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Saturday, August 10, 2002

Today's question: Does bad prose justify regime change?

Regardless of details, and of the nature of evolution between successive historical chapters, the human lesson derived is that the present of any nation or people cannot be isolated from its past; and that, according to this, nations and peoples have established their present, even though it might be distinguishable from their past in terms of advancement or retraction..."
--Saddam Hussein's address commemorating the 14th anniversary of the end of the Iran-Iraq War

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You're a pal, Rich, but I hope I get to say you were wrong wrong wrong...

I like Richard Bennett, but I always cringe a bit when I click to his weblog, because he's going to tell me it's "Bye-bye to the Simon-for-Governor campaign." Then my heart is crushed, and my soul is bleak, until I stumble on something that says otherwise, like this, from NewsMax:
Why the Pessimism on Frontrunner Bill Simon?

You may have noticed that there's something missing from the recent spate of reports predicting that California Republican Bill Simon doesn't stand a chance against incumbent Democrat Governor Gray Davis.

That something would be any actual polling data to support the conclusion.

In fact, though one media wag after another has stepped forward in recent days to pronounce Simon a political dead duck, the California conservative actually leads his left-wing opponent in the only survey released within the last two weeks.

That's right. Though the California press has buried the news so thoroughly that most of the state's voters are unaware of it, a Survey USA poll commissioned by several California network TV affiliates has Simon leading Davis 46 percent to 45 percent.

Not bad for a guy whose campaign is supposed to be toast...
The fraud conviction against Simon's company sounds like bolshoi to me, but even if it isn't, sensible voters will probably still find him more attractive than Grayvis. Of course sensible leaves out a heck of a lot of Californians, but still ... people might prefer a competent fraudster to an incompetent one such as we have now. This rush to declare Simon dead sounds like wishful thinking by the press to me.

The fraud trial, from what I've read, looks like a jury run amok when even the judge didn't think there was a case. Of course, those jurors are also ... you guessed it, California voters.

*Update: Richard responds that NewsMax is being biased itself, not mentioning that the poll was before the verdict, and not mentioning an unpublished poll that showed a 20% drop after it. So I'm down in the dumps again, and feeling very dubious about NewsMax.

I'm no expert on practical politics, but it would seem to me that (assuming that the verdict is as bogus as I've heard), this could almost be an opportunity. You're are trying to get voters to listen to your message, and what will catch their attention like talking about your own worst scandal? Run ads about it; Here's the fraud conviction my opponents are hollering about, here's the truth, you be the judge; and BY THE WAY, the real fraud is going on in Sacramento.

But bold honesty and openness are not things that political consultants are going to recommend; it would tend to put them out of business. Just like computer consultants are never going to recommend Macintoshes; once they are up and running they don't provide much work for consultants.
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Friday, August 09, 2002

Joanne writes:

You guys will have to start praising NPR's superb judgment in selecting open-minded, thoughtful, intelligent commentators: I'm making my debut on "All Things Considered" today (Friday) at 5:20, 7:20 and 9:20 pm Eastern time with a commentary on the move to require all students to take college-prep classes. It looks like this will be a semi-regular free-lance gig.

-- Joanne Jacobs

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Real Life

"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
But, in practice, there is."
-- Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut

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Thursday, August 08, 2002

So when are we going to start cleaning their clocks?

News item: Iran Establishes Rocket Training Centers In Lebanon

LONDON [MENL] -- Iran has agreed to finance training bases in Lebanon to enable insurgents aligned with Teheran to fire short-range missiles.

Western intelligence sources said the training is part of a $150 million program by Iran to bolster its proxy presence in the Levant through such groups as Hizbullah and Palestinian insurgency movements.

The Iranian program was discussed with insurgency groups last month on the sidelines of a convention in Teheran to support the Palestinian war against Israel. Iran has accelerated shipments of Fajr-5 short-range rockets and SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles to Hizbullah and aligned Palestinian groups.

