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Saturday, May 17, 2003

Iraq National Library

It looks like not all was lost...
From the Boston Globe: ...''We have about 30 percent of the library holdings, and another 60 percent are hidden [at the library] and elsewhere,'' said the sheik's brother, Mahmoud al-Tamimi. ''We brought them all here to protect our past from thieves.''

What happened last month, the brothers and library workers said yesterday, was essentially a preemptive rescue operation.

Librarians say that as American troops pressed into Baghdad April 9, they pleaded with soldiers to protect the site from looters and Kuwaiti arsonists. They said the Kuwaitis were bent on revenge for the 1990-91 invasion and war. But the troops were involved with the business of the day, toppling Saddam Hussein's regime.

The library staff then turned to mosques, Mahmoud Tamimi said, and came to him. Tamimi and his family began working with Hawza -- Shi'ite leaders who loosely coordinate city and regional religious affairs -- to recruit volunteers to protect the library.

On April 10, teams of men began moving library shelves at random into trucks belonging to neighbors of Tamimi's mosque 8 miles away. ''No one tried to stop us,'' Tamimi said ...

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Good stuff from Richard Bennett

...Tax cuts are a problem because they benefit those who don't need help, while failing to directly help those who need free health care, longer and better unemployment benefits, free broadband, and what-have-you. So the proposal is to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for all these great programs.

Only we tried that and it doesn't work. California is the state with the biggest deficit, and it's also the state with the most progressive tax system, that is, the one where the wealthy pay the largest share of the overall state tax burden. And the one thing we can learn from following California's budget history is that the state never collects the correct amount of taxes: some years we collect way too little to support all the programs, which leads to crisis, and in other years we collect way too much, which leads to spending like drunken sailors.

This is because the incomes of the wealthy are more sensitive to fluctuations in the economy than the incomes of the working- and middle-class are. And just as inequitable taxation is an injustice that can't be ignored, unpredictable taxation is an abomination that stands firmly in the way of responsible government.

There's also something wrong with a state of affairs where half the people view the state as a burden that prevents them from supporting their families while the other half views it as slot machine that spits out free money on every pull of the crank. People should view government as a mutual benefit society that we all support because it works for all of us, not just the upper half and not just the bottom half. The present state of affairs is undemocratic...

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Punning Pundit ...

Local weblogger Andrew Cory, the Punning Pundit, is being interviewed on local radio station KKIQ 101.7fm at 6AM (Pacific time) Sunday 18 May 2003.

I can't imagine why anyone would do anything at such an appalling hour, On the other hand, Charlene, the extreme morning-person, will probably be ready to pause in her labors and take a little break just then...

Friday, May 16, 2003

Wow, send this guy to Baghdad ...

This is a fascinating article in the Chicago Tribune, about the considerable success we are having in Mosul...
MOSUL, Iraq -- As Baghdad pops with daily gunfire and limps along with intermittent electricity and water, Mosul has accomplished near wonders under the active command of an American general: Water flows from taps, road crews pick up trash, and Iraqi police and U.S. troops, working side by side, patrol the streets...

...In this tale of two cities, Mosul is an unlikely success. The sprawling northern hub of 2 million--a combustible mix of Iraqis, Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrians that American forces feared would roil with ethnic warfare--became the first place, early this month, to hold local elections for an interim government. And it was one of the swiftest to open its government bank vault to dole out back pay to Iraqi workers.

These swift steps have been led by Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division.

"It's pretty basic stuff," Petraeus said. "It's all about engagement and knowing what's going on in the police station, the ministries and the homes. . . . What we need to do is stop assessing and start doing stuff. Because frustrations are just waiting to well up." ...

...The commanding general, Petraeus, fresh from battle in the south, said he quickly adapted his force of 17,000 to the needs of Mosul's 2 million people. The infantry walked along the streets to convey a sense of order. The first day in town, Petraeus went on Al Jazeera television to talk about the future of Iraq.

— — — — — — 

Petraeus soon found that people in Mosul were eager for direction. A manager from the local airport knocked on his door. Could Petraeus give him the authority to call back workers? Yes, the general replied, sending armed soldiers to help.

The head of the central bank phoned. He had money to pay government workers, but no one in Baghdad could give him the authority to open the vaults. Petraeus, writing on 101st Airborne stationery, commanded that the cash flow begin.

And then Petraeus embarked on a political campaign unlike anything Iraqis who were interviewed for this story had ever seen. He and his aides contacted tribal leaders, Kurds, Arabs, former military officials and former police and rounded them up for talks.

Every day, for nine straight days and for three to five hours at a time, Petraeus urged and cajoled the townsmen of Mosul to figure out what they could do for Iraq...
(via Daniel Drezner)

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Machines ...

