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Monday, March 31, 2003

Michael Tomasky Palms A Card

Michael Tomasky, writing in The American Prospect, gets very slippery with his excerpts and assertions. He is writing about right-wing critics of the anti-war protestors:

Never to be out-demagogued on such questions, Andrew Sullivan chirped in: "If [protesters] go ahead and try to impede those people in the military doing their jobs, if they launch a 'stop-the-war' movement after it has begun and American and British lives are at stake, it strikes me that they will massively overplay their hand. It took a long time in the Vietnam War for people to start campaigning against an existing war, and longer still for some to withhold support from the troops facing battle. If the anti-war brigades decide to cross that line instantly, then the backlash could be enormous. And deservedly so."

It gets worse still....

...This is a small sampling, and once the shooting does start -- and the countervailing protests, which will be immediate -- this kind of chest thumping will only get more insistent. Keep an eye open for the demagogue's standard tricks, the main one of which is on display in the O'Reilly and Sullivan quotes above -- to wit, intentionally blurring the line between protesting and harming the military. Impeding the military means giving away troops' positions and interfering with their progress; that's treason, or something very close to it, and we all agree that's bad. (The Prospect's Web log, Tapped, properly rebuked the "human shield" movement.) Protesting is ... protesting.

All very well. The Andrew Sullivan piece in question is here, and certainly seems to be referring to protestors impeding the military. And, since this is the Web, we can follow the link Sullivan provides to more clearly establish the context of Sullivan's statement:

Organizers of Antiwar Movement Plan to Go Beyond Protests

By Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, March 3, 2003; Page A14

LONDON, March 2 -- The people who helped organize the largest worldwide peace demonstration in history last month say they are not through yet.

...they intend to further disrupt war plans with acts of civil disobedience against U.S. military bases, supply depots and transports throughout Europe.

And, much later in the story:

Campaigns to disrupt U.S. forces have also been launched. Besides the dozens of activists who have traveled to Baghdad to volunteer as "human shields" against a U.S. attack, nine Dutch antiwar activists were arrested Tuesday for chaining themselves to the gates of a U.S. military center outside Rotterdam. In Italy, hundreds of protesters occupied train stations and railway tracks for nearly a week to delay trains carrying U.S. military equipment from northern Italy to the Camp Darby military base near Pisa. Irish protesters broke through the perimeter fence at Shannon airport in January and damaged a U.S. Navy plane, causing other planes to divert their flights and refuel elsewhere. Trade union movements in Italy and France are pledging work disruptions and considering general strikes if war breaks out.

Quite plainly, the activities described above clearly fall within the scope of "impeding the military" as explained by Tomasky.

Howard Kurtz grasped this distinction in reporting on Sullivan's remarks by placing them just below this:

In California, dozens of protesters plan to infiltrate Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central coast, hoping to disrupt work. A San Francisco-area collective called Direct Action to Stop the War plans to blockade the TransAmerica Pyramid, the Pacific Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve in San Francisco.

"Protesters in Washington may focus on the White House. A spokesman for a national group, Peace Action, said plans called for activists to gather at 5 p.m. on the day the United States goes to war, or at that time the following day if an attack begins at night. Scott Lynch said protesters would probably block one of the White House driveways."

All of which will accomplish what?

Well, maybe Kurtz was blurring the line, but interfering with an Air Force base in wartime is not acceptable, even by the Tomasky Standard.

Might Tomasky have known any of this? Of course he did, or should have. But he knew the story he wanted to write, he knew he wanted to include Sullivan, and all that was missing was the evidence.

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Power Of the Blogosphere

Are we supposed to be able to fact-check, or what? And we can! Sort of, anyway. Over the weekend, the power of the blogosphere was on display.

Prof DeLong started things off with a post that included this:

...Those of us who read the Agonist remember that it was not all that many months ago that Ari Fleischer was... boasting, I guess... that Ari Fleischer actually said that "[General Tommy] Franks wasn't invited to the next strategy meeting because 'the president doesn't have time to listen to what the president doesn't want to hear,' "

The source for the quote was this post from Agonist.

One of the commenters pointed out that such a quote can not be found with Google, which includes the White House press briefings in its searches. A subsequent post at Agonist invited readers to track down the quote.

Relatively quickly readers found the original Agonist post, which sort of missed the point. Eventually, this story was settled upon as being the source. See if you can spot any problems:

Bush given Iraq invasion plan

U.S. Central Command head Gen. Tommy Franks briefed President Bush this week about a scaled-down contingency plan to strike Iraq that calls for an invasion force of some 80,000 to 100,000 personnel including only 50,000 ground troops, administration officials said.

In this new proposal, an invasion would take place during November and December, administration officials, who asked not to be identified by name, told United Press International.

A spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House said they had no information on the meeting and could neither confirm nor deny that it had taken place.

But a well-placed Pentagon official said, "Franks was asked to brief. The president doesn't have time to bother what with he doesn't want to hear." This official asked not to be quoted by name or assignment. Recent pressure from Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith to try and mount a scaled back invasion by October was turned back by staunch resistance from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, these sources said.

Ahh, did you notice that Fleischer is NOT the source? And are you perplexed by the news that Franks DID give the briefing? If this is suppport for the Agonist quote, well, we are all living in Australia and walking upside down.

Now, late in the comments we find two folks saying that heard Fleischer say it on live TV. Of course, the original Agonist post suggests that the comment was made months ago, but folks do have long memories, if not always reliable. But, unless someone can drive up in their Lexis-Nexis to save us, this Fleischer quote appears to be doomed.

UPDATE: A revised post by the Prof suggests that we are no longer waitng for the Lexis. As to the central question, why did "Shock and Awe" morph into "Aw, Shucks", reactions vary. Kaus, attacking up the center, says its about multiple wars. On the right flank, Kurtz of NRO says its about transformation: Rumsfeld prefers a lighter, quicker Army, while current officers prefer job security and opportunites for promotion (NO, he doesn't say it that way, I snuck my own snidery in there). Sullivan fights a rearguard action against what he might have called a "Coalition of the Cavilling", pointing out that after two weeks we have secured the oilfields and the sites that might have been used to launch missles at Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or Israel. Maybe it's too early for the US to surrender. Time will tell!

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The Natives Appear To Be Friendly

Iraqis seem to be willing to welcome us, but have terrible memories of 1991, when we stood aside and let Saddam crush their revolt.

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Good News About North Korea

From Daniel Drezner, who also answers another question. I hve been annoying folks at cocktail parties for months with the idea that North Korean nukes are as much of a problem for China, Russia, and Japan as they are for us, and those folks ought to be able to help us out, if we ask nocely. How did I get so smart? One of his old posts, of course.

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Orwellian Moment At The NY Times

The NY Times has a piece describing how the peace movement has made a sensible decision to link peace with patriotism.

...love of country, its traditions and great leaders has emerged as a central theme in the street protests, as many left-leaning critics of the war try to wrestle patriotism from its traditional conservative grip.

...Many conservatives don't buy it.

James Q. Wilson, emeritus professor of management and public policy at the University of California at Los Angeles, said the surge in patriotic speech from the left amounted to a good marketing strategy for groups generally regarded as out of touch with mainstream America, but he doubted its effectiveness. He said patriotism, especially in a time of war, was about defending "an idea that defines the United States." That idea, he said, was freedom, and it was not one that wavered when American troops were put in harm's way.

Well, I think it is a fine idea which flatly contradicts my post here.

However, the Times also flatly contradicts reality with this statement:

To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public," Roosevelt wrote in a newspaper column in 1918.

"Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else," he continued. "But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else."

The lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, could have used a little Roosevelt in her defense after criticizing President Bush during an appearance in London. She has still not recovered from the public relations backlash. But few in the broader antiwar movement have made the same misstep.

Ahh, few in the peace movement have criticized Bush? Does the Times watch the Oscars? But beyond that, on Monday AM, I saw a CNN report on the recent Columbia peace rally, made famous by Professor Degenova's comment that "I wish for a million Mogadishus". But this account of the rally suggests that a bit of criticism of Bush was also offered.

Bush and his administration also took personal blows.

Robbins called them "shameless liars and hypocrites."

