Friday, February 28, 2003

Say what?

Bush's $674 billion tax plan, centered on a proposal to eliminate taxes on corporate dividends, and which was formally introduced on Thursday, generated the following comments:
Treasury Secretary John Snow - ... said the tax package would create "millions of new jobs"     "This is a tax policy that will stand up to scrutiny. This is economics that will stand up to scrutiny."

Georgia Sen. Zell Miller - "The president has come up with a bold, well-thought-out plan that will let virtually every American who pays taxes keep more of their hard-earned money"
Well, virtually every American pays taxes, so by Miller's logic, this tax bill will allow virtually every American to keep more of their hard-earned money.

Of course, that's completely false. A significant number of Americans will be paying more for stuff as benefits programs are scaled back, and they won't get a dime as a result of Bush's proposed legislation. So, it is not true that "virtually all Americans" will be keeping more of their money.

As far as John Snow is concerned, we never thought we'd say it, but, please, bring back Paul O'Neill.


Thursday, February 27, 2003

Does this inspire confidence?


Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Inspired by this nonsense:

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for an Indiana state law that places some of the nation's most severe restrictions on eating meat, including requirements that a diner be counseled face-to-face about the cholesterol risks and offered pictures of what the animal looked like in the slaughterhouse.

The high court turned down an appeal from restaurateurs in Indiana claiming the in-person counseling sessions would force some people to forgo lunch or risk their equilibrium by postponing dinner far into the night.

"This is an outrageous law that leaves many diners without access to red meat, or certainly places a heavy burden, an undue burden, on a customer's right to choose the Chef's Special," said Kate Michelman, president of the rights group SNARL! Pro-Carnivore America.

But Mike Fichter, executive director of Indiana Right to Lettuce, an anti-meat group, said, "For the first time chefs in Indiana will be required to give diners information about the risks. We're glad that the court battles look like they're finally over."

The high court action means that Indiana may begin fully enforcing a law passed eight years ago that requires in-person counseling and an 18-minute waiting period before a customer can order a T-bone steak.

In practice, the Indiana law and similar measures on the books in four other states require customers to make two trips to talk with the maître d'. Opponents said that makes Polish sausage especially difficult to obtain for impatient people, or those who must climb back up stairs to reach the reservations desk.

Making two trips often means leaving the dinner table for twenty minutes, finding a place to stand in the lobby and arranging something to keep fidgety children occupied, said Janet Crepps, staff lawyer for the Center for Ribeye Rights. Customers may also have a hard time explaining their absence from power lunches, or a husband or partner who does not know about an iron deficiency, Crepps said.

Opponents of the Indiana law said research showed that similar laws in Mississippi and Utah forced customers to put off eating delicious meals because of scheduling difficulties or to drive down to the supermarket in order to get something decent to eat.

Louisiana and Wisconsin also have similar in-person counseling requirements.

The Supreme Court did not comment in rejecting the case, which could have offered a new opportunity to review when state restrictions on eating meat become unconstitutional. Nearly every state places some restriction on ordering pork chops, including requirements that women wait a hour or so after requesting an meat-lover's pizza and that they receive certain culinary information beforehand.

The high court has allowed a variety of restrictions, so long as they do not place an "undue burden" on a person's ability to order a basket of fried chicken.

Waiting periods and laws requiring customers to get information ahead of time are not new, but Indian's law goes further than most states in combining the two restrictions.

Meat-eaters claim such restrictions are meant to chip away at the right to a flank steak secured by the Supreme Court 30 years ago. Vegetarians generally support such restrictions as reasonable ways to make sure everyone is bummed-out at the table, although for many they do not go far enough.

"Waiting periods will not end All-you-can-eat Ribs Night," said Erik Whittington, spokesman for the American Legume League. "Although these bills may be well intentioned, they do not address the fact that London Broil means killing a bovine and should never be served under any circumstance."

In Indiana, a 1995 law required that women give what the state called "informed consent" before getting a side order of Vienna Sausage. That means waitresses must tell customers about alternatives to hamburgers and about the availability of Pepto-Bismol if they order the large Caesar salad.

The state Legislature said it intended to inform diners about Sweet'N'Sour Pork and to try to persuade fewer customers to order it. A spokeswoman for the state attorney general was out to lunch and did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Seven restaurants and a sausage-maker challenged the law in federal court, and the requirement for an in-person interview has never taken effect. Until Monday, diners who ordered beef Stroganoff could avoid making two trips to the kitchen by agreeing to hear the state-mandated information over the telephone when making a reservation.

Testimony before a federal judge in 2000 showed that the required information did nothing to change customer's minds, Crepps said. That judge found that requiring face-to-face meetings would deny pastrami sandwiches to an estimated 10 to 12 percent of customers who wanted them but wished to avoid the hassle.

"It is demeaning to hungry people to suggest they are ordering entrées in haste and without careful thought," Crepps said.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the in-person counseling rule constitutional last year. A majority of a three-judge appeals court panel said (after wiping their greasy chins) that the law does not create too great a burden for diners, in part because it would waive the counseling requirement if they are really, really hungry.



Actual Congressional Democrats with actual criticism of Bush!     Who knew?

Go to this web page.

Thanks to chinese food is good for the tip.


Birthday Bob:

Robert Novak turns 72 today. He was born exactly two years before ground was broken for the Golden Gate Bridge. That's a long time ago (and might explain Bob's preference for pre-FDR policies).


Tuesday, February 25, 2003


1. Make sure you
are buying drugs
from a dealer
you can trust.
2. There are some
pretty neat things
being brewed up
these days.
3. Smoke or
swallow: choose
what works best
for you.
4. Party at home
or hop in the car?
5. If driving, wait
for Aerosmith.
6. Look at that cool
sunset. Better
pull off before
getting really
7. If staying home,
for God's sake,
have an exit
route in case
John Ashcroft
comes to arrest
8. And remember to
put a towel next
to the door
to prevent
smoke from
getting out.
9. If you're loaded,
time may appear
to slow down
and make watching
TV or listening
to the radio
extremely boring.
10. Oops, overdid

Boy, am I wasted!
11. This is worse
than last year's
Halloween party.
If you're going
to go out
afterwards, be
sure that you're
not showing red-
eye, and wash
your hands to
remove that
dope smell.



Monday, February 24, 2003

Let's see them go at it:

Saddam Hussein wants to debate President George Bush (news item).

Some facts about the al-Samoud 2 missile can be found here.


The Washington Post is kissing up:

The Rittenhouse Review alerts us to this article in the Washington Post about Jeb Bush
The Patience of Jeb
While Others Talk of the Presidency, Bush Focuses on Florida and Family
By Mark Leibovich
and has some choice comments to make as well.

We took a look at the article in question, and were surprised by much of the content.

The following items are not remarks made by friends or associates of Jeb Bush. They are those of the Washington Post reporter:
  • He is the Bush with the angst gene, who seems to labor through even his pinnacle moments. His capacity for public tears is impressive even by the weepy standards of the Bush family. He cried four times at his inaugural events last month -- one fewer than he did during "Forrest Gump."

  • He is a shy public man who seems destined to suffer in the open. He is the Bush who has acknowledged marital strife, who cries while discussing his daughter's drug problems on the "Today" show ...

