Monday, February 28, 2005

Some people are tired of terrorists!

Question: What happens when the neighbors tire of drug dealers on the corners?
Answer: The same thing that is happening to terrorist organizations all over the world.

It seems that the Lebanese people have grown weary of an occupational terrorist government. The recent assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri was the final straw. - U.S. & World - Lebanese Gov't Resigns Amid Protests

And be sure to look at the images on the National Review site. My favorite is the young women offering flowers to the soldier. I had a flashback to 1969 and the Vietnam era protests. How long will it be before some left wing blog warns that the US will be kicked out of Iraq? I mean, we are just another oppressive occupational army, right?

I hope that the Democracy tide has turned in the Middle East.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Looking for Answers amongst the Questions.

Question: What happens when someone else asks the better question?
Answer: The ignited drake steps aside and lets them have the floor.

In reviewing a couple of articles about the state of affairs in Iraq, Dr. DeMarche, found the typical trend. The pessimists and naysayers in the United States have formulated a whole list of questions and potential problems but answers and reasonable solutions were lacking. So he put a challenge to his readership. Answer the pessimist’s questions and find solutions to the problems. Thus the questions are:
What if the newly elected regimes are friendly to states and groups that Washington considers enemies? What if the spread of democracy through the region empowers elements that don't share American values and goals?
If we get to that point in history then I believe that the cause is lost. Dr. DeMarche really goes on to answer his own question:
As I see it we have two options:

1. Accept them and establish diplomatic relations.
2. Oppose them and marginalize them.
Of course the option of overt action must be available if a nation becomes openly hostile. But if we get to that state then I feel that process that we backed should be declared a failure. We then must accept or oppose the Iraqi government just like we do with any other government today.

So the question becomes, "How do we prevent that undesirable situation from occurring?" Recently, President Bush has made several comments about the state of democracy in Russia. I think what he said is particularly applicable to Iraq. In a speech in Brussels on February 21, President Bush said:
"For Russia to make progress as a European nation, the Russian government must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law. We recognize that reform will not happen overnight. We must always remind Russia, however, that our alliance stands for a free press, a vital opposition, the sharing of power, and the rule of law.[emphasis added] And the United States and all European countries should place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia,"

Russia/U.S.: With Bush-Putin Summit Over,
Reaction Mixed Over What Was Achieved

President Bush reiterated those same characteristics in a press conference with Vladimir Putin on February 25, adding that the protection of minorities was also important. I would like to use these principles as the essential definition of a true democracy.

I would submit that a government that is founded around these principles could never pose a threat to the United States or any other country. Further, that whatever form such a government takes, whatever the details look like, whatever the final pragmatic documents, these working principles prevent such a government from becoming an overt threat to any other government.

With this discussion in mind, I propose the following to answer Dr, DeMarche’s question. The United States must take whatever steps are necessary to allow a true democracy to develop in Iraq. These steps should include:

  1. Allow the people of Iraq to re-experience liberty at every possible moment. The elections showed that the Iraqi spirit of liberty still exists. There are examples of Sunnis who boycotted the election but then realized their mistake and tried to vote the day after the election.

  2. Use education programs to teach the citizens of Iraq that it is freedom that ensures personal liberty and freedom must be protected.

  3. Teach the meaning of democracy. Teach that it means the acceptance of opposition, the acceptance of responsibility for your own future, and the willingness to fight for what’s right.

  4. From President Bush’s speeches, the characteristics of a democracy are a free press, a vital opposition, the sharing of power, the rule of law and the protection of minorities.

    1. The fledgling Iraqi free press must be taught aggressiveness and responsibility.

    2. The legal structure created must allow for the peaceful demonstration of opposition and the acceptance of majority rule.

    3. The majority must be taught the benefits in sharing power and the art of compromise.

    4. The rule of law must be firm and fairly administered.

    5. Minorities must be protected so that violent opposition is seen as the least preferred option.

So there you have it; the road to a truly democratic Iraq. What do you think?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Lie upon lie upon lie upon...

Question: What is the proper role of government?
Answer: It's NOT in being a "safety net!"

There is a time and a place for everything. The government of the United States was designed to protect the nation while staying out of the way of individuals. This ensured the greatest level of freedom ever known on the face of the earth (please remember my diatribe on the difference between liberty and freedom). Somehow politicians have turned the US government into something else. In trying to be everything to everybody, the Federal Government has reduced the level of freedom that we have. And this is not a new phenomenon. Read Walter E. Williams article on the history of social security:

Walter E. Williams: Social Security deceit (Hat tip to The Royal Flush for the link.)

Don't get me wrong, people need a "safety net." But a net that is designed, tailored and implemented for each individual community serves to draw the community together. When people are helping other people living "just down the street", everyone benefits. Social Security is NOT a function of the Federal Government.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

We are Borg Gov. Resistance is futile.

Question: What happens when someone gains absolute power?
Answer: They rule "absolutely."

First things first:
I am not a lawyer. Anything that I say in this article should not be construed as legal advice. I am a planner. Everything that I say in this article should be construed as a planner's perspective on an issue that affects the progress and planning of cities. (Whew! That always stings a bit.)

This post is intended to take a very complex legal concept and present it in a manner whereby the average blog surfer can see both sides of the issue.

