September 30, 2003


Some tidbits by Thomas Sowell

"Injustice in Guantanamo" is the title of a New York Times editorial about prisoners being held at the American naval base there. It is amazing how many liberals who complain about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo have no interest in the treatment of prisoners on the rest of the island, controlled by Castro.

If you have a right to respect, that means other people don't have a right to their own opinions.

Liberals seem to believe that blacks should be represented proportionally everywhere -- except in conservative organizations.

My computer operating system is so out of date that people don't even write viruses for it any more.

The most distinctive face on television: Financial analyst Maria Bartiromo. She would be a photographer's delight and a caricaturist's dream.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:02 PM

Pet peeve...

Something that really bugs me is Science Fiction writers who are afraid of the future, or at least don't want to deal with it.

I just noticed an SF book that (in the blurb) was about a "grey, gritty industrial future." Gimme a break. That's the industrial past. We're IN the industrial future, and the result is an almost nauseating riot of garish color. Just pay a visit to Toys 'r Us...You will wish we we were still in the grey industrial stage...Thank God my children are now old enough that I can avoid that swamp...

For the real future, there's that guy in Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age who makes his mark by inventing animated ads that appear on disposable wooden chopsticks!

Posted by John Weidner at 10:33 AM

Dog not barking in night...

In all the cacophony about Iraq, there's one word I've been hoping to hear--but haven't lately. It's Federalism. It's what Iraq needs.

Ever wonder why the German-speaking Swiss don't oppress the French-speaking Swiss? And the French-speakers don't fight with the Italian-speakers? It's because most of the important Swiss decisions are made in the Cantons. Even if you became President-for-Life of Switzerland, it wouldn't do you much good, because the central government doesn't control very much...

And if you become El Supremo in your Canton, your Storm Troopers will find things frustrating: Everyone probably already belongs to your Master-Race, and if you make things really unpleasant, your people can just move to the next valley and leave you "Ruler of Naught."

Posted by John Weidner at 10:12 AM

Interesting comparison...

An interesting article on British nation-building efforts in Sierra Leone.

...The similarities between the two African nations are countless: from their beginnings (as havens for former slaves and harbors where Britain and the United States could unload free blacks), to their size (tiny) and strategic significance to the West (minimal), to the longing of their people for Western intervention (just as Sierra Leoneans welcomed back "our fathers" when the British landed in 2000, Liberians are calling out to their "big brothers," the Americans who founded their country two centuries ago). And the implosions of the two nations are intertwined. Sierra Leone's civil war began with a rebel army based in Liberia. That army set off a decade-long conflagration, mostly devoid of ideology or even tribal logic, in which Sierra Leonean government troops as well as rebel soldiers raped and incinerated civilians on a massive scale...
The good part is that the British, with only 800 soldiers, have, in three years, and with only one combat death, pretty much ended the horrific violence in Sierra Leone. This is a splendid humanitarian success, and stands in glaring contrast to the utter fecklessness of the UN.

The bad part is that this is Africa. They are never going to really get their acts together; no African country ever has... Sisyphean ain't in it.

(Via Oxblog)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:04 AM

September 28, 2003

More powerful than the Atom Bomb ...

Lexington Green at Chicago Boyz thinks that our attempts to change Iraq are a betrayal of Bush's Jacksonian supporters.

...What Mead is getting at is that Bush's core Jacksonian supporters are not happy with the way things are going. Mead wrote this in June. Now, in September, it is much worse. Jacksonians like me were not real happy that this war was even called "Operation Iraqi Liberation", for example. I don't think it would ever have been worth sending American troops in somewhere solely because they had a horrible government. That's their problem. I think we should send our troops in somewhere because it is to the benefit of the United States that we do so...
Jacksonians are always reluctant to have us go to war or get involved with furriners. But when our country is attacked, they are ready to apply any amount of murderous violence, and they despise anything less than total victory. (Which probably saves lives in the long run.) The fire bombings that left Tokyo in rubble as far as the eye could see in any direction were the essence of Jacksonian warfare.

But I think in this case Mr Green is being a short-sighted Jacksonian. We are not trying to bring freedom to Iraq out of altruism, but because freedom is a weapon of enormous power. The Capitalism and Globalization and Democracy that we are dousing Iraq with are are almost unimaginably corrosive and destructive. If allowed to work for even a few years they will be a cataclysm analogous to the Neutron Bomb. But instead of killing people but leaving everything else intact, like a Neutron bomb does, they will kill traditional ways of thought and culture, but leave the people intact. Totally brain-zapped, but alive. You know how at Disneyland there's the "Old West" with Injuns and steamboats and such? If our weapon is allowed to do its obliterations, in twenty or thirty years the Iraqis will be building theme parks, with tribal sheiks and Fedayeen and camels...

The terrorists all come out of repressive and backward regimes. Have you noticed that, although India has more Muslims than almost anywhere, none of them seem to be turning up in Al Quada? It's probably because they get to vote against their leaders if they are unhappy.

I personally am a Wilsonian with a strong Jacksonian strain. I find the present situation most amazingly delicious. "O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" For the first time in my life I am perfectly in tune with American foreign policy. The cream of the jest is that Jacksonians like Bush have seized a Wilsonian program as a Weapon of Mass Destruction! Actually they didn't seize it, the "Neocons," a very Wilsonian bunch, sold it to the administration as just that. But I like to imagine Woodrow Wilson, prickly, proper, pince-nezed, stiffly holding some elaborate brass clockwork gadget, and having some raw-boned squirrel-hunting Jacksonian type grab it, saying, "Gimme that. I'll show you how we can ketch us some RATS with this here thang!"

And come to think, since the Globalization that is part of our cluster-bomb is a Hamiltonian project, we have three of the four themes of American foreign policy coming into conjunction. Sort of Mars-Jupiter-Saturn. Pity the poor Jeffersonians. It's not a happy time for them.

* By the way, I totally disapprove of the mass bombings of German and Japanese cities. But they did have one huge benefit. Nothing makes people ready to abandon their old ideas and be open to new ones like digging in the rubble that was once your capitol, looking for scraps of tin to keep the rain off...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:30 PM


Glenn linked to RantingProfs, an interesting blog focusing on media bias and the WOT...

THE PATTERN CONTINUES: I have argued before that worse then event driven reporting ("soldier shot, bomb detonated") is a pattern of reporting where the press spins up something negative but then, when the situation is resolved, just loses interest and never bothers to report that the situation has changed....First there was constant reporting on the inability to restore the power right after the regime fell. But when partial power was restored, there were no stories saying, "hey! they're on the right track!" until stories began to appear that the lack of full power was a huge problem in Baghdad. You can track the status of power, but never in stories on electricity per se, but in other contexts, other stories, if you are paying careful attention.

When there are stories about electricity, they are inevitably centered on Baghdad, and rarely mention that since Saddam starved the rest of the country to satisfy Baghdad's needs, people in Baghdad will almost inevitably be displeased with the current situation where there is equitable distribution leaving everyone with some but not 24/7 power, since the country's plant simply can't support that. (And, lately, notice, dissatisfaction with power has dissapeared from the news. Are the people in Baghdad still angry, but reporters have stopped mentioning it? If so, why? Or are things much better, and reporters aren't filing stories on big progress in providing power? Which is more likely given the patterns we've seen? We're just left to guess....

News without context is maddening. One wonders if it is intentional; a lot of news wouldn't BE news if it was placed in context. If the Iraq stories were accompanied by a chart showing electricity production In Iraq steadily increasing towards pre-war levels, then the soundbites of people complaining would be seen for the mostly meaningless static that they are.

If news stories on plane crashes or nine-car-pileups were placed in the context of deaths per passenger-mile over the last 50 years....well they would still be interesting, but also patently less important.

A classic example was the story about the wave of arson against black churches in the South a few years ago. The bit of context lacking was that several states had just started publishing more detailed arson statistics. Statisticians pointed out at the time that there really wasn't any significant increase--just a normal number of instances drawn from a larger sample.

And the even larger context missing there was that America's Left derives most of its aura of legitimacy from the Civil Rights Movement. And so has a HUGE vested interest in the perception that America is still a hotbed of racism. They glommed onto that story like thirsty men finding water in the desert! I remember a prayer added to the list in our church then. Something about protecting black churches from the "white racist conspiracy" that was attacking them. No evidence was needed; it just had to be so. (Of course a real white-racist conspiracy would torch white churches...)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:02 AM

September 26, 2003

Teensy morsels fed to us baby birds...

I don't usually pay attention to the mainstream news, but I caught a smidgeon of ABC on the radio today. As usual, I confirmed my belief that I'm not missing much.

First I hear that Paul Bremer has completed 4 days of testifying before Congress. (I won't say what I think of that use of his valuable time..) He must have had lots of interesting things to say, and I would have loved to hear more. But what's the one tidbit that ABC finds important enough to relate? "Mr Bremer was forced to concede that some Iraqis view us as an 'occupying force.'"

And then the economic news. The stock market was buoyed by improvements in several economic indicators. So what specific morsel here does ABC think will edify us? "...but the Consumer Confidence Index failed to meet expectations, [Presumably meaning that that index was also up, but not as much as some unnamed person said he expected] reflecting concern about the war and the economy"


Posted by John Weidner at 5:10 PM

#123: Betting the Ranch (interim report)

P. Krugman

This is an interim Squad report while Paul Krugman is away on book tour promoting his latest recycle-job, "The Great Unraveling."

All Squad readers should circle October 3rd on their calendars. This is the day the Bureau of Labor Statistics makes its annual benchmark revisions in the payroll survey of U.S. business establishments. As mundane as this topic may sound it should have Krugman and the Democrats awake at night with worry. We've often pointed out that PK and the Dems have few arrows left in their anti-Bush quivers over economic policy. They are now down to just one arrow--JOBS. For example, in the recent debate between Democratic presidential candidates the words "jobs" or "jobless recovery" were used more frequently than any others except "and", "I" or "the." But the upcoming October payroll revisions may kick the "jobs prop" out from under them.

