June 30, 2005

A friend writes: Sometimes

A friend writes:

Sometimes you have to wonder what planet the French ruling class is from. And this government is supposedly center-right! Here is an excerpt from today’s Financial Times concerning the new PM’s attitude toward the slap in the face his government got last month from the French electorate over the European constitution–the same slap that got his predecessor fired.

A month after becoming prime minister, Mr de Villepin suggests European governments can best respond to the crisis caused by the French and Dutch rejection of the European constitutional treaty by presenting a united front to deal with the challenges of globalisation.

"Either we give ourselves the resources to build this new political Europe
or we resign ourselves to making our continent a vast free-trade area, governed by the rules of competition. Everyone must put an end to this ambiguity through action. We need ambitious projects," he says.

God only knows what these ambitious projects might be. An economic Maginot Line perhaps.

The "rules of competition." Mon Dieu!

Posted by John Weidner at 11:01 PM

"in the village of Bagh...'

I'm posting this just because it interests me. I've seen hundreds of photos of Afghan mud houses, but I've never before seen an interior...

Interior of an Afghan home
From: Army Times Frontline Photos June 27, 2005

Two soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment,
inspect a house as they look for weapons in the village of Bagh
in the Khakeran Valley of Afghanistan’s Zabul province on Sunday.
Tomas Munita / AP photo
Posted by John Weidner at 9:47 PM

I may have to apologize...

It occurs to me that I may have been wrong. Sort of. I've been heaping scorn on the people who complained about Rove's speech, because, obviously they are hypocrites. How could it be otherwise? Since they see nothing wrong with piling contumely and abuse on Bush, and conservatives, they must be only pretending to be shocked and appalled that a Republican should dare to suggest that liberals are weak on defense.

I've been thinking it was just a big bluff...if you pretend to be shocked, lots of people will assume that something shocking has been said. And you change the subject away from the original accusation.

But looking at this Helen Thomas column, Rove Crosses Line With Attack On Liberals: Bush Adviser Comes Close To Calling Democrats 'Appeasers' I'm starting to wonder. [Thanks to Orrin]

Crosses a line? From Helen Thomas? I start to wonder if many people actually literally believe that it's wrong to criticize liberals. Even at the same moment they are calling conservatives "fascists," "Hitlers," "evil," "traitors," etc etc. (So, gentle-folk of the leftish sort, if you really believe that, I apologize for calling you frauds and phonies. You are kooky, but sincere.)

The implications for the Raindrop Theory** are huge. cosmic. I feel like Einstein starting to wonder if perhaps the speed of light is really constant, regardless of the speed of the observer....

**NOTE: The Raindrop Theory is some armchair-speculation I've been mulling, on the bizarre behavior of many people, mostly of my generation (Baby Boomers) in response to the changes that we see in the world. It's sketched in the latter half of this post. Bigger essay in preparation...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:28 AM

June 29, 2005

23.08 troops plus almost a ninth of a helicopter...

Everybody's quoting John Hawkins' interview with Mark Steyn. So I will too. Here's a couple of good things...

John Hawkins: Is it time for America to write NATO off as a lost cause or is it worth trying to save the alliance?

Mark Steyn: No, it should be written off. It’s simply not worth the amount of diplomatic effort and negotiation required to crowbar military contributions to, say, Afghanistan that are smaller than those of the New Hampshire National Guard. For example, if you look at last year’s supposed triumph of multilateral cooperation, after the Secretary-General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, put the squeeze on Nato’s 26 members, they reluctantly ponied up an extra 600 troops and three helicopters for Afghanistan. That averages out at 23.08 troops per country plus almost a ninth of a helicopter apiece. And the helicopters went back after six months. What’s the point?....

John Hawkins: Since we invaded Iraq, Qaddafi has given up his WMD's, Syria has left Lebanon which is having elections, the Egyptians are going to have their first multi-party elections although Mubarak is expected to win, women are being allowed to vote in Kuwait, and now Syria is even talking about implementing some democratic reforms. Are we seeing a reverse domino effect in the Middle-East caused by the invasion in Iraq?

Mark Steyn: Yes. The key moment in the Iraqi situation was a couple of hours into the Arab networks' election day coverage: they ran out of snide cracks to make about the American occupation, the stooge politicians, etc., and suddenly fell silent as images of four generations of Iraqi families walking to the polls to vote filled the screens. Those images had a profound impact throughout the region. There's no one-size-fits-all answer and I'm certainly not in favor of that trick many African dictators have learned to master, of holding an election just good enough to get the stamp of approval of Jimmy Carter and the other western patsies. There'll be a lot of two-steps-forward-one-step-back but what’s happening is real and the momentum is all going Bush's way....

I don't think Bush is anybody's patsy. I often wish we'd move faster, but Bush's relentless steady pressure is truly awesome. I can't think of any comparable leader. He makes it look easy, but he never gets bored and he never drops the ball. He has a few things he's decided to concentrate on, things he announced clearly and openly, and he sticks with them. In fact most of what he's doing started as campaign promises in 2000! Social Security, education, tax reform, tort reform....He promised to make education a priority, and maybe the press has lost interest, but I assure you, as one who keeps his eyes peeled on the subject, there's a lot cooking.

9/11 Obviously added a new "campaign promise," and one that's pursued with the same tenacity. One hardly knows whether to laugh or gag at the way Dems complained because Bush mentioned 9/11 in his speech! Get used to it, worms of appeasement. Jeb's gonna give you 8 more years of the same.....

And every single year, things get quiet in the summer, and people start to say that the Bush Presidency has run out of steam. Watch for it. And every September or October the pomposo Democrats get something big, smack! right in the kisser....Ha ha. Watch for it, watch for it...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:44 PM

#185: Yellow Peril

P. Krugman


The one thing you could say for Paul Krugman over his years as partisan columnist for the NY Times was that he stayed true to his free trade principles – even when the Democrats in Congress were engaging in protectionist demagoguery. Well. No more! With The Chinese Challenge (06/27/25) he's thrown in with the protectionists and we can now expect a steady stream of combined Bush/China bashing right up to the next election. In this column he is twitterpated over the Chinese bid for Unocal, a small but well-connected international energy company.

Here is his quote:

"Unocal sounds…like exactly the kind of company the Chinese government might want to control if it envisions a sort of "great game" in which major economic powers scramble for access to far-flung oil and natural gas reserves.

If it were up to me, I'd block the Chinese bid for Unocal. But it would be a lot easier to take that position if the United States weren't so dependent on China right now, not just to buy our I.O.U.'s, but to help us deal with North Korea now that our military is bogged down in Iraq."

This view is so flawed that it deserves careful parsing. The first point to be made is that oil, like most natural resources, is perfectly fungible, i.e., one barrel of oil is substitutable (with appropriate premiums and discounts for quality) with any other. Thus when President Bush says that drilling in ANWAR will make us less dependent on foreign oil he is just as wrong as his critics who say all Alaskan drilling is of no benefit to the U.S. because most of that oil goes to Japan. The point is that because of fungibility it does not matter who produces the oil or where it is shipped. If the Japanese buy our Alaskan oil, it just means they buy less somewhere else. It's an issue of logistics, not supply.

Think of world crude oil as a large pond. Producers add to the pond and consumers subtract from it. The price rises and falls with the level of the pond. If China does buy Unocal and they find some "far-flung oil" as Krugman fears, that's a good thing. It adds to the pond. If for some peculiar nationalistic reasons the Chinese decide to consume the newly discovered oil directly (not add it to the pond), that's good too. Because of fungibility the pond would still rise since the Chinese would draw less from it.

The bottom line is that Krugman has made a grievous error here. His professional colleagues must be cringing.

He then compounds his illogic by claiming it would difficult to block the Unocal deal because we are in a weak position vis-a-vis the Chinese (they hold our I.O.U.s and, with our military bogged down in Iraq, we need their help with N. Korea). This amounts to a colossal howler. The real direction of dependency is from the Chinese economy to the U.S. consumer. If the latter were to shift away from buying Chinese exports it would have regime threatening implications for the boys in Beijing. Chinese adventurism in foreign policy would have the same result. We suspect the leadership is well aware of their fragility. As to N. Korea, that's primarily a Chinese problem too. This will become apparent for all to see the first time N. Korea tests a nuclear missile and Japan announces the next day they too are going nuclear unless China knocks some heads together in Pyongyang. As to our military being bogged down in Iraq, that's a real laugh. What is Krugman suggesting? That if it weren't we maybe should invade N. Korea? Yellow Peril here we come!

