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Wednesday, November 03, 2004



"here is how we can turn Iran and Syria into free countries in four years without a war"

Gosh Obsidian, I was trying to take your ideas seriously there for a minute, and then I hit that bump. And you wonder why we think that the "liberation" crowd is little more than a bunch of nuts who shouldn't be handed the steering wheel.

Marc Cooper

Regarding the above post. I can see the IP addresses of those who post. Do NOT post in the name of the others or u will be blocked, I understand the above to be QUOTING Beinart, editor of The New Republic. Next time make that clear and do not "sign" someone else's name.


Well, that explains why when I tried to email "Yassir Arafat" who posted above, I got no response. Or maybe he's just too sick to check his AOL account...

John Moore (Useful Fools)

I think Peter is close to right. Unless the trend to the right continues, the current election shows that the Democrat party is not too far from lots of Americans. I would point out that both sides candidates that were hard to sell. Bush with his well know occasional aphasia, and in the middle of a war that many people feel is doing badly, and John Kerry, a man with no visible empathy, a superior attitude he could not hide ("I don't fall down"), and hated by the bulk of Veterans as his history became available.

I would also agree with *one* item out of the second paragraph: the morality of the market isn't enough. I am a free market conservative, but thoughtful conservatives recognize that government has to temper the law-of-the-jungle nature of free markets - especially recently as the lack of morals has flowed into and through the business schools. I have been a business executive in a large company, and I have watched these forces first hand. Large companies have trouble showing much heart, except in their charity afccount.

Furthermore, large companies have to please their shareholders, who are largely school teachers and government employees whose retirement accounts invest in those companies for them. The latter is something to think about, by the way, as you bash corporations - they are owned by the little people - you, me, your kids teacher, whatever. Small businesses often are better - they don't have stockholders, and the owner can do good things (if you have a good owner). A government mandate to "be good" is silly, of course. In general, regulations are needed to protect the owners, to some extent to protect the employees, and to deal with externalities.

Externalities are things like pollution - a cost a business creates but doesn't pay. The market, which is very good at creating progress and lower prices, does nothing about externalities. Hence appropriate environmental regulations are required.

Where the Democrats often lose us is going too far on regulations, and then complaining about the job losses. There is a dynamic in the environment industry that leads to a ever increasing demands, and that is a serious problem.


"Small businesses often are better - they don't have stockholders, and the owner can do good things (if you have a good owner)."

Au contaire:

Very very few people send their children to college with the hope they will work in a mom and pop shop, for obvious reasons. lower wages. lower benefits. less vacation time. longer hours. higher turnover.


"thoughtful conservatives" failed to "recogonize that government has to temper the law-of-the-jungle nature of free markets" until thoughtful liberals forced that issue into the public sphere. One more instance when we were called Communist and Un-American for simply trying to bring some sanity to bear. But we're used to it. I wish I could think of something fundamental that conservatives did to make the country a better place. Can't...

(Cue "Reagan won the Cold War" - my favorite bit of bunk historical analysis.)


What a nice, calm, thoughtful post re: Peter Beinart, John M.

And thank you to whoever posted the Peter Beinart quote, however oddly attributed.


reg: "Gosh Obsidian, I was trying to take your ideas seriously there for a minute, and then I hit that bump. And you wonder why we think that the "liberation" crowd is little more than a bunch of nuts who shouldn't be handed the steering wheel."

reg, that's not an argument. Why am I crazy for thinking that those countries can be freed without a war? It worked in Eastern Europe, didn't it? Both Iran and Syria have seen significant internal unrest over the past year. Their governments are intensely unpopular, and in the case of Iran, ridiculed more than feared. Anyone with half a brain would start funding dissidents, and radio broadcasts into those countries are also a no-brainer. Beyond that, I'm sure there's a lot the CIA can think of... Will it result in a change of government? I don't know, but it is certainly a low-risk, high-gain approach.


Why am I crazy for thinking that those countries can be freed without a war? It worked in Eastern Europe, didn't it? Both Iran and Syria have seen significant internal unrest over the past year.

