The Suicide Hand
Both the Democrats and Republicans have been dealt a suicide hand in the upcoming Presidential elections in 2008, and the reasons are "The Three Rules" (from 1960):
The first rule is that no Democrat from outside the old Confederacy has won the White House since John F. Kennedy. Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were all from the Confederacy. Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and John Kerry were from way outside the Confederacy. Al Gore was from the Confederacy but lost, proving that this is necessary, but not a sufficient basis for a Democratic win. The reason for this rule is simple. Until 1964, the American South was solidly democratic. In 1964 the Deep South flipped Republican and stayed there. If the South and mountain states go Republican, then the Democrats must do extraordinarily well in the rest of the country. They usually don't do extraordinarily well, so they need a candidate that can break into the South. Carter and Clinton did it, while Johnson did extraordinarily well outside the South.
The second rule is that no Republican has won the White House since Eisenhower who wasn't from one of the two huge Sunbelt states: California or Texas (Eisenhower, though born in Texas, was raised in Kansas). Nixon and Reagan were from California. Both Bush presidents were from Texas. Gerald Ford was from Michigan, Robert Dole from Kansas. They both lost. Again the reason is obvious, particularly if the candidate is from California -- pick up the southern and mountain states, pull in Texas and watch the Democrats scramble. Midwestern Republicans lose and northeastern Republicans do not get nominated.
The third rule is that no sitting senator has won the presidency since Kennedy. The reason is, again, simple. Senators make speeches and vote, all of which are carefully recorded in the Congressional record. Governors live in archival obscurity and don't have to address most issues of burning importance to the nation. Johnson came the closest to being a sitting senator but he too had a gap of four years and an assassination before he ran. After him, former Vice President Nixon, Gov. Carter, Gov. Reagan, Vice President Bush, Gov. Clinton and Gov. Bush all won the presidency. The path is strewn with fallen senators.
That being the case, the Democrats appear poised to commit electoral suicide again, with two northern senators (Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) in the lead, and the one southern contender, John Edwards, well back in the race. The Republicans, however, are not able to play to their strength. There are no potential candidates in Texas or California to draw on. Texas right now just doesn't have players ready for the national scene. California does, but Arnold Schwarzenegger is constitutionally ineligible by birth. In a normal year, a charismatic Republican governor of California would run against a northern Democratic senator and mop the floor. It's not going to happen this time. Instead, the Republicans appear to be choosing between a Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, and a former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani. Unless Texan Ron Paul can pull off a miracle, the Republicans appear to be going with their suicide hand just like the Democrats. Even if Fred Thompson gets the nomination, he comes from Tennessee, and while he can hold the South, he will have to do some heavy lifting elsewhere. Unless Obama and Clinton self-destruct and Edwards creeps in, or Paul does get a miracle, this election is shaping up as one that will break all the rules. Either a northern Democratic senator wins or a northeastern Republican (excluding Thompson for the moment) does. The entire dynamic of presidential politics is in flux. All bets are off as to the outcome and all bets are off as to the behavior of the new president, whose promises and obligations are completely unpredictable.
Cruising While Republican
If you've just returned from your Labor Day vacation and are scanning the headlines from last week's newspapers – don't panic! America is not threatened by a category 5 hurricane named "Larry Craig." Despite the 9/11-level coverage, Larry Craig is merely accused of "cruising while Republican." There is nothing liberals love more than gay-baiting, which they disguise as an attack on "hypocrisy." Chris Matthews opened his "Hardball" program on Aug. 28 by saying Larry Craig had been "exposed as both a sexual deviant and a world-class hypocrite."
Mexico Invades America
"Mexico does not end at its borders. ... Where there is a Mexican, there is Mexico." That astonishing claim by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, in his state of the nation address at the National Palace Sunday, brought his audience wildly cheering to its feet. Were the United States a serious nation, Calderon's claim that Mexico extends into the United States would have produced an instant demand from the U.S. ambassador for clarification. Failing to receive it, he would have packed his bags, and the United States would be on the verge of severing diplomatic relations.