Here's some background. Whenever Krugman and the Democrats say that we have lost 1.1 million jobs in the U.S. since the recession ended in November 2001 and cite this as evidence of a jobless recovery, they are relying on the Labor Department's survey of payrolls at business establishments, a sample of 400,000 firms. But Krugman's problem, which he may have to confront after October 3rd, is that this survey is probably the most revised data series produced by entire the Labor Department. There are many reasons for this but the main problem is that the establishment survey in real-time does a poor job of surveying small firms and it barely counts jobs created in new, start-up firms. Jobs in these areas are particularly important at turning points in the economy and, not surprisingly, that is when the establishment survey contains the largest revisions as more complete information becomes available.

For example, during the last "jobless recovery" in 1992 the establishment real-time survey showed a loss of 55,000 jobs initially, but was later revised to show a gain of 1.4 million jobs. That's a swing of nearly one and a half million jobs! Thus Krugman and the Democrats currently are betting the ranch on a real-time data series that is KNOWN to be unreliable.

Will the Oct 3rd revisions follow the 1992 precedent and show that job loss was much less than initially reported and that jobs are now increasing? No one knows for sure. But Krugman has good reason to be worried and we can afford to dream a bit. For example, what would he say if the jobs data were in fact revised upward and then, after that, the 3rd quarter GDP report, also announced in early October, showed continued strong growth? We're hoping we get a chance to find out.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]

Posted by John Weidner at 3:40 PM

September 25, 2003

Shit-kickin' cowboys no match for subtle Europeans...

Michael Gonzalez writes:

BRUSSELS--The Bush administration is often presented as arrogant and unilateralist, probably because successes are kept quiet. Much happens behind the scenes, however. Jacques Chirac's growing isolation in Europe has much to do with White House diplomacy, for example. The same with "star wars."

Remember missile defense? It was a grave threat to world peace and another sign that George W. Bush was a dangerous cowboy, right? Those were the European headlines two years ago. Today you hear not a peep about it. And yet, a first-generation shield may soon have to counter the threat posed by North Korea. Why has it ceased to be "news"?...

Hee hee. What the Bushies did was to quietly ask European defense firms to undertake some of the work. Billions of dollars worth. And would you be so very surprised to learn that that deep and principled European opposition to America's "destabilizing" missile defense plans wasn't so deep after all?

Our Prez didn't earn an MBA for nothing. And it also helps that, unlike most politicians, he doesn't need the world's applause. Behind-the-scenes success is just fine...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:56 PM

Nothing but a dream...

There are those, I know, who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American dream.

-- Archibald MacLeish

Posted by John Weidner at 7:09 PM

Broken-backed Americans, isolated and despondent ...

I liked Zev Chafets writing on Bush's UN speech...

...After long minutes of such hard-line talk, Bush finally got around to asking the UN for something. When he did, he sounded like a bored teacher doling out busywork. Why not help Iraq write a new constitution? (You diplomats are good with fancy words and, anyway, we'll check everything over.) Or supervise Iraqi elections? (It's easy; even Jimmy Carter could do it.) Or maybe train Iraqi civil servants? (If more than a smattering of UN bureaucrats ever get up the courage to return to Baghdad.)

These proposals were greeted with shocked silence. Wasn't Bush supposed to be begging for troops to relieve his beleaguered G.I.s? And money to take the burden off the broken-backed American taxpayer? Surely, the U.S., isolated and despondent, couldn't be planning to slog through the quagmire alone? Bush's answer: Could, and is...

Bush and crew have had the same position on the UN and the WOT all along: The clear duty of the UN is to help us, and we welcome help by the UN, but we are going to be in charge. They've said it over and over. And this clarity and consistency bewilders a lot of people. The more Bush says exactly what he means, (and then does it), the more it's assumed that he must be confused and adrift. Or that he's unfathomably deceptious.

For instance, Bush has said repeatedly that the War on Terror will be long and difficult. And as soon as anything looks longish and difficultish, we hear a shocked chorus proclaiming that Bush didn't know what he was getting into! Perhaps it's a difficulty that Post-Modernist theorists have interpreting a text with no subtext. Sort of like the programming error of trying to divide by zero. The brain spins and spins but gets no traction. "Bush is so subtle and devious that we are unable to de-construct his statements! He must be the cleverest liar in history."

Posted by John Weidner at 12:08 PM

September 24, 2003

The dusk drew earlier in ...

As imperceptibly as grief
The summer lapsed away,
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like perfidy.

A quietness distilled
As twilight long begun,
Or nature spending with herself
Sequestered afternoon.

The dusk drew earlier in,
The morning foreign shone�
A courteous, yet harrowing grace,
As guest who would be gone.

And thus, without a wing
Or service of a keel,
Our summer made her light escape
Into the beautiful.

-- Emily Dickinson

Posted by John Weidner at 7:56 AM

September 23, 2003

Silent Cal

We cannot do everything at once,
but we can do something at once.
-- Calvin Coolidge

Posted by John Weidner at 7:37 AM

September 21, 2003

For the thousandth time, here is...

A big squirming pile of weasel droppings moral equivalence from the Ombudsman of the Washington Post, explaining why they won't call someone a "terrorist" just because they blew up a bunch of Jews in a pizza parlor...

..."When we use these labels, we should do so in ways that are not tendentious. For example, we should not resolve the argument over whether Hamas is a terrorist organization, or a political organization that condones violence, or something else, by slapping a label on Hamas. Instead, we should give readers facts and perhaps quotes from disputing parties about how best to characterize the organization."

The guidance also quotes Foreign Editor David Hoffman: "If the Israelis say they have assassinated a terrorist, we should not embrace their labeling automatically. We may say he was a suspected terrorist, or someone the Israelis considered a terrorist, or someone the Israelis say participated in a terrorist act. In other words, we should always look independently at whether the person has committed an act of terrorism, whether we know sufficient facts to say he has or has not and what the facts are. We should always strive to satisfy our own standards and not let others set standards for us." ...

There's lots more. One might read it and conclude that the WaPo was bending over backwards to be careful and fair...if there weren't so many other Bourgeoisophobe Leftys who always, after oh-so-scrupulous calculation, conclude that it's not terrorism if you kill Jews.

(via Betsy Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:12 AM

September 19, 2003

Oooohh...This guy is baddddd...

David Cohen writes:

...There is not going to be a contested Republican presidential primary [in California] next year. Ordinarily, that would mean a low Republican turn out. But now let's assume that the California recall is postponed to March. Suddenly you have a big Republican turnout in the most populous state with no primary to vote in. So, why shouldn't California's Republicans reregister as Democrats and vote in the Democratic primary? No reason I can think of.

Now, where would Republican votes be best spent? Dean is a good candidate, of course, but giving Al Sharpton 162 Democratic delegates (I think that's the number) and thus a prime time spot at the convention is pretty attractive...

Posted by John Weidner at 4:42 PM

Peace...and six million files to work through

You remember a few months ago hearing people say, "give peace a chance?" Well, here are some examples. Peace. There was "Peace" in Iraq. We should have given it a chance. Let it grow. Minded our own business. Avoided an unnecessary war...

...The most biting disappointment facing the IPO members, however, has been the fact that when Saddam's vast prisons were opened, none of the hundreds of thousands of missing people emerged alive...

...Tens of thousands of Iraqis are making a weekly pilgrimage to Kadhimiya, where a human rights centre has been set up to log on computer the names of all the hundreds of thousands of people executed by the regime. They have six million files to work through, seized when the regime fell. They have processed two hundred thousand so far. Abtehale went there searching for her grandfather and uncle. So far, they seem to have vanished without record into Saddam's vast torture machine...

..Yasser says quietly: "The day after the liberation, my aunt put out a black banner [an Arab mourning ritual] with the names of all her relatives who had been murdered by the regime on it. And she looked down her street, and there were black banners on almost every house. On some houses it looks like a long shopping list. She said to her neighbour, `You too?' Under Saddam it was a crime to mourn people killed by the regime - it made you seem suspicious too. Everyone was suffering terribly, but they were suffering alone. They just didn't know that everyone else was hating it too."...

Do read the article this came from. It's not just grim stuff, it's also a heartwarming and optimistic account of a nation slowly starting to come alive. Of people's dawning realization that they are not forbidden to do the simplest things...
To you or me it would seem incredibly basic, but to them it was a revelation. They hadn't understood that you could set up your own organisation, without any orders or permission from anyone. They thought societies and charities were something the state did to you, something secretive and conspiratorial, not something people create for themselves. It was beautiful to see this happening."...

...We explained to the university students that they could have different newspapers - and even have different opinions in the same newspapers - and it seemed totally surreal to them. They just couldn't understand it. But when they realised that it really was possible and nobody was going to punish them, they were so excited that they were just obsessed...

It passes understanding that "liberals" and "libertarians" aren't thrilled about things like this...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:31 PM

Clinton sweetheart deal with Halliburton...

Rich Lowry pours a cold bucket of facts and truth on the smears against the Halliburton Corporation. It won't make any difference to the scoundrels who are deliberately spreading lies. But perhaps you RJ readers will be interested:

...The Clinton administration made the same calculation in its own dealings with Halliburton. The company had won the LOGCAP in 1992, then lost it in 1997. The Clinton administration nonetheless awarded a no-bid contract to Halliburton to continue its work in the Balkans supporting the U.S. peacekeeping mission there because it made little sense to change midstream. According to Byron York, Al Gore's reinventing-government panel even singled out Halliburton for praise for its military logistics work...
"...the U.S. Army Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or LOGCAP... is a multiyear contract for a corporation to be on call to provide whatever services might be needed quickly..." Halliburton has frequently been the low-bidder on LOGCAP, and both no-bid contracts were been made in the context of many Halliburton low bids to do exactly the same things. The idea that Dick Cheney just tossed a crony contract to his old firm is rubbish spread by toads who get to sleep quietly at night because decent Americans like Mr Cheney and the folks at Halliburton roll up their sleeves and tackle horrible problems in faraway places. And if they are well-paid for it, good! They deserve it. It doesn't look to me like they are nearly as overpaid as the NGO's and multinational institutions that the snivelers would prefer.