[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 6:06 PM

June 28, 2005

I'd say this is about right....

Jayson writes, in Polipundit:

FWIW, I’d say one could make a plausible case, save for the Florida governor’s contest, that the Wisconsin gubernatorial race is more important than any other governor’s election in next year’s cycle.

For the very instant a Republican takes over the WI governor’s mansion is the very instant that twice-vetoed bill to require photo ID’s to cast ballots will become the law of that land.

And the very instant that corpses, family pets, union thugs, and liberal college students are not able to vote for Democrats there, multiple times, and in multiple precincts, is the very instant that Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes will shift to the GOP column in future presidential elections...

It's the same story you hear over and over. Republicans trying to cut down vote fraud, and Democrats resisting every inch of the way. Usually with some disgusting whines about how tougher requirements will "disenfranchise" minorities. (Democrats think minority groups are grossly inferior beings, incapable of presenting ID to vote. Probably incapable of breathing without government assistance.)

I think it should be hard to vote, not easy. It should be a privilege for those willing to take some trouble. The "crawling over broken glass" bit is hyperbole, but maybe people should have to crawl across a wet lawn, or touch a tarantula, or something. (Am I a "broken glass Republican?" You betcha. But I won't swallow any goldfish.)

Posted by John Weidner at 10:05 PM

Too late to market with the Better Mousetrap...

I just had a really good idea. A really really good idea...But then my first Google hit revealed that hundreds of people had already had that same neat idea:

BBC: Visually impaired people are now increasingly able to join in the video gaming fun thanks to an ever-expanding range of audio games. More games are being made which do not rely on sight They even have the potential to turn into new gaming genres in their own right which could start to appeal to sighted gamers.

But, compared with the millions of copies of PC and console games sold every year, the market for audio games is still relatively tiny.

"My guess is that about 3,000 audio or blind-accessible games are sold a year," said Richard van Tol who jointly runs Audio Games.Net, an information site for fans and developers.

"Loads of blind people have computers but not many of them know about audio games."

There are currently about 50 commercially available titles on the market, with perhaps three times as many freeware and shareware options. Like their graphics-based cousins, the games come in many varieties - adventure, arcade and so on...
Posted by John Weidner at 12:27 PM

Biters bit...

The Valerie Plame affair was always obviously trivial, but the Media Wing of the Democrat Party pursued it savagely, as part of their job in the Kerry campaign. They demanded investigations! So who gets investigated? Well, obviously, reporters...they were participating in the crime (assuming that there actually was a crime.) So now the reporters are arguing that there never was a crime, so they shouldn't be investigated. Ha ha ha. Phonys.

LA TIMES -- The Supreme Court today cleared the way for the Justice Department to jail two reporters who refused to reveal confidential sources to a special prosecutor investigating how the name of an undercover CIA operative ended up in a newspaper column...

The cream of the jest is that what's happening is not a prosecution, it's a Grand Jury investigation of whether or not a crime was committed. So arguing that there wasn't a crime is a logical non-sequitur. It won't get them off the hook.

Those lefty frauds played politics with our national security (and did so with the sort of pompous moral preening that makes me want to barf), and now they are going to jail. Good. Their publishers should go to jail with them. Especially because they are conspicuously NOT demanding investigations of those three Dem senators who recently revealed details of a top-secret spy satellite. A real crime.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:57 AM

"There aren't many examples of successful post-religious societies..."

I said in the comments in a recent post, that THE QUESTION, what may be THE big question that our world faces, is, 'Why is Europe dying?" It's much on my mind....

Mark Steyn, as always funny and serious at the same time, writes:

....It seemed faintly unbecoming for a Daily Telegraph columnist to protest about how much action he's getting, but, had I run into Mr Roberts in the Cheltenham singles bar, I would have endeavoured to explain that what's at issue is not which of us is getting more and better casual sex but whether it's an appropriate organising principle for society. Or at any rate whether a cult of non-procreative self-gratification is, as the eco-crazies like to say, "sustainable".

I was reminded of our Gloucestershire lad by some remarks Frank Field made at a Centre for Policy Studies seminar last week. The subject under debate was poverty and social disintegration, and pondering the collapse of civility in modern Britain Mr Field gave seven reasons. Number One, he said, was the decline of religion.

At that point, many Britons will simply have tuned out for the remaining six, and the more disapproving ones will be speculating darkly on whether, like yours truly and other uptight squares, he has "casual sex" issues. Religion is all but irrelevant to public discussion in the United Kingdom, and you'd have to search hard for an Anglican churchman prepared to argue in public, as Mr Field does, that material poverty derives from moral poverty.

But the point is: he's not wrong. There aren't many examples of successful post-religious societies. And, if one casts around the world today, one notices the two powers with the worst prospects are the ones most advanced in their post-religiosity. Russia will never recover from seven decades of Communism: its sickly menfolk have a lower life expectancy than Bangladeshis; its population shrinks by 100 every hour, and by 0.4 per cent every year, a rate certain to escalate as the smarter folks figure it's better to emigrate than get sucked down in the demographic death spiral.....
Posted by John Weidner at 7:54 AM

June 27, 2005

What's the name of the second-highest mountain in the world???

This is elaborating on a reply to a comment I wrote in the EV-DO post below. I had written that BroadbandAccess was a stupid name for Verizon to give their new 3G cellular service...

Scott Chaffin commented: ....John: the name, BroadbandAccess, fits with their old marketing name of NationalAccess for 1XRTT, the 140kbps data. Trying to shoe-horn Phaeton or JuneBug into customer (and corporate) mind-share would have taken even more billions, I'm sure...

Yes, well, I have NationalAccess, but it it doesn't have any of my mind-share, because I never remember it. Maybe I have an inflexible mind, not properly stretched because I don't watch TV, and ignore the ads in magazines. Maybe other people hear NationalAccess, and immediately think "Verizon. Cool." But I seriously doubt it. It's boring. Banal.

There's a classic book on advertising, called Positioning, and it argues that there are a limited number of slots in people's ever-more-cluttered minds for brand names. People tend to remember one name in each category. Just like everybody knows the name of the highest mountain in the world--and few know the name of the second-higest. We all remember "Tylenol," and not the competitors who also sell acetaminophen. Tylenol owns the name for 'non-aspirin pain reliever." The Pediatrician always says, "Give your child Tylenol."

And introducing a new product is the main opportunity for grabbing that mindshare. Once Tylenol is set in people's heads, you could spend a trillion on advertising Chaffinol, and probably not be able to bump Tylenol out of its spot. But if you have something new, the mind-space is up for grabs. It's not always the first-comer who gets the prize. AltaVista was the first popular search engine, but it was Google that won that little space in our brains, and now we use "google" as a verb.

The value of this is incalculable. There are now lots of different photocopiers, but Xerox still means quality photocopier. So the Xerox corporation doesn't have to sweat to build "brand recognition."

What Verizon's doing is colossally stupid. This is a new thing, they are the leader, and they have the opportunity to own the name for it. Just like Google owns the name for search engine. There are lots of new search engines appearing, but they will probably never displace Google from that slot in people's heads. Verizon could have the brand-name that means 3G cellular, just as Kleenix means tissue to most people. But you can't do it unless you have a real name. "BroadbandAccess" isn't a name, it's just some words mushed together.

Also with a new thing it doesn't matter if the name sounds silly, because it becomes the word for that product. Even Google no longer sounds goofy.

UPDATE: Scott answers, in the EV-DO comments...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:33 PM

June 26, 2005

Ah so. So sorry. We lose it in the mud near Guangzhou...

Glenn writes, concerning fears that China will attack Taiwan soon:

Perhaps we can kill two birds with one stone by floating a rumor that Taiwan is acquiring nuclear weapons from North Korea...

I like that! But China's 10% growth (even if the statistics are reliable) is based on trade. Most of it sea-borne. Taiwan should just let the world know that it has some sophisticated new sea mines. Maybe announce that they've "lost" one near the Chinese coast. And that it's not dangerous until "armed." In which case it will lie concealed on the sea bed ready to sink a ship at some random moment in the next few years.

Let the world's marine insurance industry chew on that a bit...

* Update:. My guess is that China is trying to "Finlandize" the region. That they are too far into "the Core" to seriously contemplate aggressive war. They import their oil! And we are living in a age of ship-killer missiles and torpedos that don't miss. One shot, one supertanker.

