Tuesday, December 31, 2002

This is more of the continung behavior of the current administration that leaves me with little respect for them. I can remember a time when I was disgusted with a fellow named Nixon while the rest of the world seemed to be giving him high marks. I was right then and there is plenty of evidence that I am right now.
Bush concluded 2002 with the same dishonesty that defined his economic policy throughout the year—a mendacity that ranged from denying the tax cut had anything to do with the re-emergence of the deficit to arguing that the terrorism insurance bill would create 300,000 construction jobs.

Monday, December 30, 2002

Dark matter may not be real. Our Newtonian physics may be wrong. A small tweak to the gravitational constant for gravity at very long distances may be all that's needed. Milgrom's adjustment accurately predicted how stars would move around in a galaxy before astronomers were able to measure their motions.

It occurs to me that this may also have implications for the attempts to detect the elusive gravity waves.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Move along folks,nothing new here.
Frist looks from afar like a decent, generous man with humanitarian instincts who doesn't always let decency, generosity, and humanitarianism get in the way of his ambition. ("A humanitarian who doesn't let it get in the way" might be the definition of a "compassionate conservative.") He won his seat from an incumbent Democrat by using TV commercials full of racial innuendo. Frist is undoubtedly a better person than his use of those commercials would suggest. Does that make them better or worse?

Thursday, December 26, 2002

This is sad and in the end tragic if this is the best Islam has to offer to the world. I sure hope the world of Islam is able to get its act together and present a better face. If not, it will eventually be lost. Or they will plunge the world into the another Dark Age.
Watch out, Patty. They are coming after you.
Sarah Wildman points a senator who has a worse record on race than Trent Lott. From the anti-racist right, nary a peep.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

A new front for the Taliban, the NWFP.
Some actions, however, have a distinctly Taliban feel to them. In Peshawar, cinema owners were forced to tear down billboards deemed obscene, and cinemas that play pornographic films were shut down. State officials have also forced all public bus drivers to remove cassette players and destroy music cassettes, and also talk of changing the weekly holiday from Sunday to Friday, the traditional day of Islamic prayer. More ominous, state police have begun to lodge new cases of blasphemy against those who are thought to have offended the Holy Koran or the name of Allah. Human rights advocates argue that such blasphemy laws are often used as retribution against political enemies.
Tim Noah examines the discrimination consequences of the Bush faith-based executive order. No surprise, if you are a religious charity you can discriminate all you want.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

The lunacy of the conservative tax avoiders in getting to be too much even for them
"They're saying the burden on the top is too high," says Friedman of the conservative position. "But they're missing the fundamental reasons for that. The wealthy are taking a larger share of the income. Their incomes are too high."

Sunday, December 22, 2002

This guy, Spitzer, is one to watch. He succeeded where the Feds failed in reforming how the securities world does business.
Saddam's excellent strategy continues. Unfortunately. Every time the Bushies get close to the line, he just gives them a little more rope. The lynching will be self-inflicted when they find nothing.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Tom Holsinger is too clever by half. His pseudo-invasion scenario has too much political risk. If we were conducting hostilities Hussein would be all over it maintaining that it was 10 times bigger than it actually is. Up to now I can give our armed forces credit for strategic ability but the administration has proven itself to be no more strategic than a pack of bullies.
Mickey Kaus thinks Noonan's article is good. I think it is lame.

The fact is that segregationists found a home in the Republican party. The conservative approach to racial issues gave them a cover under which they could retain their racist attitudes. Nonracist conservatives let that be because they needed the racist votes. The ambiguity served that purpose. Southern racists tended to also be the southern power structure and wealth. So, Peggy, don’t get all principled with us. The Republicans made a tacit deal with the Devil and you know it. That’s what is really generating the flap. Lott’s remark has made it impossible to hide that man pulling the levers behind the curtain.

The fear of some blacks that some whites do not accept them fully is well-founded, Ms. Noonan. Not a phantom that you can pooh-pooh away. They are not hallucinating but if you think their fears are groundless, you may be.

Trent Lott, personally, is not the issue. Removing him from power is not the solution to the problem. But removing what he symbolizes from power is the issue. And the onus is on the Republicans because they have permitted the racist ambiguity to continue. It is the task of the Republicans to not only denounce that ambiguity in no uncertain terms but to purge themselves of the racists that have used it to their continued political survival. It’s past time for the Republicans to toss their racists out into the cold.

They will lose some power and money in the process but the upside is that they will allow people of all races to reconsider the merits of the conservative agenda without being repelled by any implied racist code. Let the racists form their own party and compete independently for America’s hearts and minds. The race card that you say the Democrats like to play is a card that the Republicans keep dealing to them. Don’t deal it and they can’t play it. This cancer is much deeper than Senator Lott. If the Republicans boot him and do nothing else they will have dealt the Democrats a winning hand for every election to come.
Don't centralize the security effort. Decentralize it.
America doesn't need huge centralized databases that track each and every citizen. What it needs is decentralized intelligence. And that means extensive training for law-enforcement and government personnel on the ground, across the country. The country needs Customs personnel who know what to look for at the borders, like the officer in Port Angeles, Wash., who noticed a suspicious driver trying to enter the U.S., investigated further, and found a load of bomb components intended for attacks on Millennium celebrations.
America needs flight-training instructors like the one in Minnesota who alerted the FBI to Zacarias Moussaoui's alleged desire to learn to fly a plane but not to land one. The country needs alert passengers on airplanes, like those who noticed and took down shoe-bomber Robert Reid on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris.


Go with what works. Don't take away privacy and still fail the test of security.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Insh'allah. As God wills.
Liar, Liar, Pants on fire! Cigarette companies could have made a product that was less likely to start fires decades ago. That would have saved up to 1000 lives a year. The companies said that the consumers didn't like the fire-safe cigarettes when their own studies showed that consumers couldn't tell the difference. But then their business isn't saving lives, it's killing people. They should be sued out of existence. And the horse they rode in on.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

While Ron Bailey believes Gore may be laying low to improve his chances in '08, I wonder if he is looking to play some sort of supporting role as on appointee of the 2004 Democratic administration.
This article addresses what we should really be doing in securing our transportation system. We shouldn't worry about spending tons of money and suffering inconvenience to make sure every single aspect of the system is secure. We need to have overlapping layers of defense where each is pretty good but not necessarily perfect. The idea is to deter attacks. If the terrorist need only have sufficient reason to believe that he might be detected as to deter him from trying. You can slow traffic down all over town by setting up speed-trap camera boxes but you only need to have a few cameras. The uncertainty in the perpetrator's mind is the most effective deterrent.

There is no point in trying to protect against or weed out every possible opening for terrorists. That is a traditional approach to transportation security, but it is expensive and demonstrably ineffective. The new strategy should rely instead on layering and interleaving various defensive measures. With layering, each safeguard, even though it may be inadequate by itself, reinforces the others. A layering strategy will not only protect against vulnerabilities in transportation security, it will also deter terrorists by creating uncertainties about the chances of being caught.
It's unfortunate Gregg Easterbrook didn't read the preceding article about quantum gravity before he penned this one about science and faith coming together. Nor this one about life in space. With quantum gravity we have a universe that appears seamless because of the plethora of "observers" whose views all run together. With life viable in outer space it opens up the possibility even more that the peculiar circumstances that created life may not have happened on this planet. With the whole universe to work with, the origin of life becomes less unlikely and therefore less miraculous.
Are you ready for quantum gravity? A potential physics breakthrough.
Who would have thought that the study of the deadly Ebola would result in a new and beneficial way of delivering gene therapy? Until now, the viral delivery packets containing the therapeutic genes had to be injected since digestion destroys them. But how do you can't inject into the lungs. Now they have created a viral shell similar to Ebola that is even better at penetrating cell walls. Fill that shell with good genes and it can be inhaled and be effective.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

This would make an interesting pursuit.
If society can force drug addicts into rehabilitation because they're a danger to themselves and the public, then we should be able to compel religious fundamentalists to undergo treatment as well.
I have seen a video clip making the rounds that was shot from a gun-camera on an AC-130 gunship as it attacked an Al-Qaeda site in the middle of the night. They start the attack by taking out some trucks that clearly had munitions in them judging from the secondary explosions. As the trucks attempt to scatter they get picked off one after another, all the time the ship keeps its fire clear of a nearby mosque. When they run out of truck targets they take out a warehouse behind the mosque and settle down to picking off the few remaining individuals as they run down the road in the dark. At the end the gunship focuses its attention on a cave entrance that gets turned into rubble.

