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Friday, August 30, 2002

Nathan Newman is Totally Right - A Story Too Big to Blog

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OK, Here's Your Texas Steel Cage Peace Plan

Or not. For something serious, go here. Be sure to follow the link.

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Lawyer, My Eyes! Tell Me What Is Wrong?

TAPPED was amused by the Norah Vincent story. Rittenhouse Review quoted a reader who used the "stealing" word and tossed in "plagiarist" with a question mark. Jason Rylander, however, seems to be hyperventilating:

"Norah Vincent -- A Plagiarist?

So it would sadly seem.... she seems to have swiped language straight out of a Jackson Browne song without attribution. In an op-ed on 9/11 submitted to (and rejected by) the New York Sun, Vincent refers to that fateful day as "the fitful dream of this rude and much greater awakening."

A little over the top, but cute. But then a Rittenhouse reader remembered this verse from Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender”:

I want to know what became of the changes we waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams of some greater awakening?

I believe the word is BUSTED. I'm often willing to give writers the benefit of the doubt, but such an unusual phrase appearing in virtually identical language defies any notion of coincidence. It's too bad. I didn't always agree with Vincent, but I used to think she was talented.

I believe the phrase is "KIDDING!" And if we are both recycling old SNL routines, well, here's the attribution. Let's go to the videotape! (Warner Wolf), namely, Norah Vincent's blog:

Here is the piece that, I'm told, was too rhetorical to run in the New York Sun after all. I guess that's why we need blogs, right? Enjoy.

Our detractors say we were christened on September 11th. We got what was coming to us. We took a hit at long last. Call it comeuppance, deserts, blind justice or what you will, we got ours, and they — the self-styled pacifists — say we deserved it. The irony was lost on them.

...They were demonstrably right, you see, about those chickens called American foreign policy coming home to roost.

...Likewise, on the West Bank...crowds and families gathered and cheered this long-awaited victory by Team Jihad. They, too, told us it was time we tasted our own medicine.

We corrected that blithe summary of events with well-chosen words....

No matter, those are moot arguments now. The time for smart talk is over, or should be. We have other plans.

...Let the bored radicals rave, and in their ravings give us still more justification for our course of proactive action. The sickly quality of their mercy won’t restrain us.

Yes, we have gotten ours, and those who get theirs give as good as they get....

We have taken our blow. We have been laughed at for it. We have indeed lost our innocence, and having lost it...

That is how the game of retaliation works...

We are changed, but not in the cowering way some had hoped. Undeclared war came home to our front yards a year ago and, courtesy of cable news, it tramped through our living rooms as well.

Reality hit hard that day, so hard that even Pearl Harbor seemed small by comparison, the fitful dream of this rude and much greater awakening.

Now clichés of battle abound. And they are all true. We dashed our complacency on the girdered, corpse-strewn wreckage that it took us nine months to clean up....

We may have gotten what they thought we had coming to us, but now our attackers and their apologists will be repaid in kind.

OK, this piece was rejected by the Sun, and my excerpting has not improved it. But the key phrase is "clichés of battle abound". This is either some of the worst writing I have seen on the blogosphere, or she is kidding, or both. So what are the rules of attribution in this context? Did anyone else hear Frank upon learning that "We have taken our blows"? And even I caught one Shakespeare. Heady company for my man Jackson, actually. Anyway, since Ms. Vincent is evidently a published "professional writer", I am leaning towards the subtle joke theory. A joke that failed, and was way too subtle for some folks. And yeah, my title is adapted from Jackson Browne.

UPDATE: An itty-bitty change I hope only the good folks at Rittenhouse Review will notice. My current text is OK, but at one point I was hopelessly misleading as to where the Rittenhouse readers stopped and the Rittenhouse folks took over.

UPDATE 2: Juan non-Volokh disagrees with the "plagiarism" notion in a pop-culture context. And in response, Jason Rylander backpedals.

UPDATE 3: Norah Vincent speaks! (reference to the old "Garbo Speaks" promotion, for those still keeping score).

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Play Ball!

Oh, a little chin music from the Brothers.

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TAPPED Is Concerned For Henry Hanks

Note to the Crow Blog: take two asprin and blog them in the morning.

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Our Map Reading Skills Are Improving

But where is the respect?

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Save This For The Memory Vault

From Krugman's latest, as he discusses the passing of the era of Federal budget surpluses: "perhaps because of the end of the bull market, a given level of G.D.P. is yielding much less revenue than it did during the late 1990's. Or to put it another way, our brief era of big surpluses seems to have been a fluke."

This little tidbit will, I expect, be forgotten by Gore in '04, or Hillary in '08. Best to remind them.

UPDATE: Oh, c'mon, Krugman himself says "The "trifecta" is not the main story...". And I too am satisfied that nobody cares. However, in his opening paragraph, Krugman does say "Summer 2000: Candidate George W. Bush... pledges, without qualification, not to dip into the Social Security surplus." Not so, Dr. Zen! As Spinsanity has pointed out and I have harped on post nauseum, the WaPo reported in August 2000 that Lawrence Lindsay, then chief economic advisor to the campaign, now Chairman of the CEA, endorsed the "trifecta" qualifications. Since Krugman might be angling for a similar post someday, he might want to show a bit more respect.

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Nicholas Kristof Discovers Fundamentalist Wackos in the US

The two groups he mentions seem to be "Christian". Guess this guy is publicity-shy, but he has supporters here.

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Fourth and Inches For Baseball

What was Bogey's great line? "Go ahead and strike, you'd be doing me a favor".

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Thursday, August 29, 2002

The Brothers Judd Think Neville Chamberlain is Underrated

"If he were alive today... he'd be a hero...". Probably ought to read the whole thing, though.

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More On The Saudi Charm Offensive

We all had a good horse-laugh over the Saudi's PR efforts. But here is some serious spin from the Saudis:

Osama bin Laden “could have put any nationality he wanted on those airplanes. He purposefully chose Saudis in order to give this operation a Saudi face and drive a wedge between us and America,” Adel al-Jubeir, an adviser to the Saudi Government and a key figure in the PR drive, said. “And you know what? He almost succeeded.”

He almost succeeded? Don't be modest - there's plenty of credit to go around.

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What Would George Do?

George Will says that Bush should seek Congressional approval for a war against Iraq. This will respect the Constitution and be smart politics.

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I Try to Step Up and Admit It When I Am Wrong

It seems like only yesterday I concluded a post with the derisive comment that "It's hard to say enough good things about those farm subsidies". Well, hard for me, maybe. But the NRO makes panning the farm bill look easy. Real easy.

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What Do Right Wing Bloggers Think of the Baseball Strike?

Do we monolithically support oppressive Management? Do we surprise by joining with Labor? In a battle of milionaires versus billionaires, normal allegiances may not hold. OTOH, normal logic might. Here is Larry Kudlow of NRO, and elsewhere.

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TAPPED Points the Way

To an interesting column by William Raspberry on slavery reparations, the to-be-hot issue of 2004. A hot issue for Al Sharpton, that is. But here is an interesting piece on other black leaders (just don't call them that).

UPDATE: Susanna Cornett on related points and Jason Rylander on minority districting.

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Annoying, Slanted, But Brief Quiz

Again, Insta-dude. Although it could have been The Brothers.

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Let Me Get Some Pine-Tar, and Start Swinging

Michael Pine offers more thoughts on the environment. Let's play ball:

"Excuse me for doubting the good faith of the Kyoto critics but did I miss the Bush Proposal on Climate Change? Nope - there wasn't one."

This takes us to Newton's Law amended for US politics: for every Bush-bashing, there must be an equal and opposite Clinton-Gore bashing. Clinton's Kyoto plan was to leave the treaty hidden deep in his desk and hope that no one could ever find it. Gore paid lip service to Kyoto during the 2000 campaign. However, inspired in part by the 1993 BTU tax debacle, Gore firmly ruled out new energy taxes during the 2000 race. So, I think that both Clinton and Gore had a similar view of Kyoto to many European governments: it was a useful sop to the Greens, but not a serious action plan. By keeping Kyoto alive, but not moving to implement it, Gore would have achieved "Kyoto-lock": no debate, no progress, no alternative plans.

