Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise
-- Golden Gate Bridge at dawn. By Dennis Callahan.

RANDOM JOTTINGS a weblog by John Weidner

Main Page Archive

Natalie Solent
Dave Trowbridge
Betsy Newmark
Bill Quick
Suman Palit
Moira Breen
Andrea Harris
Richard Bennett
Iain Murray
Joanne Jacobs
Craig Schamp
Dean Esmay
Brothers Judd
Doctor Frank
Rand Simberg
Punning Pundit
Right Wing News
Brian Tiemann
Henry Hanks

Iraqi Democracy graphic

Powered by Blogger Pro™

Index to Krugman posts

Index to World War One posts


Saturday, February 15, 2003

unsettled weather...

Richard Bennett has posted instructions for adding the Support Democracy in Iraq thingy to Movable Type templates. Also, an unbelievable series of e-mails. Somebody's off their rocker...and we're acquainted with Richard and would rate him solid... Oh well, these are stressful times, and a lot of people are showing the strain...folks used to say, "it all comes out in the wash"...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Yes or No ...

Henry hanks of Crooow Blog saw Ann Coulter, and Bruce Shapiro of The Nation on Hannity and Colmes. He was amazed by Shapiro's inability to answer a simple question. He linked to the transcript, here's the good stuff:

HANNITY:  Do you want America to win the war against Iraq?

SHAPIRO:  I want the Iraqi people to come out of this OK.

HANNITY:  Do you want America to win this war?

SHAPIRO:  I want America and the world to be a safe and better place.

HANNITY:  America's going to war. Do you want America to win the war?

SHAPIRO:  We don't know America's going to war yet, do we?

COULTER:  They won't answer the question.

HANNITY:  They're going to war. Do you want American to win?

COULTER:  This is my point about Hollywood celebrities.

SHAPIRO:  I want Iraq and the United States both to be a safer and more democratic place.

HANNITY:  When the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the world will be safer.

COULTER:  You cannot say unequivocally that you are rooting for America?

SHAPIRO:  I'm rooting against Saddam. I want Saddam out, no question.

COULTER:  He will not say unequivocally that he is rooting for America.


SHAPIRO:  I'm rooting for the people of America and I'm rooting for the people of Iraq. And I don't think this war will be good for either one of us.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

P. Krugman
#79: Well, the title is good...

On the Second Day, Atlas Waffled (02/14/03) is Paul Krugman’s third column in two weeks on the same subject–the catastrophe facing the U.S. economy because of the Bush administration’s fiscal policies. It’s probably the tenth column in the last twelve months on this issue and, interestingly, except for rhetorical flourishes and clever lead-ins, he never has anything new to say.

His basic spin goes like this: If taxes are cut, revenue will be lost. If spending needs continue to rise, budget deficits will result. Financing large deficits will crowd out private investment by raising interest rates and that is bad for the economy. Of course, Krugman would never say any of this in such a simple and straightforward way because, first, there would be no place for his journalistic trademark, salacious invective, and, second, too many people would see the obvious flaw in his reasoning–it is based on static analysis.

While static analysis has a place in economics, it has no place at all in a macroeconomic analysis of fiscal policies spanning as much as a decade. There are too many feedback loops that need to be considered. The whole idea of cutting marginal tax rates and eliminating the double taxation on dividends is to spur capital formation and economic growth. Deficits in the short term are more than paid for by revenue growth in future years. While Krugman will argue this favors the rich, in fact, everyone benefits. See this WSJ columnby Glenn Hubbard.

There was one howler today. Krugman claimed Colin Powell lost international credibility in his claim that Iraq had an Al Qaida connection because Bin Laden in his taped message trashed Saddam Hussein. Krugman claims to be a history buff. We wonder if he remembers the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact in the late 1930s.

[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]
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Animated GIFToday the appeasement activists are out demonstrating against freedom and capitalism (that's redundant of course, you can't have one without the other)
There's not much that sensible people can do in the face of idiocy. I hung out our flag, and also put up a DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ widget on the sidebar. Click on it...
I got it from Dean Esmay. Get yours too. Here's the link

Friday, February 14, 2003

Life imitates Tolkien...