You don't want to be on the receiving end of a weapon like that.
Hesiod connects the dots on the shady shenanigans that produces the Eli Lilly protection clause in the Homeland security bill. Key players include Mitch Daniels and Bill Frist. Hmmmm.
David Brin has an excellent piece on the cultural context of LOTR and an interesting alternative way of approaching the mythology.
The scientists now have enough tools to begin developing an understanding of the biological basis of the placebo effect.
Males and females are not created equal when it comes to pain.

Males are better at tolerating pain than females because of a key difference in how the sexes transmit pain messages, researchers have found.

A protein called GIRK2 plays a major role in pain sensation and drug sensitivity in males, but is not as important in females. Removing GIRK2 means the sexes become equal in their ability to withstand pain, experiments on mice showed. Taking account of this difference could in the future lead to far more effective painkillers for women.
Not only does this budget busting thing not work very well, if it worked perfectly there will never be any targets for it!
My boat for the America's Cup, OneWorld, advanced to the Semifinal repechage. They must beat Oracle in a series of races to advance to the Finals where they would face Alinghi. They shouldn't have any trouble with Oracle but Alinghi will be tough. That Swiss boat has been dominate in all its races up to this point.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Jennie's off on a rant defending her guy Lott. In her universe only Dems could be critical of the great statesman. Unfortunately, she hasn't seen that the Republican criticisms are doing the most damage. Buy a clue, Jen.
The animated characters in The Two Towers look so realistic because each has a mind of its own.
A hint of sanity breaks out among the Palestinians.
John Derbyshire is sometimes way off the mark but he may have this right. There are two prevailing views of the potential of China. Both may be partially right.
I don't believe China will be a colossus in the foreseeable future; I don't think she will be an angry, disintegrating rogue state, either. The greatest probability, it seems to me, is that China will become a sort of larger version of Mexico during that country's 70 years of one-party rule: self-absorbed, just stable enough to hold together, with huge disparities of income but enough general prosperity to stave off revolution, ruled by a corrupt and incompetent political class.
Salon summarizes Bush's message to California. Your environment doesn't count as much as Florida's.
Timothy Noah compares the sins of Thurmond to the lack of smarts demonstrated by Lott.
Thurmond's refusal to treat segregationism as anything worse than an outdated fashion may have helped convince Lott that he, too, would never have to make a similar accounting for his own (far milder) segregationist past. Conceivably Lott could have dodged that bullet just as easily as Thurmond did. But Lott wasn't smart enough to grasp something Strom understood even in his dotage: If you don't want to apologize for something you did that was truly awful, try not to discuss it at all.
Some of these new underwater turbine designs are interesting.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Link courtesy of LGF. There is a news photo making the rounds in Pakistan supposedly showing an American soldier patting down a female Afghan villager in a search for weapons. What those using that picture fail to see is the hair pulled back to a bun under the helmet and the broad hips. The soldier is a woman! In that part of the world woman soldiers are no easier to imagine than a visit by space-faring aliens. Our troops have adapted to this reality. Now before conducting a search of female villagers, our soldiers strip down to their sports bras so there is no doubt about their feminine gender. It probably does a number on the male villagers as well.

Friday, December 13, 2002

A good article on Norman Borlaug, the unassuming father of the Green Revolution that may have saved a bilion people from starvation. While eco-types dream of a future when sustainable agriculture will lighten man's footprint on the planet, Borlaug and his methods has kept mass starvation at bay for the last couple decades.....right here, right now. The article also pokes a few holes in the assumptions about the harm that may have been done by the Green Revolution. It may not be perfect but it is what is working.
It seems that there is some dissention in the Republican ranks. Many libertarian-minded folks are waking up to the dark side of this administrations homeland security plans.
I went to a High School Jazz concert last night in which one of my boys was playing. It was a combined concert in that each of the area schools did a set. All the performances were well done and it was nice to see how well some of these young musicians could play. You could tell that they were new to improvisation but they did pretty good, nonetheless.

But what was worth the price of admission was what happened after all the school bands performed. Another band took the stage that was made up of the instructors of the high schools as well as some of the music staff of the local community college thrown in. These were people who had been band geeks most of their lives. They loved music so much that they were willing to accept careers as small-time school instructors just to stay in music. And they played. Boy, did they play. Tight and clean. Solos were passed around like fast breaks on a basketball court.

The best part was in the eyes of the students in the audience as they watched and listened. As students they had just begun to understand the thrill and skill that makes good jazz. And here they were seeing it demonstrated by their own teachers. For a few of them it may have been the spark that convinces them to work hard enough to make a profession out of music. For the rest it was a demonstration that it is OK to be a band geek. If they can learn to make music like that it is all worth it.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Auntie Pinko lays out what should be the framework and rationale for the Democratic economic policy.
The juggarnaut rolls on. Maybe losing the midterm elections will indeed turn out to be a good thing. Even the inattentive masses will not be able to ignore the damage wreaked by this power-drunk administration.

On stealing from the poor to give to the rich: In an act of reverse Robin Hood effrontery, the president helped defray some of the cost of his nonstop campaigning with an accounting trick that allowed him to dip into the coffers of the Office of Family Assistance by piggybacking campaign appearances onto trips ostensibly made to talk about welfare reform. That's right, money meant to assist poor families was used to help elect politicians who believe that, even with all the problems facing this country, cutting taxes for the rich should be job No. 1. These, of course, are the same Scrooges who did nothing to stop the unemployment benefits of 800,000 workers from expiring during the midst of the holiday season. Ho, ho, ho, poor people!

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Jim Kalb has a good piece on the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It needs to be revisited and rewritten. It would be nice if there were a realistic set of agreed-upon universal human rights that the international community could genuinely use. Many of the rights are in the UDHR are socialist agenda items that American would find abhorent. Americans tend to think in terms of rights that protect individuals from their government. The socialistic items are in terms of what individuals can demand of their governments. But the only way governments can provide for such universal entitlements is by appropriating resources from its citizens. So ironically, the best way to provide for maximum freedom is to minimize entitlements. In America, there is no ground floor of minimum entitlement but a patchwork of charities and welfare for those at the bottom of the ladder. Some, invariably fall through the cracks. I think it would be more appropriate to establish a bare minimum entitlement safety net such that the laziest or least capable adult in the country has sufficient nutrition to maintain life, a bare minimum of housing, and a minimum standard of medical care. Children should have a sufficient entitlement that they have reasonable chance of becoming productive citizens instead of lifetime burdens on the state. One could call this tempered liberalism. Individuals still have incentive and opportunity to succeed or fail in the economic world but with a safety net that puts a limit on the damage of complete failure. In regards to children, it would remove a great portion of the underclass that develops due to inescable poverty. Right-wingers and libertarians should note that the any benefit received in this plan by those who are far enough up the ladder to not use the safety net translates into more income to inject into the economy or help mitigate their share of the taxes.
I went to this article expecting to read at least an attempt to construct a rationale for the Bush tax cuts. Instead it's just a pep rally with no substance. You would think that a national publication like USA Today could do better. Guess not.
The next task for the global community after we get big terrorism under control will be to deal with regional conflicts fueled by high profile natural resources.
Joe Conason has the goods on the real Trent Lott.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Daniel Gross on Snow. President Bush appoints yet another phony businessman.

Snow is leaving the company with more debt than it has had at any time in the past seven years. Today CSX has difficulty generating sufficient cash to meet all its obligations. And this is the man President Bush has hired to manage the nation's debt? As Jesse Eisinger sharply notes in today's Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Snow is clearly a guy who understands deficit spending."
Excitement on the water. OneWorld and Prada change the lead 5 times with OneWorld faster upwind and Prada faster downwind. Prada tries to gain an advantage by forcing OneWorld to luff but manages to break their spinnaker pole in the process. Even when OneWorlds spinnaker blows out on the last leg Prada can not catch up. In the other race Alinghi and Oracle have quite the dogfight at the start. Oracle gets across the line first with better speed but Alinghi got the favored right side of the course. Alinghi was able to use the right-of-way to their advantage in the ensuing classic tacking dual to lead by 48 seconds at the finish.

