Friday, August 30, 2002

Before the WSJ can convince me that the dearth of conservatives in academia is intentional, they will have to convince me that there are conservatives who can cut the mustard in terms of scholarship. What passes for scholarship in conservative circles tends to be unique to those circles.
The Economist on sustainable development.
The first thing they should do is to tell the truth about poverty, growth and the environment.
...the ten years since the Rio summit (home of that “grand vision”) have seen lots of progress in enhancing human welfare, especially in the most populous countries of the world, China and India, thanks to those countries' decisions to liberalise their economies and to open their borders to more trade and investment. Such globalisation has already narrowed the overall gap between North and South. But some countries, notably in Africa and the Middle East, have chosen not to take part in that process, and misery there has increased. Others, particularly in southern Africa, have been so beset by disease that they have been unable to take part. Much more can, and should, be done to help them do so. And measures can and should be taken to ensure that the future economic growth of the poor world, if that happy outcome occurs, does not unduly exacerbate the problem of global warming.

The second thing that western leaders can do is to state clearly what they can, and cannot, do for their poorer counterparts. They cannot “share assets more equitably”, as some claim; making the rich poorer will not make the poor richer. Virtually everything needed to help countries grow and reduce poverty depends chiefly on domestic policies—ask South Korea, China and even India. Western leaders can still, however, be helpful, in two powerful ways. They can open their country's markets to the goods that many poor countries are best suited to produce, namely food and textiles. And they can focus their overseas aid on the issue that is most difficult for poor countries to deal with themselves: disease.
At last, some construct comments about a value-driven course for war.
The way to begin this long campaign for democracy, argues Heisbourg, is to make human rights an issue in every meeting the United States and European nations have with each Arab state. That's the kind of slow and steady pressure that produced the Sakharovs and Sharanskys who transformed the Soviet Union.

Here is where the left and right should converge -- in supporting democracy and human rights across the Arab world. America doesn't need to go to war (beyond Iraq) or topple governments willy-nilly. It just needs to be true to its values, and never deviate from its long-term strategy for the sake of preserving the status quo. How the Arab world and Iran will respond to U.S. moves against Hussein is hard to predict. There will be some big risks, and also some big opportunities, but we won't really know in advance. That's why it's crucial that U.S. strategy be rooted in fundamental values, rather than short-term interests. A democratic Arab world, almost by definition, should pose less of a threat to Israel. For that reason, Israel should be willing to pay a price to achieve this more stable environment, by helping the Palestinians create a democratic state of their own. The necessary compromises -- on settlements and other issues -- will be hard for the Israelis, but the potential benefits are worth it.

U.S. policymakers should adapt one of Warren Buffet's investment tips. Foreign policy (along with investing) is like a baseball game, where the batter can wait as long as he wants for the pitch that's just right and then hit it out of the park. That approach takes patience and steady nerves, but it pays off. Changing the Arab world doesn't have to be as crazy a process as it sometimes sounds. It may be a Wilsonian ideal, but it's rooted in a fact of realpolitik: What exists now isn't working well for anyone. A careful, sensible plan for democratic change in the Middle East deserves support from liberals and conservatives, from dreamers and realists, from Americans and Europeans -- and especially from Arabs and Israelis.
Austin Bay analyses the potential Iraqi tactic of "hugging the enemy". Conclusion: the military is not motivated enough to pull it off. Too many would welcome the invasion.
The author of "Blackhawk Down" also weighs in. The Mogadishu experience is not a predictor of the assault on Baghdad. Any assault would be a full-scale operation from top to bottom. There would be casualties for sure but it would not be a disaster. And the outcome would be certain.
And in some cases all it takes is the spreading of better ideas.
If the farmer and the cowman can be friends maybe the Sierra Club and big energy can work things out. More and more it is looking like the solutions to environmental and development problems is smarter development and more of it.
More good news for the Jeb Bush campaign courtesy of Hesiod.
But James. There is a major difference between 1990 and now and, to me, that difference is crucial. In 1990 Saddam had committed an aggressively hostile act by occupying another nation. In 2002 he has done nothing of the kind. He has simply been one troublemaker among a cast of thousands the way he has been throughout the decade. All we have is speculation about what his future action might be. A country that has any desire to retain a claim to morality and justice can not aggressively occupy another nation based upon speculations. We are not Iraq but if Bush invades based on the case persented so far we will be behaving like Iraq.
Linking to Michael Barone on the subject of Lessons from the defeat of Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney in the Georgia primary. Courtesy of the professor.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Robert Kuttner sums it up.
In many ways, this is an administration that can't shoot straight. The aftermath of war in Afghanistan is an unstable mess. The anthrax investigation was bungled. Homeland security is a bureaucratic monstrosity. The White House clambered on board a corporate-reform bill only after the measure was well down the track. President Bush's embrace of the hard right cost his party the Senate. With the stock-market meltdown, Social Security privatization is off the table. After ramming through a budget-busting $1.35 trillion tax cut mostly for the rich, Bush's latest tax scheme is more tax relief, targeted at what Bush supporters candidly call "the investor class."
Matthew Rothschild makes the key points against initiating war with Iraq. Unlike Instapundit I think the Christian rules of a just war work. Without them we become the imperial power our detractors accuse us of being. I would rather there be a negligible basis in fact for those accusations than a blatant one. Going to war on trumped-up charges is a terrible precedent to set.

For the record I disagree with some of the hyperbole Mr Rothschild uses. We don't need to stretch facts like the Iraq-hawks do to make our case. The embargo casualties are a fiction. And the proposed casuality figures are not at all realistic.
Despite administration protestations to the contrary, Tom White played key role in covering up Enron losses. The secretary of the Army must go. He can take the rest of them with him if he would like. We would be better off.
Scott Ritter says the inspections worked before and would work in the future. (via the Democratic Underground via CounterSpin Centra)
Eric Schaeffer details how Bush turned the EPA into the Polluters Protection Agency.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Cool! A slick new screening device from that little lab across the street.
Instapundit links to some meaty (finally) articles about war with Iraq.
Charles Krauthammer makes the point that once Saddam has a nuclear capability his ability to be a successful aggressor in the region would be notably enhanced. Like Pakistan recently with India and the US in the European Cold War, nukes can effectively deter conventional attacks. Saddam with a nuke becomes a Saddam with nothing to fear. That would not be good.

