< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: January 2005

Monday, January 31, 2005

Citi

Big news. Will Salomon Brothers return to its former glory? And more importantly, what is Buffet's next move in response?

Blog Payola Hypocrisy

What’s more sickening than right wing nut job pundits taking payola from the Bush administration for their commentary? The hypocrisy of big time bloggers on the left who do the same - then ban their readers from asking questions about it. May I present to you the MyDD-DailyKos consulting firm – pay up, Democrats!

Read more about it at Democracy Guy, where banned bloggers of the world unite!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

And Now Daily Kos?

First Jerome booted Tim Russo for criticism of Dean-mania, now Daily Kos trusted users have shut down access to SorenSorenson... because he asked a question? Ouch. Friends of A9 don't fare so well at these sites. I wonder why?

Friday, January 28, 2005

W.R. Grace

A bankruptcy judge in in Delaware approved restricting equity trades of W.R. Grace & Co. yesterday according to the Daily Deal (subscription). In Chapter 11, debt trades are effectively equity trades, so the order really protects the debtor's control and neutralizes unsecured creditor attempts to leverage the negotiation. The rationale is to protect the NOL carry-forwards that money losing businesses accrue, prior to filing 11, as a tax credit. Protecting these NOLs, which are quite sizable in some instances (MCI doesn't need to pay taxes for a long, long time because it carried its NOL through reorg), is supposed to increase the value of the reorganized business, thereby lifting all boats.

The problem though is that it artificially increases the cost of trading into a position in a bankrupt company. This increase in cost means a decrease in return for hedges, like mine, which invest in distressed entities; and it also means that the liquidity of the distressed market is dampened. While a small return pinch is no problem, the NOL strategy is being used more aggressively, and is being abused as well. DIPs who want to preserve as much control of the company they bankrupted are attacking the ability for vultures to move in quickly to a strong negotiating position by employing this legal strategy whenever they file 11.

I'd like to see this corrected, its a rather artificial and ultimately counter-productive display of paternalism by the court. If trading will cause the the company to lose its NOL, then that should be a price borne by the market, not restricted by the court. Sen. Specter, I hope you're listening. If this NOL trend continues, I promise you inflows to the restrucuturing market will subside and chase better return overseas.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Uncle Ted

Looks like ol' Uncle Ted took off his skirt, jocked up and decided to play with the big dogs. From today's White House Bulletin [quoting Teddy, sorry no link]:
There may be violence as we disengage from Iraq and Iraq disengages politically from us, but there will be much more violence if we continue our present dangerous and destabilizing course. It will not be easy to extricate ourselves from Iraq, but we must begin.
I'm assuming he read my post and liked it. Well, in the interest of full disclosure, he probably did not read my post... kinda like that shoestore on Rector in between Trinity and Greenwich... You know, the one that sells "probably the lowest priced shoes in the city"?

Anyway, he's the first Senator to have sack enough to say what's obvious to just about anyone who's ever truly bleed for this country: we need to go ahead and start preparing to get our boys home. Let's not let Rummy and boys screw up the exit as much as they've screwed up the occupation. Of course, Kennedy has little to lose, so let's see if any other Dems grow some... I know one who might. Oh yeah, if you want a great pic of the senior Senator from Mass., click here and scroll down a little. Ahoy there, Ahab!

Telecom Day

With the SBC / AT&T news hitting on the same day Verizon reports, we at Amendment Nine would like all of our readers to go and make a dirt cheap long distance phone call to somewhere like Bismarck, or better yet, Butte. As for me, I'm beat. Out for some eggs.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

American Idol

I heard somewhere that the initial audition pools at American Idol, you know, where most everyone stinks, they apparently poll heavily for Bush.... that sounds right to me.

In other news, since none of us have anything to write about, please take a moment to visit the Koufax Awards (blog beauty paegent) and vote. We endorse the following blogs in the following categories:

Best Overall Blog (non-professional)
Matt Yglesias

Best Writing
Josh Marshall

Best Group Blog
Agonist

Most Deserving of Wider Recognition
Your's Truly (Amendment Nine)

Most Humorous
Mad Kane's Notables

Best New Blog
Kentucky Democrat

Earnings Season

The Federalist asked me to pass along to readers the reason for the light posting... earnings. We'll resume more regular posting when the conference calls slow down. Thanks for staying tuned.