Monday, December 09, 2002

Watch out for the next big economic bubble, China

Ultimately, China's economic facade probably will crack. And, when it does, the consequences may be disastrous. Any decline in foreign investment could depress growth. Rising unemployment could lead to social chaos. (The number of labor protests quadrupled between 1993 and 1999.) Nicholas R. Lardy, a China specialist at the Brookings Institution, predicts that the rising burden of non-performing loans could make the country's entire banking system insolvent by 2008. This banking crisis could lead to millions of Chinese trying to withdraw their life savings from banks, followed by panic when they realize the banks are insolvent and have no backing for their deposits, and potentially massive social turmoil.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

The way they get away with this is by doing things that are simply beyond belief.

But in a town where knowledge is power, and where there is no shortage of people willing to take credit for even the most minute accomplishment, there has been a sudden outbreak of people playing dumb. Official Washington is observing a code of omerta that makes the Sopranos look like the loose-lipped gals on "The View." In other words: Nobody's seen nothin'.

Here are the clues we have to work with: Over the Veterans Day weekend, GOP negotiators from the House and Senate hunkered down to finalize the details of the elephantine security bill. At some point -- no one is willing to say when -- someone -- no one is willing to say who -- inserted the Lilly provision -- though no one is willing to say why.
Saddam's WMD report

Just for fun, I predict that Saddam will confess to a few weapons that he will give up for destruction. The real weapons, if any, have been mothballed and hidden in anticipation of fairly long period of international heat. If Saddam can keep the people that know from talking these weapons will not be found. Eventually the inspectors will go home giving Iraq a clean bill of health. There will be no evidence upon which to base continued sanctions and the sanctions will be lifted despite American protests. Saddam and Iraq, Inc., will be back in business without any nosy supervisors. Then and only then will Saddam restart his program for acquisition of WMD. The Bushies and the American superpower will have been rendered impotent. Saddam, having successfully slapped Bush in the face, will have enourmous status in the Arab world.

Although that would be the ultimate irony -- if Iraq really had no weapons of mass destruction, but we went to war anyway.
When not blogging in my spare time I've been following the races for the Louis Vuitton Cup. My money is still on OneWorld since it could bring the America's Cup into my neck of the woods. I doubt that the judges will scratch any boat over design secret issues. These things need to be settled on the water. The best boat should take the cup. If secrets are stolen it just levels the playing field. You still have to win the races.
With all the hitech automobile ignition systems out there it had to happen someday.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Bush administration becomes a victim of the law of unintended consequences.

But perhaps the Bush administration's rule changes really are not about economics. In conservative circles logging is a bellwether issue, a club with which to beat Bill Clinton, the Sierra Club, and the heavy hand of government in general. Logging is a kind of religious issue: Conservatives take it on faith that cutting down trees is good for business. But the economics of the West during the past 20 years argues that it isn't.
At the risk of taking on the esteemed professor, I have to speak up about this. Recently Al Gore has remarked that it looks like FoxNews is shilling for the RNC. Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler has assembled some pretty convincing evidence to prove that contention.

Glenn Reynolds posits that the ascendancy of FoxNews is a reflection of the tastes of the marketplace. The diet of the left-of-center news perspective served up by the broadcast networks never set well with lots of folks, but until recent years there was no other news source. Reynolds holds that this section of the market is larger than mainstream media ever expected and it has found a home in Fox. His position is that the reason the RNC's talking points get such a hearing is that a great number of people already want to hear them. It's not a conspiracy, just market forces at work.

While the professor says that Al was only half-right, I contend that the professor may only be half-right as well. There is a constituency that is pre-disposed to what Fox has to offer. Somerby's analysis makes it clear that what Fox indeed offers is strongly driven by the RNC agenda. This is only natural since that agenda is the preferred provider for Fox's right-wing audience as well.

The problem I have with this is that information offered by the RNC is shot full of out-and-out lies (as Somerby demonstrates in his articles). Not only do we have a major news source that plays fast-and-loose with the facts, but we have a population that wants to believe this drek! That's what really toasts my biscuit. Might as well be living in Saudi Arabia! For crying out loud....
A new and plausible theory for the origin of life has been announced by the Royal Society. It implies that life may be possible on any wet and rocky planet.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Generally one should take Daniel Pipes with a grain of salt, but I think he has a good point on the influence of Saudi money on the American political system.

The tie is premised on Americans - Democrats and Republicans alike -accommodating the kingdom's wishes and in return, being plied with substantial sums of money, either at the time or after they leave government service.

A culture of corruption, in other words, pervades the upper reaches of the White House and several departments; it does not, however, extend to Congress, perhaps because the Saudis do not understand the workings or importance of an elected body and so have not tried to buy it.

Effectively fighting the war on terror urgently requires the passing of legislation that breaks up the cozy power-money nexus in the executive branch by making sure that U.S. officials cannot tap into Saudi funds after they retire from government service.

Such laws should be high on the new Congress agenda when it convenes in January.
A clear-eyed look at the history of Islam shows that the peaceful side of Islam has never been a predominate characteristic of that culture. That's not to say that someday it may become so. Those apologists who are trying to make the case that Islam is peaceful and can get along with other religions would do better to look to the future. They need to reform Islam starting today and repudiate its aggressive and violent history.

There is a dire need for some courageous, meaningful movement in Islam to emerge that completely renounces the active Islamic institutions of jihad against the infidels, and dhimmitude, openly acknowledging the horrific devastation they have wrought on non-Muslims for well over a millennium, through the present. Nothing short of an Islamic Reformation and Enlightenment may be required, which completely secularizes Islam, and acknowledges non-Muslims as fully equal human beings, not "infidels", or "dhimmis".
Krugman get's it.
But the right's ambitions have no limits, and nothing moderates can offer will appease it. Eventually the public, which actually benefits from most of the programs the right is determined to abolish, will figure that out. But how fast voters figure it out depends a lot on whether moderate politicians clearly articulate the issues, or try to escape detection by sounding like conservatives.
This is why Islamic moderates are not speaking out. The exercise of free speech can be fatal. While this example appears in an extreme regime, the practice of bringing down violence on dissidents seems to much more the rule across the Islamic world than the exception.
The coming Kissinger-Rumsfeld bout should be fun to watch.
The difference in how we treat our own religious nutballs and how the Saudis treat theirs is that we laugh at ours while the Saudis kowtow to theirs.
Bob Somerby is laying into the national press corps about how they have become shills for the RNC. Gore was right in 2000 when he said he played a pivotal role in the creation of the internet. And Gore is right when he said that the Washington Times and Fox News are RNC mouthpieces. It's those guys that are lying to us. How much longer will our "objective" media be essentially irrelevant?

In fact, it’s the American people who really need help—protection from their press corps’ misconduct. But don’t expect that help to come from within the press corps itself. All our pundits played some role in the twenty-month War Against Gore. We keep waiting for some brave soul to speak. But right now, their money is still spending good, and the press corps’ relentless dissembling moves forward.
Leboutillier has a explanation of why they chose Kissinger. Kissinger is so desperate to get access to the Oval Office he will do anything they ask. He will produce the report the White House wants, regardless of the actual evidence.
My Saddam prediction still seems to be holding. Expect him to cooperate fully with the inspections. They will find very little. Before long the folks that want to do business with Saddam will begin to push for lifting of the sanctions as will he. Bush will be denied his casus belli. This is Saddam's best hope of survival. He knows it. The Bushies don't seem to have a clue (no surprise there).

If Bush invades anyway, American foreign policy will be put in a hole that will take a decade to climb out of and Saddam wins a Pyrrhic victory. If Bush declines to invade, Saddam wins by having sanctions lifted. When sanctions are lifted Saddam becomes a hero to his people by perversely regaining the thriving economy he gambled away with the Kuwait invasion.

If we are serious about a positive outcome we must come up with another way. Saddam remains in power his Stalinist grip on his people deprives them of any power to change things. We must corrode that grip. Saddam doesn't do this all by himself. He needs a mass of willing and committed henchmen. They should be our targets. Perhaps we should offer amnesty, protection, and self-bounty for any of his thugs who want to defect and talk. The lure of a better life may be just the thing to bring about the collapse of his regime from within. It doesn't have the flashy video clip opportunities of a full-fledged war but it has got to be cheaper. As a bonus we win by killing with kindness and Saddam pathetically loses. Isn't that what we all want?

