November 30, 2003

Brian Tiemann has an interesting post responding to someone who thinks the film The Two Towers is infected with:

... a bizarre undertone of anti-war smarminess. . .

The Two Towers was a fantastic screenplay.�But they tried, in for me what was a horrifying way, to blur the lines between Good and Evil; to compromise with Evil; to preach the bizarre doctrine that maybe it was best to leave Evil alone and go one�s own way, trying to ignore it.� Oy.

As I follow the news and some blogs, I ask: am I that far gone that I am the only one to notice this?

In the Two Towers, everyone wants to surrender and nobody is Good....

Here are a few snippets from Brian's reply...
....just about everybody who was unarguably noble and "good" in the book was given a more self-interested and petty motivation in the movie, one which they all had to overcome-- each in his own way-- before they could be said truly to be on the side of Good. In the book, you knew who you could trust, implicitly; but in the movie, nobody in the entire landscape seemed trustworthy-- not Th�oden, not Faramir, not Treebeard, not even �omer. They all come off, at least at first, as people to be just as wary of as any Orc....

....I don't think the undertone is that it's "okay" to run away, run away. Quite the opposite-- I think the undercurrent of running away is there, but it's very thoroughly thrust away as a viable course of action, in almost every plotline, across the board. And I think Jackson's purpose in framing these plotlines in such a way-- making everybody into a reluctant and self-interested individual, but then hitting each with some event that turns him around and makes him sacrifice for the greater good-- is intended to establish character depth and growth in everybody under a unifying theme of duty even in the darkest of circumstances. I think that's stronger, even, than the book's portrayal, where these characters are much more self-sacrificing and bound to duty from the outset than how they're portrayed in the movie-- and so they grow less....

....But be that as it may, I think the upshot of all these character and plot tweaks in The Two Towers is very strongly pro-war, pro-doing-the-right-thing, pro-taking-necessary action. The movie is very clear in its insistence that the Enemy cannot be negotiated with, hidden from, or appeased, and any attempts to do so will only end in disaster. In fact, I'd wager that an avowed pacifist watching The Two Towers would be made vaguely uncomfortable by the consequences that it says await those who oppose war under any circumstances.

Or the rewards that it says await those willing to wage it.

I think the change in emphasis is very appropriate for our time.

* WORD NOTE: I don't think "smarminess" was quite the right word where it was used; smarmy means a sort of oily and excessive over-friendliness...

* Update to WORD NOTE: I think I'm wrong, I found this definition for Smarmy: 1. Hypocritically, complacently, or effusively earnest; unctuous. 2.Sleek

If that's the definition, then the word becomes fairly boring; you could call almost anything you don't like "smarmy." Also, I just saw this, from Mickey Kaus: If Hillary had gone to Iraq and flat-out blasted Bush, that would have been fine by me. The problem is she smarmily wanted to have it both ways, pretending her trip was in part a morale-building visit to the troops while she griped about the mission the troops were on.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:26 PM

November 29, 2003

The post-humanitarian left...

Jaed writes:

...A number of people have commented on the apparent disconnect between some traditional ideals that the left associates itself with (humanitarian causes, human rights, opposition to dictatorship) and the behavior of much of the left and many soi-disant "liberals" at the moment ("People have been murdered in Istanbul? Who cares? It's Bush and Blair who are the killers!")

Cllifford May has, en passant, come up with a phrase that resonates: "the post-humanitarian left". It is descriptive. It is non-snarky. And it perfectly expresses the gulf I've been inarticulately contemplating lately, between the ideal and the real...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:27 PM

Paying off a large debt...and making an investment

Bill Whittle gets it precisely right:

....Those men and women who are being killed weekly in Iraq are hard deaths for us to accept. On the surface it looks like a long, painful grind without any victory or consolation.

But something much, much deeper is going on here, and it is this: we are paying off the red ink we have accrued by cutting and running when it was the easy way out. We are paying off a brutal and unforgiving debt that we have incurred by our lack of resolve in decades past. Lincoln once wrote that the only thing worse than paying off a large debt was being forced to pay off a larger one; exactly so.

But remember this, America: Those men and women of ours who are paying with their lives are not just paying down a debt. They are making an investment, too.

Because if we show that we have the will and the resolve to finish the job we started there, then we will succeed, and by succeeding we will immeasurably strengthen our security in the decades to come.....

We cut and ran over and over again, starting with Vietnam. And anyone who argued against this was considered heartless and cold and callous of lives. But the oh-so superior, oh-so humanitarian bleeding-hearts who were disgusted by the idea of fighting for American ideals, were, in truth, murderers. And now we are paying the blood-price for their foolishness.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:46 PM

Bake it from scratch...

From Deeds blog, a look at some of the frustrations of the CPA:

....For example, we need ID cards, like our drivers' licenses, for our 50K+ Facilities Protection Service (FPS) guards, and the 65K+ Iraqi Police. (The list continues but we'll start with these individuals.) We need to buy the machines that are used to make the cards, which requires that we obtain the funds to pay for the machines. Can't use Iraqi money per CPA mandate. So, we have to use CPA money. That will take at least 90 days to process. Okay, working on that.

Now, how many machines do we need? Someone must call the FPS to find out exactly how many guards are located where. FPS doesn't have permanent offices from which a quick report with the information can be generated.

How do we call them? Use cell phones. We just got 100 cell phones and are trying to link up with the appropriate Iraqis to hand them out.

Before handing them out, however, FPS wants us to make sure they have authority to do so, in writing, from their Ministry of Interior (MoI). Okay--but MoI needs a policy decision made by the CPA Senior Advisor to the MoI. All right, another step.

And this step must go through all 25 CPA Senior Advisors for approval and comment. (Okay, I "cheated" and did this before the ID card requirement was an issue.)

Now I have to wait to get it signed. And wait. While we are waiting, the foreign embassies tell us they want their guards to get cards first, and they want special uniforms for them.

The above consumed three long, hard days, interspersed with lunch, supper, sleep, mortars and sleep....

There's an amazing amount of ordinary stuff that one takes for granted, until you have to build it up from scratch...probably our efforts will start to visibly get traction just when the experts declare that they've failed.

I would prefer see a bit more slashing through red tape�as a taxpayer I'd like to say that I appreciate the effort to be thrifty, but in this case, hey guys, just spend the stuff and get what you need.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:00 PM

anguish and despair

...At every stage of the growth of the debt the nation has set up the same cry of anguish and despair....[After the Napoleonic Wars] the funded debt of England...was in truth a fabulous debt; and we can hardly wonder that the cry of despair should have been louder than ever. Yet like Addison's valetudinarian, who continued to whimper that he was dying of consumption till he became so fat that he was shamed into silence, [England] went on complaining that she was sunk in poverty till her wealth showed itself by tokens which made her complaints ridiculous....The beggared, the bankrupt society not only proved able to meet all its obligations, but while meeting these obligations, grew richer and richer so fast that the growth could almost be discerned by the eye....
Macaulay, History of England
(Borrowed from Brothers Judd Blog)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:34 AM

November 28, 2003

An expert explains America...

This, in The Age, is a good example of the delusional state of the world's media elites:

Much of the world hates him, but many Americans think their President is the man for the age, writes Graham Barrett.

Get used to the thought of another five years of George Bush as the most powerful person on earth. Astonishing as it may seem, he is moving into re-election mode with just about everything going for him.

This appears counter-intuitive. Just look at the laundry list that will be making the papers between now and next November. The Middle East is an expensive shambles, [Only if you ignore the fact that we're fighting a WAR] the case for invading Iraq is still shifting from one confection to another, [If you are facing a gang of murderers, the smart thing is to shoot the baddest one. Then negotiate. That's all the "case" we need] the rise of terrorism has exposed the most dramatic intelligence failure since Pearl Harbour, [Big deal. We were ALL asleep, and we know it.] the US deficit is the biggest in history, [not as a percentage of GDP it's not] several million American jobs have been lost, [It's called a recession. They happen, even in your country. And only you haven't noticed it's over] environmental pollution is worsening, [Utterly false. Pollution stats are improving in all developed countries] American diplomacy is in tatters [Actually we seem to get most of what we want] and American global popularity is to be found in a compost bin. [Yeah, the opinion of the French is crucial in our elections]

Bush would seem to possess no chance of staying on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue until early 2009. Why, then, are the US Democrats so worried?....[gee, do you think maybe they know something about this place you don't? ]

They resolutely maintain that the US is the world's biggest problem, but just as resolutely refuse to learn anything about that problem.

I'm being unfair to Mr Barrett, who acknowledges in his article that much of his "common wisdom" isn't true. But just the fact that he can label as "astonishing" or "counter-intuitive" things that are in fact utterly obvious and banal reveals how cluelix he is.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:11 PM

Now THIS is real sport...


Soldiers with the 21st Combat Support Hospital team move a simulated casualty (stretcher loaded with sandbags) under a wire obstacle at the combat medic challenge. The competition provided Army medics in Iraq the opportunity to display skills that are normally only required on the battlefield.
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua M. Risner
(See photo essay here.)

Posted by John Weidner at 2:55 PM

#136: Lie

P. Krugman

In his column The Good News (11/28/03) Paul Krugman makes the following claim about the structure of the President�s Council of Economic Advisors (CEA)

�What's particularly striking is the contempt this administration has for the rules. I was on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Reagan administration (those were nonpolitical jobs back then); one thing I remember was that if the experts said a proposed trade restriction violated international trade law, that was that. By contrast, just about every protectionist step taken by the Bush administration has been clearly in violation. And if the major economic powers stop honoring the rules that preserve open global markets, the chances of future development in poor nations will be much reduced.�
This is a complete lie! The only political appointments to the CEA are the Chairman and the two principal members of the Council. All positions on the staff, where Krugman served, are non-political as they have ALWAYS been. Next he�ll be claiming the job market statistics from the Labor Department are politicized (when they don�t go his way, of course).

[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 1:52 PM

This year we really had something to feel thankful for...

Charlene and I were both thrilled with the President's trip to Iraq. And obviously our soldiers were thrilled. And I have little doubt ordinary Americans (and freedom loving people all over the globe) are thrilled. Our mince pies tasted sweeter than ever before...

Others, of course, are NOT thrilled. My disgust for those sourpusses is mingled most pleasingly with the thought of how their jaws must have dropped. How they must have choked and gagged and sputtered their Thanksgiving wines up their noses as the news reached them. If only I could have watched! "Oh bliss, for former woes a thousand-fold repaid."

Although the White House lied to much of the press to conceal President Bush's Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad, many journalists and analysts yesterday were willing to give the administration a pass....[link]
Can you believe it. They're willing to give him a PASS! How rich. The lofty panjandrums will, digging deep into their not-infinite barrel of tolerance, give the man a PASS.

Oh George Bush, how lucky you are. The press gods will FORGIVE you! Some of them. Some fear it will "set a bad precedent." Others are gravely concerned because Bush Lied! He's flying into a battle zone, whose danger the press has been cherishing and exaggerating for months, and they are bothered because he told lies in order to keep it a secret!

They hate the President for doing going to Iraq, because these gestures matter. Words matter. I just read a good book about Ronald Reagan, (I'll blog it soon) and in it was Nathan Scharansky telling how bits of Reagan's speeches were circulated on tiny scraps of paper among the prisoners in the Socialist Gulag, even as sophisticates here and in Europe were heaping derision on them. And I also read how Henry Kissinger visited with leaders in the former Soviet Union, just after the fall, and asked them what had triggered the collapse. And most of them said SDI!

And the thing is, the experts didn't, couldn't see what was happening. The world was being changed, and they couldn't see it. Whereas poor dumb clucks who actually listened to the President could and did.

And it's the same now. Just read the speech. That's the reality; the NYT is the dream.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:37 AM

November 27, 2003

today's joke...

Q; What do you get when you toss a grenade into a French kitchen?
A: Linoleum blown-apart.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:55 PM

Children look down upon the morning-grey ...

Children look down upon the morning-grey
Tissue of mist that veils a valley's lap:
Their fingers itch to tear it and unwrap
The flags, the roundabouts, the gala day.
They watch the spring rise inexhaustibly�
A breathing thread out of the eddied sand,
Sufficient to their day: but half their mind
Is on the sailed and glittering estuary.
Fondly we wish their mist might never break,
Knowing it hides so much that best were hidden:
We'd chain them by the spring, lest it should broaden
For them into a quicksand and a wreck.
But they must slip through our fingers like the source,
Like mist, like time that has flagged out their course.
--C. Day Lewis

Posted by John Weidner at 10:27 AM

November 26, 2003

If you'll stop telling lies about us, we'll stop telling the truth about you. Deal?