But is immediate invasion the only way to keep this from happening? Brendan Nyhan offers alternatives that may delay or hinder Saddam's nuclear development with the possibility of an invasion being the enforcement mechanism.

I think the inspection regime should be along the lines of "If we can not inspect it today, it goes on tonight's target list."

But seriously. Until Saddam does something particularly egregious outside his own country it is all speculation. And is it appropriate to invade on speculation? It certainly makes sense to do all that we can do to hinder if not forestall his pursuit of WMD. I would support overt or covert strikes on suspect facilities. If he doesn't want it hit he needs to let it be inspected. Otherwise there may be some mysterious explosions. The opposition needs time to organize just as Saddam needs time. Despite the dangers, I don't think we need to be hasty.
Imagine an adhesive that is waterproof, can stick to glass, is as removable as velcro, and is strong enough to support 45 lbs. on an area the size of a dime. It's Gecko glue.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Found out via the Commentariat that there is this thing called the United Religions Initiative. They seemed to take a dim view of it. When I followed their links to find out why I had to chuckle. They don't like it because it calls on people like them to stop doing all the evil they do in the name of religion. Their opposition gives me all the more reason to support the initiative.
Here's something about the threat of Saddam that makes good sense. Janine Zacharia proposes the idea that he will use Palestinians to distribute a chemical or bio- agent. But she is right in that such an event would have his fingerprints on it. It would be the end of him. The Israelis are safe as long as Saddam understands this and we have to make sure that there is no way he can calculate otherwise. Our deterrence must be real and credible.
Y'know I hope I'm not letting the cat out of the bag here but the best thing that Saddam could do for Saddam is to let the inspectors come in without restrictions. First, secure the knowledge base he has on his various WMD and then dismantle most of the production facilities. Let the inspectors come and let them destroy a few things. When there is nothing left to be found the international community will have no choice but to lift the embargos. Once the embargos are gone and Saddam and his citizens have money again the WMD effort can be restarted on the sly with even more resources available and without onerous interference. Just a thought.
So that's it? That's the case for attacking Iraq? Cheney says that Saddam could use future weapons to blackmail us and other nations. Are we really so easily cowed? Tell Saddam to go ahead and give it a shot if he dares. He would not survive the consequences and he knows it. This may be too much deep thinking for the American electorate and unfortunately Cheney knows THAT.
Maybe this will be the final word on the reparations debate. Then again, maybe not.
My turn to make the case against the Iraq-hawks like Daniel Pipes. He claims there are holes in Scrowcroft's argument but it is Pipes' argument that has holes. Pipes contends that if Saddam merely possesses WMD he will use them. But he makes no case for the validity of that statement. Lots of bluster but no plausible scenario is presented. On the other hand there are plenty of incentives for Saddam not to use them. The most important of which in that any aggressive strike by him guarantees his downfall. He will have no friends. If he strikes Israel he gets to swallow their nukes. If he strikes anywhere else we will have the "Make my day" justification we need to take him out. He cannot use them without suffering a fatal counter-strike. It would be nice if more of Saddam's fingerprints were on 9/11 but they are not. If that strike had used WMD then Saddam would have been implicated and he would be hiding with the Taliban. But if the opportunity had ever presented itself to him he was smart enough to know that the trail would lead back to him and he declined the option. With Al-Qaida essentially gone the trail back to him would be even stronger. So even if he already has the weapons, using them would be suicidal and that Saddam is not.
It looks like the EU has some accounting problems of its own. I hope they are not large enough to create an international mess. That's all we need now

Monday, August 26, 2002

Daniel Pipes is at it again. With characteristic dispatch he puts militant Islam in a class with communism and fascism.
There is the occasional protest and there are certain individuals who are dedicated to a nonmilitant approach, but by and large one of the dismaying and problematic factors is that militant Islam dominates the Muslim discourse in this country [the US].
Jerry Regier has drawn lots of fire for things he published over a decade ago. I don't think that's good journalism. Particularly when his recent conduct in Oklahoma is so damning.

"The main thing you'll have to watch out for with Jerry is that he'll set up alliances with religious right groups to the exclusion of others," warns state Sen. Bernest Cain Jr., an Oklahoma City Democrat who, like Regier, is a former Bible college student.

"He's extreme in his political views, and he has few doubts about the truth of what he stands for."

While he does have a good reputation for being able clean up errant bureaucracies, he does it at the price of favoring right-wing religious organizations to whatever degree possible. Surely, Bubba Jeb, there is a better choice out there. But no I forget, if you don't pander to the right-wing crazies you lose the slim margin you need to retain your office.
A new idiotarian is on the scene.

But in "Let Freedom Ring," Hannity seems to be following another regrettable trend in modern punditry: Never let facts stand in the way of a good partisan screed. That was the dirty truth behind "Slander" and "Stupid White Men," and Hannity continues it with his book, a poorly researched effort full of blatant falsehoods and highly distorted versions of the truth.
The Homeland Insecurity article in the Atlantic debunks our slide toward purely techno solutions to security issues. We need to be thinking about security flexibility and what our systems do when there is a failure. Every system will fail at some point. It's how the system responds to the failure that counts. Systems need to be designed that failures can be contained; that there is no single firewall that, when breached, allows total access to the territory inside.

The way people think about security, especially security on computer networks, is almost always wrong. All too often planners seek technological cure-alls, when such security measures at best limit risks to acceptable levels. In particular, the consequences of going wrong to acceptable levels. In particular, the consequences of going wrong—and all these systems go wrong sometimes—are rarely considered. For these reasons Schneier believes that most of the security measures envisioned after September 11 will be ineffective, and that some will make Americans less safe.

