraq at the time, he was asking Mr. Clarke "a perfectly logical question," Ms. Rice said.

The conversation — which the White House suggested last week had never taken place — centers on perhaps the most volatile charge Mr. Clarke has made public in recent days: that the Bush White House became fixated on Iraq and Saddam Hussein at the expense of focusing on Al Qaeda.
[emphasis added]
***

III.
WORSE THAN A CRIME, SHADES OF TALLEYRAND


So after initially denying the story, and then finding out that there are on the record witnesses to that discussion, the WH has to retract its denial. In addition, Talking Points Memo discusses how Condi Rice continues to refuse testifying under oath even as the WH accusation about perjury seems to have been a bluff that has been called.

***
The White House can be a very isolated and isolating environment -- especially on the downward side of the mountain. And I think this is a large part of what we're seeing. Many of the challenges they've faced over the last two or three months are ones they might easily have weathered as recently as eight or nine months ago. And they keep reacting as though they have little grasp of how much the ground has moved beneath their feet during those intervening months.

One other point. We certainly don't know yet. But I think the early signs are that this perjury attack on Clarke was a major, major blunder. I don't think the perpetrators of this ugly stunt even thought they'd ever get into a courtroom. That wasn't the point: this was watercooler ammo. Something you get on to the news so that when Mr. X asks Mr. Y over the watercooler what he makes of Clarke's testimony, Mr. Y responds, "Hell, that guy? He's probably gonna indicted for perjury. You can't believe anything that guy says." ...

This was a very high stakes bluff, not least because it looked like the worst sort of Nixonian tactic, using the coercive machinery of the state to bludgeon political opponents. But if they were going to play hardball at this level, they should have been certain they had him dead to rights. And it seems like they didn't. Now even a number of partisan Republicans I know feel like this looked ugly and wrong. To use they Napoleonic aphorism again: this was worse than a crime. It was a mistake.
[emphasis added]
***

The saying that a mistake is worse than a crime is attributed to: a statement that Napoleon's foreign minister Talleyrand made after Napoleon ordered the execution of a young duke of the Bourbon family: "Sire, it is worse than a crime, it is a mistake."

According to the source cited, in March 1804, Napoleon, after having heard erroneous reports that Bourbon Duke Louis-Antoine-Henri de Bourbon-Cande was part of a plot to overthrow him, had the duke summarily executed. Napoleon received much criticism at home and abroad for having executed an innocent man.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

The Enemies of Allah, so much for moderate Islam

MSNBC reports that Hamas has declared America to be the enemy of God.

U.S. President George W. Bush is the enemy of God and Islam, the new Hamas chief in Gaza said Sunday, declaring that God's war against the United States and Israel was ongoing.

In a speech at Gaza's Islamic University, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi said he was not surprised that the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel's assassination last Monday of Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

"We knew that Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims. America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon," Rantisi said. "The holy man (Sheik Yassin), he said the war of God continues against them and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas."

Immediately after the Israeli missile strike that killed Yassin, Rantisi and other Hamas leaders threatened to retaliate against the United States, Israel's staunchest ally. However, a few days later, Rantisi backed down from the threat, saying Hamas would only be active in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel.


Juan Cole notes that Arab elite Hassan once considered a potential claimant to the "throne" of Iraq has warned that further escalation of tensions might trigger WWIII.

Baghdad Blues ... conservative update on Mesopotamian conundrum

I.
INTRODUCTION


The oldman has been maintaining for quite some time - as of early last fall really and prior - that the fundamental problem that would afflict the success of the Iraqi venture would be political, and not primarily military or economic.

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard summarizes his trip to Iraq in these excerpts calling it "The Bumpy road to democracy":

HERE'S WHAT YOU LEARN QUICKLY IN IRAQ: The transformation of the country into a peaceful, free market democracy is a bigger, more demanding, and far more difficult project than you ever dreamed. Nonetheless, a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Operation Iraqi Freedom has gained impressive momentum. Iraq has traffic jams, street life, drinkable water, reasonably reliable electricity, and is about to experience an extraordinary economic boom, thanks to the $18.4 billion in reconstruction funds soon to begin arriving. Though terrorist attacks continue, they don't halt progress and are likely to be gradually beaten back.

But don't assume a growing economy and declining terrorism spell success. There's a serious obstacle remaining--the attitude of many Iraqis.


The oldman would argue with Barnes' premise that terrorism is declining in Iraq. It seems it's shifting from anti-US attacks to more sectarian strife and struggle. This danger was amply warned of in a previous CIA assessment of potential civil war.

Fred Barnes goes on to elaborate:

"Kurds, educated exiles who've returned ..., and a good number of other Iraqis have embraced ... the "new Iraq." But many Iraqis haven't. They don't want Saddam back, but ... Like the French, they may never forgive America for having liberated them."
...
"Iraqis want help. Indeed, they demand it and are angry and frustrated when they don't get it instantly. But they appear to hate being helped. Their expectation was an America capable of supplanting Saddam in less than three weeks would improve everything overnight. When that didn't happen, they grew frustrated. Now they're conflicted between lashing out at the American occupation and trying to get the full benefit of it. For success to be achieved, they need to buy into the program fully--democracy, free markets, rule of law, property rights, political compromise, and patience. They need an attitude adjustment.

Americans I talked to in 10 days here agree Iraqis are difficult to deal with. They're sullen and suspicious and conspiracy-minded. Maybe it's not their fault.
"
...
But perhaps the problem is more basic. Seventy years ago, Iraq's first king, Faisal I, described Iraqis this way: "There is still--and I say this with a heart full of sorrow--no Iraqi people, but an unimaginable mass of human beings devoid of any patriotic ideas, imbued with religious traditions and absurdities, prone to anarchy and perpetually ready to rise against any government whatsoever."
...
"The most encouraging trend in Iraq is solid economic growth, sure to be followed by torrid growth... and joblessness has dipped below 30 percent, according to Bill Block, a Princeton-educated economist for the Treasury Department now working for the CPA...

This summer the Iraqi economy will be on the receiving end of the biggest stimulus in history.
"

The oldman managed to catch a preliminary briefing from Fred Barnes on FOX_news, and Fred Barnes quite honestly reported that he had left for Iraq feeling quite optimistic about the prospects for success but that once he had gotten there that his assessment and revised opinion was "sobering" regarding the obstacles to success.