Under the plan, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard would sponsor courses for insurgents in several areas of Lebanon. Units of the corps, commanded by Gen. Ali Reza Tamzar, have begun training Hizbullah insurgents and their Palestinian allies at a camp in Khuraj near the Syrian border.
(Via Cranky Hermit)

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Wednesday, August 07, 2002

A Rhymed HAIKU

At Homeland Security

  Still: sunbeamed dust flits.
Bare wall echoes unheard call.
At a desk, Ridge sits.

By Will Warren (via Natalie Solent)
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*...I didn't get much response on the topic of Yahoo, so I will let it slide. But I don't want to hear any more starry-eyed foolishness about how the Internet is free and uncensored...

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

The BLOGSPHERE could make a difference

Isn't it time for a YAHOO BOYCOTT???

YAHOO is the only non-Chinese portal to agree to censor the Internet and prevent people in China from hearing things their brutal authoritarian government doesn't like. Story Here.
...Most notable among the self-censoring signatories of the pledge is U.S.-based Yahoo!, which maintains a Chinese-language website. It appears to be the only non-China-based company among the hundreds that have bowed to Beijing's pressure to."...
As Megan said, read it and weep.

If lots of webloggers spread the word, a significant boycott could happen. If a thousand weblogs ran the headline: I'm boycotting Yahoo as long as they boycott Freedom, then millions of people would read about it. We could hit Yahoo where it hurts. And they deserve it; few companies have benefited from the Internet and the freedoms we enjoy as much as Yahoo. Now they are betraying the very values that made them successful. If they want to uphold "the ethical norms of the socialist cultural civilization, they need to get smacked with the ethical norms of Capitalist civilization!

(And this would not be a distraction from the War on Terror. The Chinese government has been very chummy with various Axis of Evil types. They haven't been getting nearly enough input from the Free World.)

*Jennie Taliaferro writes: John, I'm pretty fed up with Yahoo,too, and the way they choose photos for their Slideshows of the Middle East Conflict.
See my post today called A Tale of 2 Funerals where I talk about it.
Yahoo is the CNN of the Internet! (Who knew?)

*Aziz Poonawalla writes:
John, I have some thoughts about the proposed boycott, which I just thought I'd share (feel free to quote me if you like, I would blog these ideas, but I don't have access to the web browser for the rest of the day)

Namely, I think that a boycott would be useless and potentially harmful. The reasons are:

- bloggers are a large and diverse group, but our potential influence of readers is nowhere near large enough to make any kind of dent. The Open Letter to Iran was probably seen by a few thousands at most.

- drawing attention to blogs in this way might draw censorship upon blogging tools. As has been noted with respect to Iran, currently blogs are beneath notice of the censors. If we marshal blogs as a anti-communist platform for critique, then packets from * will certainly be added to the list.

I think that we, as bloggers, CAN make a difference, however. Look at the Open Letter to Iranians, your own idea. Why can't it be generalized, translated to Mandarin, posted to all corners of the web? What if all of us who own domains agreed to have a document in our webroot, free_china.html - which we never explicitly link to. But knowledge of that letter is propagated by word of mouth, so that a chinese blogger can come across it by going to any ... What if bloggers maintained a pro-democracy group blog targeted at Iran, China, etc - with content like the Declaration of Independence and the works of Locke, translated to Farsi and Manadarin. We could move a collection of "subversive" writings around, passing it from blog to blog, maybe even enlisting ugerrilla employees of major websites.

But, the single most important thing we can do is to create an open-source version of blogger, that is small and fast and easily shared and installed (MT is far too complex). That will facilitate blogs BEHIND the Great Firewall of China. And it is really debate amongst the Chinese population, not us out here, that will be the most effective in bringing democracy to the people.

Remember, the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. That routing happens at the user level, though, not the routers!
What do YOU think? Give me some feedback...