  • Jeb Bush can be warm and approachable.

  • He projects vulnerability, with a mopey posture and fleshy face that seems to cry out for caretaking. He is the Bush with soft eyes ...
But Jeb is no slacker. No sir!
  • To Jeb Bush, the governance of Florida is a precious space of his own authority, blissfully apart from everything else. "Florida, Florida, Florida," he says, declaring his focus. This is how he steers conversations away from national matters, especially those that concern his brother.

  • He hired driven, policy-oriented aides, usually under 40 years old, to better endure his round-the-clock demands. Bush can be a head-banging micromanager. [Which makes us at uggabugga wonder how much he micromanaged the 2000 election. Apparently, a lot.]
Wow! What kind of access did Leibovich have in order to get those insights? We read:
  • He declined to be interviewed for this article ...
and then there are these two lines:
  1. Bush is 6 feet 4 and slightly heavyset ...
  2. George W. calls Jeb my "big little brother" during appearances (Jeb is five inches taller) ...
That would make George W. Bush 5 feet 11 inches. What happened to our 6 foot tall president?


Sunday, February 23, 2003

A name you can trust:

Cecil Adams over at The Straight Dope steps up and answers the question "Was President Bush's great-grandfather a Nazi?"

The short answer (by Cecil):
So, did Bush and his firm finance the Nazis and enable Germany to rearm? Indirectly, yes.


Why (some) progressives hurt the cause:

In the New York Times, there is an essay about Ethnomathematics. We'll cut to the chase, and quote from one of the books that takes a multi-cultural outlook:
From 'Ethnomathematics: A Multicultural View of Mathematical Ideas,' by Marcia Ascher

A critical issue is that, as it stands, much of mathematics education depends upon assumptions of Western culture and carries with it Western values.
That is complete nonsense, as anybody familiar with the history of the calculus would know. Carries Western values? Like the use of negative numbers, which were grudgingly accepted by the West long after the Hindus were using them? The Western values as expressed by Bishop Berkeley, who challenged Newton's use of infinitesimals in the book "THE ANALYST; OR, A DISCOURSE Addressed to an Infidel MATHEMATICIAN WHEREIN It is examined whether the Object, Principles, and Inferences of the modern Analysis are more distinctly conceived, or more evidently deduced, than Religious Mysteries and Points of Faith" (they had long titles in the 1700's):
And what are these Fluxions? The Velocities of evanescent Increments? And what are these same evanescent Increments? They are neither finite Quantities nor Quantities infinitely small, nor yet nothing. May we not call them the Ghosts of departed Quantities?
When the Ethnomathematicians spout nonsense, it gives people like Lynne Cheney ammunition to do real damage in academia (and not just in the mathematics department).

UPDATE: We could go on and on about this issue. "The West" was hostile to non-Euclidian geometry at first. There were heated arguments over the reality (and utility) of infinite numbers. The West inherited the Greeks' notion that there could never be a "completed infinity" but instead, only a "potential infinity". That contributed to the opposition to Cantor's work. Then there was the wrestling match that took place around 1900 between the Formalists (probably the most "Western" of the trio), the Intuitionists, and the Logical School, concerning the foundation of mathematics.

The point is that mathematics proceeds along its own path, and in doing so, has faced opposition at times from philosophers of many schools - including those of the Establishment West. And of course, at other times mathematics was congruent with Western Philosophy. But the notion that mathematics carries "Western values" is absurd. The values of mathematics are consistency, test by proof, and an axiomatic structure. At times, even though the mathematics was legitimate, it was deemed beyone the pale (most notably with non-Euclidian geometry, for Euclidian geometry was thought of as the way the universe was set up, perhaps by God).

'nuff said.


Friday, February 21, 2003

Why we don't read Sullivan any more:

The following words in black are from Andrew Sullivan's posts between 15 December 2002 and 8 February 2003:
The idiocy and moral callowness of some now on the left, is lead by pathetic, shallow, narcissistic and hate-filled supporters of anti-Americanism. I used to think they were stupid and arrogant, but now see that they are repulsive dispensers of cheap vitriol and ugly arguments in a hysterical and desperate display of their unremitting hatred of the president. The incoherence and reactionaryism of the anti-war left is galling, especially when one considers the vanity, coarseness, and sanctimony that accompanies their insipid flim-flam. I despise these weasels.
Who wants to read commentary infused with that vocabulary? We don't.


Mr. Average:

Inspired by this Washington Post editorial, which said,"... Mr. Bush's arguments rely on a misleading use of averages to make his foolhardy plan appear fair."


"Mr. Bush must know how phony his "averages" are. Any time a salesman has to resort to such deceptive tactics, the customer ought to be wary about what is being sold."

From the Whitehouse website:
President Meets with Small Business Owners in Georgia (20 Feb 2003)
Under this plan, 92 million Americans receive an average tax cut of $1,083. That's fair.

We estimate that 23 million small business owners across America will receive a average income tax rate cut of $2,042. That matters.

the money the budget I submitted holds growth -- setting a priority our military, setting as a priority our homeland security, it holds growth to 4 percent on discretionary spending. That's about as much as the average America's family's income is expected to grow this year.
Remarks by the President in Forum with Small Business Owners (13 Feb 2003)
Now, that means 92 million Americans will receive an average income tax relief package of $1,083. (Applause.) And that's good.
Remarks by the President on the Economy (22 Jan 2003)
Ninety-two million Americans will keep an average of $1,083 more of their own money when this tax plan goes through. And that's good for the economy.

Twenty-three million small business owners will receive an average tax cut of $2,042 under this plan.

The average savings for somebody 65 years and older, if we get rid of the double taxation on dividends, will be $936 per year per tax return in America.
Remarks by the President on the Growth and Jobs Package (9 Jan 2003)
The average tax savings for taxpayers 65 and older who receive dividends, will be $936 per year, per tax return. That's -- that will help. That will help people.
President Bush speaks about the economy in Chicago, Illinois (7 Jan 2003)
These tax reductions will bring real and immediate benefits to middle-income Americans. Ninety-two million Americans will keep an average of $1,083 more of their own money.


Thursday, February 20, 2003

Gergen, again:

David Gergen, as heard in a commentay on NPR's Marketplace.
[Mentions the positive stock-market action following the 1991 war in Iraq.]

With the markets now depressed, some analysts believe a quick, successful war in Iraq could bring a rise of at least 1000 points in the DOW. Call it a "Baghdad Bounce".

So too, oil prices, now at a 29 month high, could easily fall if American forces occupy Iraq. Consumers and companies would act more confidently about the future.

The president, freshly popular, would have a whip-hand in Congress to pass much of his economic program. Wheels would turn, and if the economy starts growing at 4% within a year, as Karl Rove reportedly wants, jobs will be created, voters will be happy, and Bush could cruise to reelection, bringing more Republicans to Congress. And then - and then - carry out the most dramatic conservative revolution in memory.

That's the dream scenario in the White House.

You may like parts of it, and find the rest terrifying.

But there it is.
Remember, this is the normally staid, low-key Gergen speaking.


Tuesday, February 18, 2003

A picture is worth a thousand words:

From the newswires:


A perfect match?

