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Saturday, March 01, 2003




P. Krugman
KRUGMAN TRUTH SQUAD
#80: Return of the Economist



It's about time! After spending the last few weeks in the loony bin with the anti-war, kook-wing of the Democratic Party, Paul Krugman has finally resurfaced in No Relief in Sight (02/29/03) and written a column on–drum roll please!–economics. If that's the good news, the bad news is that he continues to trash the U.S. economy by rehashing points made in previous columns.

Krugman's difficulty is that it's tough to trash this economy in light of all we've been through the last two years. We are no longer in recession and the economy continues to strengthen even in the face of high uncertainty over the looming war. About the worst criticism one can bring is that the economy could be growing faster. Even here Krugman has a problem. As we pointed out in Squad report # 43, the current economic performance (3% growth and 5.7% unemployment) is right on the benchmarks he claimed (back in 1996) were the best that could be achieved and he castigated anyone who thought the economy could grow faster. He now accepts the higher growth potential but has yet to recant the "new economy" skepticism in his previous writings.

As far as the column itself is concerned, it's weak. Krugman offers no evidence for his negativity beyond survey data (consumer confidence), polls and third party references. One might have expected some hard economic data except, of course, that there aren't any that are particularly negative. The only new bearish factor introduced by Krugman is the rising price of oil. Now he can't forecast commodity prices any more than we can, but we would point out that a lot of war risk is already built into the current price. And, even here, Krugman is late to the party. His gloom and doom buddy, Stephen Roach, economist at Morgan Stanley, already wrote a detailed piece on the energy conundrum earlier this week

This brings us to another point. Roach was one of the original deflation hawks beginning in early 2002 and Krugman jumped on the bandwagon last summer. In December, when Roach changed his mind about the outlook for deflation, Krugman followed suit two weeks later. Now Roach writes a detailed analysis of impact of oil shocks on the economy and a few days later Krugman makes similar points. We aren't ready to accuse Krugman of pimping off of Roach yet, but the circumstantial evidence is growing.

By the way, we don't agree with Roach on the economy either, but at least he writes well reasoned reports free of unnecessary partisan rants.



[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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Welcome back...

Our friend Peter Pribik seems to be blogging again...
...Clear skies, crisp outlines, budding oak, blooming crabapple trees, vibrant green undergrowth, quails rustling unseen, a snake engaged in its majestic slithering. Ah, California, if it weren't for the people...
Poor guy lives in Berkeley, he's worse off than we are.

Ooops, forgot the link. He's here.

Friday, February 28, 2003


Grim day ...

We are all very upset here, because our son Bill's good friend was jumped and beaten in Chinatown, and is now in critical condition in the hospital. It was apparently a chinese gang from his high school. All we can do now is pray.

Oh how I wish I could exterminate those rats, and all the other criminal scumballs that run loose in this town...

And as for the soft-on-crime Liberals who have done so much to ruin this beautiful city, and let sub-human slime run loose and attack honest people... ATTACK CHILDREN... well, I doubt if your sort are going to be reading my weblog, but if you are, I HATE YOU, I DESPISE YOU, I SPIT ON YOU, and I strongly recommend you go hang yourself forthwith!

Thursday, February 27, 2003


Decentralization ...

Andrew wrote to point out this article in Slate: The Next MacArthur: Who will run Iraq after the war?

Looks like somebody has been reading my blog and stealing my best ideas!
...A program of "de-Baathification," similar to de-Nazification, will have to be carried out. One way to limit the power of Saddam's Baath party and to increase the number of regional voices that will be heard in the government would be to create a bureaucracy that is as decentralized as possible, giving power to local governments all over the country...
Just kidding, decentralization is the obvious thing to do. Problem is, of course, that the people who are able to implement sweeping changes are almost always part of...a central government! Solutions that seem obvious to us will seem strange to them.
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The most important foreign aid of all ...

Various bloggers have mentioned this fascinating article on the growth of new businesses in Afghanistan. One thing that struck me was this:
...While much of the money being invested today is coming from Afghans here and abroad, U.S. and international military and aid programs are surely making the expansion possible. More than 4,000 foreign troops are now in Kabul and another 9,000 U.S. and allied troops are stationed in Afghanistan, many at the Bagram air base 35 miles north of the capital. Without them, the relative peace in Kabul would not likely last long...
When liars say that we've 'abandoned' Afghanistan, (usually leading to the conclusion that Saddam should remain in power,) they not only ignore the substantial aid we are in fact giving, but they ignore the most important of all forms of aid: we guarantee the peace. Investment is burgeoning in Afghanistan because the presence of American and Allied troops means that some warlord is not going to swoop down and smash everything.

