Saturday, December 11, 2004

What kind of system could prevent the world from getting into the jam a falling dollar may cause now? I've been reading about the World Trade Organization. In some ways they are the polar opposite of the UN regarding their relationship with the United States. We fight hard when we disagree about something, but rarely attack the organization wholesale. We tend eventually to comply with rulings that go against us.

The organization is surprisingly powerful, but it works around rather than against nationalism and sovereignty. It you break WTO rules, they give the people harmed permission to charge import taxes or other tariffs on your goods without being penalized as violators themselves. So they aren't ordering other countries around or trying to punish them themselves, but rather creating a set of rules so a consensus can be achieved as to what is a fair penalty vs an arbitrary tax war. Everything is done by consensus. This may make you think of UN veto power and nothing getting done, but ...

The Uruguay Round agreement also made it impossible for the country losing a case to block the adoption of the ruling. Under the previous GATT procedure, rulings could only be adopted by consensus, meaning that a single objection could block the ruling. Now, rulings are automatically adopted unless there is a consensus to reject a ruling — any country wanting to block a ruling has to persuade all other WTO members (including its adversary in the case) to share its view.

Although much of the procedure does resemble a court or tribunal, the preferred solution is for the countries concerned to discuss their problems and settle the dispute by themselves. The first stage is therefore consultations between the governments concerned, and even when the case has progressed to other stages, consultation and mediation are still always possible.

Although the rules and panels are created by consensus, once this is done a similar consensus is required to overrule them.

Right now this has no application to the dollar at all. There are no rules against one or more governments buying the currency of another government for any reason they choose. In fact, the WTO avoids ruling on internal issues, only ruling on the actual construction or content or products being imported and exported. Even if it didn't, the actions that got us into this situation were victimless crimes, neither the buyers of the dollar (who wanted to keep dollars strong so their own economies could look artificially strong in the short and medium term) nor the sellers (the USA, financing government debt by taking advantage of the former even while whining about it) would really have complained.

But this may be what we need to have a global economy which is sustainably prosperous for more than a few decades at a time. At least, the WTO is the only global organization not crippled by politics, perhaps because the 900 pound gorilla has a big stake in it.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Apocalypse Not Yet?

Debi White of Heart, Soul & Humor left a pointer in my comment section a couple of posts down. I've been thinking about this article for the past couple of days. Ultimately I think the falling dollar might be a greater danger for the United States than Iraq.

James K. Galbraith has many amazing ideas. I'm not sure I agree with all of them, but here's one we need to think about.

The big action, however, must come on the international side. My supply-side friends pine for the gold standard, and they make a serious point. The experiment of worldwide floating exchange rates, inaugurated by global monetarists in 1971, has failed disastrously. The world was better off when we had fixed exchange rates. Indeed, in the most successful arena of global trade and finance we have fixed exchange rates right now, thanks to the unappreciated but sensible dollar-pegging of the Chinese. Fixing exchange rates in Europe (through the extreme measure of creating a single currency) also proved a boon for the poorer countries of Europe, eliminating speculative currency risk. Even though, overall, European policy remains terrible, unemployment has dropped sharply in Spain and Greece since the euro came in.

Global fixed exchange rates would help developing countries, by sharply curtailing the destabilizing role of private currency markets. They would therefore also help us, by creating stronger and more stable markets for our exports. But there is no simple return to global fixed exchange rates. It would be a terrible mistake to create a system that imposed deflationary pressure on us and through us on the world as a whole—the problem of the classical gold standard. To get where we need to go, we must also recreate a global financial network oriented toward the support of development and growth. When we have that, growth policies around the world will help rather than hurt each other. At that point, we could profitably put real effort into reintroducing full employment economics to Europe and Japan.

A little shy on details, but you can't expect anyone to coherently describe a viable replacement for our current global economic system in a few sentences.

'we must also recreate a global financial network oriented toward the support of development and growth'.

That's the tough part. I can't help thinking it's only part of the problem too. As long as you only have engines to create growth, it seems the bubble economy will be recreated on a larger and larger scale. We need a way to regulate it as well, on a global level.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

It's not Saddam I'm concerned for. It's just that we made such a big thing about giving him a trial when he was first captured. This article from the Scotsman is the first I've heard about him for a long time - although you sometimes hear about 'Saddam loyalists'. The only other mention I've seen so far is in the Washington Times from UPI, and they don't fully explain the last minute cancellation and the inference that Americans are behind it. I'm not sure you can take the latter to the bank, but if the Iraqi government is blaming all their unpopular decisions on Americans, that could be a problem too. Are we going to try him or not - with or without free and unfettered access to his lawyers? Either could create serious problems, given that he could become a focus for Sunni obstructionists.

Ziad al-Khasawneh said in an interview that the Iraqi Bar Association obtained court permission last week for defence team member Khalil al-Duleimi, an Iraqi, to meet with Saddam today.

“But the syndicate called the lawyer earlier today to say the meeting has been indefinitely postponed,” said al-Khasawneh, who heads the Jordan-based legal team appointed by Saddam’s wife Sajida.

“The abrupt cancellation indicates that there was a last-minute decision to ban the meeting,” he said. “That decision appears to have come from the top, neither from the court nor from the Iraqi government because both have no say in front of Iraq’s real ruler, the United States of America.”

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The worst-case scenario is much less pretty: Foreign investors, losing confidence in the U.S. dollar's stability and increasingly doubtful that the American economy can absorb the current account imbalance, yank money out of U.S. government bonds, in favour of safer harbours.

This exodus sends the dollar off a cliff. Interest rates spike higher, reflecting plunging demand for U.S.-dollar debt and the rising risk perceived by investors.

Stock markets tumble, as investors flee U.S. stocks to avoid the currency losses tied to U.S.-dollar-denominated stock prices, as well as the rising interest rates that imply less competitive returns at current stock valuations and the drag on corporate profits from rising credit costs. Corporate and consumer spending slump under the weight of rising interest rates and import prices. The U.S. economy slows to a recession, dragging the rest of the world down with it. Policy makers stand by helplessly; if the Federal Reserve Board were to cut interest rates to stimulate the economy, it would only put more downward pressure on the dollar.

Far-fetched? Maybe. Martin Barnes, who described just such a chain of events in his independent research report The Bank Credit Analyst, acknowledges that the scenario — he called it his "ugly" case — is "overly gloomy." But it has happened before.

Many people have been talking seriously about major meltdowns in the system due to US debt, but of course many countries have a major stake in preventing them. Remember how many times various Cassandras said the tech bubble was going to burst - and it didn't - until nobody believed the warnings? Then it burst. Something major may happen as soon as everyone stops taking the periodic strident warnings seriously. It might well be more serious than the article above suggests. I keep meaning to write about it, but I don't know what to say, I don't know more than anybody else. It seems almost a game of chicken, with the United States trying to force other nations to allow the value of the dollar to fall by spending more and more of them, while other nations try to force us to accept a strong dollar and cut our spending to support it. It is a battle the United States cannot lose - which will start a war they cannot win. It is painless for Bush to spend and cut taxes, and buying dollars gets more and more expensive for everyone else. Supposedly the dollar will go down just enough to increase increase our exports and decrease our imports, but that seems less and less likely. The only reason all these nations spend money supporting the dollar is to export, and when they stop trying they may well stop.

I've been thinking about the oddities of this situation. All these countries have manufacturing capacity - and people who need things (especially China). Yet the world economy is structured so that they would rather trade goods for ledger deposits of dollars despite open concern about dollar denominated debt than give these goods to their own people. Of course, the redistributive economies that came before didn't work either, but there has got to be a way to do better than this.

What we need is to rethink the world economy from the ground up.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Is this bigger news than Iraq?

Foreign Interest Appears to Flag as Dollar Falls


Japan and China, which together have amassed nearly $900 billion in United States Treasury securities, have both slowed their buying sharply from the frenetic pace in February and March.


Can China give up on attempts to keep the Yuan pagged to the dollar? It would be the ultimate irony if this lead to a collapse of the dollar - and American economic power.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

I took an unplanned break from blogging, and Spiralsands of Wayward Winds suggested I get back to work. I'm glad somebody besides me noticed.

