<![CDATA[The Financial Times has a critique of the Bush plan for Iraq and the recent speech by the President about democracy in the Middle East. I’d go so far as to say that Bush’s speech was a good one, acknowledging that it expressed ideas about the meaning of democracy that are important, if only the President meant what he said.
From the FT:
President George W. Bush made a rather better speech than usual last week, declaring his fervent commitment to building democracy around the world. There was less leaden lip-service to the defeat of America’s foes and rather more readiness to admit to mistakes in US policies in the past, especially in the Middle East.
It was a good speech for its audience – the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, a sort of democratic missionary society founded when Ronald Reagan was president. It sounded like a necessary speech, too, for worried American voters, unhappy at losing so many lives and spending so much money in Iraq.
It also revealed a lot about what is wrong with US foreign policy under this administration. For the problem is that Mr Bush’s global mission is likely to be greeted with hollow laughs abroad. It exposes US double standards. It suggests Mr Bush believes democracy can be imposed from the top down. And it reveals an alarmingly US-centred view of what form democracy should take, with too much emphasis on the market economy and too little on the rule of law and protection of human rights.
The trouble is that, internationally, US actions speak louder than words. Take last month’s elections in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, a strategically situated oil-rich US ally on the shores of the Caspian, ruled for the past 10 years by Heydar Aliyev, the former Communist party leader. Thanks to careful “management”, the poll delivered an overwhelming victory for his son Ilham.
Democracy this was not. It was a blatant fix. International election observers described it variously as “a complete fraud” and “a sham”. Intimidation was rife, and ballot boxes were stuffed. Yet within two days Mr Aliyev Junior had been congratulated on his victory by Richard Armitage, the deputy US secretary of state.
Such glaring differences in word and action, especially with regards the Bush Administration’s willingness to finish what it started in Iraq now that it plans to repeat the disastrous Vietnamization strategy, which will only create a hotbed of anti-American and anti-Western activity, cannot go untested. Unbelievably, Ambassador Paul Bremer has started discussing how the U.S. may continue a presence in Iraq after June 2004 — by election time next year, Iraq could be a slaugtherhouse, but we are prepared to leave?
Taking the nonsense a step further, the President said yesterday that the U.S. would go to war again, alone, to extend “freedom.” If only this President would be willing to share the power he seized in Iraq with the United Nations instead of bragging that we can go it alone, his comments about democracy would not ring hollow.]]>
<![CDATA[John Kerry's got a new staff and the first move in his grand strategy to revive his campaign was to ride a motorcycle onto the set of The Tonight Show and wave. Yep, John's just a guy, a real guy. It took a little talent to play the sax on late-night TV, but as an appeal to the common man goes, this is just sad. It wasn't even his bike, just a loaner. We don't need a president to back a tractor trailer into a loading bay, we need someone with both a sense of humor and the gravitas to conduct foreign and domestic affairs. Kerry talked about the race, but not really about any policy — why not really bring it down to the level where most people live and ask whether Leno's mom is seeing her prescription medicine prices skyrocket (if she's still living, I don't know, but if she's not, no disrespect intended)?
Howard Dean made fun of himself when he appeared on the show. Kerry seems more concerned with proving his manliness than demonstrating he has the emotional and intellectual range to be president. He was out shooting birds last week, about which he explained he "always eats what he kills." This gender identity thing is clearly something Senator Kerry is concerned about.
Source: Associated Press via Yahoo!]]>
<![CDATA[Here is the transcript of the first few minutes of an interview between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Washington Post reporter Peter Slevin. Note how they establish their shared recognition of the urgency for a new story (the "news cycle" discussion) and the palpable disappointment when Powell fails to step up with gusto to the story idea Slevin is pursuing. This is subservient journalism — read the full transcript here.
(10:30 a.m. EST)
QUESTION: Yes, hello, sir. Peter Slevin.
SECRETARY POWELL: Hi, Peter, how are you?
QUESTION: I’m very well. I’m very well. I’d ask you about your weekend, but it
probably already seems like a long time ago.
SECRETARY POWELL: It is already. We’re into a new news cycle.
QUESTION: Yeah, isn’t that always the way?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: No new news from Saudi, I guess. That always helps.
SECRETARY POWELL: No. They are, of course, dealing with the aftermath of it,
and as you heard from my wingman out there, Rich Armitage, it has all the
earmarks of al-Qaida —
SECRETARY POWELL: — and I think the Saudis will ratchet up their level of
activity against terrorist organizations. I think the May bombing, when I was
over there — I got there the day before that, it happened the day before I got
there — just happened to Rich this time. And they really ratcheted it up at
that point, and I think they’ll do even more now. I think they’re seized with
the reality of the problem that we have an al-Qaida problem, and it is not just
al-Qaida sitting there to do things elsewhere. They attacked, the regime, the
government, the leaders.
