Just One Minute
Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Don't Tell People The Race Is On If They Already Think It's Over

Dean speaks, Time quotes him, Kerry pounces, Mickey opines, we join in. What do we make of Dean's comment that the US needs to think about its diplomacy because "We won't always have the strongest military"?

Well, I would be shocked if the US remained the pre-eminent military power for thr next ten thousand years (and if Google caches survive, my descendants will have evidence that their forebear was wise and insightful - HELLO, great-great-great grand Minute-kids!)

However, if Dean is contemplating the foreseeable future, this comment is irresponsible. As Greg Easterbrook told us on Sunday, the global arms race is over and the US has won. The world enjoys a $500 billion per annum peace dividend in part because no one is even bothering to contest US supremacy. If President Dean lets slip that a Newer World Order may be on the horizon, a number of countries may feel obliged to spend more in order to advance or maintain their position. The arms race is over, and will remain over if countries believe that they have no chance of winning it.

Now, why does Mickey let Kerry off so easily? Here is Kerry's defense soundbite, as quoted in the Globe:

"I personally believe and have said many times that I never want the United States to have a military that's second to anybody. That's been my policy always."

Second to none? If memory serves, that was an old Cold War weasel phrase invented to accomodate Soviet aspirations for nuclear parity with the US. Originally, the US was, and intended to remain, the premier nuclear power. However, we eventually acceded to a tie with the Soviets, and settled for the "second to none" formulation.

Does Kerry want to settle for a tie with some future rival? Who, and why? Right now, we are numero uno, head honcho, chief cheese - why give that up? Go, Mickey, Kerry is waffling again!

And Mickey leaves us with a bit of a headscratcher:

Bonus Question: Which country is most likely to one day have a stronger military than ours? ... Hint: What looks good on a white tablecloth! ...

Hmm. Turkey? Thanksgiving dinner must be quite formal at the Kaus-hold, with the fine cutlery and lovely porcelain plates on display. Well, if he foresees an Ottoman restoration, you can't fault him for lack of imagination. My guesses would be India and China - high population, India may one day get its economy going, and both live in challenging neighborhoods.

UPDATE: And does President Kerry see a role for Rumsfeld in a new administration? From Chris Lehane, as reported in Slate:

"A President Kerry, who will bring the perspective of having served on the frontlines … will guarantee that America has the strongest, best trained, most well-quipped military in history."

Most well-quipped? That could only mean Mr. Old Europe himself!

(0) comments

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Know Your Science

Writing on the subject of whether teachers know basic science, the always enjoyable Cal Pundit manages to combine science and humor:

...This is the kind of thing that drives me nuts. Do teachers, for example, believe that heavy objects fall faster than light ones? Maybe — especially since it's perfectly true on any planet with an atmosphere. But do they believe that the sun revolves around the earth? I think not.

And, a bit further on:

UPDATE 2: I just got back from lunch and read the comments, and I guess I'd better clear something up. My throwaway line about heavy vs. light objects was meant to refer to the fact that given two identical objects, the light one will generally fall more slowly due to air resistance. That's all.

And eventually some crank will ask, if the objects are identical, which one is heavier? But we know what he means.

(0) comments

Now I Am On The Comeback Trail!

After my near-death experience with Professor Krugman's "Krug-Math", in which I had to forthrightly step up and admit that I was wrong and he was rrriii... well, anyway, not so terribly wrong, it is nice to see him return to the area of political analysis. Free fire zone! His theme is that the Bush administration deceived us on the WMD capability of Saddam's regime. Here we go:

Sure enough, we have yet to find any weapons of mass destruction. It's hard to believe that we won't eventually find some poison gas or crude biological weapons. But those aren't true W.M.D.'s, the sort of weapons that can make a small, poor country a threat to the greatest power the world has ever known. Remember that President Bush made his case for war by warning of a "mushroom cloud." Clearly, Iraq didn't have anything like that — and Mr. Bush must have known that it didn't.

Well, the best evidence that "Mr. Bush must have known that it didn't" comes from Mr. Bush's own sometimes puzzling words. Let's go to the mushrooms:

If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly-enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.

And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed. Saddam Hussein would be in a position to blackmail anyone who opposes his aggression. He would be in a position to dominate the Middle East. He would be in a position to threaten America. And Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists.

...Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

Any need to add emphasis? The President was clearly speaking of a hypothetical future threat, which can not be news to Prof. Krugman. But let us press on. Prof. Krugman segues to the Cote D'Ivoire, and questions the US commitment to peace there, so we will lob back this State Dept. briefing. And back to our main theme:

Meanwhile, aren't the leaders of a democratic nation supposed to tell their citizens the truth?

One wonders whether most of the public will ever learn that the original case for war has turned out to be false.

Holy Cow, this is news! Not only have we failed to find WMDs, but we have anounced that we never will, and have abandoned the search! Ooops. I guess if we are still looking, then the Arlen Specter "Not Proven" would be the relevant verdict at this point. Anyway, if you will indulge a "mushroom flashback", earlier in the column, the Earnest Prof told us this:

...It's hard to believe that we won't eventually find some poison gas or crude biological weapons. But those aren't true W.M.D.'s, the sort of weapons that can make a small, poor country a threat to the greatest power the world has ever known.

Ahh, chemical and biological weapons aren't "true" WMDs! Then let me just put this UN Convention on Biological Weapons from waaay back in 1972 directly into the shredder. In fact, let's just fire Hans Blix, and put Prof. Krugman of the idiosyncratic definitions in charge of searching for whatever he considers to be a WMD this week.

But before we shred the UN BWC, let's glance at the opening paragraphs:

Determine to act with a view to achieving effective progress toward general and complete disarmament, including the prohibition and elimination of all types of weapons of mass destruction, and convinced that the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of chemical and bacteriological (biological) weapons and their elimination, through effective measures, will facilitate the achievement of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective control

Seems clear enough. Forward!

Did the news media feel that it was unpatriotic to question the administration's credibility? Some strange things certainly happened. For example, in September Mr. Bush cited an International Atomic Energy Agency report that he said showed that Saddam was only months from having nuclear weapons. "I don't know what more evidence we need," he said. In fact, the report said no such thing — and for a few hours the lead story on MSNBC's Web site bore the headline "White House: Bush Misstated Report on Iraq." Then the story vanished — not just from the top of the page, but from the site.

This may be my favorite paragraph ever, for this week at least. First, does it occur to Prof. Krugman or his editors that a well known NY Times columnist might be considered as part of the "national media"? In which case, perhaps he should just answer his own question - did he, or the Times, cover up anti-Administration stories?

Next, what about this mysterious cover up of the IAEA report. Well, the discrepancy was first noted by what some folks refer to as the Moonie Times. However MSNBC handled it, the White House bully boys were unable to silence either Joe Conason at Salon, or the village people at the Village Voice. Perhaps Prof. Krugman can get to the bottom of the mystery of the absence of NY Times coverage - with my limited grasp of their search engine, I can not find coverage there.

The Washington Post reports on the press briefing where Bush, speaking with Blair, made the controversial "six months away" comment. Here, we have a WaPo story from November, where they chat with a the former head of the Iraqi nuclear program.. Perhaps he was just hyping his book, but he said this:

Washington, D.C.: Richard Butler, former UNSCOM Executive Chairman (1997-1999), testified before the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee on September 26, 2000, that “when the work of that -Iraq nuclear design] team was stopped in 1991 they were six months away from producing a nuclear explosive device.” Is his statement accurate? Assuming that it is, bearing in mind the extensive nuclear disarmament between 1991 and 1998, and assuming Iraq’s nuclear technological know-how as of 1991, what technology and material would Iraq need to produce a “nuclear explosive device” and to eventually upgrade to a lethal nuclear weapon?

Khidhir Hamza: Butler's statement was correct in 1991, in the sense that Iraq then had then the fissile material to produce one bomb by using the French fuel that came with the Osirak reactor. Sinec that material has been returned to France, Iraq needs anm alternative source of fissile material, and that will take awhile to obtain. What it needs now is fissile material, either from abroad on the black market, or to develop an infrastructure to enrich uranium itself. If he chooses the diffusion techno,ogy, Saddam doesn't need to import much, but he needs time -- probably two to three years. Since I left, all the elements for diffusion technology were completed.

And the Washington Times, which broke the story too hot for the NY Times, had this follow-up in December:

President Bush's recent declaration that Iraq was close to making a nuclear bomb in 1991 has been bolstered by an unlikely source — Baghdad.

A key architect of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs has told reporters his quest for a nuclear bomb was nearly achieved when allied planes struck in January 1991, destroying much of the country's weapons-making facilities.

