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10/31/2003

French Foreign Minister states the obvious 

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.......
When asked whether he could envision the United States pulling out of Iraq, de Villepin responded: "Obviously, a pullout from Iraq today would be catastrophic and would absolutely not correspond to the demands of the situation."
To say the least, Mr. Minister.

Some might even argue that the previous regime was catastrophic, and did not correspond with the demands of the situation.

UPDATE: John Rogers points to a poll which indicates that 32% of the American public would have the US leave Iraq immediately.
Get that? Almost 1/3rd of the American public needs to be slapped into reality by the French Foreign Minister.

That's like having your pronunciation criticized by President Bush.

I hope they're suitably embarrassed.

Krugman on GDP report: "hot water burn baby hot water burn baby" 

It's never easy to say "my bad", and Paul Krugman managed to do it badly in his most recent:
"To put it more bluntly: it would be quite a trick to run the biggest budget deficit in the history of the planet, and still end a presidential term with fewer jobs than when you started. And despite yesterday's good news, that's a trick President Bush still seems likely to pull off."
Oh, so it's Bush that's losing the jobs. I see.

I wonder if the 90s tech bubble, and resulting factory over-capacity, could have anything to do with it? Or if it could be related to the worldwide slide in manufacturing jobs among industrialized nations? Or possibly due to the economic slump occurring around the world? Or 9/11? Or the effects of the perfectly normal slump in the business cycle?

Nah. It's Bush.
Don't you know? Correlation has suddenly become causation. Really. It's the most amazing thing.

Tom Maguire has a good piece on more of the economic sleight of hand in Krugmans column. It's worth reading.

Reading round-up 

Surfing the blogosphere....

* The Man Without Qualities finds one blog who, apparently, hasn't heard the good economic news. Gosh, I wonder why?


* That leads me to check.....and, hey, suprise suprise! As of this morning, no mention of the massive GDP growth on the Democratic Party websites News Section, or their Blog. I guess it's just an oversight.


* I guess this is an oversight, too.
"...the White House has edited its website to keep search engines from archiving pages on Iraq."
No correction, and no update, despite the fact that it was apparently a glitch and it was immediately corrected.
"...in response to inquiries from 2600 and other sources, the White House web team has recently changed their robots.txt so that these files are no longer blocked."
Seems to me that the advantage of blogs is the ability to update what you write, if the story changes or the facts contradict you. If the DNC cannot do that basic blogging task, then their blog is.....well, just propaganda.


* The APwire this morning has this report:
"Virginians getting drivers licenses for the first time next year will have to provide documents proving they are in the country and state legally. The state has made changes in the laws since it was discovered that several of the nine-eleven
hijackers had Virginia I-D cards."
Thank goodness they didn't waste any time getting right on that.

Too bad they couldn't have started it a few months earlier, though, in time for the 2nd ANNIVERSARY of the attacks allowed by those loose license policies!


* The Angry Economist has an instructive, yet simple, discussion on trade deficits.
consider that you have a permanent trade deficit with the supermarket that you buy your food from. They are forever selling you things, you are forever paying them, and yet you NEVER offer to sell them anything. Nobody has a problem with this. Nobody is decrying the trade deficits that customers everywhere have with stores. Of course not, because the concept is just wrong.
* I'm always looking for more interesting pieces. If you've got one, or found one, feel free to pass it on to me. (audioboy101 (at) aol.com)

Luskin V. Atrios 

I have been reticent to comment on the apparent legal dispute between Donald Luskin and Atrios.

On the one hand, I like Donald Luskin....he's been very kind in our email exchanges. He's friendly, and he has responded to each message. That's a rare kindness, and it strikes me that he is a nice fellow.
Add to that my distaste for the insulting anti-intellectualism of Atrios, and I've got little reason to jump into the fight.

Except, I think it's important to be fair to your opponents. That's been the reason for my previous criticisms of Luskin....
Donald Luskin has been working hard to keep up with the ridiculous hyperbole and falsehoods that come pouring out of Paul Krugman on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, he does not appear to be immune to that same disease.
.....I think it's warranted this time, as well.

Well qualified lawyers have already pointed out that the suit has no merit. You don't need me to add my unqualified opinion. Other bloggers have also pointed out the negative effect it could have on the blogosphere.
I agree. This suit is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Having said that, let me repeat one of my previous points about Mr Luskin.
Unlike Paul Krugman....
"Luskin seems capable of admitting when he's wrong"
I hope he'll do so, again.

Windfalls of War..... 

Econopundit has a good point about the recent "Windfalls of War" piece....
"...the study uncovers many contracts awarded to poorly-connected companies who made only modest political donations, but actually dismisses these as still-corrupt owing to their having been awarded to unsuitable companies with 'thin or no credentials'!"
Apparently, they would only be satisfied if the administration gave contracts exclusively to companies who only donated to Democrats.

My own take: The study reaches conclusions based on correlation, not causation. They make logical leaps, while leaving out relevant data points that point to alternate explanations.

For example.....
More than 70 American companies and individuals have won up to $8 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years. Those companies contributed more money to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush - more than $500,000 - than to any other politician over the last dozen years.
This is news? Let me point out a few other things we know...
* Presidents, who engage in the most high-stakes election campaign, naturally get the largest donations. So, it is to be expected than a President will get more donation-money than, say, a Congressman. So, that narrows the competitive field down to only two people in the last 12 years....Bush and Clinton.

* The Defense industry tends to lean Republican, since Republicans are perceived to be stronger on Defense. And that means it follows that, war or no war, Bush would get more donations than Clinton from this industry.

So, what's the story? Where's the suprising data? What's news here?
Big Defense-industry businesses tend to give more to Republicans than Democrats? Thanks, but I think there are as yet undiscovered tribes in the heart of the Peruvian jungle who already knew that little bit of information.
...a bit of information that was, interestingly, absent from this report.

The report implies that the companies were selected because of connections...
Most of the companies that won contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan are political players.
Perhaps I'm a bit ignorant about the field, but aren't most major, qualified companies who work closely with the government, and apply for government contracts, "well connected", as a matter of course.

Are there really major defense industry contractors who have no connections?
I doubt it.

The report, of course, does not indicate the percentage of major, qualified companies who have no connections at all.

But did the Administration engage in a little tit for tat?
Kellogg, Brown & Root, the subsidiary of Halliburton - which Vice President Dick Cheney led prior to being chosen as Bush's running mate in August 2000 - was the top recipient of federal contracts for the two countries, with more than $2.3 billion awarded to the company.
$2.3 billion! That's a lot of profit!

Well, not so much. 2.3b is REVENUE. Revenue is not profit.

In fact, according to their 3Q financial statement, out of revenues of $900 million, Kellog, Brown and Root had a profit of.......you ready for the massive payback?


....wait for it.....


$34 million.

Yep, a profit margin of less than 4%. Good times are here again.

Look, I've no doubt that there is a degree of "politics" involved in the decision-making process. That's true for every industry. I've also no doubt that there is a lot of waste. It is, after all, government.

But the allegations that this is a "pay off" for friends and supporters is simply unsupported.

10/30/2003

The Economic Hydra 

In every silver cloud....
Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property
located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 7.2 percent in the third quarter of 2003..."
...there's a dark lining, as James Picerno points out:
In the world according to Darda, either gold is due for a fall or velocity is set to rise. Darda's betting on higher velocity, and by extension, higher inflation. That is, unless the Fed acknowledges the inflation threat and acts accordingly. That may be too much to expect now that the presidential election cycle has effectively begun.
Deflation has appeared to be the most significant threat, recently....but Picerno offers reason to believe otherwise....
As for the threat of deflation, Darda thinks worrying about this is akin to planning for a blizzard in Miami. As he told us on the phone yesterday, "There's never been a country in the history of the world that's experienced monetary deflation when the value of its currency is in decline against other currencies and gold."

The seeds of so many economic problems are sown with the "solutions" to a previous problem.

Thus...
* The growth following WW1 was "helped along" with simultaneous Government subsidies and loose monetary policy.....which caused the Great Depression.
* The Great Depression was "solved" with the New Deal....which caused the Depression to drag on until WW2.
* The Poverty rate problem of the 50s-early 60s was solved by the Great Society....which created a permanent tax-siphon on the economy, and subsidized non-productivity. (...and if you subsidize it, it will grow)
* The 70's. (you know)

A little tinkering here, and a little tinkering there, and we may put down one monster.
.....and succeed in creating our next monster.

My first and last post on Howard Deans sexuality 

Howard Dean isn't sure about his sexuality:
Dean declared himself a "metrosexual," the buzz phrase for straight men in touch with their feminine sides, as he touted his accomplishments in "equal justice" for gay and lesbian couples.

