Monday, September 30, 2002
Our friends the Saudis: The Wall Street Journal's William McGurn offers the latest update in the Saudis holding American citizens against their will.
The wackos on the left: Earlier today Instapundit pointed out a critique of America-hating, Taliban-loving Ted Rall and his cartoons in the wake of the terrorist attack on the United States.
The critique, by an apparently left-leaning but honest John Giuffo, is summarized in just one line: "In short, Ted Rall is giving dissent a bad name."
In the past year, Rall has blamed America, the Bush administration, Democrats, and everyone to the right of him on the political spectrum of being responsible for the 9/11 attacks, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, world hunger and every hangnail suffered by everyone in the Third World.
To quote Giuffo:
In the ensuing months, his analysis of the war and its combatants has been thoroughly shot through with distortion, exaggeration and lies. He went in convinced that a bombing campaign in Afghanistan would accomplish nothing, and he has since clung to that assumption and rejected any and all evidence to the contrary. He believes American military power cannot be used toward humanitarian ends, period. And he goes to great lengths to maintain faith in that belief.
In short, on the right we have the conspiracy theorists who think that Clinton ordered the murders of more than 40 people, and on the left we have Ted Rall.
Rall's insulting, childish and moronic screed doesn't stop at his syndicated comic strips.
On a related note that Instapundit didn't pick up, Ted Rall also authored a five-part essay over at comicbookgalaxy.com. With a laudatory foreword by comicbookgalaxy's Alan David Doane, Rall puts forward the laughable contention that the 9/11 attacks were used as pretext to help Unocal build an oil pipeline through Afghanistan and the media is helping to cover it up.
Since 9-11 print and broadcast media in the United States have disseminated the Bush Administration line without question. On no subject has that been truer than on plans to run a pipeline across Afghanistan. Yet the role of energy resources in the U.S. "war on terror" has been anything but unreported. In Europe, mainstream media outlets like Reuters and the BBC have reported extensively on the subject. Wire services have distributed hard news about U.S.-led meetings, bank funding and related issues to every American newspaper, radio and television station in the United States.
American media has uniformly chosen to ignore these wire dispatches. Perhaps editors feel that their readers and viewers aren't ready to hear unpleasant truths about their government's actions in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. Perhaps they hope that other media--some other media, somewhere--will begin the coverage that would allow them to pick up the ball. Whatever the reason for the silence of the American media, it has contributed to the sense that those who mention oil, natural gas and Afghanistan in the same breath are "conspiracy theorists" on the political fringe.
Rall becomes a mental contortionist to ignore is 3,000 dead Americans. Besides, did it ever occur to Rall that the reason these claims haven't been picked up by the American media is because the media here looks for evidence, corroboration and facts before publishing this kind of libel. In short, the mainstream media is oftentimes responsible. Why is a comics site the only place to publish Rall's essay? Because it wouldn't pass fact-checking at any mainstream Web site, magazine or newspaper.
Historically, it's no secret that war almost always goes hand in hand with economic motives, and economic incentives for American involvement often involves control of fossil fuels. U.S. intervention in Somalia, for instance, had less to do with feeding hungry Africans than controlling the strategic Gulf of Aden, through which oil tankers pass from the Indian Ocean en route to the Suez Canal via the Red Sea. While the Vietnam conflict is popularly believed to have stemmed from the Cold War-era "domino theory" obsession among U.S. officials, energy company interest in South Vietnamese natural gas reserves played at least as vital a role in American military intervention as anti-Communist ideology. And few doubt a relationship between the importance of Venezuela as the biggest producer of oil in the Western hemisphere and a botched Bush Administration coup attempt against its democratically-elected president, Hugo Chàvez. Given the enormous energy resources at stake in Central Asia, these cynics suggested, there was much more to American adventurism in Afghanistan than immediately met the eye.
Rall is of the obvious opinion that Republicans are heartless bastards, so this makes perfect sense.
But not really.
American involvement in Somalia was not a humanitarian exercise, it was to control the Gulf of Aden, according to Rall. What Rall doesn't realize is that we didn't have to go into Somalia to secure the Gulf of Aden. Somalis may have tons of AK-47s, but they don't have huge 16-inch guns or anti-ship missiles or submarines -- nothing of any danger to shipping. One guided-missile cruiser would be enough to secure shipping from any dangers posed by Somalia. Besides, if Somalia was key to securing shipping through the area, why did we leave after the Black Hawk Down disaster?
There's plenty in Rall's essay to dissect, and if any blogger is looking for something to dissect, Rall's essay certainly provides plenty of fodder. On a Comics Journal messageboard, Rall spent some time defending his work, but has since gone to ground as his work has been criticized by more conservative elements. That is anyone to the right Al Gore.
It might seem impossible to believe, but Rall's messageboard posts are even more outrageous than the claims made in his essay.
The people of Afghanistan don't speak as one voice. Certainly some people are pleased--the bandits, robbers and rapists are having a field day. The Taliban were despicable, but the Northern Alliance turned out to be nothing more than the Taliban minus law and order--same stonings, burqas, women unable to go to school (due to lack of money since it was never against the law). Anyone who thinks Afghans are better off since the bombing campaign--with its countless deaths, carpet-bombing and massive increase in refugees--is a self-deluded fool. If Afghanistan is ever rebuilt, it will be despite, not because of, the U.S.
See, in Rall's world the United States chose "bandits, robbers and rapists" over the Taliban. Afghanis were better off with the Taliban according to Rall.
Rall also lies when he says that the Taliban allowed women to go to school. He might as well have claimed that the sky is green.
Originally posted by Bill Hicks:
You're telling me that the photographs of people dancing in the streets, women returning to work burqa-free, and the resumption of soccer matches were all fabricated?
Ted Rall's response:
Just like most of the war coverage, yes. For instance, the Northern Alliance charged $500 per artillery shell firing so that cameras would have something to show on the air each night--never mind that they were firing in empty fields. Women in Kabul are 99.999999% burquaed; outside of Kabul it's 100%. Yes, soccer has resumed. If soccer is liberation, all hail liberated Afghanistan under former Taliban Hamid Karzai!
Women all still wearing the face-covering burqas? There's ample evidence this is a lie. Here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here...
Maybe Rall doesn't know the difference between a burqa and a headscarf.
I'm not sure what to call Ted Rall.
A nut-case? Certainly.
Irrelevant? Insofar as very few non-French take his opinion seriously, yes.
Sunday, September 29, 2002
Judging Judges: A hint to all newspaper editorial pages: If Eric Alterman thinks that you're doing a great job, then you've gone way too far to the left.
This should be a wake-up call for the New York Times, but is likely to fall on deaf ears. In a Sunday editorial, the Times came out against Bush appeals court nominee Michael McConnell.
While conceding McConnell is qualified, the Times has decided that he cannot be trusted to wield this limited power, always subject to review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
No judicial nominee could be confirmed today if he or she attacked Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 ruling striking down racial segregation in schools.
The Senate must also be highly skeptical of nominees who do not acknowledge a woman's right to abortion. Mr. McConnell has not merely expressed abstract reservations about the Roe v. Wade ruling, but has also actively crusaded against it. He signed a statement arguing that fetuses deserved constitutional protection. Mr. McConnell has promised to follow established precedents in the area, and that is worth something. But that will not help in the many cases appellate courts decide in which there is no binding authority and a judge must seek his own counsel.
The Times lists a litany of cases, insisting that the appeals court nominee must agree with the Times' (extreme left) editorial opinion to be qualified to serve on the appellate courts. The Times' litmus test would disqualify at least three members of the current Supreme Court from serving on the federal appeals court. Instead of selecting judges for temperament and tolerance, the Times and Senate Judiciary Democrats want a bunch of "Yes" men/women.
It's not good for the judiciary, and, as I've said before, making this an issue, as Democrats have, will eventually come back to bite them in the ass.
More on Al Gore: Al Gore's ritualistic political suicide with his speech last week to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco continues to draw fire. Former Secretary of Education, Bill Bennett wrote an excellent article on Gore's speech over at OpinionJournal.com.
As a U.S. senator, Mr. Gore backed the resolution to go to war with Iraq in 1991, and he later chastised President George H. W. Bush for leaving Saddam Hussein in power. As vice president in 1998, Al Gore supported--and President Bill Clinton signed--the Iraq Liberation Act, calling for the removal of Hussein. As a candidate for president in 2000, Mr. Gore said, "We have made it clear that it is our policy to see Saddam Hussein gone." He then concluded his remarks on Iraq with this bold statement: "And if entrusted with the presidency, my resolve will never waver."
Bennett isn't the first person to point out that Gore is a candidate in search of a message. It's not about what Al Gore stands for, it's about what Al Gore thinks 271 members of the electoral college stand for.
For a long time, Gore was considered a "new Democrat," one who had moved closer to the political center. Who, in the past week, has echoed some of Gore's specious arguments?
