Friday, January 31, 2003

Chris Anderson also offers a nuanced approach to the war question. Worth reading.
In TAP, James Fishkin has a polling technique called "deliberative polling". Without going to the details,
The idea is to find out what the public would think about political issues if it had a chance to learn about them fully and to talk about them with others -- in other words, what democracy would look like in a perfect world.

It may not be surprising that on the question of Iraq, there was a general shift to a nuanced middle instead of to either pole of the spectrum. Unfortunately the poll had to leave out an important element influencing our policy-makers.

perhaps they can force this administration to actually follow the views that Haass espoused. But a poll itself cannot overcome the voices of large corporations -- the "legal persons" that Fishkin's polls do not sample -- that stand to benefit from war, or the screams of hawks in the White House. One of Fishkin's hopes is that poll participants will go back to their hometowns and inspire others to get involved in the democratic process. With a divided nation on the brink of war, that hope has never been more important.
via The American Prospect.
D. Mark Jackson looks at the question of whether
Attorney General John Ashcroft has committed an ethics infraction by shooting his mouth off at press conferences concerning defendants in alleged terrorism cases. Short answer, he has. What can be done about? Not much. Except:
Some prosecutors are elected, and others, like John Ashcroft, appointed and confirmed by elected officials. With this in mind, disciplinary authorities often believe that prosecutors will be held accountable through the political process. In all likelihood, therefore, the only judge of Mr. Ashcroft's ethics will be the voters in 2004.

Add it to the list of targets in 2004, boys and girls.

The Armed Liberal knocks it out of the park with a 2-part response to the SOTU address. A must read. Part 1 and Part 2.
In a related thought I wonder if anyone has considered using (mashed metaphor alert) a sting to generate a smoking gun. Suppose we had some worthies covertly pose as Al-Qaeda representatives and approach Saddam about procuring some of his special stuff. If he cut a deal we would have what we have been looking for. Maybe I watch too many cop shows.
In some places there actually is a thoughtful debate going on about the Bush war. We have to decide why we are going to war. Is it to topple Saddam or is it to disarm him of certain weapons?

If one says that Saddam is the reason because of how he governs, it is inconsistent if one fails to include as targets the leaders of Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Myanmar, and Zumbabwe amoung others. Maybe that kind of unethical inconsistency doesn't bother you but it does me. (Actually I think we should be equally pro-active and aggressive on all these fronts. The United States should really stand for some human values in the international arena.)

This seems to be the stance of the current administration. It decided that Saddam was a target while the WTC rubble was still bouncing. Having made that decision out of some sort of mystical gut feel, it has subsequently set about selling it by stringing together whatever convenient logic came to hand. This is not a rational way to conduct business, but being rational is not the administration's strong suit.

On the other hand one may say that the nonconventional weapons that Saddam has, or can potentially produce, make him an exceptional case among all the other bad guys out there. Without those weapons, he would be no more concern to us than say, Hamas, or Afghan warlords, or even Al-Qaeda itself (he has certainly eclipsed our awareness of Al-Qaeda these days). From a weapons viewpoint, here are two well thought out takes on the issue.

Tim Dunlop makes the case for no war yet. Basically he says that the current state of things, with inspectors running all over and the strong intelligenc focus, makes it impossible for Saddam to proceed with either weapons development or transmission to stateless terrorists. Therefore a shooting war is not needed. For now.

The editors at TNR make the case for immediate intervention. He will always be a threat to the region and could become disastrous threat to the US if those nonconventional weapons and the capacity to make them are not completely eliminated. Inspections will not do that.

1441 invited him to do just that and he declined. The current state of focus with massed military on the frontiers can not be indefinitely maintained. Since we don't dare stand down, there is nothing else to do but go forward.
An interesting new concept in consensual municipal planning. It seems that if citizens from across the political spectrum are given a chance to simulate strategies for growth and development the actual results tend to converge on good, realistic plans. So good, in fact, that the simulations can be turned into win-win public policies. It all started with the game, SimCity.
New possibilities for pest control. Ironically an alternative to ozone-depleting fumigants

The scientists began their study after a company that uses ozone air purification systems in hospitals noticed that air vents were cockroach free. Absence of cockroaches in a large building is unusual, so the researchers tested various ozone doses on different insects and found the gas was fatal to bugs.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Hmm. It seems that quite a few bloggers are dropping into hiatus these days. Are they getting called to active duty?
While I think the path Bush has taken to get us here was clueless, now that we are here, we must slog on down the road.

In a way, Bush is as trapped as his nemesis, Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi dictator cannot give up his weapons of mass destruction, because without them he is just another Middle East despot -- not the modern-day Saladin he once proclaimed he was. He would be perceived as weak -- a terminal illness in his part of the world -- and lacking the very weapons he credits with forcing the Americans to pause on the so-called Highway of Death during the Gulf War and leave him in power.

