Saturday, November 02, 2002


From the Independent:
'Only technology revolution can save the Earth'

Diplomacy has failed – meaning that only a revolutionary advanced technology will save the Earth from relentless global warming driven by greenhouse gas emissions, scientists warned yesterday.


[The Earth] would need dramatic leaps in technology, such as working fusion reactors ...
How much are we spending on fusion research? According to this DOE document (pdf, page 50), it's only $250 million. Detail:
Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) seeks to study plasmas, the fourth state of matter, and understand and control the process of fusion that can produce an enormous release of energy. FES facilities include the DIII-D at General Atomics in San Diego, the Alcator C-Mod at MIT, and the National Spherical Tokamak Experiment in Princeton.
That's it. 1/4 of a billion dollars for what will be the inevitable energy source of the future. And in the meantime, we're spending over $300 billion on defense. Priorities, anyone?


Then and now:

We recently came across this old historical fact:

A severe and able Federal Judge, Issac Parker was nicknamed "The Hanging Judge" because of the many men he sent to the gallows. During his 21 years on the bench at Fort Smith, Judge Parker sentenced 160 men to die and hanged 79 of them.

Which got us wondering about our current President's stint while governor of Texas. It turns out that in 6 years:
152 people have been executed during Bush's tenure as governor. Texas Governor George W. Bush is the most-killing Governor in the history of the United States of America.
In 1/3 the time, Bush executed twice as many people, making him times more "productive". Compared to our current President, the Hanging Judge was a lightweight.


Friday, November 01, 2002

Who are you trying to kid?

From Slate, an essay by Daniel Gross about Harvey Pitt's recent troubles:
How did somebody widely regarded as both smart and savvy make such a hash of his job?

There's a case to be made that Pitt, who is neither corrupt nor stupid, was condemned to failure by his experience as a D.C. lawyer and lobbyist.

He has stumbled because he is behaving like a corporate lawyer in a political job ...

... more than a year into his tenure, however, it's clear that Pitt doesn't quite grasp that he now represents a different set of people.

Pitt's larger disinclination to speak truth to power might also be traced to his profession.


Noonan channels Wellstone:
To: Democrats
From: Paul Wellstone
Date: Oct 30, 2002


Imagine Trent Lott died in a plane crash last week. Please--stop cheering. That's the problem.


When the rally
[at my funeral] was over, I grieved. And I have to tell you--this is very personal to say, but where I am it's the soul that counts ...


Let me be very candidly specific. Some of you need to get a good psychologist and a good holy man or woman, a priest or rabbi or minister--or how about all three--and figure out why you're turning everything in your life into politics. Because I have to tell you what I know: Politics is the biggest, easiest way in all of America to avoid looking at yourself, and who you are, and what fence needs fixing on your own homestead.

A lot of you are in politics not beacuse you want to lead, but because you want to run. From yourselves.


That's what I have to say. Hope I didn't anger you; I just meant to warn you.

[emphasis added]


Harvey Pitt:

You've no doubt read the stories about Pitt's failure to notify the SEC commissioners about William Webster's involvement with U.S. Technologies (Rittenhouse, Krugman). But here's an interesting angle found in the Financial Times story:
Mr Bush has stood by the SEC chairman. One former official who advises the White House and US Treasury, said on Thursday: "The Bush people do not want to replace him but they worry they will have no choice. There are some heavy contributors who are really angry and some people who support Harvey . . . on a technical basis now worry about him stylistically."
[emphasis added]
Who are these "heavy contributors"?


From the Wall Street Journal:
As Pitt launches SEC probe of himself, criticism mounts

Nov 1, 2002, (Wall Street Journal /FT Information via COMTEX) --Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Harvey Pitt has sought an internal investigation by the agency's inspector general into the appointment of ex-Federal Bureau of Investigation Director William Webster as chairman of the new accounting oversight panel. The request for a probe comes after a report from The New York Times revealed that Mr. Pitt knew about Mr. Webster's audit committee work for U.S. Technologies, an investment company facing lawsuits for alleged fraud and improper accounting, but did not inform the Bush administration and other SEC members. Mr. Pitt said that his critics were only trying to gain political mileage prior to next week's elections.