Remarked Professor of Journalism and Sociology Todd Gitlin, "The Bush administration, instead of answering reporters' more difficult questions, repeats mantras--9/11, Iraq, 9/11, Iraq--a Pavlovian association on the basis of dubious claims and outright forgeries."

Katznelson stated that "the Bush administration has failed spectacularly--even if it wins this war militarily." He elaborated: "This administration abhors real politics, where outcomes might be provisional and uncertain--the hallmarks of any democracy. ... Let us not accept the erosion of real politics."

Others offered advice to the Bush administration.

"I would be careful in promising wrath, shocking and awesome, to those who dismiss and ignore legitimate election results," Associate Professor of Anthropology Rosalind Morris told the absent Bush. "People might take you seriously and respond."

I do not know what the Times is thinking, but they might want to read their own paper.

UPDATE: Dr. Dan provides the context for DeGenova's remarks. Oh, that is much better. I thought that when he said "a million Mogadishus", he was just looking for something alliterative. I'm just glad he did not come up with "a googol of Ground Zeros".

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Saddam's Endgame

I nearly got booed off the dinner table when I floated this idea Friday night, but it's a new day. My question - if you were on Saddam Hussein's payroll as a consultant, what advice would you be giving him? If we can assume for a moment that he has a strategy, what might it be?

First, if he is seeking glorious martyrdom, make sure his check clears before you dispense with the advice. However, imagine that he truly hopes to remain in power. What then?

Plan A relied on world opinon and the United Nations to restrain the US. Well, that is why we have a Plan B.

Under Plan B, we (his somewhat conflicted consultants) advise Saddam that he needs to think outside the box. Abandon the tired zero-sum "win-lose" mindset, and think in terms of "win-win". "Look, Saddam, baby, (the "baby" works ONLY if you are videoconferencing, which I would strongly recommend), you are not going to WIN this war. Face reality. Denial is not just a river, and neither is the Tigris, which you now have by the tail", we tell him, but does he get American humor? No. More wasted time.

Saddam can't "win" unless he can redefine winning in a way that leaves him with what he really wants, but lets the US declare victory. And what does the US want? Working off of Rumsfeld's list of eight goals, we see:

1. Regime change - Saddam out
2. Disarmament - no WMDs
3. Drive out terrorists
4. Gather intelligence on terrorists
5. Gather intelligence on the international network of WMDs
6. End sanctions and deliver humanitarian relief
7. "Secure Iraq's oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people"
8. "to help the Iraqi people create the conditions for a rapid transition to a representative self-government".

OK, and what does Saddam want? To stay in power, we presume. So, here is our proposal, which might pass as a mission statement. Saddam needs to present this war as follows: Saddam Hussein, responsible world citizen, leads the patriotic Iraqis in defense of their homeland against foreign invaders. Please, snickering during the presentation is distracting.

What does this mean for our military plan? Three things, immediately:

A. DO NOT attack Israel. This is about patriotic Iraqis versus the imperialists, remember? Shelve the old "Arab v. Jew" script.

B. DO NOT torch the oil fields. If you hold them, great, but what are the odds? If the US gets them, well, think of it as throwing them a bone - it's something they want that you don't need.

C. DO NOT use chemical or biological weapons. Of course you have them, but as a "responsible world citizen", you need to maintain "implausibe deniability". Stay with the script.

Anything else? Of course. Fight like fury in some of the southern cities so the world gets a good, ghastly look at urban combat. Wait for the coalition to surround Baghdad, then ask the UN for a cease-fire. You agree to inspections, and since you haven't used WMDs, the UN keeps a straight face and says OK. They want documents, you have documents, on terrorists and WMDs, and anything else. Regime change? Agree to a partition of Iraq - you keep "Inner Iraq", located around Baghdad, and the coalition gets "Outer Iraq". Promise elections in five years, and try to keep a straight face when you sign the documents.

Result - of Rumsfeld's eight points, the US can claim satisfaction on seven and a half. That is a win for Bush, isn't it? And if the alternative is to level Baghdad, he might go for it. And for the client, who appears impoverished and alone as ruler of Greater Baghdad? Well, those oil fields are for all the Iraqi people, right? How about a share of the revenue, then, for humanitarian purposes. This is not precisely a clear win for Saddam, but it is not a total defeat, and tomorrow is another day.

LIVE UPDATE: Nick Denton proposes a three part partition. The Insta-man does not sputter with rage. Could the politics be such that a deal like this could develop? For whatever it's worth, on Friday it was three lefties who hated this idea, pounding the table with the idea that Bush would never go for it. What do they know about the mind of the right? Little, since, it now appears that a couple of non-lefties are able to accept the concept.

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Sunday, March 30, 2003

It's Deja Vu All Over Again, Again

President Bush is being briefed on the Pentagon plan to deal with Iraq. Cautious generals present a plan calling for overwhelming force. Unhappy civilains reject the initial effort, and force the Pentagon to accept a plan calling for many fewer troops. The result...

Well, the NY Times is the paper of record when I agree with it, and today they tell me that the above story describes Bush I and the run-up to Desert Storm. Here we go:

In 1990, for example, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, Mr. Powell, then chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, presented the first President George Bush and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney with a proposal to oust the Iraqis with a show of force substantially larger than was eventually used.

"I was not happy with the briefing," recalled Brent Scowcroft, then the national security adviser, in the memoirs he wrote with the first President Bush. "It sounded unenthusiastic, delivered by people who didn't want to do the job."

In 1991, Mr. Cheney and his aides devised a lightning strike at Iraqi troops from the west. It was generally regarded as a military success despite the decision, stemming from political constraints, to stop, letting large numbers of Iraqi Republican Guards escape and leaving Saddam Hussein in power.

Well, I am not as savvy as a NY Times reporter, but I can imagine that Brent Scowcroft, as one of the civilians in this story, might have reasons to present the story this way. However, we get a somewhat similar version here.

In his book, Colin Powell describes the fateful October briefing as a flop, but also describes the plan as a first draft which lacked the support of Schwarzkopf and the Pentagon - the plan no one devised, apparently. Calling Bob Woodward!

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Friday, March 28, 2003

Pre-emptive Props To Professor Paul Krugman: Praise For The Phrase That Pays

Krug 3.28 contains what can only be interpreted as a subtle cry for help:

So the [Cheney energy] task force was subject to what military types call "incestuous amplification," defined by Jane's Defense Weekly as "a condition in warfare where one only listens to those who are already in lock-step agreement, reinforcing set beliefs and creating a situation ripe for miscalculation."

NO, I am not praising Krugman for "great moments in self-awareness", although one wonders whether non-defense types, such as cloistered academics, could experience a similar amplification.

The huge props are for popularizing what I have no doubt will become "the phrase that pays" of the next week. As of early morning on March 28, "incestuous amplification" returns a mere nine Google hits (6 are presented, 3 are suppressed as duplicates). We will monitor the popularity of this phrase closely. Could it become this week's "shock and awe"? That's asking it to fill some mighty big footsteps - currently 17,600 Google hits.

Shall I address the content of this piece? Groan (yours, I expect, not mine). As I read it, the theme seems to be, "Cheney was wrong about energy, and now he is wrong about the war". Pointed excerpt:

Right now, pundits are wondering how Mr. Cheney — who confidently predicted that our soldiers would be "greeted as liberators" — could have been so mistaken. But a devastating new report on the California energy crisis reminds us that Mr. Cheney has been equally confident, and equally wrong, about other issues.

Let us go back to Mr. Cheney's "confident prediction".

CHENEY: ...Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. And the president’s made it very clear that our purpose there is, if we are forced to do this, will in fact be to stand up a government that’s representative of the Iraqi people, hopefully democratic due respect for human rights, and it, obviously, involves a major commitment by the United States, but we think it’s a commitment worth making. And we don’t have the option anymore of simply laying back and hoping that events in Iraq will not constitute a threat to the U.S. Clearly, 12 years after the Gulf War, we’re back in a situation where he does constitute a threat.

And, a bit later:

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. And like Kanan Makiya who’s a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, he’s written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.

