Man Without Qualities

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Saddam, Mr. Nice Guy

Isn't it nice of Saddam Hussein to make life easier for George Bush like this.

The New York Times says Saddam had made life more complicated for the President by agreeing to inspectors, so maybe the Iraq president felt bad and is now trying to make it up to Mr. Bush by refusing to agree to any new UN resolution (that is, one that differ from Saddam's "deal" with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan - who, of course, had no authority to bind the UN or the US).

If Mr. Hussein holds his ground on this new demand, and the Security Counsel resolution is "unacceptable," the problem the Times thinks it sees just goes away.

Who knew Mr. Hussein could be such a sweetheart?
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Another Way Frank Rich Is Wrong

Frank Rich says: "no one can even try to make a case for the legitimacy of Saddam's regime."

Little did he know: here, and here and here and here (in response to here) and, of course, generally, here.

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More Evidence that Germany Is Hopelessly Detached from Reality

No sex for soldiers while in active service.

This is supposed to keep up morale.

One can just imagine the study that supports this move:

"Soldier, would it make you happier if we prohibited everyone from having sex? Not just you, you understand, but everyone?

"Ja! You bet it would! None of us can stand the idea that someone else is getting more than we are."

Does that sound right?

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The Coming Torricelli Flame-Out

New Jersey Democratic Senator Torricelli has been fighting to keep every fragment of the ethics/bribery case against him as secret from the public as possible.

As noted in a prior post, his efforts are wrongheaded and counterproductive - since they increase suspicions against him (and voter and media hostility), and will probably be worse than ineffectual in that the information he is trying to keep secret will simply escape at what, for him, is the worst possible time.

That worst possible time is starting now - with just weeks until the election. And sure enough "a federal appellate court on Friday ordered the release of a government letter that sought leniency for Cresskill businessman David Chang, convicted of illegal campaign contributions to the senator."

More to come.

Senator Torricelli has ben arguing preposterously and counterproductively that the Chang letter should be kept secret to protect the Senator's "privacy". The appeals court addressed that argument by noting that Torricelli himself has "already made public statements attempting to refute the very material he now wants us to suppress from public view. ... As far as the Senator's privacy was concerned the ink was in the milk.''

My guess is that a lot of Jersey voters - especially the Independents, who are less likely to inhabit an apparent Democratic ethics-free zone - will be thinking about the Senator's inky milk when they enter that booth in November.


The New York Times, in an article that could almost be mistaken for a solicitation for emergency campaign contributions for Mr. Torricelli, reports no anxiety on the part of either the Times or top Democrats that a person so tainted with ethics and bribery charges may again be elected to the Senate as a Democrat. No. No. The Times predictably sounds a different alarm :

Prominent national Democrats now regard Senator Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey as their party's most vulnerable Senate incumbent, prompting concern that his endangered seat might cost Democrats control of the Senate.

But, of course, to be fair to the top Democrats, their anxiety is not limited to possibly losing the Senate if Mr. Torricelli loses. Some Democrats are, of course, attuned to the larger ramifications of Mr. Torricelli's situation. Such as how that situation might affect the ability of other Democrats to get hold of all the money they want:

Some Democrats also say they are concerned that the party's focus on New Jersey threatens to limit the money and other resources that are available for other Democrats as their party flushes more and more into New Jersey.


And while last week the Times reported that some Democratic voters in New Jersey are deeply troubled by Mr. Torricelli's ethical problems, the same apparently cannot be said of big Democrat donors:

But Mr. McAuliffe and other party leaders also say that the interest generated by the Torricelli race has helped draw more money than they expected. "Bob is bringing millions of dollars in," Mr. McAuliffe said. "If anything, Bob is creating excitement out there and helping raise more money."

That's the spirit, Mr. McAuliffe. Show 'em who got you that job!

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Friday, September 20, 2002

A Trap Swings Shut II

The New York Times is now explaining on the front page that the Republicans will be aided by the fact that: No matter what the Democrats do now, Iraq considerations will dominate the media until election day..

Or, as the Times puts it:

The significance of the war debate, Republicans say, is that, by crowding out the issues Democrats wanted to talk about, it changed a race that had appeared to be shifting toward the Democrats in midsummer.

Imagine that. Don't they read Frank Rich at the Times?

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Truant II

The "Reverend" Jesse Jackson seems to have missed more class days at the Seminary than I had previously thought.

Now he says:

“Since he’s not gonna volunteer, it means you have to kill Hussein. In order to get to him you’re going to have to kill a lot of innocent people - to get to him. It’s reminiscent of biblical times – killing all those children to get to Jesus.”

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TIME's Fool

Shakespeare was right, "Love's not TIME's fool!"

It turns out that TIME's fool is Bill Clinton's former national security advisor, Sandy Berger, who just back in August was busy telling TIME that the Clinton administration had prepared a major, magic strike against al Qaeda, which the Bush Administration delayed!

Well, what a difference a few months, some third-party investigations, and an oath (or at least the applicability of the Federal False Statements Act) can make - at least if you're not Bill Clinton!

Apparently under oath and definitely before Congress, Mr. Berger yesterday is reported by Foxnews to have contradicted "published reports" (that is, Mr. Berger's own August TIME interview) that the outgoing Clinton administration gave the incoming Bush team a plan to go after Al Qaeda. He also said that he heard of the possibility of airplanes being used as weapons as one of several possible threat scenarios. Mr. Clinton himself had previously confessed earlier this year that his administration's plans had a "high probability" of failure, and that he personally declined to pursue any such plan. Which is good, I guess, since Mr. Berger is now saying that there was no plan to pursue in the first place.

