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Saturday, March 29, 2003

...facing down today's evil tyrants...

Stefan Sharkansky has posted some cringe-inducing idiocies by Bay Area clergy. PLUS this:
...Finally, there is at least one religious leader in the Bay Area who still cares about the difference between right and wrong:
Yakov Kagan, Chabad of Contra Costa (Lubavitch), Walnut Creek
Judaism teaches us that one cannot be neutral when it comes to holy and unholy, good and evil. One must take a stand and define his position pro or con. It takes great vision and bravery to choose to eradicate the evil but there are those who recognize their mission to transform the world into a G- dly domain.

We can Thank G-d for America and its leaders who are brave enough to stand up to evil in its source and commit themselves to destroying it. As G-d accompanied Moses on his mission to destroy the Evil leader of ancient Egypt so let us pray that G-d will accompany our troops and commander in chief toward.
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Steyn: media war bogged down...retired generals comment...

...Longtime gay strategist Alexander the Great argues that you have to look at the root causes. "The media had an over-reliance on their elite special forces, the celebrity contingent," he says. "They move fast, but they're too lightly armed to hold their positions and they're easily shot down. Take Martin Amis: the Guardian hires him to penetrate to the very heart of the subject, only to have him limp back with some feeble comparisons between Texas and Saudi Arabia. We've seen all this before: on the first day, you make a spectacular advance, but the publisher never recoups."

Alexander feels the media planners overestimated the degree of resistance. "If you look at the strategically important stronghold of Hollywood, they said it would be a cakewalk. Michael Moore would have a big cake and then walk to the podium, and he'd be greeted by cheers from the beleaguered locals, who've been cut off from the rest of the world for years. Instead, they jeered him. Oh, sure, now we're told it's not because these isolated Hollywood villagers are loyal to Bush, only that they're too terrified of reprisals to speak out. Funny how the story keeps changing."...
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US infantryman smells perfume on letter

U.S. Army Spc. Lucas Edwards, in the A Company 3rd Battalion 7th Infantry Regimentpart of the 3rd Infantry Division, smells the perfume on mail sent from his wife Stephanie, in the desert near Karbala in central Iraq

required reading...

I wish every so-called "peace-activist" could be required to read the experiences of Ken Joseph, an Assyrian Christian minister who went to Iraq:
...As far as I can tell I was the only person including the media, Human Shields and others in Iraq without a Government `minder` there to guard.. .

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...Over and over I questioned them `Why could you want war? Why could any human being desire war?` They're answer was quiet and measured. `Look at our lives! `We are living like animals. No food, no car, no telephone, no job and most of all no hope.`

I would marvel as my family went around their daily routine as normal as could be. Baghdad was completely serene without even a hint of war. Father would get up, have his breakfast and go off to work. The children to school, the old people - ten in the household to their daily chores.

`You can not imagine what it is to live with war for 20, 30 years. We have to keep up our routine or we would lose our minds`

Then I began to see around me those seemingly in every household who had lost their minds.
It seemed in every household there was one or more people who in any other society would be in a Mental Hospital and the ever present picture of a family member killed in one of the many wars.

Having been born and raised in Japan where in spite of 50 years of democracy still retains vestiges of the 400 year old police state I quickly began to catch the subtle nuances of a full blown, modern police state....

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...He didn't have to say a word. I had learned the language of the imprisoned Iraqi. Forbidden to speak by sheer terror they used the one language they had left - human kindness.

As his hands slowly moved to give the tape over he said in his own way what my Uncle had said, what the taxi driver had said, what the broken old man had said, what the man in the restaurant had said, what the Army man had said, what the man working for the police had said, what the old woman had said, what the young girl had said - he said it for them in the one last message as I crossed the border from tyranny to freedom . . .

Please take these tapes and show them to the world. Please help us . . . . and please hurry!
One of the things that's bugging me right now (There are a LOT of things bugging me right now) is how so many "Christians" seem to be saying that the most important thing is to avoid the risk of death. Isn't it a bit...odd? I have little-enough faith myself, I'm not going to make any bold pronouncements here. But the dissonance is getting to me.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Speaking of dragons...

In China there was once a man who liked pictures of dragons , and his clothing and furnishings were all designed accordingly. His deep affection for dragons was brought to the attention of the dragon god, and one day a real dragon appeared before his window. It is said that he died of fright...

--from Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo
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The dragon is impressive...