PoliPundit puts something in perspective:

"In 30 seconds, this ad distorts the Democrats' views and impugns their motives more crudely than the Democrats have done to Bush in two years."
-- Slate's William Saletan on the RNC ad that's currently running in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Really, Mr. Saletan? Let's compare it with some of the things Democrats have said about President Bush.
Ted Kennedy: "This [Iraq war] was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud."

Howard Dean: "John Ashcroft is not a patriot."

John Kerry: "We have a fraudulent coalition, and I use the word fraud."

Weasel Clark: "The party that stole the election in 2000 now wants to steal patriotism from us."

Dick Gephardt: "[Bush has] declared war on the American people."
And this is just scratching the surface. If you go through the innumerable Democrat presidential "debates," you'll find bilious political hate speech of a truly unprecedented shrillness and volume.

Against this barrage, the RNC (not the president!) runs one mousy ad referring to "some" who're "attacking the president for attacking the terrorists" and this is supposed to be a negative ad? If anything, I expect and want the ad campaign to be much harsher than this. I hope you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:51 PM

We need 270,000 servings of corn on the cob, Squanto...

If you find the logistics of your feast burdensome, read this

By Sgt. Maj. Larry Stevens, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait, Nov. 26, 2003 � 145,000 pounds of turkey. 71,000 pounds of smoked hams. 71,000 pounds of prime rib. 38,000 pounds of shrimp. 576,000 servings of stuffing. 270,000 servings of corn on the cob. 150,000 servings of cranberry jelly. 41,000 pies � apple, pumpkin, cherry, pecan and sweet potato. And don't forget the decorations, eggnog, candies, nuts, ice cream and sparkling non-alcoholic wine.

When the Coalition Forces Land Component Command goes grocery shopping for Thanksgiving supper for its family, it does it big time. And it starts its shopping early.

The CFLCC Food Service section placed its order back in mid-July and started receiving it in October to ensure its soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait get a taste of home this Thanksgiving when they are so far from home fighting for their country. "It took a lot of work and a lot of long hours to make sure the plan was executed right, but I'm proud to say every one of our soldiers will receive their Thanksgiving meal," said Warrant Officer Raymond M. Beu, the CFLCC Theater Food Service chief....

Posted by John Weidner at 1:44 PM

"Pro-democracy brow-beating" What a concept!

I hear so often that clumsy and incompetent Americans can't "do" diplomacy, and that various distant lands will soon implode because of our neglectful policies, that articles like this one come as a distinct relief: Georgia's partner in democracy: US

....Senior US officials pushed diplomatic buttons before and throughout the crisis - in concert with Russia and others - making clear to all sides the dangers of a forceful crackdown or street violence. But untidy as the opposition's seizure of power has been, analysts say that billions in Western aid - and steady prodemocracy brow-beating - proved a key to regime change, one achieved without a shot being fired.

"The US government has gone to great lengths to back a [democratic] process and institutions, and to be very careful - amid big pressure from both sides - not to back certain individuals," says Mark Mullen, head of the Georgia office of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), funded by the US government, which has engaged in democracy training here since the mid-1990s.

"In the end, this was done by Georgians - it was not done by Americans - and that is vital to everything," says Mr. Mullen, who has spent more than six years in Georgia. "We worked closely with all parties, and did enormous training with the president's party. But the reality is, most of them were not as enthusiastic."

Washington committed $2.4 million to help conduct Georgia's Nov. 2 election. But widespread fraud sparked the street protests that led to the storming of parliament on Saturday. It was part of a 10-year investment of $1.3 billion aimed at helping Georgia create a civil society....

* [Democracy in Georgia? Sounds unlikely to work -- I.C.] I should hasten to insulate myself from the sneers of sophisticates by adding that I'm perfectly aware that the experiment may fail. OK? ALL our experiments may fail.

BUT, my sympathies are with the guys who are trying to climb the highest mountain, not with those who warm their bleak little hearts with thoughts of avalanches and frostbite...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:34 AM

November 25, 2003

Unilateralist? There's a much-misused word...

Marmot, a blogger who lives and teaches in Korea, has a long and fact-filed dissection of Josh Marshall's latest steaming mound of lies and distortions. That guy is really despicable. Marmot's piece is worth a read. (Also good are the comments to this...)

No American President "is to blame" for this problem. North Korea is totally at fault. That regime is utterly evil and unscrupulous. But the Clinton/Carter policies have manifestly failed. And Kim Dae-jung's "Sunshine Policy" has failed.

Now President Bush is trying a tougher tack. We Americans should be supporting him at this difficult moment. Constructive criticism is fine, but what Marshall is doing is wrong. And unpatriotic. (There. I said it. Senator Daschle will criticize me�he says it's wrong to impugn someone's patriotism. I'm not sure why it should be....)
(via Henry Hanks)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:09 PM

Long overdue...

IRS Audits Nation's Top Teachers' Union WASHINGTON -- The IRS is auditing the nation's largest teachers union, scrutinizing an organization that works energetically to elect candidates but files tax returns reporting zero political expenditures from member dues.

The National Education Association promised Monday to cooperate, but its president, Reg Weaver, said the union "will not be silenced" by the audit or the conservative law firm that requested it....

Like all the other Leftys, they are quick to say that they are being "silenced" if anyone criticizes them. In fact, they have been brazenly and openly breaking the law for decades, claiming Non-Profit status while operating as a virtual arm of the Democrat Party. And as part of the package, endlessly touting teachers (and by extension teacher's unions) as some sort of selfless and caring and superior group, all the while blighting the lives and hopes of millions of children by blocking education reforms.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:53 PM

Jack Aubrey: "He feels your pain"

Souls in torment can come up with strange, messianic visions. And if I were a Democrat right now, I'd probably be in a bit of torment myself. Still, this guy's gone beyond the call of loopiness. He thinks Captain Jack Aubrey, in the film of Master and Commander, is going to remind people of.......of........are you ready?.........Bill Clinton! And also, apparently, of the Democratic candidate yet-to-come.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:57 PM

#135: A good column to skip...

P. Krugman

Paul Krugman's The Uncivil War (11/25/03) is a waste of time and a good column to skip. However, if you must read it, start with the last paragraph in which he finally gets to the point.

"And even aside from the double standard, how important is civility? I'm all for good manners, but this isn't a dinner party. The opposing sides in our national debate are far apart on fundamental issues, from fiscal and environmental policies to national security and civil liberties. It's the duty of pundits and politicians to make those differences clear, not to play them down for fear that someone will be offended."
We agree. So what's Krugman's problem? Why the whining about being demonized and called unpatriotic? The likely Democratic presidential nominee will be from the anti-war left and probably a trade protectionist to boot. President Bush will go after him with all the guns $200 million can buy blazing away.

Fasten your seat belt PK, you're in for a bumpy ride!

[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. ]

* Update: Krug's wandered onto Cori Dauber's turf:

I generally avoid dealing with Krugman because, hey, why bother -- it's a crowded market. But today I have no choice -- he makes a play at my trade, rhetorical criticism. ...

...Some texts need Fisking, when they do indeed use metaphor, analogy, etc, to suggestively imply something in a deniable way. But Krugman, let's just say, should really stick to economics. Here's his take on the new RNC ad defending the president:

"The ad was clearly intended to insinuate once again -- without saying anything falsifiable -- that there was a link between Iraq and 9/11."

Seriously, dude, leave the driving to professionals.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:10 AM

A smidgeon of news bias

Charlene and I were driving just now, and heard on ABC News something like, "...figures released show GDP growing at 8.5%, the fastest growth in 20 years. But Wall Street was unimpressed with the numbers, the Dow only up 9 points..."

I said I guessed that the truth was that Wall Street had already figured out what was happening and it was already reflected in stock prices. Charlene said, "Didn't you hear, the Dow was up 165 points yesterday!" And she added, "If the economic news was bad, they would have quoted some Democrat blaming the Bush Administration." Isn't that the truth.

Since the news is good, the economy is like Topsy: "I wasn't born, I just grew."

Posted by John Weidner at 8:48 AM


The Army's new armored vehicle, the Stryker has been very controversial. Critics, including Donald Rumsfeld, say it's overpriced, overweight, and I don't know what all. It's hard to know what credence to give the criticisms, especially since I remember similar things being said about Bradlys and M1 Tanks, both of which turned out to be superb.

So I'm very interested in how the Stryker Brigade does in Iraq. They have an embedded journalist too. He's said nothing interesting yet about the vehicles, but this, about the training our guys are getting when they deploy, is fascinating.

....Troops from the brigade's 296th Brigade Support Battalion have spent the last several days in classroom and field training on Camp Udairi's barren ranges just south of the Iraqi border.

Instructors from a private military contractor, Military Professional Resources Inc., talk to soldiers about the most recent tactics employed by insurgents in Iraq. They suggest ways to respond. And the soldiers get live-fire training, in which they shoot on the move at targets that come at them from nearly all directions.

"It was an eye-opener," Love said. "I expected to see IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in piles of rocks, but I didn't expect MRE boxes, or soda cans, or some of the other things they were telling us."....

....Pugh said he's been working with the Army at Udairi for a few months. All units on their way to Iraq get the convoy training, and many units that have been in Iraq for months are being sent down for the sessions, too, he said.

"We've had a couple of Guard and Reserve units come through here who've lost a couple soldiers to IEDs. They say, 'Why didn't we get this training before we deployed?' and that's a good question," Pugh said.....

When you read in the NYT that the Embed Program is over, you are reading lies.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:14 AM

November 24, 2003

"uninhibited money bazaar" Moi?

My friend Frank sends:

I don�t know if you find this as irritating as I do, but the New York Times has become even more disingenuous than usual over recent developments in financing political campaigns. The Times agenda in this area has always been clear. With �freedom of the press� constitutionally protected, they would like to leverage that protection into becoming the dominant voice of political opinion going into elections. So naturally they support any �reforms� aimed at silencing speech that is privately funded. In today�s editorial they are bemoaning the �collapse of Watergate-era restraints on special-interest money in presidential politics� because candidates can opt out of publicly financed subsidies and �aim for prodigious amounts of private contributions to out spend competitors.�

What the Times will never acknowledge is that these private contributions are coming from individuals giving five or six hundred dollars each to their favorite candidate. What could be more democratic than this we wonder? But instead of celebrating democracy in action, the Times is deliberately falsifying the activity by giving the impression that these �prodigious contributions� come from special interests and are part of an �uninhibited money bazaar� and that the presidency will soon be determined by a �blank-check bidder�s war.�

Surely it�s just the opposite! I hope the Times� transparent attempt to achieve political monopoly is just as obvious to others.

If my little political contribution helps buy a Republican ad in the NYT, that's " special-interest money." If the NYT endorses the Democrat (they've never yet endorsed a Republican presidential candidate, by the way) that's not campaign spending, it's wise counsel from an august institution.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:15 PM

"He died serving his country"

Cori Duber notes:

...The President today went to Ft. Carson, a base that has sadly lost all too many troops in recent weeks. As is his habit he met privately with the families of the fallen. Are the troops themselves offended by his decision to do this, rather than attend individual funeral services? It will be interesting to see how the networks edit their soundbites, but Fox was careful to leave in a split second or two of tape after his sentences had ended, and let background noise play -- by which I mean, the thunderous roar of approving, cheering troops....
Here are a few words from his speech at Fort Carson, Colorado. (You can read it here)
....This community knows firsthand that the mission in Iraq is difficult and the enemy is dangerous....It is the nature of terrorism that a small number of people can inflict terrible grief. And here, you felt loss. Every person who dies in the line of duty leaves a family that lives in sorrow, and comrades who must go on without them. The Fort Carson community said farewell to some of your best. One of them was Staff Sergeant Daniel Bader. This good man left behind his wife, Tiffany, and their 14-month-old daughter. Tiffany Bader said this to a reporter recently, "I'm going to wait until she is old enough to realize what happened, and I will tell her exactly what her daddy did for her. He died serving his country so that my little girl could grow up free." (Applause.)....
THESE are Americans! And that's an AMERICAN President. And the mockers who have been attacking and vilifying and sabotaging our efforts and dreams 24/7 are just pond scum compared to them. Heck, I'm just pond scum compared to them...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:50 PM

"insufferably condescending"

Cori pointed me to a really good military blog, Iraq Now

.... Here's Robert Scheer, writing for the progressive/left magazine The Nation--continuing to cling to the tired comparison between Iraq and Viet Nam. "For me, there are two particularly symbolic victims, one from each war. They stand out for their parallel experiences, marked by tragedy and bravery before and after their experiences in battle. Ron Kovic and Jessica Lynch were both working-class kids vulnerable to the siren song of jingoism."Link.

