November 30, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

A new plan for the WTC


This plan would be an improvement for my neighborhood. Certainly compared to what it looks like now. Courtesy of Libertarian Rant.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 01:16 PM | Comments (1)
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

The Only New York Times

The Only New York Times Editorial Today I Agree WIth

The Times says that analysts were the accomplices in Enron's rise and fall. The analysis is dead on -- talking to classmates about their experience with research analysts shows clearly that the fox is guarding the henhouse.

I think the problem isn't so much that the banks sold their analysts verdicts in order to get IPO and M&A business -- although I think it's pretty clear that they did. The editorial points out that banks who wanted to do business with Enron had it made clear to them that they'd better not probe too deeply into the financial statements. I'm sure that the banks will pay in plaintiff's verdicts and legal fees for their decision to go along.

Even if this weren't the case, however, the analysts would STILL be ridiculously optimistic about companies, because their stock in trade is information on those firms -- and if they aren't optimistic, they don't get access. Buy side is probably better in this regard -- but not too much better, because the companies can always cut off the flow, and the analysts know it. If you're specializing in an industry, you can't afford to piss off a major player, buy side or sell side.

Personally, I think the whole process of banks selling research reports should be abolished (although this would put a number of close friends out of work). The chinese wall has not only been breached, but has a welcome mat in front of the opening, and those who don't know better take the reports seriously. The final point made by this editorial is that while banks feel bad now, what is truly remarkable about the big banks is that they never learn from the past. Sure as the sun rises tomorrow, when the market rises again, there will be Abby Cohens and Mary Meekers ready to help us believe that there really IS a Santa Claus, one that dispenses money without requiring effort or thought to earn it. WHile I am generally not a fan of government regulation, I think that in this case, we must change the system or be doomed to repeat its mistakes. Either keep the big boys from rooking the little old lady in Paducah with phony reports -- or make them print "Caveat Emptor" on the cover.

Posted by Jane Galt at 11:53 AM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

Home for the Holidays This

Home for the Holidays

This editorial in the New York Post points out that our boys & girls overseas won't be home for Christmas, and urges us to write postcards for them. A good idea, and I'm certainly going to try to make the time.

I don't know why I pointed this out, except that it put me in mind of Bing Crosby's song "I'll Be Home for Christmas" -- and I realized for the first time, what it meant to a nation of people who were missing large chunks of their family during the holiday season. After all this, World War II nostalgia is simultaneously less romantic and more moving.

Posted by Jane Galt at 10:56 AM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

WTC Tidbit of the Day

WTC Tidbit of the Day

The other day as I was driving one of the senior guys around the site in a gator, the subject of the weather came up. It has been unseasonably warm here, and those of us who will be suffering in a trailer this winter (especially those of us who are sitting directly beneath the outtake duct, and are thus chilled by the draft even on relatively warm days) are extremely grateful for the respite.

"You know, Meg, I'm not really a religious man," he said (He DID! I know it sounds like something from a Reader's Digest anectdote, but there you are, he said it. And it sounded, coming from him, not at all hokey.) "I wish I were. But I can't help but thinking that after everything -- the disaster, and the plane crash [a large number of people here live in Rockaway; a majority have relatives there. This man's son was among the police stationed here, and then in Rockaway when it happened. He's seen more bodies in the last months than anyone should. So the plane crash, for us, feels very close.] -- I can't help but think that God's giving us a break when we need it."

The same thought had passed through my mind several times, although I, like he, am not as religious as I could be. A priest once told me that "God never gives any of us a cross larger than we can bear." Right now I am agreed that the cross was almost larger than any of us could bear, together -- and that feeling the sun on your face at the beginning of December feels even to this agnostic, like a little bit of God's grace.

Posted by Jane Galt at 10:38 AM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Fewer civil liberties = lazy law enforcement


Alex Knapp has some interesting commentary about civil liberties and law enforcement on his site Heretical Ideas. It's good, provocative stuff, even though it was apparently written at 2:48AM. Go read it, but here's an excerpt:

It's not just that denying civil liberties is wrong. Denying civil liberties doesn't stop terrorism. In fact, the opposite is true. As the government adopts more oppressive policies, more people are likely to be made angry enough to want to commit acts of terrorism. Moreover, denying civil liberties makes law enforcement lazy Face it, it's a lot easier to detain someone because of their last name and an expired visa than it is to actually do the investigative work needed to infiltrate and/or monitor terrorist cells It's a lot easier to tap everyone's email than it is to sift through countless numbers of leads and evidence. It's a lot easier to conduct random searches and confiscate toenail clippers than it is to track down stolen blueprints. But when law enforcement is allowed to take the easy way out, being human, they will. And as law enforcement gets lazier, it becomes easier for criminals to commit crimes and for terrorists to cause terror.

Here's the bottom line, and feel free to quote me on this: Freedom is not only moral, but practical. When law enforcement officials are prohibited from violating individual liberty, crime is lower, because resources are channeled solely towards the capture of criminals or the prevention of criminal acts. When those protections begin to disappear, law enforcement activity gets channeled into unproductive areas that do nothing to catch the real bad guys.

I am always intrigued by counterintuitive logic of incentives like the "fewer civil liberties = lazy policing" suggestion above. Many businesspeople will tell you that if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person. Scarcity begets abundance. Sometimes tools are incentives, people who do more, do more and vice versa.

We have to think hard about where to draw the line on this, and Alex has given us another aspect of the debate to mull over. Vive le blog!.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:37 AM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Bush approval ratings; the "third rail"; career opportunities for bisexual Sicilian gigolos


A trial balloon on social security privatization appears in the news today. Reductions in benefits appear to be on the table:

"We're talking about as of 2009 beginning to hinge or index the growth of the initial benefit, the benefit that you start off with when you retire, to a price inflation index as opposed to a wage index," said Commission Co-chairman Richard Parsons of CNN's parent company, AOL-Time Warner. "So that means that as we go forward, under that particular option, the rate at which Social Security benefits would grow over time, once you initially retire, would slow."

Prices generally rise much more slowly than wages.


Generally, but not always (1973-1981?). Should we assume inflation risk in the plan? Many have argued that inflation-linked Treasury Bonds were an entitlement. We should be careful about exchanging risks.

The reason it is only realistic now to examine changes in benefits is because of serious design flaws in the original Social Security Act. SSA never contemplated our impending demographics (workers to retirees). Perhaps that should serve as a warning about government's ability to design things that work flawlessly thirty years from now. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see some sparks flying from the third rail. More to come, I'm sure.

Incidentally, our projected worker-to-retiree ratio in the future is bad (2025 = 2.5:1, 2050 2.3:1 vs. 4:1 now), but Spain, Italy and Japan have it dramatically worse, with projected 2050 ratios of of LESS THAN 1:1 (ugh). More intriguing, and less known, is the comparison of pension promises to funded plans, which is a true reflection of each economy's ability to pay its retirees comfortably:

The U.S. promises 40% of final pay, on average, for retirement. Funded pension assets as a % of GDP are 82%
Spain promises 82% of final pay, on average, for retirement. Funded pension assets as a % of GDP are about 2% of GDP
Italy: 80% vs. 7%
U.K.: 42% vs. 94%
France: 70% vs. 5%
Canada: 34% vs. 52%
Japan: 60% vs. 35%

What you see above is no less than the potential implosion of the promises of the welfare state in France, Italy and Spain. They'll adapt, but it will be gutwrenching. The figures above come from SED inc. They have a nice chart, but its a proprietary pdf, so I can't give it to you. Woody Brock's comment on the above figures is:

The future politics of hope and despair. Better a future career as a Sicilian bisexual Gigolo than as a continental European Prime Minister trying to please the voters!
Who says economists don't have a sense of humour.

Note: interesting to see CNN quote its parent company executive. Well, he is co-chairman of the commission.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 06:08 AM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

The Missing Links


MTZ makes its debut on Dynamist today, an honor indeed. I have also had a look at Liberty Blog by Christopher Pellerito, which looks interesting. Chris was also..er..moved by Quindlen's anti-consumerism, calling it the first Bah Humbug column of the season. Damn, wish I'd thought of that.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:58 AM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

It's still dark outside, but here comes the sun...


How good a day can it be when you wake up to hear about the death of George Harrison? Of all the Beatles, Harrison and Lennon had the most "restless minds".* Popular music needs more, not less, of those. Sleep well, George.

*Phrase courtesy of SDB

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:49 AM

November 29, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Anna Quindlen would find this depressing...


But Afghans are getting their TVs and satellite dishes back into working order (tsk, tsk. They should be reading!) CNN has some cheerful streaming content of Afghans watching what appears to be Cleopatra and dusting off boxed TV sets. The footage is on CNN's home page in the "video" section. Anyone know how to link these directly?

Just for the record, I still think it's great.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:56 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Trouble in pre-paradise?


This circulated to me by email, provenance unknown. Reading about Tora Bora made me think of it again:

From: Bin Laden, Usama
Sent: Monday, October 22, 2001 8:17 AM
To: Cavemates
Subject: The Cave

Hi guys:

We've all been putting in long hours but we've really come together as a group and I love that. Big thanks to Omar for putting up the poster that says "There is no I in team" as well as the one that says "Hang In There, Baby." That cat is hilarious. However, while we are fighting a jihad, we can't forget to take care of the cave. And frankly I have a few concerns.

First of all, while it's good to be concerned about cruise missiles, we should be even more concerned about the scorpions in our cave. Hey, you don't want to be stung and neither do I so we need to sweep the cave daily. I've posted a sign up sheet near the main cave opening.

Second, it's not often I make a video address but when I do, I'm trying to scare the most powerful country on earth, okay? That means that while we're taping, please do not ride your razor scooter in the background. Just while we're taping. Thanks.

Third point, and this is a touchy one. As you know, by edict, we're not supposed to shave our beards. But I need everyone to just think hygiene, especially after mealtime. We're all in this together.

Fourth: food. I bought a box of Cheez-Its recently,clearly wrote "Osama" on the front, Consideration. That's all I'm saying.

Finally, we've heard that there may be American soldiers in disguise trying to infiltrate our ranks. I want to set up patrols to look for them. First patrol will be Omar, Muhammed, Abdul, Akbar, and Richard.

Love you lots,

Usama

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:34 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

Just talked to one of

Just talked to one of my friends from school, who has unfortunately shared my fate with DiamondCluster.

It seems that Merril Lynch has laid off a considerable portion of their associate class, including the entire telecom group. I don't know how many of my friends and schoolmates are affected yet, but I'm sure quite a number. Considering the motto that it is a recession when your brother-in-law gets laid off, a depression when you are, this is a Great Depression.

Posted by Jane Galt at 05:12 PM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Huge traffic day for MTZ


A new record, over 2000 visitors today by 4:30 pm. I am honored that you enjoy my scribblings. Thank you. And thanks to Matt Welch and Glenn Reynolds. The Quindlen piece is about four posts down, here.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:04 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

What is a burqette?


I have two buttons programmed on my car radio dial. In the morning I switch between NPR news and Howard Stern. Some kind of media bipolar disorder. Anyway, Howard Stern featured a guest today by the name of Theodore Green, who claims to be a tenured professor of anthropology at a California university. A little googling, along with what he said, suggests he's not.

Green said the "Taliban sent us a message from God by bombing the World Trade Center". He believes we "over-celebrate the female form or disparage it" and we are being warned. Furthermore, he's designing a line of clothing (!) based on Burqas (sp?) but "not just in blue". He said they weren't too different from Mu-Mus. Except for the head covering I suppose.

Funniest thing this loony said? He is also designing a "Burqette". Talk about a self-negating concept. The Burqa is designed to cover from head to toe. How could it be made diminutive (-ette)? What on earth could a burqette be?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 11:55 AM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

More on Bjorn-hate


Nice article by Ron Bailey. (from Andrew Sullivan). Boy, the facts-be-damned coalition of the left is scared of him. One supposed reason not to cite his book?

As part of that campaign, the WWF and WRI have sent a joint press release to every member of the Society of Environmental Journalists warning them “to exercise caution in reporting on Bjorn Lomborg’s new book.” Why? Among other reasons, the book “has been heavily publicized and championed by conservatives.”

Oh dear. Of course we "conservatives" (I reject that label, I'm a liberal in the classic sense of liberalism - free markets free people, not welfare state) cite Christopher Hitchens all the time...gleefully!

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:57 AM

November 28, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Microsoft settlement another bad precedent


Chester Finn writes about the three "dubious features" of the planned Microsoft class action settlement today (no link - on the site for subscribers only). The settlement involves Microsoft providing over a billion dollars of free software and reconditioned computers to schools

1) It "clothes that ignoble species known as the plaintiffs bar lawyer in the spiffy garb of socially conscious policy activists" by turning a class action into a school fundraiser, he means.

2) Schools are Apple's dominant market, and this is sure to give Windows products a natural toehold - in a sense it is "dumping"

3) Computers won't necessarily improve schools

I'm sympathetic to the second and third arguments. There's a lady across the street from me who turned down a job teaching in the Trenton schools. She said she wasn't energized to deal with the screwed-up school system there. Her example was that they were giving away iMacs to the students, but couldn't get the parents to come pick them up! School improvement will come from innovation in HOW they do things more than with how much resources they do the same things. And let's face it, the schools that get the free Windows stuff will become Windows users.

But one of the real issue in this settlement for me, above and beyond the "dressing up" of the plaintiffs bar, is the way it perpetuates the awful shakedown racket that our civil courts have become. Torts are intended to compensate VICTIMS. In the class action business, the awards (after expenses) are often very small per claimant, as they are in this case. So the claimants don't bother to do the paperwork to claim the award. By the way, guess where a lot of that unclaimed money goes? Into the coffers of Consumers Union/Consumer Reports. As I have said in other posts, people do what they are incentivized to do..including rolling over SUVs if it pays the bills.

This developed and profitable industrry of using legal action to redistribute money to someone other than the victim, for whatever purpose, is a complete bastardization of the Tort idea.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:12 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

In Brazil, this is what they think we are teaching in junior high?


We have a wonderful Brazilian exchange student/Au Pair living with us. She received this image of a supposed junior high text book page. It's circulating by email. Take a look at it - it says some really offensive things while talking about rainforest preservation. It also says them in less than perfect English so it's surely a hoax. It seems her friends all believe it is real. Have any of you seen it? Supposedly Introduction to Geography by David Norman. An excerpt:

..it (FINRAF)was part of eight countries which were, in the majority of cases, kingdoms of violence, drug trade, illiteracy and a unintelligent (sic)and primitive people....the possession of these valuable lands to such primitive cultures and peoples should condemn the lungs of the world to disappearance and full destroying (sic) in few years (sic again)
What evil moron created this? Please let me know if you have any input.
Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:55 PM | Comments (11)
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

What Anna Quindlen and Jerry Falwell have in common


"Honestly - you shouldn't have" is the title of Anna Quindlen's toxic "The Last Word" column in Newsweek, which reads more like an entry in the "elitist killjoy of the month" contest. Since I'm writing this on a plane, I have no idea whether my kindred spirits have blogged this to death as they did David Brooks' piece condescending to Afghan cinema-goers. This article is cut from the same cloth. It sanctimoniously criticizes the consumerism of U.S. culture and gives the feeling the author is trying desperately to feel better about herself. I have enjoyed other things Quindlen wrote, so I was doubly frustrated to plow through this. Quindlen believes we shop too much. OK, but then she launches in with the self important condescension:

Uncontrollable consumerism is the watch word of our culture despite regular and compelling calls for its end….Americans spend more time shopping than reading.
There it is, the intellectual swipe. Not only is she inventing "regular and compelling calls for the end of consumerism" (notably her own, I suppose), but she has an important alternative for everyone. Well I like to read, but I'm not so high and mighty I’m going to tell other folks to do so. Especially since their consumerism is what provides income with which I buy books by…people like Anna Quindlen. Well, I'm so pleased to hear Anna's joined her growing chorus of cultural nabobs. She's got interesting company (more on that later).
Put in the context of current events, how depressing was it to see Afghan citizens celebrating the end of tyranny by buying consumer electronics?
NOT AT ALL DEPRESSING!! It was wonderful. It was GREAT! The whole point of ending tyranny is so that you can experience some personal freedom and opportunity. Do what you individually want to do as long as it doesn't involve oppressing each other brutally or blowing up thousands of office workers. Does she not remember that the Taliban had their own version of how people should be spending time? What is so morally inferior about Afghans consuming video media relative to, say, curling up with an Anna Quindlen bestseller? Eeyuck. I suppose in the 1780s she would have called Paul Revere's return to silversmithing "depressing".
The notion that we should show the terrorists who's boss by supporting this shaky shantytown of automatic-pilot consumption is as suspect as bailing out the airline industry, a business that was legendarily inept long before September 11. If the economy is built on persuading people to buy pillow shams (pun intended) or to replace the three-disc CD player with a six-disc version, then it’s the system, not the shopper, that's to blame in the event of a collapse.
The implications of this human-hating logic are so extraordinary I don't know where to start. First, she compares our general economy to the airline industry. She's right that the airline industry sucks up capital and leaves shareholders and employees with little -although it provides jobs. Because it doesn't please consumers. But the US and other free-market economies in general, which provide all these geegaws that Anna hates, have just handed us a century of progress in human welfare unlike any other; this economy has provided increases in the duration and quality of human life that would have seemed unimaginable at its beginning (Boy, I link that article a lot). And the core principle has been markets made up of actors purchasing and selling what they like. Including the awful six-disc CD player.

So apparently, Anna Quindlen thinks we DESERVE a recession for our sinful consumerism. Well, well, that's not going as far as, say, Jerry Falwell and saying we deserved to be incinerated for being unholy, but it is up there on the human-hating meter. I suppose Anna's got some cash tucked away from best-selling novels, so a recession just makes it easier for her to get a cab. For the rest of us recessions SUCK. Does she think we feel better that its "the system that's to blame". Who is the system? It's us! The system pays her salary and improves health and welfare for hundreds of millions of people. Right now, people are getting laid off around me, and its miserable for them. That's what happens in recessions, people lose jobs, break the poverty line, etc. So it may not feel good for Anna to buy a few things to keep that mall employee working, but I am going for it.

