Alex's Outlook

Friday, January 31, 2003

I forgot to rip into the $1.2 billion hydrogen-car initiative proposed by Bush in his SOTU, but the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Paul Georgia did the job for me.

So much for no foreign support over the coming Iraq war. Eight European leaders have co-written a declaration of support for Bush - the leaders of the UK, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Denmark. It came as a big surprise to everybody and has apparently torpedoed the Franco-German opposition to the war.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

As a random postscript to the below post...
Democratic Governor Gary Locke of Washington state gave an anemic response to Bush' State of the Union address. It provided no details whatsoever. At best a neutral for the Democrats; all it did was continue their class-warfare attack on Bush's new tax cut without offering a credible alternative. A loser.
Incidentally, Locke is a lousy governor, and selecting him to counterattack Bush's speeh only shows how weak the Democrats have become. His approval ratings hover just under 30%, making him one of the most unpopular governors in the country. His only qualification for "rebutting" Bush's SOTU is that he is a third-generation Chinese-American.


The one thing Bush ominously didn't mention in his State of the Union was his proposed oil-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). If the Republicans can't argue in favor of drilling for oil in a completely barren, lifeless (except for migrating caribou, which procreate better around warm oil pipelines anyway) tundra, they will NEVER be able to roll back insane anti-oil regulation. Never mind that Alaska wants it, the Eskimos want it and the caribou would want it if they had a say. The Democrats are still stonewalling it, and it's making American oil cost more and makes the US pay Saudi terrorists for oil instead. It would degrade a fraction of one percent of the Refuge under any estimate to the right of the Sierra Club (assuming there is anything to degrade in the first place). There is a huge case to be made for this, and throwing it away would be a big policy blunder on Bush's part.

On Bush's State of the Union:


President Bush's State of the Union address was stellar, even though the Republicans' standing ovations after every frickin' line got on my nerves. Bush pitched his outstanding stimulus package, made up mostly of accelerating the 2001 tax cut and eliminating the dividend tax. He made the case for Medicare reform, which entailed caps on huge tort verdicts and giving more choices to employees (presumably via Medical Savings Accounts, which would cost more but give greater accessibility). He even mentioned Social Security reform, which has no chance of passing a 51-49 Senate. Also mentioned was Bush's proposed ban on partial-birth abortion, which likely will pass, as will a ban on all forms of human cloning; finally, he demanded fiscal discipline of lawmakers, tying his tax cuts to bolstered economic growth and thus higher revenues and long-term budget balancing.

Bush spent an inordinate time on a few microscopic government programs. One program, however - AIDS aid to Africa - is not so microscopic, costing an average of $3 billion for 5 years straight. It's ridiculous to say that we can effectively aid a continent literally ripped apart by tribal warfare, warlordism and anarchy every day; how can the US possibly manage AIDS aid to Africa when they can't manage food distribution in Zambia or Somalia? What happens when a warlord confiscates and hoards anti-AIDS drugs just like Mohammed Farah Aidid did with UN grain in Somalia in 1993? Are we going to send in elite US Rangers to take care of that (and presumably not screw up)?
At best, the AIDS initiative is a humanitarian bone thrown to the Democrats. It's stupid policy and probably stupid politics regardless of how you look at it.


The main subject of Bush's speech, however, was the war on terrorism and how it pertains to Iraq. I would summarize it, but Bush probably said it best. Here is the text of the Iraq section:


Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost. To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction.



For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical, biological and nuclear weapons even while inspectors were in his country.



Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons: not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities.



Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations and for the opinion of the world.



The 108 U.N. inspectors were sent to conduct--were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq's regime is disarming.



It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened. The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons materials sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax; enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn't accounted for that material. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed it.




The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin; enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hasn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.



Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He's not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them. U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them, despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.



From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.



The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.



The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.



Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.



Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.



The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving.



From intelligence sources, we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves.



Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses. Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations.



Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say.



Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.



Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate or attack.




With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region.



And this Congress and the American people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaida. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.



Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained.



Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans, this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.



We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes.



(APPLAUSE) Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?



If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.



(APPLAUSE) The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages, leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind or disfigured.




Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained: by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.



If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.



(APPLAUSE)

And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country.



(APPLAUSE)

And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation. (APPLAUSE)



The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm. America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country and our friends and our allies.




The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq's ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi's--Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors and its links to terrorist groups.



We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.