See, this is why military voters overwhelmingly vote Republican. It's deeper than Bill Clinton 'loathing the military.' It's deeper than Clinton-era budget cuts.

The antipathy between the military and the media culture is bigger than politics. It reflects an immense, yawning cultural gap between military people and the culture of journalism. It's red-states vs. blue states. It's Manhattanites at the Newsweek editorial office blithely referring to heartland America as 'flyover country.'

Military voters vote Republican because even when the American left tries to be understanding and sympathetic towards veterans, they too often wind up being insufferably condescending instead. "Working class kids vulnerable to the siren song of jingoism?"


And this:
...I have recruited one of my evil henchmen (rubbing hands together in nefarious and sadistic glee) to procure a bunch of index cards. We will fill out each index card with the date and bumper number on the vehicle, and a note that says "when found, please return to 1LT Van Steenwyk."

Our plan is to steal into the motor pool, under cover of a cold and moonless night, go to each vehicle, and tape the cards to different places around the vehicle that the crews are supposed to check before leaving the gate.

Soon...SOOOON we shall see who has actually been checking the tightness of the belts, checking coolant levels, transmission oils, brake fluids, and generally doing things right.

Those drivers who return their cards to me within 48 hours--slack shall be cut for them. As for those who don't, they're doomed. DOOOOOMMMMED, I tell you!

(Shhhh...don't tell anyone!)....

Posted by John Weidner at 8:53 AM

November 23, 2003

Above all, dignity ....

Krugman speaks on the Bizarro book cover...

....Mr. Krugman, for his part, said he did not remember seeing the cover until prepublication copies were sent to reviewers. "I think it was intended to be ironic," he said.

The cover images of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney were borrowed from puppets carried by protesters outside the World Economic Forum in New York in 2002. Mr. Krugman said that he took part in the forum and does not share the protesters' views. He noted that his columns have defended free trade and argued that the administration's war in Iraq was not about oil.

"It is a marketing thing, not a statement," he said. "I should have taken a look at that and said, `What are you doing marketing me as if I am Michael Moore? This is silly.' "

Incivility is one thing, he said, but the book cover "may be undignified, which would be a reason to object."....

Is this goofy, or what? Undignified? He gives up the role of thoughtful and respected economist to become a ranting partisan hack, and then worries about being undignified?

Posted by John Weidner at 1:30 PM

November 22, 2003

Ya, we are ostriches...

From an article in Deutsche Welle, Kenya Rocket Attack: Is Europe Next?

....The Internet magazine reported last week on a secret Nov. 5 meeting between the U.S. Transportation Security Administration at which executives from 25 U.S. airlines were warned that al Qaeda might be planning to attack U.S. airlines shoulder-launched missiles.

There�s plenty of reason for caution, too. According to Jane�s, a leading military think tank and publisher, more than 27 terrorist groups possess shoulder-fired missiles. U.S. government reports paint an even grimmer picture: Since the 1970s, at least 42 aircraft have been struck by the missiles, killing at least 900 passengers.

Speaking at a meeting in Brussels, German Interior Minister Otto Schily sought to reassure Germans that the same thing isn�t likely to happen here. "Our airports are better guarded than airports in other parts of the world," he said. But he warned it would be impossible to provide protection for every civilian target in Germany....

Dream on, Fritz. Guarding an airport (and its vicinity) is soooo easy. Nice compact perimeter and all. And of course your planes never ever fly to any other country's airports. No. So you are safe. The War on Terror only concerns Jews and Americans.

What FOOLS these appeasers are. Danger is staring them in the face, and they think that pretending it isn't there will protect them.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:48 PM

Our Arab can beat your Arab...

Take a look at this good artcle in the Atlantic on General Abazaid:

....he had an understanding that the new graduates [of West Point, where Abazaid was Commandant] had to be more than just guys who could shoot rifles and maneuver. You were going to find a young lieutenant by himself as the mayor of a small town."

That is just what is now happening across Iraq. The problem, of course, is that General Abizaid cannot command a 130,000-strong army of occupation the way he led the cadets at West Point or his airborne brigade in war games at Fort Polk�by leaving his staff behind in order to be hands-on at the front. The irony of being a four-star general is that all your tremendous power must be wielded through others. Abizaid has spent three decades building the experience and the education that now underlie his plans for running Central Command, but he can be only as effective as the soldiers working for him on the ground. It is the young captains and lieutenants in their twenties�the generation brought up in the new military that Abizaid helped to create�whose day-to-day decisions will pacify, or provoke, the people of Iraq..

(via Brothers Judd)

Posted by John Weidner at 4:44 PM

"one of the most-wanted 55 is my neighbor's uncle"

It's interesting to see how Iraqi weblogs are slowly starting to emerge and join the conversation. I think it's another example of something we are re-learning: It takes a lot of time for life as we know it to start up again in what was a totalitarian police state. The yammering critics have (or pretend to have) absurdly unrealistic ideas about how quickly things can be expected to change. [Reason #87 why Leftists dislike the study of history]. This is a selection from a post by Omar, at Iraq the Model:

Here are some answers to questions sent to me by one of the readers, I feel these questions are important and worth answering them....

-About unemployment: yes before the war more Iraqis had jobs, very little of those jobs were making enough money to keep a family alive and each official employee had to find a second job to support his family (for instance I, a dentist had to open a grocery to pay for daily life expenses).
Surely I gave it up after liberation....

-About affording more consumer goods: here's a simple example, one of my relatives who's a high school principle had to sell his furniture piece by piece to support and educate his 5 kids, his house was nearly empty a year ago (no TV no fridge. no car no air conditioner) today 7 months after liberation he has all these stuff, still looking for a car though, and his kids are much more properly fed and dressed....

-About women safety: it's been months since ordinary life came back to the streets of Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, and women do walk completely safe through all Baghdad even at night, and they do not have to cover up except in the holly cities of shia (najaf&kerbala)while elsewhere especially Baghdad and the northern parts of Iraq the majority of women do not cover-up, and there's absolutely no one trying to force such an attitude, though the mullahs are still preaching in the mosques about this as they have been doing for decades....

-About Iraqi police: they have the authority to investigate, do arrests, enforce law and they do patrol all over Iraq unaccompanied by coalition forces and they're well armed and I haven't witness a single situation of authority abuse.
-About detained people: I can't tell the exact number, maybe some thousands, I can tell you they have contact with their families, for example: one of the most wanted 55 who is detained by the coalition is my neighbor's uncle and his family was allowed to contact him through the red-cross and supplied him with his needs....

Posted by John Weidner at 12:27 PM

Effervescent Universe ...

A friend sent a link to this slide show of the best Hubble Space Telescope pix.

Gorgeous stuff. Though I never see pictures of splendiferous nebulae and imploding dust-clouds without thinking of a certain science fiction book, where humanity discovers, too late, that the reason we've never detected any radio signals from other civilizations is because our galaxy is actually a very dangerous place, and that our first radio and television broadcasts have already triggered an attack by the bad guys--they are now approaching us at sub-light speed and our doom is already sealed....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:34 AM

November 21, 2003

#134: Hell hath no fury like a leftie scorned

P. Krugman

Wow! Hell hath no fury like a leftie scorned. In AARP Gone Astray (11/21/03) Paul Krugman goes after America's most noted advocacy group for retired people with a viciousness normally reserved for Dick Cheney and Halliburton. AARP, normally a pillar of Democratic congressional support, has jumped ship over Medicare expansion and the Krugster is highly pissed. With the cruelist cut imaginable, he accuses them of acting like a business!

Amazingly enough, we come down legislatively on the same side as Krugman. We, too, would like to see this entitlement expansion defeated. AARP has it exactly right when they say that this bill can be "fixed" later. What we have here is a classic case of getting the "camel's nose under the tent." Havoc always follows.

So why doesn't Krugman see it the same way? Partisan politics, of course. He doesn't want to see Bush get the credit for an entitlement expansion.

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

Posted by John Weidner at 9:08 AM

"His critics have yet to offer anything close to a competing vision"

This, in OpinionJournal, is dead on....

....In his Whitehall speech, Mr. Bush continued his recent (and welcome) effort to focus on the battle of ideas behind the war on terror. In this he echoed Prime Minister Tony Blair's words to the U.S. Congress in July: "Our ultimate weapon is not our guns but our beliefs." Mr. Bush's Administration--his Pentagon--has been more effective at killing and disrupting the terrorists than his State Department has been at promoting an alternative vision to the Mideast status quo.

Mr. Bush is now taking up the latter task himself, and without moral apology. "We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East," he told Britons. "Your nation and mine in the past have been willing to make a bargain: to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability." He added--in a direct rebuke to his critics in the old foreign policy establishments--that "it is not realism to suppose that one-fifth of humanity is unsuited to liberty; it is pessimism and condescension, and we should have none of it."

Many, including some of Mr. Bush's admirers, predicted his British trip would be a public-relations debacle. But with so much of the world watching the visit has proven instead to be a great opportunity to explain the moral purposes of what the President and Mr. Blair are attempting in Iraq. His critics have yet to offer anything close to a competing vision.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:31 AM

November 20, 2003

Shocking evidence of Conservative infiltration...

From Ith:

...My favourite columnist. Jonah Goldberg, is going to be interviewed for a documentary that will be on the RotK [Return of the King] DVD when it's released! How cool is that?

One of his Corner comments on it gave me a giggle:

If you're sitting there, fists clenched in rage around Frodo and Gandalf action figures wondering why I get to do this Lord of the Rings interview while you can recite the The Silmarillion from memory, I'm sorry. Apparently the documentary's producers liked my review of the first movie. You may be more qualified -- you know who you are -- but in this instance, "there can be only one!"

Oh, wait, that's from Highlander.....

When my Lord of the Rings-obsessed daughter Betsy reads this, Jonah will immediately become her favorite Conservative columnist! We catch Jonah on the KSFO Morning Show sometimes, and he's as good live as he is in print, so I'm sure he will be fun to see on the DVD

Posted by John Weidner at 7:05 PM

Says Lexington Green

....This process of "savage capitalism" is what the folks in Old Europe want to "protect" themselves from. That's fine. Suit yourself. Build yourself a cocoon, move into it, guarantee yourself a "right" to a cozy, trouble-free, event-free life. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger said, eighteen year old kids in Austria talk about their pensions, and he wanted more. Everyone with any gumption, globally, now hear this, straight from Lex: Get your ass to America, and we'll build the free and prosperous future here. The Old Europeans can park their beach chairs on the ash heap of history, look around at the rubble of the great things their ancestors did, think about the kids and grandkids they never had and will never have, grumble about how the Americans are cowboys, and wait for their pension checks.

It's been nice knowin' ya, folks. See you in the rear-view mirror.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 PM

Conglomerate gobbles up small producers ...

Jay Mainifold is going to be doing some blogging with the Chicagoboyz. Sounds like a good mix...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:43 PM

Interesting ...

A friend writes:

In reading Cryptonomicon I've experienced an interesting by-product that for me that is worth as much as the book itself. Here's the story.

When I saw an 1100 page book I said "no way." I've always been a slow reader. Then I started anyway because of your recommendation. After 3 weeks of reading a half hour or so at night I was up to 100 pages. Pitiful.

So, on a whim, I looked around the web for speed reading technology. I discovered Rocket Reader. It's reading software for kids. The first selection one must make in using it is to say if you are above or below 10 years old.
That aside, the technology is simple and sound. It's based on the fact that the eye moves in discreet jumps and sees only when it's still, between jumps. To read faster you need to take in more words when the eye is stationary. This is well known of course, but how to do it?

Rocket Reader uses a flash system in which word groups flicker on the computer screen for a 1/10 of a second and you have to respond by typing what you saw. Your progress (gold stars and bar charts) is based on your success rate. It begins with just two letter words and then moves up to groups of several words. I started with 10 min. sessions twice a day and within a week my reading speed doubled. After that progress slows down, but I think I am close to tripling.

Here's the really good part. You don't have to DO anything; or TRY to do anything. Just read normally and it's significantly faster. And it's only $60.00.

I've never tried this sort of thing because I'm lucky enough to be a naturally fast reader. What I wonder is, does the improved speed persist, or will it fade away after a while?

* My friend writes: I'm pretty sure we slow readers need to make Rocket Reader (or something comparable) a daily exercise. Otherwise we regress to normal. At least it's short (10 min.) and fun. And unlike pumping iron, say, the results are quick.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:36 PM

Odd ...

Donald Luskin pointed out this Grotesque book jacket for the British edition of Paul Krugman's The Great Unravelling. (With the joke being that Krugman himself was part of the Enron scandal, something a Brit might not be aware of). But if you go to, you see nothing of the sort....One wonders if that cover was a's hard to imagine even the most anti-American publisher going for something so tawdry.

