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Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Linking to the InstaPundit

Next, I tell you how to heat water to boil eggs. But props to the Insta-man: his comment about Senatorial ethics is cold.

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Is This Asking For Too Much?

Is there some way we could get this guy together with this crowd?

UPDATE: Ask, and you shall receive. Weird.

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More on Banana Republics

In his piece titled "Our Banana Republics", Paul Krugman was quite heated on the subject of opaque accounting in New Jersey, Tennessee, Alabama, and (shock!) the US Budget as prepared by the Bush Administration. Well, it looks like he needs to extend the list slightly. Look eastward, and pass the fruit.

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This Is How We Do It In the Real World

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I Love This Name For a Blog

My other favorite name: "Tree Falling in Woods". Anyway, I like this piece too. Saddam has NO elite forces. None. Got it?

UPDATE: Hey, he gets an Insta-link - on August 5!
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I Am Not Worthy

The Economist is so good that I may just have to quit reading it. Sure, I know it is brilliantly written and well-informed, but their ability to deliver a subtle yet brutal takedown is awe-inspiring.

I refer to their latest cover, which may appear here. George Bush is walking along, looking over his shoulder to peer with concern at the bob-tailed dog behind him. The caption says "It's the economy, boss".

The first part is easy. We all know that the original expression, courtesy of James Carville, is "It's the economy, stupid". So, who is the Economist calling stupid?

But beyond that, what is up with that dog? It's tail is bobbed, so it's not wagging its tail. Could George Bush be thinking about wagging the dog? Ouch.

They note in their editorial that they endorsed Bush in 2000 and have supported his war on terror. But when these guys take a shot at someone, they hit hard. My advice? Stay on their good side, and hope they never start a blog.

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Maureen Dowd Again?

Maureen likes Hollywood again. That took one week. Now, Mo is appraising various Democratic Presidential hopefuls, including Mrs. Clinton. Her big finish picks up on the Eddie Murphy trailer:

"Hollywood prefers actresses under 40, but doesn't mind women over 40 running studios, Senate offices or the country. In the new futuristic Eddie Murphy movie set in the year 2087, Mrs. Clinton was a beloved president long ago. In space, $10,000 bills have her face on them and are known not as dollars, but as Hillaries."

Yes, well, in space, no one can hear you scream.

UPDATE: The Brothers Judd offer their thoughts.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2002

John Kerry Unveils His Own "Metaphor Mangler"

John Kerry, Dem from Massachusetts (NO, not the warhero turned war criminal, that's Bob Kerrey! This is John Kerry, war hero turned GREAT GUY!) unleashes an assault on the English language with this logical explosion, uncorked while criticizing the US tactics in Tora Bora:

"He has been most scathing, however, on Afghanistan, arguing that the Pentagon's decision to rely on Afghan troops instead of American soldiers in the battle of Tora Bora in March probably allowed Mr. bin Laden and his lieutenants to escape.

Asked who should be held accountable for the Tora Bora strategy, Mr. Kerry points to the president. "If you are the skipper of the ship, and the ship runs aground while you are asleep in your stateroom, you are relieved of duty, no excuse," he said."

But hold the phone! First of all, anyone trying to skipper a ship through the mountains of Tora Bora deserves whatever hideous fate befalls them. But more importantly, what about that other John from Massachusets, John Kennedy? His ship sank, didn't it?

And seriously, folks, this sort of second-guessing is at best ludicrous and at worst dangerous. The war in Afghanistan was live improvisation. If Bush had sat around waiting for the perfect, fool-proof plan, we would still be waiting for the atack to begin. The military developed sensible plans, implemented them, evaluated the results, and adapted. The Tora-Bora plan was subsequently identified as relying too heavily on local troops, and in a later attack (Operation Snipe), greater use was made of American and British forces.

Now, if Kerry is arguing that no reasonable person could ever have imagined the Tora Bora plan to be plausible, well, good for him. I guess the Pentagon wasn't watching the Psychic Network that weekend. But at the time, there seemed to be sound reasons to prefer local troops who knew the terrain, therby sparing American casualties. After the fact, the plan didn't work. Is Kerry seriously arguing that it failed because of lax, inadequate planning, that Bush was "asleep" in the stateroom? Does Kerry seriously believe that Bush should resign, or that a general should be sacked? This is a dangerous road to "paralysis by analysis": if ex-post perfection is the objective, the Pentagon will never do anything.

Kerry was, per the NY Times, one of the 45 Democratic Senators "voting against letting Mr. Bush's father use force to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait". He is also a decorated Vietnam veteran turned anti-Vietnam war organizer. So it is possible that Pentagon paralysis is exactly Kerry's objective. But if you think the football team should pack up and go home, just say so; this Monday morning quarterbacking where you criticize the play selection on third down is disingenuous.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan dumps on Kerry too, but not nearly as viciously as your truly.

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Getting to Know You

A special link for those hoping to learn about The MinuteMan. It all comes clear now. And what a great alias.

Oh, this is terrific. Here we get a glimpse of the sensitive side of Jeff Hauser.

Ooops. Now Hauser gives us the bird.

And did The Gammaholic say he was busy? Directing this, I guess. Maybe he can direct Matthew Hoy in his next play, since this one seems to be closed.

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Clinton and the Corporate "Culture of Crime"

So, did the ethical challenges of our former President contribute to a corporate "culture of crime"? Some have argued this to be the case; if I had any pretense to intellectual honesty or consistency, I think I could find examples of The MinuteMan arguing that point. But here are someone else's Deep Thoughts:

"To be honest, much as I would like to blame Bill Clinton for the financial scandals of the last few months, intellectual honesty forbids it. Clinton did many bad things, but the idea that he's responsible for the bad acts of WorldCom or Enron just doesn't scan.

Corporate executives do not commit crimes because the president of the United States commits crimes. They don't behave recklessly because the president behaves recklessly. Indeed, CEOs probably became a bit more careful about taking the Nestea plunge into the intern pool after witnessing Bill Clinton's troubles. But the idea that some CEO okayed the transfer of debts into the earnings column because of Bill Clinton's presidency is just plain silly."

Well, my marching orders are clear - when Jonah Goldberg speaks, I listen.

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If You Missed the InstaPundit Link

Here is an interesting thought about a baseball strike and the upcoming elections. Since he is a former owner, I don't see how a strike helps Bush. Some NY sportswriters are actually calling for presidential involvement in the baseball situation. Bizarre? Well, FDR did encourage baseball to continue during WWII, and we are at war now....

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Shocking Drug Bust in Tulia, Texas

Bob Herbert of the Times recaps a shocking drug bust in Tulia. Briefly, in July 1999, 43 people in Tulia (pop 5000) were arrested as drug dealers, essentially on the word of one undercover cop. Most of those arrested were black, and suspicions that the local police had targeted the black community were rampant. The national media ignored this story for a year, but now it is getting some attention. The ACLU, the NAACP, and various drug-law reform groups have been involved.

For additional information beyond Herbert's column, CNN has a piece from Oct. 10, 2000. The Austin Chronicle ran a long, detailed piece called "The Color of Justice". Perhaps the most interesting side character to emerge from this story is Tulia school board member Gary Gardner. Gardner looks and, according to the reporter, talks like a racist redneck sent over from Central Casting. However, he has tussled with local law enforcement for years on behalf of his own Mexican workers, and was one of the first to criticize these arrests, reminding us yet again of the old rule that if you are in a hurry to make generalizations, you are in a hurry to make mistakes.

The Media Awareness Project, "a worldwide network dedicated to drug policy reform" devotes space to this and provides several interesting stories:

The Texas Observer, a small independent newspaper, standing tall as they watch their story go national. Could be any blogger.

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal on the fate of several bills that were introduced in the Texas State Legislature in response to the Tulia arrests. And here is a second reform. The second reform was an attempt to ban uncorroborated testimony by a peace officer. This was watered down to "informant", but advocates are in a "half a loaf" mode in this story.

And could we end without a nod to Arianna Huffington? She denounces the whole thing.

An intriguing theory mentioned in one of these stories explains a peculiar discrepancy: The arrests were often for powdered cocaine, but most of the users were crack smokers. The allegation? That the undercover cop bought a few bags of powdered coacaine, cut them (OK, diluted them, get with the party) into many bags of now-weak cocaine, and introduced them as evidence. Motive? Cash. He is reimbursed for many bags of coke, when his real expense is a few bags of coke and a lots of baby powder and wall gypsum. It would sound crazy if another undercover informant had not been busted for exactly that.

So, did the system work? These arrests seem to be a disasterous confluence of a drug war run amok and some local rednecks run amok. Is the sytem working now? Well, there have been minor changes in the drug laws, the Governor is being pressured to pardon some people, and even the people (and prosecutor) in Tulias seem to be wondering just what they have done. But the situation is an outrage.

