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Saturday, May 03, 2003

What thou lov'st well remains, the rest is dross
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee ...
—–Ezra Pound

Orrin Judd recently wrote
...It is often thought that ideology makes people inflexible, unable to face new situations they've not thought about before. In fact, given how seldom a situation truly is new, a well thought through set of ideas will serve in any circumstance that arises and so may give such folk--Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and George W. Bush are the paramount recent examples--a suppleness that those whose minds function in a more ad hoc way will lack. The latter--men like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton--may be paralyzed into inaction, because they have to analyze things afresh and then worry over whether they've come up with the right decision. It is the difference that Isaiah Berlin wrote about in his famous essay, The Hedgehog and the Fox.
Conservatives tend to be people who find the past appealing, thrilling, alive. You might think that would make them uncomfortable dealing with the future, but just the opposite is true. The things you love you will absorb, they will soak in, they will become part of you without the need for laborious study. And if you absorb, for example, things like the story of Gideon, you may be more ready for life's crises than the theorist who has read a hundred books...And if you absorb histories of Sam Houston or Lord Fairfax or Abigail Adams or Epaminondas, you will not be alone when the crisis comes...

I suspect our country has flourished partly because, at times of testing, hedgehogs often appear. (And if you find the accusations of stupidity heaped on Bush by the foxes to be a bit much, go back and read what they said about Lincoln. Or Jackson, or Truman...)

Friday, May 02, 2003

To Infinity...and beyond!

The satires of Scrappleface are always worth reading, but I think this is a new peak...
...Mr. Clinton, who usually avoids the limelight, reluctantly answered a few questions from journalists. His replies were polite, direct and often little more than a simple, "I support President Bush."

At one point, however, he tersely rebuked a reporter who had questioned President Bush's motives for invading Iraq.

"Mr. Bush is the President of the United States of America," said Mr. Clinton. "And your tone suggests a certain lack of respect for the office, and the man. Why don't you focus on reporting the news, stop asking loaded questions, and keep your bias to yourself. Next question."...

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A faithful servant...

Embassy guard Mahdi Alouneh, 58, and his son Saleh, preserved and looked after the British Embassy in Baghdad since it was abandoned in 1991.
...Mr Alouneh and his sons and nephews had protected the embassy from looters over the past 13 years, armed with a single Yugoslav-made assault rifle...

...Returning diplomats will find an embassy frozen in time, with nothing changed since the eve of the first Gulf war. In the embassy club, the optics are awaiting the next gin bottle, while the piano needs only to be tuned and the pool table dusted.

On the wall is the winter 1990-91 fixture list for the Baghdad darts league, which was abandoned because of the war. Maybe now the Bent Arrows and the Double Bulls, who were due to meet on Feb 23, 1991, can finally hold that match.
(via The Corner)

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In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "To the captives, 'come out,' ...

From the President's speech...
...Those we lost were last seen on duty. Their final act on this Earth was to fight a great evil and bring liberty to others. All of you -- all in this generation of our military -- have taken up the highest calling of history. You're defending your country, and protecting the innocent from harm. And wherever you go, you carry a message of hope -- a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "To the captives, 'come out,' -- and to those in darkness, 'be free.'"

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P. Krugman
#94: Pin-the-Tail on the Capitalist

Three years after the bursting of the biggest bubble in financial history Paul Krugman is still playing Pin-the-Tail on the Capitalist. From the vantage point of a Tuesday morning quarterback (or is it Wednesday by now?) one might have thought he would have something constructive to say, finally, about the recent tumult. But instead The Acid Test (05/02/03) is nothing more than an old-fashioned, anti-business "spleen-venter."

Since we all have our favorite villains in the broad field of corporate governance we would like to mention one of ours–the institutional investor. Krugman likes to paint a David-and-Goliath picture of the investment process in which bankers and corporate evil doers are holding all the cards. It's as though the investor class in America is composed of hapless, starry-eyed victims, e.g., Beardstown Ladies-style investment clubs, and is doomed to lose in an unfair game.

But the actual situation is nothing of the sort. The dominant investment funds in the U.S. and globally are controlled by professional portfolio managers who run mutual funds, hedge funds and retirement funds. These people wear Gucci loafers as expensive as anyone else. Moreover, they have MBAs from prestigious business schools, big salaries and budgets, posh offices, professional research staffs, modern information technology and, most important, they have fiduciary responsibilities. It's their JOB to ferret out the wheat from the chaff, the solid businesses from the houses of cards and to see through the spin of conflicted analysts. So what we want to know is, where were these assholes when the Dow and Nasdaq hit 11,000 and 5,000 respectively? And why does Krugman give them a pass for not "deflating" the bubble early on with their business savvy?