From Paul Johnson's A History of Christianity (B&N, Amazon: 1976, 18th edition, page 365f):
[Speaking of the mid 1700's, and John Locke's "modernizing" influence]

... the Church of England went a long way towards satisfying the needs of the commercial middle classes of the towns, and it did so without driving a wedge between science and learning on the one hand, and institutional religion on the other. But it had nothing to offer to the lower orders, in particular to the swelling proletariat of the new industrial cities. Moreover, in its anxiety to dispel dangerous 'enthusiasm' and avoid any kind of fanaticism, it presented a Christianity which was part cerebral, part ceremonial, and wholly purged emotion.

[But at about the same time, John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, emerged.]

[John Wesley's] Christianity was almost totally devoid of intellectual content. It had no doctrinal insights. It was wholly ethical and emotional. ...

He discovered that religious enthusiasm was an ephemeral thing unless it was harnessed to a carefully defined structure, periodically galvanized by meetings, and given a chance to express itself in regular, planned and arduous activities. ... [Members] pledged themselves to take part in activities such as Bible-meetings, sewing for charity, and so forth. He produced regulations about clothes, food and drink, ornaments, money, buying and selling, and language. There was strict ... personal discipline. ...

[They were] like the early Christians, whom they resembled in some ways, especially in their charitable organizations ...
President Bush is a Methodist.

And today, this story about Bush's frequent use of religious language. (AP) Excerpt:
"This president is using general references and, beyond that, terminology and vocabulary that come straight out of a very particular religious tradition, which is evangelical Christianity," said the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, a Louisiana pastor and executive director of the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, an umbrella interfaith group.

"I think his rhetoric implies a lack of appreciation for the vast pluralism of religion in this nation," Gaddy said.


A sort of Light Gold, by the looks of it:

Bush administration considering lowering the Threat Level from Orange (news item)


Sunday, February 16, 2003

Iraq war resource page:

The Washington Post has a web page which contains links to 31 essays about Iraq and related topics. There are big names (Carter, Shultz, Baker), essayists (Kinsley, Fukuyama), politicians (B. Dole, Z. Miller), and much more.

Extra credit question: Why is Bob Dole writing in the Post, and not Liddy? After all, she's a Senator.


This is what happens when you don't have a President in charge:

From the Observer (is this the Guardian's international face?):
America is to punish Germany for leading international opposition to a war against Iraq. The US will withdraw all its troops and bases from there and end military and industrial co-operation between the two countries - moves that could cost the Germans billions of euros.

The plan - discussed by Pentagon officials and military chiefs last week on the orders of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - is designed 'to harm' the German economy to make an example of the country ...

'We are doing this for one reason only: to harm the German economy,' one source told The Observer last week.   ...   Another Pentagon source said: 'The aim is to hit German trade and commerce. It is not just about taking out the troops and equipment; it is also about cancelling commercial contracts and defence-related arrangements.'

The Pentagon plan - and the language expressed by officials close to Rumsfeld - has horrified State Department officials, who believe that bullying other countries to follow the US line will further exacerbate anti-Americanism ...

Under these plans, the US would move its troops in Europe eastwards to countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states, all of which have strongly supported America's line against Saddam Hussein.
Was this approved by the Commander in Chief? Who's running the show?

Instapundit takes this story lightly because "it's largely based on anonymous sources", but two sources were cited, which makes us think it's genuine.



U.S. proposes slight modification to Picasso's Guernica at the U.N. (so that it won't upset pro-war diplomats)


What the hell is that book doing here?

NOTE: Further testing reveals that the "Shopping on MSN" features different books and vendors. They are usually politically oriented (e.g. Woodward's Bush at War), and not always conservative.

Yikes! Now it's The O'Reilly Factor they're promoting.


It all depends on where you're sitting:

In a pro-SUV Op-Ed in the New York Times, Woody Hochswender writes:
... if some drunken driver veers across the center divider — a situation I have no control over — I would prefer that my 9-year-old and I not be inside a Corolla.       ... S.U.V.'s are safer in many situations than cars.
But that's only one case (drunken driver in sedan, family in SUV). How about:
... if some drunken driver veers across the center divider — a situation I have no control over — I would prefer that the drunk driver not be inside an SUV.       ... S.U.V.'s are more dangerous in many situations than cars.


Thursday, February 13, 2003

What a line-up!

MSNBC signs Michael Savage (MSNBC press release)
... talk radio phenomenon and best-selling author Michael Savage has been signed by MSNBC to host “The Savage Nation”   ...   It will feature penetrating and provocative commentary and opinion from Savage ...

... Savage is brash, passionate and smart,” said [MSNBC president Erik] Sorenson.   ...   "[It will] become destination television for those looking for compelling opinion and analysis with an edge

The graphic above was inspired by Ted Barlow's comments about Savage.


Another fleecing of California:

From the Okland Tribune (06 Feb 2003):
According to AAA statistics, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in Oakland was $1.82 on Wednesday, up 14 cents from a month ago.

California is the second-most expensive place in the country to buy gasoline, after Hawaii, according to AAA statistics. The average price for regular unleaded in California on Wednesday was $1.74 a gallon. That's 20 cents above the national average of $1.54.
From the Los Angeles Times (10 Feb 2003):
... a host of special circumstances in California keep oil supplies ahead of demand by the thinnest of margins. The state's oil companies, for example, cannot rely on outside sources for gasoline because California's strict emission standards prescribe a fuel formula like no other. And that difference could be exacerbated by the state's replacement of the gasoline additive MTBE with ethanol, a transition already underway.
From the Los Angeles Times (27 Jan 2003):
Gas Prices Rise Nearly 1.5 Cents a Gallon in 2 Weeks

Contributing to the price rise was the oil production strike in Venezuela; a fear of war against Iraq; the cold weather on the East Coast, which is prompting some refiners to produce more heating oil; and the use of a costlier gasoline additive in California, said analyst Trilby Lundberg, who is based in Camarillo.

California is phasing out the use of methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, an additive that is blamed for polluting drinking water. Some refineries are replacing it with ethanol, which is more expensive ...
From CBS News (12 Jun 2001):
The Bush administration said Tuesday that California must continue to use ethanol or other gasoline additives to protect air quality. The Environmental Protection Agency rejected state arguments that an additive isn't needed and will increase fuel costs.

... the oil industry and California air pollution control officials maintain that refiners can produce blends of gasoline without using an oxygenate and still meet the state's stringent air pollution requirements. William Rukeyser, a spokesman for the California Environmental Protection Agency, said state officials are convinced ethanol-free gasoline will not jeopardize air quality.


Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Lucky Ducky!

Once again, Ruben Bolling comes up with a great cartoon about our favorite low-income fellow.


It's all in how you select the material:

Eric Alterman writes:
Speaking of blinkered editors, Michael Kelly, who managed to outdo Andy as TNR’s worst editor ever, is now competing for the hard-to-win title of worst Washington Post columnist ever. In this column, he takes Paul Berman’s brilliant 25,000-word-essay-that-should-be-a-book about German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and shamelessly manipulates it into implying exactly the opposite of Berman’s nuanced and complex article. Robert Novak, call your office. (By the way, the Berman piece is one of the single greatest works of journalism to appear anywhere in the past decade. Offhand, I can’t think of a better one. Set aside some time to read it if the topic even remotely interests you.)
We agree with Alterman that the TNR article was fascinating. It covered the variety of positions and changes that have taken place within Europe's New Left over the last 35 years. The overall message of the article was that Fischer had witnessed the extreme left's violence, turned away from it, developed a deeper respect for human rights, and as a result was inclined (as a Green!) to use military force in places where necessary (e.g. Kosovo). But you wouldn't get that from Kelly's essay. Kelly cherry-picks entries and ignores other facts in order to present Fischer as a (nearly) unrepentant radical leftist. Kelly's entire essay is in the left column below, and excerpts from the New Republic article are in the right column.