Monday, December 02, 2002

While there may be no overt strings attached to Saudi money for Islamic institutions, the sheer presence of these sizable donations can be influential. Who would want to offend such a source of support? Rather like soft-money campaign contributions it would appear.
Update: Or federal funds for education or highway construction.
From Time, Inc., Rebuilding Afghanistan, One Bridge At a Time.
There are 13 CHLC (Chiclet) teams bird-dogging 300 projects reconstructing Afghan schools and infrastructure. But more important than even that they are demonstrating the content of American character face-to-face in a place where rumors and lies about Americans fly freely. The compassion, integrity, and fortitude demonstrated by these people on the ground may be the biggest gift we have to give to the Afghans. What the Russians could not conquer by force of arms, Americans will restore to health by dedication and compassion.

No wonder the Taliban and al-Qaeda hate the Chiclet teams. "Every one of us in Chiclet-5 has a price on his head," the Colonel says. "There are still al-Qaeda and Taliban out there. We see them shadowing us, looking for any weakness they might be able to exploit. We know they're going to come after us: it's not a matter of if, but when." He smiles. "But I'll tell you something, when they come they'd better be loaded for bear. Because we're good. Real good."

A young Hazara man in the bazaar offers his own verdict: "Do you know the American soldiers?" I tell him Yes, I do. "Could you please tell them, they should never leave. They should stay here forever."

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Kissinger?! And some people called Mondale a tired retread!
Oh, Mr. Bush. This is the enemy.
There can be no peace until such people either forsake violence or become victims of it. I wish some clerics would set up a MacMujihad where all entrants could be certified genuine mujahideen and given the choice of becoming isolated from civilised society with honorable imprisonment or an honorable death in the name of the cause. Then innocent people could go about their lives unendangered by the fanatics.
Kiss it goodbye
With the current administration and the new Congress we can expect our environment to be regulated the same way the accounting industry has been regulated. We can also expect the same level of enforcement from our government, that is, nada. At least I voted against this kind of thing when I had the chance. Are you one of the ones responsible for this mess?
Timothy Noah takes on E.J. Dionne for the brain-dead idea that the poor need to pay more taxes. The rich purchased this government. It only seems fair that they pay for its policies too.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

We've been here before. The result was the war in Vietnam.
"There is tremendous pressure on [the CIA] to come up with information to support policies that have already been adopted," says Vincent Cannistraro, a former senior CIA official and counterterrorism expert. What's unfolding is a campaign by well-placed hawks to undermine the CIA's ability to provide objective, unbiased intelligence to the White House.
Another proven strategy for the Democrats to use in the future.
Spitzer's reforms weren't designed to punish or rein in inherently corrupt executives. They were designed to give essentially amoral corporations incentives to better serve their customers. Spitzer, in other words, wasn't anti-business so much as pro-consumer. And that made all the difference in the world.
The Right has mounted an attack on low-income taxpayers.
Prepare yourself for the latest cause of the political right: You are about to hear a great deal about how working Americans at the bottom of the economy are not paying enough in taxes.

I am not making this up.
...
Yes, the wealthy are paying more in federal taxes, but for reasons that are good news for the wealthy -- "largely because they receive a much larger share of the total income in the nation,"


The Texas Legacy
It's a documented fact that Texas has one of the worst air qualities in the nation as a result of George W. Bush's doctrine of leniency towards industry's dirty little habit of polluting. Texas's air quality is the direct result of Bush's permission to let industry clean up its polluting practices voluntarily.
And from those who know:
A rule change genuinely designed to reduce pollution while increasing industrial efficiency would not be announced late on a Friday afternoon. One that betrays a long, bipartisan legacy of improved air and water quality would be.
A strategy for the future. Keep banging that drum.

Monday, November 25, 2002

It's the season of Thanksgiving again and time to reflect on the good things in life that we enjoy. Feasts will be consumed and gridirons will be contested. However we will severely cheapen our thanks if we just stop there.

While being thankful for the standard of living we enjoy, we need to acknowledge that this standard of living is rare in this world. We need to acknowledge that few, if any, of us are worthy and deserve such fine things. They come to us as a gift of circumstance, the circumstance of having been born into a country with a functioning economic system. Our affluence is a gift of that circumstance. On this day while we feast many will die in hunger. Such an unearned gift in my mind comes with attached responsibilities. Those so gifted have the responsibility of making the necessary changes in the world so that every individual can have the same kind of gift.

While being thankful for blessings of health, we need to acknowledge that the level of medical benefits we enjoy is far from universal. Many will die today from diseases that are preventable. Many will become crippled and undergo suffering because they have no access to even minimal health care. We are obligated to use the energy and health that have been given to us to make good health care available to everyone.

While being thankful for our political and social freedoms, we need to acknowledge that many live in fear of their own governments and of their own cultural restrictions. We need to use our freedoms to bring more freedom and justice into the socially dark places of the world.

Let our time of thanksgiving not be an idle exercise of gluttony. Let us accept the gifts given to us with grace and renew our commitment to use them to make a difference. For if we don’t there simply is no point.
More good guidance.
Before life can be breathed into the moribund Democratic Party, significant changes must occur. Over the past two years, most democrats in Congress have failed to display the courage of their convictions. They have failed to uphold the fundamental principles upon which the Party was founded, opting instead to place politics ahead of principle. Where have our representatives gone? What we see is a group of confused, unorganized, message-less individuals being led by politicians who are too scared to voice their opinions and convictions because they covet a higher job in 2004. There are, of course, notable exceptions; unfortunately, too few and none are considered as "leaders" of our Party.
...
Trust comes when the givers are convinced they are not only being heard, but listened to. No need to vilify, to go blatantly negative. Simply state the facts, without spin, and cite what is unacceptable, why it is unacceptable, and, above all, provide alternatives together with how you plan to accomplish those alternatives. Stop the rhetoric and finger-pointing. Lose that deity complex and truly listen to the people you were elected to represent. If you regain your voices, stand on your principles, and offer viable solutions, the people will respond positively and Democrats will unite.
Good guidance as the Democratic party rebuilds.

It's not, after all, the people who are running the show who are confused. It's pretty clear that they know what they're after: power and money. It's everybody else - the people who are going to be left poorer and more powerless - who are confused about what is going on.
I have suggested before that Israel could reduce the incidence of suicide bombing by banning concealing clothing. It seems that others have had similar ideas.
For all that is wrong with the quick legislation that was passed shortly after 9/11, the Air Transportation Stabilization Board seems to actually be doing a good job.
Fears that the loan guarantees would amount to a giveaway to an inefficient industry haven't materialized. Far from it. In fact, the board has behaved more like Harry Zale, the cram-down artist in Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full, than like Jimmy Stewart's accommodating George Bailey. The board's first answer always seems to be no. And as it wields the sharp elbows of a vulture investor, it has extracted potentially valuable concessions for its investors, the American public. What's more, its rapid posting of minutes, decisions, and correspondence to airlines on its Web site make it a model of transparency.
Unlike the normal pattern of the Bush administration to conduct its business away from the public eye. this agency is fully exposed. And that looks like a good thing.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Blogging resumes.

From the New Republic.
While PMCs like DynCorp may be popular in Republican Washington, which is now enthusiastically outsourcing many of America's military duties to the private sector, using them in Afghanistan could be a dangerous mistake. Private contractors seldom prove cheaper or more effective than uniformed soldiers. Worse, they are virtually impossible to control and have committed a litany of abuses in America's name. Using these unproven freelancers to guard Karzai thus will send precisely the wrong message to Washington's friends and enemies around the world and will increase the risks of a foreign policy disaster in Afghanistan.