II.
OTHER NEWS FROM IRAQ


The news outlet KR-Wa reports that Iraqi translators are getting killed for collaborating with the United States.

Linguists are caught in the crossfire, ... Many have been unheralded casualties of the shadowy year-old war. The latest was an Iraqi translator for Time Magazine, who died Friday ... when he was ambushed Wednesday as he drove to work. Another Iraqi interpreter, working with the U.S. Army, was killed Sunday when someone triggered a remote-control bomb, then opened up with automatic gunfire on an Army patrol. An American soldier also was killed.

Furthermore much of the money being spent on the Iraqi reconstruction also as is being mispent in Pentagon contracts (KR-Wa):

In awarding the first contracts in Iraq, the Pentagon "cut corners," couldn't show that it got "fair and reasonable" prices and didn't follow up to see if the work was done properly, a new Defense Department inspector general's report says.

Experts on contracting said Wednesday that the Pentagon report shows a disturbing, but not surprising, institutional problem with spending in Iraq that's probably far worse than the Department of Defense indicates.


Furthermore, the rights enshrined on paper in the Iraqi Basic Law are both being rejected by Shiite leaders threatening mass civil disobedience (Needlenose blog) while on the ground there is encroaching intimidation characteristic of a social theocratic power grab by the Shiites:

Shiite Muslim religious extremists, backed by armed militias, are waging a campaign of intimidation to enforce a strict Islamic code of conduct in Iraq's second largest city. Neither the Iraqi police nor the British military forces that occupy Basra seem willing or able to stop it...

But the effectiveness of the campaign by religious extremists raises questions about whether freedoms of expression and religion - newly enshrined in Iraq's interim constitution - will survive in the Shiite-dominated south after the coalition returns authority to Iraqis this summer.


Even the recent "good news" about the support that Iraqis have for the American occupation seems shaky when you read the fine print (Needlenose blog). Meanwhile, basic practices of the occupation like indefinite detention of suspected insurgents (CSM), house to house searches (via Needlenose), and the failure of the new "soft touch" tactics of the Marine units to restore amity to Fallujah (Guardian_UK) seem to be sparking a wave of violence across Iraq:

Rebel rockets slammed into a government building in the northern city of Mosul on Saturday, killing two civilians and wounding 14 others. An explosion rocked central Baghdad in a roadside bomb attack on a convoy, wounding five Iraqis.

The Mosul attack brought to 21 the number of people killed in two days of explosions and shootings across the country.


This seems consistent with background reports that Iraqis are escalating sectarian strife (via Needlenose) informally while formally making empty gestures of disarming and demobilizing their militias (via Dan Drezner).

As the oldman noted, according to the very same article cited:

"Many militiamen will likely be absorbed into existing security organizations such as the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, where their loyalties will continue to be divided between their Baghdad paymasters and local or sectarian affiliations," Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote last week in a paper on Iraq's militias.

In other words, they're not going to get disarmed and "dissolved". They will get new uniforms, their paychecks will come from Baghdad, and they will probably keep the same commanders and command structure only nominally under the control of the "central" government.

III.
EXPLOSION IN IRAQ ... AND TAIWAN?


If the CPA and Bremer assume that al-Sistani will back down over the constitution and he doesn't, then an explosive confrontation could be set off. This is going on, while the Taiwan election situation remains unstable with China openly threatening to intervene if the situation becomes unstable (BBC):

China, which regards Taiwan as part of its own territory, says it will not stand by if Taiwan descends into chaos.

Taiwan has told China not to interfere.

A spokesman for US President George W Bush, Scott McClellan, urged Beijing and Taipei to pursue dialogue and refrain from unilateral steps that would alter Taiwan's status. He said the US would continue to maintain close ties with Taipei.

Later, Beijing denounced as a "mistake" a US message congratulating Mr Chen after his narrow re-election was formally confirmed on Friday.


The Foreign Affairs Magazine has a great new article "Trouble in Taiwan" that discusses why somehow managing to perpetuate the status quo of de facto autonomy with de jure sovereignty limbo is in the best interests of both Taiwan and the United States.

***
China very much wants to avoid conflict over Taiwan. But this does not mean that it would be unprepared to go to war over the island. For China's leaders, the Taiwan issue is inextricably related to national self-respect and regime survival... Beijing regards the eventual reunification of China and Taiwan as essential to China's recovery from a century of national weakness, vulnerability, and humiliation, and to its emergence as a respected great power.

Today, however, China's main objective is not to assert direct territorial rule over Taiwan but to avoid the island's permanent loss. Losing Taiwan against Beijing's will would deal a severe blow to Chinese prestige and self-confidence: Chinese leaders believe that their government would likely collapse in such a scenario. Taiwanese independence would also establish a dangerous precedent for other potentially secession-minded areas of the country, ...

China's leaders are under few illusions about the detrimental effects a coercive strategy would have on Beijing's ties with the United States. But China would almost certainly sacrifice good relations with the West (and the economic benefits that accrue from those relations) in order to avoid losing Taiwan. The damage to China's political and social stability in being seen to lose territory, in other words, would be even greater than the diplomatic and economic damage resulting from a conflict with the United States.

The Chinese leadership would thus almost certainly fight to avoid the loss of Taiwan if it concluded that no other alternative existed, even if its chances of prevailing in such a conflict were low. Exactly how much blood and treasure China would be willing to expend over the issue is unclear, but it might be considerably more than the United States would be prepared to shoulder. Indeed, many Chinese believe that, in the final analysis, Taiwan matters far more to China than it does to the United States. It is highly unlikely, therefore, that the Chinese government can be persuaded or coerced to alter its calculus regarding Taiwan, especially not by a U.S. government that appears to be supporting Taiwan's independence. This notion directly contradicts a key assumption held by critics of the status quo.