* Here's more on the Cover flap. Apparently that really is the bookjacket. Unbelievable.

By the way, if your memory should need refreshing, Enron paid Krugman 50k a year to do essentially nothing. And, purely by coincidence, Krugman wrote glowing articles about Enron, of the "I've seen the future, and it works" variety. So he's just the guy to to harshly criticize supposed corruption in the Bush Administration...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:16 AM

November 19, 2003

When death was taking the air outside...

In a shelter one night, when death was taking the air
Outside, I saw her, seated apart�a child
Nursing her doll to one man's vision enisled
With radiance which might have shamed even death to its lair.

Then I thought of our Christmas roses at home�the dark
Lanterns comforting us a winter through
With the same dusky flush, the same bold spark
Of confidence, O sheltering child, as you.

Genius could never paint the maternal pose
More deftly than accident had roughed it there,
Setting amidst our terrors, against the glare
Of unshaded bulbs and whitewashed brick, that rose.

Instinct was hers, and an earthquake hour revealed it
In flesh�the meek-laid lashes, the glint in the eye
Defying wrath and reason, the arms that shielded
A plaster doll from an erupting sky.

No argument for living could long sustain
These ills: it needs a faithful eye, to have seen all
Love in the droop of a lash and tell it eternal
By one pure bead of its dew-dissolving chain.

Dear sheltering child, if again misgivings grieve me
That love is only a respite, an opal bloom
Upon our snow-set fields, come back to revive me
Cradling your spark through blizzard, drift and tomb.

-- C. Day Lewis

The Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) is an English plant that can bloom in the darkest months of the year...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:30 PM

Death of a true original...

I just read that Fritz Kraemer has died, at the age of 95. I thought instantly of Peter Drucker's book Adventures of a Bystander. (In fact there are many happenings that make me think of that book. I give it my very highest recommendation.)

Drucker has a chapter on Kraemer, who he met when they were young men in Frankfurt in the 1930's. It's entitled The Man who Invented Kissinger. The chapter-title is perfectly accurate, and you will just have to read the book yourself to discover the details...

...It was on one of those miserable days in early April [1929] with freezing winds and blinding rain squalls that I espied a kayak amid the ice floes on the Main River in the middle of the city of Frankfurt. In the little boat a cadaverous man, naked except for the scantiest of black bathing trunks and a monocle on a wide black ribbon, was furiously paddling upstream. And the stern of the fragile craft flew the black, white and red battle pennant of the defunct German Imperial Navy...

..The ultra-nationalists and the Nazis were for Kraemer pure scum, proletarian rabble, motivated by resentment at their own inferiority and by envy of their betters, all the more contemptible for covering their Jacobin lawlessness with the rags of nationalist and pseudo-conservative rhetoric. For Kraemer considered himself a genuine Conservative, a Prussian monarchist of the old pre-Bismarck, Lutheran, and Spartan persuasion...

...Many years later, during World War II, I had to explain again and again why Kraemer was not a Nazi and could not be a Nazi because he was a genuine conservative....the investigators came to me repeatedly, and went away shaking their heads....However romantic Kraemer's notion and behavior were�and he was, of course, very young in those years�the fact remains that all effective resistance to the Nazis came from the likes of him, from men and women who were old-fashioned pre-Bismarckian "Conservatives" or pre-Bismarckian Lutherans. The men who made the desperate attempt to kill Hitler in July 1944�Count Helmuth Moltke, Count Stauffenberg, and the former Lord Mayor of Leipzig, Dr Goerdeler�were "old-fashioned Prussian Conservatives"; and the leader of the Protestant resistance, Pastor Niemoeller, was an old-fashioned Prussian Lutheran monarchist and former submarine commander....

Posted by John Weidner at 3:00 PM

Putting a toe into the water...

I own a good many Makita tools. Yesterday I had a question about a replacement part, so I went to the Makita USA web site. It was a fascinating mixture of Information Age and Industrial Age.

One can easily download parts lists or manuals for each tool in PDF form. Great! Pure bliss. But there isn't a single e-mail address to be found! If you go to the "contact us" page, there's only a phone number. So, perforce, I called (I hate making phone calls) and I was put on hold, listening to the usual messages: "All our representitives are still busy. Please stay on the line..." And then after about 6 minutes, a different message:"...or if you'd like to leave a message, press "one" and we'll get back to you. Or you can e-mail us at"

Posted by John Weidner at 7:42 AM

November 18, 2003

a shower, clean clothes, pep-talk, a lot of coffee...

I just read some of the "letters to President Bush" in the Guardian. I couldn't read very far; the smug, flippant, condescending tone of most of them was just too irritating. This one is by the famous Blogger of Baghdad himself...

Dear George,

I hate to wake you up from that dream you are having, the one in which you are a superhero bringing democracy and freedom to underdeveloped, oppressed countries. But you really need to check things out in one of the countries you have recently bombed to freedom. Georgie, I am kind of worried that things are going a bit bad in Iraq and you don't seem to care that much. You might want it to appear as if things are going well and sign Iraq off as a job well done, but I am afraid this is not the case.

"Bombed to freedom?" You weren't bombed. You don't know jack about bombing! Try Googling "Daisy-Cutter." If we wanted to minimize our casualties, we could have worked you guys over for a couple of months. Dropped millions of pounds of bombs. Tikrik wouldn't even exist any more. But instead there was almost no preliminary bombing. We sent a hundred-thousand of our guys racing into Iraq on the first day of action to avoid the usual destruction of war.
Listen, habibi, it is not over yet. Let me explain this in simple terms. You have spilled a glass full of tomato juice on an already dirty carpet and now you have to clean up the whole room. Not all of the mess is your fault but you volunteered to clean it up. I bet if someone had explained it to you like that you would have been less hasty going on our Rambo-in-Baghdad trip.
YOU don't get it. What we are doing is not "cleaning up the mess." It's more like getting you into good enough shape to start cleaning up your own nasty mess. Sort of like taking in hand someone who's been on a drunken binge. Get 'em a shower, clean clothes, pep-talk, a lot of that maybe they can make it into work and not get fired. What you would call "cleaned-up" is just a starting-point for what we call a clean-up. The best day Iraq ever had is still squalor by our standards.
To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service. We are a bit disappointed. So would you please, pretty please, with sugar on top, get your act together and stop telling people you have Iraq all figured out when you are giving us the trial-and-error approach?
Actually, we are a bit disappointed in Iraq. Have been for, oh, well, quite a few centuries now...You have no idea how pathetic you sound, whining and sniveling because Uncle Sam isn't taking care of you.
Anyway, I hope this doesn't disturb you too much. Have a nice stay in London, wave hello to the demonstrators, and give my regards to your spin doctors. I bet they are having a hell of a job making you look good.

Salam Pax
The Baghdad Blogger

Is this jerk like, 16, or something? Didn't his parents teach him any manners? And where exactly was he when Saddam was murdering his countrymen by the hundreds-of-thousands? If he calls what was going on "an already dirty carpet," I'd guess he wasn't worrying too much about having his own tongue cut out or his own sister raped. Wonder why? Well, my sympathies are with those Iraqis who are sifting bones out of the sand, looking for their loved ones. NOT for smart-alec kids of the nomenklatura.

And what exactly is he doing to help his country? Not much I'd guess. Just looking down his nose at any poor grown-ups who are foolish enough to roll up their sleeves and try to fix things. If he were here he'd be a Democrat for sure.

What we've given you Iraqis, Mr Salam Pax, is not freedom. It's a chance to become free. Like teenagers wanting to leave home, you will be truly free only when you can take care of yourselves.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:57 PM

#133: this time we agree with Paul Krugman

P. Krugman

This is one of those rare occasions when we agree with Paul Krugman, except he did not go far enough in criticizing the Mutual Fund industry in Funds and Games (11/18/03). The cheaters in the mutual fund industry should be punished severely and, if the law allows it, go to jail. But the mutual fund problem in the US goes much deeper. These funds have been getting by with smoke and mirrors for years.

To put it simply, mutual funds are overpriced and don't deliver. Anyone who has seriously researched the problem (the academic financial literature is full of such studies) finds that mutual fund managers cannot consistently beat the broad market averages. They get by on aggressive marketing, brokerage kick backs that border on corruption, and exploiting the natural desire of investors to "beat the averages." In America no one wants to be average!

The answer, however, is simple and getting simpler. For years there have been inexpensive index funds that replicate the various market averages for investors. Fidelity and Vanguard are leaders in this area and have many no-load index funds. Just check their web sites. These funds are growing in popularity with both individual investors and institutions who are tired of getting ripped off by managers promising more than they can deliver.

Historically, there were valid criticisms of index funds for being too broad to be useful to those investors who wanted to focus on just certain industries or geographic regions or companies of a certain size (large cap, small cap, etc.). But now there are ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) which are bundles of individual stocks that trade as units. One example is SPDRs, or Standard and Poors' Depository Receipts. These are ETFs that replicate a variety of S&P indexes including the S&P 500 in its entirety, and also sector-specific SPDRs that carve up the S&P 500 into separate industry groups. For techies there are Qubes (QQQ) that do the same for the technology-laden Nasdaq-100. And this is just the beginning. There are ETFs on just oil services stocks, just transport stocks and just about any other sector that comes to mind. More can be read at Morningstar or Indexinvestor.

You can still lose money, of course. But the point is there are more and more alternatives now to the bullshitting, high-fee mutual fund manager. The recent scandals should accelerate the trend to these obvious alternatives.

[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 12:22 PM

November 17, 2003

Seen in OpinionJournal

....The truth is that, notwithstanding real differences, the two strains complement one another. Libertarians occasionally need reminding that the market requires virtues and a rule of law that it cannot itself create. Less well appreciated is that social conservatives likewise need the injection of optimism that comes from a market-based appreciation for what man might yet, even in his fallen state, accomplish for himself...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:31 PM

When he's hot, he's really hot ....

In the last couple of days I've read at least 3 different interesting quotes by George Will. I just realized they all come from this one column! Don't miss...

On May 24, 1945, just 16 days after V-E Day, Britain's socialists were sanguine. A Labor Party firebrand, Aneurin Bevan, anticipating the Labor victory that occurred five weeks later, said that privation would be a thing of the past, because essentials would soon be abundant: "This island is made mainly of coal and surrounded by fish. Only an organizing genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time."

But socialism rose to the challenge. Two years later, the coal industry having been nationalized and food still rationed, coal and fish were scarce. There are indeed some things that only government can do.

Which brings us to Howard Dean's decision....

Posted by John Weidner at 8:19 PM

"beyond the circle of light"

Belmont Club writes:

....How had Bin Laden gotten it so wrong? [thinking Americans were soft and wouldn't take casualties] He had not, insofar as what he saw. As a wealthy Saudi, he had read the American media, cultural elite and intelligensia with whom he was in contact perfectly, a reading which any Arab diplomatist on the Ivy-league and cocktail circuit would readily confirm. But he was ignorant of the America that lay beyond the circle of light, the frou-frou and clink of wine glasses; an America largely invisible but for those with eyes to see it.

There is in my drawer a letter from my nephew's Sunday School, soliciting contributions to support a class field trip to "our Nation's capital" -- not Washington, or D.C., or the Beltway -- but a far more imperishable city of dreams that will live as long as 12 year olds can look up at the Flag -- "our Nation's capital". And there is in that cheap blue paper and provincial phrasing the hint of something that would hound Osama Bin Laden and those like him into hell itself, had he but the wit to know it was there....

Not only did Osama and "the American media, cultural elite and intelligensia" both fail to see the part of the American iceberg that's below the water, they would probably, should they happen to mingle at the same cocktail party, be in perfect agreement in wishing it would just go away.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:29 PM

For Mac users ...

I just installed a very useful piece of OS-X freeware, XShelf. It fixes one of the little annoyances of the Mac OS (I have no idea if this is a problem in the rest of the world). That is, that the huge convenience of being able to drag-and-drop things is marred by by the nuisance of needing to have both the source and the destination in view on the screen. If I drag a file from folder A to folder B, both folders have to be visible at the same time.

XShelf provides a spot to park things until I'm ready to finish moving them. For instance, I frequently drag URL's out of web pages and into my TextEdit blog-post template. Now I can drag them onto the "shelf," (which only appears when you drag something to it) and let them sit there until needed. I just noticed it also works with pictures dragged off of web pages...

* I just read den Beste's long post on all the little "itches" and bothers he has in Windows. Well, using a Mac certainly has its own itches and frustrations, but nothing like his list.

And people complain because Apple seems to be coming out with annual updates to OS-X, and charging $129 for each one. But every one of those updates, among other things, gets has eliminated a bunch of small irritations. (And this time only added one�the mysterious disappearance of the Favorites menu...) I think all the OS-X updates have quickly paid for themselves in saved time and frustration.

