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Tuesday, August 05, 2003


After almost 2 years with Blogger, I'm moving to a new Movable Type blog. (Why all this restless jumping from place to place? It must be the gypsy in my soul...)

So now I'm not here anymore, I'm here. Write it on your hand and don't wash until you've memorized it.

The new pad is still a bit too clean and orderly, but I'm busy hanging my psychedelic posters on the walls, and strewing empty pizza boxes around...

Many thanks to Dean Esmay, who went down below with the Morlocks and did the complicated technical stuff to get the new machine going!

I wanted to start off with something profound, but I've been working very hard lately, and have nothing in my mind unrelated to sawdust. And these are the dog days of summer, and George W told me he's not going to start the next war until September, when people are back from vacation.

BUT, I have something better. Something no other blog in the whole world can boast of! Something new, something gee-whiz! So hurry over and take a look. And update those bookmarks...

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

P. Krugman
#112: Where has he been the last 50 years?

For a guy who makes his living spinning economic data for partisan advantage,Everything Is Political (08/05/03) by Paul Krugman is the height of chutzpah. His alleged point is that the Treasury Department no longer gives politically unbiased assessments of the economy. NO LONGER? Where has he been the last 50 years? Has he never heard of Engine Charlie Wilson or George Schultz or Don Regan or Nicholas Brady or James Baker or Robert Rubin or Larry Summers? Does he think "Rubinomics" was named after Robert's dog? ALL Treasury secretaries push the President's case. That's their job. That's why Paul O'Neill is no longer in office and John Snow took his place. And if Tim Russert befuddles Howard Dean on Meet the Press by uncritically citing Treasury Department estimates that's too bad for Russert and Dean.

Anyway, what's wrong with administration departments taking positions on complex policy issues? Krugman certainly does. In his ideal world there would be no Republican Treasury secretaries, only the rich would pay taxes and they would never get a tax cut. So anyone taking a position contrary to that is not being objective. Is that what he is saying?

This is one of Krugman's more absurb columns.

[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. ]

The Founders understood that democracy was important, but if you didn't filter it through a republican system you'd be just as likely to end up with a tyranny of the majority as you would with a healthy society. Don't worry, I won't quote the Federalist Papers, but trust me, it's in there...

--Jonah Goldberg

Saturday, August 02, 2003

do read ...

A great essay by David Warren, Yea, though I walk:
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies."

This is one of the "hard lines" in the Psalms -- hard to understand for a person coming to the Bible with glib, post-modern expectations of what he will find there...

... Now think about this fine old Hebrew sentiment for a moment, which I will now translate into plain contemporary language: "Let my starving enemy watch me eat."...

- - - - - - - - - - - -

... Likewise it was right for Americans and all lovers of liberty to exult, in two profoundly rightful killings. Justice was served in an instance where mercy could only have been granted at the price of injustice.

The Christian had every business going to church to thank God, for this deliverance from evil. He has every business feeling joy that God has delivered. His prayers, if for the souls of the malefactors, may remain private; they cannot be publicly understood. We pray instead, in victory, for the souls of all the many thousands, the tens and hundreds of thousands of innocent and helpless victims that these tyrants tortured and killed. And for their survivors, who can now sleep in the knowledge that justice is served.

And the words of that prayer might well be those of the Psalmist: "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over."

For it is in such moments as this, that we discover the meaning of the hard lines; and the joy in them -- the joy of God's mercy working in this instance for the people of Iraq. The joy, for the Americans, in having been the instruments of God's mercy.
(via Relapsed Catholic)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

This one is funny ...

Satire: Dem Campaign Heats Up As Saddam Tosses Hat In Ring By David Burge, Political Satire
...During a televised debate at Iowa State University in Ames Wednesday, he deftly parried a question from Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt who challenged his compassion of the plight of working families.

"Mister Gephardt, I am the only candidate on this stage who knows, first hand, how the policies of the Republican Bush gang can destroy families, topple their statues, and leave them in financial ruin," he snarled to thunderous applause.