Quindlen dilutes her hatred by calling for giving money to charities instead, and then delivers the irrational conclusion:

Especially this year. You know that if those people whose family members died on September 11 could have them back for Christmas, the last thing on their minds would be a sweater or a tie. The truth is, those lost left a bittersweet Christmas gift, an indelible lesson in what really matters. If we spend our Saturdays staggering under the weight of shopping bags, we’re not honoring them, or doing the bad guys one better, no matter how much it may pump up the bottom line. We’re showing that we didn’t learn a thing, that at heart we are a marked-down nation.
In one breath she decries the argument that we are "doing in the terrorists by shopping" and then immediately argues we are "honoring the victims by not shopping." I've never seen someone reverse their logic so fast. As far as giving to charity, where does the money for charity come from, Anna? Where did Ted Turner get $1 billion for the U.N.? How did Bill and Melinda Gates create their foundation? Who are the biggest funders of relief charities? Corporate owners and stockholders. They do it with the money they make from…our rampant consumerism. And they give less when they make less, when people aren't buying. In addition to funding charities, Ms. Quindlen, these corporations provide jobs. I'm all for handouts, but jobs are better. Relief is that lump-sum transfer that her ideological soulmate Paul Krugman hates. Give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish.

Finally, As Bernard Lewis pointed out in his prescient book (yeah, I read AND I just bought a new cool Visor Edge), it is our secularism and our materialism that islamic extremists hate. Why should I "learn" something from their actions and capitulate by withdrawing my buying power, such as it is, from the market?

As I said, its doubly infuriating hearing this sanctimonious claptrap from someone I have enjoyed reading in the past. At least this column gave me enough anger to stay distracted from my new fears about flying today, so thanks for that. But, all in all, Anna, you shouldn't have. Honestly.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:41 PM | Comments (2)
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Not the grinch


It occurred to me that the prior post makes me look a bit more grinchy than intended. This is no doubt a side effect of budgeting and compensation planning, which, this year more than ever, leaves one with a grumpy kind of "now how did he do that loaves and fishes thing?" feeling. So allow me to clarify:

Like Peter Drucker, I can imagine a world where the non-profit sector is growing rapidly and is in the vanguard of productivity in the world economy. My point is that before we can enter that world of throwing good money after good, the incentive structure of governmental and quasi-governmental agencies needs to be addressed.

A free private sector has its incentives clearly aligned with maximizing profit. Profits are the lifeblood of economic growth. Economic growth, new to the world in the last 150 years, is what has created the unfathomable increases in life quality for the world. Read the links in one of my prior posts on this, particularly this article. The trouble with the private sector is that it is practically amoral. Which is why we have laws that prevent destructive behavior in the pursuit of profit. Companies that are unsuccessful in producing profit (and thus promoting the general welfare) shrink and die, which improves the productivity of our growth engine over the long run - this is what Schumpeter called "creative destruction", or what I called "humility" below.

Like the private sector, the public and non-profit sectors are dogged in the pursuit of their goals. Like the private sector, they are bureaucracies which, all else being equal, seek to be larger. Charities, if deemed unsuccessful, will dry up. Unsuccesful public agencies and NGOs will not. Unfortunately, there is no profit governor to perform the necessary creative destruction. In the perverse logic of government, a decrease in growth is considered a cut. The mere acknowledgement of a problem (as opposed to a solution) justifies permanent funding.

The agencies I question in the post below have, at least on occasion, acted as if they a) value distributing aid themselves over having it distributed at all, b) value self-promoting sensationalism over general welfare and c) value their own models and systems over general welfare improvements. I argue that these actions indicate the incentive problems of the government and NGO sectors. Which are worth examining.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:23 AM

November 27, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

Newsflash: More Police Means Fewer

Newsflash: More Police Means Fewer Criminals

An editorial in the New York Post points out the surge in crime in New York since the September 11th attacks. No, this isn't due to the trauma of the disaster forcing otherwise law-abiding citizens to commit armed robbery in order to work off a little existential angst; the Post's (plausible) argument is that crime has dropped because the police are off hunting terrorists or working security details instead of fighting ordinary crime, and the criminals know it.

One of the hardest problems for those arguing that Giuliani (and the style of policing that his commissioners favored) was actually responsible for the drop in crime that has fostered the resurgance of New York. There were always other factors -- demographics, for example (a drop in the number of teenage boys) that his detractors dragged out, with some justification.

Now we have what amounts to a controlled experiment. We had a lot of police, now we don't. Crime has gone up. Surprise, surprise -- enforcement really does matter.

But we paid a terrible price to learn it.

Posted by Jane Galt at 10:07 AM | TrackBack

November 26, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

I'll have an international do-gooder bureaucracy with a side of humility.


Whenever we attempt to tame complex systems and events with contrived man-made solutions, our early attempts usually disappoint. The brilliance of the free marketplace is that we either adapt our solutions or fail ("creative destruction", as Schumpeter first said). Those individual failures can be painful. The problem with public and quasi-public agencies is these initial failures are perpetuated, sometimes endlessly, and sometimes with tragic results that go far beyond individual marketplace failures. There is so much evidence around us of bureaucracies that fail to learn from their own mistakes. It seems to be the occupational failing of such organizations to confuse intentions with results and/or accuracy.

I thought about this reading this article by Edward Luttwak (linked by Instapundit) pointing out the tendency of relief agencies to become the tool of the local warlord or corrupt regime:

That is what aid organisations do: to follow the television cameras inside conflicted countries, to obtain the publicity that keeps contribution flowing and the aid organisations in business, they pay off local warlords and mere gang leaders in transactions thinly masked as "escort fees", while feeding their warriors.

When unarmed aid operatives are handing out food and other help, men in arms are bound to be the first claimants on anything going. Aid organisations, in the odour of sanctity, thus serve as the quartermasters of civil war, as they did in Somalia most notoriously.


Pungent phrase, that, "the odour of sanctity". Kind of like the U.N. Relief agencies and global socialism proponents that were shrill critics of both the food packages and the bombing.

Luttwak's comments remind me of the ideas presented in gory detail in books I have read recently. Bjorn Lomborg points out in The Skeptical Environmentalist that the shoreline clean-up after the Exxon Valdez appears to have done more damage than good:

Pressure-washing the coast, however, killed much of the marine life. By way of experiment, some stretches of beach were left uncleaned, and it transpired that life there returned after just 18 months, whereas it did not do so to the cleaned beaches for three to four years (footnote). The oil experts had siad this would be the case time and time again during the first few months of the cleanup - but in vain, as this did not harmonize with the public view of things, i.e. that c acleanup had to be better for the animals. As Scientific American wrote, "the public wants the animals saved - at $80,000 per otter and $10,000 per eagle - even if the stress of their salvation kills them." (footnote)
As Lomborg points out in many other chapters, most notably the one on Global Warming, it goes beyond "the public wants" to "the model says". Bureaucies construct enormously complicated models to predict the behaviour of yet more complicated systems, and then believe that their intentions make their models correct. Therefore, spending billions and billions of dollars that might otherwise have been invested in creating mundane jobs is worthwhile for greenhouse gas reduction. Yet it is clear, according to Lomborg, that global warming models may not be accurate enough to justify the enormous investments demanded by the most shrill advocates. Then he goes on, at length, to show that even taking the most credible models at face value, the cost of the Kyoto protocol may still not be justified against the impact on global GDP.

William Easterly spends the entirety of The Elusive Quest for Growth (there's that misplaced modifier again) showing how the World Bank and IMF have granted enormous amounts of loans and aid to various countries with no significant growth explained by their own policies. The basic model used by the World Bank for most of the postwar period is one of "capital fundamentalism" which suggests that the proper mix of labor and capital inputs can be divined (by the World Bank of course) and plugged with aid:

Many times over the past fifty years, we economists thought we had found the right answer to economic growth. It started with foreign aid to fill the gap between "necessary" investment and saving. Even after some of us abandoned the rigiditiy of the "necessary" investment idea, we still thought investment in machines was the key to growth. Supplementing this idea was the notion that education was a form of accumulating "human machinery" that would bring growth. Next, concerned about how "excess" population might overwhelm the productive capacity of the economy, we promoted population control. Then, when we realized that government policies hindered growth, we promoted official loans to induce countries to do policy reforms. Finally , when countries had trouble repaying the loans they incurred to do policy reforms, we offered debt forgiveness....

The facts contradict the capital fundamentalists....If transitional capital accumulation were the main source of growth differences, then countries should have very high rates of return to capital at the beginning. They do not. If transitional capital accumulation were the main source of growth differences, we would expect the poor, capital-scarce countries to grow faster than the rich as they respond to these high returns to capital. They do not. If transitional capital accumulation were the main source of growth differences we would expect capital accumulation to explain a lot of the cross-country differences in growth. It does not. Trying to grow by capital alone was another useless panacea.

These expenditures as well are dictated by models built by bureaucrats, who then slavishly stick to them even as they are proven wrong. NGOs fall into a similar trap from the relief agencies criticized by Edward Luttwak above. They become part of the problem, supporting corrupt thugocracies instead of promoting the welfare of the citizenry. Easterly points out, similarly to Luttwak, that Petty dictators need hordes of starving people to show to the international financial organizations in order to justify...more loans and aid. The fungibility of money allows the government to put the money to other illegitimate uses.

The theme of Easterly's book is "people respond to incentives" - people do what they are paid to do. If you become proportionately more famous by suggesting a global calamity with a high degree of certainty, do it. If dispensing ever larger dollar amounts of aid and plastering your annual report with pictures of starving children put on parade by third world despots just for you allows your agency to grow - do it. If you are judged by the amount of food delivered across a border, deliver it regardless of how you are used in the process. If your benchmark is the amount of people you feed, as opposed to the amount of total hunger where you are operating, then the general level of welfare is immaterial. If your museum gets more government funding based on the number of visitors, bait Rudolph Giuliani into some free publicity by featuring a poop-smeared Madonna.

Bureaucratic elites pursuing altruistic goals have a mixed track record, simply because they often end up pursuing their own interests. Ironically, we have found that some of the most effective institutions and traditions of the world, such as the markets and democratic government, are sustained by many actors independently pursuing their own self-interest with little "odour of sanctity". This is because when you pursue your own self interest, you check to see if its working every now and then. Then, displaying your human ingenuity, you adapt until you either a) your interests are at last advanced or b) you fail beyond recovery.

I argue not that these agencies should be abolished, but that we radically change the way they are judged and funded. In my professional community (investment managers) there is ample evidence of our failures to model and anticipate complex markets. We receive a dose of humility almost daily. And our customers stand ready to deliver a report card on our results. The markets themselves almost always work. Adam Smith called it the "Invisible Hand". I think George H.W. Bush was trying to apply that idea of accountability to a market of actors to the non-profit world when he debuted his much-ridiculed "thousand points of light" idea. He was right, a little more market-like results-based humility would serve the world of government and NGO bureaucracies well.

To come back to the warblogging theme, let the NGOs always ask themselves, how many, in total, could feed themselves or be fed before? How many, in total, can feed themselves or be fed now? And in each case, at what expense to their freedom and personal safety did they obtain this food? Surely, now that women are allowed to work, more can feed themselves. And what sort of threat is posed by the regime implicitly supported by such aid? Can aid be distributed more effectively by the U.S. military which can airdrop into remote areas and provide its own protection? If freedom spawns growth and growth feeds more mouths, shouldn't we work towards greater freedom?

Well, perhaps that last one is too much to ask...

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:38 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

Gray Lady Watch Here's a

Gray Lady Watch

Here's a fascinating experiment: what do you get when you search The New York Times for Michael Bellesiles (author of the widely-lauded and now apparently thoroughly debunked book on gun ownership in early America which purported to prove that the "gun culture" didn't emerge until the Civil War)?

A list of positive reviews, is what, with no mention of the fact that the Boston Globe and other media outlets have offered convincing evidence that Bellesiles deliberately misrepresented facts (to put it mildly) in order to support his thesis. Nine positive reviews, no mention of the criticism. I've mentioned before that I think the Times is spending the principal, so to speak, of its reputation in order to push an increasingly obvious political agenda. So no surprise here -- but nonetheless, it makes me sad.

Posted by Jane Galt at 01:30 PM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

The New York Post reports

The New York Post reports that the terrorists on Flight 93 deliberately crashed the plane when it became clear that they weren't going to make their objective.

Profanity is too weak.

I suppose I must have known this, somehow, and objectively there's no reason that crashing the plane into the ground is worse than crashing it into the White House -- except that it's so futile. When they crashed the plane, even in their own minds, they weren't freedom fighters trying to stage a vivid demonstration -- they were just trying to kill a lot of people because they could.

The biblical sense of justice in me says that the appropriate response is to take their families, stick them in a plane, and crash it. I have no doubt that this would effectively end terrorism against the US.

But the civilized part of me (which I hope is much harder) recoils in horror from the innocent wife or child of a terrorist experiencing what our people did. Which is why we can never do it. Because we are civilized. Because we are civilized, we don't even entertain the notion in any serious way.

I get nearly as much of a sense of biblical justice from the fact that although our civilized nature is what made it easy to hit us, it is also what will allow us to prevail against barbarians hiding in caves.

Posted by Jane Galt at 08:52 AM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

Semiconductors poised to take off?

Semiconductors poised to take off?

Another from the WSJ: STMicroelectronics Economist Predicts Semiconductor Industry Growth in 2002. I don't buy it. According to him, growth is going to follow the classic 90's cycle:

Mr. Dauvin sees an exit to the current slump through a pickup in business spending on technology, among other things. He said companies' desire for higher productivity combined with low interest rates that encourage capital expenditures mean companies will invest in new high-tech equipment that uses semiconductors.

I think he's missing an important point: the ROI on semiconductor technology for companies has decreased. I don't know anything about the manufacturing sector, where there may be incipient demand if capital costs fall low enough. But I worked in the networking and telecomm area before I went to b-school, and my considered opinion is that there is little demand for new networking equipment or PC/Server equipment at any price. There is little added business value to speeding up your network at this point -- streaming video is more likely to decrease productivity than increase it. Ditto improving the speed of the PC's on peoples' desks -- there just isn't THAT much benefit to improving from a P-200 or PII-300 to the latest processor, while there was huge added value in switching from 486 or low-end Pentium machines to newer models. Applications will continue to be added, and will require servers -- but I don't see it happening at the pace of the nineties. Given that the semiconductor industry hasn't really shed much capacity, I don't see how the sector can pick up.

Posted by Jane Galt at 08:00 AM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

Consulting Slowdown hits the Big

Consulting Slowdown hits the Big Three

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mckinsey is laying off support staff. No consultants as of yet, leaving the Big Three still the only firms that haven't cut professionals.

Perhaps the recession is bottoming, as people say -- but to me, consulting and banking is the canary in the mine. As long as no one's financing growth or looking for help to manage it, in my view we've still got a long way to go.

Posted by Jane Galt at 07:48 AM | TrackBack

November 25, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Aaah, bandwidth, now here's an inte...


Well, I'm back in the land of DSL. I was just settling down to move some electrons when the power went out. Pathetic, really, only a little rain. PSE&G estimated over the phone it would be back at 12:30 AM. Thankfully, they padded their estimate and it's back just now, but I have some budgets, etc. that need attention before I resume my blogging pace.

Incidentally, I mentioned Bill Charlap in my gift suggestions. Some short audio samples can be found in a variety of formats on CDNow. They are too short to do his trio justice, though.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:00 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Historical hyperbole


Krugman weighs in with a comparison of the current environment in the U.S. to that between World War I and II. Seth Sandrosky draws on the same time period - but compares us to Nazi Germany. According to Maureen Dowd, The Economist has compared the "Ashcroft Era" to England in the time of Cromwell. And, of course, Barbara Kingsolver has weighed in with her latest screed looking at the past through Roosevelt-coloured glasses while staring at the present with....no glasses at all. And she obviously can't see a thing without 'em.

All of these analogies are hopelessly strained, and serve only to make the phenomena criticized by the observer appear to be more alarming. These are straw men to bash at when you can't think of something useful or sufficiently hysterical to say. Even if the administration were to demand greater sacrifices of individual liberties, and even if there use of their new powers were to extend to more U.S. citizens than non-U.S. belligerents, we still live in a time when individual rights are more honored in jurisprudence than ever before. Next November, we get to vote a whole bunch of congresspeople out if we don't like it.

Sandrosky's argument is particularly ridiculous, claiming that this is the final gasp of fascism before we finally evolve into socialists. Funny that he should compare us to Nazi Germany then, as the Nazis were by-the-book socialists.

Krugman also steps in his own paper trail:

So it tells you something when Congress votes $15 billion in aid and loan guarantees for airline companies but not a penny for laid-off airline workers. It tells you even more when the House passes a "stimulus" bill that contains almost nothing for the unemployed but includes $25 billion in retroactive corporate tax cuts — that is, pure lump-sum transfers to corporations, most of them highly profitable.
But Krugman has already come out in favor of one-time tax rebates, which are also lump-sum transfers. And, surely, subsidizing the airline was intended to keep some people working. There's plenty to criticize about these policies, but Krugman can't seem to do it without getting his logical legs crossed. Of course, he is, as always, capable of divining intentions as well:
As Jonathan Chait points out, there used to be some question about the true motives of people like Dick Armey and Tom DeLay. Did they really believe in free markets, or did they just want to take from the poor and give to the rich? Now we know.