And if Hussein cannot do an about-face, neither can Bush, who has sent an expeditionary force halfway around the world. He can neither let it sit in the desert, its energy and morale being sapped, nor accept some sort of compromise deal that would bring it home. He has laid out his case in the boldest, clearest language: Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction must go. Anything less would make Bush look like a temporizer and America a blowhard. War is inevitable.
More on the real Estrada. He has much more in common with W than with the latino community.
Dwight Meredith exposes the person behind the WLF effort to "deal a deathblow" to groups that help the homeless, poor, and minorities. The WLF has litigated a $20 case to the Supreme Court. None other than Richard Mellon Scaife and the tobacco companies. As a 501(c)(3) corporation, they also get a tax deduction for supporting the WLF.
Would someone tell me why this woman has a job? It's not like she brings anything useful to the table.
Jim VandeHei handicaps the chances of the Bush Agenda in the Senate. The Democrats are not going to be the least bit cooperative, of course. The bad news for Bush is that many Republicans are not very happy with him either.
This looks really cool. For a water nut like me it's nice to see a propulsion technology that is environmentally friendly. Question comes to mind. Why haven't we been using this on nuc subs? No moving parts should make 'em pretty quiet. Or maybe we have...

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Estrada is not a good pick.
Sam Parry has an excellent piece which enumerates quite well all the reasons Bush must go. It is exhaustive. For example:

Beyond policy concerns, Bush's comments raise questions about whether Bush may suffer from what psychiatrists call a narcissistic personality disorder. This disorder has the following characteristics: arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes; sense of entitlement; preoccupation with grandiose fantasies; need for excessive admiration; a grandiose sense of self-importance; inability to recognize or identify with feelings of others; exploitation of others; and envy. [This definition comes from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition.]


For now, however, the American public is like a passenger riding in a speeding car with a dangerous driver. As he weaves through traffic shouting and gesturing at other drivers on the highway, there’s not much to do but tighten the seat belt and urge more responsible behavior. There may be no reasonable chance to wrestle the steering wheel away without making a bad situation worse.

But the next time an exit ramp comes along – in, say, 2004 – a growing number of Americans appear to be thinking about easing the driver off the highway and into a rest area, where they can leave him behind and drive off with a more responsible president behind the wheel.
Digby pegs the Bush administration as a triumph of style over substance. (With a little help from Atrios and Vonnegut)
Thomas Friedman offers the way out of this Iraq thing. It will be interesting to see if this is how it plays out.
Surprisingly Kinsley does a decent analysis of the SOTU address.

Bragging that he would hold the increase in domestic discretionary spending to 4 percent a year, Bush probably didn't stop to wonder what that figure was under his tax-and-spend Democrat predecessor. Short answer: lower. These are venial sins in everyday politics, but Bush was striving for something higher. He had the right words for it. But words alone aren't enough.
Okay, Saddam. It's almost time. Almost time to cough up those old, obsolete bio and chem weapons and make little bush look like a fool. Not all of them mind you. Just the old, rusty 12-year-old ones. (Don't worry about actually having them taken away. If they are rusty enough, no one will want to get near them.)

That big warship bearing down you will have all the wind taken out of its sails and stop dead in the water. If you give up a big chunk now, the support for an American invasion will evaporate and W and company will be standing there with egg on their face. If you give up enough, the inspectors will go home and your European trading partners will really put the pressure on to have those pesky sanctions lifted.

And hey! After the sanctions go you are home, free. You can buy whatever you want and go back to business as usual. Monday Night tortures, here we come.
NDOL: Democratic Response to the State of the Union Address by Gary Locke
State of the Union Address by President George W. Bush

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Talk about a double standard!
In other words, Iraq must prove a negative, and is refusing to do so. Almost a year to the day before Rumsfeld's remark, Fleischer was asked why the administration would not release details about meetings with energy companies such as Enron Corp. to prove that nothing untoward occurred. Fleischer replied: "You're asking us to prove a negative, and that's a road that we're not traveling."
More dark news.
Something had to give, and Bush has decided that to preserve all those tax cuts, that something should be Medicare and its 40 million elderly beneficiaries.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad has good advice for the Muslim world. So far few appear to be listening. If he weren't the PM his voice probably wouldn't be allowed.
All this talk about smoking guns. In the archetypical high-noon gunfight, the protagonists face each other in the deserted street. After a bit of dramatic posturing the bad guy goes for his gun. Of course the good guy has lightning fast reflexes and gets a well-aimed shot off before the bad guy's gun clears leather. Who holds the smoking gun then?

Even though the good guy knows the bad guy needs killin', he can not be the one to draw first. He must wait for the bad guy to slap leather. When he waits, he acts in clear self-defense and the sheriff can't bring charges. It would be easier for everyone if the good guy just bushwhacked the bad guy and shot him in the back. Much less chance for unwanted casualities. But if he did that sort of thing, how do we know he's the good guy? How can we judge his bravery or strength of moral character? The good guy has to wait for the attack and just be faster.

Of all the possible candidates, Saddam Hussein is one who most certainly needs killin'. But how will that happen? Will it be done with moral certainty or moral ambiguity? We'll see.
So what's up with Europe? What do they want? Why aren't they as convinced of the need to go after Saddam now as the Bush administration?

