Monday, June 20, 2005

A short respite 

I will be away for a few weeks, to return in early July. Anything you may read during my absence about pro-democracy demonstrations or uprisings in Kurdish Iran you may read about are purely coincidental.

Our Party, Right or Wrong 

Nothing in recent experience speaks more to the mindset and state of the Democrat Party today than the trifacta of Senator Durbin's brain-numbingly myopic statement on the floor of the Senate followed by his equally tin-eared non-apology; the thunderous roar of crickets heard amidst the response from his fellow Democrats; and what, in the absence of wide-spread blinding fury, must be seen as if not acceptance then at least an expectation by Americans in general of such rhetorical excess on behalf of the Democrats.

Like other officers of the United States, Senators take an Oath of Office:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
So, can anyone explain how knowingly making hyperbolic accusations against our fighting forces in a time of war and providing our enemies with Information Warfare resources serves to defend the Constitution against our enemies? Those in support of Sen. Durbin (vocally or tacitly by silence) would have us believe that "speaking truth to power" and standing up for the ideals of our country do, in fact, support the Constitution and that one could even say that those who would betray the promise of America through nefarious deeds are, in a manner, enemies of the Constitution. To this I say "pish-tosh".

While self-examination and the open airing of problems is a part of America that I would be loathe to sacrifice, the expression is not "speaking manic hyperbole to power" for good reason. Likewise, I believe there is a proper place, time and manner in which to discuss sensitive matters and that it varies based upon both the nature of the issue and the external circumstances and context in which the matter arises. When the house is on fire you don't complain about a clogged toilet. When you are at war with an enemy that makes excellent use of IW you don't provide them free ammunition over someone turning the A/C too high.

The real question is if Sen. Durbin's actions were out of ignorance or if he simply felt the immediate political effect was more important than any potential international effect. To make such baseless comparisons and then turn around and blame international reaction to your statements on the baseless "facts" defies logic. It, instead, is indicative of an individual for whom their primary focus is not supporting or defending the Constitution, but rather supporting and defending themselves and Party. In a way it is a reaction to the losses of power the Democrats have experienced over the past decade, to circle the wagons and reflexively come to the defense of any member at question. What the Democrats haven't figured out yet is that there are some rats that need to be thrown from the ship lest it sink completely.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain ... 

Howard Dean: "We disavow the anti-Semitic literature, and the Democratic National Committee stands in absolute disagreement with and condemns the allegations"

This was in response to the fact that individuals at the Democratic National Headquarters were distributing materials linking Israel, 9/11, the Bush Administration and the Iraq Campaign in a big Zionist conspiracy. The charges against Bush were remarkably similar to those Dean himself called "interesting" during the 2004 Primary season.

"The entire Democratic Party remains committed to fighting against such bigotry."

(Except, of course, when they are distributing it and it serves their political purposes.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

When is Racism not Racism? 

A recent Supreme Court decision left me with mixed feelings, but mostly with that sick churning in my gut that once again the majority has ruled based upon how they would like things to be rather than how the law is documented.

The case before the Court was a capital conviction of a Texas man for the murder of a hotel clerk, in which the Court overturned the 5th Circuit and ordered a new trial for the prisoner. At issue was the contention that the prosecutor "stacked the jury" with whites and that this was done by specifically striking nine of the ten potential black jurors based upon their race. In reaching their decision, the Court rejected the Texas prosecutor's argument that the action to strike those particular candidates was based upon their vehement opposition to the death penalty.

This finds me somewhat conflicted. On the one hand it is important to ensure all charged, especially those in capital cases, not be subjected to racism and bigotry at the hands of their jury. On the other hand, though, it is the job of the prosecution to do their best to obtain a conviction, just as it is the job of the defense to obtain a acquittal. As such, shouldn't the prosecution be able to strike any potential jurors they wish to do their job to the best of their abilities. After all, if statistical studies demonstrate a general reluctance on behalf of blacks to convict in capital cases and interviews with the individuals reveal an opposition to the death penalty, is it really accurate to say excluding them from the process is racially motivated? If the prosecution felt those ten individuals, regardless of their race, posed the greatest threat to obtaining a conviction why shouldn't they be able to strike them?

The defense cited prosecution training manuals from the 60s to early 80s that advised removing blacks or Jews from death penalty juries. I generally think of racism and bigotry as involving negative treatment or opinion based upon unfounded reasoning. But even if the prosecutor's striking of potential jurors was based upon largely race, how, in the face of much statistical evidence supporting the theory that black jurors are less likely to return a death sentence, can one claim that such action is either negative or unfounded? Any counsel's action to strike a potential juror is solely based upon an assessment, either as a result of profile or interview, that the particular juror won't find in the manner desired.