I was at the library and leafed briefly through an article on Afghanistan in Smithsonian.(exerpt here) I was especially struck by the Garden of Babur.

Babur's Garden in Kabul
The once-splendid garden,surrounding the Tomb of Babur, was formerly a place were the people of Kabul loved to walk. There were large pools for swimming, and shade from many trees. The garden was destroyed by the Taliban, and by their battles with warlords. The trees were all cut down, and gardeners who tried to keep the flowers alive were thrown into prison. (Life imitates Saruman!)

Now the garden is slowly being restored. Some have questioned whether resources should be spent on this while many Afghans are still homeless. Others consider this a symbol of Afghanistan, and a national treasure that must be preserved. I'm with them, just looking at the picture makes me want to stroll there, even though it is tattered and dusty. Life without gardens is hardly life at all. I'm proud that our country is contributing to this. And I'm keenly proud that my country and our allies led in the liberation of Afghanistan.

And when I think of those America-hating countries, like France and the New York Times and Germany and Hollywood, and how they are desperately squirming and maneuvering to prevent the people of Iraq from being freed, I'm certainly glad I'm on the side of the good guys.

It's unbelievable to me that there are large numbers of people who would rather leave millions of Iraqis in hell than let George Bush have a win. Quite a few have even said so explicitly, said they would feel different about the war if it were a different President. That's just crazy and evil. I mean, I loath Bill Clinton, but I'm glad he used our forces to help the people of Kosovo. And if the Kosovars are now naming streets after him, it's fine by me. And when I think of the very people who were protesting against sanctions, and denouncing them as cruel and wrong, suddenly embracing sanctions...or those weasels of Amnesty International, getting so huffy because their reports on human-rights violations in Iraq were actually being used to justify doing something about it...

Well, I could think up some creative punishments for that crew, but I guess being left behind on that old ash-heap of history will be a pill bitter enough...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

A little more on Iraqi Bureaucracy...

Referring to yesterday's "tried and true" post, Andrew writes: I think you may well underestimate the value of  bureaucracy and the stability it brings.  Granted, I am (explicitly) all for lining the monsters up against the wall and shooting them, on the other wrist they aren't all monsters...
    There may well be some very talented people with minor power right now.  A regime change could allow them to show off that talent without fear that doing so will get them shot. And, of course, in the meritocracy that we would (presumably) be installing failure to perform gets them fired.  So, yeah, leave the non-monsters with their jobs, contingent upon performance...

My point wasn't that the people (or bureaucracies) are bad, but that it is very hard for bureaucracies to change their ways of doing things. (Or for any organizations. Businesses have the same problem, but they tend to get shaken up when profits go down.) New people at the top find them enormously resistant to reform. Rumsfeld could tell you stories about the Pentagon ...

We are all creatures of habit, and that tendency is greatly increased when we gather together in organizations, with forms and rules and procedures. A variant on my suggestion would be to just move people into different departments, rather than laying them off. Think of, say, Iraq's Education Department. People who work there will have spent decades making sure children are taught to inform on their parents. That's become ingrained habit, hard to shake-off. But if the same people were transferred to, say, the Police, they would not be burdened with the assumption that suspects should be made to confess by any means available.

In some ways bureaucracies bring stability. But probably the best way to bring long-term stability to Iraq is to have a strongly federal system, with local regions having a lot of autonomy. And any central bureaucracy will instinctively be opposed to that. That's one reason to keep bureaucracies small...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The Road to Zamboanga ...

CEBU, Philippines — A senior Iraqi diplomat was in contact with Muslim terrorists in the southern Philippines hours after they killed a U.S. soldier and injured another in a bombing in October, according to Philippine officials and intelligence sources.

 Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople said Iraqi diplomat Husham Hussein took a phone call from a member of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, the terrorist group blamed for the bombing Oct. 2 outside a military base in the southern city of Zamboanga.