In addition, Newsmax is reporting that during the same Congreessional testimony Mr. Berger also insisted "that the Clinton administration never received an offer from Sudan to extradite Osama bin Laden to the U.S., directly contradicting President Clinton's statement earlier this year that he personally turned down the Sudanese offer in 1996."

Links via Croooow Blog.

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Thursday, September 19, 2002

Larry Sabato Sez Some of These Senate Elections Are Stranger Than You Think

Some particularly odd aspects of two upcoming Senate elections are highlighted in bold below.


LARRY SABATO's CRYSTAL BALL SAYS: Toss-up (Highly competitive)

Democratic Senator Jean Carnahan, appointed after the tragic race of 2000, is no better than a nominal favorite to win the remaining four years of the term technically won by her husband, the late Governor Mel Carnahan. Congressman Jim Talent, the unsuccessful 2000 GOP gubernatorial nominee, is a strong challenger who probably would have been governor had it not been for the plane crash that killed Governor Carnahan and created an enormous last-minute wave of sympathy for the Democratic ticket in Missouri two years ago. It is becoming apparent in public and private surveys that Talent is doing quite well, and that IF this trend continues, he will have a decent chance to beat Carnahan on election day. However, there are too many unknowns remaining in this race, and the Crystal Ball is not yet ready to say that it is leaning to Talent.

It should be noted that the Missouri match-up is technically a special election to fill the remaining the four years of the term of the late Gov. Carnahan. As such, the winner will likely be sworn in within a few days of the Nov. 5 election, assuming Democratic Governor Bob Holden doesn't sit on the official certification of the results produced by the elected Republican Secretary of State (Which Holden may well be tempted to do). Therefore, if Mrs. Carnahan wins, the effect is nil. But if Talent should capture the seat, and there are no other changes in the Senate before then, the Senate would revert to Republican control for any lame-duck session in November/December. With Trent Lott the Majority Leader again, this would have some dramatic effects, potentially, including the possible approval of Bush judicial nominees currently bottled up in the Democratic-controlled Judiciary Committee. This prospect--tantalizing for Republicans and nightmarish for Democrats--will undoubtedly increase the focus on and fundraising for this contest as election day approaches.


LARRY SABATO's CRYSTAL BALL SAYS: Likely Republican (Highly competitive)

After an unusual eight years of Democratic rule in Republican Alaska under Governor Tony Knowles, Alaska seems to be reverting to form with Republican Frank Murkowski, the current junior U.S. Senator from Alaska. Democratic Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer is a credible Democratic nominee, but her only real chance is in the mad collection of third-party and independent candidates on the ballot in Alaska, which may drain more votes from Murkowski than from her. Still, Murkowski is firmly in the frontrunner's saddle, and he has to hope that Alaskans do not prefer in the end to keep his Senate seniority by electing Ulmer.

By the way, if Murkowski does win, he will be able to appoint his U.S. Senate successor. The new Alaska governor takes office on December 2, but by law (passed by a GOP state legislature), Murkowski must wait 5 days after his Senate resignation to appoint the successor. This provision was enacted to prevent outgoing Democratic Governor Knowles from getting the Senate appointment--though again under law, would have had to choose a registered Republican for the open seat. If the Congress has a lame-duck session, and the GOP has achieved majority status through the election of Jim Talent in Missouri (see Missouri Senate race), then Murkowsi's resignation might deprive Republicans of their temporary majority for the 5-day period.

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Corporate Reform Goes to the Republicans

The most recent Pew Survey results report many interesting things - including a rather predictable uptick in the President's standing. Although the report is certainly not clear good news for either party, at least one result is especially curious:

[T]here is no evidence that Democrats have been able to capitalize on a summer's worth of corporate scandals or a sagging economy. Republicans hold a slight 36%-31% lead as the party better able to deal with corporate corruption. Republicans have lost the lead they held early this year as the party better able to handle the economy; the two parties run even on this issue, mirroring the parity in the congressional ballot.

It is interesting to ask whether the electorate sees through the O-so-opportunistic Democratic grandstanding on this issue, especially over the summer.

The poll also indicates some Democratic strengths, including that "turnout is likely to be on par with the 1998 midterm congressional election, but that, unlike 1998, Democrats express as much interest in voting as Republicans at this stage of the campaign".

Of course, very few seats in the House are truly competitive - so such general poll results can be seriously misleading as a measure of House results. The Connecticut 5th Congressional district (Johnson/Maloney), for example, is supposed to be "competitive" - and here's a Republican poll for that District.

On the other hand, the Senate races are not gerrymandered. But, even there, state-by-sate polling is much more important. For example, here's a Republican New Jersey poll.
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Saddam and Germany

William Safire says that Social Democrat Rudolf Scharping, who Mr. Safire describes as "the defense minister who had been recently booted out of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's cabinet for financial irregularities," has a strange way of explaining why President Bush wants to depose Saddam Hussein. German justice minister, Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, is reported to have said that "Bush wants to divert attention from his domestic problems. It's a classic tactic. It's one that Hitler used." Chancellor Schroeder himself embarrassingly claims "This was always our aim, to get the weapons inspectors back in," while the Wall Street Journal (or rather, a Journal op-ed by the Christian Democratic Union's shadow foreign and defense minister) points out that the Chancellor strongly opposed the very American actions that brought Iraq to request the return of the inspectors - even in its current diversionary sense. The Journal article dramatically claims that "the chancellor has for his own personal gain plunged the federal republic into an international crisis." The Washington Post has accused the Chancellor of isolating Germany through unilateral obstructionism and refusal to cooperate even with a United Nations resolution.

