October 31, 2003

"Meaningless" deaths...

Good media-blogging from Cori, now guesting at Volokh:

....That is all MSNBC tells us this morning....."An American soldier has died." Doing what? In an offensive act? Being ambushed? Were bad guys caught, an arms cache found? Or did they all get away? Without any narrative context any possible hope for meaning for this death is stripped away -- there is no hope for seeing meaning here because no meaning is given. There may well be a debate to be had over whether American combat deaths in Iraq (or Afghanistan, I suppose) have meaning, but that debate is over before it has begun when the press presents those deaths with any meaning already stripped out.

Is it any wonder support for the mission erodes? When the casualties are presented this way, people will see these deaths as meaningless because, forget the larger purpose, the abstract, many of the individual deaths are, in fact, night after night, presented without any meaning whatsoever....

The context is a world-wide war. And MSNBC doesn't like that context one little bit. As long as the American people think we are at war, they won't give power to Democrats even if we are in "the worst economy since Herbert Hoover."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:53 AM

#128: Day to dread

P. Krugman

October 30, 2003 was the kind of day we have been predicting for over a year and a day Paul Krugman has been dreading for months. It's "read'em and weep" time over at PK headquarters. The US economy is roaring and job creation will follow shortly. All the "I hope I'm wrong" and "maybe they'll get lucky" nonsense from Krugman is swept away. There is nothing negative in the 3rd Quarter GDP data. The overall growth rate was stupendous, 7.2 percent, and all sectors were equally impressive. The real sleeper was non-farm inventory investment which was down again. This means the long awaited re-stocking purchases, powerful growth producers in themselves, still lie ahead. Also we note that large military spending, the nay-sayers refrain after the 2nd quarter GDP report, returned to modest levels in the 3rd quarter. It was the private sector that carried the load.

Instead of reading Krugman's nit-picking column A Big Quarter (10/31/03) we recommend just skipping down to his standard "bail-out" line.

"Still, it's possible that we really have reached a turning point."
Yoooooo bet, PK. Yoooo bet.

Krugman finished up by laying down a jobs marker by which HE will evaluate the Bush first term.

"To put it more bluntly: it would be quite a trick to run the biggest budget deficit in the history of the planet, and still end a presidential term with fewer jobs than when you started. And despite yesterday's good news, that's a trick President Bush still seems likely to pull off."
We agree Bush probably won't have job levels up to the bubble standards of early 2000 by election time, but he'll come close enough to carry 40 states including Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

Like we said: read'em and weep!

[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 6:37 AM

October 30, 2003

carrots and sticks ...

Blogger and teacher Betsy Newmark writes:

The News and Observer reports that the gap in North Carolina between black and white students is narrowing. And, guess what? The stick of the No Child Left Behind and the mandated tests is forcing teachers and principals to focus more on helping underachieving students. The theory is working. I observed this firsthand when I taught in a public middle school. For years we would talk about all the things we should do to help those students but we actually did very little. Then NC passed a yearly testing program with carrots (bonus checks) for schools that met their goals and sticks (more paperwork and supervision) for schools that did not. And voila! All of a sudden the principal was shifting around funds to have reading teachers for low-ability students. We had tutoring programs. Students had to give up fun, fluffy electives and take reading and math electives if they had low scores. We'd always talked about doing those sorts of things. But it didn't get done until we started having to worry about public test scores....
The reason businesses tend to keep moving fairly briskly is that there's a guy named "profit 'n loss" running behind them with a cattle-prod. If he catches up with you, life becomes very tiresome.

So how do we devise carrots and sticks for bureaucracies?

Posted by John Weidner at 5:48 PM

Sometimes clear, sometimes not ...

Some clarity from Thomas Friedman:

....Hogwash. The people who mounted the attacks on the Red Cross are not the Iraqi Vietcong. They are the Iraqi Khmer Rouge � a murderous band of Saddam loyalists and Al Qaeda nihilists, who are not killing us so Iraqis can rule themselves. They are killing us so they can rule Iraqis.

Have you noticed that these bombers never say what their political agenda is or whom they represent? They don't want Iraqis to know who they really are. A vast majority of Iraqis would reject them, because these bombers either want to restore Baathism or install bin Ladenism.

Let's get real. What the people who blew up the Red Cross and the Iraqi police fear is not that we're going to permanently occupy Iraq. They fear that we're going to permanently change Iraq. The great irony is that the Baathists and Arab dictators are opposing the U.S. in Iraq because � unlike many leftists � they understand exactly what this war is about. They understand that U.S. power is not being used in Iraq for oil, or imperialism, or to shore up a corrupt status quo, as it was in Vietnam and elsewhere in the Arab world during the cold war. They understand that this is the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched � a war of choice to install some democracy in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world....

Friedman's an odd fellow. He sees things with great clarity�except inside the borders of the US. He can see that Bush, in trying to empower ordinary Iraqis, is waging a "radical-liberal revolutionary war." Liberal in the classic sense.

But in the context of domestic politics, "liberal' (and good) to Friedman equals something like the Statist positions of Teddy Kennedy. In the same article he calls Bush a "radical conservative." He just can't see that Bush is waging a "radical-liberal" war here too. The radical-conservative position would be to abolish Social Security. Bush wants to let people choose where they will invest their SS dollars.

The conservative position would be to privatize public schools. Bush wants to let ordinary people choose which public school their children attend. (That's what's really going on with "No Child Left Behind." If schools aren't "improving," parents can demand different schools. Of course if there are NO adequate schools, this might lead to de-facto privatization.)

The radical-Conservative position is to slash government programs. Bush is increasing spending, but also working hard at opening government work to competitive bidding by private firms. Also at channeling spending to faith-based organizations.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:55 AM

#128: Factual Error

P. Krugman

We don't normally get too focused on Paul Krugman's chronic lack of fact-checking. We prefer instead to document and ridicule his devolvement from noted economist to political hack and point out the hoops of implausibility he regularly jumps through attempting to square his politics with sound economics. HOWEVER, in Too Low a Bar (10/24/03) he committed a factual gaff so atrocious we decided to point it out.

"If we want to improve the dismal prospects of job seekers � currently, 75 percent of those who lose jobs still haven't found new jobs when their unemployment benefits run out � the number of jobs must grow faster than the number of people who want to work."
The 75 percent figure is nothing less than preposterous! We checked with some labor economists who told us, off the top of their heads, it was more like 40 percent. So we looked it up. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects detailed data on labor force participation rates (that's basically what they do) and this includes exhaustion rates for unemployment insurance (UI). As shown in the top table in this BLS link, the correct number for the fraction of unemployed workers who exhaust their UI before finding a job is 43.6 percent in the most recent reporting period, the 2nd quarter of 2003. A related statistic shown further down on the same page indicates that the average worker on UI takes about 16.1 weeks to find a job. This is known as the "average duration" of unemployment. If Krugman's figure of 75 percent were correct, a rough estimate of average duration would be around 30 weeks, and UI only runs 26 weeks unless extended. There is no way he can defend this figure.

[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 6:42 AM

October 29, 2003

More Mac stuff ...

I'm really enjoying Panther, (OS-X 10.3) not so much for the big features, but for a great many little improvements that make my life easier. Many things that took 3 clicks now take 1 or 2. Somebody seems to have scrutinized every detail and given a lot of them some tweaking and polishing. Which is rare, usually with software the relentless drive for new features means polishing is a low priority...

I liked this article in Business Week, the author notes the same things that impressed me. And this was interesting:

...And Apple thoughtfully included a new anti-spam feature in Apple Mail that strips out a piece of code many junk mailings contain to notify the sender that the message arrived and that the address belongs to a live e-mail account....
I didn't know about that problem. Is this common knowledge? Am I clueless? Anyway, I'm glad it's being stopped...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:50 AM

October 28, 2003


This is a snippet from Andrew Sullivan's excellent deconstruction of Kerry's and Dean's Iraq positions...

KERRY: This president has done it wrong every step of the way. He promised that he would have a real coalition. He has a fraudulent coalition.

Fraudulent? How was fraud involved? The United States was quite open to anyone participating in a coalition of the willing to topple Saddam and remove the threat from WMDs. The invitation was open, candid, and answered by many countries, including several who are longtime allies of the U.S., notably Britain, Australia, Japan, and Poland. The Bush administration didn't condition war against Saddam on getting a universal coalition, or even on getting a precise and blanket U.N. sanction. So why the term "fraudulent"? Is Kerry implying that the alliance that formed against Nazi Germany--Britain, the U.S., Australia--was also somehow fraudulent? And is it prudent for a potential future president to belittle America's firmest allies in this way?....
ther's lots more..

It's appalling to me that it is acceptable in some circles to tell the most bare-faced lies to attack the Bush Administration. Attacks justified because "Bush lies!"

"Fraudulent coalition" forsooth. Wasn't it Gore who disdained having Fiji in the coalition? It's easy for pompous elitists to sneer, but the Fijan's fought with distinction in WWII, and in Malaysia and other British campaigns later. Their honorable friendship seems to me worth more than that of certain larger nations, who have lost all concept of honor.

Wasn't it Groucho who said that "I don�t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member?" That's the position of the Democrats. Anyone who's with us is by definition beneath contempt, and therefore no one's with us. Actually, what they want when they talk of "coalitions" is precisely what France wants and the State Department and CIA want....for us to be unable to DO anything.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:12 AM

October 26, 2003

Some mac stuff...

I've started installing Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) on our computers. So far I'm very impressed. Everything runs faster and smoother. Until now there was a noticeable speed-hit in OS X that I felt was just the price I had to pay for the sophisticated graphics. Wrong! The graphics are even better in 10.3, yet they move with palpably greater speed and authority...

I notice that local blogger Brian Tieman has a book coming out, Panther in a Snap. Alas, not until December.

It's going to take a while to get organized to take advantage of all the new features. I'll probably want to get a .mac account, because you can now put items in a .mac folder and they will sync automatically in the background. Off-site backups painlessly! Now what would happen if I put an alias of my Quicken accounts in that folder? Will it do a back-up every time I enter something in my check register? Hmmm.... Wish I had that book right now. But it's fun to just figure it out myself.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:24 PM

It will roll around the globe...

I recommend this essay, The Pursuit Of Happiness By Carl M. Cannon, National Journal. (via Betsy Newmark)

I especially liked this part. The thought of Kurdish leaders reading the same books I read is too too cool...

..."I'm confident that a government will emerge," he [Bush] said late in April 2003. "I dismiss the critics who say that democracy can't flourish in Iraq. It may not look like America. You know, Thomas Jefferson may not emerge... or a John Adams."

Or perhaps they will. Jeffrey Goldberg laughed with pleasure when apprised of Bush's remarks -- but he wasn't laughing at Bush.