To forestall attacks, security systems need to be small-scale, redundant, and compartmentalized. Rather than large, sweeping programs, they should be carefully crafted mosaics, each piece aimed at a specific weakness.
In the marriage wars the support for the cause of reproductive monogamy gets thinner. Even in apparently monogamous species gene studies have confirmed that all is not as it seems. For humans the truth may be that if there is a genetic tendency for monogamy that tendency may have plenty of variation from individual to individual. But as always we must come to terms with what manner of beasts we really are and channer those energies as productively as possible.
Recent discoveries that there is a cosmic smog of organic compounds makes it very likely that life may in fact be ubiquitous. Expect to find it on Mars and Europa and perhaps even more exotic environments. What will be fascinating will be the forms that extra-terrestrial biochemistry may take.

Saturday, August 24, 2002

An immigrant offers his special perspective on the principles and values that make America great and contrasts those with Islamic fundamentalism.
For the purpose of this article I intend to do a sort of anti-Fisking in which I will add my personal comments of endorsement to Mr. Ambati's original text.

As Duke welcomes a new freshman class and new academic year, the first anniversary of a very black day looms ahead. It is easy to say that America's current war is for our survival and prosperity, but we are fighting for our ideals as much as we are for our physical well-being, so this war is not solely about bin Laden and al-Qaeda, but about whether the idea that succored them, radical Islamic fundamentalism, will destroy or be destroyed by American ideals. As an immigrant, I deeply appreciate the guiding principles of America that are often taken for granted:

1) Empiricism: Americans are not wedded to ideologies and are wary of new "-isms," but fond of things that work, focusing on goals, not processes. Skepticism and pragmatism fuel scientific inquiry (the beginning of any quest for truth are the words "I don't know") and enable correction of mistakes by government and society. The Constitution's preamble, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union," embodies this, recognizing that America, land of second chances, is and always will be a work in progress.

Thankfully our basic premise is that there seems to be no one perfect way but rather the way, as it were, is subject to negotiation between persons and their government. This principle of a negotiated approach has the flexibility in it to allow society to respond to newly perceived realities. Old destructive ways are more easily discarded when they have lost their empirical effectiveness. When things go wrong in systems that depend heavily on dogma or tradition, the usual reaction is an almost superstitious call to the return to more faithful observance of the dogma or tradition. That's all they can do since they are fundamentally unable to admit that the dogma has, in fact, failed. A negotiated arrangement can always be renegotiated when the cost of remaining the same exceeds the cost of changing.

2) Anyone can be an American: The Statue of Liberty proclaims welcome to foreigners (although such welcome is not always matched in reality). In stark contrast to countries that severely restrict immigration, allowing foreigners only as menial laborers and indentured servants, or have citizenship requirements that one's ancestors were citizens, the U.S. confers opportunities to newcomers and their children--a marvelous engine of self-renewal. I will never forget my Chinese medical school classmate whose parents sold noodles on the streets of Flushing, N.Y. Fostering enlightened immigration not only enriches the cultural vibrancy of America but is a brilliant economic device. The country gets the talents and tax base of numerous adults without investing in their childhood. The most handsome dividends of immigration were in World War II, when we welcomed countless refugees and hundreds of scientists fleeing Nazi death camps who then went on to help us win.

This aspect is easily taken for granted by those of us who have grown up in this country. We have little concept of what it is like to be second-class citizens in our home country. In the remaining circumstances in which there are vestiges of second-class citizenship in our country, the denial of the full rights of citizenship is the at the core of the cause to get those circumstances changed.

3) Live and let live: This underpins our freedom of choice and culture of the individual. While the First Amendment gets all the glory, the Tenth Amendment shines, "Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." You can pretty much do anything you like as long as you don't hurt others, and the government won't get in the way.

This strikes to the very heart of what "freedom" really is. By avoiding the temptation to officially promote any way as the right way we allow freedom to truly blossom. That is up to the point where my exercising of freedom becomes detrimental to others. At that point their right to freedom puts a reasonable limit on mine. Living in freedom is a very real thing. Much too often the word becomes a stick with which we can cudgel other styles of government as we deem politically expedient. This idea of freedom that we enjoy is something we would do well to export as much as possible even when our expediently friendly regimes find it uncomfortable. I think that this level of freedom is what our international cause should be. We should challenge all nations to rise as high on this scale as possible. Who knows? Some nation may actually be better at it than we are. Then they will have something to teach us. But until then we should be forthright about leading the way.

4) The rule of law: John Adams wrote, "We are a nation of laws, not of men." The checks and balances in the architecture of the Constitution, together with due process enshrined in the Bill of Rights, have shielded the world's oldest democracy from the temptations of tyranny, moderated mob passions, and protected freedoms and the innocent. Transparency is maintained by a vigorous judiciary and a free press, the organs of society that cast sunlight on government agencies and guard against abuse. The Freedom of Information Act reinforces the "public's right to know."

A just society must not be a respecter of persons. When privileges are granted or punishments meted out on any other basis than objective merit, society suffers. We rob ourselves of contributions of much-needed talent or we allow predators and parasites to sap the strength of good people.

5) Exploration: Hollywood's special effects do not compare with NASA, deep-sea divers, particle physicists, biomedical researchers and their predecessors. This culture of exploration has bestowed America with unparalleled dynamism, a fascination with the future, an eternal optimistic can-do spirit and unprecedented physical and social mobility.

Life brings with it some seemingly intractable problems. Yet many problems that have seemed to be intractable in the past have eventually succumbed to a sufficiently energetic assault. "The pursuit of happiness" demands that we continue to attack these problems wherever we find them.

6) Opportunity for all: In principle, everyone has access to health, education, capital and self-improvement, the goal being equal opportunity for the pursuit of happiness. Our system is intended to discriminate among persons based on their character and deeds, not on features of identity they were born with, principles codified in the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and restated in the Civil Rights Act. These allow each citizen to dream the American Dream, the continual betterment of the material well-being of the individual and the country, a dream that has nourished entrepreneurship and progress.

When one looks at the scope and depth of poverty across the world it is tempting to despair that such shall always be the case. I grant that America has benefited from a wealth of natural resources through the years. But that can not be the whole story. There are many countries that have significant valuable resources but they have utterly failed at making the benefits of those resources available to their people. I am optimistic that as societies around the world reform to the American model that the intellectual and moral energies that come into being will provide the means by which to eradicate the curses of poverty and denial of opportunity.