--Actually you're not the only one who makes that reasonable argument. I've heard Chomsky and Tariq Ali both make that argument. Because they're on the left however they get excoriated for making it. Since you're on the right, you're much less to get attacked for making such an argument.


Obsidian misses the point (again). I certainly believe that Iran has a good chance of moving toward democracy and I certainly hope that something better will develop in Syria over time. Because I'm a liberal, I the inevitable spread of democracy is a tenet of my faith. But I also recognize that the Berlin Wall didn't fall because Ronald Reagan gave a speech.

It's particularly important that Iran begin to shift toward liberalization because when America inevitably leaves Iraq after a few more years of bungled, bloody occupation a Shiite Iran-Iraq alliance will control the Persian Gulf. Of course the geniuses who planned the invasion of Iraq didn't tell us about this most likely of outcomes and how inimical that could be to U.S. interests.

But all of that aside, to suggest that a presidential candidate make "I have a plan to bring democracy to Iran and Syria IN FOUR YEARS without war" one of his promises to American voters is more than just a little bit nutty. If you can't see that, frankly it proves my point.

John Moore (Useful Fools Blog)


I doubt that Iran and Syria can be liberated without a war, but it remains a possibility, especially in Iran. I agree we should be funding dissidents (and also training and arming them), and psychological operations such as radio broadcasts should be made. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of faith in the CIA's capabilities here, although they did well in Afghanistan, which was conquered by 750 Americans - almost all of whom were special operations troops working with CIA operatives, motivating, paying and providing air support for local factions - especially the Northern Alliance.

Iran represents a difficult problem. It has one and probably two nuclear weapons programs, and will have ICBM capability shortly. It already has missiles that can range all of Israel out to Cyprus, and I think they can now range much of Europe (don't remember if that one is deployed yet). It is urgent that the nuclear programs be stopped. Iran with nukes would be very dangerous, and they could have them next year.

Iran has also threatened us - that if we attack their homeland, they will attack ours. They have the largest terrorist capability of any ccuntry on earth, and have cells in the US already, so we could expect to see bombings at a minimum. There might be some instances in the US of release of toxic agents. A single one of the Sarin shells that we captured in Iraq would provide enough agent to kill thousands, and as binary weapons, would be transportable and low risk until the two chemicals are combined. I suspect some of the bad guys in Iraq also have these. The rebels in Fallujah recently threatened to use chemical weapons

Iran also has a mostly young populace, who hate the current regime and want freedom. But of course the Ayatollahs have their own forces of repression, who are extremely brutal.

So whatever trick is tried, it has to work fast, or we (or the Israelis) are going to bomb Iranian nuclear and missile facilities. Such a bombing might work (plutonium production from Bushehr reactor is trivial to stop, but buried Uranium enrichment facilities are another matter). One we have bombed Iran, it is likely that many of the young will, our of Persian nationalism, turn against us. Personally, I suspect that one reason for the existencec of the Bushehr reactor is to be a target, which when attacked would allow the Ayatollahs to crack down on dissidents and switch peoples' concerts to nationalistic.

I don't think Syria has a chance of getting free. There is no active resistance movement (riots were by the Kurdish minority, I believe). The government is totalitarian. Syria almost certainly has WMDs (as does Iran) in the form of chemical and perhaps biological weapons, and the ability to saturate Israel with them. It controls Lebanon as a satellite country, and provides the Bekaa Valley for terrorist use - multiple groups - and allows Hezbollah to control southern Lebanon. Hezbollahj has abbout 10,000 rockets and missiles, and chemical warheads, and can hit northern Israel down to Haifa.

In spite of all this, Syria would be a pushover for our military to conquer, even more than Iraq was. Converting it to a democracy, as we see with Iraq, is a lot harder, as stakeholders in the current status quo would revolt. Once we reduce Fallujah, we might even have forces to do it.