But what's interesting is that China's position is much stronger because we are not sure they are sane. And Taiwan's is much weaker because we are sure they are not insane. This is similar to the point I've been repeating a tedious number of times; that America is in a much stronger position to promote peaceful change precisely because various regimes are no longer sure that we might not pick them off just because Donald Rumsfeld is feeling bored and wants to kill something. Thank you, lefty kooks, for enhancing our bargaining position!

Posted by John Weidner at 11:59 AM

June 25, 2005

EV-DO...A name that breathes mystery...romance...adventure

I found this article by David Pogue, on EV-DO, very interesting. It probably won't affect me much, though my new phone is EV-DO, 'cause I never go anywhere. But when we get it here in the Bay Area, Charlene's Treo is going to really hum...assuming she wants to pay for the service. (Rumors here have it already emerging in downtown SF, and other spots, like outbreaks of a new disease.)

...It's a relatively new cellular data network called C.D.M.A. 1xEV-DO, which, as you surely knew, stands for Code Division Multiple Access Evolution-Data Only. No wonder Verizon Wireless, the earliest and largest adopter of this technology, just calls it the BroadbandAccess plan.

To get your laptop onto this very fast wonder-net, you need a special cellular card that slides into its PC-card slot. Novatel and Kyocera have recently given the blossoming EV-DO future a big thumbs-up by releasing new cellular cards for laptops running Windows (and, with a little tweaking, Mac OS X).

EV-DO offers two addictive benefits. First, it's cellular. You don't have to hunt down public hot spots; an entire metropolitan area is a hot spot.

Second, EV-DO means sheer, giddy speed. EV-DO is a so-called 3G (third-generation) network, the fruits of $1 billion in Verizon development. And when your laptop or palmtop locks onto a good signal, you can practically feel the wind in your hair.

How fast is that, exactly? Verizon claims you'll be able to download data at an average of 400 to 700 kilobits per second (kbps), which turns out to be true. That makes EV-DO at least five times as fast as the rival technology offered by Cingular and T-Mobile, called EDGE (70 to 135 kbps), and about seven times as fast as Verizon's original data network (still available), which it calls NationalAccess (60 to 80 kbps)...

Verizon is leading in EV-DO, with Sprint just getting started. You can buy cards for your laptop, and newer phones may have it. However it's only fast downloading; uploading is not improved.

But what always flabbergasts me is how such fabulous, sexy, scintillating new technology can be sold with such banal names. Verizon is, I hear, hosing out about FOUR BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR to roll this service out, and yet the best name they can come up with is BroadbandAccess!

Apple would have come up with something enticing, like they did with Firewire (elsewhere known charmingly as IEEE-1394). Maybe QuickSilver, or Zap-Lightning, or June Bug, or something. And I'm not just thinking in terms of taste; it's worth money. Verizon will doubtless be spending millions on advertising to try to get people interested, and to get them to remember a totally forgettable name. Makes me want to scream. Spitball would be a better name...how 'bout Phaeton, LightSpeed, FastBall, Seabiscuit...Jeeze, they should hire me. My rates are very reasonable...

I bet the bozos spent 50 Grand on focus groups, so that lack-wits could agree that "BroadbandAccess" was a winner. Phooey.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:45 PM

"no trimming on issues"

Shape of Days has posted the whole of Karl Rove's speech, the quote from which set so many Dems to whining and blubbering about how their feelings were hurt. ["How dare he say we're wimps, the big bully. Sniff, sniff. We're just sensitive! So what if we can feel how harsh rejection wounded the self-esteem of Osama bin Laden, and forced him to become a protester against American Imperialism? That doesn't give Karl Rove the right to question our patriotism!"] The speech is good reading. Here's one thing that's really worth keeping in mind:
...The 2004 election was a steep political mountain to climb, but the President scaled it — and he did so with energy, passion, decency, and an unwavering commitment to principle.

What is significant about November’s victory is not simply that the President won, but how he won. In the 2004 election, President Bush placed all his chips on the table. There was no trimming on issues, no “campaign conversion,” no backing away from Social Security and tax code reform. The President persistently made the case for an “ownership society”; championed a culture of life; defended the institution of marriage; stood with the people of Iraq in their passage to liberty; remained committed to spreading democracy in the Middle East; and continued to aggressively wage and win the war on global terrorism.

President Bush showed himself as he is. He wanted a referendum on what he has accomplished — and most importantly, on what he hopes to achieve....

Back in November 2003, I blogged about how incredible, how amazing it was that Bush was going to include Social Security reform in his campaign. And how honest. It's still one of the most thrilling things that's happened in American politics in our time. But Bush makes it look so easy, no one notices.

[Thanks to Lorie at Polipundit. And that post has a lot of quotes in the comments section, showing just how right Rove was about how liberals reacted to 9/11.]

Writing this made me think of the funny story of Rove and the protesters I blogged in 2-2004. It still makes me laugh and laugh to think of the protesters running away from Karl, and his bewilderment...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:58 AM

June 24, 2005

"Regnum = Reh-nyoom ; Magnificat = Mah-nyeé-fee-caht"

One of Amy Welborn's commenters links to this page with the proper pronunciation of Ecclesiastical Latin. I found it very interesting. And the pronunciations sound very fine. There are other Latin resources in the thread.

Not that I speak Latin, but there are a few odd words and phrases rattling around in my head...


Posted by John Weidner at 10:16 PM

Everywhere should be Disneyland...

The American Spectator talks with Hitchins, about his opposition to a smoking ban...

...The ban is un-American for all these reasons, Hitchens explained in an interview with TAS Tuesday. Settings such as the Apollo Room in Williamsburg's Raleigh Tavern were crucial to civilized life and the plotting of the American Revolution, Hitchens says. "The availability of intoxicating liquors and various forms of tobacco is in some way essential here. The existence of the bohemian has always been important to the righted life. You went there for an unrestricted atmosphere." ...

I like that!

....This former man of the left is a bit puzzled to find himself opposing left-wing prohibitionists. Reasoning by the standard of "diversity," "which I think you could be sure would be a celebrated word on the D.C. Council," the smoking ban ought not to pass.

Though conservatives have historically favored some prohibitions, Hitchens concedes that "the current version of prohibitionism is a left one. It's phrased in what you'd have to describe as a liberal voice, but it has a fundamentally illiberal conclusion. And it believes everywhere should be a freakin' cheerful Disneyland. I don't want to live in a freakin' cheerful Disneyland. I want to live in a world with fearful anxiety and with all the things to combat it."

As somebody once said, "The wine of life has turned to Gatoraide." Blehhh.

Those lefty puffballs aren't banning smoking because they care about my health, they do it for the moral preening, and the chance to bully people. And to stamp out diversity...

Thanks to The Anchoress

Posted by John Weidner at 9:53 PM

I just can't imagine why......

For dry deadpan humor, it's hard to beat this...

WASHINGTON - A White House official said Friday the administration finds it "somewhat puzzling" that Democrats are demanding presidential adviser Karl Rove's apology or resignation for implying that liberals are soft on terrorism.

"I think Karl was very specific, very accurate, in who he was pointing out," communications director Dan Bartlett said. "It's touched a chord with these Democrats. I'm not sure why."...
[Thanks to Orrin]
Posted by John Weidner at 11:31 AM

leaving Europe for another theater...

The "flypaper theory" has always made a lot of sense, but I've always hesitated to mention it, lest the appeasers scoff, and demand hard evidence. Now Impearls has posted some fascinating stuff. (Thanks to Glenn) Here's a bit of it:

...As BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner (who was crippled a year ago incidentally by gunmen in Saudi Arabia) narrates:
Under cover of darkness, Spanish police move into position. In five different locations around the country, more than 500 officers broke into the suspected hideouts of Islamist militants. Sixteen men of North African origin were arrested, in what's said to be one of Europe's biggest ever counter-terrorist operations. Spain's Interior Minister spoke today of jihad and would-be suicide bombers, but their targets, he said, were not in Europe, they're in Iraq. Investigators believe they have uncovered an international network of extremists, financed and supported by robbery, drug dealing, and false documents. They say most of those arrested in Spain are linked to a cell of Islamist recruiters in Syria dedicated to sending volunteers into Iraq to fight the US-led Coalition. Five of those arrested are accused of links to last year's Madrid bombings. The remainder are accused of connections to Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, the Al Qaeda operative who's been driving the insurgency in Iraq.
A BBC interviewee, Jeremy Binnie of Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, put it thusly:
The war in Iraq has minimized the threat to Europe [emphasis added] because everyone who's Jihad-inclined wants to go fight over there. So even though some of these… the guys suspected of involvement in the train bombings have reportedly gone over to lodge themselves in Iraq. So there are these radicals sort of coming out of Europe and actually going to a different theater altogether...