From the Washington Post Op-Ed by Michael Kelly From the New Republic article by Paul Berman
Mr. Rumsfeld may have convinced the leaders of 18 European nations, but not you, Mr. Fischer. It's personal. This seems to me the right way to look at it. The question of failing to convince must be seen in the context of whom we have failed to convince. Sometimes "who" explains "why."  
Mr. Fischer, who are you?

You are the foreign minister of Germany. You have been that since 1998, when Germany's left-wing Greens party, of which you are a leader, won enough in the polls to force the Social Democratic Party into the so-called Red-Greens coalition government.
But for the formative years of your political life, you were no man in a blue government suit. You were a man in a black motorcycle helmet. That is what you were wearing on that day in April 1973 when you were photographed, to quote the New Left historian Paul Berman, "as a young bully in a street battle in Frankfurt."  
In 2001, Stern magazine published five photographs of you in action that day. What these pictures depicted was described by Berman in a deeply informed 25,000-word article, "The Passion of Joschka Fischer" (The New Republic, Sept. 3, 2001). The photos showed you, Mr. Fischer, inflicting a "gruesome beating" on a young policeman named Rainer Marx: "Fischer and other people on the attack, the white-helmeted cop going into a crouch; Fischer's black-gloved fist raised as if to punch the crouching cop on the back; Fischer's comrades crowding around; the cop huddled on the ground, Fischer and his comrades appearing to kick him . . ." German newspapers began to fill with dispatches from middle-aged worthies from the business world and the learned professions who confessed that they, too, had waged the revolution back in the years around 1968, and then had grown up and had sanded down the sharp edge of their views, just as Fischer had done, and Germany's foreign minister ought not to be persecuted for what happened long ago. ... The most amazing vote of support came from Fischer's own victim, the white-helmeted policeman in the photographs from 1973, whose name turned out to be Rainer Marx. Fischer telephoned Marx to apologize for the gruesome beating in the Frankfurt parking lot, and Marx found admiring words to say about Fischer's conduct of foreign policy.
As Berman reported, Mr. Fischer, you rose in public life as an important figure in the anti-American, anti-liberal, neo-Marxist, revolution-minded German radical left of the generation of 1968. This was the left that produced and supported the Baader-Meinhof Gang (or Red Army Faction), which, as Berman wrote, "refrained from nothing," including "kidnappings, bank holdups, murders." You were not a terrorist yourself, but you were a good and active friend to terrorists, weren't you, Mr. Fischer? ... the New Left was never especially powerful in the Federal Republic of Germany as a whole ... But in the universities and the counter-cultural districts in Frankfurt and Berlin and a few other places, [the Baader-Meinhof Gang] drew on the active and even enthusiastic support of a not-so-small number of people, plus the passive support of far larger numbers, the leftists who would never have endorsed a program of violence and who wanted nothing to do with murders, but who would have said that, even so, the Red Army Fraction did have reason to despise German bourgeois society, and Marxist revolution was an excellent idea, and state repression posed a greater threat to society than any guerrilla resistance from the left. And shouldn't we progressives and reasonable leftists worry chiefly about civil liberties? And so forth: the many arguments and apologetics that people offer in circumstances when, out of confusion and moral timidity, they are too frightened to applaud the murders and the kidnappings, and too frightened to condemn them.
In 1976, to protest the death in prison of Baader-Meinhof founder Ulrike Meinhof, you planned and participated in a Frankfurt demonstration in which, Berman wrote, "somebody tossed a Molotov cocktail at a policeman and burned him nearly to death." You were arrested but not charged. In 2001, Meinhof's daughter, Bettina Rohl (who gave those damning photos to Stern) told the press that you were responsible for the throwing of that firebomb. Other contemporary witnesses, Berman reported, said that you "had never ruled out the use of Molotovs and may even have favored it." You denied it, for the record. No one came up with any sort of indisputable confirmation. But Fischer was obliged to rise from his seat once again and, in his dignity as foreign minister, deny all connection to a very ugly event from long ago ("Definitiv nein!" he told Stern) ...

[I went to the website for] fans of the Baader-Meinhof Gang ... and was interested to read about the curious case of Horst Mahler ... one of the founders of the group back in 1970.

[H]is view, as reported on the website, right-wing and left-wing counted for nothing as far as the behavior of Meinhof's daughter. The real animus against Fischer bubbled up instead from a daughter's anger at her inadequate mother, the prison martyr. Or else, as was more widely said, Röhl's anger at Fischer derived from a still vaguer resentment against the entire era of 1968 ... For what was 1968 to Bettina Röhl?

It was the era that had deprived her of a childhood.

In 2001 the German government put on trial your old friend Hans-Joachim Klein, who had been an underground "soldier" in the Revolutionary Cells, an ally of the Red Army Faction and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The Revolutionary Cells helped in the murder of the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich in 1972, and Klein himself took part in a 1975 joint assassination operation with Carlos the Jackal in which three were killed. Fischer was called to testify, not in his capacity as foreign minister but as a private citizen. He was asked about his relationship to Klein back in New Left times. Fischer explained that in those days he tried to talk Klein out of joining the terrorists.
During your testimony at Klein's trial, you were accused of having harbored Red Army Faction members in your Revolutionary Struggle house, the Frankfurt center for the group Revolutionary Struggle, which you co-founded with housemate Daniel "Danny the Red" Cohn-Bendit. You were forced to admit there was some truth in the accusation after it was revealed, as Berman reported, that Margrit Schiller, "who had served jail time for her connections to the Red Army Faction," had in her memoirs "plainly stated that she had spent a 'few days' in the early 1970s living in the Revolutionary Struggle house." The [revelation of visitors to the house] did not seem especially damning. All kinds of visitors were always traipsing through the house in Frankfurt. Abbie Hoffman was there; Jerry Rubin came to visit. Who could remember every last person who had ever stopped by?

[Cohn-Bendit's] hair was flaming red in those days, and he was witty and impish, and he became known as Danny the Red.


