Sunday, March 28, 2004

I haven't been able to find any trace of this anywhere but Al, so take it for what it's worth. If it's true, it is thought provoking on several counts. Incitement to violence is not considered part of the right to free speech in the United States, so that it is perfectly constitutional to arrest someone trying to get a crowd to riot. I've never heard of that being applied to newspaper coverage in the United States rather than a man trying to get a crowd of people right in front of him to start a riot though. And whenever we hear about an authoritarian regime closing down a newspaper by force we never pause to ask if there was a good reason for it - we always assume lies could have and should have been contradicted by truth. That is the crux of the problem - if the people who read this newspaper believe it, and disbelieve everything Bremmer says regardless, that may be impossible. Closing down this source of news doesn't make them trust news from the occupation authority any more though, so there is another difficulty for Bremmer.

Why haven't I found this in American media yet? Could be time zone difference or something innocuous. Maybe I looked in the wrong places.

Followers of Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr flocked to the offices of his newspaper on Sunday after US-led occupation forces shut down the daily, accusing it of inciting "violence".

They were responding to a call for an open-ended sit-in outside al-Hawza al-Natiqa buildings on al-Hurriyah square in southern Baghdad to protest against the action on the daily.

"No to occupation," shouted the crowd, as dozens of unarmed al-Sadr supporters, wearing black and deployed to maintain security, watched a group burn a US flag.

Al-Sadr's spokesman, Mahmud Sudani, said that dozens of US troops came to the premises and shut the doors with chains and locks before issuing a written order by occupation administrator Paul Bremer for the closure of the newspaper.

The order accused the paper of having "published articles that prove an intention to disturb general security and incite violence against the coalition and its employees."

It ordered a 60-day shut down of al-Hawza from the day the letter was dated. However, the order gave no date.

Rarely do people think that government programs that benefit them are welfare or pork. Here is an exception. We need more hard thinking like this - hard not because it's complicated, but because it requires willpower and self examination. The logic itself is obvious.

In 1980 I built a wonderful beach house. Four bedrooms -- every room with a view of the Atlantic Ocean.

It was an absurd place to build, right on the edge of the ocean. All that stood between my house and ruin was a hundred feet of sand. My father told me: "Don’t do it; it’s too risky. No one should build so close to an ocean."

But I built anyway.

Why? As my eager-for-the-business architect said, "Why not? If the ocean destroys your house, the government will pay for a new one."

What? Why would the government do that? Why would it encourage people to build in such risky places? That would be insane.

But the architect was right. If the ocean took my house, Uncle Sam would pay to replace it under the National Flood Insurance Program. Since private insurers weren’t dumb enough to sell cheap insurance to people who built on the edges of oceans or rivers, Congress decided the government should step in and do it. So if the ocean ate what I built, I could rebuild and rebuild again and again -- there was no limit to the number of claims on the same property in the same location -- up to a maximum of $250,000 per house per flood. And you taxpayers would pay.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Well, I'm persuaded by Steven's argument on USS Clueless that after Israel finishes building the wall, or even before, the Arab territories they are withdrawing from are headed towards war. I'm also convinced by his assertion that they know this and are counting on it. The only question is if the civil war will actually make Israel safer or not.

But the most important result for Israel is that it will make Palestinian disunity blatantly obvious and undeniable. When others demand that Israel negotiate, they can respond, "Who should we negotiate with? Who among the Palestinians can actually speak for them all and can deliver on any promises made in negotiations?"

If having a response to those who demand they negotiate would stop terrorism, this argument would make some sense. Since it won't, we are left with the idea that terrorists killing each other off will mean there are fewer to attack everyone else. This is exactly the opposite of what we want for Iraq, where we are trying to prevent civil war at all costs.

Since the wall was placed so as to separate certain centers of terrorist activity from centers of Jewish population, the initial effect was indeed a drop in deaths. Unfortunately, if there are large populations of terrorist sympathizers within the wall, new centers will spring up there. Only if we consider Arabs inside the wall utterly separate from those outside the wall can we claim that a civil are will weaken those outside the wall rendering them less able to cause trouble inside the wall.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Tokyo stocks opened sharply lower Tuesday taking a cue from Wall Street's decline amid terrorism fears. The dollar also traded lower against the Japanese yen.

The Nikkei Stock Average of 225 issues was off 117.68 points, or 1.04 percent, at 11,220.83 points at the open. On Monday, the index lost 100 points, or 0.88 percent.

The dollar was quoted at 106.79 yen on the Tokyo foreign exchange market at 9 a.m. Tuesday, down 0.17 yen from late Monday in Tokyo and slightly below the 106.80 yen it bought in New York later that day.

On the stock market, the benchmark Nikkei opened lower with shares trading lower across the board after U.S. stocks plummeted. Investors grew increasingly worried about terrorism Monday after Israeli troops killed the leader of the Palestinian group Hamas.

It looks like Bush will get his wish. The dollar is falling, making it cheaper for Japanese consumers to buy American goods and more expensive for Amerincans to buy Japanese goods. You have to be careful what you wish for though. When the dollar starts falling, the tendency to think of the dollar as the ultimate safe currency may dissipate. Some commentators seem to avoid the obvious - is the dollar falling as investors begin to sell dollar denominated assets along with their dollars?

There was no soft landing after the tech bubble popped. Can there be after this one? If the dollar is really overvalued, it might be better to think hard about the causes than take the easiest course. Making the dollar go down is a very comfortable economic policy which can be accomplished by spending and cutting taxes sometimes. I hope the short term attractions of these has not been rationalized into economic policy in the months preceeding the election.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

I've fixed the RSS feed sidebar, since the old feeds were only updating once in a blue moon. I've also done a much better job fitting them into my color scheme than when I first started fooling with Feedster.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

This is a horrible weekend. We can't say for certain that Spain's government was overthrown due to Al Qaeda's bombing, but even if the Times is wrong it's hard not to be concerned that this is going to affect the actions of governments which are ambivalent about cooperating with us.

Following Attacks, Spain's Governing Party Is Beaten

Published: March 15, 2004

MADRID, March 14 ? Spain's opposition Socialists swept to an upset victory in general elections on Sunday, ousting the center-right party of Prime Minister Jos? Mar?a Aznar in a groundswell of voter anger and grief over his handling of terrorist bombings in Madrid last week.


Those bombings, the deadliest terror attack in Europe since World War II, turned on its head what had just a few days ago been a predictable victory by Mr. Aznar's Popular Party. Some voters apparently believed that Al Qaeda had plotted the attacks to punish Mr. Aznar for supporting the war, which Spaniards overwhelmingly opposed.

It seems hopes that Al Qaeda's attacks on non American targets were a sign of desperation were premature. It seems to have been a tactical pause while methods were reassesed.

G.I. Toll Is Rising as Insurgents Try Wilier Bombs and Tactics

Published: March 15, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 14 ? Insurgent bombmakers, whose roadside explosives claimed the lives of six more American soldiers this weekend, have adopted new and grimly devious tactics, military officers said Sunday.

The tactics include setting multiple charges along convoy routes, disguising bombs inside animal carcasses and planting hollow artillery shells to draw troops into an ambush, they said.

One American soldier was killed early Sunday when his convoy west of Baghdad was blasted by a roadside explosive. Three soldiers died Saturday when their patrol in southeast Baghdad also fell victim to a homemade bomb.

Those deaths, announced by a military spokesman on Sunday, followed an attack on Saturday with an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire in Tikrit that left two soldiers dead.

Explaining the number of deaths this weekend from improvised explosive devices, military officers in Iraq said the lethality and effectiveness of those weapons had intensified.