*ranting screeds says:
I'm not a big fan of boycotts, nor are I opposed to them. I'd actually recommend people simply barrage Yahoo! with complaint letters on the subject. They've introduced policies in the past that users have found abhorrent, and after enough complaining they have often bowed to the pressure. Likewise, they can and should be shamed: Yahoo! often tries to present itself as a forum for the expression of just about anything, and likewise since they are apparently alone on this right now, can be made to feel alone in abandoning free-speech principles.

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P. Krugman
#32: Krug rewrites history, plus scathing letter from OMB

"The Memory Hole" (08/06/02) by Paul Krugman is another of his formula pieces leading up to a familiar refrain–the Bush tax cut is screwing the average guy out of his hard earned money, destroying the economy and benefiting only the rich. The pretext this time is that the Bush administration has a poor memory, rewrites history a lot to make itself look better and lies a lot.

We've noticed that whenever Krugman has a disagreement with the Bush administration over budget numbers, Bush is always lying. In fact, anyone who disagrees with Krugman over data is lying. What makes this so choice is that it comes less than two years after the Clinton administration and Clinton is the only president we recall who was actually nailed for perjury.

In his latest skirmish with the OMB it is Krugman who is rewriting history to make him self look better. A few months ago the OMB issued a press release with a typo or "error." Krugman gives the impression that he caught the error, AND THEN the OMB retracted it and wrote an angry letter to the NYT. In fact, the OMB found and corrected the mistake by themselves. As for angry, here's the text of the OMB Aug 3rd letter to the Times.

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman (column, July 30) correctly identifies an error in a recent press release from the Office of Management and Budget, then converts it to a "lie."
The error, retracted weeks ago when noticed, assigned a true number to the wrong time frame. The 2001 tax relief law had a very small, less than 10 percent, effect on the change in our fiscal picture from 2001 to 2002, and this was accurately stated in our Midsession Review.
My office's first press release mistakenly applied the 10 percent figure to the 10-year estimated surplus, rather than to 2002.
Mr. Krugman's description vilifies, rather than rebuts, those with whom he disagrees.

Communications Director
We would say Mr. Duffy's response is restrained after being accused of lying by someone "rewriting history to make himself look better."

Note: The Squad is shutting down for August. But we will be back in September with guns blazing.

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Fog over Tehran

Glenn Frazier is trying to follow events in Iran, but things are very murky right now: It is morning in Tehran
It's things like this that make me question my own sanity.

According to several trusted email correspondents, Michael Ledeen, and a website run by a pro-democracy Iranian student organization, yesterday saw demonstrations across Iran that erupted into violence.

According to Reuters, UPI, AP, CNN, BBC, and everyone else in the whole universe...nothing. One of the biggest stories out of Iran, according to them, is that a male bellydancer has decided to continue living there despite being barred from teaching dance. What's going on?

I haven't heard from any of my sources for quite awhile, now. The SMCCDI site reported a temporary lockdown of international phone calls in Iran, then went silent ...

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Monday, August 05, 2002


Mickey Kaus on how Krugman grudgingly admits error -- to readers of his Web site, anyway.
Rhinos, 1; Krugman, 0: Will Paul Krugman's next column acknowledge the serious fact mistake in his July 16 column on George W. Bush's Texas Rangers investment? The mistake was pointed out in a letter to the NYT, dated 7/22 but printed last Friday. Krugman admitted the mistake yesterday, in weaselly best-defense-is-a-good-offense fashion, on his own Web site. But how many NYT readers read Krugman's Web site? Don't NYT columnists print corrections of their errors in the same space where the errors were made?...

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Keep 'em on the reservation

"Almost fifty years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the government couldn't stand in the schoolhouse doors and keep minority children out. The Supreme Court [now says] those same government officials can't stand in the doorway and keep minority children in. Parents should have the freedom in America to choose which schools their kids go to, especially when the local public school isn't cutting the mustard. This Supreme Court decision...will save thousands and thousands of urban children from bad educations in the short-term and equally provide assistance in ending what has become an unfortunate cycle of poverty." --ACU Chairman David Keene

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Low-Carb Lemon Curd...

