Wednesday, December 31, 2003

HAPPY 2004

2003 has, if nothing else, been a hectic year, on many levels.

For the US it has been a remarkable year.

It's painful for me to hear pundits who talk about the "recession" (what recession?), the "quagmire in Iraq" (really? how do you define quagmire?) and the "grass roots success of Howard Dean" (who still loses about 3 to 2 in a head-to-head against Bush).

Those three points of view couldn't be more wrong.

The stock market has roared back, businesses are operating at historically high productivity levels, growth is astounding, our presence in Iraq (compared to the real "quagmire" everyone remembers -- Viet Nam) is a true success story as our forces have morphed from Patton-like armor and air-led assault forces to urban guerilla/counter-terror forces in just a few months. And, compared to Viet Nam, the quantity and quality of intelligence and our ability (and willingness) to act on it is amazing. And as for Howard Dean, I'm guessing that he might be remembered a few years from now as a somewhat more pragmatic Michael Dukakis, or a somewhat more forceful Ed Muskie.

It truly disgusts me that many Americans are both so hateful of the current administration and so guilty that they live so well that they seem to have adopted their own form of jihad. I've read many posts on websites that go along the lines of "we only have Israel to blame for 9/11" and "Saddam Hussein was a despot, but no more so than George Bush" and even one who applauded the death of Michael Kelly, the journalist who was killed in the first few days of the Iraqi invasion. I remember the anger and hatred that spewed forth from the left during Viet Nam, but I don't remember it being this personalized. At least Jane Fonda didn't pose for pictures with the Saddam Fedayeen.

It was also encouraging (and often personally frustrating) to fly a lot this year because the flights were much more crowded than last year. The "fear" factor has disappeared. Sure, some people still won't fly, but most of them never flew that much to begin with. Frequent flyers are back.

2004 will probably be not much different than 2003, except that it has the potential to be uglier on the policital home front. Whomever the Democrats nominate, you can expect the negative campaign ads to be more prevalent and, despite supposed finance reform, more money will be spent this coming year by political parties than ever before. The power shift continues to move from the "back office" to the "single interest group". No longer can deals be cut in the "smoke-filled room" to determine political fortune. The guy or gal who can mobilize the largest war chest is the new "800 pound gorilla". Not an improvement.

In any event, it's time to say adios to blogging for this year. See you in 2004.


THEY FORGOT THEIR MANTRA

You know . . . "no WMD, no link to al Qaeda, no WMD, no link to al Qaeda". The "mainstream" media have been loath to print anything that hints at what has already been uncovered about Saddam's WMD development programs and the growing spider web of connections between the Iraqis and al Qaeda.

Who knows whether it was the capture of Saddam, the slowdown in the number of US casualties or a slow news day, but even CNN is now beginning to report what's actually being found over there. That's right . . . they found evidence of al Qaeda literature and videos in an Iraqi weapons cache.

Given the stranglehold that Saddam had on that country, can you envision a scenario where that could happen without the knowledge and cooperation of him and his minions?

Of course, the left-wing conspiracy theorists will brush this one off, saying it was planted by the CIA.


Tuesday, December 30, 2003

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR

Follow the cash. It's been my mantra in business for 35 years. Cash is cash. If there's money in the till at the end of the day, you made a profit. Your accountant (after waving a wand and sprinkling FASB dust) may say you lost money, but you know what you did. It's true for a candy store and it was true for Enron.

And it's true for terrorists. Even a used AK-47 isn't free. And the C-4 explosive so popular with suicide bombers is very expensive. Whether hi-tech or lo-tech, stop the money and you'll stop the terroist -- except for the rare dilettante terrorist like bin Laden, who can be self-financed -- but if you find his money, you stop him.

And it goes also for the terrorist who works the "grass roots", spreading vitriol and hate through madrassas and other "religious" institutions.

So what? So this . . . The Palestinian Authority -- you know, Arafat and his cronies -- who parade for the world's cameras and try to talk a game of peace with Israel, are masters of duplicity. In a story I doubt you'll see on CNN or read in the NYTimes, you will hear about how they spend their money.

On the basis of this alone, I don't know why they shouldn't be on the list of terrorist organizations. If they were, we could disintermeditate the cash flow. Stop the cash, stop the terror.