I guess it's a little early to start thinking about the next election, but it's been on my mind lately, and it may help understand and deal with the results of this one. I think the Democrats need an Evangelical next time around. At first some parts of our base may have trouble with an Evangelical candidate, but one who can talk sincerely about how W is always convinced that the hunch he feels in his gut is divine guidance might pay huge dividends. Those who believe in Papal infallibility only believe it happens under certain special circumstances, and other denominations often try to talk differences over with an open mind even when people on both sides have prayed and are convinced their opinions are revealed truth. Even if you're uncomfortable with certain kinds of religion, genuinely religious leaders are much better than fake ones. I'm not saying Bush's beliefs are phony, but more knowledgable leaders seem less likely to claim divine guidance for the hunches they can't justify when other well meaning people who share many of their beliefs disagree with those hunches.

What the heck, let's find a candidate before the slate for 2008 becomes set. Deborah White of Heart, Soul & Humor thinks the time may be right for moderate Evangelicals to play a greater role in politics, and quotes one:

"There's a lot of good in other religions. A lot to be learned from them. The only difference is belief in Jesus Christ." (Imagine the frustration of Christian apologetics professors at that glib statement.)

George Bush has not-so-subtly moved to the left from his pre-election hard-right stances. (See my post of Nov 17.) Rick Warren, stated admirer of politically-neutral Billy Graham and business world guru Peter Drucker as seminal figures in his ministry, has likewise been newly converted to the ranks of evangelical moderates.

Or perhaps they were always evangelical moderates. They just closeted it at election time. Perhaps all that arrogant, Pharasitic blather about only far-right voters having "values" was just so much.....clever election-year babble crafted to garner votes.

One can only hope. And pray.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

I'm a big Fox critic (there are so many more people scrutinizing the New York Times than Fox) but credit where credit is due. This is an important story.

In a rush of pre-election business, Congress gave the Alaska pipeline fresh momentum by promising loan guarantees for 80 percent of the pipeline's cost, and gave developers other tax breaks as well as promises of less burdensome permitting requirements.

"After working for more than 20 years ... we have finally taken steps to make the Alaska natural gas pipeline happen," Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said after Congress agreed to the incentive package.

The incentives were touted as a major breakthrough by Alaska's other senator, Lisa Murkowski (search), but quickly became fodder in her closely contested election race. Her opponent, Democratic former Gov. Tony Knowles (search), criticized her for failing to get a better incentive package, including gas price supports, to further ease pipeline developers' concerns.

Tax credits if Alaska gas fell below a certain price had been sought by the Alaska senators and some of the potential pipeline investors, but were strongly opposed by the Bush administration as being unfair to gas producers in the lower 48 states.

The companies that own the Alaska gas -- ExxonMobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and BP PLC -- have praised Congress' action, but remain reluctant to push headlong into a $20 billion investment. They are seeking more advantages and security from the state to mitigate their risk in what has been described as the largest private construction project ever in North America. If given the go-ahead the pipeline would take 10 years to plan and construct.

Two parties competing to see which one can offer more subsidies. The fossil fuel companies are nervous about the risks - but politicians are pushing the project. Limits on corporate welfare are imposed more by concerns of competing corporations than concern for the taxpayer.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Ambush Kills 50 Iraq Soldiers Execution Style

The NY Times has revised the headline - presumably before the print edition was printed. Pretty quick work on their part, the meaning is clearer now.

Usually I consider the critics of the New York Times to be excessively one sided, but in this case all the howls about the word 'executed' will be deserved.

Rebels Mount Grisly Ambush, Executing 49 Iraqi Soldiers

Published: October 24, 2004

AGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 24 - In the single deadliest ambush of the insurgency, guerrillas dressed as police officers executed 46 freshly trained Iraqi soldiers and three civilian drivers in remote eastern Iraq as the unarmed men were going home on leave Saturday evening, Iraqi officials said today.

If murdered is too judgemental, how about slaughtered? Even killed would be better. I have heard the phrases 'mob execution' for the Mafia or 'gang style execution' for other gangs, but there's no call for using it in this context.

Friday, October 15, 2004

What do we do about this? It would be easy to go along, since we are worried about Iran interfering in Iraq. If we ignore any questions about evidence and due process and the Brigadier General, it will make it much harder to ask them later when he does something we don't like - or that moves constitutional democracy further away.

Neo-Baath v. the Shiites

Brig. Gen. Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, the head of the Iraqi secret police, has charged 27 employees in the Iranian embassy in Baghdad with espionage and sabotage. He blames them for the assassination of over a dozen members of the Iraqi secret police in the past month. He claims to have seized from "safehouses" Persian documents that show that the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its militia, the Badr Corps, served as Iranian agents in helping with the assassinations.

SCIRI is represented in the caretaker government by Adil Abdul Mahdi, the Defense Minister, and the party has been an ally of convenience of the US against the Sadr Movement. The party was formed in Tehran by Iraqi exiles in 1982 and was close to Iranian hardliners. SCIRI officials vigorously denied Shahwani's charges on Thursday. They said that the neo-Baath network in the Allawi government is seeking to discredit Iraqis who fought against Saddam from Iran in the 1980s.


The two ex-Baath officials had reportedly ordered the secret police to raid "the office of Hizb Allah Movement in Baghdad and arrested some members, including the movement's general-secretary Hassan Al Sari, without any arrest warrant." [Thanks to Nicholas Blanford for information about HMI].

Complaints began surfacing about Shahwani in August. Iraqi Shiite leaders visiting London this summer contacted the Deccan Herald, a south Indian newspaper, among others, to express concern about the secret police chief:

' Despite earlier promises that no one in Iraq would be arrested without due process, Shahwani’s critics say he is using ex-criminals to round up suspects and hold them without charge in secret prisons.

“On the day the National Assembly was appointed three members were arrested, along with another 57 others, all this on the orders of Shahwani,” one prominent Iraqi visitor told Deccan Herald on condition he was not quoted by name.

What do we do about this? It would be easy to go along, since we are worried about Iran interfering in Iraq. If we ignore any questions about evidence and due process and the Brigadier General, it will make it much harder to ask them later when he does something we don't like - or that moves constitutional democracy further away.

Neo-Baath v. the Shiites

Brig. Gen. Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, the head of the Iraqi secret police, has charged 27 employees in the Iranian embassy in Baghdad with espionage and sabotage. He blames them for the assassination of over a dozen members of the Iraqi secret police in the past month. He claims to have seized from "safehouses" Persian documents that show that the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its militia, the Badr Corps, served as Iranian agents in helping with the assassinations.

SCIRI is represented in the caretaker government by Adil Abdul Mahdi, the Defense Minister, and the party has been an ally of convenience of the US against the Sadr Movement. The party was formed in Tehran by Iraqi exiles in 1982 and was close to Iranian hardliners. SCIRI officials vigorously denied Shahwani's charges on Thursday. They said that the neo-Baath network in the Allawi government is seeking to discredit Iraqis who fought against Saddam from Iran in the 1980s.


The two ex-Baath officials had reportedly ordered the secret police to raid "the office of Hizb Allah Movement in Baghdad and arrested some members, including the movement's general-secretary Hassan Al Sari, without any arrest warrant." [Thanks to Nicholas Blanford for information about HMI].

Complaints began surfacing about Shahwani in August. Iraqi Shiite leaders visiting London this summer contacted the Deccan Herald, a south Indian newspaper, among others, to express concern about the secret police chief:

' Despite earlier promises that no one in Iraq would be arrested without due process, Shahwani’s critics say he is using ex-criminals to round up suspects and hold them without charge in secret prisons.

“On the day the National Assembly was appointed three members were arrested, along with another 57 others, all this on the orders of Shahwani,” one prominent Iraqi visitor told Deccan Herald on condition he was not quoted by name.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

I confess! I'm not a television watcher, and I'm probably the only member of the blogosphere who failed to watch the debate for reasons other than appalling political apathy. I'd rather read about it than watch it - I'm sure many people are better than be at reading body langauge and other cues, and television is my medium of last choice for the text itself.

Avedon Carol's roundup on The Sideshow is all great news - not just the post I linked to, scroll down. Right after the debate she said, "But, as Kos says, by telling such a barrel full of whoppers, Cheney did force Edwards to waste a lot of time correcting the record instead of being able to spend it all giving direct answers to Gwen Ifill's questions."

As it turns out he may have won the battle but lost the war. contradicts him on the very points he asked them to confirm. Rove has won spin battles after debates before - but Cheney has given him the toughest possible fighting conditions.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Finally, it may not be long before we can realistically set our goals. The coming elections and the battles for the cities will either put Iraq on a path to normalcy or introduce us to some new hell. Yesterday, Rumsfeld said Iraq had "a crack" at being a success. At least he's not overhyping.