But then he waffled.

"I'm a square," Dean declared, after professing his metrosexuality to a Boulder breakfast audience with an anecdote about being called handsome by a gay man. "I like (rapper) Wyclef Jean and everybody thinks I'm very hip, but I am really a square, as my kids will tell you. I don't even get to watch television. I've heard the term (metrosexual), but I don't know what it means."
Tom Maguire notes that "in the millisecond between assertion and retraction, Dean's entire Southern "strategy" passed before his eyes."

One does have to wonder how that will play in the South.
Bill: "Honey, that Dean feller just called hisself a 'meterasekshul". Any idear what that is?"

Carol: "I don't know, dear....maybe he has relations on city buses?

Bill: "naw, I doubt it. I cain't see that feller ridin public transpertashun. I think he might be one a them, whatyacallit, folks who know how to match their pants and their shirt. I ain't sure I can vote for a feller like that."

Carol: "Dear, you haven't voted since Jimmy Carter."

Bill: "You're damned straight. If ya cain't trust a peanut farmer from Georgia, who can ya trust? Not one of these here meterasekshuls, that's fer sure. I ain't votin for em!"

Carol: "...but you never vote anyway."

Bill: "Well, this year, I ain't votin for him, specifically."
Yep. Howard Dean better get caught kissing his wife, and soon. Also, it wouldn't hurt if he made a few campaign stops at Hooters before Super Tuesday rolls around.

We're winning? Maybe 

Brian Anderson contends the conservatives are not losing the cultural war:
Almost overnight, three huge changes in communications have injected conservative ideas right into the heart of that debate. Though commentators have noted each of these changes separately, they haven’t sufficiently grasped how, taken together, they add up to a revolution: no longer can the Left keep conservative views out of the mainstream or dismiss them with bromide instead of argument. Everything has changed.
The three changes he cites are:
1: Cable TV, especially FoxNews
2: The internet, especially major right-of-center bloggers, Drudge, OpinionJournal, NRO, etc.
3: Book publishing, where conservative voices are finally breaking through in the mainstream.

Hm....I'm not sure I'd agree that it's necessarily a coup that the conservatives have created a News network that is just as biased as they believe the other networks to be. It smells of "if you can't beat em, join em".

Perhaps it's time for the right wing to quit claiming to be such media-martyrs? Perhaps.

One other observation. I note that a common thread in many of the changes noted by Mr Anderson is libertarianism.
From the blogosphere, to talk radio, to South Park (yes, South Park) libertarians have begun to get a voice in the public dialogue, and I think it's going to increase, as our "do as you will, but do no harm" ideology resonates with people grown tired of a too-large government.

Perhaps we will see a rebirth of respect for the individual? One can only hope.

Were Shakespeare an op-ed writer today..... 

He might write something like this.....
Friends, Americans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Bush, not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft forgotten during campaigns.

So let it be with Bush. The noble Democrats
Hath told you Bush was ambitious.

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Bush answered it.
Here, under leave of Wesley Clark and the rest --

For Clark is an honorable man,
So are they all, all honorable men --

Come I to speak in Bush's funeral.
He was the President, unfaltering and he gave tax cuts to me.

But John Kerry says he was ambitious,
And Kerry is an honorable man.

He hath brought liberation to Iraq,
and our own ransoms did their general coffers fill.
Did this in Bush seem ambitious?

When that the poor have cried, Bush hath sent them $87 billion.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.

Yet Gephardt says he was ambitious,
And Gephardt is an honorable man.

You all did see that in Florida
the voters twice presented him an election,
Which the Supreme Court did twice uphold. Was this ambition?

Yet Lieberman says he was ambitious,
And sure he is an honorable man.

I speak not to disprove what the Democrats spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.

You all did approve of him once, not without cause.
What cause withholds you then to vote for him?

O Judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And Bush's opponents have lost their reason!

GDP - 7.2% 

It's the economy, stupid:
Gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of economic activity, grew at a 7.2 percent annual rate in the quarter after growing at a 3.3 percent rate in the second quarter, the Commerce Department reported. Economists, on average, expected GDP growth of 6 percent, according to Briefing.com.
It's Bush's fault, you know.
....at least, that's what I've been hearing from the Democrats, and they wouldn't be saying it if it wasn't true, right?

It occurs to me...... 

If society was a swimming pool.....

* Democrats would make sure everybody got an equal amount of swimming time, even if that meant the pool was too crowded to actually swim. And the good swimmers would have to carry the dog-paddlers.

* Republicans would let swimmers do what they liked.....provided it was on the list of pre-approved swimming activities.

* Libertarians would keep the pool clean.

Gun Porn 

You know, at the end of the day, I'm just a guy. And guys, real guys, like cool stuff.

And this is cool stuff.

UPDATE: Old Link was blogspotted.....I've updated it, but you'll have to scroll down to the cool picture. You'll know it when you see it. It's the cool one.

10/29/2003

Sometimes, you just have to cut your losses 

"We're from the Government and we're here to help you. Whether you want it or not."
Roughly 40,000 poor people have been dropped from the Oregon Health Plan this year because of their failure to make monthly premium payments, some as low as $6 a month.
Sounds like a pretty clear declaration of the "will of the people", right?

Wrong. The bar, in Oregon, has been set very, very low.
Advocates for the poor say the premiums are too expensive for some people and the government may have overestimated the ability of people to mail a check.
What, they don't have enough time to mail that check? They're certainly not putting in too much overtime at work, so what's the problem?

Oh, and "overestimated the ability of people to mail a check". That may be the single most insulting statement I've ever read.
But the fact that it is, apparently, true does tend to mitigate the offensiveness. I guess this is exactly what "too stupid to live" means.

Fortunately, we have the government to pick up the pieces when times are tough and......uh, we can't be bothered to get off the couch.
"It's an enormous barrier," said Ellen Pinney, director of the Oregon Health Action Committee. "Let alone the $6, there is the whole issue of writing a check or getting a money order, putting it in an envelope with a stamp and putting it in the mail to this place in Portland that must receive it by the due date."
Funny, they don't seem to have any trouble feeding themselves, which is at least as difficult.

You know, once upon a time we believed in the Protestant work ethic: "if you don't work, you don't eat".
Then, we got the New Deal work ethic: "we'll find work for you, so you can eat."
Followed by the Great Society work ethic: "Find work. Don't find work. Whatever. We'll feed you."
Now, we have the Big Government work ethic: "we're going to feed you whether you like it or not."

Odd, isn't it, that right around the time the government started teaching darwinian evolution, they stopped allowing darwinian evolution.

(link via Best of the Web)

Oh, for gods sake, just change parties already, Zell. 

This can't be making Terry McAuliffe happy:
SENATOR ZELL MILLER OF GEORGIA, the nation's most prominent conservative Democrat, said today he will endorse President Bush for re-election in 2004 and campaign for him if Bush wishes him to. Miller said Bush is "the right man at the right time" to govern the country.

The next five years "will determine the kind of world my children and grandchildren will live in," Miller said in an interview. And he wouldn't "trust" any of the nine Democratic presidential candidates with governing during "that crucial period," he said. "This Democrat will vote for President Bush in 2004."
That's gonna leave a mark.

Well, when your Party platform is "anybody but Bush", there are bound to be a few people who aren't willing to vote for just "anybody".

(link via Captains Quarters)

Sharpton pulls out his only trick 

When all Al Sharpton has is a hammer, everything is a nail...
"Howard Dean's opposition to affirmative action, his current support for the death penalty and historic support of the NRA's [National Rifle Association's] agenda amounts to an anti-black agenda that will not sell in communities of color in this country."
I'd suggest that this ridiculous attack means Al Sharpton is struggling....but, then he's always resorted to this attack.

On the other hand, he's always been struggling, too.

For those who care about this sort of thing..... 

On the FCC and deregulation, Arnold Kling makes an interesting observation:
The FCC oversees industries in which competition is messy. Broadcasting and telecommunications do not resemble the economist's model of "perfect competition," in which there are no economies of scale or network effects or information asymmetries or dominant firms. In spite of all of these deviations from the ideal of perfect competition, Powell favors reducing the weight of the hand of government.

By defending markets even when competition is messy, Powell is being Hayekian. Friedrich A. Hayek, awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 1974, viewed Competition as a Discovery Procedure. He wrote, "market theory often prevents access to a true understanding of competition by proceeding from the assumption of a 'given' quantity of scarce goods. Which goods are scarce, however, or which things are goods, or how scarce or valuable they are, is precisely one of the conditions that competition should discover."

