On the heels my earlier posts on the baseless "140 days of oil" claim about the ANWR, I asked about the related claim that it would take seven years to extract the oil. One reader wrote to me to point out that this analysis likely makes generous allowances for the time needed to fight legal battles over the planned exploration. This is somewhat circular - you shouldn't explore in the ANWR because it will take a long time, it will take a long time because we will fight you in court, and we will fight you in court because..you shouldn't explore in the ANWR. An analogy: A mugger would say it is dangerous to resist him because he will hurt you if you do.
Anyway, it got me to thinking that I should dedicate some time to discussing "repetistics", or questionable little factoids and illogic that are accepted as truth through simple repetition and form the soft logical underbelly of conventional wisdom. Do send me others you come across.
This is from almostaproverb.com:
The One-Eyed Man is the title of Paul Krugman's column today. As usual, he sounds a little muddled:
So maybe ideology was just another mask for someone who was really the candidate of corporations — not corporations in general, but a small group of companies with a quite specific set of business interests — and who is only pretending to be a hard- line conservative who pretended to be a moderate in order to gain office.Sorry Paul, I lost track of you there. But I think you are saying Bush is a triple agent. And all of Congress as well, I suppose, since you are talking about the stimulus package.
Then this non-admission of sloppiness:
In last Wednesday's column I said the "original" war bonds were issued during World War II. In fact, war bonds were also issued during the Civil War and World War I. I don't think this affects the argument.Oh you petty, petty critics.
...is justified under the circumstances. This doctoring of the infamous Al-Jazeera video is good for a laugh. A quick web search confirms it can be found on this large collection of Osama gags entitled "The America's Mad as Hell Humor Page." That's the spirit!
Shocker. Good thing they formed the committee.
I notice in the Smarter Times: Letters About the Times section that a Peter Larkin noticed an earlier use of the 140-day myth mentioned in the immediately preceding post:
On page 15 of the Sunday, October 14, 2001 edition of the NYTimes, a news article cites environmentalists' claims that drilling in the Alaskan Wild Life Refuge "would not yield any oil for at least seven years, and would then yield only enough for 140 days." The Times has used this 7 year, 140 days argument in the past on both its news and editorial pages. This particular environmentalist claim has always struck me as dubious at best. In fact, in the same edition of the paper there is a letter to the editor from Frank H. Murkowski, U.S. senator from Alaska, in which the senator says there is enough oil under the Arctic coastal plain to replace 30 years of imports from Saudi Arabia and 50 years of imports from Iraq. He also claims an oil pipeline to deliver oil from the Arctic could be completed in a minimum of one to two years, not seven as the environmentalists argue. Although the Times news article mentions Senator Murkowski, it uses the environmentalists' numbers on the Arctic oil issue, not those of the senator.
The huge discrepancy between the numbers attributed to "environmentalist" and those of the Senator cry out for some explanation. It strikes me as irresponsible to repeat over and over again the environmentalist claims on this issue if there is any chance, as Senator Murkowski suggests, they may not be accurate.
A reader of this site (!), Graeme Hein, also writes in to point out that any one oil field looks useless when measured against total consumption. He calls this a stock tactic of the "enviro-nazis".
This appears to be one of those myths that become truth by repetition, much like the revisionist economic historians who claim growth didn't follow the Kennedy and Reagan (and coolidge) tax cuts. Anyway, I'm glad I was able to put some real numbers into play. If anyone knows Peter, I hope you'll send him this. And if anyone can address the "seven year" claim, which seems ridiculous in light of the rapid development of other oil fields, let me know.
An unsupported factoid in Rob Nixon's top-center op-ed about our "Dangerous Appetite for Oil" caught my eye yesterday. Nixon claims that the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would yield "only enough oil for 140 days". A piece from the Heritage Society (just trolling across the spectrum) suggests the ANWR would substitute for "30 years of Saudi Arabian oil imports." They both actually appear to be working with estimates in the range of 10-15 billion barrels. So which is the revealing statistic? As it turns out, the latter. Nixon is off by a factor of more than six times, and even then, his yardstick is not particularly helpful.
First of all, the ANWR itself may support an "expected value of 10 billion barrels using mid 1990s technology" (USGS survey) but the "coastal plain" area of Alaska could provide as much as 42 billion barrels, according to anwr.org.
So how much is that, anyway? In 2000, it is estimated that we imported about 5 million barrels of oil a day from OPEC countries (D.O.E. figures). So using the more conservative ANWR estimates of 10 billion barrels, we could cut off OPEC for about 2000 days, or 5.5 years. If we only cut off Persian Gulf nations, we could double that time span. Incidentally, total oil imports are a little more than double OPEC, or 11 million barrels per day. So 10 billion barrels is actually 910 days of imports.
Now, if we somehow do manage to get 30 or 40 billion barrels out of the coastal plain (we are getting much, much better at this, as this fantastic series in the Atlantic pointed out), we got 20 years on OPEC.
Which brings me back to Rob Nixon's editorial. How does he get the 140 day figure? I don't know, but the Times might consider some fact checking on such a prominently placed op-ed, especially when it supports his breathtaking social engineering goal of "remodeling American consumer desire." There is a clue in Mr. Nixon's bio:
Rob Nixon teaches English and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.Of course. When I want to remodel consumer desire, I'll go find a cross-discipline academic. Excellent.
I'm surprised Smartertimes didn't pick up this, or the incredible hatchet job on Schundler's education program yesterday. Here's a snippet of that one:
Despite Mr. Schundler's enthusiasm, most education experts say there is almost no evidence that his plan, which is crucial to his financial vision for the state, would generate the cost savings he anticipates.
Even conservative proponents of school choice say that public school budgets do not shrink in proportion to the number of students they lose, the main assumption in Mr. Schundler's plan.
The article goes on to adopt one of "only two studies" on school choice, neglecting to say that the two studies contradict each other, and completely ignoring the Harvard Studies supporting the beneficial effects of school choice on public schools in districts that have implemented similar programs.
I am so disappointed in the Times, because I expect so much better of them.
This column from insight reminds us that the following people received "random" audits from the IRS during the Clinton Administration:
Juanita Broaddrick, who came forward to accuse Clinton of raping her in 1977
Katherine Prudhomme, who embarrassed Al Gore at citizen forum by asking him to address Clinton’s alleged rape
Bruce Bates, a former director of publications of National Religious Broadcasters
Paula and Stephen Jones, who had an ongoing lawsuit against the president for sexual misconduct. Received audit notice five days after rejecting settlement offer
Margie Gray, a retired businesswoman who criticized the president in an e-mail
Billy Dale, the former director of the White House Travel Office who was fired to create a place for friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton
Christopher Emery, a long-time White House usher who was fired by Hillary Clinton in 1994 during the Travelgate scandal. Ten weeks before his dismissal (presumably for for “disloyalty”), he agreed to submit to an IRS and FBI background check even though he had been checked just three years earlier in 1991. All White House employees are routinely checked every five years
Patricia and Glenn Mendoza. Patricia Mendoza shouted remark at the president during 1996 campaign stop in Chicago
Kent Masterson Brown, an attorney who represented the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons in 1994 to open up Hillary Clinton’s secret health-care task force
William Gazecki, who edited the documentary Waco, the Rules of Engagement
Shelley Davis, a former IRS historian and whistleblower as well as author of Unbridled Power
Every woman who publicly outed/accused Clinton was audited (Flowers, Jones, Broaddrick). If we just look at this alone, the probability of this perfect hit ratio happening "randomly" are roughly 200,000 to 1 (based on 1/100 odds of one being chosen - 3/100 * 2/100 * 1/100). Look at this list, and the list of organizations at the end of the article. If you think the DNA convicted O.J., you gotta at least wonder about this.
Why bring this up now? We just passed into law a significant abridgement of our rights. Our best defense is a long memory of how power is abused, if not by the president or elected leaders themselves, by the people around him.
Jihad Conducted by the Book is the title of this article, which points out that the highjackings followed many of the prescriptions in a book called "Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants." Among other things, it advocates targeting "places of sin" (discos, bars) and economic centers.
More intriguing, it appears, the terrorists are encouraged to exploit their rights:
Interrogation and investigation: Every word that the brother utters in the prosecution center makes a negative impact on him, on his colleagues and, later, on the judgment and major decisions....
Once in the prosecution center, however, he should say that he was tortured, deny all his prior confessions and ask that the interrogation be repeated.
Prisons and Detention Centers: If an indictment is issued and the trial begins, the brother has to pay attention to the following: Complain to the court of mistreatment while in prison.
Shiloh Bucher'sdropscan is back from a break for her thesis, with a reminder that Romania is the only industrialized nation that has signed the Kyoto accords. A tasty reminder that it is communism, not a lack of international accords, that has turned that nation into an ecological disaster.
the New Word Order by Daniel Hannan is a terrific read and I recommend you go read it top to bottom. Many of you probably noticed the histrionics of Bob Herbert in the Times today ("shame, shame", he says, on tax cuts) and the Times' own moralizing about federalizing airport security despite evidence from El Al and Heathrow that resisting knee-jerk federalization might actually not be akin to handing the keys and some C4 to Osama bin Laden. So the language distortions perpetrated by the terminally politically correct are on my mind today.
This process of language bastardization involves linking formerly descriptive terms (such as conservative) to atrocious people with atrocious intentions. Then, having made the link, one questions the general intentions of those under these newly defined labels (like those horrible people who actually want dangerous airports). Hannan describes and illuminates this trend to link "right wing" with stepping on vagrants, putting babies on spikes and the like. He begins:
Last week I heard a BBC correspondent refer en passant to ‘right-wing elements’ in Iran who were sympathetic to the Taleban. And why not? ‘Right-wing elements’, after all, has simply become a handy term meaning ‘baddies’. Never mind that the Iranians in question want to confiscate private property and nationalise the means of production. The fact that they have lined up with Mullah Omar means that they can be neatly bracketed with Israeli hard-liners, Stalinist nostalgics, Timothy McVeigh, Eugene Terre Blanche, the BNP, the Tory party and any other ‘right-wing elements’ that threaten the BBC’s world-view....
...In an appendix to Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell discussed how an idea could be made literally unthinkable if there were no proper words to express it. The illustration he gave was the word ‘free’. In Newspeak, free could be used only in the sense of ‘this field is free from weeds’, ‘this dog is free from lice’. Thus, the concept of political freedom disappeared, because no one could put it into words.
Looking back, it was an uncannily prescient example to have chosen. For in recent years this is more or less what has happened to the word ‘free’. To Orwell, writing in 1948, ‘freedom’ still had its traditional meaning of a guarantee against coercion: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly or whatever. Since then, however, ‘freedom’ has come to mean ‘entitlement’: ‘freedom to work’, ‘freedom to use the NHS’, ‘freedom from discrimination’, and so on. Thus, the notion that the state ought not to boss us around becomes harder to convey, and the politician who supports that notion is disadvantaged.
A similar recalibration of meaning has been at work throughout our political debate. ‘Greed’ now means low taxes, while ‘compassion’ means high taxes. ‘Fairness’ means state-enforced equality, while ‘unfairness’ means an individual’s right to better himself. Any discussion of the relationship between government and citizen is perforce conducted in loaded terms. You can still make the case for greater liberty, but not without sounding rather nasty. A brief glossary will give some indication of what I mean....
....Community: the state — or, more precisely, the state’s bureaucracy. The one thing it emphatically doesn’t mean is a voluntary association of individuals. When people talk of ‘involving the community’, they invariably want more legislation....
...Profit: always a bad thing, but the severity of the term varies according to context. When talking about a supermarket, it simply means greed and exploitation (as in ‘excessive profits’). When discussing trains, however, it means homicidal tendencies, and is thus used as an antonym to safety —which, of course, means more regulation.
Dogmatic: believing in free markets, as in ‘the Tories have a dogmatic attachment to the private sector’. Curiously enough, this is almost precisely the opposite of the old sense. Being dogmatic used to mean believing in something against the evidence. In fact, free enterprise is utterly counter-intuitive: you’d think that a planned economy would be much more efficient than one where everyone was left to do their own thing higgledy-piggledy. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the market works in practice. The truth, as Matt Ridley has put it, is that privatisation is not a dogma but a pragma.
Tax cuts: squalid public services. For some reason, talk of tax cuts makes us think not of our tax returns but of our local hospitals. It’s not so much that we believe that there is a direct link between spending and performance; it’s just that the phrase ‘tax cuts’ automatically conjures up a series of images in our minds: leaky school roofs, bodies lying on trolleys in corridors, and pin-striped Tory spivs selling off the playing fields to their friends in the City (see Profit).....
Conservative: Neanderthal. An even more useful term than ‘right-wing elements’ (qv) since it can be applied to both sides in the same conflict. IRA ‘conservatives’ don’t want to disarm, while ‘conservative elements within Unionism’ don’t want to share power with Catholics.
tax cuts that lower the overall tax burden, but increase the relative burden on wealthier = "giveaways to the rich"
decreases in the rate of spending growth = "cuts"
resistance to nationalizing 25,000 new employees = "right wing radical extremism"
massive intergenerational wealth redistribution through social security = "savings plan"
Of course, the anti-abortion lobby has done this with "pro-life", but the largely left-leaning politically correct have certainly abused the language the most.
The most significant change in meaning this century? Liberal actually used to mean people like me, who were in favor of reducing government's constraints on enterprise and people. Now, to some, I am a right-wingradicalextremistfundamentalistantiprogressivezealot. Go figure.