Since the dawn of time (or at least since there were more than two people on the earth) human beings have sought the company of others. Non-familial groups began to congregate together for many reasons. Larger groups meant safety, social interaction and trade opportunities. At first, an unwritten code of conduct was sufficient to maintain order. Eventually, one individual, or a small group, became recognized for the ability to lead. Finally, as groups grew larger, the need to agree on some sort of governing doctrine became important.

Through all these stages, one notion reigned supreme. That was the notion that, in order to keep order, then the individual must concede some level of liberty. To keep the group safe as a whole, individuals could not be permitted to kill, rob, rape, defraud, etc. other members of the group. Thus the notion of a "police power" was born.

The police power of a government is intended to be:
The inherent right of the state to regulate for the purpose of promoting health, safety, welfare, and morality. Police power gives the state the right to impose certain restraints on human conduct which are reasonably necessary in order to safeguard the public interest...

From: Real Estate Glossary

All community planning laws were created to help a community grow in a logical and reasonable manner. These laws are based in the police power of the state. Examples of these laws include zoning laws (seperating uses so that a pig farm cannot be placed next to a residential neighborhood), subdivision codes, (land cannot be divided into parcels for homes when adequate water or sewer facilities are not available) and building codes (a building must be designed to withstand certain wind speeds). There is also an important power that flows from the police power and that is the right of "eminent domain." This power gives the government the right to force landowners to accept fair payment for land where there is a "substantial public need." Before you gasp in astonishment, hear me out.

We have all heard of cases where a single stubborn landowner has halted development by refusing to sell the land. In the private sector, negotiations occur whereby both parties try to agree on a price. If successful, the development occurs. If not, then developer moves on, usually. I personally know of a case where a steel and pipe distributor was able to acquire over forty acres worth of properties, except for one small house. The owner of the home simply refused to sell. The steel and pipe company went to great lengths, offering much more than the property was worth but no agreement was reached. Finally, the steel and pipe distributor built his facility around this small house. After about a year, the owner of the home begged the steel and pipe company to buy his home. It seems he just could not stand the noise anymore. This noisy facility operated 24 hours a day, a fact that the homeowner knew before refusing to sell, and he was surrounded by forty acres of clanging and banging. Obviously the company had no reason to purchase the property at this point. The homeowner moved, renting his little noisy house (when he could find renters).

The public sector is a bit different. The projects can be much grander in scale, much more expensive, and the benefits much more widely enjoyed by members of the community. Therefore the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution allows government to "take" private property for public use as long as there is fair compensation. Any responsible public entity, however, does not use this power lightly. These cases are always contentious and most jurisdictions would rather negotiate with landowners and come to some sort of mutual agreement. But when a project is stopped by that "single stubborn landowner" then the jurisdiction can "force" an owner to sell at fair market price.

Some jurisdictions, however, are testing the limits of emminent domain. Currently, the Supreme Court is reviewing a case, Kelo vs. City of New London, where the city is trying to "take" the homes of people in order to give the land to a developer to build a waterfront hotel and conference center, office space and 80 residential properties. Professor Bainbridge has a great post at Will Leviathan Prevail?. He has much to say about the details of the case. You should read it.

In the Kelo case, New London, Connecticut has concluded a development that will pay more taxes is a justifiable public use. Remember, this is not a school or a highway that is being built. It is instead a hotel and conference center; a development that only benefits the community through increased taxes.

Now, I am a planner and Ii understand the reasons that government might have to use force. But I am also a citizen and private property rights are very tightly tied to personal freedom. If one does not have the right to own property, what other rights really matter? If the government can take your property away, at will, the only thing left is your personal freedom. If the Supreme Court decides for New London in this case, we have clearly gone over the edge of a very slippery slope.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

For those of you on Movable Type...

...a short biography of the company. - The darlings of the blogosphere - Feb 19, 2005

The article also talks a little about the blogosphere. Worth a few minutes of reading time.

Those were the days!

Ahhh, the memories! My first computer was a Commodore 64. Fun to play with but until I had saved enough to purchase a floppy drive for $250, it was kinda hard to use. Next a dual floppy IBM PC and I was cruising for just $4000. Upgraded with a "huge" 10 mb harddrive, I could do anything I wanted. Then it was....

I really could go on but I thought you may be interested in this story. - Relics of computer history on auction block - Feb 21, 2005

When you are done, tell me a little bit aobut your first computer.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Welcome to New Blog Showcase readers!

Question: Why does a blogger write?
Answer: No one is really sure. We tried taking the mouse away but they learned the keyboard shortcuts.

The Internet is the ultimate enabler. Gone are the days when one must rely on local or restricted sources for information, consumer goods, news, ...whatever! Now a housewife can sell doll clothes to someone across the world, a part-time writer can get published and the mainstream anything is held to account. All it takes is for an interested person to take a little bit of action.

So feel free to look around. I don't bite (besides duck teeth are small) and you are sure to find something you like. Be sure to leave a comment and a link. The power of the Internet is in your hands!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

One man's freedom fighter...

Questions: How do you tell the difference between carbon monoxide and "safe" air?
Answer: Carbon monoxide kills you.

I am sure you have heard it. You know...the phrase used by terrorism apologists..."One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." This is usually followed by "the only weapon an oppressed people have is guerilla warfare" or "Paul Revere was classified as a terrorist" or something else equally inane. Some might even say that Paul Revere might have used an ambulance like this terrorist, if he thought it would work.