Powell's opponents are Stiglitzian. Joseph Stiglitz, awarded the Nobel Prize in 2001, wrote, "But information economics does not agree with Hayek's assertion that markets act efficiently. The fact that markets with imperfect information do not work perfectly provides a rationale for potential government actions."

Hayek would have the government tolerate messy competition. His point is that with the optimal outcome unknown, government resolution of issues shuts off the learning process that market competition provides.

Stiglitz sees the messiness in real-world economies, and he claims to have the right solution in every case. ....
Stiglitz's outlook is that markets are imperfect, but he is not. Where Marx offered dictatorship of the proletariat, Stiglitz would give us dictatorship of the Nobel Laureate. Between the two, we might be safer with Marx.

In Washington, the conventional wisdom is Stiglitzian. People do not run for office or seek appointments to high-level regulatory positions out of humility and respect for market processes. It is not surprising that the Beltway views Powell as at best eccentric and at worst a heretic.
What's really suprising is how little faith our elected officials have in the free market, and how much faith they have in monopoly. (provided, of course, the monopoly belongs to the government)

Another conspiracy theory goes "poof".... 

The White House was blocking certain webpages from showing up on search engines. It was a scandal! Obviously the administration was trying to put history down the memory hole, because "they want to make it harder to get caught if they do something like that again".

Obviously.

Except, not so much. Apparently, they were simply partitioning off the WhiteHouse website into separate templates, without every search returning duplicate results.

In fact, an Archive group was recently asked to do a thorough scan of the website and they said:
"[T]here was no hint of sinister intent in their expressed wishes. Instead, we were told "we could scoop everything up, no problem" -- a genuine desire to have whitehouse.gov material archived, on a topic-neutral basis."
Sorry, conspiracy theorists. Maybe next time.

(link via WizBangBlog)

Fun with Advertising 

Funniest. Commercial. Ever. (non-SuperBowl category)

(link via Donald Sensing)

Carnival of the Vanities... 

Always a good round up of the blogosphere, it's the Carnival of the Vanities.

I wish it was a daily round-up. What the blogosphere needs is a portal....a Drudge Report for blogs.
Somebody who rounds up the important, interesting and substantive posts from the blogosphere and keeps it constatly updated. Like Instapundit....but more.

Between the traffic, donations and sponsored links.....I've wondered if somebody could make money off that.

Any thoughts? Would it be something you'd visit/support?

Great Story 

Know what makes me cry? This.

I wish I'd been there to see it.

The Halliburton myth 

One of the most commonly cited meme's among the anti-war crowd is that Halliburton is "Making a Killing on the war".....that Halliburton was "profiteering".

Well, the results are in, and if Halliburton is profiteering...they suck at it.

From their 3rd Quarter financial statement, specific to subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root, who got the main contract to fight oil well fires and reconstruct oil fields in Iraq. (the "no-bid contract")
"KBR revenue for the third quarter of 2003 was $2.3 billion, an 80% increase over the third quarter of 2002. The improvement was primarily due to increases in government services activity and, to a lesser extent, progress on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and gas projects in Nigeria and Algeria, and hydrocarbon plants in North America and Europe."
Gasp! Their revenue was "largely due to the government activity!".

....but revenue is not necessarily profit, is it? Well, no. It's not.
And to "profiteer", you have to profit.
"Total company revenue and operating income from Iraq-related work in the third quarter were $900 million and $34 million, respectively. Iraq-related work contributed $0.05 per diluted share of earnings after tax."
So, after all the complaints that KBR was getting "billions" from administration cronyism....this is what we get? A 34 million dollar profit?

That's a Iraq-related profit margin of less than 4%. Be still my heart.

But, hey, something is better than nothing, right? Well, not always.
This war wasn't exactly "nothing but net" for Halliburton. Instability in the worldwide oil market hit their other revenue streams pretty hard:
"The increase in revenue was partially offset by lower revenues on projects in western Africa, Brazil and Asia Pacific, maintenance contracts in the United States and the United Kingdom, and the United States Government contract in the Balkans."
Hands up if you've heard the protestors mentioning the US government contracts to KBR/Halliburton that were reduced.

No? Funny, that.

The Red Cross bombing 

The Belgravia Dispatch takes a look around to find out what the Arab leaders thought of the recent killing of Arabs in the Iraq bombings. They condemned it, of course....I mean, killing Arab civilians during Ramadan? Well, not so much:
No. Not a whimper of condemnation from Hosni Mubarak (he tepidly wished for "Iraq's stability" in a meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister), Crown Prince Abdullah (who told a cabinet session that "he hoped Muslim countries and peoples would seize on the holy month of Ramadan to end all kinds of disunity and disputes"), King Abdullah (nada), or Bashar Assad (no surprise there).

....surely when Arab blood is spilled in such large number--Arab leaders might step up to the plate to condemn these vicious tactics?

Nope. Rather a quite deafening silence or broad banalities uttered about Ramadan bonhomie.
Telling.

On that note, Dale Franks has a related comment:
Hey, just out of curiosity, why is it that we have to walk on freakin' eggshells so as not to disturb anybody during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, but the Muslims themselves can blow up 40 people in homicide bombing attacks.

I'm just, you know, wondering.
Well, that's an easy one....Realpolitik.

We'll stand by the principles we value.....human rights, tolerance, and sensitivity.
The Arab/Muslim leaders will stand by the principles they value....the survival of their own tyrannies.

Oh, they're being consistent........provided one understands just what they want to be consistent about.

Marginal Revolution 

I've been enjoying the blog run by Tyler Cowen for some time, but haven't put it on the blogroll. That was an oversight and it has been corrected. Marginal Revolution is chock-full of excellent information on a variety of topics, but mostly focused on economics.

Plus, he's an economics professor at George Mason University, which is on my very short list of places at which I'd like to continue my education. (Walter Williams? Blogger Tyler Cowen? Nobel prize winners James Buchanan and Vernon Smith? I'd be a kid in that candy store)

A couple notes from Marginal Revolution.....

* Tyler points to historic evidence which suggests the current stock market optimism is probably justified....

* Some studies indicate that the US is ranked 21st in terms of per capita foreign aid. But, Tyler points out....
"These figures neglect remittances, where the U.S. is a very clear first with $28.4 billion a year sent to other countries. The bottom line: when it comes to other nations, the United States is the most generous country in the world."
We could be doing better, though. Tariffs, trade restrictions and subsidies hurt the US just as much as they hurt other countries.

Save the environment, destroy everything else..... 

In Techcentralstation, James Glassman writes on the cost/benefit of environmental initiatives....
"The Senate is set to vote Thursday on a bill that would impose mandatory restrictions on emissions of greenhouse gases, affecting practically every business and consumer in the country.

While supporters claim that the climate-change legislation, S.139, introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), has been toned down in response to concerns about its negative economic effects, a new study by Charles River Associates finds that the impact would still be dramatic -- a cost of between $350 and $1,300 per family per year through 2020.

At a minimum, the study found, "refined petroleum product prices would rise by 12 percent to 16 percent" even under the milder, amended McCain-Lieberman bill. Under the most optimistic assumptions, "the associated consumer costs are estimated to be $350 per household in 2010, rising to $530 per household by 2020."
Most large-scale environmentalist legislation (Kyoto, for example) reminds me of going to the doctor for a cold. Sure, he can write you a prescription that will make you fee a bit better, temporarily.

But the cold would go away whether you went to the doctor or not, and at the end of the day, you're paying 100 bucks to somewhat reduce your symptoms for two days.

But, you argue, "if we don't do something, we'll never get rid of the pollution!"
And I'd respond...."what in the world would make you believe that?"

History indicates otherwise. With the exponential advance of technology, one would be hard-pressed to argue that we will have the same problems in 50 years, that we have now. After all, coal was our major pollutant 100 years ago.....and when's the last time you saw a "Coal-dust Alert"?

So, why create "solutions", when we can be fairly certain that the problems will be solved, before the solutions can take effect? Why institute the Kyoto Treaty which purports to slow global warming by a degree or two by the year 2094, when it's hard to imagine we'll still be driving gas-powered cars in the year 2050?

In short, why not solve our problems with progress, rather than regress? It will leave us better prepared to handle the next problem.....and there will be a "next problem". Always.

Of course, the current problems aren't necessarily as bad as you may believe:
The Mann research is commonly known as the "hockey stick," for the shape of a graph that shows temperatures roughly flat from 1000 through the early 20th century, then rising sharply on the right-hand side, like the blade-end of a hockey stick. The United Nations used Mann's research to declare that "the 1990s has been the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year of the millennium."