***

Certainly if a crisis occured in either Tawian or Iraq, we would be in "difficult straits". If it happened in both places, then Greenboy's speculation of a draft may well come true.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Pondering on a November with contemplations most queasy,

Bush taking a hit from Clarke controversy (MSNBC):

Richard Clarke’s charge that George W. Bush largely ignored the Al Qaeda threat before the September 11 attacks has dealt a sharp blow to the president’s ratings on a crucial issue. According to the latest NEWSWEEK poll, the percentage of voters who say they approve of the way the president has handled terrorism and homeland security has slid to 57 percent, down from a high of 70 percent two months ago. The survey was conducted after Clarke, a former counterterrorism chief in both the Bush and Clinton administrations, testified to the 9/11 commission on Wednesday. Still, the president’s overall approval rating remains steady at 49 percent and Bush remains neck and neck with presumptive Democratic Party nominee Senator John Kerry

Max Speaks has an interesting comment, while Dan Drezner blogs the issue to death, then Joe Katzman provides a critical viewpoint on Clarke, so Talking Points Memo blasts the Bush Administration contradictions along with Brad Delong, and Stirling Newberry does a round up on right wing blog responses .

Bob Graham has stood up for Clarke's previous testimony. IMO there are minor inconsistencies in Clarke's accounts from venue to venue. However, the inconsistencies are small compared to the inconsistencies of the Bush Admin. If we were to impute a proportional amount of bad faith to Bush officials as they do to Clarke's missteps, we'd being having impeachment hearings already.

Clarke's accounting has had a strong impact, dropping Bush in the polls noticeably. It is a body blow however, and not a death blow. Even though Bush and Kerry are still close, we saw how that turned out in 2000. The electoral math and the organizational and money aspects of the campaigning dynamics still heavily favor Bush.

If Clarke hadn't come out when he did, Kerry would be slipping badly. He may resume doing that in a few weeks. The smear campaign seems to have been working against Clarke, reducing his credibility as an honest broker and credible witness. This character assassination cum damage control has been moderately successful as a WH line of attack.

There's no doubt that Bush's positive momentum is halted however. The matter of the fact is, that this Administration has demonstrated tremendous staying power despite massive unpopularity of various issues and the criticisms of many former insiders. This is not to say that the gaffes or missteps like the joke in poor taste about missing WMD have not gone unnoticed, but the impact has not been a KO.

Joe Wilson is going to trot out his book in a few months, but barring amazing revelations in the Plame case I don't think it'll have as much affect as the Clarke evidence and testimony.

In about two weeks, this too will have passed from the news cycle and Bush and co. will regroup. Come end of April, Bush and co. will again clearly have the upper hand over Kerry unless he learns to campaign better than he has so far.

I've heard many Democrats say that it will be the issues that bring down Bush, like many others citing that it is the "incumbent's to lose". Swopa argues along those lines on Needlenose blog. I'm not so sure. Kerry should have gotten more traction out of Clarke. That he hasn't is a reflection of his not so great message machine and credibility with the electorate.

This election will probably be atypical. In a heightened security alert environment, the usual rule about the strength of the incumbent being the primary factor doesn't seem to be holding true. Bush must be stumbling AND Kerry seen as strong I believe before a Democratic victory can be grasped in November.

Democrats here should remember that. You've still got a ways to go, and Kerry is still behind.

Friday, March 26, 2004

It's official ... Bush attempting to take over world

In a speech on Friday President Bush calls for government subsidized internet access (CNN):

"We ought to have universal, affordable access to broadband technology by the year 2007," Bush said in a speech focusing mostly on homeownership. "And then we ought to make sure that as soon as possible thereafter consumers have plenty of choices..."

...There is already a fund that subsidizes telephone service in rural areas and for those who cannot afford it. Policymakers have debated whether the Universal Service Fund should also subsidize Internet access to American homes.


So much for the free market.

However, this is the sure sign that Bush is trying to take over the world. Clearly, he's read the Top 100 things I'd do if I became an Evil Overlord suggestion list. Item #100 clearly states:

100. Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.

Perhaps beneficially for the rest of us, he doesn't seem to have gotten the hang of the rest of the "suggestions" such as:

61. If my advisors ask "Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?", I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.

Frankly, the oldman considers this conclusive evidence. If that weren't enough however, read here at CNN how Bush is pissing off China over Taiwan.

The terse statement was issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry after the White House commended the "successful conclusion" of Taiwan's election while acknowledging that legal challenges to President Chen Shui-bian's tumultuous win remain...

Chen is disliked by the Beijing government because he refuses to work toward a union between the two sides. His victory Saturday was largely ignored by the mainland, which dismissed it as an election for a "Taiwan area leader."

The ministry's statement, read during state television's noon newscast, condemned Washington's gesture as a diplomatic betrayal of sorts.


And about how the neo-con's are still pushing for "Baghdad and Beyond" featured in FPIF and IRC a program that is working toward:

Two months prior to the Iraq invasion, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton, an early associate of PNAC and a former AEI vice president, traveled to Jerusalem to meet with Ariel Sharon. Bolton promised Sharon that the Iraq offensive would be just the first of the disarmament wars, declaring that “it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran, and North Korea afterwards.”

...With their front groups in place for regime change in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon, and having secured bipartisan support for their democratization resolutions, the neocons are leading the nation down the same path that has led to quagmire in Iraq.


Not to mention how the oldman has reported the neo-cons still haven't ended their ambitions for regime change in North Korea at all costs at the very same time that America's position has been weakened.

Sounds like a play for world conquest to the oldman. So it's official. It's no longer President Bush, it's Evil Overlord Bush. :-)

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Compassionate Conservatism meets Warmongering .. who wins?

According to the CSM President Bush has a good track record of increasing foreign development aid:

One of the great surprises of the Bush presidency has been the push for more aid. After all, many conservative Republicans call it a waste - pouring money down the drain.

But the new fear of terror and the spread of AIDS has changed all that. The administration now calculates that by making the foreign-aid system more effective, it can reduce world poverty and thereby boost US security. The effort breathes new life into a program that's lost credibility - and has become Bush's boldest foray into liberal territory.
[emphasis added]

This is correct. Endemic poverty weakens states. Failed states become havens for terrorism. Percieved injustice as well as actual injustice detracts from American credibility and moral authority. This becomes justification for promoting popular support for anti-US movements and international terrorism.

In one sense, that $23 billion in the latest Bush budget exaggerates the aid increase. That's because it includes $7 billion for Iraq's reconstruction. Even ignoring Iraq, however, aid has risen under Bush, after declining since the 1980s.