By announcing what we all knew, that the US would not implement Kyoto, Bush creates an opportunity for real progress on climate change. The problem, we all suspect, is that Bush will stop at step 1. Years ago, the Democratic party embraced the environmental movement as providing one more excuse for doing what they want to do anyway, which is regulate everything under the sun. The Republicans, in opposing expanded and intrusive government regulation, have let themselves be painted as foes of environmental protection. Good for fund-raising, maybe, but a terrible strategy for attracting suburban moms (and dads).

The Republicans have begun to address environmental pollution as a market failure and a failure of property rights, and have tried to create market based solutions. With respect to carbon dioxide, for example, right now there is no person or entity with an internationally enforceable property right to clean air. Furthermore, the price of emitting carbon dioxide is currently zero. Now, a price of zero is too low: even if all the global warming arguments are only "probably" or "maybe" accurate, a positive probability of future harm suggests that the correct price today for the right to emit carbon dioxide is positive.

M Pine suggests a carbon tax. This will certainly put a price on carbon emissions, and may have the virtues of simplicity and enforceablity. However, where is the market? Can we connect the price the tax puts on carbon with our emission-reduction goals? The tax might be a step in the right direction, but is too short a step, or too long?

Under both Clinton and Bush, the US attempted to negotiate carbon emissions trading rights into the Kyoto protocols, with no success. It was only after the US dropped out that trading rights were put in, to attract the support of the Japanese. But this sort of market based approach is what the Republicans shoud be pushing as an alternative to yet another thicket of regulations.

Some of the proceeds from either a tax or an auction of emission rights "should" go to those disadvantaged by the regime change. Newly unemployed coal miners in West Virginia come to mind. In principal, the new (higher) market price of carbon emissions should be a spur to investment in new technology. Currently, green technology is competing with what is arguably way-under-priced coal and hydrocarbon energy.

Right now, both parties are in a bit of soul-searching. Some Greens (and, by extension, some Dems) seem to be opposed to anything at all that smacks of growth, progress, or change. Some Republicans really do oppose both new regulation and environmental protection. Neither party has succeeded in articulating a sensible way forward. I see a huge political opportunity for the party that does.

UPDATE: Here is a bunch of lefty Greens working with businesses and colleges to cut carbon emissions and save some money. Measurable results and a model for new ideas and change. Check it out.

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I Guess You Had To Be In The Meeting

"Worried Saudis Try to Improve Image in the U.S.". And having hired some PR firms, these bright lights have the following brainstorm:

"A striking sign of the Saudis' eagerness to reach out to the United States has been an 11th-hour scramble within the royal family to find a gesture of solidarity with the American people on the anniversary of the attacks.

The royal family has considered presenting the racehorse that won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes this year as a gift to the victims' families, according to one adviser to the family. The horse, War Emblem, which was owned by Prince Ahmed bin Salman, who died in July, would be part of the commemoration at Ground Zero."

Oh, that should make for a memorable ceremony: your loved one is dead, here is a horse. More honest just to give us the horse's ass. My advice to the PR firms - make sure the check has cleared.

And don't you just know the Amish will be on this?

UPDATE: It only gets better. According to my traffic meter, Google now has me as a go-to site for "Amish Incest Stories". Don't overlook "Amish Necrophilia, or dead-horse beating", either. For those who wonder, "incest" gets mentioned at this blog in a WSJ excerpt referring to exceptions for rape and incest. And I thought I must have misspelled "insect".

UPDATE 2: The InstaPundit guides us to the IndePundit for a serious look at this.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Same Story

All that has changed is the dates, and the details.

From the Instapundit:

"ENVIRONMENTALISTS AGAINST CLEAN POWER: Here's a story to add to the Johannesburg coverage. There's just no satisfying some people."

From today's NY Times: Environmentalists against clean power.

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I Take Exception

Brad Delong says, and Michael Pine approvingly cites, the following criticism of the Skeptical Environmentalist's attack on the Kyoto treaty:

"Lomborg's flaw, however, is that he doesn't spell out what the "other things" we should be doing are. And that's what he needs to do if he wants to advance the ball."

First of all, I believe this is a football metaphor. Although college football has started and a baseball strike looms, I want to throw a flag on the use of football metaphors until after the Fall Classic. Secondly, although I agree in principal that Lomborg ought to provide constructive suggestions, within the framework of the football metaphor, he is still on defense: before he can advance his own agenda, he needs to persuade people that the current agenda is deeply flawed. Nice to see that on this point, he seems to have found some supporters.

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Totally New Look at Hoystory!

AND kind words for Jeff Hauser. New site, new start, a new day dawning!

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I Predict a Long Day For Tom Friedman in the Blogosphere

My man Tom writes about the controversy at the University of North Carolina where incoming freshman were urged to read a book about the Koran. I will boldly straddle this issue by saying that I support his conclusion, which is that promoting a greater knowledge of Islam is a worthy objective for a University. However, his column is ludicrous. Let's see:

"THE ruckus being raised by conservative Christians over the University of North Carolina's decision to ask incoming students to read a book about the Koran — to stimulate a campus debate — surely has to be one of the most embarrassing moments for America since Sept. 11.

Why? Because it exhibits such profound lack of understanding of what America is about, and it exhibits such a chilling mimicry of what the most repressive Arab Muslim states are about. Ask yourself this question: What would Osama bin Laden do if he found out that the University of Riyadh had asked incoming freshmen to read the New and Old Testaments?

He would do exactly what the book-burning opponents of this U.N.C. directive are doing right now — try to shut it down, only bin Laden wouldn't bother with the courts...."

What would Osama do? I hope this is not meant to compare Osama with the opponents of this Unversity decision. Oh, and "bin Laden wouldn't bother with the courts" - hey, don't think of going to court as a bother, Tom, think of it as the American way. Redress of grievance, real or imagined. Rule of law.

Right, then, Friedman goes on to deliver a call for greater understanding of other ideas. OK, here is an idea, and let's see if it gives him, or his supporters, a greater understanding.

Christian Fundamentalists are an important political bloc in the US. Polls consistently show about 20% of the American public to be strongly pro-life, and this pro-life movement has had a profound effect on American politics. So far, so good? Fine, now try to imagine Friedman's column if the University of North Carolina had required incoming freshman to read a calm, thoughtful pro-life book. Anyone who thinks that he would defend this as a responsible attempt to understand an important part of American culture is welcome to a share in a lovely bridge I bought which connects Manhattan to Brooklyn.

Or, take religion out of it. The Democratic party has a quadrennial wrestling match on the subject of gun control. A big part of the country seems to have a different view of this than urban New Yorkers. Still, if SUNY-Buffalo attempted to require incoming freshman to read about the rights of gun owners, I daresay the Times and Tom Friedman would be less than enthusiastic.

So, read the Koran - fine. But don't tell me that the people who think this idea lacks balance are like Osama, or that Tom Friedman would high-mindedly support a wide range of controversial, tolerance building measures.

UPDATE: A different set of objections to the Koran-reading are here (link from Common Sense and Wonder)

UPDATE 2: Brad DeLong thinks reading the Koran is a good idea. Well, so do I. But economics is the study of making choices. Of all the good ideas out there, why was this one chosen?

UPDATE 3: Eugene Volokh waits until Friday afternoon before Labor Day to unload on Friedman.

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MoDo Held Prisoner By Warbloggers

Her latest column, in which she declares war on Saudi Arabia, may actually include a coded plea revealing the location of her captors. Or, perhaps the Iraqi situation has caused complete editorial confusion at the Times. Well, as Den Beste said in a related context, that's not a bug, that's a feature.

UPDATE: A Desperately Alert Reader wonders:

Can you square this, from Maureen Dowd: "we should be willing to knock over the Saudis for letting the state-supported religious police burn 15 girls to death last March in a Mecca school, forcing them back inside a fiery building because they tried to flee without their scarves.";

with this, from the Economist:

"The glasnost has even infected the mainstream Saudi press. Earlier this year, newspapers attacked the hitherto untouchable religious police for killing 15 girls in a Mecca school dormitory. They had, said the press, prevented the girls' escape from a fire in the school because they were not properly veiled. In the subsequent outcry, editorials demanded and won an end to religious control of girls' education—no mean feat in a state where the clergy have held power with the Al Sauds for the past 250 years."

