Just One Minute
Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Monday, June 30, 2003

Karl Rove Smiles

The Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action and gay rights are good news for Republican strategists. Democratic fundraisers will have a slightly harder time persuading us that Scalia and Ashcroft have us poised on the brink of fascism. Still, I am sure they will press on with just that message. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Jacob Levy has an excellent post on the political implications of this decision.

(0) comments

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Jude Wanniski Is Scathing On WMDs

And yes, it really is THAT Jude Wanniski.

This gives me an excuse to save this link, which I want to come back to, with special attention to this quote:

If he had in fact disarmed, he had everything to gain and nothing to lose by cooperation with the U.N., yet he continued to lie and to obstruct the U.N. inspectors," Mr. Rumsfeld said during a Pentagon news briefing.

With any luck, I will dredge up the Hauserian trouncing of this, and proceed from there.

(0) comments

Friday, June 20, 2003

Prof. Krugman Gazes Into His Crystal Ball

I used to like him when he was shrill and partisan, but now he is just doing market forecasts.

In his latest column, titled "Who Are You Gonna Believe, Me Or Your Lying Eyes?", Prof. Krugman explains why the current stock market rally is fool's gold. He does not explain why this is important in June of 2003, with the election sixteen months away. Yes, the rising stock market has buoyed Republican hopes, and one can hear the teeth gnashing in Princeton, but how many academic economists make (or risk) their reputation trying to second-guess the stock market? Not many, for a reason. Well, maybe this column has no partisan motivation whatsoever. That's certainly a possibility.

Now, I really, really, REALLY am going on vacation. But before I race out the door, I can do my own forecast of the excerpts that will provide the laugh lines for the Krug-critics:

Or, to put it another way: it's hard to find any real news to justify the market's leap.

Neither the quick war nor the tax bill were real.

...Instead, investors seem to be buying stocks because they are rising — which is pretty much the definition of a bubble.

Emphasis added.

...What's clear, however, is that investors' big move back into the market has been driven not by careful comparison of returns, but by the fact that stocks are rising...

Oh, so now it is clear! That just took a few paragraphs to get from "seem to" to "clear". I hope it is not puzzling again by the Big Finish.

In short, the current surge in stocks looks like another bubble, one that will eventually burst.

Time will tell! We will put this on the watchlist with some other classic bits of futurology from the Earnest Prof:

June 7, 2002: Mr. Cheney — who ridiculed conservation and price controls, which in the end were what saved California — remains in charge of energy policy. And that scares me more than terrorism.

...Osama bin Laden can't destroy Western civilization. Carbon dioxide can.

Jan. 29, 2002: I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.

Sorry, out of time. The news that he refinanced his mortgage was delivered on March 3, 2003. From Yahoo, I see that their Treasury index did rise after that shrewd move, but has since fallen to a level below that of March 3. So far, it was a good trade, but a bit early as a long term play.

UPDATE: The man Sans Q is not on vacation.

And it looks like I do need a vacation, or maybe I should read my spam e-mails more carefully. Apparently I am having trouble keeping it up.

THIS IS IT: They can see no reasons 'cause there are no reasons, what reason do you need to be told?

(0) comments

Thursday, June 19, 2003

TAPPED Sends Me Down The Rabbit Hole

This post criticized Dave Kopel for his reference to the NY Times coverage of the Appalcahia Law School shooting. I vaguely remembered the incident - law school shooter subdued by armed students, which the media covered up - so I was surprised to think that TAPPED might be right about this. A quick check showed that Kopel was wrong about the NY Times reporting, as Kopel admitted and TAPPED duly noted.

But even before Kopel posted his correction, I was hooked. The story I remembered was from a John Lott article, and I expect I came to it via the InstaPundit. Bill Quick, the Daily Pundit, also mentioned the story as an example of media bias here and here.

Now, a brief pause for a moment of confusion - Bill Quick refers to NY Times coverage as ignoring the armed students, which was also Kopel's (corrected) point. It turns out that the NY Times initially posted an early AP story on their website. Later, the Times reporter added the "armed students" bit, so Quick was right. If Kopel had stayed away from a byline and excerpts, he would have had a defensible position. Hard luck, Dave.

But the real gold is in the information put together by Tim Lambert, and linked by TAPPED. The very quick summary of the Appalachia Law School shooting:

Different witnesses saw different things, which is understandable. Some reporters simply did not know that some of the students were armed. Some of the students did not know, for that matter. So rather than an example of media bias, this incident may be an example of confused witnesses and a rapid, "moving on" news cycle.

Secondly, the armed students were trained law enforcement officers. Bill Quick predicted that the media would focus on this as part of their bias against armed citizens. The critic Lambert cites says, well, shouldn't they? Most gun controllers still support arming law enforcement officers. The notion that this incident is an example of the virtues of an armed citizenry is just false, and Lott is deceiving us by concealing that fact in his own article on the incident.

Hmm, good point. And this is the very same John Lott with the statistical and survey puzzles hanging over his research. Not good.

Anyway, Tim Lambert updates his thoughts on this here, and leaves me wondering about where this goes next.

Tim Lambert is going after this with Lexis, Nexis, and concealed nukes. If he would turn his powers to something more socially desirable, it would be a better world. But I wonder whether some Lott supporters or gun enthusiasts have attempted to rally a convincing counter-argument. Presuming, of course, that there are Lott supporters (probable), and plausible counter-arguments on this incident (doubtful).

Mark Kleiman has taken the anti-Lott side. How do we rally the pro-Lotters? Are there any? Lott has a new book on media bias, so this ought to be topical.


(0) comments

Down The Hatch!

Our current favorite Senator backpedals from his attempt to destroy my computer:

"I do not favor extreme remedies – unless no moderate remedies can be found."

Well said! Extremism in the defense of copyright is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of Hollywood donors is no virtue.

And yes, I should have left by now. But I will leave you with this link to what may be the definitive blog on this topic. Yalies will disagree, and I bet I would find some West Coast outfit with street cred if I opened my eyes. Later.

(0) comments

Dam! I Saw DNA, And Was I Mad!

Faulty palindromes can cause her loss, and worse. The Man With Palindromes But Without Qualities is back with more.

I, on the other hand, will be away for a week, but hope to get back in time to take a break at the Fourth of July. Blog on!

(0) comments

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Parallel Worlds

In her latest "Least Relevant" entry, Maureen Dowd draws the parallels between "Bushworld and Hillaryland". Hillary battles Monica; George battles Saddam; it's all the same.

Next week, we look forward to her column explaning how J Lo and Ben Affleck are facing the same challenges as that other glam couple, Colin Powell and Ariel Sharon. Is P Diddy Arafat, or Abbas? Can't wait.

(0) comments

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Senator Endorses Destroying Downloader's Computers

Interestingly, my computer endorses releasing a virus to destroy Senators. Man, it can't wait for T3!

UPDATE: I hate to spoil the fun with a serious thought, but I have a friend who sees this as part of a larger Karl Rove conspiracy to bankrupt the Democratic Party. Because of his support for Israel, Bush is picking up money from Jewish donors (I have been told). Tort reform is on the agenda as a long run project to kill the trial lawyers, who are, of course, big Dem donors. And this copyright initiative, while seemingly daft, is a big red rocket in the sky telling Hollywood to drop Hollings and start thinking of Republicans as their friends and protectors.

And what do the Republicans lose? The youth vote? Bummer, dude, a bunch of folks who neither vote nor write checks are gone. And Silicon Valley, bust, dries up as a source of funds. As a political tactic, this may be brilliant. Ok, I hate it, but I am typing on a computer and posting on a blog, so I am not your typical citizen.

Well, it's a theory. It makes a bit more sense than "Hatch is a drooling idiot", but I suppose both could be right.

EVEN MORE: Here is a good round-up, and other links on file-sharing.

UPDATE: Glenn follows the money.

And I provide circular links to a Hatch update, above.

(0) comments

Say, What? Jane Roe Wants Her Baby Back?

From the AP, we learn that the woman who put the "Jane Roe" in Roe v. Wade is filing a lawsuit seeking to have the decision overturned.

I will let the lawyers tell us whether she has standing, whether there are "timeliness" issues, and whether this case has ripened.

My questions are simpler - who is backing her, and why now?

Her attorney is Allan Parker of the Texas Justice Foundation. I have only spent about 45 seconds at their website, but I infer them to be a conservative legal group. Surprised?

Here is their mission statement, and their specific activities relating to abortion. Points 7 and 11 seem most relevant to the current lawsuit. And the real jackpot is their press kit on the Roe v. Wade filing. Fly, legal eagles! Burrow, legal beagles! Relax, everyone else!