I have no reason for posting this picture, except that I think the B-1 is a beautiful airplane.

B-1 Bomber crew heads home
Weapons System Officer for a B-1 bomber Lt. Scott Dunning walks with his sons and wife, Kristy, as they head for home after Dunning’s deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Steve McEnroe, Rapid City Journal / AP photo (from Army Times, 5/14/03)

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Good managers aren't infallible, they just learn fast...

There's an interesting editorial in OpinionJournal today, The Bremer Regency. It's about the replacement of Jay Garner by L. Paul Bremer as our temporary satrap in Iraq.
...We're not--repeat, not--longing for a return to 19th-century colonialism. But a stronger hand is clearly in order there. The original team, led by retired Lt.-General Jay Garner, was so concerned about being seen as too aggressive that it was too timid about asserting control. This was entirely predictable in the case of Baghdad-area administrator Barbara Bodine, who as U.S. ambassador to Yemen at the time of the bombing of the USS Cole was no iron lady...

...So it's also good to learn that more troops are on the way. The number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq currently numbers about 140,000--49,000 in Baghdad--and another 15,000 to 20,000 are en route. The U.S. Army said this week it has 2,000 military policemen in the capital and 2,000 more headed there. Nationwide the U.S. plans to deploy 17,000 military police...

...Mr. Bremer's second pledge was to be more aggressive about de-Baathification...
What's interesting to me about this is that when what we tried didn't work, we moved quickly to try something else. I find that encouraging.

Armchair pundits will sneer at our leaders for making 'mistakes.' But that's pure bolshoi. Any administration would be groping in such an unusual situation. The big question is, how fast do we learn? How quickly can we change policies?

One thing that's interesting is that we've learned a lot from problems in Afghanistan. Relying on NGO's has failed disastrously there, but we aren't repeating the mistake. Also our road-building in Afghanistan was delayed by waiting for congress to authorize funds (leading to much more delay as winter came on.) In Iraq we had the funds ahead of time.

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The old JFK spirit ...

It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut rates now. The experience of a number of European countries has borne this out. This country's own experience with tax reduction has borne this out. The reason is that only full employment can balance the budget and tax reduction can pave the way to full employment. The purpose of cutting taxes is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which will bring a budget surplus.
--John F. Kennedy, December 1962

(via the Federalist Newsletter)
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P. Krugman
#99: Hail Mary Passes in the 3d Quarter

Paul Krugman's column Paths of Glory (05/16/03) is breathtaking in the scope of its hatred of "anything Bush." We had some fun trying to guess its origination.

Some of us thought is must be based on a communication to Krugman from Barbra Streisand and Susan Sarandon. All he had to do was correct the spelling, complete a few sentences and email it in.

Others thought is it read more like the transcript of a trip to the psychiatrist's couch. It bumbles along form topic to topic in a manner that suggests free association and flow-of-consciousness thought processes. It's as though Krugman just flopped down and let it all spew out.

Then there is the possibility that this column is part of the general melt down at the NY Times over the Jayson Blair/Howell Raines affair. Many senior editors at the Times are furious with Raines and in the management turbulence that followed, Krugman may have simply slipped his leash. Warning to dog catchers: Bring a muzzle for this one.

Finally, this column may have been based on some weird sort of political calculation. The old rule in politics is secure your base before moving to the center. But what base is Krugman securing–the limousine liberals in Hollywood and the upper west-side Bushophobes in New York? How many elections can he win starting with a base from that crowd?

Whatever its actual origin, we see this column as part of a general mood of despair among Democrats. Its a long way to November 2004, of course. But if Krugman is throwing the political and football equivalents of "Hail Mary" passes already in the third quarter, we can't wait to see what he does late in the fourth quarter.

There are a number of howlers in "Paths of Glory" and we expect fellow Krugman hawk, Matthew Hoy, will have some fun running them all down.

[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.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Word note. Very surprising.

I've always assumed that it is a misnomer to say "Duck Tape" when you mean "Duct Tape." But Forbes just sent us a free copy of their new magazine Invention and Technology, and in it I learned that "Duck Tape" was the original nickname for a waterproof tape developed in WWII to seal ammunition cans. It was also called "Gun Tape."

It was during the post-war housing boom that the stuff began to be used to seal ducts.

I will tell you another thing I happen to know that will surprise you. During the war jeeps were more often called "peeps." The nickname "jeep" gradually conquered the world, and the other name has been forgotten. I encountered it once in a book written in 1947.

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Super-delegates ...

MSNBC: ...The announcement by 29 House Democrats on Wednesday that they’ll back Rep. Dick Gephardt for president in 2004 highlights a contradiction to the principle that the rank-and-file members choose the party’s nominee. Led by top House Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Whip Steny Hoyer, the 29 are among 800 “super-delegates” that come from the elite ranks of the party. The super-delegates — nearly 40 percent of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination — are senators, governors, members of the House, and other top officials and ex-officials...