One thing rarely mentioned in any confrontation of these terrorist nations is their potential for releasing a doomsday biological weapon. There are contagious agents which can be genetically modified (by adding an ILK-4 gene) to be extremely deadly and vaccine resistant. This level of danger is almost science-fiction like - a fasst kill - 24 hours or so. The technology was discovered by Australians who created mousepox with ILK-4 in an experiment. The result was devastating, even to vaccinated mice.

There are other ways of making very dangerous pathogens - for bacteria like Anthrax, adding antibiotic resistance; toxins can be grafted into other genomes - the Russians added the Ebola toxin to Smallpox about 10 years ago.

Eastern Europe was a very different situation. It had puppet governments dependent on the USSR. Poland was subverted by an interesting collaboration of the CIA and the Vatican, teamed up with rebels. When the USSR fell, the rest of eastern Europe was simply falling dominos. In Iran and Syria, there is no master power controlling them. Hence they are more capable of putting down internal dissent or revolution.

John Moore (Useful Fools Blog)

Preview, John, Preview. Sorry about the typos.


reg: "Because I'm a liberal, the inevitable spread of democracy is a tenet of my faith."

There is absolutely nothing inevitable about it, it needs a *lot* of help. Democracy happening on its own is a freak accident.

reg: "to suggest that a presidential candidate make "I have a plan to bring democracy to Iran and Syria IN FOUR YEARS without war" one of his promises to American voters is more than just a little bit nutty"

Well, obviously nobody can reliably deliver on a promise like that, but it won't be the first time a politician has made such a promise ;) Mind you, I'm not suggesting that it is particularly likely to be possible to do that, but it would be an appealing political platform. Instead we got Mr K saying that Iraqis are not ready for democracy and we should scale back our expectations.


I don't have the time or energy to respond to every response made to my post, but let me touch on two of them and then it's back to work. (Just where do all you get your time?!)


Comment wrote; "Woody, those racist "Democrats" you talk about all became Republicans.... ... And if you think black voters weren't deliberately franchised (disinfranchised) in Florida in 2000, you simply are living in a cocoon.

Response: There's some truth to your first statement, but I lived in Birmingham during the civil rights struggles and I saw first hand that it was the Republicans (Republican mayors Albert Boutwell and George Seibels)who took over and created a progressive city for Blacks. State Democrats didn't change, but the National Democrats gained black support when it introduced the "Great Society" that ended all poverty forever.

As a footnote, I remember a meeting with a very old lady shortly after Nixon ran against McGovern. She was taught to pull the Democratic lever because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican--so, she did. However, parties and people can change--unless, apparently, they run the Democratic Party today.

Your second statement is totally false and without support. After all the hearings and studies, not one black, not one, was found to have been legally denied the right to vote. Kerry's only support was that felons were not allowed to vote and that many of the felons were black. Maybe we should give them voter registration cards when we finger print them.


song to woody wrote: "Even your characterization of him just voting for Kerry because he wants "free health care" betrays your own attitudes to expanding health coverage - a critical issue for low-income people."

Response: Those were his words and only reason he gave and upon which he elaborated with me. I didn't express an opinion either way on health care except by omission, as I only expressed what I considered a different primary motivation for voting for Bush.


I'm surprised that people can find racial connections to everything. To me, that indicates that some people have misconceptions or personal issues that might go beyond reality. (Even Marc didn't realize the true breakdown of the civil rights votes between Republicans and Democrats in the 1960s.) If you were not an adult living in the South before 1970, then you have no idea of the worst forms of discrimination. Some of you need to get help.

If you beg me, I'll share an another recent and interesting conversation I had with a 78 year-old black man, who was born in West Virginia and worked most of his life in Atlanta. His life was full of hardships, but his attitudes and spirit let him move on without bitterness or hatred.

Now, to re-state what started this, I still think that the Democratic Party will continue to lose nationally as long as it ignores the positions of the majority of voters in the South--and, that doesn't include one racial position. We put national defense and small government high on the list. We enjoy individual liberties and don't like being put into groups.

That's it, y'all.


