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Saturday, December 07, 2002

just arguing for the fun of it ...

I feel a certain responsibility for my young lefty friend Anthony Parisi, since I helped him start a blog. So I pummel his posts,such as this one, from time to time,, so he won't feel lonely...
There are three main reasons to support an invasion: 1) Al-Quaida and Saddam are linked...
Totally invalid. We are not at war with Al-Quaida, we are at war with terrorism. Al-Quaida is only one of many terrorist groups. Saddam is known to have supported plenty of them. Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas actually retired in Bagdad! He is paying people for murdering our friends in Israel. Your suggestion that we are somehow restricted to only fighting Al-Quaida is...well, I won't say what I think. I'll just say that waiting until after terrorist groups make large-scale attacks on Americans before we bestir ourselves to fight them is Clintonesque.
2) Weapons of Mass Destruction. In my mind, there is only one weapon of mass destruction: nukes. I have yet to see credible evidence that Iraq has nukes. The Administration continually talks about how horrible it would be if Iraq had nukes..
YES, IT WOULD BE HORRIBLE. And we have plenty of evidence that he has at various times been CLOSE to having them. He has been bending all his efforts to getting them for the last 20 years! That's plenty of reason for war all by itself. This 'credible evidence' argument is pure Blix. If we wait until he has them, we've waited too long. We should attack LONG BEFORE he has nukes. (Among other reasons, we could otherwise be put in the position of being forced to use our own nukes on Iraq. And then your mush-brained peacenik policy will have caused the deaths of MILLIONS OF IRAQIS). (Also, you're muddling your arguments with complaints about what the administration says. Stick to the point.)
That leaves us with reason 3) Saddam is a monster...The thing is that Saddam isn’t alone in his evil. Simply killing him does not end the regime, it doesn’t even necessarily change the regime. The only thing accomplished by killing Saddam is the employment of hundreds of painters to change all those Iraqi murals to reflect the face of the new leader. Killing Saddam still leaves the B’athists (however the hell you spell that) in power...
Strawman. Stupid strawman. The key words from the beginning have been REGIME CHANGE. Now you say you can't support the war because it's not going to change the regime? Ludicrous. We are not going to assassinate Saddam, we are going to take over the whole country. If for no other reason than to do a REAL weapons inspection. Do you honestly suppose that the Ba’athists are going to remain in power during this? After we've disarmed them? They'll be dangling from lamp-posts, or hiding in Libya.
If President Bush can prove to me that he knows how to build a nation, then I will support a war in Iraq...
Wait a minute. You just said there were 3 arguments for war. Now you are adding Nation Building as a fourth. Get a grip, kid. And this one contradicts what you were saying in argument #3.

I can think of more reasons than 3. But in fact I think the whole line of thought is dangerously misguided. This kind of legalistic fruffling and hesitating while danger-clouds gather is why we are in this mess now. We should have hit Saddam and a lot of other thugs with savage violence decades ago. That would have saved the lives of enormous numbers of the very Arab and Third World people that leftists pretend to care about.
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P. Krugman
#63: Not a bad column...

Except for the title and some other hyperbolics about the future of broadband, Digital Robber Barons? (12/06/02) is not a bad column by Paul Krugman. But he could have been more specific. We've never understood why the current regulations requiring local carriers to open up their lines to competitors isn't being enforced. Solving the so-called "last mile" problem is key to extending most of the benefits of broadband technology, e.g., fiber optics, to ordinary consumers living in households. What Krugman should have said is that the Bush administration a) has no broadband policy and b) is not enforcing the current law.

One howler: Krugman claims he has no broadband choice in Princeton, NJ because where he lives there is no clear view of the Southern sky for a satellite dish (too many trees, maybe). It's true geosynchronous satellites are positioned over the equator, but from Princeton the satellite dishes must point West to pick them up. Try swiveling it a bit to the right, Paul.

[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. You can find Paul Krugman's writings, including the latest columns, here]

There was once, long ago, an East Jersey, the only state with an 'east;' and I suspect the populace has never really recovered their sense of direction.

Friday, December 06, 2002

nothing's more important than 'justice'

Stefan Sharkansky on the The Comedy of Left-wing Justice:
...Left-wing notions of justice are also about status. There is a whole ladder of characteristics where some people are assigned high status and others low status. Now I'm not making any value judgments in the following list, I'm simply reporting my understanding of progressive thinking: Men are higher status than women. Caucasians are higher status than Asians who are higher status than Hispanics who are higher than Africans. The rich have higher status than the poor. Management has higher status than labor. The able-bodied are higher than the disabled. Heterosexuals are higher than homosexuals. Christians and Jews have more status than Muslims and Hindus. Americans are above everybody else on the planet. You get the point.