Mrs Random Jottings and I like to cook, and our time in the kitchen is distinctly Kafkaesque. What could that mean? As the Weidners try to gain control over their nightmarish souffles, they succeed only in accelerating their own excruciating downward spiral...No no, not that Kafka. We mean Barbara Kafka, writer of cookbooks. Her book Roasting: A Simple Art, is one of our favorites. And in her Microwave Gourmet is this recipe for Lemon Curd, which Charlene just modified for her Low-Carbohydrate diet.
Serve with berries, pound cake, toast, or a Crumb Crust (page 425), where it can be topped with meringue and briefly broiled to make a superior lemon meringue pie. Use as filling in Lemon Layer Cake (page 397). Put into tartlets made with Sweet Tart Pastry (page 426) and top with sliced berries. Makes 1 cup

1/4 pound unsalted butter
Grated zest of l lemon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 Place butter, sugar, juice, and zest together in a 4-cup glass measure. Cover tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Cook at 100% for 4 minutes.

2. Remove from oven, uncover and stir well.

3. Whisk 1/4 cup of lemon mixture into the eggs to warm them. Whisking constantly, pour egg mixture back into remaining lemon mixture.

4. Cook, uncovered, at 100% for 2 minutes. Remove from oven and whisk until smooth. Cook for 2 minutes longer.

5. Remove from oven and immediately pour into the workbowl of a food processor. Process for 30 seconds until smooth. Cool before serving.
The recipe was modified by substituting 14 packets of Equal sweetener for the sugar. Also, since we have a little Meyer Lemon tree, which was in a good mood and gave us some fruit, we increased the juice. Meyer Lemons are sweeter than ordinary lemons.

Real Life

"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
But, in practice, there is."
-- Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut

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Sunday, August 04, 2002

Clinton War Plan

I've been hearing about the plan that Clinton prepared to fix Al Qaeda's wagon. The mind reels with the possibilities...
GWB: Condi, Condi, look what I found in the drawer of my big new desk! It's some wierd kinda plan.
CR: Why, Mr President, this plan is amazing. Incisive. Brilliant. With this we can destroy Al Qaeda in a single devastating stroke!
GWB: Tell Don to get on the ball. We should hit them right away. Yes, yes, yes, what a home run this will be!
CR: Wow, I really underestimated Bill Clinton. The vilest terrorists in the world and now we can destroy them with ONE CRUISE MISSILE...

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Charlene just read this out loud to me, by Warnie Lewis:
...the party broke up, Tolkien, Dyson, J. ["Jack," C.S. Lewis] , a little unobtrusive clergyman, and myself walking back to Magdalen where we strolled about in the grove, where the deer were flitting about in the twilight -- Tolkien swept off his hat to them and remarked "Hail fallow well met."
Warnie is C.S. Lewis' brother Warren, an interesting person in his own right. The brothers were extremely close, though often separated because Warren was a career Army officer. Warren wrote several charming books about the Court of Louis the Fourteenth, and I have a fascinating collection from his diaries.
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Iran protests

Glenn Frazier writes:
Tomorrow at 8pm Tehran time (11:30am US EDT, I believe), there are to be gatherings and demonstrations to mark the anniversary of their 1906 Constitutional Revolution. I have no idea how well the media will cover them, nor whether the Iranian government will succeed at keeping them small and/or disrupted, but we'll see.

More info here.
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The Jacksonian Tradition

Steven den Beste has a strong answer to a peacenik, and in it he refers to this essay: The Jacksonian Tradition by Walter Russell Mead. I highly recommend it, it makes many things clear about America, things I tend not to notice just because I'm so close to them.
...Suspicious of untrammeled federal power (Waco), skeptical about the prospects for domestic and foreign do-gooding (welfare at home, foreign aid abroad), opposed to federal taxes but obstinately fond of federal programs seen as primarily helping the middle class (Social Security and Medicare, mortgage interest subsidies), Jacksonians constitute a large political interest...