The answer seems to be that for all their sophistication, institutional investors were caught up in bubble mania like everyone else. Apparently, it's in the nature of financial bubbles that this be so. Krugman, of course, ignores this part of the story because mass hysteria does not make a good backdrop for his principal objective in life these days–Bush bashing.

So all-in-all "The Acid Test" is a column in search of a 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 a collection of Paul Krugman's writings and columns here]

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Off on the train to work ...

The recent attempt by Norman Mailer to explain the War on Terrorism to to the masses reminds me of something I read by Joseph Wambaugh (I'm quoting from long-ago memory): "Most writers are like children who have no idea what daddy does when he gets on the train and goes off to work in the morning."

He was actually writing about Joseph Heller, who had written a book about American politics without being burdened with any personal knowledge of the subject. Heller was famous, and admired by Wambaugh, for his splendid success with Catch 22, which was based on his experiences as a pilot in WWII. But then he unwisely accepted a position as a "writer in residence," or some such, at a small New England college. He never wrote anything important again, which Wambaugh attributed to his not having a responsible job, or any other forced-involvement in real life. He had no interesting material to write about.

Mailer is the same way. His "job" is to be a "Famous New York literary figure," and any writing he happens to do is only to add a touch of verisimilitude. Most of his reputation comes from one book, based on his—you guessed it—WWII experiences. If he were ever trapped with a bunch of miners in a coal-mine disaster, he would have material for a another great book. But he would have to abandon the pretense that ordinary Americans are like bugs which he and his clique can look down on and laugh...

What makes Mailer's analysis doubly ridiculous is that what's really going on is not especially hidden or secret. Many of the people who are guiding policy right now have been writing and defending their ideas publicly for years. Charlene and I have long been reading them in The National Review, or The Wall Street Journal. We feel like we are involved in the discussion, and that policy is being made by old friends of ours. If I ever meet them face-to-face I will have to remind myself that we've never been introduced, and I can't treat them as pals from way back when Reagan was President...

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Genocide ...

Dean Esmay has a long and powerful post on Genocides of the 20th Century, starting with the Armenian Genocide.

Let us hope we do better with the 21st Century...
...The struggle of memory against forgetting. It's hard. What does it matter? It was a long time ago. I wasn't there. I don't know any of these people. Can I really be said to remember this anyway?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

To keep ones word ...

From President Bush's speech in Dearborn:
...I have confidence in the future of a free Iraq. The Iraqi people are fully capable of self-government. Every day Iraqis are moving toward democracy and embracing the responsibilities of active citizenship. Every day life in Iraq improves as coalition troops work to secure unsafe areas and bring food and medical care to those in need.

America pledged to rid Iraq of an oppressive regime, and we kept our word. America now pledges to help Iraqis build a prosperous and peaceful nation, and we will keep our word again...
Well, we will. Keep our word. Bush has said it. I don't have to lay awake at night worrying that we might abandon our responsibilities or leave a job half-done. It's a pride and a pleasure to be an American right now...

Claudia Winkler has written a good article on the speech...
...It is this granite commitment that makes all talk of turning reconstruction over to the United Nations so fatuous. You simply can't delegate such a responsibility. You have to meet it yourself. You especially can't delegate it to a faceless council and multilingual bureaucracy. In the end, it is a person who answers, and in this case he is George W. Bush...
I remember being thrilled to the marrow when I read, before the invasion of Iraq had even begun, that we had let contracts to American companies to do reconstruction. The thought of us just carving up these problems and SOLVING them, without asking any Frenchman's permission, is pure bliss. Halliburton, Bechtel, Fluor, Parsons. Boots and Coots! Read 'em and weep, Tranzis.

A bunch of fat golf-playing Republican-supporting Capitalist white guys are going to grind up those jobs like hamburger. They are all less than perfect, but the problems will be solved, and I don't mean ten years from now.

Anyway, I think the scorn lathered on companies like these is mostly rubbishing propaganda written by people who've never built anything in their lives. My estimate: If you are looking for decent, thoughtful, caring people, the sort you would want representing us in distant, troubled lands, you are much more likely to find them working for Bechtel, than among New York poets or the Red Cross or God help us, the UN.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

P. Krugman
#93: Baghdad Paul

In the waning days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, comic relief was served up daily by Saddam's hapless information officer, "Baghdad Bob." His colorful press briefings declaring that Iraqi armies were slaughtering allied armies provided final confirmation, for those who needed it, that the regime was headless and out of touch with reality. It now appears that the NY Times has its own version of "Bob" writing columns on its editorial pages–Paul Krugman. In Matters of Emphasis (04/29/03) Krugman goes so far out on the anti-war limb that no sawing will be necessary. The limb will break of its own weight.