The ultra-liberal Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.):
...the administration has not made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral, preemptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary.
Of course, all of this, and the arguments that Saddam is still "years away" from producing a nuclear weapon.
However, with reports like this, it is probably easier to keep the American people safe by getting rid of Saddam than it would be to hope that someone stops the right taxi cab.
Friday, September 27, 2002
It's not "The West." It's "Christians:" A piece on OpinionJournal.com's "Taste" page points out that the Christians can't possibly be victims. Paul Marshal points out what the wire services and mainstream media won't -- that Islamic terrorists are targeting Christians specifically.
After the massacres at a Pakistani Christian school and hospital in August, Reuters headlined its story "Pakistan attack seen aimed at West, not Christians," while the BBC said: "The attack appears aimed at Western interests, rather than Pakistan's Christian minority." The Associated Press argued that the assaults were "directed against western interests."
The people believed to be behind the attacks, though, have made their motives plain. Members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the terrorist group claiming responsibility for an October 2001 massacre in a Christian church, said that "they planned to kill Christians" in revenge for Muslim deaths in Afghanistan. The men who claimed responsibility for attacking the school in August announced that they "killed the nonbelievers."
Christians here in the United States seldom experience this type of hatred, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist out there in the less-civilized world. The media does a disservice when it tries to sanitize the beliefs of these radical, militant Muslims. The American public deserves to know the whole truth. Unfortunately, too often, we don't get it because of the hyper-tolerant prism that too many reporters view these sorts of religious conflicts through.
Krauthammer fisks Gore: Most everyone agrees taht Al Gore's speech was a joke, full of half-truths, distortions and outright lies. The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer takes a stab at the Gorebot in a column today.
The tone of the speech is best reflected in Gore's contemptuous dismissal of the U.S. victory in Afghanistan as "defeating a fifth-rate military power." If the Taliban were a fifth-rate military power, why didn't the Clinton-Gore administration destroy it and spare us Sept. 11?
It is not as if, during Gore's term, al Qaeda had not declared itself or established its postal address. It declared war on the United States, blew up our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and attacked the USS Cole. What did Gore's administration do? Fire a few missiles into the Afghan desert and a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory, then wash its hands and leave the problem to its successors.
Why didn't the Clinton-Gore administration go after this fifth-rate military power? This is a question that even Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked. In an interview with the German newspaper Bild shortly after Sept. 11, Putin recounted having talked to the Clinton administration about Osama bin Laden: "They wrung their hands so helplessly and said, 'The Taliban are not turning him over, what can one do?' I remember I was surprised: If they are not turning him over, one has to think and do something."
Exactly. Clinton/Gore failed to act -- and it got us 3,000 dead in New York City. We identify another danger to America (Saddam Hussein and Iraq) and here's Gore again urging us not to react.
Been there. Done that. Got blown up.
Thursday, September 26, 2002
Welcome to Hoystory: That's where you're at. Unfortunately the site that hosts the graphics for this site is currently kaput. Nothing I can do about it, except hope they come back sometime soon.
*UPDATE* Graphics are back!
The conservatives are coming, the conservatives are coming: New York Times columnist Bob Herbert is sounding the alarm over President Bush's nomination of conservatives to the federal appeals court.
Is this supposed to come as some big surprise? Elections have consequences.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering two more of President Bush's appeals court nominees -- Michael McConnell to the 10th Circuit, based in Denver, and Miguel Estrada to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Mr. McConnell, a law professor, has been a passionate opponent of abortion and has asserted that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overturned. He has described abortion as "evil" and has suggested that embryos should be given constitutional protection.
(His nomination has apparently softened his stance, however, at least publicly. He recently told Judiciary Committee members that he now views Roe as settled law, and therefore his personal views are irrelevant. Pro-choice advocates are understandably skeptical.)
Why is this simple concept so hard for liberals to understand. One can disagree with a law passed by the legislature or with a ruling made by the Supreme Court and still apply the law. This same canard was raised during the nomination of John Ashcroft for Attorney General. (The arguments against Ashcroft amounted to a religious test for office, the current ones are a purely philosophical test for office.)
Herbert demonstrates the difference between liberal court nominees and conservatives. Conservatives are able to separate their personal views from applying the law. Liberals, on the other hand, follow the law only when it suits their belief system. In the case of Clinton nominee Bill Lann Lee, who was nominated, but never confirmed, to head up the Justice Department's civil rights division, stated in his Senate hearing that quotas were allowed under federal law -- despite the Supreme Court's ruling that quotas are they are not.
Some Democrats like to complain that the Republicans wouldn't bring Lee's nomination up for a vote -- that's a lie. Democrats refused to bring the nomination up because they knew they didn't have the votes to support the nomination.
Liberal advocacy groups have been left in a state of high anxiety by these two nominations. There seems little doubt that both men are prepared to advance the values of the right, if not the extreme right. But they are very difficult to fight. Mr. Estrada is an attractive nominee who could become the first Hispanic appointee to the Supreme Court. (A subtler, brighter Clarence Thomas?)
And Professor McConnell, who could well be President Bush's second appointment to the Supreme Court (it's assumed the first pick will be Hispanic), may benefit from the sheer fatigue of Senate Democrats having to fend off one nomination after another.
There's a typical argument -- Clarence Thomas is stupid -- he isn't. Several months ago Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in a column that liberals think conservatives are mean; conservatives think liberals are stupid. Both are true, however, as Herbert's statement shows, liberals also think conservatives are stupid. It's easier than arguing the merits.
But even if neither man makes it to the Supreme Court, it's important that both nominations be looked at closely. The political right has been relentless in its campaign to control the federal courts, and that campaign is getting awfully close to an absolute victory. Seven of the 13 circuit courts are already controlled by Republican appointees, and it is possible that within two years that control will extend to as many as 12, and maybe all 13 circuits.
In the popular imagination, the Supreme Court is the court of last resort. But in any given year, the Supreme Court decides fewer than 100 cases. The circuit courts, on the other hand, will issue rulings on 28,000 to 30,000 cases each year.
For those who are concerned about reproductive rights, civil liberties, health and safety issues, the environment, and on and on -- it might be a good idea to pay much closer attention to the continuing takeover of the federal courts by the right.
Republicans have made it a point to try to put conservatives on the court because Democrats have made it a point to put liberals on the court. Until the Democratic coup that changed control of the Senate, both sides had based their decisions on judicial nominations on making sure the candidates were qualified (i.e. they had legal experience), and that they would fairly enforce the law. Now, however, there is a philosophical test: You must not be a conservative.
The whole process is despicable. If the Republicans are going to control only one house of Congress, then it would be best if it was the Senate.
But the Democrats are setting a dangerous precedent. If they can quash judicial nominations based solely on philosophy with a Republican president in office, then don't be surprised if Republicans make a similar point the next time a Democrat sits in the White House.
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Punks behaving badly: Vikings petulant wide-receiver Randy Moss has been charged with 2 misdemeanors.
Religion of Peace update: From Reuters:
KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) - Two gunmen burst into the offices of a Christian welfare organization in the Pakistani city of Karachi Wednesday and opened fire, killing six people, three of them Christians, and wounding two others, police said.
Remember: Islam means peace. Rest in peace.
*UPDATE* It looks like seven dead now -- all Christians. They were tied to chairs and shot once in the head.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
California's stem-cell bill: I was going to wait to talk about the stem cell bill recently signed by California Gov. Gray Davis until I'd had time to digest it and until I'd heard what Ramesh Ponnuru had to say. The first of these things has occurred. To summarize, if you don't want to follow the link, Ramesh says that the bill is no big deal, because, as of right now, it's currently the same as the federal law.
This is just silly: From a letter writer to National Review Online's "The Corner:"
I thought you might enjoy hearing about an example of the environmental craziness unleashed in the Clinton military. As a military engineer, I was involved in an F-16 test program at Edwards AFB, CA. Evidently there was some endangered desert tortoise that was indigenous to the area. Before we could fly over that portion of the range, the base wildlife personnel had to comb the area and remove any tortoises, noting their location for subsequent return. This was required to lessen the impact upon them. Being first an engineer and second a smart aleck, I pointed out that important data was missing. To truly lessen the impact to the tortoise, their heading and speed should be taken at the time of pickup, then the tortoise could be placed in the projected position he would have reached if undisturbed. While this was a joke (and perhaps only funny to another engineer), the civil servant I mentioned it to thought it was a good idea. Hopefully, I didn't inadvertantly set base environmental policy.
I've got a friend who flies F-16s for the Air Force, and though I don't think he's been stationed at Edwards AFB, I'll have to ask him if he's heard anything about this.
The sad part about it is, didn't anyone think to figure out what is more stressful on the tortosie -- a few seconds of noise or having some funny-looking environmentalists pick them up and cart them off?
Bringing Al Gore up-to-date on the war on terror: Citizen Gore said in his speech yesterday that President Bush was wrong to press for a war in Iraq when the war on terrorism is left unfinished.
