Vae Victus

Classical Musings on a Modern World - Politics, Military Analysis, Dog Training, and More

Location: Chicago, IL

I am a consultant from chicago where I live with my wife, our dog, and two cats

Friday, October 07, 2005

Counting the good things - the GWOT

Well, conservatives are busy beating each other up over whether or not SMU is a law school qualified to produce a SC justice or whether or not they should stop giving money to Republicans because of Miers, but that doesn't mean that everything has stopped in the world. On the contrary, a lot has been happening:

Bush gave a big speech laying out (yet again) the GWOT and why it is important. Unfortunately, it wasn't covered and the papers that did cover it used it as an opportunity to talk about Bush's poll numbers. However, this isn't the 80's and we have alternatives now. Go to this great analysis of the speech at Powerline:

In other news in the WSJ talks about how "Radicals in Iraq Begin Exporting Violence, Mideast Neighbors Say". While the spin by the neighbors is that the cause is Iraq, the reality is that the terrorists are finding it harder and harder to operate in Iraq. The reason that more and more bombers are hitting civilian targets in Iraq is that they've lost the battle against the soldiers and are concentrating on softer targets. Now that the Iraqi's have sufficient military strength to operate in a attack and hold fashion, the safe bastions within Iraq continue to shrink for the terrorists. No doubt they are finding it more hospitable elsewhere. Check on Belmontclub for an excellent analysis of what has been happening in the effort to create this increasingly more involved and more effective Iraqi army:

Expect to see more violence as we get closer to the vote to ratify the constitution in Iraq, and then as we get closer to their first full elections, but progress is being made toward turning Iraq into a success story

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Harriet Miers - an analysis of the nomination

I think everyone needs to accept the facts of Harriet Miers’ nomination. While she wasn’t the Plan A that everyone wanted, Plan A was no longer possible. Plan A was for Roberts to be confirmed and THEN for Rehnquist to retire. Unfortunately, Rehnquist didn't live long enough for Bush’s original plan to be implemented. So this is plan B, and given the circumstances it isn't that bad.

While a Senate battle may be the red meat that true believers on both sides of the aisle wanted, Bush has an aggressive agenda that he wants to pass - an agenda that will set further strong dividing lines between the Democrats and Republicans for the 2006 election. In those circumstances, Bush didn’t want to get involved in an extended Senate battle. Instead, he seems to have worked a deal with Ried, and then slipped in Miers as a stealth candidate.

There is a valid argument that a full-out Senate battle is what was needed at this time. I disagree for the following reasons: First, I believe that Iraq is going to turn the corner. Elections are forthcoming for their constitution and for their government after that (assuming the constitution passes as I expect it will). Bush needs this news to be front and center, so that when troops start to come home he can hammer the opposition for their full-fledged wobbling over the past year. Second, his domestic agenda has items that are important to households and ordinary families. The more he can get of that into legislation, the better the Republicans chances in 2006. Third and finally, there are at least 2 important abortion cases coming up this year in the Supreme Court. These decisions will have an impact on the 2006 congressional and senatorial races. Having Miers in place for them instead of O’Connor is important to Republican chances. A more intellectual “pure” nomination may not be in place in time for those decisions, and Bush would have had to depend on O’Connor – a situation where I think Bush would lose.

The next question is: What exactly are we getting in Harriet Miers? A simple country lawyer with no views on the Supreme Court or the Constitution? A woman whose loyalty to the President is her sole credential?

I suggest that the final analysis of this pick will prove to be far more complex than anyone seems to think right now. First of all, this IS a diversity pick, but in more ways than people think. Yes, she is a woman and that seems to have been an important factor in the pick. However, she is also a lawyer from private practice who didn’t spend her entire life writing appellate briefs or sucking up to become a judge. Instead, she was on the front lines of real law practice. Working with corporations and individuals to navigate the complex laws of our country and the even more complex laws as interpreted by the courts. As someone who’s actually had to live with the results of court interpretations, I suggest that she will provide a welcome addition of pragmatism and common sense to the court. In general, our country has been plagued by judges who have nothing better to do than discuss the “penumbra” cases in an esoteric manner without realizing the consequences of their decisions. If she is on the court, Miers will be there to remind them.

Something others seem to forget is that she led the team that picked John Roberts to the court. I think it is unlikely that Roberts made it through the process without strong support from her, and it is probable that he was her primary choice in the end. Roberts won’t be able to develop “his court” without building a coalition of likeminded justices on important issues, and Miers will be the first and probably most loyal member of that coalition on most issues.

Miers also brings a management and administrative acumen to the bench. She was the co-managing partner at a huge firm of more than 400 lawyers, and has more management experience than any of the current justices. One of the often under-recognized factors of being a justice is that the workload demands effective delegation of the workload to a team of clerks – who have been accused of crafting decisions of their own that don’t necessarily reflect the decisions of the justices. In this case, we have a lawyer who has a keen understanding of delegating workload and someone who will have the ability to reign in errant clerks.