UPDATE: While you're waiting for us to stop counting money, heh heh heh, please visit a new addition to blogland: Democracy Guy A blog run by Tim Russo, guest contributor to Amend. IX, and former contributor to MyDD's front page (until Jerome went batty). Good luck Tim, it looks good and long overdue.

Monday, January 24, 2005

$321/month

Used to get you a seat on the train, anytime you wanted, between CT and NYC. Now it gets you a place to stand on the train anytime it snows. We could have had new trains, but I guess Gov. Rowland needed the extra cash for his new plumbing system up in Litchfield. I'm bitter.

In other news, talk about bad timing... this "warning" about a possible, cataclysmic scenario whereby global temperatures rise on average 2 degrees, wiping out crops, spreading famine, and reducing England to a bar of sand, came when the Northeast digs out from one of the worst blizzards in recent memory. Personally, I'd kill for that 2 degrees right now. Global warming experts ought to release their reports when, oh, you know, its hot! And for all of those smarty pant readers who are ready to jump and say: "it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere" ... guess what? It doesn't matter cause all the CO2 emissions are produced in then Northern! Naaahhhh.

The "Bully Risk"

Amend. IX reader johannasurfer coined a new term in response to my previous post on how the United States goes to war. I asked a question: "Is the risk of a rash decision in favor of war greater than the risk of too slow a response?" She called the former risk the "bully risk" in a comment, analogizing to the playground where everyone rallies behind the wimp to defeat the bully.

I will change, slightly, the question I posed in order to more fully explore this. As the greatest superpower, how great a risk does the United States run whenever it commits troops to battle? Or in her terms, how great is the bully risk for the United States?

To show how unique a situation this is, let's compare the US committing troops to, say, a hypothetically existing small third world country named Caledonia. Caledonia, a mostly agricultural nation, sits on an island. Its only neighbor on this island is an even smaller but wealthy state named Pluto. Pluto derives its wealth from a large number of gold mines found there. Because of geographic isolation, and because of climate, Caledonia cannot ship its crops to the outside world. Its only trading partner, therefore, is Pluto. In recent years, Pluto has spent enormous sums of money on developing a state of the art military. Fearful of Caledonia's superior population and military size, Pluto seeks weapons of mass destruction in order to deter any possible invasion by the poorer Caledonia. Caledonia sees this as a "gathering threat" and fears being blackmailed once Pluto's weapons program is complete. Caledonia, in this scenario, appears to have a minimal bully risk. When there is only one more kid on the playground, being a bully is a pretty good thing... you get their lunch money (a zero sum game).

The United States, on the other hand, sits atop the world community. Should the US use its overwhelmingly powerful military it runs the risk of alienating other countries not involved in the dispute. Their hostility may take time to develop, but the seeds are planted with each swing the US takes at the class scapegoat. Indeed, the wimpier and pathetic the class scapegoat is, the more likely it is disinterested confederates will feel compelled to act against the bully. Eventually, all bullies succumb to a minority which has banded together to become the new majority.

I have a friend who teaches in NYC public schools. He tells me the surest way to eliminate bully problems is to increase the number of kids on the playground. Some bullies don't learn, and they find out quickly that the change in size has also changed their ability to project their power without consequences. That is happening in our world today. Global population is surging even while the West's population declines. As this continues, the bully risk for wealthy, militarily dominant western nations increases as well. Failing to understand this reality has drastic consequences, it gets us enmeshed in disputes that quickly run out of control. Only careful deliberation, not fancy rhetoric, can lower this risk. When the existence of the country isn't in question, the counsel we take before committing troops to battle is the sole mechansim we have to lower the bully risk.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Biggest News

In all seriousness, this is the biggest headline I've seen in awhile. Everyone has speculated on this, now the FT gives details. Go read. Also, Cowher is a Coward! (that's what they'll say if the Stillers lose by less than a touchdown).

Friday, January 21, 2005

Herodotus

Amendment Nine reader Big Sully adds some valuable commentary on my post concerning Xerxes.
While the sentiments expressed by our blogger are valuable in their own right, the chances that X[erxes] allowed debate of any sort in this case are slim indeed. H[erodotus] is, rather generously, attributing the institution of a familiar Greek process to the Persian despot.
It sounds right to me that Herodotus was likely attributing Greek custom to Persia. But the point still stands that even in ancient times, the decision to go to war was considered and debated far more vigorously than it is today... In fact, that he gets it wrong here makes the point all the more interesting in my view. Almost as if Herodotus is saying: "no one really goes to war without throwing open the debate." Of course, it turns out that today, we do just that.