In an earlier time, U.S. troops would be rolling to the border. (MORE)
The Lessons of Saddam's WMD Policy
What are Iran and North Korea up to with their nuclear weapons programs? After dealing with the Iraqi "nuclear threat" for over a decade, that's worth considering. Iran and North Korea are in quite different situations than Iraq before 2003. Up until early 2003, the conventional wisdom was that Saddam had WMD, and just would not give them up. Some thought Saddams strategy was dumb. All he had to do was let the UN inspectors do their job, get Iraqi out from under the embargo, and then reconstitute his WMD. What no one brought up was what Saddam was actually doing. He was pretending to have WMD in order to keep the Iranians at bay. Horrendous casualties from Iraqi chemical weapons had forced the Iranians to end the 1980s war. The Iranians still wanted Saddam's head on a pike, and Saddam saw his imaginary WMD as a primary defense against Iranian attack. This did not come out until after Saddam was out of power, and some of his key aides could talk. Saddam kept the real situation (no real WMD programs) secret even from most of his closest aids and military commanders. Saddam trusted very few people. His deception worked, but got him killed anyway because the scheme backfired. But Saddam could not afford to keep his WMD program going while all those UN inspectors were around, and the embargo was choking his cash flow.
Iran apparently wants nukes for national pride, and to assure their continued status as a regional superpower. Iran cannot upgrade its conventional military forces, so it needs one powerful weapon, like nuclear warheads, to back up its threats and demands.North Korea also requires nukes for national survival. But, unlike Iran, North Korea does not have oil wealth, or a market economy. North Korea is a basket case in so many ways. Nukes provide trade bait, to extort financial, material and diplomatic payments from neighbors, and the United States.Iran seems determined to build nukes, having no reason to back down. North Korea is in a desperate economic and social situation, and appears willing to give up (or sell) its nukes if the price is high enough. Most negotiations with North Korea are now, basically, over what this price will be.
All of that is the conventional wisdom. But as was recently seen with Iraq, the conventional wisdom can often be very misleading, and fatal to a lot of people.
Robot Wranglers in Big Demand
The growth of combat robot use in Iraq (from 126 in 2004, to over 4,000 now), has resulted in a huge demand for troops trained to use, or, as some put it, wrangle", the bots. Most soldiers require only a few hours of training and using the robot to be ready for combat operations. This is largely because the robot controllers are based on video game controllers. Most troops grew up with video games, and have no trouble getting used to a new controller.
Hundreds of the robots are assigned to training areas in Germany, Kuwait and the United States, where soldiers are trained before sent off to the combat zones. Troops are eager to use the robots. The word has gotten around that the devices work quite well, and save lives. Most of the bots are used to check for roadside bombs, but increasing numbers are used by the infantry (to check out caves, bunkers and dark, dangerous places in general) and for guard duty.
Operating a bot is no longer seen as a rare skill. Now, the goal is for every platoon (a unit of about 30 troops) to have several qualified robot operators. Most of the bots are one of four different models (MARCbot, PacBot, Talon and the Mini-Andros).
The U.S. Army is ordering another thousand combat robots for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. military already has over 5,000 of these small (40-130 pound) robots in service. Most are used to deal with roadside bombs. But combat troops are increasingly using them for battlefield reconnaissance and guard duty. These robots come from several suppliers (iRobot, Foster-Miller and Exponent Inc are the largest.) The army is also considering buying another 2,000 robots over the next five years. Because of their use in Iraq, the robots are now a permanent part of the U.S. armed forces, and new models are under development.
Terrorists Declared Defeated
The government has declared victory over Islamic terrorism in Indonesia. There have been no major attacks in the last two years. Also, the Islamic terrorism directed at Indonesian Christians has all but disappeared. This violence killed about 10,000 people between 1999-2002. As a result, as part of the celebration of Indonesian independence, about half of the 139,000 people in prison had their sentences reduced. This included hundreds of convicted terrorists. Most of the reductions were measured in months, but it upset many in neighboring Australia, which has lost over a hundred citizens to terror attacks in Indonesia.
Islamic terrorists have been largely shut down in Indonesia by a combination of good police work, and public opinion turning against the Islamic radicals. While a large minority of Indonesians favor Islamic radicalism, not enough of them are willing to back terrorism. There was a largely unseen (outside of Indonesia) civil war between the traditional Moslems (who incorporate many pre-Islamic religious customs and ideas) and the Islamic conservatives (heavily influenced by Wahhabi missionaries from Saudi Arabia.) Many of those Islamic radials who were not killed or arrested, fled the country. Some ended up in the Philippines and Malaysia, where they continue to be pursued. There are still dozens of Islamic terrorists in Indonesia, but they spend most of their time avoiding arrest.