Left-wing justice is very simple. As long as the outcome is one where a low-status person wins at the expense of a high-status person, justice is done. No need to be concerned with the circumstances or the particular individuals involved, all that matters is group-based status. Case closed.

Think of all the examples of public issues or controversies and how most lefties respond. They all fit into this framework. Every single one. How else would the Sept. 11 attacks get turned into a discussion of American oppression of Muslims? Why else would so many on the left identify with Saddam more than they do with Bush? Why did college lefties get their knickers in a twist over Apartheid, but couldn't care less about Zimbabwe or Sudan? Why do some people call Ariel Sharon a "war criminal" because of Sabra and Shatilla, but never even mention the Christian Arabs who carried out the massacre? Why do university administrators impose harsher discipline against those who dress up as the Jackson 5 than against those who commit violence in their protests against Israel? It's all about the dynamic of elevating the low-status (Arabs, Muslims, Black people) while lowering the high-status (America, Israel, white frat boys)...
Seems to fit pretty well. (Via InstaPundit)

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

why you should read Natalie Solent #511

...I'd like to bounce back with a few points in defence of capitalism. The anti-capitalist part of the essay is not at its core, but being pro-capitalist is fairly close to my core, so that's why I'm going to focus on that aspect.

On sweatshirts and sweatshops. I think that the sweatshop has liberated more women than any law passed in living memory. It takes around two or three generations of sweatshops to go from the ancient pattern of peasant subsistence farming, with its characteristic grinding toil for women, to, well, Taiwan. In 1945 Taiwan was poorer than the Sudan. Now I read somewhere that the Taiwanese goverment felt it necessary to run a campaign against obesity...
there's more

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P. Krugman
#62: Preemptive strike from the Streisand-wing

What's bugging Paul Krugman now? In Hey, Lucky Duckies! (12/03/02) he attacked a Wall Street Journal editorial that was two weeks old and did not even discuss the central issue that was raised. He also misrepresented some facts, but what else is new. We get the feeling that Krugman got wind of some tax reform ideas coming out of the Bush administration and decided to make a first strike.

The point raised by the Journal was a philosophical one. They pointed out that the trend in recent years is for share of income taxes paid by upper incomes to rise as fewer and fewer people pay more and more of the freight. The trend continues even in periods when tax rates have been lowered. This is because enough people on the low end are exempted altogether that the proportion of tax revenue paid by upper incomes goes up even though rates are cut. The point of the WSJ editorial is that this is not a healthy situation for a democracy. All citizens should have some stake in the tax system and, therefore, in decisions on the growth and scope of government. Otherwise, these decisions are driven more and more by social dependents who bear no cost for their decisions.

Another way to think about this liberal model of political economy is as a giant dependency machine. The dependents receive dependency payments and jobs in return for votes. The machine grows by having increased "progressiveness" voted into the tax system, i.e., fewer and fewer people pay income tax, as more and more people join the ranks of dependents who pay no income tax at all. And growth begets growth.

On the other hand, some tax reform ideas, such as those percolating inside the Bush administration, would break this dependency by having everyone pay at least some income tax. This strikes at the heart of the liberal model and predictably sends Krugman into orbit. That's basically what "Hey, Lucky Duckies" is all about.

Krugman holds out the hope that moderate Republicans will join liberal Democrats to save the republic from the "right's ambitions" which "have no limits." We think he is dead wrong. It's likely to be the other way around. The Bush administration is gearing up for a move to the right, not only in tax reform, but also with reforms in healthcare, social security privatization and education. We expect many conservative Democrats to join Republicans in this effort. This will leave Krugman and his leftist colleagues at the New York Times in what we hope will become known as the "Streisand-wing" of the Democratic Party. It's so fitting.

[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. You can find Paul Krugman's writings, including the latest columns, here]
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Tuesday, December 03, 2002

the only true optimists ...

There's a really good essay on conservatism by a Briton, Roger Scruton, Wall Street Journal, 12/3 (update: Now posted here. Get it while you can.) (Via Brothers Judd)
...T.S. Eliot's influence has been spread in America by his disciple, Russell Kirk, who made clear to a whole generation that conservatism is not an economic but a cultural outlook, and that it would have no future if reduced merely to the philosophy of profit. Put bluntly, conservatism is not about profit but about loss: it survives and flourishes because people are in the habit of mourning their losses, and resolving to safeguard against them.