Secondly, why now? It would be interesting to know whether this specific legal effort has been brewing for a while, and has, by odd coincidence, just now reached the percoloation point. Conspiracy theorists (and I may become one - too late, I already AM one) will suspect that the timing of this lawsuit is tied to the ooohing and aahhhing about possible Supreme Court vacancies this summer. I suspect that this publicity comes at a favorable, and potentially critical, time for the pro-life activists.

Finally, as an aside on media tilt, do both sides of this debate now hate the Associated Press? Here is the description of the former Jane Roe:

"Norma McCorvey, who joined the anti-abortion fight nearly 10 years ago and says she regrets her role in Roe v. Wade..."

Emphasis added. Anti-abortion? I thought they were pro-life. But for balance, how about this:

"Sarah Weddington, the abortion advocate and attorney who originally represented McCorvey, did not immediately return a call seeking comment."

What's this, "abortion advocate"? What happened to pro-choice, safe, legal, and rare, all that stuff?

This balanced media is killing me. Annoy me or pander to me, but choose.

(0) comments

Does Everyone Know About Technorati But Me?

You can see who is linking to a story; you can see who is linking to a blog. Very cool.

(0) comments

Bill O'Reilly Doesn't Like The Internet?

Evidently not. But c'mon, people - he doesn't like Al Gore, why should he like Al Gore's invention?

(0) comments

Krugman Goes Nuclear!

Don't you hate it when that happens? From his "Dereliction of Duty" column, we note a minor point (our major points are below).

In discussing budget priorities for national security, Prof. Krugman tells us that "... Congress isn't pinching pennies across the board: last week the Senate voted to provide $15 billion in loan guarantees for the construction of nuclear power plants."

So they did. This seems an odd tack for the Prof. to take - wouldn't reducing our reliance on evil, yet frustratingly fungible, foreign oil be a good thing? Fred Kaplan, cited earlier in the column, questioned the funding of national security relative to missle defense. Message discipline, please!

Secondly, the $15 Billion is the maximum the government might spend, since these are not loans, but guarantees. If the loans perform, taxpayers lose little to, arguably, nothing. NO, I am not saying a guarantee is free! I am just waltzing around, actually.

Now, shouldn't the private market bear all this risk, you might well ask, on the off chance that I am having a bout of intellectual consistency as a devoted free-marketeer? Do not vex me! But, in a bit of tortured logic, I might respond that the process of getting approval for a nuclear power plant is so heavily politicized that it makes sense to give the Government a formal stake in the success of the project. Positive co-option!

(0) comments

The Many Insecurities of Prof. Krugman

Note: As a service to the non-fanatics out there, we will present a shorter Just One Minute right here at the top, summarizing the whole package. You miss the drolleries (and drooleries), but you get what you pay for.

Just One Second - the Quicker Krugman

1. Prof. Krugman happily presents as straight news a Dem PR stunt. By happy coincidence, EJ Dionne describes the stunt in today's WaPo.

2. The Earnest Prof identifies Rand Beer as "a top White House counterterrorism adviser who resigned in March". He neglects to add that Mr. Beer is currently working for Sen. John Kerry, and is a registered Dem. Mr. Beer also worked in intelligence for 35 years, straight back to Reagan, and is no doubt a good and honestly concerned man. However, Identify Sources!

3. Krugman SEEMS to take one line item that is down 90% and pretend that it represents a port security funding problem. The actual amount is $25 million (yes, million), and is just part of a larger budget. SCARY!

Just One Morning - the full wallow:

Careful readers need to bring their decoder ring to interpret Prof. Krugman's column of June 17 titled "Dereliction of Duty". The title leads us to hope that the Earnest Prof is finally going to reveal the truth about the editing process at the NY Times. But, and can you believe it, he is attacking the Bush Administration again. Here we go:

Last Thursday a House subcommittee met to finalize next year's homeland security appropriation. The ranking Democrat announced that he would introduce an amendment adding roughly $1 billion for areas like port security and border security that, according to just about every expert, have been severely neglected since Sept. 11. He proposed to pay for the additions by slightly scaling back tax cuts for people making more than $1 million per year.

The subcommittee's chairman promptly closed the meeting to the public, citing national security — though no classified material was under discussion. And the bill that emerged from the closed meeting did not contain the extra funding.

It was a perfect symbol of the reality of the Bush administration's "war on terror."

First, does anyone else wonder if the Democrat in question was simply trying to score political points with this amendment? E.J. Dionne explains the game in the WaPo, while Prof. Krugman happily plays it. No matter how much Bush proposes to spend, Democrats can always propose to spend more and pay for it with "taxes on the rich", a tactic they have adopted to generate favorable press. It's working!

Secondly, does anyone else, for example, the editors at the Times, wonder whether this committee has a name, or a Chairperson, or whether the Prof might give us any clues at all to verify this incident?

No matter. Here is an AP account by Alan Fram of what seems to be the moment in question:

WASHINGTON - A House subcommittee voted Thursday to provide $29.4 billion next year for the new Homeland Security Department, boosting funds for local emergency responders but cutting the administration's proposed system for tracking visiting foreigners.

Overall, the measure would increase funds for domestic security by $536 million, or just under 2 percent, over this year's levels.

...The bill was approved after the new homeland security subcommittee of the Republican-run House Appropriations Committee voted along party lines to bar the public from the meeting.

"I'm not going to talk publicly about where we have some weak points," subcommittee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., told reporters afterward.

Democrats said sensitive information was not discussed during the closed-door session, though Rogers said it was.

"They just don't want a public airing, any more than necessary, of the incompetence of some agencies," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis.

So the Chairman did offer a "national security" reason for closing the meeting, as Prof. Krugman noted. There is a dispute about whether the material was "sensitive", although no one, other than the Prof, is quoted here using the word "classified". Rep. David Obey is quoted as objecting, and he was the chap promoting the tax-bill publicity stunt.

The Committee also approved more than Bush requested, although less than Democrats wanted, which may not be the first time in the history of Washington politics that the parties disagreed on the proper level of spending.

What next?

...Yesterday The Washington Post printed an interview with Rand Beers, a top White House counterterrorism adviser who resigned in March. "They're making us less secure, not more secure," he said of the Bush administration. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done."

Did they print the interview yesterday? Then they must have also printed that Rand Beer is now working for the Kerry campaign. And so they did:

Beers's resignation surprised Washington, but what he did next was even more astounding. Eight weeks after leaving the Bush White House, he volunteered as national security adviser for Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), a Democratic candidate for president, in a campaign to oust his former boss. All of which points to a question: What does this intelligence insider know?

Actually, I think it points to a different question - why did he quit? And most of the Post story addresses that question. That the Times could let Rand Beer be identified only as a "top White House counterterrorism adviser who resigned in March" is astonishing. However, considering the source, not surprising at all.

Pressing on, we find this:

...Meanwhile, urgent priorities remain unmet. For example, port security, identified as a top concern from the very beginning, has so far received only one-tenth as much money as the Coast Guard says is needed.

This is pretty well encrypted. However, a possible source is this analysis found at the website of Sen. Fritz Hollings (D, S Carolina). The chart is undated, bit the URL code suggets it is from 2003. In the chart, we find this:

Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) Operation Safe Commerce Program, to develop secure transportation systems: The Administration's request for only $2.5 million, $27.5 million less than fiscal year 2003 levels, less than one-tenth the amount in the previous fiscal year.

This seems to merit a "gee, whiz". Given the small (by Washington standards) difference of $25 Million, I can only guess that this represents some bureaucratic reshuffling, rather than a blind failure to fund our nation's security. However, it is the scariest stat available, so the Earnest Prof cited it. Well, maybe he cited it, I am not sure how one could tell. In any case, this program is just one part of "port security" (the Coast Guard, for example, is another), so the idea that Bush requested one-tenth the amount needed is absurd.

That said, Sen. Hollings is quite scary on the subject of port security. For a more reassuring view, the Brookings Institute thinks the Coast Guard should be roughly 20% to 30% larger.

For the rest of the column, we lost Afghanistan, we are losing Iraq, all Bush and Rumsfeld want are photo-ops, and a big finish:

...the real war on terror has been neglected, and we've antagonized the allies we need to fight that war. One of these days we'll end up paying the price.

