|Man Without Qualities|
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Richard Epstein is a considerable intellectual force on what is often considered to be the conservative side of many political debates. But in the case of the Michigan affirmative action case now pending before the Supreme Court he seems to come down on the side of defending and allowing the existing affirmative action programs of that university - or something close to them.
I’m not convinced by Professor Epstein in this case. He argues that public universities should be treated as private universities - which enjoy "free association" rights which permit them to discriminate racially and in other ways far more questionable for public institutions.
But I don't exactly see why Professor Epstein's argument doesn't lead to the conclusion that the federal Constitution should be read as allowing the University of Mississippi, for example, to exclude African-Americans. Is the entire Civil Rights movement supposed to become a big "never mind" to the extent it involved the individual Constitutional rights of African Americans to attend public universities? Professor Epstein's argument seems to lead to that conclusion.
Worse, are public universities also to be allowed to suppress free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment? The Constitution does not prohibit Harvard from doing that - but the University of Michigan is bound by the First Amendment in ways a private university such as Harvard need not even consider - and that's a good thing.
A curiously weak showing from a general intellectual powerhouse.
It's Chomsky & Zinn v. Tolkien & Bush - and this time it's for keeps and explains that equally authentic and frightening picture that's been going around!
Chomsky: We should examine carefully what's being established here in the prologue. For one, the point is clearly made that the "master ring," the so-called "one ring to rule them all," is actually a rather elaborate justification for preemptive war on Mordor.
Talk about "connecting the dots!" These guys make Georges Seurat look like a piker.
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Every so often - well, not very often - I look at Atrios for his delusion de jour. It’s almost never necessary to go past the very first post to find a howler. Here's today's flaming Atrioid:
"The inspectors didn't find anything and I doubt that we will."
-Donald Rumsfeld, today.
People are saying I'm quoting out of context. I'm just quoting what I saw a few minutes ago on Wolf Blitzer's show. I'll track down the transcript later and provide 'context' if there should be some.
But what actually transpired was this:
"I don't think we'll discover anything, myself," Rumsfeld said at a town hall-style meeting with Pentagon employees. "I think what will happen is we'll discover people who will tell us where to go find it. It is not like a treasure hunt where you just run around looking everywhere, hoping you find something."
If "people" are saying that Atrios is "quoting out of context," then those must be "people" who don't recognize "lying by omission," which is what Atrios is doing here - as much as someone who repeats what you said to your boss, but leaves out all the "nos" and "nots" and then says he'll have to "check the transcript" to see if any "context" is required.
UPDATE: O, my - Atrios apparently did "check the transcript" and decided that some context was required after all. He even discovered the second Rumsfeld sentence - the one that appears in bold type above that clearly says that he expects knowledgable Iraqis to show us where the hidden weapons of mass destruction are. But Atrios is never one to let a mere fact that says that some aspect of the world is exactly the opposite of what he wants stand in his way! So Atrios comments on his new-found "context": Frankly, I'm not sure this is much better.
Yes, indeed. One statement of the Secretary of Defense presented by Atrios as indicating that Mr. Rumsfeld does not expect WMD will be found and another statement that he does expect WMD will be found with the help of Iraqis.
Those two statements are pretty much the same to Atrios! One's not much better than the other!
And the fun never ends at Eschaton! A new Atrios post discloses: I have no doubt that if the US troops manage to locate a bleach bottle sitting next to an ammonia bottle, the media will declare it an example of Saddam's WMD. How zany the media have been, reporting chemicals that turn out to be pesticides as suspected nerve gas - that sort of thing. Of course, the chemical structure of many pesticides differs from that of nerve gas just slightly. In fact, one can think of many pesticides as "nerve gas for insects." And many pesticide factories can easily be converted to nerve gas production. But Atrios doesn't think its "news" that chemicals that turn out to be pesticides are suspected by the American military of possibly being nerve gas and requiring tests. Apparently he thinks the media should just ignore such trifles. And he apparently doesn't think that follow-up stories explaining what the tests reveal is enough - because there have been plenty of those stories, but Atrios still vents on the zany media approach to this kind of "story."
Lifting the Sanctions II(0) comments
Russia opposes lifting United Nations sanctions on Iraq because inspectors have not verified that Iraq has disarmed.
Really. It's true.
The big winner in all of the France-German-Russian silliness may be the family of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The United Nations headquarters in New York is situated on 18-acres (formerly occupied by slaughterhouses) which were donated by Mr. Rockefeller - but whose donation is said to include a provision that the land reverts to the Rockefellers in the event the United Nations is disbanded.
Pure Drivel?(0) comments
Remarkable. Just as I was contemplating reports that the leader of the Iraqi bioweapons program ("Dr. Germ") and Col. Pam Arias, chief of the Armament Production Directorate at Eglin - the American team that developed the MOAB bomb - are both women, shanti and readers were chatting about interesting things over at Dancing with Dogs about this odd riff from BusinessWeek Online:
When I look at the news these days, I can't help but wonder: Wouldn't we be a lot better off if women were in charge, given all the violence and atrocities perpetrated by men and male-run governments in places like Bosnia, Rwanda, and Iraq? Would U.S. troops be in Iraq today if, say, Hillary Clinton were President, and not George W. Bush?
Of course, the answer to that last question depends a lot on whether one believes a word of what Senator Clinton herself has said on the subject.
The Wall Street Journal reports that tales of Iraqi museum looting are much exaggerated - and so are allegations that American forces "let" the looting happen or that more American troops would likely have prevented the looting:
[T]hanks to Iraqi preparations before the war, it seems the worst has been avoided. Donny George, the director-general of restoration at the Iraqi Antiquities Department, Wednesday said his staff had preserved the museum's most important treasures, including the kings' graves of Ur and the Assyrian bulls. These objects were hidden in vaults that haven't been violated by looters. ... Earlier this week, some museum workers reached foreign journalists to complain about an orgy of looting in the museum, saying that little of the collection remains. As secrecy long enveloped the museum -- where part of the collection had been siphoned off by Saddam Hussein's family and sold abroad -- it isn't clear whether these museum workers knew about the prewar preparations to hide the most-valuable artifacts.
Mr. George... said many valuable items are still missing. Among the antiquities unaccounted for so far, Mr. George said, are the sacral vase of Warqa, from Sumerian times, and the bronze statue of Basitqi, from the Accadian civilization. ... "There was a tremendous amount of looting just for destruction purposes -- and there were artifacts that were not destroyed at all," he said. "It was not as bad as I thought it would be."
Lt. Col. Schwartz ... said he couldn't move into the museum compound and protect it from looters last week because his soldiers were taking fire from the building -- and were determined not to respond. ...
And, in particular, American forces did not "let" the looting occur, and it appears not to have been a problem that "more troops" would have likely solved. If there had been more American troops, that would just have meant more American troops would have been outside getting shot at by the snipers in and on the museum - and waiting while the looting went on.
Further, it is a real leap to conclude that any particular item missing from a museum whose collection had been siphoned off by Saddam Hussein's family and sold abroad disappeared in the looting. Would a high official leaving for Damascus leave behind a valuable museum piece if he could still get at it after the Husseins fed? One might also want to keep in mind reports that looters who ravaged Iraqi antiquities appeared highly organized and even had keys to museum vaults and were able to take pieces from safes. Is that the kind of thing one expects from "looters" fresh off the street?
The Journal article raises yet another interesting question: Should items from this museum collection which were siphoned off by Saddam Hussein's family and sold abroad still be considered to be the property of Iraq? What if the new courts of Iraq established by the future government declare such sales to have been invalid?
UPDATE: Maybe Mr. Sullivan didn't read his Journal closely enough this morning.
Sir J. Paul Getty, Jr. has died.
Sir Getty's ancestors included James Getty, founder of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, scene of the crucial Civil War battle.
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
The New York Times reports that President Bush is seeking the termination of United Nations sanctions against Iraq. But the Times puts a manipulative spin on the President’s effort:
Many members and perhaps a majority of the Security Council, led by France, Germany, Russia and China, vigorously opposed the war in Iraq, and now several of them, led by France, are pushing to give the United Nations the central role in Iraq's transitional government — an idea Bush opposes. Calling on these same nations to vote to lift sanctions on Iraq would require them to give indirect approval of the war, or at least of its outcome.