These folks want to make this administration look evil one way or the other. Given the legitimate material provided by Ashcroft et. al. these last weeks, its funny how their biases have prevented them from doing a decent job of it.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 03:24 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

A friend remembered


The New York Times published its "Portrait of Grief" on one of the WTC victims I knew fairly well, Andrew Marshall King (p. B9). You can't get it on the web, but another remembrance is here. Every time you saw Andrew he had something good to say about you or your family.

Andrew was last heard from on the roof, standing next to a friend who was talking to his own family on a cellphone.

UPDATE (7/2002) - here is a site dedicated to Andrew. Other details can be found in the comment from Andy's brother Spencer below.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 02:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

Newsflash: Environmental laws have costs,

Newsflash: Environmental laws have costs, just like everything else

This article suggests that the reason the WTC collapsed was that the columns were constructed without asbestos, due to new environmental regulations in effect at the time of construction.

While the article has a "see? Environmental laws are stupid!" tone that makes me wince a little, its facts sound plausible. The more interesting point to me is that I would bet that no one ever heard a public debate on whether it was better to have asbestos columns or the risk of collapse. My guess is that the answer would be "risk of collapse" -- no, don't shoot me, but at the time the building was built a fire fueled by that much avgas was an extremely unlikely (somewhere to the right of six sigma range, I'd guess) event, while asbestosis was a clear and present danger. Just as it is very possible that if we had a public debate about higher fuel efficiency vs. auto safety (increasing the mpg of cars results in a significant increase in auto deaths because they have to make the cars lighter, and therefore unable to sustain as much damage without injury to the occupant) we would come out on the side of fuel efficiency. My problem is that we never do have that debate -- whether because the auto makers are incompetent at PR, or because the media finds it easier to write stories from an "evil big corporation does it again" viewpoint, I do not know.

Posted by Jane Galt at 10:15 AM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

Back to God? Another interesting

Back to God?

Another interesting tidbit from the Weekly Standard(subscription may be required): the author says that there is a resurgance of religious orthodoxyamong young people going back at least five years. Basically it attributes the decline in mainline protestantism and the rise in evangelical/orthodox faiths of all stripes to the same feeling I noticed among my mainline classmates: why bother going to a church that rehashes what you heard in sociology class last week, with a dash of feel-good movie of the week flavor to make it go down easier? The kind of religion that strives to incude all possible viewpoints cannot help but be reduced to platitudes that engage no one.

That said, MY classmates (class of 1994) seemed more likely to turn to SD&R than their rosaries. The article seemed somewhat anecdotal to me, but it's based on a longer book that may sport the data. Still, a very interesting read.

Posted by Jane Galt at 10:03 AM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

ANOTHER DREAM SHATTERED Perusing the

ANOTHER DREAM SHATTERED

Perusing the new Weekly Standard, I came across an item in their scrapbook (subscription may be required; I have one, so I can't tell what's subscriber material & what's not). Don Rumsfeld announced that they aren't parachuting horses into Afghanistan because they get enough broken ankles with people.

I adore roller coasters with a passion seldom found in one so young, and have wanted to try skydiving for a long time. I was held back because my ankles are weaker than Bill Clinton's excuses for the Rich pardon. I have sprained my ankle walking along perfectly level surfaces. However, two friends who tried it swore up and down that you couldn't break your ankles because the jump boots are so stiff. I think I'll believe Rumsfeld over people who took a three hour class at a suburban airport, thank you. So no skydiving for Megan.

Posted by Jane Galt at 08:58 AM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

We went to friends for

We went to friends for Thanksgiving, so on Friday, my mother cooked a whole new turkey just so we could have leftovers. Stuffed myself AGAIN.

Interesting discussion at the table about the meaning of the word "speculation" as applied to investments. My feeling is that any stock that's purchased with the expectation that some other idiot will buy it from you at a higher price is speculative. Basically, there are two different ways that stocks can be valued: either they are valued based on the cash that they will eventually return to their owners, either through dividends or through the company (or an aquisitor) repurchasing the stock; or they are valued based on the expectation that someone will pay a higher price for the stock later. This latter is called "the Greater Fool Theory".

So in other words, when you buy a stock, you are either betting on your ability to correctly evaluate a company's balance sheet and future growth potential, or you are betting that there is another, greater fool out there, and that you can correctly evaluate his psychology in order to sell at the right moment. That's why its speculative -- because unless you are PT Barnum, few of us have any idea which way the suckers are going to jump.

I think that we are still in the throes of the great idiot boom of the late nineties. Valuations seem to me, by any mathematical metric, to be insane -- no one could possibly think they're going to get that kind of money back out of these companies. But it's like the end of a relationship. We just can't believe it's over. We go out to dinner to see how things are going, and the next thing you know, we're giving it one more try. The rising market -- hey, it's just like it was a couple of years ago. Maybe this can work. We all know how this ends up -- you, a bottle of whiskey, and a lost weekend, followed by months trying to recollect that tattered shreds of your dignity.

To sum up -- THIS MARKET IS INSANE. Where is the good news coming from -- other than a relentless will to believe -- that would justify the resurgance of the Dow?

Interesting side note -- most people believe that the down bottomed out during the crash of '29. Actually, it bottomed out two years later, after several tenative rises. A warning light goes on in my head.

Posted by Jane Galt at 08:39 AM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

ON A LIGHER NOTE Just

ON A LIGHER NOTE

Just got this in from Jeff Otto. Found it hilarious.

To: Cavemates
Subject: The Cave
Hi guys. We've all been putting in long hours but we've really come together
as a group and I love that. Big thanks to Omar for putting up the poster
that says "There is no I in team" as well as the one that says "Hang In
There, Baby." That cat is hilarious. However, while we are fighting a
jihad, we can't forget to take care of the cave. And frankly I have a few
concerns.

First of all, while it's good to be concerned about cruise missiles, we
should be even more concerned about the scorpions in our cave. Hey, you
don't want to be stung and neither do I, so we need to sweep the cave daily.
I've posted a sign-up sheet near the main cave opening.

Second, it's not often I make a video address but when I do, I'm trying to
scare the most powerful country on earth, okay? That means that while we're
taping, please do not ride your razor scooter in the background. Just while
we're taping. Thanks.

Third point, and this is a touchy one. As you know, by edict, we're not
supposed to shave our beards. But I need everyone to just think hygiene,
especially after mealtime. We're all in this together.

Fourth: food. I bought a box of Cheez-Its recently, clearly wrote "Osama" on
the front, and put it on the top shelf. Today, my Cheez-Its were gone.
Consideration. That's all I'm saying.

Finally, we've heard that there may be American soldiers in disguise trying
to infiltrate our ranks. I want to set up patrols to look for them. First
patrol will be Omar, Muhammed, Abdul, Akbar, and Richard.

Love you lots,
Osama


I think it's amazing (not to mention a cheering sign of a basically healthy nation) that the flood of Osama jokes continues. The reason I like this one so much is that I could email it to my grandmother, if she knew how to operate a computer.

Posted by Jane Galt at 08:22 AM | TrackBack

November 24, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

North Pole cited as hostile workplace


I watched Rudolph with the kids tonight as the official kick-off of the Christmas season. Burl Ives, clumsy stop-action, reindeer fur that looks like Dr. Scholl's moleskin, the whole bit. When I translated the production date from Roman numerals, my eldest pointed out that this production is "almost as old as me". From now on, Son, you won't be allowed to watch any of my antique TV shows.

What's the best line in Rudolph? Put me in for "Your beak is blinkin' like a blinkin' beacon". Runners up: "You don't mind my red nose?".."not if you don't mind my being a dentist" and the classic "even among misfits you're misfits". That North Pole. Not friendly to nonconformists.

A few questions have always irked me: If you can fly, why run from the abominable snowman? And how, exactly, did the Island of misfit toys escape Santa's notice? Why does Fireball (remember him - the young reindeer whose pupils constrict like he's on speed) have a patch of blond hair? Finally, why doesn't Yukon Cornelius' tongue stick to his pickaxe when he licks it? These are important unresolved issues.

Speaking of Christmas, I recommend Flanders & Swann recordings and Eddie Izzard videotapes as gifts. I absolutely treasure mine. The Izzard link preceding is to "Glorious". If you can get your hands on "Dress to Kill" it's far better - the best stand-up ever, in my opinion. I taped it off HBO, but purchase availability of the videotape is spotty to (now) nonexistent for some reason. His site offers a US-compatible ("NTSC") version, but we are warned it is not the same as the incredible HBO special. Same tour, different show. Izzard improvises a lot, so it could be quite different. I may buy it and see.

For classical music buffs, check out recordings on the Hyperion and Chandos' labels. For Jazz, try Bill Charlap. Charlap is the best jazz pianist since Bill Evans. And I'm saying that even though his sister Cathy repeatedly broke my besotted heart in my younger, more vulnerable years. I bet a few representative tracks, such as The Heather on the Hill or My Shining Hour from the Album Distant Star, can be obtained through Gnutella-based sharing, but I wouldn't know such things.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:50 PM | Comments (1)

November 23, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

A picture is worth a thousand words


And Dropscan's growing photo page is worth multiple visits. This is the picture that fascinated me:


Those are the air-drop food packages, now recycled as schoolbags for these girls.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 11:00 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

As if you didn't know


Dial-up and AOL suck. If this were my only means of surfing I'd just read the paper.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:59 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Well..he was in Deuce Bigalow


Some female crew members on the U.S.S. Roosevelt were nonplussed by an Armed Forces Entertainment show featuring six Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (thanks to Opinionjournal for picking up the story). Apparently, the cheerleaders get the guys a little worked up, and besides, where's the beefcake for the ladies? Responding to the latter, legitimate point -

Air Force Col. Rod Hottle, the director of Armed Forces Entertainment, who accompanied the cheerleaders to the ship, said he already has lined up some male actors for future trips to the theater of war, including Rob Schneider.
You mean the Robster? Rob-a-roni? Visitin' the ladies on the aircraft carrier! Hold on there Colonel, don't want the ladies to get out of control.
Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:55 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

The Wall Street Journal has

The Wall Street Journal has an article on Anthrax cases that seems to weaken the argument in favor of domestic terrorism. Apparently a letter sent to Chile from Switzerland tested positive for anthrax -- a letter identified as suspicious because while it was postmarked Switzerland, it had a return address in Florida. From what I've seen of the domestic crazies, they have neither the resources nor the inclination to zip merrily around the globe, mailing letters hither and thither. On the other hand, it is only one letter, and there is no word on whether the Chilean strain matches ours, so perhaps it's a wash.

Posted by Jane Galt at 04:35 PM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

DEPARTMENT OF POINTLESS ARTICLES The

DEPARTMENT OF POINTLESS ARTICLES

The New York Times has an editorial saying that official residences (governors, mayors, presidents) are going out of style and losing their utility, except in places where they aren't which seems to include everywhere except New York. Aside from showcasing how parochial the Gray Lady has become, the article seems to be entirely without purpose. Writer's block, or unseemly arrogance? You decide.

On a related note, I really do think that this war has cost the Times its place as the paper of record. The increasingly editorial tone of its articles -- and its refusal, with rare exceptions such as Virginia Postrel, to put intelligent conservatives on its editorial pages -- were already costing it credibility outside of the New York/Washington media cocktail circuit and the groves of academe. My classmates from business school, unlike their elders at the banks and consultancies, didn't even bother getting subscriptions when they moved to New York. The coverage of the war, however, was the nail in the coffin. While the Washington Post was offering a range of viewpoints, the New York Times was accentuating the negative. We couldn't win. Even if it might temporarily look like we were winning, we actually weren't. The Taliban might be on the endangered species list, but there are a lot more where they came from. Etc. My (admittedly somewhat cynical ears) detected a distinct note of glee in all of this. IMHO, there are two reasons for this:

1) Bush is president, and he's actually doing a pretty OK job.
2) The New York Times would rather cover a disaster than a victory because
a) A disaster lasts longer
b) It feels more exciting and important to describe a disaster than to discuss the floats at a victory parade
c) They like being the Voice of Doom. I myself am not immune to the seductive joys of raining on someone else's parade. (pardon the repitition; I couldn't think of another metaphor.)

Anyway, I think that they badly miscalculated, mostly because (as I am far from the first to point out) Punch Salzberger has surrounded himself entirely with people who agree with him. Personally, I think the Post will emerge as the paper of record on the policy side, the Journal on the New York/Business side. But we shall see.

Posted by Jane Galt at 01:15 PM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

WATCH ME MAKE MY FIRST

WATCH ME MAKE MY FIRST HYPERLINK
City Journal, a quasi-libertarian quarterly dedicated (as far as I can tell -- I've never read their mission statement) to the conservative take on urban issues, has a proposed design for the WTC site. Looks pretty good to me, but then, I'm not an architect, nor a city planner -- something in me feels that it should be an enormous memorial, even though I know that this would devastate lower Manhattan.

Posted by Jane Galt at 12:17 PM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

WHAT I'M READING THIS WEEK

WHAT I'M READING THIS WEEK

World War II Nostalgia
The Corps series, by WEB Griffin. The books are somewhat cartoonish (does every Marine meet good looking women who fall into bed with them five hours after they meet?), but very amusing and offer interesting historical tidbits. For those of us who find the present a little frightening, it's a pleasant escape, especially since it makes you realize that it wasn't a very sure thing that we would win the war, way back then.

Could This Be Another Great Depression?
Once in Golconda by John Brooks. It's not quite up to the incomparable The Great Crash by John Kenneth Galbraith, but it's an interesting picture of the period between 1920-1940, and is blissfully free of Galbraith's obvious (if sometimes accurate) editorial bias.

How Should the Nation React to a New Security Threat
The Rosenberg File by Ronald Radosh. Yes, indeed, they were communist spies. The book is thorough, but lacks direction -- there is a mountain of evidence, but the straight chronological recount, without the framework of conclusions that could or should be drawn from it, makes it feel rather meandering. If all you want is the facts, its a useful compendium -- but since I was born in 1973, I wanted a little more context.

Where's the Light at the End of the Tunnel
When God Doesn't Make Sense by James Dobson. Yes, the Family Research Council. It was given to me free by the Salvation Army (funny, I never thought about the Salvation component until I got down here -- where they are doing a superb job, by the way), and takes about two hours to read. While I have a little trouble with the author's biblical literalism (I just can't believe that there are demons hovering around trying to do me in) it has some surprisingly insightful, and incisive, things to say about the anger one feels when things don't go according to plan.

Just for Fun
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. I'm afraid that for me, nothing he writes has ever lived up to The Chosen and The Promise. But still excellent by any other standards.

Posted by Jane Galt at 12:12 PM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

Issue resolved. Now to introduce

Issue resolved. Now to introduce myself. I am, it seems, the epitome of our new century. I'm 28, just graduated from one of the top business schools in the world, and just had my job offer rescinded by a management consulting firm. In the interim, I have obtained a job with a construction company working on the WTC disaster recovery site. No, I don't work on "the pile" (as it is known here, despite the fact that they are already working below ground level) -- I work in a trailer across the street, doing everything from handing out security passes, to database design, to typing letters. Unfortunately, I can't offer any great insights, or even good gossip, about the site -- first, because they don't tell me anything, and second, because relating what I do hear could cost me my job.

So no great insights. But possibly interesting trivia. Such as -- the police, fire, and construction workers are whizzing around the streets of lower Manhattan in cunning little golf-cart type vehicles (with more power and usually 4WD, but without, alas, the cupholders). It is probably the only time in my life that I shall be able to go the wrong way on a one way street with cops nodding at me as I pass them. The World War II air prevails. It is unbearably awful to see the destruction, especially when they find bodies. Yet as long as we are here, and busy, it is easier to bear it all than it would be to be working somewhere else, and worrying, and unable to do anything about it. The people around you here have a reverence for their work that is absent almost anywhere else -- most people, most of the time, try to do the right thing just because they should.

Off the site, on the other hand, it is more like the Great Depression. One of the guys told me that three weeks after the Day, when he had been working all that time without a break (I got lost in that clause somewhere, and can't seem to get back on the right track. So I shall abandon it to its fate) he decided to get drunk. The whole time he'd been here, seeing body parts and terrible destruction, he had been able to handle it -- and this had made him think that perhaps there was something wrong with him, that he didn't break down. As soon as he sat down in a nice warm bar, in clean clothes, with a stiff drink in his hand, he began to cry. And couldn't stop. Similarly, I was fine until I left the site in search of office supplies. Passing through Union Square, I saw the thousands -- THOUSANDS -- of fliers posted by families missing loved ones. Seeing two or three on the television was sad, of course -- but seeing thousands of photographs, every single one of them of some cherished happy memory, was too much. One of them in particular sticks with me still. It was a snapshot of two friends, both Cantor Fitzgerald traders. They were in a hallway, obviously at a party, and one of them had the other in a headlock. Most people my age have an identical snapshot somewhere in their albums. And I thought, it could have been any of us holding the camera. I cried. Not a few little tears delicately overflowing my eyes, but huge, racking sobs that attracted the stares of passersby.

So that is the more-solemn-than-I-had-intended introduction to my blog. There will be lighter items on fascinating topics such as how much weight everyone's gained since 9-11 (last night, someone told me that the average American has gained 20 POUNDS since the Day -- as if most of us needed an excuse), and why I think that this recession actually is very similar to the Great Depression. Not to mention my no-more-ignorant-than-anyone-else's opinion on current politics, etc.

Posted by Jane Galt at 11:34 AM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

I haven't disappeared


..I'm just over the river and through the woods in a land of poor connections and low bandwidth (Litchfield County, CT). Saw Harry Potter last night, buried my cat (had him since 1985, put him down in January) and put in the most comfortable long mileage of the season.

I'm working on a follow up to Fredrik Norman's comments about Norway. Right now it is entitled "Scandinaïve". I'm also reading Easterly's "The Elusive Quest for growth". Great book, except for the title. It seems to me it's growth that can be elusive, not the quest for it.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 11:32 AM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

I seem to be posting

I seem to be posting on West Coast time, despite the fact that, as my heading reveals, I am about as far east as you can get without a wetsuit and flippers. Must investigate this.