I actually stood at a fundraiser for a prominent Dem and heard him say, roughly, that events would determine the next election: a major domestic terror attack could make Bush very vulnerable, and foreign leaders, many of whom do not like Bush, might make 2004 very difficult for the US in order to bring about a friendlier administration. The candidate did not, I am relieved to report, rub his hands in gleeful anticipation while saying this. Several supporters did, however, and the candidate's normally impressively concerned countenance seemed a bit more cheerful than I felt comfortable with.

Keep hope alive, chaps.

UPDATE: HEY! A frustrated lefty with dubious archives - look for 6/17/2003. And get back in the chorus, buddy. Message discipline!

(0) comments

Monday, June 16, 2003

When Memory And Google Fail

This is troubling. Brain Carnell has this post, based on his perusal of the Rittenhouse archives:

While doing some research on a somewhat related topic, I happened across this noxious post a couple months ago at the Rittenhouse Review blog. It just amazes me how frequently people will go on about something when a few minutes search Google would solve the mystery. Instead James Capozolla decides to make an idiotic statement about the disappareance of a young Georgia girl (whose body was found a few weeks later),

[Begin his excerpt of the Rittenhouse Review]

Oh, did I forget to mention that Ashleigh Moore is a black, African-American girl?
I hate to sound cynical, but I wonder if Ashleigh, despite her very Anglo-Saxon-sounding name, is just a little too dark to earn herself an Amber Alert, let alone spark a new wave of national hysteria. [End RR Excerpt]

Why was there never an Amber Alert for Moore? Because her case didn't fit the criteria that Georgia and other states have for issuing Amber Alerts...

And he goes on.

Now, I am not troubled to learn that Jim C. of the Rittenhouse Review launches his missles on warning, rather than bogging himself down with tedious facts.

And I am not troubled to learn that Brian, through kindness or ignorance, did not include Atrios, Hesiod, and especially TAPPED amongst the folks who uncritically praised Jim's post. Apparently, a mere suggestion of racism is enough to fully suspend the critical faculties of these deep-thinkers and media savants.

No, what troubles me is that I know, repeat, KNOW, that I commented on this somewhere back when the discussion was hopping. However, I can only assume that I was devastating and insightful, since I am utterly unable to find the site, my comments, or any evidence at all that I had any point whatsoever to make.

Darn my pointlessness.

UPDATE: When Google fails, call on The Crow! I still can't figure out how he did that, but here we are, over at Jane and Jay, with the last two comments.

And here is an update on the case. One sentence? Mom's latest boyfriend was a paroled sex offender who has been jailed for violating parole and remains the prime suspect, partly because Ashleigh's blood may be in his car, partly because, according to the younger sister, he left with Ashleigh on the morning of her disappearance.

(0) comments (0) comments

Things That Would Be Phrased More Carefully In A Different Venue...

From Andrew Sullivan's "The Case For Optimism":

...Meanwhile, the news from Iran is inspiring. Student and dissident protests have led to serious violence;

Yes, well, I love the smell of napalm in the morning, too. But I try to pitch it in terms of "hearts and minds", and so forth.

(0) comments

A Bad Idea Whose Time Is Coming

The NYTimes reviews the history of Presidential peace-making in the Middle East, and drops this tid-bit on us:

Mr. Indyk, [a Middle East negotiator under President Bill Clinton] who is now head of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, has suggested making the West Bank and Gaza an international trusteeship, with American-led troops in charge of security, but the idea has not taken root among Mr. Bush and his aides.

You don't say? Our support of Israel is a main source of Arab anger with us; if the US took over the policing of Palestine, would that anger go up, or down?

After I got over my shock and awe, however, I figured that this is a chap who knows the area and might simply be identifying the least bad of a bunch of bad choices, sort of like I do when my kids drag me to McDonalds. Here is the article where he suggests this idea, and he seems to be well aware of the problems:

The only catch is that it will require the United States and its allies to confront Palestinian terrorist organizations, exposing U.S. troops to the suicide bombers while they engage directly in the kind of military actions in Palestinian cities and refugee camps that have earned Israel international opprobrium. But the president's rhetorical commitment to personal engagement in the radical transformation of Palestine could combine with a further descent into violent chaos there to produce circumstances that require a much deeper engagement. Breathtaking visions of nation-building in the Holy Land can have unintended consequences.

Well, he is not a wild-eyed optimist, at least.

So, can we safely ignore this idea? By seemingly odd coincidence, Sen. Lugar seems to be beating a similar drum:

In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said American forces might be part of an international force to help stop attacks by Hamas, the main group behind a campaign of suicide bombings against Israelis, and other groups.

An international force? This only gets better:

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Paris would discuss with the European Union the possibility of sending peacekeeping forces to halt Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed.

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar proposed US forces be sent, with a view to halting militants. "Clearly Hamas is right in the gunsights," the Republican lawmaker told Fox News Sunday.

But Israel has ruled out the suggestion of sending foreign peacekeepers to the occupied territories, first put forward by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan more than three years ago, and repeated by him last week.

Lots of talk about this. And I see that Matt Y is not thrilled either.

UPDATE: One of the commenters at M. Yglesias provides this link to a more current, more complete presentation of Mr. Indyk's idea for a trusteeship.

Pretty subtle. Right there on the cover of "Foreign Affairs", May/June 2003, "A Trusteeship For Palestine?". I daresay this idea is gaining currency.

(0) comments

Sunday, June 15, 2003

What's Up (Or Down) With These Trade Figures?

The InstaPundit sends us off to Mr. Den Beste, who is chatting about French woes vis a vis their new and somewhat frostier relationship with the US. His theme:

...the French are beginning to get worried about business relations with the US. French sales to the US seem to be collapsing. In March they had a €97 million trade surplus with the US, but in April that became a €202 million trade deficit. A change that massive means either a dramatic rise in American sales to France, which seems unlikely, or a dramatic decline in French sales to the US, and it's got to be a lot more than just wine and cheese. There isn't any official boycott or trade sanctions, but there seems to be something big going on.

There may indeed be something big going on, but one month of trade figures is probably not the best way to demonstrate that. First of all, the surplus/deficit figure is the difference between two larger series, imports and exports, both of which are quite volatile. A big aircraft order, for example, could cause a big swing in the monthly figures.

Secondly, the figures for imports and exports rarely add up properly across countries. Consequently, what France reports from their end may not agree with what the US reports. We can only scratch our heads as we puzzle over the trade figures for the US and France as reported from our side of the Atlantic. If we can believe the US Census Bureau reports (no, I have no idea why they are the source for this, but it looks official as all get out, and they are part of the Commerce Dept.), US exports to France fell by $158 million in April, while US imports from France actually rose by $113 million. Thus, from US reporting, the French actually increased their trade surplus with the US in April.

Now, I refer you to the last sentence of this CBS Marketwatch report as evidence that, if I am reading this report backwards, I am not alone. They say:

Despite a loud campaign against French goods in retaliation for its leadership against the war, imports from France rose 4.9 percent in April.

Confused? The French say that their trade balance with the US fell by roughly 300 million Euros; we say that the French trade balance as viewed by the French rose by roughly $270 million. I'll tell you what - if this were my checkbook, I would look to see if I had reversed a sign, or confused imports and exports, or made some such slip-up. Or maybe Jayson Blair is doing press releases for the French. Or the US. Since I don't trust the Feds or the French, my default settings are useless.

However, as noted, these numbers never match. Here are what seem to be French stats for their trade with the US. I do not speak French, and although I have tried speaking loudly and distinctly to my monitor (it always works when I am talking to citizens abroad, and it's not nearly as annoying as the locals pretend), I am still not quite able to comunicate with these charts. Volunteers? And, Eureka Moment, I think this is the report. All in French, as a PDF file, but I recognize the 591 euro number. They also have commentary on what moved the figures with the Etats Unis.

Anyway, I can not say just what it is that is meant to be included in these trade figures. However, the totals and net balances seem quite different from what I presume to be their US counterparts, and I can't find the darn stats for April and March of 2003. Hope that cleared things up.

I will now stagger to my Big Finish: one month's worth of import and export figures don't mean much, especially when the other country is reporting the opposite.

UPDATE: Support for Mr. Den Beste from the Wall Street Journal! Hah, registration required, so perhaps you will never know. Or try here.

Also, a US press release, which echoes the Census website data, and makes a few cryptic comments about what goes into the mix.

UPDATE 2: The current line-up seems to be Den Betse and the Wall Street Journal versus CBS Marketwatch, me, and now MaxSpeak. If I were a betting man, I know where I would put my cash. But the conflict of interest is too obvious.