"Oh, the Kurds know all about the Declaration of Independence," Goldberg said. "Some of them have read Founding Brothers. They'll tell you who among them reminds them of which Founding Father. Some of them like Adams; some prefer Jefferson."

Goldberg told of having dinner at the house of Barham Salih, the English-educated prime minister of one of the two rival Kurdish factions. It was Salih who had read Founding Brothers and who reminded the American journalist that even the Founding Fathers had quarreled among themselves, argued, and nurtured grudges. One of them (Aaron Burr) actually shot and killed another one (Alexander Hamilton), yet they had managed to produce this remarkable document and its timeless revolution. Excitedly, Salih opened Joseph Ellis's book and pointed to pages where Jefferson predicts that democracy will eventually replace tyranny everywhere. "This ball of liberty, I believe most piously," Jefferson predicted in a 1795 letter to a friend, "is now so well in motion that it will roll around the globe."

Ellis also quotes briefly from the letter Jefferson wrote to Roger Weightman days before dying. A nostalgic Jefferson totes up the accomplishments of the "host of worthies" who met in Philadelphia. "All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man," he wrote with pride.

Fifty years earlier, Jefferson was saying, the patriots of 1776 had convinced the world that freedom and self-government were unalienable and undeniable -- and on his deathbed, Jefferson was predicting that this "palpable truth" would ultimately find its way to the far corners of the Earth.

The house of Barham Salih, in the town of Sulaimaniya, is just such a remote corner of the globe. And it's a dangerous place for the apostles of liberty. In an assassination attempt against him a year earlier, the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group had detonated a bomb in that dwelling that killed five of Salih's bodyguards.

But on this night, as he pointed intently into the pages of an American book, this Kurdish revolutionary remarked that the ball of liberty set in motion in Philadelphia in 1776 had indeed made its way to his time and to the remote reaches of his lands.

"It's even reached here!" he said. "So, you see, Jefferson was right."

I think one of the reasons people in far corners of the world are picking up our ideas is because we are rediscovering them ourselves. Our excitement is infectious.

The period of the dominance of the Democrat Party was a time when our traditional love of liberty was eclipsed by a belief in the power of the state, and its bureaucrats and academicians, to rationally organize life for maximum efficiency. We learned all the wrong lessons from the Depression, WWII, and our alliance with Stalin. If Barham Salih had been active forty years ago, he probably would have been planning to raise taxes to finance a "War on Poverty."

And not only are we rediscovering our basic ideas, but today that's where the energy is! The fizz, the fun!

Those people who still think the government can provide the best health care are today's sourpusses and stuffed-shirts. Graybeards. Piecrusts. (Literally "graybeards:" Imagine you meet a man with a gray beard, longish straggling gray hair, limp and droopy clothes....you just know he thinks Castro is a "Progressive" and that the 60's were some sort of high-point.)

Posted by John Weidner at 11:50 AM

October 24, 2003

Sob-sisters ...

Armed Liberal says some good things about the Rumsfeld Memo...

...This memo - and article - are glimmers of hope to me. First, they suggest that the Administration, which I have been convinced has pursued a somewhat closed-minded approach in the leadup to the war is willing to look at alternate paths. Next, and most critically important, it means they are asking the right core question - how do we know when we're winning? How do we define 'victory' in this murky conflict? ....

....The success of the American economic model is built largely on failure.
It is built on our willingness as a people to try things and to risk failing....

....Our military success is founded on the incredible logistical and technological advantages that our economy has given us - and also on our willingness to apply the same principles to our warfighting; to learn, to adapt, to change.

If Rumsfeld hasn't written this memo, he should have been fired, and I hope to God that the fact that so many Democrats are seizing on it is so much political spin, rather than sheer naive stupidity - which is what it is if they aren't spinning. ....

I suspect Rumsfeld is like his memo most of the time, but it normally doesn't get publicized. You can't blame him! There's a very good reason why all administrations are protected by Executive Privilege. Good decision-making requires frank talk. People need to feel free to brainstorm, and to toss out crazy ideas...and to pound on tables and scream, "You're crazy! That's the stupidest plan I've ever heard of! We're doomed!" And nobody's going to talk (or scream) frankly if they're going to be fodder for ambitious politicians, or show up in Drudge.

A.L. mentions that he is "critical of the Administration for doing the right thing - taking the Islamist threat seriously and responding - yet lacking (or at least not sharing) a clear vision of what we were doing ..." But any clear vision that doesn't respect certain pieties will be chopped to pieces. I suspect there's a lot of the Administration's vision that isn't being shared with us because it's way too clear! Because it's cold-blooded and surgical. War leaders, like surgeons, must be willing to cut ruthlessly and shed blood, and they do it to save lives in the long run. But they have to conceal this from the world's sob-sisters, and pretend that they only acted reluctantly and because they were forced to...

Even the Democracy-for-Iraq. If the vision were expressed clearly it might be something like, "We're going let this Democracy bug loose and it's going to hit a bunch of tin-pot tyrannies like the "flesh-eating virus."

Posted by John Weidner at 10:53 PM

They knew a thing or two about freedom ...

The straight dope from Rumsfeld...

...."Or take the coalition in Iraq. It now includes military forces from 32 nations. Consider some of the countries that are contributing troops in Iraq today: Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine. They all have forces in Iraq assisting the coalition. There are others, as well, but I just mention these because those are the nations helping in Iraq today that President Reagan helped to make free."

And, "Why are so many of these nations, many small, most not very wealthy, sending their forces . . . halfway around the world, to help bring freedom to the Iraqi people? I suspect it's because so many of them have just recovered their own freedom, and they're eager, they're proud to help the Iraqi people recover theirs. God bless them all, and God bless Ronald Reagan for what he did to help liberate them "....

Yes. God bless Ronald Reagan. And God bless Donald Rumsfeld. It's so refreshing to have such a straight talker instead of the usual mealy mouths.

And, amazingly, he hasn't become tired or discouraged! Men who try to reform the Pentagon almost always give up in baffled frustration. But Rumsfeld is still going strong. He is proposing massive new base closings! Is that ever going to set the cat among the pigeons. Wheee.

The quotes are from a piece by Jay Nordlinger, who got to tag along on a Rumsfeld trip. Jay adds:

...Many of you will recall when Robert Scheer, the leftist journalist, referred to our allies as "nations you can buy on eBay." Mark Shields, for his part, on CNN, did a riff about Albania � what a joke it was that they were on board. This last had a particular effect on me, because I had recently come from Albania, and been moved by those people, some of whom had served brutal prison sentences. They knew a thing or two about freedom, and liberation, and new chances, and gratitude.

I have an Albanian flag "flying" in my office � I'm looking at it now. A journalist/intellectual in Tirana said to me, "Our neighbors, despising our steadfast support of the United States, call us 'the Israel of the Balkans.'" I told them � the audience gathered � that (to use a clich�) they should wear that label as a badge of honor...

And this bit of Rumsfeld is funny:

[On the hunt for WMD's] ..."But in a country that size, it is going to take time. There's just no question about it. And the way to find it is not by running around like that French inspector with his magnifying glass and checking everything. The . . ."

At this point, the audience tittered, thinking, possibly, that Rumsfeld was talking about the French government, or some sort of U.N. team. Sensing this (possible) misunderstanding, Rumsfeld said, "No, I didn't mean that! I was . . . full stop! I was talking about Inspector Couseau or whatever. I really was!"

Later on, Rumsfeld said to some of us, "Who was that guy? Cousteau?" ....

Posted by John Weidner at 5:05 PM

Impossible things before breakfast ...

Rich Lowry dissects the latest Democrat to claim that all was well with North Korea until Bush came along. In this case it's Kerry...

...The U.S. came to believe in 1997, for instance, that North Korea had built an underground nuclear facility in Kumchang-ri. The administration still dishonestly maintained that all was well with the Agreed Framework. On July 8, 1998, Albright told Congress, the Agreed Framework had "frozen North Korea's dangerous nuclear-weapons program." When intelligence about the suspect site at Kumchang-ri became public in August 1998, Albright told frustrated senators at a hearing that she hadn't known about the information until later in July. The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, present at the hearing, had to interrupt her: "Madame Secretary, that is incorrect." She had been told many months earlier.

It was clear by the late 1990s to honest observers that North Korea still had a nuclear-weapons program, while it was spreading missile technology far and wide and battening itself on U.S. support in keeping with the Agreed Framework. In response to congressional outrage, the administration tapped former defense secretary William Perry in late 1998 to review its North Korean policy. He said in March 1999, "What they're doing is moving forward on their nuclear weapons."...

It's stupifying that Leftists can tell bare-faced Josh-Marshall-type lies, and then preen themselves in their oily smugness on the dishonesty of the Bush Administration! Unbelievable.

It's also an indication of the utter bankruptcy of Dem foreign policy, that they can say with a straight face that the answer to a failure of this magnitude is to do more of the same! They will never say that the time has come to defend ourselves, to defend freedom and the world's peace, no matter the cost. I've met these people--people who believe that "we have to keep talking," no matter what the result. The thought that anything in Western Civilization, especially anything American, is worth fighting for, is not even on their mental map.

Stephen den Beste wrote some very interesting things recently on how we are pressuring China to deal with North Korea. What was conspicuous was that the main obstacle facing the Bush Administration is convincing the Chinese that a US Administration won't collapse when negotiations fail to achieve what we want. They start with the assumption that the US will give in and bribe NK to pretend to cooperate. They start with the assumption that the US wants to be hoodwinked, so that we can avid dealing with problems.

That's the terrible price we are paying for decades of appeasement and dishonesty. It's going to take years of unyielding firmness and honesty before countries like China start to assume that we will do what we say we will do.

...If you don't want to know, you're just papering over the truth in order to pretend that an agreement is working.

This is exactly what Clinton administration did. Its food aid to North Korea, for instance, served an important ulterior purpose: creating the illusion of progress with the North. "Officially a humanitarian gesture, American food aid has become a bribe for North Korea to attend meetings that create the impression U.S. diplomacy is working," wrote former diplomat Robert A. Manning in 1998....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:28 AM

#127: The retreat continues!

P. Krugman

The retreat continues!

As we have mentioned before Paul Krugman is in the middle of a cut-and-run strategy from his previous prognostications for the US economy (remember the "double dip" recession, or the Japanese style deflation or the banana republic-hood, latin style. With Too Low a Bar (10/24/03) the retreat goes into high gear. The essence of the column is a castigation of Treasury Secretary Snow for setting up an easy target by predicting job growth of 2 million before the election. Krugman says "Mr. Snow may get lucky."

Oh really! Can anyone imagine the GDP growth rate associated with creation of 2 million jobs over the next 12 months? It's easily 4%. And what about the mood swing in this country during such a growth spurt? And its implications for the presidential election?