I wonder if MSNBC sat on that story too. Anyway, Prof. Krugman's big finish:

Now it's true that the war removed an evil tyrant. But a democracy's decisions, right or wrong, are supposed to take place with the informed consent of its citizens. That didn't happen this time. And we are a democracy — aren't we?

Yes, we are. Worst form of government except for all the others. We encourage our free press to ferret out these stories of their own cowardice. And "Google" can be a big help.

UPDATE: Matt Hoy fires away, and dredges up an old Slate article by the earnest Prof in which he argues that the US should use its mighty power for good. Uhh, but not in Iraq!

OK, it is 1999, we are discussing Kosovo, with the high level bombing and Clinton's "no ground troops" commitment (later revised), and I think this little excerpt is fascinating:

For what it is worth, my own sense is that the true immorality of U.S. policy here is the implicit rate of exchange we have established between American and Kosovar lives. We are, to our credit, willing to spend a lot of money in an effort to prevent genocide. But we are very unwilling to place even a few hundred American lives at risk--say, by sending aircraft in direct, low-level attacks on the Serbian forces in Kosovo--even if that might save tens of thousands of civilians. I don't blame the administration, which is responding to a political reality; but it is worth pointing out that we are in effect saying that one American is worth hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Kosovars.

And, a bit later, we have this:

... we will surprise ourselves by facing up to the reality that you can't be a great power unless you are prepared to risk your own citizens' lives. If we discover the strength of character to do the right thing, there is still the question of whether European nations will also be prepared to join in. Some good could still come out of this; but I am not very hopeful.

Shockingly unilateral. However, I should add tha this criticism of the initial Kosovo strategy is similar to my own - Clinton was starting a fight that the country did not seem to be emotionally prepared to finish. And superpowers cannot commit their prestiege that carelessly.

UPDATE 2: How many Sullivans are out there? Oneof them especially liked this excerpt from Prof. Krugman in Slate:

...I do not think of myself as an all-purpose pundit. I remember once (during the air phase of the Gulf War) seeing John Kenneth Galbraith making pronouncements on TV about the military situation, and telling friends that if I ever start pontificating in public about a technical subject I don't understand, they should gag me. In other words, I have nothing to say about the awful news that isn't totally obvious.

Oh, step up. MoDo doesn't let a little lack of knowledge impede her.

(0) comments

Jonah Goldberg, Traitor!

His latest G-file is about the intimidation of free speech, so he mocks the Vichy Chicks and other Hollywood heroes. But his Metaphor Mangler goes unpatriotically awry right here:

Like airborne special forces, they load up with all of the useful metaphors, allusions, and adjectives — chilling effect, backlash, Orwellian, fascism, censorship — and then toss them around without much precision or care.

Without much precision or care? C'mon, we put the "Special" in Special Forces! We lead the world in precision guided munitions! Get with the defense budget, buddy.

UPDATE: My cool "Vichy Chicks" link won't work, but start here and scroll down. To make amends for the inconvenience, we have an advance copy of Bush's reaction to his Hollywood critics, AND a "Where's Cheney" update.

(0) comments

Monday, April 28, 2003

Good Question

It's Jesse v. Jonah at Pandagon. And here is a puzzler from Jonah:

...what liberals so often don't understand is that something can be wrong, undesirable or even illegal and still be constitutional.

OK, maybe I'm a liberal, because, like Jesse, I don't understand how something can be illegal, and still be constitutional.

However, my thought for the day - perhaps J Goldberg was thinking that something could be illegal and not be unconstitutional, as, for example, a non-Federal offense, or an offense on which the Constitution is silent. However, elimination of the double-negative leads to what looks like a false statement.

(0) comments

Shock And Awe

Greg Easterbrook, writing in the Sunday NY Times, delivers the shock and awe of overwhelming US military capability to your breakfast table.

...The American military is now the strongest the world has ever known, both in absolute terms and relative to other nations; stronger than the Wehrmacht in 1940, stronger than the legions at the height of Roman power. For years to come, no other nation is likely even to try to rival American might.

Which means: the global arms race is over, with the United States the undisputed heavyweight champion. Other nations are not even trying to match American armed force, because they are so far behind they have no chance of catching up. The great-powers arms race, in progress for centuries, has ended with the rest of the world conceding triumph to the United States.

Now only a nuclear state, like, perhaps, North Korea, has any military leverage against the winner.

Paradoxically, the runaway American victory in the conventional arms race might inspire a new round of proliferation of atomic weapons. With no hope of matching the United States plane for plane, more countries may seek atomic weapons to gain deterrence.

Surprisingly (shockingly?), he does not mention state-sponsored terrorism as another means of offsetting US conventional power.

Now, how much does this cost?

This huge military lead is partly because of money. Last year American military spending exceeded that of all other NATO states, Russia, China, Japan, Iraq and North Korea combined, according to the Center for Defense Information, a nonpartisan research group that studies global security. This is another area where all other nations must concede to the United States, for no other government can afford to try to catch up.

The runaway advantage has been called by some excessive, yet it yields a positive benefit. Annual global military spending, stated in current dollars, peaked in [Go ahead and guess] at $1.3 trillion, and has been declining since, to $840 billion in 2002. That's a drop of almost half a trillion dollars in the amount the world spent each year on arms. Other nations accept that the arms race is over.

OK, when did world military spending peak? Anyway, $500 billion per annum is quite a peace dividend. Don't anyone think of it as the US contribution to foreign aid, however. The US is stingy!

(0) comments

A Point Guard Always Looks For The Assist

Mo Cheeks, now a coach, still does.

(0) comments

Friday, April 25, 2003

Krugman Explains The "Krug Math"

His Tuesday column collected Bronx cheers from folks who wondered how he managed to keep a straight face while comparing the "cost" of ten years of tax cuts against the gain of one year's average wages. Let's review - my criticism is here, Don Luskin takes a shot, and TAPPED finds a defender of the Earnest Prof.

[Mini-Update: Max Sawicky is a late arrival, but he is not convinced by either side.]

First, let's glimpse the controversial passage:

Still, let's pretend that the Bush administration really thinks that its $726 billion tax-cut plan will create 1.4 million jobs. At what price would those jobs be created?

...The average American worker earns only about $40,000 per year; why does the administration, even on its own estimates, need to offer $500,000 in tax cuts for each job created?

Just to review, the $500,000 figure comes from dividing roughly $700 billion of tax cuts over ten years by the 1.4 million new jobs.

So, as predicted by Luskin, Prof. Krugman offers an explanation over at his personal website. Compared to the exposure of his NY Times column, this should be called the Krugman web-out-of-sight, but regardless. Here is a taste of the rationale:

I've gotten a fair bit of mail over the way I compared the annual cost of employing an average worker with the 10–year cost of the latest Bush tax cut. Some of the mail was in good faith, so here's the explanation.

I have to pause here. How can I qualify for the "good faith" mail category? I will double the obsequieosity of my next e-mail! Back to the Prof:

No, I didn't forget to divide by 10. (For God's sake: whatever you think of my politics, I am a competent economist, and know how to use numbers.) What I foolishly assumed readers would know - this isn't condescension, I really was foolish - is that no serious economist thinks that a tax cut or spending increase will have any effect on employment more than a couple of years from now. The reason is straightforward: normally the economy is operating more or less at full employment, and any demand stimulus from a tax cut will be offset by an interest rate increase by the Fed. The Fed, of course, polices the economy to prevent inflationary pressures. And eventually we will return to normal circumstances.

The only situation in which a tax cut or spending increase creates jobs is when the economy is operating below full employment, and the Fed is unable to remedy the situation.

We are in such a situation right now - or at least I think we are. The Fed, by the way, does not agree: it thinks that a good recovery is just around the corner, and that it will soon be raising interest rates; in that situation any demand push from a tax cut will simply cause it to raise interest rates faster.

Well, for a lark I would love to dredge up the talk Prof. Krugman gave in about 1995 when he explained that no reasonable economist thought that unemployment could go below about 6%. Anyway, he seems to be saying here that, assuming any reasonable mix of fiscal and monetary policy, the economy will end up back on its full employment track in a few years. A tax cut now may speed up the process of job creation by a few years, but eventually the economy will get to the target employment path regardless.

That being the case, the Bush tax cut only creates "extra" jobs for a couple of years at most; therefore dividing by ten is not appropriate.

OK, I think I get it. Don Luskin has his rebuttal, and here is mine, and I am operating at maximum pith - if all responsible economists agree that the back end of the Bush tax cut has no effect on job creation, then why include it in the calculation? Presumably the later years of the tax cut have other motivations, but by Prof. Krugman's statement, job creation could not be one of them. In which case, if the Bush people could not think the later tax cuts are there to create jobs, and Prof. Krugman does not think they are there to create jobs, then why does he include them in the calculation to show the "cost" of creating jobs?