(After your testimony, you shook hands with your old terrorist friend Klein. Sweet.) And when Fischer had finished making his statement, he walked over to Klein in his defendant's chair and shook the man's hand. The handshake seemed innocent enough, given that, as Fischer had just testified, Klein was an old friend, and the old friend had long ago denounced his own crimes and was now about to expiate them.
In 1969, you attended the meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization in which the PLO resolved that its ultimate aim was the extinction of Israel -- that is to say, the extinction or expulsion of the Jews of Israel. Seven years later, Revolutionary Cells terrorists led by your Frankfurt colleague, Wilfried Boese, hijacked an Air France plane to Entebbe, Uganda. The hijackers intended to murder all the Jewish passengers on that flight but were killed by Israeli commandos. "Suddenly," Berman wrote, "the implication of anti-Zionism struck home to [Fischer]. What did it mean that, back in Algiers in 1969, the PLO, with the young Fischer in attendance, had voted the Zionist entity into extinction? Now he knew what it meant." Now he knew what it meant. Fischer seems never to have gotten over the shock of Entebbe. Even in the early weeks of 2001, at the height of the scandal provoked by the photographs in Stern, the memory of the Air France hijacking came back to haunt him. He spoke to a reporter from that same magazine and cited the hijacking and especially the "selection" of Jews as part of his Desillusionierung with the violent left. A few months later, in his capacity as foreign minister of Germany, he happened to be in Israel at the very moment when a terrorist blew up a Tel Aviv disco; he was close enough to hear the blast. It was Fischer, more than any other foreign minister or religious leader or world figure of any sort, who took it upon himself to confront Arafat in person, who (so it has been reported) berated Arafat ferociously and even forced him into declaring some sort of a cease-fire. The erstwhile militant for the PLO, now militant against Palestinian terror.
So, that's who you are, Mr. Fischer, the man we haven't convinced. You are the man for whom Munich wasn't enough, the man who needed Entebbe to convince him that murdering Jews was wrong. You ask to be excused. You have been excused.  

NOTE: We think that some issues, such as the Molotov coctail incident, are subject to debate. Fischer was in close proximity with the radicals back then. But the fact remains that Kelly didn't present a complete picture of the man. He ignores the 2nd half of the TNR article, which covers Fischer's struggles within the Green party and the "liberal case for intervention". And as we show in the table above, Kelly paints a portrait quite different from that by Paul Berman.


Dig trenches and pray:

Here is an outline version of bin Laden's most recent pronouncement (from the BBC):

In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. A message to our Muslim brothers in Iraq, may God's peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you. O you who believe fear Allah, by doing all that He has ordered and by abstaining from all that He has forbidden as He should be feared. Obey Him, be thankful to Him, and remember Him always, and die not except in a state of Islam [as Muslims] with complete submission to Allah.

We are following up with great interest and extreme concern the crusaders' preparations for

  • war to occupy a former capital of Islam,
  • loot Muslims' wealth,
  • and install an agent government, which would be a satellite for its masters in Washington and Tel Aviv, just like all the other treasonous and agent Arab governments.
  • This would be in preparation for establishing the Greater Israel.

Allah is sufficient for us and He is the best disposer of affairs. Amid this unjust war, the war of infidels and debauchees led by America along with its allies and agents, we would like to stress a number of important values:

First, showing good intentions. This means fighting should be for the sake of the one God.
  • It should not be for championing ethnic groups, or for championing the non-Islamic regimes in all Arab countries, including Iraq.
  • God Almighty says: "Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject faith fight in the cause of evil."
  • So fight ye against the friends of Satan: feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan.

Second, we remind that victory comes only from God and all we have to do is prepare and motivate for jihad.

God Almighty says: "Oh ye who believe! If ye will help the cause of Allah, He will help you and plant your feet firmly." We must rush to seek God Almighty's forgiveness from sins, particularly the grave sins. Prophet Muhammad, God's peace be upon him, said: "Avoid the seven grave sins;

  1. polytheism,
  2. sorcery,
  3. killing, unless permitted by God,
  4. usury,
  5. taking the money of orphans,
  6. fleeing from combat,
  7. and slandering innocent faithful women."

Also, all grave sins, such as

  1. consuming alcohol,
  2. committing adultery,
  3. disobeying parents,
  4. and committing perjury.

We must obey God in general, and should in particular mention the name of God more before combat. Abu-al-Darda, may God be pleased with him, said: "Perform a good deed before an attack, because you are fighting with your deeds."

Third, we realized from our defence and fighting against the American enemy that, in combat,

  • they mainly depend on psychological warfare. This is in light of the huge media machine they have.
  • They also depend on massive air strikes so as to conceal their most prominent point of weakness, which is the fear, cowardliness, and the absence of combat spirit among US soldiers.
  • Those soldiers are completely convinced of the injustice and lying of their government. They also lack a fair cause to defend. They only fight for capitalists, usury takers, and the merchants of arms and oil, including the gang of crime at the White House.
  • This is in addition to crusader and personal grudges by Bush the father.

We also realized that one of the most effective and available methods of rendering the air force of the crusader enemy ineffective is by setting up roofed and disguised trenches in large numbers.

I had referred to that in a previous statement during the Tora Bora battle last year. In that great battle, faith triumphed over all the materialistic forces of the people of evil, for principles were adhered to, thanks to God Almighty. I will narrate to you part of that great battle, to show how cowardly they are on the one hand, and how effective trenches are in exhausting them on the other.

We were about 300 mujahideen [Islamic militants].We dug 100 trenches that were spread in an area that does not exceed one square mile, one trench for every three brothers, so as to avoid the huge human losses resulting from the bombardment. Since the first hour of the US campaign on 20 Rajab 1422, corresponding to 7 October 2001, our centres were exposed to a concentrated bombardment. And this bombardment continued until mid-Ramadan. On 17 Ramadan, a very fierce bombardment began, particularly after the US command was certain that some of al-Qaeda leaders were still in Tora Bora, including the humble servant to God [referring to himself] and the brother mujahid Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri. The bombardment was round-the-clock and the warplanes continued to fly over us day and night. The US Pentagon, together with its allies, worked full time on blowing up and destroying this small spot, as well as on removing it entirely. Planes poured their lava on us, particularly after accomplishing their main missions in Afghanistan. The US forces attacked us with smart bombs, bombs that weigh thousands of pounds, cluster bombs, and bunker busters. Bombers, like the B-52, used to fly over head for more than two hours and drop between 20 to 30 bombs at a time. The modified C-130 aircraft kept carpet-bombing us at night, using modern types of bombs. The US forces dared not break into our positions, despite the unprecedented massive bombing and terrible propaganda targeting this completely besieged small area. This is in addition to the forces of hypocrites, whom they prodded to fight us for 15 days non-stop. Every time the latter attacked us, we forced them out of our area carrying their dead and wounded.

Is there any clearer evidence of their cowardice, fear, and lies regarding their legends about their alleged power.

To sum it up, the battle resulted in the complete failure of the international alliance of evil, with all its forces, [to overcome] a small number of mujahideen - 300 mujahideen hunkered down in trenches spread over an area of one square mile under a temperature of -10 degrees Celsius. The battle resulted in the injury of 6% of personnel - we hope God will accept them as martyrs - and the damage of two percent of the trenches, praise be to God.

If all the world forces of evil could not achieve their goals on a one square mile of area against a small number of mujahideen with very limited capabilities, how can these evil forces triumph over the Muslim world? This is impossible, God willing, if people adhere to their religion and insist on jihad for its sake.