Kosovo and Bosnia demonstrated that it's really hard for them to make a take tough definitive action even when the problems lie in their own yard. But when it became clear that someone with more gumption was needed to lead them in doing the right thing, they were ready to support that leadership. Is Iraq equivalent to Kosovo?

Probably not. In Kosovo we had atrocities in action with borders crowded with refugees. Iraq is like an atrocity-in-place. The victims are not visible to the cameras. It seems like the European could do with some more convincing. We need to look at what they have to gain by delaying action in Iraq and remove that incentive to procrastinate. There may be legitimate concerns that we are failing to address.

The sad truth of Kosovo is that many lives had to be tragically wasted to generate the grass roots demand that something must be done to stop it...that the risk of allowing the atrocities to continue over-rode the risk of taking action. So far Saddam Hussein has been able to avoid the kind of body count that grabbed the attention in Kosovo. In that sense at least he has been deterred. Perhaps that's a good thing.

But the administration has a problem. It needs more drama to mobilize the support it would like to have, both in Europe and at home. Without the promised Al Qaeda connection they just don't have enough to work with. And that's too bad.

They thoroughly bumbled it. After the success of the (continuing) Afghanistan campaign, they thought they could translate the 9/11 support into anti-Saddam support. The sparsity of their mental capacity reached its limit. If only they had begun pursuing a resolution to the Iraq problem on its own merits of which there are many! They would have enhanced international good will. Instead they squandered it.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Nathan Newman comments on Ellen Almer's immigration article in FrontPage. Ellen seems to think that we should strictly enforce the existing laws and deport thousands of people. Nathan says that such a scenario will only force more jobs out of the country.

I think that we should revamp our system to make legal entry easier and efficient. The tremendous pressure to go illegal is not only fueled by the economic disparities but also the Byzantine system of legal entry. Let's clean up our act then do what we can to help people who make that desparate journey north.

Friday, January 24, 2003

A Democrat with a spine. Dean rips Kerry on Iraq. Could have a few more of those.
Clue to the Bush administration. UNSCOM found good evidence of bioweapons manufacture in Iraq. To my knowledge, not much has been made of Iraqi capabilities based even on this old evidence. If there is new evidence, let's have it and get on with it. The empty posturing is not wearing well.
My question is, "Who is going to prosecute the Justice Department for miscarriage of justice?" Another thing we should add to the deficit numbers is the amount the government will have to eventually pay out in damage settlements. Real justice would be handing the bill to the principals of this disaster, Ashcroft, Bush, Ridge, et al.
While a recent study indicates kids in two-parent homes do better than kids in single-parent homes, the remaining open question is whether kids from 3- and 4-parent homes top them all.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Oh, George! Here's the war on terror. Not that Saddam guy. Sure he's plenty bad and all but when it comes to terror threats to America he's small potatoes, really small.
Enron has come and gone. But little has changed at the SEC.
Condoleezza! You can't just buy the bluff! You gotta find something, sweetheart. Until you do, whether Saddam has the weapons or not, what he does have is deniability. You've got to take that away from him, too. And I'm real sorry that scumbag isn't making it easier for you.
More Bush charades. As Joe Vecchio at Pax Liberalis says,
As usual, the administration found someone to blame for it, proving once more that as far as personal responsibility is concerned, the box stops anywhere but the White House. The snafu is a perfect analogy for the policies of the administration anyway: use a smokescreen of patriotism to hide the reality of the situation.
Saudi Arabia's worst nightmare.
It's easy to get a plum job if you have a family member in the junta.
Not only are tax rates taken in total already flat, but the rich benefit more from government payments than the poor. According to Timothy Noah,
In sum, the best evidence we have shows there is no divide between the taxpaying class and the government-benefit-collecting class. We all belong to the taxpaying class, we all belong to the government-benefit-collecting class, and to the extent anyone gets more government cash than anyone else, it's the rich.
Salon seems to have found the best of both worlds in its funding program. The viewer can choose to click through a series of ads or pay a subscription fee. Unlike annoying banner ads that are rarely explored, the advertiser is assured that some people will actually see a set of ads. This means they can provide a stream of revenue for the content provider for legitimate services rendered. Yet anyone can avoid the ads if they are willing to provide the revenue directly. I can see where this paradigm might actually take off.
It seems that the hardest problems to solve in removing landmines are people problems. One of the easiest to take care is how we interpret the goal of mine clearing. We would do well to identify as quickly as possible those areas that are clean thereby allowing farms to get back into limited production. Then get back to clearing the areas that are easily cleared. If we can adapt farming practices (armored tractors for example) to coexist with antipersonnel mines less land would need time-consuming intensive clearing. Finally only the remaining areas would need focussed attention. In other words, for every big problem there are a bunch of smaller problems struggling to get out.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Jeanne D'Arc shares what spooks her about the Bush administration.

The Dean piece brings up the domestic equivalent. This administration is treating Congress and the press and the public the same way they're treating the UN -- as mildly annoying impediments to be stepped around or stepped on.
I agree with the Professor about consistency. The Paulos analysis of TIA which makes it unpalatable also makes gun control unpalatable. But let's make sure the comparison is indeed consistent.