I could say the same for David Brooks that he says for Rumsfeld. In each case, all that's missing is some contemplation of what was said about occupying Iraq before the war and what those words tell us about the people who said them, and the speaker could be said to be in touch with reality, ready to think honestly about the various sets of emotional blinders that prevent fruitful discussion of Iraq.

Who is crazy here? Is it just me, or is she a maniac too?

WASHINGTON: Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan has been punished by being nationally humiliated, said Condoleezza Rice, the US national security counsellor, on Sunday.


Khan is “a national hero, a figure of Pakistani lore, and Musharraf has dealt with what is a very difficult situation” by “making certain that he’s out of business,” said Rice.

Khan has lost privileges “to travel and the like,” said Rice, and “a number of countries are pursuing prosecutions” of network members, she added, mentioning South Africa and at least one unnamed European country.

“AQ Khan, in a sense, has been brought to justice because he is out of the business that he loved most,” said Rice. “And if you don’t think that his national humiliation is justice for what he did, I think it is.” afp

He has been punished by being humiliated, but he can't be punished because he is so widely respected in Pakistan. Huh?

Saturday, October 02, 2004

This is the last person I would have expected to admit that Fox television celebrities are not journalists!

Mistah Kurtz--He Lives.
Howard Kurtz says we're entering the age of "red" media and "blue" media.

Journalists hate that idea, because it means that we no longer live in an era of "blue" media and "blue" media.

If you click through to the original post and again to the Howard Kurtz article, you'll see Fox is the network referred to as red state media. Unless he considers Fox blue state media because they have a headquarters in New York - which is fair enough, if Jason makes it clearer that he's critisizing Fox for resenting genuine red state media from displacing them from their faux red state niche.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Sideshow has a great roundup on the new Republican plan to let us deport non citizens to countries that will torture them for us. Yes for us - because the law includes provisions to deport people to countries they didn't come from in the first place. We're not just sending people back 'home' to be tortured.

Maybe we should make torture in the US legal again, so at least it can be regulated. Who knows, maybe there could even be some review board which would determine torture inappropriate in particular cases. This grisly form of outsourcing benefits nobody.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Say what you will about Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it appears the swagger isn't all fake. He's taking on every major political party - if he's serious. Myself, I'm not sure it would be as big a change as many would hope and fear. The parties would still have enormous power once the primary was over. A candidate backed by a major party would be a huge favorite against one without. Most elections would probably end up between a Democrat and a Republican - the two candidates with the biggest parties and most money behind them would be heavy fovorites to win this new 'primary'.

Among the laundry list of propositions voters will sift through this year is a proposal to remodel the state's primary election system a change that could alter the political geometry in the Legislature Schwarzenegger loves to hate and smooth the way for his potential re-election run in 2006.

The Republican governor has not formally endorsed the initiative, known as Proposition 62, although he has said, "In principle, I'm all for that, yes." If enacted, it would abolish the familiar political party primaries in state and federal races in favor of so-called open primaries a kind of candidate soup in which all contenders for an office would appear on a single primary ballot.

The two top finishers, regardless of party affiliation, would advance to a general-election runoff. It would not affect presidential elections.

Unlikely allies

Consider this. In a fiercely contested election year across the nation, Proposition 62 has forged an oddball alliance among the state Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Green Party, the Libertarians and the Peace and Freedom Party, all which want it defeated.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

It seems the Bush administration plan for Iraq is taking shape. It doesn't seem to show long term thinking to me - so I'll try and do some. What the heck. Although we have heard of plans to pacify the Sunni triange in time for elections, even Rumsfeld does not seem to believe it. The elections will be in the Shia and Kurdish areas.

Judging from Bush's recent treatment of Allawi on his visit, it seems he expects him to win the election. I don't think this expectation is based on his popularity - that wasn't why he was chosen in the first place. I'm not sure what the administration has planned for the January elections, or what they tacitly or explicitly expect Allawi to do to win them, but we don't seem to be preparing to deal with any other leader. After Allawi did so much to support Bush, it would be hard for Bush to do otherwise with Allawi.

I think the Kerry campaign was very wrong in their suggestion that Allawi was a puppet. I think the Bush administration make think likewise, but they are probably both wrong. There is much in Allawi's disquieting history to make some suspect him of being a thug, but nothing to make us think he is easily lead around by the nose. Bush and Kerry should both keep this in mind.

One thing about a civil war - it would explain our keeping troops there in perpetuity. If we didn't do that, what would prevent Allawi from becoming another Saddam? I'm honestly not sure how many in the Bush administration have thought that far ahead, but it may now be the default direction we are headed if we don't change course. We will have the military power to win, but (at least I hope) not the willingness to slaughter civilians indiscriminately. The terrorists will be in exactly the reverse situation.

I'm not sure Kerry knows how to fix this situation. Neither do I, so I don't blame him for that. I will even vote for him because he might get the right advisors and figure it out - where Bush will stay the course until he sails over the falls.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

This post is good - but the discussion in the comment section is superb. It's pretty rare to see this much thoughtfulness and continuity in a comment section discussion, even on Daniel Drezner's blog.

What other changes might we make if we were building a Democracy from scratch? Other than that, someone would always fear the changes would be to their disadvantage. Especially, both Democrats and Republicans would fight changes that helped third parties.

Remember the horrible mutilations in Fallajah? Even Iraqi's who wanted to kill Americans thought they were wrong. They were not repeated. Somehow the terrorists care about public opinion. Hence another great idea from Mark A.R. Kleiman with the help of one of his readers:

A reader who works for a national security think-tank (not one of the ideological press-release generators, but an outfit that makes a living giving technical advice to the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and other national security agencies) writes:

For three years, I have been urging an offensive information operations strategy – my analogy was “the day after” – that would be focused on Islamic and third world audiences (to get to Al Qaeda) that would make the point that the developed world would fare better in the resulting smallpox pandemic than the poor parts of the world, no matter how distant from the initial release.

Monday, September 20, 2004

As much as I admire what Dubai has done, using oil money to create jobs and build the economy instead of merely wrestling with each other over it as a supply of freebies, I'm not sure what they've built will survive when the middle east runs out of oil. Of course some would apply that to the world economy as well. But much of their industry is tourism, and much of their tourism is from the middle east. Of course many of these countries will have oil for decades after Dubai is projected to start running out, so they've at least bought themselves some time.

DUBAI: Skyscrapers, sprawling resorts, malls and residential complexes are mushrooming across the desert sands of Dubai, a Gulf emirate in the throes of an apparently endless construction frenzy.

Much of the effort is positively futuristic in both design and concept, though it is often difficult to imagine the scope of the finished product.

Dubai, which is forging ahead with a multi-billion-dollar tourism drive to meet depleting oil resources, is soon to boast the world's tallest habitable tower, the Burj Dubai, and an underwater hotel.

Grandiose projects like the 185 million square meter "Dubailand" - the emirate's answer to Disneyland - the Middle East's largest water park and its first indoor ski resort are all in the making.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

I've been wondering about this! Old fashioned reporters are starting to fact check bloggers.

But what the visitors to his blog did not know when he launched it early last week was that "Mike" is Mike Krempasky, a 29-year-old Republican political operative from suburban Washington, D.C., a detail some might have found relevant.

The conservative bloggers who ignited a frenzy this month over allegations that Rather relied on forged documents in a Sept. 8 "60 Minutes" broadcast questioning President Bush's Air National Guard service insist they are force-marching the nation's mainstream media into a new era of transparency and accountability.


Nowhere on Krempasky's site, however, did he disclose that he is the political director for American Target Advertising, a Virginia firm run by Richard Viguerie, the conservative strategist widely credited with inventing political direct mail and helping Ronald Reagan and numerous other Republicans get elected.

By Thursday, after an inquiry from the Tribune, Krempasky posted a message telling readers who he is, although he insisted his blog is a personal endeavor not connected to his employer.

Not connected to his employer officially, like the 527 groups don't have official communication. You can darn well bet he would have been fired for attacking Bush on his own time, and knew he wouldn't be fired for this. It may even be that he expects his employers will appreciate him more in the long run, official connection or not.

The Chicago tribune realizes how important this new medium is - bloggers are important enough to scrutinize carefully.

Five major risks threaten the world economy. Three center on the United States: renewed sharp increases in the current account deficit leading to a crash of the dollar, a budget profile that is out of control, and an outbreak of trade protectionism. A fourth relates to China, which faces a possible hard landing from its recent overheating. The fifth is that oil prices could rise to $60 to $70 per barrel even without a major political or terrorist disruption, and much higher with one.

