Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Stupid Senate Tricks

I have posted on this subject several times, but this is even dumber than I expected.

The last time Congress imposed a form of the windfall tax was the final gloomy days of Jimmy Carter, and the result was: a substantial reduction in domestic oil production (about 5%), thus raising the price of gas at the pump; and a 10% increase in U.S. reliance on foreign oil. A windfall profits tax is the ultimate act of economic masochism because it taxes only domestic production, while imports and foreign oil subsidiaries bear almost none of the cost.

But wait, this time it's worse. The current Senate proposal would actually require oil companies with daily production of 500,000 barrels or more to disregard generally accepted accounting principles, by revaluing their oil inventories. GAAP accounting (and current tax law) allows oil firms to value barrels of oil sold at what it costs to replace that barrel.

The Senate bill would require the companies to revalue their inventories by $18.75 a barrel -- an arbitrary number if there ever was one. In effect, this means that Congress is creating the illusion of higher oil profits, and thus raising the tax liability of oil companies by an estimated $5 billion next year. This would be on top of the 35% tax rate they already pay on their actual profits.

When Andy Fastow tried to create phony profits at Enron, he got 10 years in the slammer. Now Senators want to create phony corporate profits, so they can grab them to spend. Where's Eliot Spitzer when you really need him? What's even more reprehensible about this revenue grab is its retroactive nature. In a sense this is less a tax than it is an ex post facto confiscation of private property.

Economists Correctly Predict 7 of the last 3 Recessions

Despite the best wishes of some the US economy keeps on plugging along quite nicely.

The economy grew at a lively 4.3 percent pace in the third quarter, the best showing in more than a year. The performance offered fresh testimony that the country's overall economic health managed to improve despite the destructive force of Gulf Coast hurricanes.
The new snapshot of economic activity, released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday, showed the growth at an even faster pace than the 3.8 percent annual rate first reported for the July-to-September quarter a month ago.

Of course the NY Times keeps hoping.

Gasoline is cheaper than it was before Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans. Consumer confidence jumped last month and new home sales hit a record. The stock market has been rising. Even the nation's beleaguered factories appear to be headed for a happy holiday season.

By most measures, the economy appears to be doing just fine. No, scratch that, it appears to be booming.

But as always with the United States economy, it is not quite that simple.

Cue ominous music...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The High Benefit of Low Prices

As I have commented before, WalMart has become the limousine left's favorite whipping boy, responsible for all of society's ills (well except for those caused by Halliburton). Cafe Hayek addresses this, commenting on a Washington Post article. One thing the left doesn't quite seem to understand is it isn't the cocktail circuit crowd that benefits from WalMarts low prices, it is the poor people that they claim to want to help. If the government gives poor people 10% more money, that is good in their eyes, but if WalMart allows them to buy goods at 15% lower prices, they are indifferent to the benefits. This isn't about economics, it is about control.

Wal-Mart's critics allege that the retailer is bad for poor Americans. This claim is backward: As Jason Furman of New York University puts it, Wal-Mart is "a progressive success story." Furman advised John "Benedict Arnold" Kerry in the 2004 campaign and has never received any payment from Wal-Mart; he is no corporate apologist. But he points out that Wal-Mart's discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart's products.

These gains are especially important to poor and moderate-income families. The average Wal-Mart customer earns $35,000 a year, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Moreover, Wal-Mart's "every day low prices" make the biggest difference to the poor, since they spend a higher proportion of income on food and other basics. As a force for poverty relief, Wal-Mart's $200 billion-plus assistance to consumers may rival many federal programs. Those programs are better targeted at the needy, but they are dramatically smaller. Food stamps were worth $33 billion in 2005, and the earned-income tax credit was worth $40 billion.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Does Paul Krugman Still Claim to be an Economist?

From his latest bit of dribble.

We like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists, not like those coddled Europeans with their oversized welfare states. But as Jacob Hacker of Yale points out in his book "The Divided Welfare State," if you add in corporate spending on health care and pensions ... we actually have a welfare state that's about as large relative to our economy as those of other advanced countries. ...

