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Michael Ubaldi, January 23, 2005.

One observation about President Bush's critics that can be made in brief is that the most prominent arguments against the president's inaugural vision employ circular reasoning.

The dedicated left, led by the Washington Post editorial staff, castigates the United States for its alliances of convenience or necessity with dictatorships but rebuffs the president's clear ambition to ultimately end such moral ambiguity in American policy. Why? Because, goes the argument, the United States can't possibly be serious, what with its past and current alliances with dictatorships — for which it should be, of course, castigated for not having abandoned.

The second vicious circle is an unfair toggle between wide-angle and telephoto lens, as expressed in pedantic, stream-of-consciousness pans from traditionalists-turned-parochialists Peggy Noonan and William F. Buckley. At first they claim the speech was too abstract, too philosophical, before both Cold War intellectuals recoil at the obvious, logical path Bush's doctrine would take: remove belligerents and obvious threats first, then, with traditional allies and newly converted countries, pressure relatively non-hostile despots to reform, accelerating as the world grows freer. That would be too laborious, too confusing, say Noonan and Buckley, trying to pick apart details. Then they forget what they just wrote: what's Bush's concept, they ask? Each builds his and her own Biblical straw man: Noonan, saying "this is not heaven," would convince us that Bush promised to abolish pain and death, build cities on clouds and hand everyone a tax-exempt golden harp. Buckley offers his caveats on the premise that Bush would raise the temple in three days and tell China to go to hell on the fourth. That Buckley and Noonan do not like this executive solution to the ages' dilemma is hardly a basis for accusing the president of obfuscation and inconsideration.

This is simple stuff. The clumsiness of the president's critics should embolden him: they want to be saying "you don't make sense," but are instead muttering, "we don't agree." That's preference, not pertinence.

Michael Ubaldi, January 22, 2005.

Through Egyptian blogger Ghaly I've been introduced to the Future Iraq Assembly, "an independent, non-governmental organization, comprised of a number of scholars, businesspersons, and activists, who share a common and firm belief in freedom and progress for all the Iraqi people." The group is currently engaged in a number of campaigns, including public service announcements, on topics ranging from Iraqi reconstruction to solidarity to the miracle of self-government.

The Middle East Media Research Institute is streaming two commercials not found on the FIA's site, one of them a smart analogy to Iraq's struggle and coming triumph. Keep a handkerchief close.

MORE: Via IP, Friends of Democracy, whose associates include Omar and Mohammed Fadhil.

Michael Ubaldi, January 22, 2005.

Didn't believe that Senator John Kerry was leading President Bush on Election Day? Tense as the day was, neither did I. John Tabin of the American Spectator read seventy-seven pages of a post-election report released by exit pollsters Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, and charges incompetence:

There was no problem with the precincts that Edison/Mitofsky chose to survey; comparing those precincts' actual vote totals to the actual vote totals of the states shows that they should have generated a good, balanced sample.

...More interesting are the characteristics of the interviewers themselves that correlated to high WPE rates. For some reason, Edison/Mitofsky didn't ask interviewers about their political leanings, but there are certain inferences that can be made. Younger interviewers' data had much higher WPE rates than older interviewers' — a big problem, since 35% of interviewers were 24 or younger and 50% were 34 or younger.

One of the highest WPE rates came in the data collected by those interviewers with post-graduate degrees. This is a group that leans to the left on average. ...Even assuming there was no deliberate fudging of the numbers going on — something I'm perfectly willing to assume — there's little doubt that many of these interviewers had a demeanor that absolutely screamed liberal. Small wonder that Kerry voters would be more likely to talk to them.

As Tabin notes, the pollsters — without much mind for their own error potential — have been blaming the broadcast of disinformation on the internet, specifically bloggers, whose publication of unlikely Kerry leads was then picked up radio and cable news networks. And the make-believe leftist fringe would dispute, in true banana republic style, the results of any lost election. Still, the credibility of exit polling has been dealt a blow nearly as severe as CBS News'; one wonders how much weight these pollsters will carry on Election Day 2006, if they are consulted at all.