THE RICOCHET EFFECT

Dick Morris has hit on something in his NYPost op-ed column.

His thesis is that the party not in possession of the Oval Office tends to be dominated by its extremists. E.g., it explains McGovern, Dukakis and Newt Gingrich. And it explains the current crop of Dems (save Lieberman) who are a lot more leftist than Clinton.

He ends by saying:

It will be interesting to see how soon the Democrats wake up and realize that they can't let their party be hijacked by the left without writing off the general election. But the wake-up call is unlikely to come until after Bush is safely re-elected.


WHO IS THIS GUY?

Wretchard, of Belmont Club fame, writes a poetic story today ("The Birds") that demonstrates an incredible, gifted talent for prose. It also describes what's critical in the war on terror. It's a fascinating bit of writing.


VICTOR TWEAKS THE EUROS (AND EURO-WANNABES) YET AGAIN

Victor Davis Hanson's post today ("The Western Disease") is a zinger, a spear aimed directly at the intellectual elitists whom he indirectly blames for the jihad started by al Qaeda, culminating in 9/11. He says:

It was the genius of bin Laden, after all, that he suspected after he had incinerated 3,000 Westerners an elite would be more likely to blame itself for the calamity — searching for “root causes” than marshalling its legions to defeat a tribe that embraced theocracy, autocracy, gender apartheid, polygamy, anti-Semitism, and religious intolerance. And why not after Lebanon, the first World Trade Center bombing, the embassies in Africa, murder in Saudi Arabia, and the USS Cole? It was the folly of bin Laden only that he assumed the United States was as far gone as Europe and that a minority of its ashamed elites had completely assumed control of American political, cultural, and spiritual life.

He capsulizes my belief that our failure to do anything meaningful against the Islamo-fascists before 9/11 made it inevitable. Any belief now that "diplomacy" could have prevented it is a rationalized fantasy by people who, in Prof. Hanson's words, are "the richest, most leisured people in the history of civilization (who) have become self-absorbed, ungracious, and completely divorced from the natural world."


CASTRO HACKED!

Well, not in the tech sense, since I'm not sure if Fidel has his own website, but the Cuban Communist newspaper ran a front-page article with a picture of Castro "Photoshopped" with a Hitler-like mustache and comb-over hairdo. You gotta love it.


GOOD ARTICLE FROM HITCH

Not everyone likes Christpher Hitchens. Pick a reason: he's British, he used to be a flaming Liberal, he's now mostly a conservative, but he doesn't always talk like a conservative, he thinks Bob Hope had zero talent and why did everyone weep so much at his death?, etc., etc. Hitch has his contradictory moments.

This article in Slate last week is his most recent and paints a picture of the world pre and post-9/11, focusing on the caving of Qaddafi and the Iranian open-door to nuclear inspections as the first positive dominoes to fall post-Iraq. As he says:

Not to end on too festive or seasonal a note, but the disarming of three rogue regimes in under one year isn't bad. If Howard Dean really believes that we are no safer than we were on Sept. 11 (and I presume he can't literally mean that the removal of the Taliban made no difference), then it's time he said what he would have done differently.

WHAT A BABY

I knew it was only a matter of time.

It seems Howard Dean is mad at his playmates (the other Democrats running for the Democrat nomination). He wants the teacher (Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe) to "step in and shield him from growing criticism by his rivals."

What a presumptuous, pompous twit.

Lieberman gets it right when he says "Dean will 'melt in a minute' under Republican attacks if he becomes the Democratic presidential nominee." Just like a scoop of Ben & Jerry's in the August sun.


Monday, December 29, 2003

THERE WERE MANY 'HOTSPOTS' IN THE WORLD BEFORE IRAQ, BUT NOT NOW

Hmm. Seems that many hotspots in the world have cooled since the US invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam.

Why isn't that front page news?


THE FRENCH . . . OBJECTIVE AS EVER

Hear the story about the journalist who reported back to France that the French reporting on the war in Iraq was biased?

He got fired.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

JUST LET HIM TALK

Funny comment on Fox News this morning. Chris Wallace was talking about a conversation he had with the campaign manager of a Democrat. He asked him/her "how are you going to counter Howard Dean?" He/she answered, "we hope he just keeps talking."