All of these developments flow from the Social Democrats' weakness on German domestic issues, leading them to capitalize on what they see as a short-term popular international position. One might - and many will - write about the cynicism, opportunism and destructiveness of the Social Democratic approach. But a narrower issue is: what effect is the most recent wave of the German-left excess having on German voters? Until recently, the Social Democrats were able to increase their standing in the polls with this issue without sounding so extreme as to trigger the very claims of 'German isolationism" that are now being heard around the world. Many German people very much dislike the thought of their soldiers being sent into battle under any conditions - but it is at least possible (I would say probable) that even more Germans even more strongly dislike the thought of Germany being branded as a "unilateralist" determined to obstruct the functioning of international law, in this case the Security Council. The Best of the Web links to a Times of London article reporting that even before the most recent German-left excesses, polls showed a tentative resurgence of the Christian Democrats. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) tomorrow also points out that the Chancellor's claim to having assisted in bringing Saddam around is false and calls the upcoming election "too close to call." None of this reflects very well on the German electorate, who have had years to discover how ineffectual and downright dishonest their current government really is - and should have much better judgment of international issues, too.

To be fair to the German electorate, the round of German-left excess, the resulting recriminations and then the even worse German-left excesses - such as the bizarre statements of Social Democrats Scharping and Daeubler-Gmelin - may have arrived with a bang. But analysis of the significance of such developments is now available to German voters, if they care to see what is happening. The FAZ, for example, runs an editorial tomorrow including the following:

[O]nly Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, [are] red-faced on the international stage. The German version of unilateralism - “we don't care about UN resolutions“ - reduces the international pressure on Iraq. Baghdad was able to interpret Schröder's “without us“ and his brusque criticism of the United States as a serious rift in the Western alliance, yet in the end Saddam could no longer count on the German chancellor because Schröder, the unilateralist, became internationally isolated and thus minimized his own influence on the United States. By raising doubts over the West's willingness to push through UN resolutions with military action, Schröder hindered his self-professed goal of a political solution.

If, as suggested by some recent polls, the Social Democrats' excesses have already passed the point of diminishing returns with the German electorate, then the most recent developments coupled with statement's such as the FAZ analysis may well accelerate and intensify that process. The Germans may to some extent justify themselves in this election, yet.

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Gore the Mudak? II

"How can a guy who ran for president and other offices be such a lousy people person? This is a guy who never came back to us after that debacle a couple of years ago, never thanked us for the hundreds of hours we devoted to saving his sorry ass, never called, never wrote. Then he shows up in 2002 like it all never happened. He's useless."--an unnamed Palm Beach County, Fla., Democratic operative, quoted in The American Prowler, Sept. 19

Link Via Best of the Web

"Mudak" (Russian curse): "complete idiot/loser." Derived from the Tartar word for testicles.
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An Inspector Suggestion

Both Lileks and Galt have lots of sharp things to say about weapons inspections in Iraq. The Man Without Qualities thought just enough about the practicalities and strategies of weapons inspections to realize that I would need at least two more lives to think the whole thing through.

But I do have one wirthwhile consideration that hasn't been publicly vetted (perhaps for good reason):

My guess is that the United States knows some - but not all - exactly or reasonably specific - locations of Iraq's WMD centers, and that the evidence of such locations is very sensitive. Suppose an acceptable panel of experts (acceptable to whom I will leave as a seriously open question - but say the Security Counsel and the US intelligence agencies for the moment) could be formed and the evidence of such locations disclosed to that panel. The Security Counsel resolution requires that Iraq disclose all locations of WMD, and authorizes military force if that is not done. As a non-exclusive enforecement mechanism, the resolution also states that if Iraq does not disclose a single site that the panel knows about then Iraq is to be conclusively deemed in material defiance of the resolution. Iraq does not know which locations the US (and the panel) is aware of - so if Iraq fails to disclose even one location, that location may be on the "known" list.

Is the above feasible, and would it provide a meaningful incentive for Iraq to disclose? Would it help call the multilateralist bluff? Or would it just confuse the situation?

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The Washington Post reports:

President Bush plans ... today [to] formally ask ... Congress to grant him authority to strike unilaterally if Saddam Hussein does not comply soon with United Nations mandates to forfeit his weapons of mass destruction .... Bush's proposed congressional resolution would give him "maximum flexibility" to carry out any war plans, regardless of U.N. actions .... Should the Security Council reject Bush's proposed resolution, the administration is prepared to make clear it believes it has authority to act unilaterally under a "self-defense" clause in the U.N. charter. .... Congressional leaders predicted swift passage of the proposed [Congressional] resolution

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Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Swedish Massaging by and of the Numbers

"So the key comparison number is really what a person can earn per hour in each country."


So if each worker in Country-S works, say, (0.1) hours a week at an hourly rate (with or without government subsidies and taxes) of $100, for a weekly income of $10, then those people are better off than the workers of Country-U who work 40 hours per week at an hourly rate of $20, for a weekly income of $800?

And the reason this is the "key number" is that the workers in Country-U "work far more hours per year than people in Country-S, so any increased annual income is 'bought' by giving up the vacations and holidays that the people in Country-S enjoy."

Is it true that one variable - what a person can earn per hour in each country - tells the largest part of the comparison story even where many more labor decisions in one country are taken from the individual and made at the government level? There's plenty of reason to think decisions at the governmental level are - and are even intended to be - less economically efficient than those made at the individual level. Does it matter whether or not the individual workers in Country-S would like to work more? Does it matter whether people in Country-S have smaller families than they would otherwise have because of perceived adverse economic prospects? Does it matter that one well-known problem with international economic comparisons is the tendency of such comparisons to grossly overstate the value of government services? The answer to these last three questions seems to be: Apparently not to Mr. Newman. Unless I missed it, Mr. Newman's methodology does not seem to account for any of that. And that old bugaboo about governments being obligated to make sure everyone had as much work as they wanted is now - presto! - transformed into the government making everyone "enjoy" all that work they don't have to do! Forget about economies being judged by whether they create jobs, the real measure of an economy is how much down-time they gin out. By this measure, think of how much richer the cronically un- and under- employed countries of the third-world are than they understand.