So what is the difference between a revolutionary and a terrorist? I feel the answer lies in motive.

A revolutionary is making the nation free (as in true freedom. See my Golden Quack on freedom). A terrorist is making the nation their own.

A revolutionary is selfless. A terrorist is selfish.

A revolutionary kills those who threaten him. A terrorist kills those who scare him.

A revolutionary is looking to unbind. A terrorist is trying to bind.

A revolutionary is asking for justice. A terrorist is making a statement.

Can you name some other ways that revolutionaries differ from terrorists?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Trying to put out a fire.

Question: What does a blogger do when he is interested in MANY different things?
Answer: He makes two (or more) different styles of posts.

Now don't get me wrong. I think it's great that some blogs are very focussed (though I wonder about those cat people). I even link to many of those types of blogs. It's just that I am NOT that kind of person. I have many different (some say they are ecclectic) interests.

So what are those interests? I am a married with four kids ex-navy nuclear submarine sailor who ran his own upholstery shop, studied architecture, got a degree in geography, got another degree in urban planning, now working in Information Technology, love muscle cars, politics, religion and science, paint a little, write a little poetry, ... well you get the idea.

What this means to my blogging is that I WANT to post more than I have TIME to. So, you will notice that I have changed the structure of the posts a little. Don't worry, I will still use the question and answer technique to introduce a post but ONLY on those posts where I have something interesting to contribute.

For those posts that I find interesting but have NOT contributed something important, I will just post them with a quick comment (thank goodness for the Blog This! utility). Hopefully, you will find it easier to scan my posts and I will be able to contribute a larger variety of things that interest me. After all, the Flaming Duck is about things that interest ME!

Global warming solved!

Question: What is the only solution for the global warming problem?
Answer: Nuclear fueled power production.

As an ex-navy nuclear submarine sailor, I clearly understand the problems, and unhyped benefits, in using nuclear fission reactors as a power source. As a planner, I understand that there are costs and benefits to each public policy decision we make. I believe the policy decisions forced on the nuclear power industry in the 1970's were wrong and have actually hurt the earth much more than nuclear power would have. It looks like some of those that formerly opposed this method of energy production may be coming around also. Peter Schwartz and Spencer ReissPage address this topic in Wired magazine. (hat tip to Strata Lucida)

Wired 13.02: Nuclear Now!

There is still a long way to go but the future looks brighter already.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Chemistry Explosions

Question: What purpose does making bombs serve in chemistry class?
Answer: It shows the principle of rapid reaction rates and it keeps the kids interested (and it can get you suspended!)

I saw a blurb this morning on a Fox News crawl about a chemistry teacher who was arrested for detailing bomb making in class. My first reaction was, "Of course, chemistry teachers must include a section on reaction rates in the course. It's part of chemistry!" Thus was born the eternal "duck" question above.

But then I read the full story. Apparently, the teacher had a can of black powder on school grounds, he had been cautioned about this type of incident before, and one of his students showed him a video of the students own bomb experiments. Ouch!

Now, I have had my own "youthful" experiences with explosions (mostly Molotov cocktails and tennis ball cannons) so I won't be too critical but it does seem like there MAY be more to the situation than can be communicated in a quick news story (much less a blurb on a crawl!) I think I will let the school board handle this one.

You are already ahead of the game!

Wikis and blogs, the wave of the future. - Tools to ease Web collaboration - Feb 16, 2005

But can your grandmother use it?

I know what you're thinking!

because I thought it too! - 'Sausage king' receives death sentence - Feb 16, 2005

No! He didn't grind up him victims! Eeowww!

Ward Churchill may see some "market" pressure

Question: When is "free speech" not free?
Answer: When the taxpayers are required to pay for it.

Ward Churchill is looney. I actually have Native American blood in my ancestry and I think that Mr. Churchill does more harm than good. But he does have his right to free speech... and I have my right to ignore him. The bad part is that since he was on a tax funded payroll, the ignoring part was kind of hard. The linked story offers a pretty good alternative. Instead of sending the student aid to the school, it will go to the students in the form of vouchers. These vouchers will then help pay the salaries of professors. From the article:
Students can choose to go to schools that employ professors like Churchill or they can avoid them.
Let's see if Mr. Churchill becomes a "little Eichmann" when he has to compete for students. - Views - CATO - Striking a Deal on Professors' Free Speech

Explosions in Iran!

Just saw a report at Freedom Institute titled Iran - Breaking News. The report credits Iranian State television with reporting an explosion near the country's largest nuclear facility. The blog continues with a eyewitness stating aircraft were firing missles in the area.

The reports are unconfirmed but Freedom Institute promises updates when available. Has anyone else heard anything else?

CNN now reports that it was only a construction explosion. You may view a report on Netscape here.

Please note that the Iranian government does take this opportunity to threaten a "fast, crushing response to any attack on its nuclear facilities"!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Leftist Social Security reform hate speech

Question: Is it possible for two bloggers to rationally discuss Social Security reform?
Answer: No! (at least in this case.)

I got into an interesting discussion with Mike over at his blog, “At Ease.” It started with his assertion the Brit Hume lied when the FOX News host used a portion of the following quote to support President Bush’s Social Security reform.
"In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."
Brit Hume uses this to say that FDR saw a time when voluntary contributions to a private annuity account would replace the Social Security system. Mike wrote a post asking for Hume's resignation, saying that Hume lied. I just could not let that go unchallenged.