This last sentence is wrong - no "approval" of the war or its outcome would be implied, either directly or indirectly, only a recognition of the fact that the government against which those sanctions were warranted and directed has ceased to be. If the Saddam Hussein government of Iraq had been destroyed by an earthquake, a hurricane or a plague the results would be the same - and each nation that opposed the war would certainly have opposed an earthquake, hurricane or plague. In that event, would the Times say that a vote by these same nations to lift sanctions on Iraq requires them to give indirect approval of that earthquake, hurricane or plague, or at least of its outcome? Of course not. Indeed, the Times grudgingly admits in the very next sentence: But because the economic sanctions forbidding trade with Iraq were put in place in 1991 to pressure the government of Saddam Hussein, it might be hard now to argue that they should not be lifted. But that sentence is also not completely correct, because saying that "it might be hard to argue" against the President's request grossly understates the force of his argument. In fact, it is impossible to argue against the President's request in good faith, exactly because the sanctioned government is gone and there is no countervailing "implied approval of the war" argument that can be made.
France and other countries that opposed the war in Iraq may well resist lifting the sanctions because that would clear the way for Iraqi oil to be sold openly and free of the United Nations "Oil for Food" program - and otherwise release Iraq from United Nations (and hence French) control. If such countries do resist lifting the sanctions they will most likely argue exactly that Calling on these same nations to vote to lift sanctions on Iraq would require them to give indirect approval of the war, or at least of its outcome.
In other words, the Times is so eager to apologize for French obstructionism to American efforts in Iraq that the Lords of 43d Street can't even wait for the Gallic obstruction to occur before attempting to justify it.
UPDATE: The Times' manipulative reporting of the President's action might be compared with the straightforward Washington Post version of the same report:
With Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein now removed from power, the United States asked the United Nations Security Council to lift the economic sanctions imposed on his government after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Removal of the sanctions would allow whatever new government emerges in Iraq to export oil without restrictions and trade freely on world markets.
All so very true. And, unlike the Times version, so very lacking in anti-American apology.
FURTHER UPDATE: The Euro-rot continues as the Financial Times reports:
Diplomats at the UN said the Security Council was still deeply divided on the issue of when to remove sanctions on Iraq. ... They said they ... believed negotiations over the lifting of sanctions were still in "early stages" and formed part of broader talks on the future of the oil-for-food programme, the role of the UN, and the weapons inspection regime. ... [D]iplomats said France and Russia - who opposed the US-led attack on Iraq - were unlikely to approve the lifting of sanctions in the near term because it could provide post-facto legitimacy to the war. ... But a senior diplomat cautioned that opposition to the ending of sanctions could be dictated by commercial reasons. He pointed out that Russia and France are both among the top 10 beneficiaries of the oil-for-food programme... If the US is unable to convince its fellow Security Council members to lift sanctions, "it seems clear that Washington is fully prepared to restart Iraqi oil without the blessing of the UN", said Aaron Brady, analyst at Boston-based Energy Security Analysis. "With minimal damage to the northern and southern oil wells and the Ceyhan storage tanks already full, there is no physical or infrastructure reason why exports cannot resume very quickly," he added.
Someone might want to remind Messrs. Putin and Chirac, especially, that the United Nations did not impose sanctions against Iraq as a way of disapproving of the United States invading that country. Those sanctions were imposed for very specific transgressions and abuses committed solely by Saddam Hussein's government. To require the lifting of the sanctions be considered only as "part of broader talks on the future of the oil-for-food programme, the role of the UN, and the weapons inspection regime" is transparently abusive of the Security Council's rationale for imposing sanctions against the Hussein government in the first place. So it looks likely that the United Nations will render itself - or, alternatively, France, Germany and Russia will render the United Nations - again irrelevant, this time perhaps provoking the clear disregard of Security Council sanctions and the "Oil-for-Food" program by the United States. I have not studied the exact wording of the 1991 sanctions resolution. Perhaps it can be construed to apply only to Hussein-led Iraq, in which case it could be disregarded without being violated. That would help save face for the UN - at the cost of perhaps extending what appear every day more to be its death throes.
At least for the next few years, it is arguable that the only Democrat who could win a Presidential election is a Southern Democrat. Senator John Edwards of North Carolina must cherish the examples of Messrs. Carter and Clinton.
But at the same time it is becoming more difficult for a Democrat to be elected in the South who is sufficiently palatable to the national Democratic Party to be nominated in the first place. Polls indicate that Senator Edwards is in trouble in North Carolina. And while the media (including much of the Blogosphere) and some Democratic contributors adore Senator Edwards, his own campaign staff and associates seem to see the handwriting on the wall.
Democrats are probably wary of candidates who can't carry their own state. And that seems to rule out more and more Southern Democrats as presidential nominees.
President Kerry? Another pathological waffler? Senator Kerry makes Al Gore, who was badly hurt by his flexible interpretation of facts and his own history, seem like a stickler for truth, detail and clarity.
President Lieberman? Well, at least he would carry his own state. But without Monica around, what's the point?
On the other hand, whenever the economy is in the tank, there is hope for the party out of power!
Yahoo! News and AFP report:
Former US President Bill Clinton blasted US foreign policy adopted in the wake of the September 11 attacks, arguing the United States cannot kill, jail or occupy all of its adversaries.
"Our paradigm now seems to be: something terrible happened to us on September 11, and that gives us the right to interpret all future events in a way that everyone else in the world must agree with us," said Clinton, who spoke at a seminar of governance organized by Conference Board.
"And if they don't, they can go straight to hell." ...
"We can't run," Clinton pointed out. "If you got an interdependent world, and you cannot kill, jail or occupy all your adversaries, sooner or later you have to make a deal."
He said he believed Washington overreacted to German and French opposition to US plans for military action against Iraq and suggested that the current administration had trouble juggling foreign and domestic issues.
"Since September 11, it looks like we can't hold two guns at the same time," Clinton said. "If you fight terrorism, you can't make America a better place to be."
Howard Kurtz wonders what's going on:
You have to wonder about [Mr. Clinton's] timing. ... After all, Clinton, despite some occasional potshots, supported Bush's tough stance against Saddam. ... [T]he timing of his latest blast suggests that he just can't stand being off the stage for long. ... Shouldn't the former commander-in-chief be congratulating America's soldiers? Maybe Clinton is just trying to boost interest in his "60 Minutes" debates with Bob Dole.
But Mr. Clinton's likely motivations don't seem obscure. Like most things he does and says now they should be viewed through the prism of his ongoing obligation to enhance Hillary Clinton's political standing and his own need to defend his presidential "legacy." With respect to Mr. Clinton's own "legacy," his statements probably reflect his resentment of the Iraq victory being such a clear refutation (at least for the moment) of the policies of his own administration. He has been openly accused of policies that allowed the disasters of September 11 to occur, of running down the American military and of failing to address effectively international terrorism and troublespots - including Iraq. Naturally it bothers him that his successor is benefitting for the moment from a refutation of so much of what Mr. Clinton is associated. Of course his statements are inconsistent with many of his past acts and prior nominal support of President Bush. Mr. Clinton is often inconsistent, feckless and striving to be on both sides of an issue. Voters and the media have rewarded him by repeatedly being stupid enough to allow him to win elections with his approach. So what else is new?
Much of Senator Clinton's New York political base is up in arms over her defense of President Bush's handling of Iraq, as indicated in her recent confrontation with an anti-war group:
"I admire your willingness to speak out on behalf of women and children in Iraq," [Senator Clinton] said. "The only way to change this is for Saddam Hussein to disarm, and I don't think he will. We are in a very difficult position right now. I'd love to agree with you, but I can't." But when one of the protest leaders, Jodie Evans of Venice, Calif., tore off her full-length pink slip and presented it to Mrs. Clinton, the senator walked out. "I am the senator from New York," she said, "and I will not put people's security at risk."