A good example is his recent response to the question "what should we do if we capture Osama?" His answer demonstrates he doesn't want to respond to any question that hasn't been thoroughly polled so he can give the best non-answer.

Too bad. Dean once had a rep as a straight-talker. Now, he's sounding more like Bill Clinton without polling data.


Friday, December 19, 2003

VICTOR GETS FED UP WITH THE EURO-WEANIES

Victor Davis Hanson pulls off the gloves and drops kicks Europeans in the family jewels.

A sample:

Europeans: Perhaps our growing divide arises out of a sort of American simplicity about Israel and Sharon -- now that the neocons have taken over Washington and have ignored the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians. The United States simply is not as sensitive as we in Europe are to the problem of refugees and the abuse of power that is seen as so threatening to the Muslim world.

Dumb American: Do you mean the 50-something dead in Jenin last spring or the 80,000-something Muslim dead in Grozny over more than a decade -- or is the rub the 250,000 Muslim dead in Kosovo and Bosnia? Is it the "hyper" reaction of IDF or of the Russian and Serbian armies that grates on you?

Ouch!


THE LION OF KOSOVO SPEAKS!

General-Come-Lately (a/k/a Wesley Clark), weeks/months after his advice could have been considered more timely and objective is suggesting that Bush should have ignored Saddam and pursued Osama.

Clark really separates himself from reality on this one. I guess he just isn't happy enough seeing Dean self-destruct. He is pushing Dean out of the way to fall on the grenade himself.


BLOGCATION

No blogging next week. Will be spending Christmas in the northwoods (a/k/a Canada).

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah -- enjoy.


DENNIS MILLER ON . . . DENNIS MILLER

Perhaps you've heard that Dennis is coming back to TV and this time in prime time with a daily talk show on CNBC. It's about time.

This piece in Time magazine is classic Miller.


THE WORM IS TURNING AGAINST DEAN

Dean's mouth is undoing him.

The Washington Post editorial staff is notoriously left-leaning in most of their pieces and this piece, no matter how much it trashes Howard Dean, is still a "stealth" liberal message.

What's the subliminal message? Dump Dean, draft Hillary.


Thursday, December 18, 2003

QUICK BOOK REVIEW

Synopsis: It's good . . . read it.

This one has been out for awhile, so you can buy it cheap (used).

The Future and Its Enemies, by Virginia Postrel.


EVEN MICHAEL JACKSON PUT UP A BIGGER FIGHT THAN SADDAM

You can be a lot of things in the Arab world, but one of them isn't being a pussy.

Looks like Saddam is now getting trashed by those who say he is a coward.

At least Hitler had the good sense to commit suicide rather than be taken by the Russians.


WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE . . .

I think the Dems are in meltdown mode. Only Joe Lieberman had a coherent response to the capture of Saddam. And I really loved Howard Dean's comment that I saw on TV -- "the President deserves this day" (emphasis mine). As though the the capture of Saddam was no longer something Bush could claim credit for the day after. (Remember, it was Dean who said he "supposed" the deaths of Uday and Qusai were a "good thing".)

But get a load of this one. Madeline Albright (you remember Maddy, Clinton's SecState?) suggested that we have Osama in custody already, but won't make it public until just before the election. It was supposed to be a joke. Very frickin' funny.

What is it? Doesn't any Democrat other than Joe Lieberman root for America anymore? They are so blinded by their hatred of Bush, and especially anything that could be viewed as a Bush success, that anything that's good for Bush must therefore be bad. Even if it's good for America.


Monday, December 15, 2003

CHECK OUT WRETCHARD

Wretchard has some terrific posts today at Belmont Club.


AS IMPORTANT AS CAPTURING HIM . . .

Yet again it appears the mainstream media may be avoiding the hottest story.

I've read a couple of stories this morning that intelligence has a clear evidential link between the Iraqis and al Qaeda. The key story is in this article (requires registration) in the Telegraph.


I'LL SETTLE FOR ONE HUGE "HOORAY!"

It's not over -- the war, that is. But a huge psychological tipping point happened Saturday when our guys found the rat in the rat hole.

I thought it was just desserts that he was forced to apparently live in fear these past few months. He didn't look like he'd had a good night's sleep in a long time. Nothing compared to what he and his sons did to the Iraqi people. And for all the bravado we've heard over the years, he wound up being a bigger coward than his sons, who at least died fighting.