...Republican Party rules provide a guaranteed role in the nominating process for about 165 party leaders from each state and the U.S. territories, but they account for only about 6 percent of the number needed to clinch the GOP nomination...
I would be tempted to criticize the Democrats for being un-democratic, except that the purpose of the extra delegates is, in an odd way, democratic. All those senators and governors were added in the hope that they would prefer to nominate someone ordinary Americans would vote for...

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Each side of the equation must balance...

It is profoundly satisfying to some inner desire for neatness and order in me, to learn that all those boxes of money we found in Baghdad contained the same billion dollars that was removed from the central bank by Qusay Hussein.
..."Every arrow points to the idea that we have found the money looted by the Husseins that night," a U.S. official said yesterday. He added, however, that because about 45 boxes still appear to be missing, U.S. officials do not believe they have yet located all the funds taken that night.

Officials expressed confidence they will be able to transfer the $950 million back to the Iraqi central bank in short order, so that it can be used to restart the provision of some government services...
(via Betsy Newmark)

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Web enlightenment has been achieved ...

Zen Garden is a demonstration site for CSS. Graphic artists have been invited to modify the page, changing only the Styles, and not the HTML. The results are pretty cool...CSS is on my list of things to accomplish...probably by sometime around the year 2015.

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Peter Pribik coins a great new word, in an interesting NYT-scandal post.
...Really? I bet if you interviewed journalists about this six months from now, they wouldn't remember a damn thing about the story. Just an uneasy wince half for the story, half out of embarrassment at not remembering the story. The standing of the NYT has certainly suffered since the appointment of Howell Raines as Big Man. Ken Layne reports that they're bleeding circulation pretty bad. But I suspect that it's the effete hysterical whining, the Algorisation of the paper, more than petty issues of accuracy, that is costing them...
Various French poseurs have sullied the term "European intellectual." But Peter is the real item. Born in Czechoslovakia, educated in Germany and France, and he writes English like this! Ouch.

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Go Neil ...

My friend Frank sent this great reply by Neil Cavoto to sneering insinuations by Paul Krugman...
...Let me see if I have this right, Mr. Krugman. Journalists who opposed this war are OK. Those who support it are not. Says who? You?

I'm less of a journalist because I was in favor of this war, but you're more of a journalist because you were not? You imply that by being in favor of this war, I'm pandering, and by extension, my company is pandering to the White House.

Nowhere does it ever occur to you, one can legitimately not agree with you. That doesn't make me less of a journalist. But, Mr. Krugman, it does make you more of an ass. Here's the difference: You insinuated it, I just said it...
I recently had the experience of disagreeing with the ideas of someone I'd been on friendly terms with, and being instantly cast into outer darkness. But what was most galling was that same thing, and I could use the same words: "Nowhere does it ever occur to you, that one can legitimately not agree with you." In my case it was assumed that I disagreed out of malice and envy. Which was very revealing of how that person's mind worked--but there's no sense even trying to argue such an outlook...

Krugman reveals himself the same way. I don't think it ever crosses his mind that anyone might be sincerely looking for the truth.

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From John Ellis ...

The best article about the New York City fiscal crisis can be found by clicking here. The killer fact: Over the course of the last decade, New York City has added not one private sector job and nearly 100,000 public sector jobs. There's a tipping point for most everything and New York City is in danger of tipping over.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2003

P. Krugman
#98: People watch whatever they want

The China Syndrome (05/13/03) is one of those Paul Krugman columns with so many distractions that it is often hard to locate the main issue. For example, how many people REALLY watched the BBC's war coverage because they could not stand U.S. networks as they "wrapped themselves in the American flag and substituted patriotism for impartiality?" Did the Chinese REALLY do a deal with Rupert Murdoch giving him access to their media market because they deemed political reporting less disagreeable on Fox News than on the BBC. (Give us a break!) We expect other bloggers with better knowledge of media issues will tackle such questions.

The chase, however, is this. To Krugman the success of Fox News is like a bone in the throat–not really life-threatening perhaps, but annoying as hell, and for him, at least, it's something with doctrine-threatening consequences. In his mind, Fox News cannot possibly be a legitimate success, therefore he has made it his mission to explain the Fox phenomenon as a manifestation of the conflicts of interest between news reporting and commercial interests. He has written on this issue at least three times before, most recently in In Media Res (11/29/02) as an attempt to rationalize the Democrat's defeat in the November 2002 elections.

In essence his position goes this way: Big business interests who own media outlets call the programming shots. As a consequence, the obedient media slant news coverage to the right and that, of course, benefits Republicans. Democrats, even though on they are on the side of truth and justice, are left in the cold. Republicans then repay their commercial and media benefactors with the spoils of victory.