You can find our discussion on his blog. Please peruse the whole comment list. Mike says that Hume lied and mischaracterizes FDR’s intent. I say he didn’t.

What do YOU say?

Update: Mike, the gentileman with whom I had the original discussion, asked if I would post Hume's comment. So here it is:
Senate Democrats gathered at the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial today to invoke the image of FDR in calling on President Bush to remove private accounts from his Social Security proposal. But it turns out that FDR himself planned to include private investment accounts in the Social Security program when he proposed it.

"In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, quote, 'Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age,' adding that government funding, quote, 'ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.'"

Does that change the discussion? Is Hume's comment a lie?

Update2: Another person has joined the original discussion. Both people are trying to say that Hume lied because there is no way that FDR would have ever wanted anything but full federal funding (via taxes) for the Social Security program. My response is, given the time is history, there is no way FDR would have proposed anything EXCEPT a program that would move from federal funding.

We have even discussed the notion of annuity. Mike conveniently ignores the fact that an annuity is defined as payments received over time because an initial investment is receiving interest income.

What do you think about this? Or do you all agree with Mike!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Looking past the MSM

Question: Do the elections mean that Iraq is now free and democratic?
Answer: We can't say yet but the news is sure encouraging.

I am looking for the right words to express the peace that I feel about the Iraqi election. Until then I want you to read an excellent post by Chrenkoff titled, Good News from Iraq, Part 21".

Read it. It will warm you to the core.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Quacking away the vacuum.

Question: What happens when a vacuum is created in a market?
Answer: The individual that fills that vacuum finds “instant” success.

Yesterday, I blogged a bit about the role of the blogosphere in modern journalism. My point was that bloggers and the things that they write have tended to counter the unbalanced Main Stream Media (MSM). To my surprise, Michael Barrone discussed a variation of the same issue at His focussed piece talked about the role of the blogosphere in the 2004 election. His column is summarized by the concluding paragraph:
So what hath the blogosphere wrought? The left blogosphere has moved the Democrats off to the left, and the right blogosphere has undermined the credibility of the Republicans' adversaries in Old Media. Both changes help Bush and the Republicans.

Then in a post about the Barrone column, John H. Hinderaker at Powerlineblog writes:
Barrone's survey is excellent given its brevity, and he generously credits us for our role in the campaign. But he omits what I think was probably the Internet's most important impact on the 2004 election: the Swift Boat Vets' campaign, which was organized around their web site, to which the conservative side of the blogosphere drove traffic. In that case, the internet facilitated a spontaneous grass-roots movement centered on a single issue, not just the critique of mainstream news reporting for which Barrone credits the conservative bloggers.

Both writers make excellent points but I think the conclusion can be broadened. What both Barrone and Hindraker have said is that the blogosphere has become another force in the US political landscape. They both talk about WHAT happened but neither address WHY it happened.

The "why" is that there was an unfilled need. A large segment of the US populous tolerated listening to MSM but they really were not satisfied with it. This vacuum was first broken with talk radio. That effect has been mirrored and amplified in the blogosphere. Where there once was only the MSM now there is Rush Limbaugh and Instapundit. We all know "nature abhors a vacuum" and the vacuum has been broken!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Scales of Justice.

Question: What role does the blogosphere play in modern journalism?
Answer: Balance, thy name is blogosphere!

I want you to imagine that you are Lady Justice (you know, she is blindfolded with a scale in her hand). You have the opportunity to weigh several recent events against one another.

First, place so-called Enron style accounting with the Oil for Food program scandal.

Next, place the incidents at Abu Ghraib with the U.N. officials involved in sexual abuse scandals all over the world.

Which way does the balance tip? Which way does the MSM coverage tip?

"Reasons" for war.

Question: What were the reasons for the action we took in Iraq?
Answer: The threat of WMD and...

Now don't start with me! EVERYONE thought the threat from Saddam Hussein's weapons program was real (The program was real but the threat was not as grave as we all thought). I don't want to discuss that reason. What I want to discuss is the other reasons.

Unfortunately, I feel that the only way the Bush administration could get popular backing for a war was to "sound the war cry" of a WMD threat. I also feel that simply understanding what the Baathist regime was doing to it's own people (murdering, torturing, maiming, raping, ad nauseum) should have been sufficient. It makes me angry to think that one reason alone was not sufficient for many US citizens. But that's the sad fact.

I think, however, that there is an even more important reason. A reason that, if it were the only reason, would not justify an attack. But it wasn't the only reason and it's still important. That reason is gaining a US friendly nation in the area. We do have "friends" in the region but they are on the periphery and they are not always so very friendly. Don't you remember Turkey's withdraw of air base space? Saudi Arabia talks a good line but I am not sure a US administration can trust them.

With what I have just said fresh in your mind, go read "Iran's strategic spot complicates decisions" at A Daily Briefing on Iran.

Now, how do you feel about having a friend next door to Iran?

Friday, February 11, 2005

An Iraqi on mistakes in Iraq

Question: What happens when we open our ears?
Answer: We learn something.

Mistakes in Iraq? Our cause is just and therefore our fight is righteous! We don't make mistakes! No battle plan survives the first shot! We have GOD on our side!