I I ever re-work my list of reasons why invading Iraq was the right thing to do, I'll probably give "flypaper" a formal entry...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:22 AM

June 23, 2005

Move on, nothing to see here folks....

Remember that 20 tons of chemical weapons that were trucked to Jordan, from Syria? The trial is happening now. Don't expect headlines.

...Col. Najeh al-Azam was giving evidence in the trial of 13 men who are alleged to have planned what would have been the world's first chemical attack by the al-Qaida terror group. The accused include al-Qaida's leader in Iraq, Abu-Musab Al-Zarqawi, and three other fugitives who are being tried in absentia.

Jordanian security services foiled the plot in April last year. Jordanian officials say that had it been carried out, thousands of people would have died... (thanks to
Pamela, at Jackson's Junction. Via Glenn).

'course there's no danger, you understand. No no no. It's well established that Bush lied, and the notion that terrorists might get their hands on chemical weapons was just a neocon fantasy, designed to help the Jews manipulate our foreign policy.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:47 AM

June 22, 2005


I need to quibble with Alan Sullivan about a portion of one of his posts. He writes:

...the Pope, claims that secular Europe is inviting jihad by refusing to put a clause about Christianity in the defunct Euro Constitution. Somehow this is supposed to offend the religious sensibilities of Muslims.
"Europe has developed a culture which, in a way never before known to humanity, excludes God from public conscience, either by being denied or by judging his existence to be uncertain and thus belonging to subjective choices, something irrelevant for public life," Benedict writes.

He dismisses arguments that inclusion of the reference would have offended Jews and Muslims, saying they are more offended by Europe's attempt to deny a historic fact.

"It's not the mention of God that offends the followers of other religious, but precisely the attempt to build a human community absolutely without God," he writes.
This is delusional. Muslim hatred of Jews is ubiquitous, God or no god; and Christians aren't exactly popular among the hardliners either. Let them be offended. Pope Benedict's rationale would also excuse the sex-crazed Arab men who demand that women wear veils on pain of rape or murder. But the women are not at fault, and neither is Europe. Not this time.

Actually, I think the Pope is making good sense. He must of course, like Bush, gloss over the craziest 10% of the Moslem world, beause he is trying to build bridges to moderates.

But, it's not Christianity or Judaism that offend Moslem traditionalists, but secular decadence and the attractiveness of superior Western culture and technology. I've read various accounts of jihadis, and very frequently one reads that they became fanatics after a period of exposure to the West. But it isn't cathedrals and synagogues and the faithful at prayer that drive them to fanaticism. It's the tempting fleshpots, the open hedonism and secularism that fill them with dismay. (And of course many believing Christians and Jews feel much the same, though we have a better idea of how useless violence is as an antidote.)

And Moslems have not, traditionally, hated Jews. That's a 20th Century phenomenon, copied from Europe, and mostly a response to the humiliation of having a modern, secular and extremely successful state thrust into the midst of their failed ones. Plus an endless propaganda campaign by those failed states, using hatred of Israel to distract from their own failings. Pious Jews (and Christians) have been living in Palestine all along, without inspiring anyone to foam at the mouth.

Also, the Pope isn't here excusing anything. To think that offending someone excuses their actions is a modern leftist or secular notion, not a Christian one. (And is normally used only to excuse privileged groups. You can offend white male capitalists all you want, without excusing their hideous transgressions.) A Christian should avoid leaving his money lying around, so as not to tempt someone to the sin of theft. But that doesn't excuse the sinner in the least.

Nor is the Pope literally saying (or thinking) that that clause will in itself make a big difference. It's symbolic of a larger problem. The Pope has to make symbolic points, he has no other leverage. And that EU Constitution is a very good symbol of what's wrong with Europe. (Fortunately, it's now looking like it will not become a large part of what's actually wrong with Europe.) The Holy Father says things like that, and usually they are ignored. But maybe, just maybe, one day, the time is right, and some symbolic point makes a lot of people suddenly stop and wonder if they are taking the wrong path...

Posted by John Weidner at 3:18 PM

June 21, 2005

"criminal referral"...Yes, PLEASE

When I watch the way core Democrats are increasingly letting their choir robes slip, to reveal the pointed tails and cloven-hooved feet, I don't know whether it's appropriate to laugh or cry. A few items...

Howard Dean "condemned" the anti-semitic ugliness at that play-acting "impeachment hearing," but it's pretty clear where his sympathies are:

"Dean loved the idea of getting involved in this hearing, even though he knew where some of these guys were going to go with their public statements," says the DNC staffer. "That he is in bed with guys like Conyers and Waters and McDermott shows just how out of touch he is with where the party needs to be."

Part of the problem, too, says the DNC staffer, is that the headquarters has become a playground for fringe groups that never would have been given access under previous DNC chairmen. "You see some of the people being let in here for meetings and for coordination briefings and you have to wonder where this thing is going. There is no judgment about who the party should be associated with. If they hate Bush, can raise money, they're in. That's what happened with the Downing Street hearing. That's why we're backpedaling now."

And then there's the matter of the stealth satellite. "Now children, can anyone in the class explain why it might be good for the good guys to have a spy satellite that the bad guys can't track by radar? Hmmm? And why we might want to keep that fact secret? Whoa, looks like you are all raising your hands! If only our Democrat Senators were as smart as you."

...As a result of their revelations to the public and the press, three U.S. Senators -- Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who's also the ranking Dem on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) -- are the subject of a "criminal referral" made on Monday for speaking publicly about this satellite. Such referrals are made to the Justice Department by the administration when criminal conduct is suspected. In this case, it's not only suspected, it's evidenced on the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. A highly reliable intelligence community source told me that the referral had been made because senior administration officials were beside themselves that the three had taken the controversy on funding this project to the press....

Please, God, let those slime animals be dragged in chains to Leavenworth! Alas, it won't happen. We've become too decadent and effete. They will get away with betraying their country once again. Where's my man Lafayette Baker when we need him! Lincoln knew how to deal with traitors. Read the story (and about other Dem intelligence betrayals) here. And keep in mind how Dems howled about Valerie Plame! [Thanks for these two links to the invaluable Betsy Newmark, who does the spadework for lazy guys like me.]

Earn points by being the first person to tell us who the Brevet Brigadier standing with his hand on Lafayette Baker's shoulder is...

Lafayette Baker

* Update: No takers? It's Kit Carson! Surprised me. I'm afraid I'm just being provocative, presenting you with such politically-incorrect characters as Carson, and Col. Baker. But point is, that if people actually knew, say, the history of the Civil War, then crappy-anti-war-argument #7, that Bush/Ashcroft are trampling on our civil liberties, looks totally stupid. Bush doesn't even consider doing the kind of stuff that went on in Old Capitol Prison, which became known as Baker's Bastille.

(And if you read the history of New Mexico, then the current Disney Version of injuns as beatific at-one-with-the-Great-Spirit pacifists looks equally stupid. And you might be tempted to admire the man who conquered the Navajos.)

And I should give a plug to Picture History, since I purloined their sample pic. You can buy the large version from them.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:12 AM

June 20, 2005

Colin Powell, you had your chance...

So sweet it is, to have a real Secretary of State, working tirelessly to further the President's vision, instead of undercutting it. And working to further the dream of democracy and peace, indifferent to the scorn of "realists," and the hatred of the anti-democratic Left. Here's Condi in Egypt...

YahooNews:...."For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither," Rice said. "Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."

She noted that President Bush, in his second inaugural address, said the U.S. would not try to impose an American style of government on the unwilling and that the goal of his administration was to help others find their own voice.

"Throughout the Middle East the fear of free of choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty. It is time to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy," Rice said.

Rice took the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both close U.S. allies, to task for cracking down on dissent...(thanks to
Gateway Pundit).

This is the Grand Strategy of the War on Terror. People sometimes make grim jokes, about how we should nuke 'em, turn Mecca into a green glass parking lot, etc, etc...But we are! Freedom and Globalization are going to melt those closed and backwards societies.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:58 PM

More on torture-house.

I found the original of the story about our Marines finding a torture house in Iraq, which I quoted here.

Good for the NYT for publishing Iraqis Found in Torture House Tell of Brutality of Insurgents.