Finally, justices don’t operate and exist in a vacuum. They influence each other and bond together depending on the strength of their arguments. Miers is someone who has worked across ideological boundaries in her law firm, as president of the Texas bar, and on the Dallas city council, not to mention working in the White House and successfully managing the competing influences that are in any Presidency. To me this indicates that she will be a person able to work with the other justices, to help influence them and potentially build coalitions for Roberts, or in cases where the still disagree, keep the lines of communication open for future coalitions and agreement.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Campaign season again

It's coming early this year, but with the indictment of Tom Delay there can be no doubt that the Democrats are back into full campaign mode. While they continue to lose at the polls, they still continue to fight to win in other ways - either through frivolous indictments or through obstruction.

Speaking of obstruction, the Democrats are getting their alliance together for whoever the next Supreme Court nominee happens to be and can be expected to put together a filibuster even if the nominee is only slightly to the right of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Why? The sheer amount of money and energy that has been spent on their Supreme Court fight is overwhelming and has become a central plank to the Democratic future. Whoever isn't fully engaged for this next round will not stand a chance in 2008.

However, the Republicans have a variety of choices here. Bush could capitulate and name a full, squishy "moderate" to the court - someone who thinks the constitution only means some of what it says it means. Or he could name another justice in the mold of Roberts - or someone with a longer record on the issues who is even more frightening to the Democrats. If he does indeed name someone in the mold of Roberts (and I fully expect that he will), the Democrats will do their best to filibuster that person. If they have any record at all, and I mean ANY record, that filibuster will likely succeed, and the Republicans of the Senate will be making the next move.

Do they change the rules to take away the filibuster for judges or not? Do they fight back against Democratic obstruction? That is the key question, both for the Senate Republicans and for Republicans and Tom Delay - Do they fight back?

In Delay's case it's just a matter of sticking with him until the facts come out (precisely what they didn't do with Gingrich). In the Senate's case, it's a harder road, but any Senator that has aspirations of running for President has to realize that this fight will define his chances for 2008.

We'll see if they have the backbone. Already some have called to not extend the tax cuts and other stupid ideas, so I might have a right to be skeptical. On the other hand, I think the President will get this done. He knows when to spend his political capital and despite low poll numbers he remains by far the most powerful politician in the country.

Monday, September 26, 2005

More Media malfeasance

Kudos to and for exposing the media's incredible errors in reporting the news from New Orleans. Not only were the reports of lawlessness and crime vastly overstated and probably about average for this inherently violent city (this is NO we are talking about not Mayberry!), but the loss of life was overstated by huge amounts.

When the hurricane hit, it was billed as a chance for the old media to show why they were still relevant, a chance for them to show that they had far greater reach and resources than the blogsphere, but what we got was another failure, another reason not to trust them with something as important as the "news".

Was it bias or just their overwhelming need to provide sensational news even at the cost of accuracy? There may a deeper, more insidious problem with journalism today: the need to empathize with the subjects of the news may not allow them the objectivity to question what people say or even make them capable of putting events into a bigger, broader context to see a more accurate picture.

Unfortunately, that ability to take a broader view is not something that a journalist can learn in a journalism course or journalism school. Instead, it is some combination of a broad, strong education and experience and wisdom, and journalism schools provide none of those three components.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Iraqi Constitution Passes Another Hurdle

As Ed reports on the Iraqi parliament has approved their proposed constitution. Despite not getting full agreement from the Sunni representatives who were bent on obstructing the passage, the Constitution goes onto a nationwide vote on October 15th. There seem to have been compromise by different groups and not every group got what they wanted (sounds like a good beginning to a Federal arrangement to me!).

No mention of this on CNN or the NYTimes as far as I can tell, although both of those sites note yesterdays "insurgent" attacks. We'll see if this story gets any play on Monday. My guess is that we'll see them ignore it as much as possible and when they don't, they'll play up the lack of Sunni support in parliament as the biggest issue of the day.

Yahoo's story is here:

Most interesting quote to me, "Sunnis are deeply opposed to portions of the draft that allow for federalism and to its reference to Iraq as a Muslim but not an Arab country.
The Sunnis say federalism is only a prelude to the breakup of a country that historically has been held together by a strong central government."

Of course, the AP writer, Sameer N. Yacoubi doesn't bother to tell us that the Kurds would take issue with being called an "Arab" country. Second of all, the strong central government that has historically held the country together has been one run by the minority, tyrannical Sunni coalition. Finally, the Sunnis should be happy to have a federalism. They don't have the oil, they don't have anything other than the memories of having once been the dominant minority and having squandered it and the nation's wealth and advantages by supporting a murderous thug.

Either way, the Sunnis have to muster over 2/3 opposition in 3 provinces. It is likely that they can only get that support in 2 of those 3 (see Ed's commentary for a more complete discussion).


Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Blame Game

The "blame game" in the press has cycled through a couple of times. After the immediate, knee-jerk reaction of the press to blame the entire hurricane on Bush, the truth has started to come out. Evidence of the chronic and incredible levels of incompetence by Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco combined with vacuous enabling from Sen. Landrieu have started to shift the attention from Bush and his team.