Michael Ubaldi, January 21, 2005.

For us enthusiasts of astronomy, geology and meteorology, scientific information collected by the Huygens probe on the surface of Saturnine moon Titan is far more enthralling than a photograph:

"We now have the key to understanding what shapes Titan's landscape," said Dr Martin Tomasko, Principal Investigator for the Descent Imager-Spectral Radiometer (DISR), adding: "Geological evidence for precipitation, erosion, mechanical abrasion and other fluvial activity says that the physical processes shaping Titan are much the same as those shaping Earth."

...[C]hannels merge into river systems running into lakebeds featuring offshore 'islands' and 'shoals' remarkably similar to those on Earth. ...Huygens' data provide strong evidence for liquids flowing on Titan. However, the fluid involved is methane, a simple organic compound that can exist as a liquid or gas at Titan's sub-170C temperatures, rather than water as on Earth.

In addition, DISR surface images show small rounded pebbles in a dry riverbed. Spectra measurements (colour) are consistent with a composition of dirty water ice rather than silicate rocks. However, these are rock-like solid at Titan's temperatures.

For those of you who don't know the significance of such a find, here it is again:

Instead of silicate rocks, Titan has frozen water ice. Instead of dirt, Titan has hydrocarbon particles settling out of the atmosphere, and instead of lava, Titanian volcanoes spew very cold ice.

Granitic in the continents and basaltic on the ocean floors, silicate minerals make up over forty percent of all common minerals; about one-quarter of Earth's crust. Quartz, feldspar, olivine, many others; all from chemical and physical processes in the cooling of the Earth's mantle's magma.

That a planetary object might function according to the same variables as Earth but with different values isn't news. That values of parallel variables could be so astonishingly unlike our own is, incredibly, a powerful statement for both the variety and uniformity of our universe.

Michael Ubaldi, January 21, 2005.

Greg Djerejian and Austin Bay wanted to know why President Bush has been subtle about the nature of this war's victory and defeat?

She's an astute writer but Peggy Noonan's lilting condescension is something for which I've never cared. With Peter Robinson, she's the second Reaganite with cold feet over President Bush's address. That Ronald Reagan was as unabashed an advocate for freedom in his own simpler day, thought just as "dreamy" and "over-the-top" as Noonan says Bush is now — like a State Department careerist tearing out her hair after Dutch told Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" — compounds the irony of the 43rd president apprehending the Baghdad dictator the 40th president grimly tolerated.

Noonan opens her book of history, whose first page marks less than sixty years ago, and recites, "Tyranny is a very bad thing and quite wicked, but one doesn't expect we're going to eradicate it any time soon."

If only tyranny were going to be as deliberative as she would see us.

Robinson's own historical contribution reaches back two hundred years but halts at 1823. When Washington and Adams were alive, oceans were boundaries. James Monroe could talk of an aloof America because it was still conceivable. After three modern world wars and September 11th, an electoral majority has finally realized that democracy was never meant to coexist with tyranny. And they've begun to understand, through Noonan's "inebriated" president, that evil is a very real thing — not just a line in a speech performed on the D.C. cocktail circuit. The state, the electorate has learned, was only one way to channel authoritarianism; now that the modern age has empowered the individual, a madman can commit mass murder and conquest without a banner. With the free world's own inventions he can do it exponentially. He will not wait for us.

Poor Robinson and Noonan. It is reluctance and fear of the unknown, instructed by having spent most of one's life before the twin towers fell, that somehow makes freeing the Third World foolhardy and treading water in a rising dictatorial river sensible. As I've said: Knowledge through experience is a double-edged sword: chances are, you've seen it before, but chances are greater that you'll miss something new by mistaking it for what you've seen before.