Sound familiar? I have even said some of these things. But every now and then, a particularly good piece of writing breaks through the fog and really SAYS something important. Thus it is with America's mistakes in Iraq on Free Iraqi. (Hat tip to Chrenkoff for the link that led me there)

I am not going to set up the article. I want you to read it for yourself. It's fairly short and definitely worth the click. Near the end, you will read:
I was asked many times what are America's mistakes in Iraq and I didn't answer for many reasons. First because I'm truly too grateful to count America's mistakes, second because I didn't think this was a policy but rather a mistake out of understandable ignorance and one that would be corrected fast.
When reconciling in my own mind the mistakes we have made in Iraq, I was always willing to blame ignorance but hoping that the people of Iraq weren't expecting perfection. It is a terrible thing that mistakes during wartime will cost lives but there is no other alternative. You just have to rely on the fact that the outcome will be worth the sacrifice. I think that Ali is just saying that he thinks so too.

But then he writes:
In my mind such mistake comes from two places; first from underestimating Iraqis and thinking that the only Iraqis that are willing to cooperate are those who can be bought in different ways, even if what they were asked was for their own country's good. And second because it seems that Americans themselves have a mixed feeling about what's happening in Iraq. They think that somehow they did something wrong to Iraqis while liberating them since it meant occupying their country and thus they think it's perfectly natural that even those who cooperate with them should have hostile feelings towards America. It hurts me because it wastes so much valuable time, effort, money and most importantly lives and also because it shows that Americans don't think highly of Iraqis.
Well Ali, I, and a majority of Americans, know that the action that we took in your country was right. We did not do anything wrong to you. Saddam Hussein was the one doing something wrong and now the "insurgents" are continuing the violence.

I may not be directly involved in the fighting but I do support those that are. I have to admit though, I had been having second thoughts. You see Ali, the "anti-war" voice in the United States (and the world over) is a very loud one. I wanted to stay the course even if all Iraqis actually did hate us but there was some doubt.

Forgive me for underestimating you. If I had even a hint of lack of respect before, it is gone now. The elections gave me encouragement but your writing gives me peace.


Question: What do you do when the heat is too much?
Answer: You get out of the kitchen CNN!

Yeeee haaa!


I can't add anything to that!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Do as I say... (cont.)

Question: How do you make someone "like" you?
Answer: They really need to like you for who you are.

Yesterday, I left you with,
"To summarize my point, people often say one thing and do another. In the context of the Public Diplomacy discussion, even though the expressed sentiment of the world is that the United States is pretty bad, how does that translate into action? People say they hate the United States but do they act like it?"

You first reaction may be something like, "Of course, they hate us! Don't you remember Sept. 11!" and I would agree that terrorism is certainly an overt act that indicates that someone actually does "hate" the United States. But take a moment to think about these items.

  • How many countries refuse our foreign aid?

  • How many countries refuse to trade with US companies?

  • How many countries are asking US companies to close up shop and leave?

  • How many countries will not ask for disaster relief from the US?

And before you say, "These questions are all about greed!" Think about this.

  • Has the increased level of hatred reduced tourism in the US?

  • Has the increased level of hatred reduced requests for visas?

  • Has the increased level of hatred reduced the rates of legal and illegal immigration?

  • Has the increased level of hatred reduced the ability of individual citizens to travel abroad?

I would submit that while many people say they hate the US, it hasn't changed the way people act towards us except in a few notable exceptions.

For the purposes of this discussion I also want to focus on individual or small group actions and not actions of a government. I think that for the sake of the discussion about Public Diplomacy, I want to focus on the “instinctive” reactions of the individual and not on the calculated reactions of a government.

So, now it is time for me to deal with what I have labeled the exceptions. Let me first say that there are really two different levels of "action" that I want to deal with. People who hate the US enough to write a newspaper column in their home county are far different from someone that hates the US enough to plan, implement and carry out a bombing on US soil. Someone who only "dances in the streets" on hearing the news that the World Trade Center fell is different from someone who knowingly contributes money to terrorist organizations. The former I want to label as passive participants. The latter I would like to label as active participants. This is an important distinction because moving from writing to acting requires a significantly different level of effort.

There actually is one other group of interest. We should label them asnon participants. In my estimation, the vast majority of the people in the world are actually non participants. These are the people who continue to travel to the US, request visas, and consume US goods. They may think that they hate the US but they are not even engaged enough to write a letter or change a flight reservation.

First, I want to address those people who actively participate in their activities that cause harm to US or coalition forces or directly on US soil. The nature of these activities has changed. It used to be that causing harm on foreign soil required a nation supporting a military force. With the rise of terrorism, however, small militant groups have become powerful enough to have a big impact. While the activities themselves have changed, our response should not change. For these types of threats, the only option is police and/or military force.

Active participants also have another role to play and that is one of spreading and reinforcing the negative perspective of the United States. This small group of individuals relies on activating people from the passive participant group. This activity is evidenced by the fact that suicide bombers are often new recruits.

The next issue is that of the passive participants themselves. My feeling is that the response to passive participants needs to be extremely measured and restrained. You see, it does not bother me that someone says they hate me. They can shout it from the rooftops and it really doesn’t bother me. Consequently, I do not feel that someone expressing dislike even needs to be acknowledged. It is also my feeling that the US media gives far too much attention to the passive participants of the world. Passive participation eventually dies without attention. And before you ask, I think that US citizens who simply bloviate (love that word) about hating other countries (France comes to mind) also receive too much media coverage.