[emphasis added]


Wednesday, October 30, 2002

News item:

Coup attempt in Qatar on October 12/13.

From weblogger The Agonist: On the evening of October 12, “scores” of high-ranking Qatari army officers were arrested. Sources say that “U.S troops were involved in the crackdown, establishing roadblocks and, in plain clothes, participating in the arrests of suspects.” Some sources say that the plotters had al Qaeda links, others that they had Saudi links. But all sources agree that the goal of the plotters was “to change Qatar’s foreign policy.”

From UPI: Diplomatic circles in the Middle East are buzzing with rumors of a failed coup against the Qatari regime on the night of Oct. 13. At least two members of the royal family are said to have joined with officers of Yemeni and Pakistani background, along with individuals from Islamic organizations, all opposed to the growing U.S. military presence.


Michael Kelly's error:

In today's op-ed, Michael Kelly expresses his view that the term "chicken hawk" refers to civilians "who advocate war but who declined a significant opportunity to serve in uniform" and that "the central implication here is that only men who have professionally endured war have the moral standing and the experiential authority to advocate war."

Wrong, Mr. Kelly.

The term "chicken hawk" is applicable in one specific instance (out of 8 possibilities). It is therefore, pace Kelly, not a "general trump-it-all insult that the antiwar crowd aims at the pro-war crowd."

For those with limited language and logic skills - like Kelly - we offer this table as a visual aid.

  military & veterans
cautious pro-war
cautious no military
pro-war no military


Tuesday, October 29, 2002

What? Huh?

The GOP has a new Flash Animation out. Halloween themed, don't you know. One frame that caught our eye was this:

We were intrigued by the citation of Meet The Press for October 6, 2002. So we took a look at the transcript (by the way, an excellent resource for finding old Meet The Press transcripts - and others - is here). Tom Daschle was the guest. Here is the exchange on taxes:
MR. RUSSERT: You mentioned the economy. This is what you said just about two weeks ago about it, and the tax cuts: “The tragic set of financial and economic circumstances we are witnessing today, is directly connected to the tragic decline in our fiscal circumstance. ... President Bush’s solution appears to be pretty clear. ...They have one all-purpose, economic antidote to everything, and that is tax cuts—tax cuts largely dedicated to those at the very top.” Having said that, it now appears on the verge of a war with Iraq, would you be in favor of postponing the Bush tax cut, the implementation in order to have money to pay for the war and also reduce the deficit?

SEN. DASCHLE: Tim, I have said from the very beginning that what we ought to do is to not dig the hole any deeper. The president has proposed that we make permanent all of the tax cuts, that we make permanent all of the specific, very expensive and costly and I think imbalanced approaches to tax policy. And what we have said is we won’t do that. We’ll have that vote, and I think we ought to stop that from occurring and we ought to have a vote on it right now.

MR. RUSSERT: But what about the existing tax cuts that are in place? Why not...

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, let’s take first things first.

MR. RUSSERT: If you feel so seriously about it, Senator, why not postpone the tax cut, freeze it and not let it take place?

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, because the president has said he’d veto something like that. There’s no way that that will become law. It would be a futile effort in part because the administration is so opposed to it. So that isn’t going to get us anywhere. What I think we can do, though, in spite of the administration opposition is keep this from becoming permanent so we don’t lose another $400 billion in the first 10 years and $4 1/2 trillion in the second 10 years. We can avoid that from happening. We can put some semblance of fiscal responsibility back into the budget by taking at least that minimal step.
Got that? Not making the tax cut permanent is now considered to be raising taxes. Earlier, the GOP was saying that freezing the tax cut was a raise, but now they've gone further with that "logic." Now, even if the Senate/Democrats do nothing, it's considered raising taxes.

And another thing. It's "Taxes Raised" (past tense), even though the time frame is eight years in the future.