And imagine if the expected massive oil-field fires had actually occurred, and our response had been delayed for even a week by red tape. How the Bush haters would have crowed about the Administration's "lack of planning."

(via Betsy Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at 11:32 AM

September 17, 2003

"All stars, no battles"

I can't imagine why people are wasting so much hot air on Wesley Clark. So he's a retired general. Big deal. (Americans are not impressed by generals�we know that lots of them are pompous blowhards. We tend to see things from the grunt's perspective.) If he's a Democrat, his message is going to be appeasement and inaction, and his chances of election will be effectively zero. Like all Dem leaders he will present no vigorous and compelling and optimistic plan for fighting terrorism...(or for doing anything else.) "Mah plan, Ladies and Gentlemen, is to heap scorn and derision on the plans of mah opponent." Phooey.

Even if Bush were doing as badly as those chihuahuas claim, he'll still be re-elected. Because the American people feel about him like Like Lincoln felt about Grant. To Army officers and civilians who revived stories of Grant's drinking, Lincoln simply responded, "I need this man. He fights."

I often disagree with Bush's policies. But these are trifles compared to the fact that there are crazies out there who are hoping to kill Americans�kill us by the millions if they can get the right weapons. I don't want my children to grow up in such a world. I don't consider it something we should "live with" or " adjust to" or "understand." And the bulk of the American people feel the same. So the only kind of leader we need is the kind that will smoke the rats out of their holes and kill them. And not grow weary even if the hunt lasts for decades.

Until the Democrats can come up with some "Grants," they will remain a fringe group gnawing at their hatreds far from the center of power.

* Update: Of course the things Clark is saying now that he has heartfelt Democrat convictions are teensy bit different than what he was saying before he had heartfelt Democrat convictions...

...On the question of Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction, Clark seemed remarkably confident of their existence. Clark told CNN's Miles O'Brien that Saddam Hussein "does have weapons of mass destruction." When O'Brien asked, "And you could say that categorically?" Clark was resolute: "Absolutely" (1/18/03). When CNN's Zahn (4/2/03) asked if he had any doubts about finding the weapons, Clark responded: "I think they will be found. There's so much intelligence on this."

After the fall of Baghdad, any remaining qualms Clark had about the wisdom of the war seemed to evaporate. "Liberation is at hand. Liberation-- the powerful balm that justifies painful sacrifice, erases lingering doubt and reinforces bold actions," Clark wrote in a London Times column (4/10/03). "Already the scent of victory is in the air." Though he had been critical of Pentagon tactics, Clark was exuberant about the results of "a lean plan, using only about a third of the ground combat power of the Gulf War. If the alternative to attacking in March with the equivalent of four divisions was to wait until late April to attack with five, they certainly made the right call."... (link)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:59 PM

September 15, 2003

#122: Catch 22

P. Krugman

The Tax-Cut Con by Paul Krugman in the New York Times Sunday Magazine (09/14/03) shows clearly where he is headed over the coming months�possibly years. Basically, he has given up on a "double dip" economy and on Japanese style "deflation" occurring here and admitted that the U.S. economy is likely to recover�drum roll please!

But, of course, insurmountable problems lie ahead because of the Bush tax cuts, the needless war in Iraq, the administration's conflicts with corporate interests and all of the the usual Krugman spiel. Basically, we can't afford to do all the things that need doing without soaking the rich with more taxes.

We will confine ourselves to two points:

Krugman makes no distinction between the statutory and economic incidence of taxation. This is one of the first things undergraduates learn in a public finance course. "Incidence" is economists jargon for who pays the tax. The corporate income tax is a classic example. The statutory incidence is clear since a corporate officer writes a check to the IRS. But the economic incidence is entirely different. After writing the check the corporation passes the tax along, i.e., passes along the economic incidence, to consumers by way of higher prices, to workers in lower wages, and to shareholders with reduced dividends, retained earnings and share valuations. Ultimately, a corporation pays no tax! This example is classic because it illustrates the age old axiom that there is no free lunch and the one who actually pays may not be the one you think. Krugman knows all of this, but shamelessly exploits the corporate tax as a soak the rich initiative. In fact, the corporation tax is a drag on investment and capital formation. His colleagues must cringe. It illustrates how low he has sunk academically, intellectually and ethically.

Krugman delights in citing studies that show a long-term budget gap (because of the Bush tax cuts, of course) that is unaffected by economic growth rates. Ever wonder why an economy growing a 4% (which we expect to occur soon) wouldn't have better budget prospects than an economy growing at 2%? Here's the dirty little secret. The economists conducting these studies ASSUME that government discretionary spending rises proportionally with GDP. Talk about a catch 22! They don't even allow for the possibility that higher growth rates might be used for something other than more entitlement programs. In our view the Brookings study by Alan Auerbach, William Gale and Peter Orszag (cited by Krugman) represents nothing more than a liberal establishment terrified of losing the tax base which allows them to control spending by productive members of society. Without that tax base, some of these Brookings guys might actually have to work for a living!

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]

Posted by John Weidner at 8:20 PM

adaptability ...

... Today's media have a zero-defect standard: the Bush administration should have anticipated every eventuality and made detailed plans for every contingency. This is silly. A good second-grade teacher arrives in class with a lesson plan but adapts and adjusts to pupils' responses and the classroom atmosphere. A good occupying power does the same thing.
-- Betsy Newmark

(found here)

Posted by John Weidner at 5:00 PM

training ....

Natalie said an interesting thing, concerning the murder of Anna Lindh...

...In mitigation of the conduct of those bystanders I could offer the plea of sheer disbelief. On the happily rare occasions when I have witnessed violence, I, like them, have stood there desperately trying to re-process what I was seeing into a misunderstanding.

Liberty breeds safety. Safety breeds docility. Docility destroys liberty. Stone, paper, scissors.

Politically I've woken up. In my personal reflexes I'm still asleep.

I remember vividly the murder of Kitty Genovese, back in the 60's. (And it seems like a lot of other people do--Googling the name gets about 4,000 results.) All of America was shocked, and ashamed of the bystanders who did nothing. Probably millions of words were written, analyzing the America that allowed things like this to happen. But what is interesting to me is that nothing quite like it has happened since. And I suspect it is so because tens of millions of people said to themselves, "If something like this happens near me, I'm going to do something!"

It would be very interesting to know what the Swedes are thinking now. And what might happen if another attack like this occurs...Mark Steyn said that the Swedes lack "the will to be a citizen, not just a suckler of the nanny-state narcotic." Maybe, but I'm far from convinced of that. There's an Army and Martial Arts saying, "The way you train is the way you will fight." Most of us don't actually train to fight attackers, but we all do some mental training, and are ready for some things. If you are on an airplane, and you pull out a knife and shout something in Arabic, you will quickly discover that ordinary people are very ready for some life-or-death situations. I would guess that a planeload of Swedes would be almost as quick to act as Americans.

The nice Swedish ladies in the department store have doubtless been trained by the nanny state to passivity, but that training doesn't necessarily change what they really are. They've also been trained to accept the Euro... And if someone had been trying to kidnap a child in that department store, I bet the result would have been very different.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:31 AM

September 14, 2003

So of what USE are those nay-saying Jeffersonians?

Since I'm thinking about the Jeffersonian school, here's a little more from Walter Russell Mead's Special Providence; some reasons to tolerate these people for a little longer:

...Legitimacy in mass democracy is a fragile thing; the power of Jeffersonian ideas about democracy is one of the primary supports enjoyed by our form of government...

...Jeffersonian ideas have produced...some of the most brilliant thinkers and scholars in the field of American foreign policy...

...The Jeffersonian mind-set, eager to understand foreign states and conditions, but also eager to leave them as they are, is peculiarly conducive to the intellectual formation of brilliant regional students. Of the four schools Jeffersonians are most often moved by a disinterested appreciation and respect for foreign cultures. Jeffersonians are less eager to make sales than Hamiltonians are, and less preoccupied with either secular or religious proselytization than Wilsonians are�but they are interested in understanding foreign cultures and peoples on their own terms. Very often Jeffersonian regional specialists have talked policy makers out of what would have proved rash and ill-founded initiatives and found ways of achieving important American objectives with less friction and trouble than we might otherwise face.

The greatest advantage the country derives from the Jeffersonian tradition emerges out of the Jeffersonian desire to define the national interest as tightly as possible and then to develop the most elegant possible strategy for securing that interest. It is a tradition that adds intellectual rigor and, often, great practical value to the foreign policy debate. It is arguably the natural home for American grand strategy...

Furthermore, the Jeffersonian tradition supplies something occasionally lacking in the other three schools: a critical tradition that seeks systematically to investigate, and in some cases controvert, the claims made by proponents of Hamiltonian and Wilsonian activism. If nothing else, Jeffersonian skepticism keeps Wilsonians and Hamiltonians on their toes, forcing them to think through their policies more thoroughly than they otherwise might, and to be able to defend their programs in public debate...

...Paradoxically, Jeffersonian pacifism and skepticism tend to unite American opinion once war has finally come... If even these people think we have to fight, then maybe war is really inevitable...

The Jeffersonian approach to foreign policy has one other advantage. Every vehicle should have at least one reverse gear...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:09 AM

September 13, 2003

In exchange for...