...The American military has found torture houses after invading towns heavily populated by insurgents - like Falluja, where the anti-insurgent assault last fall uncovered almost 20 such sites. But rarely have they come across victims who have lived to tell the tale...

BUT, they are not "insurgents." They are terrorists. They are abominable animals, and we should not rest until they are exterminated from the earth.

And the lefty crowd that's doing all it can to hinder our efforts shares responsibility. They are torturers too.

* Update: I'm going to paste the article into "extended entry," because the NYT link will not be available later. And we should have this on hand, when fatuous fatheads claim we are "torturing" people at Gitmo. Or Abu Ghraib, for that matter..

Iraqis Found in Torture House Tell of Brutality of Insurgents

KARABILA, Iraq, Sunday, June 19 - Marines on an operation to eliminate insurgents that began Friday broke through the outside wall of a building in this small rural village to find a torture center equipped with electric wires, a noose, handcuffs, a 574-page jihad manual - and four beaten and shackled Iraqis.

The American military has found torture houses after invading towns heavily populated by insurgents - like Falluja, where the anti-insurgent assault last fall uncovered almost 20 such sites. But rarely have they come across victims who have lived to tell the tale.

The men said they told the marines, from Company K, Third Marines, Second Division, that they had been tortured with shocks and flogged with a strip of rubber for more than two weeks, unseen behind the windows of black glass. One of them, Ahmed Isa Fathil, 19, a former member of the new Iraqi Army, said he had been held and tortured there for 22 days. All the while, he said, his face was almost entirely taped over and his hands were cuffed.

In an interview with an embedded reporter just hours after he was freed, he said he had never seen the faces of his captors, who occasionally whispered at him, "We will kill you." He said they did not question him, and he did not know what they wanted. Nor did he ever expect to be released.

"They kill somebody every day," said Mr. Fathil, whose hands were so swollen he could not open a can of Coke offered to him by a marine. "They've killed a lot of people."

From the house on Saturday, there could be heard sounds of fighting from the large-scale offensive to eliminate strongholds of insurgents, many of whom stream across Iraq's porous border with Syria. [Page 10.]

As the marines walked through the house - a squat one-story building of sand-colored brick - the broken black window glass crunched under their boots. Light poured in, revealing walls and ceiling shredded by shrapnel from the blast they had set off to break in through a wall. Latex gloves were strewn on the floor. A kerosene lantern lay on its side, shattered.

The manual recovered - a fat, well-thumbed Arabic paperback - listed itself as the 2005 First Edition of "The Principles of Jihadist Philosophy," by Abdel Rahman al-Ali. Its chapters included "How to Select the Best Hostage," and "The Legitimacy of Cutting the Infidels' Heads."

Also recovered were several fake passports, a black hood, the painkiller Percoset, handcuffs and an explosives how-to-guide. Three cars loaded with explosives were parked in a garage outside the house. The marines blew them up.

This is Mr. Fathil's account of his ordeal.

He was having a lunch of lettuce and cucumbers in the kitchen of his home in the small desert village of Rabot with his mother and brother. An Opel sedan pulled up. Two men in masks carrying machine guns got out, seized him, and, leaving his mother sobbing, put him in the trunk of their car.

The drove to the house here. They taped his face, put cotton in his ears, and began to beat him.

The only possible explanation for the seizure he could think of was his time in the new Iraqi Army. Unemployed and illiterate, Mr. Fathil signed up after the American occupation began.

But nine months ago, when continuing working meant risking the wrath of the Jihadists, he quit. In all, 10 friends from his unit have been killed, he said. So have his uncle and his uncle's son, though neither ever worked as soldiers.

The men tended to talk in whispers, he said, telling him five times a day, in low voices in his ear, to pray, and offering him sand, instead of water, to wash himself. Just once, he asked if he could see his mother, and one of them said to him, "You won't leave until you are dead."

Mr. Fathil did not know there were other hostages. He found out only after the captors left and he was able to remove the tape from his eyes.

The routine in the house was regular. Because of the windows, it was always dark inside. Mr. Fathil said he was fed once a day, and allowed to use a bathroom as necessary in the back of the house.

When marines burst in, one of the captives was lying under a stairwell, badly beaten. At first, they thought he was dead.

The others were emaciated and battered. Mr. Fathil had fared the best. The other three were taken by medical helicopter to Balad, a base near Baghdad with a hospital.

But he still had been hurt badly. Marks from beatings criss-crossed his back, and deep pocks, apparently from electric shock burns, were gouged in his skin.

The shocks, he said, felt "like my soul is being ripped out of my body." But when he would start to scream, and his body would pull up from the shock, they would begin to beat him, he said.

Mr. Fathil has been at the Marine base south of Qaim since his release, on Saturday around noon. His mother still does not know he is alive.

When she was mentioned, he bowed and lowered his head, and began to cry softly, wiping his face with the jumpsuit given him by the marines.

He asked a reporter for help to move to another town, because it was too dangerous for his family to remain in their house. He begged not to have a photograph taken, even of the scars on his back. The captors took pictures of that, he said.

His town has always been a good place, he said, but the militants have made it hell.

"These few are destroying it," he said, his face streaked with tears. "Everybody they take, they kill. It's on a daily basis pretty much."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:18 AM

good words for the French....

I was sceptical when Andrew Cory said nice things about the French medical system, in a comment here. But perhaps he was right. Natalie Solent has this to say:

...Some of John Weidner's commenters mention the French system. Although it slightly spoils my free-market rant to say so, I must say that when my husband bashed his leg on holiday we were extremely impressed by the kindness and efficiency we saw. The doctor, who came out to the roadside where my husband was sitting unable to walk, refused payment. Not worth his while to do the paperwork, or just a nice guy? I don't know. Actually he was an exceptionally nice guy whatever. The hospital was clean and relatively uncrowded. Waiting time for an X-ray: twenty minutes. (Waiting time in Blighty for an X-ray of my daughter's broken arm: six hours. She had to go without food and water for all that time in case they had to operate.) After our return to England were billed by the French hospital for about £30. To be that low the fee must be heavily subsidised, but I suggest that the fact that there is some fee does great good. I paid it with gratitude.

I shall think some kindly thoughts about the French.

I'm reminded of the time I had a kidney stone, which is very painful. I took good care for granted, but was surprised by the kindly solicitude of the two emergency room docs. Turns out they had both had kidney stones themselves. They felt my pain!

* Update: Actually, I often think kindly thoughts about the French. Unfortunately, usually in the past tense. As a dweller among history books, I've absorbed the old American view of France as a wise and charming uncle. A recent book I enjoyed, by the way, was Lamy of Santa Fe, about the French missionary who went to New Mexico in the 1840's, eventually becoming Archbishop of a vast wild frontier realm, recruiting scores of French priests and nuns and Christian Brothers to aid him. It was Lamy that Willa Cather portrayed in fictional form in her splendid book Death Comes For the Archbishop.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:49 AM

June 19, 2005

New Gadgets...

We just moved our cell-phone service to Verizon, from T-Mobile, and got new phones for the whole family. Charlene has the awesome Treo 650, and I have an LG VX8000. (Now there's a brand name to capture hearts and minds! LG, whatever the hell that is, must be a company run by engineers. Good phone, but idiotic marketing.) It's a picture phone, and here's a picture of Charlene's Treo, displaying, tah dah...Random Jottings! She actually woke me up this morning to show me my blog on the Treo.

Charlene's Treo displaying Random Jottings

So far we are very pleased with Verizon.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:30 PM

When you hear "we're for peace," this is the end in mind...

This quote is taken from PowerLine:

Marines on an operation to eliminate insurgents that began Friday broke through the outside wall of a building in this small rural village to find a torture center equipped with electric wires, a noose, handcuffs, a 574-page jihad manual - and four beaten and shackled Iraqis...

..."They kill somebody every day," said Mr. Fathil, whose hands were so swollen he could not open a can of Coke offered to him by a marine. "They've killed a lot of people."...

...His town has always been a good place, he said, but the militants have made it hell.

"These few are destroying it," he said, his face streaked with tears. "Everybody they take, they kill. It's on a daily basis pretty much."...
  • This is what "liberals" are FOR.
  • This is what "peace activists" are FOR.
  • This is what Senator Durbin is promoting.
  • This is what the fatuous fools who salivated with delight over Abu Ghraib, and made it the top news story in the world, want to help continue.
  • This is what the bozos who hype "Korans at Gitmo" stories want to have happen--they want Moslems to be tortured and murdered by Islamist terrorists. They are FOR it!
  • This is what you get when you "Visualize World Peace."
  • This is what the Archbishop of Canturbury, and a million other brain-dead lefty clergymen are FOR, when they prate about peace.