Now, if we get into a significant battle in Baghdad, I think it would be under circumstances in which the security forces around Saddam Hussein, the special Republican Guard, and the special security organization, several thousand strong, that in effect are the close-in defenders of the regime, they might, in fact, try to put up such a struggle. I think the regular army will not. My guess is even significant elements of the Republican Guard are likely as well to want to avoid conflict with the U.S. forces, and are likely to step aside.
Now, I can’t say with certainty that there will be no battle for Baghdad. We have to be prepared for that possibility. But, again, I don’t want to convey to the American people the idea that this is a cost-free operation. Nobody can say that. I do think there’s no doubt about the outcome. There’s no question about who is going to prevail if there is military action. And there’s no question but what it is going to be cheaper and less costly to do it now than it will be to wait a year or two years or three years until he’s developed even more deadly weapons, perhaps nuclear weapons. And the consequences then of having to deal with him would be far more costly than will be the circumstances today. Delay does not help.

MR. RUSSERT: The army’s top general said that we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there for several years in order to maintain stability.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree. We need, obviously, a large force and we’ve deployed a large force. To prevail, from a military standpoint, to achieve our objectives, we will need a significant presence there until such time as we can turn things over to the Iraqis themselves. But to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I think that’s an overstatement.

Clearly we have not quite seen parades and flower-strewn streets that Cheney might have expected. However, my impression is that it is Saddam loyalists that are motivating the resistance, rather than the Iraqi people generally. As to the determination of the Republican Guard, it looks as though we will soon find out.

I think it is fair to say that we (among the great unwashed) have been surprised by Saddam's tactics and their effectiveness. As to the mood of the Iraqi people, the jury is out. It seems like we only took half the lesson from the uprisings back in 1991, and forgot about Mark Twain's cat.

UPDATE: The Natives Appear To Be Friendly

Iraqis seem to be willing to welcome us, but have terrible memories of 1991, when we stood aside and let Saddam crush their revolt.

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Overwhelming Force

Apparently the Wall Street Journal ran a guest editorial explaining the merits and glorious history of France. But these rebuttals are an instant classic:

More About France Is Actually Less

In regard to the March 11 Leisure & Arts column, In the Fray, by Mary Ann Caws, "There's More to France Than a Veto Threat":

There's also less; that is, less that is good, and more that isn't.

No one denies the contribution of some individual French men and women to Western Civilization, but Prof. Caws's list is noteworthy for its weaknesses rather than its strengths. Marie Curie was Polish by birth, not French, and Rousseau was Swiss and Beckett Irish. Debussy is fine but hardly in the class of Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms and many others. Moliere can't be compared to Shakespeare. Not mentioned was Descartes, but rational thinking and, indeed, the Enlightenment, both things of which the French can be proud, would hardly have failed to occur had the French been absent.

She is justly prideful of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, but that August 1789 document was clearly derivative of our earlier Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. It was also closely followed by the Reign of Terror, somehow not mentioned and something not seen in the Anglophone countries. The French contribution to democracy was followed almost immediately by the Directoire, Napoleon as Consul (1799-04), Napoleon as Emperor (1804-14), King Louis XVIII (1814-24), King Charles X(1823-30), King Louis-Philippe (1830-48), Louis Napoleon, President of the Second Republic (1848-52) until he declared himself Emperor Napoleon III (1852-70). This was followed by three more Republics and the Vichy regime of World War II. Perhaps there is a French taste for autocracy, Jacques Chirac being the latest in the line of De Gaulle and the Bonapartes.

The Napoleonic Code was needed because there was no tradition of common law, but it is hardly better than the systems in use in the Anglophone countries. Since the criminal system is inquisitorial rather than adversarial under the Code, the presumption of innocence is weakened. (Interestingly, it makes French prosecution of terrorists easier. )

Nowhere was mentioned the issue at hand: the political demeanor of the French from the suppression of the Huguenots (St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre where 100,000 innocent Protestants were slaughtered within a week) and the betrayal of Joan of Arc to the English, after she had served a purpose, to French colonial policies in Indo-China and Algeria, disgraceful by any conception of civilization. Perhaps they are more proud of the Dreyfus Affair.

Presumably, a distinguished professor of English, French and comparative literature, wanting to compliment the French, led with her best shot. Now that she brought the matter up, the record is less than most realize.

Stuart L. Meyer
Department of Management & Strategy
Kellogg School of Management
Northwestern University
Evanston, Ill.

The Great Corrupters of Our Discourse

Yes, yes, yes, we've heard it all before. Personally, I love Paris, I love French music, cuisine, drama and fiction. Yet I ask myself, why did Ms. Caws, scholar that she is, stop her litany of achievement before mentioning the great corrupters of our discourse -- Derrida, Foucalt and the rest? French deconstructionism and French Marxism have so affected current intellectual pursuits, insisting that all issues must be seen through the lens of gender, race and class, that our universities and their intellectual products have become the many talking only to each other with no relevance to the world as it is.

And, by the way, is French existentialism, Sartre, Camus, et alia, still discussed by anyone?

Paul N. Duggan
Truckee, Calif.

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Thursday, March 27, 2003

Here Is A Frenchmen WIth More Guts Than You

Or me, I hasten to add. The odds are, he is also a better writer and more persuasive than you, so fellow bloggers, take note:

On Dec. 26, 1971, François Bizot, a 31-year-old French ethnologist, walked away from a jungle prison in Cambodia after three months of incarceration by Khmer Rouge guerrillas. He had talked his way to freedom, but he also owed his life to his captor and interrogator, a math teacher turned Communist revolutionary who went by the nom de guerre Duch.

During long conversations with his jailer, Mr. Bizot concluded that the young man's idealism was misguided but sincere. Once Duch had accepted that his prisoner was not a C.I.A. operative, he convinced the rebel high command to release him. "I acted according to my conscience," Duch explained. In response, to underline his scholarly credentials, Mr. Bizot resumed his research into Khmer-language Buddhist manuscripts...

Then the adventures begin.

Meanwhile, for a bit of balance, here is an American with more guts than you. I should add, he is a highly visible Texan who may well be considered a symbol of American power and dominance, and might make a lovely target. Daniel in the lion's den had it easy.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Never Say Never Again

I knew the future ain't what it used to be. Now, however, I have learned that "never" is not a very long time at all.

TAPPED tells us that "The United States has never been the most welcoming country for those seeking asylum". A typo? No, they link to an American Prospect article which opens "The United States has never opened its arms to immigrants seeking asylum."

Perhaps over at TAPPED the word "never" means, "not since breakfast", or "in my lifetime", or something else entirely. However, a quick review of US immigration policy suggests that, if "never" is extended all the way back to the formation of the United States, we have a long period where the US was quite welcoming to all immigrants, presumably including asylum-seekers. Folks who wonder about the early settlers seeking asylum from religious persecution will want to remember that much of that activity pre-dated the formal creation of the United States, although it certainly typified what some of us consider to be the "American spirit".

The Man Sans Q has suggested a field trip down to the Statue of Liberty for the staff at the NY Times. Perhaps he can include some TAPPERS.

For myself, I would just love to watch the end bit of the original "Planet of the Apes" with a TAP staffer. They will be as puzzled as any of the apes as they peer at the partly-buried statue.

UPDATE: It's TAPPED's World - I'm Just Seeking Asylum In It

A rebuttal from the fine folks at TAPPED. Oh, this blogosphere thing - TAPPED starts out writing about asylum seekers, and ends up linking to asylum leavers.

Their rebuttal is a bit of a disappointment. Kevin Drum shows how to step up to a mistake (see the UPDATE), which is what TAPPED made here. TAPPED opted for obfuscation. Fine. Their point seems to be that "asylum" has a specific meaning, as anyone should know. Thus, when we read "The United States has never been the most welcoming country for those seeking asylum", we should immediately understand that letting a person in freely is not "welcoming" them. Only a formal recognition of their persecuted status accomplishes that. Thus, anyone fleeing religious persecution before the US formally created the category of "asylum" was self-evidently not an asylum seeker.

Humbug. Even if it is true that "asylum seeker" has a specific legal meaning today, it is a long stretch to assert that, in the introductory sentence of a general interest magazine, only the specific legal meaning and not the more general usage should apply.

I can see some poor chap back in 1820, a victim of some damn persecution or other, arriving in the United States seeking a "place offering protection and safety; a shelter". Upon learning that, although he is free to enter the country, the US has no formal means of recognizing his persecuted status, does he then leave in disgust, and tell the world that America did not welcome him?