Orrin Judd writes

...Considering how freely people condemn Americans for not understanding the world beyond our shores, it's always remarkable to realize how little they understand us. As Mr. Phares makes clear, al Qaeda completely misjudged the effects of its attack on 9-11. The comparison to Pearl Harbor should have been instructive--in exchange for sinking a few ships, destroying some planes, and killing 2,400 Americans, the Japanese got a war that left three million of them dead to our 60,000 and their society transfigured in our image. Osama can't have been hoping for a similar result, but why'd he think he'd get one? ...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:01 PM

The Jeffersonians...

She [the United States] well knows that by once enlisting under banners other than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.... She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.
-- John Quincy Adams
I've been re-reading Walter Russell Mead's book Special Providence. I'm sure you've heard of it. It's the one where he divides American foreign policy into 4 schools, Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, Wilsonian and Jacksonian. (With lots of caveats: the categories are not hard-and-fast, they cut across party lines, there are other parties and interests...) But the 4 schools really clarify a lot of things. If you haven't read it I urge you to do so.

One thing that really struck me this time was how well the Jeffersonian label fits our friend Dave Trowbridge. He and I tend to look at the same events, especially the War on Terror, and see weirdly different pictures. From my Wilsonian-Jacksonian perspective, Dave often seems eccentric and obscure (stimulating me to write many a blogpost. He probably thinks me a rash enthusiast.) But if I think of Dave as belonging to the Jeffersonian school, then his writings are perfectly reasonable and consistent. (Some of them may even be correct.) The same could be said of John Quincy Adams, who has always been a bit of a puzzle to me.

Here are a few quotes from Mead on the Jeffersonians...

Liberty is infinitely precious, and almost as infinitely fragile; that is the core belief of the Jeffersonian movement..

Few things were clearer to the Jeffersonians than that the growth of the American republic into an intercontinental empire was a bad business all around...

War was the first and greatest evil Jeffersonians sought to avoid...

If avoidance of war is the first principal of Jeffersonian statesmanship, the second is the constitutional conduct of foreign policy. Here Jeffersonians often stand alone...

Jeffersonians [of 18th & 19th Cent.] hated and feared the national debt with a passion that today is difficult for even the most dedicated "debt hawks" to appreciate...

The Jeffersonian mind does not scan the foreign policy horizon in a search for opportunities; rather it sees threats...

...the classical and unmistakable tone of Jeffersonian diplomacy. Speak softly and carry the smallest possible stick.

The libertarian movement is an expression of Jeffersonian thought...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:48 PM

A splendid Saturday ...

building fence

Another hot day, but pleasingly dry and balmy. Really sweet, a day to remember when it's cold and wet. I did some work on a long-term project (about 2 years now) building a retaining wall and fence. There are few things as satisfying as building things with Redwood. It's soft and easily shaped, yet amazingly durable and resistant to rot. The smell and texture bring back childhood memories, when I would help in our family business. Even the frequent splinters are like old friends. We built our greenhouses and the benches inside them from Redwood. Truckloads of it. And painted them with copper-green wood preservative that came in 55 gal. drums--A smell I love, though you would probably find it obnoxious.

Those roses of Charlene's drew lots of blood The white one you see is Eglantine Iceberg (these details are important around here.) but there's something very satisfying about being showered with rose petals while you work...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:55 PM

September 12, 2003

Too hot for serious stuff ...

I had some serious, thoughtful things in mind to blog. Hey, maybe even profound. But it's a scorcher today, and I'm kinda just melting. So instead, here's a joke my daughter found....

A blind man enters a lesbian bar by mistake. He finds his way to a barstool and orders a drink. After sitting there for a while, he yells to the bartender in a loud voice, "Hey bartender, you wanna hear a dumb blonde joke?"!!!

The bar immediately falls deathly quiet. In a very deep, husky voice, the woman next to him says, "Before you tell that joke, sir, I think it is just fair, given that you are blind, that you should know five things...

1- The bartender is a blonde woman.

2- The bouncer is a blonde woman.

3- The woman sitting next to me is blonde and is a professional weightlifter.

4- The lady to your right is a blonde and is a professional wrestler, and

5- I'm a 6 foot, 200 lb blonde woman with a PhD., a black belt in karate and a very bad attitude! Now think about it seriously, Mister. Do you still want to tell that joke?"

The blind man thinks for a second, shakes his head, and says:

"Naaaah...not if I'm gonna have to explain it five times."

Posted by John Weidner at 2:18 PM

The Mozart Requiem

Last night Charlene and I met Dave T and his soon-to-be-bride Deborah Ross and her daughter Rose at Aqua, then went to Grace Cathedral to hear The Mozart Requiem.

It was exactly the right thing to do on September 11, and Charlene and I feel lucky to have just the right friends to do it with.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:19 AM

#121: Unraveling

P. Krugman

Anyone thinking about buying Paul Krugman's new book "The Great Unraveling" can get a quick summary by reading his column today entitled Exploiting the Atrocity (09/12/03). And if you are wondering how an entire book can be summarized in just 900 words, you have missed the genius of Krugman. He has been recycling the same 900 words of partisan rage since his career as a New York Times columnist began in 2000. If he can recycle and get 40 or 50 columns a year on the cheap, why not just hit the cut and paste tabs and get a whole book on the cheap? W.W. Norton and Company, his publisher, is brazen enough to admit that is about all there is too it.

We also note that the basic thrust of today's column is very similar to the consensus coming from the Democratic presidential candidates' debates. And that is where the real unraveling is taking place�in the Democratic Party. Krugman claims that President Bush's poll ratings are lower than before 9/11. In fact, comprehensive polling shows clearly that the American public has bought into the war on terror including the Iraqi war and the post war rebuilding. Moral equivalence in an age of terrorism doesn't cut it and the Democrats, especially in the Krugman/Streisand wing of the party, apparently haven't figured that out. Howard Dean's attempt to elevate Hamas terrorists to the status of "soldiers" is just the latest example. The Democrats have crammed so many "equally-deserving" victim and whacko groups under their big tent that sensible people are leaving to become Independents or Republicans. There is not an electable candidate in the field.

That may be why Hillary is reconsidering running in 2004. She's afraid if she waits until 2008 there may not be a party left after the voters have so thoroughly rejected Krugmanism.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]

Posted by John Weidner at 7:26 AM

Bush Presidency in decline ....

Henry Hanks often has good roundups on media bias. Here's a bit from the latest one...

...All three broadcast network morning shows began with the same two interviewees on Monday morning: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice followed by ultra-liberal Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean. But while Rice was raked over the coals with questions from the left that heavily suggested that White House credibility was very shaky, Dean was mostly asked why he thought the Bush team was lying or the Bush presidency was in decline. Diane Sawyer inquired: �Last night, do you feel the President began to level with the American people?�
Much like the famous question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?"

Posted by John Weidner at 7:18 AM

September 11, 2003

Truth. Out there. Ashcroft...

I was driving this morning, and caught a clip on the radio, where someone asked former Mayor Rudy Giuliani if, since he was there in the smoke and dust after 9/11, he was concerned about Hillary Clinton's accusation that the EPA had withheld bad news about toxic air pollution. He said something like, "NO. Because there were about a dozen other agencies and groups, including unions and manufacturers, that also assessed the air quality, and they all came up with results similar to the EPA."

Hillary's charges are utterly bogus and unscrupulous. And indicative of the ludicrous depths the Democrats have sunk to. (Or no. Wait. I've got it! It was that Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy! They got to all those other agencies! ...Ashcroft. It was him...)

Posted by John Weidner at 12:41 PM

I'm re-posting this piece from a few months ago...

as if it were the Holy Grail ...

I was just thrilled by this story by a 9/11 widow who went to Iraq on a USO tour...
by Christy Ferer

6/30/2003�-� NEW YORK (AFPN) �--�When I told friends about my pilgrimage to Iraq to thank the U.S. troops, reaction was underwhelming at best.

Some were blunt. "Why are you going there?" They could not understand why it was important for me, a 9/11 widow, to express my support for the men and women stationed today in the Gulf...

How can anyone not understand? Unbelievable! Well, actually not so hard to believe-- sure and I know the type. Prissy cold-hearted urban-elite Liberals--this town is full of them too...
...As we were choppered over deserts that looked like bleached bread crumbs, I wondered if I'd feel like a street hawker, passing out Port Authority pins and baseball caps as I said "thank you" to the troops. Would a hug from me mean anything at all in the presence of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and a Victoria�s Secret model?

The first "meet and greet" made me weep. Why? Soldiers, armed with M16s and saddlebags of water in 120-degree heat, swarmed over the stars for photos and autographs. When it was announced that a trio of Sept. 11 family members was also in the tent it was as if a psychic cork on an emotional dam was popped.

Soldiers from all over our great country rushed toward us to express their condolences. Some wanted to touch us, as if they needed a physical connection to our sorrow and for some living proof for why they were there.

One mother of two from Montana told me she enlisted because of Sept. 11. Dozens of others told us the same thing. One young soldier showed me his metal bracelet engraved with the name of a victim he never knew and that awful date none of us will ever forget...

...One particular soldier, Capt. Vargas from the Bronx, told me he enlisted in the Army after some of his wife's best friends were lost at the World Trade Center.

When he glimpsed the piece of recovered metal from the Towers that I had been showing to a group of soldiers he grasped for it as if it were the Holy Grail. Then he handed it to Kid Rock who passed the precious metal through the 5000 troops in the audience. They lunged at the opportunity to touch the steel that symbolized what so many of them felt was the purpose of their mission -- which puts them at risk every day in the 116 degree heat, not knowing all the while if a sniper was going to strike at anytime...