After assuming that 3% of population will perpetrate a violent crime and that in 8% of the crimes a gun will be used, we get roughly .2% of population using a gun in a violent crime. Assuming gun owners are no more criminal than the population as large and that about 25% of total population are gun owners, we could expect roughly 150,000 perpetrating gun owners in a population of 75 million gun owners.

So what is the rationale of gun control? If reduction of gun ownership is the goal we would have to drop 500 law-abiding gun owners to stop 1 criminal gun owner. But supposedly the intent of gun control is to increase that ratio. In theory the debate over gun control should center around whether the degree of intrusion and inconvenience to 500+ people is worth it to apprehend just 1 criminal. I suspect that there are more cost-effective ways to accomplish the same goal.

On the TIA thing it takes processing over 3000 people to find 1 terrorist.

I wonder how many other issues could stand up under a similar treatment.

There is a missing statistic in the gun control scenario. With TIA we assumed a 99% effectiveness. This gave us an idea of how many would be incorrectly profiled as terrorists. In gun control we don't have a stat that reflects how many gun owners would profile as potential offenders, either correctly or incorrectly. The proper ratio we need to compare to the TIA ratio is the number of incorrectly profiled gun owners to the number of actual offenders. If for the sake of argument we assumed the same effectiveness as in the TIA example the ratio becomes more like 5 to 1 instead of 500 to 1.

It should also be noted that we assumed 1000 terrorists in the TIA example. There is a lot of leverage in that number. If there were only 500 terrorists the ratio shoots up to 6000 incorrect profiles to 1 terrorist.

This make gun owner profiling look like it's worth doing. How about it, Professor?
Thomas Friedman is right. Just as much as the Bush war lacks convincing justification, something must be done nonetheless. It's too bad this administration approached this so poorly and has no interest in steering it to a proper course. I only hope it doesn't become too much of mess before we get our own regime change.
James S. Robbins posits that precision strike weapons are the answer to Saddam's inspection theater. That's just so silly. He misses the rope-a-dope solution:

I give up, Socrates. Here's my spear. You have found it and I am now disarmed.

But Xenophon, I don't believe you to be an honorable man. Could you yet have other spears of which I know nothing?

Of course I could. But having given you the spear for which you were searching, no one else is going to help you search any longer. Just go back home and have a party with your rich friends and let me go back to selling the melons sought after by so many of those same rich friends.

But you could take the proceeds from the melons to manufacture even more spears. I will have to continue to watch you to prevent you from making spears.

Watch all you want. All I really wanted anyway was more arrows than anyone else in the neighborhood. And you'll just be looking for spears.
The House Democrats begin a move to rein in the runaway war horse.
The Boot handicaps Bush II's dilemma.
On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade the Professor takes both sides of the abortion issue to task for making the issue a federal case. Properly Congress just doesn't have that jurisdiction.

That Republicans haven't paid much attention to this issue suggests that their enthusiasm for federalism is not entirely genuine. And that reproductive-rights advocates haven’t raised it either, even though it’s an obvious argument for them to make, suggests that their enthusiasm for big government may be at least as deep as their enthusiasm for reproductive rights. Nobody comes off very well in this analysis.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

At the nuclear facility where I work you know the already inconvenient security procedures became absolutely obnoxious after September 11. But it's past time for the chemical industry to get the same treatment.

Terrorists know this. In the spring of 2001, a pilot landed a single-engine Cessna at the airport at Copperhill, Tennessee, and asked a local businessman what type of chemicals were stored at the nearby Boliden Intertrade chemical plant. After September 11, the businessman recognized the pilot as Mohammed Atta.

In point of fact the most dangerous aspect of my facility for the general public is probably the chemicals rather than the uranium.
Timothy Noah agrees. The poor pay no less taxes by percentage than the rich. In many cases more. Our tax system does need reform but in a different direction than has been done lately.
Krugman. Need I say more?
The McDonalds coffee spill lawsuit debunked. Along with other stories about outrageous jury awards that are in fact false.
Believe it or not, Moore's law still holds.

The technology, developed in cooperation with the Synchrotron Radiation Center here, gives an eight-year leap to Moore's Law, the inventors said.
I can see this dynamic at work in a great many areas from politics to corporate management.

This is the first surprising result. In interactions that require coordination of strategies, it is not necessarily an advantage to evolve fast. In many cases, the slow evolver will gain the upper hand. However, an additional twist provides an advantage for the slow evolver: each species grows best when it is selfish and the other generous, and thus one might expect most individuals in a species to come from areas which are predominantly selfish. This would mean that there is a bias towards selfish-selfish pairing, and those favor the slow evolver. Thus, in some evolutionary scenarios it takes all the evolving one can do just to stay in the same place, as the Lewis Carroll's red queen would say, and in other scenarios it pays to take one step at a time as the red king would do, and wait patiently for the other player to make the big move.