I try not to sponge off other bloggers discoveries too much, but this one, via instapundit, is too good to miss. Veiled but deadly - female fighters who defy Taliban
This comes via a CSM article about the new global warming negotiations:
Yet the difficulty of trying to reach an agreement should come as no surprise, says Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, a Washington-based environmental group. "You're trying to change the energy economy of the planet," he says. "No one has ever undertaken a treaty that complicated."Yes, and the history of highly complex economic planning is so encouraging.
Apparently, at least one Senator, quoted later, feels that we don't have to ratify a treaty to have it take effect. Remember that the Senate is charged with ratification:
Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts notes that the US has signed treaties in the past, then failed to ratify them. Yet, he says, the treaties still affected US policy. Thus, even if the US fails to ratify the Kyoto Protocols, "this is not a Pyrrhic exercise."
Bills introduced in the House and Senate target power plants that burn fossil fuels, and aim to reduce emissions of four pollutants, two of which - carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide - are greenhouse gases.
Oh, and as Columbo would say, "just one more thing"...If President Bush signed a Western Hemisphere free trade treaty, does that mean Kerry doesn't have to ratify it?
This is an interesting discussion of the need for airlines to adapt to post 9/11 realities. Southwest Airlines has proven itself once again as the most adaptable of the "notoriously pigheaded" group of U.S. air carriers. They even figured out a substitute for curbside check-in within a week after the attacks.
I only have one quibble with the author. The point applies to any business. The most flexible, the most entrepreneurial, they are the ones that adapt to sea changes. Entrenched organizations become the victims of Schumpeter's "creative destruction". Which sucks if you work at one, but is far outweighed by the benefits of living in an an economy that allows it to happen.
I saw the latest "negative" ad on Mark Green today. All it does is show a picture of Mark Green, then the audio (with transcript) of him saying "I would have done as good or better job as Rudolph Giuliani if I had been in office on September 11". "Really?" appears on the screen. I'm OK with negative ads that hang 'em on their own considered statements. And I'm so sorry Mark didn't have his moment to shine. Life is so unfair. Oh, wait, he did. Hmmm.
This CNN article is about Minnesota "street scavenger" Joseph Temeczko. Joe died earlier this month, and:
The will directs that Temeczko's entire estate -- which Wangensteen estimates will total more than $1 million -- should go to New York and be used at the discretion of Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the City Council.In how many places do first-generation immigrants amass $1 million estates and leave them to charity?
Another stupid editorial in the New York Times today. First it claims that federalizing aviation security employees will help revive tourism (??), then this chestnut:
Americans are in no mood for tired, anti-Washington rhetoric at this time. What they want is for the federal government to aggressively ensure the safety of air travel.Thank God we have the Times to speak for us. And is any of that "tired anti-Washington rhetoric" being voiced by postal employees after watching the dogs in the capitol get tested and treated before they did? Is it me, or does the Times sound sort of desperate in their attempt to be relevant and still hold true to their insular beliefs? I say most of America's in no mood to be spoken for by the elitist New York Times.
OK, so I'm a little aggravated. They endorsed McGreevey for Governor in the companion column. Could they just stick to endorsing Stalin-apologist Mark Green and leave fixing New Jersey's expensive and inadequate school system to those of us who actually live here?
I've had an interesting morning. One of the standout players on the under-10 soccer team I coach is an Egyptian boy named Mohammed who goes to an islamic school. I drove him to and from the game today. My son and two hispanic kids (Juan and Umberto) were in the car as well. The other kids began to tease Mohammed about being from Egypt and asked him if he knew Osama bin Laden. While I was getting them to back off, Mohammed launched into a defense of bin Laden (he's a devout muslim, no proof he did it, etc.). The other kids were looking for an authority figure to proclaim bin Laden bad - namely me. I said I believed there was proof, but even if there wasn't, didn't bin Laden praise the men who attacked the World Trade Center? How could a good man do that?
Biting my tongue a little, I asked Mohammed to explain himself a little more, and talk about the teachings of Islam (face it, the Osama argument wasn't going to get us anywhere). He did a pretty good job, illustrating his points with stories from the Koran. He quickly gravitated to the subject of his own country. Mohammed's family is rabidly anti-Israel and anti-Mubarak. His heart seemed to be much more in these arguments. I probed him a little, asking about The Yom Kippur wars, etc. The kid turns out to be pretty knowledgeable. He also has nothing but venom for Anwar Sadat. How many ten year olds hate assassinated political leaders of 30 years ago? I finally prompt him to say that what he and his family want more than anything is a new democratic regime in Egypt. I point out that Osama bin Laden and the Taliban want anything but democracy. It seems Mohammed's hope is that one of these terrorists will finally provoke a revolution that changes things for the better in Egypt and other Arab countries. By any means necessary, I suppose.
In most any other country we would not be in the car together. Mohammed and his family are probably regarded with suspicion wherever they go. But he's here in my car and he feels safe expressing himself to a near stranger. I really like this bright-eyed, knowledgeable, articulate kid, who runs his butt off on the soccer field. I hope his ability to learn and think leads him to consider the terrorism question from a different angle.
Richard Todd says our diversity can keep us from feeling a sense of belonging. But I sure feel like I belong in the culture that threw Mohammed, Juan and Roberto together with me and my son for that car ride.
Culture in recent years has become to a large extent a matter of individual choice and expression. To be an American means figuring out how to be an American. We are, as the French would say, bricoleurs in our own culture -- we pick and choose, paste together, make it up as we go along. We shop. The consumerism that is our great shared activity operates chiefly as an opportunity to express our differences, carve out a private identity. And in turn we rely on a commodified understanding of one another. You're a real-estate broker who buys at Barneys, is into hip-hop and follows the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard? Cool. You know Sallie? She's the vegan Sufi software engineer who collects antique hat boxes. To have the freedom to declare your own ''style'' in things and in ideas is marvelous, isn't it? But why does it not always seem like freedom? In part, I think, because somewhere in the recesses of the mind we're haunted by the realization that the more we make our separate peace with our culture, the less sustenance that culture has to offer us all. What exactly do we belong to?What do we belong to? The good ol' kick-ass U.S. of A.!! Your lack of belonging is your own distress at everyone not thinking the same way. Our diversity of interests and identities contributes plenty of culture for me. I love being able to surf all the weblogs and watch all the different people do their thing in the city. Its an overdose of culture, whether Todd thinks the culture is "serious" or not. That whole "thousand points of light" idea wasn't as silly as people made it sound, I think.
This is zero-sum thinking. Todd seems to think our differences subtract from each other. I just don't. The market in this country relentlessly delivers what people want. If its not what you want, C'est la vie. Some people care more about Dolphins than employment. I bet you can find the culture you want and the like-minded folks that make you "feel like you belong", Richard. Maybe you don't get out enough?
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go out with my flaky vegan Sufi friend Sallie.
John Balzar of the L.A. Times recalls meeting a former Red Brigade terrorist in Cuba in 1994. The former scourge of Italy was begging for shoes in the only country that would have him.
The Christian Science Monitor provides a history of U.S. policy towards Israel and the Middle East since recognizing Israel over General Marshall's objections in 1948. The historical irrelevance to the U.S. of OBL's "80 years" comment, the U.S. role in the Suez, etc. all make clear how historically empty Al Quaeda's Jehad rationale is.
Some interesting historical asides in here as well, such as Nixon's comment when he learned of Egypt and Syria's attack on Israel in 1973:
The president was confident the Israelis would win, as, "thank God, they should." Then he lamented the logical outcome. The Israelis "will be even more impossible to deal with than before," Nixon moaned.
Daniel Schorr takes President Bush to task for a "lack of candor", implying that Dubya should tell us more about how horrible these anthrax attacks are:
His remark Tuesday, after a meeting with congressional leaders, that "this country is too strong to allow terrorists to affect the lives of our citizens," has a Pollyanna ring to the many whose lives have been severely affected....
It is not clear whom he intended to reassure when he said, "I'm going to work tomorrow, too."....
But Americans are looking for more candor about the nation's grim situation than word that the president is healthy and that, even if a remote White House mail facility may show anthrax bacteria traces, the Oval Office does not.
It seems to me the media and congress have been doing a good job of exaggerating how big a threat the current spate of anthrax attacks pose. It would be unseemly of the President to get on TV and start feeling sorry for himself. We don't need the President to feel our pain. We don't need him to tell us that worrying about opening our mail sucks. We need him to tell us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
One sign of a unified Europe, according to the Christian Science Monitor - lots of kids named Lucas, in one form or the other:
From one end of the continent to the other, a record number of boys are being christened Lucas.
At least, that is what they are called in France, where Lucas was the second-most popular name for baby boys last year, according to a just-published study. In Germany and Austria, where the name tops the list, they spell it Lukas. In Sweden it is climbing the charts, and in Italy the local version, Luca, is spreading fast. In England, Luke came in at No. 9.
For girls, Chloe has united England and France as surely as the channel tunnel, being the most popular name for newborns in England and the second-most popular in France, according to predictions for 2001.
I wonder how much support we were giving to Abdul Haq, who was apparently captured by the Taliban as he drummed up resistance in Afghanistan.
Fredrik Norman points out thislittle article about a gentle hoax on the Green Party in New Zealand.
FAIR goes to great lengths to suggest that coverage of the social security debate has been biased. Their evidence? Most people quoted see some advantages in privatization. Well, you can believe that's bias, if you like. I think it's because most of us realize that the return on social security for most people, and certainly everybody under 45, sucks. You can buy an inflation-protected treasury instrument with the money and get double the return on top of the inflation protection. You know, I bet you'd have a hard time finding pundits or interviewees to say having a 16 acre hole in downtown Manhattan is a good thing. This is another example of "outcomes = proof of bias" reasoning.
To be practical, such a system would have to send letters past the radiation source at the rate of several a second, Doyle said, adding: ``I can't see one developing an irradiation unit that would accommodate that.''
Others worry about security and environmental problems, especially if radiation is used.
``There are also some other issues that have to be dealt with, like the creation of ozone, which is a workplace hazard,'' said Wenonah Hauter, director of the Public Citizens Energy and Environmental Program.
The energy for some irradiation devices comes from radioactive isotopes, while others require only an electrical source.
Many say cost will prove the biggest obstacle, especially for the financially strapped Postal Service.
If course, if you are the New York Times you think the Post office is already privatized....
The Atlantic Monthly cites two news items about Pakistanis that have been killed fighting alongside the Taliban
U.S. informants "were credited today with aiding" an air strike on a home in Kabul that "killed 22 members of a Pakistani militant group," which has "vowed to help defend" bin Laden and the Taliban. Pakistani military officials "said on-the-ground intelligence sources identified the building where the group was meeting." They relayed that info to U.S. commanders "who hastily ordered the strike" (Branigin/Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, 10/25).In other parts of the same report, there are indications of Taliban operations actually being run from a small town in Pakistan. Like black market economies, certain areas of developing nations are out of reach of their governments, which will make it harder to enforce the "with us or against us" doctrine.
The Pakistani gov't was "forced by rioting mobs to accept the bodies of eight" Harkat-ul-Mujahideen terrorists "killed in air raids over Kabul" on 10/22 for burial in Pakistan. "Thirty-five Harkat terrorist were killed" when the U.S. bombed the house where they were meeting. Pakistan "initially refused to let the bodies in, since accepting them would legitimize the charges that Pakistanis were fighting alongside the Taliban" (India Deccan Chronicle, 10/25).
Here is the letter received by Tom Daschle's office:
Here is an appropriate rejoinder:
You will never stop us We have these principles You kill each other off faster than we ever would Are you afraid of secretaries in tall buildings? Death to tyrannical stupidity
Smarter Times today delves into the Times' desription of NY mayoral candidate Mark Green's 1982 apologia for Joseph Stalin. I found it interesting that Green's TV ads are positioning Green as....Rudy Giuliani. The three platforms in his ad are - beef up the police, reform schools, and pay teachers for performance. Come to think of it, maybe he's running as Bret Schundler? Changing one's spots to co-opt the opposition's playbook is not a new strategy (Clinton), But Green's undergone a Republican organ transplant.
I listen to an odd mixture of shock jocks and NPR during my daily commute. Has anyone noticed that everyone on NPR talks in the same breathy tone? What is it about this outlet that makes everyone from Terry Gross to the host of St. Paul Sunday Morning, talk in a tone akin to a stage whisper? Don't get me wrong, NPR goes into many stories in depth, unlike so many other outlets. But the breathy tone, combined with the tendentious, pseudo-hypersensitive, polysyllabic angst is just hysterical sometimes. "Oh Mr. Zuckerman, the delicate tone you produced in the opening passages of the Kreutzer Sonata
The Taliban claims we are targeting civilians. Apparently, their soldiers don't believe the leaders, and are hiding out in civilian locations. So our actions have more credibility than their leaders. This is a good sign for us. When leaders don't have credibility, organizations fold under outside pressure. Hey, Hastert and Gephardt - hear that?
Fredrik Norman points to this article about an overzealous IRS agent, armed with a chair...but no code or rulings. The agent apparently attacked someone he was investigating. My source, Fredrik Norman is 19, from Norway, and a superior blogger.
yuk, but nothing's out of bounds when making fun of OBL.