Now that American electorate has abdicated its power to Emperor George, we can expect the slide of our foreign policy and sputtering economy to continue. Before too long the Karzai regime will be history and the warlords will rule again in Kabul. And the remnants of Al Qaida will return to continue their mischief.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Pitt is history, but the foxes are still guarding the henhouse.
Harvey Pitt wasn't the only predator that Bush and his cronies have nominated to rend farm-animal flesh from bone. When the Bush administration nominated to the Commodities Future Trading Commission two individuals who had been responsible for drafting the regulations that let Enron do whatever it wanted with energy derivatives, those who were paying attention could only shake their heads in amazement. What could be more brazen?
..
The system is currently broken. Corporations run amok, and instead of tightening up the rules, the powers that be are continuing, criminally, with business as usual. Instead of cleaning house, the current administration is appointing and promoting the very people who trashed the house in the first place.
Garrison Keillor on Norm Coleman:
But I don't envy someone who's sold his soul. He's condemned to a life of small arrangements. There will be no passion, no joy, no heroism, for him. He is a hollow man. The next six years are not going to be kind to Norm.
This is what worries me about this administration. Too many people have forgotten about Vietnam. Then, the people in charge ignored the truth about what was happening. They are about to do it again.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Bye-bye balanced budget.
Such moves may or may not help jump-start the sputtering economy. But they will virtually guarantee a return to the era of structural budget deficits. That may be the most far-reaching economic implication of yesterday's unexpected Republican sweep. We are now blessed with a Congress and executive branch devoted to the proposition that the government should spend, but not tax. (And what's more, it shouldn't try too hard to collect the taxes that are owed, especially if they're owed by companies or the cheating wealthy.)
Where is Pakistan headed?
This is the Catch-22 America created for itself by nurturing Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan during the Afghan jihad. Propping up authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world betrays our values and nurtures the grievances that give rise to terrorism, but in many places abandoning or undermining these regimes would empower radical Islamists or separatists. The choice may not be between democrats and dictators, but between different kinds of dictators and bloody chaos. It's a reality that contradicts every humanistic impulse most Americans have, but one that needs to be considered as our government goes charging off on its messianic campaign to remake the world.
More Bush leadership to the rear.

To seek the votes of the right-to-life caucus by mucking about with the excruciatingly complex and difficult task of reining in world population is as dangerous in its effect as it is tawdry in its motive.

And, once again, our arrogant unilateralism will cost us strategically as well as morally. When overpopulated China, India and Indonesia, as well as nations in Europe dealing with myriad crises arising from immigration, all react bitterly to this latest American isolationism, can we be surprised that they are hesitant to support Bush's jihad against Iraq?

Of course, this won't bother the aggressive claque of right-wing think-tankers currently running the foreign policy of the most powerful nation in the existence of humanity, who seem to think that power makes us God.
Meanwhile, France has some real civil trouble on their hands. (Courtesy of DenBeste)
I hate it when someone takes the words right out of my mouth. Hail Hesiod! Truth and integrity is the only true path to success.
While the all-wise Bush administration has been sneaking money into spending bills for the brain-dead, impractical, couldn't-hit-the-side-of-a-barn national missile defense program (a gift to their corporate supporters), the Army has been quietly developing a laser-based system that actually works. And it works rather well, even against small supersonic artillery shells and targets like Katusha rockets. I'm not an expert but doesn't that seem harder than big fat ballistic warheads?

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

And Pitt is outta there!!
The Consortium has an excellent summary of the shortcomings of the Bush administration.
W to Saddam:We are coming for you.
I'm sure glad this group of worthies are in the highest offices of my country.
Some suggestions for Democrats
They call this appropriate technology.
More evidence for a biological basis for male homosexuality. In sheep a correlation in brain structures has been documented. Furthermore it appears that there may be a genetic component.

I look forward to the time when the morality of being homosexual is equivalent to the morality of having natural curly hair. That is, simply irrelevant.
Some real hope for dyslexics.
The children who did the exercises showed significant improvements in reading and verbal fluency, with the percentage of those with reading difficulties dropping from 78 per cent to 56 per cent.

They also went on to show dramatic increases in writing, reading and comprehension scores on standardised attainment tests (SATs). In writing, in particular, their rate of year-to-year improvement increased by 17 times.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Michael Ledeen on Iran
A struggle goes on out of sight of major news media.

Like the rest of the terror masters, and their appeasers in Europe, the Iranians are trying desperately to buy time, hoping against hope that President Bush will lose his nerve and call off the revolutionary war. They will say and do anything that gets them through another day, but they know that once the war starts they are doomed.

Faster, please. Don't let the war against terrorism turn into a replay of the Gulf War, with the tyrants still in power.
Darryl's House
In the noise of the elections, why is it that the real human tragedies in this country are not an issue?

There's an election next week and it’s easy to look at the story of Darryl and blame him on conservatives and Republicans but unfortunately Darryl never really creeps into the priorities of liberal politicians these days either. It’s a political death wish to even acknowledge that people like him exist. They don’t vote and they don’t make campaign contributions and so they don’t really even enter into the consciousness of either of the political parties. America has ignored him and his grandmother and the other children in that dreadful home for the past 30 years and in the process we’ve created a whole new generation of Darryls. And tragically we’re probably going to create yet another generation whether the elephants or the donkeys celebrate the most on Tuesday night.

The people at the bottom of the economic scale will not reach out to the political process because they have little incentive to do so. Since Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy and Michael Harrington are gone there have been precious few willing to advocate for them. Paul Wellstone and to his credit Jack Kemp have done so in recent years but sadly Wellstone is silenced and Kemp is retired. Somebody in our national leadership and, yes, our Democratic Party leadership should stand up for the millions of Darryls who are still on Americas city streets. The fact that they don’t is as sad as the things I saw in Darryl’s house all those years ago.
Wellstone was right
Twenty-three senators and 133 congressmen voted against Bush's Iraq resolution in October, authorizing the president to strike against Saddam. And in not a single case, contrary to Washington's conventional wisdom, does it appear to be hurting any of their chances for reelection. It might actually be helping them.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Dissembling Sean played the Horton Card. Behind that, there lies a long story
Hertzberg on an assault to America that wasleft unchallenged.
Getting out the vote, Florida-style(Salon premium). So just when will Florida end the disenfranchisement of maybe 91,000 mostly black voters? Not until bubba Jeb gets reelected I suspect. I really love the integrity this demonstrates.

And even though the list has been widely condemned -- the company that created it admits probable errors -- the same voter scrub list, with more than 94,000 names on it, is still in operation in Florida. Moreover, DBT Online, which generated the disastrously flawed list, reports that if it followed strict criteria to eliminate those errors, roughly 3,000 names would remain -- and a whopping 91,000 people would have their voting rights restored.

Eventually the list will be fixed, state officials have promised, in accordance with a settlement with the NAACP in its civil rights suit against Florida following the 2000 election. But not until the beginning of next year -- and after Jeb Bush's reelection bid is long over.
Top 10 Harvey Pitt Excuses [Motley Fool Take]
No Significant Rise In Cancer Deaths In 3-Mile Island Residents Over 20 Years. Only the technically illiterate expected anything different.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Auntie Pinko explains why congressional Democrats appear to be so timid.

Auntie Pinko seems to reiterate this a lot, but we do need constant reminders: Democrats are not Republicans! We do not march in lockstep. We accord our leadership support based on how well they represent our principles and goals, not on how well they enforce top-down discipline. Without the kind of robotic unity that the GOP enforces, Democrats are highly vulnerable to divide-and-conquer tactics at election time, and the leadership knows this. They won't put progress toward a truly substantial Democratic majority at risk when the stakes are so high.

More Democrats with the rockbound integrity of Paul Wellstone would certainly help us, but money and powerful special interests have been working hard for many years to neutralize the appeal of such "outsider" politics. That leads me into the second reason for Democratic timidity in congress: the blaring voice of corporate and special interest money.

Interests with enough money to buy access to our politicians get face-to-face time with them, chances to explain, to offer bribes and threats, to make persuasive cases, to hold the elected official's constituency hostage to job loss or other blackmail. In order to drown out this kind of mega-loudness, citizens must counter-balance it with the sheer volume and frequency of their communications.

When a truly grassroots tide begins to lap over their shoes, elected officials will get moving, because they know that a sufficient number of votes will outweigh money in the final analysis. But convincing them that there are sufficient voters who support a particular position is not easy, because the big-money interests are adept at generating pseudo-"grassroots" efforts of their own, muddying the waters, and confusing the issues. However, in the end a real citizen initiative, if sufficiently powerful and widespread, will win through.
Dear Mr. Bush. It isn't how you tax it, its how government spends it. That dawg may hunt but it's barking up the wrong tree. But wait, don't let me confuse you with the facts.