At the end of WWII, our GI's, filled with righteous anger, forced large numbers of German citizens to tour concentration camps. (Unfortunately there was no chance to march the commie sympathizers through the Gulag, or make the Vietnam War protestors see Pol Pot's shambles or dying Boat People.)

I only wish that right now all our appeasers and Kerry supporters and "reporters" and "Amnesty International" frauds could be rounded up at gunpoint and made to witness the real tortures and murders that they are aiding and encouraging.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:34 AM

June 17, 2005

They deserve it!

I pilfered this little graphic from John Hawkins.
Chart of Senate dems
You need only watch the current antics of Senate Democrats, to say, "They deserve it!" Obsessing endlessly over the "rights" of captured terrorists and caring not at all that any of our guys captured by the terrorists are likely to have their heads sawed off. (Or that prisoners in their own local jails are treated much worse than prisoners at Gitmo.)

The current crop of Dems have nothing positive to offer our country, Only obstruction, only the blocking of all reform, and the preservation of perks and power for themselves. And moral preening. Seizing on any American mistake, real or imaginary, to put themselves in some position of "moral superiority," "Bush lied, so I am a superior being, because I would gladly see a million Iraqis tortured and murdered, just to keep my hands clean of any of the contamination that comes from actually trying to do something." Despicable frauds. How I loathe them.

And notice on the chart when the big drops occur. Johnson, Carter, Clinton.... To know them is to reject them.

And I predict that the trend will continue. A lot of people got into the habit of voting Dem back when there were many decent patriotic conservative Democrat leaders. Those days are gone. It takes time for people to change; they are like a giant ship that takes an hour to turn around. But every year a few hundred-thousand more Americans notice that what they are getting from their party is is trendy lefty rubbish. "Support Our Troops: Surrender to Terrorists." "The Party of Civil Rights: We Love Poor Ignorant Welfare-Dependent Minorities So Much, We Want to Keep Them That Way Forever."

Posted by John Weidner at 11:40 AM

June 16, 2005

Two poems by Li Bai


A slip of the moon hangs over the capital;
Ten thousand washing-mallets are pounding;
And the autumn wind is blowing my heart
For ever and ever toward the Jade Pass....
Oh, when will the Tartar troops be conquered,
And my husband come back from the long campaign!


The courier will depart next day, she's told.
She sews a warrior's gown all night.
Her fingers feel the needle cold.
How can she hold the scissors tight?
The work is done, she sends it far away.
When will it reach the town where warriors stay?

      -- Li Bai

Posted by John Weidner at 6:48 PM

Falling back to the next line of trenches...

The continuing drama of my whole lifetime has been watching left-leaning types repeatedly fall back from one position to another, in their quest for an alternative, any alternative, to the marketplace. Of course there have been the actual socialist revolutions that have come one after another, each with it's cohort of romantically-garbed young westerners going off for a few weeks to "work with the peasants," or to be in "solidarity" with the workers, or some such crap. Then all of them coming back to scorn the corruptions of capitalism while sitting around smugly in some gourmet restaurant in Berkeley or Ann Arbor. (Berkeley, if you are not aware, is now a notable center of gourmet cuisine...all "natural" and organic, of course. Berkeley lefties demonstrate their superiority to mere Americans by eating lettuces no one else has even heard of.)

Besides the 'revolutions," there have also been a series of experiments in government control and "guidance" of capitalism. Each one of which has been ballyhooed by those who hate free markets. Each one of which was certain to doom the disorganized and selfish American variety of capitalism to second-rate status within a decade or two. Remember Japan Inc, and the wise mandarins of MITI? Remember the "German economic miracle?" And supposedly China is going to be next--ha ha, I'm SO worried. AND, just a couple of months ago the EU, with its strong Euro, was the coming powerhouse.

And guess who pushed his chips onto the table, and bet against America? Warren Buffett:

...Buffet, who reportedly lifted his bet against the buck to a position of $22 billion and counting in the first quarter this year, isn’t sounding quite so smug anymore. Normally an equity investor with liberal social views who rarely made forays into the foreign exchange markets, he has had his head handed to him by more experienced currency players. Although his anti-dollar attack worked from 2002 through 2004, since then he has been forced to pay for attempting to mix politics and money...(Thanks to OJ).

Life can be frustrating, but these last few years have been giving me a lot of sweet moments...

* Update: Here's PowerLine on some of the books predicting that the EU was the coming superpower. From last year! Look for them on remainder tables everywhere...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:19 PM

June 15, 2005

There was nothing wrong with the Crusades!

Tim Blair posts:

A Vermont school is changing the names of its sports teams:

Champlain Valley Union High School just graduated its last Crusaders, with the School Board set to pick a new name for the school’s teams by fall ...

Some argue that the name Crusaders is an important school tradition. Others see it as a symbol of religious oppression.

Via LGF. So, which name should replace “Crusaders”? Some suggestions:
a) Girly Punk Kids
b) Howard Deans
c) Surrenderers
d) The Whipped
e) Li’l Fiskies.......

THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE CRUSADES! Not more than any other brutal war of olden times. Christians conquered the Holy land, but before that Arabs conquered the region (and conquered it again later from the crusaders).

The idea that the Crusades were some sort of shocking anomaly is STUPID lefty nonsense designed to undermine Christian and Western Civilization. The picture being painted in the popular mind, of a normally peaceful Moslem Palestine suddenly brutalized by crazed Christian fundamentalists, is a stupid lie. The truth is, wars and battles see-sawed back and forth along the borders between Christianity and Islam from the beginning until now. The crusades were no more evil, or exceptional than, say, the Turks conquering Greece, or the Siege of Vienna.

Leftists hate our civilization, and especially Christianity, because they emphasize individual freedom and dignity, and make people resistant to being absorbed into various forms of collectivism. The crusades are smeared for the same reason that the Boy Scouts are, and businessmen are, and Christians are, and Jews are, and our Founding Fathers are, and our military is...

Posted by John Weidner at 8:58 AM

June 14, 2005

#184: Let's ignore those who believe in the marketplace...

P. Krugman


One Nation, Uninsured (06/13/05) is clearly a fill-in column for Paul Krugman– maybe he had to grade some late papers or something. In any case, it reveals some fault lines in his analysis of national health care insurance and confirms what we always knew his position to be – a single payer (read government) system. For example, he says right off the bat:

“Let's ignore those who believe that private medical accounts - basically tax shelters for the healthy and wealthy - can solve our health care problems through the magic of the marketplace.”

Well, we say, why ignore them? Why ignore arrangements that have worked for all other necessities of life, such as housing and transportation? Krugman is silent.

Then on the possible downside of a federal takeover of healthcare, he says:

“Some people, not all of them right-wingers, fear that a single-payer system would hurt innovation.“

Hey! That’s a real concern. If there is no incentive to innovate, why innovate? Again Krugman is silent.

We think this is all pretty simple. Krugman wants to bottle up the victim vote by promising to distribute health care equally and thereby achieve the great liberal dream of making all people dependent on government for healthcare. The scary thing is, it may work.

[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 10:20 PM

June 13, 2005

Watch the watchers...

This article by Max Borders in TechCentral argues that street cameras are not really a violation of civil liberties...

...Indeed, what is the difference between a cop sitting in his patrol car monitoring the streets (and you) whilst eating a Bavarian crème and that same cop sitting in a control room doing the same? You may respond that, in one instance, the cop is not visible to you. But there is nothing to say that cops can't monitor people while obscured by alleyway shadows. In fact, they do it all the time. Would anyone argue that this is a civil rights violation?...

TMLutas counters:

...It's not a bad piece but misses the real problem of the cameras, they make the state too strong. A society where everything done by an individual in public is captured, stored, collated, and attached to a personal file makes it too easy to keep tabs on dissidents, on the loyal opposition, even on personal enemies of those in power....

I think they are both missing the real issue. I think David Brin got it right, in The Transparent Society, when he argued that street cameras are going to happen. They are just too effective, and people's desire for safe streets is so strong, that they are inevitable. Therefore, what civil libertarians should be pushing for is the right to watch the watchers! There's no reason why the same camera technology should not allow us to watch the cops in the control room. (And, civil liberties aside, they would do a much better job of the watching, if they knew we were looking over their shoulders, and could tell the world that Officer Muldoon was busy dunking his donut and didn't even notice the mugging on the screen in front of him.) And maybe citizens should be able to watch the streets also.

