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Thursday, July 03, 2003

God Save our American States ...

Abigail Adams

This is from a letter by Abigail Adams,
in Boston, to John Adams,
who was in Philadelphia with the
Continental Congress.
July 21, 1776.
Abigail Adams, 1766

...Last Thursday after hearing a very Good Sermon I went with the multitude into King's Street to hear the proclamation for independence read and proclaimed. Some Field pieces with the Train were brought there, the troops appeared under Arms and all the inhabitants assembled there (the small pox prevented many thousands from the country).

When Col. Crafts read from the Belcona [balcony] of the State House the Proclamation, great attention was paid to every word. As soon as he ended, the cry from the Belcona, was God Save our American States and then 3 cheers which rended the air, the Bells rang, the privateers fired, the forts and Batteries, the cannon were discharged, the platoons followed and every face appeard joyful. Mr Bowdoin then gave a Sentiment, Stability and perpetuity to American independence. After dinner the kings arms were taken down from the State House and every vestige of him from every place in which it appeard and burnt in King Street. Thus ends royall Authority in this State, and all the people shall say Amen.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003


From Fox News:
BAGHDAD, Iraq  — Faced with a growing insurgency and frequent attacks and ambushes on coalition troops, a group of U.S. and British politicians vowed on Wednesday to stay the course in Iraq -- one day after President Bush ensured [they probably meant assured] Iraq won't slide back into hands of Saddam loyalists. ..

...British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the Iraqi people, not coalition troops, are the ones most hurt from attacks by Saddam loyalists. He promised the insurgents would never dissuade the coalition from its mission...

..."This coalition of armed forces is never, ever going to give in, irrespective of what is thrown at it," said John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It will never give in until freedom replaces the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and his regime." ...
After the Clinton years, it seems strange and wonderful, almost intoxicating, to have a government--two governments-- that don't cave as soon as things get tough.

Brings to mind the far-gone days of Reagan and Thatcher...

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Unbelievable stuff! 12 Trillion Dollars overlooked...

* IMPORTANT UPDATE: Part of these calculations have been retracted by Michael Boskin. See Here.

A friend writes: "Take a look at this. An elephant in the room is an understatement. I know Boskin and he is a very serious and careful fellow. This could be the biggest failure in government statistical reporting in history."

No kiddin'. From Business Week, New research says taxes on boomer retirement savings could bring in trillions:
Anyone who takes a look at the long-term forecast for federal spending comes away profoundly depressed. As baby boomers age, they will collect Social Security checks en masse and run up enormous Medicare expenses. Long-term forecasts from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office show federal spending soaring from 18% of gross domestic product today to 24% in 2040 -- way ahead of expected tax revenues. In order to avoid colossal budget deficits, many economists say, the U.S. will need to slash benefits, raise taxes, or both.

But that budget forecast is incomplete and perhaps overly pessimistic because it doesn't take adequate account of the growing wealth -- and future tax payments -- of America's Investor Class. Ordinary Americans and their employers are socking away huge sums in tax-deferred accounts such as Individual Retirement Accounts, 401(k)s, and traditional pensions. The total in such accounts is roughly $11 trillion today, with hundreds of billions in new contributions pouring in every year. Under current law, retirees will pay ordinary income taxes as they withdraw money from these accounts. Surprisingly, official long-term budget estimates ignore most of these projected tax receipts -- and the amounts are simply staggering.

In a new, as-yet-unpublished paper, Stanford University economist Michael J. Boskin estimates that the value of these deferred taxes through 2040 is roughly $12 trillion in today's dollars. By comparison, the official estimate of the unfunded Social Security liability is $3.5 trillion in today's dollars, while the unfunded Medicare liability for hospital insurance is $5.9 trillion...
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"distracted-driver" personality type

Via Gizmodo, this article suggesting that people distracted by using cell-phones while driving are the sort who are likely to be distracted anyway.
..According to an analysis by the USA insurance company, Response Insurance of their national driving survey, people who use cell phones when driving are more likely to be distracted from the road even when they are not talking on a phone. The results indicate there may be a "distracted-driver personality" type behind the wheel.

The Response Insurance National Driving Distractions Survey compared attentiveness of cell phone users to non-users when not talking on a phone. When asked a series of questions about different topics that might take their attention from the road, people who use cell phones were significantly more likely to be distracted when thinking about every-day issues and concerns than drivers who do not use cell phones while driving...
Not too terribly surprising. Using a cell phone does distract one while driving. But the focused driver will try hard to minimize this. And the other drivers...well, they're just drifting along in a daze anyway...