Big Sully continues:
More plausible is the so-called Constitutional Debate at 3.79-83. Here H[erodotus] answers potential criticism by his Greek readers/auditors, stating that, while it will seem difficult to believe, the debate actually did happen much as he presents it. The debate takes place in 522 B.C., after the Magian pretender to the Persian throne has been deposed. The seven Persian noblemen who formed the junta that had gotten rid of the Magian usurper now debate the merits of the various forms of (Greek) constitutions, and which one ought to be adopted by their new regime. Monarchy, of course, wins the day, but the speech is important because the noble who argues for democracy, Otanes, presents an early formulation of 'isonomia', that is, equality before the laws, one of the cornerstones of Greek democratic political theory.
Obviously this is ancillary to the discussion on how we go to war, however, I'd like to point out this story intrigues me in light of the Bush inaugural speech. One reason, perhaps, that Herodotus feels compelled to apologize for the veracity of this story is that Greek readers would no doubt find it unbelievable. That a group of leaders could decide, after reasoned debate, to reject democracy in favor of monarchy would seem as foreign to them as the rule of law seemed to Xerxes when he hears, in that famous passage, that Spartans will never give in, regardless of the odds, because they fear the law more than any man. It seems to me that Bush is playing on the foreigness of other approaches to self-government when he obligates us to spread democracy across the globe. Isn't that a contradiction anyway? Can you really impose democracy on everyone? More on that later.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Xerxes

This post, and the several which will follow, segway nicely with what Sharpshanks has recently posted. I encourage readers to reflect on his thoughts as well.
[B]ut, so that I shall not appear to consult only my own whim, I will throw the whole matter into open debate, and ask any of you who may wish to do so, to express his views.
This was Xerxes, King of Persia, Son of Darius, speaking to a conference of the leading men in his country. He had proposed, ahead of this quote, to invade Greece and punish Athens for their previous slights and injuries to Persia (slights and injuries which, Herodotus believed, were factually inaccurate, or at a minimum, overblown).

At the time, Persia was THE superpower of the day. When Xerxes finally did invade Greece, it is said he brought with him an army of over 1.7M. The story goes, when the Persian force finally crossed the Hellespont, making their way from Asia to Europe, a Thracian looked to Xerxes and said: "O God, why did you take the form and dress of a Persian, and change your name to Xerxes, only to gather every man on Earth to invade and smash Greece. You needn't have gone to all that trouble to destroy her." Talk about your shock and awe, eh?

One aspect of this I find fascinating is that despite the overwhelming superiority of Persian power to Athenian, the King threw open the debate. Even Xerxes, a young, hot-blooded monarch eager to claim his place in history, even this young man felt the need to call a council of leading men and have an open debate on the merits of going to war against a heavily outmanned opponent.

There is wisdom here, wisdom which demands new ears.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Way We Go To War

This is not my area of expertise, by any stretch. I deal in financials. But when I see decisions being poorly made, decisions that impact my own selfish desire for wealth, I get to thinking, even get a little mad. I hope most of you feel the same way.

First, I should state that America is in a unique position: militarily and economically dominant in the world. No one is a suitable rival at the moment. We've been in this state ever since the fall of the Soviet empire. Before, our preeminence was threatened, or balanced, by Soviet strength. Then, we needed to project our military power in order to protect our economic interest in as efficient a manner as possible from an enemy every bit as greedy as are we.

I always assumed that was why we allowed the President to effectively go to war by his own choice, without a real check by the Congress. In earlier days, when we weren't one of two superpowers, our country had a history of Congress being the one to declare war, not the President. But in the Cold War world, the risks involved in too slow a deliberation by the legislative chambers were much greater than the risks involved in the President making a rash choice.

That situation has changed. Now, we are the world's only superpower. Therefore, it seems to me, that a change in our decision making process for whether or not to commit to a war is warranted as well.

Is it the case that today we need to go back to the old way of having Congress deliberate before commiting troops? Is the risk of a rash decision in favor of war greater than the risk of too slow a response? I don't know, I'm no expert.