A new paper, however, published in the journal Energy and the Environment, repudiates the Mann claims. Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick examined Mann's data and found his research "contains collation errors, unjustifiable truncation or extrapolation of source data, obsolete data, geographical location errors, incorrect calculation of principal components and other quality control defects."

A new computation, with the errors corrected, discovered that the "late 20th Century is unexceptional compared to the preceding centuries, displaying neither unusually high mean values nor variability." In fact, temperatures were higher during periods in both the 15th and 16th Century than they were in the late 20th Century.

UPDATE: Drudge is reporting:
German scientists who have created a 1,000-year-record of sunspots said Wednesday they discovered the Sun has been in a frenzy since 1940 and this may be a factor in global warming.
The Sun is not participating in the Kyoto Treaty, either. Unilateralist.

10/28/2003

Crucifying ANSWER on their Golden Double-Standard.... 

Ok ok... this will the third time I've mentioned this, and it may not be the last. I keep thinking of new reasons to ridicule A.N.S.W.E.R. for this (pdf).....
"...the occupiers now confront a people who have a long and proud history of resistance. The anti-war movement here and around the world must give its unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance."
So, I am to understand that A.N.S.W.E.R. is not really opposed to wars against the government of Iraq. They're just opposed to wars against the government of Iraq, if that government is the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

If, however, the government of Iraq is temporarily the United States, then they give their "unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance" (read: people who kill US soldiers and bomb the Red Cross)

That isn't dissent....it's hypocrisy.

...and treason.

Krugman, redux 

Recently, following another unsubstantiated bit of NYT Op-Ed pessimism, Econopundit called out Paul Krugman:
Professor Krugman, we issue this public challenge to you.

We've published all our data and announced the MODEL that generates PREDICTIONS similar to those of Secretary Snow.

On what MODEL do you base your ALTERNATE PREDICTIONS?

If you are not using a model are your predictions, rather, based on IRRATIONAL "GUT" FEELING?
As of yet, I've seen no response from Professor Krugman.

Odd, too, considering Professor Krugmans distaste for people who make unsubstantiated economic predictions.....
"I am a strong believer in the importance of models, which are to our minds what spear-throwers were to stone age arms: they greatly extend the power and range of our insight. In particular, I have no sympathy for those people who criticize the unrealistic simplifications of model-builders, and imagine that they achieve greater sophistication by avoiding stating their assumptions clearly."
I'm feeling a distinct lack of sympathy, too, Professor.

Notes from all over.... 

A brief round-up of items worthy of attention....

* Dale Franks brings back the Captions. Scroll down for more. Funny.
(also, he's the only guy in the blogosphere who has ever written the words "That's my kind of justiciating!" That's gotta be worth something)

* Looks like an interesting website. It allows you to look at any of the candidates positions/statements on the issues, or even compare two candidates on any given topic. (Mmmm...research) I'm saving it.

* Pejman asks whether we really want the anti-war crowd leading our country, considering their paucity of ideas that don't begin with the words "I hate" and end with "Bush". Oddly, he began the post with the correct answer, and finished with the question.

Also, he quotes Isaac Asimov, long my favorite author. Paul Krugman is a fan, too, but I don't think that invalidates Asimov.

* Glenn Reynolds, on the people who believe that God will visit his wrath on the US, if we allow gay marriage:
"Yeah: No-show for the Holocaust, or Rwanda, or what's going on in North Korea, but he's going to come down from the clouds and hurl lightning bolts if two guys get married."
* John Hawkins polled bloggers (including QandO), asking which books have had "The Biggest Impact On Their Thinking". Follow the link for his list.
My selections were as follows:
Fiction:

- Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien)
- Chronicles of Narnia (CS Lewis)
- Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
- Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (Dave Barry)

Non-fiction:

- Diplomacy (Henry Kissinger)
- Eat the Rich (PJ O'Rourke)
- Parliament of Whores (PJ O'Rourke)
- Life and Time (Isaac Asimov)
- The Relativity of Wrong (Isaac Asimov)
- Free to Choose (Milton Friedman)
....but I probably forgot a few.

The law is the law, except when it's not 

Samizdata finds another reason why more government doesn't necessarily mean better government...
It was reported last week that an Austrian farmer, Johann Thiery, had been fined and threatened with prison for selling "apricot marmalade" made from a traditional Austrian recipe passed on by his grandmother. Under EU rules "marmalade" can only be made from citrus fruit. Sternly defending Mr Thiery's punishment, a European Commission spokesman said: "The law is the law."

Next day Pedro Solbes, the EU's economics commissioner, was reported as defending the right of France and Germany to run up huge budget deficits, in flagrant breach of the Growth and Stability Pact. "Given the circumstances we face," he said, "it would be unwise to follow the letter of the law."
...and why would we assume it will be any different? After all, aren't the tendency towards double-standards a part human nature?

And when power is centralized....?
Centralization of power has the same effect on government that a monopoly has on the free market. Namely, "if you don't like the way we do it here....too bad. We're going to keep doing it to you."

Reason #8653 I cannot vote for a Democrat for President 

Nancy Pelosi chooses an interesting time to get serious about the war on terror:
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Friday police raids on dozens of U.S. Wal-Mart stores in the search for illegal immigrants this week amounted to "terrorizing" workers.
Yeah, Senator....United States policeman, enforcing the law. We should be fighting a War against that terror.

Is it any wonder that so many people find it hard to take the Democrats seriously on matters of national security?

She goes on....
"It instills a great deal of fear in people who are only trying to earn a living and put food on the table for their family," Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters on a Congressional visit to Mexico.
Well, I suppose it does, at that.

Good.

"Fear".....would you prefer criminals feel any other way?

(link via CountryStore)

Liberal Public Radio.... 

A. Barton Hinkle, in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, writes on the perception of NPR as "liberal".

It seems there's a good reason for it....
(Neil) Kuchinsky, a Colonial Heights attorney, recently sought to make a corporate contribution through his firm. He wanted the tag line to read, "Attorneys who are militant in opposing terrorism."

He did not choose the words idly. National Public Radio excels in delivering hard news, in-depth issue coverage, and "Hey, Martha" material (that is, amusing gee-it-sure-is-a-wacky-world stories that, if they appeared in print, would cause husbands to call out, "Hey, Martha, get a load of this!"). But NPR's on-air personalities occasionally display a smug, unctuous, faculty-lounge liberalism, and the news coverage from reporters in the field often reflects the bias; think of the program as the photo negative of Fox News. As noted here recently, of the past eight corrections NPR has made to its reporting on the Middle East, seven corrected an anti-Israel slant.

In fact, it was just such a slant that provoked Kuchinsky, who calls himself a moderate Democrat who could not bring himself to vote Republican. It rankles him that NPR often refers to terrorists as "militants." It rankles him especially because he has been on the receiving end of a Katyusha rocket attack in Israel, and because two years ago he was in the Jerusalem Sbarro's pizza joint where a terrorist bomb had killed 15 mostly teenage Israelis. He was there, he says, "before the blood had been cleaned up."
....
THUS KUCHINSKY'S interest in issues relating to terrorism is not merely academic. But when he requested his barbed tag line, he was told that "no promotion of ideological, theological, or political positions is allowed."

Fine, he said. He asked if his firm could state that "we are opposed to: (a) sexual exploitation of children; (b) world hunger; or (c) in favor of protecting the environment from environmental harm." He was informed that a tag line referring to something the firm is in favor of would be better than something it is opposed to. What's more, "The statement that your firm 'is in favor of protecting the environment from environmental harm' would be perfect for Earth Day. Would you like to run [that] announcement on Earth Day, which is April 22, 2004?"

Oops. What happened to no ideological or political doctrines?
Hinkle notes that the NPR station explained the inconsistency by claiming "The staffer who approved the environmental tag line probably was just trying to be solicitous toward a persistent would-be donor."

.....but it's odd, isn't it, how that "solicitousness" only arose when he made the more liberal-centric suggestion?

Look, this is very simple.....when you're willing to break the rules for one ideology, but not another, it's not called "trying to be solicitous".

It's called "bias".

Kerry, Lieberman: "All is lost! If only we could appease!" 

In response to the recent Baghdad bombings, President Bush remarked:
"The more progress we make on the ground, the more free the Iraqis become, the more electricity is available, the more jobs are available, the more kids that are going to school, the more desperate these killers become.

They can't stand the thought of a free society. They hate freedom. They love terror. They love to try to create fear and chaos."
His point? The Iraqi resistance fighters will get more and more desperate the more they lose. When cornered, they will fight harder.

