Carnival Of The Vanities

I’ve decided to enter the Carnival Of The Vanities for next week, being hosted by Wizbang of the Axis of Naughty. I’m submitting my post on the Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston peace movement, as it’s one of my favorites so far.
This week’s Carnival is up at Blogger Rabbit, with a special introduction offering readers a unique opportunity — unique, that is, unless you have an e-mail address, in which case you’ve probably had this opportunity come your way once a month for a year.
Here are a few I liked from this week’s Carnival … Catfish ‘n Cod waxes poetic about the Rumsfeld memo … The Smallest Minority contributes a well-written broadside against the war on drugs … Kiril at Sneakeasyjoint explains why he’s crossing the picket line in Southern California to get his shopping done … Blogfriend DC at Brainstorming cajoles the Republicans into getting active in supporting Justice Brown’s nomination … Another blogfriend, Jon at QandO, fisks ANSWER, which I’d already linked (but happy to do it again!) … Porphyrogenitus unspins the Clinton assertion that his administration gave a terrorism plan to Bush … Liberty Blog reveals the true quagmire in Iraq (in a very funny way) … over at IMAO, it was all just a dream … but hey, read them all!

Well, that didn’t take long

Remember that post I wrote about ten hours ago or so about the discretionary fund available to American commanders in Iraq? Well, fugeddaboutit. Instapundit reports that the program has been canceled:

Yes, it was the most powerful tool commanders have had. But as of now, it has been cut off. LTG Sanchez has informed all the resource managers this past week that the funding is done and there will be no more. All of our humanitarian projects we had going are now stopped and some projects (including those in the troubled Sadr City) are put on hold.
Given the utter disorganization of CPA, the battalion commanders here were making a significant impact. We fixed schools, sewage, markets, and got trash picked up. We put thousands of people to work. Now it’s over, at one of the most critical times in this fight. Everyone on the line is dumbfounded over this decision.

This is utter foolishness. It’s Murphy’s Law writ large. At the very least, we should get an explanation of why it was canceled and what’s to be its replacement.

Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice a Day

Normally, I’d say that anyone who has to make a public statement like this has a blinding grasp of the obvious … but seeing as how he’s French:

A U.S. pullout from Iraq (news – web sites) would be “catastrophic,” French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Thursday, urging countries to take a strong united stance to stabilize Iraq. … When asked whether he could envision the United States pulling out of Iraq, de Villepin responded, “Obviously, a pullout from Iraq today would be catastrophic and would absolutely not correspond to the demands of the situation.[“]

De Villepin managed to say all this without his characteristic statements about unilateralism or demands that the UN be put in charge. Seeing as how the UN is high-tailing it out of Baghdad, that may be too ridiculous even for the French. (Hard to believe.)

Bad News for Democrats

The headline in today’s Washington Post: Economy Grows at 7.2 Percent Rate in Third Quarter:

The economy grew at a scorching 7.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter in the strongest pace in nearly two decades. Consumers spent with abandon and businesses ramped up investment, compelling new evidence of an economic resurgence. The increase in gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy’s performance, in the July-September quarter was more than double the 3.3 percent rate registered in the second quarter, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.
The 7.2 percent pace marked the best showing since the first quarter of 1984. It exceeded analysts’ forecasts for a 6 percent growth rate for third-quarter GDP, which measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States.

Could it be that the tax cuts, designed to put more cash into the hands of middle-class consumers, may be working as intended?

Near rock-bottom short-term interest rates, along with President Bush’s third round of tax cuts, have helped the economy shift into a higher gear during the summer, economists say.

Next quarter, economists are predicting 4% growth, a very good number, and job growth should start appearing next quarter or the quarter after. Barring any devastating terror attacks, Bush should be riding a solid economic expansion — one that isn’t relying on a stock-market bubble — into next year’s elections. The sackcloth-and-ashes contingent on the other side of the aisle will have their legs cut out from underneath them unless they can adjust their message. Look for a renewed focus on the budget deficit, and a renewed effort by the Bush administration to force cuts to counter it, as this is one area where they are justly vulnerable to attack.