[T]hose who don't work for companies with good benefits are, in effect, second-class citizens. Still, the system more or less worked for several decades after World War II. Now, however, deals are being broken ... What went wrong? An important part of the answer is that America's semi-privatized welfare state worked in the first place only because we had a stable corporate order. And that stability - along with any semblance of economic security for many workers - is now gone.

Regular readers ... know what I think we should do: instead of trying to provide economic security through the back door, via tax breaks designed to encourage corporations to provide health care and pensions, we should provide it through the front door, starting with national health insurance. You may disagree. But one thing is clear: Mr. Drucker's age of discontinuity is also an age of anxiety, in which workers can no longer count on loyalty from their employers.

Surely an economist can distinguish between "welfare" provided by productive corporations which are paying benefits to attract employees, and government which forcibly confiscates wealth in order to distribute to others as it see fit? Can't he? I am taking micro right now, and I am pretty sure the professor mentioned it. I am sure they teach this at MIT too...

Another Sign We Are Too Damn Fat

I feel guilty for not going to the gym this morning.

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Fatter rear ends are causing many drug injections to miss their mark, requiring longer needles to reach buttock muscle, researchers said on Monday.

Standard-sized needles failed to reach the buttock muscle in 23 out of 25 women whose rears were examined after what was supposed to be an intramuscular injection of a drug.

Two-thirds of the 50 patients in the study did not receive the full dosage of the drug, which instead lodged in the fat tissue of their buttocks, researchers from The Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Dublin said in a presentation to the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

The Transportation System of the Future

Seattle has been playing around with the idea of expanding their Disneyland-like monorail for years now. The last I heard they spent millions on the idea and then voted to kill the project. Now the original monorail has accomplished the remarkable feat of colliding with itself. I am not kidding, you have to see the photo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Moonbat English Instructor Resigns

Certified moonbat and illiterate community college English instructor decided to resign today, after threatening a student group and calling for US soldiers to shoot their superiors. The only thing I can add to this is, why does Ward Churchill still have a job?

Late today, the Board was informed of Mr. Daly’s decision to resign his Adjunct position at WCCC effective immediately. In its meeting, the Board voted to accept the resignation agreement and instructed the administration to make certain that students in Mr. Daly’s class are offered the highest quality instruction in this interim period.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hitler Wasn't Evil, He Just Had a Different "Perspective"

Talk about moral equivilency.

In a speech to political science students at the University of Toronto yesterday, the host of the CNBC current affairs show Hardball had plenty of harsh words for U.S. President George W. Bush, as well as the political climate that has characterized his country for the past few years.

"The period between 9/11 and Iraq was not a good time for America. There wasn't a robust discussion of what we were doing," Matthews said.

"If we stop trying to figure out the other side, we've given up. The person on the other side is not evil -- they just have a different perspective."

UW Beats Harvard

OK, we may have lost the Apple Cup, but the Seattle Times this morning announces that a UW student, at the age of 18, became the second youngest ever to win a Rhodes Scholarship.

Meanwhile, via Taranto, I noticed this headline:

Rhodes Scholars Named, None From Harvard

Too bad, better luck next year.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

John "Long Gone" Daly

I did a little research on this moonbat, and it appears Warren County Community College is going to take some action regarding him.

Warren County Community College to Hold an Emergency Meeting

The Board of Trustees of Warren County Community College will convene an emergency meeting of the Board, Tuesday, November 22, 2005 at 6:30 PM. This meeting was called by Board Chair Edward Smith.

The Board of Trustees intends to consider the welfare and rights of its students, the college community, and the public in lieu of recent events. The Board will also consider personnel issues.

Also, to follow up my previous post, it appears he is actually called an "adjunct instructor" I guess holding an MA from Cal State Northridge and teaching remedial English doesn't quite qualify for that professor title. But hey, at least he didn't lie about being an Indian. Did you notice how many grammatical and syntactical errors he made in his e-mail? The sad thing is he is he teaches ENGLISH.