But, no matter how grave the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, it pales in comparison to the magnitude of the threat posed by an aggressive Soviet empire. To me, that is clear enough on its face. I live in lower in Manhattan, and was there for 9/11. While the emotional scars of that day still remain with me, as a financial analyst, I remain amazed at how resilient our economy is to such a disaster. Terrorist events are serious, and do have long-term consequences, but their major economic impact is to operate as a short-term liquidity crunch. In other words, we aren't faced with the end of our existence like we once were.

It seems to me that this President has taken advantage of a decision making system streamlined to counterbalance an empire bent our annihiliation, not one designed to beat a bunch of terrorists. We should all rethink how we decide to go to war, and what form of decision making is optimal based on the geopolitical realities of today.

Backing Social Security

Whoa there! Josh Marshall has a nice post on way Ways and Means Chair Big Bill Thomas probably won't have a great time at the inaugural ball. Here's hoping he's right. Too early for champagne? Looks like the Dems have learned how to fight afterall.

Remember the last "crisis"?

Just back from my tour of West Bank polling places, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Bushies on talk shows talking about an impending "crisis"...this time in social security.

De ja frickin' vu.

Someone needs to remind folks about the last time the Bush crowd took to the talk show ciruit to heave breathlessly about an impending "crisis", an "imminent threat", gathering storm clouds, blah blah blah.

If Iraq is any evidence of how this crowd deals with crises of its own making, God help my mother when she retires. I'm in the camp that believes social security needs fixing, and a real debate about those fixes needs to happen...but not with Republicans in charge.

But are we going to be sleepwalked through another complete disaster? Lefter than thou Democrats, particularly the ones backing Howard Dean's bid to bring nuclear winter to the DNC, like to complain about how we've lost our backbone. Where are they now? Are we just going to roll over and play dead on this one? Get up and fight, for once.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A Modest Proposal for Tort Reform

Earlier, I proposed that for every dollar spent on frivolous plaintiff's claims, two are spent on frivolous defendant appeals. I'd like to now propose what I consider a soft solution (credit for this solution goes to Federalist X, though I've modified his approach a little) to the current lawsuit "crisis".

Assume a medical malpractice case is at hand and assume plaintiff would settle for $10. The insurance company, egged on by its counsel, refuses ("don't want to be seen as a money machine afterall!"). Case goes to trial and the cost of litigating is $8. Now the cost to the insurance is $18, but the jury, as juries often do, awards $20. The case goes on in appeals for two more years. The appeals are unlikely to succeed of course, but the insurance company is persuaded that it doesn't want any "bad precedent on the books."

So the $20 is put in an interest bearing account at 7%. Of course, the appeals cost the insurance company another $5. Now plaintiff at the end of the day walks away with $21.50, but the insurance company ends up shelling out $25, all for a suit they could have disposed of for $10. Take the $5 they wasted on appeal and add interest to it so now the loss goes up to over $5.50. In other words, the defense has managed to inflate the cost to the insurance company by 255% (and thats the same even if the cause of action wasn't frivolous to begin with, but legitimate!) One sees here that no matter what the merits of the claim, the resolution process for these actions is a massive inflation of cost paid primarily by the insurance company.

Here is where the soft solution comes in. Assume a hedge fund comes in and says to plaintiff: "we'll buy your cause of action for $10, but you must give us all rights to litigate." Plaintiff and her attorney agree, and walk out with cash.

Now all of a sudden, plaintiff is no longer a poor, weak, reluctant participant in the court system. Instead, plaintiff is a well financed, smart, agile hedge fund capable of putting a great deal of time, energy and other resources into the suit. The bargaining table has changed, and defense counsel is faced with lots of dollars and lots of smarts across from them. The insurance company, now afraid that a well financed opponent could do significant damage, ignores defense counsel's earlier advice and prepares to settle.

Everyone knows that the fund came in at $10. So the "settlement price" is not the problem. The question now is, how much of a return will the fund get? We aren't greedy, a dollar or two is fine (depending on the merits of course!). Insurance company settles for $11.75. Hedge fund gets a 17.5% return, and insurance company saves at a minimum $8.25 or, about 41%.