And what do we do? Nathan Newman has a short post on this subject. I'm not interested in approaching this as a "Right vs. Left" question; I think we are talking about "Right vs. Wrong". But Newman is an activist lawyer, and may have some good ideas about who to write to, and support. Go bug him.

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Monday, July 29, 2002

Coal Miners Rescued

Nothing in this story will refute an atheist arguing that the success of this rescue can be attributed entirely to the hard work, ingenuity, and optimism of a bunch of heroes. But anyone looking for evidence of Providential guidance will find a lot in this story too.

As a strange postscript, did anyone not love Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker? He had been Lt. Governor, and stepped up when Tom Ridge went to Washington. However, he has already announced that he will not seek re-election this fall. Too bad - a good man is hard to find, to paraphrase Mae West.

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Read This Guy on Israel

I should qualify that: only read him if you are interested in reading someone who is consistently making sense.

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Hiding in Plain Sight

The always-interesting (and Krugman approved!) Josh Marshall awards a prize today for the first to argue thusly:

"Someone had to argue that the recent stock market skid wasn't the cause of congress's new anti-corporate corruption bill, but rather its result."

J Marsh gives the prize to the hapless "Dow 36,000" author James Glassman for a Weekly Standard piece dated Aug. 5.

But c'mon, Josh! Check out the Wall Street Journal from July 22:

"Since President Bush unleashed the political furies on the private sector with his speech on July 9, stocks on the Dow have fallen by about 13.5%, including another 4.6% on Friday. This can only mean that investors are demanding more regulation, more punitive laws and more anti-business rhetoric, right?

Believe it or not, that's what some people with allegedly above-average IQs are writing. The truth is closer to the opposite, with investors now discounting not just for market risk but for a new and dangerous element of political and regulatory risk. With Congress in a stampede, and Mr. Bush abdicating veto oversight, the law of unintended consequences is in the saddle riding events."

I suspect I could find similar lamentations from Jonah Goldberg at NRO, but since he never links to me, why should I link back?

So hold the prize, Josh. The winner is hiding in plain sight.

UPDATE: I relent and link to Jonah, and I hope they can handle the traffic. He doesn't blame the current stock slide on the current corporate reform effort, but he does argue that "time may tell" that we are going to far. Clear winner so far: WSJ.
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Get Out the Decoder Rings

The Times has front page stories on welfare reform and our plans for a strike against Iraq. Kaus seem to have the full decoder set for welfare reform, so, without even checking, I predict a comment eventually, although these Left Coasters often need a cup of coffee to get going. As to Iraq, the sourcing will be interesting. The State Dept. and many military men prefer a "wait and see" approach with Sadaam. Some civilian adventurers in the Pentagon (read "Wolfowitz") want Sadaam now. Who leaked, and why? I may even offer my own humble opinion after I finish some morning chores.

UPDATE: One day later, Mickey Kaus fills a page with his "Quickie Nina B. Talking Points" on welfare reform. Full analysis to follow? How much more can we take?

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Movie Review: Minority Report

It's doing huge box office, and the critics loved it, but here is my minority report: don't bother. I like to think that I have a good capability for suspending disbelief (Bush supporter!) and I don't even demand internal consistency in sci-fi movies. For example, the logic of the "Terminator" movies doesn't stand up to a great deal of scrutiny, but the logic is clearly just a plot device to trigger a kick-ass adventure. However, "Minority Report has at its core a murder mystery, and I expect a who-dunnit to play by the rules, even if it initially makes up a few of them. By that measure, this movie is frustratingly inconsistent, and for large stretches the viewer is left wondering how what they are seing now could possibly jibe with what they saw twenty minutes ago. Spielberg spent a lot of money and delivers some great visuals. He also had a very intiguing premise. Too bad he decided to stop making sense.

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Thursday, July 25, 2002

Michael Pine is Dreaming Out Loud

But this nightmare won't end so easily. The estimable Mr. Pine, in an otherwise laudable plea for responsible black leadership, hopes that Al Sharpton's "drug bust" tape will derail Sharpton's Presidential bid in 2004. Time to wake up, Mike. We are talking about Al "Tawana Brawley" Sharpton. His constituency will see right through this transparent set-up by "The Man", as the urban legend grows.

But you are right to worry. The 2004 race for the Democratic Presidential nomination will be "The Tale of Two Als". Sharpton, a witty, telegenic quote machine with a racially divisive message based on slavery reparations, will energize the ethnic component of the Democratic base, and then threaten to keep them home for the general election unless his demands are met. Can the Democrats negotiate with this Al without frightening independent voters?

Meanwhile, Al Gore will be relying on his name recognition, fund raising network, "Rage Against the Machine" populism of 2000, and a record as the most sucessful Democratic vote-getter ever for his 2004 run. With a front loaded Primary schedule, will a sucessful challenger have time to emerge?

I have seem my cat struggling with a hairball, so I have a good idea of what to expect as the Democrats attempt to cough up a candidate in 2004. Worrying about Al Sharpton is just the beginning.

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Did You Get Something Special for That Special Someone?

It's Valentine's Day in July, judging from this adoring appraisal of Colin Powell on the front page of Thursday's Times. We turn to Sullivan for insight into the Times dark motives - why this news-free puff piece, why now? Sully notices the piece, but doesn't deliver the motive.

Well, fine. I have removed the tin-foil lining from my Yankees cap, and am in touch with the conspiracy. By happy coincidence it is linked to the "Why Iraq? Why Now" debate that has broken out in advance of Senate hearings next week, and which I comment on below. We know Powell is very cautious about military action against Iraq. The Times is annointing him as the fount of all wisdom to bolster a "go slow" agenda. And, if Powell comes out swinging against Sadaam, he is simply being a loyal team player toeing the Bush line. The Times wins either way. JustOneGuess, but that is one more guess than Sullivan provides.

UPDATE: In the Sunday Editorials, the Times tips their hand a bit:

"The Bush foreign policy agenda is filled with issues that Mr. Powell is ideally suited to address, including the ongoing war against terrorism, efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and the pending decision about how to deal with Saddam Hussein. Mr. Bush will need Mr. Powell's help if he hopes to secure international support for a confrontation with Iraq."

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Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Jason Has Questions. We Have Answers.

Jason Rylander excerpts a James Carrol piece from the Boston Globe and call for a debate on our war aims with respect to Saddam Hussein. For a comprehensive look at this, Josh Marshall of Talking Points has an article in the Washington Monthly, as well as two supplementary posts from his blog. The posts make a nice summary, and here is the money quote:

"But along the way I came to an unexpected and for me troubling conclusion. I decided that the hawks were right. By that I mean that containment isn't working and that what the right-wingers like to call 'regime change' really should be our national policy. And, if necessary, we should do it by overwhelming military force."

Jason, I hope this helps answer these questions, and I completely agree that Congress and the President need to make this case strongly and clearly to the American people and the world. Tony Blair seems to be doing so already.

UPDATE: Two chaps from the Brookings Institution offer their thoughts on a war with Iraq in Thursday's Times. After a review of the risks and benefits, they offer their big finish:

"There is a case to be made that these costs are worth sustaining. But if so, we need Mr. Bush to make it. He has not yet done so."

Whoa, I don't want to be with these guys when they are ordering lunch. "There is a case to be made for the tuna salad. The lasagna, while perhaps tasty, exposes one to the risk of a stained neck-tie. On the other hand...".

C'mon, guys, fish, cut bait, what?

UPDATE 2: So many updates! The Brothers Judd wrestle with our friends from Brookings.

What is This, Ask Me Another?

Oh, fine. Jason Rylander also seems to be endorsing a query by TalkLeft with respect to a proposed UN International Convention Against Torture. Let me recap:

"Friends of Torture

The Bush administration is opposing an amendment to the International Convention Against Torture that would send out inspectors to ensure that countries are not torturing prisoners. This puts us in good company. The only other nations opposing the amendment are China, Iran, India and Cuba.

That's some company we've got there. I think TalkLeft has it right when they ask-- "Excuse us, but what exactly are we hiding down in Guantanamo Bay?"

Let me take a shot at this. First of all, the International Red Cross is monitoring the camp. Secondly, Al-quaeda, we presume, is trying to regroup. At this point, I suspect that they are having a difficult time figuring out who is dead, who is simply missing, in hiding, or out of contact, and who has been captured by the U.S. for interrogation. If Al-quaeda leaders could get a reliable roster of the detainees at Guantanomo, it might help them evaluate the types of information which the U.S. might be getting, based on the information available to the Al-quaeda detainees. Accurate guesses as to what we might have learned could help them revise or improve current plans.

