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Michael Ubaldi, April 8, 2005.
Fancy that: work takes precedence over blogging. Iraq, Japan and daffodils this evening.
THAT EVENING: Work took everything but the will to publish comely portraits of flowers. Commentary tomorrow, and sharper because of it.
Michael Ubaldi, April 8, 2005.
We the able and strong are obligated by natural law and conscience to protect and preserve the lives of the weak; through generous caregiving when the humble are in gentle hands, by the intervention of arms when they are not.
Michael Ubaldi, April 7, 2005.
For three months, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has been driving leftists into a fit while he drives them out of the cheap rhetoric business. For nearly two years he has been optimistic about the American economy and its stimulation through tax relief. In February of this year, Greenspan stepped into the Beltway gridiron while donning a jersey that looked less like black-and-white splint than a red, white and blue scheme — lettered "RNC." Private accounts as part of a Social Security overhaul? Why, of course, said the good chairman, adding two weeks later that time was of the essence. Having now decked and pinned the Democratic Party's contention — no individual control, no changes for decades — Greenspan felt obliged to go one more and push for tax code simplification. Where the edges of ataraxia and catatonia meet — when partisans will exhaust themselves — is hard to say. But Greenspan doesn't mind pushing the left towards that intellectual event horizon, having offered President Bush another pair of gifts this week. On oil:
Soothing words from Alan Greenspan lifted stocks Tuesday as the Federal Reserve chairman reassured investors that the recent rise in oil prices is unlikely to damage the economy.
Then Greenspan furrowed his brow at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Uncle Sam's two-headed mortgage colossus, which big-state types consider as dear as FDR's legacy in welfare:
Greenspan said any crisis with the two mortgage companies — known as Government-Sponsored Enterprises — could have a disastrous spillover effect on the banking system.
Michael Ubaldi, April 6, 2005.
James Robbins, looking to Iraq, examines authoritarianism's drop in popularity that accompanies the targeting and gradual defeat of its practitioners. Robbins is deferential to strongmen, offering a strategic and tactical assessment of their flaws, but needlessly so: domination is a match of strength, and every thug who overpowers those weaker than he remains very mindful of his own competition and betters. The distinction between admirable hit-and-run and level cowardice comes from the treatment of the helpless — in this case civilians and other noncombatants, the terrorist's preferred opponent. An authoritarian most values possession and perpetuity, and when at a disadvantage will sacrifice anything but self to prevent his own consumption while positioning himself for escape and resurgence — if possible. The collapse of Islamist and Near East fascism is at least two years in the making, and accelerating.
ENTROPY: Wretchard took a look at the Abu Ghraib kamikaze and sees "terror's greatest defeat in modern times." He's right. It's times as these when the depth, strength and validity of an ideology is tested: to date, no organized authoritarian calling put under this strain has survived.
Michael Ubaldi, April 5, 2005.
The people's representatives have chosen an executive:
Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish former rebel leader, will be named as Iraq's president tomorrow, government sources have said. Jalal Talabani will be appointed tomorrow. He will form a presidential council alongside vice-presidents Adel Abdel Mahdi, a Shiite Islamist, and Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, a Sunni Arab. The naming of a president and two vice presidents is a key step towards forming a government. The presidential council must then appoint a prime minister, who will choose a cabinet before a majority vote by the 275-member parliament.
Michael Ubaldi, April 5, 2005.
Privately owned and managed charities have done much for the world's needy over the past few decades and are expected to accomplish even more in the new century. As seen in yesterday's news, non-governmental organizations can eclipse a local work force — or at least be perceived as having done so. Empowerment is as important as assistance; and for serving an arm of the federal government typically ponderous in its administration, American soldiers have gained a reputation for flexibility and creativity, knocking on the door of the guild hall first:
Due to efforts by several military and civilian groups, improvements are underway to lower the crime rate in Maysan Province, to provide increased security to the police forces in the region, and to stimulate local economies. Once the Basrah firm, Mott McDonald, completed its assessments of 13 police stations throughout Maysan Province, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region South, or GRS, awarded contracts to local Iraqi construction firms to implement the planned renovation reconstruction. These 13 stations represent only the beginning of the program as additional stations undergo assessments in the future.