Many people who support a war on Iraq, however, are convinced that toppling Saddam Hussein is part of that same war on terror. But even for those who don't accept that argument, we've made excellent progress on the war, as recounted by Donald Sensing over at One Hand Clapping.
- Osama bin Laden, driven into the Afghan mountains, hasn't been heard from since December. Possibly (I say probably) he is dead.
- Senior al Qaeda official Abu Zubaydah, chief of al Qaeda's military operations, captured in March, is in US custody, being grilled like a Fourth of July hot dog.
- Senior al Qaeda terrorist Abu Anas Al-Liby, who plotted the American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania which killed 224 people. Reported arrested in Sudan, but the US government is mum due to sensitive relationship with Sudan, which once harbored bin Laden.
- Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a high-ranking al Qaeda paramilitary trainer and particularly close associate of Abu Zubaydah, apprehended and handed over to U.S. authorities by Pakistani forces in January.
- The Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, turned over to US custody by Pakistan.
- 273 members of al Qaeda or of the deposed Taliban regime that sheltered them, in custody, with the number rising daily, and that back in January.
- Five senior al Qaeda members killed by US forces, bin Laden aides Muhammad Salah, Assadullah and Tariq Anwar al-Sayyid Ahmad, the group's operational coordinator Abu Saleh al-Yemeni and trainer Abu Ubaida. Two others, Abdul Aziz and Abu Faisal, were captured in mid-December.
And the list just keeps on going. Along with a thorough dissection of Gore's speech. Check it out.
A disconnect between Hollywood, the news media and real America: Author David Klinghoffer pens a piece on National Review Online that offers a brief look at an American that's not as disconnected from its spiritual roots as those in L.A. or New York would lead us to believe.
Soon to be a made-for-TV movie: This is an incredible story.
Monday, September 23, 2002
A brief response: Down on my criticism of Eric Alterman, RLB (who left no e-mail, otherwise I would've responded in private) makes the following comment:
Um, let's see . . . Alterman points out Bush's status as a minority president (indisputable) who won the EC without a clear vote count (would have been true of Gore also, but he had the majority of the nation) . . . and you seem to think that Alterman's point was to accuse Bush of totalitarianism. Maybe you can fill in about fifty logical steps you have leaped over.
Read the quote of Alterman again, specifically: "They do, however, fail to note that another shared characteristic of both presidents is that neither man had been honestly elected president..."
If Alterman had said what you claimed he did, I'd have no problem with it. Remember, Clinton was a minority president too. As was Abraham Lincoln. But being a minority-elected president doesn't make you a fraud, which is what Alterman is claiming. And won the EC (electoral college) without a "clear vote count?" You want a clear vote count? Here.
Second, I didn't think that Alterman's point was to accuse Bush of totalitarianism. I merely classified Alterman as the type of idiotarian who complains that Bush is destroying our civil liberties and freedom of speech, when the fact that he can vociferously criticize Bush without getting tossed in the slammer disproves his point.
In an alternate universe, in the near future:
Terrorists nuke D.C.
President Gore vows: 'They will pay'
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- President Al Gore, speaking at a fund-raiser at the Commonwealth Club here, reacted angrily to news that terrorists detonated a small "briefcase nuke" in Washington, D.C., destroying the Capitol and the White House and leaving thousands dead.
"I'm furious. Really, I am," Gore told reporters when informed of the news.
Gore said his administration's first step would be to drain Iraqi accounts frozen since that country's invasion of Kuwait and place the money in the Social Security lockbox.
Terrorist Osama bin Laden, whom the Gore administration believes may be involved in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, claimed responsibility for the attack in a video aired by Al-Jazeera.
"Allah be blessed," bin Laden said in the tape. "And may Allah's blessings rain down on the great Saddam Hussein who provided us with device."
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein went on Iraqi national television to announce that Iraq was now a nuclear power.
"No longer will we be subject to UN resolutions or the Great Satan's 'no-fly' zones," Hussein said. "Unless the Americans respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi people, we will detonate nuke after nuke in major American cities."
Asked for a reaction to the Iraqi leader's claims, Gore administration officials said there was no evidence Iraq had more nuclear weapons.
"We suspected that he might have had one nuclear weapon, but there's no way that he has more," said a senior administration official.
The official also said that it appeared that Hussein's prior claims that he did not possess weapons of mass destruction "may have been false."
Gore said that he would call for a U.N. resolution authorizing sanctions against whatever nation is responsible for today's attack.
"Getting the support of the international community is key," Gore said.
Gore proposed following a path similar to that he followed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, one that resulted in tough sanctions against Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Nearly two years after the destruction of the Twin Towers and the attack on the Pentagon, Afghanistan is suffering a shortage of food and medicine, but has still refused to give up bin Laden.
Gore acknowledged that there have been sanctions in effect against Iraq since shortly after the end of the 1991 Gulf War, but said that they must be given sufficient time to work.
"I'm confident that sanctions and the goodwill understanding of the international community are the best way to protect the United States from future terrorist attacks," Gore said.
Sunday, September 22, 2002
Female chauvinistic pig alert: Today's New York Times has an excellent article on the fact that women don't want men to play sports. Well, not exactly, but that's the effect of it.
As much as some militant feminists would like to deny it, there are definite differences between men and women. One of those differences -- a higher percentage of men are interested in watching, and playing, sports. It's a simple fact of life. But it's something that women won't accept, so along came Title IX, which, though not designed to, has has the effect of prohibiting men from playing college sports.
Male walk-ons have essentially become an unwanted luxury. Most colleges work hard to maintain a roughly equal number of male and female participants - whether on scholarship or not - in athletics. They do so to comply with Title IX, the law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded institutions.
But their pursuit of that goal is entangled by budget limitations and the addition of thousands of new teams for women over the past decade. This delicate balancing act is disrupted each year when three to four times more men than women arrive unsolicited for the first week of practices, dozens of coaches and administrators said in interviews.
Athletic department administrators have generally responded to the disparity by telling coaches of women's teams to keep as many walk-ons as they can, even encouraging them to scour campuses for more candidates to fill their rosters. The coaches of many men's teams, meanwhile, have been assigned a reduced, fixed roster limit, a number that is quickly filled by established recruits. Often, there is no room for walk-ons.
Aren't these the same type of people that usually ask us to look for "root causes?"
Well, the Times does a good job of telling both sides of the story. After talking to and quoting dozens of coaches and administrators who lament the fact that they can't take walk-ons for fear that Gloria Steinem will come calling with a lawsuit.
Then, for the other side, we get the bitter, male-hating Marilyn McNeil, athletic director of Monmouth University and chairwoman of the NCAA's committee on women's athletics.
"I hated the movie `Rudy,' " said Marilyn McNeil.
"If you're not going to get your uniform dirty during games, you shouldn't be on the team," said McNeil, who is also the chairwoman of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's committee on women's athletics. "I believe there is still an opportunity for a walk-on to bloom on our teams, but there has to be a cutoff date for those who just want to hang around. We can't afford it. It's time to tell these students: `You've got other talents. Go write about sports at the school newspaper, join the debate team, or maybe you've got a nice voice and belong on the stage.'
"Some guys just like to be part of the group. Then 10 years later they will talk about being on their college team, when the fact is they never played."
You see, the men who are complaining are just a bunch of athletically challenged cry-babies.
Of course, an unbiased look at the problem reveals it's a little more unfair, yet benevolent, than McNeil and her ilk would like to believe. You see, these colleges allow every woman to walk-on who wants to, so some men who want to walk-on can play.
Now, it's getting to the point where many programs won't take walk-ons at all because maintaining the balance between men and women is too precious and precarious.
It's unfortunate that once good and well-intentioned Title IX program has come to this. Some mens' programs are filing federal lawsuits seeking to change the way Title IX is enforced. Instead of having athletic participation based on the percentage of men and women in the student body, it should be based on the percentage of men and women in the student body who are interested in participating.
The best solution, of course, would be to allow everyone who wants to participate in sports the opportunity. Unfortunately funding is finite and interest, while not infinite, is always higher.
For a more complete view of the issue check out Jessica Gavora's book "Tilting the Playing Field."
Saturday, September 21, 2002
Why Eric Alterman is an idiot partisan: After the 2000 Florida election debacle there was a lot of carping from the left that Bush was "selected not elected." Well, it was hogwash then and it's hogwash now. The (Democrat-dominated) Florida Supreme Court went outside the law in search of a way to get Al Gore more votes.
To quote now-appeals court nominee Michael McConnell:
One sentence of the Florida Supreme Court's decision on hand recounts tells it all: "The will of the people, not a hyper-technical reliance upon statutory provisions, should be our guiding principle."
That is like saying, of a disputed umpire call in the World Series: "Athletic superiority, not a hyper-technical reliance upon the rules of baseball, should be our guiding principle." In our system, the will of the people is manifested through procedures specified in advance. When those rules are changed in mid-stream, something has gone terribly wrong.