The Economist has an Arab tilt, but this is fascinating if true. Are Maureen and I the only two who don't know about this?

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Farming, Yet Again

The NY Times wraps up a four part series on water usage with an article centered about the Ogallala aquifer, which provides well-water from South Dakota to Texas. I present excerpts demonstrating the power of economics and unregulated markets. Sort of.

Saving Water, U.S. Farmers Are Worried They'll Go Dry

PETERSBURG, Tex. — Ronnie Hopper grows cotton, and he has learned firsthand that water is precious. The water that he pumps from underground costs him five times as much as it used to, so he does his best not to waste a drop...

Mr. Hopper has reason to be parsimonious. Though he lives atop one of the world's largest aquifers, the Ogallala, which spans eight states, it is falling every day. Here in dry northwest Texas, the problem is particularly acute, with declines of at least three times the average....

"We're coming to the reality that we may not have enough water to farm all of this land," Mr. Hopper said, in fields that stretched toward the pancake-flat horizon. "But we don't want anyone coming in and telling us that we don't know how to use it best." (Emphasis added).

...In most of the country, farmers have primary water rights, ahead of suburbs and cities. But competition is intensifying. Texas, for instance, with rapid population growth and few restrictions on water use, is increasing its water consumption faster than any other state.

...At 58, Mr. Hopper remembers when water was so plentiful and the Ogallala lay so near the surface that conservation and cost barely entered his mind. But cotton is a thirsty plant, and out where he lives, farming has always been a marginal business.

On Mr. Hopper's farm, the aquifer, which stood 95 feet below the surface when he was a boy, now stands at 335 feet, with just 65 to go before it hits bottom. Now, he figures, his water bill (in electricity, for pumping from ever greater depths) accounts for a fifth of his overhead. Last year, he earned 52 cents an acre for his cotton, not enough to break even, and 20 cents of that came from the government. (More emphasis added. Am I coming to a point?)

Environmentalists call it a waste twice over: the United States produces a surplus of cotton, and pays subsidies to its farmers, yet in places like Texas the water-intensive crop is draining a finite water supply.

Well, then, call me an environmentalist. Mr Hopper doesn't want anyone to tell him how to farm his land - he just wants the Federal check. And we don't want his cotton - we just want him to go on wasting water. It's hard to say enough good things about those farm subsidies.

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Sullivan May Be Indicted

Hearts miss a beat in the blogosphere! But NO, it's not that Sullivan. It's Scott Sullivan of Worldcom. Another perp-walk, in the quiet of the pre-Labor Day workweek?

UPDATE: Did I say "May Be"? Change to "Is".

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Tuesday, August 27, 2002

A Wildly Dramatic, "Keep Hope Alive" Win For the Red Sox

It means just one thing: there will be a strike on Friday.

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Congressmen Comment on Iraq

The WaPo has this headline: Congress: Bush Needs Our OK on Iraq and gets some comments from members of the House and Senate.

Apparently, hearings are planned for the fall. However, it is entertaining to watch these normally proud and assertive Congressional "leaders" suddenly playing the old children's game of "Mother, May I?" All perfectly understandable, of course: plan A is to whine about the Administration leaving Congress out of the loop; Plan B is to go an record one month prior to an election either supporting or opposing the removal of Saddam by force. Tom Daschle would be well within his prerogatives to schedule a vote on action against Iraq. Whether he deems such a course to be politically attractive is a separate question, and illustrates again the impracticality of maintaining Presidential aspirations while serving as Senate Majority Leader.

And are Presidential hopefuls such as Kerry or Edwards pressuring Daschle to give them a vote? Please. Maybe I picked the wrong game here - perhaps Congress is actually playing "SPUD".

Nicholas Kristof Marches to War!

He opens with a clarion call: "It's time to hear about Iraq from us feckless wimps". Kristof claims to be with most Americans in believing that removing Saddam is a good idea if it won't be too painful - sort of like how people feel about a trip to the dentist, or sitting down to read a column by Paul Krugman.

Is The War Powers Act Unconstitutional?

From today's WaPo: "Presidents of both parties have considered the act unconstitutional and ignored it."

Is there a lawyer in the blogosphere? I found this bit on a website, and excerpt as follows:

"As was indicated above, Section 5(c) of the War Powers Act provides that, at any time after the President engages U.S. military forces in hostilities abroad, in the absence of a congressional declaration or war or a congressional statute specifically authorizing the action, (1) Congress may pass a concurrent resolution directing the President to withdraw the troops from hostilities and (2) the President must immediately comply with the concurrent resolution. Section 5(c) is seriously flawed, constutution-wise. The Section gives the force of law to a concurrent resolution, which is passed by majorities in both chambers of Congress, but is not presented to the President for his consent or veto....Giving the force of law to a concurrent resolution dealing with the circumstances specified in Section 5(c) allows Congress to exercise a legislative veto over military actions initiated by the President without a congressional war declaration or authorizing statute....

In Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha (l983), the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the legislative veto, as provided for in Section 244(c)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. The Court held that the legislative veto was a resolution subject to the requirements of Article I, Section 7, Clause 3, of the Constitution....

Despite its obvious unconstitutionality, Section 5(c) has never been struck down by the Supreme Court. Why? Congress has yet to invoke this section of the War Powers Act. Until Congress does invoke Section 5(c) and the constitutionality of the provision and the action of Congress in attempting to enforce it are challenged in the federal courts, the Supreme Court will not have the opportunity to rule on the question of the constitutional validity of Section 5(c) and its enforcement..."

Send in the lawyers. However, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb, said it best: "I don't play this game so much on what's legal and what's not legal," [he] said of a U.S. attack on Iraq. "If the president is going to commit this nation to war, he'd better have the support of the Congress and the American people with him."

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Monday, August 26, 2002

This Seems To Be Pretty Clear

Cheney calls for preemptive strike against Iraq. Interesting close:

"Officials reiterated on Monday that Bush had made no decisions regarding whether to attack Iraq, and that he would consult with Congress regarding future steps."

"Consult" does not mean "seek authorization", however.

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Upbeat War Plans in the Times

The Kos had more on urban warfare, and gloomier.

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Resolution on Iraq

I have two bold predictions regarding Iraq. First, Jim Baker argues that the US should seek a new UN resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam, as discussed below. The Bush administration will only seek such a resolution if it believes it has the votes. My guess is that the votes are not there.

Secondly, the WaPo has a piece today about whether the administration must, or should, seek Congressional authorization for a war with Iraq. This is an administration that committed political hara-kiri clinging to Cheney's energy task force minutes, claiming Constitutional separation of powers and Executive Branch prerogatives. My belief, seemingly borne out by this story, is that a similar mind-set will guide the decision to seek Congressional authorization now. However, as the article explains, this does not mean that Congress will not vote; it means that Bush will not formally seek a vote.

One administration argument runs thusly:

"Administration officials said their position was bolstered by a Sept. 14 resolution -- passed 98 to 0 in the Senate and 420 to 1 in the House -- endorsing a military response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That argument would depend on linking Iraq and al Qaeda.

Although the administration has not publicly made this case in detail, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at a July 30 news conference, "Are there al Qaeda in Iraq? Yes." Last week, U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Post that a number of high-ranking al Qaeda members have taken refuge in Iraq."

US intelligence officials were evidently speaking with William Safire, too.

For background, here is an interesting review of the run-up to Desert Storm. Apparently, having a UN resolution in hand put pressure on the Senate, which ultimately supported the use of force by 52-47. A very close vote, since we already had over 400,000 troops dangling at the end of a long supply chain. OTOH, a close vote can be deceptive. A Senator may agree to be the 51st vote, meaning he or she will support the legislation only if that will be the deciding vote. Still, I don't see this Bush risking this sort of uncertainty.

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Al Sharpton on Meet The Russert

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Sunday, August 25, 2002

Attention, Fact Checkers!