Let’s see how long this will last

American military commanders are using confiscated Hussein funds to speed the reconstruction of Iraq:

The speed and ease with which reconstruction money is being handed out by the military here contrasts sharply with the delays and controversy surrounding the handling of major reconstruction funds by the Pentagon and U.S. Agency for International Development.
The fact that the money comes from seized Iraqi assets, the Saddam Hussein regime’s overseas bank accounts and cash stockpiles found in palaces and the walls of government buildings in Iraq has provided a fortuitous loophole. Since the money was not appropriated by Congress, officials of the U.S.-led occupation government in Iraq believe that it does not have to be disbursed under the usual contracting regulations.
The money for most military projects in Iraq goes through something called the commander’s emergency response program. About $100 million has been allocated so far and the 101st Airborne Division, which oversees northern Iraq, has spent about $31 million of it. It has been used, officials said, for more than 11,000 projects such as hiring a civil defense corps, patching roads and fixing an oil refinery and a sulfur plant.

So far, according to the Post, this program has been a fabulous success, both in the speed of the reconstruction and in showing that the US military presence is intended to be helpful to ordinary Iraqis. While there is risk in this process of misdirected funds or inefficiency in effort, this is a small distribution channel and shouldn’t be closed down in favor of a single, large bureaucracy. A combination of efforts will hasten the return to normalcy for Iraqis and ensure the broadest benefit of US aid. Hats off to the Post for featuring this good news from Iraq. (via Instapundit)

Colskee’s blog: Phone Jacking in London?

Colskee, a Londoner blog, mentions the latest crime wave in urban Britain: phone jacking?

People pedalling up on bikes to relive unsuspecting folk of their mobile phones. This has been an increasing problem in London, especially amoungst younger teenagers (don’t even ask me why a schoolkid would need a mobile phone).

It’s a short post, and Colskee wonders if the cell-phone manufacturers aren’t encouraging this by including a lot of teenager-friendly options on the phones. Anyone hear of this in the US?

U.S. Slowly Scaling Back Role in Israel

The above headline is quite misleading; the US isn’t pulling away from Israel, they’re telling the Palestinians to start meeting their obligations before expecting anything else from us:

Call us when you’re serious about disarming militants — that’s the message Palestinians are getting from U.S. mediators who have scaled back their presence in the region. The apparent disengagement comes amid a deadlock in the U.S.-led “road map” peace plan, Washington’s growing troubles in Iraq, and the distractions of the U.S. presidential election campaign.

Unless the AP defines Israel as inclusive of the West Bank an Gaza Strip. Now that would be news!

Israeli and Palestinian critics warn that reduced U.S. involvement will likely lead to more bloodshed, further harm America’s image in the Arab world, and in the end bring on another round of U.S. mediation.
With the sides here so far apart on the issues, many previous peace moves have required active U.S. mediation — or pressure — to move forward.
But an ambitious effort by the former Clinton administration to broker a comprehensive peace settlement collapsed three years ago, and the Bush administration was initially reluctant to involve itself, fearing a quagmire.

Well, for those who don’t know the difference, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a quagmire, and for one reason: the Palestinians want the annihilation of the state of Israel, if not all the Israelis themselves. You cannot expect Israel to negotiate a peace with Palestinians until they get serious about recognizing Israel’s right to exist and start taking forceful action against those groups who attack Israeli citizens. After six years of Intifada — which resulted from the Clinton Administration’s “ambitious effort”, putting Arafat back into the center of negotiations — the Palestinians still haven’t taken even the basic steps of organizing their security functions under civilian control.
At this point, the only positive steps the Bush administration can take is to stay in contact with the Palestinians and let Israel defend itself aggressively in order to motivate the Palestinians to do something. Bush could force Qureia back to the negotiating table, but to do what? More promises that they won’t keep? And while everyone sits at the table and the AP gets to feel good about “ambitious efforts”, the terrorists will still be blowing up buses and pizzerias. If anything, Oslo proves that negotiating with fanatical terrorists is a waste of time. The only way to stop them is to kill them and cut off their funding and state support. Anything less is Munich all over again.

