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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Butter, Not Guns
The latest Washington Post poll indicates that while the war in Iraq had strong support, it did little to change the polarized nature of the electorate. On the homefront though, it is startling how much opposition there is to this tax cut. It's truely amazing that the President's policies have brought people together against an otherwise self-serving policy. It's difficult to convince people that tax cuts are a bad thing for them, but the stubborn persistance of the administration in pushing through these cuts no matter the consequences has made people realize that there are real costs to the plan.
"Asked whom they trust to create more jobs, Bush trailed Democrats by 51 percent to 40 percent. Just 28 percent said they prefer Bush's proposed tax cut to spending the money on more government services, and 57 percent said the tax cut favors the rich. Only 10 percent of those surveyed said they are better off financially today than when Bush took office, with 48 percent saying they are worse off."
When it comes to jobs, the latest unemployment numbers don't make the President look good. In April, the unemployment rate increased to two tenths of a percentage to 6.0.
"The rise in the jobless rate, from 5.8 percent in March, puts the unemployment rate at its highest level since July 1994, when it hit 6.1 percent. Given extremely sluggish economic conditions, analysts said further increases in the unemployment rate were likely through the spring and summer."
No matter how much the President wants to juxtapose our military successes with his leadership by constantly flanking himself during his speeches with tanks, fighter jets or sailors, the issues that will matter will be the tangible ones of jobs and prosperity. "Jobs" is what it all comes down to in the end. It would be unfortunate for his campaign if he were unable to ask the fateful question for fear of the answer: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" If I were Bush, I wouldn't dare ask that question. After all, it's the economy, stupid.
You may have heard that incidents of international terrorism were down 44% in 2002 compared to 2001. The administration claims that this huge drop is the result of the relentless pursuit of terrorists around the globe as a result of the "war on terror." Colin Powell even claimed that it was due to the military action in Afghanistan and Iraq that this number of terrorist incidents is down. While the numbers don't completely lie - incidents dropped from 355 to 199 - they certainly don't tell the story that the administration would like us to hear.
Have we really curtailed Al-Qaeda and other groups that act against America? From the actual data, its hard to see that we have. Kevin Drum is all over this:
"But before the spin machine burns that 44% number too far into your brain, take a look at this chart from the report. As Unfogged points out, terrorist incidents declined from 355 to 199, a drop of 156. However, virtually all of that drop came in Latin America, specifically from a drop in the number of pipeline bombings in Colombia.
"Conversely, the two key al-Qaeda strongholds of Asia and the Middle East tell a very different story. Terrorist attacks in the Middle East stayed the same as the previous year, while attacks in Asia were up."
It's great that the raw data tells us that terrorism is down, but the administration shouldn't try to fool the public into believing that it is their doing that it is down. Our objective was to take down Al-Qaeda and other fanatical groups that are the real threat to American interests. From the numbers, it appears that almost nothing has changed. In fact, from the looks of it, it seems as though these groups have just moved to "softer" targets in nations that lack the ability to prevent such attacks. The embassy bombings of 1998 were "soft" targets because they were in countries that lacked the ability to control terrorists. The Bali nightclub bombing was another one.
Al-Qaeda may be well known now and on the run, but it doesn't seem that our "war on terror" has truely stopped them. Instead of killing Americans in spectacular ways, they go after our allies and our partners in smaller, less risky performances of catastrophe.
The administration should stop bragging that it is closing in. It's not. It's just changing the venue.
Doctors around the world have been struggling to find the proper vaccine for SARS, which has gripped much of Asia and, uh, Toronto. It seems that it might be the result of an immune system that is too strong. In a south China hospital where SARS patients were being treated, there were also patients with AIDS. While many of the hospital workers who encountered the SARS patients contracted it, the AIDS patients who encountered the SARS patients never contracted it. Even without masks, the AIDS patients seemed to be immune.
If SARS was a virus it would have quickly debilitated many of the AIDS patients. However, since they were unaffected it seems that SARS might actually be related to the strength of one's immune system. Seemingly, that would imply that people with stronger immune systems are more at risk to picking up SARS.