This letter to "The Economist" newsweekly caught my eye:

Jenin's massacre myth

SIR – You say that “Palestinians accused Israel of massacring up to 500 civilians” in Jenin (“Naught for your comfort”, August 10th). While this charge is widely attributed to Palestinians—even in Kofi Annan's UN report—we have been wholly unable to locate any direct quote from any Palestinian official making it in any media. The confusion appears to have originated when a Palestinian cabinet minister, Saeb Erekat, told CNN on April 10th of unconfirmed reports that up to 500 people had been killed throughout the West Bank in Israel's “Operation Defensive Shield”.

The next day, the Jerusalem Post wrote “Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told CNN that Israel had massacred 500 people in the Jenin camp.” In fact, looking at the CNN transcript from April 10th, Mr Erekat neither made this claim, nor used the word “massacre”. As a publication that sets a higher standard, we urge you to set the record straight, lest one more myth take root among the countless others that fuel the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Ali Abunimah
Nigel Parry
The Electronic Intifada

Well, here is The Electronic Intifida, evidently dedicated to countering media spin. The Economist is a great mag, but it definitely does not have an Israeli tilt. So, anyone care to help The Economist and take these guys up on this?

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Steven Hatfill: "I Am Not the Anthrax Killer"

Hatfill files ethics complaint against Ashcroft, may sue Nicholas Kristof and Howell Raines of the NY Times. If he is unhappy with the fact-checking at the Times - get in line.

UPDATE: The NRO joins in. No peeking - guess which side.
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James Baker III Weighs in on Iraq

The heavy talent arrives:

"While there may be little evidence that Iraq has ties to Al Qaeda or to the attacks of Sept. 11, there is no question that its present government, under Saddam Hussein, is an outlaw regime...

And thus regime change in Iraq is the policy of the current administration, just as it was the policy of its predecessor. That being the case, the issue for policymakers to resolve is not whether to use military force to achieve this, but how to go about it."

And Baker goes on to make the case for war. He takes Kissinger's view (in an op-ed for which I cannot find a working link) that we should do the weapons inspection dance first. These next passages strike me as daft, but see for yourself:

"The United States should advocate the adoption by the United Nations Security Council of a simple and straightforward resolution requiring that Iraq submit to intrusive inspections anytime, anywhere, with no exceptions, and authorizing all necessary means to enforce it. Although it is technically true that the United Nations already has sufficient legal authority to deal with Iraq, the failure to act when Saddam Hussein ejected the inspectors has weakened that authority. Seeking new authorization now is necessary, politically and practically, and will help build international support.

Some will argue, as was done in 1990, that going for United Nations authority and not getting it will weaken our case. I disagree. By proposing to proceed in such a way, we will be doing the right thing, both politically and substantively. We will occupy the moral high ground and put the burden of supporting an outlaw regime and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction on any countries that vote no. History will be an unkind judge for those who prefer to do business rather than to do the right thing. And even if the administration fails in the Security Council, it is still free — citing Iraq's flouting of the international community's resolutions and perhaps Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which guarantees a nation's right to self-defense — to weigh the costs versus the benefit of going forward alone."

So, the US should seek a new UN resolution. If the UN does not oblige us, we should proceed alone, because history will judge harshly those who falter in the face of evil. History? Clinton worried about his legacy. No doubt, James III and Bush Sr. ponder theirs. But I have a hard time picturing a big chunk of the UN General Assembly worrying about how history will judge them on this issue. And only those who want to end the UN as a functioning organization will applaud if the UN does not provide an appropriate resolution and we attack Iraq anyway. Jim "Dream-politik" Baker.

He then explains that the road to Baghdad does not got through the West Bank, but that Bush must re-affirm his vision for peace there. Well, that's clear. Sort of an Ocean's 11 riff: "Are you in or out?" "Both."

So, Scowcroft, Kissinger, Baker. For those of you scoring at home, two out of three seem to support military action. And let's not hold the fact that Baker made no sense against him.

UPDATE: The Brothers Judd join in. Hmm, maybe Baker has friends on the left?

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The Farmer in the Dell

The Sunday Times has an interesting piece about the farm bill. As we have noted before, agricultural subsidies in the developed nations are an impediment to free trade, which creates problems for the third world nations that might otherwise develop an internationally competitive agricultural capability. All in the story, and a few more reasons to hate the farm bill.

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Tom Friedman's "Freedom and Democracy" Tour Continues

Another good column from our man in the Near East. Key bit:

In short, countries with oil can flourish under repression — as long as they just drill a hole in the right place. Think of Saudi Arabia, Libya or Iraq. Countries without oil can flourish only if they drill their own people's minds and unlock their energies with the keys of freedom. Think of Japan, Taiwan or India.

He follows with interesting thoughts on the Saudi rulers, the Saudi elite and middle class, and the Wahhabi clerics. Check it out.

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The Week That Was

I'm back! Did I miss anything? Let me see:

Iraq: Kissinger opposes a war with Iraq, suggests the Times. Not so fast, say Kaus, Krauthammer, and Keller - Kissinger supports a war with Iraq. All very entertaining, but I was struck by the non-reaction in the blogosphere to Safire's Thursday piece suggesting a clear link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

Cynthia McKinney: Good-bye. And now it's a Jewish conspiracy? A complete investigation might reveal that to be the case, if I may borrow a phrase.

Enron exec pleads guilty: My main Man Without Quaities has an extended discussion of this, which leads to an intriguing question: can Andy Fastow, former Enron CFO, be too guilty? If he engaged in personal self-enrichment scams such as Southhampton, maybe he really was lying to everyone above him about everything else. Attorneys for Skilling and Lay will surely consider a "the buck stops there" defense and attempt to pin everything on the crooked CFO. And the truth is...?

Krugman: Puts the weight of the NY Times behind Josh in the Talking Points Memo dispute with the WaPo and provides a dead-tree link. But does Josh comment on whether he got a traffic boost? The blogosphere waits and wonders. And Mickey wonders (Aug. 20) about the rest of Krugman's column.

Kristof: Our man Nicholas continues his strange journey back from what must have been a media-bias re-education camp. On Tuesday, he offers a sensible "Nuke the Whales". Friday, kind words for Christian evangelicals and right wing Republicans as he joins in the general pounding on Florida's wacked out adoption law. Props to Pandagon, by the way, whose eye for the absurd spotted this before either the Times or the Wall Street Journal.

Herbert: On Tuesday, he offers a sequel to "Three Killers But No Baby", of which more later. Friday's column takes us back to the subject of Tulia for the sixth time. Apparently his crusade has prompted Senators Schumer and Clinton of New York to prod the Justice Department on the matter of their criminal investigation. Good.

Hilarity and Good Times: The Amish have their thinking caps on, and are cooking up a BIG project. But is this film Amish-approved? I don't think so.

And the Brothers Judd provide a story about the NY Times under attack with a headline that brings a smile, and suggests a replacement for "All the news that's fit to print". Their headline: "Gray lady down". The Brothers also have a fascinating take on the Robin Hood legend. If I recall, their view confounds the view of one of Ayn Rand's protaganists in "Atlas Shrugged". Was it Francisco D'Anconia who had the Robin Hood speech? Hey, Objectivists, go hassle the Judd boys. And good luck.

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Friday, August 16, 2002

We Will Be Gone For a Week

Hope you all enjoy the balance of the summer. Just One Item from our assignment desk:

We are troubled by the absence of orignial speeches at the 9/11 commemoration in New York. The story mentions the collaboration of Peggy Noonan and Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster. So, we suggest that for her contribution to 9/11, Peggy Noonan write the speech that a younger Ronald Reagan might have delivered. We suspect she is doing exactly that anyway.

Secondly, Iraq: In the blogosphere there have been many "can we / can't we" debates regarding our military capability in the region. There have been many "should we / shouldn't we" debates about international law, the view of our allies, and our priorities relative to other issues, such as the West Bank and Gaza. Recently, Jason Rylander offered a post, which I will describe as "will we / won't we", titled "The March to War" (scroll up for part 2).

Following on his thoughts, and left unremarked: September 11 was perhaps the most humiliating day in the history of the US Presidency. Do you remember George Bush being shuttled from one military base to the next, his safety uncertain and his link to the American public tenuous? George Bush surely does. And Donald Rumsfeld? He spent the morning helping survivors out of the burning Pentagon. For these two, 9/11 must have been a searing personal experience, and I strongly believe that they are determined that it will not happen again to themselves or their successors. As much as we may hope that the final decisions on Iraq will be the result of a logical, analytical process, this emotional component should not be ignored.