Are we now to see minimum racial quotas for juries? Racism has been and is a blight on our national soul, but the immediate assumption of racism in all matters that have a racial component is fast becoming an equal danger. Just a racism erodes trust and self confidence, the assumption of racism erodes trust and honesty. As we shun the former, so should we abhor the latter.

Was the Iraqi Campaign Necessary? 

This is a frequently argued point, especially among those who say "the war wasn't worth it." Not to borrow to much from Bill Clinton's play book, but the answer entirely depends upon what one defines as necessity. In the eyes of one history professor in North Carolina, it decidedly was not based upon an assessment that the UN sanctions were sufficient to prevent Saddam from reacquiring WMD. I will grant him that the UN sanctions were effective at that time to do so, but I think a more complete evaluation of the necessity of the campaign should be based upon an evaluation of what other differences would exist today had we continued to rely upon the sanctions to contain Saddam.
So, OK, I'll give you that with sanctions (even as porous as they were) and containment we probably could have prevented Saddam from having a usable stock of WMD, but at what cost? We would still have to be dealing with a power-hungry mad man who was an avowed enemy of the US and who, by Russian reports, was coordinating with terrorist elements to plan actions against the US up until the day we crossed the border. We would have made little, if any progress on the democratization of the Middle East, the path I believe that may eventually lead to true lasting peace. And we would have reinforced the image of America as a short-sighted nation that has no stomach for a real fight.

I'll agree with anyone that 1600 of our nation's finest is a terrible price to pay, but contrasted against the alternative I believe it was the right choice.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Absolutely, Positively Bunk 

In the interest of full disclosure, I must begin by saying that I am employed by FedEx. As such, I took the mini-rant by Jeff Jarvis somewhat personally. Compound that with the assumed credibility conferred by a Glenn Reynolds link, and felt damned-near driven to do what I could to defend the honor of the Purple Promise.

Jeff's entire problem is based upon a patently wrong and misleading assumption:
FedEx is now charging fees if you need a signature from the recipient to guarantee that the company delivers the thing you entrust to their care
The fact is that FedEx Express service has always required a signature for delivery as a normal part of the service, unless the shipper explicitly authorizes the courier to leave the product at the door (and then only if a signature cannot be obtained). Nothing has changed. What Jeff found confusing was the addition of three new delivery options now available to shippers at a nominal fee:A huge difference between residential and non-residential shipment has always been the failed delivery rate (i.e. no one was available to take receipt of the package). Before, a shipper sending a product to a residential address had two choices if the customer wasn't home: have the courier leave the package at the door (not a great idea in some neighborhoods) or have the package returned to the station and inconvenience their customer by requiring them to either pick it up or schedule another delivery. Now, however, the shipper has more options to provide timely delivery of the product and still accommodate their customers' convenience. This is good for both the shipper and his customer.

The Adult Signature option, a service I don't believe is available from any other carrier in the industry, both allows the shipper to be responsible for adult materials (such as alcohol, fire arms or erotic materials) as well as provides a proactively solution for possible legal compliance. In light of the Supreme Court's recent interstate commerce ruling in regards to the New York wine industry, it is entirely possible, and some would contend responsible, for State legislatures to require age verification for all adult purchases, both direct and mail-order. Without this new delivery option it would be impossible for many shippers to comply with such laws in multiple States. Living in Tennessee, I would have imagined Glenn would have quickly seen the potential of this last service option.

So, in summary, Jeff got his panties in a knot over three brand new options that work to enhance the recipient's service experience or enable transactions that are currently legally or logistically prohibitive and an assumption that fees associated with these options somehow applied to the delivery signature service that has always been a normal part of service at no additional fee. These new options not only represent the sort of service differentiation that has always helped to define the FedEx brand, but they all are demonstrably designed with providing a better online retail experience for the customer, something Jeff has been all for in the past. I can only guess that past problems alluded to by Jeff clouded his judgment, leading him to not read the actual words he quoted but instead to lash out based upon his erroneous assumptions. It sincerely saddens me that Jeff may have had a poor service experience with FedEx, but from working in the company for some time and based upon numerous independent service studies I truly feel that FedEx does a better job at both preventing delivery failures and, when such failures do happen, making it as right as possible. These three new services are examples of FedEx continuing to offer shipping customers more choice and ensuring the customer receiving the product has the best possible experience.

(Update: I fixed some awkward syntax and spelling errors as well as emphasized that normal FedEx delivery signature service has never and still does not cost extra.)

Friday, June 03, 2005

NPT? We don't need no stinkin' NPT! 

Whoa! Where did May go? Rumors of my death were just wishful thinking run amok.