And the same is true all over the world. There are many places that no sensible person would invest in were it not that the US Navy is stronger than all the other navies of the world combined. Think Taiwan, or the Persian Gulf Region...

There are lots of places in the world where sensible Americans hesitate to even visit, much less invest in (ie: much of Africa). And if they decide to do so it's because they know that if things really fall apart, Marine helicopters will soon be landing on the embassy grounds and ferrying people to a task-force loitering off the coast.

(Memo to us: get busy and do whatever it takes, spend whatever it takes, to make the V-22 Osprey functional. Few types of 'foreign aid' will be more helpful)



Wednesday, February 26, 2003


We must be capable of speaking a language of peace, but not one of surrender.
--Silvio Berlusconi

Tuesday, February 25, 2003


An old Federalist speaks...

A great article by James S. Robbins, Madison in Baghdad, applying the thought of James Madison to a new government for Iraq:
...As James Madison wrote in Federalist 51 , "what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary." This oft-quoted passage is also oft-forgotten when political theorists are called upon to devise constitutions. However, this insight is critical when dealing with a society with no history of freedom. The pursuit of power has a keener edge in societies accustomed to pervasive political violence. Stable government under these conditions is only possible when disparate groups consent to live together without resorting to old habits. As Madison says, "in forming a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." The first has not been a difficulty in Iraq; control of the governed is a fine art. Obligating government self-control will be the challenge...

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

...There is no reason to assume that the major ethnic groups will automatically form hostile unitary blocs. They have their own internal tribal and other rivalries — witness for example the divided Kurds. Economic and class differences will also play a role. If power is devolved to provincial and local levels to the greatest extent possible, this will promote corresponding intra-group competition. Alternatively, if the system centers all interests at the national level, it will reward those who seek dominant power, thus ensuring the formation of ethnic mega-blocs (particularly of the Shiite majority)...
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Yet another remonstrance, crushing and definitive, from Alberto Gonzalez...

...Counsel to the President, in response to the latest lies of Senator Schumer, concerning Miguel Estrada...
...Third, you stated that "when you went to those hearings, Mr. Estrada answered no questions." The record demonstrates otherwise. Mr. Estrada answered more than 100 questions at his hearing (and another 25 in follow-up written answers). He explained in some detail his approach to judging on many issues, and did so appropriately without providing his personal views on specific legal or policy questions that could come before him — which is how previous judicial nominees of Presidents of both parties have appropriately answered questions. Indeed, at his hearing, Mr. Estrada was asked and answered more questions, and did so more fully, than did President Clinton's appointees to this same court. Judge David Tatel was asked a total of three questions at his hearing. Judges Judith Rogers and Merrick Garland were each asked fewer than 20 questions. The three appointees of President Clinton — combined —thus answered fewer than half the number of questions at their hearings that Mr. Estrada answered at his hearing. What is more, like Mr. Estrada, both Judge Rogers and Judge Garland declined to give their personal views on disputed legal and policy questions at the hearing. Judge Rogers refused to give her views when asked about the notion of an evolving Constitution. And Mr. Garland did not answer questions about his personal views on the death penalty, stating that he would follow precedent. In short, we believe that your criticism of Mr. Estrada's answers at his hearing reveals that another unfair double standard is being applied to Mr. Estrada...


Monday, February 24, 2003


More by Darrell Cole...

From the essay Good Wars
...The moral approach to war in Aquinas and Calvin is refreshing for those familiar with modern Christian approaches to warfare—approaches which, more often than not, do little to help Christians understand why they should be prepared to participate in or support war of any kind. Aquinas and Calvin, in contrast, teach Christian soldiers why they need to participate in and support just wars. From the divine point of view, God desires to restrain evil among His creatures. And in using human beings to do so, God actually elevates the restrainers...

...The most noteworthy aspect of the moral approach to warfare in Aquinas and Calvin is that it teaches—contrary to today’s prevailing views—that a failure to engage in a just war is a failure of virtue, a failure to act well. An odd corollary of this conclusion is that it is a greater evil for Christians to fail to wage a just war than it is for unbelievers. When an unbeliever fails to go to war, the cause may be a lack of courage, prudence, or justice. He may be a coward or simply indifferent to evil. These are failures of natural moral virtue. When Christians (at least in the tradition of Aquinas and Calvin) fail to engage in just war, it may involve all of these natural failures as well, but it will also, and more significantly, involve a failure of charity. The Christian who fails to use force to aid his neighbor when prudence dictates that force is the best way to render that aid is an uncharitable Christian. Hence, Christians who willingly and knowingly refuse to engage in a just war do a vicious thing: they fail to show love toward their neighbor as well as toward God.
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I suppose there are Libertarians who are ardent for liberty, but this guy isn't one of them...