No predictions, no conclusions. Back in a week. Great Little League stories below, and other good stuff below that.

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Harlem Can Play in World Series!

Little League officials listen sympathetically to stories about the unsettled lifestyle of inner-city kids, and do the right thing.

A Profile of Two People Who Made A Difference in the Lives of Hundreds

A New York City banker and his attorney wife. Greatest city in the world.

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Should Bush Act Boldly? Or Should We Have More Debate?

President Bush: "Furious".

UPDATE: A more thoughtful reaction can be found here.

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With Thunder From the Left, Pandagon Thought This Law Was Crazy

Check this flame:

"Sex and What City?

Laws that make sane people wonder if the legislators were smoking something funny when they dreamed them up aren't all that uncommon. Still, we'd have to go far to find anything matching the weirdness of Florida's new law, ostensibly aimed at giving fathers a chance to have a say before their child is put up for adoption.

The rules of this grand social endeavor require that mothers wishing to give a child up for adoption, and who can't find or identify the father, must publish notices in newspapers. These must supply her full name, and complete physical details, such as weight, height and coloring. Also to be included is a list, complete with physical description, of all the male partners who could possibly have fathered the child.

The thoroughness of this search mechanism could put our airport security to shame. The mother's notice must also include the dates and locations of all the sexual encounters that could have led to the pregnancy. That notice must furthermore be published every week for four weeks everywhere (not just in Florida) those sexual encounters took place. There is no exception for minors or for victims of rape or incest.

The harm in this legislation couldn't be more obvious. Pregnant single women or girls confronting Florida's requirements are more likely to choose abortion or single-parenting rather than publish their sexual histories in newspaper advertisements for all the world to see. This is the 21st century's version of the Scarlet Letter...."

Ooops, sorry, that was from the Wall Street Journal, which, being subscription, is evidently not on Pandagon's regular reading list. But believe me, Pandagon didn't like this law either.

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Harmonic Convergence, or "Deep Thoughts Ahead"

We have seen Paul Krugman muse about marking his beliefs to market. And we have seen him muse about "errors and omissions" in our national accounting. BUT, we have not seen him muse about marking our national accounting to market.

Meaning what? Well, we had a fairly spectacular tech bubble over the last few years, as you may have noticed. GDP growing, people working, many whiz-bang telecom widgets produced, many trenches dug to lay fiber optic cable - heady stuff, On To The Next Millenium!

GDP is, and I am working without notes here, the measure of the goods and services produced domestically. The value of these goods and services is ascertained from market prices. Now, a lot of telecom equipment and investment was made at prices that, several years later, seem ludicrous. For example, suppose that "Big Tel" spent $1 Billion on routers and fiber optic cable in 1999. That $1 Billion figure is still hanging around in our GDP for 1999. Big Tel, however, is gone, and after the fact it seems that the $1 Billion of output was really worth, I don't know, $1.75.

So, imagine that we reduce GDP by this $1 Billion. Accountants will clamor for an offsetting entry. OK, maybe a hypothetical "National Net Worth" account? Write down some notional "accumulated assets" by $1 Billion. But the offsetting entry will not be an increase in some other part of the GDP.

So, GDP down in 1999. Maybe similar adjustments should be made for 1997 to 2000, which seems like a lot of work, and is Quite Irregular. Still, if GDP is reduced, then what happens to the productivity boom of the late 90's? Suddenly our productivity miracle looks less miraculous, and a lot more like a bunch of folks digging ditches.

Well, I don't know. Our guiding motto is "Any fool can answer a question that ten wise men cannot answer". Wise ladies may also be stumped. But, if anyone has any thoughts on this, I would be fascinated.

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Some Red Meat For the Krugman Crowd

And your chef is Brad Delong! Here we go:

Alan Krueger reports that Paul Krugman had a good line last night on the Charlie Rose show. Paul Krugman was trying to illustrate how large the gaps are in how our statistical system covers the economy:

"If you look closely at the numbers, the U.S. is the world's leading exporter of errors and omissions... "

I imagine Mickey Kaus might take a different tack, but my question is: "Has Krugman ever driven a Renault?"

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The NY Times Boldly Illustrates the "Beinart Effect"

Peter Beinart of the TNR observes, as Michael Pine noted yesterday, that some Republicans favor war on Iraq, but Democrats are coming out strongly in favor of... more debate. This "can we talk" approach is vividly illustrated yet again on the editorial page of today's Times. Their call to arms:

"Mr. Scowcroft's concerns about attacking Iraq, aired yesterday in an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, were the equivalent of a cannon shot across the White House lawn. The piece should erase any doubt about the need for a national debate on Iraq."

And then some hand-wringing. Look, I'm sympathetic, I'm hand-wringing too. But this Alphonse and Gaston pose at the Times is getting to be a bit much.

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Turning Japanese, He Thinks We're Turning Japanese

He sort of thinks so. Paul Krugman's latest. Oh, that is not right, here we go.

An interesting column, but again, no links. Krugman refers to a recent Fed paper: Brad DeLong covered it, and presents follow up comment.

My summary of Robert Feldman's response to the Fed paper: Japan used macroeconomic tools - fiscal and monetary stimulus - to address what was fundamentally a bundle of microeconomic problems - "less flexible labor markets, more intrusive regulation, less strict corporate governance, an inadequate judicial system, and many other structural problems.... ".

And, with respect to Japan's financial system:

"Because of the reluctance of the financial regulatory authorities to impose and implement strict standards on loan classification or capital adequacy for financial institutions, both the institutions and the inefficient borrowers have remained in business."

Both quotes are from DeLong's site, but are excerpts from Robert Feldman of Morgan Stanley, for those of you scoring at home.

Krugman admits he is not sure how worried about the "turning Japanese" scenario we ought to be, but seems to prefer an interest rate cut ASAP. Complete agreement here.

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I Duly Note Kristof's Latest Column

Does my silence give consent? Let's say that I will be curious to see if there are rebuttals elsewhere. I would predict the alternative theme to be that Kristof has a misplaced faith in international treaties, but this is not my area. Love his big finish - original to him?

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Who's Number One?

It was not a deliberate or crafty plan, and eventually I calmed down and offered my thoughts on the expensing of stock options. But first I did let Professor Krugman's comparison of Enron to Cisco inspire some warm rhetoric of my own last Tuesday. So, how are we doing?

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This Story About The Letter is Disturbing

But I don't see that the Times has picked it up. What the Times does have is this story of a split among Republicans. Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to Bush 41, says that world opinion demands that we deal with Palestine first. Among the responses:

"Richard N. Perle, a former Reagan administration official and one of the leading hawks who has been orchestrating an urgent approach to attacking Iraq, said today that Mr. Scowcroft's arguments were misguided and naïve.

"I think Brent just got it wrong," he said by telephone from France. "The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism."

This "we talked the talk; now we have to walk the walk" view is somewhat central to my own sense of where this freight train is headed.

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Thursday, August 15, 2002

Can Anyone Here Play This Game?

Jeff Hauser gives us an early start on the weekend by pitching us Derek Zumsteg, author of the modestly priced "Zumsteg Plan" to save Major League Baseball from itself. Briefly, "big market" teams pay a franchise fee based on Nielsen data estimates of their market size; "Small market" teams are compensated by the franchise fees for playing in, well, small markets. This will not penalize successful teams, or big spending teams, or teams with loyal fans. Also, the underlying data is a lot more objective than owner's Enron-like revenue figures.

My problem? Big market teams ought to win more. C'mon, do you want to make a few million folks in Kansas City happy, or give the twenty million people in the New York area a thrill? Look, George Steinbrenner isn't spending his money - he is spending the money the fans gave him. The fans bought that pennant, and I'm ready to buy another one. And another. And another. Baseball survived for decades with the Yankees ascendant, and it's my turn now.