One last thing. He committed crimes against the Iraqi people. They deserve justice. They deserve to see that justice served in Iraq. Any demands from the Euro-weanies for a trial at the World Court is nonsense.


Friday, December 12, 2003

OH, THIS IS ENCOURAGING . . .

It sounds like the US in the 60's. Radicals debating radicals, except more depressing.

In a West Bank university, the student body elections "featured exploding models of Israeli buses and claims of prowess based on Israeli casualties".

That's right, the Hamas party candidate won the election.


Thursday, December 11, 2003

THE FRENCH JUST DON'T GET IT

I thought the French were doing everything they could to bend over backwards, bend over forwards, whatever, to stike a balance with their substantial Muslim population, but no-o-o-o-o.


THE SAUDI QUESTION

I read more and more every day that makes me believe we are a bunch of idiots. If you just landed here from Mars, it would be easy to convince you that in the middle east, it is about the oil, especially in the case of the House of Saud.

There can no longer be a question that the greatest fanning of anti-American hatred and anti-Semitic hatred is the jihad spread throughout the world by the Wahabi movement (almost single-handedly funded by the Saudis). It's at the Saudi-funded Wahabi madrassas that young Muslims are taught to hate Americans and Jews. And it continues today, even in American mosques.

Of course, the ultimate irony is that, absent the presence of crude oil under the desert sands, Saudi Arabia would be no better off than Egypt or Morocco.

So, what are we doing about this problem? As near as I can tell, nothing.


Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I AGREE -- THIS IS TROUBLING

Read this piece and ask yourself how well armed we are to fight Islamist terrorism.

It would seem to me that we see examples every day of the ease with which they can accomplish many of their goals while we find ours to be frustratingly difficult.

We'll win, and we'll win in spite of ourselves. It will be frustrating, though.


IT WOULD BE NICE IF OUR POLITICIANS RECEIVED MILITARY TRAINING

You know . . . learn to shoot a rifle, carry a pack, a little physical training. It would solve two problems -- they'd know what it was really like, and they might lose a pound or two.

But more importantly, if they received the same briefings that our military leaders received when they went to War College, they might learn something about this.


FOLLOW THE MONEY

My new favorite blogger, Wretchard, writes a well-versed post about the simple fact that militant Islamists "oil" is money. Take away the money that is financing their activities and, like the history Wretchard details, they too will go away.


THIS SUCKS

It seems like we're close to forming better relations with Mexico. Hmm.

A key feature would be paying US Social Security benefits to Mexican workers who've moved back to Mexico (and were maybe never here legally?).

Is everyone OK with that? Show of hands??


IT'S A DRIP NOW, BUT IT WILL BE A FLOOD NEXT SUMMER AND FALL

You can bookmark this and come back to it next year. It's my prediction for a phenomenon that just popped its head in California and I predict will be a focus of the Democratic campaign next year. What is it?

Internet-driven "ambush news".

This is a good example. Web-based organizations are getting a lot of funding to essentially create spin zones favorable to their favorite candidate. This is not the candidate's political website, but another type of animal like moveon.org's site.

There will be more, and one of their strategies will be to get other websites to link to their's. To have their "members" write and comment a lot on other websites and news/opinion blogs. I'll bet they set up pseudo-blogs, pretending to be someone they're not. You know -- "I can't really tell you who I am, but I'm a disillusioned analyst in the West Wing". Nixon and Co. called it dirty tricks.

This happened in California. The anti-Arnold volume got cranked up to the max just before the election. Allegations made that were later proven unfounded, etc., etc. They just didn't have enough time to make an impact.

They have time now. It will happen.


GORE'S ENDORSEMENT OF DEAN -- FIRST TAKE

I suppose it really pissed off Lieberman. Apparently, the guy who was only a few votes and a heartbeat away from the presidency didn't deserve a phone call from Gore before Gore announced for Dean. Guess it shows what a piece of dreck Gore really is. It would have been the "right thing" for Gore to call Lieberman first, as a courtesy. But I guess that's too much to ask.

Dean seemed pleased and if you believe the pundits, this nails it. The Dem nomination is his. All he has to do is show up. So if Gore's support wins him the nomination, good. Or is it?