The president's finest moment was when he declared "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one." We have no choice. We never did. There are those who believe mankind was built for accomplishments, not just trying hard, and I suspect that the president's skeptics are dumbstruck at the most powerful statesman in the world having volunteered an answer to the eternal question of peace on earth — one they were content to leave to someone else. I believe we were meant to face this quandary; to be forced to live freedom by giving others the means to enjoy it themselves. Thanks to God we have a man in charge who, despite all his faults, understands that.

WHY I SUBSCRIBE TO THE MAGAZINE: The Weekly Standard understands, too.

WHAT IS AND ISN'T PRACTICAL: Scott Ott is one of the kindest bloggers. He's also the funniest. Today, he's serious, and spot-on.

Michael Ubaldi, January 20, 2005.

"Freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul."

Discretion is the better part of valor. Those who want President Bush to give the war for freedom the pedagogy it deserves should be pleased, as there can be no mistaking the locus of today's inaugural address. The president was speaking as much to the blessed as the imprisoned. As Jonah Goldberg puts it, "it was a brilliant bit of foreign policy masked as domestic rhetoric. How can a dissident in Iran or Burma read such a thing and not feel emboldened?"

But more importantly, as Victor Davis Hanson observes, "This is the first time that an American president has committed the United States to side with democratic reformers worldwide."

Naturally, for this country is a democratic paraclete.

YES!: From Michael Novak, "'Democracy' is a new name for 'peace.'" One place where the church, I've believed, is inexact. Lord, grant us freedom: then peace will come naturally.


...So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

...We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

I couldn't be more proud.

AND: As I suspected, written above, Austin Bay is pleased.

Michael Ubaldi, January 19, 2005.

The debate over how the war for freedom must be explained by its supporters is an old one; eighteen months ago bloggers Armed Liberal and Steven Den Beste discussed the balance between, respective to each man, candor and subtlety.

President Bush's second inauguration is the catalyst for this year's reprise, and two proponents of candor are Greg Djerejian and Austin Bay. Djerejian says the president "must more effectively communicate to the world audience the nature of his global war on terror" while Bay believes "we've soft-pedaled the ideological dimensions," both men worried that the larger goal is placed in jeopardy by unnecessary misunderstanding and opposition from those who, wielding the power of legislation or election, are simply confused.

On principle both are right, but I still side with Den Beste. The war effort simply relies on too many non-hostile ideological opponents — Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia — at this stage for the president to tell Near East dictators what time it is. If active opponents like Tehran's mullahs and Damascus' Assad were removed like Hussein, the United States could make a strategic gamble and — with Iran's, Iraq's and Syria's duly elected representatives — ask Hosni, Abdullah, Pervez, the Sauds et al to shape up or ship out, the American-led alliance ready to absorb the diplomatic or military consquences. Ideally, a sitting American president will reach a threshold where dictatorship can be called out for the cardinal outrage it is.

Every dictator in power is a threat to the free world and must fall. The blogosphere can say it. National Review and the Weekly Standard can say it. Even Rudy Giuliani, at the Republican National Convention, can say it — and he did. But if real blunt talk comes from the Oval Office, American power must be pulling up into every despot's front drive or what Bay and Djerejian and the rest of us want will be poorly served, since it'll just be words.

Beyond the unmistakable expression of policy, Bush's constant invocation of universal freedom is the most he can do. On that, he could certainly ramp it up for the Iranians. Yet since "forward strategy of freedom" is polite for "minus the one-party madman holding you down," and actions speak much louder than words, the president's message may be more effective than we realize.

Michael Ubaldi, January 19, 2005.

Jonah Goldberg laid down some biting criticism of Woodrow Wilson, if nothing else to underline the distinctions between the 28th president and George W. Bush, descriptions of the latter as "Wilsonian" notwithstanding. I sent him the following, which he was generous enough to reproduce on the Corner. I've adapted the letter to third-person for blogging:

Wilson was outmaneuvered on Versailles by his British and French colleagues, who made the treaty into a hairshirt ranging from incredible reparations to the destruction of every Fokker D.VII. It's painful to look at Wilson's Fourteen Points and then Versailles. Nationalism, for its part, had deep roots in every WWII Axis nation and needed no outside help.

