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Saturday, December 21, 2002

Go, little book, and wish to all
Flowers in the garden, meat in the hall,
A bin of wine, a spice of wit,
A house with lawns enclosing it,
A living river by the door,
A nightingale in the sycamore.
--Robert Louis Stevenson

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radio waves

A recent article in the Washington Post, Casey Kasem or Freedom?, by Jackson Diehl, said that the Bush Administration was shutting down Radio Azadi (Radio Freedom, broadcasting to Iran) and replacing it with insipid music broadcasts (Casey Kasem was some sort of Top-40 Disk Jockey) just when protesting Iranian students were using calls to the station to communicate with each other. I was very upset to hear it.

But yesterday I stumbled onto this:
Bush Reaches Out to Iranians on Radio
By SANDRA SOBIERAJ (AP) - In a novel radio broadcast, President Bush offers the Iranian people friendship and calls on their government to embrace democracy.

"If Iran respects its international obligations and embraces freedom and tolerance, it will have no better friend than the United States of America," Bush says in remarks to be broadcast Saturday over Radio Farda, a new mostly Persian-language radio station financed by the U.S. government. He recorded the statement Friday.

The station, appealing to the under-30 crowd in Iran that holds out the most hope for forcing democratic reforms, is headquartered in Washington and Prague, Czech Republic. It began its 24-hour news, music and cultural broadcasts this month...
And then I Googled this letter to the Editor:
Contrary to what Jackson Diehl says in his op-ed article, dissident Iranian students remain in close and useful contact with the broadcast efforts the United States is aiming at Iran's young people. As we complete the transition to greatly increased programming aimed at Iran's under-30 audience, the voices of student protesters who use their cell phones to reach us are being heard daily on our broadcasts beamed into Iran. We are giving these brave young people what their own government denies them: a way to speak to their fellow citizens. Our new service will also increase news and current affairs programming by 135 minutes, to 315 minutes each day.

Mr. Diehl also did not tell The Post's readers that as of Dec. 18 our broadcasts aimed at Iran's young population -- based on Radio Sawa's success in using popular music to attract a huge audience in the Middle East -- will increase by more than three times and that our signal will become available on AM in addition to shortwave. At the same time, the Voice of America will continue its radio and television broadcasts aimed at Iran's older audiences.

The new broadcasts and the programming already in place for the older generation will give the United States round-the-clock audiovisual coverage in a nation that is stirring in dissatisfaction over harsh clerical rule.

KENNETH Y. TOMLINSON Chairman, Broadcasting Board of Governors Washington
Looks rather like the Administration has things under control. I hope. (And one conclusion is clear: We are very lucky to be living in the GOOGLE YEARS.)

* Update: I just noticed this article, Britney Spears won't Liberate Iran, By Jesse Helms, in OpinionJournal. It says much the same as Jackson Diehl's article. Now I'm back to being worried....

Friday, December 20, 2002

P. Krugman
#67: A Recycled Laundry List of Partisan Grousing...

Ahh, it's back to basics for Paul Krugman in Quo Vadis, Karl ( 12/20/02). He must have become tired traversing the minefields of warring Democratic factions required to write on substantive issues. So, he has returned to the "tried and true"–class warfare and social welfare. The fact that these topics raise many of the issues that led to defeat last November has apparently been eclipsed by hopes that the Trent Lott affair can turn back the political clock. If conservative issues that have gained ground lately can be painted with a tinge of racism, then the Democrats' basic economic agenda (extended unemployment insurance, minimum wage hikes, opposition to tax cuts and social security and medicare reform, etc.) can be cast in a new light. Worth a try, right? Tom Daschle certainly thinks so.

Well, we think voters are on to the Democrats' schtick of running to the microphones to celebrate every time there's bad news for the economy because they think it's good news for them. If they now throw race into the mix it will be even more distasteful. Hillary Clinton tried that in the aftermath of the Lott withdrawal and it sounded pretty ugly, not to mention embarrassing.

Of course, Krugman is too crafty to play a race card directly himself. Today's column should be read as an issue table-setter. Basically, it's a recycled laundry list of partisan grousing from earlier columns to which he has added that there is "broad public unease about where Mr. Lott's party is taking us."

Mr. Lotts party?? Puleeze!