Dear "youpickone4me..."

Just noticed your comment from way earlier in the thread. "Mawkish good guy?" Evidently you've not been reading this site long enough or you'd have caught more than enough of my rants.

If I was temporarily projecting the above attitude, I think it's because, in the past 24 hours, I've had the unnerving sensation that if I start screaming I won't ever stop.


I didn't mean to imply that democracy in and of itself was an inevitability. But given the economic and cultural hegemony of the western democracies (our military hegemony is a fact, but greatly over-rated, as we are seeing in certain current events), there are myriad ways in which the forces that "inevitably" promote democracy are more potent than feudal notions of theocracy or outright thuggish and ultimately petty dictatorships. I'm sure we'd agree on much that relates to this. The one thing I think is absolutely crazy - and events are proving it - is glib assertions about either the efficacy or the ease of promoting "democracy" via military conquest - particularly in the Middle East. (Cue: wildly decontextualized references to Japan and Germany...) That is a route for fanatics who quite clearly have agendas that run far afield from the interests of American families who ultimately pay the price for foriegn adventures concocted by Beltwary elites. I have about as much regard for such folks, bred in think tanks, academia and factional politics, as I do for aged leftists ensconced in Italian villas.


Woody, the felon list scam pulled by Harris in Florida has been documented. It swept rolls in predominantly black counties using the names on the list and no other verification. People with the same names as felons were scrubbed. You can deny this all you want, because it doesn't fit with your narrative.

My point about the Republicans embracing the Dixiecrats doesn't "have some truth". It was the deliberate strategy of the Republican party in the wake of the civil rights movement and it is one reason I consider the GOP a soulless bunch of cowards. And there's no evidence that will change. Dick Cheney's primacy in this administration is a testament to that sorry fact. (I'll leave the President out of it, but I also find him unimpressive on the character issue. Suffice to say that smug, poorly informed assertiveness isn't evidence of character in my book.)


"It's particularly important that Iran begin to shift toward liberalization because when America inevitably leaves Iraq after a few more years of bungled, bloody occupation a Shiite Iran-Iraq alliance will control the Persian Gulf."

I can think of no other better gift to the conservatives in Iran than the invasion of and current US occupation of Iraq.


Woody - if people in the South put self-reliance and small government so damned high on their list, how come most of those states abscond with such a disproportionate amount of the tax dollars that are appropriated from folks in more economically productive regions like California ?

Not that southerners have a monopoly on hypocrisy. It's just that the accents make you seem so damned earnest, when I sense that you're merely a bunch of wily characters expert at telling a good story if it serves your interests.

And thanks for the tales of old black men. Sort of reminds me of that great Jerry Jeff Walker song, "Mr. Bojangles". Always loved that one.

Tom Grey

Actually, I'm pretty sure Iraq WILL be a "model" Arab Islamic democracy. How good a model is a big guess -- especially if they continue with proportional representation (national parties that will become ethnic/ tribal groups, almost inevitably).

Iran is about to put a pause on its nuke program, I think -- but push the NPT to its limits. And I'm really glad it's Bush on our side when I think of any ultimatums he might need to use.

Yes, many Bush-haters think it's good that Bush won, so the results are clearly his and the Reps. Funny how the disastrous Democratic Vietnam War got pinned on Reps, thanks to Nixon -- who won because the racist Southern Dems supported racist Wallace in 68, instead of Humphrey. Then the racists joined the Reps, mostly; but racism was already uncool.

Mixing blood helps end racism -- and its lack helps keep Jew hate alive (unfortunately).


Reg, we just come from different backgrounds and experiences. However, when I realized it was you who wrote the post to which I responded, I went back to read it and wanted to comment, and agree somewhat with you, on one other of your points.

You wrote: "... Frankly, without liberals, I shudder to think what this country would look like - especially in your parts. I'm sick of "fair, understanding, open" people who have no sense of either the big picture or the roots of what's right and what's wrong beyond their self-righteous bible-thumping."