And, somewhat more seriously, baseball is a regional game. Competitive balance may work for football, where fans from all over might tune in to watch the Buffalo Bills lose to some NFC team in the regular season or the Super Bowl. But here in baseball, nobody cares. If the Royals play the Brewers in the World Series, make it best out of five. Five innings, that is, because it can't end soon enough for the network execs. Baseball needs successful big-market teams. Hello, Philadelphia? Hello, Mets?

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There's Your Photo For The Ages

Even the Times couldn't resist.

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Sinister Right Wing Mind At Work

How do we do it, some of you wonder, finding flaws and fallacies in the strangest of places? As a little illustration of the right winger at work, let me show you my thought process while it's, uhh, in process.

Bob Herbert has a column in today's Times, which Jason Rylander also noticed. I have been following Herbert, because he has been following Tulia - five straight columns, in fact. My most recent post has some links and suggests that Mr. Herbert and I came to a fork in the road, but I salute his work in bringing attention to the Tulia story.

Today, Mr. Herbert takes up a new, puzzling story of injustice. A woman, her sister, and her ex-husband have pleaded guilty to manslaughter for ostensibly killing the woman's newborn child. Mysteriously, the woman is unable to conceive; no doctor gave her a full examination and concluded she was pregnant; no one but the three accused claim to have seen the baby; and no body has been discovered. Since the three are poor, black, and mentally retarded, and this is all happening in Alabama, Bob Herbert senses racial injustice. Well, who wouldn't?

Like I said, right winger at work. In Tulia, Bob Herbert saw racial injustice where I saw a drug war gone crazy. Could there be a backstory here as well?

Google around looking for Alabama newspapers. Have fun. However, a google on "Victoria Medell Banks", two of the three accused, produces results. (Mind the "Tyra Banks" hits). Hey, the Salt Lake Tribune, my new go-to source for Alabama news! The Trib picks up an AP story. Well now: Bob Herbert described Victoria Medell as "serving 15 years, concurrent with a sentence in a separate case." Evidently, the separate case is that she was convicted as an accessory in the rape of a twelve year old by her then-boyfriend. I guess the local authorities haven't thrown away the key on her, but it looks as if they might want to.

Any more? Hey, how about the AP database! The AP ran a three part story titled "Justice in a Small Town" on July 6-8 of 2002, and how is this for a link. This falls into the "be careful what you wish for" file: my suspicion that there is a backstory would seem to be confirmed by the fact that the AP gave this three long stories. However, I am meant to be going away next week, and I had hoped this Herbert thing was going to be a quick hit, so my story stops rather than ends.

There it is, partial glimpse. Anyone with the inclination who wants to pick this up, I love you. Or, as another famous right-winger said, "I'll be back".

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Will Someone Claim This Gem?

"Sinister right wing" is such an amusing bit of word-play that it seems gauche to use it without attribution. Any help?

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When Lynn Says "Shorter is Better", People Listen

And, as part of the new spirit of brevity, Just One Word to Demosthenes regarding his "Strawmen" post: Example?

UPDATE: Demosthenes delivers an example in his comments, lucky 13, and wonders "How the hell can a bunch of anarchists be elitists???!?? ". Hey, they wouldn't let me in.

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Our Ongoing and Lamentably Obvious Strategy

To busy to post, "Just One Pine" presents the mysterious sound of one hand clapping.

UPDATE: Here is a second article on the same theme, from Today's NY Times, titled " The Democrats and the War". The author: is "Ted Widmer, director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College, was director of speechwriting at the National Security Council from 1997 to 2000."

The author comments on the history of the two parties in foreign affairs, which for a long time was; Democrats, internationally engaged; Republicans, isolationist. He wonders when the Democrats backed away from foreign affairs:

"Part of the problem is the subtle perception, fed by Republican strategists, that Democrats lack the credentials to conduct foreign policy and oversee defense matters. It is difficult to know when Republicans began to make this argument — or when Democrats began to believe it.

Certainly there was no trace of the idea a generation ago; from 1960 to 1984, every Democratic presidential candidate except Jimmy Carter was a current or former senator with strong foreign-policy credentials. Perhaps the travails of our hostages in Iran had something to do with it, and the fact that their release coincided so neatly with President Ronald Reagan's inauguration. Some damage was surely self-inflicted; Michael Dukakis's ill-advised ride in a tank did little to reassure voters of his defense expertise."

Oh, my. Have we forgotten Viet-Nam? Without attempting to re-fight that war, I think it is fair to say that it had an impact on the Democratic party's self-image with respect to international involvement. Maybe even more than the Duke's tank ride.

UPDATE: Look for M Pine's comments about Viet-Nam here.

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The Brothers Judd on The Other Al

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Wednesday, August 14, 2002

More On Enron Criminal Indictments

Yesterday, Paul Krugman mentioned the possibility of there being no criminal indictments of Enron executives. Today, the WSJ updates us:

One Year Later, Possible Charges Hang Over a Former Enron Chief


HOUSTON -- As Jeffrey Skilling Wednesday reaches the first anniversary of his surprise resignation as Enron Corp.'s chief executive, he faces the possibility of another memorable event soon: a criminal indictment for alleged crimes at the collapsed energy trader.

Federal prosecutors are pressing ahead with their criminal investigation of Mr. Skilling and other top Enron officials, in recent weeks bringing in several lower-level executives to testify before a Houston grand jury. Mr. Skilling , a subject of the probe, potentially could face securities-fraud and perjury charges, lawyers familiar with the matter said...

Your Wall Street Journal - a day late, and a dollar more!

UPDATE: The Man says, almost Without Qualification, that this maneuvering doesn't mean much.

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They Are Probably Using Words They Learned From Their Investors

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Susanna Cornett is My Muse

This has been true since she was kind enough to give me this link, for my first big traffic day. Since then, we have had a lot of fun, and some serious moments.

One such serious moment was August 11. Ms. "Cut on the Bias" ran a striking photo reminding us that we are the eleven-month mark for 9/11. Based on her weekend traffic figures, she affected many of us with her post, and left me pondering the following:

Major commemorations are planned for September 11. Now, everyone will agree that the memorial services should not "politicize" the event. But what does that mean? I took one look at that photo, and the whole horrible fall came back to me. Each day for a month after 9/11, something in the paper made me cry. Now, I'm in Connecticut, and our town lost six people, so perhaps our area felt it more than others; but I really do not believe, in the country at large, that people have forgotten, or are over it, or have moved on. We have the thinnest of bandages over a very ugly wound.

It is my totally unscientific guess that, after a day of television coverage and vivid reminders, this nation will surprise itself. A lot of politicians and pundits may be surprised as well. I really thought I had put my fury to one side, until Ms. Cornett put up her photo on 8/11/02. And the consequences? Ask me in another month.

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Movie Reviews on Wednesday?

Those of you not fortunate enough to have kids may have missed the opening of "Spy Kids 2" last weekend. Silver lining. Antonio Banderas puts the movie on his broad shoulders, give us a big grin, and carries it as far as humanly possible. Other cast members are also fun: Ricardo Montalban reprises his role in "The Wrath of Khan"... NO, of course he doesn't, wake up and smell the popcorn! Anyway, I actually enjoyed the original, and this sequel fell short. The kids "liked it OK", but didn't love it. Which means we won't need to see it again for at least a week.

But enough about me. Everyone is talking about "XXX". Yesterday we mentioned Nathan Newman's piece on it, complete with photos; today, Demosthenes steps out of the Shadow to join in. Approach this second review cautiously: it alludes to the intellectual influence of Paul Krugman, and at this site we are adamant that Professor Krugman's influence is in a NASDAQ-like decline. On the other hand, Krugman and his supporters may as well speak now, because when I perfect my Google-Krugman worm-virus, they will never get another word out. I will achieve total net domination! All these Krugs and pre-Krugs will know the wrath of a righteous...

Sorry, wrong movie. Anyway, my project is still in development. Just One Trailer. But, despite not having seen "XXX", I will say this: these guys see it and reflect on Bin Laden and third world development; I see "Minority Report" and reflect on the Constitution and civil liberties and the pace of economic progress. We have a bizarre fellowship here in the blogosphere. Fun. My kind of people. But just the littlest bit odd.

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More Tips For Bloggers

Yesterday I had a cold and a fever. No big deal - that is what modern medicine is for. But getting the right dosages isn't so easy with Dayquil and such. Two tablespoons every four hours? Four tablespoons every two hours? You pretty much have to go with two bottles every half hour.