"The model is also important for evolutionary economics. It is linked to a result known in economics: when bargaining it is sometimes better to have "one's hands tied". The model applies to cases in which individuals/companies interact, and have several possible stable outcomes - agreements, or simply stable interactions", says Michael Lachmann.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Lisa English is getting the ball rolling on the subservient media. (Permalink to entry not working, scroll down)

The incestuous relationship between government and business is bad enough. When it extends to our Fourth Estate, we are in mighty big trouble. It's time to tackle both problems, don't you think?
Go get 'em, Howard.

The fiery Dean earned the night's biggest cheers, drawing a huge roar when he hammered Bush for characterizing Michigan's college admissions policy a quota system and when he said Democrats have failed to stand up for their principles.

He won a partial standing ovation when he said he was the only Democrat in the presidential field to oppose the congressional resolution authorizing military action against Iraq. Kerry and Gephardt, who both voted for the resolution, sat quietly.
I am repeatedly amazed that our (supposedly) best strategic minds haven't figured out that Saddam can see that it is in his best interest to essentially cooperate with the inspections while appearing to do so grudgingly to save face. If they find stuff, inspections work, no need for war. If they don't, nothing found, no need for war.

Saddam knows he really doesn't need those weapons. What he needs is for sanctions to be lifted, maybe even the dropping of the no-fly zones. So he will continue with inspection theater until most parties are satisfied that either he has none or essentially all of them have been found and destroyed. When sanctions are lifted he can really get back into the business of bringing his own population to heel.

As distasteful as that sounds, our options for countering that, short of an illegal war, are limited. Are there any really good ideas out there?
Watch for astroturf in your hometown newspaper.
MWO has a line or remarks made by Bob Novak to the effect that even he believes that the administration is intent on starting a war on false pretenses.

Confirming the fear that this White House is being driven by people who themselves are driven by blood lust sure is breaking with the party line.

It amounts to a charge that the Bush Administration is preparing to undertake actions that, under every international agreement on the subject since 1945, will mark them as war criminals.

It amounts to a charge that, if things go as they seem to be going, George W. Bush and his advisers will deserve to be packed off to the Hague and prosecuted.
I just want to go on record as saying I support the military buildup in the Persian Gulf in opposition to Saddam Hussein. Doing everything we can to disarm him is, I believe, a worthy goal. What I don't like is the braindead justifications for it coming out of the White House. There is a difference between coercing Saddam to disarm and removing him from power. And there is a big difference between military action in Iraq and an appropriate response to 9/11. But our current White House want to mush it all together for public consumption. They are, in typical fashion, over-reaching and someone must call them on it.

This pattern has been there all along. Despite the fact that most voters rejected Bush and his tax cutting economic program at the polls. Despite that he is in office basically on a technicality (a politicized Supreme Court). This administration went ahead with its radical economic plans simply because they had the power to do so, having failed to convince a majority of the voters of its supposed worth.

In the case of Iraq, the White House has taken the naturally broad support for military action in the aftermath of 9/11 and extended it to their own laundry list of military oppurtunities. We did the easy part of crushing the Taliban militarily but now that the hard work remains to rebuild the nation into Afghanistan into secure nation governed by the rule of law and the voice of its people, we leave the field. This administration is quick to take the glory but slow to do the real work. We should hold them accountable for that character flaw.

Now we find them trying to channel the support for action in Afghanistan into support for the next item on their list, Saddam. It doesn't matter that Saddam had nothing to do with the tragic attack of 9/11, he just has the misfortune to be the next target on the list of administration targets. Just as Bush read a squeaker of an election in which most people voted against him as some kind of mandate, Bush in reading support to fight terror as permission to conduct any military operation he chooses as long as he can fit it under the umbrella of the "war or terra".

The war on terror, disarmament of Iraq, and Iraqi regime change are three distinct goals with three distinct sets of justifications. We need to stop Bush from misapplying the justification for one to accomplish the other. This is not going to win us any friends in the international arena and will in fact tend to poison the well of goodwill that came about in the WTC aftermath. Bush is squandering that good will in the pursuit of his own misbegotten agenda.

As in so many things, be they foreign policy,fiscal policy, or failed business management, Bush may not have to pay the price for his blunders. As always, those who follow will have to clean up his messes. It may be Collin Powell, the next administration, or our children and grandchildren. Someone else will have to pay the price for this.