Margery Eagan coins this term in an article about the Hillary booing on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. The full context:
self-proclaimed virtuecrat and humanitarian, most meritorious of the meritocracy, smartest of the smart set, chief priestess of right-thinking, diversity-university, holier-than-thou know-it-alls who surely know that it takes a village and if you don't know it too you are, simply, a knuckle-dragging member of the vast right-wing conspiracy of dunces.I don't think Ms. Eagan likes her, do you? Hillary's been a bit over-demonized, but I guess she's come to stand for a virulent strain of political correctness. A strain that I would happily tar with Eagan's language. I did hear a recording of Ms. Clinton's 30 seconds, and she didn't handle it well. Kind of like the schoolteacher Sister Mary Elephant in Cheech & Chong's Weeding Album: "Class....class....SHUT UUUUUUP!!!"
Instapundit points out that plastic.com has done an analysis of the helicopter wreckage:
there is more available evidence casting doubt on the Taliban's assertions than the crack CNN research team managed to turn up. As the CNN article notes, pieces of the wreckage in question are labeled 'Boeing' and 'Loud Engineering.' Problem is, the only Boeing helicopters that use a Loud Engineering landing gear assembly, as displayed by the Taliban, are the CH-46 Sea Knight and the CH-47 Chinook -- both large heavy-lift transport helicopters, unlikely choices for an air assault operation, for which one of the Sikorsky H-60 Blackhawk variants would generally be employed. Of course it took about three minutes to track that down, and who at a major media outlet has that kind of time? Maybe the Taliban actually shot down three US helicopters and they're smugly saving that revelation for later?"
Got to be embarassing for the folks in Atlanta.
The Economist has added a) this nifty piece on Afghanistan's Opium Reserves and b) this comment on the oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. The first article claims that Afghanistan's opium reserves have a street value of $80 billion. These reserves are actively managed by the Taliban, of course.
An article by Clay Rossi in Accuracy in Media re-tells the plot of The Lawyer's Tale from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales:
Amongst the bawdy stories of love and lust, Chaucer gives us the tale of the man of law (or lawyer's tale) which deals with an Islamic encounter, something the men of Chaucer's day were quite familiar with. In brief, the lawyer tells of a sultan who, through his merchants and traders, becomes aware of the most lovely princess in all of Christendom, fair Constance of Rome. To win her hand, however, the sultan must adopt Christianity. He goes a step further and declares that his whole dominion will adopt the Christian faith. Upon returning with his bride, a wedding banquet is held but it is interrupted by a bloody coup led by the sultan's own mother, culminating in the death of all the Islamic apostates and the banishment of Constance from their land in a most horrific manner.
This is indeed an allegorical instruction on dealing with Islam. Rossi suggests that history will repeat itself, and that siding with Islamic moderates will further inflame the extremists, as it was known to do in Chaucer's day. It has to date, but I do not accept the instruction in its entirety. One could easily switch religions around and tell a similar story (think Henry VIII for more of a real life example). The story does suggest, as Rossi points out, how the interest in trade may blend cultures, but fundamentalism in cultures can cause a blood bath in reaction.
May favorite quote from Chaucer heads this entry. It's from the Miller's Tale. I couldn't remember, but I looked it up here. The line describes the events just subsequent to a doltish suitor's blindly planting his lips on what he thinks is his beloved's face..but he knows "full well the woman hath no baird". This Tale is the sine qua non of Chaucerian bawdiness. I wonder, Mr. Rossi, what historical instruction he was giving in that one?
The Washington Post reviewed my most recent favorite book. I couldn't agree more with the conclusion: "The Skeptical Environmentalist is the most significant work on the environment since....in 1962. It's a magnificent achievement."
"The classical recording industry seems to be collapsing, and aggrieved music lovers are looking for someone to blame."
These are the words of Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times. Classical record labels are downsizing right and left, simply because they aren't making money with the vast majority of their catalogue. The classical catalogue includes about 60,000 (often redundant) titles, while its share of CD sales has decreased from 7% to 3%.
Many of my friends who also love classical music find this a tragedy. Tommasini seems to end his article with a shake of his head and a suggestion that "the Internet is here to stay. If we want classical recordings to survive, we may just have to embrace it." Well, yes. Alternate means of distribution sure can shake up an industry.
Classical music's demise is the fault of the listeners, the artists and the concert venues. It is the Cadillac of the music business, in the sense that it refuses to evolve from catering to an aging but wealthy demographic. My wife and I subscribe to several series at Carnegie Hall and elsewhere. At roughly 40 we are bringing the average age down substantially. Concert-goers noisily unwrap cough drops and contract 30-second cases of Tuberculosis between movements. We are all too close together and, the burden of silence weighs heavily on everyone. We make Wimbledon spectators look like soccer hooligans. And, as Tommasini points out, we don't need a 6th or 7th recording of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. If we did, there are 100 or so to choose from.
We have to remember this is not how classical music gained popularity. Chamber music, literally played in one's living room, and the amateur musician were a big part of this art form. It was not, as now, primarily a rarified prop for the elite, a place to be seen and to have your credentials taken. A century ago if they didn't like something they booed it off stage (this, in fact, happened to Stravinsky). Now, if a young composer with the right sponsorship flung cow dung into the audience while blowing a kazoo in his pants, the audience would clap politely and roll their eyes over dinner at the Russian Tea Room afterwards. Then they would look for a "safer"series next year. As a marketplace, too many of us are asleep. No wonder the artists sometimes have trouble getting inspired for a performance.
There are already signs of new life, much bemoaned by the competing establishment. Labels like Chandos and Hyperion put out records of less explored works, and offer great production values (terrific sound, for instance). You realize, when listening to these newer labels, that the definitive recording does not have to be Barenboim or Zuckerman. Also, vital artists, such as Yo-Yo Ma, are using their appeal to draw in more listeners, "crossing over" and experimenting with new forms. We see the same organizational phenomenon here as elsewhere, namely that big companies are good at delivering products the marketplace tells you specifically it wants, in a survey or marketing study. Smaller organizations are better at stimulating demand for newer concepts (although Sony broke the mold with the Walkman). The latter approach, creating demand, is riskier, but economically more explosive and more fun.
It isn't the music. Classical repertoire often seeps into the mass consciousness. Barber's Adagio for Strings was made wildly popular by Platoon, even showing on the pop charts. After Amadeus, Mozart's symphonies were heard everywhere. So much of the classical repertoire can inspire deep feelings, and is rewarding to the repeat listener. It can be rebellious, soothing, tragic or though provoking. It doesn't just make you wish you had gone to the bathroom during the intermission. While it may be downsized first, we will someday read about the "renaissance of classical music". There we will find the people who capitalized on the innate appeal of this art form, rather than rather than its establishment fund-raising appeal. Innovators will use all the new media, technology and marketing available to them. I say, let the market evolve. A dramatic change in the production of new CDs doesn't threaten the music, only the halfhearted way we consume it.
Jonah Goldberg writes a funny piece about cliches. Here's one:
"Give peace a chance." What exactly do the people who say this think we were doing right up until 8:48 a.m. on Sept. 11? We gave peace a chance and now we're going to give war a shot.
We should remember that the actual lyric from the John Lennon song is, "All we are saying is give peace a chance." Exactly. That is all they are saying, which is about as helpful as saying "give pistachio ice cream a chance." There are no useful suggestions to be found in "give peace a chance" when the other side has dedicated itself to a bloody holy war against American men, women and children.
Now, if someone wants to write a song that goes something like: "All we are saying is give a sustained aerial bombing with coordinated ground assaults a chance" that might be helpful.
Photodude destroys the money-grubbing and hypocritical representative McKinney from Georgia. In case you don't remember, she's the one going after the $10 milllion Giuliani turned down.
For Sale: One Congressperson - I let this news item slide when it first came up, but Representative Cynthia McKinney of Georgia is persistent in her campaign to kiss up in the name of $10 million. In case you haven't heard, a recap: "It was revealed then that she had written a letter to Prince Alwaleed bin Talal to apologize for New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani rejecting bin Talal's donation because the prince had questioned U.S. policy in the Middle East. McKinney also wrote bin Talal that she knew many charities that help the poor and people of color in America and that her office would be happy to steer him to some of those charities." Despite the outrage since then, yesterday she announced she would be meeting with the Prince's representatives in her chase for the dough. While it might in some way sound "charitable" to seek money for the "the poor and people of color", let's take a close look at her letter to the Prince, if we can bear it. Careful, it's pretty deep, so watch what you step in....
"I was disappointed that Mayor Rudy Giuliani chose to decline your generous offer and instead criticize you for your observations of events in the Middle East. Whether he agreed with you or not I think he should have recognized your right to speak and make observations about a part of the world which you know so well."
Excuse me, in what way did Guliani deny the Prince the right to speak? I saw the Prince on three different TV interviews in which he pushed his linkage of sorrow for 9-11 and criticism of US policy. His message got through to me loud and clear long before Guliani literally bid him adieu on his way out of the country. He'd had his say elsewhere. In front of Guliani, he didn't have the balls to speak his mind, he tacked a "press release" onto the printed copy of his actual speech, passed out to the press after he'd left.
"Your Royal Highness, [as she refers to him four times, despite the fact he is one of 7,000 Saudi princes] many of us here in the United States have long been concerned about reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that reveal a pattern of excessive, and often indiscriminate, use of lethal force by Israeli security forces in situations where Palestinian demonstrators were unarmed and posed no threat of death or serious injury to the security forces or to others."
Ms. McKinney is apparently a very selective reader. Amnesty International also has extensive reports about the abuses perpetrated by the Prince's family, reports of repression, beatings, amputations, and killings, simply for the crime of ethnicity, religion, or gender.
Ms. McKinney would be a target on each count. Forced to cover herself completely, leave her home only with a male escort, and otherwise suffer the second class status of all non-royal women in Saudi Arabia. Persecuted because of her color, her place of birth, and her religion. She'd be lucky to survive a month under the government of the kind generous Prince's family.
This is the question that catholic students pose to their teachers. It can be rephrased as the central probem with moral relativism:
If we must respect all other cultures and hold them equal, should we respect and hold equal a culture that holds our values of multiculturalism and racial/gender equality in violent contempt?
In this article Cathy Young examines the conflict between the west-hating fringe of feminism and multiculturalism, and how it is at odds with itself over that very question.
The Times editorial today on the tax bill in congress throws logic out the window. Check out this reasoning:
For example, eliminating the corporate alternative minimum tax, at a cost of $25 billion in 2002, would not guarantee a single cent of new investment. It would simply give money to businesses that usually find a way to elude taxes through deductions and loopholes anyway. Indeed, misdirected corporate tax breaks could even hamper growth by reducing corporate taxes on the state level, forcing states that are required by law to balance their budgets to cut spending. Lower spending would hinder economic recovery.Huh? If corporations don't pay a tax now, how does it cost $25 billion to eliminate that tax? If true, it sounds more like costless simplification. Better they should worry about out-of-work accountants. Also, exactly what is the relationship between federal corporate taxation and state revenues/spending/taxation? It amazing how the Times thinks that if a government gets money from taxation they will spend it productively, but if a corporation gets money it goes into some unspecified economic sinkhole? Companies I know employ people, buy from vendors, and make capital expenditures, which in turn increases other companies' resources. Those companies buy and invest, etc. A long way from Keynes' ditch-digging fiscal stimulus.
The article also repeats the out-and-out lie that Greenspan is against a capital gains tax. Greenspan is on record in favor of such a break, and believes it would be a stimulus. He argued that there is already enough stimulus (monetary) and we don't need more now.
Its also interesting to see the Times make an argument about deficits and interest rates. So they are monetarists now? I suppose they don't remember their position on this issue in the 1980s.
I'm not a big fan of the current tax bill, but the Times needs to distinguish between their desired wealth re-distribution and effective economic stimuli. They are very different, and no amount of elitist hopefulness and logic-bending will change that fact.
Anthony Lewis' op-ed in the times today falls prey to the usual breathy hyperbole of the politically correct, and conveys the usual special understanding (appropriately a "grasping" in this case) on its author:
After Sept. 11 it was said by many that our world had irrevocably changed. That is true in a sense that we have not yet grasped.
You would never know from the beginning, but this article revisits two points: 1) eradicating terrorism will require eradicating poverty and 2) the US needs to pump up its foreign aid and "foreign policy". He skirts the issue of "poverty casuses terrorism" pointing out that OBL and his henchmen are "apocalyptic". Lewis' starts to raise some interesting points, although he doesn't go deep enough, and his tone continues to be preachy.
To revisit U.S. aid - look at Zaire, where Mobutu appropriated most of the aid for himself. Look at Afghanistan, where, until the Taliban took power, we provided more aid than any other country. Look at Egypt, which bred so many of the "apocalyptic". Did it help? Lewis' does admit: "We have learned by now, or should have, that the best-intended designers of aid programs can make ghastly mistakes in their sophisticated plans." That is for sure. He goes on to recommend AIDS prevention and debt forgiveness.
I agree that we will live with less threat of terrorism if there is less poverty. I think more individual liberties in any of dozens of countries would work even faster. Giving corrupt governments money is a waste of time. Giving people money (direct relief) is a band-aid, giving them individual liberties and hope will resolve this.
Hernando DeSoto wrote an interesting book called The Mystery of Capital, in which he documents how difficult it is to create a living for yourself in any number of undevelped countries. Settting up a magazine stand in Peru can take years. He also examines the total value locked up in third world homes and black market economies. He compellingly points out that property rights, a reliable legal system to arbitrate them, and the ability to monetize residential and business assets would unlock trillions of dollars in these economies. The problem, of course, is that necessary reforms shake up the current order. So the stasists, the Mubaraks, Assads et.al. are scared to do it.