Then why do many high-tax countries do so well? "Looking at taxes only is only one-half of the story," Mr. Slemrod said. "If government raised taxes but then spent the money poorly, the economy would grow more slowly."

Could it be that some governments spend tax revenue more effectively than others and may even promote growth in the process? Now there's a good question for Americans to ponder as they go to the polls next week.
Why private healthcare insurance is doomed. (courtesy of Instapundit)
It's time the religious establishment gets a breath of fresh air.
Life inside Iraq.
There are few of that share my opinion of the coming Bush War but it's nice to know that I am in good company.

The macho mouths whose combat experience most often consists of battles for talk-show ratings would have you believe that it takes great courage to bang the drums of war, whereas it is cowardly to speak the language of peace and diplomacy.

George McGovern is living proof that just the opposite is true.
There is good news on the horizon even if the days seem dark now.
The Democrats' basic stance of support for necessary government spending and environmental protection, along with respect for diversity and women's rights, is congenial to all these voters.

The fact is that the core Republican constituencies -- white men, rural voters, small businessmen -- are being slowly but surely overtaken by a Democratic coalition of women, minorities, service workers and a new class of college-educated professionals, one more concerned with social justice and less likely to reflexively vote by tax bracket than the old doctor-lawyer-executive elite.
The Motley Fools think Pitt Must Go and his friend Webster as well.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Sounds like the Republicans are just as inept as they hope the Democrats are.
Drug policy begins a slow move into rationality.

A national shift from incarceration to treatment has the potential to save much more than dollars. More than 8 million of America's 75 million children have a parent or parents addicted to drugs or alcohol. Parental drug addiction fuels the foster care system; it feeds the juvenile justice system. It affects welfare caseloads, school performance and child health. And parental addiction is self-perpetuating: Up to 70 percent of the children of addicts become addicted to drugs themselves.
...
Does large-scale treatment work as an approach to drug addiction? We don't know, because we've never tried it. But as the casualties of our decades-long war on drugs continue to fill not only our nation's prisons but its foster homes, group homes and juvenile halls, there's plenty of evidence that the alternative has failed the children it was meant to serve.

Despite years of disappointment and betrayal, children of addicts will likely tell you they are willing to give their parents another chance. Three decades into a failed war on drugs, voters may finally be ready to do the same.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

So which is it? Is he so foggy that he can't get his facts straight? Or does he just lie? Remember, regime change begins at home.
Timothy Noah explains how conservatives will miss him more than liberals.

But let's consider a more calculating reason for the right to rend garments over Paul Wellstone. He was more useful to the right than he was to the left. That's because he made liberals seem further to the left than they really were. Wellstone himself stood to the left of everyone else in the U.S. Senate. But when conservatives wrote or talked about him, they usually characterized him not as a left-liberal, but simply as a liberal.
In Fifty-Fifty Forever Kaus argues that the 50/50 will be with us for a long time since the parties will adjust their platforms to achieve that goal even if the center of the electorate shifts. What this means to me in that the real battle is not party vs. party but is within the minds of the electorate itself. While parties will tend to move toward whatever direction gives them 50.0001% of the vote, some other influence needs to come into play to push the center of the electorate into better positions. If one wishes to provide real influence on the track of politics one must make one's case to the people independent of party ideologies. The ideologies will follow that movement but can not be expected to lead it.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Pitt must go. Never mind that he should have never been appointed in the first place. But now there is no doubt that he must go. The sooner, the better.

So it's not a small matter that Sarbanes has now gone personal and public, demanding the resignation of Harvey Pitt, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Other senators, who weigh their words less cautiously, called for Pitt's resignation long ago. But Sarbanes only says such things when the case becomes overwhelming.

This, unfortunately, is a fair way to describe the case against Pitt after last week's astonishing performance. In his bungled effort to implement the post-Enron accounting reform, Pitt has not merely been incompetent. He has not merely bowed to the accounting lobbyists whom he is meant to regulate. He has been very nearly dishonest.
Bush fiddles while Afghanistan burns.
The seeds of the current government's destruction were sown by the American-backed victory over the Taliban, and nourished by the Bush administration's failure to devote the necessary resources to rebuilding Afghanistan. Before the bombing ever started, those knowledgeable about Afghanistan warned that massive postwar reconstruction would be necessary to prevent the nation from once again becoming a terrorist breeding ground. They warned that ancient ethnic and tribal tensions, in particular between Tajiks and Pashtuns, could quickly rage out of control. All of their grim predictions of postwar anarchy are coming true -- and America is doing nothing.
The mouse won. Creativity loses. Don't be expecting this Congress to limit the power of entrenched interests to make (or extort) money. Or even to level the playing field for others.
Garfinkel proposes a long-term diplomatic solution to the problem of North Korea. It involves concerted effort on the parts of the 4 neighbor nations. There is much good to be said by this approach. What makes it work is that North Korea has no other options.

This brings on the question: is it at all possible to resolve the problem of Iraq in a similar fashion? If so, why the rush to war?
There are some simple and quickly-implemented countermeasures that could greatly reduce the impact of future DDoS attacks on the critical DNS servers.
Appears to me that this kind of device shows lots of after-market potential even in a crude form. But when built-in with sophisticated controls it could redefine the limits of automotive aerodynamics.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

In Texas we had a saying. There's two things you don't want to see: how sausage is made and how the legislature conducts its business. In the same vein we would probably rather not know that the internet was propelled into existence by the demand for porn. In Nigeria, the nation is being brought into the internet world on the back of the infamous 419 scam.

The wiring of Nigeria is being propelled by 419รข€”much as America's appetite for porn helped shepherd the commercial Internet through its infancy. AOL made it through its lean, early years only because of adult chat rooms and spicy picture downloads (which kept the meter running during the era of per-hour access fees).

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

How to use disinformation against terrorists.
For example, frequent arrests of reported terrorists (even if bogus) and "leaks" suggesting that those terrorists are cooperating with authorities, may cause sleeper agents to lose faith in their organization, and even to wonder if their supposedly "secure" channels of communication have been compromised. Given that terrorists are unlikely to know many of their number, authorities could even "arrest" actors who portray members of the terror organization, leak enough truthful details about the organization to make it sound plausible, then give the impression that they are getting far more useful information in secret interrogations. They could even leak false reports that actual members of terror organizations have been picked up and released, instilling further doubts within the organization - especially when those members deny that it ever took place.
Here's what we have to look forward to if the Republicans take Congress. Yeah. Scary, isn't it.
Stealth NMD. While we weren't looking the Bush administration got its funding for this stupid waste of money. How long must this country suffer these fools?

With the military moving toward a war footing with Iraq, the defense measure increases spending in almost every area, from weapons procurement to payroll. It includes a 4.1 percent pay raise for military personnel and almost all the $7.4 billion Bush requested to keep developing a national missile defense system.
What the Republicans really think.
Sources said a relatively senior Bush aide liked the memo and directed a young aide to forward it to Hispanic Republican activists; the memo was accidentally sent instead, without explanation, to a mostly Hispanic Democratic group. Still, that does not explain why the White House would distribute such an e-mail, even to its allies.

On Oct. 11, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer described the previous day's Iraq votes as "matters of conscience, and the president thinks it is entirely appropriate for elected officials in both parties to exercise their good conscience on behalf of their constituents."

Fleischer's briefing ended at 12:57 p.m. At 2:49 p.m., the White House sent out the memo. Titled "Can you believe this?" the e-mail proclaimed the "sad results" that "every Latino Democrat in the Congress voted against supporting the president." It suggested the lawmakers "lack something our brave young volunteers in our armed forces have plenty of" and declared them "out of touch with their constituency and out of touch with America."
Where do I invest in titanium dioxide? New uses keep coming out in the news including decontamination of water and air, high-efficiency solar cells, sunblock, cancer treatment, self-disinfecting surfaces, computer displays, and self-cleaning windows, paint, and other building materials.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Well said.
The ability of the Republican Party to cast itself in the public mind as the party of fiscal responsibility, let alone of fiscal restraint, is one of the most amazing accomplishments of modern politics. The propensity of otherwise intelligent people to fall for this lie, to accept unthinkingly the premise of this joke, is no less astonishing.
What the Republican party has cost this country so far. Now that's something of which to be proud.