This does not mean that conservatives are pessimists. In America, they are the only true optimists, since they are the only ones with a clear vision of the future and a clear determination to bring that future into being.

For the conservative temperament the future is the past. Hence, like the past, it is knowable and lovable...
knowable and lovable... That really impressed me. I've been thinking a lot about how we are all pioneers, traveling into an unknown future. And, at least in America, we're not just stumbling along reluctantly, we're doing it. Ourselves. With glee. Probably everyone reading this is playing with some exciting new gadget, or knows someone who is part of some world-changing effort. (My sister's husband, for instance, works for Scaled Composites!) Amazin' stuff is going on, and people like us, in fact all of us, are Lite'n out for the territories, as Huck put it. We are all heading into unmapped lands. And a lot of us are really excited about it. (And conversely, what really bugs me about the attitudes I see in Western Europe is a sour-puss I'm not going to like this and I wish it would go away attitude to the future and its possibilities.)

But I've been worried, too. So much is changing, so strange are the new realms -- are we going to forget the things that have made us strong? Will the future be a big 'cultural washout?' I'm worried, yes, but also wondering if I've got it exactly backwards....

There is a commonly imagined connection between leftists and the future. They have often portrayed themselves as sweeping away the detritus of the past, and building a glorious clock-work future, with workers and peasants striding confidently towards the sunrise with rippling banners. Bullshit of course; whenever the left is in power, progress stalls. Whatever the names or slogans, it's always rule by bureaucrats, and they always hate change.

But if the leftizoids are not the party of the future, could it be that conservatives are? And could it be that America is leading the word in technology and inventiveness and the leap-into-the-future-because-it's-a-hoot spirit because we have lots of conservatives, and other places don't? And could it be that, instead of forgetting our heritage in the rush to the future, we can move nimbly towards the future just because we haven't forgotten ...

[re: Scaled Composites, take a look at this! It's a Quicktime VR, you can move around the picture with your mouse. Instructions on the left]
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some people admit it when they are wrong...some don't

From David Frum in NRO.
NR Civility: Close to a dozen readers have emailed to reproach me for describing John F. Kerry as a “Wahhabi Democrat” in yesterday’s post. I was making a joke about the man’s refusal to learn the political lessons of the recent past, but the readers point out that we conservatives complain when Paul Begala makes cracks about the “Taliban wing of the Republican party.” They say that if we are going to demand courtesy, we must practice it ourselves. And with the accumulating evidence that our enemies in the war on terror are inspired by the teachings of Wahhabi Islam, “Wahhabi” has ceased to be an epithet to throw around lightly. The readers are right and I was wrong – and so for the sake of civility, I apologize to them and to the Senator.
(Someone pointed out the Kerry can't be a Wahhabi, the Wahhabis believe what they say.)
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massive human wreckage left by capitalism...

My son heard on the radio that, of the people laid-off by Enron:
75% have found a job they like more
10% have found a job they like less
5% have started their own businesses

Monday, December 02, 2002

one man's centrist is another man's...