7) Separation of church and state: The First Amendment begins, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." This sentence has protected religion from the corruption of politics and government from the tyranny of fundamentalism. Both are vital, since faith stems from divine revelation and should not be polluted by mundane concerns, and democracy requires the ability to dissent and to say "I don't know," with which a theocracy is incompatible (witness the Taliban). Separation of institutions also underlies the separation of powers and apolitical military that are key features of our government.

This is a real biggie for me. As a religious person I recognize that the biggest threat to religious freedom is neither secularism nor government. It is other religions. It is almost like a Nash Equilibrium in that all benefit most if no single one achieves the top spot. By its very nature as an all-consuming life philosophy, religion can be easily seduced into imposing itself onto the "unbelievers" for their "own good". By the same token the goals of the government may not be compatible with the goals of the religion in the long run. Religion can become distracted from its proper goals if it becomes too close to the whims of politics. To give the power of governance to any religion is too much to ask of it. Any religion that hopes to thrive in the States needs to adapt to competition in the world of ideas. None should expect to benefit from government help. To whatever degree that a religion wishes to assist the government in providing some benefit to the members of society I think the religion should provide that assistance as its sacrificial gift to society as a whole. Because of the special danger that comes with the mix of government and religion I think any such relationship should be carefully crafted so that the goals of the government do not become an instrument for the goals of the religion.

These principles have helped this country become great. Sure, they have drawbacks (gridlock, bureaucracy, materialism), and yes, America has too often been hypocritical (the three-fifths compromise, lack of women's suffrage, slavery, wiping out Native Americans), but within our system is the capacity to recognize faults, change and grow, to form a more perfect union.

We can no longer hold the illusion, nourished by two oceans and two friendly neighbors, of isolation from the world. Foreign policy must be informed by an appreciation of who we are so as to articulate and pursue cogent goals of freedom and justice. This is what we defend: Faith that people can rule themselves through reason, an orphaned belief for millennia prior to the United States.

Radical Islamic fundamentalists claim divine authority and ultimate truth, rejecting inquiry, seeking to impose their world-view on the rest of the world through their version of religiously sanctioned murder. Church and state are one, and due process and freedom are irrelevant. Aside from religious imagery and embrace of suicide as means of murder, their creed resembles Nazism and communism. It is as much our duty as our right to discredit and destroy the idea of radical Islamic fundamentalism. And in so doing, we must not trample our superior ideals to save them; indeed, we must hold true to principles of freedom and democracy to enable their uncorking.

Friday, August 23, 2002

These look like two articles that need to be read together. Here and more.
I hope this keeps going because the chimp is vulnerable.
By injecting himself into almost every key race in the United States, Bush is--White House denials notwithstanding--turning himself into this election's major issue.
George Soros stands heads and shoulders above economists as demonstrated in this piercing analysis of markets and the need for reasonable regulation.
kuro5hin has an excellent article on the just war arguments about Iraq.
Making war with Iraq is lame idea.
A war to remake the face of the Arab world is worth a careful debate for one final reason: When the big guys in Washington dream of transforming the world, it's the little guys who come home in body bags.
Being a moderately religious person I deeply resent that outfits like these use distortion and lies to promote their religious-based views. And even worse they do it with tax-payer dollars. But this is the policy of the current occupant of the White House. It helps to remember that most people in this country had the sense to vote for someone else.
As an employee in the nuclear industry I am sensitive to news item about the effects of radiation. The effects of low levels of radiation have always been difficult to determine because they are so much smaller than other things we do to ourselves. This article reports that the statistics show that low level radiation may actually be beneficial. One should make sure that the apparent benefits are not caused by secondary activities. For example, the health regulations in my industry call for more frequent and more thorough medical checkups than for most other workers. This could explain better longevity stats if serious illnesses get detected earlier.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Arianna Huffington puts the cost of corporate ripoffs into perspective. It's truly amazing.
Chocolate may be endangered. Many of the current growing practices of the cacao are not sustainable and much limited but necessary habitat has been destroyed.
Counter-intuitive incentives may actually provide better results in pollution control than standard regulations. If the goal is to reduce pollution it may simply be more effective to have non-draconian regulations that push big polluters voluntarily in the right direction. There is a point at which it becomes easier to get around the law and continue to pollute than it is to comply. Regulations need to stay North of that point.
As seen in Blackhawk Down rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) are a cheap weapon that can wreak havoc with light armored vehicles. Innovative methods to counter RPGs are being developed. But it seems to me that the aforementioned dense ceramics might be a better choice.
This breakthrough in the fabrication of dense ceramics may have implications on personal armor and a whole host of other applications.
This should be another warning to the attack-Iraq-adventurists. In practical simulations assaults on cities by well-equipped and well-trained Marines have shown many weaknesses in our ability to to carry out urban combat. If Saddam's troops are able to successfully set up a defense in an urban environment, our military capabilities there are simply not-ready-for-prime-time. We have things to learn and adjustments to make to both equipment and tactics. There are still problems that we haven't solved after Mogudishu.

There are then two clear objectives that must be met in order to assure military success against Saddam: keep the fight out of the cities and avoid a long period of hostilities. If we can't do that, way too many good soldiers will be sacrificed.

I still am of the mind that until Saddam holds a smoking gun we should not mount any attack. I think that as assurred destruction deterrent is the best assurance that he will behave. I am aware that there are some reports of operations already underway. Be that as it may I think it better strategy to leave him some running room. If he has reason to believe that he has nothing more to lose he will do everything he can to unleash his WMD. Only when we are sure that he can't get his hand to the button should we close the trap.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

For those who still need it, here's some more evidence of what the Republican Party is all about.
For six years Republicans have cut programs that help the struggling--such as child care food programs and public housing--and raised spending on programs that help the relatively well-off, such as farm subsidies and business loans. House Majority Leader Dick Armey offered this gloating explanation for his party's efforts at upward redistribution: "To the victor go the spoils." Now there's a moral basis for government.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Col. Norville B. de Atkine, ret., lays it out on Why Arabs Lose Wars.

Arab officers are not concerned about the welfare and safety of their men. The Arab military mind does not encourage initiative on the part of junior officers, or any officers for that matter. Responsibility is avoided and deflected, not sought and assumed. Political paranoia and operational hermeticism, rather than openness and team effort, are the rules of advancement (and survival) in the Arab military establishments. These are not issues of genetics, of course, but matters of historical and political culture.