So why stop with a mandated 35 hour work week the way the French did and now reportedly widely regret and are set to relax? Why stop with (.01) hours of work per week suggested by the above example? Why not pass a law requiring everyone in County-S to "enjoy" 365 days of vacations and holidays per year and make everyone infinitely happy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

If one really wants to isolate one single variable that gives the best idea of how much real wealth an economy is delivering to each of its citizens, isn't per capita GDP the place to start? [With respect to which, see below.] But, of course, no single variable tells all - or even most - of the story.

Further, Mr. Newman purports to make the difference by factoring in public benefits. But as one of InstaPundit's posts already summarizes, this point was promptly made by a second article, which attempted a "debunking" of the original study. The second (debunking) article pointed out, among other things:

The "differences in government and welfare services" are precisely the factors which the above studies failed to take into account. If you live in a country earning $100,000, but paying $99,000 in rent and health insurance, are you really better off than in Sweden?

And this "debunking" article was already itself addressed by yet a third article, which purported to take a position between the first two articles. All three articles are summarized in Instapundit - and they include many points. But Mr. Newman does not address those points - his approach is sweeping and employs rather charged language, which is fine, but makes rather clear that he is hardly personally and scientifically disinterested. Moreover, InstaPundit already linked to a purchasing power parity site, which Mr. Newman seems to think has not been done.

Further, some of the parameters under discussion already take government benefits into account. For example, the first article makes a big point that:"International Monetary Fund data from 2001 show that U.S. GDP per capita in dollar terms was 56 percent higher than in Sweden while in 1980, Swedish GDP per capita was 20 percent higher." Also, the first study already notes that: "If Sweden were a U.S. state, it would be the poorest measured by household gross income before taxes." Now, welfare benefits of all kinds are transfer payments (except to the extent the government runs a deficit). With respect to determining such average results it is not necessary to consider transfer payments - since one household's gain is another's loss. Mr. Newman is correct to note (although he is not the first) that differences in household size will skew the per capita results here. On the other hand, it is simply absurd to think that two people (for example) living separately but with the same income live as well as if they lived together and pooled resources in a single household. Isn't that one big reason that international economists look at variables on a household and a per capita basis? Of course, if household size were being set by efficient market forces, none of this would matter as much, since one might assume that some value was added in the choice to live in a smaller household for those that made such a choice. But one would have to be exceptionally blind to modern social realities not to note that household size can largely be determined by state welfare policies, which hardly count as efficient market forces. Indeed, while one cannot be too facile with international comparisons, the United States' experience with its 1996 Welfare reform Act strongly suggests that the efficient family structure is a world-wide casualty of many state welfare systems. And Sweden's is bigger than most.

Moreover, in some cases, per capita calculations are just wrong. For example, absolute per capita unemployment (in which all stay-at-home spouses are deemed "unemployed") doesn't mean much in most cases - but household employment is important, as is the employment rate of people who consider themselves to be in the job market.

Ultimately, it is some notion of "worker productivity" that must account for wealth production, and Mr. Newman's confidence in his sweeping approach and that a simple citation to some DOL figures will settle this issue is not shared by many international economists. As I pointed out in a prior post:

Another consequence of the odd subsidies the European way creates is its artificial enhancement to European “worker productivity.” As a subsidy to unions and established employee interests, European law imposes very high costs (compared to United States law) on an employer’s decision to hire a worker – especially young, inexperienced workers. One consequence is that an employer will only hire and retain workers who are productive enough to justify such high costs – other workers will become unemployed. Since “productivity” figures generally reflect the output of those who are employed, the European subsidy system tends to artificially enhance putative “productivity.” ...[B]ut the failure of higher productivity to result in growth and employment concerns European social planners, some of whom noted, for example:

“Faster economic growth will be critical in creating jobs and assuring the success of EMU. Historically, Europe successfully created jobs when economies were strong. Fast growth between 1986 and 1990 (3.4% annually) added 8.1 million jobs in the EU. Unfortunately many of them disappeared in the slow growth of the 1990s, (1.5% annually). …[W]e believe that EU economies must grow more than 3 percent annually in the first 4 years of EMU: in order to handle growth in the labor force, to accommodate productivity improvements, and in order to reduce the unemployment rate. Anything less would mean a definite risk that the public would blame the EMU for failing to address unemployment.”

International comparisions of worker productivity are tricky. For example, "Gross Domestic Product Per Hour Worked" is a measure of productivity less subject to the artificial enhancement described above. Such figures exist. However, such reports with which I am familiar are considered to be "experimental," carry warnings that they are to be used for detection of trends and not reliable for cross border comparisions, and require acceptance of some rather difficult conclusions. For example, ...the figures linked above rank the French economy as very slightly "more productive" (on a GDP/Hour basis) than that of the United States. But those figures also rank the Japanese economy as vastly less efficient than that of France or the United States. For example, the United Kingdom is defined on that productivity index to be 100, and for the year 2000 France and the US both show up at about 125 - while Japan appears at 90! Perhaps this is true. But one does not easily accept the suggestion that an hour worked by a French worker was almost 40 percent more productive than that of an hour worked by a Japanese worker in 2000. But then that study specifically warns that it is not to be used for cross-border comparisions.