* Andrew deprecates, in the comments, the Apple one-button mouse. It is indeed unsatisfactory, except for awkward beginners, who like the simplicity. But Macs can use other mice happily, and I myself could hardly imagine existence without my Logitech domestic rodent...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:36 AM

November 16, 2003

An aimless ramble?

By the way, I did finish Quicksilver. I skipped ahead a bit until it seemed more interesting to me.

I'd say it's a book well worth reading but not one I'm going to buttonhole people to recommend. For while it was an interesting journey, with many curious sights and adventures, I'm not at all sure where I've arrived. Of course it's but the first of three volumes, and not doubt the point will become clear soon enough....

I kept waiting for it to turn into a "historical novel," but it doesn't seem to fit the genre. For instance, Daniel Waterhouse, having drifted rather aimlessly through his life, is present at the death of Charles II, and the accession of James II. He is appalled that a Catholic has become King of England, and bestirs himself to do something about it. He becomes an important figure in the Glorious Revolution, the plot to bring the Protestant William of Orange and his wife Mary (daughter of James) to the throne. He is, in the book, the man who carries the famous letters from various English noblemen, inviting William to invade.

Now, in any ordinary historical novel, this would be the climax of the story! The point of it all! But once it becomes clear that William is coming in, Daniel seems to lose interest, and drifts along on the periphery of events. And the whole revolution passes off much too easily, and is obviously not what we have read 900 pages to get to. Anybody know where we are heading?

I liked this bit, which has the flavor of the time. Eliza has just encountered King Louis XIV:

"D'Avaux says you are good with money," the King said.

I say D'Avaux is good at flattering young ladies,' I answered.

"It is an error for you to feign modesty when you are talking to me," the King said, firmly but not angrily.

I saw my error. We use humility when we fear that someone will consider us a rival or a threat; and while this may be true of common or even noble men, it can never be true of le Roi and so to use humility in His Majesty's presence is to imply that the King shares the petty jealousies and insecurities of others...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:57 PM

Art in iraq...

The latest issue of Steve Mumford's Baghdad Journal features not his own art, but things he's encountered in the local Iraqi art scene. Very interesting stuff.

(Via Mark)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:18 PM

Weblogs as advertising

Here's an interesting example of a start-up business using a weblog as part of their web site. Good idea. It makes the web site more interesting, and more-or-less requires them to keep adding new stuff. And also to present themselves as real people, rather than as a glossy brochure. There's still a touch of the Industrial Age here, because there are no comments...and so the conversation is one-way.

There product, by the way, is an improved jewel-case for CD's. Very nice for people that have to use CD's to present work to clients..

(Via twocents)

Posted by John Weidner at 3:34 PM

November 15, 2003

A new sleuth, at last!

Charlene and I both recently enjoyed the mystery novel The Winter Queen, by Boris Akunin. Akunin has become a best-seller in Russia, and this is the first of a detective series set in Czarist times, this one in 1876. The hero, Erast Fandorin, is a young clerk hoping to make a career in the Moscow police.

But this is unlike any police novel you will read from the western world. It's strange and Russian, full of quirky comedy, sudden shifts of fortune and labyrinthine conspiracies reminiscent of Foucault's Pendulum. It starts with two students who have been alarming the city, wandering around playing "American Roulette." That is, carrying revolvers with one cartridge and attempting to shoot themselves. Eventually one succeeds. Here is an excerpt from his suicide note:

Gentlemen living after me!

Since you are reading this little letter of mine, I have already departed from you and gone on to learn the secret of death, which remains concealed from your eyes behind seven seals. I am free while you must carry on living in torment and fear. However, I wager that in the place where I am now and from where, as the Prince of Denmark expressed it, no traveller has yet returned, there is absolutely nothing at all. If anyone should not be in agreement, I respectfully suggest that he investigate for himself....

Highly recommended. Alas, though there are 10 books written about Erast Fandorin, the next one to be translated into English won't appear until next Spring.

I often feel that good mystery novels just aren't being written any more. What a treat to discover I'm wrong. Mostly I just re-read old favorites, though there have been two other good authors we've found in the last decade or so. Arturo Perez-Reverte (especially The Flanders Panel) and Iain Pears.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:18 PM

Don't stir up the peasants...

Glenn just linked to the letter from an American officer in Afghanistan. The picture of our soldiers lined up along a road in the rain, saluting as the funeral of three Romanian soldiers passed by was something I found very moving. And he writes:

..."I would like to make one more observation if I may. Since I have been in Afghanistan, I would say that, on average, I know of about one U.S. or coalition soldier getting killed every week. However, I see almost no news reports on these deaths - and my wife at home does not either. My point is that per capita (with 10 - 15k soldiers in country), we are taking as many, or more hits than Iraq, yet no press coverage. Given this fact, it seems to me that the mainstream media are controlling public opinion by which information they cover. The liberals have a difficult time saying they are against the war in Afghanistan, but can oppose Iraq because the decision to attack wasn't as clearly obvious - thus only report the bad stuff in Iraq - at least this is my take....
That's exactly what's happening. They don't want to talk about Afghanistan for precisely the same reason that they don't want to talk about or remind us of this:


Posted by John Weidner at 12:30 PM

Damned if you do, and damned if you don't ...

From a good post by Cori Dauber:

....But these arguments are getting sillier and sillier. Here the President is criticized for not meeting with the families of the fallen "at least when there might be a camera around." Talk about not being able to win. His decision to meet with these families whenever he is at a military base privately so that he cannot be accused of doing so for political gain has now been turned against him: it is a way of "hiding" the costs of war. But if he met with these families publicly, then he would be accused of being compassionate only for the cameras, of capitalizing on the situation, of politicizing grief...

I was very unhappy (which is why I'm boring you with the subject again) when the accusation surfaced that President Bush was not attending soldier's funerals from a cynical desire to downplay war losses. I've been following Bush with deep attention, reading especially any accounts by people who actually know him. And I would have sworn that Bush would not act in any dishonorable way concerning our war dead. Was I going to have to revise all my opinions?

So I was very pleased when I was able to post this, back on Nov 2, quoting Cori Dauber utterly demolishing the criticism. Cori told me in an e-mail that she teaches "...the role of rhetoric, ritual, and the presidency." So she knows what she's talking about! She notes also that what the critics are really asking is that the President and the Administration symbolically apologize for the war. That would be a terrible mistake, and is exactly why Presidents never go to soldier's funerals. (And reminds me why conservatives are skeptical when theorist-types want to blithely toss out old customs.)

Cori has just posted here some confirming history. There have been very few exceptions, usually in cases where the President knew the person who was killed.

....All other exceptions fit in the category I keep mentioning where there are large losses taken in a single event, where the President symbolically stands in for the American people and becomes our representative to a moment of collective loss as, for example, he did at the memorial for the Shuttle astronauts or President Clinton did, as mentioned here, for the Memorial after Oklahoma City. He is then, not representing himself as Commander in Chief but becomes, literally, Mourner in Chief, not what the critics are asking of this President right now.

But I have a feeling this is not going to slow the criticism down any.

It won't slow the criticism down, because it is dishonest criticism. It is designed to undercut the President for partisan advantage, even to the point of damaging our war effort. If a Democrat were in the White House we wouldn't hear any of this.

And i've been glad to hear that the President has been meeting privately with families of the fallen. He isn't ducking the pain of the war, nor using it to gain popularity points. Exactly what I would have expected from him.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:36 AM

November 14, 2003

Untold stories ...

Take a look at this article on the fight for Objective Curly. It's titled Meet Capt. Harry Hornbuckle

"When American troops were attacked on April 7 on a road to Baghdad, a battle broke out at a dot on the map Army commanders called 'Objective Curly.' Eighty U.S. soldiers, expecting little resistance, were met by 300 well-armed Iraqi and Syrian fighters. Grenades and bullets flew for eight hours. The U.S. counterattack killed an estimated 200 enemy fighters, according to the commanding officer who oversaw the battle. The American team had never trained or fought together, but all its men got out alive. The team was headed by Capt. Harry Alexander Hornbuckle, a 29-year-old staff officer who had never been in combat before.....

...."He ordered his team to encircle the cloverleaf to repel an assault from any direction. There were 22 vehicles in all -- five Bradleys, four armored Humvees, four mortar-firing vehicles and three ambulances. 'Wow, that was easy,' Capt. Hornbuckle recalls thinking during the first 30 seconds of silence. Then came chaos: bullets pinging off trucks, grenades kicking up clouds of dirt and concrete, and, he says, noise louder than anything he imagined possible. The Fedayeen were firing rocket-propelled grenades from nearby buildings and driving pickup trucks with machine guns mounted at the back.

"The biggest threat came from just beyond the circle of U.S. troops: The enemy soldiers had dug trenches under the highway overpass. The men in the trenches seemed invisible, and they were shooting at close range, Capt. Hornbuckle says. 'It was like we kicked over an anthill.' Air support was out of the question. Any attempt to bomb the enemy from the sky would kill American soldiers, too. There would be no help from the forces at Larry and Moe, because they too were under heavy attack. This battle would be fought on the ground, the old-fashioned way, with guns, grenades and mortars....

Posted by John Weidner at 6:54 PM

#132: Greeks + gifts =

P. Krugman

Medicare expansion is a long standing dream-issue for the US left. They can exploit the health concerns of the elderly with impossible promises and reap a treasure trove of votes in return. The Kennedy wing of the Democratic Party has been doing this for years. But in
The Trojan Horse (11/14/03) Paul Krugman complains that this dream is under threat by a group of house Republicans who, with uncharacteristic backbone, are insisting on injecting a modicum of market competition into the system. The idea that people might shop for health care and insurance in ways similar to cars and appliances would in Krugman's words "force Medicare to compete with private insurers" and "seems intended to undermine the whole system."

Let's hope he's right! Here's a good way to think about it. Leaving aside those who are victims of premature death, the rest of us will grow old, become ill and in need of medical care and then die at some point. Those are facts. However, the medical expense of postponing the inevitable is potentially unlimited. If extravagant promises are made to provide these medical services below cost, overconsumption will result and the volume of unnecessary tests, procedures and drug prescriptions quickly reaches the breaking point. The usual result of all this is to vilify service providers and drug companies, impose price controls and suffer long delays in dispensing medical services. Think Canada or the U.K. None of this is a problem to the Kennedys or the Krugmans of the world since the population receiving such ill treatment soon dies off and the system, in effect, buries�literally buries�its own mistakes and inefficiencies. They then move on to the next oldest living cohort of elderly and begin the scare game all over again.

So what's wrong with setting up a system in which people can take responsibility for their own health care as they do other basic needs, with a safety net for those who can't? Krugman spots HIS problem right away. It's what economists call "adverse selection." If a one-size-fits-all government health insurance system competes along side a private system, those whose health risks are greater than the standard price of the government plan will choose the government plan. Those with lower health risks do better in a private plan that can be tailored to their circumstances. It's no different than a life insurance company requiring physicals to set rates or charging higher premiums to older customers or an automobile insurer rejecting those with convictions of driving while drunk.

We all know elderly people who have good health regimes of diet and exercise. We also know some who smoke, are 100 lbs. overweight and never exercise. Guess which ones will end up in the government plan needing hip or knee replacements and will wait several months for the service? That's adverse selection.

Frankly, we see nothing wrong with such a two tier system even if it does seem a little cynical. But if cynicism is an issue consider Krugman's position. What has him upset comes down to nothing more or less that votes. It's hard to scare people who have incentives to take care of themselves and have used those incentives to provide for their own health insurance. Nothing scares a leftie like self-reliance.

[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 4:16 PM

November 12, 2003

An old friend encountered ...

When I was about 9 or 10, this poem seemed to me like the ultimate in literary achievement...(by Don Blanding, 1929)

When I have a house . . . as I sometime may . . .
I'll suit my fancy in every way.
I'll fill it with things that have caught my eye
In drifting from Iceland to Molokai.
It won't be correct, or in period style
But . . . oh, I've thought for a long long while
Of all the corners and all the nooks,
Of all the bookshelves and all the books,
The great big table, the deep soft chairs,
And the Chinese rug at the foot of the stairs,
(it's an old, old rug from far Chow Wan
that a Chinese princess once walked on)....
It's a long poem, listing all the exotic treasures the vagabond has found in "ruined temples in Peru," etc.� I won't bore you with all of it. (You can read it here.) But just a bit more...
The beams of my house will be fragrant wood
that once in a teeming jungle stood
As a proud tall tree where the leopards couched
and the parrot screamed and the black men crouched.
The roof must have a rakish dip
To shadowing caves where the rain can drip
In a damp persistent tuneful way;
It's a cheerful sound on a gloomy day.
And I want a shingle loose somewhere
To wail like a banshee in despair
When the wind is high and the storm gods race
And I am snug by my fireplace....
I could rarely bring myself to read the ending of the poem, where the vagabond, having, in his imagination, built his wondrous house, also imagines himself caught once again by the wanderlust, abandoning his house to the mice and spiders, "...While I follow the sun, while I drift and roam To the ends of the earth like a chip on the stream..."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:51 PM

When you seek it, you cannot find it ...