It's hardly a suprising statement.

Except, of course, to Democrats who are running for President, many of whom managed to mangle the Presidents statement into (suprise!) conveniently attackable form......

Howard Dean?
"I just don't understand the president's logic - that because there is more violence and more deaths, things are going well. In my book, that means things are worse," said Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean.
Because there is more violence, things are going well? That doesn't sound like what Bush said. He said (paraphrase) "because there is progress, there will be violence".

But, sure...I can see how it would sound bad, if you misrepresent what the President said.

John Kerry-who-was-in-Vietnam?
"This sounds frighteningly like the 'light at the end of the tunnel' rhetoric of Vietnam. Every day, the White House's excuses become more insulting to our troops on the ground."
As opposed to the very complimentary approach taken by you, Senator Kerry, when you claim failure at every turn?

Keep ignoring the progress, Senator, all the way to the end.....
Just like Joseph Lieberman....
"With all respect, it makes no sense: This is a tragedy that occurred today, and it's amid growing signs of dangerous disorder in Iraq."
Growing signs of disorder.

Well, let's look at some of these growing signs of disorder.
- The Governing Council has been welcomed to a wide range of meetings, including the Arab League, the United Nations General Assembly and, last week, the Summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

- (The Iraqi Governing Council) run Iraq’s ministries, determining budgets and policies. They are responsible for personnel.

- In Baghdad alone some 800 men and women have been selected by their fellow citizens to represent them in neighborhood, district and city councils.

- Nationwide, 85 percent of Iraq’s cities and towns now have either town or provincial councils.

- Other organizations, from Parent Teacher Associations to the Bar Association and sports federations across the country are electing their own leaders.

- Electric power has returned to pre-war levels.

- Hospitals, health clinics and schools have reopened across the country.

- Markets are offering a wide range of goods and services.

- ...two weeks ago the Minister of Communications announced the award of three mobile telephone licenses which will, for the first time, give Iraqis access to mobile communications.

- In the past five months, the Coalition has completed over 14,000, individual reconstruction projects, large and small, all across Iraq.

And according to the Middle East Media Research Institute:
- For the first time in more than 30 years, there are no torture chambers and no arbitrary arrests or executions.

- The Iraqi press publishes uncontrolled and uncensored.

- Freedom of religion has also returned to Iraq.

- Four and a half million students started school on October 1, 2003.

And what do the Iraqi people think? Do they see progress or disorder? Fortunately, somebody asked them....
The Saudi newspaper Okaz has run an opinion poll in Iraq, asking people to agree or disagree that "Iraq, and the people of Iraq, are today better off than they were in the past." Sixty-six percent of the respondents "strongly agreed" and another 17 percent "agreed." Only 17 percent disagreed."

At some point, the constant Vietnam references, invocations of "quagmire" and defeatism begin to sound less like a Party trying to keep the President focused on the goal and more like a Party with their own set of goals.....goals which have very little to do with success in Iraq.

But they have a lot to do with that upcoming election.

10/27/2003

Why A.N.S.W.E.R. marched.... 

A.N.S.W.E.R., the organizer of this past weekends "Rant...er, March on Washington", is an interesting group to make the claim that the Iraq war was "justified to the public by the White House in a series of poorly bundled lies..."

On the other hand, A.N.S.W.E.R. knows lies.....

For starters, they write:
"100,000 people marched through the streets of Washington, D.C. today..."

100,000? Who's kidding who.....they even link to pictures that show differently.

Nobody, not even the Park police or the WaPo, counted anything resembling 100,000. That should come as no suprise, given their track record at head-counting. ("ANSWER's Jan. 18 demonstration, the largest antiwar rally in Washington since the Vietnam War. That protest, was put at 100,000 by police and 500,000 by organizers.")

But they really put together an impressive series of "poorly bundled lies" in a piece called "WHY WE ARE MARCHING ON WASHINGTON OCTOBER 25, 2003".

I'll list the lies.....
Lie #1:
"The occupation is not liberation. The Iraqi people want the U.S. troops to leave and the soldiers want to go home."
Lie and lie.


Lie #2:
The demonstration will also expose that Bush's war in Iraq is really a rich man's war. A central goal of the war is to privatize (i.e. steal) Iraq's vast oil fields for the benefit of U.S. corporate and banking elites who in turn are plowing hundreds of millions of dollars into George W. Bush's campaign coffers.
Right. War for oil. That's why you don't see other countries working out oil deals with Iraq right now........uh....well....oops.

Industry mag GasAndOil.com writes:
One prominent theme of those who opposed the Iraq war was that it was "all about oil." The United States was obviously concerned about the uses to which Iraqi oil revenue were being put under Saddam Hussein, but the notion that it wanted to grab production facilities or hijack drilling rights was always absurd.

Now that it is in reluctant control of the country, the US administration might think it reasonable that US oil companies play a major part in Iraq's oil resurgence, but it seems that US companies are less than wiling to accept this "inside track." Recently, it was announced that Robert E. McKee, a retired executive with ConocoPhillips, would be taking over the role of Iraqi oil czar from Phillip J. Carroll, another former oil executive, who was appointed in the wake of the war.
Mr McKee's appointment seems to indicate that Iraqi energy czardom might not be everything it was cracked up to be. Mr Carroll had ambitious plans for getting the Iraqi oil business going, but getting oil companies of any nationality to invest in Iraq at the moment is an uphill struggle. And the Iraqis want to do it for themselves anyway.

Mr Bahr al-Ulum invited foreign oil investors to come on down. Any foreign investors.
So, what ANSWER is saying is that, other than all the foreign participation in the Iraq oil industry, it's all about US domination. And other than all that money we're sending Iraq, it's all about how much money we can steal from them.

You know, the "War for Oil" canard has been brought out for every war in recent memory, and in every instance, it has fallen flat on its face. You'd think that lines constant failure would discourage protestors from using it.....but, damn it, it just fits so well on a sign. Plus, hey, no big words!

So, I can see why they have to keep using it.


Lie #3:
At the cost of $6 billion per month (that is $1.5 billion each week) the price tag for the U.S. occupation of Iraq is being paid for by dramatic budget cuts in primary education and at the college level, as well as in health care, housing, veterans benefits, and other programs that assist working and poor people.
Really? Wow....that sounds terrible! Gosh, I better go check the budget to find out just how much those programs have been cut!

Education? Nope, that's up 6%.

Health Care? Nope, Health and Human Services is up 3%.

Housing? Nope, HUD is up 1%.

Veterans benefits? Nope, that's up 11%.

Other programs for working/poor people? Huh...so help me god, I can't seem to find a Department of Stuff for Working and Poor People, but I do recall Bush extending unemployment benefits, adding Medicare/drug benefits, and signing a tax cut which (through August) refunded 21 billion to parents/10% bracket taxpayers/married couples, and cut another 12 billion in small-business/depreciation taxes. (which helps...you know, the people who benefit from businesses spending more money)

It's almost like ANSWER is just begging to be wrong. I mean, this stuff is available to everyone. They could even look it up, in between all the foaming and fomenting.


Lie #4:
The occupation is a violation of the Iraqi people's fundamental right to self-determination by the U.S. government which pursues Empire in the interests of the U.S.-based corporate and banking elites.
Well, this isn't so much a lie as an unsupported collection of drooling, based on the hard-to-comprehend premise that a "dictatorship" is equivalent to "self-determination".

Really. They said that. One is tempted to point them towards a dictionary.

Let me re-write their sentence, taking into account the reality in prewar Iraq:
"The occupation is a violation of Saddam Husseins fundamental right to dictatorship....."

Well, yes, I could agree with that. Except the part about the "fundamental right".
Also, the implication that it's a bad thing...I'd disagree with that, too. Heads on sticks....that's my preferred foreign policy towards Dictators. ANSWER, though, prefers to "recognize their fundamental rights" to be dictators.

Noble.


Lie #5:
This was never a war to defend the United States from the supposed "grave and imminent danger" posed by Iraq. That claim was a bold-faced lie.
Hey, they did my job for me! They're absolutely right...that claim IS a bold-faced lie.

Minus the historic revisionism, the quote was actually that Iraq was a "grave and gathering threat". I don't mean to be picky, here, but usually when you put words in quotes, they're supposed to be, you know, actual quotes.


Lie #6:
Killing tens of thousands of Iraqis and sacrificing a growing number of U.S. soldiers - who are being killed or maimed in the interests of Halliburton, Bechtel, Exxon/Mobil, Citibank and Chase - is what reveals the criminal character of the whole endeavor.
Even the anti-war website Iraqbodycount.org only counts "between 7768 and 9578".