Some of Mr. Newman's points seem rhetorically excessive, which does not encourage reliance on his sweeping conclusions. For example, his column rather strongly suggests that InstaPundit endorsed the first article (which got the whole issue rolling) - where InstaPundit clearly states that he "personally tend[s] to agree with the third article." Moreover, InstaPundit has already pointed out that he has not been discussing poverty rates - but Mr. newman (apparently, but not clearly, purporting to debunk InstaPundit) says: "When discussing the horrors of the Swedish welfare state, conservatives will bemoan the poverty and low wages of the Swedes."

I don't suggest that anything appearing above settles any particular point in the Sweden-Mississippi issue. For one thing, all three articles are in Swedish - which I do not understand. So the Man Without Qualities has no dog in this hunt. But the methodology of Mr. Newman's analysis exists at a rather peculiar level of sophistication, and his brief, undetailed column purports to be the first to address rather obvious points already addressed and counteraddressed in the very articles he purports to definitively supersede without any detailed analysis of those articles. His rhetoric is not disinterested, which is fine, but also signals his partisanship. Even his partisanship wouldn't matter if he had taken the time and effort to address the points raised by all three articles in reasonable detail. So it seems wise at least for the moment to hold in abeyance any decision that the matter has been put to rest - or even any decision that Mr. Newman has made a material contribution.
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Flight 93

InstaPundit does a really good job of keeping a straight face while explaining that, no, there really isn't any credible evidence for thinking that Flight 93 was shot down.

If I ever need someone to coax a lunatic into not jumping off the roof, I'm calling Glenn!
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Senator Daschle Catches Up to Saudi Arabia?

Nothing concentrates the minds of the more opportunistic United States Senators like a good public opinion poll flashing like the headlights of a semi oncoming in their lane. One might like to believe that some other factor led Senator Daschle into capitutlating and promising a Senate vote on an Iraq war resolution well before election day - but the times call for us all to discard such naivete.

Since entering the Los Angeles' Times web site is about as easy as gaining access to the Pentagon while dressed in a burka these days, I set out a good part of the linked article below:

WASHINGTON -- Senate Democratic leaders on Tuesday agreed to vote before the midterm elections on a resolution supporting action against Iraq, dropping their complaints that they were being rushed to judgment before the Bush administration had fully made its case.


After weeks of raising questions and voicing caution about Bush's request that Congress move quickly to support action in Iraq, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) embraced the aim of holding a vote on Iraq policy before Congress adjourns in mid-October for the elections.

"I think there will be a vote well before the election," said Daschle, who will join other congressional leaders at the White House today to discuss the resolution's timing and wording. "The real question is what will the resolution say."

That shift by Senate Democrats blunts one of the few sources of domestic political resistance to Bush as he has moved toward a confrontation with Hussein. And it is likely to strengthen Bush's hand as he tries to rally the international community and the American public behind his initiative against Iraq.


Many Democrats had wanted to postpone a vote until after the elections; Daschle has repeatedly warned that a preelection vote risked politicizing the issue. But in a shift, Daschle said he was now calling for early action because Bush had complied with most of the requests that lawmakers had made: to consult with Congress, seek support from the U.N. and to more explicitly make the case for action against Iraq.

Daschle said he was encouraged by Bush's speech to the U.N. and by signs of growing global support for Bush's efforts. He said he still did not think there was "conclusive evidence" about the threat posed by Iraq, but he no longer insisted such evidence be provided as a prelude to rallying behind Bush.

The new support for quick action by Congress came even as some lawmakers were questioning whether such a vote should be delayed after Iraq's announcement Monday that it would allow U.N. weapons inspectors unconditional access to suspected weapons sites.

"A few weeks is well worth waiting if it allows us to avoid a war," said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.).

But most lawmakers said that they had little faith in Hussein's willingness to allow unfettered inspections and that Congress should not be diverted from acting on its own. Indeed, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) said a vote of support by Congress could help the U.S. win tougher action by the U.N.

Jockeying over the timing of any vote on Iraq has been laden with political overtones because of the elections, in which both parties are laboring fiercely for control of the House and Senate. Many Democrats have been concerned that a protracted debate over Iraq would cast a long shadow over the agenda of issues they believe work to their advantage--the economy and other domestic issues.

But some have argued that the sooner the issue is disposed of, the more time Democrats will have to spotlight other issues in the campaign.


Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said: "I don't want an open-ended Gulf of Tonkin resolution," a reference to the controversial measure that allowed expanded U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Dodd said he would prefer to see a resolution focused on eliminating weapons of mass destruction. Although he would not necessarily oppose efforts to promote regime change, "My goal here is to deal with the weapons of mass destruction. If regime change is an added benefit to all of this, then fine. But if you get regime change and you have weapons of mass destruction in place, then what have you gained?"

Some Republicans who have been slow to accept Bush's case against Iraq also showed new willingness to move more aggressively. "We can't condition our action on what may or may not transpire in the U.N.," said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine).

Senator Daschle's statement that he was calling for early action because "Bush had complied with most of the requests that lawmakers had made: to consult with Congress, seek support from the U.N. and to more explicitly make the case for action against Iraq" is particularly interesting since right after the President's United Nations speech somebody impersonating Senator Daschle told the media: "I don't think that the case for a pre-emptive attack has been made conclusively yet."

If I may attempt to construe the words of the South Dakota oracle:

Contrary to his prior stance, Senator Daschle now says that the Senate should take early action to authorize a pre-emptive strike even though no "case for a pre-emptive attack has been made conclusively yet" and "there isn't 'conclusive evidence' about the threat posed by Iraq." That's because he no longer "insists" that "such evidence be provided as a prelude to rallying behind Bush."