In a recent post Donald Sensing wrote that 3d Division was a wasting asset. That because of its over-long deployment, re-enlistments would fall catastrophically and the division would have to be almost re-built with new people. Perhaps it will be so, it will be interesting to see. But perhaps he has overlooked one thing. We are all of us hungry to have meaning in our lives, to feel like we are making a difference. Our guys in Iraq have a difficult duty, but I would guess that every one of them also has the deep satisfaction that comes from doing something that may change the world...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:23 AM

September 10, 2003

I'm nervous ...

I'm very nervous. Neal Stephenson is coming out with a new novel, Quicksilver. The happy thought in my mind is that we enjoyed Cryptonomicon immensely and we've been hungry for more. The foreboding I feel is because it's historical, and my standards for historical fiction are extremely high, and most historical novels I've read have disappointed me.

What I can't bear in typical historical fiction is the re-writing of the past to make it fit our view of what's important and pleasing. For example, every historical novel set in Elizabethan England just has to drag Shakespeare in somehow, all too often putting him at the center of the story. That's forcing the past into our priorities, and it grates on me horribly. No one in his own time thought Shakespeare was a giant. He had a certain literary reputation, but only because of two poems he wrote, not for writing Hamlet..

People in the past were different. They are NOT people like us in funny costumes. A good historical novel should give you some rude shocks, as you encounter a very different culture. You get some good ones in Patrick O'Brian's books. At one point it's mentioned that Stephen Maturin's anatomical studies are aided by hard winters, which make lots of bodies of orphans available for dissection! Also, like any 18th Century physician, Stephen believes in bleeding and purging. At one point he bleeds the entire ship's crew, and it seems to do everybody a world of good. A lesser writer would adjust his character's remedies to be more pleasing to modern readers.

This is from the review of Quicksilver:

...Stephenson's very long historical novel, the first volume of a projected trilogy, finds Enoch Root, the Wandering Jew/alchemist from 1999's Cryptonomicon, arriving in 1713 Boston to collect Daniel Waterhouse and take him back to Europe. Waterhouse, an experimenter in early computational systems and an old pal of Isaac Newton, is needed to mediate the fight for precedence between Newton and scientist and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, both of whom independently invented the calculus. Their escalating feud threatens to revert science to pre-empirical times...
Hmmm. If this is handled with a light touch, it could be a lot of fun. But I fear that Stephenson's early 18th Century will be skewed to fit what we know now. For instance, Isaac Newton applied his almost unbelievable brain-power in roughly equal proportions to what we now call science, to Alchemy, and to Biblical studies and Theology. Those all seemed like equally important and promising realms to Newton and his contemporaries. When we look at Newton as just a "scientist," we are substituting our own interests for the actual world he lived in. I hope that won't be the flavor of this book...

(By the way, I was puzzled because, in Cryptonomicon, the character Enoch Root doesn't age or change. Now I know why.)

* ODDITY. I'm sure I heard about the book on InstaPundit this morning. But Glenn's post seems to have been removed...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:54 AM

"But what possible use could the U.S. Army have for a four-engine transport?"

I was tracking my muddy footprints into the comments section of a Dave Trowbridge post, and he responded to me by bemoaning the "lack of planning and general fecklessness of the administration." I had to scratch my head at that because I'm just now immersed in some real fecklessness. I'm reading the autobiography of Eddie Rickenbacker, right at the point where he is in despair over the wretched condition of US military aviation just before we were plunged into World War Two.

I sometimes think my friend Dave's a big-government guy. Not any real big government, I scurry to add. But there's a kind of Platonic Ideal Big Government lurking in the back of his mind, and so he's always baffled and disappointed by the sausage-making muddle and compromise of actual administrations and politicians.

It's the kind of thing you absorb from reading the broad-brush type of history book. Kings and generals issue commands, arrows show armies moving across the map and empires expanding or contracting. It's easy to believe that history is driven by rational choices. But if you look at the same events more microscopically; if you read so-and-so's memoirs of life in the 399th Regiment, or of working in the Iteration Department of the Ministry of Recursions, you ALWAYS encounter confusion, incompetence, muddle and mistakes. Later the historians come and impose order on the march of events.

Me, I'm convinced that most of what governments (and many other human institutions ) achieve, is done by sense of touch, like a blind man groping in an unfamiliar room, and pulling his hands back when they get burned or scratched. The important metric for judging institutions is not how well they see into the future, but how well they adapt and learn when they smack into it in the dark.

To perhaps put Dave's comments into perspective, (or maybe even make him feel better about current events) I've jotting down a few examples of feckless ill-planning that are actually big enough to show on the seismograph. Starting with the words of Rickenbacker. (A fascinating man, by the way. His famous exploits in WWI form just a small part of a rich life.)

...It was the airlines, as I have already recounted, that worked with Don Douglas on the development of the DC-1, the DC-2 and the famous DC-3, or "C-47," as it was known in the military.

When Douglas first started drawing up plans for a larger plane, with the increased payload and dependability that four engines could provide, he attempted to interest the military services in it. He was turned down cold. An Army general asked him, in all seriousness, "But what possible use could the U.S. Army have for a four-engine transport?"

I went to the top brass in the Air Corps, including Hap Arnold, by that time a Brigadier General, and told them bluntly that they ought to order one thousand of those planes. They laughed at me, just as they had laughed at Douglas. It was only through the financial support of the airlines that Douglas was able to complete the design and development of his four-engine plane. It was the DC-4 or C-54. Its praises were never sung as loudly as those of the C-47, the "Gooney Bird" as it was affectionately known, but the C-54, because of its greater capacity, had a large share in winning the war... [there's lots more along this line. Appalling stuff.]

Now, a few other examples off the top of my head...

The American Civil War. Both sides thought the war would be short. Both sides were sure the tactics of Napoleon, as related by Jomini, would be the secret of success. No one dreamed that the Minie Ball and the steam engine would transform war. No one expected that many of the most effective generals would emerge from the ruthless guerilla warfare in Missouri and Kansas. Both sides were extremely reluctant to adopt repeating rifles.

And when the war degenerated into stalemate and trench warfare at Petersburg, the many European observers assumed that Americans were incompetent soldiers. None dreamed that they were seeing their own grim future.

And when that future arrived, in 1914, the meticulous planning of the German Staff was impressive and effective. But neither they nor anyone else guessed that their powerful new weapons would utterly change warfare. And that the changes would preponderantly favor the defensive, leading almost immediately to stalemate. The Germans refused to recognize the importance of the tank. No one foresaw the rapid development of aviation. The Germans introduced poison gas, without pondering that the prevailing winds in France would blow most of it in their direction.

The American planning failures of World War One are so monumental it's almost impossible to get a grasp on them or list them. President Wilson not only blocked all warlike preparations, in the insane belief that this would foster peace, but American officers were discouraged from even learning about the war raging in Europe! Few of them knew more than what was in the papers.

In World War Two, the Japanese grasped, brilliantly, the importance of the aircraft carrier. Then at Pearl Harbor, they used them to sink the battleships that they were, at that very instant, making obsolete. They perfected carrier warfare, but at the start of the war were only graduating 100 new pilots a year. The Germans were far and away the best planners, but refused to admit the possibility that their machine ciphers could be broken, as did the Japanese. And,of course, the ways in which the Allies prepared to re-fight WWI are too many and painful to repeat. George Patton dreamed of tanks and blitzkrieg, and was ignored. He also invented a new cavalry sabre, which was received with glad cries, and became standard in our (horse) cavalry...

Vietnam. Just one thought. Our leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, were bewitched by the seeming success of big government in WWII. None of them thought that the alternative to Communist big-government could be anything except Capitalist big-government. No one even considered offering the South Vietnamese people a small-government low-tax low-regulation alternative...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:23 AM

September 9, 2003

Such quagamires those Bushies get us into...things were better under Clinton

From a statement to the Armed Services Committee, by Paul Wolfowitz:

...Lieutenant General Ric Sanchez, the outstanding new commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7 and a veteran of Kosovo, told me that things are happening in Iraq after three months that hadn’t happened after 12 months in Kosovo. I asked him to elaborate, and off the top of his head, he jotted down a list of 10 things. Included on the General’s list of developments are these:

  • The judicial system is functioning at a rudimentary level. Investigative judges are working and misdemeanor trials are ongoing with convictions.
  • The political infrastructure is functioning. Neighborhood, district and city councils have been stood up. Over 90% of major cities have city councils and there is a National Level Interim Governing Council.
  • The police force is at more than 50% of the requirement. Police are conducting joint and unilateral effective operations.
  • Schools were immediately stood back up. At all levels the school year was salvaged.
  • The medical system is operating.
  • Local economies are bustling, including oil, agriculture and small business.
  • Public Services—electrical, water, sewage—are nearly up to pre war levels.
  • Recruiting and training for new Iraq security forces is underway – and, as already noted, we have gone from zero to 55,000 in just four months...

(via Brothers Judd Blog)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:52 PM

it's raining, just a little...


That is rain on dry ground. We heard it:
We saw the little tempest in the grass,
The panic of anticipation: heard
The uneasy leaves flutter, the air pass
In a wave, the fluster of the vegetation;

Heard the first spatter of drops, the outriders
Larruping on the road, hitting against
The gate of the drought, and shattering
On to the lances of the tottering meadow.
It is rain; it is rain on dry ground,

Rain riding suddenly out of the air,
Battering the bare walls of the sun.
It is falling on to the tongue of the blackbird,
Into the heart of the thrush; the dazed valley
Sings it down. Rain, rain on dry ground ! . . .

The rain stops.
The air is sprung with green.
The intercepted drops
Fall at their leisure; and between
The threading runnels on the slopes
The snail drags his caution into the sun.

� Christopher Fry

those snails drive me crazy...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:42 PM

only a boor would restrict the creative spirit...

Charlene pointed me to this article on an art show at the Whitney, filled with anti-american art by foreign artists...