Now I have laid the groundwork for a specific discussion about Public Diplomacy. Unfortunately I am off to a night meeting so I won't be able to finish tonight. I will be back later to continue how I feel we should tailor our Public Diplomacy efforts for each of the described groups.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Do as I say...

Question: How do you make someone "like" you?
Answer: They really need to like you for who you are.

There is a very engaging discussion going on at two of my favorite blogs. Over at The Daily Demarche, Dr. Demarche posted a lengthy article concerning the current reputation of the United States among the other countries of the world. He specifically asks the question (I'm paraphrasing), "How can the united States government revamp our public diplomacy efforts to help change the current negative image?"

Then over at New Sisyphus, the speech that Secretary Rice gave at the Paris Insitut d'Etudes Politiques was bemoaned for its lack of content. The only thing that New Sisyphus found encouraging about the affair was the question and answer period afterward where Dr. Rice was able to speak unscripted and from the heart.

Both of these posts deserve your attention. And be sure to read all of the comments. These are as enlightening as the posts themselves. I also have several comments that I would like to make but what I want to say is too lengthy to include in the comment sections. Please indulge me while I enter my thoughts here.

I greatly admire these State Department officials as they carry out their duties in today’s world. A hat tip to each of you. I feel a kinship because I am a career regional planner. Our situations may seem vastly different but in many ways they are very similar (though the scale is obviously different!). These men arbitrate between countries. I get to arbitrate between developers and adjacent landowners. These officials get to wrestle with correctly conveying the intentions of our government to other countries. I get to wrestle with correctly conveying the intentions of my local government to our citizens. While I would never pretend to completely understand the jobs these men do, I would hope that my experience in similar situations might add to the discussion.

The nexus of both of these posts is the notion of misconceived perceptions between people and how to communicate in order to change that perception. First I would like to deal with the nature of the perception. In this case, I would like to consider the perceptions held by the world as misperceptions. Dr. Demarche links to a report titled "Global Opinion: The Spread of Anti-Americanism." In the report, you will find table after table devoted to showing how the rest of the world views the United States quite unfavorably. The report is well researched and well written. It uses valid techniques to gather information on international perceptions about the United States. Basically it is hard to disagree with what the report says. And yet I choose to question the findings. To illustrate my point, I would ask that you think about the conditions under which the information was gathered.

The key to my discussion is that these are self reported perceptions. I have found that people make statements that do not accurately indicate how they will act. Statements on a survey can be misleading because they are very colored by the persons mood during the questioning, the current environment surrounding the subject and how the question is worded. Jakob Nielson, noted computer interface researcher, feels so strongly about this fact that he does not use surveys. Instead, he simply watches how people use their computers. He watches their actions and does not worry about their statements. You see, using a computer is about using it, not talking about using it. A quick example to illustrate my point. An urban bus service surveyed a population in an inner city area that was not currently on the bus routes. The questions basically asked, "Would you use the bus service if it was provided?" The answer was a resounding yes! The bus service was started and ran for six months and only 2 people used the service. Just two people in six months! So what happened? The bus line was baffled.

If we look at the conditions surrounding the survey maybe the answers will present themselves. The bus line was trying to serve a group of Navy sailors that were housed in an inner city neighborhood. They offered the bus line as a transportation alternative to help them get to shopping and other services. The sailors did say that they would use the service. Many did not have cars and they said that buses could provide a low cost alternative. So why didn't the statements (I will ride the bus) translate into action (I did ride the bus).

Well, there are several reasons. First, even though all these sailors didn't have cars, they were a close knit group. One could fairly easily find a buddy to drive almost anywhere. Next, sailors often came home from places not served by buses (usually bars!) at times that the buses weren't running (like closing time!). Finally, even though the sailors had stated that the $.75 fare would not be an impediment, when it came to actually parting with the money... well sailors don't make very much anyway (roundtrip fare was about the price of a whole beer!).

To summarize my point, people often say one thing and do another. In the context of the Public Diplomacy discussion, though the expressed sentiment of the world is that the United States is pretty bad, how does that translate into action? People say they hate the United States but do they act like it?

With that, I am going to leave you to your own thoughts (consider this a commercial break and my question is simply the cliffhanger). I am still trying to get rid of this cold, so I am going to bed. Tomorrow I will deal with the nature of the actions and my suggestions for changing the perceptions.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Abu Ghraib - Take 27

Question: Now that successful elections have been held in Iraq, what's next?
Answer: The MSM needs to recycle an old story to try to divert attention.

The Tehran Times for February 8, is running a "new story" about some supposed medical abuses in Abu Ghraib prison. The story seemed a little fishy. A big editing mistake (headline says "Qualified U.S. medics..." while the first paragraph says "Unqualified U.S. military medics..."), numbers that don't add up (between 800 and 900 admitted daily but the capacity of the prison was acknowledged as overfilled at 7000) along with an entire paragraph that seemed out of place (talking about a prisoner dubbed "Ice Man" but without any context) meant that I should look to the original source. Luckily the source was the Monday February 14, 2005 edition of Time Magazine and the article is titled "The Abu Ghraib Scandal You Don't Know".