Earlier in the speech, however, Bush probably made his most significant statement regarding Iraq: "All free nations have a stake in preventing sudden and catastrophic attacks, and we're asking them to join us, and many are doing so. Yet the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others. " That sounded to me like a loud-and-clear message to the pro-Saddam crowd (France, Germany et al) to the effect of "You can come along for the ride, but we are going in no matter what," and that Two-Gun Tex isn't going to put up with the inspections farce for any longer. (Did I just call Bush Two-...? *ducks*) Bush also said that Colin Powell would present more evidence to the Security Council regarding Iraq's connection to international terrorist organizations; this information will be much anticipated by those still in the antiwar camp.


The entire transcript of Bush's State of the Union address can be found here.



Friday, January 24, 2003

Now the Brits are really getting tough on crime. They are going to ask repeat offenders to mend their ways by sending them a polite letter asking them to stop.

Well, well. The Bush Administration mulls an extension for the inspectors in Iraq. Meanwhile, stocks have plunged on Bush's saber-rattling.

The Iraq inspectors have given Saddam Hussein a B for his "compliance" in the "disarmament process".

This is beyond ridiculous. The role of the inspections regime is to verify that Saddam is voluntarily disarming; 120 shadowed, bugged and harassed inspectors cannot clear weapons of mass destruction from an area bigger than Texas. Everyone, even at the United Nations, acknowledges that Saddam has a WMD program. It is incumbent upon him to prove to the world that he is disarming. There has been no evidence whatsoever, yet the hapless Hans Blix insists that progress is being made.

And now the Bush Administration proposes to continue this nonsense for weeks. Every day that Powell, Rice, Bush or anyone else beats the drums re Iraq means a loss of at least a hundred points on Dow. Every procrastination and postponement of the war keeps the markets on edge. The inspectors have had over two months to gather conclusions, and what few conclusions they have gathered - the Iraqis' continual shadowing of the weapons scientists and the discovery of the chemical-weapons shells - indicates that Iraq is not disarming. Giving the inspectors another few weeks or months only prolongs this farce. Every time Bush gives ground to the United Nations, the pro-Iraq faction is emboldened to demand more concessions and more time - more time for Saddam to fabricate additional delays, traps and deceptions for Bush. Wasting further time can only hurt the United States and, by extension, Bush. We will see on January 27 how serious Bush is about finishing Saddam once and for all.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Oh god...Jerry Springer contemplates a US Senate run in 2004.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

The Washington Post makes the case for elbowing aside the UN Security Council, if need be.

I'm making a prediction: the US goes to war within two weeks of January 27, when Hans Blix and his Keystone Kops crowd of inspectors presents everything they've found to the UN Security Council. If Bush allows Blix to work beyond Jan. 27, he will be surrendering to the obvious futility of the inspections regime. Blix insists that his Kops are doing a good job, but that's impossible. Saddam's government tracks them and bugs their buildings and cars. When the inspectors interview Iraqi weapons scientists, the Iraqis have at least one official present. Who are Blix, Annan, the European Union and the rest of the anti-war, pro-inspections crowd kidding? Giving into Blix's incompetence on the 27th will mean months of procrastinating (the inspectors are saying they need 10 months of inspections). And after inspections, Saddam will have more excuses and deceptions to stall for even more time. The 27th will define the future of Bush's Iraq policy, and whichever road he takes there will be no turning back.

As Bush rattles his saber at Iraq, it seems increasingly unlikely that either Bush or the European peaceniks are willing to give way at the UN. Hans Blix, Kofi Annan and the EU are all explicitly anti-war with Iraq. Yet Bush declared Iraq as an Axis of Evil member for its WMD pursuit, terror funding and oppressor regime. Going into the 2004 election without having toppled a single Axis of Evil nation is stupid policy and stupid politics.
Bush also wants to end American reliance on Saudi oil by getting a chunk of Iraq's (without resorting to Democrats' pie-in-the-sky alternative fuels/energy rationing program). Once Bush has a steady stream of oil he can turn his guns on Saudi Arabia, which funds a lot more terrorism than Iraq does but will be a lot weaker too once it commands a smaller share of American oil.
I still don't see how the Germans and French will veto an Iraqi war. The only reason Bush kept 73,000 troops in Germany after Gerhard Schroeder's anti-US reelection was as a bribe to keep Germany from vetoing an Iraq war. If Germany vetoes the US, Germany will have to pay a lot more for defense in the future. French presidents are professional buffoons, but I still think Chirac is serious. Polls all over Europe show enormous opposition to an Iraq war, and Europe's politicians would be fools to ignore that. But one thing is certain: with or without the endorsement of the United Nations, Bush will go to war against Iraq. He is NOT going to run from Iraq with his 150,000-man army and his tail between his legs.