Sure Bill Clinton is advocating policies here that Senator Clinton would "love to agree with" but can't, because she is the senator from New York and will not put people's security at risk. And it is hard to believe that Bill Clinton has uttered such remarks without coordination with his wife. As far as Senator Clinton is concerned, the whole thing seems to be a banal, characteristically Clintonian (of either sex) device for being on both sides of the issue: Bill Clinton's views are still associated with Senator Clinton, so she can expect to be able to exploit them with the appropriate interest group, even as she nominally backs President Bush's policies with other interest groups - even though no intelligent person could believe she actually, personally agrees with Mr. Bush's policies. Are New Yorkers stupid enough to fall for this kind of thing again ... and again ... and again?
There is a mild perplexity here: Why has neither Clinton been questioned about any of this by the media? After all, the apparently nearly-pathological bad liar John Kerry is being accused of being "Clintonian" by trying to be on both sides of the Iraq issue. Shouldn't both Clintons be examined and questioned about the same tendency on the same issue at the same time? But the question is hardly out before the answers are apparent: the media have almost never adequately questioned the Clintons and, if the questions were asked, straight answers would not be returned. So the media seems to say: why bother? Of course that's an abdication of what the news media say they do and care about. What else is new?
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
The ICC Simply Must Go IV: Coalition of the Deranged
The National Post of Canada is reporting:
A coalition of lawyers and human rights groups yesterday unveiled a bid to use the UN's new International Criminal Court as a tool to restrain American military power. In a move Washington said vindicated U.S. claims that the court would be used for political purposes, the rights activists are working to compile war crimes cases against the United States and its chief ally in Iraq, Britain. ... As a non-member, the United States would normally be outside of ICC jurisdiction unless it was suspected of crimes in a country that is an ICC member, which Iraq is not. But the fact that Britain is a member has given the rights activists a springboard for a case that argues U.S. air raids that killed civilians were war crimes.
It is hard to imagine a development more likely to lead to the effective destruction of the ICC than its acceptance of this line of reasoning. Indeed, for the ICC even to accept jurisdiction over a serious case brought against Britain and/or Tony Blair would probably be enough to expose the ICC for the farce it was always destined and designed to be.
Saturday, April 12, 2003
The Wall Street Journal editorial page (Holman W. Jenkins Jr., presiding) v. Kausfiles - and this time it's serious.
Mr. Jenkins writes:
Typically off-base was one media echo that accused the Rumsfeld Pentagon of intentionally skimping on troops "to prove a point about light forces and therefore enable far more aggressive and sweeping American military actions around the world." Quite the reverse, his Iraqi success may finally give Mr. Rumsfeld the clout to carry out a transformation that has been stymied so far. Less happily, his Iraqi success will also make it that much more necessary.
That one media echo, of course, was Kausfiles - and the fact that a simple google search turns up the referent confirms how minimal was the courtesy shown by omitting Kausfiles' name. Yes, this time it's serious, but, as always the only thing worse than being talked about is ... It's important to keep in mind that Kausfiles is not accusing Secretary Rumsfeld of incompetence here: The important question isn't whether he's incompetently managed the war (he hasn't), or whether he's too mean to generals (Keller's lesson!), but whether he's proved this point.
The "transformation" that Messrs. Jenkins and Rumsfeld are urging is described by the Secretary as based on six principles, in his own words:
Before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington we had decided that to keep the peace and defend freedom in the 21st century our defense strategy and force structure must be focused on achieving six transformational goals: First, to protect the U.S. homeland and our bases overseas. Second, to project and sustain power in distant theaters. Third, to deny our enemies sanctuary, making sure they know that no corner of the world is remote enough, no mountain high enough, no cave or bunker deep enough, no SUV fast enough to protect them from our reach. Fourth, to protect our information networks from attack. Fifth, to use information technology to link up different kinds of U.S. forces so that they can in fact fight jointly. And sixth, to maintain unhindered access to space and protect our space capabilities from enemy attack..... The notion that we could transform while cutting the defense budget over the past decade was seductive, but false. Of course, while transformation requires building new capabilities and expanding our arsenal, it also means reducing stocks of weapons that are no longer necessary for the defense of our country.
Mr. Rumsfeld has been struggling to increase the defense budget and to change both the way that money is spent on weapons and how the military (including its presumptions and strategies) is structured. To a question posed by Fortune magazine last year about how much defense spending is enough, Mr. Rumsfeld answered, "We can afford to spend on national defense any absolute amount of dollars and any percentage of GDP that is necessary to have a reasonably stable, reasonably peaceful world, because without that we do not have the opportunity to enjoy our freedoms." But Messrs. Jenkins, Rmsfeld and others have argued that many current defense appropriations are unwise - and that they are being mostly treated as Congressional pork. Mr. Rumsfeld's description of what would be required to "transform" the military in the item linked above is interesting. It is also obvious that anything of the scale he is proposing would provoke a huge uproar in the Pentagon, the retired officers, the Congress and the media - regardless of whether he is right or ultimately prevails.
Friday, April 11, 2003
A friend forwards the following TRAVEL ADVISORY/ France/ by President Bush, ... of which I know absolutely nothing:
The following advisory for American travelers heading for France was compiled from information provided by the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Disease Control and some very expensive spy satellites that the French don't know about. It is intended as a guide for American travelers only and no guarantee of accuracy is ensured or intended.
France is a medium-sized foreign country situated on the continent of Europe, and is for all intents & purposes, fucking useless. It is an important member of the world community, although not nearly as important as it thinks. It is bounded by Germany, Spain, Switzerland and some smaller nations of no particular consequence or shopping opportunities. France is a very old country with many treasures such as the Louvre and EuroDisney. Among its contributions to Western civilization are champagne, Camembert cheese, the guillotine, and body odor. Although France likes to think of itself as a modern nation, air conditioning is little used and it is next to impossible to get decent Mexican food. One continuing exasperation for American visitors is that the people will-fully persist in speaking French, although many will speak English if shouted at repeatedly.
France has a population of 54 million people, most of whom drink and smoke a great deal, drive like lunatics, are dangerously over sexed and have no concept of standing patiently in a line. The French people are generally gloomy, temperamental, proud, arrogant, aloof and undisciplined; those are their good points. Most French citizens are Roman Catholic, although you'd hardly guess it from their behavior. Many people are Communists and topless sunbathing is common. Men sometimes have girls' names like Marie and they kiss each other when they hand out medals. American travelers are advised to travel in groups and to wear baseball caps and colorful pants for easier mutual recognition. All French women have small tits, and don't shave their armpits or their legs. In general, France is a safe destination, although travelers are advised that France is occasionally invaded by Germany. By tradition, the French surrender more or less at once and, apart from a temporary shortage of Scotch whisky and increased difficulty in getting baseball scores and stock market prices, life for the visitors generally goes on much as before. A tunnel connecting France to Britain beneath the English Channel has been opened in recent years to make it easier for the French government to flee to London. France was discovered by Charlemagne in the Dark Ages. Other important historical figures are Louis XIV, the Huguenots, Joan of Arc, Jacques Cousteau and Charles de Gaulle, who was President for many years and is now an airport. The French armies of the past have had their asses kicked by just about every other country in the world. The French form of government is democratic but noisy. Elections are held more or less continuously and always result in a run off. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into regions, departments, districts, municipalities, cantons, communes, villages, cafes, booths and floor tiles. Parliament consists of two chambers, the Upper and Lower (although, confusingly, they are both on the ground floor), whose members are either Gaullists or communists, neither of whom can be trusted. Parliament's principal pre occupations are setting off atomic bombs in the South Pacific and acting indignant when anyone complains. According to the most current State Department intelligence, the current President is someone named Jacques. Further information is not available at this time. The French pride themselves on their culture, although it is not easy to see why. All of their songs sound the same and they have hardly ever made a movie that you want to watch for anything except the nude scenes. Nothing, of course, is more boring than a French novel (except perhaps an evening with a French family.) Let's face it, no matter how much garlic you put on it, a snail is just a slug with a shell on its back. Croissants, on the other hand, are excellent although it is impossible for most Americans to pronounce this word. American travelers are therefore advised to stick to cheeseburgers at McDonald's or the restaurants at the leading hotels such as Sheraton or Holiday Inn. Bring your own beer, as the domestic varieties are nothing but a poor excuse for such. France has a large and diversified economy, second only to Germany's economy in Europe, which is surprising since people hardly ever work at all. If they are not spending four hours dawdling over lunch, they are on strike and blocking the roads with their trucks and tractors. France's principal exports, in order of importance to the economy, are wine, nuclear weapons, perfume, guided missiles, champagne, high-caliber weaponry, grenade launchers, land mines, tanks, attack aircraft, miscellaneous armaments and cheese. France enjoys a rich history, a picturesque and varied landscape and a temperate climate. In short, it would be a very nice country if French people didn't inhabit it, and it weren't still radioactive from all the nuclear tests they run. The best thing that can be said for it is that it is not Spain. Remember no one ordered you to go abroad.