WASHINGTON, DC – The Libertarian Party is challenging President Bush to answer 10 simple, but important, questions about his policy of waging war against Iraq.

“Although President Bush has made several attempts to explain why deposing Saddam Hussein is worth risking U.S. lives, millions of Americans remain unconvinced,” said Geoffrey Neale, Libertarian Party national chair. “That’s why Libertarians are respectfully asking the president to answer these obvious but overlooked questions about his Iraq policy.”
As you will see, these aren't "overlooked" questions, they are the usual leftist points that us warmongers have been playing 'whack-a-mole' with for a year.
(1) Isn’t it possible that invading Iraq will cause more terrorism than it prevents?

“The al-Qaeda network has explicitly threatened to murder innocent Americans in retaliation for a U.S. raid on Iraq,” Neale said. “Why hasn’t Mr. Bush addressed this possibility?
It doesn't matter. We are AT WAR. NOW. You may not have read about war in your little Libertarian theory books, but wars are not won by avoiding danger. They are won because your enemies are dead, or decide they don't want their children to end up digging in the rubble for scraps of food.

Bush hasn't addressed the possibility because that's the danger inherent in any attack against terrorists or their friends. And if they attack us they will be out in the open and then we will kill them. And the stuff about "innocent Americans" is misleading nonsense. This is 4th-Generation Warfare, and we are all potentially on the front lines. Our duty is to face any attack resolutely. If I'm ever caught-up in an attack, I hope the people around me are steely-eyed American killers, and not this quivering thimble-wit. And I just hope I'm as brave as the guys on Flight 93; they wasted no time sniveling about "innocent Americans."
“Even General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, says: ‘Attacking Iraq will detract from our primary mission against al-Qaeda, supercharge anti-American sentiment in the Arab street and boost al-Qaeda's recruiting.’ Is Gen. Clark wrong?”
Gen. Clark is so full of shit his eyes have turned brown. He's groveling for primary votes from Democrat appeasement-activists. Iraq is an essential part of our efforts against terrorist groups, (of whom Al Queda is but one of many). And history teaches us that Arabs respect anyone who smacks them hard. Sorry, that's not PC to say, but it's true.
(2) If Saddam is really a threat to the Middle East, why do his neighbors seem to fear him less than the U.S. government does? “None of the countries bordering Iraq have been clamoring for the United States to protect them from Saddam,” Neale noted. “So how can Bush argue that Saddam poses a threat to a nation halfway around the globe?”
Those aren't nations talking, those are dictators. And they are rightfully ambivalent about us disposing of one of their kind. If you really loved liberty, you would be treating them with scorn, and praying their people are soon liberated.
(3) Why do you maintain that Iraq poses a more immediate threat than North Korea?

“North Korean leader Kim Jong-il admits that he has nuclear weapons capable of hitting U.S. targets, and brags that he can ‘win’ a nuclear war with the United States,” Neale said. “Please explain why Americans should fear Iraq more than this belligerent, and apparently unstable, communist dictator.”
We didn't say we feared Iraq more; they were just first in line. But Iraq has started several wars of aggression, while all NK does is bluster. Bluster intended to intimidate the weak. Like you.
(4) Why do you believe a U.S.-led “regime change” will do any more good in Iraq than it did in Panama, Haiti, or Bosnia?

“Like previous presidents, the Bush administration promises to topple a tyrant and liberate the nation,” Neale observed. “But if the history of U.S. intervention is any guide, Bush will merely replace one dictator with another.”
The policy has changed, though you haven't bothered to notice. How many dictators are left in Latin America? (Just one, in Cuba) That was a policy pushed by Republicans. (While Libertarians wrote pamphlets and argued theory.) How many dictators are left in the former Soviet Union? Since you mention Panama, where's its dictator?

And by the way, where are the Libertarians who are ready to help out with democracy in Iraq? Like, uh, roll up their sleeves and get involved? What's your plan? You guys are exactly like the Left, you carp endlessly, but never even contemplate doing something constructive yourselves.
(5) You say Saddam has refused to comply with U.N. weapons inspectors. Does that mean that you intend to subject Americans to U.N. mandates in the future?