(0) comments

Bill Keller Strides The Center Like A Mighty Colossus

Mr. Keller, formerly the former future editor of the NY Times, and now the informal front-runner for the job, explains our war in Iraq and the hyping of the WMD intelligence in a way that is sure to annoy everyone. But if he is auditioning for the top spot by appearing calm, sensible, and centrist, I like it.

(0) comments

Saturday, June 14, 2003

One For The Folks At Times Watch

Sheryl Gay and Adam Nagourney of the NY Times tell us that "Democrats Split on Challenging Iraq Arms Hunt".

We hope to come back to the broader topic, but what holds our attention right now is this bit:

...a number of Democrats, including an adviser to Mr. Graham, said they believed that the uncertainty surrounding the weapons could fundamentally damage Mr. Bush.

...But the risks for the Democrats are high. Mr. Bush has dismissed suggestions that he manipulated information, and Republicans were quick to try to paint Democrats as unpatriotic for raising such questions.

Emphasis added. We have certainly heard this before [example], but now the NY Times has picked up the story. What we expect next is some suporting evidence. Here we go:

In announcing the closed-door hearings, Senator Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused Democrats of using the war for political gain. And Senator Bill Frist, the Republican leader, said in an interview: "I think it's political posturing. Democrats are politicizing a very important issue."

OK, here comes the supporting evidence. Oh, wait, that was it! The Republicans are saying that Democrats are using the war for political gain, and politicizing it. Ahh, when Republicans say that Democrats are politicizing Social Security, is that an attack on their patriotism, or their sincerity? When Democrats said Bush was using the war to political advantage last fall, was that an attack on his patriotism?

My check of Google shows that the Frist quote seems to be a NY Times exclusive. The Roberts quote seems to be from the press conference described here, and runs as follows:

Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Select Intelligence Committee, charged at a news conference that some Democratic criticism of the intelligence, and the administration's portrayal of it, had "been simply politics and for political gain." He added, "I will not allow the committee to be politicized."

Mr. Roberts promised that his committee would examine the intelligence used in prewar analyses of Iraqi weapons programs and test their accuracy. The Armed Services Committee has already begun closed hearings.

But he rejected Democrats' calls for a "joint, formal investigation," saying that the phrase implied that there was "something dreadfully wrong."

Since the NY Times is reporting that the Democrats are pondering the political pros and cons of making these charges, are they also questioning the Demcrats patriotism?

In future stories, a bit of evidence to accompany the DNC talking points would be nice.

(0) comments

Friday, June 13, 2003

DNA Evidence Frees Three

From Ms. TalkLeft, we get this AP account of what ought to be a big story out on Long Island. Two girls murdered, one girl missing and presumed dead, two of the cases unsolved, and now three guys convicted of one of the murders have been released (pending review and, perhaps, a new trial) based on newly discovered and newly tested DNA evidence.

OK, here are the NY Times and Long Island's Newsday.

Our special interest right now is, what forensic evidence other than sperm linked these men to the crime? From the NY Times, we do not get a mention of anything. The AP says this:

Two hairs found in Restivo's van were similar to those of the victim. Scheck has called the linking of people to crimes through microscopic comparison of hair samples ''junk science.''

However, Newsday is deeply intriguing:

A strand of [victim Theresa Fusco] Fusco's hair was also found in Restivo's van and testing showed it had come from Fusco shortly after her death, consistent with the prosecution theory that the murder and rape took place in the van, and the body was dumped shortly afterward.

However, hair analysis has improved and now it shows that the hair had come off Fusco's head at least eight hours after her death, which would have been inconsistent with the prosecution's theory and raises questions about how the hair got in the van.

Emphasis added. And my question is, why is this story not big enough to get real coverage?

UPDATE: Newsday is going to own this story:

Cops Probing 2 Other Cases

Other Evidence in Question

Untwisting a Trio's Tangled Web, June 12, Paul Vitello

Second Look Finds Freeing Evidence, June 18, Robin Topping

Key tidbit - the body was discovered three weeks after the murder. Her hair, found in one of the suspect's van, was either from eight hours after she died, or at least eight hours after she died. The distinction is clearly important, since the defense claims the police planted it.

(0) comments

I Suspect I Would Be Useless As a Lefty

Ms. TalkLeft (who has been a real inspiration today) sends us to the Rittenhouse Review and his list of top female lefty bloggers.

Well, congrats to all of you, and please allow me to interrupt with just one question - who cares? I will grant that if these folks are specifically addressing "women's issues", then their gender might be relevant. But to pick an example seemingly at random, does Ms. TalkLeft really bring a special female perspective to the scientific validity of DNA evidence?

Oh, go ahead, tell me that everything is about gender in this male dominated power structure. I'm already thinking about baseball. And I am wondering, if I check by the Rittenhouse Review, will I find a list of best gay bloggers? Best black bloggers? Best Catholic bloggers? And if not, why not?

Hmm, following his links, I see that one of the nicely-endorsed women is also a bit puzzled. Maybe she is also useless as a lefty?

Well, I know Jim at RR had the best of intentions, and his post has an obvious connection to the Mac Diva debacle, and we are all just having fun on a Friday afternoon, so rather than reach any obvious conclusions, I think I will just abruptly end.

UPDATE: If I have it today, then 5 Corners had it yesterday, Thursday, June 12, 2003, and what is with her archives? One of her commenters says, roughly, this:

...unfortunately, because people THINK that girl bloggers are rare, mediocre female blogs get more attention than they ought to, a sort of psychological affirmative action in the blogosphere.

Let's be clear - I am not saying anyone on any of these lists is mediocre. I am just scratching my head. And as I scratch, I am thinking that maybe we might like to pretend that there is the least bit of objectivity to sexist behavior, or, in other words, it is not just in the eye of the beholder. Let me further imagine that lefty female bloggers are not objecting to this list as sexist because they are sympathetic to Jim C's politics, and figure he means well. Fine.

If, at some future date, I (as an Evil Righty) engage in similarly sexist behavior and they criticize me, I will have handy the very fair objection that their criticism is politically motivated, rather than motivated by any real sense of outrage over the behavior itself.

But yeah, I am sure Jim is right. They are all pretty good - for women.

And sexism in the blogosphere was kicked around a while back. This link works, and she has several posts below this. I get mentioned, too! If you look hard.

(0) comments

This Is Not About Ricky West

But he had every reason to be steaming mad. Mac Diva had been calling him a racist. Evidently, Mac Diva has been calling lots of people lots of things. Ricky West has some links to get you started. However, I have a couple of extra links to throw into the mix:

Matt Yglesias is sensible, as we expect.

Dwight Meredith refers to a "now you see it, now you don't blog" called Natasha Watch. Well, now you see the google cache.

I am relying on my subtle sense of what generates blogosphere buzz to predict that there are going to be many more people posting opinions on this subject before the day is done. So, my deep thoughts:

1. I could scarcely ignore Mac Diva more than I already do, but it is nice to see Ricky get some vindication.

2. One of the coolest things about blogging is finding out just how many intelligent, well educated lefties are hanging around. Most of them, despite their incomprehensibly misguided politics, actually have pretty good character (well, I think so, but are you going to take the word of an evil righty?). So, the timing of this particular blow-up is surprising, but the outcome will not be.

3. Ain't anon-a-blogging great? Mac Diva may go away, but the person will be back. Eternal vigilance! Fortunately, since it is the behavior and not the person that is troublesome, the ability to reinvent and re-emerge is a good thing.

4. Someone will ask, what about righties? Surely we could find someone who deserves to be pitched on the fire? Dwight Meredith describes his very understandable reaction to the early Mac attacks, which was to overlook some of the excesses when they were directed at righties. Are there some crazed righties directing bizarre attacks against lefties that folks on the right are closing their eyes to?

5. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

(0) comments

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Happy Father's Day!

And a Happy Father's Day to Ronald Dixon of Canarsie, who you may remember from last February, busted for having an unregistered handgun used in self-defense. His status has been resolved, and everyone seems satisfied:

The Associated Press

June 10, 2003, 8:01 AM EDT

A Navy veteran who shot a burglar he caught in his baby's bedroom is getting three days in jail for using an unregistered firearm.

Ronald Dixon, 27, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on Monday. The plea allows him to do time without carrying a criminal record.

Dixon was arrested after he shot Ivan Thompson, 40, who was going through the drawers in the 23-month-old toddler's room on Dec. 14. Thompson is in jail on burglary and trespassing charges.

...Dixon said he has respect for the state's laws and does not mind the three-day jail stint. Asked how he might change things: "I'd make sure I had a license first."

The AP story does mention that "Dixon's situation attracted widespread support", so I suppose we can offer props to Glenn and Rachel.