Big news:

The Sideshow links to a thought-provoking article at The According to the author, the Bush administration is directly responsible for North Korea's decision to go nuclear. Here are the key events:

  stimulus response
shortly after taking office Bush cut off talks with North Korea and snubbed South Korea’s President Kim Dae-Jung over his détente strategy  
After the Sept. 11 terror attacks Bush began counting North Korea as part of his “axis of evil,”  
Early 2002 In late 2001, Bush sent to Congress a “nuclear posture review,” which laid out future U.S. strategy for deploying nuclear weapons. Leaked early this year, the NPR put North Korea on a list of potential targets for U.S. nuclear weapons. In doing that, Bush reversed President Clinton's commitment against targeting non-nuclear states with nuclear weapons. As part of the nuclear review, the Bush administration also discussed lowering the threshold for the use of U.S. nuclear weapons by making low-yield tactical nukes available for some battlefield situations.  
March   The North Korean government warned of “strong countermeasures” against Bush’s nuclear policy shifts.
March   The New York Times reported that “North Korea threatened earlier this month to withdraw from the (1994 nuclear suspension) agreement if the Bush administration persisted with what North Korea called a ‘hard-line’ policy that differed from the Clinton administration’s approach.”
May Raising the tensions even more, Bush personally lashed out at North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il during a closed-door meeting of Republican lawmakers. In a lectern-thumping, disjointed tirade that unnerved some Republicans present, Bush denounced Kim Jong Il as a "pygmy" and compared him to "a spoiled child at a dinner table," Newsweek magazine reported  
Summer   U.S. intelligence was seeing evidence of a resurgent nuclear program in North Korea.
July   "U.S. officials have known since early July that North Korea had acquired key equipment for enriching uranium," the Wall Street Journal reported.
October U.S. diplomats confronted Pyongyang with the evidence ... ... and were surprised when North Korean leaders admitted that they were working on building nuclear weapons.
25 October   North Korea issued a press release at the United Nations explaining its reasoning. The statement cited both Bush's "axis of evil" rhetoric and the administration's decision to target North Korea for a possible preemptive nuclear strike.

The argument that Bush's foreign policy caused North Korea to scrap the 1994 agreement and go nuclear sounds persuasive. In addition, it's surprisingly simple. Threaten North Korea, and they react. No complicated Clash of Civilizations or mysterious global financial issues. So simple, in fact, that even Bush might understand it.

Putting our naïve hat on, we don't understand why people aren't shouting from the rooftops about this. The Bush administration's North Korea policy has been a disaster. Talking tough was not the right approach. The 1994 agreement was working until the delicate balance was upset by Bush. And these guys are considered good at foreign policy?

UPDATE: We've been trying to determine exactly when, and in what manner, the North Koreans resumed their nuclear program. It's possible that they started a uranium enrichment program in the late 1990's, but nobody is saying for sure. (By the way, the 1994 agreement was designed to halt the production of plutonium - which seems to have succeeded.) It still looks like the North Koreans didn't pursue a nuclear program until after Bush made his policy changes. The reason? The U.S. recently confronted North Korea with intelligence that - we presume - would have shown an operative nuclear program at an earlier date, if that was the case.


Mondale too old?

Walter Mondale, age 74, is being criticized in some Republican circles as being too old. E.g. Limbaugh: (emphasis added)
Anybody who thinks that Frank Lautenberg or Walter Mondull are going to serve full terms if they are elected next week, is probably smoking some of the marijuana that was intended for these patients in New York. Their ideology is as old and obsolete as the dinosaurs. I'm not saying anyone should get over confident, but just look at who the other side has to go to for help. It's absurd to vote for these two cadavers just because they the letter (D) next to their names.
But what about this guy? (From NYTimes)
The new board overseeing the accounting profession got off to a troubled start today when the members of the Securities and Exchange Commission split bitterly over the qualifications and competency of the board's new leadership. They voted 3 to 2 to approve formally the selection of William H. Webster, the former director of the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., to head the new board.

The three Republicans on the commission and Republicans in Congress hailed Mr. Webster ...
How old is Mr. Webster? Well, he was born on March 6, 1924, making him 78 today.

Note: Links to Limbaugh tend to go bad after about a week.