He also went on the offensive against Kerry, noting that, "while my good friend the senator may talk a good game, I actually know what it takes to implement a 110% flat tax rate."

Perhaps his strongest moment of the night came in a verbal free-for-all against Dean, when the two engaged in a 15-minute argument over which candidate had the stronger anti-Bush record.

Dean later appeared flummoxed when Saddam challenged him to detail his chemical weapons deployment platform. "My record on gassing Kurds is very clear, Howard. Yours is not. You are simply missing in action."

"That's not fair," responded a red faced Dean.

In a verbal coup de grace that drew laughter and cheers, Saddam said, "I knew Chemical Ali. I was friends with Chemical Ali. And Howard, you are no Chemical Ali." ...
(via Bill Quick)

Friday, August 01, 2003

On and on it goes ...

Ralph Peters in the NY Post:
August 1, 2003 -- THE outrageous double standard the "world community" applies to Iraq just reached a new height of hypocrisy.

In a statement worthy of the French diplomat he apparently aspires to become, World Bank President James Wolfensohn concluded his meeting with the Iraqi Governing Council with the disdainful remark that "a constitution and an elected government would constitute a recognized government, but what do we do in the meantime?"

Whoaaa there, Daddy Warbucks! Hold the sauterne and the foie gras!

I don't recall that Saddam's regime was elected. Or that it governed by a constitution. Yet that terror-state was recognized as legitimate by the world's diplomats and international bankers. Every slithering, interest-bearing one of them.

And now Iraq's interim Governing Council doesn't deserve the level of recognition accorded Saddam Hussein?

Saddam seized power in a coup, slaughtered his opponents, started successive wars of aggression, pursued weapons of mass destruction and never held a single honest election. But he was just fine with foreign ministries, the United Nations and world financial institutions.

Yet Iraq's representative Governing Council lacks legitimacy as it seeks to build democracy? And Iraq doesn't qualify for reconstruction loans?

This is a double standard of such a disgraceful magnitude that the only appropriate adjective is "European."...
(via Betsy Newmark)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Quagmire update ...

Our coalition forces are taking the fight to the enemy in an unrelenting campaign that is bringing daily results. Saddam Hussein's sons did not escape the raids, and neither will other members of that despicable regime.

--George W. Bush
Read it and weep, lefty appeasers. You can bite the President's ankles all you like, you can hinder our nation's efforts in time of war like the treasonous toads you are, but you won't delay by even a week the coming of the day when people in Iraq can order a Big Mac and fries, and a chocolate milkshake to go with 'em...

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

P. Krugman
#111: Republicans, not deficits, for as far as the eye can see...

It's hard to see where Paul Krugman is going in State of Decline (08/01/03) which is mostly about the California budget crisis . Ostensibly by trashing California he gets a lead-in to trash Washington and the Bush administration for being potentially as bad off as the Golden State. The trouble is there is so much blame to go around in California that it is hard to know which way to point the fingers. Hence his connection with Washington is a fairly weak rehash of his views on deficits and a Benny Goodman ending "California, here we come."

We take all of this to mean that Krugman is running out of arrows in his anti-Bush quiver. As his column was going to press the 2nd quarter GDP was estimated to have grown at an estimated 2.4 % annual rate. Just as important, the source of growth was widespread, including growth in the elusive business investment and construction categories.

The Krugster better get prepared for some ugly (from his point of view) numbers this Fall and going into 2004. We would not be surprised to see real GDP growth of 4 or 5% in some of those quarters.

What can he say then? It'll probably be something like " the Bush fiscal mess in Washington is being camouflaged by rapid economic growth, job creation and a shrinking deficit". Admittedly that's a tough sell, but, like we said, he's running out of arrows. His best hope is that employment continues to lag for a while. Normally, that's the last indicator to turn up, so he can harp on that for a few more months. After that he's looking at Republicans, not deficits, for as far as the eye can see.