(0) comments

NRO Has Surrendered On WMDs

Whew, now I can stop this endless tap-dancing. Look, I have no hesitation in rallying to the defense of Bush against charges that he lied about the threat posed by Saddam's WMDs. However, I have a hard time keeping a straight face while defending against the charge that the Administration exaggerated the threat. Changing the subject by pointing out the absurdity of Prof. Krugman's attributions, or the past proclamations of various Dems, is lots of fun. However, it is sort of beside the point, as the NRO admits.

(0) comments

This Seems Stupid

"Republicans Limit Probe of Iraq Intelligence". Geez, maybe we should probe Republican intelligence, which also seems to be limited.

Have the hearings, get the headlines out of the way. The cover-up, if any, is always worse than the crime. So far, the Administration is, arguably, guilty of being too zealous in pursuit of American security. Hey, we can get over it - I would rather they over-react to a threat than under-react to it, and my keen political radar tells me that I am not alone in this view.

But if the newsies smell "cover-up", this issue will never go away, and justifiable decisions will acquire the aroma of scandal.

I cannot square this with my "Karl Rove is a genius until proven otherwise" thesis.

(0) comments

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I Can Hardly Imagine What This Means

From TAPPED, on the mysterious WMDS:

"If Clinton had been convinced that Saddam posed a real threat, he probably would have invaded Iraq when he was president."

Meaning what? That "probably" Clinton would have done his job and defended America, but maybe not?

Or, the whole "Desert Fox" four day bombing campaign in December 1998 was just for show? And what did Clinton mean back then, when he said:

Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons."

Or, as a different example of alternative history, if Clinton had been convinced that Osama was a real threat, wouldn't he have accepted him on a platter from the Sudanese? Can a threat assessment change over time? Did 9/11 deliver new information about terrorist capability and American vulnerability?

People make mistakes. Even at TAPPED.

(0) comments

When Boycotts Converge

I have been boycotting Woody Allen for so long I can scarcely remember why - something to do with Mia Farrow and her adopted daughter, who became his lover (and wife? Man, do I have to research this?). I am pretty sure the pedophila allegations came later, and may have just been Ms. Farrow being bitter.

So now, Woody Allen Becomes Pitch Man for France. This represents a huge time-saver for me, which is fine.

I am not a Madison Avenue maven, but I have to ask - does this idea make any sense at all? I don't have Q-ratings and demographic charts in front of me, but I cannot believe that Woody Allen's audience was boycotting France to begin with. And can Mr. Allen connect with Middle America on this subject, or any other? C'mon, get Clint Eastwood, or some real American, to stick up for France.

And another note, to which ever bright light came up with this campaign - take a look at this excerpt from the promotional video, and tell me if that is really the direction we need to go, given Mr. Allen's troubling history:

Allen, who has worked with the French tourist office before, said he doesn't want to refer to his french-fried potatoes as "freedom fries."

"And I don't have to 'freedom kiss' my wife when what I really want to do is French kiss her," Allen added.

I don't want to know more than I already do about his sexual preferences, thank you.

(0) comments

Things We Worry About

John Edwards led John Kerry in first quarter fundraising for the Dem Presidential nomination. Now, if Kerry cannot use his wife's fortune, how will he ketch-up?

Wait, I have another....

(0) comments

K-Mart Is NOT The Problem

I am less of a Jeffersonian than formerly.

(0) comments

Who Else Is Green With Envy?

Who else fears that the natural order has collapsed? Brad DeLong is getting a favorable mention on Rush Limbaugh? This is real old testament stuff.

So, my questions - Glenn apparently did not drive into a ditch from surprise. Are there some bloggers out there who did? And is it possible to just die from envy, and have any righty bloggers done so? (I myself have not, yet, but it's early.)

Finally, is there any justice? If I were quoted on Rush, my brother-in-law would experience shock and awe, and at family picnics I would be the guru on all things political while he cleaned the grill.

Instead, we have the spectacle of Prof DeLong being dropped from Berkeley "A"-lists faster than you can ask "Why did Hillary! name her book "Living His Story"?"

(0) comments

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

The "Exaggerated" Threat From Saddam's WMDs

Was there an intelligence failure on Iraq and the WMDs? Here is an interesting letter to the editors of the NY Times:

...While it now seems likely that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence reports about Iraqi weapons, there is another possibility that is even more ominous: that the intelligence itself was grossly inaccurate.

Despite the resources lavished upon them, American intelligence services have an impressive history of extreme error. In recent years, they failed to detect the 9/11 plot, were caught by surprise when India detonated nuclear warheads, and hyped the threat from the Soviet Union right up to its collapse.

In the current world political climate, the United States cannot afford any more dramatic failures of insight and prediction.

While intelligence-gathering is as much art as science, we have proved deficient in both domains.

Wilton, Conn., June 7, 2003

Was Rumsfeld just thinking, "Better safe than sorry"?

UPDATE: No, this is not really responsive to Emma of the Evolving Slug Lines, but I am working on it. Still.

(0) comments

Prof. Krugman Delivers!

We love his latest column, "Who's Accountable?". First, we note his generous provision of sources for quotes. Evidently, a new era of accountabilty has reached the NY Times. Secondly, amongst the many quotes on offer, we are sure to find a few duds. Here is one:

On March 16 Dick Cheney declared, "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

This announcement was made to Tim Russert on the eve of war. From the transcript, it seems clear that Russert did not even blink. This is because Cheney mis-spoke, and Russert knew it. Russert had asked whether Iraq had a nuclear program; earlier in the interview, Cheney had asserted his belief that Saddam had "reconstituted these programs since the Gulf War".

With this response, Cheney managed to substitute "weapons" for "programs", but it is clear from the context what he meant. Later in the show, Cheney also said this:

{Cheney]: ...We’re now faced with a situation, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, where the threat to the United States is increasing. And over time, given Saddam’s posture there, given the fact that he has a significant flow of cash as a result of the oil production of Iraq, it’s only a matter of time until he acquires nuclear weapons.

This is consistent with Administration pronouncements. As presented, this quote has the virtue of being literally accurate - however, it is also hopelessly misleading.

By odd coincidence, I posted on this back on May 23, [Note: This quote is finally quashed on July 18] but this misquote seems to have taken on a life of its own - CNN, Slate, and TIME all have it. Well, I don't obsess about their miscues.

Flood the zone: retrace@nytimes.com

CONTINUED: We are just going to keep having fun, with emphasis added throughout. More from the Prof:

The Bush and Blair administrations are trying to silence critics — many of them current or former intelligence analysts — who say that they exaggerated the threat from Iraq. .... In this country, Colin Powell has declared that questions about the justification for war are "outrageous."

This seems to be a transcript, and summary, of the quote in question:

SECRETARY POWELL: We have uncovered the mobile vans and we are continuing to search. We also know that they were masters of deceit and masters of hiding these things. So a little patience is required, and it is really somewhat outrageous on the part of some critics to say that this was all bogus. It's not the least bit bogus. And the work continues, and a 1,300-man group is going in to continue that work.

Unless Prof. Krugman has some other quote in mind, I think we can agree that what Powelll decribed as "outrageous" was NOT "questions about the justification for war", but rather, allegations that the intelligence effort was totally bogus (dude). The implication that Powell is attempting to stifle debate is not supported by this evidence.

The Barrel Fishing Continues:

From Prof. Krugman::

"...the Bush administration found scraps of intelligence suiting its agenda, and officials began making strong pronouncements. Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons — the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have," Mr. Bush said on Feb. 8."

Well so Bush did, in a radio address. Even a casual reader will note the qualifier that eluded Prof. Krugman and his editors (if any), and weakens the "strong" pronouncement:

"...And we have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons — the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."

OK, this is getting embarrassing, but I am nearly done. Prof. Krugman:

...the Bush administration's determination to see what it wanted to see led not just to a gross exaggeration of the threat Iraq posed, but to a severe underestimation of the problems of postwar occupation.... Now a force of 150,000 is stretched thin, facing increasingly frequent guerrilla attacks, and a senior officer told The Washington Post that it might be two years before an Iraqi government takes over. The Independent reports that British military chiefs are resisting calls to send more forces, fearing being "sucked into a quagmire."

Is there any doubt that we are talking about the occupation of Iraq? Maybe there should be, because this is what is in the Independent:

Defence chiefs are resisting calls for British troops to be sent to join American forces in Baghdad because they could be "sucked into a quagmire".