DeSoto's argument is the modern equivalent of the "give a man a fish, teach a man to fish" parable. Throwing money at these countries has made things worse. We don't have enough money to cure poverty with handouts, but some focused effort would multiply the dollars spent. The UN should stop worrying about israel's supposed racism and start how to maintain stability while making necessary reforms to developing economies. Democracies don't attack democracies. Prospering countries prefer not to go to war. Democracies can be shamed into reducing racism within their borders. The Times should add this Peruvian economist to their Op-Ed columnists.
Patrick Ruffini's site highlights the results of some online polls given to islamic net surfers he found on ajeeb.com (loads too slow for me to look):
Here are some of the results: "Would you accept like under the Taliban regime?" 54% Yes, 36% No. It gets worse. "Do you think Osama bin Laden should hand himself over to avoid further bloodshed?" 12% Yes, 82% No. "Do you think Usama Bin Laden is responsible for the attacks on NY & Washington?" 9% Yes, 80% No. .... Some Arab and Muslim women’s rights groups have called upon Arab governments to abolish polygamy, in line with Islamic Sharia that stipulates equality amongst wives, which is unattainable in this age. Some Muslim countries have begun to legislate such laws. Do you support the legislation of laws prohibiting polygamy? 22% Yes, 78% No.
I wonder if mormons have been getting on and inflating the numbers on that last one? And which one is responsible, Usama or Osama? Kidding aside, there is some truth to Ruffini's statement that this is a holy war and we didn't start it.
"Taliban Singles" is good for a laugh.
Alex Knapp's posts the following quote of the day on his 'blog, Heretical Ideas:
"Look at America; the country they exult at having wounded so grievously. Can you name a country that ever amassed more power and abused it less? Can you name a country that ever amassed more wealth and distributed it more fairly? Can you name another country that was ever attacked by surprise as America was in 1941, rallied to defeat both powerful enemies, and wound up with less land than it had previously? (America gave the Philippines its independence after victory in World War II.) Can you name another country that, after victory, treated its allies and enemies alike to massive rehabilitation and rebuilding? Instead of rape and plunder we gave Germany and Japan democracy implants. They're both strong and prosperous democracies today. And you call that 'satanic'?" -- Barry Farber
If this is heresy, count me in!
I was mentioned in Matt Welch's warblog last night! Or 1:14 this morning, if I see correctly. Thank you Matt. I'll return the favor with a quote (there is already a link to the left) to point out all the other interesting stuff he's found, some of which is new to these pages:
These are all more than worthy of your attention, and I daresay they represent a very interesting phenomenon: First, there’s the eponymous mainstays of Ken Layne, Tony Pierce, Amy Langfield and my own beloved Emmanuelle Richard. Then, there’s Nick Denton’s Blogorama, Glenn Reynolds’ InstaPundit, Jeff Jarvis’ WarLog, Fred Lapides’ Bushwacker, Bjørn Stærk’s The World After WTC, Thomas Nephew’s Newsrack (he also speaks German!), Charles Johnson’s Little Green Footballs, Steven Den Beste's USS Clueless, Reid Stott’s PhotoDude, 'Mindles H. Dreck'’s More Than Zero, Gabrielle Taylor’s Moonfarmer, and Shiloh Bucher’s dropscan. There’s also Fredrik Norman and Oliver Willis, some 29-year-old literary Aussie dude who does A Bright Cold Day in April, and a brand new guy (I think!) who does Rallying Point. You might already know about Andrew Sullivan and Virginia Postrel, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read them every day. You might not yet know Mark Woods’ wood s lot or Brian Lamb’s Blowback, so give them a shot, too. Perhaps most intriguingly of all, there is this new blog concerning rabbits … I think I smell some long-overdue Silverlake cooking! I hope I haven't screwed up the names and addresses, but my eyes are getting bleary. One random thing I’ve noticed – a lot of these people (including the rabbit?) play the guitar.
You should check out these folks. Many of 'em are more inventive than I. I just hope we aren't all becoming too....well...self-referential (is that a term?).
Kim Strassel writes in the WSJ about how the WTC collapse finally forced the EPA to put the risks of asbestos in perspective. As she points out, the risks of asbestos are smaller than their standards have suggested. Of course, it took the risk of panic to get them to admit it. The EPA is just one in a long list of organizations that needs to put risks and the costs of abating those risks in reasonable balance. I'm not sure this is the thin end of the wedge, unfortunately.
Russia's agreement yesterday to sell substantial amounts of oil to the U.S. was overshadowed by military cooperation. But this is important, because it frees us somewhat from potential events in Saudi (see continuing discussion of' Hashemite restoration in Saudi on Instapundit). Bush's trip to China was well covered.
We have obviously had disagreement with these countries, but their interests in siding with the US are clear. China and Russia are both "secular" powers, for starters, and they are as terrified of religious fundamentalism as the ACLU. Furthermore, the best "opportunism" this war offers is to align with the U.S. and have your country's democracy-craving populace rally behind you. Every developed country leader is favor of democracy and free markets (as the only proven roads to peace, enhanced wealth and quality of life) as long as it doesn't jeopardize their own power. For Vladimir Putin or Jiang Zemin, this is a move in the right direction that may actually enhance rather than threaten their stability. And, yes, there are some diplomatic favors to earn. So what.
We say Baseer al-Masri, an aide to OBL, was killed in a bombing raid. The Taliban says a grenade went off in his hands. Actually, I like their version better. Good riddance. Link here:CNN.com - U.S. official: U.S. troops in Afghanistan - October 19, 2001
CNN.com reports that troops have "hit the ground" in Southern Afghanistan. It appears these are still largely special ops personnel. To be taking the Taliban on in their home territory, with small bands of highly mobile forces, is a very different war than the Soviet Union fought here. If Al Quaeda was hoping for the Soviet style of invasion, it appears they won't get it. Good. Defying their expectations works in our favor.
Also some interesting reports/interviews with defectors today. While we shouldn't be surprised to hear defectors say what their new pals want to hear, they speak of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden as synonymous.
This guy Dr. Zinlander was on NPR again today (you may remember my October 4 blog about his comments on medical error rates a few weeks ago). Can't they find another medical expert? Anyway, he said that "if the terrorism distracts us from dealing with the many uninsured elderly, the terrorists will have won another victory".
O yeah, I can see that. Imagine Osama and his psycho rich-boy pals are holed up in some stinky bunker, trying to cook rodents and insects over Sterno. Bin Laden says to Abou-Gheith: "Hey, did you see that the democrats aren't writing a new healthcare reform bill? Score another one for Al Quaeda (high five)!" Much dancing and cheering.
Also, Richard Butler asserts in the New York Times: "Let's call it what it is: Sending mail laced with anthrax is an act of terrorism." Wow. Goin' out on a limb, there Dick. He concludes: "We need the facts. The politics will then follow." Suffice it to say this is not a revealing op-ed. The 'blog community produces more interesting stuff.
These folks need a broader perspective.
How is it possible for a C student (as the press constantly reminded us of Bush's academic achievement) who was a ``party boy'' through early adulthood to transform himself overnight into someone who thinks and acts like a president should? Those skills must have always been there. The question the media should be asking is how and why they missed them. Instead, they are predictably writing about the ``new'' Bush. Already we're seeing a few journalists reverting to type. Like the Democrats, the media read the polls. They don't want to be accused of ruining the new bipartisanship in Washington. The same New York Times, which editorially heaped praise on Bush for his ``gravitas'' last Friday, a day later faulted him for ``partisanship'' in promoting new tax cuts to stimulate the economy and the search for new sources of energy in Alaska to lessen U.S. dependence on Arab oil.I've always found a suspension of disbelief is necessary when reading the Times' attempts to characterize anything. Perhaps they should publish a dictionary of adjectives according to the Times. Then we could find out what absolute meaning, if any, "moderate" and "partisan" actually have in those pages.
Two items caught my eye in the Wall Street Journal yesterday:
1) The Labor Department is finally enforcing the 1988 Beck decision. So you can be a Union member and not have your money used to support political candidates with whom you may or may not agree. You might even be able to give money to whomever you please! Heavens. It is about time.
2) Here's a bit from Colin Powell's editorial on TPA giving the absolute truth:
International Trade supports personal freedom. The market requires governments to set realistic rules, then stand back to let millions of individuals make their own decisions [emphasis mine]. This basic economic freedom, in turn, can become the thin end of a wedge for reducing restrictions in other areas of life
Colin Powell, dynamist!
The Economist, as usual, sums up the real causes of mid-east hatred for America:
Militant Islam despises the West not for what it does but for what it is. If American “imperialism” were the principal bone of contention, why should the United States be so much more despised than the Soviet Union ever was, or than Russia still is, despite the fact that Russia rules over millions of Muslims who would rather not be its subjects? Europe, not America, you might argue, had “imperial” ambitions in the Middle East even after independent states had been created in the region: America crushed those ideas by humiliating Britain and France during the Suez crisis of 1956. Israel notwithstanding, America's supposed crimes of foreign policy in the region are utterly incommensurate with the hatred directed against it.
The truth is, America is despised mainly for its success; for the appealing and, critics would say, corrupting alternative it presents to a traditional Islamic way of life; and for the humiliation which many Muslims feel when they consider the comparative failure, in material terms, of their once-mighty civilisation. It helps Arab governments no doubt to blame that failure on outsiders. Plenty of western intellectuals are happy to agree that the economic plight of North Africa and the Middle East is more to do with American oppression than with its real, domestic, causes. (Causes that do not include Islam, by the way: blame decades of socialism followed by statism, corruption and incompetence.) Yet to think this way—to see the West as an infidel oppressor and capitalist exploiter, rather than as a partner with whom a fruitful friendship is possible—is to rule out all possibility of peaceful coexistence. Arab leaders and their western apologists should reflect on that.
The Economist is right. How else can you explain that this event follows 12 years in which we pushed Israel harder than ever to the negotiating table, including the critical concessions of the Oslo accords and subsequent negotiations? One might as easily argue that this was caused by our movement on Israel than our intransigence. The article continues:
Still, Muslims who think the West must be fought and defeated are not going to be bombed into changing their minds, that's for sure. And they are probably not going to be talked into changing their minds by outsiders. They themselves must examine their own history, and that of the West, if they are to see how an accommodation might be reached. Common ground will be hard to find unless most Muslims can deplore, in their hearts, apologies of any kind, active or passive, for the killings of September 11th. On the other hand, if the fundamentalist view of the West gains ground, people in the West might conceivably be bombed into changing their minds—that is, into agreeing with Mr bin Laden that this is a war of civilisations that must be fought and won. A horrifying thought.
A horrifying thought, to be sure. Good commentary. Read it for yourself.
CNN says: "Ninety offices of Planned Parenthood and at least 80 clinics of the National Abortion Federation across the United States have received envelopes containing unidentified powdery substances and letters with threatening language, according to spokesmen for the groups."
I pray this isn't of domestic origin, and continues to be a hoax. Either way, I hope they lock these bastards up and throw away the key. The only people as sick as the terrorists are the idiots who leverage terrorists' achievements.
A quick thought to stimulate debate: Over the past few years, Japan wasted $1.3 trillion in fiscal stimulus spending and remains mired in recession. Ireland cut income taxes to the lowest rates in the EU, and consistently generated the best growth in Europe.
....it's odd to label people who want the government to focus on important things "anti-government." Would you label people who thought brain surgeons should focus on neurosurgery instead of, say, juggling or macrame, "anti-brain surgery"? And would you label people who thought that brain surgeons should have to spend a lot of their time juggling and doing macrame "pro-brain surgery"?Just to extend the analogy to zero-sum reasoning, is a dollar for brain surgery necessarily a dollor not spent on macrame? Last time I checked, Macrame and juggling involved no small level of brain activity. It is a bright focus on the simple responsibilities of government that allows all our wonderful complexities to flourish. Limited government is a dynamic idea.
...(snort)...macrame!...(giggle). Glenn cracks me up.
What is it about certain religious fundamentalists that they feel they have special dispensation to sin? Or is it some Freudian binge-purge mechanism? Or is it like one of my high school classmates who suggested the wonderful thing about being catholic was that he could do whatever he wanted as long as he confessed at the end of the week?
Apparently the 9/11 highjackers spent a lot of time in strip bars, pricing prostitutes and gambling. Stephen Hayes examines the stripper-terrorist connection in this funny and somewhat bewildering article.
Eric Zorn reminds us of the similarity between the current Anthrax scare and the Tylenol tampering of 1982:
Just 20 years ago, all that came between us and over-the-counter pain relief was a flip cap and a wad of cotton. Then, virtually overnight, a Chicago-area terrorist--or maybe a prankster, or maybe just a clever murderer, we still don't know--changed retail packaging forever.
An article from the CDC points out that we have been here before with Anthrax threats, although a series of events in 1998 turned out to be a hoax. If your interested here is the CDC link on handling suspicious items.
A friend of mine emailed me this photo, thus captioned, which takes a jab at the value the Taliban actually place on human life.
Citing Matt Welch on Barbara Kingsolver reminded me of his article on everyone's favorite subject, the French. Welch makes it clear the sacrifices the French make to look down their noses at us, and points out a bit of "zero-sum logic on the way":
The strikes are part of it. My wife might have led a successful walkout, but her bosses openly encouraged her to go on strike. "It's the only way anything will get done," one said. The relationship between French management and labor is much like that between parents and their chronically whining children -- not only do the kids learn exactly what pitch of crying gets them what they want, mom and dad are trained to believe that the brats only really mean it when they yell.
