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Saturday, October 19, 2002

Black Hearts in the White House...Two Tales

I'm feeling very bitter after reading this story: Book: Carter, Democrats Asked Soviets to Stop Reagan, Sway U.S. Elections. It's possible of course that the story is untrue. But a lot of other poison has emerged from the Soviet archives, and it is noteworthy that leftists haven't been denying stuff -- just hoping we wouldn't notice.
Remember the old conservative charge that many of the Democrats here in America were playing footsie with the Soviets?... Now bombshell revelations prove these accusations beyond a shadow of a doubt...

...Soviet diplomatic accounts and material from the archives show that in January 1984, former President Jimmy Carter dropped by Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin's residence for a private meeting.

Carter expressed his concern about and opposition to Reagan's defense buildup. He boldly told Dobrynin that Moscow would be better off with someone else in the White House. If Reagan won, he warned, "There would not be a single agreement on arms control, especially on nuclear arms, as long as Reagan remained in power."

Using the Russians to influence the presidential election was nothing new for Carter.

Schweizer reveals Russian documents that show that in the waning days of the 1980 campaign, the Carter White House dispatched businessman Armand Hammer to the Soviet Embassy.

Hammer was a longtime Soviet-phile, and he explained to the Soviet ambassador that Carter was "clearly alarmed" at the prospect of losing to Reagan.

Hammer pleaded with the Russians for help. He asked if the Kremlin could expand Jewish emigration to bolster Carter's standing in the polls...

... Carter was not the only Democrat to make clear to the Russians where their loyalty lay. As the election neared in 1984, Dobrynin recalls meetings with Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill.

O'Neill told Dobrynin that no effort should be spared to prevent "that demagogue Reagan" from being re-elected.

Soviet documents report that O'Neill told Dobrynin: "If that happens, Reagan will give vent to his primitive instincts and give us a lot of trouble, probably, put us on the verge of a major armed conflict. He is a dangerous man."
Well, this is bad enough, but I'm aware of another story that dovetails with this, and makes the implications uglier by an order of magnitude. It's a tale that doesn't seem to be widely known.

In a nutshell, the number two man in the Communist Party of the USA, Morris Childs, grew disgusted with Soviet Communism, and cooperated with the FBI for about 20 years. He was trusted and liked by the top rank of Soviet leaders, and they conferred with him on many sensitive issues. You can read the fascinating story in the book Operation Solo, by John Barron. (I highly recommend Barron's book, it makes even the best spy fiction seem tame and contrived)

One of the things revealed in that book is that the Soviet leaders were actually convinced that Reagan was planning to attack them. They were paranoid, and terrifyingly isolated from reality, to the point that they refused to believe their own intelligence services, who reported that no preparations for war were being made by the US. One of the greatest services Morris Childs did for us was to let Reagan know what was going on, so he could work to defuse what had become an extremely dangerous situation.

It seemed strange to me that the Soviets could so badly misjudge us -- now we seem to have a possible reason why. The Soviets believed these damnable lies because they came from leaders of the Democratic party!

I mostly try to avoid rants and harangues and name-calling, and to hold this weblog to a tone of reason, and openness to debate. I'm now going to turn off reasonable-discourse-mode (click), and say that if this is true, hanging and flogging is much too good for these treasonous worms -- they should be tied into sacks and thrown into the Potomac !!!!! (click) Resume reasonable-discourse-mode...

Friday, October 18, 2002

P. Krugman
#50: Springtime for Krugman

How hard can it be to compute the direct benefits of a tax cut? We think it's pretty simple stuff. But to Paul Krugman, in "Springtime for Hitler" (10/18/02), it's some vastly complicated affair that ethically challenged Republicans love to distort and then use to accuse Democrats of Nazism. The column purports to expose these Republicans distortions.

At issue, according to Krugman, is what proportion of the prospective tax cut will go to the top 1% of taxpayers by income? Since our tax system is progressive and since the tax cut was devised to be an across the board cut in rates, the answer is not much of a mystery. The top brackets will end up with a larger share of the tax cut precisely because they pay more in taxes. This is the inevitable result of applying "across the board" tax cuts to a progressive tax system. The only question is why Krugman goes ballistic when this situation is explained rationally?

The answer is obvious. A rational explanation does not suit his demagogic, class warfare motivations. He much prefers arguing that the top 1% are "unfairly" getting 40% of the tax cut than arguing that it is "unfair" to give an across the board tax cut in the first place. On the other hand, he has been spewing this nonsense for years and it doesn't seem to be getting him anywhere. So a more basic question–one that we've posed before, in other contexts–is why the New York Times lets him get away with constantly recycling so much material? Hasn't he anything new to say?

