December 31, 2003

"Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among thieves?" --LUKE 10:30

I loved this article by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, May God be Restored to the British Isles...

...I got up and immediately disputed the premise, "Blessed are the peacemakers." On the contrary, it was always those who fought evil whom history remembered as the greatest in their generations....
Amen, Rabbi. Those "peacemakers" are the Levites and Priests and Archbishops and Liberals who passed on the other side of the road, while the despised bumpkin Samaritans stopped to help the victim.
....If there is one seminal thing for which the year 2003 should be remembered it is this: The year that the normally amoral game of politics trumped the usually moral teachings of religion.

A year in which a former baseball-owner-turned-president of the United States emerged as the greatest man alive by expending treasure, lives and risking all his political capital to cross the world and save 24 million people from the killing machines of a tyrant. If George Bush never wins another election, if he indeed never passes another piece of legislation, I will still remember him as one of my greatest sources of religious inspiration for teaching me to what lengths a human being must go in order to save human life.

And even in the worst case scenario, if he went to Iraq insincerely � if he did it to enrich the executives of Halliburton, or to avenge his father's honor, or because America needs Iraq's oil � I would rather have an insincere politician who saves lives rather than ostensibly God-fearing church leaders who do nothing to stop the murder of their human brethren....

(via Protocols)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:39 PM

May the New Year be good to you ...

A New Year's resolution is something
that goes in one year and out the other.
-- anonymous

New Year's resolution: To refrain
from saying witty, unkind things,
unless they are really witty, and
irreparably damaging.
-- James Agate

Drink no longer water, but use a
little wine for thy stomach's sake
and thine often infirmities.

Quotations purloined from Forbes Magazine

Posted by John Weidner at 5:47 PM

Frosts me too...

Jonathan Gewirtz writes:

...Steve has a great post about evil dictators and the lefty jerks who enable them. He is discussing Cuba rather than Iraq but the principle is the same.

Speaking of Cuba, what really frosts me is those ads for tour excursions, where they talk about the decrepit old cars as though these were manifestations of some quaint custom -- perhaps a Latin version of the New England covered bridge -- rather than tragic reminders of a wrecked society. For these morons it's all about appearances and posturing, and the old cars serve as props to their immoral power-fantasies. Never mind how Cubans actually live, for "progressive" tourists Cuba is a kind of revolutionary Colonial Williamsburg where they can show solidarity with the inmates people in charge and pretend they're fighting the evil Yanqui imperialists.... (How many of these tourists realize that Cuba was a first-world country before Castro took over?)....

Posted by John Weidner at 3:57 PM

A good story for the last day of the year...

LONDON ���A flight in the United States proved lucky for a British woman who suffered a heart attack. Fifteen heart specialists, all bound for a medical conference in Florida, stood up to offer help when a cabin attendant asked, "Is there a doctor on board?" (link)
Now we just need for terrorists to try to hijack a plane on its way to the Kung Fu championships....

Posted by John Weidner at 1:29 PM

Cast out of the Garden...

Robert Samuelson has an interesting article on Bush-hatred

....In the end, Bush hating says more about the haters than the hated -- and here, too, the parallels with Clinton are strong. This hatred embodies much fear and insecurity. The anti-Clinton fanatics hated him not simply because he occasionally lied, committed adultery or exhibited an air of intellectual superiority. What really infuriated them was that he kept succeeding -- he won reelection, his approval ratings stayed high -- and that diminished their standing. If Clinton was approved, they must be disapproved.

Ditto for Bush. If he succeeded less, he'd be hated less. His fiercest detractors don't loathe him merely because they think he's mediocre, hypocritical and simplistic. What they truly resent is that his popularity suggests that the country might be more like him than it is like them. They fear he's exiling them politically. On one level, their embrace of hatred aims to make others share their outrage; but on another level, it's a self-indulgent declaration of moral superiority....

Dean Esmay once penned one of the all-time-great blogposts, writing a long list of ways that Bush's policies were almost identical to Clinton's. Which isn't surprising, really, because both had their bases under control, and were, and are, appealing to the Center. And, whatever they may privately wish to do, neither of them were or are in a position to take the country where the majority doesn't want to go. Esmay may have exaggerated the similarities, but that he could write such a post at all says a lot.

It says that Bush and Clinton are hated as symbols of other things that people are unhappy about. I think in both cases the biggest grievance is the feeling of the loss of an entitlement. Entitlement to power and influence. Dems were the majority party for 50 years or so, and grew up knowing that that was how Nature intended things to be. Now they feel they've been cast out of the Garden. And Republicans held the White House for 12 years, and could just feel their strength growing and growing....and then came Clinton. They too felt they'd lost something they were entitled to.

I'm no fan of Clinton, but a lot of what was said about him was just daft and stupid. He wasn't trying to turn the country into a socialist hippie commune. And even if he wanted to, he was but a part of a vast political and governmental apparatus notoriously resistant to pressure from presidents--he had no power to do anything of the kind. And I'll make bold to say he was not involved with drug smuggling and knew nothing about the suicide of Vince Foster.

Now it's Bush's turn to be traduced by people driven crazy because they feel diminished and sidelined. No matter how many years he devotes to patient electioneering and persuasion, it's claimed he's bent on destroying democracy. People go on televison to claim free-speech is extinct! People who obviously know nothing about American religious life claim that we are headed for a "theocracy." Billionaires claim that Bush and the "corporate interests" are going to crush "the little guy."

Bush has led the efforts that have liberated more than 50 million souls from hidious tyrannies--but he's "worse than Hitler." The administration pours its efforts into birthing and nurturing democracy and economic freedom and religious tolerance, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but across the Middle East and other backward areas that others considered not worth trying to change. Yet low political hacks call them "the most illiberal people in America."

[If they are using "Liberal" in the recent sense of "crypto-socialist," then it's true. Bush wants to give ordinary people choice over a wide range of things now controlled by bureaucrats. It's an intentional slap in the face to elitists everywhere. And he's unashamedly Christian! What could be more illiberal? -- I.C. Yeah. The word "Liberal" gets shifted deceptively, sometimes within the same sentence. It can mean thinking like Gladstone, or like Michael Harrington. Anyone using it should be required to provide their definition.--JW]

This kind of drift into nuttiness is a great pity, because now, as always, we need a "loyal opposition." Even the best intentioned governments are like those cartoon giants who knock over trees and flatten houses. They need thoughtful criticism, and also need a feeling that blunders are going to cost them votes. But many critics are sidelining themselves into screwiness. And it's also scary, because it was out of the Clinton-hating fever swamp that the Oklahoma City bombers came. Any group of more than a few dozen includes some people who are crazy! And the crazies among the Bush-haters are now being fed a diet of paranoid lies--such as the recent claim that Bush caused the Iran earthquake!

Posted by John Weidner at 10:14 AM

December 30, 2003

Third World as "ethnographic zoo"

Wretchard puts this well.

...Thomas Barnett pointed out that Africa, in common with dirt poor countries of the Third World, has been detached from the stream of civilization. It remains on the planet only by polite pretense; but in practice under another sun, with different laws of gravity. Even arithmetic is different there, and the starvation of a hundred thousand counts for less newspaper space than the sexual scandals of a Hollywood actor. Yet in that outer dark lies the future of mankind. Barnett convincingly argues that "the real battlegrounds in the global war on terrorism are still over there. If gated communities and rent-a-cops were enough, September 11 never would have happened."

The truly dangerous thing about President Bush is that he wants to bring these lost continents back onto the planet. "And we believe that freedom -- the freedom we prize -- is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind." Even at the cost of making them like Americans, free, crass and prosperous. That is a less comforting proposition to the capitals of Old Europe than maintaining the Third World as an ethnographic zoo which pays graft to the zookeepers.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:19 PM

December 29, 2003

Let it seem small matter if he come or stay...


(Dream Bird)

When a dream is born in you
With a sudden clamorous pain,
When you know the dream is true
And lovely, with no flaw or stain,
O then be careful, or with sudden clutch
You'll hurt the thing you prize so much.

Dreams are like a bird that mocks,
Flirting the feathers of his tail.
When you seize at the salt-box
Over the hedge you'll see him sail.
Old birds are neither caught with salt or chaff:
They watch you from the apple bough and laugh.

Poet, never chase the dream.
Laugh yourself and turn away.
Mask your hunger, let it seem
Small matter if he come or stay;
And when he nestles in your hand at last,
Close up your fingers tight and hold him fast.

-- Robert Graves

Posted by John Weidner at 9:01 PM

Good evening, and welcome to 'All Is Lost'

What a loss the death of Michael Kelly was. Pejman just linked to this column from 11/2001, which is still hilarious and painfully true.

Good evening, and welcome to 'All Is Lost,' the nightly public affairs program produced by National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp. Tonight we discuss what has been called America's war against terror. I am your host, Perfectly Modulated Voice of Reason.

"With me, in our Washington studio, are: Fabled Newsman Who Was There When Saigon Fell . . . Scientifically Trained Impartial Scholar . . . and Bureau Chief of Second-Rate Regional Monopoly Newspaper Who Is Desperate to Be Hired by the New York Times. From London, we are joined by our European affairs analyst, Loathes America and Prays for Its Swift Destruction....

[there is a long description of splendid news, with rebellions toppling islamist regimes in Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan, and Bush presented with Osama's head on a pike]

...."Gentleman, given all this, the question is obvious -- Is there any reason to even go on?"

Chorus: "No . . . no . . . utterly hopeless . . . doomed . . . repudiation of entire U.S. strategy. . . . A colossal failure . . . no hope."...

...Perfectly Modulated: "Fabled Newsman, what says the view from inside the Beltway?"

Fabled Newsman: "Been there. Best and brightest. Tet. Vietnamization. No light at the end of the tunnel."

Perfectly Modulated: "And would you go so far as to say . . . "

Fabled Newsman: "Yes. Absolutely: Quagmire. Quagmire. Quagmire. Quagmire. Waist deep in the Big Muddy. Quagmire."

Perfectly Modulated: "Desperate to be Hired by The Times, what's your take?"

Desperate to be Hired: "Whatever Fabled Newsman said goes double for me. With bells on. You bet. Count me in. Ditto."

Perfectly Modulated: "Now let's go to our European analyst, Loathes America, for the insight from over there. Loathes, what is the mood of Europe tonight?"

Loathes America: "Bleak, of course. And properly so. I mean, one does not wish to say that this debacle is what America deserves for its arrogance, its vulgarity, its bullying ways -- well, actually one does wish to say it, doesn't one rather? Really, one just hates America. Really, one always has, ever since one was just a little chap."

Perfectly Modulated: "Thank you, Loathes America. A valuable insight as always. Gentlemen, last thoughts?"

Scientifically Trained: "Things could hardly be worse."

Loathes America: "Nonsense. That Pollyanna optimism so typical of you naive colonials. Things could always be worse. And will be. Thank G-d."

Fabled Newsman: "Quag . . . "

Desperate: " . . . mire."

Perfectly Modulated: "And that wraps up another edition of 'All Is Lost.' Good night, and pleasant dreams.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:18 PM

December 28, 2003


From Powerline:

...Shmuel Yurfest is an Israeli surgeon who has saved the lives of many people, including lots of Palestinians. Last May, he reattached the severed hand of a Palestinian terrorist who was injured when his bomb blew up prematurely. "I have saved the lives of many terrorists," Yurfest says. "But the only reason this one walks on this planet with both his hands is because of my work." While performing the operation, Dr. Yurfest commented to a nurse, "Tell the terrorists, when they make a bomb for me to make sure it's a small one because I have saved the lives of many of them."

Dr. Yurfest won't be saving any more terrorists. Or anyone else. At age 48, he is blind and nearly deaf as a result of a mass-murder bombing by a 19 year old Palestinian girl....