During my month-long vacation in Europe, France was hit by a two-week nationwide railroad strike (for higher salaries and "guarantees against restructuring"), a week-long walkout by Paris museum workers (to protest the state not hiring more museum staff in the wake of the mandatory 35-hour-week law), a metropolitan transit strike in most cities outside Paris (to reduce retirement age from 60 to 55), and various other actions by midwives, emergency room doctors, labor-office workers, and so on. In one inspired case French farmers upset about the European Union's reaction to hoof-and-mouth disease expressed their displeasure by blocking access to Lyon's airport.... Naturally.
The French seem to believe, like many American Leftists do, that Capital and Labor are engaged in a zero-sum War, and that most pro-business, pro-economy measures are poorly disguised scams to screw workers. I once walked around the ramshackle port town of Marseilles for hours, winding my way through the crowds of unemployed men lurking in every public square, in a desperate search for a restaurant open on Sunday. When we found one, there wasn't any fresh fish, because the fishermen don't work weekends. "Did it ever occur to anyone that having all the businesses closed on weekends might contribute to the lack of jobs here?" I snapped at my Marseilles host. "That would force people to work overtime," he said, looking slightly alarmed at my logic. "Besides, it's important for families to have their Sundays free."
The BBC reports that A U.N. official, Jean Ziegler, criticizes the U.S. food drops because, horrors, the food might end up in the Taliban's hands (what might they do with it? Rice is not traditionally a jihad weapon). Monsieur Ziegler goes on to say "If you do not separate very clearly military operations and humanitarian operations, you destroy totally the credibility of the humanitarian operations."
Call me simplistic, but NOT delivering humanitarian aid would also undermine its credibility, non? And doesn't humanitarian aid always, in some part, end up in the hands of the oppressors? A bit idealistic, perhaps?
Or is this a bureaucrat defending his turf? It's not legit if I don't do it? One of his arguments is that Afghans don't like peanut butter. Awwhh.
Fortunately, Ziegler is contradicted by one of his own colleagues:
But another UN official, Christiane Berthiaume of the World Food Programme, said the problem of Afghan hunger was so severe that any means of easing it must be welcomed. "Food at this time, from wherever it comes - it's food for hungry people."
Boy, I'm a blogging fool today. But I can't help it when I see stuff like this from Smartertimes:
An article in the business section of today's New York Times speculates on the source of anthrax attacks on NBC and on American Media. One source at Harvard University, Juliette Kayyem, is quoted suggesting that "right-wing groups in America" may be guilty of the attacks. The Times quotes Ms. Kayyem as noting that the press "has not been a particular target of Islamic fundamentalist groups or groups we associate with Sept. 11. It has been a target of right-wing groups in America."
Another Harvard University source, Jessica Eve Stern, tells the Times that "Right-wing extremists are obsessed with biological warfare." The Times says Ms. Stern "finds some logic in suspecting the media attacks may have a domestic origin."
Well, the evidence may eventually show that "right-wing extremists" were behind these attacks. But until it does, some more skepticism is in order in passing along such claims.
It took three days, passing through many Taliban checkpoints, to get to the capital, Kabul, his first time in the city.
There he found amazing scenes: turbaned Taliban police rounding up young men who were working in shops and marching them off to the mosque to pray, measuring the length of trousers women wear under their compulsory, shroud-like burkas, or chasing women seen walking alone in the streets and beating them with sticks or lengths of steel cable.
"It was funny to see how they measured the length of women's pants, especially those who didn't wear socks," he said. "But it was scary. It was very frightening to be alone."
Ultraviolet light and Radiation both sterilize, which would kill Anthrax. Irradiating objects leave no trace of radiation on them. You can irradiate food without side effects (other than a tomato with a shelf life of a year), although the public is too jittery to accept it. Perhaps this is a technology whose time has come.
Anthrax hysteria is spreading to the continent, although there are no confirmed cases. Stranger still, they seem to be suspicious of mail coming from...the U.S.:
Six suspicious envelopes have been found and tested in Belgium over the past few days, Le Soir reported. They too turned out to be safe. Postal workers at Rome's main airport have refused to handle letters and packages from the U.S., Corriere della Sera reported.
A headline in the Wall Street Journal this morning reads "Corporate Mailrooms are First Line of Defense Against Bioterrorism". Perhaps we should federalize the mailrooms. Wait, the Post Office.....
Virginia Postrel posted this gustatory analogy while discussing flag-waving Angelenos:
America is less a melting pot than a stew, in which the ingredients exchange flavors but remain distinguishable. Or maybe it's a burrito, in which the ingredients are held together by unifying institutions and create a whole greater than the sum of the parts. (You can play this metaphor game all day.) In either case, an attack on the whole is an attack on the parts, and the parts—particularly those who've fled monocultures—know it.Maybe it's a Jambalaya, or a Paella. If it's the latter, I'd like to be a Mussel. Either way you throw it together, it's delicious.
The Times comes out in favor of greater centralization of administering the $850 million and growing relief funds, accusing non-centralized systems as being "porous".
This kind of elitist reflex for prophylactic centralization kills me. Its code for "give it to professional bureacrats and lawyers as opposed to volunteers". The more centralized and municipalized this effort becomes, the less will get into the hands of the victims, and the more politicized the organization will become. Imagine the hearings about the equitable settlement value of being bonked on the head by debris vs. losing your job because your firm was decimated vs. losing a family member, etc. The Times actually makes my argument with the following "on the one hand..oops, forgot the other hand" construction:
But there is much the private groups can do to improve coordination, and on this score, as David Barstow reported in The Times last week, the results have been uneven. On the plus side, the charities are becoming increasingly aware that the universe of victims is larger and more elusive than originally thought, embracing not only victims' relatives but people who lost their jobs and suffered in other ways. There is also a growing understanding that many of these problems will be around for a long time. As a result, charities with similar interests are seeking one another out to avoid duplication and plan for the future. A half-dozen groups interested in college scholarships for victims' children are talking to one another. Funds for families of firefighters and other rescuers are banding together, and similar clusters are forming to address other needs — mental health, orphans, and so on.
All this makes excellent sense. But it is still very much an informal, decentralized system that does not begin to cover all the charities and, for that reason alone, cannot provide guarantees against duplication or even fraud. Nor can it guarantee the equitable distribution of resources. Officials who organized relief efforts after the Oklahoma City bombing say that New York is inviting problems unless it creates a comprehensive registry of victims and charities and a centralized mechanism to coordinate the distribution of benefits.
It looks to me like decentralization works. We adapt on our own. Kind of like a....market! No, perish the thought!
This editorial is an attempt at comparing the U.S. to the terrorists because of its history of slavery.
In Hartford, some black folk could not identify with the angst being displayed. They said they didn't condone the senseless loss of life, but they could understand how a group can be pushed into such an action. America terrorized African slaves and their descendants for 400 years; the beatings, lynchings and forced labor in Southern cotton fields were a form of terrorism, according to one man.
I contacted Hartford NAACP President Thirman L. Milner about hosting a discussion to sort out how blacks feel about Sept. 11. A group of 16 people met on Sept. 22 at the Hartford NAACP headquarters and talked for two hours. Some very strong emotions came forth. Thirteen of those present said they did not feel traumatized at all. Most people shared that after Sept. 11, now America knows how it feels to be a victim.
As the moderator for this meeting, I asked the group, Where do African Americans fit in all of this? It seems as if the country is asking for unconditional (and unthinking) loyalty without any dissenting voices. President Bush stated, "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." Such statements from our leaders don't leave much room to maneuver ideologically.
Notice that Lewis couches his most controversial sentiments in the words of "group members" from this supposedly high-minded gathering. This is just a sign that he doesn't believe the moral relativism highwire he's on. If you want to run a group shrink operation to "sort out feelings", great, but remember to preserve confidentiality next time.
Osama bin Laden's son was quoted in an interview saying that his father was heading for the hills with a 300-man regiment and 60 satellite trucks. This prompts Stuart Buck to wonder "why bin Laden wants us to think he has 300 commandos and 60 trucks of satellite equipment (60? How many could one man use?)."
This is all part of the fantasy the terrorists create: Slay us with the very things that have allowed us to advance, planes, tall towers, technology, our open society. If they can create the idea that all these things lead to death, then the incredible squalor they force on their own people won't seem so bad. It's part of the P.R. war, but its directed at arabs, not us.
I find this encouraging, because it is so amateurish relative to 9/11. Like the anthrax mailings. Here's another clue to ObL's state of mind:
He further revealed how his father slept for just two or three hours a day and ate only small amounts of food in order to stay alert.Ask any Doctor. Sleep deprivation, taken to extremes, produces symptoms similar to schizophrenia. Schizophrenia symptoms include voices in the head and paranoia as well as multiple personalities.
Ira Stoll skewers the New York Times:
Today's lead New York Times editorial, about Saudi Arabia, says, "The monarchy should crack down on its own corruption and do a better job of distributing the nation's wealth so that economic inequities do not generate new legions of terrorists."
The sentence is a real gem in the sense that it captures the New York Times view of economics and foreign policy all at once. For the Times wealth is something to be "distributed" by a country's government.
.............Similarly odd is the claim that "economic inequities" generate terrorists. It's unclear how this happens. If the Times is claiming that aggrieved and jealous poor people become terrorists, then, in fact, that is at odds with recent experience; many of the terrorists involved in the recent suicide attacks on America were not poor. Their masterminds certainly were not poor.
``There is no negotiations, period,'' Bush said.from Bloomberg. I should talk. See my "sorry about this sentence" post below.
Here's a spicy paragraph from Stephen Brockerman, who maintains we've been "bombed twice":
However, if Foggy Bottom is guilty of suicidal, pragmatic shortsightedness in its foreign policy, how should one describe the position of the pacifists and many of the professorate? They condemn America’s support of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, both of which are rather tolerant, semi-Westernized nations, while they withhold criticism of theocratic dictatorships like Iran and military tyrannies like Iraq.
Righteous in their indignation against the use of American military force, the pacifists and professors, nonetheless, willingly accept the preemptive annihilation of an entire city in Syria by that nation’s despotic ruler. They who speak intolerantly of American racism are, nevertheless, willing to tolerate the slave trade thriving in Sudan. Avowed defenders of the Palestinians, they look the other way when those who even mildly publicly criticize Arafat have their tongues cut out or worse.
Have you noticed how over-used the term "moderation" and "moderate" have become? The New York Times seems to think that moderation is the ultimate virtue. Having read Virginia Postrel's book, I'm not crazy about the term. I've been gently suggesting to my (New Deal Liberal) acquaintances that perhaps their ideas are old-fashioned and mine are progressive. But this seems to court the "radical right" argument. This is why I liked Virginia's book. We've arrived at some linguistically challenged nonsensical crossroads where we are presented with the choice of preserving our liberal progressive politics of the past or embracing radical conservatism. Virginia's right, the old labels don't fit.
Lee Bockhorn previews the newly-framed debate on missile defense. It will certainly be interesting to watch this develop. With the two parties tactics on tax cuts, we see the preview for this argument:
So rather than continue to fight old battles over the technical feasibility of missile defense, or the diplomatic challenges it creates, or the likelihood of the ballistic missile threat, smart Democrats will most likely change tactics. One avenue they will pursue is to present the false choice of missile defense vs. antiterrorism measures--i.e., that every penny spent on ballistic missile defense is one less penny spent on counterterrorism.
Prior to September 11, Donald Rumsfeld was criticized for his forward-thinking ideas for remaking our military abilities. His ideas, as expressed in the Quadrennial Defense Review , and prepared mostly prior to the attack, are spot on. Missile defense plays a role. For him, the dollars come from the multi-front war strategy, not counter-terrorism. Here's hoping this very serious policy statement doesn't get put through the Gephardt/Daschle political meat grinder.
Incidentally, since Rumsfeld's report suggests "transformational change", what do we call those who opppose it? How about "conservatives". Or we can use Virginia Postrel's word, Stasist.
By the way, there is something you can spend a dollar on and have it come back as more than a dollar - marginal tax cuts for people who invest. The highest multipliers for money are in the private sector. If you don't know what a multiplier is - congratulations! You're qualified to be a Congressperson or The New York Times Op-Ed Economist.
Are they the scalliwags that voted unanimously for the aviation security law that Krugman said they were "fanatics" for voting against?
from Bill O'Reilly:
...a well thought-out protest is as rare as a kickboxing Quaker
Peter Beinart writes this intriguing article about free speech. Compare it with this CNN article. Notice that those critical of the war receive criticism and threats from random idiots and crackpots. Notice that those who make jokes that can be interpreted as insensitive to Muslims get...well..fired and suspended! Here's a pungent quote from Beinart (and remember this is The New Republic!):
These attacks on free speech also continue an ugly tradition--the tradition of speech codes and ideological witch-hunts that has stained university life over the past two decades. In academia, the precinct in which it holds the most sway, the left's record on free speech was not good before September 11 and it has not been good since September 11. The main difference is that, since September 11, the specter of censorship has become a way to discredit the war against terrorism, so some on the left have appropriated the free speech rhetoric that until last month they generally eschewed.
This is from Overlawyered.com:
Scott Bender of Philadelphia was snoozing when the U.S. Airways flight from North Carolina landed at the Birmingham, Alabama airport and the crew left him there in the little plane until he woke up. It was really dark, says his lawyer, and Bender "didn't know if he was alive or dead" -- it turned out the former. Now he wants money for the fright and other harms.
Following up on my blog about yesterday's Times editorial, you will see that the Times is chock full of this wishful reasoning this morning. Here's how it goes:
1) Hmmm, we sort of like Bush now..