It's all very nice that the good Senator now wants to defer to the President, but the media has an obligation forcefully to ask Senator Daschle why he has changed his mind and gotten deferential to the President by precipitously dropping any demand for "conclusive" evidence or a "conclusive" case against Iraq. Why in the good Senator's mind was "conclusiveness" the standard for the past many months, but suddenly is not needed now? My guess is that it has something to do with those polls and an election now just a few weeks away - but don't expect the Mandarin from Aberdeen to admit to that.

UPDATE: Another article on today's position of Senator Daschle.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Saddam's Letter

Bill Quick points out that the "unconditional" Iraq letter is just not unconditional:

This letter reads well on cursory examination, but a deeper look reveals it offers nothing new. Iraq is still demanding the same old conditions of an end to sanctions and the sanctity of Saddam's regime before permitting "unconditional" inspections, and, on top of it, wants a guarantee that it can "discuss practical arrangements for the resumption of inspections" with no time limit whatsoever on those discussions.

Even the normally dim New York Times partially grasps the problem when it reports:

While the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, emphasized Iraq's willingness to permit unconditional inspections, Mr. Kay [, a senior vice president with Science Applications International Corporation in Virginia,] said, Iraq's letter of acceptance also spoke of the "practical arrangements" needed to resume visits and the "commitment" that United Nations member states had made "to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Iraq." Such language, he argued, was reminiscent of Iraq's earlier refusal to permit inspectors to visit Mr. Hussein's palaces and other symbols of Iraqi sovereignty and independence.

But, of course, the United Nations rushes in, anyway.
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Going Going, ...

"I was astounded to see that by and large the growing churches are those that we ordinarily call conservative," said Ken Sanchagrin, director of the Glenmary Research Center and a professor and chairman of the department of sociology at Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, N.C. "And when I looked at those that were declining, most were moderate or liberal churches. And the more liberal the denomination, by most people's definition, the more they were losing."
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Paul Williams

The former Global Crossing headquarters is on the market for rather obvious reasons. It was designed by Paul Williams.

Every so often I am astounded in conversation by another Los Angeleno who is unaware of the legacy of Paul Williams. Paul Revere Williams is not exactly an obscure architect. But somehow there is a curious difficulty in presenting him as the real polymorphous genius he was. Maybe it’s the fact that, unlike many other architects, he commanded a stylistic vocabulary so broad that he cannot be classified. Part of his burden is that he was a "Southern California regional architect" before that category was big time - but he was much bigger than that category.

Williams designed the signature "theme restaurant" at the Los Angeles Airport in his later years, when he also advanced the "mid-century modern" domestic style in Palm Springs and the like, a style now again fashionable.

But many of the most successful "Spanish Colonial" or "Mission Revival" buildings in Southern California also sprang from his pen as early as the 1920's and thereafter. Williams designed for the upper crust and for corporations. And, of course, he designed many buildings which he could not easily visit after their construction was complete because he was African-American.

There is a fascinating feel to Paul Williams' buildings. The genius of their geometry somehow expresses a spirit of integrity and accommodation and a total lack of the bitterness that one easily finds in modern architecture. I have never felt Williams' geometry and space - and their relationship to larger social issues - has been sufficiently analyzed. The same cannot be said, for example, with respect to Frank Lloyd Wright. I don't really think that the architecture schools - and the architecture establishment - understand how big Williams really was.

Nearly every day I walk near my house past homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Paul Revere Williams, and I think about that. Maybe someday I'll try to do something about it.

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Dem Bones Should Not Be Politicized

National Geographic News reports:

The remains of Kennewick Man, a nearly intact North American skeleton more than 8,000 years old, have been at the center of a controversy since they were found along the Columbia River in Washington state in 1996. Native American tribes have claimed the bones as those of an honored ancestor, "Ancient One," and objected to scientific study of the remains. Now, after a six-year battle, a federal judge has ruled in favor of the scientists.

The Man Without Qualities hopes this decision prevails on appeal - if there is one. It is a disturbing prospect that rare and essential scientific evidence could fall under the exclusive control of people (in this case, Native American tribes) having a distinctly and emphatically non-scientific, politicized agenda. Among other things, the tribes have an incentive to have these remains deemed ethnically similar to the current members of the tribes (and, worse, the tribes actually want to bury the bones, preventing almost any study of them). If that is true, so be it - although a preliminary and highly controversial study had suggested that the skeleton might be of a caucasian . But such delicate, important scientific and historical evidence should be available to the widest possible audience.

It would hardly be the first time control of essential scientific and historical evidence fell into such inappropriate hands - indeed, over time, such a situation has almost certainly more been the norm than the exception. As but one example among uncountably many, control of the Dead Sea Scolls has for decades been a world-wide scientific scandal. And the world's particle accelerators are not exactly open to all researchers who might desire acess to them.

As required by the relevant federal statute, the court ruled that that a "cultural relationship" between Kennewick Man and contemporary Native American tribes had not been proven: "A thorough review of the 22,000-page administrative record does not reveal the existence of evidence from which that relationship may be established in this case."

However, the tribes said that the court's decision "removes any barriers that would prevent the plaintiff scientists from demanding access to all Native American human remains for their scientific needs."

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But Why Isn't He Naming Names?

Brad DeLong says that "Democratic politicians" advance ill-conceived arguments to reduce drug company revenues.

A lucid moment.

But perhaps Professor DeLong would care to identify the worst and most opportunistic offenders, and describe some of the most egregious efforts these "Democratic politicians" have made in this area? That might help practically to contain the damage these arguments do. For example, it is not hard to find very smart people who know about the drug business who will privately confide that research has already been severely reduced by perceptions that such arguments will deprive the drug companies of the fruits of such research. And while he's at it, perhaps Professor DeLong might want to discuss how product liabilty laws promulgated by the Democratic party's beloved plaintiffs' counsel bar further reduce incentives for the creation and manufacture of drugs - especially vaccines for children.