Moonbats in Academia and Persistant Ukrainians

A student at a community college in New Jersey arranged to have a retired colonel speak on campus, which earned her this threatening letter from a professor (if that is what they call them at a community college)

Dear Rebecca:

I am asking my students to boycott your event. I am also going to ask others to boycott it. Your literature and signs in the entrance lobby look like fascist propaganda and is extremely offensive. Your main poster "Communism killed 100,000,000" is not only untrue, but ignores the fact that CAPITALISM has killed many more and the evidence for that can be seen in the daily news papers. The U.S. government can fly to dominate the people of Iraq in 12 hours, yet it took them five days to assist the people devastated by huricane Katrina. Racism and profits were key to their priorities. Exxon, by the way, made $9 Billion in profits this last quarter--their highest proft margin ever. Thanks to the students of WCCC and other poor and working class people who are recruited to fight and die for EXXON and other corporations who earning megaprofits from their imperialist plunders. If you want to count the number of deaths based on political systems, you can begin with the more than a million children who have died in Iraq from U.S.-imposed sanctions and war. Or the million African American people who died from lack of access to healthcare in the US over the last 10 years.

I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won't dare show their face on a college campus. Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people's needs--such freedom fighters can be counted throughout American history and they certainly will be counted again.

Prof. John Daly

One could spend hours Fisking the lies in this idiotic rant, but this moron is hardly deserving of the effort. On a related note though, protesters are still demanding that the NY Times return Walter Duranty's Pulitzer Prize for covering up the death of 7 million Ukrainians (part of those 100 million people who were not killed by communism). H/T Don Luskin.

Battling chilly temps and uncooperative winds, a Ukrainian group assembled outside New York Times headquarters in Manhattan Friday to protest the 1932 Pulitzer Prize awarded to Times reporter Walter Duranty for his pro-Stalin coverage of Russia.

The Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 (Ukrainians call it the Holodomor) was engineered by Russian dictator Josef Stalin -- and whitewashed from Duranty's reporting for the Times. Duranty, who covered the country for the Times from 1922 to 1941, ignored Stalin's atrocities, including the famine that killed seven to ten million Ukrainians.

Duranty, who is "credited" for coining the phrase (referring to Stalin’s purges) "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs," said of the famine accusations, which were reported at the time by left-wing journalists like Malcolm Muggeridge: "Any report of a famine in Russia today is an exaggeration or malignant propaganda."

Another choice quote from Duranty: "Stalin is giving the Russian people-the Russian masses, not Westernized landlords, industrialists, bankers, and intellectuals, but Russia's 150,000,000 peasants and workers-what they really want, namely joint effort, communal effort.'"

So Much for the end of the US Economy

All we hear about is how the US economy is doomed and our companies can't compete, so I was interested in reading this (subscription required) in the Financial Times yesterday (although that pink paper still freaks me out).

In short the FT, a London based paper by the way, conducted an international survey of the most respected companies in the world. US companies took 24 out of the 50 spots, including 12 of the top 14. No other country had more than 6.

Meanwhile news reaches us of Boeing's recent success. China announced the order of $9 billion of their jets.

To plagiarize Mark Twain, the news of our death has been greatly exaggerated.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Excess Profit?

The National Review has a good article on this silly notion of windfall "excess" profit called "Who Profits at the Pump". I was curious so I decided to compare the profit of one of the evil oil companies, in this case Exxon, with two other prominent large companies. If I don't learn anything else, at least getting my MBA is making me a wiz at Excel.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Fake Engineer Shortage

I have found this ridiculous for years. I don't know how many job postings I have seen with ridiculous requirements, such as 5 years of .NET programming experience, 2 years after .NET was released, but yet companies still insist that there is a severe shortage of trained engineers. Mostly this is because they don't know how to hire people, they use laundry lists of requirements in place of good HR practices in screening employees. The last contract I worked on needed someone who could program in C#, which I had never really done, it wasn't even on my resume. They realized I knew what I was doing though, and within a week I had figured out enough to get the job done.

Many companies say they're facing an increasingly severe shortage of engineers. It's so bad, some executives say, that Congress must act to boost funding for engineering education.
Yet unemployed engineers say there's actually a big surplus. "No one I know who has looked at the data with an open mind has been able to find any sign of a current shortage," says demographer Michael Teitelbaum of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

What's really going on? Consider the case of recruiter Rich Carver. In February, he got a call from the U.S. unit of JSP Corp., a Tokyo plastic-foam maker. The company was looking for an engineer with manufacturing experience to serve as a shift supervisor at its Butler, Pa., plant, which makes automobile-bumper parts.