Hey PK. If you bet on the jobs issue to sink the Republicans and think an increase of 2 million is not enough�you've lost.

It's Bush in a landslide.

[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 7:28 AM

October 23, 2003


A friend sent a link to a scathing report on the failure of the UN to provide security for its people in Iraq. it doesn't seem to have received much attention...

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 22 � An independent panel appointed to investigate the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad in August said on Wednesday in a scathing report that security breaches, inadequate security analysis and poor management left the organization vulnerable to attack....

....The panel said the organization had failed to assess thoroughly security in Iraq or respond to warnings, including intelligence reports that said the headquarters could be a target of an attack. United Nations officials, the panel said, also dismissed offers of protection from the United States coalition in Baghdad.

Although the report acknowledged that improved security might not have prevented the bombing, which killed 22 staff members and visitors and injured more than 150 people, the investigators said the management and staff had failed to take steps that would at least have reduced the vulnerability of the mission and minimized casualties.

The panel, sounding an alarm throughout the United Nations network of missions, declared that the security system was "dysfunctional" and "provides little guarantee of security to U.N. staff in Iraq or other high-risk environments and needs to be reformed."

The 40-page report echoed in its severity the conclusions of the independent panels that Mr. Annan named to investigate the United Nations role in the massacres in Rwanda in 1994 and Srebrenica in 1995....

It's not really surprising that the UN has management problems. Good management requires honesty. Truthfulness. And the UN is built of layer upon layer of lies.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:11 PM

October 22, 2003

If you need a good laugh...

Go here, and read: Still in the Game

Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 PM

I suspect the whole idea of "common sense" is repugnant to Leftists.

From today's Best of the Web:

Zero-Tolerance Watch
Thirteen-year-old Christina Lough, a straight-A student at Garland McMeans Junior High in Katy, Texas, was ordered to attend a "special disciplinary class" for seven days and stripped of her posts as president of the student council and the honor society. Her crime: bringing a pencil sharpener to school.

Christian's mother, Sumi Lough, had brought the sharpener, a two-inch blade that folds into a small handle, from her native South Korea. "District officials said they had no choice but to follow their zero-tolerance policy to the letter," reports the Houston Chronicle, quoting school district lawyer Christopher Gilbert: "If we vary from the rules, that's when the rules fall apart."

NO! The rules do not fall apart if common-sense exceptions are made. What might fall apart is the Leftizoid belief that ordinary people are cattle who must be controlled by wise bureaucrats. The sort of belief held by people who say "the voters are morons"

Posted by John Weidner at 3:50 PM

#126: Note on Krugman and Mahathir...

P. Krugman

We were going to pass on Paul Krugman's disgusting column Listening to Mahathir (10/21/03). But there is one point we have not seen others make. If one paraphrases Krugman as follows:

"Mahathir is on our side in the war against terrorism. Don't worry about the anti-semitism stuff�that's just rhetoric; it's just for domestic consumption and part of a delicate balancing act."
Now if you substitute "Hitler" for "Mahathir" and "communism" for "terrorism" you have in essence the rationalization for rationalizing and appeasing the Nazis in the 1930s.

[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 noticed that Donald Sensing, in a post called Science and Islam has some interesting thoughts on some parts of Mahathir's speech that didn't get much notice here. --JW]

Posted by John Weidner at 12:26 PM

October 21, 2003

Distortion ...

There's been a lot of talk about the made-for-TV Reagan movie. I won't pile on. but....

There's one thing that people always seem to be unaware of, when discussing Reagan's reaction to the AIDS crisis. We have a large Federal agency whose job is to deal with outbreaks of disease. That's the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), part of the NIH. At the time AIDS appeared, the CDC had a budget of about $300 Million. That's probably close to a Billion dollars in current money.

It is characteristic of bureaucracies that they think of their budgets not as money they have to earn, but as money they own. And whenever a President asks them to do something additional, the response is, to put it crudely, "Only if you pay me!" And every agency keeps up a drumbeat of requests for more money, which is always for important tasks. You can't trust what they say. That's the context of Reagan's reluctance to provide more money for AIDS. We were already providing a lot of money for the CDC to jump on disease outbreaks. And then a new disease came along and they immediately said, "We can't do anything, we don't have any money."

Now in hindsight we know that AIDS was a much bigger problem than say, SARS, and merited additional funding. But that fact was only beginning to emerge in Reagan's time.

So when people tell you that "Reagan refused to provide money to fight AIDS," implying that the US was heartlessly spending nothing, that's a distortion of the truth.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 PM

That's a different kind of lie...

Deroy Murdock has a list of Iraqi connections to terrorists and terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda. It's a lonnnnnng list......(and growing)

..."Iraq was not a breeding ground for terrorism. Our invasion has made it one," said Senator Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.) on October 16. "We were told Iraq was attracting terrorists from al Qaeda. It was not...We should never have gone to war in Iraq when we did, in the way we did, for the false reasons we were given."
"a breeding ground for terrorism" is EXACTLY what Iraq was. Kennedy is lying. Lying in the face of abundant evidence. (But that's OK. Lying is only BAD if it's done by the Bush Administration.)

Posted by John Weidner at 1:18 PM

Important tips ....

Tip from Charlene: It's a good idea to carry a camera in your car--one of the little disposable ones is fine. Then if you get into an accident you can gather some evidence to have in the event of a lawsuit. ALSO, if you are on the scene of somebody else's interesting accident, take some pictures because they may be worth money ..... in the event of lawsuits. (Lawsuits, as you probably know, are her business. She's not, I hasten to add, on the Dark Side.)

Also, someone I know (I won't mention any names) was unaware that in most browsers you can adjust the size that type is displayed at in any particular window. My browser, Safari, has buttons on the toolbar and also + and - as keyboard shortcuts. So if the type in Random Jottings seems too big or too small, just adjust it!

Posted by John Weidner at 7:31 AM

October 20, 2003

Hey guys, do you know you're playing with fire?

Reading Stephen den Beste this morning, on why we are giving a lot of rope to a dangerous anti-American demagogue in Iraq, made me think again about the blogpost I recently wrote about, where Jim Henley claimed we have gone into the "God business," without having the wisdom to pull it off.

"Power without wisdom" or "godlike power" are clichés [cliché is the wrong word--IC. Yeah, but I can't think of the right one. Saws?...Update: Clayton Jones suggests "bromide."] that can be inserted in a narrative to avoid true debating. One could argue the point fairly, marshalling evidence and facts to support your claim. But in my experience no one who complains about "godlike power" ever does that. They just select maybe one bad incident or shortcoming, and improvise endlessly on the theme. (By the way, there's another viewpoint on the bulldozing of Iraqi orchards here.)

Actually, the American people took on "godlike powers" around 1775, nominating themselves to replace an anointed monarch. And we use those powers all the time, experimenting boldly with new leaders and new laws. It's what we DO. Henley's criticism was like telling the guys in the steel mill that they are "playing with fire."

Representative government is not something you learn from theories or books. It's something a polity learns like a martial art, by practice, and by absorbing technique from those who are ahead of you. Our revolution was successful because the people who ran it were already skilled in self-government, and because they were wise with the practical wisdom that comes with being British.John Adams John Adams KNEW that unicameral legislatures were a bad idea. He knew that the French Revolution was heading for trouble when the French created one. And he was completely opposed to the Philosophes, (some of whom were his friends) because they were designing new societies without the grubby practical wisdom they needed. The French Revolution was a perfect example of people taking on godlike power without wisdom.

I've seen many indications that our work in Iraq is based on trusting the wisdom of ordinary Americans. The people on the ground seem to have lots of freedom to experiment and improvise (and to make mistakes, and learn from them.) There's no master plan. That's GOOD. Theorist types sneer and call it feckless, but you can't plan how to teach people to solve their own problems. You have to wing it. As an example, we didn't get flustered by the initial orgy of looting. The Iraqis needed to learn that that's not the kind of freedom they really want. We didn't anticipate it, but we reacted correctly.

It's like raising children, you can't do it from a book. Childrearing is non-stop improvisation, balancing the need to let them make mistakes with the need to keep them alive. My daughter has a friend so over-protected she's never lit a match, and wasn't allowed to go on the school trip to Yosemite. One of my sons has a friend who was allowed to wander almost totally unsupervised, and ended up spending weeks in a coma in the Intensive Care Unit. But most parents strike better balances...

Anyway, we (and many of our coalition partners) HAVE the wisdom we need. This isn't "power without wisdom."

Posted by John Weidner at 8:45 AM

October 18, 2003

Ubi caritas, et amor. Ubi caritas, deus ibi est

The Weidners all trooped down to Ben Lomand today, to see two notable science fiction writers wed! Our good friends Deborah Ross and Blogger Dave Trowbridge were married at St Andrew's Church. As with all things Dave, it was both delightful and unusual. And since it would be hard to find two people we like more, or two people who fit each other better, it was a rare treat of a day.

Wedding of Deborah Ross and Dave Trowbridge
After leaving the church they pause again under the Huppah and drink from the Kiddush cup...

Deborah's Jewish and Dave is Episcopalian, so they had two weddings combined. First, outside, under the Redwoods, a Jewish wedding with a Ketubah and a Huppah.. Then into the church (to the Coronation March by Meyerbeer!) for the Christian version. Including, appropriately, what we Episcopalians call the "Star Wars Liturgy," which includes the lines: ...At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home...We exited to the Liberty Bell March by Sousa...

Afterwards, there was Regency Dancing, where we learned a couple of the dances that were cool around 1800. That was a lot of fun, and far more pleasing to the eye and spirit than anything danced today...

And I was very happy to meet two other bloggers in person, Armed Liberal, who blogs at Winds of Change, and Jay Manifold of Voyage to Arcturus.

* Aside (because I may never have an excuse to mention this again). When Charlene and I were married we did nothing unusual, or even contemporary (sort of like Hobbits). But we did one neat thing that outdid every other wedding I've ever seen. We memorized the marriage vows, and spoke them without the prompts by the minister...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:52 PM

October 17, 2003

#126: They just refuse to believe that higher taxes will be good for them...

P. Krugman

Paul Krugman's world is crumbling and he is not taking it well. On the eve of primary season and with a presidential general election just a year away, look at what he has to deal with:

1. The eight (or is it nine) Democrats seeking the presidential nomination are all running against the "worst economy since Herbert Hoover" and all want to raise taxes on the wealthy.

2. Meanwhile, back in the real world, the economy is anything but Hooveresque. As we keep saying over and over, it is gathering strength now and there will be a spate of good economic reports in the coming weeks. The markets have certainly noticed. The Dow Industrials are closing in on 10,000 again and some of the broader indexes, such as the Wilshire 2000, are already in historic high ground.