"Some scientists speculate the virus doesn't actually kill human cells - that the immune system's overreaction actually precipitates destruction of cells of the lung and other parts of the body, precipitating the acute pneumonia that is the disease's hallmark. In theory, they say, death may be the result of an aberrant or overly sensitive immune response. If that is proved correct, it's possible HIV patients may actually be at lower risk for SARS precisely because they lack strong immune responses."
Interesting. Hopefully this development helps researchers and doctors quickly find a remedy.
Another suicide attack, and only hours after the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, was sworn in. It seems that Hamas will never learn that violence only worsens its cause. This is a time when Abbas needs to shine.
This is a promising indication for Democrats. When voters are given a choice between the incumbent president and an unnamed challenger, the opposite of what voters say a year prior to the election actually happens.
I know there are many differences between this Bush reelection campaign and his father's in 1992, but the more you look at it, the more similar it seems. Let's hope the end of the story comes true as well.
Excellent. It's great to see that the Palestinian "legislature" is finally recognizing that it needs to stop being Arafat's rubber stamp and should instead become a legitimate branch of government for a new Palestinian state. The approval of Abbas is huge in this respect. The next step is the road map for peace. I'll be anxious to see what this road map plan consists of, but its certainly a good sign that it was conceived by the U.S., U.N., E.U. and Russia together. The concensus of these divergent world powers can be an indication of how much is riding on this plan.
Let's hope that it is openly received in the coming days or weeks and that it truely is a road map to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Though I fully expect that Hamas will not have gotten the memo and will try to disrupt this effort with more suicide attacks. It's unfortunate that the radical wing of Palestinians will never realize that their methods to statehood are all wrong. It's even more unfortunate that Arafat, the Palestinian president also has yet to see that violence is not the answer to Israeli power. Abbas does, and I have faith that he will lead Palestinians in the direction of statehood, and thus, peace.
One of the possible positives of the war in Iraq was that the threat to the region would be gone. With Saddam Hussein no longer threatening his neighbors, be it Kuwait, Iran or Saudi Arabia, the American military presence in the region can now change dramatically. While it may be foolhardy to assume that Iraq will become a base of operations for the future, the fact that the threat is gone changes our strategic relations with several states in the Mideast.
Since the Gulf War we have had a large military presence in Saudi Arabia. Our stay was not met with open arms by much of the Saudi population and resulted in a few terrible terrorist attacks. We were not welcomed by the Saudi people, and our presence as infidel guests of the ruling family made their corrupt rule all the more difficult. While we don't have an interest in propping up the double-faced Saudi royal family, our partial withdrawl from the heartland of Islam can only be a good thing for both us and them.
By moving the majority of our Mideast bases to Qatar we loosen the grip of blackmail that the Saudis have on us. We were there to protect them from Saddam. Our presence also ensured that no shady dealings would alter the fragile oil market that the Saudis have a huge part in monopolizing by means of OPEC. We got oil and bases, they got protection from Saddam and a de facto assurance of our support of their regime.
Then September 11 happened. 15 of the 19 highjackers were Saudis. Why didn't we go after that regime? After all, it was the childhood homeland of Osama Bin Laden and much of the fanaticism that Al-Qaeda feeds on is propogated by the Saudi flavor of Islam, Wahhabism. This strict brand of Islam is the one that prevented school girls from leaving a burning building because they were not properly covered. This is where the threat to America is spawned. This is where it originates. The Arab Basement is not in Afghanistan or Iraq, it's in our ally Saudi Arabia and in Egypt, our second largest recipient of foreign aid.
What is unfortunate is that the Saudis don't realize that they needed us more than we needed them. They thought that limiting our ability to attack Iraq would stop a war that could have destabilized their regime. All it did though, was make us realize how little we need the Saudis as allies when we have a wonderful, welcoming, not back-stabbing ally in the Emir of Qatar. He even built a huge airfield under the Field of Dreams belief that "if you build it they will come." And come we did.
Once we are able to free ourselves from Saudi blackmail we can effectively pressure the regime to either reform into a representative government or to collapse into one. It becomes their choice then. Moving our military out is the first step towards that goal.