2) well then, he must be coming around to our view of the world...
3) and resisting the evil "right" forces we know are out there!
PURE rationalization. Anthony Lewis deconstructs one sentence in the press conference as somehow disavowing Bush's entire pre-9/11 foreign policy platform. The lead times editorial and Frank Rich's op-ed egg on the "Return of Partisanship" by asserting that Bush, having nobly resisted the evil forces of "tax cuts that won't work" (hah) etc., is slipping - caving in finally. These pundits nonsensically suggest that the "right" (again unspecified) has somehow questioned Bush more than the Democrats (the Powell/Wolfowitz controversy, they say). Who are these righties? Are they the scalliwags that voted unanimously for the aviation security law that Krugman said they were "fanatics" for voting against? Finally, they run a news story (front page) on Rumsfeld that implies he has somehow undergone a personal transformation. "How else could we be so impressed with him", they seem to say.
I guess the New York Times has never heard of leadership. Bush has consistently acted on a short set of basic principles: limited government, strong and well-defined international activism based on U.S. interests. I was brought up in a world where we appreciated the intellect that could argue both sides of a problem. But leadership based on simple principles works. I refer you to the vast pool of literature at the Harvard Business School Publications website to investigate this. A transparent, simple set of principles allows a leader to motivate even those who might disagree with some specific policies. This style of leadership is welcome in a crisis, just like a parent can seem like a hero to a child when his/her hitherto annoying priorities are made clear by a family illness or an emergency that involves their children.
Among the NY "intelligentsia" one can often pass oneself off as having an opinion by quoting the New York Times editorialists. Stuart Buck wrote me to say the op-ed is "always good for a laugh". But, because of the Times' influence, I find the northeastern academic intellectual vacuum in which the newspaper and the primary op-ed writers (such as Krugman, Dowd, Lewis, Rich) operate to be more disturbing than laughable. They are better at style than citing facts, and prone to rationalization of their own inflexible perspective rather than assimilation of new information. They constantly make up "straw man" arguments to rail against. These are good writers with stale ideas.
I don't want to attempt to turn into Smartertimes, since I couldn't hold a candle to their efforts, but I agree with them that we need a news and opinion source with the resources and reach of the New York Times that offers a different perspective. One of the reasons I have welcomed the folks in the links to the left.
In the enormous fund raising effort for WTC victims' families, Michelle Malkin reminds us that there are other terrorism victims besides those of September 11. Today is October 12, anniversary of the U.S.S. Cole bombings.
The New York Times writes a positive editorial about the President entitled "Mr. Bush's New Gravitas. Naturally, they attribute this "new" credibility to a change in his politics:
The themes of last evening's encounter with reporters in the East Room of the White House were strikingly different from those voiced by Mr. Bush during the presidential campaign and his first months in office. Here was a Republican president repeatedly extolling the crucial role of the federal government in providing for the safety of the American people, whether in improving aviation security, hunting down suspected terrorists or simply giving succor to a shaken land.I did not hear a big-government president speaking, and I don't hear huge changes from pre-9/11 Bush. These "first months" contrasts are straw men set up by the Times (as usual) to support ho-hum editorial arguments. Did anyone ever suggest that the business of "hunting down terrorists" should be privatized? Was Bush soft on defense? Didn't the 50-50 senate vote unanimously on aviation security? As for giving "succor to a shaken land"...I don't know. It's interesting that they give lead editorial position to this article because it doesn't say anything.
A friend sent me this, of undetermined internet origin:
AFGHAN TV GUIDE
8:00 - 'Husseinfeld'
8:30 - 'Mad About Everything'
9:00 - 'Suddenly Sanctions'
9:30 - 'The Brian Benben Bin Laden Show'
10:00 - 'Allah McBeal'
8:00 - 'Wheel of Terror and Fortune'
8:30 - 'The Price is Right If Usama Says Its Right'
9:00 - 'Children Are Forbidden From Saying The Darndest Things'
9:30 - 'Afganistans Wackiest Public Execution Bloopers'
10:00 - 'Buffy The Yankee Imperialist Dog Slayer'
8:00 - 'U.S. Military Secrets Revealed'
8:30 - 'When Northern Alliance Attack'
9:00 - 'Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pita Bread'
9:30 - 'Just Shoot Everyone'
10:00 - 'Veilwatch'
8:30 - 'M*U*S*T*A*S*H'
9:00 - 'Veronicas Closet Full of Long, Black, Shapeless Dresses and Veils
9:30 - 'My Two Baghdads'
10:00 - 'Diagnosis: Heresy'
8:00 - 'Judge Laden'
8:30 - 'Funniest Super 8 Home Movies'
9:00 - 'Captured Northern Alliance Rebels Say the Darndest Things'
9:30 - 'Achmeds Creek'
10:00 - 'No-witness News'
11:00 - Beavis and Raghead'
12:00 - This Old Tent' with Bob Villain
Have a look at this.
Dorothy Rabinowitz writes a uplifting article on the mood in New York. I agree. I have had more heart to heart conversations with waiters, cabdrivers and sudden subway acquaintances over the last month than my entire life living and/or working in New York City. Yo' Mama, Osama.
Also - these events she describes at Carnegie Hall must have been frustrating for B.C.:
That star was the mayor of New York. Just before his appearance onstage, people spotted Bill Clinton in the audience and gave him a warm ovation--a description that could in no way describe the reaction when the mayor appeared. For Rudolph Giuliani the audience actually rose as one--no small feat for nearly 3,000 people. They jumped up and down, they roared, and they would not stop.
Rudy is a tough, not-so-P.C. kind of guy. But character counts in a crisis.
I am ashamed to say I didn't know this, but Israel's aviation security is private (see David Henderson's editorial in the WSJ today). But Paul Krugman still thinks leaving it private here is "fanatical distrust of government."
while I mess with the HTML here
If it is inappropriate to respond militarily against a regime that knowingly shelters an organization that has declared war and committed horrendous acts of war against the United States, when is it appropriate?
After a lot of wondering, I finally found a news story that appears to document the extent of asbestos use in the WTC:
When the center was built in the early 1970s, asbestos was applied as insulation to steel beams up to the 39th floor of Tower One before a ban on the use of the mineral took effect in 1971.
Also - the asbestos in buildings is "chrysolite" asbestos, while the form of exposure that drives known statistics is "amhipole". Many researchers believe chrysolite asbestos does not pose nearly the same risks, and exposure to this form (in building materials rather than mining) tends to be limited and acute, rather than substantial and chronic. The main body of stats on cancer risk came from asbestos miners, whose exposure was huge and constant.
Stuart Buck has posted one of the funniest email exchanges I've bever seen. Between Harvard Law Professors, no less.
The Levy Economics Institute posts an article by L. Randall Wray on "The Backward Art of Tax Cutting" This was written back in May and highlights the zero-sum thinking of the Krugmans of the world ("irresponsible tax cuts", etc.). His conclusion:
In view of all this, the idea behind "triggers" that would tie tax relief to realized budget surpluses appears seriously flawed. As the surplus disappears due to slower growth, we need to increase-not reduce-the fiscal stimulus.7 Indeed, to get it right, the triggers should operate in a reverse manner, generating larger tax cuts as the slowing economy destroys fiscal revenues. The notion that budget surpluses are needed to pay for tax relief represents a serious misunderstanding of government financing and of the countercyclical nature of tax revenues.All the varieties of tax-cut reclaim arguments are insane. Essentially, what these pundits and congresspeople are saying is that we should build a Rube Goldberg device that automatically kicks us when we're down. The "trigger" was also an abdication of their responsibility to debate the budget and vote. These economic ignorami love to call tax cuts reckless, but its their solutions that are irresponsible.
In light of recent events, the stimulus may have to be substantially larger than Wray's recommendation.
Our retail analyst has looked at comparable quarter sales ("comps"), comparing the third quarter of 2001 with the third quarter of 2000. All the big discounters (Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl's, etc.) are up between 1.5 and 9%. The Gap, Saks, Neiman Marcus, Marshall Fields, Dillards, May and Federated are all down 10-20%.
Some of this is just the trend away from the department stores. I just tried to get a blazer for my ten year old in the local department stores and found that they have no inventory and no help. So who would shop there anyway? But some of it may be the consumer retrenchment that Wynne Godley predicted. In the words of Bill Murray, that would be bad.
This comes from Reason Express:
After the first World Trade Center attacks in 1993, a Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles official warned that the state's method for handing out IDs could put them in the wrong hands. He was ignored. Four of the September 11 terrorists carried bogus Virginia papers.
Scott Simon's editorial in the Wall Street Journal today describes the limits of pacifism. Simon is a quaker with a long career as a war reporter. He recalls an example where pacifism egged on Hitler:
n 1933 the Oxford Student Union conducted a famous debate over whether it was moral for Britons to fight for king and country. The exquisite intellects of that leading university reviewed the many ways in which British colonialism exploited and oppressed the world. They cited the ways in which vengeful demands made of Germany in the wake of World War I had helped to kindle nationalism and fascism. They saw no moral difference between Western colonialism and world fascism. The Oxford Union ended that debate with this famous proclamation: "Resolved, that we will in no circumstances fight for king and country." Von Ribbentrop sent back the good news to Germany's new chancellor, Hitler: The West will not fight for its own survival. Its finest minds will justify a silent surrender.
In short, the best-educated young people of their time could not tell the difference between the deficiencies of their own nation, in which liberty and democracy were cornerstones, and a dictatorship founded on racism, tyranny and fear.
This makes sense. Pacifism worked within systems that have democratic, egalitarian principles (British India/Gandhi, the United States/Martin Luther King). The pacifists had an essential good within their system to which they could appeal. In addition, these successful pacifists operated within their own cultures, requiring that a government harm its own citizens to beat them down. Osama bin Laden and his rich-boy terrorist network and the Taliban are lacking in principles that would allow pacifism to work. These folks are happy to kill their own citizens in large numbers. These are people who beat women in the street, and have just stoned the french reporter they took hostage a few days ago (see my earlier post). No amount of hopeful PC relativism will create an essential goodness to which we can appeal.
I hasten to add, I know few peope who are espousing pacifist views, as I work in New York, not Berkeley. The closest I came was a 60-person student demonstration in my hometown of Princeton, NJ, which was NOT appreciated by the majority of the state. So I'm less concerned than others that we need to expose any movement here. But the limits of pacifism is a fascinating and important subject anyway.
Someone sent this in to Andrew Sullivan. I thought I'd give it more prominent placement here:
There once was a man named Osama, Who suffered a serious trauma When his father said, "Son, I screw camels for fun, And you really resemble your mama.
Fox News provides the origins of the Bert image in the bangladeshi poster.
Stuart Buck also addressed airport security this morning, and lampoons Krugman on other grounds. Great minds think alike.
continues in the New York Times. He draws an analogy between private airport security and privatizing the New York Fire Department. This is typical Krugman, at least recently. He draws a strained, but reasonable, analogy, then accuses those who disagree (Bob Barr in his cross-hairs today) of being "fanatics." Maureen Dowd does this too, constantly talking about the "radical right". Tax reform, lockboxes, new federal agencies, these are not issues that make the "radical right". It defies the definition of radical in this case, because Barr makes the argument for preserving the status quo. I've pointed out in earlier posts that Krugman has lost his grounding in economic reality (see "a note about sloppy economic commentary" below). Now he may need a refresher in language and labeling. Here's part of the rant:
Think about that for a minute. Terrorists board planes in Boston, and use those planes to kill thousands of innocent people in New York — and Mr. Barr still can't see why airport security is a federal function?Does Krugman actually think Federal employees would have caught our boxcutter highjackers? Fat chance. Krugman says Federal employee and thinks NYPD/NYFD, despite the fact that those are municipal employees. I think of the Department of Motor Vehicles, Tierney thinks of the Post Office. He also argues for nationalization because airport security personnel need to share sensitive information. There are lots of private companies that work with sensitive government information. Who manufactured all those Tomahawk missiles? Who designed the bombers and fighters that control Afghan airspace? Where does the bulk of technical innovation take place in this country? Krugman might just as easily and shamelessly argue that the CIA's failure to stop September 11 is an argument for privatizing our intelligence-gathering capabilities.
Krugman claims that the government can't "write a contract to cover all eventualities". Ever seen a government contract? They cover so much they don't achieve anything. Krugman even argues that private sector hiring and firing practices inhibit the effectiveness of airport security. Right, give them immunity from firing. That'll help. The point is a contract or byzantine public sector hiring practices won't get firemen to go into buildings or an airport inspector to stay up on his intelligence. Effective organizations can do that. Its more than an open argument as to whether the effective organizations are in the private or public sectors. Or does saying that make me a fanatic? Does it make John Tierney a fanatic for writing this piece in Krugman's New York Times on October 2nd?
Here's how Krugman winds up:
The story here is bigger than airport security. What's now clear, in case you had any doubts, is that America's hard right is simply fanatical — there is literally nothing that will persuade these people to accept the need for increased federal spending. And we're not talking about some isolated fringe; we're talking about the men who control the Congressional Republican Party — and seem, once again, to be in control of the White House.
For the Bush administration, after flirting with moderation in the weeks following the terrorist attack, seems in the last few days to have returned to its conviction that the hard right — which is relentless, and bears grudges — must always be deferred to, even in times of national crisis.
When did "moderation" become synonymous with "anything Krugman or the New York Times agrees with" anyway? Doesn't the Times know they are in the minority in this country?