So, will the UN inspectors keep quiet about who they meet? If I were commanding U.S. troops, I wouldn't risk one soldier's life on it. And if some of that information is available through other channels, well, the fewer the channels the fewer the leaks.

I think that is a strong enough case there, but I will add another point. Control of information is apparently vital in interogating prisoners. The UN inspector arrives: "Your brother is doing well. Your cousin sends his regards". Ooops. We didn't want the prisoner to know that. Again, why trust the UN and risk American lives?

Well, that's just my guess as to what we might be hiding down in Guantanamo. What was your guess, again?

UPDATE: The plan moves forward despite US objections. And why do we oppose it? According to the Times, it's not just Guantanamo, but an odd "states's rights" objection. The US can't negotiate a treaty that might allow the UN into state-run prisons? Seems very legalistic. However, this proposed protocol is a side agreement to the international convention against torture, and what do we learn about that?

"The [American] official also said there was no question of withdrawing support for the convention on torture itself, which he called "an important human rights instrument." The United States, which signed the convention during the Clinton administration, is the largest contributor to a United Nations fund to aid torture victims."

"Friends of Torture"? Please.

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Pursuing the Evildoers

The House and Senate agree on a deal to address corporate wrong-doing. Here is a clever compromise:

"The final congressional measure, agreed to earlier on Wednesday, preserved most of the stricter auditing oversight sought by the Democratic Senate but also with the stiffer penalties passed by the Republican House".

And can Treasury Secretary O'Neil deliver a sound-bite? How about this, on Moneyline:

"I'm very glad that the members of Congress have now come to an agreement to send a bill to President... It's the lock on the barn door."

Oh, good, we locked the barn door. Now I have to see a man about a horse.

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Fire Up The Base!

The House passes a partial birth abortion ban. OK, it has been a Republican agenda item for years, and we have an August recess and a fall election, but still: if someone thinks that this makes me forget about corporate malefactors, and the weird economy, and Norm Mineta, and Sadaam Hussein, well, I haven't forgotten. But I do seem to have forgotten where I put my checkbook.

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Boo the InstaPundit!

Oh, go ahead and strike me dead, I'm too busy to blog much in the next few days (years?) anyway. But what is up with this, from Insta-man?

"JASON RYLANDER has very handsomely revised and extended his remarks on Congressional pay raises in light of the fact that I had said the exact opposite of the view he attributed to me. He also addresses Jeff Hauser's claim that it's not a raise, but a COLA. I don't buy that either. I got a three percent raise this year, which was basically a COLA, but it was called a "raise." Everyone (not just conservative Congress-bashers, of which Hauser too seems to think I am one) has been calling this a pay raise."

So, c'mon, Glenn, your linker is broken? The link to Jason Rylander is working, no, it can't be that your linker is broken. You want to rebut Hauser, link to Hauser. Man, I feel like I'm reading a NY Times column, not the best damn blog in Tennessee.

Now, at the risk of adding something sensible to this discussion, why are we giving Congresspeople "Cost of Living" adjustments pegged to inflation? Aren't they among the leaders in the fight for a sound currency, and the battle against inflation? Surely a "COLA" is a perverse incentive, and I certainly hope Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's contract doesn't include one.

UPDATE: NO, I don't intend to e-mail Insta-man with this complaint. I'm way too busy and not nearly that stupid.

UPDATE 2: Wow, how did he know? The link to Hauser now appears in its proper place, and my respect (oh, go ahead and say it) and awe are restored.

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Israeli Strike in Gaza Kills a Hamas Leader and Fouteeen Others

This story and the followup has made the front page of the Times two days running. My quick survey of the blogosphere showed very little reaction at all. The Oooold Crow gave us :

"One more terrorist is taking the eternal celestial dirtnap.
Henry Hanks // 11:42 AM"

This doesn't seem to fully explore the issues, although there is a "reap what you sow" attitude implied here that I can get behind. However, my "thought-through" reaction is that of Michael Pine, if I were thinking and writing clearly, and who has the time?

My only quibble with the Pine piece? He closes with "The Israeli government continues to think tactically, rather than strategically...". I do not think (and I suspect Mr. Pine does not think) that the Israeli governnment is monolithic on the subject of how best to deal with Hamas, and offer this article in evidence.

UPDATE: OK, I lack patience. The blogosphere is now humming with this. Instapundit provides links to Alterman, the Bear, and many others.
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Susanna Cornett Has Her Claws Out

"Ms. Cut on the Bias" tears into some animal rights activists, and scrupulously avoids calling them "left wing nuts". No bias at her site.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2002

We Interrupt This Blog...

To bring you the following announcement: due to the impending arrival of friends and family, I will almost surely be blog-free for several days. However, I would like to leave you with a long-ish "think piece" I have been working on. It is amusing and insightful, topical yet timeless, and weaves together, I might say effortlessly, the Bush Administration Election 2002 strategy, the history of the Middle East, ideas for African development, and my thoughts on cyronics, Ted Williams, and the attempted colonization of Mars. I simply need to update a few links and.....

Hey, "Blogger" shouldn't do that! And what kind of a message is this: "File Not Found. Not Now, Not Ever, Never!". Do they think this is funny? Do they see me smiling? And what is that car rolling up the driveway? They are like, two hours early! This is not my morning. Well, another time, perhaps.

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Krugman Dons His Economist's Hat

Krugman played political strategist, attacking Bush with "The Angry People". He played climatologist, attacking Bush with "Elvis and You". He played SEC investigator, attacking Bush with his rehashing of the Harken Energy scandal. And now he would like to imagine that his credibility as an objective observer of the macroeconomic scene is intact, as he attacks Bush yet again. Oh, dear.

If I may summarize:

The economy is down, but not out. The Fed should cut rates. OK. And we need fiscal stimulus now, but fiscal restraint later. Since the Bush tax cut is back-ended, it is a terrible idea. Economic circumstances have changed, it is time for Bush's plan to change with them.

Well, what do we think? Back when the government was predicting surpluses, Krugman thought that this tax cut was a bad idea. Now that we are looking at deficits, he thinks it is a bad idea. The predictions of surplus and deficit don't seem to be particularly stable over time. Two things are stable: Bush supports this tax cut, and Krugman opposes it. And I suppose a third thing is stable: Krugman does not impress me as objective.

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Kristof Has a Cow!

But for those of you scoring at home, we like this one. Kristof tackles bio-engineering and bio-ethics, so he may attract comments from Virginia Postrel and Rand Simberg. Or not, it's their summer too.

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Help For Would-Be Insomniacs

If you want to lie awake nights and worry about financial disaster, read this by Nathan Newman. It's working for me.

UPDATE: Sullivan takes a hit off the same Roach in "The Case for Gloom", but later. Advantage, Newman.
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Monday, July 22, 2002

Citibank and Enron
JP Morgan too. Rubin, ex-Treasury, is Chairman of Citigroup. Earthquake. And the original JP Morgan rolls over.

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Go, Iranian Bloggers, Go!

NO, I can't find a link to the Iranian blogger support folks. How obvious would that be? But this story about Iran is interesting.

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OK, Let the Dogs Out On This

Lynn likes grammar puzzles. Well, I have been plagued for several days by a word problem, to wit, "canny" and "uncanny". No fair using a dictionary: I think "canny" is crafty, shrewd, knowledgeable. "Uncanny" is crafty or capable in a way that surpassses the understanding of us mere mortals. However, the two words are clearly not opposites, and a casual writer might use them interchangeably, as in "The uncanny Mickey Kaus today salutes the canny Andrew Sullivan...".

So, my question. Regardless of "irregardless", are there other "word - unword" pairings with a comparable "near-synonym" status? I have been bugged by this for several days, and need help. Thanks.

UPDATE: Valuable, invaluable; estimable, inestimable. OK.

UPDATE 2: Lynn (Un)Leashed offers flammable / inflammable. And what's this about "uncouth"? I lose my couth all the time.

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Working for TIPS, and More

Charles Murtaugh does a round-up of the NY Times Week in Review, and Operation TIPS. Gee, he didn't seem to like Maureen Dowd either (see below). But he does notice that the right wing is weighing in against TIPS, the proposed citizen-volunteer "I Spy" program.

Totally overlooked in the TIPS debate: Just prior to the 9/11 hijackings, many of the conspirators were reveling in a strip club. Not my cup of tea, but if duty calls, shouldn't more guys be stepping up their surveillance of this kind of action in order to serve their country?

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It's Not Just "Blogger" That Has Archive Problems

Rand Simberg thinks the bug may have bitten Norm Mineta.