Now, I should note that I part company with Mr. Luskin on this - his argument is that the 1.4 million new jobs, having been created, are attributable to the tax cut over the full ten years. Prof. Krugman's point seems to be that the US economy will eventually stagger to equilibrium and create those jobs on its own.

So, I suppose that the Krugman critique is that, when Bush and the White House say that this tax cut will create jobs, they are being disingenuous, sort of - yes, it will create jobs faster than otherwise, but eventually those jobs will happen. And since the Bush folks are saying that the whole $700 billion plan is needed to create those jobs a year early, Bush should be charged full freight.

Of course, Bush has also said that other good things will happen because of the tax cut, as I mentioned in my first post. If the Administration chooses to emphasize a particular feature of the plan, that does not mean the other features do not exist. For example, expanding the child credit has been pitched as "pro-family". Well, fine, but this week the talking point is jobs.

OK, a mini-update paints me into a tighter corner, and thanks. From the WaPo, describing Bush's trip to Ohio to promote the plan:

[Bush] linked it to short-term job creation and economic stimulus, even as his aides discussed the possibility of postponing some of the plan's stimulative measures. Bush said job creation is the "whole purpose" of his plan.

What's next, you are going to read his lips? Normal political oversell, ignore him!

Now, an excerpt from the CEA report itself seems to confirm part of Prof. Krugman's point:

On average over end-2002 to end-2007, job creation as a result of the package would be 140,000 higher than otherwise. This indicates that the proposal would bring forward a good deal of the job creation that would otherwise have occurred in 2005 and beyond (and add some as well).

As noted above, the statistical model used for the projections does not include any supply-side effects under which lower tax rates would be expected to boost labor supply and further improve job creation. Corporate income tax relief would likewise be expected to lead to positive supply-side effects through improved allocation of capital across the economy and thus higher growth and job creation—again, however, this is not reflected in the numerical projections.

Emphasis added. Well, as I wriggle about, let me point out that the CEA seems to think that the tax code can be changed to improve the long term equilibrium levels of employment in the US. My guess as to Prof. Krugman's model is that the government influences the economy through fiscal, monetary, and regulatory policy. Over the long run, the first two are neutral, so it is regulatory policy that will affect the equlibrium level of full employment (and I am thinking of the European labor markets as I say this).

I suspect that most of us would agree that taxes can have both a fiscal and a regulatory impact. For example, instead of a Social Security payroll tax of 15% capped at $80,000, the Feds could attempt to raise the same revenue with a flat tax of $12,000 per employee. I don't think anyone would argue that, even in the long run, the effect on employment of the two tax schemes would be the same. So, not all taxes are fully employment-neutral.

That said, the CEA has not attempted to estimate these "regulatory relief" effects of the tax plan on employment, and the 1.4 million figure "new jobs" seems to be as Prof. Krugman described - something that the CEA thinks would happen eventually anyway. If we are meant to take seriously Bush's statement that the tax cut is all about jobs, and the CEA is formally estimating 1.4 million new jobs roughly one year earlier than otherwise, I suppose that, in this narrow sense, Prof. Krugman is rrrriiii.... Oh, I can't say it.

So dividing by ten never made sense. I try to learn something new every day, and this blog certainly helps in that process. And why is Prof. Krugman dividing by one? Modesty, I suppose - the CEA report suggests that eighteen months might be right, Prof. Krugman's own comments suggest that he is more pessimistic about the duration of the slump than others, but apparently he thinks someone out there believes that the economy will be back on track in a year.

I will close with two questions.

When an enthusiast for the Clinton Administration says things like "Rubinomics led to the creation of 20 million new jobs", does P. Krugman leap to his feet and explain that most, if not all, of those jobs were pre-ordained?

And in his website piece, the Earnest Professor tells us that "Nobody, and I mean nobody, who knows any economics thinks that the tax cut will have an effect worth mentioning on employment 5 years from now, let alone 10." OK, I think he means by that that the tax cut will not have a significant effect on employment after five years, or ten.

So in his "Yes, We Have No Bananas" column where he refinanced his home mortgage and predicted hyperinflation in the US, he also quoted the warning that "a fiscal crisis threatens our future standard of living". Isn't it fair to infer that employment might suffer in such a scenario? For example, I thought Argentina was an example of a "banana republic" experiencing an economic collapse. What is the threat to our standard of living posed by the Bush plan, and where is the consistency with his current "no effect" argument? Or is he subtly arguing that we will operate at a new equilibrium with the same full employment, but (much) higher interest rates and inflation, and for other reasons that is a bad thing? We await (with trepidation) the painless collapse.

UPDATE: I'm back, like an alcoholic. NO, Bush is the alcoholic, says Krugman.

It's O.K. to run a deficit during a recession, as long as the deficit is clearly temporary. But both the numbers and the administration's search for excuses tell us that there's nothing temporary about the red ink. On the contrary, we'll probably be on a deficit bender until the baby boomers retire — and then it will get much worse.

Trust me: we're going to miss Rubinomics. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives.

Originally published in The New York Times, 1.17.03

Same question - if the only consequence of deficits is higher interest rates, and employment is not affected, what is the worry?

(0) comments

Mike Hawash Day

Mike Hawash may be a key figure in al-Qaeda's North American operation. Or, he may be just having the hard luck story of the month, as the fire-breathers at the St. Petersburg Times explain.

The Insta-man offered this link on April 8. Ms. Talk Left has posted repeatedly. Next Tuesday, he gets a Federal hearing, and apparently there will be protests at Federal courthouses up and down the West Coast.

Fish or cut bait, Mr. Ashcroft. We endorsed Operation Iraqi Freedom; now let's get going on Operation American Freedom.

(0) comments

Prof. Krugman - Not Good For Your Health

Prof. Krugman wonders today why we might prefer tax cuts to government sponsored health care. A quick hit:

So why should tax cuts take priority over health care? I know the party line: tax cuts for high earners are the key to economic growth, and a rising tide lifts all boats. But there's not a shred of evidence supporting that claim. More than two decades after the supply-siders launched their tax-cut crusade, ordinary workers have yet to see a rising tide. The median real wage is only 7 percent higher now than it was in 1979, with all of that increase achieved after Bill Clinton raised taxes for the top bracket.

If American families knew what was good for them, then most of them — all but a small, affluent minority — would cheerfully give up their tax cuts in return for a guarantee that health care would be there when needed. And even the affluent might prefer to live in a society where no sick child was left behind.

I find the median wage statistic very interesting. If I were a economist on the short list for a Nobel prize, I might have a few of questions:

The US economy is famous for creating jobs and absorbing third world immigrants, many of whom enter the US labor market at the low end of the wage scale. Pat Buchanan, if I recall, made a crusade of the belief that immigrants take away jobs from Americans and depress wages. Was he simply wrong on the facts, or have we as a society chosen to accept that as a consequence of our immigration policy? Or, viewed differently, wasn't globalization going to depress unskilled wages for US workers anyway, either through immigration or foreign competition, in which the Buchanan argument for excluding immigrants collapses? And is the median wage in a growing job market with many new entrants a fair measure of how individuals may have progressed over the last twenty years?

How have median wages performed in other countries? Europe is a disaster area for creating new jobs and absorbing immigrants, but they have national health! Can instructive comparisons be made between the US and Europe on this point?

Prof. K seems to believe that the choice is bewtween tax cuts and a national health care that "would be there when needed". Has he followed the debate in England over their attempts to reform their national health? I will link to about the first piece I found, and offer this excerpt:

Earlier, a report by former NatWest chief executive Derek Wanless had called for NHS spending to more than double by 2022.

Mr Wanless said spending on the NHS should rise to £184 billion a year from £68 billion a year now.

His report said the health service had been underfunded by £200 billion over the last 30 years. He called for an initial five year period of high growth to catch up, followed by a lower level of sustained investment.

His was the first major review of the future needs of the NHS since it was established in 1948.

...Under his plan, patients would wait no longer than two weeks for an inpatient or outpatient appointment.

This compares with the governments target of a 15 month maximum wait for inpatient treatment, met by the end of last month.

Fifteen months? Health care that is always there, if you should live so long.

So, how unreasonable is the American public when it doubts whether these plans deliver as advertised?

Just wondering.

(0) comments

A Special Treat For Readers Of The Dead Tree NY Times

A breakthrough moment for the front page of the NY Times, as they finally let the editor of "The Onion" take over.

Front and center on the front page is a photo from Iraq. In the background are several Iraqi men. The focal point, resting on the sand in the foreground, is a human skull. And why does the Times present this to its readers on a Friday morning? Directly underneath and to the left is a story headlined "Threat Gone, Iraqis Unearth Hussein's Nameless Victims". Fair enough.