Daniel Drezner recently laid a bit of smack down of Anne-Marie Slaughter's critique of the Bush administration's diplomacy, in which she used the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a prime example of incompetence.
[W]e have managed to generate still more global animus by apparently refusing to take the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review seriously, even though Iran and North Korea are front-burner issues and there is general consensus that the NPT needs amending to prevent states from getting to the edge of nuclear capability in complete conformity with the treaty and then legally withdrawing and making a bomb.
He rightfully slaps about the idea that the PSI would, for some nebulous reason, be somehow better if it were institutionalized vice ad hoc. But another tiny fragment of an idea in Anne-Marie's piece betrays one of the fundamental differences in view that leads her to the assumption:
[Make] all nuclear fuel generating facilities part of multinational consortia, so they are not controlled by a single state (emphasis added)
There are some who simply seem to embrace centralized control via legalism as a panacea for all ills. A problem with guns in schools? Make more laws. A problem with nuclear proliferation? Make more international laws. At the risk of broadbrushing it, these individuals seem to generally fall to the left of the aisle and look longingly upon any vestiage or intimation of multilatteralism or international cooperation, in my eyes investing their confidence based more upon the form than the results. How else may one explain the naivitae exhibited by suggesting an international consortia to control the world's nuclear materials even as the UN is falling over itself to continue the Oil-for-Food coverup. One commenter specifically cited "the problem with the 'ad hoc' approach [being] that it is essentially acting 'above the law'," an argument based upon the assumption that international law is an answer to this matter. Those who tend to blindly worship at the alter of legalism don't seem to realize that in a vast number of cases the greater problem lies not with a clear understanding of morality, propriety or legality but rather with the ability and will to enforce those well understood and recognized standards. For example, there was nothing at all ambiguous about Iraq's legal requirements to comply with international law following Desert Storm. In the face of demonstrated unwillingness by the UN to enforce those requirements Saddam simply chose to ignore them. Can anyone explain how the provisions of the NPT are substantially different?

Citing the situation with DPRK as a good reason to work with and reform the NPT defies credulity. What in the NPT has ever stopped DPRK from doing anything it wanted with regard to nuclear research? They regularly closed off facilities to inspectors whenever they wanted, suspected plutonium reprocessing was discovered up to three years after the fact and their participation as a signatory was brazenly used as a bargaining chip for material and political concessions. On May 10, 1993 in response to a threatened withdrawal the U.N. Security Council demanded DPRK to stay in the NPT "though no penalties for noncompliance were specified," a demand they promptly thumbed their noses at before prolonging the drama by suspending the withdrawal.

Blind faith in the NPT demostrates a neo-Luddite gun-control mentatity approach to the problem of nuclear weapon proliferation. Sometimes I'm guilty of trying to sound smart or educated to the distraction of clarity, so I'll try to say this as simply as I can:
The problem with nuclear weapons proliferation is not nuclear weapons.
If Spain or Canada announced tomorrow they were starting a nuclear weapons development program I wouldn't loose a wink of sleep. How many people are aware that at one time South Africa had a nuclear capability, one they voluntarily dismantled as secretly as they developed it. The problem with nuclear weapons proliferation is the presence of despotic regimes with the resources to pursue the technology coupled with the desire to subjugate, intimidate and oppress or the willingness to unscrupulously share the technology with third parties. The bottom line is that there is one and only one free, democratic nation that did not develop its nuclear weapons as a direct response to a nuclear weapons threat (or potential threat) from a unfree, undemocratic nation, and that was Isreal, who was surrounded by hostile neighbors and had already fought three conventional wars of defense. I may be accused of missing the big picture, but the answer seem intuitively obvious to me:
If you don't want bad guys to have nuclear weapons the answer is not to try and lock up the weapons. The answer is to concentrate on taking the bad guys out of power.
This does not mean invading everyone we don't like, but to my knowledge, the NPT has never stopped any determined nation from pursuing its nuclear weapons goals, and I highly doubt if additional laws would change this. The NPT is completely unnecessary to prevent Finland or Thailand from becoming nuclear powerhouses and is relatively ineffective against countries like DPRK, Iran, Libya, Iraq or Pakistan. Simply put, free nations don't need nuclear weapons to protect themselves from other free nations and have better things to spend the resources on than what basically amount to symbols of power. There will always be a need for strong free nations to maintain a nuclear capability, but absent a specific threat there is simply no incentive for a democratic government to try and join the club.

While one of Dan's commenters bemoans that "the likelihood of these ad hoc arrangements standing the test of time ... is pretty questionable," I see that as boding well for the commitment behind the effort. Flexible ad hoc partnerships to handle specific bad actors eliminates a "one size fits all" approach to diplomacy and imparts an immediacy to action. The only way non-proliferation concerns remain in place long-term is if we only treat the symptom of technology transfer while ignoring the human root cause of our concern, the despotic governments themselves. The only real long-term solution to nuclear weapons proliferation if the same prescription Dr. Bush has written for terrorism: individuals living in democratic freedom, with liberty and justice.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?