Take a look at Dave Trowbridge's blog, The Redwood Dragon. He's just had it re-designed by Rachel Cunliffe . I never quite heard where the dragon part comes from, but I can tell you that he lives under lofty Redwood trees... we've had some pleasant evenings sitting in his yard by a blazing fire.
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Good sense from Andrew Sullivan:

One lesson of the ferocity of the Saddamite resistance is surely this: who now could possibly, conceivably believe that this brutal police state would ever, ever have voluntarily disarmed? Would a regime that is forcing conscripts to fight at gun-point have caved to the terrifying figure of Hans Blix, supported by the even more itimidating vision of Dominique de Villepin? I'd say that one clear lesson of the first week is that war was and is the only mechanism that could have effectively disarmed Saddam. If true disarmament was your goal, it seems to me that the inspections regime has been revealed, however well-intentioned, as hopelessly unsuited to staring down a vicious totalitarian system.
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Scum floats to the top...

Do read Michelle Malkin's take-down of the despicable Helen Thomas, who has not the least morsel of interest in the sufferings of American POW's:
...Let there be no doubt about where Helen Thomas's heart lies.

Since nothing the White House could say would convince her that the Guantanamo detainees are being treating humanely, maybe the testimony of freed detainees themselves will. It won't make a difference to hardened America-haters, of course, but let the truth be known:

Last weekend, 18 Afghans were released from detention in Cuba after 16 months of questioning in U.S. custody. They flew home and were held briefly in a Kabul jail. The Boston Globe reports that "nearly all of the former detainees enthusiastically praised the conditions at Guantanamo and expressed little bitterness about losing a year of their lives in captivity, saying they were treated better there than in three days in squalid cells in Kabul. None complained of torture during questioning or coerced confessions."

Sirajuddin, 24, a Kandahar taxi driver, said: ''The conditions were even better than our homes. We were given three meals a day -- eggs in the morning and meat twice a day; facilities to wash, and if we didn't wash, they'd wash us; and there was even entertainment with video games.''
(via Betsy's Page
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P. Krugman
#85: Power Delusions

We have never understood what attracts Paul Krugman so strongly to the California electricity crisis of 2001. He must have written six or seven columns on the subject while it was underway and now, like a moth circling a flame, he is back again. This time in Delusions of Power (03/28/03) he has the chutzpah to declare victory! Apparently he thinks this issue is a perfect example of a failure of market solutions and of the need, under similar circumstances, for more regulations and government interventions. As we see it, California is an example of the exact opposite.

Most observers now agree that the California problem was a combination of a) some one-off events and circumstances that led to temporary electricity shortages, b) a cockamamie regulatory scheme that prevented price rationing from occurring at the consumer level where it was absolutely essential and c) a bumbling boob sitting in the California governor's chair.

The "perfect storm" of events and circumstances that led to the shortages included a nationwide rise in natural gas prices over which the state had no control, a three-year drought that reduced hydroelectric generation in California by over 20% during the late 1990s, and an explosion in August 2000 in the El Paso pipeline that carries natural gas from Texas to southern California. All of these factors led to increased wholesale costs of gas-fired electricity. However, under the California regulations these higher wholesale prices could not be passed on to consumers. So while electricity suppliers were going bankrupt, consumers were turning on the juice as if nothing was amiss. This not the way markets are supposed to work. Meanwhile the boob in the governor's office was doing his best to muddy the waters by finding scapegoats, mostly out of state suppliers, and avoiding blame himself.

The laws of economics in such cases are fairly simple. When you run low on a commodity there will be rationing–either price rationing or non-price rationing. In the former case consumers are encouraged to conserve peak-demand electricity use by means of higher prices. In the latter case consumers try to maintain their electricity usage, but get rolling blackouts and brownouts instead. Gray Davis chose the latter.

Notice that we have said nothing about price manipulation, a centerpiece of Krugman's column today, or about the report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which he touts as supporting his price-gouging theories. That report is just out and we have not yet seen a copy. It is said to be many hundreds of pages long. However, we have learned from experience that when Krugman cites a publication it is a good idea to actually read that publication, because he often distorts the findings and conclusions to his own ends. After we review the report we will make further comments.