This certainly matches what I have seen and others I know have seen in the Middle Eastern culture.
The more and more people talk about the music industry the sadder it looks.
A slim ray of hope for the Palestinian cause has appeared. The new financial minister has same chops. This will be interesting to watch. Will Arafat be able to function in a transparent system? Or will Fayyad get purged and the PA return to corruption?
Salon Spinsanity shows hard the right-wing pundits must twist the truth to create the appearance of a conspiracy.

Given that both the data and the method used in calculating the estimates are entirely transparent, however, falsifying them for political purposes is virtually impossible.

Yet some commentators took those revised numbers to mean that the earlier estimates had been intentionally fabricated. Chicago Sun Times columnist and "Crossfire" co-host Robert Novak led the charge with a column on Aug. 8. Novak wrote: "Hidden in the morass of statistics, there is proof that the Clinton administration grossly overestimated the strength of the economy leading up to the 2000 election. Did the federal government join Enron and WorldCom in cooking the books?"
It's that Paul Krugman again. He keeps calling their bluff.
The point is that there is an inexorably growing gap between the image and the reality of the Bush administration's policies.

Mr. Bush is a master of photo-op populism; his handlers seek out opportunities to show him mingling with blue-collar workers. But the reality is that this administration loves 'em while the TV crews are around, then leaves 'em when it comes to actual policy. And that reality is becoming ever harder to conceal.
Bold new possibilities for vaccinations are coming to fruit with gene-only vaccines that are on their way. Trials for malaria are already in flight. The list includes anthrax, HIV, Ebola, even melanoma.

Monday, August 19, 2002

In all the noise about American companies fleeing offshore we need to remember that compared to other countries we are the tax-haven. James C. Bennett suggests that our international corporate taxing policy needs to be tuned in light policies in other countries. We can set it so that we experience net losses or net gains but the effect of regulatory arbitrage will always be there.
Charles Johnson finds statistics that show that Palestinians are killing more Palestinians than Israelis. Israel would be doing them a favor if they liberated the Palestinians from their own leaders.
Robert Costanza has a new model for moving the task of preserving the environment from the regulatory world to the economic one.
...there are more than moral reasons for governments to pursue environmentally friendly policies: There can also be significant economic value.

We figured to expand to this hypothetical area would take about $45 billion a year, worldwide. So it's an order of magnitude [greater than what we spend now], but it's a lot more area, and $45 billion a year in the larger scheme of things is not that much money. It's a small fraction of the global military budget.

And it's also a small fraction of what's spent on perverse subsidies -- those are huge subsidies that are not benefiting society at all but are benefiting only the private recipients of those subsidies. Society would be much better off if they were eliminated -- so if you eliminated even a small fraction of those perverse subsidies you could pay for this reserve network. So $45 billion a year for the global reserve network: We're not saying that's all you have to spend, but it's our hypothetical scenario.

I especially like the idea of removing the hissing and spitting over who has the right science from the policy arena. If a proposed development has an environmental risk let the developers post a bond equivalent to what the downside of that risk. Then it becomes an economic decision, "Is this risk affordable by the company in light of the potential reward?" There would be a genuine economic incentive to keep the environmental impact to a minimum and the corporate world is much more responsive to economic incentives than regulatory ones.

If I were a candidate for office one of the things I would really go after is the elimination of the perverse subsidies. That would be like a real tax cut for everyone as opposed to fake tax cuts that only benefit the few at the top of the heap.

Friday, August 16, 2002

Here's a tongue-in-cheek piece about what a pro-Arab information campaign for Westerners might look like.
This is from an article by a Sudanese author and researcher referenced by MEMRI. It makes the point that the elimination of corruption is impossible in Arab regimes because in a non-transparent form of government corruption is the regime. Those who tend to be brought up on charges are those who can not be corrupt enough.
From an American Muslimah pilot stationed in Uzbekistan on the occasion of Memorial Day 2002:

This seemed like a good thread to comment on today, May 27th, Memorial Day 2002 in the USA. This is the day we Americans remember those who have died in our wars fighting for the United States. As a member of the United States Army myself, the wife of another soldier, the daughter of a former soldier, the grandaughter of a soldier, the sister of two soldiers, and also the sister and sister-in-law of two airforce pilots, this day has special meaning to me. So far my family has been blessed in that we have not lost anyone and the injuries have not been life threatening. Thanks be to Allah for that! But all of us know men, and a few women, who have died. Each of us has lost at least one friend, someone we've served with and knew well. And each of us, because we are or were all combat arms soldiers or airmen who actually fight, not rear area personnel, has a personal understanding of what it means to "fight for our country"...because all of us have, and some are doing it today. To put it as simply as possible, this is a country worth fighting for. My grandfather told me that when I was a little girl; he was an immigrant from Kuwait, and so very, very proud of his American citizenship, and that he had, in his opinion, really earned it in the uniform of his adopted country. We Americans don't like war at all. We'd much rather live in peace, trade, visit, communicate, and get along with others. But, we are capable of fighting, and fighting well when necessary. Our armed forces reflect our country, eclectic, mixed, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, mutli-racial, and totally American. We don't much care where our fellow soldiers or sailors, etc., came from...or what religion they follow, or not...couldn't matter less. The US Army patch that rests above the left breast pocket on our battle dress uniforms says it all for us soldiers...similar things for the other branches. Today, Memorial Day, we remembered the one million six hundred thousand of our fellow Americans who have died for this country. Those Union soldiers in blue who died in 1863 at Gettysburg are as much my heroes and forefathers as if my family had been here back then. And the tradition begun at Valley Forge, and Chippewa, and Chapaultepec, and San Juan Hill, is MY tradition and my family's. The freedoms we Americans take for granted, are not and were not free. The freedom to be a Muslim in the US (or a Hindu, or a Jew, or a Lutheran, or nothing at all) was bought for in the blood of those who went before me, and I owe them, and so will my children which, insh'Allah, Hassan and I will have. I'm an American soldier, and my country's enemies are my enemies. Those who would harm my fellow citizens are my targets. Those who would destroy my country and the freedoms it stands for are those I will destroy myself, and, insh'Allah, I will get the opportunity to do so, again! I am a free American woman, who believes as she wishes and who needs not fear or heed any fanatic or demagogue. My children will be able to say the same thing when they celebrate their Memorial Days, for my husband, and brothers, and sister, and brother-in-law, and comrades in arms will damn well make sure that they will be able to do help us help us help us whatever diety we choose to pray to.