Now, I actually anticipated (and dismissed) this "asylum is not immigration" argument, which is why I wrote that "we have a long period where the US was quite welcoming to all immigrants, presumably including asylum-seekers". This time I added emphasis. TAPPED is hairsplitting. Why do they hate America? (Oh, you know I'm kidding. KIDDING!)

I don't have a copy of the special TAPPED dictionary that evidently is a perquisite for proper enjoyment of their publication. Perhaps they could send me a complimentary copy? And they might also send copies to these fine folks, all of whom seem to be as confused as I am about the connection between "asylum seekers" and the Statue of Liberty.

Pre-emptive UPDATE: NO, I don't want to hear that TAPPED said "the most welcoming", and that I have not successfully ruled out the possibility that somewhere, some country gave each asylum seeker a parade and a pot of gold. The post to which they link says"The United States has never opened its arms to immigrants seeking asylum", so I think we can agree as to their point.

And, NO again, I don't want to hear about some chap fleeing a political crime, and hoping to avoid extradition by means of a formal declaration of asylum, which the US would not provide. Many immigrants, such as European Jews, came here as a result of religious or ethnic discrimination, and found asylum from same.

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Spot The Hawk; Find The Dove

Today we have front page stories on the mood inside Baghdad from both the NY Times and the Washington Post. From the Times:

In one family today, among professional, middle-class people who have long yearned for a freer Iraq unburdened by sanctions and repression, there was one obsessive concern....

... Today, with the invaders more than 300 miles closer to Baghdad, the question was the same: How long would America take to close its account with Mr. Hussein?

...Only a week ago, two of the three grown men in the family were eager for the United States to act against Mr. Hussein. The third, still a university student, hoped for a free Iraq, but leaned toward rejecting the Faustian deal, as he saw it, that Iraqis would be making in taking their liberty from America...

...they feared what might befall Iraqis like themselves if, faced with continued stiff resistance by Mr. Hussein's troops, Mr. Bush did what his father did at the end of the Persian Gulf war in 1991, and decided that a settlement was preferable to a long and grisly campaign to topple Mr. Hussein.

"That is our nightmare," one of the men said, "and we ask, `What will Mr. Bush do to help us then?' "

And the ostensibly more hawkish WaPo:

"You can't surrender easily; we should fight," said Ahmed, the man at the barber shop. "Our religion says we should fight for our honor. We fear God. We're more afraid of God than we're afraid of the Americans."

The Times writer focuses on one educated Iraqi family, perhaps to show solidarity with the NY Times readership. The author is John F. Burns, who may be Western. The WaPo article is by Anthony Shadid, who may not be of Western appearance, and interviews many Iraqis.

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Do You Believe In Magic?

We can find a number of stories that echo the same theme presented in the NY Times on March 3:

The Pentagon ordered about 60,000 more troops to the region, bringing to over 250,000 the number of American forces deployed on land, sea and at airfields within striking distance of Iraq, officials said today. That has long been considered a magic number — the quarter-million troops the military would like in place before any invasion begins.

Check for yourself, but the news services feeling the magic included the BBC, CNN, ABC News, and an NBC affiliate.

Yet today, we have a hand-wringer from Maureen Dowd worrying (among many other things) that we did not send enough troops, and that our supply lines are stretched. Mickey Kaus notes these fears, which seem to have been inspired by Ralph Peters, retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, and, of course, Josh Marshall.

Please. There is an old legislative dictum (Russell Long?) which runs as "never support a bill that passes; never oppose a bill that fails". As in any well-functioning bureaucracy, every Pentagon planner knows the importance of protecting the rear area - the principle is described as "CYA". It was pre-ordained that, as soon as the Iraqi plan was approved, whatever it was, the survival minded types inside the Pentagon were obliged to alert their friends in Congress, the press, and the old-boy network to every conceivable caveat buried in the fine print.

So now, 250,000 is not the magic number. Never was, in fact. What could Rumsfeld have been thinking?

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Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Something For Everyone

OK, maybe not everyone. Let's say this story has something for Bush-bashers, Clinton-haters, and conspiracy theorists everywhere. The rest of you, feel free to leave.

Are they both gone? To work, then.

From Ted Barlow, and in an unlikely alliance with Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged, I learn that Barbara Bodine will be part of the US team to administer Iraq after the Allied liberation.

And what does Ms. Sisyphus have to say about this?

"You may remember Barbara Bodine. She's the Ambassador to Yemen who single-handedly stopped the investigation into al Qaeda's (and bin Laden's) role in the attack on the Cole, going so far as to pull strings to have the ranking anti-terrorism expert in the region pulled out for persisting in his investigation after she told him it was undiplomatic. The Yemenis shut down their cooperation after that.

He later died in the World Trade Center.

Yes, you've got it - the Bush administration is putting the woman with arguably the highest personal responsibility for the death of 3,000 americans at the hands of terrorists of any U.S. official, through stupidity and an overpowering need to emphasize that no-one was the boss of her, in place in post-"liberation" Iraq.

...Matthew Yglesias quotes Skimble (< - sidebar) as pointing out that the only connection between Saddam and bin Laden is Barbara Bodine."

As I said, something for the Bush-bashers. But who else is on this team? According to the NY Times, the proposed team will include Timothy Carney, former US Ambassador to the Sudan. Are the conspiracy theorists and Clinton-haters getting a tingle? YES, Mr. Carney was our Ambassador back when the Sudan offered to arrest Osama and give him to the US, and the Clinton Administration refused.

So, maybe Ms. Bodine moves down in the rankings as "most culpable", as we forge another solid link between Osama and Baghdad. Here is a link to the "Where's Osama?" WaPo story. Ambassador Carney comes off as a good guy in this version, but who knows what happened behind the scenes, hmm? Mr. Carney tells us himself here, but what does it really mean? The truth is out there.

The good news is, we can't say this team lacks for relevant experience.

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Mickey Kaus Gets A New Reader

Back when the war started in earnest on March 20, Mickey announced that it was "Jo Moore" Day, and has been awarding "Jo Moore" prizes ever since.

"Jo Moore Day: Jo Moore was the British government aide who famously wrote in an email on September 11, 2001, that it was "a good day to get out anything we want to bury." Today's a Jo Moore day too -- a good day for P.R. men and public affairs officers to hide bad news by releasing it when it will be drowned out by the war news. Which means it's also a good day to keep an eye on small stories on the inside pages of the paper. They are likely to include some front-page disasters. ... "

And now, only five days later, we get this from TAPPED:

THE OTHER FRONT PAGE (A CONTINUING SERIES). While the invasion of Iraq progresses, Tapped will be making a special effort to identify and discuss press reports that, were it not for the war, would be getting a whole lot more attention.

Fair enough - and I will make a special effort to keep a straight face while reading TAPPED, which may be tinkering with a new motto such as "TAPPED - What, Me Hurry?"

And, in other news, TAPPED delights its readers with this tidbit:

COULDN'T HAVE SAID IT BETTER OURSELVES. From the New York Press' new feature, "The 50 Most Loathesome New Yorkers," Ann Coulter, clocking in at #4...

Of course, in the spirit of bipartisanship, we should note that Michael Moore clocked in at #3.

Yes, and in the spirit of even more complet disclosure, I will point out that Ted Rall is #2, and earned this tribute:

"Much like Loathsome New Yorker #3, Michael Moore, Ted Rall’s attempts at political commentary and liberal activism do more harm to the cause than any amount of conservative clampdown."

FYI, Number 1 was Keith Blanchard, the editor of Maxim.

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How Many Different Ways Can This Question be Asked?

Because we are as subtle as we are insightful, we detect a recurring theme here, here, here, and here.

The recurring question seems to be - is the Left interested in persuading people to their own ideas, or demonstrating their own moral superiority? One early answer is here, but I am still Googling and brain-wracking to find the post I read recently and am REALLY looking for.

UPDATE: And I am not going to find it, or at least, i won't find it until I stop looking. But the post I was looking for was inspired by this Tom Wolfe essay describing the American intellectual. Famous Excerpt:

From the very outset the eminence of this new creature, the intellectual, who was to play such a tremendous role in the history of the twentieth century, was inseparable from his necessary indignation. It was his indignation that elevated him to a plateau of moral superiority. Once up there, he was in a position to look down at the rest of humanity. And it hadn't cost him any effort, intellectual or otherwise.