     "It appeared that immediately after the bombing, there was a call to the embassy" by an Abu Sayyaf guerrilla, Mr. Ople told reporters in Manila, citing a "highly detailed" report from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency...
(via tonecluster)

Thursday, February 13, 2003

He's no Viggo!

You know Sean Astin, the guy who played Sam Gamgee in Lord of the Rings? Well, he's 'almost a general'...
(From FreeRepublic)-- Actor Sean Astin and wrestler Bradshaw are among celebrities who are using their stardom to increase troop morale and keep the military fresh in the minds of Americans.

Astin, who is known for his roles in "Rudy" and the "Lord of the Rings," visited the Pentagon Jan. 30 to record public service announcements thanking troops for their service and re-emphasizing America's trust in its military.... "There's a lot of different people and voices in America, and I don't mind letting my voice be heard," Astin said during an interview conducted at the Pentagon. "I learned from reading about Vietnam that no matter what you think politically about certain deployments, as a good citizen and a patriot it's your duty to appreciate that there are soldiers using their lives on your behalf as a citizen."

Although many may know that Astin has appeared in more than 25 motion pictures, few know that he has served as a civilian aide to the secretary of the Army since 1995. He served under Togo West, Louis Caldera and now the current Secretary of the Army Thomas White.

For protocol purposes Astin, as a civilian aide, is ranked just below a three-star general and is considered to be the secretary of the Army's personal representative in the California region. Part of the basis of a CASA's appointment is his ability to increase the public's understanding of the Army, and Astin said he tells the Army story to anyone who wants to know it.

"I'm in a position where I do whatever I can to support the Army," Astin said. "I've visited installations, and took the time to write 'thank-you' letters to business who had reserve-component soldiers to be mobilized." ...
Thank you, Sam...I got this from Andrea, who said: I don't think Mr. Astin will be invited to any of Martin Scorcese's or Spike Lee's parties any time soon. I just get that feeling.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The "Tried and True" is Not What's Needed

This article is on US plans for governing Iraq. One thing struck me:
...Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday that "Central [Iraqi] government ministries could remain in place and perform the key functions of government after the vetting of the top personnel to remove any who might be tainted with the crimes and excesses of the current regime."

This formula sounds to some Iraqi opposition leaders as though much of Iraq's existing power structure, dominated by Hussein's ruling Baath Party, will maintain its role. "Power is being handed, essentially on a platter, to the second echelon of the Baath Party and the [Iraqi] Army officer corps," says Kanan Makiya, an adviser to Mr. Chalabi who discussed postwar Iraq with President Bush on Jan. 10. "It's going to have the opposite effect to what US wants it to have," he adds...
Even if power isn't remaining in the hands of Baathists, bureaucracies operate largely on inertia and habit. They can't be changed by shifting a few people at the top. And their habits will affect everything they do. Iraq needs change, not stability.

I suspect it would be much better to remove all existing functionaries, and replace them with new people. (The old group won't starve, there will be lots of work available, what with the rebuilding that will be going on.) The new people would lack experience, but would probably make up for this with enthusiasm and willingness to try new ideas. (Perhaps they should be chosen by lot, in the style of the ancient Athenians.) Also, bureaucracies are always over-staffed; we should start with less than half the previous number of staffers, and make it hard to increase them.

And most of all we should be looking for areas where bureaucracy can be eliminated altogether, and deciscions pushed down to local small groups. The more the people are involved in decision-making, the less likely they are to just assume that central government should control things.

Leaving the existing ministries in place makes life easier for the occupation authorities, but it is a bad mistake! That's what we did in Japan, and the Japanese are still shackled to the old gang. Fortunately they did not revert to militarism, BUT they still suppress a lot of freedom and experimentation and economic change.

And I have no objection to putting General Franks in charge .. .except this: that military and government people tend to be afraid of change and improvisation. And Iraq isn't a place where sticking with the "tried and true" is what's needed.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Gonzales responds...

Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, has written a crushing memo to Senators Daschle and Leahy demolishing, with minute exactitude, all their rubbishing objections to Miguel Estrada. It's great, well worth reading. Those mendacious Senators will not care, they are perfectly aware that there is nothing wrong with Estrada except for the ultimate sin--he is a Hispanic who has escaped from the Democrat plantation.