Stop the madness now! In the last impeachment round there was an attempt to remove a duly elected president for offenses having nothing to do with his policies. This time we have a non-elected president who carries out destructive and dangerous policies. A new impeachment certainly seems more justified to me.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Our foreign policy staggers forward, no backward, actually it's more like a random walk.
Such slights, real or imagined, fuel a suspicion in the minds of the Kurds that the United States is happy to use them as a propaganda symbol but is determined to deny them any real influence before or after an American invasion of Iraq. The Kurds view this as deeply unfair.
Courtesy of Maxspeak: A Draft Impeachment Resolution Against George W. Bush
Paul Krugman weighs in big time about an administration intoxicated by and addicted to deficits.
Pickering, not a good choice.
He has been reversed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (the one on which Bush wants to place him) 26 times, 15 of them for violating "well-settled principles of law"--an embarrassing rebuke in which the higher court finds the answer so obvious it doesn't even bother to publish its opinion. (By contrast, the last judge Bush named to the Fifth Circuit, Edith Brown Clement, had not one such reversal.) No, Pickering is not a racist. But he is a judicial activist who disregards both the letter and intent of the law when he doesn't agree with it.
Another campaign promise bites the dust. That's OK. Guiding principles are only useful for campaigning, not actual governing.
“The tax code is too complicated as it is,” Bush declared during the 2000 campaign, warning that his opponent would “make it more complicated.” But the mind of Al Gore never conjured up a mess like this.
Don't know if it will work but it's nice to see sombody willing to explore alternatives to out-and-out war.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Atrios on the Bush legacy affirmative action stuff.
I think that someone who got legacied into an Ivy League school should just keep his mouth shut about any kind of affirmative action.
I have to agree with Digby, this is good.
How can you tell a pundit is just parroting the White House spin point? Somerby has broken the code. Sometimes it can be detected by a parroted use of a single inappropriate word.
Where hope for a civil society in Afghanistan lies.
Just as I predicted. Saddam has taken pains to make his sure his nuclear weapons evidence is well-hidden. It is clearly in mothballs and squirreled away for the moment, until such time as the heat is off. Kudos to Blix and company for proving the critics wrong about the competence of the inspection team. It would appear that Western intelligence agencies have come up with a way to provide much-needed data to inspectors without jeopardizing the sources. I'm not surprised that it took the dim bulbs in the Bush administration this long to counter Saddam's strategy. It's the only strategy that makes sense from his viewpoint.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

This administration has no sense of reality vs. wishful thinking. No wonder they keep doing precisely the wrong thing.
The Bush administration has made Southeast Asia a priority in the war on terrorism. But, instead of bolstering cash-strapped intelligence and civilian agencies, it has sent money and training to the region's corrupt militaries. That is a mistake. While civilian organizations are making strides in combating terror, the same cannot be said about the Indonesian, Malaysian, Philippine, and Thai militaries, which are not only brutal but in many cases have ties to Islamic militants themselves. U.S. aid for these armies may backfire, fueling more radicalism and terror.
Christopher Hitchens talks about how useful ambiguity can be.
Nobody should underestimate for a second what the magnitude of the task is. But we still persist in employing a clever euphemism, which was designed precisely to obscure that task, and its magnitude, from our gaze.
Most exciting race yet yesterday at the Louis Vuitton Cup. Alinghi gets another win while the Oracle boat blew its slim lead with penalties. Sometimes you can be too aggressive, but just try telling that to Larry Ellison.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Ted Barlow's lightbulb jokes go on and on. (scroll around and check the comments, too)
And why isn't Belarus on the axis of evil list?
(via Atrios)
Paul Krugman on the bold plan.
So here's a prediction: If the dividend tax exemption is put into effect, the rules that supposedly prevent abuse — that prevent wealthy individuals from avoiding any taxation at all — will be subject to extensive evasion. Will the I.R.S. get the resources it needs to police that evasion? Don't be silly. So both the true budget costs of the plan and its tilt toward the wealthy will be bigger than even the harshest critics now assert.

It's tempting to attribute this mess to sheer incompetence: George W. Bush liked what Charles Schwab said, and nobody dared tell the emperor the truth about his wardrobe. But maybe the mess is deliberate. Is this just another clever step on the way to a system in which only the little people pay taxes?
(via TAPPED) Canned treasury secretary tells the truth about the (non-)stimulus plan.
Digby has the goods on the latest Bush administration loose cannon. (Of which there seems to be an unlimited supply.)

Monday, January 13, 2003

(via Hesiod) The Washington Post finds that Bush wanted to put Iraq on the hit list before the WTC dust had settled.

The decision to confront Iraq was in many ways a victory for a small group of conservatives who, at the start of the administration, found themselves outnumbered by more moderate voices in the military and the foreign policy bureaucracy. Their tough line on Iraq before Sept. 11, 2001, was embraced quickly by President Bush and Vice President Cheney after the attacks. But that shift was not communicated to opponents of military action until months later, when the internal battle was already decided.
Blowback. A fertile field has been found for new Al Qaeda recruits: families who have lost members to American military actions.
Amy Chua makes an essential point that needs to be considered when we go about exporting democracy. We need to find ways to do it that prevent the corruption and civic disasters we have seen in recent struggling democracies. I'm sorry, Virginia, raw democracy is not the panacea we had hoped for. We need to think of better ways to transition from failed regimes to truly democratic ones.
Sounds like the GOP got the word about "Get out of Jail Free" card for Eli Lilly that was slipped into the Homeland security bill. At least, the moderates did. But Bush was fat and happy with the Lilly version.
Small-town law enforcement is fairly easy since there is little anonymity available. Do surveillance cameras and face recognition software return us to that level of security? When people complain these days about threats to privacy we consider 'as compared to what?'. How much anonymity is truly desirable or healthy? I, for one, don't wish to experience the pressure to conform that might be exerted by an aggressive culture upon known nonconforming individuals. A level of anonymity protects people from such targeting. On the other hand, I would welcome the security for my family that would come when criminals on the streets became rarer and rarer. Indeed I am sure that fewer people would succumb to the temptation of a life of crime if they had a realistic expectation of being caught and convicted.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Recent actions notwithstanding, Bush has access to good advice on the North Korean situation.