Most of these risks reinforce each other. A further oil shock, a dollar collapse, and a soaring American budget deficit would all generate much higher inflation and interest rates. A sharp dollar decline would increase the likelihood of further oil price rises. Larger budget deficits will produce larger American trade deficits, and thus more protectionism and dollar vulnerability. Realization of any one of the five risks could substantially reduce world growth. If two or three, let alone all five, were to occur in combination then they would radically reverse the global outlook.

There is still time to head off each of these risks. Decisions made in America immediately after this year's elections will be pivotal. China, the new growth locomotive, is key to resolving the global trade imbalances and must play a central role in future. Action by a number of other countries will be essential to maintain global growth and to avoid deeper oil shocks and new trade restrictions.

This is a great article - but the comment discussion on Daniel Drezner's blog post linking to it makes some good points.

Bergsten neglects a large and important aspect of China's economy, the great gap between the people prospering from its economic boom and those who are not. This latter group numbers more than the entire population of the United States; dread of a slowdown in export-driven growth -- and a consequent drying up of a major source of jobs for Chinese workers -- is most likely why the Chinese government has been so reluctant to adjust its unrealistic exchange rate.

posted by: Zathras on 09.16.04 at 11:00 PM [permalink]

In fact, most of the suggestions are good ideas that have been thought of and run into various political obstacles. A few may be bad ideas which have met a well deserved grave. Maybe a few have potential with some work. But the article talks about many things that could be done - but none of the reasons they haven't.

How do you think the sanctimonious people at TV's "60 Minutes" would portray a company charged by the FCC with "serious indecency violations," that made expensive settlements with employees and others because of injuries related to asbestos and other hazardous material exposures, underfunded its employee pension, is legally accused of securities violations, employs those who widely distributed forged documents in an effort to destroy political opponents, failed to dismiss or discipline employees who violated the company code of conduct, owned offshore enterprises that paid little or no U.S. corporate tax, and operated in and/or dealt with countries harboring terrorists?
The company that engaged in all of these practices is Viacom, parent company of CBS, which produces "60 Minutes."
The folks at "60 Minutes" remind me of the preacher who damns the sinners every Sunday, but then is caught in the brothel. Viacom is a huge media company that not only owns CBS, but hundreds of individual radio and TV stations; cable operations like MTV, Showtime and Nickelodeon; Paramount Pictures; theme parks; publishing houses, including Simon & Schuster; and many other operations around the globe.
The problem with Viacom is not its difficulties with some acquisitions and operations, but that its CBS News unit has a long and continuing record of misrepresentation, hypocrisy, or worse is allowed to continue in clear violation of the company's own code of conduct and best economic interest.

Well, I'm glad the Washington Times is concerned about corporate misbehavior, even if only in media on the other side of the spectrum. I'm not saying they are wrong, although if this is what's behind the Democrats, I don't think large corporations have much to fear from the liberal media. I just wanted to quote this in the interests of balance.

Link from The Sideshow by Avedon Carol.

Moon himself has boasted that he spent $1 billion on the right-wing Washington Times in its first decade alone. The newspaper, which started in 1982, continues to lose Moon an estimated $50 million a year but remains a valuable propaganda organ for the Republican Party.

How Moon has managed to cover the vast losses of his media empire and pay for lavish conservative conferences has been one of the most enduring mysteries of Washington, but curiously one of the least investigated – at least since the Reagan-Bush era.

Limited investigations of Moon’s organization have revealed large sums of money flowing into the United States mostly from untraceable accounts in Japan, where Moon had close ties to yakuza gangster Ryoichi Sasakawa. Former Moon associates also have revealed major money flows from shadowy sources in South America, where Moon built relationships with right-wing elements associated with the cocaine trade, including the so-called Cocaine Coup government of Bolivia in the early 1980s.

But Hastert, an Illinois Republican, made news at the Republican National Convention by suggesting that liberal funder Soros may be fronting for foreign “drug groups.” In a Fox News appearance, Hastert said, “You know, I don’t know where George Soros gets his money. I don’t know where – if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from.…”

Soros demanded an apology for the smear. “Your recent comments implying that I am receiving funds from drug cartels are not only untrue, but also deeply offensive,” Soros said in a letter. “You do a discredit to yourself and to the dignity of your office by engaging in these dishonest smear tactics. You should be ashamed.”

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Even as Jason Van Steenwyk writes about readiness problems in the guard and reserve and The notion that we need to move now to increase active duty troop levels, he attributes all reports of problems in Iraq by Big Media as due to outdated information.

The short version: the much ballyhooed National Intelligence Estimate being touted by the chicken little press corps is hopelessly out of date.

and he quotes approvingly:

On Samarrah:

You may not have even heard about the city of Samarra. Two weeks ago, that Sunni Triangle city was a “No-go” area for US troops. But guess what? The locals got sick of living in fear from the insurgents and foreign fighters that were there and let them know they weren’t welcome. They stopped hosting them in their houses and the mayor of the town brokered a deal with the US commander to return Iraqi government sovereignty to the city without a fight. The people saw what was on the horizon and decided they didn’t want their city looking like Fallujah in April or Najaf in August.

Boom, boom, just like that two major “hot spots” cool down in rapid succession. Does that mean that those towns are completely pacified? No. What it does mean is that we are learning how to do this the right way. The US commander in Samarra saw an opportunity and took it – probably the biggest victory of his military career and nary a shot was fired in anger.

Jason Van Steenwyk has made valid points about military ignorance in some media outlets, but he's often very quick to believe the Bush administration and those who quote them uncritically.

Stars and Stripes is a Department of Defense-authorized daily newspaper distributed overseas for the U.S. military community. Editorially independent of interference from outside its editorial chain of command, it provides commercially available U.S.and world news and objective staff-produced stories relevant to the military community in a balanced, fair, and accurate manner. By keeping its audience informed, Stars and Stripes enhances military readiness and better enables U.S. military personnel and their families stationed overseas to exercise their responsibilities of citizenship.
— Revised DoD Directive 5122.11

And they say:

But while the name has no meaning — it’s just one of those odd names the military has a habit of assigning things — Grape is at, or near, the top of the list of most dangerous roads in Iraq, according to Capt. Nathan Springer, personnel officer and acting spokesman for the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment at Forward Operating Base McKenzie.

ASR Grape runs almost within spitting distance of Samarra — so close, in fact, you can clearly see the sacred dome of the city’s historic mosque.

And Samarra, which is part of the 1st Infantry Division’s area of responsibility, has posed some serious problems.

After some terrifically bloody fights this spring, the city is now under the control of insurgents.

Not a single coalition unit has a permanent contingent stationed there.

In fact, until just last week, any coalition element that went into the city was virtually certain to be attacked, 1-4 Cav officers said.

The situation in Samarra appears to be calming down, as coalition and Iraqi government officials have peacefully entered the city in the past few days.

Still, a secondary condition of having no well-established coalition or Iraqi government presence in Samarra is ASR Grape.

Six 1st Infantry Division soldiers have been killed on that road. An additional five soldiers have been wounded seriously enough to be sent to Germany for care and they have not returned to duty, according to Springer.

Four of the soldiers who were killed were from the 1-4 Cav, including a soldier with Anvil Platoon, and one with Headquarters, Headquarters Troop. Two other soldiers were with the 1st ID’s 216th Engineers.

"Appears to be calming down" is something, but certainly more recent than April, which is the date Jason Van Steenwyk says the report the media quotes is dated from.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - Soldiers from a combat unit at Fort Carson say they have been told to re-enlist for three more years or be transferred to other units expected to deploy to Iraq, the Rocky Mountain News reported Thursday.

Hundreds of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were presented with that message and a re-enlistment form in a series of assemblies last week, two soldiers who spoke on condition of anonymity told the newspaper.

"They said if you refuse to re-enlist with the 3rd Brigade, we'll send you down to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is going to Iraq for a year, and you can stay with them, or we'll send you to Korea, or to Fort Riley (in Kansas) where they're going to Iraq," said one of the soldiers, a sergeant.

The second soldier, an enlisted man, echoed that view: "They told us if we don't re-enlist, then we'd have to be reassigned. And where we're most needed is in units that are going back to Iraq in the next couple of months. So if you think you're getting out, you're not."

The sergeant told the News the threat has outraged soldiers who are close to fulfilling their service obligation.

"We have a whole platoon who refuses to sign," he said.

An unidentified Fort Carson spokesman said Wednesday that 3rd Brigade recruitment officers denied threatening the soldiers with more duty in Iraq.