But ultimately, Krugman never really explains what has him so rattled–the Fox News Network’s ratings success. He never fills the logical void between cozy relations and spoils of victory with Republicans, even if true, and why so many viewers are turning their channels to Fox. They could just as easily join him and watch the BBC. As with everything else, television is increasingly global. Choices have never been greater and are growing monthly. Surely Krugman doesn’t believe Fox has figured out some way to buy their viewer ship!

We think Krugman has the whole thing exactly backwards. The Fox success is a result, not a cause, of a slow but steady shift to the political right by the U.S. voting population. People watch whatever they want. It's not worth three columns by Krugman trying to deny that. He should get over it!

[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.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Tempus Fuji

Dave Trowbridge has been blogging for " a year, a week, and a day..." Congrats!

In addition ...

Also, I recommend Dave's guest post by D. Griboyedev, which I understand is the pen-name of someone who really knows what he's talking about. There are alarming trends in Russia and the countries under Russian influence, and not much attention is being paid to them. I don't have the knowledge to judge the accuracy of what he writes, but it doesn't sound good.

There was one thing I felt a bit doubtful about-- Griboyedev says: "The Bush Administration doesn’t want, understand or value allies—what they want are satellites (which Blair’s England has willingly become),..." I've heard things like that before, with satellite (or poodle) meaning a country that actually helps us do anything, and ally being a country that makes sure we do nothing rash, like removing sound, stable tyrants, and fomenting the ugly agitations of democracy and free-trade... (I don't know if that's the sub-text here.)

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...being a totalitarian dictator is like being in showbiz ...

Enter Stage Right has a very nice interview with Mark Steyn...
Now that the U.S.-led coalition has won in Iraq, what do you think the next step in the war on terrorism is?

Well, we're moving into a non-military phase, or at any rate a non-large-scale-combat phase. As I said somewhere or other, you don't invade Iraq in order to invade everywhere else, you invade Iraq so you don't have to invade everywhere else. That doesn't mean we're in for a period of "containment" or "détente". If Iraq teaches us anything, it's that "containment" is hell if you happen to be one of the vast supporting cast being contained - and, if an unsatisfactory status quo is artificially maintained long enough, you wind up with an almost entirely wrecked people, as the Palestinians are after half-a-century under the care of the UN's so-called "refugee" "camps". So, instead of the status quo, we're in a potentially fast-moving phase, and what comes next for the US should be a twin strategy of what you might call "pushing and pulling"...
He also, when asked if he read weblogs, delighted me with this:
...As to sites I like, a lot of them are the obvious ones, like National Review, but if I had to single out a non-big-media site, I'd put in a word for Natalie Solent, who writes from somewhere in England and has a way of looking at subjects from odd angles with interesting historical allusions...
As one who has been praising Natalie Solent from almost her first post, I have to say, Amen, Brother Mark!

Sunday, May 11, 2003

An excellent day ...

Pond at Sonoma Horticultural Nursery

For a Mother's Day treat, Charlene and I and our daughter Betsy went to a favorite place, Sonoma Horticultural Nursery. (North of San Francisco, near Petaluma.) It's both a fabulous public garden and a retail nursery specializing in Rhododendrons, Azaleas, and other shade-loving plants. Little paths wander all about under a canopy of trees, and sometimes you are in a garden, sometimes a Rhododendron forest, and mixed all in are areas of plants for sale. We brought home half-a-dozen things, and immediately started shoe-horning them into our little morsel of woodland.

It's both frustrating and satisfying to be at the stage in our garden where we are removing plants to make room for new ones. But an important part of raising plants is being willing to toss the ones that are less than satisfactory. I grew up in a horticultural family, and destroying plants doesn't bother me at all. Sometimes, when plant diseases took hold, we had to dump them by the hundreds. It's something I had to teach Charlene, but now she's ruthless.

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Employment Announcement

I just noticed this, from last Tuesday: Ian Murray is no longer among the unemployed...
...Barring any unexpected developments, as of next Monday I shall be starting work at the Competitive Enterprise Institute as a Senior Fellow, specializing in analysis of the arguments over global climate change...
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My sister's husband, Bud, works for Scaled Composites. He's actually working on their new SpaceShipOne, and sent us some photos of the roll-out. They maintain their security very well, and I had no idea what he was doing until now.

mothership landing
"This one shows the mothership landing with "boards" out so that its glide
slope is the same as the spaceship (to train pilots)"

mothership climbing

"This shows m318 climing out after a touch and go. The J-79's in burner
together with those big wings give it great climb performance."

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Treat your friends as you do your pictures,
and place them in their best light.
-- Jennie Jerome Churchill