Michael Ubaldi, April 4, 2005.
Free Muslims Against Terrorism is a non-profit association of American Muslims and Arabs, "created to eliminate broad base support for Islamic extremism and terrorism and to strengthen secular democratic institutions in the Middle East and the Muslim World by supporting Islamic reformation efforts." Often drowned out by the cacophony broadcast from the Near East's remaining authoritarian regimes and their Western sympathizers, FMAT can stand the silence from the majority it represents no longer:
The Free Muslims Against Terrorism are proud to announce that on May 14, 2005, Muslims and Middle Easterners of all backgrounds will converge on our nation's capital for a rally against terrorism and to support freedom and democracy in the Middle East and the Muslim world. This will be the first rally of its kind in Washington, D.C. that is led by Muslims and Middle Easterners. Join us in sending a message to radical Muslims and supporters of terrorism that we reject them and that we will do all we can to defeat them.
Michael Ubaldi, April 4, 2005.
Straight press reports of the Iraqi National Assembly's selection of a speaker, as anticipated after holding session on March 28, are practically impossible to find. Most articles have been injected with ancillary information from inside and beyond the country, or subjective inferences drawn from the assembly's two-month inaugural negotiations. It's striking that while journalists are choosing a variety of qualifiers, newspapers reflect a mob effort to skirt the repudiation of their claim that Iraqis were unable to compromise. Deals have been struck and good men are met in confidence:
Over two months after national assembly elections, Iraq's 275-seat parliament on Sunday chose Sunni Arab Hajen al-Hassani as the parliamentary president by a majority vote. The vote represented compromises on all sides, with Shiite and Sunni groups withdrawing their rival candidates to end the impasse.
An attack on the Abu Ghraib prison has invigorated some quarters on the left, and editorialized reports have been stuffed into several articles on Al-Hassani. In spite of loaded media characterizations of the attack — a "brazen" thing to "overshadow" the assembly vote — the attack was a demonstration of desperation and incapability. Iraq's enemies tried a jailbreak at one of the country's most fortified detention centers; Central Command reported assaults from a heavily armed force of roughly sixty terrorists. After Marines neutralized a car bomb and organized superior fire, less than a fifth of the terrorists escaped. Rushes have been made before against smaller, Iraqi targets, with some success until late last year. It's assumed at least some of the killers subscribe to the logic of self-preservation. Why would the enemy risk and lose nearly an entire gang against an impossible target — unless he had no other choice?
More stark by the day, Iraq's reversal of fortune is welcome, earned and deserved.
DUST IN THE THROAT: As expected, Austin Bay found in this news the same condition of weakness, the word "desperate" figuring prominently in his remarks.
Michael Ubaldi, April 1, 2005.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives us no magic numbers this morning. While non-farm payroll numbers are only half of estimates at 110,000, national unemployment is down two tenths of a percentage point over the month to 5.2%, and the household survey's total employment in the civilian labor force grew by 357,000 while unemployment fell 332,000. Jobless claims are down; hourly earnings are over estimates. We can guess which numbers most media agencies and opposition figures will promote. Wall Street may take it in stride.
JUST GOES TO SHOW YOU: Bloomberg's reporting that the market, still afraid of Alan Greenspan, is bullish on the chance that a slight change of economic rhythm will keep the Federal Reserve easy on interest rates.
AND THEN: There's oil as villain, too.
Michael Ubaldi, March 31, 2005.
Dave Frum on World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz:
Say this for President Bush: The man has a sense of style. Critic after critic howls for the heads of the architects of the Iraq war, and above all for the head of the man the European media call "Paul Vulfovitz," as though he were a villain in a John Buchan novel. So what does the president do? He names this Vulfovitz to run the World Bank — a job that the world's do-gooders and bleeding hearts have long regarded as their exclusive domain. Take that!