Personally, we always take our vacation in Miami Beach and you are advised to do the same.
George W. Bush
President, United States of America
Nancy Pelosi repeats a line that other liberals and Democrats - including the thoughtful Matt Miller - have also offered:
"This best-trained, best-equipped, best-led force for peace in the history of the world was not invented in the last two years. This had a strong influence and strong support during the Clinton years."
Or, as Mr. Miller puts it:
The main truth it underscores is how divorced the defense debate is from real life. The myth that Democrats are "weak on defense" and the GOP is "strong" is one that Democratic strategists have struggled with for years. The reality is that Bill Clinton's defense budgets roughly tracked the blueprint left by then-defense secretary Dick Cheney in 1992. But politics explains why Bill Clinton insisted the Pentagon maintain a Cold War budget even without a Cold War, to protect his party's right flank.
How true are such claims? Mr. Clinton was indeed President and Commander-in-Chief for 8 years. And it does seem as though a good deal of technological and perhaps other progress has been made in the United States military since the beginning of 1992, the year Mr. Clinton became President.
But it is certainly not true that Mr. Clinton insisted the Pentagon maintain a Cold War budget. In fact, Peter Schweizer, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, correctly wrote this at the end of 2000:
Beginning in the early 1950s and throughout the cold war, America spent on average 6–8 percent of its gross national product (GNP) on defense, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican was in the Oval Office. It briefly dropped slightly below 5 percent in 1977–78 only to rise again. With the end of the cold war, defense spending declined dramatically beginning in 1990. By 1996 it had dropped to 3 percent of GNP and today is even lower. The United States is now [that is, 2000] spending less on defense as a percentage of GNP than anytime since the Great Depression.
Indeed, Mr. Schweizer points out that much of the Clinton era federal budget surpluses could be explained by reductions in the defense budget, and goes on to point out:
America no longer needs a cold war-level defense budget. But there is plenty of evidence that defense cuts have gone too far. There are ample reports of spare parts shortages and cutbacks in training due to concerns about cost. It is also increasingly difficult to retain quality officers and senior enlisted personnel. In part this reflects the hot civilian job market, but surveys also indicate that frustration is high and morale is low in the armed forces. ... Research and development in the defense arena requires a long lead time. We need to fund research projects that will provide weapons for our soldiers fifteen years from now.
That long lead time poses a major problem for those such as Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Miller wishing to assert that Mr. Clinton's acts promoted adequate national defense. Simply put: Whatever technological advances occurred in the military over the Clinton years were bound to depend on research and development conducted previously. That is nothing new. The advances of the Reagan years consisted mostly of implementing technology existing at the time Mr. Reagan took office and expenditure increases. Correspondingly, if the Clinton Administration degraded the military, one would expect to find the consequences of that degradation in reduced research and development efforts and reduced military expenditures.
As already noted, military expenditures did decline under Mr. Clinton. But some reduction in military expenditures following the Cold War obviously was appropriate - and had begun under George H.W. Bush. The cuts were implemented by a Democratic-controlled Congress, but without much resistance from that President. The correct question in this area is: Did the reductions in military expenditures go too far and, if so, who was responsible? Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has spelled out some details:
"The coasting went on too long," Rumsfeld told reporters during a briefing June 27. "Underfunding in significant accounts has created a series of shortfalls with respect to very important key categories." Shipbuilding is on a path to a "steady state" of 230 vessels, he said. "I'm not in the position to say at this moment exactly what number of ships we need in the United States Navy, but it is very clear that it is considerably more than 230 ships." The Navy currently has 310. ... "We have an aging aircraft fleet in all the services," Rumsfeld said. Infrastructure is in the same situation. He said private firms recapitalize their facilities every 57 years. DOD, with its historic buildings, would probably want to recapitalize every 67 years. "We're currently up in the 190-years recapitalization," he said. "We are not investing on an annual basis at a level sufficient to deal with the obvious problems that happen to all types of buildings, sewers, roads -- all the things that are necessary for a large enterprise like the defense establishment." ... "The point is that you can simply not do everything in a single year," he said. "There is no way that it can be done. It took years to get into this circumstance, and it's going to take some years to get out of it."
Mr. Rumsfeld's examples seem pretty damning on the expenditure side. And many others believe that the United States military is simply overstreched and underfunded:
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed and an interview on April 2 with The Washington Times, Gen. McCaffrey, a Democrat who has been sharply critical of the Pentagon's handling of the current Iraq campaign, ... observes that much of the deployable ground combat power of the Army and the Marine Corps is likely to be tied up in Iraq for another year (and that's probably a low estimate). In addition, more than 240,000 troops are already deployed in other areas of the world, including Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Sinai and South Korea. Gen. McCaffrey is particularly compelling and forceful on North Korea. He emphasized the need to make it clear to North Korea that it would be making a huge mistake to assume that the United States is bogged down in Iraq and therefore unable to respond to new threats from Pyongyang -- either against South Korea or the 37,000 American troops stationed there. The United States, he says, would be inviting trouble on its strategic flanks if international troublemakers conclude that we lack the military power -- or political will -- to respond to threats.
But there's a big issue here: Congress, not the President, ultimately controls spending. And Congress was in Republican hands from 1995 to the end of Mr. Clinton's term. It is true that Congress is not set up to instigate all forms of defense expenditure decisions - cooperation and leadership of the President is essential. But Congress routinely alters Presidential requests substantially. I find it hard to accept that the Republican Congress does not share substantial responsibility for defense expenditures levels following the 1994 election.
What about technology research and development? How much did the Clinton Administration do to advance or restrain research and development? That question seems to me much more difficult than the expenditure question. Of course, one can to some extent look at the military research and development budgets – although they (or at least their public versions) are often said to be unreliable because of secrecy issues. Also, technology research and development is largely driven by proposals from the military itself (although defense contractors can also speak to Congress directly). And the President appoints the people who do the proposing and endorsing of research and development. If the President lets the military brass know that he doesn't want them proposing too many research and development projects that might result in big defense appropriations, then it is unrealistic to think the military will defy the President too much. Many promising research projects originate with defense contractors. But if the military signals to such contractors that new research projects will not be enthusiastically endorsed by the military itself, the contractors will likely look elsewhere.
Was there a Clintonian "lobotomizing" of the military, an instilled reticence to seek out, endorse or advance promising research projects on the part of the military and/or defense contractors? For what it's worth, the Man Without Qualities personally knows some rather high operatives concerned with military research and development. While they, of course, do not share confidential information and they are discrete and often evasive, it has been my distinct impression that they do believe that the military knew much more than they proposed during the Clinton years with respect to weapons research. That reticence has now mostly ended, of course. Perhaps a Congressional or outside study could determine more. But such studies tend to become hopelessly politicized and/or technical. I'm therefore not convinced that a case can be made one way or the other on this issue that would be sufficiently clear to present to the voting public - as opposed to a much smaller community of the informed, interested and willing.
Thursday, April 10, 2003
The Man Without Qualities is a big Schwarzenegger fan. And I really would like to believe that he could be elected Governor or Senator of California.