Monday, October 21, 2002

The fifty-first State?
More on the shape of post-war Iraq.
The Daily Howler rides to the defense of truth in the media and Timothy Noah retracts.
This prompted a re-examination of the facts by Chatterbox, who will now concede that the matter was more complicated than Chatterbox previously knew. Gore's language may have been slippery, but it's unfair to conclude that he lied.
Somerby's argument was picked up by the leftist Weblog the Consortium and prompted an uncharacteristically coherent debate in the Chatterbox Fray. To Chatterbox's great surprise, Somerby and Co. turn out to be more right than wrong.
Is Iraq the New Japan? Pundits are beginning to look at the options for post-war Iraq even if the administration isn't.
Bush's 300,000 Phony Construction Jobs
Daniel Gross: But even if we assume the entire amount is in new construction (and it surely is not), $15.5 billion doesn't add up to anything close to 300,000 jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 6.552 million people working in construction in September had average weekly earnings of $738.66. Wages for 300,000 of them for a year would add up to $11.5 billion dollars. But wages are just a fraction of the overall cost of development.
Look at the tax cut. Simple math is not this administration's strong point.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Well, the Bush-war resolution has been signed. For the purpose of argument I think this preemptive war is an act taken by a bunch of cowards. Sure we would like for our world to be secure and there are bad guys in power that we would like to stop.

But a preemptive war becomes the slipperiest of moral slopes. An act of war for mere political expediency carries a terrible moral weight. War is regrettable and should be carried out only at the extremity of self-defense. Basically in human intercourse it is the ability to defend oneself that assures peace. When one gives up or loses that ability violence or aggression becomes profitable to one’s adversaries. The surest way to stop terror is to effectively destroy terrorists. The surest way to contain the adventurism of belligerent nations is to demonstrate the willingness and ability to respond destructively against belligerent acts. Its only when they think they might get away it do nations commit belligerent acts. I think Saddam Hussein really believed that he could get away with the occupation of Kuwait. If we make it clear that a belligerent act on his part using nuclear weapons would be terminal for him and his regime, he would abandon them.

But we are cowards. We are unwilling to risk the damage that would come if Saddam were to actually use a nuclear weapon. Such an event would remove all impediments to wiping him out because it would be an unequivocal act of self-defense. Even our worst enemy could not criticize us. Furthermore, if we were able to show restraint by doing the job by not responding in kind, our moral reputation among nations would be enhanced. But instead of settling the responsibility of such a calamity squarely upon the shoulders of Saddam, our cowardice and fear leads us to preempt. We are in a sense saying, since we are afraid to allow Saddam to make the choice and we must make it for him.

While some may think that we are showing the world how tough we are, we are actually proving to the world how easy it is for us to cast aside our scruples when we are frightened. We made a mistake (as seen by hindsight) when we dropped our pressure on Saddam after he kicked out the inspectors. The Clinton administration did this but the opposition was too worried at the time about who was in his pants to care about the lapse in Saddam-control. Now we have a more frightening Saddam but little more hard evidence to substantiate that fear. And we have a choice. Do we wait for Saddam to show his hand while doing everything short of war to hinder his capabilities and find out more about them? Or do we initiate a military conflict?

With option 1 we continue to play by the rules of the international order and we bolster that this big guy on the playground can be expected to behave in an ethical fashion despite his overpowering strength. If Saddam does undertake any adventurism we would be able to use our strength against him without damaging international goodwill. Nations of all stripes will be more inclined to work with us on problems rather than against us because we demonstrate that we can hold our power in check. The downside to this is the potential havoc Saddam may wreak before we are able to take him out.

With option 2 we show that our nation is, indeed, a bully on the playground. We will do what we darn well please, when we please. Not only does this put all the responsibility on our shoulders when we do act, we must also take responsibility for those times when we don’t act. If we as a superpower have an appearance of playing favorites (such as with Israel) then we are legitimized as targets by those that oppose our clients. Not only that it demonstrates that we can’t be trusted to avoid our own adventurism when it suits us. We may feel more secure that way over the short term but the insecurity that other nations feel will make life more difficult for us in the long term. That insecurity will make it easier for our enemies to find places of refuge and support.
And regrettably we have chosen option 2.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Gait recognition could identify humans at a distance Just walk this way!
Big Oil's MTBE Cover-Up: Where do you think the Bush administration is going to stand on this one? My money says that it will be "screw the drinking water, save the oil companies." Sad.
Keep the research going. Now that tea has been proven to be truly medicinal, I can't wait until they find something compelling about coffee.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Sometimes it's the little innovations that make all the difference.
As a counter to Asa Hutchinson there are credible publications like this one.
Davenport-Hines assembles strong evidence to support his belief that criminalization has created the modern drug problem. Indeed, history offers few examples of punitive legislation curing addiction or ending trafficking. He contends that because risk is closely tied to profit, enforcing laws against drug trafficking actually increases the economic reward for those willing to run an illegal business. The facts he cites bear him out: world coca production doubled between 1985 and 1996. Opium production tripled.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

While it may be true that Drug Legalization Doesn't Work, this article by DEA head, Asa Hutchinson does little to support that concept. He makes several assertions as if there were a clear connection among them...but there isn't. Basically Asa is mouthing slogans to justify his job.

Don't we owe our citizens more truth than that?
The real connection between al-Qaida and Iraq according to William Saletan
Bush tried to link Iraq to al-Qaida, but his attempts fell flat. He said that they both hate the United States, that some al-Qaida leaders have fled to Iraq, and that Iraqis have taught some members of al-Qaida how to build dangerous weapons. These things are true, but they aren't unique to Iraq. Bush also pointed out that Iraq harbors terrorists, but he ignored other regimes that are more guilty of this offense.

The connection between Sept. 11 and Iraq: One enemy whacked us, and Bush decided not to take any more chances with the other. He should tell it like it is and stop pretending they're the same enemy.


But truth is not part of the Bush lexicon.
Daniel Gross on the report of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee:
What hypocrisy! After all, Lieberman was a notable opponent of SEC-sponsored accounting reform in the 1990s. Perhaps the SEC could have done a better job ferreting out the fraud at Enron and other corporations--if only Lieberman and Thompson's colleagues had given the agency the resources it needed to do the job. When then-SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt suggested new rules to curtail aggressive accounting, senators explicitly threatened the agency's meager funding.

To paraphrase Pogo, "They have found the enemy and he is them."
The Senate will be voting soon on the Bush war on Iraq. Soon we will see whether or not the C.I.A. has it right about the downside of the war. The process of fixing the Saddam problem may cause the very disaster they are fighting avoid. Doesn't sound smart at all somehow.
Austrialian journalists can see through the Bush fog. Bush twists facts to fit, analysts say.
Many experts that advise governmental policy may very well be corporate shills. All think tanks are not created equal. Some are nothing more that fronts for corporate dollars. We should hold journalists responsible to properly characterize the sources of expert opinions. Too many institutions are getting treated as if they offered truly independent information when in fact they are nothing more than ventriloquist dummies for industry.
Despite all the hand-wringing on how many abused children go on to become abusers, some programs that simply help parents with problem solving have proven to reduce child abuse. We need more of this. It's not a panacea certainly but every step in the right direction is....a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

There is a promising new way to deal with invasive foreign species. It is to create and release in the wild males with a genetic alteration such that can only produce male descendants. And those descendants carry the same alteration. They are now trying to work out how many modified Asian carp it will take to eliminate the population in Australia.

Monday, October 07, 2002

14 Truths about the Middle East that the Arabs need to open their eyes and see.
Not only is the Bush administration gutting the scientific research infrastructure it is setting back the sex education and AIDS prevention efforts in this country.

"Compassionate", my ass.
LA District Attorney and Winona Ryder, -- Justice, Interrupted:
Americans have long argued that the famous enjoy an unfair double-standard, using their notoriety and wealth to walk away from serious drug, violence, and even murder charges with a rap on the knuckles and an autograph for the judge's wife. But it's equally true that the unscrupulous prosecution of someone famous can make a career, even when the charges are basically groundless. Think Ken Starr.