Abstract comment like Professor De Long's that is served up without particulars (in this case, without even a single particular) might be construed as just a way for the commenter to distance himself as an economist theoretically from the destructive arguments and efforts of those same "Democratic politicians" for whom he is continually a enabler. Such abstract comments without particulars seem calculated to have no practical effect - other than to open a personal intellectaul trap door for Professor DeLong. Surely Professor DeLong doesn't want to risk being seen as engaging in cynical and deliberatly ineffectual academic bloviations against the policies of the same Democratic politicians he helps to get elected - would he?

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Monday, September 16, 2002

Iraq Says It Agrees

Iraq has reportedly agreed to allow weapons inspectors back in "without conditions." The White House quickly dismissed the Iraqi move which does not include a promise to disclose or a disclosure of Iraq's prohibited weapons programs.

But even this partial result is odd, so very odd. We already know from the sophisticates at the New York Times and the like that the President's speech and recent strategy can't have had anything to do with the sudden Iraqi about-face. Maureen Dowd, for example, has provided the complete and utter explanation of why Mr. Bush's United Nation's speech was a complete waste and contained nothing new at all. ("There was no compelling new evidence. Mr. Bush offered only an unusually comprehensive version of the usual laundry list.")

So, since Bush had nothing to do with this, what could have been the cause? O, dear. O, dear. Maybe Ms. Dowd and the other Rainesians at the Times can enlighten us. It's all SO confusing.

But don't hold your breath waiting for a serious explanation from the Times. No. My guess is that the Liberal establishment, including the Times, will have their hands full arguing that this development is a big problem for the Bush Administration, which is committed to "regime change" in Iraq unless Iraq carries a serious and unlikely burden of demonstrating that all of its weapons of mass destruction capability has been eliminated. Yes, indeed - the Times will likely argue that Iraq isn't dissembling as the Administration says, or even partially capitulating, .... it's calling Bush's bluff!

O, dear, it's a terrible problem for the President, Iraq letting in those inspectors just as the United States and the rest of the world demanded for the entire Clinton Presidency. But, then again, perhaps New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will explain that the United States and the rest of the world really didn't want that, after all, just as she said Sunday morning that reports claiming her husband was offered a deal to extradite Osama bin Laden to the United States were false. [Thanks to Crooow Blog for this last doozy.]

And perhaps the Times will also argue that the election agenda can and will now get back to their cherished "domestic issues" - notwithstanding the huge amount of work and media coverage this development will entail. But if that turns out to be their line, you can't blame them for trying. They're entitled to dream and the Times IS a partisan broadsheet with water to carry, after all. It's not like we're talking about the paper of record or anything like that.

And, by total coincidence, another 21 suspected al Qaeda operatives have reportedly just been arrested in Singapore. Gee, if this recent progress against Iraq and al Qaeda keeps up, maybe the Times will begin to suspect that the United States is not only the world's only superpower - but it can whistle and walk at the same time, too!

Don't laugh. It could happen!
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Mother's Little Helper

Some of Atrios' recent thoughts are: Of all the 9/11 conspiracies, I think the "flight 93 was shot down" one is the most credible given available evidence (and lack of).

"Of all the 9/11 conspiracies...?" Atrios writes as if his readers will know what this means. Could he be refering to al Qaeda? Was al Qaeda one of "the 9/11 conspiracies" on which Atrios' thoughts and private language revolve here?

Maybe Atrios went out and had himself - in words he chooses to describe a woman commentator with a rather conservative Jewish viewpoint - "a good cockpunching" to his head, and these are the thoughts that filled his head in the afterglow. Maybe it was her writing in her column about her own "soon-to-be third and first-graders [who] are looking forward to starting school in a couple of weeks" that he feels justifies his helpful observation.

Also, Atrios finds "the Lackawanna Terrroist story is a bit...thin." To Atrios it may be one of "the 9/11 conspiracies" that's not as "credible" as the "flight 93 was shot down" one.

As he explores his deepening suspicions about this "most credible" conspiracy and the need he feels for certain women who have come into his consciousness to get themselves "cockpunched", Atrios may want to remember: Haloperidol is indicated in the management of manifestations of acute and chronic psychosis, including schizophrenia and manic states. It may also be of value in the management of aggressive and agitated behavior in patients with chronic brain syndrome and mental retardation and in the symptomatic control of Gilles de la Tourette's syndrome.

Just a helpful observation of my own.

UPDATE: Atrios now says that one should change "conspiracies" to "conspiracy theories" and "my words should be clear to Musil as they were to everyone else who read what I wrote." Apparently, all "possible alternative explanations to the official one" are "conspiracies" as far as Atrios is concerned. An honest mistake would not be permitted. Of course, Atrios' equation [Government is wrong] = [conspiracy] must lead to a lot of conspiracies in his thinking.

But, even accepting this approach, I guess I'm still slow, because I still think that if Atrios believes that Flight 93 being shot down is a "possible alternative explanation to the official one" that has "credibility" then Atrios is quite simply stark, raving nuts. And most reasonable people agree that this "possible alternative explanation to the official one" is crazy. Atrios dissents.

Atrios also says: that he "wasn't even aware that Betsy Hart was Jewish." I don't know that she's Jewish now. I never heard of her before I saw Atrios suggest that she be attacked. I immediately found that her column appears on the Jewish World Review website. In fact, it's the very first site that comes up when one does a Yahoo! search under "Betsy Hart." But Atrios wants us to believe he is unschooled in the very basic ways of the net. He just didn't know who Betsy Hart was when he singled her out for his violent, unexplained image. Is my comment, as Atrios puts it, "a not-so-thin-veiled accusation of anti-Semitism? You bet it is. Atrios says my suggestion is "laughable for a variety of reasons" - one almost expects him to suggest that some of his best friends are Jewish or something of the kind. Instead he "defends" himself by pointing to his own, unknowable, subjective lack of knowledge of the ethnicity of the woman whose physical attack he is urging. Nice guy.