[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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Found in the Federalist Newsletter:

...Regarding the inquiry into FBI personnel so bureaucratically entrenched that they failed to act on information connected with the 9-11 attack, Mr. Mueller said, "One cannot look at holding people accountable as a solution to these problems."
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From Orin Judd

...Many of you are probably too young to remember how odious the anti-anti-communists were. They presented their ideas as follows: well, of course we oppose the Soviet Union and communism, but nothing can justify (fill in the blank--executing the Rosenbergs, Joe McCarthy, the bomb, Vietnam, aid to the Contras, etc.) We see something not too dissimilar today from those who of course oppose radical Islamic terror, but, after Afghanistan, oppose pretty nearly every step that's been taken or contemplated to fight it. To be anti-anti is often to tip-toe right up to the edge of being objectively pro.
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"The more intelligent a man is, the more originality he discovers in men. Ordinary people see no difference between men. --Blaise Pascal

Thursday, December 19, 2002

"What did you do in the War, Daddy?" "I went to Bagdad to be a human-shield against American hegemony..."

I think President Bush is doing it on purpose. He's deliberately delaying liberating Iraq so that every single dimwitski in the world can align him-or-herself with Saddam Hussein.

I don't need to tell you that all this serves an important educational purpose. The world is being educated. Still, it seems almost cruel. One would hope that the project is being done with a grave, dutiful and parental spirit. But I doubt it. I couldn't, I'd be cackling like some witch with a bubbling pot. I visualize George and Karl puffing on their cigars and just chuckling and chuckling as they give pie-crusts like Sean Penn lots of time to make monkeys of themselves.

It's unbelievable. Un-blankety-blank-believable! Buddying-up to Saddam. If you had predicted a year ago that normal people (normal as in not abducted by aliens, not seeing black helicopters, etc), would be flying to Bagdad to witness peace-loving democracy in action, it would be too crazy for science-fiction.

I guess the poor puddings can't help it. They're like Dr Strangelove--remember how his hand kept twitching out of control? That Heil Hitler that was always trying to come out? Remember how he kept slapping his hand down? Right now, all over the planet, Blixians and Chomskyites are spasming and blinking and writhing like eels as the irresistible impulse fights for control of the higher brain centers, such as they are. The little Lenin inside them is too strong.

And even the sensible people on the Left, who know they should be glad that Iraq will be freed from a most cruel and blood-drenched fascist dictatorship, and know they should be pleased to have the world freed from the threat of nuclear-biological-chemical surprises from Bagdad--they know it and yet, and yet--certain little tremors betray them. The hand wants to do something on its own. (Or perhaps not--they could be squirming because the thought of being aligned with ordinary middle-americans is like sitting on the hot-seat.)
Sean Penn is shocked, shocked to find propaganda going on in a totalitarian dictatorship, the New York Post reports. "Penn's flack howled in protest" over an Iraq Daily "report" (which we noted yesterday), "claiming her boss was the victim of terrorist misquotes." Mara Buxbaum tells the Post that Penn never even gave an interview to the Iraq Daily. "This is specifically propaganda," she says. "It's a twisted interpretation of what he said. They are twisting his words." (From Best of the Web)

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

P. Krugman
#66: Like on tiptoes!

In Part II of squad report # 65 we noted that the fault lines in the Democratic Party dividing constituency groups are many and deep. Paul Krugman's column Gotta Have Faith (12/17/02) should be read essentially as a case study in how difficult it is for a Democrat to say anything substantive these days without tripping over one of the fault lines (or actually falling into a fault) by offending an important constituency.

In this case, the topic is George Bush's faith-based welfare reform initiative. But you would never know that from reading Krugman's column. He mentions "the topic" only once in passing when he quotes John J. DiIulio, former head of the initiative, bashing Karl Rove for being too political. Otherwise, Krugman talks about everything but the initiative itself. He talks about undermining church and state separation, about discrimination in hiring as patronage for friends of the Christian right and about Tom DeLay on a mission to promote Christianity and a biblical worldview. And, of course, he tries to tie it all together by implying that the motives of the Christian right are somehow aligned with the "Trent Lotts" of the Republican party and with their nostalgia for the days of Jim Crow. It's a tour de force in demagoguery.