Administrative and other transaction costs not discussed are also eliminated. Everyone goes home happy. There are laws on the books in many states though that prohibit the assignment of personal injury claims. They do so out of a policy concern, and it is one that I believe is dated. If the premise that there is a crisis of frivolous lawsuits is correct, this is a quick way to bring that crisis to a halt and restore some sanity to an otherwise perversely incented negotiation process. However, until the perverse incentive problem is addressed, the whopping punishment to insurance companies who want to avoid "bad precedent" will remain.

Of course, there are also many states that do not prohibit such a deal. Those states might be seeing more of me in the very near future.

Condi, Condi

Give 'em hell Dr. Rice! I haven't watched any of this, so I can only imagine I would be infuriated rather than amused by these quotes, but man are these quotes funny... Here is a sampling from the NY Times:

1) ``The goal is to get the mission accomplished,'' she said.

Uh... uh... did you really want to use "mission accomplished"? I mean, the banner... the flight suit... the aircraft carrier. Come on, are you for real?

2) ``No one has objections in principle'' to such an envoy, she said, but Rice added that ``it is a question over whether that is appropriate'' at this time.

Hmm... so pragmatic concerns are not principled concerns. So if I said I objected to the war in Iraq because it was being run like a grade-school recess period, I could still agree with the principle of removing Saddam Hussein from power. Sen. Kerry must find such parsing humorous.

3) The best for last... "The time for diplomacy is now."

Or, "Our State Department shoots first and asks questions later."

Come on Joe, fire back please.

UPDATE: from the FT,
The US, she said, “stands with oppressed people on every continent” and she listed six “outposts of tyranny”: Cuba, Burma, North Korea, Iran, Belarus and Zimbabwe. “And we cannot rest until every person living in a fear society has finally won their freedom.”
Burma? Zimbabwe? Belarus? Cuba? Now, wait just a cotton-picking second here Condi! When W got up there and told us about the Axis of Evil, it was three countries, I member clear as day. Iraq, Iran and one more. We can scratch Iraq off, so by my countin' that leaves us with two... now just exactly what in tarnation are these here "outposts" and how come nobody told me bout them till after my boy gone an signed-up? How come nobody stopped them? What was ya'll doing for the last four years? Spreading Evil?

RFK, Jr.

It seems fitting that the day after the MLK, Jr. holiday, we would hear something about Bobby's junior. KYDem has the details. It seems to me that this would be a very good way to keep the base happy and restore the rhetoric of populism to the mainstream Democratic Party. However, I think there is some seriously weird stuff going on with RFK Jr and Andy Cuomo and I can't figure it out... too much family heat... could be an ugly primary (which isn't always a bad thing).

Monday, January 17, 2005

GM

I almost wrote about GM's problems on Friday. But I decided to tip off a few friends on what I heard about tort reform. The too are related of course. And the GOP will likely use the shockwaves caused by aany credit downgrade to reinforce the position that lawsuits are hurting legitimate business practice.

This is bullshit. Liberals, heed my word here, don't let the GM problem go unnoticed. There are of course several problems with their balance sheets, but the biggest is health care expense. The health care system is in despearate need of a major restructuring. This space is already hot with 11s, and simultaneously its hot with high-growth. Such a situation cannot exist indefinitely. Using the GM fallout to Democratic advantage is an imperative, in my view.

First, it refocuses the debate. If GM can't pay their healthcare bills, how can you?

Second, it truly is a crisis. GM is the largest private employer in America. I can tell you from an insider's view, if this thing goes 11 it will be ugly, massive restructuring and layoffs, and tens of thousands of jobs moved overseas. It will destroy the midwest because of the ripple effect as supplier, ancillary product and service industries see 50% or more of their business move away. There isn't any hidden value proposition in the business. Cut and run would be the likely strategy involved.

Third, it reinforces the view that Bush is out of touch. He's arguing about social security and tort reform, while rising health care costs continue to drive good companies out of business.

Fourth, its a stretch, but there is a connection to high oil prices, the Iraq screw up, and GMs difficulties. Had they gotten it right in Iraq, oil would be cheap again, and people would buy new cars. But Bush's blunder is now causing GM to go bust.

In all seriousness, GM still has a way to go before they contemplate reorganization. But that isn't any reason for Democratic politicians to wait as well. Don't miss this one, its big.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Thoughts on Tort Reform

I'd like to predict that Democrats will be hearing a lot about tort reform in the very near future. It seems like Bush's social security plans might be driving a wedge in Republican ranks and they may choose what they feel is the simpler issue to play with first.