3. People have the crazy notion that when the wealthy do well, they do well too. They just refuse to believe that higher taxes on anyone will be good for them.

It's enough to make a grown leftie cry. And that, in a nutshell, is what The Sweet Spot (10/17/03) is all about. We recommend skipping this one

[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 8:26 AM

October 16, 2003

"What do you mean WE, white man?"

It's good to be criticised, we all need it. As one of the "Bush Administration supporters," I'm grateful that Dave Trowbridge pointed me to this disturbing criticism by Jim Henley:

Of Imagination All Compact - Recently hawks and Bush Administration supporters have been playing up this Washington Post story:

'A Gift From God' Renews a Village
Iraqi Engineers Revitalize Marshes That Hussein Had Drained

While doves and administration critics have highlighted one from the Independent:

US soldiers bulldoze farmers' crops Americans accused of brutal 'punishment' tactics against villagers, while British are condemned as too soft

In one case, we ameliorate someone else's war crime, in the other we commit our own.

Well, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. And that's the problem: we've gone into the God business. And we expect to be loved for the giving and - not even given a pass on the taking away - no, we want the Iraqis to love us for destroying their orchards too. Nor are they supposed to remember the actual sequence of events in 1991 that culminated in Saddam's ecological pogrom - the Shi'ite revolt the US encouraged and then allowed Saddam to put down. If they note that, according to the Post article, Iraqi irrigation officials and the occupation authority have only managed to restore about 10% of the original extent of the wetlands so far, they must not connect the 90% that is still parched with US decisions a dozen years ago. They are certainly not to draw parallels between Saddam draining marshes to deprive rebels of cover and punish the locals for rebellion and the US destroying orchards to deprive rebels of cover and punish the locals for rebellion. (The orchard is a lot smaller than the marshes. We're either much nicer or just getting started.) That would be anti-American. And that's what we can't have - Iraqis looking at things like Iraqis, rather than like us....

I don't have enough context to judge the bulldozing of orchards here, but anything we do that looks like war crimes should be scrutinized closely, and criticized fiercely if criticism is justified. And as a tree-lover and Pomologist-at-heart I don't think orchards should be bulldozed even if it IS justified. [You mean you'd risk American lives to save some stupid trees?--I.C. Well, er, ummmm ......yes. But I'm glad I don't have to decide.]

But I don't like the smell of the "moral equivalence" that seems to be emerging. I'd guess that we are going to be hearing about those orchards forever. (Sort of like how the My Lai Massacre is still much noted, but the fact that Communists were routinely working to provoke just such massacres is forgotten or excused.) The Marshes and the orchards are different in much more than size. It shouldn't have to be pointed out (but we will have to keep pointing, as history is re-written once again by Leftists) that we aren't bulldozing the farmers into mass graves. Or torturing their children or raping their wives.

And this other business, I don't know the word to describe it:"....no, we want the Iraqis to love us for destroying their orchards too. Nor are they supposed to remember the actual sequence of events in 1991 that culminated in Saddam's ecological pogrom...." Where the hell is that coming from??? Are we supposedly beaming mind-rays into Iraq, causing them to love us and forget our mistakes? Or does he mean that "Bush Administration Supporters" are saying that that's what the Iraqis should feel? Who's "we?"

If so, it's a canard. That's NOT what the Administration or its supporters are saying. We ARE pointing out that polls and the reports of travelers show that most Iraqis do support us. But we are pointing it out because we are battling against a massive disinformation campaign, one that gives encouragement to the thugs we are fighting.

Over the last hundred years or so we Americans, (and other countries of the Anglosphere) have conquered various large parts of the globe. And every time we have encouraged the free expression of ideas, including allowing criticism of us. And every time, we have "un-conquered" the conquered countries, allowing and encouraging them to decide their own futures, even if it meant not being our friends. That Lord Acton--Power Corrupts stuff is just a mushy cliché. Sometimes it does, sometimes it don't. And the powerless seem to be corrupt fairly often too. American has repeatedly had absolute power over conquered areas, and we've repeatedly given up that power.

And we've never demanded that any of them love us! That's a nasty little lying jab. Right now in Iraq we are encouraging a free press, and allowing demonstrations, even though they are often critical of the US. And as the iraqis are given more control of their country, there will arise anti-American politicians and movements. We expect that, it's OK. Also, we are not concealing that we are helping Iraq because we think it will also help us, and they know that.

And we are not "going into the God business." What we are doing in Iraq is just practicing skills that are fairly basic for us. Setting up banks and neighborhood councils, and training policemen....that's stuff that Americans DO, like my mechanic does tune-ups. Or like the Swiss do hotels. If Mr Henley were drafted and sent to Iraq to train policemen, he would almost certainly do just fine. Most thoughtful people of the Anglosphere would. And Mr Henley would end up doing much the same things as the other administrators do, just like two good mechanics would do similar things to my car. We know this stuff. Nothing God-like about it. In fact the essence of the training would be that there should be checks and oversight and self-discipline, and that policemen should not have God-like powers. And Mr. Henley would impose these American values on the Iraqi policemen (And so would Noam Chomsky, if he had the job.) But he wouldn't try to determine the exact future of Iraq, because among the most-used tools in our toolkit is the idea that people ought to determine their own futures.

And if he's like most Americans, he will be glad to relinquish his power and come home. And when he does, he will probably be wiser and humbler than before, and more skilled for having worked with the toolkit of Western Civilization, and LESS CORRUPT than before.

* Update: It's late, I should sleep, but I'm still bugged by Henley's post. "..and we expect to be loved for the giving and - not even given a pass on the taking away - no, we want the Iraqis to love us for destroying their orchards too ..." Where's this guff coming from? Did I miss something? I've read lots of accounts by Americans who went to Iraq, and nobody says: "Of course those towel-heads love us. We expect it of them. It's the least they can do." Actually Americans often seem surprised by how friendly the Iraqis are.

I think maybe power corrupts the guys who are working the "deep thoughtful criticism" racket. When you make specific factual criticisms you get feedback and argument. But when you start to speculate on the "psychology" of a whole country, you have total power to just make up stuff and wait to roll in the approbation. No facts necessary. Especially if it's the US. You can bullshit away about how America is a "psychopathic fascist zombie death culture" or some such and be called profound. (And then be "shocked' and "appalled" at the "dishonesty" of the Bush Administration.)

"...And that's what we can't have - Iraqis looking at things like Iraqis, rather than like us...." Sez who? When? Where? Jeez. We're bulldozing their orchards because people ARE TRYING TO KILL US, not because we are imposing thought-control or love-potions.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:32 PM

October 15, 2003

Somebody getting nervous?

In some ways Los Angeles is the center of the world. Ways having to do with movies and television. If something's a big deal in LA, the whole world tends to hear about it.

You may remember a few years back, when Los Angeles had some really bad rainstorms and flooding? Several people were killed, and it was much on the news. A friend of mine, an engineer, lives in the LA area. He was sent on an assignment to Guam. Now Guam is a place where they routinely have rainstorms with 100mph winds. But what does everyone say when he gets to Guam? "Hey, we hear you're having terrible storms in LA!"

His next stop was Moscow. There the weather was below zero, and he had people working outdoors in a snowstorm. And what did the Muscovites say to him? "We heard about those awful storms you're having in LA."

SO, if you went right now to visit a primitive tribe in remotest New Guinea, what do you think they would know about the outside world? "Hey, we hear Arnold's the new Governor!"

Before you snort with derision, just think about it. Think about the parable that people all over the world are hearing. "The people of California weren't happy with their leader, so they tossed him out. And they didn't replace him with another stuffed-shirt. They picked somebody so different that ruling elites all over the world are united in their scorn and grief."

Now that's a parable. A message expressed as a simple story that the muddiest peasant in the remotest Taro-patch can understand.

If it had happened in Ohio, the world would hardly have noticed. But everyone knows about California. Everyone's seen car-chases on the LA freeways...

Is it really so surprising that the LA Times went berserk trying to stop Arnold? (Read this story for the lunatic details. 24 reporters were assigned to dig up dirt on Arnold!)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM

October 14, 2003

Painting the Lily...

I'm now into the second part of Quicksilver, and I'm bogging down. Frankly, I don't like this part as much. Stephenson has a sort of flippant style, and his charcters often give us some bit of modern thinking or jargon, as if they were actors pausing in their performance to wink at the audience. As if they were modern people playing some virtual-reality game set in the 17th Century. It's starting to pall as I move along in the book.

Here's an example; we are seeing a foppish courtier's clothing through the eyes of Daniel Waterhouse: ...The stocking/breech interface was presumable somewhere around his knees and was some sort of fantastically complex spraying phenomenon of ribbons and gathers and skirtlets designed to peek out under the hems of his coat, waistcoat. and allied garments... What's wrong with this? It's what we might say if we were trying to describe a portrait by Van Dyke. But a real person of the 17th Century would not see these things as incomprehensible; the ribbons and lace and the cut of the garments would make sense to him, even if he didn't wear that sort of thing himself.

It's the equivalent of someone in our time describing a necktie as: a lump of colored cloth at the center of his throat with two streamers of the same cloth descending to somewhere near the belt. And using contemporary words like "interface" is another way of winking at the audience over the heads of the characters.

That was tolerable in the first section, when the characers were often absent-minded-professor types, and where we know that the story is going to have a sort of happy ending, with Newton's physics culminating eventually in in our own modern world, and the Internet, and trips to the moon.

But in Book Two we are following the fortunes of Jack and Eliza, poor rascally vagabonds caught up in a terrifying and cruel world. They are wandering among brutal armies, and the horrors of war, and starving near-feral peasants. People just like them are seen hanging from gibbets from time to time. Yet among it all they are even more flippant and clever than the first group of characters.

For me it just doesn't work. The tone is off. The persistent air of detachment seems wrong when you are being slightly detached from truly frightful and ugly things...

Perhaps I'm being too critical, Stephenson is a heck of a good writer. And I just love a chance to go messing around in that period. I've read the Diary of Samuel Pepys, and Churchill's biography of his ancestor Sir John Churchill, son of Sir Winston. (I would advise the abridged versions.) On the minus side, those guys were much more interesting people than Stephenson's characters. On the plus side, there's just a lot of historical fun here--there really was a CABAL, but Stephenson has invented entirely new people to put into it. Crazy. I love it. And the description of the Fire of London...splendid. On the minus side again, Stephenson seems to feel he has to jazz up the 17th Century to make it interesting for moderns. Since I find the period immeasurably rich and complex, and utterly fascinating and charming, this just seems stupid.

A Dutch man-of-war firing a salute. Painting by Willem Van de Velde the Younger

Posted by John Weidner at 8:41 PM

#125: He's bailed out ...