However, directly underneath and to the right of the skull photo is the headline which caught my eye - "Bush Says Arms Will Be Found, With Iraqi Aid". Well, of course we will find the arms - we already have a "head" start!


(0) comments

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Someone Has To Be The First To Say It

A few days ago, Tom Friedman declared that the bubble in terrorism had burst:

Wars are always clarifying, and what this war clarified most was the degree to which there were actually three bubbles that burst at the beginning of the 21st century: a stock market bubble, a corporate ethics bubble and a terrorism bubble.

...there was a third bubble that had built up over the 1990's — the terrorism bubble. It started with the suicide bombings against U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, was followed by attacks on the U.S. Embassies in East Africa and on the U.S.S. Cole, then ballooned with the rise of Palestinian suicide terrorism in Israel and finally peaked with Al Qaeda's attack of 9/11.

We have seen the highs in the bull market for terror! Now, ABC News delivers a similar story, with this big finish:

The U.S. intelligence assessment of al Qaeda is the strongest indication yet that federal officials believe that the United States and its allies are beginning to win the war on terror.

(0) comments

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Daniel Drezner Is Non-Euphoric

He is not sure that, in the great Arafat-Abbas struggle to create a new government, Abbas represents hope and change. Ah, but when he sees this story from the NY Times (published prior to the last-minute deal was struck accepting the Abbas cabinet), his last hope will fail.

...While relying on international support, Mr. Abbas has made little effort to rally the public. He was a founder with Mr. Arafat of the mainstream Fatah movement, but he stayed for 40 years in the shadow of his charismatic friend and rival, and he has slim experience as a politician.

...Mr. Abbas has for now acquired the image of the candidate of the Americans and Israelis, as a consequence of Mr. Arafat's maneuvering, his own strategy and American and Israeli statements of support.

Having resolved other disputes, the two men have been at odds for several days over the appointment of one minister, Muhammad Dahlan, a security official from the Gaza Strip. The United States and Israel have pressed for Mr. Dahlan's appointment, believing that he will act to stop Palestinian violence.

Making Mr. Dahlan the focus has shaped the debate to benefit Mr. Arafat, by making Mr. Abbas appear more interested in achieving security for Israel and ending the armed uprising than in wringing concessions for Palestinians, improving their government and pursuing their national goals.

As he assembled his cabinet, Mr. Abbas had appeared intent on avoiding a public face-off with Mr. Arafat. In private meetings over the last month, he assured Palestinians that he had no plans to threaten Mr. Arafat's authority. He tried to compromise on his government, picking as ministers some of Mr. Arafat's allies and some men widely seen as corrupt or incompetent.

But Mr. Arafat then chose to confront Mr. Abbas over the list, and the reformers in the Palestinian Legislative Council who might have rallied to Mr. Abbas were too disappointed by his compromises to do so. Few seem willing to fight for this prime minister now.

"The present structure of the government, and his political program, will not find support within the P.L.C.," said Hatem Abdul Qader, a member of the parliament from Fatah. "It doesn't meet the P.L.C. criteria for reforms."

So, Abbas has lost the support of the locals and the reformers. But he is is cleverly positioned as Sharon's man in Palestine. It just keeps getting better.

(0) comments

Defense Of Marriage Act, 1996

As the excitement swirls around Sen. Sanitarium, we recall the Defense of Marriage Act, passed back in 1996 and signed by a nervous Bill Clinton. The Senate vote was 85 to 14, with Joe Lieberman and Bob Graham among the supporters. Of the other current Presidential candidates, both John Kerry and Carol Mosely-Braun opposed the bill. John Edwards had the good judgement to be in private practice, and ducked this one.

In the House, Dick Gephardt appears among the supporters.

Profiles in courage.

(0) comments

If I Had Any Character At All...

Who knew? It seems like only yesterday I was explaining that the bizarre comments of righty small-fry are not mine to defend. Now Sen. Rick Sanitorium, the number three Republican in the Senate leadership, offers up some profound thoughts on homosexuality and privacy.

First, my valiant defense. The early press reports suggetsted that he equated homosexuality with incest and polygamy:

'If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything,' Santorum said in the interview with the Associated Press.

Good news! The AP put the parenthetical "gay" in there as their attempt at a clarification. In the unedited transcript, it seems like Santorum was making a more abstract point about privacy rights generally.

Well, that is the end of the sprited defense. Santorum's theory of privacy rights as presented here is absurd. I accept his theoretical point that there ought to be some limits on a right to privacy. In fact, I suspect that Robert Bork addressed this at his infamous Senate hearing, in an exchange with Sen. Kennedy, and I may get around to looking it up. However, the limits that Santorum suggests are ridiculous - bigamy and polygamy as private consensual activities? If he is taking about group orgies, well, whatever turns you on. But actually getting a marriage legally recognized and making a spouse eligible for the employee health care plan, Social Security benefits, and what have you, is hardly something done in the privacy of the home. I am not a highly paid public legislator, but I suspect we could outlaw polygamy without also outlawing group sex. And my impression is that we as a society are drifting away from criminalizing adultery. Santorum is talking crazy talk here.

But are his comments homophobic, or just stupid? Well, the other bit that attracted attention seems to be this:

AP: I mean, should we outlaw homosexuality?

SANTORUM: I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just homosexual. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who's homosexual. If that's their orientation, then I accept that. And I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations? So it's not the person, it's the person's actions. And you have to separate the person from their actions.

I don't see how that works. OTOH, he seems to be presenting the standard position of the Catholic Church (and not only is Santorum Catholic, he was 1997 Catholic American of the Year!), so I am not sure that this will, or ought to, disqualify him from public office.

My Bold Prediction - This is not Trent Lott, so Santorum lives! Libertarian-minded conservatives shudder, fundamentalist style conservatives applaud.

OK, delicious backstory, and stop me if you knew this. Reading about Santorum's election to the Senate in 1994, I stumbled across these two tidbits:

The Republican moderate establishment, led by Specter, was decidedly unhappy with the prospect of Santorum, whom they viewed as too conservative and too pro-life. As the primary season unfolded, Specter began fishing for a primary challenger. Theresa Heinz, wife of former Senator John Heinz, David and Julie Eisenhower, and Barbara Hafer, the state's Auditor General, were mentioned as possibilities.

And, a bit later,

But, in the eleventh hour, two campaign flaps, one minor and one major, almost derailed the Santorum campaign. The minor flap involved Santorum's November 2nd statement on an Erie talk radio show that Theresa Heinz, the wife of deceased Senator John Heinz, had failed to endorse him because she was romantically involved with U.S. Senator John Kerry, Democrat from Massachusetts. Santorum was responding to remarks made the week before by Theresa Heinz when she told a University of Pittsburgh audience that Santorum was "the antithesis of John Heinz," and she was not going to vote for him.

Life is a circle. And, in a mini-Update, we see that the Kerry connection continues: allegedly it was the spouse of Kerry's campaign manager that inserted the word "gay" into the transcript.

UPDATE: Why Santorum will survive: it's mostly Dems screaming. The blogosphere was a great early alert on the Lott debacle. On the right, Reynolds and Sully called for his scalp early, (as did many others) and the rest is history.

With Santorum we see Volokh defending him. Reynolds criticizes Santorum's content, but does not call for his public execution. Sullivan is aghast, but his call for Santorum's ouster is not quite as clear as his post titled "Trent Lott Must Go". Here it is:

They [Santorum's comments] are not a relic of a bigoted past, as Trent Lott's were. But they are an expression of a bleak future, in which tolerance and privacy are subject to the approval of "moral" majorities and enforced by the police. If that truly is his view, he needs to explain it further. And the Republican party has to ask itself if it wants an unconservative extremist as one of its leaders.

I stand by my Bold Prediction. When the Republicans start sacking Catholics for talking like Catholics, then you will have a headline.

(0) comments

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Where Is My Calculator?

Where is Prof. Krugman's calculator? What do we make of this bit from his recent column?

Still, let's pretend that the Bush administration really thinks that its $726 billion tax-cut plan will create 1.4 million jobs. At what price would those jobs be created?

By price I don't just mean the budget cost; I also mean the cost of sacrificing other potential pro-employment policies on the altar of tax cuts. Once you take those sacrifices into account, it becomes clear that the Bush plan is actually a job-destroying package.

Not that the budget cost is minor. The average American worker earns only about $40,000 per year; why does the administration, even on its own estimates, need to offer $500,000 in tax cuts for each job created?

I am operating solely on the power of caffeine here, but even without a calculator I am pretty sure that the $500,000 figure comes from dividing the ten years of tax cuts by one year of new jobs, (i.e., 700 billion divided by 1.4 million equals $500,000) . Isn't that a bit of an "apples to fruit basket" comparison? Getting our decades straight, we would have $50,000 per year of tax cuts to produce each $40,000 per year job. Or, if "new jobs" rises linearly from zero to 1.4 million over the decade, the average new jobs per year will be 700,000, and the "annual tax revenue cost" will double to $100,000. Still puzzling, perhaps, if the only objective of the tax program is job creation, but not nearly as frightening as the Scary Professor would have us believe.