QUESTION: Yes. Well, on Marshall — I’m fascinated that — I really appreciate
you taking the time to talk about him. I’m intrigued that you have two
portraits in your office, one of Marshall and one of Jefferson, and I’m
intrigued by the incidents — the homework you assigned, which I have now done.
Tell me — tell me why you have those two portraits. Why those two people?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I must acknowledge that they were here when I arrived.
SECRETARY POWELL: I cannot tell a fib.
QUESTION: Too bad.]]>
<![CDATA[I'll just let this one stand on its own, without any further comments. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Power wrote an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle, which you can read in full right here. My favorite line is: “The other good news is President Bush’s intense personal interest in our own hemisphere. He is dedicated to helping everyone in the Americas who needs help.”
<![CDATA[The Wall Street Journal has a scary piece, very intentionally scary, about the “drab” hospitals and long waits to see doctors and surgery in Canada. Did you know that, just like in some American hospitals, some Canadian hospitals make people wait? The article goes on to say that the Canadians don’t adopt new technology as quickly, too. Horrors.
You’d think that since I live so close to the border the smell of gangrenous Canadian bodies would fill the air around here. But all I can smell is the paper mills from the Tacoma tideflats, and even that only on rare occasions these days.
The assumption in the article is that if the U.S. went to a single-payer system we’d fall into this same nightmare our friends north of the border are living in. That’s not necessarily true, since we may manage things differently and, since we are already spending far more than any other country on healthcare as a share of GDP, our single-payer system could stay right on the cutting edge while offering largely the same services, including innovative treatments, as are available today. We won’t know unless we try and why not try something, anything, since the cost of healthcare is still rocking upward. The difference would be that the decision to buy a device that would save a few lives would not be in the hands of the few people who could afford it (and, presumably, still would seek out high-end private treatment). Society might actually decide to save people with rare diseases on the basis of the fact that most folks don’t know whether they will get them — basically, that’s what insurance is all about.
The article goes on and on about the bad care in Canada, becoming “balanced” only at the end, when a Canadian heart patient rates his care as “pretty excellent,” though we don’t hear about the fact he is not facing the tens of thousands of dollars in deductible payments an American might after the same procedure.
By the way, Canadians and everyone else spend less on medical care and live longer than we do. What a horror show. Faced with a growing problem, Americans resist experimentation, the very thing that made this country great.]]>
<![CDATA[John Reed, the guy saddled with saving the New York Stock Exchange from itself, has suggested a kind of superfund for paying back investors bilked by specialists who trade on their own accounts before acting on customer orders — the effect is that the specialists, people who act as market-makers for a specific stock, get the benefit of their knowledge a large number of sales are coming and can dump their stock first at a higher price. This is illegal activity, a violation of securities law.
Crime or not, Mr. Reed, who has a sterling record as the head of CitiGroup, says the firms that are guilty of these abuses should contribute to a superfund like the EPA uses to help pay for cleaning up polluted industrial sites. This money would be paid when the financial firms admit their guilt — back to self-regulation as usual.
Unfortunately, this whole idea hinges on the very people who committed these crimes going along with it. The Financial Times reports that Reed said in an interview: “If they [the specialists] are not willing to accept those [conditions], then forget it.”
“Yeah, I got your money right where I want it. In my fucking pocket!
I guess we can forget it, because few companies have demonstrated the willingness to admit they were wrong when it comes to pollution — what “right-thinking” financial services firm, whom we are supposed to trust with our money, will admit they are thieves?
Here’s what we should do: Throw the traders in jail and fine them in personal bankruptcy after a fair trial. Don’t destroy the companies themselves, since their assets are actually owned by the individual investors who put their money into the mutual funds. Just destroy the lives of the people who have made illegal profits with the college and retirement funds of ordinary people.]]>
<![CDATA[The National Venture Capital Association, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Venture Economics released the most recent quarter's venture investing figures, which were roughly the same as the previous five quarters. The growing sector in terms of attracting capital is biotechnology, which only proves that many venture investors follow a few smart ones, putting too much money into a single industry. Business software investment is actually falling, even as we hear all about the economic recovery, which may actually happen by the time an early stage investment made this quarter reaches product launch. Spread that cash around, spread it around. Portfolio theory has real merit, folks.
Here’s the spreadsheet in Excel format that details quarterly investment for the past eight years.]]>
<![CDATA[The Meatrix. Funny and filled with information people would not sit still to absorb in most circumstances. This is the way to use the Web for activism.]]>