We are Muslims in the US military, and we will fight for this country as hard as our ancestors did because we owe it to them, and because we gave our word, and most of all, because it's worth it!

To those who have a problem with this, my advice is make sure you keep your dislike verbal. We believe in freedom of speech, even speech we do not agree with. Take it beyond that, and you become a target. Count on that!

Happy Memorial Day and may Allah have mercy on those who have died fighting for the United States so that people like my family and me, and our children, and future immigrants, can live in this wonderful land as free men and women.


Thursday, August 15, 2002

Another splendid article from Policy Review Online on How America Should Lead into the foreseeable future. Must reading.
We believe that American power could be most effectively perpetuated and expanded, and the interests of America’s allies best served, by engaging in the construction of international institutions and practices more closely aligned to emergent security challenges. Current alliances and institutions are not ideally suited to the task. At the same time, the expanse of American power and the constraining efforts of allies are leading America to forgo international cooperation — to its own detriment. The critical tests of American power in the twenty-first century will be whether the U.S. has the vision to lead the design of an international architecture that fosters American interests and the interests of other states, as did the post-World War ii architecture, and whether it can do so in ways that share the burden of sustaining this order so that it becomes self-reinforcing.
Alan Dowd reflects on how we should observe 9/11 this year and the lessons from it that we need to remember.
While generally I don't think much of Rumsfeld's take on things, he sometimes gets things right. The Arabs attacked and lost. Four times. Israel would do better by behaving like a victor and bring the disputed lands and peoples fully into the nation. Under the rule of law in a democratic society, as I said below, the Palestinians will find life more worth living than what they have now.
The Israelis are not innocent in creating their share of the problems in the Middle East. It is time for them to abandon Zionism and set about the creation of a more secular and pluralist state. Of the options mentioned in the article I rather like the idea of outright annexation and giving the Palestinians the choice among full Israeli citizenship, emigration, or resident undocumented alien status. As long as Israel insists on being a "Jewish" state it provides moral ammunition to its neighbors. But when Palestinians find it is better to be a loyal opposition citizen of Israel than a combatant oppressed and exploited by their own leaders, the row will settle down.
This an article that I need to save an refer back to from tiem to time. Transnational progressivism will be the enemy our nation must turn to after this terrorism thing gets settled.
Robert Scheer points out how quick Republicans have been to provide corporate welfare. It's almost like they think that the government is there to serve business interests first at the interests of citizens only if there happens to be any money left over.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

In the TRANSCIPT OF A BRIEF ON THE ARMY AFTER NEXT Maj. Gen. Robert Scales makes some points I hadn't thought about before. In my "Make my day" policy of deterrence I figured that if Saddam had a good understanding of the forces arrayed against him he would not tempt fate. But as MG Scales points out,
If you stay too long, or if you repeat yourself ... the enemy learns to get knowledge from points where there is no knowledge. He maneuvers against the white spaces. Shades of Somalia. If you establish recognizable patterns, even if you maintain that 9-1 technical method superiority in information, over time the enemy learns and he starts to get it.

In other words, if your enemy knows too much about your capabilities he can counter them. Even if those capabilities appear to be overpowering a clever enemy can come up with something to level the playing field if you allow him the time to adjust. Operationally the trick is to paralyse him quickly and not let up until he collapses. By moving his defenses into the cities Saddam is following good doctrine in that city fighting might buy him precious time to adjust and counter whatever we throw at him.

So what does this mean for Make-my-day? Somehow we must keep him uncertain that his countermeasures will be effective. I have to leave that up to the professionals. But if he becomes confident that he can bog down an American counter-attack our deterrence is lost and he may entertain the unthinkable.
William Saletan on the Waco Forum:
In short, the operational premise of the event was that its stated premise was false: The "real people" onstage held beliefs that the real people watching it didn't share. That ruse may have been economical. But it wasn't very presidential, and it certainly wasn't a forum.
Is there anyone who thinks that this was anything but cheap posturing for the media?
When examined historically, the justifications used by the Palestinians for their struggle are nothing but a pack of big lies. Ever since Oslo the West Bank and Gaza have not been occupied by Israel but have been in the hands of the Palestinian Authority. The occupation is a fiction fostered by Arafat. This follows in the pattern established by Hajj Amin Al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. (thanks to lgf)
The notorious Florida child welfare department loses its chief. Granted, the department was a mess before she took over. But it just didn't seem to be making much progress.
On the clone watch, a new method that is easier, cheaper, and less technically demanding has been developed. This method could bring cloning within the range of your local corporate farm.
When I first read the headline I thought there had been a typo but it was right. They have actually found a compound that can both immobilize the AIDS virus AND some really bad radionuclides. This will be interesting to watch develop.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Richard Perle is a loon. It's easy in hindsight to say a preemptive strike against Hitler would have been better than waiting for him to invade Poland. But predicting the future is not so easily done. A preemptive strike shows what I consider a lack of courage on our part. While not completely foolproof the policy of clear deterrence offers the best chance to prevent the use of WMD. If it is clear that any use of WMD by Saddam will immediately bring his demise he will not use them. Whatever he is, he is not suicidal. If we strike at him he then has nothing to lose and very likely will use his weapons. What is our goal? Removal of Saddam or prevention of a WMD incident? Some people fail to see that these two are mutually exclusive.
As the Bush policy toward (non)nation-building plays out, our European friends are starting to sweat the details.
And that, according to Dominique Moisi, of the French Institute on Foreign Relations, is what concerns European leaders most. In an interview with The Christian Science Monitor, Mr. Moisi explains: "... the experience in Afghanistan only reinforces the doubts about American stamina for a longstanding commitment, and leaves European leaders asking, 'Are we going to once again be the cleaning lady of an American intervention?'"
Waco in the summertime can be scorching. Whatever the excuse, he just doesn't get it. The tax policy is killing us and he wants to make it worse!
Just like the Kyoto accords below, the debate over GM crops may also be moot. We may just may have to live with what we have already done.
There is a giant over the horizon.
The average time from order to delivery, including assembly and testing, is 5.7 days. That's as quick as Dell in the US - though Dell offers online ordering and home delivery (a model that Legend is only now developing in a nation slow to embrace ecommerce and shipping). All this is enough to get the attention of Michael Dell himself, who says that he fears Legend more than any other company in the world.
Never heard of it? This dragon is in China.