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How Screwed is Bush? Wonders Andrew Sullivan

And how screwed is Sullivan's calendar, we wonder. Mine, and I suspect Karl Rove's, still says it's 2002. All the big dates circled in red on Karl's calendar are in 2004, with a big finish tabbed for November 2. So yes, it would be nice for Bush if the Republicans in Congress could hold up well this fall. But Bush's domestic agenda seems to have run out of steam and he might do fine as a counterpuncher, battling Congressional Democrats and "Fighting for the Right". This worked, in a mirror image way, for Wild Bill. So, how screwed are the Republicans? Good question. How screwed is Bush? Way, way too early to tell.

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Maureen Dowd Buys a Copy of "TV Guide"

In her latest column, "Big Mo" discovers that Hollywood exploits sex and violence. Remarkably, for a Times editorialist, there is no clarion call for greater government regulation, thus allowing "Mo" to neatly sidestep the dependence of the Democratic Party on Hollywood cash. Her one interesting point:

"A recent study in The Journal of Applied Psychology suggests that people who watch shows drenched in sex and violence can remember only the sex and violence, not the ads. If companies take that to heart, they may decide to advertise on more sober shows, like PBS's "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," where their products would shine more vividly."

Nice to see her new commitment to free markets. Now, how long until her column resumes the knowing references to "Sex in the City", and "The Sopranos"?

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Sgt. Schulz! Maybe You'd Like to be Sent to the Northern Front!

To help fight in our "War on Drugs". The Canadians may follow the lead of the British, and decriminalize marijuana. And what's this? Vancouver, with its lax drug enforcement, is compared to Amsterdam? Hey, I thought all my friends were going there for the skiing!

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The French Have a Word For It

According to Frenchmen discussing the relative military capabilities of Europe and the U.S., the French and British are actually quite martial. However, some of the other European countries, who flee from military power and its responsibilities, are described by the French as "les Woodstockians".

And in another demonstration of the narrowing gap between ourselves and our allies, consider this comment by Pascal Lamy, the European Union trade commissioner and, evidently, prospective right wing blogger:

"Stop pretending that the United States and Europe share a common view of the world, recognize we have different world views and interests and then manage our relations." To Americans, he said, "Europeans seem a bunch of unprincipled wimps who complain and embrace multilateralism out of weakness, because unilateralism is out of reach." ...[Mr. Kagan's article] "pushes the debate to the next question: how far will Europeans go to defend their rule-based systems? Will we take risks, lose lives and pay more? That's the real question, which we Europeans have carefully organized ourselves not to ask."

He hears us! All this and more in a fascinating Times article.

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Sunday, July 21, 2002

It's Summertime, and a Middle-Aged Man's Fancy

Turns to thoughts of.... lawncare? Well, yes. Sorry, ladies. Victor Davis Hanson of NRO tells us how to brighten the tedium of uprooting dandelions by pretending each one is a member of Al-quaeda. Oh, you know he didn't; he presents an extended metaphor comparing Johnsonweed, which apparently overran vineyards in California at one time, with our fight against Al-quaeda. Strike at the roots! Go after Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Libya! But hold on. Hanson knows a lot more about military history, and apparently weed history, than I do. But I read NRO. Surely he left out some roots?

Oh, here it is:

"We should seek out more liberal members of the Saudi royal family and explain to them that democratic reform alone can now prevent the collapse of their entire regime."

Oh, OK. Better explain it slowly.

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Bill Buckner Lives! Or, Impeach Nixon!

Another thriller in the Bronx on Sunday, as 55,000 screaming maniacs head for home delighted with the Yankees 9-8 victory over their dreaded AL East rivals, the Red Sox. The Red Sox show good character by twice overcoming deficits and taking the lead, but reveal their true character in a thrilling bottom of the ninth.

The Yankees are trailing 8-7 to start the bottom of the ninth. The Stadium is rocking as the crowd stand and pleads for a rally. Jason Giambi works back from an 0-2 count to tap a checked-swing single down the left field line on a 3-2 pitch; Enrique Wilson comes in to run for him. Bernie Williams then singles to right. First and third, nobody out? NO! Rightfielder Trot Nixon chooses this moment to pay a personal homage to '86 Series goat Bill Buckner by allowing the ball to roll under his glove and back to the right field wall. The two base error allows Wilson to score from first as Williams chugs into third.

Holy Cow! Score tied at 8, a man on third, nobody out. The Sox elect to intentionally walk the next two batters and load the bases. Then, with the Stadium in bedlam, the Sox show that this "walk" idea can be taken to far by walking Jorge Posada on a 3-2 pitch, forcing Williams in from third. "Start spreading the word. I'm leaving today. I want to be a part of it..." as a full house roars its approval.

A great three game set that exceeded the hype. And how can the Sox lift "The Curse"? Got me. Maybe spread Ted Williams' ashes, or ice chips, around Fenway. But talk about a good team that is not quite good enough...

UPDATE: Can we get some quotes, please? How about from Jeff Weaver, a newly acquired Yankee from the Tigers. Weaver tied a Yankee record by giving up five homers and then sat in the dugout to watch as his teammates bailed him out of the "L":

"If you struggle and your team pulls you through, that's what it's all about," said Weaver, who failed to protect leads of 5-1 and 7-6. "That's the best three games I've seen in professional baseball, no doubt about it."

And from Red Sox manager and baseball fan at heart, Grady Little:

"You can call them heartbreakers if you want to, but this was one of the most exciting weekends I've ever spent in the game of baseball."

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Saturday, July 20, 2002

Order Restored in the Bronx

The Yankess are hosting the Boston Red Sox in a critical, yet simultaneously meaningless battle in the AL East.

Top of the ninth, tie score, bases loaded, two outs, Doug Mirabelli batting for the Sox: stand up and cheer, fans, this is why you bought a ticket. Baseball doesn't get much more exciting. Ooops, pop-up to Jeter. Onward....

Holy Cow, is that a shot of an overhead blimp, or is Red Sox reliever Rich Garces warming up in the bullpen? Somebody should warn him about heatstroke, and this.

Top of the eleventh, tie score, bases loaded, two outs, Doug Mirabelli batting for the Sox: OK, baseball is supposed to be timeless, but this is more like a time-warp. Tap it back to the pitcher, Doug, great job.

And finally, bases loaded in the bottom of the eleventh with one out for Robin Ventura of the Yanks. Just a ground ball to second, but enough to score Soriano, so it's the Ventura Highway for the Sox. Don't turn down the sound if you're watching at home or you'll miss "I want to be a part of it....". Another great day of Yankee baseball, showing Friday's result was just a fluke.
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The MinuteMan Way!

There have been some questions about what we laughingly call an "editorial policy" around here, so, to set the record straight, here is JustOneRule, and some addendum, presumptiously offered as a guide to bloggers everywhere.

The Rule:

There are no strangers here, as Will Rogers reminds us, just friends we have't met yet.

Simple, huh? But a little supplementation might be helpful, so:

A. "Be nice, and have fun". If you can't manage both, you pretty much have to tip towards "Have Fun". But if are running into this conflict a lot, you might want to look into your heart.

B. "Attack the idea, not the person". I know some wonderful people with some wonderfully daft ideas, so the distinction is worth maintaining. However, it is important to note the limitations to this "Attack the idea" concept. At a cocktail party, many a raving knucklehead who can not seem to grasp your subtle yet irrefutable logic can be silenced by a sharp blow to the solar plexus. Worth remembering, especially if you are wearing your track shoes and the wife remembered the Mace.

C. "Keep your sense of humor". Remember, someday, somebody somewhere will be laughing, or snorting derisively, at one of your posts or opinions. So you may as well laugh at someone else's right now. Carpe diem!

D. "Don't come between a person and their tirade". There are therapeutic rants all over the blogosphere, sometimes even sneaking into otherwise serious posts. You sort of spoil the fun by dissecting these rants in a spirit other than the one in which they were offered, and you know how we feel about "Having Fun". Any exceptions? Sure: for otherwise responsible journalists, or anyone who attempts to seriously defend their own fevered ravings, anything goes.

E. "E is for e-mail: privacy, please". If you send me something with a juicy, red-hot, smoking gun, career ending quote, you know I will be tempted to post it. However, I will respect your privacy and would be ever so grateful if you could reciprocate.

Simple rules, really. And other than (E), don't hold me to them: a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Nice weekend, all.

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More Evidence That I Am Not Quite Dumb Enough...

to be a Professional Golf Executive.

From today's Times, "Don't Stretch a Course; Tighten It, we learn that:

"JUDGING by what's happening at Muirfield in the 131st British Open, the Masters and the United States Open made a mistake this year in adding length for the sake of length.

The increased length was supposed to make it more difficult for Tiger Woods and the other 300-yard sluggers. Instead, it made it easier for Woods to win both major tournaments because of golf's titanium theory of reverse relativity: the longer the yardage at Augusta National and the Black Course at Bethpage State Park, the fewer golfers in serious contention."