Mr. Nice Guy:

Four day's after Paul Wellstone dies:
"The Democrats use every opportunity, no matter how tragic, to seize power." - Rush Limbaugh, 29 October 2002



New York Times:Thousands March in Washington Against Going to War in Iraq
Washington Post: 100,000 Rally, March Against War in Iraq
Washington Times: Anti-war crowd noisy, peaceful
Fox News Channel: Demonstrators Protest Iraq War Plans
David Horowitz' Front Page Magazine: 100,000 Communists March On Washington To Give Aid and Comfort to Saddam Hussein


Travelin' George:

It's been a busy month for the President. In 28 days, he's made 16 stops to campaign for Republicans. According to big Dick Morris (not our favorite guy, by the way):
"By campaigning for Republican candidates around the nation, Bush seems to be undermining the case for a military emergency requiring immediate action against Iraq."
- link -
Here's Bush's October/November schedule up to now:

    1 2
Remarks by the President at Bob Ehrlich for Governor Reception
3 4 5
Remarks by the President in Manchester, New Hampshire Welcome

Remarks by the President at John Sununu for Senate Reception

6 7 8
Remarks by the President at Tennessee Welcome

Remarks by the President at Van Hilleary for Governor Luncheon

9 10 11 12
13 14
Remarks by the President in Michigan Welcome
15 16 17
Remarks by the President at 2002 Unity Luncheon
President Discusses Tax Relief Impact in Springfield, Missouri
20 21 22
Remarks by the President at Pennsylvania Welcome

Remarks by the President at Bangor, Maine Welcome

23 24
Remarks by the President at Charlotte, North Carolina Welcome

Remarks by the President at Columbia, South Carolina Welcome

Remarks by the President in Alabama Welcome

25 26
Remarks by the President in Arizona Welcome
Remarks by the President at New Mexico Welcome

Remarks by the President in Colorado Welcome

29 30
White House
Radio Day
Remarks by the President at South Dakota Welcome

Remarks by the President at Indiana Welcome

Remarks by the President at West Virginia Welcome

Remarks by the President in Pennsylvania Welcome

Remarks by the President at New Hampshire Welcome

Remarks by the President at Kentucky Welcome


Remarks by the President in Florida Welcome

Remarks by the President at Savannah, Georgia Welcome

Remarks by the President in Atlanta, Georgia Welcome

Remarks by the President at Tennessee Welcome

Remarks by the President in South Dakota Welcome

Remarks by the President in Minnesota Welcome

Remarks by the President at Illinois Welcome

Remarks by the President at Iowa Welcome

Remarks by the President at Missouri Welcome

Remarks by the President at Arkansas Welcome

5 6 7 8 9

The Daily Kos also has some thoughts on this issue.


Monday, October 28, 2002

Pants on fire:

In addition to the image link, there is this commentary from Talking Points Memo (3:30 PM October 28).

UPDATE: And then the Washington Post published this story: Gingrich Accusations Come Under Scrutiny at 5:18 PM October 28 - almost certainly because of Josh Marshall's work. Go TPM!


Logos logo:

Leaders of two religious organizations are questioning Chevrolet's sponsorship of a concert and prayer tour aimed at evangelical Christians - NYTimes story


Sunday, October 27, 2002

Sullivan's innumeracy:

Background: On October 22, Dana Milbank wrote an article in the Washington Post about Bush's misrepresentation of the facts: One item he mentioned was this: (emphasis added)

Other times, the president's assertions simply outpace the facts. In New Hampshire earlier this month, he said his education legislation made "the biggest increase in education spending in a long, long time."

In fact, the 15.8 percent increase in Department of Education discretionary spending for fiscal year 2002 (the figures the White House supplied when asked about Bush's statement) was below the 18.5 percent increase under Clinton the previous year -- and Bush had wanted a much smaller increase than Congress approved.