I care a lot about tort reform, and I intend to make a great deal of money off of it (though not in a way any reader might expect, more on that later). For now though, I'd like to throw one argument out there that many people seem flabergasted over upon initially hearing. Its actually a proposition, which can be, if required, supported by convincing facts, but which can also stand on its own.

For every dollar exacted by a frivolous legal action, two are wasted by frivolous legal defense. Shocking idea I know, but my experience, and my own study, have shown this to be much closer to the truth than the argument that frivolous suits are raising insurance premiums. If one just thinks about it for a quick second, defendant attorney's representing insurance companies have absolutely no incentive to settle, they get paid by the hour and insurance companies faced with tens of thousands of weekly claims are unlikely to regulate the attorney until the bill has already reached a fairly high level.

Democrats opposing tort reform should go ahead and begin educating the public: tort reform as discussed by Republicans, is in fact the sacrifice of plaintiff rights in exchange for absolutely nothing from defense bar.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Credit

Where credit is due. Coble shows he's got sack and sense. Immediately, my skeptic's cap is on and I realize this is probably staged. The fact that its one of the most senior, most safe Republican members in a military state, but representing a district with a distinct absence of any military presence, makes one think this is no mere accident nor act of political courage.

However, I did post this just before Christmas. I did spend New Years down in NC (as I often do with my wife and kids, but this time we unusually spent it in the heart of the 6th dist!). So, I'm just saying... a lot of people down there read this... and you know... perhaps... nah, couldn't be... could it?

In all seriousness, I'm sure its a trial balloon to see how it plays with the base. However, I think its far past time for the Dems to seize the high-ground here. The high-ground is there. If you didn't read my post, go read it. You'll see how a Dem can take this issue and make it a win-win. More importantly though, if the Reps are floating trial balloons, in NC no less, you gotta see the Bush playbook (cut and run post-election) starting to materialize. The question for all the liberals and other Democrats is this: you gonna lead the retreat or let someone else take credit for it? The time is now, call your Representative, let them know you support withdrawing the troops because you believe in winning.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A Few Words

We send our best wishes to fellow contributor Schenker who is currently in Sri Lanka. It is unlikely we'll hear from Schenker until Schenker returns home. Tim Russo was kind enough to share his thoughts on the upcoming Palestinian election. His posts are below or can be read directly here and here. Hopefully Tim will post again soon from the West Bank, we appreciate his insight, and his candor. Other regular contributors, Sharpshanks and Mitya K are on vacation until mid-January.

I'd also like to note for any Democrats out there considering a possible run in '06. This Kerik issue, which seems to have dropped off the radar screen, is a real winner down in Dixie. Good phone-banking, muckracking, dirty elbows, teeth-pulling kinda stuff. Remember, he isn't just Kerik, "he's a New Yorker with ties to the mob, and the big-city Republicans tried to put him and his type in charge of defending the homeland! W says he's one of us, but were it not for a phone call from the papers, he'd have us all turned out! The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

I know, how dare I right? Well, they did it to Lieberman, so I'm just returning the favor. Free advice is sometimes the best kind.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

On the Tsunami

I have a lot to say about the tsunami relief effort. My wife originates from Sri Lanka. However, I will wait to comment on the disaster itself until I've witnessed it firsthand. This post will concern the response by our current President, as well as some of the dialogue surrounding that response.

First of all, a wise man once said, "All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality." Before reading more, reflect on that quote again. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. All men. The goof-up of offering $15M is not really the problem. The problem is that we waited in a way the world did not wait when we were struck on 9/11. Rather than quote a figure, we could have done as they did, pledged to get the job done no matter what it takes. Loyalty, for this administration, is something bought and paid for, not something reciprocated. The world stood by us on 9/11, offered unprecedented cooperation, virtually unanimous support for our troops to eliminate the al-Qaeda menace. We have now failed to reciprocate. We have the Bush Administration, and them only, to thank for that. I say them only because this attitude of the current Administration is completely foreign to the American spirit. Americans are generous. We are caring. Our spirit is one informed by Christianity. Love thy neighbor.

Secondly, I've noticed the liberal blogs are fond now to say that we've lost a great chance to appeal to the Muslim world by the initial flub with the $15M pledge. In the words of one prominent blogger, "a strong initial response would've been PR gold and shown the world that the US's first impulse was to help, not to bomb."