Really? Making a course longer doesn't make it harder for long hitters? Knock me over with a feather. Or better yet, hit me in the head with a nine-iron, so I can qualify for a job at Augusta.

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When Five Year Olds "Flame"...

Overheard by a devoted Dad while minding the kids:

"Well, you're a pickle-brain raisin head."

"Oh. That hurts my feelings."

Future bloggers, beware. They're coming.

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Friday, July 19, 2002

Who is Domesticating Whom?

The Times with an intriguing take on co-evolution and the farm bill.

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Kristof Still Has the Anthrax Bug

Kristof with his third in a series as he stirs the pot on the anthrax investigation.

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Still "Aloha" to Harken Energy

We predicted its death. Now, a humble word search at the Times and the WaPo for "aloha harken" turns up nothing since we commented on 7/14. You don't care? Neither does Nathan Newman.

UPDATE: Sunday, July 21: If you want to create more cars in a minute than Detroit can produce in a month, just say the magic words: "I think we'll be on time. I can't believe traffic is so light." Works with Harken Energy, too. Apparently, the WaPo has a story on it. Well, they may be on this 24/7, but I'm covering this 2/5. Don't they have a ballgame to watch, or anything? I'll try again Monday, but leave you with this damning quote from the Center for Public Integrity:

"[The documents]...do not unambiguously resolve the question of what Bush knew about Harken's reporting of the sale."

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Michael Pine Tells Us How to Rebuild New York

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It's Alive!

The trifecta, that is. Oh, c'mon, you remember the Bush trifecta: Bush claims to have said his economic plan would not result in deficits except in the case of war, national emergency, or recession, and now we have all three. Critics have said "Bush is lying, when did he say it?". We have covered this whole ghastly mess before.

And why are we back? Well, an alert reader writes in "Hey, MinuteThing, "Spinsanity" is back with the trifecta, what about you?" Well, good point. Both Spinsanity and The Daily Howler are howling about the trifecta again, so why shouldn't we? (The Howler mentions the trifecta in a long story from July 16 titled "New Morning", but I can't figure out their timestamps.)

OK, so back to my questions: for Brendan at Spinsanity, my original question had been: are you still comfortable with the "Bush is lying" spin? We are making great progress here, as this evolution suggests:

Spinsanity, June 18: "It takes a brazen politician to make up a story that can be proven false and then to keep lying about it after being busted repeatedly."

Spinsanity, June 20: "...even if it was, it doesn't negate the "trifecta" lie Bush has been pushing."

Spinsanity, July 2 Update: "When questioned about Gore's statement by the Post's Glenn Kessler, Bush economic advisor Lawrence Lindsay said the exceptions would apply to Bush as well. But there is still no evidence that Bush "told the American people" this during the campaign as he has claimed, either in Chicago or in general."

Spinsanity, July 17. lead: "President Bush may finally stop repeating his fictitious "trifecta" story for good due to growing national press coverage..."

Spinsanity, July 17, body of report: "senior Bush advisors have asked the President to stop repeating his undocumented and unsupported claim"

BINGO! The claim is "undocumented and unsupported", other than by Bush aides, and who believes them? But there is a general agreement that it was, in fact, part of Bush's economic plan during the campaign.

So, Brendan, as an "accuracy in media" guy, would you care to comment on your earlier "Bush lies" coverage, and perhaps modify the "fictitious story" lead in your July 17 piece? I'll grant that the heated rhetoric may have helped move the story, and I'm not really the type to sit in my glass house and urge restraint on others. On the other hand, you are a serious journalist, whereas I am a serious a**.... well, that's not coming out right. Let's say that as a serious journalist, you should aim for a high standard of accuracy. And, as a leader on this story, I think a correction, or clarification, from you would help set straight a big part of the blogosphere, as I can recall seeing the "Bush lies about trifecta" theme repeated elsewhere. So, how about it?

And speaking of the blogosphere, what about our friend Ben Domenech? Ben offered a mysterious document supporting Bush's position as the fruits of a Westlaw search. However, no one else seems to be able to find the document, and Ben admits it doesn't seem to be accurate. So, some of us still wonder whether Ben has a Westlaw signifier for the document, or any help at all in resolving this particular database mystery. It does leave the rest of us scratching our heads as we do these google searches and imagine that we can rely on what we come up with. And more importantly, if we can clear up this little cloud, then we pretty much have a Clean Sweep for the Right on this "trifecta". Oh, sure, I'm strutting a little now, but if Ben can clear this up I'll bring out the full frolic with backflip. My secret hope, anyway.

So, questions for Brendan, questions for Ben. I cannot seem to find Ben's e-mail at his site, so I am posting this without a "heads-up" to Ben. Hideous breach of etiquette, and I apologize. I am relying on "Murphy's Law", which in this case suggests that roughly five minutes after posting this I will find Ben's e-mail and look like a darn fool. Again. Today. But we get used to it.

So, questions for everyone. The truth is out there.

UPDATE: Oh, fine, a Clean Sweep would be videotape of Bush saying it to Tim Russert and Dan Rather before a cheering crowd at Wrigley Field. I'll settle for "not a lie".

UPDATE 2: NEVER underestimate "Murphy's Law". I finally find Ben's contact info, cleverly concealed under "Contact". Man, maybe I need new contacts. I send him a little note and BOOM - recipient has exceeded his storage limit, mail can not be delivered. Some days chicken salad, some days chicken shit.

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Religion in America

He may call himself "The Man Without Qualities", but to us, Robert Musil is simply "The Man". On Thursday he had a fascinating post on religion and the Founding Fathers. The Jefferson Bible? Who knew.

Link to his archives? C'mon, this is "Blogger", none of these archives are working! I'll link to his front page, look near the top.

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Roster Moves

Adding some names to the perma-list, for environmental reasons.

Man Without Quality
The Brothers Judd
Charles Murtaugh

Some of these folks I think I know, some I just want to keep an eye on. You keep an eye on them too.

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Thursday, July 18, 2002

Have You Been to the Dentist Lately?

While in the dentist's office, I read this in the Letters section of an old Sports Illustrated. No links, all memory:

"Dear Sir;

It is definitely the fans, and not the players, that keep rivalries alive. Last week I was able to attend a New York - Boston game at Fenway. My heart was warmed by the fan's chant of "Yankess suck! Yankees suck!" Even more heartwarming - we were playing against the Mets!"

Dentist's office, Red Sox rooters - so much pain.

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"Crushing of Dissent", or "Responsible Enforcement of Parade Permit Rules"

The Times reports on the inexhaustible charm of New York politics.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Creative, Forward Looking Policy Prescription

The prescription drug debate, as reported in the Times:

"Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, chief sponsor of the generic drug bill, said, "The drug industry is doing everything it can to prevent this bill from coming to the floor." Mr. Schumer warned brand-name drug companies: "You are going to make yourself into the next cigarette industry. That would be ironic, because you make products that help people. But you are fighting everything. Get with it, or it's going to roll right over you."

"The next cigarette industry". Very good. Maybe we can just sue the miserable ba*****s if they don't develop more miracle drugs, faster and cheaper. This policy should definitely attract to the pharmaceutical industry both capital and young people eager to be demonized for the duration of their careers. But it may get a few senior votes this fall, so go, Chuck, go - fight the power!

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This is Too Good to Miss

We have a lot to cover. Bradford DeLong has a post with a wild attack on Scalia. He was then criticized in the comments section by the Man Without Qualities (Robert Musil), who apparently used the magic phrase "academic dishonesty". Bradford deleted his post, and a subsequent post with the magic word "Mussolini".

Bradford then announced a new "Politeness Policy", and is being trounced for it in the comments. Why do we laugh out loud so rudely? Because, a while back, Bradford D called Andrew Sullivan a "loathesome toad", and in the Scalia piece described Scalia as:

"a theocratic intellectual zombie, a strange creature from the ranks of the undead, a creature that belongs at the benighted court of the medieval imperial Pope Innocent III".

His comments don't seem polite, somehow, but surely it would be rude not to laugh at his joke.

And where are we now? The Scalia argument has retained a bit of a "left v. right" flavor, but a "free expression v. Bradford repression" theme is emerging elsewhere. The "Politeness Policy" is being revised before our eyes, and comments are being deleted without explanation, so hurry over to see how top academics handle questions of academic integrity before Bradford brings the whole show down.

UPDATE: "Hey, it's Brad, what's with Bradford?" someone wonders. Glad you asked. A "Brad", as any handyman can tell you, is a small nail with no head, designed to be hammered into the wood until invisible. I think that roughly summarizes the situation at DeLong's site, but it seems impolite to say so.