In the wake of Sept. 11, these cries of illegitimacy were now considered beyond the pale -- and only the most muddle-headed liberals, America-haters and Frenchmen still used the argument.
Alterman has now counted himself (fifth item) among those who have lost their credibility on the war, by using the specious claim that Bush is somehow an interloper in the White House.
Finally: Here’s a couple of historians’ posting from the Listserve, H-Diplo, comparing LBJ and Vietnam with GWB and the proposed Iraqi war. They are pretty interesting. They do, however, fail to note that another shared characteristic of both presidents is that neither man had been honestly elected president when deciding to embark upon an aggressive war.
Of course, maybe Alterman's right. If George W. Bush really is president he's just the type of guy who would toss Alterman in jail as an enemy combatant for his dishonest vociferous attacks. Since Alterman is still walking around free, someone else must be president. I wonder who it is.
Marrying young: There's a very interesting article on National Review Online. I didn't see it yesterday, because of an overabundance of work, but it's very interesting. I don't necessarily agree with all of the points made, but this idea did intrigue me:
A pattern of late marriage may actually increase the rate of divorce. During that initial decade of physical adulthood, young people may not be getting married, but they're still falling in love. They fall in love, and break up, and undergo terrible pain, but find that with time they get over it. They may do this many times. Gradually, they get used to it; they learn that they can give their hearts away, and take them back again; they learn to shield their hearts from access in the first place. They learn to approach a relationship with the goal of getting what they want, and keep their bags packed by the door. By the time they marry they may have had many opportunities to learn how to walk away from a promise. They've been training for divorce.
Of course, I'm 30 and single, so my views of this issue are completely unhindered by actual life experience. But that argument does seem to have some grain of truth behind it. I'd be curious to see a study that compared married and divorced couples in terms of their relationships prior to marriage. It might be intriguing.
Laugh out loud: The latest accounting scandal involves a (forgive the laundry list of nations) "Russian-born Canadian under arrest in Germany." It seems the man is allegedly part of an arms-smuggling operation involving Middle East countries, including Iraq -- in violation of the U.N. arms embargo.
The man's name? Arthur Andersen.
Friday, September 20, 2002
A posting lull: If you're a regular you will have realized that I didn't post nearly as much as normal this past week. Sorry, but I spent the week covering for a guy who went on vacation. His job is much more time consuming and stressful than my normal job usually is.
That said, The Heritage Foundation's Alfredo Goyburu wrote a good op-ed piece in today's San Diego Union-Tribune on Social Security reform/partial privatization/private accounts.
Among the interesting facts:
The Standard & Poor's 500, the index that measures the stock prices of large companies, has gained every 20-year period since it began in 1926. It even climbed 1.1 percent through the heart of the Great Depression -- 1929 to 1938. The short-term hiccups -- even the 25 calendar years in which the S&P fell, including the six when it fell more than 20 percent -- are more than outweighed by the market's overall upward climb.
The S&P has gone up for the year 51 times since it first began. It has averaged a 7 percent annual gain over the last 75 years, and it never has had a 30-year period in which it did not gain at least 4.4 percent.
In fact, seven 30-year periods since that time had rates of return of more than 9 percent.
Of course, critics of privatization like to point out that Social Security is a welfare program. A safety net. But it's a safety net that is broken -- and Democratic demagoguery won't fix it.
Thursday, September 19, 2002
There he goes again: The San Diego Union-Tribune's James Goldsborough penned an incoherent attack on the Bush Administration policy calling for regime change in Iraq.
The causes of the Bush chagrin are clear, but first let's address their argument that "the goal is not arms inspections but Iraqi disarmament."
That is exactly right, but for Bush to present arms inspection, which is a means to disarmament, as an alternative to it is deceptive. All arms agreements are based on inspections, and getting U.N. inspectors into Iraq without restrictions is the necessary means of enforcing the U.N. arms resolutions Iraq accepted in 1991.
Goldsborough, like Kristof earlier in the week, seems to believe that Bush's speech to the U.N. was something of a "come to Jesus talk" for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Goldsborough's old enough to remember what's happened since the Gulf War. I've talked to him a couple of times this week -- he's not a stupid man, but his optimism that this time we can trust Saddam is amazing and disappointing.
Goldsborough also refers to this as an "arms agreement" -- it's not, it's the terms of a cease-fire. Arms agreements are mutual, and based on mutual trust. What we've got in Iraq is terms we dictated to the loser of a war. Granted that these are terms which we have, in the past 11 years, been reluctant to enforce. But the fact that we've not held Saddam to them in the past does not bar us from enforcing them when we have the will to do it.
For Bush, Iraq's action changes nothing.
Well, it changes nothing because Iraq's "action" is nothing. It's rhetoric and nothing more. That was demonstrated today by the Iraqi statement to the U.N.:
In short, what Iraq wants is the respect of the principles of the UN Charter and international law, whether regarding its own interests and sovereignty or those of the other member-states of the United Nations. On this basis, Iraq was, and still is, ready to cooperate with the Security Council and international organizations. However, Iraq rejects any transgression by whosoever at the expense of its rights, sovereignty, security, and independence, that is in contradiction with the principles of the Charter and the international law. It is for this reason that Iraq has persevered, and thanks to its faith, is still prepared to endure more for this end.
Iraq, as a defeated country, has only the sovereignty that the United States and its international coalition wishes to give it. Iraq lost a war. Saddam, because he's still in power, has never come to grips with this basic fact, and 11 years of deceit and obstruction have proved that he will never learn the lesson.
The brains of this administration, starting with Dick Cheney, the redoubtable vice president, and Rumsfeld, who has been Cheney's alter ego for 30 years, gets its energy from two groups with powerful Washington influence. Neither group is likely to be placated by sending U.N. inspectors back to Baghdad.
One group is the neoconservatives, whose overriding interest is Israel. The other group is the unilateralists, whose main interest is steering clear of multilateral agreements and knocking nations that defy U.S. policy or challenge U.S. supremacy.
The neoconservatives, represented in and around the Pentagon by people like Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle and supported by a host of influential East Coast, neo-con publications, are those who persuaded Bush to "park" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and go after Iraq first.
I think I classify as a conservative, maybe even a neoconservative (though I'd appreciate it if one of my readers could explain the distinguishing characteristics between the two), and I'm sorry to say that Israel isn't my overriding interest. The United States and its security is my overriding interest. Saddam and his support of terrorists and his drive to acquire weapons of mass destruction are a danger to the United States.
Far more likely, I believe, is that a U.S. attack on Iraq would weaken moderate Arab regimes and revitalize terrorist cells everywhere.
Call me naive, but could someone explain to me just which Arab regime is "moderate?" And what exactly does "moderate" mean in this context? Is Saudi Arabia "moderate" because they sell us oil? Heck, they'd be downright friendly if it weren't for that terrorist funding. That madrassah funding. The fact that 15 of the 19 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. Is a moderate Arab country one that says it's OK to kill Jews in Jerusalem, but not in New York?
And "revitalize terrorist cells?" Is that possible? Are there groups of terrorists in the U.S. who are just kicking-back, working at the local 7-Eleven until we attack Iraq. That's when they've had enough and start to get off their duffs and start working on their terror plans.
There was near-total Arab condemnation of the Sept. 11 attacks, which were seen as barbaric and unjustified.
What does "Arab condemnation of the Sept. 11 attacks" sound like? "Oh, we're sorry so many Americans were killed, but people are poor and oppressed in the Middle East. That's why you were attacked. You need to look at the root causes. Why are they so mad at you?"
The civilians in the Pentagon are gung-ho for war with Iraq, but what of the military? Officers still in uniform must stay silent, but we get the flavor from those who are not.
"It might be interesting to note that all the generals see this (Iraq) the same way, and all those that never fired a shot in anger are really hell-bent to go to war," says Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine Corps general who has been the Bush administration's special envoy to the Middle East.
The U.S. military, those who would actually fight the war, aren't so keen as the civilians. I wonder why.
Back to the whole Starship Troopers argument. Apparently the opinion of our elected leaders doesn't count unless they've served in the military. Which Bush has, but that was the National Guard. Oh, that doesn't count, because the National Guard doesn't fight wars. Oh? The National Guard does fight wars? National Guardsmen have been sent overseas? They've fought in Vietnam? Oh.
Comments like those from Gen. Anthony Zinni remind me of another American general, George McClellan. McClellan was so worried about losing men that he wouldn't fight, allowing Gen. Robert E. Lee to press the attack on the Union.
President Abraham Lincoln commented to the effect that if McClellan wasn't using the army, would he mind if Lincoln borrowed it?
Don't get me wrong. I've numerous friends who are serving in the armed forces. People die in war. And there is every possibility that when we attack Iraq, some of them may not come back. I have the utmost respect for people who serve in the armed forces.