[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, July 31, 2003

We've been hearing about the 'last mile' for years, and now ...

Richard Bennett linked to a fascinating article in Business Week on Verizon's aggressive new moves
...Now Seidenberg is launching a series of sweeping initiatives to make good on his vow. From hardball pricing tactics that have knocked rivals back on their heels to a capital-spending war chest that's the largest in telecom, he's determined to transform what was once just another sleepy phone company into the pacesetter for the industry. "When you're the market leader," says Seidenberg, "part of your responsibility is to reinvent the market."

At the heart of this reinvention is the most ambitious deployment of new telecom technology in years. Verizon plans to roll out fiber-optic connections to every home and business in its 29-state territory over the next 10 to 15 years, a project that might reasonably be compared with the construction of the Roman aqueducts. It will cost $20 billion to $40 billion, depending on how fast equipment prices fall...

- - - - - - - - - -

... Whether the numbers work for Verizon will depend on its costs for the new network. Installing a fiber-optic line in a home or business has dropped to about $2,000 today from more than $4,000 five years ago, according to market researcher Render, Vanderslice & Associates. The firm expects that will fall another 50%, to $1,000, in the next five years, although that will depend on how quickly Verizon and the Bells buy equipment. Doreen Toben, Verizon's chief financial officer, says costs have just now come down enough for the initiative to make financial sense. It should be profitable if the company's expense per line comes in between $1,200 and $1,800...

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Charlene just found this one ...

Brazil is a country of enormous
potential—and always will be.

-- Charles de Gaulle
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

good stuff ...

Dean has an interview with Cox and Forkum, the cartoonists...

cartoonists Cox and Forkum

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


Here lies, neatly wrapped in sod,
Henry Hankins c/o God.
On the day of Resurrection,
May be opened for inspection.

-- X.J. Kennedy

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Such a boring neighborhood we live in ...

...there's never anything interesting to see on the street...

Doggie Diner Heads

* Update: Alas, the charming mystery of the three Doggie Diner heads, seen parked a few blocks from our house, yielded to the power of Google in about 20 seconds... Read about them here. And here's a link to the last Doggie Diner head still "in operation," near the SF Zoo...

I'm not sure all this information-at-my-fingertips is a good thing.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Yet cheerfulness will keep breaking in ...

I just happened on this paragraph by Russell Kirk
Yet cheerfulness will keep breaking in. At this hour when Communists and other totalists are busy ripping to shreds the "wardrobe of a moral imagination," certain people of a different cast of mind have turned tailors, doing their best to stitch together once more the fragments of that serviceable old suit we variously call "Christian civilization" or "Western civilization" or "the North Atlantic community" or "the free world." Not by force of arms are civilizations held together, but by the subtle threads of moral and intellectual principle...

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

as if it were the Holy Grail ...

I was just thrilled by this story by a 9/11 widow who went to Iraq on a USO tour...
by Christy Ferer

6/30/2003 -  NEW YORK (AFPN)  -- When I told friends about my pilgrimage to Iraq to thank the U.S. troops, reaction was underwhelming at best.

Some were blunt. "Why are you going there?" They could not understand why it was important for me, a 9/11 widow, to express my support for the men and women stationed today in the Gulf...
How can anyone not understand? Unbelievable! Well, actually not so hard to believe-- sure and I know the type. Prissy cold-hearted urban-elite Liberals--this town is full of them too...
...As we were choppered over deserts that looked like bleached bread crumbs, I wondered if I'd feel like a street hawker, passing out Port Authority pins and baseball caps as I said "thank you" to the troops. Would a hug from me mean anything at all in the presence of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and a Victoria’s Secret model?

The first "meet and greet" made me weep. Why? Soldiers, armed with M16s and saddlebags of water in 120-degree heat, swarmed over the stars for photos and autographs. When it was announced that a trio of Sept. 11 family members was also in the tent it was as if a psychic cork on an emotional dam was popped.