Posted by Jane Galt at 10:32 AM | TrackBack
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

Skipping the customary opening remarks

Skipping the customary opening remarks about my intentions in beginning this blog (which generally put me in mind of Robert Benchley's statement that he found bookshelves mightily depressing because he could too readily see behind each forgotten volume an author signing his name to a finished manuscript and saying to himself "there! Now I've secured the immortality of my name." So I shall say only that I am writing this in the confident expectation that no one will read it, but still with the faint hope that somebody might. . .

Posted by Jane Galt at 10:30 AM | TrackBack

November 20, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

A Thanksgiving Toast: To Accurate History and Inspiring Myth


Today I read the Thanksgiving chapter of Lies my Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. This book takes history textbooks to task for innacuracy and a variety of other sins. Loewen has multiple agendas, not all of which I support, but this chapter is worth a read. He and my wife, who has an American History background, are my sources for most of the material here.

Like most born skeptics, I had a sense that the whole "Thanksgiving Story" was a crock even before I was given any alternative versions. The friendly "Indian meets Pilgrim and shares corn" story we acted out in elementary school was a little too neatly wrapped. I remember I played Peter Pan the same year, and I certainly didn't take that as fact either. Nor do I relish the memory of jumping around in a green skirt with dyed green Hanes, but that's another story.

The real story of the settlers in Plymouth is a doozy. It is, as Loewen suggests, unlikely that the Plymouth settlers, or the Jamestown settlers before them, would have survived if it were not for the agricultural innovations and infrastructure of the Indian settlements they essentially swallowed. In return, they (as well as the Jamestown settlers) brought smallpox and a variety of other diseases to a healthy and non-resistant native population. There is substantial evidence to suggest that the native American settlements near Jamestown and Plymouth (Patuxet) were wiped out by diseases from this European vector. Of course, there is also lots of evidence that the Indian tribes made frequent war upon each other, and their alliance with some European settlers was merely a matter of attempting to gain a brutal military advantage. As the book title says, Guns, Germs and Steel. Like the rest of the world, Massachusetts in the 17the century was a brutal place. The story of Squanto is particularly interesting:

What do the books leave out about Squanto? First, how he learned English. According to Ferdinando Gorges, around 1605 a British captain stole Squanto, who was then still a boy, along with four Penobscots, and took them to England. There Squanto spent nine years, three in the employ of Gorges. At length, Gorges helped Squanto arrange passage back to Massachusetts. Some historians doubt that Squanto was among the five Indians stolen in 1605. All sources agree, however, that in 1614 a British slave raider seized Squanto and two dozen fellow Indians and sold them into slavery in Malaga Spain. What happened next makes Ulysses look like a homebody. Squanto escaped from slavery, escaped from Spain, and made his way back to England. After trying to get home via Newfoundland, in 1619 he talked Thomas Dermer into taking him along on his next trip to Cape Cod....Squanto set foot again on Massachusetts soil and walked to his home village of Patuxet, only to make the horrifying discovery that he was the sole member of his village still alive. All the others had perished in the epidemic two years before. No wonder Squanto threw in his lot with the Pilgrims.
Thanksgiving was not an annual holiday until Lincoln declared it one in 1863. In fact, the word "Pilgrim" did not come into use until around that time. This holiday did not yet have its association with the Plymouth Rock settlers. Prior to Lincoln, presidents commonly called one-time national days of thanksgiving. The evolution of the holiday as we have come to know it occurred between the end of the Civil War and World War I. It appears to have been an outgrowth of the "Colonial Revival" movement in which American culture reacted to the post Civil War period and the industrial revolution by harkening back to the country's more simple roots.

The Thanksgiving story is not history, and, since it is not really rooted in that time, may not even be Legend (link on this). It is a myth or "sacred history" that recasts our origins into an inspirational guidepost for the future. It is a story told to represent an ideal America in which cultures exchange to mutual benefit. It speaks of refugees from religious oppression bravely striking out to a new land and joining together with the vastly different native Americans to thank God for the tremendous bounty of what is now our United States. It is about the common pursuit of happiness. As Loewen points out, some textbooks need to define it as myth more clearly. It isn't a historical record, but it is historical in the sense that it describes Twentieth Century American ideals.

It speaks volumes about the U.S., and other countries that value liberty and democracy, that we can tell the difference between history and myth, and that we constantly seek to understand, criticize and improve on that history. We can celebrate this story's ideals, while simultaneously discussing how we did not live up to them at the time. We take the same attitude towards religion. We accept the stories of the Bible, or the Koran as similar belief systems. They are instructive about our ideals and aspirations. They require interpretation beyond the literal. They are not an instruction book for living - insert tab B in slot A and you will go to heaven. More importantly, they are not codified into State or Law. This is what distinguishes us from fanatics such as crusaders, Nazis or Militant Islamic fundamentalists like the Taliban, who insist on incorporating myths and beliefs into a structure for oppressing mankind and extinguishing the unbelievers or unchosen.

Perhaps there will be a holiday in Afghanistan in the future, and the stories told on that holiday will include a woman burning her burqa, a child flying a kite, perhaps even American and Afghan soldiers riding together on horseback. Perhaps those stories will speak to our common knowledge of the strength of the human desire for liberty, and a better relationship with a developing country emerging from decades of punishing war and occupation. Such stories would gloss over the gruesome realities of the war and omit the horrible choices made in wartime between relative evils. They would be far from an official history of the war, but they would represent a better future for Afghans.

Let the myths be made. Let the history also be debated there as lively a fashion as here in our newspaper editorials, classrooms, discussion threads and, of course, weblogs. May there be as much to be thankful for in Afghanistan as there is here.

I am so thankful for my intelligent and insightful new friends and discussion partners in this international "blogging" community who are part of this tradition. On Thursday I will raise my virtual glass to you and wish you and your families a very happy Thanksgiving.

'Mindles'.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:39 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Compensation Culture


Reader and fellow blogger Iain Murray writes me to explain the "compensation culture" in Britain that leads to the type of payments described in the post immediately below. This is apparently the truth - you get money for watching your relatives expire on television. Murray discusses this in some of the posts on his site, and It sounds a bit like a nationalized version of our tort bar. Perhaps the awards are more proportional. I like the English and/or British version of most things better, but the "compensation culture" is no more appealing wrapped in a Union Jack.

Speaking of our colonial masters, here is a gentle song of modest Anglophilia:

The rottenest bits of these islands of ours We've left in the hands of three unfriendly powers Examine your Irishman, Welshman or Scot You'll find he's a stinker as likely as not

The English the English the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest

The Scotsman is mean as we're all well aware
And bony and blotchy and covered with hair;
He eats salty porridge, he works all the day
And he hasn't got Bishops to show him the way.

The English are noble, the English are nice
And worth any other at double the price

And crossing the Channel one cannot say much
For the French or the Spanish the Danish or Dutch
The Germans are German, the Russians are Red
And the Greeks and Italians eat garlic in bed

The English are moral, the English are good
And clever and modest and misunderstood

-Flanders & Swann, A Song of Patriotic Prejudice

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:47 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Extra for watching on television?

Extra for watching on television?
Britain to compensate attack victims' relatives who were traumatized by TV coverage :

LONDON (November 19, 2001 5:54 p.m. EST) - Britons whose relatives died in the terror attack on the World Trade Center are eligible for financial compensation if they were traumatized by watching television coverage of the catastrophe, officials said Monday.

The British Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority said people who suffered in this way could receive up to $38,600.

Previously, the commission paid only for incidents that occurred in Britain, aboard a British-registered ship or in the undersea Channel Tunnel between Britain and France.

"This is a recognition that the scheme has moved with the times," said a commission spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It takes into account advances in technology and that traumatic events can unfold before the victim's eyes.

I understand the Trauma of losing a loved one. I understand the trauma of watching it on TV. I do not understand the financial advantages of the latter, or how providing such "stands with the Americans". This is just a quick post - am I misreading this article?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:57 AM

November 19, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

African rebel throws peanut shells at the European Commission


An elephant in a Portuguese zoo rings a bell when you give him an escudo. He is, of course, being retrained for the Euro changeover.

Unfortunately, the Elephant is out of compliance. Most countries will be requiring dual currency operations at least until February. The Zoological Gardens of Lisbon's contingency plans are unknown.

The Elephant is named after UNITA rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. This is a good name for an elephant.

Savimbi's talents involve finding US Dollars in Washington.

What are you looking at me for? I don't know. Move along, blog's over.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 06:24 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Champagne and Raspberries


CHAMPAGNE: The internet taxation ban has been extended for two more years. Bush goes on record saying he wanted longer.

RASPBERRIES:Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is bidding out its version of parental state controls over the internet:

"The Internet is a frightening place to some people," said Mr. Holt, who oversees sales operations in the Middle East for Secure Computing. "The government feels the need to intervene."

Saudi security agencies identify the political Web sites that are considered for inclusion on the blacklist. Among the banned sites are the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in the Arabian Peninsula (www.cdrhap.com) and the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (www.islah.org). Even some less politically charged sites, including ones that recount the history of Saudi Arabia, are blocked.

In response to Internet filtering, many Saudis either dial up foreign Internet service providers, use Web sites that protect the user's identity or engage in a cat-and-mouse game with Web sites that frequently change their addresses to elude filters. (For such sites, like the one operated by Islah.org, would-be visitors send e-mail to a fixed address and receive the new Web address.)


How many times, do you suppose, do stasists like Saudi Arabia need to see the overwhelming power of mankind's desire for individual liberty before they stop these tragi-comic, self-defeating policies?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 04:58 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

The "bubble-up" theory of taxation


Virginia Postrel debunks soft drink critics. Meanwhile, Mexico takes a page from the U.S. stance on tobacco and proposes turning soft drinks into a permanent revenue stream:

The idea is to slap a 20% tax on soda, on top of the 15% value added tax which already applies to such beverages.

Interestingly, Vicente Fox is a former Coca-Cola executive. He's plundering his old stomping grounds to pay for an ambitious program of government spending. In other words, he's retreating to the tactics of his predecessors.

As we've learned from Tobacco, you can make a lot of money this way. Nothing like a regressive tax on a habit-forming product popular with the masses. The Mexican congress is also still debating making food and medicine subject to the VAT. This is a poor substitute for low tax rates combined with better compliance in a country where only 8% of the population pays taxes.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:55 AM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Afghanistan is a quagmire


A graveyard for foreign occupying armies that seek to impose their totalitarian views on Afghan citizens.

Those words were correct. They just forgot to specify the occupying army - the one made up of totalitarian theocrats.

To be fair, all these links are from the New York Times, which offers some great coverage today. Now if they could just get a better handle on the basics of macroeconomics, as I pointed out on October 3rd..

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:39 AM

November 18, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Tell that to the warbloggers...


"They are only human beings whose power has been exaggerated because of their huge media and the control they exert over the world's media." -- Mohammed Atef on the United States, in an interview

I took a quick look for the interview itself but came up emptyhanded. Anyone find it?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:03 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

This is me not feeling sorry for murderous fundamentalist mercenaries (2)


Dropscan points us to this teary article about a Pakistani who claims he was on a walking tour..with three days of military training.

And here is the Edge of England's Sword with another:

Al-Qa'eda massacre Taliban, reports the Sunday Telegraph. Oh dear. When "Bomber" Harris announced the massive bombing of German civilian targets to the British people he said, "They have sown the wind. Now they shall reap the whirlwind." Amen.
Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:06 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Another tortured line of reasoning


In an email, second hand, I heard another interesting defeatist line of argument, How can we get aid to Afghanistan if we bomb their infrastructure? Hmmm, a while ago one of the reasons not to bomb was that there was no infrastructure. There was some truth to the claim that we were making the rubble bounce. Well, now there are a bunch of military engineers and heavy equipment to make the roads, bridges and airports hum (at least relatively). Seems to me Taliban-controlled infrastructure wasn't much use in getting aid through. Wasn't it just recently we heard about that infamous $43 million?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:02 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Hey, nice blog


Moira Breen takes apart the indignant-about-dissenters-against-dissent Mark Lawson. Read for yourself. Via Instapundit.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 03:58 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Don't touch that dial...


MTZ referral stats indicate that the number of my readers linking to my blogs on economics is roughly equivalent to the number that like to cuddle up with a nice Barbara Kingsolver novel at 9:00PM. Like me, when they get the paper, they head for the handwringers on the editorial page first.

P.G. Wodehouse once described one of his characters as having the "furtive air of an Englishman who is about to speak French". Well, I speak to you with the furtive and overly serious air of a warblogger addressing Economics. But I ask my new friends (Matt, Steven, Shiloh, Stuart "are you there?" Buck), should we not demand the same factual standards and accountability in coverage of other areas as well?

The New York Times covers the new tax cut proposals with its usual one-sidedness and broad statements that "assume away" opposing viewpoints. The gist of the article is that corporations are bellying up to the trough for tax cuts. That much is undoubtedly true. Nonetheless, the Times conveniently forgets that taxes come out of corporate profits, comparing tax cuts to direct subsidies in the very first paragraph:

In recent weeks, a steady parade of executives from industries like airlines and insurance companies, hotels and pharmaceutical companies, has trooped to Washington for handouts. Some have walked away with billions in aid. But those pleas pale when compared with the all-out lobbying push now under way — a fight for broad and deep corporate tax cuts that are being measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

The only third party experts quoted are from Citizens for Tax Justice and the Progress and Freedom Foundation, well known critics of tax cutting and business in general. The big chart estimating the costs? Its from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which claims to be non-partisan, but a few clicks through the website and an inspection of its board will tell you it has a definite perspective.

The quote from Citizens for Tax Justice is the big laugher:

Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, an advocacy group that is critical of tax breaks, said he had not seen anything like it since 1981, when Ronald Reagan became president. "Basically they want to take us back to the 1980's, when half of the companies in the country were not paying any taxes," he said.

Quick fact check: Taxes paid by corporations, in inflation-adjusted 1982 dollars, decreased from 86 billion dollars (51 billion 1975 dollars) to $63 billion dollars in 1982. Taxes paid by corporations in 1989 dollars increased from 79.5 billion dollars (again, 63 billion 1982 dollars) to 141.5 billion dollars in 1989. If you want, get the nominal amounts for any year here. Do the inflation math here. Point? Corporations as a whole paid substantially more taxes over the course of the 1980s, so the tax relief they may have experienced could even have been productive. So why act like the opposite has been conclusively shown? Furthermore, CTJ seems to lose sight of the fact that corporations are made up of shareholders who are individuals, pension funds and other corporations. Income from your stock investments is taxed substantially more than your salary. Corporate taxes are a second layer of taxation on individuals, the opposite of a tax shelter.

I recognize that this CTJ blather is a quote. But these two tax-cut critics are the only people quoted in the article that actually address the revenue or stimulus effects of corporate tax cuts. And, of course, the reporter doesn't challenge them. This just isn't balanced. Shocker, right?

Just for the record, my point of view is that marginal rate cuts, not retroactive givebacks, are an important stimulus for corporations, especially small companies, where most of the job growth comes from. For an elegant analysis of how this worked from 1985 to 1988 (those horrible 1980s again), you could buy the paper abstracted here.

Moving right along, the body of the article lets the following breezy pseudo-factoid go by:

The provisions likely to be successful include faster write-offs on new capital investments, more liberal use of tax losses and some changes in the alternative minimum tax, which requires that all corporations pay at least some taxes to the government each year.
Not exactly. The Alternative minimum tax excludes many legitimate deductions and assures that corporations pay a minimum rate on taxable income. This is very different from suggesting that somehow the AMT is like the ante in a poker game. Of course citizens for tax justice thinks differently, but their website indicates they don't know the difference between GAAP accounting and tax accounting, mistaking the "effective" tax rate for the statutory tax rate. If they would like the government to adapt GAAP accounting, be my guest. Price Waterhouse, I believe, used to occasionally take a shot at recasting government accounts in GAAP, which recognizes liabilities as they occur, instead of as they are paid. As I recall GAAP accounting suggests that the biggest increase in the deficit occurred in the Carter years, not Reagan.

And then the next not-so-subtle juxtaposition:

After the terrorist attacks, the president and Congressional leaders quickly agreed to the broad outlines of a one-year economic stimulus plan of $50 billion to $75 billion to help those hurt most by the attacks and the economic downturn. In principle, it was to be a stimulus package with heavy emphasis on economic recovery and on increasing consumer confidence.

Since then, the plan has turned into a tax-cutting vehicle. The stimulus package passed by the House consists largely of tax cuts, with more than 70 percent of them going to corporations.

The assumption underneath this article, superficially about corporate lobbying, is that anything that allows companies to keep their profits has nothing to do with the economy, and that anything a sleazy lobbyist works for must be bad policy. Again, the Times offers no guidance on whether corporate tax cuts are a stimulus or not, and offers only bias on the "fairness" of corporate taxation. The private sector (namely corporations) has provided substantially all our economic growth in the last twenty years. The $272 billion in corporate taxes paid in 2000, even as we entered our first capital spending bust in years, deserves more evenhanded treatment.

Guys. We love to shoot the Common Dreams/Indymedia fish in a barrel. If, in the happy event of a major decrease in threats, there is less warblogging to do, I hope you will join me in applying the same scrutiny to the media's coverage of other important matters.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 02:30 PM

November 17, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

He's gone - no he's not - which one's better?


While all the defeatists here think bin Laden is long gone, the Taliban is insisting he's still in Afghanistan. It's funny to watch everybody assert facts to suit their view or support their P.R. objectives.

Hey, just 'cause you say it with conviction don't make it mean shit.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:25 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

Bienvenue...enfin


As Eddie Izzard says "killing other people's citizens by the thousands....after two or three years we won't have any more of that!". The French have announced they will bomb Al Qaeda..in a week or two.

For Izzard fans, let's hope the French are more helpful than the monkey.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 07:57 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

From Both Sides Now


Shiloh Bucher nabs David Brooks. Go see it.