Not a description of folks interested in persuading the great unwashed.

UPDATE: I love this quote from an anti-liberation protestor:

``It's very symbolic,'' said Adam Miles, 22, after he was hauled away from a sit-in outside a federal courthouse in Boston. ``It's not like it's going to effect a policy change, but it shows I'm committed.''

Link from Pandagon, who is moving on up, and congrats.

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Krug 3.25 - The Jeers, the Smears, The Fears, And The Tears

Professor Krugman comes out strongly today against freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. A big media company is engaged in an activity that is legal, visible, disclosed, and annoying to the Professor. Let him tell it:

By and large, recent pro-war rallies haven't drawn nearly as many people as antiwar rallies, but they have certainly been vehement. One of the most striking took place after Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, criticized President Bush: a crowd gathered in Louisiana to watch a 33,000-pound tractor smash a collection of Dixie Chicks CD's, tapes and other paraphernalia. To those familiar with 20th-century European history it seemed eerily reminiscent of. . . . But as Sinclair Lewis said, it can't happen here.

Eerily reminiscent of what? The Cat Stevens record smashings in 1989? Or perhaps he is thinking of the Nazi book burnings which destroyed works by authors such as Thomas Mann, Erich Maria Remarque, Karl Marx and H.G. Wells. Who knew that the earnest Prof held the Dixie Chicks in such high esteem?

But enough frivolity, we have some heavy lifting to do.

Who has been organizing those pro-war rallies? The answer, it turns out, is that they are being promoted by key players in the radio industry — with close links to the Bush administration.

The CD-smashing rally was organized by KRMD, part of Cumulus Media, a radio chain that has banned the Dixie Chicks from its playlists.

"Pro-war" rallies, again? NO, they're "pro-liberation", or "pro-American". Anyway, watch the bait and switch. We are about to learn that the Dixie Chick bashing has nothing to do with the main story, and was just there for all of us to have fun with.

Most of the pro-war demonstrations around the country have, however, been organized by stations owned by Clear Channel Communications, a behemoth based in San Antonio that controls more than 1,200 stations and increasingly dominates the airwaves.

The company claims that the demonstrations, which go under the name Rally for America, reflect the initiative of individual stations. But this is unlikely: according to Eric Boehlert, who has written revelatory articles about Clear Channel in Salon, the company is notorious — and widely hated — for its iron-fisted centralized control.

OK, a link to a Salon compendium of the Boehlert's work on this.

...now the company appears to be using its clout to help one side in a political dispute that deeply divides the nation.

Why would a media company insert itself into politics this way? It could, of course, simply be a matter of personal conviction on the part of management.

Boy, I would hate to give up on that explanation too quickly. We are talking about rallies for the listeners of right-wing talk radio. As business promotions go, this is not a bad idea. The pro-liberation position is popular in the country, and very popular (I bet) amongst talk-radio listeners. So, management may be following their personal conviction that this might help them to make a buck. Get Randolph Hearst on the line!

But there are also good reasons for Clear Channel — which became a giant only in the last few years, after the Telecommunications Act of 1996 removed many restrictions on media ownership — to curry favor with the ruling party. On one side, Clear Channel is feeling some heat: it is being sued over allegations that it threatens to curtail the airplay of artists who don't tour with its concert division, and there are even some politicians who want to roll back the deregulation that made the company's growth possible. On the other side, the Federal Communications Commission is considering further deregulation that would allow Clear Channel to expand even further, particularly into television.

Or perhaps the quid pro quo is more narrowly focused.

Let's pause and admire that rhetorical ploy. A "quid pro quo" has not even been established, and now the Professor is slyly refining it. Anyway, here is a link to the current state of play at the FCC. Interesting factoid:

Victoria Raskin..., said 73 of the 91 biggest cable networks are owned at least in part by six companies, including Viacom, Walt Disney Co., News Corp., NBC parent General Electric and AOL Time Warner, all of which also own broadcast networks and control a combined 75 percent of prime-time viewing....

And none of which are named "Clear Channel". If the villains of Krugman's piece are planning to insinuate themselves into television, it wil be as a small fish in a shark tank.

Back to Krugman:

Experienced Bushologists let out a collective "Aha!" when Clear Channel was revealed to be behind the pro-war rallies...

Clever use of the passive voice here - "Clear Channel was revealed". One can imagine an intrepid investigator gasping "Clear Channel is behind it" with her dying breath.

Or, one can imagine reading the newspaper announcing a local rally. Readers patient enough to make it all the way to the third sentence of the story learn that Clear Chanel is the mysterious force behind these rallies.

And is that legal? The Chicago Tribune (annoying registration required) said this:

In a move that has raised eyebrows in some legal and journalistic circles, Clear Channel radio stations in Atlanta, Cleveland, San Antonio, Cincinnati and other cities have sponsored rallies attended by up to 20,000 people...

The sponsorship of large rallies by Clear Channel stations is unique among major media companies, which have confined their activities in the war debate to reporting and occasionally commenting on the news. The San Antonio-based broadcaster owns more than 1,200 stations in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

While labor unions and special interest groups have organized and hosted rallies for decades, the involvement of a big publicly regulated broadcasting company breaks new ground in public demonstrations.

"I think this is pretty extraordinary," said former Federal Communications Commissioner Glen Robinson, who teaches law at the University of Virginia. "I can't say that this violates any of a broadcaster's obligations, but it sounds like borderline manufacturing of the news."

So, not illegal. And the idea of talk radio manufacturing news is murky - are they making news when they encourage their listeners to phone their Congressfolks?

Well, these questions have also been hiding in plain sight at the WaPo and the Instapundit. Glenn also points out that this is not the first instance of media companies promoting a political viewpoint, although that observation does not earn him a prize either for courage or insight.

And Krugman's Big Finish - the Vice-Chaieman of Clear Channel is Tom Hicks, a Texas buddy of George Bush, both of whom were involved with the Texas Rangers. The evil intersection of busines and politics, crony capitalism at its worst, etc. We get an amusing reference to the Buffalo Springfield Jurassic Rock hit, so we have evidence that Krugman is aware of his tendency to present himself as creeping towards... well, whatever. He returns to the question of his own mental health in his conclusion:

"...the scandalmongers are more likely to go after journalists who raise questions..." says the chap who recently won Columnist of the Year, presumably while traveling incognito.

So, is this the first Administration to mix business with pleasure? If I could get Terry McAuliffe on the line, I could ask him. Or ask any trial lawyer, or Hollywood biggie, or any business exec, if this is new. Or perhaps the Psychic Connection could get me a clear channel to Warren Harding.

Krugman is worried that "we're now seeing the next stage in the evolution of a new American oligarchy." But he has refinanced his home mortgage because, in a few years (give or take), hyperinflation will destroy the US financial markets. Is this what the new oligarchs really want?

Sorry, I keep looking for consistency from one column to the next. My bad.

UPDATE: The Man Sans Q is looking for the economics in a column by an economist. I am looking for archive links to a "Blogger" post. We are both disappointed, but I suspect neither of us is surprised.

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Monday, March 24, 2003

Comrades In Arms

The NY Times presents one of their war demands in an editorial today:

Thanks to changes in the law in 1994, women, who make up 15 percent of the military, are eligible for about 90 percent of all service positions....

But while the law opened the door for women a little wider, glass ceilings have held firm and women have made gains in just a small fraction of the jobs supposedly open to them. Helping to hold them back are the remaining taboos and the misperceptions of physical and mental inadequacies that they perpetuate. Servicewomen remain barred from the roles that Hollywood would cast with Tom Hanks or Bruce Willis — Navy Seals, special forces, short-range artillery or tank operators and infantry. The present war with Iraq, which will engage the greatest-yet number of American women, could change much of that by debunking the arguments against fully employing them.

Emphasis added. Apparently, the Times could fully embrace this war if we could only promise to have woman face disfigurement and death in close combat situations.

Now, some of us are so hopelessly hidebound as to think that, beyond any questions about physical competence, it is not a sign of an advanced society to put women in combat. But the Times reassures us on this point:

The United States, with the most advanced military in history, is simply a laggard on the topic of women in combat. One million women served in the Soviet Army in World War II, and Israel, Canada and South Africa are among the countries that now give women combat roles.