Under a byline for Adam Zagorin, (sorry, I don't know anything about the author) Time purports to find "...another dimension to...the horrors of Abu Ghraib". Citing an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine by "legal scholars M. Gregg Bloche and Jonathan Marks", Time Magazine says:
...not only were some military doctors at Abu Ghraib enlisted to help inflict distress on the prisoners, but also the scarcity of basic medical care was at times so severe that it created another kind of torture.

I quickly googled the doctors names to see if they were mentioned in other articles. The search turned up some more details in an article at The Nation titled "US Army Doctors Implicated in Prisoner Abuse". Here is how that article characterizes the medical journal report:
The New England Journal of Medicine said in an article that the American medical personnel violated the Geneva Conventions by helping tailor interrogations to the physical and mental conditions of individual detainees at Abu Gharib prison in Iraq and the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The article says that medical workers gave interrogators access to patient medical files, and that psychiatrists and other physicians collaborated with interrogators and guards who, in turn, deprived detainees of sleep, restricted them to diets of bread and water and exposed them to extreme heat and cold.

"Clearly, the medical personnel who helped to develop and execute aggressive counter-resistance plans thereby breached the laws of war," says the four-page article labelled [sic] "Perspective."

"The conclusion that doctors participated in torture is premature, but there is probable cause for suspecting it."[emphasis added]

So, we have a story about Geneva Convention abuses, (still a point under contention!) where doctors were enlisted to design interrogation techniques, (Good. That input undoubtedly ensured the techniques were medically sound and not fatal!) and where the investigators were forced to admit that concluding the doctors participated in torture is premature. Where is the story in that!

The Time story then continues quoting people that were assigned to Abu Ghraib in 2003. These individuals cite supply and personnel shortages. Since Baghdad fell April 10, 2003, this means that the men and women quoted were some of the first assigned to that post. If you will remember, the military has already admitted that the speed of the advance outstripped the ability to supply the forward troops. I find nothing new in learning that Abu Ghraib may have been short of medical supplies or personnel.

As a last point, I wanted to take a look at who else may be interested in these "new developments." Beyond the Tehran Times, I found the New England Journal of Medicine article also quoted at in an article titled "US Doctors Tied To Torture At Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib". Once again the charge of Geneva Convention violation is leveled. Ok, nothing new. As I finished the article, I had to laugh out loud. Do you know what used as a source? I should make you go look at the site yourself but I won't. At the bottom of the article you will find the following line:
SOURCE: World Socialist Website
Need I say more?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

That's what we just said!

Question: How does Islamic freedom differ from our freedom?
Answer: It doesn't!

After a great little nap, the duck is feeling much better!

Hearing the siren song of the blog, I sat down to add a few more sites to my blog roll. A link off of Chrenkoff led me to the Tehran Times and this interesting little piece on ability of a country to "export" democracy. From the article:
Khatami noted that parallel with today's democratic and progressive Islamic movements, backwards and terrorist measures in the name of Islam are also being taken.

The future belongs to an Islam that is in line with the principles of the time, including independence and progress, he added.

"In my point of view, democracy is a prerequisite for every kind of progress and development," he said.
Democracy is the only way that freedom can be assured. Terrorism is the enemy of democracy.

Now read this quote from President Bush's Inauguration speech.
Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty - though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.

And what are the citizens of the United States willing to do to support freedom fighters all over the world? Again, from the Inaguration Speech:
Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side.

The Bush Doctrine may have started with a simple notion. It started with the notion that the United States of America can no longer stand by and let radical governments foster hate in the world. President Bush knew that hate of the United States would turn into future attacks on our soil. So how does one secure the freedom of the United States? By removing the hate!

Thus the Bush doctrine has matured. Rather than take tentative, ineffective steps that produce only a temporary peace, President Bush intends to secure the peace by ensuring individuals are free in their own lands. This will not happen overnight. The elections in Iraq are but a prelude to the real story. It may take generations for the remainder of the story to be written but it is a story that started with the founding of our own country. The Bush Doctrine now talks about supporting those who seek freedom. That support will be on-going. That support will be persistent. That support will be strong!

This is why I blog!

As I was heading back to bed (see **COUGH** (sniffle) !!sneeze!! for a complete explanation), I decided to check out one of my favorite blogs, The Daily Demarche. It was here that I learned that The Diplomad will post no more. I must say it was the existence of The Daily Demarche and The Diplomad that prompted me to start The Flaming Duck. You see, conservative State Department Officials working in a highly liberal department write these blogs. My situation is similar. I am a conservative local government official trying to stay afloat in a liberal environment. On a much more humble scale, I am trying to show that conservatism is right at the local level. Anyway, farewell Diplomad! We do hope to see you as a guest on other blogs.

But despite the sadness, my eyes were opened to a post to New Sisyphus, another conservative State Department "brother in arms". Here you will find a post entitled New Sisyphus: Rhymes with Dubya: The President and His Critics. This post cuts thru all the anti-war rhetoric and nails exactly why the Bush doctrine is the only option that has a chance of working. After setting the stage, writing extensively about the "silly" comments of the current liberal establishment, New Sisyphus then says this about the Bush Doctrine:
The President takes a completely different approach, which goes a long way to explaining why he gets under the skin of experts like Clarke or MSM types like Fallows. Having dispensed with the old way of doing business, Bush has embarked upon a risky policy that relies on high-level political change in the Middle East to change the fundamental dynamic between the Islamic world and the West. With the change in Iraq, and pressure elsewhere for change in the Middle East, the President thinks that the answer to Islamic Fascism is Islamic Democracy.