I am Not. Going. To. Say. ANYTHING.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:20 PM

Book recommendation

Usually, tall books with lots of pictures are fun to leaf through, but aren't the sort of thing one reads from cover to cover. But James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, which is, by general acclamation, the best one-volume history of the Civil War, has been re-published in a large picture-filled format as The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom, without losing anything. We got it for Christmas, and I've been reading, or rather, re-reading it with avidity

Posted by John Weidner at 5:07 PM

"Howard Dean in the pulpit is like Michael Dukakis in a tank "

Zev Chafets on poor Dean's "Southern Strategy."

....This assumption runs especially strong in what Dean likes to call "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." These people don't believe in much, but they are fervent on the subject of their own superiority. To them, America's red states (as identified in TV maps on Election Night 2000) are populated by ignorant cowboys, unwashed swampies, hellfire preachers, beauty parlor bimbos, redneck sheriffs, Confederate flag wavers and retarded hillbilly kids sitting in trees playing the banjo.

This picture of Southern inferiority, like all articles of faith, is immune to both empirical observation and personal experience. To guys like Dean, Dixie is and will forever remain a vast county fair where a slick Yaleman can sell 5-gallon jugs of snake oil in return for votes....

If you have children you know how they can try to be serious and sophisticated, and the result is hilarious, but they get hurt and bewildered if you laugh at them? The metro types who go for Dean are just like that. They have no idea how Dukakis-in-a-tank funny their pronouncements are, and not just about southerners. Remember "Bush had no right to wear a military uniform on that carrier!"? That's goofy and tone-deaf in at least six different ways (not including that a flight-suit isn't a uniform). How hurt and confused they must feel when we don't take them seriously. No wonder they are angry. Dukakis probably doesn't understand to this day why people were laughing at him.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:28 PM

"A more humane Mikado never did in Japan exist" ...

When I'm made Dictator of the Planet, my first proclamation will be to forbid all background music in public places. Maybe with an exception for something quiet and classical. But loud pop music in shops, elevators, shopping malls will punishable by casting-into-volcano.

Especially bookstores! The only bookstore in our neighborhood is a Borders. And it's often a race there to see if I can find something to read before driven away screaming because Borders is trying to raise my consciousness by exposing me to some trendy authentic ethnic South American whatever-it-is. And even if the music isn't hateful in itself, it's impossible to appreciate the charm and flavor of prose with an alien rhythm being crammed into my ear canals. I HATE IT!

I have evil fantasies, where my goons are breaking down doors and dragging the top management of Borders away for questioning. First we will soften them up by locking them into steel trash-cans, and letting an infinite number of monkeys with sticks try to recreate the complete works of Shakespeare by pounding out Morse Code on the cans.

I'm not sure what I'll do to them next. Perhaps I should get in the mood by re-reading that peerless work of SF, Souls in the Great Machine, which tells of an alternate Earth where librarians are powerful leaders, with their own secret police, and firing squads! The perfect fantasy for bookworm types like me.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:09 PM

December 27, 2003

"The way you train is the way you will fight."

If you are wondering how (or if) our soldiers are being trained for deployment to Iraq, you will find this article, National Guard at War at Home to Prepare for Real Thing in Iraq, as fascinating as I did.

...One thing is certain: The newly minted soldiers are being given a vivid taste of what they will face in Iraq during their five months of training. The drill at Fort Drum, which is being replicated at bases across the country, required six weeks of preparation and battle scenes worthy of a Steven Spielberg film.

More than 100 Iraqis were flown in from Dearborn, Mich., to play the angry villagers of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's birthplace. The call to prayer blasted from a makeshift mosque, and there were even angry signs � as in Iraqi cities � hanging from the walls. To complete the simulation, real Red Cross workers and soldiers dressed as journalists milled about, getting in the soldiers' way at every opportunity.

If not for the snow, the fir trees and the fact that the temperature hovers around 15 degrees, the scene might almost have been mistaken for central Iraq...

- - - - - - - -

....On the drill's third day, things got tougher. There was still no water in Tikrit, and when Captain Heintz and some of his men drove back to the village, a full-scale riot broke out. The soldiers tried unsuccessfully to keep them at bay, and watched helplessly as one middle-aged woman, her face shrouded in a cotton kaffiyeh, got into two of the Humvees and made off with about $20,000 of military equipment.

Then came the suicide bomber, smiling deceptively in the simulation, and the loud bang....

via Cori Dauber.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:03 PM

"Men of iron, ships of aluminum"

at Spacedaily I found this article comparing the problems of space vehicles like the Shuttle with the problems of Zeppelins and other rigid airships.

...the great rigid airships have a lot of lessons to teach us about how technologies rise and fall. In particular, the problems that eventually killed the large airship are almost exactly the same as the ones that currently bedevil our space launch vehicles -- especially the Shuttle...

...High Unit Cost -- The low lift/volume ratio of hydrogen and helium meant that airship designers had to make their craft very large to get useful amounts of lift. Even an X-zeppelin had to be large and expensive. In sharp contrast, the winged aircraft of the same era were so cheap that X-planes were thrown together by bicycle mechanics in barns and garages...

Narrow Design Base -- There were never more than four independent airship design teams active at one time, and most of them were heavily dependent on Zeppelin Corporation design data acquired by purchase, espionage, or reverse-engineering of crash wreckage. (During this Golden Age of Aviation, there were dozens of airplane design teams at work, exploring every possible idea for improved performance.) The USA is now down to two major players in the launch vehicle market, with the Ariane team the only active overseas group not dependent on old US or Soviet technology transferred during the Cold War.

Among the other similarities: Narrow Contractor Base, Mammoth Ground Support Equipment, Safety Trade-Offs, Low Flight Rate, Publicity Spotlight, Fanatical Promoters...

And the one that really made me both smile and wince: Inappropriate Traditions. (read it)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:46 PM

Just testing...

John AdamsThis isn't a post about John Adams, I'm just following, in my half-educated way, an interesting tutorial on using CSS to float an image to the right of a block of text. Is 'floating" an image the same as "aligning" it to the left or right? Beats me. (As usual, it's just assumed that one already knows various things.) Well, it's different in one way�ALIGN doesn't let you have both a margin and the text-wrap.

Why didn't they have this stuff when I was young and had huge amounts of time to fill learning arcane arts? All that time wasted on Alchemy because there was no XHTML...

And why is there a white area around the picture? I didn't add the padding, so it shouldn't be there...Ah, never mind, the white is part of the picture itself...

Oh well: "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." --John Adams

Posted by John Weidner at 6:36 PM

A small positive note...

Whither Russia? What's Putin up to? Who knows...This seems like a positive sign:

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin signed a bill on one-window concept for registering businesses into law on Dec. 23 in a move expected to ease the often time-, energy- and money-consuming bureaucratic gridlock faced by entrepreneurs while registering businesses in the country....
A splendid idea, but probably very difficult to implement, since the "one-window" will be passing information on to various bureaucracies with incompatable data systems.

It would certainly be difficult to do here. Good luck, Ivan.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:11 PM

December 26, 2003

Boxing Day surprise...

I was scrolling down-down-down at Boing Boing and was astonished to discover an old friend of ours�Allie Barden, (who used to babysit for our kids, and remains a special friend.) She was reporting from McMurdo, in Antartica, where she is working in a mess hall.

We knew she was there, but didn't know about her web-site, a sort of blog with penguins...

Allie in Antartica

....we were going on a us air force plane c141 which is a big, massive, loud piece of metal that travels through stupid conditions at amazing speeds. it was the auschwitz train of moving bodies to the ice. earplugs are mandatory (if anyone wants to purchase my used ones, they can do a search on ebay.) but you can't really hold conversations on the craft anyway since its as loud as a train engine compartment inside the plane. there were 137 people on my flight, of them, 32 were female. we were gender segregated on the flight, our seats, basically cargo netting with seat belts and oxy masks...

there were 2 long paralell rows that ran down the center of the plane. your knees met the knees of the person across from you, your back against the back of the person behind you, your shoulders against the shoulders of the person next to you. moving is not really an option with huge boots and 20 pounds of cold wether gear. my knees hurt so much. if you could maneuver it, you could stand on your seat, but something on your lap ended up falling on the lap of the person next to you. comfortable, it was not. exciting ..... i enjoyed every minute of that flight. except the part when it felt like my eardums were bein sucked out of my head. i didn't like that feeling. there were no windows on the craft except one porthole in the middle which i was lucky enough to be in the vicity of, but could not see out of,due to the whole not being able to move thing.

bathroom travel was not prohibited, but the latrine was nasty. howver, when you gotta go..... so i went. and i am so glad. the latrine was next to the flight deck, and the usaf crew wre hanging out by the door. i talked my way into the cockpit an hour before landing. we had just started to fly over the continent and that's where i saw my first glimpse of antarctica. i can't explain it. the trans-antarctic range peaked below us, and i had a driver side view. i sat in the co-pilot's seat, and was like a little girl in a candy store, fogging the window. there were deep cracks in the otherwise flawless ice floes which denotes glacier movement like when you stick a spoon in chowder that has cooled and formed a skin over the top. i saw ranges that rose to 14,000 (our altitude was 35,000) that were all prefect white with hints of blue. they looked like what clouds would look like if they wre sharp and pointy. i saw places completely untouched, where man has never walked. some of it was like the moon, but sanded over smooth like fiberlass and freshly painted....

Posted by John Weidner at 10:06 PM

"And, guarding, calls not Thee to guard..."


Army Cpl. Kerry Otwaska, of Genoa City, Wis., guards the entrance of St. Raphael�s church in Baghdad on Wednesday during Christmas mass.
Dusan Vranic / AP photo

Posted by John Weidner at 2:14 PM

#140: Nothing scares a leftie like the thought of people becoming more self-sufficient.

P. Krugman

New Year's Resolutions (12/26/03) is hardly worth reading. However, there is one notable political comment. Krugman essentially throws his support to Howard Dean for the presidential nomination. Here's one of several beauties:

"In the last few weeks the usual suspects have been trying to paint Howard Dean's obviously heartfelt comments about his brother's death in Laos as some sort of insult to the military."
The point, of course, was that the brother was NOT IN the military as Dean had just claimed. Looks like Paul and Howard will go down the same toilet together next November. At least we will only have to trip the handle once.

On economic policy, Krugman took a swipe at tax-exempt savings accounts which may be a major Bush initiative starting next year. Amazing! Nothing scares a leftie like the thought of people becoming more self-sufficient.

[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 1:56 PM

We gotta catch up with Eastern Europe...

Via Drezner, a Chicago Tribune story about the growth in credit card use in Hungary. This is what really impressed me:

....The biggest obstacle credit card marketers had to overcome in Hungary was fear of fraud. But consumer concerns about the safety of their cards have led to an important security innovation made possible by the explosive growth of mobile phones in Hungary.

Each time a card is used, the cardholder immediately gets a text message on his or her cell phone confirming the transaction and notifying the cardholder of the balance. Initially developed in Hungary, the messaging system is used widely in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It is now being introduced in Western Europe....

Fascinating. We gotta catch up with Eastern Europe...

In our family, like many, everyone has a cell phone. So each little Weidner has his or her own phone number, which is something new in the world. And now the US has a law that cell phone numbers must be portable. If you switch to another provider, you can take your number with you. (My impression is that other countries don't share our number problem, what with our six big providers constantly grabbing customers from each other.) So now we can, if we wish, keep our numbers forever. So I'm guessing we are rapidly heading to the time where everybody in the world has their own permanent phone number.

And then it could turn into an everything number. Send an e-mail to someone's "phone number," and it will be automatically routed to whatever mailbox they are using. Enter a "phone number" into a web page, and go to that person's home page or blog.