"I can only tell you what the retention officers told us: The soldiers were not being told they will go to Iraq, but they may go to Iraq," said the spokesman, who confirmed the re-enlistment drive is under way.

OK, so some people are hoping that we won't be stretched for troops much longer, and they don't want to permanently enlarge the army. It seems the most optimistic somehow don't believe we will need these extra troops for long enough to justify training them. In that case we need some other way to get trained troops to voluntarily come out of retirement - or at least a discussion to see if it might be possible. The problem is that the Bush administration doesn't want to discuss how overstretched we are, so the problem is dealt with by people on a lower level.

Great story from I got it from The Sideshow by Avedon Carol. I read her blog for news and links, she reads mine to make fun of the spelling. She got the link from Unqualified Offerings.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi's "Fix Albany" campaign racked up an impressive win Tuesday by pulling off the tough task of unseating an incumbent state legislator - and one from his own political party in a primary, no less.

Why do I see a metaphor for the Democratic party nationally in the Democratic party where I live? I backed Suozzi for County Executive. Sidikman was a man who fought the system. Yes he eventually decided his constituents would suffer if he kept bucking Silver without any support, but he knew change was needed. Instead of building a team to change the legislature from seasoned legislators, Suozzi put in a new guy. I don't know everything that goes on behind closed doors, but if this is really a step towards reforming the legislature I don't see how.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

It's not like I had a good answer to this, so I'm not sure it's actually bad news.

Sep 14 - Portions of Iraq’s Sunni minority who live in the more rebellious population centers may be disenfranchised, US-installed interim Prime Minister told The Australian in an exclusive interview. Allawi insisted that elections would go on as planned, but said they might not be possible in some unstable cities.

"If for any reason 300,000 people cannot vote because terrorists decide so," Allawi said, "then frankly 300,000 people... is not going to alter 25 million people voting. What we are after really is implementing the political process."

Of course there are many Shia who won't be upset - who figured the Sunni would be an outnumbered and powerless minority in any event. If Allawi is serious about making democracy work, this increases the need to make them feel included. I honestly don't know how. I gather he's trying to reach out to those, Sunni and Shia, who support the insurgency. I can't find many details in English language sources - but if he knows what he's doing it could be great news.

Monday, September 13, 2004

What's the matter with Kansas is the best book on politics I've read this year. I reviewed it on Epinions.

Since this isn't a mystery novel, I'll give away the ending, although it means a lot less without the supporting evidence and information that make up most of this book. The poorest people in the heartland are angry at what is happening to them in today's economy - the same anger that happened early in the century when communism was still popular in Kansas in some places. Somehow the anger has become refocused, so the more downtrodden they feel, the more they try to assert their own authenticity and dignity by supporting conservative religious and even economic causes. They cannot be more successful than the rich, but they can be more religious and authentic. There is a real rivalry between rich and poor - but somehow the poor express it by trying to be more conservative than the rich. Many of the rich are uncomfortable with the strident fundamentalism, but in the end reasonably content to benefit from their economic policies. Sometimes he comes close to saying the rich are manipulating the poor, more often implying that many understand and perpetuate the system but did not set it up.

I love this book, but the one thing the author doesn't do is offer a prescription. I have a starting point for the discussion, although I'm not an expert on the heartlands. I think we need to think about how antipoverty programs can be changed to make sure they help rural regions. Although the heartlands do get more tax money than they pay out, this might be the difference between some districts considering these 'liberal' programs and considering them their programs. Even to have the Democratic party talking about these areas might help.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

I just picked up the latest twists on the National Guard memos from this Sideshow post by Avedon Carol. CBS is still defending the memos. I couldn't quite buy The Poor Man's argument that the memos must be OK because the Right is always wrong about this stuff. Daily Kos studies the details and believes the memos genuine, although he concedes we will know in a few days.

I can't decide between believing it must be a false alarm because no forger would be too lazy to get an old fashioned typewriter, and believing that it must be a forgery because while this all undoubtedly happened nobody would have made records of it. Either way it's hard for me to get excited - after all, the memos are not the main basis for believing Bush is a child of priviledge who took frequent advantage of the fact. A forgery might show something important about someone on the left, maybe even CBS news.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

U.S. Forces Take Action in Areas Dominated by Iraqi Insurgents

So nobody is trying to claim that all this talk about our losing territory is just in the imagination of the media. Good start.

I've been wondering if both the US and Allawi had decided that a 'strongman' was preferable to elections. These attempts to regain territory so all of Iraq can vote might mean I was wrong - or they might be intended as an excuses to say we tried. Or Allawi may want one thing and our government another. Or our government may have different groups with different plans. It doesn't seem the Sunni triangle will see urgency in creating conditions for an election either. If they are not willing to accept the results of an election dominated by Shia, they might rather have an excuse to reject that election.

I hope I'm wrong, but the odds of a generally accepted January Iraq election seem rather slim. I don't know who might have the stature to replace Allawi even if Allawi intended to permit such a thing. I can't envision any of this happening, and can't guess at the result if it did.

How about if elections are postponed again and again? What sort of leader will Allawi be? Much of what you hear about him is hard to track down the source of, but this New Yorker article names names:

But his role as a Baath Party operative while Saddam struggled for control in the nineteen-sixties and seventies—Saddam became President in 1979—is much less well known. “Allawi helped Saddam get to power,” an American intelligence officer told me. “He was a very effective operator and a true believer.” Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former C.I.A. case officer who served in the Middle East, added, “Two facts stand out about Allawi. One, he likes to think of himself as a man of ideas; and, two, his strongest virtue is that he’s a thug.”

Early this year, one of Allawi’s former medical-school classmates, Dr. Haifa al-Azawi, published an essay in an Arabic newspaper in London raising questions about his character and his medical bona fides. She depicted Allawi as a “big husky man . . . who carried a gun on his belt and frequently brandished it, terrorizing the medical students.” Allawi’s medical degree, she wrote, “was conferred upon him by the Baath party.” Allawi moved to London in 1971, ostensibly to continue his medical education; there he was in charge of the European operations of the Baath Party organization and the local activities of the Mukhabarat, its intelligence agency, until 1975.

“If you’re asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does,” Vincent Cannistraro, the former C.I.A. officer, said. “He was a paid Mukhabarat agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff.” A cabinet-level Middle East diplomat, who was rankled by the U.S. indifference to Allawi’s personal history, told me early this month that Allawi was involved with a Mukhabarat “hit team” that sought out and killed Baath Party dissenters throughout Europe. (Allawi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.) At some point, for reasons that are not clear, Allawi fell from favor, and the Baathists organized a series of attempts on his life. The third attempt, by an axe-wielding assassin who broke into his home near London in 1978, resulted in a year-long hospital stay.

Doesn't sound great.

Monday, September 06, 2004

This is a test of the emergency polling system. In the event of a real emergeny, don't sit around taking polls.

The constitutional right to bear arms means that

Government cannot regulate or monitor what weapons you own. The stuff about a well regulated militia explains but does not limit.

The guys who didn't define well regulated militia might disagree among themselves what it implied, but the founding fathers would have found some weapon owners not to be well regulated under some circumstances.

You can only bear portable weapons. No tanks, air craft carriers, or hydrogen bombs. A small nuke might be OK if you carry it around.

Arms only referred to stuff in existance when the constitution was written. No semiautomatic weapons.

You can defend yourself with the claws of a dead grizzly bear, but not firearms.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Alexa has made some changes again. Besides the lamentable alphabetical picks, I'm again paired with The Sideshow by Avedon Carol. This blog is a good source for roundups of good posts from the liberal side of the blogosphere, but I was still a little surprised. I rarely do roundups, and I try to bend over backwards when I fear partisanship might make me fail to see weakness in a liberal position.

Alexa usually pairs me with liberals - perhaps because conservatives are less likely to read a blog they disagree with than liberals? I can't imagine this applying to Drezner or his readers though. Hmmm. Maybe just a statistical artifact.

Any Sideshow readers want to say hello?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Even Fox news doesn't consider most of what the Bush administration calls good news in Iraq headline material. While it is heartwarming to build a school or a well in a place where attacks on Americans are uncommon, it doesn't really presage anything great in terms of rebuilding the country and economy of Iraq and creating jobs for those students - which requires ending the civil war. In America, very few conservatives would consider the fact that government was spending money on schools to be good news - they would ask how effective those schools really were. In Iraq, we must ask that - and also what jobs will be available to educated students.