P. Krugman

On the surface Don't Look Down (10/14/03) by Paul Krugman is just another recycle job lamenting the disastrous economic policies of the Bush administration. But a closer look shows something different. The reason he is afraid to "look down" is because he has bailed out of his dire assessment of the near term economic outlook and, by implication, of the political outlook.

After a litany of comparisons between the U.S. and third world countries concerning budget and trade deficits, legal systems and corporate governance issues�all purporting to show why the U.S. is in as bad a shape as, say, Argentina�he notes,

"....financial markets are generally willing to give advanced countries the benefit of the doubt. Even when an advanced country seems to be deep in a financial hole, lenders usually assume that it will somehow find the resources and political will to climb back out."
Well no kidding! Wonder what these hard-headed lenders know about advanced countries that Krugman doesn't?

And then, a confession of sorts,

"...there's no question that the U.S. has the resources to climb out of its financial hole. The question is whether it has the political will."
By "political will" he means the will to raise taxes on the top 1% (he doesn't actually say that, but...)

And finally, a time frame shift. Even if the Bushies continue to "screw up" Krugman can't seem to identify an immediate problem for them prior to the 2004 election,

"The crisis won't come immediately. For a few years, America will still be able to borrow freely, simply because lenders assume that things will somehow work out."
And indeed things will work out! First, with a strengthening U.S. economy (it's already happening). Next, with the re-election of Bush along with larger Republican majorities. And finally, with permanent tax cuts and approaches to retirement and health insurance that rely on competition and market based solutions rather than on entitlements.

Krugman must have had a sleepless night over this column!

Posted by John Weidner at 9:31 AM

No bias here...

The Washington Post has an article on The administration's efforts to bypass the national media and talk directly to the American people. But does it actually discuss the issue? Grapple with the reasons the administration might be unhappy? No, the article instantly morphs into a discussion of those form letters that were sent to newspapers...

....Yesterday, Bush granted exclusive interviews to five regional broadcasting companies -- an unprecedented effort to reach news organizations that do not regularly cover the White House.

The effort by Bush to reach out to about 10 million Americans through the regional broadcasters -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer had similar sessions previously -- came two days after it emerged that soldiers in Iraq have sent form letters home to local newspapers asserting that the U.S. troops had been welcomed "with open arms" in Iraq.... (via Betsy)

I knew this was coming.

Everyone who strolls the blogshore knows that the have been heaps of real letters sent by troops expressing astonishment about the biased coverage of the war. And asserting that most Iraqis have in fact welcomed them with open arms. The real letters weren't "news." But now that there is an incident of false letters, that's NEWS, baby!

It's classic smear technique. They don't actually say that the Administration is peddling lies. That would be something you could challenge them on. They just select one incident that sounds phony, fill half the article with that, and hope that the ugly tint of falsity will spread over the whole fabric. And notice how, without actually saying it, they imply that the Administration's move is a response to the exposure of the form letters...

You watch. We are going to hear tons about those letters from the Bush-haters. They are hungry for any issue that will cover up the simple fact that they are the ones who are pushing lies. Those form letters will become part of the whole amorphous "Bush lied" lie, (Ignoring of course the inconvenient fact that the letters were telling the truth about the situation.)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:49 AM

October 13, 2003

I'm ready to sign the petition...

Ted Costa, who started the California Recall, is cooking up a new reform, a real hum-dinger. He's trying to get an initiative on the ballot next year to fix the redistricting process in California. The present system is doubly loathsome, because it protects incumbents of both parties!

...."People are hurting in California, not just because of Gray Davis, but because of the partisan gerrymandering and lack of leadership at the top," said Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican who's heading up the effort with Mr. Costa.

����The proposal would allow state legislators to submit redistricting maps for review by a court or nonpartisan panel. The panel would be required to choose the plan that keeps cities, counties and communities together with the fewest fragments....

Oooh. Ooooh. It's that icky "direct democracy" again. It will be interesting to see who the prunefaces are this time around...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:58 PM

Woe is California...

A couple of things that Richard Bennett has to say:

On the "voters are morons" meme:

....What's more remarkable is the increasing use of the argument that "the voters are too stupid to decide elections" from the left. I've thought for a long time that Democrats are generally anti-democratic, and it's getting pretty hard to hide from that fact any more....
You need only take a ride on the Muni to realize that the common folk fit just above Pangolins on the Great Chain of Being. And yet, and yet, countries that let them drag their knuckles through the halls of government consistantly do better than those that place all power in the hands of graduates of elite universities...'Tis passing strange.

And on the California was hijacked by millionaires theme:

....In point of fact, the recall was initiated by Ted Costa, a Sacramento small government gadfly who's anything but rich. Darrell Issa's money - about a dime per voter - sped up the process, but it would've happened anyway....
That's important to remember. The recall petition had a lot of momentum before Issa stepped in. My guess is also that it would have happened even without his help. And Richard also notes that we should contrast Issa's 2 million dollars with the 10 million that Davis spent just to knock Riordan out of the Republican Primary...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:59 AM

October 12, 2003

What a day...

The Blue Angels

This is Fleet Week in San Francisco. We were invited yesterday to a friend's place who has a big terrace on top of her flat overlooking the Bay. We ate and drank and watched the Blue Angels and Canada's Snowbirds and other flying teams perform. Unbelievable. A gorgeous breezy sunny day, a view stretching from the Bridge to Alcatraz and beyond, a thousand boats out on the glittering water (Including the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, always a treat for me), the hills of Angel Island and Marin and Sonoma as a backdrop....and it's all just a slightly-cramped stage for dozens of high-performance jets.

My picture is poor, but the world's best cameraman couldn't have captured the scene.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:36 PM

Or thank Eddie Rickenbacker ...

Armed Liberal (a fellow I have a lot of respect for and like to read) has a list of reasons he's a Liberal. Or maybe they are reasons he feels good about being a Liberal...Interesting points, but they raise a few doubts in my mind....

If you like the clean(er) air and water in our urban areas, thank a liberal.

If you like the idea that Condi Rice is the NSC advisor rather than an instructor at a segregated secretarial school, thank a liberal.

If you like the Internet, thank a liberal (DARPANet was created in no small part thanks to a government research grant).

If someone you know or love survived an auto accident recently, thank a liberal. (Seat belts, safety glass, crush zones, air bags - yes, I know that air bags and seat belts have killed some people, but all the stats I've seen are pretty suggestive that they have saved far more than they have killed - etc. etc.)

If you were able to own your own house without paying down 30% to get a 5-year mortgage, thank a liberal (30-year mortgages were a FDR innovation).

If you worked an industrial job for thirty years without being disabled, thank a liberal.

My first thought is, these things are all in the past! Thank a Liberal for things they did long ago. Conservatives today are no less for clean air or industrial safety, or against racism, that Liberals are, though they often have different emphases or approaches. So why be a Liberal? And if we are thanking people in the past, it makes just as much sense to thank TR and the rich Republicans who started environmentalism in the US. Or to thank Eddie Rickenbacker for four-wheel brakes.

The second cavil is that not all this stuff was done by Liberals. DARPA was purely Eisenhower's, and was severely cut back to help pay for LBJ's war. (And nobody anticipated the Internet.)

And a lot of these items are true but also distorted by Liberal myth-making. Liberals should be proud of the Civil Rights Movement, but it's a myth that the Movement was Good Liberals battling Bad Conservatives. Southern Conservatives mostly sat on the sidelines. The segregationists were almost all Democrats, and many of them were New Dealer types who can also be called Liberals. (Many of them should be called radicals.) Bull Connor was on the Democratic National Committee. Republicans did some pandering for racist votes in the aftermath, but Dems had been the party-of-choice for racists since before the Civil War.

And the problem with all good Liberal causes is that they are always Trojan Horses. Liberals don't just want to regulate auto safety, (And I do thank you, Libs, auto safety's a good thing) they want to regulate Everything's safety. Actually the people who start the movements probably just want to improve auto safety or whatever and don't intend it to be a wedge. But they instantly attract, like flies to a corpse, the Liberals who want to run the circus! And when Conservatives fight against Liberal movements, it's not because they hate the idea of safe cars. It's because they know what the real goal is-- you just need to look at the EU, which regulates the curvature of bananas! (Libertarians fight also, but they seem to me to be psychically handicapped because they share the elitism of the Liberals.)

Armed Liberal probably just wants to make the world a little better. But He's part of a group that wants to eliminate the marketplace. The marketplace is anywhere ordinary people make the decisions by choosing things (or ideas, or lifestyles or the rules of the community.) And there's only one thing that can overrule the marketplace, and that is government. It's no accident that every Liberal program aims at more government. If the Church could overrule the marketplace, Hillary would be a Bishop. But only the state has the power to say "you can't smoke in our city." Only the state can prevent the tiresome and tacky masses from shaping our world by making trillions of decisions in the marketplace.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:11 PM

The weeds pop up right away ...

Tom Friedman has a good column, or at least good in parts:

....I spoke the other day with Amal Rassam, an Iraqi-American anthropologist, who has been spearheading this effort. Since April, U.S. Army officers and Ms. Rassam's teams from RTI International, an NGO, have gone out to all 88 neighborhoods of Baghdad, met with local leaders and helped them organize, through informal voting, 88 "interim advisory councils." Then the 88 councils elected nine district councils, and the nine district councils elected an interim 37-member Baghdad city council. For the first time ever, a popularly based city council, including women, is demanding to set budgets, set priorities and decide who will police their neighborhoods, and is making the city's managers accountable to them.

Similar town councils have been set up all over Iraq. U.S. and British teams have been schooling the Iraqi councils in how to hold a meeting, set an agenda, take a vote and lobby. They have also provided seed money for women's groups and all sorts of other civil society organizations that Iraqis are scrambling to start. They have not unearthed any W.M.D., but they have unearthed a lot of aspiring Iraqi democrats...

We are doing the right thing by going slowly in the transition to democracy and self rule in Iraq, or any similar situation. Why? Because the extremists and fanatics are always the first ones to get organized. They are ready to lunge for their goals at the drop of a hat.

Moderate and thoughtful people are much slower to organize and to get involved in politics. It's like a garden--the weeds pop up right away, the plants you want take longer, and have to be encouraged. And in Iraq, a lot of people are just starting to realize that they can form groups and parties, and get involved in politics...