...And there, in a nutshell, is what is so infuriating about shows like "The American Effect." On one hand, they want to be taken seriously as barometers of public sentiment, yet when critics bear down on their conceptual inconsistencies, their defenders retreat to the realm of artist fantasy, denying that the public has a legitimate right to hold their views accountable. It's art, they argue, implying that only a boor would restrict the creative spirit. They want the right to editorialize their views like journalists, but without the messy necessity of responding to ensuing criticism...
Actually, all modern art is like that. As a member of the public, I'm supposed to visit the museums, support the arts with tax dollars, and be generally reverential towards anything labeled "art." But my opinions are not welcome.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:12 PM

# 120: Jaw Droppers...

P. Krugman

In Other People's Sacrifices (09/09/03) Paul Krugman endorsed Howard Dean for President.

Of course we're just kidding. But this column is right out of the Dean playbook. The good news is that while Dean may well ride the anti-war movement to the Democratic nomination, he will end up carrying only New York, Massachusetts, California and maybe three or four other states in the general election. Expect the collateral damage in the House, Senate and Governorships to be very high.

Today's column has a couple of jaw-droppers. The first:

It gives me no pleasure to say this, but I (like many others) told you so. Back in February I asked, "Is this administration ready for the long, difficult, quite possibly bloody business of rebuilding Iraq?" The example of Afghanistan (where warlords rule most of the country, and the Taliban � remember those guys? � is resurgent) led me to doubt it. And I was, alas, right.
What on earth is he talking about? If Bush's speech to the nation was anything it was an expression of iron-willed determination to see the war on terror through to the end. Furthermore, the American people have bought into Bush's strategic vision of the Middle East as a rancid swamp, of our security as depending on draining the swamp and of a free and prosperous Iraq as a lynch pin in the draining process. He's taking it to 'em and if he pulls it off, the political and economic price tags will seem like bargains in terms of enhanced world security.

The second:

So will Congress give Mr. Bush the money he wants, no questions asked? It probably will, but it shouldn't. Mr. Bush created this crisis, and if he were a true patriot he would pay a political price to resolve it. Maybe it's time for him to do a couple of things he's never done before, like admitting mistakes and standing up to the hard right.
��This must be some kind of a Krugman fantasy. Bush fesses up that PK was right all along on the economy and the war and then commits hari-kari as an act of atonement. Puhleeze! Nevertheless, despite his dreaming, we think Krugman is slowly "getting it" with regard to his likely journalistic role over the next 5 years. Sideline sniveler.

We wonder if he has the Bush fortitude to see that through.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions.]

Posted by John Weidner at 9:07 AM

September 8, 2003

Makes as much sense to me ...

Orrin Judd has done a rather funny thing...

Here's a useful exercise, swap out the Left for terrorists in the President's speech:
The triumph of democracy and tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan and beyond would be a grave setback for international [Leftism]. The [Left]ists thrive on the support of tyrants and the resentments of oppressed peoples. When tyrants fall, and resentment gives way to hope, men and women in every culture reject the ideologies of [the Left], and turn to the pursuits of peace. Everywhere that freedom takes hold, [the Left] will retreat.

Our enemies understand this. They know that a free Iraq will be free of them -- free of [the French], and [the New York Times editorial page], and [Democratic presidential candidates]. They know that as democracy rises in Iraq, all of their hateful ambitions will fall like the statues of the former dictator. And that is why, five months after we liberated Iraq, a collection of [intellectuals and Hollywood types] is desperately trying to undermine Iraq's progress and throw the country into chaos.

Some of the attackers are [washed up authors from the '60s], who fled the battlefield and now fight in the shadows. Some of the attackers are foreign [politicians], who have come to Iraq to pursue their war on America and other free nations...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:49 PM

foolish, idle mischief ...

John Podhoretz has it just right:

President Bush's subdued, powerful and totally straightforward 19-minute address from the White House was a clear message to his critics: Play time is over.

Bush's opponents had their free month to challenge his stewardship of Iraq and the War on Terror - the freedom to descend into a profoundly immoral chasm by claiming that the attacks on our soldiers, the United Nations and Shi'ite clerics were actually America's fault because we'd turned Iraq into an unsafe place.

With the help of bombers in Iraq, they drove his poll numbers down. Americans began talking idly about how we should be pulling troops out.

It was a delightful display of foolish, idle mischief - mischief purveyed by Democratic candidates and others. They approached the deadly serious issues of foreign policy and American security with the sneering attitude of an adolescent saying "What-ever" to an adult who has the temerity to suggest that driving 95 m.p.h. down a curvy and dangerous country road with an open beer can in your hand isn't really the wisest or safest course.

Well, now it's September. Vacation's done. Dad is back at the office...

The unspoken subtext of the President's speech was that the press and the Democrats are encouraging the terrorists. Which is precisely true. Bush said
...There is more at work in these attacks than blind rage. The terrorists have a strategic goal. They want us to leave Iraq before our work is done. They want to shake the will of the civilized world. In the past, the terrorists have cited the examples of Beirut and Somalia, claiming that if you inflict harm on Americans, we will run from a challenge. In this, they are mistaken...
Gentleman that he is, "Beirut and Somalia" was nicely bi-partisan. (I would have liked him to add "and the recent Democratic Debate," and stick his tongue out and say, "Bring 'em on.")

Posted by John Weidner at 7:52 AM

September 6, 2003

Gone fishin'

In the comments on a Bill Quick post, I noticed that Howard Veit wrote:

...Did Lincoln go on vacation during the Civil War? Roosevelt take a month off during WWII?
How about Wilson during WWI?

And everybody is still going to vote for this guy?

Someone named Dean answered:
On a purely factual level, why yes, most Presidents did indeed take vacations during the war. You might recall where FDR died.

NO, it was NOT at the White House. It was at the "summer White House," in Hot Springs, GA. ...

...Ronnie took vacations. Ike took vacations. But Jimmeh Cottuh, now HE did NOT take vacations. (Actually, he did, as one rabbit noticed.) But during the Iranian hostage crisis, he was, in effect, a hostage---in the White House...

The idea of criticizing the President for taking vacations is really very silly, whatever the party in power...

For one thing, the job of President is extremely arduous. Almost all Presidents age very noticeably in office. Not resting would be totally foolish. Especially during a war. Also, for most Presidents, the White House is not really "home." They have to live there, but it's not theirs...and there are always people staring and watching. That's got to be wearing. It's not a real home where you can put on your old clothes and putter in the garden.

Also, with modern communications, a President is no more out-of-touch in a place like Crawford, Texas than he is in DC. He still has more information coming to him than he can possibly digest, and can still talk to almost anybody, anywhere.

But most importantly, the whole idea that seems to float around that the President should be some Mastermind responsible for everything that happens is dangerous foolishness. And the Presidents who try to work that way turn out to be the worst ones. One thinks of LBJ micro-managing the Vietnam war, and using his many phones covered with buttons to stab deep into the bureaucracy and harangue mid-level managers. Futile.

(There's a funny story, that LBJ visited the new Nixon White House, and reported incredulously that President Nixon had only one phone with only three buttons. "And," he said, "they all lead to Germans!")

The President can't run everything. He needs to form a strong team, people who can take charge of problems and get things done. And to do that you have to give people lots of responsibility, and not second-guess them. You have to let them experiment; let them make mistakes, and learn from them. (And you have to be loyal to them, and support them until it becomes really obvious that they can't do the job.) A good way to demonstrate that trust and give people room to grow is to take a vacation and stop looking over their shoulders.

And the government can't run everything. Power-hungry people cherish the idea of a Wizard of Oz government controlling everything from behind the curtain...frantically pulling levers and turning wheels, never stopping lest civilization fall apart. But that's nonsense. The big problems and issues usually have enormous momentum, and any adjustments take effect very slowly, if at all.

Right now Bush is whipping up some froth (here, here or here; or better yet, just take my word for it) to show he is on top of the economy. But it's purely for show, and because it's expected. He has to do that kind of stuff. But he made his economic moves months and years ago, and we hope they are the right ones, but it's really up to marketplace now. Might as well take a vacation.

Same with the war, really. I hope the President is putting most of his energy into long-term planning and strategy, and to maintaining the political strength that will prevent the leeches from sucking the blood out of our efforts. Think, dream, scheme, Mr President. Stay rested and fresh. Focus on the example of Jimmy Carter, and always do the opposite.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:10 PM

a couple of good things...

Via PoliPundit, there's a good article in, of all places, the NYT, on the splendid job General Petraeus and the 101st Division are doing in Northern Iraq. They seem to be just ignoring a lot of the red tape and hesitation that's slowing things down in Baghdad...

...Throughout this period there was little guidance from the American-led occupation authority in Baghdad, which was focused on working in the capital. Even today, Mr. Bremer's authority has no permanent representatives in about half of the 18 provinces in Iraq. For the division, the absence of guidance from Baghdad was not a problem.

One early example of its readiness to take action was paying government workers. There were funds in the Central Bank but no government to authorize their disbursement. So General Petraeus wrote a letter � stamped by the division's notary public � decreeing that the funds be provided.

The division has also pushed to amend national policies where it sees fit. More than 100 professors at the university in Mosul were barred from returning to work because of the occupation authority's ban on hiring former high-level members of Mr. Hussein's Baath Party. The professors argued that they had been required to join the party, and that the university had been unable to complete the school year without them. The 101st Division persuaded Mr. Bremer's authority to make a temporary exception...

PoliPundit also links to this great story about a grumpy planeload of people waiting impatiently because their flight is being delayed for some special passengers, until...
...The attendant came back on the speaker to announce in a loud and excited voice that we were being joined by several U. S. Marines returning home from Iraq!!! Just as they walked on board, the entire plane erupted into applause. The men were a bit taken by surprise by the 340 people cheering for them as they searched for their seats. They were having their hands shook and touched by almost everyone who was within an arm's distance of them as they passed down the aisle. One elderly woman kissed the hand of one of the Marines as he passed by her. The applause, whistles and cheering didn't stop for a long time...
Republicans: Assume the Lotus Position... compose your mind until it is like a still pool...then meditate simultaneously on this story and on all those Lefty politicians who think they are going to win elections by scurrilous attacks on the President and our efforts in Iraq...a typical Republican should be able to levitate several inches.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:36 PM

some hardball from the good guys, for a change...