Stalin's Russia is now aspirational at the Times? South Africa, eternal beacon of freedom, is our new lodestar? Israel, under siege for over fifty years, is our role model? And I know nothing about Canada, but this chap believes that their military is hopelessly over-politicized on many issues, including women.

The Times missed the argument most like to resonate with cave-dwelling chest-thumpers such as myself, of course - the French military is not fully integrated.

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This Morning, I Knew Nothing About Urban Warfare

Now, I am an expert. You can be one too. Then, stories like this won't upset you. [Link from Atrios].

Careful readers of the "Herald-Sun" piece will note the sourcing "bait and switch: a "British defence source" says the battle for Baghdad is near; we switch to "defence experts" for the ghastly casualty estimates. Only the careless reader concludes that British Defence sources have plans that include these kinds of casualties.

UPDATE: Or you can turn to the War Times.

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The War Is Nearly Over

I refer, of course, to the battle for sympathetic political labels. "Anti-war" is a pretty good label, but was there ever a chance that the other side would opt for the label of "pro-war"? NO! So now we have the anti-war movement pitted against pro-American rallies. Advantage - America!

And on the question of symbolic protests at the Oscars - apparently Susan Sarandon and others were wearing a small pin meant to depict a flying dove. OK, I didn't really think the pin was a Screaming Eagle, but I had some idea that it might be a chickenhawk. And why ABC didn't feature tighter close-ups of Ms. Sarandon's chest is an ongoing source of puzzlement.

The NY Times describes the symbolic battle thusly:

While actors deliberated over whether to wear American flags or peace symbols in their lapels (most chose neither),..

So what is with "or"? Hello, deep thinkers of the anti-liberation movement - maybe someone could wear both.

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This Guy Does It All

Jim Dwyer, the NY Times reporter who was all over the Central Park Jogger story, is apparently embedded with a US military unit and is filing from "Central Iraq". Godd luck.

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Sunday, March 23, 2003

Michael Moore Wins Academy Award

And delivers a ridiculous acceptance speech, which I paraphrase:

We documentary makers are here because we like non-fiction - but we live in fictitious times. We have a fictitious election and end up with a fictitious President. We enter a war for fictitious reasons. We do not want this war! And a final thought, Mr. Bush - if the Dixie Chicks and the Pope are against you, your time is almost up!

Well, the crowd reaction was interesting. The camera panned across a lot of folks looking non-plussed. I would say there were some cheers, but many more boos. The boos struck me as having a "not now" tone - I thought I was hearing "shut up and sit down" rather than "you're wrong", but that could be my own biases. And either one works for me.

The follow-up was fascinating. By what I presume to have been coincidence, Jack Valenti, Hollywood spokesman and President of the Motion Picture Association forever, came out next. Do not ad-lib, Jack! Despite his years as a Hollywood lobbyist, Valenti just carried on with the script and totally ignored the Moore speech.

Steve Martin, host for the evening, came back next. Paraphrasing again:

"Oh, it was a touching, beautiful scene backstage. A bunch of Teamsters were helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limousine."

Huge laugh from crowd. Can't fault their good sense on this one.

UPDATE: Sticklers for detail can see the transcript of Moore's comments. And, in blogdom's fines 45seconds, RJ West sends us to Bobby Allison-Gallimore for the audio.

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I Am Convinced That We Have To Fight This War

I am also convinced that we don't have to enjoy it. It is hard to say whether Fox or MSNBC is more annoying. Lester Holt of MSNBC seems to be a genial chap, but his demeanor would leave him much better suited to handing out NCAA results. Surely a sports desk somewhere could use him?

And the crew at Fox is just having too much fun to suit me.

Meanwhile on the blogging front, some quick hits:

InstaPundit and the Dixie Flatline - lots of controversey swirling about this statement from the Flatliner:

"I'm angry right now, and I may regret these words. But, I think it is entirely reasonable for Americans to suspect the loyalty of American Muslims. There is substantial evidence that their allegiances lie not with their country, but with their god."

Well, the pressure of war will affect all of our soldiers, and may well have a greater effect on an American-Muslim, who might very well feel some conflicts that a person of another religion would not. However, the leap that we should suspect the loyalty of all American Muslims is a bit extreme.

As an abstract matter, I am intrigued by this question of loyalty to god or country. Surely this does not apply exclusively to Muslims?

The other irritating post du jour is provided by Andrew Sullivan, who loses this battle in his war against the NY Times:

RAINES WATCH: How do you insinuate that the precision targeting of the headquarters of a murderous tyrant is the moral equivalent of a terrorist assault on civilians? If you're the New York Times, it's easy.
UPDATE: Another beaut captured by London blogger, Belgravia Dispatch.

Andrew, quit while you are ahead - the UPDATE killed you. And the chap at Belgravia has a fine looking blog, and congrats on the rare Sully link, but what happened here? Roll the tape, please:

In a NYT story about a Navy Seals operation to gain control of several oil platforms:

"Swooping silently out of the Persian Gulf night, Navy Seals seized two Iraqi offshore oil terminals in bold raids that ended early this morning, overwhelming lightly armed Iraqi guards and claiming a bloodless victory in the battle for Iraq's vast oil empire." [my emphasis]

Evidently, this is meant to be taken as evidence that the Times has joined the "it's all about oil" chorus. But not so fast! We will probably read about a battle for Basra, or a battle for air supremacy, or a battle for Baghdad, and so on. It hardly follows that this was "all about Basra". Minimizing damage to the oil production facilities was, in fact, one of the war objectives cited by Rumsfeld in a link provided by the Belgrave chap:

Military forces also will "secure Iraq's oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people, and which they will need to develop their country after decades of neglect by the Iraqi regime," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

SO, we fight battles in order to win the war. Some battles will, in fact, be about oil, as Sully himself notes here. No problem. The Times walks on this one.

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Saturday, March 22, 2003

France Demands The Surrender Of US And UK Troops

Speaking at the UN today, the French Foreign Minister declared that, if Saddam will not accede to UN demands, then the US and the UK must. "Sacre bleu", he said, "Does no one listen to us? Our squeaky little voice will be heard!"

Proposed terms of the Allied surrender are still being discussed. The French Ambassador has threatened that, in the event of Allied non-compliance, the UN kitchen will commence to serve an exclusively English menu. The UN translators are looking for the words to describe "Bubble and Squeak" and "Toad-in-the-Hole". Less diligent translators will probably settle for a generic "what is this sh**!"

Observers are relieved that, so far, the French have not threatened the UN gastronomes with the "Irish Option", which of course is the insistence that the kitchen serve only the traditional Irish seven course supper. However, many observers suspected that the French delegation must have recently tested the "Irish Option" on themselves.

OK, link back to "reality".

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My Stint On Madison Avenue

I am very excited about me chance to work with an ad agency to help promote the new Hummer. Just look at that photo - can't you feel the power, see the testosterone, smell the crushed earth beneath your wheels as you blast by and through once-living vegetation? I know I can.

So I am hoping to help on a campaign to talk up some key aspects of the latest toy for boys.

Let me first set the scene, since I am picturing a TV spot. Our star is young, energetic, handsome and outdoorsy - sort of a "Marlboro Man", but with functional lungs. Maybe John Edwards is available.

He is standing next to his Hummer in a scenic forest setting when a bevy of beauties approach, seeking assistance. Perhaps the Swedish Bikini Team is lost in the woods? That sort of thing, anyway.

And our ever-so-manly hero delivers the BIG LINE:

"I let Detroit sell me a Hummer, so I may have an itty-bitty brain, but hey, ladies - [pointing to the vehicle] come check out the size of my equipment."

Too subtle? Maybe the close will reinforce the message:

"Hummer - ride it anywhere."

OK, for the second spot, we are going to address the environmental puzzle raised by a huge machine with tiny gas mileage. This time our he-man is parked at the beach, admiring a posse of..., uhh, lets go back to a bevy of bikini-clad beauties. Some dweeby type wonders, in a voiceover, whether a "car" that gets 10 Miles Per Gallon makes any sense at all.

John Edwards then reassures us:

"In my world, buddy, "MPG" stands for "Miles Per Girl". And take it from me, pal, with my new Hummer, the figures are looking good."

This is delivered while he leers at yet another hot chick, in case someone is not sure what kind of "figures" he is thinking about.