Michael Brown took the fall for the administration's perceived problems in reacting to the huge calamity, and Bush took the additional step of doing a televised speech to take some of the blame and to layout his plans for reconstruction. That move by Bush has been somewhat successful. Aside from allowing Bush to get on with the (probably politically advantageous) reconstruction effort, it also allows Brown to do what he has already done - go to a paper and tell the story. In this article Brown tells the NYTimes what happened:

His portrayal of Governor Blanco is devastating despite efforts by the Times to continue pushing the blame back to Bush. While the Bush administration can be considered negligent in simply bypassing the Governor's wishes (and violating Federal law in the process), Blanco's state response was ill-prepared and inadequate. Even the best prepared Federal response would have been utterly hamstrung by the State's failures.

Yet, that brings up the next question, how was the response? In terms of timing, it was pretty good. Maybe one of the best ever organized by the Federal Government. They were on the ground in far less time than they were under other disasters despite the roadblocks and challenges presented by the Louisiana state government. If anything, Brown is most guilty of being unprepared for the intensity of the spotlight that was put on him by the press. His political naivete and inability to handle that pressure meant he had to go. Unfortunately, politics in Washington is hardball, and the exaggerations or inconsistencies on his CV were the final nail in his political coffin.

However, the Katrina story is still not finished. To this day, stories are coming out about the extraordinary rescue effort. Apparently the national guard, the coast guard and the many other agencies that helped out in the aftermath of the storm were far, FAR more successful than anyone knew. The death toll has been startlingly low given the dire predictions of the press in large measure thanks to those men and women who toiled almost anonymously to rescue the people stranded by the flooding. Their biggest problem was that their Herculean efforts were almost entirely ignored by a press secure in their belief that their eyes on the ground were seeing all there was to see. Fortunately for the victims of this storm, that belief was simply untrue.

More news and information continues to pour out, but another political casualty of the storm may prove to be the main stream media. Crying wolf after initially downplaying the storm, exaggerating the number of people lost in the storm, ignoring key aspects of the rescue effort, and attempting to place all the blame on Bush should be another nail in their coffin.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A welcome weekend

After another week of work, the weekend is upon me. I'm almost too tired to comment today, with two conference calls scheduled for this afternoon.

We took Jacque to see his trainer last night. As I've discussed previously, we are training him in a dog sport called French Ring (something the French use to test their dogs for military and policework).

A quick note about his training. We are NOT training him to be a vicious dog or even to bite (all dogs already KNOW how to bite). Instead, we are teaching him control and the techniques to do a sport routine like French Ring and to know that he can go into combat with an attacker in a real or street situation and win. In many ways, we are simply using the genetics and characteristics that a German Shepherd is supposed to have. He goes to his sessions a happy dog, anxious to work, and when we return home is a VERY happy dog.

Even though he is biting a sleeve and in some cases is effectively fighting the handler in stressful situations, he is very clear headed and social. We recently had a dinner party with 11 adults and 4 toddlers in our home. He was great with everyone there and handled the children gently and quietly.

So now that the disclaimer is finished.. back to last night's training session...

As he is now mature enough to handle the pressure, we have also started to use defensive training as a way of making him harder and stronger during his bitework. In general, there are two things that cause a dog to bite a man wearing a suit or a sleeve - prey or defense. Prey is the same as a dog who wants to chase something that is moving, and the same as a wolf hunting a rabbit. They see it move and want to get it. It is instinctual and dogs have different levels of prey. Although, a good trainer can get the most out of a dog's prey drive.

Defense is very different in that the dog is reacting to what it perceives to be a threat. This is why the dog must be mature (e.g., you wouldn't as a 12 year old boy with a little karate training to fight for his life) and the dog has to have the genetics to do this work.

Strangely enough, Jacque works VERY well in defense. Even better than he does in prey. I'm not sure if it is just the genetics (many German Shepherds have a good defensive drive) or if it is that he is smart enough to realize that the prey work is nothing more than prey. Even his bitework is when working in prey improves after he has had a little defensive pressure put on him in a training session. He bites fuller, harder and more confidently.

In last night's session, we put a muzzle on him so that the trainer could get close enough to get in his face without getting bit. The trainer did this, agitated him, and then we took the muzzle off and did two scenarios. In the first scenario, I gave Jacque his warning command, "Reviere". When he hears this command, he starts to bark and knows that a threat is nearby. The trainer then attacked us head on - coming toward us. The trainer was wearing a hidden sleeve so that that Jacque would act as if it was a real attack (if he wears the big sleeve, Jacque realizes that it is a game). We then made him let go or "aus" and did the next scenario.

This one was where the trainer was at the other end of the room and after I gave Jacque the "watch" command, I sent him on an attach or "packen"

At the end of the session we did some sleeve work and tried to get Jacque to switch from defense to prey while working. He made some progress and went out of the room with the big sleeve firmly in his grip. All in all a good session. If we get more regular work, he should get his French Ring Brevet and be in good shape to start training for Schutzhund next year.