The Associated Press reported "More than 3,000 civilians are likely to have been killed".

And, of course, one must mention that it was the Iraqi militants who were intentionally shooting their own civilians.

Well, one should mention that, but I'm sure ANSWER just forgot. At least they continue their proud tradition of difficulty with numbers.

One final note....ANSWER writes this:
The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition believes that only a true mass movement of the people can end the criminal occupation of Iraq and bring the troops home.
A mass movement of the people, huh? Well, ANSWER does support one specific group of people they hope can "bring the US troops home".
"...the occupiers now confront a people who have a long and proud history of resistance. The anti-war movement here and around the world must give its unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance."
Sure, they want the US troops brought home......specifically, they want the troops brought home in body-bags.

Poorly bundled lies, indeed.

At best, the people who marched with ANSWER are simply ignorant fools, unwittingly complicit in ANSWERs support for the killing of US soldiers.
At worst, and I use this word rarely and with great precision, they are traitors.

Who's winning? 

In an ongoing battle, one group effectively dominates the region with the only military in the conflict, controlling boundaries and operating at will within those boundaries to respond to attacks.....the other group is stuck with car-bombs, suicide attacks, and occassional protest-marches.

Who would you say is winning that fight? Why, I'd say it's Israel.
In fact, at best, the Palestinian resistance is simply a persistent thorn in the side of Israel. At worst, they are the authors of their own misery.
In any case, Israel remains a thriving democracy, despite the terrorists in their midst.


So, when the same thing happens in Iraq, why should we assume that we're losing?

Focus on the prize. Our goal is not "0 casualties", and our goal is not "Eden on Earth". Although both would be ideal.

Our goal is the institution of a stable, democratic government. Car-bombs do not deter us from that goal in the least.

Carnival of the Capitalists 

Responding to demand with supply, at a mutually acceptable price....it's the Carnival of the Capitalists:

Read it. Or dont. It's a free society and nobody can force you to do so against your will.

Of course, were this the Circus of the Socialists, you'd each be forced to read a certain percentage of the Circus, whether you wanted to or not. And if you wanted to read more? Well, that's too bad. It's been assigned to somebody else, and they have to read it whether they want to or not.

Me? I'm reading the Carnival of the Capitalists. Voluntarily.

Democratic Party Policy: "Vive la resistance!" 

Kevin Hassett, in Techcentralstation, discusses how hatred has replaced policies among the Democratic candidates:
The hate of Bush is so powerful that it has even dominated Democratic tax policy. For example, Wesley Clark announced his tax plan in a speech on Wednesday, and the details were oddly familiar. Like just about every other Democratic candidate, Clark has proposed an enormous tax hike. And what form does that tax hike take? Why the same form chosen by his competitors. Clark would roll back the tax reductions that President Bush passed for those taxpayers who make more than $200,000 per year. The only debate among the Democratic candidates appears to be whether one should roll back most of what Bush accomplished (Clark, Kerry), or erase the man's efforts from the history books entirely (Dean) even if that means a tax hike for just about every voter.

Such a focus is bizarre. Suppose you were a candidate with a genuine intent to make the world a better place. You might convene a committee of the finest tax policy minds in the world and ask them to list the ten biggest problems with the tax code. You might then ask these men and women to suggest tax policies that would fix these problems, and even, as a Democrat concerned with social justice, constrain the proposals reach with specific "fairness" targets. In the end, you would have a product that you could sell to voters, your own plan to make the world a better place.

The Democratic candidates each studied the tax code and the economy and reached precisely the same conclusion: The way to improve the world the most is exactly to reverse the tax policy of George Bush. Such a convergence of answers is extraordinarily improbable. There is no economic model that suggests that the tax code as inherited by Bush was some kind of bliss point of optimal tax policy, nor will there ever be. There is nothing magical about a marginal tax rate of 39.6 percent.
No, but there is something almost magical about tossing rhetorical red meat to the crowd. It makes you feel good. It makes them feel good. It reinforces something you have in common....a visceral hatred.

It does not, however, constitute thoughtful analysis, any more than did Hitlers analysis of Churchill as merely a "puppet of Jewry".
Good red meat for the crowds.....but as policy? Mindless.
When high school students who sit next to each other give the same wrong answer it is a sign of foul play. In a similar manner, the fact that Democratic candidates all have converged to the same tax policy is a sign of foul motive. Rational analysis can not explain their policy proposals. Only hatred of Bush can.

There's an old Groucho Marx song that could be the theme of this crop of candidates:
I don't know what they have to say,
it makes no difference anyway -
whatever it is, I'm against it!
No matter what it is or who commenced it,
I'm against it!
Your proposition may be good,
but let's have one thing understood -
whatever it is, I'm against it!
And even when you've changed it or condensed it,
I'm against it!!
Since I'm on the topic, there's another Groucho-ism that seems appropriate:
The last man nearly ruined this place,
he didn't know what to do with it.

If you think this country's bad off now,
Just wait 'til I get through with it!

20 questions with Pejman 

Pejman Yousefzadeh has been subjected to the most rigorous of interrogations, of the sort usually reserved for Democratic Presidential debates.

Sample question:
So you've got a pretty cool blogroll. Can we get listed if we ask really nicely?
Jeez. What a softie. I would have asked him something tougher, like:
Hey, how come I'm not blogrolled!?!? Have that taken care of!"

Now that's dedication to blogging... 

Dale Franks is blogging from the inferno. (read: California)
The fire is about 1 mile away from our vantage point, which puts it about 1 1/2 miles from the house.

In case we have to evacuate, we have the staple items packed. All we have to do is gather up the pets, throw the stuff into the car, and we're outta here.

Fortunately, there is almost no wind in the area right now, so the fire is spreading very slowly. But, the trouble with Santa Ana winds is that they can come up suddenly, and blow up to 50 miles per hour. In that case, the fire could be here in less than an hour from where it is now.
It's not a reassuring place to be, and he has pictures to prove it.

I've gotta admire my blogfathers dedication to blogging, but damn, dude. Get off the computer. Leave. Get outta Dodge.

...however, if you do stay, more cool pictures of stuff on fire, please.

10/26/2003

Your Honor, I plead stupid 

Today's Richmond Times-Dispatch has a story on John Allen Mohammeds brief foray into the world of "Sniper: Attorney-at-Law".

Notable moments in legal history.....

* "We know something happened. They [the prosecutors] wasn't there. I was. I know what happened and what didn't happen."

* "I had nothing to do with these crimes, directly or indirectly."

* (Prosecution witness British Army Sgt. Maj. Mark) Spicer said that several items police had seized from the Caprice, including detailed maps, GPS equipment and a set of walkie-talkies, were classic tools of sniper teams.

In his cross-examination, Muhammad suggested that all the objects Spicer had described were common enough that anyone might carry them into a shopping mall. He seemed to have momentarily forgotten about the Bushmaster rifle, but the chief prosecutor, Paul Ebert, had not.

After Muhammad sat down, Ebert picked up a replica of the Bushmaster and held it up. "Ever seen somebody walking around with one of these weapons in the mall?" Ebert asked, more to the jury than to the witness.

* Cross-examining a fingerprint specialist ...he asked pointedly, "Is fingerprinting more of a science, or is it more of a guess?"

A science, the expert replied.

Muhammad quickly moved on to another topic.

A.N.S.W.E.R. answered.... 

Two invaluable responses to A.N.S.W.E.R.'s protest against the US action in Ira....er, against US actio....er, against the US.
Yeah, I think that last is probably the best description.

PetBunny went to the site and documented the virulence herself. With pictures. And insight:
Fighting the power? Destroying the USA? Isn't this supposed to be a peace rally?
Nope. Remember, they're not against war....they're against the US. It's different. Destroying the US would be ok, because it would free people from the chains of US tyranny, while destroying the Saddam regime would just.....um, you know. Kill another socialist.

Also, there was this, with corresponding pictures...
As usual, giant puppets attended the rally, if only to let the world know on which side they stand. This time they stood as mute witnesses, leaving the job of articulating a coherent argument to the......spokesclowns. Serious, pro-Saddam spokesclowns.
The whole thing is a brilliant look at the unbelievably tacky, disgusting and anti-american (rather than anti-war) quality of these protests.


In fact, I would add this "Even if I wasn't pro-war, I couldn't be a member of the anti-war movement, because of the company I would have to keep".....if RocketPenguin hadn't added it already, along with some first class A.N.S.W.E.R. ridiculing.