I am confident that if we ever figure out how to reflect the true environmental costs in the marketplace the problem of regulations would be greatly simplified.
According to Costanza, the current system of cost accounting is plainly out of whack. Harmful development policies go unchecked largely because of a lack of information: values aren't assigned to natural goods and services so markets are by definition imperfect.

Monday, August 12, 2002

I happened to catch a bit of the movie, Lawrence of Arabia, over the weekend. There is a scene in which the Arabs have managed to take and occupy Damascus ahead of their British allies. Lawrence knows that if the technically-challenged Arabs seek the expertise of the British to keep the infrastructure of the working, their chance for true independence will be lost and Arabia will be accreted to the British Empire. But the Arabs are caught up in tribal squabbling and finger-pointing and no one wants to lose face by doing real work. In their eyes only menials do such things. I thought, "Things really haven't changed that much over a couple of generations." About half the population of SA are guest workers brought in to do jobs the Saudis find to be beneath their dignity. There is mounting evidence that Al Qaeda was paid off and may continue to get payments to not stir things up in SA and to stir things up elsewhere. Basically the Saudis are still a tribal clan interested in preserving its position of power with a checkbook if necessary.
The Asian Brown Cloud makes the Kyoto accords moot. It is already too late for many people. The republicans have, through no effort of their own, turned out to be correct on this one in that it's the pollution of other countries that cause the biggest problems not the US.
The issue is genetic manipulation using the human genome. The opposition is all in froth and worried that the line between human and animal will be blurred. The mistake is in thinking that the line is all that distinct. This distinction is much stronger in our minds than it is in actual biochemistry. We would be better off coming to terms with that reality than continuing to deny it. In the meantime we run the risk of inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on ourselves and our children.
In the reasonably good ideas department, John Allen Paulos has a simple idea that might eliminate speed traps on toll roads. I wonder if it would be prohibitively expensive to expand the concept to major interstate ramps.

Friday, August 09, 2002

True nature of the Bush administration revealed, "Confidence Men" by Joshua Micah Marshall
How can we even hope to prevail in Iraq if we hang Karzai out to dry. Thanks Hesiod.
Arianna H. posits that our democracy may be in trouble. In a bloodless coup, our government by, for and of the people has been replaced by the dictatorship of the corporate dollar.
Watching President Bush smile for the cameras as he signed Sarbanes-Oxley -- a bill he never supported -- I couldn't help but wonder if the twinkle in his eye was because he knew something the rest of us didn't.
Money! Gawd, I love this. Thank you Joe Conason.
A Republican functionary that would have no chance of confirmation in the Senate gets a recess appointment. It's nice to have powerful friends. While the job is the the Department of Agriculture this guy is no friend to the family farmer. But corporate farms? That's a horse of a different color.
A goody from Salon: The Pentagon chafed under a Democratic administration. Now that the Repubs are in power the Pentagon is in pain.
The new team turns out to be as likely to dismiss professional military advice as the old team was to accept it. And that accounts for the case of whiplash that the Pentagon brass has suffered for the last 18 months.
The Nash Equilibrium was just a start. It assumes that the game players are rational. But what if they are human and irrational? They now have math for that, too.
I must agree for the most part with Hesiod on Iraq. Attacking Saddam Hussein frees him to use any WMD he might have and the Arab world would applaud and support him. Building and maintaining a deterrent may keep him from using the weapons indefinitely. If we are wrong and he attacks in some way then we would be free to liberate Iraq with much stronger international support (possibly even some support from the Arab nations). Instead of invading we must redouble our efforts to limit his military acquisitions and steel ourselves for whatever attack he may eventually make. To reiterate, the message to Saddam should be, "Go ahead, make my day!"

Saddam is reasonably predictable because he does exercise a form of rational self-interest. Radical Islam on the other hand is much less so. It's fantasy ideology does not respond to such things as deterrents. It expects an act of God to destroy the enemy if they can demonstrate the strength of their faith by various acts of martyrdom. It's sad but the only way to deal with this is to give them their martyrdom in sufficient numbers while doing all we can to keep them from hurting non-martyrs along the way. Maybe we need to establish a chain of martyr clinics. "Fight the Great Satan and get your martyrdom here! Lethal injections administered while you wait! Special group rates available!"

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Another excellent article by the Policy Review folks. This time on Islam in the US. Thanks to Charles Johnson at lgf.
Al-Hayat interviews Sheikh Abu Hamza. He sees his British passport as mere convenience but feels no obligation to integrate with the society whatsoever. As far as he is concerned all integration means is teenage pregnancy. Sheikh Omar Bakri likewise has little use for integration. He also thinks that Islam will bury the West. The disconnect with reality is clearly explained by the Policy Review article I mentioned earlier.
Ooo! Ooo! Just had a great idea on how to end suicide bombings in Israel! They just need to adopt a national dress code such that there is a minimum of covering. Anyone fully clothed would be subject to frisking.
An excellent article on what the Al Qaeda is really all about. We need to heed this reality if we wish to deal with it effectively and permanently.
Talk about fuzzy math and funny numbers! The Bush budgeting act is not only creative fiction but a fiction that changes to suit the audience.
I would like to weigh in on the War with Iraq issue. As much as it would be expedient to have a preemptory strike I agree with other worthies that making noises about or actually unilaterally opening up hostilities is counter-productive. This practice would completely squander whatever deterrence we have. Instead we should be doing everything we can to mitigate any first blow we may receive from our opponent and make it clear that retaliation would be swift and sure if he decides to strike such a blow. At the same time we should do everything possible to limit the military capabilities Iraq but stay short of direct military action ourselves.