(From the editors of OpinionJournal)...And if Mary Landrieu and Co. think the Times-Picayune ad played hardball, they ought to take a look at a new TV spot that ran Thursday during "Good Morning America." The spot features Virginia Walden-Ford, an African-American mother who heads both D.C. Parents for School Choice and the Washington chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

After images of a burning cross, Bull Connor and headlines about D.C.'s failing public schools, Mrs. Walden-Ford appears with a group of black children. There she asks Teddy Kennedy how he can turn his back on Bobby and Jack Kennedy's civil-rights legacy with a filibuster that would deny these kids a shot at a decent education. This is playing rough, but then it is also in response to voucher opponents who claim dishonestly that supporters want to "destroy the public schools."

Democrats have all but owned black voters for decades, largely on the basis of their 1960s civil-rights legacy. But the premier civil-rights battle of our day isn't voting rights or where one can sit on a public bus. It is the scandal of inner-city public schools and the support for them by politicians and union leaders who wouldn't dare let their own kids near them.

Perhaps that message is finally breaking through, which would help explain why Mrs. Landrieu ended up voting "present" in committee. As the bill to liberate D.C. children heads for its Senate showdown, opponents need to start asking themselves if this is the side of history they really want to be on.

Did you know the infamous Bull Connor was on the Democratic National Committee?

Posted by John Weidner at 1:38 PM

Thanks Dave, I needed something funny ...

Sexist, racist, ageist, and now...classicist??

Posted by John Weidner at 11:29 AM

Don't stare, children, he's just talking to himself because his mind was shattered in the wars...

I promised myself not to write about the OS wars. Them what knows, knows, and no one else wants to hear. But Brian Tieman just blogged about an article in PC World, on how to reinstall Windows with blithe ease. Like a veteran having a flashback, I was once again in the One-Eyed-Man Brigade, as the armies of the sightless zombied their way over the globe.

...Cause here, via J Greely, is an in-depth PC World article on how to reinstall Windows without losing your data.

It's six pages long.

Six pages.

Before you begin, gather your Windows and application CD-ROMs. Back up your data files (just to be safe), and then clear two days off your calendar. If everything goes smoothly, you can reinstall Windows in a few hours. But you have to assume something will go wrong: You may not be able to find a necessary CD, or data won't be where you thought it was, or something will simply refuse to work.
That's a joke, right? Two days? I mean, I've installed OS-X as an easy background activity while helping the kids with their homework...
Select Start, Programs, Accessories, Command Prompt. Type cd "\documents and settings" and press Enter. Then type xcopy administrator\*.* administrator.computername /s /h /r /c, replacing computername with the last part of that folder's name (after "Administrator.") in Documents and Settings. Now press Enter, and when you're asked about overwriting files or folders, press a for All.
Un-blankety-blank-believable. Six pages of this glorp. I think it's like when you join the mafia or the revolution, and you have to "make your bones." Then you stay loyal ever after because you can't admit to yourself that you killed someone for no good reason...similarly you stay loyal to Windows because you just can't admit to yourself that you've thrown a major chunk of your life-supply of psychic energy away on a piece of dung.

Charlene's little firm uses PC's, and I hear about how much money they saved by ordering everything from Dell. THEN I hear how they've had the computer-consultant in FOR A WHOLE DAY swapping network cards, whatever they are, to try to get these machines talking to each other. And THEN I hear that they are going to toss them all out like so much wilted lettuce and get better machines so they can run XP! (BTW, I've installed OS-X on a 6-year-old 233mz Powerbook without a hiccup.) I think they should buy new PC's every month, and then the money saved would be so much they could retire.

And think how this helps the economy! A perfect example of the Broken Window Fallacy.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:36 AM

September 5, 2003


Like a painting it is set before one,
But less brittle, ageless; these colours
Are renewed daily with variations
Of light and distance that no painter
Achieves or suggests. Then there is movement,
Change, as slowly the cloud bruises
Are healed by sunlight, or snow caps
A black mood; but gold at evening
To cheer the heart. All through history
The great brush has not rested,
Nor the paint dried; yet what eye,
Looking coolly, or, as we now,
Through the tears' lenses, ever saw
This work and it was not finished?

�� R. S. Thomas

Posted by John Weidner at 9:06 PM

#119: But, hey, that's what Treasury secretaries are for ...

P. Krugman

Paul Krugman's The China Syndrome (09/05/03) is a blunderbuss of a column covering all of his favorite and oft repeated rants�Iraq blundering, aggressive unilateralism, job losses, tax cuts for the rich, Bush duplicity and all the rest.

It's worth noting that one negative aspect of rapid productivity growth is that adding payroll during a recovery is definitely slower because employers can do so much more with fewer workers. The good news is that once employment does start to grow (and it will) the associated GDP growth rate will be much higher (because of greater productivity) than we have come to expect. Less than 10 years ago most economists, including Krugman, would have been happy with our current status of GDP growth at 3% and unemployment at 6%. But now we know we can do better.

Krugman is hoping that employment growth will lag long enough to defeat Bush for re-election. This is very unlikely. As we said last week, we think Bush is in almost perfect position with the timing of the recovery cycle�strong GDP growth going into an election. We expect Krugman to keep harping on the lagging jobs growth simply because it is his last card. When that is played there will be a "great unraveling" sound coming from across Nassau street.

By the way, Krugman was right on one thing. Sending Treasury secretary Snow to China was a fool's errand. But, hey, that's what Treasury secretaries are for. Besides cheerleading what else do they have to do with their time?

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]


* I would add that Krug's belief that Bush has done an about-face on Iraq is wishful thinking. Den Beste is very good on the subject today. And there's this by Paul Wolfowitz. My question: Between Chirac, Schroeder and Krugman; who is most eager to see America and Iraq fail? --JW

Posted by John Weidner at 1:47 PM

Blue Suede Shoes ...

Natalie Solent has translated part of a Le Monde article on Asaf Bimro, an Ethiopian Jew who migrated, through great peril, to Israel and became a champion marathon runner. Do read it.

And among other good things she's written lately, this sentence, from a post about her blue suede shoes:

On the way down from falling over a cat the other day I wondered to myself if dying this way was sillier or less silly than my previous record Silliest Way to Get Killed or Nearly So...

If I ever write a novel it will be pleasant to have someone fall over a cat, and then fill a chapter or two with their meditations on the way down. (My novel will probably not be popular with the swineing masses, but to the discerning few it will surely be what Lawrence Durrell called "a suck-eggs d'estime.") I adore the parts in books by Michael Innes, where a character like Inspector Appleby will walk across, say, an Oxford college quad, pondering the intricacies of a case, and it takes twelve pages to get to the other side. And by the way, if you are writing to please me, don't start your book by laying out all the characters and their importance in the first few pages. Borrring... let me figure them out gradually on my own.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:08 AM

September 4, 2003

The Melting Pot Division

Reader Ethan Hahn asked rather wistfully if I was going to write any more on the US in WWI. I feel bad for having left off the project. The problem is that much of what is happening (yes I know using the Present Tense is weird, but that's my mood) is too vast and terrifying for me to feel adequate to write about. Hundreds of thousands of my countrymen are attacking enemies who are dug into the intricate and many-layered defenses of the Western Front�that's too big for me to handle. We worry now about several hundred soldiers dying in Iraq, but in a First World War attack, a brigade could lose that many in a minute or two.

But I can work around the edges, and find interesting stories. I picked up a favorite book, The Doughboys, by Lawrence Stallings. He didn't fail to get me started on something...

Men of 77th Division filling canteens
Men of the 77th Division filling canteens near the River Vesle

THE UNITED STATES IN WORLD WAR ONE #10: The Melting Pot Division

If you doubt that America is and was "something new under the sun," take a look at the 77th Division in 1918. It was called the Liberty Division, and also the Melting Pot Division. They were from New York City, and chose the Statue of Liberty for their patch. 42 languages were spoken by its men. Its gamblers played Stuss, Fan Tan and Piquet, along with Craps and Poker. They said the division had every sort of person except country boys who could find their way around in the dark. "Gangs of New York?" Of course, and General Robert Alexander actually suggested to his officers that they encourage the gang spirit. The division song included the lines:

Thirty dollars every month, deducting twenty-nine
Oh, the army, the army, the democratic army.
The Jews, the Wops, and the Dutch and Irish cops
They're all in the army now!
Its first 3 Distinguished Service Crosses went to Captain Herman Stadie, born in Germany, Private Abraham Herschkovitz, born in a Jewish ghetto in Bessarabia, and Sergeant Sing Kee, born in San Francisco! In their recent attack on the River Vesle, Sergeant Kee was one of a 30-man message post in the village of Mont Notre Dame. The other 29 men were killed or wounded, a fact he didn't think worth reporting. He continued alone for 24 hours, and all messages got through. (In WWI, runners, messengers, were extremely important. Technology had expanded the size of the battlefield enormously, but had not yet provided portable radios.)

One interesting thing is that a lot of the doughboys spoke German. If we fought a war with Spain today, the situation would be similar. Germans were the largest of our many immigrant groups, and there were then over 100 newspapers published in German in the US. (Most of those papers shut down or switched to English because of the war.)

Like the United States itself, the Liberty Division was a conglomeration that tended to draw the contempt of "older and wiser" countries. It seemed to them like little more than an ad hoc collection of refugees. In fact, like its nation, it was a brutally effective new combination. In time of need it could instantly generate remarkable leaders from out of the ranks, an ability it will demonstrate to the fullest next month, when some of its companies form the fabled "Lost Battalion," during the grim Meuse-Argonne campaign.