Of course, I don't suppose that the family related tax measures, such as the expanded child credit or the reduction in the marriage penalty, are really about creating jobs anyway. If I had real commitment, I would dig up the figures for the different parts of the plan, and see what we see. Where's the coffee?

UPDATE: Don Luskin doesn't like the fuzzy math either, and spends even more time demolishing it. We await the rally of the Krugman defenders to explain this one to us. Was it an honest mistake, a deliberate deception, or something too subtle for the average NY Times reader to grasp?

Or is the defense a simple "I told the truth" - the administration is discussing 1.4 million new jobs, the tax break is about 700 Billion, therefore simple arithmetic produces $500,000 per new job. The average annual wage is also $40,000. Two true statements. Anyone who compares the 500K to the 40K, as I did not (I am channelling Prof. Krugman here), well, that is just sloppy readership, and frankly it never dawned on me that anyone would make so obvious a mistake. Duh.

That is some defense. Does anyone have a better one? Like, one we might take seriously? And why am I so quick to dismiss this defense? Well, I don't see a mention of the fact that the $700 Billion tax cut is a ten year projection, for one thing. A casual reader might very easily believe that the 500K and the 40K were comparable, which would serve Prof. Krugman's partisan objectives quite nicely.

(0) comments

Conventional Wisdom Watch

Adam Nagourney and Richeard Stevenson on the Bush 2004 campaign plan.

My Bold Prediction that Kerry would be the Democratic nominee seems to be the emerging consensus of Republican advisors. I further predicted (only to live cocktail party audiences) that Edwards would emerge as the "Anybody But Kerry" candidate, and be the next-to-last man standing. Since the Times piece has the Repubs taking shots only at Kerry and Edwards, I seem to be utterly unimaginative on this point as well.

(0) comments

The Grand Unified Theory of Stories

"U.S., North Korea in Beijing for Nuclear Talks". The negotiators will get SARS.

UPDATE: Bonus Unified Story - the North Korean team will head home, infect the top leadership and... Regime Change!

(0) comments

Monday, April 21, 2003

Death, Taxes, And Media Bias

Kill me now.

(0) comments

Saturday, April 19, 2003

If You Take Enough Positions, They Can't All Be Wrong

Atrios on why he doesn't criticize fellow lefties:

...Brian Linse has a post up on the subject of lefty bloggers criticizing our own. This is one of my pet peeves- so much so that I think occasionally people misunderstand where I am coming from on the issue. When I started blogging I noticed that the "liberal" bloggers spent an inordinate amount of time writing and echoing the criticisms of liberals (or, more often than not "idiotarians") by the mouth-breathers on the other side. Why this bothered me particularly was that it was pretty clear to me that a lot of the lefty bloggers thought they had a bargain - we'll criticize our idiots if you criticize yours. I've never seen much of the latter.

...emphasis is everything. I have better things to do than try and prove something to the bullies on the other side by answering their calls to denounce the latest comment by some lefty somewhere. And, as Calpundit points out, more often than not stupid things done by idiot lefties aren't actually done by People in Power - you know, politicians, big media, etc, but rather the "Gilligan's Island Crowd" - movie stars and professors - or, Instapundit's favorite threat to society, "some anonymous guy with a stupid sign somewhere."

When elected officials and other prominent people involved with the Democrats have bigot eruptions, or whatever, I'll freely condemn them. But, when some idiot says something stupid in an alternative weekly, or Harry Belafonte says something, it has nothing to do with me....

Atrios on why righties should criticize Michael Savage and his new show on MSNBC:

Anyway, I'd like to jump up and down and scream and start a crusade against it - but, fuck it - he's your guy, Right Wingers, if you want him out there making you look good every weekend, you just keep quiet about it and continue bitching about the liberal media. Savage is a poisonous bigot - and he's your poisonous bigot. Will do wonders for Republican efforts to enlarge the big tent I'm sure.


UPDATE: Gosh, was it just last February? I knew I had an opinion about this. Not to spoil the surprise, but I agree with Atrios! Hmm, but which one?

UPDATE 2: Whack the Pinata! Atrios, Jesse, Jane, and Jay join in. Jolly!

Now, I have had a bit of a chance to do some field research, and actually located Michael Savage on my AM dial last night. Almost immediately, I learned that anyone who favors third trimester abortion is a baby-killing Hitlerite. Normally, I would have invoked Godwin's law and switched the dial, but this was for science! Soon thereafter, I learned that the production crew at Sixty Minutes are evil, psychotic, and treasonous. The Voice of the Sensible Center! If I could only operate the pre-programmed settings on my car radio, I would be a regular listener. Although apparently regular listeners don't want to be:

Savage’s incredibly grating mannerisms create the aural equivalent of driving by a horrific traffic accident—you know you shouldn’t look, out of respect for the dead and injured, but you feel compelled to slow down and take a peek.


MORE UPDATES: A Reader Rebellion! What about De Genova of the Million Mogadishu March, and isn't he a much smaller fish than the Savage One? Good Point! Fortunately, my archives are on Blogger, so we may never know my position on whether every lefty should decant De Genova (and let him breathe). But what will all these righties say if the InstaPundit archives are working...

(0) comments

Thursday, April 17, 2003

When TAPPED Declares A Winner, Play The Percentages

Put your money on the "loser". In the great debate about "What did France accomodate, and when did they accomodate it" between Mark Kleiman and Dr. Etzioni, TAPPED tipped Kleiman as the winner. Now, Mr. Kleiman had excellent posts on Tulia and soldiers operating out of uniform, so we will give him a "two out of three ain't bad" salute. Regrettably, on the question of French collaboration, he is lost. My rousing riposte will follow. Yeah, rebut that!

UPDATE: Links, comments, questions.

1. France had over a million men killed in WW I. The US lost about 50,000 men in Viet Nam. Would anyone attempt to discuss the attitude of the US public towards military action without mentioning Viet Nam? For the French, WWI was, proportionally, about 100 times worse (adjusting for population). What effect did it have on thier confidence in their political leadership or generals when rearmament and war became necessary in the 1930's?

2. Mr. Kleiman argues that the French effort in the Battle of France was not a disgrace. Charles De Gaulle made a career out of redeeming the honor of France, lost in 1940 and surrendered by Vichy. Who are you going to believe?

3. Mr. Kleiman tells us that some french joined Vichy, and some joined the resistance. Well, some folks voted for Nader, and some voted for Gore. Most of the French government opted to surrender; a military court sentenced De Gaulle to death; top officials such as Reynaud (one-time Prime Minister) and Daladier were arrested and eventually handed to the Germans. In fact, Reynaud met his future wife in a prison camp - when life hands you lemons....

4. Remember the Poles! Here is how they behaved after quickly losing to the Germans.

Polish Army in exile - THAT'S how to show some national pride.


46. Polish Army in France
Very shortly after the cessation of organized fighting by Polish forces against the German invaders, a Polish army was formed in France by General Sikorski. This army consisted of 4 1/2 infantry divisions, an armored brigade and the Carpanthian brigade, some 100,000 men in all. The first and second divisions took part in the battle of France; the Carpathian Brigade fought in Norway and was the first to enter Narvik.

47. Polish Army in England

After the collapse of France, General Sikorski succeeded in evacuating a large part of the Polish troops to England, where Poland now has an army corps including an armored division, a rifle brigade, a parachute brigade , and other units.

48. Polish Army in the Middle East

When the Polish-Russian Treaty as signed in July, 1941, a number of Polish prisoners of war in Russia were released, and a new army was organized on Russian soil under General Anders. Before having been equipped it was transferred to the Middle East at the request of the Soviet Government. With the Carpathian Brigade now expanded to a Division, it forms separate army corps. Polish ground forces in the Middle East number some 75,000 men, fully trained and equipped with the most modern American and British armament.

49. Polish Air Force

After the fall of Poland, Polish fighter squadrons were set up in France, while bomber crews were training in Britain. When Hitler attacked in the West, 133 Polish fighter pilots, fighting with the British and French Air Forces faced his air armada. They won 55 victories, losing 15 men. Yet the most glorious achievement of the tiny Polish Air Force was in the Battle of Britain, when it destroyed 195 enemy machines out of the total of 2,366 brought down by the Royal Air Force....

France before the war: Unready and unwilling.