“No one should be surprised if this notoriously anti-American agency decrees that it’s our turn to submit to a weapons inspection, or demands that U.S. troops be sent into a bloody, pointless battle overseas,” Neale said.“Yet how could Mr. Bush refuse such requests without being denounced as a hypocrite? And how could he comply without betraying U.S. sovereignty?”
Bush is busy exposing the UN as a toothless fraud. And the UN has never, in fact, been able to force nations to go to war, or to accept inspections. And Bush has explicitly rejected the ICC, Kyoto, and similar Tranzi hokum. And he doesn't care what names people call him.
(6) You point out that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction that “could” be turned over to terrorists. But couldn’t the same be said of Pakistan, North Korea, and dozens of other nations? And do you intend to launch pre-emptive strikes against them as well?
Sure, why not? But only if more peaceful means don't work. And those diplomatic alternatives will work much better once they are seen to be backed with real muscle, not just hot air.
“Bombing Iraq because of what it ‘might’ do would set a frightening precedent,” Neale said. “Imagine the global chaos that would result if every nation followed Bush’s example, and you’ll understand how reckless a first-strike policy is.”
No, the nations of the world are going to be much more polite and circumspect. Nervous and very very careful.
(And I don't think it's an accident that this guy uses the same slippery language as the Left. We are not "bombing" Iraq. We are preparing to invade.)
(7) Won’t attacking Iraq make Saddam more likely to launch a biological or chemical attack?

“During the Gulf War, the Iraqi leader apparently decided that unleashing such devastating weapons was not in his self-interest,” Neale observed. “But this time Saddam knows he is targeted personally – which means he has nothing to lose. If Bush really wants to avoid such a catastrophe, he can prove it by keeping U.S. troops out of Iraq.”
Whimper, whimper. Moan, moan. Catastrophe looms! The best thing is to do nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing...Why don't you move to France, pimple-nose. They'll think you're an Existentialist and welcome you.

This is WAR. Sometimes the enemy is nasty enough to actually fight back. Get used to it. It'll be the last thing they do. Our soldiers are equipped for NBC attacks. Much better equipped that the Iraqis. Let 'em try.
(8) Considering that many of the September 11 hijackers were Saudi nationals – not Iraqis – why haven’t you publicly accused the Saudi government of sponsoring terrorism?

“Bush has struggled mightily to produce a link between Iraq and the 9/11 terrorists, while refusing to address allegations of Saudi complicity,” Neale said. “The grieving families of the 9/11 victims have a right to know why.”
Don't hide behind "grieving families." And anyway, they don't have a right to know. If they don't like the Administration's policies, they can campaign against them. Are the Libertarians going in for all that "rights" stuff now? Will they campaign for the right to diversity? Or Handicapped-access? If we were attacking the Saudis you would claim we were being distracted from something else.
(9) Why have you stopped mentioning the name of the one individual who has been most closely linked to the 9/11 attacks: Osama bin Laden?

“Bush’s interest in the world’s most-wanted terrorist seems to have vanished mysteriously into the caves of Tora Bora,” Neale said. “So it’s understandable for Americans to wonder if invading Iraq is Bush’s way of punishing Saddam Hussein for the crimes of bin Laden.”
Bin Laden vanished into what James Lileks so poetically called "bone-flecked thug-jam." He's dead. If he were alive we'd hear more from him, because he's as full of bombast as Mr Neale.
(10) Finally, Mr. President, if your Iraq policy is so successful, why are Americans more afraid than ever?
That's stupid. Bush has not said it's successful; it hasn't even started yet. And Americans are not more afraid. Libertarian dweebs seem to be afraid. Democrats, and the Press are afraid. Americans are spoiling for a fight.
“As the attack against Iraq draws near, the Homeland Security Department has raised the terrorist threat level to orange; started to educate the nation about how to cope with dirty bombs and chemical attacks; and warned panicky Americans to stockpile food, water and medical supplies,” Neale said. “If this policy is a success, how would we measure failure?”
No one has claimed it's a success. It is a precaution against a hard-to-quantify threat. Probably a waste of time. If you have a better policy let's hear it.

