Saturday, September 14, 2002

Exploring the possibilities:

  • Favorable/unfavorable outcomes from the point of view of U.S. political/economic interests.
  • Assume that Iraq will not beat back an Anglo-American assault.
  • Assume that once in Iraq, U.S. will be obligated to stay even if things get tough: failure of installed govt.; rebellion in north or south; major nation-building effort required (e.g. provide food, medicine, and housing).
  • Other events listed are those considered not impossible (revolt in Pakistan, India-Pakistan war, China leans on Taiwan), even if unlikely.
  • We have no idea what's likely to happen. The whole "regime change" effort by Bush could turn out to be a cakewalk. Or it could be a complete disaster. We thought the best thing to do was flesh out the possibilities, and see how it looked. Our general impression is that there are plenty of low-probability, but highly unfavorable events that could take place after Iraq is attacked. No matter what the military/political outcome, it will cost the United States a lot of money - and that could hurt its economy even in the best of circumstances. We have included the Rosy Scenario (Iraq collapses, its citizens hail the U.S., the Middle East is transformed, etc.) which has defenders. Hey, anything could happen - although we think there is no way the region can be transformed into a collection of post-Enlightenment secular states. On the other hand, there are some really nasty events that can only be prevented through skillful diplomacy and unwavering attention to details - if they can be prevented at all.

    Considering the present situation in the region, invading Iraq looks like a gamble - which history teaches us, is usually not a wise thing for a nation-state to do.


    Friday, September 13, 2002

    Her Royal Highness speaks to the little people

    First let me clarify what I
    meant by riffraff. Being a slimebag
    [makes you riffraff]. So who are these
    slimebags? Why don't I name them? Because
    I refuse to give the limpets more

    I will ... tell you what makes them slimebags. It's
    deliberate dissemination of outright lies, slanders, and
    defamations designed ... to strike at another person's
    standing in the community

    I would ... be interested to hear from the lawyers
    out there about what the rumblings are in the
    legal community regarding blog abuse and
    what can be, or perhaps is already
    being done about it.

    Norah dear: Perhaps you should contact Ann Coulter. She's a lawyer - familiar with lies, slanders, and defamations - and a conservative, just like you.

    Hey Kaus! Nora also said,
    "I am ... taking deep breaths to temper ongoing thoughts of hiring a hit man."


    Definitely not a Keynesian:

    Alan Greenspan thinks the Bush tax cuts are fine, and when the nation faces budget deficits he recommends cuts in federal spending or the economy will suffer (according to this New York Times story). It's part of Greenspan's shrink-the-government ideal, using incoming revenue to determine the size and scope of federal programs. Besides putting the cart before the horse (you should decide what you need to spend, and then seek revenues), it's decidedly non-Keynesian. But Keynes approach may be right for the current situation. Keynes and his theories got a bad rap in the 1970's when it appeared that inflation was an unavoidable result of government stimulative fiscal policy. Even some Keynesians bought that story, because the data points all seemed to fall on the Philips Curve.

    But that was then, this is now. The Philips Curve - at least in the last decade or so - has been inoperative. There are all sorts of reasons for that: increased global competition; better economic forecasting by businesses; dirt-cheap basic commodities; and smarter monetary policy. (All making inflation harder to get started.)

    So, faced with a stagnant or declining economy, is a return to Keynesianism in the cards? Not if Greenspan has anything to say about it. But if things get worse, a revival may take place.

    In the past, the slur hurled at Democrats was that they wanted to tax and spend. Tax and spend! Doesn't sound attractive to many ears, but that's because of emphasis. When nothing is going on in the economy, there might be a change in attitude, and we may start hearing a call to tax and spend.


    Thursday, September 12, 2002

    Straighten up and fly right!

    Here is Nick Nolte's booking photo (following arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence).

    Hey Nick! Why didn't you bother to comb your hair?

    We're not sure if he was driving drunk (or worse), but he certainly deserves to be thrown in the pokey for wearing that Hawaiian shirt - after Labor Day.


    Bill Clinton with David Letterman:

    Former president Bill Clinton was the guest on David Letterman's Late Show (Wednesday). He was asked a number of things, including what his thoughts were when he first heard the news of the attack on the World Trade Center. Clinton said that his immediate reaction was that it was Bin Laden's work. He then went on to say that in his mind there were only two entities likely to carry out such an operation: al Qaeda or Iran.
    Clinton ruled out Iran because it was a state that could be counter-attacked, has vulnerabilities, etc. But it's notable that he didn't say Iraq.


    How much respect?

    The President gives a speech on Ellis Island. Among other things, he says:
    America strives to be tolerant and just. We respect the faith of Islam, even as we fight those whose actions defile that faith.
    Really? Polygyny is a significant element within Islam. When put to the test, does this country respect polygyny? (Ask the Mormons)

    While looking up references to Islam/polygyny, we found the following item at the Saudi-supported Religion of Islam website:
    The present Western society, which permits free sex between consenting adults, has given rise to an abundance of irresponsible sexual relationships, an abundance of “fatherless” children, many unmarried teenage mothers; all becoming a burden on the country's welfare system. In part, such an undesirable welfare burden has given rise to a bloated budget deficit which even an economically powerful country like the United States cannot accommodate. Bloated budget deficit has become a political football which is affecting the political system of the United States.

    In short, we find that artificially established monogamy has become a factor in ruining the family structure, and the social, economic and political systems of the country.
    Conservatives like programs that reduce the number of fatherless children, reduce the number of unmarried teenage mothers, and lower welfare rolls (are you listening Kaus?). So, should polygyny be part of a Faith Based Program, supported by Bush?


    He said what?