Ha, ha. What's so crass about the pursuit of happiness, be it soccer or listening to music? What a freakin' sourpuss.

Shiloh should introduce Brooks to Fran Sepler. Big party.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 03:27 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

#2, #3. #4 - well, more #2


Common Delusions has a contribution from Robert Fisk memorably titled "Forget the Clichés, There is No Easy Way for the West to Sort This Out"

Afghanistan – as the armies of the West are about to realize– is not a country. You can't "occupy" or even "control" Afghanistan because it is neither a state nor a nation. Nor can we dominate Afghanistan with the clichés now being honed by our journalists. We may want a "broad-based" government, but do the Afghans? We may regard cities as "strategic" – especially if reporters are about to enter them – but the Afghans have a different perspective on their land.

As for the famous loya jirga, a phrase which now slips proudly off the lips of cognoscenti, it just means "big meeting". Even more disturbingly, it is a uniquely Pashtun phrase and thus represents the tribal rules of only 38 per cent of Afghan society.

The real problem is that Afghanistan contains only tiny minorities of the ethnic groups which constitute its population. Thus, the 7 million Pashtuns in the country are outnumbered by the 12 million Pashtuns in Pakistan, the 3.5 million Tajiks in Afghanistan are outnumbered by the 6 million Tajiks in Tajikistan. The 1.3 million Uzbeks are just a fraction of the 23 million Uzbeks in Uzbekistan. There are 600,000 Turkmens in Afghanistan – but 3.52 million in Turkmenistan. So why should the Afghan Pashtuns and Tajiks and Uzbeks and Turkmens regard Afghanistan as their country? Their "country" is the bit of land in Afghanistan upon which they live.

Another trick of the genre - "We begin the delusions with the a priori assumption that the war is a failure. So if it seems to be achieving its goal, then we restate the goal so that it hasn't actually been achieved." (thank you Steven, well said). Occupying Afghanistan has never been high on the list of aims for the guy Fisk et. al. criticized for not wanting to engage in "Nation Building". Also, hasn't democracy helped us with our arbitrary borders and diversity? I guess we're doomed as well.

Another piece from Andrew Murray:

It is still unclear whether this week's developments will bring peace to Afghanistan, but the first reports of resurgent warlords, massacres, lynchings and factional infighting are not encouraging. What is certain is that they will do nothing to remove the sources of terror and conflict in the wider world.

I guess that's why we've been talking about how long it would take, and how this was just one phase. Still, Al Qaeda leaders dead or on the run with no financing seems like a start.

And this from Fran Sepler:

It is hard to think of ourselves as a nation at war. There is no climate of self-sacrifice. The flags on the overpasses are faded and beginning to tatter. Food is plentiful and even the horrors of anthrax seem, somehow, a domestic nightmare and not the stuff of grave international upheaval.

With our "war" being at best an application of our intellect and imagination with a touch of heart thrown in to the mix, a dangerous dynamic is afoot. It appears we are headed toward, if not mired in, a dialectic of "for it" or "against it."

I'd be glad to make it harder for her. And if she wants to be "sort of for it", be my guest. As long as we don't "sort of" fight it.

I could go on and on. By the way, here are some other "Common Dreams"

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 03:05 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

"Don't touch that, it's concentrated evil"


Remember at the end of Time Bandits when the kid tells his parents that? They both immediately stick their fingers out and....kaboom!

Well, I looked at Common Dreams again. As a Medieval Russian Monk once wrote in the margin of the manuscript he was copying, "My head hurts. Occh, occh, and again, occch! So much for my weekend. Here's the article and quote that got me, by Barbara Robinson on defining terrorism:

As I have watched the propaganda films showing the public executions and hangings in Afghanistan, I don't see how they differ from the hangings of many innocent black men by the Klan or the capital punishment we now inflict on criminals in the United States. The Taliban says they have executed only 42 people since they took control of Afghanistan five years ago. How does that compare with the number of executions in Texas during that time?

I can't resist:

Texas
1) the nature of their crimes - say mass murder vs., um, showing skin or practicing Christianity
2) due process/appeal/juries....
3) Texas isn't lying about the number....

The Klan
Well, I'll go along here, but one difference is that in one of the states where they did it it's now punishable by....death! And it wasn't being orchestrated outside the U.S.

It's interesting that she starts the article with a statement of patriotism (a "dissenter against dissent" prophylactic?). But plenty of the tired techniques of the genreare still here, like interpreting a demonstration about CNN as an infringement of (rather than an exercise in) free speech.

The window's open, and against all better judgement, I may poke around....Anyone interested in compiling a "defeatist lexicon"? Could be painful fun..

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 02:20 PM
silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

There goes my donation...


I was listening to NPR today as I shuttled my son around (I know, but I can't help it. I'm a classical music buff). It's about 9:15 in the morning and Daniel Schorr has just gotten through criticizing the Bush administration for not drafting a written agreement with Putin. The fellow who comes on after Schorr opens coverage of the aid workers with

"The return of the aid workers was never an aim of the military action in Afghanistan, so their release this week was an unexpected bonus"
That's what I heard. Does anybody else find these little asides breathtaking? It's as if we can take for granted that the administration doesn't give a shit about individuals. The funny thing, I don't think he even considered what was implicit in his comment.

As a reminder, here are some administration statements:

(1)"We are continuing to call for their release and safe return," Mr. Lamora said. They are not forgotten, "not by the U.S. government or the Department of State. ... We're very intensely involved and very much interested in getting them out of there safely as soon possible." September 18

(2)"President Bush has also demanded the Taliban free eight foreign aid workers detained since August for allegedly preaching Christianity. Two Pakistani defense lawyers traveled to Kabul and on Saturday met with the detainees - two Americans, two Australians and four Germans." September 29

(3)However, the shrill rhetoric appeared to mask a sense of desperation as the Taliban searched for a way out of the crisis. The regime offered to release eight aid workers, including two Americans, if Washington stopped its threats and began negotiations.

The White House rejected the offer, and spokeswoman Claire Buchan called on the Taliban to release the aid workers immediately.

Afghan authorities also announced they would unconditionally release British journalist Yvonne Ridley, 43, who was arrested last month inside Afghanistan with two Afghan guides. British officials expected her release within days. October 6

(4)But a Bush administration official said Saturday the aid workers should be released unconditionally. October 7


Of course, we know the rest...

"I'm thankful they're safe, and I'm pleased with our military for conducting this operation," U.S. President George W. Bush said at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Bush had rejected several attempts by the Taliban to use the aid workers as bargaining chips.

Bush said the Red Cross and other "people on the ground facilitated" U.S. troops' ability to rescue the aid workers, but the president wouldn't say whether the people were U.S.-backed anti-Taliban groups or others.

The president said he had been worried that the Taliban might put the aid workers in a house that might be bombed accidentally, and said the U.S. military had been working on plans for a secret rescue if needed.


I could have posted over 100 links up here. Thanks to search engines, proving these litle history rewrites wrong has gotten a lot easier. Grrrrrr.

Oh, and by the way, I remember Schorr criticizing Reagan for his insistence on inspections with a much more hostile regime. I guess documents and processes are better than results. Also, here are Schorr's predictions on disarmament after the elections in 2000:

In the United Nations five nuclear powers, including the United States, have committed themselves, without a timetable, to the "ultimate goal" of eliminating nuclear weapons. But, as things stack up, that is an exercise in futility.
Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 01:42 PM

November 16, 2001

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Good rule


re. Hartsfield shutting down today:

Asked why the guards didn't physically stop him, Collins said, "They don't have the authority to touch any passengers. They can only sound an alert."

But they got his nail clippers, which is a relief.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:26 PM
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More evidence I'm an amateur


Matt Welch points out that he objected to Gore and Nader's Hollywood-bashing, despite the claims of silence in my quote from Brian Carnell:

Dems -- party of censorship
Gore & Nader's views on sex & cultural filth
Post-election Lieberman/Clinton vs. Hollywood

Note to self - check sources that should be obvious. Second note to self - keep day job.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:29 PM
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Delusions of Persecution and Grandeur


A rather dynamist editorial by Ayaz Amir in Dawn:

For 20 years - that is, since Ziaul Haq's time - Pakistan has been in the grip of state fundamentalism: a mindset manifested in (1) our pursuit of nuclear status; (2) our obsession with Afghanistan; and (3) our attitude to Kashmir. At the altar of these sacred shibboleths all other aspects of national life, including democracy and sound economics, have been sacrificed....

At long last we have a chance to give Pakistan a new direction so that it looks ahead instead of back. We have a chance to cure the Pakistani state of its delusions of persecution and grandeur. The world is not out to get us (persecution). Nor are we a fortress of Islam destined to fulfil messianic dreams (grandeur).


Sounds like more letting free people and free markets sort it out, and less trying to mold the world with holier-than-thou intentions. Where have I heard that before?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:17 PM
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An accident? perhaps not...


This from Dawn, a Pakistan-based news organization.

US warplanes drop four bombs in Pakistani territory: ISLAMABAD, Nov 16: Four stray bombs dropped during an overnight US air strike landed in tribal territory close to the border with Afghanistan, officials said today. An interior ministry official said the bombs fell in an uninhabited tract of land in the tribal zone of Khurram in NorthWest Frontier Province. "So far we have no reports of casualties or damages," the official said, adding two of the bombs exploded near a border observation post.

Perhaps this picture isn't far off.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 04:03 PM
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"One of our great assets in this large and broad campaign is that our enemies not only menace us, but they terrorize the vast numbers of people they claim to speak for"


Courtesy of Dale Amon, I read through these remarks prepared for Paul Wolfowitz' delivery on November 14. They give some first hand accounts by american forces on the ground, including this:

DEPARTED POSITION FROM WHICH I SPOKE TO YOU LAST NIGHT…[WE LEFT] ON HORSE AND LINKED UP WITH REMAINDER OF [THE ELEMENT]. I HAD MEETING WITH [THE COMMANDER]…WE THEN DEPARTED FROM OUR INITIAL LINKUP LOCATION AND RODE INTO MAZAR-E-SHARIF ON BEGGED, BORROWED AND CONFISCATED TRANSPORTATION.

WHILE IT LOOKED LIKE A RAG-TAG PROCESSION, THE MORALE INTO MAZAR-E-SHARIF WAS A TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION. ALL LOCALS LOUDLY GREETED US AND THANKED ALL AMERICANS. MUCH WAVING, CHEERING AND CLAPPING EVEN FROM THE WOMEN… USN/USAF DID A GREAT JOB…


The Secretary goes on to say:

Beyond Afghanistan, one of our great assets in this large and broad campaign is that our enemies not only menace us, but they terrorize the vast numbers of people they claim to speak for. It should be no surprise that states that sponsor terrorism also terrorize their own people. The people who suffer from the terror of their own rulers can become our best allies in getting their rulers out of the business of supporting terrorism. Our soldiers on the ground helping liberate Mazar-I-sharif, reported that Afghani people greeted the arrival of their liberators with joy, hopeful that this is the beginning of the end of their national nightmare, and proving barbarism can not kill the basic human desire for freedom.

That is a truth Ronald Reagan understood well. In 1982, in one of the darker moments of the Cold War, he told members of the British Parliament that even in the Communist world, "man’s instinctive desire for freedom and self-determination surfaces again and again." He said that "how we conduct ourselves here in the Western democracies will determine whether this trend continues…."

History must record that this insistence on promoting democracy and human rights throughout the world resulted in one of Reagan’s most important legacies—the triumph of democracy in previously totalitarian and authoritarian regimes.

It is not unreasonable to think that similar legacies are yet to come. As President Bush explained to Naval Academy midshipmen last May, "remember that America has always been committed to enlarging the circle of human freedom."


Aw heck, read it all.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 03:58 PM
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My spelling is atrocious


I've been posting in too much of a hurry. Or should I say more of a hurry than usual. Sorry.

It's a hazard of my prized amateur status - which keeps me well clear of Ken Layne's yard.

How do the pros avoid carpal tunnel syndrome?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 02:57 PM
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I missed this weblog...my loss


It seems to load awful slow, but it's worth the wait. It's Brian.Carnell.com. Today's offering:

What's always amazed me about the "religious right" is how if you repackage the exact same ideas in a liberal package, people don't even seem to notice. So if Jerry Falwell came out and said we need to start censoring movies to save our decadent culture he would be blasted for it and every pundit with a pen (or word processor) would be wringing their hands about the influence of the religious right.

But last year when both Al Gore and Ralph Nader indicated their desire to see the government step in to do something about Hollywood, pretty much no one cared. If Jerry Falwell says that the Teletubbies promote homosexuality, he's headline news and the laughing stock of the country, but when a liberal group blasts GI Joe and other toys for promoting violence to children the news media generally laps it up.


Make sure you click on the little icons to the right of each blurb and see the supplemental stories. Nice touch of blog innovation. Carnell is definitely using the web's infoglut for fun and enlightenment.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 12:17 PM
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These must be the people who wrote the Japanese curriculum on World War II


Joanne Jacobs points out that the "massacre" of Taliban soldiers described by Anne Penketh of the Independent was probably just,,,a battle. They were given an opportunity to surrender and didn't. The Taliban even killed the delegation that came in to make the offer. We all have to remember here that the Taliban's favorite mode of surrender is with explosives strapped to their chests.

The article quotes Human Rights Watch saying the Alliance's use of the Taliban's own freightcontainer-style prisons is a possible war crime. Justice, I would say. Besides, are there a lot of comfortable and secure structures around? Finally, shouldn't we be more sensitive to the Northern Alliance's culture? Shouldn't we be more "multilateral" in our definition of treatment of prisoners? If the Northern Alliance were to chop off limbs, in accordance with tradition, who are we to criticize? Don't go all absolutist on us, now. Honestly, how could Human Rights Watch be so insensitive.

So the press calls this a massacre, and the defeatists call the WTC bombing "fighting back".

Remember those Japanese textbooks on the cookout at Nanjing and the 35-year cultural exchange with Korea? Apparently Anne Penketh's been studying with the authors.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:55 AM
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Road Trip!...Curses, Foiled Again.



From here.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:59 AM
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Liberating Afghanistan from Foreign Occupation


More and more its clear that's exactly what our bombing campaign facilitated. The President should have highlighted this aspect of the war before (although the defeatists would have made it an unachievable primary war goal to make us look bad). Rand Simberg points out this article in The New Republic by Elizabeth Rubin:

For weeks we'd heard about the Pakistanis and Arabs gathering on the front lines, and the claims of the Northern Alliance that Afghanistan is under foreign occupation. Slowly, the truth of those claims came to light. Inside the city, under the pine trees and in the canals of a park near the shutdown cinema, lay the crumpled, stiff remains of several Arabs and Pakistanis who'd put up a two-hour gunfight that morning. Kids had stuffed cigarettes in the mouth of one Arab, wrapped tape from a cassette around his neck, and put a heavy stick in his hand--all symbols of the Taliban regime's repressive practices. Gathered round a sizzled pickup that had apparently been bombed by American planes, clusters of people were sifting through the debris, turning up fingers and hair of Taliban. Children on trucks, on the sidewalks, perched on the walls of the roundabouts chanted unabashedly, "Fuck off Taliban," "Fuck the Taliban mothers," "Death to the Taliban and death to Pakistan."

Read the next few paragraphs for more heartwarming liberation stories. Perhaps the fundamentalists should now start listening to the man in the street.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:55 AM
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Time for "desperate negotiations" with Al Qaeda?


Here's some commentary that'll get your blood to boiling:

Is the refusal to negotiate worth an additional loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, caused by a nuclear detonation on US soil? If the US persists in using brute force to resolve its problems, will this not invite an inevitable nuclear attack against us, by a clever engineer? Can we take seriously the notion that a “war on terrorism” will quell and finally silence all opposition to US policies, especially those which are viewed unfavorably by hundreds of millions of people?

Should we not acknowledge that the US is no longer the Superpower it once was? Even though we appear more powerful than we did before, are we not in fact more vulnerable? Will a series of wars against the Muslim nations not almost certainly guarantee a violent response, and future terrorist attacks? These questions need addressing. ....

The US more nearly resembles Nazi Germany than Bin Laden does, in the eyes of many around the world. You may not find this to be a reasonable position. However, recall it is the US which has its bases all over the world, and not Bin Laden. It is US money which is funding the Israeli military actions against a dispossessed people. It is US bombing and US led sanctions which have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including women and children (far more than the six thousand who died on Sept. 11 in the US). The US could be magnanimous here, and admit the wrong it has done. If not now, then later. History will condemn the US if it does not renounce its predatory practices in the Middle East.


Just to state the obvious - destroying the base of operations for an organization that targets innocent civilians - including the 200 Arabs that died at the WTC - probably reduces the chances of further violence. Bin Laden hijacked a country, brought mercenaries in and indiscriminately slaughtered members of other tribes and religions and helped enforce a religious code that beats and kills innocent people daily. But we're more like Nazis (despite the fact that we are "no longer a superpower")?

The policy of “no negotiations” goes back at least as far as Bush Senior. When the US demanded that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait, there was an open window for negotiations, which the Russians were trying to facilitate. The deal would have been, Saddam would withdraw from illegally seized Kuwait, if Israel would withdraw from illegally invaded Lebanon. That did not seem unreasonable. Saddam would have withdrawn simultaneously with an Israeli withdrawal. Bush would have none of it, and said, “We will NOT negotiate.” Russia and Iraq also wanted the US to participate in an international conference on the peace in the Middle East, involving Israel and the Palestinians. Bush would have none of that either.
It seems to have escaped the author's notice that the U.S isn't Israel. Furthermore, let's examine what he is saying (and assume the Lebanon equivalence, although I didn't see Kuwait launching any aggression against Iraq). Under the author's logic, when Iran took U.S. hostages in the revolution, it would have been legitimate for us to invade some country neutral but fairly sympathetic to us (as Kuwait was to the Lebanese and Palestinian causes)- say Switzerland, rape, plunder and destroy its infrastructure, and then demand that we negotiate mutual terms of withdrawal.