So, my mind was buzzing with ideas and I was swatting at them like they were mosquitos. Blog, baby, blog! Now I can't wait until I'm recovered, to see what the heck I wrote. It does all seem to make sense so far. OK, Paul Krugman is Michael Bellesiles - that had to be the sudafed talking, but it looks like the analogy works. This stuff is legal, right? Good.

But no more blogging for a bit. I've got blisters on my fingers.

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Tom Friedman Believes in Democracy

We believe in Tom Friedman.

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Who Do You Like, Josh Marshall or Karl Rove

NO, not for their political philosophy or even as a potential dinner guest. Who do you think is the craftier political operator?

We took a look at this piece by Josh Marshall yesterday, but got bogged down at midfield. Today we would like to take up his criticism of the $5.1 Billion in spending cuts announced yesterday at the economic summit, and described by the Times as "$5.1 billion in emergency spending requested by Congress to fight terrorism".

Mr. Marshall's position is... oh, why summarize a talented writer, let him speak:

"The rejection of that money puts the administration's rhetoric at war with itself. Complaining about the deficit is supposed to be off-limits because spending is necessary for the war on terror. Okay ... Now the president is taking a tough line by cutting spending on the war on terror because it threatens to bump up the deficit. Which is it? Is it really too much to expect logically consistent cynical manipulation?"

Well, let me take a guess. A President who can veto spending for the war on terror is well positioned to veto spending on just about anything. And the Democratic counter-attack will be what? That Bush is "soft on terror"? Over the sound of general hilarity, you can make out Republican strategists saying "bring it".

Look, we hated the farm bill and the steel tariffs, but now we have fast track on trade. Karl Rove teamed up with a nobody in 1994, and now they both sit in the White House. I am a long way from saying Rove is infallible, but I am emphatic about this: underestimate him at your peril.

UPDATE: I am exhorted not to overestimate these guys.
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Reporting to You From Within My Glass House

"Steven, are you done yet?" Oh my, he may be the Beste, but Lynn does not like a man with a slow (typing) hand.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2002

This is Subtle, and Cautiously Worded

But reading between the lines, I infer that Bill Keller of the Times would recommend that Al Gore not seek the nomination. Not the Democratic nomination for President in 2004, anyway. Bill is coy on the nomination for "Sorry phony whining loser of this or any lifetime".

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A Complicated Story That May Not Attract a NY Times Editorial

This story has boardroom shenanigans, puzzling accounting decisons, troubling insider dealing, a sitting grand jury - everything except the greedy businessman at the heart of every scandal. The Times touched it last May, the WSJ has reported it, and now NRO turns over ULLICO. Never heard of ULLICO? NRO tells us it is "a financial-services company run by union bosses that primarily invests money from union pension funds.

OK, complicated share price maneuverings. I don't know if the WSJ archives are open to all, but here is a snippet:

"Company proxy statements reviewed by The Wall Street Journal don't record the precise dates on which directors sold their shares. But based on the fixed price at which Ullico shares traded during most of that 21-month period, those transactions may have earned half a dozen or more sellers hundreds of thousands of dollars each -- a total of $6.5 million or more in profits. Board members themselves approved the prices and rules that governed these sales."

Well. The MinuteMan learns about crooked union accounting. Red letter day. Still, we await the thunder from the Times.

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Bad News For The Clinton-Haters. Bad News For The Bush-Haters.

Good new for Brad DeLong. Hey, barkeep, fill that guy's glass!

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Jonah Marshall, Don't Josh With Us

OK, he has other things on his mind. And the intro to his piece which opens "Sometimes, Seriously, Sometimes" is an amusing bit on how some Bush officials want to blame corporate misconduct on Clinton, which we have covered. But Marshall lets himself get dragged into a Fortune article about "The 25 Greediest SOBs in America", or some such. Let's see what happens:

"Fortune has just released its "Greedy Bunch," its list of the 25 greediest CEOs. That's an admittedly subjective category. And the methodology Fortune chose is a touch complicated. But the essence of it is a measure of who cashed out the most while their stockholders were losing the most."

I smell trouble. "Highly compensated" does not equal greedy, as Derek Jeter and Steven Spielberg remind us. And a low current stock price may simply be a reflection of the poor current market, rather than an indicator of incompetent or corrupt management. WARNING, Josh, WARNING! But let us see how he proceeds.

"I did a quick bit of research through the campaign filing data. And out of that 25 I came up with 10 who were Bush campaign contributors..."

Oh, man, a bunch of people who may or may not be greedy, some of whom gave to Bush. I want to wave you off, Mr. Marshall. Are you going to name any names?

"Two of the Bush donors on the cash-out-derby list are also participating in Tuesday's Economic Forum in Waco, Texas. In fact, number 11 on the list, Charles Schwab, is the keynote speaker at the panel on Small Investors & Retirement Security."

And there it is. The first CEO Marshall actually mentions is Charles Schwab, of, by what must seem a wild coincidence, the Charles Schwab Corporation, a pioneer in discount stock brokerage. Now, Marshall, or Fortune, or someone may be about to tell me that Charles Schwab, who founded his company in the 80's, is in some way comparable to the get rich quick scam artists who looted Enron. But this is too silly to discuss. Schwab & Co. has been around for several decades, the founder is still with it, and, as for all Wall St. / financial services firms, the current market environment is difficult. I give this a full "Humbug!"

Marshall has some interesting points about the summit and some spending cuts proposed by Bush after this little debacle, but I am too peeved to notice. The closing of the right-wing mind - you saw it here, live.

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Cool Tip for New Bloggers

If you update your blog a lot, the traffic counter may be fooled into thinking you are getting a lot of hits. Works for me!

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Nathan Newman Questions My Manhood

Hey, is this any way to run an "anonablog"? Oh, you already knew. Anyway, waaay back when, Nathan sort of hinted around that he might go even-money betting against Bush's re-election. I tried to nail down a bet, but Nathan went looking for better odds, and found them. 3-1 for "Anyone but Bush", Bush at 1-3! Give me a break. But beyond giving me a break, give me some of that. I want to bet against Bush at 3-1, but Nathan's bettor doesn't seem to dig my action, and won't up the ante. Yet. But maybe somebody else will. So, Nathan's got a little market going, Bush is the favorite, Anyone but Bush pays 3-1. Legal issues and settlement issues are described in the archives. Help me.

And while you are at Nathan's site, don't cheat yourself by skipping his other stuff. Look for his XXX feature at the top.

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Krugman-less in Crawford

President Bush's economic summit begins in Crawford, Texas, and Krugman has some thoughts. And who, you wonder, is Paul Krugman? Well, he is like Michael Bellesiles of Emory: both are professors, both have written for the popular market, and both attract a lot of flack from the right side of the blogosphere.

Oh my goodness, you HATE that comparison! Well, then, how do you feel about this one, from Krugman' latest?

"In short, people thought about Cisco the same way they thought about Enron.

That's not a strained comparison. Even when Cisco was riding high, an analysis in Barron's dubbed it the "New Economy Creative Accounting Exemplar." The company's specialty was using its own overvalued stock as currency — paying its employees with stock options, acquiring other companies by issuing more stock...."

Well, yes, Cisco doesn't expense stock options, and merger accounting has been a hall of mirrors for a bit longer than the past couple of years. But why pick on Cisco, when the telecom bust includes Worldcom, Global Crossing, Qwest, Lucent, AT&T, and many European telecoms? Cisco went over the falls in a big barrel, with lots of company.

Cisco is singled out because its Chairman, John Chambers, will be speaking at the summit. I suppose it is fair to say that Cisco has made some business decisions that were not ultimately vindicated (we call them "mistakes"), and I imagine that, if I researched the company's statements over the past few yers, they have admitted the same. Does this mean we should never take advice from them again? If so, then a lot of other people, including an economics professor who was wrong about Latin America, ought to pipe down.