What I'd like to have is a home phone that is connected to a re-charging dock for all our cell phones. When you are "at home," your phone is in the dock, and any calls for you ring on the home phone. If nothing else, it would bring some order to our current phone chaos here at Weidner Central, what with children setting down phones any old which-where, and then panicking when it's time to leave for school.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:34 AM

December 25, 2003

Freedom's mudhole...

As you unwrap the shiny presents, or drink your glögg, stop a moment and remember those who stand on Freedom's Wall. (Or try to snooze in Freedom's bog....)

soldiers sleeping in the mud

I got the picture from Spot On, and also a link to...

. . . . well, if you want your SOCKS KNOCKED OFF,

. . . . . . . . if you are "urban sophisticates" like us and you want to feel REALLY HUMBLED,

. . . . . . . . . . . . .go HERE to see how our war dead are honored in a small Texas town....

Posted by John Weidner at 1:13 PM

December 24, 2003


This was my Grandmother's recipe. Julglögg (Christmas Glögg) is a spiced wine to serve at holiday parties...

Spice mixture
1 tsp Cardamom
1 tsp Cloves
1 tsp Ginger
3 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 cup of Vodka

Vanilla Mixture
1 stick Vanilla, cut up
1/2 cup of Vodka

Let these two mixtures stand separately in their own bottles for at least 5 days.
Shake mixtures 2-3 times a day

RECIPE: Add 3/4 cup Sugar to 1 1/2 cups of water, and warm to near boiling point. Add a splash of Lemon Juice, a bottle of red wine and a few spoonfuls of Brandy or Vodka. Add 2tsp of the Vanilla Mixture, and 1 TBSP of the Spice Mix.
Serve piping hot in little cups, sprinkled with sliced Blanched Almonds

Posted by John Weidner at 4:56 PM

December 23, 2003

Saddam and the big-collar shirt...

This, by our friend Steve, is wierdly funny....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:44 PM

"Read it and weep"

Alan Sullivan pointed me to this article on the Poles, and their many efforts on behalf of freedom. And how they've been wretchedly treated by an ungrateful world every time.

Including, right now, by us, in return for much help in Iraq. They asked for almost nothing, but even that was too much. While we give billions to Turkey or Egypt. I HOPE somebody's waking up and paying attention to this....

Pass it on, please.

...On that fateful afternoon, the Polish cavalry struck the Turkish lines with such force that 2,000 lances shattered. The charge stunned the Ottoman army. A hundred thousand Turks ran for the Danube.

No army from the Islamic world ever posed such a threat to the West again.

Poland's thanks for its courage? In the next century, the country was sliced up like a pie by the ungrateful Habsburgs, along with the Romanovs of Russia and the Prussian Hohenzollerns. It was the most cynical action in European history until the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which divided Poland again in 1939.

But the Poles never gave up their belief in their country - or in freedom. During our own revolution, our first allies were Polish freedom fighters such as Casimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciusko...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:48 PM


A figure of the Epiphany

The poet's imageries are noble ways,
Approaches to a plot, an open shrine.
Their splendors, colors, avenues, arrays,
Their courts that run with wine;

Beautiful similes, 'fair and fragrant things,'
Enriched, enamouring,�raptures, metaphors
Enhancing life, are paths for pilgrim kings
Made free of golden doors.

And yet the open heavenward plot, with dew,
Ultimate poetry, enclosed, enskied,
(albeit such ceremonies lead thereto)
Stands on the yonder side.

Plain, behind oracles it is; and past
all symbols, simple; perfect, heavenly-wild,
The song some loaded poets reach at last�
The kings that found a child.

-Alice Meynell

Posted by John Weidner at 6:17 PM

More "under the radar" stuff�"Teddy's Nightmare"

More on Medical Health Savings Accounts. (I used the wrong terminology.) A friend sent this WSJ article, Teddy's Nightmare. It's a sugarplum for subscribers only, but I'll quote some of it.

...When Medical Savings Accounts were originally created in 1996, liberals led by Ted Kennedy did their best to kill them in the crib. Severe restrictions were placed on who could own them, as well as on the number of policies that could be sold, and authorization was set to expire this year. Not surprisingly, insurers did not rush into the market.

But now those restrictions are gone, the Treasury Department announced rules for new HSA policies yesterday, and private insurers are already jumping into the market. A glimpse of their market potential is provided by South Africa, of all places. After the Mandela government deregulated South Africa's private insurance market in 1994, HSA-type plans quickly captured about two-thirds of it.

That's precisely the kind of success that Senator Kennedy and friends fear could happen here. Democrats know that a reinvigorated private health insurance market will end their dream of a Canadian-style health system. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle has already introduced a bill to "correct" the Medicare legislation, with HSA repeal a top priority....

Ain't gonna happen. The days when Teddy and Tom could crush all hopes and dreams of reform are just about over. Their days of keeping people poor, and uninsured, and uneducated, in order to "justify" big government programs are fading fast. Gee, if we can bypass those two horrid old dinosaurs, we may catch up with South Africa...
...Another beneficial effect of HSAs is that they will wake consumers up to the needless state mandates that price so many people out of insurance. Individual and small-group purchasers in New York, in fact, may well discover that they can't even buy a high deductible policy because of that state's mandates.

The easiest way to solve this problem would be for Congress to exercise its Constitutional power to free up interstate commerce in insurance. If New York politicians want to regulate insurers until they flee the state, fine. But they shouldn't be able to tell New York residents that they can't buy an HSA from, say, Connecticut, which has many fewer mandates....

Waking people up. That's the whole idea. Give ordinary people IRA's and 401-K's, and those who aren't totally brain-dead start to be more skeptical when "evil corporations" are denounced for "obscene profits."

Soon lot of our medical problems are going to be dealt with without any bureaucrats involved. That's going to be a wake-up. Plus, the Bush Administration is working hard at giving parents with kids at sub-standard public schools the right to chose other schools. That should turn on some light-bulbs. And soon, soon, Social Security.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:07 PM

#139: Poor krug, he's got nothing to say

P. Krugman

Citizen Conrad's Friends (12/23/03) is a testament to how desperate things are getting over at PK headquarters. The Dow is over 10,000, the economy is roaring, President Bushes approvals are over 60% and we finally caught Saddam! So what does Paul Krugman write about? Conrad Black!

Black is someone most of Krugman readers have never heard of and couldn't care less about if they had. But that's not the point. The point is to use Black and his business problems as a lead-in to smear someone else who is more important and has some career similarities to Black. That would be one Rupert Murdock! What has Murdock done-other than be a conservative in the same business as Black? Nothing!

And that about sums up this column. It's a big nothing.

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

Posted by John Weidner at 9:41 AM

Yet another "Bush Revolution�under the radar" story

They're here! Medical Savings Accounts are here! Or rather, they are now law, and will be available next year. Here's an article (PDF) you should read if you are interested.

The new Health Savings Accounts (HSA) provision in the Medicare bill was signed into law by President Bush on December 8, 2003 and goes into effect January 1, 2004. All 250 million non-elderly Americans will now have access to a Medical Savings Account (MSA), and one that is far more attractive than the Archer MSAs that were enacted in 1996.

Account holders must have a qualified insurance plan, but the insurance requirements have been opened up considerably. Allowable deductibles have been lowered to $1,000 for an individual and $2,000 for a family. The maximum deductible requirement has been replaced by maximum out-of-pocket limits of $5,000 and $10,000 for individuals and families. These limits include deductibles and coinsurance for �in-network� providers. There is no restriction on the stop-loss limits for out-of-network services. These amounts will be adjusted annually for cost of living increases.

Preventive care services may be covered on a first-dollar basis. That is, deductibles will not have to apply to services as defined by section 1871 of the Social Security Act.

Annual contributions to the HSA are limited to 100% of the deductible up to a maximum of $2,600 for an individual or $5,150 for a family. Account holders aged 55 and up may make additional contributions of $500 in 2004, increasing by $100 each year until it reaches $1,000 in 2009.

This is going to be BIG. There are MSA's already, but only a limited and tentative plan that hardly anyone uses. But there's nothing tentative about the new law. Look for the banks and brokerages who are now trying to sell you IRA's to soon be pushing MSA's.

What will be interesting are the behavior changes we may expect to see. Imagine tens-of-millions of people going to any doctor they like, and just paying for the visit. Spot cash money. No calls to "the Plan" to see if they will authorize such-and-such. No special negotiated rates because you belong to some group. Just free-market choices. (This is for routine stuff�big problems will still be paid by your insurance.) The savings in overhead should be huge. And the incentives to avoid unnecessary treatments will be huge�the money will be yours. If you don't spend it, it stays in your account and grows.

In the last few years I've been to 3 physicians. And every time I've had to listen to bitter complaints about "managed care." Now a lot of patients and doctors are going to be managing things themselves.

(via Brothers Judd Blog)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:19 AM

December 22, 2003

Another "Bush Revolution�under the radar" story

Bryan Preston writes:

...The Telegraph said a top US State Department official confirmed last week that the Proliferation Security Initiative, an international, US-led scheme to halt the spread of banned weapons by seizing them in transit, had "netted several seizures."
Nice how they call a major new alliance a "scheme," but I'll pass over that bit of editorial comment buried in a news report to talk about why this is so important. As I've noted before, the PSI is one of the most underreported stories of the year. Most journalists don't know anything about it, and liberal commentators like Josh Marshall have simply elected not to mention it since it gets in the way of their "Bush is an unrepentant unilateralist" critiques of administration policy. The PSI is extremely important to the future of weapons proliferation and to the world community generally. It not only acts as a de facto blockade against Kim Jong-Il, but the PSI unites 11 of the world's most powerful states, all democracies, in an anti-proliferation alliance that operates outside the aegis of the UN to perform a function that the UN has clearly failed to do--stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And it's the brainchild of Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton, one of the more maligned figures in the Bush administration....

Posted by John Weidner at 10:32 PM

Sometimes things change ...

There's an interesting article in NRO on Christianity in China.

....Kathryn Jean Lopez: How many Christians are there in China?

David Aikman: [There are] about 70 million Protestants and about 12 million Catholics.

Lopez: How have that many Christians managed to flourish in China, largely underground? What drives them?

Aikman: During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) every single church building (and mosque and temple as well) was closed in China. The formal, permitted structures of Chinese Protestantism and Catholicism had also been dissolved by Mao's Red Guards. Christians become used to gathering in totally clandestine situations, in homes, fields, forests. Because the government was so overtly hostile to religion, Christians took the view that the best response was open and energetic evangelism wherever and whenever they could. Even when China began to open up in 1979 and the "official" churches were permitted to function once more, the "house church" networks had established such a powerful presence all over China that it made sense to continue to operate completely outside of the domain of any Chinese officialdom.

Lopez: Many of the Christians are elites � scientists, intellectuals. How did that happen?....

Christianity is apparently growing rapidly in China, which could have big implications for the future. I'm always fascinated by any sort of renovatio. A country like China, we just assume that it will carry on much the same, and that we will have to struggle with the same intractable problems far into the future. Sometimes, it turns out, not so...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:21 PM

another petty tyrant suddenly gets friendly

You've probably already seen Greyhawk's tableau of TIME covers. Dead on. Time has been doing its sneering best to disparage and misrepresent our war efforts, and now suddenly they preen themselves on their support for our people, by having US soldiers as the "Man of the Year.". What phonies.

Anyway, by any rational standard, the Man of the Year should be George W. Bush...and they're not about to bite on that little cranberry.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:30 PM

December 21, 2003

Cashes in on sudden fame...

this made me laugh...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:44 PM

Greyhawk posts a story about wounded GI's...

...One of more than 280 Marines injured in combat since the beginning of the fight to topple Saddam Hussein's government, Frei lost much of his right arm, which has been replaced by a prosthesis.