The Phony War - France and Britain declared war on Germany when it invaded Poland. The Pooes hoped that a French attack on Germany would draw German forces out of Poland. On the Franco-German border, over 100 French divisions confronted roughly forty German divisions. The French delivered the Saar "offensive":

French patrols cross the frontier into Germany near Saarbrucken, marking the beginning of the Saar offensive. A total of 11 divisions advance along a 32 km frontage. There is negligible German opposition. The French mobilization is too slow and their tactical system too inflexible to permit any grander offensive operation. These gentle probes continue until September 17th when a larger advance is supposed to be made but is in fact cancelled because the Polish collapse makes it pointless.

Battle of France

The Free French Army, at four thousand men, is somewhat smaller than its Polish counterpart.

The Vichy Government arrests the former Prime Minister and delivers him to the Germans.

(0) comments

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Let's Talk Conspiracy Theories!

I have sat out the entire excitement about "Salam Pax", the blogger from Baghdad. However, the plot has thickened irresistibly.

Steven Den Beste posts, wondering whether Salam, who last posted on March 24, was arrested in Manhattan on March 25. Mr. Den Beste links to an ABC account of the arrest, but the NY Times presents the information slightly differently:

A criminal complaint unsealed on Monday accused him of having secret contacts with Iraqi intelligence officers in New York beginning in January 2001 and of working on behalf of officers who wanted to track down Iraqis living in the United States, including dissidents and former government officials.

OK, so maybe this "Raed" mentioned in the Times was a double agent, or maybe not. But if his goal was to track down Iraqis living in the States who were unsympathetic to Saddam, a popular blog might be one way to get some names. The question of whether "Salam Pax" was a hoax always lost traction on the question of motive - I will let Insta-man be Everyman on this point:

I feel fairly confident that Salam's blog wasn't a government propaganda outlet for the U.S. or Iraqi governments -- or at least, that if it was one it wasn't a very good one, since it didn't really produce a lot of points for one side or another. Beyond that, who knows? Unless, of course, Salam turns up.

But did the blog produce any interesting contacts? The guy sure got Blogosphere Buzz, clocking in at #49 in the Bear Ecosystem.

So far I haven't moved much past the point made by Mr. Den Beste. However, my kicker - what is going on with with Diane Moon of Letter From Gotham? She was one of the first contacts and early boosters of Salam Pax, and recently chatted with the New Yorker about him. And here is recent news received by Glenn:

Diana Moon announces that due to problems at work, she must not only stop
blogging but take down her blog altogether. She will return to blogging as
soon as possible.

Hmm, problems at work,and now her blog is gone. Ms. Moon quit last fall, and tried to take down her old posts then, but reverse Blogger archive problems thwarted her. This time, her normal addresses return nothing, so she seems to be truly gone. But not forgotten, since Google caches everything. From her April archive we see on April 9 that she was re-thinking her blog due to what seem to be work-related issues (401 (k) and "landlord to pay" are my clues). However, this takedown does overlap with what we presume to be an active investigation of Raed.

Maybe it all means nothing. But maybe Ms. Gotham has been asked by the Feds to take down her blog to protect evidence, or witnesses, or something. A Bold Prediction - if the Google caches of her blog also mysteriously disappear, we have to presume Something Is Up.

Oh, and Full Disclaimer - I am a total fan of Ms. Gotham. That said, this speculation is purely my own. I have not made any attempt to double check this wild guess with her. And I am not suggesting she was also working with the Feds, or the Iraqis, or anyone at all.

(0) comments

Overoptimism Among Democrats

Adam Nagourney of the NY Times, in a piece titled "Looking at Postwar Bush, Democrats Are Gloomy About 2004", reveals Democratic Presidential hopefuls to be unreasonably optimistic.

Yes, we may well have ongoing national security concerns which will undercut Democratic attempts to focus the debate on a weak economy or a lack of health care. But the article does not contemplate the effect on Democrats of a "catastrophic success" in the Middle East. Just imagine that it is September 2004, with Sharon and the new Palestinian Prime Minister shaking hands in a Rose Garden ceremony celebrating the latest (genuine?) breakthrough on the Palestinian question. Picture the effect on Jewish donors, and Jewish voters in swing states like Florida, or, dare we whisper it, New York.

However bleak and unpromising the international scene appears to the Democrats right now, it could still get much, much worse.

(0) comments

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Outrage, Investigation, ...

Cover-up? We are intrigued by the follow up to this Miami Herald story picked up by Knight Ridder. An army chaplain in Iraq would allow soldiers to bathe themsleves if they listened to some religious teaching and agreed to be baptized.

Outrage as described by the WaPO.

Army explanation, cover-up, or whatever.

Now, I am getting this from what seems to be a Baptist news service, and I cannot find the Army statement to which they refer. At this point, I assume the Miami Herald "embed" will stand by her story. After that, who knows?

UPDATE: Over at Indymedia, a reader posts this response from theoffice of the Chief of Chaplains:

Based on your earlier inquiry about the report of CH Llano, a US Army Chaplain, I wanted to offer you the following information. Thank you for your concern and interest. I hope this reassures you about the expectations of the Army and work of Army chaplains.

The free exercise of religion is a foundational issue to us in the chaplaincy. In fact, we first became aware of this at about 9:30 pm last Thursday, and by 10:00 pm that night, the Chief of Chaplains requested additional information. The Army respects and actively accommodates the religious practices of all soldiers. In accordance with the practices of many Baptist traditions, the Army provides water for full-body immersion baptisms when it is available.

Based on news reports and questions from members of the media, the Office of the Chief of Chaplains requested additional details on the accuracy of the quotations and the nature of the actions performed by an Army chaplain while in Iraq. There are some factual problems with the article. There have been tens of thousands of water produced each day at the Corps Support Base and readily available to soldiers for all personal hygiene, drinking water, and enough to allot water for a baptismal pool during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Army does not condone religious coercion. The chain-of-command, supported by the Chaplain Corps, ensures that soldiers are free to exercise their religious beliefs. The local commander has direct knowledge of the chaplain's action and has very high regard for the work of the chaplain.

Access to water was never used in any way as a bribe for baptism. Chaplain Llano states he did not offer any quotes or statements in response to questions by the reporter. He indicates she overheard conversations he had with another officer and these were presented as quotations. The supervisory chaplain has direct knowledge of the chaplain's actions and indicates the religious activities described by the reporter are attended by the choice of the soldiers. The Joint Force Land Component Commander in Kuwait has received no complaints of religious coercion from soldiers in the field.

The threshold for concern about protecting the free exercise is extremely low. Chaplains have performed their religious rites, sacraments and ordinances representing the faith group which sends them and provide for the religious support of all soldiers. The Chief of Chaplains affirms and commends the chaplains, chaplain assistants and directors of religious education deployed with US soldiers providing religious support at the risk of their lives.

Chaplain (Lt Col) Eric Webster
Office of the Chief of Chaplains

Emphasis added. Iraq is not all desert, we might recall.

(0) comments

Monday, April 14, 2003

I Can Call Spirits From The Vasty Deep

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?

Professor Glendower, often praised for his writing skills, reaches Shakespearean heights with his latest critique of the Bush tax cut:

...the White House is fixated on achieving another political triumph — the elimination of taxes on dividends — that has little or no relevance to our current economic troubles.

I could demonstrate this irrelevance by going through an economic analysis, but here's a telling political clue: USA Today reports that faced with concerns in Congress about budget deficits, the administration has indicated that it is willing to consider a phase-in of its dividend plan.

I concede - I don't see how anyone can fault the unpublished, undescribed economic analysis Prof. Krugman would have performed if only USA Today were not offering such compelling fare.

However, although his model is not available, there seem to be competing forecasts which dispute his conclusion.

Finally, an Annoying Disclaimer - I am engaged in mere reflexive oppositionalism here. I was a skeptic about the size of the proposed tax cut back in January, and especially wondered about whether the dividend tax cut was too complex to be justified. If I work up the nerve, I will turn on my Selective Excerpter, crack open the Blogger archives, and prove it. Regrettably, I am reasonably certain I will not find an economic model to support my view. Time will tell!

(0) comments

Separation Of Church And State

The always engrossing NY Times takes us back to Islam in France. Now, resequencing the story a bit, we are assured that France believes in the separation of church and state:

...there are the women's issues. Ms. Debza, for example, who covers her hair with two scarves, wants the council to press the government to bend its 1905 law separating church and state, which forbids any display of religiosity in schools or the workplace.

"I can't find work here because of my head scarf," she said. "But my head scarf is a part of me. I won't take it off. We have to educate the state about why the scarf is so important and why there should be no fear of it."

Now, I know nothing about this law, so you can imagine my puzzlement as I read this:

The two were among 137 delegates who voted in the modern city hall of this working-class suburb of Paris, not for a school board or town council, but for the first organization to represent the five million Muslims of France.