However, before people start getting too serious about those prospects, I would like to know what the answers to some rather obvious questions are going to be, bearing in mind that a Republican candidate in California must be able to muster a coalition including a lot of economic and social conservatives, including Christian conservatives. According to the Field Institute, only 37 percent of registered Republicans regard themselves as middle of the road whereas 40 percent describe themselves as strongly conservative and 23 percent as somewhat conservative. So it seems to me that before the Republican Party seriously considers Mr. Schwarzenegger, they had better have thoroughly thought through some very unpleasant questions:
1. Mr. Schwarzenegger was for a good many years a major figure - perhaps the major figure - in Southern California bodybuilding, and bodybuilding has a lot of unpleasant and even illegal aspects. He has admitted and regretted using damaging, muscle-enhancing drugs. That alone will not have much effect on his political prospects - it is, after all, his body and his health. But what about others? - say, impressionable young men who began taking such drugs during his reign? Did Mr. Schwarzenegger actively encourage such drug-taking? Are there any now-severely-damaged current or former bodybuilders who will claim that the reason they now have defective kidneys or hearts or other horrible maladies is that they began taking body-building drugs at Mr. Schwarzenegger's urging? Did Mr. Schwarzenegger actually supply such drugs to others?
2. Was Mr. Schwarzenegger involved with any of the other less-than-attractive aspects of the serious body building scene? Are there people who would or could credibly claim that he was? For example, Mr. Schwarzenegger's nude photographs have been published in Spy Magazine. Is that the full extent of Mr. Schwarzenegger's adventures in the skin trade? And I write this without meaning to condemn Mr. Schwarzenegger in any way or to suggest that he has trafficked or participated in the pornography business.
3. Mr. Schwarzenegger has often been rumored to have a very healthy and wide-ranging heterosexual appetite. I again do not judge his behavior here - but many in his necessary voting base would. Moreover, there are some rather common - but not universal - consequences of such behavior. Are there women who will make unpleasant claims during a heated election?
I bring these issues up not out of any desire to slime Mr. Schwarzenegger or to suggest that he could not be a successful candidate. In fact, my guess is that he is likely not very vulnerable on any of these counts. His interest in seeking statewide office suggests that he doesn't have much to hide. I am aware of nobody claiming that Mr. Schwarzenegger was involved in drugs (beyond using them), prostitution or pornography. I am aware of no rumors that he has illegitimate children.
But I also recall that many in California still believe that former Republican Senate candidate Bruce Hershenson is a porno fan, a rumor successfully spread by Democrats on behalf of Barbara Boxer on election eve - an election in which Ms. Boxer was very narrowly elected. Such charges and slime have more impact against Republicans than Democrats simply because many more Republican voters are socially conservative. It seems all but certain that Democrats will again use such tactics if Mr. Schwarzenegger is put forward.
Unfortunately, that means that answers to such questions simply must be readied in advance. Otherwise, it's not worth the trouble to the Party or Mr. Schwarzenegger. And, if good answers exist, shouldn't the questions be raised and put to rest now?
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
A Ninth Symphony manuscript, no less. Scribbled with the Great One's remarks and insults directed at the copyist.
If only I had saved my lunch money!
Mark Riebling's new book looks like it's going to be controversial:
[T]he Vatican had pursued a two-track policy toward Hitler. In public, Pius Twelve refrained from denouncing the Holocaust -- a silence that would later cause much controversy. In secret, however, the Pope was a linchpin of counter-Nazi coup plans. He had been an accessory to these plans since the seventh week of the war, when he agreed to be a covert conduit between the German resistance and the British Government. Gradually the Catholic role expanded, until the Vatican was not merely a mediator, but an active plotter. Through a trusted courier, the Pope sanctioned the efforts of German Catholics, including some Bavarian-Jesuit priests, who sought to remove Hitler. For security reasons, these underground agents sometimes acted without the Pope’s prior knowledge. But the surviving plotters, debriefed after the war, insisted that no important decisions were made against the Pope’s expressed wishes. Their resistance activities, therefore, were not rogue actions. "In the OSS," Rocca said, "we referred to the Catholic conspirators as the ‘Vatican Assassins.’"
The BBC reports that a fracas over the effect of the sun on the earth's climate raises the need for yet more research to determine the causes and likely consequences of global warming:
A US scientist has cast doubt on the controversial idea that the Sun has been the main contributor to climate change over the past 20 years. The Sun is known to brighten and fade from time to time, influencing temperatures on Earth. Scientists are divided over how significant a factor this is compared with what people are doing to the planet. A recent study suggests the Sun has brightened steadily over the past 20 years, accounting for half or more of the 0.3 degrees Celsius warming blamed on greenhouse gas emissions since 1980. ... What is clear, however, is that more work needs to be done to iron out uncertainties.
Of course, "more work" is exactly what the President and Bjorn Lomborg have called for - and exactly what their respective critics say is not needed.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News Poll shows that 77 percent of Americans say they support the decision to go to war ....
US citizens are turning to the internet in record numbers to find out about the war in Iraq, a survey has found. According to a report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project 77% of Americans have used the net to find out about the conflict.
Monday, April 07, 2003
There is evidence, not yet confirmed, that the Al-Saa Restaurant - now reduced to dust by American bombs seeking to kill Saddam Hussein - might have been a pretty good place to eat.
The Washington Times reports:
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's strategy of creating a "series of Mogadishus" in Iraq's southern cities failed because the United States committed overwhelming firepower and political will, unlike in Somalia in 1993, Pentagon officials said yesterday. ....
The allies' rout of the Fedayeen stirs memories of urban battles in Somalia nearly 10 years ago. At the time, a joint U.S. task force tried to subdue warlord gangs and capture their leaders so that humanitarian workers could save starving Somalis. The force consisted of extremely light infantry: Army Rangers, Delta Force, some infantry and helicopters. There was no armor. AC-130 gunships had been withdrawn because some Clinton administration officials feared that the planes' machine guns and cannons did too much damage. After 18 service members were killed in an operation retold in the "Black Hawk Down" book and movie, President Clinton withdrew troops from the Horn of Africa nation.
The disaster in Mogadishu became legend among Islamic terrorists as a lesson in how to defeat the Americans.
Several Pentagon sources say the Ba'ath Party regime repeatedly referred to "Black Hawk Down" in military training. As the allied invasion neared, Baghdad sent thousands of Fedayeen fighters into southern cities to create "a series of Mogadishus," one Pentagon source said.
The source said the regime believed that if the Fedayeen caused dozens of combat deaths, the U.S. troops would leave, just as they did in Somalia.
One shudders to imagine what grotesque little thoughts are still creeping around inside the heads of the rulers of, say, North Korea, as a result of their encounter with Clinton Administration incompetence.
Barbra Streisand is not much of a political visionary. But her song lyrics can be prophetic:
Like a rose under the April snow
I was always certain love would grow.
Love ageless and evergreen
seldom seen by two.
The Russians have been good to Saddam Hussein. And now there's this report:
Iraq may have set up the weekend attack on a convoy of Russian diplomats fleeing Baghdad by instructing the drivers to take a different route than planned. The official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said there were indications the Iraqis had tried to create an international incident by altering the route of the convoy to pass through a contested area west of Baghdad on Sunday.
The Associated Press is reporting a remarkably widespread denial through Arab countries of what is obviously happening in Baghdad:
Over croissant and coffee at a cafe, Saudi accounting instructor Haitham al-Bawardi, 30, said he was skeptical about the reports [f US marines in central Baghdad].
"How can we know this is for real and not just coalition propaganda?" he said. "We had hoped Saddam would inflict as many casualties on the invaders as possible to teach them a lesson and make them think twice before striking another Arab country." ...
Abdelfattah, 41, a worker in a regional city council, said the reports were "all lies." "It is a psychological war," Abdelfattah said. "If it is true, then it is only a military strategy, to lure the American forces into a trap." Abdelfattah insisted that Saddam will fight to the end. "He will remain standing until he dies while fighting for Iraq," Abdelfattah said. ...
Ali Oqla Orsan, head of the Arab Writers' Union, described the U.S. incursion as a "propaganda parade," and said he hoped the allied troops would face "total defeat." ....
In Muscat, Oman, scores of men grew angry as they watched the news from Baghdad. One shouted, "Where is your army, Saddam?" Another was skeptical about the report, grumbling, "These Americans are relying on false propaganda!" ....
Mohammad Abdolghani, 36, an Afghan worker in Iran, said the United States, despite its claims, would not help rebuild Iraq. "Americans didn't do anything good in our country after toppling the Taliban. Now, I think they will not do also anything for the Iraqi people," he said. "Americans are arrogant. I hope they suffer heavy casualties so that they will not invade other countries."