In the meantime, sight unseen, we would be willing to bet that price manipulation is not found by the FERC to be a leading, or even a significant, factor in the California electricity crisis. To use a football analogy it is more likely to have been akin to a "late hit" or "piling-on" after the whistle. It is not even clear that any "flags" will be thrown. Proving that the gaming strategies employed by some energy traders are actually illegal may be nearly impossible. Krugman said as much himself in his column "The Price of Power " (03/21/01).
After an introduction beginning "Welcome to Cartel California", he goes on to say:

"Actually, I shouldn’t have used the word cartel in the opening sentence. The generators did not have to conspire: the logic of the situation made it easy, almost irresistible, for each individual company to manipulate the market. In fact, to believe that the generators didn’t engage in market manipulation, you would have to believe they were either saints or very bad businessmen, because they would have been passing up an obvious opportunity to increase their profits."
Without quibbling over whether the power suppliers were “manipulating” prices or simply “exploiting” inefficiencies in a flawed regulatory system, Krugman’s assessment THEN was essentially an endorsement of the role of market forces in ferreting out goofy price control environments such as exist in California. Apparently he has forgotten all of that NOW in his zeal to tar-and-feather Cheney and Bush.

By the way, we are not defending the Cheney report which Krugman also vilifies in today's column. We haven't seen that report either, but Krugman may well be right that environmental restrictions have also been overblown as causes of the California energy crisis. If he wants to get into a pot vs. kettle fight with the Vice President over such issues we will be happy to hold both of their coats. But the larger issue is that the California energy market still looks more like an abstract painting by Picasso than a rational economic system for allocating scarce resources. Thus, to focus on market manipulation rather than inhibition of underlying market forces completely misses this vital point.

[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]

Thursday, March 27, 2003

...because you are involved in mankind?

You can read David Gelernter's speech at Powerline. It's very good.
...We know it's a strange, radical idea, because the world keeps telling us so. What an honor to be told by France and by Germany -- the symbolism, the historical resonance is so perfect, it's almost unbelievable -- what an honor to have France and Germany tell us: drop it, forget it, it's not your problem! Torture and mayhem and murder visited by a brutal dictator on a helpless's not your affair.

After all, these things happen. Sophisticated nations shrug it off. Where do you Americans get the arrogance to believe that no man is an island entire of itself? Who ever gave you the crazy idea that each man murdered, each man tortured, each woman raped diminishes you because you are involved in mankind? Who ever told you that crazy arrogant stuff?

It IS a radical doctrine and always has been. But America is a radical nation, and has always tried, sometimes successfully and sometimes not -- but always TRIED to see what's right and do it. To do the right as God gives us to see the right...

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The usual Josh Marshall bolshoi...

I just noticed Dave Trowbridge quoting these lines by Josh Marshall:
The Bush administration acted toward Turkey like the stereotypical rogue from a 1950s B-Movie. First we told Turkey what we wanted. When she balked, we got a little rough. When even that didn’t do the trick, we pulled out our wallet, saying in essence, “Fine, how much do you want?” When even cash failed, we told her to get out of the car and walk home.
Of course, of course. How utterly brutish and insensitive of us to request that an ally of 50 years standing might let us move troops through their territory. What cads we are.

And of course the proud Turks would NEVER be so vulgar as to request money, or even desire it. Obviously the cowboys flung it at them with contempt. And of course the fact that their big complaint about the Gulf War was the economic harm it did them doesn't excuse us for the crassness of offering filthy money.

And when we meekly went along with their wishes, changing our plans on the very eve of war, leaving ourselves a division short, that's even worse, according to Marshall! That's "telling her to get out of the car and walk home." What idiocy! What screwy lies! America is the one taking a hike! (And the fact that we did so won't stop people like Marshall from saying we are always forcing other countries to do our will)

I agree that we shouldn't be bashing the Turks. In the long run they will be useful allies holding an important position between the West and the unstable regions of the Middle East. (And the Administration probably feels the same way. They aren't bashing the Turks. Just a couple of columnists.) But Josh Marshall doesn't care about that, or about the Turks. He's using them to push his usual line, that all problems are caused by the Bush Administration.

Remember, he's the guy who is saying that the Clinton/Carter policy towards North Korea was a success, was working, until those loutish Republicans offended the delicate NK's with harsh words. The fact that we are dealing in Turkey with an awkward new administration that was sending very mixed signals means nothing to him. The fact that Turkish dithering is probably going to cost American lives, (and likely a lot of Iraqi lives) elicits no criticism from him. The fault is always in the White House (when occupied by Republicans).

* I just noticed this line in a recent StrategyPage war summary: ...Turkey has agreed to stay out of northern Iraq, apparently as long as the United States kept the Iraqi Kurds from establishing an independent Kurdish country... It sounds nice, sounds like reasonable diplomacy, give-and-take... but don't you be fooled! Josh Marshall knows! This really means we've pushed the poor fluttering damsel out of the car and driven over her 5 or 6 times...