He cites their anti-war pamphlets:
1. Relief was quickly replaced by limitless U.S. triumphal, and the announcement that the invaders were now hunting the leaders of the ousted regime, the same way that in earlier manifestations of colonialism the authorities tracked and killed the leaders of defeated slave revolts.

Holy Shit! Did they just say that noble Saddam was leading the poor little brown slave people against the cruel white masters? I don't even have anything to say to that. Wow.

And perhaps most tellingly of all:
4. "Having achieved their victory, however, the occupiers now confront a people who have a long and proud history of resistance. The anti-war movement here and around the world must give its unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance."

Is this an anti-war pamphlet or an al-Qaida training manual? They support the killing of U.S. soldiers. They think it's heroic. Supporting the resistance is treason. The author of this pamphlet is attempting to be principle to the crime of treason.
Let's be clear on this. It IS possible to oppose the war on solid, and rational intellectual grounds.

It is NOT possible to stand shoulder to shoulder with these people and do so. They are, in no uncertain terms, active supporters of Saddam Hussein, and they support the continued killing of US soldiers.

The rest of RocketPenguins fisking is good, too. Plus, he's a soldier in the US military and may soon be going to Iraq. Let's hope he continues blogging.

10/25/2003

Saturday Note 

Limited blogging today, as I will be busy having a life.

In the meantime, it may be worth your time to scan the archives, as a lot of this blog is meme-centric, rather than event-driven. (meme-centric....new word?)

In particular, I'd draw your attention to my post-war review of the justification for war.

It is a long, thorough, and link-filled compedium of the evidence for the justification of war. Useful in debates, research and parties. (but not fun parties)

Thanks for visiting.

10/24/2003

Inquiry strikes irony.... 

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is getting critical, but ironic.

Key criticisms:
The committee staff was surprised by the amount of circumstantial evidence and single-source or disputed information used to write key intelligence documents ...
...
The intelligence was sometimes "sloppy" and inconclusive, he (Sen. Pat Roberts) said.
"Single-sourced", "sloppy" and "inconclusive".

Well, they should know

Insufficient sources?
"Tenet shot back an angry letter criticizing the committee for not interviewing enough people."
"...nor has it accepted an offer made Wednesday by Tenet to hear from him and senior intelligence officials."

Sloppy?
According to CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, "the committee has yet to take the opportunity to hear a comprehensive explanation of how and why we reached our conclusions,"

Inconclusive?
"It is hard to understand how the committee could come to any conclusions at this point, particularly while the efforts of (weapons search leader) Dr. David Kay in Iraq are at an early stage," said CIA spokesman Bill Harlow.

(note: I'm very much in favor of a investigation into our intelligence data. It's vital. I'm just opposed to "single-sourced, sloppy, inconclusive" blame-storming)

Econopundit on Krugman 

In reference to Paul Krugmans latest, Econopundit asks Krugman to put his cards on the table:
It is really hard to read beyond this point:
John Snow, the Treasury secretary, told The Times of London on Monday that he expected the U.S. economy to add two million jobs before the next election -- that is, almost 200,000 per month...[N]othing in the data suggests that jobs are being created at that rate...Still, Mr. Snow may get lucky, and the job market may pick up.

...this is about more than just "luck," isn't it? We're economists here. We deal with models, and numbers, you know, scientific stuff.
And it's true....there are models that forecast the economic future and Econopundit has used them....
Unforseen events can change this conclusion, but best currently available evidence suggests those willing to round 1.77 up to 2.0 will, by election time, be able to claim the Bush Presidency has "created" 2 million new private sector jobs.
Will it be accurate? Well, who can tell, at this point? But Econopundits models have been pretty accurate in the past. (What? You haven't been reading him every day? Well, go back and do so. I'm not going to find everything for you!)

So, with his cards facing up on the table, Econopundit calls:
Professor Krugman, we issue this public challenge to you.

We've published all our data and announced the MODEL that generates PREDICTIONS similar to those of Secretary Snow.

On what MODEL do you base your ALTERNATE PREDICTIONS?

If you are not using a model are your predictions, rather, based on IRRATIONAL "GUT" FEELING?
....
Please let us know. Otherwise I think it will be clear you're speaking not as an economist, but merely as a Democrat hoping for bad economic news.
It will be instructive to hear Mr Krugmans answer. Or, lack thereof.

C-Span: "Krugman is unbalanced" (well, something like that) 

Donald Luskin notes a recent C-Span exchange with a Krugmanite....
"Bobby" -- the sycophantic keeper of the Paul Krugman online shrine -- is incensed that CSPAN refuses to archive a lecture by Krugman on its website. "Bobby" claims that in a letter to him, a CSPAN employee told him,
"After being told I would be allowed to post Paul Krugman's speech online, and then passing the news onto you, it came down that we needed to hold off on such an action in order to maintain the balance of partisan voices featured on booktv.org."
Hey, C-Span just called Krugman "unbalanced"! (well, sorta) We've been saying that all along!

Luskin continues....
"Bobby's" reaction? You guessed it:
"This sounds an awful lot to me like C-Span Online is censoring Krugman for his (very moderate) political views..."
"Bobby" must not be keeping up with Professor Krugman, as befits a "Keeper of the Shrine".
Otherwise, he'd never use the word "moderate" to describe Krugman, who self-indentifies as "radicalized".

Perhaps Donald (Stalker) Luskin should submit an essay for "Bobby" to post to the PKArchive.....
......I wonder how "Bobby" would feel about censorship then?

If not for your donations..... 

Where have I heard this stuff before? A two-day fundraising drive with comments like:
* "...donors came through Friday with pledges big and small..."
* "All of us are here today to make a strategic investment in hope."
* "Now is the time for all of us to be generous with money..."
* "...opened the pledging session with promises that....would not forget those who helped."
* "give and give generously".
* "The amount we have is very encouraging"
It all sounds so very familiar.......hm....

Oh, right. Now, I remember....
* "We conduct two major on-air fundraising campaigns per year to raise needed operating funds"
* "Your support is vital to (our) existence."
* "Thank you for doing your part"
* "the most important thing that everyone gets from pledging is the satisfaction and comfort that they are helping us out tremendously in our effort..."
* "please consider making a donation. Any amount is both helpful and very appreciated"
One of the above is an NPR fundraiser.....the other, the Iraqi fundraising conference in Madrid. Good luck telling 'em apart.

Hey, if things don't work out well in Madrid, maybe we can send Jerry Lewis in to have a telethon. That should get France on board.

New Blog Showcase... 

Truthlaidbear opens the New Blog Showcase again, and I'm voting for Captains Quarters. In response to an article about the recent Boykin scandal which claims "the issue is not whether the general is free to express his views, but whether Secretary Rumsfeld wants someone who holds such views in high office."....
The Captain writes:
I'm really at a loss as to what remedy Zakaria recommends here. Is he really calling for a religious test for government office? Because up until now, no one has proposed that non-Christians be barred from military command or the State department. Zakaria can't have it both ways. Either we are all free to worship as we please without fear of punishment or retribution, or we can start chucking people out of their jobs for religious expression we don't like. Is that what Zakaria wants?
Using religious views as a basis for employment is illegal for those of us in the private sector.

Not so much in Washington, though. There, it's de rigueur.

The Saudi problem.... 

Interesting perspective in the comments section of Cold Fury on our apparent lack of action with Saudi Arabia.
Jeff writes:
I sympathize with those who believe our policy vis a vis Saudi Arabia may appear schizophrenic - what with denunciations one day and Crawford BBQ's (sans pork) the next

But there is a deeper strategy here. The Saudi government is not a monolith - instead, it is riven by a variety of factions that fall into two broad camps. The first (headed by Crown Prince Abdullah) is nominally pro-American. They may have no great love for the US - but they don't seek our destruction and are willing to work with us as long as it serves their own interests.

The second faction is much more dangerous. Led by Interior Minister Nayef, it is the primary source of virulent anti-American religious rhetoric and is also a key supporter of Wahabism (forgive the spelling) - which in turn is the instigator of the bulk of the Muslim world's embrace of Jihadism.

Bush and co. have to balance these factions carefully. Lean too hard on Abdullah - and he might go down in flames - which would greatly empower Nayef. Go too easy, and we're perceived as weak - and the fanatical message continues unabated.
Interesting. There are other considerations, as well, including the power that the Saudi ruling family holds, through control of OPEC and their massive overseas investments which, if withdrawn, would have a very significant impact on our (and the worlds) economy.

As Jeff indicates, the answer is not a simplistic "get tough". Not yet, anyway.

It wasn't always this way... 

Yesterday, I took care of my slightly ill son while my wife was out, and had a few poignant moments with him. Plus, I noticed that fall was really here, and summer was completely gone.