Right now, in August and September 1918, American 1st and 3rd Corps are fighting under French General Ferdinand Foch in the cluster of battles and offensives called the Second Battle of the Marne. Nine doughboy divisions (equivalent in size to perhaps twenty French or British divisions) will suffer 50,00 casualties. The 77th, part of Ligget's 1st Corps, will help drive the Germans back to the Aisne, erasing the deep salient they had achieved in their Spring offensive. Belleau Wood was the farthest tip of that salient, and that fight, back in June, was the beginning of what the 77th Division is now helping to finish.

The ever-increasing numbers and experience of the Americans has now put General Pershing in a position to demand what he has long wanted�an independent American army with its own sector of the front to cover. However, since we have been strong supporters of a unified allied command, and since that effort has finally led to General Foch being named Supreme Allied Commander, Pershing is in no position to decline whatever task is assigned to the new First Army. What he gets is hair-raising. The Americans, as he has requested, will drive the Germans from the Saint-Mihiel Salient, attacking September 12. Then the entire 1st Army will drag itself and a million tons of ammunition and supplies 60 miles over wretched country roads for an all-out attack on the Meuse-Argonne sector...on September 26!

Posted by John Weidner at 7:33 PM

September 3, 2003

#118: Déjà all over again ...

P. Krugman

We know we said just a week ago in Squad Report #116 that, "He'll be Back." But we never thought Paul Krugman Another Friday Outrage (09/02/03) would be back quite this fast. It's déjà California, all over again! And it's not just California AGAIN, but it's essentially the same old columns AGAIN that he wrote over the last two years�recycled with a few minor changes. For example, Smoking Fat Boy (05/10/02), Turning California Off (06/27/01, Power and Profit (01/24/01) and California Screaming (12/10/00) are all basically the same column. They can be found in the PK archives. We said all we had to say on this topic in Squad report # 9.

Sooner or later Krugman will have to deal with the gathering strength of the US economy. Talk about great timing! A recovery going into an election year is an incumbent�s dream and Bush is about to live that dream. Krugman obviously knows this and is shying away from economic topics in his recent columns. This also explains his obsession with California and Iraq/Al Qaeda as diversionary subjects. However, when he does return to economic issues expect him to start off by hitting some "soft targets" such as deficits (irrelevant) and unemployment (a lagging statistic). But expect little to be said about productivity growth, recovering profits and expanding business investment in capital equipment and inventories which are the real meat of the upturn. When Krugman must finally deal with the full force of the recovery he will probably retreat into class warfare, growing income inequality, the burgeoning plutocracy, the top 1% and other of his old standbys. It will be fun to write about them for a change.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]

Posted by John Weidner at 9:41 AM

September 2, 2003

Hizzoner Al Capone...

Former president Jimmy Carter has written an urgent call for appeasement. I've added a few thoughts as they occur to me...

U.S.-North Korea war seems 'strong possibility'
By Jimmy Carter
We face the strong possibility of another Korean war, with potentially devastating consequences, so the endangered multilateral talks in Beijing are of paramount importance. It is vital that some accommodation be reached between Pyongyang and Washington.

North Korea is an isolated country, poverty stricken, paranoid, apparently self-sacrificial and amazingly persistent in international confrontations, as is now being demonstrated. It is a cultural and almost sacred commitment for its leaders not to back down, even in the face of international condemnation and the most severe political and economic pressure.

A distilled example of a certain point-of-view. It starts with the assumption that the leadership is the the country. Also that any place that calls itself a nation really is one, and deserves the same respect as all the others. In Carter's view, if Al Capone siezed control of Chicago, he would be Chicago, and it would be wrong if Bush failed to call him "Your Honor." And since the leader is the country, it would then make sense to say "Chicago has a cultural and almost sacred commitment to Omerta."

The truth is, North Korea is not 'self-sacrificial." It's leaders have never sacrificed anything, and the people have no voice,and certainly wouldn't be keen on sacrifice if they did. And it's not a nation, it's a region held at gunpoint by a gang of communists.

A previous example of this stubbornness occurred in 1968, when North Korea captured the USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence-gathering ship. Despite the best efforts of President Lyndon Johnson to marshal international support and to prevail with economic punishment and military threats, President Kim il Sung never deviated from his basic demands, which included an embarrassing public apology from the United States for "spying" on his country. After 11 months, President Johnson accepted all the demands, and the crew was released.

President Bush, do you get the message? Accept all demands...Notice that the word "stubbornness" is never applied to the US, and "threats" is never applied to NK...And notice that Carter seems clueless of any causal relationship between accepting demands then and being faced with more demands now.
Notwithstanding their abysmal economic failures and the resulting hardships of their people, North Korean leaders have never deviated from a commitment to military strength. They maintain a formidable army, with artillery and missiles able to wreak great destruction on Seoul and the northern portion of South Korea, regardless of how much punishment North Koreans might have to absorb during a U.S. attack or counterattack. The development of advanced rocketry and now a potential nuclear capability is further proof of their scientific resources.
Notice there's no suggestion that our goal ought to be freeing those poor people. Or any other oppressed people, ever. Accommodation is all...Notice that the immensity of suffering of the NK people is passed over with the single word "hardships." A brutal Stalinist police-state with millions of people at or near starvation, and he calls it "hardship."
Avoided in 1994

There was another crisis in 1994, when Kim il Sung expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and threatened to begin reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods from a nuclear power plant. The U.S. government refused to talk to North Korean leaders, and made plans for economic sanctions and a military attack. As the crisis escalated, The Carter Center was finally given reluctant permission from President Clinton for me to visit Pyongyang. A satisfactory agreement was concluded and later confirmed by both governments, with participation by South Korea, Japan and others. But neither side honored all the commitments.

An agreement can be "satisfactory" even if the results are catastrophic! Lunacy.
Worrisome actions

The situation is rapidly deteriorating again. North Korea feels increasingly threatened by being branded an "axis of evil" member; deployment of anti-ballistic missiles in Alaska; Washington voices expressing military threats; interception of North Korean ships; ad hominem attacks on President Kim Jong Il; condemnation of previous efforts by President Clinton and South Korean leaders to resolve issues peacefully; and U.S. refusal to negotiate directly with North Korea. America's newly declared policies of pre-emptive war and first use of nuclear weapons also concern North Koreans.

Notice that we are at fault for trying to defend ourselves against missile attacks! And for ad hominum attacks on a leader who maintains concentration camps so deadly that 20% of the inmates die every year! And for condemning Clinton's efforts, even though they are manifest failures. But the zapper is that we are at fault for not negotiating unilaterally, even though Clinton's own negotiators admit that that was a strategy that failed, because we were undercut at crucial moments by other countries...That's twisty and misleading enough to be worthy of Josh Marshall!
Even before these more recent threats, the North Koreans began a secret and illicit nuclear program...
In fact they pursued it even while you were "accommodating" them. You were suckered and you've learned nothing.
...There are other issues, but the basic North Korean demand is a firm non-aggression commitment from the United States, which U.S. officials continue to reject. The U.S. insists first on a complete end to the North Koreans' nuclear program, which they have refused to accept. If neither side will yield or compromise, then an eventual military confrontation seems likely. The United States can prevail, but with terrible human casualties in both North and South Korea.
Equivalent, the two sides are always equivalent. So the conclusion is always that the US should be accommodating.
There must be verifiable assurances that prevent North Korea from becoming a threatening nuclear power, with a firm commitment that the U.S. will not attack a peaceful North Korea. This is a time for sustained and flexible diplomacy between our two governments, to give peace and economic progress a chance within a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
Notice that if NK is "peaceful," then all is well, and Carter thinks nothing needs to change. Millions starve? C'est la vie, baby. And notice that is just assumed that if we make a commitment not to attack, the NK's will trust it. Notice his phrase "give economic progress a chance." As if North Korea were no different from South Korea, and can be expected to make economic progress once they are free of the drag of US aggression. Sheer lunacy. No rational person expects NK to make economic progress.

Actually, in Carter's world, the two sides are not equivalent. The US doesn't get to have any "cultural and almost sacred commitments." Our culture loves freedom, and hates watching mass-murdering dictators slaughter the helpless. But stubbornness in expressing our culture would not be acceptable to Carter. (Who has, of course, outgrown such backward ideas himself.) And notice the other American cultural relics that Carter has outgrown, and sees no need to acknowledge. Such as that there is anything that is actually "right," or "wrong." Or that there are things worth fighting and dying for. Or that there is any higher good than security and avoiding trouble. Or that we might have a Christian duty to succor the poor and the weak...

Jay Nordlinger had it right, when he called Carter 'the first Anti-American President."

Posted by John Weidner at 5:00 PM

September 1, 2003

Steyn on susteynable..

...There's no such thing as "sustainable" development. Human progress and individual liberty have advanced on the backs of one unsustainable development after another: When we needed trees for heating and transportation, we chopped 'em down. Then we discovered oil, and the trees grew back. When the oil runs out, we won't notice because our SUVs will be powered by something else. Bet on human ingenuity every time. We're not animals, and it's a cult as deranged as the screwiest fringe religion to insist we are. Earth's most valuable resource is us...(link)
Also much of human invention and technology is in fact solutions to, or responses to, environmental crises, which are not a new phenomenon.

For instance, through much of human history, the largest cities have been "too large" to be sustainable, and "the wise" have decried them, and tried to limit their growth. Always without success. Meanwhile others have been busy inventing things, such as aqueducts, sewers, fire departments, parks, building codes, canals, railroads, telephones, water-purification plants, garbage trucks, elevators, steel I-beams, [OK, OK, enough. We get the idea.] which solve the crises and make possible even larger cities...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:34 AM