Friedman wants the transition to go faster, and the UN to be more involved. That's a BAD idea. But I think he's the type who has internal conflicts here. He sincerely wants the people to be free to chose their own destinies...as long as they don't chose the local equivalent of Republicans.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:16 PM

"Uh, sorry guys, but that one is true"

You remember the recent study that found that Fox News viewers are much more likely to hold "misperceptions" about the invasion of Iraq than the socially-acceptable people who like NPR? As various bloggers noted, the kicker is that the list of misperceptions doesn't include any of those misperceptions that NPR listeners happen to favor. Some of them noted by Andrew Sullivan:

Imagine an opposite kind of poll asking, for example:
  • Did President Bush claim before the war that the threat to the US from Iraq's WMD was imminent?
  • Do a majority of Iraqis support the US invasion?
  • Did the US sell significant amounts of arms to Saddam Hussein?
  • Was the toppling of the Saddam statue at the end of the war staged?
A poll asking these or similar questions would doubtless find that Fox News viewers have the most accurate grasp of reality and NPR listeners the least.
Now Cori Dauber has had time to scrutinize the study. She says that some of the "misperceptions" aren't misperceptions at all!
....I've now had a chance to go through the thing with a fine tooth comb and its worse than that. The "misperceptions" the study wanted to know if people had internalized are themselves misperceptions. In their words: "Perhaps the most striking misperception is the belief that, not only were there links between Saddam Hussein and al-Queda, but that actual evidence had been found." Uh, sorry guys, but that one is true. A Toronto Star reporter found documents of a link in the burnt out shell of the Interior Ministry after the war. Is there evidence of joint operations ? No. Is there evidence that they were linked in some way? Yes, and I still do not understand the resistance to accepting that evidence. Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard recently did an excellent piece rounding up all the evidence in one place, but this myth that there is no evidence continues....
She also notes that the famous poll showing 7 out of 10 Americans believed that Saddam was involved in 9-11 actually just asked if they thought this was likely. Not quite the same thing. But I'm sure that misperception will be cherished in the hearts of NPR types at least until the year 2055. Nothing makes them glow like the thought that ordinary Americans are morons...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:13 AM

October 11, 2003

"Party of the people"

Thomas Sowell writes on how the three counties that gave Gray Davis a majority are among the wealthiest...

....There is a certain irony here, since the Democrats like to portray themselves as the party of the working people, with special solicitude for "the children" and for minorities. But working people, families with children and blacks are precisely the kinds of people who have been forced out of these three affluent and politically correct counties.

All three of these ultra-liberal counties have been losing black population since the previous census. Kindergartens in San Mateo County are shutting down for lack of children. The number of children in San Francisco has also gone down since the last census, even though the population of the city as a whole has gone up.

Out in the valleys to which those who are not as affluent have been forced to flee, in order to find something resembling affordable housing, the vote was just as solidly against Davis as it was for him among those further up the income scale. Out where ordinary people live, the vote against Governor Davis was 64 percent in Merced County, 72 percent in Tulare County and 75 percent in Lassen County

The time is long overdue to get rid of the outdated notion that liberal Democrats represent ordinary people....

What you get when you join the Democrats is the precious knowledge that, since you are of the party that's "helping' the ordinary people (pathetic victimized morons that they are,) you are ipso facto not yourself one of the ordinary people.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:09 AM

In the habitation of dragons...

And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: In the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
--Isaiah 35-7

I hadn't heard anything about the Marsh Arabs lately, so I was pleased to see this article (via Sullivan). It is heartwarming to read about how they are starting to recover their ancient way of life.

But is also the first time I've seen some specific numbers on the amount of water available. Living in the west, where water politics is the touchiest of problems, I can just feel the painful conflicts ahead...

....Shaheen calculated that more than 1 quadrillion gallons -- a 1 followed by 15 zeroes -- were needed to fill the Euphrates side of the marshes. But the flow at Nasiriyah, which had been 106,000 gallons per second before 1991, was down to 21,000 gallons per second because of new dams and irrigation canals built in Iraq, Syria and Turkey over the past decade. "The water we have is not enough," he said.

By midsummer, the water's advance had slowed. Villages just a few miles east of Zayad are still dry, with residents wondering when they will be able to ride a mashoof again.

If the flow does not increase, Shaheen predicted it will take more than 100 years to flood the marshes. "It's not an issue of opening the gates and dams over here," he said. "We need more water from upstream."

Iraq's new minister of water resources, Latif Rashid, said increasing the flow will require Syria and Turkey to reduce their consumption. "We'd like our just share," he said. "They should respect our needs."

Shaheen and other Iraqi water experts said they believe Hussein told Syria and Turkey to take as much water as they pleased -- a policy that many say now needs to be reversed. Compared to the mid-1980s, the volume of water flowing into Iraq through the Euphrates has fallen 50 percent, according to the Water Ministry....

I suspect the re-negotiations coming up will make the "odious debt" issue look easy to solve.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:23 AM

October 10, 2003

Lies, damn lies and "imminent threat" lies...

Andrew Sullivan has been collecting examples of the proliferating "imminent threat" lie. He's accumulating quite a heap.

MORE 'IMMINENT' LIES: The Associated Press will not stop lying about the case for war against Saddam. Here's a piece about the vice president's speech today. Money quote:
Yet Cheney offered no new evidence that Saddam posed an imminent threat as the administration claimed before the war.
What galls me is thinking of these prating hypocrites puffing themselves up and saying that the are "shocked and disappointed" that the Bush Administration should be so dishonest! And some of them are so twisted that telling an obvious lie about Bush is not a lie to them at all--rather a "higher form of truth." "We are good, Republicans are bad, and so we are actually revealing a truth that we could demonstate, if only the Republicans weren't so deceptious."

"Those Bushies have developed a diabolical tactic--they say what they are going to do, and then they do it! The moron voters are fooled, but we of the intellectual elite are not. And to foil this monstrous trickery, we have invented a powerful new tactic: The TruthLie.."

Posted by John Weidner at 4:44 PM

October 9, 2003

The Recall was a sort of "Open Primary"

Robert Novak thinks California Dems could be in trouble if the recall leads to a moderate California Republican Party...

....The decisive element of the recall election was the breaking of a vicious cycle that seemed to doom the California Republican Party to perpetual defeat. The model was the 2002 GOP primary for governor, where the party's conservative base rejected two candidates who could have defeated an unpopular Davis and nominated one who could not.

California never has been solidly conservative, and its electorate is less conservative than ever. Even Ronald Reagan as governor signed a bill to legalize abortion and was open-minded on homosexual rights. The decline of Caucasian voters into minority status and the continuing influx of Latinos created Democratic pretensions of inviolability and sent Republicans into a slough of despair.

The recall mechanism resolved the Republican dilemma by effectively nominating a candidate without a primary election. Schwarzenegger, who as a young body builder wore a Milton Friedman "Free to Choose" T-shirt during workouts, came across to voters as an economic libertarian conservative who is pro-choice and pro-gay rights. That model spells big trouble for Democrats.... (via Betsy Newmark)

Trouble, but only if you think that being an overwhelmingly strong party and controlling everything is a good position to be in. But of course it's not. One-party government always leads to abuses and corruption.

The Democrats are the problem right now in California, but they probably wouldn't be if we had a more effective Republican organization. One that was generating strong candidates who could call the Dems on their misdeeds.

People like to sneer at the recall, but it is remarkable how it zeroed in on one of (perhaps the) basic problem in Calif politics--the inability of Republican primaries to produce candidates that can win. In operation, the recall was something rather like an open primary--the kind where people can vote for either party. And a lot of Dems voted for a moderate Republican. It may be just a fluke, but it's interesting...

And it is also interesting that people seem to have been very serious and thoughtful about this. At least in the conservative circles that I'm attuned to, there was lots of real debate and soul-searching about Schwarzenegger vs McClintock. And the Recall never was a "circus." It focused from the beginning on the few serious candidates, quickly narrowed the choices to the best of them...(Or, in the case of the Dems, to the most prominent incumbents.)

And I'm perfectly aware that my comment on the evils of one-party government has implications, on the national level, for the Republicans, assuming the Democrats continue to do what looks rather like self-destructing to me...That seems pleasing at the moment, but is bad for us in the long run.

A Milton Friedman "Free to Choose" T-shirt...where do I get one of those?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:02 PM

From the "It's OK to tell a lie to show Bush lied" files...

From Andrew Sullivan:

THE "IMMINENT" THREAT: Here's a fascinating nugget. Ted Kennedy, who is now claiming that the administration claimed an "imminent" threat from Saddam, didn't feel that way directly after the president's State of the Union address last January. Here's the money quote from the Los Angeles Times:
But afterward, some said the speech failed to end the debate on whether to go to war. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said he would introduce a resolution today that would require Bush to come back to Congress and present "convincing evidence of an imminent threat" before U.S. troops are sent to war with Iraq. Congress approved a resolution last fall authorizing Bush to use military force against Iraq, and that measure did not require a second review.
Now, presumably that means that Kennedy himself didn't believe that the president had argued or shown that Saddam's threat was "imminent." Now he's changed his tune. Pure politics, as usual, from the senator from Massachusetts. (In another twist, you'll see that the L.A. Times reporter simply describes Bush's speech as arguing that the threat is "imminent" with no evidence at all. She doesn't even notice the discrepancy between her headline and Kennedy's protestation. I guess people hear what they want to hear.)
The "Imminent Threat' lie is being pushed really hard right now. And one can see why certain people like it. Not only do they get to claim that Bush lied when he "said" there was an imminent threat, but they can avoid taking a position on what he really said, which is that we can no longer wait until a threat is imminent. That's a subject to avoid if you are trying to please both the "activists," who would be glad to sacrifice a few million people if it meant that America was humbled and restrained; and ordinary voters, who can't quite see what's so wrong with the sheriff plugging the bad guys before they blow up the town, rather than after.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:57 PM


My host, VerveHosting, has had some problems...chain-lightning, balls of fire, various hard-drives going up in smoke... I couldn't log in all day, and I seem to have lost a couple of posts...oh well, it's only fair to expect a little sand and grit along with my honey and locusts...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:37 PM

October 7, 2003

a full month only happens if you truly enjoy it

Scott Chaffin, who actually LIVES in "The Middle of Nowhere, TX," found this, from Ian Hamet, very funny. Me too. Think of those poor reporters dying by inches in Crawford, and wishing they were in Baghdad where the livin' is easier...

....There is nothing more fraudulent to these liberals than authenticity and sincerity. They fell all over themselves over Clinton's used-car-salesman persona, but find it "phony" when Bush spends a full month in Texas every year, away from their beloved beltway, away from any large town at all.

Bush is a politician, and you don't get to be president these days without a certain amount of insincerity. But you don't spend a month in the blistering heat in The Middle of Nowhere, TX, because you want other people to think you enjoy it. A few days, a week tops. But a full month only happens if you truly enjoy it.

And these people hate, hate, hate him for it.

He doesn't care, either, which makes them hate him all the more....

It's true. And they can't understand him. Or his wife. Washington insiders were bewildered when Laura Bush didn't join George for his first two weeks in the White House. Well, the house in Crawford had just been finished, and she was keen to get on with the decorating...