Krugman declares that nothing qualifying as WMDs will be found, that no evidence that Iraq was a danger to the U.S. will emerge and that the Bush case for war was a fabrication of lies. That he chose to say all of this just as the Iraqi big-shots who would know about WDMs are surrendering and as documents that could show (have shown already, according to the Sunday London Telegraph) an Iraq-al Qaeda connection are being collected by the truckload, is very "Boblike" behavior.

Of course, Baghdad Bob did not face the music until the U.S. Marines surrounded his building. We can't imagine what will be required for a Krugman capitulation, but it should occur in the next six weeks or so.

There is one howler today. Krugman slams the U.S. for blocking a U.N. peacekeeping initiative in the Ivory Coast. In fact, the U.S. position was that the mission be scaled back. But the real sub-text here is that the mess in the Ivory Coast is of France's own making. They have screwed up their departure from every former colony so far. They now have 4000 troops monitoring a cease fire in Ivory Coast and would like to have the U.N. bail them out. The U.S. saw a chance to give a knee to the groin and did so. More power!

By the way, if Krugman is going to defend the French positions in general on Iraq, he has his work cut out. Reports are surfacing based on recovered documents that the Chirac government may have shared allied intelligence with the Iraq right up until the war began. Even in France, Jackie may have some explaining to do.

Also, if you are interested in this kruggie subject, the recent posts of Donald Luskin are a delight. Try here and here

Also, it occurs to me—the Battles of Afghanistan and Iraq could not be won until the NYT declared them to be quagmires. Are we approaching that point in the Battle of the WMD's? Or even, evil thought, we've already found them and are just waiting for the NYT to publish the necessary groundwork...

Monday, April 28, 2003


I notice various people writing (with unctuous satisfaction) that we haven't found any WMD's in Iraq, and therefore our invasion is unjustified. This annoys me—not because think it's anything other than nonsense—but because many people will take this seriously. It makes me want to grab people and shout, "What are you trying to say?" "What exactly are you saying?"
  • Are you saying there never were any WMD's? It is well known that there were; even France and the UN don't deny that.
  • Are you saying that Saddam destroyed his WMD's? And told no one? Even Hans Blix doesn't say that.
  • Are you saying that if they have been given to Syria, or to some organization Saddam favors, then all's well, and we shouldn't have invaded?
  • Are you saying that if they have been hidden too well for us to find, then our invasion is unjustified? That this is a game of hide-and-seek? Are you crazy?
Actually, I don't think there's any logical thinking involved at all. This is just another argument to attack Bush with, and it doesn't matter what the implications are...

Jeff Jacoby, in the Boston Globe, wrote:
The threat posed by Saddam's pursuit of unconventional weapons was real. So was his support for terrorism, his record of aggression, and his flouting of UN mandates. Those were the formal grounds for war, and they added up to a strong rationale for regime change in Baghdad.

But the best reason for destroying this dictator was that decent nations do not look the other way when human beings by the hundreds of thousands are being butchered and terrorized. Genocide and mass murder demand a response, and better a belated response than none at all.

It was not to find a ''smoking gun'' that the United States went to war. It was to crush one of the bloodiest tyrannies the modern world has known. The critics and faultfinders are busy, but time and distance will make it clear even to them that these last weeks have indeed been, in George W. Bush's words, ''good days in the history of freedom.''
Me, I don't think we need all these justification arguments. ALL the terror-supporting nations have been responsible for deliberate murders of American citizens. We have a perfect right to clean their clocks without saying anything or asking anyone's permission.

We have been very moderate and judicious in just hitting one of them. And that the one where we could stop Saddam's internal war that has killed at least a million people, thereby saving huge numbers of lives.

* Update: David Adesnik just OxBlogged a variant on the "if we don't find WMD" argument:
...Still, it would be fair for critics of the war -- and even moreso, its supporters -- to distrust the President from now on, given his constant insistence, without reservation, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, the case for preemptive war against WMD-armed adversaries would suffer irreparably if the United States turns out to have been wrong about Iraq.