The important thing is that the US and British Armies are going to LIBERATE people. Millions. TENS OF MILLIONS. For a person like me, who values liberty, it will be a feast, a treat, a glorious entertainment. I'm thrilled to be alive to see it. And as for the so-called "Libertarians" and other Socialists, they haven't accepted the invitation to the party. Too bad. They lose.
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Christian Charity

Christians should remember that the just-war doctrine is not grounded in revenge, punishment, or even justice. Thomas Aquinas discussed it in Summa Theologica -- not in the section on justice but in the section on charity (that is, the love of God). As Christian scholar Darrell Cole writes, 'The Christian who fails to use force to aid his neighbor when prudence dictates that force is the best way to render that aid is an uncharitable Christian. Hence Christians who willingly and knowingly refuse to engage in a just war ... fail to show love towards their neighbor as well as towards God.' Out of love of neighbor, then, Christians can and should support a preemptive strike, if ordered by the appropriate magistrate to prevent an imminent attack.
--Charles Colson


Sunday, February 23, 2003


Jitterbugging

David Adesnik at Oxblog (commenting on this WaPo article) criticizes the lack of scrutiny of our deployment in the Philippines.
I have no quarrel with what he says, except for one point
...Now while there may be good reasons to fight in the Philippines, it's hard to imagine that our objectives there as important as they are in Iraq, Afghanistan or a half dozen other Middle Eastern/Central Asian locales. Focus, people.
There are two parts of our war on terrorism. When we are dealing with terror-supporting states, we should be focused. Deal with Iraq first, then draw a bead on something else.

But the other aspect, chasing the terrorist groups themselves, is just as important, and can be pursued at the same time. And it should not be focused. Our goal should be the ability to undertake many small actions without the need for a lot of oversight, and without cumbersome top-down management. If Rumsfeld is distracted from Iraq by the Philippines, then our management style is wrong.

For the 'little wars,' the goals should be made clear, and then the people on the spot should be allowed to decide how to accomplish them. (And not penalized for saying that the operation is a mistake and should be terminated.) Terrorists move and hide, so there's no one point to focus on. And they should never feel that they are safe in, say, Indonesia becaused we are 'focused' on Yemen.

Vietnam/quagmire analogies are not useful here. We can leave the Philippines whenever we like, and the government there is in no danger. And, thinking of Vietnam, it's good to remember that, on a tactical level, it was far from a quagmire. We were in many ways succesful. One of the tactics that worked well was jitterbugging. Helicopter-carried units would land in one place after another; anywhere they suspected they might find Viet Cong. It was sort of like poking sticks into a lot of wasps nests, hoping the wasps will come out and sting us--because then we could kill them. Sooner or later we would find a fight, and that was what we wanted.
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More on Estrada ...

By Paul Greenberg, in the Washington Times:
... It's not the nominee's lack of qualifications that strikes fear into the bitter hearts of lockstep libs, but that he is superbly qualified to be the next great conservative justice on the bench. If he were just mediocre, or the kind of lawyer who never risked controversy and sticks to safe platitudes, then Miguel Estrada might be a cinch for confirmation. There would be nothing there for the opposition to fear. It's his politics, not his qualifications, that are suspect...

... American politicians have been playing this game since the earliest days of the Republic, when John Adams, in the last hours of his presidency, sneaked John Marshall onto the Supreme Court of the United States. Talk about nominating a conservative ideologue. But if Miguel Estrada turns out to be anything like John Marshall, he'll be not only an acceptable choice, but a great one. Arriba Estrada .
John Adams Actually, that crack about John Marshall is a myth. President John Adams nominated Marshall more than a month before he left office. There was nothing sneaky about it. And the timing was due to the resignation of Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth. And Adams' first choice was John Jay, who declined. And the suggestion that Marshall was a conservative ideologue is just silly. Perhaps Federalist ideologue...
John Adams


Just in case you hadn't guessed...

U.S. to keep troops in Afghanistan

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (Reuters) (via afgha.com) - The U.S. military says it will keep the same number of troops in Afghanistan to hunt fugitive Taliban leaders, even if war breaks out in Iraq.

The Middle East crisis has raised expectations among Afghans that war would deflect the attention of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, and could prompt anger that a fellow Muslim country was under attack.

"Iraq, whether or not it goes, should have virtually no effect on what we do here," said U.S. military spokesman Colonel Roger King at the U.S. forces' Afghan headquarters in Bagram, just north of Kabul.

"As far as the posture of this force, the size of the force won't change, the mission of the force won't change, we'll continue doing what we do right now regardless of what happens in other places," he said.

About 8,000 U.S. troops and several thousand allied foreign soldiers are in Afghanistan pursuing remnants of the Taliban and the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, which is blamed for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States...
Don't you love the last sentence? Good old Reuters--just keeping an open mind, y'unnerstand....†hey're not swept away by panic, like a certain country they could name.