Although the Ministry of Defence's official position is that sending units to the Iraqi capital would risk "overstretch", senior officers are believed to have told Tony Blair such a deployment would inevitably mean British soldiers getting caught up in the rising tide of anti-American violence.

Military commanders privately accept that if sufficient pressure is brought to bear by Washington, Downing Street may feel obliged to send British troops to Baghdad.

...The US officially requested two weeks ago that the British Army's 16th Air Assault Brigade be sent to Baghdad. Defence chiefs rejected the request but have since been under pressure from Downing Street to reconsider.

...Despite the adverse publicity generated by the alleged heavy-handed actions of some British troops, senior officers insist they are happy with the way things have gone in areas under their control in southern Iraq. They stress there have been very few attacks on British forces by Iraqis and point to progress, such as the handing over of Umm Qasr to a civilian administration.

By contrast, American forces in Baghdad and Fallujah have come under repeated attack from Iraqis.

...One of the main reasons the US Central Command sounded out London on the possibility of sending contingents to the American-controlled zones was because of the relative success of British troops in policing roles. British officers feel the aggressive actions of the Americans in some incidents resulted in anger that may be taken out on British soldiers.

Look, this is a joke - the Independent story clearly and repeatedly says that the Brits want to stay out of Baghdad specifically, not Iraq generally. The Krugman presentation is quite different.

Send your comments to the NY Times editors at retrace@nytimes.com

Matt Hoy has his collection of misdeeds by the Earnest Prof.

(0) comments

Monday, June 09, 2003

Who Are These People?

You will have to scout her comments section to see what led me there, but this blog is pretty good (although the archives are not). One of her very few permalinks is to this blog, which has a poem which I really like, and an archive I hate. Look for May 15, 2003, currently near the top.

Oh and "I really liked that poem" is about as far down that road as I travel. Andrew Sullivan explains.

(0) comments

While Others Search For Evidence Of Iraqi Weapons Of Mass Destruction...

I am searching for evidence of leadership by top Democrats on this issue.

Joe Lieberman: (Sept. 13, 2002)

"...The essential facts are known. We know of the weapons in Saddam's possession: chemical, biological, and nuclear in time. We know of his unequalled willingness to use them.

...On November 13, 1998, after Saddam ejected the U.N. weapons inspectors, I said on this floor, "If we let him block the inspections and the monitoring that he agreed to as a condition of the cease-fire in the Gulf War, then there is no doubt that one day soon, he will use weapons of mass destruction, carried by ballistic missiles, against Americans in the Middle East or (against) our allies."

John Kerry: (Jan 23,2003)

"...now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction. That is why the world, through the United Nations Security Council, has spoken with one voice, demanding that Iraq disclose its weapons programs and disarm.

So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but it is not new. It has been with us since the end of the Persian Gulf War.

John Edwards: (Oct. 10, 2002):

"This [Senate] resolution sends a clear message to Iraq and the world: America is united in its determination to eliminate forever the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," he said of the resolution that passed both the House and the Senate by overwhelming bipartisan margins.

..."Iraq has continued to seek nuclear weapons and develop its arsenal in defiance of the collective will of the international community, as expressed through the United Nations Security Council," he said. It is violating the terms of the 1991 cease-fire that ended the Gulf War, and as many as 16 Security Council resolutions, including 11 resolutions concerning Iraq's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

...after 11 years of watching Hussein play shell-games with his weapons programs, there is little reason to believe he has any intention to comply with an even tougher resolution. We cannot trust Saddam Hussein, and we would be irresponsible to do so."

That is enough for today, although at this rate it may be a long week. Robert Kagan has more in the WaPo.

UPDATE: This is like eating potato chips. Let's try Nancy "Sly like a fox" Pelosi:

Sept. 12, 2002: "I was also glad that he went to the United Nations and asked for enforcement of U.N. resolutions on weapons inspections and elimination of weapons of mass destruction. We must work with the U.N. in the event that such enforcement fails.

"Our goal is to eliminate those weapons of mass destruction and the threat they pose to Americans, the Iraqi people and, indeed, the world.

...I have not yet seen evidence of imminent nuclear or other kind of threat that demands immediate military action."

October 3, 2002: "As the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, I have seen no evidence or intelligence that suggests that Iraq indeed poses an imminent threat to our nation. If the Administration has that information, they have not shared it with the Congress.

"If we invade Iraq, we will show our military power. If we can eliminate the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction without invading, we will show our strength."

Well, she is not saying they don't exist. However, she was consistent and, so far, correct, as to the "imminent threat" or lack thereof. Bother. Let's make her VP, then.

Howard Dean (February 25, 2003):

...My view of this is since Iraq is not an imminent danger to the United States, the United States should not unilaterally attack Iraq. Iraq does not have nuclear weapons. They do not have much of a nuclear program, if they have one at all left.

...We believe... I believe that Iraq does have chemical and biological weapons, and they are a threat to many nations in the region, but not to the United States. Therefore in my view, the United States ought not to attack unilaterally.

Dean-Pelosi 2004! But he still believed in the mysterious chemical and biological programs.

UPDATE: Reader Rebellion, and I Win A Bet (made with/against myself).

Look, these hapless Dems don't control access to intelligence. If they were misled by the Admin, well, what can you say except they should have had better instincts, and they need to develop more contacts. Bob Graham, when I get to him, will be interesting, given his role on Senate Intelligence.

Anyway, I actually had anticipated that flaw in the argument (no, really), and correctly guessed who would lead the rebellion, so you can't say I am totally out to lunch. Now, I just need to develop a strong rebuttal. Do you think this partisan spinning is easy? Developing...

(0) comments

They Turned Their Back On The Baby Jesus

Niall Ferguson of Oxford links the decline of European economies to the decline of the Protestant work ethic:

OXFORD, England — It was almost a century ago that the German sociologist Max Weber published his influential essay "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism." In it, Weber argued that modern capitalism was "born from the spirit of Christian asceticism" in its specifically Protestant form — in other words, there was a link between the self-denying ethos of the Protestant sects and the behavior patterns associated with capitalism, above all hard work.

Many scholars have built careers out of criticizing Weber's thesis. Yet the experience of Western Europe in the past quarter-century offers an unexpected confirmation of it. To put it bluntly, we are witnessing the decline and fall of the Protestant work ethic in Europe. This represents the stunning triumph of secularization in Western Europe — the simultaneous decline of both Protestantism and its unique work ethic.

Just as Weber's 1904 visit to the United States convinced him that his thesis was right, anyone visiting New York today would have a similar experience. For in the pious, industrious United States, the Protestant work ethic is alive and well. Its death is a peculiarly European phenomenon — and has grim implications for the future of the European Union on the eve of its eastward expansion, perhaps most economically disastrous for the "new" Europe....

Prof. Ferguson seems to be expounding a proper conservative thesis here. The Brothers Judd will love this.

Now, is Prof. Ferguson serious? It seems clear from his bio that he enjoys being provocative. I also sense a twinkle in his eye, evidenced by this passage:

So the decline of work in Northern Europe has occurred more or less simultaneously with the decline of Protestantism. Quod erat demonstrandum indeed!

That said, I am intrigued to see what sort of response he generates.

(0) comments

Who's Dowdifying Whom?

Don Luskin sends us to Dr. A of the puzzling perma-links (look for June 6, 2003 9:44am), a new righty econoblogger. How many rightys are out there blogging, anyway? Not Enough! And can there ever be enough Krugman-bashing? Of course not! As a confession of my own personal problems, I have no doubt that I could find something to criticize about the way Prof. Krugman ties his shoes (and if he wears those annoying loafers, fuggedaboutit). Hey, did I just take a First Step?

That said, we must maintain standards. Don Luskin has pointed out a "faux quote" which he claims Prof. Krugman uses out of context; I think it stands up. Videotape, sans links:

"Most media attention has focused on the child tax credit that wasn't. As in 2001, the administration softened the profile of a tax cut mainly aimed at the wealthy by including a credit for families with children. But at the last minute, a change in wording deprived 12 million children of some or all of that tax credit. 'There are a lot of things that are more important than that,' declared Tom DeLay, the House majority leader. (Maybe he was thinking of the 'Hummer deduction,' which stayed in the bill: business owners may now deduct up to $100,000 for the cost of a vehicle, as long as it weighs at least 6,000 pounds.)"

But Dr. A found Tom DeLay's entire statement in this June 4 story in USA Today. And just as was the case with Krugman's quote from Grover Norquist in today's column, the meaning is precisely the opposite of the impression that Krugman gives.