And, the tag line:

"Hummer - Go all the way anywhere."

With any luck, Martha Burke will object to the ghastly sterotyping, Tiger Woods will arrive at Augusta in a Hummer, and the free publicity will be endless. This plan is still in development, of course. Wish me luck!

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With Friends Like These...

Who needs enemies? Not me! I need to award some prizes. But first, some background.

Josh Marshall recently posted yet another attack on the Bush Administration, this time explaining how they did not understand Security Council Resolution 1441. I pounced, pointing out that the statement that US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte made at the time the resolution was adopted more or less demolishes Marshall's argument.

Brad DeLong gets swept into the mix with his post that begins:

Josh Marshall Parses SC 1441

Josh Marshall does an excellent job parsing the meaning of Security Council Resolution 1441.

And now Kendall of TitusOneNine creates a bit of disharmony with his post. Special K has linked to some recent comments by Colin Powell which also refute Mr. Marshall. Ahh, unexpected support for my view! But wait:

[The Minuteman offers his take on this, but, fatally in my view, ALSO doesn't quote Colin Powell].

Fatally?!? Hey, not only am I still standing, I don't even feel a cold coming on. Anyway, I'll accept that the Colin Powell information is more dirt on the grave of Marshall's argument. However, one might argue that statements made by Powell in March may simply be an attempt to re-write the history of a poor decision made in November.

But I promised prizes, not more arguments! SO, without further ado:

To Josh Marshall, who managed to provide two links to the same LA Times article but could not find the relevant statement by the John Negroponte or Colin Powell's recent statement, we award a free subscription to "Google". Now, I should warn Mr. Marshall - this may not work if you are "feeling lucky". The UN statement is actually number two on this search as I type this.

For Brad DeLong, for his confusion of "parse" with "partisan", we have the Inigo Montoya "I don't think that word means what you think it means" Award.

And for Mr. Kendall, whose blog is one sentence short of brilliant, we have the Glenn Close "maybe the wrong rabbit is in that pot" Fatal Mistake Award, which will come with a cool link if I manage to think of one.

UPDATE: Confusion! Apparently James Taranto at "Best of the Web" took a shot at Mr. Marshall, who responds in an update. I am safe from return fire, as explained here. And since Mr. MArshall objects to the most minor of points in the WSJ piece, I continue to believe that my argument is secure.

OTOH, this, from Marshall, is puzzling:

Now James Taranto over at the Wall Street Journal says my "hair-splitting legal analysis completely ignores Resolution 678 of Nov. 29, 1990, which authorized U.N. member states 'to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area.'"

Now, I'm all for fig leaves in their place... But let's know a fig leaf when we see one. For conservatives to hang this on 678 in any serious sense is sad and unseemly. Better just to have the courage of your own unilateralism -- since unilateralism has its place -- rather than resort to this sort of feeble caviling.

Well, I accept that Mr. Marshall is an authority on the subject of "feeble caviling". But let me get this straight. Back when 1441 was passed in November, Ambassador Negroponte said that the US believed it had authority under existing "relevant UN resolutions". In its submission to Congress, the White House explicitly mentioned 678 as the basis for, e.g., the no-fly zones and Clinton's "Desert Fox" in 1998. But now reliance on 678 is "caviling?" Starting when?

Well, maybe this calls for another "Inigo Mopntoya" Award - big day for Mr. Marshall. Instead of "caviling", perhaps he is engaged in "Carvilleing", where a Democrat relentlessly spins long after no one can take him seriously. Never admit you are wrong, and wait for the conversation to move on. Fine.

MORE UPDATES: Tom Friedman on the perfidious French. Key quote:

"...But some voices within the French foreign policy elite and the business community — which depends heavily on the U.S. for trade and investment — are now saying that Messrs. Chirac and de Villepin did indeed go too far. The term you hear most often is "intoxicated." These two became so intoxicated by how popular their anti-U.S., antiwar stand became across Europe, and in the whole world, that they went from legitimately demanding U.N. endorsement for any use of force in Iraq to blocking any U.N.-approved use of force — effectively making France Saddam's lawyer and protector."

Hmm, that is a bit different from blaming the inept and confused Bush Administration.

And let's bring Belgravia into the "coalition of the willing" to debunk Marshall.

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Friday, March 21, 2003

Krugman 3.21

Krugman is back on his favorite subject, the phony Bush budget numbers. However, fans of the paranormal will not be disappointed by this latest column, so stay with me.

Krugman opens with a funny bit from The Onion. Since the Professor gave us such good laughs with Krug 3.11, in which he seemed to forecast both deflation and hyperinflation, it is encouraging to see his ongoing use of humor as a rhetorical device. Works for me! (Or will, someday).

However (paranormal fans, perk up), the fun begins in earnest with this:

The latest official projections acknowledge (if you read them carefully) that the long-term finances of the U.S. government are in much worse shape than the administration admitted a year ago. But many commentators are reluctant to blame George W. Bush for that grim outlook, preferring instead to say something like this: "Sure, you can criticize those tax cuts, but the real problem is the long-run deficits of Social Security and Medicare, and the unwillingness of either party to reform those programs."

"Many commentators"? And who might they be? What a great opportunity for a quote, or a link, or a footnote, or any reference at all to buttress this point. Who are we arguing with here, anyway? Krug 3.14 regaled us with the following:

...more people than you would think — including a fair number of people in the Treasury Department, the State Department and, yes, the Pentagon — don't just question the competence of Mr. Bush and his inner circle; they believe that America's leadership has lost touch with reality.

Does the NY Times have any rules at all on sourcing? More people than you would think believe that Krugman is simply hearing voices.

Bother. Well, despite the flashing from my "Strawman Detector", I will soldier on, mindful of the possibility that Krugman is rebutting an argument that no one has made.

The Bush tax cuts, not the retirement programs, are the main reason why our fiscal future suddenly looks so bleak.

I base that statement on a new study that compares the size of the Bush tax cuts with that of the prospective deficits of Social Security and Medicare. The results are startling.

...Accountants estimate the "actuarial balance" of Social Security and Medicare the same way a private insurance company would: they calculate the present value of projected revenues and outlays, and find the difference. ...both programs face shortfalls: the estimated actuarial deficit of Social Security over the next 75 years is $3.5 trillion, and that of Medicare is $6.2 trillion.

But how do these shortfalls compare with the fiscal effects of recent and probable future tax cuts?

The new study, carried out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, estimates the present value of the revenue that will be lost because of the Bush tax cuts — those that have already taken place, together with those that have been proposed — using the same economic assumptions that underlie those Medicare and Social Security projections.

OK, here is the Center, and here is the study in question. The first author mentioned, Peter Orzsag, is a former Clinton official who may carry some partisan baggage. Imagine my surprise. But hey, Democrats are allowed to speak too, even in the NY Times. It's still America!

The [tax cut] total comes to $12 trillion to $14 trillion — more than the Social Security and Medicare shortfalls combined. What this means is that the revenue that will be sacrificed because of those tax cuts is not a minor concern. On the contrary, that revenue would have been more than enough to "top up" Social Security and Medicare, allowing them to operate without benefit cuts for the next 75 years.

Excellent, we have arrived at a point! Economists are trained to think at the margin, which may explain why some marginal thinkers are allowed in. The baseline for these tax calculations seems to be the 2000 Tax Code. Perhaps I should put my JK Lasser 2000 Tax Guide in a time vault? Or perhaps that millenial tax code was a third tablet carried down by Moses from Mt. Sinai, and only recently discovered.

Or perhaps the tax code was going to be revised after the 2000 election regardless of who won. Gore, in his bid for the mantle of "tax-cutter", had offered up a tax package which I vaguely recollect as being around $800 billion [mini-update: oops, let's try $500 billion, and scale back accordingly], versus a Bush package of $1.3 trillion. (Yes, maybe $1.6 trillion under some other calulation, I am typing quickly here and the point is, Gore would have cut taxes too.) Also, the Center is including a fix to the AMT that "everyone knows" must occur. Well, presumably Al Gore would have known that too, since he knew everything else. And, although I suppose the prospective AMT fix would be smaller because the standard Federal tax would have been higher under a Gore Administration, I suspect that most of the AMT adjustment would have occurred anyway.