The following day (Wed, Oct 23) Sullivan publishes an email he received from a reader. The key sections are: (emphasis [yellow] added)

A FEW DECENT POINTS?? An email provides some balance to my link to Dana Milbank's Washington Post article yesterday about president Bush's sloppiness with facts:

Good dish . . . with the notable exception of touting Milbank's article. Although he accuses the President of lying (6 times by my count), his evidence is less than compelling.
Milbank's statements are, if anything, more dubious than the President's. Then he goes on to make some basic logical errors.
Finally, he closes with a basic error in arithmetic: "Other times, the president's assertions simply outpace the facts. In New Hampshire earlier this month, he said his education legislation made "the biggest increase in education spending in a long, long time." "In fact, the 15.8 percent increase in Department of Education discretionary spending for fiscal year 2002 (the figures the White House supplied when asked about Bush's statement) was below the 18.5 percent increase under Clinton the previous year. . ."

In fact, a 15.8 % increase is "bigger" than a previous year's 18.5 % increase (115.8 x 118.5 = 137.22; 137.22 - 118.5 = 18.72% ). Dana might wish to define an "increase" as a multiplicative factor, but dictionaries, math books, and common usage all refer to addition.
[Milbank] has failed abysmally in his attempt to make a cogent case. And if this is the best available argument that Bush is a liar, he must be pretty darn truthful.

Sounds persuasive! At least it does if you're not paying close attention. But it's wrong. It's the result of mathematical ignorance or it's a deliberate trick. Here's why.

The first set of numbers (15.8 and 18.5) are percentages. But then the numbers are applied to real units (in this case dollars) which are subtracted to produce another real unit number (again, in dollars) - which is automagically treated as a "percentage" and (incorrectly) compared to a number in the first set. Let's look at some examples.

year percentage increase
previous year
spending ratio
compared to
year 0
total Federal spending on education
      one dollar
(absurd, but bear with us)
one hundred dollars
(the writer's unstated assumption)
a billion dollars base year
0 - Clinton n.a. 1 $ 1.00 $ 100.00 $ 1,000,000,000  
1 - Clinton 18.5 % 1.185 $ 1.18 $ 118.50 $ 1,185,000,000  
2 - Bush 15.8 % 1.372 $ 1.37 $ 137.20 $ 1,372,000,000  
      $ 0.19 $ 18.70 $ 190,000,000 difference in spending between years 1 & 2
      .19 % 18.7 % 190000000 % convert to a "percentage"
      .19 % 18.7 % 190000000 % declare this to be Bush's increase
      18.5 % 18.5 % 18.5 % compare to Clinton's increase
      Ooh! Bush's increase was miniscule. Wow! Bush's increase was bigger than Clinton's. Dana Milbank is wrong. Yikes! Bush's increase is a whole lot bigger than Clinton's.  

By applying the spending increases to a base amount of one hundred dollars, you get a number that, when incorrectly treated as a percentage, seems reasonable (say, anything between 5% and 30%), but it's purely an accident. (Or is it?)

Spending numbers should be adjusted for inflation and made per-capita if they are to have any meaning. Absent that kind of analysis, we speak of year-to-year differences in terms of percentage because it allows us to see if real spending is keeping up with, or exceeding previous levels (by subtracting inflation and population growth rates). And here is where the writer deceives us: By taking a (made-up) spending change and treating it as a rate of change.

Another possibility: Now it's true that the year-to-year increase in dollars is slightly greater under Bush. That's what the writer's 18.7% really measures: dollars, not growth rates. He (or she) has inadvertently arrived at a percentage increase in funding by Bush compared to year 0. But then it's used to gauge Clinton's increase also compared to year 0. Thus, we're really evaluating dollars vs. dollars - even though it's expressed in percentages. Bush's spending is measured by comparing it to a budget two years prior, but Clinton's by one year. (If you want to properly engage in this sort of oddball analysis, then Clinton's spending increase should be compared to the budget for year -1.)

Actually, we're not sure what approach the writer is making: using a base of $100 and then converting spending amounts to percentages - which was our first impression because of the stated emphasis on addition and disdain for multiplication, or, comparing apples to oranges (Bush-$-increase:spending-2-years-earlier vs. Clinton-$-increase:spending-1-year-earlier). Either way is wrong.

For Sullivan to be introducing this kind of "reasoning" into the debate shows how desperate (or ignorant) he really is. Where did this guy go to college?

Sullivan owes Milbank an apology for promoting this nonsense.