Within two weeks, Mr. Carver and a colleague at the Hudson Highland Group had collected more than 200 résumés. They immediately eliminated just over 100 people who didn't have the required bachelor of science degree, even though many had the kind of job experience the company wanted. A further 65 or so then fell out of the running. Some were deemed overqualified. Others lacked experience with the proper manufacturing software. JSP brought in a half-dozen candidates for an interview, and by August the company had its woman.

To JSP, taking six months to fill the position confirmed its sense that competition for top engineers is intense. Company officials "struggle to fill" openings, says human-resources manager Vicki Senko.

But for candidates facing 200-to-1 odds of getting the job, the struggle seems all on their side. "Companies are looking for a five-pound butterfly. Not finding them doesn't mean there's a shortage of butterflies," says Richard Tax, president of the American Engineering Association, which campaigns to prevent losses of engineering jobs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Iraqi Cindy Sheehan

Maybe she will go on tour with Cindy, and Maureen Dowd can write fawning editorials on her "absolute moral authority."

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) -- The Iraqi woman who said she failed in her bid to blow herself up in an Amman hotel had three brothers killed by U.S. forces, friends of the woman said Tuesday. In a response to the bombings, Jordanian officials unveiled tough new anti-terror measures.

The killings of Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi's three brothers in Iraq's volatile Anbar province is being considered as a possible motivation behind her bid to take part in last week's triple bombings, which killed 60 people, including her husband and two Iraqi bombers.


A must read article in the WSJ on the role of a Foreign Area Officer (FAO) in Iraq, and what it takes to battle an insurgency.

MOSUL, Iraq -- Last summer, two dozen U.S. Army Rangers headed for the Iraq-Syria border to figure out how foreign fighters were slipping through western Iraq's barren deserts.

As they had done in the past, the Rangers took positions around each village and Bedouin encampment. At one village, an officer named David, accompanied by a small security team, strode into the center looking for someone who would talk. Unlike the clean-shaven, camouflage-clad Rangers, David wore a thick goatee and civilian clothes. The Rangers carried long, black M-4 carbine rifles. David walked with a small 9mm pistol strapped to his leg. The Rangers spoke English. He spoke Arabic tinged with a Yemeni accent.

As he recounts the day, David met a woman with facial tattoos that marked her as her husband's property. As they chatted, the pale-skinned, sandy-haired North Carolina native imitated her dry, throaty way of speaking. "You are Bedu, too," she exclaimed with delight, he recalls.

From her and the other Bedouins, the 37-year-old officer learned that most of the cross-border smuggling was carried out by Shamar tribesmen who peddle cigarettes, sheep and gasoline. Radical Islamists were using the same routes to move people, guns and money. Many of the paths were marked with small piles of bleached rocks that were identical to those David had seen a year earlier while serving in Yemen.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Close Call O' the Month

I can see how serial liar Mary Mapes could be so shook up, after avoiding near death at the hands of the Vietcong and all...

KURTZ: You write in "Truth and Duty" that Bush didn't keep his promise to the country. He walked away from his duty. How strongly did you feel then, do you feel now, about that in terms of your pursuing this story?

MAPES: I think that's absolutely true. I have to say, when I grew up, if I'd been a little bit older and if I'd been a boy, I came from a social class where I would have had my rear end in Vietnam.

Friday, November 11, 2005


"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

-Winston Churchill-

On this day just remember those whom we owe so much to.

My father, James F. Bennett Sr.

U.S.M.C. 1962-1964, Vietnam
Semper Fi

My grandfather, Fermin Bennett
US Army Air Corp 1942-1945, Europe
You will always be remembered

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Stupid Letter to the Editor O' the Day

From the WSJ

As the author of the windfall legislation your editorial commented on, I must point out some misinterpretations. My bill offers a true windfall profits tax, unlike the 1970s excise tax on oil. The difference between these tax structures is critical to understanding the impact of my bill. I do not advocate an excise tax, which increases the price of oil because both cost of production and profit are taxed. The preferred approach is a windfall profit tax, because it is constructed to tax only excess profit, leaving production costs and reasonable profits unaffected.