In this defeatist's world, every nut job could pretend he had suticase nukes and we would have to engage in negotiations for every beef. The unabomber showed more explosive ingenuity than bin Laden. Does the author suggest we negotiate with him? The only argument I can think of that supports this drivel is that we would soon live in a world where this guy's opinions could only be muttered into his brown bag full of airplane glue, as the internet, along with TVs, VCRs, kites and the sight of female skin, would be outlawed. While sponsoring reason, individual rights and restraint, the author describes a world where these value would be trampled immediately. Who are all these defeatist myopics?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 06:10 AM
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Here's to you


Traffic well into four figures yesterday. I raise my breakfast banana & orange juice to all of you and to the blogger trifecta (Welch, Reynolds, Den Beste) that brought you. I see the Blogback server is out again, so all my new visitors are faced with long waits and the unintelligible "Link or " at the end of each post. So here's a banana skin for Pyra/Blogger.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:45 AM

November 15, 2001

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War Crimes Tribunals


Reader Orrin Judd asks some good tough questions suggesting I reconsider my position on Bush's war tribunal. You can read them in the comments. I am reflecting on this, but fishing around for info. I found these delightful links about tribunals that have "convicted" the U.S. of war crimes against Yugoslavia and Iraq. It appears to be the same crowd in both cases:

(1)Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, the lead prosecutor at the International Tribunal on U.S./NATO War Crimes Against Yugoslavia, urged those present and those they represented from the 21 countries participating to carry out a sentence of organizing a campaign to abolish the NATO military pact.

(2)WAR CRIMES
A Report on United States
War Crimes Against Iraq

Ramsey Clark and others
report to the Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal

I just don't have time for another afternoon like yesterday. Anybody want these?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 02:00 PM
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Hypocrite Humanitarian


Qaddafi condemns the conduct of the Northern Alliance. What's next, Tony Soprano conducting corporate seminars on "hostile workplace" sensitivity training?

Anyone remember that old Saturday Night Live Jordache Jeans take off - the "Qaddafi Look"...workin'.....playin'....

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:55 AM
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Goofy headline of the day


Singapore shines in toilet summit.

The restroom industry has developed to a point "where it was necessary to create a significant international forum to highlight the contributions, state-of-art and practices of the restroom trade and profession," the summit organizer, the Restroom Association of Singapore, said in a statement.

The organizers added that Singapore is well placed to host the premiere event, since it has excellent amenities and cleanliness.

And if you don't flush, you get caned.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:25 AM
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Liberty and Justice For ALL


I think I have to go with Glenn Reynolds, William Safire and the ACLU on the Military Tribunal idea. There has got to be some way to protect intelligence information and proceed with dispatch while at the same time not abandoning our own sacred standards because apprehended suspected terrorists are not U.S. citizens. Cheney et. al. are pointing to precedents in the Roosevelt and Lincoln administrations. Just say no.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:50 AM
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This is me not feeling sorry for murderous fundamentalist mercenaries


Guardian Unlimited - Stranded Arabs face hard choice:

Up to 20,000 Taliban fighters trapped in the northern city of Kunduz were deciding last night whether to surrender to encircling Northern Alliance troops or face almost certain death.
The soldiers, who include large numbers of Arab fighters loyal to Osama bin Laden, found themselves cut off in Kunduz, a provincial capital, when the bulk of the Taliban's northern army retreated from Mazar-i-Sharif last week.
They now have nowhere to flee.

Also, the story about the aid workers is heartwarming this morning.

Style note - looking at my previous post, I have become waterlogged trying to "absorb the wide river of news". Perhaps in a less sleep-deprived state I can deliver some less mixed up metaphors. In the meantime, I am bending over backwards to put my nose to the grindstone.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:57 AM

November 14, 2001

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More evidence of military competence


The prolific Steven Den Beste makes some interesting points about the aid workers, apparently freed by military action.

Some unsurprising problems with media perception and conventional wisdom emerge as I absorb this wide river of news. The U.S. military, the Afghan on the street and the homegrown evil nature of our enemy are all consistently underestimated. Up until now, that is.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 11:29 PM
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On a more serious note


There are indications of nuclear bomb preparation at Al Qaeda facilities in Kabul. Here's another article. Anthony Lloyd in Kabul:

Yet it was the studies of rocket fuel, thrust capabilities and concept models of a missile with radar stealth ability and load capacity to a speed of mach 2.4 that were most unnerving for the layman. Some were written on headed paper from the Hotel Grand in Peshawar, others from the Pearl Continental in Karachi; most on blank paper or in log books. They were extensive, precise, extremely detailed: the work of a man or men with highly advanced scientific and design understanding.

The vernacular quickly spun out of my comprehension but there were phrases through the mass of chemical symbols and physics jargon that anyone could understand, including notes on how the detonation of TNT compresses plutonium into a critical mass producing a nuclear chain reaction and eventually a thermo-nuclear reaction.

This was only what was left behind by frightened men escaping the advance of the Mujahidin. The sensitive material is still with them.

I suppose this, as well, means we shouldn't be fighting this war?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 11:07 PM
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..and while anthrax rained down from the cropduster I worried about the prospects for farm subsidies...


The American Mind points out this article. The title says it all Chelsea Clinton Feared Bush Tax Cuts as Twin Towers Fell.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 11:00 PM
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The Von Hoffman award nominees


A step ahead as usual, Andrew Sullivan is compiling a list of nominees for the Von Hoffman Award - his name for my "Bozo Predicts" idea. Mining the treasure trove at Common Dreams, I sent him 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 nominations. Enjoy!

Here's one selection (3 - Robert Fisk in the Independent, November 11):

True, the Alliance's bloodiest commander, Rashid Dostun – who first visited Washington in 1996 – has just captured Mazar-i-Sharif. But this is far from Mr bin Laden's mountain fastness, and Dostum's victory will instill rage and fear among millions of non-Taliban Pashtun Afghans...

Surely now the Americans will send in ground troops. For that – if Mr bin Laden is behind the American attack – is what he must all along have intended. First came the hopeless raid on Mullah Omar's office in Kandahar. Then the reported despatch of US Special Forces to the ruthless thugs of the Northern Alliance. Surely the US 10th Mountain Division cannot be far behind.

If the Taliban had anyone to fear, it was the Alliance's Shah Massoud. But he was murdered by two Arab suicide bombers on 9 September. Then Abdul Haq – a US favourite who opposed the Taliban – was hanged while trying to arrange a regional coup in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.

Apart from the prime directive to make Bush and/or economic man look stupid, most of these dire predictions arise from a profound underestimation of mankind's desire for liberty. A lot more Afghans didn't like the Taliban than was apparent (when cameras were rolling, Burqas covered them and brutal Taliban operatives stood nearby). Why should that be so surprising?

It's ironic that left-leaning critics of our mission think tribal racism and fundamentalism are weak and despicable at home but are somehow more powerful than liberty in places like Afghanistan.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:34 PM
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Bozo predicts...survey says


First in what is destined to be a series of wishful but wrongheaded predictions, here is one from Mohammed Hakki in this week's Al-Ahram:

There is no doubt that the air raids are causing massive damage to the ruling Taliban forces. They are not, however, causing any significant defections among the tribesman who support them. If anything, the bombing is having exactly the opposite effect. More and more volunteers, credible reports have said, are joining the Taliban ranks.
What's funny is that this wishful thinker then blasts the "bias" of American Media:
Among all of my Arab American friends, no one believes anything that is broadcast on CNN, or its cheap counterpart, Rupert Murdoch's Fox News. Arab Americans say that the coverage is not only biased and one sided, but also plain uninformative. And, of course, viewers now have a truly viable alternative: the Qatar-based Arab satellite news channel Al-Jazeera. With its live newscasts from Afghanistan, Al-Jazeera doesn't shy away from making the US look bad.

What was his source on that "Taliban volunteers" idea? Big raspberry for you, Mo.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 06:45 PM
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Speaking of really effective instruments - clocked with girl power!


This from my new correspondent (and fellow mugged liberal), Shiloh Bucher at Dropscan:

AL-JAZEERA SMOOSHED BY GIRL POWER? I haven't seen this anywhere else but The Telegraph reports that people on the ground in Kabul heard that it was a female pilot who took out the office of Al-Jazeera. The station owner's son-in-law reports: "We're astonished. How could they hit one building in the centre of town? This accuracy is something beyond our comprehension. When the Russians attacked us they hit everything all around."

I don't know, don't you think Naomi Klein's landmine treaty would have been more "precise and effective?"

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:45 PM
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Aaargh, more drivel!


The site noted below, yields this horse manure from Naomi Klein (originally from the Toronto Globe & Mail):

Many who support the bombing of Afghanistan do so grudgingly: For some, the bombs seem to be the only weapons available, however brutal and imprecise. But this paucity of options is partly a result of U.S. resistance to a range of more precise and potentially effective international instruments.

Like a standing international criminal court, which the U.S. opposes, fearing that its own war heroes might face prosecution. Like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on nuclear weapons, also a no-go. And all the other treaties the U.S. has refused to ratify, on land mines, small arms and so much else that would have helped us cope with a heavily militarized state such as Afghanistan, especially as the Northern Alliance takes Kabul.

Excuse me. The Taliban were recognized by three countries prior to September 11, and one until they basically ceased to exist yesterday. Would any treaty about landmines and small arms make any difference at all in this conflict? Is there any records of countries in the region, other than, possibly, Turkey, giving a rat's ass about international agreements from Geneva? Didn't OBL just issue a death threat to arabs in the U.N.? I'm glad Naomi the clueless has her finger on the pulse of public opinion's halfhearted support of the bombing (did she ask Nelson Mandela?). But a landmine treaty is as appropriate a "precise and effective instrument" in a conflict with the Taliban as a coke spoon at Ground Zero.

I gotta get off this common dreams site, which should be called "chock full o' handwringing morons.duh" or I'll never stop blogging today. I'll give them this - they did us the service of collecting most of the world's dreaming elitist windbags in one convenient place! Kind of the ultimate warblog - sans witty and devastating commentary of course.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:21 PM
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Idiot of the day


Just when you thought the U.S.-bashers were starting to retreat, you get something like this editorial from Kaizer Nyatsumba in the Independent:

Well, before self-praise and gloating get completely out of hand, it is necessary to inject a bit of reality into the debate. I would hate to be a killjoy, but even with bin Laden and Mullah Omar captured/assassinated, the West's victory might still prove to be pyrrhic....

Far from ending terrorism, "Operation Enduring Freedom" might well spawn more terrorism against the US. By launching a military campaign against Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, instead of taking the judicial route, the US and Britain may well have created more dangerous enemies. The campaign of the past few weeks, which saw hi-tech American bombs falling on people's homes, schools, hospitals and even a Red Cross facility, have gone a long way to further hardening attitudes to the US.

However, truly civilised people do not respond to barbarity with barbarity of their own. Instead, they reveal, by their choice of action, that they are better human beings and that they will not allow their enemies to push them to stoop to such depraved levels.

Now America will never again know the kind of safety to which it was accustomed. Through its actions in the past five weeks it has created even more Muslim enemies for itself, some of whom might feel strongly enough to want to try something foolish. The situation is not helped by the continuing US partisanship in the Middle East conflict, with President George Bush's refusal to meet Yasser Arafat in New York at the weekend again indicating his failure to fully appreciate the cause of some of the hatred felt for America.


Also, "it is necessary to inject a bit of reality into the debate. I would hate to be a killjoy but"...we spent years trying to "understand" the hatred and retaliating little if at all to embassy bombings, hostage taking and numerous direct threats to our citizens. Now 5,000 U.S. civilians are dead. Personally, I feel safer with Osama cut off in the hills, and better now that another population is celebrating liberty from genocidal fundamentalist maniacs.

I googled this jerk and found some of his prior writings. Here's an important bit from a piece he wrote in August about U.S. policy in the Middle East:

When you treat people like dirt, and refuse to acknowledge that they are also human and have rights, you leave them no choice but to fight back.
Well, I don't know about Kaizer, but from my point of view being used as chaff in a passenger plane/fuel-air bomb seems not to acknowledge a person's rights, and I think the secretaries at Cantor Fitzgerald were treated pretty poorly as well. So can we fight back? Despite his claim today that we should show we are "better human beings", no such standard need be applied to Arabs, I guess. Somewhat selective, I think.

Check out the site this is on, too. Stupid enough to issue this press release to stop the bombing "so relief trucks can get through"....YESTERDAY:

BOULDER, COLORADO - November 13 - Heeding the recent calls of national and international aid organizations, the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center today urged Coloradans, and U.S. citizens in general, to press for a halt to the bombing of Afghanistan that would allow desperately needed food and medical supplies to get through.

Ahem, not to labor the point, but the bombing had enabled the relief shipments to get through - as of the date of the "Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center" press release. They should have changed the heading to "Just to Prove We're out to Lunch...".

The site is called Common Dreams, and it is chock full of this sort of U.S.-hating drivel. Dreams indeed. Were they all stoned yesterday? Could I bid on the Earth Shoe and hemp bag concession near their headquarters?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 04:37 PM
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Blair's bin Laden Culpability Document published today


Unnecessary, given the videotaped admission, but worth reading.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 03:46 PM
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Private sector failure? - Federalize, Public sector failure? - FUND!


Glenn Reynolds gets it right, as usual, commenting on The New Republic's take on airport security. First, pre-9/11 it was perfectly acceptable (although suspicious) to take five boxcutters on a plane. Secondly, if we are all so anxious for accountability, why are public agencies exempt?

it's not a question of whether screening is done by federal employees, but whether the standards are good ones, and whether they're strictly enforced. Yep. It's worth noting that industrial security is often better than that at military bases. And the people who actually dropped the ball with the hijackers weren't at Argenbright, but at the FBI, CIA, and INS. That keeps getting glossed over. If we were treating Argenbright like those agencies, we'd be doubling the value of its contracts while not firing any of its management. That's what's happening at the FBI, CIA and INS, and it's a disgrace.

Of course, airport security at the moment remains a complete joke: intrusive so that passengers will think they're being protected, but basically ineffective. The question is, will it get better if it's run by the federal government? Not unless they're willing to hold people accountable -- and the experience with the agencies that dropped the ball on the 9/11 hijackers doesn't bode well for that.

It reminds me of the school debate. In some people's eyes, public schools never fail - they just need more money (see the current debate raging in Pennsylvania).

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 12:28 PM
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Nazi Hizballah Iraqi anthrax conspiracy


DEBKAfile offers the following alleged intelligence on the Anthrax investigation:

Fresh foreign leads in the FBI’s anthrax investigation point to the involvement of one or more German or Austrian biological or chemical researcher with pro-Nazi leanings, part of a complicated South American web linked to the Hizballah and fugitive Nazi communities, some of whom are also connected to Iraqi military intelligence.
This unholy alliance of ideologies sounds almost like a republican-directed epithet from the NYTimes Op-Ed. Although we are missing skinheads, the KKK and, of course, the most over-used pre 9/11 moniker - Taliban .
Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:09 AM

November 13, 2001

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This is precisely what we need to do


Rumsfeld: U.S. Warplanes Pound Fleeing Taliban:

The secretary made clear that American warplanes, which have dropped more than 8,000 bombs in supporting Northern Alliance rebel troops against Afghanistan's Taliban leaders, were not relenting after the fall of Kabul to the alliance.

``It is a perfectly legitimate and attractive target,'' Rumsfeld said, defending strikes against Taliban forces and guerrillas of Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al Qaeda network retreating south toward the city of Kandahar.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 06:37 PM
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Sweet, simple, the stuff of life


The exercise of individual liberty in Kabul, courtesy of the BBC. A woman broadcasting the liberation of the city, a man receives a barber shop shave:

As Andrew Sullivan points out today, we should be celebrating for these folks:

Reading through the New York Times today over lunch was a truly weird experience. The paper is full of details about the stunning success of the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance but the tone is of unremitting gloom. There is a grim photo-spread of a revenge killing by the NA troops against a Taliban soldier. There is much hand-wringing over the difficulties of winning over the Pashtun. There is worry over Pakistan. As I noticed last night, there isn't a sentence of celebration in the editorial.
Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 06:22 PM
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Panda Viagra?


Its hard to surf past this headline without looking: CNN.com - 'Mission impossible' for Japan stud panda. The world is pandering to the most famous panda to reproduce. Poor Ling Ling. This kind of performance pressure must be...hard to bear. Sorry.

Perhaps some of the blue pills would help. Solve his problem Badaboom, bada Bing Bing!

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:27 AM
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A pox on both their houses


Here's a fun editorial from the Rocky Mountain News describing the debate over religious symbols and messages in a Columbine memorial:

The school board is trying to stop the parents from including religious symbols and messages on tiles that the parents are contributing to a wall dedicated to the memory of the students murdered at Columbine in 1999. The board is claiming that to allow such symbols would violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The parents claim that the free exercise clause of the same amendment requires the board to allow the tiles to be part of the wall...

The idea that such tolerance of religious sentiment constitutes some sort of governmental "endorsement" of Christian doctrine, or even religion in general, is the kind of nonsense that is not recognized as such only because it has become part of the conventional wisdom of the secular establishment.

On the other hand, the position of the parents -- that the Constitution of the United States prohibits the Jefferson County School Board from exercising its own judgment regarding what sorts of messages are appropriate for a display within one of the schools under its jurisdiction -- is just as implausible. I sometimes wonder if those who argue about the meaning of the First Amendment ever pay attention to the actual words of that text. They read, in relevant part, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It seems obvious that this sentence doesn't say anything about school boards or the content of high school displays...