You know, you are where you went to Junior High School. (Which these days seems to be called "Middle School." Maybe that makes the staff feel less "junior"?) George W Bush grew up in Midland, Texas, and no amount of time spent later in the Ivy League has changed that. You don't chew tobacco unless you truly enjoy it, either. Actually I'm not sure if W really chewed, or just dipped snuff....

Me, I grew up around some old-timers who chewed, and man was that disgusting! You bite off a chunk of Mailpouch, chew a while and then spit. Kerblap! Or they chewed on their cigars...Blap. Gross. On the other hand, I think the smell of cigar smoke is about the best smell in the world.

One curiosity about George and Laura is that they both grew up in Midland, they went to the same Junior High at the same time, the two families ate Sunday lunch in the same couple of restaurants....but they didn't meet each other until much later and far away.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:03 PM

Just your typical balanced and reasonable Democrat...you can trust him with a sensitive mission...

Neo-conservatives and religious conservatives have hijacked this administration, and I consider myself on a personal mission to destroy both.
-- Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson

(link here.)

Posted by John Weidner at 4:57 PM

I've been saying the same thing myself, but...

...for some odd reason Jonathan Rauch is able to phrase things better than me...

....Planning bias. Again and again, critics charge the government with having no plan or strategy. Whenever the Pentagon or administration changes course, they charge it with having planned poorly. Headlines speak of events "out of control" in Iraq.

More than just hindsight bias is at work here. Many people, particularly the sophisticated sort, hate messiness. They like to know that smart managers are in charge, figuring out everything. Surprises are defeats.

In truth, the planning mind-set is exactly wrong for Iraq. Anything might have happened after the war: a flood of refugees, a cholera pandemic, a civil war--or, for that matter, the discovery of an advanced nuclear program. The fact that the Bush administration keeps adjusting its course, often contravening its own plans or preferences, is a hopeful sign.... (Via Virginia P)

The "planning mindset" is exactly wrong for a lot of things in our fast-changing world. But especially war. You've probably read how the combat superiority of American (and British, Australian, Israeli...) forces is partly due to empowering junior officers to make decisions. What's that phrase? "An American sergeant has more authority than a colonel in any Arab army." Well, that's the opposite of the "planning mindset."

Of course a lot of the "planning" criticism is by people who are pathetically desperate to find reasons to bash Bush, whatever the merits. The same people will be happy to excoriate the Administration's "inability to improvise and adapt" if they see an opening for it...

Posted by John Weidner at 1:48 PM

Software in the 17th Century...

[This is an old thing I'm reposting because I'm reading Quicksilver, where Samuel Pepys sometimes appears...]


My readers probably think I'm an antiquarian crank for occasionally quoting Samuel Pepys. Little do you know. Sam Pepys was one of the people who invented our world.

Pepys (pronounced 'peeps') lived in the 17th Century. There was at that time a movement of radical young software developers who were deploying a powerful new operating system; one that was to change the world in remarkable ways. Pepys was one of them.

The goal of these revolutionaries was to replace ad hoc management by cronies of the King with a corps of dedicated experts operating out of permanent government departments. They wished to replace rule of thumb with rational analysis, and improvisation with orderly procedure. Their success was an important part of what made it possible for the West to dominate the entire globe.

We call that new OS Bureaucracy. Now of course it's an old OS; old and creaky and inefficient. Our modern world runs on top of it, sort of like Windows running on top of DOS.

What about Pepys himself, what did he do? Well, have you ever wondered why we have a Secretary of Defense? Secretary seems like an odd word to use. Secretaries and clerks were sort of the nerds and techs of that new OS. The were the systems guys, and, like now, they rode new technologies into positions of power.

Samuel Pepys himself was a "secretary," he was Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board (which was responsible for ships and supplies). It was not then an important position, but under the new system the person controlling the paperwork could become very influential. Pepys hated the waste and disorder he saw around him, and began organizing the office, and learning everyone else's jobs. Filing and accounting were information technologies that he wielded to great effect.

One result, typical of his style, was a book of abstracts of every contract the Navy Board had ever let. With this database in hand he could quickly compare prices and terms with what had been done in the past. Though the other members of the Board were, initially, greatly senior to him, his stock began to rise. He went on to become the most important naval administrator of his time, and when you hear of the glorious history of the British Navy, some of the credit goes to him.

Historically minded readers will be aware that I've grossly oversimplified various complex matters, but this is just for fun.

* And here's a quote from an essay on Pepys by Robert Louis Stevenson...(Other Pepys posts here and

Posted by John Weidner at 9:43 AM

#124: Lumping It

P. Krugman

Lumps of Labor (10/07/03) has to be one of the most nonsensical columns Paul Krugman has ever written. Incredibly, he begins by citing the "lump of labor fallacy" [the idea that there is a fixed amount of work to be done in the world, so any increase in productivity reduces the number of available jobs.] as the centerpiece of his column, but then fails to explain why it is a fallacy. Next, he blasts the Bush administration for not refuting the fallacy with job creating policies that will stave off pessimism and protectionism. Excuse us! Did someone say pessimism? Peddling pessimism for partisan advantage is Krugman's stock and trade.

First of all, "lumps of labor" is a fallacy because rising national income (the principal result of productivity growth) leads to greater aggregate demand. The labor released in some areas of the economy as a result of greater productivity doesn't just stand around forever. The growing demand absorbs it into other areas of the economy where it is needed. There is nothing new about this process and it should come as a surprise to no one. How many people do you know still employed in the whale oil industry? In Moby Dick's day this was a major source of jobs.

As economies become more advanced several things tend to happen. There is an employment shift from producing things to supplying services. There is a shift in the production of things requiring low and semi-skilled labor to countries that have a large supply of that kind of labor. And some industries simply disappear, e.g., whale oil, due to obsolescence. Most economists call this progress. What about it PK?

If Krugman has a point at all here, it is that the growth process is not frictionless. People do get uprooted and have to look for other jobs and are sometimes unemployed for several months. These growing pains are especially difficult during periods such as the present when productivity growth is high and the economy is emerging from recession. But the lumps of labor fallacy is a fallacy precisely because these problems are a) temporary and b) the price we all pay for a higher standard of living. Try finding this point anywhere in Krugman's column! In fact, with each Labor Department report, it is becoming clear that the "jobless" part of the current recovery IS temporary and has run its course. Jobs are growing again.

As to his point about protectionist sentiments arising out of the fallacy, this is laugh out loud funny. His clumsy attempt to blame it on Bush, leads him smack up against the likelihood that the next Democratic presidential candidate is likely to be a virulent protectionist riding the lump of labor fallacy all the way to defeat. Should be fun to watch.

[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

October 6, 2003

Splendid idea...

Bill Hobbs says:

...I think Gaffney's absolutely right. A Bush visit to Baghdad would instantly demolish the "quagmire" theme still echoing in the media and instantly reassure the American people that things in Iraq are going well. I'll just add to Gaffney's suggestion this: that Bush should invite the leading Democratic candidates for president - Dean, Clark, Gephardt, Kerry and Edwards [And Lieberman too? - ed. Yes.] - to tag along, and tell the American people he's inviting them along because the future of Iraq and the War on Terror are so vital that he must put partisan politics aside and bring along the top contenders for his job, in case they win and it falls to them to continue the War on Terror....
Too too too utterly delicious. If the Dems turn down the invitation, they make it obvious they don't want to engage the number one issue.

And if they do go along ...Imagine them squirming with embarrassment at the crowds waving American flags and shouting USA! USA! and knowing that Democrat Primary voters won't want to see them smiling or hugging the children. After you, Alphonse. No no Gaston, I insist�you first...

Imagine the visits to mass graves and prisons and torture chambers..."Tell us again, Mr Kerry, how you only voted for the war because you thought it was a bluff" "Mr Dean, shake hands with Muammar. He can't talk; something wrong with his tongue. But I'm SURE he's all ears to hear that we should have left Saddam in power."

"Next stop, a school that just reopened after US forces removed the munitions stored there. Those kids sure look eager to learn don't they? They don't have much in the way of paper and books yet, but we're working on it. Of course some Senators think we should keep our money at home to solve IMPORTANT problems, instead of wasting it on foreigners..."


* UPDATE: I ran into this picture at DefendAmerica's Sept.'03 Photo Archive. It was too sweet to resist.

Iraqi schoolgirls with new slates

The caption reads: Iraqi schoolgirls show off their new chalkboards donated by friends and family of U.S. Navy Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Four. Navy Seabee units have been participating in extensive reconstruction of schools, hospitals and bridges throughout Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Brandon Harding

Posted by John Weidner at 1:47 PM

October 5, 2003

"Today, anything that gets George Bush in trouble is OK ... "

The CounterRevolutionary puts his finger on something that's been vaguely bothering me--the extant to which hatred of the Bush Administration has suddenly caused both press and Democrats to discard their usual suspicions of the CIA.

....One clear theme emerges from the explanations � the willingness by certain parts of the CIA to undermine the civilian leadership of this country. If Cheney requested the follow-up, why were adequate resources not allocated? Even if someone at the CIA did not like the story, why were they in a position to question the judgement of their civilian authority? By sending Wilson on a half-assed attempt to �gather intelligence�, this group was actively subverting Cheney�s request to get serious answers to a matter of utmost national security.

Could it be that this is what Novak�s birdies were trying to say? It has been clear for a while that the Agency and the White House were not getting along, but did they go too far this time? Anonymous leakers in press giving their opinions were one thing, but publicly undermining the Executive, and perhaps, trying to influence domestic politics was too much for someone. So, they reached out to the press � connect the dots they said � from Wilson to the CIA. Ask questions about how he was hired and why.

In a different time, any sign that the CIA has gone rogue � that it developed its own political agenda, hired unauthorized operatives and undermined the express wishes of elected officials would have gotten the press� panties in a bunch. After all, who knows what �initiatives� they will take next or what they will consider �serious� matters? But not today. Today, anything that gets George Bush in trouble is OK with the press. Even if that old nemesis, the CIA, misbehaves � it�s fine as long as they hate Bush as much as we do.

UPDATE: Representative Peter King thinks that the Agency has gone rogue too.

This reminds me of when some retired generals came out against the possible invasion of Iraq, and suddenly unprincipled people who normally consider our soldiers to be incompetent baby-killers were saying that mere civilians shouldn't be making decisions on whether to go to war! [You need a stronger word than "unprincipled" here --IC. How about "Clintonesque" --Charlene] Now the same creatures are suddenly sure that the brave and patriotic lads and lasses of the Central Intelligence Agency could not conceivably tell us a lie....