But what IS the faith-based initiative anyway; and, if it's such a bad thing, why not just attack it up front and with all the particulars? The reason is apparent to anyone who watched President Bush's rally to launch the initiative in Philadelphia last week. In attendance were Mayor Street, many black ministers and thousands of cheering blacks in the crowd. In a nutshell, the faith-based initiative is very popular in the black community and, in particular, with black church leaders. These folks have had the thankless job of holding their communities together for the last 50 years against the onslaught of government welfare programs and their attendant plagues, e.g., out of wedlock births and collapse of family structure. The Bush faith-based initiative is simultaneously a shot in the arm to these experienced and effective private institutions by proposing to employ them on the front lines of welfare provision, and a blow to traditional government sponsored welfare programs that, in our view, are not just a part of the problem; they are the problem.

Krugman's problem, of course, is obvious. The welfare establishment is a powerful Democrat constituency. But black voters are too. So how do you attack a policy initiative that is a serious threat to the former, but nevertheless popular with the latter. Answer: very carefully. Like on tiptoes! That explains his reluctance to define his topic.

Another interesting question is why would Krugman even tackle such a no-win subject? Most likely, it is because the faith-based initiative actually offends him on two levels. First, it involves faith and, second, it involves private institutions. For intellectuals of Krugman's caliber, faith is a primitive manifestation of humanity that is to be overcome, not exalted. And, of course, a private solution to problem with a government program alternative is against the liberal manifesto.

We may never know the real answer, but keep these points in mind when reading "Gotta Have Faith."

[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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Monday, December 16, 2002

P. Krugman
#65, pt 2:

The reason we believe the Trent Lott affair will not weaken the Republicans nationally, despite some well-reasoned and well-deserved criticism of Lott from within his own party, is that the Democrats’ political coalition is already weak and growing weaker by the year and, furthermore, the Republicans are developing important social and fiscal initiatives that can further accelerate the weakening. This is not to say the media hubbub or the demagoguery of Democrats will die down anytime soon (indeed Lott may be overthrown by Senate Republicans), but merely that the real damage will ultimately be negligible. To us the Lott affair has no capacity to broaden the Democrats base and is at most a delaying action that may gel the Democrats’ current base a bit longer.

Let's take a look at that base. It's a vast collection of minorities and special interest and fringe groups who have few interests in common other promoting and profiting from victimhood. Notable among these groups are trial lawyers, greens, radical feminists, a number of racial and ethnic minorities, most academics, welfare providers and recipients, public employees unions and associations (particularly the NEA), 60s anti-war types and those seniors who frighten easily over Social Security. With a coalition this unwieldy it is little wonder the only issues Democrats can agree on involve class warfare and expanded entitlement programs. Significantly, these are two of Krugman's favorite grindstones.

Most of these groups can be written off out-of-hand a far as Republican prospecting is concerned. But the black vote is different. Since it is currently over 90% Democrat, a move down to, say, 70% would be dramatic in its political impact.

We see three issues that could do it–school choice, faith based welfare reform and, oddly enough, further tax cuts. All these issues divide blacks from the Democratic establishment. School choice pits blacks against the NEA. Faith based welfare initiatives that will make considerable use of black churches are a direct threat to the welfare establishment–a Democrat bastion. Finally, most tax cuts will be supported by the congressional black caucus–in particular proposals making estate tax cuts permanent and eliminating the alternative minimum tax on income. This drives soak-the-rich liberals such as Krugman nuts, but makes sense for any group on the way up in economic standing. Understandably, they would like to hang on to their hard earned money.

Over the next year or two these issues will far outweigh Trent Lott.

[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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a message from Maggie Gallagher ...

...I have a Christmas message for you, one that women today almost never hear: If you want to have a baby, and you are married, go ahead.

I still get letters from people who think that there is a population explosion, and maybe you hear the frowning voices, too. Bah humbug! Ignore them. America's birthrate is just barely at replacement level (thanks to large numbers of immigrants who have not yet been properly indoctrinated); Europe and Japan are dwindling away. The United Nation's Population Division is issuing urgent warnings about the economic stagnation that will result from population decline as nations industrialize. And its experts find it hard to establish any correlation at all between effective anti-baby programs and economic development.

So if you are married, and you want to have a baby, go ahead. You are not taking food from the mouths of poor people. You are contributing a loving, caring, healthy, productive human being to take care of the world in the next generation...
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so Gore is out of the race ...

Experience shows that if you lack a coherent set of beliefs and principles, you will flounder. You must know already what you want, and why, and broadly how best to attain it, if you are ever to deal effectively with the thousand-and-one crises that face you in government." --Lady Margaret Thatcher