But war is a political act. The decision to go to war is made, as it should be, by our elected representatives. Let's not forget that the attack on Sept. 11 was based on Osama bin Laden's assessment that the United States was weak and spineless. Where'd he get that idea? From the way we behaved in Somalia, in response to the USS Cole attack, and in the wake of the African embassy bombings.
Some would urge that we "speak softly and carry a big stick." But the soft-speaking only works if the other side understands that there is a willingness to use the big stick.
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
More on media bias: There's been quite a bit of discussion lately in media circles regarding whether or not The New York Times has been using its news pages to promote a political agenda.
The American Prospect has published a less-than-stellar defense of the Times and Media Minded has an excellent analysis. Check it out.
Monday, September 16, 2002
It all depends on your point of view: I'm not going to defend Secretary of the Army Thomas White from Paul Krugman. I'm no fan of Enron, but I am going to continue to correct a couple of misleading statements that Krugman seems intent on perpetuating.
[I]n February 2001 Enron presented an imposing facade, but insiders knew better: they were desperately struggling to keep their Ponzi scheme going. When one top executive learned of millions in further losses, his e-mailed response summed up the whole strategy: "Close a bigger deal. Hide the loss before the 1Q."
The strategy worked. Enron collapsed, but not before insiders made off with nearly $1 billion. The sender of that blunt e-mail sold $12 million in stocks just before they became worthless. And now he's secretary of the Army.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. White was tardy in selling that $12 million in stock. He'd been ordered to divest himself months earlier, when the stock was at a much higher price, but had delayed. When White sold his stock it was on the way down, but not yet at rock-bottom.
What was the cause for the delay? Who knows? But if White was as knowledgeable about what was going on as Krugman suggests, he would've sold his stock much earlier.
I keep getting confused, one minute conservatives are stupid (see economic policies) and the next second they're these brilliant schemers. Maybe all conservatives suffer from multiple-personality disorder.
Then, as is his custom and practice, Krugman goes after Vice President Dick Cheney.
It was crony capitalism at its worst. What kind of administration would keep Mr. White in office?
A story in last week's Times may shed light on that question. It concerned another company that sold a division, then declared that its employees had "resigned," allowing it to confiscate their pensions. Yet this company did exactly the opposite when its former C.E.O. resigned, changing the terms of his contract so that he could claim full retirement benefits; the company took an $8.5 million charge against earnings to reflect the cost of its parting gift to this one individual. Only the little people get shafted.
The other company is named Halliburton. The object of its generosity was Dick Cheney.
Don't even get me started on the "What kind of administration would keep..." line. We can rewind to the Clinton Administration and all of the problems Clinton had with his cabinet officers, but that would take too much time.
You can find the article that Krugman references here. As is his custom, Krugman simplifies a complicated issue in order to cast it in an unfavorable light. Let's take it as a given that Cheney got a sweetheart deal on his pension. Is it uncommon for CEOs? Nope. GE's retired CEO Jack Welch got a sweetheart deal that embarrassed even him, now that it's public, into returning much of it.
If Krugman wants to bash corporate America's overpaid CEOs, that's fine. I think they're grossly overpaid, but I don't necessarily blame the CEO -- I blame the board of directors. Of course, it's easier to vilify one person rather than a dozen.
Are the "little people" being screwed out of their pensions? Maybe, but not necessarily by Halliburton.
What Krugman left out:
Halliburton responded to questions with a statement, saying that the Dresser-Rand employees who had turned 55 before the unit was sold would still receive all their pension options and benefits, as if the acquisition and spinoff had never happened. Officials had considered preserving the younger workers' benefits as well, Halliburton added, but decided not to, because "it would be, in effect, paying for service with Dresser-Rand" after the employees had begun working for the company that had bought the unit. The buyer was Ingersoll-Rand, an industrial conglomerate that has its headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., and is incorporated in Bermuda.
Halliburton said about 140 workers would get full benefits and about 300 workers were affected by the change. According to Halliburton, it "would have been entirely up to Ingersoll-Rand" to establish a new pension plan for the workers under 55, matching the benefits they had lost as a result of the spinoff.
Paul Dickard, a spokesman for Ingersoll-Rand, disagreed. "This really remains a Halliburton obligation," he said. "It's very clear."
The finger-pointing between Halliburton and Ingersoll-Rand is only part of the employees' problems as they struggle to sort out what happened to the money they were repeatedly told they had coming.
So, there's some dispute over who is responsible for the pension benefits now. Not as clear-cut, black and white as Krugman portrayed it. Is this uncommon in corporate takeovers? From my experience, the answer is "no." One newspaper I used to work for, The North County Times was recently bought by Lee Enterprises. What happened to the employees? Well, among other things, their pension went adios, their sick days went adios, and they stopped accruing vacation time on a weekly basis.
It would be nice if every company treated its employees fairly -- if that were ever to occur there'd be no unions. Unfortunately it's not a perfect world.
On a related note: I wonder what happened to the pensions of Global Crossing employees?
Letters to Hoystory: If I keep getting letters of this quality, I'm going to have to start another blog just to publish them. I will say that the quality of the letters I receive are much better than those sent to your average newspaper. This one was from an individual who works for the newspaper that one of my college J-school professors called the foremost predictors of news in the nation.
For reasons which are understandable, this writer wishes to remain anonymous.
A few more thoughts on the wretchedness of that Kristof column:
1. Much as liberals like to posthumously remember Kennedy as an ardent liberal champion, he was in fact an ardent cold warrior. Not unlike Bush, he aggressively warned of the Soviet threat and escalated the fear, scaring elder statesmen in his own party, leaders in Europe and Eisenhower with his inflated rhetoric, which was viewed by many in both parties as the scare tactics of a callow and inexperienced kid trying to win office. At the least, it was hardly the rhetoric of a statesman with a "passion to avoid war." Not unlike Bush, and despite the hindsight-is-20-20 view of Kennedy sycophant Sorenson, he contemplated NOT using the UN, and had doubts about Adlai Stevenson's toughness and the effectiveness of the body. Moreover, just as critics say of Bush's case, you could argue that the threat of the Cuban missiles was more theoretical than real, and that it was ONLY a threat to the U.S., that missiles in Cuba would only have given the Soviets parity to match the missiles we had at their doorstep; I don't agree with this view, but the point is that it's hardly a slam-dunk argument to say that the missiles were inherently and clearly a threat to the U.S. The Kennedy doctrine that no missiles but ours could be allowed in our hemisphere is at least as arbitrary as the doctrine of preemptive war that Bush is advocating -- and the Bush argument in fact seems a good bit compelling after the attacks of last year. Indeed, Kennedy had to carefully shape his argument and case to make it clear to the U.S. and the world that we were not the aggressors and that the Soviets were.
2. Kristof calls war "the first tool" off the shelf. What planet is he on? Did he see the speech? Haven't we tried sanctions, air strikes, diplomacy, arms inspections, etc., for 11 years now? Wasn't Bush at the UN's doorstep offering again the chance to promote alternatives to war yet again? Can't Saddam pick up the phone whenever he wants and get the inspectors back in and destroy his weapons? I love these critics who were complaining all summer that Bush was ready to fight the war alone, and now that he has gone to the UN instead have switched to arguing, essentially, that he just doesn't really mean it. That's about as lame as it gets.
3. Sorenson says Kennedy would have done "everything he could, with U.S. muscle, to get inspectors in there." Um , what exactly is different in Bush's approach? Here's a president providing muscle -- the only muscle i think, except for Britain -- while listing demands, including the return of arms inspectors, to the UN.
4. Kristof mentions the "gracious exit" we gave the Russians at the end of the crisis. Er, we offered Saddam a"gracious exit" 11 years ago, dude, when we let him stay in power if he abided by UN resolutions. He hasn't done so. What does he think JFK would have done if the Russians had agreed to our deal and continued to build the missiles?
I don't mean to make this sound like sheer liberal-bashing. I think Bush has yet to make a fuly coinvincing case for war. What's really dismaying here is the sheer lack of care and poor thought that characterizes this column. THIS is the level of analysis and intelligence that NY Times reporters possess?
I don't know what the letter writer could have been thinking when it came to the last question in his letter. After all, MSNBC's Eric Alterman thinks that the Times editorial page is just getting better and better.
Distributed critiquing: As part of the promotion for the Stanley Kubrick/Steven Spielberg movie A.I., Dreamworks created an ingenious online game that had Internet cybersleuths trying to solve a murder mystery. The puzzles were extremely complicated -- and unlikely to ever be solved by just one person. So, thousands of people banded together, using their expertise, knowledge, and insight to solve the puzzles and the mystery.
To quote Bill Cosby: "I told you that story so I could tell you this story..."
One of the most impressive things that occurs when I write on certain subjects, notably anything on the New York Times' editorial page, is the feedback I get from readers. Let me first note that I never intend or allow anyone "to get away with" whatever statement they've made. It's possible, indeed probable, that I don't know a particular statement is false or misleading. I don't know everything, but combined, all of the readers out there in the blogosphere do.