In Lebanon, most citizens stayed close to their TV sets or radios to follow the news. Many refused to believe the reports, opting instead for Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf's version of events, in which he denied that Americans had entered the capital. "The Americans have been lying a lot since the beginning of this campaign so I don't believe them," said Hisham Moniyyeh, 27, who runs a currency exchange shop in the southern port city of Sidon. ...
A Saudi university student insisted Saddam would prevail.
"The Iraqi people will resist and turn Baghdad into another Vietnam for the Americans, a trap from which they will not emerge alive," said Saleh al-Nuaim.
But why should any of this be surprising? In the United States there are people who think the moon landing was a fake, Hollywood production. And it would be interesting to see if there is any correlation between people who believe that what they are seeing in Baghdad is fake, on one hand, and people who think that global warming is a firm reality and that the Kyoto Accord is a really important step to stopping the coming disaster, on the other hand.
U.S. forces near Baghdad found a weapons cache of around 20 medium-range missiles equipped with potent chemical weapons, the U.S. news station National Public Radio reported on Monday. NPR, which attributed the report to a top official with the 1st Marine Division, said the rockets, BM-21 missiles, were equipped with sarin and mustard gas and were "ready to fire." It quoted the source as saying new U.S. intelligence data showed the chemicals were "not just trace elements."
Sarin and mustard gas - scents better than French perfume in the international political arena!
MORE: Separate discoveries: Military sources said experts were looking at three 50-gallon barrels and 11 25-gallon barrels found at the site. As well as sarin, they may also have found phosgene, a choking agent that causes fluid buildup in the lungs...
Over the weekend, U.S. Marines in the central Iraqi town of Aziziyah began digging up a suspected chemical weapons hiding place at a girl's school..
AND MORE: Report from what may be one of the sites already described above: U.S. soldiers evacuated an Iraqi military compound on Sunday after tests by a mobile laboratory confirmed evidence of sarin nerve gas. More than a dozen soldiers of the Army's 101st Airborne Division had been sent earlier for chemical weapon decontamination after they exhibited symptoms of exposure to nerve agents.
AND STILL MORE: A New York Times report from what may be another location and of more toxins:
The soldiers, looking for weapons, soon found several oil drums on the site. They called in help from their chemical unit. What happened next is a little unclear but several soldiers became ill, and the company quickly put on their chemical protection gear. Last night, the chemical company identified the problem as CN, a riot control gas that causes vomiting and blisters. Colonel Madere said he did not believe that soldiers were seriously ill. The colonel said that the chemical team stayed overnight to check several other large oil drums. This morning, the team tested a 20-gallon drum, and came to the conclusion that it tested positive for sarin, a nerve gas and tabun, another nerve gas. A 55-gallon oil drum came up positive for mustard gas.
BUT SOME DOES NOT TEST OUT: Chemicals found at Hindya (as reported by the New York Times, above, for example) are not weapons.
AND THIS REPORT SAYS NOTHING HAS CHECKED OUT
Fox News is reporting that the dead body of Chemical Ali has been found.
He will not be lamented.
Sunday, April 06, 2003
The Washington Post reports:
U.S. Army troops took control of [Karbala,] revered by Shiite Muslims today, and once again drew cheers and thumbs-up accolades from thousands of smiling residents. In a pattern first established last week in Najaf, about 50 miles southeast of here, the Army routed several hundred Fedayeen fighters with airstrikes, artillery, armor and infantry fire for 24 hours. After pounding Karbala on Saturday, the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division this morning massed six companies to sweep through a final stronghold of southwestern Karbala.
The media refer to Karbala and Najaf as "Shia Holy Cities" and the like and also provide some detail. But the coverage that I have seen doesn't really capture just how important these cities are to the history of Islam.
Ali was the first cousin and son-in-law of Mohammed, but a very controversial leader of Islam. Ali's two sons - Hussein (or Husayn) and Hassad - were therefore Mohammed's grandchildren. "Shia" originally meant "Those Who Favor or Endorse Ali." Ali was murdered. From that point, one source summarizes the key events of Karbala and Najaf this way:
Muawiyah was declared caliph. Thus began the Umayyad Dynasty, which had its capital at Damascus. Yazid I, Muawiyah's son and his successor in 680, was unable to contain the opposition that his strong father had vigorously quelled. Husayn, Ali's second son, refused to pay homage and fled to Mecca, where he was asked to lead the Shias--mostly Iraqis--in a revolt against Yazid I. Ubayd Allah, governor of Al Kufah, discovered the plot and sent detachments to dissuade him. At Karbala, in Iraq, Husayn's band of 200 men and women refused to surrender and finally were cut down by a force of perhaps 4,000 Umayyad troops. Yazid I received Husayn's head, and Husayn's death on the tenth of Muharram (October 10, 680) continues to be observed as a day of mourning for all Shias. Ali's burial place at An Najaf, about 130 kilometers south of Baghdad, and Husayn's at Karbala, about 80 kilometers southwest of Baghdad, are holy places of pilgrimage for Shias, many of whom feel that a pilgrimage to both sites is equal to a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The importance of these events in the history of Islam cannot be overemphasized. They created the greatest of the Islamic schisms, between the party of Ali (the Shiat Ali, known in the West as Shias or Shiites) and the upholders of Muawiyah (the Ahl as Sunna, the People of the Sunna--those who follow Muhammad's custom and example) or the Sunnis (see Glossary). The Sunnis believe they are the followers of orthodoxy. The ascendancy of the Umayyads and the events at Karbala, in contrast, led to a Shia Islam which, although similar to Sunni Islam in its basic tenets, maintains important doctrinal differences that have had pervasive effects on the Shia world view. Most notably, Shias have viewed themselves as the opposition in Islam, the opponents of privilege and power. They believe that after the death of Ali and the ascension of the "usurper" Umayyads to the caliphate, Islam took the wrong path; therefore, obedience to existing temporal authority is not obligatory. Furthermore, in sacrificing his own life for a just cause, Husayn became the archetypal role model who inspired generations of Shias to fight for social equality and for economic justice.
Many top Democrats consider environmental issues to be one of their major advantages - with the Bush Administration's "repudiation" of the Kyoto Accord (if a President can "repudiate" a treaty of which the Senate totally disapproved) at the top of the list of this Administration's supposed environmental errors.
Well the Democrats can always fall back on other environmental arguments. But it appears that a new Harvard-led study will complicate arguments based on supposed global warming - whose extent and destructive consequences are taken as pseudo-religious truth by much of the left:
Claims that man-made pollution is causing "unprecedented" global warming have been seriously undermined by new research which shows that the Earth was warmer during the Middle Ages. ... A review of more than 240 scientific studies has shown that today's temperatures are neither the warmest over the past millennium, nor are they producing the most extreme weather - in stark contrast to the claims of the environmentalists. The review, carried out by a team from Harvard University, examined the findings of studies of so-called "temperature proxies" such as tree rings, ice cores and historical accounts which allow scientists to estimate temperatures prevailing at sites around the world. The findings prove that the world experienced a Medieval Warm Period between the ninth and 14th centuries with global temperatures significantly higher even than today. They also confirm claims that a Little Ice Age set in around 1300, during which the world cooled dramatically. Since 1900, the world has begun to warm up again - but has still to reach the balmy temperatures of the Middle Ages.
The timing of the end of the Little Ice Age is especially significant, as it implies that the records used by climate scientists date from a time when the Earth was relatively cold, thereby exaggerating the significance of today's temperature rise. According to the researchers, the evidence confirms suspicions that today's "unprecedented" temperatures are simply the result of examining temperature change over too short a period of time.
The study is interesting on many levels - but especially because even if it does not hold up, a lot more study and research will be needed to discredit it, if that can be done at all. President Bush came under intense fire from activists and politicians who are apparently unaware of their own extremism for his decision to turn the question of global warming over to scientists for further research. For example, Salon noted: Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope [said:] "President Bush's approach of merely studying global warming is irresponsible and will embarrass the United States in front of the rest of the world." ... Others have responded with a mixture of condescension and sarcasm. Take this headline from the U.K. Guardian last week: "It's true Mr President, the world's hotting up." And the Associated Press reported: For many climate experts, the administration's latest strategy reopens questions that most scientists considered already fairly settled. ... "It seems like they're reinventing the wheel because some people didn't like the direction indicated the last time the analysis was done," said Dan Lashof, science director for the climate program at the Natural Resources Defence Council, an environmental group. "The overall thrust of this plan is to take a giant step backward and almost pretend that the last decade and findings by the scientific community don't exist," he added.