It is part of an ambitious national project to create what Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has called "an official Islam of France." Mr. Sarkozy, who has spent much time visiting mosques and Islamic centers to win support for the council, told worshipers at a Lyon mosque before the first round of voting a week ago that organizing France's Muslims is the way to fight "the Islam of cellars and garages that has fed extremism and the language of violence."

At polling stations throughout the country last Sunday and again today, more than 4,000 delegates from nearly 1,000 mosques and prayer centers voted for members of the new council's general assembly and central committee, as well as 25 regional bodies.

The council will deal directly with the French government on issues as wide-ranging as the cutting of meat according to Islamic standards, the need for more Muslim chaplains and social workers in prisons, the administration of France's mosques and prayer houses and ways to prevent the radicalization of young Muslims.

Muslim leaders say the council will also give them greater authority to get building permits and financing for mosques and designated space for Muslims in cemeteries. They also seek paid time off to celebrate Islamic holidays.

"This is the first time that Muslims are voting as Muslims, that I don't feel like a foreigner in France," said Muhammad Aziz Aziz, the Moroccan-born liaison official between town authorities and the grand mosque of this city, which he described as the biggest mosque in Western Europe. "This is the first time that Islam is considered a building block in France's democracy."

Perhaps I am hopelessly lacking in imagination, but this does not strike me as "separating" church and state. And, later in the story, the plot is revealed:

In a recent interview on French television, [Interior Minister] Sarkozy praised the French experiment as "setting an important example," adding, "What I want is a training college for imams who speak French, who know our culture and respect our customs."

...The creation of the council is part of a campaign by successive governments since the 1980's to gain control over a community that includes Muslims of varying degrees of religiosity and political activism from places as far-reaching as Algeria and Cameroon. Only half of them are French citizens. Similar bodies already exist for Catholics, Jews and Protestants.

The effort to organize the country's Muslims took on more urgency after Sept. 11, which led to a rise in anti-Muslim feelings among French citizens. Meanwhile, the American-led war against Iraq and the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has fueled anti-American sentiments among Muslims and Arabs in France.

So, emphasis added because it IS a government plot!

Now, I would be delighted to see France constructively integrate its Muslim population. I would recommend a more flexible labor market that occassionally created a job, but I suppose allowing women to wear headscarves to school or work might also help. I am simply agog at the concept of church-state separation being described here.

(0) comments

To Infinity, And Beyond

I found this fascinating. The author provides a quick review of why science does not need God, and then delivers the switcheroo.

(0) comments

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Groundhog Day

Or, it's deja vu all over again. Even Josh Marshall, evidently unable to spell "Dunkirk", is bracing himself for good news from Iraq. North Korea hints that it may bend to Bush's iron will and agree to multi-lateral talks.

Fortunately, amidst all this gloom, folks are still able to scream "racist Republicans ". The Washington Post wonders, "Where's The Outrage", and the reliable Mr. Marshall joins in.

A bit of scene-setting from the WaPo:

...another lawmaker, Republican Rep. Barbara Cubin of Wyoming, has out-Lotted Mr. Lott. Mrs. Cubin's remarks came not in a birthday tribute to a centenarian but on the floor of the House of Representatives, in the midst of a serious debate on a gun measure. No historical memory is needed to adequately appreciate their bald racism. And unlike in the case of Mr. Lott, Mrs. Cubin's remarks seem to have provoked barely a word of protest from her Republican colleagues. For fear that some may think they are taken out of context, we reprint the offending part here in its entirety: "My sons are 25 and 30. They are blond-haired and blue-eyed. One amendment today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So does that mean if you go into a black community, you cannot sell a gun to any black person, or does that mean because my -- "

At this point, Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) demanded that her words be stricken from the record as inappropriate. "

As to "where is the outrage", a few points merit notice. Trent Lott was the Senate Majority Leader, whereas Ms. Cubin is a House backbencher; Mr. Lott had a troubling racial history, which Ms. Cubin seems to lack; Mr. Lott's comments seemed to be unspinnable, whereas Ms. Cubin's seem to be easily defended; and finally, Mr. Marshall himself notes a significant factor, telling us that "I've been so taken up with the war that I haven't had time to make any mention of this yet." Well, yes.

The WaPo gives a partial presentation of her defense, but more is offered in the must-read Star-Tribune:

Cubin said later that because Democratic Rep. Melvin Watt of North Carolina, who is black, interrupted her at that point, the meaning of her statement was distorted.

"The point I was trying to make was that because my sons look like the Columbine (High School) killers should they be prevented from buying guns and just because some black people sell drugs should all black people be prevented from buying guns?" Cubin said. "If I had not been interrupted it would have been clear."

The WaPo attacks this defense with this comment:

Mrs. Cubin said later that she was simply trying "to make the point that stereotyping is always wrong." If so, she chose an odd way to do so. The reference to her sons, she explained, was headed in the direction of asking if they should be kept from buying guns because they look like "the children at Columbine." But to argue analogously that the amendment would have kept dealers from selling guns in the black community is true only if you subscribe to a worldview in which "African American" equals "presumptive drug user."

Well, no. Her argument (which we can all agree was poorly presented) is true only if you subscribe to a worldview in which somewhere out there may be racist gun-dealers to whom "African-American" equals "presumptive drug user", and who will refuse to sell to black customers based on this rationale. Is it really the position of the WaPo that this notion is so outrageous as to be evidence in itself of racism? Ms. Cubin is racist for worrying that other people might be? I am struggling here.

The WaPo does not mention that eleven Democrats abstained, and four sided with the Republican majority. They were John Dingell, Mich.; Rick Boucher, Va.; Barney Frank, Mass.; and David Obey, Wis.

Loose ends: Ms. Cubin's troubling history of racial relations seems to be found in this comment, although this indictment may be incomplete:

Cubin previously ran afoul of minority groups nationwide in 1995 when she compared welfare recipients to pen-reared wolves that will not leave their cages.

"Just like with any animal of the species, when you take away their freedom they can't provide for themselves,'' she said during final debate on a welfare reform act.

And, since I am not a lawyer, I would be intrigued to know the answer to this question, posed during the debate, which revolved around restricting gun manufacturer's liability. Here we go:

I'm in favor of trigger locks and disagree with the N.R.A. on some issues," [Dem. Representative Artur Davis of Alabamat] said, "but I happen to think that the N.R.A. has a point on the issue of lawsuits. If you're hit by someone driving a car at 90 miles an hour, I don't think you should sue General Motors for making a car that someone else uses to break the law."

My question - why can't we sue GM under product liability laws? The Next Big Thing!

(0) comments

This Guy Is Pretty Good

Good enough to find Josh Marshall in a non-hyperbolic moment.

WARNING: Blogger archive links at work!

(0) comments

Tell It To The Marines

It looks like the Red Sox can add to their woes this season. In addition to battling the Yankees and the Curse of the Bambino, they will have to contend with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

CAMP FENWAY, Iraq, April 11 — The road along the perimeter of Camp Fenway leads to nowhere. It runs through the middle of nowhere and it seems to come from nowhere.

Everybody is a critic.

(0) comments

Friday, April 11, 2003

Always Announce Bad News On Friday

Cuban TV: Ferry hijackers executed: The crime was committed on April 2, the trial ended on April 11, and the sentence was carried out immediately. The rapid sequence of events, plus the war headlines, must be why I missed the protests and candlelight vigils that would have marked a similar execution in the US.

Micky Kaus has more, and lots of links, on the Yoko Ono Express tour of Havana.

(0) comments

Always Check The "Sell-By" Date

Sullivan has a round-up of predictions for disaster that ended disastrously. He does not seem to have mentioned Seymour Hersh's New Yorker piece. The story appears in a newsstand issue dated "April 7", which of course is the day it is meant to be replaced by a subsequent issue, or, in this case, subsequent events. The article apparently appeared on March 31.

According to a dozen or so military men I spoke to, Rumsfeld simply failed to anticipate the consequences of protracted warfare. He put Army and Marine units in the field with few reserves and an insufficient number of tanks and other armored vehicles. (The military men say that the vehicles that they do have have been pushed too far and are malfunctioning.) Supply lines-inevitably, they say-have become overextended and vulnerable to attack, creating shortages of fuel, water, and ammunition. Pentagon officers spoke contemptuously of the Administration's optimistic press briefings. "It's a stalemate now," the former intelligence official told me. "It's going to remain one only if we can maintain our supply lines. The carriers are going to run out of jdams"-the satellite-guided bombs that have been striking targets in Baghdad and elsewhere with extraordinary accuracy. Much of the supply of Tomahawk guided missiles has been expended. "The Marines are worried as hell," the former intelligence official went on. "They're all committed, with no reserves, and they've never run the lavs"-light armored vehicles-"as long and as hard" as they have in Iraq. There are serious maintenance problems as well. "The only hope is that they can hold out until reinforcements come.