Soldiers from all over our great country rushed toward us to express their condolences. Some wanted to touch us, as if they needed a physical connection to our sorrow and for some living proof for why they were there.

One mother of two from Montana told me she enlisted because of Sept. 11. Dozens of others told us the same thing. One young soldier showed me his metal bracelet engraved with the name of a victim he never knew and that awful date none of us will ever forget...

...One particular soldier, Capt. Vargas from the Bronx, told me he enlisted in the Army after some of his wife's best friends were lost at the World Trade Center.

When he glimpsed the piece of recovered metal from the Towers that I had been showing to a group of soldiers he grasped for it as if it were the Holy Grail. Then he handed it to Kid Rock who passed the precious metal through the 5000 troops in the audience. They lunged at the opportunity to touch the steel that symbolized what so many of them felt was the purpose of their mission -- which puts them at risk every day in the 116 degree heat, not knowing all the while if a sniper was going to strike at anytime...
In a recent post Donald Sensing wrote that 3d Division was a wasting asset. That because of its over-long deployment, re-enlistments would fall catastrophically and the division would have to be almost re-built with new people. Perhaps it will be so, it will be interesting to see. But perhaps he has overlooked one thing. We are all of us hungry to have meaning in our lives, to feel like we are making a difference. Our guys in Iraq have a difficult duty, but I would guess that every one of them also has the deep satisfaction that comes from doing something that may change the world...

Saturday, July 26, 2003

"That thick, fuliginous flatness got me in its spell..."

Dave T mentioned (from Jay Manifold) that the ancient question of whether Kansas really is flatter than a pancake has now been scientifically studied. You can read about it here
...Barring the acquisition of either a Kansas-sized pancake or a pancake-sized Kansas, mathematical techniques are needed to do a proper comparison. Some readers may find the comparing of a pancake and Kansas to be analogous to the comparing of apples and oranges; we refer those readers to a 1995 publication by NASA's Scott Sandford3, who used spectrographic techniques to do a comparison of apples and oranges.

One common method of quantifying ‘flatness’ in geodesy is the ‘flattening’ ratio. The length of an ellipse’s (or arc’s) semi-major axis a is compared with its measured semi-minor axis b using the formula for flattening, f = (a – b) / a. A perfectly flat surface will have a flattening f of one, whereas an ellipsoid with equal axis lengths will have no flattening, and f will equal zero...

...Measuring the flatness of Kansas presented us with a greater challenge than measuring the flatness of the pancake. The state is so flat that the off-the-shelf software produced a flatness value for it of 1. This value was, as they say, too good to be true, so we did a more complex analysis, and after many hours of programming work, we were able to estimate that Kansas’s flatness is approximately 0.9997. That degree of flatness might be described, mathematically, as “damn flat.” ...

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ change government's structure, not its size...

An interesting article, The Accidental Radical , by Jonathan Rauch, on what Bush is really up to...
...Many of these initiatives will make the federal government bigger or stronger, but, for Bush, that is beside the point, which is to change government's structure, not its size. The question is not how much government spends; it's how government spends. Conservatives have been obsessed with reducing the supply of government when instead they should reduce the demand for it; and the way to do that is by repudiating the Washington-knows-best legacy of the New Deal. Republicans will empower the people, and the people will empower Republicans.

"Twenty years from now," Norquist says, "who's demanding extra government if I have a 401(k) medical savings account, I've pre-saved for my old age, I have control over where I send my kids to school? Investing in smaller demand for state power down the road is a rational position."