O mujahideen brothers in Iraq,

do not be afraid of what the United States is propagating in terms of their lies about their power and their smart, laser-guided missiles. The smart bombs will have no effect worth mentioning in the hills and in the trenches, on plains, and in forests. They must have apparent targets. The well-camouflaged trenches and targets will not be reached by either the smart or the stupid missiles. There will only be haphazard strikes that dissipate the enemy ammunition and waste its money. Dig many trenches. The [early Muslim caliph] Umar, may God be pleased with him, stated: "Take the ground as a shield because this will ensure the exhaustion of all the stored enemy missiles within months." Their daily production is too little and can be dealt with, God willing.
  1. We also recommend luring the enemy forces into a protracted, close, and exhausting fight, using the camouflaged defensive positions in plains, farms, mountains, and cities. The enemy fears city and street wars most, a war in which the enemy expects grave human losses.
  2. We stress the importance of the martyrdom operations against the enemy - operations that inflicted harm on the United States and Israel that have been unprecedented in their history, thanks to Almighty God.
  3. We also point out that whoever supported the United States, including the hypocrites of Iraq or the rulers of Arab countries, those who approved their actions and followed them in this crusade war by fighting with them or providing bases and administrative support, or any form of support, even by words, to kill the Muslims in Iraq, should know that they are apostates and outside the community of Muslims. It is permissible to spill their blood and take their property.
  4. God says: "O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other." And he amongst you that turns to them [for friendship] is of them. Verily, Allah guideth not a people unjust.

We also stress to honest Muslims that they should

move, incite, and mobilize the [Islamic] nation, amid such grave events and hot atmosphere so as to liberate themselves from those unjust and renegade ruling regimes, which are enslaved by the United States. They should also do so to establish the rule of God on earth. The most qualified regions for liberation are Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the land of the two holy mosques [Saudi Arabia], and Yemen.

Needless to say, this crusade war is primarily targeted against the people of Islam. Regardless of the removal or the survival of the socialist party or Saddam,

Muslims in general and the Iraqis in particular must brace themselves for jihad against this unjust campaign and acquire ammunition and weapons. This is a prescribed duty. God says: "[And let them pray with thee] taking all precautions and bearing arms: the unbelievers wish if ye were negligent of your arms and your baggage, to assault you in a single rush."

Fighting in support of the non-Islamic banners is forbidden. Muslims' doctrine and banner should be clear in fighting for the sake of God. He who fights to raise the word of God will fight for God's sake.

  1. Under these circumstances, there will be no harm if the interests of Muslims converge with the interests of the socialists in the fight against the crusaders, despite our belief in the infidelity of socialists.
  2. The jurisdiction of the socialists and those rulers has fallen a long time ago.
  3. Socialists are infidels wherever they are, whether they are in Baghdad or Aden.

The fighting, which is waging and which will be waged these days, is very much like the fighting of Muslims against the Byzantine in the past.

  • And the convergence of interests is not detrimental. The Muslims' fighting against the Byzantine converged with the interests of the Persians. And this was not detrimental to the companions of the prophet.
  • Before concluding, we reiterate the importance of high morale and caution against false rumours, defeatism, uncertainty, and discouragement. The prophet said: "Bring good omens and do not discourage people." He also said: "The voice of Abu-Talhah [one of the prophet's companions] in the army is better than 100 men." During the Al-Yarmuk Battle, a man told Khalid bin-al-Walid [an Islamic commander]: "The Byzantine soldiers are too many and the Muslims are few." So, Khalid told him: "Shame on you. Armies do not triumph with large numbers but are defeated if the spirit of defeatism prevails." Keep this saying before your eyes: "It is not fitting for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he hath thoroughly subdued the land." "Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks." Your wish to the crusaders should be as came in this verse of poetry: "The only language between you and us is the sword that will strike your necks."

In the end, I advise myself and you to

  • fear God covertly and openly and to be patient in the jihad. Victory will be achieved with patience.
  • I also advise myself and you to say more prayers. O ye who believe! When ye meet a force, be firm, and call Allah in remembrance much (and often); That ye may prosper.

God, who sent the book unto the prophet, who drives the clouds, and who defeated the enemy parties, defeat them and make us victorious over them. Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter and save us from the torment of the Fire! [Koranic verse]. May God's peace and blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad and his household.


Monday, February 10, 2003

A divider, not a uniter:

You can't follow the game if you don't have a program!

Wall Street Journal 8 - strongly support invasion
Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Denmark
Vilnius 10 - support U.S.
Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia
Favoring invasion
Netherlands Turkey
Favor inspections
Austria, Sweden, Russia
France Germany Belgium

(Sources: Guardian, NYTimes, Radio Free Europe)


Sunday, February 09, 2003

Let's take a closer look:

By now, many have read about the British Intelligence Dossier that contained material which was "lifted from magazines and academic journals". That's an interesting story, but we decided to look at the dossier and see what it had to say. Number 10 Downing Street provides a link to the full report, and there is a facts section, which allows you to read about "Iraq's network of intelligence and security" (200k pdf, 60k Word). Which we did. And then we decided to diagram the information:

The purpose of this exercise was to see how big (and bad) Hussein's domestic police is. From the looks of things, there aren't all that many people devoted to civilian control. Perhaps 20,000 in a country of 24 million. One in a thousand. (We strongly suspect that's a smaller ratio than that which prevailed in East Germany back in the Stasi days.) In any event, it may not be true that the Iraqis are wildly in favor of a regime change. Thus, the quick collapse predicted by administration hawks might not happen - and a longer, more difficult fight may be in store for U.S. troops.


Saturday, February 08, 2003



Thursday, February 06, 2003

How powerful are these guys?

There has been a lot of noise about ten central and eastern European countries that are standing shoulder-to-shoulder behind the United States in the Iraq situation. We read:
Ten central and Eastern European nations have issued a declaration of support for the United States' drive to disarm Iraq.   A statement from the so-called Vilnius group says it has become clear that Iraq is in material breach of U.N. resolutions.   The Vilnius 10 includes NATO aspirants Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
We decided to look up the figures for the ten countries, and this is what we found:
country military budget (source: CIA World Factbook)  
Albania $56.5 million (FY02)
Bulgaria $356.0 million (FY02)
Croatia $520.0 million (2002 est.)
Estonia $155.0 million (2002 est.)
Latvia $87.0 million (FY01)
Lithuania $230.8 million (FY01)
Macedonia $200.0 million (FY01/02 est.)
Romania $985.0 million (2002)
Slovakia $406.0 million (2002)
Slovenia $370.0 million (FY00)
TOTAL $3,336.3 million  
$3.3 billion. That's slightly less than the budget for the police department of New York City ($3.5 billion) [page 52 in the 2004 budget (4.1 meg pdf)].

What a coalition!


Oh, my God!

Not only does Bush want drug addicts to be able (using federal vouchers) to go to religious organizations for treatment via "faith healing", but today we read this:
Bush Urges Prayer During 'Testing Time'

President Bush on Thursday urged Americans to pray for God's guidance as the Columbia tragedy, potential war in Iraq and the constant threat of terrorism pose "a testing time for our country."

[At the National Prayer Breakfast] the crowd included 56 senators, 240 House members, first lady Laura Bush, National Security Director Condoleeza Rice, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and CIA Director George Tenet.

"It is fitting that, in the midst of tough times, that these two leaders are sharing with scripture and prayer with the country," the president said of Myers and Tenet.


Bush said America will triumph over adversity because of the character of its people, the desire by all people to be free of oppression and the will of God.    He said events don't move by "blind change and chance."
For more of this insanity - especially Bush's likely miscalculation of risk (which we warned about) - see our earlier posts here and here. (or search on this page for "Gergen")


What a nice man!