But now it looks as though the proponents of Kyoto have a lot more homework to do, if only to undermine the Harvard study - homework that they had previously and rather haughtily denied needed doing at all, even as a President they deride as ignorant told them more study was needed.
Isn't it odd that facts about the weather in the Middle Ages might have a significant impact on an American 21st Century election?
Just imagine what the consequences could be of a dispositive determination of the price of eggs in China!
Saturday, April 05, 2003
An astute reader provides this anecdote, which I pass on with the qualification below.
When in England at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush. Secretary Powell answered by saying:
"Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."
It became very quiet in the room.
Urban Legends explains:
Here's a prime example of how facts become garbled when run through the rumor mill.
Although U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell did utter words similar to the above, he was not in England at the time, nor was he addressing the current Archbishop of Canterbury, nor was he responding to a question about "empire building."
The actual occasion was an address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 26, 2003, wherein Powell defended the U.S. government's position that the use of military force against Saddam Hussein, unilateral or otherwise, was not only justified but necessary if the complete disarmament of Iraq could not be achieved by other means.
In a question-and-answer session afterwards (during which the phrase "empire building" was never mentioned, incidentally), the secretary of state was asked by former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey if he felt the U.S and its allies had given due consideration to the use of "soft power" — promulgating moral and democratic values as a means of achieving progress towards international peace and stability, basically — versus the "hard power" of military force.
Here, in part, is how Colin Powell actually responded to Carey's question:
There is nothing in American experience or in American political life or in our culture that suggests we want to use hard power. But what we have found over the decades is that unless you do have hard power — and here I think you're referring to military power — then sometimes you are faced with situations that you can't deal with.
I mean, it was not soft power that freed Europe. It was hard power. And what followed immediately after hard power? Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe? No. Soft power came in the Marshall Plan. Soft power came with American GIs who put their weapons down once the war was over and helped all those nations rebuild. We did the same thing in Japan.
So our record of living our values and letting our values be an inspiration to others I think is clear. And I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of or apologize for with respect to what America has done for the world. [Applause.]
We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace. But there comes a time when soft power or talking with evil will not work where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works.
Friday, April 04, 2003
Ireland To Iraq II(0) comments
And to really make the point, they're meeting in Ulster.
By the way: It has always been a wonder to me that Tony Blair turned so early and so strongly to addressing the Northern Ireland mess after he became Prime Minister. Northern Ireland poses many risks for a British Prime Minister with few obvious clear benefits. I have long suspected that his decision to risk so much of his political capital on Northern Ireland, with its long history of intractable religious fighting, was likely influenced by his wife, Cheri, a devout Catholic and one of the best lawyers in Britain.
Few would now dispute the amazing good Mr. Blair has worked in Northern Ireland. It now appears that British experience in Northern Ireland may be key in capturing Baghdad with minimal civilian casualties.
Sometimes it seems clear that there must be a benevolent God, and that some good deeds aren't punished.
Senator John Kerry is mad. He's fighting mad - or at least mad enough to authorize somebody to go to the United Nations and urgently enquire about fighting, which is what he now says he was doing when he voted for the resolution which everyone else in the country understood authorized the President to invade Iraq with or without another UN resolution. But the very same "everyone else int he country" also understand that the Senator is full of baloney in saying that's what he voted for - so it's OK.
Who can blame him? He's lashing out at top congressional Republicans who assailed him for just for saying that "What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States." That's really got his Irish up! Or, at least, its got something in there up. "I refuse to have my patriotism or right to speak out questioned. I fought for and earned the right to express my views in this country."
Yeah! What's the big deal? Senator Kerry's well within his rights and the great traditions of this great country and what we expect from our Presidential candidates! Didn't each and every one of the Republicans running against Franklin Roosevelt during World War II publicly state: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Hirohito and Japan, but we need a regime change in the United States!"
And didn't each and every one of the Republicans running during World War I publicly state: "What we need now is not just a regime change in the Kaiser and Germany, but we need a regime change in the United States!"
And didn't each and every one of the Democrats running against Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War publicly state: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy, but we need a regime change in the United States!"
And, of course, Eisenhower got himself elected running against Adlai Stevenson during the Korean War by publicly arguing: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Kim Il Sung and North Korea, but we need a regime change in the United States!"
And, more recently, how about Richard Nixon and all those Republicans running against then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey during the Vietnam War who publicly stated: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Ho Chi Min and North Vietnam, but we need a regime change in the United States!"
Not to mention George McGovern and all those Democrats running against Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War who publicly stated: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Ho Chi Min and North Vietnam, but we need a regime change in the United States!"
What? You mean none of that actually happened? Nobody said things like that? You mean, when a new President is elected we don't normally call that - and never have normally called that - a regime change - but, rather, a change of administration? But I thought ...
Thursday, April 03, 2003
Wind, Sand, and SARS
There's not too much to say about Paul Krugman's column today, Gun, Germs and Stall? - apparently a sequel to the fanciful best seller The Little Economist, attributed to the Princeton academic, who considers himself a member of what he terms the "tiny elite." That sometimes happens when Herr Doktorprofessor just plagiarizes - er, I mean, "assimilates" - existing material, a phenomenon whose early warning sign is often, as here, his faux-casual observation that nobody has been paying much attention to the purloined (I mean, "assimilated") material. Experts in the complex and subtle field of Krugmania Watching are coming to believe that when Herr Doktorprofessor writes all faux-casual like that he really means that because he hasn't been paying much attention, and now he's had a chance to catch up on the material, he thinks he can swipe it. But that's just theory! Speculation! For now, we will take Herr Doktorprofessor at his word!
Today we learn from Herr Doktorprofessor that over the last two weeks, nobody has been paying much attention to economic news; even the ups and downs of the Dow have reflected reports from the battlefield, not the boardroom.
Now, some silly people might think that all those "ups and downs of the Dow" do reflect economic news. Such people might thinks that news about a huge wind and storm plagued war on sands covering the world's second-largest proven petroleum reserves and right next door to the world's largest proven petroleum reserves in a region long known as a gigantic political tinderbox counts as "economic news." But, look, they seem to use the language a little differently in Krugmania - cut him some slack. "Economic news" is just what comes from the board room there. And Paul Krugman has important things to say when he tells us that "the economic news is quite worrying. Indeed, the latest readings suggest that our recovery, such as it is, may be stalling. ...[T]he committee that rules on such matters still hasn't declared the recession that began in March 2001 over. ... [T]he job situation ... has more or less steadily worsened. ... [T]he latest data suggest that the rate at which things are getting worse is accelerating. In February, payroll employment fell by 308,000 — the worst reading since November 2001. Some analysts suggested that number was a fluke, distorted by bad weather, but yesterday there were two more worrying indicators: new claims for unemployment insurance jumped, and a survey of service sector companies suggests that the economy as a whole is contracting.
Now, it certainly seems as though somebody should have been paying attention to all that quite worrying economic news. Full disclosure: I hadn't previously realized that findings by the committee that rules on recession duration, government unemployment statistics, "data suggest[ing] the rate at which things are getting worse," analysts' suggestion about the weather or surveys of service sector companies actually came from corporate board rooms. In my ignorance, I had previously thought that they came from places like the government's National Bureau of Economic Research, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, various analysts' cubbies and academic economics departments and business schools - and think tanks and commercial economics survey shops. Indeed, PricewaterhouseCoopers only four days ago issued the results of a survey showing widespread CEO anxiety, including lots of economics concerns, and reaching the conclusion: As uncertainty extends its grip on America's next-generation economy, service businesses appear to be on a steadier course than their counterparts in the product sector—with comparatively brighter prospects for industry growth, corporate revenue growth, new hiring, and major new business investments. That conclusion doesn't seem to give quite the spin to the survey that Herr Doktorprofessor does - but, then, he ambiguously suggests that the unnamed (?) survey to which he refers came out yesterday. Herr Doktorprofessor can't be relying on the PricewaterhouseCoopers survey because we all know (he tells us!) that big accounting/consulting firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers can't be trusted further than they can be thrown - but more on that below.