We have tried ignoring the problem of terrorism. We have tried appeasement. Now we are going to do it the "right" way. Go read the entire post. It'll do you good!

**COUGH** (sniffle) !!sneeze!!

Question: Besides an elephant, what else can put out a flaming duck?
Answer: A NASTY cold!

Today is Super Bowl Sunday and your friendly ignited drake has been fighting a cold for over a week now. Nothing, but nothing, kills the blogging fire like coughing, hacking and sneezing as you are writing!

Consequently, I have not commented on several important events. The time I would have spent commenting on the Iraqi election, the SOTU and the reports of Iraqi Sunnis fighting back against insurgents was spent in bed instead. Anyway, I will hopefully post more frequently next week. Until then, GO BRONCOS! (What? They didn't make it? Well then... Philadelphia and New England! Oh well, it should be a good game anyway. You KNOW I only keep up with college football. Give me Kansas State and Texas A&M anyday...)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Pride goeth...

A little quiz:

Question: What is pride?
Answer: What do YOU think of when you hear the word "pride"? (Sorry, a little Socratic method slipping in!)

I will be back soon with my definition and an explanation.

Update: I was cruising by The Daily Demarche yesterday and Smiley posted some very interesting thoughts about foreign aid. So what does the word “pride” have in common with foreign aid? Let me try to explain.

First, I want you to envision “pride” in your mind. That can be a little tough because pride comes in two distinctly different varieties. There is “good” pride, which is the pride a father feels when his child accomplishes something. The there is the “evil” pride, which is the Marie Antoinette pride that caused her to say, “Let them eat cake” when asked about giving bread to the poor. For this exercise, I want you to envision an “evil” pride; the type of pride that we are cautioned against. So, have you got a picture of “evil pride” in your mind? Now try to name some of the characteristics of a person that suffers from this type of pride. How do they talk? What do they wear? What kind of profession are they in?

If you are good, your mental picture doesn’t fit a stereotype. People with “evil pride” can be rich or poor; shabbily dressed or neat and clean; well spoken or given to street slang. But I would submit that in order to fit the “evil pride” mould, each example would have one characteristic in common. That characteristic is a true disdain for others. This is the type of disdain that really eats at one’s soul and colors one’s actions. And it is a disdain that is not confined to one group or class of people. Before you dismiss this definition, think about it. What is the difference between “why can’t they just eat cake” and “they have plenty of money, why do they need more.” The perspective is opposite but the disdain is the same. “Evil pride” can be rich to poor or poor to rich; high to low or low to high; even peer to peer.

BTW, before you think that I came up with this notion, I did not. I heard it several years ago and the word “enmity” was used in place of disdain. Either way, I think that the most important characteristic of the “evil pride” is disdain or enmity towards other people.

With this new found understanding of pride, I would like to quote some of Smiley’s post that triggered this thought process.

Unfortunately, many leaders in the developing world prefer the big, showy kind of aid over the one that has a chance at working. Let me illustrate with an example… My experience in the developing world has been that leaders are all too happy to publicly castigate the United States for all the country's problems while happily pressing us for more money, assistance, whatever. On this day, our meeting followed suit.

[For] the PM and his PS…, the first order of business… was for our hosts to decry the lack of aid the US gave them… [We] pointed out that the amount of money the US gave to this particular country and the region made it one of our highest recipients of aid on a per capita basis. Yes, they said, but the problem was with the kind [emphasis added] of aid we gave. You see, our hosts continued, no one could tell we were giving aid, and the PM was getting ransacked by the opposition for not getting more aid from the US.

Afterwards… it hit me. They wanted aid not for the development of their country, but for the political gain they could get from telling everyone that they got something tangible from the US government. Basically, foreign aid was kind of like crack for them: they wanted it bad, they had to have it, and once they got it, they needed more, more, more. (I sliced and diced this quote to help make my point. Please read Smiley’s original post. And Smiley, please let me know if you object to this.)
Can you see the “evil pride” showing through? The statements “leaders… prefer the big, showy kind of aid over the one that has a chance at working” and “no one could tell we were giving aid, and the PM was getting ransacked by the opposition for not getting more aid from the US” practically ooze disdain for the each other and the US.

Please note, that Smiley's "evil pride" riddled experience happens everyday. We can even compare examples.
  • The fact that aid is only good if it is visible is similar to “Couldn’t you get a bigger diamond? My friends can hardly see this one.”
  • When the aid is not grand enough then the true facts must be ignored. This is similar to “I know union drivers get paid well but the company still could share more!”
  • All sides can engage in “evil pride” over the same issue. (A similar example “They can’t attend because they will ‘dirty up’ the event” is met with “Well, fine! We didn’t want to come anyway.”)
Aren’t these examples really what we think of when we envision “evil pride”?

All right, you have seen my perspective. Can you name some current examples of this disdainful “evil pride” in current events? How about “No blood for oil!” or “GWB is an incompetent fool!” or even “We must kill the Americans for what they have done to us!” What other examples can you cite?