The really difficult part but the morally essential part is to be willing to stand and suffer that blow before taking offensive action. That suffering is what would give us the moral high ground that we need to secure the support of our allies and world opinion. I hope the current administration and the pundits in general have the courage to wait and take it.

I grant that this approach leaves Saddam relatively free to continue developing his WMD but it is our best hope for preventing their use. We need to be in a position to say to Saddam, “Go ahead, punk. Make my day.” We need that make it clear that we are capable and willing to retaliate if given sufficient injury. At the same time we need to make it clear that Saddam holds his fate in his own hands and that we are not going to take that decision out of his hands.
Thanks to Counterspin Central. The Bush administration seems to be unapologetic about spending money meant for children on childless adults. No child left behind indeed.
Thanks to the professor I see where John McCaslin of the Washington Times is floating Condy Rice as a potential Repub running mate in 04. It makes lots of sense. It makes more sense if the top of the ticket was better.
An unexpected fallout of the 3-day airline outage immediately after the 9/11 attack: Some hot shots at Penn State saw it as an opportunity to study the effects of the absence of jet contrails in the upper atmosphere. They found that the days got warmer and the nights colder without the airline traffic. The question in my mind is this a good thing or bad thing?

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

MEMRI has an article up entitled "Why Do Arabs Ignore Their Flaws" written by the former Libyan Prime Minister. I have personally seen all these characteristics demonstrated in discussions on Beliefnet:Islamic Challenge and Critique.
The war against HIV is winnable. Even in places like Africa. But it is going to take an awful lot of anti-retroviral drugs. We can stop wringing our hands and get to the task of focussing resources to make this happen. Given time HIV can go the way of smallpox.

Previous statistical studies have shown that in STD epidemics it is sufficient to stop transmission by the more promiscuous individuals. From the beginning the problem has always been a behavioral one. These data show that it is actually more manageable than had been supposed.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Water & Gas: An American pricing paradox
Americans are so silly. We are willing to pay more for bottled water than gasoline. But the bottlers are happy to satisfy the demand. Just what is the percentage markup on a $1.50 bottle of water that costs 3 cents to produce? You gotta love capitalism.
Joe Conason says,
Perhaps it is time for Sullivan, Rush Limbaugh and all the other conservatives who have smeared Clinton for his alleged fecklessness regarding terror to withdraw (at least stop repeating) their baseless accusations. "Feckless" seems like a better description of those who took over from Clinton and failed to heed the advice he left for them.

In an excellent piece, TIME Magazine lays out the detailed history of how the Bush administration allowed themselves to be distracted by other things than the terrorist threat that the preceding administration considered, correctly, to be very real.
New Democratic Marching Orders
Arguing politics means challenging not only the other side's positions but the very moral and cultural underpinnings of those positions. It means using emotional arguments to link the opposition to a set of values alien to this country's best traditions. It means finding the symbolic representations of the enemy's masked agendas and exposing them. It means not only attacking the other side but defending one's own side (and not with statistics, but with moral arguments advanced with conviction). And, finally, it means doing all this on a permanent basis, day after day, with lots of warm bodies standing next to one another, saying the same thing over and over, until the media has to cover it.
How to steal an election.
The records show that the Bush committee spent a total of $13.8 million to frustrate the recount of Florida’s votes and secure the state's crucial electoral votes for Bush. By contrast, the Gore recount operation spent $3.2 million, about one quarter of the Bush total. Bush spent more just on lawyers – $4.4 million – than Gore did on his entire effort.
Laurie Smiterman of : ``The Bush-Cheney administration literally flew into power in Enron's and Halliburton's corporate jets,'
Arianna Houghington on the White House's credibility problem:
By employing the Cayman gambit there was:

A dramatic drop in Halliburton's federal taxes, which fell from $302 million in 1998 to less than zero -- to wit, an $85 million rebate -- in 1999.

At the same time they were hard at work stiffing U.S. taxpayers, Cheney and Halliburton were happily feasting at the public trough -- the company received $2.3 billion in government contracts and another $1.5 billion in government financing and loan guarantees.
Stand and Deliver Revisited:
We can complain about the public schools and abandon them to their fate. But what can we learn from the successes? It seems to me that the system needs to be fixed, not abandoned. By abandon public schools we risk building an even higher wall between the haves and have-nots in our society when we should be tearing that wall down.

In the real world, those who provide a service can usually find a way to get it to those who want it, even if their current employer disapproves. If someone feels that he can build a better mousetrap than his employer wants to make, he can find a way to make it, market it, and perhaps put his former boss out of business. Public school teachers lack that option.

There are very few ways to compete for education dollars without being part of the government school system. If that system is inflexible, sooner or later even excellent programs will run into obstacles.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Invade Iraq, But Bring Friends
Fareed Zakaria has a piece in which he forthrightly declares that Iraq needs to be toppled and rebuilt. But we had better do a better job in Afghanistan than we are doing now if we hope to garner the international help we need to pull it off.

Saturday, August 03, 2002

Den Beste says lots of on the point things about the coming Western/Islam conflagration then he veers off into talking about Iraq. The cultural targets are Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iraq is a sideshow and has little to do with true cultural war.
ArabNews has a favorite Congressperson:

She may be a bit of a loose cannon but I don't think she wants friends like this. Does she?
Is the Big-Business Era Over?

Americans are no longer convinced that Bush is on their side when he has to choose between them and his friends in corporate America.

Some of us have been saying this since the beginning of the 2000 campaign. It's nice to be vindicated and by the actions of the opposition no less. Here's to the supremacy of truth!
Cradle to Cradle: The key to preserving the environment is not stopping growth. It is by increasing the right kind of growth -- and the key to that is better design.
The Atlantic looks at the weak points of our justice system The human witnesses. "To me, videotaping is in the same category as DNA evidence," says William Geller, the author of the 1993 Justice Department study and currently a consultant to police departments. "It will send some people away for a long time to places they don't want to go, and it will free other people. It's a powerful truth-finding tool."
Wind-Up Wonder:
How old-fashioned low-technology saves lives in the developing world.

I thought long ago we should see more of these devices. What good is it being on WiFi if you have to stay plugged into a power source?