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions.]
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Thursday, October 17, 2002

more 'lying with statistics'

Sam Sachdeva has a web magazine, ALLsci, with summaries of recent science developments. He thought I might be interested in this one, the line of argument running....
...The number killed in highway accidents in September 2001, for instance, is almost the same number that was killed during the September eleventh terrorist attacks. The risks of terrorism, then, are certainly high, but they are fractional compared to everyday risks. "The point of my paper is that the risks that we have from international terrorism is very small compared to the risks that we face in daily life," said Congleton...
Well, that's true, at least so far, and if the author wanted just to warn us against panic, fine. But, he's got other things in mind.
...Congleton, in essay published in the Independent Institute's Independent Review, compares terrorism to any other form of political expression, such as a think tank publishing an essay or a group of protestors blocking the entrance to an abortion clinic. Because the differences between Al-Qaeda, for instance, and the Cato Institute, a think tank that promotes libertarian points of view, are not that different, the threat of terrorism should be compared with other threats, such as highway safety and violence from guns.

The threat of terrorism and Al-Qaeda have become such large spheres of fear and panic for most, it's difficult to think of Al-Qaeda as just another political organization. This, however, is what Congleton believes the U.S. government should be doing. "Both terrorist networks and ordinary political groups attempt to exert disproportionate influence on controversial public policies…Terrorism is simply another method that groups may use to influence government decisions - another form of interest-group politics," he writes in his essay...
Well, the political bias is too blatant to be worth much mention. (Cato Institute, forsooth!) Like so many on the left, he desperately wants foreign policy to just go away, so they can get back to forging the welfare state.

Statistically, it's more interesting. I think it's a good example of lying with statistics.

First, events grouped together are not the same as ones spread widely. Suppose your town averages 50 inches of rain a year. Shall I tell you that getting 25 inches in 1 hour is not worth worrying about? Similarly, The First World War profoundly altered European politics and society. Just afterwards, the flu epidemic of 1919 killed the same number of people in a matter of months! But it passed with hardly a ripple, because the deaths were spread over all the world.

Second, some things tend to grow. If there are suddenly 10 cases of smallpox, that's not the same as 10 cases of heart-attack. The terrorists hope their actions will snowball, and their movements will grow, with one attack leading to many. (I hope it will lead to their exiting the gene-pool.) It's misleading to compare their attacks with traffic deaths, which change little from year to year.

* Update: Happy Fun Pundit tore into this same guy a while back, you can read it Here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

been there, done that...

Dean Esmay has an interesting history of America's war against another gang of Islamic banditti...
...The first time the American flag flew over foreign soil taken in battle came in a war against international terrorists. Unlike today’s brigands, they were not driven by ideology or religion, but by a baser and perhaps more honest lust: gold. But terrorists they were, and our war against them was fought long and hard, in somewhat unconventional but still very real ways. And it was long before all of us were born...

They were known as the Barbary pirates...
As someone said in the comments, they used to call it tribute, now it's "Wealth redistribution" to allay "root causes"
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about this nation building stuff...

I've exchanged some e-mails with one Anthony Parisi; and by and by he asked me how to start a blog! Well... why not -- I sent him the decoder ring and the secret handshake. (The fail-safe codes to the weapons of mass deconstruction come later, on good behavior.)

Anyway, he's here, and I thought I'd pick out something and disagree with it, by way of a compliment...
...The Bush Administration hates nation building. They said it during the campaign for president, and their actions in Afghanistan have done nothing to dispel that statement. Yes, things are better in Afghanistan, but they are rapidly deteriorating. We of the west are not doing enough. More troops, more money, more aid. They want these things, we destroyed their government and are thus responsible for helping them get back on their feet. But the Bush Admin doesn’t like to nation build, and doesn’t seem to know how. If they want to see a good example, perhaps they should look at the former Yugoslavia, where we have done such a good job, they already take democracy for granted, and don’t vote...

This is the crux of my opposition to a war in Iraq. I don’t think we will have any problem winning it. I think we can move in there and win in a month. This is probably being way too generous to Saddam, to be honest. But when we win, when Saddam is dead, we will have a job to do. I don’t see Bush as able to do it...
First of all, anyone who would try to nation-build Afghanistan is crazy. It's never been a nation, never been anything but a collection of warring tribes. With the double whammy that each of the tribes has some neighboring country where they have a lot more kinsmen than they have in Afghanistan, and which they tend to think of as their country.

And the various warlords are armed and pugnacious, and not about to submit to a central government. So nation building would have to start out with war. And one that really would be a quagmire.

More importantly, you can't build nations. All you can do is help them build themselves. [Repeat that several times, so it sticks in your mind]

The idea that some government can build a nation is the sort of idea leftists like to promote, similar to the idea that governments can cure poverty. It's not true, never works; but since the real purpose is to increase the size of government, they don't care.