If we didn't insist on dragging a largely fictitious set of constitutional doctrines into such disputes, the school board would be free to ban the religiously themed tiles -- but they would be unable to hide behind the Constitution if they chose to do so. That is, they would have to give the voters who elect them some independent reason for their decision. The dispute would then be settled explicitly in terms of the real political issues that fuel it, rather than through the disingenuous invocation of contradictory legal doctrines.


Imagine that - free market accountability for your actions. Nah, never work.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:10 AM
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It took all of two days to get out of that "quagmire"


The Northern Alliance has basically walked into Kabul. A description of the remaining Taliban soldiers:

Northern Alliance commanders said pockets of Taliban fighters continued to fight, some taking shelter in bombed-out buildings, while other Taliban trapped behind the opposition advance were blowing themselves up with hand grenades and land mines, rather than surrendering.
One has to be pleased, also, at the reports of women pulling off their burkas and playing music in the streets. What a feeling that must be. A few concerns:

1) The Northern Alliance wasn't supposed to do this yet. What is our level of diplomatic contact & influence here?
2) Is it possible this is a scorched-earth tactic? If OBL has nukes ("dirty" or otherwise), has one been left behind in one of these cities?
3) More likely, this is the beginning of a brutal guerilla war, a mode of fighting in which the Taliban has expertise.

I heard an interview on NPR last night with someone from Jane's. British Military type named Heyman or Heymann. He called the U.S. bombing campaign one of "extraordinary precision and effectiveness, that will enter every military textbook in the world, regardless of its detractors." Quagmire indeed.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 06:02 AM

November 12, 2001

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Linked encore, or Roman à page d'accueil


Matt Welch's wife, Emmanuelle Richard, who has her own site, has linked me. I see she and I share one common experience:

OK, je viens de passer une après-midi à essayer de faire fonctionner mes archives sur cette nouvelle page d'accueil, sans succès.
I wonder if Blogging has outgrown Blogger. I have spent many an après-midi dans bloggermerde as well.
Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:11 PM
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Stopping by week-old bookmarks on a fall evening


I bookmarked this editorial from the Omaha World-Herald a while ago. It is possible another blogger saw it, but I'm not sure. Its very much on the point of the last two posts:

One reason poor nations hate the United States, a Public Pulse letter recently argued, is because Americans are an "over-consuming people." Wealthy nations contain only 20 percent of the world's population, it was argued, yet they consume 75 percent of global resources and produce 80 percent of the world's waste. "Such overconsumption," it was said, "is driven by an economy that must constantly grow to be viable," resulting in a serious "ecological cost."

From such arguments, one would almost have to assume that the amount of wealth in the world remains constant and that economic activity is nothing but a bitter zero-sum contest over controlling that finite amount.


Somebody wonder why this blog is called "More Than Zero"? Mm-hmm. That's what I'm talkin' about.

Critics who claim that their moral insight entitles them to challenge other people's financial choices are trampling on a sensible and long-standing tenet of American freedom: How people choose to spend, or not to spend, is their own business. Society should work toward safeguarding that principle, not tearing it down.
Nebraska sounds like a sensible place.
Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:01 PM
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My evening plans...you can call me Candide, but don't ever call me Noam


Following up on Matt Welch's note from the Economist, I have a suggestion. Read this article by Julian Simon and Stephen Moore. To whet your appetite:

There has been more material progress in the United States in the 20th century than there was in the entire world in all the previous centuries combined. Almost every indicator of health, wealth, safety, nutrition, affordability and availability of consumer goods and services, environmental quality, and social conditions indicates rapid improvement over the past century. The gains have been most pronounced for women and minorities.
If you have time, read this whole book. Then reflect on the correlations between economic freedom and all this progress. And to top it all off, look at where the terrorism sponsors are on the list.

Then hoist a drink and tell the delusional Noam Chomsky to go F. himself. Cheers.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:29 PM
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Butt Ugly


Cadillac's new 2003 CTS looks like the Sony AIBO. Techno-chunky, you might say. I wouldn't flee Kabul in it.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 04:54 PM
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To my new friends from Matt Welch's site...


I see the blogger links aren't taking you directly to the money. The Ryan Nuckel article is here. Thanks for checking in. By way of thanks to Matt, I'll repeat, as you requested:

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, 100 developing countries have ended military or one-party rule.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, 100 developing countries have ended military or one-party rule.

...etc.

.
Progress indeed.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 03:28 PM
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Man bites dog who coughs up altered ballot


Whoa. Here's a different take on the ballot counting. Apparently the "spoiled" ballots tend to be disproportionately Republican!

The new findings show that African American Republicans who voted in Florida were in excess of 50 times more likely than the average African American to have had a ballot declared invalid because it was spoiled.

These results take into account a wide range of factors that influence spoiled-ballot rates, including education, gender, income, age, number of absentee votes, voting-machine type, ballot type and whether votes were counted at the precinct or centrally.

In other words, it is the isolated fact of being a Republican that makes an African American vastly more likely to have his or her ballot declared invalid.

These results are disturbing. They show that, if there was a concerted effort to prevent votes from being counted in Florida, that effort was directed at Republicans, not at African Americans.

This conclusion conforms with another fact that the new data reveal: Among white voters, Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to have spoiled ballots.

In addition, we found that the overall rate of spoiled ballots was 14% higher when the county election supervisor was a Democrat, and 31% higher when the supervisor was an African American Democrat.


A good statistician (see John Allen Paulos or Bjorn Lomborg) would point out that the minority group (and republicans within the black community certainly are) will experience more discrimination even if discrimination is spread equally between minorities and non-minorities. Why? because the minority encounters more of the majority group and therefore creates more potential discrimination. So even if the same percentage of people discriminate in each group, the data would show exactly what they did - a higher incidence of the minority experiencing discrimination.

I don't know whether the authors controlled for this. True or not, I have a hunch Jesse Jackson won't be highlighting this data. This just demonstrates that with 172,000 tossed and unclearly marked ballots, one can come up with a lot of conspiracy theories. We should focus on improving the mechanics of the voting system.

And to the careful readers - yes, I amended this post to be a bit more.....precise.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 12:16 PM
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My ad agency didn't warn me about this...


Courtesy of Fredrik Norman, this unfortunate placement of an American Airlines ad on ABCNews.com . Any readers know whether any sites offer to compare content in adjoining stories?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 11:25 AM
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Flight 587


Deja Vu here at the office. Sirens, jumpy people, etc. They don't teach this in Management 101.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:36 AM
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Open & Shut - the Taliban and...Hollywood?


Tom Regan offers a tribute to John Perry Barlow in the Christian Science Monitor today:

Barlow told the gathering in Camden that as far back as 1991, he had written that the openness of cyberspace would create a great series of 'holy wars,' as local systems that would feel threatened about being embedded in a global system would push back. (Click here to see a video of his actual presentation) Many 'cultures' would find openness a significant threat. Then on September 11th, he said he had a realization -- that the 21st century would be one great struggle between open and closed systems across the planet -- systems of belief, of national organizations, of boundary conditions (both real and virtual), of the ownership of ideas, etc. And these struggles would be intensified by technology, which tends to undermine elites and move communities towards democratization.
I think, perhaps, it is a bit of a flight of fancy that this is all about the internet (although Barlow points out that the Gutenberg Bible precipitated holy wars). An awful lot of people are not tuned in yet. Barlow's argument is part and parcel of the "Lexus and the Olive Tree" school of thought, oversimplified, univariate, but basically correct. Listening to his speech, I am troubled by his characterization of cyberspace as a "collective mind", but agree with his description of pushback from closed cultures as an "immune response". The Jihad is an immune response.

Barlow describes a natural alliance between Osama bin Laden and Jack Valenti: "they have more in common than not". Ouch. That's what the Journal used to (pre 9/11) call a "Taliban alert." Hollywood and the recording industry often do have closed system immune responses. Just look at what passes for national security legislation after their lobbying in Washington.

Special thanks to the CSM for including hyperlinks in its editorials. How come the NYTimes can't do that?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:48 AM

November 11, 2001

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And the Taliban is on the run


As noted here, the Northern Alliance has claimed more territory, which is good news for women and musicians. Good news to say goodnight.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:33 PM
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Oops - "leaks" repeated here may have been just more wishful thinking from Gore partisans


The NORC study is out (see also NYT version). Surprise! - Bush wins again. Seem I was taken in by Talking Points et.al. The only standards by which Gore would have won:

1)count all overvotes including the infamous butterfly ballot (which the study cites as "clearly illegal"), or
2) if the entire state adopted the liberal Palm Beach chad standard - this by 42 votes (eek).

So much for my breaking news savvy.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:25 PM
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Pacifism gets its pie in the face.


The Problem with Pacifism is the title of this essay by Steven Den Beste. Good read, as is his site, USS Clueless. I think of the "Tragedy of the Commons" as an economic/political idea, but this is, as Den Beste points out, essentially Pacifism's theoretical downfall. So we can pillory Chomsky and Mark Lynas, who hit Bjorn Lomborg in the face with a pie using the same theory.

Speaking of Lomborg's pie, is this how the anti-Lomborg's operate? Should we seriously consider anything Lynas et. al. have to say after this? I think not. Some harmless fanatics for the dustbin of history.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:10 PM
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A little Fodor's on Chomsky's new home


Photodude says it all about confessed terrorists, truly genocidal governments, who wants peace and freedom, and who shouldn't be able to even look in the mirror anymore.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:35 PM
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Chomsky Choking in Chennai


Unsatisfied with trashing us here, Noam Chomsky is in India, telling audiences that bombing Afghanistan is a "greater crime than the September 11 attacks". I suppose if someone were killing his family it would be a greater crime for him to use deadly force to stop it?

In the old days they could hang you for this. Perhaps if he hates us so much he can just move into a nice cave somewhere.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:30 PM
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Econ 101 with Professor Krugman: Butter and Butter


My new neighbor Paul Krugman's at it again, slinging more mud suggesting that the White House sees terrorism as a chance to slam through its tax cuts. This wouldn't be so outrageous if it weren't for his claiming that Democrats never play politics like that. Who does he think he's kidding? No - that's right - Democrats only lob missiles when things are going badly here, they don't take advantage of foreign wars to....do what they already thought was right.

In Krugmanland, nobody thinks tax cuts might actually stimulate the economy, and pioneer Milton Friedman and thousands of other economists have never heard of the permanent income hypothesis. In this bizarre economy, of which Krugman is apparently the sole resident, only temporary stimuli are effective.

As Andrew Sullivan said in bestowing the "Begala Award", Krugman could stand to take a break from demonizing to actually argue on the merits. Do you suppose Krugman was attacked by an Elephant when he was young? If so, could he have sustained a head injury?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:58 PM
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He's an ornery little fella, ain't he?


Steve the Croc Hunter catches Osama bin Laden.

Useful how-to book:

All from this page.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:33 PM
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Winding up for round III


The papers involved in the media recount will release the data tonight at 10:00PM. Talking points and Kausfiles seem to have the scoop. It appears that the "overvotes" (more than one candidate chosen) are the story, not the "undervotes". Kausfiles points out that Almost Everything We Thought About the Florida Recount Is Wrong! Gores' lawyer, David Boies, scoffed at the idea that overvotes exist. Indeed, Gore's best strategy would have been to seek a statewide recount, not selected counties, give up dimpled chads and go for "write-in" overvotes, where two holes were punched but a candidate's name was written in. Gore would have picked up votes in conservative counties. If Kaus is right, both sides were way too clever for their own good, but particularly Gore's team.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:17 PM
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No more "show me the proof"..


Osama owned up to it on video. He also offers the following choice admissions and color:

"History should be a witness that we are terrorists. Yes, we kill their innocents".

"The Twin Towers were legitimate targets, they were supporting US economic power. These events were great by all measurement. What was destroyed were not only the towers, but the towers of morale in that country."

The hijackers were "blessed by Allah to destroy America's economic and military landmarks". He freely admits to being behind the attacks: "If avenging the killing of our people is terrorism then history should be a witness that we are terrorists. Yes, we kill their innocents and this is legal religiously and logically."

"The towers were supposed to be filled with supporters of the economical powers of the United States who are abusing the world. Those who talk about civilians should change their stand and reconsider their position. We are treating them like they treated us."

"There are two types of terror, good and bad. What we are practising is good terror. We will not stop killing them and whoever supports them."

"It is the duty of every Muslim to fight. Killing Jews is top priority."


I suppose I should tell my young friend Mohammed. I think its time for the apologists to own up. He did it, and he's being sheltered in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Got any other excuses?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:01 PM
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Student Activists Seek Clue


For some fun, read this article about student activist Ryan Nuckel, leader of NYU's "Students for Social Equality". There's a lot of familiar and nostalgic territory:

Like most college students, core members of Students for Social Equality -- the 30 or so who show up for weekly meetings -- travel in a pack. They grapple with the same existential dread. Although a serious lot, they go to parties, listen to loud music, admire David Lynch and Bob Dylan, and worry about their relationships. Mostly, though, they drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and organize. They are sure that they can influence the world around them, and that they are right.
Could be any decade so far. Nuckel's background also comes straight from the 60s playbook - idle enough for guilt.
For Mr. Nuckel, activism was a slow evolution, simmering under the surface until he arrived two years ago at New York University. He grew up in Babylon, a mostly white middle-class Long Island town, listening to the music of Radiohead and Nirvana and reading the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. and anything by Kurt Vonnegut when the assignment was the Federalist Papers. His father is a general contractor and his mother works in a print shop. Both are Republicans.
Many a nickel makes a Nuckel, I guess. Ryan is into today's "causes":
Motivated by the peaceful protesters among the rioters in Seattle at a demonstration against the World Trade Organization, he realized there was a place for him in that world. In April 2000, he joined 42 other N.Y.U. students in Washington to condemn World Bank policies that they think allow corporations to run amok without accountability.

For him, the scene in Washington was ''amazing.'' He didn't do much except watch, but what he saw overwhelmed him. ''I've never seen that many thousands of people except at a rock concert,'' he says. ''It was amazing how many people were out acting on their beliefs and coming together. It was beautiful.''


Of course, we could also call the highjackings a group of people coming together and acting on their beliefs. But, based on the following description, the exact character of this group's beliefs appears to be up for grabs:

While people straggle in, a young man tapes an oversized flip chart to a portable blackboard. On it is the agenda of the meeting: 5 minutes will be devoted to an introduction, 15 minutes to group discussion, 10 minutes to explain the process, 25 minutes to unity, 15 minutes to groups, and 5 minutes to announcements.

Three student facilitators sit before the crowd. Everything will be done by consensus. The group will discuss every point and then vote. If one person dissents, the issue will be up for debate again. ''We're all leaders, we are all empowered to lead this group,'' Mr. Eastwood begins. ''Everyone's voice will be heard.''

To start, the students are asked to share why they are here. Justice, peace, civil liberties and racism are some of the reasons tossed around.

''We all agree that something must be done, like a change in U.S. foreign policy, not bombing innocent people,'' says Mr. Eastwood.

There is a lot of raging against the machine.

''They're taking away liberty and defending it at the same time,'' says one student.

''You can't be antiviolence in America and pro-violence in other countries!'' says another.

''Bush's view of justice is not the right view,'' says a third. ''Bin Laden was trained by the C.I.A.!''

A Japanese woman raises her hand. ''I'm afraid of a second Pearl Harbor,'' she says softly. ''Entire cities were destroyed, 300,000 people were killed. I really appreciate your participation here.''

The room explodes with applause.

Throughout the evening, Mr. Nuckel, wearing a black and yellow T-shirt bearing the words ''Union Democracy for a Strong Labor Movement,'' nods his head and claps softly. He surveys the crowd and smiles. ''It's a really beautiful room to be in right now,'' he says. ''Everybody's brilliant. I love it. It gives me hope.''

The group then tries to name the coalition and say what it stands for. Are they pro-peace or antiwar? What are the ramifications of ''pro'' and ''anti''? Should they focus solely on the World Trade Center, or use broader language?

Finally they decide: They are for peace and against war and racist scapegoating; in favor of defending civil liberties and for social and economic justice on a global scale, and for education.

Everyone agrees on all but one point.


Really? That was quite a list. So what's the one point?

''We don't have to worry about justice, we'll let God take care of it,'' one woman says.

Pandemonium breaks out. God? Who brought God into the room?

''I associate justice with punishment,'' the woman says. ''We need to quantify what justice is.''

''It's equity,'' says Ms. Griffiths.

''It's peace,'' another student says.

''Well, you can have peace without justice,'' another points out.

''It's an important question, justice instead of retaliation,'' Mr. Nuckel says. ''But what does justice mean?''

They decide to focus on that question in future meetings, and students sign up for working groups.

Before they disperse, a boy in the back of the room stands up. ''Tonight is the beginning of Yom Kippur, and I just want to say that I can't think of a better way to atone for my sins and the sins my country is about to commit than this.''

The group bursts into applause. Mr. Nuckel is elated.


I guess religious atonement is OK, but justice from God is not. Get the picture? Its not the policies or events that matter so much, it's how "beautiful" the protests are, how much "unity" and "compassion" they display. After all, "unity" got the largest time block on the meeting agenda. Richly deserved, too, since the only unity we see, sadly, is the "anti" antecedent. No wonder even the press scoffs at these folks. They can't even decide whether justice is equity or peace, can't "quantify" justice, and can't abide "punishment." Are they socialists, antiwar (the two don't go together that well, historically) , a labor movement?

With or without definition, the demonstration comes off, by coincidence, the day the bombing starts in Afghanistan.The police are less than thrilled.

Police officers silently walk alongside the group, moving them along. ''We're supposed to be digging downtown and they got us here for these people?'' says one officer angrily, using expletives. ''They're dividing the force for this?''

Sabrina Lee is exasperated by his words. ''We're not doing this to take away from any effort!'' she shouts. ''We don't want more families to die. Retaliation can only make this worse.''