"Foreign assistance funding has gone through the roof under this president," says a Republican congressional staffer.

US official development assistance amounted to $11.4 billion in 2001 and $13.2 billion in 2002, as measured by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based club of mostly rich nations. And if Congress provides all the money sought by Bush for his Millennium Challenge Accounts (MCA), his HIV/AIDs initiative, and other smaller programs, the total could about double by 2008.
[emphasis added]

The problem with that is that the PEW Research Center has found that the war in Iraq has undermined US support abroad:

A year after the war in Iraq, discontent with America and its policies has intensified rather than diminished. Opinion of the United States in France and Germany is at least as negative now as at the war’s conclusion, and British views are decidedly more critical. Perceptions of American unilateralism remain widespread in European and Muslim nations, and the war in Iraq has undermined America’s credibility abroad. Doubts about the motives behind the U.S.-led war on terrorism abound, and a growing percentage of Europeans want foreign policy and security arrangements independent from the United States. Across Europe, there is considerable support for the European Union to become as powerful as the United States.

In the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, anger toward the United States remains pervasive, although the level of hatred has eased somewhat and support for the war on terrorism has inched up. Osama bin Laden, however, is viewed favorably by large percentages in Pakistan (65%), Jordan (55%) and Morocco (45%). Even in Turkey, where bin Laden is highly unpopular, as many as 31% say that suicide attacks against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq are justifiable. Majorities in all four Muslim nations surveyed doubt the sincerity of the war on terrorism. Instead, most say it is an effort to control Mideast oil and to dominate the world.
[emphasis added]

So the net result of our occupation of Iraq and our support of Ariel Sharon (Juan Cole's Blog) has been to undermine our position in Iraq, undermine American credibility and moral authority, and to promote the popularity of suicide bombing as a "justified" tactic in terrorism.

Gee, that's so ... yeah.

The foreign aid thing is a good idea. However, it's been more than compensated for by the setbacks in American interests regarding the war of ideas in the middle-east:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in an interview last week with The Washington Times that the United States is not doing enough to counter extremist ideas, and polls have shown that public support for America has declined sharply in the Middle East since 2000.

"We are in a war of ideas, as well as a global war on terror,"
Mr. Rumsfeld said, noting that "ideas are important, and they need to be marshaled, and they need to be communicated in ways that are persuasive to the listeners."

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Dude, where's my ... Presidency, WMD, Al_Zawahiri?

Hello all,

Just a light-hearted review of where we stand. While reading at JM Marshall blog about how Richard Clarke is being attacked by the President's men in order to discredit his tough charges of White House delusions and missteps in the WoT, I noticed something on the left hand side of the screen. It was a rather lighthearted logo entitled "Dude where's my weapons?". While this is obviously a satire of Bush, I thought it created actually warm fuzzy feelings in myself about GW.

This is because the oldman rather liked the Fox movie "Dude, where's my car?" starring the kid who later took up Demi Moore.

So the warm fuzzies regarding the bumbling and fumbled mistake of the century in US Foreign Policy created a little cognitive dissonance:

"A disconfirmation of a predicted event should presumably lead one to abandon the beliefs that produced the prediction. But cognitive dissonance theory says otherwise. By abandoning the beliefs ... the person who had once held this belief would have to accept a painful dissonance between her present skepticism and her past beliefs and actions. Her prior faith would now appear extemely foolish. Some members ... had gone to such lengths as giving up their jobs or spending their savings; such acts would lose all meaning in retrospect without the belief... Under the new circumstances, the dissonance was intolerable. It was reduced by a belief in the new message which bolstered the original belief. Since other members ... their conviction was stengthened all the more. They could now think of themselves, not as fools, but as loyal, steadfast members ..."

Incidentally, the quote is culled from a citation regarding a group that had to confront a failure in their belief that aliens were threatening the earth.

Ahem.

The oldman guesses if people can talk themselves into not being wrong about UFO's, they can talk themselves into not thinking of themselves as wrong about WMD.

Maybe it was the Teletubbies that tricked Bush into going into war in Iraq. The oldman has always surmised that these otherwise cute little BBC puppets were actually aliens in disguise out to use mind control to take over the earth ... maybe we can launch premptive strikes against their Martian homeland before they get us!

The teletubbies air on the BBC, and that news source reports that there has been an agreement to a recount in Taiwan over the disputed Presidential election. Hopefully this should defuse the potential geopolitical conflict that could arise from a schism.

Speaking of WMD, aliens from "another planet", and fouled counter-terrorism efforts by the Bush Administration we have the news that the "#2" guy or intellectual leader of Alqueda the infamous Al_Zawahiri has announced that the terrorist group has obtained a nuclear weapon. These "suitcase nukes" are small but deadly, capable of yeilding a small nuclear blast packed in ... you guessed it a suitcase.

One terrorism expert dismissed the notion that Alqueda might have obtained a suitcase nuke with the reasoning that:

"My instinct is if they have one we would first find out when they used it," said Joseph Cirincione, a non-proliferation expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "What's the point of (boasting)?"

Hmmm ... that would seem a reasonable point ... except that Alqueda has a history of preannouncing their attacks and bragging about them like Bin Ladin referring to "creating a 911 in the United States" BEFORE the September 11th 2001 attacks.

Gee, so maybe they're boasting they have it because they're smug bastards who have a history of telegraphing their intention to strike beforehand. Hmmm ... what doya think? Maybe a supposed EXPERT should have noticed that little fact don't you think? Sometimes the folly of experts is palpably idiotic on a scale of incredible ridiculousness. As for the ridiculous objection that if they'd had one they would have used it already, it could have required repairs not completed until recently or they simply could have refrained because they needed to put together an operation to get it into a sensitive area in the States to set it off first or they could have delayed because of another of their bizarre numerology system - 911, 311 being 911 days from the original 911 except for the leapyear day, maybe next is 3 911's or three years after the initial bombing.

No the real question is not whether or not Alqueda has obtained a suitcase nuke, but whether or not any such WMD they obtained was in working order.

For the record, the Bush Administration could have done much more in the past three years to try to take these things off the black market or press Russia about how many were in fact missing and whether they could be accounted for.