In the interest of completeness of criticism of Paul Krugman and his Friday column, I received the following letter from a reader:
Good dissection of Krugman's prattle today, but you allowed him to get away with repeating a fiction that's understandable for a non-economist to make, but for a macroeconomist it's positively embarrassing.
Krugman wrote: "...the milder oil price spike before the gulf war was also followed by a recession."
That's simply false. The recession of 1990-1991 began *before* Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August. There was an oil price shock during the invasion and war, but it did not prevent the recession from ending in March 1991, the same month the Gulf War ended.
It's an easy mistake to make because by the time we figure out we're in a recession, we've been in it for a while. In 1991 and 1992, the popular myth was that there was still a recession, because economists were looking back at the end of 1990. Furthermore, unemployment is a *lagging* economic indicator, meaning that it reaches its peak many months after GDP growth bottoms out. Unemployment was high in 1992, but that was a result of the recession of a year before that had ended. That didn't mean that the recession was still going on. Krugman shouldn't be making this mistake, one that no introductory macroeconomics student would. He should be incapable of it, yet for an economic titan, he sometimes has trouble with adding and subtracting.
Information on the dates of US recessions can be found here.
And now the record is complete.
Friday, September 13, 2002
Lucky me, I hit the trifecta: I used to read The New York Times editorial pages for laughs. Now I read them because, well, someone has to do it. The sad thing is, the Times' op-ed pages are the most monolithic of any American newspaper outside the New York Post or The Washington Times.
In today's New York Times we are treated to a trio of disappointing liberal thought in the wake of President Bush's speech yesterday before the United Nations.
First, Mr. Nicholas Kristof takes Bush to task because "he cited no evidence of any immediate threat" from Iraq.
I'll walk Kristof through a little not implausible scenario.
1. Al Qaeda hates Americans.
2. Saddam Hussein hates Americans.
3. Saddam Hussein makes/acquires a backpack nuke.
4. Saddam Hussein gives the backpack nuke to Al Qaeda operatives.
5. Pundits begin drawing comparisons between Hiroshima and what happened yesterday in New York City.
Kristof goes on to compare how Bush is handling the threat from Iraq with how JFK handled the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Then Kristof makes a stupid statement that causes me to wonder what rock he's been sitting under.
Graham Allison, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government who has written a book about the missile crisis, noted that Kennedy had stipulated that the missiles absolutely had to be removed from Cuba. But Kennedy turned first to diplomacy and a blockade. He offered the Russians a graceful exit and thus saved lives and avoided a dangerous spin into the unknown.
Today as well, why shouldn't war be a last resort instead of the first tool that President Bush grabs off the shelf?
Mr. Kristof, we've had economic sanctions against Iraq for more than a decade. It hasn't worked.
Mr. Kristof, we've had no-fly zones over Iraq to prevent him from killing his people. It hasn't worked.
Mr. Kristof, we've had the oil-for-food program in order to prevent the Iraqi people from starving, but Saddam has taken that money and used it to buy arms and build places. It hasn't worked.
Mr. Kristof, we've had weapons inspectors held at the front door while Saddam's men took documents out the back door. It hasn't worked.
War is Bush's last resort. Nothing else has worked.
Kristof also has his own requirements for Bush getting his "Stamp of Approval" for invading Iraq.
Before launching a war, Mr. Bush still needs to show two things: first, that the threat is so urgent that letting Iraq fester is even riskier than invading it and occupying it for many years to come; second, that deterrence will no longer be successful in containing Saddam.
How urgent is urgent? Does Saddam have to be one year away from developing a nuke or two? Three? Four?
Second, containing Saddam? Saddam is supporting terrorism -- against Americans. If not Sept. 11 (though the Czechs still say that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Prague), then by his support of suicide bombers in Israel -- who kill American citizens.
Our second victim is the erstwhile economic genius, but political neophyte, Paul Krugman.
Krugman starts out where he usually does, with the Bush tax cut.
The shifting rationale for the Bush tax cut - it's about giving back the surplus; no, it's a demand stimulus; no, it's a supply-side policy - should have warned us that this was an obsession in search of a justification.
So, it can't be all three? Can't a tax cut, like a tax increase, have multiple effects? Multiple basis?
But Krugman won't stop with the Bush tax cut -- it's all about the coming war with Iraq.
The shifting rationale for war with Iraq - Saddam Hussein was behind Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks; no, but he's on the verge of developing nuclear weapons; no, but he's a really evil man (which he is) - has a similar feel.
Is it shifting rationale or an evolving, developing rational. Like as you read a book you discover more and more of the plot. Of course, how you see it depends on the biases you bring to the table. Krugman sees everything that the Bush administration does as the result of some insidious plot.
The idea that war would actually be good for the economy seems like just one more step in this progression. But one must admit that there are times when war has had positive economic effects. In particular, there's no question that World War II pulled the United States out of the Great Depression. And today's U.S. economy, while not in a depression, could certainly use some help; the latest evidence suggests a recovery so slow and uneven that it feels like a continuing recession. So is war the answer?
No: World War II is a very poor model for the economic effects of a new war in the Persian Gulf. On balance, such a war is much more likely to depress than to stimulate our struggling economy.
There is nothing magical about military spending - it provides no more economic stimulus than the same amount spent on, say, cleaning up toxic waste sites.
Don't disagree with you Mr. Krugman. But when 3,000 people have been murdered by terrorists, it's a heck of a lot easier to get military spending than it is cleaning up toxic waste sites.
The reason World War II accomplished what the New Deal could not was simply that war removed the usual inhibitions. Until Pearl Harbor Franklin Roosevelt didn't have the determination or the legislative clout to enact really large programs to stimulate the economy. But war made it not just possible but necessary for the government to spend on a previously inconceivable scale, restoring full employment for the first time since 1929.
Full employment. A good thing? My grandfather told me stories of full employment. The government paid a man whose only job was to bolt in the navigator's table on B-29 bombers. Of course, that only took a few minutes. So the guy was "fully-employed" to put it in and take it out and put it in and take it out ... until the rest of the aircraft was finished and he could leave it in.
By contrast, this time around Congress is eager to spend on domestic projects; if the administration wants to pump money into the economy, all it needs to do is drop its objections to things like drought aid for farmers and new communication gear for firefighters. In other words, if the economy needs a burst of federal spending, neither economics nor politics requires that this burst take the form of a war
OK, this is it -- Krugman is here by barred from ever complaining about the budget deficit ever again. You can't decry the deficit and then say: "Spend, spend, spend!"
And in any case it's not clear how much stimulus war would provide. One assumes that the necessary munitions are already in stock, so there will be no surge in factory orders. There will be spending on peacekeeping - won't there? - but it will be spread over many years.
Assume? Idiot. You think we have the munitions already in stock? Do you remember any reporting about the lack of cruise missiles and it requiring an act of Congress to convert cruise missiles to conventional?
This report from the London Telegraph is more than nine months old, but I can guarantee that these complex weapons can't be turned out like cheap children's toys.
US missile shortage delays Iraq strike
By Sean Rayment
A SHORTAGE of cruise missiles has thrown plans for a full-scale strike on Iraq into disarray.
US strikes against Afghanistan, Sudan and in Kosovo have all but depleted ALCM stocks
America's supply of the air launched version, one of the US air force's most sophisticated and deadly weapons, has become so depleted that military chiefs are pressing Boeing, the manufacturers, to speed up their production.
Even so, the first of the new batch of missiles ordered last year is not expected for months, and it may take longer to rebuild stocks to a level that would make such an attack viable.
Strikes against Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998 and Kosovo two years ago virtually exhausted the US supply. The number of conventional [non-nuclear] air launched cruise missiles left within the inventory is believed to be fewer than 30.
So much for the necessary supplies.
Meanwhile there is the potential economic downside, which may be summed up in one word: oil.
Iraq itself currently supplies so little oil to the world market that wartime disruption of its production would pose little problem. But neither the Arab-Israeli war of 1973 nor the Iranian revolution of 1979 directly affected oil production.
Instead, the indirect political repercussions of conflict were what caused oil prices to surge. This time around, Arab leaders have warned that an invasion of Iraq would open the "gates of hell." That doesn't sound good for the oil market.
These are the same Arab leaders that told us the Arab Street would "rise up" if we attacked the radical Muslim government of Afghanistan. Apparently Krugman trusts these guys more than he does President Bush.
If we can take control of the Iraqi oil fields quickly (and I'm confident that this is part of the war planning based on the environmental havoc Saddam wreaked after withdrawing from Kuwait), and quash Saddam's army with relative speed and quickness, then I doubt there will be a peep from "Arab leaders." Nobody argues with a winner with an aircraft carrier.