From Roger Simon:

....One of the more salient rhymes in Dulles' [1945] memo is the complaint "Yikes! We have no plan!" In fact, I'd say that's more than a rhyme. That's an exact repeat. And yet it worked out. Why? I'm going to be corny here and embarrass my sixties self but the reason is simple: we kept our core value of democracy while staying the course. I don't think it is possible to have a "plan" in a situation like this. (I think even the Democratic candidates must know that, but to admit it is tactically difficult for them.) Instead of a plan, what is necessary is a more Zen-like ability to react to a shifting reality that will remain fluid for some time. Leadership will come through explaining what is happening to the public and why. For a while, I worried that Bush wasn't up to this. But his recent speech was a definite step in the right direction.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:14 AM

November 11, 2003

Constitution trampled on ...

It's always nice to get some reassuring little sign or indicator, that says we are on the right track. So I was charmed to find that Leftists are appalled that not only has Iraq been torn from the benevolent care of a leader who received 100% of the vote, but that it now is being fed into the rapacious maw of Capitalism! And in defiance of International Law!

....The Hague Regulations state that an occupying power must respect "unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country." The Coalition Provisional Authority has shredded that simple rule with gleeful defiance. Iraq's Constitution outlaws the privatization of key state assets, and it bars foreigners from owning Iraqi firms. No plausible argument can be made that the CPA was "absolutely prevented" from respecting those laws, and yet two months ago, the CPA overturned them unilaterally.

On September 19, Bremer enacted the now-infamous Order 39. It announced that 200 Iraqi state companies would be privatized; decreed that foreign firms can retain 100 percent ownership of Iraqi banks, mines and factories; and allowed these firms to move 100 percent of their profits out of Iraq. The Economist declared the new rules a "capitalist dream."....

This is from an article in the Nation. It includes the usual baloney, suggesting that Iraq will be owned by Bechtel and Halliburton (who are actually, in the field of International Capitalism, hardly players at all, and not in the habit of buying "banks, mines and factories"). And assuming somehow that Iraq already has "foreign corporations controlling its essential services." (Wow, that was fast!) And assuming that privatization and foreign investment will benefit us, but not Iraq. But it's the legal aspect that tickles me.

How I love to see those "International Law" phonies extolling Saddam's laws and Constitution! Go for it! build a case. I know nothing about that Constitution, but here's the very first thing that came up when I Googled it:

The ICL Edition of the 1990 Constitution did not include the most recent changes of Sep 1995 preparing the popular confirmation of Saddam Hussein as president.� It has been used by the Hussein government as a ruling constitution even though the "referendum" of 15 Oct 1995 only indirectly concerned the constitution - it was a vote to establish Saddam Hussein as president.� The constitutional referendum originally planned for the early 1990s could not take place due to the state of war....�
Such is the venerable, the musty, the ancient, the beloved and time-hallowed document upon which our friends on the Left are pinning hopes of opposing the Americans. So shocking! We are violating Saddam's Constitution!

Posted by John Weidner at 6:54 PM

#131: The Krugman way to correct an error...

P. Krugman

Turning silk purses into sows' ears must be tough work. But for whatever reason, Paul Krugman took a break from his recent attempts to mug the US economy (the same economy that grew 7.2 percent in the 3rd quarter and has produced a quarter million jobs recently) and turned his attention back to the war in Iraq with Support the Troops (11/11/03). The result was one, long howler. Imagine, after eight years of military neglect by the Clinton administration and after two-thirds of elected Democrats opposed the recent funding for troop support and rebuilding in Iraq, Krugman has the audacity to criticize the Bush administration for being too cheap with military spending. Who does he think he's kidding?

The main story, however, occurs near the end of the column when he revisits another of his recent muggings�that of Congressman George Nethercutt. As we pointed out in Squad report #129, Krugman, in quoting Nethercutt, left out the final 5 words of his statement which changed its meaning entirely. Here's how Krugman tries to correct that:

Some say that Representative George Nethercutt's remark that progress in Iraq is a more important story than deaths of American soldiers was redeemed by his postscript, "which, heaven forbid, is awful." Your call.
First of all, these words were not a postscribt; they were part of a complete sentence. Second, the issue is not whether you think Nethercutt is "redeemed" by those 5 words, but whether you have the journalistic integrity to include them in the first place. Did we use "Krugman" and "integrity" in the same sentence? That's a howler in itself.

[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 7:29 AM

November 10, 2003

Powerful stuff ...

Veterans Day is a good time to read about what our soldiers are doing and enduring in the War on Terror. I strongly recommend this piece from USA Today, a profile of Alpha Company, 2 Battalion, 8th Infantry. Part of 4th Division, serving just North of Baghdad, in some of the worst of what's going on (thanks to Bill Hobbs)...

...Summer was the worst. Temperatures were so intense that in a two-day period in August, 60 soldiers in 2nd Battalion suffered heat exhaustion and had to be revived by intravenous fluids. Men shoved pistols too hot to touch under vest armor where their body temperatures cooled the weapons. Every morning, GIs awoke soaked in sweat. "I honestly didn't think human beings could live in 140-degree heat," says the battalion surgeon, Lt. Col. William Smith, 53, of Murray, Ky.

Diarrhea and gastroenteritis took their toll, as did swarms of sand flies � maddening little hoppers that descend on an ankle or arm, creating a rippled harvest of hard, itchy bumps. In the worst cases, they spawn ulcerated sores impervious to antibiotics. Troops have taken to strapping on Hartz flea collars, received in care packages from home, to their ankles....

If one of our guys gets killed, You can bet you will hear about it in the news. But our major media don't want you to suffer brain-fever due to an overload of facts, so some unimportant details are left out. Such as that we are killing lots of the bad guys...
....And there was dealing with the slain enemy. Alpha has killed 47 insurgents in raids and ambush counter-attacks. Then the soldiers collected the bodies, loaded them into the back of the first sergeant's Humvee and transported them to the local police station. This was not a task taught at Fort Hood. "At first it was a shock," says Oquendo, "You never see that in the States. You don't know how powerful the weapon that you have is, the amount of damage it can do to a body, until you see that."

In six months, the learning curve for these GIs has been dramatic. Their quick and overwhelming counter-fire in the face of ambushes has, their officers believe, quelled direct assaults by the enemy, causing insurgents to rely more on roadside-detonated bombs. The battalion lost its first soldier to an RPG attack in October....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:30 PM

Advance! Spare not!

Don't miss Dave Trowbridge bending nature to his will with his tractor....

Ye rigid ploughmen! Bear in mind
Your labour is for future hours.
Advance! Spare not! Nor look behind!
Plough deep and straight with all your powers!
-- Richard Henry "Hengist" Horne

Posted by John Weidner at 8:02 PM

Macaulay On Freedom...

I borrowed this quote from Dr. Weevil:

From the essay on Milton (1843):
Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition, that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water till he had learnt to swim. If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in slavery, they may indeed wait for ever.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:48 PM

When Adam Smith met Dr. Samuel Johnson

I read this anectdote ages ago. Just now it occurred to me that I could Google it and find it again...

Mr. BOSWELL has chosen to omit, for reasons which will be presently obvious, that Johnson and Adam Smith met at Glasgow; but I have been assured by Professor John Miller that they did so, and that Smith, leaving the party in which he had met Johnson, happened to come to another company where Miller was. Knowing that Smith had been in Johnson's society, they were anxious to know what had passed, and the more so as Dr. Smith's temper seemed much ruffled.

At first Smith would only answer, 'He's a brute—he's a brute;' but on closer examination, it appeared that Johnson no sooner saw Smith than he attacked him for some point of his famous letter on the death of Hume. Smith vindicated the truth of his statement.

'What did Johnson say?' was the universal inquiry. '

Why, he said,' replied Smith, with the deepest impression of resentment, 'he said, you lie!'

'And what did you reply?'

'I said, you are the son of a ��.'

On such terms did these two great moralists meet and part, and such was the classical dialogue between two great teachers of philosophy.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:08 AM

November 8, 2003


In an excellent article, Steven Kelman, in the WaPo, utterly demolishes the insinuations of Democrats about "Crony Capitalism:"

....One would be hard-pressed to discover anyone with a working knowledge of how federal contracts are awarded -- whether a career civil servant working on procurement or an independent academic expert -- who doesn't regard these allegations as being somewhere between highly improbable and utterly absurd. The premise of the accusations is completely contrary to the way government contracting works, both in theory and in practice.....

....Having served as a senior procurement policymaker in the Clinton administration, I found these charges (for which no direct evidence has been provided) implausible....

...The whiff of scandal manufactured around contracting for Iraq obviously has been part of the political battle against the administration's policies there (by the way, I count myself as rather unsympathetic to these policies). But this political campaign has created extensive collateral damage. It undermines public trust in public institutions, for reasons that have no basis in fact. It insults the career civil servants who run our procurement system.

Perhaps most tragically, it could cause mismanagement of the procurement system. Over the past decade we have tried to make procurement more oriented toward delivering mission results for agencies and taxpayers, rather than focusing on compliance with detailed bureaucratic process requirements. The charges of Iraq cronyism encourage the system to revert to wasting time, energy and people on redundant, unnecessary rules to document the nonexistence of a nonproblem. [my emphasis]

Charlene and I subscribe to Forbes, and we often pick up the Wall Street Journal. I've surely read millions of words about American business. Words written for people on the inside, and usually quite cold-blooded and clear-eyed about how money is made. And I don't remember ever reading of companies expecting to get government contracts through cronies, or campaign contributions. (Other benefits, yes. But not contracts.) And I don't remember ever hearing any suggestion that government contracts were "easy money."

What the Democrats are doing is very wrong. It undermines the trust that holds society together. Millions of people are going to absorb a vague conviction of corruption and crime where none exists. Cynicism and mistrust will be increased. It will become a subset of the widespread fuzzy belief that "the corporations" (or 'the politicians" or "the bureaucrats") are nefarious secret societies, rather than ordinary people mostly trying to do their best.

I just have to quote again the quote I used here, because it's such a nice example of how things really work:

...The Clinton administration made the same calculation in its own dealings with Halliburton. The company had won the LOGCAP in 1992, then lost it in 1997. The Clinton administration nonetheless awarded a no-bid contract to Halliburton to continue its work in the Balkans supporting the U.S. peacekeeping mission there because it made little sense to change midstream. According to Byron York, Al Gore's reinventing-government panel even singled out Halliburton for praise for its military logistics work...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:23 PM

Interview with Rand...

Phil Bowermaster has a very interesting Interview with Rand Simberg If you read Rand regularly, you've already heard this, but it's nicely compacted here.:

....As is often the case, the conventional wisdom is not particularly wise. I think that they've got things on their head. Launch costs are high, and vehicles unreliable, not because we lack technology, but because we lack markets. We do so little spaceflight that we haven't learned how to do it well, and we don't have any economies of scale. The only obvious large market, that doesn't require other major technological advances (e.g., solar power satellites, Helium 3 fusion), is people who want to go and will pay for the service.

Those payloads are already built, the payload interface is very simple and straightforward (keester and seat) and there are many more being manufactured every day, with unskilled labor. Because the world is growing wealthier, with socialism being replaced by freedom in many places, and adventure travel as an industry is already large and growing, looking to history as a guide to the future is in this case mistaken....

We know slightly (friends of friends) a couple of guys who deal in really high-end antiques. And we get to hear the most astonishing stories. of people pointing at pieces that cost hundreds-of-thousands of dollars, and lightly saying, "I'll take that, that, that...and that."

There's a lot more money waiting to be spent than most of us realize. Imagine what's going to happen when various rich people are all primed to mention casually the new yacht they are having built, or the Manet they picked up for a song....and instead they find themselves forming the audience while their friend describes the view from 100 miles high?

Space tourism is going to explode someday soon.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:27 AM

November 7, 2003

#130: Paul Krugman knows even less about Southern politics than Howard Dean...