UN Bugs Out of Baghdad

The UN … the organization that supposedly holds all international prestige in dealing with terrorism and liberation … is bugging out of Baghdad:

International organizations continued their exodus from Iraq, with the United Nations announcing it was withdrawing staff from Baghdad following this week’s string of car bombings in the capital and attacks against coalition troops. … The U.N. decision to pull its remaining international staff out of Baghdad was announced on Wednesday, two days after a deadly suicide car bombing at the Baghdad headquarters of the Red Cross. “We have asked our staff in Baghdad to come out temporarily for consultations with a team from headquarters on the future of our operations, in particular security arrangements that we would need to take to operate in Iraq,” U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe said. She said it was not an “evacuation” and staff in the north would remain.

Saddam’s Fedayeen have scored a major victory in chasing out the UN and the Red Cross from Baghdad, and I’m sure that the news will portray this as a failure on the part of the Coalition, and specifically the US as we’re the ones in charge of Baghdad. But what this proves is the folly of entrusting security matters to the UN in the first place. Just as in Rwanda, the UN is worse than useless: they take up space and do nothing to improve the situation, and when any setbacks occur, they either do nothing and watch it happen (Rwanda) or leave entirely. There is no worse message to send to terrorists. A few car bombings and the UN runs squealing. A few more, they are no doubt thinking, and the Americans will be next.
The UN has become a nest of vipers and cowards. Any notion that the US should entrust its national security to an organization that allows Libya to chair its Human Rights committee and Syria to sit on the Counter-Terrorism Committee is suicidal.

300 Posts, and Some Thoughts

Tonight I’m finishing up with my 300th post in just under 4 weeks, and instead of posting on current events, I’m going to just talk a little bit about why I blog and some of the experience of Captain’s Quarters and the people I’ve “met” as a result.
Like most bloggers, I suspect, I love to write and have written for years, in several different formats. I’ve written short stories and three novels (all unsold), as well as quite a bit of technical documentation when I worked in the defense industry in the 80s. What I hadn’t written on a regular basis was commentary, unless I was worked up enough on an issue or about a particular article to fire something off. I’ve written several letters to local papers, about half of which wound up being published, and even had a couple of longer-form commentaries published in the Star Tribune. While completing a novel is immensely gratifying, even if it won’t sell, there’s something different about writing a quick, pointed commentary that has its own charm.
Another aspect of blogging I find appealing is the ability to express my political views in a somewhat less personal manner than arguing with friends and family. I grew up talking politics. My dad and I would get into redfaced arguments about politics, which is odd, because we’re in 90% agreement on most issues. I loved debating current events with friends. But as I got older, I found it easier to keep my mouth shut; it caused less problems, even when others insisted on sharing their views (or maybe especially when that happened). Blogging allows me to make my arguments in a sane, and safe, way. It’s like rediscovering my voice all over again. It also forces me to pay closer attention to the news and commentary around me.
But maybe best of all, it’s allowed me to converse and interact with some really nice people. First and foremost, because she was the first to comment and the first to link to my blog, is Alicia from the Twilight Cafe. Alicia, on her own, provided the excellent graphic for the top of this page. Steve at Meaningful Media, Jon at QandO, and DC at Brainstorming have all given me encouragement and kind words about how I’m doing so far. Brant at Strange Women Lying in Ponds has a great blog and keeps linking to me — thanks, Brant! Rick at Independents for Clark keeps checking back in and posting great comments, even if I haven’t been terribly kind to General Wesley Clark (I’m looking for that Clarkbot again, Rick). I’ve been fortunate enough to be linked to a number of blogs, all of them terrific,and even have been mentioned on Hugh Hewitt‘s blog, and Power Line as well. Lucky me!
Thanks to all of you, and to everyone who’s been by the site and took the time to read my posts. I’ve had a blast. And I thought, when I started this, that I’d probably post once and forget all about it.
See you tomorrow.