What happens then? Well, we open the spigot to cheap oil. The money feeds the Iraqi people
It's worth remembering that each of the oil crises of the 1970's was followed by a severe recession - and that the milder oil price spike before the gulf war was also followed by a recession. Could rising crude prices undermine our weak economic recovery, creating a double-dip recession? Yes.
Krugman's right. A rise in oil prices could undermine our recovery. Which is a good reason to get more oil on the market, whether from Iraq or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
None of this should deter us from invading Iraq if the administration makes a convincing case that we should do so for security reasons. But it's foolish and dangerous to minimize the potential economic consequences of war, let alone claim that it will be good for the economy.
But another, equally strong argument can be made from Krugman's last sentence by changing only one word.
"But it's foolish and dangerous to minimize the potential economic consequences of war, let alone claim that it will be bad for the economy."
It all depends on your point of view. It's likely we'll find out soon enough whether Krugman's right or wrong.
If he's wrong, don't expect a mea culpa, either.
Which brings us to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
While much of Albright's column is alright. Some of it is pure liberal drivel.
Although the president's speech yesterday was persuasive in many respects, he was neither specific nor compelling in his effort to link Saddam Hussein to other, more urgent threats. As evil as Mr. Hussein is, he is not the reason antiaircraft guns ring the capital, civil liberties are being compromised, a Department of Homeland Defense is being created and the Gettysburg Address again seems directly relevant to our lives.
Civil liberties being compromised? To paraphrase Shakespeare: Givest thou me a break.Albright can complain when Arab Americans are rounded up in camps a la "The Siege."
There is evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing -- which President Clinton did little about. Saddam offers bounties to the families of suicide bombers in the West Bank and the Gaza strip who kill Americans.
Saddam may not be linked to Sept. 11 (but, once again, the Czech's stand by their Atta/Iraq meeting account) in most people's eyes, that doesn't mean that he can be ignored.
In the aftermath of tragedy a year ago, the chief executive told our nation that fighting terrorism would be "the focus of my presidency." That -- not Iraq -- remains the right focus.
Once again, we have a liberal with reading comprehension problems. Bush said "fighting terrorism" would be "the focus of my presidency." He didn't say "Al Qaeda." He didn't say "Osama bin Laden." He said "terrorism." Saddam sponsors terrorism. Saddam is fair game.
During the past four years, Al Qaeda has attacked Americans here at home, in Africa and in the Middle East. We still do not know where its top operatives are or what they might be planning. There is evidence that Qaeda members are returning to Afghanistan, where thousands of Taliban supporters still live and lawlessness prevails. We have not given the government of Hamid Karzai even a fraction of the help it needs to make Afghanistan a permanent terrorist-free zone. Creation of an effective worldwide antiterror coalition remains a work in progress. Restructuring our intelligence services, law enforcement agencies and military to defeat the terrorist threat continues to be in the design stage.
I don't disagree that much has to be done, but that's no reason to put off ousting Saddam. Certainly his people will be better off without him. And how long does Albright suggest we wait? German intelligence estimates say that Saddam will have a nuke by 2005. Is Albright suggesting Bush wait until, say, October 2004 before launching a preemptive attack?
Albright then goes off into silly land.
If United Nations inspectors are again rebuffed by Iraq, we should also give notice that we will destroy without warning any facilities in that country that we suspect are being used to develop prohibited arms. Even if those suspicions are later proved wrong, the blame should fall on Iraq for denying access, not on the United States for trying to enforce the Security Council's will.
Does Albright really think that will fly? If we mistakenly bomb another baby milk factory, does she really think the French ambassador will say Saddam's to blame? How about the Chinese? The Germans?
At the United Nations yesterday, the president began the job of spelling out the what and why of our policy toward Baghdad. The wisdom of that policy, however, will ultimately hinge on when he chooses to act.
Let's just hope that Albright and her cohorts don't succeed in convincing the president of taking an overly cautious stance -- one that could lead to that backpack nuke scenario. If Bush is forced to act quickly against Saddam it is only because Clinton did little after the inspectors were kicked out.
Thursday, September 12, 2002
Advertising Watch: It's understood in newspaper circles that you don't place certain stories on the same page as certain ads. For example, when I worked at the North County Times we unwittingly placed the bios of victims of the Columbine school shooting on the same page as a gun show ad. Similarly you don't place stories on airplane safety on the same page as travel agency ads.
But The New York Times' online edition has placed ads for the Baha'i faith on the same pages where Bush calls for regime change and war with Iraq. The Baha'i ads read: "America has a great spiritual destiny...Baha'is have a perspective on the Destiny of America in the unfoldment of world peace."
Oops. Don't you hate it when that happens? The Baha'is may be asking for their money back.
And now, in sports: A friend of mine suggested I comment on the San Diego Chargers (finally) signing first-round pick (No.5 overall) Quentin Jammer. I don't know what Chargers General Manager John Butler was trying to prove by trying to sign Jammer for less than the No. 6 pick.
Fans would've been on the Chargers' side if Jammer was asking for more than the guy drafted above him. But they were on Jammer's side because the Chargers were offering him less than the guy drafted below him.
But, in the short run, it's irrelevant. Jammer was penciled-in to start ahead of cornerback Alex Molden, and it will be at least a couple of weeks before Jammer is in physical shape and knows the defense well enough to start.
In the meantime, until Molden gets burned (would you like some butter with that toast?) and costs the Chargers a game, I don't think the fact that Jammer's warming the bench matters much. The defense -- including Molden -- looked great last week against the Bengals. But, that was the Bengals. We'll have to wait until the Chargers face a team with a real offense -- like the Patriots (Week 4) or the Broncos (Week 5).
On a football-related note, if you haven't read The San Diego Union-Tribune's Don Bauder, you're missing out. Bauder appears on the business page, not one a pay a whole lot of attention to, but he had this excellent article on the connection between these fancy government-subsidized pro-football stadiums and how it correlates to the quality of the team.
The short answer is that the two factors appear to have no connection. This sort of information doesn't bode well for Chargers owner Alex Spanos getting a new stadium built -- especially since he seems so unwilling to give up the ticket-guarantee that the city of San Diego stupidly locked itself into.
Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Pot, meet kettle: MSNBC's Eric Alterman decides that he doesn't like Andrew Sullivan much -- probably because Sullivan's been on every liberal's favorite economist -- Paul Krugman -- like white on rice.
(Full disclosure: A mention back in May by Sullivan got me my highest-traffic day -- but not $50,000.)
Apparently the online magazine Salon has hired Sullivan to write for it. Alterman doesn't like it.
There are plenty of conservative writers who do not, like Sullivan, regularly poison our discourse by engaging in false character assassination, deliberate distortion, and mindless, hateful hysterics toward those with whom they disagree.
Well, Alterman's little screed would probably qualify as character assassination. Check. As I pointed out in this post Alterman is also guilty of deliberate distortion. Check.
As far as "mindless, hateful hysterics" goes, well, that's in the eye of the beholder. Some might classify his criticism as Sullivan as such. Or his criticism of Ann Coulter (though she's not one of my favorites -- she does have personality). Check.
Alterman needs to get a grip. If Sullivan's presence gets a few whiny liberals to cancel their subscriptions, then it just goes to show how thin-skinned liberals are. Besides, what specific thing has Sullivan said that so offends Alterman?
It's a good thing that MSNBC is free, because I'd have cancelled my subscription to it after Alterman likened Marwan Barghouti to some sort of latter-day George Washington. Alterman should be working for Reuters, the news service that brought you the famous "one man's 'terrorist' is another man's freedom fighter" drivel.
Every criticism of the left raises cries of "censorship" and other such nonsense. Want to see the difference between liberals and conservatives? You won't see any conservative crying "censorship" over a few cancelled subscriptions. In fact, a more balanced Salon might garner more conservative readers.
If Sullivan can manage it, he should use his blog to promote the sale of new Salon subscriptions -- with tweaking Alterman as the goal -- with a small finder's fee for each new subscription as a small bonus. Heck, it worked for National Review after a State Department undersecretary-type person called to cancel their complimentary subscription.
Compare and contrast: America's two major newspapers offer vastly different takes on the one-year anniversary of the most deadly terrorist attack on American soil.
The New York Times offers a thoughtful, well written piece on September 11, 2001, and how the nation has changed since then.
Although America was bound together by emotion on Sept. 11, 2001, America isn't bound together by emotions. It's bound together by things that transcend emotion, by principles and laws, by ideals of freedom and justice that need constant articulation, perhaps especially when America's virtues seem most self-evident. What we suffered on that day will be an important part of the story of this country. But in the long run it will not be as important a part of the story as what we choose to do in response to what we suffered. It is possible to confuse temperateness with indifference and democracy with indecision, just as it was possible on 9/11 to feel terribly weak in the midst of our undiminished strength. But time will help us make those distinctions, if we continue to seek them out.
Excellent and noble.
In contrast, we have a paper in the nation's capitol that sees the anniversary as an opportunity to criticize the president.