What really burns me up are the complaints about "unanswered questions." Estrada has probably answered more questions than any other Appellate Court candidate, opportunities for further questions have not been used, and they never say what the questions are! It's like when Daschle kept saying he had "concerns" about Bush's war plans. Somehow acting ponderously grave and "concerned" is considered to be a substitute for actually debating the question. You can read the memo here, at How Appealling.
...Your letter to the President ignores Mr. Estrada's answer to this question. In any event, beyond this one query, your letter does not pose any additional questions to him. Additionally, neither of you has posed any written questions to Mr. Estrada in the more than three months since his all-day Committee hearing. Since the hearing, Mr. Estrada also has met (and continues to meet) with numerous Democrat Senators interested in learning more about his record. Finally, as I will explain below, Mr. Estrada forthrightly answered numerous questions about his judicial approach and views in a manner that matches or greatly exceeds answers demanded of previous appeals court nominees.

With respect, it appears that a double standard is being applied to Miguel Estrada. That is highly unfair and inappropriate, particularly for this well-qualified and well-respected nominee...
(via Betsy's Page)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Documents...there'll be lots of them...

I mentioned documents in the previous post. I just had to find this quote, from Witness, by Whittaker Chambers.

It's around 1929 and Chambers and others working at the Daily Worker have written a petition to get rid of an incompetent boss...
...Vern Smith and one of the other signers took the petition to national headquarters on 125th Street. There was consternation. It was not entirely due to the breach of discipline. Another peculiarly Communist attitude entered in. Revolutionists have a respect, amounting to awe, for the signed document. They have broken, or are trying to break, the continuity of order in society. By that act, they repudiate tradition, and the chaos they thereby unloose also threatens them, for they can no longer count on the inertia or authority of tradition to act as a brake or a bond on chaos. Hence that fussy attention which revolutionists pay to mere legalistic forms that puzzles outsiders both in the case of the Nazis and the Communists—their meticulous regard for protocol and official papers. Hence the tiresome detail and massive fictions of their legal and constitutional procedures, and the formal pettifoggery, with all the i's dotted, of a secret police that works entirely beyond the law...
One of the ironies of this is that Soviet documents are now available that show, to a high degree of certainty, that Chambers was telling the truth in what was one of the great trials, and great controversies, of the 20th Century. And that his opponent, Alger Hiss, the darling of the East Coast/leftist/UN crowd, (he helped found the UN) was a secret agent for Stalin. Funny how things don't change much...

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Give 'em rope

Instapundit linked to this, by jkrank, which I loved, urging we let the weasels talk as much as they want...
... The current anti-war movement, with its relativism, its unseriousness, its reflexive anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism helps reveal something unconscionable and immoral in our midst. Their voices carry. Although I myself am often stunned at the ugliness that has befallen the opposition, this is ultimately good news.
I say, let the opposition speak! Do not be surprised if your average human can understand stupidity when they hear it.
Cheer up, guys, they're drooling, ham-fisted fools!...

..."But Madonna has a new anti-war video coming," a friend warns.
"Revel in it!" I say...
(And our President moves at a deliberate pace and seems to do little to answer the frothing crowd. Just lets them do their thing. "An' dat tar-baby, he don't say nothin'...)
...Reality is again punishing the Left. When countless protesters exclaim that the UN is our only moral choice, and the UN shows its colors by appointing Libya to head the Human Rights Commission…how can it get worse for them?
Well, it will. Once Iraq’s prisons open, the people cheer, documents are aired out, millions fail to die…and we turn our eyes to Iran...
Amen, brother. The rotten log's going to be rolled over, and all those caterpillers and uglybugs are going to be squirming in the sunshine...documents, oh yeah. Millions of them. Gonna find out who's naughty or nice... Prison doors will be opened, and the world will get a clear look at the "peace' that the appeasement activists are trying to preserve. If I ran the circus, I'd rub their noses in it. I'd sentence the entire "peace' crowd to some Community Service--in Iraq, helping the poor victims of their "peace."
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Helping hand