The whole idea of the Wilson mission was wacky from the beginning. If Niger was talking to Iraq about selling Uranium, they weren't going to tell us. The subject would obviously be hotter than a pistol, and probably only a handful of people in the Niger government would even know about it. To quote CounterRevolutionary again,

...It appears that he [Wilson] was also not formally employed by the CIA and given no tools to succeed. Whatever else you can say about his trip to Niger, it was not serious intel gathering. (�I say, sir, in return for this sweet mint tea, could you provide me with proof that you are smuggling uranium?�) While the circumstances surrounding his selection alone are not grounds for a scandal, the explanations given for it are....
Even if Wilson had had scores of secret agents and millions for bribes and unlimited time (and he had none of those) it is quite possible that he would have failed to uncover any Uranium smuggling plot. But people were so utterly hungry for an excuse to say "Bush lied" that they were happy to overlook the fishiness of it all. And Wilson's publishing in the NYT!...how often do officials go on missions at the behest of an Administration, and then immediately publish a report in a bitterly anti-administration newspaper? Doesn't that warrant some skepticism?

* Update from a reader: "I saw Wilson on Meet the Press today. Russert treated him with kid gloves. Nevertheless he came across as a glib, chip-on-the-shoulder mal-content looking desperately for his 15 mins of fame. Something is all wrong here. Why would Wilson be chosen for the Niger job? It makes no sense. If Cheney asked for the mission why wouldn't he follow up to see that someone qualified was on the case? In any case, Wilson answered the wrong question. True, there was no actual transaction, but the issue was whether Iraq was TRYING for a uranium transaction! Russert raised the question, but let him off the hook. And why would Wilson write that op-ed piece? Totally unprofessional except to an idealogue or a glory hunter."

Posted by John Weidner at 3:31 PM

Sounds like a good idea to me ...

On the subject of our intelligence failures, Orrin Judd writes:

....Forget the spies, end the secrecy, become transparent, and move towards the Poindexter open information market idea. Heck, make it like a blog. Post all the information that we can gather on countries, movements, etc. in central sites and let folks openly add to or criticize what's there. Have CIA analysts be referees--removing garbage and steering discussions of interesting points and so forth. The closed shop, which we've used since WWII, has been a complete failure. Try the opposite.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:20 AM

October 4, 2003

Let's get this one straight, because it matters...

I strongly recommend Cori Dauber at RantingProfs. her specialty is clear-eyed looks at how the press handles the WOT. One thing she has noted recently is the way the press is still working hard to reframe the Administration's case for invasion of Iraq. Here's one example:

HOW DID THE TIMES COVER IT? The main news article, by Rosen and Miller (oddly, although a front page article, its below the Sanger news analysis piece on the web site), buries the news that there was an aggressive missile program, leaves out entirely evidence that there were human test subjects, and buries the news that a scientist was hanging on to live botulinum toxin in his home to confound the inspectors and make sure the program could ramp up fast as soon as the regime shook off the UN. Probably worse, though, is the continued effort of the Times' to just blithely frame the Bush Administration's justification for war as having been an "imminent" threat from Iraq. Look, let's get this one straight, because it matters, and given the results of the Kaye report, now more then ever. Maybe you think the war was justified and maybe you don't, but the argument made was not that the Iraqi regime was an imminent threat. It was that September 11th had forever changed the way we looked at what was an acceptable risk and that from this point forward we could not afford to passively wait to see if they became an imminent threat....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:04 PM


A wise man will keep his suspicions muzzled,
but he will keep them awake.
--George Savile, Marquess de Halifax

This is the same Halifax who was called, and called himelf, The Trimmer, for his attempts to steer the ship of state on a middle course, balancing between extreme factions. He also said:
Gratitude is one of those things that cannot be bought. It must be born with men, or else all the obligations in the world will not create it.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:07 AM

Who benefits?

Donald Sensing asks some good questions about the Plame Game. Here's one:

....And most importantly, if Plame�s identification as a covert agent was damaging to American interests - an identification that was not made in Novak�s article or anywhere else - then why would her husband, Joe Wilson, absolutely guarantee damage to American interests by turning a casual mention of her name, almost unnoticed by the public, into a full-blown political scandal dominating the front pages and broadcasts for days on end?

In other words, if Valerie Plame�s name and CIA affiliation are so sensitive, then no one has done more to damage with linking them than her own husband. Why?

Wilson's actions don't make sense if Plame really was covert and her work and contacts needed to be protected. But if she was not covert then no overseas harm is done. But what might Wilson and Plame get out of all this? Wilson has reportedly already told an interviewer that he and his wife have discussed who will play her in the movie.

Did you know that Erin Brockovich is still earning big bucks from lecture fees?

Posted by John Weidner at 9:26 AM

October 3, 2003

"The Clandestine Service"... Yeah, right

Now that I've started to pay attention to the Plame wars, I find them weirdly addictive. Henry Hanks has tons of links. He pointed to this very interesting comment on Pejman's Yousefzadeh's blog:

I am by no means an expert, but I have worked in intelligence and with the CIA (now retired). The WaPo wording describing Ms.Plame's position ("case officer in the clandestine service") sounds like something somebody would say who's never been in the CIA. Somebody who knows their sh*t, would ask: Was she in the Directorate of Operations; if so, was she a field operative; and what clearance levels did she/does she have. In my active years, I had a TS clearance and then that clearance was further modified with a special "need to know" classifier. These classifiers were a way of controlling/minimizing exposure of sensitive info and compartmentalizing intelligence to minimize risk if their was a "failure". If somebody was a field operative, their classifications were so deep and so obscure that I guarantee you no stinking columnist knew about them (my wife knew nothing about my job, clearances - still doesn't). Which all suggests to me that VP probably is and was a vanilla desk analyst with a technical specialty in some field associated with wmds. I highly, highly doubt she was a covert, field operator and the WaPo wording is very amateurish. And another thing, Ms. Plame's name is listed on a public web site - definitely not SOP for a covert field operative. None of it fits.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:51 PM

Janet Jones, CIA ...

There is sure a lot that's still murky in L'Affaire Plame. As was pointed out here, if Plame were really doing any sort of undercover work, she wouldn't have been using her own name. She would do it as "Janet Jones" or some such. And therefore the knowledge that someone named Plame was CIA wouldn't in itself endanger her or any undercover agents. (And presumably anyone outing Plame would not have been intending to endanger any secret operations...)

And the way Wilson has accused Karl Rove of being the leaker, without any apparent evidence. I've been reading about Rove recently, and that sounds like purest Democrat wish-fulfillment fantasy. Rove is the ultimate sure-shot. Very disciplined. This messy squabbling isn't his style.

Now if Plame were running for sheriff, and was about to defeat a Republican, and somebody leaked embarrassing news a week before the election, and she LOST........Rove. That would be pure Rove. Dead for a Ducat.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:30 PM

Aid and comfort to ...?

There's a good article in today's OpinionJournal

If there's a silver lining to the controversy surrounding the Valerie Plame "outing," it's that an increasingly poisonous dispute over counterterrorism policy has been outed along with her. We're talking about the disagreement between the Bush Administration and many of the career intelligence officials at the State Department and the CIA....

.... Reasonable people can disagree on these issues. But while President Bush and his Administration argue the case for their policy in speech after speech and interview after interview, part of the intelligence community pursues its cause largely through media leaks and what can only be called insubordination.

"Intelligence sources" are routinely quoted questioning Administration claims and complaining of "political interference." In yesterday's New York Times, those "sources" admitted to reporter James Risen (their go-to guy) that Joseph Wilson had been chosen for the Niger mission precisely because the CIA did not take Vice President Dick Cheney's interest in pursuing the yellowcake story seriously....

In fact, they are admitting that the CIA sabotaged intelligence gathering to hurt the Administration. Sabotaged it by assigning a virulently partisan Democrat to find evidence that would be helpful to a Republican President. That's SICK. REMEMBER THIS when ranting dogs tell you that "Bush lied" about Uranium from Africa.

Ah yes, those elite seasoned career professionals of the CIA and the State Dept. SO much wiser than the rabble. OF COURSE it's their duty to undercut the policies of mere elected officials. Elections are fine for show, but mustn't interfere with policy. Especially not if they elect tacky Republicans from the sticks.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:40 PM

October 2, 2003

Nothing's so frustrating as a good book that's also short...fortunately that's not a problem here

I'm a hundred pages into Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson. As you probably know, it's a historical novel which explores the early days of what we now call "science," with fictional characters interacting with actual people. (Dating, as far as I've read, from the 1660's to 1713.) So far it's a great read, and I recommend it. (Assuming, that is, that you like history. I noticed some dorf gave it a terrible review on Amazon, because of all the boring historical stuff!! Today's tip: There's a certain sort of Amazon review that starts: I just don't understand why everybody likes this book. I don't get it... If you feel that way, keep quiet.)

...There was no other furniture in the room, although the eight-foot-high grandfather clock in the adjoining hall contributed a sort of immediate presence with the heaving to and fro of its cannonball-sized pendulum, which made the entire house lean from one side to the other like a drunk out for a brisk walk, and the palpable grinding of its gear-train, and the wild clamorous bonging that exploded from it at intervals that seemed suspiciously random, and that caused flocks of migrating waterfowl, thousands of feet overhead, to collide with each other in panic and veer into new courses. The fur of dust beginning to overhang its Gothick battlements; its internal supply of mouse-turds; the Roman numerals carven into the back by its maker and its complete inability to tell time, all marked it as pre-Huygens technology. Its bonging would have tried Daniel's patience even if it had occurred precisely on the hour, half-hour, quarter-hour, et cetera, for it never failed to make him jump out of of his skin. That it conveyed no information whatever as to what the time actually was, drove Daniel into such transports of annoyance that he had begun to entertain a phant'sy of standing at the intersection of two corridors and handing Drake, every time he passed by, a libel denouncing the ancient Clock, and demanding its wayward pendulum be stilled, and that it be replaced with a new Huygens model. But Drake had already told him to shut up about clock, and so there was nothing he could do...
You can see that Stephenson is not taking himself too seriously here. So I can enjoy the story and not mind a few liberties taken with history, things that would usually drive me into "transports of annoyance." And not mind of course, that, as a historical novelist, he's cheating... that his fictional characters are able to concentrate on getting to know people who will be in the history books three-hundred years later, and not waste any time befriending future nobodies. Enoch Root pals around with Huygens and Leibniz, and is able to discern the genius of Isaac Newton when he is a mere schoolboy glimpsed in the street; and Daniel Waterhouse shares a room with Newton at Trinity, and witnesses the invention of the Calculus.

But it's all done with lots of verve and humor and insight, and I'm enjoying it immensely.

* WORD NOTE: There is nothing so frustrating as having a concept without a good name to use when speaking of it. The characters in this book experience that frustration as they grasp the possibilities of what we now call "science" but have no better term for it than "natural philosophy." It's a testimony to the prodigious influence of Isaac Newton that a common name for "science" in the 18th Century was the Newtonian Philosophy.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:22 PM