In light of all this and the rhetoric of the Bush Administration, Bush has evidently decided upon war.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

I just watched the Terminator 3 trailer. The machine scenes look awesome, but the terminator-versus-terminator scenes look like clones of the first two movies (basically the two terminators smashing each other up with heavy machinery).

The new evil Terminator is, of course, a woman (aka "The T-X"). I wonder if I will be able to take seriously a matchup between Arnold Schwarzenegger and a 115-pound woman.

In one of the great moments in UN human rights history, Libya was just elected to chair the UN Commission on Human Rights. Maybe next week they will make a UN Commission on WMD Disarmament and elect Saddam as chairman.

Irwin Stelzer writes an excellent article in the Weekly Standard about why American capitalism trumps the Japanese, the Europeans and everybody else.

Monday, January 20, 2003

What is Bush doing re North Korea? I do not understand the Bush Administration's Clintonista appeasement of Kim Jong Il. By rewarding Kim's pyrotechnics, Bush is almost begging other rogue countries to get nukes so they are also eligible for enormous foreign aid (and inoculated against the anti-terror war). I think that at a minimum Bush should institute total sanctions and use every covert means possible to kill Kim in the meantime.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Funny anti-anti-war satire.

ANWR, caps on malpractice pain-and-suffering awards, a serious tax cut, a slew of conservative judges, fighting affirmative action in the U-Mich case, Medicare reform...it's nice to see that Bush actually is going for the whole enchilada. He has fifty senators who will more or less toe his line (all Republicans minus McCain and Chafee, but Georgia Democrat Zell Miller always votes with the Republicans), plus two Democrats who might require a little more prodding - centrists Ben Nelson and John Breaux. That leaves a 52-vote majority, which can get almost everything done in the Senate except for judges, which the Democrats can easily filibuster. The other things can be tacked onto the Senate budget, which can't be filibustered. Bush also has a few sometimes-centrist Democrats like Tim Johnson of South Dakota.

Bush is going to have an impressive record in 2004 for his base, and his foreign-policy leadership will pull over a lot of independents. Assuming the economy does decently (which the latest tax cut will help) and Bush goes into Iraq and gets the job done in a year, the Democrats are going to have a catastrophe on their hands. The only thing that can save the Democrats is: a) Bush gets stymied at the UN and doesn't go into Iraq, leaving all three Axis of Evil members intact; b) Bush goes into Iraq and suffers massive losses (if he doesn't lose outright); and c) the economy crashes and burns. I don't think any of those is likely. That leaves Bush with an easy win and a massacre in Congress:

Vulnerable Democrat Senators:

John Edwards NC

Blanche Lincoln AR

Fritz Hollings SC

Byron Dorgan ND

Patty Murray WA

Harry Reid NV (won his last election by 500 votes)

Tom Daschle SD

Zell Miller GA (he's retiring in 2004)


The following Democrats could be vulnerable, for one reason or another:


Chuck Schumer NY (if Rudy runs as rumor has it - in that case he would be screwed)

Russ Feingold is usually vulnerable because of his campaign-finance attitude. If the Republicans could find a wealthy, competent challenger, Feingold could be in major trouble.

Bob Graham FL (if he runs for President, somewhat vulnerable even if he doesn't)


That makes up to eleven vulnerable Democratic Senators. There is one definitely vulnerable Republican, Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois. Lisa Murkowski, appointed to her father's Senate seat by her father, could be in big trouble if former Alaska governor Tony Knowles runs against her. Even so, that leaves two vulnerable Republicans to eleven Democrats. (60-40 GOP Senate, anyone?)



In the House, the Democrats are already the minority by twelve seats. That will probably get worse in 04, because a lot of Southern representatives barely squeaked by in 02 and will be fighting a heavy undertow in 04, assuming nothing goes haywire before then.



This adds up to a perfect storm in 2004. The Republicans could cement their majority for years here, especially if the Democrats filibuster anything. That would only reinforce their impression as the obstructionists' party.


It's useless to predict politics two years in advance...but that doesn't change the fact that the Republicans have a tremendous opportunity. All the more reason to carry through on their election promises and deliver as much as they can. If their prescription for economic growth (tax-cutting, reining in the trial lawyers) doesn't work, they might as well find out now.

First post :-)