Btw AL_Zawahiri is the guy that they recently didn't get in Pakistan. This is exactly what the oldman predicted on Drezner's website while other sources were still hyping the connection.

Using the oldman's uncanny powers of guessing, where would Alqueda strike if it had a chance? Well how about the decommissioned Zion Nuclear Power Plant located in Zion, Illinois right by downtown Chicago, Illinios. It's decommissioned, but that means that security will probably be lighter and a "suitcase nuke" even though it would "only" have a nominal yeild of 3-5 kilotons would ignite and disperse the nuclear waste externally stored there and conveniently cause radioactive fallout all over Chicago. The oldman has actually driven through the place, and the locals refer to Zion I and Zion II the two nuclear plants there as the "twin towers". Hmmm ... where has that Alqueda strike motiff come up before? Dunno, maybe Sept 11, 2001 when Alqueda struck and destroyed the twin World Trade towers?

Wonder if that would could make a tempting target for Alqueda do ya think maybe? Of course, the experts probably won't think about this until after it happens - like usual. Oh well. It's not the oldman's job to hammer in sense into fools that reject good advice.

Dude, where's my al-Zawahiri? Dude, where's my suitcase nuke?

Woof! Woof! Dude, where's my bed? Nightie night time for the oldman. :-)

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Evolutionary Psychology - or Why are "all" our leaders Old White Guys?

P.S. Yes I know there are reports that Al-Zawahiri has claimed Alqueda has a suitcase bomb. However, it should be noted that Alqueda has made if not completely false claims then occassionally stated grandiose aims with a hyperbolic sense of their achievement. The real question is was the tritium detonator charged and if it wasn't, then does Alqueda have the expertise and resources to recharge it? If it is, it's probably too late to stop their plans by now. If it isn't, then we've just dodged a bullet - no thanks to an Administration that hasn't paid serious attention to getting these damned things off the black market.

I.
The Hidden Order of Political Power


Of course, there are always the exceptions. These exceptions exist to demonstrate that the elites of any given society are not completely excluding others from political power. They also exist because the elite of any society need some genuine talent to run things, and merit is not necessarily correlated with being part of the "in crowd" that is covertly and implicitly preferred by sociocultural status promotion. In these latter days of America, the term token minority has taken on especially derisive terms in the post Civil Rights Movement era. On the other hand, sufficiently "excellent" individuals have always been to some extent co-opted into the traditional power structure - both to obtain their services and to subvert outside challenges. Social mobility into the "hidden order of status" and its attendent rewards has always been as crucial a factor as wealth distribution between elites and commoners in maintaining social stability.

However it cannot be denied that there is an "invisible hand" that is just as powerful or perhaps more powerful than the market, or sometimes collusionary and reinforcement, in creating implicit sociocultural status promotion preferences. For anyone who argues differently, it must be reminded that Slavery and Apartheid exist as extreme examples of this process. A more ordinary observation, is why are the overwhelming majority of American leaders still older white men?

There is a hidden order to social status, that usually can be observed phenomenologically but is implicit and perniciously resistant to external manipulation of the formal hierarchy. This is usually framed in terms of "subtle" discrimination, but the oldman believes this actively misses the real truth. The underlying assumption of the concept of discrimination is that except for historical and or cultural factors, there would be an even playing field that if only prejudicial attitudes and behaviors were removed would result in an equal opportunity and proportional representation for all members of a society. The problem is that in searching for these prejudicial factors, one is forced to resort to ever more invocations of subtle and unconscious bias and/or discrimination.

This underlying assumption is false the oldman believes, and the very nature of a society is to create a preferential status hierarchy and to generate rules that while ostensibly standardized are in fact by nature of focusing on some features rather than others by their nature intrinsically judgemental and exclusionary.

II.
Heirs to the successes and fears of our Ancestors: Evolutionary Psychology


This may seem like a radical thesis, so to support it the oldman invokes evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology essentially is the idea that our minds are shaped by brains that are shaped by biological changes shaped by adaptations to the environment that took place over a long period of time. Not all evolutionary traits are deterministic, most merely create predispositions that react with environment. Others create features or faculties that can be used for a variety of purposes. Hands for instance can be used to play with beachballs or to build houses. Men have a tendency to want to have sex with women since this increases the chances of reproduction, but this is not to argue that evolutionary psychology mandates that men should only have sex with women. A good example is other species, in whom the mating urge takes vastly different forms. Many species mate only once a year - or once in their lives! We should not try to take evolution as an argument that any particular arrangement (monogamy, polygamy, hetrosexuality, homosexuality, etc. ) is "natural" or "unnatural". Evolution makes no judgement, it merely creates the capacity or tendency. Indeed, often evolution results in diversity of adaptations and this diversity has the function of being a sort of "adaptive insurance" so that by creating a variety of results in any given situation it is more likely that at least some will survive and succeed even if other forms perish. To quote:

"Natural selection does not work "for the good of the species", as many people think."

Even with all these caveats however, Evolutionary Psychology is still a powerful tool for understanding "why things are the way they are" as long as we do not confuse it with the notion that this is only or best result of those shaping forces. Our lives are within our own hands to determine, but those lives are not blank slates - they come imprinted with certain freedoms, restrictions, and strongly emergent trends that we then shape into particular choices and results.

III.
The Mind of a Small Tribe Primate


What set off the oldman in this particular case was the writer John Bruce who has a slightly off-beat but sometimes highly interesting blogg called "In the Shadows of Hollywood". In it, John discusses in one particular case "The Theory of the Lead Narcissist". To quote briefly from John:

In trying to make some overall sense of what happened in the Bob Willis story, I re-read C.S.Lewis's essay "The Inner Ring", which I'm very happy to see is on line. Lewis begins by quoting a page from Tolstoy's War and Peace, in which a young lieutenant, Boris, sees to his initial puzzlement an old general who is acting deferential to a captain, putting up with the captain's discourtesy in interrupting him to talk to Boris. Lewis observes:

[T]he young second lieutenant Boris Dubretskoi discovers that there exist in the army two different systems or hierarchies... The other is not printed anywhere. Nor is it even a formally organized secret society with officers and rules which you would be told after you had been admitted. You are never formally and explicitly admitted by anyone. You discover gradually, in almost indefinable ways, that it exists and that you are outside it; and then later, perhaps, that you are inside it...