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

"This is the price of freedom"

Andrew has blogged his interview with an Iraqi expatriate. (his permalinks are misbehaving, it's 3/25/03
...Like many self described "indigenous peoples," Enwiya has a long ethnic memory, speaking of with equal horror of the "750,000 Assyrian Christians, including my grandparents, 1.5 million Armenians and 300,000 Pontic Greek orthodox Christians" killed during the first world war in what is commonly known as the Armenian Genocide, and the more recent Operation Anfal which took place in 1988. "200 Assyrian villages were destroyed by Saddam. Not the man himself, but his orders. Churches 17, 16 hundred years old, he just dynamited them." It is because of this that "We were hoping American Forces would not stop [in 1991] I think that was a mistake on US part."...
"Mistake" is a painful understatement. Finally, finally we have shaken off the tranzis and are doing the right thing. I keep thinking of the words of Frederick the Great. During the Seven Years War, his ally, Great Britain, stumbled repeatedly. Finally the elder William Pitt became Prime Minister, and British forces began to win mighty victories. (Minden, Quebec, Plassey...)

Frederick's words: England has labored long, but at last she has brought forth a man.
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Here's a slide-show of soldiers of the 82d Airborne at Camp Champion in Kuwait (via the Command Post)
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Cat and Mouse...

Ralph Peters on why we are not facing "Stalingrad."
...Despite the steady progress of our troops, we continue to hear dire warnings about an impending bloodbath in Baghdad, once Saddam lures us into the streets of his ultimate fortress, his "Stalingrad" on the Euphrates.

Just a minute there, Herr Professor. Calm down, Dr. Think Tank. I'm just a former career soldier, so I don't understand military operations the way academics and pundits do. Explain something to me, slowly and clearly:

Why on earth would Gen. Tommy Franks do exactly what Saddam wants, and send our forces charging into the streets of Baghdad?

We're not stupid - or Russian - for God's sake...

... Historically, sieges could last over a year, while the population inside the city starved and died of plague. Not our style. We haven't even turned off the lights or shut off the water in Baghdad yet, and we may not do so in the future, except for limited periods and purposes.

Once the last die-hard Saddamites are corralled in Baghdad (and, perhaps, in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, a city that just brings out the nuclear side of my character), we're going to work 'em like history's biggest cat batting around a blind, three-legged mouse.

And what is Saddam going to do about it? We can even send in food supplies, if the population needs to be fed. Let even our enemies eat as they wait to be killed. Saddam's birthday is coming up in April. I'll pay for the cake and FedEx it myself.

Meanwhile, our national intelligence assets will be focused on one city. Saddam had better renew his subscription to "Bunker Living," because he's not coming out to play stickball. Allied special operations forces - already in Baghdad - will be prowling the hallways and alleys, taking direct action against the regime's remaining supporters, collecting information for precision strikes and working with the growing Iraqi resistance...
(via Brothers judd Blog)
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sandstorm in Iraq
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P. Krugman
#84: Picture of Dorian Gray

We were tempted to dismiss Channels of Influence (03/25/03) by Paul Krugman as pure silliness. It is, of course, but it is also a continuing tragedy. We are seeing a first-rate economist self-destruct as his partisanship becomes rabid and his dislike of anything Bush turns into blind hatred. To some of us, his columns are reminiscent of Oscar Wilde's "Picture of Dorian Gray" as, week after week, they reflect a growing dementia, in this case political paranoia, that will eventually take him over. Other Squad members see Krugman as more akin to a hapless Robert Ludlum hero who finds that the bad guys (Republicans, the rich, corporate interests, etc.) are everywhere and control everything. There is nowhere to run, no place that is safe, and no one who can be trusted.

Whatever the appropriate analogy, "THEY" are now after the Dixie Chicks–a second rate singing group from Texas. Honest! The few of us who had ever heard of the Chicks or had some Texas connections thought the explanation to this little brew-ha-ha was fairly simple. When we saw those tractors on TV smashing records and CDs we thought it was just a few pissed off Texans who felt insulted when the lead singer said in London the group was ashamed to be from Texas. Little did we know it was part of a coordinated pro-war movement that was nationwide in scope and orchestrated by Clear Channel Communications, a media behemoth based in San Antonio, Texas.