Let's face it: It's a real scandal when a genius like Paul Krugman has to distract himself from all his important pre-Nobel Prize work and tell us that nobody has been paying much attention to the economic news. I, of course, lay this scandal where it belongs, at the feet of President George Bush - although Herr Doktorprofessor is too much of a gentleman to criticize the President. It is the President who is "responsible" for appointing Treasury Secretary Snow to be the main, designated person who is supposed to pay attention to economic news, but isn't, no doubt because he spends all his time on one of those golf courses just as Herr Doktorprofessor had warned would happen:
The administration's credibility problem is made worse by ... the uninspiring quality of their replacements. Today is the first day of hearings for John Snow, the administration's choice for Treasury secretary. One official I spoke to was rueful: "I thought Paul O'Neill wasn't suited to being Treasury secretary; he'd have been better off running a railroad. Now they've picked a man who ran a railroad." But that's not why he was chosen, according to CBS Market Watch: "He was picked because he's a lobbyist, a schmoozer, a master salesman" — and a member of no less than nine country clubs.
Mr. Snow, a clear doofus and mere railroad man, must be one of those silly "optimists" that Herr Doktorprofessor warns today are so off track:
[O]ptimists keep expecting businesses, anxious to update their technology, to resume large-scale investment and create a robust recovery. Both outcomes are still possible, but it seems increasingly likely that consumers will lose their nerve before businesses regain theirs. Optimists now place their faith in the supposed salutary effects of victory in Iraq. The theory is that businesses have been postponing investments until uncertainty over the war is resolved, and that once that happens there will be a great surge of pent-up demand. I'm skeptical: I think the main barriers to an investment revival are excess capacity, corporate debt and fear of accounting scandals. (The revelations about HealthSouth suggest that there is still plenty of undiscovered corporate malfeasance.)
So what the heck was the Wall Street Journal doing when it reported only yesterday:
The U.S. economy's problems go deeper than consumers and businesses cutting back due to uncertainty over the war in Iraq, Treasury Secretary John Snow said Thursday. "The problem is not with the concern about the Iraq war. The problem is the underlying weakness with the economy," Snow said in remarks made at the Marks Street Senior Center in Orlando, Fla. He did not elaborate on what the fundamental problems were. ... Despite Snow's belief that the economy's problems are more profound than just war concerns, it didn't lead him to conclude the economy is on the verge of falling back into a recession. "We need to be guard against it" because "there is clear weakness in the economy," Snow said. In earlier remarks Thursday, Snow argue the best solution for the economy's troubles would be the passage in full of the president's tax-cut package.
Doesn't the Wall Street Journal know that Mr. Snow hasn't been thinking about the economic news in the first place, and, even without thinking about it, that he has mindlessly placed his faith in the supposed salutary effects of victory in Iraq? And what's all this business about the general softness in the economy requiring passage of the stimulating tax cut that the President has proposed - a general softness that looks a lot like the general softness that Herr Doktorprofessor perceives, too? Wasn't it was exactly this general softness of the economy that Alan Greenspan denied in his Congressional testimony, a denial that was seized upon by Democrats as a big reason not to pass the President's tax-cut? Doesn't Herr Doktorprofessor column breath new life into the President's tax plan? Surely that can't be right - since Herr Doktorprofessor doesn't mention of word of this obvious consequence of his observations!
And what was the Journal thinking when it reported only two days ago:
Federal Reserve officials gave divergent views of the economy's prospects once the war with Iraq is over, while indicating a readiness to cut rates quickly if the economy doesn't shake off its current torpor. .... The remarks were further evidence that opinions inside the Fed vary over how much of the economy's weakness stems from war-related uncertainty rather than pre-existing factors such as the investment bust and corporate-governance scandals. But officials agree war is making it difficult to read the economy's underlying trend. ... But, in a break with tradition, it said geopolitical uncertainty made it too difficult to issue its usual assessment of whether inflation or economic weakness posed the bigger risk in the near future.
No wonder the Fed is in such a dither! They're focusing on the war and all that geopolitical uncertainty! Don't they know that those things aren't economic news? Sheesh, we're all in big trouble when the Fed can't even figure out what is and is not economic news in the first place! And now the Journal goes around reporting that the Fed is paying attention to and even concerned about economic news like the investment bust and corporate-governance scandals, even though we know from Herr Doktorprofessor that the Fed (indeed, nobody except Herr Doktorprofessor) has been doing any such thing. And Forbes, too, which recently reported: Uncertainty over war is not the only factor holding back a recovery in U.S. business, said Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William McDonough, citing the damage done to investor and lender confidence by corporate scandals.
Well, lets see. It looks like the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank have both been mis-reported to have been paying attention to the economic news, and to be concerned about excess capacity (although they call it the "the investment bust") and fear of accounting scandals. Concerns that individual investors may avoid the markets because of accounting transparency anxieties have also been express by such worthies as Warren Buffett and John Bogle. But those two gentlemen have not to my knowledge claimed that they believe that such investor anxieties have, in fact, resulted in individual investors withdrawing their money from the markets in worrying quantities, or that any company with which either of them is associated has materially reduced its willingness to invest in the market out of such anxiety. Mr. McDonough and Herr Doktorprofessor go further and do claim that accounting transparency anxiety is a current, significant drag on the markets and the economy. However, oddly, neither of them cites a groat of hard evidence for that claim - although it should not be too hard to survey investment companies, securities traders and individual investors to ascertain whether this is a current, real, substantial drag on the economy. And, if such evidence exists, why does most of the Federal Reserve Board not cite to this concern? And while it is true that investors should always be concerned about the risk of bad accounting, there is no need to cite to HealthSouth, because no matter what reforms and controls are instituted, this problem will always exist in abundance - and radical accounting reforms and controls can easily do lots of damage to the markets, the economy and the investing public.
Is Herr Doktorprofessor the first to sound the alarm that American companies have too much debt? Who could doubt the answer? Herr Doktorprofessor has long had a rather complex relationship with corporate debt. As noted in a prior post:
One of the most pernicious aspects of "double taxation" of dividends is that it encourages companies to take on too much debt because interest payments are deductible where dividend payments are not. Too much debt obviously leads to too many bankruptcies. And now this:
The U.S. agency that insures pensions for about 44 million Americans has seen its $8 billion surplus wiped out in one year by growing pension fund failures, and has fallen into deficit, The New York Times reported on Saturday. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. will disclose a deficit of $1 to $2 billion in its 2002 annual report, expected to be released at the end of next week, the newspaper said. ...
Paul Krugman argues:
Twenty years ago most workers were in "defined benefit" plans — that is, their employers promised them a fixed pension. Today most workers have "defined contribution" plans: they invest money for their retirement, and accept the risk that those investments might go bad. Retirement contributions are normally subsidized by the employer, and receive special tax treatment; but all this is to no avail if, as happened at Enron, the assets workers have bought lose most of their value.
It seems to be Professor Krugman's opinion that a threat to the nation's "defined benefits" plans can be no real crisis because most workers today don't have defined benefit plans. ... But it is also Professor Krugman's opinion that workers should have defined benefit plans, which are undermined by excess corporate debt, which is encouraged by "double taxation," which he opposes abolishing.
Herr Doktorprofessor is also concerned about SARS. And here he surely cannot just be filling up column inches with a summary of what he is - and all of us have been - reading in the media. I confess that it must be my ignorance and personal limitations that keeps me from ascertaining and isolating exactly what Herr Doktorprofessor has today contributed to our understanding of the economic consequences of SARS.
But I certainly see what he's getting at when he writes: I also wonder whether victory in Iraq will mark the end of uncertainty, or the beginning of even more uncertainty. Are we on the road to Damascus (or Tehran, or Yongbyon)? Except I can't figure out if he's saying that this particular uncertainty is now preying on the economy. But I am pretty sure that if this uncertainty turns out to be nothing of consequence, Herr Doktorprofessor will be able to say that he never actually wrote it was of consequence. And if this uncertainty turns out to be of consequence, Herr Doktorprofessor will give himself a nice pat on the back for predicting that development, too.