The crassness of this argument is surpassed only by its paternalism. America's acts of goodwill are not some type of anti-bombs we use to sway those illiterate masses incapable of reading about our good deeds. It all reminds me of the arguments popular in pre-Civil War America where slavery for poor white Southerners was contemplated as a way out of poverty. Aid is not PR, it may achieve that effect, but one should not mistake results for the thing itself. The world stood with us on 9/11 because it was the right thing to do, not because they were hoping to win a popularity contest.

What the Bush Administration has done is unforgivable, but perhaps forgettable. But what we do from here on out will be remembered for all time, by all people. Let's not play these games. Remember what Dr. King said, the mutuality is inescapable; it is everywhere.

Finally, I have also noticed a tendency by major news commentators to dismiss any and all criticism of the President's alleged "stinginess" as politically motivated or "a tempest in a teapot." The people offering this argument are not paternalistic; they are simply far too fat and wealthy to be speaking with conviction about any topic except greed. If George Will, or his type, finds criticism of the stumbling response to this disaster “disheartening”, then he simply has no heart. 40,000 Indonesians, so far, are dead from this disaster and our President has yet to travel there. Faith without works is indeed dead. And commentary without empathy is in fact useless.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The really sad part is

I don't think anyone can come up with a definition of failure which we haven't already surpassed. Let's bring the boys and girls home now.

Communication Breakdown

About 30 minutes ago I received an email from John Kerry (so did 3 million other people).

The subject line was: "Counting on You to Make Sure Votes Get Counted"

Now, isn't that sweet. I, of course, had the audacity to count on Sen. Kerry for precisely the same.

Nice to see some of the lightweights are still employed.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Ever Heard the Expression

No duh? I remember when I first learned it. I think I was about 8 or 9. And I'm pretty sure that any self-respecting 8 or 9 year-old could have told you, a couple of days before the election, what Chris Bowers, analyzing the latest compilation of exit polls, has come up with.
I believe Kerry's poor showing among undecideds was connected to his unfavorables, which by the end of the campaign had actually surpassed Bush's according to many organizations.
Is anyone besides me just a little unimpressed with such "revelation"? If liberal bloggers are just now figuring out that the attacks on Kerry and his lack of a coordinated, strong response, helped to lose the election for him, one wonders just how "with it" these guys really are?

What seems more interesting is how these gods of polling on the hard left so easily missed the true damage done by the Swift Boats, and how they failed to mount anything other than a brush fire response. If we can get that fixed for next time, we'd have done some work. Unfortunately though, I think more of them are interested in blaming Kerry than improving themselves.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Bizzaro World of the Holy Land - Add Election - Stir

Security at a presidential campaign rally anywhere is a sight to behold. In the Palestinian Authority presidential election, it's surreal. Can you imagine someone brandishing a machine gun in front of John Kerry at a Kerry Edwards '04 event? All the while, the candidate smiling and waving?

Almost everything here in the Holy Land is surreal. It's as if God woke up one morning in a particularly mischievous mood and decided, you know what? Let's create three religions, with a common cast of forefathers, give them all guns, and make one tiny pile of rocks their big Holy City where the holiest events all occurred on top of each other - and sit back and watch the fun!

As a Catholic, I feel a bit distant from the top of the fight card here - Jews v. Muslims. I'm sure walking in the Old City and visiting the Holy Sepulchre probably gives some people goose bumps, but to me, it feels like a big Jesus theme park, crammed with tacky souvenir shops and snake oil salesmen. Come see where Jesus fell the first time. The second time. Right next to the Ali Baba Internet Cafe! Right there! You half expect to turn a corner along the Via Dolorosa and bump into the Tiki Twirl.

It's all been given that extra bit of bizzaro by the approaching election. Driving through the West Bank training election observers isn't your normal commute to work. We pass checkpoints bristling with Israeli soldiers, guns at the ready, pass by the giant separation wall going up a bit more each day, barbed wire and concrete slabs snaking along through rocky hills. Then show up somewhere and talk about democracy...grassroots baby!

Meanwhile, an orthodox Jew sits next to me in this Internet cafe in Jerusalem, with the full regalia, the long coat, beard, yarmulke. He's got the headphones on, a cell phone on the table, watching some video. I just had a bagel and some lox down the street.

Bizarro world, indeed.