''There are a lot of other things that are more important than that,'' House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said of addressing low-income families. ''If it is a part of a bigger bill . . . and can get us some votes over in the Senate, then I'm more than open to it.''

Dr. A: "Doesn't this exclusion of the second part of the quote completely change its meaning? Am I missing something here?" If you agree with Dr. A, drop a note to retrace@nytimes.com.

First of all, even as it is presented I disagree. It is not a contradiction to believe something is unimportant, but be willing to compromise on it. But maybe we can find a more complete quotation at Newsday:

DeLay said he would not permit legislation making the working poor eligible for the expanded child-care tax credit to come to the House as a separate bill. The tax cut law increased the child-care tax credit to $1,000 from $600 per child.

"They had their chance," DeLay said, referring to legislators who worked on the law. "There's a lot of other things that are more important than that. To me it's a little difficult to give tax relief to people who don't pay income taxes".

Hmm, that doesn't soften my image of Mr. DeLay. Let's go back to the USA Today story which provided Dr. A's quote, and check the preceding paragraph for additional context:

The emergence of the issue poses the potential to embarrass Bush, whose original proposal provided no increased credit to those low-income families, and to his party, which wrote the new tax law. But it offers an opportunity to tax-cut advocates who want to piggyback other breaks for business and individuals on any bill that offers a remedy for low-income families.

''There are a lot of other things that are more important than that,'' House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas...

Again, this hardly suggests that Mr. DeLay is interested in adopting this tax credit, or that Prof. Krugman has unfairly depicted his position with a selective excerpt.

Look, the good news is, mistakes by Prof. Krugman are like streetcars - there will be another one along in a minute. However, this is not one of them.

UPDATE: Oh, bother. Now Don Luskin includes this "error" in an open letter to the Times.

UPDATE 2: Clang, clang! Here comes another streetcar!

In his Jube 10 column titled "Who's Accountable?", Prof. Krugman offers us this quote from Dick Cheney:

On March 16 Dick Cheney declared, "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

Here is the transcript from Dick Cheney's interview with Tim Russert, who let this jaw-dropping announcement on the eve of war pass, as did our nation's press corps. And why? Because Russert had asked whether Cheney believed that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program. Cheney mis-spoke in his answer, and now we have this silly excerpt. By odd coincidence, we had actually posted on this very topic back on May 23. It is clear from the question and Cheney's subsequent comments that Cheney did not believe that Iraq had nuclear weapons.

Cheney]: ...We’re now faced with a situation, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, where the threat to the United States is increasing. And over time, given Saddam’s posture there, given the fact that he has a significant flow of cash as a result of the oil production of Iraq, it’s only a matter of time until he acquires nuclear weapons.

So, the Earnest Prof is literally correct - Cheney did say it. However, the quote is hopelessly unfair and misleading.

Flood the zone at : retrace.nytimes.com

And I have a hard time believing that this is a proper Second Step - I have a new post rehasing this faux quote, and three others.

UPDATE AGAIN: A rare foray into the substance of the debate.

(0) comments

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Believe The Hype

Check out the Belmont on Saturday, about 6:30 Eastern time. I am a very casual horse-racing fan, occasionally watching the triple Crown races, but I have vivid memories of the Affirmed-Alydar race at Belmont in 1978.

I was driving to a cousin's house for a family picnic. I was listening to the radio, and the race started just as I pulled up to the house, so I parked, and listened in the car. Affirmed and Alydar ran neck and neck for the last half mile of the race, and the announcer (who presumably has seen a few races in his time) just about had a coronary. "Afirmed and Alydar... Affirmed and Alydar... Alydar and Affirmed! Now it's Affirmed and Alydar!"

Oh, he went nuts. So after the race, I run in to the house, grab my cousin, and say, look, let's do all the introductions in a minute, this is the greatest race ever and we have to watch the replay. He's fine with that, so we switch on the TV. Technical glitch! We are getting audio, but no video. And this announcer (on the replay) is going nuts as well. "Look at these two horses! Look at these two champions! You will never see such an incredible horse race!"

He was right - I wasn't seeing it. Eventually, we got to watch one of the replays, and it was everything they had said.

UPDATE: Ignore the hype.

(0) comments

Friday, June 06, 2003

Searching For Thoughts On WMDs

We will start out slowly, then build to a mad crescendo. First, Nick Kristof of the NY Times.

...As best I can reconstruct events, Mr. Rumsfeld genuinely felt that the C.I.A. and D.I.A. were doing a horrendous job on Iraq — after all, he was hearing much more alarming information from those close to Ahmad Chalabi. So the Pentagon set up its own intelligence unit, and it sifted through everyone else's information and goaded other agencies to come up with more alarmist conclusions.

"He's an ideologist," one man in the spy world said of Mr. Rumsfeld. "He doesn't start with the facts, even though he's quite brainy. He has a bottom line, and then he gathers facts to support the bottom line."

That is not, of course, a capital offense. Pentagon leaders should feel free to disagree strenuously with foolish judgments by the C.I.A. But for the process to work, top C.I.A. officials need to fight back. Instead, George Tenet rolled over.

And if Rumsfeld's bottom line, as Secretary of Defense, was "better safe than sorry"?

Now, on a slightly more speculative vein, I will now paraphrase an idea suggested by Jeff Hauser - credit him if you love it, laugh at me if you hate it.

A few days ago, we linked to a NY Times story reporting that, after the inspectors were not re-admitted in 1998, our intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was very limited. The working assumption was that Saddam retained his ambitions, and would not be enduring the sanctions unless he was pursuing banned weapons.

As to his ambitions, the assumption seems reasonable. However, suppose UNMOVIC really had succeeded, by 1998, in grinding Saddam's weapons programs to dust. Would Saddam really benefit by admitting that to the world? First, he may well be nuts, so irrational behavior is a possibility.

Secondly, a man who ruled by fear can not rule without it (see H. Raines). Thirdly, sanctions may punish the Iraqi people, but do they punish Saddam? The argument offered about Cuba (lift the embargo to destabilize Castro) should apply to Saddam as well. The sanctions provided lovely anti-US photo-ops of starving children, centralized his control of the economy, and impoverished his internal adversaries. Preserving the illusion of a weapons program preserved his status as an Arab strongman and international hard-case. No weapons programs and no UN compliance may have been a reasonable mix. In which case, we won't find any WMDs.

But (and with Martha under lock and key, I feel safe in stealing this), not finding WMDs is a GOOD Thing. You might want to take a moment to absord that while I tighten the laces on my tap-dancing shoes. OK, I am ending the Hauserian moment and taking off on my own. Here we go.

We had several reasons for invading Iraq. WMDs were relevant to the legal eagles who were focussed on Iraqi violations of UN resolutions. However, we also had US national security concerns about WMDs, human rights issues, a desire to bring democracy to Iraq as part of a process of transforming the Middle East, and the neocon belief that the road to peace in Jerusalem led through Baghdad.

Some folks waffled on supporting the invasion of Iraq, worried that the Administration would win the war and lose the peace. I am thinking of Josh Marshall, but I cannot seem to produce a link. Bother. Anyway, if we fail to find WMDs, then it becomes much more important for Bush to deliver on the other aspects of the deal - rebuilding Iraq, and pushing for a Palestinian settlement can not go to the back-burner. Good news!

INCREDIBLY LATE UPDATE: Sanctions enriched Saddam and were a secret policeman's dream, since everyone had a food ration card and needed to register with the authorities; the WMDs may have been a self-promotional bluff, like this update.

(0) comments

"...The Worst Moment That I Can Even Imagine Anyone Going Through"

Barbara Walters and Hillary Clinton chat about her new book, and the discussion turns to Monica - what did Hillary know, and when did she know it.

Seven months later, two days before he had to testify under oath to a grand jury, Bill Clinton finally told his wife the truth. Hillary Clinton says: "That was probably the worst moment that I can even imagine anyone going through because what he told me that morning was that he had not levelled with me or anyone else. He had not told me the whole truth about what the relationship was. And I was furious. I was dumbfounded. I was, you know, just beside myself with anger and disappointment."

Emphasis, and groan, added. Now, in one sense, she clearly mis-spoke. No sane person could imagine that learning that your hound dog of a hubby is up to his old tricks would be worse than any number of family tragedies I will not enumerate on a pleasant Friday afternoon.

However, for the critics who think Hillary! is rivalled only by her hubby for the title of "World's Most Self-Absorbed", this quote provides more ammunition, and will be depicted as a glimpse into her unguarded self-conscious, where it really IS all about her. Her supporters will brush this off as harmless hyperbole.