Another issue that could be pursued with profit is where, and how long, the recordings are to be stored. Hizzoner the mayor should not be able to collect juicy clips of his political opponents visiting low dives. Perhaps those concerned with civil liberties should be pushing for the feeds to be stored where they are not available, except by court order if they hold evidence of a crime or accident. And they should be erased after a set time.

We are inevitably going to have less "privacy" in public spaces just because of the ever increasing amounts of information that is being captured. The Internet is a sort of public area, but this blog post, though it will probably be read by only a few hundred people, is available to the world, and is possibly being stored in ways I've never heard of, and could be used against me in the future. But the privacy of "big city anonymity" is actually not the norm in history. Most people have lived in small communities, where almost everything is known about everybody. A certain amount of that is coming back, whether we like it or not.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:32 PM

June 12, 2005

Krugdex updated...

P. Krugman


I've finally updated the index of KTS posts. (I'm up to #120) It's interesting to go back and look at what the Squad was saying, and compare it with what's happened. In fact, you don't need to look, I'll tell you. The Squad seems to have been right on in their explanations of where our economy was heading...and Krugman has been wrong so many times he belongs in the Grimblix Book of Records.

Actually, it's worth while reading those old reports. You'll learn nothing from Kruggie, but you will get a witty economic education from the Truth Squad...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:49 PM

Ha ha, Catch 22....

I'm not much interested in the issue of Senator Kerry's military records, since I think his "military heroism" is obviously bogus--any officer who would use a technicality to desert his men while they are on the front is contemptible.

But this business of the Boston Globe and the LAT apparently having Kerry's records but not publishing them is fascinating. Especially considering the many times the Gasping Media have told us, with infinite smugness and self-satisfaction, that their "duty" to publish things trumps minor matters like national security or patriotism.

This article by Thomas Lipscombe is worth reading. Apparently the two papers are saying that they have no obligation to release or publish the records, since others can apply to the Kerry organization just like they did. And Kerry headquarters is now saying the "the issue is over," since they have "released" the records! Pretty cute.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:00 AM

Conspiracy so dark it's become invisible...

It's a funny thing, about those recent ravings by Howard Dean and other Dems. The ones about how the Republicans are a party of "white Christians" who all look alike and don't need to work, etc. The odd thing (besides the obvious dementia) is, what happened to those sinister hook-nosed Neocons, who were supposedly running things? If they were such a big deal last year, why aren't they a big deal this year?

Of course, to us conservatives that never was an issue, because it was clear that George W Bush was running the circus, and using the neocons* for a particular job. Just as he is using religious conservatives to help implement the Faith-Based Initiatives, and using Hamiltonian types to push for free trade. That's what a President does. It was never an issue to anyone with sense. Of course when our country is attacked the administration is going to turn to those who predicted that the old policies were leading to disaster, and had spent decades thinking about and implementing better policies.

Whatever the reality, lefty kooks were until recently claiming that this was a big deal. Now it's forgotten. What brain-dead frauds they are.

*Note: The "neocon" label doesn't actually mean much these days. It's a flavor of conservatism that emphasizes a muscular yet idealistic foreign policy, and de-emphasizes religious and social issues. But it's not a movement or an ideology, except in the minds of the lunatic fringe.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:56 AM

June 10, 2005

mutual aid...

Brian Tiemann has a good post on an interesting idea that's going around--that Apple's move to Intel chips is at least as important to Intel as it is to Apple. Why? Because if Intel is to keep growing, there must be compelling reasons for people to buy new computers. And Intel has some of the best engineers, and lots of cool ideas that can potentially help make that happen.

But, they've been stymied by the PC makers and by Microsoft. The Wintel PC vendors only want cheap and simple. And Microsoft only wants to sell its ponderous software, and not to help nurture exciting new hardware. Apple may be Intel's chance to break free and show what it can do. I'm excited.

Brian also agrees with my impression, that this transition to Intel processors is going to be pretty painless, with a lot of apps moving quickly to universal binary form, which will run on both Intel and PowerPC chips. Most of what's happening will be transparent to users, who won't even need to know what chip is inside their machine. And the gains in power and speed and price will follow much the same curve they are already on. SO, probably you should buy a new Mac when you need it, and not worry about choosing the right moment.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:46 PM

more on turmeric

I've previously blogged about the possible benefits of the spice turmeric (active ingrediant: curcumin) in preventing memory loss and Alzheimer's.

Now Alan calls my attention to research on its possible use against cancer...Interesting.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:39 PM

#183: K on the Dark Side...

P. Krugman


The only way to comprehend Paul Krugman's recent columns such as Running Out of Bubbles (05/28/05) and today's Losing Our Country (05/10/05) is understand the depths of his pessimism. It's too easy to say it's just political and anti-Bush. It goes deeper than that. It's part of his DNA. It's worth repeating ourselves from earlier Squad reports to say he has spent a career looking for the economic dark side. A sample of his books and writings the last 25 years reflect this general malaise in thinking with such gloomy titles as, "Return of Depression Economics", "The Age of Diminished Expectations", Dispatches From The Dismal Science", "Even Worse than You Think" and "A Bridge to Nowhere?" and "The Great Unraveling." He's definitely a "glass is ninety percent empty" type of guy!

With this as background it is pretty easy to see why he still pines for the 60s and 70s and hates the 80s on forward. He simply doesn't believe in economic progress. Krugman would rather live in a world where the wealth pie is divided equally than in one where it is growing rapidly but unequally. The distinction is important because the policies that get one versus the other are exactly opposite. He doesn't trust the policies that are necessary for growth because some people might get rich. Perhaps these are honest differences, but beyond that the column is a bundle of unanswered questions about the costs of foregoing growth policies. For example, he asks the question, but never answers as to why the slow growth of middle class incomes (based on his flawed measurement) is because the rich are not taxed enough.

"Why is this happening? I'll have more to say on that another day, but for now let me just point out that middle-class America didn't emerge by accident. It was created by what has been called the Great Compression of incomes that took place during World War II, and sustained for a generation by social norms that favored equality, strong labor unions and progressive taxation. Since the 1970's, all of those sustaining forces have lost their power."

You bet! And the main reason is because they were stagnating our economy and hurting everyone's income and wealth. The irony that Krugman will never face is that the very "virtues" that he has cited over the years (not just today) in praise of business in the 60s, e.g., restrained profit motives, more awareness of "public" interests, cozy relationships with workers and unions were precisely the factors that led American industry to get a butt-kicking in the 70s by 2nd and 3rd rate countries all around the world and to having stocks of U.S. companies selling at prices below asset value. Nobody was happy with this – not even Jimmy Carter.

Fortunately, there was still enough vitality in American capitalism that the response to the 70s malaise was swift and brutal. A decade of mergers and hostile takeovers in the 1980s ushered in the era of "lean and mean" and put shareholder interests back in the driver's seat. There were abuses, of course, and some corporate raiders went to jail–Boskey, Milken, et.al. But in the end we were better for it and a foundation was formed for the productivity growth associated with the new economy in the 1990s.

Clearly Krugman cannot abide rough and tumble capitalism – most socialists cannot – so he blames "the engine of growth" for all our problems as he spirals down into another chasm of economic pessimism. He's trapped by his own ideology – poor but equal!

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

Posted by John Weidner at 12:47 PM

June 9, 2005

What a splendid woman...

It's pretty funny, those collectivists at People for the American Way have compiled a collection of quotes by Janice Rogers Brown. They doubtless intended them to reveal her as an "extremist" and a "wacko," worthy of being filibustered, but every one of them is lucid and TRUE! (Thanks to Julian Sanchez for the link.)

Some things are apparent. Where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies. The result is: families under siege; war in the streets; unapologetic expropriation of property; the precipitous decline of the rule of law; the rapid rise of corruption; the loss of civility and the triumph of deceit. The result is a debased, debauched culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible

...Theft is theft even when the government approves of the thievery. Turning a democracy into a kleptocracy does not enhance the stature of the thieves; it only diminishes the legitimacy of the government. …The right to express one’s individuality and essential human dignity through the free use of property is just as important as the right to do so through speech, the press, or the free exercise of religion. [Dissenting opinion in San Remo Hotel L.P. v. City and County of San Francisco, 41 P.3d 87, 120, 128-9 (Cal. 2002)

When people are criticizing Bush for not being conservative or libertarian enough, they should put Brown into the scale on the other side...Here's more:

...We are heirs to a mind-numbing bureaucracy; subject to a level of legalization that cannot avoid being arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory. What other outcome is possible in a society in which no adult can wake up, go about their business, and return to their homes without breaking several laws?...