So that is the sense in which the Bush paradigm is conservative, or at least imagines itself to be conservative. Besides, tax cuts dry up future Democratic spending initiatives; competitive sourcing weakens public employees unions; education reform weakens teachers unions; litigation reform weakens the trial lawyers; trade liberalization, another Bush priority, weakens private-sector unions. "The Democratic Party -- trial lawyers, labor union leaders, the two wings of the dependency movement (people on welfare, people who manage welfare), the coercive utopians (people who tell us our cars should be teeny), government employees -- all the parts of that coalition shrink," Norquist says, "and our coalition grows, every time you make one of these reforms."...
Sounds good, I hope it works. I'm just never sure where Bush is going. Which is as it should be; the magician waves the wand so you will look at that hand and not the other. It's hey presto! and suddenly we are toppling statues and freeing prisoners in Baghdad, and all those who cherish big government and the status quo are sputtering "but, but, but, but, but he lied to us!" "Sorry, boys, it's just part of the show. But I'm sure this next trick won't fool you smart fellers. It's very simple. You see, I have these three little cups..."
...Conservatives, for their part, believe that today they are the ones who stand for progressive change, in the face of "reactionary liberalism," but they have never been able to convince the public. That is what Bush seeks to do, both by rejecting the mantra of minimal government and by passing reform after reform. Never mind how you feel about any one of his initiatives; as a group, they seek to establish that it is Republicans who now "stand for the idea that the old ways will not work." If the Democrats dig in their heels and fall back on stale rants against greed, inequality, and privatization, so much the better. The voters will know whom to thank for the empowering choices that Republicans intend to give them. As for which is the "party of nostalgia," the voters will also remember who defended, until the last dog died, single-payer Medicare, one-size-fits-all Social Security, schools without accountability, bureaucratic government monopolies, static economics, and Mutually Assured Destruction...
(via Brothers Judd Blog)

Friday, July 25, 2003

Early analog weblogging ...

Kimberly Black writes:
My great-great grand uncle, Stephen F. Fleharty, may have been the first blogger.

Although it was common practice for soldiers in the Civil War to write regular letters home or to the local newspaper editors, Fleharty did one better. He actually authored his own column, "Jottings from Dixie". Like today's bloggers, perhaps he fashioned his writings after another prolific war time writer, John Adams.

He wrote for the general public, specifically friends and family of those in his company, the 102nd, in two different papers in Rock Island, Illinois. His columns, which he numbered and dated, were compiled and published as a book in 1999. I have done extensive genealogical research on my family lines but I did not find his book until I inherited his brother William's (my great-grandfather) Civil war guard detail book. The detail book led me to a distant cousin who shared her mother's material with me and the existence of the book.

His writings were, at times, lengthy essays and others were brief bits of timely information. He wrote about the wounded and the dead, the brave and the fearful...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Junk Bonds from California ...

Natalie recently expressed surprise that US States have bond ratings. (I imagine that this means that the shires of England don't issue debt?)

Bond Ratings constrain the US states from a lot of the financial fecklessness they would like to indulge in. Blow the budget, like California has, and the men from Moody's or S&P are attracted like flies to garbage, or detectives to a corpse...

What's interesting is that in this age of globalization, countries are now in the same bind. They too tremble at the thought of their ratings going down. I recently re-read a very interesting book on globalization, The Lexus and the Olive Tree , by Thomas Friedman. One of his points is that national leaders have become much like governors of US states.

It's a fascinating book, and I highly recommend it. My one quibble, (and it's an interesting bit of human psychology) is that Friedman demonstrates the utmost deep and sympathetic understanding of both sides of the various globalization debates—except when they happen in his own country. Here he calls Republicans let-them-eat-cakers. He seems to have no idea that Welfare Reform, which was being debated when he wrote the book, could be motivated by anything except heartless Republican selfishness, or defended by anything except the overflowing compassion of the Democrats...

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

P. Krugman
#110: Not looking for good signs

Judging from Paul Krugman's Dropping the Bonds (07/25/03) you would think something catastrophic had just happened to the U.S. economy. Instead, he is agitated because interest rates have risen by a few basis points off their 60-year lows. What did he expect? That they would go down forever? Well actually, he sort of did. Recall that he has spent the last year and a half pissing and moaning about a Japanese-style deflation happening here. So, he should be celebrating! A bounce in interest rates as an antidote to deflation is just what the doctor ordered.