Steve Cooley may well go down in history as the guy who put a shoplifter behind bars by publicly mischaracterizing the evidence, diverting scarce resources, and refusing to plea bargain in good faith. Will it redeem O.J.? I doubt it. Will it make the world safer? No. Will it make a good movie? Probably not even on Lifetime.
How's it going so far? In Afghanistan, not so good.

In January a meeting of donor nations in Tokyo agreed to provide an unprecedented $4.5 billion to Afghanistan over the next five years.

As part of that deal a special trust fund administered by the World Bank was set up to help the government cover its annual budget, projected at around $460 million.

All grand promises which, ministers in the new government say, have yet to be delivered on.

With every passing day the need is ever more urgent and the warnings ever more stark.
Here's a proposal that will really leave no children left behind.

Instead of having children adapt to school, Levine urges schools to make accommodations for the rich variety of minds they face. Schools, he says, should reduce the amount of memorization required (many, many children have memory difficulties), not insist on speed at the expense of thoughtfulness, allow students multiple options for evaluation (not just traditional tests) and recognize that treating kids fairly does not mean treating them all the same way.
Maybe there really is a limit to the number of lies that the Republicans can tell and not be held responsible.
At least the Bush administration holds to a consistent pattern. Never mind how ill-advised or lacking in fundamental reality it is.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Friday, October 04, 2002

Clinton speaks at Blackpool

Our politics are based on ideas -- a desire to increase opportunity and to strengthen community. And we know we are not always right, even though everybody hates to admit that, we are not. So we have to operate on the basis of evidence, and be open to argument. Their politics is based on ideology and power, and they don't like evidence and argument very much. My wife, the junior senator from New York, says that Washington sometimes seems to have become an evidence-free zone. They operate by attack. But at some point you've (got) to look at the evidence.

In my country evidence shows that their ideology drove them to adopt an enormous tax cut heavily tilted to wealthy Americans. I ought to be happy, I am one of them now! (Laughter) But I am not. Why? Because we adopted a tax cut in America before we had a budget, before we knew what our income was going to be, before we knew what our expenses were going to be, before we knew what our emergencies were going to be -- and Sept. 11 turned out to be quite an emergency. So we went from a decade-long projected $5 trillion-plus surplus to having it go away. We went from having the money when I left office to take care of the Social Security retirement cost of the baby boom generation, and half of the medical costs of them, to having it go away and using those trust funds to pay for tax cuts for people in my income group. Did the evidence support it? No. But the ideology did.

They declared war on all my environmental regulations, they even tried to relax the standard on how much arsenic we could have in the water. The Democrats stopped them, and besides, there was a very small constituency for more arsenic in the water in America! (Laughter and applause). So then they went on to other things. To try to make the deficit look smaller, they tried to refigure the accounting and requirements to raise the cost of student loans at a time when college scholarships were going up. The Democrats stopped them and besides they found that even among conservatives there was hardly anybody who thought that college ought to be more expensive in America. But their ideology drove them to it and I could give you example after example after example.


Hear, hear.
Kaus pokes at Krugman:
I'm no expert and unlike most Democrats I can't really blame the current recession on Bush. And I am of the opinion that anything the government does to affect the business cycle tends to hurt more than it helps because it takes too long. We end up with last year's solutions being applied to this year's problems and it rarely is a good match. I think the government should be fiscally responsible. It should tax the blazes out of the rich to get the money it needs and it should spend that money on programs that help all citizens become more productive and prosperous. It shouldn't spend money on pork or on corporate welfare that further enrich the wealthy.

Back to tax cuts. I don't think that structure of the Bush cuts have done or will do anything to improve economic efficiency. It would be better if tax policy were based on everyone paying their fair share, period. Deficit spending must be done carefully. The extra money should not just be broadcast on the wind in the hope that something good will happen. It should be targeted towards resources that are going to directly strengthen the economy. Grants or low-interest loans to industry that enable them to make their workflows more efficient, for example. Or better retraining for displaced workers. Spending cuts are in order as well. We should not be supporting failed or failing business models with government subsidies. If an agricultural or mass transit enterprise can not make it without government money it needs to improve its business model. We need to understand that when we subsidize something we are promoting inefficiency to some degree. In some cases there may be a strategic reason to suffer that inefficiency and that is well and good. But often that is not the case.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Finally, Kenneth M. Pollack makes the case for war with Iraq that the administration should have been making all along. Instead of trying to make political points, Pollack lays it out as it really is, unvarnished and uncomfortable. There are good reasons to intervene in Iraq but they are independent of the war on terra.

I still think it is quite likely that Saddam will allow full inspections. He has more to gain by playing nice than by being belligerent. In time the UN will be forced to lift the sanctions and the inspectors will go home. And then he will begin again with no one to look over his shoulder and with much more money in his pocket.

Monday, September 30, 2002

MEMRI: Looniness of the Egyptian press
I remember how I used to read about the revisionist histories propagated by the Communist governments to prop up their failing regimes. In this case it is the Egyptian press and the Egyptian alleged intellectuals that are shovelling the manure. If these people believe this stuff, they are doomed by their own combination of arrogance and ignorance.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

The strait-jacket of current UN resolutions:
If Blix and UNMOVIC intend to abide by the structures and limits in the current resolutions it will be a tragic waste of time. If, however, he is going to hold Iraq to its concession of unlimited inspections, there may be hope. We shall see.
Gregg Easterbrook attempts to parse the practicalities of the real risk of WMD's. He makes a point in that chemical and biological warfare have not proven to be very effective in practice or even in accidents. The real WMD is nuclear and that is were most of our focus should be.

Since my hit count is so low I doubt Saddam is reading this so I think it is safe to mention this. Remember the Hoof-and-Mouth outbreak in Great Britain? It just about put the British beef industry underwater. That particular virus is so contagious that one could contaminate a single washcloth and make a tour of few cattle auctions in the States and rub it on a snout or two. I think the impact here would not be dissimilar than Britain's.

The real threat is that an enemy may come up with a form of attack that we have not anticipated properly. Like flying airplanes into a building or infecting a highly mobile herd of beef cattle.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Michael O'Hanlon does an assessment of the potential casualty count in Iraq. It includes the range from best-case to worst-case scenarios.
Wha the Bush administration is doing to science:
Bush has been quietly "retiring" numerous scientific advisers and committees. Last week the Washington Post reported that the Department of Health and Human Services pulled the plug on two expert committees, one of which had recommended more oversight for human test subjects in mental institutions. The other had lobbied strongly for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate home genetic tests that are sold to the public at great expense and whose results are almost entirely unreliable. Bush has also begun packing other committees that advise the government on issues like pollution and bioterrorism with industry-friendly scientists such as Dennis Paustenbach, the California toxicologist who was an expert witness for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in the Erin Brockovich case.

Corporate America's puppy is making another mess someone else will have to clean up.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Why the Palestinians have become such a mess. (from MEMRI)
no matter what peace proposal Clinton presented to the Arab side, it was sure to be rejected. This is because the Palestinian issue was always the main source of legitimacy for the revolutionary [Arab] regimes that established rural or tribal military republics. The Palestinian issue was always the subject of 'Announcement No. 1' of all these [Arab military coups]. More important, it was the prop for the war declared on democracy and modernization [by the Arab regimes], an eternal pretext for the bill of divorce from the free world and for imposing various laws, from emergency laws through military laws.
They almost had it and then their Arab "friends" took over and trashed it as they have trashed so much promise in that region.
Dwight Meredith details how Mr. Bush gathers his data before he makes a decision......not! He just goes through the motions by bringing together people that already agree with the decision he has already arrived at by Revealed Truth.

(via Ted Barlow)
Looks like the military folks are undertaking due diligence in their Iraq planning by working out ways to counter deployed WMD.
The Right is again indulging one of its favorite pastimes, ie. putting words into Gore's mouth to make him look bad. The current trip is that Gore has flip-flopped on Iraq. Timothy Noah attempts to disabuse that thought with Gore Is Consistent on Iraq - A close look at the evidence.
The upshot is that the Right can only support their claims by torturing the facts. I hope they don't get away with this the way they did in the campaign. Gore is consistent. But because he isn't foaming-at-the-mouth blood-thirsty and instead shows some moral sense, they twist his words to make it sound like he is soft on Iraq. And that he isn't.