A true windfall profits tax raises little revenue because it sends a signal to the industry that price gouging will not be rewarded. Therefore prices quickly return to a reasonable level. Any minor revenue raised gets returned back to the consumer via tax credits.

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D., Ohio)

Please explain to me Mr. Kucinich, where in the constitution exactly does it give Congress the power, not to mention the wisdom, to determine what is "excess profit"? Did Congress pass a five year plan or something while I was wasn't looking?

For a contrast to this bit of congressionally sponsored idiocy, read this post on Cafe Hayek (written by actual economists) on oil prices and taxes.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

First things first: given all the bad-mouthing the French receive, you may be surprised that I describe their society as "productive." Yet according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, productivity in France - G.D.P. per hour worked - is actually a bit higher than in the United States.

It's true that France's G.D.P. per person is well below that of the United States. But that's because French workers spend more time with their families.

Paul Krugman in French Family Values

France prides itself on its hourly productivity, among the world's highest. But Philippe Manière, director of the think tank Institut Montaigne, says the high productivity rate is achieved only by shutting out of the job market the immigrants who might cause it to fall. "In France, you employ the most productive people and you leave the rest in the street," he says.

Wall Street Journal, 9 November 2005

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fair Trade?

I needed my caffeine fix this morning so I stopped off at an espresso bar and got a mocha, with a large "fair trade coffee" sticker emblazoned on the side. This got me thinking, what the hell is "fair trade"? I assume they mean there is some minimum price they pay for the coffee to ensure the coffee grower gets a higher than average profit and can pay his workers above the going labor rate. Is this really "fair" trade? If I pay $5 a pound for coffee beans, when I could pay some other guy $4 for the same beans, it is not really fair, I am getting ripped off! What is fair about that?

Only in Bosnia

This is why I never played with the kids.

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - A hand grenade being used instead of a ball in a game of catch exploded early on Saturday killing three youths in this Bosnian town, police and news agencies said.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Productivity and Employment

Scrivener has some interesting comments on the fact that manufacturing jobs are down globally, not just in the US. This is not due to the fact that we are exporting our jobs (as many on the left complain) to Mars or some other extraterrerestrial competitor, but simply because productivity gains allow us to produce more goods with less labor. Whenever someone laments the loss of "good jobs" in manufacturing, I like to point out the fact that only a little over a century ago 90% of American were employed in agriculture, now it is around 3%. While obviously the people who had to move off of farms into cities were stressed by the change, does this mean that we should have banned the use of tractors and fertilizer in order to save those "good jobs".? Just look at the percentage of population engaged in agriculture. Uganda is at 97%, the US is at just 3%, does that mean that we should lament the loss of all those good farming jobs to Uganda?

Paul Krugman Was Right

Herr Krugman back in July:

First things first: given all the bad-mouthing the French receive, you may be surprised that I describe their society as "productive." Yet according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, productivity in France - G.D.P. per hour worked - is actually a bit higher than in the United States.

From the Wall Street Journal today:

It may be difficult nowadays to get people in what the French call the Hexagon to work on Friday afternoons, but not to riot, at least not in the "sensitive" quartiers that surround most towns and cities. The productivity of the rioters has been increasing rapidly of late, and France looks like it will be breaking its record for burnt-out cars: 1,295 on Saturday night alone and 750 on Friday night, 500 the night before, and 300 the night before that. This year so far, the tally is 29,000. If the trend of the last few days continues, geometric progression being what it is, it won't be long before the rioters will have to go to Germany or the Low Countries to express their social conscience in a practical way.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Stolen Valor: The Iraqi Years Part II

Sadly, I predicted this months ago.

For more than a year, former Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey has been telling anybody who will listen about the atrocities that he and other Marines committed in Iraq.

In scores of newspaper, magazine and broadcast stories, at a Canadian immigration hearing and in numerous speeches across the country, Massey has told how he and other Marines recklessly, sometimes intentionally, killed dozens of innocent Iraqi civilians.

Among his claims:

Marines fired on and killed peaceful Iraqi protesters.Americans shot a 4-year-old Iraqi girl in the head.

A tractor-trailer was filled with the bodies of civilian men, women and children killed by American artillery.