From The Washington Post:
Mr. Bush himself has contributed to the business-as-usual atmosphere. He has done so by devoting much time to political fundraising and by bringing the war into the political arena, thereby putting at risk the national cohesion needed to fight such a war. He has done so by dramatically increasing the budgets for the military and for homeland defense while refusing to find ways to pay for those increases. In defending his favored ideology of tax cuts as though the nation were not at war, as though nothing had changed, he has left himself poorly placed to counsel sacrifice and flexibility in others. And while he has embraced the notion that America must fight for a higher purpose, Mr. Bush has yet to act as though his rhetoric persuades him. It is right that the United States must be fighting for liberty and opportunity and not just against Islamic terrorists, as the president has said. But in practice he still balks at rebuilding Afghanistan, devoting sufficient money for schools in poor countries, and promoting democracy among U.S. allies.
The best that can be said for the Post is that their timing is piss-poor. This type of editorial may have a place -- the argument that we need to pay for the war on terrorism is a valid one -- but the editorial page of the Post on the anniversary of the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans is not it.
Also interesting to note is that the Post treats the war on terror like Congress treats a farm bill -- it's an opportunity to add in pork. Part of the "War on Terror" is funding schools and sending some money to non-existent democratic dissidents in Saudi Arabia.
As far as rebuilding Afghanistan goes -- rebuilding it to what? I mean, when has that country ever been more than a desolate wasteland? You can't re-build something that's never been built.
And the cheap shot directed at the President's fund-raising -- is the president just supposed to ignore the midterm elections? The Post seems to suggest that the President, now a war President, should put himself above partisan politics -- as the Democrats attack his programs.
I predict the Post will be roundly criticized for today's editorial -- which is exactly what it deserves.
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
Liberals in search of a new idea: The San Diego Union-Tribune's James Goldsborough continues the bogus argument that one must have served in the military in order to support using the military to "kill people and break things."
Bush, who knows so little about the world, is allowing people who have never fought and never served to define policy. A speech-writer dreamed up the "axis of evil," surely one of the more diplomatically stupid slogans ever invented. Warhawks such as Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Karl Rove, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, all of Vietnam age, never wore a uniform.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a guy with two Vietnam purple hearts and two bronze stars, has the right solution: "Maybe Mr. Perle would like to be in the first wave of those who go into Baghdad," he says.
Also note Goldsborough's pulling out the old saw that Bush is stupid. He "knows so little about the world." You see, if he knew more, he'd think about this differently. Iraq is really a peace-loving nation -- if you dismiss:
- Iraq's war with Iran
- Iraq's invasion of Kuwait
- Iraq's use of chemical weapons against its Kurdish minority
- Iraq's torture of American POWs in violation of the Geneva Convention
Goldsborough also puts forward an argument that, frankly, I'm getting sick of.
The legal basis for war can only come through the Council and new resolutions relating to those that ended the Gulf War in 1991. Without Council support, this is nothing but Mr. Bush's war. We will get no help and no sympathy for our human casualties and our economic losses.
Hussein has been violating the treaty that ended the Gulf War practically since days after he signed it. Yes, I think the first President Bush and Clinton are to blame for not enforcing the agreement, but that doesn't make the treaty itself any less valid.
And, as far as sympathy for "our human casualties and our economic losses," what little we did get from our allies in the wake of Sept. 11 lasted such a short period. Bush and Congress have a responsibility to defend the people of the United States of America. The United Nations does not. We've not ceded our sovereignty to the U.N. -- we shouldn't act like we have.
Krugman and perspective: Sometimes I just have to shake my head after reading Paul Krugman columns. You've got to wonder exaclty what goes through this man's head.
Our leaders and much of the media tell us that we're a nation at war. But that was a bad metaphor from the start, and looks worse as time goes by.
In both human and economic terms the effects of Sept. 11 itself resembled those not of a military attack but of a natural disaster.
As OpinionJournal.com's James Taranto pointed out under the subhead "Stupidity Watch:"
Just inches away, former Enron adviser Paul Krugman makes the identical point: "Our leaders and much of the media tell us that we're a nation at war. But that was a bad metaphor from the start, and looks worse as time goes by. In both human and economic terms the effects of Sept. 11 itself resembled those not of a military attack but of a natural disaster."
This is unbelievably silly. "Wars" on cancer and drugs are metaphors because they aren't really wars. While one might reasonably complain that the formulation of a war "on terrorism" ill defines the enemy (though of course events have defined at last three distinct enemies--al Qaeda, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq), there's no question it is an armed conflict--a literal war. Krugman is an economist, so language isn't his specialty, although likening a terrorist attack to a "natural disaster" is a bit much even then. But (Susan) Sontag is reputed to be a writer of some sort. You'd think she'd know what a metaphor is.
Taranto's right, a lot of liberal "thought" is actually stupidity concealed in big words and lofty rhetoric.
Let's do a little flashback to Dec. 6, 1942, the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Can anyone imagine the New York Times op-ed page running a piece where the writer compared the sneak attack to a typhoon? Like a typhoon, ships were sunk and some people died -- don't worry, be happy.
A return to sanity and an omen of things to come? The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which previously brought you that atheist hit "The Pledge of Allegiance is Unconstitutional," has ruled that a public school near Seattle violated a student's rights by refusing to give her Bible club the same rights and privileges granted other student groups.
The ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's dismissal of a complaint filed four years ago by Tausha Prince, then a sophomore at Spanaway Lake High School, about 35 miles south of Seattle.
Prince argued the Bethel School District violated her First Amendment rights of speech and religion, as well as a 1984 law forbidding public schools that take federal money from excluding religious or political extracurricular clubs if they allow others.
Following its previous, curious logic in deciding the Pledge of Allegiance case, it appears as though the court may be ready to reverse itself in that case too rather than deal with the almost immediate reversal sure to follow from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bill O'Reilly redux: The Wall Street Journal's William McGurn defends his assessment og Fox News' Bill O'Reilly over O'Reilly's bungled effort to get honest answers from American Pat Roush's daughters who have been held in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade.
McGurn is correct in his assessment -- it's likely the worst journalism O'Reilly has done in at least a year.
Back to blogging: I got back from my weekend trip early this evening and spent the time catching up on football games I missed over the weekend. The SDSU Aztecs lost (no surprise) and the Chargers knocked the Cincinati Bengals around like a paper tiger.
Here's where I spent my weekend:
I'm also catching up on my news-watching. Blogging will resume shortly.
Friday, September 06, 2002
Away for a long weekend: That's all the posting you're going to until late Monday at the earliest. I'm heading out of town with my church group. The trip was somewhat expensive, so if you're feeling generous, consider dropping a few coin in one of the tip jars to the left.
What's up at K-Mart? I walked through a K-Mart earlier this evening to pick up a couple of things. I dont' usually shop there, but it was close and convenient, so I went in.
As I walked through the electronics department I was surprised to see "Blade II" (Rated R) playing on several of the TVs -- as a bunch of little kids ran around.
Hello! These kids can't see the movie in the theaters, but you're parading it around them in the middle of the store?
Maybe I'm getting old.
Did a turnip truck just go by here? As Hoystory notices a disheveled Paul Krugman dusting himself off.
Krugman's latest is just another rant about how Bush is trying to influence the American public by framing the debate -- specifically on "partial privatization" or "private accounts."
The Bush team's Orwellian propensities have long been apparent to anyone following its pronouncements on economics. Even during campaign 2000 these pronouncements relied on doublethink, the ability to believe two contradictory things at the same time. For example, George W. Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security always depended on the assertion that 2-1=4 ? that we can divert payroll taxes into high-yielding personal accounts, yet still use the same money to pay benefits to retirees.
The Orwellian tactics don't stop with doublethink; they also include newspeak, the redefinition of words to rule out disloyal thoughts. Again, Social Security is a perfect example. Republican political consultants have found that in an era of plunging stocks and corporate scandal the word "privatization" has taken on negative connotations. The answer? Deny that personal accounts constitute privatization, and bully the press into going along. A Republican National Campaign Committee memo lays out the new strategy: "It is very important that we not allow reporters to shill for Democrat demagoguery by inaccurately characterizing 'personal accounts' and 'privatization' as one and the same."
I've addressed private accounts and Krugman's faulty math here and here.
As for Krugman's newspeak -- that's nothing "new." Every administration does it. Every politician does it. If Krugman would get in the "way back" machine to the budget battles between the Gingrich-led Congress and President Clinton and the claims that Republicans were "cutting" the school lunch program. In the "real world," where simple economics (Krugman's specialty) rules it was obvious it wasn't a cut, but a reduction in the rate of increase.
But congressional Democrats called it a cut. President Clinton called it a cut. The media called it a cut.
Is anyone noticing a pattern here?
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Welcome to the world of American politics, Mr. Krugman. Maybe you might want acquaint yourself with the surroundings before popping off.