Logically, the Dean campaign has a tall order. It has to:

1. Convince all of those who voted for Gore/Lieberman to vote for Dean/?.
2. Convince (in key states) some of those who voted for Bush/Cheney to vote for Dean/?.
3. Convince a majority of those who didn't vote in the last election to vote for Dean/?.

If you look at those three challenges, I've got to believe Dean has already lost.

First, I doubt that everyone who voted for Gore/Lieberman now believe they would've been the best guys for the job we now have at hand. Everything I've seen has said there has been a definite "switch" in attitude amongst some of those who voted for Gore/Lieberman who now believe Bush/Cheney is the better choice in a wartime scenario.

Second, I can't envision anyone who voted for Bush/Cheney (in a key state) switching their vote.

Third, I've got to believe that many Republicans who didn't vote last time will vote this time. More so than Democrats.

Finally, I also have to believe that the Dems will get a slim majority of the "new" voters. But it won't be enough to matter in the key states.

Net-net, the Dems still lose. The key (as in 2000) will be the big electoral vote states. Bush may not need a majority of the popular vote to win. It seems, based on the polls, he has already locked the key states, but a lot can happen between now and next November.

Then again, assuming Dean's the guy, there is another 10 1/2 months for him to pull a few gaffes or have some skeleton fall out of a closet somewhere. I think a lot of people haven't really looked at him that closely and won't until he wins the nomination.

The big wild card now will be who he will pick as a running mate. Based on the demographics, it should be someone like John Edwards.


A MUSLIM'S PERSPECTIVE

These are two very interesting pieces written by a Muslim about her viewpoints on Arab culture and Islamic extremism.

THIS IS GETTING WORSE

Or has it always been there, but hidden?

Anti-Semitic behavior has been an ongoing issue in Europe forever. However, reporting on the phenomenon has ratcheted up a notch the past few months. Is that because the activity has increased, the reporting has increased or both? My guess is both, but there's a disturbing undercurrent.

Almost forever, anti-Semitism in Europe was a "Christian" thing -- the ongoing blaming of the Jews for the death of Christ, or the Jewish bankers controlling all the money. From Hitler to the skinheads, it has been there for decades, but the "new" anti-Semitism has apparently shifted from being a "Christian thing" to a "Muslim thing".

So why hasn't the reporting focused on that issue? Could it be politics?


Friday, December 05, 2003

CLICK ON VIC

Busy day today, so no blogging, but please click on Victor Davis Hanson's link for his column today.

A snippet:

We are not in a war with a crook in Haiti. This is no Grenada or Panama — or even a Kosovo or Bosnia. No, we are in a worldwide struggle the likes of which we have not seen since World War II. The quicker we understand that awful truth, and take measures to defeat rather than ignore or appease our enemies, the quicker we will win. In a war such as this, the alternative to victory is not a brokered peace, but abject Western suicide and all that it entails — a revelation of which we saw on September 11.



Thursday, December 04, 2003

ANOTHER HEAPING SERVING OF "WHO CARES"!

Remember the whole Joseph Wilson/Valerie Plame dustup? You know, the guy who complained his "CIA spy" wife was outed by the White House because he questioned allegations that Iraq tried to buy nuclear materials from Niger?

Read this.

These two apparently weren't happy with their first 15 minutes of fame.


HEADS UP FOR THE UN -- DIPLOMACY WILL NOT STOP THE JIHAD

Next time your hear anyone talk about the need for negotiation and diplomacy, ask them to read this piece.

Last time I checked, negotiation requires both sides to be willing to discuss and, ppotentially, compromise. If you read this interview with a prominent Muslim political leader in Pakistan, you won't hear anything close to that.


Wednesday, December 03, 2003

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

An astute blogger, Tacitus, has posed a seven-question test for anyone. It's simple.

The premise is: you're in charge, the President, the guy in control of Iraq. What is your answer to the following questions:

1) What is your primary value with regard to Iraq? Secondary?
2) What sort of state and society do you prefer in Iraq if you leave?
3) What are you unwilling to do to achieve goals 1 and 2?
4) What immediate action would you take upon assumption of command?
5) What long-term action would you take?
6) At what point would you declare your plan a failure?
7) How much time are you willing to allot to your occupation?