After being treated at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center just outside Washington, he took 30 days of convalescent leave in San Diego and then headed back to his base at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Among his first actions was applying to remain in the Marines. Another was going out to meet other returning troops injured overseas in the hopes of passing along encouraging words.

"You have to maintain a positive attitude," said Frei, 31. "You have to. You can decide to let this slow you down, just like any other adversity you would run into in your life...

We're just midgets compared to those guys...

And for the snarkmeisters who try to make a scandal out the President not attending soldier's funerals (which, by tradition, and for important symbolic reasons, a President does not do in wartime), there's this:

..."I met the president" at Walter Reed, said McLain, 22, a military police officer in the National Guard who is now home in Havre, Mont.

McLain, who is recuperating from injuries suffered in Iraq, has a photograph of himself with Bush, but the college student admitted he doesn't recall a great deal about the meeting because he was "heavily morphinated."

Bush's visit is one of several he's made to see injured troops at the complex named after a noted 19th century Army physician who did pioneering work on yellow fever....

Posted by John Weidner at 5:57 PM

"like an old high school quarterback"

A.O.G. tells me something I had no notion of: The UK has a spacecraft they hope to land soon on Mars! Very cool, I wish them luck.

He also said this:

Daniel Schorr was on NPR this morning, bloviating about some Nixon related thing. I realize that Schorr hasn�t had a moment of glory since the Nixon presidency, but while I can understand Schorr�s need to dwell on his past triumphs, why does that count as news? Why does NPR subject the rest of us to that? I have to agree that the Vietnam / Nixon experience has indelibly marked the generation that took part in the anti-government protests. Like an old high school quarterback who won the big game 30 years ago but struggles with a broken marriage and dead-end job now, modern reality is just too painful to deal with straight up. The only difference is that I can feel sorry for the former quarterback.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:40 PM

Us bagel-eating Neo-Cons feeling smug...

[Ah ha! It is YOU who's been pulling the Bush-puppet's strings for the Zionistas! --I.C. Lighten up guys, it's a joke! I'm no Neo-Con. Just a plain-vanilla-wafer-Con)

The Washington Post has a pleasing editorial, The 'Bush Doctrine' Experiences Shining Moments. I have but a few quibbles...

...Those who developed the Bush Doctrine -- a policy of taking preemptive, unprovoked action against emerging threats -- predicted that an impressive U.S. victory in Iraq would intimidate allies and foes alike, making them yield to U.S. interests in other areas. Though that notion floundered with the occupation in Iraq, the capture of Hussein may have served as the decisive blow needed to make others respect U.S. wishes, they say...
The notion didn't "flounder," though it may have seemed so. It was our patience and persistence dealing with the difficulties and frustrations in Iraq that gave us the credibility that has impressed foes and allies.

In some ways it was better that the occupation has been difficult and bloody. We've been able to make a good start at laying to rest the notion that we will bug out when things get tough. And that we can be stopped by a chorus of shrieks and sneers and ankle-biting from the "International Community." And that we are captive to the "need for stability" in the ME.

An impressive start, impressive enough that various people are now nervously extrapolating our future moves as straight lines, and not bell-shaped curves.

...Bush still has some inconsistencies to work out with his doctrine. Earlier this month, he drew rebukes from conservatives for undermining democratic Taiwan to win favor with totalitarian China. And, as Bush's domestic opponents point out, he has been contradictory in his views of international organizations. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said the administration's support for International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in Libya and Iran "is difficult to reconcile with the administration's previous ridicule of IAEA inspectors in Iraq." ...
These are not inconsistencies. We are asking Taiwan to stop grandstanding, and support us in the diplomatic firmness needed to deal first with NK, and then China. That's perfectly consistent. The B-Doc (As we bagel-eating SF Neo-Cons say) was always meant to lead to diplomatic strength, not to a series of wars.

And the IAEA inspections (and all the other inspections) are only useful when there is cooperation. They were always a farce in Iraq. If Libya or Iran cooperate, then the inspections will work just fine.

(via Betsy Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:26 AM

December 19, 2003

News from the real world...

Sometimes, living in San Francisco, one starts to have a vague feeling that America was a problem of the past, now tidied away by the 'Progressives.' So I cherish stories like this, from Greyhawk:

....In a matter of a week, kids at the 500-student school in north-central Colorado Springs dug deep into their piggy banks, unearthed crumpled dollar bills from secret hiding spots and did extra chores around the house to raise money for airline tickets and hotel accommodations for two fellow students. In the end, they gathered about $3,000.

That means Anthony Mitchell, 8, and Megan Mitchell, 7, can visit their injured soldier father at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for Christmas. They wouldn't be able to go without their classmates' help.

Staff Sgt. Roy Mitchell of Indiana was severely burned and lost part of his left leg in a land-mine explosion in Afghanistan on Nov. 23. The 32-year-old from Fort Drum in New York was one of 21 wounded soldiers recovering as of Wednesday at Walter Reed....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:32 PM

Bogus, again...

If you are susceptible to the HALLIBURTON/CHENEY/CORRUPTION/CRONY-CAPITALISM syndrome, you are probably NOT susceptible to reasoned argument. But, for the record, the recent charges that Halliburton overcharged us for fuel are BOGUS.

The Army asked Halliburton to buy fuel from Kuwait (For the very good reason that it is adjacent to Basra, where there were riots over fuel shortages.) It was the Halliburton Corporation that initiated purchases of fuel from Turkey (much cheaper). This saved the US a bundle. Now they are being accused of overcharging for the Kuwaiti fuel.

Thank you, oh loyal opposition, for your CONSTRUCTIVE criticism in time of war. blerrrp.

Of course it would be much better to turn for help to the saintly people of the NGO's, who are untainted by Capitalism... but...what's that you say? They've left Iraq? Scooted? Too dangerous? Too "unstable?" I guess somebody forgot to tell the heartless private sector that it's cut 'n run time.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:30 PM

December 18, 2003

To an older place than Eden, and a taller town than Rome...


To an open house in the evening,
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden,
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be, and that are,
To the place where God was homeless,
And all men are at home.

-- G.K.Chesterton

Posted by John Weidner at 5:15 PM

December 17, 2003

The latté is the politics

One of the frustrations of being a "warblogger" is that the anti-war types will snipe and sneer endlessly, but won't debate. At least not using dead-white-men-of-ancient-Greece-patriarchical-homophobic tools like, you know, "logic," or "facts." At least I've never had a real debate�perhaps i'm too minor a weblogger. (Though I've noticed that if I make some trifling mistake in an otherwise impeccably [I think] logical argument, the epee is often embedded in my gizzard with blinding speed, with the rest of the stuff still ignored.)

A subset of this frustration is when you ask some leftizoid: "OK, you don't like the President's plans. At least they are bold attempts to take on big problems. What's your big vision?" What's your plan? "...And answer came there none."

I think this article, The Bike-Path Left suggests a reason why...

....He's [Dean] full of anger.

But only for peripheral issues. Ask him serious questions about the president's key responsibilities--national security and foreign policy--and the passion drains away as it did with Chris Matthews. David Brooks, visiting Burlington in 1997 in search of what eventually became his thesis "Bobos in Paradise," concluded that the quintessential latt� burg was "relatively apolitical." He's a smart guy but he was wrong. All the stuff he took as evidence of the lack of politics--pedestrianization, independent bookstores--is the politics. Because all the big ideas failed, culminating in 1989 in Eastern Europe with the comprehensive failure of the biggest idea of all, the left retreated to all the small ideas: in a phrase, bike paths. That's what Bill Clinton meant when he said the era of big government was over; instead, he'd be ushering in the era of lots and lots of itsy bits of small government that, when you tote 'em up, works out even more expensive than the era of big government. That's what Howard Dean represents--the passion of the Bike-Path Left....

....For hard-core Democrats, the whole war thing is an unwelcome intrusion on what large numbers of people had assumed to be a permanent post-Martian politics. When you're at a Dean get-together, you realize they're not angry about the war, so much as having to talk about the war....

Posted by John Weidner at 1:55 PM

Whatever happened to "just war?"

seablogger writes;

...Whatever happened to "just war?" No U.N. existed when the doctrine was promulgated. It's specious for Catholics to claim retroactively that only the U.N. could authorize conflict. And it's astonishing that a conservative pontiff would ditch Church teachings, merely because of a little political inconvenience. In his younger years John Paul didn't hesitate to discommode the Soviet Empire; yet in his dotage, it seems, the Pope has become an ideological pawn of his Eurocratic handlers. Perhaps he dimly perceives himself as a champion of the common man, shaking his staff at another empire, which he can no longer distinguish from that previous one. Meanwhile his colleagues make fools of themselves...
Cardinal Renato Martino,: ..."Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him," he said in answer to questions about Saddam's arrest...

How about a little more compassion for those people Saddam fed through the chipper-shredder, while he got his jollies listening to them scream? It seems to me the dictator has received very gentle treatment indeed, if anyone tended his teeth, rather than knocking them out. What is this "compassion," really? Perhaps it's a sense of dignity so morally-obtuse that it feels threatened by any violation of rank or title, no matter how bogus or monstrous the dignitary. If the President of the Republic is humbled, who might be next? A Cardinal of the Church, held to account for concealing thousands of child-violations?....

Reminds me of Rowan Williams writing about how he was deeply learned in "International Law," and was sure that it would be "illegal" for the US to liberate Iraq. Gorf.

Seablogger also writes, about the movie Master and Commander: " ...In O'Brian's novels, Maturin is not only the Captain's match in force of character; he is a strange and dangerous man who kills without the slightest compunction when the occasion arises. Indeed Maturin's duels, and his perils as an agent of naval intelligence, provide many of the most dramatic moments in the duodecology (a word I just coined for a twenty-novel cycle). Betanny was given none of this, and he is physically inapt for the role as well: too tall, too handsome...."

I haven't seen the film, but it would be amazing if Hollywood could even imagine having a major character be small, grey-skinned, peevish, and capable of a cold, reptilian glare that can frighten strong men. And if they did, they couldn't possibly combine it with Maturin's warmth and charm. (His name, by the way, should probably be pronounced something like MATCH'rin. Not muh-TOOR-in...)

Take a look at Seablogger--an interesting person. "Duodecology" --gotta love it.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:04 AM

He's also the voice of Treebeard...

I loved an interview with John Rhys-Davies, in NRO. He's the guy who played Gimli in Lord of the Rings, and Sallah in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

....He recalled a conversation with his father back in the summer of 1955 as the two of them overlooked the Dar Es Salaam harbor in Tanzania. He remembers his father pointing to a boat and saying, "Twice a year it comes down from Aden [in Yemen]. It stops here and goes down [south]. On the way down it's got boxes of machinery and goods. On the way back up it's got two or three little black boys on it. Now, those boys are slaves. And the United Nations will not let me do anything about it."

As the conversation continued on that warm summer day, his father said, "Look, boy, there is not going to be a world war between Russia and the United States. The next world war will be between Islam and the West." "Dad, you're nuts," Rhys-Davies responded. "The Crusades have been over for hundreds of years!'" (Precocious as it sounds at age 11, he points out that he did indeed know a "bit about history.") After all, it was 1955. Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States and the Cold War was front-burner foreign policy.

His father responded, "Well, I know but militant Islam is on the rise again. And you will see it in your lifetime."

Rhys-Davies says that interviews like this are going to doom his career. I'm not sure how serious he is. It will be very interesting to see what happens...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:51 AM

Osama bin Laden held in Area 51, cloning attempted...

Seen on The Corner, (via Betsy N)

....Hannity and Colmes just replayed a segment from earlier on Fox during which Mort Kondrake relayed a conversation he had with Madeline Albright in a Fox green room. She asks, Do you suppose the administration has Osama bin Laden and will bring him out before the election? Kondrake said that he asked her if she was serious and she suggested it is a real possibility. She was our secretary of state....

