Saturday, March 02, 2002

A Glimmer of Hope

Today we vote for mayor of New Orleans. It seemed to be first time in a long time that nether candidate is a politician long in the thrall of the local machine. In fact, one of them was. The good news is he is going to lose.

As I've mentioned before, it was beginning to look like there was really change in the air when Crescent City voters narrowed the primary field down to Ray Nagin, a local businessman, and former New Orleans police chief Richard Pennington. At first things were collegial and civil, with the two primary winners appearing together on the radio and respectfully disagreeing on how to turn the city around. But as support grew for Nagin and sagged for the Chief, the latter's campaign tactics turned increasingly negative. The fingerprints of Pennington campaign manager Representative William Jefferson (D- New Orleans) were all over the most divisive stuff. Still, Nagin's people never got down in the mud, stayed on message and continued to roll up support. By the end, the Pennington camp was trying to demonize Nagin for speeding tickets he got in the past. Pathetic.

But the biggest scandal is on the Pennington-Jefferson relationship. This team tried to tar Nagin with the patronage brush early on for his dealings with the current mayor, Marc Morial. First of all, no one does big business in NOLA without kissing his ring. Secondly, Morial appointed Pennington Chief of NOPD and is a long time political ally of Jefferson. What is coming out now is that two years ago, Jefferson's wife, vice provost or some such at Southern University in New Orleans, hired Pennington to teach two classes a week for supposedly twenty hours of work per week. Understand that Jefferson's wife was recently ousted from her post when she tried to fire a bunch of University employees in order to give her friends jobs. During the hearings associated with the case, it was revealed that her having the job was as a result of pressure from her husband the Congressman and his cronies. So the bottom line is that Pennington has been dirty from way back. Where does the Chief of Police find twenty hours a week to prepare for and teach a class? That was a payoff, pure and simple.

The funny thing is how arrogant these appointed bastards get. You'd think if you got a sweet patronage job or deal, you would at least try to do it well so as not to attract unpleasant attention to yourself or your benefactor. Not in NOLA, where for a long time it was paying one's buddies millions to do studies that say, "Yes indeed, our roads suck," or "Who'da thunk it, City Hall is inefficient." But now, with the polls something like 50% to 30% in favor of the noncrony candidate, it seems like maybe the days of deductbox politics in New Orleans are numbered.


Nagin wins in a walk. His campaign successfully united middle class black voters with whites against the low income blacks who vote reliably for race baiting demagogues like Jefferson. Here's to getting some real jobs down here in order to shrink the welfare rolls and grow the middle class.

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

!Ay Dios Mio!

Vodkapundit has some trenchant comments on a true quagmire, the situation in Colombia. I will likely blog on this soon, since I have some first hand knowledge of the situation (uncle kidnapped when I was a kid), but for now, I want to make this one point: Negotiating with those FARC fuckers is about as effective as doing so with the PLO. Similarly, when Colombian federals and locals did try to crack down on them, they were always characterized by the sandalista western press as "right wing hit squads" and the like. Make no mistake, the FARC and their allies are terrorists right in our back yard. Colombia's only hope is our vigorous support in eliminating them Al Qaeda-style. There we have the advantage that Colombians are fed up and would support the effort if it were sufficiently serious. Local support for FARC will wither when it is apparent their days are numbered.
And now for something completely different...

While most of the blogosphere is busy with the war on terrorism, Enron, campaign finance reform, and the afterbirth of the Olympics, I thought I'd visit some different but IMHO, relevant issues, for the sake of variety. The Autumn 2001 issue of the Naval War College Review came in the other day. My perusal of it (and having just finished reading LOTR) is a partial explanation for the dearth of posts of late. Though its full color cover depicts the explosion of flame and debris from the south tower as the second plane hit and the north tower burns, much of the issue is devoted to People's Republic of China and Taiwan (beware countries that put words like "People's" or for that matter, "Democratic" in their names. As if calling themselves something sweet sounding will fool anyone with half a brain. As on old senior chief once told me regarding a particularly bad report I was going to have to make to the CO, "You can't polish a turd.") This is consistent with the NWC's tendency to take the long view and start planning and gaming early. Anyway, with the war on terrorism on the front burner I think it is important not to forget this strategically significant issue. I am gratified that some of our premier strategists in Newport haven't and, as evidenced by his recent travels, nether has the current President. OTOH, a certain previous President continues to act in the interest of his Chinese benefactors.

In How China Might Invade Taiwan, retired Army Colonel Piers M. Wood and former Navy nuc sub officer and current physicist Charles D. Ferguson describe a phased invasion of the the island. Starting with Quemoy and other islands close to the mainland where the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) would enjoy five to one odds against the Taiwanese defenders. Owing to the proximity to the mainland and shallow depth of the water near Quemoy, the attack would resemble a river crossing more than a classic amphibious landing. The Chinese would likely enjoy air superiority as the Taiwanese would be unlikely to squander their comparatively few air superiority fighters against PRC land based air defenses. From there, on to

The Peng Hu Islands, the second- phase objective, comprise a dozen or so rocky islets in the Taiwan Strait, thirty miles from Taiwan. Because the Taiwanese forces (currently numbering sixty thousand) on the Peng Hus could threaten the flank of an assault against the main island, the Chinese must take these islands first in any case. By the same token, however, once seized these islands could prove useful in preparing for the final invasion.


Phasing could work to the Chinese advantage for other reasons as well. Beijing could exploit the initial phase domestically, creating a state of war fever that would generate support for military construction projects that would in turn be essential for succeeding phases but would seem unjustifiable in peacetime. Moreover, a break after the first two phases would allow an opportunity for major upgrades in military training, taking advantage of experience gained in what would amount to combat “rehearsals” for an assault against the main island. Long halts would keep the door open for a general surrender or a favorable negotiated settlement with Taiwan. Notably, the preliminary phases might also be viewed as less than a full attack on the island, and thus as not justifying U.S. military intervention.

Given that the Chinese also tend to take the long view and could envision someone less committed to our allies in the Pacific sitting in the White House in the future, Wood and Ferguson's scenario is not one to be dismissed. Chris Rahman's companion piece, Defending Taiwan and Why It Matters, outlines the steps the PLA and PLAN have been taking to make such an attack feasible. Rahman also explains China's obsession with the "rebel province":

The latent crisis of political legitimacy within China has been alleviated in part by national economic dynamism and in part by the promotion of Chinese nationalism. Yet relying upon sustained high rates of growth in an economy with significant structural problems is fraught with risk, leading to the conclusion that the encouragement of nationalist sentiment will be increasingly important to the political legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party.36 In this respect Taiwan’s democratic evolution, whilst posing a challenge to the mainland regime, paradoxically also provides a focal point for the nationalist propaganda that seeks to prop up the party. Nevertheless, threats issued to deter formal Taiwanese independence not only legitimize the mainland regime but may be vital to the political survival of the regime. Having placed such a premium on unification, to allow Taiwan to break free formally might lead to the downfall of the current Chinese leadership, possibly even the party itself. At the very least, Army support for the regime would waver.37 There is a general consensus over the Taiwan issue in Beijing, and the domestic political ramifications of “losing” the island in a limited war across the strait could be severe. The question remains: would the Chinese Communist Party allow a conflict in which its survival was at stake to remain limited—or in its terminology, “restricted”?

I would be interested to know what fellow anti-idiotarians think we should do to counter this long term threat to freedom and capitalism in the far east.

Monday, February 25, 2002

Jay's sensible advice to terrorists. Make sure you read it all.