So What is it With You and Bradford DeLong?

Do you have the impression that there is more here than meets the eye? Prof. "Brad" DeLong (sorry, "Brad" seems rude, as I explained in the UPDATE above) and I got off to a bad start when he was introduced as a side character in a piece I was doing on one of Krugman's columns. Since then, we have had our ups and downs, and just last week I was praising his effort to debunk some Andrew Sullivan statistics.

Now, regrettably, but given my mercurial and impetuous nature, not surprisingly, I have turned on him like a snake. Or hopped at him like a loathesome toad. Something animalistic, anyway. But let us see what the day brings.

UPDATE: We have identified the animal: "[The MinuteMan] is a jackass", says Paul Musgrave, whose blog seems to be better than his manners. This from Bradford DeLong's site, where the struggle for the courteous and free exchange of ideas spills over into other posts.

"I'm not sure whether...Kaus is not quite right in the head": Brad DeLong

A faux DeLong? At this point in the chaos, I suppose anything is possible, but the comment has been up for a while. DeLong attacked a Kaus piece on miscegenation; different readers offered defenses of the most creative and consistently insightful journalist in blogdom down in the comments; and DeLong produces another possible breach of his new "speech code". The "nut graf", as Mickey might say:

A reader:

"...Like all running gags, sometimes it's hilarious and sometimes it comes off as an incomprehensible inside joke.

Posted by Neel Krishnaswami at July 17, 2002 01:05 PM

A reply:

"Thanks. Interesting point. I'm not sure whether your point is true, or whether Kaus is not quite right in the head."

Brad DeLong

I expect it's been a long day over there. Has Bradford become a psychologist, or is he just looking for one?

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Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Andrew Sullivan and Jason Rylander

I've never seen these two photographed together. Coincidence? Anyway, they both comment on pharmaceutical companies, drugs, and AIDS, and only one is right. Andrew first:

"I'm completely convinced by the evidence that the free market has done more to cure illness, develop drugs, and improve medicine than any socialistic enterprise. I know I'm alive today because of this. And so are countless others. I'm also aware that profits for drug companies are essential to keep the drug innovation going. So confiscating these profits, or showering complex drug regimens in regions unable to use them effectively (if at all) are in effect non-solutions to the global plague. And yet I completely see the opposite imperative. Millions are dying...."

And now Jason (whose archives are shot, Blogger-style):

"Sometimes free-market ideas--no matter how right they seem theoretically--collapse under the shear weight of their implications. Andrew Sullivan is wrestling with that very problem. HIV-positive, he owes his life to the pharmaceutical industry and believes that drug company profits are the key to continued innovation (see his Sunday Times of London article).

But then square that with the fact that he's alive and 68 million people in Africa and Asia may not be (if recent predictions are true) for lack of access to the same medicine. The technology exists to save them. Isn't there a moral imperitive to do something? Sullivan seems to think so--despite himself

"Free-market ideas..collapse". Which idea was that? Look, Jason, since you seem to be focussing on drug company profits and are probably worried about the expense of aiding Africa, here is a money-saving idea. Let's institute a national draft, and send people ages 25 to 50 to Africa to work as Health Care Providers at minimum wage. Pretty cheap, eh? Maybe I'll meet you there. Or, we the people could find the tax dollars to hire doctors and health technicians to go over. Hmmm.

And I suppose we could cut the profits of the drug companies and just expropriate their patented drugs. But is there some reason that, if we the people of the West want to aid Africa (and I believe that Andrew, Jason, and I do), we shouldn't negotiate a "fair" price with the drug companies? OK, "fair" is a tricky concept, but if there is a moral imperative to do something, why is it to be borne only by the drug companies? And, as Andrew mentions, why would we want to kill the goose that is laying golden eggs? I am still holding on for a treatment for Alzheimers, and seriously doubt that trashing the drug industry is the way to achieve that.

OK, helping Africa is going to be wildly expensive, and for reasons many have discussed elsewhere, it may not be possible to achieve a lot. But the idea that the drug companies should bear a disproportionate part of this burden just to make it cheaper for the rest of us is silly.

And yes, my "Strawman Detector" is beeping, since your comments are a bit cryptic and I am extrapolating. But there I go again.

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Monday, July 15, 2002

Original Idea Alert!

We won't do this often, but ocassionally we have a good idea. I was mentally comparing Enron and Harken Energy, thusly:

Enron: share price falls from Big Number to "One over Infinity, and Beyond!";
Harken Energy: share price is above Bush's sale price a year after controversial sale; company still going strong today.

Enron: Insider rats desert sinking ship during death spiral with large personal gains;
Harken Energy: only Bush is in the news as having jumped non-sinking ship.

And then I pause, as a lightbulb flickers overhead. If I had some old SEC reports, I could see if other insiders and directors were getting out in unusual amounts around the time of Bush's sale. If they were, that would be consistent with an "Enron-like" story where insiders knew bad news was coming and bailed out, hurting passive outsiders. On the other hand, if other insiders were sitting tight, then Bush's sale looks a lot more like an innocent one-off transaction, as the SEC ultimately concluded. No den of thieves at all, very exculpatory. Hmmm.

So now all I have to do is find some damn documents. Not a bad idea, hey? Or, if you hate it, stop me now and tell me why. Or even better, do the work and get yourself a great mention at the NRO. Make news! Live! I have relatives in town, so I will be living, but probably not making news.

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Krugman Plays Baseball and Swings Wildly

Relatives are in town today, so I have to settle for a little "Paulie", rather than "The Full Krugman." Still, a very revealing column by Paul Krugman today. Let's consider Krugman's opening:

"Why are George W. Bush's business dealings relevant? Given that his aides tout his "character," the public deserves to know that he became wealthy entirely through patronage and connections."

Krugman goes on to to evaluate Bush's character entirely through his business dealings. That's it? We measure a man's character by his bank statement? Nothing about his one marriage, his evident fidelity, his seemingly OK kids, his battle with demon rum, nothing at all, really, except some business transactions. This may tell us more about Krugman than about Bush.

Krugman and Kristof are both going after Bush's Texas Rangers experience today. From this coincidence, I infer that they have both decided to work through the rest of the American Family Voices file. Krugman was less than 100% accurate with his last "file dump", and presumably is not fully accurate today, either. But accuracy is not the point - the idea is to sling as much mud and see if any sticks. And, since even a blind squirrel finds a nut, who knows? Neither I nor, I suspect, Krugman, have time to evaluate the full American Family Voices files today. However, I would check out Hoystory for what is typically a fine de-Krugging.

UPDATE: Hey, The MinuteMan today, the Kausfiles tomorrow! Mickey also wonders about the Kristof/Krugman coincidence in "Two Times Columnists Show Up in the Same Dress". I walk with giants.

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Kristof Plays Baseball, and Strikes Out

The civic leaders of Arlington, Texas wanted a new ball park for their beloved Rangers, and worked aggressively with the Bush-lead franchise to deliver. Whoop-de-damn-do. I don't have an interest in sending my tax dollars into a new stadium for rich players and richer owners, but, as Kristof says,

"Local voters overwhelmingly approved the deal, so maybe we shouldn't get so exercised by star-struck local officials giving $200 million to rich baseball owners."

Ya think?

More on "American Family Voices"

Newman gives us a view from the left on "American Family Voices", and tells us how McCain-Feingold may put us on "The Road to Perdition".

Meanwhile, I just love that wholesome "American Family Voices" name. I need to remember that naming strategy when I set up my shadowy right wing group prior to 2004. Let's see, "Shadowy Right Wing Group" would be an amusing self-parody which may give us play in "The Onion". "Sinister Crawly Things"? Out. Current favorite is "Mom, Apple Pie, and the Flag". Can't you see the press coverage?

"A spokesperson for Mom, Apple Pie, and the Flag said today..." Whatever, Mom, you know best.

Love it. Also love "Calm Thoughtful Ideas". Let's pretend:

"A spokesperson for Calm Thoughtful Ideas was anything but, as he denounced the latest Democratic proposals with a fury and passion not seen since last Saturday night when Sen. Ted Kennedy heard "last call!".

Still in development...

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I Love These Traffic Monitors!

I am getting hits on google searches for "One Minute Islam". Boy, those seekers don't have a prayer.

UPDATE: Islam means peace.

UPDATE 2: Whaddya mean, "Amen to that"? A little multi-cultural respect, please.

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Better Than a Cup of Coffee

Need something to get the juices flowing? Jeff Hauser guides us to this post from MaxSpeak (NO, not Max Power!) on the hormone replacement story:

"What really hit home was that women over the age of 45 have really been guinea pigs for a long time . . . " Well, it's not Enron but it turns out that hormone-replacement medication for menopause taken by millions of women for decades is now strongly suspected of having a "statistically small" effect of causing breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots. The news story is here. These are legal, approved drugs. The results came to light in a Federally-funded study.