Mr. Nuckel's face is ashen; he looks as if he is about to cry. ''I'm afraid of things getting twisted around,'' he says. ''We all want this'' tragedy ''never to happen again.'' He does not consider himself unpatriotic or even antipolice. ''The whole country cried for the police and firemen, and they were heroes,'' he says. ''The aftermath was filled with such compassion.''


Well. I'm afraid that's right, Ryan. Part of having beliefs is prioritizing. Doing one thing often means not doing another. Having a demonstration uptown distracts from the recovery effort. If we tear down the world's institutions, we have to think about what might take their place.

Oh well, it doesn't seem to trouble him long. Nuckel shakes it off and, observing the protests, provides the article's concluding quotation:

The unity reminds him of one of his favorite authors, Jose Saramago, the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner. Mr. Nuckel has read his novel ''Blindness'' three times. ''It would be a beautiful book to read now, actually,'' he says. ''One day, everyone goes blind. They can't explain why, it just spreads like an epidemic. This small group of people who never knew each other just gets together. No matter how lost and confused everyone is, there's always love and solidarity.''
Now there's an appropriate literary analogy for Students for Social Equality. Lost, confused, blind, but with love and solidarity. The lack of alternatives proffered by this group calls to mind this epiphany of a letter to Matt Welch from Roscoe Carter about the lack of alternatives provided by the "anti" left:
What should we do about a repressive regime?

Option 1) Military Aid. Obviously wrong. We are providing the weapons that kill the innocent. See Israel, Turkey, Columbia, Reagan-era Iraq, etc.

Option 2) Economic Aid. Wrong. We are financially propping up the regime. See Egypt, Indonesia, etc.

Option 3) Humanitarian Aid. Still Wrong. By relieving the regime of its financial duty to feed its people, we free up their money for military uses. See Afghanistan, where the US supported the Taliban by providing $43 million in humanitarian aid in exchange for the Taliban not exporting Heroin, thus sacrificing 12 million women to the alter of the failed War on Drugs.

Option 4) Trade / Constructive Engagement. Wrong. This is merely an excuse for US corporations to profit off of the regime's repression of its own people. See China and Reagan-era South Africa.

Option 5) Economic Sanctions. Wrong. The economic sanctions in Iraq have killed 6,000 people a month for the past 11 years, or nearly 800,000 victims of US foreign policy.

Option 6) Military Attack. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! See every military conflict that the United States has every engaged in. (Caveat: There may be a possible exception for the US Civil War, which will be considered obviously justified if you are talking to any white person born in the former Confederacy.)

Option 7) The Prime Directive. Wrong. It is intolerable for the most powerful nation in history to sit by and do nothing while thousands die. It probably stems from a racist lack of concern for people of color of persons of other religions. See Rwanda, Bosnia (not to be confused with Kosovo, which falls under Option 6, above).


So let's all have a love-in and show unity and compassion by watching this photo-montage, complete with cloying Enya soundtrack, and discuss the definition of two other important 25-cent words "prevention" and "security".

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:23 AM | Comments (3)

November 08, 2001

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Mindles H. Dreck:

DEBKAfile claims that the U.S.

DEBKAfile claims that the U.S. has shifted its focus to Turkmenistan in a search for a forward base near Afghanistan:

Ten days ago, Turkmenistan President S.A. Niyazov agreed to the US, Russia and Turkey establishing air and forward bases in his country for strikes against Afghanistan. According to DEBKAfile’s sources in Ashgabat, advance air force and Special Forces units of all three armies are already there. This former Soviet republic has some key strategic advances going for it in Washington – and not merely as a forward base for the Afghanistan war effort: It is largely unpopulated – 80pc empty desert – and therefore eminently suited to a large-scale military forward presence; three-quarters of its 4.25 million inhabitants are of Turkic origin (the rest are Russian and Uzbeks) and Turkish influence there is strong. Turkmenistan is moreover situated on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, in whose multinational oil dispute the US anyway wants a say. Our sources have learned that the Americans propose to expand Ashgabat international airport, which is located on the edge of the Kara-Kum Desert, converting it into its main Central Asian air base. The US will also set up new air and land bases at the southwestern town of Kalai Mor, opposite the Afghan town of Herat, and at the southeastern town of Kerki, which is opposite Mazar-e-Sharif and connected by rail link to the capital. Washington expects to have all three new bases built and operational by the end of winter, ready for a combined US-Turkish-Russian Spring 2002 offensive against northern Afghanistan. The plan is to seize a broad swathe of territory from Herat to Mazar-e-Sharif and Kholm in the northeast, from which an assault on Kabul would be a lot more credible than it would be today.
The mainstream U.S. media don't cover war strategy this way. The lead story on CNN.com is the no-news Alliance claims gains; Bush focuses on security
Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:21 AM

November 07, 2001

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United Bloviations


All kinds of stasist, man-hating crap coming out of the U.N. Try this and Fred Norman's comments, or the pronouncements of Sir Nigel Rodley, as lambasted by Tunku Varadarajan. The way Osama's been talking, they better make nice with us, or we'll just move the policemen around First Avenue in the 50s to somewhere else (how about downtown?).

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:58 PM
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It's a beautiful day in the..


This is a picture of my work neighborhood. Would you be my...could you be mine.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:36 PM
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Barnacle Bill Moyers


Glenn Reynolds and one of his readers suggest you file away this idiotic comment by Bill Moyers. I recommend it as well. Pure envy.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 01:32 PM
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Open mouth, insert script


Martin Sheen, who isn't the president, but plays one on TV, is appearing in ads in movie theaters asking if we should "destroy the Arctic Refuge forever for 6 months of oil.?" The Teamsters, of all people, have accused him (correctly) of making up facts. My earlier posts on the use of a similar "Repetistic" in the New York Times points out that these short estimates would be misleading if true (no single source of oil other than the Saudi fields stands up to total consumption), but are in fact off by a factor of about six, even if you accept low end estimates of ANWR reserves. The ANWR contains at least a few years of oil imports, as the stats linked in my posts show. Secondly, new technology allows us to recover more of the known reserves, and horizontal drilling technology minimizes the invasiveness of exploration and recovery (again, see this great Atlantic series). So the idea that the reserves would be "destroyed forever" is just silly alarmism. In point of fact, there would be little impact of any kind on the ANWR, and, even during recovery of reserves, little visible surface activity.

Martin Sheen joins the parade of attractive dim bulbs who confuse their screen appeal with some sort of knowledge.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:47 AM

November 06, 2001

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Federalization will improve this?


A man boards a plane with a gun. A man boards a plane with seven knives, a stun gun and a can of mace. Passengers get on planes without clearing security. The screeners in the O'Hare incident may now only be suspended.

Granted, we're being easy on these folks now, but this is going to improve when these are Federal employees and we can't fire them? Instapundit, as usual, puts it succinctly:

FEDERALIZE AIRPORT SECURITY: But only if the security people can't unionize and can be fired immediately if they screw up.

Not willing to go that far? Then you're not serious about security -- you just want more federal employees.


Thanks also to Amy Langfield for the JFK story and related commentary.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:57 PM
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THIS IS FUNNY


From BBSpot comes Compaq Unveils 208-Key Keyboard, which eliminates the shift key. An excerpt:

"I'M GLAD THERE'S A COMPANY THAT IS ADDRESSING MY NEEDS," said Tyrone Dinardi of the SHIFT KEY HATERS ASSOCIATION, "SURE 'CAPS LOCK' WILL WORK FOR THE LETTERS, BUT DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN'T GET THE AT SIGN WITHOUT USING SHIFT? HOW ANNOYING IS THAT?"
Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:43 PM
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The Truth from Pravda?


This columnist (thanks to Jeff Jarvis for linking this) says bin Laden's statements tell you what gets attacked next. The latest video condemning the UN precedes a meeting of the General Assembly.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:26 PM
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Fly-by



A stealth bomber flies over Bank One Ballpark before Game 7 of the World Series Sunday Nov. 4, 2001, in Phoenix. (Linked from Yahoo! News; AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta)

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:12 PM
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Cherchez les Femmes


The Christian Science Monitor, in an article entitled In this war, American women shed role as 'doves' , lends its support to the "bellicose women" theory originated on Instapundit.

In a recent Pew study, 47 percent of women and 53 percent of men supported higher defense spending. That's within the margin of error. Compare that with early September, when only 24 percent of women supported giving the Pentagon more money, compared with 41 percent of men.

The change is even more dramatic concerning support - among mothers, specifically - for the missile-defense shield. In early September, 53 percent of women with children at home supported the deployment of such a shield. In the poll done at the end of October, the number had jumped to 73 percent.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:59 AM
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All the propaganda that's fit to print


Smartertimes notes that the New York Times is plugging NYPIRG and Common Cause in its "voting information" box on the front page today:

Alongside the front-page news article on the mayoral race, today's New York Times carries a box headlined "Voting Information." This three-paragraph box is mostly straighforward information, on the order of, "The polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m." The Times reports, "Officials at the Board of Elections said that voters with questions or in need of assistance may call the office's toll-free number: 1-866-VOTE-NYC (1-866-8683-992)." Then comes this doozy: "In addition, the New York Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause will operate a voter help line from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. today, at (212) 772-4463."

What in the world is the Times doing directing voters to a voter "help" line run by liberal advocacy groups with distinct stakes in the outcome of the election? If the New York Republican Party or the National Rifle Association or even, for that matter, the AFL-CIO or the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League set up a "voter help line," would the Times run it in the box labeled "voter information"? Just because these liberal advocacy groups claim they operate in the "public interest" or in the "common" cause doesn't mean their get-out-the-vote efforts should get a boost from the ostensibly objective New York Times news department.


As Mr. Stoll always reminds us, much of the bias in this paper is just pure sloppiness and bad fact-checking, worthy of ridicule (as are their editorials) rather than outrage. But this kind of thing has consequences. They desperately need an editor that isn't essentially blind to the collectivist/stasist bias of their staff.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:46 AM
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No, wait - a psychotic "Trustafarian"


Another Brit points out the spoiled rich kid aspect of Osama bin Laden's psychosis. I think the British have a better handle on this "understanding the root causes" thing than we do. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:13 AM
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You think?


According to Jack Straw , Osama bin Laden is psychotic. Slow news day?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 08:07 AM

November 05, 2001

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Thou shalt not fire thy university's ass


Instapundit noticed this story about a fraternity at University of Wisconsin. They face expulsion for a performance involving a fraternity member in blackface.

Look, a professor espousing the incredibly morally repugnant view that "anyone who bombs the pentagon gets my vote" deserves all the public criticism he gets. The idiot who put blackface in his fraternity show also deserves plentiful public ridicule. Neither of them should be expelled or fired from any University that values freedom of speech. As with the law, you should have the right to be an ass (verbally, that is) without official consequences. So why is U. of W. considering expulsion? If they don't understand this distinction perhaps their accreditation should be revoked for ignorance of basic principles.

While your official status should remain safe, if you say or do things like celebrating terrorists and recalling ugly racial stereotypes there is no protection from those who rightly point out the obvious - that you are an ass. Many of the professors crying "censorship" don't seem to understand this point either. So far the main person to get sacked for what she said is conservative columnist Ann Coulter. All the other asses just had their ears properly handed to them by critics.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 05:32 PM
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The lead says it all


Add Daniel Ortega's Sandinistas to the list of those who have to live with their past:

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega conceded defeat today to the governing party presidential candidate, Enrique Bolanos, who had once been imprisoned by a past Ortega government.
Apparently turnout was extraordinary, with voters still lined up at 11:30 PM. The Liberal Party also won control of the National Assembly. Score another victory for free markets and free people (the pre-bastardization meaning of Liberal).
Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 04:07 PM
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Oh, I see now


As regards my earlier post on Hyakugojuuichi, here is an academic analysis. There. Don't you feel better now?

The creator, Neil Cicierega, is only 14. Who says kids aren't creative in their free time?

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:19 AM
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Today's reminder


From a CSM editorial from Abraham George, an Indian who has been living in the U.S. for 30 years:

Countries complain about US interference in other nations' affairs. I suppose they mean the US invasion of Haiti to remove a military regime and bring democracy to a starving people. Then there was Somalia, plagued by tribal wars, despotic warlords, and immense famine; Panama, which was ruled by a drug-trafficking dictator; Bosnia and Kosovo Muslims, who were being annihilated by the Christian Serbs; Kuwait, which was swallowed up by an Iraqi dictator.

In none of these instances, did America want to conquer land or seize wealth. The US was fighting to protect people from oppression and genocide.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:11 AM

November 04, 2001

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Times B.S. Alert


The New York Times uses the term "builder" to describe what Rudy Giuliani apparently is not. As I did, Ira Stoll saw this and posed the following back to the Times:

Rudy the Builder: An editorial in today's New York Times asserts about Mayor Giuliani, "as mayor he has not been known as a builder." The Times magazine cover article reports, "It is axiomatic that the next mayor's central task will be rebuilding. But rebuilding what? If it is merely office space, then he may not even equal Giuliani, during whose tenure millions of square feet of commercial office space have gone up in Times Square alone." Maybe the Times editorialists should read their newspaper's own magazine to find out about the mayor's reputation as a builder in the newspaper's own neighborhood.
I don't think the editors at the Times even know what they mean when they assert meaningless conventional wisdom factoids like "not been known as a builder". As I discussed in this earlier post, its just nonsense one editor said to another over lunch. In the editorial offices that constitutes a buzz on the street. At least their reporters know better.
Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:23 PM
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Hour lost explaining computer terms to mom


As you can see from this and the prior post, I'm mostly looking for laughs tonight. Also on this site, check out "Xbox features 'activedeath' technology".

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 10:01 PM
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And now for something completely different


Hyakugojyuuichi means "151". The joy and fame of 151....Beyond that, you are totally on your own watching this flash cartoon.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 09:06 PM
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Close to home


So where did I spend the week? First two days at my office, three blocks from ground zero, second 2 days in Washington DC, and the weekend at home, where we have discovered a second colony of anthrax spores at the post office and the bank branch my wife uses has been closed down.

Its a beautiful day. I just came back from a long run, and I'll coach a soccer game this afternoon. As for the folks responsible for attempting to scare all my neighbors.....

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 01:27 PM

November 03, 2001

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No Comment


Oops. Lost all your comments converting to Blogback 1.3 (although I ran the suggested form...). Sorry.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 02:01 PM
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Reality Bites


There is an interview with foreign correspondent Robert Kaplan in the Atlantic that is worth reading. Kaplan is the author of a book called Soldiers of God, about the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. This is a fellow who could easily claim he knows our adversary better than almost any of the people saying we "have to understand..." Here's what he has to say about American resolve:

What's going to impress the Taliban and the Pakistanis is our ability to be tough and not be dissuaded by the fact that here and there we accidentally kill civilians. What Americans can't face is that one of the reasons that the Russians and the Chinese were so impressed with us during the Cold War was the fact that Nixon and Kissinger went on bombing Vietnam despite public reaction. That's the kind of thing the Taliban respects. I think we're going to need significant patience....

....We needed to be at our most flexible when we were at our weakest point. In other words, When were we negotiating arms deals with the Soviets and yet supporting bad regimes within Greece and Chile? In the sixties and seventies, when there were demonstrations at home, when America was divided, and when the Vietnam War was lost. When the Communists seemed at their strongest and we were at our weakest. That forced us to be incredibly flexible in our methods. But when we were strong in the Cold War, in the eighties, Reagan had the luxury of being inflexible and more clear cut...

..I was at a Quaker college in Ohio the other day, and Quakers, as you know, are pacifists. Well, they're reexamining their pacifism in this particular instance, which is an incredible thing. This is all the result of September 11. Now, imagine if we were attacked again in a big way. I think that would move the U.S. population to an even greater war footing in terms of public opinion. In that case, I think the American people simply aren't going to care about the significance of civilian casualties. The reason I say that is because we weren't very concerned with civilian casualties in Germany and Japan during World War II, and that was because we were threatened. I don't think Americans would get frightened into compromise; I think quite the reverse.


John Harsanyi, John Nash, and Reinhard Selten won a nobel prize in 1994 for their game theory innovations. Harsanyi in particular examined the concept of "threat power" - the ability and willingness to carry through a threat, as one of the three principle sources of power in game theory. Woody Brock, an economist I read and admire, has suggested that the application of Harsanyi's theories may show that the Terrorists have the upper hand due to an overwhelming threat power advantage. They simply have no fear of the consequences of their actions.

No, we didn't get a lot of flack for Dresden, or Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time. Threat Power might simply be called the horrible calculus of war. A winner has overwhelming force and the willingness to use it. I know it is not a pleasant conclusion, but we need to consider that a less discriminating show of force might end this conflict faster.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 01:37 PM
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Morality Tales, or et tu financial press?


I have not posted these last few days. I was attending a conference in Washington DC on developments in mass tort litigation. But I did accumulate some material.

I presented on a panel with a reporter from the Financial Times. She gave a short presentation along the lines of "how to interact with the press" when litigating or defending a mass tort. She made some broad generalizations about her fellow journalists that were surprising. Not surprising in fact, that is, but surprising in her directness. Basically, she indicated that in order to deal with the press you have to understand that they are ill-acquainted with details, are "like juries", have a "lack of familiarity with large (dollar) figures", and are mostly interested in "morality tales" about "protecting citizens form big corporations"and conveying "messages of outrage." The items in quotes are her exact words (I took notes once she got going). She also said we should understand that the financial press is "no different." Even the reporters at the Wall Street Journal, she said, have a very different outlook from the editorial page contributors.

Speaking of the press creating its own realities., you should look at this article from slate by William Saletan. Notice how the "war going badly" is made a self-fulfilling consensus created by reporters looking for a story? By using words like "haunting feeling" and "growing chorus", the press can refer to their own stories about the war in a way that sounds like they are referencing public opinion. As my co-panelist said, journalists view themselves as the "voice of the community". Perhaps it would be in the interests of some of these folks to get in touch with a larger community.

Posted by Mindles H. Dreck at 11:08 AM