I can see a reasonable case for making this a federal function. But Tierney and Barr aren't "fanatics" for questioning the idea. Krugman is too blinded by his own grudges to debate rationally or effectively. Krugman is much more fanatical in his tormented ranting than someone who merely stops to question another use for our tax dollars.
This comes courtesy of Instapundit, so I'll just paste the whole thing:
OSAMA BIN LADEN HAS TAKEN AN AMERICAN ICON HOSTAGE, notes Fredrik Norman, and so far no one seems to notice. Look at the poster in this photo and look behind Osama's left ear. Is someone having fun with Photoshop? Maybe -- but look at this photo and this one and you can see the same thing. Maybe it's a mole with the Taliban? This is just too weird.
Too weird indeed. It's going to take the entire Yale Literature Department to deconstruct this.
The Taliban have imprisoned a French journalist, calling him a spy. The link above is to Paris Match, which has a long article on Osama Bin Laden's background and the only picture of bin Laden laughing that I have ever seen. The article seems a bit on the "charming rogue" side, but my French isn't good enough to judge. As you might have guessed, the article was published before the capture of journalist Michel Peyrard.
Jonah Goldberg penned my quote of the day:
..."dissident" is a morally neutral term. Osama Bin Laden was a dissident in Saudi Arabia. David Duke has the same claim to the adjective as Ralph Nader or Leonard Peltier. If you steadfastly insist that 2+2 is a banana you may be a dissident, but you shouldn't wait by the mailbox for your Profiles in Courage award.
Despite the name of this site, I can't help but agree.
If you missed it, read Andrew Sullivan's article from this weekend's New York Times, This is a Religious War. My favorite excerpt:
Following Locke, the founders established as a central element of the new American order a stark separation of church and state, ensuring that no single religion could use political means to enforce its own orthodoxies.
We cite this as a platitude today without absorbing or even realizing its radical nature in human history -- and the deep human predicament it was designed to solve. It was an attempt to answer the eternal human question of how to pursue the goal of religious salvation for ourselves and others and yet also maintain civil peace. What the founders and Locke were saying was that the ultimate claims of religion should simply not be allowed to interfere with political and religious freedom. They did this to preserve peace above all -- but also to preserve true religion itself.
The security against an American Taliban is therefore relatively simple: it's the Constitution. And the surprising consequence of this separation is not that it led to a collapse of religious faith in America -- as weak human beings found themselves unable to believe without social and political reinforcement but that it led to one of the most vibrantly religious civil societies on earth. No other country has achieved this. And it is this achievement that the Taliban and bin Laden have now decided to challenge. It is a living, tangible rebuke to everything they believe in.
Newsweek magazine reported on its Web site that the office received a ``weird love letter to Jennifer Lopez'' a week before the Sept. 11 attacks. Inside was what was described as a soapy, powdery substance and a Star of David charm. The letter was handled by both Stevens and Blanco, according to unidentified workers cited by Newsweek.
The Nintendo Game Cube - sold out in 4 minutes.
Retired Air Force Colonel John Warden writes this optimistic theoretical assessment on how to fight terrorism. Without mentioning it, this article does a fine job of explaining why previous attempts on bin Laden, even if they had killed him, were ill-conceived Monica-distractions. Warden points out that these organizations can be paralyzed by near simultaneous initiatives on various levels (the "five rings") of the organization, from spiritual center to the citizenry. As we have seen, not all of these initiatives are military, or even destructive. Good reading.
These words from Iran's President Mohammed Khatami were quoted in a Reuters Story:
"Thousands of people should not be killed under the pretext of fighting terrorism, and innocent and oppressed people should not be sacrificed to aggression," the radio quoted Khatami as saying.
The reformist president, re-elected in June in a landslide victory, used milder language than Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did when he blasted the attacks on Monday.
"We condemn the attack on the country and the people of Afghanistan," state television showed Khamenei telling clerics. They replied with chants of "Death to America, death to Israel."
How does a supposedly humanitarian plea for thousands of innocent end in "death to" entire countries? The article goes on:
Iran says it is a victim of terrorism from the Iraq-based Iranian People's Mujahideen which has carried out numerous rocket attacks and assassinations across the country.
In April this year Iran, citing U.N. charter clauses legitimizing self-defense, launched Scud missile attacks against Mujahideen bases and training camps inside Iraq. The rebels said several civilians died in the strikes.
I see. That's different.
Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi dissident, argues the "Ladenist is to Islam as KKK is to the West" line that appears to have been pioneered on the "very special" West Wing episode. Apart from that jarring realization, this is an excellent article, found by Instapundit. Reynolds also highlights this essay from the Dean of the Yale Law School. I'm a Yalie too, and I like most of it. Unfortunately, it ends with one of these vague "citizens of the planet" bromides that dilutes the clarity with which it begins.
Reason magazine describes how Colin Powell's attempts to censor Al Jazeera were a bad idea. I agree. Fresh air, in the form of free journalistic information, will only help our cause. If Arabs understand that, we are winning.
This letter to the Middle East Times, from a Dr.Kerkonnen of Finland, is my nomination for what Glenn Reynolds calls the "Sunera Thobani Award." Here are some tidbits:
Looking at terrorism in terms of the number of casualties involved, the United States of America must rank as the world's number one terrorist.
The September 11 token military strikes on New York and Washington may serve to encourage the U.S. government to ask itself if its foreign policies should not include more cooperation, more compassion, and more respect for other cultures, rather than simply competition, domination, and exploitation, which are the mainstays of its present policies.
If this is the case, it is high time that American presidents were elected by the people for the people, not by and for the manufacturers of cruise missiles.
Dr. Kerkonnen needs to go put his head back in the snow. Doesn't he know our presidents are appointed by the tort bar?
On a more serious note, Dr. Kerkonnen seems to be counting World War II casualties to make his assertion. One can only assume he is including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I guess he forgot about Germany. You'd think a Fin would remember the number of Russian dead in WWII. Also what the heck does he mean by "token military strikes"? or "token military strikes"??
..for other perspectives or new information, such as Al Qaeda appears to have links with Russian mafia (ugh) in the Middle East Times, I find an interesting article on the effects of running on depression and "runner's high". This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as I have found running really improved my outlook. Of course I prefer recreational running to, say, running from a collapsing building.
I have now made my way through most of this book. In my enthusiasm I may sound a bit like the stereotypical liberal who has been mugged, but, after all, that is how Lomborg came to write it. I've taken to bookmarking with a pencil so I can underline the passages to which I want to return in the future.
Lomborg debunks a lot of zero-sum reasoning, mostly of the squandering finite resources variety. But it also does the cause of environmentalism a big favor, by re-focusing our priorities on economic growth in developing countries, and on important regional environmental issues that are addressable, such as eutrophication in the Gulf of Mexico. This is a treasure chest of information. It is also an uplifting read. the next time you see some screed claiming that somehow things were better way back when, or that we are running out of X, turn to this volume. It wil make you see how the human race has adapted over time, and how things have become much, much better in the last hundred years. While you are at it, look at the two opening essays in Global Fortune about the "25 miraculous trends" of the last century.
One theme the book returns to again and again is the "tragedy of the commons", a phenomenon named by Garrett Hardin. In his 1968 analysis of the use of common pasture lands in Sixteenth-century England, Hardin pointed out that we misuse most those things that "belong to everyone" . If a resource is free, we extract as much as possible from it before others can. This comes up with respect to overfishing, water use (although Lomborg points out the obvious lack of an emergency here) and water pollution. Lomborg repeatedly espouses property rights and private sector solutions. In fact, as Hernando de Soto points out, property rights may well be the key to many of the world's growth and environmental issues.
To give you a sense of the work in this book, Hardin's analysis is footnote 743. If you look at the book in a bookstore, I suggest you read footnote 2,930. Good to the last drop.
By putting entities like Worldwatch in his data analysis crosshairs, Lomborg illuminates the built-in biases of watchdog groups. If their pet issues don't threaten our country - no - our earth, then they are less important. As Lomborg points out, most Americans have learned to be skeptical of information given by business, rightly suspicious of the profit motive. What about the bureaucrative imperative of these theoretically neutral "watchdogs"? The media also comes under the spotlight for its self-interested tendency to blow things out of proportion. Imagine this story: "Scientists discover no link between electro-magnetic radiation and cancer". A Physics professor I had the honor of studying with (Bill Bennett, who invented the helium laser) did exactly that five or six years ago. No story.
The cumulative weight of Lomborg's analysis underscores the ugly human tendency to want to reform others' lifestyles, whether necessary or not. Question the lifestyle police. Don't take my word for it - read the book.
OK, so this post turned into a book review. Good. Keep reading, it will fortify you for the days ahead. P.S. "Afghani" is the Afghan currency. The people are "Afghans". Somebody tell the New York Times and NPR.
Smartertimes points out that the NY Times omitted the opening sentences of the now-infamous terrorist campfire videotape. This is where the Andalusian reference can be found. No, I have no idea why, perhaps no reason.
Laura D. Tyson fulminates on the tax cuts and the "lockbox" in today's New York Times. She asserts that tax cuts won't stimulate the economy and brings up the old "using social security funds to pay for..." arguments.
You'd think that someone who has worked directly for the president would bring up some evidence. But she doesn't. Look, tax revenues nearly doubled in the Reagan years after the tax cut. They increased after the Kennedy tax cut. They increased in the 20's after a tax cut. Now, that doesn't prove that tax cuts increase revenues by way of growth, but a strong correlation like that sure as heck doesn't disprove it, no matter what she, or Krugman, or any of these folks would have you believe.
This recession began with a capital spending bust. Capital spending is done by businesses, after hard calculations of the potential rewards of an investment. In a riskier world, businesses demand a greater risk premium for their investments. Tax relief on risk-taking helps motivate those expenditures. Monetary easing also does, although it only cheapens short-term borrowings and may not motivate longer term investments. That's why after nine rate cuts the Fed is pushing on a string.
On the social security lockbox question. Well, now that I understand her logic, I've figured out how to make sure I'm wealthy in my retirement: I wrote a check to myself for $1 billion and put it in a lockbox. So now I know I'll be a billionaire....Hmm, I don't really need $1 billion when I retire. I've got some pressing problems now, so I think I'll spend $100 million today. Good thing I've got that lockbox.
This is precisely the reasoning behind the lockbox argument. Wouldn't it be nice if this actually made sense?
Blame America At Your Peril is an article by Jonathan Alter on the blatherings of "blame-America-firsters". He points out that some of this is equivalent to saying "Uncle Sam wore a short skirt and asked for it." Several of my favorite websites make this the quote of the day.
Here's another less pungent but similar idea. How come apartheid-era sanctions supposedly wouldn't hurt the people of South Africa (or any number of right wing dictatorships) but are, in the post 1991-era responsible for killing innocent Iraqis and "asking" for the death of 5000 New Yorkers? Sanctions are apparently OK for racist and corrupt regimes that pretend at democracy but not totalitarian genocidal dictators with no democratic aspirations whatsoever busy preparing weapons of mass destruction to be used on Americans and Israelis. Yeah, OK, I get it...
Virgina Postrel points out a reference to "The Tragedy of Andalusia" in bin Laden's pre-taped rekmarks released yesterday. Andalusia (Muslim Spain some 500 years ago) is, to westerners, one example of an islamic state that was tolerant and open to trade. This just seems like more evidence that bin Laden's gripe is with our view of modernity - including democracy, pluralism and international trade. I think bin Laden considers these values to be a competing (and winning) religion.
I also continue to be amazed by the references to a long-gone history - the crusades, and now this. As in Yugoslavia, centuries-old grudges can remake current countries. Americans worry about memories of WWII fading.
On the subject of terrorism being bred from poverty - go Stuart Buck, go Mark Steyn). I'm on the worst internet connection in the world right now, so that's all.
Following up on my "sloppy economic commentary" blurb, I want to plug a very useful site economy.com. Here you can download the data series to show, for instance, the stunning increases in tax revenues following tax cuts in the 20s, 60s and 80s! See the vastly higher rate of increase in domestic federal expenditures in the 1980s compared to defense expenditures. All this posturing on the WTC reminds us that in some arguments, we have actual facts at our disposal. Thanks to a dynamic, free, open society of course.
Believe it or not, low-flow toilets came up in an e-mail I received about the WTC. My personal response involved the sensitivity, or lack thereof, of the children in my house to "floaters". Before I started to take the dialogue down the...er...toilet, I remembered that Michael Lynch had flushed this topic. Its not that low-flow is such a bad idea, its just that it isn't a worthwhile government function. One legitimate function of government is defense. I suggest you check in with Andrew Sullivan on the deterioration of our intelligence capacity. Talk about low flow.
In a column titled Yes, but What? (free NYT registration required), Thomas Friedman also attacks the notion that this was our fault:
One can only be amazed at the ease with which some people abroad and at campus teach-ins now tell us what motivated the terrorists. Guess what? The terrorists didn't leave an explanatory note. Because their deed was their note: We want to destroy America, starting with its military and financial centers. Which part of that sentence don't people understand?
He goes on to expose the myth, encouraged by that horribly patronizing "very special" West Wing episode, that people become terrorists from abject poverty. Most of the hijackers were middle-class Saudis and Egyptians. These are, relatively speaking, elites looking to force their view of the world on others. It is the attraction of the "infidel" West to the poorer people in their country that infuriates them.
The people who did this dream of a grand autocracy, with themselves as elites. Western cultural and economic liberalism has an irresistible attraction to all their potential subjects, who emigrate to the West in enormous numbers and succeed. However falsely, terrorists are those who see the West's gain as their loss, which is classic zero-sum thinking. That's why they want to blow us away.