Thank. You. God. The grownups are back in charge.

My second thought: What kind of people think up such accusations? Where's she coming from? It has to seem vaguely plausible to her that a President of the United States would engage in such a preposterous (and I would say treasonous) Hollywood plot to win an election. What kind of world could Madeline Albright have been living in, to nurse such phantsy's? Hmmm?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:37 AM

December 16, 2003

#139: an equal opportunity snipper!

P. Krugman

Patriots and ProfitsWith (12/16/04) Paul Krugman crawled into a journalistic spider hole all his own. He opened this column with the lofty disclaimer that charges of profiteering by Halliburton "have, inevitably and appropriately, been pushed temporarily into the background by the news of Saddam's capture." He then proceeded to write a less than appropriate and definitely "uninevitable" column on exactly that subject.

What happened here is pretty obvious. Krugman had ALREADY written this column before the Hussein capture and was too lazy (and cowardly) to switch to the major topic of the weekend; a topic on which he has pounded the Bush administration over and over in previous columns. At least Maureen Dowd had the good sense to be on vacation and did not have to deal with the broader implications for the anti-war left of Saddam in custody.

As to the column itself, it is a classic example of a "Krugman investigation." Basically, he strings together some carefully selected news sources and then yells corruption. In this case his slanted snippets come from the Wall Street Journal, the Army Corps of Engineers, NBC News and US News and World Report among others. At least he's an equal opportunity snipper! Nothing is sourced precisely; no dates are given and interspersed between these "citations" are a litany of Krugman innuendos and character assassinations.

In other words; it was business as usual. In his first column after the biggest story since the beginning of the war, Paul Krugman was AWOL.

[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 9:29 AM

To clarify what I was saying...

* Update: Xavier in a comment to this post, added a link to a Russian blogger who argues against forcing Russia to forgive too much debt.

So I hasten to add that my post was not arguing for or against debt-forgiveness. What I was arguing against was the NYT's view that our contracts policy would hurt our negotiations. (What's really contemptible about their argument is that it's purely partisan. I'm sure the NYT's management starts its business negotiations from a position of almost-arrogant strength, even if they expect to make concessions later. That's normal. And they would just as happily criticize Bush for starting negotiations from a position of weakness. They are phonies! Hypocrites.)

There are many different sorts of debts involved, some much less odious than others. Mr Baker knows that. That's what the negotiations are all about. You guys watch. In the end, no one will get everything they wanted, but no one will get skinned, either. (Except maybe the French. Ha!)

The argument against toughness, to the extant that it isn't just pure hypocrisy, is part of the larger idiocy of our time, the idea that it's wrong for the US and its allies to fight to defend our civilization. And that somehow being unwilling to fight will bring us peace. Whereas now we find it's brought us war. And if we flinch from this war, we will get a bigger one down the line. Fortunately, or perhaps thanks to God, we have men of peace running the US and Britain and Australia, and many other countries in our coalition....

Posted by John Weidner at 8:14 AM

December 15, 2003

For the Left, it was put-up or shut-up time...

Some simple good sense from Dr Weevil:

In deprecating the importance of the capture of Saddam Hussein, Max Sawicky writes:
U.S. political leaders in both parties are quick to laud imaginary progress towards democracy in other countries. It plays to the notion of an inexorable trend based on the shining U.S. example. Actual accountability, given the facts on the ground, is always sloughed off. Has anybody checked on the state of democracy in Panama? I'm not saying it's absent; I wouldn't know. But we invaded the place and a bunch of civilians died. My data here is the extent of utter disinterest in the fate of Panama in the U.S. I can't remember ever seeing a review of the consequences of U.S. intervention.

We call most Latin and South American countries democracies. What is meant is that they are not-Cuba (and lately, not-Venezuela). The fact is that genuine observance of democratic norms is notoriously spotty. The hurdle of democracy is low enough for most any country to jump over it.

I don't link to Sawicky, but this is from today's first post, and I have bold-faced the most interesting part. Just because he "wouldn't know" doesn't mean the rest of us don't. I'm surprised he didn't think to ask the same question about Grenada, which was also invaded by the U.S., just 20 years ago this past October. Both questions are easy enough to answer: it took me about 10 minutes, plus another hour and a half to write this up. This is not the first time Sawicky has depended on others to do his homework for him. Perhaps I should send him a bill....
The short answer is, yes, Panama and Grenada are democracies in good standing, according to Freedom House. But do take the time to read Dr Weevil's post, complete with cool graphs.

But for me, what's really intriguing is that Lefties like Sawicky are so oddly clueless on this subject, and that there seems to me to be a strong possibility that they don't know because they don't WANT to know!

There's a peculiar and widespread amnesia when the subject is democracy in Latin America. It's almost science-fictiony. There are a LOT of people who can discuss General Pinochet, or the Argentine Colonels, or Che, or Guatemalan death squads. But those are things that happened 3 or 4 DECADES ago. And the same people don't think it odd that their minds are totally blank concerning what's happening NOW in those same countries...

I suspect there is an intentional forgetfulness here, and I think it has a real connection with the odd state of the Left today. Many thoughtful people have expressed dismay that the Left, which was traditionally anti-fascist, now wants nothing to do with removing the worst fascist dictator of recent times.

I think the change dates to around the year 1980. That's when Ronald Reagan became President. And soon after he changed our long-standing Cold War policy of supporting Latin American strong-men and authoritarian governments in order to fight the spread of Communism. Reagan, unlike "Realists" such as Johnson or Nixon, did not believe that Socialism was even close to being competitive with free governments. (He was decisively vindicated in this when the Soviet Union collapsed, and Russia's real economy turned out to be equivalent in size to Holland's.)

More importantly, unlike the "Realists," he really believed that ordinary people around the globe longed for, and deserved, the God-given freedom that Americans enjoy. And that, given the chance, they would NOT vote for communists, but would embrace economic and political freedom. Reagan threw the prestige and influence of America behind democratic movements throughout the Western Hemisphere. The results were dramatic. There were other reasons why the time was ripe for this, but Reagan's efforts, spearheaded by Elliot Abrams, were probably the largest factor in the change to democracy. When Bush #1 left office, there was only one leader in this Hemisphere who had not been elected competitively!

But the new policy put the world's Leftists in a terrible dilemma. It was put-up or shut-up time. They had been bellyaching for ages about Latin American dictators, and now someone was doing something about it. But they didn't really want ordinary people to run the circus; that was supposed to be a job for Leftist bureaucrats and intellectuals.

And even worse, democracy was being championed by Ronald Reagan! The kind of berserk reaction that the Left has now to George W Bush was exactly how they reacted then to Reagan.

I think that was when the Left started to lose interest in anti-fascism. Not to mention democracy. If Reagan and the Republicans were for it, it was much too bourgeois. (They could still get some milage from the dictators of the Middle East�I recently read a Leftish rant about Saudi Arabia being the worst government in the world [which will come as a surprise to the people of North Korea.] But now Bush #2 is busy taking even that pleasure away.)

For Latin America, the only answer was AMNESIA. Chile doesn't exist. Argentina without the Colonels dropped off the globe. When did you last hear about El Salvador? Or Guatemala? And Elliot Abrams is known only for the mistakes of the Iran-Contra scandal....

Posted by John Weidner at 4:49 PM

December 14, 2003

"the party of bureaucrats"

A couple of morsels from Orrin Judd on the Dems:

Here's how badly the Democrats have positioned themselves: Dean's statements about Saddam today are being referred to as doing "damage control". When the capture of a mass murdering dictator by your own nation is damaging to your political prospects, it's time to ask yourself what the heck you're doing.... link
And this...
It seems hardly a coincidence that the decline of the Democratic Party tracks so closely with the decline of industrial unions and the rise of civil service unions. There's something appealing about a party that fights for factory workers--something repulsive about the party of

Posted by John Weidner at 5:57 PM

"bad-cop credibility"

I was thinking again about the notion that our contracts policy will damage the debt negotiations. But to believe that, you have to believe that the Thuggish Three really WANT to be helpful, and just need a little sweet-talk, maybe some flowers and a box of candy, and then they will pour tens-of-billions of odious dollars down the drain. Out of the goodness of their hearts, y'know. I think Musil has the right idea here...

....Mr. Baker is surely the right man for the job. And despite the ridiculous posturing of the New York Times the Pentagon has done him a huge favor by barring obstructionist European nations from reconstruction contracts. That act - and the President's endorsement of it - credibly evidences United States willingness to have Iraq unilaterally repudiate every last dime of that $120 Billion.

Citing out-of-the-loop senior diplomats telling tales out of school, the Times and other opportunist hand-wringers, such as Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman, argue that the Pentagon decision and its "highly offensive language" about national security needs constitute a gaff that has made Mr. Baker's job harder, even though the White House signed off on the Pentagon decision ahead of time.

Maybe. But, personally, I don't believe a word of it.

The Iraq gifters/lenders are the same bunch who refused to contribute more than a pittance to the construction effort. Having refused voluntarily to contribute funds directly, these same players are not going to agree to do the same thing indirectly by voluntarily agreeing to debt foregiveness. THIS IS GOING TO BE A CRAMDOWN.

What Mr. Baker needed was a club and a lot of bad-cop credibility. And he got it from that Pentagon decision - especially its nasty tone and "highly offensive language." I'll bet he's a very happy debt negotiator right now....

Posted by John Weidner at 5:33 PM

Apple pelted with rotten fruit...

Since I often post stories about how much I enjoy our Apple computers, it's only fair to add that their Customer Support can be as frustrating as that of most computer makers.

Here's a cool story about how a clever protest helped force Apple to change a lousy iPod battery replacement policy....

Posted by John Weidner at 4:38 PM

I was thinking we were being unfair to Kerry, but....

You know, I was kind of thinking that the put-downs of John Kerry as Frenchified were a bit overdone and unfair. But what's his first reaction to the capture of Saddam? Starhawk was watching and posts this

Update: John Kerry on Fox News Sunday: This is our chance to open up our bidding process where we shut out France ...."
Then he goes on to say that he is not talking politics. This guy is a LOSER no doubt about it. He digs himself a deeper hole saying that we should have continued the Clinton policy with North Korea and we should not have run away from Kyoto (which he voted against).
I think some people can't give up believing that France and "Old Europe" are still important, because they've invested too much of themselves in being "sophisticated" and "European."

The truth is, France is circling the drain. It's economy is utterly stagnant, it has NO private-sector job growth, an aging population uninterested in hard work, enormous pension-liabilities coming up that it has not the least possibility of meeting, and no will to reform. (Though I've heard that France has a growing number of Evangelical Christians. That's a sign of hope, though it's probably too little, too late. Their real problem is spiritual. Like much of Europe, they don't believe in anything.)

The countries that are really important are those that have growing economies, growing populations, youth, energy, dreams and ambitions...I suggest putting India at the top of the list. I've heard that they are graduating 360,000 engineers a year! (There's a number that's hard to deal with!)

Posted by John Weidner at 2:54 PM

"and I will fight this battle with all the good men and women on earth..."

Here's what an Iraqi says about the Coalition Of The Unwilling....

.....Your masks can no longer cover your ugly faces. Just now you remembered that wars are evil and bring only disasters! What about those endless wars you dragged us into? What has suddenly turned you from cold-blooded murderers (at least in the second degree) into peaceful pigeons?

The UN evacuate their officials after a terrorists attack, the media declare war on us, showing the terrorists as resistance, the companies refrain from sending their officials to Iraq in fear from terrorist attacks, the peaceful world supports the (resistance).