Feyzabad, Afghanistan — A U.S. military Chinook helicopter stands ready to receive medical supplies and whooping cough vaccine donated by the World Health Organization. U.S. officials approved a request by the organization to carry three doctors and enough vaccine to treat 2,000 people to Badhakshan Province, in northern Afghanistan, where an outbreak of whooping cough had claimed the lives of between 70 and 200 children. Two doctors were from the Afghan Ministry of Public Health and one was from the Aga Khan Development Foundation. Treating the children was complicated by the fact that travel takes three days by horse or mule to get over the mountains to the affected area.... --U.S. Army photo by Spc. Marie Schult ( pix from here)

Leftists such as Paul Krugman love to repeat the scurrilous and wicked lie that America is doing nothing for Afghanistan. You might look at this White House Fact Sheet: American Assistance to the People of Afghanistan for a different view. (And before November, 2001, the same Krugskiites said it would be impossible to do anything with Afghanistan, so we shouldn't even try.) I found it interesting how much greater private US foreign aid is than government aid.

Also interesting was that more aid will be coming when communications in Afghanistan improve. Keep in mind that in a primitive place like Afghanistan, a lot of potential aid will be useless until other aid projects are completed. Without safe road travel for instance, most other projects will bog down...including the road and bridge building, and mine clearing needed for safe road travel.

And the right sort of aid will use local contractors and planners and leaders to do as much as possible, to build a self-reliant economy. But, those contractors will have to be nurtured and encouraged, started on small projects, and gradually taught to use more advanced machinery and business practices. And a thousand and one other services need to grow at the same time. Try building things without places like Home Depot. Try maintaining vehicles without dealerships and auto-parts shops.

We are providing a lot of school supplies, which is great, but they are often delivered by helicopter, which is hugely inefficient. That sort of thing will work better when we can just consign them to a local shipper. And better yet when schools can use aid money to order supplies from local wholesalers. (And the best thing will be when the taxes of a prosperous community can pay for their own school supplies. But then people will also spend their money at the local McDonalds, and Comrade Krugivich will accuse us of destroying the Afghans by "Cultural Imperialism.")

The more the Afghans solve their own problems, the better. Same goes for almost everyone else in the world. Big-Government Liberals don't want to hear that, but it's true.

* Also, in reference to Krugman's quote in the previous post, providing security is an easy job, which we leave to the European troops who are helping us. This frees up Americans for somewhat gnarlier tasks, like digging terrorists out of remote caves. Monsieur Krugmann is trying (without saying it himself) to give the impression that the Americans have scooted, leaving the stalwart French to stave off anarchy. Phooey.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

P. Krugman
#79: Rationalizing French Behavior

Wimps of War (02/11/03) is a totally absurd column by Paul Krugman in which he attempts to rationalize recent French behavior regarding disarming Iraq into a position of enlightened statesmanship. In Squad report # 60 we speculated that Krugman might moderate his leftish anti-war views in an attempt to avoid "creeping Streisand-ism." We were obviously wrong about that! We wonder if even Barbra could buy into some of today's column? One howler among many is the following:

"Meanwhile, here's how it looks from Paris: France was willing to put ground troops at risk — and lose a number of soldiers — in the former Yugoslavia; we weren't. The U.S. didn't make good on its promises to provide security and aid to post-Taliban Afghanistan. Those Americans, they are very brave when it comes to bombing from 10,000 meters, but they expect other people to clean up the mess they make, no?"
He's definitely mixed up his presidents here–Clinton was the one who liked to "bomb and run." But beyond that he expects us to believe the French are NOT driven by oil concessions or other craven business interests in Iraq, but, instead, by concerns about the welfare postwar Iraq. The French are thinking ahead and do not trust the Bush administration help out in the post-Saddam era??

If "French forward-thinking" sounds like an oxymoron, that's because it is. The last time they tried it, some 70 years ago, they built the Maginot Line. It would appear Krugman is well on his way to becoming as irrelevant as the French.