So how much of this $14 trillion, at the margin, should we attribute to Bush? Unknown. The report shows a range for the original Bush tax cut of $7.9 to $10 trillion. If Al's tax cut would have been half of that, then we are talking, roughly, $4.5 trillion.

Bush's new proposals have not been enacted. They total $4.3 trillion. Will we get half of that? Who knows? Since the point of the exercise is to oppose the proposal, let's accept them at face value.

So, the adjusted comparison shows the Bush Program reducing Federal revenue by $7.6 to $9.7 trillion. We are still not sure why we are comparing this tax revenue to Social Security and Medicare, but the Center report tells us that some Administration report mentions this. Could the Bush Administration be the mysterious "many commentators?" We may come back to that, but meanwhile let's ponder this bit of wisdom from the Prof:

"that revenue would have been more than enough to "top up" Social Security and Medicare"...

Well, sure, taxes can do that. Is the Democratic Party proposing that Social Security be funded from general revenues? They do not speak with one voice, so perhaps I missed it, but just what is going in to that lockbox, anyway?

On to his Big Finish, and mine:

"Without those tax cuts, the problems of an aging population might well have been manageable; with them, nothing short of an economic miracle can save us from a fiscal crisis."

Ahh, can I take a page from Arlen Specter's playbook and vote "not proven"? The US GDP is roughly $10 trillion, so if we finance the entire "marginal" Bush tax cut, we are incurring new debts of less than 100% of GDP. Is this a big number relative to US history, or other economies? I think some research will show it to be big, but not unmanageable. And anyway, this number does not necessarily represent new debt - it means that the Federal government must plan to reduce spending or increase borrowing to make up the difference.

Secondly, the Federal Government typically spends about 20% of US GDP, if I remember the many WSJ tirades on this point. How did the Federal share of GDP behave over the 75 year horizon? Were taxes growing as a percentage of GDP, or falling? Perhaps a professional economist could take a moment to sort this out - maybe even a NY Times columnist could do so. If these projections showed the Federal Government growing steadily as a share of GDP, well, maybe that is not appropriate.

Thirdly, what should we make of this: "nothing short of an economic miracle can save us from a fiscal crisis." Over in Europe, the demographics are less favorable then in the US, immigration is less, unemployment is higher, social programs are more generous, current taxes are higher, and, I recollect, budget deficits in at least a few of those countries (e.g., France and Germany) are higher as a percent of GDP, as is current national indebtedness. What sort of a miracle are they hoping for?

The conclusion of the Center report is frank:

The nation faces significant long-term fiscal problems, which will increasingly manifest themselves after the baby boomers retire in large numbers. The nation also is likely to face needs in the decades ahead that will require resources in other areas, including areas relating to children, the environment, the large number of Americans without health insurance, the lack of a Medicare prescription drug benefit, and the uncertain costs of homeland security, as well as other problems that inevitably will arise in the future but that we cannot foresee today. A balanced long-term fiscal policy is likely to entail some changes in Social Security and Medicare to reduce their future claims on the budget. The Administration's tax proposals, however, make the long-term budget problem substantially worse and consume resources that could play a constructive role in Social Security and Medicare reform.

So many unmet needs, and more tax revenues would be lovely to pay for them, under the guise of "Save Social Security First". Oh, and tsk, tsk - in the last sentence, tax proposals "consume resources"? Please, they redirect resources, gents. And maybe some of these new programs just aren't going to hapen at the scale envisioned by optimistic Dems.

UPDATE: Peter Orszag has been studying Social Security for years, and sems to be a Krugman favorite. Here is just a tip of the iceberg from an Orszag paper that Krugman plugged in his Times column back in July 2002.

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The Hauser Report Is Pretty Funny Today

I hate to steal his thunder, but I can't master his timestamps, so I will repeat his proposed slogan for the Kerry campaign:

KERRY - A Rich Guy You Can Trust

OK, should that be "guy", or "goy"? And is there a risk that one of his opponents (or all of them) will attempt to snare for themselves the mantle of 60's style crusader with the following - "Don't trust anyone over $30 Million"?

Just trying to help.

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Thursday, March 20, 2003

Life Is Full Of Surprises

I rally to the defense of Josh Marshall, sort of. Mr. Marshall argues here that:

When historians get around to trying to explain the last six months (i.e., how we got from resolution 1441 to the breakdown of the UN process and war) I don't think they will chalk much of this up to anyone 'losing their will.' I think the truth is more prosaic and straightforward. Yes, everyone voted in favor of 1441. But there were two groups amongst those fourteen member nations. And they had very different conceptions of what they were voting for.

Actually, I think this is a generous interpretation. But let's set that aside for the moment.

And he goes on to argue that Security Council 1441 was not automatic, that a second resolution was contemplated, and that the US is wrong to argue that it has authority under 1441 to act against Saddam.

Well done! Lacking Mr. Marshall's rhetorical and reasoning skills, I unimaginatively read the statement of the US Ambassador to the UN explaining the US position at the time of the vote:

As we have said on numerous occasions to Council members, this Resolution contains no “hidden triggers” and no “automaticity” with respect to the use of force. If there is a further Iraqi breach, reported to the Council by UNMOVIC, the IAEA, or a member state, the matter will return to the Council for discussions as required in paragraph 12. The Resolution makes clear that any Iraqi failure to comply is unacceptable and that Iraq must be disarmed. And one way or another, Mr. President, Iraq will be disarmed. If the Security Council fails to act decisively in the event of a further Iraqi violation, this resolution does not constrain any member state from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq, or to enforce relevant UN resolutions and protect world peace and security.

Well, the first highlighted point supports the Marshall Plan - a two step process was contemplated. Of course, his suggestion that the US was beguiled into accepting this unwittingly seems to fall a bit flat, as does his suggestion that we misled our colleagues at the Security Council.

And his point that the US can not rely on 1441 for authority to act against Saddam is also moot - as the Ambassador Negroponte made clear at the time, the US considered itself to have authority under UN resolutions already in force.

But other than those minor points, props to Josh!

UPDATE: The NY Times summary of the Administration's description of its legal authority for going to war. Interesting excerpt:

...U.S. action is consistent with the U.N. Charter. The Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, provided that member states, including the United States, have the right to use force in Iraq to maintain or restore international peace and security. The Council authorized the use of force in Resolution 678 with respect to Iraq in 1990. This resolution on which the United States has relied continuously and with the full knowledge of the Security Council to use force in 1993, 1996 and 1998 and to enforce the no-fly zones remains in effect today. In Resolution 1441, the Security Council unanimously decided again that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions and would face serious consequences if it failed immediately to disarm. And, of course, based on existing facts, including the nature and type of the threat posed by Iraq, the United States may always proceed in the exercise of its inherent right of self-defense, recognized in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.

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Affirmative Action - Good For Everyone Except Students, Faculty, and Administrators

Or so says a recently published study, according to the NY Times. Yeah, yeah, if this study were promoting affirmative action, I would pull out my Dark Force Decoder Ring and be on it like sand in the desert. So OK, I will get to it.

UPDATE: OK, the author is Stanley Rothman, who is mysteriously missing from the directory at Smith College, although Google certainly puts him there. Here is a thought provoking cite:

Mark Snyderman and Stanley Rothman (1986), "Science, Politics and theIQ Controversy." The Public Interest 83 (Spring): 79-97

Another teaser: "The Myth of Black Low Self-Esteem"

And, if your Acrobat reader is working, here is the paper we seek!

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We Interrupt This Blog

We are going to deviate from our "All Non-War, All the Time" format for just a moment to comment on last night's television coverage. I had lost the darn remote control, so I settled down with my man Tom Brokaw for an hour of useless chatter and haphazard speculation." Are we or are we not bombing Baghdad, and if not, why not?" Oh, man, after a bit of this I was nostalgic for the calm, cogent coverage of Election Night 2000.

SO, my own useless chatter - maybe we bombed everywhere EXCEPT Baghdad - why give Al-Jazeera the satisfaction, or the film footage? Presuming, of course, that there are targets elsewhere.

We should keep hinting that Saddam is dead, thereby pressuring him to appear frequently to maintain control. Sort of like shooting the ducks in a video game.

A ground attack by daylight to facilitate mass surrenders - this was one commentator's idea, and why not?

We resume our regularly scheduled total denial.

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