Yet, you still have the insolence to demand a share of the contracts of Iraq's reconstruction process. I was glad to hear what the US had decided about this matter.

Yes there're dangers in Iraq, but what about us? Whom terrorism lives next door or block. Yes you can't afford the loss of your men and your money, but Iraqis? Well... they're used to it, death is a daily routine to them. They don't appreciate life as you do. Let me tell you something, you coward hypocrites, this may surprise you, but I love life, and love my family and friends. I can't bare it if something bad happens to them. Yet I don't intend to run away. I and a lot of my friends could get a job any where, with much better income, but I'm not leaving, not because I'm a patriot, as I don't believe in your classification of human beings; Iraqi, Indian, German, black, white, Jewish, Muslim, etc.

I'm a human being, and I feel responsible towards all mankind, and I will fight this battle with all the good men and women on earth. And you keep watching from a distance, and don't even think of coming near, and carrying the risk of smearing your fancy clothes with (our cheap blood). I don't need you, and even if I did, I won't ask your help, we've had enough of it. Go somewhere else, go to Africa, and relieve your conscience by donating some pennies to the poor, starving people there, and don't bother how their dictators will use the money, and don't even bother asking why they are so poor. I will stay here and fight for freedom and democracy with the good and brave Americans (yes..the good and brave.. Eat your hearts), and with all the honest soldiers and people of the coalition.

Bon voyage to Africa...have some conscience....

Posted by John Weidner at 2:02 PM

"Their work continues, and so do the risks..."

I like Glenn Reynolds' term, "Coalition Of The Pissy." My guess is that they will now whine that "Bush promised peace after Saddam was captured." Well. Tough. Luck. The war will go on; Iraq is but one battle, and we haven't declared it over. Here's a bit of President Bush's address:

....Their work continues, and so do the risks. Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our armed forces and I congratulate them. I also have a message for all Americans: The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the Middle East. Such men are a direct threat to the American people, and they will be defeated.

We�ve come to this moment through patience and resolve and focused action, and that is our strategy moving forward. The war on terror is a different kind of war, waged capture by capture, cell by cell, and victory by victory. Our security is assured by our perseverance, and by our sheer belief in the success of liberty, and the United States of America will not relent until this war is won.

May God bless the people of Iraq, and may God bless America....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:38 AM

December 13, 2003

"You can't outrun the history train"

Greyhawk writes

What I've told troops confronted with "protest" is a bit more simple: "America is with you. As far as the protestors, don't sweat it. You're making history; they're making noise.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:55 PM



Eight-Legged envoys from Planet Zwarthrob disappear on primitive planet called "Earth;" Galaxy shocked.

The arachnoid Zwarthrobians may have run afoul of a local festival called "Crab Season."

This may be the last picture of the Zwarthrobian Plenipotentiary, believed eaten by Republicans...

Locals expressed no remorse over the crime, and seem to feel that the hapless space travellers have fulfilled a "higher purpose." Their cruel religion enjoins them to seize local spider-like people know as "crab," boil them alive, and eat them drenched in melted-butter. A spokesman emphasized the ritual importance of an accompaniment of dry white wine, and crusty loaves of sourdough bread.

One indigene answered the Galactic criticisms: "Hey, it's not like we're some kinda primitivos in this town. We don't cut their beating hearts out with stone knives, like some real savages I could name."

Posted by John Weidner at 6:45 PM

The United Kingdom, Denmark, Poland, Azerbaijan, Moldavia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Japan, and Spain........

Jason Van Steenwyk, a blogger in Iraq, writes:

I just don�t get sentiments like this:
The president made a series of promises to us--number one, that he was gonna make every effort possible to build a legitimate coalition. He did not--he built a fraudulent coalition.
--Senator John Kerry, in this interview with Rolling Stone magazine
I�ve been in Southwest Asia since April. In that time I�ve personally met and talked to soldiers and civilians from The United Kingdom, Denmark, Poland, Azerbaijan, Moldavia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Japan, and Spain. I haven�t met any Italians yet, Japanese, or Spaniards yet, Koreans, but I know they�re here. Some of them lost their lives on this ground.

There are also, at any given time, thousands of Iraqis risking assassination or mass murder in order to help rebuild Iraq. I see them almost every day. Are they frauds?

All of them are here on the ground, risking their necks along with us. Is that fraudulent? Within the last couple of weeks, men from Italy and Japan have sacrificed their lives along with our troops. Was that fraudulent?

A soldier from Fiji was wounded�shot through both knees�while providing security for an Iraqi Currency Exchange program in the Battle of Samarra. Was that fraudulent, too?

Why don�t you come out here and speak to the boots on the ground from our coalition partners? Try calling them �fraudulent,� Senator....

The Democrats are going to suffer a crushing loss in 2004, and THEY HAVE EARNED EVERY PENNY OF IT!

Posted by John Weidner at 4:42 PM

"and the cloud is blown, and the moon again..."


At the top of the house the apples are laid in rows,
And the skylight lets the moonlight in, and those
Apples are deep-sea apples of green. There goes
A cloud on the moon in the autumn night.

A mouse in the wainscot scratches, and scratches, and then
There is no sound at the top of the house of men
Or mice; and the cloud is blown, and the moon again
Dapples the apples with deep-sea light.

They are Iying in rows there, under the gloomy beams;
On the sagging floor; they gather the silver streams
Out of the moon, those moonlit apples of dreams,
And quiet is the steep stair under.

In the corridors under there is nothing but sleep.
And stiller than ever on orchard boughs they keep
Tryst with the moon, and deep is the silence, deep
On moon-washed apples of wonder.

-- John Drinkwater

Posted by John Weidner at 9:22 AM

Organic investments...

Yesterday Best of the Web was (justifiably) in stitches over some Democrat who was lamenting how happy people were going to be because the economy is getting stronger.

This is a snippet of his cry of woe that made me pause:

...took a look at my IRA today and see it sitting at a three year high. I admit, for a moment, I felt a moment of glee, then I remembered who this is REALLY helping, big corporations, Bush's supporters, and the sheep who think he really did anything to boost the economy....
Fellow, YOU are the "big corporations." You own them.

As Peter Drucker pointed out decades ago, America is a socialist nation--because the majority of shares in our corporations are held not by the rich, but by ordinary working and middle-class Americans, in the form of pension funds and mutual funds.

Of course the good part is that this has given the Leftys no joy at all! They know full well that "workers" with fat pension funds or 401-K's are not going to envision opportunities to put Socialists in power force the corporations to act in socially responsible ways. They are going to inquire why profits aren't higher, and whether a Republican Administration might be what the economy needs. One wonders what the fellow quoted here would say if he had the choice of hurting Bush--but only at the cost of his IRA being taken out of those horrid "big corporations" and invested in a migrant-farm-worker organic tortilla co-op....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:02 AM

December 12, 2003

Kofi and the Beanstalk...

To some Americans, other countries are always tender damsels, wistfully hoping to be friends, but always driven away by America's obnoxious body-odor. I remember during the Vietnam War, it was a matter of faith to many that North Vietnam keenly wanted peace, but could only express this desire through "peace feelers" of inscrutable subtlety, which were always ignored, or which withered under the harsh blast of American coarseness. The idea that Ho Chi Minh was some sort of delicate blossom was goofy, but it served its purpose of obscuring the fact that we had a "peace movement" that was only interested in criticizing one side of a very two-sided war.

We have the very same thing again. You just watch; it will now become a matter of faith to some people that Russia and France and Germany were this close, were just fractions of millimeters away from pitching in and helping us in Iraq. But then President Stanley Kowalski belched in their faces with our contracts policy, driving them away by a boorishness their sheltered convent-upbringing had not prepared them for.

David Frum writes:

....The fact is that Germany, France, and Russia have already been pressed by the United States to forgive Iraq�s debts, most insistently at an October conference in Madrid. All three refused, as they have refused to provide significant aid to the new Iraq.

So who�s kidding whom here? The idea that the allies-only rule might somehow �embarrass� President Bush�s attempts to obtain economic assistance for Iraq is pure State Department wishful thinking. To the contrary: the swift and firm application of an attention-getting two-by-four may well be the only method to persuade the ill-intentioned three to offer any assistance.

There�s a more profound question at issue here. It is always hard for the human mind to adapt to the fact of change. For half a century, Germany has been a firm and faithful ally of the United States; France, an often annoying but still ultimately reliable friend. It�s natural to hesitate to absorb the evidence that these relationships may be coming to an end--that Germany is edging away from the old alliance and that France has for reasons of its own opted to pursue a policy of rivalry and even hostility to the United States. But if it is natural to hesitate to accept unwelcome new realities, it is dangerous to deny them. In Iraq, France was Saddam Hussein�s ally, not America�s--and France now wishes the United States, Britain, and the rest of the coalition to fail in Iraq, not succeed. It is useful for the French government and others to be made aware that Americans have observed this hostility--and that America�s future policy toward France and others will take this hostility into account.

As for Iraq�s debts, they are a matter between those who chose to lend money to Saddam Hussein--principally France, Germany, and Russia--and the new government of Iraq. The United States will of course wish to see Iraq and its creditors negotiate some settlement. But it�s also true that when debtors and creditors cannot agree, debtors sometimes simply default--refuse to pay. And what will those creditors do if Iraq does default? Invade?....

Actually, the debts of overburdened third-world countries are often given "haircuts." The markets have already discounted private Iraqi debt in the expectation that a haircut is inevitable. It's going to happen. There will be lots of posturing and negotiating and lines drawn in the sand, and then, when the news media get bored with the question, a deal will quietly be done. (

Our friend Dave Trowbridge notes someone's suggestion that, as "occupying power," WE are now responsible for Iraqi debt, and can only escape by permission of the UN. I would tend to put that down to wishful thinking. There are a lot of people for whom "International Law" is something one simply declares, in hopes it will take, like a small-pox vaccination. [That sure dates you.--I.C. Uh, I read about it in a book.] And of course the purpose of these soi-disant international laws is always to hinder the United States (Or perhaps Israel.) I mean, try to even imagine the world's lefties saying that France can't do such-and-such because it's "against International Law." You can't think it, the mind refuses to accept such a thing! Or imagine someone declaring that Russia's invasion of Afghanistan has left them liable for Afghan debts...laughable.

Part of this wishful thinking is the hope that the United Nations has somehow become an omnipotent World Government while no one was looking. Authoritative voices are always declaring that this-or-that can't be done without the permission of the Security Council. Last September there was this:

UN under-secretary general Shashi Tharoor said the Allies had no rights under international law to engage in any kind of reconstruction or creation of government without the express consent of the Security Council....
Purest hogwash. I'd call that the "Magic Bean" theory of International Law. Kofi Anan tosses some Magic Beans on the ground, and overnight they grow into a towering beanstalk, and all nations the United States has no choice but to obey. World Government has spoken!

There are, by the way, genuine International Laws. But those are rules that have evolved over time, and which civilized nations follow because it's in everybody's best interest to do so. Or they are treaties, voluntarily entered into, and exited from. The United States supports many of those laws.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:59 PM

#138:, The door is open...

P. Krugman

A Deliberate Debacle (12/12/03) by Paul Krugman is one of those columns written strictly for the coastal elites. These are the same folks who are going be on the losing end of a 40 to 10 states-carried ratio in the next presidential election. At issue is what Krugman considers the contretemps of sending James Baker off to negotiate Iraqi debt forgiveness with our estranged allies while simultaneously excluding those allies from bidding on lucrative Iraqi reconstruction contracts. Even worse, according to Krugman, the administration did so "with highly offensive language." He sees this as an effort by administration hawks to sabotage reconciliation with our anti-war allies.

The quote by President Bush that has the Krugman elites so upset is this: "It's very simple. Our people risk their lives. . . . Friendly coalition folks risk their lives. . . . The contracting is going to reflect that."