...Curiously, in the current dialectic, the right to keep and bear arms – a right expressly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights – is deemed less fundamental than implicit protections the court purports to find in the penumbras of other express provisions. (citations omitted) But surely, the right to preserve one’s life is at least as fundamental as the right to preserve one’s privacy....

We continue to chip away at the foundations of our success. We dismissed natural law and morality because its unverifiable judgments were deemed inferior to reason. But, then, we drove reason itself from the camp because the most significant of life’s questions defy empiricism. …Only natural law offers an alternative to might makes right and accounts for man’s “unrelenting quest to rise above the ‘letter of the law’ to the realm of the spirit.”
Posted by John Weidner at 7:12 PM


I was fascinated by this article in by David Asman in OpinionJournal, on the differences between British and American medical care.

...We spent almost a full month in a British public hospital. We also arranged for a complex medical procedure to be done in one of the few remaining private hospitals in Britain. My wife then spent about three weeks recuperating in a New York City hospital as an inpatient and has since used another city hospital for physical therapy as an outpatient. We thus have had a chance to sample the health diet available under two very different systems of health care. Neither system is without its faults and advantages. To paraphrase Thomas Sowell, there are no solutions to modern health care problems, only trade-offs. What follows is a sampling of those tradeoffs as we viewed them firsthand....

The author finds some good things about British medicine, especially the quality of the personnel, and the good decisions that can be made when you are not worrying about lawsuits. But the overwhelming impression I got, was, socialism kills! The surprise of the author at how the American hospitals had clean and shining floors tells you most of what you need to know.

It's worth reading the whole thing...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:46 AM

June 7, 2005

Almost too cruel...

Bush and Kerry, Yale pictures
(Thanks to Charlene, who remarks, "If you were a co-ed, which one would you be interested in?")

Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 PM

Today's goofy joke...

"The Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people. They're a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same and they all look the same. It's pretty much a white, Christian party." --Howard Dean.


Posted by John Weidner at 6:09 PM

kids straight off the plane...

Nice story from Jay Manifold:

Early evening, St Patrick's Day. Science Night at Della Lamb Elementary in downtown KC: seven spoken languages amongst the student body; at least a third of the kids are straight off the plane from some of the deepest hellholes on Earth (refugee camps in Somalia, Sudan, etc), still learning to use plumbing and electricity....

....I found the Moon. It took a while. Magnification was maybe 30x; the disk subtended about half the field of view. A fat crescent with some Earthshine and high-relief features in the Southern Highlands and along the coastlines of Mare Serenitatis and Mare Tranquillitatis.

An African girl, maybe 7 or 8 years old, steps up. Swathed from head to foot in some kind of robe, which is just as well, because it's not warm and there's a strong breeze. I think how strange this environment must seem to her, and wonder how many family members she has lost, and how many people have died before her eyes. She is utterly silent. I point to the eyepiece, and she leans in for a look.

Three seconds later she has leaned back, eyes wide, looking directly into mine -- and grinning from ear to ear, brilliant white teeth gleaming in the darkness. She gazes at me, and then, instead of stepping away, she leans over for another, longer look. Only then does she leap away to find a friend and share the wonder. It occurs to me that some members of the next generation of scientists may have unlikely origins....


Posted by John Weidner at 1:55 PM

This made me laugh...

Yale grades portray Kerry as a lackluster student

Thanks to Orrin, who thinks Kerry's releasing his grades because he's running in '08, and wants to appeal to the common man!

Of course the smart Kerry/dumb Bush contrast was always silly. Poor Kerry's never accomplished anything in his life. There was a lot of desperation and self-deception in the way urban-sophisticate types kept insisting that Bush was stupid (except when they were claiming he was too devious and Machiavellian for simple straightforward Democrats to handle). There's lots of evidence that Bush is a very smart cookie.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:42 AM

June 2, 2005

More on the birds of Mauritius....

Sometimes you encounter a smart person (in this case both very smart and admirable) writing something totally preposterous. Such things can be psychologically revealing. Like a kind of Freudian Slip. A friend quoted this:

...I’m convinced that social control is a lot of the motivation behind the attack on Social Security. It’s a lot easier to be brave and independent and entrepreneurial if there isn’t a little voice in your head telling you that if you screw up, you’ll die in a poorhouse. That goes double if you’re female, or a person of color, or a member of some other deprecated category. Reinstating the fear of an impoverished old age would do wonders to clear the field for well-funded white guys with good connections, and thin out those pesky innovators who do so much to make life less predictable for large corporations.
---Teresa Nielsen Hayden

It's easy to point out why this is deranged: Just ask an entrepreneur or an innovator if our Social Security system gives them a confidence they would otherwise lack (Don't ask while they have their mouth full, you'll get stuff all over you). People who are likely to be successful as entrepreneurs are smart, hardworking and ambitious. So, they are already doing well before they become entrepreneurs. They aren't worried about poverty, they know they can always get another good job. THAT'S why they can take risks, not because they are counting on some crummy $1,500 a month from SS.

Secondly, I presume that "attack on Social Security" refers to Private Accounts--that's what usually gets Democrats frothing about "risk." However, there are people called financial advisors (and if you can't afford one, they've written books. Thousands of books). And every damn one of them will tell you that younger workers should put their retirement money mostly in the stock market! (in a diversified portfolio, of course) Long term, it's the safest investment, not the riskiest! Ms. Nielson Haydon herself (or her pension plan) has put her retirement savings into the market...unless she's crazy.

AND, suppose it is true that some would-be innovator is too nervous about the poor house to concentrate on his widgets. He could invest his SS private account into the very same government bonds that are in the so-called Social Security Trust Fund! (And he'd still earn about 3-times what regular SS will pay!)

I sometimes meet entrepreneurs--this area is thick with them. And Ms. Nielson Haydon must surely have met some too. They don't worry about Social Security, they worry about winning the next Ironman. And innovators--can she possibly have never met one? To imagine they would give up their dreams because of Social Security?

I suspect we have here the same issue I was writing about in the previous post. I sense (and of course this is armchair theorizing. No tissue samples have been taken) existential panic. Liberals, especially of my generation, absorbed their underlying political world-view thoughtlessly. They never had to defend it in argument, because everyone around believed the same things. (I was there. Berkeley class of '72) And now, more and more, they are confronted with evidence that their world-view is wrong, and much of what they believe is false. The result is panic. Denial. Conspiracy theories. They are not coping. Flightless birds I called them, unable to deal with new predators.

The quote reeks of a certain world-view. "We're the party of the young, the idealistic, the brave...women, minorities, innovators." Sorry, that world, that party is GONE. That picture was only partly true when it gelled in the 60's, and now it's not true at all. More and more, excitement and youth and reform and idealism are found with the Republicans. And the Democrats are now the party led by old Kennedys, old "civil rights leaders," old feminists, old union bosses, old hippies and Yippies, all funded by old billionaires and creepy Trial Lawyers. And all reactionary, and opposed to reform and new ideas. Opposed to women and minority judges, and to spreading democracy. Opposed to reforming public schools (the real civil rights struggle of our time).

If your political philosophy is based on ideas and principles, you can change with the times. Even change parties. But if you base your politics on a world-view that's not negotiable, not-to-be-examined, when times change you are in trouble. If your self image is based on cartoonish pictures like "we're the good guys, they're the stodgy white guys," then changing times will leave you stranded nowhere.

Practice questions...

  1. If we just abolished SS, entrepreneurial energy would probably increase by an order of magnitude. Defend or refute.
  2. Leaf through a few recent issues of Forbes. Discuss the picture presented above of corporations being "well-connected white guys" who want to stifle change and innovation.
  3. More and more we find that both corporate management and the innovators who upset them are Asian. Discuss how they can be shoe-horned into the category of White Oppressors.
  4. Do people of the "deprecated categories" actually have twice the worry about ending up in the poorhouse?
  5. Do those "deprecated categories" still have any real-world meaning?
  6. Of course there are rational reasons for Dems to panic over SS reform. Discuss.
Posted by John Weidner at 7:53 AM