In fact, there is reason to believe that the United States' credibility will be damaged for years to come if it turns out to have been wrong about Iraq. Even on the homefront, voters will wonder whether the government knows what it is talking about when it comes to foreign affairs...
Adesnik is a very smart guy, but I still can't see how this makes any sense. The Blix report itself said that there were large quantities of chemical and biological weapons unaccounted-for. Because we don't find them doesn't change that. And there is heaps of other evidence that they did exist, and zero evidence that they have been properly destroyed. Even France never claimed they didn't exist; only that the inspections were, by some mysterious alchemy, disarming Iraq.

Some people will howl with delight if we don't find them. BUT, they can't push that argument too far. Where did the nerve gas go? That question will keep coming back until it gets an answer. The burden of proof will be on anyone who claims it just evaporated, or never existed. Most of us will wonder what terrorist group or rogue nation has it now. And we will likely start asking why we waited so long to invade...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Another RJ ...

I stumbled on a blog called Neil's Random Jottings! I don't think we have much in common, it's a sort of tech blog. He did link to an interesting bit of computer news I didn't know: Dalai Lama announces Yellow Hat Linux ...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Easter prayer ...

This holy season reminds us of the value of freedom, and the power of a love stronger than death. ...More than 250,000 American troops are serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom to protect our security and to free an oppressed people. Their families await their safe return, and our grateful nation remembers them in prayer. ...As a nation, we continue to pray for all who serve in our military and those who remain in harm's way. We also pray for those who have lost people they love in this war. ...America mourns those who have been called home, and we pray that their families will find God's comfort and God's grace. His purposes are not always clear to us, yet this season brings a promise: that good can come out of evil, that hope can arise from despair, and that all our grief will someday turn to joy, a joy that can never be taken away.
--President George W. Bush

(from the Federalist Newsletter)

Sunday, April 27, 2003

The envelope, please ...

You know how various groups give annual awards, presenting a statuette that has a cutesy name, like Oscar, Emmy, Hugo or Edgar?

I think we might establish one to honor outstanding members of that idiotarian crew who find any crazed dictator preferable to any current American (Republican) leader...

As a model for the statuette, I propose this:

Iron Maiden torture device found in the I.O.C. compound, Baghdad
An Iron Maiden torture device found in the I.O.C. compound, Baghdad.

And the name? Why the Uday, of course...

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

And he's out of the mainstream...

This Washington Times Article details Democrat plans to savagely attack any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court, regardless (of course) of qualifications...
...The paper blizzard will include some or all of the following accusations: The nominee is not "sensitive" to the rights of women, children, black Americans and other racial minorities, the disabled, workers, unions, farmers, native Americans and others. The nominee is "out of the mainstream" of the American legal tradition; is too "right wing"; is even "radical." (Democrats perfected their use of those smear tactics against Judge Bork, stooping so low as to suggest he might not believe in God. Apparently a godless conservative is even more dangerous than a god-fearing one.) With much hand-wringing, Democrats will cry crocodile tears, sighing "if only the president had nominated a moderate conservative, we would be delighted to confirm him or her." If the nominee does not have an extensive body of scholarly writings, Democrats will tar him as a "stealth" candidate who possesses hidden and alarming views. If, on the other hand, the nominee has written extensively, those writings will be denounced as "out of the mainstream." (Remember that phrase). If the nominee believes in a color-blind society and equal treatment under the laws, and questions the constitutionality of race-conscious policies called affirmative action by some, then of course the nominee is a "racist" who will want to "turn back the clock" on civil rights, overturn Brown vs. Board of Education, repeal the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, and reintroduce slavery.

     Beyond attacking the nominee personally, the paper blizzard will suggest that he or she represents a so-called transformative appointment who will upset the alleged delicate balance of the court. Some Democrats will seek cover by claiming that they have nothing against the nominee, he or she is just the wrong person at the wrong time for the best interests of the court and the country...
(via Betsy Newmark)
If ever there was a party that deserved to spend 3 or 4 decades in the wilderness, these Dems are it...

But all this puts me in mind of a possible scenario...



Kennedy: "Abraham Lincoln's America would a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue policemen could break down citizen's doors in midnight raids, school children could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censured at the whim of government..."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Moving nimbly through the quagmire ...

Perhaps you wondered why our President happened to give a speech at a tank factory in Lima, Ohio? Read this story:
...But the 70-ton M-1A1 and M-1A2 armored battle tanks, developed to face Soviet armor on the fields of Europe, had a weakness: Heavily armored in the front, they are much more lightly protected in the back, where their exhaust pipes are.

Iraqi forces must have learned about the vulnerability: In the first days of the war, three tanks were put out of commission by Iraqi fire.

Within a week, not only had U.S. Army engineers come up with a new grille to protect the tanks, but a tank plant in Lima, Ohio, had shipped the new part to Iraq...