[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]

* I just noticed this in Innocents Abroad: ..".Everyone should remember this outlandish piece and send Krugman an email the next time he calls Bush a cowboy and his foreign policy reckless. Let's not allow the New York Times have it both ways, calling the administration both wimpy and reckless..."

Monday, February 10, 2003

Possible Supreme ...

There will likely be some vacancies coming up on the Supreme Court, as some of the older justices retire. I was reading an article on possible nominees, and encountered this:
... Other observers think Bush could take another approach, appointing California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown instead. Brown is a conservative African-American who’s ruled against affirmative action and abortion rights. Her nomination would let Bush add the court’s third woman and second African-American in one swoop. And White House lawyers have already interviewed her. Tom Goldstein, a Washington lawyer who argues cases before the court, believes Brown could even get the nod for chief justice. “An African-American female nominee is not going to be filibustered,” he says...
What a collision that would be! The two things the Democrats are actually for (affirmative action and abortion) crunching head-on into two things they pretend to be for (Blacks and women). If they are choking on Miguel Estrada, they're gonna be excreting ice-cubes if Bush nominates Ms. Brown. Serve 'em right, the hypocrites ...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Royal anachronism...

I tend to cherish tradition, and to value history-encrusted objects handed down from earlier generations. As a conservative, I'm suspicious of radical innovation, and believe that gradual change is best. Evolution is better than revolution. Still, there is such a thing as an evolutionary dead-end. Reading this makes me wonder if it isn't time to wrap up the Monarchy, and put it away on a high shelf in the British Museum...
... [Prince] Charles—who reads the Koran every day and often adopts Islamic dress at home—spends long hours discussing the Middle East's problems with Saudi royal family members.

One of his closest friends is the former Saudi ambassador Ghazi Algosaibi who wrote a poem in praise of the first woman suicide bomber.

Algosaibi said that the "doors of heaven are opened for her". He once described the Israelis as worse than Nazis and he was a regular guest at Highgrove—Prince Charles's country home—before he was recalled by his government last year...
Here's reason #372 why I like President Bush:
...The prince's views have led to a worrying split with the American leadership. Two months ago, Charles had to abandon an official visit to the US because the White House made it clear he wasn't wanted.

The snub—directly from President Bush—came after security sources advised that Charles's presence in America would be "very unhelpful".
There is a situation in biology where a species has too few surviving members to be genetically viable. I think the plight of the British Royals is similar. Two hundred years ago, there were tens of thousands of Europeans in a certain ecological niche, which might be described as: Living in palaces, wearing bright plumage, waited on by swarms of servants, expected to assume important positions in government, and normally only inter-breeding with their own subspecies. Individuals in that large population had no difficulty finding mates, and if a group of them died out, there were lots of replacements available.

You know, it's hard to be pals with someone of a different social class. or to have a successful marriage across class lines. And nowadays, even British Dukes and Earls live very different lives than the Royals. Taxes have taken most of their money, and their palaces belong to the National Trust. But the Royal family, untaxed, has become stupefyingly wealthy. Their palaces are still functioning homes, and they still have swarms of footmen and maids and gardeners. But in this niche they are almost alone.

It's no wonder Charles is chummy with royal Saudis. He is a similar anachronism.

And it's so stupid. Slumming with the House of Saud. The smart move would be to position himself as symbolic head of the Anglosphere. Now that's a job with a future....

* One of my sons read this and said, "It's a parody, right? The article? It isn't real, is it?" ... Alas, it's all too true.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

In Lake Woebegon, every child is above average...

...According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China posted an impressive eight per cent growth in gross domestic product, hailed as a beacon of hope in a world dogged by fears of recession.

But official returns from local governments, monitored by the financial services agency Bloomberg, show that every one, from Tibet in the south-west to Tianjin in the north-east, beat even that impressive figure...
story here (via Jim Miller)

* Word Note: Miller is a common name in the US, but usually comes from some German immigrant named Mueller. It is not common in England, probably because in England during the Middle Ages, when people were adopting these newfangled last names, millers were considered scoundrels who cheated the peasants.