There has been a renewed interest in media bias, most recently by Jack Shafer in Slate. In his first essay on the topic, he discusses some of the history behind the accusations, and then goes on to look at today's players. One of them is "the conservative Media Research Center" which offers daily summaries of what they perceive as bias. We took a quick look at the one for yesterday: (emphasis added)
Powell Convinces NBC's Panel But Not ABC's Martha Raddatz

After Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the UN Security Council, on NBC former UN chief weapons inspector Richard Butler “absolutely” agreed that Powell made the case as did former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton, and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein conceded that Powell “laid out a very plausible, a very respectable case for” going to war. But, as usual, ABC was off to the left, to the left of a liberal like Feinstein.

... ABC's Martha Raddatz offered tips to the French: “A lot of this evidence they could try to refute. They could say perhaps these colonels, these Iraqi republican guards were freelancing, and who were these defectors? There's a lot here they can play with."
First of all, those who agreed with Powell - Butler, Hamilton, Feinstein - aren't reporters. Reporters aren't supposed to agree or disagree with policies, but report them. Raddatz wasn't "to the left of a liberal like Feinstein."

Furthermore, Raddatz wasn't offering "tips to the French", but describing what they might do.

In case you were wondering, the example above is typical. If the reporter isn't cheering Bush (or Republicans), he or she is deemed "liberal".

The Media Research Center, founded by L. Brent Bozell III, is nothing more than a purveyor of bullshit.

For some reason, Bozell is being taken seriously - most recently in an absurd, fact-free debate with Eric Alterman. In it, Bozell says:
"The Media Research Center has produced dozens of scientific studies, often examining tens of thousands of stories at a time, proving the liberal bias dominating the news media."
When discussing media bias, Bozell has no credibility.


C'mon Powell:

In Colin Powell's address to the United Nations, he had this to say: (emphasis added)
Saddam Hussein already possesses two out of the three key components needed to build a nuclear bomb. He has a cadre of nuclear scientists with the expertise, and he has a bomb design.

Since 1998, his efforts to reconstitute his nuclear program have been focused on acquiring the third and last component, sufficient fissile material to produce a nuclear explosion.
Hey, why not six out of seven?
  1. nuclear scientists
  2. a bomb design
  3. an assembly building
  4. electric power to operate bomb-building machinery
  5. skilled craftsmen
  6. funds for the project
  7. fissile material


Bush's choice:

William H. Donaldson, President Bush's choice to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, had this to say during the confirmation hearings:
STEPHANIE WOODS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: As chairman of the SEC, William Donaldson's key job will be to restore investors' faith in the markets. Donaldson made clear he would take back the role of top cop on Wall Street from New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

WILLIAM DONALDSON, CHAIRMAN NOMINEE, SEC: If you do confirm me, that I will be able to speak with state attorneys general and state regulators and talk this out with them and make sure that they're stopping where they should stop and give responsibility back to where it should.
That's great. No more meddling by people like Spitzer, which is precisely what the anti-reform Republicans tried to do legislatively in the summer of 2002 (but failed).


Wednesday, February 05, 2003


A good cartoon about college admissions.


Guilty as charged?

This is a first rendition of Powell's case as presented at the U.N. (sources: CNN story 1 & 2):

Full transcript available here.


How much are we saving?

In the New York Times, we read about proposals by Bush to establish "eligibility requirements that would make it more difficult for low-income families to obtain a range of government benefits". One of those government benefits is the National School Lunch Program. From the NYTimes story: (emphasis added)
About half of the 28 million children in the National School Lunch Program receive free meals because they come from low-income families. But John H. Rice, a spokesman for the federal Food and Nutrition Service, said the government had found that the number of students certified for free meals was about 25 percent higher than the number who appeared to be eligible, according to Census Bureau data. The Bush administration wants to require families to produce evidence of their income, like pay stubs or tax returns, to get free school lunches. Now parents report their own income, and a small sample is checked by school officials. When the government tested these tougher requirements in eight school districts last year, there was a 20 percent decline in the number of children approved for free lunches.
In one pilot project, at Oak Park and River Forest High School near Chicago, the number of children approved for free lunches dropped 50 percent. At schools in Morenci, Ariz., the number dropped 36 percent.
So, what's the budget for the National School Lunch Program? To find out, go to the OMB website for the 2004 budget, and take a look at the document (3.2 meg pdf file). Here are the numbers: (from page 266)
Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service
National School Lunch Program
(in millions of dollars)
Fiscal Year200220032004
So, we are talking about $6 billion dollars ($225 per child), of which half goes to low-income families ($3 billion). If 25% of those getting a lunch are ineligible (as the spokesman claims), that means Bush is cracking down to save $800 million dollars.


Tuesday, February 04, 2003

A threat to what neighbors?


military expenditures in billions
CIA World Factbook 2002)

Saudi Arabia








(2002 est.)




note: Kuwait is changing its fiscal year; this figure is for July-March 2001; future budget years will be April-March annually
United Arab Emirates






(FY00 est.); note - based on official budget data that may understate actual spending









Or in graphical form:

Looking at the chart above, something jumped out at us. Going into Iraq is about oil, but not in the way that most people think. Bush was correct when he said September 11 changed everything, but wrong when he asserted that it exposed the risk that Iraq would assist al Qaeda. No, the real discovery post-September 11 was the uncertain status of Saudi Arabia. Most of the hijackers came from there, bin Laden has designs on the nation, and if it goes fundamentalist-radical, then almost certainly there would be an oil crisis. Considering the fragile world economy in the wake of the late-90's bubble, an oil crisis could do serious damage. Also, what about all that money Saudia Arabia is spending on defense? There would be a real threat to the region if al Qaeda got their hands on it.

If Saudi Arabian oil is cut off, where does one go? Why not to an under-exploited, oil-rich country - like Iraq?

If Saudi Arabia goes radical-fundamentalist, who will be the U.S. proxy in the region? How about Iraq?

More and more it doesn't look like the reason for invading Iraq is because of the threat it poses. Instead, it appears to be insurance against losing Saudi Arabia. (And of course, that also melds nicely with neo-conservative thinking about "liberating" this or that country.)


Screw the poor:

Here are some excerpts from an article about Bush's proposed new savings accounts (from
  • [Bush's] proposal would create two new consolidated savings accounts: Lifetime Savings Accounts (LSAs) and Retirement Savings Accounts (RSAs).

    1. [Individuals will] be able to contribute up to $7,500 a year to these accounts regardless of their income ...
    2. ... contributions would be after tax ... but all withdrawals would be tax-free ...
    3. There would be no restrictions on the money's withdrawal.

  • ... the new accounts would only help investors who have the $7,500 to $30,000 a year to invest. Because the proposal eliminates deductible IRAs, low-income taxpayers who need a tax break now to encourage savings (when the money is contributed, rather than withdrawn) actually will be worse off.


Let's see it:

Aspiring judge, Federalist Society member, reader of the National Review at age 19, and too-clever-by-half Eugene Volokh has posted a number of comments on the Dini/Evolution issue. But this entry really caught our eye:
" ... there's not much independent physical evidence for the existence of God."
Really?    Not much?    Sorry to hear that - but Eugene, don't tease us! Show us the "independent physical evidence for the existence of God" that's out there.