The proposal was comprehensive, hard-nosed, multilateral and level-headed.
Maybe President Bush should hire the guy in charge of that report.
He already has. It's Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
Maybe what Mr. Bush should do now is listen to him.

Friday, January 10, 2003

When the debate deals with who is poor and who is not, be sure to spell out where to draw the line. There are more people below the line than we generally are willing to admit.
More Republican distortions. When you hear that the rich are taxed to much, refer to this chart which shows the effects of all taxes. Whatever the poor don't pay in income taxes is balanced by taxes they pay that the rich don't.
One down. The first Republican to oppose (non-)stimulus plan announces. (via Hesiod)
Sam Perry looks ahead at what faces the Democrats for 2004.
Opportunities are in the making for future governmental policies. The fiscal crisis at the state level can be expected to produce some real innovations in governmental efficiency. Necessity can be a real mothah.
Digby on our current leaders:

They get away with this crap because they have no fear of repercussions and no consciences. Their grand ambition, with it's tentacles relentlessly slithering through all areas of government, is so overwhelming that you feel a creeping sense of paralysis when you consider their awesome singlemindedness. Casual hypocrisy, blatent corruption and outright mendacity are so pervasive in this administration that it's exhausting trying to keep track of it all.

It's a very effective strategy because after a while you can't help but begin to think that Resistence Is Futile.
High prices discourage teen smoking. Personally, I think we should tax tobacco products as much as the market will bear without generating a black market.
John Allen Paulos explains why TIA is an incredibly bad idea even if it works perfectly.

To see why this is so and to make the calculations easy, let's postulate a population of 300 million people of whom 1,000 are future terrorists. The system will correctly identify, we're assuming, 99 percent of these 1,000 people as future terrorists. Thus, since 99 percent of 1,000 is 990, the system will apprehend 990 future terrorists. Great! They'll be locked up somewhere.

But wait. There are, by assumption, 299,999,000 non-terrorists in our population and the system will be right about 99 percent of them as well. Another way of saying this is that it will be wrong about 1 percent of these people. Since 1 percent of 299,999,000 equals 2,999,990, the system will swoop down on these 2,999,990 innocent people as well as on the 990 guilty ones, incarcerating them all.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Eli Noam makes the case that, in the telecom industry at least, deregulation has run its course. In order to protect themselves from cutthroat and self-destructive competition companies have merged to the point that there are only a few players in the market. In order to protect consumers from the power of this oligarchy new regulations will eventually be put in place.
GOP racism is real, noises to the contrary notwithstanding.

The highest ranking African-American in the California Republican Party on Tuesday condemned the racism he has endured working for the GOP.

"Black Republicans are expected to provide window dressing and cover to prove that this is not a racist party, yet our own leadership continues to act otherwise," party Secretary Shannon Reeves wrote in an e-mail to party board members.
Christopher Hitchens examines war prevention and pre-emption. In the end he comes to no conclusion. The conclusion that he missed is that sometimes you have to be brave enough and confident enough in your abilities to let the other guy throw the first punch. Our current batch of chicken-hawks are neither. No one is brave enough to say that in order to justify war with Iraq we must suffer casualties at Saddam's hand. We must not become an aggressor based on guess-work. It would be a diplomatic disaster. On the other hand, if we go in after taking casualties we can expect that the players in the region will be openly grateful for Saddam's removal.
There is a formula for happiness.
Just got the word that the Navy is testing a new type of boat here on the Columbia river. It is rumored to be stealthy to radar.

Update: Could it have been this?

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Financial Times on Bush's (non-)stimulus package.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that there would have been better tax reforms available for the money. If the objective was stimulus, a short-term package affecting many more taxpayers would have been preferable; if stock prices or investment were the main objective, cuts in corporation tax would have been better; and if tax cuts for ordinary people were on Mr Bush's mind, any number of alternative measures would have been better targeted.
Gerughty says it like I wish I could.
Behind all the major media hype about the coming Bush war, the Arabs are asking Hussein to go quietly. A senior Saudi official has made an offer to help Saddam go into exile.
The "Morality Party" loosens its belt.
More on what the administration can't say about the Bush war in Iraq.
Our legal system has better things to do than peering into bedrooms. Anne Quindlen talks about getting rid of laws that demonize consenting adults.

There is an irony in the fact that when newspapers in some states are printing the announcements of civil unions by gay men and lesbians, they are also printing the names of sexual desperadoes, breaking the law in the name of love. To resolve that peculiar dissonance does not require the high court to bow to culture change but instead to return to its own defining principles of fairness and freedom, to turn away from the prejudice that, last time out, substituted prurience for jurisprudence.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Hesiod has the goods on how Dick Cheney really made his career. He links to Josh Marshall's excellent essay on the number of Bush blunders that had their genesis in the mind of Cheney.
Frist can talk the talk but he can't walk the walk. Just the kind of bendover guy the White House needs in the Senate.