I agree that liberals have made positive changes. Every view point, yours and mine, has value--and, change can be good. Sometimes, it's not. I just want government to make changes based upon what is right and best for this country and not what is politically expedient. Both parties are guilty here.

I, personally, tend to make changes after extremely long and careful thought as to the ultimate outcomes. I might never finish a chess game unless there is a timer. The other side of the coin are the formerly labeled "knee-jerk liberals" who couldn't see two weeks into the future for changes they wanted. I think that the demise of the inner cities can be attributed to some liberal policies--but, let's not go there.

Regarding seeing the bigger picture and what's right or wrong, I don't profess to see it all and I'm willing to change my mind. I have lived in Alabama and Georgia all of my life and don't have reason to travel much, so I'm sure that I miss some other viewpoints. But, by the same token, I have two sisters who were raised in the same household and both are staunch Democrats. When I was little, my older brother and sister told me I was adopted--so, maybe it's genetic.

Neverthless, I'm trying to remember who made a certain remark, but someone (honestly, I think it might have been James Brown) said that if you believe the same things at age sixty that you did at age twenty, then you wasted your life. That's similar to another quote that if you aren't a liberal when you are young then you don't have a heart and if you're not a conservative when you're old then you don't have a brain. I like to think that I've developed a brain while developing compassion at the same time. I know what it's like to hurt.

On the last part of your sentence, I don't have any problem with people taking positions based upon the Bible any more than those who take positions based upon being athiest. What they believe is more important than why they believe, and how those beliefs affect legislation is important. The Bible is not evil and it has steered many into offering charity and hope to people who are down.

I would like to add that I think that it's sad when Christians are bashed for problems in this country. Christians I know are some of the finest people around.

A friend of mine in New York called me last night after he had written me an email hitting "born again Christians." By definition, all Christians are born again. When we talked, I think that he understood that maybe this convenient label of blame can be offensive and inaccurate. By adding that descriptive phrase or the "evangelical" phrase to the word Christian along with a disparaging remark is just a way for the left to try to slander a good religion and those who practice it. That is intolerance and prejucice in itself.

I appreciate your comments and position. I'm sorry for what may appear to be glib attacks, as most of it is meant in good-natured exchange or competition. You haven't seen anything until you've seen the glib attacks between Auburn and Alabama fans. Putting up with that must have made me less sensitive in this area.

Anyway, we can learn from each other as long as the exchanges are honest, factual, and not personal. Neither liberals or conservatives are bad, and finding a balance between the two can be good. I appreciate Marc Cooper for allowing and controlling such discourse on his board.

That's all the time I have and exceeds my quota on this subject. I hope you and others who have disagreed with me have a nice day.

Marc Cooper

Thanks Woody.. you are a true asset to our little community here of yakkers.


Just to clarify - I have great fondness for Christians who exemplify the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount...like my parents. Just don't like people who reduce it to "bible-thumping" dogmatics or a glitzy, commercialized product sold like patent medicine.

Ken Burch

Three initial suggestions for Democratic rethinking:

1)A lifetime ban on presidential campaign participation for any senior officials in the last six campaigns or so. If you didn't get YOUR candidate elected, you obviously don't know how to elect anybody else.

2)No more "free speech zones" at future Democratic conventions, or other convoluted attempts to suppress dissent or force everyone to be "On Message." "On Message" only works if you actually HAVE a message.

3)How about maybe having the nominee DEFEND the word "liberal"? If only Kerry could have said "Hell yes, I'm a liberal, and proud of it. If it weren't for liberals and liberalism, we'd still have Jim Crow, uncontrolled pollution and troops in Saigon. We'd still have the majority of the population being treated as total doormats just because they're women.

And Jesus damn sure wasn't a straight ticket Republican type."

What a different and better race that could've been.

Just a few thoughts to get the ball rolling.


"Yes, many Bush-haters think it's good that Bush won, so the results are clearly his and the Reps."

Translation: Bush hater==anyone who disagrees with Tom Grey's assessment of George Bush's policies.

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