From your friends at the OMB:

These charts are found in the Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2004 document (3.2 MB pdf), available on the Fiscal Year 2004 web page:

For more on the budget, we highly recommend the MaxSpeak Weblog which does a great job on the topic (e.g. this post). It's also where we found a link to a statement soliciting opposition to the Bush Administration's tax cut proposals -- from 10 Nobel Laureate economists. We will probably hear more about it, but for the time being, this is what they say:
We believe that the tax plan proposed by the Bush Administration would be a serious mistake for the country.
And while we're at it, here is a quote from an interview on PBS' News Hour:
Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

I find this budget nothing short of astonishing. We've had the greatest reversal of fortunes in recent history over the last two years going from big surpluses to deficits as far as the eye can see. And what's really troubling ... is that we're only five years from when the baby boomers start retiring.

We know, every long-term forecast tells us, when they retire in large numbers, daunting deficits, way beyond anything we've seen for half a century come back and threaten the economy. What's the president's response? To make the problem much worse.

It isn't just that there are these big expensive new tax cuts here. The design of the tax cuts is such that their cost is much greater after the period your budget figures cover, than it would be now. There's a huge new tax cut the White House announced just last Friday, none of us had known about before, that is designed through budget gimmicks, so it has almost no cost in the first ten years, and then massive costs out when the baby boomers retire.

So I view this budget, I've been here following budgets for 31 years, this is the most reckless, the least responsible budget I've ever seen a president of either party propose. Digging a hole much deeper for the nation, future generations, and the economy, in the very period not that far away when the nation ages and the boomers retire when we know we face the biggest challenges we've seen in a long time.


Monday, February 03, 2003

Bush's religiosity:

This topic has surfaced following Bush's State of the Union speech. Not only did David Gergen mention it, but others are talking about it as well. One moderately extensive review is found in The Progressive in an article called Bush's Messiah Complex. Excerpt: (emphasis added)
"{Bush] seems to buy into the worldview that there is a giant struggle between good and evil culminating in a final confrontation. People with that kind of a worldview often take risks that are inappropriate and scary because they see it as carrying out God's will."


No brains required:

In a column about the recent State of the Union address, Peggy Noonan strongly implies that prior to the speech, she met with Bush in the Oval Office. She writes:
I came away with a sense that Mr. Bush has grown comfortable and confident in the presidency, in part perhaps due to a silent weighing that was going on inside him. I had the hunch that Mr. Bush, who had succeeded as a Texas governor in part by relying on his gut sense of people, events, meaning, went into the White House wondering if his gut would be up to the job. If it would give him the guidance it had given in Texas, if it was up to the demands of a presidency. Then Sept. 11 came, and he was thrown back onto his inner resources. He had to use his gut to make big quick decisions. The one time he didn't follow his gut--when he didn't return immediately to the White House after the attacks--he made a big mistake. So he went with his gut thereafter, and in the next 12 months he concluded his gut was up to the challenge.
What guidance did his gut give him in Texas? Guidance that led to his failing Arbusto and Spectrum 7 business ventures?


Sunday, February 02, 2003

The over-55-year-olds:

David Gergen was interviewed on The Charlie Rose Show last week. Normally a cautious fellow in his remarks, this time he had some startling things to say. Here is what Gergen thought about Bush:
"Surprised by it. I thought it would be a steel fist in a velvet glove, but it turned out to be a steel fist in a steel glove. It was a bang on the nose for a lot of people. It will move a lot of Americans, but not a lot of Europeans. It was too bellicose for their tastes."

"My sense is that this president has now taken this on with a missionary zeal that has theological roots to it. He is a man who believes his life was turned around by God. That God actively intervenes in human affairs. And that he senses that his God-given mission right now is to protect the United States ... I think he feels almost a religious sense of commitment - a missionary sense - to do that. And I think that was what was really interesting about the speech."

"Ronald Reagan talked about having a leaner government, but George Bush is serious about dismantling much of the structure of the Great Society. ... I think he's much tougher than Reagan. Reagan cared about abortion, I think that Bush will put people on the bench who will be much closer to overturning Roe vs Wade than Reagan ever would."

[Gergen mentioned some initiatives like the ones for AIDS and mentoring.] "But I have to tell you, in the great scope of things, this is not about Compassionate Conservatism, it's about Conservatism - pure and simple."

"Reagan tended to talk right, but tended to govern towards the middle. Bush tends to talk to the middle, but govern right. His actions are far more over to the right. That's why the base of the Republican party is so wildly enthusiastic about George Bush."

"I think he was in sync with the American public on the initial response to terrorism. He is not in sync - in the way Reagan Reagan was - on a wide swath of his policies. ... The fact that we've had so many jobs lost in the country over the last couple of years has not made it easier for him. He passed a massive tax cut plan with the notion that it would help stimulate the economy, and since then the number of jobs has gone down, not up. So when he comes back here and says we need another big tax cut, it's less credible."

"George W. Bush's leadership is much more of a 'trust me' kind of leadership. 'Trust my judgement. Leave it to me. I'll decide this.' And I think he's a big risk taker, and I think we're in a situation with George W. Bush where we all wish him well because it's so important to our country. And, I don't think Bill Clinton would have handled Iraq this way. I don't think we'd be going to war with Iraq. I think we'd be paying much more attention to Al-Qaeda cells elsewhere in the world."

"I'm coming to this view (and I may be wrong) - that increasingly it looks this way to me: That George W. Bush is either going to go down in history as a courageous, far-sighted, Commander in Chief, one who will deserve enormous credit for taking hold of this war on terrorism and winning it in a very decisive way, or he's going to go down in history as someone who pushed us, and was foolhardy, and too headstrong in thrusting us into extensions of this war into the building of a potential American Empire that we will come to regret. ... Our fates are tied with his."
So what was the reference in our title to 55-year-olds? The joke at Davos was that it was full of un-hip older guys. Anyway, European opposition to Bush (which observers like Sen Biden found surprising) was not from the peace-left, but from the capitalist-industrialist-government types found at Davos. Depending on what you read, these fellows are either scared, anxious, or miffed by Bush's foreign policy.    Perhaps Gergen's remarks above represent some of that thinking.

We didn't give you everything that Gergen said, only what we thought were the key points. (And so there's no misunderstanding, it should be noted that Gergen did make some positive comments about Bush.) However, he repeatedly called Bush a risk-taker (e.g. "riverboat gambler") and we couldn't help but wonder if that attitude is the result of Bush thinking that "God is on his side" - because Gergen also went out of his way to comment on Bush's religiosity. That's disturbing because Bush may not correctly assess the probabilities of different outcomes - especially the negative outcomes - believing he will be protected by the Hand of God.

For those who wonder if Bush is really in charge, and therefore if his world-view is anything to worry about, we take the position that while Bush may not come up with risky proposals, he will not exercise proper restraint when the time comes (cf. Kennedy during the Cuban Missle Crisis).

NOTE: The Charlie Rose Show has archives of programs which allow you to listen to the interviews with RealPlayer. However, it takes about one week for a program to be added, and the Gergen interview is not (as of this writing) available. Also, in case you were wondering, the quotes above are direct transcriptions from recorded material.