Massey's claims have gained him celebrity. Last month, Massey's book, "Kill, Kill, Kill," was released in France. His allegations have been reported in nationwide publications such as Vanity Fair and USA Today, as well as numerous broadcast reports. Earlier this year, he joined the anti-war bus tour of Cindy Sheehan, and he's spoken at Cornell and Syracuse universities, among others.

News organizations worldwide published or broadcast Massey's claims without any corroboration and in most cases without investigation. Outside of the Marines, almost no one has seriously questioned whether Massey, a 12-year veteran who was honorably discharged, was telling the truth.

He wasn't.

Each of his claims is either demonstrably false or exaggerated - according to his fellow Marines, Massey's own admissions, and the five journalists who were embedded with Massey's unit, including a reporter and photographer from the Post-Dispatch and reporters from The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal.

H/T Michele Malkin

Quagmire Alert: Bomb factory found in Baghdad

Oh wait, that was Paris, my mistake. I must say I am impressed, the French usually don't hold out this long against an attack.

Arsonists burned 1,295 vehicles nationwide overnight Saturday-Sunday — sharply up from 897 the night before, national police spokesman Patrick Hamon said, adding that police made 349 arrests nationwide.

For a second night, a helicopter equipped with spotlights and video cameras to track bands of marauding youths combed Paris suburbs and small teams of police chased rioters speeding from attack to attack in cars and on motorbikes.

"What we notice is that the bands of youths are, little by little, getting more organized," arranging attacks through cell phone text messages and learning how to make gasoline bombs, Hamon said.

Police also found a gasoline bomb-making factory in a derelict building in Evry south of Paris, with more than 100 bottles ready to turned into bombs, another 50 already prepared, as well as fuel stocks and hoods for hiding rioters' faces, senior Justice Ministry official Jean-Marie Huet told The Associated Press. Police arrested six people, all under 18.

The discovery Saturday night, he said, shows that gasoline bombs "are not being improvised by kids in their bathrooms."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Don't Tell Paul Krugman

Ahh, the socialist paradise of France.

Car torchings are a daily fact of life in France's tough suburbs, with thousands burned each month, police say.

Police intelligence has recorded nearly 70,000 incidents of urban violence this year, including attacks on police and rescue services, arson, throwing projectiles, clashes between gangs, joy-riding and property destruction, Le Monde reported.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fortunately their parents don't read the newspaper

From a Seattle-PI article on a recent student walkout/war protest.

Many students said their parents knew they'd skipped school -- and wouldn't disapprove when they found out.

But some students weren't so sure. "I'll be grounded for the rest of my life," said one of the youngest protesters, 13-year-old Jeri Riley, from Hamilton Middle School.

The Secrecy Trap

Zell Miller adds some brilliant insight to the whole Plame thing.

It's like a spy thriller. Institutional rivalries and political loyalties have fostered an intelligence officer's resentment against the government. Suddenly, an opportunity appears for the agent to undercut the national leadership. A vital question of intelligence forms the core justification for controversial military actions by the current leaders. If this agent can get in the middle of that question, distort that information and make it public, the agent might foster regime change in the upcoming election.

But the rules on agents are clear. They can't purposely distort gathered intelligence, go public with secret information or use their position or information to manipulate domestic elections or matters without risking their job or jail.

But their spouse can!

The agent realizes her spouse can go out on behalf of the spy agency, can distort information, go public with classified information and use all this spy-agency-sponsored material and credentials to try to pull down the current government, and it is all perfectly legal.

Suppose the spouse adds just one more brilliant, well-aimed lie: claim your foremost political opponent put the spouse up to the trip. As your spouse uses your agency's name to mount attacks, your enemy may fall into your trap. Will your enemy suffer your spouse's lies or take the bait and try to clarify his non-role? If he tells the press he didn't hire your spouse, the press will demand to know, "Then who did?"

Instead of you violating secrecy laws, it is your victim who is guilty because he tried to set the record straight. Heads, you win; tails, he loses.