...Jacksonians are instinctively democratic and populist. Hamiltonians mistrust democracy; Wilsonians don’t approve of the political rough and tumble. And while Jeffersonians support democracy in principle, they remain concerned that tyrannical majorities can overrule minority rights. Jacksonians believe that the political and moral instincts of the American people are sound and can be trusted, and that the simpler and more direct the process of government is, the better will be the results...

...In some ways Jacksonians resemble the Jeffersonians, with whom their political fortunes were linked for so many decades. Like Jeffersonians, Jacksonians are profoundly suspicious of elites. They generally prefer a loose federal structure with as much power as possible retained by states and local governments. But the differences between the two movements run very deep—so deep that during the Cold War they were on dead opposite sides of most important foreign policy questions...
The essay answered one question that has bothered me for a long time. Admiral Gallery wrote in one of his books about how he was part of a war-planning group in the Pentagon during WWII. He pointed out then that, just like Britain, Japan was completely dependent on foreign trade, and therefore there was no need to invade. An effective blockade would be enough to defeat them. He was presenting an obvious truth, but nobody paid any attention!
...For the first Jacksonian rule of war is that wars must be fought with all available force. The use of limited force is deeply repugnant. Jacksonians see war as a switch that is either "on" or "off." They do not like the idea of violence on a dimmer switch. Either the stakes are important enough to fight for—in which case you should fight with everything you have—or they are not, in which case you should mind your own business and stay home. To engage in a limited war is one of the costliest political decisions an American president can make—neither Truman nor Johnson survived it...

..Jacksonians also have strong ideas about how wars should end. "There is no substitute for victory", as General MacArthur said, and the only sure sign of victory is the "unconditional surrender" of enemy forces ... Unconditional surrender is not always a literal and absolute demand. The Confederate surrenders in 1865 included generous provisions for the losing armies. The Japanese were assured after the Potsdam Declaration that, while the United States insisted on unconditional surrender and acceptance of the terms, they could keep the "emperor system" after the war. However, there is only so much give in the idea: all resistance must cease; U.S. forces must make an unopposed entry into and occupation of the surrendering country; the political objectives of the war must be conceded in toto. ...

...Jacksonian America has clear ideas about how wars should be fought, how enemies should be treated, and what should happen when the wars are over. It recognizes two kinds of enemies and two kinds of fighting: honorable enemies fight a clean fight and are entitled to be opposed in the same way; dishonorable enemies fight dirty wars and in that case all rules are off. ..

...The Japanese, another people with a highly developed war code based on personal honor, had the misfortune to create the same kind of impression on American Jacksonians. The sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the gross mistreatment of American POW's (the Bataan Death March), and Japanese fighting tactics all served to enrage American Jacksonians and led them to see the Pacific enemy as ruthless, dishonorable and inhuman. All contributed to the vitriolic intensity of combat in the Pacific theater. By the summer of 1945, American popular opinion was fully prepared to countenance invasion of the Japanese home islands, even if they were defended with the tenacity (and indifference to civilian lives) that marked the fighting on Okinawa...
[vitriolic is no exageration. Yanks routinely collected Japanese skulls as souvenirs.]
For me the most interesting thing is that while Jacksonian America has its origins in the Scotch-Irish frontier culture, predictions that it would die out as America became urbanized and sophisticated have proved totally wrong. Rather, Jacksonian style has spread widely, and infiltrated other cultures. For instance, many from urban Catholic immigrant backgrounds have become suburbanites with decidedly Jacksonian views. One wonders, can it spread beyond America?

Another interesting thing is that the racial prejudice that was traditionally Jacksonian is eroding. The military is now the most racially integrated place in America. A pal of mine once expressed a quintessential Jacksonian view when he said, "I'm not prejudiced against anybody. As long as they're white people who work hard and pay their taxes." He was joking, but also not joking. But probably white people would now include any black or asian neighbors who maintained similar standards...