I think these are wonderful questions that should be put to every Presidential candidate, no matter what party. No dodging, no spinning, you gotta provide your answers in writing.

And you can't make reference to anything being done today. Provide us your ideas -- you can't criticize anyone else's.

Worthwhile exercise? I think so.


Tuesday, December 02, 2003

WHY DO THEY HATE YOU. MR. PRESIDENT?

That was embarrassing. I heard the reporter ask him that question and I wish he would've said, "because ignorant fuckwits like you want to see me fail, want to see America fail and want Israel to be turned into a territory occupied by the Palestinians". But he didn't.

It does raise a simple question. I've lived through every Republican President since Eisenhower and can't remember such vitriol as we hear now. On one level it's scary because it seems to be as visceral as the hate Islamists express toward anything American.

Adam Wolfson does a decent job of triangulating the problem in his column yesterday. His core thesis:

Almost all modern liberal thought begins with the bedrock assumption that humans are basically good. Within this moral horizon something such as terrorism cannot really exist, except as a manifestation of injustice, or unfairness, or lack of decent social services. Whether knowingly or not Bush has directly challenged this core liberal belief — and for this he is not easily forgiven.

It seems to me to be a benign version of the mideast cliche "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". In this tortured logic, al Qaida and the Taliban are more closely aligned to the American left than the American left is aligned with its President. Not far from the truth.


Monday, December 01, 2003

SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM IS PROBABLE NEXT YEAR

Assume the following:

1. The economy continues to grow, and;

2. Iraq is more stable six months from now.

If both happen, the Bush administration will go for the biggie - a reform of Social Security. Bush has previously mentioned his idea that a portion of the SS tax should be placed into a self-directed investment account. It seems this idea is getting some traction behind-the-scenes in Washington.

If you read the links, you will discover the reform provides the largest benefits to the lowest income workers, so how will the Democrats complain? If they're fair and objective, they'll try to get on the bandwagon. If they try to stifle it, they will be crushed in November for trying to block the reform.


GARBAGE IN ... GARBAGE OUT

If you're bored it's always interesting to read the same story written by two difference news organizations.

A good example is a report by the UN (that paragon of objective truth) last week that claimed there was an increase in the number of hungry people in the world. How they measure "hungry" is the interesting part to me (more about that later).

In its reporting of the UN report USA Today was pretty matter-of-fact, providing the high points of the story, but importantly including how "hunger" is measured.

The New York Times provided more detail, but conveniently left out the UN's "hunger" measurement. Hmmm.

I think I know why. You see, the standard is based upon a 2,300 calorie a day diet. That's probably a low number if you do a tremendous amount of physical labor each day, but most people would gain weight if their diet was 2,300 calories a day. The "hunger" level they set is something between 1,400 and 1,700 calories a day, enough for most people with a fairly inactive lifestyle to maintain their weight -- a "rich" diet for a supermodel.

In fact, I'd guess that if The New York Times surveyed it's own staff in New York, they'd discover that many are below the "hunger" threshold.

Wonderful thing, statistics.


DEN BESTE, WITH A WARNING TO ISLAMISTS

Read Steven's post today where he says what most Americans only think:

If you learn nothing else about America, learn this and imprint it on your brain in glowing colors: we will never surrender. There are many ways this war can end. That's not one of them.

His post is in response to an Iranian who e-mailed him, complaining about his conjecture regarding the use of nuclear weapons by the US on Muslim countries should Islamists use nukes against the US.


DON'T PICK ON FRANCE

Seriously, France is in deep shit. The best way to deal with France is the same way to deal with that crazy aunt you only see at Thanksgiving dinner -- smile, nod your head, say very little, and be thankful it'll be another year until the next time.

For all the publicity that France got over their anti-American attitudes this year, you'd think they really matter in the world. They don't. If you look at France objectively, you'd have to say they are very quickly devolving into a decidedly second-world state, which has a shot at becoming third-world if they keep it up.

So don't pick on France -- they don't matter anymore.


WHAT'S IT LIKE IN IRAQ?

It's hard to tell, given what you hear each day. The focus of the media is on the military, so the most important question -- is normal Iraq life, well, normal? -- never gets asked, let alone answered.

I found this piece today, written by a guy who's been there long enough to partially answer the question.