Boston.com / Latest News / World / Syria set to join U.N. Security Council despite being on U.S. terrorist sponsor list. The cruel, immoral dictatorship of Hafez Assad gets veto power. Is this the price we're going to pay for Syria going along? At what price coalition?
John O'Sullivan has written a terrific piece on "counter-tribalism." This is his term for the tendency to denigrate one's own country/group in an attempt to appear sophisticated (a la Sontag, Moore). Another article I've read recently (can't remember which) points out, in similar fashion, that if we can ascribe blame to ourselves (for 9/11, other things) it gives us a false sense of control. Whereas if we acknowledge the existence of pure evil and the terrorists' basic hatred of who we are and how we live, then 9/11 is harder to prevent.
The "blame America" reaction is a weak one. I'm all for critical self-examination, but the idea that we brought this on ourselves is....offensive, inappropriate and unrealistic. This truly represents an attack on our way of life. And, yes, that makes it much harder to control and prevent. We can't just pull out of Israel, stop using oil or retreat into our shell. Thanks again to instapundit for pointing this column out.
While on the subject, read Salman Rushdie's thoughts:
Let's be clear about why this bien-pensant anti-American onslaught is such appalling rubbish. Terrorism is the murder of the innocent; this time, it was mass murder. To excuse such an atrocity by blaming U.S. government policies is to deny the basic idea of all morality: that individuals are responsible for their actions. Furthermore, terrorism is not the pursuit of legitimate complaints by illegitimate means. The terrorist wraps himself in the world's grievances to cloak his true motives. Whatever the killers were trying to achieve, it seems improbable that building a better world was part of it.
The fundamentalist seeks to bring down a great deal more than buildings. Such people are against, to offer just a brief list, freedom of speech, a multi-party political system, universal adult suffrage, accountable government, Jews, homosexuals, women's rights, pluralism, secularism, short skirts, dancing, beardlessness, evolution theory, sex. These are tyrants, not Muslims....
The fundamentalist believes that we believe in nothing. In his world-view, he has his absolute certainties, while we are sunk in sybaritic indulgences. To prove him wrong, we must first know that he is wrong. We must agree on what matters: kissing in public places, bacon sandwiches, disagreement, cutting-edge fashion, literature, generosity, water, a more equitable distribution of the world's resources, movies, music, freedom of thought, beauty, love.
Yup. And he has brought these ideas here.
A CNN article entitled CNN.com - Gulf War general outlines military strategy - October 3, 2001 describes a memo from General Barry McCaffrey (ret.) and quotes him as saying"We are going to disrupt these people through preemptive attack ... we will deceive them, we will run psyops on them, at selected points and times they will be killed suddenly, in significant numbers, and without warning." Would you want to be in those crosshairs? If we are one tenth as innovative in military operations as we are in technology and entertainment, it's got to feel like Blair Witch Project over there.
To paraphrase Thomas Friedman, yesterday was my son's tenth birthday - we went to Great Adventure with nine of his friends. Tomorrow I may go to a concert. Today I am blogging. I wonder what Osama bin Laden is up to in his cave?
news.telegraph.co.uk - Ebola-style killer virus sweeps Afghan border. Holy S., is this some bio-warfare experimentation? And has it run amok, or is this intentional? The story says the break outs began in June, but it still makes you wonder.
Kimberley Strassel notes in today's Opinion Journal:
"This re-evaluation of some activist groups is one of the few welcome developments stemming from the attacks. In his biography of John Adams, David McCullough notes the second president's observation that Americans remember what is good and right only in times of strife and crisis.
Sept. 11 has made this nation remember that human life is supreme, invaluable. What activist group can now argue that a human does not hold precedence over some wetlands, or a rat that could be tested for a vaccine? Hopefully, this new mindset will stay for some time."
Adams sounds a bit down on his contemporaries, and, in extremis, I believe saving wetlands may be important to human life, but let's hope Kimberley's right on the animal research front. Better these folks should concentrate on the live dog-incinerating Taliban.
I heard part of a report on NPR today. I thought I heard that the guest was a Mr. Zinlander of the People's Medical Society, but I can't find his name on their web site. He was suggesting that we are suffering an "epidemic" of doctor errors. We have heard this from a variety of sources recently. With a quick search, I came up with this report to the president, and this controversial Harvard report.
The report to the president compares intensive care unit error rates to landing planes and processing bank debits, and suggests they are unacceptable. I find death difficult to accept as well, but this comparison strikes me as absurd. We know almost everything there is to know about landing planes, and most landings are not conducted under the kind of pressure emergency physicians and ICU docs face with every case. Patients in ICU are often dying fast, and physicians have to treat them in short order with incomplete information. As for posting bank account entries, I just can't compare that to emergency medicine (I work for a bank and, in the deep past, processed account entries).
The other issue here is the definition of an "adverse development". Patients die, sometimes regardless of treatment. If a doctor makes an error in treatment and the patient dies, it does not necessarily follow that the doctor's error caused death. Perhaps the doctor took a calculated risk, as they often may. Correlation is not causation. The AFL does not drive the stock market.
My brother, a public health researcher and internist, was very frustrated with the Harvard report. This idea of physicians as omniscient is part of what's leading to the malpractice litigation boom - which has severe economic consequences. As a society, we have to learn to not only enjoy technological advances, but recognize that most sciences are a wonderful work in progress.
Instapundit weighs in this morning on tax reform, suggesting that tax relief at lower incomes might create the strange situation of voting non-taxpayers (federal) outnumbering voting taxpayers. An interesting point, but Reynolds goes on to suggest another refund. I disagree. The reason monetary policy isn't helping us (and hasn't helped Japan) is because economic growth is fueled by risk-takers (NYT registration required). That's why capital gains tax relief is not such a crazy idea. Greenspan has an abiding faith in monetary policy, and thus recommended we postpone capital gains relief - although he endorses it in general. After our ninth rate cut, I think the Fed is "pushing on a string."
Remember, this slowdown began with a major retrenchment in capital investment by businesses; it is a capital spending bust. To get that spending back on track (and to grow enough to meet our social security obligations) we need higher deductibility of investment expenditures and lower capital gains taxes.
Andrew Sullivan added two new blurbs to his me-zine last night, one about the intelligence failures of the last ten years and another quoting an interview in the New Yorker of Hilary Clinton (by Nick Lemann). She appears to equate terrorist anger with the anger of the people who objected to Hilarycare. You just have to read it to believe it.
Reason magazine's Ronald Bailey penned this article about those threatened by modern industrialized societies - including Osama bin Laden. Bailey has read Lomborg's book as well, I see. The analogy drawn in this article is over the top, but the ideas are very much along the dynamist/stasist line of thinking.
Bjorn Lomborg's the Skeptical Environmentalist has been by my bed for the last week or so. This is a fantastic book. Here's a quote:
"The public environment debate has unfortunately been characterized by an unpleasant tendency towards rather rash treatment of the truth.....blatantly false claims can be made again and again, without any references, and yet still be believed"
Lomborg refers to the "Litany" of "facts" about the supply of energy, necessary action on global warming, etc. And while it is easy to pillory the environmental movement, Lomborg goes on to deliver very substantial analyses that cut through the haze. The visual aids are excellent and the analysis superb.
The term "pro-environment" has become worse than "pro-life", in the sense that it has successfully carved out a protective space where one would seem evil to criticize. Who's against the environment? We are all environmentalists, we just have different ideas as to which theories merit public expenditures and potential impoverishment of those deprived of the economic growth "opportunity cost" of confiscating land, subsidiziing non-viable industries, etc.
In my own business, there is no shortage of charlatans who play with statistics for the purpose of advancing their own institution rather than their clients or the public. I thoroughly enjoy dissecting some of the market prognoses I hear in the media, and our industry has organizations (such as AIMR) that promulgate standards for presenting statistical information. In essence, Lomborg is performing that function for information about environmental trends.
Resources diverted from growth can costs millions of lives. We have a right to be "Skeptical Environmentalists."
Sudan's Offer to Arrest Militant Fell Through After Saudis Said No (washingtonpost.com)
Apparently we could have had Osama bin Laden in 1996. The chain of events here highlights the difficulties Saudi Arabia will have helping us now. How stable is this Saudi regime? Is bin Laden's ultimate goal to overthrow it?
Thanks to Stuart Buck for linking up this great Michael Kelly piece. Isn't it interesting how much the pacifists Kelly describes have in common with Buchanan-style isolationists? Both groups assume we can hide here with our ideals and these maniacs won't come at us. Wake up, they are already at us, and their goal is to put a stop to the juggernaut that is American Liberalism (I use that term in the classical Hayek/Keynes sense, not the post new-deal handwringing elitist sense).
Also, in this new age where irony is supposedly dead, an economist we work with, ISI Group, points out - "isn't it ironic that Europe appears to be letting Swissair go bankrupt even as we bail out our own airlines?"
The supreme court will decide on a Cleveland voucher program. It's about time. Nothing grinds my gears more than the elitist notion that we can't have choice in education (see some commentary on this). The government subsidizes tuition at a variety of private colleges, why do people think it should draw the line at parochial schools?
Furthermore, evidence is already mounting that school choice helps both those who choose to go to private or parochial schools and those who remain in the public schools. The education establishment would have you believe that every public school's loss is a privatre school's gain, making the same mistake bureaucracies have made for years. School choice helps all the kids who deserve more from our public schools. Vouchers are not a zero sum game.
The Wall Street Journal's lead editorial today discusses the shameful "Farm Security Act". The editors point out that both free-marketers and environmentalists oppose the bill, on different grounds.
I've noticed lately that mainstream politico-economic commentary has lost its grounding in basic macroeconomics. Most politicians, of course, never had basic macroeconomics. The first thing you learn in Macro is that national output is the sum of private sector output, government and net exports (Y=C+I+G+X). This isn't a theory, its an accounting identity, how one computes GDP. It follows that the private sector (business and individual) surplus or deficit, plus government's deficit or surplus, plus net imported investment, all expressed as a percentage of GDP must equal zero. As we know, the private sector has been running enormous deficits - about triple the long-term average at -6% of GDP. Both business and consumers are dissavers. Government ran a surplus and we certainly imported foreign capital, so these two parts of the identity have been positive.
Businesses have made a sharp retrenchment into saving, and now consumers are headed that way as well. One of the following two things HAS to happen: government's surplus goes away, or the FX situation reverses by way of massive dollar depreciation or a complete reversal in trade, the latter being less likely. So ask yourself, how can people like Paul Krugman expect us to protect the surplus while the private sector re-saves? Why would we try to do so, to ensure a recession? Does he know something about the dollar that we don't? These folks would do well to test their theories against pure accounting realities. In Krugman's case, his anger about politics has clouded his economics. He wasn't this way before.
For really informed, professional work on this subject, look up Wynne Godley, who draws the analogy to similar times in Great Britain after the housing borrowing boom, or Woody Brock. Woody likes to get paid for his work, so there is little published out there. I hope he will make some commentary publicly available soon, because he is truly inciteful.
"In a war on Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden will either be left alive, while thousands of impoverished, frightened people are bombed into oblivion around him, or he will be killed in a bombing attack for which he seems quite prepared. But what would happen to his cool armor if he could be reminded of all the good, nonviolent things he has done? Further, what would happen to him if he could be brought to understand the preciousness of the lives he has destroyed? I firmly believe the only punishment that works is love."
I guarantee you, if he read this, he'd laugh so hard his "cool armor" would fall off. Honestly, knowing what we know about Hitler, could we have possibly suggested the same for him? Perhaps Eva Braun's love might have turned him around. Now, if you want to try some Clockwork Orange-style sensitivity training, I might go for that....
Here's another blurb from the same Voice article that strikes me as more realistic. The United States' response is about eliminating more bloodshed, not self-indulgent moralizing:
Paul Berman, author of A Tale of Two Utopias: "Should we go to war? Dear friends, we needn't bother. War has come to us. If our enemies would stop attacking us, that would be peace. But even if we adopted Jerry Falwell's most visionary ideas and abolished gay rights and the ACLU (thus eliminating America's putative sins), and even if we followed the left-wing Falwells and stopped trying to preserve the Jewish state and allowed Saddam Hussein to resume his massacres (thus eliminating America's other putative sins), even if we did all that, our enemies would go on attacking. So we had better defend ourselves."
I'm a big fan of Virginia Postrel, so, for my inaugural post, I'll point out an article by Andrew Ferguson that highlights strange alliances between forces that previously seemed ideologically opposed. Ferguson points out that none other than Bob Barr and the National Rifle Association have joined forces with the ACLU to oppose anti-terrorism legislation endorsed by John Ashcroft. This is a terrific example of how one cannot define current issues around stale definitions of right and left. This isa big part of Postrel's argument, these "strange bedfellows" coalesce around other principles. She posits that some of today's liberals are really conservative, in a sense, becuase they are trying so hard to preserve the current order of things - they are "stasists" as opposed to "dynamists". I sent this article to Glenn Reynolds this morning, and, lo and behold, he posted it this afternoon. In some ways, this is inspiration for me to create my own weblog. Unfortunately, there is no way I can keep up with Reynolds or the many others I try to read regularly.
Even if you don’t buy Postrel’s new spectrum of “dynamists” and “stasists”, recent events have certainly created many strange bedfellows. I find this particularly interesting and would love to hear your thoughts.
I'm in the money management business. My offices are a few blocks from the former World Trade Center. Like many "warbloggers" I read, my proximity to this historic event is one of the reasons I'm recording my thoughts.