P. Krugman

[This post slightly revised 11-9]
The main thing we learn from Flags Versus Dollars (11/07/03) is that Paul Krugman knows even less about southern politics than Howard Dean. At least HoDe broadened somewhat his stereotypical view of southern voters by throwing in guns and gays as hot button issues down in Dixie. But to Krugman the Southerner is just a primitive subject in a reward-based learning experiment�sort of like a lab rat choosing which tunnel to run down to get the goodies. As he sees it, the southern "choice" is between racist symbols and federal dollars. He then recounts all the evidence as to why the South seems to always run down the wrong tunnel, i.e., vote against what HE considers their best interests. He did this before in True Blue Americans (05/07/02) in which he calculated how much more Bush red states get back in federal dollars than they pay in. This time he's calculated how much more the Gore blue states got in tax-cut dollars than the poorer red states. Either way the South could improve their "cash flow" by voting for the Democrats.

Krugman's frustration with the South's voting pattern might be paraphrased this way:

How can you Crackers keep voting Republican after all we've done for you the last 70 years? Don't you know you're biting the hand that feeds you!
The "hand" he's referring to, of course, is the New Deal social welfare entitlements system that is the crowning achievement of 20th century liberalism. But in the South, as in much of the rest of the country, they've caught onto the long run consequences of all these New Deal programs and are rebelling against them despite the favorable cash flow of federal dollars. These consequences include the creation of a self-perpetuating dependent class, the destruction of the family unit by a dysfunctional welfare system, the collapse of the public education under the weight of Democratic sponsored teachers' unions, and a tax code that penalizes success, especially in new businesses.

As one small example, even the heavily southern Congressional Black Caucus (20 out of 36 members) overwhelmingly favors ending the estate tax. To Krugman's chagrin it looks like these folks want to get ahead too.

Meanwhile, the leading Democratic presidential candidates don't get it either. In addition to Confederate flags they still see the South in terms of shotguns and pickup trucks. The clips of John Kerry dressed in a freshly bought hunting jacket holding a dead pheasant (to keep up with Dean in the hunt for the pro-gun vote) was too rich for words.

We'll say it again. It's going to be a Bush blowout and Krugman and the Dems don't even understand their predicament.

[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 saw a great line by Senator Zell Miller of Georgia. He said something like "Howard Dean knows as much about the South as a hog knows about Sunday!" --JW]

Posted by John Weidner at 3:40 PM

The power of ideas...

Ronald Reagan was a internationalist hawk who believed in the power of ideas. He was a pro-lifer. He was, well, Reagan. He was the first Republican President from the ranks of Goldwater conservatism. Back then, the Goldwaterites were still the insurgents and so he made a marriage of convenience with George H. W. Bush, the standard-bearer of classic blue blazer Republicanism, picking him as his VP. But it is now clear that Bush's own son takes far more after his father's old boss than he does his own father, at least politically speaking. From tax cuts (and deficits, alas), to his personal conviction on abortion, to aligning America with the historical tide of liberty in the world, George W. Bush has proved that he's a Reaganite, not a "Bushie." He may not be a natural heir to Reagan, but that's the point. The party is all Reaganite now. What better sign that this is now truly and totally the Gipper's Party than the obvious conversion of George Bush's own son?
--Jonah Goldberg
"The historical tide of liberty in the world." I love that. No wonder they hate us Republicans. "You can't outrun the history train," baby.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:50 AM

November 6, 2003

"We took a vow that we would not speak badly..."

It's an ancient American tradition that an ex-President does not criticize or undercut the President. For example, Eisenhower publicly supported Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs debacle (though privately he gave him hell for it.)

That's the sort of behavior that you needn't look for from Bill Clinton. (Or his Administration. The thought of a former Secretary of State going to a foreign country and basking in applause after savaging our country's leaders makes me want to puke.)

So I found this interview with Barbara Bush very pleasing:

HANNITY: [Radio host Sean Hannity] I've watched your husband from a distance and I'm sure during those eight years while the Clintons were in office that there were times he was very tempted to come out and say something. But he pretty much remained quiet.

MRS. BUSH: And he should have.

HANNITY; Well, and even your son. The worst that he ever said about the Clintons was "We're going to restore honor and dignity to the White House." But yet Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton are out there almost daily as monitors of almost every single decision that your son is making.

MRS. BUSH: Well.

HANNITY: What do you make of that?

MRS. BUSH: I can't say. We took a vow that we would not speak badly. But that's just - that's just too bad. And it's, well ...

I would praise this, but it would be impertinent to do so. One expects Christian gentlemen and gentlewomen to act properly.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:10 PM

It is the practice of democracy that makes a nation ready for democracy...

President Bush's speech today at the National Endowment of Democracy is well worth reading. One bit I liked:

....Time after time, observers have questioned whether this country or that people or this group are ready for democracy, as if freedom were a prize you win from meeting our own Western standards of progress.

In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress. It teaches cooperation, the free exchange of ideas, peaceful resolution of differences.

As men and women are showing from Bangladesh to Botswana to Mongolia, it is the practice of democracy that makes a nation ready for democracy and every nation can start on this path....

Bush gets it. Self-government is something you learn by doing, and making mistakes. It doesn't come from achieving some critical mass of intellectuals in tweed jackets. In fact having too many intellectuals is dangerous.

Most likely it IS necessary to have a critical mass of the more-or-less Middle Class. Or at least Middle Class in outlook; one of the strengths of America is that many of our have-nots don't think of themselves as being in conflict with the haves! They suspect it's possible to become 'haves' themselves. This is maddening and frustrating to leftist demagogues...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:28 PM

Worker Bees in the "People's Hive." That's what they want us to be...

This has got to be the best comment on Kim du Toit's essay:

...Men are angry, and they have a right to be. But women aren't the enemy.

The same forces that want to take toy guns away from boys want to take Barbies away from girls. The same people who want to emasculate men are trying to defeminize women.

I am the only woman in my office. When the guys go to play golf with a business prospect, I am happy to stay behind and run the office. I don't want to learn to play golf. When my customers call me "sweetie" on the phone, I flirt back instead of biting their heads off. I wear flowery dresses instead of adopting the polo shirt and dockers wardrobe that the men wear.

The people who are trying to criminalize masculinity would denounce me as a traitor to the cause.

It's not the pussification of men. It's the androgenization of men and women. It isn't the Battle of the Sexes. It's a battle of ideologies. Not left vs. right or Dems vs. Pubs, but Socialism vs. Individual Responsibility. And there are women, and men, on both sides of the divide....

Posted by John Weidner at 8:42 AM

November 5, 2003

From the ground up...

If you are one of the people who thinks we should have kept Saddam's army intact, read this, by Walter Slocombe, Director for National Security and Defense in the CPA.

He has a lot of good reasons why we didn't. Here's one crazy fact I didn't know:

...Thus any recalled "army" would have consisted almost entirely of officers from the absurdly top-heavy senior ranks. The Iraqi army -- with a payroll of 500,000, almost exactly the size of the American Army -- had 11,000 generals (the United States has 307) and 14,000 colonels (the United States has 3,500).
Of course, the main reason is that we want Iraq to have a very different sort of army. Not an Arab "coup army," but a real army. And that means rebuilding from the ground up.
....All this does not mean we should spurn the many individual Iraqi veterans willing to serve the new Iraq. On the contrary, they have been welcomed and even actively recruited. About 60 percent of the privates in the New Iraqi Army, and virtually all the officers and NCOs, have military experience. Other new security forces, such as the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the Facilities Protection Service, have taken in many thousands of former soldiers. Only those who served in Hussein's inner circles of security and control forces, or who reached the top four ranks of the Baath Party (about 8,000 out of nearly a quarter-million officers and NCOs in the old army) are ineligible to join the New Iraqi Army and other security forces. Although we have not so far recruited officers whose former rank was above lieutenant colonel, that is because we have not yet needed more senior ranks. As the army (and other security forces) grow, higher-ranking officers with clean records will be considered, along with potential promotions from the new organizations...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:48 AM

November 4, 2003

The enemy of my enemy is my friend ...

Josh Marshall writes

...Watching Paul Bremer today on CNN I was struck by his use of language like �enemies of freedom� and terrorists to describe the people we�re fighting in the country (these are from my recollection, the precise phrases may be different.) People who kill soldiers are not, at least not by definition, �terrorists�. They�re guerillas or insurgents. This isn�t a matter of cutting them slack, but one of precision. And precision is required to know what we�re doing, what we�re trying to do, and how we can get from clarifying what our goals are to finding effective means to pursue their implementation.

This is part of what Orwell was getting at in �Politics and the English Language� when he lamented that �political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.�...

What utter Bolshoi. If they were trying to attack only soldiers, this might be true. But they are also deliberately targeting civilians, and civilian infrastructure. And the attacks are gauged to cause terror and paralysis, rather than to advance any identifiable military operation. That's terrorism.

It is extremely mendacious for Marshall to bring in Orwell at the very moment he is trying to muddy these issues! There is nothing "euphemistic" or "cloudy" or "vague" in what Bremer said. The terrorists are "enemies of freedom." That's exactly what they are. Even a scoundrel like Marshall can't possibly argue that they are anything else. [Sure he can. They're for "People's Islamic Socialist Freedom." That makes them "Freedom Fighters." They will soon adopt some identifying badge or scarf, which will become popular in Berkeley -- I.C.]

Even if the attackers are not "enemies of freedom," there's nothing vague or euphemistic about that description. Bremer's statements are always clear and forthright. Orwell would have approved. Their very clarity makes it possible to dispute them with logic, but Marshall isn't interested in that.

* Scoundrel? Such name-calling doesn't seem like the Random Jottings we know and love --I.C. You're probably right. But this guy Marshall really irritates me. I never read him without seeing something that looks like lies dished-up with consummate subtlety and skill. He is a person of great gifts, and uses them wrongly.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:30 PM

#129: We didn't think he could sink any lower, but...

P. Krugman

In This Can't Go On (11/04/03) Paul Krugman quotes the great Herb Stein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under Richard Nixon, for what is known as Stein's Law: "Things that can't go on forever, don't." We would make this addendum: "People who can't sink any lower ethically, do." This addendum applies to Krugman himself and he is in an ethical free fall.

He dredged up the Congressman George Nethercutt vs. the Seattle Post-Intelligencer set-to, a sad event in journalism, which has been blogged endlessly as an example of media bias and irresponsibility. Andrew Sullivan covered this best so we will quote him before turning to Krugman.

"DOWD AWARD NOMINEE: This one goes to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for deliberately mangling a quote from Congressman George Nethercutt. He'd just returned from a tour of Iraq and, like so many others, reported a much more optimistic scenario than many in the media have been reporting. He gave a talk in which he said, "So the story is better than we might be led to believe � I'm � just � indicting the news people � but it's a bigger and better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day which, which, heaven forbid, is awful."

The Seattle P-I chopped off the quote so that it said in its subhead: "It's a better ... story than losing a couple of soldiers every day." They added in their own words: "He added that he did not want any more soldiers to be killed." But that is not an accurate rendition of the full quote. It's a device to protect themselves in what is clearly a hit-job. Nethercutt complained, "I requested that the Post-Intelligencer correct the record. They refused. And they even refused to at least run my full quote. But the P-I didn't stop there. They then wrote an editorial condemning me, repeated the quote they had deliberately distorted, and put my 'quote' next to the name of one of our fallen soldiers. To do so was completely heartless."

So what does Krugman do, with full knowledge and malice of forethought? The same damn thing! Except he didn't even add the mollifying phrase used by the Seattle P-I to acknowledge that Nethercutt did not actually "want any more soldiers to be killed."
"Some Americans may share the views of the Republican congressman who said that progress in Iraq was "a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day." (Support the troops!)"
Krugman not only truncates the Nethercutt quote to further his partisan agenda, but adds the parenthetical "(Support out Troops!) which gives the impression that the thrust of Nethercutt's remark showed lack of support.

We think Andrew needs a new award category. We suggest the 'Krugman Mauling Award' based on some NLF penalty terminology. In this case Krugman made a late hit, out of bounds and with an intentional face-mask tacked on.

They say he's a prince of a guy once you get to know him.

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

Posted by John Weidner at 9:50 AM

Trailways buses�wave of the future??

John Podhoretz writes on how the media filters the war...(via Betsy Newmark)

THE president earned new scorn from his liberal critics when he told a reporter a few weeks ago that there is a "filter" between him and the American people when it comes to news about Iraq....

....The problem isn't that the American people are hearing bad news. The problem is the way the bad news is delivered to them. It's delivered through the very "filter" Bush mentioned - a fine web of attitudes and myopic perceptions about war, peace, the Bush administration and the American people.

You might think that an attack that killed 15 Americans and wounded hundreds more might inspire even the merest hint of anger on the part of those Americans whose job it is to write about it. Their articles might offer some perspective on how those seeking to kill Americans in Iraq are working for the restoration of one of the most barbaric regimes in world history. They'd ask the key question raised by such an attack: What is to be done to smoke out these barbarians?