Oh, enough. Like many Krugman columns, this one needs to viewed somewhat like a letter from the Unabomber: interesting ideas, but mind the explosive bits. Krugman wonders why there have been NO indictments of Enron officers, but correctly points out:

"Some cynics attribute the continuing absence of Enron indictments to the Bush family's loyalty code. But the alternative explanation is both innocent and chilling: Enron executives may have deluded and defrauded their shareholders without actually breaking the law. What Cisco did was definitely legal."

And he is right - it is a strange world we live in that Enron can point to a thicket of legal and accounting opinions, and thereby escape any criminal liability. I will join him in calling for carefullly thought-through reform. Better laws, but no bad laws! And definitely, no unintended consequences!

So, where does Krugman take us:

"The next step, surely, is dealing with stock options. It's not just that companies overstate their profits by failing to count options as an expense. Huge grants of options also give executives an incentive to do whatever it takes to produce a short-term bump in the stock price — if one year of illusory success can net you $157 million, who cares what happens later?"

I am satisfied that stock options have, in may cases, failed to align the interest of managers with the interest of shareholders. The immediate reform Krugman is backing is simply to require the expensing of stock options. The concern is not just that investors fail to grasp the "hidden expense" of stock option compensation; rather, the objective is to discourage the use of stock options, and reduce the incentives for managment malfeasance.

Well. It may be the case that a person who would cheat you for $50 million would still cheat you for $25 million. Lacking reliable data on the price elasticity of integrity at these levels, I can not judge just how effective this reform might be. Reducing the reward to cheating will surely reduce the amount of cheating, but by how much?

That said, my secret plan for Bill Gates is to support the expensing of stock options. [Disclosure: I own some MSFT, but it looks like my plan is no longer secret]. This plan runs the "rising tide lifts all ships" video backwards: expensing stock options might hurt Microsoft, but it could crush the competition, who would struggle to attract talent and capital. There is a word for economies that do not have bio-tech start-ups or tech start-ups. The word is "Europe", and if we are looking down a path towards their level of entrepeneurialism, well, I wonder whether that is a good thing. No more Enrons, and no more start-ups. If that is the choice, and I am identifying a possibility rather than making a prediction, then it is a bad choice.

Alternative vision: sophisticated investors peer right through the reported results, don't mind the option expense, and the use of stock options continues as usual. Bravo, efficient markets! But what was the result of our reform, intended to discourage the use of stock options? Well, not much. Sound-bite, but no fury.

The best is the enemy of the good. Critics of all reform will trot out arguments like mine above as arguments in favor of the status quo. However, having looked into my heart, I am convinced that we need to find a better way; I seriously doubt that the expensing of stock options is it. Constructive ideas? Still stewing, sorry.

UPDATE: A more impassioned defense of Cisco, and more on the progress of the Enron investigation, at Hoystory. Hoy's concluding paragraph begins: "Krugman does have some good points in his column ...", so it's not just me that is slowly being won over.

Hmmm. It seems that Stan "The Man Without Qualities" Musial is not being won over. Something is not right.

TAPPED cheerleads energetically for the Professor, and manages to leave the impression they have never heard of Cisco or John Chambers prior to this morning. Enjoy the coffee, chaps! Smell it again someday.

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Nichlas Kristof Has Anthrax

Yet again. His summer crusade is progressing. He duly notes that he has scrupulously avoided naming his suspect (although others did) prior to the most recent events and reminds us of "innocent until proven guilty". Kristof also points out that the key evidence in this case smells. Hmmm.

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Bob Herbert at a Crossroads in Tulia

Monday, Bob Herbert delivered yet another in his contining series of columns on the applling drug busts in Tulia, Texas. He grapples with the role of the Justice Department in sorting this mess out. The arrests occurred in the summer of 1999, and Herbert duly notes that Clinton was President at the time. By the summer of 2000, "Tulia" had become enough of a rallying cry that there were (not highly publicized) protests at the one year anniversary, although the national media did not pick this story up until October 2000. I have a lot of links in my archives, if Blogger will cooperate.

So, Herbert tells us that a Justice department investigation was opened under Bill Clinton, and wonders how much progress we might expect from that investigation when the current President is the former Governor of Texas, John Ashcroft is Attorney general, and the Republican candidate for the Senate is the Texas state attorney general. Evidently, according to a Justice Dept spokesperson, "while the criminal investigation has been closed, the Tulia matter is still under "review" by the Civil Rights Division."

Left unasked is why the Democrats did not query then-candidate Bush during the campaign. The NAACP was famously denouncing the lack of a hate-crimes bill in Texas - why did they not focus on this?

Hence, Herbert at a crossroads. There are competing story lines regarding Tulia, and I do want to re-emphasize to those with delicate blood pressure, I find the situation in Tulia outrageous. The story line Herbert seems to be settling on is "racist cops and evil Republicans bust blacks", and he salutes the yeoman work done by the NAACP to rectify this. However, just a few moments research indicates that drug-law reformers are also very concerned by Tulia. Their story line is "drug war run amuck ensnares black community". The DEA was giving states like Texas block grants to hire cops and bust drug dealers, politicians all wanted to be "tough on drugs", and away we went. My own guess is that we had silence from the Democrats in 2000 becasue they did not want to wade into a drug morass and appear to be soft on crime. Just One Guess, I am not a Dem strategist. Surprised?

Regardless, I happen to lean towards that story line, as I think my initial post would suggest if I could ever find the darn thing. And, for those of you with a particular mind-set, the "crazy drug war" story can certainly be written to include evil Republicans. But, my question for Herbert is, what is the quickest path towards restoring justice in Tulia? We have had a bit of thunder from the right on Tulia. A broader coaliton of table-pounders could be assembled if Herbert expanded his story-line a bit. So, the crossroads. Score political points, or justice now?

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Monday, August 12, 2002

Michael Pine Compresses Josh Marshall

I can not write think pieces this week. I may not think this week. But this is a good one:


Joshua Micah Marshall has a problem. He's a liberal pundit - which means that every natural instinct within him is screaming for him to oppose the war against Iraq. However, he happens to be an exceptionally intelligent and intellectually honest liberal pundit, which has led him to conclude that a military intervention to enact regime change in Iraq is a sound policy objective....

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In a Shameless Attempt to Hype a Front Page Story

The NY Times delivers this headline and lede:

Livestock Tests Chasing Cheats From State Fairs

EDALIA, Mo., Aug. 11 — Katlin Stump, 10, was under suspicion here this weekend at the Missouri State Fair.

Katlin, a blond farm girl with an angelic smile, had to prove that Big Red, her entry in the junior steer show, was not a ringer.

As we read through the story, we learn that there was a cheating problem at livestock fairs in the mid 90's; as the headline suggests, events are much better controlled now; that Katlin Stump is going through the same controls applied to every other competitor; that no cheating allegations against her are being reported; and in the last sentence, that her steer passed the routine screening.

So, a simple human interest hook to drag me through the story. But this is a ten year old girl! Well, here are some more story ideas for the Times, famously edited by Howell Raines.

1. After landing at JFK airport returning from her trip to Paris, Mrs. Howell Raines was suspected by US Customs officials of attempting to smuggle contraband into New York.


2. Eagerly waiting in line for her flight to Disneyworld, Blaine Harden's daughter was under suspicion by airport security for attempting to hijack a domestic flight.

No, I don't expect we will be seeing those stories soon. And we never, never should have seen this lede.

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Check This Guy Out, Says a Fellow I Respect

Be cool, focus on content, ignore the ocasional inflammatory comment. Yes, I am aware of the irony, but what do we say around here? The sign POINTS to Boston, it doesn't GO to Boston. I mean, why would it want to? Sorry, digression.

Anyway, we have a former US soldier with an interesting perspective on a war with Iraq. Some readers will step on a land mine with a comment he makes about Israel, but work past that: it all comes clear in the comments, and there is always the baby to consider along with the bath water. Forewarned? Check it out.

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The Shadow of TAPPED

TAPPED comments on their preference for a certain point of view, and look what happens:

The Pre-Cogs respond;

Lynn gets better looking every day;

And the Amish rule. Hey, I saw "Witness" - their colors are black and white.

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Follow the Directions - Click On the Pics

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Sunday, August 11, 2002

Making Our Streets Safer

Or our skies, or our boardrooms, or borders, or just about any d**n thing at all ought to take priority over this.

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