I think the dual-hierarchy insight from Tolstoy and C.S.Lewis goes some way to explaining why this happened.

"Inner rings", according to Lewis, exist for two reasons; the one I'm most interested in here is to exempt the initiates from ordinary rigors of their disciplines or professions. Willis was tolerated, it would seem, until his self-exemptions threatened to become something his higher-ups could no longer brush off on their own -- for example, abusiveness toward female subordinates that could potentially bring in Human Resources, the company lawyers, and even outside authority. The situation, I think, is roughly as Lewis describes...

The actual factors that make someone eligible for high status in the "dual hierarchy" are inscrutable. Whatever they are, Willis had them. I think almost everyone who knew him would (at least in unguarded moments) describe him as unbalanced and corrupt -- I suspect there's a relationship.


What John suggests as a "perversion" a puzzling recurrence in various organizations and political structures, I would call an unfortunate permutation of a wholly endemic feature of homo sapiens that can be explained through using evolutionary psychology.

I think what it comes down to is that humans are a social animal, and that 'politics' is just not a formal battle for organizational positions - but there is an underlying emotional, social, and cultural negotiation and conflict resolution regarding who get's the top positions created in order to be filled by such persons?

Such a political order is not good or bad intrinsically, but when it is driven by dysfunctional values it can prove obstructionist since it exists to propagate itself rather than serve a utilitarian purpose.

There is always a dividing line between those who must live by the rules and those who make the rules.

This exists for a very good evolutionary reason I believe. All rules are context dependent. In order to create cooperative group behavior, leaders must at a very basic tribal primate level create rules of conduct and evaluation.

However since situations change, those rules must be ammended from time to time. Thus the one's who are allowed to break the rules, are the leaders. If the leaders or elites break the rules merely to benefit their own short term interests, the political structure becomes dysfunctional.

When they break them in order to advance necessary social change in adaptation to the environment and circumstances, then it serves the original purpose. This explains a lot of human behavior.

IV.
"I AM NOT AN APE!" No, you are more than an ape. Nonetheless, the basic archicture explains a great deal


The oldman does not mean to suggest that human beings are simply behaving like a small pack of primates. Humans are clearly much more complex, sophisticated, and if nothing else dangerous in their technology, art, language, culture, and self-awareness than simple or even higher primates. Whether the difference is in one of kind or degree, humans are far and away above the rest of the primate family in behavior and cognition. Some might call this an improvement, and some might argue that, but it's certainly different. I don't think that an "alien" xenobiologist coming upon a planet filled mostly with non-human primates would be able to except in a wildly "science fiction" fashion extrapolate far enough to predict the emergence of human beings in their full present homo sapiens glory.

Human beings clearly are impacted in their behavior by evolutionary psychology, and nowhere is this more evident than social dynamics of sexual reproduction. It should be noted that in primates there are a diversity of behaviors as discussed above, where evolution cannot be considered as a deterministic force in behavior however strongly shaping a force it is. The oldman has not been the first one to notice such a similarity between corporate structure and primate hierarchies (ABC-news).

While comparing the wealthy to the wild might seem a little harsh, author Richard Conniff says it makes perfect sense. In his book, The Natural History of the Rich, Conniff writes that executives climbing to the top of corporate ladders exhibit mannerisms that are quite similar to those displayed by silverback gorillas.
"It's chest-beating. It's glowering," Conniff told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "You know, that kind of quick, sharp stare."

While corporate types may not literally beat their chests in the middle of a meeting, they often perform the verbal equivalent.

"These people all dominate with shouting, tyrannizing people and by sheer physical presence," Conniff said. "And that's exactly what an alpha male does in a chimp troupe or among gorillas."


V.
So are we born to be ruled by jerks and losers?!?!?


As the oldman has maintained, evolution is a shaping force and not a determining one. One of the reasons is that there may be competing drives, trends, and instincts. Even as the "invisible hand" of the social preference hierarchy is at work, there is also a trend toward adaptive meritocracy:

Mr. Boehm argues that egalitarianism amounts to the overthrow of "alpha males" -- powerful, dominant men -- by rank-and-file members of a society who individually have little power but who, by cooperating with one another, can impose their collective will on the alphas.

As a group, the powerless members of the society foster egalitarianism by creating a taboo on the exercise of power by the alphas, Mr. Boehm concludes. The society must be ready to suppress upstart alphas who would seek to supplant the egalitarian arrangement, he says. As a modern example, Mr. Boehm cites the decline of former Rep. Newt Gingrich, a Georgia Republican, from his heyday as Speaker of the House of Representatives. "As Gingrich began to wield some serious power, he exuded a certain air of dominance and his peers in Congress found ways to cut him down to size," Mr. Boehm writes.

"Egalitarian societies constitute a very special type of hierarchy, one in which the rank and file avoid being subordinated by vigilantly keeping alpha-type group members under their collective thumbs," he writes.


Here is a more technical review of Boehm's book. Here are some insightful but more accessible language musings on the topic.

However the most relevant aspect is the relationship between status and division of labor (PDF).

The main idea is that cooperative behavior requires an organizing principle, and that the dominant individuals or elites are produced through trait preference by the sociocultural promotion trends of the organizing principle. The elites then act both as the main beneficiaries, enforcers, and directors of the division of labor in the rest of society. The rest of society acquiesces to this in order to better produce the efficiencies of organized cooperation. However, the traits associated with such elite status may be superficial and misleading, while the human tendency in order to favor their offspring can lead to a sociolcultural promotion preference that selects for obsolete or neglicent traits.

As an example read here about some very bitter short people.

That may be amusing, and the oldman finds it so - but then again he's average height and above average height for his ethnic group. In a modern society, one would think that with technology that such differences would have been almost entirely negated. Indeed, there is an old saying that "It was God who made men, but it was Colt who made them equal." The idea being that a six-shooter revolver made one man essentially on a level playing ground as any other man. Indeed, in this age of keyboards, coding, satellites, and bombs fired incredible distances at incredible accuracy by the push of a button the old measures of strength and/or ability are mostly outdated.