But Krugman straightened us right out. According to him "experienced Bushologists" let out a collective "aha" when they realized this issue is much bigger than just the Dixie Chicks. It is the tip of a vast iceberg that reaches all the way to the White House and involves such things as currying the favor of the ruling party in return for consideration in matters of telecom regulation, and other forms of reciprocity between bought-off politicians and the communication businesses that support them. Along the way he revisits some of his favorite swamps including Utimco, Harken Energy and the Texas Rangers (see Squad report# 27).

He also takes a swipe at the press for failing to be effective watchdogs in the persecution of the Dixie Chicks. He compares their performance in abandoning the Chicks with that during the Clinton years when "the merest hint of impropriety quickly blew up into a huge scandal…"

We tried to recall some "mere improprieties" under Clinton. Those that came to mind were a) lying to a federal judge, b) bombing an Sudanese aspirin factory on the eve of Monica's grand jury appearance and c) giving a political hack access to raw FBI background files.

You can't make this stuff up.

[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]

Monday, March 24, 2003

Last Will and Testament

To each of my Nephews, William Augustine Washington, George Lewis, George Steptoe Washington, Bushrod Washington, and Samuel Washington, I give one of my swords or Cutteaux of which I may be Possesed; and they are to chuse in the order they are named. These Swords are accompanied with an injuction not to unsheath them for the purpose of shedding blood, except it be for self defense, or in the defense of their Country and its rights; and in the latter case, to keep them unsheathed, and prefer falling with them in their hands, to the relenquishment thereof.
-- --From the last will and testament of George Washington

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Like insects evolved to mimic other forms of life...

James Bennett has written a good column: End of transnational illusion?
... Similarly, the period between Sept. 11 and the second Gulf War demonstrated the limitations of one of the other inherent weaknesses of the post-Cold War international order: The tolerance of parasitical states that mimicked the forms of functioning states only to prey upon their fellow states and their own subjects. Like insects evolved to mimic other forms of life, thug regimes like Saddam's mimic the forms of authentic sovereign states, with camouflage in the form of entities called "parliaments" that are not parliaments, events called "elections" that are not elections, and other forms and actions that are meant to resemble things that exist in real civil societies, but do not in places like Iraq.

The circumstances of the United Nations' founding at the end of World War II meant that such regimes were included in its membership from the start, and given equivalence to real living civic states. At the fall of the Soviet Union, it might have been possible to insist that the United Nations live up to its promise, and give the remaining non-democratic states the choice of becoming democratic, or facing suspension. But they were not. This failure marked what was probably the last chance for the United Nations to evolve into something genuinely useful...

Sunday, March 23, 2003

I feel I may be responsible for the slowed movement on the battlefront...

Normally Charlene and I would be following the news and supporting our armed forces with he utmost mental exertion, in much the same way that the passengers clutch the armrests of their seats and urge the airplane upward.

Instead, we took off for the weekend to Big Basin State Park, a favorite spot. We had a pleasant, though fairly chilly time, broken by a descent Saturday evening upon friend and blogger Dave Trowbridge, in nearby Boulder Creek, with demands for tasty food and good company

We had drizzly rain on Sunday, which, if you are, like me, a person who loves mosses, is not an altogether bad thing. Mosses seem to melt away when it's dry, but magically reappear when the weather is misty and wet. Many tree trunks were covered with micro-forests of fan-like moss fronds almost 2 inches high...

Interesting article on the run-up... this, the second battle of the war against the Terrorists: Attack Was 48 Hours Old When It 'Began'
...In late February, Franks introduced the idea of opening the war with a large, secret deployment of Special Operations teams in Iraq. He argued this could be done with stealth for 48 hours before Iraq and the world realized the United States had started the war.

According to sources, the president was initially uncomfortable with this idea because he had said publicly that he would announce when he had decided to go to war. But the military advantages of the Special Operations mission were significant enough that Bush used deliberately vague language Monday when he delivered his ultimatum for Hussein to leave Iraq by Wednesday. If Hussein ignored the demand, the president said, he would commence military action "at a time of our choosing."...
I read (and recommend) David Frum's book on his experiences as a speechwriter in the Bush White House. One thing that really struck me was how Bush hates to tell lies. The speechwriter would put in fluff like I'm really happy to be here in your town today, and if Bush wasn't happy, he wouldn't say it!

NOTE: I just encountered a very lucid article by David Frum in the Telegraph: Blair must find the courage to turn his back on the EU