[UPDATE: Contrary to my initial concern, I have no evidence that Atrios' attack of Ms. Hart is motivated by antisemitism. Jewish World Review runs various gentile conservative columnists. And, to be fair to Atrios, his vicious impulse towards Ms. Hart is clearly sexual in nature - not ethnic.]

[FURTHER UPDATE: Ampersand has some reasonable things to say about the above post. A fine point: I did not say that Atrios was being antisemitic simply because he said something bad about a Jewish World Review columnist. I did intend to raise antisemitism as a possible explanation for Atrios vicious, unexplained image (or, as Atrios puts it, "a not-so-thin-veiled accusation of anti-Semitism" - where I construe raising antisemitism as a possible explanation as a variety of "a not-so-thin-veiled accusation" ), where Atrios provided no explanation at all. Atrios' subsequent coy reference to an old Onion squib and a TV show only makes his motivation (which he has still not fully articulated) more obscure. I now believe that I assigned more weight to Ms. Hart's column appearing in the Review than I should have - even for the purpose of asking if antisemitism were a possible explanation for Atrios' assault on her. The Review has many gentile columnists. So I am treating Atrios' comment as sexual (which it obviously is) - not ethnic.]

Atrios also explains that it was just fine for him to say that Ms. Hart needs to get herself "cockpunched" because the Onion used the term more than six months ago to refer to punching someone in the groin. The Onion does not mention Betsy Hart - or any woman. And the meaning of such a term is clearly different where it appears in a humor magazine which consistently achieves deliberate, effective parody than its unexplained meaning in Atrios' blog, which is characterized only by unintentional self parody. Atrios says: "I didn't specify what I was referring to," so now it's OK for him to specify after the fact that he meant that Ms. Hart "needs" to be brutalized because she acted up on a television show Atrios didn't mention before. The reader can decide for herself how much sense Atrios' explanation makes. In the mean time, whoever this guy is, the women in his life may want to exit as quickly as possible.

Hey, perhaps Atrios will convince himself that he "needs" to order the relevant federal official investigating Flight 93 to swear on a Bible that the Flight wasn't shot down, on pain of the official being cockpunched by Atrios. After all, Atrios says Ms. Hart needs to be cockpunched for expressing views in a way of which he doesn't appove, so Atrios must think that the federal official who has allowed the "credibility" of the "flight 93 was shot down" theory to fester deserves at least that much.

Atrios' assertion that "Projection is a typical part of standard conservative mental illness." has a creepy similarity to the language of Soviet prision psychiatrists. But the remainder of Atrios' "reply" is even more bizarre and childish than the part addressed above, and bears no further comment. But I cheerfully acknowledge Atrios' leading suggestion that his hit count is bigger than mine. That must mean something to him.

And what is it with Atrios' fixation with cocks, anyway? Did anyone know this book existed before Atrios zeroed in on it? I sure didn't. But the web promo for the book that Atrios links to doesn't even mention Clinton's personal behavior except as a minor, buried point attributed to Dick Morris - so what the heck is Atrios talking about?
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Would it help for somebody to slip Jesse Jackson a note reminding him that "a bunch of white men" wrote the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (which Mr. Jackson likes) as well as the original United States Constitution (which Mr. Jackson doesn't like very much)?

Almost certainly not.

He also is of the opinion that: "America is a great nation. But we only represent 6 percent of the world. English is a great language but it is a minority language. Jesus didn't speak it. We are a great nation, but we have to be of service, we do not have to be superior."

So would it help for somebody to slip Jesse Jackson a note reminding him that Jesus was a white man when he made "the laws" ("The laws" in this case being: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.") and that "a bunch of white men" wrote the Gospels, too. Three out of four of them being Jews, "J-E-W-S", as soon-to-be-ex-legislator-McKinney so clearly and literally spelled out for us.

And, while they're at it, the note-writer could slip in a little reminder that the race of these men was not important.

Maybe the Reverend Jackson didn't show up for class in Seminary that day, so he needs to be reminded: It's their ideas and messages that count.
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Gore the Mudak?

A friend e-mails (paraphrased slighly):

Russian has a word "mudak" meaning "complete idiot/loser" that is derived from the Tartar word for testicles. Anyway, it's used in a special putdown, such as:

"Gore is such a mudak that, in a contest of mudaks, he would take second place."

An interesting word.

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Sunday, September 15, 2002

Janet Reno Unbound II

UPDATE: No guts.


After saying that she would not sue to challenge the Democratic primary disaster, Janet Reno may sue after all. But she still feels the need to characterize her actions preposterously as directed against Jeb Bush.

Ms. Reno should drop the pretense and go for the gold.

But, for the moment she is not so ambitious. The planned suit would concern problems with the new electronic voting machines: Among the allegations: touch-screen machines suffer from the buildup of smudges as more people vote that create inaccuracies .... One certainly hopes that if the suit is filed some way will be found to reference My Big Fat Greek Wedding in the complaint and briefs. It's a really good movie in which the bride's father persuasively advances the position that a little Windex will fix just about anything.

By her own allegations, if more of the Broward and Miami-Dade County poll workers had seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Ms. Reno might be the Democratic nominee for Governor today! Perhaps the court could order that viewing this movie be made part of South Florida poll worker training in the future as part of the relief Ms. Reno's campaign obtains. Such modest relief seems appropriate for Ms. Reno's current modest electoral ambitions.

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