However, try telling that to girls you're trying to date if you're a short guy! In other words, times may have changed but humans have inheirited an antiquated mental system to deal with it. This biologically and socially predisposed behavior does not have to be destiny. Indeed, some men develop outsize ego's whose accompanying confidence compensates for their physical shortness in the eyes of women - many women have cited to the oldman "confidence" as the number one feature attracting them.

However, this creates group dynamics which are sometimes hard to fathom. It is not of course old white men who dominate in all cultures. Sometimes is it is old asian men, or middle-aged indigenous men, and sometimes men are barred from certain otherwise prestigious or important activities or females granted certain advantages. Many a man has noted that a woman who is willing to shed tears and say she's sorry is forgiven a trespass sooner than a man who commits a similar deed. However the point is that there is an "invisible" preference structure that is implicitly built in, and in a given circumstance it discriminates certain people by emphasis on certain qualifying and/or identifying traits and that it directs those persons toward certain divisions of labor.

The most relevant one being certain older white men, since not all white men or old men qualify but only some, toward positions of authority and power from which they can both make rules governing others and be exempt from them. The purpose of their exemption being tied to their ability delegated by the group to make and/or change the rules for the collective. When this runs amok, as it often has, we call it the kind of narcissitic / despotic alpha type found by John Bruce in his example Mr. Willis and the unseen pecking order that showed him deference and assisted him to climb the heights of status and power.

VI.
So Are We Doomed To Be Victims Of Our Biology?


No. However, one cannot simply ignore it. Many a woman or minority has complained about the infamous "glass ceiling". This "glass ceiling" is created by rules and evaluation criteria that however objectively standardized are by subtle shifts in emphasis or implementation allow some progress but deter the advancement of many individuals lacking certain traits in order to achieve the highest levels of success. It is emphasized here that it is not a matter of actively discriminating against certain traits, which can happen, but it is sufficient to emphasize certain traits that indirectly exclude all others who do not fall into a very narrow range or category.

For instance, if it is necessary to work about 15 years day and night to make law partner starting about about the age of twenty then this requirement while seemingly "objective" will bar most women from becoming law partner. Indeed, this applies to many fields. It is arguable that some of this "discrimination" comes from unequal childrearing burdens among partners, or male partners being less supportive of their mate's career choices. That may be true, but it is also true that in the oldman's experience women tend to evaluate a man's career success as a strong determinant of his desirability as a mate. If men are going to be judged that way, perhaps it is understandable why some of them choose to protect their career - if they lose that then the woman may dump them anyway! Such an explanation also doesn't explain why minority males would be similarly excluded.

The point isn't to argue the correctness of gender or ethnic discrimination. Indeed, these miss the point. It is to argue how can we open up the invisible order and teach people to access it and be allowed in? Does that seem impossible? The oldman himself has made the transition somewhat and is probing so far succesfully for further success, despite having traits not necessarily in line with that kind of success. Then there is indomitable Margeret Thatcher. However, we must ask why aren't there more "Colin Powells"? Where is the "Democratic Colin Powell"?

This is the challenge posing itself to my mind. Is it possible to teach how to be a dominant and elite, and how to gain acceptance and success in the power structure of a society? And is it possible to teach that to talented people so that they can use that political ascendency to promote their own merit, rather than having the power structure associated with antiquated superficial traits or ingrained nepotism? If it is, then that may be a better route to reforming dysfunctional elite preference tendencies than to attempt to externally manipulate outcomes.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Something me and Bushie Agree on, STATEIGWBBIT

I.
THE SPEECH


Here we have a speech by Bush commemorating the beginning of last year's Iraqi Fish-Barrel Shootfest. It may surprise my readers, but there is much that I agree with our very "special" President. It simply comes down to a basic principle that may gall liberals all out of proportion to its simple logical truth: STATEIGWBBIT or namely that:

Some Things Are True Even If George W. Bush Believes In Them

Unfortunately, the actual estimated number of these facts happen to be rather small. All the more reason, the oldman says, in order to celebrate those few stray empirical facts that happen to escape the notice of GW's speechwriters and actually make it out of Bush's mouth. Of course, you could fall asleep waiting for these to appear so it's perhaps forgivable that people on either side of the party divide would miss the appearance of these rare utterances in between the usual out-pouring of mangled syntax, Bushisms, and less-than-empirical statements that are regularly given air-time.

... The people of Spain are burying their innocent dead. These men and women and children began their day in a great and peaceful city, yet lost their lives on a battlefield, murdered at random and without remorse. Americans saw the chaos and the grief and the vigils and the funerals, and we have shared in the sorrow of the Spanish people. Ambassador Ruperez, please accept our deepest sympathy for the great loss that your country has suffered. The murders in Madrid are a reminder that the civilized world is at war. And in this new kind of war, civilians find themselves suddenly on the front lines.

Yep, all true.

... In recent years, terrorists have struck from Spain to Russia, to Israel, to East Africa, to Morocco, to the Philippines and to America. They've targeted Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Yemen. They've attacked Muslims in Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. No nation or region is exempt from the terrorist campaign of violence. Each of these attacks on the innocent is a shock and a tragedy, and a test of our will. Each attack is designed to demoralize our people and divide us from one another. And each attack much be answered, not only with sorrow, but with greater determination, deeper resolve, and bolder action against the killers. It is the interest of every country and the duty of every government to fight and destroy this threat to our people.

Again, all true and well and good.

...There is a dividing line in our world, not between nations and not between religions or cultures, but a dividing line separating two visions of justice and the value of life. On a tape claiming responsibility for the atrocities in Madrid, a man is heard to say, We choose death while you choose life. We don't know if this is the voice of the actual killers, but we do know it expresses the creed of the enemy. It is a mindset that rejoices in suicide, incites murder and celebrates every death we mourn. And we who stand on the other side of the line must be equally clear and certain of our convictions. We do love life, the life given to us and to all. We believe in the values that uphold the dignity of life: tolerance and freedom and the right of conscience. And we know that this way of life is worth defending. There is no neutral ground -- no neutral ground -- in the fight between civilization and terror, because there is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death. The war on terror is not a figure of speech. It is an inescapable calling of our generation. The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies, they're offended by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless demands. Their ultimate ambitions are to control the peoples of the Middle East and to blackmail the rest of the world with weapons of mass terror.