Iraq was, I believe, fairly successful as a nation (at least by Arab standards), and there is hope for it. I will be deeply disappointed if we are not wise and generous in our attempts to get them started on a better path. But I think any attempt should begin with a forthright statement that that things may not work out, and if so, we will cut our losses and go. In fact that sort of realism will make success much more likely.

Also, we are not responsible for Afghanistan, just because we destroyed their government. That's welfare-thinking. We were perfectly justified in attacking them. We owe them nothing. We help because we are generous, and because it is in our interest for Afghanistan to do well.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

warm-hearts for freedom...needed now as much as ever...

I liked an article in NRO, How would President Reagan fight the war on terror?
...But Reagan was an optimist because he believed in the human spirit. He drew an important distinction between the Communist dictators and the people who lived in those countries, who he considered the first victims of Communism. When he spoke about world affairs, he was less interested in communicating with the elites behind the Iron Curtain than the masses, who he believed aspired to be free.

Perhaps the most telling instance of this was his "Evil Empire" speech. It was roundly criticized by the Kremlin and elites in the west. Anthony Lewis of the New York Times captured the mood of most in Washington and Europe when he called it "simplistic…sectarian…terribly dangerous….primitive."

But to the people that Reagan really wanted to reach, the speech was pure music. In a lonely cell in the Soviet gulag, dissident Natan Sharansky recalls how political prisoners tapped on walls and talked through toilets to share what Reagan had said with fellow inmates. Reagan's words energized and emboldened them and offered hope. This was Reagan's real audience.

Aware that today the leadership in countries such as Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are not capable of reform, Reagan would probably speak last to the leadership; he'd want to speak directly to the people, tapping into their desire for freedom...
It's good to remember that the same arguments being scraped up now by the left in favor of preserving Saddam in power were used by the same crowd to argue that the Soviet Union should be preserved. Civil war, nuclear explosions, starvation and the total breakdown of order would follow without the strong central communist government to 'hold things together.'

You don't see a lot of follow-up articles on that subject anymore, especially about Russia. Were you aware that, even while much of the world is in recession or slow growth (us), Russia's economy is growing rapidly and steadily? (That doesn't get mentioned much in the NYT--might give us peasants unwholesome ideas--we might make a causal connection between a 13% flat-tax and economic growth.)

Monday, October 14, 2002

holding the line

Gary Farber makes an important point...:
I seem to have utterly failed to communicate, to many, the bases of my concerns about biological and gas warfare and the consideration of them as "weapons of mass destruction."

The world, long ago, decided to draw a line, a thick wall of horror, around these weapons, set apart by treaties, not out of knee-jerk, or ill-considered, emotionalism, but as a political lesson to the world.

A lesson that these weapons have no justifiable use in a world we wish to live in, and that they must never be used. That they are too terrible to be allowed to be used. That civilization can draw lines, and attempt to enforce them ... And quibbling with fiddly arguments about what set of digits counts as "mass" is irrelevant, and, far worst, a distraction.

-- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Use of these weapons must be fought. Acceptability of these weapons must be fought. Arguments for the acceptability of these weapons must be fought. Arguments for elmiminating the distinctions the world has long held that make use of lethal gas, biological weapons, and nuclear weapons absolutely taboo, must be fought. And they should certainly be fought, with passion and certainty, by liberals, and all people who don't want to see these weapons used.
I think the problem is the word 'fought.' Certain people were glad to anathematize Weapons of Mass Destruction, until it looked like something forceful would actually have to be done about it. And done by the United States. Led by a conservative. (shudder...)

We should defend the line we have drawn. The world will become far more perilous if we don't. The civilized world should have decided on a regime change in Iraq the moment Saddam started killing people with Nerve Gas. Except that that would mean war, and we could never do anything so immoral as fight a war. Or even worse, stand up in defense of civilization. Perish the thought. (worth reading the whole post)
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P. Krugman
#49: Let Panic Reign.!

Paul Krugman is very good bellwether for the mood swings among liberal Democrats. Based on "Moles at Work" (10/11/02) the current mood is one of panic. Make that PANIC! He gives it away in the fourth paragraph when he frets that "if the conspirators hold the House and regain the Senate, they can proceed with their wrecking program–driving the budget even deeper into long-term deficit, scaring small investors and blocking any actions that might pull the economy out of its deepening funk."

Wow. That's a mouthful.

The pretext for this column (Squad readers know Krugman always has a pretext to make his shopworn rants seem more original) is that the GOP is risking the nation's financial future by not supporting the Democrats choice to be head of the new accounting standards board. We have no strong opinion on this trivial subject except to note that the law gives the right of appointment to the head of the SEC – not congressional Democrats. And, of course, SEC chairman Harvey Pitt is the Dems leading candidate to replace Newt Gingrich as the Republican most easily demonized. In addition to Pitt, Krugman uses this occasion to revisit many of his favorite swamps including the Harken Energy (i.e., George W. Bush) insider trading issue and, for good measure, he even takes a swipe at the Harvard University endowment for playing some role in this trade – he never says exactly what the role was. Gail Collins, the Times editorial page editor, must be losing a lot of sleep lately worrying about which of Krugman haymaker charges will have to be retracted next.