This kind of thing puts unemployment, losing a chunk of your pension, or getting reamed in a stock sale into perspective. Also libertarianism."

"Also libertarianism"? MaxSpeak has a cool comments section, so my initial impulse was to post a dark-hearted comment each hour until, days later, I felt I had made my key points. But this morning, in a lighter mood, I realize it is far nicer to share. So, stroll on by and let him know what you think. And as you comment, it would be lovely if you could follow the ever-changing and erratically-applied "MinuteMan Way":

1. There are no strangers here, as Will Rogers reminds us, just friends we have't met yet.
2. You catch more flies with honey than with an AK.
3. Have fun, and be nice. Of course, if you can't manage both, definitely have fun.
4. Remember, someday, somebody somewhere will be laughing at you. So you may as well laugh at someone else right now. Carpe diem!

I have no doubt he will welcome a frank exchange of views, and I see from his main page MaxSpeak has an engaging sense of humor, so....Loose the Hounds!

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Listen Up, You Single Guys

Mickey Kaus has an article on black women marrying white men helpfully titled "Black Women, White Men". In the article, Kaus calls for an "equipment check" for you swinging, or maybe not-so-swinging, singles. Fortunately, I'm married, so no one need find out why I'm "The MinuteMan".

Have I anything substantive to add? Oddly, yes: the post-welfare reform formalization of prior cohabitation may not signal a social shift at all. Sound bite that.

UPDATE: Kaus needs an editor, and a psychiatrist, says Bradford DeLong. The "Psych" comment is in the always engaging comments at DeLong's site, and may not be authentic.

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Sunday, July 14, 2002

Corporate Ethics Roundup - 7/14

This looks like becoming a regular feature, so I will try dating them. If at some point I regret leaving out the year (and millenium), well, hard luck.

OK, filed under "Wake Me From This Nightmare": According to CBS Marketwatch, The Post reports on Saturday that the head of Bush's "financial crimes task force served as a director of a credit card company that paid more than $400 million to settle consumer and securities fraud allegations". The good news: according to his spokesman,

"He then personally took the lead in making the company do the right thing and it was his personal efforts that were a driving force in the company settling over $400 million and in implementing internal reforms and compliance measures".

Man, I feel better. And I'll feel a lot better after this gets kicked around for a week.

And how about the omniscient Dick Cheney while at Halliburton? He knew! Well, you knew he knew, what else is new? The SEC is looking vigorously at the accounting issues, according to Chairman Pitt. But did they do anything wrong? My impression was that Halliburton was following standard industry accounting practice, but my confidence in standard accounting practice is not what it used to be. How's that for no guts?

Quickly, Coke will expense stock options, and Worldcom may have been cooking the books for a while. Republicans definitely want to push this back to the Clinton era.

OK, big finish. The Sunday NY Times lays out their game plan, excuse me, the Democrats game plan, for exploiting this scandal in the fall elections. Not a slam dunk, as patient readers will see.

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Harken Energy Roundup

Didn't I say this scandal was over? Hmm, could it be I don't trust my "Issue-Skipper", which is still in beta-testing? Prof. DeLong has two posts on this subject. If you read one, check out "The Aloha Petroleum Deal". Evidently, the Aloha transaction was non-recourse seller financing. Hmm, that type of deal can be very light on economic substance, as Krugman alleged last Friday. But DeLong does not provide a source for his info, so suspense builds. Not a lot of suspense, DeLong provides lots of details so he must be looking at something, but hey - maybe his dog will eat it.

DeLong's second post, "Selling Into Good News?" is inspired by a Salon look at Bush's stock sale. Salon gives different emphasis to what seem to be the same facts presented by Byron York at NRO, and fails to excite me.

Do I want to hedge my bet on the Harken Energy issue fading? No. In response to Charles Murtaugh, I suggested that, even if these allegations amount to anything, the White House can fall back on a "takes a thief to catch a thief - Nixon to China, Bush to Corporate Reform" argument. OK, who am I? But when I tell you that both William Buckley and Rush Limbaugh are peddling a similar view, you will tremble. Whether your trembling is caused by awe, or laughter, I will not speculate.

UPDATE: DeLong and "The Other Sullivan" slug it out in the comments section of DeLong's "Aloha" post. When does "the other Sully" get a blog?

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Weekend Review

In which we continue our irregular feature of summarizing the weekend's output. Helps you past the "Gore 2004" roadblock below.

Gore 2004: Long excerpts from "The Economist" regarding, well, Gore's chances in 2004.

Taking Responsibility: Not just for sports fans.

Social Security Privatization - Ta Ta for Now: Help from our "Issue-Skipper".

Sullivan, DeLong, and the CDC: I go after Sullivan, and fleas bite elephants.

Show Us How They Do It In The Movies, Tough Guy: Steven Seagal outtakes.

Krugman on Corporate Ethics: And speaking of "tough guys", we are back to Friday.

Thanks. Enjoy.

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Gore 2004

I am not saying, "Go, Big Al, Go!". And I have heard plenty of Democrats saying "No, Big Al, No!". But the world's finest English language newsweekly offers these thought on Gore:

"The Democrats' former champion had a point about corporate America. Will it do him any good?

AL GORE won dismal reviews for his decision to reinvent himself, in the middle of the last presidential campaign, as a people-versus-the-powerful populist....

Whatever the merits of running as a populist during a boom, Mr Gore's campaign is now looking more far-sighted by the day. Even the briefest reading of the press cuttings produces some choice quotations. Mr Gore gave warning that his rival was being bankrolled by “a new generation of special-interest power-brokers who would like nothing better than a pliant president who would bend public policy to suit their purposes and profits”; that these special interests were determined to “pry open more loopholes in the tax code”; and that “when powerful interests try to take advantage of the American people, it's often other businesses that are hurt in the process.” The people who would benefit from Mr Gore reining in the corrupt moguls would be “the small- and medium-sized companies that are playing by the rules and earning profits the old-fashioned way.”

.... Mr Gore still looks prescient. He argued that the country needed somebody in Washington who was willing to hold corporate America accountable for its misdeeds. Now even George Bush (MBA) is swotting up on his Teddy Roosevelt and threatening errant chief executives with a visit to the woodshed.

You might imagine that the Democrats would be falling over each other to praise their prophetic candidate... You would be wrong.

Why are Democrats so reluctant to praise their former champion? Many are still nervous about populism. They worry about reviving their party's reputation for business-bashing, a reputation that Mr Clinton spent a decade expunging. And they think that Mr Gore's brand of populism is exactly the sort that the party needs to avoid: a populism of the heart rather than the head, of grand rhetoric rather than concrete proposals, of sabre rattling rather than scalpel precision. You can search his campaign speeches in vain for ideas about accounting reform and outside directors—and that is certainly not because of any aversion on Mr Gore's part to tedious detail....

Disillusionment with Mr Gore is not confined to the party's peerage. Many Democratic operatives are about as keen on another Gore candidacy as Sony is on renewing its contract with Michael Jackson. They point out that the real problem in 2000 was always the messenger rather than the message. Mr Gore seems to be capable of only two modes of behaviour: the stiff and charmless, and the outright bizarre (remember his decision to paint his face orange during the first presidential debate, or his gorilla-like attempt to crowd Mr Bush off the stage during the third debate?). A prescient Al Gore is still Al Gore.

Yet strategic silence may not be enough to save the Democrats from Mr Gore. One inspiration for him might be another much ridiculed vice-president who blew one election but stubbornly came back to win another. Richard Nixon long ago proved that deeply unattractive politicians can overcome both the doubts of their colleagues and the sneers of the punditocracy to bounce back from defeat.

Mr Gore left the 2000 campaign with important advantages: astronomical name-recognition; a network of fundraisers; and a bitter sense that the election was stolen. Now he can add the fact that he warned America against putting a corporate dupe in Washington. The party barons may not like it. Many party operatives may even dread it. But the unlovable Mr Gore is still in a stronger position than any of his rivals. Each corporate scandal increases the likelihood that the 2004 election will be a rematch of 2000—and even, perhaps, that Mr Gore may win it.

I slimmed this down a bit, but the original does come together beautifully. Anyway, links to the Economist require registration, sorry.

As to content: among Al's advantages, they left out the front-loaded primary schedule in 2004. And I have an additional comment on the "stolen election" issue. The Dems run the risk of a puzzling contradiction in their message. Suppose they energize their base with a chant of "We wuz robbed, Gore won". OK then, some wise guy will say, nominate the guy who won. Go with a winner, go with Al. Oh, not so fast, respond "the leadership". Yes, Gore won, but really, it was a team win, and we need someone else who can win even more, or differently, or anyone but Al.