As an evil righty, I am just glad G. Bush did not say this. Since he is not a genius, he could never get away with it.

UPDATE: They say there is a broken light for every heart on Broadway, which seems connected to this post, but I can't say why. K-Lo notes this soundbite, and is not amused.

(0) comments

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Are There Former Drug Users In San Francisco?

The Gamma-man is worried.

UPDATE: Hmm, it probably makes more sense now, with these puzzling things called "links". Have a great weekend, all - mine sems to have begun a bit early. Thanks to Prof. DeLong for the help.

(0) comments

I Already Liked Serena Williams

This is a great post-match interview after what sounds like a tough match against a hot opponent and a hostile crowd. The headline really does not capture what seems to be the flavor of her comments:

...She [Henin-Hardenne] played very well today and probably deserved to win. She was the better player today. But it gets rather annoying if your not serving well anyway and you miss your first serve and everybody's booing and screaming.

"I've got to be stronger next time," she added. "I don't think being a American right now had anything to do with it. I don't think what is going on between France and America right now had much to do with it.

"I think sometimes you just want the underdog to win.

"Do I feel under-appreciated? I think all champions are. Martina Navratilova was at the top, no-one appreciated her until she retired. Steffi Graf (news) as well I think.

"I think it's just something the greatest have to live with, and I'm really okay with that role."

First of all, this was smart. She will be back at Paris plenty of times, and there is no need to annoy everyone. But not everyone is poised enough to remember that sort of thing right after a match.

The greatest post game interviewee I have ever seen is Derek Jeter. I remember he was intercepted as he came off the field, having just been named World Series MVP. Someone stuck a microphone in his face and asked him how he felt. The greatest shorstop in the history of the Yankees spoke for at least two minutes. He praised Torre, Steinbrenner, Rivera, Posada, Williams, several other teammates, and some of the coaches. Never mentioned himself.

There is no "I" in T-E-A-M. Although too many athletes find the "M" and the "E".

UPDATE: From Harvey Araton of the now-rehabilitated NY Times: "Serena Williams lost her composure in a theater of howling fools. She and her Grand Slam streak deserved far more appreciation and respect upon its end."

Come September, some of these players will be in NY for the US Open. Fans will be exhorted to forgive and forget, and cheer for athletes, not countries. I will mostly agree with that.

(0) comments

You Might Think I Would Just Let Go

Since there is a Howell Raines connection, I suppose I can dredge this up again.


"Tapped hopes newspapers get in the habit of crediting other publications -- and more importantly, getting comfortable with doing so."

From the time-vaults of "Just One Minute", we have TAPPED crediting Eric Alterman for work he lifted without attribution from a USA Today column. Well, they never responded to my e-mail then, and there is no reason to think they will now. But they knew!

TAPPED link; USA Today link.

(0) comments

Man Catches Fish With Computer in Belly

Wow! And that reminds me - one morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know.

(0) comments

Ding Dong

Times Executives Raines, Boyd Resign
11:02 AM EDT,June 5, 2003
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — -- New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd resigned Thursday in the wake of the journalistic fraud scandal involving reporter Jayson Blair.

The Times said Joseph Lelyveld, a former executive editor of the Times, had been named interim executive editor. The paper said no one would be named interim managing editor.

I guess it was the Howell-O-Meter.

Now, has someone scheduled a time for the orgy of self-recrimination? I would hate to miss it, and I have a moment free on Monday.

(0) comments

Bananas Grow In Bunches

Paul Krugman has referred several times to the possibility that the US public finances will deteriorate to the point that we will be treated as a "banana republic". I have pointed out, in earlier posts, that problems in the US are probably less than those facing Europe and Japan. With that upbeat theme, here we go:

Gloom from Europe:

...Stephen S. Roach, the chief economist at Morgan Stanley and the lone American speaker at the meeting, went further. "Europe is the new weak link in the global growth chain," Mr. Roach said, "and Germany is its biggest, weakest link."

Does that mean we vote them off the island? Ooops, wrong show, I need to spend more time in front of the telly. The article presents the conventional wisdom on Europe's problems with rigid labor markets and the No-Growth and Instabilty Pact (sorry, I can't recall the correct name). It could do a better job of deriding Europe's hopeless demographics, but, whatever.

Also, end the suspense, the ECB does go ahead and deliver a half-point cut.

Now, because we are very Serious Minded People here, we present the news that Schroeder of Germany won the endorsement of his party for labor market reforms of the type that he promised when he was first elected years ago as a Man with a Plan:

Germany's Social Democratic Party Endorses Schröder

BERLIN, June 1 — Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's plan to enact economic reform by reducing Germany's vast network of social protections was approved today by 90 percent of the delegates at a politically crucial meeting of his Social Democratic Party.

The vote at a one-day party congress here endorsed what has come to be called Agenda 2010, which would reduce unemployment benefits and give added flexibility to employers to hire and fire workers.

The program has prompted a fierce debate in Germany, with leftist members of Mr. Schröder's governing coalition denouncing it as pro-business and unfair to working-class and poor people.

The party's resounding endorsement does not necessarily mean that the program will become law, because some members of Mr. Schröder's slim governing majority could vote against it when it is presented to Parliament in the weeks ahead. But the vote was a clear political victory for the chancellor, who threatened as the debate has raged to resign if he failed to win his own party's support.

For the punchline, here is news about strikes all over Europe as folks contemplate various reform efforts.

June 4, 2003
West Europe Is Hard Hit by Strikes Over Pensions

FRANKFURT, June 3 — A wave of strikes from France to Austria left much of Western Europe snarled today, as protesting workers shut down subway systems, ports, trains, toll roads and airlines.

In France, where leaders of the seven major industrial countries and Russia ended a summit meeting in the spa town of Évian-les-Bains, a strike by air-traffic controllers grounded 80 percent of the flights into and out of the country.

In Austria, the strikes were the biggest since World War II, leaving the capital, Vienna, without any public transportation or postal service. Protesters even blockaded the entrance to the airport.

Workers in both countries share the same grievance: government proposals to change the national pension systems, either by cutting retirement benefits or by making people work longer to qualify for them.

Smaller strikes also erupted in Italy and Germany. Flight attendants at Alitalia, the Italian airline, called in sick to protest job cuts, forcing it to cancel 285 flights. In eastern Germany, steelworkers picketed factories to demand the same 35-hour work week that their counterparts in western Germany have.

Note that the strikes in Germany were NOT connected to Schroeder's proposals I noted above. Those strikes will no doubt be forthcoming as that legislation moves through the system.

And, we turn west for Gloom from Japan:

Frugal Japanese Dig Into Savings

...For decades, the Japanese routinely socked away 10 to 20 percent of their incomes, earning a reputation as one of the world's most frugal people. In those years, Japan badgered the United States about its wasteful ways and trade deficits, even as Japanese companies benefited from selling Americans cars and electronics.

But a decade of recession here and a rapidly aging society are changing all that. Japan's household savings rate fell to a postwar low of 6.9 percent in 2001, the last year for which complete figures are available, from 11 percent in 1999 and 14 percent in 1990.

Based on preliminary data, the savings rate fell another two percentage points in 2002, economists said. Within a decade, if current trends persist, Japan's savings rate will hit 1.5 percent, according to HSBC Securities, pushing it below America's, which rose to 3.7 percent in 2002.

...Some of the erosion in Japan's savings rate was inevitable. In the postwar era, Japan benefited greatly from a young and expanding population, which helped to expand both growth and savings rates. Today, more Japanese are reaching retirement age and are dipping into their savings accounts to pay for everyday costs, a trend expected to continue.

By 2010, more than 22 percent of Japan's 127 million citizens will be at least 65 years old, up from 17 percent just three years ago. By 2015, the elderly will outnumber the young, because of a record low birthrate.

..."People are hanging on, not letting their hair down," Chris Walker, an economist at Credit Suisse First Boston in Tokyo, said, referring to the declining savings rate. "If things continue as they are, Japan will subside toward a middle-income country."

Mr. Walker's pessimism stems from Japan's national debt, which is 150 percent of gross national product, highest among the major industrialized nations. Though the government can issue bonds indefinitely, sooner or later it has to pay them back. Assuming the economy grows at 1.5 percent a year over the next decade, as the government expects, lawmakers will have to raise taxes, commandeering even more of the country's savings.

If the US is headed towards bananadom, what fruit basket do we put Japan in?

NOTE: Backup links for Europe, Japan

UPDATE: Prof. DeLong, economist and proofreader extraordinaire, finds more gloom at The Economist, and notices another Krugman Connection.

(0) comments