Quelle horror!

By contrast consider an alternative statement from Bush that might have pleased Krugman. "Let's let bygones be bygones. Sure the French, Germans, Russians and Chinese opposed us on the war to protect their vested economic interests in the Hussein regime, but now that he's gone we have to work together to rebuild Iraq. Even the large portion of the reconstruction costs being paid for by US taxpayers will be open to full international bidding. Fair's fair!"

Is there anyone who would buy that?

Actually this is one of those issues where a red state/blue state perspective is necessary for true understanding. There are many people in this country outside of NY, NJ, MA and CA who don't give a rat's ass whether the French, et. al., are offended. They see perfect logic in limiting contracts to coalition countries. As to debt forgiveness�the door is open. It's up to the "estranged allies" to get back on our good side!

It's called hardball, PK.

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

Posted by John Weidner at 6:13 PM

December 10, 2003

"Heros" is the only word I can think of...

This LA Times article The Thunder Run on the first incursions into Baghdad is absolutely hair-raising stuff! Don't miss...

.... The main gun was bent and smashed. It flopped to the side, useless. The tank continued up Highway 8, Gruneisen on the .50-caliber and Hernandez on a medium machine gun. They rolled up to the spaghetti junction into a curtain of black smoke�and missed the airport turn. They were headed into the city center.

Hernandez saw that they were approaching a traffic circle. As they drew closer, he saw that the circle was clogged with Iraqi military trucks and soldiers. It was a staging area for troops attacking the American column.

From around the circle, just a block away, a yellow pickup truck sped toward the tank. Hernandez tore into it with the machine gun, killing the driver. The tank driver slammed on the brake to avoid the truck, but it was crushed beneath the treads. The impact sent Hernandez's machine gun tumbling off the back of the tank.

The tank reversed to clear itself from the wreckage, crushing the machine gun. A passenger from the truck wandered into the roadway. The tank pitched forward, trying to escape the circle, and crushed him.

The crew was now left with just one medium machine gun and the .50-caliber. Firing both guns to clear the way, the crewmen helped direct the tank driver out of the circle. As they pulled away, they could see a blue "Airport" sign. They were less than five miles from the airport....

We have, of course, made lots of mistakes. That happens in every war. But what's fascinating is the unusual number of things that were really well done. When we got to Baghdad we tossed out all our plans and doctrine and invented totally new tactics on the spot. And they worked superbly.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:13 PM

a fine mess you've gotten us into, Ollie...

Gavin Newsome will be the new mayor of San Francisco. He won 53% to 47%.

It's a rare pickle we are in, to be breathing a big sigh of relief because the liberal Democrat won!!

Posted by John Weidner at 9:23 AM

Cuba Libre

Natalie writes, about Noam Chomsky:

....Stupid liar. There is little in this world more pathetic than the stupid lies of a clever man. He could with little cost to himself or his cause have said, "Fortunately, I was wrong in that prediction, but the US is still wrong to act as it does because..." Instead he dodges and weaves. It's like a drunk making a fool of himself in public. Blessed with great gifts in the field of language, he writes tortuous screeds full of lines like "Note first that it is not what I said, therefore a terrible source. But OK here because it is quite accurate."....
To me the really damning thing is that no one, Left or Right, considers it even remotely possible that Chomsky could adjust his ideas as new facts arise.

I have this fantasy, where Chomsky or one of his ilk is speaking in, say, Rochester MN, perhaps only a short distance from the world-famous Mayo Clinic. In the midst of his speech, the great man collapses on the stage!

He wakes up in an oxygen tent, in an oddly shaped room. A nurse bends over him and explains that he is on an airplane. "Mr Chomsky, you've suffered a massive heart attack, and I have to tell you you are in critical condition. But the good news is that your followers have contributed to get you the best medical care in the world. We'll be landing in Havana in a few minutes....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:15 AM

December 8, 2003

Under the press radar...

John Moore posts:

My daughter lives in Baltimore, which is where troops arrive from Iraq and Afghanistan for R&R (Rest and Relaxation).

On her most recent flight there, every passenger in first class gave up their seats to the troops! The gratitude of all on the aircraft was enthusiastically expressed.

On an Amtrak trip yesterday, civilians in the Cafe Car competed for the honor of buying beer for the troops there. Too many civilians, not enough soldiers! Lots of thanks and "High Fives" were also given.

You may not see it on the news, but these incidents are happening all over the country every day.

(via Bill Quick)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:09 AM

December 7, 2003

Right here in our very neighborhood!

Just when Charlene and I were feeling a bit bored with our little patch of the galaxy, (and were about to conclude that the answer to the question "where are they?" is that we live in one of the "flyover" nebulae) there comes this...

....So, using infrared light, astronomers have just found a small galaxy of about a billion stars in the constellation Canis Major, that is, astonishingly, only about 25,000 light years away from the Sun. That's closer to us than the center of our own Milky Way! The Canis Major dwarf galaxy is not faring well in its gravitational battle with the Milky Way, and there are streamers of stars being pulled off the smaller galaxy onto the disk of our own.

Some of these cannibalized stars are drifting down to become part of the Milky Way's disk, and others are even heading in the direction of the Sun. It's a pretty weird thought that some of the stars around us may not come from our galaxy at all, but were pulled off the Canis Major dwarf galaxy many millions of years ago....

May I suggest we take all the money spent on Sociology and shift it to Astronomy?

(thanks to Craig Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 PM

Like Babe Ruth pointing to the stands...

Michael Barone thinks Bush is going to campaign on Social Security reform:

....Bush has redefined conservatism. It is now not the process of cutting government and devolving powers; it is the process of installing choice and accountability into government even at the cost of allowing it to grow. This is an attempt to move government in the same direction as the private sector, which now offers much more in the way of choice and accountability than it did in the 1950s and 1960s, when big corporations and big unions established wage rates, when you worked for one company until age 65 and then depended on that one company and Social Security for your retirement income.

What is next on Bush's list? Social Security....

Well, I could have told you that was coming. But probably many people will feel Bush is being circuitous and deceptive. "Hey, didn't we already whack that mole? And now it pops up again...It's not fair." Actually it's what he probably learned in business school. If you want to change a big organization, have a few clear and simple goals, and keep pushing towards them.

If you want to understand this administration, you might just start with something David Frum wrote:

....Bush exacerbated these bitter doubts by his own disinclination to communicate his thoughts to the public. In his big prepared speeches, Bush exerts himself, often with tremendous success, to explain his plans and intentions to the public. Read George Bush's major speeches�and nothing else�and nothing will come as a surprise to you. Like Babe Ruth pointing to the stands before hitting his home run, Bush clearly indicates in advance exactly what he will do.

But Bush's more informal remarks can be cryptic, if not unintelligible. When Bush responded to questions about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden or the administration's plans for Iraq with "I'm a patient man," he was in his own mind reaffirming his intention to take action in a considered, deliberate way. But that sentence could easily be interpreted as a prelude to a wimp-out...

That's from Frum's book The Right Man, by the way. Good book, I recommend it.

But what's especially interesting is that this has always been an issue where Republican reformers get chopped to pieces. The program has been crying for reform for decades, but the usual scenario is that Democrats frighten older voters, telling them they will be eating dog food if those cold-hearted Republicans are allowed to tamper with Social Security.

But, if Barone's right, Bush is going to make a frontal attack on what has always seemed like an impregnable bastion! And during his re-election campaign, not after. And I predict he's going to win. He said in 2000 that he wanted to do it�he pointed to the stands�and sure as you're born it's going to happen. What could be more splendid? And what bliss to have a MAN in the White House at last. (And a businessman at that, and not a lawyer.)

Posted by John Weidner at 3:58 PM

Chateau generals...

I was sent a link to this NYT piece on Iraq by Lucien Truscott IV. It's very interesting and worth reading, but he seems to have a template that all his observations must fit into.

....Commanding generals have had lavishly appointed offices before, as well. My grandfather, Gen. Lucian K. Truscott Jr., occupied the Borghese Palace when his VI Corps swept into Rome in 1943. His aide kept a record of the meals prepared for him by his three Chinese cooks, while every day dozens � and on some days, hundreds � of his soldiers perished on the front lines at Anzio, only a few miles away from his villa on the beach.

So there may be nothing new about this war and the way we are fighting it � with troops on day and night patrols from base camps being hit by a nameless, faceless enemy they cannot see and whose language they do not speak. However, the disconnect between the marbled hallways of the Coalition Provisional Authority palaces in Baghdad and the grubby camp in central Mosul where I spent last week as a guest of Bravo Company, First Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, is profound, and perhaps unprecedented.....

Well. maybe. But his picture of confused, resentful and ill-supported grunts fighting a war they don't understand while the brass sit comfortably in safety doesn't seem to fit with all the other accounts we are getting from Iraq, including those of military bloggers.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:30 PM

December 6, 2003

More garden pests....


He crawleth here, he creepeth there
On lyttle cat-like feet.
He weareth coats of gorgeous fur
and Lyveth but to eat

He gnaweth lettuce into shreddes
And, burrowing with his nose,
He tattereth half the garden beddes
And fretteth e'en the rose.

And yet his metaphysics lend
The creature some renowne.
In him, a super-natural end
is Nature's natural crowne.

For, out of his own mouth at last
He spinneth his cocoon
Wherein he swingeth, slumber-fast,
Beneath the summer moon;

To dram, in silken hammock curled
Of strange translunar things;
And wake, into a finer world,
An emperor, with wings

-- Alfred Noyes
You might at first glance imagine that this was written in the 16th Century�but the author is having fun with us. Alfred Noyes lived from1880 to 1958, and is most famous for.....
The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.....


Posted by John Weidner at 7:00 PM

"fraudulent food becames a metaphor for political lying"

President Bush serving on chow line

In a desperate attempt to shore up his faltering administration, an obviously strained and worried President Bush holds a plastic turkey, heartlessly forcing our sullen soon-to-be-slaughtered soldiers to participate in a cynical election-year public relations stunt...

(Thank you Henry)

Posted by John Weidner at 11:48 AM

December 5, 2003

#137: Shifting the doomsday time frame

P. Krugman

There's always a market for pessimism, apparently, even if it means constantly shifting the doomsday time frame. Having been wrong on every prediction to date about the prospects for the current US economy, Paul Krugman has now pushed the goal posts of economic disaster so far back he's become a "futurist" of sorts. In Looting the Future (12/05/03) he reminds us of one of those wizened, skid row cartoon characters holding a placard reading, "The End is Coming."

But despite all the bluster, there are only two serious points in this column. And, as Krugman likes to say, "to be fair", we agree with one of them. The first is the claim that there is a 25% long-term budget gap that will exist regardless of economic recovery. This is crazy! Krugman gives no citation for this odd position but it probably harks back to the Brookings study by Auerback, Gale and Orszag he mentioned in The Tax Cut Con (9/14/03) in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. This was our comment about that in Squad Report # 122.

"Krugman delights in citing studies that show a long-term budget gap (because of the Bush tax cuts, of course) that is unaffected by economic growth rates. Ever wonder why an economy growing a 4% (which we expect to occur soon) wouldn't have better budget prospects than an economy growing at 2%? Here's the dirty little secret. The economists conducting these studies ASSUME that government discretionary spending rises proportionally with GDP. Talk about a catch 22! They don't even allow for the possibility that higher growth rates might be used for something other than more entitlement programs. In our view the Brookings study by Alan Auerbach, William Gale and Peter Orszag (cited by Krugman) represents nothing more than a liberal establishment terrified of losing the tax base which allows them to control spending by productive members of society. Without that tax base, some of these Brookings guys might actually have to work for a living!"
To put a finer point on it an economy growing at 2% doubles every 34 years compared with every 18 years when growing at 4%. Anyone who doesn't see that the latter rate gives broader societal options is "certifiable." Sure spending may go up, but at least there is a choice. Restoring fiscal order may be one of the choices.