This contradiction is not insurmountable. I have "leadership" in quotes not as a cheap shot, but because the Dems are anything but monolithic regarding Presidential candidates in 2004. Each of a number of prospective leaders will attempt to explain this seeming conundrum in their own no doubt stylish way. And whoever knocks off Big Al may gain credibility as "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence". So exciting, so long to wait.

UPDATE: The free-spending Jeff Hauser evidently subscribes to the Economist, and gives us a view from the Left in the 7-12-14 Hauser Report. His bold prediction - Bush wins in 2004. My addition - Bush is Major League Baseball Commissioner in 2009. If we still have Major League Baseball.

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Taking Responsibility

You see this a lot in sports, and not often enough elsewhere. Here is a hapless Indians pitcher commenting on his ghastly outing against the mighty Yanks:

""I stunk," Drese said. "They hit every kind of pitch I threw up there. It was one of those nights. I'm extremely upset. They did a good job of hitting, but I stunk.

Drese was roughed up for eight runs, eight hits and three walks in 1 1/3 innings, the shortest outing in 22 career starts

Yeah, you stunk. But you stood up and and said so afterwards, so good for you. Character building stuff. Next time, go out and beat the Red Sox.

UPDATE: He stunk? Then how do you describe the greatest closer in baseball, when he blows a three run lead in the ninth to lose 10-7, ending with a dramatic grand-slam to an earnest young chap just up from the minors?

"Today was one of those days," Mariano Rivera said. "Everything I threw, they hit."

And how about the pitch that gave up the grand-slam?

"It's where I wanted it," Rivera said of his patented inside cut fastball. "He hit my best pitch. I can't get upset."

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Saturday, July 13, 2002

Social Security Privatization - Ta Ta for Now

A good idea whose time will come? Sure, I think so, but our new "Issue Skipper" says, this idea is dead for this year. Election year politics, corporate scandal, and a stock market swoon create too big a mountain to climb. This is a true no-guts prediction, by the way, since the Times quotes Trent Lott thusly:

"We're not going to act in this area this year. They know it. We know it. And hopefully the senior citizens know it."

And hopefully, I know it too. For now.

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Sullivan, DeLong, and the CDC

I have taken some sniping from readers wondering why, if I disagree with Sullivan‘s post on the CDC, I am also criticizing DeLong for his attack on Sullivan. Can’t tell the players without a scorecard, eh? Let me try to explain. And since no one's d**n archive links seem to working, I may achieve new levels of "cryptosity". Sullivan's post is from Monday, July 8, is titled "Doing the Math", and can be found in his archives (I hope).

Back in 1988 at the famous “What would you do if someone raped your wife” debate with “the Duke”, then Vice-President Bush was asked to name his heroes. Among them was the head of the CDC. Good enough for “Poppy”, good enough for me. OK, I didn’t vote for him in ‘92, but we wasn’t running for Grandfather either. My default setting tips strongly towards people actually working to save lives, so I have no trouble getting behind the CDC.

Since then, the AIDS disaster has politicized the setting of CDC priorities. Within the AIDS budget, how much should be spent on research for treatments versus spending on education and prevention? And how much should be spent on AIDS generally, versus spending on cancer, heart disease, juvenile diabetes, and other killers? Man, you have got me. But I would expect Andrew Sullivan to have a well informed opinion on such questions, and since he is a wildly talented writer, I would expect him to be able to communicate those opinions to me. Furthermore, since I am pretty much a Sullivan bobble-head doll, I would expect to be nodding in agreement with whatever he writes.

However, in his recent post on the CDC, Sullivan offered some statistics that fell way short of the mark. Professor DeLong, in a post that was arguably intemperate, then pummeled Sullivan’s statistics. And do you want to argue statistics with the Professor? I once worked with a fellow so laughably injudicious in selecting his fights that the rap on him was “if he can’t find a strong wind to pee into, he’ll look for an electric fan.” Maybe he wants to grapple with Dr. D. But for my money, Sullivan’s numbers don’t come together, and Dr. D. is right.

So, while Sullivan basks in his rebutting of the Times on their Alaska heat-wave story, perhaps he can offer his fans some support on the CDC front. I am sure he had something he wanted to say - what, Andrew, was it?

So there you have it: The MinuteMan and Dr. D, battling together for Truth and Justice. Whoa. Don’t get used to it.

UPDATE: How do I feel about the CDC and its involvement in gun control, a reader wonders. Didn't Bush Sr. warn against "mission creep"? Put the "D" back in "CDC", guys.

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Show Us How They Do It In The Movies, Tough Guy

Steven Seagal gets shaken down by the Mob.

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Friday, July 12, 2002

Krugman on Corporate Ethics

I know, "ethics overload" with Krugman's "The Insider Game" today. Cheap shot highlights:

Today, Krugman describes the sale by Harken Energy of its subsidiary, Aloha Petroleum:

"the Aloha Petroleum deal at his former company Harken Energy — in which big profits were recorded on a sale that was paid for by the company itself, a transaction that obviously had no meaning except as a way to inflate reported earnings...

Gee, last week I read this, also from Krugman:

"A group of insiders, using money borrowed from Harken itself, paid an exorbitant price for a Harken subsidiary, Aloha Petroleum. That created a $10 million phantom profit, which hid three-quarters of the company's losses in 1989."

Gosh, if the sub was sold, that has meaning, doesn't it? And yes, it was paid for by a company loan, but this is hardly the first case of seller financing in the world. And the price was exorbitant? If they had paid too little, would that be better? If you are going to criticize Bush for changing his story, a bit of constancy is advisable. And a discussion of how insiders can earn a net gain by overpaying for an asset (transferring value to Harken Energy shareholders generally) but make it back on their proportional ownership of a stock that capitalizes earnings at an attractive multiple, might be interesting. Depending on the amount of overpayment, the proportion of shares held by participants in the transaction, and the capitalization multiple, the numbers can certainly work. But don't hold your breath waiting for our Economics Guru here to tackle it.

Krugman on prosecuting high-level execs:

"And they almost never get convicted. Accounting issues are technical enough to confuse many juries; expensive lawyers make the most of that confusion; and if all else fails, big-name executives have friends in high places who protect them.

Probably thinking of Marc Rich. I am.


"An aside: Some pundits have tried to dismiss questions about Mr. Bush's business career as unfair — it was long ago, and hence irrelevant. Yet many of these same pundits thought it was perfectly appropriate to spend seven years and $70 million investigating a failed land deal that was even further in Bill Clinton's past."

It's not the crime, it's the coverup - man, doesn't this guy read anything? With Whitewater, we had questionable Treasury involvement after Clinton was sworn in. Let loose the attack dogs of war!

"Mr. Bush claims that he was "vetted" by the S.E.C. In fact, the agency's investigation was peculiarly perfunctory."

Perhaps because the share price didn't move much the day of the announcement, and was well above his sale price next year. No harm, no foul? Byron York is endless on this. OK, back to Special K:

"And if they want something more recent, how about reporting on the story of Mr. Bush's extraordinarily lucrative investment in the Texas Rangers... As in the case of Harken, no hard work is necessary; Joe Conason laid it all out in Harper's almost two years ago."

Pulitzer's all around! Let's turn the staff loose with old magazines. Did Guccione cover this? I volunteer to check. Man, if the story is that old, why are we breathing so heavily now?

"And the general counsel, who would normally make decisions about legal action, had previously been George W. Bush's personal lawyer — he negotiated the purchase of the Texas Rangers. I am not making this up."

You're not? Well, at least you recognize a need to reassure us. I guess news of your tattered credibility has trickled back.

And Krugman's big finish:

"The bottom line is that in the last week any hopes you might have had that Mr. Bush would make a break from his past and champion desperately needed corporate reform have been dashed. Mr. Bush is not a real reformer; he just plays one on TV."

Well, the only proposed reform I found in this piece is to change the accounting for stock options. I guess my hope that Paul would make a break with his past and deliver a real economics column is equally misplaced.

UPDATE: Brad DeLong explains Aloha as a non-recourse seller financed "sale". OK, this doesn't often get "true-sale" accounting, but I suppose I could argue it is akin to the sale of a call on Aloha. So, do I retract my cheap shot on Krugman? Hey, even if he were right, truth is no defense around here - top shelf economists and crusading muckrakers not only have to be right, they have to look good doing it. Points off Krugman for no explanation. I'll even take points off DeLong for no sources or links, although I expect he has some.

OK, I may have found a source myself. The LA Times? What are you Lefty Coasters reading? And registration required? Oh well, the Post has similar details the next day, although I miss the magic words "non-recourse".

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