But that's not the central focus of the news coverage. Instead, the question that obsesses the media filters is: How much is this going to hurt George W. Bush?.....

IDIOTS! PIECRUSTS! People in the press use the airlines all the time. A jumbo jet is just as vulnerable to those missiles as a helicopter is! That's the story!

Here in San Francisco a terrorist could sit on San Bruno Mountain and shoot at a 747 as easy as kiss-my-hand. Or from a row-boat---the runways project out into the Bay. And there's really no defense.

No defense except one...killing terrorists and pressuring or destroying terror-supporting nations. That's what we are DOING in Iraq. That's what it's all about.

And if they do start shooting down planes here, the press will wring its little hands and moan, "Why didn't we foresee this? Why didn't somebody DO something?"

Well, there are people who have foreseen this possibility. In fact they've been hectoring us on the need to do something for a couple of decades now. They are commonly known as "NeoCons." They are very influential in this Administration because they were right, and the appeasers were desperately wrong. And the appeasers are still living in their fool's-paradise.

Here's my suggestion to the ankle-biters who are doing all they can to hinder the War on Terror. Take Amtrak. Or Greyhound. Get yourselves used to it, because that could be the future you're helping to create.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:56 AM

I'm with Senator Daschle on this one ...

Daschle, Speaking on the Senate floor:

....The trust fund language inserted into this conference report -- behind closed doors -- would stay Judge Lamberth�s decision. It would effectively halt the Cobell v. Norton lawsuit and further delay justice for 300,000 to as many as a half-million Indian trust fund account holders. This provision is unconstitutional and, I believe, unconscionable.

Partly because so many Americans Indians live on remote reservations, not many Americans understand what the Indian trust fund dispute is about. This dispute stretches back to the 1880s, when the U.S. government broke up large tracts of Indian land into small parcels of 80 and 160 acres, which it allotted to individual Indians. The government, acting as a �trustee,� then took control of these lands and established individual accounts for the land owners. The government was supposed to manage the lands. Any revenues generated from oil drilling, mining, grazing, timber harvesting or any other use of the land was to be distributed to the account holders and their heirs.

The government has never -- never -- lived up to its trust fund responsibilities. The Indian trust fund has been so badly mismanaged, for so long, by administrations of both political parties, that today, no one knows how much money the trust fund should contain. Estimates of how much is owed to individual account holders range from a low of $10 billion to more than $100 billion. As Tex Hall, president of the National Congress of American Indians has said, �this is the Enron of Indian Country.� In fact, it may well be bigger than Enron....

Presidential administrations, Democrat or Republican, come and go. They vary in many ways. Some are reformers, some not.

But one thing they ALL agree on�the Interior Department must continue to miss-administer the IIM. Why? It's uncanny. As if some spell or curse was laid in the 1880's, binding the Interior Department forever. Some pact with the Devil, or Cthulu. It makes the "Kennedy Curse" look like small beer.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:03 AM

November 3, 2003

Helpful tip #501

It's odd how the more electronical gadgets we buy, the more we are dependent on paper. Each machine has it's little instruction booklet, and if you lose that, you might as well throw the machine away.

But I think I've finally got the tiresome paperwork under control. I'm putting them all in a few 3-ring binders. Every time we buy a new widget, I grab the manual and drill holes in it to fit the binders. (I've got a scrap of wood with holes pre-drilled to match the rings--I just clamp it on the manual and drill though.) Also I tape a copy of the receipt in the book, in case it's needed for warranty work.

A binder is like a book. Reliable. A friend. It will sit there on the shelf for decades, waiting patiently for you. It doesn't get up and walk about, like certain other material objects I could name. And you can sit in a comfortable chair to study it.

Books, also, unlike digital files, won't become useless because the software that wrote them has become obsolete (i.e. over 5 years old). Or the necessary computer or OS can no longer be found, except in the more impoverished elementary schools. Or the storage media is no longer used: "Grandma, what were floppys?"

Posted by John Weidner at 8:35 PM

She's two today, blogivistically speaking...

Congrats to Natalie Solent, bloggiting for two years now! Though we've never met, I feel like she and her pistol packin' Papa are old friends...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:35 PM

November 2, 2003

"An honored sacrifice that is accepted..."

Cori Dauber gets this exactly right.

....And one more thing -- she also criticizes the president for not attending memorial services. This is one of the more bizzare things I have ever seen the president accused of. Presidents in a time of war do not go to individual soldiers' funerals as a matter of course. It would be utterly inappropriate. To even think he should is suggestive of the kind of wallowing in grief and loss that the media would like to engender, but which is impossible for a nation at war. Memorial services happen because for each family with a loss, every loss is unspeakable tragedy. But for the nation it is honored sacrifice that is accepted (in both senses) as part of the larger effort. To have the president wallow in the loss of each soldier as a member of a family's particular universe, rather than as a member of the national fabric, cannot happen while the nation is participating in a military effort that demands that sacrifice of some of it's people (volunteers, remember.)

A nation at war takes losses. It is what makes war ugly, it is what makes war so ultimate a choice. But it is part of what war is. That is not a refusal to appreciate the tragedy of those losses -- it is because these are people who accept this risk on all our behalfs that we so honor their falling. But if the issue becomes only the fact that we are losing soldiers, and what that loss means to their families as opposed to the nation, then fighting war becomes impossible. Surely there are those who would find that an acceptable outcome. But if you believe there are evils in the world, and threats to American security, that can only be dealt with through military power, than this is what the world is....

We should expect to hear more of this memorial service stuff from the press and the Left. They do it partly just to attack the President and further their Vietnam analogies. But also because the Left is increasingly Tranzi, and wants to destroy nations. And so they sneer at and deride any example of nations like the US or Britain strongly defending themselves.

The President and Congress have the duty to defend our country and its interests even if it means drafting millions of us and sending us into bloody battles. Electing them is partly like choosing a physician or surgeon, and then trusting them to treat us even to the point of ruthlessness. The President and his actions are symbols of our Republic's willingness to sacrifice in self-defense. The purpose of the memorial service criticism is to undermine that aspect of our government.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:11 AM

November 1, 2003

Please...Can't Bremer be our dictator for just five minutes?

This is really good news for Iraq:

The flat tax, long a dream of economic conservatives, is finally getting its day -- not in the United States, but in Iraq.

It took L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Baghdad, no more than a stroke of the pen Sept. 15 to accomplish what eluded the likes of publisher Steve Forbes, Reps. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) and Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.), and Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) over the course of a decade and two presidential campaigns.

"The highest individual and corporate income tax rates for 2004 and subsequent years shall not exceed 15 percent," Bremer wrote in Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 37, "Tax Strategy for 2003," issued last month.

Voil�! Iraq has a flat tax, and the 15 percent rate is even lower than Forbes (17 percent) and Gramm (16 percent) favored for the United States. And, unless a future Iraqi government rescinds it, the flat tax will remain long after the Americans have left.....

....Proponents of the flat tax have long favored this kind of tax system for Iraq. Without much of a framework to start with, Iraq "need not worry about all the political and transition problems that have made adoption of fundamental tax reform here so difficult," Bruce Bartlett, an economist in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, wrote this spring. "It is gratifying, therefore, that leaders of the new Iraq are said to be looking at a flat rate tax system for their country."

Bartlett, once an aide to Kemp and now with the National Center for Policy Analysis, said the model for Iraq should be Russia, which in 2001 set a 13 percent flat tax on individual income. The Bush administration, still disturbed by much higher tax rates here, has said it admires Russia's flat tax. Russia "understands the importance of getting the tax structure right in your economy," Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans told the conservative Heritage Foundation last year.

President Bush, in Russia last year to see President Vladimir Putin, said: "The good news is that the flat tax in Russia is a good, fair tax -- much more fair, by the way, than many Western countries, I might add.".... (Via Rand Simberg)

The Russian flat tax has been a huge success. The low rate has actually resulted in increased tax revenues. And the low rate combined with the fairness and simplicity of the system have stimulated economic growth.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:02 PM

Banish plump Jack and banish all the world ...


Pfc. Steven Lamonds, 30, from Star, N.C., carves �Jack-O-Melons� in the absence of real pumpkins on Halloween at the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division base at Camp Eagle in Balad, Iraq.
Photo by Rob Curtis / Military Times staff
Found at Army Times10-31-03

Posted by John Weidner at 7:18 PM

He's a massacree dog that knows no fear...


It's wonderful dogs they're breeding now:
Small as a flea or large as a cow;
But my old dog Tim he'll never be bet
By any dog that ever he met.
'Come on,' says he, 'for I'm not kilt yet.'

No matter the size of the dog he'll meet,
Tim trails his coat the length o' the street.
D'ye mind his scar an' his ragged ear,
The like of a Dublin Fusilier?
He's a massacree dog that knows no fear.

But he'd stick to me till his lastest breath;
An' he'd go with me to the gates of death.
He'd wait for a thousand years, maybe,
Scratching the door 'an whining for me
If myself were inside in Purgatory.

So I laugh when I hear them make it plain
That dogs and men never meet again.
For all their talk who'd listen to thim
With the soul in the shining eyes of him?
Would God be wasting a dog like Tim?

-- Winifred Mary Letts

Posted by John Weidner at 6:13 PM

Summertime, and the livin' is easy...

You've heard, I'm sure, about the controversy raging here in California because scores of military fire-fighting planes were sitting idle while fires were consuming whole villages.

While I was waiting for Rob to start a flying lesson today, I was glancing through a copy of Rotor and Wing. Apparently this summer the South of France had its worst fires in decades. And they also had military gear sitting unused. The French had to charter Ukrainian helicopters to fight the fires. However, there the main problem was apparently that the French pilots were all on their Summer vacations!

Posted by John Weidner at 5:47 PM

We couldn't express what was bothering us...

I saw this in Polipundit

[here he's quoting the NYT ] ....If he's right, there will be reason for celebration in the White House. It could even turn out that the difference between the two Presidents Bush was a matter of timing as much as anything else.

The 1990-91 recession ended in February 1991. Almost two years later, in January 1993, came the report of the first quarter to show growth above 5 percent. The 2001 recession ended in November 2001, and once again a report of a good quarter arrived nearly two years later.

Unfortunately for George H. W. Bush, he had lost his race for re-election before the economic news turned positive. Now, strong growth has appeared a year before the 2004 election. George W. Bush had good reason to call yesterday's growth report "encouraging."

[back to Polipundit ] There's another crucial difference between Bush 1 and Bush 2: Bush 1 raised taxes; Bush 2 cut them. The resulting GDP growth was no coincidence.
My own theory, until recently, was that Bush 1 lost because the Gulf War left him with a lot of political capital, and he didn't use it! He had tremendous approval ratings, and he could surely have accomplished some notable thing, or enacted some needed reform. But he just sat there fat 'n happy, and did nothing. I'm still annoyed about it.

But I think now that there was another reason. Americans don't like limited war. That is, of course, one of the bedrock positions of the Jacksonian strain in American life. But in this case I think there is a little Jackson in most Americans. We are reluctant to go to war, or to get involved in foreign messes. But If something is worth going to war about, then we think we should do whatever it takes to win, and to make sure the problem is solved.

After the Gulf War we were proclaiming victory from the housetops. It would have been hard for anyone to even entertain the thought that we hadn't won. But I suspect that was the thought just below the surface of many minds. We had flung our strength and treasure and enthusiasm on the desert sands, and like water it had sunk in and disappeared. And nothing was changed.

We couldn't really express what was bothering us, so we said we were down on Bush because he broke his promise not to raise taxes, or because the economy was blah...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:11 PM

Bush lied ...

Bill Hobbs notes that

"...There are 1.6 million more Americans working today than at the end of the Clinton administration...."
So are the Dems lying when they complain about high unemployment, and about all the jobs lost?

Not at all. It's true. We have lost millions of jobs. It's just that we have created 1.6 million more jobs than we've lost. That's just a teensy little bit of context that would only confuse you if you if they mentioned it. (As would the fact that the economy has been growing for the last 2 years...See Hobbs for nice graphs.)

And unemployment has gone up. That's because the workforce has grown faster than the number of jobs.

Of course when they say that we are in the "worst economy since Herbert Hoover," they are telling a barefaced lie. Hmmm. The Bush Administration is not drawing any attention to these jobs that have been created. Could it be that they are giving the Democrats lots of rope, letting them commit themselves to the false story of a stagnant economy? Just so the contrast will be all the more noticeable as the economy continues to improve? Well. Encouraging people to tell lies is very sneaky. Even deceptious. You could possibly call it a form of lying! There you have it folks: Bush lied!

Posted by John Weidner at 9:03 AM