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

depends on the meaning of 'usually"

From a NYT editorial, The Scramble for Hard Money
...The latest tallies from last year's Congressional elections show this Republican advantage paying off handsomely, perchance temporarily, now that the era of unlimited "soft money" donations from corporations, unions and individuals has been ended by the McCain-Feingold law. With its superior donor base, the G.O.P. attracted almost 50 percent more contributors than the Democrats and showed a commanding edge among lower-budget donors who gave less than $200 apiece. Sixty-four percent of them gave to the Republicans, versus 35 percent for the supposed party of the people, according to a detailed study by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

The public may be surprised to learn these results, but Democratic Party leaders are not. In getting behind the badly needed drive to end soft money as a device for buying candidates and favors, the Democrats knew they would have considerable catching up to do to broaden their base for the new campaign world of limited hard money...
DID they know it? I haven't followed this stuff closely, but I remember stories, after CFR passed, of Democrats suddenly and belatedly realizing that they were in trouble... By the way, though I'm a Republican, I still thing CFR is unconstitutional, and I'd scrap it in an instant...
...The sad reality is that election costs jumped by nearly a third in just four years, to $2.2 billion. And Congressional candidates who outspent opponents won a stunning 94 percent of the time, usually via 10-to-1 edges in financing.
That last sentence is interesting. The first half, the part you usually hear, implies that a candidate with just a little more money is almost sure to win. The second half implies that "usually" these wins are due to a huge disparity in funds, with races where the disparity is small presumably having much more even chances...

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Sunday, June 29, 2003

slippage and false starts

Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh writes
...The proper response to the task facing Washington in Iraq is not to over-plan, to trust in the self-proclaimed expertise of "experts"--no matter how well-meaning, but to be flexible, to give local personnel on the ground flexibility to adapt to different conditions. No one knew how the war was going to turn out, how exactly the post-war balance of power in Iraq would calibrate itself--to have drawn up an elaborate plan would have been absolute hubris.

Now, we probably could have used more planning than was actually done, but it's better to err on the side of flexibility in situations like this, and to also accept a good deal of slippage and false starts. And to trust in the common sense of low-level American soldiers. They know what we're aiming for in Iraq, we're aiming for what they grew up with. They know they're not supposed to shoot people indiscriminately, loot Iraqi civilians of their food, etc. Washington needs to set the basic boundaries for everything, but much of this whole effort will have to just ride on the common sense of the average Civil Affairs officer or company commander.

Which means, of course, that there will be plenty of first-rate screw-ups. Which is why we should avoid giving twenty-five year olds all this responsibility unless there is a compelling security issue in play.
The security issue here is the compellingist. If the Ba'athists take over (which may be what's going on) it would undo all the good results of invasion. We did the right things, such as the decapitation strikes, but may have missed the #1 snake. c'est la guerre. So now we do it the slow way.

And the slow messy way is often best. I was long ago impressed with an argument in BH Liddell Hart's excellent book Strategy, on the futility of "lightning victories." The enemy who is defeated before he really begins to fight doesn't really believe he has been defeated. He thinks his loss was a cheat, and is likely to strike back savagely at some later date. Examples are the French defeat in 1871, which led to a burning desire for revenge not satisfied until WWI. Or the Japanese victory at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese imagined that defeat might lead us to negotiate a compromise, but in fact the hit-while-we-weren't-looking nature of their strike made it certain that we would spend unlimited lives and treasure to crush them.

The advantage of a victory won with difficulty is that people believe it really happened, that it wasn't some sort of slight-of-hand. It tends to stick. And for the Iraqis, the good side of all the disorder they are suffering is, that if they finally win through to a condition of order and prosperity, they will value it. They will be thoroughly disenchanted with anarchy, and willing to work hard to keep it at bay.

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It's so true, so painfully true that...

There's one in every discussion group

OT No need to have a cow, but President Bush is a fascist pig who is ruining this country. Here's a link to and that proves it. No need to respond, I know this is a (guitar/acting/humor) discussion group, back to your (guitar/acting/humor) talk. Anybody who disagrees with me, on or off the list, is just a humorless hateful right wing tool who's trying to ruin the (guitar/acting/humor) discussion for everybody. Dibs on political speech on the group, no dibs-back double dibs no talk backs. As one of the few remaining thinking people in the United States of Amerikkka, I just had to get that off my chest.
(Thanks to Dean)