As we have said, on other occasions, Krugman misses many opportunities to make constructive comments on serious issues of the day because his highest priority is being an attack dog for the Democrats. In this case, corporate reform generally has raised serious issues that deserve reasoned discussion. But you will never hear a reasoned discussion from Krugman. Other than expensing stock options, we don't recall a single position he has taken on strictly accounting issues. He's been too preoccupied with trying to score partisan political points.

By contrast, his colleague at Princeton, Burton G. Malkiel, has written an excellent column in the WSJ today on the broader subject of corporate governance in a historical context.(Here's the link0 We do not agree with all he has to say about current problems, but it is a perfect example of a reasoned approach to which Krugman should aspire – – maybe after the election!

Meanwhile let panic reign.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions.]
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Sunday, October 13, 2002

Itsa no fair, they arresta Tony Forte, but notta Tony Piano...

You know that kind of decision where you put together a number of factors, and weight them? Many people don't really understand the process, and feel those decisions are unfair somehow. Imagine you are the boss, and are deciding to fire an unsatisfactory employee. You have a long list of minuses in mind, and not many plusses. None of the bad points is decisive in itself, but taken together, they say that Wolfgang is a real loser, and is clogging up the pipes bigtime.

Now imagine yourself trying to justify the decision to someone soft of heart, and even softer on logical thought. "But Wolfgang has only been late 5 or 6 times. You can't fire someone for that!" "It's not just any one shortcoming," you reply, "there's a complex matrix of factors of varying weights being considered here." "That's crazy, lots of people have faults, and you don't fire them! You're just down on Wolfgang for some reason."

A lot of people just will not accept that kind of decision-making. (Even assuming they can understand it.) It seems cruel, unnatural, contrived.

I have a hunch bordering on a certainty that something like this is going on with the decision to invade Iraq. The administration has a big basket of pros and cons, plus reasons to attack other places, plus reasons to do nothing .... All the possibilities have been weighed-up and compared.

Some of those arguments are chains of conjecture or probability, like those discussions of the possibility of a comet striking the earth. I recently read a scenario where Iraq detonates a nuke in a US port, then threatens more! We are forced into massive nuclear response. The odds of that happening are very low, but the cost... There are other chains of inference -- what we are doing is also like arresting a particular crime boss partly because it will discourage crime in general. Or discourage young punks from starting a career of crime... None of these things is certain, but many of them together can make a compelling picture.

But my point is, many, perhaps most people will not accept the idea of going to war based on a matrix of reasons, even if when put together they add up to two or three adequate reasons for war. Most people expect a single casus belli. Over and over I hear: If we knew for sure that Saddam had nukes, that would justify war. Or If we knew for sure that he was involved in 9/11...

I think the administration has instinctively shied away from explaining their actual reasoning. I guess they think that would be like trying to discuss the Florida election calmly and rationally. They're probably right. And so they are telling people the simple stories they want to hear, instead of the convoluted reality, and they end up stretching the facts, and looking like liars.

My take is that we have an unusually honest President, with a pretty straightforward administration. I can't prove it, I'm just putting together scraps of information my secret agents have gathered. Little things that seem to me to make a pattern. Here's one. When Bush was running for re-election as Gov. of Texas, ('98 or '99?) there was already a lot of talk of him for President in 2000. That's an awkward thing, and most politicians in that position would lie, and say they have no interest in the Presidency, and only want to serve their state. (Those denials of interest in the Presidency are so common they are considered white lies.) Bush called a press conference to announce that he was undecided!. A very unusual event.

ugly Americans...

I liked this, found in Tim Blair, who is blogging about the bombing in Bali.
"THEY MAY KILL SOME OF US, BUT WE'LL KILL A LOT MORE OF THEM." From Captain L.J., of the United States Air Force:
Just wanted you to know that I and all the aircrew at my location send our prayers to the families of the Australians and New Zealanders killed or injured in Bali.

My buddies and I are in the thick of the current campaign against Islamic fundamentalist asswipes and we'll get some payback for you and your countrymen. They may kill some of us, but we'll kill a lot more of them. If we get re-directed to Iraq, I'm sure we'll have some Ozzie units next to us and we'll be proud to fight with them against a common foe.

If there is some kind of fund being collected for Australian families, I would appreciate it if you would send any info my way or post it on your blog. Keep up the good work and God bless Australia.

Captain L.J., USAF
Operation Enduring Freedom, Deployed
The man is prepared to die for Australians, yet he wants to donate money to us. This must be an example of that American tyranny we hear so much about.
posted by Tim Blair at 12:20 AM
Some Americans make me feel proud.