Glenn Reynolds linked to this article: DEMOCRATS: Greed Is Putting Party in Peril. It's been bugging me, with its tortuous logic that tries to say that raising taxes is the centrist position! I should ignore it but it's got me blixxed.
...Regaining this balance is not turning left, an implausible description for the great Democrats from Jefferson to Truman. What it has involved is correcting the excesses of plutophile conservatives from Alexander Hamilton through the 20th century and down to the present day.
If you were really interested in 'correcting excesses,' this might make sense. But if we read on, there is only one excess on your mind...
...Consider just how far left serious reform would have to go to catch up with earlier Republican economics. For example, the federal inheritance tax that conservatives are trying to scuttle, principally on behalf of the 300,000 families with assets greater than $5 million, was imposed by wartime Republican presidents Lincoln and McKinley and urged for peacetime by Theodore Roosevelt.
Conditions (and tax rates) were considerably different in McKinley's time. That tax kicks in at $600k, not 5 million. It's not hurting the rich, [I'm ignoring the argument as to whether 'hurting the rich' is a good thing] but a lot of fairly ordinary Americans who have family businesses (which they often sell to big corporations because of the tax.)
... In 1953, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower declined to support GOP congressional legislation to reduce the top federal income tax rate of 91%, and on leaving office in 1961 he warned against the rise of the military-industrial complex...
Nobody except loons think Eisenhower was right about the tax rate, or that the 91% tax rate was anything but a disaster. And who cut those taxes? JFK.
...That so many of today's Democratic leaders, fearful of offending contributors and being called lefties, cannot invoke the arguments and positions of these centrist and moderate conservative Republican presidents underscores the increasing hold of the venal center over the last decade...
You just picked out any instance of a Republican who raised taxes, (the most recent one 1953) and labeled that the 'centrist' position. Imagine how that's gonna fly in the real world. "Hi, I'm Nancy Pelosi: I'm a centrist, because I'm for higher taxes." Yeah, sure. What friffleblux. And there's more.
...Two topics should be front and center. One is the party's increasingly disaffected low- and middle-income constituencies...
You know, they may not be too bright, but they don't have to be Galileos to figure out that a stagnant economy isn't going to help them.
..The other is its ties to, and partial financial dependence upon, a very powerful and rich set of business interests, in communications, high technology, entertainment and important sectors of international finance. The two developments are related...
There are a lot of Dem voters working in those sectors, too. They may have a different idea of what constitutes an abuse.
...The midterm election returns make the first case. The combined war and anti-terrorism issues were not a direct problem for the Democrats. In fact, the Democratic Senate incumbents who lost in Georgia and Missouri supported President Bush on war with Iraq...
"Supported." Like when the toothache becomes unbearable, you are "happy" to go to the dentist. Who are you guys trying to kid? Yourselves?
...Indirectly, though, the war-terrorism issues did hurt the Democrats by cross-pressuring low-income whites, especially in the nationalist and ultrapatriotic South...
!n your circle, loving our country may be considered nationalist and ultrapatriotic. There are a lot of us who consider it centrist (and too normal to be worth mentioning.) How lucky you are that 'bubba' is illiterate and will never suspect that his putative leaders consider 'nationalist' a primitive notion that they've grown past.
...the white "bubba" element turned out waving flags and voting Republican, instead of cursing bosses and $7.15 hourly wage rates...(and so did Mrs Bubba)
Cursing bosses-- sounds like a winning issue for the Dems. BUT, a lot of those "bubbas" aren't on the same page as you. They've discovered (this will shock you) that not only do wages tend to go up when you work hard and stick with the job, not only can you rack up a lot of overtime at time-and-a-half (but only if the economy is strong), but, even worse, a lot of those good ol' boys intend to become foremen and supervisors--bosses! Ugh! And they do other things that will make your skin creep. Like fill the freezer with venison. Or send their kids to college. Or buy land. Or fix their own leaky roofs. Or barter. Or pick up extra work without telling the taxman.

I could say more, but I've got to get back to work. We need money to pay up-coming tax bills.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

back to Afghanistan...

I really liked this article (via Brothers Judd)) by Matthew Leeming. The article is posted on, and is accompanied by a nice picture gallery.

Men riding through the remains of one of the gates of the ancient city of Tashkurgan

...'He wants to thank you for getting rid of the Taleban,’ said my interpreter, as the man started shaking my hand. ‘Not at all,’ I said modestly. ‘Don’t mention it.’ ‘He thinks you are American,’ added the interpreter — rather snidely, I thought.

And one can see why the salt-miner is happy. Things are getting better. As I crossed the Shomali plain north of Kabul, where four years ago 200,000 civilians fled from fighting, I saw Perspex-visored locals clearing mines. Black smoke from new brick kilns drifted across my path. Bazaars of shops made from shipping containers have sprung up to sell tree trunks stripped of their bark as roof beams. Coca-Cola is available from roadside stalls at reasonable prices. The truck drivers no longer carry guns. In August the first party of tourists arrived at Kabul airport. For the first time since I started visiting Afghanistan in 1993, there is a sense that this country’s dreadful martyrdom may have run its course.

That night I returned to my file labelled ‘Lefties on Afghanistan’, which contains clippings of various articles that appeared last year and this, with renewed interest. The prospect of war in Afghanistan afforded George Monbiot, a stalwart of the Guardian op-ed pages, a truly biblical vision of the end of time. ‘The hungry will die quietly on forgotten trails in the mountains, huddled behind rocks, searching the streets of deserted cities, clawing for roots in an empty field.’ You can hear them cheering him on in the office: ‘Let ’em have it, Georgie! Give ’em the dead child spreadeagled like a broken doll on the deserted roadway!’...

The picture gallery includes a boy wearing a coat of the cloth called Ikot. I asked Charlene what Ikot was, and she began pulling out copies of Hali, and showing me examples. It's cloth made by tie-dying the thread before weaving, and the intricate patterns produced are quite amazing.