All that said, we agree with Krugman that profligate spending can upset any degree of economic performance and the Bush administration is definitely soft on spending. As we noted in Squad report # 134, we found ourselves in the odd position of being "strange bedfellows" with Ted Kennedy and Krugman in opposing Medicare expansion. We're hoping Bush toughens up in his second term.

[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 1:11 PM

Those evil corporations...

Brian writes

....I'm racking my brains to come up with a word to use in place of the woefully inadequate "pathetic". But all I can think to do is to bear down on that very word, to turn to its florid definition and history in the OED, and ponder its meaning on all levels of interpretation and etymology. Pathetic. There is no more appropriate word.

What must it be like in the breakrooms of these news offices? Editors hunched glumly around metal folding tables, drinking coffee, heads propped in hands as they moan to each other about their collective failure to come up with a sufficiently explosive scandal with which to detonate the Bush Administration?

What level of despair must there be among the senior editors, for them to conclude that it's worth a shot to run a story on whether the turkey that Bush posed with was the one they carved the soldiers' portions from or not?...

I can't improve on that.

But something else occurs to me. Some in the press are trying to whip up interest in this, to help their party. But they haven't mentioned, as far as I've noticed, who actually is decorating the chow lines here. Who added that extra touch of holiday cheer? I don't know for sure, but I suspect it's gone unmentioned because the mess hall is run by the Halliburton Corporation. Or rather, by some of the many living, breathing, caring human beings who actually make up the Halliburton Corporation.

When you are hoping the Administration will be tarnished by vague accusations of connections with sinister Capitalists, and with "the corporations," you don't want to put a human face on the bad guys.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:18 AM

Trampled by heffalumps...

Remember that woman who was trampled at Wal-Mart? Trampled by greedy and uncaring Americans? Well...

.....An investigation by WKMG-Local 6 reveals Vanlester has filed 16 previous claims of injuries at Wal-Mart stores and other places she has shopped or worked, according to Wal-Mart, court files and state records. Her sister, who accompanied her Friday on the visit to Wal-Mart, has also filed a prior injury claim against Wal-Mart, with Vanlester as her witness, a company spokeswoman said yesterday...
Charlene has often dealt with this sort in her work. "Vexatious litigants" I think they call them.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:34 AM

December 4, 2003

"He that shall live this day, and see old age..."

The petty spiteful carping about the President's visit to Iraq has hit a new low. The publisher of Harper's dismisses the trip as merely an election ploy, says that reporters ought to have tried to break the secrecy of the trip, should not be serving as a "press agency for the President," (bet he never said that when Democrats were in the White House) and lots more whines of noisy desperation. But this is what really got to me:

....They're used as a photo op, as an advertising platform, as they may get killed in next day, the next three weeks, the next six months, and at this point, what good is George Bush's Thanksgiving visit for them? I don't see what material -- what material advantage there is to having the president come and have his picture taken with them. It's kind of cruel in a way...
OK, so what the @#%&* "material advantage" is there from Hillary visiting the troops? Hmm? What a phony. If President Clinton paid a Thanksgiving visit to soldiers overseas, you can bet this guy would be telling us how heartwarming it was...

And who in the world has suggested the President's visit was supposed to convey some "material advantage?" What nonsense. The results hoped-for are spiritual and intangible known as "morale." That's can of worms that this guy isn't about to open up�because those two hours probably "paid off" bigger than any other presidential two hours you can name. Here's the reaction of someone who's opinion is much more applicable than those of a lefty journalist:

...Soldiers were hollering, cheering, and a lot of them were crying. There was not a dry eye at my table. When he stepped up to the cheering, I could clearly see tears running down his cheeks. It was the most surreal moment I've had in years. Not since my wedding and Aaron being born. Here was this man, our President, came all the way around the world, spending 17 hours on an airplane and landing in the most dangerous airport in the world, where a plane was shot out of the sky not six days before.

Just to spend two hours with his troops. Only to get on a plane and spend another 17 hours flying back. It was a great moment, and I will never forget it...

Let me make a prediction. Wait 50 years, then locate someone who was in (or supported) the US military in 2003. Ask them if they remember the President's Thanksgiving trip. I predict that 99% of them will have warm and vivid memories of it. "Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, But he'll remember....Then shall our names, Familiar in his mouth as household words,.... Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd..."

Why? Partly because that trip said, in a simple object-lesson kind of way, that the sacrifices of our soldiers are valued, and not overlooked.

But there's another thing. What our people are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is not just a mucky job, not just sacrifices. It's also an adventure. A crazy risky idealistic youthful adventure. America sat on its hands for decades and said "don't bother to try to do big things, because that would be naive and hopeless and old-fashioned and probably just make things worse." And most of us just accepted that our leaders and the experts knew what was best, and that the time of great deeds was far in the past.

And now here comes this guy Bush, saying "Yeah, it's crazy, it's risky, it will be horribly difficult and expensive, but hey, let's just try it anyway! We're Americans! The difficult we do right away (as the cliché goes), the impossible may take 'till 2007." Just thinking about George W Bush makes me feel like Theoden being roused from a long stupor of pessimism. What a great time this is to be alive! (Of course it would be even better to be 20, and not have to settle for just being a spectator.)

And this seemingly minor trip of the President's is resonating with people because it shared the flavor of the adventure. It was light-hearted and light on its feet, the theme was serving and giving, and, perhaps best of all, it royally pissed-off all the stuffed-shirts and sourpusses.

(Both links thanks to Betsy Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:29 PM

December 3, 2003

"Unk unk's"

The "Plain English Campaign" gave Donald Rumsfeld its Foot in Mouth Award for this sentence:

'Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns � the ones we don't know we don't know.'
I don't think they covered themselves with glory in this case.

Just because a statement is complicated doesn't mean that it's bad English. Grasping the concept of "known-unknowns" and "unknown-unknowns" takes a bit of mental effort the first time you hear it....say, like maybe 3 seconds. But it's an important concept, and quite commonly used. I know that at Boeing (and probably elsewhwere) the "unknown-unknown" is a common engineering term-of-art. They are caled "unk unk's!"

And of course Rumsfeld was speaking off-the-cuff, and somewhat jokingly. If he were writing an article, he might have made the point clearer.

I wish there could be a moratorium on taking spoken words of public figures, ripping them out of context, and holding them to the standards appropriate for written statements. Politicians especially spend endless hours yakking to reporters and TV figures. Inevitably they say some muddled things. You would too. Yesterday Best of the Web was rolling on the floor because Howard Dean referred to the Soviet Union as if it was still in operation. That's STUPID. Howard Dean is perfectly aware of the demise of the Soviet Union, and probably meant something like "countries of the former Soviet Union."

* [UPDATE: actually, re-reading, it was not stupid to mention it, because it was peculiar. And they also had some other solid stuff about Dean nootziness. But I don't have time to look for a better example. So think of this as a "virtual" example. Or just say, "Weidner Lied!"]

It's stupid, and also a kind of lie. It's pushing the idea that Dean is an ignoramus, when he isn't. (Or if he is, they haven't made a real case for it.) I've seen the same thing with the "Bush Lied" crew. They take something said on TV by someone in the Administration, and say that it's a lie, when it's actually the sort of truncated or over-simplified talk that anyone would use for Television.

(Via Dean Esmay)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:41 AM

Burt and Ernie

Dahlia Lithwick writes about an important First Amendment case:

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contains two provisions that nervously coexist�the constitutional equivalent of Ernie's relationship to Burt�in that no one really wants to say out loud that they hate each other. The amendment provides that Congress shall "make no law respecting an establishment of religion" but adds that Congress can't prohibit "the free exercise thereof" [italics mine]. There is, as various members of the high court observe this morning, not always much room for "play in the joints" here: States may do nothing to promote a specific religion over others or (as courts have come to interpret it) to promote religion in general, but they also cannot interfere with a citizen's right to practice their religion. No establishing, no impeding. Whether there is even a hairsbreadth of space between these values is the subject of today's oral argument in Locke v. Davey, one of the most important religious freedom cases the Rehnquist Court will decide.

The case was brought by Joshua Davey after a university scholarship he'd been given by the state of Washington was rescinded when he declared that one of his two majors would be in "pastoral ministries" at a Christian college in Kirkland, Wash. Washington is one of 37 states with broader prohibitions on public spending for religious education than is required under the federal constitution. The state's constitution bars the spending of public monies on religious instruction, and they've drawn a distinction between spending on religion when it's taught in a secular manner and spending on training students for the ministry. Davey and his supporters, including the Bush administration, contend that this discriminates against the religious. Washington says it's just policing the wall between church and state....

To me, there's not much of an issue�when the Constitution was written, Establishment of Religion meant a state church. That's all the constitution is forbidding here. The idea that there is some special virtue or charm in an atheist government is a later add-on, brought to you by those wonderful folks who gave us the Dictatorship of the Proletariat...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:32 AM

December 1, 2003

Reason #27 to vote Republican...

By Peter Ferrara, Wall Street Journal 12/1/2003

President Bush put the idea of a personal account option for Social Security on the national agenda in his 2000 campaign. Such reform would allow workers the freedom to choose to shift a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into their own personal investment account, which would then finance a proportionate share of future Social Security retirement benefits. Administration officials have said such reform will be a focus of next year�s campaign, and a second Bush term.

But up until now, establishment Washington has assumed that at most an option for only 2 percentage points of the 12.4% Social Security payroll tax would be feasible. That assumption has done more to dampen enthusiasm for the reform than any of the weak criticisms of the idea.

The Social Security Administration (SSA), however, is releasing today an official score for a proposal for much larger personal accounts, averaging 6.4 percentage points. That score shows that such large personal accounts would achieve permanent solvency for Social Security, without benefit cuts or tax increases. Moreover, it shows that the transition financing burdens of such reform would be quite manageable....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:21 PM


Remember when Richard Perle was accused of ethics violations and resigned as Chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board? Remember how much you heard about it? Lotsa news stories and commentary...

Well did your trusty news source tell you that he was cleared? Hmmm?

(Thanks to Henry Hanks)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:04 PM

Not to get too Zen about it...

Roger Simon says:

....After I lost my copy of "What Is To Be Done" on some subway in some city long ago, I became more entranced with the pronouncement of that Other Lenin (John): "Life is what happens when you're making other plans!"

These words seem to have applied to my life (and those of others I have observed over the years) with remarkable accuracy, personally and politically. So when I read the (a tad lengthy) George Packer New Yorker piece that Drezner links, my reaction was: "Mr. Packer, what exactly are you looking for?" Not to get too Zen about it, the best policy for Iraq may be "No policy"--in other words the ability to switch direction at the drop of a hat (always mindful that the goal is democracy). I don't know whether the administration realizes that, but it doesn't matter. That would be what would happen to any administration, whether they adopted the lengthy position papers referred to by Packer (or didn't even read them, as he infers)....

The nice thing about thousand-page position papers is that, like the prophecies of the Delphic Oracle, they are sure to contain something that pans out. So you get to say "I told you so," no matter what happens. (And the other 17 TPPP's gather dust in some file cabinet.) "If only the Administration had followed my advice, all would have gone swimmingly."

Maybe there was some splendid plan that was ignored. But when I read the critics, I'm not impressed. For instance, they insist repeatedly that we should have kept the Iraqi Army intact. But the CPA didn't do that for some very good reasons, which they have made public (and which the critics ignore). And mostly it was because of circumstances beyond our control. Even if we had tried to follow some super plan that kept the Iraqi Army intact, it wouldn't have happened! It would not have worked. We would have still ended up creating a new army.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:57 AM