Think of it this way. There are two ways, in general, in which the price of something can go up. One, an increase in demand, encourages more supply of the item in question at a somewhat higher price. The other, a decrease in supply, due to production cutbacks of some sort, causes prices to rise to as a means to ration the lesser amount of the item. Clearly, the former situation is usually more desirable than the latter.

We think a rising demand for money as the recovery begins in earnest is the most likely explanation for the modest rise in interest rates recently. It's a good sign.

Krugman, of course, is not looking for good signs. However, he can't avoid the obvious. During a bash of Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan for lending his support to tax cuts and deficits, Krugman comments that if we are ever to see budget surpluses again, we will have raise taxes once the recovery occurs. Oh really! Does that mean that there will actually BE a recovery and the recent deficits have done their job by stimulating it! This is quite a concession. As to the path to surpluses, maybe holding down spending would work. What do you think Professor K?

[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, July 24, 2003

The next time someone tells you...

...that there are obviously no WMD's in Iraq, or we would have found them by now, just show them this article:
Fully armed Nazi bomber planes 'buried below East Berlin airport'
AN AIRPORT used by hundreds of thousands of tourists and business travellers each year could be sitting on top of thousands of live bombs.

Papers among thousands of files captured from the Stasi, the secret police of East Germany, claim tons of live Second World War munitions were buried in concrete bunkers beneath the runways of Schoenefeld airport in East Berlin. It is now the main destination for discount airlines, such as Ryanair, and numerous charter companies.

Not only did the commissars intern munitions beneath the runways, but also entire Nazi fighter planes, all fuelled and fully bombed-up, according to the Stasi...

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

One of our gals...


One of Iraq's most wanted generals was run down over the weekend by a young soldier who just a few years ago was running down opponents on the Fort Osage High School track team.

U.S. Army Specialist Heather Baldus, 21, of Independence, was standing guard duty west of Bagdad along the road to Syria. In a call to her mother Saturday, Baldus related the story of how she chased down General Husam (Hossam) Mohammed Amin...
Amin was chief liaison to the United Nations weapons inspectors before the war. Possibly knows a thing or two that will be useful to us. Just threaten him with Gitmo and he'll probably sing.

I think it's hilarious that all the Lefty propaganda has actually convinced a lot of Islamic thuggos that Guantanamo Bay is a hell-hole. So they are babbling to interrogators to avoid being sent to a place where gaining too much weight is a problem for the prisoners, and where the climate is far sweeter than Iraq's... (via Bill Quick)

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

for a foggy SF night ...

Clouds come from time to time—
and bring to men a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.


P. Krugman
#109: This is Barbra Streisand with a spell-checker ...

Paul Krugman has written another column on the cheap. The only thing worthy of comment concerning "Who's Unpatriotic Now? (07/22/03) is to ask why the NY Times is not more demanding of this guy. At best the column is a rehash of a rehash of a rehash. He apparently thinks quoting other newspapers, magazines and columnists (Time, Knight-Ridder, Robert Novak, etc) to back up his points counts as primary research. So we end up with the standard views of the anti-war left. Iraq never attacked us, they were not a threat, there is no evidence of an Al Qaeda link and N. Korea is a bigger threat. This is Barbra Streisand with a spell-checker.

He apparently has some clue as to the weakness of this column. So, at the end, he throws in some unsubstantiated malarkey about Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador sent to Niger to investigate Iraqi uranium purchases, being harassed by the Bush administration for coming up with the wrong answer. According to Krugman's exclusive sources, Time magazine and Robert Novak (we're kidding about the exclusive part), Wilson's wife was a covert CIA operative and Bush allies blew her cover in an attempt to discredit Wilson. To Krugman this would amount to a criminal act and undoubtedly be unpatriotic.

We can't wait for the full story to come out on this one.

[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. ]