    Yesterday, during ABC's coverage of Bush's visit to Ground Zero in New York, an off-screen commentator - reporter Terry Moran - said*:
    The president has a child's patriotism. An interest in flags, ritual, anthems, and an uncomplicated support of country. And I mean that in a positive sense....
    * quoting from memory, but we're absolutely sure that the first sentence (The president ... patriotism.) is verbatim.


    Wednesday, September 11, 2002

    A most trivial observation:

    For as long as we can remember, Matt Drudge had a link to the Washington Post's Richard Cohen. However, as of four days ago, the link is gone - yet those for several other liberal columnists remain (e.g. Molly Ivins, Anna Quindlen, Michael Kinsley - okay, it's a short list).

    We can't help but wonder if Drudge pulled Cohen as a favor for Ann Coulter (who has a link there) - because of Cohen's scathing Aug 15 essay* about her and her book.

    * that link is inoperative at the time of this posting.




    Speaking of anniversaries:

    In a few weeks it will be November 1, which marks the 50th anniversary of the first hydrogen bomb explosion (code name "Mike" on the Pacific island of Eniwetok).

    And despite the concerns back then about (mis)use of the weapon, the human race has managed to step back from the brink of nuclear annihilation. That's something to keep in mind when you hear assertions that Saddam Hussein - or others - are likely to use nukes.


    Tuesday, September 10, 2002

    Governor Jeb Bush's "private family matter":

    By now, everybody has heard that his daughter, Noelle, has been caught with crack cocaine.
    STORY: Gov. Jeb Bush's 25-year-old daughter was found with what was believed to be crack cocaine at a rehabilitation center, police said Tuesday. If confirmed, it would be her second lapse since entering court-ordered drug treatment.
    With that in mind, we recommend people visit this site, where the governor's position on drugs is detailed. We couldn't help but notice this item:
    Mandatory prison sentences for drug offenses

    A minimum of three years will be mandated for any person convicted of possession, sale, importation, etc., of at least 25 pounds of cannabis, 4 grams of flunitrazepam, morphine, opium or heroin, 14 grams of amphetamine, 28 grams of cocaine and phencyclidine, or 200 grams of methaqualone.
    Initial reports are that the "small white rock substance" which tested positive for cocaine, amounted to 2 grams. That, plus the fact that her DNA closely matches that of Florida's chief executive, should result in a mild penalty - if there is one at all.

    At the website noted above (Jeb Bush's position on drugs) there is this line near the bottom:
    Agree? Disagree? Voice your opinions on Drugs or about Jeb Bush in The Forum.
    Well, guess what? If you click on either link, you get this:
    The Forums area has been shut down.
    ANOTHER UPDATE: How much is that rock cocaine in the window?
    The CNN story (above) said it was 2.0 grams. But a subsequent AP story (via Salon) has it at 0.2 grams. Did it shrink?


    Worth a visit:

    The Art of War and Peace. In particular, the WWI propaganda posters, which might even be updated by the Bush administration, e.g.:



    Ted Rall's toughest cartoon yet.

    Is he the George Grosz for our time? (see Fit for Duty)


    Monochrome days:

    The Homeland Security Advisory System has been in effect since March 2002. It started out with an Threat Condition (for "a significant risk of terrorist attacks"), and has remained at that point ever since.

    But in the news today, we read that:
  • The FBI is warning local police and the U.S. utility, banking and transportation industries of a steady stream of threats mentioning New York, Washington and the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
  • Last week, the FBI posted a bulletin on a Web site and sent a message over a private law enforcement bulletin system advising a state of alert on Sept. 11.
  • U.S. military bases went on alert Monday.
  • A cable was sent to all diplomatic posts advising them to maintain a higher state of alert Wednesday.
  • So why hasn't the Threat Condition - for at least one week - been raised to High? (orange).

    There might be a last-minute change, but as of Tuesday, Sept 10, 10am ET, the condition is still Elevated according to the White House DoHS website.

    We couldn't believe it, but within a few hours of this post, the White House announced a change in the Threat Condition to
    Which means one of two things:
  • They are finally taking the warning system seriously, or ...
  • Ari Fleischer reads Uggabugga


    Monday, September 09, 2002



    Where are the young ones?

    On Sunday, there was an OpEd in the Los Angeles Times that discussed the problems with Republican Bill Simon's California gubernatorial campaign. In particular, the influence of the Rev. Lou Sheldon, a conservative evangelist, was noted. We've followed the reverend in the news for quite some time, and it dawned on us that he's getting on in years. In fact, isn't that the case for all the Big Men in the religious/political realm? We decided to do a little research, and here is what we've found:
    who organization born age today reference
    Rev. Sung Myung Moon Unification Church 1920 80 link
    Rev. Pat Robertson Christian Coalition March 22, 1930 72 link
    Rev. D. James Kennedy Center for Reclaiming America Nov. 3, 1930 71 link
    Rev. Jerry Falwell Moral Majority (closed 1989) August 11, 1933 69 link
    Rev. Lou Sheldon Traditional Values Coalition 1934 68 link
    Dr. James Dobson Focus on the Family mysteriously impossible to find out est 60+ link
    Gary Bauer * Family Research Council May 4, 1946 56 link
    Robert W. Peters * Morality in Media 1949 53 link
    Ralph Reed, Jr. * Christian Coalition ('89-'97) 1961 41 link

    * operative only, not a reverend or preacher

    Is this a sign that the movements are fading as a political force? Most of these guys were active fifteen to twenty years ago when they were in their early-40's to mid-50's. So where are the equivalents today? The closest thing seems to be politicians (like the president) who are more explicitly religious - but that's a pale copy of the real thing.