Nevertheless, the New York Times has decided this is actually news:

This week, pursuing a similar strategy in Sadr City, where official agencies have been afraid to operate, the interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, dangled the prospect of hundreds of millions of dollars in construction aid if local leaders would sideline Mr. Sadr and his militia.

In that dismal Baghdad neighborhood, which houses more than 2.5 million Shiite Muslims, the Army-sponsored sewage repair is one of only a handful the Americans have been able to start. Alluding to the continuing tensions, an Army spokesman said construction work in Sadr City was "very limited due to current activities."

Perhaps they are right. Allawi does seem to know what he's doing. Yesterday there was another article in the NY Times:

Militia Leaders Charging Betrayal by Iraqi Premier

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys. Allawi does seem smarter than Bush - and if it weren't for the rest of the history of the occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration might deserve a lot of credit for choosing him, although that would still depend on two things.

He does seem to know who to negotiate with, but he hasn't yet proved himself capable of the Herculian never-yet-accomplished task of preventing civil war without Saddam's brand of mass murder. If he's that pragmatic, is he idealistic enough to want to give up power to an elected government? Even some Americans seem to want a strong man - but if that's in the cards, every promise we make about an elected government is building more trouble for the future.

It does begin to seem the future of Iraq depends on Allawi. His history is well worth researching and blogging about. Anyone care to join me?

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I do not accuse Arnaud de Borchgrave and all those who talk of the Tet Syndrome of lying, or even making assertions which have no evidence to support them. I accuse them of talking about any claim that supports their purposes as a proven fact if their are any experts who believe it, and ignoring all other evidence and informed opinion. I accuse them of accepting all positive media coverage as their natural right, and attributing all negative media coverage to bias without investigating the possibility that the media is discussing real problems - or that war proponents played a role in unreasonable media expectations.

I call this Tonkin Syndrome. There were reasons to believe American ships had been attack by North Vietnam - but also reasons to believe otherwise. There were steps that could have been taken to ascertain the truth before acting. There were those who already believed miltary action was appropriate, and perhaps even that a war started under a misapprehension would be no bad thing. Nobody noticed how easily the press had accepted their claims - and nobody would remember later why the press did not always trust the government.

When he writes that a reminder about what led to the U.S. defeat in Southeast Asia is timely, Borchgrove gives no hint that he is reminding us of a controversial theory which is rejected even by many people who supported the Vietnam war while it was happening but reexamined it later. He portrays the Tet Offensive as a brilliant victory for the South Vietnamese government and the United States war effort which would have lead to victory if not for the efforts of the liberal media, especially Walter Cronkite. The only thing that kept us from victory is collapse on the home front.

Even most of those who believe we could have won the Vietnam war don't believe that - although they usually consider it a factor. Here is a sample that is more typical:

But if it means very little to say that the war was unwinnable, what does it mean to say that it was winnable? It means that had the U.S. military and its civilian masters better understood the nature of the Vietnam War, they could have devised tactics to deal with it. There is nothing inevitable about stupidity among people in uniform, nor about feckless secretaries of state or presidents passively accepting bad advice. The tactics pursued by the U.S. military between 1965 and 1968 were downright counterproductive. But even in 1968 it would have been possible to correct those errors— at a price. (Certainly, too, since the war at its end resembled not so much a “people’s war” as an old-fashioned conventional war complete with tanks and artillery, the U.S. Army— had it still been around for the fight— surely could have stopped the North Vietnamese army.)

When one speaks of costs, however, one must never leave out the matter of politics. Because the Vietnam War did not involve survival interests for the United States, it was always necessary to consider the price of gaining a strategically important, but not critical, goal. U.S. leaders, as politicians are wont to do, chalked up “costs” not only in terms of casualties and money, but also their own political fortunes.

In sum, had it not been for a concatenation of bad military tactics, civilian overseers who failed in their duty to drag decent advice out of the uniformed military, the wavering of Lyndon Johnson’s Wise Men, Richard Nixon’s desire to shape a quick “opening” to China, and then his self-inflicted problems over Watergate, the Vietnam War actually could have been “won” at least to the degree that the Korean War was not lost.

A complete survey of the scholarly literature on Vietnam is beyond me, but I'd like to talk briefly about an article by former Vietanm hawk Guenter Lewy, published in that pinko rag Parameters, the Journal of the US Army War College. Some of what he has to say may seem harsh, but that should not surprise us. Historically, armies which honestly examined their defeats have often gone on to victory, while those who have found others to blame tend not to.

Professor Lewy talks about American equipment the South Vietnamese could not use and maintain properly, and lack of training and morale in the lower ranking troops. He also talks about corruption and the percerption of corruption by the Vietnamese people in the upper ranking officers and the South Vietnamese government, especially President Thieu and certain generals. He talks about various claims that the military could not win the war because they were not allowed to - and the real reasons we did what we did. The reason we did our bombing the way we did was not because of anti-war liberals, it was because of a real fear that the war might widen to include China. Right or wrong, the restrictions had nothing to do with opposition to the Vietnam war. I'm not going to try to summarize the whole article here, but unlike Borchgrave he examines opposing claims.

It is easy to forget that when LBJ said "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America", and "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost the war" it was because he had considered Walter Cronkite an ally up until then. If the initial invasion had not been based on the Tonkin resolution, if he had told the American people to expect the casualties of a Tet offensive, would they have accepted the war? If so, then the Tet offensive would not have turned Cronkite and America. If not, many lives would have been saved.

Borchgraves essay has been blogged about a number of times - all in basic agreement. When googling Tet Syndrome I found not one word of caution. Only when I googled Vietnam revisionism did I find critical discussions of the sort of claims Borchgrave makes. This post in Useful Fools swallows Borchgraves uncritically - and provides a list of symptoms for Tet syndrome which pretty much excludes the possibility to a Democratic society deciding a war was a mistake without his diagnosing Tet syndrome. He links to similar ideas (assuming the idea of the Tet syndrome without a direct link to Borchgrave) by Bill Quick. Anti-Anti-Flag links to the list of symptoms found in Useful Fools, which is even more sweeping than what Borchgraves claims. PunditReview blames it all on Ted Kennedy. Cold fury paraphrases:These people snatched defeat from the jaws of victory; they refused to learn the lessons of history, both military and political.

Oddly enough, you will find more if you google. I have seen amazing discoveries in the blogosphere - and severe groupthink. I think we can do better.

Monday, August 30, 2004

I'm not thrilled with the new Alexa picks for 'People Also Visit ...' for the Art of Peace. Yes it's a personal blog, but nine out of ten of their new choices seem to be based on the fact that it happens to be a personal blog with first letter A. They may even be the nine blogs nearest to me in alphabetical order in that category.

If my readership doesn't include enough Alexa users for statistically significant matches, even dubious ones would be OK. Personal blogs which by merest coincidence happened to have a few visitors who also came here would still be more interesting that blogs which were near me in alphabetical order.

The tenth blog Alexa matches me with is Talkleft. They are a good blog, and they are doing some great convention blogging right now, but they don't have that much in common with me other than the fact that we are both left of center. I'm not sure how Alexa chose them. Any Talkleft readers want to say hello in the comment section?

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Bravo Romeo Delta has in several places expressed a feeling of resentment that certain words can be used by certain people without the same stigma.

The only thing I feel compelled to add to the mix on this, is that it's the fact that I can get fired for dropping an N-bomb by someone who, in all likelyhood, could also be of the opinion that boycotting the Dixie Chicks (for their political views) constitutes an impingement of First Amendment rights.

Yes, this is about the word you would get fired for calling an African-American who worked at the same place you did.

It's worth noting that if an African American called a Caucasian-American a honky, or a Spanish American called a Caucasian-American a Gringo, they would almost certainly be in serious trouble - but not necessarily quite the same trouble.

It's also worth noting that many people of all colors do dislike or boycott comedians who use the 'N-bomb'. Again, it's not the same. We can respect people with different opinions about these comedians, but have only one opinion about a white comedian who uses the N-bomb.

One important point is that people who can laugh at themselves are often admirable, but people who like to mock other people for things that they have suffered seriously for are contemptible. Remember Jesse Jackson and Hymietown? A Jewish comedian could have gotten away with that line, but it doesn't mean Jesse Jackson wasn't wrong and mean spirited to use it - or that the Jewish comedian would have been wrong.

Still not quite the same. I could write all those words.