So, after I had a Lileks sort of day, it's only fair that Lileks do some investigative blogging.....
It’s the Ds of the Daschle stripe who bug me, the ones who seem to think the Iraq invasion was something we did for kicks and grins, and didn’t have the same geopolitical or moral imperatives as, say, President Clinton’s decision to invade Haiti once Raoul Cedras kicked out the UN observers.

No, I didn't have Cedras' name at the tip of my fingers; I googled. And found some interesting things. From the LA Times right before Operation Restore Democracy: “The Clinton administration won rhetorical backing from Caribbean republics Tuesday for an invasion of Haiti, but came away virtually empty in its attempt to sign up allies for military action to restore ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.”
.....
Can’t stop the googling on this one. Found this, from Time:

PRESIDENT CLINTON asked aides at a National Security Council meeting on Haiti to prepare a comparison between a possible U.S. invasion of Haiti and Reagan's 1983 invasion of Grenada. Clinton wanted a study of forces needed, likely casualties -- and rationales used. After the meeting one official asked, half joking, " Are there any Americans in medical school in Haiti ?" Another answered, " No, but we've found two American dentists there."

Does this sound, well, odd to you? Imagine this in Time:

"President Bush asked aides at a National Security Council meeting on Iraq to prepare a comparison between a possible US invasion of Iraq and Clinton’s 1994 invasion of Haiti. Bush wanted a study of forces needed, likely casualties - and rationales used. After the meeting one official asked, half jokingly, 'are there any American dentists in Iraq?' Another answered, 'No, but we’ve found two American chiropractors there.'”

That anecdote would be the main talking point for a week. Joking about making up rationales? They’d be waving the articles of impeachment.

Googling the Haiti war is an interesting exercise, if only to revisit old fault lines. Thrill! as conservatives grumble that we’ve no business nation-building. Gasp! as liberals insist that the Armed Forces should be used to topple tyrants.
Funny, how much one little letter changes things. Put a little (R) behind the Presidents name, and watch that techtonic shift in Washington. Right is wrong! Wrong is right!

...and I don't think it's going to be getting any more intellectually honest, any time soon.

Oh, the price.... 

This would probably require some changes to the Social Security system.....
Scientists say people could live active lives for hundreds of years if humans follow the same biological rules as laboratory worms.
Hm.....if we were more like worms.....

Could explain the longevity of Fidel Castro, and Yasser Arafat.

10/23/2003

Don't have to read between the lines for this.... 

God must not be happy about getting his own movie:
Actor Jim Caviezel has been struck by lightning while playing Jesus in Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion Of Christ.
The lightning bolt hit Caviezel and the film's assistant director Jan Michelini while they were filming in a remote location a few hours from Rome.
I guess Old Testament God has returned, and he's rediscovered lightning.

But that's not the worst of it.....
It was the second time Michelini had been hit by lightning during the shoot.
So, while making a movie about Jesus, he gets hit by lightning.
Twice.

There's a message there somewhere.

The Falseness of Anti-Americanism  

Interesting article, in Foreign Policy, by Fouad Ajami:
Pollsters report rising anti-Americanism worldwide. The United States, they imply, squandered global sympathy after the September 11 terrorist attacks through its arrogant unilateralism. In truth, there was never any sympathy to squander. Anti-Americanism was already entrenched in the world's psyche - a backlash against a nation that comes bearing modernism to those who want it but who also fear and despise it.
The tall tree catches the most wind, and capitalism weilds the tallest piece of lumber in the world.

Ludwig Von Mises said "All people, however fanatical they may be in their zeal to disparage and to fight capitalism, implicitly pay homage to it by passionately clamoring for the products it turns out."

The world is paying homage with one hand, while carrying a picket sign with the other.

Ajami goes on to describe the inevitability (and irony) of anti-Americanism, and concludes well:
The United States need not worry about hearts and minds in foreign lands. If Germans wish to use anti-Americanism to absolve themselves and their parents of the great crimes of World War II, they will do it regardless of what the United States says and does. If Muslims truly believe that their long winter of decline is the fault of the United States, no campaign of public diplomacy shall deliver them from that incoherence. In the age of Pax Americana, it is written, fated, or maktoob (as the Arabs would say) that the plotters and preachers shall rail against the United States - in whole sentences of good American slang.

A friend in need.... 

You learn who your friends are, when times are tough. And Iraq is learning.....
A top Iraqi official attending an international conference on raising funds to rebuild Iraq warned Thursday that France and Germany's limited donations would not be forgotten.

Ayad Allawi, the current head of Iraq's U.S.-appointed governing council, said he hoped German and French officials would reconsider their decision not to boost their contributions beyond funds already pledged through the European Union.

"As far as Germany and France are concerned, really, this was a regrettable position they had," Allawi said. "I don't think the Iraqis are going to forget easily that in the hour of need, those countries wanted to neglect Iraq."
I've got competing reactions:

1: Good.....they're making their own decisions and their decisions are more Western than European. (Now, quick, somebody teach them to say "take a hike, Chirac")

Or.....

2: Crap. Here it comes.....from now on, the sort of people who believe the world can be divided into "governments who oppose the US" and "Puppet Governments installed by the Imperialist United States" will have something to talk about.

On the other hand, #2 is pretty much unavoidable, but it's not every day that a country begins to stand on its own two feet.

Fiscal responsibility 

Proof positive that Washington only believes in "fiscal responsibility" on the tax side. The spending side? Every day is Christmas.
For the fifth straight year, members of Congress will see a jump in their paychecks in 2004, with election-year salaries rising from the current $154,700 to about $158,000.

The Senate, on a 60-34 vote Thursday, rejected a proposal to exempt senators from a cost-of-living increase going to all civilian federal workers and military personnel. Last month the House, by a similar convincing margin, also turned back an attempt to deny lawmakers an automatic share of the COLA increase.
To review:

* Cutting taxes for rich people? Bad.

* Giving raises to rich Senators? Good.

Credit where credit is due, though....
As in past years, the effort to deny senators their pay raise was led by Sen. Russ Feingold (search), D-Wis., who has a policy of returning to the Treasury any pay he receives that is above his salary when he began his six-year term.

Would Saddam use terrorism?  

A remark on Daniel Drezner's blog.....
The quotes...indicate that the administration argued at various points that Hussein would use terrorist groups as his delivery mechanism. Holsclaw, in characterizing the Cheney quote, acknowledges:
"This quote points out Saddam's capability, and our knowledge about Saddam's willingness to use such capabilities makes it disturbing that he should continue in power indefinitely."
....reminded me to blog about a long forgotten remark by Saddam Hussein.

Inexplicably, people still question whether Saddam Hussein would have been willing to actually attack the US through terrorist groups....
In 1990, Saddam Hussein said:
"If you use pressure, we will deploy pressure and force. We know that you can harm us although we do not threaten you. But we too can harm you. Everyone can cause harm according to their ability and their size. We cannot come all the way to you in the United States, but individual Arabs may reach you."
"Individual Arabs may reach you"? That's about the least thinly veiled description of terrorism I've ever heard.

And what had the United States been doing ever since Gulf War I? I'd say "pressure" is an accurate description.

Would Saddam have attacked us? We'll never know, now.
...but if you want to argue that he would have, you've got yourself a pretty strong witness.

Slowly it turned, step by step..... 

Slowly, but surely, tyranny is in retreat in the Middle East:
* Saudi Arabia announced last week it will hold elections for municipal councils within a year - its first flirtation with real elections.

* In Morocco, King Mohammed VI outlined sweeping changes in polygamy, marriage, and divorce laws, proclaiming: "How can society achieve progress while women, who represent half the nation, see their rights violated and suffer as a result of injustice, violence, and marginalization?"

* In Iran, the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi - the first Muslim woman to win it - gave heart and a fillip to the embattled reform movement. Ten thousand Iranians turned out at the Tehran airport to welcome her home.

* Arab intellectuals, in cooperation with the UN, released a report Monday calling for reforms that would advance the cause of women's rights in Arab lands and make governments more accountable.

* Afghanistan has virtually finished a constitution that will affirm adherence to Islam, but provide for national elections in 2004, and set up a two-chamber parliament in which women would have a significant role. The draft constitution guarantees the protection of human rights.

* In Iraq there's movement toward swifter empowerment of the Iraqi Governing Council, to be followed by a new constitution and national elections, perhaps in 2004.
Baby steps, doc, baby steps. Nothing is certain, except that this would not be happening, had the US not forced the issue.

A friend of mine once said...."while you can lead a horse to water, you can't make him drink. But you can't do either, if there's no water."

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