Wilson knew how democracy worked: what left in the practice of his philosophies much to be desired was his adherence to James Monroe's moral neutrality to sovereignty:

I am proposing, as it were, that the nations should with one accord adopt the doctrine of President Monroe as the doctrine of the world: that no nation should seek to extend its polity over any other nation or people, but that every people should be left free to determine its own polity, its own way of development, unhindered, unthreatened, unafraid, the little along with the great and powerful.

Even pre-9/11, that could be dismissed as faint-hearted and insouciant. It was a lack of direct participation which, of course, allowed poorly founded republics like Germany's Weimar to teeter and fall — a problem corrected come 1945.

I think Jonah and I are in agreement in the way Bush is unlike Wilson: he has the brass to cross the legalistic boundary Wilson never could.

Michael Ubaldi, January 19, 2005.

Economic numbers are but a brief snapshot; we know it. All the same, here's a Pulitzer:

The number of Americans filing initial unemployment claims fell more than forecast last week, reflecting an improving job market as the economy grows. Initial jobless claims dropped by 48,000 during the week, the biggest decline in three years, to 319,000, the Labor Department said today in Washington.

Meanwhile, December consumer prices fell while food and energy prices rose according to expectations. Even fickle Wall Street should be pleased.

Michael Ubaldi, January 19, 2005.

For a report closest to the truth of the matter, turn to Central Command:

Four vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices detonated in the Iraqi capital in the span of 90 minutes this morning. Initial reports indicate 26 people died in the blasts, with at least 21 more wounded.

Despite loss of life, a spokesman with the 1st Cavalry Division said none of the suicide bombers hit their intended targets.

"All of these car bombers were stopped by security forces before they could reach their intended targets," said Lt. Col. James Hutton, the division's public affairs officer. "While the any loss of life is tragic, it could have been a lot worse."

It's also striking that the terrorists' targeted area remains in Baghdad, a city close to the size of New York but geographically constrained in relation to the rest of the country. Mainstream reports are not likely to carry the tactical observation of James Hutton — tragically, because it depicts a faltering enemy.

MORE: IP found Iraq regular Austin Bay's finest paragraph:

[T]hese thugs are going to fail. The Iraqi people are going to deal the Middle East's ancien regime of tyrant and terrorist a devastating political and psychological defeat. Despite the campaign of chaos and intimidation, a recent poll in Baghdad found 60 to 70 percent of the capital's voters intend to vote. Kurdish and Iraqi Shia leaders predict a good turnout in their regions. Americans can barely manage a 50 percent voter turnout, and here, nobody lobs mortar rounds at the electorate.

Perhaps the most insidious design of modern relativism was its attempt to rob the free world of confidence, turning success into complacency and complacency into lazy spiritlessness. Taking victory over impossible odds for granted, the West now finds its confidence occasionally — though briefly — painfully compromises like a trick knee. It is argued that if a thing makes us sad, or it is difficult, we ought to divest ourselves and peddle euphemisms for abandonment and self-service like "exit strategy" and "realism."

As before, we only need look to the Iraqis to reacquaint ourselves with reality. What is the objective of strongmen in Iraq? To prevent Iraqis from taking control of their country and their free will. Bombs, mutilation, kidnappings, wanton destruction — but nothing has stopped the vote. The January 30th election has, notably, escaped subterfuge; for if a poisoned slate were on the ballot, far fewer gangland murders would have been planned. Occupied Japan in particular faced a very clever campaign of sedition by Moscow-backed Communists led by Kyuichi Tokuda; Iraq's enemies, on the other hand, haven't the brains to be subtle.

This has not gone unnoticed by Iraqis, for whom self-congratulatory retreat is not a luxury. They've prospered. A historic election is at hand, and a public will to turn out three of every four Iraqis to participate in it is the terrorists' defining failure.

A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT: Omar took some photographs of the democratic process.