The core of the issue is economic. That is where the symmetry radically breaks down. The N-bomb was historically used not merely to hurt people, but keep them 'in their place'. If you look at employment and salary statistics, you will see this is a battle still being fought. Comedians are often rather good at tapping concealed angers that can't be expressed in polite company. Oddly enough, not only African Americans are victims of this anger. The dogs of the employment market may become the lions of the criminal scene, and it is in all our interests that ambitious and capable people should have reasonable hope that they can prosper while doing something worthwhile. A joke using the N-bomb between boss and subordinate can become an unspoken compact that that 'other' subordinate won't get the promotion.

Is it then OK for black comedians to use the N-bomb? I'm not quite sure, but I do consider it different. It is much less certain that this latter use will reinforce the short sighted little compacts which in the long run hurt us all.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Alright, so they got an attitude, if you click through and read the beginning of the article. This is Dubai, and they have more right to an attitude and less attitude than possibly any country in the middle east. Still, something about the first few paragraphs doesn't live up to their reputation for hospitality. No wait - this article is quoted from the Guardian in Britain! Hmmm. Skip to this:

Dubai has transformed its standing as a centre of commerce by utilising the skills of migrant workers and professionals, who are subject to stringent but realistic conditions. Their welcome does not include placing them in holding centres and giving them food vouchers; there is no daily tabloid press portraying them as parasites. There are, however, a number of conditions. For example, they cannot buy property unless it is in designated zones. These zones are not ghettos - the aim is to ensure that the country's Islamic values are not undermined by western mores. In a recent public opinion survey, 84 per cent of Dubai residents said they felt "secure and safe", despite being a stone's throw from some of the most problematic countries in the world. The crime detection rate of 89 percent puts to shame our own struggle to detect crime.

Every police district employs a team of officers whose job is to ensure compliance to human rights. Senior police officers and politicians welcome these rights rather than see them as a hindrance. And, rather than adopt Britain's conventional method of putting police officers in classes and telling them what a Muslim or a Hindu looks like, operational officers are sent on intensive courses to learn the languages of the migrant communities, encouraging a true understanding of different cultures. They are expected to conduct interviews in these languages. The greatest threat to the UAE, and to Dubai in particular, is from the organised criminals who are inevitably attracted by the country's wealth.

There is growing evidence of the presence of southeast Asian gangs, west African drugs cartels and major-league British criminals using Dubai as a base for their activities. The extent of money laundering through the country's banks, and drug trafficking via its ports, are serious concerns for its government and for Britain. If Dubai is not to become a haven for organised criminals, the police forces of Britain and Dubai must collaborate. But while British officers can assist Dubai's police, there is a lot that British policing can learn from the Muslim world and its attitude to community relations. The idea that we know best in the West how to police our communities may soon have to be given a decent but final burial.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

This could be frightening, but we already knew something was wrong. Here's the path to understanding why all our attempts to understand the problems attending the human condition have so far failed.

It's pretty to think that we all decide our political affiliations by methodically studying each party's positions on the issues. But a recent study by Paul Goren at Arizona State found that voters typically formed their party affiliations before developing specific political values. They become Democrats first and then decide that they, say, oppose capital punishment and support trade unions. But how do they make that initial decision to be a Democrat? The most likely indicator of political preference is your parents' party affiliation, but if everyone simply voted along family lines, the dominant party would simply be the one whose members had the most voting offspring. The real question is why someone would ever break from the family tradition -- without feeling strongly either way about specific issues.

Those M.R.I. scans suggest an explanation. Perhaps we form political affiliations by semiconsciously detecting commonalities with other people, commonalities that ultimately reflect a shared pattern of brain function. In the mid-1960's, the social psychologist Donn Byrne conducted a series of experiments in which the participants were given a description of several hypothetical strangers' attitudes and beliefs. They were then asked which stranger they would most enjoy having as a co-worker. The subjects consistently preferred the company of strangers with attitudes similar to their own. Opposites repel.

Of course people don't make all their decisions this way. From continental drift to Newtonian physics, some ideas have managed to win assent from pretty much everyone capable of understanding them. It's definitely worthwhile figuring out how to move politics from one category to the other. Per unit effort, it would probably be more help to our grandchildren than college trust funds.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

What if torture is wrong in more ways than we suspect?

During the cold war, we had certain disadvantages - but certain advantages as well. Even ideologically committed communists often knew people lived better lives in the West than they did under the Soviet Union, and were often tempted to defect. Of course they knew we wouldn't trust them at first, but the reward was often considered worth the risk. Although defectors suspected of being KGB plants were rigorously interrogeted, nothing I have ever heard of approached Guantanamo bay or Abu Gharib. It could have been argued that torture was justified because the communists had repeatedly stated they planned to conquer the west, and that they had nukes they might use if we didn't get them first, but somehow we still believed torture was wrong.

Suppose torture is wrong not in an abstract difficult to define sense, but in the sense that it is bringing us farther away from defeating terrorism and preventing dissasembled nukes from being smuggled into the country to destroy US cities. Suppose 'high value' Al Qaeda prisoners are never tempted to cooperate, because they know that no matter what they say we will imprison and periodically interrogate them (I know, all the not torture torture is on hold, but this is a discussion of why it should be permanently stopped, and see below). Other than that perhaps, some might be tempted. Suppose that any short term gains are more than offset by long term losses, both in terms of getting prisoners to cooperate and in terms of rebuilding Iraq and stopping terrorism.

This is a really radical proposal, that torture is not merely wrong in some amorphous sense, but wrong almost like an incorrect equation. Not merely does the end not justify the means, but the belief that the means can promote the end is a tempting error. What could justify this astonishing claim?

Oddly enough, before Castro became a dictator, his men provided medical treatment to prisoners and released them. The Batista regime tortured their prisoners. In theory you could argue that this should have resulted in people being more afraid to fight against the government than for it. What actually happened was that men in the army knew they could surrender - and Castro's men knew they couldn't.

Remember when Turkey captured the Turkish leader Ocalan? That was a major victory for them, not necessarily because he was a brilliant leader, but because he cooperated:


The head of the PKK terrorist organization, Abdullah Ocalan, apologized for PKK violence that claimed the lives of over 30,000 people and declared himself ready to cooperate with the Turkish State for peace at the opening of his trial on charges of treason. "For peace and brotherhood at the axis of a democratic
republic, I am ready to serve the Turkish State, and I believe that for this end I must remain alive",

How could the rebels not have been demoralized? And how could such a victory have been won by a government that tortured it's prisoners, and would never release any or them as long as it was suspected they might have useful intelligence?

Remember, this is not the first time in history when it has seemed that many lived could be saved by torture, either to gain military intelligence or to break the enemies willingness to fight. Many of the governments which we have condemned for torture could validly have argued that national security or many lives were at stake. What if the consensus that has developed in the Western world over the past few hundred years that torture is wrong is even righter than we fully realize? If we sow the wind, we may reap the whirlwind.

Oh yes.

By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 27, 2004; Page A01

The CIA has suspended the use of extraordinary interrogation techniques approved by the White House pending a review by Justice Department and other administration lawyers, intelligence officials said.

But putting it on hold is not the same as declaring them wrong. What if we are putting ourselves on the wrong side of history?

I've been meaning to add MY WAR to the RSS portion of my sidebar for some time. Now it may be too late. If the author keeps posting I'll add it with a link to this, since these are a few of my favorite posts.

His latest post, entitled Stay Tuned, quotes the first amendment which mentions freedom of the press - without comment.

Stay Tuned

He has some great, gritty posts.