Again, all true - especially that last bit except that it doesn't go far enough. The ultimate ambition of terrorists is to create a totalitarian Islamic world theocracy.

Unfortunately the rest is blather - senseless boosting of what is at best a lukewarm picture and at worst is a forward strategy that constitutes a "March of Folly" as put forth by Needlenose blogger Greenboy.

II.
PRIDE COMETH BEFORE A FALL


It's all self-congratulatory, as if we Americans should be appreciative of the meager results obtained since 911 turned the average American's world upside down. Given the dangers that we all should be able to agree that we face, why how can Bush pat himself on the back for a job ill done (Oldman1787)? GW Bush got to the Presidency of the United States of America through the power of lowered expectations. Challenge too tough? Lower the bar. Don't want to be seen lowering the bar? Fudge the results so that a hopping a one foot barrier is recorded as vaulting a twelve foot barrier. And disregard all those actual reports coming in from reality that the performance is having critical failure difficulties out were lies don't make bullets stop anymore than missing bullet proof vests and unarmored Humvees stop soldier killing shrapnel. The man has the gall to talk about no child left behind when he himself is a product of social promotion and affirmative action for the wastral scions of corrupt blue-blood families.

Is that too strong of a wording? Well the oldman has a little right to vent his spleen he thinks after Bush's idiotic policies have not only lost us Spain (Oldman1787) but in the aftermath of the Spanish election the Polish President charged that he had been misled on WMD intelligence and threatened to pull out the Polish troop deployment from Iraq unless there was a UN resolution after June 30th. President Bush then had to make a personal call on this one (MSNBC), at the same time that Bush called for "bolder" action. What is "bolder" action btw? Invading another country that doesn't have WMD?

All this hoopla in the Press, while on the ground a scandalous turn of events has taken place. Spain has shut us out of their bombing investigation (Newsweek):

Spanish authorities have ignored FBI efforts to assist the investigation into last week’s train bombing, creating new tensions between Washington and Madrid in the case.

Almost immediately after last Thursday’s attacks, in which at least 200 people were killed, the Justice Department offered to assist the Spanish by dispatching a team of FBI and other U.S. law-enforcement agents to the scene.

But the Spanish government appears to have rejected the U.S. offer and has instead invited other European law-enforcement and intelligence agencies to help in the case—an apparent snub of the Bush administration that U.S. officials tell NEWSWEEK may be an ominous portent for the future.

As a result, U.S. officials say, they have effectively been frozen out of the biggest terrorist case in Europe since September 11, despite mounting evidence that the perpetrators were part of a much larger network of Islamic militants that may well have links to Al Qaeda.


Calpundit has an interesting debate on the Spainish situation and cites how the counter-terrorism Spainish forces rebelled against the PP's immoral mishandling of the case. But Bush is right about the threat poised against us, and unless the Dem's get considerably more credibility in the eyes of the American public as being tough on terror we're going to be saddled with four more years of this dunce congratulating himself while he runs the country into the ground. The story of GW Bush is the story of stated good intentions and mismanaged execution.

He said that he wanted to have a humble foreign policy and be a uniter, not a divider. What he did was piss other countries off so much they are no longer cooperating with us to hunt Alqueda. He said that he wanted to balance the budget and give the taxpayer's money back to the people. Instead he has indebted us for generations. He said that he wanted to reform Social Security. Well, we're waiting Mr. President for you to even start. He said that he would listen to good advisers about foreign policy. Instead he's appointed rogues, knaves, and charltans in order to conduct wars that have weakened the United States of America's national security posture.

Now we have a situation where as the Economist notes tartly that:

IF YOU carry out a well planned atrocity, killing more than 200 people and injuring more than a thousand, and three days later the government that supported an invasion to which you object is unexpectedly defeated in a general election, you are entitled to consider the venture to have been a success. So although Spain's high voting turnout on March 14th, and many Spaniards' apparent ire at the way José María Aznar's government had prematurely blamed Basque terrorists for the outrage, can be taken as healthily democratic signs (see article), there is no escaping the fact that the biggest triumph has been that of the terrorists.

I don't blame the Socialists though- I blame the inept and corrupt Aznar government that thought that using the terrorism card could bail them out of any act however dishonest.

III.
The best lack all convictions, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
(Yeats)

Yet he is on track to win in November. I have to blame this on the Dem's partly. I've been trying to help them this year, because I knew they needed it. Now, instead of "Bring it on!!!" we have the liberal commentator Eleanor Clift reporting that John Kerry is on vacation in Idaho in the desperately crucial period where as Clift comments accurately: "This is a critical stage in the campaign. The voters barely know Kerry, and the Bush campaign is racing to define him in a negative way before he can define himself... Kerry knew this was coming. “Bring it on,” he said so often it became his battle cry. Well, now they’ve brought it on, and what is Kerry doing? He’s going on vacation in Idaho, leaving behind the festering story of his unholy bond with foreign leaders."

WHAT THE HECK IS JOHN KERRY THINKING?

If Kerry wants to be POTUS he better stop that vacation and fly back right now! God Almighty! I thought you Democrats were serious about winning this year. What could be going through his head? Does he want to lose? While the President obstructs the truth and fills the airwaves with propaganda, where is Kerry in order to take up the Democratic standard, stand up, and call the President on his less than factual statements?

Dear God, I did not decide to help Democratic candidates to campaign this year and decide to go against my family in pulling the Donkey lever merely to see John Kerry lounging on an Idaho porch while GW Bush fills American TV sets with misdirection and deceptions!!! You hear me John Kerry? You get off your caboose and you get out there and you stand for something, damn your French hide! You do not get to be a cheese-eating surrender monkey on my watch! Your arse belong to the American people now, John Kerry, and you better hustle it out there and get it moving because the ship is leaving port and you're missing the boat!

You hear me John Kerry? If JFK could campaign while seized up with back-pain, and FDR could campaign while paralyzed by polio, then you John Forbes Kerry can drop your little vacation and get back here and fight for the people who believed enough in you to stake the future of our country on your will and determination! You better bring it on Kerry, because God help us if you wuss out and GW get's another term because of you to ransack this nation then you will deserve the contempt of every patriot in this nation!