It sounds unbelievable, a fiction, perhaps to be called "To Sting a King." But it is no fiction. This is the story behind Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson and the Bush administration. And it appears that Plame and Wilson will get away with the biggest sting operation ever.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Why the Wall Street Journal has the best editorial page in the country

The Journal once again shows that it has the best editorial page. No Michael Moore hypocritical ranting or pointless pseudo populist Bill O'Reilly like screeds, just logical, fact based economic and political analysis.

Like bellbottoms and disco, all kinds of bad ideas from the 1970s are coming back with the surge in energy prices. Arguably the worst is a "windfall" profits tax on oil companies.

This not-so-golden oldie got a political boost last week when Exxon announced, almost apologetically, quarterly profits of nearly $10 billion -- the largest of any U.S. company in history. Apparently it's not enough that 35% of that profit will flow into the Treasury via the corporate income tax. Momentum is growing to raise $10 billion a year by slapping an extra 50% tax on all profits earned on oil above $40 a barrel.

The lead sponsors of the "windfall" levy are Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. These two are well known foes of business for whom the phrase "windfall profits" is redundant. More surprising is that GOP leaders Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert are also calling for Congressional hearings on oil profits. Bill O'Reilly, the chief economist for Fox News, has also been drilling for "windfall" cable ratings by blaming Big Oil for making too much money.

They all need a history lesson. Back when Jimmy Carter signed the windfall profits tax during the last oil crisis, the results were the opposite of what the politicians intended. The first adverse result, as recently documented by the Congressional Research Service, was that oil companies reduced their U.S. domestic production by 1.5 million barrels a day, or by almost 6%. Exploration for new supplies slowed because the tax, by design, snatched as much as a third of the profit from these investments.

Investigate the CIA

Not to beat a dead horse, but this is exactly what I just said.

Two decades later, the CIA, either purposely or with gross negligence, made a series of decisions that led to Ms. Plame becoming a household name.

• First: The CIA sent her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger on a sensitive mission regarding WMD. He was to determine whether Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake, an essential ingredient for nonconventional weapons. However, it was Ms. Plame, not Mr. Wilson, who was the WMD expert. Moreover, Mr. Wilson had no intelligence background, was never a senior person in Niger when he was in the State Department, and was opposed to the administration's Iraq policy. The assignment was given, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, at Ms. Plame's suggestion.

• Second: Mr. Wilson was not required to sign a confidentiality agreement, a mandatory act for the rest of us who either carry out any similar CIA assignment or who represent CIA clients.

• Third: When he returned from Niger, Mr. Wilson was not required to write a report, but rather merely to provide an oral briefing. That information was not sent to the White House. If this mission to Niger were so important, wouldn't a competent intelligence agency want a thoughtful written assessment from the "missionary," if for no other reason than to establish a record to refute any subsequent misrepresentation of that assessment? Because it was the vice president who initially inquired about Niger and the yellowcake (although he had nothing to do with Mr. Wilson being sent), it is curious that neither his office nor the president's were privy to the fruits of Mr. Wilson's oral report.

• Fourth: Although Mr. Wilson did not have to write even one word for the agency that sent him on the mission at taxpayer's expense, over a year later he was permitted to tell all about this sensitive assignment in the New York Times. For the rest of us, writing about such an assignment would mean we'd have to bring our proposed op-ed before the CIA's Prepublication Review Board and spend countless hours arguing over every word to be published. Congressional oversight committees should want to know who at the CIA permitted the publication of the article, which, it has been reported, did not jibe with the thrust of Mr. Wilson's oral briefing. For starters, if the piece had been properly vetted at the CIA, someone should have known that the agency never briefed the vice president on the trip, as claimed by Mr. Wilson in his op-ed.

• Fifth: More important than the inaccuracies is the fact that, if the CIA truly, truly, truly had wanted Ms. Plame's identity to be secret, it never would have permitted her spouse to write the op-ed. Did no one at Langley think that her identity could be compromised if her spouse wrote a piece discussing a foreign mission about a volatile political issue that focused on her expertise? The obvious question a sophisticated journalist such as Mr. Novak asked after "Why did the CIA send Wilson?" was "Who is Wilson?" After being told by a still-unnamed administration source that Mr. Wilson's "wife" suggested him for the assignment, Mr. Novak went to Who's Who, which reveals "Valerie Plame" as Mr. Wilson's spouse.