So my AG looks over at me and with a mischievous smile says, "Watch this!" and then he starts chanting: "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" over and over again, next thing you know all these little kids, 100's of them, started chanting U-S-A!! Over and over again, each time a little loader. We were both laughing and thought this was all funny until I saw the reaction on the older people faces on the side of the road. They didn't look too thrilled about that, once I immediately noticed that, I said, "Dude, that's not cool! Make them stop yelling that shit!" But it was too late, these kids were having too much fun chanting U-S-A! Next thing you know I saw an older middle eastern lady wearing all black pick up a rock and throw it at us, which of course started a huge chain reaction of rock throwing at us. We got out of that neighborhood in a hurry after that. Lesson learned. Anyways, we were now back in the same neighborhood where the infamous U-S-A incident took place. We dismounted and searched another car, didn't find shit again. Tons of stray kids hanging out on the street corners here observing us with a watchful eye. Like I said before, every kid here in Iraq looks like those kids you see on those TV commercials where they say "for only .99 cents a day you can help feed this starving child". A real low income part of Mosul. My Sqd Ldr was trying to talk to a crowd of little kids, asking them if they saw or heard anything, and while he was asking them this one kid comes running up to us with an old empty brass 105 artillery shell, and then this other kid comes running up to us with another expired artillery shell. Both demanded money for their discovery. "Give me Dollar!" they said. Then this other kid came running over to us with an RPG fin and a handful of dirty .50 cal bullets. These kids were just finding this crap off the streets. Amazing. Then all the sudden this really skinny Iraqi kid comes running up to us with a fucking HAND GRANADE in his hand. "HOLY SHIT!!! DROP THE FUCKIN HAND GRANADE!!! DROP IT NOW!!!" We all started yelling! The little kid, still with this proud smile on his face that said, "Look what I just found" just dropped the grenade on the ground, and walked over to my squad leader and said, "Give me money!" It was an old pineapple grenade that was all dirty and rusty, it looked like something left over from the Iran Iraq war. We asked him where he found it at, and innocently he pointed to this old abandoned house that was in the middle of a field that looked like a junkyard. We secured the area, and searched the house. Didn't find shit. Then the kids pointed to another house, this one owned by a wife beater undershirt wearing Iraqi with a massive facial beard and more body hair than teen wolf. We searched his house, again didn't find shit. Finally four blue and white ICP trucks showed up packed with Iraqi Police dressed in blue khakis and strapped with AK47's. They dismounted and asked where the hand grenade was, we pointed to them to where it was and they went over, picked it up, and they like kinda laughed at us, like "You're kidding, you guys called us over here for this?!" I could hear one ICP say in broken English, "This, No-good." They took the grenade and drove off. And we did the same. My Sqd Ldr then explained to me that when the 101st was here they would give the little kids in that area money and/or MRE's if they found weapons and UXO, which is why every time when they see US Forces they always drag over shit like that and say, "Give me! Give me!"

Here's part of the one about when his commander found out about his blog. Read carefully, don't assume that all the swear words mean he doesn't use words subtly. He manages to explain all the restrictions he's under to the reader while cheerfully telling his superiors he agress one hundred percent:

Then we discussed things, and he pointed things out, and told me things. I agreed with 100% of everything he was saying, and the final conclusion from what he told me was that I could continue writing, but maybe have my Plt Sgt read my stuff before I post. He stressed that he didn't want to censor me and that I still had the freedom of speech thing, as long as I wasn't doing anything that would endanger the mission. I totally 110% agree with him on that one. I thanked him and I told him that I of course would not want to do anything that would endanger anybody here or back home, which is of course true. He suggested that I should look into getting this stuff published and made into a book someday. Finally I walked out of his office, with a feeling that I had just dodged a full mag of AK47 bullets. I went back to my room, and my roommate was waiting for me all wide eyed and said "Well, what did he want?!?!?! What Happened?!?! You busted?!" I told him all about what happened. And then I said, "Well, the positive thing is that, at least he knows who I am now." And he looked at me and said, "That could be a good thing, or a bad thing."

And here's his views on the election.

"I can't say anything nagetive about my Commander in Chief so I won't says it all.I seriously wasn't planning on voting in this election, neither candidate excite me. I've voted in every election since I was 18, but I was planning on taking a break from this one, because I don't really feel like voting for the lesser of the two evils. The first election I voted in I was still in High School, and my father (who's a lot like the dad on that TV show the Wonder Years with Winnie Cooper) forced me to register and vote. He said, "Look you live in my house, you don't pay rent, you and all your deadbeat skateboarding buddies eat all the food my house, the least you could do for me is vote!" So I did, on Election Day, he woke my ass up and dragged me to the balloting place, which was some ladies house down the street. On the way there I asked, "Hey dad, how do you vote?" His answer, "Oh, voting is easy! All you do is vote for every single person that has the words: "Republican" next to it." I said, "But dad, what if the democrat is better than the republican?" His answer, "Impossible, there's no such thing as Democrat that's better than a republican, you figure the worst Republican is ten times better than the best Liberal." That was my first lesson in voting. Needless to say I'm a little bit, actually way more moderate than my father, but he taught me lesson, when its time to vote, you get off your ass and you vote.
I can't say anything negative about my Commander In Chief, so I wont. But I also can't vote for a person who threw his medals at the White House. You just don't do something like that. Like, if I did something like that, to protest this war, that would be a total slap in the face to all my brothers in my Platoon, all the people serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, all the people who lost their lives here, all the POW's, all the Vets, all the guys in all the other branches, and all my Drill Sgt's at Benning, and I wouldn't do something like that to them. It's hard enough as it is. Disagree with me all you want on this, but that's just how I feel.
The soldiers I know in the Army who are voting for Kerry in this election (which is a lot more than people would think) are voting for him because they're pissed off at Bush. They're pissed off because of Stop Loss, tour extensions, underestimating the amount of troops needed for Iraq, the Weapons of Mass destruction thing, the legitimacy of coming to Iraq, and they feel Kerry might also get us out of here faster. Stuff like that.
The soldiers I know who are voting for Bush are voting for him because they support him 110% on his Global War On Terrorism, and there is no shadow of a doubt that we did the right thing coming to Iraq. They feel Bush is doing a great job so far out here.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

If you thought you knew Glenn Reynolds, read this article from Tech Central Station.

I would argue that these investments -- which were among the most dramatic public investments of their times -- were probably not undervalued by those who made them, or by those who benefited by them. But they are undervalued by those of us who take them for granted today. We assume that health is the norm, and sickness the departure, that deadly epidemics are a thing of the past, that water from the tap is safe to drink. But like so many things in life, things are that way because people worked hard to make them that way, not because it's the natural order. And if we want them to stay that way, we'll have to work hard to keep them that way.

Which leaves the question of what to do next. I'm not a physician, or a public health expert, but it seems to me that we face two major areas of challenge. The first is to develop a reliable worldwide system of detecting, and responding quickly to, new outbreaks of disease. The SARS outbreak provided some useful lessons (like "don't cover up the outbreak of a new contagious disease"), but the real problem is that there's not enough of an infrastructure there. We need one.

This will be expensive, but cheap compared to area number two, which is traditional infectious-disease control. Keeping water clean, making sure that sewage goes where it belongs and not where it doesn't, keeping the food supply clean, making sure people are vaccinated and learn to wash their hands, etc. This is expensive. In the United States and the West generally, it calls for a renovation and updating of infrastructure laid down a lifetime ago (read more about that here), and for the re-focusing of a public health establishment that in recent decades has been focusing on side issues (like accidents and gun control) at the expense of its core mission. In the rest of the world, it calls for doing this core mission for the first time.

The capital costs for such a venture are enormous. Modern technologies will help in some areas, but the effort is so huge that it's bound to be enormously expensive. On the other hand, as Fogel also notes, the benefits are likely to be much greater than is generally appreciated. Fogel points out that Britain's economic explosion in the latter part of the 19th century was largely the result of better health. Before that, a sizable chunk of the population was simply too sick to work much, and served as a drag on the economy. That's the state of the world now, really -- and it will only get worse as new diseases like AIDS, SARS, and whatever comes next make their way across the globe.

I've been meaning to blog about this for some time, but it just blew my mind. Is this the Glenn Reynolds who talks about how wonderful the tax cuts are, not only because they give ordinary families like his more money to spend, but because they were the only way to get government to cut spending? Everything he says is more than true - and many liberals would be too cowed to say it. I'm not sure how it fits with his other posts on Instapundit, but it really makes you think.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Sardonic Views is a new addition to the liberal section of my sidebar. If only the media would analyze national issues as well as he analyzes this local bond issue:

Let's look at the math: The debt is anywhere from $3.2 to $4.5 million depending on the day; the Lake County auditor's office estimates the levy would have brought in about $1.24 million per year; with that levy the City claims it could help pay down the debt, pay for garbage collection, hire 3 more fire fighters and not lay off any police officers. Wow. Talk about bang for your buck. "Math, anyone?"Now, let's get serious. Repealing the garbage collection fee while ostensibly under the City's control would be subject to approval from the state appointed fiscal oversight commission. That means the residents of Eastlake could face having their property taxes increased and still pay the garbage collection fee. Plus there are legitimate issues of the City having to pay additional money for the ballpark stadium debt (that the N-HEB pretends will not be a problem) in the next few years.Voters weren't fooled by the promises and alleged short-term savings. They had a deeper understanding of what Eastlake will be facing in terms of taxes and fees in the next several years. More than can be claimed by the deep thinkers of the subject at the N-HEB.

Maybe he should have gone in the conservative section, but his tone about Kerry's recent Cambodia misstatements wasn't gleeful, and he doesn't seem to assume a tax is bad without careful analysis.