The 4th Infantry Division-the Army's most modern mechanized division-whose equipment spent weeks waiting in the Mediterranean before being diverted to the overtaxed American port in Kuwait, is not expected to be operational until the end of April. The 1st Cavalry Division, in Texas, is ready to ship out, the planner said, but by sea it will take twenty-three days to reach Kuwait. "All we have now is front-line positions," the former intelligence official told me. "Everything else is missing."

Last week, plans for an assault on Baghdad had stalled, and the six Republican Guard divisions expected to provide the main Iraqi defense had yet to have a significant engagement with American or British soldiers. The shortages forced Central Command to "run around looking for supplies," the former intelligence official said. The immediate goal, he added, was for the Army and Marine forces "to hold tight and hope that the Republican Guard divisions get chewed up" by bombing. The planner agreed, saying, "The only way out now is back, and to hope for some kind of a miracle-that the Republican Guards commit themselves," and thus become vulnerable to American air strikes. "

Is there the journalistic equivalent of "bag and tag"? If Mr. Hersh ever quotes to this "former intelligence official" again, can he do it in a way that indicates the fellow's complete lack of credibility?

In asking this question, I draw special attention to "It's a stalemate now," the former intelligence official told me. "It's going to remain one only if we can maintain our supply lines", and "The only way out now is back".

(0) comments

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Gen. McCaffrey, Call Your Office (cont.)

Mickey has a call out for the General! But did Mickey see Gen. McCaffrey on MSNBC (or Fox News? Darn these infernal channel-surfing devices!) last night? Asked about Cheney's response to the critics of the war plan, such as McCaffrey, the General responded, roughly:

"Dick Cheney is a national treasure, and when he speaks I listen very carefully".

McCaffrey went on to say that, while the decisions made by Rumsfeld seem to have worked out, the war was won by the privates, corporals, sergeants, and lieutenants who fought so bravely and well.

(0) comments

The NY Times And The Wide World Of Race Relations

Affirmative action in Brazil, and a bit of a puzzler - how do you have preferences for "blacks" in a proudly multi-racial society that has no definition of "black"?

As a byproduct of the debate, Brazilians are also being forced to define who is black, a process they find puzzling and alien. More than 300 terms are used to designate skin color — from the dark-skinned crioulo to the light-skinned brancarao — and racially mixed relationships are the norm rather than the exception. As a result, racial categories have never been defined as they were in more segregated countries.

College admission in Brazil is highly competitive, with many more applicants than places available, especially for prestigious public universities, and entrance examination scores count for everything. Of the 1.4 million students admitted to universities in Brazil each year, only 3 percent identify themselves as black, and only 18 percent come from the public schools, where most black Brazilians study.

...Under the new system for college admissions adopted here, all applicants declaring themselves to be of "African descent" on admission forms are considered to be black and given preferential treatment. But that has led to complaints of abuses, in which students who do not have dark skin or features considered African — including some of Asian or Jewish descent — have designated themselves as black to improve their chances of being admitted.

No one can agree, however, on a better system. In a televised campaign debate last year, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, now the country's president, was widely criticized when he maintained that "scientific criteria" could be used to determine who is black.

"A black person," Mr. Bastos said this week, "is someone who feels black and lives as a black. I don't believe there is any objective, scientific criteria."

And in France, a story that could have been titled "Young, Muslim, And... French?":

MARSEILLE, France, April 4 — To enter the Rue du Bon Pasteur in the heart of this Mediterranean port is to leave France. Or rather, it is to leave a France still fixed in the imagination of many, a land where French is spoken and the traditions of a secular society are enforced.

I am left at the starting gate - probably it is just a hangover from "The Three Musketeers", but I cannot think of France as a "secular society". As an aspiration, yes. As a reality, well...

That street reflects the political and social reality facing France. Demography has transformed the country, whose population is about 7 percent Arab and Muslim, the highest percentage in Western Europe.

The figures are more striking in Marseille, where about 10 percent is Arab and about 17 percent Muslim, a figure that is elevated by immigrants from the African former French colony of the Comoros.

"We are no longer a France of baguettes and berets, but a France of `Allah-u akbar' and mosques," said Mustapha Zergour, the director of Radio Gazelle, a station geared to the Arab community.

Complicating its troublesome place in society is that much of the Arab-Muslim population in France not only feels alienated from mainstream France but also split within itself — by ethnicity, history, religiosity, politics and class.

Muslims have lived here since the colonization of Algeria in the 1830's, and many have been integrated into middle-class life for decades. But with the Arab population surging in recent decades, France faces twin identity crises: that of the nation itself and that of its Muslims.

These show themselves in many of the same symptoms that can be found among challenged minorities anywhere — in lawlessness and joblessness, in broken families and in the abuse of women impossibly trying to appease the demands of competing cultures.

"I don't feel French," said Jamila Laaliou, 24, an employee of the Marché du Soleil, a covered food market by the mosque. "I have never felt French. Here I feel safe, because everyone is Arab. But the France outside is a France of racism, and the racism has gotten worse since Sept. 11."

...To help integrate Arabs and Muslims into French society, the center-right government has embarked on an ambitious project to create an official Islam for France.

Last Sunday, half of France's Muslim population went to the polls to elect representatives to a national Muslim council that will address issues like education, dress and work. The other half will vote next Sunday. Similar councils have long existed for Catholics, Protestants and Jews.

Emphasis added. Church and state separatists are, I imagine, either laughing out loud or rolling on the floor in horror. The government establishes by election the national councils for various religions? Gee, and I thought that giving churches a tax-exempt status,as we do in the US, was controversial. Get Cardinal Richilieu on the line!

...For [school principal] Mr. Pellegrini, the problem is larger: a feeling of alienation from French society. "The kids feel that somehow integration doesn't work," he said. "They know that doors will remain shut not because of their religion, but because of the way they talk, the places they come from and sometimes the color of their skin."

That is as close as the story comes to identifying the central problem. "American" is a state of mind; "French" is an ethnic identity, as is "German". One attempt to address this is through the EU and the creation of a broader "European" identification. Well, at one time, folks here thought of themselves as "New Yorkers", or "Georgians", and more strongly identified with their state than with their nation, so the change is possible. Good luck.

(0) comments

More From George Bush

Andrew Sullivan provides a no-link excerpt from Bush's inaugural address:

We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors... The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom. We will defend our allies and our interests. We will show purpose without arrogance. We will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength. And to all nations, we will speak for the values that gave our nation birth... And an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm." - the inaugural address of president George W. Bush, to whom above everyone else, the Iraqi people owe their new freedom.

For more on Bush and the march of freedom, here is the conclusion to his "axis of evil" State of the Union Address in January 2002:

This time of adversity offers a unique moment of opportunity, a moment we must seize to change our culture. Through the gathering momentum of millions of acts of service and decency and kindness, I know: We can overcome evil with greater good.

And we have a great opportunity during this time of war to lead the world toward the values that will bring lasting peace. All fathers and mothers, in all societies, want their children to be educated and live free from poverty and violence. No people on Earth yearn to be oppressed, or aspire to servitude, or eagerly await the midnight knock of the secret police.

If anyone doubts this, let them look to Afghanistan, where the Islamic "street" greeted the fall of tyranny with song and celebration. Let the skeptics look to Islam's own rich history -- with its centuries of learning, and tolerance, and progress.

America will lead by defending liberty and justice because they are right and true and unchanging for all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them. We have no intention of imposing our culture -- but America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law ... limits on the power of the state ... respect for women ... private property ... free speech ... equal justice ... and religious tolerance.

America will take the side of brave men and women who advocate these values around the world -- including the Islamic world -- because we have a greater objective than eliminating threats and containing resentment. We seek a just and peaceful world beyond the war on terror.

...The last time I spoke here, I expressed the hope that life would return to normal. In some ways, it has. In others, it never will. Those of us who have lived through these challenging times have been changed by them. We've come to know truths that we will never question: Evil is real, and it must be opposed.

Beyond all differences of race or creed, we are one country, mourning together and facing danger together. Deep in the American character, there is honor, and it is stronger than cynicism. Many have discovered again that even in tragedy, especially in tragedy, God is near.

In a single instant, we realized that this will be a decisive decade in the history of liberty -- that we have been called to a unique role in human events. Rarely has the world faced a choice more clear or consequential.

Our enemies send other people's children on missions of suicide and murder. They embrace tyranny and death as a cause and a creed. We stand for a different choice -- made long ago, on the day of our founding. We affirm it again today. We choose freedom and the dignity of every life.

Steadfast in our purpose, we now press on. We have known freedom's price. We have shown freedom's power. And in this great conflict, my fellow Americans, we will see freedom's victory.

Thank you, thank you all, and may God bless.

(0) comments