It is worth noting, in both the Sudan and aids fights, that Frist's instincts were right. He placed his concern for Africa's suffering people above the free-market fundamentalism and anti-foreign-aid dogmatism that inhibit many other conservatives from pursuing truly compassionate policies toward the world's poorest continent. If left to his own devices, Frist would have enacted policies that would have saved African lives.

But Frist wasn't left alone. He confronted a White House with far less noble priorities, and, by making those priorities his own, he preserved the political alliance that has now made him the most powerful Republican in the U.S. Senate. Some recent Frist profiles have wondered whether this heart and lung surgeon, used to the independence and control of the operating room, can master the deal-making, morally compromised, hyper-political world of the U.S. Senate. The answer, sadly, is that he already has.
Foreign Policy has an excellent piece on why a war with Iraq is completely unnecessary. Unless, of course, you need it to have a chance at actually winning an election.
Here's an interesting tidbit buried in a CNN report on the recent ricin arrests in Great Britain. It seems that the part of Iraq NOT controlled by Hussein has ties to Al-Qaeda. The Bushies are looking for an Iraq-Bin Laden link in all the wrong places.

U.S. officials said in August that the Islamic extremist group Ansar al-Islam had tested ricin along with other chemical and biological agents in northern Iraq, territory controlled by Kurds, not Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The group is allegedly linked to al-Qaeda.
Daniel Gross has the Word.
As always with Bush’s economic policy, it’s a mixture of good intentions ineffectively executed, and dubious theory presented as gospel truth.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Teen drug programs turn curious teens into crackheads. By Maia Szalavitz

...we'd be using "treatment" to turn ordinary adolescents into problem drug abusers.

That's precisely what we're doing. A 1998 study of nearly 150 teenagers treated in dozens of centers across the country found that there was 202 percent more crack abuse following treatment and a 13 percent increase in alcohol abuse. In other words, recent research suggests that parents and schools may be sending binge-drinking/social marijuana smokers off to treatment and getting back crackheads in their stead.

Thar's a lot less oil in the tundra than the media has been reporting. The oil companies and their supporters in the guvmint (you know who they are) use numbers that are wildly inflated. Others make mistakes in their math and are just mildly inflated. But the real numbers are not getting out.

Friday, January 03, 2003

American media are quick to be critical of the Saudi's approach to Al-Qaeda. I admit it is hard to tell whether their hearts are really in it. Our press doesn't seem to appreciate that the Saudis made a deal with the Islamic fundamentalist devils long ago and may now be trying to figure a way out of it. If they went after them the way we would like them to, they would be out of power in short order. We are in the unenviable position of having to humor them. Yet this angle appears only rarely in the press. They seem more interested in casting the good guys and bad guys. Alas, if it were only that simple!
According to Jeffrey Sachs in the Scientific American poverty is NOT a necessary evil. There are enough resources and wealth. We just need to pay attention to what is possible with science and common sense.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Jonathan Chaitt has laid out a manifesto of why the current talking chimp administration must not be returned to office.

Put simply, the administration is subservient to economic pressure groups to an extent that surpasses any administration in modern history. Whereas the Clinton administration was regularly forced to weigh policy demands from competing interests within the Democratic coalition, the Bush administration's presumptive allegiance in virtually every case is to corporate America. It is simply unnecessary for the White House to generate its own policies because that role has been filled by business lobbyists.
Indeed, the simple rule for understanding Bush's economic policy is that in virtually every instance, whether tacking right or left, the president sides with whatever interest group has the strongest stake in the issue at hand. The result is an administration whose domestic actions persistently, almost uniformly, fail to uphold the broader public good.

And lot's more good stuff. Bookmark this article for a campaigning hit list.
Another reason to preserve these rare and charming chimps that are so much like us. In addition to using sexuality to promote smoother social interactions, one bonobo, at least, uses verbal language without being schooled in it by us humans. Someday there may be a real Dr. Doolittle.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

With the current high interest in cloning, I would like to propose my own take on the matter. The key issue is when does a group of growing differentiating cells become a human being? It's a perplexing gray area. On one end there is the zygote which many claim has equal status as full-term child. It's a nice idea but if one were to criminalize the destruction of zygotes or even early embryos one would end up arresting most of our women. In the normal course of nature otherwise-viable embryos often simply fail to implant. Are we prepared to prosecute for these losses of human life? I propose a standard that human life truly begins when the nervous of an embryo is sufficiently developed to pass impulses along its pathways. That will give our researchers the space they need to develop potentially life-saving therapies yet will prevent us from causing pain and suffering to an entity that is developing into a human.

As for the cloning thing, I have reared some clones of my own. My identical twin daughters are doing quite well, thank you. A clone deserves the same level of respect (or lack thereof) as the equivalent naturally-occurring embryo.